Commentary Magazine


Posts For: January 15, 2010

Japan’s Flip-Flop

This has not been a good week for U.S.-Japanese relations.

Today, Japan ended its eight-year refueling mission that once supported the American war in Afghanistan. And on Tuesday, Hillary Clinton met with the Japanese foreign minister in Hawaii. The official remarks were awkward as both diplomats timidly addressed how to relocate the U.S. Futenma military base. The U.S. wants to move the controversial base to a different place within Japan, but the new prime minister, Yukio Hatoyama, campaigned partially on reducing U.S. presence and has considered removing the base from the country altogether. So evident were the differences of opinion between Tokyo and Washington that a Japanese reporter questioned whether “you really can have substantive talks [on any topic at all] while the Futenma issue remains unresolved.”

There are many similarities between Obama and Hatoyama. Both came to power on promises of change, overturning an established political party. And change they have delivered. But change is tricky in the foreign-policy arena.

The refueling mission was an eight-year show of Japanese symbolic support for the U.S. efforts in the Middle East — a precedent not to be reversed lightly. And the United States thought it had resolved the Futenma issue back in 2005 — but now Hatoyama wants until May to reconsider that decision. “We now have a change in government in Japan and there are different views within the coalition government,” Foreign Minister Katsuya Okada said Tuesday in defense of the hesitancy and delays.

In a way, Tokyo has given the Obama administration a dose of its own medicine. But Japan’s reconsideration has resulted in a decrease in American trust. If agreements can end or reverse from one executive to another, policy will be limited by terms in office — and, thus, it will inherently be shortsighted. That’s the danger of pressing the restart button too often.

Washington and Tokyo have cooperated closely for 50 years. But if the two nations want to see another 50 years of friendship, as Clinton suggested this week, short-sighted policy just won’t cut it. On the other hand, continuity in policy supports alliances and international confidence.

Obama may find his Asian reflection less than flattering.

This has not been a good week for U.S.-Japanese relations.

Today, Japan ended its eight-year refueling mission that once supported the American war in Afghanistan. And on Tuesday, Hillary Clinton met with the Japanese foreign minister in Hawaii. The official remarks were awkward as both diplomats timidly addressed how to relocate the U.S. Futenma military base. The U.S. wants to move the controversial base to a different place within Japan, but the new prime minister, Yukio Hatoyama, campaigned partially on reducing U.S. presence and has considered removing the base from the country altogether. So evident were the differences of opinion between Tokyo and Washington that a Japanese reporter questioned whether “you really can have substantive talks [on any topic at all] while the Futenma issue remains unresolved.”

There are many similarities between Obama and Hatoyama. Both came to power on promises of change, overturning an established political party. And change they have delivered. But change is tricky in the foreign-policy arena.

The refueling mission was an eight-year show of Japanese symbolic support for the U.S. efforts in the Middle East — a precedent not to be reversed lightly. And the United States thought it had resolved the Futenma issue back in 2005 — but now Hatoyama wants until May to reconsider that decision. “We now have a change in government in Japan and there are different views within the coalition government,” Foreign Minister Katsuya Okada said Tuesday in defense of the hesitancy and delays.

In a way, Tokyo has given the Obama administration a dose of its own medicine. But Japan’s reconsideration has resulted in a decrease in American trust. If agreements can end or reverse from one executive to another, policy will be limited by terms in office — and, thus, it will inherently be shortsighted. That’s the danger of pressing the restart button too often.

Washington and Tokyo have cooperated closely for 50 years. But if the two nations want to see another 50 years of friendship, as Clinton suggested this week, short-sighted policy just won’t cut it. On the other hand, continuity in policy supports alliances and international confidence.

Obama may find his Asian reflection less than flattering.

Read Less

Harry Reid Steps in It Again

Among Harry Reid’s many problems is Joe Lieberman, or more particularly, the tick-tock of events from December in which Lieberman objected to Reid’s last-minute Medicare buy-in. Politico recounts:

The New York Times Magazine posted a preview of Sunday’s profile on Reid that quoted the Nevada Democrat as saying Lieberman “double-crossed” him by suggesting he’d support a Reid-brokered compromise that he later opposed. The story cited unnamed associates of the majority leader who said Reid was so enraged he briefly considered scuttling the whole bill before consenting to Lieberman’s demand.

Yesterday, I am informed by Senate aides, Reid called Lieberman to deny the account. But of course taking issue with the New York Times, the Holy Grail of the Left, is dicey. So Reid put out a mild and carefully worded statement that tried to sidestep the particulars of the incident but make peace with Lieberman, whose vote is still critical for passage of the Democrats’ agenda. Reid’s statement read: “Sen. Lieberman and I have a very open and honest working relationship. On issues ranging from foreign policy to health care, even when we disagree, he has always been straightforward with me.” But Reid couldn’t bring himself to walk back the specific quote.

Lieberman in turn put out a statement concerning the paper that could not be named by Reid:

I appreciate Sen. Reid’s statement in response to the comments attributed to him in The New York Times Magazine. As Sen. Reid indicated in his statement, he believes, as do I, that we have always been honest with each other, and any suggestion otherwise is simply false and contrary to the truth.

At that point, Reid’s staff cried uncle and said they’d have no further comment. All this only goes to show just how ham-handed Reid has become. Each public comment turns into another kerfuffle and another day of explanation. Democrats must surely be coming to the conclusion that he’s more trouble than he’s worth. At the very least, perhaps he’d do well to stay away from the media, even outlets as sycophantic to the Democrats as the Gray Lady.

Among Harry Reid’s many problems is Joe Lieberman, or more particularly, the tick-tock of events from December in which Lieberman objected to Reid’s last-minute Medicare buy-in. Politico recounts:

The New York Times Magazine posted a preview of Sunday’s profile on Reid that quoted the Nevada Democrat as saying Lieberman “double-crossed” him by suggesting he’d support a Reid-brokered compromise that he later opposed. The story cited unnamed associates of the majority leader who said Reid was so enraged he briefly considered scuttling the whole bill before consenting to Lieberman’s demand.

Yesterday, I am informed by Senate aides, Reid called Lieberman to deny the account. But of course taking issue with the New York Times, the Holy Grail of the Left, is dicey. So Reid put out a mild and carefully worded statement that tried to sidestep the particulars of the incident but make peace with Lieberman, whose vote is still critical for passage of the Democrats’ agenda. Reid’s statement read: “Sen. Lieberman and I have a very open and honest working relationship. On issues ranging from foreign policy to health care, even when we disagree, he has always been straightforward with me.” But Reid couldn’t bring himself to walk back the specific quote.

Lieberman in turn put out a statement concerning the paper that could not be named by Reid:

I appreciate Sen. Reid’s statement in response to the comments attributed to him in The New York Times Magazine. As Sen. Reid indicated in his statement, he believes, as do I, that we have always been honest with each other, and any suggestion otherwise is simply false and contrary to the truth.

At that point, Reid’s staff cried uncle and said they’d have no further comment. All this only goes to show just how ham-handed Reid has become. Each public comment turns into another kerfuffle and another day of explanation. Democrats must surely be coming to the conclusion that he’s more trouble than he’s worth. At the very least, perhaps he’d do well to stay away from the media, even outlets as sycophantic to the Democrats as the Gray Lady.

Read Less

Coakley: The Buzzards Gather

Just as I suggested this week, Democrats are now attempting, according to Byron York, to Creigh Deeds-ize Martha Coakley. If she is in fact tanking, now is the time to write her off as a damaged and enfeebled candidate, lest anyone suspect that this is a reflection on Democrats’ political liabilities. York suggests that Coakley’s own polls show her trailing by 5 points. So the buzzards are circling:

“This is a Creigh Deeds situation,” the Democrat says. “I don’t think it says that the Obama agenda is a problem. I think it says, 1) that she’s a terrible candidate, 2) that she ran a terrible campaign, 3) that the climate is difficult but she should have been able to overcome it, and 4) that Democrats beware — you better run good campaigns, or you’re going to lose.”

They do have a point. Not only is she a lackluster candidate, she has, as Dorothy Rabinowitz documents in painstaking fashion, shown herself to be profoundly lacking in judgment, as evidenced by her conduct in a sensational child-sexual-abuse case in which horrifying, and ultimately unsubstantiated, accusations were made against the Amirault family. Rabinowitz describes Coakley’s role in the case’s unraveling as Gerald Amirault was spared his full 30-to-40-year sentence:

In 2000, the Massachusetts Governor’s Board of Pardons and Paroles met to consider a commutation of Gerald’s sentence. After nine months of investigation, the board, reputed to be the toughest in the country, voted 5-0, with one abstention, to commute his sentence. Still more newsworthy was an added statement, signed by a majority of the board, which pointed to the lack of evidence against the Amiraults, and the “extraordinary if not bizarre allegations” on which they had been convicted.

Editorials in every major and minor paper in the state applauded the Board’s findings. District Attorney Coakley was not idle either, and quickly set about organizing the parents and children in the case, bringing them to meetings with Acting Gov. Jane Swift, to persuade her to reject the board’s ruling. Ms. Coakley also worked the press, setting up a special interview so that the now adult accusers could tell reporters, once more, of the tortures they had suffered at the hands of the Amiraults, and of their panic at the prospect of Gerald going free.

Rabinowitz argues that if Coakley believed the preposterous allegations in that case, which “no serious citizen does,” then “that is powerful testimony to the mind and capacities of this aspirant to a Senate seat. It is little short of wonderful to hear now of Ms. Coakley’s concern for the rights of terror suspects at Guantanamo—her urgent call for the protection of the right to the presumption of innocence.”

Perhaps, then, there’s a measure of truth to Democrats’ whispering campaign. Coakley may simply be in over her head, a woman of flawed judgment and limited political skills. In any other year, that might not be a barrier to election for a Democrat in a deep Blue State. But this is no ordinary year.

Just as I suggested this week, Democrats are now attempting, according to Byron York, to Creigh Deeds-ize Martha Coakley. If she is in fact tanking, now is the time to write her off as a damaged and enfeebled candidate, lest anyone suspect that this is a reflection on Democrats’ political liabilities. York suggests that Coakley’s own polls show her trailing by 5 points. So the buzzards are circling:

“This is a Creigh Deeds situation,” the Democrat says. “I don’t think it says that the Obama agenda is a problem. I think it says, 1) that she’s a terrible candidate, 2) that she ran a terrible campaign, 3) that the climate is difficult but she should have been able to overcome it, and 4) that Democrats beware — you better run good campaigns, or you’re going to lose.”

They do have a point. Not only is she a lackluster candidate, she has, as Dorothy Rabinowitz documents in painstaking fashion, shown herself to be profoundly lacking in judgment, as evidenced by her conduct in a sensational child-sexual-abuse case in which horrifying, and ultimately unsubstantiated, accusations were made against the Amirault family. Rabinowitz describes Coakley’s role in the case’s unraveling as Gerald Amirault was spared his full 30-to-40-year sentence:

In 2000, the Massachusetts Governor’s Board of Pardons and Paroles met to consider a commutation of Gerald’s sentence. After nine months of investigation, the board, reputed to be the toughest in the country, voted 5-0, with one abstention, to commute his sentence. Still more newsworthy was an added statement, signed by a majority of the board, which pointed to the lack of evidence against the Amiraults, and the “extraordinary if not bizarre allegations” on which they had been convicted.

Editorials in every major and minor paper in the state applauded the Board’s findings. District Attorney Coakley was not idle either, and quickly set about organizing the parents and children in the case, bringing them to meetings with Acting Gov. Jane Swift, to persuade her to reject the board’s ruling. Ms. Coakley also worked the press, setting up a special interview so that the now adult accusers could tell reporters, once more, of the tortures they had suffered at the hands of the Amiraults, and of their panic at the prospect of Gerald going free.

Rabinowitz argues that if Coakley believed the preposterous allegations in that case, which “no serious citizen does,” then “that is powerful testimony to the mind and capacities of this aspirant to a Senate seat. It is little short of wonderful to hear now of Ms. Coakley’s concern for the rights of terror suspects at Guantanamo—her urgent call for the protection of the right to the presumption of innocence.”

Perhaps, then, there’s a measure of truth to Democrats’ whispering campaign. Coakley may simply be in over her head, a woman of flawed judgment and limited political skills. In any other year, that might not be a barrier to election for a Democrat in a deep Blue State. But this is no ordinary year.

Read Less

The Need for Getting Good at Nation Building

Fred Kagan and Christopher Harnisch make a good point in this Wall Street Journal article about the need to build up the state in Yemen and to help it defeat secessionist rebels — not just al-Qaeda. They suggest setting up an inter-agency task force to accomplish this mission. That’s a good idea. Problem is, the U.S. government still lacks the right resources and structures to tackle effectively the difficult task of state-building (or, as it is popularly known, “nation building”) in the Third World.

This is not exactly a new problem. Back in July 2003 I was writing about the need for Washington to create a “Colonial Office.” That was simply a cheeky way of getting attention for the idea of boosting our nation-building capacity — to create what I later suggested should be called a Department of Peace. Whatever you call it, we need to boost our capacity to build up foreign law-enforcement and military capacity along with electricity, sewage treatment, medical care, and the myriad other tasks that states need to perform in order to enjoy legitimacy with their own citizens and control their own borders.

This isn’t a matter of do-goodism run rampant; it’s a matter of self-preservation. Because as we are now seeing in Pakistan, Yemen, and Somalia, among others, countries lacking effective governance — especially countries of large, discontented Muslim populations — can pose a direct national-security threat to the United States. After the early setbacks in Iraq, it was generally acknowledged that there was a need to boost our capacity in this regard but remarkably little has been accomplished outside the military.

The U.S. Army and Marine Corps have become much more adept at counterinsurgency since 2003, which, they have realized, includes a large nation-building element that would enable our local allies to carry on in the future with decreasing degrees of assistance from us. But the State Department, USAID, and other civilian agencies? They have shown only marginal improvements since 2003. Their capacities remain far too small and they are far too dependant on contractors of mixed reliability and worth.

A lot of this, admittedly, is not their fault; Congress deserves a fair share of the blame for not adequately funding these desperately needed capacities and for yielding to lawmakers’ knee-jerk revulsion against “nation building.” They seem to imagine that if we don’t develop these capacities we won’t be called upon to undertake missions that are never popular on the home front. Unfortunately, as events from Haiti to Yemen show, there is and will continue to be a high demand for the U.S. government to provide these services. The only choice we have is whether we will perform nation-building badly or well. We have chosen to do it badly and will continue to pay a high price if we persist in our blindness.

Fred Kagan and Christopher Harnisch make a good point in this Wall Street Journal article about the need to build up the state in Yemen and to help it defeat secessionist rebels — not just al-Qaeda. They suggest setting up an inter-agency task force to accomplish this mission. That’s a good idea. Problem is, the U.S. government still lacks the right resources and structures to tackle effectively the difficult task of state-building (or, as it is popularly known, “nation building”) in the Third World.

This is not exactly a new problem. Back in July 2003 I was writing about the need for Washington to create a “Colonial Office.” That was simply a cheeky way of getting attention for the idea of boosting our nation-building capacity — to create what I later suggested should be called a Department of Peace. Whatever you call it, we need to boost our capacity to build up foreign law-enforcement and military capacity along with electricity, sewage treatment, medical care, and the myriad other tasks that states need to perform in order to enjoy legitimacy with their own citizens and control their own borders.

This isn’t a matter of do-goodism run rampant; it’s a matter of self-preservation. Because as we are now seeing in Pakistan, Yemen, and Somalia, among others, countries lacking effective governance — especially countries of large, discontented Muslim populations — can pose a direct national-security threat to the United States. After the early setbacks in Iraq, it was generally acknowledged that there was a need to boost our capacity in this regard but remarkably little has been accomplished outside the military.

The U.S. Army and Marine Corps have become much more adept at counterinsurgency since 2003, which, they have realized, includes a large nation-building element that would enable our local allies to carry on in the future with decreasing degrees of assistance from us. But the State Department, USAID, and other civilian agencies? They have shown only marginal improvements since 2003. Their capacities remain far too small and they are far too dependant on contractors of mixed reliability and worth.

A lot of this, admittedly, is not their fault; Congress deserves a fair share of the blame for not adequately funding these desperately needed capacities and for yielding to lawmakers’ knee-jerk revulsion against “nation building.” They seem to imagine that if we don’t develop these capacities we won’t be called upon to undertake missions that are never popular on the home front. Unfortunately, as events from Haiti to Yemen show, there is and will continue to be a high demand for the U.S. government to provide these services. The only choice we have is whether we will perform nation-building badly or well. We have chosen to do it badly and will continue to pay a high price if we persist in our blindness.

Read Less

Big Labor’s Health-Care Deal

The details of the backroom deal between Big Labor and the White House on the excise tax on Cadillac plans are leaking out. This report explains:

The deal cut Thursday would raise the value of policies subject to the tax to $24,000 for families and $8,900 for individuals. Plans with significant numbers of women or older workers would receive an additional break, as would workers in high-cost states and high-risk professions. Dental and vision plans would be exempt starting in 2015. And workers with collective-bargaining agreements and government employers would be exempt until 2018, giving labor leaders time to negotiate new contracts.

That takes $60B in revenue out of the package. But not to worry — the difference will be made up by taxing the rich on investment income, because in a recession you can never increase taxes enough on investors and job creators, apparently.

Yes, this is noxious stuff — but pretty much par for the course. The Obami needed to get a deal, and so they couldn’t have Big Labor out there bad-mouthing the bill. The Collective Bargaining Kickback doesn’t quite have the ring of the Cornhusker Kickback, but the principle is the same. What is the policy or moral justification for treating nonunion workers with generous health-care plans worse than unionized ones? There isn’t. This is about sticking it to those without sufficient political clout to avoid the havoc to be wreaked by ObamaCare. Health-care “reform” was supposed to be about minimizing the differences between the haves and the have-nots. We have learned, however, that the reality of “reform” is the creation of many more divisions and inequities.

The details of the backroom deal between Big Labor and the White House on the excise tax on Cadillac plans are leaking out. This report explains:

The deal cut Thursday would raise the value of policies subject to the tax to $24,000 for families and $8,900 for individuals. Plans with significant numbers of women or older workers would receive an additional break, as would workers in high-cost states and high-risk professions. Dental and vision plans would be exempt starting in 2015. And workers with collective-bargaining agreements and government employers would be exempt until 2018, giving labor leaders time to negotiate new contracts.

That takes $60B in revenue out of the package. But not to worry — the difference will be made up by taxing the rich on investment income, because in a recession you can never increase taxes enough on investors and job creators, apparently.

Yes, this is noxious stuff — but pretty much par for the course. The Obami needed to get a deal, and so they couldn’t have Big Labor out there bad-mouthing the bill. The Collective Bargaining Kickback doesn’t quite have the ring of the Cornhusker Kickback, but the principle is the same. What is the policy or moral justification for treating nonunion workers with generous health-care plans worse than unionized ones? There isn’t. This is about sticking it to those without sufficient political clout to avoid the havoc to be wreaked by ObamaCare. Health-care “reform” was supposed to be about minimizing the differences between the haves and the have-nots. We have learned, however, that the reality of “reform” is the creation of many more divisions and inequities.

Read Less

The Perils of Ignoring Bad News

Two Democratic pollsters and consultants, Pat Caddell and Douglas Schoen, take to the Wall Street Journal op-ed pages to decry the attack by the Obami and their supporters on Fox News and pollsters including Gallup and Rasmussen. They call out the vendetta against Fox, Robert Gibbs’s shot at Gallup, and the avalanche of criticism by liberal spinners as “political intimidation”:

The attacks on Rasmussen and Gallup follow an effort by the White House to wage war on Fox News and to brand it, as former White House Director of Communications Anita Dunn did, as “not a real news organization.” The move backfired; in time, other news organizations rallied around Fox News. But the message was clear: criticize the White House at your peril. … Mr. Gibbs’s comments and the recent attempts by the Democratic left to muzzle Scott Rasmussen reflect a disturbing trend in our politics: a tendency to try to stifle legitimate feedback about political concerns—particularly if the feedback is negative to the incumbent administration.

It’s not only unseemly and revealing of a prickly, defensive, and arrogant administration; it has, I think, contributed to the constant state of shock in which the Obami constantly find themselves. Who knew Van Jones was a problem? How could anyone see a 20-point thumping coming in the Virginia gubernatorial race and a loss in very Blue New Jersey? How could the tea-party protesters catch on? How could Massachusetts be competitive? They always seem a step behind the news and the last to recognize their flagging political fortunes.

That arguably flows directly from indifference and hostility to bad news. If one considers only MSNBC and the New York Times, you can miss a lot of news and many a warning sign that the public isn’t with you. And conversely, the refusal to engage the opposition in meaningful ways (rather than simply deride critics as illegitimate if not downright “un-American,” as Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi tagged the town-hall attendees) has left the policy battleground to the other side. Conservatives say ObamaCare cuts Medicare, unwisely raises taxes in a recession, and will lead to rationed care. The Obami say: Shut up. You can see why they may be losing the argument.

Caddell and Schoen deserve credit for raising the red flag. But as Democrats, they do so not for purely altruistic reasons. They know, even if the White House doesn’t, that putting your fingers in your ears and humming is no way to govern.

Two Democratic pollsters and consultants, Pat Caddell and Douglas Schoen, take to the Wall Street Journal op-ed pages to decry the attack by the Obami and their supporters on Fox News and pollsters including Gallup and Rasmussen. They call out the vendetta against Fox, Robert Gibbs’s shot at Gallup, and the avalanche of criticism by liberal spinners as “political intimidation”:

The attacks on Rasmussen and Gallup follow an effort by the White House to wage war on Fox News and to brand it, as former White House Director of Communications Anita Dunn did, as “not a real news organization.” The move backfired; in time, other news organizations rallied around Fox News. But the message was clear: criticize the White House at your peril. … Mr. Gibbs’s comments and the recent attempts by the Democratic left to muzzle Scott Rasmussen reflect a disturbing trend in our politics: a tendency to try to stifle legitimate feedback about political concerns—particularly if the feedback is negative to the incumbent administration.

It’s not only unseemly and revealing of a prickly, defensive, and arrogant administration; it has, I think, contributed to the constant state of shock in which the Obami constantly find themselves. Who knew Van Jones was a problem? How could anyone see a 20-point thumping coming in the Virginia gubernatorial race and a loss in very Blue New Jersey? How could the tea-party protesters catch on? How could Massachusetts be competitive? They always seem a step behind the news and the last to recognize their flagging political fortunes.

That arguably flows directly from indifference and hostility to bad news. If one considers only MSNBC and the New York Times, you can miss a lot of news and many a warning sign that the public isn’t with you. And conversely, the refusal to engage the opposition in meaningful ways (rather than simply deride critics as illegitimate if not downright “un-American,” as Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi tagged the town-hall attendees) has left the policy battleground to the other side. Conservatives say ObamaCare cuts Medicare, unwisely raises taxes in a recession, and will lead to rationed care. The Obami say: Shut up. You can see why they may be losing the argument.

Caddell and Schoen deserve credit for raising the red flag. But as Democrats, they do so not for purely altruistic reasons. They know, even if the White House doesn’t, that putting your fingers in your ears and humming is no way to govern.

Read Less

Honest Broker, Anyone?

Nothing in George Mitchell’s interview with PBS last week received more attention than the envoy’s implied threat to revoke American loan guarantees to Israel. That’s a pity — because far more worrisome is the goal he set for the negotiations, as highlighted by Aluf Benn in today’s Haaretz. “We think the way forward … is full implementation of the Arab peace initiative,” Mitchell declared“That’s the comprehensive peace in the region that is the objective set forth by the president.”

The Arab initiative mandates a full Israeli withdrawal to the 1967 lines — every last inch of the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and the Golan Heights. It also demands a solution to the refugee problem “in accordance with UN General Assembly Resolution 194,” which Arabs interpret as allowing the refugees to “return” to Israel.

Later in the interview, Mitchell says this initiative requires “a negotiation and a discussion,” and that you can’t negotiate by telling “one side you have to agree in advance to what the other side wants.” Yet by saying his goal is “full implementation” of this initiative, he’s effectively saying, “You can have your negotiation and discussion, but Washington has no intention of being an honest broker: it fully backs the Arab position on borders, Jerusalem, and even (to some extent) the refugees.”

This is the administration’s clearest statement yet that it’s abandoning the position held by every previous U.S. administration: that Israel needs “defensible borders” — which everyone agrees the 1967 lines are not. Mitchell also thereby abandoned the position, held by every previous administration, that any deal must acknowledge Israel’s historic ties to the Temple Mount via some Israeli role there, even if only symbolic (see Bill Clinton’s idea of “sovereignty under the Mount”). The Arab initiative requires Israel to just get out.

And Mitchell effectively took Syria’s side on that border dispute: no Israeli government ever agreed to withdraw farther than the international border, whereas the Arab initiative mandates the 1967 lines — i.e., including the territory Syria illegally annexed pre-1967.

Even worse, the Arab initiative addresses none of Israel’s concerns, such as recognition as a Jewish state or security arrangements. That means Mitchell just announced support for all Arab demands without obtaining any parallel concession to Israel. Under those circumstances, why would the Arabs bother making any?

And his repeated demand that Israeli-Palestinian talks deal with borders first indicates that this was no slip of the tongue. After all, the only thing Israel has to give is territory; having once ceded that via an agreement on borders, it has nothing left to trade for, say, security arrangements — which, as a veteran Israeli negotiator told Benn, has actually proved one of the hardest issues to resolve in previous rounds of talks. Borders first, an Israeli minister summed up, is “a trap. We only give, we don’t get anything.”

George Bush’s Road Map viewed the Arab initiative as merely one of many “foundations” for talks. Mitchell’s adoption of its “full implementation” as a goal thus represents a deterioration in U.S. positions that ought to worry all Israel supporters.

Nothing in George Mitchell’s interview with PBS last week received more attention than the envoy’s implied threat to revoke American loan guarantees to Israel. That’s a pity — because far more worrisome is the goal he set for the negotiations, as highlighted by Aluf Benn in today’s Haaretz. “We think the way forward … is full implementation of the Arab peace initiative,” Mitchell declared“That’s the comprehensive peace in the region that is the objective set forth by the president.”

The Arab initiative mandates a full Israeli withdrawal to the 1967 lines — every last inch of the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and the Golan Heights. It also demands a solution to the refugee problem “in accordance with UN General Assembly Resolution 194,” which Arabs interpret as allowing the refugees to “return” to Israel.

Later in the interview, Mitchell says this initiative requires “a negotiation and a discussion,” and that you can’t negotiate by telling “one side you have to agree in advance to what the other side wants.” Yet by saying his goal is “full implementation” of this initiative, he’s effectively saying, “You can have your negotiation and discussion, but Washington has no intention of being an honest broker: it fully backs the Arab position on borders, Jerusalem, and even (to some extent) the refugees.”

This is the administration’s clearest statement yet that it’s abandoning the position held by every previous U.S. administration: that Israel needs “defensible borders” — which everyone agrees the 1967 lines are not. Mitchell also thereby abandoned the position, held by every previous administration, that any deal must acknowledge Israel’s historic ties to the Temple Mount via some Israeli role there, even if only symbolic (see Bill Clinton’s idea of “sovereignty under the Mount”). The Arab initiative requires Israel to just get out.

And Mitchell effectively took Syria’s side on that border dispute: no Israeli government ever agreed to withdraw farther than the international border, whereas the Arab initiative mandates the 1967 lines — i.e., including the territory Syria illegally annexed pre-1967.

Even worse, the Arab initiative addresses none of Israel’s concerns, such as recognition as a Jewish state or security arrangements. That means Mitchell just announced support for all Arab demands without obtaining any parallel concession to Israel. Under those circumstances, why would the Arabs bother making any?

And his repeated demand that Israeli-Palestinian talks deal with borders first indicates that this was no slip of the tongue. After all, the only thing Israel has to give is territory; having once ceded that via an agreement on borders, it has nothing left to trade for, say, security arrangements — which, as a veteran Israeli negotiator told Benn, has actually proved one of the hardest issues to resolve in previous rounds of talks. Borders first, an Israeli minister summed up, is “a trap. We only give, we don’t get anything.”

George Bush’s Road Map viewed the Arab initiative as merely one of many “foundations” for talks. Mitchell’s adoption of its “full implementation” as a goal thus represents a deterioration in U.S. positions that ought to worry all Israel supporters.

Read Less

Northern Virginia Up for Grabs

Virginia continues to surprise Democrats and the elite media. This week a special election was held to fill the state Senate seat in Fairfax County vacated by conservative Republican Ken Cuccinelli, who was elected as the state attorney general. The Democrat won but by only a few hundred votes. Lee Hockstader of the Washington Post — not known to make excuses for the GOP — explained that the Democrat was a “well respected, two-term member of the House of Delegates who is universally acknowledged as one of the state’s leading experts on juvenile justice, incarceration and rehabilitation,” while the Republican “served a single term on the Fairfax School Board before being unceremoniously turned out of office.” The result should give Democrats pause:

This is a no-brainer. [Democrat Dave] Marsden should’ve cleaned up. Instead, he won by scarcely 1 percent of the 23,600 votes cast. His margin of victory came from a 2-1 edge among the state’s 1,200 absentee voters, a constituency GOP officials somehow overlooked. All 40 seats in the state Senate will be up for grabs next November. Be afraid, Virginia Democrats, be very afraid.

But before we get to another round of state races, we have this year’s congressional contests. Gerry Connolly, a first-term congressman in the 11th district and former Fairfax County supervisor who replaced longtime and very popular Tom Davis, should be “very afraid” as well. Two Republicans — Fairfax county supervisor Pat Herrity and businessman Keith Fimian (who lost to Connolly in 2008 by a 54 to 43 percent margin, considerably ahead of John McCain, who lost to Obama by a 60 to 39 percent margin in the county) — are vying to challenge him.

Since coming to the Hill, Connolly has eschewed the model of his predecessor, a moderate, pro-business Republican who remained popular in his district even when Republican fortunes flagged. Instead, Connolly has voted down the line with Nancy Pelosi and Obama on the left-wing agenda. His votes on cap-and-trade and especially ObamaCare (which will hit his constituents with a bevy of new taxes) will certainly be under attack. Connolly has reason to be nervous: Bob McDonnell shocked Virginia politicos, who had come to see Fairfax as drifting further and further into the Blue, by carrying the county 51 to 49 percent, running against the very Obama agenda items Connolly has supported.

In a year in which Massachusetts is competitive, northern Virginia certainly will be — especially if Republicans can make the case that incumbent Democrats have lost faith with their more moderate voters.

Virginia continues to surprise Democrats and the elite media. This week a special election was held to fill the state Senate seat in Fairfax County vacated by conservative Republican Ken Cuccinelli, who was elected as the state attorney general. The Democrat won but by only a few hundred votes. Lee Hockstader of the Washington Post — not known to make excuses for the GOP — explained that the Democrat was a “well respected, two-term member of the House of Delegates who is universally acknowledged as one of the state’s leading experts on juvenile justice, incarceration and rehabilitation,” while the Republican “served a single term on the Fairfax School Board before being unceremoniously turned out of office.” The result should give Democrats pause:

This is a no-brainer. [Democrat Dave] Marsden should’ve cleaned up. Instead, he won by scarcely 1 percent of the 23,600 votes cast. His margin of victory came from a 2-1 edge among the state’s 1,200 absentee voters, a constituency GOP officials somehow overlooked. All 40 seats in the state Senate will be up for grabs next November. Be afraid, Virginia Democrats, be very afraid.

But before we get to another round of state races, we have this year’s congressional contests. Gerry Connolly, a first-term congressman in the 11th district and former Fairfax County supervisor who replaced longtime and very popular Tom Davis, should be “very afraid” as well. Two Republicans — Fairfax county supervisor Pat Herrity and businessman Keith Fimian (who lost to Connolly in 2008 by a 54 to 43 percent margin, considerably ahead of John McCain, who lost to Obama by a 60 to 39 percent margin in the county) — are vying to challenge him.

Since coming to the Hill, Connolly has eschewed the model of his predecessor, a moderate, pro-business Republican who remained popular in his district even when Republican fortunes flagged. Instead, Connolly has voted down the line with Nancy Pelosi and Obama on the left-wing agenda. His votes on cap-and-trade and especially ObamaCare (which will hit his constituents with a bevy of new taxes) will certainly be under attack. Connolly has reason to be nervous: Bob McDonnell shocked Virginia politicos, who had come to see Fairfax as drifting further and further into the Blue, by carrying the county 51 to 49 percent, running against the very Obama agenda items Connolly has supported.

In a year in which Massachusetts is competitive, northern Virginia certainly will be — especially if Republicans can make the case that incumbent Democrats have lost faith with their more moderate voters.

Read Less

Going Google

Beijing is ready to say good-bye to Google. Wang Chen, China’s State Council Information Office minister, has responded to Google’s principled threat to pull out of China:

Our country is at a crucial stage of reform and development, and this is a period of marked social conflicts … Properly guiding Internet opinion is a major measure for protecting Internet information security. Internet media must always make nurturing positive, progressive mainstream opinion an important duty. Currently, the Internet gives space for spreading rumours and issuing false information and other actions that diminish confidence, and this is causing serious damage to society and the public interest.

Let’s put this retrograde autocratic boilerplate up against this week’s column by China fetishist Thomas Friedman. The multi-Pulitzer Man sounded, characteristically, indistinguishable from a China lobbyist:

All the long-term investments that China has made over the last two decades are just blossoming and could really propel the Chinese economy into the 21st-century knowledge age, starting with its massive investment in infrastructure. Ten years ago, China had a lot bridges and roads to nowhere. Well, many of them are now connected. It is also on a crash program of building subways in major cities and high-speed trains to interconnect them. China also now has 400 million Internet users, and 200 million of them have broadband. Check into a motel in any major city and you’ll have broadband access. America has about 80 million broadband users.

Poor, declining America. The writing is on the wall, isn’t it? A once-great nation is now muddling along with its quaint democratic government, passé freedoms, sub-bullet-speed trains and — the kiss of death for any great civilization — bad motel Internet.

That’s an interesting metric by which to assess superpower status. Friedman might want to put a little more weight on the fact that those 80 million Americans can perform what would constitute a Chinese Miracle: entering “Tiananmen massacre” into a search engine and getting a result. But no. Apparently “the 21st-century knowledge age” is best suited to states that systematically ban knowledge. The important thing is Jetsons-like rail travel. Here’s Friedman’s sci-fi-Wi-Fi obsession on particularly nasty display in a column from last week:

Being in China right now I am more convinced than ever that when historians look back at the end of the first decade of the 21st century, they will say that the most important thing to happen was not the Great Recession, but China’s Green Leap Forward. The Beijing leadership clearly understands that the E.T. — Energy Technology — revolution is both a necessity and an opportunity, and they do not intend to miss it.

We, by contrast, intend to fix Afghanistan. Have a nice day.

There’s the backward U.S. for you, focusing on terrorism and freedom when the future belongs to trains and laptops.

But what does Friedman do now? Upon his return to the impossibly slow U.S., how does he explain Google’s decision that human rights trump a share of the Chinese market? How does he discuss this without citing an old-fashioned American emphasis on liberty and justice? Whose side will Friedman and other China obsessives take? If other Internet and tech giants (grudgingly) follow, where does that leave his beloved regime?

The truth is that Wang Chen’s statement tells you everything you need to know about China’s supposedly inevitable rise. Beijing doesn’t enjoy enough legitimacy to allow its citizens to hear dissenting opinions. Without the free flow of ideas, China’s citizens will, in turn, remain insufficient to the task of true innovation. Instead, government-backed quasi-corporations will continue to tinker with gadgets from the disco era — bullet trains and solar power. The world’s Tom Friedmans will continue to swoon. Important technological innovation will come, inevitably, in a form few if any have predicted — let alone ranted about for years in the New York Times. And when it comes, it will come from a part of the world where disagreement and tension give birth to genius, not information blockades.

Even as the Obama administration abandons the long-standing American policy of supporting human rights and democracy abroad, other parties take up the torch to heartening effect. That, after all, is what it means to be a superpower: to embrace and offer compelling ideas that resonate in unexpected corners and live in unforeseen contingents. Ideas that, to some extent, do the work of advancing your interests for you. We saw this unfold with Iran’s pro-American democrats, and now we see it in the American corporate sector. Such displays of integrity can’t but shame cynics on their speed trains to magical futures.

Beijing is ready to say good-bye to Google. Wang Chen, China’s State Council Information Office minister, has responded to Google’s principled threat to pull out of China:

Our country is at a crucial stage of reform and development, and this is a period of marked social conflicts … Properly guiding Internet opinion is a major measure for protecting Internet information security. Internet media must always make nurturing positive, progressive mainstream opinion an important duty. Currently, the Internet gives space for spreading rumours and issuing false information and other actions that diminish confidence, and this is causing serious damage to society and the public interest.

Let’s put this retrograde autocratic boilerplate up against this week’s column by China fetishist Thomas Friedman. The multi-Pulitzer Man sounded, characteristically, indistinguishable from a China lobbyist:

All the long-term investments that China has made over the last two decades are just blossoming and could really propel the Chinese economy into the 21st-century knowledge age, starting with its massive investment in infrastructure. Ten years ago, China had a lot bridges and roads to nowhere. Well, many of them are now connected. It is also on a crash program of building subways in major cities and high-speed trains to interconnect them. China also now has 400 million Internet users, and 200 million of them have broadband. Check into a motel in any major city and you’ll have broadband access. America has about 80 million broadband users.

Poor, declining America. The writing is on the wall, isn’t it? A once-great nation is now muddling along with its quaint democratic government, passé freedoms, sub-bullet-speed trains and — the kiss of death for any great civilization — bad motel Internet.

That’s an interesting metric by which to assess superpower status. Friedman might want to put a little more weight on the fact that those 80 million Americans can perform what would constitute a Chinese Miracle: entering “Tiananmen massacre” into a search engine and getting a result. But no. Apparently “the 21st-century knowledge age” is best suited to states that systematically ban knowledge. The important thing is Jetsons-like rail travel. Here’s Friedman’s sci-fi-Wi-Fi obsession on particularly nasty display in a column from last week:

Being in China right now I am more convinced than ever that when historians look back at the end of the first decade of the 21st century, they will say that the most important thing to happen was not the Great Recession, but China’s Green Leap Forward. The Beijing leadership clearly understands that the E.T. — Energy Technology — revolution is both a necessity and an opportunity, and they do not intend to miss it.

We, by contrast, intend to fix Afghanistan. Have a nice day.

There’s the backward U.S. for you, focusing on terrorism and freedom when the future belongs to trains and laptops.

But what does Friedman do now? Upon his return to the impossibly slow U.S., how does he explain Google’s decision that human rights trump a share of the Chinese market? How does he discuss this without citing an old-fashioned American emphasis on liberty and justice? Whose side will Friedman and other China obsessives take? If other Internet and tech giants (grudgingly) follow, where does that leave his beloved regime?

The truth is that Wang Chen’s statement tells you everything you need to know about China’s supposedly inevitable rise. Beijing doesn’t enjoy enough legitimacy to allow its citizens to hear dissenting opinions. Without the free flow of ideas, China’s citizens will, in turn, remain insufficient to the task of true innovation. Instead, government-backed quasi-corporations will continue to tinker with gadgets from the disco era — bullet trains and solar power. The world’s Tom Friedmans will continue to swoon. Important technological innovation will come, inevitably, in a form few if any have predicted — let alone ranted about for years in the New York Times. And when it comes, it will come from a part of the world where disagreement and tension give birth to genius, not information blockades.

Even as the Obama administration abandons the long-standing American policy of supporting human rights and democracy abroad, other parties take up the torch to heartening effect. That, after all, is what it means to be a superpower: to embrace and offer compelling ideas that resonate in unexpected corners and live in unforeseen contingents. Ideas that, to some extent, do the work of advancing your interests for you. We saw this unfold with Iran’s pro-American democrats, and now we see it in the American corporate sector. Such displays of integrity can’t but shame cynics on their speed trains to magical futures.

Read Less

Brown in the Lead?

A new poll shows Scott Brown up by 4 points in Massachusetts. The Boston Herald reports:

Although Brown’s 4-point lead over Democrat Martha Coakley is within the Suffolk University/7News survey’s margin of error, the underdog’s position at the top of the results stunned even pollster David Paleologos. “It’s a Brown-out,” said Paleologos, director of Suffolk’s Political Research Center. “It’s a massive change in the political landscape.” …

Paleologos said bellweather [sic] models show high numbers of independent voters turning out on election day, which benefits Brown, who has 65 percent of that bloc compared to Coakley’s 30 percent. Kennedy earns just 3 percent of the independent vote, and 1 percent are undecided.

Is the poll an outlier or simply the first to pick up that Brown has moved into the lead? Well, that’s why polling gurus like Charlie Cook and Stuart Rothenberg call it a “toss-up.” Think about that: there is no longer a clear advantage in Massachusetts for the Democrat.

Chalk it up to a weak Democratic candidate or to a lame campaign. Blame the Democrats for arrogance in assuming that this was a safe seat. But frankly, who could have blamed them? In September, Coakley was ahead in the polls by 30 points.

Since then, however, something has fundamentally changed. Since September, the country has witnessed the visible battle over ObamaCare — late-night votes, Cash for Cloture deals, and a bill that offends a wide array of groups. Democrats have never looked up or paused to consider the public’s views on the matter. They tell us they will “sell it” to us later. That arrogant defiance of public opinion and the unseemly legislative process that produced a grossly unpopular bill have fueled a resurgence of anger and determination among conservatives and even usually apathetic independents. They now are anxious to send a message to Washington: stop ignoring the voters. We saw it in New Jersey and Virginia. Now we learn that even Massachusetts may not be immune.

The Democrats’ agenda, specifically a hugely unpopular health-care bill, has unified and energized not the proponents of big government but the opposition, which now is itching for the chance to exact revenge. We’ll see on Tuesday if that wave of resentment is so powerful as to extend even to a state so Blue that a little over a year ago, Obama carried it by more than 25 points. My how things change.

A new poll shows Scott Brown up by 4 points in Massachusetts. The Boston Herald reports:

Although Brown’s 4-point lead over Democrat Martha Coakley is within the Suffolk University/7News survey’s margin of error, the underdog’s position at the top of the results stunned even pollster David Paleologos. “It’s a Brown-out,” said Paleologos, director of Suffolk’s Political Research Center. “It’s a massive change in the political landscape.” …

Paleologos said bellweather [sic] models show high numbers of independent voters turning out on election day, which benefits Brown, who has 65 percent of that bloc compared to Coakley’s 30 percent. Kennedy earns just 3 percent of the independent vote, and 1 percent are undecided.

Is the poll an outlier or simply the first to pick up that Brown has moved into the lead? Well, that’s why polling gurus like Charlie Cook and Stuart Rothenberg call it a “toss-up.” Think about that: there is no longer a clear advantage in Massachusetts for the Democrat.

Chalk it up to a weak Democratic candidate or to a lame campaign. Blame the Democrats for arrogance in assuming that this was a safe seat. But frankly, who could have blamed them? In September, Coakley was ahead in the polls by 30 points.

Since then, however, something has fundamentally changed. Since September, the country has witnessed the visible battle over ObamaCare — late-night votes, Cash for Cloture deals, and a bill that offends a wide array of groups. Democrats have never looked up or paused to consider the public’s views on the matter. They tell us they will “sell it” to us later. That arrogant defiance of public opinion and the unseemly legislative process that produced a grossly unpopular bill have fueled a resurgence of anger and determination among conservatives and even usually apathetic independents. They now are anxious to send a message to Washington: stop ignoring the voters. We saw it in New Jersey and Virginia. Now we learn that even Massachusetts may not be immune.

The Democrats’ agenda, specifically a hugely unpopular health-care bill, has unified and energized not the proponents of big government but the opposition, which now is itching for the chance to exact revenge. We’ll see on Tuesday if that wave of resentment is so powerful as to extend even to a state so Blue that a little over a year ago, Obama carried it by more than 25 points. My how things change.

Read Less

Forty Seats in Play for GOP — and It’s Still January

The Cook Political Report tells us that Democrats currently occupy 40 of the 50 House seats designated as “toss-up” or “leans.” (He has also moved the North Dakota Senate seat from “leans Republican” to “solid Republican.”) That is a rather remarkable finding, and it’s only January:

Of the 50 currently competitive seats, Democrats occupy 40 (80 percent), exactly the number of seats Republicans need to gain to steal the House majority. Of the 60 potentially competitive seats, Democrats occupy 45 (75 percent), a figure that underscores Democrats’ overexposed position in the House today.

It is important to note that while one party has never won all of the competitive races in any given election cycle (currently Republicans would need to win all 50 competitive seats to win 218 seats in the House), the likelihood of one or two dozen potentially competitive Democratic seats entering the danger zone at some point in this cycle is high.

Moreover, it’s important to note that this is just the current snapshot, and those GOP openings could multiply. Looking over those early projections of GOP pickups, Larry J. Sabato reminds us :

Could it go higher? Sure, if the economy remains weak, President Obama’s popularity falls further, or (God forbid) a terrorist attack boomerangs on the administration. It could also go lower, if the economic recovery takes off and some other big things go the president’s way.

And that’s just the point. At the Crystal Ball we’re delighted to have been on the mark in both our final 2006 and 2008 projections. But those projections were issued at campaign’s end. Early predictions are like winter snow. They are probably going to melt away by spring, much less summer or fall. What were the various “political ratings newsletters” projecting for Democratic House gains in January 2006? Single digit additions. Democrats ended up +30.

Now, that cuts both ways. Democrats this time around have plenty of time to prepare and adjust course. Unlike the GOP, which was caught by surprise in 2006, the Democrats understand all too well their peril. They could try to save some of those seats by shifting gears and pulling some members back from the brink. But they’ll need to get going and begin shedding their reputation of being ultra-liberal busybodies. And ramming through ObamaCare probably isn’t the way to do it. Should they “succeed” in that gambit, Sabato and Cook will probably need to start adjusting their projections.

The Cook Political Report tells us that Democrats currently occupy 40 of the 50 House seats designated as “toss-up” or “leans.” (He has also moved the North Dakota Senate seat from “leans Republican” to “solid Republican.”) That is a rather remarkable finding, and it’s only January:

Of the 50 currently competitive seats, Democrats occupy 40 (80 percent), exactly the number of seats Republicans need to gain to steal the House majority. Of the 60 potentially competitive seats, Democrats occupy 45 (75 percent), a figure that underscores Democrats’ overexposed position in the House today.

It is important to note that while one party has never won all of the competitive races in any given election cycle (currently Republicans would need to win all 50 competitive seats to win 218 seats in the House), the likelihood of one or two dozen potentially competitive Democratic seats entering the danger zone at some point in this cycle is high.

Moreover, it’s important to note that this is just the current snapshot, and those GOP openings could multiply. Looking over those early projections of GOP pickups, Larry J. Sabato reminds us :

Could it go higher? Sure, if the economy remains weak, President Obama’s popularity falls further, or (God forbid) a terrorist attack boomerangs on the administration. It could also go lower, if the economic recovery takes off and some other big things go the president’s way.

And that’s just the point. At the Crystal Ball we’re delighted to have been on the mark in both our final 2006 and 2008 projections. But those projections were issued at campaign’s end. Early predictions are like winter snow. They are probably going to melt away by spring, much less summer or fall. What were the various “political ratings newsletters” projecting for Democratic House gains in January 2006? Single digit additions. Democrats ended up +30.

Now, that cuts both ways. Democrats this time around have plenty of time to prepare and adjust course. Unlike the GOP, which was caught by surprise in 2006, the Democrats understand all too well their peril. They could try to save some of those seats by shifting gears and pulling some members back from the brink. But they’ll need to get going and begin shedding their reputation of being ultra-liberal busybodies. And ramming through ObamaCare probably isn’t the way to do it. Should they “succeed” in that gambit, Sabato and Cook will probably need to start adjusting their projections.

Read Less

After a Year: The Conservative Revival

We knew it wouldn’t last. We just didn’t know it would happen so fast. That’s what conservatives are saying, having survived and indeed flourished in the first year of the Obama presidency. If Obama was going to govern as the ultra-liberal they believed he was, conservatives assumed that sooner or later the American people would catch on. Believing that Americans are generally right of center and instilled with a healthy skepticism about big government, conservatives reassured themselves that there would be a great awakening of sorts when the mask fell and Obama revealed his true political stripes. But few thought it would happen quite so soon.

As Charles Krauthammer writes:

Ideas matter. Legislative proposals matter. Slick campaigns and dazzling speeches can work for a while, but the magic always wears off.

It’s inherently risky for any charismatic politician to legislate. To act is to choose and to choose is to disappoint the expectations of many who had poured their hopes into the empty vessel — of which candidate Obama was the greatest representative in recent American political history.

It was because Obama chose to govern (or rather tried to govern) from the far Left — and attempted to do so much and do it more quickly than anyone would have expected — that the reaction has been so swift and fierce. (Or as Krauthammer sums up: “In the end, what matters is not the persona but the agenda. In a country where politics is fought between the 40-yard lines, Obama has insisted on pushing hard for the 30. And the American people — disorganized and unled but nonetheless agitated and mobilized — have put up a stout defense somewhere just left of midfield.”)

Perhaps conservatives didn’t give the American public enough credit. Or maybe they underestimated the ferocity of Obama’s liberalism and were therefore blindsided by the swift blowback. But however unexpected the pace, the result should not surprise conservatives. The power of experience — the experience of living under liberal, one-party rule — has revived conservatives’ fortunes and reinvigorated ordinary citizens to push back against a president who thought Americans were ripe for a revolution. It turns out they were — just not the one Obama had in mind.

We knew it wouldn’t last. We just didn’t know it would happen so fast. That’s what conservatives are saying, having survived and indeed flourished in the first year of the Obama presidency. If Obama was going to govern as the ultra-liberal they believed he was, conservatives assumed that sooner or later the American people would catch on. Believing that Americans are generally right of center and instilled with a healthy skepticism about big government, conservatives reassured themselves that there would be a great awakening of sorts when the mask fell and Obama revealed his true political stripes. But few thought it would happen quite so soon.

As Charles Krauthammer writes:

Ideas matter. Legislative proposals matter. Slick campaigns and dazzling speeches can work for a while, but the magic always wears off.

It’s inherently risky for any charismatic politician to legislate. To act is to choose and to choose is to disappoint the expectations of many who had poured their hopes into the empty vessel — of which candidate Obama was the greatest representative in recent American political history.

It was because Obama chose to govern (or rather tried to govern) from the far Left — and attempted to do so much and do it more quickly than anyone would have expected — that the reaction has been so swift and fierce. (Or as Krauthammer sums up: “In the end, what matters is not the persona but the agenda. In a country where politics is fought between the 40-yard lines, Obama has insisted on pushing hard for the 30. And the American people — disorganized and unled but nonetheless agitated and mobilized — have put up a stout defense somewhere just left of midfield.”)

Perhaps conservatives didn’t give the American public enough credit. Or maybe they underestimated the ferocity of Obama’s liberalism and were therefore blindsided by the swift blowback. But however unexpected the pace, the result should not surprise conservatives. The power of experience — the experience of living under liberal, one-party rule — has revived conservatives’ fortunes and reinvigorated ordinary citizens to push back against a president who thought Americans were ripe for a revolution. It turns out they were — just not the one Obama had in mind.

Read Less

It Ain’t Over Till It’s Over

Kim Strassel thinks ObamaCare isn’t a done deal. Not by a long shot. She writes: “Republican Scott Brown is running strong in Massachusetts on a promise to be the 41st vote against health care in the Senate. Democrats’ bigger worry right now is whether Mr. Brown might prove the 218th vote against health care in the House.” In other words, Nancy Pelosi may have a heck of a time rounding up the votes in January, especially if Massachusetts delivers a body blow to the Democrats. As Strassel notes, since the last time House members were forced to walk the plank, the Virginia and New Jersey gubernatorial results have had time to sink in, ObamaCare and the president himself have continued to sink in the polls, and now Massachusetts is proving more than the Democrats can handle.

Strassel explains:

Of her three-yes-vote margin, Democrat Robert Wexler has resigned; his seat remains unfilled until April. Republican Joseph Cao won’t be the final vote for a Democratic bill. As for the 39 Dems who initially voted against the legislation, a vote flip now would be an invitation to be singled out—a la Blanche Lincoln—as the individual who brought the nation ObamaCare.

We shouldn’t underestimate the ability of the White House to strong-arm Democrats, but neither should we underestimate the fear factor that must be gripping the Democratic caucus. If Chris Dodd, Byron Dorgan, and maybe even Harry Reid are goners, could they be next?

In some sense, the Republicans are in the catbird’s seat. If ObamaCare fails, they can claim a measure of credit for having advertised its weaknesses and persuaded their colleagues of its toxicity. And if it passes, that’s the top issue for the 2010 campaign. As for Obama, what was to be his signature piece of legislation has now become a political trap. The solution, of course, is to scuttle the current bill and come up with a remodeled, truly bipartisan approach that eschews the most noxious parts of ObamaCare (e.g., forcing Americans into the arms of Big Insurance, taxing rich and not-rich voters). But for now, that seems not to be on the radar, so the House Democrats’ dilemma remains: a leadership that insists its members pass a bill that may well spell the end of Democratic majority status.

Kim Strassel thinks ObamaCare isn’t a done deal. Not by a long shot. She writes: “Republican Scott Brown is running strong in Massachusetts on a promise to be the 41st vote against health care in the Senate. Democrats’ bigger worry right now is whether Mr. Brown might prove the 218th vote against health care in the House.” In other words, Nancy Pelosi may have a heck of a time rounding up the votes in January, especially if Massachusetts delivers a body blow to the Democrats. As Strassel notes, since the last time House members were forced to walk the plank, the Virginia and New Jersey gubernatorial results have had time to sink in, ObamaCare and the president himself have continued to sink in the polls, and now Massachusetts is proving more than the Democrats can handle.

Strassel explains:

Of her three-yes-vote margin, Democrat Robert Wexler has resigned; his seat remains unfilled until April. Republican Joseph Cao won’t be the final vote for a Democratic bill. As for the 39 Dems who initially voted against the legislation, a vote flip now would be an invitation to be singled out—a la Blanche Lincoln—as the individual who brought the nation ObamaCare.

We shouldn’t underestimate the ability of the White House to strong-arm Democrats, but neither should we underestimate the fear factor that must be gripping the Democratic caucus. If Chris Dodd, Byron Dorgan, and maybe even Harry Reid are goners, could they be next?

In some sense, the Republicans are in the catbird’s seat. If ObamaCare fails, they can claim a measure of credit for having advertised its weaknesses and persuaded their colleagues of its toxicity. And if it passes, that’s the top issue for the 2010 campaign. As for Obama, what was to be his signature piece of legislation has now become a political trap. The solution, of course, is to scuttle the current bill and come up with a remodeled, truly bipartisan approach that eschews the most noxious parts of ObamaCare (e.g., forcing Americans into the arms of Big Insurance, taxing rich and not-rich voters). But for now, that seems not to be on the radar, so the House Democrats’ dilemma remains: a leadership that insists its members pass a bill that may well spell the end of Democratic majority status.

Read Less

Flotsam and Jetsam

At one time, this was thought to be a seat at risk for Republicans: “Former Congressman Rob Portman continues to have the edge on both his chief Democratic rivals in this year’s race for the U.S. Senate in Ohio.”

Charlie Cook has the Massachusetts Senate race as a toss-up, too: “Coakley has run an overly-cautious, somewhat clumsy campaign, only recently hitting the panic button. Some astute political observers note that even in attacking Brown, her campaign’s ads have been less impressive than the attacks on Brown launched by other entities. … To the extent Coakley may still have a tiny advantage, it appears not to meet the normal standard we have for a ‘lean’ rating: a competitive race but one in which one party has a clear advantage. We see no clear advantage.” This is Massachusetts, folks.

Why is it so close in Massachusetts? “Massachusetts politicos said that while anti-Washington sentiment is an element of what is happening in their state, they also blame state political dynamics in combination with presumption by the Democrats and the party’s candidate — Attorney General Martha Coakley — that the seat would be theirs without much of an effort. The Kennedy-anointed Coakley took nearly a week off from the campaign around Christmas. ‘A lot of Democrats in Massachusetts and certainly the Coakley campaign and myself thought this was going to be a lot easier than it’s turning out to be,’ said David Kravitz, a Boston lawyer and opera singer who runs a liberal political blog called bluemassgroup.com.”

It’s all a “political smear campaign,” he says: “Former UN weapons inspector turned Iraq war critic Scott Ritter has been caught in a police sex sting.” And his arrest (the charge was subsequently dismissed) in a 2001 Internet sex scandal was just a coincidence, I suppose.

Fred Barnes thinks ObamaCare isn’t a done deal yet in the House: “Republicans have a target-rich environment of 39 Democrats who voted in favor of Obamacare last year as possible defectors. Republicans will try to persuade as many of them as possible to switch, forcing Pelosi to find new Obamacare backers or see the health care bill die. … The 39 possible switchers include 11 pro-life Democrats who voted for Obamacare after a tough anti-abortion amendment was added. The compromise with the Senate bill isn’t likely to have as strong a provision barring the use of public funds to pay for abortions. Thus some of the pro-lifers could defect.”

Ben Nelson got booed at a pizza parlor. It seems his health-care vote has made him quite unpopular at home: “He used to be a popular figure back home, a Democrat who served eight years in the governor’s office and was elected twice to the Senate by a state that’s as red as the ‘N’ on football helmets. But Nelson has seen his approval ratings tumble in the wake of his wavering over the historic health care bill, his deal cutting with other Senate Democrats and, ultimately, his support to break a GOP filibuster and send the bill to a House-Senate conference committee.” Do other Red State Democrats think they’re immune from this reaction back home?

Elections have consequences: “The man once described by teachers’ union leaders as “the antithesis of everything we hold sacred about public education” was chosen to serve as state education commissioner by Governor-elect Christopher J. Christie on Wednesday. The nomination of Bret D. Schundler to the post underscored the governor’s determination to press ahead with his push for school vouchers, more charter schools and merit pay for teachers.”

Israel is helping in Haiti relief, though you won’t see much reporting on it.

Harry Reid is tanking: “36% approval to 58% disapproval, a 51-41 deficit against Sue Lowden, and a 50-42 one against Danny Tarkanian.” I suspect he’ll be joining Chris Dodd in retirement. You’d have thought that Democrats would have figured out how to dump him in the flap over his “Negro dialect” comments. But maybe it’s not too late. The Democratic Public Policy Polling outfit helpfully polls Democratic alternatives to Reid and finds that the Las Vegas mayor does best against GOP challengers.

At one time, this was thought to be a seat at risk for Republicans: “Former Congressman Rob Portman continues to have the edge on both his chief Democratic rivals in this year’s race for the U.S. Senate in Ohio.”

Charlie Cook has the Massachusetts Senate race as a toss-up, too: “Coakley has run an overly-cautious, somewhat clumsy campaign, only recently hitting the panic button. Some astute political observers note that even in attacking Brown, her campaign’s ads have been less impressive than the attacks on Brown launched by other entities. … To the extent Coakley may still have a tiny advantage, it appears not to meet the normal standard we have for a ‘lean’ rating: a competitive race but one in which one party has a clear advantage. We see no clear advantage.” This is Massachusetts, folks.

Why is it so close in Massachusetts? “Massachusetts politicos said that while anti-Washington sentiment is an element of what is happening in their state, they also blame state political dynamics in combination with presumption by the Democrats and the party’s candidate — Attorney General Martha Coakley — that the seat would be theirs without much of an effort. The Kennedy-anointed Coakley took nearly a week off from the campaign around Christmas. ‘A lot of Democrats in Massachusetts and certainly the Coakley campaign and myself thought this was going to be a lot easier than it’s turning out to be,’ said David Kravitz, a Boston lawyer and opera singer who runs a liberal political blog called bluemassgroup.com.”

It’s all a “political smear campaign,” he says: “Former UN weapons inspector turned Iraq war critic Scott Ritter has been caught in a police sex sting.” And his arrest (the charge was subsequently dismissed) in a 2001 Internet sex scandal was just a coincidence, I suppose.

Fred Barnes thinks ObamaCare isn’t a done deal yet in the House: “Republicans have a target-rich environment of 39 Democrats who voted in favor of Obamacare last year as possible defectors. Republicans will try to persuade as many of them as possible to switch, forcing Pelosi to find new Obamacare backers or see the health care bill die. … The 39 possible switchers include 11 pro-life Democrats who voted for Obamacare after a tough anti-abortion amendment was added. The compromise with the Senate bill isn’t likely to have as strong a provision barring the use of public funds to pay for abortions. Thus some of the pro-lifers could defect.”

Ben Nelson got booed at a pizza parlor. It seems his health-care vote has made him quite unpopular at home: “He used to be a popular figure back home, a Democrat who served eight years in the governor’s office and was elected twice to the Senate by a state that’s as red as the ‘N’ on football helmets. But Nelson has seen his approval ratings tumble in the wake of his wavering over the historic health care bill, his deal cutting with other Senate Democrats and, ultimately, his support to break a GOP filibuster and send the bill to a House-Senate conference committee.” Do other Red State Democrats think they’re immune from this reaction back home?

Elections have consequences: “The man once described by teachers’ union leaders as “the antithesis of everything we hold sacred about public education” was chosen to serve as state education commissioner by Governor-elect Christopher J. Christie on Wednesday. The nomination of Bret D. Schundler to the post underscored the governor’s determination to press ahead with his push for school vouchers, more charter schools and merit pay for teachers.”

Israel is helping in Haiti relief, though you won’t see much reporting on it.

Harry Reid is tanking: “36% approval to 58% disapproval, a 51-41 deficit against Sue Lowden, and a 50-42 one against Danny Tarkanian.” I suspect he’ll be joining Chris Dodd in retirement. You’d have thought that Democrats would have figured out how to dump him in the flap over his “Negro dialect” comments. But maybe it’s not too late. The Democratic Public Policy Polling outfit helpfully polls Democratic alternatives to Reid and finds that the Las Vegas mayor does best against GOP challengers.

Read Less




Welcome to Commentary Magazine.
We hope you enjoy your visit.
As a visitor to our site, you are allowed 8 free articles this month.
This is your first of 8 free articles.

If you are already a digital subscriber, log in here »

Print subscriber? For free access to the website and iPad, register here »

To subscribe, click here to see our subscription offers »

Please note this is an advertisement skip this ad
Clearly, you have a passion for ideas.
Subscribe today for unlimited digital access to the publication that shapes the minds of the people who shape our world.
Get for just
YOU HAVE READ OF 8 FREE ARTICLES THIS MONTH.
FOR JUST
YOU HAVE READ OF 8 FREE ARTICLES THIS MONTH.
FOR JUST
Welcome to Commentary Magazine.
We hope you enjoy your visit.
As a visitor, you are allowed 8 free articles.
This is your first article.
You have read of 8 free articles this month.
YOU HAVE READ 8 OF 8
FREE ARTICLES THIS MONTH.
for full access to
CommentaryMagazine.com
INCLUDES FULL ACCESS TO:
Digital subscriber?
Print subscriber? Get free access »
Call to subscribe: 1-800-829-6270
You can also subscribe
on your computer at
CommentaryMagazine.com.
LOG IN WITH YOUR
COMMENTARY MAGAZINE ID
Don't have a CommentaryMagazine.com log in?
CREATE A COMMENTARY
LOG IN ID
Enter you email address and password below. A confirmation email will be sent to the email address that you provide.