Commentary Magazine


Posts For: March 12, 2010

Give Green a Chance

The Obama administration is working to convince the United Nations Security Council to impose yet another round of sanctions on Iran. Those efforts have to overcome the recalcitrance of China, Russia, and other Security Council members. But even if the effort succeeds, how much impact will it have? To judge by the historical evidence, not much. The New York Times ran a fascinating article last Sunday with a horrifying headline that sums it all up: “U.S. Enriches Companies Defying Its Policy on Iran.”

The article examines the implementation of the Iran Sanctions Act of 1996 — legislation passed by Congress and signed by President Clinton that is far tougher than anything the Security Council might approve. It imposes, in theory at least, major American sanctions on companies that invest in Iran’s energy sector or its nuclear or missile programs:

The law gives the president a menu of possible punishments he can choose to levy against offending companies. Not only do they risk losing federal contracts, but they can also be prevented from receiving Export-Import Bank loans, obtaining American bank loans over $10 million in a given year, exporting their goods to the United States, purchasing licensed American military technology and, in the case of financial firms, serving as a primary dealer in United States government bonds or as a repository for government funds.

It is well known that not a single company has actually been sanctioned under the act. The administrations of Clinton, Bush (yes Bush!), and Obama have all refused to act in ways that might hinder relations with the European Union, China, Japan, India, or other countries whose firms do big business in Iran. But the Times account makes clear that the situation is even more ludicrous. Far from sanctioning companies doing business with Iran, the federal government has awarded them “more than $107 billion in contract payments, grants and other benefits over the past decade.”

Both houses of Congress recently have passed legislation, now heading for reconciliation, that will toughen up the existing sanctions on Iran’s oil sector. But if existing sanctions aren’t being enforced, what hope is there for future sanctions, whether they come from Congress or the United Nations? The U.S. and its allies simply have not displayed the will to get tough with Iran. With time running short before Iran has the capability to field nukes, it’s time to look at other alternatives — starting with more support for the Green Movement. Between 2003 and 2009, we spent an average of more than $100 billion a year on the Iraq war. Imagine what only a small portion of that that money — say $10 billion, or one month’s worth of operations in Iraq — could achieve if given to groups working for the peaceful overthrow of the Iranian regime. That, to me, seems a more rewarding approach than sanctions, which have failed time and again.

The Obama administration is working to convince the United Nations Security Council to impose yet another round of sanctions on Iran. Those efforts have to overcome the recalcitrance of China, Russia, and other Security Council members. But even if the effort succeeds, how much impact will it have? To judge by the historical evidence, not much. The New York Times ran a fascinating article last Sunday with a horrifying headline that sums it all up: “U.S. Enriches Companies Defying Its Policy on Iran.”

The article examines the implementation of the Iran Sanctions Act of 1996 — legislation passed by Congress and signed by President Clinton that is far tougher than anything the Security Council might approve. It imposes, in theory at least, major American sanctions on companies that invest in Iran’s energy sector or its nuclear or missile programs:

The law gives the president a menu of possible punishments he can choose to levy against offending companies. Not only do they risk losing federal contracts, but they can also be prevented from receiving Export-Import Bank loans, obtaining American bank loans over $10 million in a given year, exporting their goods to the United States, purchasing licensed American military technology and, in the case of financial firms, serving as a primary dealer in United States government bonds or as a repository for government funds.

It is well known that not a single company has actually been sanctioned under the act. The administrations of Clinton, Bush (yes Bush!), and Obama have all refused to act in ways that might hinder relations with the European Union, China, Japan, India, or other countries whose firms do big business in Iran. But the Times account makes clear that the situation is even more ludicrous. Far from sanctioning companies doing business with Iran, the federal government has awarded them “more than $107 billion in contract payments, grants and other benefits over the past decade.”

Both houses of Congress recently have passed legislation, now heading for reconciliation, that will toughen up the existing sanctions on Iran’s oil sector. But if existing sanctions aren’t being enforced, what hope is there for future sanctions, whether they come from Congress or the United Nations? The U.S. and its allies simply have not displayed the will to get tough with Iran. With time running short before Iran has the capability to field nukes, it’s time to look at other alternatives — starting with more support for the Green Movement. Between 2003 and 2009, we spent an average of more than $100 billion a year on the Iraq war. Imagine what only a small portion of that that money — say $10 billion, or one month’s worth of operations in Iraq — could achieve if given to groups working for the peaceful overthrow of the Iranian regime. That, to me, seems a more rewarding approach than sanctions, which have failed time and again.

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The Times They Are a-Changin’ (Continued)

Steven A. Cook, a senior fellow for Middle Eastern studies at the Council on Foreign Relations, published an article in Foreign Policy titled, “What the NeoCons Got Right.” Mr. Cook does not include Iraq in what neoconservatives got right, though his dissent is intelligent and reasonable. But he argues that neoconservatives got Syria, Iran, and democracy right. He argues that the real problem we face with Iran is ontological, having to do with the metaphysical nature of that regime. And he argues that neoconservatism’s “forceful advocacy of democracy and freedom in the Middle East may have grated on many, but it did much to advance those causes in a region once described as ‘democracy’s desert.’”

As I said in my earlier post, on the matter of the Iraq war, we’re seeing evidence of a significant (and encouraging) climate change of opinion on national-security matters.

It’s a good reminder that with enough patience, things do have a way of working out.

Steven A. Cook, a senior fellow for Middle Eastern studies at the Council on Foreign Relations, published an article in Foreign Policy titled, “What the NeoCons Got Right.” Mr. Cook does not include Iraq in what neoconservatives got right, though his dissent is intelligent and reasonable. But he argues that neoconservatives got Syria, Iran, and democracy right. He argues that the real problem we face with Iran is ontological, having to do with the metaphysical nature of that regime. And he argues that neoconservatism’s “forceful advocacy of democracy and freedom in the Middle East may have grated on many, but it did much to advance those causes in a region once described as ‘democracy’s desert.’”

As I said in my earlier post, on the matter of the Iraq war, we’re seeing evidence of a significant (and encouraging) climate change of opinion on national-security matters.

It’s a good reminder that with enough patience, things do have a way of working out.

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Shifting Attitudes on Abortion

Gallup analysis of U.S. public-opinion trends on abortion shows that generational differences in support for broadly legal abortion have diminished over the past decade. According to the survey:

Two important changes are apparent. One is a significant drop in the percentage of seniors saying all abortions should be illegal. This fell from 32% in the earliest years of the trend to 16% in the first half of the 1990s, but has since rebounded somewhat to 21%. This long-term 11-point decline among seniors compares with a 9-point increase — from 14% to 23% — in support for the “illegal in all circumstances” position among 18- to 29-year-olds since the early 1990s.

As a result, 18- to 29-year-olds are now roughly tied with seniors as the most likely of all age groups to hold this position on abortion — although all four groups are fairly close in their views. This is a sharp change from the late 1970s, when seniors were substantially more likely than younger age groups to want abortion to be illegal.

The trend toward a stronger pro-life position among the millennial generation is particularly interesting.

This Gallup survey should be compared with an earlier one that shows how America has, since the early 1990s, become significantly more pro-life: the percentage saying abortion should be legal only under certain circumstances increased from 48 to 57; the percentage saying it should be legal under any circumstances has dropped from 34 to 21; and the percentage saying abortion should be illegal in all circumstances increased from 13 to 18. Michael Gerson explains why in his fascinating column today.

Gallup analysis of U.S. public-opinion trends on abortion shows that generational differences in support for broadly legal abortion have diminished over the past decade. According to the survey:

Two important changes are apparent. One is a significant drop in the percentage of seniors saying all abortions should be illegal. This fell from 32% in the earliest years of the trend to 16% in the first half of the 1990s, but has since rebounded somewhat to 21%. This long-term 11-point decline among seniors compares with a 9-point increase — from 14% to 23% — in support for the “illegal in all circumstances” position among 18- to 29-year-olds since the early 1990s.

As a result, 18- to 29-year-olds are now roughly tied with seniors as the most likely of all age groups to hold this position on abortion — although all four groups are fairly close in their views. This is a sharp change from the late 1970s, when seniors were substantially more likely than younger age groups to want abortion to be illegal.

The trend toward a stronger pro-life position among the millennial generation is particularly interesting.

This Gallup survey should be compared with an earlier one that shows how America has, since the early 1990s, become significantly more pro-life: the percentage saying abortion should be legal only under certain circumstances increased from 48 to 57; the percentage saying it should be legal under any circumstances has dropped from 34 to 21; and the percentage saying abortion should be illegal in all circumstances increased from 13 to 18. Michael Gerson explains why in his fascinating column today.

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The Times They Are a-Changin’

The Financial Times published a piece, “Don’t Be So Sure Invading Iraq Was Immoral,” written by Professor Nigel Biggar of Oxford, a leading theologian and moral philosopher. According to Professor Biggar:

The decisive issue in evaluating the Iraq invasion is not whether it was morally flawed or disproportionate or illegal, but whether it was really necessary to stop or prevent a sufficiently great evil.

No one disputes that Saddam Hussein’s regime was grossly atrocious. In 1988 it used chemical weapons against Kurdish civilians in what, according to Human Rights Watch, amounted to genocide; and from 1988 to 2003 it murdered at least 400,000 of its own people. Critics of the invasion would presumably not tolerate such a regime in their own backyard; and an effective international policing authority would have changed it. Is the coalition to be condemned for filling the vacuum? Yes, there have been similar vacuums that it (and others) have failed to fill – Rwanda, Zimbabwe, Darfur. But is it not better to be inconsistently responsible than

consistently irresponsible?

Now add the concern about weapons of mass destruction. This was sufficiently grave to rouse the UN to litter the period 1991-2003 with 17 resolutions calling on Saddam to disarm permanently. Given the shocking discovery in the mid-1990s of Iraq’s success in enriching uranium and coming within 24 months of nuclear armament, and given the regime’s persistent flouting of the UN’s will, there was good reason to withhold benefit of doubt and to suppose that it was developing WMDs. It was not just Messrs Bush and Blair who supposed this. So did Jacques Chirac, then French president, and Hans Blix, the UN’s chief weapons inspector.

We now know this reasonable supposition was mistaken and that the problem was less urgent than it appeared. But it was still urgent. Saddam was intent on acquiring nuclear weapons and support for containment was dissolving. David Kelly, Britain ’s chief expert on Iraqi WMDs, famous for being driven to commit suicide, is less famous for being convinced that the problem’s only lasting solution was regime-change.

Maybe critics of the war view with equanimity what might have happened without the 2003 invasion, trusting that the secular rationality of Realpolitik would have prevented the rivalry between Iraq’s atrocious Saddam and Iran’s millenarian Mahmoud Ahmadi-Nejad from turning catastrophically nuclear. In this age of suicide bombers, however, such faith is hard to credit.

Well said. And that it was said is further evidence, I think, that we are seeing a climate change when it comes to the debate about the Iraq war.

The Financial Times published a piece, “Don’t Be So Sure Invading Iraq Was Immoral,” written by Professor Nigel Biggar of Oxford, a leading theologian and moral philosopher. According to Professor Biggar:

The decisive issue in evaluating the Iraq invasion is not whether it was morally flawed or disproportionate or illegal, but whether it was really necessary to stop or prevent a sufficiently great evil.

No one disputes that Saddam Hussein’s regime was grossly atrocious. In 1988 it used chemical weapons against Kurdish civilians in what, according to Human Rights Watch, amounted to genocide; and from 1988 to 2003 it murdered at least 400,000 of its own people. Critics of the invasion would presumably not tolerate such a regime in their own backyard; and an effective international policing authority would have changed it. Is the coalition to be condemned for filling the vacuum? Yes, there have been similar vacuums that it (and others) have failed to fill – Rwanda, Zimbabwe, Darfur. But is it not better to be inconsistently responsible than

consistently irresponsible?

Now add the concern about weapons of mass destruction. This was sufficiently grave to rouse the UN to litter the period 1991-2003 with 17 resolutions calling on Saddam to disarm permanently. Given the shocking discovery in the mid-1990s of Iraq’s success in enriching uranium and coming within 24 months of nuclear armament, and given the regime’s persistent flouting of the UN’s will, there was good reason to withhold benefit of doubt and to suppose that it was developing WMDs. It was not just Messrs Bush and Blair who supposed this. So did Jacques Chirac, then French president, and Hans Blix, the UN’s chief weapons inspector.

We now know this reasonable supposition was mistaken and that the problem was less urgent than it appeared. But it was still urgent. Saddam was intent on acquiring nuclear weapons and support for containment was dissolving. David Kelly, Britain ’s chief expert on Iraqi WMDs, famous for being driven to commit suicide, is less famous for being convinced that the problem’s only lasting solution was regime-change.

Maybe critics of the war view with equanimity what might have happened without the 2003 invasion, trusting that the secular rationality of Realpolitik would have prevented the rivalry between Iraq’s atrocious Saddam and Iran’s millenarian Mahmoud Ahmadi-Nejad from turning catastrophically nuclear. In this age of suicide bombers, however, such faith is hard to credit.

Well said. And that it was said is further evidence, I think, that we are seeing a climate change when it comes to the debate about the Iraq war.

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Obama’s Immigration Strategy Should Have Been Tried on Health Care

Yesterday, President Obama said that he would push forward with a plan for immigration reform this year, but only if he had the backing of significant number of Republicans. That’s a wise strategy when dealing with any substantial issue. Too bad he didn’t use the same approach when trying to force the country to accept a massive government takeover of the health-care industry.

In a week when the president and his party are ignoring clear indications that the public isn’t interested in drinking health-care Kool-Aid, it’s ironic that they would approach immigration with such caution. It’s an issue on which there is at least as good a chance of forging a bipartisan compromise. It was, after all, only five years ago (though it feels more like 50 years) that President George W. Bush listed immigration reform as one of the top priorities of his second term. But opposition from the Republican grass roots doomed that attempt, while Democrats were reluctant about taking up a common cause with a president they despised and wished to bring down.

If Obama were truly serious about developing an immigration reform that would help to clarify the status of illegals and to reassert control over our borders, he’d find genuine support from many Republicans in Congress, as well as conservative opinion leaders like the Wall Street Journal editorial page. But part of the problem is the legacy of the last year of health-care politics. Sen. Lindsey Graham, a natural ally of the White House on immigration, warned Obama that, should he and his allies in Congress use legislative sleight-of-hand tricks to push a dubious health-care plan through, he can forget about others trusting the president to do the right thing on anything else.

Immigration reform is the sort of issue that would require genuine bipartisanship, as there are large anti-immigration factions in both parties. But despite his presidential campaign rhetoric about rising above partisanship, Obama’s energies have been most engaged when demonizing his domestic opponents. It remains to be seen whether Obama has the wisdom or the genuine leadership skills to succeed on immigration. Unfortunately, as his divisive health-care gambit has proved, this does not appear to be a president interested in genuine outreach across the aisle if it means actually listening to those who disagree with him.

Yesterday, President Obama said that he would push forward with a plan for immigration reform this year, but only if he had the backing of significant number of Republicans. That’s a wise strategy when dealing with any substantial issue. Too bad he didn’t use the same approach when trying to force the country to accept a massive government takeover of the health-care industry.

In a week when the president and his party are ignoring clear indications that the public isn’t interested in drinking health-care Kool-Aid, it’s ironic that they would approach immigration with such caution. It’s an issue on which there is at least as good a chance of forging a bipartisan compromise. It was, after all, only five years ago (though it feels more like 50 years) that President George W. Bush listed immigration reform as one of the top priorities of his second term. But opposition from the Republican grass roots doomed that attempt, while Democrats were reluctant about taking up a common cause with a president they despised and wished to bring down.

If Obama were truly serious about developing an immigration reform that would help to clarify the status of illegals and to reassert control over our borders, he’d find genuine support from many Republicans in Congress, as well as conservative opinion leaders like the Wall Street Journal editorial page. But part of the problem is the legacy of the last year of health-care politics. Sen. Lindsey Graham, a natural ally of the White House on immigration, warned Obama that, should he and his allies in Congress use legislative sleight-of-hand tricks to push a dubious health-care plan through, he can forget about others trusting the president to do the right thing on anything else.

Immigration reform is the sort of issue that would require genuine bipartisanship, as there are large anti-immigration factions in both parties. But despite his presidential campaign rhetoric about rising above partisanship, Obama’s energies have been most engaged when demonizing his domestic opponents. It remains to be seen whether Obama has the wisdom or the genuine leadership skills to succeed on immigration. Unfortunately, as his divisive health-care gambit has proved, this does not appear to be a president interested in genuine outreach across the aisle if it means actually listening to those who disagree with him.

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Burma Mocks the Obami

The administration’s predictably fruitless engagement of Burma is again proving to be an embarrassment. The Washington Post editors explain Burma’s answer to the Obami’s outreach:

This week the regime delivered its answer: Get lost. The government promulgated rules that make clear that an election planned for this year will be worse than meaningless. That had always been the fear, given laws that guaranteed the military a decisive role in parliament, no matter who won the election. But the new rules make it official: Burma’s leading democratic party and its leader, Nobel Peace Laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, will not be permitted to take part.

As the editors note, even the Foggy Bottom team could not hide its dismay, declaring that the move “makes a mockery of the democratic process and ensures that the upcoming elections will be devoid of credibility.” But it also makes a mockery of Obama’s obsession with engagement. There are more constructive things the administration could be doing to aid the cause of democracy and reestablish our standing in its defense. The editors suggest: “It needs to pursue financial sanctions that target Burma’s ruling generals and their corruptly amassed wealth. It needs to rally the European Union and Burma’s enablers, such as Singapore, to take similar actions. And it needs to take more seriously the security challenge posed by the regime’s intensifying wars against minority nationalities and the resulting refugee crises.”

Will we? Well, that’s always the question with the Obama team: in the face of ample evidence that what they are doing is ineffective or counterproductive, will a course change be made? So far, the answer — from Russia to China to Burma and beyond — is no.

The administration’s predictably fruitless engagement of Burma is again proving to be an embarrassment. The Washington Post editors explain Burma’s answer to the Obami’s outreach:

This week the regime delivered its answer: Get lost. The government promulgated rules that make clear that an election planned for this year will be worse than meaningless. That had always been the fear, given laws that guaranteed the military a decisive role in parliament, no matter who won the election. But the new rules make it official: Burma’s leading democratic party and its leader, Nobel Peace Laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, will not be permitted to take part.

As the editors note, even the Foggy Bottom team could not hide its dismay, declaring that the move “makes a mockery of the democratic process and ensures that the upcoming elections will be devoid of credibility.” But it also makes a mockery of Obama’s obsession with engagement. There are more constructive things the administration could be doing to aid the cause of democracy and reestablish our standing in its defense. The editors suggest: “It needs to pursue financial sanctions that target Burma’s ruling generals and their corruptly amassed wealth. It needs to rally the European Union and Burma’s enablers, such as Singapore, to take similar actions. And it needs to take more seriously the security challenge posed by the regime’s intensifying wars against minority nationalities and the resulting refugee crises.”

Will we? Well, that’s always the question with the Obama team: in the face of ample evidence that what they are doing is ineffective or counterproductive, will a course change be made? So far, the answer — from Russia to China to Burma and beyond — is no.

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Democracy Only Works If You Use It

In his column today, Charles Krauthammer offers cautious praise for the health-care wars:

for all the hand-wringing about broken government, partisanship, divisiveness and gridlock, it’s hard to recall a more informed, more detailed, more serious, more prolonged national debate than on health care reform. . . So, in the middle of the current food fight, as the plates and the tarts and the sharper cutlery fly, step back for a moment. Hail the untidiness. Hail democracy. Hail the rotation of power. Yes, even when Democrats gain office.

All of the fighting, even the polarization, would be easier to hail if the Democrats were not sidestepping it. Barack Obama, Nancy Pelosi, and Harry Reid are seeking to change the fundamental nature of the country, not by triumphing in rigorous debate, but rather by exploiting a procedural loophole that would allow them to act against the will of the people.

The citizens of this country have historically enjoyed a unique level of influence on their government. But we are now spectators before whom a cadre of floundering ideologues seeks to sever the trusts that make consensual governance consensual. The Democrats lost the public debate. Ask them if they care.

When Barack Obama’s approval ratings plunged months back, Fouad Ajami wrote in the Wall Street Journal, “The curtain has come down on what can best be described as a brief un-American moment in our history.” If only that were so. In truth, the curtain came down on the public’s compliance with our un-American moment. For our current leaders, the mission goes forward. Plan B, it turns out, is as alien to the American experience as Plan A. Having failed to reshape our democracy through demagoguery, Obama is attempting to subvert it by decree. If he needs to dispense with the “we” in “yes we can,” so be it. The “our” in “our time is now”? Gone.

As the President and Nancy Pelosi have explained, they’re down to yes and now. Here’s how Pelosi recently described her health-care battle stance:

We will go through the gate. If the gate is closed, we will go over the fence. If the fence is too high, we will pole vault in. If that doesn’t work, we will parachute in. But we are going to get health care reform passed for the American people for their own personal health and economic security and for the important role that it will play in reducing the deficit.

The barriers she cites are none other than the checks and balances, the procedural roadblocks, put in place centuries ago so that no lawmaker or executive could force policy upon the American people “for their own personal health and economic security.” Speaker Pelosi’s statement is not merely colorful evidence of tenacity and cunning. It is a contemptuous dismissal of democracy. Just as the plan for socialist annexation of one sixth of the economy is a dismissal of free-market capitalism.

If the fundamentals of our democratic republic remain intact, it will be because of the genius of the system of governance itself. Then, we can hail until the cows come home.

In his column today, Charles Krauthammer offers cautious praise for the health-care wars:

for all the hand-wringing about broken government, partisanship, divisiveness and gridlock, it’s hard to recall a more informed, more detailed, more serious, more prolonged national debate than on health care reform. . . So, in the middle of the current food fight, as the plates and the tarts and the sharper cutlery fly, step back for a moment. Hail the untidiness. Hail democracy. Hail the rotation of power. Yes, even when Democrats gain office.

All of the fighting, even the polarization, would be easier to hail if the Democrats were not sidestepping it. Barack Obama, Nancy Pelosi, and Harry Reid are seeking to change the fundamental nature of the country, not by triumphing in rigorous debate, but rather by exploiting a procedural loophole that would allow them to act against the will of the people.

The citizens of this country have historically enjoyed a unique level of influence on their government. But we are now spectators before whom a cadre of floundering ideologues seeks to sever the trusts that make consensual governance consensual. The Democrats lost the public debate. Ask them if they care.

When Barack Obama’s approval ratings plunged months back, Fouad Ajami wrote in the Wall Street Journal, “The curtain has come down on what can best be described as a brief un-American moment in our history.” If only that were so. In truth, the curtain came down on the public’s compliance with our un-American moment. For our current leaders, the mission goes forward. Plan B, it turns out, is as alien to the American experience as Plan A. Having failed to reshape our democracy through demagoguery, Obama is attempting to subvert it by decree. If he needs to dispense with the “we” in “yes we can,” so be it. The “our” in “our time is now”? Gone.

As the President and Nancy Pelosi have explained, they’re down to yes and now. Here’s how Pelosi recently described her health-care battle stance:

We will go through the gate. If the gate is closed, we will go over the fence. If the fence is too high, we will pole vault in. If that doesn’t work, we will parachute in. But we are going to get health care reform passed for the American people for their own personal health and economic security and for the important role that it will play in reducing the deficit.

The barriers she cites are none other than the checks and balances, the procedural roadblocks, put in place centuries ago so that no lawmaker or executive could force policy upon the American people “for their own personal health and economic security.” Speaker Pelosi’s statement is not merely colorful evidence of tenacity and cunning. It is a contemptuous dismissal of democracy. Just as the plan for socialist annexation of one sixth of the economy is a dismissal of free-market capitalism.

If the fundamentals of our democratic republic remain intact, it will be because of the genius of the system of governance itself. Then, we can hail until the cows come home.

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Mideast Peace Gap: A Tale of Two Murderers

The dustup over the badly timed announcement of the building of Jewish homes in East Jerusalem this week has rightly provoked comment about the competence of the Netanyahu government. But for all the talk about the Palestinians’ being so offended by the idea of Jews living in East Jerusalem that they wouldn’t talk peace, it bears repeating that there is no indication that Mahmoud Abbas’s Fatah party and the Palestinian Authority it controls are willing to actually sign a peace agreement with Israel no matter what the terms of such a deal might be. Palestinian political culture remains anchored in an extremist interpretation of their national identity, which views the Jewish state as inherently illegitimate and all violence against it and its citizens as laudatory.

This was graphically illustrated yesterday in Ramallah, when Fatah’s youth division gathered to dedicate a square in honor of Dalal Mughrabi, the Fatah operative that led the 1978 Coastal Road Massacre, a terrorist attack that took the lives of 37 Israelis and one American. As David noted earlier this morning, the Jerusalem Post reported that the Palestinian Authority was postponing the event that was timed to honor the 30th anniversary of this case of mass murder for “technical reasons” that may have more to do with a desire to put it off until media coverage abates (i.e., after Vice President Biden has left the country). Yet the New York Times account published today makes it clear that followers and officials of Abbas’s Fatah were by no means embarrassed by their connection with the most notorious terrorist attack in Israel’s history.

The story was in the best tradition of the fallacy about one man’s terrorist being another’s “freedom fighter.” The Times headline reflected this moral ambivalence: “Palestinians Honor Figure Reviled in Israel as a Terrorist.” For Palestinians quoted in the piece, including Fatah officials, Mughrabi was a heroine who was “every Palestinian girl,” rather than a heartless killer who helped mow down 38 human beings, including 13 children, before being killed herself by Israeli forces. As for this being an isolated incident, as Palestinian Media Watch has reported, the drumbeat of incitement against Israel and the glorification of violence against Jews is unceasing. Indeed, as even the Times notes, “the Palestinians also named two girls’ high schools, a computer center, a soccer championship and two summer camps for Ms. Mughrabi in the last two years.”

But those seeking moral equivalence between the two sides are largely undaunted. At the Times news blog, the Lede, Robert Mackey, who on Wednesday erroneously referred to East Jerusalem as “traditionally Arab,” wrote on Thursday that there are Jews who are extremists as well. He posted a video on the Times site purporting to be a Purim celebration by a few Jews living in a house in East Jerusalem. The “boisterous celebration of the Jewish holiday of Purim by Israelis living in a home in East Jerusalem … appeared to be a calculated affront to their new Arab neighbors.”

That leads us to ask the Lede blogger whether he would sympathize with complaints by Jews should they witness “a boisterous celebration” of a Muslim holiday anywhere in Israel, where Arabs and Christians, as well as Jews, are free to practice their religions.

It is true that the video did include a bit where one man sang a song in praise of Baruch Goldstein, the mad Israeli who murdered 29 Muslims in Hebron on Purim in 1994. That is offensive. But for those who see this as the equivalent of Arab incitement, it is worth pointing out that this is just one Jewish extremist. No one could credibly assert that the Israeli government or the overwhelming majority of the Israeli people share his views. In fact, such despicable beliefs are completely marginal in Israel. But while Baruch Goldstein is a hero only to a tiny fragment of a percentage of Israelis, Dalal Mughrabi is a heroine to virtually all Palestinians. Rather than an illustration of how both sides are mired in mutual hate, the reaction of the Israeli and Palestinian publics to these two names actually shows how different the two cultures are at this point in time.

Indeed, true peace will only be possible when Palestinians think of Mughrabi the same way most Israelis view Goldstein.

The dustup over the badly timed announcement of the building of Jewish homes in East Jerusalem this week has rightly provoked comment about the competence of the Netanyahu government. But for all the talk about the Palestinians’ being so offended by the idea of Jews living in East Jerusalem that they wouldn’t talk peace, it bears repeating that there is no indication that Mahmoud Abbas’s Fatah party and the Palestinian Authority it controls are willing to actually sign a peace agreement with Israel no matter what the terms of such a deal might be. Palestinian political culture remains anchored in an extremist interpretation of their national identity, which views the Jewish state as inherently illegitimate and all violence against it and its citizens as laudatory.

This was graphically illustrated yesterday in Ramallah, when Fatah’s youth division gathered to dedicate a square in honor of Dalal Mughrabi, the Fatah operative that led the 1978 Coastal Road Massacre, a terrorist attack that took the lives of 37 Israelis and one American. As David noted earlier this morning, the Jerusalem Post reported that the Palestinian Authority was postponing the event that was timed to honor the 30th anniversary of this case of mass murder for “technical reasons” that may have more to do with a desire to put it off until media coverage abates (i.e., after Vice President Biden has left the country). Yet the New York Times account published today makes it clear that followers and officials of Abbas’s Fatah were by no means embarrassed by their connection with the most notorious terrorist attack in Israel’s history.

The story was in the best tradition of the fallacy about one man’s terrorist being another’s “freedom fighter.” The Times headline reflected this moral ambivalence: “Palestinians Honor Figure Reviled in Israel as a Terrorist.” For Palestinians quoted in the piece, including Fatah officials, Mughrabi was a heroine who was “every Palestinian girl,” rather than a heartless killer who helped mow down 38 human beings, including 13 children, before being killed herself by Israeli forces. As for this being an isolated incident, as Palestinian Media Watch has reported, the drumbeat of incitement against Israel and the glorification of violence against Jews is unceasing. Indeed, as even the Times notes, “the Palestinians also named two girls’ high schools, a computer center, a soccer championship and two summer camps for Ms. Mughrabi in the last two years.”

But those seeking moral equivalence between the two sides are largely undaunted. At the Times news blog, the Lede, Robert Mackey, who on Wednesday erroneously referred to East Jerusalem as “traditionally Arab,” wrote on Thursday that there are Jews who are extremists as well. He posted a video on the Times site purporting to be a Purim celebration by a few Jews living in a house in East Jerusalem. The “boisterous celebration of the Jewish holiday of Purim by Israelis living in a home in East Jerusalem … appeared to be a calculated affront to their new Arab neighbors.”

That leads us to ask the Lede blogger whether he would sympathize with complaints by Jews should they witness “a boisterous celebration” of a Muslim holiday anywhere in Israel, where Arabs and Christians, as well as Jews, are free to practice their religions.

It is true that the video did include a bit where one man sang a song in praise of Baruch Goldstein, the mad Israeli who murdered 29 Muslims in Hebron on Purim in 1994. That is offensive. But for those who see this as the equivalent of Arab incitement, it is worth pointing out that this is just one Jewish extremist. No one could credibly assert that the Israeli government or the overwhelming majority of the Israeli people share his views. In fact, such despicable beliefs are completely marginal in Israel. But while Baruch Goldstein is a hero only to a tiny fragment of a percentage of Israelis, Dalal Mughrabi is a heroine to virtually all Palestinians. Rather than an illustration of how both sides are mired in mutual hate, the reaction of the Israeli and Palestinian publics to these two names actually shows how different the two cultures are at this point in time.

Indeed, true peace will only be possible when Palestinians think of Mughrabi the same way most Israelis view Goldstein.

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Iraqi Elections — Good News

The Iraqi election looks, so far, to be generally good news. It went off without too much violence and it was managed by the Iraqis themselves with minimal American help. The preliminary results show that in the Shiite heartland of southern Iraq, Prime Minister Maliki’s State of Law Coalition appears to have outpolled the unholy alliance of ISCI and the Sadrists — the Iraqi National Alliance, which is widely viewed as the party closest to Iran. Meanwhile former Prime Minister Ayad Allawi’s Iraqiya coalition, which appeals for Sunni and secular votes, appears to be in first place in Sunni areas and running a close second overall behind State of Law. If the results hold up, it would suggest that last year’s provincial elections were no fluke — Iraqi voters prefer nationalist candidates running on law-and-order platforms to religious candidates who are seen as too close to the Iranians. This is yet another big step forward in Iraq’s emergence as that most unlikely of creatures — a real Arab democracy, something that President Bush’s myriad of critics long dismissed as a neocon fantasy.

But it is hard to know what lies ahead. Predictably, there are claims of fraud being bandied about by losing candidates and there is sure to be much difficult camel trading ahead as the new government is being formed. The situation remains unsettled, so it is well worth listening to Ryan Crocker, the first-rate former ambassador and General Petraeus’s indispensible partner in implementing the surge and turning around the situation in 2007-2008. Here is what he has to say in a new interview with Foreign Policy about the impending drawdown of U.S. forces, which are scheduled to go from roughly 100,000 today to 50,000 by the end of August:

The agreement I helped negotiate had an intermediate timeline to have forces out of cities and towns by mid-2009, which was accomplished, and full withdrawal by 2011. The August 2010 date was not part of that agreement. I would have preferred to see us keep maximum flexibility with the Iraqis between now and 2011.

It makes me nervous. We’re going to have a prolonged period of government formation. It could take two or three months, [and] it’s likely to be a pretty turbulent process. I think [the government formation process], in and of itself, is not likely to be destabilizing, but it means that the major issues out there aren’t going to be addressed. Things like disputed internal boundaries, Kirkuk, the relationship between federal, regional, and provincial governments — all of that’s going to be on hold until you have a new government.

That means that things aren’t going to be much further along come August than they are right now. So I would be more comfortable, within the terms of the agreement we negotiated, with keeping a more robust force for a longer period of time.

Sage words from one of our very best diplomats. We can only hope that President Obama is listening.

The Iraqi election looks, so far, to be generally good news. It went off without too much violence and it was managed by the Iraqis themselves with minimal American help. The preliminary results show that in the Shiite heartland of southern Iraq, Prime Minister Maliki’s State of Law Coalition appears to have outpolled the unholy alliance of ISCI and the Sadrists — the Iraqi National Alliance, which is widely viewed as the party closest to Iran. Meanwhile former Prime Minister Ayad Allawi’s Iraqiya coalition, which appeals for Sunni and secular votes, appears to be in first place in Sunni areas and running a close second overall behind State of Law. If the results hold up, it would suggest that last year’s provincial elections were no fluke — Iraqi voters prefer nationalist candidates running on law-and-order platforms to religious candidates who are seen as too close to the Iranians. This is yet another big step forward in Iraq’s emergence as that most unlikely of creatures — a real Arab democracy, something that President Bush’s myriad of critics long dismissed as a neocon fantasy.

But it is hard to know what lies ahead. Predictably, there are claims of fraud being bandied about by losing candidates and there is sure to be much difficult camel trading ahead as the new government is being formed. The situation remains unsettled, so it is well worth listening to Ryan Crocker, the first-rate former ambassador and General Petraeus’s indispensible partner in implementing the surge and turning around the situation in 2007-2008. Here is what he has to say in a new interview with Foreign Policy about the impending drawdown of U.S. forces, which are scheduled to go from roughly 100,000 today to 50,000 by the end of August:

The agreement I helped negotiate had an intermediate timeline to have forces out of cities and towns by mid-2009, which was accomplished, and full withdrawal by 2011. The August 2010 date was not part of that agreement. I would have preferred to see us keep maximum flexibility with the Iraqis between now and 2011.

It makes me nervous. We’re going to have a prolonged period of government formation. It could take two or three months, [and] it’s likely to be a pretty turbulent process. I think [the government formation process], in and of itself, is not likely to be destabilizing, but it means that the major issues out there aren’t going to be addressed. Things like disputed internal boundaries, Kirkuk, the relationship between federal, regional, and provincial governments — all of that’s going to be on hold until you have a new government.

That means that things aren’t going to be much further along come August than they are right now. So I would be more comfortable, within the terms of the agreement we negotiated, with keeping a more robust force for a longer period of time.

Sage words from one of our very best diplomats. We can only hope that President Obama is listening.

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Not Popular Outside the Beltway

The Obama-Reid-Pelosi troika keeps telling us (and their nervous members) that ObamaCare must be passed in order to prevent an election debacle. Candidates running for office feel differently. The Hill reports:

Hardly any Democrat running for Congress seems to want to talk about healthcare. Of the 26 leading Democratic House candidates contacted by The Hill, only one would commit to voting for the Senate healthcare bill if and when it comes to the House floor. Out of the more than two dozen Democratic challengers and open-seat House candidates, only 10 commented for this story. Eight outright declined to comment. Eight more didn’t respond to several days’ worth of requests via phone and e-mail.

Could it be that the bill pushed by the Democratic legislature is toxic out there on the stump? Indeed, it might just be that the very mention of health-care reform by candidates conveys an obtuseness concerning the voters’ concerns. Many voters remain puzzled, if not downright frustrated, that the entire political establishment is focused on something low on their list of priorities.

Unfortunately for members of Congress, they can’t vote “no comment.” They will need to let their constituents know soon enough whether a monstrous tax-and-spend entitlement scheme is really what the country needs right now (or ever).

The Obama-Reid-Pelosi troika keeps telling us (and their nervous members) that ObamaCare must be passed in order to prevent an election debacle. Candidates running for office feel differently. The Hill reports:

Hardly any Democrat running for Congress seems to want to talk about healthcare. Of the 26 leading Democratic House candidates contacted by The Hill, only one would commit to voting for the Senate healthcare bill if and when it comes to the House floor. Out of the more than two dozen Democratic challengers and open-seat House candidates, only 10 commented for this story. Eight outright declined to comment. Eight more didn’t respond to several days’ worth of requests via phone and e-mail.

Could it be that the bill pushed by the Democratic legislature is toxic out there on the stump? Indeed, it might just be that the very mention of health-care reform by candidates conveys an obtuseness concerning the voters’ concerns. Many voters remain puzzled, if not downright frustrated, that the entire political establishment is focused on something low on their list of priorities.

Unfortunately for members of Congress, they can’t vote “no comment.” They will need to let their constituents know soon enough whether a monstrous tax-and-spend entitlement scheme is really what the country needs right now (or ever).

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The No-Good, Horrible Biden Visit

The broken pottery is being scooped up in the wake of Joe Biden’s Israel visit. We are told that there is a “huge debate” going on now within the administration:

Administration officials said Thursday that while Mitchell is still slated to return to the region next week to try to salvage the proximity talks, there is a “huge debate” inside the administration “about what to do.” Part of Biden’s purpose in the trip was to reassure Israelis about the U.S.’s traditional commitment, and much of his speech in Tel Aviv was devoted to that theme.

So that didn’t really work out as planned, it seems. But, of course, the peace-process cottage industry sees this as an opportunity to — you guessed it! — push Israel into talks with the Palestinians: “In Washington, some experts said the settlements episode could give Washington leverage to make Netanyahu himself sign off on any housing decisions regarding contested East Jerusalem — and to push both him and the Palestinians to avoid any further such provocations in Jerusalem while proximity talks are under way.”

Well, there is no dissuading some who have devoted themselves to a process that is increasingly divorced from reality. It defies logic to think that an acrimonious relationship between the U.S. and Israel can help promote the peace process. It was, one fondly recalls from the George W. Bush days, only when the relationship between the two countries was robust, respectful, and warm that the Israeli government was emboldened to make concessions — on check points, settlements, and Gaza itself.

Aaron David Miller, no critic of the peace process, is a bit more in touch with reality than the unnamed “experts.” All of this he rightly sees as a giant non-starter and no way to run Middle East policy:

Obama has no Middle East policy without the Israelis. As frustrated as the president and vice president may be with Israel, any chance Washington has of moving negotiations forward requires Israeli cooperation. And the administration does not want to lose its influence with Israel when it comes to Iran — particularly now, with sanctions in the works. . . . Moreover, Obama now knows the settlements issue is a dog’s lunch. He can’t win — particularly when it involves Jerusalem. No, the smart money is on Obama’s keeping his powder dry, for now. Odds are that he will focus, instead, on getting the indirect talks launched, while he thinks about how to bridge the gaps on the core issues, including borders, security, refugees and, yes, Jerusalem.

“Condemning” Israel is an odd way to keep his “powder dry.” But Miller is right: the Obami are never going to win a standoff, especially a public one, with Israel over its eternal capital. And so, once again, the Obami are left with bruised feelings all around and no viable gameplan. It makes one long for smart diplomacy.

The Israelis and Palestinians will, at some point, have to sit down directly. But the history of successful Arab-Israeli peacemaking demonstrates that every agreement that lasted — with the exception of the Israeli-Jordanian peace treaty — came about through U.S. mediation.

The broken pottery is being scooped up in the wake of Joe Biden’s Israel visit. We are told that there is a “huge debate” going on now within the administration:

Administration officials said Thursday that while Mitchell is still slated to return to the region next week to try to salvage the proximity talks, there is a “huge debate” inside the administration “about what to do.” Part of Biden’s purpose in the trip was to reassure Israelis about the U.S.’s traditional commitment, and much of his speech in Tel Aviv was devoted to that theme.

So that didn’t really work out as planned, it seems. But, of course, the peace-process cottage industry sees this as an opportunity to — you guessed it! — push Israel into talks with the Palestinians: “In Washington, some experts said the settlements episode could give Washington leverage to make Netanyahu himself sign off on any housing decisions regarding contested East Jerusalem — and to push both him and the Palestinians to avoid any further such provocations in Jerusalem while proximity talks are under way.”

Well, there is no dissuading some who have devoted themselves to a process that is increasingly divorced from reality. It defies logic to think that an acrimonious relationship between the U.S. and Israel can help promote the peace process. It was, one fondly recalls from the George W. Bush days, only when the relationship between the two countries was robust, respectful, and warm that the Israeli government was emboldened to make concessions — on check points, settlements, and Gaza itself.

Aaron David Miller, no critic of the peace process, is a bit more in touch with reality than the unnamed “experts.” All of this he rightly sees as a giant non-starter and no way to run Middle East policy:

Obama has no Middle East policy without the Israelis. As frustrated as the president and vice president may be with Israel, any chance Washington has of moving negotiations forward requires Israeli cooperation. And the administration does not want to lose its influence with Israel when it comes to Iran — particularly now, with sanctions in the works. . . . Moreover, Obama now knows the settlements issue is a dog’s lunch. He can’t win — particularly when it involves Jerusalem. No, the smart money is on Obama’s keeping his powder dry, for now. Odds are that he will focus, instead, on getting the indirect talks launched, while he thinks about how to bridge the gaps on the core issues, including borders, security, refugees and, yes, Jerusalem.

“Condemning” Israel is an odd way to keep his “powder dry.” But Miller is right: the Obami are never going to win a standoff, especially a public one, with Israel over its eternal capital. And so, once again, the Obami are left with bruised feelings all around and no viable gameplan. It makes one long for smart diplomacy.

The Israelis and Palestinians will, at some point, have to sit down directly. But the history of successful Arab-Israeli peacemaking demonstrates that every agreement that lasted — with the exception of the Israeli-Jordanian peace treaty — came about through U.S. mediation.

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Remembering Dalal Mughrabi

The Palestinian Authority just pushed off plans to honor Dalal Mughrabi by renaming a square just outside Ramallah after her. Her claim to fame? In 1978 she headed up one of the most horrific acts of terror every undertaken in the name of Palestine. In the attack, she and 11 others under her command landed on a beach north of Tel Aviv and started shooting and hurling grenades at passing cars and buses on the highway. They then hijacked a bus. Anyone who tried to escape was gunned down. Thirty-eight Israelis, including 13 children, were killed in the Coastal Road Massacre. Another 71 were wounded. In response, Israel launched an assault on southern Lebanon, where her Fatah bosses were based.

We don’t know why the PA has delayed the renaming of the square, but they insist that it’s not because, say, she might not put the Palestinians in the best light. On the contrary, reports the Jerusalem Post:

Adnan Dumairi, a senior PA security official, said that the ceremony had been delayed for “technical reasons.” He denied that the decision was the result of Israeli and American pressure. … “No one in the world can prevent the Palestinians from being proud of their history and heritage,” Dumairi said. “This history and heritage is part of our life.” He said that “had it not been for the blood and sacrifices of martyrs like Mughrabi, the Palestinians would not have been able to reach peace agreements and other achievements.”

And so, while Vice President Biden was busy “condemning” Israel for building housing units in its capital, the Palestinians were bogged down on when to best lionize their martyrs. But make no mistake: the Palestinians are proud of their achievements, just as the Israelis are of theirs.

The Palestinian Authority just pushed off plans to honor Dalal Mughrabi by renaming a square just outside Ramallah after her. Her claim to fame? In 1978 she headed up one of the most horrific acts of terror every undertaken in the name of Palestine. In the attack, she and 11 others under her command landed on a beach north of Tel Aviv and started shooting and hurling grenades at passing cars and buses on the highway. They then hijacked a bus. Anyone who tried to escape was gunned down. Thirty-eight Israelis, including 13 children, were killed in the Coastal Road Massacre. Another 71 were wounded. In response, Israel launched an assault on southern Lebanon, where her Fatah bosses were based.

We don’t know why the PA has delayed the renaming of the square, but they insist that it’s not because, say, she might not put the Palestinians in the best light. On the contrary, reports the Jerusalem Post:

Adnan Dumairi, a senior PA security official, said that the ceremony had been delayed for “technical reasons.” He denied that the decision was the result of Israeli and American pressure. … “No one in the world can prevent the Palestinians from being proud of their history and heritage,” Dumairi said. “This history and heritage is part of our life.” He said that “had it not been for the blood and sacrifices of martyrs like Mughrabi, the Palestinians would not have been able to reach peace agreements and other achievements.”

And so, while Vice President Biden was busy “condemning” Israel for building housing units in its capital, the Palestinians were bogged down on when to best lionize their martyrs. But make no mistake: the Palestinians are proud of their achievements, just as the Israelis are of theirs.

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Trying to Reinvent Obama

Dee Dee Myers is the latest Democrat to step forward offering advice to Obama. Her bottom line: change your personality. She finds him “calm,” “cool,” and “self-possessed.” The result, she says:

But while eschewing emotion — and its companion, vulnerability — Obama should be careful not to sacrifice empathy, the “I feel your pain” connection that sustained [Bill] Clinton. This connection is the shorthand people use to measure their leaders’ intentions. If people believe you’re on their side, they will trust your decisions. Too often, Obama leaves the impression that he stands alone — and likes it that way. Clinton was fond of saying, “We’re all going up or down together.” Obama must make sure that people know that he needs their help as much as they need his.

We’ve had a series of detached performances — Fort Hood and  the Christmas Day bombing — in which he was weirdly unemotional. A snippy showing at the health-care summit. And an attack on the Supreme Court. Indeed, he seems most engaged when he’s attacking his opponents, as he refers to the growing number of those who disagree with him.

Myers gives campaign-style advice in consultant-speak (“reconnect his biography to his agenda”):

Obama also needs to remind people that things weren’t always easy for him. The campaign introduced the country to a man whose life story was both unusual — a Kenyan father and a Kansan mother, a childhood spent in Hawaii and Indonesia — and broadly shared: a single mom who worked hard and sacrificed for her children and a family that faced difficult times but never lost its faith in the future.

But that all seems beside the point, oddly inappropriate for the presidency as opposed to the campaign. (There really is a difference between the two.) Something more fundamental is going on here: Obama seems not to respect his fellow citizens — the uninformed rubes who crashed the health-care town halls — nor care what they think. All his energy now is devoted to disregarding their strong aversion to his idea of health-care reform and forcing through a vote on something the public doesn’t want. It’s hard to bond with the American people, which is what Myers is suggesting, when your agenda conveys disdain for their concerns. Myers gets closer to the nub of the problem as she concludes:

Obama maintains a reservoir of goodwill. Even people who don’t approve of the job he’s doing like him personally. Most think he understands their problems and cares about people like them. In other words, people want to have a beer with him. They’re just not sure he wants to have a beer with them.

But that reservoir is being depleted over time. And who wants to have a beer with someone who doesn’t listen to anything you have to say?

It’s hard to conceal your personality in the 24/7 news cycle and in the most prominent job in the world. What was intriguing in the campaign — that cool, “superior” temperament — is now a liability. But it’s hard to change who you are. If Democrats are queasy about the president’s lacking warmth and empathy, not to mention some executive skills, there isn’t much they can do about it. Their dream candidate turned out to be rather flawed in ways that are critical to a successful presidency. They — and we — will have to live with that for a few more years.

Dee Dee Myers is the latest Democrat to step forward offering advice to Obama. Her bottom line: change your personality. She finds him “calm,” “cool,” and “self-possessed.” The result, she says:

But while eschewing emotion — and its companion, vulnerability — Obama should be careful not to sacrifice empathy, the “I feel your pain” connection that sustained [Bill] Clinton. This connection is the shorthand people use to measure their leaders’ intentions. If people believe you’re on their side, they will trust your decisions. Too often, Obama leaves the impression that he stands alone — and likes it that way. Clinton was fond of saying, “We’re all going up or down together.” Obama must make sure that people know that he needs their help as much as they need his.

We’ve had a series of detached performances — Fort Hood and  the Christmas Day bombing — in which he was weirdly unemotional. A snippy showing at the health-care summit. And an attack on the Supreme Court. Indeed, he seems most engaged when he’s attacking his opponents, as he refers to the growing number of those who disagree with him.

Myers gives campaign-style advice in consultant-speak (“reconnect his biography to his agenda”):

Obama also needs to remind people that things weren’t always easy for him. The campaign introduced the country to a man whose life story was both unusual — a Kenyan father and a Kansan mother, a childhood spent in Hawaii and Indonesia — and broadly shared: a single mom who worked hard and sacrificed for her children and a family that faced difficult times but never lost its faith in the future.

But that all seems beside the point, oddly inappropriate for the presidency as opposed to the campaign. (There really is a difference between the two.) Something more fundamental is going on here: Obama seems not to respect his fellow citizens — the uninformed rubes who crashed the health-care town halls — nor care what they think. All his energy now is devoted to disregarding their strong aversion to his idea of health-care reform and forcing through a vote on something the public doesn’t want. It’s hard to bond with the American people, which is what Myers is suggesting, when your agenda conveys disdain for their concerns. Myers gets closer to the nub of the problem as she concludes:

Obama maintains a reservoir of goodwill. Even people who don’t approve of the job he’s doing like him personally. Most think he understands their problems and cares about people like them. In other words, people want to have a beer with him. They’re just not sure he wants to have a beer with them.

But that reservoir is being depleted over time. And who wants to have a beer with someone who doesn’t listen to anything you have to say?

It’s hard to conceal your personality in the 24/7 news cycle and in the most prominent job in the world. What was intriguing in the campaign — that cool, “superior” temperament — is now a liability. But it’s hard to change who you are. If Democrats are queasy about the president’s lacking warmth and empathy, not to mention some executive skills, there isn’t much they can do about it. Their dream candidate turned out to be rather flawed in ways that are critical to a successful presidency. They — and we — will have to live with that for a few more years.

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Both the Left and the Right Have Pegged Obama Correctly

David Brooks thinks Obama has gotten a bum rap:

Liberals are wrong to call him weak and indecisive. He’s just not always pursuing their aims. Conservatives are wrong to call him a big-government liberal. That’s just not a fair reading of his agenda.

According to Brooks, Obama is simply “a president trying to define a modern brand of moderate progressivism.” It’s those wacky partisans on both sides who don’t get the essence of the man — the moderate but not too leftiness of Obama. Brooks reaches this conclusion, in part, by ignoring the totality of the programs, spending, and ambition of Obama’ s agenda. (Leaving out cap-and-trade, the plan for a mammoth tax hike, the takeover of two car companies, the mound of spending, and the foreign-policy apology fetish makes Obama sound a whole lot less radical than he is.) And frankly, as Obama presides over the strangulation of the D.C. school-voucher program, it’s preposterous to argue that “Obama has been the most determined education reformer in the modern presidency.”

Brooks also ignores that it’s not only conservative partisans who have recoiled against Obama’s excesses. Obama has lost the middle of the country, as independents’ support has plummeted. These voters are freaked out by the spending and the fixation on a mammoth health-care plan. A great deal of the country has come to see Obama and the Democratic party as “too liberal.” And poll after poll shows a newfound appreciation for “fewer services, lower taxes” over “more services, higher taxes.” If Obama is horribly misunderstood, then a large segment of the country — not simply die-hard conservatives — have misread him.

It’s a mistake, I think, to conclude that Obama is not extremely liberal in his political bent. It’s that Obama’s extremism is tempered by ineptitude. He simply hasn’t been able to craft legislation that embodies that “new foundation” — a pretty leftist formulation, by the way.

So the Left and Right are not both wrong about Obama. To the contrary, they both have it right. Obama is, as the Left bemoans, emotionally remote, indecisive, and lacking in deal-making interest and skills. He is, as the Right decries, a “big government liberal … arrogant toward foes, condescending toward allies and runs a partisan political machine.” The two are not mutually exclusive. It is the confluence of both that has whittled his support and rendered him, at least for now, an unsuccessful president.

David Brooks thinks Obama has gotten a bum rap:

Liberals are wrong to call him weak and indecisive. He’s just not always pursuing their aims. Conservatives are wrong to call him a big-government liberal. That’s just not a fair reading of his agenda.

According to Brooks, Obama is simply “a president trying to define a modern brand of moderate progressivism.” It’s those wacky partisans on both sides who don’t get the essence of the man — the moderate but not too leftiness of Obama. Brooks reaches this conclusion, in part, by ignoring the totality of the programs, spending, and ambition of Obama’ s agenda. (Leaving out cap-and-trade, the plan for a mammoth tax hike, the takeover of two car companies, the mound of spending, and the foreign-policy apology fetish makes Obama sound a whole lot less radical than he is.) And frankly, as Obama presides over the strangulation of the D.C. school-voucher program, it’s preposterous to argue that “Obama has been the most determined education reformer in the modern presidency.”

Brooks also ignores that it’s not only conservative partisans who have recoiled against Obama’s excesses. Obama has lost the middle of the country, as independents’ support has plummeted. These voters are freaked out by the spending and the fixation on a mammoth health-care plan. A great deal of the country has come to see Obama and the Democratic party as “too liberal.” And poll after poll shows a newfound appreciation for “fewer services, lower taxes” over “more services, higher taxes.” If Obama is horribly misunderstood, then a large segment of the country — not simply die-hard conservatives — have misread him.

It’s a mistake, I think, to conclude that Obama is not extremely liberal in his political bent. It’s that Obama’s extremism is tempered by ineptitude. He simply hasn’t been able to craft legislation that embodies that “new foundation” — a pretty leftist formulation, by the way.

So the Left and Right are not both wrong about Obama. To the contrary, they both have it right. Obama is, as the Left bemoans, emotionally remote, indecisive, and lacking in deal-making interest and skills. He is, as the Right decries, a “big government liberal … arrogant toward foes, condescending toward allies and runs a partisan political machine.” The two are not mutually exclusive. It is the confluence of both that has whittled his support and rendered him, at least for now, an unsuccessful president.

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Reid Keeps on Working

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid suffered a personal calamity yesterday when his wife Landra and daughter Lana were injured in a chain collision on a Virginia interstate. Although both mother and daughter are apparently out of danger, Landra Reid’s injuries included, according to Reid’s spokesman, a “broken nose, a broken back, a broken neck.” Anyone who has suffered the sudden and serious injury of a loved one knows this must be consuming all his thoughts, and will instinctively utter a prayer for her recovery.

Which is why I was struck by the following few lines in the New York Times‘s coverage of the accident:

Reid, D-Nev., went to the hospital after being notified of the accident and returned to Capitol Hill for a meeting with White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on efforts to pass health care legislation. He went back to the hospital Thursday evening.

I really don’t mean to sound nitpicky. I understand that the American people have been waiting a long time for progress on health care. And that in the face of personal tragedy, there is something stirring about Reid’s commitment to the needs of the nation. I also understand that his wife’s injuries, though serious, are not life-threatening. Yet there is still something very upsetting about not giving the guy a day off to be with his wife and daughter, who may have just escaped a far worse tragedy. I don’t want to speculate whether he insisted on attending the meeting, or whether it was Emanuel and Pelosi who pushed it; even if he insisted, they should still have just canceled. Nor does it help to take the ultra-cynical view and say that, hey, they’re all politicians, and they will always put politics ahead of everything. Because even according to this approach, what does it say about what the voters are looking for in their leaders? Shouldn’t it be to the politicians’ advantage to appear as caring individuals who understand that there are just times when you drop everything and deal with the real things in life — especially if they’re asking for the nation’s trust in caring for the sick and injured across America?

But I’d rather not go down that route. I’d rather just chalk it all up to the inscrutability of human things, and wish the best for Reid’s family.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid suffered a personal calamity yesterday when his wife Landra and daughter Lana were injured in a chain collision on a Virginia interstate. Although both mother and daughter are apparently out of danger, Landra Reid’s injuries included, according to Reid’s spokesman, a “broken nose, a broken back, a broken neck.” Anyone who has suffered the sudden and serious injury of a loved one knows this must be consuming all his thoughts, and will instinctively utter a prayer for her recovery.

Which is why I was struck by the following few lines in the New York Times‘s coverage of the accident:

Reid, D-Nev., went to the hospital after being notified of the accident and returned to Capitol Hill for a meeting with White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on efforts to pass health care legislation. He went back to the hospital Thursday evening.

I really don’t mean to sound nitpicky. I understand that the American people have been waiting a long time for progress on health care. And that in the face of personal tragedy, there is something stirring about Reid’s commitment to the needs of the nation. I also understand that his wife’s injuries, though serious, are not life-threatening. Yet there is still something very upsetting about not giving the guy a day off to be with his wife and daughter, who may have just escaped a far worse tragedy. I don’t want to speculate whether he insisted on attending the meeting, or whether it was Emanuel and Pelosi who pushed it; even if he insisted, they should still have just canceled. Nor does it help to take the ultra-cynical view and say that, hey, they’re all politicians, and they will always put politics ahead of everything. Because even according to this approach, what does it say about what the voters are looking for in their leaders? Shouldn’t it be to the politicians’ advantage to appear as caring individuals who understand that there are just times when you drop everything and deal with the real things in life — especially if they’re asking for the nation’s trust in caring for the sick and injured across America?

But I’d rather not go down that route. I’d rather just chalk it all up to the inscrutability of human things, and wish the best for Reid’s family.

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How Low?

Observing that Obama has hit a new low (45 percent) in Gallup, Ben Smith comments that “it sure is hard to make the case that all this health care talk is, at this point, anything but a political liability.” For Obama and the Democrats in Congress, it seems. As for the latter, the RealClearPolitics poll average has lawmakers at 19.3 percent approval and 75.7 percent disapproval. The spread has never been wider since the start of Obama’s presidency.

Democrats tell us — or tell themselves as panic grips them in the middle of the night — that this will improve once they pass an overwhelmingly unpopular bill through a series of parliamentary tricks. Yes, it sounds loony, and it is. But the hope — some would say the magical thinking that has gripped them — is that the base will recover its enthusiasm and stem the tide of rising anger. But the base isn’t that thrilled with ObamaCare. So “the Left will like us more” strikes one as the sort of desperate justification a San Francisco speaker of the House in an utterly safe seat would say. As Kim Strassel writes:

To believe this is to believe that a liberal base that remains furious with the White House on Guantanamo, on Afghanistan, on cap and trade, will turn out in enthusiastic droves because the White House passed a health bill that the same base views as a cop out. That base doesn’t want a health-care victory; it wants a public option. Unless the president is prepared to give it to them, Democrats might not want to bet November on base support.

There really is no telling how low the numbers can go for Obama and Congress. As George W. Bush’s numbers in his second term drifted lower and lower, Republicans kept waiting for the moment when they’d would recover. The Iraq war was going better, the economy hadn’t yet cratered, and Katrina was off the headlines — yet the numbers didn’t recover. Fairly or not (and deprived of the example of Obama, which has proved a boon to Bush nostalgia even among his grumpiest conservative detractors), the voters had tuned out and given up. That’s what can happen to a president.

In this case, Obama has more than two and a half years to recover. But overexposed and devoid of credibility, having frittered away precious capital on a hugely unpopular agenda item and created havoc in his own party, he cannot count on those numbers improving. Indeed, if he passes this over the protestations of the public — or if he doesn’t, and is reviled by his side as inept — he may look back fondly on the days when his approval rested in the mid 40s.

Observing that Obama has hit a new low (45 percent) in Gallup, Ben Smith comments that “it sure is hard to make the case that all this health care talk is, at this point, anything but a political liability.” For Obama and the Democrats in Congress, it seems. As for the latter, the RealClearPolitics poll average has lawmakers at 19.3 percent approval and 75.7 percent disapproval. The spread has never been wider since the start of Obama’s presidency.

Democrats tell us — or tell themselves as panic grips them in the middle of the night — that this will improve once they pass an overwhelmingly unpopular bill through a series of parliamentary tricks. Yes, it sounds loony, and it is. But the hope — some would say the magical thinking that has gripped them — is that the base will recover its enthusiasm and stem the tide of rising anger. But the base isn’t that thrilled with ObamaCare. So “the Left will like us more” strikes one as the sort of desperate justification a San Francisco speaker of the House in an utterly safe seat would say. As Kim Strassel writes:

To believe this is to believe that a liberal base that remains furious with the White House on Guantanamo, on Afghanistan, on cap and trade, will turn out in enthusiastic droves because the White House passed a health bill that the same base views as a cop out. That base doesn’t want a health-care victory; it wants a public option. Unless the president is prepared to give it to them, Democrats might not want to bet November on base support.

There really is no telling how low the numbers can go for Obama and Congress. As George W. Bush’s numbers in his second term drifted lower and lower, Republicans kept waiting for the moment when they’d would recover. The Iraq war was going better, the economy hadn’t yet cratered, and Katrina was off the headlines — yet the numbers didn’t recover. Fairly or not (and deprived of the example of Obama, which has proved a boon to Bush nostalgia even among his grumpiest conservative detractors), the voters had tuned out and given up. That’s what can happen to a president.

In this case, Obama has more than two and a half years to recover. But overexposed and devoid of credibility, having frittered away precious capital on a hugely unpopular agenda item and created havoc in his own party, he cannot count on those numbers improving. Indeed, if he passes this over the protestations of the public — or if he doesn’t, and is reviled by his side as inept — he may look back fondly on the days when his approval rested in the mid 40s.

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It’s the Contempt

Democrats Pat Caddell and Doug Schoen try to sound the warning on ObamaCare:

Their blind persistence in the face of reality threatens to turn this political march of folly into an electoral rout in November. In the wake of the stinging loss in Massachusetts, there was a moment when the president and Democratic leadership seemed to realize the reality of the health-care situation. Yet like some seductive siren of Greek mythology, the lure of health-care reform has arisen again.

Quite simply, Obama has lost, they observe, the public-opinion battle: “If it fails, as appears possible, Democrats will face the brunt of the electorate’s reaction. If it passes, however, Democrats will face a far greater calamitous reaction at the polls. Wishing, praying or pretending will not change these outcomes.”

The polls are wrong or the voters are dolts or they will learn to love it. We’ve heard some variation of each of these excuses over the past year. Perhaps Obama and the Democrats are in denial. But I think it’s more properly seen as contempt. They simply don’t care what voters think, for they know best. That’s the entire premise of ObamaCare. Voters who may be young and healthy can’t be trusted to decide to self-insure or buy cheap, high-deductible plans. Employers can’t be trusted to balance health care, salary, and other employee benefits in deciding how to compensate their employees. Consumers can’t be trusted to shop around from state to state or select the exact sort of plan they need; the government will set “minimum” standards (which include every procedure politicians deem necessary).

So should we be surprised that Democratic politicians are intent on doing this, knowing full well voters don’t want them to? Voters sense when they’re being denigrated, and the results, should ObamaCare pass, will be severe. (“Voters are hardly enthralled with the GOP, but the Democrats are pursuing policies that are out of step with the way ordinary Americans think and feel about politics and government. Barring some change of approach, they will be punished severely at the polls.”) But there’s still time for individual House Democrats to prevent the incineration of their own careers and their party’s fortunes. All they need to do is go home for the recess and ask voters if this is what they want. At each and every turn — three key elections, the August recess, constant polling — the voters have given the same answer. Now the only thing that remains is to see if Nancy Pelosi’s members share her disdain for what their constituents think.

Democrats Pat Caddell and Doug Schoen try to sound the warning on ObamaCare:

Their blind persistence in the face of reality threatens to turn this political march of folly into an electoral rout in November. In the wake of the stinging loss in Massachusetts, there was a moment when the president and Democratic leadership seemed to realize the reality of the health-care situation. Yet like some seductive siren of Greek mythology, the lure of health-care reform has arisen again.

Quite simply, Obama has lost, they observe, the public-opinion battle: “If it fails, as appears possible, Democrats will face the brunt of the electorate’s reaction. If it passes, however, Democrats will face a far greater calamitous reaction at the polls. Wishing, praying or pretending will not change these outcomes.”

The polls are wrong or the voters are dolts or they will learn to love it. We’ve heard some variation of each of these excuses over the past year. Perhaps Obama and the Democrats are in denial. But I think it’s more properly seen as contempt. They simply don’t care what voters think, for they know best. That’s the entire premise of ObamaCare. Voters who may be young and healthy can’t be trusted to decide to self-insure or buy cheap, high-deductible plans. Employers can’t be trusted to balance health care, salary, and other employee benefits in deciding how to compensate their employees. Consumers can’t be trusted to shop around from state to state or select the exact sort of plan they need; the government will set “minimum” standards (which include every procedure politicians deem necessary).

So should we be surprised that Democratic politicians are intent on doing this, knowing full well voters don’t want them to? Voters sense when they’re being denigrated, and the results, should ObamaCare pass, will be severe. (“Voters are hardly enthralled with the GOP, but the Democrats are pursuing policies that are out of step with the way ordinary Americans think and feel about politics and government. Barring some change of approach, they will be punished severely at the polls.”) But there’s still time for individual House Democrats to prevent the incineration of their own careers and their party’s fortunes. All they need to do is go home for the recess and ask voters if this is what they want. At each and every turn — three key elections, the August recess, constant polling — the voters have given the same answer. Now the only thing that remains is to see if Nancy Pelosi’s members share her disdain for what their constituents think.

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Repeating Peace-Process Pablum

Two paragraphs of Joe Biden’s speech yesterday are worth examining. They perfectly encapsulate the infatuation with the “peace process” and the degree to which its premises are accepted but never examined for any passing familiarity with reality. Biden said:

These indirect talks everyone knows are just that, indirect talks, indirect negotiations. The only path, though, to finally resolving the permanent status issues, including borders, security, refugees, and Jerusalem are direct talks. But you’ve got to begin. The process has to begin. Our administration fully supports this effort led by our Special Envoy, Senator George Mitchell, a seasoned negotiator and a proven peacemaker in whom the President, the Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and I have complete and utter confidence.

We believe that through good-faith negotiations, the parties can mutually agree to an outcome which ends the conflict and reconciles the Palestinian goal of an independent and viable state based on the ’67 lines with agreed swaps and Israel’s goal of a Jewish state with secure and recognized borders that reflect subsequent developments and meet Israel’s security requirements.

Why is it that “you’ve got to begin”? For what reason must “the process begin?” Well, George Mitchell would have nothing to do with it in his time and the entire apparatus devoted to ceaseless, fruitless negotiations would need to do be redeployed. But Biden never explains why we need to begin a process when there is no remote chance of its success and, furthermore, there is no unified Palestinian government prepared to make peace. He is reduced to pablum, repeated for emphasis but utterly not compelling to anyone whose job doesn’t depend on perpetuating the kabuki theater of negotiations. And he must acknowledge that in this incarnation — indirect talks — we are really engaged in unproductive busy work for diplomats.

This is followed, even for Biden, by a ludicrous declaration: “Our administration fully supports this effort led by our Special Envoy, Senator George Mitchell, a seasoned negotiator and a proven peacemaker in whom the President, the Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and I have complete and utter confidence.” Who cares? The question is whether the parties have faith in these people. The answer, especially after this visit, is almost certainly “no.”

Next is the boilerplate repetition that negotiations will lead to a two-state solution. This is where we came in. Why? What facts point to the conclusion that the parties can reach an agreement? There aren’t any.

If Biden’s visit proved anything, it is that diplomatic activity can be counterproductive, inflaming rather than reducing conflicts and deflecting attention from more productive activities. Consider this: is the U.S.-Israeli relationship in a worse or better shape after Biden’s visit? The answer is obvious, as should be the conclusion: sometimes it’s best if everyone stays home.

Two paragraphs of Joe Biden’s speech yesterday are worth examining. They perfectly encapsulate the infatuation with the “peace process” and the degree to which its premises are accepted but never examined for any passing familiarity with reality. Biden said:

These indirect talks everyone knows are just that, indirect talks, indirect negotiations. The only path, though, to finally resolving the permanent status issues, including borders, security, refugees, and Jerusalem are direct talks. But you’ve got to begin. The process has to begin. Our administration fully supports this effort led by our Special Envoy, Senator George Mitchell, a seasoned negotiator and a proven peacemaker in whom the President, the Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and I have complete and utter confidence.

We believe that through good-faith negotiations, the parties can mutually agree to an outcome which ends the conflict and reconciles the Palestinian goal of an independent and viable state based on the ’67 lines with agreed swaps and Israel’s goal of a Jewish state with secure and recognized borders that reflect subsequent developments and meet Israel’s security requirements.

Why is it that “you’ve got to begin”? For what reason must “the process begin?” Well, George Mitchell would have nothing to do with it in his time and the entire apparatus devoted to ceaseless, fruitless negotiations would need to do be redeployed. But Biden never explains why we need to begin a process when there is no remote chance of its success and, furthermore, there is no unified Palestinian government prepared to make peace. He is reduced to pablum, repeated for emphasis but utterly not compelling to anyone whose job doesn’t depend on perpetuating the kabuki theater of negotiations. And he must acknowledge that in this incarnation — indirect talks — we are really engaged in unproductive busy work for diplomats.

This is followed, even for Biden, by a ludicrous declaration: “Our administration fully supports this effort led by our Special Envoy, Senator George Mitchell, a seasoned negotiator and a proven peacemaker in whom the President, the Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and I have complete and utter confidence.” Who cares? The question is whether the parties have faith in these people. The answer, especially after this visit, is almost certainly “no.”

Next is the boilerplate repetition that negotiations will lead to a two-state solution. This is where we came in. Why? What facts point to the conclusion that the parties can reach an agreement? There aren’t any.

If Biden’s visit proved anything, it is that diplomatic activity can be counterproductive, inflaming rather than reducing conflicts and deflecting attention from more productive activities. Consider this: is the U.S.-Israeli relationship in a worse or better shape after Biden’s visit? The answer is obvious, as should be the conclusion: sometimes it’s best if everyone stays home.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Michael Barone on ObamaCare: “In fall 2009, Democrats could have pivoted on health care to craft a popular bill or a watered-down unpopular bill to be passed by a bipartisan safe-seat coalition. Instead, they plunged ahead and rammed through unpopular bills on party-line votes. … It’s beginning to look like the goal of health care legislation was a bridge too far. There’s a reason it’s hard to pass unpopular legislation on party-line votes. It’s not the Senate rules. It’s called democracy.”

Prospects don’t look bright for ObamaCare: “House Democratic leaders hoping to pass a health care reform bill by the Easter congressional recess face increasingly difficult odds, as several of the party’s rank-and-file have come out against the plan passed by the Senate in December. According to an ongoing CNN survey, 17 House Democrats indicate that they would vote no on the Senate plan as currently written, including six members who voted in favor of the House bill passed in November.”

Especially without the pro-life Democrats: “House Democratic leaders abandoned a long struggle to appease the most ardent abortion opponents in their ranks, gambling Thursday that they can secure the support for President Barack Obama’s sweeping health care legislation with showdown votes looming next week. … Congressional leaders are hoping they can find enough support from other wavering Democrats to pass legislation that only cleared the House by five votes in an earlier incarnation.” But where are such votes?

No one has spotted them yet: “Our latest whip count shows no progress for House Dem leadership. In fact, more members are sneaking onto the watch list, as Rep. Steve Kagen (D-WI) voiced concern over whether the Senate would actually pass a sidecar bill.”

More cringey news from Illinois for Democrats: “The owner of the Boston Blackie’s restaurant chain — a man with strong political ties to U.S. Senate candidate Alexi Giannoulias — was charged today with bank fraud, along with the owner’s son and an employee. Boston Blackie’s owner Nick Giannis, 62, his son, Chris Giannis, 38, and Boston Blackie’s manager Andy Bakopoulos, 38, allegedly defrauded Charter One and Washington Mutual banks of nearly $2 million, Cook County prosecutors said.”

In the New York Senate race: “Encouraged by state and national Republican Party leaders, Dan Senor, an author, private equity executive and Defense Department adviser in the last Bush administration, is seriously considering a political challenge against Senator Kirsten E. Gillibrand, according to three people told of the discussions. … The Republican leaders, who cautioned that they were not backing any single candidate, have told Mr. Senor that his deep ties in the party, expertise on national security and background as a businessman would make him a formidable candidate.” Well, if you’re a Republican with political ambitions, this is certainly the year to make a run.

Mark Levin pierces the fog of sanctimony surrounding the Justice Department lawyers who previously represented terrorists: “And on what basis do we think the Obama administration selected these seven lawyers (there may be more) from 1 million other lawyers to serve in top political positions at Justice? Is it a coincidence that they had roles (direct or related) in defending detainees? … Personnel makes policy, and that includes lawyers in policy positions. So, while the selection of these lawyers clearly has some relationship to their private practices, the attempt to identify who they are and what they’re doing since being appointed is said to be off limits, unless, of course, you appointed them. Preposterous.”

Let’s face it: the”most transparent administration in history” isn’t. Sen. Jeff Sessions, for one, wants to know why Eric Holder didn’t disclose in his confirmation hearing an amicus brief in support of Jose Padilla.

A wonderful suggestion by George Will: no one should go to the State of the Union. “Next year, Roberts and the rest of the justices should stay away from the president’s address. So should the uniformed military, who are out of place in a setting of competitive political grandstanding. For that matter, the 535 legislators should boycott these undignified events. They would, if there were that many congressional grown-ups averse to being props in the childishness of popping up from their seats to cheer, or remaining sullenly seated in semi-pouts, as the politics of the moment dictates.”

Michael Barone on ObamaCare: “In fall 2009, Democrats could have pivoted on health care to craft a popular bill or a watered-down unpopular bill to be passed by a bipartisan safe-seat coalition. Instead, they plunged ahead and rammed through unpopular bills on party-line votes. … It’s beginning to look like the goal of health care legislation was a bridge too far. There’s a reason it’s hard to pass unpopular legislation on party-line votes. It’s not the Senate rules. It’s called democracy.”

Prospects don’t look bright for ObamaCare: “House Democratic leaders hoping to pass a health care reform bill by the Easter congressional recess face increasingly difficult odds, as several of the party’s rank-and-file have come out against the plan passed by the Senate in December. According to an ongoing CNN survey, 17 House Democrats indicate that they would vote no on the Senate plan as currently written, including six members who voted in favor of the House bill passed in November.”

Especially without the pro-life Democrats: “House Democratic leaders abandoned a long struggle to appease the most ardent abortion opponents in their ranks, gambling Thursday that they can secure the support for President Barack Obama’s sweeping health care legislation with showdown votes looming next week. … Congressional leaders are hoping they can find enough support from other wavering Democrats to pass legislation that only cleared the House by five votes in an earlier incarnation.” But where are such votes?

No one has spotted them yet: “Our latest whip count shows no progress for House Dem leadership. In fact, more members are sneaking onto the watch list, as Rep. Steve Kagen (D-WI) voiced concern over whether the Senate would actually pass a sidecar bill.”

More cringey news from Illinois for Democrats: “The owner of the Boston Blackie’s restaurant chain — a man with strong political ties to U.S. Senate candidate Alexi Giannoulias — was charged today with bank fraud, along with the owner’s son and an employee. Boston Blackie’s owner Nick Giannis, 62, his son, Chris Giannis, 38, and Boston Blackie’s manager Andy Bakopoulos, 38, allegedly defrauded Charter One and Washington Mutual banks of nearly $2 million, Cook County prosecutors said.”

In the New York Senate race: “Encouraged by state and national Republican Party leaders, Dan Senor, an author, private equity executive and Defense Department adviser in the last Bush administration, is seriously considering a political challenge against Senator Kirsten E. Gillibrand, according to three people told of the discussions. … The Republican leaders, who cautioned that they were not backing any single candidate, have told Mr. Senor that his deep ties in the party, expertise on national security and background as a businessman would make him a formidable candidate.” Well, if you’re a Republican with political ambitions, this is certainly the year to make a run.

Mark Levin pierces the fog of sanctimony surrounding the Justice Department lawyers who previously represented terrorists: “And on what basis do we think the Obama administration selected these seven lawyers (there may be more) from 1 million other lawyers to serve in top political positions at Justice? Is it a coincidence that they had roles (direct or related) in defending detainees? … Personnel makes policy, and that includes lawyers in policy positions. So, while the selection of these lawyers clearly has some relationship to their private practices, the attempt to identify who they are and what they’re doing since being appointed is said to be off limits, unless, of course, you appointed them. Preposterous.”

Let’s face it: the”most transparent administration in history” isn’t. Sen. Jeff Sessions, for one, wants to know why Eric Holder didn’t disclose in his confirmation hearing an amicus brief in support of Jose Padilla.

A wonderful suggestion by George Will: no one should go to the State of the Union. “Next year, Roberts and the rest of the justices should stay away from the president’s address. So should the uniformed military, who are out of place in a setting of competitive political grandstanding. For that matter, the 535 legislators should boycott these undignified events. They would, if there were that many congressional grown-ups averse to being props in the childishness of popping up from their seats to cheer, or remaining sullenly seated in semi-pouts, as the politics of the moment dictates.”

Read Less




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