Commentary Magazine


Posts For: March 1, 2010

Madame Speaker, Meet Reality

Politico’s headline blares: “Nancy Pelosi’s Brutal Reality Check.” A big chunk of that reality is the absence in the House of votes necessary to pass ObamaCare:

Pelosi and other top House Democrats say publicly that they have the votes to push through a comprehensive package, but privately, they know they don’t. Pelosi must balance the diverging interests of her own members while simultaneously satisfying Senate Democrats and working with President Barack Obama and his chief of staff Rahm Emanuel, a former House colleague with whom she has an uneasy relationship.

Oops. And then there are the upcoming elections, the retirements, the corruption scandals, and her own unpopularity. But she assures us that the Democrats will keep their majority. Listen, what do you expect her to say? No use turning a rout into a stampede. But it does suggest that many of the pro-Obama spinners in the media are being taken for a ride. They seem to take seriously the notion that she’s got this all lined up and that reconciliation is the magic potion for passing ObamaCare.

It isn’t clear how much in touch with reality Pelosi is. Does she buy her own spin or is she trying to make the best out of a bad situation? Maybe she is simply trying to keep her finger in the dike, preventing the dam from bursting and the liberal base from going berserk and thereby further demoralizing her caucus. But if she has some sense of her own political peril and of the near-moribund state of ObamaCare, it would be a wonder why she is not, at least quietly, trying to come up with Plan B. She’s decried incrementalism, as Obama has. But that’s her only hope if, in fact, the votes for a grandiose health-care scheme just aren’t there.

Perhaps what is required here from Pelosi is not an introduction to reality but a collision — a vote that fails or a whip count that shows she is over 15 or 20 votes shy of a majority. If that moment comes, then perhaps we will see whether Pelosi has the skill and smarts to find a way to save her own speakership, the Democratic majority, and, in a meaningful way, Obama’s presidency. And then we’ll maybe give her some praise for a health-care plan that is incremental, affordable, and reasonable — everything the current plan is not.

Politico’s headline blares: “Nancy Pelosi’s Brutal Reality Check.” A big chunk of that reality is the absence in the House of votes necessary to pass ObamaCare:

Pelosi and other top House Democrats say publicly that they have the votes to push through a comprehensive package, but privately, they know they don’t. Pelosi must balance the diverging interests of her own members while simultaneously satisfying Senate Democrats and working with President Barack Obama and his chief of staff Rahm Emanuel, a former House colleague with whom she has an uneasy relationship.

Oops. And then there are the upcoming elections, the retirements, the corruption scandals, and her own unpopularity. But she assures us that the Democrats will keep their majority. Listen, what do you expect her to say? No use turning a rout into a stampede. But it does suggest that many of the pro-Obama spinners in the media are being taken for a ride. They seem to take seriously the notion that she’s got this all lined up and that reconciliation is the magic potion for passing ObamaCare.

It isn’t clear how much in touch with reality Pelosi is. Does she buy her own spin or is she trying to make the best out of a bad situation? Maybe she is simply trying to keep her finger in the dike, preventing the dam from bursting and the liberal base from going berserk and thereby further demoralizing her caucus. But if she has some sense of her own political peril and of the near-moribund state of ObamaCare, it would be a wonder why she is not, at least quietly, trying to come up with Plan B. She’s decried incrementalism, as Obama has. But that’s her only hope if, in fact, the votes for a grandiose health-care scheme just aren’t there.

Perhaps what is required here from Pelosi is not an introduction to reality but a collision — a vote that fails or a whip count that shows she is over 15 or 20 votes shy of a majority. If that moment comes, then perhaps we will see whether Pelosi has the skill and smarts to find a way to save her own speakership, the Democratic majority, and, in a meaningful way, Obama’s presidency. And then we’ll maybe give her some praise for a health-care plan that is incremental, affordable, and reasonable — everything the current plan is not.

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Blaming Bush — Enough Yet?

Victor Davis Hanson detects a lessening of the Blame Bush fetish that has gripped the Obami. Why? He postulates:

Two reasons: 1) Obama has copied Bush on almost all the anti-terrorism protocols that worked, such as tribunals, renditions, Patriot Act, Iraq, Afghanistan, Predators, wiretaps and intercepts. And to the extent he has not — a trial for KSM in New York, a witch hunt against the former CIA interrogators, Miranda rights for the would-be Christmas Day bomber, proposed closing of Guantanamo — the people wonder: what in the hell is this guy doing? 2) Obama turned Bush’s misdemeanors, like deficits, borrowing, and new government programs, into felonies. So in comparison, Bush doesn’t look quite so bad now: next time Obama plays the “Bush Did it” card, the public will think either “Thank God” or “Yeah, but not as badly as you did”.

I’m not so confident that the Bush blaming is over, though Hanson aptly explains why it should be. And there are other reasons why Obama should abandon this tactic.

In addition to the grounds Hanson lists, there is another, more fundamental reason why Obama should stop: it’s embarrassing. It simply reinforces the meme that Obama isn’t very presidential. Petulant? Certainly. Condescending? Definitely. But presidential – meaning above-the fray, decisive, appealing to the better angels of our nature, and careful to use only the best and most accurate data? Hardly.

George W. Bush’s utter lack of criticism of Obama (to the frustration of many conservatives and loyal members of his administration) simply reinforces the smallness of the current Oval Office occupant. Perhaps Bush’s criticism would have fallen on deaf ears because the public was not yet ready to hear from him. But whatever the motive for the silence, it has certainly reinforced the contrast between the two presidents: one has moved on, and the other repeatedly evokes the past to excuse and justify his own shortcomings.

Finally, Obama ran as the transformational president who would sweep aside the past and conduct business in a whole new way. By blaming Bush, he is admitting that he has been spectacularly unsuccessful in changing much of anything. He in essence concedes by blaming Bush that he is trapped in the third Bush term. But the least changey thing a president can do is blame others, especially when he enjoys large congressional majorities and a more forgiving mainstream media than most presidents encounter.

We’ll see if Hanson is right and if Obama gives up the Bush fixation. But if he does, who will he blame for the crummy state of his presidency? Maybe a staff shake-up is in order.

Victor Davis Hanson detects a lessening of the Blame Bush fetish that has gripped the Obami. Why? He postulates:

Two reasons: 1) Obama has copied Bush on almost all the anti-terrorism protocols that worked, such as tribunals, renditions, Patriot Act, Iraq, Afghanistan, Predators, wiretaps and intercepts. And to the extent he has not — a trial for KSM in New York, a witch hunt against the former CIA interrogators, Miranda rights for the would-be Christmas Day bomber, proposed closing of Guantanamo — the people wonder: what in the hell is this guy doing? 2) Obama turned Bush’s misdemeanors, like deficits, borrowing, and new government programs, into felonies. So in comparison, Bush doesn’t look quite so bad now: next time Obama plays the “Bush Did it” card, the public will think either “Thank God” or “Yeah, but not as badly as you did”.

I’m not so confident that the Bush blaming is over, though Hanson aptly explains why it should be. And there are other reasons why Obama should abandon this tactic.

In addition to the grounds Hanson lists, there is another, more fundamental reason why Obama should stop: it’s embarrassing. It simply reinforces the meme that Obama isn’t very presidential. Petulant? Certainly. Condescending? Definitely. But presidential – meaning above-the fray, decisive, appealing to the better angels of our nature, and careful to use only the best and most accurate data? Hardly.

George W. Bush’s utter lack of criticism of Obama (to the frustration of many conservatives and loyal members of his administration) simply reinforces the smallness of the current Oval Office occupant. Perhaps Bush’s criticism would have fallen on deaf ears because the public was not yet ready to hear from him. But whatever the motive for the silence, it has certainly reinforced the contrast between the two presidents: one has moved on, and the other repeatedly evokes the past to excuse and justify his own shortcomings.

Finally, Obama ran as the transformational president who would sweep aside the past and conduct business in a whole new way. By blaming Bush, he is admitting that he has been spectacularly unsuccessful in changing much of anything. He in essence concedes by blaming Bush that he is trapped in the third Bush term. But the least changey thing a president can do is blame others, especially when he enjoys large congressional majorities and a more forgiving mainstream media than most presidents encounter.

We’ll see if Hanson is right and if Obama gives up the Bush fixation. But if he does, who will he blame for the crummy state of his presidency? Maybe a staff shake-up is in order.

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How NOT to Wage a Counterinsurgency

As part of the research for my book on the history of guerrilla warfare, I have recently — and belatedly — read Street Without Joy by Bernard Fall. Originally published in 1961, this is considered a classic account of the French Indochina War written by a Jewish journalist-historian who was born in Austria, moved to France as a child, fought with the French Resistance after losing his parents to the Nazis, and later emigrated to the United States.

Fall was, by all accounts, a sterling individual who had great insight into Vietnam; he was an early skeptic about the American war effort. Street Without Joy was disappointing, however. I found it pretty disjointed, a mix of history and memoir that never quite jelled. That said, it does offer some interesting perspectives on how counterinsurgency á la française worked. He recounts, for instance, what happened when a transport aircraft on which he was flying took some flak from a Viet Minh anti-aircraft battery. Two French fighters immediately swooped down to deal with the ground fire. On his headset, Fall could overhear one of the pilots saying to the other that he had spotted a village:

“Can’t see a darn thing. Do you see anything?”

“Can’t see anything either, but let’s give it to them just for good measure.”

Another swoop by the two little birds and all of a sudden a big black billow behind them. It was napalm–jellied gasoline, one of the nicer horrors developed in World War II. It beats the conventional incendiaries by the fact that it sticks so much better to everything it touches.

“Ah, see the bastards run now?”

Now the village was burning furiously. The two fighters swooped down in turn and raked the area with machine guns. … Scratch one Lao village–and we didn’t even know whether the village was pro-Communist or not.”

I would guess if that village wasn’t pro-Communist before this napalm attack, it would have been pro-Communist after. No wonder the French couldn’t win in Vietnam or Algeria. This wasn’t the whole story, but certainly one of the crucial factors was that they were so indiscriminate in causing civilian casualties.

That’s a lesson that General Stanley McChrystal has taken to heart. That’s why he has imposed such restrictive rules for the use of airpower in Afghanistan — rules for which he has been criticized by some who would no doubt like our aircraft to indiscriminately napalm villages. After all, that strategy worked great for the French, didn’t it?

As part of the research for my book on the history of guerrilla warfare, I have recently — and belatedly — read Street Without Joy by Bernard Fall. Originally published in 1961, this is considered a classic account of the French Indochina War written by a Jewish journalist-historian who was born in Austria, moved to France as a child, fought with the French Resistance after losing his parents to the Nazis, and later emigrated to the United States.

Fall was, by all accounts, a sterling individual who had great insight into Vietnam; he was an early skeptic about the American war effort. Street Without Joy was disappointing, however. I found it pretty disjointed, a mix of history and memoir that never quite jelled. That said, it does offer some interesting perspectives on how counterinsurgency á la française worked. He recounts, for instance, what happened when a transport aircraft on which he was flying took some flak from a Viet Minh anti-aircraft battery. Two French fighters immediately swooped down to deal with the ground fire. On his headset, Fall could overhear one of the pilots saying to the other that he had spotted a village:

“Can’t see a darn thing. Do you see anything?”

“Can’t see anything either, but let’s give it to them just for good measure.”

Another swoop by the two little birds and all of a sudden a big black billow behind them. It was napalm–jellied gasoline, one of the nicer horrors developed in World War II. It beats the conventional incendiaries by the fact that it sticks so much better to everything it touches.

“Ah, see the bastards run now?”

Now the village was burning furiously. The two fighters swooped down in turn and raked the area with machine guns. … Scratch one Lao village–and we didn’t even know whether the village was pro-Communist or not.”

I would guess if that village wasn’t pro-Communist before this napalm attack, it would have been pro-Communist after. No wonder the French couldn’t win in Vietnam or Algeria. This wasn’t the whole story, but certainly one of the crucial factors was that they were so indiscriminate in causing civilian casualties.

That’s a lesson that General Stanley McChrystal has taken to heart. That’s why he has imposed such restrictive rules for the use of airpower in Afghanistan — rules for which he has been criticized by some who would no doubt like our aircraft to indiscriminately napalm villages. After all, that strategy worked great for the French, didn’t it?

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Nancy Pelosi Has a Point — Kind Of

Over the weekend, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi was asked, “What do you say to your members, when it does come to the House to vote on this, who are in real fear of losing their seats in November if they support you now?” Her response was:

Well first of all our members — every one of them — wants health care. I think everybody wants affordable health care for all Americans. They know that this will take courage. It took courage to pass Social Security. It took courage to pass Medicare. And many of the same forces that were at work decades ago are at work again against this bill. But the American people need it, why are we here? We’re not here just to self perpetuate our service in Congress. We’re here to do the job for the American people.

In this one instance, Ms. Pelosi has a point. Kind of.

The Speaker touched on one of the important debates in American political history, which is what the role of legislators is. Is it to reflect the views of their constituents, rather like a seismograph? Or, as Edmund Burke put it when speaking about constituents, “Their wishes ought to have great weight with him; their opinions high respect; their business unremitted attention.” But in the end, a legislator owes them something more: his “judgment.” He should not be guided by merely “local purposes” or “local prejudices.” Parliament, Burke insisted, was a “deliberative assembly.” (For an excellent discussion of this matter, see George Will’s book Restoration, and especially the chapter “From Bristol to Cobb County.”)

I place myself in the latter camp, more now than ever — in part based on my own experience in the White House, when President Bush was advocating a new counterinsurgency strategy in Iraq that was unpopular with the political class, with Congress, and with the American public. He proceeded anyway; and the results were stunningly successful. If the surge had failed — if Bush had pulled back, or listened to key Republicans, or decided that his job was to mirror public sentiment — America would have been dealt a terrible geopolitical and moral defeat. What George W. Bush did was right – and it was also politically courageous.

The acid test on these matters is always the wisdom of the act itself. Insisting on political courage from Members of Congress on behalf of a legislative monstrosity would be unwise, whereas insisting on political courage from Members of Congress on behalf of a piece of legislation that advances the common good would be commendable. Since I consider ObamaCare to fit in the former category, I naturally believe what Nancy Pelosi is asking her caucus to do is politically insane. Why issue political death warrants to your allies in behalf of a terrible idea? But her broader point, which is that self-perpetuation in Congress is should not be the lawmaker’s primary concern, strikes me as quite right — and since she believes that nationalization of health care is in the public interest, her argument is understandable. I don’t for a minute, though, pretend that what she is asking of others (and not of herself) is easy. As John F. Kennedy (or perhaps Theodore Sorensen) wrote in Profiles in Courage,

Where else, in a non-totalitarian country, but in the political profession is the individual expected to sacrifice all — including his own career — for the national good? In private life, as in industry, we expect the individual to advance his own enlightened self-interest — within the limitations of the law — in order to achieve over-all progress. But in public life we expect individuals to sacrifice their private interests to permit the national good to progress.

In no other occupation but politics is it expected that a man will sacrifice honors, prestige, and his chosen career on a single issue.

Nancy Pelosi is asking many House Democrats to sacrifice honors, prestige, and their chosen career in behalf of a single issue: ObamaCare. I don’t think they will do it; and in fact they would be very wise to turn down her invitation. To go down in flames for a plan that is both noxious and unpopular is not the political epitaph most lawmakers want. But if Ms. Pelosi has her way, it’s an epitaph more than a few Democrats will end up with.

Over the weekend, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi was asked, “What do you say to your members, when it does come to the House to vote on this, who are in real fear of losing their seats in November if they support you now?” Her response was:

Well first of all our members — every one of them — wants health care. I think everybody wants affordable health care for all Americans. They know that this will take courage. It took courage to pass Social Security. It took courage to pass Medicare. And many of the same forces that were at work decades ago are at work again against this bill. But the American people need it, why are we here? We’re not here just to self perpetuate our service in Congress. We’re here to do the job for the American people.

In this one instance, Ms. Pelosi has a point. Kind of.

The Speaker touched on one of the important debates in American political history, which is what the role of legislators is. Is it to reflect the views of their constituents, rather like a seismograph? Or, as Edmund Burke put it when speaking about constituents, “Their wishes ought to have great weight with him; their opinions high respect; their business unremitted attention.” But in the end, a legislator owes them something more: his “judgment.” He should not be guided by merely “local purposes” or “local prejudices.” Parliament, Burke insisted, was a “deliberative assembly.” (For an excellent discussion of this matter, see George Will’s book Restoration, and especially the chapter “From Bristol to Cobb County.”)

I place myself in the latter camp, more now than ever — in part based on my own experience in the White House, when President Bush was advocating a new counterinsurgency strategy in Iraq that was unpopular with the political class, with Congress, and with the American public. He proceeded anyway; and the results were stunningly successful. If the surge had failed — if Bush had pulled back, or listened to key Republicans, or decided that his job was to mirror public sentiment — America would have been dealt a terrible geopolitical and moral defeat. What George W. Bush did was right – and it was also politically courageous.

The acid test on these matters is always the wisdom of the act itself. Insisting on political courage from Members of Congress on behalf of a legislative monstrosity would be unwise, whereas insisting on political courage from Members of Congress on behalf of a piece of legislation that advances the common good would be commendable. Since I consider ObamaCare to fit in the former category, I naturally believe what Nancy Pelosi is asking her caucus to do is politically insane. Why issue political death warrants to your allies in behalf of a terrible idea? But her broader point, which is that self-perpetuation in Congress is should not be the lawmaker’s primary concern, strikes me as quite right — and since she believes that nationalization of health care is in the public interest, her argument is understandable. I don’t for a minute, though, pretend that what she is asking of others (and not of herself) is easy. As John F. Kennedy (or perhaps Theodore Sorensen) wrote in Profiles in Courage,

Where else, in a non-totalitarian country, but in the political profession is the individual expected to sacrifice all — including his own career — for the national good? In private life, as in industry, we expect the individual to advance his own enlightened self-interest — within the limitations of the law — in order to achieve over-all progress. But in public life we expect individuals to sacrifice their private interests to permit the national good to progress.

In no other occupation but politics is it expected that a man will sacrifice honors, prestige, and his chosen career on a single issue.

Nancy Pelosi is asking many House Democrats to sacrifice honors, prestige, and their chosen career in behalf of a single issue: ObamaCare. I don’t think they will do it; and in fact they would be very wise to turn down her invitation. To go down in flames for a plan that is both noxious and unpopular is not the political epitaph most lawmakers want. But if Ms. Pelosi has her way, it’s an epitaph more than a few Democrats will end up with.

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The Man Behind Colombia’s Miracle

Alvaro Uribe is one of the most consequential world leaders of the past decade. He is the man primarily responsible for what I have called the “Colombia Miracle” — the amazing turnaround that has taken his country from being a dysfunctional narco-state to a flourishing democracy where drug dealers and Marxist rebels are on the run, and most of the people live in secure conditions.

But it’s probably just as well that the Colombia Supreme Court barred him from seeking a third term, which would have required amending the constitution. His flirtation with another term could have damaged his reputation and led to comparisons with the odious Hugo Chavez, who was freely elected in next-door Venezuela but has remained in office via extra-constitutional means. It is to Uribe’s credit, though hardly surprising given his impressive character and track record, that he has embraced the Supreme Court decision and promised to abide by it.

Now it appears likely that his legacy will be carried on by his former defense minister, Juan Manuel Santos, who is as committed as Uribe to his policy of “democratic security.” It remains to be seen whether Santos will be as effective as Uribe; but even if he isn’t, it probably won’t be a disaster because conditions have improved so much since Uribe took office in 2002 from the inept appeaser Andres Pastrana Arango.

It would be nice if an important job could be found for Uribe on the international stage. Imagine him, for example, as United Nations secretary-general. But that is a pipe dream because he is far too pro-American to ever win favor in that sector. Regardless of what he does next, he deserves recognition for his inspiring achievements. He deserves a Nobel Peace Prize, because he has actually brought peace to much of his country.

Alvaro Uribe is one of the most consequential world leaders of the past decade. He is the man primarily responsible for what I have called the “Colombia Miracle” — the amazing turnaround that has taken his country from being a dysfunctional narco-state to a flourishing democracy where drug dealers and Marxist rebels are on the run, and most of the people live in secure conditions.

But it’s probably just as well that the Colombia Supreme Court barred him from seeking a third term, which would have required amending the constitution. His flirtation with another term could have damaged his reputation and led to comparisons with the odious Hugo Chavez, who was freely elected in next-door Venezuela but has remained in office via extra-constitutional means. It is to Uribe’s credit, though hardly surprising given his impressive character and track record, that he has embraced the Supreme Court decision and promised to abide by it.

Now it appears likely that his legacy will be carried on by his former defense minister, Juan Manuel Santos, who is as committed as Uribe to his policy of “democratic security.” It remains to be seen whether Santos will be as effective as Uribe; but even if he isn’t, it probably won’t be a disaster because conditions have improved so much since Uribe took office in 2002 from the inept appeaser Andres Pastrana Arango.

It would be nice if an important job could be found for Uribe on the international stage. Imagine him, for example, as United Nations secretary-general. But that is a pipe dream because he is far too pro-American to ever win favor in that sector. Regardless of what he does next, he deserves recognition for his inspiring achievements. He deserves a Nobel Peace Prize, because he has actually brought peace to much of his country.

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Tony Rezko’s Banker Highlights the Democrats’ Problems

When Illinois Democrats nominated Tony Rezko’s banker, Alexi Giannoulias, for the senate seat once held by Barack Obama, some thought they might have made a mistake. It seems to have, at the very least, complicated the Democrats’ efforts to hold what in normal years would be a safe Blue seat. The Chicago Tribune reports:

The clock is ticking, and the real estate deals gone south are piling up, at Broadway Bank, the lending institution owned by the family of U.S. Senate candidate Alexi Giannoulias. . . . Broadway’s struggles have put Giannoulias on the defensive as Republicans eyeing Barack Obama’s old Senate seat question what role he played in the bank’s problems. Giannoulias, a friend of Obama’s who is facing U.S. Rep. Mark Kirk, the GOP nominee, in the November race, has repeatedly said he hasn’t worked at the bank in four years.

Still, the situation could become more politically harmful and provide more ammunition for the GOP if the family-owned bank is taken over by the federal government before Election Day.

Broadway’s chief executive, Demetris Giannoulias, Alexi Giannoulias’ older brother, told the Tribune the family must raise at least $85 million by the end of April to stave off government seizure.

Giannoulias has already taken heat for the banks’ mob-connected clients. And the Tribune reminds voters:

Since 2007, Broadway Bank has filed dozens of foreclosures on various properties, including several to Michael Giorango, a convicted bookmaker and prostitution ring promoter who has become a political albatross in Alexi Giannoulias’ campaigns.During Alexi Giannoulias’ tenure at Broadway, the bank approved loans to Giorango for various real estate deals. Alexi Giannoulias has acknowledged he serviced some Giorango loans and went to Miami to inspect Giorango property the bank financed.

If the themes for many Republicans are going to be “the culture of corruption” and the Democrats’ fiscal mismanagement, they must be licking their chops over this race. At the very least, Democrats will have to spend considerable time and money defending the seat, in a year in which they’d probably not have Giannoulias as one of the poster boys for what’s wrong with the Democratic machine-style politics.

When Illinois Democrats nominated Tony Rezko’s banker, Alexi Giannoulias, for the senate seat once held by Barack Obama, some thought they might have made a mistake. It seems to have, at the very least, complicated the Democrats’ efforts to hold what in normal years would be a safe Blue seat. The Chicago Tribune reports:

The clock is ticking, and the real estate deals gone south are piling up, at Broadway Bank, the lending institution owned by the family of U.S. Senate candidate Alexi Giannoulias. . . . Broadway’s struggles have put Giannoulias on the defensive as Republicans eyeing Barack Obama’s old Senate seat question what role he played in the bank’s problems. Giannoulias, a friend of Obama’s who is facing U.S. Rep. Mark Kirk, the GOP nominee, in the November race, has repeatedly said he hasn’t worked at the bank in four years.

Still, the situation could become more politically harmful and provide more ammunition for the GOP if the family-owned bank is taken over by the federal government before Election Day.

Broadway’s chief executive, Demetris Giannoulias, Alexi Giannoulias’ older brother, told the Tribune the family must raise at least $85 million by the end of April to stave off government seizure.

Giannoulias has already taken heat for the banks’ mob-connected clients. And the Tribune reminds voters:

Since 2007, Broadway Bank has filed dozens of foreclosures on various properties, including several to Michael Giorango, a convicted bookmaker and prostitution ring promoter who has become a political albatross in Alexi Giannoulias’ campaigns.During Alexi Giannoulias’ tenure at Broadway, the bank approved loans to Giorango for various real estate deals. Alexi Giannoulias has acknowledged he serviced some Giorango loans and went to Miami to inspect Giorango property the bank financed.

If the themes for many Republicans are going to be “the culture of corruption” and the Democrats’ fiscal mismanagement, they must be licking their chops over this race. At the very least, Democrats will have to spend considerable time and money defending the seat, in a year in which they’d probably not have Giannoulias as one of the poster boys for what’s wrong with the Democratic machine-style politics.

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Ontario Defies Israel Apartheid Week

This week is Israel Apartheid Week on college campuses worldwide — an annual hatefest devoted to demonizing Israel and mobilizing support for boycotts, divestment, and sanctions (BDS), made even more grotesque by the numerous Israelis serving as featured speakers. But this year, pushback came from a surprising direction: the provincial legislature of Ontario, Canada, voted unanimously to condemn this extravaganza, because it “serves to incite hatred against Israel, a democratic state that respects the rule of law and human rights, and … diminishes the suffering of those who were victims of a true apartheid regime in South Africa.”

Two things make this decision remarkable. One is that Ontario has long been a hotbed of anti-Israel activity. For instance, its largest labor union, the Ontario chapter of the Canadian Union of Public Employees, enthusiastically promotes BDS; in 2006, the chapter voted to boycott Israel until it accepts a Palestinian “right of return,” otherwise known as committing demographic suicide. Thus Ontario legislators defied a powerhouse vote machine over an issue with little political traction, just because they thought it was right.

The second is that not long ago, Canada’s foreign policy was hostile to Israel. In October 2000, for instance, days after the intifada erupted, Canada voted for a UN Security Council resolution condemning Israel for the violence, without a word of blame for the Palestinians. And that vote was typical, not exceptional. Thus the Ontario decision represents a sharp turnabout in a fairly short period of time.

The man primarily responsible for the change is undoubtedly Canada’s Conservative prime minister, Stephen Harper, who has turned his country into one of Israel’s most reliable supporters. Under his leadership, Canada has repeatedly cast the sole “no” vote on anti-Israel resolutions in the UN Human Rights Council (for example, a January 2009 resolution condemning Israel’s war in Gaza); Canada became the first country — even before Israel — to announce a boycott of last year’s Durban II conference because of its anti-Israel tone; and Harper has worked to end Canadian government support for nongovernmental organizations that demonize Israel. In short, he has made it respectable to publicly support Israel in Canada. So it’s unsurprising that the legislator who introduced Ontario’s anti–Apartheid Week resolution belonged to Harper’s party.

But Harper’s revolution alone cannot explain the Ontario vote. The Conservatives have only 24 seats in Ontario’s parliament; the rival Liberal Party, which has no reason to toe Harper’s line, has 71. Yet Liberals who, as one noted, normally disagree with Conservatives over almost everything united with them on this. It’s worth reading the debate in full to appreciate the depth and breadth of the legislators’ support.

The obvious conclusion is that Israel’s case can be persuasive to people of goodwill of all political stripes — if Israel and its supporters bother to make it. Activists in Ontario clearly have, creating fertile soil for Harper’s moves; last week’s assembly vote was the fruit. It’s a lesson pro-Israel activists facing uphill battles elsewhere should remember. For not long ago, Canada, too, seemed lost.

This week is Israel Apartheid Week on college campuses worldwide — an annual hatefest devoted to demonizing Israel and mobilizing support for boycotts, divestment, and sanctions (BDS), made even more grotesque by the numerous Israelis serving as featured speakers. But this year, pushback came from a surprising direction: the provincial legislature of Ontario, Canada, voted unanimously to condemn this extravaganza, because it “serves to incite hatred against Israel, a democratic state that respects the rule of law and human rights, and … diminishes the suffering of those who were victims of a true apartheid regime in South Africa.”

Two things make this decision remarkable. One is that Ontario has long been a hotbed of anti-Israel activity. For instance, its largest labor union, the Ontario chapter of the Canadian Union of Public Employees, enthusiastically promotes BDS; in 2006, the chapter voted to boycott Israel until it accepts a Palestinian “right of return,” otherwise known as committing demographic suicide. Thus Ontario legislators defied a powerhouse vote machine over an issue with little political traction, just because they thought it was right.

The second is that not long ago, Canada’s foreign policy was hostile to Israel. In October 2000, for instance, days after the intifada erupted, Canada voted for a UN Security Council resolution condemning Israel for the violence, without a word of blame for the Palestinians. And that vote was typical, not exceptional. Thus the Ontario decision represents a sharp turnabout in a fairly short period of time.

The man primarily responsible for the change is undoubtedly Canada’s Conservative prime minister, Stephen Harper, who has turned his country into one of Israel’s most reliable supporters. Under his leadership, Canada has repeatedly cast the sole “no” vote on anti-Israel resolutions in the UN Human Rights Council (for example, a January 2009 resolution condemning Israel’s war in Gaza); Canada became the first country — even before Israel — to announce a boycott of last year’s Durban II conference because of its anti-Israel tone; and Harper has worked to end Canadian government support for nongovernmental organizations that demonize Israel. In short, he has made it respectable to publicly support Israel in Canada. So it’s unsurprising that the legislator who introduced Ontario’s anti–Apartheid Week resolution belonged to Harper’s party.

But Harper’s revolution alone cannot explain the Ontario vote. The Conservatives have only 24 seats in Ontario’s parliament; the rival Liberal Party, which has no reason to toe Harper’s line, has 71. Yet Liberals who, as one noted, normally disagree with Conservatives over almost everything united with them on this. It’s worth reading the debate in full to appreciate the depth and breadth of the legislators’ support.

The obvious conclusion is that Israel’s case can be persuasive to people of goodwill of all political stripes — if Israel and its supporters bother to make it. Activists in Ontario clearly have, creating fertile soil for Harper’s moves; last week’s assembly vote was the fruit. It’s a lesson pro-Israel activists facing uphill battles elsewhere should remember. For not long ago, Canada, too, seemed lost.

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Forget Bipartisanship — What About His Own Party?

As Pete has commented, Obama spinners wield the “bipartisanship” sword when convenient and tuck it away when not, or as Nancy Pelosi bizarrely suggested, they redefine bipartisanship as not requiring bipartsian support for the bill. (Sort of like fiscal discipline without the discipline part.) But Obama has a bigger problem — his summit performance seems to have not rallied his own side, but rather to have alienated many Democrats. Bloomberg reports:

Obama plans to announce a way forward this week on the biggest overhaul of the U.S. health system in 45 years in a bid to break an impasse on the bill. Some House Democrats are uneasy over the likely use of a procedure called reconciliation that would sidestep Republican opposition by requiring only a simple majority vote in the Senate. “It looks like we’re trying to cram something through,” said Representative Baron Hill, an Indiana Democrat who voted for the original House bill.

Hill said he might not back a measure if it goes through reconciliation, which is intended for budget matters. A “sizeable number” of the 54 fiscally conservative Democrats who call themselves Blue Dogs are also concerned, said South Dakota Representative Stephanie Herseth Sandlin.

Even the lawmaker who related the sob story of wearing the dead sister’s dentures has her concerns. (“There is some consternation,” said New York Representative Louise Slaughter, a Democrat who runs the House Rules Committee.) As Representative Alcee Hastings put it, “I see a risk of some people who are vulnerable being made more vulnerable.” And he’s in favor of ObamaCare.

The president could well have made things worse by his performance at the health-care summit — allowing the Republicans to demonstrate their bona fides and revealing a paucity of legitimate responses to their very probing critiques. He certainly didn’t endear himself to the GOP, but — even worse — he provided little comfort to his own side. In the end, the summit may well prove to be decisive, but not in the way the White House had hoped.

As Pete has commented, Obama spinners wield the “bipartisanship” sword when convenient and tuck it away when not, or as Nancy Pelosi bizarrely suggested, they redefine bipartisanship as not requiring bipartsian support for the bill. (Sort of like fiscal discipline without the discipline part.) But Obama has a bigger problem — his summit performance seems to have not rallied his own side, but rather to have alienated many Democrats. Bloomberg reports:

Obama plans to announce a way forward this week on the biggest overhaul of the U.S. health system in 45 years in a bid to break an impasse on the bill. Some House Democrats are uneasy over the likely use of a procedure called reconciliation that would sidestep Republican opposition by requiring only a simple majority vote in the Senate. “It looks like we’re trying to cram something through,” said Representative Baron Hill, an Indiana Democrat who voted for the original House bill.

Hill said he might not back a measure if it goes through reconciliation, which is intended for budget matters. A “sizeable number” of the 54 fiscally conservative Democrats who call themselves Blue Dogs are also concerned, said South Dakota Representative Stephanie Herseth Sandlin.

Even the lawmaker who related the sob story of wearing the dead sister’s dentures has her concerns. (“There is some consternation,” said New York Representative Louise Slaughter, a Democrat who runs the House Rules Committee.) As Representative Alcee Hastings put it, “I see a risk of some people who are vulnerable being made more vulnerable.” And he’s in favor of ObamaCare.

The president could well have made things worse by his performance at the health-care summit — allowing the Republicans to demonstrate their bona fides and revealing a paucity of legitimate responses to their very probing critiques. He certainly didn’t endear himself to the GOP, but — even worse — he provided little comfort to his own side. In the end, the summit may well prove to be decisive, but not in the way the White House had hoped.

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When Columnists Call Bipartisanship Good … and Bipartisanship Evil

In his Washington Post column today, E.J. Dionne, Jr. writes:

The word “partisanship” is typically accompanied by the word “mindless.” That’s not simply insulting to partisans; it’s also untrue. If we learn nothing else in 2010, can we please finally acknowledge that our partisan divisions are about authentic principles that lead to very different approaches to governing?

That’s a legitimate argument to make; the only problem is that it’s precisely the opposite argument E.J. was making when George W. Bush was in the White House. Back then, partisanship was the bane of our existence. On November 7, 2003, for example, Dionne wrote this:

It’s been a long time since partisanship was as deep as it is now. … Up in heaven, Abe Lincoln must be shaking his head in astonishment. The country he sought to keep united is pulling apart politically, and largely along the same lines that defined Honest Abe’s election victory in 1860.

A few months earlier – on May 30, 2003 – Dionne put it this way:

The rules of policymaking that have applied since the end of World War II are now irrelevant. A narrow Republican majority will work its partisan will no matter what. … Until now, Congress was a forcefully independent branch of government. … With a slim congressional majority, Bush would have been expected to seek genuine compromise – under the old rules. But Washington has become so partisan and Bush is so determined to push through a domestic program based almost entirely on tax cuts for the wealthy that a remarkably radical program is winning.

I have documented Dionne’s Bush-era paeans to bipartisanship and cross-party comity before. When Republicans were in control, he was citing Lincoln and Eisenhower as models of bipartisan governing; partisanship looked pretty mindless back then. Partisan divisions weren’t about “authentic principles that lead to very different approaches to governing”; they were divisive, unnecessary, and harmful to national unity.

What a difference a liberal shift in power can make to a fellow.

This kind of hypocrisy is humorous when it’s so obvious. But it underscores how easily arguments can be distorted in order to advance an ideological worldview — and how often discussions about things like “bipartisanship” are really shadow debates. What is driving E.J. Dionne and many of his colleagues is a commitment to liberalism. As we are seeing, the means to that end — in this case, the merits and demerits of “partisanship” — can be twisted like a pretzel if necessary. That’s worth factoring in as columnists moralize about the virtues of something they once considered a vice.

In his Washington Post column today, E.J. Dionne, Jr. writes:

The word “partisanship” is typically accompanied by the word “mindless.” That’s not simply insulting to partisans; it’s also untrue. If we learn nothing else in 2010, can we please finally acknowledge that our partisan divisions are about authentic principles that lead to very different approaches to governing?

That’s a legitimate argument to make; the only problem is that it’s precisely the opposite argument E.J. was making when George W. Bush was in the White House. Back then, partisanship was the bane of our existence. On November 7, 2003, for example, Dionne wrote this:

It’s been a long time since partisanship was as deep as it is now. … Up in heaven, Abe Lincoln must be shaking his head in astonishment. The country he sought to keep united is pulling apart politically, and largely along the same lines that defined Honest Abe’s election victory in 1860.

A few months earlier – on May 30, 2003 – Dionne put it this way:

The rules of policymaking that have applied since the end of World War II are now irrelevant. A narrow Republican majority will work its partisan will no matter what. … Until now, Congress was a forcefully independent branch of government. … With a slim congressional majority, Bush would have been expected to seek genuine compromise – under the old rules. But Washington has become so partisan and Bush is so determined to push through a domestic program based almost entirely on tax cuts for the wealthy that a remarkably radical program is winning.

I have documented Dionne’s Bush-era paeans to bipartisanship and cross-party comity before. When Republicans were in control, he was citing Lincoln and Eisenhower as models of bipartisan governing; partisanship looked pretty mindless back then. Partisan divisions weren’t about “authentic principles that lead to very different approaches to governing”; they were divisive, unnecessary, and harmful to national unity.

What a difference a liberal shift in power can make to a fellow.

This kind of hypocrisy is humorous when it’s so obvious. But it underscores how easily arguments can be distorted in order to advance an ideological worldview — and how often discussions about things like “bipartisanship” are really shadow debates. What is driving E.J. Dionne and many of his colleagues is a commitment to liberalism. As we are seeing, the means to that end — in this case, the merits and demerits of “partisanship” — can be twisted like a pretzel if necessary. That’s worth factoring in as columnists moralize about the virtues of something they once considered a vice.

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Let’s Be Honest with the Palestinians

Obama’s now ill-fated Middle East policy has proved to be disastrous. The Israelis distrust him. Ths Syrians snub him. The Palestinians are contemplating another intifada, the pretext this time being Israel’s decision to include the Cave of the Patriarchs and Rachel’s Tomb within its heritage-protection program. Obama began his foray into the Middle East by declaring that it was essential to speak “honestly” with the parties and to say the same thing in public and private. Fair enough. But alas, he seems to have reserved all that honesty for the Israelis, for whom heritage programs, apartment buildings, and the blockade of Gaza are all taken as offenses against Palestinian sensibilities. Don’t aggravate them! Don’t inflame things! Israel is expected to forgo its legitimate interests, whether for security or cultural preservation, because the Palestinians apparently are incapable of accepting it is a normal state with normal concerns.

Not only does the perpetual stream of American complaints strike the Israelis (and others) as intensely one-sided and irrelevant to the core issue that prevents peace from breaking out of “process” and into reality, but it infantilizes the Palestinians, treating them as psychotic children and playing to their worst tendencies. The upcoming Naqba Day — the epitome of victimology — is explained poignantly here:

The Palestinians seem to be in thrall to some force that commands them to relive continuously the most painful moment of their own history; to mire themselves in a swamp of self-pity; to prevent themselves from rising above the lot imposed upon them by the Arab League’s 1947 refusal to countenance the establishment of a Jewish State in their midst and its ill-fated 1948 war against the Jews; and to render themselves susceptible to repeated acts of betrayal by their own brethren. … Their continuing to believe in the return they were duped into believing in so many years ago can only put the nationhood they claim to long for further out of reach. There will be no return—that’s the reality. If they face it, there’s hope for them. If they don’t, there’s only the hell and suffering of their statelessness.

Rather than telling them that they’re victims of illegal settlements, Obama might do well to tell the Palestinians that they’re prisoners of their own victimology. And then, yes, when real honesty is in play, we might make some headway on that peace process.

Obama’s now ill-fated Middle East policy has proved to be disastrous. The Israelis distrust him. Ths Syrians snub him. The Palestinians are contemplating another intifada, the pretext this time being Israel’s decision to include the Cave of the Patriarchs and Rachel’s Tomb within its heritage-protection program. Obama began his foray into the Middle East by declaring that it was essential to speak “honestly” with the parties and to say the same thing in public and private. Fair enough. But alas, he seems to have reserved all that honesty for the Israelis, for whom heritage programs, apartment buildings, and the blockade of Gaza are all taken as offenses against Palestinian sensibilities. Don’t aggravate them! Don’t inflame things! Israel is expected to forgo its legitimate interests, whether for security or cultural preservation, because the Palestinians apparently are incapable of accepting it is a normal state with normal concerns.

Not only does the perpetual stream of American complaints strike the Israelis (and others) as intensely one-sided and irrelevant to the core issue that prevents peace from breaking out of “process” and into reality, but it infantilizes the Palestinians, treating them as psychotic children and playing to their worst tendencies. The upcoming Naqba Day — the epitome of victimology — is explained poignantly here:

The Palestinians seem to be in thrall to some force that commands them to relive continuously the most painful moment of their own history; to mire themselves in a swamp of self-pity; to prevent themselves from rising above the lot imposed upon them by the Arab League’s 1947 refusal to countenance the establishment of a Jewish State in their midst and its ill-fated 1948 war against the Jews; and to render themselves susceptible to repeated acts of betrayal by their own brethren. … Their continuing to believe in the return they were duped into believing in so many years ago can only put the nationhood they claim to long for further out of reach. There will be no return—that’s the reality. If they face it, there’s hope for them. If they don’t, there’s only the hell and suffering of their statelessness.

Rather than telling them that they’re victims of illegal settlements, Obama might do well to tell the Palestinians that they’re prisoners of their own victimology. And then, yes, when real honesty is in play, we might make some headway on that peace process.

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Oh Yes, the Economy

The Democrats have two essential problems on the ObamaCare front. First, they are trying to pass something the public intensely dislikes. Second, they are ignoring the real problem (or making it worse by frightening employers and investors): the economy.

As to the economy, Frank Ahrens lists three factors that should alarm us: 1) in “January new-home sales dropped 11.2 percent from December, plunging to their lowest level in nearly 50 years”; 2) “February consumer confidence fell sharply from January, driven down by the survey’s ‘present situation index’ — how confident consumers feel right now — which hit its lowest mark since the 1983 recession”; and 3) “jobless claims filed during the previous week shot up 22,000, which was exactly opposite of what economists predicted.” Ahrens concludes, “We’ve got a long way to go to get out of this economic mess, and we may be actually losing a little ground.”

The administration’s response? A Son of Stimulus plan creeping through Congress, a massive tax-and-spend health-care program with a brand new entitlement mandate that is only budget neutral thanks to a grab bag of accounting tricks and a plan to let the Bush tax cuts expire — thereby raising taxes on, among other things, capital and small business. Even in a robust economy, that would be hard to justify. However, as we can see from the data that Ahrens identifies, we are still at a precarious point:

Any recovery we are experiencing is wobbly, has an uncertain future and will not come about with a burst of new job creation. We know from past recoveries that unemployment has remained high for months — if not quarters — following the official end of each recession. Economists predict that unemployment will hang at between 9 and 10 percent for the remainder of 2010.

It seems, then, that the burden is on the administration to justify each and every policy proposal with a single consideration: does it make the recovery easier or not? And when looked at in that light, virtually nothing on the Obama agenda passes muster. So perhaps not only on health care but also on most everything on the domestic agenda, we should start from scratch.

The Democrats have two essential problems on the ObamaCare front. First, they are trying to pass something the public intensely dislikes. Second, they are ignoring the real problem (or making it worse by frightening employers and investors): the economy.

As to the economy, Frank Ahrens lists three factors that should alarm us: 1) in “January new-home sales dropped 11.2 percent from December, plunging to their lowest level in nearly 50 years”; 2) “February consumer confidence fell sharply from January, driven down by the survey’s ‘present situation index’ — how confident consumers feel right now — which hit its lowest mark since the 1983 recession”; and 3) “jobless claims filed during the previous week shot up 22,000, which was exactly opposite of what economists predicted.” Ahrens concludes, “We’ve got a long way to go to get out of this economic mess, and we may be actually losing a little ground.”

The administration’s response? A Son of Stimulus plan creeping through Congress, a massive tax-and-spend health-care program with a brand new entitlement mandate that is only budget neutral thanks to a grab bag of accounting tricks and a plan to let the Bush tax cuts expire — thereby raising taxes on, among other things, capital and small business. Even in a robust economy, that would be hard to justify. However, as we can see from the data that Ahrens identifies, we are still at a precarious point:

Any recovery we are experiencing is wobbly, has an uncertain future and will not come about with a burst of new job creation. We know from past recoveries that unemployment has remained high for months — if not quarters — following the official end of each recession. Economists predict that unemployment will hang at between 9 and 10 percent for the remainder of 2010.

It seems, then, that the burden is on the administration to justify each and every policy proposal with a single consideration: does it make the recovery easier or not? And when looked at in that light, virtually nothing on the Obama agenda passes muster. So perhaps not only on health care but also on most everything on the domestic agenda, we should start from scratch.

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Reality to Be Avoided at All Costs

You wonder how Ahmadinejad’s favorite duo of spinners, Flynt and Hillary Mann Leverett, will spin this one:

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on Sunday said that the existence of “the Zionist regime” is an insult to humanity. …

Ahmadinejad made his remarks at a conference called “National and Islamic Solidarity for the Future of Palestine” where he declared Israel the reason for instability in the Middle East.

The Iranian leader said Israel’s presence on even one inch of the region’s soil was a cause for crisis and war, adding that the only way to confront Israel is through the resistance of Palestinian youth and other nations in the region.

Ahmadinejad also told the conference that the “Zionist regime” is the origin of all the wars, genocide, terrors and crimes against humanity and that it is a racist group that does not respect human principles.

Also in attendance at the conference were Hamas Chief Khaled Meshal, Islamic Jihad leader Ramadan Abdullah Shallah and the head of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine General Command, Ahmed Jibril, all of whom live in exile.

The Iranian president ended his speech by suggesting a referendum on the destruction of Israel.

One can only imagine that the mullahs’ favorite propagandists will hail that referendum suggestion as a sign of Ahmadinejad’s great devotion to democracy.

But this is the great problem with not only the most fatuous apologists of the regime but also the entire contingent of pro-engagement, self-described Iran “realists” (who are more fabulists than realists). The “realists” require that we engage in all manner of excuses to explain away Ahmadinejad’s genocidal language. It’s just for domestic consumption, you see. He doesn’t mean it. We’ll make it worse if we aid those who want to overthrow the regime. Have we left anything out? Oh, he’s not important at all because it’s really the Revolutionary Guard that runs the show. (Yes, well, that might be worse, but let’s not dwell on it.)

The Obami’s engagement theory was (is? as they haven’t given it up) premised on the notion that we’re dealing with rational actors who assess costs and benefits as we would and who will perceive it in their self-interest to join the “community of nations.” When reality intrudes — Ahmadinejad reveals himself as leader of the destroy-Israel brigade or the regime turns Tehran into a “sealed citadel” — the pro-engagement crowd cringes. Their insistence on engaging those who obviously do not want to be engaged is once again revealed to be frankly delusional.

As even some “card-carrying” realists like Richard Haass – that is, those who refuse to shield their eyes from the nature of the regime with whom we must deal —  have come to concede:

The nuclear talks are going nowhere. The Iranians appear intent on developing the means to produce a nuclear weapon; there is no other explanation for the secret uranium-enrichment facility discovered near the holy city of Qum. Fortunately, their nuclear program appears to have hit some technical snags, which puts off the need to decide whether to launch a preventive strike. Instead we should be focusing on another fact: Iran may be closer to profound political change than at any time since the revolution that ousted the shah 30 years ago. …

Critics will say promoting regime change will encourage Iranian authorities to tar the opposition as pawns of the West. But the regime is already doing so. Outsiders should act to strengthen the opposition and to deepen rifts among the rulers. This process is underway, and while it will take time, it promises the first good chance in decades to bring about an Iran that, even if less than a model country, would nonetheless act considerably better at home and abroad. Even a realist should recognize that it’s an opportunity not to be missed.

Haass and others who now advocate regime change  have an advantage over those who still cling to the notion that we can do business with the existing Iranian regime: they need not avoid inconvenient facts nor engage in Rube Goldberg theories to explain away the obvious. Those who must do so surely aren’t “realists,” if that moniker has any meaning.

You wonder how Ahmadinejad’s favorite duo of spinners, Flynt and Hillary Mann Leverett, will spin this one:

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on Sunday said that the existence of “the Zionist regime” is an insult to humanity. …

Ahmadinejad made his remarks at a conference called “National and Islamic Solidarity for the Future of Palestine” where he declared Israel the reason for instability in the Middle East.

The Iranian leader said Israel’s presence on even one inch of the region’s soil was a cause for crisis and war, adding that the only way to confront Israel is through the resistance of Palestinian youth and other nations in the region.

Ahmadinejad also told the conference that the “Zionist regime” is the origin of all the wars, genocide, terrors and crimes against humanity and that it is a racist group that does not respect human principles.

Also in attendance at the conference were Hamas Chief Khaled Meshal, Islamic Jihad leader Ramadan Abdullah Shallah and the head of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine General Command, Ahmed Jibril, all of whom live in exile.

The Iranian president ended his speech by suggesting a referendum on the destruction of Israel.

One can only imagine that the mullahs’ favorite propagandists will hail that referendum suggestion as a sign of Ahmadinejad’s great devotion to democracy.

But this is the great problem with not only the most fatuous apologists of the regime but also the entire contingent of pro-engagement, self-described Iran “realists” (who are more fabulists than realists). The “realists” require that we engage in all manner of excuses to explain away Ahmadinejad’s genocidal language. It’s just for domestic consumption, you see. He doesn’t mean it. We’ll make it worse if we aid those who want to overthrow the regime. Have we left anything out? Oh, he’s not important at all because it’s really the Revolutionary Guard that runs the show. (Yes, well, that might be worse, but let’s not dwell on it.)

The Obami’s engagement theory was (is? as they haven’t given it up) premised on the notion that we’re dealing with rational actors who assess costs and benefits as we would and who will perceive it in their self-interest to join the “community of nations.” When reality intrudes — Ahmadinejad reveals himself as leader of the destroy-Israel brigade or the regime turns Tehran into a “sealed citadel” — the pro-engagement crowd cringes. Their insistence on engaging those who obviously do not want to be engaged is once again revealed to be frankly delusional.

As even some “card-carrying” realists like Richard Haass – that is, those who refuse to shield their eyes from the nature of the regime with whom we must deal —  have come to concede:

The nuclear talks are going nowhere. The Iranians appear intent on developing the means to produce a nuclear weapon; there is no other explanation for the secret uranium-enrichment facility discovered near the holy city of Qum. Fortunately, their nuclear program appears to have hit some technical snags, which puts off the need to decide whether to launch a preventive strike. Instead we should be focusing on another fact: Iran may be closer to profound political change than at any time since the revolution that ousted the shah 30 years ago. …

Critics will say promoting regime change will encourage Iranian authorities to tar the opposition as pawns of the West. But the regime is already doing so. Outsiders should act to strengthen the opposition and to deepen rifts among the rulers. This process is underway, and while it will take time, it promises the first good chance in decades to bring about an Iran that, even if less than a model country, would nonetheless act considerably better at home and abroad. Even a realist should recognize that it’s an opportunity not to be missed.

Haass and others who now advocate regime change  have an advantage over those who still cling to the notion that we can do business with the existing Iranian regime: they need not avoid inconvenient facts nor engage in Rube Goldberg theories to explain away the obvious. Those who must do so surely aren’t “realists,” if that moniker has any meaning.

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Pelosi’s Other Problem

As if Nancy Pelosi didn’t have enough problems — the polls, the retirements, the ObamaCare implosion, and the prospect of losing her speakership — she now must face a daily bashing by Republicans who sense she and her caucus are vulnerable on the ethics issue. The Hill reports:

House GOP Whip Eric Cantor (R-Va.) said Sunday that Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) was breaking the promise to have the most ethical Congress “every day.”

“Nancy Pelosi said in the very beginning this is going to be the most open, honest and ethical Congress in history,” Cantor said on NBC’s “Meet the Press” Sunday morning, “and what we’re seeing, she’s breaking that promise every day.”

Cantor and other Republicans are of course hounding Pelosi to dump Rangel, which for inexplicable reasons she is refusing to do. (Is he going to vote no on ObamaCare if she takes away his Ways and Means chairmanship? Of course not.) The Hill report then notes, ominously for the Democrats, that “Rep. John Carter (R-Texas) intends to introduce a privileged resolution next week calling for a vote on removing Charles Rangel as head of the Ways and Means panel.” Ouch. Another vote, another sticky situation for the Democrats.

Well, unfortunately for them, Pelosi didn’t take seriously her promises on transparency or corruption. Instead, we’ve seen broken promises in regard to posting key bills ahead of the votes, the perpetuation of earmarks, the refusal until the health-care summit to let the cameras into health-care deliberations, and of course the refusal to dump ethically impaired members. It’s a pattern of hubris and indifference that contributed to Republican losses in 2006. Cantor and his troops hope the same is true in 2010.

As if Nancy Pelosi didn’t have enough problems — the polls, the retirements, the ObamaCare implosion, and the prospect of losing her speakership — she now must face a daily bashing by Republicans who sense she and her caucus are vulnerable on the ethics issue. The Hill reports:

House GOP Whip Eric Cantor (R-Va.) said Sunday that Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) was breaking the promise to have the most ethical Congress “every day.”

“Nancy Pelosi said in the very beginning this is going to be the most open, honest and ethical Congress in history,” Cantor said on NBC’s “Meet the Press” Sunday morning, “and what we’re seeing, she’s breaking that promise every day.”

Cantor and other Republicans are of course hounding Pelosi to dump Rangel, which for inexplicable reasons she is refusing to do. (Is he going to vote no on ObamaCare if she takes away his Ways and Means chairmanship? Of course not.) The Hill report then notes, ominously for the Democrats, that “Rep. John Carter (R-Texas) intends to introduce a privileged resolution next week calling for a vote on removing Charles Rangel as head of the Ways and Means panel.” Ouch. Another vote, another sticky situation for the Democrats.

Well, unfortunately for them, Pelosi didn’t take seriously her promises on transparency or corruption. Instead, we’ve seen broken promises in regard to posting key bills ahead of the votes, the perpetuation of earmarks, the refusal until the health-care summit to let the cameras into health-care deliberations, and of course the refusal to dump ethically impaired members. It’s a pattern of hubris and indifference that contributed to Republican losses in 2006. Cantor and his troops hope the same is true in 2010.

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The Gamesmanship Is Nearly Over

Sen. Kent Conrad, the Senate budget chairman, had this to say Sunday on the subject of reconciliation:

I have said all year as chairman of the Budget Committee, reconciliation cannot be used to pass comprehensive health care reform. It won’t work. It won’t work because it was never designed for that kind of significant legislation. It was designed for deficit reduction. So, let’s be clear. On the major Medicare or health care reform legislation, that can’t move to reconciliation. The role for reconciliation would be very limited. It would be on sidecar issues designed to improve what passed the Senate and what would have to pass the House for health care reform to move forward. So, using reconciliation would not be for the main package at all. It would be for certain sidecar issues like how much does the federal government put up to pay for the Medicaid expansion? What is done to improve the affordability of the package that’s come out of the Senate?

And in case anything was unclear, he repeated: “Well, health care reform at large would not be—I’ve just said. Health care reform the major package would not be done through reconciliation. That would be unreasonable. But that’s not going to happen here.”

Reconciliation has been the buzzword of late, but it is becoming apparent that it’s a dodge intended to keep the hopes of the liberal base alive and to force the House to go first, which then might produce some magic key to unlock health care. But if the Senate budget chair is forcefully calling foul on the process, what then is the point of the House vote? According to Conrad, whatever the House came up with will have to go back and be put through the normal legislative process, subject to the filibuster.

Well, as with so much else on ObamaCare, one has the sense that this is a charade. No bill, no clear process, no public support, and no House majority. Had the summit been the breakthrough moment the Obami had hoped for maybe a groundswell of support could have shaken the pieces loose and then sharp deal makers could have sifted among the debris and constructed an ObamaCare III or whatever they would have called it. But the summit was a bust for the Democrats, and we’re talking specifically about Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid, who proved to be just as unlikeable and ineffective as many suspected.

The end of ObamaCare isn’t here yet, but we’re getting close as the artifices fall one by one and the chattering class comes to suspect there simply isn’t any way for largely ineffective Democratic leaders to get a monstrous, hugely unpopular bill through both houses. And this, they will tell us, is a great sign of failure and of gridlock. Well, perhaps it’s simply the long-overdue triumph of popular will over elected representatives.

Sen. Kent Conrad, the Senate budget chairman, had this to say Sunday on the subject of reconciliation:

I have said all year as chairman of the Budget Committee, reconciliation cannot be used to pass comprehensive health care reform. It won’t work. It won’t work because it was never designed for that kind of significant legislation. It was designed for deficit reduction. So, let’s be clear. On the major Medicare or health care reform legislation, that can’t move to reconciliation. The role for reconciliation would be very limited. It would be on sidecar issues designed to improve what passed the Senate and what would have to pass the House for health care reform to move forward. So, using reconciliation would not be for the main package at all. It would be for certain sidecar issues like how much does the federal government put up to pay for the Medicaid expansion? What is done to improve the affordability of the package that’s come out of the Senate?

And in case anything was unclear, he repeated: “Well, health care reform at large would not be—I’ve just said. Health care reform the major package would not be done through reconciliation. That would be unreasonable. But that’s not going to happen here.”

Reconciliation has been the buzzword of late, but it is becoming apparent that it’s a dodge intended to keep the hopes of the liberal base alive and to force the House to go first, which then might produce some magic key to unlock health care. But if the Senate budget chair is forcefully calling foul on the process, what then is the point of the House vote? According to Conrad, whatever the House came up with will have to go back and be put through the normal legislative process, subject to the filibuster.

Well, as with so much else on ObamaCare, one has the sense that this is a charade. No bill, no clear process, no public support, and no House majority. Had the summit been the breakthrough moment the Obami had hoped for maybe a groundswell of support could have shaken the pieces loose and then sharp deal makers could have sifted among the debris and constructed an ObamaCare III or whatever they would have called it. But the summit was a bust for the Democrats, and we’re talking specifically about Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid, who proved to be just as unlikeable and ineffective as many suspected.

The end of ObamaCare isn’t here yet, but we’re getting close as the artifices fall one by one and the chattering class comes to suspect there simply isn’t any way for largely ineffective Democratic leaders to get a monstrous, hugely unpopular bill through both houses. And this, they will tell us, is a great sign of failure and of gridlock. Well, perhaps it’s simply the long-overdue triumph of popular will over elected representatives.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

As many predicted, Steny Hoyer says the House will go first: “House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) said Sunday that the House must pass the Senate bill before fixes to both bills can be approved. … Hoyer said that Democrats have not yet started counting votes and have not yet nailed down all the details for what they plan to pass. Both of those will be finalized soon, he said.” Well, if they ever get the votes.

As many knew, the Democrats don’t have the votes yet in the House for ObamaCare. When asked if she has the 217 votes, Nancy Pelosi replied on This Week: “Well, right now we’re working on the policy.”

As many suspected, Nancy Pelosi hasn’t got a clue: “House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said Democrats ‘share some of the views’ of the Tea Party movement, even though it ‘takes direction from the Republican Party.'”

As many Republicans whisper among themselves, they’re lucky she’s the face of the House Democrats. Nancy Pelosi, on CNN: “I say, you can bake the pie, you can sell the pie, but you have to have a pie to sell. And when we do we will take it out there.” Got that? Try this one: “A bill can be bipartisan without bipartisan votes.”

As many Democrats feared, Pelosi isn’t giving up on Charlie Rangel: “House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said Sunday she wants let House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Charles Rangel, D-N.Y., hold onto his gavel for now, despite his admonishment by the House ethics committee last week.”

As many incumbents fret, John McCain plots to make his colleagues squirm on ObamaCare: “On the verge of a procedural fight over health care, Arizona Sen. John McCain, the Republican’s presidential nominee in 2008, said Sunday that he plans to introduce legislation that would prevent Congress from changing Medicare through a process that only requires a simple majority in the Senate.”

As many conservatives have urged, Evan Thomas pleads with Obama to do something meaningful on tort reform: “If Obama were to come out squarely for medical-malpractice reform—in a real way—he would be making an important political statement: that as president he is willing to risk the political fortunes of his own party for the greater good. It would give him the moral standing, and the leverage, to call on the Republicans to match him by sacrificing their own political interests—by, for instance, supporting tax increases to help pay down the debt.”

As many of us have argued, there is no good option for Democrats on health-care reform. According to Mara Liasson: “Passing this bill is not going to be a political winner. I mean, either way, it’s pretty grim. But I think it’s marginally worse if they go home with nothing. They show that they cannot govern effectively.”

Not many of the chattering class anticipated this, but the health-care summit was a big plus for Republicans. Sen. Mitch McConnell on State of the Union: “We — we had a chance Thursday actually to display some of our brightest, most knowledgeable Republicans. I thought it was actually very good for us because it certainly refuted the notion that Republicans are not interested in this subject and not knowledgeable about it and don’t have alternatives. And we laid out a number of different things that we think will make a lot more sense, to go step by step to fix the cost problem.”

As many predicted, Steny Hoyer says the House will go first: “House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) said Sunday that the House must pass the Senate bill before fixes to both bills can be approved. … Hoyer said that Democrats have not yet started counting votes and have not yet nailed down all the details for what they plan to pass. Both of those will be finalized soon, he said.” Well, if they ever get the votes.

As many knew, the Democrats don’t have the votes yet in the House for ObamaCare. When asked if she has the 217 votes, Nancy Pelosi replied on This Week: “Well, right now we’re working on the policy.”

As many suspected, Nancy Pelosi hasn’t got a clue: “House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said Democrats ‘share some of the views’ of the Tea Party movement, even though it ‘takes direction from the Republican Party.'”

As many Republicans whisper among themselves, they’re lucky she’s the face of the House Democrats. Nancy Pelosi, on CNN: “I say, you can bake the pie, you can sell the pie, but you have to have a pie to sell. And when we do we will take it out there.” Got that? Try this one: “A bill can be bipartisan without bipartisan votes.”

As many Democrats feared, Pelosi isn’t giving up on Charlie Rangel: “House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said Sunday she wants let House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Charles Rangel, D-N.Y., hold onto his gavel for now, despite his admonishment by the House ethics committee last week.”

As many incumbents fret, John McCain plots to make his colleagues squirm on ObamaCare: “On the verge of a procedural fight over health care, Arizona Sen. John McCain, the Republican’s presidential nominee in 2008, said Sunday that he plans to introduce legislation that would prevent Congress from changing Medicare through a process that only requires a simple majority in the Senate.”

As many conservatives have urged, Evan Thomas pleads with Obama to do something meaningful on tort reform: “If Obama were to come out squarely for medical-malpractice reform—in a real way—he would be making an important political statement: that as president he is willing to risk the political fortunes of his own party for the greater good. It would give him the moral standing, and the leverage, to call on the Republicans to match him by sacrificing their own political interests—by, for instance, supporting tax increases to help pay down the debt.”

As many of us have argued, there is no good option for Democrats on health-care reform. According to Mara Liasson: “Passing this bill is not going to be a political winner. I mean, either way, it’s pretty grim. But I think it’s marginally worse if they go home with nothing. They show that they cannot govern effectively.”

Not many of the chattering class anticipated this, but the health-care summit was a big plus for Republicans. Sen. Mitch McConnell on State of the Union: “We — we had a chance Thursday actually to display some of our brightest, most knowledgeable Republicans. I thought it was actually very good for us because it certainly refuted the notion that Republicans are not interested in this subject and not knowledgeable about it and don’t have alternatives. And we laid out a number of different things that we think will make a lot more sense, to go step by step to fix the cost problem.”

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