Commentary Magazine


Posts For: January 21, 2010

Muslims Attack Christians and the Church Blames the Jews

Israel’s worsening relationship with the Vatican took another hit earlier this week with the release of a church report that in large measure blames the perilous situation of Christians in the Middle East on Israel and the Middle East conflict.

The report, issued two days after the pope’s visit to a Rome synagogue, which sought to better relations between Catholics and Jews, was prepared in advance of a planned church conference of Middle East Christians to take place later this year. It claims that the Iraq war and Israel’s presence in the West Bank have worsened conditions for minority Christians in the Muslim-dominated region. Written by Arab bishops, the document takes the point of view that Israel’s occupation fuels Islamic radicalism, which in turn makes it hard for Christians to live.

Even worse than that, the report states: “The solution to conflicts rests in the hands of the stronger country in its occupying and inflicting wars on another country.” Thus, it apparently takes the point of view that the solution to the conflict lies principally with Israel, not its Arab antagonists. It goes on to claim that “violence is in the hands of the strong and weak alike, the latter resorting to whatever violence is within reach in order to be free,” which seems to justify anti-Israel terrorism by groups such as Hamas, Fatah, and Hezbollah.

The fallacious nature of this document is more than apparent to anyone who has been paying attention to the actual situation on the ground for Christians in Arab lands. The pressure on Christians to leave their traditional homes has nothing to do with Israel and everything to do with the spirit of Islamist jihadism, which views all non-Muslim minorities as threats to their hegemony. The plight of Christians in Bethlehem since it came under the rule of the Palestinian Authority illustrates this process. Once the town was in the hands of Yasser Arafat and Fatah, the once large Christian community there dwindled as a result of the coercion practiced by the ruling Muslims. But rather than blame the Muslims, Christian Arabs have spent the last century trying to prove their loyalty to the Arab world by blaming their troubles on the Jews and Israel, in effect becoming some of the most strident advocates of Arab nationalist causes.

The church’s role in this sorry syndrome is compounded by the Vatican’s worry that any statements on its part that would properly place the blame for discrimination and violence against Christians by Muslim populations would only make the situation worse. Thus, for decades the church has acquiesced in this effort to deflect the blame for Christian suffering in Arab countries away from the true culprits and on to the always convenient scapegoat of the Jews. There can be little doubt that this document and the conference that will follow will help fuel anti-Israel and anti-American propaganda. Unmentioned in the document is the fact that the one country in the Middle East where true religious freedom is enjoyed by all faiths is the State of Israel.

Israel’s worsening relationship with the Vatican took another hit earlier this week with the release of a church report that in large measure blames the perilous situation of Christians in the Middle East on Israel and the Middle East conflict.

The report, issued two days after the pope’s visit to a Rome synagogue, which sought to better relations between Catholics and Jews, was prepared in advance of a planned church conference of Middle East Christians to take place later this year. It claims that the Iraq war and Israel’s presence in the West Bank have worsened conditions for minority Christians in the Muslim-dominated region. Written by Arab bishops, the document takes the point of view that Israel’s occupation fuels Islamic radicalism, which in turn makes it hard for Christians to live.

Even worse than that, the report states: “The solution to conflicts rests in the hands of the stronger country in its occupying and inflicting wars on another country.” Thus, it apparently takes the point of view that the solution to the conflict lies principally with Israel, not its Arab antagonists. It goes on to claim that “violence is in the hands of the strong and weak alike, the latter resorting to whatever violence is within reach in order to be free,” which seems to justify anti-Israel terrorism by groups such as Hamas, Fatah, and Hezbollah.

The fallacious nature of this document is more than apparent to anyone who has been paying attention to the actual situation on the ground for Christians in Arab lands. The pressure on Christians to leave their traditional homes has nothing to do with Israel and everything to do with the spirit of Islamist jihadism, which views all non-Muslim minorities as threats to their hegemony. The plight of Christians in Bethlehem since it came under the rule of the Palestinian Authority illustrates this process. Once the town was in the hands of Yasser Arafat and Fatah, the once large Christian community there dwindled as a result of the coercion practiced by the ruling Muslims. But rather than blame the Muslims, Christian Arabs have spent the last century trying to prove their loyalty to the Arab world by blaming their troubles on the Jews and Israel, in effect becoming some of the most strident advocates of Arab nationalist causes.

The church’s role in this sorry syndrome is compounded by the Vatican’s worry that any statements on its part that would properly place the blame for discrimination and violence against Christians by Muslim populations would only make the situation worse. Thus, for decades the church has acquiesced in this effort to deflect the blame for Christian suffering in Arab countries away from the true culprits and on to the always convenient scapegoat of the Jews. There can be little doubt that this document and the conference that will follow will help fuel anti-Israel and anti-American propaganda. Unmentioned in the document is the fact that the one country in the Middle East where true religious freedom is enjoyed by all faiths is the State of Israel.

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Free Speech, Not the GOP, Is the Winner in Court Campaign-Finance Ruling

Today’s Supreme Court ruling striking down provisions of the McCain-Feingold federal campaign-finance law is a tremendous victory for free speech in the United States. The 5-4 decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission upholds the principle that that 2002 law and other similar attempts to regulate campaign finance flouted, namely, that the government should not regulate political speech.

The case grew out of a 2008 federal ban on the showing of a documentary film, Hillary: The Movie, during the presidential primaries in which Hillary Clinton, the object of the movie’s criticism, was a candidate. McCain-Feingold allowed the Federal Election Commission to stop the showing of the film because a corporation produced it, even though the corporation in question was a nonprofit. This case aptly illustrated the way this law did not so much protect the electoral process from the corrupting influence of money as it protected politicians from the effects of political speech that they did not like. Far from bolstering the democratic process, McCain-Feingold suppressed it. Like just about every other campaign-finance law that has been passed since the 1970s, when the Watergate scandal gave impetus to a drive to “reform” election spending, this law did not eliminate the influence of money on politics, but it did play favorites as to which sort of speech may or may not be legal. While efforts to bring transparency into campaign finance remain laudable, the process by which money began to be shunted first into political action committees and then, in the wake of McCain-Feingold, into new classes of unaccountable groups did nothing to make the system fairer or cleaner. Instead, it granted a government agency the power to regulate or suppress the one kind of speech that the founders of our republic would have agreed was inviolate: political speech. The court has now chipped away at this expansion of federal power to allow corporations and other groups the freedom to advocate on elections as they please.

The responses to this ruling from some in the political class are predictable. President Obama has issued a call to Congress to pass legislation to overturn the will of the courts, something that we trust the new absence of a filibuster-proof majority for the Democrats will render impossible.

Interestingly, among the first reactions was a blog post by New York Times reporter Jeff Zeleny, who claimed that, “at first blush, Republican candidates would seem to benefit from this seismic change in how political campaigns are conducted in America.” To back this assertion up, he quoted the president’s demagogic statement that claimed the “Supreme Court has given a green light to a new stampede of special interest money in our politics. It is a major victory for big oil, Wall Street banks, health insurance companies and the other powerful interests that marshal their power every day in Washington to drown out the voices of everyday Americans.”

As Zeleny also noted, labor unions and a host of Left-leaning groups are now also free to spend money to publicize their views, as they like. It should also be pointed out that the notion that big business is a dependable backer of the GOP is a myth. The crony capitalism that the bank bailouts have highlighted in the past two years has aptly illustrated the fact that many industries, including the denizens of Wall Street, have a stronger loyalty to corporate welfare that benefits them than they do to the principles of free enterprise. The steady flow of money from firms such as Goldman, Sachs (the principal survivor and beneficiary of the latest shakedowns) to Democratic candidates like Obama is proof of this.

The point here is that more political speech is not a danger to the republic; it is instead the lifeblood of democracy. The only ones to gain from the suppression of views via campaign-spending laws are those politicians who are the subject of critical scrutiny. Acting in the name of “reform,” campaign-finance-restriction advocates have sought to restrict political speech, effectively empowering the politicians and the mainstream media at the expense of the electorate. In a democracy, the people must be free to sort out the views of a host of disparate elements. The free flow of critical advertisements and independent documentaries such as Hillary: The Movie challenge the monopoly of public expression that such a system breeds. Let’s hope this ruling marks the beginning of the end of an era in which the political class used its legislative power to silence their critics.

Today’s Supreme Court ruling striking down provisions of the McCain-Feingold federal campaign-finance law is a tremendous victory for free speech in the United States. The 5-4 decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission upholds the principle that that 2002 law and other similar attempts to regulate campaign finance flouted, namely, that the government should not regulate political speech.

The case grew out of a 2008 federal ban on the showing of a documentary film, Hillary: The Movie, during the presidential primaries in which Hillary Clinton, the object of the movie’s criticism, was a candidate. McCain-Feingold allowed the Federal Election Commission to stop the showing of the film because a corporation produced it, even though the corporation in question was a nonprofit. This case aptly illustrated the way this law did not so much protect the electoral process from the corrupting influence of money as it protected politicians from the effects of political speech that they did not like. Far from bolstering the democratic process, McCain-Feingold suppressed it. Like just about every other campaign-finance law that has been passed since the 1970s, when the Watergate scandal gave impetus to a drive to “reform” election spending, this law did not eliminate the influence of money on politics, but it did play favorites as to which sort of speech may or may not be legal. While efforts to bring transparency into campaign finance remain laudable, the process by which money began to be shunted first into political action committees and then, in the wake of McCain-Feingold, into new classes of unaccountable groups did nothing to make the system fairer or cleaner. Instead, it granted a government agency the power to regulate or suppress the one kind of speech that the founders of our republic would have agreed was inviolate: political speech. The court has now chipped away at this expansion of federal power to allow corporations and other groups the freedom to advocate on elections as they please.

The responses to this ruling from some in the political class are predictable. President Obama has issued a call to Congress to pass legislation to overturn the will of the courts, something that we trust the new absence of a filibuster-proof majority for the Democrats will render impossible.

Interestingly, among the first reactions was a blog post by New York Times reporter Jeff Zeleny, who claimed that, “at first blush, Republican candidates would seem to benefit from this seismic change in how political campaigns are conducted in America.” To back this assertion up, he quoted the president’s demagogic statement that claimed the “Supreme Court has given a green light to a new stampede of special interest money in our politics. It is a major victory for big oil, Wall Street banks, health insurance companies and the other powerful interests that marshal their power every day in Washington to drown out the voices of everyday Americans.”

As Zeleny also noted, labor unions and a host of Left-leaning groups are now also free to spend money to publicize their views, as they like. It should also be pointed out that the notion that big business is a dependable backer of the GOP is a myth. The crony capitalism that the bank bailouts have highlighted in the past two years has aptly illustrated the fact that many industries, including the denizens of Wall Street, have a stronger loyalty to corporate welfare that benefits them than they do to the principles of free enterprise. The steady flow of money from firms such as Goldman, Sachs (the principal survivor and beneficiary of the latest shakedowns) to Democratic candidates like Obama is proof of this.

The point here is that more political speech is not a danger to the republic; it is instead the lifeblood of democracy. The only ones to gain from the suppression of views via campaign-spending laws are those politicians who are the subject of critical scrutiny. Acting in the name of “reform,” campaign-finance-restriction advocates have sought to restrict political speech, effectively empowering the politicians and the mainstream media at the expense of the electorate. In a democracy, the people must be free to sort out the views of a host of disparate elements. The free flow of critical advertisements and independent documentaries such as Hillary: The Movie challenge the monopoly of public expression that such a system breeds. Let’s hope this ruling marks the beginning of the end of an era in which the political class used its legislative power to silence their critics.

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Misunderstanding Massachusetts

The Washington correspondent of Der Spiegel reacts to the Massachusetts election by suggesting Obama’s troubles may simply reflect “a case of the best US president at the worst time” — a great man understandably unable to bring “change” because he has to deal with so many crises:

Barack Obama has spent his first year in office fighting one crisis after another. Now he faces a political crisis of his own — the defeat in Massachusetts threatens his health care reform, his most important domestic project. Is it a case of the best US president at the worst time? …

In times of crisis, insecurity and defensiveness trump any openness to change. And since his inauguration Obama has had to deal almost exclusively with crisis management. The financial crisis, the automotive crisis, the jobs crisis, the climate crisis, the global crisis. There have never been quite so many crises.

The five crises do not quite compare with inheriting the Great Depression (FDR) or World War II (Truman), and memories are short about what George W. Bush faced in his first year: a recession caused by a burst Internet bubble; the failure of the seventh largest company in the country (Enron) and one of the Big Five accounting firms (Arthur Andersen); an attack on New York and Washington, D.C.; a stock market that crashed and an economy that tottered; the need to mobilize the country for a war in Afghanistan; a failed “peace process” inherited on Inauguration Day (with a new Palestinian war against Israel already in its fifth month); etc.

The difference is that Bush did not spend his first year blaming Bill Clinton for the Internet bubble or the inherited recession, or the ineffective response to the first World Trade Center attack and the multiple attacks thereafter, or the bungled peace process. Bush got tax cuts enacted that helped restore the economy; began his war on terror that kept the country safe for the next seven years; worked cooperatively with Ted Kennedy on major education legislation; and so on.

Obama spent his first year responding to the financial crisis with massive borrowed-money bailouts; to the automotive crisis with a government takeover and a transfer of wealth from secured creditors to unions; to the jobs crisis with a trillion dollar “stimulus” that didn’t work; to the climate “crisis” with a nonbinding international agreement featuring a blank appendix; and to the “global crisis” with … what?

Most of his time was devoted to ObamaCare, something unrelated to the five “crises” he faced and something that got more unpopular the more people understood it. He made a lot of trips and speeches, most of them reminding the country that now was the moment and telling the world that his hand was outstretched. For the coming year, he plans a huge tax increase in the guise of letting current tax rates “expire” and has no plan for the real crisis he will face: Iran.

He has not been the best president and these are not the worst of times — and the sort-of-God/best-president-ever treatment he received from the mainstream media contributed significantly to the problem he now faces. His belief that he just needs to slow down and “explain to people why we’re doing what we’re doing” is a more-cowbell response that ignores what Massachusetts was trying to tell him.

The Washington correspondent of Der Spiegel reacts to the Massachusetts election by suggesting Obama’s troubles may simply reflect “a case of the best US president at the worst time” — a great man understandably unable to bring “change” because he has to deal with so many crises:

Barack Obama has spent his first year in office fighting one crisis after another. Now he faces a political crisis of his own — the defeat in Massachusetts threatens his health care reform, his most important domestic project. Is it a case of the best US president at the worst time? …

In times of crisis, insecurity and defensiveness trump any openness to change. And since his inauguration Obama has had to deal almost exclusively with crisis management. The financial crisis, the automotive crisis, the jobs crisis, the climate crisis, the global crisis. There have never been quite so many crises.

The five crises do not quite compare with inheriting the Great Depression (FDR) or World War II (Truman), and memories are short about what George W. Bush faced in his first year: a recession caused by a burst Internet bubble; the failure of the seventh largest company in the country (Enron) and one of the Big Five accounting firms (Arthur Andersen); an attack on New York and Washington, D.C.; a stock market that crashed and an economy that tottered; the need to mobilize the country for a war in Afghanistan; a failed “peace process” inherited on Inauguration Day (with a new Palestinian war against Israel already in its fifth month); etc.

The difference is that Bush did not spend his first year blaming Bill Clinton for the Internet bubble or the inherited recession, or the ineffective response to the first World Trade Center attack and the multiple attacks thereafter, or the bungled peace process. Bush got tax cuts enacted that helped restore the economy; began his war on terror that kept the country safe for the next seven years; worked cooperatively with Ted Kennedy on major education legislation; and so on.

Obama spent his first year responding to the financial crisis with massive borrowed-money bailouts; to the automotive crisis with a government takeover and a transfer of wealth from secured creditors to unions; to the jobs crisis with a trillion dollar “stimulus” that didn’t work; to the climate “crisis” with a nonbinding international agreement featuring a blank appendix; and to the “global crisis” with … what?

Most of his time was devoted to ObamaCare, something unrelated to the five “crises” he faced and something that got more unpopular the more people understood it. He made a lot of trips and speeches, most of them reminding the country that now was the moment and telling the world that his hand was outstretched. For the coming year, he plans a huge tax increase in the guise of letting current tax rates “expire” and has no plan for the real crisis he will face: Iran.

He has not been the best president and these are not the worst of times — and the sort-of-God/best-president-ever treatment he received from the mainstream media contributed significantly to the problem he now faces. His belief that he just needs to slow down and “explain to people why we’re doing what we’re doing” is a more-cowbell response that ignores what Massachusetts was trying to tell him.

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ObamaCare Terminal?

This report confirms the obvious—namely, that Obamacare is crumbling before our eyes:

As top Democrats cast doubt for a way to get health care back on track, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi took one option off the table Thursday, saying her caucus doesn’t have the stomach to pass the Senate bill unless changes are made. “In its present form, without any change, I don’t think it’s possible to pass the Senate bill in the House,” Pelosi said. “I don’t see the votes for it at this time.  .  . ‘Unease’ would be a gentle word in terms the attitude of my colleagues toward certain provisions of the Senate bill,” Pelosi told reporters Thursday morning.

Perhaps someone should ask Pelosi whether there are enough votes to pass any permutation of ObamaCare. Meanwhile, Sen. Chuck Schumer wants to do something fast because who among the Democrats wants “to do health care in the next three months”? This, mind you, is their signature issue, which is so popular that it will rescue them from certain defeat in November.

Plan B was to delay Scott Brown from being seated. Plan C was to pass the Senate version through the House. What is Plan D? Maybe a stripped down, focused bill of the type Republicans have been suggesting for a year now. It would be a bitter pill for Obama and the Left to swallow but what alternative do they have? Or they might just leave the whole thing in the political ditch where it currently resides, move on to jobs and other issues, and have some hearings to study what to do about health care. Democrats like commissions so they can set one up for this.

Against all odds and with considerable legislative skill, opponents of ObamaCare are on the verge of a remarkable victory. If Obama is clever enough, he can figure out how to claim some face-saving credit. But really, there is no disguising this one: Obama’s signature legislative agenda item is on death’s door. Seems as though that death panel turned out to be the Massachusetts voters.

This report confirms the obvious—namely, that Obamacare is crumbling before our eyes:

As top Democrats cast doubt for a way to get health care back on track, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi took one option off the table Thursday, saying her caucus doesn’t have the stomach to pass the Senate bill unless changes are made. “In its present form, without any change, I don’t think it’s possible to pass the Senate bill in the House,” Pelosi said. “I don’t see the votes for it at this time.  .  . ‘Unease’ would be a gentle word in terms the attitude of my colleagues toward certain provisions of the Senate bill,” Pelosi told reporters Thursday morning.

Perhaps someone should ask Pelosi whether there are enough votes to pass any permutation of ObamaCare. Meanwhile, Sen. Chuck Schumer wants to do something fast because who among the Democrats wants “to do health care in the next three months”? This, mind you, is their signature issue, which is so popular that it will rescue them from certain defeat in November.

Plan B was to delay Scott Brown from being seated. Plan C was to pass the Senate version through the House. What is Plan D? Maybe a stripped down, focused bill of the type Republicans have been suggesting for a year now. It would be a bitter pill for Obama and the Left to swallow but what alternative do they have? Or they might just leave the whole thing in the political ditch where it currently resides, move on to jobs and other issues, and have some hearings to study what to do about health care. Democrats like commissions so they can set one up for this.

Against all odds and with considerable legislative skill, opponents of ObamaCare are on the verge of a remarkable victory. If Obama is clever enough, he can figure out how to claim some face-saving credit. But really, there is no disguising this one: Obama’s signature legislative agenda item is on death’s door. Seems as though that death panel turned out to be the Massachusetts voters.

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Squandering Mr. Obama’s Teachable Moment

In his interview with George Stephanopoulos yesterday, President Obama said this:

The same thing that swept Scott Brown into office swept me into office. People are angry, and they’re frustrated. Not just because of what’s happened in the last year or two years, but what’s happened over the last eight years.

He went on to say this as well:

If there’s one thing that I regret this year, is that we were so busy just getting stuff done and dealing with the immediate crises that were in front of us, that I think we lost some of that sense of speaking directly to the American people about what their core values are and why we have to make sure those institutions are matching up with those values. And that I do think is a mistake of mine. I think the assumption was, if I just focus on policy, if I just focus on the, you know this provision, or that law, or are we making a good, rational decision here … that people will get it. … What they’ve ended up seeing is this feeling of remoteness and detachment where, you know, there’s these technocrats up here, these folks who are making decisions. … I think that I can do a better job of that and partly because I do believe that we’re in a stronger position now than we were in a year ago. That also means, by the way, that we can spread out what we do so it’s not so cram-packed. It doesn’t mean I back off the agenda of health care, or energy, or education, or financial regulatory reform, or dealing with our deficits. But it does mean that it doesn’t have to be all on top of the other piled on. And we’ve got a lot more time to explain to people why we’re doing what we’re doing. We have a lot more time to answer critics who argue that we’re not doing the right thing.

What a shame; the election in Massachusetts was a wonderful teachable moment for Mr. Obama — and he seems to have drawn all the wrong lessons from it.

First, the president is still engaged in whining and finger-pointing, an act that long ago became tiresome. Unable to master events, he increasingly looks for ways to scapegoat them. Blaming everything under the sun on the “last eight years” won’t cut it (especially since one of the last eight years now covers Obama’s tenure). It simply makes Mr. Obama look petty and small-minded.

Second, Mr. Obama and his press spokesman Robert Gibbs and his top aide David Axelrod are practicing psychiatry without a license. They speak about the need to “understand” the public’s “anger,” as if it was a rooted in something other than a reasonable verdict on Mr. Obama’s agenda so far. The polling data shows that what is costing the Democrats isn’t some kind of free-floating anger that has gripped voters in need of therapy; it is opposition to what Obama and the Democrats are trying to do to the nation.

Third, the president’s “mistake” is that he and his administration were just so busy doing so much good stuff for so many people that, well, they plainly forgot to explain to simple-minded Americans just how much good stuff the Obama administration is doing for them. I guess Rahm Emanuel needs to add “remind people how great I am” to the presidential “to do” list.

Fourth, Obama and his acolytes believe they have a “communications problem” when in fact they have a substance and competence problem. They are pushing proposals that are counterproductive and highly unpopular; that is why the American people are rising up against the president and his agenda.

Mr. Obama’s words are so laughably out of touch I’m not sure he really believes them. If he does, he is more self-deluded than I imagined. And his administration is in more trouble than I thought.

In his interview with George Stephanopoulos yesterday, President Obama said this:

The same thing that swept Scott Brown into office swept me into office. People are angry, and they’re frustrated. Not just because of what’s happened in the last year or two years, but what’s happened over the last eight years.

He went on to say this as well:

If there’s one thing that I regret this year, is that we were so busy just getting stuff done and dealing with the immediate crises that were in front of us, that I think we lost some of that sense of speaking directly to the American people about what their core values are and why we have to make sure those institutions are matching up with those values. And that I do think is a mistake of mine. I think the assumption was, if I just focus on policy, if I just focus on the, you know this provision, or that law, or are we making a good, rational decision here … that people will get it. … What they’ve ended up seeing is this feeling of remoteness and detachment where, you know, there’s these technocrats up here, these folks who are making decisions. … I think that I can do a better job of that and partly because I do believe that we’re in a stronger position now than we were in a year ago. That also means, by the way, that we can spread out what we do so it’s not so cram-packed. It doesn’t mean I back off the agenda of health care, or energy, or education, or financial regulatory reform, or dealing with our deficits. But it does mean that it doesn’t have to be all on top of the other piled on. And we’ve got a lot more time to explain to people why we’re doing what we’re doing. We have a lot more time to answer critics who argue that we’re not doing the right thing.

What a shame; the election in Massachusetts was a wonderful teachable moment for Mr. Obama — and he seems to have drawn all the wrong lessons from it.

First, the president is still engaged in whining and finger-pointing, an act that long ago became tiresome. Unable to master events, he increasingly looks for ways to scapegoat them. Blaming everything under the sun on the “last eight years” won’t cut it (especially since one of the last eight years now covers Obama’s tenure). It simply makes Mr. Obama look petty and small-minded.

Second, Mr. Obama and his press spokesman Robert Gibbs and his top aide David Axelrod are practicing psychiatry without a license. They speak about the need to “understand” the public’s “anger,” as if it was a rooted in something other than a reasonable verdict on Mr. Obama’s agenda so far. The polling data shows that what is costing the Democrats isn’t some kind of free-floating anger that has gripped voters in need of therapy; it is opposition to what Obama and the Democrats are trying to do to the nation.

Third, the president’s “mistake” is that he and his administration were just so busy doing so much good stuff for so many people that, well, they plainly forgot to explain to simple-minded Americans just how much good stuff the Obama administration is doing for them. I guess Rahm Emanuel needs to add “remind people how great I am” to the presidential “to do” list.

Fourth, Obama and his acolytes believe they have a “communications problem” when in fact they have a substance and competence problem. They are pushing proposals that are counterproductive and highly unpopular; that is why the American people are rising up against the president and his agenda.

Mr. Obama’s words are so laughably out of touch I’m not sure he really believes them. If he does, he is more self-deluded than I imagined. And his administration is in more trouble than I thought.

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Time to Short Tom Friedman

Tuesday, January 12 was a hard day for Thomas Friedman. Or at least it turned into one. That morning, the New York Times ran Friedman’s latest—and possibly last—900 word panegyric to the unstoppable wonder of China’s economy. His column had, as it occasionally does, a personal edge. He was essentially writing to the American investor James Chanos. Friedman had read that Chanos thinks the Chinese bubble is about to burst and is looking to short China’s economy for profit.

And undo all Friedman’s cheerleading??? No sir. Friedman explained to Chanos, and to us, that while China has some things to deal with, “(the most dangerous being pollution)… it also has a political class focused on addressing its real problems, as well as a mountain of savings with which to do so (unlike us).”

You know, it’s not the cleanest place in the world, but its wise leaders will put a few billions toward a country-wide clean-up crew (hey, maybe they can put some of those good-for-nothing Charter 8 signatories and Uighers to work!) before their world domination gets properly started. Friedman’s parting shot was all class, maturity, and circumspection: “Shorting China today? Well, good luck with that, Mr. Chanos. Let us know how it works out for you.”

I’d imagine it’s working out rather well. For on the same morning, a shortsighted, ignorant little entity of no importance called Google announced that it too was shorting China, and ceasing to do business there so long as they had to comply with Beijing’s strict censorship requirements. This puts Chanos in fairly good company.

But did Google miss the Friedman memo? China is rich and focused, “unlike us.” Moreover, as Friedman never fails to mention, “China also now has 400 million Internet users, and 200 million of them have broadband,” —unlike us, of course. Invest away. Shockingly, Google had an issue with China that went beyond the country’s investment mechanics. As the company’s statement read, “we have discovered that the accounts of dozens of U.S.-, China- and Europe-based Gmail users who are advocates of human rights in China appear to have been routinely accessed by third parties.” Human rights? What does that mean? Any regular reader of Friedman knows that China’s is a “reasonably enlightened” dictatorship. How else could they achieve what Friedman calls their “Green Leap Forward,” “the most important thing to happen” in the first decade of this century? Google, it turns out, made a principled decision.

After this news broke, I wondered how Friedman would respond. Courtesy of yesterday’s New York Times, here comes his Yellow Leap Backward: “Your honor, I’d like to now revise and amend my remarks. There is one short position, one big short, that does intrigue me in China. I am not sure who makes a market in this area, but here goes: If China forces out Google, I’d like to short the Chinese Communist Party.”

You see, he’s still bullish on China, just bearish on the Chinese Communist Party. Makes perfect sense. Kind of like cheering the rise of eggs and the simultaneous demise of chickens. If it’s a confusing proposition, never fear. There is no wrong-headed opinion that Thomas Friedman cannot reduce to a childishly digestible formulation.

There are actually two Chinese economies today. There is the Communist Party and its affiliates; let’s call them Command China. These are the very traditional state-owned enterprises.

Alongside them, there is a second China, largely concentrated in coastal cities like Shanghai and Hong Kong. This is a highly entrepreneurial sector that has developed sophisticated techniques to generate and participate in diverse, high-value flows of business knowledge. I call that Network China.

It’s rare to see one wrestle so transparently with cognitive dissonance. Friedman asserted one thing about China. That thing was proved wrong in real time. To handle the contradiction, he splits China into two parts. What he said still applies to one China, not the other. Then he quotes some Non-Fiction Best-Sellerese from a recent book by John Hagel:

“Finding ways to connect with people and institutions possessing new knowledge becomes increasingly important,” says Hagel. “Since there are far more smart people outside any one organization than inside.” And in today’s flat world, you can now access them all.

Can you really? Here’s a challenge for Tom Friedman: There is a very smart person, a scholar even, named Liu Xiiaobo. Can Friedman reach out across “today’s flat world” and get in touch with him? You see, Liu was just sentenced to eleven years for “inciting subversion of state power” by the Chinese government. If Friedman gets hold of him, he should ask Liu which China he’s in. Maybe it’s called Autocratic China or, if we’re being adult about it, just China.

Let’s make it easier on Friedman. Finding one Chinese political prisoner in a sea of them is a bit daunting. How about he reaches out to one of the 20 million inhabitants of the Xinjiang region, where the Chinese government has blacked out all online access for an area three times the size of Texas. What is that China called? Is it safe to short?

Well, good luck with that, Mr. Friedman. Let us know how it works out for you.

Tuesday, January 12 was a hard day for Thomas Friedman. Or at least it turned into one. That morning, the New York Times ran Friedman’s latest—and possibly last—900 word panegyric to the unstoppable wonder of China’s economy. His column had, as it occasionally does, a personal edge. He was essentially writing to the American investor James Chanos. Friedman had read that Chanos thinks the Chinese bubble is about to burst and is looking to short China’s economy for profit.

And undo all Friedman’s cheerleading??? No sir. Friedman explained to Chanos, and to us, that while China has some things to deal with, “(the most dangerous being pollution)… it also has a political class focused on addressing its real problems, as well as a mountain of savings with which to do so (unlike us).”

You know, it’s not the cleanest place in the world, but its wise leaders will put a few billions toward a country-wide clean-up crew (hey, maybe they can put some of those good-for-nothing Charter 8 signatories and Uighers to work!) before their world domination gets properly started. Friedman’s parting shot was all class, maturity, and circumspection: “Shorting China today? Well, good luck with that, Mr. Chanos. Let us know how it works out for you.”

I’d imagine it’s working out rather well. For on the same morning, a shortsighted, ignorant little entity of no importance called Google announced that it too was shorting China, and ceasing to do business there so long as they had to comply with Beijing’s strict censorship requirements. This puts Chanos in fairly good company.

But did Google miss the Friedman memo? China is rich and focused, “unlike us.” Moreover, as Friedman never fails to mention, “China also now has 400 million Internet users, and 200 million of them have broadband,” —unlike us, of course. Invest away. Shockingly, Google had an issue with China that went beyond the country’s investment mechanics. As the company’s statement read, “we have discovered that the accounts of dozens of U.S.-, China- and Europe-based Gmail users who are advocates of human rights in China appear to have been routinely accessed by third parties.” Human rights? What does that mean? Any regular reader of Friedman knows that China’s is a “reasonably enlightened” dictatorship. How else could they achieve what Friedman calls their “Green Leap Forward,” “the most important thing to happen” in the first decade of this century? Google, it turns out, made a principled decision.

After this news broke, I wondered how Friedman would respond. Courtesy of yesterday’s New York Times, here comes his Yellow Leap Backward: “Your honor, I’d like to now revise and amend my remarks. There is one short position, one big short, that does intrigue me in China. I am not sure who makes a market in this area, but here goes: If China forces out Google, I’d like to short the Chinese Communist Party.”

You see, he’s still bullish on China, just bearish on the Chinese Communist Party. Makes perfect sense. Kind of like cheering the rise of eggs and the simultaneous demise of chickens. If it’s a confusing proposition, never fear. There is no wrong-headed opinion that Thomas Friedman cannot reduce to a childishly digestible formulation.

There are actually two Chinese economies today. There is the Communist Party and its affiliates; let’s call them Command China. These are the very traditional state-owned enterprises.

Alongside them, there is a second China, largely concentrated in coastal cities like Shanghai and Hong Kong. This is a highly entrepreneurial sector that has developed sophisticated techniques to generate and participate in diverse, high-value flows of business knowledge. I call that Network China.

It’s rare to see one wrestle so transparently with cognitive dissonance. Friedman asserted one thing about China. That thing was proved wrong in real time. To handle the contradiction, he splits China into two parts. What he said still applies to one China, not the other. Then he quotes some Non-Fiction Best-Sellerese from a recent book by John Hagel:

“Finding ways to connect with people and institutions possessing new knowledge becomes increasingly important,” says Hagel. “Since there are far more smart people outside any one organization than inside.” And in today’s flat world, you can now access them all.

Can you really? Here’s a challenge for Tom Friedman: There is a very smart person, a scholar even, named Liu Xiiaobo. Can Friedman reach out across “today’s flat world” and get in touch with him? You see, Liu was just sentenced to eleven years for “inciting subversion of state power” by the Chinese government. If Friedman gets hold of him, he should ask Liu which China he’s in. Maybe it’s called Autocratic China or, if we’re being adult about it, just China.

Let’s make it easier on Friedman. Finding one Chinese political prisoner in a sea of them is a bit daunting. How about he reaches out to one of the 20 million inhabitants of the Xinjiang region, where the Chinese government has blacked out all online access for an area three times the size of Texas. What is that China called? Is it safe to short?

Well, good luck with that, Mr. Friedman. Let us know how it works out for you.

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Falling From Grace

In the aftermath of Republican Scott Brown’s victory in Massachusetts, panic has set in among the Democrats. Different factions are reacting in different ways. The Left is arguing that Obama was not liberal or aggressive enough. Moderates are saying Obama’s agenda was too liberal and ambitious. Some are saying it’s more imperative than ever to pass health-care legislation; others are saying that would be the worst thing to do in light of the results in the Bay State. But what they all agree on is that the Obama presidency and the Democratic Party are in a heap of trouble.

“The Republican victory in Massachusetts has sent a wave of fear through the halls of the Senate, with moderate and liberal Democrats second-guessing their party’s agenda,” Politico reports, “and worrying that they’ll be the next victims of voters’ anger… ‘Every state is now in play,’ said Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.).”

It is now worth asking whether, in the wake of three pulverizing electoral losses for the Democrats — the gubernatorial elections in Virginia and New Jersey and the Senate race in Massachusetts — any president has done more damage to his party in a shorter period of time than has Barack Obama.

All this wreckage from the man we were told would be the next Lincoln and FDR, a “sort of God,” in the words of Newsweek‘s Evan Thomas. A year ago today the liberal Harold Meyerson wrote a column in the Washington Post titled “Words Made Flesh,” referring to the description of Jesus in the gospel according to John.

Other presidents, having driven themselves into a ditch, have recovered. Whether or not Obama does depends on things we do not know. What we do know, and what we can assess, is what has unfolded over the course of the past year. And it has been — for Mr. Obama and his administration, his agenda and party, and liberalism itself — brutal.

Falls from grace usually are.

In the aftermath of Republican Scott Brown’s victory in Massachusetts, panic has set in among the Democrats. Different factions are reacting in different ways. The Left is arguing that Obama was not liberal or aggressive enough. Moderates are saying Obama’s agenda was too liberal and ambitious. Some are saying it’s more imperative than ever to pass health-care legislation; others are saying that would be the worst thing to do in light of the results in the Bay State. But what they all agree on is that the Obama presidency and the Democratic Party are in a heap of trouble.

“The Republican victory in Massachusetts has sent a wave of fear through the halls of the Senate, with moderate and liberal Democrats second-guessing their party’s agenda,” Politico reports, “and worrying that they’ll be the next victims of voters’ anger… ‘Every state is now in play,’ said Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.).”

It is now worth asking whether, in the wake of three pulverizing electoral losses for the Democrats — the gubernatorial elections in Virginia and New Jersey and the Senate race in Massachusetts — any president has done more damage to his party in a shorter period of time than has Barack Obama.

All this wreckage from the man we were told would be the next Lincoln and FDR, a “sort of God,” in the words of Newsweek‘s Evan Thomas. A year ago today the liberal Harold Meyerson wrote a column in the Washington Post titled “Words Made Flesh,” referring to the description of Jesus in the gospel according to John.

Other presidents, having driven themselves into a ditch, have recovered. Whether or not Obama does depends on things we do not know. What we do know, and what we can assess, is what has unfolded over the course of the past year. And it has been — for Mr. Obama and his administration, his agenda and party, and liberalism itself — brutal.

Falls from grace usually are.

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Really Hard?!

In an interview this week Obama admits that he really didn’t have a clue on how the Middle East works:

I’ll be honest with you. A: This is just really hard. Even for a guy like George Mitchell who helped bring about the peace in Northern Ireland. This is as intractable a problem as you get. B: Both sides—I think the Israelis and Palestinians—have found that the political environment, the nature of their coalitions, or the divisions within their societies were such that it was very hard for them to start engaging in a meaningful conversation. And I think that we overestimated our ability to persuade them to do so when their politics ran contrary to that. From Abbas’ perspective, he’s got Hamas looking over his shoulder and I think an environment generally within the Arab world that feels impatient with any process.

Really hard?? The hubris is remarkable, isn’t it? One supposes that he imagined all the dolts who preceded him in the Oval Office to just not have been smart enough or him enough to get the job done. It seems as though he “overestimated” the impact of his mere presence on the parties. Really, who knew there were underlying political realities that would render the parties immune to his charms? But there is no sign he’s going to do much, if anything, differently (“we are going to continue to work with both parties to recognize what I think is ultimately their deep-seated interest in a two-state solution”). But now he knows it’s hard.

That’s not the worst of it, however. On Iran he declares:

Both in our engagement strategy, but also now as we move into the other track of a dual-track approach. Which is if they don’t accept the open hand, we’ve got to make sure they understand there are consequences for breaking international rules. It’s going to be tough, but I think the relationship we’ve developed with Russia will be very helpful. The outreach we’ve done to our traditional NATO allies will be very helpful. The work that we’ve done with China—including the work we’ve done with China to enforce sanctions against North Korea—will help us in dealing more effectively with Iran.

No hint of the fact that engagement has been an abject failure, no mention of the opportunity for regime change, and certainly no indication that he has learned that the Iranians don’t want to be engaged. Indeed quite the opposite — we aren’t giving up! Maybe, maybe we can sweet talk the mullahs out of their nukes. And as for any help from China and Russia, does he not read the papers? (Maybe he thinks we don’t.) China and Russia aren’t being helpful.

We all keep waiting for the foreign-policy learning curve to deliver results and for experience to inform Obama’s policies. This sort of interview reveals that such an outcome likely isn’t in the cards. He is, it seems, so fixed in his preconceptions of the word that basic geopolitical realities come as a surprise or disappointment. If only the world worked the way his university-professor pals and George Mitchell told him it would. George W. Bush is gone and he is there — and what has it gotten us? Well, the reputation for irresolution, unreliability, and naiveté. And interviews like this don’t help.

In an interview this week Obama admits that he really didn’t have a clue on how the Middle East works:

I’ll be honest with you. A: This is just really hard. Even for a guy like George Mitchell who helped bring about the peace in Northern Ireland. This is as intractable a problem as you get. B: Both sides—I think the Israelis and Palestinians—have found that the political environment, the nature of their coalitions, or the divisions within their societies were such that it was very hard for them to start engaging in a meaningful conversation. And I think that we overestimated our ability to persuade them to do so when their politics ran contrary to that. From Abbas’ perspective, he’s got Hamas looking over his shoulder and I think an environment generally within the Arab world that feels impatient with any process.

Really hard?? The hubris is remarkable, isn’t it? One supposes that he imagined all the dolts who preceded him in the Oval Office to just not have been smart enough or him enough to get the job done. It seems as though he “overestimated” the impact of his mere presence on the parties. Really, who knew there were underlying political realities that would render the parties immune to his charms? But there is no sign he’s going to do much, if anything, differently (“we are going to continue to work with both parties to recognize what I think is ultimately their deep-seated interest in a two-state solution”). But now he knows it’s hard.

That’s not the worst of it, however. On Iran he declares:

Both in our engagement strategy, but also now as we move into the other track of a dual-track approach. Which is if they don’t accept the open hand, we’ve got to make sure they understand there are consequences for breaking international rules. It’s going to be tough, but I think the relationship we’ve developed with Russia will be very helpful. The outreach we’ve done to our traditional NATO allies will be very helpful. The work that we’ve done with China—including the work we’ve done with China to enforce sanctions against North Korea—will help us in dealing more effectively with Iran.

No hint of the fact that engagement has been an abject failure, no mention of the opportunity for regime change, and certainly no indication that he has learned that the Iranians don’t want to be engaged. Indeed quite the opposite — we aren’t giving up! Maybe, maybe we can sweet talk the mullahs out of their nukes. And as for any help from China and Russia, does he not read the papers? (Maybe he thinks we don’t.) China and Russia aren’t being helpful.

We all keep waiting for the foreign-policy learning curve to deliver results and for experience to inform Obama’s policies. This sort of interview reveals that such an outcome likely isn’t in the cards. He is, it seems, so fixed in his preconceptions of the word that basic geopolitical realities come as a surprise or disappointment. If only the world worked the way his university-professor pals and George Mitchell told him it would. George W. Bush is gone and he is there — and what has it gotten us? Well, the reputation for irresolution, unreliability, and naiveté. And interviews like this don’t help.

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UN Panel Admits the Glaciers Won’t Disappear

Earlier this week, we noted in Contentions the revelation that another one of the standard scare stories of the global-warming “consensus” had been debunked when it was revealed that the assertion that the Himalayan glaciers will disappear by 2030, made by the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change in 2007, was completely unfounded. Today comes news that the panel (which shared a bogus Nobel Peace Prize with Al Gore in 2007) has itself admitted that its widely quoted assertion was not substantiated. MIT’s Technology Review reports that in the face of evidence that shows there was no data to back up the claim, the UN group has now backed down and publicly admitted that they were at fault.

According to Technology Review, “The disappearance of the glaciers would require temperatures far higher than those predicted in even the most dire global warming scenarios, says Georg Kaser, professor at the Institut für Geographie der Universität, Innsbruck. The Himalayas would have to heat up by 18 degrees Celsius and stay there for the highest glaciers to melt—most climate change scenarios expect only a few degrees of warming over the next century. The mistake has called into question the credibility of the IPCC, which has been considered an authoritative source for information about climate change.”

Like the equally embattled Climate Research Unit at the University of East Anglia that produced the “Climategate” e-mail scandal, the reputation of the UN panel was supposedly impeccable because of its devotion to the practice of peer-reviewed studies. But in this case, the notorious assertion about the glaciers was based not on critical research but on what the panel now says is “grey literature,” a theory that is not based on peer-reviewed sources.

The point here is not just that another instance of global-warming hysteria has been debunked. It is that the sources of the now widely accepted theory that the planet is “melting” and that this is the result of human activity are themselves deeply compromised. As the Climategate e-mails illustrated, the scientists involved in these assertions are so blinded by their ideological fervor that they are willing to falsify information, dissemble about their research, and suppress informed dissent. Under these circumstances, the refrain that the “science” behind global warming is settled is nothing more than an attempt to stifle the growing chorus of skepticism about this “scientific consensus.”

As it happens, Technology Review admits that they had also publicized the now discredited claim about the glaciers in their own pages in an article about efforts to combat climate change. The article about the panel’s admission of error includes a link to their own correction.

Earlier this week, we noted in Contentions the revelation that another one of the standard scare stories of the global-warming “consensus” had been debunked when it was revealed that the assertion that the Himalayan glaciers will disappear by 2030, made by the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change in 2007, was completely unfounded. Today comes news that the panel (which shared a bogus Nobel Peace Prize with Al Gore in 2007) has itself admitted that its widely quoted assertion was not substantiated. MIT’s Technology Review reports that in the face of evidence that shows there was no data to back up the claim, the UN group has now backed down and publicly admitted that they were at fault.

According to Technology Review, “The disappearance of the glaciers would require temperatures far higher than those predicted in even the most dire global warming scenarios, says Georg Kaser, professor at the Institut für Geographie der Universität, Innsbruck. The Himalayas would have to heat up by 18 degrees Celsius and stay there for the highest glaciers to melt—most climate change scenarios expect only a few degrees of warming over the next century. The mistake has called into question the credibility of the IPCC, which has been considered an authoritative source for information about climate change.”

Like the equally embattled Climate Research Unit at the University of East Anglia that produced the “Climategate” e-mail scandal, the reputation of the UN panel was supposedly impeccable because of its devotion to the practice of peer-reviewed studies. But in this case, the notorious assertion about the glaciers was based not on critical research but on what the panel now says is “grey literature,” a theory that is not based on peer-reviewed sources.

The point here is not just that another instance of global-warming hysteria has been debunked. It is that the sources of the now widely accepted theory that the planet is “melting” and that this is the result of human activity are themselves deeply compromised. As the Climategate e-mails illustrated, the scientists involved in these assertions are so blinded by their ideological fervor that they are willing to falsify information, dissemble about their research, and suppress informed dissent. Under these circumstances, the refrain that the “science” behind global warming is settled is nothing more than an attempt to stifle the growing chorus of skepticism about this “scientific consensus.”

As it happens, Technology Review admits that they had also publicized the now discredited claim about the glaciers in their own pages in an article about efforts to combat climate change. The article about the panel’s admission of error includes a link to their own correction.

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Supreme Court Vindicates Political Speech, Pulverizes McCain-Feingold

In a landmark 5-to-4 ruling, the Supreme Court today in Citizens United v. FEC struck down major portions of the McCain-Feingold campaign-finance law. The Court left in place the disclosure requirement for corporations and the disclaimer requirement that identifies whether an ad is not paid for by the campaign. But little else remains. The Court overruled the highly controversial 1990 decision in  Austin v. Michigan Chamber of Commerce, which upheld restrictions on corporate spending to support or oppose political candidates. As this report notes:

The majority, invoking the Constitution’s free-speech clause, said the government lacks a legitimate basis to restrict independent campaign expenditures by companies. . .“The government may regulate corporate political speech through disclaimer and disclosure requirements, but it may not suppress that speech altogether,” Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote for the majority. Companies, which had been barred since 1947 from spending money in support or opposition to a candidate, potentially now will pump millions of dollars into campaigns. Companies, and possibly labor unions as well, will be able to use their general-treasury dollars to punish or reward lawmakers for their votes on legislation.

This is a vindication of the First Amendment and a victory for the protection of political speech, which is at the heart of our political system. It will certainly increase the amount of speech. Even the New York Times recognizes this (well, sort of):

The ruling was a vindication, the majority said, of the First Amendment’s most basic free speech principle — that the government has no business regulating political speech. The dissenters said allowing corporate money to flood the political marketplace will corrupt democracy.

The 5-to-4 decision was a doctrinal earthquake but also a political and practical one. Specialists in campaign finance law said they expected the decision, which also applies to labor unions and other organizations, to reshape the way elections are conducted.

Republicans may see some tactical advantage here, as corporations wary of the Obama regime may now help fund Republican Senate and House candidates seeking to block the Obama anti-business agenda. But it would be a mistake to assume that corporations that seem to have perfected the art of feeding at the government trough and which are vulnerable to the ever-increasing reach of the Obama administration won’t cover their bets by giving to both sides. Moreover, this is a victory plain and simple for the Constitution and for the essential notion that if there is a “problem” with certain types of speech, the solution is more speech, not the heavy hand of government censors.

In a landmark 5-to-4 ruling, the Supreme Court today in Citizens United v. FEC struck down major portions of the McCain-Feingold campaign-finance law. The Court left in place the disclosure requirement for corporations and the disclaimer requirement that identifies whether an ad is not paid for by the campaign. But little else remains. The Court overruled the highly controversial 1990 decision in  Austin v. Michigan Chamber of Commerce, which upheld restrictions on corporate spending to support or oppose political candidates. As this report notes:

The majority, invoking the Constitution’s free-speech clause, said the government lacks a legitimate basis to restrict independent campaign expenditures by companies. . .“The government may regulate corporate political speech through disclaimer and disclosure requirements, but it may not suppress that speech altogether,” Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote for the majority. Companies, which had been barred since 1947 from spending money in support or opposition to a candidate, potentially now will pump millions of dollars into campaigns. Companies, and possibly labor unions as well, will be able to use their general-treasury dollars to punish or reward lawmakers for their votes on legislation.

This is a vindication of the First Amendment and a victory for the protection of political speech, which is at the heart of our political system. It will certainly increase the amount of speech. Even the New York Times recognizes this (well, sort of):

The ruling was a vindication, the majority said, of the First Amendment’s most basic free speech principle — that the government has no business regulating political speech. The dissenters said allowing corporate money to flood the political marketplace will corrupt democracy.

The 5-to-4 decision was a doctrinal earthquake but also a political and practical one. Specialists in campaign finance law said they expected the decision, which also applies to labor unions and other organizations, to reshape the way elections are conducted.

Republicans may see some tactical advantage here, as corporations wary of the Obama regime may now help fund Republican Senate and House candidates seeking to block the Obama anti-business agenda. But it would be a mistake to assume that corporations that seem to have perfected the art of feeding at the government trough and which are vulnerable to the ever-increasing reach of the Obama administration won’t cover their bets by giving to both sides. Moreover, this is a victory plain and simple for the Constitution and for the essential notion that if there is a “problem” with certain types of speech, the solution is more speech, not the heavy hand of government censors.

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Gray Lady to Obama: Double-Down!

You wonder how it is that Obama can remain so isolated, so cut off from reality. He just lost his filibuster-proof majority by losing the senate race in Massachusetts for goodness’ sake! Can’t he see that he’s led his party into a ditch? Well, no, he can’t. He talks to his staff, who put ObamaCare at the center of his agenda, and he reads the New York Times, which, with no hint of self-awareness, carries an editorial filled with the sort of self-justification that will only convince the president that, yes, of course, he’s right! The Times editors tell us:

To our minds, it is not remotely a verdict on Mr. Obama’s presidency, nor does it amount to a national referendum on health care reform — even though it has upended the effort to pass a reform bill, which Mr. Obama made the centerpiece of his first year.

Okay, the “to our minds” is the giveaway here. Obama must imagine that the minds of those who populate the Times editorial offices are representative of some significant segment of the electorate. It seems they don’t even represent the views of Massachusetts voters. I suppose if Obama were running for city council from the Upper West Side, the Times would be a good barometer of public opinion, but reading that sort of hooey only reinforces Obama’s worst instincts — arrogance, detachment, stubborness, and hyper-leftism.

The Times does, however, seem to be channeling the Obama spin. (We have here a re-enforcing loop of leftist groupthink, I suspect.) The real issue is the economy or Obama’s failure to talk to us enough about health care. (If he only did six Sunday talk shows!). The editors opine:

Mr. Obama was right to press for health care reform. But he spent too much time talking to reluctant Democrats and Republicans who never had the slightest intention of supporting him. He sat on the sidelines while the Republicans bombarded Americans with false but effective talk of death panels and a government takeover of their doctors’ offices. And he did not make the case strongly enough that the health care system and the economy are deeply interconnected or explain why Americans should care about this huge issue in the midst of a recession: If they lose their jobs, they lose their health insurance.

Got that: his only failure was in not communicating well enough to us. (What happened to the most eloquent politician of our era?) This is preposterous, of course, because Obama exhausted himself and our patience by hundreds of dog-and-pony shows, speeches, interviews, and press conferences. The problem was the the public didn’t buy what he was selling.

Obama has a choice: listen to the Times editorial board or to the voters. Republicans are keeping their fingers crossed that he chooses the former.

You wonder how it is that Obama can remain so isolated, so cut off from reality. He just lost his filibuster-proof majority by losing the senate race in Massachusetts for goodness’ sake! Can’t he see that he’s led his party into a ditch? Well, no, he can’t. He talks to his staff, who put ObamaCare at the center of his agenda, and he reads the New York Times, which, with no hint of self-awareness, carries an editorial filled with the sort of self-justification that will only convince the president that, yes, of course, he’s right! The Times editors tell us:

To our minds, it is not remotely a verdict on Mr. Obama’s presidency, nor does it amount to a national referendum on health care reform — even though it has upended the effort to pass a reform bill, which Mr. Obama made the centerpiece of his first year.

Okay, the “to our minds” is the giveaway here. Obama must imagine that the minds of those who populate the Times editorial offices are representative of some significant segment of the electorate. It seems they don’t even represent the views of Massachusetts voters. I suppose if Obama were running for city council from the Upper West Side, the Times would be a good barometer of public opinion, but reading that sort of hooey only reinforces Obama’s worst instincts — arrogance, detachment, stubborness, and hyper-leftism.

The Times does, however, seem to be channeling the Obama spin. (We have here a re-enforcing loop of leftist groupthink, I suspect.) The real issue is the economy or Obama’s failure to talk to us enough about health care. (If he only did six Sunday talk shows!). The editors opine:

Mr. Obama was right to press for health care reform. But he spent too much time talking to reluctant Democrats and Republicans who never had the slightest intention of supporting him. He sat on the sidelines while the Republicans bombarded Americans with false but effective talk of death panels and a government takeover of their doctors’ offices. And he did not make the case strongly enough that the health care system and the economy are deeply interconnected or explain why Americans should care about this huge issue in the midst of a recession: If they lose their jobs, they lose their health insurance.

Got that: his only failure was in not communicating well enough to us. (What happened to the most eloquent politician of our era?) This is preposterous, of course, because Obama exhausted himself and our patience by hundreds of dog-and-pony shows, speeches, interviews, and press conferences. The problem was the the public didn’t buy what he was selling.

Obama has a choice: listen to the Times editorial board or to the voters. Republicans are keeping their fingers crossed that he chooses the former.

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Spender’s Remorse

Obama is reacting to the epic rebuff in Massachusetts with his usual mix of denial and detachment. It’s not really his fault. It’s the economy, which is Bush’s fault. The mob is angry. He understands anger, but never shows it. And so on. He may be attempting to project calm, but as in the aftermath of the Christmas Day bombing, you really wonder if there’s no one in the White House to bring him bad news and speak frankly to him.

Meanwhile, Democratic senators are experiencing a spasm of candor. Politico gives us a sample:

“If there’s anybody in this building that doesn’t tell you they’re more worried about elections today, you absolutely should slap them,” said Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.). …

“Every state is now in play,” said Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), who faces the toughest reelection battle of her career — most likely against wealthy Republican Carly Fiorina. Boxer is pushing a cap-and-trade bill to control greenhouse gases, but her counterpart from California, Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein said a “large cap-and-trade bill isn’t going to go ahead at this time.”

There seems to be a grudging recognition that the president’s agenda — and their own — missed the mark. Sen. Kent Conrad (D-N.D.) confesses that Red State Democrats should be nervous:

“I think part of the problem is the agenda itself,” said Conrad, who doesn’t face voters again until 2012. Instead of spending so much time on health care reform, Conrad said Democrats should have focused first on reducing the national debt and a bipartisan energy bill — and that President Barack Obama should have done a better job of explaining that the economic situation he inherited was “far worse” than he’d originally thought.

So will they stop spending so much time on health-care reform now? It would seem like a good idea for all those Red State senators who could have stopped health care last year but simply went with the flow. Mary Landrieu got bribed … er … received a compromise deal for her state (“the Louisiana Purchase,” which begat the Cornhusker Kickback and Gator-Aid). But now she’s singing a different tune. (“Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.), one of the more conservative members of the caucus, said some in the Democratic Party were ‘overreaching’ and ‘advocating more government’ than her constituents want. She blamed House Democrats for advancing liberal proposals that skewed the public’s perception of more moderate measures moving through the Senate.”) So why didn’t she, you know, vote no last year?

It seems that Democrats were content to ignore the voters, run up the deficit, and create a monstrous health-care bill that no one but the Democratic leadership could defend. But only now, given that Scott Brown has won in a deep Blue State, do they regret it. We’ll see how forgiving the voters are in November and what, aside from some humble sentiments, Democratic lawmakers offer in the meantime. But give them some credit: they sound a lot less out to lunch than the White House political hacks.

Obama is reacting to the epic rebuff in Massachusetts with his usual mix of denial and detachment. It’s not really his fault. It’s the economy, which is Bush’s fault. The mob is angry. He understands anger, but never shows it. And so on. He may be attempting to project calm, but as in the aftermath of the Christmas Day bombing, you really wonder if there’s no one in the White House to bring him bad news and speak frankly to him.

Meanwhile, Democratic senators are experiencing a spasm of candor. Politico gives us a sample:

“If there’s anybody in this building that doesn’t tell you they’re more worried about elections today, you absolutely should slap them,” said Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.). …

“Every state is now in play,” said Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), who faces the toughest reelection battle of her career — most likely against wealthy Republican Carly Fiorina. Boxer is pushing a cap-and-trade bill to control greenhouse gases, but her counterpart from California, Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein said a “large cap-and-trade bill isn’t going to go ahead at this time.”

There seems to be a grudging recognition that the president’s agenda — and their own — missed the mark. Sen. Kent Conrad (D-N.D.) confesses that Red State Democrats should be nervous:

“I think part of the problem is the agenda itself,” said Conrad, who doesn’t face voters again until 2012. Instead of spending so much time on health care reform, Conrad said Democrats should have focused first on reducing the national debt and a bipartisan energy bill — and that President Barack Obama should have done a better job of explaining that the economic situation he inherited was “far worse” than he’d originally thought.

So will they stop spending so much time on health-care reform now? It would seem like a good idea for all those Red State senators who could have stopped health care last year but simply went with the flow. Mary Landrieu got bribed … er … received a compromise deal for her state (“the Louisiana Purchase,” which begat the Cornhusker Kickback and Gator-Aid). But now she’s singing a different tune. (“Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.), one of the more conservative members of the caucus, said some in the Democratic Party were ‘overreaching’ and ‘advocating more government’ than her constituents want. She blamed House Democrats for advancing liberal proposals that skewed the public’s perception of more moderate measures moving through the Senate.”) So why didn’t she, you know, vote no last year?

It seems that Democrats were content to ignore the voters, run up the deficit, and create a monstrous health-care bill that no one but the Democratic leadership could defend. But only now, given that Scott Brown has won in a deep Blue State, do they regret it. We’ll see how forgiving the voters are in November and what, aside from some humble sentiments, Democratic lawmakers offer in the meantime. But give them some credit: they sound a lot less out to lunch than the White House political hacks.

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What Obama Needs Is a Calendar…

The New York Times this morning reports that Obama is trying to “turn around his presidency.”

That would be an excellent idea in the wake of the results of Tuesday’s election in Massachusetts. But I have my doubts that he is going to change his approach, his attitude, or his agenda. He doesn’t seem to have changed his rhetoric. The Times quotes the president in an ABC News interview as saying:

Here’s my assessment of not just the vote in Massachusetts but the mood around the country — the same thing that swept Scott Brown into office swept me into office. People are angry and they are frustrated. Not just because of what’s happened in the last year or two years, but what’s happened over the last eight years.

Ummm, Mr. President, one of those eight years was on your watch. This is January 2010, not 2009. The people of Massachusetts didn’t elect a Republican senator to a seat held by a Democrat since 1952 because of the failures of a Republican president.

I usually hate having to watch the State of the Union speech, but the one President Obama will deliver next Wednesday is must-see TV. If we get more of the failure-of-the-last-eight-years rhetoric, Obama’s political capital — already severely depleted — will be gone. If he acknowledges that he blew it in his first year and will mend his ways, the American people — a forgiving group — will give him another chance.

By the way, if the Republicans need someone to give the Republican response, I have a suggestion: Scott Brown.

The New York Times this morning reports that Obama is trying to “turn around his presidency.”

That would be an excellent idea in the wake of the results of Tuesday’s election in Massachusetts. But I have my doubts that he is going to change his approach, his attitude, or his agenda. He doesn’t seem to have changed his rhetoric. The Times quotes the president in an ABC News interview as saying:

Here’s my assessment of not just the vote in Massachusetts but the mood around the country — the same thing that swept Scott Brown into office swept me into office. People are angry and they are frustrated. Not just because of what’s happened in the last year or two years, but what’s happened over the last eight years.

Ummm, Mr. President, one of those eight years was on your watch. This is January 2010, not 2009. The people of Massachusetts didn’t elect a Republican senator to a seat held by a Democrat since 1952 because of the failures of a Republican president.

I usually hate having to watch the State of the Union speech, but the one President Obama will deliver next Wednesday is must-see TV. If we get more of the failure-of-the-last-eight-years rhetoric, Obama’s political capital — already severely depleted — will be gone. If he acknowledges that he blew it in his first year and will mend his ways, the American people — a forgiving group — will give him another chance.

By the way, if the Republicans need someone to give the Republican response, I have a suggestion: Scott Brown.

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The Hasbara Test

It has been nearly three years since the Israeli foreign ministry decided to “rebrand” the country’s image through a silly campaign that included pictures of beautiful sabrinas with little clothing profiled in Maxim magazine. Oddly enough, the campaign didn’t work. In the meantime, we’ve had the Goldstone Report, Swedish accusations of IDF soldiers ripping apart the bodies of Palestinians, some still alive, and selling their organs, and so on. The diplomats scratch their heads, wondering why Madison Avenue wasn’t the answer.

In the past few weeks, however, three major events have propelled Israel to the forefront of the public debate in a much more positive light. Following the unsuccessful undie-bomber attack on a Detroit-bound airliner, Americans effluviated about the need for improved airport security, and suddenly everyone was aware that Ben-Gurion airport has not had a security breach in a generation, despite the fact that its passengers never have to part with their favorite nail clippers or the 6-oz. bottles of perfume they picked up in Tel Aviv. The difference, it seems, is not that Israelis indulge in racial profiling, but that their security personnel are intensely trained to recognize the fact that people who know they are about to die behave differently than ordinary airline passengers (who knew!). Although that’s oversimplifying things, the fact is that Israeli airline security really does put a far greater emphasis on the human components of terror prevention: recognizing behaviors, building a network of informants, and so on.

The second event was the earthquake in Haiti. Within hours, Israel had dispatched more than 200 personnel, including rescue teams and high-level medical staff. They set up a full-fledged field hospital, the only one of its kind, complete with digital imaging, an ICU, and more. For the past couple of days, both this CNN report and this MSNBC one have been passed around the Internet, highlighting Israel’s hospital. In addition, today we learn that the Israelis also set up a global communications center, enabling journalists to use the Internet and phones via Israel’s Amos satellite. One American observer has described this as a “home run” for Israeli PR.

The third was the publication of Saul Singer and Dan Senor’s Start-Up Nation, which hit the New York Times bestseller list. Of all the pro-Israel books to come out in the past year, this one probably made the biggest splash: by highlighting what Israel is indisputably good at (business innovation), Singer and Senor succeeded in changing the subject and constructing a positive image of Israel that is not all war.

How come these recent events have been so successful at helping Israel’s image, while the “rebranding” stunt didn’t? I’m no PR pro, but it seems like the first rule in boosting your image is to not throw money at the problem but instead correctly identify what it is you want to sell. The Western public is deeply inured to vacuous PR. Just think of how many political candidates have been utterly devastated at the polls despite vastly outspending their opponents on ads, or how President Obama’s media-saturation assault over the past year has failed to prevent his slide in approval ratings. It really does come down to the product, doesn’t it?

So let’s take a simple test, involving three key statements Israel has made to the world in recent years. Which of the following do you think does the best service to the country?

1. Israelis have a fascinating, powerful, human-friendly, and human-sensitive instinct that makes them take care of Haitians, identify terrorists by their behavior rather than a TSA-approved checklist, and encourage creativity and entrepreneurship.

2. Israel has the Most Moral Army in the World, and when we blow things up, we do it with the fewest civilian casualties possible, given how ruthless our enemy is.

3. Israel has lots of attractive women.

The fact is that (1) is true and proved by events; (2) is true but only helpful as a rearguard maneuver when war is forced upon us; (3) is true but irrelevant. Israel has succeeded in Haiti for the simple reason that Israelis really wanted to help; took swift, creative, and effective action without letting bureaucracy get in the way; and only then made sure CNN and MSNBC crews had access. As for (2), it is true that the IDF did a reasonable job of using YouTube to show how bad the Hamas guys really were, but wartime is always bad for PR in most of the world, and all Israel could do was make the best of a rotten situation. And as for Maxim, it is very hard to avoid the conclusion that “rebranding” was anything but a waste of money and energy.

So I suggest a radical new approach to Israel’s PR woes: Be good. Do things that express your best side. And make sure everybody knows about it.

It has been nearly three years since the Israeli foreign ministry decided to “rebrand” the country’s image through a silly campaign that included pictures of beautiful sabrinas with little clothing profiled in Maxim magazine. Oddly enough, the campaign didn’t work. In the meantime, we’ve had the Goldstone Report, Swedish accusations of IDF soldiers ripping apart the bodies of Palestinians, some still alive, and selling their organs, and so on. The diplomats scratch their heads, wondering why Madison Avenue wasn’t the answer.

In the past few weeks, however, three major events have propelled Israel to the forefront of the public debate in a much more positive light. Following the unsuccessful undie-bomber attack on a Detroit-bound airliner, Americans effluviated about the need for improved airport security, and suddenly everyone was aware that Ben-Gurion airport has not had a security breach in a generation, despite the fact that its passengers never have to part with their favorite nail clippers or the 6-oz. bottles of perfume they picked up in Tel Aviv. The difference, it seems, is not that Israelis indulge in racial profiling, but that their security personnel are intensely trained to recognize the fact that people who know they are about to die behave differently than ordinary airline passengers (who knew!). Although that’s oversimplifying things, the fact is that Israeli airline security really does put a far greater emphasis on the human components of terror prevention: recognizing behaviors, building a network of informants, and so on.

The second event was the earthquake in Haiti. Within hours, Israel had dispatched more than 200 personnel, including rescue teams and high-level medical staff. They set up a full-fledged field hospital, the only one of its kind, complete with digital imaging, an ICU, and more. For the past couple of days, both this CNN report and this MSNBC one have been passed around the Internet, highlighting Israel’s hospital. In addition, today we learn that the Israelis also set up a global communications center, enabling journalists to use the Internet and phones via Israel’s Amos satellite. One American observer has described this as a “home run” for Israeli PR.

The third was the publication of Saul Singer and Dan Senor’s Start-Up Nation, which hit the New York Times bestseller list. Of all the pro-Israel books to come out in the past year, this one probably made the biggest splash: by highlighting what Israel is indisputably good at (business innovation), Singer and Senor succeeded in changing the subject and constructing a positive image of Israel that is not all war.

How come these recent events have been so successful at helping Israel’s image, while the “rebranding” stunt didn’t? I’m no PR pro, but it seems like the first rule in boosting your image is to not throw money at the problem but instead correctly identify what it is you want to sell. The Western public is deeply inured to vacuous PR. Just think of how many political candidates have been utterly devastated at the polls despite vastly outspending their opponents on ads, or how President Obama’s media-saturation assault over the past year has failed to prevent his slide in approval ratings. It really does come down to the product, doesn’t it?

So let’s take a simple test, involving three key statements Israel has made to the world in recent years. Which of the following do you think does the best service to the country?

1. Israelis have a fascinating, powerful, human-friendly, and human-sensitive instinct that makes them take care of Haitians, identify terrorists by their behavior rather than a TSA-approved checklist, and encourage creativity and entrepreneurship.

2. Israel has the Most Moral Army in the World, and when we blow things up, we do it with the fewest civilian casualties possible, given how ruthless our enemy is.

3. Israel has lots of attractive women.

The fact is that (1) is true and proved by events; (2) is true but only helpful as a rearguard maneuver when war is forced upon us; (3) is true but irrelevant. Israel has succeeded in Haiti for the simple reason that Israelis really wanted to help; took swift, creative, and effective action without letting bureaucracy get in the way; and only then made sure CNN and MSNBC crews had access. As for (2), it is true that the IDF did a reasonable job of using YouTube to show how bad the Hamas guys really were, but wartime is always bad for PR in most of the world, and all Israel could do was make the best of a rotten situation. And as for Maxim, it is very hard to avoid the conclusion that “rebranding” was anything but a waste of money and energy.

So I suggest a radical new approach to Israel’s PR woes: Be good. Do things that express your best side. And make sure everybody knows about it.

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The Problem with Obama Is That He’s Too Darned Moderate

If you want to have a good laugh, click here to read Garry Wills’s take on Obama and the Massachusetts election. What’s hurting Obama with the public, says Wills, is that he’s too nice, too bipartisan, too slow in pursuing transformative legislation, and not enough of a leftist crusader — “As if he felt restrained by his own blackness.”

That must be it.

If you want to have a good laugh, click here to read Garry Wills’s take on Obama and the Massachusetts election. What’s hurting Obama with the public, says Wills, is that he’s too nice, too bipartisan, too slow in pursuing transformative legislation, and not enough of a leftist crusader — “As if he felt restrained by his own blackness.”

That must be it.

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No Life Preserver for Tax-and Spend Democrats

The Democrats are frantically searching for a political lifeboat. They have been on a tax-and-spend jag, run up the debt, and only angered the public. So they latched on to a “solution” — a debt-reduction commission to recommend tax hikes and spending cuts, with a goal to report back after the congressional elections with a plan, this report explains, “for shrinking the federal budget deficit to 3% of the gross domestic product by 2015 from the current 10% level, and on steps to contain long-term budget problems through tax increases and changes to Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.” The commission would have a total of 10 Democrats (six appointed by the Congress, the rest by the president) and eight Republicans (six appointed by Republicans in Congress, the rest by the president).

Meanwhile, the Congress can go merrily along with health care and the rest of its agenda, spending to its heart’s content. As the report notes: “Underscoring the problem, the Senate is poised to vote to raise the national debt ceiling by $1.9 trillion, just weeks after a $290 billion increase at the end of 2009. The debt currently stands at $12.322 trillion.”

Why in the world would Republicans go along with this charade? Well, they aren’t, it seems. Their immediate concerns are the lack of statutory authority for the commission and the absence of any requirement for Congress to even vote on its recommendations:

Republican Sens. George Voinovich of Ohio and Judd Gregg of New Hampshire dismissed it as a political fig leaf and instead called on President Barack Obama to support enactment of a law that would establish a commission and require an up-or-down congressional vote on its recommendations. Tuesday’s plan would create the panel by executive order. Senate Budget Committee Chairman Kent Conrad (D., N.D.) has also withheld his support.

But even if these obstacles were overcome, there are substantive and political reasons for conservatives not to play along with this scheme. For starters, with 10 Democrats plus two Obama-handpicked Republicans, the outcome is preordained. The recommendation will include hefty tax hikes. But the crux of the problem is that it lets the big spenders off the hook. In fact, it encourages them to keep it up, since an independent commission is going to take care of all that deficit stuff. As the Wall Street Journal editors point out:

We can see why Democrats would love this idea. In the past year they have passed: a $447 billion omnibus spending bill for fiscal 2009, a $787 billion stimulus, $3 billion for cash for clunkers, $75 billion in mortgage assistance, $34 billion for children’s health care (Schip), $30 billion in anticipated auto bailout losses, with another nearly 11% spending increase teed up for fiscal 2010 for domestic programs. This party was fun, but now comes the headache (see Massachusetts) and the need for GOP tax partners.

Emboldened by Scott Brown’s victory, Republicans seem poised to play it smart and not offer the drowning Democrats a life preserver. Democrats thought there was no consequence, economic or political, to their spending spree. The loyal opposition should take the rest of the year to explain why they were wrong.

The Democrats are frantically searching for a political lifeboat. They have been on a tax-and-spend jag, run up the debt, and only angered the public. So they latched on to a “solution” — a debt-reduction commission to recommend tax hikes and spending cuts, with a goal to report back after the congressional elections with a plan, this report explains, “for shrinking the federal budget deficit to 3% of the gross domestic product by 2015 from the current 10% level, and on steps to contain long-term budget problems through tax increases and changes to Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.” The commission would have a total of 10 Democrats (six appointed by the Congress, the rest by the president) and eight Republicans (six appointed by Republicans in Congress, the rest by the president).

Meanwhile, the Congress can go merrily along with health care and the rest of its agenda, spending to its heart’s content. As the report notes: “Underscoring the problem, the Senate is poised to vote to raise the national debt ceiling by $1.9 trillion, just weeks after a $290 billion increase at the end of 2009. The debt currently stands at $12.322 trillion.”

Why in the world would Republicans go along with this charade? Well, they aren’t, it seems. Their immediate concerns are the lack of statutory authority for the commission and the absence of any requirement for Congress to even vote on its recommendations:

Republican Sens. George Voinovich of Ohio and Judd Gregg of New Hampshire dismissed it as a political fig leaf and instead called on President Barack Obama to support enactment of a law that would establish a commission and require an up-or-down congressional vote on its recommendations. Tuesday’s plan would create the panel by executive order. Senate Budget Committee Chairman Kent Conrad (D., N.D.) has also withheld his support.

But even if these obstacles were overcome, there are substantive and political reasons for conservatives not to play along with this scheme. For starters, with 10 Democrats plus two Obama-handpicked Republicans, the outcome is preordained. The recommendation will include hefty tax hikes. But the crux of the problem is that it lets the big spenders off the hook. In fact, it encourages them to keep it up, since an independent commission is going to take care of all that deficit stuff. As the Wall Street Journal editors point out:

We can see why Democrats would love this idea. In the past year they have passed: a $447 billion omnibus spending bill for fiscal 2009, a $787 billion stimulus, $3 billion for cash for clunkers, $75 billion in mortgage assistance, $34 billion for children’s health care (Schip), $30 billion in anticipated auto bailout losses, with another nearly 11% spending increase teed up for fiscal 2010 for domestic programs. This party was fun, but now comes the headache (see Massachusetts) and the need for GOP tax partners.

Emboldened by Scott Brown’s victory, Republicans seem poised to play it smart and not offer the drowning Democrats a life preserver. Democrats thought there was no consequence, economic or political, to their spending spree. The loyal opposition should take the rest of the year to explain why they were wrong.

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It Isn’t Too Late to Interrogate Abdulmutallab

Dennis Blair, for reasons not entirely clear (a parting shot? a spasm of guilt for a job poorly done?), took a big swing at the Obami yesterday where they’re most vulnerable: their knee-jerk fixation on treating Islamic terrorists as common criminals. This report explains:

Director of National Intelligence Dennis C. Blair faulted the decision not to use the “High Value Interrogation Group” (HIG) to question alleged al-Qaeda operative Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab.

“That unit was created exactly for this purpose — to make a decision on whether a certain person who’s detained should be treated as a case for federal prosecution or for some of the other means,” Blair told the Senate homeland security committee.

The intelligence chief said the interrogation group was created by the White House last year to handle overseas cases but will be expanded now to domestic ones. “We did not invoke the HIG in this case; we should have,” he added.

Later in the day Blair was forced to walk it back with the “my words were misconstrued” lingo that is the telltale sign of being big-footed by an irate White House. Still, the damage had been done. Blair’s complaint is precisely the one that critics have been making since it was revealed that Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab chatted with the FBI for a bit and then clammed up, having been handed a full panoply of constitutional rights, including the right to remain silent. No more dot-connecting information will come from him unless he disregards his lawyer’s admonitions or, more likely, makes a plea deal.

It seems the Obami operate on cruise control — set the car in motion, hit the button, and never touch the controls again. The lack of thoughtful analysis or consideration is breathtaking. As the report notes, “Blair, FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III, National Counterterrorism Center Director Michael E. Leiter and Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano told lawmakers that they were not consulted about the charging decision.” Well, with Eric Holder and the lefty lawyers in the Justice Department apparently running anti-terror policy, no one thought that those responsible for preventing future attacks and gathering critical intelligence data might want to weigh in on the matter.

But here’s the thing: it isn’t too late. We can still declare Abdulmutallab an enemy combatant and ship him off for questioning and a military tribunal. Sure we’ve lost time, and it was a grievous error not to have used all the tools at our disposal to extract information, but why compound the error by leaving him in the criminal justice process? Blair has admitted that the Obami erred, so someone should ask him why Mueller, Leiter, Napolitano, and maybe even the president (he is in charge, right?) aren’t now considering how to limit the damage done by the ill-advised and unthinking actions taken on Christmas Day.

Dennis Blair, for reasons not entirely clear (a parting shot? a spasm of guilt for a job poorly done?), took a big swing at the Obami yesterday where they’re most vulnerable: their knee-jerk fixation on treating Islamic terrorists as common criminals. This report explains:

Director of National Intelligence Dennis C. Blair faulted the decision not to use the “High Value Interrogation Group” (HIG) to question alleged al-Qaeda operative Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab.

“That unit was created exactly for this purpose — to make a decision on whether a certain person who’s detained should be treated as a case for federal prosecution or for some of the other means,” Blair told the Senate homeland security committee.

The intelligence chief said the interrogation group was created by the White House last year to handle overseas cases but will be expanded now to domestic ones. “We did not invoke the HIG in this case; we should have,” he added.

Later in the day Blair was forced to walk it back with the “my words were misconstrued” lingo that is the telltale sign of being big-footed by an irate White House. Still, the damage had been done. Blair’s complaint is precisely the one that critics have been making since it was revealed that Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab chatted with the FBI for a bit and then clammed up, having been handed a full panoply of constitutional rights, including the right to remain silent. No more dot-connecting information will come from him unless he disregards his lawyer’s admonitions or, more likely, makes a plea deal.

It seems the Obami operate on cruise control — set the car in motion, hit the button, and never touch the controls again. The lack of thoughtful analysis or consideration is breathtaking. As the report notes, “Blair, FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III, National Counterterrorism Center Director Michael E. Leiter and Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano told lawmakers that they were not consulted about the charging decision.” Well, with Eric Holder and the lefty lawyers in the Justice Department apparently running anti-terror policy, no one thought that those responsible for preventing future attacks and gathering critical intelligence data might want to weigh in on the matter.

But here’s the thing: it isn’t too late. We can still declare Abdulmutallab an enemy combatant and ship him off for questioning and a military tribunal. Sure we’ve lost time, and it was a grievous error not to have used all the tools at our disposal to extract information, but why compound the error by leaving him in the criminal justice process? Blair has admitted that the Obami erred, so someone should ask him why Mueller, Leiter, Napolitano, and maybe even the president (he is in charge, right?) aren’t now considering how to limit the damage done by the ill-advised and unthinking actions taken on Christmas Day.

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Not Getting It

So far, Obama isn’t learning anything from Massachusetts. And he’s certainly not going to do anything differently. At least that’s what they seem to be saying at the White House. The Washington Post reports:

Publicly and privately, aides to the president repeatedly stressed that the White House has heard the message from angry voters. But they insisted that they are not backing away from key items on the president’s agenda, including health-care reform, energy and bank regulation. …

One top adviser insisted that “the White House gets it. We’re not oblivious. We’re not proceeding ahead as if it didn’t happen.”

But the early consensus inside the White House, they said, was to pursue a renewed effort to explain the difficult choices Obama has made. They said that the election results will not force a radical rethinking of his agenda and that the White House will attempt to convince Americans that his policies on the economy and jobs will eventually turn things around.

Okay, that’s gibberish. He doesn’t get it. Like an American tourist overseas, he’s just going to say it slower and louder so the local rubes will finally understand. Massachusetts voters elected the guy who ran as the 41st vote against ObamaCare. Obama is going to push for ObamaCare. In what political universe does that constitute “getting it”?

You can imagine how Democrats must feel. Their party just lost the “safest” Senate seat in the country, independents are fleeing, and the other side has a grassroots movement dedicated to opposing ObamaCare. And the president refuses to budge. What to do? For now, they must resort to background quotes to the Post to try to influence the Obami:

One senior Democratic strategist said that in conversations he had with party leaders, there seemed to be an unwillingness on the part of the White House to acknowledge the party’s new problem with independent voters, who were key to Obama’s victory. “Democrats on the Hill and in the White House don’t seem to get that independent voters are upset with them,” said the source, who spoke candidly about the president and his team on the condition of anonymity.

Perhaps by the State of the Union, Obama will get through the first step in his recovery program: admitting he has a problem. If not, he’ll go before the country and sound like he’s in a hermetically sealed bubble of political spin, oblivious even to voters in a state more sympathetic than most to his political philosophy. If he pulls the “What me worried?” routine and pushes full steam ahead with a repudiated health-care plan, the public will most likely regard him as irrelevant. Many in his party will conclude he’s a menace to their re-election prospects. But maybe he’ll wise up. He’s got a few days to think this through.

So far, Obama isn’t learning anything from Massachusetts. And he’s certainly not going to do anything differently. At least that’s what they seem to be saying at the White House. The Washington Post reports:

Publicly and privately, aides to the president repeatedly stressed that the White House has heard the message from angry voters. But they insisted that they are not backing away from key items on the president’s agenda, including health-care reform, energy and bank regulation. …

One top adviser insisted that “the White House gets it. We’re not oblivious. We’re not proceeding ahead as if it didn’t happen.”

But the early consensus inside the White House, they said, was to pursue a renewed effort to explain the difficult choices Obama has made. They said that the election results will not force a radical rethinking of his agenda and that the White House will attempt to convince Americans that his policies on the economy and jobs will eventually turn things around.

Okay, that’s gibberish. He doesn’t get it. Like an American tourist overseas, he’s just going to say it slower and louder so the local rubes will finally understand. Massachusetts voters elected the guy who ran as the 41st vote against ObamaCare. Obama is going to push for ObamaCare. In what political universe does that constitute “getting it”?

You can imagine how Democrats must feel. Their party just lost the “safest” Senate seat in the country, independents are fleeing, and the other side has a grassroots movement dedicated to opposing ObamaCare. And the president refuses to budge. What to do? For now, they must resort to background quotes to the Post to try to influence the Obami:

One senior Democratic strategist said that in conversations he had with party leaders, there seemed to be an unwillingness on the part of the White House to acknowledge the party’s new problem with independent voters, who were key to Obama’s victory. “Democrats on the Hill and in the White House don’t seem to get that independent voters are upset with them,” said the source, who spoke candidly about the president and his team on the condition of anonymity.

Perhaps by the State of the Union, Obama will get through the first step in his recovery program: admitting he has a problem. If not, he’ll go before the country and sound like he’s in a hermetically sealed bubble of political spin, oblivious even to voters in a state more sympathetic than most to his political philosophy. If he pulls the “What me worried?” routine and pushes full steam ahead with a repudiated health-care plan, the public will most likely regard him as irrelevant. Many in his party will conclude he’s a menace to their re-election prospects. But maybe he’ll wise up. He’s got a few days to think this through.

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Is Israel’s Safety No Longer a Western Interest?

A senior Hamas leader reportedly told a British emissary yesterday that Hamas is ready to amend its charter calling for Israel’s destruction and recognize Israel’s right to exist. A breakthrough? Unfortunately, no. But the real bad news is the emissary’s response.

What Palestinian parliament speaker Aziz Dwaik told major Labour Party donor David Martin Abrahams is clearly eyebrow-raising. Just last month, Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh told a rally in Gaza that “our goal is Palestine, all of Palestine” — which, in Palestinian parlance, includes all of Israel. So was Dwaik speaking without authorization, or has Hamas’s stance really shifted radically since December?

Actually, neither, as the Jerusalem Post’s report makes clear: Dwaik said he was merely reiterating Hamas’s well-known support for a Palestinian state in the pre-1967 lines. What he neglected to mention is that this support has always come with two caveats: first, Israel must agree to absorb millions of descendants of Palestinian refugees, thereby eradicating the Jewish state demographically; and second, in exchange, Israel would get not a peace agreement, but a long-term truce — meaning that if death by demography failed to materialize, Hamas reserved the right to resume trying to finish Israel off militarily.

Needless to say, none of this bothered Abrahams, who is scheduled to brief British Foreign Secretary David Miliband on his meeting this weekend. He said he would urge Miliband to “consider the implications of Hamas’s positive overtures” and was “very excited” about facilitating dialogue between Hamas and the international community. “I’m prepared to give them [Hamas] a chance because I’ve got faith and confidence in Dwaik and Haniyeh,” he gushed. “We can’t allow 1.5 million to be festering in the Gaza Strip while the majority of them are good and well-educated.”

Dialogue with the European Union is, as Dwaik acknowledged, precisely what Hamas wants. As long, of course, as it can be achieved by mouthing slogans that useful idiots like Abrahams willfully misconstrue as moderate, without actually having to stop launching rockets at Israel or otherwise working toward Israel’s destruction. Certainly, it’s hard to find any explanation other than willful idiocy for why, if Abrahams has “confidence” in Haniyeh, he so readily assumes Haniyeh is lying when he publicly proclaims his goal as “all of Palestine.” Or why he views “well-educated” as apparently synonymous with “good,” given that most leaders of terrorist organizations are extremely well-educated: think physicians Mahmoud al-Zahar of Hamas or Ayman al-Zawahiri of Al-Qaeda.

But the truly chilling part was his conclusion. “Hamas is different from Al-Qaida,” Abrahams asserted. “Hamas is no threat to Western interests.”

Yet even Abrahams would presumably admit that, currently, Hamas is still a threat to Israel. So if Hamas is no threat to Western interests, then Israel’s safety is evidently not a Western interest.

Many Europeans may think this, but public statements to this effect have so far been confined to the fringes. That a mainstream, highly influential (and, of course, Jewish) member of Britain’s ruling party is now willing to say it openly is a development that should keep Israel supporters awake at night.

A senior Hamas leader reportedly told a British emissary yesterday that Hamas is ready to amend its charter calling for Israel’s destruction and recognize Israel’s right to exist. A breakthrough? Unfortunately, no. But the real bad news is the emissary’s response.

What Palestinian parliament speaker Aziz Dwaik told major Labour Party donor David Martin Abrahams is clearly eyebrow-raising. Just last month, Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh told a rally in Gaza that “our goal is Palestine, all of Palestine” — which, in Palestinian parlance, includes all of Israel. So was Dwaik speaking without authorization, or has Hamas’s stance really shifted radically since December?

Actually, neither, as the Jerusalem Post’s report makes clear: Dwaik said he was merely reiterating Hamas’s well-known support for a Palestinian state in the pre-1967 lines. What he neglected to mention is that this support has always come with two caveats: first, Israel must agree to absorb millions of descendants of Palestinian refugees, thereby eradicating the Jewish state demographically; and second, in exchange, Israel would get not a peace agreement, but a long-term truce — meaning that if death by demography failed to materialize, Hamas reserved the right to resume trying to finish Israel off militarily.

Needless to say, none of this bothered Abrahams, who is scheduled to brief British Foreign Secretary David Miliband on his meeting this weekend. He said he would urge Miliband to “consider the implications of Hamas’s positive overtures” and was “very excited” about facilitating dialogue between Hamas and the international community. “I’m prepared to give them [Hamas] a chance because I’ve got faith and confidence in Dwaik and Haniyeh,” he gushed. “We can’t allow 1.5 million to be festering in the Gaza Strip while the majority of them are good and well-educated.”

Dialogue with the European Union is, as Dwaik acknowledged, precisely what Hamas wants. As long, of course, as it can be achieved by mouthing slogans that useful idiots like Abrahams willfully misconstrue as moderate, without actually having to stop launching rockets at Israel or otherwise working toward Israel’s destruction. Certainly, it’s hard to find any explanation other than willful idiocy for why, if Abrahams has “confidence” in Haniyeh, he so readily assumes Haniyeh is lying when he publicly proclaims his goal as “all of Palestine.” Or why he views “well-educated” as apparently synonymous with “good,” given that most leaders of terrorist organizations are extremely well-educated: think physicians Mahmoud al-Zahar of Hamas or Ayman al-Zawahiri of Al-Qaeda.

But the truly chilling part was his conclusion. “Hamas is different from Al-Qaida,” Abrahams asserted. “Hamas is no threat to Western interests.”

Yet even Abrahams would presumably admit that, currently, Hamas is still a threat to Israel. So if Hamas is no threat to Western interests, then Israel’s safety is evidently not a Western interest.

Many Europeans may think this, but public statements to this effect have so far been confined to the fringes. That a mainstream, highly influential (and, of course, Jewish) member of Britain’s ruling party is now willing to say it openly is a development that should keep Israel supporters awake at night.

Read Less

We Expect More of Presidents

In a story entitled “Obama’s First Year: What Went Wrong” (not a headline the Obami like to see), John F. Harris and Carol E. Lee opine that a key error was “the Obama team believed that there was something singular about the president’s appeal and ability to inspire.” In other words, they believed their own hype and imagined that the content of what they were selling was less important than the messiah-messenger.

How did the Obama team come to such a conclusion? Well, it’s easy, I suppose, when you slay the Clintons, win the presidency with virtually no experience, and hear nothing but approval from the devoted media day after day. Obama, described by observers after his election as supremely confident, conflated his ability to win office against hapless opponents with a near-mystical ability to motivate voters, persuade foreign powers, and humble enemies. No wonder his speechwriters didn’t bother to fact-check his health-care speeches and his Cairo speech was filled with historical half-truths and distortions. The Obami didn’t care if what the president said was accurate. That sort of fixation on accuracy is for mere mortal politicians. The White House had Him on its side. Besides, a sympathetic and lazy press wouldn’t hassle him over some made-up “facts.”

But it turned out that while a small band of devoted followers swooned before Candidate Obama, the country as a whole held the president to a higher standard. They expected results. They didn’t appreciate gobbledygook about blue and red pills and wanted a non-catatonic response to a terror attack. They heard him say unemployment would stay below 8 percent if the stimulus passed, and then watched in dismay as it hit double digits. They heard him say that he didn’t want to run car companies, only to see him take them over. They heard him say he’d let them keep their insurance, and then discovered that his “reform” would shove them out of “Cadillac plans,” cut their Medicare, and force their employers to provide Obama-approved health care.

In short, substance mattered. Obama’s hubris led him to believe he could say practically anything and get away with it. He did during the campaign, of course. But we expect more of our presidents. When the spell is broken and the campaign ends, we expect a president to be honest, accurate, and effective. Obama has been none of these things. No wonder his presidency is in crisis.

In a story entitled “Obama’s First Year: What Went Wrong” (not a headline the Obami like to see), John F. Harris and Carol E. Lee opine that a key error was “the Obama team believed that there was something singular about the president’s appeal and ability to inspire.” In other words, they believed their own hype and imagined that the content of what they were selling was less important than the messiah-messenger.

How did the Obama team come to such a conclusion? Well, it’s easy, I suppose, when you slay the Clintons, win the presidency with virtually no experience, and hear nothing but approval from the devoted media day after day. Obama, described by observers after his election as supremely confident, conflated his ability to win office against hapless opponents with a near-mystical ability to motivate voters, persuade foreign powers, and humble enemies. No wonder his speechwriters didn’t bother to fact-check his health-care speeches and his Cairo speech was filled with historical half-truths and distortions. The Obami didn’t care if what the president said was accurate. That sort of fixation on accuracy is for mere mortal politicians. The White House had Him on its side. Besides, a sympathetic and lazy press wouldn’t hassle him over some made-up “facts.”

But it turned out that while a small band of devoted followers swooned before Candidate Obama, the country as a whole held the president to a higher standard. They expected results. They didn’t appreciate gobbledygook about blue and red pills and wanted a non-catatonic response to a terror attack. They heard him say unemployment would stay below 8 percent if the stimulus passed, and then watched in dismay as it hit double digits. They heard him say that he didn’t want to run car companies, only to see him take them over. They heard him say he’d let them keep their insurance, and then discovered that his “reform” would shove them out of “Cadillac plans,” cut their Medicare, and force their employers to provide Obama-approved health care.

In short, substance mattered. Obama’s hubris led him to believe he could say practically anything and get away with it. He did during the campaign, of course. But we expect more of our presidents. When the spell is broken and the campaign ends, we expect a president to be honest, accurate, and effective. Obama has been none of these things. No wonder his presidency is in crisis.

Read Less




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