Commentary Magazine


Posts For: February 15, 2010

Speaking of Retirements . . .

With more and more senators and congressmen heading for the exits, it’s a good question how this will affect two other possible retirements from the Washington stage: those of Justices John Paul Stevens and Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Stevens will soon be 90 and has not hired his usual quota of clerks for next year — traditionally a sign of impending retirement. Justice Ginsburg (who will be 77 next month) has not been in good health in recent years, having had two bouts with cancer.

But if they retire at the close of the current term, in late June, will President Obama be able to get his nominees to replace them through the Senate before the election in November? If present trends continue (they usually don’t, of course), that’s unlikely.  The more probable a Republican landslide in  November comes to seem, the more probable is a Republican filibuster to prevent liberal replacements for these liberal justices.

In 1968, lame duck Lyndon Johnson tried to get his buddy Justice Abe Fortas raised to the chief justiceship upon Earl Warren’s retirement. Although Republicans were in the minority, they and their Dixiecrat allies were able to block Fortas. And Warren stayed on as chief justice, as it appeared that, with a likely impending Republican victory in November, no Johnson nominee could be confirmed. The following year, President Nixon nominated the lackluster Warren Burger to replace Warren as chief justice and, when Fortas had to resign in a scandal, ended up nominating Harold Blackmun (author of Roe v. Wade) as his replacement after two failed attempts to nominate Southerners.

If there is a Republican Senate majority next year, President Obama would have no choice but to nominate moderates in order to get them confirmed. Wouldn’t it be a delicious irony if President Obama’s picks had the effect of moving the Court to the right, however incrementally?

With more and more senators and congressmen heading for the exits, it’s a good question how this will affect two other possible retirements from the Washington stage: those of Justices John Paul Stevens and Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Stevens will soon be 90 and has not hired his usual quota of clerks for next year — traditionally a sign of impending retirement. Justice Ginsburg (who will be 77 next month) has not been in good health in recent years, having had two bouts with cancer.

But if they retire at the close of the current term, in late June, will President Obama be able to get his nominees to replace them through the Senate before the election in November? If present trends continue (they usually don’t, of course), that’s unlikely.  The more probable a Republican landslide in  November comes to seem, the more probable is a Republican filibuster to prevent liberal replacements for these liberal justices.

In 1968, lame duck Lyndon Johnson tried to get his buddy Justice Abe Fortas raised to the chief justiceship upon Earl Warren’s retirement. Although Republicans were in the minority, they and their Dixiecrat allies were able to block Fortas. And Warren stayed on as chief justice, as it appeared that, with a likely impending Republican victory in November, no Johnson nominee could be confirmed. The following year, President Nixon nominated the lackluster Warren Burger to replace Warren as chief justice and, when Fortas had to resign in a scandal, ended up nominating Harold Blackmun (author of Roe v. Wade) as his replacement after two failed attempts to nominate Southerners.

If there is a Republican Senate majority next year, President Obama would have no choice but to nominate moderates in order to get them confirmed. Wouldn’t it be a delicious irony if President Obama’s picks had the effect of moving the Court to the right, however incrementally?

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RE: The Unemployment Crisis

This article too is well worth looking at (especially the charts, which are really scary) regarding what everyone but the true believers on the Left are able to see: the recovery, especially when measured by employment, is sluggish at best (h/t: Powerline).

Huge increases in government spending have not helped; indeed, psychologically, they’ve probably hurt. The threat of large tax increases in the near future with the expiration of the Bush tax cuts (which, by the way, caused an immediate and continuing decline in the unemployment rate) is almost guaranteed to adversely impact unemployment for this year and next.

Unfortunately, the true believers are running the show in both the White House and the Congress at the moment. But, as Jennifer says, hope and change may be coming this November.

This article too is well worth looking at (especially the charts, which are really scary) regarding what everyone but the true believers on the Left are able to see: the recovery, especially when measured by employment, is sluggish at best (h/t: Powerline).

Huge increases in government spending have not helped; indeed, psychologically, they’ve probably hurt. The threat of large tax increases in the near future with the expiration of the Bush tax cuts (which, by the way, caused an immediate and continuing decline in the unemployment rate) is almost guaranteed to adversely impact unemployment for this year and next.

Unfortunately, the true believers are running the show in both the White House and the Congress at the moment. But, as Jennifer says, hope and change may be coming this November.

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Re: Barack Millstone Obama

Pete, you raise a key point about Evan Bayh’s departure: his status as a “centrist” makes the retirement a particularly troubling one for Democrats. There is ample reason to dispute that label, but until now he’s been able to claim the mantle of centrism and fiscal moderation. So his departure should set off a round of soul-searching by Democrats as to whether they’ve strayed too far to the Left, have become ideological purists, and are losing their appeal to the great middle of the political spectrum. Right?

Well that was the media’s endless storyline when a host of liberal-to-moderate Republicans, especially in the northeast, lost seats or defected to the Democratic party. Then we heard the cries that the GOP was “intolerant” or becoming a “fringe” party. But consider the retirees and many of the endangered Democratic incumbents (e.g., Bayh, Blanche Lincoln, Arlen Specter, Michael Bennet, Byron Dorgan). A Democratic Senate caucus without those names would be much smaller but also far more liberal in composition, at a time when the country is reasserting its basic Center-Right perspective. That seems like a recipe for more trouble, unless of course Democrats actually listen to the message being sent by voters. If they self-correct their course and moderate not only their rhetoric but also their voting records, they might save some seats and be better positioned after the election to restore the image of their party, shed the tax-and-spend and weak-on-national-security labels, and remain competitive for 2012.

To do that, however, they will have to battle the White House, which has been indifferent to the plight of its moderate congressional allies. For them, the departure of Bayh is one more lesson that the price of ideological extremism is a smaller and less viable party. But I don’t think they are listening yet. Maybe after November.

Pete, you raise a key point about Evan Bayh’s departure: his status as a “centrist” makes the retirement a particularly troubling one for Democrats. There is ample reason to dispute that label, but until now he’s been able to claim the mantle of centrism and fiscal moderation. So his departure should set off a round of soul-searching by Democrats as to whether they’ve strayed too far to the Left, have become ideological purists, and are losing their appeal to the great middle of the political spectrum. Right?

Well that was the media’s endless storyline when a host of liberal-to-moderate Republicans, especially in the northeast, lost seats or defected to the Democratic party. Then we heard the cries that the GOP was “intolerant” or becoming a “fringe” party. But consider the retirees and many of the endangered Democratic incumbents (e.g., Bayh, Blanche Lincoln, Arlen Specter, Michael Bennet, Byron Dorgan). A Democratic Senate caucus without those names would be much smaller but also far more liberal in composition, at a time when the country is reasserting its basic Center-Right perspective. That seems like a recipe for more trouble, unless of course Democrats actually listen to the message being sent by voters. If they self-correct their course and moderate not only their rhetoric but also their voting records, they might save some seats and be better positioned after the election to restore the image of their party, shed the tax-and-spend and weak-on-national-security labels, and remain competitive for 2012.

To do that, however, they will have to battle the White House, which has been indifferent to the plight of its moderate congressional allies. For them, the departure of Bayh is one more lesson that the price of ideological extremism is a smaller and less viable party. But I don’t think they are listening yet. Maybe after November.

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Barack Millstone Obama

The news that Democratic Senator Evan Bayh is retiring is another stunning blow for a Democratic party that is already reeling. This development — because of who Bayh is (perceived as a moderate/centrist); because of the state he represents (a traditionally Red one but won by Barack Obama in 2008); and because of his political situation (it was assumed he was in a comfortable position to win re-election) — will have significant ramifications. It will accelerate almost every bad trend for Democrats (more retirements, fewer entries into national races, more intra-party acrimony, and more panic).

The last time we saw a double-digit shift in Senate seats in a single election was when a former movie actor by the name of Ronald Reagan was elected president (Republicans won a dozen seats back in 1980). A shift of those dimensions in a non-presidential election year would be basically unheard of. But as Jen points out, a pickup of 10 GOP seats — and recontrol of the Senate — is no longer out of the question. America’s political tectonic plates are shifting in a fairly dramatic and rapid fashion; and the resulting dislocation will batter and crush many Democratic candidates, perhaps on a scale we have not witnessed before in our lifetime, at least in a midterm election.

Such an outcome can still be averted — but as many of us have been predicting for a while now, the news for Democrats is continuing to get worse rather than better. Evan Bayh’s retirement is a body blow for the president and his party. It will cause more than a few knees in the Obama White House to buckle. It is beginning to dawn on them just what awaits them.

Rep. Marion Berry, yet another retiring Democrat, gave an interview to the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette a few weeks ago in which he recounted meetings with White House officials, reminiscent of some during the Clinton years, where he and others urged them not to force Blue Dogs “off into that swamp” of supporting bills that would be unpopular with voters back home. “I’ve been doing that with this White House, and they just don’t seem to give it any credibility at all,” Berry said. “They just kept telling us how good it was going to be. The president himself, when that was brought up in one group, said, ‘Well, the big difference here and in ’94 was you’ve got me.’ We’re going to see how much difference that makes now.”

We shall indeed. The big difference between now and 1994 is that Democrats have Obama instead of Clinton as the head of their party. And that may turn out to be very bad news for Democrats. The Democratic party is in worse shape now than it was at a comparable period then. The mistrust of government runs deeper. The anti-incumbent tide is stronger. And the public uprising is greater.

The Clinton years — and Bill Clinton’s undeniable political gifts — are looking better and better to Democrats with every passing week.

Democrats indeed have got Obama, and they have Obama’s agenda as well. Could the political millstone be any heavier?

The news that Democratic Senator Evan Bayh is retiring is another stunning blow for a Democratic party that is already reeling. This development — because of who Bayh is (perceived as a moderate/centrist); because of the state he represents (a traditionally Red one but won by Barack Obama in 2008); and because of his political situation (it was assumed he was in a comfortable position to win re-election) — will have significant ramifications. It will accelerate almost every bad trend for Democrats (more retirements, fewer entries into national races, more intra-party acrimony, and more panic).

The last time we saw a double-digit shift in Senate seats in a single election was when a former movie actor by the name of Ronald Reagan was elected president (Republicans won a dozen seats back in 1980). A shift of those dimensions in a non-presidential election year would be basically unheard of. But as Jen points out, a pickup of 10 GOP seats — and recontrol of the Senate — is no longer out of the question. America’s political tectonic plates are shifting in a fairly dramatic and rapid fashion; and the resulting dislocation will batter and crush many Democratic candidates, perhaps on a scale we have not witnessed before in our lifetime, at least in a midterm election.

Such an outcome can still be averted — but as many of us have been predicting for a while now, the news for Democrats is continuing to get worse rather than better. Evan Bayh’s retirement is a body blow for the president and his party. It will cause more than a few knees in the Obama White House to buckle. It is beginning to dawn on them just what awaits them.

Rep. Marion Berry, yet another retiring Democrat, gave an interview to the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette a few weeks ago in which he recounted meetings with White House officials, reminiscent of some during the Clinton years, where he and others urged them not to force Blue Dogs “off into that swamp” of supporting bills that would be unpopular with voters back home. “I’ve been doing that with this White House, and they just don’t seem to give it any credibility at all,” Berry said. “They just kept telling us how good it was going to be. The president himself, when that was brought up in one group, said, ‘Well, the big difference here and in ’94 was you’ve got me.’ We’re going to see how much difference that makes now.”

We shall indeed. The big difference between now and 1994 is that Democrats have Obama instead of Clinton as the head of their party. And that may turn out to be very bad news for Democrats. The Democratic party is in worse shape now than it was at a comparable period then. The mistrust of government runs deeper. The anti-incumbent tide is stronger. And the public uprising is greater.

The Clinton years — and Bill Clinton’s undeniable political gifts — are looking better and better to Democrats with every passing week.

Democrats indeed have got Obama, and they have Obama’s agenda as well. Could the political millstone be any heavier?

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The Unemployment Crisis

Pundits are just beginning to realize the magnitude of the unemployment issue. Don Peck has an important story that explains:

The unemployment rate hit 10 percent in October, and there are good reasons to believe that by 2011, 2012, even 2014, it will have declined only a little. Late last year, the average duration of unemployment surpassed six months, the first time that has happened since 1948, when the Bureau of Labor Statistics began tracking that number. As of this writing, for every open job in the U.S., six people are actively looking for work. All of these figures understate the magnitude of the jobs crisis.

That’s because the underemployment rate is really 17.4 percent. As Peck notes, the long-term consequences are quite devastating. (“If it persists much longer, this era of high joblessness will likely change the life course and character of a generation of young adults—and quite possibly those of the children behind them as well.”) The root of the problem is not simply staving off job losses but also creating enough jobs to put the unemployed back into the job market. As Peck notes:

The economy now sits in a hole more than 10 million jobs deep—that’s the number required to get back to 5 percent unemployment, the rate we had before the recession started, and one that’s been more or less typical for a generation. And because the population is growing and new people are continually coming onto the job market, we need to produce roughly 1.5 million new jobs a year—about 125,000 a month—just to keep from sinking deeper.

For one thing, it will undermine the feminist critique of society. It is the men who will likely suffer the most, with high layoff rates in male-dominated industries. (“In November, 19.4 percent of all men in their prime working years, 25 to 54, did not have jobs, the highest figure since the Bureau of Labor Statistics began tracking the statistic in 1948. At the time of this writing, it looks possible that within the next few months, for the first time in U.S. history, women will hold a majority of the country’s jobs.”)

The longish piece is worth reading in full to get an inkling of the far-reaching economic and social fallout from long-term unemployment. But for that one need only look at Europe, which has seen the erosion of the work ethic, decreased level of growth and wealth creation, and a lack of optimism and social connection for young adults.

On a political level, the situation calls for a dynamic change of course and a jump-start for wealth creation and job growth. In the late 1970s, we faced a similar crisis of economic and political confidence. It took a new president and a new economic outlook — based on a rebirth of faith in the ability of market capitalism to generate prosperity. Lower taxes, reduced regulation, and free trade were the keys. Unfortunately, our current governing class seems to doubt the efficacy of free markets and persists in schemes to suck wealth out of the private sector. It is a recipe for prolonged pain. Voters may sense we need something new. Hope and change, I think.

Pundits are just beginning to realize the magnitude of the unemployment issue. Don Peck has an important story that explains:

The unemployment rate hit 10 percent in October, and there are good reasons to believe that by 2011, 2012, even 2014, it will have declined only a little. Late last year, the average duration of unemployment surpassed six months, the first time that has happened since 1948, when the Bureau of Labor Statistics began tracking that number. As of this writing, for every open job in the U.S., six people are actively looking for work. All of these figures understate the magnitude of the jobs crisis.

That’s because the underemployment rate is really 17.4 percent. As Peck notes, the long-term consequences are quite devastating. (“If it persists much longer, this era of high joblessness will likely change the life course and character of a generation of young adults—and quite possibly those of the children behind them as well.”) The root of the problem is not simply staving off job losses but also creating enough jobs to put the unemployed back into the job market. As Peck notes:

The economy now sits in a hole more than 10 million jobs deep—that’s the number required to get back to 5 percent unemployment, the rate we had before the recession started, and one that’s been more or less typical for a generation. And because the population is growing and new people are continually coming onto the job market, we need to produce roughly 1.5 million new jobs a year—about 125,000 a month—just to keep from sinking deeper.

For one thing, it will undermine the feminist critique of society. It is the men who will likely suffer the most, with high layoff rates in male-dominated industries. (“In November, 19.4 percent of all men in their prime working years, 25 to 54, did not have jobs, the highest figure since the Bureau of Labor Statistics began tracking the statistic in 1948. At the time of this writing, it looks possible that within the next few months, for the first time in U.S. history, women will hold a majority of the country’s jobs.”)

The longish piece is worth reading in full to get an inkling of the far-reaching economic and social fallout from long-term unemployment. But for that one need only look at Europe, which has seen the erosion of the work ethic, decreased level of growth and wealth creation, and a lack of optimism and social connection for young adults.

On a political level, the situation calls for a dynamic change of course and a jump-start for wealth creation and job growth. In the late 1970s, we faced a similar crisis of economic and political confidence. It took a new president and a new economic outlook — based on a rebirth of faith in the ability of market capitalism to generate prosperity. Lower taxes, reduced regulation, and free trade were the keys. Unfortunately, our current governing class seems to doubt the efficacy of free markets and persists in schemes to suck wealth out of the private sector. It is a recipe for prolonged pain. Voters may sense we need something new. Hope and change, I think.

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What?! Bayh Is Out

That is right. A day before the filing date for U.S. Senate candidates, Evan Bayh has announced that he won’t be running for re-election. The why is unclear. Did the polling really spook him? Or is there some missing story here that would account for why one of the best-funded Democrats would throw in the towel, leaving his party high and dry?

Hotline reports:

Sen. Evan Bayh’s (D-IN) decision to retire has sent Dems scrambling to figure out who will carry the party’s standard — and how to go about getting that person on the ballot in the first place. Candidates running for statewide office in IN have to collect 500 signatures from each of the state’s 9 districts. Those signatures are due by tomorrow. Once signatures are in, candidates have until Friday to officially file for office. Bayh could still file to run, then drop out. But if he does not file his signatures tomorrow, no other Dem is expected to collect the required 500 signatures by then, meaning Dems will get the chance to pick their own nominee.

So Democrats will then have to defend a seat with the handpicked choice of the party insiders — not a pleasant prospect in a year in which political machines are under assault. So put this seat in the endangered category for Democrats. Charlie Cook sums up: “With Indiana Democratic Sen. Evan Bayh’s decision not to seek a third term in November, the race moves to the Lean Republican column. While Democrats have not had the opportunity to assess their options, it is unlikely that they will be able to come up with a strong enough candidate to compete in a GOP-leaning state in the current political climate.”

As inexplicable as this seems on one level, it’s merely par for the course on another. In a year in which incumbents see their political careers going up in smoke, many are heading for the exits. (Bayh may run for governor, according to reports.) That, in turn, will further frighten those incumbents clinging to office and suggests that they, too, need to take evasive measures to prevent career-ending losses. Putting distance between the Obama agenda and their own voting records might help. But that is not always easy when the Democratic leadership is whipping up votes on more big-government power grabs.

The bottom line here is that we are fast approaching the point in which a Senate takeover by the GOP is not out of the question. Delaware, North Dakota, and now Indiana are likely goners. Nevada and Arkansas are imperiled. Colorado looks dicey, as do Pennsylvania and Illinois. (Cook rates these as “toss up” seats.) That’s eight right there. If Wisconsin, New York, California, and Washington become competitive, then look out. The Obama era may indeed prove to mark a titanic shift in the national political landscape.

Granted, it’s not exactly the one the Obami had in mind.

That is right. A day before the filing date for U.S. Senate candidates, Evan Bayh has announced that he won’t be running for re-election. The why is unclear. Did the polling really spook him? Or is there some missing story here that would account for why one of the best-funded Democrats would throw in the towel, leaving his party high and dry?

Hotline reports:

Sen. Evan Bayh’s (D-IN) decision to retire has sent Dems scrambling to figure out who will carry the party’s standard — and how to go about getting that person on the ballot in the first place. Candidates running for statewide office in IN have to collect 500 signatures from each of the state’s 9 districts. Those signatures are due by tomorrow. Once signatures are in, candidates have until Friday to officially file for office. Bayh could still file to run, then drop out. But if he does not file his signatures tomorrow, no other Dem is expected to collect the required 500 signatures by then, meaning Dems will get the chance to pick their own nominee.

So Democrats will then have to defend a seat with the handpicked choice of the party insiders — not a pleasant prospect in a year in which political machines are under assault. So put this seat in the endangered category for Democrats. Charlie Cook sums up: “With Indiana Democratic Sen. Evan Bayh’s decision not to seek a third term in November, the race moves to the Lean Republican column. While Democrats have not had the opportunity to assess their options, it is unlikely that they will be able to come up with a strong enough candidate to compete in a GOP-leaning state in the current political climate.”

As inexplicable as this seems on one level, it’s merely par for the course on another. In a year in which incumbents see their political careers going up in smoke, many are heading for the exits. (Bayh may run for governor, according to reports.) That, in turn, will further frighten those incumbents clinging to office and suggests that they, too, need to take evasive measures to prevent career-ending losses. Putting distance between the Obama agenda and their own voting records might help. But that is not always easy when the Democratic leadership is whipping up votes on more big-government power grabs.

The bottom line here is that we are fast approaching the point in which a Senate takeover by the GOP is not out of the question. Delaware, North Dakota, and now Indiana are likely goners. Nevada and Arkansas are imperiled. Colorado looks dicey, as do Pennsylvania and Illinois. (Cook rates these as “toss up” seats.) That’s eight right there. If Wisconsin, New York, California, and Washington become competitive, then look out. The Obama era may indeed prove to mark a titanic shift in the national political landscape.

Granted, it’s not exactly the one the Obami had in mind.

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O Death Penalty, Where Is Thy Sting?

The New York Times reports this morning that an inmate on Arizona’s death row has died. He was under sentence of execution for a murder he committed in 1982. That’s 28 years ago. Viva Leroy Nash was 68 when he committed his last murder. He was 94 when he died of natural causes.

If ever there was an illustration that something is profoundly wrong with how capital punishment is handled in this country, this is it. Convicted in 1983, the Supreme Court of Arizona upheld his conviction in 1985. But appeal after appeal after appeal to state and federal courts kept the case — and Viva Leroy Nash — alive for a quarter of a century.

The point of capital punishment, of course, is not only to punish the offender but also to deter others from committing the same crime with a force that a jail sentence, however long, cannot match. But if execution is not to come until a point well after the criminal’s normal life expectancy, how does it deter?

It wasn’t always this way. On February 15, 1933, a man named Giuseppe Zangara tried to assassinate president-elect Franklin Roosevelt in Miami. He missed Roosevelt but hit Anton Cermak, the mayor of Chicago, who was shaking hands with Roosevelt at the time. Zangara pleaded guilty to attempted murder and was sentenced to 80 years. But when Cermak died of his wounds two weeks later, Zangara was tried for murder, convicted, sentenced to death, and executed on March 20, 33 days — not years — after the crime.

If we are to have the death penalty in this country, the system needs to be thoroughly reformed to prevent the gaming of it that has rendered the system absurd. A big part of the problem here, of course, is the duel sovereignty of the states and the federal government. Appeals bounce back and forth between the two justice systems with agonizing slowness. Perhaps there should be special courts to handle only death-penalty cases and appeals, with both the federal and state appeals being pursued simultaneously, and strict time limits for all but evidentiary reasons. A requirement that first-rate lawyers be assigned the defendant, not the usual courthouse hangers-on, and a standard of beyond any doubt instead of mere reasonable doubt would go a long way to ensure that only the truly guilty were executed.

I’m not an eye-for-an-eye-tooth-for-a-tooth sort of guy, but I think that it is possible for a person in possession of his faculties to commit a crime of such enormity as to justify the forfeit of his life. Hitler, after all, was not crazy. Would anyone have objected to his being hanged with the other Nazis at Nuremberg? Norway abolished the death penalty in the early 1920s, but the Norwegian government in exile re-established it in 1942, and after the war the government tried and executed 37 collaborators for treason and war crimes, including Vidkun Quisling, whose name entered many languages as a synonym for traitor. Quisling became a word that, in Churchill’s phrase, “will carry the scorn of mankind down the centuries.” Having seen justice done, the Norwegian parliament then once again abolished the death penalty.

It seems to me this country should either abolish the death penalty or reform the system to make it effective.

The New York Times reports this morning that an inmate on Arizona’s death row has died. He was under sentence of execution for a murder he committed in 1982. That’s 28 years ago. Viva Leroy Nash was 68 when he committed his last murder. He was 94 when he died of natural causes.

If ever there was an illustration that something is profoundly wrong with how capital punishment is handled in this country, this is it. Convicted in 1983, the Supreme Court of Arizona upheld his conviction in 1985. But appeal after appeal after appeal to state and federal courts kept the case — and Viva Leroy Nash — alive for a quarter of a century.

The point of capital punishment, of course, is not only to punish the offender but also to deter others from committing the same crime with a force that a jail sentence, however long, cannot match. But if execution is not to come until a point well after the criminal’s normal life expectancy, how does it deter?

It wasn’t always this way. On February 15, 1933, a man named Giuseppe Zangara tried to assassinate president-elect Franklin Roosevelt in Miami. He missed Roosevelt but hit Anton Cermak, the mayor of Chicago, who was shaking hands with Roosevelt at the time. Zangara pleaded guilty to attempted murder and was sentenced to 80 years. But when Cermak died of his wounds two weeks later, Zangara was tried for murder, convicted, sentenced to death, and executed on March 20, 33 days — not years — after the crime.

If we are to have the death penalty in this country, the system needs to be thoroughly reformed to prevent the gaming of it that has rendered the system absurd. A big part of the problem here, of course, is the duel sovereignty of the states and the federal government. Appeals bounce back and forth between the two justice systems with agonizing slowness. Perhaps there should be special courts to handle only death-penalty cases and appeals, with both the federal and state appeals being pursued simultaneously, and strict time limits for all but evidentiary reasons. A requirement that first-rate lawyers be assigned the defendant, not the usual courthouse hangers-on, and a standard of beyond any doubt instead of mere reasonable doubt would go a long way to ensure that only the truly guilty were executed.

I’m not an eye-for-an-eye-tooth-for-a-tooth sort of guy, but I think that it is possible for a person in possession of his faculties to commit a crime of such enormity as to justify the forfeit of his life. Hitler, after all, was not crazy. Would anyone have objected to his being hanged with the other Nazis at Nuremberg? Norway abolished the death penalty in the early 1920s, but the Norwegian government in exile re-established it in 1942, and after the war the government tried and executed 37 collaborators for treason and war crimes, including Vidkun Quisling, whose name entered many languages as a synonym for traitor. Quisling became a word that, in Churchill’s phrase, “will carry the scorn of mankind down the centuries.” Having seen justice done, the Norwegian parliament then once again abolished the death penalty.

It seems to me this country should either abolish the death penalty or reform the system to make it effective.

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Holder’s Just a Political Dunce, You See

As the Obama anti-terrorism approach unwinds and the handiwork of Eric Holder has proved to be politically untenable and substantively unworkable, there is certainly reason to think Eric Holder’s days are numbered. His decisions are the subject of bipartisan criticism, and White House aides are scrambling to separate themselves from the KSM and other ill-fated decisions, making clear they had nothing to do with these calls.

Along comes a report from the New York Times that confirms the degree to which Holder has become a liability. (“Mr. Emanuel and others also worried that political fights over national security issues could hamper progress on the administration’s fundamental goals, like overhauling health care, and seemed to lack confidence in Mr. Holder as an administration spokesman on the volatile issue of terrorism detainees.”) It is so bad, and his performance so tone-deaf, that the White House now insists that they “proposed installing a minder alongside Mr. Holder to prevent further gaffes — someone with better ‘political antennae,’ as one administration official put it.” The report explains:

Now Mr. Holder has switched from resisting what he had considered encroachment by White House political officials to seeking their guidance. Two weeks ago, he met with advisers there to discuss how to unite against common foes. They agreed to allow Mr. Holder, who has not appeared on a Sunday talk show since entering office, to speak out more; he agreed to let them help hone his message.

The political attacks over terrorism cases were “starting to constrain my ability to function as attorney general,” he said in an interview last week. “I have to do a better job in explaining the decisions that I have made,” Mr. Holder also said, adding, “I have to be more forceful in advocating for why I believe these are trials that should be held on the civilian side.”

All of this is a bit disingenuous, if not downright silly. Holder is painted as such a by-the-book and “on the merits” lawyer that, by gosh, he just didn’t get the politics right. But in fact, his legal defense of Obama policies has been slipshod and the underlying decisions have been deeply flawed and ill-conceived. But I suppose it sounds better to say he’s just a political neophyte than to say he’s a sloppy lawyer or that his decision-making is in thrall to a far-Left agenda (which neatly coincides with the views of lawyers with whom he’s surrounded himself who used to be on the other side, representing terrorists).

Moreover, it is strange indeed for the White House to be bragging about its political handling of  the attorney general. What happened to the “Look, no hands!” denials of political interference and the pledges that Holder was to depoliticize the Department of Justice? Now they not only concede but take pride in bossing around the attorney general, who after all was carrying out the president’s own wishes to adopt a criminal-justice model for fighting terrorism.

In between the self-serving spin and the modified, limited hangout (i.e., Holder is a political dolt but we’re keeping him anyway) is a telling concession that none of the not-Bush terror policies are working out as planned. Perhaps rather than try to excuse the attorney general’s performance they should can him and start over with policies that have broad support and make sense in fighting Islamic fundamentalists. Now there’s an idea.

As the Obama anti-terrorism approach unwinds and the handiwork of Eric Holder has proved to be politically untenable and substantively unworkable, there is certainly reason to think Eric Holder’s days are numbered. His decisions are the subject of bipartisan criticism, and White House aides are scrambling to separate themselves from the KSM and other ill-fated decisions, making clear they had nothing to do with these calls.

Along comes a report from the New York Times that confirms the degree to which Holder has become a liability. (“Mr. Emanuel and others also worried that political fights over national security issues could hamper progress on the administration’s fundamental goals, like overhauling health care, and seemed to lack confidence in Mr. Holder as an administration spokesman on the volatile issue of terrorism detainees.”) It is so bad, and his performance so tone-deaf, that the White House now insists that they “proposed installing a minder alongside Mr. Holder to prevent further gaffes — someone with better ‘political antennae,’ as one administration official put it.” The report explains:

Now Mr. Holder has switched from resisting what he had considered encroachment by White House political officials to seeking their guidance. Two weeks ago, he met with advisers there to discuss how to unite against common foes. They agreed to allow Mr. Holder, who has not appeared on a Sunday talk show since entering office, to speak out more; he agreed to let them help hone his message.

The political attacks over terrorism cases were “starting to constrain my ability to function as attorney general,” he said in an interview last week. “I have to do a better job in explaining the decisions that I have made,” Mr. Holder also said, adding, “I have to be more forceful in advocating for why I believe these are trials that should be held on the civilian side.”

All of this is a bit disingenuous, if not downright silly. Holder is painted as such a by-the-book and “on the merits” lawyer that, by gosh, he just didn’t get the politics right. But in fact, his legal defense of Obama policies has been slipshod and the underlying decisions have been deeply flawed and ill-conceived. But I suppose it sounds better to say he’s just a political neophyte than to say he’s a sloppy lawyer or that his decision-making is in thrall to a far-Left agenda (which neatly coincides with the views of lawyers with whom he’s surrounded himself who used to be on the other side, representing terrorists).

Moreover, it is strange indeed for the White House to be bragging about its political handling of  the attorney general. What happened to the “Look, no hands!” denials of political interference and the pledges that Holder was to depoliticize the Department of Justice? Now they not only concede but take pride in bossing around the attorney general, who after all was carrying out the president’s own wishes to adopt a criminal-justice model for fighting terrorism.

In between the self-serving spin and the modified, limited hangout (i.e., Holder is a political dolt but we’re keeping him anyway) is a telling concession that none of the not-Bush terror policies are working out as planned. Perhaps rather than try to excuse the attorney general’s performance they should can him and start over with policies that have broad support and make sense in fighting Islamic fundamentalists. Now there’s an idea.

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Crowley vs. Jones — No Contest

On what is quickly becoming the most interesting Sunday interview program, CNN’s State of the Union, Candy Crowley (who last week tied Hillary Clinton up on the same topic) lured NSA chief James Jones into a corner regarding the administration’s policy on Iran (or lack thereof), from which he never escaped. The sequence on Iran should be read in full to appreciate just how pathetic was Jones’s performance:

CROWLEY: Let me ask you about Iran. The president said recently the door is still open toward negotiations. I believe you made a similar statement in December. Why is the door still open? We have spent a year with overtures to Iran. The last time we heard, they were still moving towards nuclear armed capabilities. Why in the world would the door still be open?

JONES: Well, the best solution is that Iran would in fact see the offer that’s on the table for what it is, that is supported by much of the world community, and that it gives them a chance to show their peaceful intent with the regard to the use of nuclear power.

It is puzzling, to say the least, as to why they have not accepted this offer. I know that Iran is going through some difficult times internally. We know that the world is moving towards the next set of persuasive powers to show them the error of their ways in the form of sanctions, and — but the right thing to do is to hope that Iran will, in fact, agree.

CROWLEY: But they haven’t.

JONES: They haven’t.

CROWLEY: Right. They haven’t done it. Is China on board, is Russia on board right now?

JONES: We have extremely good overall support in Europe, in the Middle East.

CROWLEY: China?

JONES: And with the Russian — with the Russians. And China is obviously is a rising power and a power with global influence. Has been extremely good with us in terms of North Korea in terms of sanctions. This is a–

CROWLEY: But not on board there.

JONES: — same kind of issue, it’s proliferation, and I would have to think that as a responsible world power, that China will see — apply the same standards on proliferation in the Middle East–

CROWLEY: But they are not there yet on Iran?

JONES: But we are working with them.

Is he serious? He is puzzled, he says, as to why Iran has not leapt at our offer to give up its nukes and forgo the shot at regional hegemony. We don’t have China or Russia on board, although we were promised that they would be if we spent a year engaging the mullahs, who, to the Obami’s apparent surprise, don’t want to be engaged. All Jones can lamely offer is that we are moving toward sanctions. When? Of what sort? He doesn’t say.

It is not a performance that inspires any confidence that the Obami have figured out the folly of engagement. There is no inkling, no hint of understanding, that the problem here is the nature of the Iranian regime or that our energies and those sanctions, when and if they ever come, should be directed not to lure the Iranians back to the table for more tomfoolery but rather toward toppling the despotic regime. There is no puzzle here. Nor is there any doubt that the Obama Iran policy is neither smart nor realistic. It is, however, quite dangerous. The mullahs listen, take our measure, and move ahead with their nuclear program.

On what is quickly becoming the most interesting Sunday interview program, CNN’s State of the Union, Candy Crowley (who last week tied Hillary Clinton up on the same topic) lured NSA chief James Jones into a corner regarding the administration’s policy on Iran (or lack thereof), from which he never escaped. The sequence on Iran should be read in full to appreciate just how pathetic was Jones’s performance:

CROWLEY: Let me ask you about Iran. The president said recently the door is still open toward negotiations. I believe you made a similar statement in December. Why is the door still open? We have spent a year with overtures to Iran. The last time we heard, they were still moving towards nuclear armed capabilities. Why in the world would the door still be open?

JONES: Well, the best solution is that Iran would in fact see the offer that’s on the table for what it is, that is supported by much of the world community, and that it gives them a chance to show their peaceful intent with the regard to the use of nuclear power.

It is puzzling, to say the least, as to why they have not accepted this offer. I know that Iran is going through some difficult times internally. We know that the world is moving towards the next set of persuasive powers to show them the error of their ways in the form of sanctions, and — but the right thing to do is to hope that Iran will, in fact, agree.

CROWLEY: But they haven’t.

JONES: They haven’t.

CROWLEY: Right. They haven’t done it. Is China on board, is Russia on board right now?

JONES: We have extremely good overall support in Europe, in the Middle East.

CROWLEY: China?

JONES: And with the Russian — with the Russians. And China is obviously is a rising power and a power with global influence. Has been extremely good with us in terms of North Korea in terms of sanctions. This is a–

CROWLEY: But not on board there.

JONES: — same kind of issue, it’s proliferation, and I would have to think that as a responsible world power, that China will see — apply the same standards on proliferation in the Middle East–

CROWLEY: But they are not there yet on Iran?

JONES: But we are working with them.

Is he serious? He is puzzled, he says, as to why Iran has not leapt at our offer to give up its nukes and forgo the shot at regional hegemony. We don’t have China or Russia on board, although we were promised that they would be if we spent a year engaging the mullahs, who, to the Obami’s apparent surprise, don’t want to be engaged. All Jones can lamely offer is that we are moving toward sanctions. When? Of what sort? He doesn’t say.

It is not a performance that inspires any confidence that the Obami have figured out the folly of engagement. There is no inkling, no hint of understanding, that the problem here is the nature of the Iranian regime or that our energies and those sanctions, when and if they ever come, should be directed not to lure the Iranians back to the table for more tomfoolery but rather toward toppling the despotic regime. There is no puzzle here. Nor is there any doubt that the Obama Iran policy is neither smart nor realistic. It is, however, quite dangerous. The mullahs listen, take our measure, and move ahead with their nuclear program.

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What if They Got Away?

Eli Lake reports:

U.S. and allied counterterrorism authorities have launched a global manhunt for English-speaking terrorists trained in Yemen who are planning attacks on the United States, based on intelligence provided by the suspect in the attempted Christmas Day bombing after he began cooperating. . .

Said one official: “It’s safe to say that Abdulmutallab is not the only bullet in the chamber for al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula,” the Islamist terrorist group based in Yemen.

“Farouk took a month to get operational. Once he left [training in Yemen], it did not take very long,” the official said.

So in the five weeks of silence, did the other English-speaking terrorists go into hiding? Are the leads still good? We don’t know, but it is precisely this concern and the danger of leads gone cold that strike at the core of the Obami’s approach. They are concerned about extending constitutional principles to terrorists (and gaining convictions); they should have been focused like a laser on getting all the actionable data as soon as possible to prevent future attacks. Now it seems as though we are scrambling to catch up — and the Obami are trying to prepare us in the event we can’t catch up:

The data about the additional terrorist plots is thought to be one factor behind alarming congressional testimony two weeks ago from senior U.S. intelligence officials, including Director of National Intelligence Dennis C. Blair.

Mr. Blair said he was “certain” that it was al-Qaeda’s priority to attempt an attack on the United States within three to six months.

The increased threat of terrorism emanating from Yemen was outlined in a majority staff report by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee made public last month. The report warned that U.S. criminals were migrating to Yemen for terrorist training.

A smart national security observer makes an additional point: “Enhanced interrogation is something also envisioned by Obama and it need not be torture. The HIG–high value interrogation group–was chartered for this kind of non torture/enhanced interrogation. It was not set up. So getting to him need not have meant waterboarding.” Conservatives would dispute whether waterboarding is torture, but the point is correct: even under the Obami’s own interrogation rules, it is hard to condone this missed opportunity.

So the question comes down to this: what if in the five weeks of the Christmas Day bomber’s Mirandized silence other terrorists got away? And if the unimaginable happens and one of these should strike, what then? Even the potential for such a calamity should convince all but the most hardened Obama sycophants that we are in danger now, greater danger than we would otherwise be, had the search for mass-murders-in-training begun weeks earlier.

There is no excuse for such malfeasance. Those officials who came up with this cockeyed scheme and have now put Americans in greater danger should be sacked. And the American people, once the full account comes out, may well conclude that this includes Obama. He is commander in chief after all.

Eli Lake reports:

U.S. and allied counterterrorism authorities have launched a global manhunt for English-speaking terrorists trained in Yemen who are planning attacks on the United States, based on intelligence provided by the suspect in the attempted Christmas Day bombing after he began cooperating. . .

Said one official: “It’s safe to say that Abdulmutallab is not the only bullet in the chamber for al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula,” the Islamist terrorist group based in Yemen.

“Farouk took a month to get operational. Once he left [training in Yemen], it did not take very long,” the official said.

So in the five weeks of silence, did the other English-speaking terrorists go into hiding? Are the leads still good? We don’t know, but it is precisely this concern and the danger of leads gone cold that strike at the core of the Obami’s approach. They are concerned about extending constitutional principles to terrorists (and gaining convictions); they should have been focused like a laser on getting all the actionable data as soon as possible to prevent future attacks. Now it seems as though we are scrambling to catch up — and the Obami are trying to prepare us in the event we can’t catch up:

The data about the additional terrorist plots is thought to be one factor behind alarming congressional testimony two weeks ago from senior U.S. intelligence officials, including Director of National Intelligence Dennis C. Blair.

Mr. Blair said he was “certain” that it was al-Qaeda’s priority to attempt an attack on the United States within three to six months.

The increased threat of terrorism emanating from Yemen was outlined in a majority staff report by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee made public last month. The report warned that U.S. criminals were migrating to Yemen for terrorist training.

A smart national security observer makes an additional point: “Enhanced interrogation is something also envisioned by Obama and it need not be torture. The HIG–high value interrogation group–was chartered for this kind of non torture/enhanced interrogation. It was not set up. So getting to him need not have meant waterboarding.” Conservatives would dispute whether waterboarding is torture, but the point is correct: even under the Obami’s own interrogation rules, it is hard to condone this missed opportunity.

So the question comes down to this: what if in the five weeks of the Christmas Day bomber’s Mirandized silence other terrorists got away? And if the unimaginable happens and one of these should strike, what then? Even the potential for such a calamity should convince all but the most hardened Obama sycophants that we are in danger now, greater danger than we would otherwise be, had the search for mass-murders-in-training begun weeks earlier.

There is no excuse for such malfeasance. Those officials who came up with this cockeyed scheme and have now put Americans in greater danger should be sacked. And the American people, once the full account comes out, may well conclude that this includes Obama. He is commander in chief after all.

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The Rubes Have Figured It Out

Larry Kudlow explains why the Democrats’ supposed pro-jobs policies aren’t remotely designed to help foster private-sector hiring:

The so-called $85 billion jobs program is not a jobs program at all. It is a spending bill. Temporary tax credits to hire new workers have virtually no permanent job-creating effect. In budget terms, these kinds of temporary tax credits are scored as tax expenditures — i.e., spending. Only a permanent reduction in the marginal business tax rate has the incentive effect for long-run job creation. Reducing the business tax rate makes firms more profitable after-tax. And it gives them more cash flow. Those incentives will work to expand investment and jobs.

Then there is “the worst idea of all” — increasing the tax on capital and the top marginal rates. At the very time we should be making investment, hiring, and wealth creation more attractive, the Obami are doing the opposite. As Kudlow explains: “That’s why the capital-gains tax must not be increased. Plus, raising the top two income tax brackets from 33 percent to 35 percent, and then from 35 percent to 40 percent, thereby penalizing those who own about half of the small-business income, is a job-destroyer.” Kudlow doesn’t think much of the Republicans’ efforts to encourage this approach. He argues that they shouldn’t be dickering with a maze of tax credits. Instead, he contends:

This is a moment for the GOP to send a message that it is the party of growth through across-the-board reductions in marginal tax rates — for everyone. That includes large and small businesses, along with all individuals and families. All producers and investors should get lower tax rates. At a bare minimum, Republicans should be fighting hard to extend the George W. Bush tax cuts on the way to a longer-term goal of low-rate, flat-tax reform.

There is a group of people that grasps this free-market principle and has little patience with those in Washington who fail to understand just where it is that all the jobs come from. As Kudlow points out, it is the tea-party protesters. Yes, it seems as though the rubes, whom the media sophisticates  have derided as know-nothings, actually have a solid understanding of market economics. They understand that taking more of what individuals and businesses earn leaves less for investment and new hiring. They understand that corporate taxes need to be lowered, not hiked, in order to attract investment here in the United States. Kudlow calls this “traditional, commonsense, center-right free enterprise, which basically says to the government, ‘Please, let me keep more of what I earn and, please, just leave me alone.’” So far at least that message hasn’t permeated the Beltway bubble. Maybe in November it will.

Larry Kudlow explains why the Democrats’ supposed pro-jobs policies aren’t remotely designed to help foster private-sector hiring:

The so-called $85 billion jobs program is not a jobs program at all. It is a spending bill. Temporary tax credits to hire new workers have virtually no permanent job-creating effect. In budget terms, these kinds of temporary tax credits are scored as tax expenditures — i.e., spending. Only a permanent reduction in the marginal business tax rate has the incentive effect for long-run job creation. Reducing the business tax rate makes firms more profitable after-tax. And it gives them more cash flow. Those incentives will work to expand investment and jobs.

Then there is “the worst idea of all” — increasing the tax on capital and the top marginal rates. At the very time we should be making investment, hiring, and wealth creation more attractive, the Obami are doing the opposite. As Kudlow explains: “That’s why the capital-gains tax must not be increased. Plus, raising the top two income tax brackets from 33 percent to 35 percent, and then from 35 percent to 40 percent, thereby penalizing those who own about half of the small-business income, is a job-destroyer.” Kudlow doesn’t think much of the Republicans’ efforts to encourage this approach. He argues that they shouldn’t be dickering with a maze of tax credits. Instead, he contends:

This is a moment for the GOP to send a message that it is the party of growth through across-the-board reductions in marginal tax rates — for everyone. That includes large and small businesses, along with all individuals and families. All producers and investors should get lower tax rates. At a bare minimum, Republicans should be fighting hard to extend the George W. Bush tax cuts on the way to a longer-term goal of low-rate, flat-tax reform.

There is a group of people that grasps this free-market principle and has little patience with those in Washington who fail to understand just where it is that all the jobs come from. As Kudlow points out, it is the tea-party protesters. Yes, it seems as though the rubes, whom the media sophisticates  have derided as know-nothings, actually have a solid understanding of market economics. They understand that taking more of what individuals and businesses earn leaves less for investment and new hiring. They understand that corporate taxes need to be lowered, not hiked, in order to attract investment here in the United States. Kudlow calls this “traditional, commonsense, center-right free enterprise, which basically says to the government, ‘Please, let me keep more of what I earn and, please, just leave me alone.’” So far at least that message hasn’t permeated the Beltway bubble. Maybe in November it will.

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David Brooks Doesn’t Buy It Either

This was the reaction to Joe Biden’s defense of the Obami anti-terrorism approach on the Sunday talk shows:

The KSM trial has become a total mess. What Joe Biden said today on the program doesn’t pass the laugh test. The idea that we’re going to try a guy, not acquit him, apparently, if, beforehand, are we going to make Dick Cheney the foreman of the jury? I mean, how do we know that? …  And then the second thing I think Cheney’s actually right about is Mirandizing. We, if we–say we’d captured the 9/11 guys on September 10th, or one of them, should we have read that guy his rights and given him a lawyer? No. We should have tried to get some intelligence out of the guy.

Cliff May? Andy McCarthy? Nope. David Brooks. And yes, when the Obami can’t even pass the “laugh test” with a moderate, sympathetic pundit who vouched for Candidate Obama and has dutifully reported the Obama’s best arguments, then you know the gig is about up. And Brooks didn’t stop there:

Eric Holder, the attorney general, took this decision without consulting the president, without consulting the national security apparatus, did it on his own. And slowly, and now quickly, the White House is pulling that back. And so they are going to try to, I think, take–well, take it out of New York. But they’re not there yet. The idea that we can try someone and, and guarantee a conviction and guarantee they won’t walk free, I mean, this, this is a betrayal of our values. I mean, what–the, the correct charges against Gitmo were that it’s a betrayal of our values. We’re fighting our values in a way that–we’re fighting this war in a way that betrays who we really are. And this is the essence of that. What Joe Biden said on the program today will be laughed at around the Arab world.

If Brooks can spot the not-Bush anti-terrorism policy collapsing in on itself, then Biden’s full-court press on the Sunday talk shows was all the more troubling. No one inside the White House can grasp how implausible the spin is? No one sees that a walk-back will be required — and be all the more embarrassing when preceded by another round of “how dare Dick Cheney say those awful things about us”?

Each day spent trying to beat back bipartisan opposition to their not Bush policies is a lost one for the White House, confirming that they are isolated, out of touch with our values (yes, irony alert), and not yet serious about fighting enemies who regard our foolishness as weakness. The president has not distinguished himself by decisiveness, but that’s certainly what he could use: a swift and decisive break from a year-long experience in reviving a failed criminal-justice model. The longer this goes on, the more of a mess it becomes and the harder it will be to unwind the self-inflicted damage (both from an intelligence and a political standpoint). So far, however, there is no a clear signal that Obama recognizes that such a firm, emphatic course change is required. He and the country will be the worse for it.

This was the reaction to Joe Biden’s defense of the Obami anti-terrorism approach on the Sunday talk shows:

The KSM trial has become a total mess. What Joe Biden said today on the program doesn’t pass the laugh test. The idea that we’re going to try a guy, not acquit him, apparently, if, beforehand, are we going to make Dick Cheney the foreman of the jury? I mean, how do we know that? …  And then the second thing I think Cheney’s actually right about is Mirandizing. We, if we–say we’d captured the 9/11 guys on September 10th, or one of them, should we have read that guy his rights and given him a lawyer? No. We should have tried to get some intelligence out of the guy.

Cliff May? Andy McCarthy? Nope. David Brooks. And yes, when the Obami can’t even pass the “laugh test” with a moderate, sympathetic pundit who vouched for Candidate Obama and has dutifully reported the Obama’s best arguments, then you know the gig is about up. And Brooks didn’t stop there:

Eric Holder, the attorney general, took this decision without consulting the president, without consulting the national security apparatus, did it on his own. And slowly, and now quickly, the White House is pulling that back. And so they are going to try to, I think, take–well, take it out of New York. But they’re not there yet. The idea that we can try someone and, and guarantee a conviction and guarantee they won’t walk free, I mean, this, this is a betrayal of our values. I mean, what–the, the correct charges against Gitmo were that it’s a betrayal of our values. We’re fighting our values in a way that–we’re fighting this war in a way that betrays who we really are. And this is the essence of that. What Joe Biden said on the program today will be laughed at around the Arab world.

If Brooks can spot the not-Bush anti-terrorism policy collapsing in on itself, then Biden’s full-court press on the Sunday talk shows was all the more troubling. No one inside the White House can grasp how implausible the spin is? No one sees that a walk-back will be required — and be all the more embarrassing when preceded by another round of “how dare Dick Cheney say those awful things about us”?

Each day spent trying to beat back bipartisan opposition to their not Bush policies is a lost one for the White House, confirming that they are isolated, out of touch with our values (yes, irony alert), and not yet serious about fighting enemies who regard our foolishness as weakness. The president has not distinguished himself by decisiveness, but that’s certainly what he could use: a swift and decisive break from a year-long experience in reviving a failed criminal-justice model. The longer this goes on, the more of a mess it becomes and the harder it will be to unwind the self-inflicted damage (both from an intelligence and a political standpoint). So far, however, there is no a clear signal that Obama recognizes that such a firm, emphatic course change is required. He and the country will be the worse for it.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Joe Biden (not really): “So there I was on the Amtrak, and I was thinking Dick Cheney, God love him, my friend Dick Cheney, he is probably worse than Pol Pot. It was because Democrats opposed the surge that the surge worked. If we had gotten behind the winning strategy, the enemy would have known it was too soft. We needed to oppose it in order for it to succeed.”

The real Joe Biden now says he is happy to thank George W. Bush on Iraq policy. Yes, good thing indeed that Bush was wise enough to ignore everything Biden ever said on the subject.

The real Dick Cheney on the Obami’s claiming credit for Iraq: “If they are going to take credit for [Iraq], fair enough, for what they’ve done while they are there. But it ought to go with a healthy dose of ‘thank you George Bush’ up front.” Then he plays Darth Vader mind games with them — praising the surge in Afghanistan and the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.

The real Liz Cheney asks, “Bipartisanship to what end?” As she notes, there should be little to praise in “bipartisanship” if the goal is to pass a health-care bill that everyone hates. Ceci Connolly notes that what is interesting is the “bad blood” between the White House and Democratic congressional leaders, as well as between the House and Senate. Bill Kristol remarks that the Obami “can’t resist” making partisan digs. And to prove their point, Juan William says Dick Cheney is helping al-Qaeda by criticizing the Obami’s handling of the war against Islamic fascists.

The unfortunately all too real antics of the Congressional Black Caucus: “From 2004 to 2008, the Congressional Black Caucus’s political and charitable wings took in at least $55 million in corporate and union contributions, according to an analysis by the New York Times, an impressive amount even by the standards of a Washington awash in cash. Only $1 million of that went to the caucus’s political action committee; the rest poured into the largely unregulated nonprofit network. . . . But the bulk of the money has been spent on elaborate conventions that have become a high point of the Washington social season, as well as the headquarters building, golf outings by members of Congress and an annual visit to a Mississippi casino resort.” Among the CBC’s pals: “cigarette companies, Internet poker operators, beer brewers and the rent-to-own industry, which has become a particular focus of consumer advocates for its practice of charging high monthly fees for appliances, televisions and computers.”

Flynt Leverett, who was canned by the Bush administration (“Leverett continually missed deadlines and misplaced documents, and the NSC Records office had a long list of his delinquencies. His office was notoriously messy—documents were strewn over chairs, windowsills, the floor, and piled high on his desk … repeatedly missing deadlines and losing important letters was simply not tolerable behavior for an NSC officer, and Leverett was told to leave”), has now become the favorite flack for the mullahs. “The curious dance between Washington’s Iran experts and the foreign government whose actions they are supposedly analyzing has parallels in the ways that totalitarian governments like the Soviet Union and Mao’s China manipulated Western public opinion by only granting access to scholars and policy hands who would toe the party line. Similarly, the Iranian government today decides who in the West will be granted the kind of access that will allow them to speak with authority about the regime to Washington.” (h/t Jeffrey Goldberg)

James Carafano says that he is not surprised that “there would be more killing of high level terrorists than capture for interrogation and trial. That’s because the administration has botched efforts to come up with a coherent program for detention, interrogation, and trial.”

Matt Welch confirms my suspicion that libertarians have principles inconsistent with big-government liberals: “What I do care about, regardless of who’s president, is human freedom and prosperity. And I strongly and consistently suspect that when the government accumulates more power, I and everyone else (except those wielding it) have less of which I seek.” That said, if Republicans gain power and continue the spending jag, libertarians will turn their ire on them too.

Joe Biden (not really): “So there I was on the Amtrak, and I was thinking Dick Cheney, God love him, my friend Dick Cheney, he is probably worse than Pol Pot. It was because Democrats opposed the surge that the surge worked. If we had gotten behind the winning strategy, the enemy would have known it was too soft. We needed to oppose it in order for it to succeed.”

The real Joe Biden now says he is happy to thank George W. Bush on Iraq policy. Yes, good thing indeed that Bush was wise enough to ignore everything Biden ever said on the subject.

The real Dick Cheney on the Obami’s claiming credit for Iraq: “If they are going to take credit for [Iraq], fair enough, for what they’ve done while they are there. But it ought to go with a healthy dose of ‘thank you George Bush’ up front.” Then he plays Darth Vader mind games with them — praising the surge in Afghanistan and the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.

The real Liz Cheney asks, “Bipartisanship to what end?” As she notes, there should be little to praise in “bipartisanship” if the goal is to pass a health-care bill that everyone hates. Ceci Connolly notes that what is interesting is the “bad blood” between the White House and Democratic congressional leaders, as well as between the House and Senate. Bill Kristol remarks that the Obami “can’t resist” making partisan digs. And to prove their point, Juan William says Dick Cheney is helping al-Qaeda by criticizing the Obami’s handling of the war against Islamic fascists.

The unfortunately all too real antics of the Congressional Black Caucus: “From 2004 to 2008, the Congressional Black Caucus’s political and charitable wings took in at least $55 million in corporate and union contributions, according to an analysis by the New York Times, an impressive amount even by the standards of a Washington awash in cash. Only $1 million of that went to the caucus’s political action committee; the rest poured into the largely unregulated nonprofit network. . . . But the bulk of the money has been spent on elaborate conventions that have become a high point of the Washington social season, as well as the headquarters building, golf outings by members of Congress and an annual visit to a Mississippi casino resort.” Among the CBC’s pals: “cigarette companies, Internet poker operators, beer brewers and the rent-to-own industry, which has become a particular focus of consumer advocates for its practice of charging high monthly fees for appliances, televisions and computers.”

Flynt Leverett, who was canned by the Bush administration (“Leverett continually missed deadlines and misplaced documents, and the NSC Records office had a long list of his delinquencies. His office was notoriously messy—documents were strewn over chairs, windowsills, the floor, and piled high on his desk … repeatedly missing deadlines and losing important letters was simply not tolerable behavior for an NSC officer, and Leverett was told to leave”), has now become the favorite flack for the mullahs. “The curious dance between Washington’s Iran experts and the foreign government whose actions they are supposedly analyzing has parallels in the ways that totalitarian governments like the Soviet Union and Mao’s China manipulated Western public opinion by only granting access to scholars and policy hands who would toe the party line. Similarly, the Iranian government today decides who in the West will be granted the kind of access that will allow them to speak with authority about the regime to Washington.” (h/t Jeffrey Goldberg)

James Carafano says that he is not surprised that “there would be more killing of high level terrorists than capture for interrogation and trial. That’s because the administration has botched efforts to come up with a coherent program for detention, interrogation, and trial.”

Matt Welch confirms my suspicion that libertarians have principles inconsistent with big-government liberals: “What I do care about, regardless of who’s president, is human freedom and prosperity. And I strongly and consistently suspect that when the government accumulates more power, I and everyone else (except those wielding it) have less of which I seek.” That said, if Republicans gain power and continue the spending jag, libertarians will turn their ire on them too.

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