Commentary Magazine


Posts For: January 25, 2010

Divided Government Is Back in Fashion

CNN reports:

A CNN/Opinion Research Corporation survey released Monday also indicates that 7 in 10 Americans believe that the Democrats’ loss of their 60 seat supermajority in the Senate is a positive move for the country. Forty-five percent of people questioned in the poll said Democratic control of Congress is a good thing, with 48 percent disagreeing.

That’s remarkable, following the pronouncements by the punditocracy that the 2008 election represented a sea change in the electorate and a mandate for a radical restructuring of government. Americans got a whiff of that and of an unchecked Democratic majority and didn’t like what they saw. Had Obama not lurched so far Left, or had he not delegated his agenda to the bitter partisans Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid, the public might have been more inclined to give him free rein. If Obama had restrained his Left, the public wouldn’t feel compelled to restrain him.

But no more. It is not easy to get 70 percent of Americans to agree on anything, but putting the filibuster back in play seems to be a winner. That, once again, demonstrates just how far out of touch with ordinary voters is the Left, which has gone after the filibuster as “anti-democratic.” Many things in our constitutional system are designed to act as a brake on the power of untrammeled majorities. What is amusing to conservatives, and no doubt distressing to the Left, is that the vast majority of voters want that brake.

CNN reports:

A CNN/Opinion Research Corporation survey released Monday also indicates that 7 in 10 Americans believe that the Democrats’ loss of their 60 seat supermajority in the Senate is a positive move for the country. Forty-five percent of people questioned in the poll said Democratic control of Congress is a good thing, with 48 percent disagreeing.

That’s remarkable, following the pronouncements by the punditocracy that the 2008 election represented a sea change in the electorate and a mandate for a radical restructuring of government. Americans got a whiff of that and of an unchecked Democratic majority and didn’t like what they saw. Had Obama not lurched so far Left, or had he not delegated his agenda to the bitter partisans Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid, the public might have been more inclined to give him free rein. If Obama had restrained his Left, the public wouldn’t feel compelled to restrain him.

But no more. It is not easy to get 70 percent of Americans to agree on anything, but putting the filibuster back in play seems to be a winner. That, once again, demonstrates just how far out of touch with ordinary voters is the Left, which has gone after the filibuster as “anti-democratic.” Many things in our constitutional system are designed to act as a brake on the power of untrammeled majorities. What is amusing to conservatives, and no doubt distressing to the Left, is that the vast majority of voters want that brake.

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Fresh Buzz: Reintegration

A new political theme is slipping the surly bonds of caution this week, as negotiators prepare to converge on London for the upcoming conference on Afghanistan. Suddenly the word “reintegration” is on every tongue, and conferees affirm portentously that the solution in Afghanistan “must be political.” Lest the meaning of that be missed, Sweden’s venerable Carl Bildt offers this clarification: “There is no military solution.”

This is a straw man, of course; no one says there is a “military solution” for unifying and pacifying Afghanistan. But Defense Secretary Bob Gates and General Stanley McChrystal have been clear in the last week that military operations must be one of the tools used to achieve the long-term solution. The candidates for reintegration into Afghanistan’s polity are the Taliban, and among them are factions that have shown no sign at any time of being amenable to consensual negotiation or compromise. They attack civilians and military forces alike in their campaign to destabilize the central government in Kabul.

The Taliban’s record in the past month forms a striking contrast with the pace of reintegration being proposed in political circles. After killing nearly 100 people at a volleyball match in Pakistan and assassinating CIA agents at a base in Afghanistan, the Taliban killed 20 in a market bombing in central Afghanistan and killed seven and wounded 71 in coordinated attacks in downtown Kabul. These tallies don’t reflect smaller incidents in the AfPak theater during the same period, but they are in line with the UN’s report that 2009 was the Taliban’s bloodiest year since the regime change in 2001. Hamid Karzai’s reintegration policy for the Taliban has naturally been endorsed by President Obama and our NATO allies, but there is no evidence as yet — not even a photo op — of any material reciprocation from the insurgents.

European leaders nevertheless show signs of favoring reintegration measures like the ones outlined by Pakistani journalist Ahmed Rashid. In light of the Taliban’s unrelieved recalcitrance, adopting this list unilaterally would clearly be getting ahead of ourselves. It’s too early to talk about removing Taliban members from terror lists, or limiting Karzai’s latitude with a UN mandate for him to sit down with the insurgents. Gates and McChrystal have spoken consistently of using a multi-pronged approach, including military operations, to create the conditions for productive diplomacy — and those conditions don’t exist yet. Comments from both men have made it clear that their position has not changed, even though the media is portraying their endorsement of eventual negotiations somewhat misleadingly, as if they might be ready to dispense with the inconvenient labor of shaping conditions beforehand.

We haven’t heard much from Obama on this. We can hope that he concurs with his defense leadership, although there have been troubling indications of divergence in the definitions being used by the White House and the Pentagon. The Taliban are not even pretending to be potential negotiators; they’re giving the international coalition no excuse for deceiving itself about their intentions or openness to compromise. Obama should exercise the coalition leadership necessary to keep the effort in Afghanistan on track, and not let it lose its way in imprudent shortcuts.

A new political theme is slipping the surly bonds of caution this week, as negotiators prepare to converge on London for the upcoming conference on Afghanistan. Suddenly the word “reintegration” is on every tongue, and conferees affirm portentously that the solution in Afghanistan “must be political.” Lest the meaning of that be missed, Sweden’s venerable Carl Bildt offers this clarification: “There is no military solution.”

This is a straw man, of course; no one says there is a “military solution” for unifying and pacifying Afghanistan. But Defense Secretary Bob Gates and General Stanley McChrystal have been clear in the last week that military operations must be one of the tools used to achieve the long-term solution. The candidates for reintegration into Afghanistan’s polity are the Taliban, and among them are factions that have shown no sign at any time of being amenable to consensual negotiation or compromise. They attack civilians and military forces alike in their campaign to destabilize the central government in Kabul.

The Taliban’s record in the past month forms a striking contrast with the pace of reintegration being proposed in political circles. After killing nearly 100 people at a volleyball match in Pakistan and assassinating CIA agents at a base in Afghanistan, the Taliban killed 20 in a market bombing in central Afghanistan and killed seven and wounded 71 in coordinated attacks in downtown Kabul. These tallies don’t reflect smaller incidents in the AfPak theater during the same period, but they are in line with the UN’s report that 2009 was the Taliban’s bloodiest year since the regime change in 2001. Hamid Karzai’s reintegration policy for the Taliban has naturally been endorsed by President Obama and our NATO allies, but there is no evidence as yet — not even a photo op — of any material reciprocation from the insurgents.

European leaders nevertheless show signs of favoring reintegration measures like the ones outlined by Pakistani journalist Ahmed Rashid. In light of the Taliban’s unrelieved recalcitrance, adopting this list unilaterally would clearly be getting ahead of ourselves. It’s too early to talk about removing Taliban members from terror lists, or limiting Karzai’s latitude with a UN mandate for him to sit down with the insurgents. Gates and McChrystal have spoken consistently of using a multi-pronged approach, including military operations, to create the conditions for productive diplomacy — and those conditions don’t exist yet. Comments from both men have made it clear that their position has not changed, even though the media is portraying their endorsement of eventual negotiations somewhat misleadingly, as if they might be ready to dispense with the inconvenient labor of shaping conditions beforehand.

We haven’t heard much from Obama on this. We can hope that he concurs with his defense leadership, although there have been troubling indications of divergence in the definitions being used by the White House and the Pentagon. The Taliban are not even pretending to be potential negotiators; they’re giving the international coalition no excuse for deceiving itself about their intentions or openness to compromise. Obama should exercise the coalition leadership necessary to keep the effort in Afghanistan on track, and not let it lose its way in imprudent shortcuts.

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Obama vs. Political Reality

The Cook Political Report sends an e-mail, explaining:

If there was any doubt before the Democrats’ loss of the Senate seat in Massachusetts last week, it’s gone now. This is a nationalized election. Look no further than the latest NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll, conducted January 10-14 among 1,002 registered voters by veteran pollsters Democrat Peter Hart and Republican Bill McInturff. On the generic Congressional ballot test, which measures the potential popular vote for the House, the two parties run even, 41-41. This should be troubling for Democrats because this poll question historically skews about three points in favor of Democrats. But more significantly was that among those voters with the most intense interest in this election (those who rated their interest as either a 9 or a 10), Republicans held a 15-point lead, 50-35 percent. This is the second consecutive month of huge GOP advantages among those voters most interested in the election. If this level remains constant, you can count on the Democratic majority in the House being toast this fall.

On the Senate side, Charlie Cooks joins other analysts in predicting major losses for the Democrats. (“I suspect a Republican gain of between five and seven seats, predicated on the Democrats’ being unlikely to capture any more than one, at most, of the currently toss-up Republican Senate seats. . . and not being able to hold onto more than one, at most, of the five Democratic toss-up seats [Sen. Lincoln in Arkansas, Sen. Bennet in Colorado, Sen. Burris in Illinois, Sen. Reid in Nevada and Sen. Specter in Pennsylvania]). He calls the Democratic seats in Delaware and North Dakota “goners.”

Cook doesn’t seem to have Obama’s confidence that the president’s presence on the political stage makes all the difference in the world. Or maybe it does. Maybe it is the national environment, which has emerged in response to Obama’s far-Left agenda, that’s dragging the Democrats under. Their choice: put forth a different agenda or every lawmaker for himself, distancing himself from the Obama agenda. In either case, the political reality seems to bear little resemblance to the country as envisioned from the Oval Office. That, more than anything else, must concern the Democrats, who must battle not only Republicans but their own tone-deaf president.

The Cook Political Report sends an e-mail, explaining:

If there was any doubt before the Democrats’ loss of the Senate seat in Massachusetts last week, it’s gone now. This is a nationalized election. Look no further than the latest NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll, conducted January 10-14 among 1,002 registered voters by veteran pollsters Democrat Peter Hart and Republican Bill McInturff. On the generic Congressional ballot test, which measures the potential popular vote for the House, the two parties run even, 41-41. This should be troubling for Democrats because this poll question historically skews about three points in favor of Democrats. But more significantly was that among those voters with the most intense interest in this election (those who rated their interest as either a 9 or a 10), Republicans held a 15-point lead, 50-35 percent. This is the second consecutive month of huge GOP advantages among those voters most interested in the election. If this level remains constant, you can count on the Democratic majority in the House being toast this fall.

On the Senate side, Charlie Cooks joins other analysts in predicting major losses for the Democrats. (“I suspect a Republican gain of between five and seven seats, predicated on the Democrats’ being unlikely to capture any more than one, at most, of the currently toss-up Republican Senate seats. . . and not being able to hold onto more than one, at most, of the five Democratic toss-up seats [Sen. Lincoln in Arkansas, Sen. Bennet in Colorado, Sen. Burris in Illinois, Sen. Reid in Nevada and Sen. Specter in Pennsylvania]). He calls the Democratic seats in Delaware and North Dakota “goners.”

Cook doesn’t seem to have Obama’s confidence that the president’s presence on the political stage makes all the difference in the world. Or maybe it does. Maybe it is the national environment, which has emerged in response to Obama’s far-Left agenda, that’s dragging the Democrats under. Their choice: put forth a different agenda or every lawmaker for himself, distancing himself from the Obama agenda. In either case, the political reality seems to bear little resemblance to the country as envisioned from the Oval Office. That, more than anything else, must concern the Democrats, who must battle not only Republicans but their own tone-deaf president.

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It’s Not Too Late to Fix a Grievous Error

Sens. Joe Lieberman and Susan Collins have written a letter today to Attorney General Eric Holder and counterterrorism adviser John Brennan urging them to designate Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the Christmas Day bomber, as an “unprivileged enemy belligerent” so he can be “questioned and charged accordingly.” The senators note that Obama himself has declared that “we are at war with al-Qaeda.” However, Abdulmutallab was read his Miranda rights and, as others have reported, provided only 50 minutes of conversation to FBI agents who lacked the needed detail to elicit all the helpful material he might possess. The senators note that last week, Dennis Blair and other officials conceded in congressional testimony that the Justice Department “did not consult with leadership in the intelligence community and the Department of Defense for their input on whether or not to treat Abdulmutallab as a criminal and read him his Miranda rights.” Senators also learned that the “High Value Detainee Interrogation Group, which the Department of Justice announced last August — more than four months ago — is not yet operational.”

The senators conclude that the president’s repeated admonitions that we are at war do not appear to “be reflected in the actions of some in the Executive branch.” But they note that the president can “reverse this error” and transfer the Christmas Day bomber to the Department of Defense.

This is a superb suggestion, which many conservative commentators have urged. There really isn’t reason not to do so — unless of course the criminalization of our national intelligence system and the self-imposed limits on our anti-terrorism efforts are in keeping with what the president wants. In that case, the actions of the executive branch have been in tune with Obama’s wishes, and we are all in a great deal of trouble. Let’s hope not.

Sens. Joe Lieberman and Susan Collins have written a letter today to Attorney General Eric Holder and counterterrorism adviser John Brennan urging them to designate Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the Christmas Day bomber, as an “unprivileged enemy belligerent” so he can be “questioned and charged accordingly.” The senators note that Obama himself has declared that “we are at war with al-Qaeda.” However, Abdulmutallab was read his Miranda rights and, as others have reported, provided only 50 minutes of conversation to FBI agents who lacked the needed detail to elicit all the helpful material he might possess. The senators note that last week, Dennis Blair and other officials conceded in congressional testimony that the Justice Department “did not consult with leadership in the intelligence community and the Department of Defense for their input on whether or not to treat Abdulmutallab as a criminal and read him his Miranda rights.” Senators also learned that the “High Value Detainee Interrogation Group, which the Department of Justice announced last August — more than four months ago — is not yet operational.”

The senators conclude that the president’s repeated admonitions that we are at war do not appear to “be reflected in the actions of some in the Executive branch.” But they note that the president can “reverse this error” and transfer the Christmas Day bomber to the Department of Defense.

This is a superb suggestion, which many conservative commentators have urged. There really isn’t reason not to do so — unless of course the criminalization of our national intelligence system and the self-imposed limits on our anti-terrorism efforts are in keeping with what the president wants. In that case, the actions of the executive branch have been in tune with Obama’s wishes, and we are all in a great deal of trouble. Let’s hope not.

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Obama’s Wax Wings

Rep. Marion Berry, yet another retiring Democrat, gave an interview to Jane Fullerton of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. According to Fullerton:

Berry recounted meetings with White House officials, reminiscent of some during the Clinton days, where he and others urged them not to force Blue Dogs “off into that swamp” of supporting bills that would be unpopular with voters back home.

“I’ve been doing that with this White House, and they just don’t seem to give it any credibility at all,” Berry said. “They just kept telling us how good it was going to be. The president himself, when that was brought up in one group, said, ‘Well, the big difference here and in ’94 was you’ve got me.’ We’re going to see how much difference that makes now.” [snip]

“I began to preach last January that we had already seen this movie and we didn’t want to see it again because we know how it comes out,” said Arkansas’ 1st District congressman, who worked in the Clinton administration before being elected to the House in 1996… “I just began to have flashbacks to 1993 and ’94. No one that was here in ’94, or at the day after the election felt like. It certainly wasn’t a good feeling.”

This is yet more evidence — as if we needed any — of Obama’s almost pathological self-regard. He seems to dismiss President Clinton — a successful five-term governor who won his presidential re-election by a comfortable margin — as a political hack compared to The One. It explains how Obama can interpret the results of the Massachusetts Senate race — the third in a series of pulverizing losses for Democrats since November — as confirmation that he, well, spent too much time doing too many good and important things for the American people and, in the process, forgot to inform the simple-minded citizenry what a treasure we have in Obama.

Whatever strengths Mr. Obama brought to the job as president — and they now appear to be quite limited — they are overwhelmed by, among other things, his massive ego and otherworldly arrogance. It is leading him and his staff into a state of self-delusion. Mr. Obama’s self-regard is not only utterly unwarranted, especially given his failed first year; it is downright dangerous. He is a man whose wings are made of wax; if he’s not careful, a long fall into the deep blue sea awaits him.

(h/t: Glenn Thrush at Politico.com.)

Rep. Marion Berry, yet another retiring Democrat, gave an interview to Jane Fullerton of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. According to Fullerton:

Berry recounted meetings with White House officials, reminiscent of some during the Clinton days, where he and others urged them not to force Blue Dogs “off into that swamp” of supporting bills that would be unpopular with voters back home.

“I’ve been doing that with this White House, and they just don’t seem to give it any credibility at all,” Berry said. “They just kept telling us how good it was going to be. The president himself, when that was brought up in one group, said, ‘Well, the big difference here and in ’94 was you’ve got me.’ We’re going to see how much difference that makes now.” [snip]

“I began to preach last January that we had already seen this movie and we didn’t want to see it again because we know how it comes out,” said Arkansas’ 1st District congressman, who worked in the Clinton administration before being elected to the House in 1996… “I just began to have flashbacks to 1993 and ’94. No one that was here in ’94, or at the day after the election felt like. It certainly wasn’t a good feeling.”

This is yet more evidence — as if we needed any — of Obama’s almost pathological self-regard. He seems to dismiss President Clinton — a successful five-term governor who won his presidential re-election by a comfortable margin — as a political hack compared to The One. It explains how Obama can interpret the results of the Massachusetts Senate race — the third in a series of pulverizing losses for Democrats since November — as confirmation that he, well, spent too much time doing too many good and important things for the American people and, in the process, forgot to inform the simple-minded citizenry what a treasure we have in Obama.

Whatever strengths Mr. Obama brought to the job as president — and they now appear to be quite limited — they are overwhelmed by, among other things, his massive ego and otherworldly arrogance. It is leading him and his staff into a state of self-delusion. Mr. Obama’s self-regard is not only utterly unwarranted, especially given his failed first year; it is downright dangerous. He is a man whose wings are made of wax; if he’s not careful, a long fall into the deep blue sea awaits him.

(h/t: Glenn Thrush at Politico.com.)

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Oh Canada!

Canada has just become the first Western government to cut off aid to UNRWA, the UN agency that runs Palestinian “refugee” camps and does so much to abuse and radicalize Palestinians and prevent any resolution of the conflict.

Although UNWRA has long been a biased player in the Arab-Israeli conflict, it is seldom criticized for its incitement of anti-Israeli hatred and violence by Palestinians. It has funded textbooks that deny the right of Israel to exist and paid teachers who call on Palestinian children to push the Jewish state into the sea. It harbours radical Islamists and anti-Semites on its payroll and was even caught in 2004 using its own ambulances to ferry terrorists away from Israeli sites they had just attacked.

This welcome news comes amid a larger recent Canadian effort to cease government funding for radical anti-Israel NGOs. Europe should be next.

Canada has just become the first Western government to cut off aid to UNRWA, the UN agency that runs Palestinian “refugee” camps and does so much to abuse and radicalize Palestinians and prevent any resolution of the conflict.

Although UNWRA has long been a biased player in the Arab-Israeli conflict, it is seldom criticized for its incitement of anti-Israeli hatred and violence by Palestinians. It has funded textbooks that deny the right of Israel to exist and paid teachers who call on Palestinian children to push the Jewish state into the sea. It harbours radical Islamists and anti-Semites on its payroll and was even caught in 2004 using its own ambulances to ferry terrorists away from Israeli sites they had just attacked.

This welcome news comes amid a larger recent Canadian effort to cease government funding for radical anti-Israel NGOs. Europe should be next.

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This May Explain Everything

How did Barack Obama grow so politically tone-deaf? Could it be due to his choice of reading material? Note this detail from a Washington Post story today: “As for what Obama reads online, his advisers said he looks for offbeat blogs and news stories, tracking down firsthand reporting and seeking out writers with opinions about his policies. Obama was particularly interested in Atlantic Online’s Andrew Sullivan’s tweeting of the Iranian elections last year.”

How did Barack Obama grow so politically tone-deaf? Could it be due to his choice of reading material? Note this detail from a Washington Post story today: “As for what Obama reads online, his advisers said he looks for offbeat blogs and news stories, tracking down firsthand reporting and seeking out writers with opinions about his policies. Obama was particularly interested in Atlantic Online’s Andrew Sullivan’s tweeting of the Iranian elections last year.”

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The Centuries-Old Bond Between America and the Jews

The essential new website Jewish Ideas Daily today features a link to an extraordinary document — a letter from the Founding Father Benjamin Rush to his wife describing his experience attending a Jewish wedding ceremony in Philadelphia. Not only is Rush’s description simple, plain, and accurate, then and now, it testifies to the wondrous imaginative sympathy that even these 18th-century Americans had toward the Jewish people, and offers (like George Washington’s 1790 letter to the Touro synagogue) a glimpse of the unparalleled freedom and friendship this nation would extend toward Jews, ever more generously, as the years went on.

As it turns out, the issue of that marriage, Uriah Levy, was, my friend Robert Frost tells me, “a major figure in the history of the US Navy. In addition to saving Monticello from ruin, he was the Commodore of the Sixth Fleet (Mediterranean) which was a major accomplishment given that he faced significant anti-semitism in the Navy (not quite Dreyfus, but not fun). The recently opened Jewish Chapel at the Naval Academy is named after Levy.”

More on Levy’s astonishing life, including his six courts-martial and how his purchase of Monticello proved to be the salvation of Thomas Jefferson’s home, can be found here. It demonstrates that the course of true friendship between America and the Jews was not a simple upward arc.

The essential new website Jewish Ideas Daily today features a link to an extraordinary document — a letter from the Founding Father Benjamin Rush to his wife describing his experience attending a Jewish wedding ceremony in Philadelphia. Not only is Rush’s description simple, plain, and accurate, then and now, it testifies to the wondrous imaginative sympathy that even these 18th-century Americans had toward the Jewish people, and offers (like George Washington’s 1790 letter to the Touro synagogue) a glimpse of the unparalleled freedom and friendship this nation would extend toward Jews, ever more generously, as the years went on.

As it turns out, the issue of that marriage, Uriah Levy, was, my friend Robert Frost tells me, “a major figure in the history of the US Navy. In addition to saving Monticello from ruin, he was the Commodore of the Sixth Fleet (Mediterranean) which was a major accomplishment given that he faced significant anti-semitism in the Navy (not quite Dreyfus, but not fun). The recently opened Jewish Chapel at the Naval Academy is named after Levy.”

More on Levy’s astonishing life, including his six courts-martial and how his purchase of Monticello proved to be the salvation of Thomas Jefferson’s home, can be found here. It demonstrates that the course of true friendship between America and the Jews was not a simple upward arc.

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From Disgusting to Odd

A question about Barack Obama is starting to take shape in the American mind: where does this stop? The “this” is the collective hodgepodge of delinquent policy, administrative incompetence, a bottomless capacity for self-delusion, hubris, and the vetoing of American opinion. The “this” is comprised of attempts to harness populist disaffection in order to create a diversion, the presidential campaign that never ends, the 24/7 up-and-down-the-dial interview blitz, the hyper-partisan “post-partisanship,” and, foremost, the compulsion to lay all blame at the feet of the previous president.

Back in October, Charles Krauthammer called Obama’s incessant denunciation of George W. Bush “disgusting.” Three months later, and still going strong, the habit is bordering on eccentric. Not merely in its preponderance, but in kind. Consider that Obama explained away Republican Scott Brown’s Massachusetts victory as resulting from Americans’ anger over the “past eight years.” A Republican won because of the voters’ rage toward Bush?

Also bordering on the eccentric is the president’s endless infatuation with his own story. On the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, Obama noted how the Soviet Union’s collapse paved the way for his path to the White House. He thought the Olympics would be in the bag if he flew to Copenhagen and recited a tale from the Book of Barack. When he went to Massachusetts to stump for Martha Coakley, he told the audience, “So it’s good to be back in Boston. . . I came back here a few years ago and gave a little speech that turned out pretty well.” This was a reference to the electrifying DNC Convention speech that made him a star. “Something about Boston folks have just always been good to me,” he said, as if the people of Massachusetts were obligated to uphold this benevolent tradition. This time he was heckled and the state took a fatal chunk out of his agenda.

And it is courting eccentricity to remain unable to take a definitive position: to amplify and wind down the same war in the same speech, to simultaneously rescue and punish big banks, to overrule the voters who put him in office and to “never stop fighting” for them.

Early in his presidency, Obama spoke of his belief in persistence. But his dogged effort to force his left-wing square-peg agenda into the moderate round hole of American politics feels more like an unhealthy obsession. He tried to “jam it down Americans’ throats.” Fine. But to keep jamming even after the public has regurgitated in such dramatic fashion?

For all this, Obama makes a tremendous show of his cool nerves. “I don’t rattle,” he said. In a way, that’s true. Blaming Republican failings for the Massachusetts Republican victory, for example, is not a sign of being rattled. It’s a sign of disconnected logic, a much more exotic subconscious defense. It requires a lot of psychological reapportioning not to get rattled while flailing on the world stage. Instead of losing your cool, you indulge in excessive denial or projection or sublimation. Something, after all, has got to give. It’s becoming clear that something is giving. As the Las Vegas Review-Journal’s Sherman Frederick put it, “this kind of weird delusion is consistent with the unbounded hubris of Team Obama.”

During the campaign, we heard endlessly about Barack Obama’s “presidential temperament.” But a few observers thought of it more as a strange placidity. What, in fact, is presidential about terminal aloofness? He’s the chief executive of a country that’s fighting two wars, struggling to get out from under an unprecedented financial breakdown, staring a near-nuclear Iran in the face, and on the constant receiving end of terrorist threats. Yet the most fired up we’ve ever seen Obama was when he decided a Cambridge Massachusetts police officer was “stupid” for inconveniencing his friend with a request to show ID. His second most animated moment came when some nobodies crashed his dinner party. What’s worrisome in this pattern is the president’s attachment to the personal. If we acknowledge that Obama weighs everything first by the degree to which it redounds on him personally, his failings are not so mysterious. If Obama has not conveyed to Americans that he hears their concerns, it may be because he doesn’t hear them. He merely hears pointers for his perpetual image upkeep.

Which makes you wonder where it ends. An object in motion stays in motion unless acted upon by external force. But for Obama, it’s all internal, personal.

What speaker of truth has the president’s ear? Is there a White House break man to slow this runaway train? Or are there only yes-men, mutes, and passive-aggressive leakers? How welcome some of the old Bush-style administration in-fighting would be right about now.

Of course, the President invites the harshest judgments. By continuing to campaign instead of lead he asks to be assessed as someone who has not yet proven himself. He forces comparisons with those he campaigned against. And so it is no surprise that the public is once again split between the general election tickets. If Obama is in campaign mode, why shouldn’t the electorate follow suit? The difference between today and 2008 is that today Obama can’t have his clean slate back.

A question about Barack Obama is starting to take shape in the American mind: where does this stop? The “this” is the collective hodgepodge of delinquent policy, administrative incompetence, a bottomless capacity for self-delusion, hubris, and the vetoing of American opinion. The “this” is comprised of attempts to harness populist disaffection in order to create a diversion, the presidential campaign that never ends, the 24/7 up-and-down-the-dial interview blitz, the hyper-partisan “post-partisanship,” and, foremost, the compulsion to lay all blame at the feet of the previous president.

Back in October, Charles Krauthammer called Obama’s incessant denunciation of George W. Bush “disgusting.” Three months later, and still going strong, the habit is bordering on eccentric. Not merely in its preponderance, but in kind. Consider that Obama explained away Republican Scott Brown’s Massachusetts victory as resulting from Americans’ anger over the “past eight years.” A Republican won because of the voters’ rage toward Bush?

Also bordering on the eccentric is the president’s endless infatuation with his own story. On the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, Obama noted how the Soviet Union’s collapse paved the way for his path to the White House. He thought the Olympics would be in the bag if he flew to Copenhagen and recited a tale from the Book of Barack. When he went to Massachusetts to stump for Martha Coakley, he told the audience, “So it’s good to be back in Boston. . . I came back here a few years ago and gave a little speech that turned out pretty well.” This was a reference to the electrifying DNC Convention speech that made him a star. “Something about Boston folks have just always been good to me,” he said, as if the people of Massachusetts were obligated to uphold this benevolent tradition. This time he was heckled and the state took a fatal chunk out of his agenda.

And it is courting eccentricity to remain unable to take a definitive position: to amplify and wind down the same war in the same speech, to simultaneously rescue and punish big banks, to overrule the voters who put him in office and to “never stop fighting” for them.

Early in his presidency, Obama spoke of his belief in persistence. But his dogged effort to force his left-wing square-peg agenda into the moderate round hole of American politics feels more like an unhealthy obsession. He tried to “jam it down Americans’ throats.” Fine. But to keep jamming even after the public has regurgitated in such dramatic fashion?

For all this, Obama makes a tremendous show of his cool nerves. “I don’t rattle,” he said. In a way, that’s true. Blaming Republican failings for the Massachusetts Republican victory, for example, is not a sign of being rattled. It’s a sign of disconnected logic, a much more exotic subconscious defense. It requires a lot of psychological reapportioning not to get rattled while flailing on the world stage. Instead of losing your cool, you indulge in excessive denial or projection or sublimation. Something, after all, has got to give. It’s becoming clear that something is giving. As the Las Vegas Review-Journal’s Sherman Frederick put it, “this kind of weird delusion is consistent with the unbounded hubris of Team Obama.”

During the campaign, we heard endlessly about Barack Obama’s “presidential temperament.” But a few observers thought of it more as a strange placidity. What, in fact, is presidential about terminal aloofness? He’s the chief executive of a country that’s fighting two wars, struggling to get out from under an unprecedented financial breakdown, staring a near-nuclear Iran in the face, and on the constant receiving end of terrorist threats. Yet the most fired up we’ve ever seen Obama was when he decided a Cambridge Massachusetts police officer was “stupid” for inconveniencing his friend with a request to show ID. His second most animated moment came when some nobodies crashed his dinner party. What’s worrisome in this pattern is the president’s attachment to the personal. If we acknowledge that Obama weighs everything first by the degree to which it redounds on him personally, his failings are not so mysterious. If Obama has not conveyed to Americans that he hears their concerns, it may be because he doesn’t hear them. He merely hears pointers for his perpetual image upkeep.

Which makes you wonder where it ends. An object in motion stays in motion unless acted upon by external force. But for Obama, it’s all internal, personal.

What speaker of truth has the president’s ear? Is there a White House break man to slow this runaway train? Or are there only yes-men, mutes, and passive-aggressive leakers? How welcome some of the old Bush-style administration in-fighting would be right about now.

Of course, the President invites the harshest judgments. By continuing to campaign instead of lead he asks to be assessed as someone who has not yet proven himself. He forces comparisons with those he campaigned against. And so it is no surprise that the public is once again split between the general election tickets. If Obama is in campaign mode, why shouldn’t the electorate follow suit? The difference between today and 2008 is that today Obama can’t have his clean slate back.

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Re: It’s Still Pouring Bad News for Democrats

On his way out the congressional door, Rep. Marion Berry takes a shot at Obama, relating a conversation in which the president suggested that the Democrats need not fear a 1994-style backlash because they had a secret weapon: Him. No, honestly. Berry relates the White House conversation:

Berry recounted meetings with White House officials, reminiscent of some during the Clinton days, where he and others urged them not to force Blue Dogs “off into that swamp” of supporting bills that would be unpopular with voters back home.

“I’ve been doing that with this White House, and they just don’t seem to give it any credibility at all,” Berry said. “They just kept telling us how good it was going to be. The president himself, when that was brought up in one group, said, ‘Well, the big difference here and in ’94 was you’ve got me.’ We’re going to see how much difference that makes now.”

Yikes. The hubris, even for Obama, is jaw-dropping. Not only does he imagine that he can immunize his allies from the vicissitudes of public opinion, but he evidences no recognition of the possibility that he and his policies might be the cause of the ensuing tidal wave.

Now we don’t know whether the conversation was recent or much earlier in the year, when the comments could have seemed less otherworldly. But if accurate (and especially if more recent), the conversation does provide some insight into the narcissism that gushes from the Oval Office. Moreover, it suggests that changing course,which would require some humility on the president’s part, may be a Herculean undertaking for those Democrats who must realize they have a wipe-out election looming — and a president who imagines with a wave of his hand that he can obviate disaster for his party.

On his way out the congressional door, Rep. Marion Berry takes a shot at Obama, relating a conversation in which the president suggested that the Democrats need not fear a 1994-style backlash because they had a secret weapon: Him. No, honestly. Berry relates the White House conversation:

Berry recounted meetings with White House officials, reminiscent of some during the Clinton days, where he and others urged them not to force Blue Dogs “off into that swamp” of supporting bills that would be unpopular with voters back home.

“I’ve been doing that with this White House, and they just don’t seem to give it any credibility at all,” Berry said. “They just kept telling us how good it was going to be. The president himself, when that was brought up in one group, said, ‘Well, the big difference here and in ’94 was you’ve got me.’ We’re going to see how much difference that makes now.”

Yikes. The hubris, even for Obama, is jaw-dropping. Not only does he imagine that he can immunize his allies from the vicissitudes of public opinion, but he evidences no recognition of the possibility that he and his policies might be the cause of the ensuing tidal wave.

Now we don’t know whether the conversation was recent or much earlier in the year, when the comments could have seemed less otherworldly. But if accurate (and especially if more recent), the conversation does provide some insight into the narcissism that gushes from the Oval Office. Moreover, it suggests that changing course,which would require some humility on the president’s part, may be a Herculean undertaking for those Democrats who must realize they have a wipe-out election looming — and a president who imagines with a wave of his hand that he can obviate disaster for his party.

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It’s Still Pouring Bad News for Democrats

The Scott Brown’s victory in Massachusetts will most likely unleash a new torrent of bad news. Nervous Democrats are getting out (Arkansas Rep. Marion Berry is retiring) or not getting into races. And Republicans are licking their chops.

In Delaware, Joe Biden’s son has bugged out of the Senate race. Hotline observes:

The decision is a blow to Dems who hoped to mount a competitive race for the First State seat. [State Attorney General Beau] Biden’s decision makes Rep. Mike Castle (R) the overwhelming favorite to win the final 4 years of the senior Biden’s term, replacing Sen. Ted Kaufman (D) after the Nov. elections. Without the younger Biden in the race, Dems will likely turn to New Castle Co. exec. Chris Coons (D). Polls show Castle beating Coons by a wide margin.

And in Indiana, a new Rasmussen poll shows that it would be worth Mike Pence’s while to jump into the race against Evan Bayh:

Indiana Senator Evan Bayh is another Democratic incumbent who could find himself in a tough reelection battle this fall. A new Rasmussen Reports telephone survey of likely voters in the state finds that Bayh attracts support from just 44% or 45% of voters when matched against his top potential Republican challengers. . . At this time, [Pence]e attracts 47% of the vote while Bayh picks up 44%.

Even a much lesser known former Republican congressman, John Hostettler, is trailing the incumbent senator by only 3 points (44 percent to 41 percent). As Rasmussen notes: “Any incumbent who attracts less than 50% support at this point in a campaign is considered potentially vulnerable.”

This is the snowball effect of Brown’s victory, Obama’s decline in the polls, and the recognition that this will likely be a very bad year indeed for the Democrats. As the playing field of gettable seats expands for the Republicans, the problem will only worsen. The New York Times reports:

Just since Tuesday, half a dozen Republicans have expressed interest in challenging Democrats in House races in New York, Pennsylvania and potentially Massachusetts, party officials said. …

Tommy G. Thompson, the former Wisconsin governor, is considering challenging Senator Russ Feingold, a Democrat, aides said. Even in longer-shot states like New York, Republicans said they think the political climate gives them a chance to find a strong Senate candidate. … Stuart Rothenberg, a political analyst who follows Congressional races, said a report he will release Monday will count 58 Democratic House seats in play, up from 47 in December. The number of Republican seats in play has held at 14 in that period, he said. And Democrats expect more of their incumbents to retire, which could put additional seats at risk.

Political fortunes can change, the economy could pick up, and Obama might yet piece together some face-saving, modest set of health-care reforms. But without viable candidates to run in competitive races, Democrats will have put themselves at a disadvantage that is not easily repaired before the November elections. And one suspects that the retirements on the Democratic side are not at an end, nor have the recruiting efforts on the GOP side slowed. The end of the bad news for the Obama Democrats is not yet in sight.

The Scott Brown’s victory in Massachusetts will most likely unleash a new torrent of bad news. Nervous Democrats are getting out (Arkansas Rep. Marion Berry is retiring) or not getting into races. And Republicans are licking their chops.

In Delaware, Joe Biden’s son has bugged out of the Senate race. Hotline observes:

The decision is a blow to Dems who hoped to mount a competitive race for the First State seat. [State Attorney General Beau] Biden’s decision makes Rep. Mike Castle (R) the overwhelming favorite to win the final 4 years of the senior Biden’s term, replacing Sen. Ted Kaufman (D) after the Nov. elections. Without the younger Biden in the race, Dems will likely turn to New Castle Co. exec. Chris Coons (D). Polls show Castle beating Coons by a wide margin.

And in Indiana, a new Rasmussen poll shows that it would be worth Mike Pence’s while to jump into the race against Evan Bayh:

Indiana Senator Evan Bayh is another Democratic incumbent who could find himself in a tough reelection battle this fall. A new Rasmussen Reports telephone survey of likely voters in the state finds that Bayh attracts support from just 44% or 45% of voters when matched against his top potential Republican challengers. . . At this time, [Pence]e attracts 47% of the vote while Bayh picks up 44%.

Even a much lesser known former Republican congressman, John Hostettler, is trailing the incumbent senator by only 3 points (44 percent to 41 percent). As Rasmussen notes: “Any incumbent who attracts less than 50% support at this point in a campaign is considered potentially vulnerable.”

This is the snowball effect of Brown’s victory, Obama’s decline in the polls, and the recognition that this will likely be a very bad year indeed for the Democrats. As the playing field of gettable seats expands for the Republicans, the problem will only worsen. The New York Times reports:

Just since Tuesday, half a dozen Republicans have expressed interest in challenging Democrats in House races in New York, Pennsylvania and potentially Massachusetts, party officials said. …

Tommy G. Thompson, the former Wisconsin governor, is considering challenging Senator Russ Feingold, a Democrat, aides said. Even in longer-shot states like New York, Republicans said they think the political climate gives them a chance to find a strong Senate candidate. … Stuart Rothenberg, a political analyst who follows Congressional races, said a report he will release Monday will count 58 Democratic House seats in play, up from 47 in December. The number of Republican seats in play has held at 14 in that period, he said. And Democrats expect more of their incumbents to retire, which could put additional seats at risk.

Political fortunes can change, the economy could pick up, and Obama might yet piece together some face-saving, modest set of health-care reforms. But without viable candidates to run in competitive races, Democrats will have put themselves at a disadvantage that is not easily repaired before the November elections. And one suspects that the retirements on the Democratic side are not at an end, nor have the recruiting efforts on the GOP side slowed. The end of the bad news for the Obama Democrats is not yet in sight.

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What Brown’s Election Should Teach Israel

Former Israeli ambassador Yoram Ettinger notes that Scott Brown’s upset victory in Massachusetts offers an important lesson for Israelis: that American democracy revolves “around constituents and not around the President, Congress, or political parties.” To Americans, that doubtless seems obvious. But since Israel’s electoral system is not constituency-based, it’s a point often missed by Israeli leaders — with negative consequences for Israel’s foreign policy.

Israel is virtually the only Western democracy that still elects its legislature via closed nationwide lists. Israelis vote for a party, not a candidate, so general election voters have no say over which individuals occupy their party’s Knesset seats. This means they also have no way to punish individual legislators for unpopular positions or poor performance: As long as a Knesset member satisfies his party bosses, he can count on a “safe seat” next election, meaning a slot high enough on the party list to keep him in the Knesset even if the party loses seats.

Consequently, prime ministers have enormous power over rank-and-file MKs, far greater than what U.S. presidents enjoy. A president has no power to get a congressman reelected; that decision lies solely with the congressman’s constituents. But prime ministers have considerable power to get an MK reelected. Though all three major Israeli parties currently choose their Knesset slates via nationwide primaries, these slates are so riddled with “reserved seats” that a premier’s ability to shape his party’s list remains enormous — especially if he maintains good relations with “vote contractors” (key local activists) who can persuade large numbers of primary voters to vote a pre-approved list.

All this causes Israeli premiers to overestimate the U.S. president’s power. And this often leads them to sacrifice Israeli interests to the president’s desires, for the sake of maintaining good relations with Israel’s only ally. What they fail to understand is that reasonable relations can be maintained even without kowtowing to the president’s every whim, because even in the foreign-policy realm, where his power is extensive, he still needs Congress. And he cannot just order congressmen to fall in line. Thus as long as support for Israel remains strong among the American people, and hence in Congress, there are limits beyond which even the most hostile president won’t go.

This understanding is particularly important because even the friendliest presidents generally adopt less pro-Israel positions than either the Congress or the American people desire. Thus, for instance, Congress overwhelmingly passed legislation to move the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem, but every president has utilized waivers to postpone the move.

Having lived in the U.S., current Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu largely understands this. But most Israeli premiers don’t. Thus in their dealings with Israeli leaders, one of the most important services American Jewish leaders could perform is explaining how the American system truly works — and how to leverage the American people’s strong support for standing up to a hostile president.

Former Israeli ambassador Yoram Ettinger notes that Scott Brown’s upset victory in Massachusetts offers an important lesson for Israelis: that American democracy revolves “around constituents and not around the President, Congress, or political parties.” To Americans, that doubtless seems obvious. But since Israel’s electoral system is not constituency-based, it’s a point often missed by Israeli leaders — with negative consequences for Israel’s foreign policy.

Israel is virtually the only Western democracy that still elects its legislature via closed nationwide lists. Israelis vote for a party, not a candidate, so general election voters have no say over which individuals occupy their party’s Knesset seats. This means they also have no way to punish individual legislators for unpopular positions or poor performance: As long as a Knesset member satisfies his party bosses, he can count on a “safe seat” next election, meaning a slot high enough on the party list to keep him in the Knesset even if the party loses seats.

Consequently, prime ministers have enormous power over rank-and-file MKs, far greater than what U.S. presidents enjoy. A president has no power to get a congressman reelected; that decision lies solely with the congressman’s constituents. But prime ministers have considerable power to get an MK reelected. Though all three major Israeli parties currently choose their Knesset slates via nationwide primaries, these slates are so riddled with “reserved seats” that a premier’s ability to shape his party’s list remains enormous — especially if he maintains good relations with “vote contractors” (key local activists) who can persuade large numbers of primary voters to vote a pre-approved list.

All this causes Israeli premiers to overestimate the U.S. president’s power. And this often leads them to sacrifice Israeli interests to the president’s desires, for the sake of maintaining good relations with Israel’s only ally. What they fail to understand is that reasonable relations can be maintained even without kowtowing to the president’s every whim, because even in the foreign-policy realm, where his power is extensive, he still needs Congress. And he cannot just order congressmen to fall in line. Thus as long as support for Israel remains strong among the American people, and hence in Congress, there are limits beyond which even the most hostile president won’t go.

This understanding is particularly important because even the friendliest presidents generally adopt less pro-Israel positions than either the Congress or the American people desire. Thus, for instance, Congress overwhelmingly passed legislation to move the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem, but every president has utilized waivers to postpone the move.

Having lived in the U.S., current Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu largely understands this. But most Israeli premiers don’t. Thus in their dealings with Israeli leaders, one of the most important services American Jewish leaders could perform is explaining how the American system truly works — and how to leverage the American people’s strong support for standing up to a hostile president.

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Blame Obama for Blaming Bush

Jonathan Martin reports:

After three consecutive losses in statewide races, some top Democrats are questioning a tactic aimed at boosting the party’s candidates in each of those contests: Bush-bashing. . . “Voters are pretty tired of the blame game,” said longtime Democratic strategist Steve Hildebrand, a top aide on Obama’s presidential campaign. “What a stupid strategy that was.”

Almost on cue, James Carville pops up to counsel: “Democrats would not be playing the blame game with one another for the loss or for the health-care debacle if they had only pointed fingers at those (or in this case, the one) who put Americans (and most of the world) in the predicament we’re in: George W. Bush.”

There is one big problem with shifting tactics: the “not Bush” strategy comes right from Obama and is frankly more an obsession than a strategy. Starting with his Inaugural Address, continuing through his announcement on stem-cell research, barreling on through his ill-advised anti-terror policies and Middle East gambit (more daylight between the U.S. and Israel!), and casting blame for the jobless recovery, Obama has reflexively blamed Bush for nearly everything. It is how he got elected and now he can’t seem to give it up. It fills in the time, of course, when he’s not passing his own agenda and not succeeding in any foreign-policy effort.

It was stunningly petty conduct by Obama, behavior we really haven’t seen from any other president once in office. It is part of Obama’s larger failing — the inability or unwillingness to transition from a campaign partisan to an effective chief executive. While the “blame Bush” tactic was never effective, now it looks counterproductive and tone deaf. Martin explains:

“This isn’t 2008, and to voters, you no longer represent a beacon of hope, change and a brighter day,” wrote Democratic consultants Kristian Denny Todd and Steve Jarding in Friday’s POLITICO, in a piece addressed to their party. “Instead, 12 months into your ‘mandate to change,’ Americans see you as a card-carrying member of the arrogant political establishment that they increasingly believe is out of touch at best and self-serving at worst.”

Further, given the flurry of major steps Obama has taken in the year since he took office — from the stimulus to more bailouts to health care — Bush looks even more distant in the public’s rearview mirror.

“Obama has made so many moves and changes that it is hard to argue that all the Bush screw-ups are still the leading reason things aren’t better,” explained Democratic pollster Paul Maslin.

The excuse mongering only reinforces the growing perception that Obama is isolated, disconnected, and in over his head. Whether he is willing to give up the security blanket of blaming Bush for his travails remains to be seen. But until he moves on, his fellow Democrats will have a hard time doing so. They can add that to the list of their Obama-induced woes this election year.

Jonathan Martin reports:

After three consecutive losses in statewide races, some top Democrats are questioning a tactic aimed at boosting the party’s candidates in each of those contests: Bush-bashing. . . “Voters are pretty tired of the blame game,” said longtime Democratic strategist Steve Hildebrand, a top aide on Obama’s presidential campaign. “What a stupid strategy that was.”

Almost on cue, James Carville pops up to counsel: “Democrats would not be playing the blame game with one another for the loss or for the health-care debacle if they had only pointed fingers at those (or in this case, the one) who put Americans (and most of the world) in the predicament we’re in: George W. Bush.”

There is one big problem with shifting tactics: the “not Bush” strategy comes right from Obama and is frankly more an obsession than a strategy. Starting with his Inaugural Address, continuing through his announcement on stem-cell research, barreling on through his ill-advised anti-terror policies and Middle East gambit (more daylight between the U.S. and Israel!), and casting blame for the jobless recovery, Obama has reflexively blamed Bush for nearly everything. It is how he got elected and now he can’t seem to give it up. It fills in the time, of course, when he’s not passing his own agenda and not succeeding in any foreign-policy effort.

It was stunningly petty conduct by Obama, behavior we really haven’t seen from any other president once in office. It is part of Obama’s larger failing — the inability or unwillingness to transition from a campaign partisan to an effective chief executive. While the “blame Bush” tactic was never effective, now it looks counterproductive and tone deaf. Martin explains:

“This isn’t 2008, and to voters, you no longer represent a beacon of hope, change and a brighter day,” wrote Democratic consultants Kristian Denny Todd and Steve Jarding in Friday’s POLITICO, in a piece addressed to their party. “Instead, 12 months into your ‘mandate to change,’ Americans see you as a card-carrying member of the arrogant political establishment that they increasingly believe is out of touch at best and self-serving at worst.”

Further, given the flurry of major steps Obama has taken in the year since he took office — from the stimulus to more bailouts to health care — Bush looks even more distant in the public’s rearview mirror.

“Obama has made so many moves and changes that it is hard to argue that all the Bush screw-ups are still the leading reason things aren’t better,” explained Democratic pollster Paul Maslin.

The excuse mongering only reinforces the growing perception that Obama is isolated, disconnected, and in over his head. Whether he is willing to give up the security blanket of blaming Bush for his travails remains to be seen. But until he moves on, his fellow Democrats will have a hard time doing so. They can add that to the list of their Obama-induced woes this election year.

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More Divisive Than George W. Bush, with Nothing to Show for It

At the risk of earning another tongue lashing from Robert Gibbs, Gallup reports:

The 65 percentage-point gap between Democrats’ (88%) and Republicans’ (23%) average job approval ratings for Barack Obama is easily the largest for any president in his first year in office, greatly exceeding the prior high of 52 points for Bill Clinton. . . Obama still has three years left in his first term and possibly seven more as president, so there is much time for the polarization of his approval ratings to subside. However, if the current level of polarization persists through the end of his term, Obama would exceed [George W.] Bush as the president with the most polarized approval ratings.

This might not be a problem in and of itself, if not for two additional factors. First, Obama’s main selling point was his image as a bipartisan, new sort of politician — really a non-politician who was above petty partisan bickering and ideology. He’s turned out to be none of those things and instead has re-energized the conservative movement, which a year ago was bruised and disoriented. Second, Obama has also lost independent voters in alarming numbers. In the Pollster.com average, his approval is upside down with independents — 48.9 percent disapprove while only 41 percent approve. In Massachusetts Rasmussen reports that 73 percent of unaffiliated voters went for Scott Brown, running on an explicitly anti-Obamaism agenda.

You can’t win in American politics if three quarters of independents are for the other side, the other side is wildly enthusiastic about opposing you, and your own base, while still supportive, is down in the dumps. It is a recipe for political disaster. And that is what has Obama’s fellow Democrats in a tizzy. It did not have to be this way, certainly. Obama could have governed as he ran, dumped the mean-spirited partisanship and pursued broadly popular measures. Instead he has emerged as a hugely divisive figure with nothing to show for it. And that’s the other difference, frankly, between Obama and other presidents who became lightning rods. Obama doesn’t have anything to show for it. What great legislative achievement does he have? What legacy is he creating? So far, zip.

There are three years left in Obama’s term. Maybe he can return to a centrist course and reclaim independents, if not some Republicans. Perhaps he can lay ownership to some domestic initiative. And he certainly can (if he eschews advice from political advisers) prosecute the war against Islamic terrorism successfully in the Afghanistan battleground and elsewhere. But he will have to do something very different from what he’s tried to for a year. It’s not clear he wants to — or knows how.

At the risk of earning another tongue lashing from Robert Gibbs, Gallup reports:

The 65 percentage-point gap between Democrats’ (88%) and Republicans’ (23%) average job approval ratings for Barack Obama is easily the largest for any president in his first year in office, greatly exceeding the prior high of 52 points for Bill Clinton. . . Obama still has three years left in his first term and possibly seven more as president, so there is much time for the polarization of his approval ratings to subside. However, if the current level of polarization persists through the end of his term, Obama would exceed [George W.] Bush as the president with the most polarized approval ratings.

This might not be a problem in and of itself, if not for two additional factors. First, Obama’s main selling point was his image as a bipartisan, new sort of politician — really a non-politician who was above petty partisan bickering and ideology. He’s turned out to be none of those things and instead has re-energized the conservative movement, which a year ago was bruised and disoriented. Second, Obama has also lost independent voters in alarming numbers. In the Pollster.com average, his approval is upside down with independents — 48.9 percent disapprove while only 41 percent approve. In Massachusetts Rasmussen reports that 73 percent of unaffiliated voters went for Scott Brown, running on an explicitly anti-Obamaism agenda.

You can’t win in American politics if three quarters of independents are for the other side, the other side is wildly enthusiastic about opposing you, and your own base, while still supportive, is down in the dumps. It is a recipe for political disaster. And that is what has Obama’s fellow Democrats in a tizzy. It did not have to be this way, certainly. Obama could have governed as he ran, dumped the mean-spirited partisanship and pursued broadly popular measures. Instead he has emerged as a hugely divisive figure with nothing to show for it. And that’s the other difference, frankly, between Obama and other presidents who became lightning rods. Obama doesn’t have anything to show for it. What great legislative achievement does he have? What legacy is he creating? So far, zip.

There are three years left in Obama’s term. Maybe he can return to a centrist course and reclaim independents, if not some Republicans. Perhaps he can lay ownership to some domestic initiative. And he certainly can (if he eschews advice from political advisers) prosecute the war against Islamic terrorism successfully in the Afghanistan battleground and elsewhere. But he will have to do something very different from what he’s tried to for a year. It’s not clear he wants to — or knows how.

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The Demise of Harry Reid

The latest atrocious polling news for the Democrats tells us:

Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman continues to outpoll Nevada Sen. Harry Reid when matched up against potential Republican general election foes, according to a new Daily Kos/Research2000 poll (Jan. 18-20, 600 LV, MoE +/- 4%). Goodman leads former state GOP chair Sue Lowden and Danny Tarkanian, son of the famed UNLV basketball coach, while Reid trails both by an average of 10 points. Reid’s favorable rating is upside down (34% fav/55% unfav), as is President Obama’s (45% fav/50% unfav).

This is the second Democrat-phile polling outfit (Public Policy Polling was the first) to show both Reid cratering and Goodman as a potential, more viable alternative. The hints are being dropped, you see: dump Reid. At this point, it makes a lot of sense for the Democrats to try to push him out. The Left (infuriated that he “blew” health-care reform) would be pleased, the Democrats could cast him as the villain at the center of the corruption/backdoor dealing, and the seat could possibly be saved. Sure, it would set off another round of gloom-and-doom headlines, but that’s par for the course right now for the Democrats.

Come to think of it, the Democrats were probably not wise to have circled the wagons when Reid’s “light-skinned”/”Negro dialect” comments were revealed. They didn’t have to make him out to be a racist. All they could and should have said is the obvious: the Democrats can do better. But they were in knee-jerk defensive mode and failed to see their opening. Now they’ll have their hands full wrestling him off the stage. He’s a tenacious man and, unlike Dodd, may refuse to go quietly.

The Democrats will then have a choice: watch a bloody primary race against their own majority leader or lose the seat. That frankly could be said of many a Democratic Senate incumbent. It’s that kind of year.

The latest atrocious polling news for the Democrats tells us:

Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman continues to outpoll Nevada Sen. Harry Reid when matched up against potential Republican general election foes, according to a new Daily Kos/Research2000 poll (Jan. 18-20, 600 LV, MoE +/- 4%). Goodman leads former state GOP chair Sue Lowden and Danny Tarkanian, son of the famed UNLV basketball coach, while Reid trails both by an average of 10 points. Reid’s favorable rating is upside down (34% fav/55% unfav), as is President Obama’s (45% fav/50% unfav).

This is the second Democrat-phile polling outfit (Public Policy Polling was the first) to show both Reid cratering and Goodman as a potential, more viable alternative. The hints are being dropped, you see: dump Reid. At this point, it makes a lot of sense for the Democrats to try to push him out. The Left (infuriated that he “blew” health-care reform) would be pleased, the Democrats could cast him as the villain at the center of the corruption/backdoor dealing, and the seat could possibly be saved. Sure, it would set off another round of gloom-and-doom headlines, but that’s par for the course right now for the Democrats.

Come to think of it, the Democrats were probably not wise to have circled the wagons when Reid’s “light-skinned”/”Negro dialect” comments were revealed. They didn’t have to make him out to be a racist. All they could and should have said is the obvious: the Democrats can do better. But they were in knee-jerk defensive mode and failed to see their opening. Now they’ll have their hands full wrestling him off the stage. He’s a tenacious man and, unlike Dodd, may refuse to go quietly.

The Democrats will then have a choice: watch a bloody primary race against their own majority leader or lose the seat. That frankly could be said of many a Democratic Senate incumbent. It’s that kind of year.

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Shattering a Taboo

Last month, I wrote about new Israeli army programs designed for Haredi (ultra-Orthodox) Jews, saying they offered hope for eventual Haredi integration into mainstream Israeli society. It now appears that this process is happening faster than I thought.

“In no area,” wrote columnist Jonathan Rosenblum in Friday’s Jerusalem Post, “are the interests of the general and haredi populations so congruent as haredi employment. Israel’s high rate of non-employment, to which haredim are a major contributor, is a major cause of [Israel’s] low productivity and sliding relative standard of living.”

That’s standard fare for secular columnists, but Rosenblum is Haredi: a regular contributor to many of Israel’s leading Haredi papers who is highly attuned to what can and cannot be said publicly in his own community. I’ve followed his columns for years, and never before has he said explicitly that more Haredim need to work — because until now, this was taboo.

A Haredi colleague explained this to me three years ago, after he proposed, in response to the national demoralization caused by the Second Lebanon War in 2006, that Haredim could offer an alternative model for Israeli society. I asked how Haredim could serve as models while refusing to work or do army service. His candid response was, “Every time I write that particular paragraph … your questions go through my mind. And when I speak on the subject, I always mention them. But in print we are silent.”

That a well-regarded Haredi columnist like Rosenblum is now willing to mention the issue explicitly in print is the clearest possible sign that this taboo has shattered. Indeed, he writes, “there is a growing recognition of the need for work” in the Haredi community, and “Young haredim are voting with their feet.” He also offers evidence for this change and explains the factors driving it.

Even more remarkably, he offers ideas for how the government could accelerate it. For instance, he suggests amending the law that grants per-child tax deductions to working mothers, but not fathers, creating an economic incentive for wives to work while husbands stay home.

Moreover, he notes, most Haredi men marry young and spend years in yeshiva before looking for work. Thus when they finally start job-hunting, they have children to support and cannot afford to leave yeshiva, with its stipend, to acquire essential academic or professional training. A private philanthropy has begun providing stipends to support such men during training, and with more government funding, this program could be expanded. That would clearly be a worthwhile investment.

Finally, Rosenblum writes, “The recent formation of a reserve unit within Nahal Haredi [a Haredi army brigade] offers hope for the removal of another barrier to haredi employment,” by enabling Haredim to do “basic training and subsequent reserve duty” rather than full army service (Israelis cannot work legally without either doing army service or being exempted). This open legitimization of army service represents the shattering of another taboo.

It’s still a long road to full Haredi integration in the army and workforce. But the fact that discussing it in print is no longer taboo represents a vital step forward.

Last month, I wrote about new Israeli army programs designed for Haredi (ultra-Orthodox) Jews, saying they offered hope for eventual Haredi integration into mainstream Israeli society. It now appears that this process is happening faster than I thought.

“In no area,” wrote columnist Jonathan Rosenblum in Friday’s Jerusalem Post, “are the interests of the general and haredi populations so congruent as haredi employment. Israel’s high rate of non-employment, to which haredim are a major contributor, is a major cause of [Israel’s] low productivity and sliding relative standard of living.”

That’s standard fare for secular columnists, but Rosenblum is Haredi: a regular contributor to many of Israel’s leading Haredi papers who is highly attuned to what can and cannot be said publicly in his own community. I’ve followed his columns for years, and never before has he said explicitly that more Haredim need to work — because until now, this was taboo.

A Haredi colleague explained this to me three years ago, after he proposed, in response to the national demoralization caused by the Second Lebanon War in 2006, that Haredim could offer an alternative model for Israeli society. I asked how Haredim could serve as models while refusing to work or do army service. His candid response was, “Every time I write that particular paragraph … your questions go through my mind. And when I speak on the subject, I always mention them. But in print we are silent.”

That a well-regarded Haredi columnist like Rosenblum is now willing to mention the issue explicitly in print is the clearest possible sign that this taboo has shattered. Indeed, he writes, “there is a growing recognition of the need for work” in the Haredi community, and “Young haredim are voting with their feet.” He also offers evidence for this change and explains the factors driving it.

Even more remarkably, he offers ideas for how the government could accelerate it. For instance, he suggests amending the law that grants per-child tax deductions to working mothers, but not fathers, creating an economic incentive for wives to work while husbands stay home.

Moreover, he notes, most Haredi men marry young and spend years in yeshiva before looking for work. Thus when they finally start job-hunting, they have children to support and cannot afford to leave yeshiva, with its stipend, to acquire essential academic or professional training. A private philanthropy has begun providing stipends to support such men during training, and with more government funding, this program could be expanded. That would clearly be a worthwhile investment.

Finally, Rosenblum writes, “The recent formation of a reserve unit within Nahal Haredi [a Haredi army brigade] offers hope for the removal of another barrier to haredi employment,” by enabling Haredim to do “basic training and subsequent reserve duty” rather than full army service (Israelis cannot work legally without either doing army service or being exempted). This open legitimization of army service represents the shattering of another taboo.

It’s still a long road to full Haredi integration in the army and workforce. But the fact that discussing it in print is no longer taboo represents a vital step forward.

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Obama Misses the Populist Message

Mara Liasson on Fox News Sunday makes a key point that the Obami aren’t likely to appreciate:

This is not a revolt of special interests killing the health care bill like with Hillary-care. You have big pharma, you have the insurance companies basically inside the tent, bought into this idea that they’re going to get a big new market in exchange for being highly regulated.

This is not only accurate but also highlights the phoniness of Obama’s newfound populism. The populists — yes, including those “angry” tea party protesters whom Obama pretended to ignore — are arrayed against Obama and his statist, big-government agenda. They aren’t protesting that special interests have blocked health care; they’re mad that an unholy alliance of big business, big labor, and big government has formed with little concern for the interests of seniors (whose Medicare would get slashed) or middle-class voters (who would be taxed on Cadillac plans, forced to buy insurance, etc.). Obama may be donning the lingo of those who elected Scott Brown, but he’s missing the point.

Obama’s own agenda is fundamentally anti-populist. What could be worse for the little guy than to be told to go buy a big, expensive health-care plan from a big insurance company? It’s the sort of thing Democrats would rightly mock Republicans for coming up with, had the GOP the nerve to come up with such a scheme in the first place.

So when Obama now hollers about the “little guy” and expresses outrage over big, powerful forces in Washington, perhaps he should have looked more closely at the bill he was attempting to foist on the American people. A cushy deal for Big Pharma. New customers mandated by the federal government for Big Insurance. A sweetheart deal for Big Labor.

As with so much else that has gone wrong in the past year for Obama, we once again see that he mistakes (or thinks we will mistake) rhetoric for substance. He wants to get on the side of the ordinary voters? Listen to Scott Brown’s message:

Raising taxes, taking over our health care, and giving new rights to terrorists is the wrong agenda for our country. What I’ve heard again and again on the campaign trail, is that our political leaders have grown aloof from the people, impatient with dissent, and comfortable in the back room making deals.

That’s what has the public riled up — and Obama would do well to listen to what voters are saying rather than simply imitate the tone of the other side’s victory rallies.

Mara Liasson on Fox News Sunday makes a key point that the Obami aren’t likely to appreciate:

This is not a revolt of special interests killing the health care bill like with Hillary-care. You have big pharma, you have the insurance companies basically inside the tent, bought into this idea that they’re going to get a big new market in exchange for being highly regulated.

This is not only accurate but also highlights the phoniness of Obama’s newfound populism. The populists — yes, including those “angry” tea party protesters whom Obama pretended to ignore — are arrayed against Obama and his statist, big-government agenda. They aren’t protesting that special interests have blocked health care; they’re mad that an unholy alliance of big business, big labor, and big government has formed with little concern for the interests of seniors (whose Medicare would get slashed) or middle-class voters (who would be taxed on Cadillac plans, forced to buy insurance, etc.). Obama may be donning the lingo of those who elected Scott Brown, but he’s missing the point.

Obama’s own agenda is fundamentally anti-populist. What could be worse for the little guy than to be told to go buy a big, expensive health-care plan from a big insurance company? It’s the sort of thing Democrats would rightly mock Republicans for coming up with, had the GOP the nerve to come up with such a scheme in the first place.

So when Obama now hollers about the “little guy” and expresses outrage over big, powerful forces in Washington, perhaps he should have looked more closely at the bill he was attempting to foist on the American people. A cushy deal for Big Pharma. New customers mandated by the federal government for Big Insurance. A sweetheart deal for Big Labor.

As with so much else that has gone wrong in the past year for Obama, we once again see that he mistakes (or thinks we will mistake) rhetoric for substance. He wants to get on the side of the ordinary voters? Listen to Scott Brown’s message:

Raising taxes, taking over our health care, and giving new rights to terrorists is the wrong agenda for our country. What I’ve heard again and again on the campaign trail, is that our political leaders have grown aloof from the people, impatient with dissent, and comfortable in the back room making deals.

That’s what has the public riled up — and Obama would do well to listen to what voters are saying rather than simply imitate the tone of the other side’s victory rallies.

Read Less

Shocked, Shocked the Media Missed the Story

Howard Kurtz observes that, once again, the mainstream media was stunned by a story they never saw coming. They never saw the Scott Brown wave building, he writes:

The mainstream media were lulled into complacency by Coakley’s big lead in the polls and Massachusetts’s reputation as the bluest of blue states.

“The national press, and frankly to some extent the local press, were taken by surprise,” says Mark Jurkowitz, the Boston Globe’s former media reporter. “The failure here was not to pick up on what was going on out there in the ether. A lot of journalists didn’t know who Scott Brown was or failed to take him seriously because he was a Republican running in an overwhelmingly Democratic state,” says Jurkowitz, now associate director of the Project for Excellence in Journalism.

One can understand that at the onset, the race seemed like a slam dunk for the Democrats. Martha Coakley was up 30 points in the polls. But as weeks passed and polls shifted, the mainstream media continued to snooze. The imbalance in crowd size and enthusiasm was evident, yet the media narrative didn’t change. Martha Coakley’s gaffes mounted, but the MSM plodded along. Conservative outlets and analysts who predicted a Brown win or even a close vote were derided as hopelessly out of touch.

This is nothing new. The mainstream media are usually surprised by stories unfavorable to the liberal narrative. For months in late 2007 and early 2008, they feigned ignorance of the Iraq surge’s success, until candidate Barack Obama visited and there was a mad scramble to catch up to the story. The New York Times ignored the Reverend Wright story for weeks during the campaign. The Van Jones story also caught the liberal media unaware. The ACORN scandal did too. And the New Jersey and Virginia gubernatorial GOP victories seemed to come out of nowhere — but these could then be ignored, they hastened to add, since they weren’t reflective of any national trend (until Scott Brown made it a trifecta). Then the tea party protest movement was ignored or mocked, as were the town hall protests. Notice how the ignored stories all share a common characteristic: bad news for the Left.

The media never seem to learn or improve. The pattern repeats because this is inevitably what comes from discounting facts adverse to one side and minimizing grassroots activism on the Right. When you deride and name-call citizen activists, you wind up missing entire political movements.

The media’s “slice of reality” coverage, of course, only reinforces the predilection of this White House to ignore bad news. It’s not real news, after all, if it’s on Fox. Rasmussen isn’t a real pollster. Gallup is like a 6-year-old with a crayon. And then you wake up only to find that the president’s approval is below 50 percent, the filibuster-proof Senate is no more, ObamaCare is comatose, and the Right has forged an alliance between independents, populists, and  mainstream conservatives. Funny how that happens when you’re pretending not to notice the tea party protests outside your window or are attempting to delegitimize one of the few new outlets actually covering all this news you’d rather forget.

Howard Kurtz observes that, once again, the mainstream media was stunned by a story they never saw coming. They never saw the Scott Brown wave building, he writes:

The mainstream media were lulled into complacency by Coakley’s big lead in the polls and Massachusetts’s reputation as the bluest of blue states.

“The national press, and frankly to some extent the local press, were taken by surprise,” says Mark Jurkowitz, the Boston Globe’s former media reporter. “The failure here was not to pick up on what was going on out there in the ether. A lot of journalists didn’t know who Scott Brown was or failed to take him seriously because he was a Republican running in an overwhelmingly Democratic state,” says Jurkowitz, now associate director of the Project for Excellence in Journalism.

One can understand that at the onset, the race seemed like a slam dunk for the Democrats. Martha Coakley was up 30 points in the polls. But as weeks passed and polls shifted, the mainstream media continued to snooze. The imbalance in crowd size and enthusiasm was evident, yet the media narrative didn’t change. Martha Coakley’s gaffes mounted, but the MSM plodded along. Conservative outlets and analysts who predicted a Brown win or even a close vote were derided as hopelessly out of touch.

This is nothing new. The mainstream media are usually surprised by stories unfavorable to the liberal narrative. For months in late 2007 and early 2008, they feigned ignorance of the Iraq surge’s success, until candidate Barack Obama visited and there was a mad scramble to catch up to the story. The New York Times ignored the Reverend Wright story for weeks during the campaign. The Van Jones story also caught the liberal media unaware. The ACORN scandal did too. And the New Jersey and Virginia gubernatorial GOP victories seemed to come out of nowhere — but these could then be ignored, they hastened to add, since they weren’t reflective of any national trend (until Scott Brown made it a trifecta). Then the tea party protest movement was ignored or mocked, as were the town hall protests. Notice how the ignored stories all share a common characteristic: bad news for the Left.

The media never seem to learn or improve. The pattern repeats because this is inevitably what comes from discounting facts adverse to one side and minimizing grassroots activism on the Right. When you deride and name-call citizen activists, you wind up missing entire political movements.

The media’s “slice of reality” coverage, of course, only reinforces the predilection of this White House to ignore bad news. It’s not real news, after all, if it’s on Fox. Rasmussen isn’t a real pollster. Gallup is like a 6-year-old with a crayon. And then you wake up only to find that the president’s approval is below 50 percent, the filibuster-proof Senate is no more, ObamaCare is comatose, and the Right has forged an alliance between independents, populists, and  mainstream conservatives. Funny how that happens when you’re pretending not to notice the tea party protests outside your window or are attempting to delegitimize one of the few new outlets actually covering all this news you’d rather forget.

Read Less

Reform or Revolution?

Ross Douthat makes the case that ObamaCare was doomed from the start:

You can make big changes to small programs, and small changes to big ones. But comprehensive solutions tend to produce comprehensive resistance. And the more sweeping the stakes, the greater the chance of political disaster — whether your name is Clinton or Gingrich, Bush or Obama — when your bill goes down to defeat.

Such a bill would have had many fewer beneficiaries — but far fewer enemies as well. It wouldn’t have transformed the system, controlled costs for the long term, or guaranteed universal care.

Douthat argues, as did many Republican lawmakers, that Democrats overshot the mark, attempting something too grand, too complex, and too scary. He contends: “The lesson for Democrats should be obvious. They wanted, admirably, to help the low-income uninsured, and Americans with pre-existing conditions. And that’s exactly what they should have done — with tax credits or vouchers or a Medicaid expansion for the poor, and better-funded risk pools for the sick.”

But is that what they really wanted to do? Or did they want to plant the sapling of a European-style welfare state that couldn’t be rooted out, setting up a new relationship between citizens and their government? At times, many liberals were candid that this is precisely what they had in mind. The public option, they confessed, was the proverbial camel’s nose under the tent, the entry to a single-payer universal-health-care system. It was not simply, one could argue, that in their zeal to tinker with the existing system Democrats went overboard. It often seemed (because they said so) that they intended a “new foundation” for the country. That would entail a whole new model of government dependency for each and every citizen.

In the wake of the Scott Brown epic upset, Democrats are reduced to seeking small, focused fixes to the existing health-care system to save political face. Liberal pundits are beside themselves that they’re likely to get “no more” than something to address pre-existing conditions, some equalization of tax treatment for individual-purchased insurance plans, tort reform, and a lifting of the ban on interstate insurance sales. Well that’s “all” that’s left, given that ObamaCare has crashed and burned. Greg Sargent notes with chagrin:

Is it really advisable, in political and policy terms, for Dems to agree to pass something approximating the GOP plan and no more? Because in the real world, that’s the only way Dems will win any bipartisan cooperation.

It’s quite a comedown to simply reform the existing system. With visions of a revolutionary transformation of American society dancing in their heads, the Left imagined they could get far more. The voters, however, didn’t want to throw out the entire health-care system. They simply wanted cheaper health care and some portability. But if it meant a scary new regime of government control and “comparative effectiveness research,” well then the Democrats could forget the whole thing as far as ordinary Americans were concerned.

So Douthat, I think, is partially correct. Mega-reform wasn’t going to happen. Mostly it wasn’t going to happen because the proponents of the ObamaCare weren’t candid with the public, which they rightly suspected all along wasn’t going to go for a reorientation of a sixth of the economy and their own personal health care. Reform is hard enough; it’s near impossible when it’s a camouflaged revolution.

Ross Douthat makes the case that ObamaCare was doomed from the start:

You can make big changes to small programs, and small changes to big ones. But comprehensive solutions tend to produce comprehensive resistance. And the more sweeping the stakes, the greater the chance of political disaster — whether your name is Clinton or Gingrich, Bush or Obama — when your bill goes down to defeat.

Such a bill would have had many fewer beneficiaries — but far fewer enemies as well. It wouldn’t have transformed the system, controlled costs for the long term, or guaranteed universal care.

Douthat argues, as did many Republican lawmakers, that Democrats overshot the mark, attempting something too grand, too complex, and too scary. He contends: “The lesson for Democrats should be obvious. They wanted, admirably, to help the low-income uninsured, and Americans with pre-existing conditions. And that’s exactly what they should have done — with tax credits or vouchers or a Medicaid expansion for the poor, and better-funded risk pools for the sick.”

But is that what they really wanted to do? Or did they want to plant the sapling of a European-style welfare state that couldn’t be rooted out, setting up a new relationship between citizens and their government? At times, many liberals were candid that this is precisely what they had in mind. The public option, they confessed, was the proverbial camel’s nose under the tent, the entry to a single-payer universal-health-care system. It was not simply, one could argue, that in their zeal to tinker with the existing system Democrats went overboard. It often seemed (because they said so) that they intended a “new foundation” for the country. That would entail a whole new model of government dependency for each and every citizen.

In the wake of the Scott Brown epic upset, Democrats are reduced to seeking small, focused fixes to the existing health-care system to save political face. Liberal pundits are beside themselves that they’re likely to get “no more” than something to address pre-existing conditions, some equalization of tax treatment for individual-purchased insurance plans, tort reform, and a lifting of the ban on interstate insurance sales. Well that’s “all” that’s left, given that ObamaCare has crashed and burned. Greg Sargent notes with chagrin:

Is it really advisable, in political and policy terms, for Dems to agree to pass something approximating the GOP plan and no more? Because in the real world, that’s the only way Dems will win any bipartisan cooperation.

It’s quite a comedown to simply reform the existing system. With visions of a revolutionary transformation of American society dancing in their heads, the Left imagined they could get far more. The voters, however, didn’t want to throw out the entire health-care system. They simply wanted cheaper health care and some portability. But if it meant a scary new regime of government control and “comparative effectiveness research,” well then the Democrats could forget the whole thing as far as ordinary Americans were concerned.

So Douthat, I think, is partially correct. Mega-reform wasn’t going to happen. Mostly it wasn’t going to happen because the proponents of the ObamaCare weren’t candid with the public, which they rightly suspected all along wasn’t going to go for a reorientation of a sixth of the economy and their own personal health care. Reform is hard enough; it’s near impossible when it’s a camouflaged revolution.

Read Less




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