Commentary Magazine


Posts For: January 14, 2010

Man-Made Disaster

It is, of course, axiomatic that George W. Bush was to blame for natural disasters that struck during his presidency. In the case of Hurricane Katrina, it goes without saying that Bush failed on three major fronts: First, he did not go back decades in time and demand construction of more resistant levies. Second, he did not force Louisiana Governor Kathleen Blanco to accept his offer of National Guard troops to help bail out New Orleans — when she refused, Bush didn’t invoke the Insurrection Act and invade a U.S. state. And third, as Al Gore helpfully pointed out, strong hurricanes are a more likely weather phenomenon when the U.S. ignores carbon-emissions warnings the way the Bush administration did.

And let’s not forget the wise words of one Kanye West, who, after the hurricane struck, told the country on national television, “George Bush doesn’t care about black people.”

An administration-defining, open-and-shut case if ever there was one.

But we didn’t know the half of it. As it turns out, Bush is also responsible for calamities occurring after his presidency. Mother Jones has the scoop on the master of natural disaster:

In the aftermath of September 11 and the Bush administration’s numerous adventures around the world, Haiti returned to its usual state of invisibility in Western eyes. Few people noticed a remarkable report that appeared in the New York Times in 2006, based in part on the analysis of former ambassador Brian Dean Curran, showing how US policy helped to destabalize [sic] Haiti in the years leading up to 2004, when Aristede was again forced out by armed rebels under an accused death squad leader. … For the most part, Europe and the United States have continued to sit by as Haiti has grown poorer and poorer. … It is hard to imagine what a magnitude 7 earthquake might do to a city that on any ordinary day already resembles a disaster area.

Max Blumenthal weighs in with a far more sober reflection on the tragedy. “Of course, the earthquake can’t be blamed on the so-called Washington consensus.” Of course, Max. Good of you to point it out.

Or not. “However,” he goes on,

the Haitian government’s inability to mount even a band-aid relief effort, combined with the fact that the decimated rural economy has overwhelmed Port-au-Prince with new residents, placing enormous stress on its already inadequate infrastructure and leading to the mass casualties we are witnessing, are factors directly linked to American meddling.

In 2004, when the national press corps failed to report the American hand in the coup that overthrew Haitian President Jean Bertrand Aristide, I embarked on a long and exhaustive investigative report on role of right-wing operatives in Washington and Haiti in toppling the government.

Don’t you love the self-congratulatory bit at the end there?  Through his evident grief for dead, maimed, and mourning Haitians, Blumenthal courageously forces himself to settle some personal scores. “Below the fold I have reprinted my piece for Salon.com, “The Other Regime Change” (which the NY Times’ Walt Bogdanovich basically plagiarized), in full.” Never let a crisis go to waste, and all that.

There is bound to be more of this stuff to follow. There is no cliff over which the liberal establishment will not follow the fringe. Some high-profile op-eds blaming Bush should be hitting the New York Times any day now, just in time to coincide with his and Bill Clinton’s joint-effort to help Haiti recover.

It is, of course, axiomatic that George W. Bush was to blame for natural disasters that struck during his presidency. In the case of Hurricane Katrina, it goes without saying that Bush failed on three major fronts: First, he did not go back decades in time and demand construction of more resistant levies. Second, he did not force Louisiana Governor Kathleen Blanco to accept his offer of National Guard troops to help bail out New Orleans — when she refused, Bush didn’t invoke the Insurrection Act and invade a U.S. state. And third, as Al Gore helpfully pointed out, strong hurricanes are a more likely weather phenomenon when the U.S. ignores carbon-emissions warnings the way the Bush administration did.

And let’s not forget the wise words of one Kanye West, who, after the hurricane struck, told the country on national television, “George Bush doesn’t care about black people.”

An administration-defining, open-and-shut case if ever there was one.

But we didn’t know the half of it. As it turns out, Bush is also responsible for calamities occurring after his presidency. Mother Jones has the scoop on the master of natural disaster:

In the aftermath of September 11 and the Bush administration’s numerous adventures around the world, Haiti returned to its usual state of invisibility in Western eyes. Few people noticed a remarkable report that appeared in the New York Times in 2006, based in part on the analysis of former ambassador Brian Dean Curran, showing how US policy helped to destabalize [sic] Haiti in the years leading up to 2004, when Aristede was again forced out by armed rebels under an accused death squad leader. … For the most part, Europe and the United States have continued to sit by as Haiti has grown poorer and poorer. … It is hard to imagine what a magnitude 7 earthquake might do to a city that on any ordinary day already resembles a disaster area.

Max Blumenthal weighs in with a far more sober reflection on the tragedy. “Of course, the earthquake can’t be blamed on the so-called Washington consensus.” Of course, Max. Good of you to point it out.

Or not. “However,” he goes on,

the Haitian government’s inability to mount even a band-aid relief effort, combined with the fact that the decimated rural economy has overwhelmed Port-au-Prince with new residents, placing enormous stress on its already inadequate infrastructure and leading to the mass casualties we are witnessing, are factors directly linked to American meddling.

In 2004, when the national press corps failed to report the American hand in the coup that overthrew Haitian President Jean Bertrand Aristide, I embarked on a long and exhaustive investigative report on role of right-wing operatives in Washington and Haiti in toppling the government.

Don’t you love the self-congratulatory bit at the end there?  Through his evident grief for dead, maimed, and mourning Haitians, Blumenthal courageously forces himself to settle some personal scores. “Below the fold I have reprinted my piece for Salon.com, “The Other Regime Change” (which the NY Times’ Walt Bogdanovich basically plagiarized), in full.” Never let a crisis go to waste, and all that.

There is bound to be more of this stuff to follow. There is no cliff over which the liberal establishment will not follow the fringe. Some high-profile op-eds blaming Bush should be hitting the New York Times any day now, just in time to coincide with his and Bill Clinton’s joint-effort to help Haiti recover.

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WEB EXCLUSIVE: Wahhabism and the First Amendment

You would be excused for thinking that the Wahabbi religious establishment of Saudi Arabia and the religion guarantees of our First Amendment have no more in common than fire and water. But I think this oddest of odd couples helps to explain two recent events involving American Muslims and the rest of us — instances of so-called “home-grown” Islamist terrorism, such as the Fort Hood murders, and the resentment being reported among American Muslims at FBI and other law-enforcement-agency activities at U.S. mosques.

To be sure, the religious values the First Amendment protects — freedom of worship, the nonestablishment of a state church — are diametrically opposed to the religious dispensation in the Saudi state. There, the free exercise of religion is not only not guaranteed; it is scorned, banned, and prosecuted. Christianity is a crime, and don’t even ask about Judaism. There, by all accounts, Wahabbi Islam is not merely the established state religion but also an institution whose control of Saudi life more nearly resembles a totalitarian government than the Anglican establishment, whose like the First Amendment forbade. The Saudi minister of the interior, His Royal Highness Prince Nayef bin Abdul Aziz, who runs their religious establishment, recently ordered a 75-year-old woman flogged with 40 lashes for “prohibited mingling.”

To read the rest of this COMMENTARY Web Exclusive, click here.

You would be excused for thinking that the Wahabbi religious establishment of Saudi Arabia and the religion guarantees of our First Amendment have no more in common than fire and water. But I think this oddest of odd couples helps to explain two recent events involving American Muslims and the rest of us — instances of so-called “home-grown” Islamist terrorism, such as the Fort Hood murders, and the resentment being reported among American Muslims at FBI and other law-enforcement-agency activities at U.S. mosques.

To be sure, the religious values the First Amendment protects — freedom of worship, the nonestablishment of a state church — are diametrically opposed to the religious dispensation in the Saudi state. There, the free exercise of religion is not only not guaranteed; it is scorned, banned, and prosecuted. Christianity is a crime, and don’t even ask about Judaism. There, by all accounts, Wahabbi Islam is not merely the established state religion but also an institution whose control of Saudi life more nearly resembles a totalitarian government than the Anglican establishment, whose like the First Amendment forbade. The Saudi minister of the interior, His Royal Highness Prince Nayef bin Abdul Aziz, who runs their religious establishment, recently ordered a 75-year-old woman flogged with 40 lashes for “prohibited mingling.”

To read the rest of this COMMENTARY Web Exclusive, click here.

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The Yemen Project

Frederick Kagan and Christopher Harnisch have a useful think piece in the Wall Street Journal today on applying “smart power” in Yemen. Their series of excellent points culminates in the suggestion of Yemen as the venue in which to test a prototype multiagency task force designed to wield all the elements of national power — diplomatic, informational, military, and economic — in the effort to produce stability in Yemen and immunize it against use by al-Qaeda. “Despite years of talk about the need to develop this kind of capability in the State Department or elsewhere in Washington,” they point out, “it does not exist. It must be built now, and quickly.”

Kagan and Harnisch are right that the question of U.S. involvement in Yemen is not whether we will be involved but how. Their case is strong that our effort should be a multiagency one, rather than expanding from its current minimal level on the traditional model of military intervention. But however we organize it, the key to engaging with Yemen is understanding what we are walking into. Yemen’s internal battle is not being fought in a geopolitical vacuum, and our intervention there has the potential to turn very quickly into a proxy confrontation with other regional actors.

Al-Qaeda on the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) is the most obvious one, along with Iran, which arms the Shia “Houthi” rebels against Yemen’s central government. But an increased level of U.S. effort is likely to draw in other actors, like Somalia’s radical al-Shabaab terror group, which promised last week to send fighters to Yemen in support of the Houthi rebels. This is a legitimate threat; Iran and Eritrea keep al-Shabaab armed, and maritime traffic between Somalia and Yemen is routine and very hard to interdict.

Saudi Arabia’s interest in Yemeni stability, meanwhile, is direct and proprietary. Riyadh is concerned about incursions into its territory, of course, but is equally concerned about Iran — or other outside powers — gaining influence over Yemen. Yemen’s location brings the most significant of suitors to its door: Russia and China are the two top suppliers of arms to the Saleh regime, and at the end of December, both of them capped decades of extensive involvement in Yemen with major financial assistance and cooperation agreements. We are not the only great power proposing to influence events in Yemen with monetary aid and military cooperation; in fact, we’re at the back of the line. Russia was reported a year ago to be planning to re-establish its Cold War–era naval base on Yemen’s Socotra Island and will not remain passive in the face of a U.S. policy adopted on the energetic lines proposed by Kagan and Harnisch.

Yemen is more than a poor, unstable nation that makes a natural hideout for al-Qaeda; it is, due to its location, a geostrategic prize. As the Nigerian airplane bomber demonstrated, we must increase our involvement there. This is an opportunity, not just a regrettable necessity, for both Yemen and us — if we approach it with positive objectives in mind. Succeeding there will inevitably have the effect of sidelining Iran and Russia, and we will need to be prepared for their reactions. We might even be able to achieve a limited partnership with the Russians if we avoid harboring illusions about their objectives. As Kagan and Harnisch suggest, a Yemen intervention looks like a natural fit for a high-level multiagency task force, as opposed to one centered mainly on military or intelligence activities. The “measure of effectiveness” for that task force would be its success in defining U.S. interests proactively rather than reactively, and in preparing us to deal with the interests already being actively asserted by third parties.

Frederick Kagan and Christopher Harnisch have a useful think piece in the Wall Street Journal today on applying “smart power” in Yemen. Their series of excellent points culminates in the suggestion of Yemen as the venue in which to test a prototype multiagency task force designed to wield all the elements of national power — diplomatic, informational, military, and economic — in the effort to produce stability in Yemen and immunize it against use by al-Qaeda. “Despite years of talk about the need to develop this kind of capability in the State Department or elsewhere in Washington,” they point out, “it does not exist. It must be built now, and quickly.”

Kagan and Harnisch are right that the question of U.S. involvement in Yemen is not whether we will be involved but how. Their case is strong that our effort should be a multiagency one, rather than expanding from its current minimal level on the traditional model of military intervention. But however we organize it, the key to engaging with Yemen is understanding what we are walking into. Yemen’s internal battle is not being fought in a geopolitical vacuum, and our intervention there has the potential to turn very quickly into a proxy confrontation with other regional actors.

Al-Qaeda on the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) is the most obvious one, along with Iran, which arms the Shia “Houthi” rebels against Yemen’s central government. But an increased level of U.S. effort is likely to draw in other actors, like Somalia’s radical al-Shabaab terror group, which promised last week to send fighters to Yemen in support of the Houthi rebels. This is a legitimate threat; Iran and Eritrea keep al-Shabaab armed, and maritime traffic between Somalia and Yemen is routine and very hard to interdict.

Saudi Arabia’s interest in Yemeni stability, meanwhile, is direct and proprietary. Riyadh is concerned about incursions into its territory, of course, but is equally concerned about Iran — or other outside powers — gaining influence over Yemen. Yemen’s location brings the most significant of suitors to its door: Russia and China are the two top suppliers of arms to the Saleh regime, and at the end of December, both of them capped decades of extensive involvement in Yemen with major financial assistance and cooperation agreements. We are not the only great power proposing to influence events in Yemen with monetary aid and military cooperation; in fact, we’re at the back of the line. Russia was reported a year ago to be planning to re-establish its Cold War–era naval base on Yemen’s Socotra Island and will not remain passive in the face of a U.S. policy adopted on the energetic lines proposed by Kagan and Harnisch.

Yemen is more than a poor, unstable nation that makes a natural hideout for al-Qaeda; it is, due to its location, a geostrategic prize. As the Nigerian airplane bomber demonstrated, we must increase our involvement there. This is an opportunity, not just a regrettable necessity, for both Yemen and us — if we approach it with positive objectives in mind. Succeeding there will inevitably have the effect of sidelining Iran and Russia, and we will need to be prepared for their reactions. We might even be able to achieve a limited partnership with the Russians if we avoid harboring illusions about their objectives. As Kagan and Harnisch suggest, a Yemen intervention looks like a natural fit for a high-level multiagency task force, as opposed to one centered mainly on military or intelligence activities. The “measure of effectiveness” for that task force would be its success in defining U.S. interests proactively rather than reactively, and in preparing us to deal with the interests already being actively asserted by third parties.

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Another Backroom Deal

According to this report, Big Labor bosses and the Obama administration have cut a deal on the plan to tax the so-called Cadillac health insurance plans:

Under the Senate bill, health insurers would pay a 40% tax on premiums that exceed $8,500 annually for individuals, or $23,000 for family plans. Those thresholds will increase under the agreement reached Thursday, though it could not be immediately learned by how much.

Dental and vision benefits won’t count toward those plans, according to Congressional sources.

Democrats also agreed to add a provision making the tax less onerous on older workers and women, a union official said. Union sources cautioned that the agreement isn’t finalized because it is still being presented to the various unions.

So Obama will still renege on his pledge not to tax those making less than$250,000 — but not as badly as before. And union members will get taxed, but a little less. Aside from the thrill of being part of a historic sellout . . . er . . . grand compromise, what is in this for Big Labor? Their members have health-care benefits. Now they are going to be taxed or have their plans trimmed to subsidize other Americans. That would include many Americans who will be forced to buy insurance they heretofore didn’t want or couldn’t afford. But now they have no choice. They must sign up with Big Insurance for a plan approved by the government.

If ever there were an example of what drives average Americans nuts, this is it. A behind-closed-door deal in which Big Labor, Big Government, and Big Insurance cut an agreement to raise taxes and tell the rest of us what insurance we are going to buy. And the elite media and liberal politicians can’t figure out why there is a rising tide of populist anger out there. Really, it’s not that hard to figure out.

According to this report, Big Labor bosses and the Obama administration have cut a deal on the plan to tax the so-called Cadillac health insurance plans:

Under the Senate bill, health insurers would pay a 40% tax on premiums that exceed $8,500 annually for individuals, or $23,000 for family plans. Those thresholds will increase under the agreement reached Thursday, though it could not be immediately learned by how much.

Dental and vision benefits won’t count toward those plans, according to Congressional sources.

Democrats also agreed to add a provision making the tax less onerous on older workers and women, a union official said. Union sources cautioned that the agreement isn’t finalized because it is still being presented to the various unions.

So Obama will still renege on his pledge not to tax those making less than$250,000 — but not as badly as before. And union members will get taxed, but a little less. Aside from the thrill of being part of a historic sellout . . . er . . . grand compromise, what is in this for Big Labor? Their members have health-care benefits. Now they are going to be taxed or have their plans trimmed to subsidize other Americans. That would include many Americans who will be forced to buy insurance they heretofore didn’t want or couldn’t afford. But now they have no choice. They must sign up with Big Insurance for a plan approved by the government.

If ever there were an example of what drives average Americans nuts, this is it. A behind-closed-door deal in which Big Labor, Big Government, and Big Insurance cut an agreement to raise taxes and tell the rest of us what insurance we are going to buy. And the elite media and liberal politicians can’t figure out why there is a rising tide of populist anger out there. Really, it’s not that hard to figure out.

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Toss Up, It Is

Stuart Rothenberg tells us:

Democratic desperation and other compelling evidence strongly suggest that Democrats may well lose the late Senator Edward Kennedy’s Senate seat in Tuesday’s special election. Because of this, we are moving our rating of the race from Narrow Advantage for the Incumbent Party to Toss-Up.

The Democrats, belatedly wise to the very real chance they’ll lose what should have been a slam-dunk seat for them, are flooding the airwaves with negative ads. (Creigh Deeds did the same thing in Virginia, which only served to confirm that he had no message of his own.) Rothenberg is skeptical that this will work:

Late Democratic efforts to demonize Republican Scott Brown, to make the race into a partisan battle and to use the Kennedy name to drive Democratic voters to the polls could still work. But the advertising clutter in the race works against them, and voters often tune out late messages, which can seem desperate.

What several weeks ago seemed like a conservative pipe dream — a Republican win in Massachusetts — is now a real possibility. And if it should come about, prepare for a tsunami to hit Washington D.C. The realization will surely sink in for each incumbent Democrat: if the Massachusetts’ Senate seat isn’t safe, then neither is theirs. And those who want to vote for ObamaCare and the rest of the Left-leaning agenda had better consider the political consequences.

Stuart Rothenberg tells us:

Democratic desperation and other compelling evidence strongly suggest that Democrats may well lose the late Senator Edward Kennedy’s Senate seat in Tuesday’s special election. Because of this, we are moving our rating of the race from Narrow Advantage for the Incumbent Party to Toss-Up.

The Democrats, belatedly wise to the very real chance they’ll lose what should have been a slam-dunk seat for them, are flooding the airwaves with negative ads. (Creigh Deeds did the same thing in Virginia, which only served to confirm that he had no message of his own.) Rothenberg is skeptical that this will work:

Late Democratic efforts to demonize Republican Scott Brown, to make the race into a partisan battle and to use the Kennedy name to drive Democratic voters to the polls could still work. But the advertising clutter in the race works against them, and voters often tune out late messages, which can seem desperate.

What several weeks ago seemed like a conservative pipe dream — a Republican win in Massachusetts — is now a real possibility. And if it should come about, prepare for a tsunami to hit Washington D.C. The realization will surely sink in for each incumbent Democrat: if the Massachusetts’ Senate seat isn’t safe, then neither is theirs. And those who want to vote for ObamaCare and the rest of the Left-leaning agenda had better consider the political consequences.

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Civil Rights Laws Run Only One Way?

A curious report appears over at Main Justice, a website that offers nice juicy gossip and often mirrors the liberal legal party line from the Justice Department. It seems that one of the New Black Panther Party members at issue in the controversial dismissal of the Election Day voter-intimidation case is hopping mad:

Last week in a podcast interview, [New Black Panther Party president Malik Zulu] Shabazz let loose — with a racially tinged rant against the Republicans he said are trying to turn the issue into campaign ads for this fall’s midterm elections. “These right-wing white, red-faced, red-neck Republicans are attacking the hell out of the New Black Panther Party, and we’re organizing now to fight back,” Shabazz told the podcast host, a man who calls himself “Brother Gary” and hosts a show called Conscious Chats on Blogtalk Radio.

Shabazz singled out GOP Reps. Frank Wolf (Va.) and Lamar Smith (Texas) — two critics on the House Judiciary Committee — along with “Old Uncle Tom, Michael Steele, the black Negro who heads the Republican National Committee.”

“We gearing up for a showdown with this cracker,” Shabazz said, although it wasn’t clear to whom he was referring. “He keep talking – we going to Capitol Hill, we’re just gearing up right now, we’ll go to Capitol Hill.”

Well, probably not what the Holder Justice Department was anxious to hear as it attempts to stonewall its way through the inquiry. But what’s even more interesting is the apparent “defense” offered by Main Justice for those Obama officials who chose to dismiss the case over the objections of career attorneys: “No actual voters came forward to complain — the objections came from white Republican poll watchers.”

So is that what’s at the root of the case here — the notion that voter-intimidation claims are less than valid if white Republicans bring them? The behavior of the New Black Panther Party members was, after all, captured on videotape, so the conduct of the defendants is really not in dispute. What seems to be gnawing at the liberal legal types, however, is that a voter-intimidation case could be instituted by whites — white Republicans no less. Read More

A curious report appears over at Main Justice, a website that offers nice juicy gossip and often mirrors the liberal legal party line from the Justice Department. It seems that one of the New Black Panther Party members at issue in the controversial dismissal of the Election Day voter-intimidation case is hopping mad:

Last week in a podcast interview, [New Black Panther Party president Malik Zulu] Shabazz let loose — with a racially tinged rant against the Republicans he said are trying to turn the issue into campaign ads for this fall’s midterm elections. “These right-wing white, red-faced, red-neck Republicans are attacking the hell out of the New Black Panther Party, and we’re organizing now to fight back,” Shabazz told the podcast host, a man who calls himself “Brother Gary” and hosts a show called Conscious Chats on Blogtalk Radio.

Shabazz singled out GOP Reps. Frank Wolf (Va.) and Lamar Smith (Texas) — two critics on the House Judiciary Committee — along with “Old Uncle Tom, Michael Steele, the black Negro who heads the Republican National Committee.”

“We gearing up for a showdown with this cracker,” Shabazz said, although it wasn’t clear to whom he was referring. “He keep talking – we going to Capitol Hill, we’re just gearing up right now, we’ll go to Capitol Hill.”

Well, probably not what the Holder Justice Department was anxious to hear as it attempts to stonewall its way through the inquiry. But what’s even more interesting is the apparent “defense” offered by Main Justice for those Obama officials who chose to dismiss the case over the objections of career attorneys: “No actual voters came forward to complain — the objections came from white Republican poll watchers.”

So is that what’s at the root of the case here — the notion that voter-intimidation claims are less than valid if white Republicans bring them? The behavior of the New Black Panther Party members was, after all, captured on videotape, so the conduct of the defendants is really not in dispute. What seems to be gnawing at the liberal legal types, however, is that a voter-intimidation case could be instituted by whites — white Republicans no less.

This only serves to highlight the remarks of Chris Coates, the head of the Justice Department’s trial team, who upon his departure had these pointed words for his colleagues (paraphrased by Hans von Spakovsky):

Since many minority officials are now involved in the administration of elections in many jurisdictions, it is imperative that they believe that the anti-discrimination and anti-intimidation provisions of the Voting Rights Act will be enforced against them by the Justice Department, just as it is imperative that white election officials believe that Justice will enforce the provisions of the Voting Rights Act against them. I fear that actions that indicate that the Justice Department is not in the business of suing minority election officials, or not in the business of filing suits to protect white voters from discrimination or intimidation, will only encourage election officials, who are so inclined, to violate the Voting Rights Act.

I cannot imagine that any lawyers who believe in the rule of law would want to encourage violations of the Voting Rights Act by anyone, whether the wrongdoers are members of a minority group or white people.

It’s hard to believe that had the polling place been in Alabama and the intimidators been clad in KKK garb that the Obama Justice Department would not have proceeded full steam ahead against all defendants to the full extent of the law. But when the roles were reversed, a different standard seemed to apply. Indeed, Coates is no stranger to that double standard of enforcement from the liberal civil rights lawyers who dominate the Civil Rights Division. He explained his experience in a voter-intimidation case he brought when the victims were white and the perpetrator African American:

Selective enforcement of the law, including the Voting Rights Act, on the basis of race is just not fair and does not achieve justice.

I have had many discussions concerning these cases. In one of my discussions concerning the Ike Brown case, I had a lawyer say he was opposed to our filing such suits. When I asked why, he said that only when he could go to Mississippi (perhaps 50 years from now) and find no disparities between the socioeconomic levels of black and white residents, might he support such a suit. But until that day, he did not think that we should be filing voting-rights cases against blacks or on behalf of white voters.

The problem with such enforcement is that it is not in compliance with the statute enacted by Congress. There is simply nothing in the VRA itself or its legislative history that supports the claim that it should not be equally enforced until racial socioeconomic parity is achieved. Such an enforcement policy might be consistent with certain political ideologies, but it is not consistent with the Voting Rights Act that Justice is responsible for enforcing.

And that may be what is at the root of the New Black Panther Party case — the unspoken but endemic belief on the Left that the civil rights laws run only one way. The Obama administration must sense that this is anathema to most Americans. Hence, the stonewall. But having dismissed the New Black Panther Party case, it should now explain its decision and justify that approach to civil rights enforcement. Does the administration really believe that it simply isn’t right to prosecute a case where white Republicans are bringing the claim? It sure does look that way.

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The Media Catch On: The GOP Is Out to Take Back the House

Mike Allen and Jim Vandehei pronounce: “Republicans aren’t as delusional as some think.” The “some” — in case you missed the bias – is “smart liberals.” They have discovered that, lo and behold, Republicans think they can take back the House. Well, the thinking has been out there for some time, but now Allen and Vandehei, are on the case. They’ve unearthed a secret plan: run against the unpopular Obama agenda. No! Ah, yes. They proceed to tell us that Democrats are in the dumps, a wave is building, and there lots of districts that John McCain carried in 2008 may swing Republican in House races.

The reporters tell us:

48 Democrats now sit in districts won by Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) in 2008. Nearly every one of these races has at least one credible Republican or will soon get one. In addition, according to National Republican Campaign Committee data, 32 Democrats won with less than 55 percent of the vote in 2008. Of 10 Democratic open seats, Republicans will be on offense in at least eight. In 13 Republican open seats, Democrats have fielded strong challengers in only two.

They hasten to add: “This is the Cantor-GOP spin, but it’s not that far from reality.” (So that means it’s more of fact rather than spin, right?) You sort of wonder where they’ve been for a few months now and what is behind the grumpy reluctance to report what has been apparent for some time now — that the Democrats are in a heap of trouble.

Soon the rest of the media — reluctant as they are to report news adverse to the Democrats — will be following along. Soon it will be conventional wisdom and then anything short of a takeover in the House will be characterized as a phenomenal “win” by Obama. But, really, the predictable media pattern (ignore bad news as long as possible, set the expectations bar, and then spin the results) isn’t all that relevant. If the mainstream media could still influence voters, Creigh Deeds would be governor of Virginia. What matters is the underlying political reality — an electorate that has had it with one-party Democrat rule and wants a course correction. Even the ever-so-helpful liberal media can’t really ignore that.

Mike Allen and Jim Vandehei pronounce: “Republicans aren’t as delusional as some think.” The “some” — in case you missed the bias – is “smart liberals.” They have discovered that, lo and behold, Republicans think they can take back the House. Well, the thinking has been out there for some time, but now Allen and Vandehei, are on the case. They’ve unearthed a secret plan: run against the unpopular Obama agenda. No! Ah, yes. They proceed to tell us that Democrats are in the dumps, a wave is building, and there lots of districts that John McCain carried in 2008 may swing Republican in House races.

The reporters tell us:

48 Democrats now sit in districts won by Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) in 2008. Nearly every one of these races has at least one credible Republican or will soon get one. In addition, according to National Republican Campaign Committee data, 32 Democrats won with less than 55 percent of the vote in 2008. Of 10 Democratic open seats, Republicans will be on offense in at least eight. In 13 Republican open seats, Democrats have fielded strong challengers in only two.

They hasten to add: “This is the Cantor-GOP spin, but it’s not that far from reality.” (So that means it’s more of fact rather than spin, right?) You sort of wonder where they’ve been for a few months now and what is behind the grumpy reluctance to report what has been apparent for some time now — that the Democrats are in a heap of trouble.

Soon the rest of the media — reluctant as they are to report news adverse to the Democrats — will be following along. Soon it will be conventional wisdom and then anything short of a takeover in the House will be characterized as a phenomenal “win” by Obama. But, really, the predictable media pattern (ignore bad news as long as possible, set the expectations bar, and then spin the results) isn’t all that relevant. If the mainstream media could still influence voters, Creigh Deeds would be governor of Virginia. What matters is the underlying political reality — an electorate that has had it with one-party Democrat rule and wants a course correction. Even the ever-so-helpful liberal media can’t really ignore that.

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Buyer’s Remorse

Reid Wilson at Hotline reports:

A year into his tenure, a majority of Americans would already vote against Pres. Obama if the ’12 elections were held today, according to a new survey. The Allstate/National Journal Heartland Monitor poll shows 50% say they would probably or definitely vote for someone else. Fully 37% say they would definitely cast a ballot against Obama. Meanwhile, just 39% would vote to re-elect the pres. to a 2nd term, and only 23% say they definitely would do so.

Yikes. That’s a lot of buyer’s remorse. And the details of the poll are cause for further worry for the Democrats. Fifty-five percent, up from 42 percent last April, think we are on the wrong track. Obama’s approval is down to 47 percent. A plurality agree with the statement that Obama has “Run up a record federal deficit while failing to end the recession or slow the record pace of job losses.”

Perhaps all will be forgiven when unemployment drops to “normal” low single-digit levels. But that may be a long way off. In the meantime, Obama might want to consider whether the electorate really is amenable to his ultra-liberal agenda and hyper-partisan tone. He got elected posing as a moderate and bipartisan figure. If he governed that way, fewer voters might be anxious to replace him.

Reid Wilson at Hotline reports:

A year into his tenure, a majority of Americans would already vote against Pres. Obama if the ’12 elections were held today, according to a new survey. The Allstate/National Journal Heartland Monitor poll shows 50% say they would probably or definitely vote for someone else. Fully 37% say they would definitely cast a ballot against Obama. Meanwhile, just 39% would vote to re-elect the pres. to a 2nd term, and only 23% say they definitely would do so.

Yikes. That’s a lot of buyer’s remorse. And the details of the poll are cause for further worry for the Democrats. Fifty-five percent, up from 42 percent last April, think we are on the wrong track. Obama’s approval is down to 47 percent. A plurality agree with the statement that Obama has “Run up a record federal deficit while failing to end the recession or slow the record pace of job losses.”

Perhaps all will be forgiven when unemployment drops to “normal” low single-digit levels. But that may be a long way off. In the meantime, Obama might want to consider whether the electorate really is amenable to his ultra-liberal agenda and hyper-partisan tone. He got elected posing as a moderate and bipartisan figure. If he governed that way, fewer voters might be anxious to replace him.

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Re: The D Handicap

If you think I was harsh comparing Martha Coakley to Creigh Deeds, take a peek at Gail Collins’s rant today. She says that Coakley “is the kind of candidate who reminds you that the state that gave birth to John Kennedy also produced Michael Dukakis.” She grumbles:

She is the attorney general, and her speaking style has been compared to that of a prosecutor delivering a summation to the jury. In civil court. In a trial that involved, say, a dispute over widget tariffs.

She is so tone deaf that she made fun of her opponent for standing outside Fenway Park shaking hands “in the cold.” A week before the election, Coakley was off the campaign trail entirely in Washington for a fund-raiser that was packed with the usual suspects. But undoubtedly it was well heated. … This week Coakley unleashed a hard-hitting ad that charged Brown with being, um, a Republican. Brown’s hard-hitting response charged Coakley with running a negative ad. He is generally thought to have gotten the best of that round, especially given that little mishap with the spelling of the name of the state.

Collins is, I suspect, representative of most Democrats, who now realize that Coakley could lose. And just as they began to trash Creigh Deeds in advance of the election to insulate the White House from blame, they’re putting the potential catastrophe on the shoulders of the candidate in Massachusetts. But to her credit, Collins hints that there’s no escaping the source of the Democrats’ angst: “The people who voted for Barack Obama, meanwhile, are sullen and dispirited. This is, of course, partly because of the economy, but also partly because of the sense that the president is not getting anything done.” And it’s partly because he didn’t turn out to be anything special — not a motivational presence post-election, not an eloquent leader of liberalism, and not someone who cared much about hewing to any of his campaign themes (e.g., transparency, not taxing non-rich people).

There is, as Collins notes, a huge imbalance in enthusiasm. The Republicans in Massachusetts are pumped up and can taste a huge upset. The Democrats alternate between panic and despondency. You’ll see more of this, I suspect, in many more races this year. And after a while, it’ll be hard, even for the most ardent media spinner, to blame failure on each and every one of the Democratic candidates.

If you think I was harsh comparing Martha Coakley to Creigh Deeds, take a peek at Gail Collins’s rant today. She says that Coakley “is the kind of candidate who reminds you that the state that gave birth to John Kennedy also produced Michael Dukakis.” She grumbles:

She is the attorney general, and her speaking style has been compared to that of a prosecutor delivering a summation to the jury. In civil court. In a trial that involved, say, a dispute over widget tariffs.

She is so tone deaf that she made fun of her opponent for standing outside Fenway Park shaking hands “in the cold.” A week before the election, Coakley was off the campaign trail entirely in Washington for a fund-raiser that was packed with the usual suspects. But undoubtedly it was well heated. … This week Coakley unleashed a hard-hitting ad that charged Brown with being, um, a Republican. Brown’s hard-hitting response charged Coakley with running a negative ad. He is generally thought to have gotten the best of that round, especially given that little mishap with the spelling of the name of the state.

Collins is, I suspect, representative of most Democrats, who now realize that Coakley could lose. And just as they began to trash Creigh Deeds in advance of the election to insulate the White House from blame, they’re putting the potential catastrophe on the shoulders of the candidate in Massachusetts. But to her credit, Collins hints that there’s no escaping the source of the Democrats’ angst: “The people who voted for Barack Obama, meanwhile, are sullen and dispirited. This is, of course, partly because of the economy, but also partly because of the sense that the president is not getting anything done.” And it’s partly because he didn’t turn out to be anything special — not a motivational presence post-election, not an eloquent leader of liberalism, and not someone who cared much about hewing to any of his campaign themes (e.g., transparency, not taxing non-rich people).

There is, as Collins notes, a huge imbalance in enthusiasm. The Republicans in Massachusetts are pumped up and can taste a huge upset. The Democrats alternate between panic and despondency. You’ll see more of this, I suspect, in many more races this year. And after a while, it’ll be hard, even for the most ardent media spinner, to blame failure on each and every one of the Democratic candidates.

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Highfalutin Words for Slashing Medicare

In the middle of a rant advising Obama to escape the thrall of Wall Street, E.J. Dionne lets this slip out:

Some keep pushing the tired notion that the deficits can be cured if we just reduce “entitlements,” which I put in quotation marks because I’m weary of people using this highfalutin word to dodge saying directly that they want deep cuts in Medicare and Social Security.

What’s that? I believe the folks who want deep cuts in Medicare are Obama, Harry Reid, and Nancy Pelosi. Oh, and the spinners who keep telling us that ObamaCare is wonderful and just needs to be sold to the American people. But what happens when Obama, Reid, and Pelosi are asked about more than $500 billion in Medicare cuts?

Maybe they can trot out Dionne’s line: “Actually, health-care reform is designed in part to contain the long-term growth of Medicare costs.” What does “contain the long-term growth of Medicare costs” mean in plain English? It means paying health-care providers much less, requiring them to ration care. And then the bill will empower the Medicare Advisory Board to figure out more ways to chisel on care.

There’s a reason the bill is unpopular, and especially so among seniors. They aren’t fooled by highfalutin words that amount to the government’s squeezing care for seniors for the sake of achieving “historic” legislation.

In the middle of a rant advising Obama to escape the thrall of Wall Street, E.J. Dionne lets this slip out:

Some keep pushing the tired notion that the deficits can be cured if we just reduce “entitlements,” which I put in quotation marks because I’m weary of people using this highfalutin word to dodge saying directly that they want deep cuts in Medicare and Social Security.

What’s that? I believe the folks who want deep cuts in Medicare are Obama, Harry Reid, and Nancy Pelosi. Oh, and the spinners who keep telling us that ObamaCare is wonderful and just needs to be sold to the American people. But what happens when Obama, Reid, and Pelosi are asked about more than $500 billion in Medicare cuts?

Maybe they can trot out Dionne’s line: “Actually, health-care reform is designed in part to contain the long-term growth of Medicare costs.” What does “contain the long-term growth of Medicare costs” mean in plain English? It means paying health-care providers much less, requiring them to ration care. And then the bill will empower the Medicare Advisory Board to figure out more ways to chisel on care.

There’s a reason the bill is unpopular, and especially so among seniors. They aren’t fooled by highfalutin words that amount to the government’s squeezing care for seniors for the sake of achieving “historic” legislation.

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Enough with the Campaign

Politico reports:

Barack Obama came to town a year ago to change the way politics worked, and Organizing for America was to be his instrument. The successor to his campaign organization, with the largest e-mail list in America, was poised — many observers thought at the time — to bring the campaign’s movement fervor and Web-centric tactics to pushing Obama’s legislative agenda through Congress.

But Organizing for America hasn’t organized much of anything (certainly not as much as those amateur tea party protesters have). Popular support for Obama’s agenda is at an all-time low. ObamaCare is unpopular. And Democrats lost gubernatorial races in New Jersey and Virginia. Just as Obama is confessing that he really failed to change the way Washington works, the group’s leader insists that, no, they really have:

Executive Director Mitch Stewart also said the organization’s broader effects have been understated. Obama “talked about changing the way that Washington works. We believe that we’ve done that,” Stewart said in the interview with POLITICO. “Is it ‘snap your fingers and you’re living in utopia’? No. But do we feel like we’ve made significant progress toward changing the way that Washington works? Yes.”

Well, that’s only one indication that Organizing for America is a bit out to lunch — and out of the loop. So what’s wrong with the greatest campaign organization ever (or so we were told)? A few things, I think.

First, campaigning — to sell an unknown candidate running in a “historic” race against an unpopular incumbent party – isn’t that hard. (And it helps when Steve Schmidt is running the opposition team.) That’s fundamentally different from sustaining political support over a prolonged period of time for an agenda that the candidate carefully concealed from view as he was convincing voters he was something altogether different. Second, many of the people whom Obama claimed credit for enticing into voting were only interested long enough to put a sticker on their Prius and go to the polls once. They didn’t flock to the polls in the 2009 gubernatorial races and it’s doubtful that they’ll man the barricades for the likes of Harry Reid, Blanche Lincoln, or any of the other vulnerable Democrats. And finally, Obama is the “establishment” now. Spinning for the administration and running interference for the Obami just isn’t as much fun and doesn’t have the same appeal as chanting in Iowa, partying in Denver, and swooning over The One in Berlin. Besides, the “selling” of Obama’s agenda is really the White House’s job. It’s hard to outsource that to a campaign remnant.

The fate of Organizing for America is not unlike that of its candidate. Both, like the dog that caught the bus it was chasing, don’t quite know what to do with their new possession. And the heady days of the campaign when everyone swooned in the presence of the candidate they knew so little about aren’t to be repeated. Perhaps it’s time that Organizing for America closed up shop. There is a time to put the campaign behind and get on with life.

Politico reports:

Barack Obama came to town a year ago to change the way politics worked, and Organizing for America was to be his instrument. The successor to his campaign organization, with the largest e-mail list in America, was poised — many observers thought at the time — to bring the campaign’s movement fervor and Web-centric tactics to pushing Obama’s legislative agenda through Congress.

But Organizing for America hasn’t organized much of anything (certainly not as much as those amateur tea party protesters have). Popular support for Obama’s agenda is at an all-time low. ObamaCare is unpopular. And Democrats lost gubernatorial races in New Jersey and Virginia. Just as Obama is confessing that he really failed to change the way Washington works, the group’s leader insists that, no, they really have:

Executive Director Mitch Stewart also said the organization’s broader effects have been understated. Obama “talked about changing the way that Washington works. We believe that we’ve done that,” Stewart said in the interview with POLITICO. “Is it ‘snap your fingers and you’re living in utopia’? No. But do we feel like we’ve made significant progress toward changing the way that Washington works? Yes.”

Well, that’s only one indication that Organizing for America is a bit out to lunch — and out of the loop. So what’s wrong with the greatest campaign organization ever (or so we were told)? A few things, I think.

First, campaigning — to sell an unknown candidate running in a “historic” race against an unpopular incumbent party – isn’t that hard. (And it helps when Steve Schmidt is running the opposition team.) That’s fundamentally different from sustaining political support over a prolonged period of time for an agenda that the candidate carefully concealed from view as he was convincing voters he was something altogether different. Second, many of the people whom Obama claimed credit for enticing into voting were only interested long enough to put a sticker on their Prius and go to the polls once. They didn’t flock to the polls in the 2009 gubernatorial races and it’s doubtful that they’ll man the barricades for the likes of Harry Reid, Blanche Lincoln, or any of the other vulnerable Democrats. And finally, Obama is the “establishment” now. Spinning for the administration and running interference for the Obami just isn’t as much fun and doesn’t have the same appeal as chanting in Iowa, partying in Denver, and swooning over The One in Berlin. Besides, the “selling” of Obama’s agenda is really the White House’s job. It’s hard to outsource that to a campaign remnant.

The fate of Organizing for America is not unlike that of its candidate. Both, like the dog that caught the bus it was chasing, don’t quite know what to do with their new possession. And the heady days of the campaign when everyone swooned in the presence of the candidate they knew so little about aren’t to be repeated. Perhaps it’s time that Organizing for America closed up shop. There is a time to put the campaign behind and get on with life.

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The D Handicap

Michael Barone thinks Martha Coakley showed her true stripes and may have tipped the race by ignoring the shoving of reporter John McCormack in front of her eyes. “Coakley, who took much of the month of December off and whose campaign didn’t even bother to run TV ads last week, seems to feel entitled to the Senate seat.” She feels entitled to hide behind an independent candidate at debates and to ignore legitimate questions on foreign policy. Barone thinks that her attitude is now plain for the voters to see — namely, “if little people get in my way, like the mild-mannered John McCormack, well, they just have to be taken out of the picture.”

In fact, as Barone points out, Coakley has proved to be an inept candidate running a weak campaign, raising the real potential for not only an upset win by Scott Brown but also a whole lot of second-guessing about how Democrats (in a state with no shortage of Democrats) wound up with such a mediocre candidate in the first place. Barone jokes, “Democrats might conclude that Martha Coakley was a Republican plant, a Manchurian candidate inserted into the race in order to deprive Democrats of their 60th vote in the Senate.”

Actually, Coakley is beginning to bear an uncanny resemblance to Creigh Deeds, who ran an atrocious campaign, got tied up in knots during debates, and failed to impress anyone. In both cases, the candidates really weren’t equipped to run competitive races with well-articulated positions on the issues. They simply assumed that being the Democrat in the race was enough.

In Virginia, New Jersey, and now Massachusetts we have learned, however, that being the Democrat this year is hardly an asset. It brings up troublesome questions about spending, ObamaCare, deficits, and being a rubber stamp for the Reid-Pelosi-Obama cabal. Playing defense in a year in which the president’s ratings are dropping and unemployment is sky-high isn’t easy. And to make matters worse, Democrats are having trouble keeping their A team on the field and recruiting other top candidates who might be able to bob and weave through hard campaigns. The prospect of a wave election is chasing the better Democratic candidates from the field. The result may be many more races with a Creigh Deeds– or Martha Coakley–type candidate in the race. And that, it turns out, makes for many a cringe-inducing moment for the Democratic faithful.

Michael Barone thinks Martha Coakley showed her true stripes and may have tipped the race by ignoring the shoving of reporter John McCormack in front of her eyes. “Coakley, who took much of the month of December off and whose campaign didn’t even bother to run TV ads last week, seems to feel entitled to the Senate seat.” She feels entitled to hide behind an independent candidate at debates and to ignore legitimate questions on foreign policy. Barone thinks that her attitude is now plain for the voters to see — namely, “if little people get in my way, like the mild-mannered John McCormack, well, they just have to be taken out of the picture.”

In fact, as Barone points out, Coakley has proved to be an inept candidate running a weak campaign, raising the real potential for not only an upset win by Scott Brown but also a whole lot of second-guessing about how Democrats (in a state with no shortage of Democrats) wound up with such a mediocre candidate in the first place. Barone jokes, “Democrats might conclude that Martha Coakley was a Republican plant, a Manchurian candidate inserted into the race in order to deprive Democrats of their 60th vote in the Senate.”

Actually, Coakley is beginning to bear an uncanny resemblance to Creigh Deeds, who ran an atrocious campaign, got tied up in knots during debates, and failed to impress anyone. In both cases, the candidates really weren’t equipped to run competitive races with well-articulated positions on the issues. They simply assumed that being the Democrat in the race was enough.

In Virginia, New Jersey, and now Massachusetts we have learned, however, that being the Democrat this year is hardly an asset. It brings up troublesome questions about spending, ObamaCare, deficits, and being a rubber stamp for the Reid-Pelosi-Obama cabal. Playing defense in a year in which the president’s ratings are dropping and unemployment is sky-high isn’t easy. And to make matters worse, Democrats are having trouble keeping their A team on the field and recruiting other top candidates who might be able to bob and weave through hard campaigns. The prospect of a wave election is chasing the better Democratic candidates from the field. The result may be many more races with a Creigh Deeds– or Martha Coakley–type candidate in the race. And that, it turns out, makes for many a cringe-inducing moment for the Democratic faithful.

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Fooling Voters Only So Long

After reeling off the list of broken Obama promises (e.g., “reducing the deficit, reining in federal spending, not allowing lobbyists to work in his administration, increasing taxes only on those who make more than $250,000, and opposing ‘government-run health care’” — as well as the pledge to televise the health-care debate on C-SPAN), Karl Rove concludes:

This all plays into a broader narrative: Mr. Obama is not the centrist or new-style bipartisan leader he presented himself to be. On many of the most basic issues raised in the campaign, and in describing the kind of leadership he would practice, Mr. Obama misled voters. Americans will overlook a lot of things when it comes to politicians—but being on the receiving end of a giant bait-and-switch game isn’t one of them.

The problem for Obama with this narrative is that it’s compelling to a broad range of voters: independents (who both liked the nonpartisan persona and are particularly aggrieved by dishonest politicians), those conservatives snookered by Obama’s campaign rhetoric, and even some Democrats who chose him over Hillary Clinton precisely because they were worn down by the partisan wars and saw in Obama the chance to build a new governing coalition. Had Obama actually accomplished something tangible in his first year — saving or creating some jobs, for example, or passing a widely supported health-care plan — all might be forgiven. But it’s the toxic mix of deceit and incompetence that riles voters.

Republicans shouldn’t start measuring drapes for the Oval Office yet. The first term is only a quarter done. If unemployment tapers off by 2012, the midterm elections (or threat thereof) force Obama to moderate his policies, and he keeps the country safe while prosecuting the war against Islamic terrorism successfully on the Afghanistan and Iraq battlefields, then the public will reward him. But his tumble from Olympian heights of popularity is a lesson for politicians: voters are not to be trifled with — they have the ability to register their wrath.

After reeling off the list of broken Obama promises (e.g., “reducing the deficit, reining in federal spending, not allowing lobbyists to work in his administration, increasing taxes only on those who make more than $250,000, and opposing ‘government-run health care’” — as well as the pledge to televise the health-care debate on C-SPAN), Karl Rove concludes:

This all plays into a broader narrative: Mr. Obama is not the centrist or new-style bipartisan leader he presented himself to be. On many of the most basic issues raised in the campaign, and in describing the kind of leadership he would practice, Mr. Obama misled voters. Americans will overlook a lot of things when it comes to politicians—but being on the receiving end of a giant bait-and-switch game isn’t one of them.

The problem for Obama with this narrative is that it’s compelling to a broad range of voters: independents (who both liked the nonpartisan persona and are particularly aggrieved by dishonest politicians), those conservatives snookered by Obama’s campaign rhetoric, and even some Democrats who chose him over Hillary Clinton precisely because they were worn down by the partisan wars and saw in Obama the chance to build a new governing coalition. Had Obama actually accomplished something tangible in his first year — saving or creating some jobs, for example, or passing a widely supported health-care plan — all might be forgiven. But it’s the toxic mix of deceit and incompetence that riles voters.

Republicans shouldn’t start measuring drapes for the Oval Office yet. The first term is only a quarter done. If unemployment tapers off by 2012, the midterm elections (or threat thereof) force Obama to moderate his policies, and he keeps the country safe while prosecuting the war against Islamic terrorism successfully on the Afghanistan and Iraq battlefields, then the public will reward him. But his tumble from Olympian heights of popularity is a lesson for politicians: voters are not to be trifled with — they have the ability to register their wrath.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Noemie Emery says the elite pundits blew it in hawking Obama’s candidacy: “Could it be that The One has misjudged both the times and the country?; that he made a strategic mistake in pushing for health care (and a tactical one in trusting the Congress)?; that he created a nightmare for most in his party, who face epic losses this year? … To acknowledge this is to indict their own judgment, to face the fact they themselves may be less than insightful, that ‘talking like us’ means next to nothing, and that writing for magazines doesn’t equip one for greatness, or leadership. In fact, it only equips one to write for more magazines.”

Rep. Bart Stupak is holding firm for now. He isn’t buying the Reid–Ben Nelson abortion compromise language, “arguing that the Senate bill would effectively allow millions to buy insurance plans covering abortion because of federal subsidies and break the long-standing Hyde rule preventing federal funding of abortions — even if the federal government isn’t signing the checks directly, as it would have with the now-dead public insurance option.” The Democrats claim they have enough votes even without Stupak and pro-life Democrats. Really? We’ll find out.

Talking Points Memo or American Spectator? “Most campaign-type Democrats think Coakley will pull out a victory Tuesday despite a lackluster campaign and independents and undecideds rapidly slipping from their column, but some openly warn that a close race in the Bay State is a real warning sign for November’s mid-term elections.”

Barack Obama or Newt Gingrich? “That’s what’s been lost this year … that whole sense of changing how Washington works.”

A former Justice Department official doesn’t think much of the Obama team’s flurry of excuses for not responding to discovery requests in the New Black Panther Party case: “They are relying on privileges that the Office of Legal Counsel says do not exist. … There is no privilege, for instance, saying that the Justice Department will not identify personnel working on the case. … Generally, a number of these privileges [are ones] I’ve literally never heard of.” Well, who ever heard of executive privilege for a social secretary?

New Hampshire once looked like a potential lost seat for the GOP. Not anymore. The Republican front-runner, Kelly Ayotte, leads Paul Hodes by 9 points in the latest poll.

Good for him: “The top Senate Democrat in charge of military affairs on Wednesday ended a three-day trip to Afghanistan with a message of optimism that the U.S. mission can still succeed. Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.), chairman of the Armed Services Committee, said he sees a higher confidence among U.S. military leaders and Afghan leaders that the war against insurgents can be successful.” And a lesson for Obama: if he leads on national security, his base will follow.

Politico has a forum on: “Massachusetts: Does the closer-than-anyone-expected race jeopardize the Democratic agenda?” If you have to ask, the answer is yes.

All that groveling for nothing: “Although a State Department China hand described constructive U.S.-China cooperation on Iran in Hill testimony today, there are more signs that China is trying to put the breaks on moving forward with new Iran sanctions at this time. … But a diplomatic source tells POLITICO that China is saying its political director may not necessarily be able to come to a meeting of the P5+1 — the five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany — that is scheduled for next weekend in New York.”

Noemie Emery says the elite pundits blew it in hawking Obama’s candidacy: “Could it be that The One has misjudged both the times and the country?; that he made a strategic mistake in pushing for health care (and a tactical one in trusting the Congress)?; that he created a nightmare for most in his party, who face epic losses this year? … To acknowledge this is to indict their own judgment, to face the fact they themselves may be less than insightful, that ‘talking like us’ means next to nothing, and that writing for magazines doesn’t equip one for greatness, or leadership. In fact, it only equips one to write for more magazines.”

Rep. Bart Stupak is holding firm for now. He isn’t buying the Reid–Ben Nelson abortion compromise language, “arguing that the Senate bill would effectively allow millions to buy insurance plans covering abortion because of federal subsidies and break the long-standing Hyde rule preventing federal funding of abortions — even if the federal government isn’t signing the checks directly, as it would have with the now-dead public insurance option.” The Democrats claim they have enough votes even without Stupak and pro-life Democrats. Really? We’ll find out.

Talking Points Memo or American Spectator? “Most campaign-type Democrats think Coakley will pull out a victory Tuesday despite a lackluster campaign and independents and undecideds rapidly slipping from their column, but some openly warn that a close race in the Bay State is a real warning sign for November’s mid-term elections.”

Barack Obama or Newt Gingrich? “That’s what’s been lost this year … that whole sense of changing how Washington works.”

A former Justice Department official doesn’t think much of the Obama team’s flurry of excuses for not responding to discovery requests in the New Black Panther Party case: “They are relying on privileges that the Office of Legal Counsel says do not exist. … There is no privilege, for instance, saying that the Justice Department will not identify personnel working on the case. … Generally, a number of these privileges [are ones] I’ve literally never heard of.” Well, who ever heard of executive privilege for a social secretary?

New Hampshire once looked like a potential lost seat for the GOP. Not anymore. The Republican front-runner, Kelly Ayotte, leads Paul Hodes by 9 points in the latest poll.

Good for him: “The top Senate Democrat in charge of military affairs on Wednesday ended a three-day trip to Afghanistan with a message of optimism that the U.S. mission can still succeed. Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.), chairman of the Armed Services Committee, said he sees a higher confidence among U.S. military leaders and Afghan leaders that the war against insurgents can be successful.” And a lesson for Obama: if he leads on national security, his base will follow.

Politico has a forum on: “Massachusetts: Does the closer-than-anyone-expected race jeopardize the Democratic agenda?” If you have to ask, the answer is yes.

All that groveling for nothing: “Although a State Department China hand described constructive U.S.-China cooperation on Iran in Hill testimony today, there are more signs that China is trying to put the breaks on moving forward with new Iran sanctions at this time. … But a diplomatic source tells POLITICO that China is saying its political director may not necessarily be able to come to a meeting of the P5+1 — the five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany — that is scheduled for next weekend in New York.”

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