Commentary Magazine


Posts For: March 3, 2010

Obama to Barnstorm. Film at 11.

According to press accounts, “Shortly after Obama concluded his statement, the White House announced that the President will barnstorm on health care reform with events in Philadelphia and St. Louis next week.” So that’s been the problem all along. President Obama hasn’t been talking about health care often enough.

Barnstorming the country on behalf of ObamaCare will undoubtedly make it a hugely popular piece of legislation. Because — didn’t you know? Haven’t you heard? — the White House had a “communications problem.” Guess they’ve fixed it.

According to press accounts, “Shortly after Obama concluded his statement, the White House announced that the President will barnstorm on health care reform with events in Philadelphia and St. Louis next week.” So that’s been the problem all along. President Obama hasn’t been talking about health care often enough.

Barnstorming the country on behalf of ObamaCare will undoubtedly make it a hugely popular piece of legislation. Because — didn’t you know? Haven’t you heard? — the White House had a “communications problem.” Guess they’ve fixed it.

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Words Matter — Until They Don’t

The ever-receding Obama “timelines” for Iran, the lack of a credible threat of serious sanctions, the secretary of state’s public disavowal of an ultimate option, and the persistent presidential silence on the entire topic make it likely that the Obama administration plans to pursue its “dual track” policy (ineffectual “engagement” and ineffectual “pressure”) until the policy is eventually overtaken by events. The fallback will be “deterrence” after Iran passes the nuclear threshold.

The irony is that the discrepancy between the Obama rhetoric and the Obama performance will doom deterrence as well. In his major campaign speech on Iran, Obama promised he would do “everything” in his power to stop Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons (in the speech as delivered, he actually repeated the word everything three times — the third time as a stand-alone sentence). Such weapons, he said both before and after he was elected, were “unacceptable.”

At her confirmation hearing, his secretary of state assured the Foreign Relations Committee that the Obama administration would employ whatever option was ultimately necessary to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons:

KERRY: … Is it the policy of the incoming administration, as a bottom line of our security interests and our policy, that it is unacceptable that Iran has a weapon under any circumstances and that we will take any steps necessary to prevent that or is it simply not desirable? I think, as you said, it’s in no one’s interest, which is less than the formation of the prohibition.

CLINTON: The president-elect has said repeatedly it is unacceptable. It is going to be United States policy to pursue diplomacy with all of its multitudinous tools to do everything we can to prevent Iran from becoming a nuclear weapons state.

As I also said, no option is off the table. So the president-elect has been very clear that it is unacceptable and that is our premise and that is what we are going to be basing our actions on.

In practice, Obama’s policy has been the one favored by Jimmy Carter’s national security adviser. In a March 5, 2009, hearing before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on “US Strategy Regarding Iran,” Zbigniew Brzezinski urged a process with no public conditions or time limits, no assertions that force remained an option, and no statement that regime change was a goal. It was, he said, a process that might consume “years” — and warned we should not “become susceptible to advice from interested parties regarding how we are to proceed.” He made it clear that he meant Israel and its advice that a time limit should be set.

Senator Kerry asked if there wasn’t “an automatic timetable thrust on us” — because of “Iran’s own activities and Israel’s perception of those activities, as well as our own intelligence community’s interpretations of those activities.” Brzezinski answered, in essence, “no.” He cited the success of deterrence in the cases of the Soviet Union, China, and India and Pakistan:

The Indians and the Pakistanis have managed to deter each other — knock on wood — so far.

And deterrence, their experience with deterrence gives us some grounds for not being under tremendous time limits.

And, in any case, we know that deterrence is predictable if it works.

Deterrence is a great fallback position, knock on wood, if it works. So there is no need for tremendous time limits. They can just be points on a calendar.

But the effectiveness of deterrence ultimately depends on the credibility of the U.S. promise to come to the defense of states throughout the region — from Israel to Saudi Arabia — threatened by a nuclear Iran. That credibility may not survive a failure to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons.

Let me be clearer: once you have pledged to do “everything” to prevent an “unacceptable” occurrence, and then you allow it to occur, with no effort other than “smart” diplomacy, your next promise will not be believed. Your credibility will be gone.

The ever-receding Obama “timelines” for Iran, the lack of a credible threat of serious sanctions, the secretary of state’s public disavowal of an ultimate option, and the persistent presidential silence on the entire topic make it likely that the Obama administration plans to pursue its “dual track” policy (ineffectual “engagement” and ineffectual “pressure”) until the policy is eventually overtaken by events. The fallback will be “deterrence” after Iran passes the nuclear threshold.

The irony is that the discrepancy between the Obama rhetoric and the Obama performance will doom deterrence as well. In his major campaign speech on Iran, Obama promised he would do “everything” in his power to stop Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons (in the speech as delivered, he actually repeated the word everything three times — the third time as a stand-alone sentence). Such weapons, he said both before and after he was elected, were “unacceptable.”

At her confirmation hearing, his secretary of state assured the Foreign Relations Committee that the Obama administration would employ whatever option was ultimately necessary to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons:

KERRY: … Is it the policy of the incoming administration, as a bottom line of our security interests and our policy, that it is unacceptable that Iran has a weapon under any circumstances and that we will take any steps necessary to prevent that or is it simply not desirable? I think, as you said, it’s in no one’s interest, which is less than the formation of the prohibition.

CLINTON: The president-elect has said repeatedly it is unacceptable. It is going to be United States policy to pursue diplomacy with all of its multitudinous tools to do everything we can to prevent Iran from becoming a nuclear weapons state.

As I also said, no option is off the table. So the president-elect has been very clear that it is unacceptable and that is our premise and that is what we are going to be basing our actions on.

In practice, Obama’s policy has been the one favored by Jimmy Carter’s national security adviser. In a March 5, 2009, hearing before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on “US Strategy Regarding Iran,” Zbigniew Brzezinski urged a process with no public conditions or time limits, no assertions that force remained an option, and no statement that regime change was a goal. It was, he said, a process that might consume “years” — and warned we should not “become susceptible to advice from interested parties regarding how we are to proceed.” He made it clear that he meant Israel and its advice that a time limit should be set.

Senator Kerry asked if there wasn’t “an automatic timetable thrust on us” — because of “Iran’s own activities and Israel’s perception of those activities, as well as our own intelligence community’s interpretations of those activities.” Brzezinski answered, in essence, “no.” He cited the success of deterrence in the cases of the Soviet Union, China, and India and Pakistan:

The Indians and the Pakistanis have managed to deter each other — knock on wood — so far.

And deterrence, their experience with deterrence gives us some grounds for not being under tremendous time limits.

And, in any case, we know that deterrence is predictable if it works.

Deterrence is a great fallback position, knock on wood, if it works. So there is no need for tremendous time limits. They can just be points on a calendar.

But the effectiveness of deterrence ultimately depends on the credibility of the U.S. promise to come to the defense of states throughout the region — from Israel to Saudi Arabia — threatened by a nuclear Iran. That credibility may not survive a failure to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons.

Let me be clearer: once you have pledged to do “everything” to prevent an “unacceptable” occurrence, and then you allow it to occur, with no effort other than “smart” diplomacy, your next promise will not be believed. Your credibility will be gone.

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How Many Independents Can He Lose?

Today Obama is doubling down — are we up to quadrupling by now? — by laying the groundwork for a reconciliation strategy. The pundits and politicians are trying to count the votes in the House. Do Obama and Pelosi have their 216 votes? Not likely. And newfound “no’s” keep rolling in. There don’t seem to be not that many representatives ready to switch from a “no” to a “yes.” Meanwhile, how’s this working out for Obama?

Public Opinion Strategies polling came out with this timely analysis yesterday:

Comparing where we were during the first six months of 2009 to today offers a unique perspective on just how far the Obama Administration has fallen.  During the first six months of 2009, President Obama held a 56% approve/35% disapprove rating.  In contrast, Obama’s job approval rating today among Independent voters has sunk to 44% approve/50% disapprove.

One sure reason for the descent is the President’s misguided effort to overhaul health care.  Absolutely, health care requires some amount of reform … but it is the nature and extent of that reform that is causing Independent voters’ heartburn.Independents have stiffened their resistance to the Obama/Democratic health care reform plan.  Today, nearly six out of ten Independent (59%) oppose the health care plan being developed by President Obama and Democrats in Congress.  Importantly, 41% of Independents say they are “strongly opposed” to the plan.

By a considerable margin, Independent voters side with Republicans who say it is time to wipe the health care reform slate clean and focus on areas where there is agreement on health care.

Members of Congress can read the polls too. Those who voted “no” last time have little reason to reverse themselves and those who went along with Pelosi in 2009, but have lost key concessions (on abortion, for example) and have witnessed public opinion harden, have every reason to jump off the sinking ship this time around. Those who feel compelled to go along with the Obama-Reid-Pelois gambit will need an awful lot of die-hard liberals in their districts, for they certainly will have to fend off an angry herd of independents and Republicans. As Obama said, this is what elections are for.

Today Obama is doubling down — are we up to quadrupling by now? — by laying the groundwork for a reconciliation strategy. The pundits and politicians are trying to count the votes in the House. Do Obama and Pelosi have their 216 votes? Not likely. And newfound “no’s” keep rolling in. There don’t seem to be not that many representatives ready to switch from a “no” to a “yes.” Meanwhile, how’s this working out for Obama?

Public Opinion Strategies polling came out with this timely analysis yesterday:

Comparing where we were during the first six months of 2009 to today offers a unique perspective on just how far the Obama Administration has fallen.  During the first six months of 2009, President Obama held a 56% approve/35% disapprove rating.  In contrast, Obama’s job approval rating today among Independent voters has sunk to 44% approve/50% disapprove.

One sure reason for the descent is the President’s misguided effort to overhaul health care.  Absolutely, health care requires some amount of reform … but it is the nature and extent of that reform that is causing Independent voters’ heartburn.Independents have stiffened their resistance to the Obama/Democratic health care reform plan.  Today, nearly six out of ten Independent (59%) oppose the health care plan being developed by President Obama and Democrats in Congress.  Importantly, 41% of Independents say they are “strongly opposed” to the plan.

By a considerable margin, Independent voters side with Republicans who say it is time to wipe the health care reform slate clean and focus on areas where there is agreement on health care.

Members of Congress can read the polls too. Those who voted “no” last time have little reason to reverse themselves and those who went along with Pelosi in 2009, but have lost key concessions (on abortion, for example) and have witnessed public opinion harden, have every reason to jump off the sinking ship this time around. Those who feel compelled to go along with the Obama-Reid-Pelois gambit will need an awful lot of die-hard liberals in their districts, for they certainly will have to fend off an angry herd of independents and Republicans. As Obama said, this is what elections are for.

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The Gathering Corruption Storm

Jen, to add to your point about Charlie Rangel and Eric Massa: we are seeing the different elements required to form a political thunderstorm amass — a storm that will likely batter Democrats in November.

Three ingredients are required to form the real thing: moisture, an unstable airmass, and a lifting force. The political version of this meteorological event are a bad economy, unpopular ideas, and corruption. Democrats are facing all three.

The corruption issue manifests itself in several ways. There are legal forms of corruption, like the “Nebraska Kickback,” the “Louisiana Purchase,” and special tax benefits for union members, all part of the unseemly wheeling and dealing needed to jam through ObamaCare. There is the misuse of power we are seeing from the president in the form of trying to use reconciliation to pass ObamaCare. And there is the kind we see with Representative Rangel and New York Governor David Patterson — and now, we have just learned, Representative Eric Massa, a Democrat from New York, will not seek re-election after only one term in office. Politico.com has this: “According to several House aides — on both sides of the aisle — the House ethics committee has been informed of allegations that Massa, who is married with two children, sexually harassed a male staffer.” And it certainly won’t help matters if a grand jury indicts John Edwards on campaign violations stemming from his extramarital affair.

At some point these things can metastasize and presto!, the opposition party can run a campaign based on the “culture of corruption.” Democrats did that very well in 2006, when many Republican Members of Congress (understandably) lost the trust of many Americans. We saw the same thing happen to Democrats in 1994, with the House banking scandal and other things. And we may well see it again come November.

My hunch is that the storm in the making is, at least at this stage, more powerful and disruptive than any of the ones that came before it. And soon we’ll reach the point where there is very little they can do about it.

Jen, to add to your point about Charlie Rangel and Eric Massa: we are seeing the different elements required to form a political thunderstorm amass — a storm that will likely batter Democrats in November.

Three ingredients are required to form the real thing: moisture, an unstable airmass, and a lifting force. The political version of this meteorological event are a bad economy, unpopular ideas, and corruption. Democrats are facing all three.

The corruption issue manifests itself in several ways. There are legal forms of corruption, like the “Nebraska Kickback,” the “Louisiana Purchase,” and special tax benefits for union members, all part of the unseemly wheeling and dealing needed to jam through ObamaCare. There is the misuse of power we are seeing from the president in the form of trying to use reconciliation to pass ObamaCare. And there is the kind we see with Representative Rangel and New York Governor David Patterson — and now, we have just learned, Representative Eric Massa, a Democrat from New York, will not seek re-election after only one term in office. Politico.com has this: “According to several House aides — on both sides of the aisle — the House ethics committee has been informed of allegations that Massa, who is married with two children, sexually harassed a male staffer.” And it certainly won’t help matters if a grand jury indicts John Edwards on campaign violations stemming from his extramarital affair.

At some point these things can metastasize and presto!, the opposition party can run a campaign based on the “culture of corruption.” Democrats did that very well in 2006, when many Republican Members of Congress (understandably) lost the trust of many Americans. We saw the same thing happen to Democrats in 1994, with the House banking scandal and other things. And we may well see it again come November.

My hunch is that the storm in the making is, at least at this stage, more powerful and disruptive than any of the ones that came before it. And soon we’ll reach the point where there is very little they can do about it.

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Continued U.S. Presence Best Hope for Democracy in Iraq

Over at National Review Online, Pete Wehner makes a number of excellent points on Newsweek‘s cover story, “Victory at Last,” which heralds the emergence of Iraqi democracy. He points out, rightly, how remarkable the progress has been since 2007, how much credit President Bush deserves for ordering the surge, and how wrong the skeptics were (he mentions, in particular, Joe Klein and Tom Ricks). All good points, but I would add a few cautionary notes.

In the first place, as Pete himself acknowledges, terrible mistakes were made in the war’s early years. They do not in my judgment (or in Pete’s) make the invasion of Iraq “the biggest mistake in the history of American foreign policy,” as Ricks has called it, but they will tarnish the Bush administration even if Iraq stays on its current trajectory toward full-blown democracy.

My second cautionary note concerns whether this will in fact be the case. Iraq has defied the naysayers since 2007, but recall how from 2003 to 2007 it also defied the Pollyannas of the Bush administration. There is no guarantee that its present progress will continue — any more than there was a guarantee that it would go into a death spiral in 2007, as so widely assumed in Washington.

The key to Iraq’s remarkable transformation has been the vigorous actions of American troops, and it’s anyone’s guess what will happen when they are withdrawn. If the Obama administration’s policy (which builds on an agreement reached by the Bush administration and the government of Iraq) continues unchanged, we will be down to 50,000 troops by September (from roughly 100,000 today) and then to zero by the end of 2011. That is a potentially worrisome development given how many violent rifts remain in Iraqi politics just below the surface — Sunni vs. Shia, Kurd vs. Arab, secular vs. religious, military vs. civilian, tribe vs. tribe — and how hard Iran is trying to destabilize the situation and put its proxies into position of power.

That’s why I agree with Ricks when he advocates that the Obama administration negotiate an accord with the new government of Iraq to allow American troops to remain beyond 2011. Not in a combat role, in all likelihood, but simply as a peacekeeping force, akin to the forces that still remain in Kosovo and Bosnia long after the end of their wars. The continued presence of U.S. troops will be the best possible guarantee that Iraq will continue to develop into a flourishing democracy. Although I disagreed with Ricks over the surge and the invasion of Iraq, he deserves kudos for taking this principled stand, because he knows how important it is not to leave Iraq as thoughtlessly as we arrived.

Over at National Review Online, Pete Wehner makes a number of excellent points on Newsweek‘s cover story, “Victory at Last,” which heralds the emergence of Iraqi democracy. He points out, rightly, how remarkable the progress has been since 2007, how much credit President Bush deserves for ordering the surge, and how wrong the skeptics were (he mentions, in particular, Joe Klein and Tom Ricks). All good points, but I would add a few cautionary notes.

In the first place, as Pete himself acknowledges, terrible mistakes were made in the war’s early years. They do not in my judgment (or in Pete’s) make the invasion of Iraq “the biggest mistake in the history of American foreign policy,” as Ricks has called it, but they will tarnish the Bush administration even if Iraq stays on its current trajectory toward full-blown democracy.

My second cautionary note concerns whether this will in fact be the case. Iraq has defied the naysayers since 2007, but recall how from 2003 to 2007 it also defied the Pollyannas of the Bush administration. There is no guarantee that its present progress will continue — any more than there was a guarantee that it would go into a death spiral in 2007, as so widely assumed in Washington.

The key to Iraq’s remarkable transformation has been the vigorous actions of American troops, and it’s anyone’s guess what will happen when they are withdrawn. If the Obama administration’s policy (which builds on an agreement reached by the Bush administration and the government of Iraq) continues unchanged, we will be down to 50,000 troops by September (from roughly 100,000 today) and then to zero by the end of 2011. That is a potentially worrisome development given how many violent rifts remain in Iraqi politics just below the surface — Sunni vs. Shia, Kurd vs. Arab, secular vs. religious, military vs. civilian, tribe vs. tribe — and how hard Iran is trying to destabilize the situation and put its proxies into position of power.

That’s why I agree with Ricks when he advocates that the Obama administration negotiate an accord with the new government of Iraq to allow American troops to remain beyond 2011. Not in a combat role, in all likelihood, but simply as a peacekeeping force, akin to the forces that still remain in Kosovo and Bosnia long after the end of their wars. The continued presence of U.S. troops will be the best possible guarantee that Iraq will continue to develop into a flourishing democracy. Although I disagreed with Ricks over the surge and the invasion of Iraq, he deserves kudos for taking this principled stand, because he knows how important it is not to leave Iraq as thoughtlessly as we arrived.

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Like 2006 All Over Again

If the Democrats didn’t have an increasingly unpopular president, an anti-Washington electorate, a limping economy, and enough ethics problems, along comes this:

Rep. Eric Massa (D-N.Y.) will not seek reelection after only one term in office. According to several House aides — on both sides of the aisle — the House Ethics Committee has been informed of allegations that Massa, who is married with two children, sexually harassed a male staffer. Massa, whose departure endangers Democrats’ hold on a competitive seat, told POLITICO Wednesday afternoon that no one has brought allegations of misconduct to him.

Yes, it does remind one of the 2006 Mark Foley scandal, although no word on the age of the staffer. One wonders if the media will be obsessed with uncovering what Nancy Pelosi and the Democratic leadership knew about this one, and when they knew it. In any case, it’s more kindling on the fire and more reason for disgusted voters to throw incumbents out, most of whom, of course, are Democrats. On a day in which Democrats would no doubt be delighted to talk about the president’s determination to disregard the voters’ wishes on health-care reform … er … push through his signature legislation, they will instead be in for another bad news cycle.

If the Democrats didn’t have an increasingly unpopular president, an anti-Washington electorate, a limping economy, and enough ethics problems, along comes this:

Rep. Eric Massa (D-N.Y.) will not seek reelection after only one term in office. According to several House aides — on both sides of the aisle — the House Ethics Committee has been informed of allegations that Massa, who is married with two children, sexually harassed a male staffer. Massa, whose departure endangers Democrats’ hold on a competitive seat, told POLITICO Wednesday afternoon that no one has brought allegations of misconduct to him.

Yes, it does remind one of the 2006 Mark Foley scandal, although no word on the age of the staffer. One wonders if the media will be obsessed with uncovering what Nancy Pelosi and the Democratic leadership knew about this one, and when they knew it. In any case, it’s more kindling on the fire and more reason for disgusted voters to throw incumbents out, most of whom, of course, are Democrats. On a day in which Democrats would no doubt be delighted to talk about the president’s determination to disregard the voters’ wishes on health-care reform … er … push through his signature legislation, they will instead be in for another bad news cycle.

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The Al-Arian Connection

Tom Campbell is struggling to explain his association with Sami Al-Arian, a convicted terrorist from whom he accepted campaign money and who he defended when Al-Arian was canned by the University of South Florida. (Both these actions occurred before Al-Arian’s conviction.) He’s not the only politician who has struggled with this. In 2004 Betty Castor ran for the Senate in Florida. Her tenure as president of  that same university and her handling of Al-Arian made for campaign fodder. An ad taken out by a group, the Florida Leadership Council, attacked her thusly:

With just a tweak here or there, one can imagine that Campbell’s opponents will have a similar line of attack, as he took Al-Arian’s money and went the extra mile to write a letter in support of him, the latter in the name of “academic freedom,” you see.

Tom Campbell is struggling to explain his association with Sami Al-Arian, a convicted terrorist from whom he accepted campaign money and who he defended when Al-Arian was canned by the University of South Florida. (Both these actions occurred before Al-Arian’s conviction.) He’s not the only politician who has struggled with this. In 2004 Betty Castor ran for the Senate in Florida. Her tenure as president of  that same university and her handling of Al-Arian made for campaign fodder. An ad taken out by a group, the Florida Leadership Council, attacked her thusly:

With just a tweak here or there, one can imagine that Campbell’s opponents will have a similar line of attack, as he took Al-Arian’s money and went the extra mile to write a letter in support of him, the latter in the name of “academic freedom,” you see.

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The Cynicism of Reconciliation

Today, we are told, the president will signal his support for using reconciliation to pass ObamaCare. The arguments against using this legislative approach have been well stated, including in a powerful Wall Street Journal editorial today. But an additional point must be made.

It seems like it was another era, but it was as recently as 2008 that Barack Obama — more than any figure I can recall — based his campaign on the aesthetics and romance of politics, on “hope and change,” and on a new, uplifting, transpartisan brand of politics. “’I will listen to you, especially when we disagree,” Obama said on the night of his election.

This victory was made possible only because he portrayed himself as “a figure uncorrupted and unco-opted by evil Washington,” as Harry Reid told Obama. David Axelrod believed the road to success was in Obama’s promise to be “a unifier and not a polarizer; someone nondogmatic and uncontaminated by the special-interest cesspool that Washington had become,” in the words of the book Game Change. Obama’s public appeal derived from his “rhetoric of change and unity, his freshness and sense of promise.”

“We have something special here,” Axelrod reportedly said. “I feel like I’ve been handed a porcelain baby.”

Perhaps. But that porcelain baby is in the process of being shattered into a thousand pieces. The “special-interest cesspool that Washington had become” has become worse since Obama stepped foot inside the Oval Office. Obama, himself, is the most polarizing first-year president in our lifetime. And he has contaminated himself and his party to a startling degree.

Pushing reconciliation to pass ObamaCare — and in the process, overturning the tradition and misusing the rules of the Senate to get his way — shows yet again that Obama’s campaign was built on cynical, misleading, and downright untrue claims. He simply could not have meant what he said, based on his conduct in office. Now, it’s true that his rhetoric was so soaring, and the bar was set so high, that no person could have met the expectations Obama created. But to have fallen this far so quickly is still hard to believe.

The public doesn’t like to be played for fools. Obama has done that. And he’s only compounding his problems by pushing for reconciliation. Mr. Obama has decided to take a massively unpopular piece of legislation and abuse his power to get his way. This is not what a figure uncorrupted and un-co-opted by evil Washington would do.

The unmasking of Barack Obama continues. It is not a pleasant thing to watch. And he and his party will pay a huge political price for what they are doing, perhaps unlike any we have seen.

Today, we are told, the president will signal his support for using reconciliation to pass ObamaCare. The arguments against using this legislative approach have been well stated, including in a powerful Wall Street Journal editorial today. But an additional point must be made.

It seems like it was another era, but it was as recently as 2008 that Barack Obama — more than any figure I can recall — based his campaign on the aesthetics and romance of politics, on “hope and change,” and on a new, uplifting, transpartisan brand of politics. “’I will listen to you, especially when we disagree,” Obama said on the night of his election.

This victory was made possible only because he portrayed himself as “a figure uncorrupted and unco-opted by evil Washington,” as Harry Reid told Obama. David Axelrod believed the road to success was in Obama’s promise to be “a unifier and not a polarizer; someone nondogmatic and uncontaminated by the special-interest cesspool that Washington had become,” in the words of the book Game Change. Obama’s public appeal derived from his “rhetoric of change and unity, his freshness and sense of promise.”

“We have something special here,” Axelrod reportedly said. “I feel like I’ve been handed a porcelain baby.”

Perhaps. But that porcelain baby is in the process of being shattered into a thousand pieces. The “special-interest cesspool that Washington had become” has become worse since Obama stepped foot inside the Oval Office. Obama, himself, is the most polarizing first-year president in our lifetime. And he has contaminated himself and his party to a startling degree.

Pushing reconciliation to pass ObamaCare — and in the process, overturning the tradition and misusing the rules of the Senate to get his way — shows yet again that Obama’s campaign was built on cynical, misleading, and downright untrue claims. He simply could not have meant what he said, based on his conduct in office. Now, it’s true that his rhetoric was so soaring, and the bar was set so high, that no person could have met the expectations Obama created. But to have fallen this far so quickly is still hard to believe.

The public doesn’t like to be played for fools. Obama has done that. And he’s only compounding his problems by pushing for reconciliation. Mr. Obama has decided to take a massively unpopular piece of legislation and abuse his power to get his way. This is not what a figure uncorrupted and un-co-opted by evil Washington would do.

The unmasking of Barack Obama continues. It is not a pleasant thing to watch. And he and his party will pay a huge political price for what they are doing, perhaps unlike any we have seen.

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A Little LAX on the Research

It’s all over. China is rising; the U.S. is falling. How do we know this? Tom Friedman sees all the telltale signs in the rundown Los Angeles International Airport:

Walking through its faded, cramped domestic terminal, I got the feeling of a place that once thought of itself as modern but has had one too many face-lifts and simply can’t hide the wrinkles anymore. In some ways, LAX is us. We are the United States of Deferred Maintenance. China is the People’s Republic of Deferred Gratification. They save, invest and build. We spend, borrow and patch.

I guess Friedman missed this headline from last week: “Los Angeles Airport to Spend $1.545-Billion for Building Amenities.” The project will “create a new world-class terminal,” which is only part of a larger “master plan” toestablish a new regional icon that embodies the character of Los Angeles and transforms LAX into the airport of the future.”

If “LAX is us” (arguably the silliest Friedman metaphor in a category packed with brutal competition), then we’re about to takeoff.

It’s all over. China is rising; the U.S. is falling. How do we know this? Tom Friedman sees all the telltale signs in the rundown Los Angeles International Airport:

Walking through its faded, cramped domestic terminal, I got the feeling of a place that once thought of itself as modern but has had one too many face-lifts and simply can’t hide the wrinkles anymore. In some ways, LAX is us. We are the United States of Deferred Maintenance. China is the People’s Republic of Deferred Gratification. They save, invest and build. We spend, borrow and patch.

I guess Friedman missed this headline from last week: “Los Angeles Airport to Spend $1.545-Billion for Building Amenities.” The project will “create a new world-class terminal,” which is only part of a larger “master plan” toestablish a new regional icon that embodies the character of Los Angeles and transforms LAX into the airport of the future.”

If “LAX is us” (arguably the silliest Friedman metaphor in a category packed with brutal competition), then we’re about to takeoff.

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Another Despot, Another Leverett Bouquet

The Leveretts are branching out. After all, one can not write soley on the marvels of the University of Tehran or the sage political wisdom of Ahmadinejad. Now Flynt and Hillary Leverett are touting Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. At their blog they coo that, of course, al-Assad is a canny operator, fully justified in his embrace of the Iranian regime:

Syria’s relationship with the Islamic Republic seems increasingly strategic in character. Over the past year, key advisers to President Assad have told us as much; one of them went so far as to describe Syrian-Iranian relations with the French adjective, “intime.” If the Obama Administration is unable or unwilling to acknowledge this reality and the regional dynamics that have given rise to it, the already limited effectiveness of American diplomacy in the Middle East will be further undermined.

Now implicit in all this, of course, is the criticisim of the Obami, that they are on a fools errand trying to split up the Syria-Iran lovefest. But then perhaps if the Obami whacked Israel a little harder, that would endear Assad to us. (“For real ‘peace’, according to President Assad, Israel will need to negotiate a comprehensive settlement, including on the Palestinian track.”)

But in case you doubted their affection, if not admiration for the Syrian despot, the Leveretts throw a final smooch his way:

Bashar al-Assad has weathered the storm unleashed in the aftermath of the Hariri assassination and has emerged as a masterful player of the regional game.  It is striking that many of the people who argued in 2005 that the Syrian leadership was internally conflicted and uniquely vulnerable to external pressure are now making the same arguments about the Islamic Republic of Iran. They were wrong then; they are wrong now.

One wonders what other regimes could benefit from inclusion in the Leveretts’ portfolio. Maureen Dowd seems to have cornered the market on shilling for the Saudis. But, heck, lots of despotic regimes could use this sort of help — Cuba, North Korea, Somalia, and Burma perhaps. A visit arranged and supervised by the regime, a cozy interview with the  Great Leader, nary a word on the political prisioners, a fluffy justification of the regime’s self-interested behavior, and then a fawning series of posts and speeches. Not a bad deal for the butchers of the world. And certainly a handsome arrangement for the Leveretts.

The Leveretts are branching out. After all, one can not write soley on the marvels of the University of Tehran or the sage political wisdom of Ahmadinejad. Now Flynt and Hillary Leverett are touting Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. At their blog they coo that, of course, al-Assad is a canny operator, fully justified in his embrace of the Iranian regime:

Syria’s relationship with the Islamic Republic seems increasingly strategic in character. Over the past year, key advisers to President Assad have told us as much; one of them went so far as to describe Syrian-Iranian relations with the French adjective, “intime.” If the Obama Administration is unable or unwilling to acknowledge this reality and the regional dynamics that have given rise to it, the already limited effectiveness of American diplomacy in the Middle East will be further undermined.

Now implicit in all this, of course, is the criticisim of the Obami, that they are on a fools errand trying to split up the Syria-Iran lovefest. But then perhaps if the Obami whacked Israel a little harder, that would endear Assad to us. (“For real ‘peace’, according to President Assad, Israel will need to negotiate a comprehensive settlement, including on the Palestinian track.”)

But in case you doubted their affection, if not admiration for the Syrian despot, the Leveretts throw a final smooch his way:

Bashar al-Assad has weathered the storm unleashed in the aftermath of the Hariri assassination and has emerged as a masterful player of the regional game.  It is striking that many of the people who argued in 2005 that the Syrian leadership was internally conflicted and uniquely vulnerable to external pressure are now making the same arguments about the Islamic Republic of Iran. They were wrong then; they are wrong now.

One wonders what other regimes could benefit from inclusion in the Leveretts’ portfolio. Maureen Dowd seems to have cornered the market on shilling for the Saudis. But, heck, lots of despotic regimes could use this sort of help — Cuba, North Korea, Somalia, and Burma perhaps. A visit arranged and supervised by the regime, a cozy interview with the  Great Leader, nary a word on the political prisioners, a fluffy justification of the regime’s self-interested behavior, and then a fawning series of posts and speeches. Not a bad deal for the butchers of the world. And certainly a handsome arrangement for the Leveretts.

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But Not Permanently

Rep. Charlie Rangel succumbed to reality — sort of:

Rep. Charles B. Rangel (D-N.Y.) announced Wednesday that he would temporarily step down as chairman of the powerful House Ways and Means Committee, days after being admonished for breaking House rules by accepting corporate-financed travel. . . Rangel did not state clearly Wednesday whether he was seeking to leave the committee altogether while the inquiry is ongoing, or simply to vacate the chairmanship. Nor did he discuss who would replace him. He said he had previously offered to take a leave of absence because of the controversy, and implied that Pelosi had not accepted that offer.

Just temporarily? Well, one supposes that if House Democrats dodge a bullet in November, he will reclaim his chairmanship. That seems to be the game here. You can expect the Republicans to bring that up. Moreover, the House ethics committee isn’t yet done with Rangel. (“The ethics committee has not yet said when it will issue rulings on these other controversies, but they could result in stronger admonishments that would make it difficult for Democrats to put Rangel back in as the chairman.”)

What we learn from this is that Pelosi is not leading her caucus, but rather is racing to keep up and restrain, in some instances, her nervous members. They seem to have figured out that she has a safe seat but they do not. It took a mutiny of disgusted House Democrats to get her to dump her ally Rangel. It will take a similar display of self-preservation instincts by Democrats to save themselves from the real danger — the jam-through of ObamaCare. Pelosi isn’t going to be looking out for them; so members will have to assess their own districts and decide whether, as they did with Rangel, they should dump ObamaCare and save themselves.

Rep. Charlie Rangel succumbed to reality — sort of:

Rep. Charles B. Rangel (D-N.Y.) announced Wednesday that he would temporarily step down as chairman of the powerful House Ways and Means Committee, days after being admonished for breaking House rules by accepting corporate-financed travel. . . Rangel did not state clearly Wednesday whether he was seeking to leave the committee altogether while the inquiry is ongoing, or simply to vacate the chairmanship. Nor did he discuss who would replace him. He said he had previously offered to take a leave of absence because of the controversy, and implied that Pelosi had not accepted that offer.

Just temporarily? Well, one supposes that if House Democrats dodge a bullet in November, he will reclaim his chairmanship. That seems to be the game here. You can expect the Republicans to bring that up. Moreover, the House ethics committee isn’t yet done with Rangel. (“The ethics committee has not yet said when it will issue rulings on these other controversies, but they could result in stronger admonishments that would make it difficult for Democrats to put Rangel back in as the chairman.”)

What we learn from this is that Pelosi is not leading her caucus, but rather is racing to keep up and restrain, in some instances, her nervous members. They seem to have figured out that she has a safe seat but they do not. It took a mutiny of disgusted House Democrats to get her to dump her ally Rangel. It will take a similar display of self-preservation instincts by Democrats to save themselves from the real danger — the jam-through of ObamaCare. Pelosi isn’t going to be looking out for them; so members will have to assess their own districts and decide whether, as they did with Rangel, they should dump ObamaCare and save themselves.

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Hamas: Israel Not Responsible for Dubai Assassination

Hamas is now saying that Egypt and Jordan are behind the assassination in Dubai of their slain commander Mahmoud al-Mabhouh. Clearly, given Hamas’s propensity to tell the truth, this information must be taken with a grain of salt. But then again, the version offered by Dubai’s police is not that much better — 27 suspects later, they are making it more laughable for themselves by the hour.

The question now is, will the governments of Australia, France, Germany, Great Britain, and Ireland issue an apology to their Israeli ambassadors, who were summoned for some rough protest when Israel was accused? And will they now reserve the same rough treatment for the Egyptian and Jordanian ambassadors?

Hamas is now saying that Egypt and Jordan are behind the assassination in Dubai of their slain commander Mahmoud al-Mabhouh. Clearly, given Hamas’s propensity to tell the truth, this information must be taken with a grain of salt. But then again, the version offered by Dubai’s police is not that much better — 27 suspects later, they are making it more laughable for themselves by the hour.

The question now is, will the governments of Australia, France, Germany, Great Britain, and Ireland issue an apology to their Israeli ambassadors, who were summoned for some rough protest when Israel was accused? And will they now reserve the same rough treatment for the Egyptian and Jordanian ambassadors?

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The Perry Lesson: Run a Good Campaign

Gov. Rick Perry won big last night in the Texas gubernatorial primary. Michael Barone digs into the details and concludes:

(1) Perry won this not in rural and small town Texas but in metro Houston. This bodes well for him in the general election, since it indicates strength in the home base of the well regarded Democratic nominee, former Houston Mayor Bill White, who was nominated by an overwhelming margin. (2) Medina, the candidate who wouldn’t disrespect the truthers, did best in the supposedly most sophisticated part of Texas, the Metroplex. Go figure. (3) Hutchison, supposedly the candidate of urban sophisticates, did best in metro San Antonio and rural Texas. She held Perry below the 50% level needed to avoid a runoff in approximately half of Texas’s 254 counties; unfortunately for her, those counties didn’t give her nearly a big enough margin to offset Perry’s advantage in metro Houston

Barone also observes that turnout in the Republican primary was more than double that in Democratic primary, a reversal of the huge enthusiasm generated in the 2008 Democratic presidential primary.

Pundits are already picking through the returns to glean evidence of larger trends. Is this further proof that Washington incumbents have an uphill climb? Probably. Does this suggest that more traditionally conservative candidates have the upper hand in a GOP primary field? That too. And does Perry have the potential to be a presidential candidate? Perry is playing coy for now, as Jonathan Martin reports:

In an interview with POLITICO Monday, Perry insisted that he would not mount a White House bid.

“I’m really interested in who’s going to be the next president,” he said, before quickly adding: “I have no interest in it being me in any form or fashion.”

Yet as he claimed victory here Tuesday night, Perry’s message seemed as tailored for national GOP primary voters as Texas’s general electorate.

Speaking directly to Washington he said: “Quit spending all the money, stop trying to take over our lives and our businesses.”

He also sought to position himself squarely against President Obama, warning that, “It’s clear that the Obama administration and its allies already have Texas in their cross-hairs.”

But in the lesson-divining department, Martin is correct: Perry simply ran a better campaign and Hutchison bumbled along in a Hillary-like miscalculation about an electorate angry at the status quo. (“By asserting that she would step down from her Senate seat but never actually resigning, Hutchison amplified Perry’s message as much as the millions in his war chest.”) And it is noteworthy that endorsements from Texas political stars, including George H.W. Bush, didn’t help her one bit. (“In Hutchison’s case, the endorsements may have even worked against her, serving to underscore Perry’s message about her ties to Washington.”)

And that, I think, is the key takeaway and a reminder for pundits and candidates eyeing 2012. It really does matter what sort of campaign you put together, how you size up the electorate, and whether you devise an effective message. The front runners in 2008 (Clinton and Rudy Giuliani) crashed in no small part because they ran ineffective, if not disastrous, campaigns. We have learned the hard way that a great campaigner doesn’t necessarily make for a great or competent office holder. But you still have to win the campaign — and for that, nothing beats a sharp delivery, a well-organized team, and a timely message.

Gov. Rick Perry won big last night in the Texas gubernatorial primary. Michael Barone digs into the details and concludes:

(1) Perry won this not in rural and small town Texas but in metro Houston. This bodes well for him in the general election, since it indicates strength in the home base of the well regarded Democratic nominee, former Houston Mayor Bill White, who was nominated by an overwhelming margin. (2) Medina, the candidate who wouldn’t disrespect the truthers, did best in the supposedly most sophisticated part of Texas, the Metroplex. Go figure. (3) Hutchison, supposedly the candidate of urban sophisticates, did best in metro San Antonio and rural Texas. She held Perry below the 50% level needed to avoid a runoff in approximately half of Texas’s 254 counties; unfortunately for her, those counties didn’t give her nearly a big enough margin to offset Perry’s advantage in metro Houston

Barone also observes that turnout in the Republican primary was more than double that in Democratic primary, a reversal of the huge enthusiasm generated in the 2008 Democratic presidential primary.

Pundits are already picking through the returns to glean evidence of larger trends. Is this further proof that Washington incumbents have an uphill climb? Probably. Does this suggest that more traditionally conservative candidates have the upper hand in a GOP primary field? That too. And does Perry have the potential to be a presidential candidate? Perry is playing coy for now, as Jonathan Martin reports:

In an interview with POLITICO Monday, Perry insisted that he would not mount a White House bid.

“I’m really interested in who’s going to be the next president,” he said, before quickly adding: “I have no interest in it being me in any form or fashion.”

Yet as he claimed victory here Tuesday night, Perry’s message seemed as tailored for national GOP primary voters as Texas’s general electorate.

Speaking directly to Washington he said: “Quit spending all the money, stop trying to take over our lives and our businesses.”

He also sought to position himself squarely against President Obama, warning that, “It’s clear that the Obama administration and its allies already have Texas in their cross-hairs.”

But in the lesson-divining department, Martin is correct: Perry simply ran a better campaign and Hutchison bumbled along in a Hillary-like miscalculation about an electorate angry at the status quo. (“By asserting that she would step down from her Senate seat but never actually resigning, Hutchison amplified Perry’s message as much as the millions in his war chest.”) And it is noteworthy that endorsements from Texas political stars, including George H.W. Bush, didn’t help her one bit. (“In Hutchison’s case, the endorsements may have even worked against her, serving to underscore Perry’s message about her ties to Washington.”)

And that, I think, is the key takeaway and a reminder for pundits and candidates eyeing 2012. It really does matter what sort of campaign you put together, how you size up the electorate, and whether you devise an effective message. The front runners in 2008 (Clinton and Rudy Giuliani) crashed in no small part because they ran ineffective, if not disastrous, campaigns. We have learned the hard way that a great campaigner doesn’t necessarily make for a great or competent office holder. But you still have to win the campaign — and for that, nothing beats a sharp delivery, a well-organized team, and a timely message.

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Dowd Goes Around the Bend

Goodness knows whether Maureen Dowd’s latest column — a noxious propaganda brew on behalf of the Kingdom of Saud and its foreign minister’s ludicrous moral relativism — was born of abject ignorance or whether she was sent trolling for Saudi money to help her employer’s bottom line. Or maybe she’s trying to out-Friedman her colleague when it comes to ingratiating herself with despotic abusers of human rights. Doesn’t really matter. From Dowd we hear unfiltered this argument:

The Middle Eastern foreign minister was talking about enlightened “liberal” trends in his country, contrasting that with the benighted “extreme” conservative religious movement in a neighboring state.

But the wild thing was that the minister was Prince Saud al-Faisal of Saudi Arabia — an absolute Muslim monarchy ruling over one of the most religiously and socially intolerant places on earth — and the country he deemed too “religiously determined” and regressive was the democracy of Israel.

“We are breaking away from the shackles of the past,” the prince said, sitting in his sprawling, glinting ranch house with its stable of Arabian horses and one oversized white bunny. “We are moving in the direction of a liberal society. What is happening in Israel is the opposite; you are moving into a more religiously oriented culture and into a more religiously determined politics and to a very extreme sense of nationhood,” which was coming “to a boiling point.”

She gets in her swipe at Israel, sniffing that it is “growing less secular with religious militants and the chief rabbinate that would like to impose a harsh and exclusive interpretation of Judaism upon the entire society” and hissing that in “Orthodox synagogues, some men still say a morning prayer thanking God for not making them a woman.” And then she proceeds to assure us that while Gloria Steinem wouldn’t applaud Saudi Arabia as a feminist paradise, “I can confirm that, at their own galactically glacial pace, they are chipping away at gender apartheid and cultural repression.”

Oh really? Perhaps she had not heard about or was not permitted a peak at the real Saudi Arabia. From a more discerning eye, another perspective is in order:

Saudi Arabia, modern-day: A man finds his daughter exchanging messages with a male friend on Facebook and murders her. A young woman caught sitting in a car with a man who is not her relative gets gang-raped, is then sentenced to 90 lashes (or 200, depending on which news report you read) for having appeared thus in public, and is later beaten by her brother for bringing shame on the family.

Same place, same time: The marriage of an eight-year-old girl to a 48-year-old man is upheld by a judge despite her mother’s attempts to have the marriage annulled. A death-row inmate sells his 15-year-old daughter in marriage to a fellow prisoner to pay off some debts. The marriage is consummated. “It is incorrect to say that it’s not permitted to marry off girls who are 15 and younger,” says Sheikh Abdul Aziz Al-Sheikh, the kingdom’s grand mufti. “A girl aged 10 or 12 can be married. Those who think she’s too young are wrong and they are being unfair to her.”

Dowd’s hosts seem not to have given her the full story. There was much more to learn if she had strayed from her handlers or picked up a news account or two. She might then have asked:

Who, exactly, is it the misogyny-frenzied brutes in charge of administering “justice” to the Saudi distaff side are protecting—and from what?  When they condemn a woman who’s been gang-raped to 200 lashes for “having sex outside marriage,” or give a destitute 75-year-old widow 40 lashes for engaging in “prohibited mingling” by receiving charity from two young male relatives, or, in the most recent (known) instance, sentence a 13-year-old girl to 90 lashes—to be delivered in front of her classmates—for bringing a cell phone to school—what do they believe they are doing?

Any of that going on in Israel? Which is the “regressive” locale — the nation with women political leaders and a functioning court system that protects women and girls from abuse or the land of child brides and lashings? It boggles the mind that Dowd would entertain and abet the attempt to equate the two. But then again, Dowd was never one to get bogged down in facts or let reality interfere with a column or, for that matter, a swank sojourn on someone else’s dime.

Goodness knows whether Maureen Dowd’s latest column — a noxious propaganda brew on behalf of the Kingdom of Saud and its foreign minister’s ludicrous moral relativism — was born of abject ignorance or whether she was sent trolling for Saudi money to help her employer’s bottom line. Or maybe she’s trying to out-Friedman her colleague when it comes to ingratiating herself with despotic abusers of human rights. Doesn’t really matter. From Dowd we hear unfiltered this argument:

The Middle Eastern foreign minister was talking about enlightened “liberal” trends in his country, contrasting that with the benighted “extreme” conservative religious movement in a neighboring state.

But the wild thing was that the minister was Prince Saud al-Faisal of Saudi Arabia — an absolute Muslim monarchy ruling over one of the most religiously and socially intolerant places on earth — and the country he deemed too “religiously determined” and regressive was the democracy of Israel.

“We are breaking away from the shackles of the past,” the prince said, sitting in his sprawling, glinting ranch house with its stable of Arabian horses and one oversized white bunny. “We are moving in the direction of a liberal society. What is happening in Israel is the opposite; you are moving into a more religiously oriented culture and into a more religiously determined politics and to a very extreme sense of nationhood,” which was coming “to a boiling point.”

She gets in her swipe at Israel, sniffing that it is “growing less secular with religious militants and the chief rabbinate that would like to impose a harsh and exclusive interpretation of Judaism upon the entire society” and hissing that in “Orthodox synagogues, some men still say a morning prayer thanking God for not making them a woman.” And then she proceeds to assure us that while Gloria Steinem wouldn’t applaud Saudi Arabia as a feminist paradise, “I can confirm that, at their own galactically glacial pace, they are chipping away at gender apartheid and cultural repression.”

Oh really? Perhaps she had not heard about or was not permitted a peak at the real Saudi Arabia. From a more discerning eye, another perspective is in order:

Saudi Arabia, modern-day: A man finds his daughter exchanging messages with a male friend on Facebook and murders her. A young woman caught sitting in a car with a man who is not her relative gets gang-raped, is then sentenced to 90 lashes (or 200, depending on which news report you read) for having appeared thus in public, and is later beaten by her brother for bringing shame on the family.

Same place, same time: The marriage of an eight-year-old girl to a 48-year-old man is upheld by a judge despite her mother’s attempts to have the marriage annulled. A death-row inmate sells his 15-year-old daughter in marriage to a fellow prisoner to pay off some debts. The marriage is consummated. “It is incorrect to say that it’s not permitted to marry off girls who are 15 and younger,” says Sheikh Abdul Aziz Al-Sheikh, the kingdom’s grand mufti. “A girl aged 10 or 12 can be married. Those who think she’s too young are wrong and they are being unfair to her.”

Dowd’s hosts seem not to have given her the full story. There was much more to learn if she had strayed from her handlers or picked up a news account or two. She might then have asked:

Who, exactly, is it the misogyny-frenzied brutes in charge of administering “justice” to the Saudi distaff side are protecting—and from what?  When they condemn a woman who’s been gang-raped to 200 lashes for “having sex outside marriage,” or give a destitute 75-year-old widow 40 lashes for engaging in “prohibited mingling” by receiving charity from two young male relatives, or, in the most recent (known) instance, sentence a 13-year-old girl to 90 lashes—to be delivered in front of her classmates—for bringing a cell phone to school—what do they believe they are doing?

Any of that going on in Israel? Which is the “regressive” locale — the nation with women political leaders and a functioning court system that protects women and girls from abuse or the land of child brides and lashings? It boggles the mind that Dowd would entertain and abet the attempt to equate the two. But then again, Dowd was never one to get bogged down in facts or let reality interfere with a column or, for that matter, a swank sojourn on someone else’s dime.

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Tom Campbell’s Record and the GOP Senate Primary

The headline in the Jewish Journal on the California Republican Senate primary bizarrely reads: “Campbell’s Pro-Israel Stance Could Be His Undoing in Run for U.S. Senate.” Well, actually it’s his anti-Israel and pro-Muslim record and associations that are at issue. The article does accurately recount that Campbell’s record has reached the attention of the mainstream media and become a key issue in the race. It also provides a useful reminder that this is not only a matter of his Israel stance but also of Campbell’s record on terrorism and Muslim extremism:

Long before [Campbell donor Sami] Al-Arian went to jail for supporting terror, he was a professor at the University of South Florida (USF) and a political activist with high-level contacts among American politicians. His brother-in-law, Mazen Al-Najjar, was imprisoned pending deportation based on secret evidence. Campbell took up the cause, visiting Al-Najjar in jail and introducing legislation critical of the government’s practice.

Campbell found himself on the side of Muslim-American civil rights groups. “The community that was most interested in this was the Muslim American community,” Campbell said in an interview last week, because 26 of the 28 people in jail under the secret evidence rule were Muslim. As a result of Campbell’s work, Al-Arian made campaign contributions totaling $1,300 to Campbell’s 2000 U.S. Senate run against Dianne Feinstein.

On May 23, 2000, Campbell testified before Congress in support of the “Secret Evidence Repeal Act,” mentioning Al-Najjar by name. Campbell shot down the government’s argument that barring secret evidence in immigration cases would lead to the release of terrorists, because the government would only need to forgo its use in immigration hearings. In his professorial style, Campbell compared the issue to other Constitutional abuses: “Why not give [suspected terrorists] truth serum, as long as they are in jail? If, like me, your stomach revolts at that thought, it must be because something in this Constitution prevents it.” That fall, Campbell lost the Senate election and left public office.

And, of course, Campbell then went on to write a letter on behalf of Al-Arian when the University of South Florida fired him. Campbell now claims it came at a time when he really was unaware of Al-Arian’s terrorist activities. (“‘A fellow law professor asked me as a matter of academic freedom to express concern about [Al-Arian],’ Campbell told The Jewish Journal. Campbell says that although he knew Al-Arian was an activist with controversial views on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, he had no idea Al-Arian actually was under criminal investigation by the FBI.”)

Well, as others have detailed, there was much in the public record at the time about an investigation into Al-Arian’s terrorist activities. Campbell’s defense of carelessness — “If I’m asked to write a letter on behalf of a professor, I should find out all I can about him” — doesn’t sound at all like the smart, methodical academic his boosters claim him to be.  The Journal quotes Republican Jewish Coalition executive director Matt Brooks: “If he’s offering a mea culpa, then I think that’s a signal to the Jewish community that he maybe would have done things differently. … It’s up to the voters to decide whether to accept his change of heart or not.”

Additionally, voters will have to consider what Campbell truly believes when it comes to anti-terrorism policies. He claims now to “strongly favor keeping Guantanamo and keeping enemy combatants under a prisoner-of-war status until the war on terror is over” and says he now actually would support the position that “enemy combatants and their supporters do not have Miranda rights or the right to confront the evidence against them.” That’s quite a change of heart for the former congressman who carried water for Al-Arian at a congressional hearing.

Voters will decide if Campbell has had a few too many changes of heart and whether his willingness to turn a blind eye toward the views of people like Israel-basher Alison Weir and Muslim extremists in the 1990s are disqualifying factors. Should he win the primary, his general-election opponent will certainly make the case that they are.

The headline in the Jewish Journal on the California Republican Senate primary bizarrely reads: “Campbell’s Pro-Israel Stance Could Be His Undoing in Run for U.S. Senate.” Well, actually it’s his anti-Israel and pro-Muslim record and associations that are at issue. The article does accurately recount that Campbell’s record has reached the attention of the mainstream media and become a key issue in the race. It also provides a useful reminder that this is not only a matter of his Israel stance but also of Campbell’s record on terrorism and Muslim extremism:

Long before [Campbell donor Sami] Al-Arian went to jail for supporting terror, he was a professor at the University of South Florida (USF) and a political activist with high-level contacts among American politicians. His brother-in-law, Mazen Al-Najjar, was imprisoned pending deportation based on secret evidence. Campbell took up the cause, visiting Al-Najjar in jail and introducing legislation critical of the government’s practice.

Campbell found himself on the side of Muslim-American civil rights groups. “The community that was most interested in this was the Muslim American community,” Campbell said in an interview last week, because 26 of the 28 people in jail under the secret evidence rule were Muslim. As a result of Campbell’s work, Al-Arian made campaign contributions totaling $1,300 to Campbell’s 2000 U.S. Senate run against Dianne Feinstein.

On May 23, 2000, Campbell testified before Congress in support of the “Secret Evidence Repeal Act,” mentioning Al-Najjar by name. Campbell shot down the government’s argument that barring secret evidence in immigration cases would lead to the release of terrorists, because the government would only need to forgo its use in immigration hearings. In his professorial style, Campbell compared the issue to other Constitutional abuses: “Why not give [suspected terrorists] truth serum, as long as they are in jail? If, like me, your stomach revolts at that thought, it must be because something in this Constitution prevents it.” That fall, Campbell lost the Senate election and left public office.

And, of course, Campbell then went on to write a letter on behalf of Al-Arian when the University of South Florida fired him. Campbell now claims it came at a time when he really was unaware of Al-Arian’s terrorist activities. (“‘A fellow law professor asked me as a matter of academic freedom to express concern about [Al-Arian],’ Campbell told The Jewish Journal. Campbell says that although he knew Al-Arian was an activist with controversial views on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, he had no idea Al-Arian actually was under criminal investigation by the FBI.”)

Well, as others have detailed, there was much in the public record at the time about an investigation into Al-Arian’s terrorist activities. Campbell’s defense of carelessness — “If I’m asked to write a letter on behalf of a professor, I should find out all I can about him” — doesn’t sound at all like the smart, methodical academic his boosters claim him to be.  The Journal quotes Republican Jewish Coalition executive director Matt Brooks: “If he’s offering a mea culpa, then I think that’s a signal to the Jewish community that he maybe would have done things differently. … It’s up to the voters to decide whether to accept his change of heart or not.”

Additionally, voters will have to consider what Campbell truly believes when it comes to anti-terrorism policies. He claims now to “strongly favor keeping Guantanamo and keeping enemy combatants under a prisoner-of-war status until the war on terror is over” and says he now actually would support the position that “enemy combatants and their supporters do not have Miranda rights or the right to confront the evidence against them.” That’s quite a change of heart for the former congressman who carried water for Al-Arian at a congressional hearing.

Voters will decide if Campbell has had a few too many changes of heart and whether his willingness to turn a blind eye toward the views of people like Israel-basher Alison Weir and Muslim extremists in the 1990s are disqualifying factors. Should he win the primary, his general-election opponent will certainly make the case that they are.

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The Legion of the Disappointed

Labor bosses are joining the ranks of the grumpy Obama backers who have come to discover that all their millions and all their boosterism have gotten them precious little. The New York Times has even figured it out:

The nation’s union leaders said on Tuesday that they were “appalled” at remarks made by President Obama condoning the mass firing of teachers at a Rhode Island high school. Coming the day after union presidents sharply complained to Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. over stubbornly high unemployment, stagnant wages and the administration’s failure to do more to create jobs, the statement — voicing a rare vehemence toward a Democratic president — underlined the disillusionment of an important Democratic constituency. Because unions have been so crucial to the Democrats election after election, political experts say labor’s ambivalence, or worse, toward the Democrats could greatly deepen that party’s woes this fall.

Big Labor, we are told by Charlie Cook, is “very disappointed, whether it’s about card check or the effort to tax Cadillac health plans. … They’re really disillusioned. I think one by one unions will start getting engaged and helping out the Democrats, but it could be half-hearted.” For some $200M or more that they spent electing Obama, not to mention millions for Democratic congressional candidates, labor bosses thought they’d get something. Card check? Nope. Jobs? Not unless you count the two car companies Obama rescued. A sweetheart deal on health care? Unlikely. (But before the Obami fret too much, it seems that union bosses are still willing to pony up $53M of their members’ dues to help save the Democrats in Congress.)

Even if union bosses threw more millions into the Democratic coffers, the question remains whether they really can get their members engaged on behalf of a president and a Congress that has done so little for them. After all, union households went for Scott Brown in Massachusetts. Nor is Big Labor the only aggrieved member of the Democratic coalition:

Mr. Obama and the Democrats face problems among much of their base. Women’s groups are angry that some Democrats are pushing new restrictions on abortion as part of the health care overhaul. Many Hispanic groups are upset that Mr. Obama has not pressed for immigration reform this year. And gay and lesbian groups are unhappy he has not ended “don’t ask, don’t tell” as a military policy.

Hmm. So union leaders and members, liberal women, gays, and Hispanics, plus independents, fiscal conservatives, foreign-policy-establishment types, business groups, and Tea Party protesters have all had it with Obama. Some are angry because he’s proved to be ineffectual in pushing their liberal agenda, while others are miffed to discover that he’s, in fact, a statist (albeit incompetent) liberal.

Any president is bound to disappoint some supporters, but this one has disappointed more than his share. Granted, once the blank slate Obama maintained during the campaign was finally written on, some of the deluded Obamaphiles were bound to be disappointed. For those who fell for the candidate who promised to go line-by-line through the budget and pledged not to let Iran develop nuclear weapons, there’s a queasy realization that they were snowed. And for those like Big Labor who overestimated Obama’s ability to get their wish list fulfilled, there’s an awakening that they too were had. They thought they were getting a transformational president. Right now they’d settle for a minimally competent one.

Not all of the Obama-miffed will stay home or vote Republican. But many will. And if it’s a wave election, sweeping in Republican majorities or near-majorities in both houses, Obama may yet prove to be transformational. In just a couple of years he will have fundamentally altered the political landscape and shaken apart the Democratic coalition that was essential to his victory. Not the transformation he had in mind, of course.

Labor bosses are joining the ranks of the grumpy Obama backers who have come to discover that all their millions and all their boosterism have gotten them precious little. The New York Times has even figured it out:

The nation’s union leaders said on Tuesday that they were “appalled” at remarks made by President Obama condoning the mass firing of teachers at a Rhode Island high school. Coming the day after union presidents sharply complained to Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. over stubbornly high unemployment, stagnant wages and the administration’s failure to do more to create jobs, the statement — voicing a rare vehemence toward a Democratic president — underlined the disillusionment of an important Democratic constituency. Because unions have been so crucial to the Democrats election after election, political experts say labor’s ambivalence, or worse, toward the Democrats could greatly deepen that party’s woes this fall.

Big Labor, we are told by Charlie Cook, is “very disappointed, whether it’s about card check or the effort to tax Cadillac health plans. … They’re really disillusioned. I think one by one unions will start getting engaged and helping out the Democrats, but it could be half-hearted.” For some $200M or more that they spent electing Obama, not to mention millions for Democratic congressional candidates, labor bosses thought they’d get something. Card check? Nope. Jobs? Not unless you count the two car companies Obama rescued. A sweetheart deal on health care? Unlikely. (But before the Obami fret too much, it seems that union bosses are still willing to pony up $53M of their members’ dues to help save the Democrats in Congress.)

Even if union bosses threw more millions into the Democratic coffers, the question remains whether they really can get their members engaged on behalf of a president and a Congress that has done so little for them. After all, union households went for Scott Brown in Massachusetts. Nor is Big Labor the only aggrieved member of the Democratic coalition:

Mr. Obama and the Democrats face problems among much of their base. Women’s groups are angry that some Democrats are pushing new restrictions on abortion as part of the health care overhaul. Many Hispanic groups are upset that Mr. Obama has not pressed for immigration reform this year. And gay and lesbian groups are unhappy he has not ended “don’t ask, don’t tell” as a military policy.

Hmm. So union leaders and members, liberal women, gays, and Hispanics, plus independents, fiscal conservatives, foreign-policy-establishment types, business groups, and Tea Party protesters have all had it with Obama. Some are angry because he’s proved to be ineffectual in pushing their liberal agenda, while others are miffed to discover that he’s, in fact, a statist (albeit incompetent) liberal.

Any president is bound to disappoint some supporters, but this one has disappointed more than his share. Granted, once the blank slate Obama maintained during the campaign was finally written on, some of the deluded Obamaphiles were bound to be disappointed. For those who fell for the candidate who promised to go line-by-line through the budget and pledged not to let Iran develop nuclear weapons, there’s a queasy realization that they were snowed. And for those like Big Labor who overestimated Obama’s ability to get their wish list fulfilled, there’s an awakening that they too were had. They thought they were getting a transformational president. Right now they’d settle for a minimally competent one.

Not all of the Obama-miffed will stay home or vote Republican. But many will. And if it’s a wave election, sweeping in Republican majorities or near-majorities in both houses, Obama may yet prove to be transformational. In just a couple of years he will have fundamentally altered the political landscape and shaken apart the Democratic coalition that was essential to his victory. Not the transformation he had in mind, of course.

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Reconciliation — The Last Gasp of the Left

Obama is going to pitch the country on reconciliation. If he’s as persuasive as he’s been on the underlying bill that he’s trying to ram through Congress, the public will recoil. And well they should. The Wall Street Journal‘s editors explain that it’s an effort “to permanently expand the American entitlement state with a vast apparatus of subsidies and regulations while the political window is still (barely) open, regardless of the consequences or the overwhelming popular condemnation.” It’s the final gambit (which might never come about unless Nancy Pelosi digs up some votes), made necessary because the president has failed to garner broad-based support for the bill:

Reconciliation is the last mathematical gasp for ObamaCare because Democrats can’t sell their policy to Senator Snowe, any other Republican, or even dozens of Democrats. This raw exercise of political power is of a piece with the copious corruption and bribery—such as the Cornhusker kickbacks and special tax benefits for union members—that liberals had to use to get even this far.

Democrats often point to welfare reform in 1996 as a reconciliation precedent, yet that bill passed the Senate with 78 votes, including Joe Biden and half of the Democratic caucus. The children’s health insurance program in 1997 was steered through Congress with reconciliation, but it, too, was built on strong (if misguided) bipartisan support. The Balanced Budget Act of 1997 that created Schip passed 85-15, including 43 Republicans. Even President Bush’s 2001 tax cuts, another case in reconciliation point, were endorsed by 12 Senate Democrats.

We’ll see if we get that far. The House Democrats may nip this in the bud, after all. But this is in some way the epitome of the modern Left: impervious to public opinion, indifferent to fiscal reality, and willing to operate through brute political force. Obama, when challenged on his ObamaCare fetish, pronounces “that’s what elections are for.” Well, suffice it to say that a majority of voters in 2008 never thought that this was what they were getting. But they can certainly comply with the president’s request for electoral clarity this time around.

Obama is going to pitch the country on reconciliation. If he’s as persuasive as he’s been on the underlying bill that he’s trying to ram through Congress, the public will recoil. And well they should. The Wall Street Journal‘s editors explain that it’s an effort “to permanently expand the American entitlement state with a vast apparatus of subsidies and regulations while the political window is still (barely) open, regardless of the consequences or the overwhelming popular condemnation.” It’s the final gambit (which might never come about unless Nancy Pelosi digs up some votes), made necessary because the president has failed to garner broad-based support for the bill:

Reconciliation is the last mathematical gasp for ObamaCare because Democrats can’t sell their policy to Senator Snowe, any other Republican, or even dozens of Democrats. This raw exercise of political power is of a piece with the copious corruption and bribery—such as the Cornhusker kickbacks and special tax benefits for union members—that liberals had to use to get even this far.

Democrats often point to welfare reform in 1996 as a reconciliation precedent, yet that bill passed the Senate with 78 votes, including Joe Biden and half of the Democratic caucus. The children’s health insurance program in 1997 was steered through Congress with reconciliation, but it, too, was built on strong (if misguided) bipartisan support. The Balanced Budget Act of 1997 that created Schip passed 85-15, including 43 Republicans. Even President Bush’s 2001 tax cuts, another case in reconciliation point, were endorsed by 12 Senate Democrats.

We’ll see if we get that far. The House Democrats may nip this in the bud, after all. But this is in some way the epitome of the modern Left: impervious to public opinion, indifferent to fiscal reality, and willing to operate through brute political force. Obama, when challenged on his ObamaCare fetish, pronounces “that’s what elections are for.” Well, suffice it to say that a majority of voters in 2008 never thought that this was what they were getting. But they can certainly comply with the president’s request for electoral clarity this time around.

Read Less

Flotsam and Jetsam

What passes for “science” with the global-warming crowd: “Crucial data on the American climate, part of the basis for proposed trillion-dollar global warming legislation, is churned out by a 120-year-old weather system that has remained mostly unchanged since Benjamin Harrison was in the White House. The network measures surface temperature by tallying paper reports sent in by snail mail from volunteers whose data, according to critics, often resembles a hodgepodge of guesswork, mathematical interpolation and simple human error.”

American unseriousness on Iran personified (from an unnamed official): “We are exploring a range of options to achieve our objectives of securing Iran’s compliance with the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and UNSCR resolutions.” But not any time soon: “Ambassador Emanuel Issoze-Ngondet, who is president of the Security Council for the month of March, said the Iranian nuclear issue was not on the agenda of the 15-nation panel this month, but council members might still hold a meeting on it. ‘We think the question could come to the table [in March],’ Issoze-Ngondet told reporters through an interpreter. ‘But right now we are waiting. We’re following the process that’s ongoing. We’re waiting for the right time to bring the Security Council to deal with it.'” Feel safer yet?

From the “Middle East is hard” file: “Vice President Joe Biden, President Obama’s big picture guy, is set to draw it for the Israelis next week in a major address: Confront Iran internationally, talk peace regionally. Bold strokes, but already Biden’s initiative is being dogged by scribbly little details — timing on Iran, building in Jerusalem, restoration in the West Bank, and just how far apart will Israelis and the Palestinians sit.” It’s a scribbly little detail that there’s no remote chance of a peace deal, I suppose.

Democratic infighting continues: “House Financial Services Committee Chairman Barney Frank on Tuesday blasted a proposal floated by Senate negotiators to place a proposed consumer protection agency inside the Federal Reserve. ‘I was incredulous,’ the Massachusetts Democrat said. ‘After all the Fed bashing we’ve heard? The Fed’s such a weak engine, so let’s give them consumer protection? It’s almost a bad joke. I was very disappointed.'” The proposal he’s bashing is Democratic Senator Chris Dodd’s.

Mickey Kaus doesn’t expect to win the California U.S. Senate race against Barbara Boxer. “My goal is to get attacked. If they notice me enough to attack me I will declare victory.” This is going to be fun.

James Taranto cracks: “If we were cynical, we’d suspect this is all a ruse–that Kaus’s real aim is to get an op-ed published in the New York Times when he fails to return the nomination papers in a timely fashion.”

Oh good grief: Dan Rather whines that there were only six women of 42 participants at the health-care summit. Yes, one was the Speaker of the House.

A good day at the Supreme Court for Second Amendment advocates: “The Supreme Court on Tuesday seemed poised to require state and local governments to obey the Second Amendment guarantee of a personal right to a gun, but with perhaps considerable authority to regulate that right.  The dominant sentiment on the Court was to extend the Amendment beyond the federal level, based on the 14th Amendment’s guarantee of ‘due process,’ since doing so through another part of the 14th Amendment would raise too many questions about what other rights might emerge.”

According to the latest Rasmussen poll, it doesn’t matter which Republican or Democrat is on the ballot in the Arkansas senate race; the Republican always leads. Could be true in a lot of states this year.

What passes for “science” with the global-warming crowd: “Crucial data on the American climate, part of the basis for proposed trillion-dollar global warming legislation, is churned out by a 120-year-old weather system that has remained mostly unchanged since Benjamin Harrison was in the White House. The network measures surface temperature by tallying paper reports sent in by snail mail from volunteers whose data, according to critics, often resembles a hodgepodge of guesswork, mathematical interpolation and simple human error.”

American unseriousness on Iran personified (from an unnamed official): “We are exploring a range of options to achieve our objectives of securing Iran’s compliance with the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and UNSCR resolutions.” But not any time soon: “Ambassador Emanuel Issoze-Ngondet, who is president of the Security Council for the month of March, said the Iranian nuclear issue was not on the agenda of the 15-nation panel this month, but council members might still hold a meeting on it. ‘We think the question could come to the table [in March],’ Issoze-Ngondet told reporters through an interpreter. ‘But right now we are waiting. We’re following the process that’s ongoing. We’re waiting for the right time to bring the Security Council to deal with it.'” Feel safer yet?

From the “Middle East is hard” file: “Vice President Joe Biden, President Obama’s big picture guy, is set to draw it for the Israelis next week in a major address: Confront Iran internationally, talk peace regionally. Bold strokes, but already Biden’s initiative is being dogged by scribbly little details — timing on Iran, building in Jerusalem, restoration in the West Bank, and just how far apart will Israelis and the Palestinians sit.” It’s a scribbly little detail that there’s no remote chance of a peace deal, I suppose.

Democratic infighting continues: “House Financial Services Committee Chairman Barney Frank on Tuesday blasted a proposal floated by Senate negotiators to place a proposed consumer protection agency inside the Federal Reserve. ‘I was incredulous,’ the Massachusetts Democrat said. ‘After all the Fed bashing we’ve heard? The Fed’s such a weak engine, so let’s give them consumer protection? It’s almost a bad joke. I was very disappointed.'” The proposal he’s bashing is Democratic Senator Chris Dodd’s.

Mickey Kaus doesn’t expect to win the California U.S. Senate race against Barbara Boxer. “My goal is to get attacked. If they notice me enough to attack me I will declare victory.” This is going to be fun.

James Taranto cracks: “If we were cynical, we’d suspect this is all a ruse–that Kaus’s real aim is to get an op-ed published in the New York Times when he fails to return the nomination papers in a timely fashion.”

Oh good grief: Dan Rather whines that there were only six women of 42 participants at the health-care summit. Yes, one was the Speaker of the House.

A good day at the Supreme Court for Second Amendment advocates: “The Supreme Court on Tuesday seemed poised to require state and local governments to obey the Second Amendment guarantee of a personal right to a gun, but with perhaps considerable authority to regulate that right.  The dominant sentiment on the Court was to extend the Amendment beyond the federal level, based on the 14th Amendment’s guarantee of ‘due process,’ since doing so through another part of the 14th Amendment would raise too many questions about what other rights might emerge.”

According to the latest Rasmussen poll, it doesn’t matter which Republican or Democrat is on the ballot in the Arkansas senate race; the Republican always leads. Could be true in a lot of states this year.

Read Less




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