Commentary Magazine


Posts For: February 26, 2010

No Half a Loaf for These Guys!

As John outlined, there are no great or even good options for Democrats, unless of course they were to regroup, come up with a more modest package of health-care reforms, and get a solid but unassuming bill passed. But, no. The Democrats won’t entertain anything of the sort. Jake Tapper reports:

Before House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., brings the Senate Democrats’ health care reform legislation to the floor for a vote, she and her team are currently assessing whether or not they have the votes to pass it.

They need 217 votes, a majority of the 432 members currently in Congress. They don’t have them right now.

If the House doesn’t have the votes, senior White House officials say they would like Congress to pursue a more modest health care reform bill.

But there seems little desire for that among House Democrats, who would like to focus on jobs.

“We are NOT doing scaled back bill,” a senior House leadership source emails ABC News.

Tapper goes through the math, as many of us have, ticking off the loss of some “yes” votes from last year’s vote. So non-deluded political pundits and politicians all are reaching the same conclusion: there is no there there. Observers scratch their heads, shuffle their feet, and wonder: just how is Obama-Reid-Pelosi going to get out of this one?

Because the troika has egged on its base and refused to come to terms with the political reality, it will be mighty hard to go to what Tapper calls “Plan C” (a scaled-down bill) until ObamaCare finally loses. And by then, in the wake of a humiliating defeat, it’s not clear there will be the stomach to regroup and do it all again. (In 1994, once HillaryCare couldn’t garner enough votes, health-care reform was kaput and Bill Clinton moved on to other things.)

Obama and the Democrats are giving themselves four weeks — another inexplicable move. What will occur in that time? Why Republicans, Tea Party activists, and other anti-ObamaCare forces will work themselves into a fevered pitch, and the Reid-Pelosi-Obama brain trust will twist in the wind. It is yet another nearly unimaginable move in a series of calamitous political decisions. If Obama and the Democrats had tried, they couldn’t have come up with an approach better designed to invigorate their opponents and dispirit their own base.

As John outlined, there are no great or even good options for Democrats, unless of course they were to regroup, come up with a more modest package of health-care reforms, and get a solid but unassuming bill passed. But, no. The Democrats won’t entertain anything of the sort. Jake Tapper reports:

Before House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., brings the Senate Democrats’ health care reform legislation to the floor for a vote, she and her team are currently assessing whether or not they have the votes to pass it.

They need 217 votes, a majority of the 432 members currently in Congress. They don’t have them right now.

If the House doesn’t have the votes, senior White House officials say they would like Congress to pursue a more modest health care reform bill.

But there seems little desire for that among House Democrats, who would like to focus on jobs.

“We are NOT doing scaled back bill,” a senior House leadership source emails ABC News.

Tapper goes through the math, as many of us have, ticking off the loss of some “yes” votes from last year’s vote. So non-deluded political pundits and politicians all are reaching the same conclusion: there is no there there. Observers scratch their heads, shuffle their feet, and wonder: just how is Obama-Reid-Pelosi going to get out of this one?

Because the troika has egged on its base and refused to come to terms with the political reality, it will be mighty hard to go to what Tapper calls “Plan C” (a scaled-down bill) until ObamaCare finally loses. And by then, in the wake of a humiliating defeat, it’s not clear there will be the stomach to regroup and do it all again. (In 1994, once HillaryCare couldn’t garner enough votes, health-care reform was kaput and Bill Clinton moved on to other things.)

Obama and the Democrats are giving themselves four weeks — another inexplicable move. What will occur in that time? Why Republicans, Tea Party activists, and other anti-ObamaCare forces will work themselves into a fevered pitch, and the Reid-Pelosi-Obama brain trust will twist in the wind. It is yet another nearly unimaginable move in a series of calamitous political decisions. If Obama and the Democrats had tried, they couldn’t have come up with an approach better designed to invigorate their opponents and dispirit their own base.

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RE: Rangel Guilty of Ethics Violation

Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s imperviousness to reality knows no bounds. The Hill reports:

Speaker Nancy Pelosi said she’s once again sticking by embattled Rep. Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.) — at least for now.

Pelosi (D-Calif.) said during a Thursday press conference that she had not yet read the full report from the ethics committee, which admonished Rangel, the chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, for improperly accepting reimbursement for two trips to the Caribbean.

“All I saw was the press release where they said he did not violate the rules of the House,” Pelosi said. “And I think that’s an important statement that they made.”

Pelosi is flat wrong. From the House Ethics Committee press release: “The Report further finds that Representative Charles B. Rangel violated the House gift rule by accepting payment or reimbursement for travel to the 2007 and 2008 conferences.”

Nor are Pelosi’s members as out to lunch as she is. Politico reports: “Early Friday, Rep. Paul Hodes (D-N.H.) told POLITICO he wants Rangel to quit his powerful committee post — and that was quickly followed by similar statements from a pair of deep south Democrats, Mississippi Rep. Gene Taylor and Alabama Rep. Bobby Bright.”

It is hard to see what Pelosi will achieve by this sort of performance — other than cement her reputation as someone who plays fast and loose with the facts and who has, after achieving the position of Speaker of the House, been rendered politically tone deaf.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s imperviousness to reality knows no bounds. The Hill reports:

Speaker Nancy Pelosi said she’s once again sticking by embattled Rep. Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.) — at least for now.

Pelosi (D-Calif.) said during a Thursday press conference that she had not yet read the full report from the ethics committee, which admonished Rangel, the chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, for improperly accepting reimbursement for two trips to the Caribbean.

“All I saw was the press release where they said he did not violate the rules of the House,” Pelosi said. “And I think that’s an important statement that they made.”

Pelosi is flat wrong. From the House Ethics Committee press release: “The Report further finds that Representative Charles B. Rangel violated the House gift rule by accepting payment or reimbursement for travel to the 2007 and 2008 conferences.”

Nor are Pelosi’s members as out to lunch as she is. Politico reports: “Early Friday, Rep. Paul Hodes (D-N.H.) told POLITICO he wants Rangel to quit his powerful committee post — and that was quickly followed by similar statements from a pair of deep south Democrats, Mississippi Rep. Gene Taylor and Alabama Rep. Bobby Bright.”

It is hard to see what Pelosi will achieve by this sort of performance — other than cement her reputation as someone who plays fast and loose with the facts and who has, after achieving the position of Speaker of the House, been rendered politically tone deaf.

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The Charge of the Democratic Health-Care Brigade

“Where are we now?” This seems to be the question in the wake of yesterday’s health-care summit. The scenarios going forward indicate the amazing political condundra facing the president and his party.

1) Pass the health-care bill without Republican support. Well, OK, but which bill and how? The House has already passed a bill. In order to secure passage, which came with just a margin of five votes, House leaders agreed to remove abortion coverage from it (the so-called Stupak amendment). Now, try to follow this. The bill that has been voted out of the Senate committee for consideration of the full Senate features abortion coverage. Republicans have enough votes to filibuster this bill. That’s why there’s talk of passing it through the process called “reconciliation,” which needs only 51 votes, which Democrats have.

2) Make the House vote for the Senate bill. The way to muscle this legislation into law is for the House to give up its bill, bring the Senate bill (after it’s passed with 51 votes) up for a vote, pass it, and have Obama sign it. But here’s the thing. The Senate bill doesn’t have the Stupak amendment, so the dozen or so House Democrats who insisted on taking abortion out of the bill so that they could vote for it face a terrible choice. They will either have to vote for it and betray their principles and their voters and the fight they waged before. Or they can say no and risk torpedoing the bill.

It’s even more interesting than that, because three votes for the bill will not be recorded for it the next time it comes up — one due to death (John Murtha), two due to resignations (Neil Abercrombie and Robert Wexler). So what will House Democratic leaders do? They can try to put the arm on leftist Democrats who resisted voting for the original bill on the grounds it didn’t go far enough. In which case, they can win this.

Ah, but here’s the rub. They can’t possibly believe that the political situation last fall, when the House voted for its version of the bill, is the same today. Every House member is up for re-election, and polling suggests a catastrophe in the making for Democrats, in part due to the meltdown in support for health-care legislation (now 25 percent, according to CNN this week). Pelosi and Co. surely know they will not get  every single one of the 215 votes they scored last time (absent the Stupak dozen). They may be grasping at straws, but simple survival instinct will cause a major panic at the prospect of having to cast this vote. And there’s no knowing what people will do in a panic except that they will try at all cost to save their own skins.

3) Let it die in committee. Even if the Senate does pass the bill through the 51-vote reconciliation process — a big “if,” because it will ignite a major populist revolt that could have terrible consequences for Democrats in shaky Senate seats up for re-election in November —  the combination of bad poll numbers and the Stupak problem probably mean that the “pass the Senate bill” option is off the table, and so the normal Washington process will go forward. House and Senate negotiators will have to meet to harmonize their two bills. They will then agree on a single unitary piece of legislation. That unitary piece of legislation must then go back to the full House and the full Senate for final passage, at which point it is sent to the president, who can sign it into law.

The chances this will happen are increasingly remote. The attempt to pass the harmonized bill would reignite every firestorm over health care, at a time when support is only likely to decline still further. Tea Parties would erupt. Republicans will build forts with the 2,000-page bills and stack them to the inside of the Capitol Dome. Avoiding this horror show is the reason for the “pass the Senate bill” strategy. Democrats cannot allow it to happen. It would be best, at that point, to let the bill die in committee, with serious claims that the differences between the bills just couldn’t be breached. That will look terrible, but it’s the better of the two options.

4) The suicide mission. If the health-care bill collapses, the Obama presidency will be dealt a staggering blow from which it could recover, I would guess, only with a really extraordinary economic turnaround. The political calamity for Democrats in November will still take place; the president will lose the entirety of his capital with elected officials in his party; the media, sniffing a loser, will turn slowly but surely on him; and the conviction inside his own camp that he can work wonders with his silver-tongued patter will dissipate, causing a complete crisis of confidence inside the White House.

It would be better for him, unquestionably, for the legislation to pass, as a practical political matter. One could argue that the fate of his party really does rest on Obama’s shoulders, so it would be better for Democrats as well. But not for individual Democrats. So what happens if the Obama-Pelosi-Reid strategy for health-care passage is an order to House Democrats to carry out a suicide mission? That is hard to say. ObamaCare is the Democratic object of desire. One imagines that even those Democrats who don’t want to vote for it support it in their heart of hearts. So perhaps they can be appealed to on the grounds of liberal principle.

I don’t think there’s ever been a situation like this in American political history. Every way you look at it, Democrats are boxed in, forced to choose between extraordinarily unattractive options. What makes it especially noteworthy is that this was a calamity they summoned entirely upon themselves.

“Where are we now?” This seems to be the question in the wake of yesterday’s health-care summit. The scenarios going forward indicate the amazing political condundra facing the president and his party.

1) Pass the health-care bill without Republican support. Well, OK, but which bill and how? The House has already passed a bill. In order to secure passage, which came with just a margin of five votes, House leaders agreed to remove abortion coverage from it (the so-called Stupak amendment). Now, try to follow this. The bill that has been voted out of the Senate committee for consideration of the full Senate features abortion coverage. Republicans have enough votes to filibuster this bill. That’s why there’s talk of passing it through the process called “reconciliation,” which needs only 51 votes, which Democrats have.

2) Make the House vote for the Senate bill. The way to muscle this legislation into law is for the House to give up its bill, bring the Senate bill (after it’s passed with 51 votes) up for a vote, pass it, and have Obama sign it. But here’s the thing. The Senate bill doesn’t have the Stupak amendment, so the dozen or so House Democrats who insisted on taking abortion out of the bill so that they could vote for it face a terrible choice. They will either have to vote for it and betray their principles and their voters and the fight they waged before. Or they can say no and risk torpedoing the bill.

It’s even more interesting than that, because three votes for the bill will not be recorded for it the next time it comes up — one due to death (John Murtha), two due to resignations (Neil Abercrombie and Robert Wexler). So what will House Democratic leaders do? They can try to put the arm on leftist Democrats who resisted voting for the original bill on the grounds it didn’t go far enough. In which case, they can win this.

Ah, but here’s the rub. They can’t possibly believe that the political situation last fall, when the House voted for its version of the bill, is the same today. Every House member is up for re-election, and polling suggests a catastrophe in the making for Democrats, in part due to the meltdown in support for health-care legislation (now 25 percent, according to CNN this week). Pelosi and Co. surely know they will not get  every single one of the 215 votes they scored last time (absent the Stupak dozen). They may be grasping at straws, but simple survival instinct will cause a major panic at the prospect of having to cast this vote. And there’s no knowing what people will do in a panic except that they will try at all cost to save their own skins.

3) Let it die in committee. Even if the Senate does pass the bill through the 51-vote reconciliation process — a big “if,” because it will ignite a major populist revolt that could have terrible consequences for Democrats in shaky Senate seats up for re-election in November —  the combination of bad poll numbers and the Stupak problem probably mean that the “pass the Senate bill” option is off the table, and so the normal Washington process will go forward. House and Senate negotiators will have to meet to harmonize their two bills. They will then agree on a single unitary piece of legislation. That unitary piece of legislation must then go back to the full House and the full Senate for final passage, at which point it is sent to the president, who can sign it into law.

The chances this will happen are increasingly remote. The attempt to pass the harmonized bill would reignite every firestorm over health care, at a time when support is only likely to decline still further. Tea Parties would erupt. Republicans will build forts with the 2,000-page bills and stack them to the inside of the Capitol Dome. Avoiding this horror show is the reason for the “pass the Senate bill” strategy. Democrats cannot allow it to happen. It would be best, at that point, to let the bill die in committee, with serious claims that the differences between the bills just couldn’t be breached. That will look terrible, but it’s the better of the two options.

4) The suicide mission. If the health-care bill collapses, the Obama presidency will be dealt a staggering blow from which it could recover, I would guess, only with a really extraordinary economic turnaround. The political calamity for Democrats in November will still take place; the president will lose the entirety of his capital with elected officials in his party; the media, sniffing a loser, will turn slowly but surely on him; and the conviction inside his own camp that he can work wonders with his silver-tongued patter will dissipate, causing a complete crisis of confidence inside the White House.

It would be better for him, unquestionably, for the legislation to pass, as a practical political matter. One could argue that the fate of his party really does rest on Obama’s shoulders, so it would be better for Democrats as well. But not for individual Democrats. So what happens if the Obama-Pelosi-Reid strategy for health-care passage is an order to House Democrats to carry out a suicide mission? That is hard to say. ObamaCare is the Democratic object of desire. One imagines that even those Democrats who don’t want to vote for it support it in their heart of hearts. So perhaps they can be appealed to on the grounds of liberal principle.

I don’t think there’s ever been a situation like this in American political history. Every way you look at it, Democrats are boxed in, forced to choose between extraordinarily unattractive options. What makes it especially noteworthy is that this was a calamity they summoned entirely upon themselves.

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Paul Ryan: Rising Star

For those who missed it — and for those who want to better understand how many gimmicks and false/misleading claims have been made by President Obama and other Democrats on health-care costs — I’d recommend you watch this six-minute video clip of Representative Paul Ryan. He is very factual, specific, and cogent in his presentation.

It’s a nice model of how to shred bad arguments and untrue claims. And it underscores why Ryan is a rising star in the GOP.

For those who missed it — and for those who want to better understand how many gimmicks and false/misleading claims have been made by President Obama and other Democrats on health-care costs — I’d recommend you watch this six-minute video clip of Representative Paul Ryan. He is very factual, specific, and cogent in his presentation.

It’s a nice model of how to shred bad arguments and untrue claims. And it underscores why Ryan is a rising star in the GOP.

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Targeting Israel, Hitting Palestinians

A ruling by the European Union’s highest court yesterday is a perfect example of the law of unintended consequences. The court ruled that the EU’s free trade agreement with Israel does not apply to the West Bank, and therefore, goods made by Israeli firms in the West Bank are subject to EU import taxes.

Legally speaking, it’s hard to quarrel with the ruling: even Israeli law doesn’t view the West Bank as Israeli, as it does East Jerusalem and the Golan Heights. But for years, European countries ignored this detail and exempted Israeli firms in the territories from import duties. What has changed is not the law but the politics: seeking to persuade Israelis that “the occupation” doesn’t pay, EU countries recently began taxing such imports. A German importer then sued his country’s tax authorities, prompting yesterday’s verdict.

But as the Associated Press noted, the biggest victims may well be not Israelis but Palestinians. Many Israeli firms moved to the West Bank because they could export to the EU duty-free while also benefiting from cheaper Palestinian labor. Thus, if the new import taxes lower these firms’ profits, hundreds of Palestinians could lose their jobs. And because “Palestinians are largely barred from working in Israel and have few job opportunities in the Palestinian-controlled areas of the West Bank, jobs in settlement factories are sought after.”

Moreover, European efforts to tax these companies have already persuaded some to move back to Israel, and yesterday’s ruling is likely to accelerate the trend. That would throw thousands of Palestinians out of work — while benefiting the unemployed Israelis such firms would have to hire instead.

Europeans are obviously entitled to put principle above the consequences for Palestinian employment; countries make such decisions all the time. But the fact remains that once again, the biggest victims of efforts to advance the “peace process” will be ordinary Palestinians.

Thousands of Gazans, for instance, used to work for Israeli firms in the Erez industrial zone on the Israel-Gaza border. Today, Erez is a ghost town with no prospect of ever reopening: having withdrawn from Gaza, Israel could no longer protect these firms, and the Palestinians would not.

Moreover, tens of thousands of Palestinians used to work inside Israel; today, almost none do. The second intifada made a massive flow of Palestinians into Israel too risky, and Israelis felt no obligation to employ residents of a state-in-the-making that was waging nonstop physical and diplomatic warfare against them. The Palestinians, after all, cannot simultaneously demand independence from Israel and jobs inside Israel. The result is unemployment that now totals 18 percent in the West Bank and 39 percent in Gaza.

Israel is the region’s strongest economy; it will be years before the Palestinian Authority can match its employment capacity. So unless those who favor Palestinian statehood think that massive unemployment somehow contributes to this goal, they ought to be encouraging Israeli firms to hire Palestinians. Instead, Palestinian terror and international pressure have steadily combined to do the opposite.

If that sounds counterproductive, it is. Unfortunately, the EU clearly doesn’t get it.

A ruling by the European Union’s highest court yesterday is a perfect example of the law of unintended consequences. The court ruled that the EU’s free trade agreement with Israel does not apply to the West Bank, and therefore, goods made by Israeli firms in the West Bank are subject to EU import taxes.

Legally speaking, it’s hard to quarrel with the ruling: even Israeli law doesn’t view the West Bank as Israeli, as it does East Jerusalem and the Golan Heights. But for years, European countries ignored this detail and exempted Israeli firms in the territories from import duties. What has changed is not the law but the politics: seeking to persuade Israelis that “the occupation” doesn’t pay, EU countries recently began taxing such imports. A German importer then sued his country’s tax authorities, prompting yesterday’s verdict.

But as the Associated Press noted, the biggest victims may well be not Israelis but Palestinians. Many Israeli firms moved to the West Bank because they could export to the EU duty-free while also benefiting from cheaper Palestinian labor. Thus, if the new import taxes lower these firms’ profits, hundreds of Palestinians could lose their jobs. And because “Palestinians are largely barred from working in Israel and have few job opportunities in the Palestinian-controlled areas of the West Bank, jobs in settlement factories are sought after.”

Moreover, European efforts to tax these companies have already persuaded some to move back to Israel, and yesterday’s ruling is likely to accelerate the trend. That would throw thousands of Palestinians out of work — while benefiting the unemployed Israelis such firms would have to hire instead.

Europeans are obviously entitled to put principle above the consequences for Palestinian employment; countries make such decisions all the time. But the fact remains that once again, the biggest victims of efforts to advance the “peace process” will be ordinary Palestinians.

Thousands of Gazans, for instance, used to work for Israeli firms in the Erez industrial zone on the Israel-Gaza border. Today, Erez is a ghost town with no prospect of ever reopening: having withdrawn from Gaza, Israel could no longer protect these firms, and the Palestinians would not.

Moreover, tens of thousands of Palestinians used to work inside Israel; today, almost none do. The second intifada made a massive flow of Palestinians into Israel too risky, and Israelis felt no obligation to employ residents of a state-in-the-making that was waging nonstop physical and diplomatic warfare against them. The Palestinians, after all, cannot simultaneously demand independence from Israel and jobs inside Israel. The result is unemployment that now totals 18 percent in the West Bank and 39 percent in Gaza.

Israel is the region’s strongest economy; it will be years before the Palestinian Authority can match its employment capacity. So unless those who favor Palestinian statehood think that massive unemployment somehow contributes to this goal, they ought to be encouraging Israeli firms to hire Palestinians. Instead, Palestinian terror and international pressure have steadily combined to do the opposite.

If that sounds counterproductive, it is. Unfortunately, the EU clearly doesn’t get it.

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RE: Must We Waste Another Year?

I heartily agree with your take, Michael. Yet the Obama administration, in its latest bout of fruitless and counterproductive suck-uppery, is returning its ambassador to Syria. How’s that going? Not well:

The presidents of Iran and Syria on Thursday ridiculed U.S. policy in the region and pledged to create a Middle East “without Zionists,” combining a slap at recent U.S. overtures and a threat to Israel with an endorsement of one of the region’s defining alliances. … The message delivered by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in a joint news conference was sharp and spoke to a shared sense that Iran is gaining influence in the region despite U.S. efforts. Until the outcome of the broader struggle over Iran’s nuclear program becomes clear, analysts here say, it is unlikely Syria will change direction — or that progress can be made toward an Israel-Syria peace agreement.

But we are opening our hand to Syria, sending Robert Ford back to Damascus, reversing the decision to pull our representative following the murder in 2005 of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri. Isn’t that enough to begin to lure Syria from Iran, its partner in state-sponsored terrorism? It seems not:

The United States wants “to dominate the region, but they feel Iran and Syria are preventing that,” Ahmadinejad said. “We tell them that instead of interfering in the region’s affairs, to pack their things and leave.” Ahmadinejad, a Holocaust denier, spoke of Israel’s eventual “demise and annihilation” and said the countries of the region could create a future “without Zionists and without colonialists.” Assad criticized what he regarded as the United States’ “new situation of colonialism” in the region, with troops on the ground in Iraq and Afghanistan, and pressure on Syria to split from Iran, a friendship Assad emphasized was secure even given Syria’s faltering economy.

The notion that unilateral gestures and muteness on Syrian human-rights atrocities can break the bond between Tehran and Damascus is not new among Foggy Bottom types. But there are few true believers as devoted as Hillary Clinton. (“Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said Wednesday that the return of an ambassador marked a ‘slight opening’ toward Syria but that ultimately the United States expects Assad to curb his ties with Iran and his support for militant groups like the Lebanon-based Hezbollah and Hamas, based in the Gaza Strip.”) Nevertheless it is a gambit divorced from reality, as the two despots made clear for the umpteenth time. (“But Assad and Ahmadinejad on Thursday emphasized that their countries’ relationship had deepened with the signing of an agreement waiving visa restrictions for travel.”)

Alas, as in all things Obami on the foreign-policy front, we have moved the ball backward, not forward. As Iran flaunts its unchecked nuclear ambitions and as America continues to leave doors open to those who want not to be engaged, Syria draws ever closer to the perceived strong horse in the region. Once again, the Obami have nothing to show, and much to explain, in their serial foreign-policy malpractice.

<a href=”http://www.commentarymagazine.com/blogs/index.php/totten/246731″>Michael</a>

I heartily agree with your take, Michael. Yet the Obama administration, in its latest bout of fruitless and counterproductive suck-uppery, is returning its ambassador to Syria. How’s that going? Not well:

The presidents of Iran and Syria on Thursday ridiculed U.S. policy in the region and pledged to create a Middle East “without Zionists,” combining a slap at recent U.S. overtures and a threat to Israel with an endorsement of one of the region’s defining alliances. … The message delivered by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in a joint news conference was sharp and spoke to a shared sense that Iran is gaining influence in the region despite U.S. efforts. Until the outcome of the broader struggle over Iran’s nuclear program becomes clear, analysts here say, it is unlikely Syria will change direction — or that progress can be made toward an Israel-Syria peace agreement.

But we are opening our hand to Syria, sending Robert Ford back to Damascus, reversing the decision to pull our representative following the murder in 2005 of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri. Isn’t that enough to begin to lure Syria from Iran, its partner in state-sponsored terrorism? It seems not:

The United States wants “to dominate the region, but they feel Iran and Syria are preventing that,” Ahmadinejad said. “We tell them that instead of interfering in the region’s affairs, to pack their things and leave.” Ahmadinejad, a Holocaust denier, spoke of Israel’s eventual “demise and annihilation” and said the countries of the region could create a future “without Zionists and without colonialists.” Assad criticized what he regarded as the United States’ “new situation of colonialism” in the region, with troops on the ground in Iraq and Afghanistan, and pressure on Syria to split from Iran, a friendship Assad emphasized was secure even given Syria’s faltering economy.

The notion that unilateral gestures and muteness on Syrian human-rights atrocities can break the bond between Tehran and Damascus is not new among Foggy Bottom types. But there are few true believers as devoted as Hillary Clinton. (“Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said Wednesday that the return of an ambassador marked a ‘slight opening’ toward Syria but that ultimately the United States expects Assad to curb his ties with Iran and his support for militant groups like the Lebanon-based Hezbollah and Hamas, based in the Gaza Strip.”) Nevertheless it is a gambit divorced from reality, as the two despots made clear for the umpteenth time. (“But Assad and Ahmadinejad on Thursday emphasized that their countries’ relationship had deepened with the signing of an agreement waiving visa restrictions for travel.”)

Alas, as in all things Obami on the foreign-policy front, we have moved the ball backward, not forward. As Iran flaunts its unchecked nuclear ambitions and as America continues to leave doors open to those who want not to be engaged, Syria draws ever closer to the perceived strong horse in the region. Once again, the Obami have nothing to show, and much to explain, in their serial foreign-policy malpractice.

<a href=”http://www.commentarymagazine.com/blogs/index.php/totten/246731″>Michael</a>

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Turning the Tables

Michael Gerson echoes what many of us observed yesterday:

President Obama, as usual, was fluent, professorial and occasionally prickly. Some are impressed by the president’s informed, academic manner. Others (myself included) find an annoying condescension in Obama’s never-ending seminar. All the students — I mean elected legislators — were informed if their arguments were “legitimate” or not. Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) was arrogantly instructed that the “election’s over.”

There was a stature gap in the room, but not between Obama and the Republicans (as at the House Republican retreat). The stature gap was between Obama and his fellow Democrats. I would bet against any legislative team that includes Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), who turned in a nasty, embarrassing performance.

As Gerson notes, Republicans got the tone right. What is great fun and inspiring for the base on talk radio doesn’t necessarily do the trick in a nationally televised summit facing the President of the United States. Republicans took that to heart and conducted themselves with poise, decorum, and a certain policy sophistication we don’t always see on display. They didn’t need to beat Obama in the who-can-be-the-more-ponderous-wonk department. They needed to show they were not the know-nothings Obama had painted them to be. And in that, they succeeded handsomely. Or as David Gergen put it, the Republicans “intellectually had their best day in years.”

Nor is it so easy, as it becomes obvious that nothing has changed, to pretend there is broad-based support for Obama’s approach. It wasn’t just the poll numbers that Republicans recited at every chance. As Jake Tapper reported:

Unfortunately for President Obama, the bipartisan agreement is outside Blair House where today’s health care summit is taking place, and the agreement is among liberal and conservative protestors arguing for different reason that the Democrats’ current health care reform proposal isn’t the correct prescription. Conservatives argue that it’s too much government intrusion and socialism. Liberals argue that the various leading Democratic proposals don’t go far enough.

It took Obama and the inept duo of Reid and Pelosi to shove Dennis Kucinich, Jane Hamsher, Jim DeMint, and Olympia Snowe (who refused to show up yesterday) all on the same side of the debate – that is, in opposition to his monstrous plan. And it took the health-care summit to reveal that the rigid, unpleasant ones are not the members of “the party of no.” David Brooks observes:

The Republican leaders, Mitch McConnell and John Boehner, were smart enough to stand back and let Senator Lamar Alexander lead the way, which he did genially and intelligently. While Alexander was speaking, Reid and Pelosi wouldn’t even deign to look at him. … f you thought Republicans were a bunch of naysayers who don’t know or care about health care, then this was not the event for you. They more than held their own.

Obama then essentially failed to pin the blame on the Republicans, who generally seemed a bit more reasonable and genial than Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid, and company.  (Political Rule No. 1: Get inept opponents.) As Gerson sums up: “The whole exercise, in short, was an ambush. But the quarry, it seems, got away.” And with it, mostly likely, did the Democrats’ dream of passing ObamaCare.

Michael Gerson echoes what many of us observed yesterday:

President Obama, as usual, was fluent, professorial and occasionally prickly. Some are impressed by the president’s informed, academic manner. Others (myself included) find an annoying condescension in Obama’s never-ending seminar. All the students — I mean elected legislators — were informed if their arguments were “legitimate” or not. Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) was arrogantly instructed that the “election’s over.”

There was a stature gap in the room, but not between Obama and the Republicans (as at the House Republican retreat). The stature gap was between Obama and his fellow Democrats. I would bet against any legislative team that includes Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), who turned in a nasty, embarrassing performance.

As Gerson notes, Republicans got the tone right. What is great fun and inspiring for the base on talk radio doesn’t necessarily do the trick in a nationally televised summit facing the President of the United States. Republicans took that to heart and conducted themselves with poise, decorum, and a certain policy sophistication we don’t always see on display. They didn’t need to beat Obama in the who-can-be-the-more-ponderous-wonk department. They needed to show they were not the know-nothings Obama had painted them to be. And in that, they succeeded handsomely. Or as David Gergen put it, the Republicans “intellectually had their best day in years.”

Nor is it so easy, as it becomes obvious that nothing has changed, to pretend there is broad-based support for Obama’s approach. It wasn’t just the poll numbers that Republicans recited at every chance. As Jake Tapper reported:

Unfortunately for President Obama, the bipartisan agreement is outside Blair House where today’s health care summit is taking place, and the agreement is among liberal and conservative protestors arguing for different reason that the Democrats’ current health care reform proposal isn’t the correct prescription. Conservatives argue that it’s too much government intrusion and socialism. Liberals argue that the various leading Democratic proposals don’t go far enough.

It took Obama and the inept duo of Reid and Pelosi to shove Dennis Kucinich, Jane Hamsher, Jim DeMint, and Olympia Snowe (who refused to show up yesterday) all on the same side of the debate – that is, in opposition to his monstrous plan. And it took the health-care summit to reveal that the rigid, unpleasant ones are not the members of “the party of no.” David Brooks observes:

The Republican leaders, Mitch McConnell and John Boehner, were smart enough to stand back and let Senator Lamar Alexander lead the way, which he did genially and intelligently. While Alexander was speaking, Reid and Pelosi wouldn’t even deign to look at him. … f you thought Republicans were a bunch of naysayers who don’t know or care about health care, then this was not the event for you. They more than held their own.

Obama then essentially failed to pin the blame on the Republicans, who generally seemed a bit more reasonable and genial than Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid, and company.  (Political Rule No. 1: Get inept opponents.) As Gerson sums up: “The whole exercise, in short, was an ambush. But the quarry, it seems, got away.” And with it, mostly likely, did the Democrats’ dream of passing ObamaCare.

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Must We Waste Another Year?

The United States is re-establishing ties with Damascus and hoping to lure Syria away from Iran, but Lebanese scholar Tony Badran warns the Obama administration that Syria’s President Bashar Assad is laying a trap. The U.S., he writes in NOW Lebanon, needs to avoid making concessions until Assad “makes verifiable and substantial concessions on key Washington demands, not least surrendering Syrian support for Hamas and Hezbollah. Otherwise, Assad may dictate the avenues, conditions and aims of the engagement process.”

Syria has been cunningly outwitting Americans and Europeans for decades, and most Western leaders seem entirely incapable of learning from or even noticing the mistakes of their predecessors. Assad is so sure of himself this time around — and, frankly, he’s right to be — that he’s already announced the failure of President Obama’s outreach program. Yesterday he openly ridiculed the administration’s policy in a joint press conference with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

Syria will not abandon its alliance with Iran, nor will it cease and desist its support for terrorist groups, until at least one of the two governments in question has been replaced. The alliance works for both parties. While Assad’s secular Arab Socialist Baath Party ideology differs markedly from Ali Khamenei’s Velayat-e Faqih, “resistance” is at the molten core of each one. Syria’s and Iran’s lists of enemies — Sunni Arabs, Israel, and the United States — are identical.

Understand the lay of the land. Syria is no more likely to join the de facto American-French-Egyptian-Saudi-Israeli coalition than the U.S. is likely to defect to the Syrian-Iranian-Hezbollah axis. It’s as if the U.S. were trying to pry East Germany out of the Communist bloc during the Cold War before the Berlin Wall was destroyed.

No basket of carrots Barack Obama or anyone else can offer will change Assad’s calculation of his own strategic interests. His weak military and Soviet-style economy would instantly render his country as geopolitically impotent as Yemen if he scrapped his alliance with Iran, Hamas, and Hezbollah. Today, though, he’s the most powerful Arab ruler in the Levant. Because he contributes so much to the Middle East’s instability and starts so many fires in neighboring countries, he’s made himself an “indispensable” part of every fantasy solution Western diplomats can come up with. He wouldn’t be where he is without Iranian help, and that help will be more valuable than ever if and when Tehran produces nuclear weapons.

Last month Obama admitted he was “too optimistic” about his ability to solve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, that it’s “just really hard.” Prying Syria away from Iran won’t be any easier. As Tony Badran points out in his NOW Lebanon piece, the United States has been trying to drive the two countries apart now for more than 25 years.

Obama has not been paying attention if he thinks “engagement” with Syria hasn’t been tried. Badran alone has been documenting the futility of Western attempts to cut deals with Damascus ever since I started reading him, almost six years ago. The problem itself is much older than that, of course. It goes all the way back to the 1970s. Many of us who have been following Syria for some time were exhausted by the failure of “engagement” before we had ever even heard of Barack Obama.

The administration has already lost a year to the locusts with its “peace process” to nowhere and its “engagement” with Iran. A whole range of options exists between negotiating with murderers and invading their countries, and it’s long past time they were applied.

It won’t be Obama’s fault when his Syria strategy fails, but it is his fault that he’s wasting time trying. The president really ought to have learned by now that reaching out to terror-supporting tyrants in the Middle East is a mug’s game. His charm, sincerity, and inherent reasonableness count for little in a hard region where leaders almost everywhere rule at the point of a gun, and where the docile and the weak are bullied or destroyed by the ruthless.

The United States is re-establishing ties with Damascus and hoping to lure Syria away from Iran, but Lebanese scholar Tony Badran warns the Obama administration that Syria’s President Bashar Assad is laying a trap. The U.S., he writes in NOW Lebanon, needs to avoid making concessions until Assad “makes verifiable and substantial concessions on key Washington demands, not least surrendering Syrian support for Hamas and Hezbollah. Otherwise, Assad may dictate the avenues, conditions and aims of the engagement process.”

Syria has been cunningly outwitting Americans and Europeans for decades, and most Western leaders seem entirely incapable of learning from or even noticing the mistakes of their predecessors. Assad is so sure of himself this time around — and, frankly, he’s right to be — that he’s already announced the failure of President Obama’s outreach program. Yesterday he openly ridiculed the administration’s policy in a joint press conference with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

Syria will not abandon its alliance with Iran, nor will it cease and desist its support for terrorist groups, until at least one of the two governments in question has been replaced. The alliance works for both parties. While Assad’s secular Arab Socialist Baath Party ideology differs markedly from Ali Khamenei’s Velayat-e Faqih, “resistance” is at the molten core of each one. Syria’s and Iran’s lists of enemies — Sunni Arabs, Israel, and the United States — are identical.

Understand the lay of the land. Syria is no more likely to join the de facto American-French-Egyptian-Saudi-Israeli coalition than the U.S. is likely to defect to the Syrian-Iranian-Hezbollah axis. It’s as if the U.S. were trying to pry East Germany out of the Communist bloc during the Cold War before the Berlin Wall was destroyed.

No basket of carrots Barack Obama or anyone else can offer will change Assad’s calculation of his own strategic interests. His weak military and Soviet-style economy would instantly render his country as geopolitically impotent as Yemen if he scrapped his alliance with Iran, Hamas, and Hezbollah. Today, though, he’s the most powerful Arab ruler in the Levant. Because he contributes so much to the Middle East’s instability and starts so many fires in neighboring countries, he’s made himself an “indispensable” part of every fantasy solution Western diplomats can come up with. He wouldn’t be where he is without Iranian help, and that help will be more valuable than ever if and when Tehran produces nuclear weapons.

Last month Obama admitted he was “too optimistic” about his ability to solve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, that it’s “just really hard.” Prying Syria away from Iran won’t be any easier. As Tony Badran points out in his NOW Lebanon piece, the United States has been trying to drive the two countries apart now for more than 25 years.

Obama has not been paying attention if he thinks “engagement” with Syria hasn’t been tried. Badran alone has been documenting the futility of Western attempts to cut deals with Damascus ever since I started reading him, almost six years ago. The problem itself is much older than that, of course. It goes all the way back to the 1970s. Many of us who have been following Syria for some time were exhausted by the failure of “engagement” before we had ever even heard of Barack Obama.

The administration has already lost a year to the locusts with its “peace process” to nowhere and its “engagement” with Iran. A whole range of options exists between negotiating with murderers and invading their countries, and it’s long past time they were applied.

It won’t be Obama’s fault when his Syria strategy fails, but it is his fault that he’s wasting time trying. The president really ought to have learned by now that reaching out to terror-supporting tyrants in the Middle East is a mug’s game. His charm, sincerity, and inherent reasonableness count for little in a hard region where leaders almost everywhere rule at the point of a gun, and where the docile and the weak are bullied or destroyed by the ruthless.

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Not Doing His Job

A new Fox News/Opinion Dynamics poll is out. As is to be expected at this juncture, Obama’s approval is languishing at 47 percent; only on Afghanistan and terrorism do his ratings on individual issues hit the 50 percent mark. But the most eye-opening number is on the question of whether Obama is better at campaigning or governing. An astounding 62 percent of voters say “campaigning,” while only 38 percent pick “governing.” Independents pick “campaigning” by an even wider margin (67 to 11 percent — yes, 11 percent). Even Democrats say he is a better campaigner — by a narrower 38 to 32 percent margin.

This strikes me as a serious problem for Obama, given that so much of his narrative is structured around his own presumed superiority. In his view, it is always George W. Bush’s fault, his opponents are his intellectual inferiors, Congress is broken, the public is ill-informed, and the country is dysfunctional. The voters are saying in response: you don’t know how to do your job. And they have good reason to think so, of course.

Obama’s foreign policy is strewn with the wreckage of failed, bad ideas – an Israeli settlement freeze, a reset with Russia, and engagement with Iran. His domestic-policy “achievements” consist of one ineffective stimulus plan, one mediocre Supreme Court justice, and a sea of red ink. Voters expect the president to do things, yet this president has done precious little. The voters conclude that he is simply not good at his job. They don’t accept that he’s wonderful but powerless in the face of the Bush legacy or Republican opposition or public opinion. In their own lives, they are held responsible for the results they achieve, and they hold the president to the same standard. So they conclude: he’s just not very good at his job.

Americans love a comeback story and would, I think, welcome signs of competency. But until they see some evidence that Obama can produce positive results, they will continue to reach what is now a painfully obvious conclusion: his prowess as a candidate has not translated into effectiveness as president.

A new Fox News/Opinion Dynamics poll is out. As is to be expected at this juncture, Obama’s approval is languishing at 47 percent; only on Afghanistan and terrorism do his ratings on individual issues hit the 50 percent mark. But the most eye-opening number is on the question of whether Obama is better at campaigning or governing. An astounding 62 percent of voters say “campaigning,” while only 38 percent pick “governing.” Independents pick “campaigning” by an even wider margin (67 to 11 percent — yes, 11 percent). Even Democrats say he is a better campaigner — by a narrower 38 to 32 percent margin.

This strikes me as a serious problem for Obama, given that so much of his narrative is structured around his own presumed superiority. In his view, it is always George W. Bush’s fault, his opponents are his intellectual inferiors, Congress is broken, the public is ill-informed, and the country is dysfunctional. The voters are saying in response: you don’t know how to do your job. And they have good reason to think so, of course.

Obama’s foreign policy is strewn with the wreckage of failed, bad ideas – an Israeli settlement freeze, a reset with Russia, and engagement with Iran. His domestic-policy “achievements” consist of one ineffective stimulus plan, one mediocre Supreme Court justice, and a sea of red ink. Voters expect the president to do things, yet this president has done precious little. The voters conclude that he is simply not good at his job. They don’t accept that he’s wonderful but powerless in the face of the Bush legacy or Republican opposition or public opinion. In their own lives, they are held responsible for the results they achieve, and they hold the president to the same standard. So they conclude: he’s just not very good at his job.

Americans love a comeback story and would, I think, welcome signs of competency. But until they see some evidence that Obama can produce positive results, they will continue to reach what is now a painfully obvious conclusion: his prowess as a candidate has not translated into effectiveness as president.

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Rangel Guilty of Ethics Violation

Well, the good news for the Democrats, I suppose, is that their unsuccessful effort to make the Republicans look bad at the summit may drown out this news:

A House panel has found that Rep. Charles B. Rangel of New York broke Congressional rules by failing to properly disclose financial details of a trip to the Caribbean, a House official said. . . . The guilty finding led to quick condemnation from Republicans, who have made the powerful congressman a frequent target. “Once promised to be the ‘most ethical Congress in history,’ the Democratic majority now has a serious ethics scandal on its hands thanks in-part to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi,” said Ken Spain, a spokesman for the National Republican Congressional Committee. “For months, and even years, Nancy Pelosi has been promoting corrupt actors within her caucus ranks when she should have been punishing them.”

Recall that Republicans forced multiple votes on Rangel, getting Democrats on record as defending the ethically suspect Rangel. So we can expect the “culture of corruption” and the “enabling corruption” tags to appear in many a GOP ad this fall. Now the question remains: will Rangel fight to keep his chair on the Ways and Means Committee? That this should still be a question and that Rangel has kept his perch this long suggest just what a mess this has become for the Democrats.

In 1994, scandals and ideological overreach did in the Democrats. In 2006, scandals, an unpopular war, and fiscal sloth did in the Republicans. In 2010, Republicans will run against Democrats’ scandals, fiscal sloth, and failure to reduce unemployment. You can see why many see a takeover of the House by the GOP as more likely than not.

Well, the good news for the Democrats, I suppose, is that their unsuccessful effort to make the Republicans look bad at the summit may drown out this news:

A House panel has found that Rep. Charles B. Rangel of New York broke Congressional rules by failing to properly disclose financial details of a trip to the Caribbean, a House official said. . . . The guilty finding led to quick condemnation from Republicans, who have made the powerful congressman a frequent target. “Once promised to be the ‘most ethical Congress in history,’ the Democratic majority now has a serious ethics scandal on its hands thanks in-part to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi,” said Ken Spain, a spokesman for the National Republican Congressional Committee. “For months, and even years, Nancy Pelosi has been promoting corrupt actors within her caucus ranks when she should have been punishing them.”

Recall that Republicans forced multiple votes on Rangel, getting Democrats on record as defending the ethically suspect Rangel. So we can expect the “culture of corruption” and the “enabling corruption” tags to appear in many a GOP ad this fall. Now the question remains: will Rangel fight to keep his chair on the Ways and Means Committee? That this should still be a question and that Rangel has kept his perch this long suggest just what a mess this has become for the Democrats.

In 1994, scandals and ideological overreach did in the Democrats. In 2006, scandals, an unpopular war, and fiscal sloth did in the Republicans. In 2010, Republicans will run against Democrats’ scandals, fiscal sloth, and failure to reduce unemployment. You can see why many see a takeover of the House by the GOP as more likely than not.

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So Much for the Summit

“Little sign of common ground at health-care summit,” reads the Washington Post headline. In other words, the entire spin of yesterday — that there was not that much separating Democrats and Republicans — didn’t survive 24 hours. But, of course, it was absurd for Obama to ever have claimed otherwise. He’s in favor of massive, expensive, and comprehensive legislation that will cost more than a trillion dollars, and Republicans are not. As the Post explains:

Republicans argued repeatedly that proposed Democratic legislation now stalled in Congress should be thrown out in favor of starting over with an incremental approach to solving the nation’s health care problems. Democrats rejected that idea and defended the legislation, saying that many issues are connected. They said reform demands a holistic approach that provides insurance coverage to more people while reducing the federal deficit.

Obama derided this as “baby steps,” but unless Nancy Pelosi has some extra votes, and no one thinks she does, that is precisely where we are heading. You see, it’s not just the chasm between the two parties, but the major differences among Democrats that has stalled ObamaCare. (“There were also major unresolved divisions within the Democratic Party, whose leaders were looking beyond a meeting they expected to amount to little more than political theater and focusing on a final round of negotiations within the party.”)

So what was accomplished yesterday? Republicans enlisted the president to make their point: they have ideas that are very different from Obama’s. Obama does not have the will or the legislative finesse, at least not now, to craft a more modest bill that would pick up bipartisan support. After the Massachusetts-election fiasco, he decided to double down, banking that he could somehow change minds or embolden his party to rally around a grossly unpopular plan. It defies common sense, and yet that was the course he chose. It was a strategy born of hubris and poor judgment. He and his party are now facing … what was it? … yes, a precipice. If he fails spectacularly, he may need to reconsider those “baby steps” and may regret having looked down his nose at what may be his only viable exit strategy.

In the meantime, the Party of No showed itself to be concerned and well-informed on health care and more in tune with the vast majority of voters. It was in a very real sense another Olympic moment. Instead of Rio, the big winner this time was the GOP.

“Little sign of common ground at health-care summit,” reads the Washington Post headline. In other words, the entire spin of yesterday — that there was not that much separating Democrats and Republicans — didn’t survive 24 hours. But, of course, it was absurd for Obama to ever have claimed otherwise. He’s in favor of massive, expensive, and comprehensive legislation that will cost more than a trillion dollars, and Republicans are not. As the Post explains:

Republicans argued repeatedly that proposed Democratic legislation now stalled in Congress should be thrown out in favor of starting over with an incremental approach to solving the nation’s health care problems. Democrats rejected that idea and defended the legislation, saying that many issues are connected. They said reform demands a holistic approach that provides insurance coverage to more people while reducing the federal deficit.

Obama derided this as “baby steps,” but unless Nancy Pelosi has some extra votes, and no one thinks she does, that is precisely where we are heading. You see, it’s not just the chasm between the two parties, but the major differences among Democrats that has stalled ObamaCare. (“There were also major unresolved divisions within the Democratic Party, whose leaders were looking beyond a meeting they expected to amount to little more than political theater and focusing on a final round of negotiations within the party.”)

So what was accomplished yesterday? Republicans enlisted the president to make their point: they have ideas that are very different from Obama’s. Obama does not have the will or the legislative finesse, at least not now, to craft a more modest bill that would pick up bipartisan support. After the Massachusetts-election fiasco, he decided to double down, banking that he could somehow change minds or embolden his party to rally around a grossly unpopular plan. It defies common sense, and yet that was the course he chose. It was a strategy born of hubris and poor judgment. He and his party are now facing … what was it? … yes, a precipice. If he fails spectacularly, he may need to reconsider those “baby steps” and may regret having looked down his nose at what may be his only viable exit strategy.

In the meantime, the Party of No showed itself to be concerned and well-informed on health care and more in tune with the vast majority of voters. It was in a very real sense another Olympic moment. Instead of Rio, the big winner this time was the GOP.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Senate candidate Dan Coats thinks Obama is getting ready for a containment strategy for Iran, and he doesn’t like it: “Coats said the ‘only option’ left to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons is the threat of military action. Coats said most Americans agree that Iran must not be allowed to have such weapons, even though Iranian leaders continue to press forward with their nuclear program. … ‘If it’s unacceptable, what are we going to do? … And now it seems we’re being asked to accept the unacceptable.’”

Democrats tried going after the CIA again, determined to criminalize interrogation techniques: “If this Act becomes law (it may have already been killed in Congress at the time of this writing), it will surely cause confusion for interrogators who want to know where the line is, precisely, lest they be thrown in jail. This creates risk aversion among interrogators where none is warranted.”

Liz Cheney objected: “American intelligence officers do not deserve this kind of treatment from the government they honorably serve. Day in and day out, they protect our country and make difficult decisions–at times in matters of life and death. In return for their service the government rewards them with little pay and no acknowledgement of their heroic actions. Democrats in Congress now want to threaten them with criminal prosecutions and deprive them of valuable tactics that protect America.”

And Democrats pulled the bill.

Larry Sabato (h/t Jim Geraghty): “The Crystal Ball moves five Democratic seats from a “safe” rating onto our list of competitive races: KY-6 (Ben Chandler), MA-10 (Bill Delahunt), OH-13 (Betty Sutton), SC-5 (John Spratt), and VA-9 (Rick Boucher). In addition, two already competitive races for Democrats look even worse than before—IA-3 (Leonard Boswell) and IN-8 (OPEN, Brad Ellsworth)—and two Republican incumbents have improved their reelection prospects—AL-3 (Mike Rogers) and CA-44 (Ken Calvert).”

The Orthodox Union is upset with the Obama administration for criticizing the Heritage Plan, under which Israel will invest $100 million in rehabilitating historic and religious sites throughout Israel. Netanyahu included among the sites the Tomb of the Patriarchs in Hebron and Rachel’s Tomb in Bethlehem. Palestinians objected, and then the State Department chimed in and called the inclusion of such sites “provocative.” The OU responded: “It is not ‘provocative’ to invest in and rehabilitate holy/historic sites — that are open to both Jews and Muslims. Nothing PM Netanyahu has proposed precludes a peace agreement. It is provocative for the Palestinians to assert that there is no Jewish connection to these sites and for them to use this as yet another false basis for refusal to engage in peace negotiations.”

Peter Kirsanow of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights: “In equating high-risk pools to racial segregation, Senator Harkin not only betrays his ignorance of history and his tone-deafness, but a disconcerting obliviousness to the contents of the Democrats’ own health-care plan. In fact, the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights has sent two letters to Congress and the president detailing the various discriminatory provisions in the Democrats’ health-care plan. It’s often said that the party who first invokes Hitler has lost the argument. In this case, the party who first invoked racial discrimination has lost perspective, if not his senses.”

Part of Obama’s problem: “At the very same hour as Obama is talking about his beloved healthcare plan, out come surprising new federal numbers showing that last week new J-O-B-L-E-S-S claims unexpectedly went up — as in more of them — to nearly a half-million, 22,000 more than the previous week. And nearly 8% higher than the expected 460,000 new claims.”

Politico on Tom Campbell’s Sami Al-Arian problem: “A bespectacled former college professor who has pleaded guilty to aiding the group Palestinian Islamic Jihad helped tip the balance in a 2004 Senate contest in Florida. Now, six years later, Sami Al-Arian could be on the verge of doing it again, this time in California. Republican Senate hopeful Tom Campbell, a former congressman, has come under sustained attack on conservative websites and from his rivals in recent days for taking a campaign donation from Al-Arian in 2000, for backing legislation Al-Arian was lobbying for at the time and for allegedly being a less-than-steadfast supporter of Israel.”

JTA is into it too, noting how inappropriate it is for Campbell to use a selective quote from a letter of the late and very great friend of Israel Tom Lantos: “Using Lantos’ letter to bolster Campbell’s case is really icky.”

Senate candidate Dan Coats thinks Obama is getting ready for a containment strategy for Iran, and he doesn’t like it: “Coats said the ‘only option’ left to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons is the threat of military action. Coats said most Americans agree that Iran must not be allowed to have such weapons, even though Iranian leaders continue to press forward with their nuclear program. … ‘If it’s unacceptable, what are we going to do? … And now it seems we’re being asked to accept the unacceptable.’”

Democrats tried going after the CIA again, determined to criminalize interrogation techniques: “If this Act becomes law (it may have already been killed in Congress at the time of this writing), it will surely cause confusion for interrogators who want to know where the line is, precisely, lest they be thrown in jail. This creates risk aversion among interrogators where none is warranted.”

Liz Cheney objected: “American intelligence officers do not deserve this kind of treatment from the government they honorably serve. Day in and day out, they protect our country and make difficult decisions–at times in matters of life and death. In return for their service the government rewards them with little pay and no acknowledgement of their heroic actions. Democrats in Congress now want to threaten them with criminal prosecutions and deprive them of valuable tactics that protect America.”

And Democrats pulled the bill.

Larry Sabato (h/t Jim Geraghty): “The Crystal Ball moves five Democratic seats from a “safe” rating onto our list of competitive races: KY-6 (Ben Chandler), MA-10 (Bill Delahunt), OH-13 (Betty Sutton), SC-5 (John Spratt), and VA-9 (Rick Boucher). In addition, two already competitive races for Democrats look even worse than before—IA-3 (Leonard Boswell) and IN-8 (OPEN, Brad Ellsworth)—and two Republican incumbents have improved their reelection prospects—AL-3 (Mike Rogers) and CA-44 (Ken Calvert).”

The Orthodox Union is upset with the Obama administration for criticizing the Heritage Plan, under which Israel will invest $100 million in rehabilitating historic and religious sites throughout Israel. Netanyahu included among the sites the Tomb of the Patriarchs in Hebron and Rachel’s Tomb in Bethlehem. Palestinians objected, and then the State Department chimed in and called the inclusion of such sites “provocative.” The OU responded: “It is not ‘provocative’ to invest in and rehabilitate holy/historic sites — that are open to both Jews and Muslims. Nothing PM Netanyahu has proposed precludes a peace agreement. It is provocative for the Palestinians to assert that there is no Jewish connection to these sites and for them to use this as yet another false basis for refusal to engage in peace negotiations.”

Peter Kirsanow of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights: “In equating high-risk pools to racial segregation, Senator Harkin not only betrays his ignorance of history and his tone-deafness, but a disconcerting obliviousness to the contents of the Democrats’ own health-care plan. In fact, the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights has sent two letters to Congress and the president detailing the various discriminatory provisions in the Democrats’ health-care plan. It’s often said that the party who first invokes Hitler has lost the argument. In this case, the party who first invoked racial discrimination has lost perspective, if not his senses.”

Part of Obama’s problem: “At the very same hour as Obama is talking about his beloved healthcare plan, out come surprising new federal numbers showing that last week new J-O-B-L-E-S-S claims unexpectedly went up — as in more of them — to nearly a half-million, 22,000 more than the previous week. And nearly 8% higher than the expected 460,000 new claims.”

Politico on Tom Campbell’s Sami Al-Arian problem: “A bespectacled former college professor who has pleaded guilty to aiding the group Palestinian Islamic Jihad helped tip the balance in a 2004 Senate contest in Florida. Now, six years later, Sami Al-Arian could be on the verge of doing it again, this time in California. Republican Senate hopeful Tom Campbell, a former congressman, has come under sustained attack on conservative websites and from his rivals in recent days for taking a campaign donation from Al-Arian in 2000, for backing legislation Al-Arian was lobbying for at the time and for allegedly being a less-than-steadfast supporter of Israel.”

JTA is into it too, noting how inappropriate it is for Campbell to use a selective quote from a letter of the late and very great friend of Israel Tom Lantos: “Using Lantos’ letter to bolster Campbell’s case is really icky.”

Read Less




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