Commentary Magazine


Posts For: March 26, 2010

WEB EXCLUSIVE: President Obama’s Priorities: Human Rights Be Damned

The UN Human Rights Council’s month-long session ended in Geneva on Friday, along with any justification for believing that President Obama is a champion of human rights. The president insisted that America join the UN’s lead human-rights body for the first time very early in his presidency, and the consequences are now painfully clear. The enemies of democracy and freedom are having a field day at the expense of American interests and values.

The Council is the personal playground of the Organization of the Islamic Conference. They hold the balance of power by controlling the Asian and African regional groups, which together form a majority at the Council. The Council’s agenda is accordingly fixated on issues of priority to the Islamic bloc — number one, delegitimizing Israel; number two, trumping free speech in the name of Islam; and number three, avoiding any criticism of human-rights violations in their own backyards. None of which has anything to do with protecting human rights.

To finish reading this COMMENTARY Web Exclusive, click here.

The UN Human Rights Council’s month-long session ended in Geneva on Friday, along with any justification for believing that President Obama is a champion of human rights. The president insisted that America join the UN’s lead human-rights body for the first time very early in his presidency, and the consequences are now painfully clear. The enemies of democracy and freedom are having a field day at the expense of American interests and values.

The Council is the personal playground of the Organization of the Islamic Conference. They hold the balance of power by controlling the Asian and African regional groups, which together form a majority at the Council. The Council’s agenda is accordingly fixated on issues of priority to the Islamic bloc — number one, delegitimizing Israel; number two, trumping free speech in the name of Islam; and number three, avoiding any criticism of human-rights violations in their own backyards. None of which has anything to do with protecting human rights.

To finish reading this COMMENTARY Web Exclusive, click here.

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Peace in Our Time: Ticker Tape, Early and Often

The hype surrounding this week’s serial announcements of a breakthrough in nuclear-arms talks is palpable. In more than 25 years of analyzing arms-control diplomacy, I don’t recall ever seeing news organizations report developments in it with so little skepticism or attention to detail. In each of its pieces on the arms treaty since the Kremlin’s announcement of the breakthrough on Wednesday, the New York Times has helpfully pointed out that this is a week of multiple triumphs for President Obama. From Newsweek’s in-house bloggers to ThinkProgress’s “Wonk Room,” the depiction of Obama’s treaty effort ranges from startlingly uncritical to hagiographic. Reports abound that Senate Republicans will fight the treaty, but outside of websites dedicated to the professional arcana of arms control and diplomacy, there is almost no discussion of the reasons why.

Those reasons matter. The ones summarized by the Heritage Foundation on Thursday –- missile defense, verification, and modernization of the U.S. arsenal –- are particularly troubling given that we don’t have a published treaty text yet. The language outlining what we’re signing up for hasn’t been made public; there has been no opportunity for open debate on its particulars or its rigor.

I would add two other troubling issues to those raised at the Heritage blog. An important point of concern in the U.S. involves the limitation on delivery platforms (missiles, aircraft, and submarines) that was announced this week. The limit of 800 platforms per side sets a boundary on America’s conventional capabilities. It also implies an agreement to parity with Russia in that regard: an effective reversal of George W. Bush’s policy in negotiating the 2002 Moscow SORT Treaty.

The other disputed issue is the handling of missile telemetry data. It was one of the main sticking points for negotiation as little as a month ago. If Russian agreement has been obtained, it’s likely that the U.S. position is the one that has softened. Readers can get a sense of the specifics on that here; basically, the way ahead appears to be acceding to Russia’s desire to revert to encrypted telemetry.

These issues seem to have evaporated without an overt explanation. That circumstance puts the Washington Post’s uniquely careful narrative in an informative light. The Post points out that the Russians were frustrated enough three weeks ago to propose breaking the talks off for a month. Obama’s White House pressed for a resolution, however –- and this week the White House appeared, in the Post’s words, to have been “surprised” when the Kremlin announced the breakthrough in negotiations. The sense is hard to avoid that the Russians got the concessions they wanted and rushed out with an announcement to preempt further haggling.

In the coming weeks we will hear about Senate Republicans objecting to the new treaty. The eventual publication of the treaty’s actual text, which we’re being asked to take on faith right now, is likely to validate senatorial concern. It’s neither curmudgeonly nor unfair to demand that the administration justify -– under critical and exacting scrutiny -– what it has agreed to. No previous administration has ever been given a pass by the press or the Senate in that regard.

Even if Senate Republicans scuttle ratification, we can expect Obama to abide by the treaty in his decisions about national-security strategy and defense priorities. The president can be stymied in his approach to national security, but it is very hard for Congress to effectively override him.

The hype surrounding this week’s serial announcements of a breakthrough in nuclear-arms talks is palpable. In more than 25 years of analyzing arms-control diplomacy, I don’t recall ever seeing news organizations report developments in it with so little skepticism or attention to detail. In each of its pieces on the arms treaty since the Kremlin’s announcement of the breakthrough on Wednesday, the New York Times has helpfully pointed out that this is a week of multiple triumphs for President Obama. From Newsweek’s in-house bloggers to ThinkProgress’s “Wonk Room,” the depiction of Obama’s treaty effort ranges from startlingly uncritical to hagiographic. Reports abound that Senate Republicans will fight the treaty, but outside of websites dedicated to the professional arcana of arms control and diplomacy, there is almost no discussion of the reasons why.

Those reasons matter. The ones summarized by the Heritage Foundation on Thursday –- missile defense, verification, and modernization of the U.S. arsenal –- are particularly troubling given that we don’t have a published treaty text yet. The language outlining what we’re signing up for hasn’t been made public; there has been no opportunity for open debate on its particulars or its rigor.

I would add two other troubling issues to those raised at the Heritage blog. An important point of concern in the U.S. involves the limitation on delivery platforms (missiles, aircraft, and submarines) that was announced this week. The limit of 800 platforms per side sets a boundary on America’s conventional capabilities. It also implies an agreement to parity with Russia in that regard: an effective reversal of George W. Bush’s policy in negotiating the 2002 Moscow SORT Treaty.

The other disputed issue is the handling of missile telemetry data. It was one of the main sticking points for negotiation as little as a month ago. If Russian agreement has been obtained, it’s likely that the U.S. position is the one that has softened. Readers can get a sense of the specifics on that here; basically, the way ahead appears to be acceding to Russia’s desire to revert to encrypted telemetry.

These issues seem to have evaporated without an overt explanation. That circumstance puts the Washington Post’s uniquely careful narrative in an informative light. The Post points out that the Russians were frustrated enough three weeks ago to propose breaking the talks off for a month. Obama’s White House pressed for a resolution, however –- and this week the White House appeared, in the Post’s words, to have been “surprised” when the Kremlin announced the breakthrough in negotiations. The sense is hard to avoid that the Russians got the concessions they wanted and rushed out with an announcement to preempt further haggling.

In the coming weeks we will hear about Senate Republicans objecting to the new treaty. The eventual publication of the treaty’s actual text, which we’re being asked to take on faith right now, is likely to validate senatorial concern. It’s neither curmudgeonly nor unfair to demand that the administration justify -– under critical and exacting scrutiny -– what it has agreed to. No previous administration has ever been given a pass by the press or the Senate in that regard.

Even if Senate Republicans scuttle ratification, we can expect Obama to abide by the treaty in his decisions about national-security strategy and defense priorities. The president can be stymied in his approach to national security, but it is very hard for Congress to effectively override him.

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The Second Time Will Be a Tragedy Too

Since he assumed office a year ago, Benjamin Netanyahu has (1) formally offered immediate negotiations with the Palestinians without preconditions, (2) affirmed Israeli support for a two-state solution, (3) declared a moratorium on new West Bank building — and has been met with a total refusal by the peace-partner Palestinians to begin even “proximity talks,” absent a concession that they know that neither Netanyahu nor any other Israeli prime minister will make.

It was only two months ago that George Mitchell had the following colloquy with Charlie Rose about the demand for a settlement freeze in Jerusalem:

GEORGE MITCHELL: … So what we got was a moratorium, ten months, far less than what was requested, but more significant than any action taken by any previous government of Israel for the 40 years that settlement enterprise has existed. …

CHARLIE ROSE: And you and Secretary Clinton praised Prime Minister Netanyahu for agreeing to that.

MITCHELL: Yes.

ROSE: It does not include East Jerusalem.  There’ve been announcement in the last 48 hours of new settlement construction in East Jerusalem where the Palestinians want to make their capital.

MITCHELL: Yes.

ROSE: And it’s in the midst of Palestinians.

MITCHELL: … But for the Israelis, what they’re building in is in part of Israel.

Now, the others don’t see it that way. So you have these widely divergent perspectives on the subject.  Our view is let’s get into negotiations.  Let’s deal with the issues and come up with the solution to all of them including Jerusalem which will be exceedingly difficult but, in my judgment, possible.

The Israelis are not going to stop settlements in, or construction in East Jerusalem. They don’t regard that as a settlement because they think it’s part of Israel. …

ROSE: So you’re going to let them go ahead even though no one recognizes the annexation?

MITCHELL: You say “Let them go ahead.” It’s what they regard as their country. They don’t say they’re letting us go ahead when we build in Manhattan.

In making the Palestinian pre-negotiation demand his own (or vice versa), Barack Obama has capped a year of low, dishonest diplomacy: reneging on the long-standing definition of what constituted a settlement “freeze”; disregarding the written commitments to Israel given in exchange for the Gaza withdrawal; creating daylight between the U.S. and Israel as a matter of policy; holding meetings with the Israeli prime minister, both last year and this, in the evening, without press coverage, with an exit through a back way; conspicuously failing to visit Israel while visiting nearby countries; addressing the Muslim world with a speech portraying Israel as the mere creation of the Holocaust; conducting a campaign of public castigation, in a manufactured “crisis” relating to Jewish homes in a Jewish area in the capital of the Jewish state; and now the insistence (complete with a “deadline”) on pre-negotiation concessions to be made to those who have made no concessions themselves — all conducted in the mean-spirited manner of Chicago-style diplomacy.

Jennifer is correct that Jewish organizations will be asked in the future why they stayed silent, but the issue is even broader than that, since the denigration of Israel is being conducted amid the endless appeasement of Iran, Syria, and North Korea — a policy that will ultimately threaten many more countries than Israel. It is not as if we have not been down this road before.

Since he assumed office a year ago, Benjamin Netanyahu has (1) formally offered immediate negotiations with the Palestinians without preconditions, (2) affirmed Israeli support for a two-state solution, (3) declared a moratorium on new West Bank building — and has been met with a total refusal by the peace-partner Palestinians to begin even “proximity talks,” absent a concession that they know that neither Netanyahu nor any other Israeli prime minister will make.

It was only two months ago that George Mitchell had the following colloquy with Charlie Rose about the demand for a settlement freeze in Jerusalem:

GEORGE MITCHELL: … So what we got was a moratorium, ten months, far less than what was requested, but more significant than any action taken by any previous government of Israel for the 40 years that settlement enterprise has existed. …

CHARLIE ROSE: And you and Secretary Clinton praised Prime Minister Netanyahu for agreeing to that.

MITCHELL: Yes.

ROSE: It does not include East Jerusalem.  There’ve been announcement in the last 48 hours of new settlement construction in East Jerusalem where the Palestinians want to make their capital.

MITCHELL: Yes.

ROSE: And it’s in the midst of Palestinians.

MITCHELL: … But for the Israelis, what they’re building in is in part of Israel.

Now, the others don’t see it that way. So you have these widely divergent perspectives on the subject.  Our view is let’s get into negotiations.  Let’s deal with the issues and come up with the solution to all of them including Jerusalem which will be exceedingly difficult but, in my judgment, possible.

The Israelis are not going to stop settlements in, or construction in East Jerusalem. They don’t regard that as a settlement because they think it’s part of Israel. …

ROSE: So you’re going to let them go ahead even though no one recognizes the annexation?

MITCHELL: You say “Let them go ahead.” It’s what they regard as their country. They don’t say they’re letting us go ahead when we build in Manhattan.

In making the Palestinian pre-negotiation demand his own (or vice versa), Barack Obama has capped a year of low, dishonest diplomacy: reneging on the long-standing definition of what constituted a settlement “freeze”; disregarding the written commitments to Israel given in exchange for the Gaza withdrawal; creating daylight between the U.S. and Israel as a matter of policy; holding meetings with the Israeli prime minister, both last year and this, in the evening, without press coverage, with an exit through a back way; conspicuously failing to visit Israel while visiting nearby countries; addressing the Muslim world with a speech portraying Israel as the mere creation of the Holocaust; conducting a campaign of public castigation, in a manufactured “crisis” relating to Jewish homes in a Jewish area in the capital of the Jewish state; and now the insistence (complete with a “deadline”) on pre-negotiation concessions to be made to those who have made no concessions themselves — all conducted in the mean-spirited manner of Chicago-style diplomacy.

Jennifer is correct that Jewish organizations will be asked in the future why they stayed silent, but the issue is even broader than that, since the denigration of Israel is being conducted amid the endless appeasement of Iran, Syria, and North Korea — a policy that will ultimately threaten many more countries than Israel. It is not as if we have not been down this road before.

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And When Is the Pivot to Jobs Coming?

As we are looking for the hidden deals and minefields left in the wake of ObamaCare, it is worth remembering that unemployment – the issue voters care most about — remains at record levels. This report explains:

Unemployment increased in 27 U.S. states in February and dropped in seven, a sign the labor market needs to pick up across more regions to spur consumer spending and sustain the economic recovery.

Mississippi showed the biggest jump in joblessness with a 0.4 percentage point rise to 11.4 percent, according to figures issued today by the Labor Department in Washington. Nationally, unemployment held at 9.7 percent in February for a second month and employers cut fewer jobs than anticipated, figures from the Labor Department showed on March 5.

Today’s report indicates broad-based hiring is yet to develop following the loss of 8.4 million jobs since the recession began in December 2007. Florida, Nevada, Georgia, and North Carolina set record levels of joblessness last month.

“Until we see improvement in employment in a fair number of U.S. states, it’s not going to do a heck of a lot for the recovery,” said Jennifer Lee, senior economist at BMO Capital Markets in Toronto. “The worst seems to be over, but there’s a huge amount of work to be done to create jobs. It’s going to be a long, winding road.”

This, after all, was to be the focus of Obama’s term. After the Scott Brown upset, Obama again promised a pivot to jobs. But he’s never delivered. Instead, he has championed a stimulus plan that didn’t save or create millions of jobs and a health-care plan that is already sucking billions of dollars out of employers’ coffers. Will employers — with health-care costs now to swell up and tax hikes due in 2011 — really be expanding payrolls? Unlikely.

It’s not hard to see the campaigns this fall, asking why it was that Obama and the Democratic Congress were busy placing new mandates, taxes, and fines on business while the job picture was still bleak. It will be hard for incumbents to convince voters who have yet to see any benefit from Obama’s big-government liberal agenda and a good deal of pain (e.g., seniors facing Medicare cuts, small businesses looking at tax bites, unemployed workers) that what we need is more of the same.

As we are looking for the hidden deals and minefields left in the wake of ObamaCare, it is worth remembering that unemployment – the issue voters care most about — remains at record levels. This report explains:

Unemployment increased in 27 U.S. states in February and dropped in seven, a sign the labor market needs to pick up across more regions to spur consumer spending and sustain the economic recovery.

Mississippi showed the biggest jump in joblessness with a 0.4 percentage point rise to 11.4 percent, according to figures issued today by the Labor Department in Washington. Nationally, unemployment held at 9.7 percent in February for a second month and employers cut fewer jobs than anticipated, figures from the Labor Department showed on March 5.

Today’s report indicates broad-based hiring is yet to develop following the loss of 8.4 million jobs since the recession began in December 2007. Florida, Nevada, Georgia, and North Carolina set record levels of joblessness last month.

“Until we see improvement in employment in a fair number of U.S. states, it’s not going to do a heck of a lot for the recovery,” said Jennifer Lee, senior economist at BMO Capital Markets in Toronto. “The worst seems to be over, but there’s a huge amount of work to be done to create jobs. It’s going to be a long, winding road.”

This, after all, was to be the focus of Obama’s term. After the Scott Brown upset, Obama again promised a pivot to jobs. But he’s never delivered. Instead, he has championed a stimulus plan that didn’t save or create millions of jobs and a health-care plan that is already sucking billions of dollars out of employers’ coffers. Will employers — with health-care costs now to swell up and tax hikes due in 2011 — really be expanding payrolls? Unlikely.

It’s not hard to see the campaigns this fall, asking why it was that Obama and the Democratic Congress were busy placing new mandates, taxes, and fines on business while the job picture was still bleak. It will be hard for incumbents to convince voters who have yet to see any benefit from Obama’s big-government liberal agenda and a good deal of pain (e.g., seniors facing Medicare cuts, small businesses looking at tax bites, unemployed workers) that what we need is more of the same.

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Bibi’s Predicament

It should be clear by now that President Obama intends to pursue the “peace process” in the same way that he pursued health care — by ramming it down his opponent’s throat, in this case, Israel’s.

According to news reports, Obama has presented Bibi with a long list of demands, acquiescence to which would “resolve” the immediate Obama-created crisis and “allow” a move toward proximity talks (never mind that Israel has always been willing to hold direct talks). Obama thus places Bibi on the horns of an impossible dilemma: Both accepting and rejecting the demands carries immense costs.

Accepting the demands would be humiliating to Bibi. He would have to roll over and — in front of a global audience – expose his stomach to Obama like a defeated dog. This would surely please our thuggish president, but it would carry severe costs for Netanyahu: 1) He would be vilified in Israel and his domestic position imperiled. 2) Even if he wanted to roll, his government may not allow it; one or several of his coalition partners may abandon him. At a moment of critical national-security threats, the government might descend into crisis. Bibi knows that to allow this to happen in the decisive phase of the Iranian nuclear standoff would be supremely dangerous. And 3) Obama’s vindictive and outlandish behavior raises legitimate Israeli suspicions that the “proximity talks” would actually be a trap — and therefore Israel should reject the immediate demands as a way of forestalling the next round of bullying. Let us recall that just four months ago, the administration hailed the settlement freeze as an unprecedented concession; today Obama pretends that he never made the agreement.

So it appears as though Bibi cannot accept Obama’s demands. He will likely counter-offer by accepting some and offering compromise on others. But Obama, at least when it comes to the Jewish state, is in no mood to be trifled with and may insist on full compliance. And if Israel cannot or will not meet his demands, Obama has important cards to play. The four biggest ones are 1) U.S. support for a unilateral Palestinian declaration of statehood, 2) active U.S. opposition to a strike on Iran, up to and including the Brzezinski threat of shooting down Israeli aircraft, 3) Israel’s diplomatic isolation in the UN and Europe, and 4) an escalating administration campaign to portray Israeli “intransigence” as a threat to the United States’ regional and international security.

By my reading, Bibi is in a very bad place right now. His options are either 1) total public humiliation and agreement to demands that could topple his government, followed by a diplomatic process that would force potentially lethal concessions on Israel, or 2) the U.S. preventing him from attacking Iran and removing the diplomatic shield that protects Israel from the deranged anti-Semitism of Europe and the Middle East (two increasingly indistinguishable regions).

There is a third scenario: Israel completely reshuffles the deck by attacking Iran.

It should be clear by now that President Obama intends to pursue the “peace process” in the same way that he pursued health care — by ramming it down his opponent’s throat, in this case, Israel’s.

According to news reports, Obama has presented Bibi with a long list of demands, acquiescence to which would “resolve” the immediate Obama-created crisis and “allow” a move toward proximity talks (never mind that Israel has always been willing to hold direct talks). Obama thus places Bibi on the horns of an impossible dilemma: Both accepting and rejecting the demands carries immense costs.

Accepting the demands would be humiliating to Bibi. He would have to roll over and — in front of a global audience – expose his stomach to Obama like a defeated dog. This would surely please our thuggish president, but it would carry severe costs for Netanyahu: 1) He would be vilified in Israel and his domestic position imperiled. 2) Even if he wanted to roll, his government may not allow it; one or several of his coalition partners may abandon him. At a moment of critical national-security threats, the government might descend into crisis. Bibi knows that to allow this to happen in the decisive phase of the Iranian nuclear standoff would be supremely dangerous. And 3) Obama’s vindictive and outlandish behavior raises legitimate Israeli suspicions that the “proximity talks” would actually be a trap — and therefore Israel should reject the immediate demands as a way of forestalling the next round of bullying. Let us recall that just four months ago, the administration hailed the settlement freeze as an unprecedented concession; today Obama pretends that he never made the agreement.

So it appears as though Bibi cannot accept Obama’s demands. He will likely counter-offer by accepting some and offering compromise on others. But Obama, at least when it comes to the Jewish state, is in no mood to be trifled with and may insist on full compliance. And if Israel cannot or will not meet his demands, Obama has important cards to play. The four biggest ones are 1) U.S. support for a unilateral Palestinian declaration of statehood, 2) active U.S. opposition to a strike on Iran, up to and including the Brzezinski threat of shooting down Israeli aircraft, 3) Israel’s diplomatic isolation in the UN and Europe, and 4) an escalating administration campaign to portray Israeli “intransigence” as a threat to the United States’ regional and international security.

By my reading, Bibi is in a very bad place right now. His options are either 1) total public humiliation and agreement to demands that could topple his government, followed by a diplomatic process that would force potentially lethal concessions on Israel, or 2) the U.S. preventing him from attacking Iran and removing the diplomatic shield that protects Israel from the deranged anti-Semitism of Europe and the Middle East (two increasingly indistinguishable regions).

There is a third scenario: Israel completely reshuffles the deck by attacking Iran.

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I Make No Apology, Ms. West

I received the following e-mail today from columnist Diana West demanding a correction:

You wrote:

Diana West added a truly inventive spin, by suggesting that Petraeus was a protégé of Stephen Walt, who was his faculty adviser many years ago at Princeton before the good professor won renown as a leading basher of the “Israel Lobby” and the state of Israel itself. It was from Walt, Ms. West claims, that Petraeus imbibed his “Arabist, anti-Israel attitudes.”

Max,
There is ZERO evidence for this distortion of my analysis as “inventive spin” — namely:
“It was from Walt, Ms. West claims, that Petraeus imbibed his `Arabist, anti-Israel attitudes.’ ”
Please reread my post with care. You will see this claim does not exist. Please write a correction so that your readers are not misled.

Sincerely,
Diana West

Zero — excuse me, “ZERO” — evidence? Here is what La West actually wrote:

It is up to Petraeus to refute the Arabist, anti-Israel attitudes now far and widely attributed to him by media now taking his words, written and spoken and reported on, at face value if they are truly incorrect. Personally, I’m not holding my breath. The fact is, assuaging “Arab anger” is, when you think of it, is the very heart of “hearts and minds” current counterinsurgency doctrine (COIN) — and Petraeus wrote the book.

He also wrote a Ph. D. thesis at Princeton in 1987 called “The American military and the Lessons of Vietnam: A Study of Military Influence and the Use of Force in the Post-Vietnam Era” (available here).
One of his two faculty advisors, it is interesting to note in light of this recent debate was… Stephen Walt — of Walt and Mearshimer infamy.

In another blog item, she wrote, “It sounded as if Gen. Petraeus were chanelling Walt (if not Mearshimer) in his Senate testimony when he invoked the Arabist narrative regarding the ‘conflict’ between Israelis and Palestinians.”

I leave it to readers to decide whether my supposition — that West was blaming Stephen Walt for Petraeus’s supposed views — is unwarranted.

For my part, I await West’s correction and apology for the numerous calumnies she has lodged against the most distinguished American military commander since Eisenhower. Her accusations that Petraeus holds “Arabist, anti-Israel attitudes” are without foundation — but hardly without precedent in her overheated writing. In the past, she has asked of this soldier who, more than anyone else, is responsible for defeating Islamist extremists in Iraq: “Is Petraeus an Islamic Tool?” In Part II of this post, she wrote in what is presumably her idea of jest:

Here’s a plan Gen. Petraeus should be able to get behind: A new battle strategy, maybe a Kilcullen special, for him to join forces with Iran to once and for all nuke Israel and its genocidal apartment houses out of existence. That, according to his own lights, is sure to keep American troops safe in Iraq and Afghanistan.

She made equally wild and specious accusations against General Stanley McChrystal, another of our most respected commanders who, as head of the Joint Special Operations Command, sent too many jihadists to count to meet their 72 virgins. (Wonder how many jihadists Diana West has eliminated by comparison?) She writes, again with zero — sorry, “ZERO” — evidence, that McChrystal is “zealot and “a high priest of the politically correct orthodoxy,” that his views on counterinsurgency are “despicable,” and that he should be fired for “throwing away [his] men’s lives in a misguided infidel effort to win the ‘trust’ of a primitive Islamic people.”

Those are truly disgusting charges to lodge against such distinguished soldiers who have repeatedly risked their lives to defend our nation. They recall, in fact, the widely condemned Moveon.org advertisement that called Petraeus “General Betray-Us.” Her writing suggests that some of the more extreme precincts of the Right are copying the worst excesses of the Left.

I received the following e-mail today from columnist Diana West demanding a correction:

You wrote:

Diana West added a truly inventive spin, by suggesting that Petraeus was a protégé of Stephen Walt, who was his faculty adviser many years ago at Princeton before the good professor won renown as a leading basher of the “Israel Lobby” and the state of Israel itself. It was from Walt, Ms. West claims, that Petraeus imbibed his “Arabist, anti-Israel attitudes.”

Max,
There is ZERO evidence for this distortion of my analysis as “inventive spin” — namely:
“It was from Walt, Ms. West claims, that Petraeus imbibed his `Arabist, anti-Israel attitudes.’ ”
Please reread my post with care. You will see this claim does not exist. Please write a correction so that your readers are not misled.

Sincerely,
Diana West

Zero — excuse me, “ZERO” — evidence? Here is what La West actually wrote:

It is up to Petraeus to refute the Arabist, anti-Israel attitudes now far and widely attributed to him by media now taking his words, written and spoken and reported on, at face value if they are truly incorrect. Personally, I’m not holding my breath. The fact is, assuaging “Arab anger” is, when you think of it, is the very heart of “hearts and minds” current counterinsurgency doctrine (COIN) — and Petraeus wrote the book.

He also wrote a Ph. D. thesis at Princeton in 1987 called “The American military and the Lessons of Vietnam: A Study of Military Influence and the Use of Force in the Post-Vietnam Era” (available here).
One of his two faculty advisors, it is interesting to note in light of this recent debate was… Stephen Walt — of Walt and Mearshimer infamy.

In another blog item, she wrote, “It sounded as if Gen. Petraeus were chanelling Walt (if not Mearshimer) in his Senate testimony when he invoked the Arabist narrative regarding the ‘conflict’ between Israelis and Palestinians.”

I leave it to readers to decide whether my supposition — that West was blaming Stephen Walt for Petraeus’s supposed views — is unwarranted.

For my part, I await West’s correction and apology for the numerous calumnies she has lodged against the most distinguished American military commander since Eisenhower. Her accusations that Petraeus holds “Arabist, anti-Israel attitudes” are without foundation — but hardly without precedent in her overheated writing. In the past, she has asked of this soldier who, more than anyone else, is responsible for defeating Islamist extremists in Iraq: “Is Petraeus an Islamic Tool?” In Part II of this post, she wrote in what is presumably her idea of jest:

Here’s a plan Gen. Petraeus should be able to get behind: A new battle strategy, maybe a Kilcullen special, for him to join forces with Iran to once and for all nuke Israel and its genocidal apartment houses out of existence. That, according to his own lights, is sure to keep American troops safe in Iraq and Afghanistan.

She made equally wild and specious accusations against General Stanley McChrystal, another of our most respected commanders who, as head of the Joint Special Operations Command, sent too many jihadists to count to meet their 72 virgins. (Wonder how many jihadists Diana West has eliminated by comparison?) She writes, again with zero — sorry, “ZERO” — evidence, that McChrystal is “zealot and “a high priest of the politically correct orthodoxy,” that his views on counterinsurgency are “despicable,” and that he should be fired for “throwing away [his] men’s lives in a misguided infidel effort to win the ‘trust’ of a primitive Islamic people.”

Those are truly disgusting charges to lodge against such distinguished soldiers who have repeatedly risked their lives to defend our nation. They recall, in fact, the widely condemned Moveon.org advertisement that called Petraeus “General Betray-Us.” Her writing suggests that some of the more extreme precincts of the Right are copying the worst excesses of the Left.

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On Obama’s Behavior Toward Israel

By now the efforts of the White House to isolate and humiliate Israel because of the latter’s decision to approve 1,600 new Jewish homes in East Jerusalem (which is, after all, its capital) are well known: from the scolding language to the leaks about Secretary Clinton’s phone call dressing down Prime Minister Netanyahu to the failure to release even one official photograph of the prime minister’s meeting with President Obama to much else. One cannot but conclude that this escalation of tensions with Israel is not the result of a misunderstanding or of things spinning unexpectedly out of control. No, what we are seeing is premeditated, calculated, and indefensible.

Among the practical outcomes, this will lead to further Palestinian intransigence. We have already seen this. Thanks to the approach taken by the Obama administration, Palestinians are for the first time demanding as a precondition for negotiations a freeze on settlements, even as they haven’t offered any concessions of their own.

It will embolden the enemies of Israel and America. Memo to the Obama administration: we share the same ones. As Norman Podhoretz pointedly once wrote, “the hatred of Israel is in large part a surrogate for anti-Americanism.” And the president’s actions will make Israel more reluctant to make concessions of any kind. If Israel’s most important ally is undercutting her, then she will feel doubly threatened and significantly more insecure. (One of the reasons Ariel Sharon felt he could withdraw from Gaza was because in George W. Bush, Israel knew it had a strong and faithful friend in the White House.)

The entire theory on which the Obama administration is operating is false. The problem isn’t with Israel’s unwillingness to negotiate or even any dispute over territory; it is with the Palestinians’ unwillingness to make their own inner peace with the existence of a Jewish state.

Yet in thinking through all this, what is most striking to me is the disfiguring of moral considerations. Barack Obama is treating one of our best allies, and one of the most admirable and impressive nations in the world, worse than he treats the theocratic dictatorship in Iran or the anti-American dictator Hugo Chavez in Venezuela. Obama bows before autocrats and shakes the hands of tyrants and speaks with solicitude and undeserved respect to malevolent leaders. Yet with Israel he is petulant and angry, unable to detach himself from a weeks-long tantrum. Or, perhaps, unwilling to detach himself.

There is in the Obama administration an animus toward Israel that is troubling and may be unmatched in modern times (though Jimmy Carter, as ex-president, probably rivals it). Because of what is unfolding, there will be significant injury to our relationship with Israel. But it is also doing considerable damage to America’s moral standing. At its best, America stands for the right things and stands beside the right friends. In distancing us from Israel, Obama is distancing America from a nation that has sacrificed more for peace, and suffered more for their sacrifices, than any other. It is a deeply discouraging thing to see. And it is dangerous, too. Hatred for Israel is a deep and burning fire throughout the world. We should not be adding kindling wood to that fire.

Barack Obama is an ambitious man. He’s undertaking a project to remake America in deep and important ways. Health care is one arena. This, sadly, is another.

By now the efforts of the White House to isolate and humiliate Israel because of the latter’s decision to approve 1,600 new Jewish homes in East Jerusalem (which is, after all, its capital) are well known: from the scolding language to the leaks about Secretary Clinton’s phone call dressing down Prime Minister Netanyahu to the failure to release even one official photograph of the prime minister’s meeting with President Obama to much else. One cannot but conclude that this escalation of tensions with Israel is not the result of a misunderstanding or of things spinning unexpectedly out of control. No, what we are seeing is premeditated, calculated, and indefensible.

Among the practical outcomes, this will lead to further Palestinian intransigence. We have already seen this. Thanks to the approach taken by the Obama administration, Palestinians are for the first time demanding as a precondition for negotiations a freeze on settlements, even as they haven’t offered any concessions of their own.

It will embolden the enemies of Israel and America. Memo to the Obama administration: we share the same ones. As Norman Podhoretz pointedly once wrote, “the hatred of Israel is in large part a surrogate for anti-Americanism.” And the president’s actions will make Israel more reluctant to make concessions of any kind. If Israel’s most important ally is undercutting her, then she will feel doubly threatened and significantly more insecure. (One of the reasons Ariel Sharon felt he could withdraw from Gaza was because in George W. Bush, Israel knew it had a strong and faithful friend in the White House.)

The entire theory on which the Obama administration is operating is false. The problem isn’t with Israel’s unwillingness to negotiate or even any dispute over territory; it is with the Palestinians’ unwillingness to make their own inner peace with the existence of a Jewish state.

Yet in thinking through all this, what is most striking to me is the disfiguring of moral considerations. Barack Obama is treating one of our best allies, and one of the most admirable and impressive nations in the world, worse than he treats the theocratic dictatorship in Iran or the anti-American dictator Hugo Chavez in Venezuela. Obama bows before autocrats and shakes the hands of tyrants and speaks with solicitude and undeserved respect to malevolent leaders. Yet with Israel he is petulant and angry, unable to detach himself from a weeks-long tantrum. Or, perhaps, unwilling to detach himself.

There is in the Obama administration an animus toward Israel that is troubling and may be unmatched in modern times (though Jimmy Carter, as ex-president, probably rivals it). Because of what is unfolding, there will be significant injury to our relationship with Israel. But it is also doing considerable damage to America’s moral standing. At its best, America stands for the right things and stands beside the right friends. In distancing us from Israel, Obama is distancing America from a nation that has sacrificed more for peace, and suffered more for their sacrifices, than any other. It is a deeply discouraging thing to see. And it is dangerous, too. Hatred for Israel is a deep and burning fire throughout the world. We should not be adding kindling wood to that fire.

Barack Obama is an ambitious man. He’s undertaking a project to remake America in deep and important ways. Health care is one arena. This, sadly, is another.

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What Did You Do?

As Jonathan has noted, we don’t know exactly how shabby the Obami’s behavior toward Bibi Netanyahu was. It is cause for alarm if it was remotely like this:

After failing to extract a written promise of concessions on Jewish settlements, Mr Obama walked out of his meeting with Mr Netanyahu but invited him to stay at the White House, consult with advisors and “let me know if there is anything new”, a US congressman who spoke to the Prime Minister said today.

“It was awful,” the congressman said. One Israeli newspaper called the meeting “a hazing in stages”, poisoned by such mistrust that the Israeli delegation eventually left rather than risk being eavesdropped on a White House phone line. Another said that the Prime Minister had received “the treatment reserved for the President of Equatorial Guinea”.

But even if lacking the abject rudeness, both the projected air of chilliness and the ensuing deadlines that we have learned have been imposed on the Israeli government are enough to confirm that the relationship between the two countries is anything but “rock solid,” as Hillary Clinton claimed during her AIPAC speech. This report suggests, at the very least, that the Obami are sticking with their modus operandi — preconditions and ultimatums for the Israelis, and water-carrying for the Palestinians:

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu will convene his senior ministers on Friday to discuss the demands made by US President Barack Obama and his overall trip to Washington – a trip that, because of negative atmospherics and amid a paucity of hard information, has been widely characterized as among the most difficult in recent memory.

Officials in the Prime Minister’s Office continued to throw a blackout on the Netanyahu-Obama meeting, as well as give only very sketchy information about the commitments that the US is demanding of Israel as a precursor to starting the proximity talks with the Palestinians. The US, according to officials, wants these commitments by Saturday so it can take them to the Arab League meeting in Libya and receive that organization’s backing for starting proximity talks. …

According to various Israeli sources, the Obama administration is asking for Israel to commit to some type of limitation on building in east Jerusalem; to show a willingness to deal with the so-called core issues of borders, refugee and Jerusalem already in the indirect talks; and to agree to a number of confidence building measures, including the release of hundreds of Fatah prisoners.

There were also reports, not confirmed, that the administration had asked for a commitment to extend the moratorium on housing starts in the West Bank settlements beyond the 10-months originally declared.

Netanyahu reportedly wanted to know where the “reciprocity” was and why he was the one making all the concessions. (“Netanyahu, according to senior officials, said that while the US held him responsible for the timing of the announcement to build 1,600 units in Ramat Shlomo, rather than holding Interior Minister Eli Yishai responsible, Abbas was not held responsible when it came to the PA — which recently presided over the naming of a square in Ramallah for the terrorist responsible for the Coastal Road massacre.”) Well, had the Obami been honest, they would have said that they can’t get the Palestinians to agree to anything, so they’ve decided to squeeze the Israelis — even though this seems only to increase the Palestinians’ demands for even more concessions. But, no, I don’t suppose the White House bullies were that candid.

All this makes clear just how disingenuous was Clinton’s entire appeal to AIPAC this week. She protested that it was Israel creating the daylight by announcing a routine housing permit. She pleaded that the fuss was needed to restore the administration’s credibility as an honest broker in the peace process. (Or was it to enhance its credibility to Iran? It’s hard to keep the excuses straight.) She assured the crowd that Israel’s security was paramount to the U.S. Then she declared that of course, of course an Iranian nuclear-weapons program was “unacceptable.” It all seems patently absurd as events continue to unfold.

It is not that the Obami fear daylight between the U.S. and Israel; it is that they flaunt it. It is not credibility as an honest broker that the Obami are establishing but rather fidelity to the Palestinian negotiating stance. And after all this, and the revelation that the proposed sanctions will be pinpricks at best, would any reasonable Israeli leader believe this administration will do everything (or even anything too strenuous) to remove the existential threat to the Jewish state?

The low point in the history of U.S.-Israel relations has come about not because of a housing permit but because we have a president fundamentally uninterested in retaining the robust, close relationship between the two countries that other administrations of both parties have cultivated. The Obami set out to separate the U.S. from Israel, to pressure and cajole the Jewish state, and to remake the U.S. into an eager suitor to the Muslim World. In the process, anti-Israel delegitimizing efforts have been unleashed as Israel’s enemies (and our own allies) sense that we have downgraded the relationship with the Jewish state, the Israeli public has come to distrust the administration, the American Jewish electorate is somewhere between stunned and horrified, and Israel is less secure and more isolated than ever before.

If mainstream Jewish organizations are serious about their stated mission, it is incumbent upon them to protest this state of affairs clearly and loudly and make their support for this president and his congressional enablers conditional, based on a change of policy in regard to Israel. Otherwise, they are enabling a potentially fatal assault on the security of the Jewish state. Silence is acquiescence; meekness is shameful. A generation from now, Jews will be asking those who led key American Jewish organizations, what did you do to protect Israel? What did you do to protest the creep toward a “containment” policy for a nuclear-armed Iran? They better have a good answer.

As Jonathan has noted, we don’t know exactly how shabby the Obami’s behavior toward Bibi Netanyahu was. It is cause for alarm if it was remotely like this:

After failing to extract a written promise of concessions on Jewish settlements, Mr Obama walked out of his meeting with Mr Netanyahu but invited him to stay at the White House, consult with advisors and “let me know if there is anything new”, a US congressman who spoke to the Prime Minister said today.

“It was awful,” the congressman said. One Israeli newspaper called the meeting “a hazing in stages”, poisoned by such mistrust that the Israeli delegation eventually left rather than risk being eavesdropped on a White House phone line. Another said that the Prime Minister had received “the treatment reserved for the President of Equatorial Guinea”.

But even if lacking the abject rudeness, both the projected air of chilliness and the ensuing deadlines that we have learned have been imposed on the Israeli government are enough to confirm that the relationship between the two countries is anything but “rock solid,” as Hillary Clinton claimed during her AIPAC speech. This report suggests, at the very least, that the Obami are sticking with their modus operandi — preconditions and ultimatums for the Israelis, and water-carrying for the Palestinians:

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu will convene his senior ministers on Friday to discuss the demands made by US President Barack Obama and his overall trip to Washington – a trip that, because of negative atmospherics and amid a paucity of hard information, has been widely characterized as among the most difficult in recent memory.

Officials in the Prime Minister’s Office continued to throw a blackout on the Netanyahu-Obama meeting, as well as give only very sketchy information about the commitments that the US is demanding of Israel as a precursor to starting the proximity talks with the Palestinians. The US, according to officials, wants these commitments by Saturday so it can take them to the Arab League meeting in Libya and receive that organization’s backing for starting proximity talks. …

According to various Israeli sources, the Obama administration is asking for Israel to commit to some type of limitation on building in east Jerusalem; to show a willingness to deal with the so-called core issues of borders, refugee and Jerusalem already in the indirect talks; and to agree to a number of confidence building measures, including the release of hundreds of Fatah prisoners.

There were also reports, not confirmed, that the administration had asked for a commitment to extend the moratorium on housing starts in the West Bank settlements beyond the 10-months originally declared.

Netanyahu reportedly wanted to know where the “reciprocity” was and why he was the one making all the concessions. (“Netanyahu, according to senior officials, said that while the US held him responsible for the timing of the announcement to build 1,600 units in Ramat Shlomo, rather than holding Interior Minister Eli Yishai responsible, Abbas was not held responsible when it came to the PA — which recently presided over the naming of a square in Ramallah for the terrorist responsible for the Coastal Road massacre.”) Well, had the Obami been honest, they would have said that they can’t get the Palestinians to agree to anything, so they’ve decided to squeeze the Israelis — even though this seems only to increase the Palestinians’ demands for even more concessions. But, no, I don’t suppose the White House bullies were that candid.

All this makes clear just how disingenuous was Clinton’s entire appeal to AIPAC this week. She protested that it was Israel creating the daylight by announcing a routine housing permit. She pleaded that the fuss was needed to restore the administration’s credibility as an honest broker in the peace process. (Or was it to enhance its credibility to Iran? It’s hard to keep the excuses straight.) She assured the crowd that Israel’s security was paramount to the U.S. Then she declared that of course, of course an Iranian nuclear-weapons program was “unacceptable.” It all seems patently absurd as events continue to unfold.

It is not that the Obami fear daylight between the U.S. and Israel; it is that they flaunt it. It is not credibility as an honest broker that the Obami are establishing but rather fidelity to the Palestinian negotiating stance. And after all this, and the revelation that the proposed sanctions will be pinpricks at best, would any reasonable Israeli leader believe this administration will do everything (or even anything too strenuous) to remove the existential threat to the Jewish state?

The low point in the history of U.S.-Israel relations has come about not because of a housing permit but because we have a president fundamentally uninterested in retaining the robust, close relationship between the two countries that other administrations of both parties have cultivated. The Obami set out to separate the U.S. from Israel, to pressure and cajole the Jewish state, and to remake the U.S. into an eager suitor to the Muslim World. In the process, anti-Israel delegitimizing efforts have been unleashed as Israel’s enemies (and our own allies) sense that we have downgraded the relationship with the Jewish state, the Israeli public has come to distrust the administration, the American Jewish electorate is somewhere between stunned and horrified, and Israel is less secure and more isolated than ever before.

If mainstream Jewish organizations are serious about their stated mission, it is incumbent upon them to protest this state of affairs clearly and loudly and make their support for this president and his congressional enablers conditional, based on a change of policy in regard to Israel. Otherwise, they are enabling a potentially fatal assault on the security of the Jewish state. Silence is acquiescence; meekness is shameful. A generation from now, Jews will be asking those who led key American Jewish organizations, what did you do to protect Israel? What did you do to protest the creep toward a “containment” policy for a nuclear-armed Iran? They better have a good answer.

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Thanks, but No Thanks

This report explains a phenomenon startling only to those who misunderstand the fundamental character of the American middle class:

President Barack Obama returned Thursday to the city where he launched his health care plan nearly three years ago to sell the final product, part of a broader economic agenda that is gaining legislative steam in Washington.

But the people he says his policies are targeted to — the middle class — are the ones he appears to be losing. … As Mr. Obama pushes the agenda forward, middle class voters are moving away, according to polling. Middle-income voters—those earning between $50,000 and $75,000 a year, take a negative view, on the whole, of the president’s job performance, with 52% disapproving and 42% approving, according to the March Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll. Among all wage groups, by contrast, opinion on Mr. Obama is nearly evenly split, with 48% approving and 47% disapproving, according to the poll. A year earlier, voters in the $50,000-to-$75,000 bracket had a far more positive view of the president, with 56% approving and 29% disapproving of his job performance

The Obami assumed they could bind the middle class to both government and the Democratic Party by giving them lots of goodies, most especially “free” or “nearly free” health care. But instead, suspicion and resentment have grown, worry about the debt and taxes to pay for all this have skyrocketed, and the voters whom Obama is supposed to be helping don’t feel helped at all.

In some sense, it is a refreshing reminder that the public remains intensely skeptical of big government and is more sophisticated than politicians assume. Moreover, individuals’ own life experiences tell them Obamism doesn’t work — unemployment remains at record levels, and health-care costs continue to rise. So that resentment and skepticism will only continue. In November, voters will have an opportunity to tell incumbents, “Thanks, but no thanks.” They can emphasize the need for a new course away from a European social-welfare model and toward the free-market system traditionally at the source of American freedom and prosperity. In short, the voters can show they can’t be bribed into accepting permanent dependency on an ever-growing federal government.

This report explains a phenomenon startling only to those who misunderstand the fundamental character of the American middle class:

President Barack Obama returned Thursday to the city where he launched his health care plan nearly three years ago to sell the final product, part of a broader economic agenda that is gaining legislative steam in Washington.

But the people he says his policies are targeted to — the middle class — are the ones he appears to be losing. … As Mr. Obama pushes the agenda forward, middle class voters are moving away, according to polling. Middle-income voters—those earning between $50,000 and $75,000 a year, take a negative view, on the whole, of the president’s job performance, with 52% disapproving and 42% approving, according to the March Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll. Among all wage groups, by contrast, opinion on Mr. Obama is nearly evenly split, with 48% approving and 47% disapproving, according to the poll. A year earlier, voters in the $50,000-to-$75,000 bracket had a far more positive view of the president, with 56% approving and 29% disapproving of his job performance

The Obami assumed they could bind the middle class to both government and the Democratic Party by giving them lots of goodies, most especially “free” or “nearly free” health care. But instead, suspicion and resentment have grown, worry about the debt and taxes to pay for all this have skyrocketed, and the voters whom Obama is supposed to be helping don’t feel helped at all.

In some sense, it is a refreshing reminder that the public remains intensely skeptical of big government and is more sophisticated than politicians assume. Moreover, individuals’ own life experiences tell them Obamism doesn’t work — unemployment remains at record levels, and health-care costs continue to rise. So that resentment and skepticism will only continue. In November, voters will have an opportunity to tell incumbents, “Thanks, but no thanks.” They can emphasize the need for a new course away from a European social-welfare model and toward the free-market system traditionally at the source of American freedom and prosperity. In short, the voters can show they can’t be bribed into accepting permanent dependency on an ever-growing federal government.

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What’s in It?

Kim Strassel explains that the horde of amendments that Republicans offered during the reconciliation process helped smoke out exactly what Democrats were for and against:

Tom Coburn (R., Okla.) offered language to bar the government from subsidizing erectile dysfunction drugs for convicted pedophiles and rapists. Democrats voted. … No! Orrin Hatch (R., Utah) proposed exempting wounded soldiers from the new tax on medical devices. Democrats: No way! Pat Roberts (R., Kan.) wanted to exempt critical access rural hospitals from funding cuts. Senate Democrats: Forget it! This was Republicans’ opportunity to lay out every ugly provision and consequence of ObamaCare, and Democrats — because of the process they’d chosen — had to defend it all.

And so it went, into the wee Thursday hours. All Democrats in favor of taxing pacemakers? Aye! All Democrats in favor of keeping those seedy vote buyoffs? Aye! All Democrats in favor of raising taxes on middle-income families? Aye! All Democrats in favor of exempting themselves from elements of ObamaCare? Aye! All Democrats in favor of roasting small children in Aga ovens? (Okay, I made that one up, but you get the point.) Aye!

Democrats were miffed, and none more so than the Democrats on the ballot who can see the campaign ads that are sure to follow:

The record now shows that Arkansas’s Blanche Lincoln is on board with higher premiums, that Colorado’s Michael Bennet is good to go with gutting Medicare Advantage, that Nevada’s Harry Reid is just fine with rationing, that New York’s Kirsten Gillibrand is cool with taxes on investment income, that California’s Barbara Boxer is right-o with employer mandates, and that Pennsylvania’s Arlen Specter is willing to strip his home state of the right to opt out of the health law.

Democrats insist that the public will be enamored of the bill once they learn what is in it. But the reaction to the amendment flurry suggests otherwise. Democratic leaders were none too pleased to see the component parts of the bill laid bare. Indeed, Democrats seem delighted by the idea of ObamaCare but a lot less thrilled with defending each of its elements. In that regard, the debate – which will now absorb the country and explore the contents of the mammoth deal — may prove distasteful to those who must face their constituents and explain the consequences to employers and ordinary voters. Those leading the “repeal and replace!” charge would do well to highlight the gap between the “historic” happy talk and the grubby details.

Kim Strassel explains that the horde of amendments that Republicans offered during the reconciliation process helped smoke out exactly what Democrats were for and against:

Tom Coburn (R., Okla.) offered language to bar the government from subsidizing erectile dysfunction drugs for convicted pedophiles and rapists. Democrats voted. … No! Orrin Hatch (R., Utah) proposed exempting wounded soldiers from the new tax on medical devices. Democrats: No way! Pat Roberts (R., Kan.) wanted to exempt critical access rural hospitals from funding cuts. Senate Democrats: Forget it! This was Republicans’ opportunity to lay out every ugly provision and consequence of ObamaCare, and Democrats — because of the process they’d chosen — had to defend it all.

And so it went, into the wee Thursday hours. All Democrats in favor of taxing pacemakers? Aye! All Democrats in favor of keeping those seedy vote buyoffs? Aye! All Democrats in favor of raising taxes on middle-income families? Aye! All Democrats in favor of exempting themselves from elements of ObamaCare? Aye! All Democrats in favor of roasting small children in Aga ovens? (Okay, I made that one up, but you get the point.) Aye!

Democrats were miffed, and none more so than the Democrats on the ballot who can see the campaign ads that are sure to follow:

The record now shows that Arkansas’s Blanche Lincoln is on board with higher premiums, that Colorado’s Michael Bennet is good to go with gutting Medicare Advantage, that Nevada’s Harry Reid is just fine with rationing, that New York’s Kirsten Gillibrand is cool with taxes on investment income, that California’s Barbara Boxer is right-o with employer mandates, and that Pennsylvania’s Arlen Specter is willing to strip his home state of the right to opt out of the health law.

Democrats insist that the public will be enamored of the bill once they learn what is in it. But the reaction to the amendment flurry suggests otherwise. Democratic leaders were none too pleased to see the component parts of the bill laid bare. Indeed, Democrats seem delighted by the idea of ObamaCare but a lot less thrilled with defending each of its elements. In that regard, the debate – which will now absorb the country and explore the contents of the mammoth deal — may prove distasteful to those who must face their constituents and explain the consequences to employers and ordinary voters. Those leading the “repeal and replace!” charge would do well to highlight the gap between the “historic” happy talk and the grubby details.

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RE: RE: ObamaCare Hits Home

This report begins to tally up the immediate hit on American employers from ObamaCare:

In the wake of Washington’s health-care overhaul, some companies are taking big one-time charges for anticipated costs, fanning tension with the administration over the legislation’s impact on corporate America.

Three companies that were among vocal opponents of the legislation have warned they would see an immediate impact on their earnings as a result of the loss of deductions on tax-free subsidies they receive for providing retiree prescription-drug benefits.

On Thursday, Deere & Co. said it would take a $150 million one-time charge in the current quarter related to the loss of deductions. Earlier in the week, Caterillar Inc. reported a $100 million charge and AK Steel recorded a $31 million charge.

Beginning in 2006, companies have received a 28% federal subsidy, up to $1,330 per retiree, tax-free, to help pay for prescription-drug coverage. Until now, companies could deduct the subsidy from their taxes, essentially getting a second benefit from the money. Under the new law, companies will no longer be able to deduct the subsidy, but it remains tax-free.

Although the changes don’t go into effect until 2013, companies say they have to take the charge to earnings now, to reflect the loss of the future tax deductions. In all, the S&P 500 companies will take a combined hit of $4.5 billion to first-quarter earnings, estimates David Zion, an analyst with Credit Suisse. [emphasis added]

That is right — $5.4 billion from a single tax change, money that can’t be invested in new plants or used to hire new workers. The administration’s reaction? Commerce Secretary Gary Locke says, “It is simply not responsible to suggest that the new health-care law is bad for business.” These companies have a legal obligation to accurately assess earnings, so what would Locke have them do — conceal the hit and risk lawsuits from shareholders and prosecution by his colleagues at the SEC? It’s absurd to suggest that businesses that will suffer from the mandates, fines, and taxes imposed should essentially shut up about the adverse consequences of the legislation.

Robert Gibbs adds to the air of dismissiveness, saying, “Companies not only get the subsidy tax-free, but they then deduct the amount. Our bill simply closes the loophole.” Yes, by White House standards, raising taxes by $5.4B is no more than a loophole. If you have the sense that no one in the White House has much sympathy for or understands private industry, you are right. If they did, we would not now be facing a gargantuan tax hike — and more to follow with the expiration of the Bush tax cuts.

This report begins to tally up the immediate hit on American employers from ObamaCare:

In the wake of Washington’s health-care overhaul, some companies are taking big one-time charges for anticipated costs, fanning tension with the administration over the legislation’s impact on corporate America.

Three companies that were among vocal opponents of the legislation have warned they would see an immediate impact on their earnings as a result of the loss of deductions on tax-free subsidies they receive for providing retiree prescription-drug benefits.

On Thursday, Deere & Co. said it would take a $150 million one-time charge in the current quarter related to the loss of deductions. Earlier in the week, Caterillar Inc. reported a $100 million charge and AK Steel recorded a $31 million charge.

Beginning in 2006, companies have received a 28% federal subsidy, up to $1,330 per retiree, tax-free, to help pay for prescription-drug coverage. Until now, companies could deduct the subsidy from their taxes, essentially getting a second benefit from the money. Under the new law, companies will no longer be able to deduct the subsidy, but it remains tax-free.

Although the changes don’t go into effect until 2013, companies say they have to take the charge to earnings now, to reflect the loss of the future tax deductions. In all, the S&P 500 companies will take a combined hit of $4.5 billion to first-quarter earnings, estimates David Zion, an analyst with Credit Suisse. [emphasis added]

That is right — $5.4 billion from a single tax change, money that can’t be invested in new plants or used to hire new workers. The administration’s reaction? Commerce Secretary Gary Locke says, “It is simply not responsible to suggest that the new health-care law is bad for business.” These companies have a legal obligation to accurately assess earnings, so what would Locke have them do — conceal the hit and risk lawsuits from shareholders and prosecution by his colleagues at the SEC? It’s absurd to suggest that businesses that will suffer from the mandates, fines, and taxes imposed should essentially shut up about the adverse consequences of the legislation.

Robert Gibbs adds to the air of dismissiveness, saying, “Companies not only get the subsidy tax-free, but they then deduct the amount. Our bill simply closes the loophole.” Yes, by White House standards, raising taxes by $5.4B is no more than a loophole. If you have the sense that no one in the White House has much sympathy for or understands private industry, you are right. If they did, we would not now be facing a gargantuan tax hike — and more to follow with the expiration of the Bush tax cuts.

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A Partisan Divide

The National Journal‘s insiders’ poll, which surveys a list of senators and congressmen, asked about Obama’s treatment of Israel. The partisan divide was startling: among 39 Democrats, 82 percent thought Obama was “about right,” while only 8 percent said he was “too tough”; among 35 Republicans, 80 percent said “too tough,” while only 11 percent said “about right.” Now, some of the Democrats’ comments in the “about right” column reveal some implicit criticism (“Except that some issues should not be discussed in public. Israel is a true ally and should be treated that way,” “Let’s not forget who are the only true friends we have in the region”), but it is hard to miss the stark divergence. Republicans surveyed are clearly in line with the sentiments voiced this week by AIPAC leaders and participants (“The Obama administration seems to be tough on our most reliable and trusted allies and very lenient with our most distrusted and dangerous enemies. This foreign policy is a disaster”), as well as with Bibi Netanyahu (“Isn’t Jerusalem the capital of Israel?”).

It’s curious that many Democrats listed in the survey, but whose individual responses aren’t identified by name, also signed on to AIPAC letters calling on the administration to cool the public conflict with the Jewish state and to get serious with Iran sanctions. So there’s a bit of misdirection going on. The AIPAC letter on the blow-up with Israel over housing — no doubt to get everyone on board — did not criticize the administration as “too tough” or “too rude” or “too foolish,” but merely urged that the fight over the housing announcement not be allowed to “derail” peace negotiations or harm the U.S.-Israel relationship. And it called on conflicts to be resolved “amicably and in a manner that befits longtime allies.”

So what’s going on with elected Democrats? It may be that some are quietly cheerleading for the administration’s bully-boy routine while tut-tutting it when it comes to putting their names on a letter. The administration’s treatment of Bibi this week and it’s apparent aversion to petroleum sanctions on Iran is going to, I think, force some Democrats to make a choice: do they support crippling Iran sanctions and the pending legislation or not? We’ll see which if there’s any push for unilateral petroleum sanctions by the U.S. against Iran. And do they really object to the Obama offensive against Israel? Again, we’ll see who, if any, voices dismay on the shoddy treatment of Bibi and the continual insistence on extracting unilateral concessions from Israel. It seems that, of those insiders polled, there is no mistaking which party is pushing back strenuously against the administration and which is going through the motions but may be unwilling to cross the White House.

The National Journal‘s insiders’ poll, which surveys a list of senators and congressmen, asked about Obama’s treatment of Israel. The partisan divide was startling: among 39 Democrats, 82 percent thought Obama was “about right,” while only 8 percent said he was “too tough”; among 35 Republicans, 80 percent said “too tough,” while only 11 percent said “about right.” Now, some of the Democrats’ comments in the “about right” column reveal some implicit criticism (“Except that some issues should not be discussed in public. Israel is a true ally and should be treated that way,” “Let’s not forget who are the only true friends we have in the region”), but it is hard to miss the stark divergence. Republicans surveyed are clearly in line with the sentiments voiced this week by AIPAC leaders and participants (“The Obama administration seems to be tough on our most reliable and trusted allies and very lenient with our most distrusted and dangerous enemies. This foreign policy is a disaster”), as well as with Bibi Netanyahu (“Isn’t Jerusalem the capital of Israel?”).

It’s curious that many Democrats listed in the survey, but whose individual responses aren’t identified by name, also signed on to AIPAC letters calling on the administration to cool the public conflict with the Jewish state and to get serious with Iran sanctions. So there’s a bit of misdirection going on. The AIPAC letter on the blow-up with Israel over housing — no doubt to get everyone on board — did not criticize the administration as “too tough” or “too rude” or “too foolish,” but merely urged that the fight over the housing announcement not be allowed to “derail” peace negotiations or harm the U.S.-Israel relationship. And it called on conflicts to be resolved “amicably and in a manner that befits longtime allies.”

So what’s going on with elected Democrats? It may be that some are quietly cheerleading for the administration’s bully-boy routine while tut-tutting it when it comes to putting their names on a letter. The administration’s treatment of Bibi this week and it’s apparent aversion to petroleum sanctions on Iran is going to, I think, force some Democrats to make a choice: do they support crippling Iran sanctions and the pending legislation or not? We’ll see which if there’s any push for unilateral petroleum sanctions by the U.S. against Iran. And do they really object to the Obama offensive against Israel? Again, we’ll see who, if any, voices dismay on the shoddy treatment of Bibi and the continual insistence on extracting unilateral concessions from Israel. It seems that, of those insiders polled, there is no mistaking which party is pushing back strenuously against the administration and which is going through the motions but may be unwilling to cross the White House.

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A Peek Ahead at 2012

It’s early, and other presidents had worse polling before coming back to win second terms, but this is still a bit of an eye-opener:

A CNN/Opinion Research Corporation survey released Thursday indicates that if the 2012 presidential election were held today, 47 percent of registered voters would back Obama, with an equal amount supporting an unnamed Republican challenger. Fifty-four percent of people questioned say Obama will lose if he runs for re-election in 2012, with 44 percent saying the president would win a second term.

Recall, however, that in 2008, Obama won with 53 percent of the vote, running as a “historic” candidate pushing a moderate message. It was inevitable that once the history was made and the reality of Obama — hyper-partisan, ultra-liberal — replaced the promise of Obama — post-partisan, moderate — that he was going to lose some ground.

To a large degree, 2012, as in all re-election campaigns, will be a referendum on the incumbent. Obama will need to defend his record — on everything from the deficit to unemployment to taxes — while the challenger will have an array of targets. In some sense it may be a reversal of 2008, when John McCain was essentially running as the incumbent– saddled with the economic failure and playing defense for the Bush administration. This time around it will be Obama on the defensive, given that his performance on nearly every domestic issue is rated unfavorably by the public. That might change, but it would require that Obama stop governing in ways that are antithetical to the concerns and values of the majority of the public. So far, there’s no indication that he intends to do that. Maybe he meant it when he said there were more important things to him than being re-elected. Perhaps a government takeover of a sixth of the economy was all he ever wanted to do.

It’s early, and other presidents had worse polling before coming back to win second terms, but this is still a bit of an eye-opener:

A CNN/Opinion Research Corporation survey released Thursday indicates that if the 2012 presidential election were held today, 47 percent of registered voters would back Obama, with an equal amount supporting an unnamed Republican challenger. Fifty-four percent of people questioned say Obama will lose if he runs for re-election in 2012, with 44 percent saying the president would win a second term.

Recall, however, that in 2008, Obama won with 53 percent of the vote, running as a “historic” candidate pushing a moderate message. It was inevitable that once the history was made and the reality of Obama — hyper-partisan, ultra-liberal — replaced the promise of Obama — post-partisan, moderate — that he was going to lose some ground.

To a large degree, 2012, as in all re-election campaigns, will be a referendum on the incumbent. Obama will need to defend his record — on everything from the deficit to unemployment to taxes — while the challenger will have an array of targets. In some sense it may be a reversal of 2008, when John McCain was essentially running as the incumbent– saddled with the economic failure and playing defense for the Bush administration. This time around it will be Obama on the defensive, given that his performance on nearly every domestic issue is rated unfavorably by the public. That might change, but it would require that Obama stop governing in ways that are antithetical to the concerns and values of the majority of the public. So far, there’s no indication that he intends to do that. Maybe he meant it when he said there were more important things to him than being re-elected. Perhaps a government takeover of a sixth of the economy was all he ever wanted to do.

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Obama’s Humiliation of Israel May Only Be Getting Started

After days of a news blackout about the details of the meeting on Tuesday between President Barack Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the Britain’s Telegraph has broken a story with details about what can only be described as an attempt to humiliate the Israeli.

According to the Telegraph’s account, the meeting began with the president presenting a list of 13 demands to Netanyahu. These included a complete freeze on Jewish building in eastern Jerusalem. When Netanyahu did not immediately accede to this diktat, Obama left him saying he was going to go eat dinner with his wife and daughters. Netanyahu and his party were left to wait for over an hour for Obama’s return. The paper claims that as Obama left, he told the prime minister to consider “the error of his ways.” Yediot Ahronot reported that Obama merely said, “I’m still around. Let me know if there is anything new.” A second brief meeting followed, which apparently consisted of the president restating his demands. As a punishment for Netanyahu’s failure to immediately bend to Obama’s ultimatum, there was no joint statement issued about the meeting and no press coverage of the visit. Friday’s Ma’ariv describes the scene thusly: “There is no humiliation exercise that the Americans did not try on the prime minister and his entourage. Bibi received in the White House the treatment reserved for the president of Equatorial Guinea.”

The Jerusalem Post is reporting that Obama wants an answer to his demands by Saturday so he can then present them to a meeting of the Arab League going on in Libya so that ineffectual body can endorse the so-called proximity talks in which the Palestinian Authority refuses to directly negotiate with Israel.

All of which points to the fact that the crisis between Israel and the United States, which many observers had thought was blowing over in the wake of the trumped-up controversy over the announcement of a Jerusalem housing project during a visit by Vice President Joe Biden, is far from concluded. In fact, it appears that Obama is just getting started.

What does the president hope to achieve? Having asked and gotten a building freeze in the West Bank from Netanyahu last year, the Palestinians still won’t sit and talk peace directly with Israel. Why should they when every time Israel makes a concession, the Arabs can now count on Obama demanding more, even to the point of making an issue of something like building in existing Jewish neighborhoods in eastern Jerusalem, which had never previously been a sticking point for the Americans. Since Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas has already rejected an independent Palestinian state in the West Bank, Gaza, and part of Jerusalem as recently as late 2008, does Obama think Netanyahu — or any Israeli leader — can offer more? Does he truly believe that for the first time in their history, the Palestinians will take “yes” — since Netanyahu has also already agreed to the principle of a two-state solution — for an answer?

Perhaps, the 13-point ultimatum is just another attempt to topple Netanyahu’s coalition. But there is no reason to believe that Netanyahu’s partners — and the vast majority of the Israeli people — will not support him, especially when the issue at stake is the unity of Jerusalem. It is unlikely that Israelis will clamor for surrender to Washington in light of the fact that the man making these demands is an American president whom they rightly regard as hostile to their nation. But after Israel says “no” to Obama, does Obama dare escalate his diplomatic offensive against Israel further, even as his administration’s efforts to stop Iran from obtaining a nuclear capability appear stalled? Obama has nothing to gain in continuing on this path, but then again, there was no point in starting this ruckus and choosing to humiliate the only democracy in the Middle East in the first place. Is Obama capable of stopping before this train wreck of a policy creates even more mischief in the region, as well as for Democrats seeking Jewish support this year?

Finally, one more thought about Obama’s 13-point ultimatum: It brings to mind the reaction of French President Georges Clemenceau to American President Woodrow Wilson’s “14 Points” aimed at ending World War One in 1918. Stunned at Wilson’s presumption, Clemenceau quipped: “Even the good Lord contented Himself with only Ten Commandments, and we should not try to improve upon them.” The same might well be said of Obama’s arrogance.

After days of a news blackout about the details of the meeting on Tuesday between President Barack Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the Britain’s Telegraph has broken a story with details about what can only be described as an attempt to humiliate the Israeli.

According to the Telegraph’s account, the meeting began with the president presenting a list of 13 demands to Netanyahu. These included a complete freeze on Jewish building in eastern Jerusalem. When Netanyahu did not immediately accede to this diktat, Obama left him saying he was going to go eat dinner with his wife and daughters. Netanyahu and his party were left to wait for over an hour for Obama’s return. The paper claims that as Obama left, he told the prime minister to consider “the error of his ways.” Yediot Ahronot reported that Obama merely said, “I’m still around. Let me know if there is anything new.” A second brief meeting followed, which apparently consisted of the president restating his demands. As a punishment for Netanyahu’s failure to immediately bend to Obama’s ultimatum, there was no joint statement issued about the meeting and no press coverage of the visit. Friday’s Ma’ariv describes the scene thusly: “There is no humiliation exercise that the Americans did not try on the prime minister and his entourage. Bibi received in the White House the treatment reserved for the president of Equatorial Guinea.”

The Jerusalem Post is reporting that Obama wants an answer to his demands by Saturday so he can then present them to a meeting of the Arab League going on in Libya so that ineffectual body can endorse the so-called proximity talks in which the Palestinian Authority refuses to directly negotiate with Israel.

All of which points to the fact that the crisis between Israel and the United States, which many observers had thought was blowing over in the wake of the trumped-up controversy over the announcement of a Jerusalem housing project during a visit by Vice President Joe Biden, is far from concluded. In fact, it appears that Obama is just getting started.

What does the president hope to achieve? Having asked and gotten a building freeze in the West Bank from Netanyahu last year, the Palestinians still won’t sit and talk peace directly with Israel. Why should they when every time Israel makes a concession, the Arabs can now count on Obama demanding more, even to the point of making an issue of something like building in existing Jewish neighborhoods in eastern Jerusalem, which had never previously been a sticking point for the Americans. Since Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas has already rejected an independent Palestinian state in the West Bank, Gaza, and part of Jerusalem as recently as late 2008, does Obama think Netanyahu — or any Israeli leader — can offer more? Does he truly believe that for the first time in their history, the Palestinians will take “yes” — since Netanyahu has also already agreed to the principle of a two-state solution — for an answer?

Perhaps, the 13-point ultimatum is just another attempt to topple Netanyahu’s coalition. But there is no reason to believe that Netanyahu’s partners — and the vast majority of the Israeli people — will not support him, especially when the issue at stake is the unity of Jerusalem. It is unlikely that Israelis will clamor for surrender to Washington in light of the fact that the man making these demands is an American president whom they rightly regard as hostile to their nation. But after Israel says “no” to Obama, does Obama dare escalate his diplomatic offensive against Israel further, even as his administration’s efforts to stop Iran from obtaining a nuclear capability appear stalled? Obama has nothing to gain in continuing on this path, but then again, there was no point in starting this ruckus and choosing to humiliate the only democracy in the Middle East in the first place. Is Obama capable of stopping before this train wreck of a policy creates even more mischief in the region, as well as for Democrats seeking Jewish support this year?

Finally, one more thought about Obama’s 13-point ultimatum: It brings to mind the reaction of French President Georges Clemenceau to American President Woodrow Wilson’s “14 Points” aimed at ending World War One in 1918. Stunned at Wilson’s presumption, Clemenceau quipped: “Even the good Lord contented Himself with only Ten Commandments, and we should not try to improve upon them.” The same might well be said of Obama’s arrogance.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

The Washington Post‘s idea of an “Islamic scholar” was Hitler’s pal and Muslim recruiting officer for the SS.

The issue going forward for Obama’s Israel policy is, as Elliott Abrams puts it, “Do you dig in, or do you try to dig out?”

For now, they are digging in: “Obama reportedly asked Netanyahu to put in writing assurances that Israel would make gestures to the Palestinians in order to coax them back to negotiations, and that Israel would be willing to discuss final-status issues such as Jerusalem and borders during the upcoming round of indirect talks.” More unilateral concessions and final-status issues with the U.S. as the “honest broker” — what’s not for Bibi to like? Everything.

Why it’s fun having Mickey Kaus in the California Democratic Senate primary: “I don’t for one minute believe that the bill’s new, highly subsidized system of insurance ‘exchanges’–allowing millions of less affluent citizens to gain access to ever-more-complicated medical technology–will  ‘bend the curve’ of health care costs downwards or help the nation’s deficit situation.”

A revealing video – the hyper-partisan, pro–individual health-care mandate candidate in the 2008 Democratic primary wasn’t Barack Obama. So when Obama says, “That’s what elections are for,” I suppose the end of that sentence is “so you can win and then do what you really wanted to all along but couldn’t tell the rubes without frightening them.”

Another video points out that you get a much warmer greeting from Obama if you are a despotic thug than if you are the Israeli prime minister.

Charles Krauthammer explains: “They meet for several hours — no press, no pictures, no joint appearances, as if the prime minister of Israel is toxic, as if somehow he represents a pariah state. It feeds into the perception around the world, particularly in the Arab world and in some elements in Europe, of Israel as a pariah state.”

A silver lining? Post-ObamaCare, Sen. Lindsey Graham postulates that “Democrats from conservative states will now be less likely to embrace the climate effort now that they’ve cast a tough vote on healthcare. … ‘Go talk to Blanche Lincoln. Hey, you want to do energy and climate? You want to do immigration? Go talk to [Jon] Tester, to Ben Nelson, give them a shout-out,’ he said. ‘I just think the idea of doing hard things has been tainted because the blowback they are getting on health care has made them risk averse.’”

Phil Gramm joins the “Repeal and Reform” brigade: “Republicans have a job to do. They must make it clear to the American people that this is only the beginning of the debate. There will be two congressional elections and a presidential election before the government takeover is implemented in 2014. I believe that Republicans should take the unequivocal position that if they are given a majority in Congress in November, they will stop the implementation of the government takeover. And if a Republican is elected president in 2012, they will do with Mr. Obama’s health-care bill what the American voters will have done to the Democrats: throw it out.”


The Washington Post‘s idea of an “Islamic scholar” was Hitler’s pal and Muslim recruiting officer for the SS.

The issue going forward for Obama’s Israel policy is, as Elliott Abrams puts it, “Do you dig in, or do you try to dig out?”

For now, they are digging in: “Obama reportedly asked Netanyahu to put in writing assurances that Israel would make gestures to the Palestinians in order to coax them back to negotiations, and that Israel would be willing to discuss final-status issues such as Jerusalem and borders during the upcoming round of indirect talks.” More unilateral concessions and final-status issues with the U.S. as the “honest broker” — what’s not for Bibi to like? Everything.

Why it’s fun having Mickey Kaus in the California Democratic Senate primary: “I don’t for one minute believe that the bill’s new, highly subsidized system of insurance ‘exchanges’–allowing millions of less affluent citizens to gain access to ever-more-complicated medical technology–will  ‘bend the curve’ of health care costs downwards or help the nation’s deficit situation.”

A revealing video – the hyper-partisan, pro–individual health-care mandate candidate in the 2008 Democratic primary wasn’t Barack Obama. So when Obama says, “That’s what elections are for,” I suppose the end of that sentence is “so you can win and then do what you really wanted to all along but couldn’t tell the rubes without frightening them.”

Another video points out that you get a much warmer greeting from Obama if you are a despotic thug than if you are the Israeli prime minister.

Charles Krauthammer explains: “They meet for several hours — no press, no pictures, no joint appearances, as if the prime minister of Israel is toxic, as if somehow he represents a pariah state. It feeds into the perception around the world, particularly in the Arab world and in some elements in Europe, of Israel as a pariah state.”

A silver lining? Post-ObamaCare, Sen. Lindsey Graham postulates that “Democrats from conservative states will now be less likely to embrace the climate effort now that they’ve cast a tough vote on healthcare. … ‘Go talk to Blanche Lincoln. Hey, you want to do energy and climate? You want to do immigration? Go talk to [Jon] Tester, to Ben Nelson, give them a shout-out,’ he said. ‘I just think the idea of doing hard things has been tainted because the blowback they are getting on health care has made them risk averse.’”

Phil Gramm joins the “Repeal and Reform” brigade: “Republicans have a job to do. They must make it clear to the American people that this is only the beginning of the debate. There will be two congressional elections and a presidential election before the government takeover is implemented in 2014. I believe that Republicans should take the unequivocal position that if they are given a majority in Congress in November, they will stop the implementation of the government takeover. And if a Republican is elected president in 2012, they will do with Mr. Obama’s health-care bill what the American voters will have done to the Democrats: throw it out.”


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