Commentary Magazine


Posts For: March 8, 2010

RE: Campbell’s Al-Arian’s Letter Surfaces

Democrats have been quiet as the controversy swirls over Tom Campbell and his record on Israel and associations with Islamic extremists. They are perhaps biding their time to attack in the general election. If Campbell is to be the nominee, there is no use unloading now. But Ira N. Forman of the National Jewish Democratic Council has weighed in, telling me via email:

This past weekend former Congressman Tom Campbell complained he was being attacked as an anti-Semite. Despite Campbell’s protestation this is not an issue of anti-Semitism. Campbell simply does not have a great record of support for the U.S.-Israel relationship — his relationship with Sami al-Arian is just one manifestation of that record. For the Republican Jewish Coalition (RJC), the 11th Commandment — thou shall not criticize another Republican — is more important than their ongoing claim that they are all about Israel’s security.

Now, the NJDC has not exactly been at the forefront of criticism over the Obami’s hostile Israel policy, nor did the group utter a harsh word about Obama’ s bestowing the Medal of Freedom on Mary Robinson. So the reluctance to criticize their own side runs both ways. That said, Matt Brooks of the RJC previously did declare that Campbell’s record is a legitimate one for California Republicans to examine. (A request for comment from Brooks is outstanding.)

What is key here is that should he become the candidate in the general election, Campbell’s record, and his inconsistent explanations of that record, would be fair game. If California Republicans select him, they will need to prepare for an onslaught of legitimate criticism from both sides of the aisle.

Democrats have been quiet as the controversy swirls over Tom Campbell and his record on Israel and associations with Islamic extremists. They are perhaps biding their time to attack in the general election. If Campbell is to be the nominee, there is no use unloading now. But Ira N. Forman of the National Jewish Democratic Council has weighed in, telling me via email:

This past weekend former Congressman Tom Campbell complained he was being attacked as an anti-Semite. Despite Campbell’s protestation this is not an issue of anti-Semitism. Campbell simply does not have a great record of support for the U.S.-Israel relationship — his relationship with Sami al-Arian is just one manifestation of that record. For the Republican Jewish Coalition (RJC), the 11th Commandment — thou shall not criticize another Republican — is more important than their ongoing claim that they are all about Israel’s security.

Now, the NJDC has not exactly been at the forefront of criticism over the Obami’s hostile Israel policy, nor did the group utter a harsh word about Obama’ s bestowing the Medal of Freedom on Mary Robinson. So the reluctance to criticize their own side runs both ways. That said, Matt Brooks of the RJC previously did declare that Campbell’s record is a legitimate one for California Republicans to examine. (A request for comment from Brooks is outstanding.)

What is key here is that should he become the candidate in the general election, Campbell’s record, and his inconsistent explanations of that record, would be fair game. If California Republicans select him, they will need to prepare for an onslaught of legitimate criticism from both sides of the aisle.

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So Goes Iowa, So Goes the Nation

Peter Slevin of the Washington Post reports from Mason City, Iowa, and finds this:

Republican Terry Branstad’s lines have a familiar ring as he campaigns to return to the governor’s office after 11 years away. He blasts the incumbent Democrat for “mismanagement,” promising an “economic comeback” and the end of “more government than we can afford.”

The pitch is working. Early polls show Branstad with a lead as large as 20 points over Gov. Chet Culver (D), who is battling a poor economy and frustration fueled by Capitol Hill vitriol that incumbent politicians are not delivering.

The state that launched Barack Obama toward the presidency just two years ago is looking like a tough sell for Democrats in 2010. Culver is in trouble, Rep. Leonard Boswell (D) is threatened, and President Obama’s popularity has dropped by one-third since he took office.

Obama’s approval rating is 15 percent among Republicans — and only 38 percent among independents, a 10-point drop in three months. The biggest issues are the deficit, health care, and the economy. Republican strategist Craig Robinson sees “a dissatisfaction with everything Washington.” Republican state representative Pat Grassley, the 26-year-old grandson of U.S. Senator Charles E. Grassley, says, “I’m seeing people who have never e-mailed me in four years getting involved in issues. There’s frustration out there.”

There is indeed. There is in fact nothing at all unusual about this story from Iowa — which is itself noteworthy. What is happening there seems to be happening almost everywhere in America.

Democrats have a reason to be afraid. Very afraid.

Peter Slevin of the Washington Post reports from Mason City, Iowa, and finds this:

Republican Terry Branstad’s lines have a familiar ring as he campaigns to return to the governor’s office after 11 years away. He blasts the incumbent Democrat for “mismanagement,” promising an “economic comeback” and the end of “more government than we can afford.”

The pitch is working. Early polls show Branstad with a lead as large as 20 points over Gov. Chet Culver (D), who is battling a poor economy and frustration fueled by Capitol Hill vitriol that incumbent politicians are not delivering.

The state that launched Barack Obama toward the presidency just two years ago is looking like a tough sell for Democrats in 2010. Culver is in trouble, Rep. Leonard Boswell (D) is threatened, and President Obama’s popularity has dropped by one-third since he took office.

Obama’s approval rating is 15 percent among Republicans — and only 38 percent among independents, a 10-point drop in three months. The biggest issues are the deficit, health care, and the economy. Republican strategist Craig Robinson sees “a dissatisfaction with everything Washington.” Republican state representative Pat Grassley, the 26-year-old grandson of U.S. Senator Charles E. Grassley, says, “I’m seeing people who have never e-mailed me in four years getting involved in issues. There’s frustration out there.”

There is indeed. There is in fact nothing at all unusual about this story from Iowa — which is itself noteworthy. What is happening there seems to be happening almost everywhere in America.

Democrats have a reason to be afraid. Very afraid.

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The Spending-Limit Amendment

Last week, Representatives Mike Pence (R-Ind.), Jeb Henserling (R-Texas), and John Campbell (R-Calif.) introduced a joint resolution that would, if passed by two-thirds of each house and then by three-quarters of the states, amend the Constitution to limit federal spending to 20 percent of the Gross Domestic Product. Congress could waive the limit if a declaration of war was in effect (the last time Congress declared war was December 8, 1941, 68 years and two major and several minor wars ago). In peacetime it could override the limit by a two-thirds vote in each house.

As the congressmen explain at length here, 20 percent of GDP is the postwar historical average of federal spending. And, indeed, there is an inverse correlation between federal spending as a percentage of GDP and national economic prosperity. Michael Barone this morning has a good example of the relationship between government spending and prosperity. Current spending, enormously increased in the last year and a half, is currently about 24.7 percent of GDP. If ObamaCare etc. go through, federal spending will be at permanently higher levels.

Is this a way to go? Similar amendments have been around for at least 25 years and have never gone anywhere. Certainly the present Congress would pass a joint resolution against motherhood and apple pie before it passed this one. And even if it did, it is hard to imagine the legislatures of three-quarters of the states ratifying it. States have become ever more dependent on federal money over the past few decades and are especially so now, with state budgets bleeding red ink.

Even in prosperous times, it is not likely that state legislatures would vote to put limits on the federal gravy train. (Memo to the congressmen: the Constitution calls for amendments passed by Congress to be ratified either by state legislatures or by conventions called in each state for that purpose, at the option of Congress. The latter method has only been used once, to repeal Prohibition, when Congress knew that many state legislatures were under the thumb of “the preachers and the bootleggers.” If you’re serious about passing this amendment, conventions of citizens elected to address the matter are the answer. The Tea Partiers would have a field day.)

The proposed amendment also states that the “Congress shall have the power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.” By not specifying how to define GDP, that’s an open invitation to cook the books, something at which Congress is very expert.

Personally, I think this amendment is misguided and might seriously hamstring the federal government under certain circumstances and lead to even worse book-cooking. California’s requirement that taxes be raised only with a two-thirds vote in each house of the state legislature hasn’t restrained state spending and only caused a grand proliferation of accounting smoke and mirrors. California is facing fiscal ruin.

I’d prefer an amendment requiring the federal government to keep honest books and have those books audited by a genuinely independent authority, which would also “score” proposed legislation as the CBO does now. But an independent authority would have the power to ask the questions, not just answer the ones Congress asks. Congress wouldn’t like that idea any better than linking spending to GDP. But it is very hard to come up with an argument as to why the federal government should be allowed to use phony accounting.

Last week, Representatives Mike Pence (R-Ind.), Jeb Henserling (R-Texas), and John Campbell (R-Calif.) introduced a joint resolution that would, if passed by two-thirds of each house and then by three-quarters of the states, amend the Constitution to limit federal spending to 20 percent of the Gross Domestic Product. Congress could waive the limit if a declaration of war was in effect (the last time Congress declared war was December 8, 1941, 68 years and two major and several minor wars ago). In peacetime it could override the limit by a two-thirds vote in each house.

As the congressmen explain at length here, 20 percent of GDP is the postwar historical average of federal spending. And, indeed, there is an inverse correlation between federal spending as a percentage of GDP and national economic prosperity. Michael Barone this morning has a good example of the relationship between government spending and prosperity. Current spending, enormously increased in the last year and a half, is currently about 24.7 percent of GDP. If ObamaCare etc. go through, federal spending will be at permanently higher levels.

Is this a way to go? Similar amendments have been around for at least 25 years and have never gone anywhere. Certainly the present Congress would pass a joint resolution against motherhood and apple pie before it passed this one. And even if it did, it is hard to imagine the legislatures of three-quarters of the states ratifying it. States have become ever more dependent on federal money over the past few decades and are especially so now, with state budgets bleeding red ink.

Even in prosperous times, it is not likely that state legislatures would vote to put limits on the federal gravy train. (Memo to the congressmen: the Constitution calls for amendments passed by Congress to be ratified either by state legislatures or by conventions called in each state for that purpose, at the option of Congress. The latter method has only been used once, to repeal Prohibition, when Congress knew that many state legislatures were under the thumb of “the preachers and the bootleggers.” If you’re serious about passing this amendment, conventions of citizens elected to address the matter are the answer. The Tea Partiers would have a field day.)

The proposed amendment also states that the “Congress shall have the power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.” By not specifying how to define GDP, that’s an open invitation to cook the books, something at which Congress is very expert.

Personally, I think this amendment is misguided and might seriously hamstring the federal government under certain circumstances and lead to even worse book-cooking. California’s requirement that taxes be raised only with a two-thirds vote in each house of the state legislature hasn’t restrained state spending and only caused a grand proliferation of accounting smoke and mirrors. California is facing fiscal ruin.

I’d prefer an amendment requiring the federal government to keep honest books and have those books audited by a genuinely independent authority, which would also “score” proposed legislation as the CBO does now. But an independent authority would have the power to ask the questions, not just answer the ones Congress asks. Congress wouldn’t like that idea any better than linking spending to GDP. But it is very hard to come up with an argument as to why the federal government should be allowed to use phony accounting.

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No Chaos Here, Just Move Along

This headline probably isn’t what the White House and congressional Democrats want to see: “Pelosi Hits Rough Patch, Denies ‘Chaos.’” Well, yes, if you have to deny it, then that’s probably a sign things are not well in paradise. The gist of the report is that Nancy Pelosi (not unlike the White House) is out of touch and in far-Left field:

Last week’s threatened Democratic defections in support of a planned GOP resolution concerning New York Rep. Charles Rangel’s ethical problems, a mini-insurrection over who should take over Rangel’s Ways and Means Committee gavel, and Pelosi’s weirdly detached admission to being left out of the loop about harassment charges against Rep. Eric Massa, D-N.Y., left even some House Democrats wincing.

All of this did little to soothe the nerves of Caucus members already jittery over predictions of a Democratic free-fall in the upcoming midterm elections. It’s a fear described by one senior House Democrat as “palpable and pervasive.”

A bad week? Pelosi acknowledged as much herself at her weekly briefing Thursday when asked if she felt like she was now leading “a party in crisis.”
“Some of the issues that you reference in terms of the issues that transpired in the last few days, they are behind us,” she said.

But the week’s events represented a highly visible — if not embarrassing — bit of unraveling of the cohesion within the Democratic Caucus that Pelosi has, for the most part, tightly controlled since taking the speaker’s gavel in 2007.

The problem seems to be that many moderate Democrats fear she is in the grip of the far Left in her caucus:

“Across the Caucus, there is growing dissatisfaction and resentment — not so much directed at Pelosi — but with her cadre of California liberals seen as continually driving her House agenda, regardless of the hits the rest of us will have to take,” said one House Democrat. … “She seems to only be listening to this small cadre, and the rank and file are expected to simply fall in line,” complained a senior Democrat; he said this is contributing to Caucus animosity over the prospect of being asked once again to walk the plank on a healthcare bill, after already passing a bill last year, on top of climate legislation establishing a cap-and-trade emissions program.

This is nothing new. What is new is that those members who aren’t in safe seats (a growing group thanks to the Obami) now see their political future imperiled by Pelosi’s extremism. And they’ve also come to acknowledge that she’s less than competent in both representing the House Democrats to the public and draining that swamp she promised to take care of when she assumed the speakership. The result is that her credibility erodes, the arm-twisting is less effective, and it’s every member for himself. That’s probably wise for the endangered members who can get themselves better aligned with their constituents. It’s not so good, however, for ObamaCare’s prospects. Meanwhile, Majority Leader Steny Hoyer must be licking his chops. After November, his colleagues would be wise to look for new leadership.

This headline probably isn’t what the White House and congressional Democrats want to see: “Pelosi Hits Rough Patch, Denies ‘Chaos.’” Well, yes, if you have to deny it, then that’s probably a sign things are not well in paradise. The gist of the report is that Nancy Pelosi (not unlike the White House) is out of touch and in far-Left field:

Last week’s threatened Democratic defections in support of a planned GOP resolution concerning New York Rep. Charles Rangel’s ethical problems, a mini-insurrection over who should take over Rangel’s Ways and Means Committee gavel, and Pelosi’s weirdly detached admission to being left out of the loop about harassment charges against Rep. Eric Massa, D-N.Y., left even some House Democrats wincing.

All of this did little to soothe the nerves of Caucus members already jittery over predictions of a Democratic free-fall in the upcoming midterm elections. It’s a fear described by one senior House Democrat as “palpable and pervasive.”

A bad week? Pelosi acknowledged as much herself at her weekly briefing Thursday when asked if she felt like she was now leading “a party in crisis.”
“Some of the issues that you reference in terms of the issues that transpired in the last few days, they are behind us,” she said.

But the week’s events represented a highly visible — if not embarrassing — bit of unraveling of the cohesion within the Democratic Caucus that Pelosi has, for the most part, tightly controlled since taking the speaker’s gavel in 2007.

The problem seems to be that many moderate Democrats fear she is in the grip of the far Left in her caucus:

“Across the Caucus, there is growing dissatisfaction and resentment — not so much directed at Pelosi — but with her cadre of California liberals seen as continually driving her House agenda, regardless of the hits the rest of us will have to take,” said one House Democrat. … “She seems to only be listening to this small cadre, and the rank and file are expected to simply fall in line,” complained a senior Democrat; he said this is contributing to Caucus animosity over the prospect of being asked once again to walk the plank on a healthcare bill, after already passing a bill last year, on top of climate legislation establishing a cap-and-trade emissions program.

This is nothing new. What is new is that those members who aren’t in safe seats (a growing group thanks to the Obami) now see their political future imperiled by Pelosi’s extremism. And they’ve also come to acknowledge that she’s less than competent in both representing the House Democrats to the public and draining that swamp she promised to take care of when she assumed the speakership. The result is that her credibility erodes, the arm-twisting is less effective, and it’s every member for himself. That’s probably wise for the endangered members who can get themselves better aligned with their constituents. It’s not so good, however, for ObamaCare’s prospects. Meanwhile, Majority Leader Steny Hoyer must be licking his chops. After November, his colleagues would be wise to look for new leadership.

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Dueling with Andrew Sullivan

A couple of days ago Andrew Sullivan wrote, “This week Peter Wehner read Newsweek‘s Iraq cover story and declared victory.” He added this:

How many times has Pete Wehner declared victory? I’ll be covering the elections this weekend with purple fingers crossed. But I remain a pessimist on Iraq, which is always a safe thing to be.

The answer to Andrew’s question is: none. In virtually every posting I have done on Iraq, I have inserted necessary qualifiers, as I did in the piece Sullivan links to. I wrote, for example, that “the successes there remain fragile and can still be undone. Iraq has proven to be treacherous terrain for foreign powers.” I added, “Nothing is guaranteed; ‘Everything in Iraq is hard,’ Ambassador Crocker once said.”

My points were rather different from what Andrew says, and fairly obvious. They were that: (a) the progress in Iraq has been truly remarkable, especially when one considers where things were at the end of 2006; (b) the “emergence of politics” that we are seeing in Iraq is unprecedented in the Arab world; (c) President Bush’s decision to champion a new counterinsurgency strategy was right, wise, and politically courageous; (d) the opponents of the surge were wrong and in some instances irresponsible; and (e) the surge is one of the greatest military turnabouts in American military history. None of these assertions is really in dispute. Neither is the claim that Iraq is on the mend.

What eventually happens in Iraq is impossible to know; it increasingly depends on the Iraqis, themselves. We will see what unfolds in the months and years ahead. It will take at least that long before a final judgment can be rendered. But what we do know is that America has given Iraq a chance to succeed, to live in freedom, to be free of a sadistic ruler. And doing that was, in fact, a noble act by our nation. Why is Sullivan reluctant to acknowledge this, even as one can still debate the wisdom of the war itself?

I will leave the last word to Sullivan’s Atlantic colleague Jeffrey Goldberg, who put things this way: “Andrew Sullivan doesn’t know that much about the Middle East.”

A couple of days ago Andrew Sullivan wrote, “This week Peter Wehner read Newsweek‘s Iraq cover story and declared victory.” He added this:

How many times has Pete Wehner declared victory? I’ll be covering the elections this weekend with purple fingers crossed. But I remain a pessimist on Iraq, which is always a safe thing to be.

The answer to Andrew’s question is: none. In virtually every posting I have done on Iraq, I have inserted necessary qualifiers, as I did in the piece Sullivan links to. I wrote, for example, that “the successes there remain fragile and can still be undone. Iraq has proven to be treacherous terrain for foreign powers.” I added, “Nothing is guaranteed; ‘Everything in Iraq is hard,’ Ambassador Crocker once said.”

My points were rather different from what Andrew says, and fairly obvious. They were that: (a) the progress in Iraq has been truly remarkable, especially when one considers where things were at the end of 2006; (b) the “emergence of politics” that we are seeing in Iraq is unprecedented in the Arab world; (c) President Bush’s decision to champion a new counterinsurgency strategy was right, wise, and politically courageous; (d) the opponents of the surge were wrong and in some instances irresponsible; and (e) the surge is one of the greatest military turnabouts in American military history. None of these assertions is really in dispute. Neither is the claim that Iraq is on the mend.

What eventually happens in Iraq is impossible to know; it increasingly depends on the Iraqis, themselves. We will see what unfolds in the months and years ahead. It will take at least that long before a final judgment can be rendered. But what we do know is that America has given Iraq a chance to succeed, to live in freedom, to be free of a sadistic ruler. And doing that was, in fact, a noble act by our nation. Why is Sullivan reluctant to acknowledge this, even as one can still debate the wisdom of the war itself?

I will leave the last word to Sullivan’s Atlantic colleague Jeffrey Goldberg, who put things this way: “Andrew Sullivan doesn’t know that much about the Middle East.”

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Journalism’s Worst Crime

“There’s no worse crime in journalism these days than simply deciding something’s a story because Drudge links to it,” according to NBC’s chief White House correspondent, Chuck Todd. Really? No worse crime? Not Dan Rather’s use of forged documents in a one-sided 60 Minutes hit piece intended to cost President Bush re-election? Not the plagiarism and fabrications of former New York Times reporter Jayson Blair and the New Republic’s Stephen Glass?

There are, in fact, an endless number of “crimes” in journalism that are worse than deciding something is a story because Matt Drudge links to it.

And while we’re on this topic: exactly who should decide what qualifies as a news story? Chuck Todd believes Chuck Todd should. Mr. Todd, of course, works for NBC and MSNBC – the latter being the most partisan and reckless cable news network in America, home to such magisterial journalists as Keith Olbermann, Ed Schultz, Chris Matthews, and Rachel Maddow. So why should we trust Todd’s judgment over Matt Drudge’s? Because Todd is part of the “old” media, of course. Because he’s an “objective journalist” who is able to sort through all the news of the day and determine what merits attention and what does not.

Mr. Todd’s comments embody a particular mindset – one deeply resentful that the MSM is no longer the gatekeeper of the news, that there are now hundreds of outlets and blogs that influence the news and allow the American people a choice in what they are able to watch. The old guard hates the competition – and they hate the end of their monopoly. That’s understandable; every person who has been a part of a monopoly has resented its end, even if it advances the public interest.

Chuck Todd and his colleagues can continue to howl into the wind. They can continue to complain and plead their case. It doesn’t much matter. Events have moved way beyond them. The genie is out of the bottle, and there’s no turning back.

“There’s no worse crime in journalism these days than simply deciding something’s a story because Drudge links to it,” according to NBC’s chief White House correspondent, Chuck Todd. Really? No worse crime? Not Dan Rather’s use of forged documents in a one-sided 60 Minutes hit piece intended to cost President Bush re-election? Not the plagiarism and fabrications of former New York Times reporter Jayson Blair and the New Republic’s Stephen Glass?

There are, in fact, an endless number of “crimes” in journalism that are worse than deciding something is a story because Matt Drudge links to it.

And while we’re on this topic: exactly who should decide what qualifies as a news story? Chuck Todd believes Chuck Todd should. Mr. Todd, of course, works for NBC and MSNBC – the latter being the most partisan and reckless cable news network in America, home to such magisterial journalists as Keith Olbermann, Ed Schultz, Chris Matthews, and Rachel Maddow. So why should we trust Todd’s judgment over Matt Drudge’s? Because Todd is part of the “old” media, of course. Because he’s an “objective journalist” who is able to sort through all the news of the day and determine what merits attention and what does not.

Mr. Todd’s comments embody a particular mindset – one deeply resentful that the MSM is no longer the gatekeeper of the news, that there are now hundreds of outlets and blogs that influence the news and allow the American people a choice in what they are able to watch. The old guard hates the competition – and they hate the end of their monopoly. That’s understandable; every person who has been a part of a monopoly has resented its end, even if it advances the public interest.

Chuck Todd and his colleagues can continue to howl into the wind. They can continue to complain and plead their case. It doesn’t much matter. Events have moved way beyond them. The genie is out of the bottle, and there’s no turning back.

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Band-Aids for Band-Aids for Band-Aids

Out on the health-care stump in Pennsylvania today, President Obama talked up the importance of competitive markets:

He continued, “An insurance broker told Wall Street investors that insurance companies know they will lose customers if they keep raising premiums. But since there’s so little competition in the insurance industry, they’re okay with people being priced out of health insurance because they’ll still make more by raising premiums on the customers they have. And they will keep doing this for as long as they can get away with it.”

Or until someone with common sense allows people to cross state lines to purchase insurance.  But that would break the self-replicating chain of big government, so it’s not going to happen.

Here’s what always does happen: Democrats use disasters brought on by regulation to justify further regulation. Restraining insurance companies won’t be the last step in that chain, of course. When government-imposed price caps suck the incentive out for insurance providers, lawmakers will go on TV wielding a report about how underserved the insured have become. This will justify new guidelines for what providers will then have to offer. It never ends.

We saw this with the housing boom and bust. Government-imposed equality of ownership distorted the market. The follow-up disaster demanded — what else? — government-imposed regulation. Wealth redistribution is the gift that keeps on taking.

Out on the health-care stump in Pennsylvania today, President Obama talked up the importance of competitive markets:

He continued, “An insurance broker told Wall Street investors that insurance companies know they will lose customers if they keep raising premiums. But since there’s so little competition in the insurance industry, they’re okay with people being priced out of health insurance because they’ll still make more by raising premiums on the customers they have. And they will keep doing this for as long as they can get away with it.”

Or until someone with common sense allows people to cross state lines to purchase insurance.  But that would break the self-replicating chain of big government, so it’s not going to happen.

Here’s what always does happen: Democrats use disasters brought on by regulation to justify further regulation. Restraining insurance companies won’t be the last step in that chain, of course. When government-imposed price caps suck the incentive out for insurance providers, lawmakers will go on TV wielding a report about how underserved the insured have become. This will justify new guidelines for what providers will then have to offer. It never ends.

We saw this with the housing boom and bust. Government-imposed equality of ownership distorted the market. The follow-up disaster demanded — what else? — government-imposed regulation. Wealth redistribution is the gift that keeps on taking.

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Doubtful Democrats

The big moment, the game changer, never comes. That’s been the story on health care for over a year. We had the September speech. We had the State of the Union. We had the health-care summit. Obama never garners the momentum from these events to change minds and votes. Indeed, the passage of time and the repetition of dubious talking points have unnerved Democrats whose votes are essential. This report explains:

On Sunday, two Democrats who hold swing votes said they were focusing on how much money the overhaul would actually save, both for employers and insured workers, and for the federal government. The House and Senate have passed competing bills, and leaders now are putting together a compromise version. Details on cost savings are still being worked out.

“If the House and Senate can’t work out cost containment, I don’t see how I could support a bill that doesn’t help our business community,” Rep. John Adler (D., N.J.) said on “Fox News Sunday.” “I’m not sure we’ve gone far enough in terms of fixing the underlying system to make it affordable for businesses and taxpayers.”

Rep. Jason Altmire (D., Pa.), also appearing on Fox, said he needed “to see a much clearer picture of the cost containment.” He suggested strengthening provisions in the bill aimed at shifting the way providers are reimbursed, to be based on quality of care rather than the number of procedures performed. Critics say the government’s current fee-for-service reimbursement system within its Medicare program encourages providers to offer patients unnecessary procedures.

Why hasn’t the president been able to win over these and the other needed House Democrats? Well, the nature of the bill simply cannot be disguised – it’s a massive new entitlement, a huge tax increase, a whack at Medicare, and set of Rube Goldberg funding gimmicks designed to conceal the true cost. The lawmakers know it, and the public knows it.

So all that is left is to see if the congressional leaders can cajole their members into passing something that is neither substantively nor politically sound. Unfortunately, the bribery and strong-arming needed to do that only intensifies the public’s disgust for the process and for the lawmakers who are pushing this on them. The longer this goes on, the less sense ObamaCare makes, especially to those who really have no reason to throw themselves over a cliff so that Obama-Reid-Pelosi can spare themselves humiliation. After all, the troika can come up with a face-saving, bare-bones deal, the lawmakers can tell the voters they did something, and they can get back to the Democratic members’ real concern — trying to save themselves from the angry electorate.

The big moment, the game changer, never comes. That’s been the story on health care for over a year. We had the September speech. We had the State of the Union. We had the health-care summit. Obama never garners the momentum from these events to change minds and votes. Indeed, the passage of time and the repetition of dubious talking points have unnerved Democrats whose votes are essential. This report explains:

On Sunday, two Democrats who hold swing votes said they were focusing on how much money the overhaul would actually save, both for employers and insured workers, and for the federal government. The House and Senate have passed competing bills, and leaders now are putting together a compromise version. Details on cost savings are still being worked out.

“If the House and Senate can’t work out cost containment, I don’t see how I could support a bill that doesn’t help our business community,” Rep. John Adler (D., N.J.) said on “Fox News Sunday.” “I’m not sure we’ve gone far enough in terms of fixing the underlying system to make it affordable for businesses and taxpayers.”

Rep. Jason Altmire (D., Pa.), also appearing on Fox, said he needed “to see a much clearer picture of the cost containment.” He suggested strengthening provisions in the bill aimed at shifting the way providers are reimbursed, to be based on quality of care rather than the number of procedures performed. Critics say the government’s current fee-for-service reimbursement system within its Medicare program encourages providers to offer patients unnecessary procedures.

Why hasn’t the president been able to win over these and the other needed House Democrats? Well, the nature of the bill simply cannot be disguised – it’s a massive new entitlement, a huge tax increase, a whack at Medicare, and set of Rube Goldberg funding gimmicks designed to conceal the true cost. The lawmakers know it, and the public knows it.

So all that is left is to see if the congressional leaders can cajole their members into passing something that is neither substantively nor politically sound. Unfortunately, the bribery and strong-arming needed to do that only intensifies the public’s disgust for the process and for the lawmakers who are pushing this on them. The longer this goes on, the less sense ObamaCare makes, especially to those who really have no reason to throw themselves over a cliff so that Obama-Reid-Pelosi can spare themselves humiliation. After all, the troika can come up with a face-saving, bare-bones deal, the lawmakers can tell the voters they did something, and they can get back to the Democratic members’ real concern — trying to save themselves from the angry electorate.

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RE: Jumping When Unions Holler

A keen-eyed reader sounds the day’s irony alert: while the administration and the Democratic congressional leaders are undermining scholarship opportunities for poor, minority D.C. schoolkids, the administration is out touting its commitment to “civil rights” in education. No, really:

U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan will call today for stepped up enforcement of civil rights laws in America’s schools and colleges, as the Obama administration pushes to overhaul the nation’s education system and improve opportunities for minorities. … The Education Department will send out a series of letters to all U.S. schools and colleges, giving guidance on 17 topics related to equal access to education for minorities, women and students with disabilities, said Russlynn Ali, assistant secretary for civil rights. The department also plans to review one school district’s treatment of students who speak English as a second language, she said. She declined to name the school.

For this crew, “civil rights” apparently doesn’t include promoting opportunities to go to a decent school. For the Obami, the civil rights bogey men are still white bigots and sometimes hapless bureaucrats. The solution is lawyers — lots of them, filing all sorts of lawsuits for any perceived racial slight and ready to pounce on school officials who have not complied with the myriad of “equal access” rules. And perish the thought that we should insist on children learning English!

But aren’t teachers unions the ones blocking the school doors that D.C. kids want to enter (e.g., the Sidwell Friends School, where Obama’s kids go and which is accessible only by scholarship for these children)? Really, the Obami’s is a cramped view of civil rights, indeed — one that neatly spares the Democrats the difficulty of telling their most generous campaign donors to back off. It is intensely self-serving and ultimately harmful to the minority kids the administration claims to care so much about.

A keen-eyed reader sounds the day’s irony alert: while the administration and the Democratic congressional leaders are undermining scholarship opportunities for poor, minority D.C. schoolkids, the administration is out touting its commitment to “civil rights” in education. No, really:

U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan will call today for stepped up enforcement of civil rights laws in America’s schools and colleges, as the Obama administration pushes to overhaul the nation’s education system and improve opportunities for minorities. … The Education Department will send out a series of letters to all U.S. schools and colleges, giving guidance on 17 topics related to equal access to education for minorities, women and students with disabilities, said Russlynn Ali, assistant secretary for civil rights. The department also plans to review one school district’s treatment of students who speak English as a second language, she said. She declined to name the school.

For this crew, “civil rights” apparently doesn’t include promoting opportunities to go to a decent school. For the Obami, the civil rights bogey men are still white bigots and sometimes hapless bureaucrats. The solution is lawyers — lots of them, filing all sorts of lawsuits for any perceived racial slight and ready to pounce on school officials who have not complied with the myriad of “equal access” rules. And perish the thought that we should insist on children learning English!

But aren’t teachers unions the ones blocking the school doors that D.C. kids want to enter (e.g., the Sidwell Friends School, where Obama’s kids go and which is accessible only by scholarship for these children)? Really, the Obami’s is a cramped view of civil rights, indeed — one that neatly spares the Democrats the difficulty of telling their most generous campaign donors to back off. It is intensely self-serving and ultimately harmful to the minority kids the administration claims to care so much about.

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Jumping When Unions Holler

Obama’s promise of  a better, cleaner, and more transparent brand of politics has not been fulfilled. Not by a long shot. The president appoints the SEIU boss to the deficit commission. Congress behind closed doors churns out colorfully named sweetheart deals on ObamaCare. And then they really reveal the depths of their dependence on special-interest patrons.

Writing in the Washington Post, Kelly Amis and Joseph E. Robert Jr. explain that the $450 billion spending bill last year “effectively dismantled a small, successful education program benefiting low-income children in the nation’s capital.” All hope is not lost that a scholarship reviled by Big Labor as a threat to its education monopoly may disappear. But we’re getting close. Sen. Joseph Lieberman (I-Conn.) is trying to restore the program. Unfortunately, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) may prevent the Senate from even voting on the measure. He has, it seems, little support from Democrats:

Who wants to vote against an effective program serving poor minority children?

Congress needed only to reauthorize the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program — as the local community asked it to do and as the research should have compelled it to do — but the members who mattered ignored the families outside their white marble offices, even rescinding scholarships to hundreds of hopeful students.

Where is Obama in all this? Nowhere to be found. They write:

Obama could have stood up for these children, who only want the same opportunities that he had and that his daughters now have. Instead, his education secretary, Arne Duncan, proffered an argument that would be funny if it weren’t so sad: Scholarships for poor students aren’t worth supporting because not enough of them are given out.

Note to Duncan: You could give out more.

The mayor and school chancellor support the scholarship plan but not the Democratic leadership. (“Unfortunately, congressional leaders — especially Rep. Jose Serrano (D-N.Y.), Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.) and Sen. Richard Durbin (D-Ill.) — crumpled before teachers union threats, led by American Federation of Teachers (AFT) President Randi Weingarten, who declared everything open to negotiation ‘except vouchers.’”) Vouchers, of course, threaten to send students to schools with no teacher unions, and teacher unions are in the business of sustaining their unions, not in maximizing educational opportunities for students. So the union squawks, the Democrats jump, and the D.C. kids get the short end of the stick.

Amis and Robert note that there is a bipartisan group — which includes Sens. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Susan Collins (R-Maine), Robert Byrd (D-W.Va.), George Voinovich (R-Ohio), and John Ensign (R-Nev.) — seeking to save the program. But what the D.C. schoolchildren and their parents need is the president and Senate and House Democratic leadership. Too bad they’ve got Big Labor patrons to mollify.

Obama’s promise of  a better, cleaner, and more transparent brand of politics has not been fulfilled. Not by a long shot. The president appoints the SEIU boss to the deficit commission. Congress behind closed doors churns out colorfully named sweetheart deals on ObamaCare. And then they really reveal the depths of their dependence on special-interest patrons.

Writing in the Washington Post, Kelly Amis and Joseph E. Robert Jr. explain that the $450 billion spending bill last year “effectively dismantled a small, successful education program benefiting low-income children in the nation’s capital.” All hope is not lost that a scholarship reviled by Big Labor as a threat to its education monopoly may disappear. But we’re getting close. Sen. Joseph Lieberman (I-Conn.) is trying to restore the program. Unfortunately, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) may prevent the Senate from even voting on the measure. He has, it seems, little support from Democrats:

Who wants to vote against an effective program serving poor minority children?

Congress needed only to reauthorize the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program — as the local community asked it to do and as the research should have compelled it to do — but the members who mattered ignored the families outside their white marble offices, even rescinding scholarships to hundreds of hopeful students.

Where is Obama in all this? Nowhere to be found. They write:

Obama could have stood up for these children, who only want the same opportunities that he had and that his daughters now have. Instead, his education secretary, Arne Duncan, proffered an argument that would be funny if it weren’t so sad: Scholarships for poor students aren’t worth supporting because not enough of them are given out.

Note to Duncan: You could give out more.

The mayor and school chancellor support the scholarship plan but not the Democratic leadership. (“Unfortunately, congressional leaders — especially Rep. Jose Serrano (D-N.Y.), Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.) and Sen. Richard Durbin (D-Ill.) — crumpled before teachers union threats, led by American Federation of Teachers (AFT) President Randi Weingarten, who declared everything open to negotiation ‘except vouchers.’”) Vouchers, of course, threaten to send students to schools with no teacher unions, and teacher unions are in the business of sustaining their unions, not in maximizing educational opportunities for students. So the union squawks, the Democrats jump, and the D.C. kids get the short end of the stick.

Amis and Robert note that there is a bipartisan group — which includes Sens. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Susan Collins (R-Maine), Robert Byrd (D-W.Va.), George Voinovich (R-Ohio), and John Ensign (R-Nev.) — seeking to save the program. But what the D.C. schoolchildren and their parents need is the president and Senate and House Democratic leadership. Too bad they’ve got Big Labor patrons to mollify.

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Here We Go Again

As the Obama administration is poised to proceed with “indirect” talks between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, the chances for success in the foreseeable future are virtually nil. The PA president (a) is in the 62nd month of his 48-month term, unable to hold (and in any event unwilling to risk) new elections; (b) heads a party still corroded by corruption; (c) governs only half the putative Palestinian state; and (d) is unable to dismantle the Iranian proxy that rules Gaza. Even if an agreement could be reached on any “core” issues, the PA would be in no position to carry it out.

As Robert Malley noted in useful testimony last week in a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing:

Mahmoud Abbas is President, though his term has expired; he heads the PLO, though the Organization’s authority has long waned. Salam Fayyad, the effective and resourceful Prime Minister, cannot govern in Gaza and, in the West Bank, must govern over much of Fatah’s objection. Hamas has grown into a national and regional phenomenon, and it now has Gaza solidly in its hands. But the Islamist movement itself is at an impasse — besieged in Gaza, suppressed in the West Bank, at odds with most Arab states, with little prospect for Palestinian reconciliation. …

All of which leaves room for doubt whether the Palestinian national movement, as it currently stands, can confidently and effectively conduct negotiations for a final peace agreement, sell a putative agreement to its people, and, if popularly endorsed, make it stick.

Malley’s testimony also noted that Benjamin Netanyahu’s positions reflect a broad Israeli consensus — one that emerged after withdrawals from Lebanon and Gaza resulted in new wars and after the Palestinian Authority in 2008 rejected (yet again) an offer of a state on virtually all the West Bank after land swaps. Israel’s rejection in the new negotiations of the indefensible 1967 borders and a “right of return” will be positions that extend far beyond the Israeli right wing:

Netanyahu’s insistence on Palestinian recognition of a Jewish state as much as his demands for far more stringent security — and thus, territorial — arrangements — are not mere pretexts to avoid a deal and are far more than the expressions of a passing political mood. They reflect deep-seated popular sentiment regarding the yearning for true Arab recognition and acceptance and fear of novel, unconventional security threats. New coalition partners or new elections might change the atmosphere. They are not about to change the underlying frame of mind.

In the past 10 years, the PA received three formal offers of a state — at Camp David, in the Clinton Parameters, and in the Olmert offer — and rejected them all. The Fayyad plan to build the institutions of a Palestinian state over the next two years is an implicit admission that the three offers of a state were made to an entity that did not have the basic institutions necessary for one — and does not have them now. The Malley testimony makes it clear that the entity also does not have the ability or authority to negotiate a peace agreement, much less implement one.

As the Obama administration is poised to proceed with “indirect” talks between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, the chances for success in the foreseeable future are virtually nil. The PA president (a) is in the 62nd month of his 48-month term, unable to hold (and in any event unwilling to risk) new elections; (b) heads a party still corroded by corruption; (c) governs only half the putative Palestinian state; and (d) is unable to dismantle the Iranian proxy that rules Gaza. Even if an agreement could be reached on any “core” issues, the PA would be in no position to carry it out.

As Robert Malley noted in useful testimony last week in a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing:

Mahmoud Abbas is President, though his term has expired; he heads the PLO, though the Organization’s authority has long waned. Salam Fayyad, the effective and resourceful Prime Minister, cannot govern in Gaza and, in the West Bank, must govern over much of Fatah’s objection. Hamas has grown into a national and regional phenomenon, and it now has Gaza solidly in its hands. But the Islamist movement itself is at an impasse — besieged in Gaza, suppressed in the West Bank, at odds with most Arab states, with little prospect for Palestinian reconciliation. …

All of which leaves room for doubt whether the Palestinian national movement, as it currently stands, can confidently and effectively conduct negotiations for a final peace agreement, sell a putative agreement to its people, and, if popularly endorsed, make it stick.

Malley’s testimony also noted that Benjamin Netanyahu’s positions reflect a broad Israeli consensus — one that emerged after withdrawals from Lebanon and Gaza resulted in new wars and after the Palestinian Authority in 2008 rejected (yet again) an offer of a state on virtually all the West Bank after land swaps. Israel’s rejection in the new negotiations of the indefensible 1967 borders and a “right of return” will be positions that extend far beyond the Israeli right wing:

Netanyahu’s insistence on Palestinian recognition of a Jewish state as much as his demands for far more stringent security — and thus, territorial — arrangements — are not mere pretexts to avoid a deal and are far more than the expressions of a passing political mood. They reflect deep-seated popular sentiment regarding the yearning for true Arab recognition and acceptance and fear of novel, unconventional security threats. New coalition partners or new elections might change the atmosphere. They are not about to change the underlying frame of mind.

In the past 10 years, the PA received three formal offers of a state — at Camp David, in the Clinton Parameters, and in the Olmert offer — and rejected them all. The Fayyad plan to build the institutions of a Palestinian state over the next two years is an implicit admission that the three offers of a state were made to an entity that did not have the basic institutions necessary for one — and does not have them now. The Malley testimony makes it clear that the entity also does not have the ability or authority to negotiate a peace agreement, much less implement one.

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The Indifferent Ally

We were told during the campaign that Obama was a worldly man. He had lived overseas. He understood America’s “proper” place in the world. (Yes, there’s American exceptionalism, but also Greek and British exceptionalism. In other words, America’s not exceptional at all.) He “got” the Muslim World. And he just adored multilateralism. So he was going to repair all the damage done by the cowboy who preceded him. But it seems not to have worked out that way. And the number of aggrieved allies is considerably higher than it was when George W. Bush left office.

Jackson Diehl explains:

I recently asked several senior administration officials, separately, to name a foreign leader with whom Barack Obama has forged a strong personal relationship during his first year in office. A lot of hemming and hawing ensued. … His following means that, in democratic countries at least, leaders have a strong incentive to befriend him. And yet this president appears, so far, to have no genuine foreign friends. In this he is the opposite of George W. Bush, who was reviled among the foreign masses but who forged close ties with a host of leaders — Aznar of Spain, Uribe of Colombia, Sharon and Olmert of Israel, Koizumi of Japan.

Diehl chalks most of this up to disinterest on Obama’s part. He is, after all, consumed with reinventing America. And frankly, he’s been an unreliable ally (ask the leaders of Poland, the Czech Republic, and Honduras) and an unfaithful friend. (“Obama also hasn’t hesitated to publicly express displeasure with U.S. allies. He sparred all last year with Israel’s Binyamin Netanyahu; he expressed impatience when Japan’s Yukio Hatoyama balked at implementing a military base agreement. He has repeatedly criticized Afghanistan’s Hamid Karzai, and he gave up the videoconferences Bush used to have with Iraq’s Nouri al-Maliki.”) He’s been obsessed with ingratiating himself with foes who are indifferent to his overtures rather than forging solid partnerships with those whose help we could use. (“In foreign as well as domestic affairs, coolness has its cost.”)

In all this one senses a certain insularity. Obama reminds us he isn’t one for open-ended commitments. (Too bad, then, that our enemies wage open-ended wars.) The serial rudeness to the Brits and constant carping at Israel suggest not merely tone-deafness but also indifference to the concerns and sensibilities of our allies. Where is all that vaunted internationalism and supposed sophistication? Well, he’s got other concerns, but perhaps once ObamaCare and cap-and-trade go by the wayside, he’ll look for other ways to spend his time. Restoring our alliances would be a place to start. It seems they were in better shape when he arrived and could use some tending.

We were told during the campaign that Obama was a worldly man. He had lived overseas. He understood America’s “proper” place in the world. (Yes, there’s American exceptionalism, but also Greek and British exceptionalism. In other words, America’s not exceptional at all.) He “got” the Muslim World. And he just adored multilateralism. So he was going to repair all the damage done by the cowboy who preceded him. But it seems not to have worked out that way. And the number of aggrieved allies is considerably higher than it was when George W. Bush left office.

Jackson Diehl explains:

I recently asked several senior administration officials, separately, to name a foreign leader with whom Barack Obama has forged a strong personal relationship during his first year in office. A lot of hemming and hawing ensued. … His following means that, in democratic countries at least, leaders have a strong incentive to befriend him. And yet this president appears, so far, to have no genuine foreign friends. In this he is the opposite of George W. Bush, who was reviled among the foreign masses but who forged close ties with a host of leaders — Aznar of Spain, Uribe of Colombia, Sharon and Olmert of Israel, Koizumi of Japan.

Diehl chalks most of this up to disinterest on Obama’s part. He is, after all, consumed with reinventing America. And frankly, he’s been an unreliable ally (ask the leaders of Poland, the Czech Republic, and Honduras) and an unfaithful friend. (“Obama also hasn’t hesitated to publicly express displeasure with U.S. allies. He sparred all last year with Israel’s Binyamin Netanyahu; he expressed impatience when Japan’s Yukio Hatoyama balked at implementing a military base agreement. He has repeatedly criticized Afghanistan’s Hamid Karzai, and he gave up the videoconferences Bush used to have with Iraq’s Nouri al-Maliki.”) He’s been obsessed with ingratiating himself with foes who are indifferent to his overtures rather than forging solid partnerships with those whose help we could use. (“In foreign as well as domestic affairs, coolness has its cost.”)

In all this one senses a certain insularity. Obama reminds us he isn’t one for open-ended commitments. (Too bad, then, that our enemies wage open-ended wars.) The serial rudeness to the Brits and constant carping at Israel suggest not merely tone-deafness but also indifference to the concerns and sensibilities of our allies. Where is all that vaunted internationalism and supposed sophistication? Well, he’s got other concerns, but perhaps once ObamaCare and cap-and-trade go by the wayside, he’ll look for other ways to spend his time. Restoring our alliances would be a place to start. It seems they were in better shape when he arrived and could use some tending.

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The Obama Parlor Game: What’s Wrong with Him?

Al Hunt is the latest participant in the “What the heck is wrong with this presidency?” parlor game. He reviews the bidding in the Rahm Emanuel vs. People Less Smart Than Rahm controversy. But that’s beside the point, says Hunt:

Yet there is a larger self-created problem for which Emanuel and [David] Axelrod are only partly to blame. Go back to the remarkable Obama campaign of 2007-2008. More than any of its rivals, it had a strategic sense of what it was, where it wanted to go.

This provided a shield against setbacks: losing the New Hampshire primary, the candidate’s careless remarks about rural Pennsylvania voters or even the incendiary remarks of Obama’s pastor. These became speed bumps in the strategic narrative.

That is missing in the Obama presidency. Too often it seems situational rather than strategic, reactive more than proactive. Thus setbacks, from minor ones, such as the handling of the Christmas Day bomber, to major ones, like the loss of the Senate seat in Massachusetts, throw team Obama off stride, and leave voters confused.

Well, it’s arguable whether the Christmas Day bombing was a “minor” setback or a sign of a systemic failure to understand our enemy and devise appropriate responses to wage a war against Islamic fundamentalists. But Hunt insists there’s a “big picture” deficiency here. He sums up: “Most important, however, is whether the Obama administration can emulate the Obama campaign and fashion a coherent strategy for governing.” Well, that seems to be closer to the nub of the problem.

Frankly, Obama has a big picture. It’s just the wrong one — a statist spend-a-thon that seeks to reorient the balance between private and public sectors, grow the scope of the federal government, and do it all without popular support. As for the governance problem, however, Hunt is right that neither Obama nor his flock of supposedly smart people are good at devising, negotiating, and selling policy. They are at heart pols who peaked during a cynical campaign in which they sold Obama to the public as something he was not (e.g. moderate, prepared, pro-Israel). But then it’s nearly impossible to govern from the far Left of the political spectrum in a Center-Right country.

Now the Obami are trapped in a thicket of overstuffed legislation and beset upon by a public chagrined to find that Obama isn’t what he was cracked up to be. So the infighting starts. The backstabbing goes public. The excuse-mongering revs up. All that, however, stems from a central difficulty: a erudite but inexperienced president with a surplus of hubris is trying to impose a radical vision on an unwilling populace. It’s bound to fail. And so far, it is.

Al Hunt is the latest participant in the “What the heck is wrong with this presidency?” parlor game. He reviews the bidding in the Rahm Emanuel vs. People Less Smart Than Rahm controversy. But that’s beside the point, says Hunt:

Yet there is a larger self-created problem for which Emanuel and [David] Axelrod are only partly to blame. Go back to the remarkable Obama campaign of 2007-2008. More than any of its rivals, it had a strategic sense of what it was, where it wanted to go.

This provided a shield against setbacks: losing the New Hampshire primary, the candidate’s careless remarks about rural Pennsylvania voters or even the incendiary remarks of Obama’s pastor. These became speed bumps in the strategic narrative.

That is missing in the Obama presidency. Too often it seems situational rather than strategic, reactive more than proactive. Thus setbacks, from minor ones, such as the handling of the Christmas Day bomber, to major ones, like the loss of the Senate seat in Massachusetts, throw team Obama off stride, and leave voters confused.

Well, it’s arguable whether the Christmas Day bombing was a “minor” setback or a sign of a systemic failure to understand our enemy and devise appropriate responses to wage a war against Islamic fundamentalists. But Hunt insists there’s a “big picture” deficiency here. He sums up: “Most important, however, is whether the Obama administration can emulate the Obama campaign and fashion a coherent strategy for governing.” Well, that seems to be closer to the nub of the problem.

Frankly, Obama has a big picture. It’s just the wrong one — a statist spend-a-thon that seeks to reorient the balance between private and public sectors, grow the scope of the federal government, and do it all without popular support. As for the governance problem, however, Hunt is right that neither Obama nor his flock of supposedly smart people are good at devising, negotiating, and selling policy. They are at heart pols who peaked during a cynical campaign in which they sold Obama to the public as something he was not (e.g. moderate, prepared, pro-Israel). But then it’s nearly impossible to govern from the far Left of the political spectrum in a Center-Right country.

Now the Obami are trapped in a thicket of overstuffed legislation and beset upon by a public chagrined to find that Obama isn’t what he was cracked up to be. So the infighting starts. The backstabbing goes public. The excuse-mongering revs up. All that, however, stems from a central difficulty: a erudite but inexperienced president with a surplus of hubris is trying to impose a radical vision on an unwilling populace. It’s bound to fail. And so far, it is.

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Iran Wants In

As we noted last month, Iran is making a bid for membership on the United Nations’s Human Rights Council. Yes, we’ve passed farce awhile back when Libya joined the august body of despotic regimes – which spends its time pronouncing on the imagined offenses of the one democracy in the Middle East. (Hint: it isn’t the Islamic Republic of Iran.) The Wall Street Journal‘s editors note that Iran wants a piece of the action:

Among its presumptive qualifications, says Iran’s foreign minister Manouchehr Mottaki, is that last June’s elections were “an exemplary exhibition of democracy and freedom.” Other contenders vying for election include the Maldives, which bans the public practice of all religions save Sunni Islam; and Malaysia, whose judiciary is currently prosecuting opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim on dubious charges of sodomy.

But the disgrace is not that Libya or Iran may sit on the Human Rights Council; it’s that the U.S. does. As the editors remark, “A year ago, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton promised that by joining the Council—the Bush Administration had refused—the U.S. ‘will engage in the work of improving the U.N. human rights system.’ Whatever they’re doing, it doesn’t seem to be working.” Well working for whom, I guess is the question. America’s presence on the Human Rights Council provides a patina of respectability to the thugs who appear periodically to condemn Israel, raise the banner for terrorists and their state sponsors, and dream up ways to impinge on the free expression of anyone who might criticize the less-than-admirable human-rights record in their own country.

If we want to stop the erosion of America’s moral standing in the world, a good way to start would be by leaving the Human Rights Council. And then we could actually begin condemning, loudly and specifically, the atrocities of the Iranian regime. Too much to ask? There’s always hope for change — but, regrettably, for the Obama administration that too often seems to stop at the water’s edge.

As we noted last month, Iran is making a bid for membership on the United Nations’s Human Rights Council. Yes, we’ve passed farce awhile back when Libya joined the august body of despotic regimes – which spends its time pronouncing on the imagined offenses of the one democracy in the Middle East. (Hint: it isn’t the Islamic Republic of Iran.) The Wall Street Journal‘s editors note that Iran wants a piece of the action:

Among its presumptive qualifications, says Iran’s foreign minister Manouchehr Mottaki, is that last June’s elections were “an exemplary exhibition of democracy and freedom.” Other contenders vying for election include the Maldives, which bans the public practice of all religions save Sunni Islam; and Malaysia, whose judiciary is currently prosecuting opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim on dubious charges of sodomy.

But the disgrace is not that Libya or Iran may sit on the Human Rights Council; it’s that the U.S. does. As the editors remark, “A year ago, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton promised that by joining the Council—the Bush Administration had refused—the U.S. ‘will engage in the work of improving the U.N. human rights system.’ Whatever they’re doing, it doesn’t seem to be working.” Well working for whom, I guess is the question. America’s presence on the Human Rights Council provides a patina of respectability to the thugs who appear periodically to condemn Israel, raise the banner for terrorists and their state sponsors, and dream up ways to impinge on the free expression of anyone who might criticize the less-than-admirable human-rights record in their own country.

If we want to stop the erosion of America’s moral standing in the world, a good way to start would be by leaving the Human Rights Council. And then we could actually begin condemning, loudly and specifically, the atrocities of the Iranian regime. Too much to ask? There’s always hope for change — but, regrettably, for the Obama administration that too often seems to stop at the water’s edge.

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Petraeus on Iran

General David Petraeus didn’t get the Leveretts’ memos on the wonders of the Islamic Republic of Iran, the political acumen of Ahmadinejad, and the absence of a military dictatorship. Or maybe he did, rolled his eyes in disgust, and returned to reality. Thankfully, he is the one who heads CENTCOM. And he isn’t about to mince words:

“Iran has gone from a theocracy to a thugacracy,” he said [on CNN], “because of the citizens who are outraged by the hijacking of the election that took place last June.”

Saying that Iran has rejected the open hand that the Obama administration extended, Petraeus said, “The result is the transition by not just the United States — France the U.K., even Russia are all seeing the need to transition to the so-called pressure track, with much stiffer sanctions and so forth.”

Asked whether a nuclear Iran could be contained, Petraeus said, “First of all you have to ask the country that is most directly concerns about this, and that would be Israel.”

In the gulf states, Petraeus said, “There’s almost a slight degree of bipolarity there at times. On the one hand there are countries that would like to see a strike — perhaps Israeli — there’s the worry that someone will strike. And then there’s the worry that someone won’t strike.”

One wonders if the same moral clarity is shared by others in the administration. Is there anyone else on the Obama team who recognizes that military action — or the threat of such action — may be the only option we have? Well, if the goal is — it is, right? — to prevent the mullahs from obtaining nuclear weapons, we may want to keep that option on the table. Let’s hope that is still our goal. Then all we will need is a policy designed to achieve it.

General David Petraeus didn’t get the Leveretts’ memos on the wonders of the Islamic Republic of Iran, the political acumen of Ahmadinejad, and the absence of a military dictatorship. Or maybe he did, rolled his eyes in disgust, and returned to reality. Thankfully, he is the one who heads CENTCOM. And he isn’t about to mince words:

“Iran has gone from a theocracy to a thugacracy,” he said [on CNN], “because of the citizens who are outraged by the hijacking of the election that took place last June.”

Saying that Iran has rejected the open hand that the Obama administration extended, Petraeus said, “The result is the transition by not just the United States — France the U.K., even Russia are all seeing the need to transition to the so-called pressure track, with much stiffer sanctions and so forth.”

Asked whether a nuclear Iran could be contained, Petraeus said, “First of all you have to ask the country that is most directly concerns about this, and that would be Israel.”

In the gulf states, Petraeus said, “There’s almost a slight degree of bipolarity there at times. On the one hand there are countries that would like to see a strike — perhaps Israeli — there’s the worry that someone will strike. And then there’s the worry that someone won’t strike.”

One wonders if the same moral clarity is shared by others in the administration. Is there anyone else on the Obama team who recognizes that military action — or the threat of such action — may be the only option we have? Well, if the goal is — it is, right? — to prevent the mullahs from obtaining nuclear weapons, we may want to keep that option on the table. Let’s hope that is still our goal. Then all we will need is a policy designed to achieve it.

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What Happens If It Passes?

Explaining the road ahead on ObamaCare, Rich Lowry said on Meet the Press:

So they, so they have to try to force it through just on sheer partisan muscle. They’re going to come down with the full force of the party and, and the president on every single one of these members. And Nancy Pelosi’s going to channel Ataturk and his famous order of the battle of Gallipoli:  “I don’t order you to attack, I order you to die.” And Democrats, they seem to think that if they pass this they’re going to put it behind him. They’ll really put it right back in front of them again. This will be a debate for years because this bill has serious legitimacy problems.

This strikes me as a key point. The only way to put this issue behind Democrats, get back to focusing on the economy, and defuse the electorate’s anger is to vote this down. By passing it, the Democrats will invite perpetual challenges — a never-ending stream of  measures to repeal it and a continuous campaign (beginning this year and extending to 2012 and beyond) to rip it out by the roots. In a sense, it’s like Roe v. Wade — a highly controversial action that was viewed as procedurally illegitimate by a large segment of the electorate and that energized an entire movement dedicated to its repeal.

The question, then, isn’t just whether proponents can jam ObamaCare through Congress with a legislative sleight of hand and on a narrow partisan basis. It is, rather, what would happen next: how the entire political landscape could potentially be upended. But in the case of ObamaCare, it’s perhaps worse for its supporters than abortion or any other hot-button issue – after all, two-thirds of the public disapproves of what they’re doing right now. And that’s before the taxes and the Medicare cuts hit.

On This Week, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell made this point, vowing that ObamaCare would be the key issue this November:

Every election this fall will be a referendum on this bill. … The benefits don’t kick in for four years. … Just looking at the politics of it there’s nothing but pain here for the next four years. Why in the world would they conclude that would be popular?

Nancy Pelosi doesn’t have the votes now to pass the bill. If she did, they’d have voted already. She may promise that a Senate reconciliation process will “fix” the Senate bill and she may reassure nervous House members that they will “move on” if they finally vote this through. But House members should be wary of both promises. These lines seem to be the latest in a long list of sales pitches from the Democratic leadership, which is obviously willing to sacrifice as many members as needed to pass their “historic” bill.

Explaining the road ahead on ObamaCare, Rich Lowry said on Meet the Press:

So they, so they have to try to force it through just on sheer partisan muscle. They’re going to come down with the full force of the party and, and the president on every single one of these members. And Nancy Pelosi’s going to channel Ataturk and his famous order of the battle of Gallipoli:  “I don’t order you to attack, I order you to die.” And Democrats, they seem to think that if they pass this they’re going to put it behind him. They’ll really put it right back in front of them again. This will be a debate for years because this bill has serious legitimacy problems.

This strikes me as a key point. The only way to put this issue behind Democrats, get back to focusing on the economy, and defuse the electorate’s anger is to vote this down. By passing it, the Democrats will invite perpetual challenges — a never-ending stream of  measures to repeal it and a continuous campaign (beginning this year and extending to 2012 and beyond) to rip it out by the roots. In a sense, it’s like Roe v. Wade — a highly controversial action that was viewed as procedurally illegitimate by a large segment of the electorate and that energized an entire movement dedicated to its repeal.

The question, then, isn’t just whether proponents can jam ObamaCare through Congress with a legislative sleight of hand and on a narrow partisan basis. It is, rather, what would happen next: how the entire political landscape could potentially be upended. But in the case of ObamaCare, it’s perhaps worse for its supporters than abortion or any other hot-button issue – after all, two-thirds of the public disapproves of what they’re doing right now. And that’s before the taxes and the Medicare cuts hit.

On This Week, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell made this point, vowing that ObamaCare would be the key issue this November:

Every election this fall will be a referendum on this bill. … The benefits don’t kick in for four years. … Just looking at the politics of it there’s nothing but pain here for the next four years. Why in the world would they conclude that would be popular?

Nancy Pelosi doesn’t have the votes now to pass the bill. If she did, they’d have voted already. She may promise that a Senate reconciliation process will “fix” the Senate bill and she may reassure nervous House members that they will “move on” if they finally vote this through. But House members should be wary of both promises. These lines seem to be the latest in a long list of sales pitches from the Democratic leadership, which is obviously willing to sacrifice as many members as needed to pass their “historic” bill.

Read Less

Flotsam and Jetsam

Christopher Hitchens is out hawking his book with tales of his Oxford escapades. Alas, now “he’s a Dorian-Gray picture of his former self invoking the memory of it all to sell books this time around, and he’s given it—and himself—a very bad name indeed.”

In case there was any confusion about what the enemy is up to: “Al-Qaida’s American-born spokesman on Sunday called on Muslims serving in the U.S. armed forces to emulate the Army major charged with killing 13 people in Fort Hood. In a 25-minute video posted on militant Web sites, Adam Gadahn described Maj. Nidal Hasan as a pioneer who should serve as a role model for other Muslims, especially those serving Western militaries. ‘Brother Nidal is the ideal role-model for every repentant Muslim in the armies of the unbelievers and apostate regimes,’ he said.”

This was televised on C-SPAN: “Former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich talked about ethics in politics. Following his remarks he responded to questions from law professors. The panel included Professors Tonja Jacobi, Donald Gordon, and Donna Leff.” (h/t Taegan Goddard) Seems better suited to Comedy Central.

Who better to send on a fool’s errand? “U.S. President Barack Obama dispatches his vice president to the Middle East on Sunday to try to build support for reviving Israeli-Palestinian peace talks despite deep skepticism on both sides.”

Clark Hoyt gets around to discussing the latest plagiarism scandal at the New York Times involving now departed Zachery Kouwe. He wonders: “How did his serial plagiarism happen and go undetected for so long? Why were warning signs overlooked? Was there anything at fault in the culture of DealBook, the hyper-competitive news blog on which Kouwe worked? And, now that the investigation is complete, what about a full accounting to readers?” Well, for starters, the Times let Maureen Dowd get away with plagiarism, so maybe Kouwe got the idea that it wasn’t really a “mortal journalistic sin.”

David Freddoso on the ongoing sanctimony festival: “‘Bankers don’t need another vote in the United States Senate,’ President Obama said as he urged Massachusetts voters to support Attorney General Martha Coakley over Republican Scott Brown. He also railed against ‘the same fat-cats who are getting rewarded for their failure.’ But in Illinois, Democrats have nominated a banker for Obama’s old Senate seat. Not only is Alexi Giannoulias’s family bank on the verge of failing, but he has a golden parachute made of federal tax refunds.”

Like all those Iran deadlines, no real deadline on ObamaCare: “Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius on Sunday dodged a series of questions about the White House’s plans for healthcare reform in the event lawmakers failed to pass it by the Easter recess. When asked on NBC’s ‘Meet the Press’ whether President Barack Obama would still pursue that legislation after the break, Sebelius offered no direct answer, only stressing, ‘I think we’ll have the votes when the leadership decides to call the votes, and I think it will pass.’”

Dana Perino on Fox News Sunday sums up the difficulty in rounding up votes for ObamaCare: “I think that a lot of the details just are now going past people’s heads and that the fundamental problem for the Democrats is that people do not want the big government spending. They don’t want the big program. They don’t understand why they’re pushing so hard on this and not on jobs. And it occurs to me that you can only vote against your constituents so many times before they start to vote against you.”

Robert Zelnick is very upset to learn that the Gray Lady doesn’t report news adverse to Obama. On Obama’s Medicare gimmickry: “The Times should, of course, be over this story like flies at a picnic table.Where will the money come from, Mr. President? Is there any precedent for draining funds like this from one soon-to-be insolvent program to another? Have you computed how the projected cuts in payment to doctors would affect the supply of physicians, the quality of medicine practiced, the health and longevity of the American people? Aren’t we really dealing with a series of misrepresentations — both explicit and implicit — unprecedented in the nation’s history.”

Reason to celebrate: “Defying a sustained barrage of mortars and rockets in Baghdad and other cities, Iraqis went to the polls in numbers on Sunday to choose a new parliament meant to outlast the American military presence here. … Insurgents here vowed to disrupt the election, and the concerted wave of attacks — as many as 100 thunderous blasts in the capital alone starting just before the polls opened — did frighten voters away, but only initially. The shrugging response of voters could signal a fundamental weakening of the insurgency’s potency.” And reason to be so very proud of one of the greatest military forces ever assembled, which, despite the naysayers, freed Iraqis from a brutal dictatorship.

Christopher Hitchens is out hawking his book with tales of his Oxford escapades. Alas, now “he’s a Dorian-Gray picture of his former self invoking the memory of it all to sell books this time around, and he’s given it—and himself—a very bad name indeed.”

In case there was any confusion about what the enemy is up to: “Al-Qaida’s American-born spokesman on Sunday called on Muslims serving in the U.S. armed forces to emulate the Army major charged with killing 13 people in Fort Hood. In a 25-minute video posted on militant Web sites, Adam Gadahn described Maj. Nidal Hasan as a pioneer who should serve as a role model for other Muslims, especially those serving Western militaries. ‘Brother Nidal is the ideal role-model for every repentant Muslim in the armies of the unbelievers and apostate regimes,’ he said.”

This was televised on C-SPAN: “Former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich talked about ethics in politics. Following his remarks he responded to questions from law professors. The panel included Professors Tonja Jacobi, Donald Gordon, and Donna Leff.” (h/t Taegan Goddard) Seems better suited to Comedy Central.

Who better to send on a fool’s errand? “U.S. President Barack Obama dispatches his vice president to the Middle East on Sunday to try to build support for reviving Israeli-Palestinian peace talks despite deep skepticism on both sides.”

Clark Hoyt gets around to discussing the latest plagiarism scandal at the New York Times involving now departed Zachery Kouwe. He wonders: “How did his serial plagiarism happen and go undetected for so long? Why were warning signs overlooked? Was there anything at fault in the culture of DealBook, the hyper-competitive news blog on which Kouwe worked? And, now that the investigation is complete, what about a full accounting to readers?” Well, for starters, the Times let Maureen Dowd get away with plagiarism, so maybe Kouwe got the idea that it wasn’t really a “mortal journalistic sin.”

David Freddoso on the ongoing sanctimony festival: “‘Bankers don’t need another vote in the United States Senate,’ President Obama said as he urged Massachusetts voters to support Attorney General Martha Coakley over Republican Scott Brown. He also railed against ‘the same fat-cats who are getting rewarded for their failure.’ But in Illinois, Democrats have nominated a banker for Obama’s old Senate seat. Not only is Alexi Giannoulias’s family bank on the verge of failing, but he has a golden parachute made of federal tax refunds.”

Like all those Iran deadlines, no real deadline on ObamaCare: “Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius on Sunday dodged a series of questions about the White House’s plans for healthcare reform in the event lawmakers failed to pass it by the Easter recess. When asked on NBC’s ‘Meet the Press’ whether President Barack Obama would still pursue that legislation after the break, Sebelius offered no direct answer, only stressing, ‘I think we’ll have the votes when the leadership decides to call the votes, and I think it will pass.’”

Dana Perino on Fox News Sunday sums up the difficulty in rounding up votes for ObamaCare: “I think that a lot of the details just are now going past people’s heads and that the fundamental problem for the Democrats is that people do not want the big government spending. They don’t want the big program. They don’t understand why they’re pushing so hard on this and not on jobs. And it occurs to me that you can only vote against your constituents so many times before they start to vote against you.”

Robert Zelnick is very upset to learn that the Gray Lady doesn’t report news adverse to Obama. On Obama’s Medicare gimmickry: “The Times should, of course, be over this story like flies at a picnic table.Where will the money come from, Mr. President? Is there any precedent for draining funds like this from one soon-to-be insolvent program to another? Have you computed how the projected cuts in payment to doctors would affect the supply of physicians, the quality of medicine practiced, the health and longevity of the American people? Aren’t we really dealing with a series of misrepresentations — both explicit and implicit — unprecedented in the nation’s history.”

Reason to celebrate: “Defying a sustained barrage of mortars and rockets in Baghdad and other cities, Iraqis went to the polls in numbers on Sunday to choose a new parliament meant to outlast the American military presence here. … Insurgents here vowed to disrupt the election, and the concerted wave of attacks — as many as 100 thunderous blasts in the capital alone starting just before the polls opened — did frighten voters away, but only initially. The shrugging response of voters could signal a fundamental weakening of the insurgency’s potency.” And reason to be so very proud of one of the greatest military forces ever assembled, which, despite the naysayers, freed Iraqis from a brutal dictatorship.

Read Less




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