Commentary Magazine


Posts For: January 29, 2010

Iraq Proves the Pessimists Wrong

We often hear about the supposed “unraveling” of Iraq—a regular trope of veteran defense writer Tom Ricks, among others. No doubt there is cause for concern—ranging from bombings that kill dozens, even hundreds, to candidate disqualifications that threaten the integrity of upcoming elections. But as General David Petraeus notes in this interview published last Monday in the Times of London, Iraqi politicians have shown an impressive ability to overcome crises that could lead to the resumption of civil war. Speaking of the 500 candidates disqualified for Baathist links, Petraeus said:

I’m considerably much less worried than I was say last weekend when this was all really appearing that it actually could boil over and result in a reversal of the effect of two and an half years of reconciliation among different groups. It appears however in the last 48 to 72 hours that Iraqi leaders have really gripped this issue.

It turns out now that each party has at least double-digit numbers of individuals on this particular list of over 500 names and that it is reportedly 55 per cent or so Shia and 45 per cent or so Sunni. So if it ever was as was reported a predominately Sunni list and predominately focused on sidelining Sunni candidates that is not the case now and it appears there is going to be, as has been the case in Iraq on a number of previous occasions when there has been quite considerable political drama, that Iraqi leaders will resolve the issue without unhinging and undoing again two and a half years of very hard work at reconciling all of the factions inside the new Iraq.

I noticed another sign of how “the new Iraq” is making progress in this Wall Street Journal article about the rush of foreign airlines to increase service to Iraq at the same time that Iraq Airways is building up its fleet by placing an order with Boeing.

“It’s a good market,” said Turkish Airlines Chief Executive Temel Kotil. Turkish was one of the first foreign carriers to serve Baghdad after the end of Saddam Hussein’s regime in 2003 and it plans in March to start flights to Basra, in southern Iraq. “We want to serve many Iraqi cities,” Mr. Kotil said, adding that most of the carrier’s passengers are Europeans.

It’s not only Turkish Airlines that thinks Iraq is a good opportunity. Other carriers already flying there include Bahrain’s Gulf Air, Lebanon’s Middle East Airlines, and Austrian Airlines. And, reports the Journal, “German giant Deutsche Lufthansa AG recently announced that it aims this summer to start serving Baghdad and Erbil, pending regulatory approval. Austrian Airlines, a unit of Lufthansa, is increasing flights to Erbil, the one Iraqi city it serves. Upscale Qatar Airways also is examining the Iraqi market, officials said.”

A fragile but working democracy, an increase in foreign investment, a steep decline in attacks over the past several years—all these are signs that Iraq is hardly unraveling. That doesn’t mean that it is on a one-way flight to Nirvana. American vigilance and involvement remain essential. But an awful lot has gone right recently—more than I would have predicted back in 2007, when the surge was just beginning. Perhaps, just once in the Middle East, the pessimists will be proven wrong.

We often hear about the supposed “unraveling” of Iraq—a regular trope of veteran defense writer Tom Ricks, among others. No doubt there is cause for concern—ranging from bombings that kill dozens, even hundreds, to candidate disqualifications that threaten the integrity of upcoming elections. But as General David Petraeus notes in this interview published last Monday in the Times of London, Iraqi politicians have shown an impressive ability to overcome crises that could lead to the resumption of civil war. Speaking of the 500 candidates disqualified for Baathist links, Petraeus said:

I’m considerably much less worried than I was say last weekend when this was all really appearing that it actually could boil over and result in a reversal of the effect of two and an half years of reconciliation among different groups. It appears however in the last 48 to 72 hours that Iraqi leaders have really gripped this issue.

It turns out now that each party has at least double-digit numbers of individuals on this particular list of over 500 names and that it is reportedly 55 per cent or so Shia and 45 per cent or so Sunni. So if it ever was as was reported a predominately Sunni list and predominately focused on sidelining Sunni candidates that is not the case now and it appears there is going to be, as has been the case in Iraq on a number of previous occasions when there has been quite considerable political drama, that Iraqi leaders will resolve the issue without unhinging and undoing again two and a half years of very hard work at reconciling all of the factions inside the new Iraq.

I noticed another sign of how “the new Iraq” is making progress in this Wall Street Journal article about the rush of foreign airlines to increase service to Iraq at the same time that Iraq Airways is building up its fleet by placing an order with Boeing.

“It’s a good market,” said Turkish Airlines Chief Executive Temel Kotil. Turkish was one of the first foreign carriers to serve Baghdad after the end of Saddam Hussein’s regime in 2003 and it plans in March to start flights to Basra, in southern Iraq. “We want to serve many Iraqi cities,” Mr. Kotil said, adding that most of the carrier’s passengers are Europeans.

It’s not only Turkish Airlines that thinks Iraq is a good opportunity. Other carriers already flying there include Bahrain’s Gulf Air, Lebanon’s Middle East Airlines, and Austrian Airlines. And, reports the Journal, “German giant Deutsche Lufthansa AG recently announced that it aims this summer to start serving Baghdad and Erbil, pending regulatory approval. Austrian Airlines, a unit of Lufthansa, is increasing flights to Erbil, the one Iraqi city it serves. Upscale Qatar Airways also is examining the Iraqi market, officials said.”

A fragile but working democracy, an increase in foreign investment, a steep decline in attacks over the past several years—all these are signs that Iraq is hardly unraveling. That doesn’t mean that it is on a one-way flight to Nirvana. American vigilance and involvement remain essential. But an awful lot has gone right recently—more than I would have predicted back in 2007, when the surge was just beginning. Perhaps, just once in the Middle East, the pessimists will be proven wrong.

Read Less

Annals of Disengagement

On Tuesday, Siemens, the German conglomerate, announced in its annual shareholders meeting that it has reduced its commercial ties with Iran. The next day, a company spokesman made that statement a bit more explicit: the company, he said, has “decided not to conclude new contracts with commercial partners in Iran.”

That leaves a lot of wiggle room – Siemens is free to conclude new contracts with government entities in Iran, free to carry on with its existing contracts, and free to conclude new ones until its self-imposed deadline of mid-2010 rolls around. And it does nothing to meet criticism from German human-rights advocates that Siemens sells to states like China, knowing that China will then resell to Iran. But it is, at least, a tiny sign that Siemens is feeling the heat. About time too, given Europe’s commercial complicity with the Iranian regime.

Completely coincidentally, two days later, the Senate, as Jen mentioned, passed tough sanctions on Iran. Among other steps, as the AP notes, the Senate bill “would prohibit the U.S. government from purchasing goods from firms that do business in Iran’s energy sector, or provide sensitive communications technology to Iran — a measure that could affect telecommunications giants Siemens and Nokia.” As I say, it’s certainly just a coincidence that, two days before the vote, Siemens intimated it was heading for the Iranian exit, anyhow.

But it does make you think. Engagement has been a complete failure, as even Richard Haass now admits. It hasn’t stopped the Iranian nuclear program, reduced the brutality of the regime, or done anything to diminish Europe’s vast trade ties with Iran, which have shrunk in 2009 mostly because of the recession. And yet, as soon as the U.S. Senate looks like it might pass a bill – which still needs to be reconciled with the House version, and for which the President has shown no enthusiasm at all – a major German firm suddenly, mysteriously develops a case of the shakes about cozying up to Tehran. I wonder what they’d do if we really started trying.

On Tuesday, Siemens, the German conglomerate, announced in its annual shareholders meeting that it has reduced its commercial ties with Iran. The next day, a company spokesman made that statement a bit more explicit: the company, he said, has “decided not to conclude new contracts with commercial partners in Iran.”

That leaves a lot of wiggle room – Siemens is free to conclude new contracts with government entities in Iran, free to carry on with its existing contracts, and free to conclude new ones until its self-imposed deadline of mid-2010 rolls around. And it does nothing to meet criticism from German human-rights advocates that Siemens sells to states like China, knowing that China will then resell to Iran. But it is, at least, a tiny sign that Siemens is feeling the heat. About time too, given Europe’s commercial complicity with the Iranian regime.

Completely coincidentally, two days later, the Senate, as Jen mentioned, passed tough sanctions on Iran. Among other steps, as the AP notes, the Senate bill “would prohibit the U.S. government from purchasing goods from firms that do business in Iran’s energy sector, or provide sensitive communications technology to Iran — a measure that could affect telecommunications giants Siemens and Nokia.” As I say, it’s certainly just a coincidence that, two days before the vote, Siemens intimated it was heading for the Iranian exit, anyhow.

But it does make you think. Engagement has been a complete failure, as even Richard Haass now admits. It hasn’t stopped the Iranian nuclear program, reduced the brutality of the regime, or done anything to diminish Europe’s vast trade ties with Iran, which have shrunk in 2009 mostly because of the recession. And yet, as soon as the U.S. Senate looks like it might pass a bill – which still needs to be reconciled with the House version, and for which the President has shown no enthusiasm at all – a major German firm suddenly, mysteriously develops a case of the shakes about cozying up to Tehran. I wonder what they’d do if we really started trying.

Read Less

“I Am Not an Ideologue”

Barack Obama’s claim to the GOP lawmakers today — “I am not an ideologue” — calls to mind Richard Nixon’s famous claim, “I am not a crook.” Unfortunately both Messrs. Obama and Nixon were what they claimed they were not. Now being a crook is much worse than being an ideologue; but being an ideologue, especially a liberal one, can have its own high costs, as our 44th president is discovering.

I rather doubt Obama considers himself an ideologue; he has probably convinced himself that he is what he wants to project: an empiricist, a pragmatist, and person who makes decisions based on evidence and reason instead of ideology. The fact that he has pursued an agenda blessed, in almost every instance, by Nancy Pelosi is the oddest of coincidences.

I happen to be glad that Obama met with House Republicans; and if this signals a new way of doing business, more power to him. We’ll see. He certainly deserves the chance to amend his ways. But because Obama is, himself, deeply ideological, I suspect he will be more resistant than most. Yet political reality and political defeats can quickly concentrate the minds of politicians.

I have heard sound bits of Obama in two post-State of the Union settings. There is an almost plaintive quality to the president’s words, at least at several points. He simply doesn’t seem able to process what is happening to him or to deal with the mounting problems he and his party face. For a man beginning his second year in office, he can’t understand why he is the most polarizing president we have seen. Or why his disapproval ratings are at a record high this soon into his presidency. Or why he has lost more support in his first year than any other president in our lifetime. Or why the public is rejecting his agenda almost across the board. Or why the public is rejecting his party in almost every possible case. Or why Democratic lawmakers, themselves, are beginning to break with him. (Hint: it has to do with the fact that the president is, at this stage at least, widely seen as a failure.)

One day, the president is defiant and petulant; the next day, he pleads to be understood and accepted. Barack Obama, a man of limitless self-regard, appears to be struggling with what to say and how to find his way out of the dark and deep woods he finds himself in. Such things can be almost poignant to watch.

Barack Obama’s claim to the GOP lawmakers today — “I am not an ideologue” — calls to mind Richard Nixon’s famous claim, “I am not a crook.” Unfortunately both Messrs. Obama and Nixon were what they claimed they were not. Now being a crook is much worse than being an ideologue; but being an ideologue, especially a liberal one, can have its own high costs, as our 44th president is discovering.

I rather doubt Obama considers himself an ideologue; he has probably convinced himself that he is what he wants to project: an empiricist, a pragmatist, and person who makes decisions based on evidence and reason instead of ideology. The fact that he has pursued an agenda blessed, in almost every instance, by Nancy Pelosi is the oddest of coincidences.

I happen to be glad that Obama met with House Republicans; and if this signals a new way of doing business, more power to him. We’ll see. He certainly deserves the chance to amend his ways. But because Obama is, himself, deeply ideological, I suspect he will be more resistant than most. Yet political reality and political defeats can quickly concentrate the minds of politicians.

I have heard sound bits of Obama in two post-State of the Union settings. There is an almost plaintive quality to the president’s words, at least at several points. He simply doesn’t seem able to process what is happening to him or to deal with the mounting problems he and his party face. For a man beginning his second year in office, he can’t understand why he is the most polarizing president we have seen. Or why his disapproval ratings are at a record high this soon into his presidency. Or why he has lost more support in his first year than any other president in our lifetime. Or why the public is rejecting his agenda almost across the board. Or why the public is rejecting his party in almost every possible case. Or why Democratic lawmakers, themselves, are beginning to break with him. (Hint: it has to do with the fact that the president is, at this stage at least, widely seen as a failure.)

One day, the president is defiant and petulant; the next day, he pleads to be understood and accepted. Barack Obama, a man of limitless self-regard, appears to be struggling with what to say and how to find his way out of the dark and deep woods he finds himself in. Such things can be almost poignant to watch.

Read Less

Holden Caulfield, Attorney, Dies at 75

My friend Philip Terzian just posted the following obituary parody on Facebook:

Holden Caulfield, Attorney, Dies at 75

By Carl Luce

NEW YORK—Holden Caulfield, a founding partner of the Manhattan real-estate law firm of Ackley, Caulfield and Marsella PPC, died Monday in North Conway, New Hampshire. He was 75.
Mr. Caulfield, who had a vacation residence in New Hampshire, suffered massive internal injuries after slipping and falling over a cliff in the White Mountains on Saturday while trying to save a young girl, and died at a nearby hospital, according to his son, Allie Caulfield II. He lived at the Edmont Hotel in midtown Manhattan.

An attorney and litigator in New York since the mid-1960s, Mr. Caulfield joined two onetime classmates to form Ackley, Caulfield and Marsella in 1971, specializing in real-estate litigation and property management in New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut. “Holden was a great lawyer and a great friend,” said partner Maurice Ackley in a statement released by the firm. “He loved the majesty of the law, and he hated phonies.” The other partner, Edgar Marsella, died of colon cancer in 2002.

Mr. Caulfield, a native of Manhattan, was born in 1935 and attended a series of preparatory schools before entering Brown University, from which he graduated in 1957. After a brief period of military service he obtained his law degree at New York University and began practicing in 1962. A period as counsel to the Antolini Group, property developers on Long Island, led to Mr. Caulfield’s interest in real estate litigation and property management. In 1996 his firm won a record judgment of $118.5 million in a landmark case involving development rights, Spencer vs. Stradlater.

Mr. Caulfield was a longtime board member of the Central Park Conservancy and a trustee of Pencey Preparatory School in Agerstown, Pa.

Mr. Caulfield’s marriage to Sally Hayes ended in divorce. He is survived by his wife of 39 years, Jane Gallagher Caulfield, of Manhattan; their son Allie II, of Brooklyn; and three grandchildren. He is also survived by a brother, the writer D.B. Caulfield of Pacific Palisades, Calif., and a sister, Phoebe Caulfield-Madoff, of West Hartford, Conn.

My friend Philip Terzian just posted the following obituary parody on Facebook:

Holden Caulfield, Attorney, Dies at 75

By Carl Luce

NEW YORK—Holden Caulfield, a founding partner of the Manhattan real-estate law firm of Ackley, Caulfield and Marsella PPC, died Monday in North Conway, New Hampshire. He was 75.
Mr. Caulfield, who had a vacation residence in New Hampshire, suffered massive internal injuries after slipping and falling over a cliff in the White Mountains on Saturday while trying to save a young girl, and died at a nearby hospital, according to his son, Allie Caulfield II. He lived at the Edmont Hotel in midtown Manhattan.

An attorney and litigator in New York since the mid-1960s, Mr. Caulfield joined two onetime classmates to form Ackley, Caulfield and Marsella in 1971, specializing in real-estate litigation and property management in New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut. “Holden was a great lawyer and a great friend,” said partner Maurice Ackley in a statement released by the firm. “He loved the majesty of the law, and he hated phonies.” The other partner, Edgar Marsella, died of colon cancer in 2002.

Mr. Caulfield, a native of Manhattan, was born in 1935 and attended a series of preparatory schools before entering Brown University, from which he graduated in 1957. After a brief period of military service he obtained his law degree at New York University and began practicing in 1962. A period as counsel to the Antolini Group, property developers on Long Island, led to Mr. Caulfield’s interest in real estate litigation and property management. In 1996 his firm won a record judgment of $118.5 million in a landmark case involving development rights, Spencer vs. Stradlater.

Mr. Caulfield was a longtime board member of the Central Park Conservancy and a trustee of Pencey Preparatory School in Agerstown, Pa.

Mr. Caulfield’s marriage to Sally Hayes ended in divorce. He is survived by his wife of 39 years, Jane Gallagher Caulfield, of Manhattan; their son Allie II, of Brooklyn; and three grandchildren. He is also survived by a brother, the writer D.B. Caulfield of Pacific Palisades, Calif., and a sister, Phoebe Caulfield-Madoff, of West Hartford, Conn.

Read Less

When the Telling Starts

Most advocates want to make the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell (DADT) about fairness and feelings, but for those in the military, that’s not what it’s about. Nor is it about military readiness. This is probably clearest to senior military officers, who have careers of unit leadership, administration, and policy implementation behind them. One can have every sympathy for gays and still oppose the repeal of DADT, because what it portends in daily practice is administering a forced accommodation to gay behavior.

Gays can already serve in the U.S. military; repealing DADT isn’t about allowing them to. It’s about endorsing their sexual orientation in military operations and culture. The course of hands-off neutrality is not an option in these realms; their unique character is to require affirmative policy. Civilians should start by understanding this. The quiescent tolerance they think of in relation to their own lives must translate, in the military, into endorsement and administration of an explicit position. These matters are hard for most people to discuss without emotion, and the tendency of both sides is to focus on what offends them. But it’s essential to understand that no form of offense felt by either side makes the administrative consequences of repealing DADT go away. They are inevitable.

Arguments against repealing DADT usually focus on the hazards of unit-level social interactions, and that’s a valid concern. But rules already exist for dealing with misconduct in the ranks; that aspect of adjustment won’t be the most difficult. The central question, rather, is whether having gays serve openly is a priority that justifies all the adjustments the military will have to make. Those adjustments will be necessary in two principal areas: military society, which includes family life and family-oriented services, and military administration. Intersecting with both of them is the prospect of lawsuits, guaranteed by the robust history of gay-activist litigation in government and the private sector.

Family life on military bases can’t help absorbing the impact of openly acknowledged gay romance, which will play out on sports fields, in base theaters, in recreation facilities, and at the exchanges and commissaries. To deny that this is an issue is merely to take a side. Policy questions will arise for everything from base-housing eligibility for gay couples to gay-themed marketing in the exchange department stores. Ignoring the concerns of military spouses and parents about this would defeat the very purpose of family services, but advocates would argue, and not without justification, that gay service members have an equal entitlement in this regard.

Administering the uniformed military, meanwhile, will have its own set of issues. One basic issue must come to a head: whether eligibility for promotion or command will be contingent on explicit support for homosexuality. The issue will be forced by lawsuit if by no other means. A 20-year veteran with combat tours in Iraq and Afghanistan may not be comfortable, for example, endorsing “Gay Pride Month” or participating in scheduled military celebrations of it. He may be charged by a gay subordinate with creating a hostile work environment or ordered by a senior officer to get onboard with gay-pride celebrations. Perhaps his chain of command would back him up and force the issue to a higher level. The serious question remains: what does this have to do with warfighting readiness?

I wrote on this topic at some length last year, and refer you to my earlier piece for a summary of relevant incidents. The precedent has been set in foreign militaries and in U.S. civilian life for litigating a host of issues if DADT is repealed. Most gays in the military will want to serve quietly and with honor, as they do now, but repealing DADT will nevertheless open the door for legal activists to recruit plaintiffs. It will also create a set of time-consuming administrative and policy dilemmas that don’t exist under DADT.

We must recognize, moreover, that for the purpose of administering anti-discrimination policies, being gay is not like being black or female. People only have to know you’re gay — only have to be “polled” for their opinion — if you choose to make it clear. Repealing DADT isn’t about gays serving; it’s about gays “telling,” regardless of what others want to know. The respectful silence the others can maintain in civilian life, the tolerance by avoidance that lubricates social amity — these are precisely the options the military, with its top-down governance and institutional unity, withholds from its members.

Why must soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines have this reckoning concerning each other? That’s the question each American voter needs to ask himself, as he considers what his purpose is in requiring, for service members and their families, a reckoning the rest of us can choose not to face.

Most advocates want to make the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell (DADT) about fairness and feelings, but for those in the military, that’s not what it’s about. Nor is it about military readiness. This is probably clearest to senior military officers, who have careers of unit leadership, administration, and policy implementation behind them. One can have every sympathy for gays and still oppose the repeal of DADT, because what it portends in daily practice is administering a forced accommodation to gay behavior.

Gays can already serve in the U.S. military; repealing DADT isn’t about allowing them to. It’s about endorsing their sexual orientation in military operations and culture. The course of hands-off neutrality is not an option in these realms; their unique character is to require affirmative policy. Civilians should start by understanding this. The quiescent tolerance they think of in relation to their own lives must translate, in the military, into endorsement and administration of an explicit position. These matters are hard for most people to discuss without emotion, and the tendency of both sides is to focus on what offends them. But it’s essential to understand that no form of offense felt by either side makes the administrative consequences of repealing DADT go away. They are inevitable.

Arguments against repealing DADT usually focus on the hazards of unit-level social interactions, and that’s a valid concern. But rules already exist for dealing with misconduct in the ranks; that aspect of adjustment won’t be the most difficult. The central question, rather, is whether having gays serve openly is a priority that justifies all the adjustments the military will have to make. Those adjustments will be necessary in two principal areas: military society, which includes family life and family-oriented services, and military administration. Intersecting with both of them is the prospect of lawsuits, guaranteed by the robust history of gay-activist litigation in government and the private sector.

Family life on military bases can’t help absorbing the impact of openly acknowledged gay romance, which will play out on sports fields, in base theaters, in recreation facilities, and at the exchanges and commissaries. To deny that this is an issue is merely to take a side. Policy questions will arise for everything from base-housing eligibility for gay couples to gay-themed marketing in the exchange department stores. Ignoring the concerns of military spouses and parents about this would defeat the very purpose of family services, but advocates would argue, and not without justification, that gay service members have an equal entitlement in this regard.

Administering the uniformed military, meanwhile, will have its own set of issues. One basic issue must come to a head: whether eligibility for promotion or command will be contingent on explicit support for homosexuality. The issue will be forced by lawsuit if by no other means. A 20-year veteran with combat tours in Iraq and Afghanistan may not be comfortable, for example, endorsing “Gay Pride Month” or participating in scheduled military celebrations of it. He may be charged by a gay subordinate with creating a hostile work environment or ordered by a senior officer to get onboard with gay-pride celebrations. Perhaps his chain of command would back him up and force the issue to a higher level. The serious question remains: what does this have to do with warfighting readiness?

I wrote on this topic at some length last year, and refer you to my earlier piece for a summary of relevant incidents. The precedent has been set in foreign militaries and in U.S. civilian life for litigating a host of issues if DADT is repealed. Most gays in the military will want to serve quietly and with honor, as they do now, but repealing DADT will nevertheless open the door for legal activists to recruit plaintiffs. It will also create a set of time-consuming administrative and policy dilemmas that don’t exist under DADT.

We must recognize, moreover, that for the purpose of administering anti-discrimination policies, being gay is not like being black or female. People only have to know you’re gay — only have to be “polled” for their opinion — if you choose to make it clear. Repealing DADT isn’t about gays serving; it’s about gays “telling,” regardless of what others want to know. The respectful silence the others can maintain in civilian life, the tolerance by avoidance that lubricates social amity — these are precisely the options the military, with its top-down governance and institutional unity, withholds from its members.

Why must soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines have this reckoning concerning each other? That’s the question each American voter needs to ask himself, as he considers what his purpose is in requiring, for service members and their families, a reckoning the rest of us can choose not to face.

Read Less

The Widening Rift Between Obama and the Left

I agree wholeheartedly with your analysis, Jen, as I almost always do. I’d simply add a prediction into the mix. We will see the split between Obama and the Left continue to widen. This will occur not because Obama’s agenda isn’t liberal; it is, with a few exceptions. No, what will fuel the revolt on the Left is Obama’s sinking political fortunes. Liberals don’t want their cause to go down with him, so they’ll increasingly separate themselves from him, allowing them to say that the reason he failed is that he wasn’t liberal enough. That is the line of argument one is beginning to hear (with varying degrees of incoherence) from Paul Krugman, Jonathan Chait, Frank Rich, E.J. Dionne, and others.

In this fantasy world, Obama is failing because his stimulus package wasn’t expensive enough. Right-oh, and if Obama doesn’t jam through health-care legislation, his will be a broken presidency. Only ObamaCare can salvage it. Agreed, and of course Obama’s other problem is that he was too bipartisan during his first year. He needs to fight harder, to be more aggressive, to get in our faces more frequently, to lecture us more often. Et cetera. Et cetera.

This view of things is utterly detached from reality, of course, and in that sense it probably helps conservatives. It’s always useful when the movement one is competing against is deluded about the nature and depth of its problems.

Watching this split, which is now only in its early phases, is going to be endless interesting.

I agree wholeheartedly with your analysis, Jen, as I almost always do. I’d simply add a prediction into the mix. We will see the split between Obama and the Left continue to widen. This will occur not because Obama’s agenda isn’t liberal; it is, with a few exceptions. No, what will fuel the revolt on the Left is Obama’s sinking political fortunes. Liberals don’t want their cause to go down with him, so they’ll increasingly separate themselves from him, allowing them to say that the reason he failed is that he wasn’t liberal enough. That is the line of argument one is beginning to hear (with varying degrees of incoherence) from Paul Krugman, Jonathan Chait, Frank Rich, E.J. Dionne, and others.

In this fantasy world, Obama is failing because his stimulus package wasn’t expensive enough. Right-oh, and if Obama doesn’t jam through health-care legislation, his will be a broken presidency. Only ObamaCare can salvage it. Agreed, and of course Obama’s other problem is that he was too bipartisan during his first year. He needs to fight harder, to be more aggressive, to get in our faces more frequently, to lecture us more often. Et cetera. Et cetera.

This view of things is utterly detached from reality, of course, and in that sense it probably helps conservatives. It’s always useful when the movement one is competing against is deluded about the nature and depth of its problems.

Watching this split, which is now only in its early phases, is going to be endless interesting.

Read Less

Re: They Ain’t Seen Nothing Yet

Pete, you and I share the same mortification and bemusement over Nancy Pelosi’s recent comments. But it is interesting that those on the Left show no embarrassment and are delighted by her attempts to plant her flag (pole vault?) and refuse to recognize political realities. They are handing out the “atta girl” compliments, relieved that she exhibits all the determination and sense of urgency they hoped Obama would convey. (He, on the other hand, was playing it both ways — both doubling down on the rhetoric and downgrading ObamaCare as a priority.)

That’s the nub of the problem for the Democrats. What sounds like crazy talk to moderates and conservatives sounds like a welcome call to arms to their base. The more obsessive the Democrats’ rhetoric, the happier the Left is and the more the rest of us are inclined to laugh.

The great opportunity Obama had when riding into office on a wave of enthusiasm and personal popularity was to fuse all the elements in his own party and gobble up the center of the political spectrum, leaving Republicans with no political turf. Instead, the opposite has happened. His own party is in tatters, the Left is spinning fantasies that are destined to fail, and the rest of the country is looking for an alternative. It is not yet clear whether the GOP can seize the opening. But put it this way: anyone who thinks Pelosi sounds out to lunch is ripe for the picking. That’s a lot of Americans.

Pete, you and I share the same mortification and bemusement over Nancy Pelosi’s recent comments. But it is interesting that those on the Left show no embarrassment and are delighted by her attempts to plant her flag (pole vault?) and refuse to recognize political realities. They are handing out the “atta girl” compliments, relieved that she exhibits all the determination and sense of urgency they hoped Obama would convey. (He, on the other hand, was playing it both ways — both doubling down on the rhetoric and downgrading ObamaCare as a priority.)

That’s the nub of the problem for the Democrats. What sounds like crazy talk to moderates and conservatives sounds like a welcome call to arms to their base. The more obsessive the Democrats’ rhetoric, the happier the Left is and the more the rest of us are inclined to laugh.

The great opportunity Obama had when riding into office on a wave of enthusiasm and personal popularity was to fuse all the elements in his own party and gobble up the center of the political spectrum, leaving Republicans with no political turf. Instead, the opposite has happened. His own party is in tatters, the Left is spinning fantasies that are destined to fail, and the rest of the country is looking for an alternative. It is not yet clear whether the GOP can seize the opening. But put it this way: anyone who thinks Pelosi sounds out to lunch is ripe for the picking. That’s a lot of Americans.

Read Less

Forgetting that Chris Matthews Is the Serious One …

Jon Stewart and the team at Comedy Central had some fun at the expense of MSNBC’s Chris Matthews, who, in the aftermath of President Obama’s State of the Union address, helpfully informed us that, for an hour, he forgot Obama was black. Take a look.

And remember: Matthews is the serious voice on MSNBC’s prime-time lineup.

Jon Stewart and the team at Comedy Central had some fun at the expense of MSNBC’s Chris Matthews, who, in the aftermath of President Obama’s State of the Union address, helpfully informed us that, for an hour, he forgot Obama was black. Take a look.

And remember: Matthews is the serious voice on MSNBC’s prime-time lineup.

Read Less

Tuning Out Obama

One problem among many that Obama has is that the public has learned not to take him seriously. Part of this problem, of course, stems form his overexposure. The urge to tune him out is inevitable when he is everywhere opining on everything from Cambridge race relations to basketball to global warming. (By the way, not much remarked upon but noteworthy was his snidely delivered defense of climate-control hysteria in the SOTU. This is not a man amenable to any course correction when confronted with new data that conflicts with old assumptions.) And part of the problem derives from repeating things that aren’t so. Americans don’t think we can cover millions more with expensive health care run by the government and save money doing so. They don’t buy that “engagement” is a credible policy with Iranian state sponsors of terror. They don’t think everything is George W. Bush’s fault.

So when Obama comes up with a plan that has a kernel of a good idea, the public isn’t interested. They assume he’s peddling snake oil. (Statistically, it’s not a bad bet.) Rasmussen reports:

One of the key new initiatives in President Obama’s State of the Union speech is a three-year freeze on discretionary government spending, but voters overwhelmingly believe the freeze will have little or no impact on the federal deficit. A new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds that just nine percent (9%) think the freeze will reduce the deficit a lot. Eighty-one percent (81%) disagree, including 42% who say it will have no impact. Another 39% say the freeze in nearly all areas except defense, national security, veterans affairs and entitlement programs such as Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security will reduce the deficit a little.

In other words, more than eight in ten think it’s not going to do much and more than four in ten say it’ll do nothing. Now, they don’t mind the idea. In fact a majority say “go ahead and do it.” But they are unwilling to be taken in by the bravado of this being a grown-up response to the spending spree that Obama and his Democrats have been on for a year. Meanwhile Obama’s overall approval rating continues its downward skid.

Unfortunately Obama seems oblivious to his credibility problem and exacerbates it by repeating untruths. The stimulus saved two million jobs. His health-care plan lets you keep your current  insurance. The Supreme Court is going to allow “foreign entities” to control elections. None of it is accurate. The public is learning not to trust their president. On one hand it is refreshing and heartening that Lincoln’s adage about fooling all of us is as true today as it was in the 19th century. But it’s more than a little disturbing and sad. We were hoping for a new kind of politician. Instead we got the very worst of the old.

One problem among many that Obama has is that the public has learned not to take him seriously. Part of this problem, of course, stems form his overexposure. The urge to tune him out is inevitable when he is everywhere opining on everything from Cambridge race relations to basketball to global warming. (By the way, not much remarked upon but noteworthy was his snidely delivered defense of climate-control hysteria in the SOTU. This is not a man amenable to any course correction when confronted with new data that conflicts with old assumptions.) And part of the problem derives from repeating things that aren’t so. Americans don’t think we can cover millions more with expensive health care run by the government and save money doing so. They don’t buy that “engagement” is a credible policy with Iranian state sponsors of terror. They don’t think everything is George W. Bush’s fault.

So when Obama comes up with a plan that has a kernel of a good idea, the public isn’t interested. They assume he’s peddling snake oil. (Statistically, it’s not a bad bet.) Rasmussen reports:

One of the key new initiatives in President Obama’s State of the Union speech is a three-year freeze on discretionary government spending, but voters overwhelmingly believe the freeze will have little or no impact on the federal deficit. A new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds that just nine percent (9%) think the freeze will reduce the deficit a lot. Eighty-one percent (81%) disagree, including 42% who say it will have no impact. Another 39% say the freeze in nearly all areas except defense, national security, veterans affairs and entitlement programs such as Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security will reduce the deficit a little.

In other words, more than eight in ten think it’s not going to do much and more than four in ten say it’ll do nothing. Now, they don’t mind the idea. In fact a majority say “go ahead and do it.” But they are unwilling to be taken in by the bravado of this being a grown-up response to the spending spree that Obama and his Democrats have been on for a year. Meanwhile Obama’s overall approval rating continues its downward skid.

Unfortunately Obama seems oblivious to his credibility problem and exacerbates it by repeating untruths. The stimulus saved two million jobs. His health-care plan lets you keep your current  insurance. The Supreme Court is going to allow “foreign entities” to control elections. None of it is accurate. The public is learning not to trust their president. On one hand it is refreshing and heartening that Lincoln’s adage about fooling all of us is as true today as it was in the 19th century. But it’s more than a little disturbing and sad. We were hoping for a new kind of politician. Instead we got the very worst of the old.

Read Less

An About-Face?

The New York Times, among other outlets, is reporting that the KSM trial may be heading out of New York:

As a growing chorus of New York politicians joined the opposition to a Manhattan trial for the accused Sept. 11 conspirators, a White House spokesman said on Thursday that President still believed a civilian criminal trial could be held “successfully and securely in the United States.” But Mr. Obama left any decision on moving the trial to the Justice Department, and administration officials said they had begun to discuss contingency plans for possible new locations.

It is absurd, of course, that a decision of this magnitude — as we were told, was the original decision to try KSM in New York — should be delegated to the Justice Department. Certainly Obama has become expert at evading responsibility, but at some point one would think the commander in chief would step forward and shoulder the responsibility for making the call.

The election of Scott Brown seems to have shaken some skeptics and chased them from their hiding spots. Mayor Bloomberg, Sen. Kirsten Gillbrand, and other Democratic lawmakers are piping up:

Republicans in the Senate and House said they would try to block financing for civilian criminal trials for the alleged terrorists, seeking to force the administration to place them on trial before a military commission in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, or on a military base elsewhere. Opponents of civilian trials said they hoped new doubts about a New York trial and increased fears of terrorism since the attempted airliner bombing on Christmas Day would win more Democratic support for such measures.

Even Sen Chuck Schumer is asking the White House to look for alternatives. But where? After New York chases what is sure to be a three-ring circus out of town, what other jurisdiction would want it? Better, say the Republicans, to return this issue to a military tribunal on a secure military base. (Hey, there is one in Guantanamo. How about that?) The Times reports:

Representative Peter T. King, Republican of New York, introduced legislation on Wednesday that would block financing for civilian trials for those accused of plotting the Sept. 11 attacks, and Senator Lindsay Graham, Republican of South Carolina, said he would introduce a parallel bill in the Senate next week.

Mr. Graham, an experienced military prosecutor who has long argued that foreign terrorists should be treated as enemy combatants, proposed a similar amendment in November but it failed to pass the Senate by 54 to 45. He said he believed the same measure could pass today.

This would be a monumental admission of error by Obama and, more importantly, by his attorney general, who assured us all that this would be a slam dunk, a safe and pain free proceeding. Now that Obama has lost his mystical powers to silence his own party, the truth is seeping out: this is an expensive, dangerous, and entirely unnecessary deviation from historical practice. Obama is colliding with reality.

On Guantanamo, the KSM trial, and the Mirandizing of the Christmas Day bomber, the public and a congressional bipartisan consensus are taking the lead. The Obami’s leftward lark on national security, I suspect, is about to end. The Bush-era policies have been vindicated by none other than Obama, who proved the alternatives to be unworkable, foolish, and politically untenable. George W. Bush and Dick Cheney must be smiling broadly.

The New York Times, among other outlets, is reporting that the KSM trial may be heading out of New York:

As a growing chorus of New York politicians joined the opposition to a Manhattan trial for the accused Sept. 11 conspirators, a White House spokesman said on Thursday that President still believed a civilian criminal trial could be held “successfully and securely in the United States.” But Mr. Obama left any decision on moving the trial to the Justice Department, and administration officials said they had begun to discuss contingency plans for possible new locations.

It is absurd, of course, that a decision of this magnitude — as we were told, was the original decision to try KSM in New York — should be delegated to the Justice Department. Certainly Obama has become expert at evading responsibility, but at some point one would think the commander in chief would step forward and shoulder the responsibility for making the call.

The election of Scott Brown seems to have shaken some skeptics and chased them from their hiding spots. Mayor Bloomberg, Sen. Kirsten Gillbrand, and other Democratic lawmakers are piping up:

Republicans in the Senate and House said they would try to block financing for civilian criminal trials for the alleged terrorists, seeking to force the administration to place them on trial before a military commission in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, or on a military base elsewhere. Opponents of civilian trials said they hoped new doubts about a New York trial and increased fears of terrorism since the attempted airliner bombing on Christmas Day would win more Democratic support for such measures.

Even Sen Chuck Schumer is asking the White House to look for alternatives. But where? After New York chases what is sure to be a three-ring circus out of town, what other jurisdiction would want it? Better, say the Republicans, to return this issue to a military tribunal on a secure military base. (Hey, there is one in Guantanamo. How about that?) The Times reports:

Representative Peter T. King, Republican of New York, introduced legislation on Wednesday that would block financing for civilian trials for those accused of plotting the Sept. 11 attacks, and Senator Lindsay Graham, Republican of South Carolina, said he would introduce a parallel bill in the Senate next week.

Mr. Graham, an experienced military prosecutor who has long argued that foreign terrorists should be treated as enemy combatants, proposed a similar amendment in November but it failed to pass the Senate by 54 to 45. He said he believed the same measure could pass today.

This would be a monumental admission of error by Obama and, more importantly, by his attorney general, who assured us all that this would be a slam dunk, a safe and pain free proceeding. Now that Obama has lost his mystical powers to silence his own party, the truth is seeping out: this is an expensive, dangerous, and entirely unnecessary deviation from historical practice. Obama is colliding with reality.

On Guantanamo, the KSM trial, and the Mirandizing of the Christmas Day bomber, the public and a congressional bipartisan consensus are taking the lead. The Obami’s leftward lark on national security, I suspect, is about to end. The Bush-era policies have been vindicated by none other than Obama, who proved the alternatives to be unworkable, foolish, and politically untenable. George W. Bush and Dick Cheney must be smiling broadly.

Read Less

They Ain’t Seen Nothing Yet

If you wanted a sound bite that embodied much of what is wrong with contemporary liberalism, you could do worse than listen to the words of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on health care:

We’ll go through the gate. If the gate’s closed, we’ll go over the fence. If the fence is too high, we’ll pole vault in. If that doesn’t work, we’ll parachute in but we’re going to get health-care reform passed for the America people.

Set aside the fact that Ms. Pelosi sounds like Tareq and Michaele Salahi trying to crash a White House State dinner. She seems to view herself as part of the guardian class, as one of our philosopher kings who knows better than the great, unwashed masses what is good for them. It is of a piece with the collectivist mindset, one that believes that it is with the ruling class that wisdom resides. They know best – and they will give you not what you may want but what they believe you need.

This view is exceedingly arrogant and, if it is indulged in often enough, it becomes, in some sense, anti-democratic.

There is a long history in America to dictate the proper role of its legislators. Some argue they ought to mirror public opinion all the time; others argue that we elect people to political posts based on our confidence in their judgment. They therefore have a relatively free hand to pursue the agenda they deem appropriate. But even those who subscribe to the views of the second group understand that in the end, ours is a representative form of government. The will of the people matters. We are, after all, a government “of the people, by the people, for the people.”

The public has seen how Pelosi, Senate Majority Leader Reid, and President Obama want to jam health-care legislation down its throat despite its obvious wishes. The public has ways of fighting back against such things. They are known as elections. Three of them have happened recently, in New Jersey, Virginia, and Massachusetts. The Democrats have lost each one – and in the process they have lost independent voters by a margin of at least two-to-one. In each of those elections, local issues obviously played an important role in the outcome of the races. But framing each of these elections was the sense that the federal government has become too large, too intrusive, too expensive, and too incompetent. It has not earned the right to run one-sixth of the American economy.

What President Obama has succeeded in doing is to boil down politics to a fairly basic and elementary level, including the role of the state in the lives of its citizenry. Ms. Pelosi and Messrs. Reid and Obama are advocates of what Margaret Thatcher called a “nanny state” – the state that takes too much from you in order to do too much for you. Those who believe the American people are prepared to embrace such a thing are badly misguided. Democrats are learning that lesson the hard way. And with the mid-term elections approaching, they should keep in mind the words of Bachman Turner Overdrive: They ain’t seen nothing yet.

If you wanted a sound bite that embodied much of what is wrong with contemporary liberalism, you could do worse than listen to the words of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on health care:

We’ll go through the gate. If the gate’s closed, we’ll go over the fence. If the fence is too high, we’ll pole vault in. If that doesn’t work, we’ll parachute in but we’re going to get health-care reform passed for the America people.

Set aside the fact that Ms. Pelosi sounds like Tareq and Michaele Salahi trying to crash a White House State dinner. She seems to view herself as part of the guardian class, as one of our philosopher kings who knows better than the great, unwashed masses what is good for them. It is of a piece with the collectivist mindset, one that believes that it is with the ruling class that wisdom resides. They know best – and they will give you not what you may want but what they believe you need.

This view is exceedingly arrogant and, if it is indulged in often enough, it becomes, in some sense, anti-democratic.

There is a long history in America to dictate the proper role of its legislators. Some argue they ought to mirror public opinion all the time; others argue that we elect people to political posts based on our confidence in their judgment. They therefore have a relatively free hand to pursue the agenda they deem appropriate. But even those who subscribe to the views of the second group understand that in the end, ours is a representative form of government. The will of the people matters. We are, after all, a government “of the people, by the people, for the people.”

The public has seen how Pelosi, Senate Majority Leader Reid, and President Obama want to jam health-care legislation down its throat despite its obvious wishes. The public has ways of fighting back against such things. They are known as elections. Three of them have happened recently, in New Jersey, Virginia, and Massachusetts. The Democrats have lost each one – and in the process they have lost independent voters by a margin of at least two-to-one. In each of those elections, local issues obviously played an important role in the outcome of the races. But framing each of these elections was the sense that the federal government has become too large, too intrusive, too expensive, and too incompetent. It has not earned the right to run one-sixth of the American economy.

What President Obama has succeeded in doing is to boil down politics to a fairly basic and elementary level, including the role of the state in the lives of its citizenry. Ms. Pelosi and Messrs. Reid and Obama are advocates of what Margaret Thatcher called a “nanny state” – the state that takes too much from you in order to do too much for you. Those who believe the American people are prepared to embrace such a thing are badly misguided. Democrats are learning that lesson the hard way. And with the mid-term elections approaching, they should keep in mind the words of Bachman Turner Overdrive: They ain’t seen nothing yet.

Read Less

Iran Sanctions Pass the Senate

The president in his SOTU virtually ignored the greatest national security threat of our time: the growing danger that an Islamic revolutionary regime will acquire nuclear weapons. Fortunately, the Senate didn’t wait around for the Obami to act. This report explains:

The US Senate voted Thursday to slap tough new sanctions on Iran, targeting its thirst for gasoline imports in a bid to force Tehran to bow to global pressure to freeze its suspect nuclear program.

“The Iranian regime has engaged in serious human rights abuses against its own citizens, funded terrorist activity throughout the Middle East, and pursued illicit nuclear activities posing a serious threat to the security of the United States and our allies,” said Democratic Senator Chris Dodd.

“With passage of this bill, we make it clear that there will be appropriate consequences if these actions continue,” said Dodd, the chairman of the Senate Banking Committee and a key sponsor of the legislation.

The bill will need to be reconciled with the House version. The Senate’s bill contains robust measures, the sort candidate Obama seemed to favor on the campaign trail:

It also requires that the president report to congress when non-US companies become eligible for sanctions, under a 1996 law that punishes investments of more than 20 million dollars in Iran’s energy sector.

Iran gets most of its gasoline imports from the Swiss firm Vitol, the Swiss/Dutch firm Trafigura, France’s Total, the Swiss firm Glencore and British Petroleum, as well as the Indian firm Reliance.

The measure also expands the 1996 law to cover oil and gas pipelines and tankers, and requires the administration to freeze the assets of any Iranians, including members of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps, found to be active in weapons proliferation or terrorism.

It would also enable US investors, including states’ pension funds, to divest from energy firms that do business with Iran.

It would prohibit the US government from purchasing goods from firms that do business in Iran’s energy sector, or provide sensitive communications technology to Iran — a measure that could affect telecommunications giants Siemens and Nokia.

It seems that the Senate is growing impatient with China and Russia, which show no sign of joining in multilateral measures, and also with the Obami, who have made an art of foot-dragging. As Sen. Mitch McConnell pointed out, “The Iranian regime has shown no interest in limiting its nuclear ambitions. And an entire year was lost as Iran moved closer and closer to its goal.”

Let’s see what Obama does when the bill lands on his desk. He has been unable to hold the Congress at bay, no doubt to the disappointment of the pin-prick sanctions set at Foggy Bottom, which searches for those measures that pack the least punch. Obama may be yanked against his will from his engagement cocoon. But make no mistake: there is no consensus in the U.S. Congress for perpetuating the Obami’s current do-nothingism. There’s also only so much engagement fabulism that even liberal Democratic lawmakers can take. Good for them. Let’s see if it shakes them awake at the White House.

The president in his SOTU virtually ignored the greatest national security threat of our time: the growing danger that an Islamic revolutionary regime will acquire nuclear weapons. Fortunately, the Senate didn’t wait around for the Obami to act. This report explains:

The US Senate voted Thursday to slap tough new sanctions on Iran, targeting its thirst for gasoline imports in a bid to force Tehran to bow to global pressure to freeze its suspect nuclear program.

“The Iranian regime has engaged in serious human rights abuses against its own citizens, funded terrorist activity throughout the Middle East, and pursued illicit nuclear activities posing a serious threat to the security of the United States and our allies,” said Democratic Senator Chris Dodd.

“With passage of this bill, we make it clear that there will be appropriate consequences if these actions continue,” said Dodd, the chairman of the Senate Banking Committee and a key sponsor of the legislation.

The bill will need to be reconciled with the House version. The Senate’s bill contains robust measures, the sort candidate Obama seemed to favor on the campaign trail:

It also requires that the president report to congress when non-US companies become eligible for sanctions, under a 1996 law that punishes investments of more than 20 million dollars in Iran’s energy sector.

Iran gets most of its gasoline imports from the Swiss firm Vitol, the Swiss/Dutch firm Trafigura, France’s Total, the Swiss firm Glencore and British Petroleum, as well as the Indian firm Reliance.

The measure also expands the 1996 law to cover oil and gas pipelines and tankers, and requires the administration to freeze the assets of any Iranians, including members of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps, found to be active in weapons proliferation or terrorism.

It would also enable US investors, including states’ pension funds, to divest from energy firms that do business with Iran.

It would prohibit the US government from purchasing goods from firms that do business in Iran’s energy sector, or provide sensitive communications technology to Iran — a measure that could affect telecommunications giants Siemens and Nokia.

It seems that the Senate is growing impatient with China and Russia, which show no sign of joining in multilateral measures, and also with the Obami, who have made an art of foot-dragging. As Sen. Mitch McConnell pointed out, “The Iranian regime has shown no interest in limiting its nuclear ambitions. And an entire year was lost as Iran moved closer and closer to its goal.”

Let’s see what Obama does when the bill lands on his desk. He has been unable to hold the Congress at bay, no doubt to the disappointment of the pin-prick sanctions set at Foggy Bottom, which searches for those measures that pack the least punch. Obama may be yanked against his will from his engagement cocoon. But make no mistake: there is no consensus in the U.S. Congress for perpetuating the Obami’s current do-nothingism. There’s also only so much engagement fabulism that even liberal Democratic lawmakers can take. Good for them. Let’s see if it shakes them awake at the White House.

Read Less

Threatening Israel Isn’t Enough Anymore

Iran’s tyrant Ali Khamenei posted a comment on his website (yes, even he’s doing it now) predicting the inevitable destruction of Israel, a task he generally delegates to Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. “Definitely, the day will come when nations of the region will witness the destruction of the Zionist regime,” he wrote. “How soon or late … depends on how Islamic countries and Muslim nations approach the issue.”

Israelis should be pleased to hear they’ll be allowed to exist a bit longer if Saudi Arabia dithers. And Saudi Arabia is going to dither for a long time.

According to the Financial Times, a majority of citizens in 18 Arab countries think Iran is more dangerous than Israel. And according to a report by the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, a substantial number of Saudi citizens are even willing to support military action against Iran’s nuclear weapons facilities.

A third of Saudi respondents say they would approve an American strike, and a fourth say they’d back an Israeli strike. The actual number is almost certainly higher. Supporting Israel is taboo in the Arab world, and that goes double when Israel is at war. This is not the sort of thing most Arabs are comfortable admitting to strangers, yet one-fourth of Saudis just did. Read More

Iran’s tyrant Ali Khamenei posted a comment on his website (yes, even he’s doing it now) predicting the inevitable destruction of Israel, a task he generally delegates to Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. “Definitely, the day will come when nations of the region will witness the destruction of the Zionist regime,” he wrote. “How soon or late … depends on how Islamic countries and Muslim nations approach the issue.”

Israelis should be pleased to hear they’ll be allowed to exist a bit longer if Saudi Arabia dithers. And Saudi Arabia is going to dither for a long time.

According to the Financial Times, a majority of citizens in 18 Arab countries think Iran is more dangerous than Israel. And according to a report by the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, a substantial number of Saudi citizens are even willing to support military action against Iran’s nuclear weapons facilities.

A third of Saudi respondents say they would approve an American strike, and a fourth say they’d back an Israeli strike. The actual number is almost certainly higher. Supporting Israel is taboo in the Arab world, and that goes double when Israel is at war. This is not the sort of thing most Arabs are comfortable admitting to strangers, yet one-fourth of Saudis just did.

(Intriguingly, a clear majority of Saudis interviewed in the same survey think their own terrorism and religious extremism is more troubling than either Iran or Israel. There may be hope, at least in the long run, for that region yet.)

Iran’s rulers constantly threaten Israel with violence and even destruction because they know the Arabs are against them. They need to change the subject to something they all can agree on. Ever since Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini seized power in 1979 and voided Iran’s treaty with Israel, regime leaders have believed they’ll meet less resistance while amassing power for themselves in the region by saying, Hey, we’re not after you, we’re after the Jews.

It isn’t enough anymore. Even arming and bankrolling terrorist organizations that fight Israel isn’t enough anymore. Most Arabs simply do not believe Ahmadinejad and Khamenei when they not-so-cryptically suggest that their nuclear weapons will be pointed only at Israel. By a factor of 3-to-1, Saudis believe Iran would use nuclear weapons against either them or another Arab state in the Persian Gulf before using nuclear weapons against Israel.

Most Arabs hate or at the very least have serious problems with Israel, and I expect that will be true for the rest of my life, even if the Arab-Israeli conflict comes to an end. Yet the Middle East is forever interesting and surprising, and “the enemy of my enemy is my friend” even applies to an extent when “the enemy of my enemy” is the “Zionist Entity.”

This was made abundantly clear during the Second Lebanon War, in 2006, when Sunni Arab regimes tacitly took Jerusalem’s side by blaming Hezbollah for starting it and saying nothing, at least initially, about the Israeli response. The war was fought in an Arab country, but it was a proxy war between two non-Arab powers. Lebanon merely provided the battle space.

The Sunni Arab “street,” so to speak, didn’t take Israel’s side. Hezbollah’s Secretary General Hassan Nasrallah managed to turn himself into a heroic big shot for a while by taking the fight to the enemy, but the most recent victims of Hezbollah’s violence were Sunnis in Beirut in 2008, and no one in the Middle East has forgotten it.

With only a few exceptions, the region has been firmly controlled by Sunni Arab regimes since the dissolution of the Ottoman Empire, yet none of these governments are strong enough to project power abroad. As author Lee Smith notes, they can’t even defend themselves. A number of analysts have pointed out in the last couple of years that the political agenda in the Arab Middle East is now set by non-Arabs in Jerusalem, Tehran, Washington, and to a lesser extent, Ankara. Syria’s Bashar Assad helps set the regional agenda as the logistics hub in the Iranian-Hezbollah axis, but he’s a non-Muslim Alawite, not a Sunni, and he’s doing it as a mere sidekick of the Persians. If all that weren’t enough, the Sunnis now depend on Israelis to defend them, and they’re not even sure the Israelis will do it.

We’ll know Iran’s power play is actually working if and when Sunni Arab governments issue not just boilerplate denunciations of the “Zionist Entity” but actually join the Iran-led resistance and fight Israel like they used to. In the meantime, they’re falling in behind their enemy, although they dare not admit it to anyone.

Read Less

The Missing SOTU Eloquence

The New York Times called the State of the Union Address “a reminder that [Obama] is a gifted orator, able to inspire with grand vision,” but the Times did not include any examples to prove its point. The Los Angeles Times found the address “moving and even inspirational at times” but likewise omitted any supporting evidence.

Several prominent conservatives were impressed by the peroration, but it seemed to me more like a collection of well-worn Obama rhetorical flourishes: the values that built America “aren’t Republican values or Democratic values. … They are American values”; we must address the “cynicism” out there; I “never suggested that change would be easy”; and what keeps me “fighting” is the “fundamental decency of the American people.” Obama gave no credit to the American soldiers actually fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan for removing two totalitarian dictatorships and bringing representative government — the quintessential American value — to both countries.

Even if the peroration had been impressive, it occurred at the end of a 71-minute address. As the speech entered its second hour, my principal feeling was the fierce urgency of having him finish it now.

It may be that the words not in the speech will eventually prove more significant than the ones that were. Iran received a total of 32 words in the 7,400-word address: it is “more isolated” and will face “growing consequences” (that’s a “promise”). The words of the past — “unacceptable,” “crippling,” “all options on the table” — were missing, as was a description of the consequences themselves, one month after Obama’s latest “deadline” passed.

Historians may note that those in Iran fighting for representative government to replace a brutal theocracy received no encouragement from the president of the United States in his most important speech of the year — no grand vision, no inspirational rhetoric, not even a “yes you can.”

The New York Times called the State of the Union Address “a reminder that [Obama] is a gifted orator, able to inspire with grand vision,” but the Times did not include any examples to prove its point. The Los Angeles Times found the address “moving and even inspirational at times” but likewise omitted any supporting evidence.

Several prominent conservatives were impressed by the peroration, but it seemed to me more like a collection of well-worn Obama rhetorical flourishes: the values that built America “aren’t Republican values or Democratic values. … They are American values”; we must address the “cynicism” out there; I “never suggested that change would be easy”; and what keeps me “fighting” is the “fundamental decency of the American people.” Obama gave no credit to the American soldiers actually fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan for removing two totalitarian dictatorships and bringing representative government — the quintessential American value — to both countries.

Even if the peroration had been impressive, it occurred at the end of a 71-minute address. As the speech entered its second hour, my principal feeling was the fierce urgency of having him finish it now.

It may be that the words not in the speech will eventually prove more significant than the ones that were. Iran received a total of 32 words in the 7,400-word address: it is “more isolated” and will face “growing consequences” (that’s a “promise”). The words of the past — “unacceptable,” “crippling,” “all options on the table” — were missing, as was a description of the consequences themselves, one month after Obama’s latest “deadline” passed.

Historians may note that those in Iran fighting for representative government to replace a brutal theocracy received no encouragement from the president of the United States in his most important speech of the year — no grand vision, no inspirational rhetoric, not even a “yes you can.”

Read Less

The Harvard Law Review Must Be Aghast

In the ongoing debate over Obama’s attack on the Supreme Court, the president seems not to be faring all that well. Politico’s forum on the subject contains a range of criticisms. They fall into several categories.

First, it was arrogant and careless of Obama to call out the Supreme Court – and not get his facts right. Dan Perino observes: “Misrepresenting a complicated legal opinion is dicey — but doing so in a prime-time address to a nation where the authors of that opinion are in the front row leaves you rightly exposed to criticism.” The president and his minions have gotten used to their sheltered existence and being immune to criticism. You can almost hear them reassuring themselves, “It’s not like one of the justices is going to object!” Well, he did, and that’s what comes from assuming the president can be cavalier with the truth.

Second, it was rude to berate the Court in public, treating the justices as errant political functionaries rather than interpreters of the Constitution. Larry J. Sabato, hardly a fire-breathing conservative, makes some unfavorable comparisons:

Mr. Obama’s blunt attack on the Court’s ruling, with the members sitting in front of him, was no doubt stunning and unsettling to some, and it contradicted his frequent calls for bipartisanship and civility. It also reminded me of President Andrew Jackson’s remark that, “Chief Justice Marshall has made his decision. Now let him enforce it.” Others may have remembered Massive Resistance and the disrespect shown to earlier Courts when they made unpopular rulings about race.

And third, Obama is playing with fire — and talking nonsense when he dares Congress to “respond” to a First Amendment ruling with legislation. This was not a statutory interpretation — as was the Equal Pay Act, which begat the Lilly Ledbetter legislation — that is amenable to a legislative fix. In such a case, the Court says, “We think the statute says X.” The Congress is then free to say, “No, we really meant Y, and here’s the amended law to make that explicit.” What sort of legislative response would there be to “The First Amendment does not permit limits on corporations and unions exercising core political speech”? Boston College law professor Richard Albert explains:

By emphatically urging Congress to pass a bill reversing what he views as the Supreme Court’s misguided judgment–”a bill that helps to right this wrong,” in the President’s own words–the President undermined two sacred institutions in American constitutional government: the separation of powers and judicial independence.

A University of Virginia Law School professor asks whether Obama is seriously entertaining the view that Congress should “challenge the Supreme Court’s ruling and its constitutional interpretive supremacy.” We don’t know, because Obama, one suspects, doesn’t take what he’s saying seriously. He’s simply inciting the mob.

In all this, one thing is rather clear: Obama has harmed himself. In playing fast and loose with the facts and the law, he has diminished not the Court but himself. He seems to prefer Huey Long to Lawrence Tribe as his role model. His elite university pals and media sycophants who marveled at his Harvard-honed intellect and supposed temperamental superiority must be shuddering.

In the ongoing debate over Obama’s attack on the Supreme Court, the president seems not to be faring all that well. Politico’s forum on the subject contains a range of criticisms. They fall into several categories.

First, it was arrogant and careless of Obama to call out the Supreme Court – and not get his facts right. Dan Perino observes: “Misrepresenting a complicated legal opinion is dicey — but doing so in a prime-time address to a nation where the authors of that opinion are in the front row leaves you rightly exposed to criticism.” The president and his minions have gotten used to their sheltered existence and being immune to criticism. You can almost hear them reassuring themselves, “It’s not like one of the justices is going to object!” Well, he did, and that’s what comes from assuming the president can be cavalier with the truth.

Second, it was rude to berate the Court in public, treating the justices as errant political functionaries rather than interpreters of the Constitution. Larry J. Sabato, hardly a fire-breathing conservative, makes some unfavorable comparisons:

Mr. Obama’s blunt attack on the Court’s ruling, with the members sitting in front of him, was no doubt stunning and unsettling to some, and it contradicted his frequent calls for bipartisanship and civility. It also reminded me of President Andrew Jackson’s remark that, “Chief Justice Marshall has made his decision. Now let him enforce it.” Others may have remembered Massive Resistance and the disrespect shown to earlier Courts when they made unpopular rulings about race.

And third, Obama is playing with fire — and talking nonsense when he dares Congress to “respond” to a First Amendment ruling with legislation. This was not a statutory interpretation — as was the Equal Pay Act, which begat the Lilly Ledbetter legislation — that is amenable to a legislative fix. In such a case, the Court says, “We think the statute says X.” The Congress is then free to say, “No, we really meant Y, and here’s the amended law to make that explicit.” What sort of legislative response would there be to “The First Amendment does not permit limits on corporations and unions exercising core political speech”? Boston College law professor Richard Albert explains:

By emphatically urging Congress to pass a bill reversing what he views as the Supreme Court’s misguided judgment–”a bill that helps to right this wrong,” in the President’s own words–the President undermined two sacred institutions in American constitutional government: the separation of powers and judicial independence.

A University of Virginia Law School professor asks whether Obama is seriously entertaining the view that Congress should “challenge the Supreme Court’s ruling and its constitutional interpretive supremacy.” We don’t know, because Obama, one suspects, doesn’t take what he’s saying seriously. He’s simply inciting the mob.

In all this, one thing is rather clear: Obama has harmed himself. In playing fast and loose with the facts and the law, he has diminished not the Court but himself. He seems to prefer Huey Long to Lawrence Tribe as his role model. His elite university pals and media sycophants who marveled at his Harvard-honed intellect and supposed temperamental superiority must be shuddering.

Read Less

Democrats Wake Up: “Not-Bush” Makes No Sense

It seems that Scott Brown’s election has had a liberating effect on Democratic senators. Perhaps it was Brown’s stirring call to spend money on defense and not on lawyers for terrorists. Or maybe it’s the growing awareness that Obama is not politically invincible, perhaps not even viable. It might be that they’re listening to the voters a little more carefully and are somewhat more attuned to polls that show little patience for Obama’s policy of approaching terrorism as ordinary crime-fighting.

What Democratic lawmakers were willing to mutely accept or spin on behalf of their president, they now are beginning to criticize. The Wall Street Journal editors observe:

In a letter to President Obama this week, Democrats Blanche Lincoln and Jim Webb, Republicans Lindsey Graham, John McCain and Susan Collins, and Independent Democrat Joe Lieberman wrote that “The attacks of 9/11 were acts of war, and those who planned and carried out those attacks are war criminals.”

The six Senators “strongly” urged the White House to reconsider its decision to prosecute Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and other terrorists in New York federal district court, which they argued is “without precedent in our nation’s history.”

And then there was the decision — made without reflection or input from intelligence officials — to treat the Christmas Day bomber as a common criminal defendant. This was initially the subject of criticism only from the Right. No more:

Earlier this week Mr. Lieberman and Mrs. Collins also wrote that the decision to treat Abdulmutallab as a common criminal “almost certainly prevented the military and the intelligence community from obtaining information that would have been critical to learning more about how our enemy operates and to preventing future attacks.”

There’s much to be done by Congress. As the editors note: “the Members can pass a law that strips the federal courts of jurisdiction over such unlawful enemy combatants as Abdulmutallab and KSM.” It gets a bit dicey, of course, because a federal court already has jurisdiction over Abdulmutallab. A smart lawyer experienced in these cases tells me: “What they have done by indicting him, however, is injected a huge wild card into the process — a federal judge. The judge could very easily get in the way. We’ve shifted people from enemy combatant status to criminal status before, but don’t recall doing it the other way.”

That’s not to say the obstacles can’t be overcome and the effort should not be made. They should. It’s important to have the public debate and see whether we have a broad-based consensus in this country that Obama’s knee-jerk rejection to Bush-era anti-terrorism policies was foolhardy, that a military tribunal is an appropriate forum for handling al-Qaeda-supported or -trained terrorists (without regard to where they are apprehended), and that high-value detainees should be interrogated minus the Miranda warnings by trained intelligence personnel with all the available data to elicit the maximum amount of intelligence information. There is nothing contrary to our “values” or our legal precedents in any of this. It’s the Obami and their Justice Department lefty lawyers who are out of step with both. In the wake of the Massachusetts epic upset, Democratic lawmakers are starting to come to their senses. That’s a very good thing for the country and might spare a few of them Martha Coakely’s fate.

It seems that Scott Brown’s election has had a liberating effect on Democratic senators. Perhaps it was Brown’s stirring call to spend money on defense and not on lawyers for terrorists. Or maybe it’s the growing awareness that Obama is not politically invincible, perhaps not even viable. It might be that they’re listening to the voters a little more carefully and are somewhat more attuned to polls that show little patience for Obama’s policy of approaching terrorism as ordinary crime-fighting.

What Democratic lawmakers were willing to mutely accept or spin on behalf of their president, they now are beginning to criticize. The Wall Street Journal editors observe:

In a letter to President Obama this week, Democrats Blanche Lincoln and Jim Webb, Republicans Lindsey Graham, John McCain and Susan Collins, and Independent Democrat Joe Lieberman wrote that “The attacks of 9/11 were acts of war, and those who planned and carried out those attacks are war criminals.”

The six Senators “strongly” urged the White House to reconsider its decision to prosecute Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and other terrorists in New York federal district court, which they argued is “without precedent in our nation’s history.”

And then there was the decision — made without reflection or input from intelligence officials — to treat the Christmas Day bomber as a common criminal defendant. This was initially the subject of criticism only from the Right. No more:

Earlier this week Mr. Lieberman and Mrs. Collins also wrote that the decision to treat Abdulmutallab as a common criminal “almost certainly prevented the military and the intelligence community from obtaining information that would have been critical to learning more about how our enemy operates and to preventing future attacks.”

There’s much to be done by Congress. As the editors note: “the Members can pass a law that strips the federal courts of jurisdiction over such unlawful enemy combatants as Abdulmutallab and KSM.” It gets a bit dicey, of course, because a federal court already has jurisdiction over Abdulmutallab. A smart lawyer experienced in these cases tells me: “What they have done by indicting him, however, is injected a huge wild card into the process — a federal judge. The judge could very easily get in the way. We’ve shifted people from enemy combatant status to criminal status before, but don’t recall doing it the other way.”

That’s not to say the obstacles can’t be overcome and the effort should not be made. They should. It’s important to have the public debate and see whether we have a broad-based consensus in this country that Obama’s knee-jerk rejection to Bush-era anti-terrorism policies was foolhardy, that a military tribunal is an appropriate forum for handling al-Qaeda-supported or -trained terrorists (without regard to where they are apprehended), and that high-value detainees should be interrogated minus the Miranda warnings by trained intelligence personnel with all the available data to elicit the maximum amount of intelligence information. There is nothing contrary to our “values” or our legal precedents in any of this. It’s the Obami and their Justice Department lefty lawyers who are out of step with both. In the wake of the Massachusetts epic upset, Democratic lawmakers are starting to come to their senses. That’s a very good thing for the country and might spare a few of them Martha Coakely’s fate.

Read Less

Democrats: Run Away!

It’s not just conservatives who found Obama’s speech confounding and can’t quite figure out the political logic in doubling down on a losing agenda. The Associated Press finds lots of grumbling on the Democratic side of the aisle:

Based on roughly two dozen interviews with lawmakers, party leaders and political operatives nationwide, it’s clear that many Democrats feel Obama hasn’t fully embraced his role as party chief. It has them questioning the strength of his political muscle and faulting his advisers for paying too little attention to the fast-approaching 2010 midterm contests. Some of these Democrats complained on the record. Others asked for anonymity to avoid angering Obama and his team. Altogether, they described an ineffective political operation. They suggested Obama’s team is overly focused on his likely 2012 re-election bid. And they blamed the White House for a muddled message about what he’s trying and accomplishing as president.

It’s hard to quibble with that, isn’t it? Obama doesn’t want to be seen “walking away” from health-care reform. It might make him look weak, inept, and unaccomplished. But he has no real game plan for rescuing himself or his fellow Democrats from the morass in which they find themselves. Instead, he throws down the gauntlet, tells them to work some more, and leaves them to the mercy of angry voters, two-thirds of whom hate the bill. You can understand why Democrats are upset.

Mary Landrieu is one of the Democrats who doesn’t see eye-to-eye with the president these days:

Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.) said health care reform “is on life support, unfortunately,” and the president should have been more specific with how Democrats should move forward. “He should have been more clear, and I am hoping that in the next week or two he will because that is what it is going to take if it is at all possible to get it done,” Landrieu told reporters. “Mailing in general suggestions, sending them over the transom, is not necessarily going to work.” The president’s criticism of the Senate in the speech was ‘a little strange, a little odd,” Landrieu said.

Odd, but not entirely inexplicable. Obama is willing to throw members of Congress overboard. They’ve now figured that out and are putting up a fight. The next few months will become increasingly tense, I suspect, as Democrats race to protect themselves and attempt to put distance between themselves and a president whose popularity is fading and whose agenda is toxic.

It’s not just conservatives who found Obama’s speech confounding and can’t quite figure out the political logic in doubling down on a losing agenda. The Associated Press finds lots of grumbling on the Democratic side of the aisle:

Based on roughly two dozen interviews with lawmakers, party leaders and political operatives nationwide, it’s clear that many Democrats feel Obama hasn’t fully embraced his role as party chief. It has them questioning the strength of his political muscle and faulting his advisers for paying too little attention to the fast-approaching 2010 midterm contests. Some of these Democrats complained on the record. Others asked for anonymity to avoid angering Obama and his team. Altogether, they described an ineffective political operation. They suggested Obama’s team is overly focused on his likely 2012 re-election bid. And they blamed the White House for a muddled message about what he’s trying and accomplishing as president.

It’s hard to quibble with that, isn’t it? Obama doesn’t want to be seen “walking away” from health-care reform. It might make him look weak, inept, and unaccomplished. But he has no real game plan for rescuing himself or his fellow Democrats from the morass in which they find themselves. Instead, he throws down the gauntlet, tells them to work some more, and leaves them to the mercy of angry voters, two-thirds of whom hate the bill. You can understand why Democrats are upset.

Mary Landrieu is one of the Democrats who doesn’t see eye-to-eye with the president these days:

Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.) said health care reform “is on life support, unfortunately,” and the president should have been more specific with how Democrats should move forward. “He should have been more clear, and I am hoping that in the next week or two he will because that is what it is going to take if it is at all possible to get it done,” Landrieu told reporters. “Mailing in general suggestions, sending them over the transom, is not necessarily going to work.” The president’s criticism of the Senate in the speech was ‘a little strange, a little odd,” Landrieu said.

Odd, but not entirely inexplicable. Obama is willing to throw members of Congress overboard. They’ve now figured that out and are putting up a fight. The next few months will become increasingly tense, I suspect, as Democrats race to protect themselves and attempt to put distance between themselves and a president whose popularity is fading and whose agenda is toxic.

Read Less

Flotsam and Jetsam

There’s a smart argument for building up Palestinian institutions and encouraging economic growth as a prelude to peace. But the Obami have reversed it, spreading poverty as they stagger through the “peace process.” Insisting on a settlement freeze has only put the squeeze on Palestinian workers: “These are skilled construction workers, men who actually rely on jobs in those ‘illegitimate’ settlements for their livelihoods, and they’ve been penalized harshly by the moratorium—they used to earn $40 a day; now, if they’re working at all, they’re getting $13.  ‘The settlement freeze has only brought more poverty,’ [says] Abdel Aziz Othman. … If you were of a sardonic cast of mind, you might call this the freeze to nowhere.”

Sen. Dianne Feinstein opposes the KSM trial. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand wakes up and opposes it too. (Did they think it was a good idea up until the Massachusetts Senate race?) Who thinks this is still going to happen? Not Rep. John Boehner. But Obama does. It seems he’s outside the bipartisan consensus on this one.

Why didn’t Obama move to the center like Bill Clinton did? The New York Times explains: “So the gamble underlying Mr. Obama’s speech seems to be that he can muddle through the November elections with perhaps 20 or 30 lost seats in the House, and a handful in the Senate, and avoid the kind of rout that led Mr. Clinton to declare the end of the big government era.” That doesn’t look like such a great bet these days, especially since “Mr. Obama has seen the passion of his own political base wither.”

Obama’s attack on the Supreme Court may turn out to be as politically tone deaf as his Gates-gate comments: “A noted Supreme Court historian who ‘enthusiastically’ voted for President Obama in November 2008 today called President Obama’s criticism of the Supreme Court in his State of the Union address last night ‘really unusual’ and said he wouldn’t be surprised if no Supreme Court Justices attend the speech next year.” When Obama loses the law-professor vote, he’s in real trouble.

Ben Bernanke is confirmed for another term as Fed chairman by a 70-30 vote. A good warning for Obama, perhaps, of the dangers of letting populist, business-bashing rhetoric get out of hand.

Sen. Judd Gregg goes after the MSNBC hosts: “You can’t make a representation and then claim you didn’t make it. You know, it just shouldn’t work that way. You’ve got to have some integrity on your side of this camera, too.” Yowser.

Republicans are getting feisty. Sen. Jon Kyl on the SOTU: “First of all, I would’ve thought by now he would’ve stopped blaming the Bush administration for the mess that he inherited. And I don’t think that the American people want a whiner who says, woe is me. It was a terrible situation. And more than a year after he’s sworn in, he’s still complaining about the Bush administration.”

There’s a smart argument for building up Palestinian institutions and encouraging economic growth as a prelude to peace. But the Obami have reversed it, spreading poverty as they stagger through the “peace process.” Insisting on a settlement freeze has only put the squeeze on Palestinian workers: “These are skilled construction workers, men who actually rely on jobs in those ‘illegitimate’ settlements for their livelihoods, and they’ve been penalized harshly by the moratorium—they used to earn $40 a day; now, if they’re working at all, they’re getting $13.  ‘The settlement freeze has only brought more poverty,’ [says] Abdel Aziz Othman. … If you were of a sardonic cast of mind, you might call this the freeze to nowhere.”

Sen. Dianne Feinstein opposes the KSM trial. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand wakes up and opposes it too. (Did they think it was a good idea up until the Massachusetts Senate race?) Who thinks this is still going to happen? Not Rep. John Boehner. But Obama does. It seems he’s outside the bipartisan consensus on this one.

Why didn’t Obama move to the center like Bill Clinton did? The New York Times explains: “So the gamble underlying Mr. Obama’s speech seems to be that he can muddle through the November elections with perhaps 20 or 30 lost seats in the House, and a handful in the Senate, and avoid the kind of rout that led Mr. Clinton to declare the end of the big government era.” That doesn’t look like such a great bet these days, especially since “Mr. Obama has seen the passion of his own political base wither.”

Obama’s attack on the Supreme Court may turn out to be as politically tone deaf as his Gates-gate comments: “A noted Supreme Court historian who ‘enthusiastically’ voted for President Obama in November 2008 today called President Obama’s criticism of the Supreme Court in his State of the Union address last night ‘really unusual’ and said he wouldn’t be surprised if no Supreme Court Justices attend the speech next year.” When Obama loses the law-professor vote, he’s in real trouble.

Ben Bernanke is confirmed for another term as Fed chairman by a 70-30 vote. A good warning for Obama, perhaps, of the dangers of letting populist, business-bashing rhetoric get out of hand.

Sen. Judd Gregg goes after the MSNBC hosts: “You can’t make a representation and then claim you didn’t make it. You know, it just shouldn’t work that way. You’ve got to have some integrity on your side of this camera, too.” Yowser.

Republicans are getting feisty. Sen. Jon Kyl on the SOTU: “First of all, I would’ve thought by now he would’ve stopped blaming the Bush administration for the mess that he inherited. And I don’t think that the American people want a whiner who says, woe is me. It was a terrible situation. And more than a year after he’s sworn in, he’s still complaining about the Bush administration.”

Read Less




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

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

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

To subscribe, click here to see our subscription offers »

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