Commentary Magazine


Posts For: February 5, 2010

Re: The New Black Panther Stonewall Continues

Commissioner Todd Gaziano of  the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights tells us about the witness line-up for the February 12 hearing:

There are three fact witnesses who will testify at the hearing scheduled for February 12, 2010: Mike Mauro, Chris Hill, and Bartle Bull. Each of these individuals was a poll watcher affiliated with either the Republican Party or the McCain campaign.

Both Mr. Hill and Mr. Bull were interviewed by reporters. Their comments are reflected in the video excerpts provided. Mr. Mauro is also seen in the videos, but does not make any comments and was not interviewed. He is the young gentleman in the blue jacket seen off to the side in several of the videos taken at the property.

All of these witnesses will describe the actions and comments of members of the New Black Panther Party, as well as conservations they may have had with poll workers inside the voting facility.

In addition, the Commission will hear from Gregory Katsas, a former Department of Justice official. . .

Finally, Congressman Frank Wolf will be appearing before the Commission to discuss his concerns and efforts relating to this matter.

I am also informed that subpoenas for Justice Department witnesses are outstanding. It is unclear (but I would suggest unlikely) that they will show up. As for Katsas, he will be testifying, among other things, concerning the standard Justice Department policy in handling cases of voter intimidation, whether given the facts of this case the Obama team was justified in pulling the case before a default judgment could be entered, and whether the associate attorney general (in this case, Thomas Perrelli, who has been identified in press reports as a decision-maker in the dismissal of the voter intimidation case) would be involved in a decision like this. He will also provide some insight into the sort of communication that would normally take place between the White House and Justice Department in the dismissal of a high-profile issue such as the New Black Panther Party case.

His testimony should be enlightening on many levels. For starters, the Obami have persistently claimed that the Bush administration did not adequately enforce civil-rights laws and that they intend now to correct this delinquency. Katsas may shine new light on the differing perspectives of the two administration. Moreover, the Commission is obviously digging to uncover whether in fact “career lawyers” made the decision to dismiss the case, as the Obami have claimed, or whether the decision-makers were indeed political appointees. And then there is the key question: what did the White House know?

Well, let’s see what we find out. It is now clear, I think, why Eric Holder has been stonewalling the Commission on its discovery requests. There seems to be much to ferret out.

UPDATE: This report tells us that the leader of the New Black Panther Party, Malik Zulu Shabazz, failed to show up for his deposition this week scheduled by the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights. The deposition was intended to gather information in advance of the February 12 hearing. Sources tell me that the Department of Justice has been requested to enforce the subpoena on behalf of the Commission. No word on whether Justice will do so, but it is hard to fathom what excuse Holder could raise to prevent enforcement of a duly executed subpoena on a third party witness with direct involvement in a matter which is the subject of a Commission investigation.

Commissioner Todd Gaziano of  the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights tells us about the witness line-up for the February 12 hearing:

There are three fact witnesses who will testify at the hearing scheduled for February 12, 2010: Mike Mauro, Chris Hill, and Bartle Bull. Each of these individuals was a poll watcher affiliated with either the Republican Party or the McCain campaign.

Both Mr. Hill and Mr. Bull were interviewed by reporters. Their comments are reflected in the video excerpts provided. Mr. Mauro is also seen in the videos, but does not make any comments and was not interviewed. He is the young gentleman in the blue jacket seen off to the side in several of the videos taken at the property.

All of these witnesses will describe the actions and comments of members of the New Black Panther Party, as well as conservations they may have had with poll workers inside the voting facility.

In addition, the Commission will hear from Gregory Katsas, a former Department of Justice official. . .

Finally, Congressman Frank Wolf will be appearing before the Commission to discuss his concerns and efforts relating to this matter.

I am also informed that subpoenas for Justice Department witnesses are outstanding. It is unclear (but I would suggest unlikely) that they will show up. As for Katsas, he will be testifying, among other things, concerning the standard Justice Department policy in handling cases of voter intimidation, whether given the facts of this case the Obama team was justified in pulling the case before a default judgment could be entered, and whether the associate attorney general (in this case, Thomas Perrelli, who has been identified in press reports as a decision-maker in the dismissal of the voter intimidation case) would be involved in a decision like this. He will also provide some insight into the sort of communication that would normally take place between the White House and Justice Department in the dismissal of a high-profile issue such as the New Black Panther Party case.

His testimony should be enlightening on many levels. For starters, the Obami have persistently claimed that the Bush administration did not adequately enforce civil-rights laws and that they intend now to correct this delinquency. Katsas may shine new light on the differing perspectives of the two administration. Moreover, the Commission is obviously digging to uncover whether in fact “career lawyers” made the decision to dismiss the case, as the Obami have claimed, or whether the decision-makers were indeed political appointees. And then there is the key question: what did the White House know?

Well, let’s see what we find out. It is now clear, I think, why Eric Holder has been stonewalling the Commission on its discovery requests. There seems to be much to ferret out.

UPDATE: This report tells us that the leader of the New Black Panther Party, Malik Zulu Shabazz, failed to show up for his deposition this week scheduled by the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights. The deposition was intended to gather information in advance of the February 12 hearing. Sources tell me that the Department of Justice has been requested to enforce the subpoena on behalf of the Commission. No word on whether Justice will do so, but it is hard to fathom what excuse Holder could raise to prevent enforcement of a duly executed subpoena on a third party witness with direct involvement in a matter which is the subject of a Commission investigation.

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Hillary Tilts Talks Even Further Against Israel

The New York Times noted today a curious use of wording by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to describe the United States approach to prospective peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians. Answering a question in a news conference about the possibility of more peace talks, Clinton stated explicitly what the basis of negotiations should be: “Of course, we believe that the 1967 borders, with swaps, should be the focus of the negotiations over borders.”

As the Times reported, this is not a new concept. This notion was at the heart of previous Israeli offers made first by Ehud Barak and then by Ehud Olmert. But what the Times fails to point out is that the Palestinians have always rejected every possible swap, insisting that every inch of the land illegally occupied by Jordan (in the West Bank and Jerusalem) and Egypt (in Gaza) should be part of a Palestinian state. But as the Times does correctly note:

Mrs. Clinton’s mention of them went farther than the Obama administration’s standard script on the Middle East: that the positions of Israel and the Palestinians can be reconciled. Analysts said it could augur a new American emphasis, after a frustrating year in which President Obama failed to jump-start the peace process by pressuring Israel to halt construction of settlements. In particular, Mrs. Clinton’s reference may appeal to the Palestinians, who have long declared that the 1967 borders should be the basis for negotiations.

So far, the Palestinians have refused to restart talks, despite Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s offer of negotiations without preconditions. What they want is for the United States to guarantee more Israeli concessions in advance of any talks that would mandate the Jewish state’s surrender of all of this territory, including Jerusalem, without giving up anything in exchange. This is not a basis for a negotiation but a diktat in which Israel will be forced to withdraw from territory that, as the experience of the withdrawal from Gaza showed, would soon be used as a launching pad for terrorist attacks on Jewish targets. That is why there is virtually no support within Israel for more withdrawals under the current circumstances. The American effort to prop up Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and his Fatah Party at the expense of his Hamas rivals who rule Gaza makes sense in that it is clearly in the interests of both Israel and the United States to undermine Hamas. But the idea that Fatah is any sense ready to make peace, or willing or able to make a deal allowing a single Jew to remain anywhere in the West Bank or in eastern Jerusalem, even if they were given parts of Israel as part of the transaction, is nothing more than a fantasy.

In the last year, the Obama administration’s emphasis on settlement freezes as part of a package of Israeli concessions to lure the Palestinians to the table achieved nothing. Nothing, that is, but to teach the Palestinians that if they keep saying no, they can escalate American pressure on Israel and widen the breach between Netanyahu’s popular coalition and an American government clearly more unsympathetic to Israel than any since the first president Bush.

This sort of pressure is exactly what left-wing groups like the J Street lobby seek as they launch a campaign to further undermine American Jewish support for Israel’s democratically elected government. That may please Obama and Clinton. But it also demonstrates just how disconnected both the administration and its left-wing Jewish cheerleaders are from the realities of the Middle East.

The New York Times noted today a curious use of wording by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to describe the United States approach to prospective peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians. Answering a question in a news conference about the possibility of more peace talks, Clinton stated explicitly what the basis of negotiations should be: “Of course, we believe that the 1967 borders, with swaps, should be the focus of the negotiations over borders.”

As the Times reported, this is not a new concept. This notion was at the heart of previous Israeli offers made first by Ehud Barak and then by Ehud Olmert. But what the Times fails to point out is that the Palestinians have always rejected every possible swap, insisting that every inch of the land illegally occupied by Jordan (in the West Bank and Jerusalem) and Egypt (in Gaza) should be part of a Palestinian state. But as the Times does correctly note:

Mrs. Clinton’s mention of them went farther than the Obama administration’s standard script on the Middle East: that the positions of Israel and the Palestinians can be reconciled. Analysts said it could augur a new American emphasis, after a frustrating year in which President Obama failed to jump-start the peace process by pressuring Israel to halt construction of settlements. In particular, Mrs. Clinton’s reference may appeal to the Palestinians, who have long declared that the 1967 borders should be the basis for negotiations.

So far, the Palestinians have refused to restart talks, despite Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s offer of negotiations without preconditions. What they want is for the United States to guarantee more Israeli concessions in advance of any talks that would mandate the Jewish state’s surrender of all of this territory, including Jerusalem, without giving up anything in exchange. This is not a basis for a negotiation but a diktat in which Israel will be forced to withdraw from territory that, as the experience of the withdrawal from Gaza showed, would soon be used as a launching pad for terrorist attacks on Jewish targets. That is why there is virtually no support within Israel for more withdrawals under the current circumstances. The American effort to prop up Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and his Fatah Party at the expense of his Hamas rivals who rule Gaza makes sense in that it is clearly in the interests of both Israel and the United States to undermine Hamas. But the idea that Fatah is any sense ready to make peace, or willing or able to make a deal allowing a single Jew to remain anywhere in the West Bank or in eastern Jerusalem, even if they were given parts of Israel as part of the transaction, is nothing more than a fantasy.

In the last year, the Obama administration’s emphasis on settlement freezes as part of a package of Israeli concessions to lure the Palestinians to the table achieved nothing. Nothing, that is, but to teach the Palestinians that if they keep saying no, they can escalate American pressure on Israel and widen the breach between Netanyahu’s popular coalition and an American government clearly more unsympathetic to Israel than any since the first president Bush.

This sort of pressure is exactly what left-wing groups like the J Street lobby seek as they launch a campaign to further undermine American Jewish support for Israel’s democratically elected government. That may please Obama and Clinton. But it also demonstrates just how disconnected both the administration and its left-wing Jewish cheerleaders are from the realities of the Middle East.

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The Myth of Inevitability

The subheading of the Economist’s new “Facing up to China” article reads, “Making room for a new superpower should not be confused with giving way to it.” Darn right! About time someone said … wait, what?

Making room? A new superpower? If you’re taking those for granted, then you can hardly remove “giving way” from the discussion. In recent years, Westerners have adopted a habit of labeling potential challenges “inevitable” and then shading their self-imposed impotence as partnership or diplomacy or, heaven help us, smart power.

The rise of China is certainly the most glaring example, but think of the other distasteful “inevitabilities” we invoked as causes for recent paralysis. In 2007, Time magazine coronated Vladimir Putin, making him Man of the Year for turning Russia into a “critical linchpin of the 21st century.” Meanwhile, Russia was and is in a demographic death spiral and its fragile economy was not rocked, but decimated, by the global recession. No matter, a year after the Time honor, the Man of the Year invaded sovereign Georgia. A year after that, he’s still there. The U.S. has been sitting on its hands the whole time.  Now Putin is playing games with us on the Iran nuclear question. This isn’t to say that Time gave us our Russia problem. It’s just that in the age of post-everything interconnectedness, America should remember it’s still allowed to push back against an ugly world. We need not help the bad guys ascend.

Speaking of which, consider how Barack Obama’s unstoppable Iran engagement came to the tragic rescue of the regime in Tehran. He famously “bore witness” to Ahmadinejad’s crimes because regime change seemed unthinkable. Now, however, even the realists are on board to topple the mullahs.

There are more examples, of course. Iraq was “inevitably” lost, a conviction that has locked the U.S. into a dangerously defeatist stance even as we achieve near-silent victory there.

In these we see a striking failure of imagination. One hesitates to throw the “hope and change” noise back in the faces of the Obama administration and its fans yet again, but the truth is that those two words have come to stand as markers for bottomless chasms in the Left’s disposition. Chinese superpower is as inevitable as we allow it to be. Google certainly seems less than resigned to it. After all, what seems more likely: that the U.S. can happily make room for a China that will, in the Economist’s words, “take up its share of the burden of global governance” or that the U.S. and its traditional allies can knock China significantly off course? The latter is certainly made more difficult by an unfounded faith in the former.

The subheading of the Economist’s new “Facing up to China” article reads, “Making room for a new superpower should not be confused with giving way to it.” Darn right! About time someone said … wait, what?

Making room? A new superpower? If you’re taking those for granted, then you can hardly remove “giving way” from the discussion. In recent years, Westerners have adopted a habit of labeling potential challenges “inevitable” and then shading their self-imposed impotence as partnership or diplomacy or, heaven help us, smart power.

The rise of China is certainly the most glaring example, but think of the other distasteful “inevitabilities” we invoked as causes for recent paralysis. In 2007, Time magazine coronated Vladimir Putin, making him Man of the Year for turning Russia into a “critical linchpin of the 21st century.” Meanwhile, Russia was and is in a demographic death spiral and its fragile economy was not rocked, but decimated, by the global recession. No matter, a year after the Time honor, the Man of the Year invaded sovereign Georgia. A year after that, he’s still there. The U.S. has been sitting on its hands the whole time.  Now Putin is playing games with us on the Iran nuclear question. This isn’t to say that Time gave us our Russia problem. It’s just that in the age of post-everything interconnectedness, America should remember it’s still allowed to push back against an ugly world. We need not help the bad guys ascend.

Speaking of which, consider how Barack Obama’s unstoppable Iran engagement came to the tragic rescue of the regime in Tehran. He famously “bore witness” to Ahmadinejad’s crimes because regime change seemed unthinkable. Now, however, even the realists are on board to topple the mullahs.

There are more examples, of course. Iraq was “inevitably” lost, a conviction that has locked the U.S. into a dangerously defeatist stance even as we achieve near-silent victory there.

In these we see a striking failure of imagination. One hesitates to throw the “hope and change” noise back in the faces of the Obama administration and its fans yet again, but the truth is that those two words have come to stand as markers for bottomless chasms in the Left’s disposition. Chinese superpower is as inevitable as we allow it to be. Google certainly seems less than resigned to it. After all, what seems more likely: that the U.S. can happily make room for a China that will, in the Economist’s words, “take up its share of the burden of global governance” or that the U.S. and its traditional allies can knock China significantly off course? The latter is certainly made more difficult by an unfounded faith in the former.

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“Radical Islam is a way for the superfluous sons to enter history”

Martin Kramer’s six-minute presentation at the Herzliya Conference, about the importance of demography to Islamism, is well worth watching.

Martin Kramer’s six-minute presentation at the Herzliya Conference, about the importance of demography to Islamism, is well worth watching.

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A Balanced China Policy

George Gilder has been one of our most interesting and important public intellectuals since the 1970s, so his pro-China commentary today in the Wall Street Journal deserves a more serious response than, say, the mindless boosterism of the average Tom Friedman column. In fact, I agree with him that it is hardly worth wasting American diplomatic capital with China on the issues of global warming and the value of the Chinese currency.

I am surprised, however, to see Gilder — who has been an Internet visionary — so blithely suggest that the U.S. government has no stake in Google’s battle with China over Internet censorship and hacking. “Protecting information on the Internet is a responsibility of U.S. corporations and their security tools, not the State Department,” he writes. That is like saying that protecting downtown New York is the responsibility of the corporations headquartered there, not the FBI and NYPD. Cyber infrastructure is fast becoming even more important than physical infrastructure to the functioning of the U.S. economy. Accordingly, it is, indeed, an issue for the State Department — and not only the State Department but also the Defense Department, the Justice Department, and other government agencies.

I am even more surprised to see Gilder — known as a relentless defender of Israel — seemingly write off another embattled democracy: Taiwan. His stance here is a bit contradictory. On the one hand, he writes: “Yes, the Chinese are needlessly aggressive in missile deployments against Taiwan, but there is absolutely no prospect of a successful U.S. defense of that country.” On the other hand: “China, like the U.S., is so heavily dependent on Taiwanese manufacturing skills and so intertwined with Taiwan’s industry that China’s military threat to the island is mostly theater.” Those propositions would seem to be at odds: is China a threat to Taiwan or not? In any case, neither proposition is terribly convincing.

Conquering Taiwan would require China to oversee the biggest amphibious operation since Inchon. Stopping such a cross-Strait attack would not be terribly difficult as long as Taiwan has reasonably strong air and naval forces — and can call on assistance from the U.S. Navy and Air Force. Taiwan doesn’t need the capability to march on Beijing, merely the capability to prevent the People’s Liberation Army from marching on Taipei. It would be harder to prevent China from doing tremendous damage to Taiwan via missile strikes but by no means impossible, given the advancement of ballistic-missile defenses and given our own ability to pinpoint Chinese launch sites. Moreover, giving Taiwan the means to defend itself is the surest guarantee that it won’t have to. Only if Taiwan looks vulnerable is China likely to launch a war.

The notion that such a conflict is out of the question because of the economic links between Taiwan and the mainland is about as convincing as the notion — widely held before World War I — that the major states of Europe were so economically dependent on one another and so enlightened that they would never risk a conflict. If the statesmen who ran Austria and Germany and Russia and France and Britain were, in fact, primarily interested in economic wellbeing, they would never have gone to war. But other considerations — national honor and prestige and security — trumped economics back then and could easily do so again, especially because the legitimacy of the Chinese regime is increasingly based on catering to an extreme nationalist viewpoint.

That doesn’t mean we should engage in needless and self-destructive confrontations with China over global warming and currency, but that also doesn’t mean we should mindlessly kowtow to China’s every whim. As I argued in this Weekly Standard article in 2005, we should pursue a balanced approach to China, tough on security and human-rights issues but accommodating on trade and currency policy. In other words, we should make clear to China that we are prepared to accept it as a responsible member of the international community but that we will not overlook its transgressions, like its complicity in upholding rogue regimes (Sudan, Iran, North Korea) and threatening democratic ones (South Korea, Taiwan).

George Gilder has been one of our most interesting and important public intellectuals since the 1970s, so his pro-China commentary today in the Wall Street Journal deserves a more serious response than, say, the mindless boosterism of the average Tom Friedman column. In fact, I agree with him that it is hardly worth wasting American diplomatic capital with China on the issues of global warming and the value of the Chinese currency.

I am surprised, however, to see Gilder — who has been an Internet visionary — so blithely suggest that the U.S. government has no stake in Google’s battle with China over Internet censorship and hacking. “Protecting information on the Internet is a responsibility of U.S. corporations and their security tools, not the State Department,” he writes. That is like saying that protecting downtown New York is the responsibility of the corporations headquartered there, not the FBI and NYPD. Cyber infrastructure is fast becoming even more important than physical infrastructure to the functioning of the U.S. economy. Accordingly, it is, indeed, an issue for the State Department — and not only the State Department but also the Defense Department, the Justice Department, and other government agencies.

I am even more surprised to see Gilder — known as a relentless defender of Israel — seemingly write off another embattled democracy: Taiwan. His stance here is a bit contradictory. On the one hand, he writes: “Yes, the Chinese are needlessly aggressive in missile deployments against Taiwan, but there is absolutely no prospect of a successful U.S. defense of that country.” On the other hand: “China, like the U.S., is so heavily dependent on Taiwanese manufacturing skills and so intertwined with Taiwan’s industry that China’s military threat to the island is mostly theater.” Those propositions would seem to be at odds: is China a threat to Taiwan or not? In any case, neither proposition is terribly convincing.

Conquering Taiwan would require China to oversee the biggest amphibious operation since Inchon. Stopping such a cross-Strait attack would not be terribly difficult as long as Taiwan has reasonably strong air and naval forces — and can call on assistance from the U.S. Navy and Air Force. Taiwan doesn’t need the capability to march on Beijing, merely the capability to prevent the People’s Liberation Army from marching on Taipei. It would be harder to prevent China from doing tremendous damage to Taiwan via missile strikes but by no means impossible, given the advancement of ballistic-missile defenses and given our own ability to pinpoint Chinese launch sites. Moreover, giving Taiwan the means to defend itself is the surest guarantee that it won’t have to. Only if Taiwan looks vulnerable is China likely to launch a war.

The notion that such a conflict is out of the question because of the economic links between Taiwan and the mainland is about as convincing as the notion — widely held before World War I — that the major states of Europe were so economically dependent on one another and so enlightened that they would never risk a conflict. If the statesmen who ran Austria and Germany and Russia and France and Britain were, in fact, primarily interested in economic wellbeing, they would never have gone to war. But other considerations — national honor and prestige and security — trumped economics back then and could easily do so again, especially because the legitimacy of the Chinese regime is increasingly based on catering to an extreme nationalist viewpoint.

That doesn’t mean we should engage in needless and self-destructive confrontations with China over global warming and currency, but that also doesn’t mean we should mindlessly kowtow to China’s every whim. As I argued in this Weekly Standard article in 2005, we should pursue a balanced approach to China, tough on security and human-rights issues but accommodating on trade and currency policy. In other words, we should make clear to China that we are prepared to accept it as a responsible member of the international community but that we will not overlook its transgressions, like its complicity in upholding rogue regimes (Sudan, Iran, North Korea) and threatening democratic ones (South Korea, Taiwan).

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Undeserved Hosannas

* “Kill the Jews wherever you find them. Kill them with your arms, with your hands, with your nails and teeth.”

* “After we perform our duty in liberating the West Bank and Jerusalem, our national duty is to liberate all the Arab territories.”

* “The removal of the Israeli occupation from our occupied land, Palestine, is the first and basic condition for just peace. … The Islamic nation and just believers in any religion or creed will not accept the situation of the … cradle of prophets and divine messages being captive of Zionist occupation.”

Quick — name the Jew hater or vicious enemy of Israel capable of spouting such venom. Arafat? Khadaffi? Ahmadinejad? Actually, the speaker in all three cases was everyone’s favorite Arab moderate, the late King Hussein of Jordan (on, respectively, Radio Amman, June 6, 1967; Radio Amman, Dec. 1, 1973; and Amman Domestic Service, July 11, 1988).

I have this little calendar that lists the names of prominent people who died or were born on each specific date. Seeing that the anniversary of Hussein’s death (Feb. 7, 1999) is upon us brought to mind both the decades of duplicity that defined the king’s life until almost the very end and the Hosannas that have been coming his way for the past 11 years. (The trend continued in two recent, largely positive, biographies.)

So desperate are we for any sign of non-fanaticism on the part of an Arab leader, we seem to gladly downplay or overlook the negative and play up the positive, with little regard for historical truth or future implications.

The floodgates of Hussein revisionism were opened immediately upon his passing. Typical was a sugary tribute from columnist Richard Chesnoff, in the New York Daily News:

Now this great son of the desert is gone, and all the children of Abraham weep. We will sorely miss this brave brother of ours.

Also typical of the distortions by a media intent on canonizing the king was the assertion by New York Times foreign-affairs sage Thomas Friedman that Hussein “talked himself out of the 1973 war.”

While it’s true Hussein was considerably less enthusiastic about going to war in ’73 than he’d been in ’67 — losing a large chunk of your kingdom will do that to you — he was far from a passive bystander.

As noted out in the indispensable Myths and Facts, published by Near East Report, Hussein sent “two of his best units — the 40th and 60th armored brigades — to Syria. This force took positions in the southern sector, defending the main Amman-Damascus route and attacking Israeli positions along the Kuneitra-Sassa road on October 16. Three Jordanian artillery batteries also participated in the assault, carried out by nearly 100 tanks.”

Nearly forgotten in the rush to sanctify Hussein was the scorn that had come his way over the years for such behavior as his constant double-dealing in his relations with Israel, the U.S., and his fellow Arabs; his permitting the desecration of Jewish holy places when Jordan had possession of East Jerusalem (gravestones of Jews were used as latrines in army camps and dozens of synagogues were demolished or turned into stables and chicken coops); and his support of Saddam Hussein during the 1991 Gulf War, coupled with his circumvention of the U.S.-led blockade of Iraq.

By all indications, the elder-statesman persona adopted by King Hussein in the final years of his life was genuine, and even before then, he was the lesser of evils when compared with other Arab leaders. But to trumpet him as something of a historical giant or visionary is to drain those words of any real meaning and lower the bar for what should constitute forthright and reliable Arab leadership.

* “Kill the Jews wherever you find them. Kill them with your arms, with your hands, with your nails and teeth.”

* “After we perform our duty in liberating the West Bank and Jerusalem, our national duty is to liberate all the Arab territories.”

* “The removal of the Israeli occupation from our occupied land, Palestine, is the first and basic condition for just peace. … The Islamic nation and just believers in any religion or creed will not accept the situation of the … cradle of prophets and divine messages being captive of Zionist occupation.”

Quick — name the Jew hater or vicious enemy of Israel capable of spouting such venom. Arafat? Khadaffi? Ahmadinejad? Actually, the speaker in all three cases was everyone’s favorite Arab moderate, the late King Hussein of Jordan (on, respectively, Radio Amman, June 6, 1967; Radio Amman, Dec. 1, 1973; and Amman Domestic Service, July 11, 1988).

I have this little calendar that lists the names of prominent people who died or were born on each specific date. Seeing that the anniversary of Hussein’s death (Feb. 7, 1999) is upon us brought to mind both the decades of duplicity that defined the king’s life until almost the very end and the Hosannas that have been coming his way for the past 11 years. (The trend continued in two recent, largely positive, biographies.)

So desperate are we for any sign of non-fanaticism on the part of an Arab leader, we seem to gladly downplay or overlook the negative and play up the positive, with little regard for historical truth or future implications.

The floodgates of Hussein revisionism were opened immediately upon his passing. Typical was a sugary tribute from columnist Richard Chesnoff, in the New York Daily News:

Now this great son of the desert is gone, and all the children of Abraham weep. We will sorely miss this brave brother of ours.

Also typical of the distortions by a media intent on canonizing the king was the assertion by New York Times foreign-affairs sage Thomas Friedman that Hussein “talked himself out of the 1973 war.”

While it’s true Hussein was considerably less enthusiastic about going to war in ’73 than he’d been in ’67 — losing a large chunk of your kingdom will do that to you — he was far from a passive bystander.

As noted out in the indispensable Myths and Facts, published by Near East Report, Hussein sent “two of his best units — the 40th and 60th armored brigades — to Syria. This force took positions in the southern sector, defending the main Amman-Damascus route and attacking Israeli positions along the Kuneitra-Sassa road on October 16. Three Jordanian artillery batteries also participated in the assault, carried out by nearly 100 tanks.”

Nearly forgotten in the rush to sanctify Hussein was the scorn that had come his way over the years for such behavior as his constant double-dealing in his relations with Israel, the U.S., and his fellow Arabs; his permitting the desecration of Jewish holy places when Jordan had possession of East Jerusalem (gravestones of Jews were used as latrines in army camps and dozens of synagogues were demolished or turned into stables and chicken coops); and his support of Saddam Hussein during the 1991 Gulf War, coupled with his circumvention of the U.S.-led blockade of Iraq.

By all indications, the elder-statesman persona adopted by King Hussein in the final years of his life was genuine, and even before then, he was the lesser of evils when compared with other Arab leaders. But to trumpet him as something of a historical giant or visionary is to drain those words of any real meaning and lower the bar for what should constitute forthright and reliable Arab leadership.

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The New Black Panther Stonewall Continues

It has been months since the Eric Holder Justice Department agreed to begin an internal investigation by the Office of Professional Responsibility into the dismissal of the New Black Panther Party voter intimidation case. Rep. Frank Wolf has continued to bird dog Holder and Justice, inquiring about the status of the investigation and whether they will share the results. He’s been rebuffed at every turn and the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights has likewise gotten the back of the hand, a flurry of specious privileges and objections to the Commission’s request for documents and information.

On January 26, Wolf took another stab, writing to the Inspector General of Justice Glenn Fine about the status and requesting that the IG take over the investigation. Wolf expressed doubts as to whether OPR was “capable of conducting an unbiased and independent review.” On February 2, Fine responded, revealing an ongoing power struggle within Justice and a peek at what OPR is up to. Fine notes that he has long been seeking statutory authority to allow the IG to investigate all matters within Justice as do other departments’ IG’s. He explains that Congress has not responded to his pleas and that the jusrisdiction over allegations of attorney misconduct remains with OPR. (As an aside, many conservatives opposed consolidating all internal invetigatory power within the IG’s office, concerned that this organization had its own biases and would become a rogue entity within the department.)

But Fine also says that he’s checked with OPR and, by gosh, they really are looking into the New Black Panther Party case. He tells Wolf they have “gathered documents and other relevant materials” and have interviewed witnesses, with more on tap. (This conflicts with other reports that Capitol Hill sources and I have received, according to which the voting-section trial team in the voter-intimidation case has not been thoroughly debriefed on the political interference with the case from Obama officials.) Fine assures Wolf that OPR will report back to Congress.

However, there is another avenue for extracting information about the case. The U.S. Commission on Civil Rights is holding its first hearing on the matter next week in Washington on February 12. We may finally get some details on the case. What we won’t have — at least yet — is the cooperation of the Justice Department. Holder continues to stonewall, keeping OPR busy churning paperwork but never seemingly able to reach an end to the investigation. It is yet one more example of the consequences of one-party rule and the absence of significant Congressional oversight. Wolf, to his credit, is writing letters; but the power to hold Congressional hearings and to demand documents remains with the Democratic majority. They, of course, have no interest in getting to the bottom of this. Let’s see if the Commission has any better luck.

It has been months since the Eric Holder Justice Department agreed to begin an internal investigation by the Office of Professional Responsibility into the dismissal of the New Black Panther Party voter intimidation case. Rep. Frank Wolf has continued to bird dog Holder and Justice, inquiring about the status of the investigation and whether they will share the results. He’s been rebuffed at every turn and the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights has likewise gotten the back of the hand, a flurry of specious privileges and objections to the Commission’s request for documents and information.

On January 26, Wolf took another stab, writing to the Inspector General of Justice Glenn Fine about the status and requesting that the IG take over the investigation. Wolf expressed doubts as to whether OPR was “capable of conducting an unbiased and independent review.” On February 2, Fine responded, revealing an ongoing power struggle within Justice and a peek at what OPR is up to. Fine notes that he has long been seeking statutory authority to allow the IG to investigate all matters within Justice as do other departments’ IG’s. He explains that Congress has not responded to his pleas and that the jusrisdiction over allegations of attorney misconduct remains with OPR. (As an aside, many conservatives opposed consolidating all internal invetigatory power within the IG’s office, concerned that this organization had its own biases and would become a rogue entity within the department.)

But Fine also says that he’s checked with OPR and, by gosh, they really are looking into the New Black Panther Party case. He tells Wolf they have “gathered documents and other relevant materials” and have interviewed witnesses, with more on tap. (This conflicts with other reports that Capitol Hill sources and I have received, according to which the voting-section trial team in the voter-intimidation case has not been thoroughly debriefed on the political interference with the case from Obama officials.) Fine assures Wolf that OPR will report back to Congress.

However, there is another avenue for extracting information about the case. The U.S. Commission on Civil Rights is holding its first hearing on the matter next week in Washington on February 12. We may finally get some details on the case. What we won’t have — at least yet — is the cooperation of the Justice Department. Holder continues to stonewall, keeping OPR busy churning paperwork but never seemingly able to reach an end to the investigation. It is yet one more example of the consequences of one-party rule and the absence of significant Congressional oversight. Wolf, to his credit, is writing letters; but the power to hold Congressional hearings and to demand documents remains with the Democratic majority. They, of course, have no interest in getting to the bottom of this. Let’s see if the Commission has any better luck.

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In the Crossfire

You get the sense Obama is in quite a fix. Politico runs two stories headlined: “Dems grouse as Obama tacks to center” and “Big bang takes toll on moderates.” So on one hand, liberals are annoyed with Obama’s promising a spending freeze (albeit, an itty-bitty one). And they are also peeved about Obama’s proposal to give businesses tax credits. But then the moderates are freaking out:

If the first year of Obama’s term was dominated by the so-called Big Bang push for enormous, politically risky initiatives — the stimulus, cap and trade and health care — Year Two is fast shaping up to be year of small ball, retrenchment and backlash.

“I’ve always maintained that I thought that they were doing too much, too fast,” said Rep. Mike McMahon (D-N.Y.), an endangered freshman who represents a Staten Island district long occupied by Republicans.

“Without question, the biggest complaint I’m hearing from constituents is that there were too many things being tackled all at once, and they didn’t have time to understand and digest all of them,” he added.

Democrats are realizing that they have angered a great many voters with scary big-government proposals but have little to show for it. And Blue Dog Rep. Dennis Cardoza would like to turn back the clock: “Everyone was talking about spending capital — now I think we wish we had some of that capital back. You build confidence by passing legislation that people understand and work that way. I still believe in the president, but you can’t be everything to all folks.” It seems suddenly Obama isn’t offering much of anything to anyone within his party.

Part of the problem stems from the lack of direction given to Congress. Al Franken finds nothing funny in the Obami’s meandering. He was reported to have ripped into David Axelrod “for the administration’s failure to provide clarity or direction on health care and other big bills.” Perhaps if Democrats’ own congressional leaders were more effective, the lack of direction from the White House would not be so disconcerting. But Democrats have seen what happens when Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid are left to their own devices. You can understand why they are miffed that the White House hasn’t left a legislative road map for them to follow.

And part of the issue is fear that the leader of their party is playing into a destructive and familiar narrative, namely that the Democrats are the “tax-and-spend” and “weak on national security” party. On both, you see nervous Democrats are beginning to push back on everything from anti-terror policies to the new budget.

Obama and his congressional allies may well get their act together. But they’d better hurry. There are not that many months left to legislate and come up with something that incumbents can credibly tout to voters. And worse, persistent infighting and dissention will only depress their base further and convince ordinary voters these people simply aren’t up to the task of governing.

You get the sense Obama is in quite a fix. Politico runs two stories headlined: “Dems grouse as Obama tacks to center” and “Big bang takes toll on moderates.” So on one hand, liberals are annoyed with Obama’s promising a spending freeze (albeit, an itty-bitty one). And they are also peeved about Obama’s proposal to give businesses tax credits. But then the moderates are freaking out:

If the first year of Obama’s term was dominated by the so-called Big Bang push for enormous, politically risky initiatives — the stimulus, cap and trade and health care — Year Two is fast shaping up to be year of small ball, retrenchment and backlash.

“I’ve always maintained that I thought that they were doing too much, too fast,” said Rep. Mike McMahon (D-N.Y.), an endangered freshman who represents a Staten Island district long occupied by Republicans.

“Without question, the biggest complaint I’m hearing from constituents is that there were too many things being tackled all at once, and they didn’t have time to understand and digest all of them,” he added.

Democrats are realizing that they have angered a great many voters with scary big-government proposals but have little to show for it. And Blue Dog Rep. Dennis Cardoza would like to turn back the clock: “Everyone was talking about spending capital — now I think we wish we had some of that capital back. You build confidence by passing legislation that people understand and work that way. I still believe in the president, but you can’t be everything to all folks.” It seems suddenly Obama isn’t offering much of anything to anyone within his party.

Part of the problem stems from the lack of direction given to Congress. Al Franken finds nothing funny in the Obami’s meandering. He was reported to have ripped into David Axelrod “for the administration’s failure to provide clarity or direction on health care and other big bills.” Perhaps if Democrats’ own congressional leaders were more effective, the lack of direction from the White House would not be so disconcerting. But Democrats have seen what happens when Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid are left to their own devices. You can understand why they are miffed that the White House hasn’t left a legislative road map for them to follow.

And part of the issue is fear that the leader of their party is playing into a destructive and familiar narrative, namely that the Democrats are the “tax-and-spend” and “weak on national security” party. On both, you see nervous Democrats are beginning to push back on everything from anti-terror policies to the new budget.

Obama and his congressional allies may well get their act together. But they’d better hurry. There are not that many months left to legislate and come up with something that incumbents can credibly tout to voters. And worse, persistent infighting and dissention will only depress their base further and convince ordinary voters these people simply aren’t up to the task of governing.

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The Left Gets Nothing

As I suggested a few days ago, the decision to repeal Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell is not, perhaps, turning out to be all the Left hoped it would be. There is a study to be convened, one that will last years. And in the meantime, don’t expect a quick vote. Speaker Nancy Pelosi spills the beans — this isn’t happening any time soon:

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi suggested Thursday that Democrats may wait on voting to repeal the ban on gays in the military until after the midterm elections and after the Pentagon has completed a full review of its “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy. “We’ve done a heavy lift, and I don’t know,” Pelosi told reporters. “I’ll have to examine it. We’ll take a look. We’ll sit down together and see. What is the advantage of going first with legislation? Or would the legislation more aptly reflect what is in the review? Or is it a two step-process?”

It seems that Pelosi has already pushed her members out on that plank enough times. (“Many House Democrats who are privately reluctant to take a vote on the issue have already been forced to defend several unpopular health care and spending measures that Pelosi and her leadership team essentially forced them to endorse.”) Her ultraliberal agenda is already so unpopular with many of her members. How can she force a vote on this — in an election year, no less?

There is something comical about the charade. Obama announces the repeal, or, more precisely, the study for the repeal. He knows he’ll get a few rounds of applause from the ever-gullible Left, but he can count on the bureaucratic process and the sweeping terror in Congressional ranks to prevent an actual vote. A vote in an election year would only become a lightning rod and distract from the rest of his agenda — which is also unpopular and going nowhere. Got it?

There is a giant legislative traffic jam underway. The Congress can’t work on health care because it’s impossible to round up the votes in a post-Scott Brown political environment. They can’t pass Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell because health care has freaked out much of the Democratic caucus. They can’t work on cap-and-trade because that vote was a semi-disaster last year and will only remind Blue Dogs how vulnerable they are. It is the perfect storm from a conservative standpoint — nothing awful is likely to happen anytime soon. Each element of the ultraliberal agenda blocks the other parts. The Reid-Pelosi-Obama machine is grinding to a halt.

But the Left must be wondering: don’t they get anything from this president and Congress? Well, there’s the Lilly Ledbetter law, a failed stimulus plan, and a couple nationalized car companies. My, that’s precious little. Meanwhile, we are waging the war against Islamic fundamentalists (not that Obama would call them that) in Afghanistan and Iraq. One wonders why the netroots aren’t more crazed than they already are.

As I suggested a few days ago, the decision to repeal Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell is not, perhaps, turning out to be all the Left hoped it would be. There is a study to be convened, one that will last years. And in the meantime, don’t expect a quick vote. Speaker Nancy Pelosi spills the beans — this isn’t happening any time soon:

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi suggested Thursday that Democrats may wait on voting to repeal the ban on gays in the military until after the midterm elections and after the Pentagon has completed a full review of its “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy. “We’ve done a heavy lift, and I don’t know,” Pelosi told reporters. “I’ll have to examine it. We’ll take a look. We’ll sit down together and see. What is the advantage of going first with legislation? Or would the legislation more aptly reflect what is in the review? Or is it a two step-process?”

It seems that Pelosi has already pushed her members out on that plank enough times. (“Many House Democrats who are privately reluctant to take a vote on the issue have already been forced to defend several unpopular health care and spending measures that Pelosi and her leadership team essentially forced them to endorse.”) Her ultraliberal agenda is already so unpopular with many of her members. How can she force a vote on this — in an election year, no less?

There is something comical about the charade. Obama announces the repeal, or, more precisely, the study for the repeal. He knows he’ll get a few rounds of applause from the ever-gullible Left, but he can count on the bureaucratic process and the sweeping terror in Congressional ranks to prevent an actual vote. A vote in an election year would only become a lightning rod and distract from the rest of his agenda — which is also unpopular and going nowhere. Got it?

There is a giant legislative traffic jam underway. The Congress can’t work on health care because it’s impossible to round up the votes in a post-Scott Brown political environment. They can’t pass Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell because health care has freaked out much of the Democratic caucus. They can’t work on cap-and-trade because that vote was a semi-disaster last year and will only remind Blue Dogs how vulnerable they are. It is the perfect storm from a conservative standpoint — nothing awful is likely to happen anytime soon. Each element of the ultraliberal agenda blocks the other parts. The Reid-Pelosi-Obama machine is grinding to a halt.

But the Left must be wondering: don’t they get anything from this president and Congress? Well, there’s the Lilly Ledbetter law, a failed stimulus plan, and a couple nationalized car companies. My, that’s precious little. Meanwhile, we are waging the war against Islamic fundamentalists (not that Obama would call them that) in Afghanistan and Iraq. One wonders why the netroots aren’t more crazed than they already are.

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Israel Threatens Assad with Regime Change

The Israeli government may be moving beyond its fear and loathing of a Syria governed by somebody other than Bashar Assad. For years, Jerusalem has been careful to avoid doing anything or even saying anything that might destabilize Damascus. But after Syria’s foreign minister, Walid Moallem, threatened Israel this week with a war that would be fought “inside your cities,” Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman snapped. “Not only will you lose the war,” he said to Assad, “you and your family will no longer be in power.”

There are good reasons to feel squeamish about the aftermath of regime change, whether it comes at the hands of Israelis or not. The same sectarian monster that stalks Lebanon and Iraq lives just under the floorboards in Syria. The majority of Syria’s people are Sunni Arabs, but 30 percent or so are Christians, Druze, Alawites, or Kurds. Assad himself is an Alawite, as are most of the elite in the ruling Baath Party, the secret police, and the military. Their very survival depends on keeping Syria’s sectarianism suppressed. The country could easily come apart without Assad’s government enforcing domestic peace at the point of a gun. This is a serious problem. It’s not Israel’s problem, but it’s a problem.

The Israelis have been worried about something else: that after Assad, Syria might be governed by the fundamentalist Muslim Brotherhood organization or something that looks a lot like it. There’s no guarantee, though, that the Muslim Brothers would take over. They aren’t in power anywhere else in the Arab world. Even if they do succeed Assad, they couldn’t ramp up the hostility much. Assad’s is already the most hostile Arab government in the world. A replacement regime, especially one dominated by Sunnis rather than by minorities who lack legitimacy and feel they have something to prove, would likely gravitate toward the regional mainstream.

Millions of Syrians sympathize with the Muslim Brotherhood. They’re tired of being lorded over by secularists from a faith they consider heretical. Still, fundamentalist Sunni Arabs who try to impose some kind of theocracy will meet automatic resistance from the country’s Christians, Alawites, Druze, Kurds, and secular and moderate Sunnis. Theocracy is hardly the norm in the Middle East anyway. Not a single Arab country — unless you consider Gaza a country — is governed by a religious regime like the one in Iran.

No dictatorship rules forever. The Alawite regime in Damascus will eventually be replaced, one way or another. Syria will have to reckon with its own demons sooner or later, and it will either hold together and muddle through, or it won’t. Just as every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way, unstable countries fall apart in their own way. Only a fool would dismiss as irrelevant the sectarian bloodletting Iraq has suffered during the last several years, but Syria’s problems are its own, and a few critical ingredients that made Iraq into a perfect storm are missing.

Assad’s own foreign policy was — and, to an extent, still is — a big part of Iraq’s problem. He made Syria a transit hub for radical Sunnis from all over the Arab world who volunteered to martyr themselves fighting American soldiers, Shia civilians, and the Shia-dominated government in Baghdad. That won’t be a problem once Assad is out of the picture.

Freelance jihadists won’t be interested in fighting the next Syrian government anyway if the Alawites are stripped of their power. Sunnis will dominate the government again, as they should because they’re the majority. Sunni Arabs all over the Middle East are still unhappy that Iraq is mostly governed by Shias, but they’ll be at peace with a Sunni-led Syria.

I’d love to see Assad get his just desserts after what he’s done to his neighbors and his countrymen. It will be terrific if his Arab Socialist Baath Party regime is replaced with something more moderate and civilized. The odds of a smooth transition and a happy ending, though, are not great. Syria has no grassroots movement demanding democratic change right now as Iran does. The Israelis are right to be cautious.

But they’re also right to threaten to pull Assad’s plug if he doesn’t back off. He’s a lot less likely even to start the next war if he knows he’ll be held accountable. The fact that he can suppress sectarian violence at home isn’t worth much if he won’t stop exporting it everywhere else.

The Israeli government may be moving beyond its fear and loathing of a Syria governed by somebody other than Bashar Assad. For years, Jerusalem has been careful to avoid doing anything or even saying anything that might destabilize Damascus. But after Syria’s foreign minister, Walid Moallem, threatened Israel this week with a war that would be fought “inside your cities,” Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman snapped. “Not only will you lose the war,” he said to Assad, “you and your family will no longer be in power.”

There are good reasons to feel squeamish about the aftermath of regime change, whether it comes at the hands of Israelis or not. The same sectarian monster that stalks Lebanon and Iraq lives just under the floorboards in Syria. The majority of Syria’s people are Sunni Arabs, but 30 percent or so are Christians, Druze, Alawites, or Kurds. Assad himself is an Alawite, as are most of the elite in the ruling Baath Party, the secret police, and the military. Their very survival depends on keeping Syria’s sectarianism suppressed. The country could easily come apart without Assad’s government enforcing domestic peace at the point of a gun. This is a serious problem. It’s not Israel’s problem, but it’s a problem.

The Israelis have been worried about something else: that after Assad, Syria might be governed by the fundamentalist Muslim Brotherhood organization or something that looks a lot like it. There’s no guarantee, though, that the Muslim Brothers would take over. They aren’t in power anywhere else in the Arab world. Even if they do succeed Assad, they couldn’t ramp up the hostility much. Assad’s is already the most hostile Arab government in the world. A replacement regime, especially one dominated by Sunnis rather than by minorities who lack legitimacy and feel they have something to prove, would likely gravitate toward the regional mainstream.

Millions of Syrians sympathize with the Muslim Brotherhood. They’re tired of being lorded over by secularists from a faith they consider heretical. Still, fundamentalist Sunni Arabs who try to impose some kind of theocracy will meet automatic resistance from the country’s Christians, Alawites, Druze, Kurds, and secular and moderate Sunnis. Theocracy is hardly the norm in the Middle East anyway. Not a single Arab country — unless you consider Gaza a country — is governed by a religious regime like the one in Iran.

No dictatorship rules forever. The Alawite regime in Damascus will eventually be replaced, one way or another. Syria will have to reckon with its own demons sooner or later, and it will either hold together and muddle through, or it won’t. Just as every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way, unstable countries fall apart in their own way. Only a fool would dismiss as irrelevant the sectarian bloodletting Iraq has suffered during the last several years, but Syria’s problems are its own, and a few critical ingredients that made Iraq into a perfect storm are missing.

Assad’s own foreign policy was — and, to an extent, still is — a big part of Iraq’s problem. He made Syria a transit hub for radical Sunnis from all over the Arab world who volunteered to martyr themselves fighting American soldiers, Shia civilians, and the Shia-dominated government in Baghdad. That won’t be a problem once Assad is out of the picture.

Freelance jihadists won’t be interested in fighting the next Syrian government anyway if the Alawites are stripped of their power. Sunnis will dominate the government again, as they should because they’re the majority. Sunni Arabs all over the Middle East are still unhappy that Iraq is mostly governed by Shias, but they’ll be at peace with a Sunni-led Syria.

I’d love to see Assad get his just desserts after what he’s done to his neighbors and his countrymen. It will be terrific if his Arab Socialist Baath Party regime is replaced with something more moderate and civilized. The odds of a smooth transition and a happy ending, though, are not great. Syria has no grassroots movement demanding democratic change right now as Iran does. The Israelis are right to be cautious.

But they’re also right to threaten to pull Assad’s plug if he doesn’t back off. He’s a lot less likely even to start the next war if he knows he’ll be held accountable. The fact that he can suppress sectarian violence at home isn’t worth much if he won’t stop exporting it everywhere else.

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There Are Prophets … and Then There Are Prophets

Over at the Huffington Post, Jim Wallis of Sojourners praised the president for his speech at the National Prayer Breakfast, which included, in Wallis’s words, a much-needed “plea for civility in our political discourse.” Wallis quoted Obama, who said:

Progress doesn’t come when we demonize opponents. It’s not born in righteous spite. Progress comes when we open our hearts, when we extend our hands, when we recognize our common humanity. Progress comes when we look into the eyes of another and see the face of God. That we might do so — that we will do so all the time, not just some of the time — is my fervent prayer for our nation and the world.

Nice words all the way around.

But what makes all this so darn strange is that Wallis’s Dr Jekyll can, when it serves his narrow ideological purposes, turn into Mr. Hyde. For examples, when George W. Bush was president, here is what Mr. Civility in Public Discourse wrote:

I believe that Dick Cheney is a liar; that Donald Rumsfeld is also a liar; and that George W. Bush was, and is, clueless about how to be the president of the United States. And this isn’t about being partisan. … I’ve heard plenty of my Republican friends and public figures call this administration an embarrassment to the best traditions of the Republican Party and an embarrassment to the democratic (small d) tradition of the United States. They have shamed our beloved nation in the world by this war and the shameful way they have fought it. Almost 4,000 young Americans are dead because of the lies of this administration, tens of thousands more wounded and maimed for life, hundreds of thousands of Iraqis also dead, and 400 billion dollars wasted — because of their lies, incompetence, and corruption.

But I don’t favor impeachment, as some have suggested. I would wait until after the election, when they are out of office, and then I would favor investigations of the top officials of the Bush administration on official deception, war crimes, and corruption charges. And if they are found guilty of these high crimes, I believe they should spend the rest of their lives in prison — after offering their repentance to every American family who has lost a son, daughter, father, mother, brother, or sister. Deliberately lying about going to war should not be forgiven.

I don’t know about you, but this seems to me to come kind of close to demonizing an opponent. Nor do I get the impression that when Wallis looks into the eyes of Bush and Cheney, he is prepared to extend his hand, or open his heart, or see the face of God. According to St. Jim, they are beyond redemption and forgiveness.

I have documented before why Wallis’s claims about Bush, Cheney, and Rumsfeld were ignorant, false, and misleading. It’s hard to escape the judgment that Wallis is not only guilty of a glaring double standard; he is also guilty of employing his faith as a crude instrument to advance his own hyper-partisan politics.

There is a season for everything and a season for every activity under heaven — a time for civility and, for Jim Wallis, a time for vicious slander. It all depends on what advances his ideology.

The corruption of faith in the pursuit of politics is a dispiriting thing to witness, especially in one who claims to be a “public theologian,” a “preacher,” an “international commentator on ethics and public life” and — I almost forgot — one who is in the “prophetic tradition.”

Somehow I rather doubt that Wallis will ever be confused with Isaiah or Micah.

Over at the Huffington Post, Jim Wallis of Sojourners praised the president for his speech at the National Prayer Breakfast, which included, in Wallis’s words, a much-needed “plea for civility in our political discourse.” Wallis quoted Obama, who said:

Progress doesn’t come when we demonize opponents. It’s not born in righteous spite. Progress comes when we open our hearts, when we extend our hands, when we recognize our common humanity. Progress comes when we look into the eyes of another and see the face of God. That we might do so — that we will do so all the time, not just some of the time — is my fervent prayer for our nation and the world.

Nice words all the way around.

But what makes all this so darn strange is that Wallis’s Dr Jekyll can, when it serves his narrow ideological purposes, turn into Mr. Hyde. For examples, when George W. Bush was president, here is what Mr. Civility in Public Discourse wrote:

I believe that Dick Cheney is a liar; that Donald Rumsfeld is also a liar; and that George W. Bush was, and is, clueless about how to be the president of the United States. And this isn’t about being partisan. … I’ve heard plenty of my Republican friends and public figures call this administration an embarrassment to the best traditions of the Republican Party and an embarrassment to the democratic (small d) tradition of the United States. They have shamed our beloved nation in the world by this war and the shameful way they have fought it. Almost 4,000 young Americans are dead because of the lies of this administration, tens of thousands more wounded and maimed for life, hundreds of thousands of Iraqis also dead, and 400 billion dollars wasted — because of their lies, incompetence, and corruption.

But I don’t favor impeachment, as some have suggested. I would wait until after the election, when they are out of office, and then I would favor investigations of the top officials of the Bush administration on official deception, war crimes, and corruption charges. And if they are found guilty of these high crimes, I believe they should spend the rest of their lives in prison — after offering their repentance to every American family who has lost a son, daughter, father, mother, brother, or sister. Deliberately lying about going to war should not be forgiven.

I don’t know about you, but this seems to me to come kind of close to demonizing an opponent. Nor do I get the impression that when Wallis looks into the eyes of Bush and Cheney, he is prepared to extend his hand, or open his heart, or see the face of God. According to St. Jim, they are beyond redemption and forgiveness.

I have documented before why Wallis’s claims about Bush, Cheney, and Rumsfeld were ignorant, false, and misleading. It’s hard to escape the judgment that Wallis is not only guilty of a glaring double standard; he is also guilty of employing his faith as a crude instrument to advance his own hyper-partisan politics.

There is a season for everything and a season for every activity under heaven — a time for civility and, for Jim Wallis, a time for vicious slander. It all depends on what advances his ideology.

The corruption of faith in the pursuit of politics is a dispiriting thing to witness, especially in one who claims to be a “public theologian,” a “preacher,” an “international commentator on ethics and public life” and — I almost forgot — one who is in the “prophetic tradition.”

Somehow I rather doubt that Wallis will ever be confused with Isaiah or Micah.

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They Forgot These People Vote

Charles Krauthammer explains the Democrats’ dogged determination to adhere to their agenda despite the public revolt against liberal statism:

This being a democracy, don’t the Democrats see that clinging to this agenda will march them over a cliff? Don’t they understand Massachusetts? Well, they understand it through a prism of two cherished axioms: (1) The people are stupid and (2) Republicans are bad. Result? The dim, led by the malicious, vote incorrectly.

That seems as apt a summary as any, and neatly accounts for why Obama exhorts members of his own party in Congress to ignore the rabble … er … voters and not be “timid.” They shouldn’t be so selfish — the lawmakers, that is — and should instead do the “right” thing. That would be to sacrifice their own political future for the cause of Obamaism — the passage of highly controversial and fiscally reckless legislation on party-line votes.

The reason Obama seems not to care about the fate of his fellow Democrats is that he doesn’t care about the fate of his fellow Democrats. He’s not a party man or a party builder. He doesn’t, as Bill Clinton does, crave the acceptance of Middle America. (The latter is an inconvenience to be avoided or bamboozled so as not to impede the progress of legislation they are too dim to appreciate.) He is driven by ideological fervor, which includes the desire to alter fundamentally the relationship between citizens and government, and between the public and private sectors. You doubt it? He keeps telling us so. The “new foundation” and the component parts of his agenda should settle the matter.

The reason for all the condescension toward average citizens is that they didn’t sign up for the revolution and don’t much like it now that they see what Obama has in mind. (“The ankle-dwelling populace pushes back. It recenters. It renormalizes. Even in Massachusetts.”) So Obama has to (sigh) explain it all again to the public (sigh) because they seem not to understand from his many, many eloquent addresses that ObamaCare is a very good thing, that his budget is responsible, and that the way to stay competitive in the world is to have a very active and expensive government.

Where this is heading is a collision of great magnitude. One cannot consider the electorate to be a bunch of rubes and get away with it for very long. One can’t pursue an agenda that the public disdains and get re-elected. That was the flaw all along in the Obama–Rahm Emanuel scheme (i.e., rush through a radical agenda very, very fast before the electorate, which supposedly had shifted to the Left in the recession, could figure out what hit them). They assumed the public would be mute in the interim. But the rubes organized — in town halls and in Tea Parties — and they turned out to vote in New Jersey, Virginia, and Massachusetts. So the window of opportunity shut faster than they imagined.

And yet the Obami persist in their domestic agenda, undeterred. Well, the election of 2010 will be here before you know it. The rubes always get the last say.

Charles Krauthammer explains the Democrats’ dogged determination to adhere to their agenda despite the public revolt against liberal statism:

This being a democracy, don’t the Democrats see that clinging to this agenda will march them over a cliff? Don’t they understand Massachusetts? Well, they understand it through a prism of two cherished axioms: (1) The people are stupid and (2) Republicans are bad. Result? The dim, led by the malicious, vote incorrectly.

That seems as apt a summary as any, and neatly accounts for why Obama exhorts members of his own party in Congress to ignore the rabble … er … voters and not be “timid.” They shouldn’t be so selfish — the lawmakers, that is — and should instead do the “right” thing. That would be to sacrifice their own political future for the cause of Obamaism — the passage of highly controversial and fiscally reckless legislation on party-line votes.

The reason Obama seems not to care about the fate of his fellow Democrats is that he doesn’t care about the fate of his fellow Democrats. He’s not a party man or a party builder. He doesn’t, as Bill Clinton does, crave the acceptance of Middle America. (The latter is an inconvenience to be avoided or bamboozled so as not to impede the progress of legislation they are too dim to appreciate.) He is driven by ideological fervor, which includes the desire to alter fundamentally the relationship between citizens and government, and between the public and private sectors. You doubt it? He keeps telling us so. The “new foundation” and the component parts of his agenda should settle the matter.

The reason for all the condescension toward average citizens is that they didn’t sign up for the revolution and don’t much like it now that they see what Obama has in mind. (“The ankle-dwelling populace pushes back. It recenters. It renormalizes. Even in Massachusetts.”) So Obama has to (sigh) explain it all again to the public (sigh) because they seem not to understand from his many, many eloquent addresses that ObamaCare is a very good thing, that his budget is responsible, and that the way to stay competitive in the world is to have a very active and expensive government.

Where this is heading is a collision of great magnitude. One cannot consider the electorate to be a bunch of rubes and get away with it for very long. One can’t pursue an agenda that the public disdains and get re-elected. That was the flaw all along in the Obama–Rahm Emanuel scheme (i.e., rush through a radical agenda very, very fast before the electorate, which supposedly had shifted to the Left in the recession, could figure out what hit them). They assumed the public would be mute in the interim. But the rubes organized — in town halls and in Tea Parties — and they turned out to vote in New Jersey, Virginia, and Massachusetts. So the window of opportunity shut faster than they imagined.

And yet the Obami persist in their domestic agenda, undeterred. Well, the election of 2010 will be here before you know it. The rubes always get the last say.

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Crist Struggles

Somehow, I don’t think this helps Gov. Charlie Crist:

Florida Gov. Charlie Crist said Thursday that despite being attacked from the right by former state House Speaker Marco Rubio, his rival in the state’s GOP Senate primary, he is no “RINO.” Asked during an interview with CBS’s “Early Show” for his response to critics who have called him a “Republican in name only” — better known by the acronym RINO — Crist said “if I’m a RINO, then so is Ronald Reagan.”

Ouch. This is the equivalent of Obama’s “I am not an ideologue” pronouncement. It’s the sort of cringing denial that comes only when many voters think the accusation is true. Crist then said that he, too, was in favor of  “less taxing, less spending, less government, more freedom,” but was just more “pragmatic” than Marco Rubio. He opined that the voters ”don’t want bickering and some ideologue on one end or the other to sort of be a standard bearer.” Hmm. I think conservative voters actually do want a standard bearer.

You get the sense that it’s just not clicking for Crist. He is not the rock star of the conservatives and is trying to tell Republicans in a primary race that they are wrong to want a rock star. But they do, and voters generally don’t want to be told they’ve got it all wrong. Moreover, what got Crist in trouble in the first place was his preference for accommodating and embracing (literally) Obama, rather than staunchly opposing him. Signaling that he is “pragmatic” is not what voters (either in the primary or general election) in a wave opposition election want to hear. They want someone to stop the governing party from doing more destructive things.

Perhaps Crist will figure this out, but it may not be the right moment for him. Sometimes the voters just want what the voters want.

Somehow, I don’t think this helps Gov. Charlie Crist:

Florida Gov. Charlie Crist said Thursday that despite being attacked from the right by former state House Speaker Marco Rubio, his rival in the state’s GOP Senate primary, he is no “RINO.” Asked during an interview with CBS’s “Early Show” for his response to critics who have called him a “Republican in name only” — better known by the acronym RINO — Crist said “if I’m a RINO, then so is Ronald Reagan.”

Ouch. This is the equivalent of Obama’s “I am not an ideologue” pronouncement. It’s the sort of cringing denial that comes only when many voters think the accusation is true. Crist then said that he, too, was in favor of  “less taxing, less spending, less government, more freedom,” but was just more “pragmatic” than Marco Rubio. He opined that the voters ”don’t want bickering and some ideologue on one end or the other to sort of be a standard bearer.” Hmm. I think conservative voters actually do want a standard bearer.

You get the sense that it’s just not clicking for Crist. He is not the rock star of the conservatives and is trying to tell Republicans in a primary race that they are wrong to want a rock star. But they do, and voters generally don’t want to be told they’ve got it all wrong. Moreover, what got Crist in trouble in the first place was his preference for accommodating and embracing (literally) Obama, rather than staunchly opposing him. Signaling that he is “pragmatic” is not what voters (either in the primary or general election) in a wave opposition election want to hear. They want someone to stop the governing party from doing more destructive things.

Perhaps Crist will figure this out, but it may not be the right moment for him. Sometimes the voters just want what the voters want.

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Sorry Blanche, You’re Toast

Charles Lane catches Obama writing Sen. Blanche Lincoln’s political obituary. During the meeting Senate Democrats had with Obama, the imperiled Red State senator practically pleaded with the president to turn to the Center. (“Are we willing as Democrats to push back on our own party?”) Her request was summarily denied. Any accommodation to “centrism” is a return to Bush policies, said Obama. Lane is stunned on two grounds by Obama’s stridency:

The first was the ease with which he cast Lincoln’s plea for a bit more centrism as a call for a return to Bushism — the “exact same proposals that were in place for the last eight years.” That’s not what she was advocating. … The president set up this strawman, and he pummeled it, rather than engaging Lincoln’s valid concerns. The second striking thing was how easily he appeared to write off Lincoln politically. Conceding nothing, he implied that her defeat was not only a foregone conclusion, but also an acceptable price to pay for staying the course on policy.

Well, at least the Red State senators and Blue Dog Democrats know where they stand. They are about to be pushed off that “precipice” Obama keeps talking about. But, as Lane notes, the dogmatic fidelity to leftism requires Obama to ignore some fairly convincing political evidence that this is the way to ruin for the Democratic party — and for Obama. (“If Virginia and New Jersey didn’t prove that, Massachusetts did. And November could prove it again.”)

This is what happens when arrogance and political extremism meet political tone-deafness. The Obami haven’t learned anything from Massachusetts; they simply are more candid that the Blanche Lincolns have no place in their party. But in doing so, they’re also writing off the majority of the electorate, which doesn’t share their fascination with big government and doesn’t appreciate their disdain for the ability of ordinary citizens to make decisions on their own. When Obama tells Lincoln to get lost, he’s also telling the voters of Arkansas (and a bunch of other states) that his agenda and his party’s political goals aren’t for them. Does he suppose that he can govern and win re-election by dismissing all centrists in this fashion? That’s a recipe for becoming a fringe minority party, not a broad governing majority. I suspect Lane is right: it will take a November 2010 election to ram that message home.

Charles Lane catches Obama writing Sen. Blanche Lincoln’s political obituary. During the meeting Senate Democrats had with Obama, the imperiled Red State senator practically pleaded with the president to turn to the Center. (“Are we willing as Democrats to push back on our own party?”) Her request was summarily denied. Any accommodation to “centrism” is a return to Bush policies, said Obama. Lane is stunned on two grounds by Obama’s stridency:

The first was the ease with which he cast Lincoln’s plea for a bit more centrism as a call for a return to Bushism — the “exact same proposals that were in place for the last eight years.” That’s not what she was advocating. … The president set up this strawman, and he pummeled it, rather than engaging Lincoln’s valid concerns. The second striking thing was how easily he appeared to write off Lincoln politically. Conceding nothing, he implied that her defeat was not only a foregone conclusion, but also an acceptable price to pay for staying the course on policy.

Well, at least the Red State senators and Blue Dog Democrats know where they stand. They are about to be pushed off that “precipice” Obama keeps talking about. But, as Lane notes, the dogmatic fidelity to leftism requires Obama to ignore some fairly convincing political evidence that this is the way to ruin for the Democratic party — and for Obama. (“If Virginia and New Jersey didn’t prove that, Massachusetts did. And November could prove it again.”)

This is what happens when arrogance and political extremism meet political tone-deafness. The Obami haven’t learned anything from Massachusetts; they simply are more candid that the Blanche Lincolns have no place in their party. But in doing so, they’re also writing off the majority of the electorate, which doesn’t share their fascination with big government and doesn’t appreciate their disdain for the ability of ordinary citizens to make decisions on their own. When Obama tells Lincoln to get lost, he’s also telling the voters of Arkansas (and a bunch of other states) that his agenda and his party’s political goals aren’t for them. Does he suppose that he can govern and win re-election by dismissing all centrists in this fashion? That’s a recipe for becoming a fringe minority party, not a broad governing majority. I suspect Lane is right: it will take a November 2010 election to ram that message home.

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A Matter of Priorities

Cliff May notices an outbreak of bipartisanship on Iran sanctions, which passed the Senate unanimously last week and followed passage of a similar measure in the House by a 412-12 margin:

The sanctions bills that have passed Congress would target a chink in Iran’s armor: its dependence on gasoline imports. Yes, ordinary Iranians will suffer as fuel becomes scarce and more expensive. But President Obama is articulate enough to explain where the blame belongs. He could add that Americans look forward not just to lifting the sanctions but to working with Iranians in a spirit of cooperation — as soon as Iran has leaders interested in such relations. It would be useful if the president also provided both moral and material support to those Iranians who have been marching in the streets, chanting: “Obama! Are you with us or against us?”

But, as May notes, it’s far from clear that Obama is part of that bipartisan consensus and would use the sanction authority. He and his dutiful secretary of state have, after all, consistently talked about “leaving the door open.” Hillary Clinton is winnowing down those crippling sanctions in order to minimize their impact — so we can leave the door open, you see. The January deadline came and went with no pronouncement from the White House or Foggy Bottom. It’s as if nothing has changed, and “consequences” are always around the bend for the mullahs should they not change their tune.

It is odd that a president who thinks of himself as so transformative would be so lackadaisical if not hostile toward regime change. You would think this might be his opportunity — finally — to be not Bush (who frankly kicked the can down the road on Iran during his administration) to good effect. It is nothing less than the chance to turn the tide of history. As May notes:

In 1979, Iran’s Islamist revolution was the spark that set off the war against the West that has raged ever since. The atrocities of Sept. 11, 2001, represent the most devastating battle — so far. The advent of a nuclear-armed and jihadist Iran would escalate the conflict. By contrast, an Iranian government more concerned with the welfare of its citizens than with power and conquest would ease tensions in the Middle East and beyond. If President Obama contributes to that result, he will deserve — and receive — support from both sides of the aisle.

Perhaps the president’s advisers have convinced him that the Iranian demonstrators have “little chance for success.” But as Eli Lake points out, these sorts have not had a great track record when it comes to predicting events in Iran. (“The U.S. intelligence community in the past failed to predict political events in Iran. For example, a noted CIA assessment of Iran in the fall of 1978 predicted there was no prospect for an Islamic revolution — a prediction that proved wrong within five months.”) Nevertheless, it might be just the advice Obama is looking for — confirmation that doing not much of anything to aid the democracy advocates is the ”smart” diplomatic move.

One suspects, however, that Obama is simply unwilling to give up his singular focus on the domestic revolution he cares most desperately about — the creation of a “new foundation” — to engage in a historic undertaking overseas. It is a cramped, inward vision that supposes that America doesn’t have much of a role to play beyond its shores. We’ve got health care to reinvent and light-rail programs to fund. And there’s the “real” menace — global warming. (If you ignore all those e-mails.) Yes, and meanwhile Iranians die in the streets and the mullahs move closer to nuclear-weapons capability. It is, I suppose, simply a matter of priorities.

Cliff May notices an outbreak of bipartisanship on Iran sanctions, which passed the Senate unanimously last week and followed passage of a similar measure in the House by a 412-12 margin:

The sanctions bills that have passed Congress would target a chink in Iran’s armor: its dependence on gasoline imports. Yes, ordinary Iranians will suffer as fuel becomes scarce and more expensive. But President Obama is articulate enough to explain where the blame belongs. He could add that Americans look forward not just to lifting the sanctions but to working with Iranians in a spirit of cooperation — as soon as Iran has leaders interested in such relations. It would be useful if the president also provided both moral and material support to those Iranians who have been marching in the streets, chanting: “Obama! Are you with us or against us?”

But, as May notes, it’s far from clear that Obama is part of that bipartisan consensus and would use the sanction authority. He and his dutiful secretary of state have, after all, consistently talked about “leaving the door open.” Hillary Clinton is winnowing down those crippling sanctions in order to minimize their impact — so we can leave the door open, you see. The January deadline came and went with no pronouncement from the White House or Foggy Bottom. It’s as if nothing has changed, and “consequences” are always around the bend for the mullahs should they not change their tune.

It is odd that a president who thinks of himself as so transformative would be so lackadaisical if not hostile toward regime change. You would think this might be his opportunity — finally — to be not Bush (who frankly kicked the can down the road on Iran during his administration) to good effect. It is nothing less than the chance to turn the tide of history. As May notes:

In 1979, Iran’s Islamist revolution was the spark that set off the war against the West that has raged ever since. The atrocities of Sept. 11, 2001, represent the most devastating battle — so far. The advent of a nuclear-armed and jihadist Iran would escalate the conflict. By contrast, an Iranian government more concerned with the welfare of its citizens than with power and conquest would ease tensions in the Middle East and beyond. If President Obama contributes to that result, he will deserve — and receive — support from both sides of the aisle.

Perhaps the president’s advisers have convinced him that the Iranian demonstrators have “little chance for success.” But as Eli Lake points out, these sorts have not had a great track record when it comes to predicting events in Iran. (“The U.S. intelligence community in the past failed to predict political events in Iran. For example, a noted CIA assessment of Iran in the fall of 1978 predicted there was no prospect for an Islamic revolution — a prediction that proved wrong within five months.”) Nevertheless, it might be just the advice Obama is looking for — confirmation that doing not much of anything to aid the democracy advocates is the ”smart” diplomatic move.

One suspects, however, that Obama is simply unwilling to give up his singular focus on the domestic revolution he cares most desperately about — the creation of a “new foundation” — to engage in a historic undertaking overseas. It is a cramped, inward vision that supposes that America doesn’t have much of a role to play beyond its shores. We’ve got health care to reinvent and light-rail programs to fund. And there’s the “real” menace — global warming. (If you ignore all those e-mails.) Yes, and meanwhile Iranians die in the streets and the mullahs move closer to nuclear-weapons capability. It is, I suppose, simply a matter of priorities.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

The latest Rasmussen poll provides a warning for incumbent Democratic lawmakers: “Eighty-three percent (83%) of Americans say the size of the federal budget deficit is due more to the unwillingness of politicians to cut government spending than to the reluctance of taxpayers to pay more in taxes. A new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey shows that just nine percent (9%) of adults put more blame on the unwillingness of taxpayers to pay more in taxes.”

Sen. Ben Nelson may wind up as the only Democrat without a special deal on health care: “With the exception of Nebraska Democratic Sen. Ben Nelson’s ‘Cornhusker Kickback,’ which alienated independent voters and came to symbolize an out-of-touch Washington, none of the other narrow provisions that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid inserted into the bill appear to be in any kind of danger as Democrats try to figure out the way ahead.”  But then ObamaCare isn’t likely to go anywhere, and that will spare Nelson further embarrassment.

I suppose she’s nervous: “Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.) defended her role in the $300 million ‘Louisiana Purchase’ Thursday, saying she attached it to the healthcare bill at Gov. Bobby Jindal’s (R-La.) request and that it was not a condition of her support for the bill. Landrieu used a floor speech, press conference and private e-mails from Jindal to fire back against critics of the $300 million-plus in Medicaid funds that became known as the ‘Louisiana Purchase.’” I think when reporters repeat “Louisiana Purchase” three times in a short news account, Landrieu’s got an uphill battle.

From the Cook Political Report: “Charlie Cook agrees with House Editor David Wasserman’s assessment of a 25-35 seat pickup for the GOP in the House, but sets his personal line for the Senate at a 5-7 seat switch for Republicans. For the first time this cycle, he sees a mathematical, although still highly unlikely possibility, of a ten-seat gain and majority change in the Senate.”

Steven Calabresi: “I think the Tea Party movement is going to be and deserves to be a big factor in the 2010 midterm elections because it rejects both the socialism of the Obama Administration and the Big Government conservatism of many Republican officeholders between 2000 and 2008.”

Obama is down to 46 percent favorable/47 percent unfavorable in the latest Fox News/Opinion Dynamics poll. Voters have an equally favorable view of the Democratic and Republican parties (both 42 percent approval). More people have a favorable opinion of the Tea Party movement (35 percent) than of Nancy Pelosi (24 percent).

Nathan Diament of the Orthodox Union explains one reason why Orthodox Jews dislike Obama so: “In the context of the Orthodox where the majority in the community identify with the settlement movement in Israel, there’s a great deal of tension, let alone opposition, to the president’s efforts last year to push Israel to undertake a settlement freeze.” (h/t Ben Smith)

I don’t think the Obami are going to win this fight: “The ranking Republican on the Senate Intelligence Committee, Sen. Kit Bond, R-Mo., dismissed the White House’s call for him to apologize for alleging that the administration leaked information about Umar Farouk Abdulmutalab for political reasons. ‘After telling me to keep my mouth shut, the White House discloses sensitive information in an effort to defend a dangerous and unpopular decision to Mirandize Abdulmutallab and I’m supposed to apologize?’ Sen. Bond said in a paper statement today.

Oops. Fellas, always check the rap sheet: “On the same day Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn officially claimed the Democratic gubernatorial nomination, he found out that his newly-minted running mate has a rap sheet that includes alleged domestic battery and tax evasion. The revelation has shocked Democrats, leading to worries that his presence could taint the entire statewide ticket.”

The latest Rasmussen poll provides a warning for incumbent Democratic lawmakers: “Eighty-three percent (83%) of Americans say the size of the federal budget deficit is due more to the unwillingness of politicians to cut government spending than to the reluctance of taxpayers to pay more in taxes. A new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey shows that just nine percent (9%) of adults put more blame on the unwillingness of taxpayers to pay more in taxes.”

Sen. Ben Nelson may wind up as the only Democrat without a special deal on health care: “With the exception of Nebraska Democratic Sen. Ben Nelson’s ‘Cornhusker Kickback,’ which alienated independent voters and came to symbolize an out-of-touch Washington, none of the other narrow provisions that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid inserted into the bill appear to be in any kind of danger as Democrats try to figure out the way ahead.”  But then ObamaCare isn’t likely to go anywhere, and that will spare Nelson further embarrassment.

I suppose she’s nervous: “Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.) defended her role in the $300 million ‘Louisiana Purchase’ Thursday, saying she attached it to the healthcare bill at Gov. Bobby Jindal’s (R-La.) request and that it was not a condition of her support for the bill. Landrieu used a floor speech, press conference and private e-mails from Jindal to fire back against critics of the $300 million-plus in Medicaid funds that became known as the ‘Louisiana Purchase.’” I think when reporters repeat “Louisiana Purchase” three times in a short news account, Landrieu’s got an uphill battle.

From the Cook Political Report: “Charlie Cook agrees with House Editor David Wasserman’s assessment of a 25-35 seat pickup for the GOP in the House, but sets his personal line for the Senate at a 5-7 seat switch for Republicans. For the first time this cycle, he sees a mathematical, although still highly unlikely possibility, of a ten-seat gain and majority change in the Senate.”

Steven Calabresi: “I think the Tea Party movement is going to be and deserves to be a big factor in the 2010 midterm elections because it rejects both the socialism of the Obama Administration and the Big Government conservatism of many Republican officeholders between 2000 and 2008.”

Obama is down to 46 percent favorable/47 percent unfavorable in the latest Fox News/Opinion Dynamics poll. Voters have an equally favorable view of the Democratic and Republican parties (both 42 percent approval). More people have a favorable opinion of the Tea Party movement (35 percent) than of Nancy Pelosi (24 percent).

Nathan Diament of the Orthodox Union explains one reason why Orthodox Jews dislike Obama so: “In the context of the Orthodox where the majority in the community identify with the settlement movement in Israel, there’s a great deal of tension, let alone opposition, to the president’s efforts last year to push Israel to undertake a settlement freeze.” (h/t Ben Smith)

I don’t think the Obami are going to win this fight: “The ranking Republican on the Senate Intelligence Committee, Sen. Kit Bond, R-Mo., dismissed the White House’s call for him to apologize for alleging that the administration leaked information about Umar Farouk Abdulmutalab for political reasons. ‘After telling me to keep my mouth shut, the White House discloses sensitive information in an effort to defend a dangerous and unpopular decision to Mirandize Abdulmutallab and I’m supposed to apologize?’ Sen. Bond said in a paper statement today.

Oops. Fellas, always check the rap sheet: “On the same day Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn officially claimed the Democratic gubernatorial nomination, he found out that his newly-minted running mate has a rap sheet that includes alleged domestic battery and tax evasion. The revelation has shocked Democrats, leading to worries that his presence could taint the entire statewide ticket.”

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