Commentary Magazine


Posts For: February 18, 2010

Is This Post-Traumatic Cooking Syndrome?

Fox News reports:

The U.S. Army is investigating allegations that soldiers were attempting to poison the food supply at Fort Jackson in South Carolina. The ongoing probe began two months ago, Chris Grey, a spokesman for the Army’s Criminal Investigation Division, told Fox News. The Army is taking the allegations “extremely seriously,” Grey said, but so far, “there is no credible information to support the allegations.” The suspects were part of a Arabic translation program called “09 Lima” and use Arabic as their first language, two sources told Fox News. Another military source said they were Muslim.Grey would not confirm or deny the sources’ information.

Erick Stakelbeck of CBN adds this nugget:

A source with intimate knowledge of the investigation, which is ongoing, told CBN News investigators suspect the “Fort Jackson Five” may have been in contact with the group of five Washington, DC area Muslims that traveled to Pakistan to wage jihad against U.S. troops in December. That group was arrested by Pakistani authorities, also just before Christmas.

This incident raises further concern about the Army’s whitewash of the Fort Hood incident. Its review of the murder of 13 innocents seemed to go to great lengths to ignore Major Nadal Hasan’s jihadist motivation and the need to focus, specifically, on potential Islamic fundamentalists in its midst who may seek to kill fellow servicemen. We know that the Army had training on the subject before Fort Hood. And we know not much was done. We now know that the Fort Hood report was issued while the poisoning incident investigation was underway. And still the Army sought to soft-pedal the jihadist element.

There is a price to be paid, you see, when we fail to name, identify, understand, and focus on the nature of our enemy. When we dismiss these incidents as the result of some nebulous psychological illness or lump jihadism in with a grab bag of other threats or concerns bearing little relationship to the actual incidents we have experienced, we diffuse our efforts and distract ourselves from the sole task that should occupy our national security apparatus: identifying and destroying jihadists who want to butcher (or poison or blow up) Americans.  That singular focus can come only from the president. Hence, the problem.

Fox News reports:

The U.S. Army is investigating allegations that soldiers were attempting to poison the food supply at Fort Jackson in South Carolina. The ongoing probe began two months ago, Chris Grey, a spokesman for the Army’s Criminal Investigation Division, told Fox News. The Army is taking the allegations “extremely seriously,” Grey said, but so far, “there is no credible information to support the allegations.” The suspects were part of a Arabic translation program called “09 Lima” and use Arabic as their first language, two sources told Fox News. Another military source said they were Muslim.Grey would not confirm or deny the sources’ information.

Erick Stakelbeck of CBN adds this nugget:

A source with intimate knowledge of the investigation, which is ongoing, told CBN News investigators suspect the “Fort Jackson Five” may have been in contact with the group of five Washington, DC area Muslims that traveled to Pakistan to wage jihad against U.S. troops in December. That group was arrested by Pakistani authorities, also just before Christmas.

This incident raises further concern about the Army’s whitewash of the Fort Hood incident. Its review of the murder of 13 innocents seemed to go to great lengths to ignore Major Nadal Hasan’s jihadist motivation and the need to focus, specifically, on potential Islamic fundamentalists in its midst who may seek to kill fellow servicemen. We know that the Army had training on the subject before Fort Hood. And we know not much was done. We now know that the Fort Hood report was issued while the poisoning incident investigation was underway. And still the Army sought to soft-pedal the jihadist element.

There is a price to be paid, you see, when we fail to name, identify, understand, and focus on the nature of our enemy. When we dismiss these incidents as the result of some nebulous psychological illness or lump jihadism in with a grab bag of other threats or concerns bearing little relationship to the actual incidents we have experienced, we diffuse our efforts and distract ourselves from the sole task that should occupy our national security apparatus: identifying and destroying jihadists who want to butcher (or poison or blow up) Americans.  That singular focus can come only from the president. Hence, the problem.

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Pakistan Arrests Taliban “Shadow Governors”

More good news from Pakistan — not words I’m used to writing, but it’s true. Following the arrest of Mullah Baradar, the Afghan Taliban’s No. 2 man, Pakistani forces have also locked up two of the Taliban’s “shadow governors” who are in nominal charge of two Afghan provinces. Is this, perhaps, the start of a trend? Hard to say. But it’s certainly a good start. Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence Agency is so closely connected with the Afghan Taliban, to whom they provide funding, arming, intelligence, and general strategic direction, that if ISI truly turns against its proxies, its agents could readily arrest most of the Taliban leadership with little problem. Let us hope they decide to do so.

One of the major determinants of success or failure for insurgencies has always been whether they are able to receive substantial support from the outside. The Taliban were able to resurrect themselves with Pakistani support after 2001 — just as they were able to seize power in the first place in the 1990s with Pakistan’s backing. If that support is now being withdrawn, it will be a serious, if not fatal, blow to the Afghan Taliban. They will still have financing that comes from the drug trade and from rich Arab donors, but they will find it much harder to access those funds and to carry out all the other activities (propaganda, training, arming, etc.) necessary to keep a guerrilla movement flourishing. I am by no means suggesting that such a complete cutoff is in the works, but even the steps Pakistan has already taken are significant and surprising.

It would be fascinating to find out what is going on in Pakistani government circles — what convinced them to round up such prominent erstwhile allies? It’s hard to know, but perhaps President Obama’s decision to send 30,000 more troops to Afghanistan has something to do with it. By signaling that the U.S. is not bugging out, the president shifted the odds against a Taliban victory and made Pakistan more willing to accommodate our concerns. Or so we can speculate from afar. The true story will only emerge in time.

More good news from Pakistan — not words I’m used to writing, but it’s true. Following the arrest of Mullah Baradar, the Afghan Taliban’s No. 2 man, Pakistani forces have also locked up two of the Taliban’s “shadow governors” who are in nominal charge of two Afghan provinces. Is this, perhaps, the start of a trend? Hard to say. But it’s certainly a good start. Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence Agency is so closely connected with the Afghan Taliban, to whom they provide funding, arming, intelligence, and general strategic direction, that if ISI truly turns against its proxies, its agents could readily arrest most of the Taliban leadership with little problem. Let us hope they decide to do so.

One of the major determinants of success or failure for insurgencies has always been whether they are able to receive substantial support from the outside. The Taliban were able to resurrect themselves with Pakistani support after 2001 — just as they were able to seize power in the first place in the 1990s with Pakistan’s backing. If that support is now being withdrawn, it will be a serious, if not fatal, blow to the Afghan Taliban. They will still have financing that comes from the drug trade and from rich Arab donors, but they will find it much harder to access those funds and to carry out all the other activities (propaganda, training, arming, etc.) necessary to keep a guerrilla movement flourishing. I am by no means suggesting that such a complete cutoff is in the works, but even the steps Pakistan has already taken are significant and surprising.

It would be fascinating to find out what is going on in Pakistani government circles — what convinced them to round up such prominent erstwhile allies? It’s hard to know, but perhaps President Obama’s decision to send 30,000 more troops to Afghanistan has something to do with it. By signaling that the U.S. is not bugging out, the president shifted the odds against a Taliban victory and made Pakistan more willing to accommodate our concerns. Or so we can speculate from afar. The true story will only emerge in time.

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It’s Time to Boycott, Divest, and Sanction J Street

Solomonia has the details on the latest from the anti-Israel group J Street, which has organized a trip to Israel in partnership with Churches for Middle East Peace. CMEP is a leader in the so-called “BDS movement” — boycott, divest from, and sanction Israel. These are the people who want to isolate Israel in the way that the world is currently isolating, say, Iran — which is a tremendous irony, being that J Street is opposed to anything resembling BDS when it comes to the Islamic Republic.

These guys have gone so far off the deep end that I think if Ismail Haniyah invited J Street on a solidarity mission to Gaza City, Jeremy Ben-Ami would have to sit down and think really hard about the offer.

Solomonia has the details on the latest from the anti-Israel group J Street, which has organized a trip to Israel in partnership with Churches for Middle East Peace. CMEP is a leader in the so-called “BDS movement” — boycott, divest from, and sanction Israel. These are the people who want to isolate Israel in the way that the world is currently isolating, say, Iran — which is a tremendous irony, being that J Street is opposed to anything resembling BDS when it comes to the Islamic Republic.

These guys have gone so far off the deep end that I think if Ismail Haniyah invited J Street on a solidarity mission to Gaza City, Jeremy Ben-Ami would have to sit down and think really hard about the offer.

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Obama’s Meeting with the Dalai Lama: Welcome but Late

Barack Obama did the right thing and met with the Dalai Lama today. The White House issued a statement after the private meeting, in which the president appropriately backed the preservation of Tibet’s “unique religious, cultural, and linguistic identity and the protection of human rights for Tibetans in the People’s Republic of China.” While it broke no new ground, this is what we expect the leader of what we once called the “free world” to do: to use the moral and physical power of his office to stand with oppressed people like those in the captive nation of Tibet.

Predictably, the meeting has produced a great deal of huffing and puffing from the Chinese, who regard any criticism of their imperial reign in Tibet as a mortal offense. But those who fear that embracing the Dalai Lama will set in motion an international crisis are either alarmists or apologists for Beijing. Among the latter category are those who have been speaking in defense of China’s rule in Tibet and leaving out such minor nasty details as the brutal oppression of its native people and cultural genocide. An excellent example comes from Newsweek, which published a piece yesterday by their Beijing correspondent, Isaac Stone Fish, claiming China “has been good to Tibet.” Stone isn’t exactly an old China hand, as his Facebook page describes him as a recent graduate of Columbia University. But while young in years, the piece shows that he is apparently very wise in the ways of sucking up to the government of the country that he is covering.

But such distasteful flummery aside, it’s now worth asking ourselves whether the Obama administration might not be in a stronger position vis-à-vis China had it not spent its first year foolishly pursuing appeasement of Beijing. As Obama’s November trip to China proved, the Chinese (much like their friends in Iran) saw the president’s obsequious attitude as an expression of weakness and acted accordingly. Had the president started off his term by staking out the moral high ground on Tibet and making it clear that the United States wouldn’t abandon Taiwan, then minimal gestures like meeting with the Dalai Lama and selling arms to Taipei wouldn’t be cause for a crisis. Nor would the speculation about the impact of monetary issues and the amount of our debt to China be used as justification for our silence on human rights. Having come in to office solely obsessed with doing everything differently than George W. Bush, Obama is learning the hard way that his foolish belief in engagement and the power of his own personality is no substitute for hardheaded policy and principles.

Barack Obama did the right thing and met with the Dalai Lama today. The White House issued a statement after the private meeting, in which the president appropriately backed the preservation of Tibet’s “unique religious, cultural, and linguistic identity and the protection of human rights for Tibetans in the People’s Republic of China.” While it broke no new ground, this is what we expect the leader of what we once called the “free world” to do: to use the moral and physical power of his office to stand with oppressed people like those in the captive nation of Tibet.

Predictably, the meeting has produced a great deal of huffing and puffing from the Chinese, who regard any criticism of their imperial reign in Tibet as a mortal offense. But those who fear that embracing the Dalai Lama will set in motion an international crisis are either alarmists or apologists for Beijing. Among the latter category are those who have been speaking in defense of China’s rule in Tibet and leaving out such minor nasty details as the brutal oppression of its native people and cultural genocide. An excellent example comes from Newsweek, which published a piece yesterday by their Beijing correspondent, Isaac Stone Fish, claiming China “has been good to Tibet.” Stone isn’t exactly an old China hand, as his Facebook page describes him as a recent graduate of Columbia University. But while young in years, the piece shows that he is apparently very wise in the ways of sucking up to the government of the country that he is covering.

But such distasteful flummery aside, it’s now worth asking ourselves whether the Obama administration might not be in a stronger position vis-à-vis China had it not spent its first year foolishly pursuing appeasement of Beijing. As Obama’s November trip to China proved, the Chinese (much like their friends in Iran) saw the president’s obsequious attitude as an expression of weakness and acted accordingly. Had the president started off his term by staking out the moral high ground on Tibet and making it clear that the United States wouldn’t abandon Taiwan, then minimal gestures like meeting with the Dalai Lama and selling arms to Taipei wouldn’t be cause for a crisis. Nor would the speculation about the impact of monetary issues and the amount of our debt to China be used as justification for our silence on human rights. Having come in to office solely obsessed with doing everything differently than George W. Bush, Obama is learning the hard way that his foolish belief in engagement and the power of his own personality is no substitute for hardheaded policy and principles.

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Beyond All Possibility of Parody

A reporter for a leftist weekly in Atlanta was fired this week “because he held on to the notion that there was an objective reality that could be reported objectively, despite the fact that that was not our editorial policy at Atlanta Progressive News.”

A reporter for a leftist weekly in Atlanta was fired this week “because he held on to the notion that there was an objective reality that could be reported objectively, despite the fact that that was not our editorial policy at Atlanta Progressive News.”

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CPAC: Past, Present, and Future

One former VP, a former (and current) presidential aspirant, and a future rock star came to the CPAC gathering today. Two of them aren’t running for president in 2012, and you can bet the other is.

Dick Cheney made a surprise appearance and, in essence, passed the baton to the generation of his daughter Liz. (She might be running for something before too long.) As for Marco Rubio:

The star of CPAC continued his rise in the Republican Party on Thursday with a story about his American Dream. Marco Rubio, who has surged to near-even with Gov. Charlie Crist in the Florida GOP Senate primary, used his speech in front of the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) to bash President Barack Obama, Republican defector Sen. Arlen Specter and, by connection, the centrist Crist.

Rubio suggested that Crist would be another senator in the mold of Specter (D-Pa.), who in the face of a tough reelection last year fled the GOP to become a Democrat.

“We already have one Arlen Specter,” Rubio said, adding: “We already have one Democratic Party.”

Ouch. But it’s clear that his invocation of the American dream, his staunch position on the war against Islamic fascists, and his full-throated conservative economic message are a hit with the base, and will likely transfer comfortably to a general-election race.

Cheney and Rubio made clear that they will not be running in 2012. But Mitt Romney surely will. Ben Smith summed it up:

Mitt Romney has gone from being an overeager suitor to being a favored son of the Conservative Political Action Conference since he ended his presidential campaign here in 2008, and his speech today was well-calibrated to an audience basking in a conservative resurgence and eager for attacks on Obama.

Sen. Scott Brown introduced Romney, sharing a bit of his new star power with the former governor, whose aides ran Brown’s campaign, and calling him perfectly qualified “to fix a broken economy.”

Romney’s prepared remarks lace into Obama on an array of issues, all hinged on a single theme: Obama has departed from American values.

Several things were noteworthy in his speech. First, unlike his potential competitor Tim Pawlenty, who’s taken to slamming the GOP and, indirectly, George. W. Bush, Romney wasn’t going there:

When it comes to shifting responsibility for failure, however, no one is a more frequent object of President Obama’s reproach than President Bush. It’s wearing so thin that even the late night shows make fun of it. I am convinced that history will judge President Bush far more kindly — he pulled us from a deepening recession following the attack of 9/11, he overcame teachers unions to test school children and evaluate schools, he took down the Taliban, waged a war against the jihadists and was not afraid to call it what it is — a war, and he kept us safe.

Classy, and, after a year of not-Bush in the Oval Office, I suspect the message will resonate with conservatives.

Second, Romney, who struggled to find footing with social conservatives and to establish his bona fides on abortion and other such issues,  focused almost exclusively on foreign policy and the economy. When he did talk about “strengthening families,” it was education and health care, not abortion and gay rights, that were his focus. If 2012 will be about “letting Romney be Romney,” then you’re going to hear less of the hot-button issues that rang as not quite authentic last time around and, rather, more of this: “Conservatism has had from its inception a vigorously positive, intellectually rigorous agenda.”

Third, he has clearly found his focus, which is a conservative economic message that goes after the Democrats’ statist agenda and touts his own business background. He is laying the case that Obama simply doesn’t understand how the economy works and isn’t prepared, even now, to be president:

As he frequently reminds us, he assumed the presidency at a difficult time. That’s the reason we argued during the campaign that these were not the times for on the job training. Had he or his advisors spent even a few years in the real economy, they would have learned that the number one cause of failure in the private sector is lack of focus, and that the first rule of turning around any troubled enterprise is focus, focus, focus. And so, when he assumed the presidency, his energy should have been focused on fixing the economy and creating jobs, and to succeeding in our fight against radical violent jihad in Iraq and Afghanistan. Instead, he applied his time and political capital to his ill-conceived healthcare takeover and to building his personal popularity in foreign countries. He failed to focus, and so he failed.

And finally, there is a reason Romney is saying nice things about both George W. Bush and Dick Cheney — he’s running against the not-Bush (and Cheney) national-security policy:

We will strengthen our security by building missile defense, restoring our military might, and standing-by and strengthening our intelligence officers. And conservatives believe in providing constitutional rights to our citizens, not to enemy combatants like Khalid Sheikh Mohammed! On our watch, the conversation with a would-be suicide bomber will not begin with the words, “You have the right to remain silent!”

Romney never quite clicked with the conservative base last time. But Republicans are notoriously forgiving types and have a habit of going back to the runner-up. If he’s going to run as Romney the businessman, experienced executive, free-market advocate, and tough-as-nails commander in chief, it will be quite a contrast with Obama. But first he’s got to wow the conservative base and get by some formidable competition. Bringing along Scott Brown to introduce him was one small sign that he understands the need to connect with not just mainstreet Republicans but also with the grassroots tea party movement, which carried Brown into office. No easy task, but then again, we should all get a grip — it is still 2010.

One former VP, a former (and current) presidential aspirant, and a future rock star came to the CPAC gathering today. Two of them aren’t running for president in 2012, and you can bet the other is.

Dick Cheney made a surprise appearance and, in essence, passed the baton to the generation of his daughter Liz. (She might be running for something before too long.) As for Marco Rubio:

The star of CPAC continued his rise in the Republican Party on Thursday with a story about his American Dream. Marco Rubio, who has surged to near-even with Gov. Charlie Crist in the Florida GOP Senate primary, used his speech in front of the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) to bash President Barack Obama, Republican defector Sen. Arlen Specter and, by connection, the centrist Crist.

Rubio suggested that Crist would be another senator in the mold of Specter (D-Pa.), who in the face of a tough reelection last year fled the GOP to become a Democrat.

“We already have one Arlen Specter,” Rubio said, adding: “We already have one Democratic Party.”

Ouch. But it’s clear that his invocation of the American dream, his staunch position on the war against Islamic fascists, and his full-throated conservative economic message are a hit with the base, and will likely transfer comfortably to a general-election race.

Cheney and Rubio made clear that they will not be running in 2012. But Mitt Romney surely will. Ben Smith summed it up:

Mitt Romney has gone from being an overeager suitor to being a favored son of the Conservative Political Action Conference since he ended his presidential campaign here in 2008, and his speech today was well-calibrated to an audience basking in a conservative resurgence and eager for attacks on Obama.

Sen. Scott Brown introduced Romney, sharing a bit of his new star power with the former governor, whose aides ran Brown’s campaign, and calling him perfectly qualified “to fix a broken economy.”

Romney’s prepared remarks lace into Obama on an array of issues, all hinged on a single theme: Obama has departed from American values.

Several things were noteworthy in his speech. First, unlike his potential competitor Tim Pawlenty, who’s taken to slamming the GOP and, indirectly, George. W. Bush, Romney wasn’t going there:

When it comes to shifting responsibility for failure, however, no one is a more frequent object of President Obama’s reproach than President Bush. It’s wearing so thin that even the late night shows make fun of it. I am convinced that history will judge President Bush far more kindly — he pulled us from a deepening recession following the attack of 9/11, he overcame teachers unions to test school children and evaluate schools, he took down the Taliban, waged a war against the jihadists and was not afraid to call it what it is — a war, and he kept us safe.

Classy, and, after a year of not-Bush in the Oval Office, I suspect the message will resonate with conservatives.

Second, Romney, who struggled to find footing with social conservatives and to establish his bona fides on abortion and other such issues,  focused almost exclusively on foreign policy and the economy. When he did talk about “strengthening families,” it was education and health care, not abortion and gay rights, that were his focus. If 2012 will be about “letting Romney be Romney,” then you’re going to hear less of the hot-button issues that rang as not quite authentic last time around and, rather, more of this: “Conservatism has had from its inception a vigorously positive, intellectually rigorous agenda.”

Third, he has clearly found his focus, which is a conservative economic message that goes after the Democrats’ statist agenda and touts his own business background. He is laying the case that Obama simply doesn’t understand how the economy works and isn’t prepared, even now, to be president:

As he frequently reminds us, he assumed the presidency at a difficult time. That’s the reason we argued during the campaign that these were not the times for on the job training. Had he or his advisors spent even a few years in the real economy, they would have learned that the number one cause of failure in the private sector is lack of focus, and that the first rule of turning around any troubled enterprise is focus, focus, focus. And so, when he assumed the presidency, his energy should have been focused on fixing the economy and creating jobs, and to succeeding in our fight against radical violent jihad in Iraq and Afghanistan. Instead, he applied his time and political capital to his ill-conceived healthcare takeover and to building his personal popularity in foreign countries. He failed to focus, and so he failed.

And finally, there is a reason Romney is saying nice things about both George W. Bush and Dick Cheney — he’s running against the not-Bush (and Cheney) national-security policy:

We will strengthen our security by building missile defense, restoring our military might, and standing-by and strengthening our intelligence officers. And conservatives believe in providing constitutional rights to our citizens, not to enemy combatants like Khalid Sheikh Mohammed! On our watch, the conversation with a would-be suicide bomber will not begin with the words, “You have the right to remain silent!”

Romney never quite clicked with the conservative base last time. But Republicans are notoriously forgiving types and have a habit of going back to the runner-up. If he’s going to run as Romney the businessman, experienced executive, free-market advocate, and tough-as-nails commander in chief, it will be quite a contrast with Obama. But first he’s got to wow the conservative base and get by some formidable competition. Bringing along Scott Brown to introduce him was one small sign that he understands the need to connect with not just mainstreet Republicans but also with the grassroots tea party movement, which carried Brown into office. No easy task, but then again, we should all get a grip — it is still 2010.

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Is Barack Obama the Last Best Hope of Hamas?

Barack Obama’s belief in “engagement” with America’s enemies hasn’t worked out too well with Iran but that doesn’t stop his No.1 fan at Time magazine from encouraging the president to try his luck with Tehran’s ally Hamas. That’s the upshot of Joe Klein’s lament, in which he criticizes Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s tough talk with the Arab world at the Brooking Institution’s U.S.-Islamic World Forum in Qatar. Klein, along on the junket with Hillary, wasn’t terribly interested in the secretary’s obituary of Obama’s failed outreach to Iran. But he did have harsh words for her summary of the situation in Gaza, which she rightly blamed on Hamas’s violence. The fate of Gaza, solidly in the hands of Iran’s terrorist proxy, would, she said, have to await a comprehensive settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Indeed, as long as an Islamist rejectionist group controls Gaza, nothing can be done about the place.

That answer pleased neither the Arabs nor Klein. The writer places the blame on Israel for Obama’s acknowledged failure in the Middle East, while ignoring the fact that neither the supposedly moderate Palestinians of Fatah nor the extremists of Hamas have any interest in learning to live with a Jewish state, no matter where its borders are drawn.

Yet rather than concentrating our energies on preventing Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons — a development that would undermine the security of most of the Arab world as well as present an existential threat to Israel — Klein wants the United States to concentrate its energies on finding a way to lift the partial international blockade on the terrorist state in Gaza. The blockade of Hamasistan allows food and medical supplies to enter the area but seeks to prevent the import of building materials (which can be used to bolster Hamas’s thriving small-arms industry) or weapons from abroad. The three conditions that Israel has placed on lifting the blockade are an end to the terrorist missile fire from Gaza into southern Israel, a stop to arms smuggling, and the release of kidnapped Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit. Klein is right that the missile fire has come to what may be a temporary halt. He also believes that the smuggling issue can be resolved, although, as shown by the death of a Hamas leader in Dubai at a time when he was seeking to facilitate the transport of weapons from Iran to Gaza, this is not a minor point. As for Shalit’s ordeal, Klein dismisses it as “an insane sticking point.”

So what’s his solution? The United States must “engage” the Hamas terrorists. That’s something that both Obama and Clinton have rightly pledged not to do — but, according to the columnist, “if Obama’s policy really is about engaging our enemies, he needs to engage Hamas — and Hamas needs to respond. Quickly.” According to Klein, the problem for Hamas is that the alternative to dealing with Obama is a return to the policies of the dread Dick Cheney and the neoconservatives. He concludes: “The leaders of Hamas — and other potential interlocutors, like the Syrians — need to understand that this may be their last best chance for progress. After Obama, the deluge.”

While a more sensible foreign policy may well have to await the election of a new president, what Klein fails to understand is that no matter who sits in the White House, it is not in America’s interest to rescue the killers of Hamas. Rather, it should be our policy to isolate and hopefully oust them from power. But if any argument is designed to undermine the appeal of the president’s discredited engagement policy, it is Klein’s belief that Barack Obama is the last best hope of one of the world’s most vicious terrorist groups.

Barack Obama’s belief in “engagement” with America’s enemies hasn’t worked out too well with Iran but that doesn’t stop his No.1 fan at Time magazine from encouraging the president to try his luck with Tehran’s ally Hamas. That’s the upshot of Joe Klein’s lament, in which he criticizes Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s tough talk with the Arab world at the Brooking Institution’s U.S.-Islamic World Forum in Qatar. Klein, along on the junket with Hillary, wasn’t terribly interested in the secretary’s obituary of Obama’s failed outreach to Iran. But he did have harsh words for her summary of the situation in Gaza, which she rightly blamed on Hamas’s violence. The fate of Gaza, solidly in the hands of Iran’s terrorist proxy, would, she said, have to await a comprehensive settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Indeed, as long as an Islamist rejectionist group controls Gaza, nothing can be done about the place.

That answer pleased neither the Arabs nor Klein. The writer places the blame on Israel for Obama’s acknowledged failure in the Middle East, while ignoring the fact that neither the supposedly moderate Palestinians of Fatah nor the extremists of Hamas have any interest in learning to live with a Jewish state, no matter where its borders are drawn.

Yet rather than concentrating our energies on preventing Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons — a development that would undermine the security of most of the Arab world as well as present an existential threat to Israel — Klein wants the United States to concentrate its energies on finding a way to lift the partial international blockade on the terrorist state in Gaza. The blockade of Hamasistan allows food and medical supplies to enter the area but seeks to prevent the import of building materials (which can be used to bolster Hamas’s thriving small-arms industry) or weapons from abroad. The three conditions that Israel has placed on lifting the blockade are an end to the terrorist missile fire from Gaza into southern Israel, a stop to arms smuggling, and the release of kidnapped Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit. Klein is right that the missile fire has come to what may be a temporary halt. He also believes that the smuggling issue can be resolved, although, as shown by the death of a Hamas leader in Dubai at a time when he was seeking to facilitate the transport of weapons from Iran to Gaza, this is not a minor point. As for Shalit’s ordeal, Klein dismisses it as “an insane sticking point.”

So what’s his solution? The United States must “engage” the Hamas terrorists. That’s something that both Obama and Clinton have rightly pledged not to do — but, according to the columnist, “if Obama’s policy really is about engaging our enemies, he needs to engage Hamas — and Hamas needs to respond. Quickly.” According to Klein, the problem for Hamas is that the alternative to dealing with Obama is a return to the policies of the dread Dick Cheney and the neoconservatives. He concludes: “The leaders of Hamas — and other potential interlocutors, like the Syrians — need to understand that this may be their last best chance for progress. After Obama, the deluge.”

While a more sensible foreign policy may well have to await the election of a new president, what Klein fails to understand is that no matter who sits in the White House, it is not in America’s interest to rescue the killers of Hamas. Rather, it should be our policy to isolate and hopefully oust them from power. But if any argument is designed to undermine the appeal of the president’s discredited engagement policy, it is Klein’s belief that Barack Obama is the last best hope of one of the world’s most vicious terrorist groups.

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Losing Coal Country

This report suggests that the Democrats are in for some trouble in Virginia and other conservative congressional districts that had been voting Democratic of late:

The anger at Washington that is seeping across the country registered a while back in the high ridges of Appalachia, a once-indomitable Democratic stronghold where voters turned away from President Obama in 2008 just as overwhelmingly as they embraced him most everywhere else.

Voters in Virginia’s 9th Congressional District are mad that the government has spent hundreds of billions to fix an economy that seems only to deteriorate around them. They’re fearful of a federal takeover of health care. They’re petrified that proposed emissions limits would destroy the coal industry that provides most of the region’s jobs. And they want no part of a president they view as elitist and unlike them.

The politician who is going to feel the brunt of this is a 14-term (yes, 14) congressman, Rick Boucher, who made the error of voting for cap-and-trade while representing a district in coal country. They’re angry with him but furious with Obama:

Residents talk often of their “pridefulness” and independence. But they feel like criminals when politicians try to take their guns away, like children when they’re told they need health care and like villains when coal is blamed for destroying the environment although it provides most of the region’s jobs and half of the nation’s power. They assume that Obama doesn’t get any of this — or doesn’t care.

The report hastens to accuse the residents of racism and to make the utterly unsubstantiated claim that race is also hampering Boucher, who is white. “Race adds another challenge for Boucher, who enthusiastically endorsed Obama early in the 2008 Democratic primary.” Got that?

Boucher is, however, going to have to explain his embrace of Obama’s agenda, and that’s trickier. On cap-and-trade, he’ll have to do better than “there is real misunderstanding on my role and what the bill was designed to do.”

More generally, he will have to respond to the visceral distaste that residents — like this retired coal miner — express toward those in power now: “The Republicans gave the Democrats the majority — why? Because they didn’t know how to keep their hands out of the till. … But the Democrats, they’re trying to push all these things on the American people. And we don’t want it.” That is what many Democratic incumbents will be hearing this year and why, I suspect, there will be fewer of them around next year.

This report suggests that the Democrats are in for some trouble in Virginia and other conservative congressional districts that had been voting Democratic of late:

The anger at Washington that is seeping across the country registered a while back in the high ridges of Appalachia, a once-indomitable Democratic stronghold where voters turned away from President Obama in 2008 just as overwhelmingly as they embraced him most everywhere else.

Voters in Virginia’s 9th Congressional District are mad that the government has spent hundreds of billions to fix an economy that seems only to deteriorate around them. They’re fearful of a federal takeover of health care. They’re petrified that proposed emissions limits would destroy the coal industry that provides most of the region’s jobs. And they want no part of a president they view as elitist and unlike them.

The politician who is going to feel the brunt of this is a 14-term (yes, 14) congressman, Rick Boucher, who made the error of voting for cap-and-trade while representing a district in coal country. They’re angry with him but furious with Obama:

Residents talk often of their “pridefulness” and independence. But they feel like criminals when politicians try to take their guns away, like children when they’re told they need health care and like villains when coal is blamed for destroying the environment although it provides most of the region’s jobs and half of the nation’s power. They assume that Obama doesn’t get any of this — or doesn’t care.

The report hastens to accuse the residents of racism and to make the utterly unsubstantiated claim that race is also hampering Boucher, who is white. “Race adds another challenge for Boucher, who enthusiastically endorsed Obama early in the 2008 Democratic primary.” Got that?

Boucher is, however, going to have to explain his embrace of Obama’s agenda, and that’s trickier. On cap-and-trade, he’ll have to do better than “there is real misunderstanding on my role and what the bill was designed to do.”

More generally, he will have to respond to the visceral distaste that residents — like this retired coal miner — express toward those in power now: “The Republicans gave the Democrats the majority — why? Because they didn’t know how to keep their hands out of the till. … But the Democrats, they’re trying to push all these things on the American people. And we don’t want it.” That is what many Democratic incumbents will be hearing this year and why, I suspect, there will be fewer of them around next year.

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Re: Iran Strike, Out

Yesterday, I pointed out that the Obama administration seems to have taken the military option off the table regarding Iran. Hillary Clinton’s recent comments in Qatar leave little room for any other interpretation. How striking, then, to see the comparative hawkishness of our neighbor to the north:

An attack on Israel would be considered an attack on Canada, junior foreign minister Peter Kent says, suggesting that pre-emptive action may be needed against Iran.

“Prime Minister (Stephen) Harper has made it quite clear for some time now and has regularly stated that an attack on Israel would be considered an attack on Canada,” said Kent, minister of state for foreign affairs (Americas).

Kent made the comments in an interview with the news site Shalom Life, based in Greater Toronto.

Discussing the nuclear ambitions of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Kent said Ottawa favours further sanctions against Iran but only in “concert with other countries.

“It may soon be time to intensify the sanctions and to broaden those sanctions into other areas … which we hope would discourage Iran from its current course.

“I think the realization that it’s a dangerous situation that has been there for some time. It’s a matter of timing and it’s a matter of how long we can wait without taking more serious pre-emptive action.”

He said military action, while a long shot, is still on the table.

What a strange time indeed that finds the U.S. trailing Canada (and France) in its boldness toward a near-nuclear Iran.

Yesterday, I pointed out that the Obama administration seems to have taken the military option off the table regarding Iran. Hillary Clinton’s recent comments in Qatar leave little room for any other interpretation. How striking, then, to see the comparative hawkishness of our neighbor to the north:

An attack on Israel would be considered an attack on Canada, junior foreign minister Peter Kent says, suggesting that pre-emptive action may be needed against Iran.

“Prime Minister (Stephen) Harper has made it quite clear for some time now and has regularly stated that an attack on Israel would be considered an attack on Canada,” said Kent, minister of state for foreign affairs (Americas).

Kent made the comments in an interview with the news site Shalom Life, based in Greater Toronto.

Discussing the nuclear ambitions of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Kent said Ottawa favours further sanctions against Iran but only in “concert with other countries.

“It may soon be time to intensify the sanctions and to broaden those sanctions into other areas … which we hope would discourage Iran from its current course.

“I think the realization that it’s a dangerous situation that has been there for some time. It’s a matter of timing and it’s a matter of how long we can wait without taking more serious pre-emptive action.”

He said military action, while a long shot, is still on the table.

What a strange time indeed that finds the U.S. trailing Canada (and France) in its boldness toward a near-nuclear Iran.

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Spinning Obama’s Indifference to Foreign Policy

Buried on page 15 of the Washington Post (but not linkable) is an interesting chart and short column by Glenn Kessler. He writes: “When President Obama did not mention the Middle East peace process in his State of the Union speech, some commentators said it was an unusual lapse, perhaps signifying that he had lost interest in the issue after a year of disappointing results.” But no! Kessler jumps into the fray to defend the president (is he now on the White House payroll?) pointing out that lots of other presidents didn’t mention the Middle East either. Kessler spent time checking 50 of these and found that only 30 percent had mentioned the Middle East peace process. He then provided a chart, time line, and, sometime, photos. Wow. That’s a lot of spin … er … work on the subject.

But wait. Obama said that no other president had really tried hard enough to broker a peace deal. He was going to be different in that regard. He was going to roll up his sleeves and personally get involved. He was “impatient” with the lack of progress to date, remember? Well, not so much any more. And he’s belatedly reaching the conclusion that there is no peace to process. So, for all his spin, Kessler seems to prove the critics’ point: so much for Obama the Middle East peace maker.

But Kessler also distorts the gravamen of many of those who commented on Obama’s State of the Union omission. It wasn’t simply the failure to mention the Middle East non-peace process that raised eyebrows. It was Obama’s cursory, back-of-the-hand treatment of all matters of foreign policy and national security. He barely mentioned Iran, didn’t bother with any mention of the mullahs’ human-rights atrocities, and devoted a single sentence to the Christmas Day bombing incident (“We are filling unacceptable gaps revealed by the failed Christmas attack, with better airline security, and swifter action on our intelligence.”), and then repeated his mantra that he “prohibited torture.” (Wrong! It was illegal before him to begin with. He was the one who determined that all we could utilize in interrogations was the Army Field Manual — a distinction he purposefully blurs.) Perhaps if Kessler had compared the paragraphs devoted to terrorism in Obama’s speech with those of George W. Bush’s State of the Union addresses, we would have had a more meaningful bit of data.

Obama never tires of telling us that he’s not George W. Bush. Well, when it comes to focus and passion devoted to defending us in the war against Islamic fascists, I think he’s right.

Buried on page 15 of the Washington Post (but not linkable) is an interesting chart and short column by Glenn Kessler. He writes: “When President Obama did not mention the Middle East peace process in his State of the Union speech, some commentators said it was an unusual lapse, perhaps signifying that he had lost interest in the issue after a year of disappointing results.” But no! Kessler jumps into the fray to defend the president (is he now on the White House payroll?) pointing out that lots of other presidents didn’t mention the Middle East either. Kessler spent time checking 50 of these and found that only 30 percent had mentioned the Middle East peace process. He then provided a chart, time line, and, sometime, photos. Wow. That’s a lot of spin … er … work on the subject.

But wait. Obama said that no other president had really tried hard enough to broker a peace deal. He was going to be different in that regard. He was going to roll up his sleeves and personally get involved. He was “impatient” with the lack of progress to date, remember? Well, not so much any more. And he’s belatedly reaching the conclusion that there is no peace to process. So, for all his spin, Kessler seems to prove the critics’ point: so much for Obama the Middle East peace maker.

But Kessler also distorts the gravamen of many of those who commented on Obama’s State of the Union omission. It wasn’t simply the failure to mention the Middle East non-peace process that raised eyebrows. It was Obama’s cursory, back-of-the-hand treatment of all matters of foreign policy and national security. He barely mentioned Iran, didn’t bother with any mention of the mullahs’ human-rights atrocities, and devoted a single sentence to the Christmas Day bombing incident (“We are filling unacceptable gaps revealed by the failed Christmas attack, with better airline security, and swifter action on our intelligence.”), and then repeated his mantra that he “prohibited torture.” (Wrong! It was illegal before him to begin with. He was the one who determined that all we could utilize in interrogations was the Army Field Manual — a distinction he purposefully blurs.) Perhaps if Kessler had compared the paragraphs devoted to terrorism in Obama’s speech with those of George W. Bush’s State of the Union addresses, we would have had a more meaningful bit of data.

Obama never tires of telling us that he’s not George W. Bush. Well, when it comes to focus and passion devoted to defending us in the war against Islamic fascists, I think he’s right.

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How Many Final Straws Did Bayh Have?

Evan Bayh better get his story straight. First, we heard it was the collapse of the jobs bill, care of the bumbling Harry Reid, that chased Bayh out the door. Now the spin is that it was the Senate thumbs down on the debt commission. (“Both parties were to blame, he said. Twenty-three Republicans [and one independent] voted no, seven of them people who had previously co-sponsored the commission bill. So did 22 Democrats, many of them committee chairmen looking out for their own prerogatives.”) That’s two “final straws.” What wasn’t a final straw, though, was passage of a monstrous 2009 budget, or all the backroom deals on ObamaCare, or the fake accounting that pronounced ObamaCare deficit neutral. That was all perfectly fine with Bayh.

Bayh is now enjoying the adulation of many pundits looking for a heroic figure and a validater for their view that Congress is inherently dysfunctional. But let’s be honest here: dysfunction also relates to the substance of what Congress has been doing, not merely what it has failed to do. (And is Bayh “part of the problem” because he opposed cap-and-trade and therefore was an “obstructionist”?) And in that regard, Bayh, like virtually all his fellow Democrats, facilitated rotten and irresponsible legislation.

But for now, Bayh is a convenient figure to use in the assault on “gridlock” — which is normally defined these days as failure to do everything on the liberal wish list. Well, if that’s gridlock, then things are working spectacularly well in the Senate, just as the Fouding Fathers intended. The Senate rules are there to slow the rush into foolishness and tyranny and make it hard to pass legislation unless it enjoys wide support. So until Obama-Reid-Pelosi start coming up with legislation that enjoys that sort of support, we should celebrate gridlock and refrain from shedding too many tears over the departure of a senator who talked a good game but voted like most partisan Democrats.

Evan Bayh better get his story straight. First, we heard it was the collapse of the jobs bill, care of the bumbling Harry Reid, that chased Bayh out the door. Now the spin is that it was the Senate thumbs down on the debt commission. (“Both parties were to blame, he said. Twenty-three Republicans [and one independent] voted no, seven of them people who had previously co-sponsored the commission bill. So did 22 Democrats, many of them committee chairmen looking out for their own prerogatives.”) That’s two “final straws.” What wasn’t a final straw, though, was passage of a monstrous 2009 budget, or all the backroom deals on ObamaCare, or the fake accounting that pronounced ObamaCare deficit neutral. That was all perfectly fine with Bayh.

Bayh is now enjoying the adulation of many pundits looking for a heroic figure and a validater for their view that Congress is inherently dysfunctional. But let’s be honest here: dysfunction also relates to the substance of what Congress has been doing, not merely what it has failed to do. (And is Bayh “part of the problem” because he opposed cap-and-trade and therefore was an “obstructionist”?) And in that regard, Bayh, like virtually all his fellow Democrats, facilitated rotten and irresponsible legislation.

But for now, Bayh is a convenient figure to use in the assault on “gridlock” — which is normally defined these days as failure to do everything on the liberal wish list. Well, if that’s gridlock, then things are working spectacularly well in the Senate, just as the Fouding Fathers intended. The Senate rules are there to slow the rush into foolishness and tyranny and make it hard to pass legislation unless it enjoys wide support. So until Obama-Reid-Pelosi start coming up with legislation that enjoys that sort of support, we should celebrate gridlock and refrain from shedding too many tears over the departure of a senator who talked a good game but voted like most partisan Democrats.

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Happy Anniversary, Marco Rubio

Chris Good smartly observes that yesterday was not simply the anniversary of the $787B stimulus plan but also that of the ascendancy of Marco Rubio. It was the stimulus plan that vaulted Rubio into the Senate race and now into a double-digit lead:

Much of the previously-little-known former state House speaker’s campaign against Gov. Charlie Crist (R) has focused on Crist’s support of the stimulus. Rubio has hit the governor repeatedly for it since announcing his candidacy. In November, Rubio launched the website CharlieandObama.com, dedicated entirely to tying Crist to Obama for his backing of the $787 billion package–with a now-infamous photo of Crist physically embracing Obama displayed prominently. …

Despite the money that it brought to Florida, that move proved to be an easy and effective weapon for Rubio–who wasn’t yet running for Senate–to claw his way into a competitive race with the well-known Crist. Since then, Rubio steadily hammered Crist on the stimulus, and, despite no one knowing who he was and seemingly having no chance in polls at the start of the primary race, he’s become the darling candidate not just of conservatives in Florida, but of activists and prominent conservative interest groups nationwide.

Today Rubio is the headliner at the CPAC gathering in D.C. (“A darling of the tea party movement and conservative grassroots activists who view the establishment-backed Crist as a squishy, unprincipled moderate, Rubio has suddenly emerged as the belle of the conservative ball.”) In typically tone-deaf fashion, a Crist aide put out a fake version of Rubio’s speech that began “Since my campaign began, I’ve had the privilege of becoming the latest cover boy.” Needless to say, Crist wasn’t invited to the event, and the reminder that Rubio is the latest conservative rock star probably doesn’t help Crist’s cause.

In his rise in the polls, Rubio had some help along the way, primarily from Crist, who ran a hapless race, seemed at odds with the energized conservative base, and now has to cope with a financial scandal in the state party headed by Crist’s confidante. But it was Rubio who sensed the right message well before many other Republicans did. Good explains, “Crist’s support for the stimulus was the beginning of Florida conservatives’ discontent with their centrist governor, opening a door for Rubio, according to South Florida Tea Party Chairman Everett Wilkinson. ‘It was the tipping point for most conservatives, who said enough is enough,’ Wilkinson said. ‘I think Rubio came along at the right time and said, ‘I’m for smaller government, I’m for balancing the budget.'”

Rubio has proved to be a successful political fundraiser and bridge-builder, putting together inside-the-Beltway conservatives and Tea Party protesters. But recall that a contingent of the “smart” (as in the Obami’s “smart” diplomacy, which means not at all) punditocracy on the Right didn’t want him to run. He’d mess up Crist’s victory lap, they said. Then the mainstream media got into the act, predicting a civil war.

Rubio wisely ignored all that and stuck to a principled conservative platform and an upbeat tone. The latter shouldn’t be ignored. If one looks at the Republican winners of late — Chris Christie, Bob McDonnell, and Scott Brown — there wasn’t a grouchy, gloom-and-doomer in the lot. In fact, they made the other guys and gals seems like the aggrieved grumps.

So what are the political lessons from Rubio’s success for other Republicans? Ignore Republican insiders; they’re nearly always wrong. Take principled conservative stances on issues voters care most about and stick to them. Ignore early polls; they’re meaningless. Be cheery, avoid personal attacks, and never get in the way of your opponent when he’s self-destructing. That, come to think of it, was pretty close to the Christie-McDonnell-Brown model as well. Oh, and the most important thing: make sure to run when Obama-Reid-Pelosi are in charge. And that opportunity may not last much longer.

Chris Good smartly observes that yesterday was not simply the anniversary of the $787B stimulus plan but also that of the ascendancy of Marco Rubio. It was the stimulus plan that vaulted Rubio into the Senate race and now into a double-digit lead:

Much of the previously-little-known former state House speaker’s campaign against Gov. Charlie Crist (R) has focused on Crist’s support of the stimulus. Rubio has hit the governor repeatedly for it since announcing his candidacy. In November, Rubio launched the website CharlieandObama.com, dedicated entirely to tying Crist to Obama for his backing of the $787 billion package–with a now-infamous photo of Crist physically embracing Obama displayed prominently. …

Despite the money that it brought to Florida, that move proved to be an easy and effective weapon for Rubio–who wasn’t yet running for Senate–to claw his way into a competitive race with the well-known Crist. Since then, Rubio steadily hammered Crist on the stimulus, and, despite no one knowing who he was and seemingly having no chance in polls at the start of the primary race, he’s become the darling candidate not just of conservatives in Florida, but of activists and prominent conservative interest groups nationwide.

Today Rubio is the headliner at the CPAC gathering in D.C. (“A darling of the tea party movement and conservative grassroots activists who view the establishment-backed Crist as a squishy, unprincipled moderate, Rubio has suddenly emerged as the belle of the conservative ball.”) In typically tone-deaf fashion, a Crist aide put out a fake version of Rubio’s speech that began “Since my campaign began, I’ve had the privilege of becoming the latest cover boy.” Needless to say, Crist wasn’t invited to the event, and the reminder that Rubio is the latest conservative rock star probably doesn’t help Crist’s cause.

In his rise in the polls, Rubio had some help along the way, primarily from Crist, who ran a hapless race, seemed at odds with the energized conservative base, and now has to cope with a financial scandal in the state party headed by Crist’s confidante. But it was Rubio who sensed the right message well before many other Republicans did. Good explains, “Crist’s support for the stimulus was the beginning of Florida conservatives’ discontent with their centrist governor, opening a door for Rubio, according to South Florida Tea Party Chairman Everett Wilkinson. ‘It was the tipping point for most conservatives, who said enough is enough,’ Wilkinson said. ‘I think Rubio came along at the right time and said, ‘I’m for smaller government, I’m for balancing the budget.'”

Rubio has proved to be a successful political fundraiser and bridge-builder, putting together inside-the-Beltway conservatives and Tea Party protesters. But recall that a contingent of the “smart” (as in the Obami’s “smart” diplomacy, which means not at all) punditocracy on the Right didn’t want him to run. He’d mess up Crist’s victory lap, they said. Then the mainstream media got into the act, predicting a civil war.

Rubio wisely ignored all that and stuck to a principled conservative platform and an upbeat tone. The latter shouldn’t be ignored. If one looks at the Republican winners of late — Chris Christie, Bob McDonnell, and Scott Brown — there wasn’t a grouchy, gloom-and-doomer in the lot. In fact, they made the other guys and gals seems like the aggrieved grumps.

So what are the political lessons from Rubio’s success for other Republicans? Ignore Republican insiders; they’re nearly always wrong. Take principled conservative stances on issues voters care most about and stick to them. Ignore early polls; they’re meaningless. Be cheery, avoid personal attacks, and never get in the way of your opponent when he’s self-destructing. That, come to think of it, was pretty close to the Christie-McDonnell-Brown model as well. Oh, and the most important thing: make sure to run when Obama-Reid-Pelosi are in charge. And that opportunity may not last much longer.

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Re: Arnold Beichman, 1913-2010

I would like to add a small footnote to John Podhoretz’s moving tribute to Arnold Beichman, who died yesterday at age 96.

John noted that Beichman never wrote a memoir “even though he had a great one in him.” One can sense the truth of that observation from the letter Beichman wrote in 1994 to COMMENTARY, at age 80, in response to Jacob Sloan’s article “Saying Kaddish.”

The article had reminded Beichman of “an episode in my early childhood when I became a steady attendant Friday nights and Saturdays at a Lower East Side shul on Rivington Street.”

As I grew older, I began to note something I couldn’t understand. Usually, over the months, the faces of Kaddish-sayers changed with the expiry of the required year of mourning. One face, I began to notice, never seemed to change—Reb Moishe Bear’s. A big, broad-shouldered man (a carpenter, I recall), he was always saying Kaddish. Week after week, High Holy Days, Sabbath, and weekdays, Reb Moishe Bear, eyes shut tight, face rapt, head swaying from side to side, was always saying Kaddish, and loudly. At first, I assumed that he had a lot of relatives who were dying all the time, and I felt sorry for him because he was a nice man. But as I approached my bar-mitzvah year, I began to wonder: how could this be?

One Friday night, I decided to satisfy my curiosity. I asked my father about Reb Moishe Bear and what seemed like his terribly sad fate. “For whom is Reb Moishe Bear saying Kaddish?”

My father replied in Yiddish with a gentle smile: “Er zogt Kaddish oyf der velt”—he is saying Kaddish for the world.

I didn’t know what my father meant. Didn’t you have to have a death in the family? Not necessarily, said my father. Anybody over the age of thirteen could say Kaddish, and if Reb Moishe Bear wanted to say it “oyf der velt,” he could do it and maybe even earn the merit of performing a mitzvah. I persisted: so why didn’t my father do the same?

My father smiled; his sense of tzneeyus (modesty), he said, prevented him from mourning for the world.

Not until years later did I grasp the gentle irony in my father’s answer about people who undertake to say Kaddish “oyf der velt.”

Now the COMMENTARY community will say Kaddish for him, and the gracious intellect that is reflected in that story.

I would like to add a small footnote to John Podhoretz’s moving tribute to Arnold Beichman, who died yesterday at age 96.

John noted that Beichman never wrote a memoir “even though he had a great one in him.” One can sense the truth of that observation from the letter Beichman wrote in 1994 to COMMENTARY, at age 80, in response to Jacob Sloan’s article “Saying Kaddish.”

The article had reminded Beichman of “an episode in my early childhood when I became a steady attendant Friday nights and Saturdays at a Lower East Side shul on Rivington Street.”

As I grew older, I began to note something I couldn’t understand. Usually, over the months, the faces of Kaddish-sayers changed with the expiry of the required year of mourning. One face, I began to notice, never seemed to change—Reb Moishe Bear’s. A big, broad-shouldered man (a carpenter, I recall), he was always saying Kaddish. Week after week, High Holy Days, Sabbath, and weekdays, Reb Moishe Bear, eyes shut tight, face rapt, head swaying from side to side, was always saying Kaddish, and loudly. At first, I assumed that he had a lot of relatives who were dying all the time, and I felt sorry for him because he was a nice man. But as I approached my bar-mitzvah year, I began to wonder: how could this be?

One Friday night, I decided to satisfy my curiosity. I asked my father about Reb Moishe Bear and what seemed like his terribly sad fate. “For whom is Reb Moishe Bear saying Kaddish?”

My father replied in Yiddish with a gentle smile: “Er zogt Kaddish oyf der velt”—he is saying Kaddish for the world.

I didn’t know what my father meant. Didn’t you have to have a death in the family? Not necessarily, said my father. Anybody over the age of thirteen could say Kaddish, and if Reb Moishe Bear wanted to say it “oyf der velt,” he could do it and maybe even earn the merit of performing a mitzvah. I persisted: so why didn’t my father do the same?

My father smiled; his sense of tzneeyus (modesty), he said, prevented him from mourning for the world.

Not until years later did I grasp the gentle irony in my father’s answer about people who undertake to say Kaddish “oyf der velt.”

Now the COMMENTARY community will say Kaddish for him, and the gracious intellect that is reflected in that story.

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A Dubai Victory

It’s fascinating to watch the world try to turn the Dubai assassination into a debacle for Israel — all because the team members were captured on CCTV and the British and Irish authorities are making a momentary stink about the use of forged British and Irish passports.

You, the reader of this post, will be captured on CCTV a dozen times today simply going about your business. The people calling the operation “sloppy” and a “debacle” seem to actually believe that the Mossad is unaware that there are video cameras in airports and hotels today, or that the passport photos of the agents would not be revealed to the public. Really.

More important, the fact of the matter is that the team got into Dubai, rubbed out a bad guy, and got out. No drama, nobody was captured, and nobody knows the real identities of the team or where they are now. Given the extraordinary risk and complexity of the operation, that’s a win in my book. And now the Iranians, Syrians, and their terrorist clients have been given another reminder that their people aren’t safe anywhere — even in the heart of the Arab world.

And as for the people who are whining about “passport fraud” misdemeanors while ignoring the felony staring them in the face: what do you say about the fact that the terrorist in charge of illegally smuggling missiles from Iran to Hamas apparently had an open invite to hang out in Dubai? This isn’t a problem?

The Israelis either deal with high-level terrorists discreetly, or they leave them alone to go about their work, which means more and better arms in Gaza and Lebanon, which means a more destructive war down the road for the Arabs who live in these combat zones. Those who are pretending to be scandalized by the Dubai assassination tend to be the same people who pretend to care deeply about Palestinian civilians. I wonder if they’re aware of their own hypocrisy.

It’s fascinating to watch the world try to turn the Dubai assassination into a debacle for Israel — all because the team members were captured on CCTV and the British and Irish authorities are making a momentary stink about the use of forged British and Irish passports.

You, the reader of this post, will be captured on CCTV a dozen times today simply going about your business. The people calling the operation “sloppy” and a “debacle” seem to actually believe that the Mossad is unaware that there are video cameras in airports and hotels today, or that the passport photos of the agents would not be revealed to the public. Really.

More important, the fact of the matter is that the team got into Dubai, rubbed out a bad guy, and got out. No drama, nobody was captured, and nobody knows the real identities of the team or where they are now. Given the extraordinary risk and complexity of the operation, that’s a win in my book. And now the Iranians, Syrians, and their terrorist clients have been given another reminder that their people aren’t safe anywhere — even in the heart of the Arab world.

And as for the people who are whining about “passport fraud” misdemeanors while ignoring the felony staring them in the face: what do you say about the fact that the terrorist in charge of illegally smuggling missiles from Iran to Hamas apparently had an open invite to hang out in Dubai? This isn’t a problem?

The Israelis either deal with high-level terrorists discreetly, or they leave them alone to go about their work, which means more and better arms in Gaza and Lebanon, which means a more destructive war down the road for the Arabs who live in these combat zones. Those who are pretending to be scandalized by the Dubai assassination tend to be the same people who pretend to care deeply about Palestinian civilians. I wonder if they’re aware of their own hypocrisy.

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Stimulus Spin, Again

Brian Riedl of the Heritage Foundation has an easy-to-read explanation of why Obama’s claim that the stimulus saved 2 million jobs is hooey. For starters, it’s a bait-and-switch:

On the stimulus’s first anniversary, keep in mind one number: 6.3 million. That is the Obama jobs gap — the difference between the 3.3 million net jobs President Obama said would be created (not just saved) and the 3 million additional net jobs that have since been lost. By the president’s own logic, the stimulus failed. So Obama has shifted his argument. Sure, the economy lost jobs, he now says, but without the stimulus it would have lost nearly 2 million more jobs. This “it would have been worse” theory is completely unprovable. No one knows how the economy would have performed without the stimulus.

But the more fundamental problem is that there’s no evidence we’ve done anything but mush the jobs around from the private to the public sector. Riedl calls this “faith-based economics. The White House’s new estimates of ‘saving’ nearly 2 million jobs are not based on observations of the economy’s recent performance. Rather, they are based on the Obama administration’s unshakable belief that deficit spending must create jobs and growth.” If the government borrowed $300B to “create” jobs, then “the private sector now has $300 billion less to spend, which, by the same logic, means it must lose the same number of jobs, leaving a net employment impact of zero.”

But one need not have a sophisticated understanding of the flaws of Keynesian spending schemes (sometimes analogized to taking buckets of water out of one end of the lake to dump into the other end) to sense that the Obami are making stuff up — again. The public can see that unemployment is much higher than it was a year ago and much higher than the 8 percent ceiling Obama promised if the stimulus were passed. A huge majority of voters simply don’t buy what Obama is saying.

Obama feels obliged to justify his spending binge. After all, it’s the only piece of significant legislation he’s gotten through Congress. But it’s also become a symbol of his out-of-touchness and his propensity to substitute spin for reasoned policy. Moreover, by reminding voters of just how much money we’ve thrown onto the pile of debt, his stimulus-harping, I suspect, actually lowers public confidence in his handling of the economy. Goodness knows his approval ratings on the deficit and economy are already putrid.

Once again, Obama is trapped. Nothing substitutes for results — and especially not fake stimulus figures. So the public’s confidence in him deteriorates, Congress becomes more gun-shy, and nothing much gets done. Not a bad result if you think that much of what government does is unhelpful. But it’s kind of scary if you’re an incumbent lawmaker trying to convince voters to give you another term.

Brian Riedl of the Heritage Foundation has an easy-to-read explanation of why Obama’s claim that the stimulus saved 2 million jobs is hooey. For starters, it’s a bait-and-switch:

On the stimulus’s first anniversary, keep in mind one number: 6.3 million. That is the Obama jobs gap — the difference between the 3.3 million net jobs President Obama said would be created (not just saved) and the 3 million additional net jobs that have since been lost. By the president’s own logic, the stimulus failed. So Obama has shifted his argument. Sure, the economy lost jobs, he now says, but without the stimulus it would have lost nearly 2 million more jobs. This “it would have been worse” theory is completely unprovable. No one knows how the economy would have performed without the stimulus.

But the more fundamental problem is that there’s no evidence we’ve done anything but mush the jobs around from the private to the public sector. Riedl calls this “faith-based economics. The White House’s new estimates of ‘saving’ nearly 2 million jobs are not based on observations of the economy’s recent performance. Rather, they are based on the Obama administration’s unshakable belief that deficit spending must create jobs and growth.” If the government borrowed $300B to “create” jobs, then “the private sector now has $300 billion less to spend, which, by the same logic, means it must lose the same number of jobs, leaving a net employment impact of zero.”

But one need not have a sophisticated understanding of the flaws of Keynesian spending schemes (sometimes analogized to taking buckets of water out of one end of the lake to dump into the other end) to sense that the Obami are making stuff up — again. The public can see that unemployment is much higher than it was a year ago and much higher than the 8 percent ceiling Obama promised if the stimulus were passed. A huge majority of voters simply don’t buy what Obama is saying.

Obama feels obliged to justify his spending binge. After all, it’s the only piece of significant legislation he’s gotten through Congress. But it’s also become a symbol of his out-of-touchness and his propensity to substitute spin for reasoned policy. Moreover, by reminding voters of just how much money we’ve thrown onto the pile of debt, his stimulus-harping, I suspect, actually lowers public confidence in his handling of the economy. Goodness knows his approval ratings on the deficit and economy are already putrid.

Once again, Obama is trapped. Nothing substitutes for results — and especially not fake stimulus figures. So the public’s confidence in him deteriorates, Congress becomes more gun-shy, and nothing much gets done. Not a bad result if you think that much of what government does is unhelpful. But it’s kind of scary if you’re an incumbent lawmaker trying to convince voters to give you another term.

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The Blame Game Continues

“If you want to be honest, face these facts: At this moment, President Obama is losing, Democrats are losing and liberals are losing.” Sen. Mitch McConnell, perhaps? A radio talk show host? No, none other than E.J. Dionne. After months of spinning for the Obami, explaining that the Republicans were on their last legs and promising we were on the brink of passing ObamaCare, he now bemoans, “Who’s winning? Republicans, conservatives, the practitioners of obstruction and the Tea Party.”

But still, Dionne won’t concede the obvious and rails at the notion that Obama and the Democrats in Congress have brought this on themselves by their ultra-liberal agenda. Instead he blames Scott Brown’s win. (OK, so how’d that happen?) And then he blames the Senate. The way it operates, you see, is the problem — all those deals and all that compromising on ObamaCare (which he previously said would have to be “sold” to voters after the fact). And then he blames the Republicans, who have bamboozled the public: “The economy is a mess. Obama and the Democrats are for big government. Big government is responsible for the mess. Therefore the mess is the fault of Obama and the Big Government Democrats. Simplistic and misleading? Absolutely.”

Actually, it is Dionne’s diagnosis that’s simplistic and misleading. The economy is a mess. And the Obama agenda has nothing to do with solving it. Instead he and Congress have gone on a leftward jag that has scared the public, exacerbated the debt problem, freaked out investors and employers, and convinced voters that Obama is divorced from the immediate economic concerns they want addressed. And the voters are mighty sick of blaming George W. Bush, the Republicans, the filibuster, and anything else that pops to mind as a diversion. They want those in power to govern already.

Dionne remains baffled that Obama, the Democrats, and their extreme agenda would be blamed for Democrats’ sinking approval. “But if liberals and Obama are so smart, how did they — or, if you prefer, ‘we’ — allow conservatives to make this argument so effectively? Why do the mainstream media give it so much credence?” Well, it could be right, you know. After all, it explains election results in New Jersey, Virginia, and Massachusetts, and matches up with polling that shows the public’s aversion to the Democrats’ agenda.

At some point, maybe after the November election, Dionne and the Obami he defends so earnestly will need to do some soul-searching and decide if they want to maintain their isolation from reality. It’s comforting to blame everyone else for their travails, but it’s ultimately not a winning political strategy.

“If you want to be honest, face these facts: At this moment, President Obama is losing, Democrats are losing and liberals are losing.” Sen. Mitch McConnell, perhaps? A radio talk show host? No, none other than E.J. Dionne. After months of spinning for the Obami, explaining that the Republicans were on their last legs and promising we were on the brink of passing ObamaCare, he now bemoans, “Who’s winning? Republicans, conservatives, the practitioners of obstruction and the Tea Party.”

But still, Dionne won’t concede the obvious and rails at the notion that Obama and the Democrats in Congress have brought this on themselves by their ultra-liberal agenda. Instead he blames Scott Brown’s win. (OK, so how’d that happen?) And then he blames the Senate. The way it operates, you see, is the problem — all those deals and all that compromising on ObamaCare (which he previously said would have to be “sold” to voters after the fact). And then he blames the Republicans, who have bamboozled the public: “The economy is a mess. Obama and the Democrats are for big government. Big government is responsible for the mess. Therefore the mess is the fault of Obama and the Big Government Democrats. Simplistic and misleading? Absolutely.”

Actually, it is Dionne’s diagnosis that’s simplistic and misleading. The economy is a mess. And the Obama agenda has nothing to do with solving it. Instead he and Congress have gone on a leftward jag that has scared the public, exacerbated the debt problem, freaked out investors and employers, and convinced voters that Obama is divorced from the immediate economic concerns they want addressed. And the voters are mighty sick of blaming George W. Bush, the Republicans, the filibuster, and anything else that pops to mind as a diversion. They want those in power to govern already.

Dionne remains baffled that Obama, the Democrats, and their extreme agenda would be blamed for Democrats’ sinking approval. “But if liberals and Obama are so smart, how did they — or, if you prefer, ‘we’ — allow conservatives to make this argument so effectively? Why do the mainstream media give it so much credence?” Well, it could be right, you know. After all, it explains election results in New Jersey, Virginia, and Massachusetts, and matches up with polling that shows the public’s aversion to the Democrats’ agenda.

At some point, maybe after the November election, Dionne and the Obami he defends so earnestly will need to do some soul-searching and decide if they want to maintain their isolation from reality. It’s comforting to blame everyone else for their travails, but it’s ultimately not a winning political strategy.

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The Tea Partiers and Their Suitors

Karl Rove has two pieces of sage advice for the Tea Party protesters. First, he cautions that they should maintain their independence from both parties and “and instead influence both parties on debt, spending and an over-reaching federal government.” And independence, he says, is wise for the Republican party as well. (“The GOP cannot possibly hope to control the dynamics of the highly decentralized galaxy of groups that make up the tea party movement. There will be troubling excesses and these will hurt Republicans if the party is formally associated with tea party groups.”) Second, Rove advises the Tea Party protesters to “begin the difficult task of disassociating themselves from cranks and conspiracy nuts. This includes 9/11 deniers, ‘birthers’ who insist Barack Obama was not born in the U.S., and militia supporters espousing something vaguely close to armed rebellion.”

The other half of the equation, of course, is how politicians who share the Tea Party protesters’ agenda (generally, fiscal conservatism) should approach them while maintaining their electoral viability with Republicans and swing voters who are fleeing the Democratic party. There are, I would suggest, two ways to go — and it is not clear which one will be successful. There may be figures like Sarah Palin who in essence have become one of them and embody their populist ethos. As the champion of a growing, vibrant movement, a Palin-like figure can then build outward, scooping up voters who share small-government policy goals, if not all the anti-elite, anti-media attitudes the Tea Parties embody. Alternatively, there are candidates like Scott Brown and Bob McDonnell who appealed to but did not identify with the Tea Parties. They set forth a bread-and-butter agenda of fiscal conservatism and assembled a Center-Right coalition that was successful in states that had only a year or so earlier voted for Obama and Democratic congressional candidates.

The danger of the first model is that the candidate can become marginalized and find it difficult to pivot to a broader electorate in a general election race. The danger in the second is that those candidates lack a core base of supporters with fervor and faith. We will have to see how this plays out in 2010 and 2012 should the Tea Parties continue to build momentum. But one thing is certain: the movement has evolved past the point at which it can be derided, mocked, and ignored. And conservative politicians had better figure out a game plan to sweep up its participants.

Karl Rove has two pieces of sage advice for the Tea Party protesters. First, he cautions that they should maintain their independence from both parties and “and instead influence both parties on debt, spending and an over-reaching federal government.” And independence, he says, is wise for the Republican party as well. (“The GOP cannot possibly hope to control the dynamics of the highly decentralized galaxy of groups that make up the tea party movement. There will be troubling excesses and these will hurt Republicans if the party is formally associated with tea party groups.”) Second, Rove advises the Tea Party protesters to “begin the difficult task of disassociating themselves from cranks and conspiracy nuts. This includes 9/11 deniers, ‘birthers’ who insist Barack Obama was not born in the U.S., and militia supporters espousing something vaguely close to armed rebellion.”

The other half of the equation, of course, is how politicians who share the Tea Party protesters’ agenda (generally, fiscal conservatism) should approach them while maintaining their electoral viability with Republicans and swing voters who are fleeing the Democratic party. There are, I would suggest, two ways to go — and it is not clear which one will be successful. There may be figures like Sarah Palin who in essence have become one of them and embody their populist ethos. As the champion of a growing, vibrant movement, a Palin-like figure can then build outward, scooping up voters who share small-government policy goals, if not all the anti-elite, anti-media attitudes the Tea Parties embody. Alternatively, there are candidates like Scott Brown and Bob McDonnell who appealed to but did not identify with the Tea Parties. They set forth a bread-and-butter agenda of fiscal conservatism and assembled a Center-Right coalition that was successful in states that had only a year or so earlier voted for Obama and Democratic congressional candidates.

The danger of the first model is that the candidate can become marginalized and find it difficult to pivot to a broader electorate in a general election race. The danger in the second is that those candidates lack a core base of supporters with fervor and faith. We will have to see how this plays out in 2010 and 2012 should the Tea Parties continue to build momentum. But one thing is certain: the movement has evolved past the point at which it can be derided, mocked, and ignored. And conservative politicians had better figure out a game plan to sweep up its participants.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Not a report the Obami want to read: “The Fed said the unemployment rate this year could hover between 9.5 percent and 9.7 percent and between 8.2 percent and 8.5 percent next year. By 2012, the rate will range between 6.6 percent and 7.5 percent, it predicted. Those forecasts are little changed from projections the Fed released in late November. But they suggest unemployment will remain elevated heading into this year’s congressional elections and the presidential election in 2012. A more normal unemployment rate would be between 5.5 percent and 6 percent.”

Not a poll they want to see: “Just 28% of U.S. voters say the country is heading in the right direction, according to the latest Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey. This marks the lowest level of voter confidence in the nation’s current course since one year ago and appears to signal the end of a slight burst of confidence at the first of this year.”

Not a view they want to hear (from Victor Davis Hanson): “Given that the people apparently don’t want bigger deficits, more stimulus, statist health care, cap and trade, or ‘comprehensive’ immigration reform, and given that the most influential members of the Obama administration think the people either do or should want those things, we are apparently left with blaming George Bush, or self-righteously blaming the people for their stupidity, selfishness, brainwashing, or racism. Yet all of those assumptions only exacerbate the problem, and if continually voiced will turn a mid-term correction into an abject disaster for Democrats.”

Not a prediction they want to consider: “If the midterm election was held tomorrow, Republicans would retake control of Congress, Democratic pollster Stan Greenberg said Wednesday. … Voters are angry about the economy and the Democrats’ infighting in Congress, Greenberg said. ‘Right now they are just interested in punishing Democrats for not getting the job done, and in some cases getting it done badly. They [are] relishing an opportunity to bloody the Democrats.'”

James Capretta doesn’t think much of the debt commission. For starters, ObamaCare is still on the table. (“The primary reason for long-term budgetary imbalance is out-of-control spending on health-care entitlements. And so what would the Democratic health-care bills do? Stand up another runaway health-care entitlement, of course.”) Moreover, the “fundamental problem here is lack of presidential leadership. If the president thinks the long-term budget outlook is a serious threat to economic prosperity, he needs to do more than talk about it and punt the solution to a commission.”

Former GOP congressman and election statistical guru Tom Davis says there is a potential for four Republican House seat pickups in his home state of Virginia: “He noted that an internal poll in his old congressional district shows Connolly running neck-and-neck with Republican Pat Herrity, a Fairfax County supervisor, one of the leading candidates to win the GOP nomination. Davis also pointed to Rep. Rick Boucher (D-Va.) as an enticing target, asserting that he put his seat in play by supporting a cap-and-trade energy bill that is highly unpopular with constituents in his coal-producing district.”

Zachery Kouwe resigns from the New York Times in a plagiarism scandal. Maureen Dowd keeps chugging along.

Democratic senatorial campaign committee chairman Bob Menendez is getting blamed for the Democrats’ tailspin. But is it really his fault? Well, “no one claims Menendez is entirely to blame for Martha Coakley’s humiliating defeat in Massachusetts, the retirements of Bayh and North Dakota Democrat Byron Dorgan and Beau Biden’s decision to skip the Delaware Senate race. They cite any number of external factors that have dimmed the party’s prospects: the tanking popularity of President Barack Obama and his policies, the inevitability of Democratic letdown after four years of historic successes and, above all, the lousy economy.” But he’s going to get slammed because the alternative is blaming Obama.

Not a report the Obami want to read: “The Fed said the unemployment rate this year could hover between 9.5 percent and 9.7 percent and between 8.2 percent and 8.5 percent next year. By 2012, the rate will range between 6.6 percent and 7.5 percent, it predicted. Those forecasts are little changed from projections the Fed released in late November. But they suggest unemployment will remain elevated heading into this year’s congressional elections and the presidential election in 2012. A more normal unemployment rate would be between 5.5 percent and 6 percent.”

Not a poll they want to see: “Just 28% of U.S. voters say the country is heading in the right direction, according to the latest Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey. This marks the lowest level of voter confidence in the nation’s current course since one year ago and appears to signal the end of a slight burst of confidence at the first of this year.”

Not a view they want to hear (from Victor Davis Hanson): “Given that the people apparently don’t want bigger deficits, more stimulus, statist health care, cap and trade, or ‘comprehensive’ immigration reform, and given that the most influential members of the Obama administration think the people either do or should want those things, we are apparently left with blaming George Bush, or self-righteously blaming the people for their stupidity, selfishness, brainwashing, or racism. Yet all of those assumptions only exacerbate the problem, and if continually voiced will turn a mid-term correction into an abject disaster for Democrats.”

Not a prediction they want to consider: “If the midterm election was held tomorrow, Republicans would retake control of Congress, Democratic pollster Stan Greenberg said Wednesday. … Voters are angry about the economy and the Democrats’ infighting in Congress, Greenberg said. ‘Right now they are just interested in punishing Democrats for not getting the job done, and in some cases getting it done badly. They [are] relishing an opportunity to bloody the Democrats.'”

James Capretta doesn’t think much of the debt commission. For starters, ObamaCare is still on the table. (“The primary reason for long-term budgetary imbalance is out-of-control spending on health-care entitlements. And so what would the Democratic health-care bills do? Stand up another runaway health-care entitlement, of course.”) Moreover, the “fundamental problem here is lack of presidential leadership. If the president thinks the long-term budget outlook is a serious threat to economic prosperity, he needs to do more than talk about it and punt the solution to a commission.”

Former GOP congressman and election statistical guru Tom Davis says there is a potential for four Republican House seat pickups in his home state of Virginia: “He noted that an internal poll in his old congressional district shows Connolly running neck-and-neck with Republican Pat Herrity, a Fairfax County supervisor, one of the leading candidates to win the GOP nomination. Davis also pointed to Rep. Rick Boucher (D-Va.) as an enticing target, asserting that he put his seat in play by supporting a cap-and-trade energy bill that is highly unpopular with constituents in his coal-producing district.”

Zachery Kouwe resigns from the New York Times in a plagiarism scandal. Maureen Dowd keeps chugging along.

Democratic senatorial campaign committee chairman Bob Menendez is getting blamed for the Democrats’ tailspin. But is it really his fault? Well, “no one claims Menendez is entirely to blame for Martha Coakley’s humiliating defeat in Massachusetts, the retirements of Bayh and North Dakota Democrat Byron Dorgan and Beau Biden’s decision to skip the Delaware Senate race. They cite any number of external factors that have dimmed the party’s prospects: the tanking popularity of President Barack Obama and his policies, the inevitability of Democratic letdown after four years of historic successes and, above all, the lousy economy.” But he’s going to get slammed because the alternative is blaming Obama.

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