Commentary Magazine


Posts For: March 2010

Libya Lets Loose al-Qaeda

Libya just released 214 al-Qaeda members from Tripoli’s Abu Salim prison. Seif al Islam, son of President Moammar Qaddafi, says hundreds more will be turned out soon, which will bring the number of freed Libyan terrorists up to almost 1,000.

American and Israeli officials used to pressure Yasir Arafat into rounding up terrorists when he was Palestinian Authority president. He’d scoop up a couple of handfuls, announce the arrests to foreign journalists, then quietly let most of them go a few weeks or months later. Al-Qaeda, though, is much more dangerous than Arafat’s old PLO. Qaddafi has as much incentive as everyone else in the Middle East and North Africa to do something about them. That does not, however, mean he is actually being responsible.

Reason magazine’s Michael Moynihan offers us a few clues as to what’s happening. Last month he wrote the best dispatch from Libya I’ve read in years — the first in some time that describes the same viciously oppressive country I visited in 2004 — after he was invited there on a press junket by the Qaddafi Foundation. (Note to totalitarian despots: in the future, you shouldn’t expect glowing press coverage from libertarian magazines.)

One of the first items on his itinerary was a meeting with several low-level al-Qaeda operatives whom Qaddafi had supposedly “reformed.” They took the required re-education classes and put their signature to a renunciation of violence. One even insisted that he had converted to Qaddafism, a sinister joke of an ideology that’s almost impossible to sincerely adhere to.

The government and its supposedly reformed citizens insist that the “Corrective Studies” program is 100 percent effective. Either Qaddafi is a genius who can save the world with this system, or something else is going on here. It wasn’t hard for Moynihan to figure out what. Everyone enrolled in the coursework had been sentenced to death but would be set free if they cooperated and passed.

Qaddafi is surely trying to earn points for himself in the West by “rehabilitating” these prisoners. Otherwise, why invite foreign journalists into the country to meet with them in the first place? Even so, he really does need them to behave themselves, at least while they are in Libya. His quasi-Marxist regime is an obvious target for revolutionary Islamists. Al-Qaeda is a threat to every government in the region. At the same time, it’s potentially useful for certain governments because it can threaten any and all of them.

Look at Syria’s Baath party state. As it is avowedly secular and headed by non-Muslim Alawites, there is naturally a great deal of tension between the Sunni majority and the authorities. The government killed tens of thousands fighting a Muslim Brotherhood insurgency in the early 1980s, when Hafez Assad was in charge. Every day his son Bashar worries about threats to his own rule from that same community.

The American-led invasion of Iraq in 2003 provided him with an ideal solution. He didn’t need to arrest or repress Syria’s radical Sunnis. All he had to do was turn them loose in Iraq, where they’d go after Americans and Shia “apostates.” He could even help Sunni extremists from elsewhere in the region transit into Iraq, thereby earning a small measure of gratitude from those who would otherwise rather kill him.

Libya, like Syria, is no longer ruled by one of the region’s “conservative” monarchies. Both are revolutionary regimes founded by leaders who came to power with ambitions beyond their own borders. Both are well-practiced in the art of using terrorism abroad as instruments of their foreign policies. Qaddafi formally renounced the practice to get back onto speaking terms with the West, but he and Assad together encouraged Palestinians to resume violent attacks against Israel just a few days ago. He hasn’t changed as much as he’d like us to think.

There is no good reason to assume he won’t unleash his “reformed” al-Qaedists outside the country. Some of them have already engaged in overseas operations. They’re experienced. Unless he’s in serious denial about his rehab program’s effectiveness, he’ll need to get them out of the country now that he’s freed them from prison. And he can always later tell us he tried to reform them if he gets caught. He already arranged the press coverage to make sure we know all about it.

I could be wrong. Lord knows it’s hard to figure out what goes on in his mind. The man is quite frankly bonkers. Even if he doesn’t intend to sic any of these people on his enemies, we shouldn’t be one bit surprised if they later resurface in distant places where a death sentence in Libya isn’t enforceable.

Libya just released 214 al-Qaeda members from Tripoli’s Abu Salim prison. Seif al Islam, son of President Moammar Qaddafi, says hundreds more will be turned out soon, which will bring the number of freed Libyan terrorists up to almost 1,000.

American and Israeli officials used to pressure Yasir Arafat into rounding up terrorists when he was Palestinian Authority president. He’d scoop up a couple of handfuls, announce the arrests to foreign journalists, then quietly let most of them go a few weeks or months later. Al-Qaeda, though, is much more dangerous than Arafat’s old PLO. Qaddafi has as much incentive as everyone else in the Middle East and North Africa to do something about them. That does not, however, mean he is actually being responsible.

Reason magazine’s Michael Moynihan offers us a few clues as to what’s happening. Last month he wrote the best dispatch from Libya I’ve read in years — the first in some time that describes the same viciously oppressive country I visited in 2004 — after he was invited there on a press junket by the Qaddafi Foundation. (Note to totalitarian despots: in the future, you shouldn’t expect glowing press coverage from libertarian magazines.)

One of the first items on his itinerary was a meeting with several low-level al-Qaeda operatives whom Qaddafi had supposedly “reformed.” They took the required re-education classes and put their signature to a renunciation of violence. One even insisted that he had converted to Qaddafism, a sinister joke of an ideology that’s almost impossible to sincerely adhere to.

The government and its supposedly reformed citizens insist that the “Corrective Studies” program is 100 percent effective. Either Qaddafi is a genius who can save the world with this system, or something else is going on here. It wasn’t hard for Moynihan to figure out what. Everyone enrolled in the coursework had been sentenced to death but would be set free if they cooperated and passed.

Qaddafi is surely trying to earn points for himself in the West by “rehabilitating” these prisoners. Otherwise, why invite foreign journalists into the country to meet with them in the first place? Even so, he really does need them to behave themselves, at least while they are in Libya. His quasi-Marxist regime is an obvious target for revolutionary Islamists. Al-Qaeda is a threat to every government in the region. At the same time, it’s potentially useful for certain governments because it can threaten any and all of them.

Look at Syria’s Baath party state. As it is avowedly secular and headed by non-Muslim Alawites, there is naturally a great deal of tension between the Sunni majority and the authorities. The government killed tens of thousands fighting a Muslim Brotherhood insurgency in the early 1980s, when Hafez Assad was in charge. Every day his son Bashar worries about threats to his own rule from that same community.

The American-led invasion of Iraq in 2003 provided him with an ideal solution. He didn’t need to arrest or repress Syria’s radical Sunnis. All he had to do was turn them loose in Iraq, where they’d go after Americans and Shia “apostates.” He could even help Sunni extremists from elsewhere in the region transit into Iraq, thereby earning a small measure of gratitude from those who would otherwise rather kill him.

Libya, like Syria, is no longer ruled by one of the region’s “conservative” monarchies. Both are revolutionary regimes founded by leaders who came to power with ambitions beyond their own borders. Both are well-practiced in the art of using terrorism abroad as instruments of their foreign policies. Qaddafi formally renounced the practice to get back onto speaking terms with the West, but he and Assad together encouraged Palestinians to resume violent attacks against Israel just a few days ago. He hasn’t changed as much as he’d like us to think.

There is no good reason to assume he won’t unleash his “reformed” al-Qaedists outside the country. Some of them have already engaged in overseas operations. They’re experienced. Unless he’s in serious denial about his rehab program’s effectiveness, he’ll need to get them out of the country now that he’s freed them from prison. And he can always later tell us he tried to reform them if he gets caught. He already arranged the press coverage to make sure we know all about it.

I could be wrong. Lord knows it’s hard to figure out what goes on in his mind. The man is quite frankly bonkers. Even if he doesn’t intend to sic any of these people on his enemies, we shouldn’t be one bit surprised if they later resurface in distant places where a death sentence in Libya isn’t enforceable.

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Sarkozy Has Figured It Out Too

As this report explains, “The American and French presidents called for quick action on sanctions against Iran on Tuesday, with U.S. President Barack Obama saying he believed such penalties could be approved by the United Nations in a matter of weeks.” But French President Nicolas Sarkozy can barely conceal his unease with Obama’s lackadaisical attitude toward the mullahs:

Mr. Sarkozy has been one of the strongest advocates for sanctions against Iran among the Western allies. “The time has come to take decisions,” he said at the news conference. “Iran cannot continue its mad race.”

Despite the public harmony, U.S. analysts who have discussed the issue with French leaders said Paris has grown concerned that Mr. Obama may be repeating the path of the Bush administration, which failed to halt Iran’s nuclear program through U.N. sanctions.

“There’s worry on Iran,” said Kurt Volker, a former U.S. ambassador to NATO during both the Bush and Obama administrations. “The French… want to play hardball and they want to push, and I think they worry a little bit about where is the administration’s bottom line. Yes, we’re pushing sanctions, but what then?”

And then Obama’ s hamhanded diplomacy hasn’t helped matters any. (“The meeting between the two presidents comes at a tense time in bilateral relations. Mr. Sarkozy appeared publicly supportive of Mr. Obama’s candidacy during the 2008 presidential campaign. But relations have cooled as a result of perceived diplomatic snubs — the Obamas didn’t have dinner with the Sarkozys during their June visit to Paris, for example — and policy differences.”) So much for enhancing our relationship with allies.

Others are similarly perturbed that Obama’s sanctions approach is too little and too late. Danielle Pletka explains that in Obama’s obsession with engaging the Iranian regime:

He was unwilling to take no for an answer. How else to explain Mr. Obama’s lack of interest in the Iranian people’s democratic protests against the regime. Or his seeming indifference to Tehran’s failure to meet repeated international deadlines to respond to an offer endorsed by all five permanent U.N. Security Council members (and Germany) to allow Iran to enrich uranium in Russia, receiving back enriched fuel rods that do not lend themselves to weapons production. One might have hoped the administration was using that time to build international consensus for a plan B. But apparently that’s not the case.

So Obama goes through the motions, but with little indication that China or Russia will be joining in a unified sanctions effort or that the sanctions will be commensurate with the goal — persuading the mullahs to give up their nuclear ambitions. We are engaged now in a massive charade — Obama pretends to be serious about preventing a nuclear-armed revolutionary Islamic state, our allies nervously eye one another, and the mullahs proceed with nary a care that they might face their own existential threat (give up the nukes or perish). But the kabuki dance must end soon.

After bludgeoning Israel over Jerusalem and making clear to all onlookers that there is nothing currently “rock solid” about the U.S. relationship with Israel, Obama nevertheless expects the Jewish state to continue to play along with the engagement/sanctions pantomime. However, if the Israeli government has learned anything over the last week, it is to appreciate just how deeply disingenuous is the Obama administration, and how little the Jewish state can rely on the Obami for its security. The Obama administration is dedicated to reorienting America away from its alliance with Israel and elevating (it imagines) its status in the Muslim World and within international organizations, which have little interest in doing whatever is necessary to enforce existing sanctions, let alone enacting new ones to prevent the mullahs’ acquisition of nuclear weapons.

Certainly, Netanyahu shares Sarkozy’s skepticism. Now he must consider just how much longer to indulge the Obami’s creep toward containment. And for those here in the U.S. who correctly perceive that the unacceptable is on the verge of happening, the question remains: what, if anything, can be done to shake the administration from its slumber?

As this report explains, “The American and French presidents called for quick action on sanctions against Iran on Tuesday, with U.S. President Barack Obama saying he believed such penalties could be approved by the United Nations in a matter of weeks.” But French President Nicolas Sarkozy can barely conceal his unease with Obama’s lackadaisical attitude toward the mullahs:

Mr. Sarkozy has been one of the strongest advocates for sanctions against Iran among the Western allies. “The time has come to take decisions,” he said at the news conference. “Iran cannot continue its mad race.”

Despite the public harmony, U.S. analysts who have discussed the issue with French leaders said Paris has grown concerned that Mr. Obama may be repeating the path of the Bush administration, which failed to halt Iran’s nuclear program through U.N. sanctions.

“There’s worry on Iran,” said Kurt Volker, a former U.S. ambassador to NATO during both the Bush and Obama administrations. “The French… want to play hardball and they want to push, and I think they worry a little bit about where is the administration’s bottom line. Yes, we’re pushing sanctions, but what then?”

And then Obama’ s hamhanded diplomacy hasn’t helped matters any. (“The meeting between the two presidents comes at a tense time in bilateral relations. Mr. Sarkozy appeared publicly supportive of Mr. Obama’s candidacy during the 2008 presidential campaign. But relations have cooled as a result of perceived diplomatic snubs — the Obamas didn’t have dinner with the Sarkozys during their June visit to Paris, for example — and policy differences.”) So much for enhancing our relationship with allies.

Others are similarly perturbed that Obama’s sanctions approach is too little and too late. Danielle Pletka explains that in Obama’s obsession with engaging the Iranian regime:

He was unwilling to take no for an answer. How else to explain Mr. Obama’s lack of interest in the Iranian people’s democratic protests against the regime. Or his seeming indifference to Tehran’s failure to meet repeated international deadlines to respond to an offer endorsed by all five permanent U.N. Security Council members (and Germany) to allow Iran to enrich uranium in Russia, receiving back enriched fuel rods that do not lend themselves to weapons production. One might have hoped the administration was using that time to build international consensus for a plan B. But apparently that’s not the case.

So Obama goes through the motions, but with little indication that China or Russia will be joining in a unified sanctions effort or that the sanctions will be commensurate with the goal — persuading the mullahs to give up their nuclear ambitions. We are engaged now in a massive charade — Obama pretends to be serious about preventing a nuclear-armed revolutionary Islamic state, our allies nervously eye one another, and the mullahs proceed with nary a care that they might face their own existential threat (give up the nukes or perish). But the kabuki dance must end soon.

After bludgeoning Israel over Jerusalem and making clear to all onlookers that there is nothing currently “rock solid” about the U.S. relationship with Israel, Obama nevertheless expects the Jewish state to continue to play along with the engagement/sanctions pantomime. However, if the Israeli government has learned anything over the last week, it is to appreciate just how deeply disingenuous is the Obama administration, and how little the Jewish state can rely on the Obami for its security. The Obama administration is dedicated to reorienting America away from its alliance with Israel and elevating (it imagines) its status in the Muslim World and within international organizations, which have little interest in doing whatever is necessary to enforce existing sanctions, let alone enacting new ones to prevent the mullahs’ acquisition of nuclear weapons.

Certainly, Netanyahu shares Sarkozy’s skepticism. Now he must consider just how much longer to indulge the Obami’s creep toward containment. And for those here in the U.S. who correctly perceive that the unacceptable is on the verge of happening, the question remains: what, if anything, can be done to shake the administration from its slumber?

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Post-Racial No More

So much for the post-racial presidency. This report explains:

The Obama administration has asked a federal appeals court to uphold a race-conscious admissions system at the University of Texas at Austin, aiming to stymie a lawsuit that conservatives hope will spur the Supreme Court to limit affirmative action at public colleges.

The Texas case tests a 2003 Supreme Court decision that upheld a race-conscious admissions system at the University of Michigan Law School. That ruling in Grutter v. Bollinger said the law school had “a compelling interest in attaining a diverse student body.” By a 5-4 vote, the court prohibited “outright racial balancing,” but said race could be a “plus” factor to build a “critical mass” of minority students.

Since Grutter — when then Justice Sandra Day O’Connor promised racial preferences would fade away (“We expect that 25 years from now the use of racial preferences will no longer be necessary to further the interest approved today.”) — universities have maintained a fiction, namely that race matters but isn’t the sole factor in admissions. Nevertheless, it matters enough to assure admission at elite schools of minority students whose test scores and grade point average are significantly worse than non-minority students. Given the Grutter roadmap (the requirement to show a “holistic” admissions approach), admissions officers and legal defenders of the thinly disguised racial-preference schemes must resort to verbal gymnastics to justify their programs:

Patricia Ohlendorf, vice president for legal affairs at the Austin campus, said many private and public universities take some account of race in admissions. Because blacks and Hispanics on average score lower on entrance exams than white and Asian-American applicants, universities have adopted affirmative-action programs to compensate.

“We think it is critical to being able to achieve the diverse institution that we think is important,” she said.

The Obama administration agrees. “[The] university’s effort to promote diversity is a paramount government objective,” says the brief filed by the Education and Justice departments. The administration disputed claims that Texas was simply engaging in raw racial preferences.

“The question is not whether an individual belongs to a racial group, but rather how an individual’s membership in any group may provide deeper understanding of the person’s record and experiences, as well as the contribution she can make to the school,” the brief says.

What?! This is just mumbo-jumbo. It’s not the individual’s race but that individual’s membership in a racial group that is of interest? An “individual’s membership in any group may provide deeper understanding of the person’s record and experiences, as well as the contribution she can make to the school”? Somehow, school admissions officers invariably achieve this “deeper understanding” especially for minority students, who have learned to provide just enough fodder in their applications to satisfy admissions officers that there is a rationale for allowing these students to leapfrog over more qualified peers.

The Fifth Circuit will decide if all of this rhetorical hocus-pocus is worthy of deference or whether, in the Obama era, it’s time to finally put an end to the racial-preference rackets. Unfortunately, the Court will find no encouragement from the not-at-all-post-racial president.

So much for the post-racial presidency. This report explains:

The Obama administration has asked a federal appeals court to uphold a race-conscious admissions system at the University of Texas at Austin, aiming to stymie a lawsuit that conservatives hope will spur the Supreme Court to limit affirmative action at public colleges.

The Texas case tests a 2003 Supreme Court decision that upheld a race-conscious admissions system at the University of Michigan Law School. That ruling in Grutter v. Bollinger said the law school had “a compelling interest in attaining a diverse student body.” By a 5-4 vote, the court prohibited “outright racial balancing,” but said race could be a “plus” factor to build a “critical mass” of minority students.

Since Grutter — when then Justice Sandra Day O’Connor promised racial preferences would fade away (“We expect that 25 years from now the use of racial preferences will no longer be necessary to further the interest approved today.”) — universities have maintained a fiction, namely that race matters but isn’t the sole factor in admissions. Nevertheless, it matters enough to assure admission at elite schools of minority students whose test scores and grade point average are significantly worse than non-minority students. Given the Grutter roadmap (the requirement to show a “holistic” admissions approach), admissions officers and legal defenders of the thinly disguised racial-preference schemes must resort to verbal gymnastics to justify their programs:

Patricia Ohlendorf, vice president for legal affairs at the Austin campus, said many private and public universities take some account of race in admissions. Because blacks and Hispanics on average score lower on entrance exams than white and Asian-American applicants, universities have adopted affirmative-action programs to compensate.

“We think it is critical to being able to achieve the diverse institution that we think is important,” she said.

The Obama administration agrees. “[The] university’s effort to promote diversity is a paramount government objective,” says the brief filed by the Education and Justice departments. The administration disputed claims that Texas was simply engaging in raw racial preferences.

“The question is not whether an individual belongs to a racial group, but rather how an individual’s membership in any group may provide deeper understanding of the person’s record and experiences, as well as the contribution she can make to the school,” the brief says.

What?! This is just mumbo-jumbo. It’s not the individual’s race but that individual’s membership in a racial group that is of interest? An “individual’s membership in any group may provide deeper understanding of the person’s record and experiences, as well as the contribution she can make to the school”? Somehow, school admissions officers invariably achieve this “deeper understanding” especially for minority students, who have learned to provide just enough fodder in their applications to satisfy admissions officers that there is a rationale for allowing these students to leapfrog over more qualified peers.

The Fifth Circuit will decide if all of this rhetorical hocus-pocus is worthy of deference or whether, in the Obama era, it’s time to finally put an end to the racial-preference rackets. Unfortunately, the Court will find no encouragement from the not-at-all-post-racial president.

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An Unusual Alignment of Interests

More than any other Arab head of state in the world, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has mastered the art of telling listeners what they want to hear.

Last week, he said his country is fully committed to peace in the Middle East, though he worries the Israel government isn’t. He knows this is what bien pensants in the West like to believe. He knows they find it refreshing that he can talk like a liberal while Iran’s Ali Khamenei and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad threaten apocalypse.

He also knows how to talk like the right kind of hardliner. Yesterday, he condemned the double suicide-bombing in Moscow’s underground metro and urged the international community to “fight terror around the globe.”

It’s no wonder, then, that some in Washington, Paris, and even Jerusalem think he’s a man they can do business with. All they have to do is convince him that his alliance with Iran is counterproductive, that it runs contrary to his self-evident interests and public pronouncements.

Syria, though, is the most aggressive state sponsor of terrorism in the world after Iran. Assad doesn’t even try to keep up the pretense when he isn’t preening before peace processors. Last week, he said Israel only understands force — a statement perfectly in line with his behavior. And just two days ago, he and Libya’s Muammar Qaddafi urged the Palestinian Authority to scrap negotiations with Israel and return to its terrorist roots.

It’s hard to say if Western diplomats and foreign policy makers are actually suckered in by his act or if they’re just playing along because doing so suits them. Either way, they’d be wise to ignore him even when he makes the right noises and pay a little more heed to what other Arab leaders are saying instead. Their interests are far more in line with ours than Assad’s are.

Over the weekend, all, including Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, rejected Syria’s and Libya’s calls for armed attacks against Israel. Most aren’t interested in signing a treaty with Benjamin Netanyahu any time soon, but at least they don’t yearn for another Operation Cast Lead or a Third Lebanon War. The status quo ultimately isn’t sustainable, but it’s mostly non-violent right now. There’s nothing urgent about it as long as the Syrian- and Iranian-led resistance bloc isn’t fueling its missiles.

Egypt and Saudi Arabia, the two most influential of the Sunni Arab regimes, flatly reject the idea of dialogue with Tehran while publicly supporting the peace process theater. Even if they’re no more sincere about the latter than Bashar al-Assad, as long as their rhetoric matches their immobility and conflict aversion, who cares?

Meanwhile, Iraqis gave Ayad Allawi and his slate of staunchly anti-Iranian candidates a plurality of votes in the recent election. The moderate Nouri al-Maliki came in second while the pro-Iranian Iraqi National Alliance came in dead last. Iran tried to Lebanonize Iraq with its Sadrist militias but seems to have failed. The Saudis are profoundly relieved, and the rest of the Arabs outside Syria surely are, too.

So what we have here, for the most part, is an Arab Middle East that wants to put the Israeli conflict on ice and resist the resistance instead — which is more or less what the Israelis want to see happen. It’s an unusual alignment of interests, but it is authentic. Iran’s Khomeinist regime has been gunning for Arabs in the Middle East since it came to power — and not just in Lebanon and Iraq but also in the Gulf and North Africa.

Egypt and Saudi Arabia are unreliable allies (and that’s being generous), but their interests really do overlap with our own and even with Israel’s once in a while. Assad, at the same time, can’t always be bothered even to pretend he shares interests with the U.S. and Israel. His government has been sanctioned and stigmatized for a reason, and it’s not because he’s misguided or misunderstood.

President Barack Obama clearly wants to tilt U.S. foreign policy more toward the Arabs, but he doesn’t have to do it at the expense of our alliance with Israel. Just start with what Washington, Jerusalem, and most of the Arab states have in common and build outward from there. The present alignment may only come round once in a century, so we best not blow it.

More than any other Arab head of state in the world, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has mastered the art of telling listeners what they want to hear.

Last week, he said his country is fully committed to peace in the Middle East, though he worries the Israel government isn’t. He knows this is what bien pensants in the West like to believe. He knows they find it refreshing that he can talk like a liberal while Iran’s Ali Khamenei and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad threaten apocalypse.

He also knows how to talk like the right kind of hardliner. Yesterday, he condemned the double suicide-bombing in Moscow’s underground metro and urged the international community to “fight terror around the globe.”

It’s no wonder, then, that some in Washington, Paris, and even Jerusalem think he’s a man they can do business with. All they have to do is convince him that his alliance with Iran is counterproductive, that it runs contrary to his self-evident interests and public pronouncements.

Syria, though, is the most aggressive state sponsor of terrorism in the world after Iran. Assad doesn’t even try to keep up the pretense when he isn’t preening before peace processors. Last week, he said Israel only understands force — a statement perfectly in line with his behavior. And just two days ago, he and Libya’s Muammar Qaddafi urged the Palestinian Authority to scrap negotiations with Israel and return to its terrorist roots.

It’s hard to say if Western diplomats and foreign policy makers are actually suckered in by his act or if they’re just playing along because doing so suits them. Either way, they’d be wise to ignore him even when he makes the right noises and pay a little more heed to what other Arab leaders are saying instead. Their interests are far more in line with ours than Assad’s are.

Over the weekend, all, including Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, rejected Syria’s and Libya’s calls for armed attacks against Israel. Most aren’t interested in signing a treaty with Benjamin Netanyahu any time soon, but at least they don’t yearn for another Operation Cast Lead or a Third Lebanon War. The status quo ultimately isn’t sustainable, but it’s mostly non-violent right now. There’s nothing urgent about it as long as the Syrian- and Iranian-led resistance bloc isn’t fueling its missiles.

Egypt and Saudi Arabia, the two most influential of the Sunni Arab regimes, flatly reject the idea of dialogue with Tehran while publicly supporting the peace process theater. Even if they’re no more sincere about the latter than Bashar al-Assad, as long as their rhetoric matches their immobility and conflict aversion, who cares?

Meanwhile, Iraqis gave Ayad Allawi and his slate of staunchly anti-Iranian candidates a plurality of votes in the recent election. The moderate Nouri al-Maliki came in second while the pro-Iranian Iraqi National Alliance came in dead last. Iran tried to Lebanonize Iraq with its Sadrist militias but seems to have failed. The Saudis are profoundly relieved, and the rest of the Arabs outside Syria surely are, too.

So what we have here, for the most part, is an Arab Middle East that wants to put the Israeli conflict on ice and resist the resistance instead — which is more or less what the Israelis want to see happen. It’s an unusual alignment of interests, but it is authentic. Iran’s Khomeinist regime has been gunning for Arabs in the Middle East since it came to power — and not just in Lebanon and Iraq but also in the Gulf and North Africa.

Egypt and Saudi Arabia are unreliable allies (and that’s being generous), but their interests really do overlap with our own and even with Israel’s once in a while. Assad, at the same time, can’t always be bothered even to pretend he shares interests with the U.S. and Israel. His government has been sanctioned and stigmatized for a reason, and it’s not because he’s misguided or misunderstood.

President Barack Obama clearly wants to tilt U.S. foreign policy more toward the Arabs, but he doesn’t have to do it at the expense of our alliance with Israel. Just start with what Washington, Jerusalem, and most of the Arab states have in common and build outward from there. The present alignment may only come round once in a century, so we best not blow it.

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Spinning Obama’s Foreign-Policy Flops

Earlier this month, Jackson Diehl detailed Obama’s lack of success in forging productive relationships with foreign leaders. Now Obama’s dutiful flacks and media handmaidens take to the front page of Diehl’s paper to explain Obama was merely making use of his “charisma.” Now he is getting around to those relationships. There is this jaw-dropping bit of spin:

The change from a year ago is stark. In his widely broadcast address in Cairo last June, Obama called Israeli settlements in the occupied territories “illegitimate.” By contrast, he met last week at the White House with Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu for two hours, urging him privately to freeze Jewish settlement construction.

What relationship is Obama making use of there? If this is Obama’s idea of a forging bonds with foreign leaders (condemning his country, reading the prime minister the riot act, twice snubbing Netanyahu during his White House visits), our foreign-policy apparatus surely is guilty of gross malfeasance. Then the blind quotes are trotted out to — surprise, surprise — ding George W. Bush and explain how Obama’s newfound personal diplomacy is vastly superior to his predecessor’s:

“Obama is not the sort of guy who looks for a best buddy, and that’s very different than Bush,” said a European diplomat, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to speak candidly about perceptions of U.S. leaders abroad. “Sometimes being too personal is not a good thing. You can make mistakes.”

No, Obama is the sort of guy who returns the Winston Churchill bust, gives Gordon Brown and the Queen of England cheap-o gifts, bows to dictators, and slams the elected prime minister of Israel. Completely different. But even the Washington Post must concede that Obama has not forged really any productive relationships with world leaders:

Obama, who was an Illinois state senator just four years before he was elected president, knew few world leaders upon taking office. Since then, he has developed mostly arm’s-length relationships with fellow heads of state, including many from developing countries that previous presidents largely ignored or shunned to protect U.S. relationships with more traditional allies.

Let’s get real — Obama has not really used his charisma to promote anything but himself:

Republican critics say the approach has unsettled the United States’ best friends, and failed more than succeeded in promoting American interests on some of the most far-reaching foreign policy challenges of the day.

Obama’s direct appeal to the people of China and Iran[ Did we miss this? Was he championing democracy at some point?], for example, has produced little change in the attitude of their governments, showing the limits of a bottom-up approach when it comes to dealing with authoritarian countries. Middle East peace talks remain moribund after the administration’s so-far-unsuccessful attempts to end Israeli settlement construction or to persuade Arab governments to make even token diplomatic gestures toward the Jewish state.

As Simon Serfaty of theCenter for Strategic and International Studies notes, “He is beginning to face a crisis of efficacy.” In other words, despite all the reverential treatment by liberal elites, Obama has yet to develop effective ties with allies or used public diplomacy to further American interests. His infatuation with dictatorial regimes, his embrace of multilateralism, and his willingness to kick allies (e.g., Israel, Poland, the Czech Republic, Britain, Honduras) in the shins have left America more isolated and rogue states more emboldened than ever before. An assessment from Der Spiegel put it this way, recalling Obama’s Cairo speech (which the Obami still laud as an achievement of some sort):

The applause for Obama’s Cairo speech died away in the vast expanses of the Arabian Desert long ago. “He says all the right things, but implementation is exactly the way it has always been,” says Saudi Arabian Foreign Minister Saud al-Faisal.

Obama’s failure in the Middle East is but one example of his weakness, though a particularly drastic and vivid one. The president, widely celebrated when he took office, cannot claim to have achieved sweeping successes in any area. When he began his term more than a year ago, he came across as an ambitious developer who had every intention of completing multiple projects at once. But after a year, none of those projects has even progressed beyond the early construction phase. And in some cases, the sites are nothing but deep excavations. … Obama can hardly count on gaining the support of allies, partly because he doesn’t pay much attention to them. The American president doesn’t have a single strong ally among European heads of state

Perhaps less time spent crafting stories for the Post and more time working on a viable foreign policy built on American interests rather than Obama’s ego would be in order.

Earlier this month, Jackson Diehl detailed Obama’s lack of success in forging productive relationships with foreign leaders. Now Obama’s dutiful flacks and media handmaidens take to the front page of Diehl’s paper to explain Obama was merely making use of his “charisma.” Now he is getting around to those relationships. There is this jaw-dropping bit of spin:

The change from a year ago is stark. In his widely broadcast address in Cairo last June, Obama called Israeli settlements in the occupied territories “illegitimate.” By contrast, he met last week at the White House with Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu for two hours, urging him privately to freeze Jewish settlement construction.

What relationship is Obama making use of there? If this is Obama’s idea of a forging bonds with foreign leaders (condemning his country, reading the prime minister the riot act, twice snubbing Netanyahu during his White House visits), our foreign-policy apparatus surely is guilty of gross malfeasance. Then the blind quotes are trotted out to — surprise, surprise — ding George W. Bush and explain how Obama’s newfound personal diplomacy is vastly superior to his predecessor’s:

“Obama is not the sort of guy who looks for a best buddy, and that’s very different than Bush,” said a European diplomat, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to speak candidly about perceptions of U.S. leaders abroad. “Sometimes being too personal is not a good thing. You can make mistakes.”

No, Obama is the sort of guy who returns the Winston Churchill bust, gives Gordon Brown and the Queen of England cheap-o gifts, bows to dictators, and slams the elected prime minister of Israel. Completely different. But even the Washington Post must concede that Obama has not forged really any productive relationships with world leaders:

Obama, who was an Illinois state senator just four years before he was elected president, knew few world leaders upon taking office. Since then, he has developed mostly arm’s-length relationships with fellow heads of state, including many from developing countries that previous presidents largely ignored or shunned to protect U.S. relationships with more traditional allies.

Let’s get real — Obama has not really used his charisma to promote anything but himself:

Republican critics say the approach has unsettled the United States’ best friends, and failed more than succeeded in promoting American interests on some of the most far-reaching foreign policy challenges of the day.

Obama’s direct appeal to the people of China and Iran[ Did we miss this? Was he championing democracy at some point?], for example, has produced little change in the attitude of their governments, showing the limits of a bottom-up approach when it comes to dealing with authoritarian countries. Middle East peace talks remain moribund after the administration’s so-far-unsuccessful attempts to end Israeli settlement construction or to persuade Arab governments to make even token diplomatic gestures toward the Jewish state.

As Simon Serfaty of theCenter for Strategic and International Studies notes, “He is beginning to face a crisis of efficacy.” In other words, despite all the reverential treatment by liberal elites, Obama has yet to develop effective ties with allies or used public diplomacy to further American interests. His infatuation with dictatorial regimes, his embrace of multilateralism, and his willingness to kick allies (e.g., Israel, Poland, the Czech Republic, Britain, Honduras) in the shins have left America more isolated and rogue states more emboldened than ever before. An assessment from Der Spiegel put it this way, recalling Obama’s Cairo speech (which the Obami still laud as an achievement of some sort):

The applause for Obama’s Cairo speech died away in the vast expanses of the Arabian Desert long ago. “He says all the right things, but implementation is exactly the way it has always been,” says Saudi Arabian Foreign Minister Saud al-Faisal.

Obama’s failure in the Middle East is but one example of his weakness, though a particularly drastic and vivid one. The president, widely celebrated when he took office, cannot claim to have achieved sweeping successes in any area. When he began his term more than a year ago, he came across as an ambitious developer who had every intention of completing multiple projects at once. But after a year, none of those projects has even progressed beyond the early construction phase. And in some cases, the sites are nothing but deep excavations. … Obama can hardly count on gaining the support of allies, partly because he doesn’t pay much attention to them. The American president doesn’t have a single strong ally among European heads of state

Perhaps less time spent crafting stories for the Post and more time working on a viable foreign policy built on American interests rather than Obama’s ego would be in order.

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Is It Worth It?

Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli is pushing back against Democrats’ complaints that he is wasting the Commonwealth’s money in suing to declare ObamaCare unconstitutional. Well, aside from the obligation of all elected officials to defend the Constitution, it seems it’s as smart a use of public funds as one could possibly find. In a news release, the AG explains:

The court filing fee for the case of Commonwealth v. Kathleen Sebelius in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia was $350.  There has been no additional cost above this amount, as the litigation is being handled entirely by the attorney general’s staff.  The office also does not expect much outside cost, as outside counsel has not been retained.

Additionally, since the case is centered around a purely legal constitutional argument, the office anticipates no material costs for things such as discovery, witnesses, etc.

If the suit is successful, the savings to the Commonwealth of Virginia alone is estimated by the governor’s office to be about $1.1 billion from 2015-2022.  This is because if the health care reform act remains law, Virginia would realize an additional $1.1 billion in costs for the new Medicaid requirements called for in the act.  This savings figure does not take in to account the tax and fee savings to individuals and businesses if the federal law is struck down as unconstitutional.

That is $1.1 billion for a middle-sized state. If you think the fiscal impact of ObamaCare and the hue and cry resulting from the gush of red ink it will send spewing forth will be limited to the federal government, think again. All 50 states and  their elected officials will be coping with this — or trying to figure out how to rip it out before it wrecks not only the federal budget but state and local ones as well.

Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli is pushing back against Democrats’ complaints that he is wasting the Commonwealth’s money in suing to declare ObamaCare unconstitutional. Well, aside from the obligation of all elected officials to defend the Constitution, it seems it’s as smart a use of public funds as one could possibly find. In a news release, the AG explains:

The court filing fee for the case of Commonwealth v. Kathleen Sebelius in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia was $350.  There has been no additional cost above this amount, as the litigation is being handled entirely by the attorney general’s staff.  The office also does not expect much outside cost, as outside counsel has not been retained.

Additionally, since the case is centered around a purely legal constitutional argument, the office anticipates no material costs for things such as discovery, witnesses, etc.

If the suit is successful, the savings to the Commonwealth of Virginia alone is estimated by the governor’s office to be about $1.1 billion from 2015-2022.  This is because if the health care reform act remains law, Virginia would realize an additional $1.1 billion in costs for the new Medicaid requirements called for in the act.  This savings figure does not take in to account the tax and fee savings to individuals and businesses if the federal law is struck down as unconstitutional.

That is $1.1 billion for a middle-sized state. If you think the fiscal impact of ObamaCare and the hue and cry resulting from the gush of red ink it will send spewing forth will be limited to the federal government, think again. All 50 states and  their elected officials will be coping with this — or trying to figure out how to rip it out before it wrecks not only the federal budget but state and local ones as well.

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We Still Don’t Know What’s in It

Bill McGurn helps highlight two defects in ObamaCare — its uncertainty and its potential to bully the American people. They come together in the provision for an individual mandate, something Obama ran against during the campaign (when he was also promising not to raise taxes on those making less than $250,000).

How could there be uncertainty about this key feature? Nancy Pelosi promised, after all, that if we passed it, we’d find out what was in it. Well, this is what comes of racing through a largely secretive legislative process. McGurn explains “one of the murkiest bits of this legislation”:

In testimony before a House Ways and Means subcommittee last Thursday, the IRS commissioner deflected questions about the agency’s precise role vis-à-vis health care. Mr. Shulman reassured citizens that this bill does not “fundamentally alter” their relationship with the IRS, and said the IRS would not be snooping into their health records. About the penalties associated with the mandate, he was less clear.

Partly that’s because the law is unclear. The original House bill opened the door for criminal sanctions against Americans who didn’t buy health insurance and pay the penalty. The Senate bill did the same until Sen. John Ensign (R., Nev.) successfully pushed to amend the bill. Even so, the final language begs the question that Mr. Shulman and Mr. Weiner avoided: Who’s going to enforce the mandate, and how?

You might wonder how we can possibly predict costs if we don’t know how many people, if any, are going to herded into the arms of Big Insurance. You might wonder how we are going to achieve compliance with a law that many already resent if it’s not even clear whether the IRS will go after people. Both are good questions, revealing just how uninterested the Democrats were in thinking through and crafting effective legislation. They simply wanted a notch in their belt and to silence the hollering from their base. Getting a coherent, understandable legislative scheme just wasn’t a priority for them.

And then there is the bullying if, in fact, the mandate exists and will be enforced with the full power of the federal government:

Almost by definition, those hit by the mandate will be either young people starting out, or those working for smaller businesses that do not provide employees with health coverage. Back in November, a report by the Congressional Budget Office and Joint Committee on Taxation estimated that nearly half (46%) of the mandate penalties will be paid by Americans under 300% of the poverty line. In today’s dollars, that works out to $32,500 for an individual. For a family of four, it’s $66,150. …

In his appearance before Congress, Mr. Shulman stated he was still working on “the proper resources” the IRS would need to handle the tax provisions of the health-care act. Maybe that won’t mean 16,500 new agents. If the Republicans do manage to take back Congress come November, however, it should mean hearings in which Mr. Shulman provides the American people with specific answers about how much bigger the IRS is going to get because of this bill—and how exactly the IRS will deal with Americans who don’t pay the penalty tax.

So we will, as McGurn points out, either witness the IRS hassling modest-income Americans into buying insurance they don’t want, or the law will be “unenforced.” If it is the latter, all the estimated cost “savings” supposedly achieved by expanding the risk pool of the newly insured can be tossed onto the heap of misrepresentations and fiscal fantasies deployed to pass the bill despite the dire warnings of those like Rep. Paul Ryan. This is the personification of the ever-growing bureaucratic state — incomprehensible, threatening, and very, very expensive.

Bill McGurn helps highlight two defects in ObamaCare — its uncertainty and its potential to bully the American people. They come together in the provision for an individual mandate, something Obama ran against during the campaign (when he was also promising not to raise taxes on those making less than $250,000).

How could there be uncertainty about this key feature? Nancy Pelosi promised, after all, that if we passed it, we’d find out what was in it. Well, this is what comes of racing through a largely secretive legislative process. McGurn explains “one of the murkiest bits of this legislation”:

In testimony before a House Ways and Means subcommittee last Thursday, the IRS commissioner deflected questions about the agency’s precise role vis-à-vis health care. Mr. Shulman reassured citizens that this bill does not “fundamentally alter” their relationship with the IRS, and said the IRS would not be snooping into their health records. About the penalties associated with the mandate, he was less clear.

Partly that’s because the law is unclear. The original House bill opened the door for criminal sanctions against Americans who didn’t buy health insurance and pay the penalty. The Senate bill did the same until Sen. John Ensign (R., Nev.) successfully pushed to amend the bill. Even so, the final language begs the question that Mr. Shulman and Mr. Weiner avoided: Who’s going to enforce the mandate, and how?

You might wonder how we can possibly predict costs if we don’t know how many people, if any, are going to herded into the arms of Big Insurance. You might wonder how we are going to achieve compliance with a law that many already resent if it’s not even clear whether the IRS will go after people. Both are good questions, revealing just how uninterested the Democrats were in thinking through and crafting effective legislation. They simply wanted a notch in their belt and to silence the hollering from their base. Getting a coherent, understandable legislative scheme just wasn’t a priority for them.

And then there is the bullying if, in fact, the mandate exists and will be enforced with the full power of the federal government:

Almost by definition, those hit by the mandate will be either young people starting out, or those working for smaller businesses that do not provide employees with health coverage. Back in November, a report by the Congressional Budget Office and Joint Committee on Taxation estimated that nearly half (46%) of the mandate penalties will be paid by Americans under 300% of the poverty line. In today’s dollars, that works out to $32,500 for an individual. For a family of four, it’s $66,150. …

In his appearance before Congress, Mr. Shulman stated he was still working on “the proper resources” the IRS would need to handle the tax provisions of the health-care act. Maybe that won’t mean 16,500 new agents. If the Republicans do manage to take back Congress come November, however, it should mean hearings in which Mr. Shulman provides the American people with specific answers about how much bigger the IRS is going to get because of this bill—and how exactly the IRS will deal with Americans who don’t pay the penalty tax.

So we will, as McGurn points out, either witness the IRS hassling modest-income Americans into buying insurance they don’t want, or the law will be “unenforced.” If it is the latter, all the estimated cost “savings” supposedly achieved by expanding the risk pool of the newly insured can be tossed onto the heap of misrepresentations and fiscal fantasies deployed to pass the bill despite the dire warnings of those like Rep. Paul Ryan. This is the personification of the ever-growing bureaucratic state — incomprehensible, threatening, and very, very expensive.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Pat Buchanan or Joe Klein? “Each new report of settlement expansion … each new seizure of Palestinian property, each new West Bank clash between Palestinians and Israeli troops inflames the Arab street, humiliates our Arab allies, exposes America as a weakling that cannot stand up to Israel, and imperils our troops and their mission in Afghanistan and Iraq.” Hard to tell these days.

Here’s someone who’s not confused about the meaning of Passover: “‘Next year in Jerusalem’ will be the refrain echoed by Jewish families as they finish their Seders. … It is a stark reminder that whatever the threats the Jewish people have faced, whatever the struggles, their connection to Jerusalem is ancient and unshakable. On this Passover holiday, our family sends our best wishes to all who are celebrating. Chag kasher V’Sameach. Happy Passover. And next year in Jerusalem.”

The Obami’s not-at-all smart diplomacy: “Benny Begin, a member of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s inner cabinet, described Washington’s scrutiny on Jerusalem as departing from previous U.S. administrations’ view that the city’s status should be resolved in peace negotiations. ‘It’s bothersome, and certainly worrying,’ Begin told Israel Radio. ‘This change will definitely bring about the opposite to the declared objective. It will bring about a hardening in the policy of the Arabs and of the Palestinian Authority.’”

Sound familiar? “A consummate and genteel academic who holds degrees from two of the nation’s top universities.” The Los Angeles Times praises Tom Campbell. But maybe a Republican version of Obama (especially one so comfortable with Obama’s assault on Israel) isn’t going to win over Republican voters.

Peter Brown of the Quinnipiac poll on the public reaction to ObamaCare: “The Democrats said the American people will grow to love this. We’ll find out. At this point, they’re not exactly jumping up and down.” It sure isn’t helping Democrats in Missouri: “Missouri voters continue to be unhappy with Barack Obama and his health care plan and that’s helped Roy Blunt to take the lead in the US Senate race. Blunt is up 45-41 on Robin Carnahan, but that result probably has more to do with how the state feels about Barack Obama than it does about the candidates themselves.”

But it solved the enthusiasm gap, right? Uh, no. “Fully 55% of voters registered as GOPers describe themselves as ‘extremely’ or ‘very’ enthusiastic about voting for Congress, while just 36% of Dems describe themselves the same way.”

Actually, the majority of the electorate is jumping up and down to repeal it: “One week after the House of Representatives passed the health care plan proposed by President Obama and congressional Democrats, 54% of the nation’s likely voters still favor repealing the new law. The latest Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey shows that 42% oppose repeal.”

That may include younger voters: “Health insurance premiums for young adults are expected to rise about 17 percent once they’re required to buy insurance four years from now.”

Who knew, right? “Nearly two-thirds of Americans say the health care overhaul signed into law last week costs too much and expands the government’s role in health care too far, a USA TODAY/Gallup Poll finds, underscoring an uphill selling job ahead for President Obama and congressional Democrats. Those surveyed are inclined to fear that the massive legislation will increase their costs and hurt the quality of health care their families receive, although they are more positive about its impact on the nation’s health care system overall. … The risk for them is that continued opposition will fuel calls for repeal and dog Democrats in November’s congressional elections.”

CNN’s a ratings flop, explains the New York Times. But you have to read to the 14th and last graph to learn: “At the same time, Fox News, which had its biggest year in 2009, continues to add viewers.”

Pat Buchanan or Joe Klein? “Each new report of settlement expansion … each new seizure of Palestinian property, each new West Bank clash between Palestinians and Israeli troops inflames the Arab street, humiliates our Arab allies, exposes America as a weakling that cannot stand up to Israel, and imperils our troops and their mission in Afghanistan and Iraq.” Hard to tell these days.

Here’s someone who’s not confused about the meaning of Passover: “‘Next year in Jerusalem’ will be the refrain echoed by Jewish families as they finish their Seders. … It is a stark reminder that whatever the threats the Jewish people have faced, whatever the struggles, their connection to Jerusalem is ancient and unshakable. On this Passover holiday, our family sends our best wishes to all who are celebrating. Chag kasher V’Sameach. Happy Passover. And next year in Jerusalem.”

The Obami’s not-at-all smart diplomacy: “Benny Begin, a member of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s inner cabinet, described Washington’s scrutiny on Jerusalem as departing from previous U.S. administrations’ view that the city’s status should be resolved in peace negotiations. ‘It’s bothersome, and certainly worrying,’ Begin told Israel Radio. ‘This change will definitely bring about the opposite to the declared objective. It will bring about a hardening in the policy of the Arabs and of the Palestinian Authority.’”

Sound familiar? “A consummate and genteel academic who holds degrees from two of the nation’s top universities.” The Los Angeles Times praises Tom Campbell. But maybe a Republican version of Obama (especially one so comfortable with Obama’s assault on Israel) isn’t going to win over Republican voters.

Peter Brown of the Quinnipiac poll on the public reaction to ObamaCare: “The Democrats said the American people will grow to love this. We’ll find out. At this point, they’re not exactly jumping up and down.” It sure isn’t helping Democrats in Missouri: “Missouri voters continue to be unhappy with Barack Obama and his health care plan and that’s helped Roy Blunt to take the lead in the US Senate race. Blunt is up 45-41 on Robin Carnahan, but that result probably has more to do with how the state feels about Barack Obama than it does about the candidates themselves.”

But it solved the enthusiasm gap, right? Uh, no. “Fully 55% of voters registered as GOPers describe themselves as ‘extremely’ or ‘very’ enthusiastic about voting for Congress, while just 36% of Dems describe themselves the same way.”

Actually, the majority of the electorate is jumping up and down to repeal it: “One week after the House of Representatives passed the health care plan proposed by President Obama and congressional Democrats, 54% of the nation’s likely voters still favor repealing the new law. The latest Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey shows that 42% oppose repeal.”

That may include younger voters: “Health insurance premiums for young adults are expected to rise about 17 percent once they’re required to buy insurance four years from now.”

Who knew, right? “Nearly two-thirds of Americans say the health care overhaul signed into law last week costs too much and expands the government’s role in health care too far, a USA TODAY/Gallup Poll finds, underscoring an uphill selling job ahead for President Obama and congressional Democrats. Those surveyed are inclined to fear that the massive legislation will increase their costs and hurt the quality of health care their families receive, although they are more positive about its impact on the nation’s health care system overall. … The risk for them is that continued opposition will fuel calls for repeal and dog Democrats in November’s congressional elections.”

CNN’s a ratings flop, explains the New York Times. But you have to read to the 14th and last graph to learn: “At the same time, Fox News, which had its biggest year in 2009, continues to add viewers.”

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Passover Mush

Obama, as presidents have traditionally done, released a Passover message. It is typical Obama — off-key, hyper-political, and condescending. The core of the message is this:

The enduring story of the Exodus teaches us that, wherever we live, there is oppression to be fought and freedom to be won. In retelling this story from generation to generation, we are reminded of our ongoing responsibility to fight against all forms of suffering and discrimination, and we reaffirm the ties that bind us all.

No, he didn’t have the nerve to recite the emphatic exhortation “Next year in Jerusalem.” And frankly, it sounds like Eric Holder and his civil rights lawyers drafted it. Is Passover really about discrimination? Or is it about the deliverance of God’s Chosen People by God from bondage to the land of Israel? Hmm. Obama notes the “rich symbols, rituals, and traditions” but skips the God part. What is missing from Obama’s secularized spiel is the unique, historic, and, indeed, religious message of the Jewish holiday.

After a similarly tone-deaf message last year, a sharp wit contrasted Obama’s politically correct pablum with a message George Bush delivered on April 7, 2007, which adroitly affirmed the distinctive message of Passover (which fell the same week as Easter that year), and which read in part:

This week, people around the world celebrate Passover and Easter. These holy days remind us of the presence of a loving God who delivers His people from oppression, and offers a love more powerful than death. We take joy in spending this special time with family and friends, and we give thanks for the many blessings in our lives.

One of our greatest blessings as Americans is that we have brave citizens who step forward to defend us. Every man or woman who wears our Nation’s uniform is a volunteer, a patriot who has made the noble decision to serve a cause larger than self. This weekend, many of our service men and women are celebrating the holidays far from home. They are separated from their families by great distances, but they are always close in our thoughts. And this Passover and Easter, I ask you to keep them in your prayers.

As Rachel Abrams noted then: “This religion without God thing is a tricky business.” And indeed a Passover message without Jerusalem is not only off-putting but it also reveals Obama’s mindset and lack of sympatico with the Jewish state and its centrality in the history and religious memory of the Jewish people. After all, the president who delivered the Cairo speech suggesting that Israel’s legitimacy rests on Holocaust guilt is really not the sort to get the Passover message right.

Obama, as presidents have traditionally done, released a Passover message. It is typical Obama — off-key, hyper-political, and condescending. The core of the message is this:

The enduring story of the Exodus teaches us that, wherever we live, there is oppression to be fought and freedom to be won. In retelling this story from generation to generation, we are reminded of our ongoing responsibility to fight against all forms of suffering and discrimination, and we reaffirm the ties that bind us all.

No, he didn’t have the nerve to recite the emphatic exhortation “Next year in Jerusalem.” And frankly, it sounds like Eric Holder and his civil rights lawyers drafted it. Is Passover really about discrimination? Or is it about the deliverance of God’s Chosen People by God from bondage to the land of Israel? Hmm. Obama notes the “rich symbols, rituals, and traditions” but skips the God part. What is missing from Obama’s secularized spiel is the unique, historic, and, indeed, religious message of the Jewish holiday.

After a similarly tone-deaf message last year, a sharp wit contrasted Obama’s politically correct pablum with a message George Bush delivered on April 7, 2007, which adroitly affirmed the distinctive message of Passover (which fell the same week as Easter that year), and which read in part:

This week, people around the world celebrate Passover and Easter. These holy days remind us of the presence of a loving God who delivers His people from oppression, and offers a love more powerful than death. We take joy in spending this special time with family and friends, and we give thanks for the many blessings in our lives.

One of our greatest blessings as Americans is that we have brave citizens who step forward to defend us. Every man or woman who wears our Nation’s uniform is a volunteer, a patriot who has made the noble decision to serve a cause larger than self. This weekend, many of our service men and women are celebrating the holidays far from home. They are separated from their families by great distances, but they are always close in our thoughts. And this Passover and Easter, I ask you to keep them in your prayers.

As Rachel Abrams noted then: “This religion without God thing is a tricky business.” And indeed a Passover message without Jerusalem is not only off-putting but it also reveals Obama’s mindset and lack of sympatico with the Jewish state and its centrality in the history and religious memory of the Jewish people. After all, the president who delivered the Cairo speech suggesting that Israel’s legitimacy rests on Holocaust guilt is really not the sort to get the Passover message right.

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Obama Legacy Watch

As Jennifer points out, Syria joined Libya at the Arab League summit this weekend in egging on the Palestinian Arabs to quit the peace process with Israel. There were many ominous references at the summit to the probable failure of the current peace process, but the League reached no unified resolution on a way ahead for the Palestinian question. Arab news outlets derided this lack of resolution as a missed opportunity to declare the peace process dead and take a harder line with Israel. But there was no question among observers that, as Al Jazeera proclaimed, “Israel dominated the summit.”

This isn’t surprising, of course, but in the larger context of regional dynamics, it’s a bad sign. With Iran supporting insurgencies in Yemen and Lebanon, establishing a military presence in the Red Sea, and nearing a nuclear breakout, the summit’s histrionic focus on housing construction in a part of Jerusalem that has never even been on the bargaining table has a somewhat demented air about it.

The League didn’t ignore Iran, however. On Saturday, Egypt’s Amr Moussa, the Arab League’s secretary-general, reiterated his call for a regional negotiating forum with Iran. Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan endorsed the Moussa proposal — which includes Turkey as a forum participant — with alacrity. Erdogan himself was present at the summit and made headlines with his official address on Sunday, in which he referred to Israel’s stance on Jerusalem as “madness.” He then pointedly appropriated a biblical allusion — “Jerusalem is the apple of the eye of each and every Muslim” — and pretty much put to rest any doubts about his partisan posture. (Not that there were many doubts remaining after his March 7 proclamation that Rachel’s Tomb and the Cave of the Patriarchs “were not and never will be Jewish sites, but Islamic sites.”)

Barack Obama’s legacy is beginning to emerge. An Al Jazeera editorial writer made this telling statement in a background article on the Arab summit on Friday: “Arab leaders often meet in order to follow U.S. dictates.” We in the U.S. don’t think that’s true, naturally, but the overstatement does get at the underlying truth that U.S. policy has for several decades set boundaries on what the Middle East’s various actors consider possible. In countering the Soviet Union, affirming Israel’s right to exist, containing Iran, and keeping the seaways open, American policy has set the conditions in which the nations of the region operated.

The irresolution of this weekend’s summit is an indication that the Arab League’s members aren’t sure yet what boundaries are implied by Obama’s policy. But after 14 months of it, Turkey’s overtly Islamist posture is hardening and its commitment to secularism is being dismantled. The Arab League is talking seriously about launching a negotiating forum with Iran, precisely because of the impotence of U.S. policy. And the League is pessimistic about the future of the peace process, unified on this point if on no other: that under current conditions, the Palestinians should not agree to rejoin sponsored talks of any kind.

As Jennifer points out, Syria joined Libya at the Arab League summit this weekend in egging on the Palestinian Arabs to quit the peace process with Israel. There were many ominous references at the summit to the probable failure of the current peace process, but the League reached no unified resolution on a way ahead for the Palestinian question. Arab news outlets derided this lack of resolution as a missed opportunity to declare the peace process dead and take a harder line with Israel. But there was no question among observers that, as Al Jazeera proclaimed, “Israel dominated the summit.”

This isn’t surprising, of course, but in the larger context of regional dynamics, it’s a bad sign. With Iran supporting insurgencies in Yemen and Lebanon, establishing a military presence in the Red Sea, and nearing a nuclear breakout, the summit’s histrionic focus on housing construction in a part of Jerusalem that has never even been on the bargaining table has a somewhat demented air about it.

The League didn’t ignore Iran, however. On Saturday, Egypt’s Amr Moussa, the Arab League’s secretary-general, reiterated his call for a regional negotiating forum with Iran. Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan endorsed the Moussa proposal — which includes Turkey as a forum participant — with alacrity. Erdogan himself was present at the summit and made headlines with his official address on Sunday, in which he referred to Israel’s stance on Jerusalem as “madness.” He then pointedly appropriated a biblical allusion — “Jerusalem is the apple of the eye of each and every Muslim” — and pretty much put to rest any doubts about his partisan posture. (Not that there were many doubts remaining after his March 7 proclamation that Rachel’s Tomb and the Cave of the Patriarchs “were not and never will be Jewish sites, but Islamic sites.”)

Barack Obama’s legacy is beginning to emerge. An Al Jazeera editorial writer made this telling statement in a background article on the Arab summit on Friday: “Arab leaders often meet in order to follow U.S. dictates.” We in the U.S. don’t think that’s true, naturally, but the overstatement does get at the underlying truth that U.S. policy has for several decades set boundaries on what the Middle East’s various actors consider possible. In countering the Soviet Union, affirming Israel’s right to exist, containing Iran, and keeping the seaways open, American policy has set the conditions in which the nations of the region operated.

The irresolution of this weekend’s summit is an indication that the Arab League’s members aren’t sure yet what boundaries are implied by Obama’s policy. But after 14 months of it, Turkey’s overtly Islamist posture is hardening and its commitment to secularism is being dismantled. The Arab League is talking seriously about launching a negotiating forum with Iran, precisely because of the impotence of U.S. policy. And the League is pessimistic about the future of the peace process, unified on this point if on no other: that under current conditions, the Palestinians should not agree to rejoin sponsored talks of any kind.

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Iraq’s Losers

David Ignatius and Kori Schake make a good point about the Iraqi election results: the big loser, at least for now, is Iran. Ignatius notes how hard the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps’ Quds Force worked to derail the electoral ambitions of Ayad Allawi and to engineer a victory for the Iraqi National Alliance, a Shiite religious combination of the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq and the Sadrists. Iran was widely seen as responsible for the De-Baathification Commission’s attempts to disqualify many Sunni, secular candidates, and, Ignatius reports, “A U.S. military commander told me in February that Iran was sending $9 million a month to the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq and $8 million a month to the political party of radical cleric Moqtada al-Sadr.”

Obviously the Iranian strategy failed, as Allawi’s Iraqiya slate came out the top vote-getter with 91 parliamentary seats, followed by Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s State of Law coalition with 89 seats. The Iraqi National Alliance was a distant third with 75 seats.

As Schake notes, the results suggest that “Iraqi voters don’t want Iran running their government or having sway in their society.” Allawi was the most anti-Iranian candidate. Maliki may well have lost votes because, writes Schake, he “is seen — rightly or wrongly — as more susceptible to Iranian influence.”

These are all, of course, only preliminary conclusions. It is still possible that Iran may regain the edge in post-election camel-trading that it lost in the actual vote. Allawi will struggle to form a government, and if he fails, Maliki will get a shot. Both sides have an obvious incentive to woo at least one of the Shiite religious parties by making who knows what kinds of concessions. The obvious alternative would be for Maliki and Allawi to form their own coalition — a nationalist unity government –but that would be hard to pull off because they can’t stand each other.

Stay tuned. It’s hard to predict what will happen. In some ways, that is the highest tribute we can pay to Iraq. In how many other countries in the Middle East is it so hard to know in advance who will rule after an election? In most countries, the voting is a mere formality to ratify the authoritarian status quo. Not in Iraq. It is emerging as a genuine democracy, but it now faces a major test. As has been noted by many experts, the true test of a political system is whether power can shift peacefully from one party to another. It will be the reaction of the losers, more than the winners, that will set the tone in Iraqi politics and help determine the ultimate success or failure of its democratic experiment.

David Ignatius and Kori Schake make a good point about the Iraqi election results: the big loser, at least for now, is Iran. Ignatius notes how hard the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps’ Quds Force worked to derail the electoral ambitions of Ayad Allawi and to engineer a victory for the Iraqi National Alliance, a Shiite religious combination of the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq and the Sadrists. Iran was widely seen as responsible for the De-Baathification Commission’s attempts to disqualify many Sunni, secular candidates, and, Ignatius reports, “A U.S. military commander told me in February that Iran was sending $9 million a month to the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq and $8 million a month to the political party of radical cleric Moqtada al-Sadr.”

Obviously the Iranian strategy failed, as Allawi’s Iraqiya slate came out the top vote-getter with 91 parliamentary seats, followed by Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s State of Law coalition with 89 seats. The Iraqi National Alliance was a distant third with 75 seats.

As Schake notes, the results suggest that “Iraqi voters don’t want Iran running their government or having sway in their society.” Allawi was the most anti-Iranian candidate. Maliki may well have lost votes because, writes Schake, he “is seen — rightly or wrongly — as more susceptible to Iranian influence.”

These are all, of course, only preliminary conclusions. It is still possible that Iran may regain the edge in post-election camel-trading that it lost in the actual vote. Allawi will struggle to form a government, and if he fails, Maliki will get a shot. Both sides have an obvious incentive to woo at least one of the Shiite religious parties by making who knows what kinds of concessions. The obvious alternative would be for Maliki and Allawi to form their own coalition — a nationalist unity government –but that would be hard to pull off because they can’t stand each other.

Stay tuned. It’s hard to predict what will happen. In some ways, that is the highest tribute we can pay to Iraq. In how many other countries in the Middle East is it so hard to know in advance who will rule after an election? In most countries, the voting is a mere formality to ratify the authoritarian status quo. Not in Iraq. It is emerging as a genuine democracy, but it now faces a major test. As has been noted by many experts, the true test of a political system is whether power can shift peacefully from one party to another. It will be the reaction of the losers, more than the winners, that will set the tone in Iraqi politics and help determine the ultimate success or failure of its democratic experiment.

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Nuclear-Free? Oh, Except for Iran

Jack David of the Hudson Institute writes that while a “world free of nuclear weapons has been the wish of many people of goodwill since the dawn of the nuclear age,” there’s no evidence that pursuit of such a pipe dream will make us any safer. He explains:

Proponents of “nuclear zero” sometimes argue that if the U.S. and Russia eliminated their nuclear arsenals, other nations would follow their lead. But where’s the evidence? Since 1991, the U.S. has unilaterally moved toward nuclear disarmament. It reduced the number of operationally deployed nuclear warheads to fewer than 2,200 from 13,000. It ended nuclear testing. It neither produced nor designed new nuclear warheads. It ended production of fissile material for nuclear warheads. But these actions have not persuaded any nuclear countries to follow suit.

So long as countries threaten to use nuclear arms, others will require a nuclear answer. Even suspicion of nuclear blackmail will precipitate demands for a countervailing deterrent. As a senior official of a Middle East country told me in 2006, “If Iran develops a nuclear weapon, someone else in the region will become nuclear capable too.”

Nor is enhanced verification a panacea. (“Did the International Atomic Energy Agency inspections thwart covert and illegal programs in North Korea? In Iran? In Iraq? And when illegal nuclear weapons development is discovered, as in Iran, what U.N. or ‘international community’ response will protect the immediately threatened states?”)

Indeed there is something strange and otherworldly about the announced START deal with Russia at the very moment at which Iran is said to be building multiple nuclear enrichment sites. Does the administration really suppose we are safer because of the START deal or that the mullahs are impressed with our efforts? It defies logic. But it fills the time and tends to distract the media from the abject failure of the Obami to impede the Iranian regime’s nuclear ambitions. David notes, “Tough action to stop Iran from developing nuclear weapons would be a welcome replacement for current threats and rhetoric.” But the Obami don’t have tough action, or really any action that might do that. So they continue the blather on about a nuclear-free world, as they water down the proposed sanctions and rule out regime change and dismiss any military action that would halt the “unacceptable” — the day when the revolutionary Islamic state announces it has joined the club of nuclear powers.

Jack David of the Hudson Institute writes that while a “world free of nuclear weapons has been the wish of many people of goodwill since the dawn of the nuclear age,” there’s no evidence that pursuit of such a pipe dream will make us any safer. He explains:

Proponents of “nuclear zero” sometimes argue that if the U.S. and Russia eliminated their nuclear arsenals, other nations would follow their lead. But where’s the evidence? Since 1991, the U.S. has unilaterally moved toward nuclear disarmament. It reduced the number of operationally deployed nuclear warheads to fewer than 2,200 from 13,000. It ended nuclear testing. It neither produced nor designed new nuclear warheads. It ended production of fissile material for nuclear warheads. But these actions have not persuaded any nuclear countries to follow suit.

So long as countries threaten to use nuclear arms, others will require a nuclear answer. Even suspicion of nuclear blackmail will precipitate demands for a countervailing deterrent. As a senior official of a Middle East country told me in 2006, “If Iran develops a nuclear weapon, someone else in the region will become nuclear capable too.”

Nor is enhanced verification a panacea. (“Did the International Atomic Energy Agency inspections thwart covert and illegal programs in North Korea? In Iran? In Iraq? And when illegal nuclear weapons development is discovered, as in Iran, what U.N. or ‘international community’ response will protect the immediately threatened states?”)

Indeed there is something strange and otherworldly about the announced START deal with Russia at the very moment at which Iran is said to be building multiple nuclear enrichment sites. Does the administration really suppose we are safer because of the START deal or that the mullahs are impressed with our efforts? It defies logic. But it fills the time and tends to distract the media from the abject failure of the Obami to impede the Iranian regime’s nuclear ambitions. David notes, “Tough action to stop Iran from developing nuclear weapons would be a welcome replacement for current threats and rhetoric.” But the Obami don’t have tough action, or really any action that might do that. So they continue the blather on about a nuclear-free world, as they water down the proposed sanctions and rule out regime change and dismiss any military action that would halt the “unacceptable” — the day when the revolutionary Islamic state announces it has joined the club of nuclear powers.

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Cage-Rattling Time

The debate between Charlie Crist and Marco Rubio on Sunday highlighted the dilemma that Crist is facing: he is weighed down with the mantle of an establishment Republican, a go-alonger, precisely when the Republicans want  ideological clarity and rhetorical inspiration. During the discussion about the stimulus, Crist uttered this:

You can’t just be off on some limb, rattling the cage and saying you’re going to do great things. … [You can't] stand on principle or politics above the people of your state that you’re supposed to serve.

Well, the entire conservative base wants to rattle the Beltway cage and do great things — uproot the noxious ObamaCare and reestablish some semblance of fiscal sanity. Crist is telling them to pipe down and take the road money. He has a cramped view of what it is to serve — to scramble for your voters’ share of the pie rather than toss the pie and start over. And it is this attitude, coupled with the obvious disdain for conservative activists, that has dashed Crist’s prospects.

It is also a lesson for candidates in other races about self-definition. The successful GOP candidates of late — Chris Christie, Bob McDonnell, and Scott Brown — have embraced, not ridiculed, the activist base. They have wholly rejected the Obama agenda. They have looked at the larger picture, the big themes, and grasped that there is a Center-Right coalition to be forged in opposition to the liberal-statist agenda that has unnerved even some liberals. (Even Jane Hamsher gets why we shouldn’t be forcing people to buy insurance from companies they don’t want to patronize.) You can be mild mannered (McDonnell) while carrying a very conservative message. But the message, if a Republican is going to be successful, must be unequivocal and cage-rattling. That is why Marco Rubio has his lead and is headed for an impressive win.

The debate between Charlie Crist and Marco Rubio on Sunday highlighted the dilemma that Crist is facing: he is weighed down with the mantle of an establishment Republican, a go-alonger, precisely when the Republicans want  ideological clarity and rhetorical inspiration. During the discussion about the stimulus, Crist uttered this:

You can’t just be off on some limb, rattling the cage and saying you’re going to do great things. … [You can't] stand on principle or politics above the people of your state that you’re supposed to serve.

Well, the entire conservative base wants to rattle the Beltway cage and do great things — uproot the noxious ObamaCare and reestablish some semblance of fiscal sanity. Crist is telling them to pipe down and take the road money. He has a cramped view of what it is to serve — to scramble for your voters’ share of the pie rather than toss the pie and start over. And it is this attitude, coupled with the obvious disdain for conservative activists, that has dashed Crist’s prospects.

It is also a lesson for candidates in other races about self-definition. The successful GOP candidates of late — Chris Christie, Bob McDonnell, and Scott Brown — have embraced, not ridiculed, the activist base. They have wholly rejected the Obama agenda. They have looked at the larger picture, the big themes, and grasped that there is a Center-Right coalition to be forged in opposition to the liberal-statist agenda that has unnerved even some liberals. (Even Jane Hamsher gets why we shouldn’t be forcing people to buy insurance from companies they don’t want to patronize.) You can be mild mannered (McDonnell) while carrying a very conservative message. But the message, if a Republican is going to be successful, must be unequivocal and cage-rattling. That is why Marco Rubio has his lead and is headed for an impressive win.

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The GOP in the Wake of ObamaCare

We are now a week out from the passage of ObamaCare, so it’s worth considering what approach the Republican party might take in the months ahead.

The first thing is to understand that, politically speaking, the GOP is in extremely good shape. President Obama succeeded in passing health care legislation — but he has not succeeded in making it popular. If you analyze the different polls that have come out since the passage of ObamaCare, it shows several things: the president received a slight bump, less than usual for a legislative victory of this magnitude, and it is in the process of evaporating. And because both parties are determined to make the midterm elections a referendum on ObamaCare — Democrats because they don’t want to leave it undefended, Republicans because they believe the public’s dislike of this legislation is intense and won’t recede — that is what the elections will largely be about.

Second, Republicans and their allies need to ensure that the president and Democrats now have full ownership of ObamaCare. That means creating benchmarks, such as when we begin to see increases in premiums and taxes, cuts in Medicare Advantage, employers dumping employees into the exchange once it’s up and running, an increase in the oversight activity of the IRS (which is responsible for enforcing this new mandate), and more.

The GOP also needs to highlight the negative, radiating effects of ObamaCare, as companies adjust to the new world they inhabit. For example, Caterpillar said ObamaCare would cost the company at least $100 million more in the first year alone. Medical-device maker Medtronic said that new taxes on its products could force it to lay off a thousand workers. The telecom giant Verizon warned that its costs will increase in the short term. As the Wall Street Journal editorialized last week, “Businesses around the country are making the same calculations as Verizon and no doubt sending out similar messages. It’s only a small measure of the destruction that will be churned out by the rewrite of health, tax, labor and welfare laws that is ObamaCare, and only the vanguard of much worse to come.”

In addition to highlighting the damaging effects of ObamaCare, Republicans need to sear into public consciousness the many false promises and assurances Mr. Obama and Democrats made. Here the stimulus package offers some helpful guidance. In order to pass it, and shortly after he signed it into law, the president and his team made guarantees about how many jobs it would create, including how unemployment would not rise above 8 percent. But a strange thing happened along the way. Unemployment topped 10 percent last year. We have lost rather than gained millions of jobs. The high expectations Obama had created were shattered, and with it the beginning of Obama’s credibility. And this, in turn, begins the downward political slide of the Democratic party under Obama.

The same thing can happen, in spades, with health care. Democrats know it, too. Just a few days ago, for example, Senator Claire McCaskill of Missouri said her party has probably oversold the legislation that just became law. “The side on which I’m on, that voted for the bill, probably is overpromising, [has] not been clear enough about the fact that this is going to be an incremental approach over time, [and] the benefits aren’t going to be felt by most Americans immediately,” McCaskill told MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough.

Memo to Ms. McCaskill: It’s a little late, Senator. The president has made, repeatedly and on the record, extravagant claims. He promised the moon and the stars. When those things not only don’t come to pass, but when people see that their lives are worse off thanks to ObamaCare, there will be a very high political price to pay.

Finally, the GOP needs to connect ObamaCare to the broader narrative it plays into: the modern-Democratic party is fiscally irresponsible to the point of recklessness, it is clueless when it comes to creating economic growth, and Democrats are enchanted with the prospect of centralizing power and control. At a time when trust in the federal government is near an all-time low and disgust with the federal government is near an all-time high, Barack Obama and Democrats have become, as never before, the party of big government.

This is something the GOP can work with.

What will matter, when all is said and done, are the real-world effects of ObamaCare. If it succeeds, then Obama and Democrats will have taken important strides to help them retain their majority status in America. If on the other hand you believe, as I do, that ObamaCare is a pernicious piece of legislation, one that will have terribly damaging consequences as its provisions uncoil, then Democrats will have inflicted on themselves enormous damage.

Both parties have waged everything on this fight. The midterm elections will give us an early indication of which one bet the right way.

We are now a week out from the passage of ObamaCare, so it’s worth considering what approach the Republican party might take in the months ahead.

The first thing is to understand that, politically speaking, the GOP is in extremely good shape. President Obama succeeded in passing health care legislation — but he has not succeeded in making it popular. If you analyze the different polls that have come out since the passage of ObamaCare, it shows several things: the president received a slight bump, less than usual for a legislative victory of this magnitude, and it is in the process of evaporating. And because both parties are determined to make the midterm elections a referendum on ObamaCare — Democrats because they don’t want to leave it undefended, Republicans because they believe the public’s dislike of this legislation is intense and won’t recede — that is what the elections will largely be about.

Second, Republicans and their allies need to ensure that the president and Democrats now have full ownership of ObamaCare. That means creating benchmarks, such as when we begin to see increases in premiums and taxes, cuts in Medicare Advantage, employers dumping employees into the exchange once it’s up and running, an increase in the oversight activity of the IRS (which is responsible for enforcing this new mandate), and more.

The GOP also needs to highlight the negative, radiating effects of ObamaCare, as companies adjust to the new world they inhabit. For example, Caterpillar said ObamaCare would cost the company at least $100 million more in the first year alone. Medical-device maker Medtronic said that new taxes on its products could force it to lay off a thousand workers. The telecom giant Verizon warned that its costs will increase in the short term. As the Wall Street Journal editorialized last week, “Businesses around the country are making the same calculations as Verizon and no doubt sending out similar messages. It’s only a small measure of the destruction that will be churned out by the rewrite of health, tax, labor and welfare laws that is ObamaCare, and only the vanguard of much worse to come.”

In addition to highlighting the damaging effects of ObamaCare, Republicans need to sear into public consciousness the many false promises and assurances Mr. Obama and Democrats made. Here the stimulus package offers some helpful guidance. In order to pass it, and shortly after he signed it into law, the president and his team made guarantees about how many jobs it would create, including how unemployment would not rise above 8 percent. But a strange thing happened along the way. Unemployment topped 10 percent last year. We have lost rather than gained millions of jobs. The high expectations Obama had created were shattered, and with it the beginning of Obama’s credibility. And this, in turn, begins the downward political slide of the Democratic party under Obama.

The same thing can happen, in spades, with health care. Democrats know it, too. Just a few days ago, for example, Senator Claire McCaskill of Missouri said her party has probably oversold the legislation that just became law. “The side on which I’m on, that voted for the bill, probably is overpromising, [has] not been clear enough about the fact that this is going to be an incremental approach over time, [and] the benefits aren’t going to be felt by most Americans immediately,” McCaskill told MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough.

Memo to Ms. McCaskill: It’s a little late, Senator. The president has made, repeatedly and on the record, extravagant claims. He promised the moon and the stars. When those things not only don’t come to pass, but when people see that their lives are worse off thanks to ObamaCare, there will be a very high political price to pay.

Finally, the GOP needs to connect ObamaCare to the broader narrative it plays into: the modern-Democratic party is fiscally irresponsible to the point of recklessness, it is clueless when it comes to creating economic growth, and Democrats are enchanted with the prospect of centralizing power and control. At a time when trust in the federal government is near an all-time low and disgust with the federal government is near an all-time high, Barack Obama and Democrats have become, as never before, the party of big government.

This is something the GOP can work with.

What will matter, when all is said and done, are the real-world effects of ObamaCare. If it succeeds, then Obama and Democrats will have taken important strides to help them retain their majority status in America. If on the other hand you believe, as I do, that ObamaCare is a pernicious piece of legislation, one that will have terribly damaging consequences as its provisions uncoil, then Democrats will have inflicted on themselves enormous damage.

Both parties have waged everything on this fight. The midterm elections will give us an early indication of which one bet the right way.

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And Then the Deluge

Like the French aristocracy pre-1789 and the flappers pre-Crash, the Democrats are whooping it up. Thrilled with their own cleverness and accomplishments, they have taken several victory laps. But wait. Even the New York Times warns: there is a black cloud on the horizon that threatens not only their future but also the viability of their “accomplishment”:

Achievement of their decades-long quest for comprehensive health care legislation left Congressional leaders and White House aides jubilant. It broke, at least temporarily, the psychology of failure that threatened President Obama’s administration as it had burdened President George W. Bush’s tenure. But the new spring in the steps of Democratic lawmakers has not reversed the likelihood that there will be fewer of them next year. Mr. Obama’s signature on the health care law did not reduce a national unemployment rate that hovers around double digits and is likely to stay there through the November elections.

The Gray Lady repeats the favored line — this “stabilized” support on the Left — but can’t conceal the fact that this is of minimal value. After all, there weren’t enough liberals to save even Scott Brown in Massachusetts from the united front of independents and conservatives. Moreover, “Younger and minority voters, so crucial to Mr. Obama’s 2008 breakthrough, typically turn out for midterms at lower rates than seniors, the age group most skeptical of the president’s performance and the country’s direction.” In other words, the Obami have pleased people (including the uninsured, the target of ObamaCare) not all that inclined to vote.

So what are Democrats to do? Change the subject: “Democrats will turn unequivocally to the economy, putting forward additional efforts to accelerate the recovery and highlighting improvements already under way.” What — they don’t want to dwell on their victory? One would think that would be their sole topic of discussion, you know, what with the historic accomplishment under their belts. But no, they seem quite anxious to move on.

They repeat the mantra that cramming a grossly unpopular health-care bill through on a narrow party-line vote was a good idea. (“By winning on health care, Mr. Obama and his party ‘avoided disaster’ in 2010, said the Democratic pollster Mark Mellman. But ‘this doesn’t change the overall dynamic.’”) This unproved thesis is apparently providing them some solace as they stare into the political abyss. But the election is not merely a disagreeable ordeal. It is also a referendum on their handiwork, which threatens not only to result in a massive repudiation of their “historic” gain but also to begin the process of obliterating it. The Democrats could defy the will of the voters once, but neither they nor their legislation can survive cycle after cycle of the voters’ wrath. They now might want to change the topic, but the voters don’t. The partying will end, I suspect, once the reality of the electorate’s anger sets in and the recognition dawns that, like those of the flappers and the French monarchy, the days of ObamaCare are numbered.

Like the French aristocracy pre-1789 and the flappers pre-Crash, the Democrats are whooping it up. Thrilled with their own cleverness and accomplishments, they have taken several victory laps. But wait. Even the New York Times warns: there is a black cloud on the horizon that threatens not only their future but also the viability of their “accomplishment”:

Achievement of their decades-long quest for comprehensive health care legislation left Congressional leaders and White House aides jubilant. It broke, at least temporarily, the psychology of failure that threatened President Obama’s administration as it had burdened President George W. Bush’s tenure. But the new spring in the steps of Democratic lawmakers has not reversed the likelihood that there will be fewer of them next year. Mr. Obama’s signature on the health care law did not reduce a national unemployment rate that hovers around double digits and is likely to stay there through the November elections.

The Gray Lady repeats the favored line — this “stabilized” support on the Left — but can’t conceal the fact that this is of minimal value. After all, there weren’t enough liberals to save even Scott Brown in Massachusetts from the united front of independents and conservatives. Moreover, “Younger and minority voters, so crucial to Mr. Obama’s 2008 breakthrough, typically turn out for midterms at lower rates than seniors, the age group most skeptical of the president’s performance and the country’s direction.” In other words, the Obami have pleased people (including the uninsured, the target of ObamaCare) not all that inclined to vote.

So what are Democrats to do? Change the subject: “Democrats will turn unequivocally to the economy, putting forward additional efforts to accelerate the recovery and highlighting improvements already under way.” What — they don’t want to dwell on their victory? One would think that would be their sole topic of discussion, you know, what with the historic accomplishment under their belts. But no, they seem quite anxious to move on.

They repeat the mantra that cramming a grossly unpopular health-care bill through on a narrow party-line vote was a good idea. (“By winning on health care, Mr. Obama and his party ‘avoided disaster’ in 2010, said the Democratic pollster Mark Mellman. But ‘this doesn’t change the overall dynamic.’”) This unproved thesis is apparently providing them some solace as they stare into the political abyss. But the election is not merely a disagreeable ordeal. It is also a referendum on their handiwork, which threatens not only to result in a massive repudiation of their “historic” gain but also to begin the process of obliterating it. The Democrats could defy the will of the voters once, but neither they nor their legislation can survive cycle after cycle of the voters’ wrath. They now might want to change the topic, but the voters don’t. The partying will end, I suspect, once the reality of the electorate’s anger sets in and the recognition dawns that, like those of the flappers and the French monarchy, the days of ObamaCare are numbered.

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Syria Disses Obama Once Again

The Obami’s engagement of Syria – like its engagement of Iran, its bow-and-scrape routine with China, and its quietude on human rights atrocities — really hasn’t panned out. To the contrary, it is earning the contempt of the Syrian regime, which senses that no behavior, no public statement, and no human rights abuses are too egregious to put it on the wrong side of its overeager suitors in Washington. The latest:

Syria and Libya teamed up Sunday to pressure Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to quit peace talks with Israel and return to violence, delegates to an Arab leadership summit said.

In the wake of that call, Arab leaders gathered at their summit Sirte, Libya on Sunday failed to reach a consensus on whether the Palestinians should resume stalled talks with Israel. …

Syrian President Bashar Assad urged Abbas to withdraw from a U.S.-supported peace strategy and resume armed resistance to Israel, according to two delegates who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue.

They said Assad also urged Arab countries to halt any contacts with Israel, though only Cairo and Amman have peace deals with Israel.

“The price of resistance is not higher than the price of peace,” one delegate quoted Assad as telling Abbas.

This follows Obama’s decision – without any sign of cooperation or behavior modification by Assad — to return our ambassador to Damascus. This has earned us a joint press conference featuring Assad and Ahmadinejad bashing the U.S. and turning up the genocidal language, a refusal by Assad to acknowledge let alone curb arms transfers to Hezbollah, and now a blast aimed at disrupting the peace process. Does any of this earn a “condemnation” by the Obama government? No, that sort of thing is reserved for our democratic ally Israel. Does it cause us to rethink the merits of unilateral gestures toward Assad? No sign of that yet.

The Obami seem blissfully unaware that suck-uppery to the Muslim World is earning us no credit and quite a bit of contempt. That one deluded gambit (Syrian engagement) collides with another (proximity talks with Palestinians unwilling even to meet directly with Israel) seems not to matter. They are driven by an ideological fervor immune to reason and impervious to facts. It seems there is nothing the objects of their affection could do to cause the Obami to reconsider — and as the despots realize this, they are encouraged to engage in even more aggressive and outlandish behavior. There is nothing remotely “smart” about the Obama’s Middle East policy.

The Obami’s engagement of Syria – like its engagement of Iran, its bow-and-scrape routine with China, and its quietude on human rights atrocities — really hasn’t panned out. To the contrary, it is earning the contempt of the Syrian regime, which senses that no behavior, no public statement, and no human rights abuses are too egregious to put it on the wrong side of its overeager suitors in Washington. The latest:

Syria and Libya teamed up Sunday to pressure Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to quit peace talks with Israel and return to violence, delegates to an Arab leadership summit said.

In the wake of that call, Arab leaders gathered at their summit Sirte, Libya on Sunday failed to reach a consensus on whether the Palestinians should resume stalled talks with Israel. …

Syrian President Bashar Assad urged Abbas to withdraw from a U.S.-supported peace strategy and resume armed resistance to Israel, according to two delegates who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue.

They said Assad also urged Arab countries to halt any contacts with Israel, though only Cairo and Amman have peace deals with Israel.

“The price of resistance is not higher than the price of peace,” one delegate quoted Assad as telling Abbas.

This follows Obama’s decision – without any sign of cooperation or behavior modification by Assad — to return our ambassador to Damascus. This has earned us a joint press conference featuring Assad and Ahmadinejad bashing the U.S. and turning up the genocidal language, a refusal by Assad to acknowledge let alone curb arms transfers to Hezbollah, and now a blast aimed at disrupting the peace process. Does any of this earn a “condemnation” by the Obama government? No, that sort of thing is reserved for our democratic ally Israel. Does it cause us to rethink the merits of unilateral gestures toward Assad? No sign of that yet.

The Obami seem blissfully unaware that suck-uppery to the Muslim World is earning us no credit and quite a bit of contempt. That one deluded gambit (Syrian engagement) collides with another (proximity talks with Palestinians unwilling even to meet directly with Israel) seems not to matter. They are driven by an ideological fervor immune to reason and impervious to facts. It seems there is nothing the objects of their affection could do to cause the Obami to reconsider — and as the despots realize this, they are encouraged to engage in even more aggressive and outlandish behavior. There is nothing remotely “smart” about the Obama’s Middle East policy.

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What Makes This President Different from All Other Presidents?

As the dispute between the Israel and the United States enters its third week, President Obama’s anger at Israel and his determination to force Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to give in on the question of building in the eastern sector of Israel’s capital is apparently unabated.

Yet this is hardly the first dispute between the two countries. Every administration since 1967 has proposed peace plans and negotiating strategies that Israel disliked or actively resisted. Genuine friends such as Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton, and George W. Bush, as well as less friendly presidents such as Jimmy Carter and George H.W. Bush, all pushed hard at times for Israeli acceptance of unpalatable concessions. But in spite of these precedents, Barack Obama has managed to go where no American president has gone before. For all the problems created by all his predecessors about settlements in the West Bank, no previous American leader has ever chosen to draw a line in the sand about the Jewish presence in Jerusalem.

It is true that the United States never recognized Israel’s annexation of the eastern sector of the city after Jerusalem’s unification in 1967. In fact, it has never even recognized western Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. But the new Jewish neighborhoods that sprang up along the northern, eastern, and southern outskirts of the city, as well as the Jewish Quarter in the Old City, were never a source of contention even during the presidencies of Carter and the elder Bush. Indeed, the notion that places such as Ramat Eshkol, Pisgat Zeev, Gilo, and even Ramat Shlomo (the site of the “insult” to Vice President Biden) are considered “settlements” by the United States and thus no different from the most remote hilltop outpost deep in the West Bank is something that has come as a complete surprise to most Israelis, let alone American supporters of Israel.

During the course of his first go at Netanyahu, Obama made it clear that, contrary to a promise given by George W. Bush in 2004, he considered the bulk of settlements situated close to the 1967 borders, which Israelis believe they will keep even in the event of a peace deal, to be just as illegitimate as more controversial communities. In the hope of defusing the argument, Netanyahu reluctantly agreed to a freeze in these towns and villages while still maintaining that Jerusalem could not be treated in the same way. But Washington’s demand that the freeze be extended to eastern Jerusalem signals that Obama clearly believes that, like the big settlements of Ariel and Ma’ale Adumim, the homes of the approximately 200,000 Jews who live in eastern Jerusalem are also on the table.

But despite the fact that Palestinian intransigence (strengthened by the belief that it is futile to talk, since the refusal to negotiate with Israel will only motivate Obama to press Israel harder) means his diplomatic offensive has virtually no chance of success, Obama has still done something that will permanently alter Middle Eastern diplomacy. By treating the Jewish presence in eastern Jerusalem as a vast, illegal settlement, the continued growth of which is an alleged impediment to peace, Obama has made it impossible for any Arab leader to ever accept Israel’s possession of this part of the city. This not only makes the already near-impossible task of forging peace that much harder, it is also a crushing blow to decades of Israeli and American Jewish efforts to foster international recognition of a unified Jerusalem.

This year, along with the conventional four questions of the Passover Seder, some Americans are starting ask themselves: “Why is this president different from all other presidents?” The answer is that Barack Obama has now established opposition to Israel’s hold on its capital as a cornerstone of American Middle East policy in a way that is completely new as well as dangerous. Those wondering whether this development ought to cause them to re-evaluate their political loyalties might want to remember the closing refrain of Passover Seders down through the centuries: “Next Year in Jerusalem!”

As the dispute between the Israel and the United States enters its third week, President Obama’s anger at Israel and his determination to force Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to give in on the question of building in the eastern sector of Israel’s capital is apparently unabated.

Yet this is hardly the first dispute between the two countries. Every administration since 1967 has proposed peace plans and negotiating strategies that Israel disliked or actively resisted. Genuine friends such as Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton, and George W. Bush, as well as less friendly presidents such as Jimmy Carter and George H.W. Bush, all pushed hard at times for Israeli acceptance of unpalatable concessions. But in spite of these precedents, Barack Obama has managed to go where no American president has gone before. For all the problems created by all his predecessors about settlements in the West Bank, no previous American leader has ever chosen to draw a line in the sand about the Jewish presence in Jerusalem.

It is true that the United States never recognized Israel’s annexation of the eastern sector of the city after Jerusalem’s unification in 1967. In fact, it has never even recognized western Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. But the new Jewish neighborhoods that sprang up along the northern, eastern, and southern outskirts of the city, as well as the Jewish Quarter in the Old City, were never a source of contention even during the presidencies of Carter and the elder Bush. Indeed, the notion that places such as Ramat Eshkol, Pisgat Zeev, Gilo, and even Ramat Shlomo (the site of the “insult” to Vice President Biden) are considered “settlements” by the United States and thus no different from the most remote hilltop outpost deep in the West Bank is something that has come as a complete surprise to most Israelis, let alone American supporters of Israel.

During the course of his first go at Netanyahu, Obama made it clear that, contrary to a promise given by George W. Bush in 2004, he considered the bulk of settlements situated close to the 1967 borders, which Israelis believe they will keep even in the event of a peace deal, to be just as illegitimate as more controversial communities. In the hope of defusing the argument, Netanyahu reluctantly agreed to a freeze in these towns and villages while still maintaining that Jerusalem could not be treated in the same way. But Washington’s demand that the freeze be extended to eastern Jerusalem signals that Obama clearly believes that, like the big settlements of Ariel and Ma’ale Adumim, the homes of the approximately 200,000 Jews who live in eastern Jerusalem are also on the table.

But despite the fact that Palestinian intransigence (strengthened by the belief that it is futile to talk, since the refusal to negotiate with Israel will only motivate Obama to press Israel harder) means his diplomatic offensive has virtually no chance of success, Obama has still done something that will permanently alter Middle Eastern diplomacy. By treating the Jewish presence in eastern Jerusalem as a vast, illegal settlement, the continued growth of which is an alleged impediment to peace, Obama has made it impossible for any Arab leader to ever accept Israel’s possession of this part of the city. This not only makes the already near-impossible task of forging peace that much harder, it is also a crushing blow to decades of Israeli and American Jewish efforts to foster international recognition of a unified Jerusalem.

This year, along with the conventional four questions of the Passover Seder, some Americans are starting ask themselves: “Why is this president different from all other presidents?” The answer is that Barack Obama has now established opposition to Israel’s hold on its capital as a cornerstone of American Middle East policy in a way that is completely new as well as dangerous. Those wondering whether this development ought to cause them to re-evaluate their political loyalties might want to remember the closing refrain of Passover Seders down through the centuries: “Next Year in Jerusalem!”

Read Less

Obama’s Sales Job Flops

Mara Liasson on Fox News Sunday described the aftermath of ObamaCare:

What’s happened this week is that although the polls haven’t moved in any big way, there’s been a slight narrowing of the difference between the positive and negative feelings about this. Still, there’s more negative than positive.

But for the Democrats, what’s really important for the midterms is that finally, the intensity among the Democratic base, the number of Democrats who are strongly supportive of this, has come way up. And it’s beginning at least to balance out the strongly negative feelings that the Republicans have been riding among their base.

We don’t know yet if this is the high-water mark for the opposition to this, if it’s going to grow or if it’s going to dissipate.

But one of the problems I do think the White House is going to have, and they’re going to have to come up with an answer to this, is that premiums are likely to go up, and they might even start going up in a lot of places before November, before all of the things that would keep premiums down kick in, long before.

So Republicans are going to be able to say in the fall, “Ah-ha, your premiums went up,” just like they’re going to say, “Ah-ha, there’s still 10 percent unemployment.” And the White House knows it has a huge selling job ahead of it, and I think the president started this week and they’re just going to have to keep at it.

In other words, “Ah-ha — you sold us a bill of goods.” As Bill Kristol pointed out, it’s worse than that really. Citing the Washington Post/ABC News poll (with a stark undersampling of Republicans), he explains that voters aren’t embracing the “historic” achievement that Obama and the media spinners are touting:

The media celebrates it as historic, on the level of Medicare and Social Security. The president of the United States goes out and spends a week campaigning for it.Forty-six to 50 — people disapprove of it. He hasn’t moved the numbers at all. He’s slightly generated more Democratic enthusiasm, but the overall public sentiment is negative. Independents are negative. The generic congressional ballot is bad for the Democrats.

Among those who were asked, “Would you vote on this issue? Would you be more likely to vote for a congressional candidate who supports or opposes,” it’s 26-32. That is really bad for the Democrats.

I mean, if they couldn’t take advantage of the momentum of passing this legislation, the signing ceremony, the media, the president traveling around, when are they going to have a bump?

This emphasizes just how limited Obama’s ability to move public opinion is. He persuaded 53 percent of the voters to elect him, but he’s convinced them of precious little since then. They don’t buy that the stimulus worked. They don’t think closing Guantanamo is a good idea. (Last January 47 percent wanted to keep Guantanamo open; now 60 percent do.) And they aren’t buying his sales pitch that his monstrous health-care scheme is going to cut the deficit, save them money, or improve their own medical care.

Real experience with ObamaCare, as with the stimulus plan, may cement voters’ take on the legislation as the premium hikes and Medicare cuts take their toll. The risk with overselling and misrepresenting to the voters either a candidate or a piece of legislation  is that sooner or later they catch on — and then they get the chance to exact their revenge at the ballot box. As the president said, that’s what elections are for.

Mara Liasson on Fox News Sunday described the aftermath of ObamaCare:

What’s happened this week is that although the polls haven’t moved in any big way, there’s been a slight narrowing of the difference between the positive and negative feelings about this. Still, there’s more negative than positive.

But for the Democrats, what’s really important for the midterms is that finally, the intensity among the Democratic base, the number of Democrats who are strongly supportive of this, has come way up. And it’s beginning at least to balance out the strongly negative feelings that the Republicans have been riding among their base.

We don’t know yet if this is the high-water mark for the opposition to this, if it’s going to grow or if it’s going to dissipate.

But one of the problems I do think the White House is going to have, and they’re going to have to come up with an answer to this, is that premiums are likely to go up, and they might even start going up in a lot of places before November, before all of the things that would keep premiums down kick in, long before.

So Republicans are going to be able to say in the fall, “Ah-ha, your premiums went up,” just like they’re going to say, “Ah-ha, there’s still 10 percent unemployment.” And the White House knows it has a huge selling job ahead of it, and I think the president started this week and they’re just going to have to keep at it.

In other words, “Ah-ha — you sold us a bill of goods.” As Bill Kristol pointed out, it’s worse than that really. Citing the Washington Post/ABC News poll (with a stark undersampling of Republicans), he explains that voters aren’t embracing the “historic” achievement that Obama and the media spinners are touting:

The media celebrates it as historic, on the level of Medicare and Social Security. The president of the United States goes out and spends a week campaigning for it.Forty-six to 50 — people disapprove of it. He hasn’t moved the numbers at all. He’s slightly generated more Democratic enthusiasm, but the overall public sentiment is negative. Independents are negative. The generic congressional ballot is bad for the Democrats.

Among those who were asked, “Would you vote on this issue? Would you be more likely to vote for a congressional candidate who supports or opposes,” it’s 26-32. That is really bad for the Democrats.

I mean, if they couldn’t take advantage of the momentum of passing this legislation, the signing ceremony, the media, the president traveling around, when are they going to have a bump?

This emphasizes just how limited Obama’s ability to move public opinion is. He persuaded 53 percent of the voters to elect him, but he’s convinced them of precious little since then. They don’t buy that the stimulus worked. They don’t think closing Guantanamo is a good idea. (Last January 47 percent wanted to keep Guantanamo open; now 60 percent do.) And they aren’t buying his sales pitch that his monstrous health-care scheme is going to cut the deficit, save them money, or improve their own medical care.

Real experience with ObamaCare, as with the stimulus plan, may cement voters’ take on the legislation as the premium hikes and Medicare cuts take their toll. The risk with overselling and misrepresenting to the voters either a candidate or a piece of legislation  is that sooner or later they catch on — and then they get the chance to exact their revenge at the ballot box. As the president said, that’s what elections are for.

Read Less

Flotsam and Jetsam

Disingenuous: David Axelrod claims no “snub” of Bibi Netanyahu was intended when the Obami disallowed any cameras, held no press conference, and leaked its continuing bullying of Israel.

Sadly accurate: Bill Kristol explains that the administration “is going out of its way to distance itself from the Israeli government” and that this represents “a turn against Israel” by the Obami.

Unacceptable? Stephen Hayes argues that it is inevitable: “In private, the Obama administration has repeatedly warned Israel against a preemptive strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities. Isolating Israel in this way sends the same message publicly; it says, in effect, ‘You think we overreacted to a housing spat in Jerusalem? Try bombing Iran.’ … They offer platitudes, and they focus obsessively on diplomacy that virtually no one thinks will prevent Iran from becoming a nuclear power. Ultimately, of course, it doesn’t matter whether China participates in a conference call about weak U.N. sanctions that will have a negligible effect on Iran’s behavior. And containment, the de facto policy on Iran today, will become the acknowledged Obama administration approach to Iran. Which means, of course, that Iran will have the bomb.”

Predictable (when you elect an ultra-liberal masquerading as a moderate): Matt Continetti explains that “gone is the charismatic young man who told the 2004 Democratic National Convention in Boston that there was no Blue America and no Red America, only the United States of America. All that remains is a partisan liberal Democrat whose health care policy bulldozed public opinion, enraged the electorate, poisoned the Congress, and set into motion a sequence of events the outcome of which cannot be foreseen.”

Silly: “No good options for President Obama in Khalid Sheikh Mohammed trial, “blares the Politico headline. Of course, there is — send him back to a military tribunal. The fact that “there doesn’t seem to be even the dim possibility of a political upside for the White House” is frankly beside the point and a dilemma entirely of its own ideological extremism and ineptitude.

Dangerously deluded (if she believes what she is saying): Valerie Jarrett argues that “we’re seeing steady progress in terms of a world coalition that will put that pressure on Iran … I think we have a strong force in the making and Iran will back down.”

Surprising (only to the media elites and those who’ve never been to a Tea Party): “When the tea party movement burst onto the scene last year to oppose President Barack Obama, the Democratic Congress, and the health care legislation they wanted to enact, some liberal critics were quick to label its activists as angry white men. As the populist conservative movement has gained a foothold over the past year, it’s become increasingly clear that the dismissive characterization was at least half wrong. Many of the tea party’s most influential grass-roots and national leaders are women, and a new poll released this week by Quinnipiac University suggests that women might make up a majority of the movement as well. As the populist conservative movement has gained a foothold over the past year, it’s become increasingly clear that the dismissive characterization was at least half wrong.”

Disingenuous: David Axelrod claims no “snub” of Bibi Netanyahu was intended when the Obami disallowed any cameras, held no press conference, and leaked its continuing bullying of Israel.

Sadly accurate: Bill Kristol explains that the administration “is going out of its way to distance itself from the Israeli government” and that this represents “a turn against Israel” by the Obami.

Unacceptable? Stephen Hayes argues that it is inevitable: “In private, the Obama administration has repeatedly warned Israel against a preemptive strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities. Isolating Israel in this way sends the same message publicly; it says, in effect, ‘You think we overreacted to a housing spat in Jerusalem? Try bombing Iran.’ … They offer platitudes, and they focus obsessively on diplomacy that virtually no one thinks will prevent Iran from becoming a nuclear power. Ultimately, of course, it doesn’t matter whether China participates in a conference call about weak U.N. sanctions that will have a negligible effect on Iran’s behavior. And containment, the de facto policy on Iran today, will become the acknowledged Obama administration approach to Iran. Which means, of course, that Iran will have the bomb.”

Predictable (when you elect an ultra-liberal masquerading as a moderate): Matt Continetti explains that “gone is the charismatic young man who told the 2004 Democratic National Convention in Boston that there was no Blue America and no Red America, only the United States of America. All that remains is a partisan liberal Democrat whose health care policy bulldozed public opinion, enraged the electorate, poisoned the Congress, and set into motion a sequence of events the outcome of which cannot be foreseen.”

Silly: “No good options for President Obama in Khalid Sheikh Mohammed trial, “blares the Politico headline. Of course, there is — send him back to a military tribunal. The fact that “there doesn’t seem to be even the dim possibility of a political upside for the White House” is frankly beside the point and a dilemma entirely of its own ideological extremism and ineptitude.

Dangerously deluded (if she believes what she is saying): Valerie Jarrett argues that “we’re seeing steady progress in terms of a world coalition that will put that pressure on Iran … I think we have a strong force in the making and Iran will back down.”

Surprising (only to the media elites and those who’ve never been to a Tea Party): “When the tea party movement burst onto the scene last year to oppose President Barack Obama, the Democratic Congress, and the health care legislation they wanted to enact, some liberal critics were quick to label its activists as angry white men. As the populist conservative movement has gained a foothold over the past year, it’s become increasingly clear that the dismissive characterization was at least half wrong. Many of the tea party’s most influential grass-roots and national leaders are women, and a new poll released this week by Quinnipiac University suggests that women might make up a majority of the movement as well. As the populist conservative movement has gained a foothold over the past year, it’s become increasingly clear that the dismissive characterization was at least half wrong.”

Read Less

A Fine Speech in Afghanistan

Barack Obama made an excellent — even inspiring — speech Sunday, before American and other coalition troops in Afghanistan. He expressed a boundless appreciation of our soldiers and a sense of ongoing commitment to the fight there.

The president told the audience in uniform, “You’ve earned your place next to the very greatest of American generations.” That’s more than an expression of gratitude; it’s a declaration that reflects the historic magnitude of their fight.

On winning, Obama said, “I am confident all of you are going to get the job done right here in Afghanistan,” and he described “our mission” to “disrupt and dismantle, defeat and destroy al Qaeda and its extremist allies.” One could quibble with the absence of the word victory, but it hardly seems worth it. After all, as he talks about the “defeat” of our enemies, our own victory is self-evident.

The line that earned the biggest spontaneous show of enthusiasm was about commitment: “The United States of America does not quit once is starts on something. You don’t quit, the American armed services does not quit. We keep at it and we persevere, and together with our partners we will prevail. I am absolutely confident of that.” After the long, uncertain policy-decision period last fall, it’s important that he hammer that message home as frequently as possible.

Obama talked about “bringing hope and opportunity to a people who have known a lot of pain and a lot of suffering.” It would have been nice to hear him mention freedom or consensual governance, but it’s important to remember that this was not a policy speech. It was a morale booster for the men and women fighting abroad.

The president offered his most robust defense of American exceptionalism since his Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech in December. “In an uncertain world the United States of America will always stand up for the security of nations and the dignity of human beings,” he said. “That is who we are. That is what we do.”

This was a contender for the best speech of Obama’s presidency thus far. May he continue to inspire on Afghanistan. And may some of that inspiration leak into other foreign policy areas, where notions of America’s commitment and the protection of human dignity have been found disgracefully absent.

Barack Obama made an excellent — even inspiring — speech Sunday, before American and other coalition troops in Afghanistan. He expressed a boundless appreciation of our soldiers and a sense of ongoing commitment to the fight there.

The president told the audience in uniform, “You’ve earned your place next to the very greatest of American generations.” That’s more than an expression of gratitude; it’s a declaration that reflects the historic magnitude of their fight.

On winning, Obama said, “I am confident all of you are going to get the job done right here in Afghanistan,” and he described “our mission” to “disrupt and dismantle, defeat and destroy al Qaeda and its extremist allies.” One could quibble with the absence of the word victory, but it hardly seems worth it. After all, as he talks about the “defeat” of our enemies, our own victory is self-evident.

The line that earned the biggest spontaneous show of enthusiasm was about commitment: “The United States of America does not quit once is starts on something. You don’t quit, the American armed services does not quit. We keep at it and we persevere, and together with our partners we will prevail. I am absolutely confident of that.” After the long, uncertain policy-decision period last fall, it’s important that he hammer that message home as frequently as possible.

Obama talked about “bringing hope and opportunity to a people who have known a lot of pain and a lot of suffering.” It would have been nice to hear him mention freedom or consensual governance, but it’s important to remember that this was not a policy speech. It was a morale booster for the men and women fighting abroad.

The president offered his most robust defense of American exceptionalism since his Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech in December. “In an uncertain world the United States of America will always stand up for the security of nations and the dignity of human beings,” he said. “That is who we are. That is what we do.”

This was a contender for the best speech of Obama’s presidency thus far. May he continue to inspire on Afghanistan. And may some of that inspiration leak into other foreign policy areas, where notions of America’s commitment and the protection of human dignity have been found disgracefully absent.

Read Less




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