Commentary Magazine


Posts For: February 16, 2010

Obama Envoy Vouched for Convicted Terrorist?

Fox News – doing what the Obama-approved outlets won’t — takes a look at the newest Obama envoy. The report tells us:

President Obama’s new envoy to the Organization of Islamic Conference, Rashad Hussain, is at the center of a controversy over remarks attributed to him defending a man who later pleaded guilty to conspiring to aid a terrorist group.

The Washington Report on Middle East Affairs quoted Hussain in 2004 as calling Sami al-Arian the victim of “politically motivated persecutions” after al-Arian, a university professor, was charged in 2003 with heading U.S. operations of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad.

The United States has designated the Palestinian Islamic Jihad as a foreign terrorist group as far back as 1997. At the time of al-Arian’s arrest, then Attorney General John Ashcroft called it “one of the most violent terrorist organizations in the world.”

Al-Arian pleaded guilty in 2006 to conspiracy to aid Palestinian Islamic Jihad and was sentenced to more than four years in prison.

The White House says the controversial remarks defending al-Arian two years earlier were made by his daughter — not by Hussain. Both were part of a panel discussion at a Muslim Students Association conference, but the reporter covering the event told Fox News she stands by the quotes she attributed to Hussain, who was a Yale Law student and an editor of the Yale Law Journal.

Well, this seems like it’s worth looking into. A helpful profile on Al-Arian is here.

And while we’re at that, perhaps it’s worth asking what Hussain’s job description really is. Is he charged with raising issues like human rights and democracy with the “Muslim World”? After all, Hillary Clinton assured us that “at the State Department, though, every week is Human Rights Week.” So I would expect that would top his agenda — honor killings, women’s rights, and such. There’s plenty of work to do in the nations to which he is assigned.

But let’s not be coy here. Hussain is the designated man to continue the suck-uppery to the “Muslim World,” which Obama was personally conducting in Cairo and via his televised addressed to the Iranian Supreme Leader at the start of his presidency. The task here is not so much to engage the “Muslim World” on issues we care about — denying Israel’s right to exist, state sponsorship of terrorism, and human rights atrocities — as to deliver the message the “Muslim World” wants to hear, namely that misunderstanding, American insensitivity, and of course Guantanamo are the causes of much of the problems in our relationship.

So here’s an idea: investigate what Hussain said and whether he is fit to play any role in the administration. And then abolish the post. It’s likely to be unhelpful and counterproductive, regardless of the assigned envoy. And really, do we assign envoys to the Christian World? Or the Hindu World? We have envoys and officials galore in this administration designated to conduct diplomacy with every country in the world. We have a secretary of state and a president (not effective ones, but still). Let them do their jobs and send Hussain packing.

Fox News – doing what the Obama-approved outlets won’t — takes a look at the newest Obama envoy. The report tells us:

President Obama’s new envoy to the Organization of Islamic Conference, Rashad Hussain, is at the center of a controversy over remarks attributed to him defending a man who later pleaded guilty to conspiring to aid a terrorist group.

The Washington Report on Middle East Affairs quoted Hussain in 2004 as calling Sami al-Arian the victim of “politically motivated persecutions” after al-Arian, a university professor, was charged in 2003 with heading U.S. operations of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad.

The United States has designated the Palestinian Islamic Jihad as a foreign terrorist group as far back as 1997. At the time of al-Arian’s arrest, then Attorney General John Ashcroft called it “one of the most violent terrorist organizations in the world.”

Al-Arian pleaded guilty in 2006 to conspiracy to aid Palestinian Islamic Jihad and was sentenced to more than four years in prison.

The White House says the controversial remarks defending al-Arian two years earlier were made by his daughter — not by Hussain. Both were part of a panel discussion at a Muslim Students Association conference, but the reporter covering the event told Fox News she stands by the quotes she attributed to Hussain, who was a Yale Law student and an editor of the Yale Law Journal.

Well, this seems like it’s worth looking into. A helpful profile on Al-Arian is here.

And while we’re at that, perhaps it’s worth asking what Hussain’s job description really is. Is he charged with raising issues like human rights and democracy with the “Muslim World”? After all, Hillary Clinton assured us that “at the State Department, though, every week is Human Rights Week.” So I would expect that would top his agenda — honor killings, women’s rights, and such. There’s plenty of work to do in the nations to which he is assigned.

But let’s not be coy here. Hussain is the designated man to continue the suck-uppery to the “Muslim World,” which Obama was personally conducting in Cairo and via his televised addressed to the Iranian Supreme Leader at the start of his presidency. The task here is not so much to engage the “Muslim World” on issues we care about — denying Israel’s right to exist, state sponsorship of terrorism, and human rights atrocities — as to deliver the message the “Muslim World” wants to hear, namely that misunderstanding, American insensitivity, and of course Guantanamo are the causes of much of the problems in our relationship.

So here’s an idea: investigate what Hussain said and whether he is fit to play any role in the administration. And then abolish the post. It’s likely to be unhelpful and counterproductive, regardless of the assigned envoy. And really, do we assign envoys to the Christian World? Or the Hindu World? We have envoys and officials galore in this administration designated to conduct diplomacy with every country in the world. We have a secretary of state and a president (not effective ones, but still). Let them do their jobs and send Hussain packing.

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A Big Fish Caught in Afghanistan

No one should be fooled into thinking that the capture of Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, the Taliban’s No. 2 commander, will end the insurgency in Afghanistan — any more than the death of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi in 2006 ended al-Qaeda in Iraq’s reign of terror. In fact (a sobering thought!), violence in Iraq only intensified after Zarqawi’s death, which occurred at the hands of the secretive Joint Special Operations Command, containing America’s top commando units. Nevertheless, Baradar’s capture, which was apparently carried out in Karachi by the CIA in cooperation with Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence, will deal a major blow to the Taliban, at least over the short term. His importance is summed up in this Newsweek article:

Baradar appoints and fires the Taliban’s commanders and governors; presides over its top military council and central ruling Shura in Quetta, the city in southwestern Pakistan where most of the group’s senior leaders are based; and issues the group’s most important policy statements in his own name. It is key that he controls the Taliban’s treasury — hundreds of millions of dollars in narcotics protection money, ransom payments, highway tolls, and “charitable donations,” largely from the Gulf. “He commands all military, political, religious, and financial power,” says Mullah Shah Wali Akhund, a guerrilla subcommander from Helmand province.

No doubt Baradar will be replaced but that will take a while and, in the meantime, Taliban operations will be disrupted just as the U.S. troop surge is getting underway and the offensive aimed at Marjah, a major Taliban stronghold in Helmand Province, is nearing the completion of its initial stages. The timing couldn’t be better. We can only hope that his interrogators make Baradar talk, which is probably more likely given that the ISI is not bound by the sort of restrictions on interrogation that the Obama administration has imposed on our own spooks. Nor, it should be added, will Baradar be read his Miranda rights — a sign of how differently we treat terrorists captured abroad compared with those who manage to make it to American soil.

Perhaps the most hopeful thing about Baradar’s capture is what it portends not about the future of Afghanistan but rather of Pakistan. Until now, Pakistani officials have been willing to go after the Pakistani Taliban, who pose a direct threat to their rule, while ignoring, or even subsiding, their Afghan brethren, who are seen as a tool of Pakistani foreign policy. Thus the Afghan Taliban have been allowed to operate with impunity in Quetta and other Pakistani cities. Let us hope that this operation signals a lasting change of attitude on the part of Islamabad. If it does, that will make the threat in Afghanistan much more manageable while also increasing the long-term prospects of defeating the Islamist insurgency in Pakistan.

No one should be fooled into thinking that the capture of Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, the Taliban’s No. 2 commander, will end the insurgency in Afghanistan — any more than the death of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi in 2006 ended al-Qaeda in Iraq’s reign of terror. In fact (a sobering thought!), violence in Iraq only intensified after Zarqawi’s death, which occurred at the hands of the secretive Joint Special Operations Command, containing America’s top commando units. Nevertheless, Baradar’s capture, which was apparently carried out in Karachi by the CIA in cooperation with Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence, will deal a major blow to the Taliban, at least over the short term. His importance is summed up in this Newsweek article:

Baradar appoints and fires the Taliban’s commanders and governors; presides over its top military council and central ruling Shura in Quetta, the city in southwestern Pakistan where most of the group’s senior leaders are based; and issues the group’s most important policy statements in his own name. It is key that he controls the Taliban’s treasury — hundreds of millions of dollars in narcotics protection money, ransom payments, highway tolls, and “charitable donations,” largely from the Gulf. “He commands all military, political, religious, and financial power,” says Mullah Shah Wali Akhund, a guerrilla subcommander from Helmand province.

No doubt Baradar will be replaced but that will take a while and, in the meantime, Taliban operations will be disrupted just as the U.S. troop surge is getting underway and the offensive aimed at Marjah, a major Taliban stronghold in Helmand Province, is nearing the completion of its initial stages. The timing couldn’t be better. We can only hope that his interrogators make Baradar talk, which is probably more likely given that the ISI is not bound by the sort of restrictions on interrogation that the Obama administration has imposed on our own spooks. Nor, it should be added, will Baradar be read his Miranda rights — a sign of how differently we treat terrorists captured abroad compared with those who manage to make it to American soil.

Perhaps the most hopeful thing about Baradar’s capture is what it portends not about the future of Afghanistan but rather of Pakistan. Until now, Pakistani officials have been willing to go after the Pakistani Taliban, who pose a direct threat to their rule, while ignoring, or even subsiding, their Afghan brethren, who are seen as a tool of Pakistani foreign policy. Thus the Afghan Taliban have been allowed to operate with impunity in Quetta and other Pakistani cities. Let us hope that this operation signals a lasting change of attitude on the part of Islamabad. If it does, that will make the threat in Afghanistan much more manageable while also increasing the long-term prospects of defeating the Islamist insurgency in Pakistan.

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J Street’s Agenda Remains Irrelevant to Middle East Realities

The Jewish Telegraphic Agency reports that Israel’s ambassador to the U.S., Michael Oren, threw the left-wing lobby J Street a few bones in an interview last week. JTA quotes Oren as telling a California Jewish newspaper that the “J Street controversy has come a long way toward resolving. The major concern with J Street was their position on security issues, not the peace process. J Street has now come and supported Congressman [Howard] Berman’s Iran sanction bill; it has condemned the Goldstone report; it has denounced the British court’s decision to try Tzipi Livni for war crimes, which puts J Street much more into the mainstream.”

By refusing to appear at J Street’s conference last fall and saying that its views on Israel were “dangerous,” Oren demonstrated Israel’s impatience with a lobby whose agenda was solely focused on instigating pressure on Israel from the Obama administration while foiling pressure on Iran. It’s understandable that Oren would attempt to reward some moderation in their stands. His priority is to aid the assembly of the largest possible coalition of support for Israel, not to punish those whose efforts are, at best, less than helpful. However, to the extent that J Street is trying to behave like a mainstream organization — an assumption that is certainly open to debate — this change reflects two important factors.

First is the complete irrelevance of J Street’s main idea: that there is a need for a Jewish lobby whose purpose is to push Washington to push Israel to make peace. As the events of the last year continue to prove, the obstacle to peace remains the Palestinians and their political culture of violence and hatred for Israel. As much as the Jewish Left has gained in the United States during the Obama presidency, the Left in Israel is as close to dead as it can be. That’s because the overwhelming majority of Israelis understand that after Oslo’s false promises, Arafat’s refusal of a state in the West Bank and Jerusalem in 2000 and 2001, and Mahmoud Abbas’s refusal of an even more generous offer in 2008, the Palestinian nationalist movement Fatah has proved it is not interested in a state as long as that state must live in peace alongside Israel. That the even more extreme Hamas terrorist movement controls Gaza and might expand someday into the West Bank if Israel abandons its security presence there has rendered the idea of further concessions and withdrawals absurd. This is a political reality that no amount of pressure from either Obama or the American Left can alter.

But just as the Obama administration may be backing off its initial desire to push Israel into a corner, its Jewish cheering section at J Street may be starting to see that its initial extreme positions, such as opposing Israel’s counteroffensive into Gaza last year (an operation that had wall-to-wall political support in Israel), were a disaster. For all the controversy in the American Jewish community about whether J Street is “pro” or “anti” Israel, the bottom line is that J Street’s platform is simply irrelevant to the situation that Israel actually faces.

But J Street’s real purpose was never so much about influencing the peace process as it was a reflection of the desire on the part of the American Jewish Left to challenge mainstream groups for influence here, not at the peace table in the Middle East. J Street’s agenda is about American politics, not peace. But though most American Jews remain loyal liberal Democrats, the idea that a new group was needed to push for more Israeli concessions after all that has happened in the past two decades is ludicrous. The issue for American friends of Israel today is whether they are prepared to speak up for the existence of the Jewish state and its right of self-defense, not the stale old Left-Right arguments that have been rehearsed again and again in the past quarter century. If J Street wants to be anything more than the Jewish rump of Moveon.org, it must do things like support sanctions on Iran and back Israel’s right to self-defense. These are positions that undermine the entire reason for the group’s founding. But whether they can stay on this path — and I doubt it — this pat on the head from Israel’s ambassador reflects the fact that it has failed to muster support for an extreme agenda that it must either downplay or abandon.

The Jewish Telegraphic Agency reports that Israel’s ambassador to the U.S., Michael Oren, threw the left-wing lobby J Street a few bones in an interview last week. JTA quotes Oren as telling a California Jewish newspaper that the “J Street controversy has come a long way toward resolving. The major concern with J Street was their position on security issues, not the peace process. J Street has now come and supported Congressman [Howard] Berman’s Iran sanction bill; it has condemned the Goldstone report; it has denounced the British court’s decision to try Tzipi Livni for war crimes, which puts J Street much more into the mainstream.”

By refusing to appear at J Street’s conference last fall and saying that its views on Israel were “dangerous,” Oren demonstrated Israel’s impatience with a lobby whose agenda was solely focused on instigating pressure on Israel from the Obama administration while foiling pressure on Iran. It’s understandable that Oren would attempt to reward some moderation in their stands. His priority is to aid the assembly of the largest possible coalition of support for Israel, not to punish those whose efforts are, at best, less than helpful. However, to the extent that J Street is trying to behave like a mainstream organization — an assumption that is certainly open to debate — this change reflects two important factors.

First is the complete irrelevance of J Street’s main idea: that there is a need for a Jewish lobby whose purpose is to push Washington to push Israel to make peace. As the events of the last year continue to prove, the obstacle to peace remains the Palestinians and their political culture of violence and hatred for Israel. As much as the Jewish Left has gained in the United States during the Obama presidency, the Left in Israel is as close to dead as it can be. That’s because the overwhelming majority of Israelis understand that after Oslo’s false promises, Arafat’s refusal of a state in the West Bank and Jerusalem in 2000 and 2001, and Mahmoud Abbas’s refusal of an even more generous offer in 2008, the Palestinian nationalist movement Fatah has proved it is not interested in a state as long as that state must live in peace alongside Israel. That the even more extreme Hamas terrorist movement controls Gaza and might expand someday into the West Bank if Israel abandons its security presence there has rendered the idea of further concessions and withdrawals absurd. This is a political reality that no amount of pressure from either Obama or the American Left can alter.

But just as the Obama administration may be backing off its initial desire to push Israel into a corner, its Jewish cheering section at J Street may be starting to see that its initial extreme positions, such as opposing Israel’s counteroffensive into Gaza last year (an operation that had wall-to-wall political support in Israel), were a disaster. For all the controversy in the American Jewish community about whether J Street is “pro” or “anti” Israel, the bottom line is that J Street’s platform is simply irrelevant to the situation that Israel actually faces.

But J Street’s real purpose was never so much about influencing the peace process as it was a reflection of the desire on the part of the American Jewish Left to challenge mainstream groups for influence here, not at the peace table in the Middle East. J Street’s agenda is about American politics, not peace. But though most American Jews remain loyal liberal Democrats, the idea that a new group was needed to push for more Israeli concessions after all that has happened in the past two decades is ludicrous. The issue for American friends of Israel today is whether they are prepared to speak up for the existence of the Jewish state and its right of self-defense, not the stale old Left-Right arguments that have been rehearsed again and again in the past quarter century. If J Street wants to be anything more than the Jewish rump of Moveon.org, it must do things like support sanctions on Iran and back Israel’s right to self-defense. These are positions that undermine the entire reason for the group’s founding. But whether they can stay on this path — and I doubt it — this pat on the head from Israel’s ambassador reflects the fact that it has failed to muster support for an extreme agenda that it must either downplay or abandon.

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Bye, Bye . . . Harry?

We have known for some time that Harry Reid’s polling numbers are horrid. He is the perfect storm candidate — the prime mover of ObamaCare, the leader of the Democratic Party at a time it is perceived as too liberal, and the politician with an endless gaffe supply. He is also getting clubbed with his stance on card check by the Lt. Governor Brian Krolicki, among others.

Reid may have no escape from his dilemma. He’s increasingly an embarrassment even (especially?) to his own party. Unlike more adept politicians and those not in leadership positions, Reid likely won’t be able to run too far from Obama’s agenda. In fact, it is his job to get it passed. And come to think of it, since he has utterly failed to do that, it’s hard to understand why the Democrats would spend too much time, money, or political capital trying to rescue him. If they are going to lose a bunch of seats anyway, why not at least offload Reid? I suspect Richard Durbin and Chuck Schumer may have similar thoughts.

We have known for some time that Harry Reid’s polling numbers are horrid. He is the perfect storm candidate — the prime mover of ObamaCare, the leader of the Democratic Party at a time it is perceived as too liberal, and the politician with an endless gaffe supply. He is also getting clubbed with his stance on card check by the Lt. Governor Brian Krolicki, among others.

Reid may have no escape from his dilemma. He’s increasingly an embarrassment even (especially?) to his own party. Unlike more adept politicians and those not in leadership positions, Reid likely won’t be able to run too far from Obama’s agenda. In fact, it is his job to get it passed. And come to think of it, since he has utterly failed to do that, it’s hard to understand why the Democrats would spend too much time, money, or political capital trying to rescue him. If they are going to lose a bunch of seats anyway, why not at least offload Reid? I suspect Richard Durbin and Chuck Schumer may have similar thoughts.

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Re: The Democrats’ Obama-Induced Fury

The Evan Bayh announcement is a downer for Democrats. In the “losers” category, Chris Cillizza puts “Democratic morale.” He’s got a point:

In the month (or so) since Sen. Scott Brown’s (R) special election victory in Massachusetts, Democratic strategists had argued that the party — and the president — had found their footing a bit, pointing to the aggressive approach by Obama in a tete a tete with House Republicans as evidence of their morale makeover. Bayh’s decision saps that optimism badly. “It is like getting turned down repeatedly for dates,” explained one Democratic consultant of the series of retirement decisions in the party in recent months.”In the end you start worrying whether there is something wrong with you.” The unanswerable question for Democrats is whether Bayh’s decision — coming on the heels of the retirement of North Dakota Sen. Byron Dorgan — makes other vulnerable Senators or House members reconsider their plans.White House: The White House’s hopes of building momentum in advance of next week’s bipartisan health care summit were quashed with Bayh’s indictment of the political atmosphere in Washington. Bayh’s decision is also likely to dominate a significant chunk of the political coverage in the coming days, making it harder for other events — like the President’s energy event today in Maryland today — to break through. For a White House that has struggled badly with staying on message, the Bayh news is a further complication.

And if that’s not depressing enough for Democrats, the latest Rasmussen poll shows a nine-point advantage for Republicans in generic congressional polling. It’s quite a fall for Obama – the once-considered savior of the Democratic party (and the nation, we were told), now the source of such angst. The health summit already was a bit of a smoke-and-mirrors routine, and now it has been blown away by some cold, hard facts. Obama is losing his grip, not only on the country but also on his own party. The mask of bipartisanship pasted together over the last few weeks has been ripped off. And panic is again sweeping through the ranks.

We keep hearing about that civil war breaking out among Republicans. Tea partiers and country-club conservatives are supposed to fight it out. Marco Rubio and Charlie Crist were going to have a blood feud. There is little evidence of that. But there sure is a huge storm brewing on the Democratic side, although the mainstream media is slow to catch on. Dump Obama’s agenda or double down? Forget health care and revive that bipartisan jobs bill that helped drive Bayh into retirement? That’s where the action is. And the defections, retirements, and backbiting have only just begun, I think.

The Evan Bayh announcement is a downer for Democrats. In the “losers” category, Chris Cillizza puts “Democratic morale.” He’s got a point:

In the month (or so) since Sen. Scott Brown’s (R) special election victory in Massachusetts, Democratic strategists had argued that the party — and the president — had found their footing a bit, pointing to the aggressive approach by Obama in a tete a tete with House Republicans as evidence of their morale makeover. Bayh’s decision saps that optimism badly. “It is like getting turned down repeatedly for dates,” explained one Democratic consultant of the series of retirement decisions in the party in recent months.”In the end you start worrying whether there is something wrong with you.” The unanswerable question for Democrats is whether Bayh’s decision — coming on the heels of the retirement of North Dakota Sen. Byron Dorgan — makes other vulnerable Senators or House members reconsider their plans.White House: The White House’s hopes of building momentum in advance of next week’s bipartisan health care summit were quashed with Bayh’s indictment of the political atmosphere in Washington. Bayh’s decision is also likely to dominate a significant chunk of the political coverage in the coming days, making it harder for other events — like the President’s energy event today in Maryland today — to break through. For a White House that has struggled badly with staying on message, the Bayh news is a further complication.

And if that’s not depressing enough for Democrats, the latest Rasmussen poll shows a nine-point advantage for Republicans in generic congressional polling. It’s quite a fall for Obama – the once-considered savior of the Democratic party (and the nation, we were told), now the source of such angst. The health summit already was a bit of a smoke-and-mirrors routine, and now it has been blown away by some cold, hard facts. Obama is losing his grip, not only on the country but also on his own party. The mask of bipartisanship pasted together over the last few weeks has been ripped off. And panic is again sweeping through the ranks.

We keep hearing about that civil war breaking out among Republicans. Tea partiers and country-club conservatives are supposed to fight it out. Marco Rubio and Charlie Crist were going to have a blood feud. There is little evidence of that. But there sure is a huge storm brewing on the Democratic side, although the mainstream media is slow to catch on. Dump Obama’s agenda or double down? Forget health care and revive that bipartisan jobs bill that helped drive Bayh into retirement? That’s where the action is. And the defections, retirements, and backbiting have only just begun, I think.

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Breaking the Cynicism Meter

Republicans have long suspected that the Obama health-care summit is a setup. After all, the first ground rule seems to be: “I get ObamaCare.” But sometimes even the Democrats outdo themselves in the cynicism department. Roll Call reports:

Senate Democrats say they see no need to abandon the idea of using reconciliation to pass health care reform this year just because President Barack Obama has scheduled a bipartisan summit next week to try to break the impasse on Capitol Hill. . .Given the unified GOP opposition to their health care effort, Senate Democrats argued just before departing for the Presidents Day recess that Obama’s summit is no reason to shelve reconciliation as a potential strategy. The tactic would allow Democrats pass certain aspects of health care reform with just 51 votes.

“I think it should be constantly pursued,” Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) said Thursday when asked whether Democrats should take a break from drafting a reconciliation bill until after Obama’s summit.

“I think the Republicans are pretty committed to the notion that obstructing everything that President Obama would like to accomplish is very key to their base and their political success,” Whitehouse added. “I don’t see them departing from that strategy.”

Nevertheless, there is reason to believe they lack the votes to utilize reconciliation. (“Some moderate Senate Democrats have already announced their opposition to a reconciliation bill regardless of what is in it.”) And that is before we get to the merits. It isn’t at all clear that, post-Scott Brown, there are votes for what’s in ObamaCare (e.g., massive tax hikes, $500 billion in cuts to Medicare with no real reform element, forcing people to buy health-care plans they don’t want from Big Insurance). Wouldn’t Ben Nelson and Blanche Lincoln (and maybe others as well) jump at the chance to return to the good graces of voters whom they have enraged?

Then on the House side, we hear that Nancy Pelosi may be 100 votes short of a majority to pass ObamaCare. As Michael Barone explains:

So you, as a Democratic member with potentially serious opposition, do the political caucus. If you vote for the Senate bill, you’re voting for something that has 35% support nationwide and probably a little less than that in your district. You will have voted for the Cornhusker Hustle and the Louisiana Purchase. Your Republican opponent will ask why you voted for something that gave taxpayers in Nebraska and Louisiana better treatment than the people you represent (there are no Democratic House members running for reelection in those two states: Nebraska has only Republican House members and the single Louisiana House Democrat is running for the Senate). The only protection you have against this is the assurance that the Senate parliamentarian and scared incumbent senators will come through for you, and that Harry Reid will pursue a steady course.

So your response to the leadership is either, I gotta think about this, or, Hell no. The House Democratic leadership’s problem is that it cannot credibly promise that the Senate will keep its part of the bargain.

So the bottom line: it is hard to believe Obama is operating in good faith. But that’s OK with conservatives, independents, and the two-thirds of us who don’t want a government takeover of health care. Obama still doesn’t have the votes, and those lawmakers who see their careers passing before their eyes probably don’t even want a vote on it. Obama has done enough damage to their re-election prospects already.

Republicans have long suspected that the Obama health-care summit is a setup. After all, the first ground rule seems to be: “I get ObamaCare.” But sometimes even the Democrats outdo themselves in the cynicism department. Roll Call reports:

Senate Democrats say they see no need to abandon the idea of using reconciliation to pass health care reform this year just because President Barack Obama has scheduled a bipartisan summit next week to try to break the impasse on Capitol Hill. . .Given the unified GOP opposition to their health care effort, Senate Democrats argued just before departing for the Presidents Day recess that Obama’s summit is no reason to shelve reconciliation as a potential strategy. The tactic would allow Democrats pass certain aspects of health care reform with just 51 votes.

“I think it should be constantly pursued,” Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) said Thursday when asked whether Democrats should take a break from drafting a reconciliation bill until after Obama’s summit.

“I think the Republicans are pretty committed to the notion that obstructing everything that President Obama would like to accomplish is very key to their base and their political success,” Whitehouse added. “I don’t see them departing from that strategy.”

Nevertheless, there is reason to believe they lack the votes to utilize reconciliation. (“Some moderate Senate Democrats have already announced their opposition to a reconciliation bill regardless of what is in it.”) And that is before we get to the merits. It isn’t at all clear that, post-Scott Brown, there are votes for what’s in ObamaCare (e.g., massive tax hikes, $500 billion in cuts to Medicare with no real reform element, forcing people to buy health-care plans they don’t want from Big Insurance). Wouldn’t Ben Nelson and Blanche Lincoln (and maybe others as well) jump at the chance to return to the good graces of voters whom they have enraged?

Then on the House side, we hear that Nancy Pelosi may be 100 votes short of a majority to pass ObamaCare. As Michael Barone explains:

So you, as a Democratic member with potentially serious opposition, do the political caucus. If you vote for the Senate bill, you’re voting for something that has 35% support nationwide and probably a little less than that in your district. You will have voted for the Cornhusker Hustle and the Louisiana Purchase. Your Republican opponent will ask why you voted for something that gave taxpayers in Nebraska and Louisiana better treatment than the people you represent (there are no Democratic House members running for reelection in those two states: Nebraska has only Republican House members and the single Louisiana House Democrat is running for the Senate). The only protection you have against this is the assurance that the Senate parliamentarian and scared incumbent senators will come through for you, and that Harry Reid will pursue a steady course.

So your response to the leadership is either, I gotta think about this, or, Hell no. The House Democratic leadership’s problem is that it cannot credibly promise that the Senate will keep its part of the bargain.

So the bottom line: it is hard to believe Obama is operating in good faith. But that’s OK with conservatives, independents, and the two-thirds of us who don’t want a government takeover of health care. Obama still doesn’t have the votes, and those lawmakers who see their careers passing before their eyes probably don’t even want a vote on it. Obama has done enough damage to their re-election prospects already.

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The Executive Deficiency

Sam Stein at the Huffington Post provides a dose of candor following the Evan Bayh bombshell:

In the wake of the Indiana Democrat’s announcement, a host of figures — from the progressive wing of the party to devout centrists — have chimed in to warn that failure in jobs and health care legislation have sapped the party’s momentum and fortunes. No one is asking them to go out on a limb and do something they didn’t first run by the American people,” [Daily Kos founder Markos]Moulitsas said, in an email to the Huffington Post. “The Dems are where they are because they got elected promising to be a party able to govern, and then spent the last year proving themselves wrong.”

The “we told ‘ya so” Clintonistas are back too. Lanny Davis, barely concealing his glee, tells us that “[President Obama’s] failure to pass something showed him to be an ineffectual president. And the absence of effectiveness combined with the cynicism of government because of that absence of effectiveness… is toxic.”

That was, in fact, the message that Bayh was trying to deliver:

“My advice to my fellow Democrats is the only way we can actually govern in this country is make common cause with the independents and moderates,” the Indiana centrist said during an appearance on MSNBC. “Sometimes half a loaf is better than none.”

But on trudge the Obama-Reid-Pelosi troika. Pushing health care — maybe via a reconciliation sleight of hand — and spinning the Obama budget as fiscally responsible. The collapse of the bipartisan jobs bill in the Senate (too many tax breaks to please Reid), we are told, may have been the final straw for Bayh. But it was also more evidence of what can result from a president who never ever sends up his own legislative proposals. Where is Obama’s jobs bill? He doesn’t have one.

I await the mea culpas from those who assured us that Obama had lots of executive talent. (Which will arrive shortly after the “He really is a Zionist” crowd atones for conning wary American Jews.) He hasn’t much. But he has plenty of hubris, which prevents him from finding a new team that could help him with his deficiencies. That’s the price of electing a “sort of God” who sort of never did anything before running for president.

Sam Stein at the Huffington Post provides a dose of candor following the Evan Bayh bombshell:

In the wake of the Indiana Democrat’s announcement, a host of figures — from the progressive wing of the party to devout centrists — have chimed in to warn that failure in jobs and health care legislation have sapped the party’s momentum and fortunes. No one is asking them to go out on a limb and do something they didn’t first run by the American people,” [Daily Kos founder Markos]Moulitsas said, in an email to the Huffington Post. “The Dems are where they are because they got elected promising to be a party able to govern, and then spent the last year proving themselves wrong.”

The “we told ‘ya so” Clintonistas are back too. Lanny Davis, barely concealing his glee, tells us that “[President Obama’s] failure to pass something showed him to be an ineffectual president. And the absence of effectiveness combined with the cynicism of government because of that absence of effectiveness… is toxic.”

That was, in fact, the message that Bayh was trying to deliver:

“My advice to my fellow Democrats is the only way we can actually govern in this country is make common cause with the independents and moderates,” the Indiana centrist said during an appearance on MSNBC. “Sometimes half a loaf is better than none.”

But on trudge the Obama-Reid-Pelosi troika. Pushing health care — maybe via a reconciliation sleight of hand — and spinning the Obama budget as fiscally responsible. The collapse of the bipartisan jobs bill in the Senate (too many tax breaks to please Reid), we are told, may have been the final straw for Bayh. But it was also more evidence of what can result from a president who never ever sends up his own legislative proposals. Where is Obama’s jobs bill? He doesn’t have one.

I await the mea culpas from those who assured us that Obama had lots of executive talent. (Which will arrive shortly after the “He really is a Zionist” crowd atones for conning wary American Jews.) He hasn’t much. But he has plenty of hubris, which prevents him from finding a new team that could help him with his deficiencies. That’s the price of electing a “sort of God” who sort of never did anything before running for president.

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Heavy Meddle in Iran

The following is not hyperbole: the U.S. secretary of state has praised the freedom and pluralism of Iran’s Khomeinist revolution. In a lamentation for the passing of the good ol’ days, Hillary Clinton told an audience in Doha, Qatar, that today’s Iran is “a far cry from the Islamic republic that had elections and different points of view within the leadership circle.”

However, it’s what this praise is offered in service of that’s most reprehensible: the reassertion of centralized power by Tehran’s autocratic clerics and politicians. Clinton has determined that a Revolutionary Guard coup is underway, and she urged the government to “take back the authority which they should be exercising on behalf of the people.”

Because we know how admirably it wields such authority.

The way the Obama administration sees things, the pre–June 12 mullahgarchy was fine and dandy. Sure, it was “death to America, death to Israel” every day, and there were public child-hangings and other exotic goodies that go with any “great country”; but with a little “mutual respect” and “open-hand” treatment, the mullahs would deal on the nuclear issue. So when hordes of democratic protesters took to the streets to topple Washington’s negotiating partners, the administration would have none of it. President Obama would “bear witness” as the regime broke Iranian skulls and leave things at that. As Reuel Marc Gerecht put it, Obama “gives the distinct impression that he’d rather have a nuclear deal with Khamenei than see the messiness that comes when autocracy gives way to representative government.” A weak argument could be mounted in Obama’s defense if a nuclear deal with Khamenei were even the vaguest possibility.

Meanwhile, Obama fans applauded the president’s prudence and put their faith in, of all things, online social networking to spur regime change in Iran. As we learned from the poor February 11 protest turnout in Iran, it takes more than Twitter to change history.

Iran’s democratic revolution is ailing, yet Hillary Clinton is still worried about weaknesses in the Iranian regime. The Revolutionary Guard, she has decided, has wrested control from clerics and politicians; this cannot stand. Hence, the secretary of State’s confused endorsement.

Among the many points that elude the Obama administration is that the Revolutionary Guard serves as the Praetorian Guard for the very politicians Clinton is now rallying behind. While the internal balance of power of the Iranian regime is fluid, the essential fact remains that a brutal, theocratic machine is engaged in the violent crackdown of a pro-democracy movement. The more disturbing complication here is that America has taken every opportunity to align itself with the former party against the latter. Try to imagine what Iran’s democratic protesters hear when the American administration that gave them no support now urges the regime in Tehran to remain strong.

What a historically tragic test case for “smart power.” Having likely missed the opportunity to support Iran’s democratic revolution before it atomized, the administration now gets behind the Khomeinist Revolution. Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei remains strong, the Revolutionary Guard sees to his dirty work, and President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad keeps the centrifuges spinning. Instead of supporting Khamenei and Ahmadinejad in hopes of negotiation, the U.S. should do everything in its power to turn Iran’s virtual democratic revolution into a real one. But that, alas, constitutes meddling. And we don’t do that anymore. This is how things end. Not with a bang but a Twitter.

The following is not hyperbole: the U.S. secretary of state has praised the freedom and pluralism of Iran’s Khomeinist revolution. In a lamentation for the passing of the good ol’ days, Hillary Clinton told an audience in Doha, Qatar, that today’s Iran is “a far cry from the Islamic republic that had elections and different points of view within the leadership circle.”

However, it’s what this praise is offered in service of that’s most reprehensible: the reassertion of centralized power by Tehran’s autocratic clerics and politicians. Clinton has determined that a Revolutionary Guard coup is underway, and she urged the government to “take back the authority which they should be exercising on behalf of the people.”

Because we know how admirably it wields such authority.

The way the Obama administration sees things, the pre–June 12 mullahgarchy was fine and dandy. Sure, it was “death to America, death to Israel” every day, and there were public child-hangings and other exotic goodies that go with any “great country”; but with a little “mutual respect” and “open-hand” treatment, the mullahs would deal on the nuclear issue. So when hordes of democratic protesters took to the streets to topple Washington’s negotiating partners, the administration would have none of it. President Obama would “bear witness” as the regime broke Iranian skulls and leave things at that. As Reuel Marc Gerecht put it, Obama “gives the distinct impression that he’d rather have a nuclear deal with Khamenei than see the messiness that comes when autocracy gives way to representative government.” A weak argument could be mounted in Obama’s defense if a nuclear deal with Khamenei were even the vaguest possibility.

Meanwhile, Obama fans applauded the president’s prudence and put their faith in, of all things, online social networking to spur regime change in Iran. As we learned from the poor February 11 protest turnout in Iran, it takes more than Twitter to change history.

Iran’s democratic revolution is ailing, yet Hillary Clinton is still worried about weaknesses in the Iranian regime. The Revolutionary Guard, she has decided, has wrested control from clerics and politicians; this cannot stand. Hence, the secretary of State’s confused endorsement.

Among the many points that elude the Obama administration is that the Revolutionary Guard serves as the Praetorian Guard for the very politicians Clinton is now rallying behind. While the internal balance of power of the Iranian regime is fluid, the essential fact remains that a brutal, theocratic machine is engaged in the violent crackdown of a pro-democracy movement. The more disturbing complication here is that America has taken every opportunity to align itself with the former party against the latter. Try to imagine what Iran’s democratic protesters hear when the American administration that gave them no support now urges the regime in Tehran to remain strong.

What a historically tragic test case for “smart power.” Having likely missed the opportunity to support Iran’s democratic revolution before it atomized, the administration now gets behind the Khomeinist Revolution. Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei remains strong, the Revolutionary Guard sees to his dirty work, and President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad keeps the centrifuges spinning. Instead of supporting Khamenei and Ahmadinejad in hopes of negotiation, the U.S. should do everything in its power to turn Iran’s virtual democratic revolution into a real one. But that, alas, constitutes meddling. And we don’t do that anymore. This is how things end. Not with a bang but a Twitter.

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The Obami’s Engagement Dead End

Hillary Clinton is now decrying the emergence in Iran of a military dictatorship. She declares:

“We see that the government of Iran, the supreme leader, the president, the Parliament is being supplanted and that Iran is moving toward a military dictatorship. … I think the trend with this greater and greater military lock on leadership decisions should be disturbing to Iranians, as well as to those of us on the outside,” Mrs. Clinton told reporters as she flew from Qatar to Saudi Arabia.

There are a couple of problems with this. First, Clinton appears to root for the mullahs. Why in the world are we seemingly bemoaning the plight of the Supreme Leader? Could we perhaps take the side of real regime change and root for the democracy protestors? Too much to expect, I think. Even the New York Times notices the cul-de-sac in which this sort of argument puts Clinton: “But in prodding the clerics and politicians to take action, Mrs. Clinton found herself in the awkward position of celebrating the early days of the Islamic Revolution. Iran today, she said, is ‘a far cry from the Islamic republic that had elections and different points of view within the leadership circle.'” So the current regime isn’t as swell as the old regime, but we’re rooting for ‘em anyway. And this is what passes for smart diplomacy.

But there is another problem here. If the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) is infesting and manipulating the regime, and if its reach extends to the political apparatus, how are itty-bitty, narrowly focused sanctions going to work? Amir Taheri observes that the IRGC essentially turned “Tehran into a sealed citadel with checkpoints at all points of entry” in response to the Feb. 11 protests. He observes of the IRGC:

Their leaders are more strident than many of the regime’s leaders, vetoing countless attempts by mullahs and politicians to reach a compromise with the portion of the opposition still calling for reform rather than regime change. Revolutionary Guard generals frequently appear on television to call for mass arrests and show trials. A weak and indecisive caliph, Mr. Khamenei has so far refused to endorse the kind of “final solution” the generals demand.

Abroad, the Revolutionary Guard pursues an aggressive policy aimed at “filling the vacuum” the generals hope will be created when the U.S. disengages from Iraq and Afghanistan by funding terrorist groups and their political front organizations. The IRGC has reportedly created a special desk to monitor the coming parliamentary elections in Baghdad and Kabul with the aim of helping pro-Tehran elements win power.

Hmm. But the Obami are going to come up with very narrowly framed sanctions, they keep telling us. This is to avoid impacting the rest of the government and to keep the Iranian population at large – the same population that has already pretty much figured out who the bad guys are – from becoming upset with the U.S. (although they are actually already upset with the U.S. for granting legitimacy to the regime).

You wonder how the Obami, such smart and educated folks, got so tied up in knots. Well, it seems like they had not a clue about whom they were dealing when they headed down the regime road. The New York Times tells us:

Ray Takeyh, a former Iran adviser to the Obama administration, said administration officials were learning from experience.

“There was a thesis a year ago that the differences between the United States and Iran was subject to diplomatic mediation, that they could find areas of common experience, that we were ready to have a dialogue with each other,” Mr. Takeyh said, but “those anticipations discounted the extent how the Iranian theocracy views engagement with the United States as a threat to its ideological identity.”

Even the Gray Lady can figure it out: “And if Mrs. Clinton is correct that the Revolutionary Guards, not the politicians or the clerics, are becoming the central power in Iran, the prospects for rapprochement can only look worse. Not that Iran’s political and religious leaders, so far, have demonstrated much interest in Mr. Obama’s outreach.”

There is only one reasonable and viable path out of this: regime change. Not mullah boosterism. Not pin-prick sanctions to get the mullahs back to dickering with us in Vienna. There are Iranians dying in the street to displace the regime — mullahs, IRGC, the whole gaggle of thugs — and that is the horse we should be betting on.

Hillary Clinton is now decrying the emergence in Iran of a military dictatorship. She declares:

“We see that the government of Iran, the supreme leader, the president, the Parliament is being supplanted and that Iran is moving toward a military dictatorship. … I think the trend with this greater and greater military lock on leadership decisions should be disturbing to Iranians, as well as to those of us on the outside,” Mrs. Clinton told reporters as she flew from Qatar to Saudi Arabia.

There are a couple of problems with this. First, Clinton appears to root for the mullahs. Why in the world are we seemingly bemoaning the plight of the Supreme Leader? Could we perhaps take the side of real regime change and root for the democracy protestors? Too much to expect, I think. Even the New York Times notices the cul-de-sac in which this sort of argument puts Clinton: “But in prodding the clerics and politicians to take action, Mrs. Clinton found herself in the awkward position of celebrating the early days of the Islamic Revolution. Iran today, she said, is ‘a far cry from the Islamic republic that had elections and different points of view within the leadership circle.'” So the current regime isn’t as swell as the old regime, but we’re rooting for ‘em anyway. And this is what passes for smart diplomacy.

But there is another problem here. If the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) is infesting and manipulating the regime, and if its reach extends to the political apparatus, how are itty-bitty, narrowly focused sanctions going to work? Amir Taheri observes that the IRGC essentially turned “Tehran into a sealed citadel with checkpoints at all points of entry” in response to the Feb. 11 protests. He observes of the IRGC:

Their leaders are more strident than many of the regime’s leaders, vetoing countless attempts by mullahs and politicians to reach a compromise with the portion of the opposition still calling for reform rather than regime change. Revolutionary Guard generals frequently appear on television to call for mass arrests and show trials. A weak and indecisive caliph, Mr. Khamenei has so far refused to endorse the kind of “final solution” the generals demand.

Abroad, the Revolutionary Guard pursues an aggressive policy aimed at “filling the vacuum” the generals hope will be created when the U.S. disengages from Iraq and Afghanistan by funding terrorist groups and their political front organizations. The IRGC has reportedly created a special desk to monitor the coming parliamentary elections in Baghdad and Kabul with the aim of helping pro-Tehran elements win power.

Hmm. But the Obami are going to come up with very narrowly framed sanctions, they keep telling us. This is to avoid impacting the rest of the government and to keep the Iranian population at large – the same population that has already pretty much figured out who the bad guys are – from becoming upset with the U.S. (although they are actually already upset with the U.S. for granting legitimacy to the regime).

You wonder how the Obami, such smart and educated folks, got so tied up in knots. Well, it seems like they had not a clue about whom they were dealing when they headed down the regime road. The New York Times tells us:

Ray Takeyh, a former Iran adviser to the Obama administration, said administration officials were learning from experience.

“There was a thesis a year ago that the differences between the United States and Iran was subject to diplomatic mediation, that they could find areas of common experience, that we were ready to have a dialogue with each other,” Mr. Takeyh said, but “those anticipations discounted the extent how the Iranian theocracy views engagement with the United States as a threat to its ideological identity.”

Even the Gray Lady can figure it out: “And if Mrs. Clinton is correct that the Revolutionary Guards, not the politicians or the clerics, are becoming the central power in Iran, the prospects for rapprochement can only look worse. Not that Iran’s political and religious leaders, so far, have demonstrated much interest in Mr. Obama’s outreach.”

There is only one reasonable and viable path out of this: regime change. Not mullah boosterism. Not pin-prick sanctions to get the mullahs back to dickering with us in Vienna. There are Iranians dying in the street to displace the regime — mullahs, IRGC, the whole gaggle of thugs — and that is the horse we should be betting on.

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It Is Not Going to Help

If you had to make a list of things wrong with the Obama presidency, “not enough like the campaign” would probably not be on it. On the contrary, campaigning seems to be all the administration does: too many speeches, pep rallies, fake events, and attacks on opponents and not enough serious governance. But that’s not how the Obami see it. So we hear that “the White House is infusing its communications strategy with some of the ironclad discipline and outside-the-box thinking that made the Obama presidential campaign famous — and successful.”

What this boils down to is a grudging recognition that the president is overexposed (OK, that’s good) and a determination to be even less forthcoming with the press (hold more “carefully choreographed interactions with the press,” they declare) and more aggressive with opponents (“more direct, rapid response to criticism”).

Sigh. Yes, this gang imagines that less transparency and more hyper-partisanship are the way to go. Sadly, there is no brave soul there to say, “Ah, Mr. President, I think we are already getting slammed for being too secretive and thin-skinned.” More than the particulars of what they are proposing, what is so cringe-inducing is the reliance on a campaign perspective to pull them out of their tailspin. It confirms that, indeed, this is all they know, all they do well. When stressed or confused (much of the time now, it seems), they clutch for the security blanket of campaign events and campaign tactics.

At some level, even they understand that this is all arranging the deck chairs on the Titanic stuff. “There is no communications strategy that makes 10 percent unemployment look good,” concedes communications chief Dan Pfeiffer. And there is no communications strategy that is going to lure Evan Bayh back to the Senate or explain how we have let another year pass as the mullahs build their nukes or make the proposed budget look fiscally sane or make ObamaCare look good to the two-thirds of Americans who hate it. What is wrong with the Obama presidency is not a botched communication strategy (although the president himself has become a bore and whines too much). The core problems are Obama’s insistence on a radical domestic agenda, pursuit of dangerous and unpopular national-security policies, and the absence of a chief executive who is practiced and skilled in governance. And, honestly, acting more like a candidate and less like the president isn’t going to help matters.

If you had to make a list of things wrong with the Obama presidency, “not enough like the campaign” would probably not be on it. On the contrary, campaigning seems to be all the administration does: too many speeches, pep rallies, fake events, and attacks on opponents and not enough serious governance. But that’s not how the Obami see it. So we hear that “the White House is infusing its communications strategy with some of the ironclad discipline and outside-the-box thinking that made the Obama presidential campaign famous — and successful.”

What this boils down to is a grudging recognition that the president is overexposed (OK, that’s good) and a determination to be even less forthcoming with the press (hold more “carefully choreographed interactions with the press,” they declare) and more aggressive with opponents (“more direct, rapid response to criticism”).

Sigh. Yes, this gang imagines that less transparency and more hyper-partisanship are the way to go. Sadly, there is no brave soul there to say, “Ah, Mr. President, I think we are already getting slammed for being too secretive and thin-skinned.” More than the particulars of what they are proposing, what is so cringe-inducing is the reliance on a campaign perspective to pull them out of their tailspin. It confirms that, indeed, this is all they know, all they do well. When stressed or confused (much of the time now, it seems), they clutch for the security blanket of campaign events and campaign tactics.

At some level, even they understand that this is all arranging the deck chairs on the Titanic stuff. “There is no communications strategy that makes 10 percent unemployment look good,” concedes communications chief Dan Pfeiffer. And there is no communications strategy that is going to lure Evan Bayh back to the Senate or explain how we have let another year pass as the mullahs build their nukes or make the proposed budget look fiscally sane or make ObamaCare look good to the two-thirds of Americans who hate it. What is wrong with the Obama presidency is not a botched communication strategy (although the president himself has become a bore and whines too much). The core problems are Obama’s insistence on a radical domestic agenda, pursuit of dangerous and unpopular national-security policies, and the absence of a chief executive who is practiced and skilled in governance. And, honestly, acting more like a candidate and less like the president isn’t going to help matters.

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Dumb and Dumber: Joe Biden Picks a Fight with New York

You sometimes wonder whether the Obami are trying to commit political suicide. They come up with the idea of trying KSM in a civilian court in New York. New Yorkers, along with the rest of the country, think the idea stinks. They retreat, at least as to the venue. And now they pick a fight with New York:

It’s a sign of just how angry the White House is at having its plans to hold terror trials in New York City thwarted. Vice President Joe Biden took a swing at Mayor Michael Bloomberg, accusing him of inflating estimates of the trial’s security costs. Both Mayor Bloomberg and Commissioner Kelly put the estimate at $200 million a year for five years, saying it would be an expensive proposition for the City. Biden, however, disputes the numbers. “The mayor came along and said the cost for providing security to hold this trial is x-hundreds of millions of dollars which I think is much more than would be needed,” Biden said. Biden’s surprising outburst is an indication of just how upset President Barack Obama is at having one of his foreign policy goals – showing a kinder face to the Muslim world – meet a solid wall of opposition in New York.

Ever since his stalwart defense of the administration’s funny stimulus numbers (funny in both senses of the word), Biden has apparently become the designated spokesman to spin unsubstantiated, losing arguments with a paucity of evidence. Needless to say, New York officials did not welcome the VP’s criticisms:

City officials are irked at Biden’s assertion. “I will leave the security of New York City up to the mayor and police commissioner. I think Joe Biden should have talked to City officials. No city should have to put up with the burden and risk of the trial so the administration can have a terroristic pony show,” said City Councilman Peter Vallone, Jr. (D-Queens).

Yes, it’s hard to believe Biden would be arguing the point because no one thinks the KSM trial will take place in New York. Many of us suspect that no city or state will want it and that we will soon be back, where we should be, to trying terrorists in the war against our civilization in a military tribunal.

We have come to expect flawed decision-making from the Obami. But it does seem as though the longer they stay in office, the dumber and more inept they become on the pure politics of it all. For people waging a perpetual campaign complete with rallies and Potemkin Village summits (the bipartisanship rather than the buildings is fake, in this case), they sure have lost their political touch.

You sometimes wonder whether the Obami are trying to commit political suicide. They come up with the idea of trying KSM in a civilian court in New York. New Yorkers, along with the rest of the country, think the idea stinks. They retreat, at least as to the venue. And now they pick a fight with New York:

It’s a sign of just how angry the White House is at having its plans to hold terror trials in New York City thwarted. Vice President Joe Biden took a swing at Mayor Michael Bloomberg, accusing him of inflating estimates of the trial’s security costs. Both Mayor Bloomberg and Commissioner Kelly put the estimate at $200 million a year for five years, saying it would be an expensive proposition for the City. Biden, however, disputes the numbers. “The mayor came along and said the cost for providing security to hold this trial is x-hundreds of millions of dollars which I think is much more than would be needed,” Biden said. Biden’s surprising outburst is an indication of just how upset President Barack Obama is at having one of his foreign policy goals – showing a kinder face to the Muslim world – meet a solid wall of opposition in New York.

Ever since his stalwart defense of the administration’s funny stimulus numbers (funny in both senses of the word), Biden has apparently become the designated spokesman to spin unsubstantiated, losing arguments with a paucity of evidence. Needless to say, New York officials did not welcome the VP’s criticisms:

City officials are irked at Biden’s assertion. “I will leave the security of New York City up to the mayor and police commissioner. I think Joe Biden should have talked to City officials. No city should have to put up with the burden and risk of the trial so the administration can have a terroristic pony show,” said City Councilman Peter Vallone, Jr. (D-Queens).

Yes, it’s hard to believe Biden would be arguing the point because no one thinks the KSM trial will take place in New York. Many of us suspect that no city or state will want it and that we will soon be back, where we should be, to trying terrorists in the war against our civilization in a military tribunal.

We have come to expect flawed decision-making from the Obami. But it does seem as though the longer they stay in office, the dumber and more inept they become on the pure politics of it all. For people waging a perpetual campaign complete with rallies and Potemkin Village summits (the bipartisanship rather than the buildings is fake, in this case), they sure have lost their political touch.

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Does Anyone in the Administration Get It?

Bill Burck and Dana Perino have become invaluable analysts in deconstructing the Obama spin. (Let’s be frank here, “lies” is more accurate with regard to much of what has come out of the White House these days.) They spot John Brennan saying foolish things again:

After his disastrous television appearances, Brennan was relegated this weekend to giving a speech at the Islamic Center at New York University. Even there, however, he again said something profoundly misguided. Discussing the rate of recidivism of detainees released from Guantanamo, which some have put as high as 20 percent, Brennan said: “People sometimes use that figure, 20 percent, [and] say, ‘Oh my goodness, one out of five detainees returned to some type of extremist activity.’ You know, the American penal system, the recidivism rate is up to something about 50 percent or so, as far as return to crime. Twenty percent isn’t that bad.”

We’re not making this quote up. The president’s top counterterrorism adviser actually said that a 20 percent terrorist recidivism rate was good enough for government work. About 800 people have been detained at Guantanamo and about 600 have been released or turned over to the custody of other governments. Twenty percent means Brennan thinks it’s not a bad day’s work if 120 or so returned to terrorism. If that’s his definition of success, we would hate to see what failure looks like. Sen. Lindsey Graham, for one, doesn’t care to know and has joined in calls for Brennan’s resignation. Senator Graham’s views matter to the White House because he’s their best hope for a bipartisan solution to Guantanamo.

This is, as Burck and Perino point out, the criminal-justice model run wild. Generally, planes don’t get blown from the sky or buildings leveled when a common criminal is released unwisely. Not so with terrorists. And not a great argument to make to those Americans killed on the battlefield by a former Guantanamo detainee.

There is much speculation about “sides” in the Obama administration. Burck and Perino spot the Emanuel/Jones team vs. the Holder/Brennan team. Neither seems like a winning combination, I know. But the premise may not be valid. We, of course, have only one president, and he has been squarely on the side of the criminal-justice model and on the not-Bush anti-terrorism approach. The latter was his ticket into the White House, and the frequency with which he recites the “lost our way” mantra in reference to interrogation and detention policies suggests that he means it.

So the question, I think, is not which team should we root for (I, for one, would be pleased to see the entire quartet depart and would not want to bank on the wisdom of James Jones on anything other than the best D.C. biking trails), but whether the president has woken up to the realities of fighting Islamic fascists. I think the first indication that he has changed his thinking will be when he starts using the phrase “Islamic fundamentalists” or “Islamic jihadists.” No, I don’t think it will be anytime soon.

Bill Burck and Dana Perino have become invaluable analysts in deconstructing the Obama spin. (Let’s be frank here, “lies” is more accurate with regard to much of what has come out of the White House these days.) They spot John Brennan saying foolish things again:

After his disastrous television appearances, Brennan was relegated this weekend to giving a speech at the Islamic Center at New York University. Even there, however, he again said something profoundly misguided. Discussing the rate of recidivism of detainees released from Guantanamo, which some have put as high as 20 percent, Brennan said: “People sometimes use that figure, 20 percent, [and] say, ‘Oh my goodness, one out of five detainees returned to some type of extremist activity.’ You know, the American penal system, the recidivism rate is up to something about 50 percent or so, as far as return to crime. Twenty percent isn’t that bad.”

We’re not making this quote up. The president’s top counterterrorism adviser actually said that a 20 percent terrorist recidivism rate was good enough for government work. About 800 people have been detained at Guantanamo and about 600 have been released or turned over to the custody of other governments. Twenty percent means Brennan thinks it’s not a bad day’s work if 120 or so returned to terrorism. If that’s his definition of success, we would hate to see what failure looks like. Sen. Lindsey Graham, for one, doesn’t care to know and has joined in calls for Brennan’s resignation. Senator Graham’s views matter to the White House because he’s their best hope for a bipartisan solution to Guantanamo.

This is, as Burck and Perino point out, the criminal-justice model run wild. Generally, planes don’t get blown from the sky or buildings leveled when a common criminal is released unwisely. Not so with terrorists. And not a great argument to make to those Americans killed on the battlefield by a former Guantanamo detainee.

There is much speculation about “sides” in the Obama administration. Burck and Perino spot the Emanuel/Jones team vs. the Holder/Brennan team. Neither seems like a winning combination, I know. But the premise may not be valid. We, of course, have only one president, and he has been squarely on the side of the criminal-justice model and on the not-Bush anti-terrorism approach. The latter was his ticket into the White House, and the frequency with which he recites the “lost our way” mantra in reference to interrogation and detention policies suggests that he means it.

So the question, I think, is not which team should we root for (I, for one, would be pleased to see the entire quartet depart and would not want to bank on the wisdom of James Jones on anything other than the best D.C. biking trails), but whether the president has woken up to the realities of fighting Islamic fascists. I think the first indication that he has changed his thinking will be when he starts using the phrase “Islamic fundamentalists” or “Islamic jihadists.” No, I don’t think it will be anytime soon.

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Shalem Center Summer Internship Program

If you are an undergraduate and interested in spending the summer in Jerusalem at one of the leading think tanks in the world — and one that has punched far above its weight in Israeli and Western political life — the Shalem Center is taking applications for its internship program. Click here for details.

If you are an undergraduate and interested in spending the summer in Jerusalem at one of the leading think tanks in the world — and one that has punched far above its weight in Israeli and Western political life — the Shalem Center is taking applications for its internship program. Click here for details.

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Another Plagiarist at the New York Times

What could be worse for the Gray Lady than yet another plagiarist? They have had their cheating problems, of course. Jayson Blair fabricated stories. Maureen Dowd fabricated excuses. And now they have another. To make matters worse, their archrival, the irritatingly successful Wall Street Journal (owned by the dark prince of conservative media, Rupert Murdoch), ratted out the New York Times phony:

On Friday, Feb. 12, Robert Thomson, the editor-in-chief of The Wall Street Journal wrote Times executive editor Bill Keller to inform him of “apparent plagiarism in The New York Times.”

In the letter, Mr. Thomson cites six examples of material where he believes Times reporter Zachery Kouwe plagiarized Journal reporter Amir Efrati from a story that was published on Feb. 5.

The Times fessed up, but avoided the “P” word:

In a number of business articles in The Times over the past year, and in posts on the DealBook blog on NYTimes.com, a Times reporter appears to have improperly appropriated wording and passages published by other news organizations.

The reporter, Zachery Kouwe, reused language from The Wall Street Journal, Reuters and other sources without attribution or acknowledgment.

The Times concedes that this is a serious matter and says cryptically that it “remains under investigation.” But why should anything happen to the literary kleptomaniac, Kouwe? Nothing happened to Dowd. She came up with a silly excuse that not even Clark Hoyt would buy. She’s still there, churning out (up?) bile twice a week. And then there is the ongoing question as to how such august publications as the Times, the Washington Post, and the New Republic attract the likes of Blair, Janet Cooke, Stephen Glass, and their ilk. It seems as though between the fakes and the “avoiding the news that’s bad for the Left” problem, these outfits have a bit of a quality-control issue.

In any case, Mr. Kouwe, I think, has a handy argument in his favor should he be fired: why is Dowd still there if plagiarism is such a big deal at the Times?

What could be worse for the Gray Lady than yet another plagiarist? They have had their cheating problems, of course. Jayson Blair fabricated stories. Maureen Dowd fabricated excuses. And now they have another. To make matters worse, their archrival, the irritatingly successful Wall Street Journal (owned by the dark prince of conservative media, Rupert Murdoch), ratted out the New York Times phony:

On Friday, Feb. 12, Robert Thomson, the editor-in-chief of The Wall Street Journal wrote Times executive editor Bill Keller to inform him of “apparent plagiarism in The New York Times.”

In the letter, Mr. Thomson cites six examples of material where he believes Times reporter Zachery Kouwe plagiarized Journal reporter Amir Efrati from a story that was published on Feb. 5.

The Times fessed up, but avoided the “P” word:

In a number of business articles in The Times over the past year, and in posts on the DealBook blog on NYTimes.com, a Times reporter appears to have improperly appropriated wording and passages published by other news organizations.

The reporter, Zachery Kouwe, reused language from The Wall Street Journal, Reuters and other sources without attribution or acknowledgment.

The Times concedes that this is a serious matter and says cryptically that it “remains under investigation.” But why should anything happen to the literary kleptomaniac, Kouwe? Nothing happened to Dowd. She came up with a silly excuse that not even Clark Hoyt would buy. She’s still there, churning out (up?) bile twice a week. And then there is the ongoing question as to how such august publications as the Times, the Washington Post, and the New Republic attract the likes of Blair, Janet Cooke, Stephen Glass, and their ilk. It seems as though between the fakes and the “avoiding the news that’s bad for the Left” problem, these outfits have a bit of a quality-control issue.

In any case, Mr. Kouwe, I think, has a handy argument in his favor should he be fired: why is Dowd still there if plagiarism is such a big deal at the Times?

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When Does the Realism Kick In?

Many others have noted the drivel emanating from our secretary of state — the platitudinous phrases, the double talk, and the insulation from reality. But it is also correct that we should not be surprised any longer:

In a way, you can’t blame her for her haplessness, secretarially speaking. Her own experience with matters foreign—being “shot at” by Bosnian “snipers,” for one, or, for another, kissing Suha Arafat while Mrs. Arafat’s blood-soaked husband was shoveling the untold millions he’d stolen from his miserable flock into Swiss bank accounts—has been somewhat . . . insubstantial. And in any case, she’s not exactly in charge. The Obamic foreign policy, such as it is, seems to be being formulated and conducted as much (maybe more?) from the West Wing as from Foggy Bottom, and by people even less familiar with the issues than she, who’ve done almost nothing in their lives but run political campaigns—and that’s in Chicago, where a little cold hard cash and some cold stiff bodies voting at graveyard polling stations can get anyone elected—and who are still in essence running a campaign today, though they call it a presidency.

She has declared that “ideology is so yesterday.” But so too is a sense of realism — yes, a true sense of who it is we face in the world, what motivates friends and foes, and what experience has taught us. No wonder the Obami are always “surprised” or “deeply disappointed” or “puzzled.” If you have historical amnesia, every day is a new one, and rebuffs, defeats, and dead ends come as surprises, disappointments, and puzzles.

The Obami, of course, dug themselves a deep hole by repudiating, or trying to repudiate, everything the Bush administration had tried. If the Bush team cultivated a close and productive relationship with Israel, they’d take a different tact. If the Bush administration forged bonds with Eastern Europe and extended our missile defense program, by gosh the Obami wouldn’t have any of that. If George W. Bush spoke movingly about human rights and met with dissidents, the Obami wouldn’t go there. It’s hard to be both reflexively rejectionist and ideology-free, isn’t it?

But the fault surely resides in the West Wing. Obama is a prisoner of so much ideology, it’s hard to keep track. There’s his blind faith in multilateralism. There’s his infatuation with the Left’s notion that an American groveling deficiency is at the root of “misunderstandings” with the “Muslim World.” And let’s not forget the “if we disarm, surely the despotic regimes will” hooey.

Dispensing of this or that hapless adviser might improve matters at the margins. It would be nice to think that we have one administration figure who doesn’t appear foolish when encountering a real interviewer (e.g., Chris Wallace, Candy Crowley). But ultimately, there’s no substitute for a wise, savvy, and resolute president. Until we get one of those, it’s going to be a bumpy ride.

Many others have noted the drivel emanating from our secretary of state — the platitudinous phrases, the double talk, and the insulation from reality. But it is also correct that we should not be surprised any longer:

In a way, you can’t blame her for her haplessness, secretarially speaking. Her own experience with matters foreign—being “shot at” by Bosnian “snipers,” for one, or, for another, kissing Suha Arafat while Mrs. Arafat’s blood-soaked husband was shoveling the untold millions he’d stolen from his miserable flock into Swiss bank accounts—has been somewhat . . . insubstantial. And in any case, she’s not exactly in charge. The Obamic foreign policy, such as it is, seems to be being formulated and conducted as much (maybe more?) from the West Wing as from Foggy Bottom, and by people even less familiar with the issues than she, who’ve done almost nothing in their lives but run political campaigns—and that’s in Chicago, where a little cold hard cash and some cold stiff bodies voting at graveyard polling stations can get anyone elected—and who are still in essence running a campaign today, though they call it a presidency.

She has declared that “ideology is so yesterday.” But so too is a sense of realism — yes, a true sense of who it is we face in the world, what motivates friends and foes, and what experience has taught us. No wonder the Obami are always “surprised” or “deeply disappointed” or “puzzled.” If you have historical amnesia, every day is a new one, and rebuffs, defeats, and dead ends come as surprises, disappointments, and puzzles.

The Obami, of course, dug themselves a deep hole by repudiating, or trying to repudiate, everything the Bush administration had tried. If the Bush team cultivated a close and productive relationship with Israel, they’d take a different tact. If the Bush administration forged bonds with Eastern Europe and extended our missile defense program, by gosh the Obami wouldn’t have any of that. If George W. Bush spoke movingly about human rights and met with dissidents, the Obami wouldn’t go there. It’s hard to be both reflexively rejectionist and ideology-free, isn’t it?

But the fault surely resides in the West Wing. Obama is a prisoner of so much ideology, it’s hard to keep track. There’s his blind faith in multilateralism. There’s his infatuation with the Left’s notion that an American groveling deficiency is at the root of “misunderstandings” with the “Muslim World.” And let’s not forget the “if we disarm, surely the despotic regimes will” hooey.

Dispensing of this or that hapless adviser might improve matters at the margins. It would be nice to think that we have one administration figure who doesn’t appear foolish when encountering a real interviewer (e.g., Chris Wallace, Candy Crowley). But ultimately, there’s no substitute for a wise, savvy, and resolute president. Until we get one of those, it’s going to be a bumpy ride.

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The Real Culture War

Bret Stephens takes us through a parallel history in which 13 innocents were not butchered by the jihadist Major Nadal Hasan:

Suppose that on Nov. 4, 2009 — the day before he would open fire on his fellow soldiers at Fort Hood, killing 13 and wounding 30 — Major Nidal Malik Hasan had been arrested by military police and charged with intent to commit acts of terrorism. Where would his case stand today?

My guess: a public uproar, complete with exacting doubts about the strength of the evidence against him. This would be followed by sage lamentations about how a “Christianist” military had indicted a patriotic Muslim-American simply for having religious scruples about the justice of our wars. Further down the line one can imagine a Pentagon apology, a book contract, a speaking tour.

As others have remarked, Stephens expresses chagrin over the Army’s internal review of the Fort Hood incident, which appeared to dance around the real issue, namely how to identify and root out Islamic fundamentalists who want to kill their fellow servicemen. Stephens identifies part of the problem: “Melting-pot institutions like the U.S. military prefer not to dwell too much on the particulars of a soldier’s culture: Much of their purpose is to substitute personal belief with common standards of behavior. What a soldier might think about the afterlife is his own affair.”

But clearly there is fear of the political correctness and diversity lobbies. They, of course, raise a fuss and bring lawsuits whenever institutions try to focus on the people whom we should in fact be focusing on. And that is a problem that extends well beyond the Army. When the Army chief of staff declared that it would be a “greater tragedy if diversity became a casualty,” he was mouthing the same line as was dutifully repeated by the entire administration and much of the media. When the president declines to identify precisely who the “extremists” are and insists that we must prove our democratic bona fides to the “Muslim World” in order to assuage its grievances, it is safe to conclude that this is more than merely an Army problem. As Stephens puts it, “it is a failure, by people far more senior, to heed a more fundamental military command. It’s called Know Thine Enemy.”

The message to the Army as well as to Homeland Security and every other arm of the government is tragically the same: don’t be too candid about the “Islamic” part of the “extremist” threat. So long as this persists, it seems inevitable that more Major Hasans will go undetected. We need to change the balance of incentives and disincentives for reporting behavior that to rational people seems rooted in jihadist ideology. Such a shift can only come from the president and his national-security team. But right now they’re busy with other things. They have a new envoy to the Muslim World, you know. It seems as though the Obami are very much into ingratiating ourselves, explaining ourselves, and making sure no one could possibly take offense at what we say and do. So far that approach doesn’t seem to be working, although failure has yet to deter the Obami from their preconceived notions about the dangers we face.

Bret Stephens takes us through a parallel history in which 13 innocents were not butchered by the jihadist Major Nadal Hasan:

Suppose that on Nov. 4, 2009 — the day before he would open fire on his fellow soldiers at Fort Hood, killing 13 and wounding 30 — Major Nidal Malik Hasan had been arrested by military police and charged with intent to commit acts of terrorism. Where would his case stand today?

My guess: a public uproar, complete with exacting doubts about the strength of the evidence against him. This would be followed by sage lamentations about how a “Christianist” military had indicted a patriotic Muslim-American simply for having religious scruples about the justice of our wars. Further down the line one can imagine a Pentagon apology, a book contract, a speaking tour.

As others have remarked, Stephens expresses chagrin over the Army’s internal review of the Fort Hood incident, which appeared to dance around the real issue, namely how to identify and root out Islamic fundamentalists who want to kill their fellow servicemen. Stephens identifies part of the problem: “Melting-pot institutions like the U.S. military prefer not to dwell too much on the particulars of a soldier’s culture: Much of their purpose is to substitute personal belief with common standards of behavior. What a soldier might think about the afterlife is his own affair.”

But clearly there is fear of the political correctness and diversity lobbies. They, of course, raise a fuss and bring lawsuits whenever institutions try to focus on the people whom we should in fact be focusing on. And that is a problem that extends well beyond the Army. When the Army chief of staff declared that it would be a “greater tragedy if diversity became a casualty,” he was mouthing the same line as was dutifully repeated by the entire administration and much of the media. When the president declines to identify precisely who the “extremists” are and insists that we must prove our democratic bona fides to the “Muslim World” in order to assuage its grievances, it is safe to conclude that this is more than merely an Army problem. As Stephens puts it, “it is a failure, by people far more senior, to heed a more fundamental military command. It’s called Know Thine Enemy.”

The message to the Army as well as to Homeland Security and every other arm of the government is tragically the same: don’t be too candid about the “Islamic” part of the “extremist” threat. So long as this persists, it seems inevitable that more Major Hasans will go undetected. We need to change the balance of incentives and disincentives for reporting behavior that to rational people seems rooted in jihadist ideology. Such a shift can only come from the president and his national-security team. But right now they’re busy with other things. They have a new envoy to the Muslim World, you know. It seems as though the Obami are very much into ingratiating ourselves, explaining ourselves, and making sure no one could possibly take offense at what we say and do. So far that approach doesn’t seem to be working, although failure has yet to deter the Obami from their preconceived notions about the dangers we face.

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The Democrats’ Obama-Induced Fury

Charles Lane does not mince words:

Millions of Americans long to tell their bosses “take this job and shove it.” Hardly any have the power and money to do so, especially in these recessionary times. Sen. Evan Bayh (D) of Indiana, however, is the exception. His stunning retirement from the Senate is essentially a loud and emphatic “screw you” to President Obama and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. For months now, Bayh has been screaming at the top of his voice that the party needs to reorient toward a more popular, centrist agenda — one that emphasizes jobs and fiscal responsibility over health care and cap and trade. Neither the White House nor the Senate leadership has given him the response he wanted. Their bungling of what should have been a routine bipartisan jobs bill last week seems to have been the last straw.

Lane seems to think there’s a possible Bayh primary challenge for 2012, which I find questionable. (I don’t sense that primary-voting Democrats are starved for a Clintonian Third Wave, minus the Clintons.) Less debatable however is his suspicion that Bayh’s seat is now ripe for a GOP pickup and that “if present trends continue, November could turn into a Republican rout.”

Lane also touches on the subtext here: the anger and disappointment of many Democrats who now look upon Obama as not a “sort of God” but rather as a curse. He has not merely failed to advance their decades-old agenda but is now perpetrating a Marx Brothers–like farce, racing around the political landscape, wrecking havoc on all of them. How annoyed, if not furious, must all those Democratic officeholders be? They are going to be out of jobs — while Obama declares himself to be content with one term and sneers at those in his party who are concerned with such mundane trifles as getting re-elected.

Wins by Chris Christie and Bob McDonnell last year were the first rumblings of trouble. Scott Brown was one political earthquake, and Evan Bayh may be a second. But the 10 on the Richter scale has not, I suspect, come. We’ll have to wait until November, when lots and lots of Democrats experience what it’s really like to run for office in the age of Obama. Is it any wonder that Bayh and so many other Democrats are choosing to forgo the experience?

Charles Lane does not mince words:

Millions of Americans long to tell their bosses “take this job and shove it.” Hardly any have the power and money to do so, especially in these recessionary times. Sen. Evan Bayh (D) of Indiana, however, is the exception. His stunning retirement from the Senate is essentially a loud and emphatic “screw you” to President Obama and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. For months now, Bayh has been screaming at the top of his voice that the party needs to reorient toward a more popular, centrist agenda — one that emphasizes jobs and fiscal responsibility over health care and cap and trade. Neither the White House nor the Senate leadership has given him the response he wanted. Their bungling of what should have been a routine bipartisan jobs bill last week seems to have been the last straw.

Lane seems to think there’s a possible Bayh primary challenge for 2012, which I find questionable. (I don’t sense that primary-voting Democrats are starved for a Clintonian Third Wave, minus the Clintons.) Less debatable however is his suspicion that Bayh’s seat is now ripe for a GOP pickup and that “if present trends continue, November could turn into a Republican rout.”

Lane also touches on the subtext here: the anger and disappointment of many Democrats who now look upon Obama as not a “sort of God” but rather as a curse. He has not merely failed to advance their decades-old agenda but is now perpetrating a Marx Brothers–like farce, racing around the political landscape, wrecking havoc on all of them. How annoyed, if not furious, must all those Democratic officeholders be? They are going to be out of jobs — while Obama declares himself to be content with one term and sneers at those in his party who are concerned with such mundane trifles as getting re-elected.

Wins by Chris Christie and Bob McDonnell last year were the first rumblings of trouble. Scott Brown was one political earthquake, and Evan Bayh may be a second. But the 10 on the Richter scale has not, I suspect, come. We’ll have to wait until November, when lots and lots of Democrats experience what it’s really like to run for office in the age of Obama. Is it any wonder that Bayh and so many other Democrats are choosing to forgo the experience?

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Eric Holder’s blunder fest is serious stuff: “We’ve shaken our heads in disgust often in the last year over the Obamic decision to permit a bunch of Chicago political hacks and the U.S. attorney general–the CPH Plus One–to run much of foreign policy out of the White House. It’s had real-world consequences, not least that the tension between the Axelrod-Emanuel-Jarrett axis (appease despots whenever possible) and the Clinton state department (appease them, but accuse them while you’re doing it) has given time and breathing room to the bomb-building wing of the Iranian dictatorship.”

This, from a Republican strategist, is what passes for wisdom among the chattering classes: “Sarah Palin will have to choose to be either the leader of a movement or the leader of a nation. She can’t be both.” (He cites Goldwater and McGovern for this proposition.) Whether or not you like Palin, this is just nonsense. Ronald Reagan was both. Obama was, too (before he proved himself utterly incompetent). It’s the sort of stuff strategists say when they’re trying to oblige the media with a particular angle or shill for another, unnamed candidate.

Only in the Obama administration could Janet Napolitano not be in the top three on the “deserves to be fired” list. John Brennan seems to have zoomed into the lead, past Eric Holder and James Jones: “Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.), the ranking Republican on the House Homeland Security Committee, is calling for the resignation — or immediate firing — of Obama adviser John Brennan. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) also called for Brennan’s head, telling FOX News Sunday that the adviser ‘has lost my confidence.'”

The California Senate race looks competitive, with Barbara Boxer leading potential GOP challengers by four or five points: “Most troubling for Boxer in the latest Rasmussen Reports telephone survey of likely voters in the state is her continuing inability to cross the 50% threshold against any of the GOP hopefuls. Incumbents who capture less than 50% of the vote at this stage of the campaign are considered vulnerable.”

If you appreciate understatement, this headline will appeal to you: “Indiana GOP: ‘We really like our chances.'” Yeah, I bet.

E.J. Dionne manages to get something right: “There is no way for Democrats to sugarcoat the news of Sen. Evan Bayh’s retirement: This is mighty good news for Republicans. Bayh would have been very difficult to defeat, and he has $13 million in the bank. Now, Indiana can be added to the list of seats that could shift to the Republicans, and that list is growing large enough that the GOP is within striking distance of taking over the Senate, an unthinkable idea even a month or so ago.”

Democrat Martin Frost sums up his party’s reaction to the Bayh retirement announcement: “The sky is officially falling.”

Jeffrey Goldberg reminds us that the tag team of mullah boosters, Hillary Mann and Flynt Leverett, has a history of making stuff up. The proper thing to do would be to slink away, but the limelight and the chance to shill for the Iranian butchers must be too much to resist.

Eric Holder’s blunder fest is serious stuff: “We’ve shaken our heads in disgust often in the last year over the Obamic decision to permit a bunch of Chicago political hacks and the U.S. attorney general–the CPH Plus One–to run much of foreign policy out of the White House. It’s had real-world consequences, not least that the tension between the Axelrod-Emanuel-Jarrett axis (appease despots whenever possible) and the Clinton state department (appease them, but accuse them while you’re doing it) has given time and breathing room to the bomb-building wing of the Iranian dictatorship.”

This, from a Republican strategist, is what passes for wisdom among the chattering classes: “Sarah Palin will have to choose to be either the leader of a movement or the leader of a nation. She can’t be both.” (He cites Goldwater and McGovern for this proposition.) Whether or not you like Palin, this is just nonsense. Ronald Reagan was both. Obama was, too (before he proved himself utterly incompetent). It’s the sort of stuff strategists say when they’re trying to oblige the media with a particular angle or shill for another, unnamed candidate.

Only in the Obama administration could Janet Napolitano not be in the top three on the “deserves to be fired” list. John Brennan seems to have zoomed into the lead, past Eric Holder and James Jones: “Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.), the ranking Republican on the House Homeland Security Committee, is calling for the resignation — or immediate firing — of Obama adviser John Brennan. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) also called for Brennan’s head, telling FOX News Sunday that the adviser ‘has lost my confidence.'”

The California Senate race looks competitive, with Barbara Boxer leading potential GOP challengers by four or five points: “Most troubling for Boxer in the latest Rasmussen Reports telephone survey of likely voters in the state is her continuing inability to cross the 50% threshold against any of the GOP hopefuls. Incumbents who capture less than 50% of the vote at this stage of the campaign are considered vulnerable.”

If you appreciate understatement, this headline will appeal to you: “Indiana GOP: ‘We really like our chances.'” Yeah, I bet.

E.J. Dionne manages to get something right: “There is no way for Democrats to sugarcoat the news of Sen. Evan Bayh’s retirement: This is mighty good news for Republicans. Bayh would have been very difficult to defeat, and he has $13 million in the bank. Now, Indiana can be added to the list of seats that could shift to the Republicans, and that list is growing large enough that the GOP is within striking distance of taking over the Senate, an unthinkable idea even a month or so ago.”

Democrat Martin Frost sums up his party’s reaction to the Bayh retirement announcement: “The sky is officially falling.”

Jeffrey Goldberg reminds us that the tag team of mullah boosters, Hillary Mann and Flynt Leverett, has a history of making stuff up. The proper thing to do would be to slink away, but the limelight and the chance to shill for the Iranian butchers must be too much to resist.

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