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Posts For: February 27, 2010

No Waste of Time

Both before and after the health-care summit there were those on the Left and on the Right who declared it to be a “waste of time.” On a superficial level this might be the case. After all, there was no agreement reached and no breakthrough moment (unless we are talking about the emergence of Rep. Paul Ryan as an impressive new conservative figure). But when  one considers what the summit revealed, the “waste of time” complainers — I think — have it quite wrong, and the complaint reveals much about the complainers.

On the Left many have lost patience with discussion and with democracy itself. The problem, they have convinced themselves, is that Obama isn’t rude and bullying enough. No, really. Dana Milbank encapsulates the thinking:

But now, the world’s most powerful man too often plays the 98-pound weakling; he gets sand kicked in his face and responds with moot-court zingers. That’s what Mr. Cool did at the White House health-care summit on Thursday. For seven hours, he racked up debating points as he parried Republican attacks without so much as raising his voice, but the performance didn’t exactly intimidate his foes.

Actually he tried to bully the Republicans, hog the time, put down John McCain, and glare at Ryan — but he simply failed to out- debate and outshine his opponents, whose demeanor and fluidity trumped his own.

The Left doesn’t want debate in the Senate either. They want this muscled through by reconciliation. The time for debate is over, they keep saying, because — of course — they have lost the debate.

On the Right many didn’t want the summit and some grouched about it afterward. They seem to be in perpetual fear that Obama might actually make some headway with the public, or that the Republicans might reveal themselves to be what their critics accuse them of being — dull-witted, ill-informed, and unattractive. But the Republicans proved to be none of those things and Obama had a surly outing.

The aversion to making a detailed defense in a less than ideal setting is an unfortunate inclination of some on the Right. Listen, they are in the minority; so no setting other than a national convention in which they micromanage everything will be ideal. Politics requires that you show up to do battle in whatever setting you find yourself, so as to convince the persuadable, rally your side, and knock your opponents on their heels.

The “waste of time” set on the Right forget the necessity of explaining again and again the “why” behind conservative principles and values. Following the gubernatorial campaign of Bob McDonnell, his chairman Ed Gillespie explained to me why McDonnell was such an effective candidate:

We say we are for lower taxes. Vote for us, damn it! Figure it out! Bob explains he is for lower taxes because he wants to encourage more businesses and jobs. He is for charter schools because it makes all schools better. He is for offshore drilling because it can help plug the revenue hole and generate high-paying jobs. He spent a lot of time talking to independent voters about what is in it for them.

Conservatives make the mistake of assuming that the generally Center-Right country doesn’t need to be told why the liberal approach (be it on health care or other issues) is flawed; they wrongly assume that everyone understands that when the government federalizes health care, regulates and taxes insurance and the rest, bad things will result. The health-care summit was a reminder of the importance of explaining one’s positions in sober, concrete terms to the American people.

The health-care summit didn’t turn out to be a waste of time. The country learned a lot about its president (mostly not favorable), about what’s wrong with ObamaCare, about the Republicans (mostly favorable), and about the Democratic congressional leadership  (mostly awful to the point of being cringe-inducing). Compared to most of what politicians do, you would be hard pressed to find a better use of their time.

Both before and after the health-care summit there were those on the Left and on the Right who declared it to be a “waste of time.” On a superficial level this might be the case. After all, there was no agreement reached and no breakthrough moment (unless we are talking about the emergence of Rep. Paul Ryan as an impressive new conservative figure). But when  one considers what the summit revealed, the “waste of time” complainers — I think — have it quite wrong, and the complaint reveals much about the complainers.

On the Left many have lost patience with discussion and with democracy itself. The problem, they have convinced themselves, is that Obama isn’t rude and bullying enough. No, really. Dana Milbank encapsulates the thinking:

But now, the world’s most powerful man too often plays the 98-pound weakling; he gets sand kicked in his face and responds with moot-court zingers. That’s what Mr. Cool did at the White House health-care summit on Thursday. For seven hours, he racked up debating points as he parried Republican attacks without so much as raising his voice, but the performance didn’t exactly intimidate his foes.

Actually he tried to bully the Republicans, hog the time, put down John McCain, and glare at Ryan — but he simply failed to out- debate and outshine his opponents, whose demeanor and fluidity trumped his own.

The Left doesn’t want debate in the Senate either. They want this muscled through by reconciliation. The time for debate is over, they keep saying, because — of course — they have lost the debate.

On the Right many didn’t want the summit and some grouched about it afterward. They seem to be in perpetual fear that Obama might actually make some headway with the public, or that the Republicans might reveal themselves to be what their critics accuse them of being — dull-witted, ill-informed, and unattractive. But the Republicans proved to be none of those things and Obama had a surly outing.

The aversion to making a detailed defense in a less than ideal setting is an unfortunate inclination of some on the Right. Listen, they are in the minority; so no setting other than a national convention in which they micromanage everything will be ideal. Politics requires that you show up to do battle in whatever setting you find yourself, so as to convince the persuadable, rally your side, and knock your opponents on their heels.

The “waste of time” set on the Right forget the necessity of explaining again and again the “why” behind conservative principles and values. Following the gubernatorial campaign of Bob McDonnell, his chairman Ed Gillespie explained to me why McDonnell was such an effective candidate:

We say we are for lower taxes. Vote for us, damn it! Figure it out! Bob explains he is for lower taxes because he wants to encourage more businesses and jobs. He is for charter schools because it makes all schools better. He is for offshore drilling because it can help plug the revenue hole and generate high-paying jobs. He spent a lot of time talking to independent voters about what is in it for them.

Conservatives make the mistake of assuming that the generally Center-Right country doesn’t need to be told why the liberal approach (be it on health care or other issues) is flawed; they wrongly assume that everyone understands that when the government federalizes health care, regulates and taxes insurance and the rest, bad things will result. The health-care summit was a reminder of the importance of explaining one’s positions in sober, concrete terms to the American people.

The health-care summit didn’t turn out to be a waste of time. The country learned a lot about its president (mostly not favorable), about what’s wrong with ObamaCare, about the Republicans (mostly favorable), and about the Democratic congressional leadership  (mostly awful to the point of being cringe-inducing). Compared to most of what politicians do, you would be hard pressed to find a better use of their time.

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Leveretts Revealed

Although not the first to look at the mullahs’ favorite Washington power couple, Michael Crowley does a particularly adept job at revealing the depths of Flynt and Hillary Mann Leverett’s shilling for the Iranian regime and for Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, personally:

I asked the Leveretts why, if Ahmadinejad enjoys such broad support, his regime has cracked down so brutally. In fact, they told me, Ahmadinejad has shown restraint. “It’s become politically incorrect and impossible to say it, but … this government hasn’t even begun to deploy the force it’s capable of using,'”says Hillary. (Even the videotaped shooting of Neda Agha-Soltan on a Tehran street was an ‘exceptional’ and ‘isolated’ case, she says.) . … The Leveretts also sought to account for Ahmadinejad’s threats against Israel as shrewd regional politics. “It does get to him when he’s described to the outside world as anti-Semitic. He would describe himself as anti-Zionist,” Flynt explains. ‘Resistance to Israel is an important theme to him. … If it’s crazy, it’s crazy like a fox.'”

Flynt still denies, in the face of multiple credible accounts, that he was fired by the Bush administration. And then there is a curious reference by the Leveretts to matters that one would think are not for public discussion. Crowley writes: “By last spring, they were warning that Obama had already ‘lost’ Iran, complaining that he had not halted Bush-era covert programs against Iran’s nuclear program.” Are the Leveretts going so far as to comment on covert operations, however obliquely? Certainly, they would know the peril in which they might find themselves for commenting publicly on top-secret matters.

But Flynt and Hillary are remarkably candid about their about-face on Iran and Israel:

Hillary says her dealings with Iranian diplomats as a Bush White House aide at the start of the Afghanistan war made her understand Tehran’s willingness to engage. “It seems that the Leveretts are almost frozen in time circa 2003 on this,” says Tufts University professor Daniel Drezner. The Leveretts have also come to accept the realist critique that Israel occupies too great a role in America’s foreign policy calculus; Flynt clashed with fellow Bush officials about what peace-process concessions Israel should be asked to make, for instance. “For a lot of pro-Israel groups, these [views of Iran] are non-starters,” he says.

Or perhaps, on some level, they have actually grown to admire Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. In our meeting, I pressed them to say just how they feel about the Iranian leader. Geopolitics aside, did they consider him a despicable human being? “I think he’s actually a quite intelligent man,” Flynt replied. “I think he also has really extraordinary political skills.” “[T]he idea that he’s stupid or doesn’t understand retail politics is also pretty divorced from reality,” Hillary added. But that wasn’t the question.

Crowley notes that the Leveretts’ act is too much even for some of their former admirers. But alas, there must be other rewards for those who so gleefully cheerlead for the butchers of Tehran. And when wounded allies ask, “What are Flynt and Hillary doing?” the answer is simple: making a handsome living, creating a profile, and basking in the glow of J Street and of the other enablers of the anti-anti-mullah brigade.

Although not the first to look at the mullahs’ favorite Washington power couple, Michael Crowley does a particularly adept job at revealing the depths of Flynt and Hillary Mann Leverett’s shilling for the Iranian regime and for Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, personally:

I asked the Leveretts why, if Ahmadinejad enjoys such broad support, his regime has cracked down so brutally. In fact, they told me, Ahmadinejad has shown restraint. “It’s become politically incorrect and impossible to say it, but … this government hasn’t even begun to deploy the force it’s capable of using,'”says Hillary. (Even the videotaped shooting of Neda Agha-Soltan on a Tehran street was an ‘exceptional’ and ‘isolated’ case, she says.) . … The Leveretts also sought to account for Ahmadinejad’s threats against Israel as shrewd regional politics. “It does get to him when he’s described to the outside world as anti-Semitic. He would describe himself as anti-Zionist,” Flynt explains. ‘Resistance to Israel is an important theme to him. … If it’s crazy, it’s crazy like a fox.'”

Flynt still denies, in the face of multiple credible accounts, that he was fired by the Bush administration. And then there is a curious reference by the Leveretts to matters that one would think are not for public discussion. Crowley writes: “By last spring, they were warning that Obama had already ‘lost’ Iran, complaining that he had not halted Bush-era covert programs against Iran’s nuclear program.” Are the Leveretts going so far as to comment on covert operations, however obliquely? Certainly, they would know the peril in which they might find themselves for commenting publicly on top-secret matters.

But Flynt and Hillary are remarkably candid about their about-face on Iran and Israel:

Hillary says her dealings with Iranian diplomats as a Bush White House aide at the start of the Afghanistan war made her understand Tehran’s willingness to engage. “It seems that the Leveretts are almost frozen in time circa 2003 on this,” says Tufts University professor Daniel Drezner. The Leveretts have also come to accept the realist critique that Israel occupies too great a role in America’s foreign policy calculus; Flynt clashed with fellow Bush officials about what peace-process concessions Israel should be asked to make, for instance. “For a lot of pro-Israel groups, these [views of Iran] are non-starters,” he says.

Or perhaps, on some level, they have actually grown to admire Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. In our meeting, I pressed them to say just how they feel about the Iranian leader. Geopolitics aside, did they consider him a despicable human being? “I think he’s actually a quite intelligent man,” Flynt replied. “I think he also has really extraordinary political skills.” “[T]he idea that he’s stupid or doesn’t understand retail politics is also pretty divorced from reality,” Hillary added. But that wasn’t the question.

Crowley notes that the Leveretts’ act is too much even for some of their former admirers. But alas, there must be other rewards for those who so gleefully cheerlead for the butchers of Tehran. And when wounded allies ask, “What are Flynt and Hillary doing?” the answer is simple: making a handsome living, creating a profile, and basking in the glow of J Street and of the other enablers of the anti-anti-mullah brigade.

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The Price of Arrogance

Mark Halperin joins the chorus of those who found Obama dismissive and condescending toward the Republicans — to his own detriment. As Halperin observes, Obama is so convinced “he is right and they are wrong” that he cannot disguise his contempt. As a result, I would venture to say, there is not a single Republican who feels inclined, let alone obligated, to help Obama out of his dilemma, namely his inability to pass his signature agenda item.

Now we will put aside for a moment the question of why Obama has such an elevated sense of his own virtue and correctness (after all, he could give no response to Rep. Paul Ryan and could only offer a snotty comeback to John McCain’s critique of the backroom deals). But Obama has had this problem before. Recall the condescending performance in the New Hampshire Democratic primary? It might well have goosed up the sympathy factor for Hillary Clinton. Recall the “cling to guns or religion” comment during the campaign? Again, he can’t quite keep his contempt for his fellow citizens in check.

And this sense of superiority, which in turn has led him repeatedly to discount and ignore legitimate criticism, has proven to be his undoing. He and his equally arrogant advisers feigned ignorance about the tea party protests, wrote off the health-care town-hall attendees, sneered at Fox News, belittled the pollsters, and rolled their eyes at election returns in three states. No amount of adverse information — be it poll numbers or Ryan’s fiscal analysis — permeates the hermetically sealed bubble of hubris. Obama won, he keeps reminding us.

That’s not an attractive personality profile. And it’s a disaster in a president who must build support and alliances to achieve his objectives. He has proven exquisitely inept in governance and, to a large degree, the fault lies with his inability to cultivate a relationship of trust and afffection with voters or enlist wary skeptics. He has hardened and infuriated the opposition. And now, the reservoir of goodwill and trust which he enjoyed at the beginning of his term, is slowly running out.

In the weeks ahead he may wish he had not alienated so many. When, if the vote-counters are right, ObamaCare II comes up short, he will need to find an alternative game plan, a face saver, to prevent humiliation. And then he may wish that he had not been quite so dismissive of the Republicans, who proved themselves in a day-long summit, every bit his intellectual equals and, in a year, much more adept at rallying public opinion. Moreover, come November there will be many, many more of them and Obama will have to figure out how to make peace with those at whom he spent two years sneering.

Mark Halperin joins the chorus of those who found Obama dismissive and condescending toward the Republicans — to his own detriment. As Halperin observes, Obama is so convinced “he is right and they are wrong” that he cannot disguise his contempt. As a result, I would venture to say, there is not a single Republican who feels inclined, let alone obligated, to help Obama out of his dilemma, namely his inability to pass his signature agenda item.

Now we will put aside for a moment the question of why Obama has such an elevated sense of his own virtue and correctness (after all, he could give no response to Rep. Paul Ryan and could only offer a snotty comeback to John McCain’s critique of the backroom deals). But Obama has had this problem before. Recall the condescending performance in the New Hampshire Democratic primary? It might well have goosed up the sympathy factor for Hillary Clinton. Recall the “cling to guns or religion” comment during the campaign? Again, he can’t quite keep his contempt for his fellow citizens in check.

And this sense of superiority, which in turn has led him repeatedly to discount and ignore legitimate criticism, has proven to be his undoing. He and his equally arrogant advisers feigned ignorance about the tea party protests, wrote off the health-care town-hall attendees, sneered at Fox News, belittled the pollsters, and rolled their eyes at election returns in three states. No amount of adverse information — be it poll numbers or Ryan’s fiscal analysis — permeates the hermetically sealed bubble of hubris. Obama won, he keeps reminding us.

That’s not an attractive personality profile. And it’s a disaster in a president who must build support and alliances to achieve his objectives. He has proven exquisitely inept in governance and, to a large degree, the fault lies with his inability to cultivate a relationship of trust and afffection with voters or enlist wary skeptics. He has hardened and infuriated the opposition. And now, the reservoir of goodwill and trust which he enjoyed at the beginning of his term, is slowly running out.

In the weeks ahead he may wish he had not alienated so many. When, if the vote-counters are right, ObamaCare II comes up short, he will need to find an alternative game plan, a face saver, to prevent humiliation. And then he may wish that he had not been quite so dismissive of the Republicans, who proved themselves in a day-long summit, every bit his intellectual equals and, in a year, much more adept at rallying public opinion. Moreover, come November there will be many, many more of them and Obama will have to figure out how to make peace with those at whom he spent two years sneering.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

The day after the health-care summit: “The Rasmussen Reports daily Presidential Tracking Poll for Friday shows that 23% of the nation’s voters Strongly Approve of the way that Barack Obama is performing his role as President. Forty-three percent (43%) Strongly Disapprove giving Obama a Presidential Approval Index rating of -20. For President Obama, the Approval Index has been lower only once.” (Only a third of the response was post-summit, so we don’t know if he’s going downhill again because of or in spite of his latest “game changing” event.)

Not a headline the Obami want to see: “The aftermath of the health-care summit: Confusion, conflict.”

Forget about ObamaCare for a moment, Nancy Pelosi may not have votes for the jobs bill: “Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) praised the $15 billion measure at a Friday news conference. But behind the scenes, House leaders were working to assuage Democratic members on the Reft and Right, whose very objections could doom the bill before it is placed on the schedule.”

Republican senate candidate Mike Castle is cruising in Delaware. House Democratic leaders are struggling to get their members to back the Senate-passed jobs bill, leadership aides said Friday.

Hillary Clinton on the administration’s efforts to aid the Iranian pro-democracy protesters doesn’t exactly fill one with confidence: “State is looking at what more we can do to work in partnership with the private sector to unblock Internet and to speak out against the abuses going on.” Looking at ways, you see. It seems there is always an excuse: “Some technology that we’d like to see used to unblock the Iranian Internet is very valuable technology. We have to be careful how it’s utilized so it doesn’t get in the wrong hands.” Like Chinese dissidents?

Phil Klein on Tom Campbell’s travails: “So, in 2000, Campbell was raising money from Muslim groups on the basis of his votes against Israel and his views on foreign policy, and now he’s claiming those same positions are being misrepresented. Meanwhile, a month after Sept. 11, he was willing to accept an award from a group that was pushing the view that the root causes of the attacks were poverty in the Muslim world as well as U.S. support for Israel. Either Campbell was misrepresenting himself then, or he’s misrepresenting himself now. It can’t be both.”

The Carly Fiorina campaign points to four Campbell donors from his 2000 failed senate campaign: “The campaign manager for former Hewlett Packard chief executive Carly Fiorina on Thursday criticized past donations to Campbell from four men. One was arrested for spying on Congress for Saddam Hussein. Another pleaded guilty to conspiring to aid a Palestinian terrorist group. Campaign manager Marty Wilson said the donations reinforce a congressional voting record by Campbell that was decidedly anti-Israel. He noted that Campbell had voted to cut foreign aid to the country while he served in the House.”

After more than a year: “For the first time, former President George W. Bush has said publicly that he approves of former Vice President Dick Cheney’s high-profile role in defending the past administration’s national security policies. ‘I’m glad Cheney is out there,’ Bush said Friday morning at a reunion breakfast that was the inaugural event for the Bush-Cheney Alumni Association.”

J Street will be so disappointed if it loses a reliable Israel basher. Democrats seem to have another retirement: “Rep. William Delahunt blew nearly $560,000 in campaign cash last year — much of it on lavish meals and a family-friendly payroll that includes his ex-wife, son-in-law and daughter — stoking speculation the Quincy Democrat is emptying his war chest and won’t seek re-election.”

Desiree Rogers probably got lucky to leave on the same day Gov. David Paterson announced that he won’t run for re-election. Most people won’t be focused, then, on this sort of coverage: “The security fiasco at the state dinner for the prime minister of India proved to be an embarrassment, and when she tried to reassert herself, she was quickly shot down, forced into a lower profile. ‘Once the state dinner deal went down,’ said the official, ‘people who had other political agendas started micromanaging every part of her business.'” Ouch. Maybe it was the invocation of executive privilege that rubbed people the wrong way.

The day after the health-care summit: “The Rasmussen Reports daily Presidential Tracking Poll for Friday shows that 23% of the nation’s voters Strongly Approve of the way that Barack Obama is performing his role as President. Forty-three percent (43%) Strongly Disapprove giving Obama a Presidential Approval Index rating of -20. For President Obama, the Approval Index has been lower only once.” (Only a third of the response was post-summit, so we don’t know if he’s going downhill again because of or in spite of his latest “game changing” event.)

Not a headline the Obami want to see: “The aftermath of the health-care summit: Confusion, conflict.”

Forget about ObamaCare for a moment, Nancy Pelosi may not have votes for the jobs bill: “Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) praised the $15 billion measure at a Friday news conference. But behind the scenes, House leaders were working to assuage Democratic members on the Reft and Right, whose very objections could doom the bill before it is placed on the schedule.”

Republican senate candidate Mike Castle is cruising in Delaware. House Democratic leaders are struggling to get their members to back the Senate-passed jobs bill, leadership aides said Friday.

Hillary Clinton on the administration’s efforts to aid the Iranian pro-democracy protesters doesn’t exactly fill one with confidence: “State is looking at what more we can do to work in partnership with the private sector to unblock Internet and to speak out against the abuses going on.” Looking at ways, you see. It seems there is always an excuse: “Some technology that we’d like to see used to unblock the Iranian Internet is very valuable technology. We have to be careful how it’s utilized so it doesn’t get in the wrong hands.” Like Chinese dissidents?

Phil Klein on Tom Campbell’s travails: “So, in 2000, Campbell was raising money from Muslim groups on the basis of his votes against Israel and his views on foreign policy, and now he’s claiming those same positions are being misrepresented. Meanwhile, a month after Sept. 11, he was willing to accept an award from a group that was pushing the view that the root causes of the attacks were poverty in the Muslim world as well as U.S. support for Israel. Either Campbell was misrepresenting himself then, or he’s misrepresenting himself now. It can’t be both.”

The Carly Fiorina campaign points to four Campbell donors from his 2000 failed senate campaign: “The campaign manager for former Hewlett Packard chief executive Carly Fiorina on Thursday criticized past donations to Campbell from four men. One was arrested for spying on Congress for Saddam Hussein. Another pleaded guilty to conspiring to aid a Palestinian terrorist group. Campaign manager Marty Wilson said the donations reinforce a congressional voting record by Campbell that was decidedly anti-Israel. He noted that Campbell had voted to cut foreign aid to the country while he served in the House.”

After more than a year: “For the first time, former President George W. Bush has said publicly that he approves of former Vice President Dick Cheney’s high-profile role in defending the past administration’s national security policies. ‘I’m glad Cheney is out there,’ Bush said Friday morning at a reunion breakfast that was the inaugural event for the Bush-Cheney Alumni Association.”

J Street will be so disappointed if it loses a reliable Israel basher. Democrats seem to have another retirement: “Rep. William Delahunt blew nearly $560,000 in campaign cash last year — much of it on lavish meals and a family-friendly payroll that includes his ex-wife, son-in-law and daughter — stoking speculation the Quincy Democrat is emptying his war chest and won’t seek re-election.”

Desiree Rogers probably got lucky to leave on the same day Gov. David Paterson announced that he won’t run for re-election. Most people won’t be focused, then, on this sort of coverage: “The security fiasco at the state dinner for the prime minister of India proved to be an embarrassment, and when she tried to reassert herself, she was quickly shot down, forced into a lower profile. ‘Once the state dinner deal went down,’ said the official, ‘people who had other political agendas started micromanaging every part of her business.'” Ouch. Maybe it was the invocation of executive privilege that rubbed people the wrong way.

Read Less




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