Commentary Magazine


Posts For: April 9, 2010

Do They Know What Obama Is up To?

The latest AJC poll on American Jewish opinion is a reminder that there is a disturbing tendency among my co-religionists, as one commentator poignantly put it, to “despise their familiars and love The Stranger who hates them — and hates them all the more for their craven pursuit of him.” What do American Jews think of Obama’s Israel policy? 55 percent approve and only 37 percent disapprove. And they still are among thee presidents’ most loyal supporters: 57 percent of Jews approve of Obama’s performance. (By contrast, his RCP poll average is hovering around 47 percent.) But then this gets really wacky.

What about a Palestinian state? Only 48 percent approve of the idea. What about compromising on Jerusalem? Oh, 61 percent disapprove of that idea. 75 percent of Jews agree with this statement: “The goal of the Arabs is not the return of occupied territories but rather the destruction of Israel.” Do they know what Obama’s Israel policy is? It’s hard to fathom how their support for his policy meshes with their policy preferences, which are antithetical to Obama’s. One is forced to conclude that this is a near Pavlovian response: “Obama=approval.” (One caveat: the poll was taken between March 2 and 23 so it may be that many responses were registered before the full Obama onslaught against Israel was apparent.)

On Iran it’s a slightly more mixed picture. Here only 47 percent approve of Obama’s policy and 42 percent don’t. But again, asked about the component parts of that policy, Jews sound a decidedly un-Obama-like note. 68 percent say there is little to no chance that sanctions will halt Iran’s nuclear program. On a military strike, 53 percent favor a U.S. action and 62 support an Israeli one. Again, do they know (or care) what Obama’s actual Iran policy is? Hard to tell.

If Israel supporters hope to apply pressure on the administration to reverse its approach to Israel and Iran, I have a suggestion: get some gentile support. Left to their own devices, a great number of American Jews seem to be out to lunch when it comes to the damage that Obama is inflicting on the U.S.-Israel relationship and on Israel’s security.

The latest AJC poll on American Jewish opinion is a reminder that there is a disturbing tendency among my co-religionists, as one commentator poignantly put it, to “despise their familiars and love The Stranger who hates them — and hates them all the more for their craven pursuit of him.” What do American Jews think of Obama’s Israel policy? 55 percent approve and only 37 percent disapprove. And they still are among thee presidents’ most loyal supporters: 57 percent of Jews approve of Obama’s performance. (By contrast, his RCP poll average is hovering around 47 percent.) But then this gets really wacky.

What about a Palestinian state? Only 48 percent approve of the idea. What about compromising on Jerusalem? Oh, 61 percent disapprove of that idea. 75 percent of Jews agree with this statement: “The goal of the Arabs is not the return of occupied territories but rather the destruction of Israel.” Do they know what Obama’s Israel policy is? It’s hard to fathom how their support for his policy meshes with their policy preferences, which are antithetical to Obama’s. One is forced to conclude that this is a near Pavlovian response: “Obama=approval.” (One caveat: the poll was taken between March 2 and 23 so it may be that many responses were registered before the full Obama onslaught against Israel was apparent.)

On Iran it’s a slightly more mixed picture. Here only 47 percent approve of Obama’s policy and 42 percent don’t. But again, asked about the component parts of that policy, Jews sound a decidedly un-Obama-like note. 68 percent say there is little to no chance that sanctions will halt Iran’s nuclear program. On a military strike, 53 percent favor a U.S. action and 62 support an Israeli one. Again, do they know (or care) what Obama’s actual Iran policy is? Hard to tell.

If Israel supporters hope to apply pressure on the administration to reverse its approach to Israel and Iran, I have a suggestion: get some gentile support. Left to their own devices, a great number of American Jews seem to be out to lunch when it comes to the damage that Obama is inflicting on the U.S.-Israel relationship and on Israel’s security.

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How Bad Can It Get?

The Obama administration has embarked on an assault on our ally Israel that can no longer be chalked up to a minor gaffe or a misunderstanding. The Obami have been unrelenting and consistently hostile toward the Jewish state. The Obama administration started off by ignoring the Bush administration’s agreements on settlements and making a settlement freeze the cornerstone of its Israel policy. That managed to alienate both sides. Last month, the temper tantrum over a routine housing permit was followed by Hillary Clinton’s 43-minute lecture to the prime minister. This was followed by the abusive and inexcusable treatment of Israel’s prime minister at the White House. That, in turn, was followed by leaks of the potential for an imposed settlement plan. No administration has ever treated Israel in this fashion. None.

Now we get this report, as yet unconfirmed from the Israeli newspaper Ma’ariv, that the Obama administration is denying visas to Israeli nuclear scientists at the Dimona nuclear-research facility. In addition, the paper reports that the U.S. is imposing a defacto embargo blocking the purchase of component parts. This all marks a dramatic change from past U.S. policy:

The Americans are toughening their behavior toward the Nuclear Research Center in Dimona. Workers at the center say that while the Americans are behaving in a conciliatory and non-aggressive way regarding the Iranian nuclear program, President Obama’s people have chosen to behave in a humiliating manner toward a country that is friendly toward them.

Officials of the Nuclear Research Center in Dimona said yesterday that Obama’s government has imposed restrictions and toughened its behavior toward them, as has never happened before in relations between the two countries. For decades, employees of the Nuclear Research Center have traveled to universities in the United States for advanced professional training in physics, chemistry and nuclear engineering. In order to study at those universities, the researchers from the Nuclear Research Center had to request entry visas for the United States, as any Israeli citizen must. Yet recently, several of them encountered humiliating treatment and been refused visas, while their only crime has been that they are employees of the Nuclear Research Center. According to security officials, the people in question are researchers with clean records who have never been in any trouble with the law either in Israel or in the United States, so the new manner in which they are being treated constitutes a severe offense against them and their families.

But the treatment of the employees themselves is not the only thing that has changed. According to officials who are familiar with the details, attempts to purchase certain components from the Americans have also encountered difficulties, with some of the items under a de facto embargo. To put it mildly, officials at the nuclear center are not pleased with the tougher treatment, which did not take place during President Bush’s term. The Americans have asked for a detailed report on the purpose of some of the items that they wish to buy from the United States…

Professor Zeev Alfasi, the director of the nuclear engineering department at Ben-Gurion University in the Negev, who is familiar with the circumstances, describes the toughening of the Americans’ relations with the Nuclear Research Center. “Some of the people did not receive visas to the United States because they are employees of the Nuclear Research Center,” he explained. “The United States is not selling anything nuclear to the Nuclear Research Center, and that includes everything. For example, radiation detectors for nuclear research are purchased in France because the Americans do not sell to people of the Nuclear Research Center.

Not too long ago, a report like this would have been greeted with great skepticism. Now? It seems pretty much par for the course. It would be nice to think the U.S. is Israel’s “only reliable friend.” But for now, it’s not. The U.S. is, by each and every action, communicating to Israel that it should fend for itself. And it will have to for now.

The Obama administration has embarked on an assault on our ally Israel that can no longer be chalked up to a minor gaffe or a misunderstanding. The Obami have been unrelenting and consistently hostile toward the Jewish state. The Obama administration started off by ignoring the Bush administration’s agreements on settlements and making a settlement freeze the cornerstone of its Israel policy. That managed to alienate both sides. Last month, the temper tantrum over a routine housing permit was followed by Hillary Clinton’s 43-minute lecture to the prime minister. This was followed by the abusive and inexcusable treatment of Israel’s prime minister at the White House. That, in turn, was followed by leaks of the potential for an imposed settlement plan. No administration has ever treated Israel in this fashion. None.

Now we get this report, as yet unconfirmed from the Israeli newspaper Ma’ariv, that the Obama administration is denying visas to Israeli nuclear scientists at the Dimona nuclear-research facility. In addition, the paper reports that the U.S. is imposing a defacto embargo blocking the purchase of component parts. This all marks a dramatic change from past U.S. policy:

The Americans are toughening their behavior toward the Nuclear Research Center in Dimona. Workers at the center say that while the Americans are behaving in a conciliatory and non-aggressive way regarding the Iranian nuclear program, President Obama’s people have chosen to behave in a humiliating manner toward a country that is friendly toward them.

Officials of the Nuclear Research Center in Dimona said yesterday that Obama’s government has imposed restrictions and toughened its behavior toward them, as has never happened before in relations between the two countries. For decades, employees of the Nuclear Research Center have traveled to universities in the United States for advanced professional training in physics, chemistry and nuclear engineering. In order to study at those universities, the researchers from the Nuclear Research Center had to request entry visas for the United States, as any Israeli citizen must. Yet recently, several of them encountered humiliating treatment and been refused visas, while their only crime has been that they are employees of the Nuclear Research Center. According to security officials, the people in question are researchers with clean records who have never been in any trouble with the law either in Israel or in the United States, so the new manner in which they are being treated constitutes a severe offense against them and their families.

But the treatment of the employees themselves is not the only thing that has changed. According to officials who are familiar with the details, attempts to purchase certain components from the Americans have also encountered difficulties, with some of the items under a de facto embargo. To put it mildly, officials at the nuclear center are not pleased with the tougher treatment, which did not take place during President Bush’s term. The Americans have asked for a detailed report on the purpose of some of the items that they wish to buy from the United States…

Professor Zeev Alfasi, the director of the nuclear engineering department at Ben-Gurion University in the Negev, who is familiar with the circumstances, describes the toughening of the Americans’ relations with the Nuclear Research Center. “Some of the people did not receive visas to the United States because they are employees of the Nuclear Research Center,” he explained. “The United States is not selling anything nuclear to the Nuclear Research Center, and that includes everything. For example, radiation detectors for nuclear research are purchased in France because the Americans do not sell to people of the Nuclear Research Center.

Not too long ago, a report like this would have been greeted with great skepticism. Now? It seems pretty much par for the course. It would be nice to think the U.S. is Israel’s “only reliable friend.” But for now, it’s not. The U.S. is, by each and every action, communicating to Israel that it should fend for itself. And it will have to for now.

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RE: RE: Why Didn’t Obama Call Off the Ambush?

Max, you write that “by refusing to attend, Netanyahu risks exacerbating the growing feud with Obama.” I would argue the opposite. Bibi has been getting dissed by Obama, and now Obama is setting him up to get dissed again, and Bibi is supposed to masochistically show up another time to play the role of the guy who gets dissed? This is not going to ease the tensions. For the sake of avoiding another pointless confrontation, Bibi should sit this one out.

Max, you write that “by refusing to attend, Netanyahu risks exacerbating the growing feud with Obama.” I would argue the opposite. Bibi has been getting dissed by Obama, and now Obama is setting him up to get dissed again, and Bibi is supposed to masochistically show up another time to play the role of the guy who gets dissed? This is not going to ease the tensions. For the sake of avoiding another pointless confrontation, Bibi should sit this one out.

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Beware of This, Republicans

My former White House colleague Michael Gerson has a very good column in the Washington Post today on civility and public discourse. It makes a very important (and too often overlooked) point:

The most basic test of democracy is not what people do when they win; it is what people do when they lose. Citizens bring their deepest passions to a public debate — convictions they regard as morally self-evident. Yet a war goes on. Abortion remains legal. A feared health-reform law passes. Democracy means the possibility of failure. While no democratic judgment is final — and citizens should continue to work to advance their ideals — respecting the temporary outcome of a democratic process is the definition of political maturity.

The opposite — questioning the legitimacy of a democratic outcome; abusing, demeaning and attempting to silence one’s opponents — is a sign of democratic decline. From the late Roman republic to Weimar Germany, these attitudes have been the prelude to thuggery. Thugs can come with clubs, with bullhorns, with Internet access.

Spirited, passionate debate is fine, and even good at times, for the country. The opposition party should offer sharp, even piercing, criticisms when appropriate. After all, politics ain’t beanbags, as Mr. Dooley said. And it’s not the place for those with delicate sensibilities. But nor should it be an arena for invective or hate. And conservatives should not repeat the tactics used by some Democrats and liberals during the Bush years. (Gerson documents several of them, including the temper tantrum thrown by the New Republic writer Jonathan Chait.)

These are not people or temperaments we want to emulate. It’s not appropriate – and it is ultimately politically counterproductive. Ronald Reagan, himself, a large-spirited and civilized man, looked quite good compared to the vitriolic attacks directed against him at the time.

Thankfully, anger and hate don’t usually sell in American politics. Richard Nixon, in the aftermath of Watergate, understood that. “Never be petty; always remember, others may hate you, but those who hate you don’t win unless you hate them, and then you destroy yourself,” Nixon said during his haunting remarks to the White House staff after his resignation in 1974. That was a lesson Nixon learned only after he was destroyed. It is a cautionary tale.

My former White House colleague Michael Gerson has a very good column in the Washington Post today on civility and public discourse. It makes a very important (and too often overlooked) point:

The most basic test of democracy is not what people do when they win; it is what people do when they lose. Citizens bring their deepest passions to a public debate — convictions they regard as morally self-evident. Yet a war goes on. Abortion remains legal. A feared health-reform law passes. Democracy means the possibility of failure. While no democratic judgment is final — and citizens should continue to work to advance their ideals — respecting the temporary outcome of a democratic process is the definition of political maturity.

The opposite — questioning the legitimacy of a democratic outcome; abusing, demeaning and attempting to silence one’s opponents — is a sign of democratic decline. From the late Roman republic to Weimar Germany, these attitudes have been the prelude to thuggery. Thugs can come with clubs, with bullhorns, with Internet access.

Spirited, passionate debate is fine, and even good at times, for the country. The opposition party should offer sharp, even piercing, criticisms when appropriate. After all, politics ain’t beanbags, as Mr. Dooley said. And it’s not the place for those with delicate sensibilities. But nor should it be an arena for invective or hate. And conservatives should not repeat the tactics used by some Democrats and liberals during the Bush years. (Gerson documents several of them, including the temper tantrum thrown by the New Republic writer Jonathan Chait.)

These are not people or temperaments we want to emulate. It’s not appropriate – and it is ultimately politically counterproductive. Ronald Reagan, himself, a large-spirited and civilized man, looked quite good compared to the vitriolic attacks directed against him at the time.

Thankfully, anger and hate don’t usually sell in American politics. Richard Nixon, in the aftermath of Watergate, understood that. “Never be petty; always remember, others may hate you, but those who hate you don’t win unless you hate them, and then you destroy yourself,” Nixon said during his haunting remarks to the White House staff after his resignation in 1974. That was a lesson Nixon learned only after he was destroyed. It is a cautionary tale.

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Sadly True

The outstanding Middle East scholar Fouad Ajami has written an important piece in today’s Wall Street Journal. Among other points, he makes this one:

All this plays out under the gaze of an Islamic world that is coming to a consensus that a discernible American retreat in the region is in the works. America’s enemies are increasingly brazen, its friends unnerved. … The shadow of American power is receding; the rogues are emboldened. The world has a way of calling the bluff of leaders and nations summoned to difficult endeavors. Would that our biggest source of worry in that arc of trouble was the intemperate outburst of our ally in Kabul.

These are typically elegant words by Ajami. And they are, unfortunately, apposite.

The outstanding Middle East scholar Fouad Ajami has written an important piece in today’s Wall Street Journal. Among other points, he makes this one:

All this plays out under the gaze of an Islamic world that is coming to a consensus that a discernible American retreat in the region is in the works. America’s enemies are increasingly brazen, its friends unnerved. … The shadow of American power is receding; the rogues are emboldened. The world has a way of calling the bluff of leaders and nations summoned to difficult endeavors. Would that our biggest source of worry in that arc of trouble was the intemperate outburst of our ally in Kabul.

These are typically elegant words by Ajami. And they are, unfortunately, apposite.

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RE: Why Didn’t Obama Call Off the Ambush?

Noah Pollak makes a fair point: President Obama should have told the leaders of Egypt and Turkey not to turn next week’s nuclear summit in Washington into a forum for bashing Israel. Nevertheless, I am still concerned about Prime Minister Netanyahu’s decision not to attend.

U.S.-Israeli relations are as bad as they have been in decades; perhaps ever. The fault is mainly Obama’s. I believe Netanyahu has been right not to ban the construction of new Jewish housing in East Jerusalem — a concession that might come at the end of negotiations with the Palestinians but should not be a starting point. (Actually, it’s not even clear whether Netanyahu could ban such construction under any circumstances, given the nature of the conservative coalition that keeps him in office.) Still, Israel cannot afford to draw too far away from the United States, its only reliable friend.

The nuclear summit next week will be marked by a good deal of blather and no significant action — a hallmark of this administration. In any case, it’s a pet project of the president, who is already steamed enough at Bibi. By refusing to attend, Netanyahu risks exacerbating the growing feud with Obama. I find it hard to accept his explanation that he would not go because the Egyptians and Turks would make the Israeli nuclear program an issue. Netanyahu is one of the world’s most accomplished debaters. Surely he would be able to deflect their accusations and turn attention where it belongs — toward Iran’s nuclear program.

Noah Pollak makes a fair point: President Obama should have told the leaders of Egypt and Turkey not to turn next week’s nuclear summit in Washington into a forum for bashing Israel. Nevertheless, I am still concerned about Prime Minister Netanyahu’s decision not to attend.

U.S.-Israeli relations are as bad as they have been in decades; perhaps ever. The fault is mainly Obama’s. I believe Netanyahu has been right not to ban the construction of new Jewish housing in East Jerusalem — a concession that might come at the end of negotiations with the Palestinians but should not be a starting point. (Actually, it’s not even clear whether Netanyahu could ban such construction under any circumstances, given the nature of the conservative coalition that keeps him in office.) Still, Israel cannot afford to draw too far away from the United States, its only reliable friend.

The nuclear summit next week will be marked by a good deal of blather and no significant action — a hallmark of this administration. In any case, it’s a pet project of the president, who is already steamed enough at Bibi. By refusing to attend, Netanyahu risks exacerbating the growing feud with Obama. I find it hard to accept his explanation that he would not go because the Egyptians and Turks would make the Israeli nuclear program an issue. Netanyahu is one of the world’s most accomplished debaters. Surely he would be able to deflect their accusations and turn attention where it belongs — toward Iran’s nuclear program.

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Justice Stevens Retires

It’s official: Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens will retire this summer. It is neither unexpected, given his recent interviews, nor hugely significant. He will be replaced by a justice equally enamored of the “living Constitution” and equally dismissive of the notion that the judge’s job is to divine the meaning of the texts before him or her. It does, however, add to the Democrats’ woes. It is another subject area — judicial activism and the resulting impact on abortion, gay rights, and other policies — on which the Left is at odds with the American people. Democrats rarely benefit from these debates. And, in this case, it may impair their moving ahead on more politically attractive measures that might be of some benefit. Should we expect a filibuster? Another Sonia Sotomayor might trigger one, but I suspect the White House will tamp down on the controversial, nix the “empathy” jabber, and find a qualified nominee this time around. It is, more than anything else, a lost opportunity for conservatives — who after losing the 2008 race now pay the price in court appointments at all levels of the judiciary.

It’s official: Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens will retire this summer. It is neither unexpected, given his recent interviews, nor hugely significant. He will be replaced by a justice equally enamored of the “living Constitution” and equally dismissive of the notion that the judge’s job is to divine the meaning of the texts before him or her. It does, however, add to the Democrats’ woes. It is another subject area — judicial activism and the resulting impact on abortion, gay rights, and other policies — on which the Left is at odds with the American people. Democrats rarely benefit from these debates. And, in this case, it may impair their moving ahead on more politically attractive measures that might be of some benefit. Should we expect a filibuster? Another Sonia Sotomayor might trigger one, but I suspect the White House will tamp down on the controversial, nix the “empathy” jabber, and find a qualified nominee this time around. It is, more than anything else, a lost opportunity for conservatives — who after losing the 2008 race now pay the price in court appointments at all levels of the judiciary.

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Obama to Follow the North Korean Model on Iran

There hasn’t been much reason for anyone to have confidence about Barack Obama’s seriousness of purpose when it comes to trying to stop Iran from obtaining nuclear capability. But the president’s statement today on ABC’s Good Morning America appeared to remove any doubt about whether the administration was prepared to live with a nuclear Iran.

When asked by George Stephanopoulos about Russian President Medvedev’s promise to cooperate with U.S. diplomatic efforts on Iran, Obama tried to trumpet this shaky agreement as a great American triumph while at the same time lowering expectations that it will actually lead to any action, let alone a modification of Iranian behavior.

“If the question is do we have a guarantee as to the sanctions we are able to institute at this stage are automatically going to change Iranian behavior, of course we don’t,” Obama said. “The history of the Iranian regime, like the North Korean regime is that, you know, you apply international pressure on these countries, sometimes they choose to change behavior, sometimes they don’t.”

Since the only sorts of sanctions on Iran that Russia will agree to will make no impression on Tehran, Obama is right to lower our expectations. But his invocation of the example of North Korea is particularly ominous. Nearly two decades of alternating meaningless sanctions with appeasement and engagement have led to a depressing situation where the West has been left with no option but acquiescence to a nuclear North Korea. If the best the president of the United States can do in response to Iran’s intransigence is to merely say that his efforts might or might not succeed, why should anyone doubt that he is prepared to live with a nuclear Iran as he is with North Korea?

Despite Obama’s talk about his optimism about the Iranian regime being smart enough to see that they will benefit from abandoning their nuclear quest, it’s more than obvious that what Tehran will glean from this interview — as well as everything else the administration has said and done on this issue — will be that they have nothing to lose by continuing on their current path. With Russia and China effectively blocking any hope for crippling sanctions, with the threat of force off the table, and with the president now openly preparing the nation for America’s failure, why should the Khamenei/Ahmadinejad regime do anything but use all the extra time Obama has gifted them with to forge ahead toward their nuclear goal?

It should also be noted that when asked by Stephanopoulos about the latest round of vicious personal insults directed at him by Ahmadinejad, Obama responded with his stereotypical cool and merely spoke about “unproductive” remarks. Indeed, the worst thing Obama could say about the Iranian was to compare him with Sarah Palin, whose spot-on criticism of the administration’s nuclear policy he dismissed with contempt. A man who doesn’t see much of a distinction between a domestic political opponent and a Holocaust-denying anti-Semitic tyrant is missing a moral compass. But then again, this is the same person who has chosen to wage diplomatic war on Israel while engaging Iran and appeasing Russia.

There hasn’t been much reason for anyone to have confidence about Barack Obama’s seriousness of purpose when it comes to trying to stop Iran from obtaining nuclear capability. But the president’s statement today on ABC’s Good Morning America appeared to remove any doubt about whether the administration was prepared to live with a nuclear Iran.

When asked by George Stephanopoulos about Russian President Medvedev’s promise to cooperate with U.S. diplomatic efforts on Iran, Obama tried to trumpet this shaky agreement as a great American triumph while at the same time lowering expectations that it will actually lead to any action, let alone a modification of Iranian behavior.

“If the question is do we have a guarantee as to the sanctions we are able to institute at this stage are automatically going to change Iranian behavior, of course we don’t,” Obama said. “The history of the Iranian regime, like the North Korean regime is that, you know, you apply international pressure on these countries, sometimes they choose to change behavior, sometimes they don’t.”

Since the only sorts of sanctions on Iran that Russia will agree to will make no impression on Tehran, Obama is right to lower our expectations. But his invocation of the example of North Korea is particularly ominous. Nearly two decades of alternating meaningless sanctions with appeasement and engagement have led to a depressing situation where the West has been left with no option but acquiescence to a nuclear North Korea. If the best the president of the United States can do in response to Iran’s intransigence is to merely say that his efforts might or might not succeed, why should anyone doubt that he is prepared to live with a nuclear Iran as he is with North Korea?

Despite Obama’s talk about his optimism about the Iranian regime being smart enough to see that they will benefit from abandoning their nuclear quest, it’s more than obvious that what Tehran will glean from this interview — as well as everything else the administration has said and done on this issue — will be that they have nothing to lose by continuing on their current path. With Russia and China effectively blocking any hope for crippling sanctions, with the threat of force off the table, and with the president now openly preparing the nation for America’s failure, why should the Khamenei/Ahmadinejad regime do anything but use all the extra time Obama has gifted them with to forge ahead toward their nuclear goal?

It should also be noted that when asked by Stephanopoulos about the latest round of vicious personal insults directed at him by Ahmadinejad, Obama responded with his stereotypical cool and merely spoke about “unproductive” remarks. Indeed, the worst thing Obama could say about the Iranian was to compare him with Sarah Palin, whose spot-on criticism of the administration’s nuclear policy he dismissed with contempt. A man who doesn’t see much of a distinction between a domestic political opponent and a Holocaust-denying anti-Semitic tyrant is missing a moral compass. But then again, this is the same person who has chosen to wage diplomatic war on Israel while engaging Iran and appeasing Russia.

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It’s Not Anti-Incumbent

The numbers tell the story: Overwhelmingly unfavorable views of Congress, large majorities believing America is on the wrong track, low consumer confidence. We also know that the general reputation of the Republican party remains problematic; 26 percent of all adults say they are Republican, nearly eight points lower than the number who claim to be Democrats (among registered and likely voters, the numbers are significantly better, 31.8 percent Republican to) 35 percent Democrat. And we know that the latest Gallup report says only 28 percent of the public thinks incumbents in Congress should be reelected, the lowest number ever recorded, with only 49 percent saying their incumbent Congressman should be returned to Washington. (Classically, Congress as an entity gets low marks from voters while their own members of Congress get substantially higher marks; this is true here too, but a poll number under 50 percent in this category is beyond disastrous.)

All this would suggest the November 2010 election should be a Throw-the-Bums-Out moment, in which every incumbent is in danger of being hauled off by an angry populace to the hangman’s noose.

But that is not, it seems, the way things are going. It appears, rather, that absent a dramatic turn in the country’s mood and a distinct sense among voters that their lives and the nation’s prospects are distinctly improving, the overwhelming weight of public dissatisfaction is going to fall on Democrats.

In part that’s because of Democratic success in the two most recent elections taking seats away from the GOP. According to the district-by-district analysis of Charlie Cook, “There are currently 8 Democratic-leaning districts represented by Republicans and 69 Republican-leaning districts represented by Democrats, for a total of 77 out of 435 Representatives.” Republicans need to take 40 seats away from Democrats to take control of the House once again. Cook’s number here tells the tale; the GOP only needs to win back two-thirds of those Republican districts, and that seems not only possible but likely. The question now is how much better they might do. For his part, Dick Morris says as few other analysts do that the overall polling picture means Republicans are likely to take control of the Senate as well by winning 10 seats, which is what they’d need, though the numbers at present suggest a seven-seat pickup.

And, as Jen just noted, then there’s this from Gallup: “Americans’ favorable rating of the Democratic Party dropped to 41% in a late March USA Today/Gallup poll, the lowest point in the 18-year history of this measure. Favorable impressions of the Republican Party are now at 42%, thus closing the gap between the two parties’ images that has prevailed for the past four years.” It’s hard to overstate the immediate political meaning of this report. In early September 2009, 51 percent of those polled had a favorable view of the Democratic party, with the GOP receiving a 34 percent favorability rating — a gap of 17 percent. That is a colossal change, and it indicates that independent voters are not only in the midst of rethinking their recent shift toward the Democrats but that the conduct of the Democrats in the Age of Obama is making Republicans look better by contrast.

So when you hear talk about anti-incumbent fever from the mainstream media, feel free right now to substitute the word “Democrat” for the word “incumbent.”

The numbers tell the story: Overwhelmingly unfavorable views of Congress, large majorities believing America is on the wrong track, low consumer confidence. We also know that the general reputation of the Republican party remains problematic; 26 percent of all adults say they are Republican, nearly eight points lower than the number who claim to be Democrats (among registered and likely voters, the numbers are significantly better, 31.8 percent Republican to) 35 percent Democrat. And we know that the latest Gallup report says only 28 percent of the public thinks incumbents in Congress should be reelected, the lowest number ever recorded, with only 49 percent saying their incumbent Congressman should be returned to Washington. (Classically, Congress as an entity gets low marks from voters while their own members of Congress get substantially higher marks; this is true here too, but a poll number under 50 percent in this category is beyond disastrous.)

All this would suggest the November 2010 election should be a Throw-the-Bums-Out moment, in which every incumbent is in danger of being hauled off by an angry populace to the hangman’s noose.

But that is not, it seems, the way things are going. It appears, rather, that absent a dramatic turn in the country’s mood and a distinct sense among voters that their lives and the nation’s prospects are distinctly improving, the overwhelming weight of public dissatisfaction is going to fall on Democrats.

In part that’s because of Democratic success in the two most recent elections taking seats away from the GOP. According to the district-by-district analysis of Charlie Cook, “There are currently 8 Democratic-leaning districts represented by Republicans and 69 Republican-leaning districts represented by Democrats, for a total of 77 out of 435 Representatives.” Republicans need to take 40 seats away from Democrats to take control of the House once again. Cook’s number here tells the tale; the GOP only needs to win back two-thirds of those Republican districts, and that seems not only possible but likely. The question now is how much better they might do. For his part, Dick Morris says as few other analysts do that the overall polling picture means Republicans are likely to take control of the Senate as well by winning 10 seats, which is what they’d need, though the numbers at present suggest a seven-seat pickup.

And, as Jen just noted, then there’s this from Gallup: “Americans’ favorable rating of the Democratic Party dropped to 41% in a late March USA Today/Gallup poll, the lowest point in the 18-year history of this measure. Favorable impressions of the Republican Party are now at 42%, thus closing the gap between the two parties’ images that has prevailed for the past four years.” It’s hard to overstate the immediate political meaning of this report. In early September 2009, 51 percent of those polled had a favorable view of the Democratic party, with the GOP receiving a 34 percent favorability rating — a gap of 17 percent. That is a colossal change, and it indicates that independent voters are not only in the midst of rethinking their recent shift toward the Democrats but that the conduct of the Democrats in the Age of Obama is making Republicans look better by contrast.

So when you hear talk about anti-incumbent fever from the mainstream media, feel free right now to substitute the word “Democrat” for the word “incumbent.”

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RE: Into the Danger Zone

Pete, there’s more bad news for the Democrats from Gallup:

Americans’ favorable rating of the Democratic Party dropped to 41% in a late March USA Today/Gallup poll, the lowest point in the 18-year history of this measure. Favorable impressions of the Republican Party are now at 42%, thus closing the gap between the two parties’ images that has prevailed for the past four years. . . .
The images of the two major parties have particular significance in a midterm election year. For example, the favorable rating of the Democratic Party exceeded that of the Republican Party by 52% to 37% just prior to the 2006 midterm elections, in which the Democrats gained 31 House seats.

Americans’ current 41% favorable rating of the Democratic Party is five points lower than the party’s previous low, recorded twice in 2005.

By contrast, the Republican Party’s image reached its all-time low of 31% in December 1998 — just after the House of Representatives voted to impeach President Bill Clinton. The Republicans’ current rating is improved from a pair of 34% ratings Gallup measured in late 2008 and in May 2009.

The Democratic Party’s favorability has declined among Republicans, Democrats, and Independents. Among Independents, 36 percent have a postive view of the GOP, only 30 have a positive view of the Democratic Party.

Well, this is certainly going to burst the bubble of many Democrats who kept insisting that their party was in no real peril because the GOP was toxic, still smarting from the end of the Bush term. No matter how low Congress polled, Democrats consoled themselves that the Republicans were not a threat. The Democrats would simply paint them as a bunch of wackos, obstructionists, and pawns to talk-show hosts. Ooops. Didn’t work.

As is often the case, the opposition party’s first task is to make the case that the governing party is on the wrong track and is unworthy of trust; then they go about the task of articulating an effective alternative and presenting themselves as a party capable of governing better than those currently in power. It seems as though the Republicans — with great assistance from Democrats who disregarded public opinion and governed from the far Left — have done a solid job on the first half of the equation. The Democrats have blown their lead and frittered away an opportunity to cement their electoral advantage. Now the question remains whether Republicans can present themselves as better than the current crowd. Control of the House and possibly the Senate will depend on how successfully they do that.

Pete, there’s more bad news for the Democrats from Gallup:

Americans’ favorable rating of the Democratic Party dropped to 41% in a late March USA Today/Gallup poll, the lowest point in the 18-year history of this measure. Favorable impressions of the Republican Party are now at 42%, thus closing the gap between the two parties’ images that has prevailed for the past four years. . . .
The images of the two major parties have particular significance in a midterm election year. For example, the favorable rating of the Democratic Party exceeded that of the Republican Party by 52% to 37% just prior to the 2006 midterm elections, in which the Democrats gained 31 House seats.

Americans’ current 41% favorable rating of the Democratic Party is five points lower than the party’s previous low, recorded twice in 2005.

By contrast, the Republican Party’s image reached its all-time low of 31% in December 1998 — just after the House of Representatives voted to impeach President Bill Clinton. The Republicans’ current rating is improved from a pair of 34% ratings Gallup measured in late 2008 and in May 2009.

The Democratic Party’s favorability has declined among Republicans, Democrats, and Independents. Among Independents, 36 percent have a postive view of the GOP, only 30 have a positive view of the Democratic Party.

Well, this is certainly going to burst the bubble of many Democrats who kept insisting that their party was in no real peril because the GOP was toxic, still smarting from the end of the Bush term. No matter how low Congress polled, Democrats consoled themselves that the Republicans were not a threat. The Democrats would simply paint them as a bunch of wackos, obstructionists, and pawns to talk-show hosts. Ooops. Didn’t work.

As is often the case, the opposition party’s first task is to make the case that the governing party is on the wrong track and is unworthy of trust; then they go about the task of articulating an effective alternative and presenting themselves as a party capable of governing better than those currently in power. It seems as though the Republicans — with great assistance from Democrats who disregarded public opinion and governed from the far Left — have done a solid job on the first half of the equation. The Democrats have blown their lead and frittered away an opportunity to cement their electoral advantage. Now the question remains whether Republicans can present themselves as better than the current crowd. Control of the House and possibly the Senate will depend on how successfully they do that.

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ObamaCare Bedevils Romney

Mitt Romney is the most experienced presidential candidate of the 2012 aspirants, having slogged through the 2008 primary and pre-primary campaigns. He has written a book and developed an easier, less stilted demeanor and public persona. He speaks authoritatively on foreign policy. But he has a big problem: ObamaCare looks a good deal like the ex-governor’s RomneyCare, his signature health-care legislation. A former advisor and MIT economist Jonathan Gruber remarks: “If any one person in the world deserves credit for where we are now (with the passage of the new federal law) it’s Mitt Romney.” Yikes.

Romney’s plan includes mandatory insurance for individuals — an anathema to conservatives. And the plan faces hard realities, which conservatives predict will befall ObamaCare too. The Wall Street Journal editors explain:

Three of largest four — Blue Cross Blue Shield, Tufts Health Plan and Fallon Community Health — posted operating losses in 2009. In an emergency suit heard in Boston superior court yesterday, they argued that the arbitrary rate cap will result in another $100 million in collective losses this year and make it impossible to pay the anticipated cost of claims. It may even threaten the near-term solvency of some companies.

So until the matter is resolved, the insurers have simply stopped selling new policies. A court decision is expected by Monday, but state officials have demanded that the insurers — under the threat of fines and other regulatory punishments — resume offering quotes by today and to revert to year-old base premiums. Let that one sink in: Mr. Patrick has made the health insurance business so painful the government actually has to order private companies to sell their products (albeit at sub-market costs). . . .

On top of that, like ObamaCare, integral to the Massachusetts overhaul are mandates that require insurers to cover anyone who applies regardless of health status or pre-existing conditions and to charge everyone about the same rates. This allows people to wait until they’re about to incur major medical expenses before buying insurance and transfer the costs to everyone else. This week Blue Cross Blue Shield reported a big uptick in short-term customers who ran up costs more than four times the average, only to drop the coverage within three months.

Romney cites the differences between the bills — his contained no massive tax hike and didn’t savage Medicare. Mostly, he’s focused on the Tenth Amendment — the argument that the federal government shouldn’t and can’t constitutionally occupy the health-care field, which has been subject to state regulation. It’s far from clear that this will be enough to satisfy the Republican primary electorate, which is going to hear Romney’s opponents attack him for passing ObamaCare-lite. They likely will be proposing market-based plans akin to those which the GOP proposed in Congress. But for whatever reason — perhaps concern about reviving the flip-flop label — Romney isn’t disowning his past effort and he’ll have to withstand the onslaught if he’s going to do better than second place this time around. Every candidate has handicaps but in an election in which the Republicans are trying to elect a president to rip out ObamaCare before it takes root, Romney will have his work cut out for him, living down what was once a selling point for his candidacy.

Mitt Romney is the most experienced presidential candidate of the 2012 aspirants, having slogged through the 2008 primary and pre-primary campaigns. He has written a book and developed an easier, less stilted demeanor and public persona. He speaks authoritatively on foreign policy. But he has a big problem: ObamaCare looks a good deal like the ex-governor’s RomneyCare, his signature health-care legislation. A former advisor and MIT economist Jonathan Gruber remarks: “If any one person in the world deserves credit for where we are now (with the passage of the new federal law) it’s Mitt Romney.” Yikes.

Romney’s plan includes mandatory insurance for individuals — an anathema to conservatives. And the plan faces hard realities, which conservatives predict will befall ObamaCare too. The Wall Street Journal editors explain:

Three of largest four — Blue Cross Blue Shield, Tufts Health Plan and Fallon Community Health — posted operating losses in 2009. In an emergency suit heard in Boston superior court yesterday, they argued that the arbitrary rate cap will result in another $100 million in collective losses this year and make it impossible to pay the anticipated cost of claims. It may even threaten the near-term solvency of some companies.

So until the matter is resolved, the insurers have simply stopped selling new policies. A court decision is expected by Monday, but state officials have demanded that the insurers — under the threat of fines and other regulatory punishments — resume offering quotes by today and to revert to year-old base premiums. Let that one sink in: Mr. Patrick has made the health insurance business so painful the government actually has to order private companies to sell their products (albeit at sub-market costs). . . .

On top of that, like ObamaCare, integral to the Massachusetts overhaul are mandates that require insurers to cover anyone who applies regardless of health status or pre-existing conditions and to charge everyone about the same rates. This allows people to wait until they’re about to incur major medical expenses before buying insurance and transfer the costs to everyone else. This week Blue Cross Blue Shield reported a big uptick in short-term customers who ran up costs more than four times the average, only to drop the coverage within three months.

Romney cites the differences between the bills — his contained no massive tax hike and didn’t savage Medicare. Mostly, he’s focused on the Tenth Amendment — the argument that the federal government shouldn’t and can’t constitutionally occupy the health-care field, which has been subject to state regulation. It’s far from clear that this will be enough to satisfy the Republican primary electorate, which is going to hear Romney’s opponents attack him for passing ObamaCare-lite. They likely will be proposing market-based plans akin to those which the GOP proposed in Congress. But for whatever reason — perhaps concern about reviving the flip-flop label — Romney isn’t disowning his past effort and he’ll have to withstand the onslaught if he’s going to do better than second place this time around. Every candidate has handicaps but in an election in which the Republicans are trying to elect a president to rip out ObamaCare before it takes root, Romney will have his work cut out for him, living down what was once a selling point for his candidacy.

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Why Did Bart Stupak Even Bother…

…to claim he is not running for another term in Congress after flip-flopping on his stand against the health-care bill’s abortion language because he wants to spend more time with his family? By speaking those notorious words, isn’t he instantly acknowledging that they are a lie?

…to claim he is not running for another term in Congress after flip-flopping on his stand against the health-care bill’s abortion language because he wants to spend more time with his family? By speaking those notorious words, isn’t he instantly acknowledging that they are a lie?

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Liz Cheney: Maybe We Should Be Nice to Our Allies

Liz Cheney at the Republican Southern Leadership Conference issued a searing indictment of Obama’s treatment of our allies:

In the era of Obama, American allies have their loyalty met with humiliation, arrogance and incompetence. The shabby reception Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu received in Washington a few weeks ago — being treated as an uninvited guest at the White House — was disgraceful. President Obama must not understand the most fundamental point about US-Israeli relations — the world is safer when there is no daylight between America and the state of Israel.

Israel is our strongest ally in the Middle East and one of our strongest and most important allies in the world. Barack Obama is playing a reckless game that could have deadly consequences if he continues on the path of diminishing America’s ties to Israel. Israel is not the only ally to have felt Obama’s wrath — last year the Obama Administration pulled the rug out from under leaders in Poland and the Czech Republic by abruptly canceling a missile defense system they had committed to host. We did so because the Russians complained.

Afghan President Karzai, whose support we need if we are going to succeed in Afghanistan, is being treated to an especially dangerous and juvenile display from this White House. They dress him down publicly almost daily and refuse to even say that he is an ally. There is a saying in the Arab world: “It is more dangerous to be America’s friend than to be her enemy.” In the age of Obama, that is proving true.

Although Cheney is undeniably one of the most popular conservatives and the Left’s second-favorite bogeywoman, her message should not be controversial and is anything but extreme. Presidents of both parties at least tried to maintain robust alliances with like-minded democracies. It is extraordinary to have a president now who by design seeks to distance himself from loyal allies for the purpose of proving our bona fides to our foes.

Nor was Cheney’s critique of Obama’s Iran policy particularly controversial. Given the mullahs’ behavior for more than a year, it’s hard to dispute this:

Ultimately, the only way diplomacy will succeed in halting Iran’s nuclear ambitions is if the mullahs understand, beyond a doubt, that America will take military action if they don’t comply peacefully. No enticements can work — there is nothing the international community can offer Iran that is worth more to them than a nuclear weapon. And watered down sanctions carry their own danger — they buy time for Iran while imposing no cost. The dangers grow to us and our allies with every hour we waste.

And it’s equally clear that our quietude over the repression of the Green Movement has “lost the respect of all concerned — both the oppressors and the oppressed.”

It is a measure of how feckless the Obama policies have become that commonsense notions previously embraced by presidents of both parties — treat allies well, don’t foreswear the use of American force, support democracy movements — are now anathema to the White House. Had Obama run on a platform of Israel-bashing, Iran appeasement, and retreat on human rights, it is questionable whether he would have cleared the bar of acceptability for a novice on the world stage. But that’s the course he’s on — one that is proving treacherous and leaves many more Americans agreeing with Cheney than with their president when it comes to national security.

Liz Cheney at the Republican Southern Leadership Conference issued a searing indictment of Obama’s treatment of our allies:

In the era of Obama, American allies have their loyalty met with humiliation, arrogance and incompetence. The shabby reception Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu received in Washington a few weeks ago — being treated as an uninvited guest at the White House — was disgraceful. President Obama must not understand the most fundamental point about US-Israeli relations — the world is safer when there is no daylight between America and the state of Israel.

Israel is our strongest ally in the Middle East and one of our strongest and most important allies in the world. Barack Obama is playing a reckless game that could have deadly consequences if he continues on the path of diminishing America’s ties to Israel. Israel is not the only ally to have felt Obama’s wrath — last year the Obama Administration pulled the rug out from under leaders in Poland and the Czech Republic by abruptly canceling a missile defense system they had committed to host. We did so because the Russians complained.

Afghan President Karzai, whose support we need if we are going to succeed in Afghanistan, is being treated to an especially dangerous and juvenile display from this White House. They dress him down publicly almost daily and refuse to even say that he is an ally. There is a saying in the Arab world: “It is more dangerous to be America’s friend than to be her enemy.” In the age of Obama, that is proving true.

Although Cheney is undeniably one of the most popular conservatives and the Left’s second-favorite bogeywoman, her message should not be controversial and is anything but extreme. Presidents of both parties at least tried to maintain robust alliances with like-minded democracies. It is extraordinary to have a president now who by design seeks to distance himself from loyal allies for the purpose of proving our bona fides to our foes.

Nor was Cheney’s critique of Obama’s Iran policy particularly controversial. Given the mullahs’ behavior for more than a year, it’s hard to dispute this:

Ultimately, the only way diplomacy will succeed in halting Iran’s nuclear ambitions is if the mullahs understand, beyond a doubt, that America will take military action if they don’t comply peacefully. No enticements can work — there is nothing the international community can offer Iran that is worth more to them than a nuclear weapon. And watered down sanctions carry their own danger — they buy time for Iran while imposing no cost. The dangers grow to us and our allies with every hour we waste.

And it’s equally clear that our quietude over the repression of the Green Movement has “lost the respect of all concerned — both the oppressors and the oppressed.”

It is a measure of how feckless the Obama policies have become that commonsense notions previously embraced by presidents of both parties — treat allies well, don’t foreswear the use of American force, support democracy movements — are now anathema to the White House. Had Obama run on a platform of Israel-bashing, Iran appeasement, and retreat on human rights, it is questionable whether he would have cleared the bar of acceptability for a novice on the world stage. But that’s the course he’s on — one that is proving treacherous and leaves many more Americans agreeing with Cheney than with their president when it comes to national security.

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Why Didn’t Obama Call Off the Ambush?

There is an obvious reason why the Israeli prime minister canceled his attendance at President Obama’s nuclear security summit: he sought to avoid a combined Egyptian and Turkish attack on Israel’s nuclear program.

But there is an important follow-up question that is of far greater consequence: why do Egypt and Turkey, both American allies, feel at liberty to show up in Washington D.C. at a conference organized by the U.S. president and dump on one of America’s closest allies?

This latest incident is not really about Israel’s relations with Egypt and Turkey; both countries can be counted on to take cheap shots at Israel whenever they can, especially the increasingly Islamist Turkey. The critical issue is why they believed they had a green light to engage in such theatrics. Upon hearing of the ambush they were planning, Obama or Clinton could have sent a very clear message to the Turkish prime minister and the Egyptian dictator: “You either come to Washington and behave yourselves, or stay home. This is a respectable conference, not a platform for anti-Israel grandstanding.”

But clearly, Obama made no such call, and clearly he did not instruct the secretary of state to deliver a 43-minute tongue-lashing to the leaders of either country, as she has recently shown herself capable of doing. There are two possible explanations, and I’m not sure which is more disturbing. Obama either welcomed the prospect of another humiliation of Netanyahu, or he was afraid to stand up to two Muslim leaders. Perhaps both are true.

In his pettiness, Obama has once again lost perspective on what really matters. What could have been a useful opportunity to present a unified front against Iran’s nuclear ambitions has now descended into a spectacle of pointless drama not terribly dissimilar from a meeting of the Arab League. In his decision to indulge Middle East leaders in their obsessive desire to castigate Israel, Obama has once again shown his utter lack of interest in confronting the real threat to America’s national security.

There is an obvious reason why the Israeli prime minister canceled his attendance at President Obama’s nuclear security summit: he sought to avoid a combined Egyptian and Turkish attack on Israel’s nuclear program.

But there is an important follow-up question that is of far greater consequence: why do Egypt and Turkey, both American allies, feel at liberty to show up in Washington D.C. at a conference organized by the U.S. president and dump on one of America’s closest allies?

This latest incident is not really about Israel’s relations with Egypt and Turkey; both countries can be counted on to take cheap shots at Israel whenever they can, especially the increasingly Islamist Turkey. The critical issue is why they believed they had a green light to engage in such theatrics. Upon hearing of the ambush they were planning, Obama or Clinton could have sent a very clear message to the Turkish prime minister and the Egyptian dictator: “You either come to Washington and behave yourselves, or stay home. This is a respectable conference, not a platform for anti-Israel grandstanding.”

But clearly, Obama made no such call, and clearly he did not instruct the secretary of state to deliver a 43-minute tongue-lashing to the leaders of either country, as she has recently shown herself capable of doing. There are two possible explanations, and I’m not sure which is more disturbing. Obama either welcomed the prospect of another humiliation of Netanyahu, or he was afraid to stand up to two Muslim leaders. Perhaps both are true.

In his pettiness, Obama has once again lost perspective on what really matters. What could have been a useful opportunity to present a unified front against Iran’s nuclear ambitions has now descended into a spectacle of pointless drama not terribly dissimilar from a meeting of the Arab League. In his decision to indulge Middle East leaders in their obsessive desire to castigate Israel, Obama has once again shown his utter lack of interest in confronting the real threat to America’s national security.

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Obama’s National Security Policies Aren’t Popular Either

After the passage of ObamaCare, the president was going to go coast to coast to sell it. Then he was going to pivot (really) to jobs. Instead, he’s decided to emphasize his commander-in-chief role by going to a START-signing ceremony and then hosting a nuclear nonproliferation summit. But perhaps this isn’t the way to get back into the public’s good graces. It seems they overwhelmingly disapprove of some of his central premises:

Fifty-five percent (55%) of U.S. voters oppose President Obama’s new policy prohibiting the use of nuclear weapons in response to chemical or biological attacks on the United States.

A new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds that just 25% of voters agree with the president’s decision to rule out a nuclear response if a non-nuclear country attacks America with chemical or biological weapons. Another 20% are undecided.

Only 31% favor a reduction in the number of nuclear weapons in the U.S. arsenal. Fifty-three percent (53%) oppose any such reduction. Sixteen percent (16%) are not sure. …

Only 38% think it is even somewhat likely that other countries will reduce their nuclear weapons arsenals and development in response to the actions taken by the United States. That includes just seven percent (7%) who say it’s very likely.

Fifty-four percent (54%) think reciprocal disarmament by other countries is unlikely, with 35% who say it’s not very likely and 19% who view it as not at all likely.

No wonder Obama seems grumpy so much of the time. First, the rubes don’t believe the stimulus worked. Then they don’t appreciate his “historic” health-care legislation. And now they think his nonproliferation plans are a bunch of hooey. It’s almost like there is a vast Center-Right coalition out there antagonistic toward big government, focused on economic recovery, dubious about unilateral gestures that smack of appeasement, supportive of military action to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons, and convinced that the way to win the war against Islamic fascists is not to close Guantanamo, give KSM a public trial and Mirandize terrorist bombers but rather to defeat the enemy by all reasonable means available.

Yes, those views are held by a majority of Americans (a large majority in some cases). That puts Obama at odds with the electorate and makes him hard pressed to come up with some policy initiative that’s going to be popular. So long as he’s pursuing ultra-liberal domestic and national security policies, he’s going to find the rubes awfully hard to please.

After the passage of ObamaCare, the president was going to go coast to coast to sell it. Then he was going to pivot (really) to jobs. Instead, he’s decided to emphasize his commander-in-chief role by going to a START-signing ceremony and then hosting a nuclear nonproliferation summit. But perhaps this isn’t the way to get back into the public’s good graces. It seems they overwhelmingly disapprove of some of his central premises:

Fifty-five percent (55%) of U.S. voters oppose President Obama’s new policy prohibiting the use of nuclear weapons in response to chemical or biological attacks on the United States.

A new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds that just 25% of voters agree with the president’s decision to rule out a nuclear response if a non-nuclear country attacks America with chemical or biological weapons. Another 20% are undecided.

Only 31% favor a reduction in the number of nuclear weapons in the U.S. arsenal. Fifty-three percent (53%) oppose any such reduction. Sixteen percent (16%) are not sure. …

Only 38% think it is even somewhat likely that other countries will reduce their nuclear weapons arsenals and development in response to the actions taken by the United States. That includes just seven percent (7%) who say it’s very likely.

Fifty-four percent (54%) think reciprocal disarmament by other countries is unlikely, with 35% who say it’s not very likely and 19% who view it as not at all likely.

No wonder Obama seems grumpy so much of the time. First, the rubes don’t believe the stimulus worked. Then they don’t appreciate his “historic” health-care legislation. And now they think his nonproliferation plans are a bunch of hooey. It’s almost like there is a vast Center-Right coalition out there antagonistic toward big government, focused on economic recovery, dubious about unilateral gestures that smack of appeasement, supportive of military action to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons, and convinced that the way to win the war against Islamic fascists is not to close Guantanamo, give KSM a public trial and Mirandize terrorist bombers but rather to defeat the enemy by all reasonable means available.

Yes, those views are held by a majority of Americans (a large majority in some cases). That puts Obama at odds with the electorate and makes him hard pressed to come up with some policy initiative that’s going to be popular. So long as he’s pursuing ultra-liberal domestic and national security policies, he’s going to find the rubes awfully hard to please.

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Obama’s Perfect Record of Foreign Policy Failure

Obama has a knack for devising national security policies that do the opposite of what he intends — or at least tells us he intends. He engaged the Iranians to pierce through all that “mistrust”; they have come to view him with contempt. He avoided support for the Green Movement to prevent accusations of “foreign meddling”; the protesters hold up signs pleading with the U.S. not to legitimize the regime. He bashes Israel to ingratiate himself with the Palestinians; they resort to rock throwing and dig in their heels, awaiting the next round of concessions to be delivered to their doorstep. He announces the return of our ambassador to Syria; Bashar al-Assad cozies up to Iran and refuses any cooperation on human rights, Hezbollah support, or the Middle East “peace process.” Obama has a perfect record: our national interests are always undermined.

And now he declares a “no nuclear retaliation” stance against any Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty signatory that might hit us with chemical or biological weapons. As Charles Krauthammer points out:

Apart from being morally bizarre, the Obama policy is strategically loopy. Does anyone believe that North Korea or Iran will be more persuaded to abjure nuclear weapons because they could then carry out a biological or chemical attack on the United States without fear of nuclear retaliation?

The naivete is stunning. Similarly the Obama pledge to forswear development of any new nuclear warheads, indeed, to permit no replacement of aging nuclear components without the authorization of the president himself. This under the theory that our moral example will move other countries to eschew nukes.

The result? Certainly, it won’t be to deter North Korea or Iran from pursuing their own nuclear plans, which in turn will encourage others to do the same. Instead, as Krauthammer sums up, the more likely consequence of all this is: “Fend for yourself. Get yourself your own WMDs. Go nuclear if you have to. Do you imagine they are not thinking that in the Persian Gulf?” And we certainly must expect that Israel has gotten the “fend for yourself” part loud and clear. His nonproliferation will proliferate nuclear weapons, just as his Middle East “peace effort” foments violence and heightened tension.

So why is it that Obama is so often unproductive in his foreign policy forays? After all, with George W. Bush out of the way, Obama’s arrival was supposed to herald a new era of international cooperation. Alas, the kumbaya moment is fast becoming a dangerous food fight. Well, it turns out there aren’t “shared values” between the U.S. and its foes. It turns out that Obama’s personal charm is lost on despots. It turns out that American military force and the threat of it are the best guarantors of international peace and security. It turns out that downplaying human rights encourages thuggish behavior. It turns out that turning on our allies does not impress our enemies. In sum, nearly everything Obama believes about foreign policy is wrong and has been disproved by history and the current behavior of our adversaries. So until his vision aligns with reality, expect Obama’s “perfect” track record to continue.

Obama has a knack for devising national security policies that do the opposite of what he intends — or at least tells us he intends. He engaged the Iranians to pierce through all that “mistrust”; they have come to view him with contempt. He avoided support for the Green Movement to prevent accusations of “foreign meddling”; the protesters hold up signs pleading with the U.S. not to legitimize the regime. He bashes Israel to ingratiate himself with the Palestinians; they resort to rock throwing and dig in their heels, awaiting the next round of concessions to be delivered to their doorstep. He announces the return of our ambassador to Syria; Bashar al-Assad cozies up to Iran and refuses any cooperation on human rights, Hezbollah support, or the Middle East “peace process.” Obama has a perfect record: our national interests are always undermined.

And now he declares a “no nuclear retaliation” stance against any Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty signatory that might hit us with chemical or biological weapons. As Charles Krauthammer points out:

Apart from being morally bizarre, the Obama policy is strategically loopy. Does anyone believe that North Korea or Iran will be more persuaded to abjure nuclear weapons because they could then carry out a biological or chemical attack on the United States without fear of nuclear retaliation?

The naivete is stunning. Similarly the Obama pledge to forswear development of any new nuclear warheads, indeed, to permit no replacement of aging nuclear components without the authorization of the president himself. This under the theory that our moral example will move other countries to eschew nukes.

The result? Certainly, it won’t be to deter North Korea or Iran from pursuing their own nuclear plans, which in turn will encourage others to do the same. Instead, as Krauthammer sums up, the more likely consequence of all this is: “Fend for yourself. Get yourself your own WMDs. Go nuclear if you have to. Do you imagine they are not thinking that in the Persian Gulf?” And we certainly must expect that Israel has gotten the “fend for yourself” part loud and clear. His nonproliferation will proliferate nuclear weapons, just as his Middle East “peace effort” foments violence and heightened tension.

So why is it that Obama is so often unproductive in his foreign policy forays? After all, with George W. Bush out of the way, Obama’s arrival was supposed to herald a new era of international cooperation. Alas, the kumbaya moment is fast becoming a dangerous food fight. Well, it turns out there aren’t “shared values” between the U.S. and its foes. It turns out that Obama’s personal charm is lost on despots. It turns out that American military force and the threat of it are the best guarantors of international peace and security. It turns out that downplaying human rights encourages thuggish behavior. It turns out that turning on our allies does not impress our enemies. In sum, nearly everything Obama believes about foreign policy is wrong and has been disproved by history and the current behavior of our adversaries. So until his vision aligns with reality, expect Obama’s “perfect” track record to continue.

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Bibi Stays Home

Bibi has decided to avoid the ambush:

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu decided Thursday to cancel a planned trip to Washington to attend a nuclear summit being hosted by the Obama administration early next week. … “In the last 24 hours, the Israeli government has learned of various reports from various sources on the intention of several states attending the conference not only to deal with the issue at hand, but to take the opportunity to make a point of grand-standing against Israel and the issue of the NPT,” the Israeli official said was the explanation for Netanyahu cancelling his trip, referring to the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty.

The only surprise is that it just dawned on the Israelis that this was going to turn into an Israel-bashing confab in which the Jewish state was to be badgered for not signing on to the NPT. (As this report notes, “Israel is widely believed to have nuclear weapons but operates a policy of ‘nuclear ambiguity’, never publicly confirming or denying their existence.”) Perhaps the Israelis were slow to perceive that this summit would raise ideas like the “nuclear free Middle East.” Or perhaps Bibi had heard enough leaks about an Obami plan to impose a peace plan that he’s not about to show up at an Obama-hosted international conference. A healthy skepticism about any forum in which the Obami and their friends from the Muslim World amass is probably in order at this point.

Bibi has decided to avoid the ambush:

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu decided Thursday to cancel a planned trip to Washington to attend a nuclear summit being hosted by the Obama administration early next week. … “In the last 24 hours, the Israeli government has learned of various reports from various sources on the intention of several states attending the conference not only to deal with the issue at hand, but to take the opportunity to make a point of grand-standing against Israel and the issue of the NPT,” the Israeli official said was the explanation for Netanyahu cancelling his trip, referring to the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty.

The only surprise is that it just dawned on the Israelis that this was going to turn into an Israel-bashing confab in which the Jewish state was to be badgered for not signing on to the NPT. (As this report notes, “Israel is widely believed to have nuclear weapons but operates a policy of ‘nuclear ambiguity’, never publicly confirming or denying their existence.”) Perhaps the Israelis were slow to perceive that this summit would raise ideas like the “nuclear free Middle East.” Or perhaps Bibi had heard enough leaks about an Obami plan to impose a peace plan that he’s not about to show up at an Obama-hosted international conference. A healthy skepticism about any forum in which the Obami and their friends from the Muslim World amass is probably in order at this point.

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The Latest Example of Brutality in the Muslim World

Given the constant stream of stories of brutality toward girls and woman, some have come to recognize that the “Muslim World” that Obama courts so assiduously is a cesspool of misogynistic brutality in which every female — from little girls to old women — is a potential victim. Reports documenting the latest depravity are no longer greeted with disbelief or even shock by those who have come to appreciate the fate that awaits many a small Muslim girl whose “fathers … are the brokers of their misery, selling them to old men for . . . what? To pay off debts? To pare down the number of mouths to feed?” The latest comes from Yemen:

A 13-year-old Yemeni girl has died of injuries to her genitals four days after a family-arranged marriage, a human rights group said

The practice of marrying young girls is widespread in Yemen and has drawn the attention of international rights groups seeking to pressure the government to outlaw child marriages. Legislation that would make it illegal for those under the age of 17 to marry is in serious peril after strong opposition from some of Yemen’s most influential Islamic leaders.

As we learn with each of these incidents, the victims whose stories make the papers are not the exceptions but the rule — one enforced by clerics and courts:

More than a quarter of Yemen’s females marry before age 15, according to a report last year by the Social Affairs Ministry. Tribal custom also plays a role, including the belief that a young bride can be shaped into an obedient wife, bear more children and be kept away from temptation.

Last month, a group of the country’s highest Islamic authorities declared those supporting a ban on child marriages to be apostates.

A February 2009 law set the minimum age for marriage at 17, but it was repealed and sent back to parliament’s constitutional committee for review after some lawmakers called it un-Islamic. The committee is expected to make a final decision on the legislation this month. …

The issue of Yemen’s child brides got widespread attention three years ago when an 8-year-old girl boldly went by herself to a courtroom and demanded a judge dissolve her marriage to a man in his 30s. She eventually won a divorce, and legislators began looking at ways to curb the practice.

In September, a 12-year-old Yemeni child-bride died after struggling for three days in labor to give birth, a local human rights organization said.

Yemen once set 15 as the minimum age for marriage, but parliament annulled that law in the 1990s, saying parents should decide when a daughter marries.

Obama and his dutiful but largely mute secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, don’t spend much time on things like this. They are entirely absorbed with grave matters such as Jerusalem apartment permits and whether a peace can be imposed on the one democratic country in the Middle East in which women enjoy equal rights and the protection of the law. The Obami don’t spend much time on human rights at all these days — whether it is a student rotting in Evian prison or a 13-year-old girl who has bled to death, no doubt in excruciating agony. You see, it’s not so much the Muslim people who are receiving the attention of the Obami but rather their oppressors, with whom Obama imagines he can do business or get along in some fashion. If there is a more cynical and less hope-filled approach to the Middle East, I’m hard pressed to conjure it up.

Given the constant stream of stories of brutality toward girls and woman, some have come to recognize that the “Muslim World” that Obama courts so assiduously is a cesspool of misogynistic brutality in which every female — from little girls to old women — is a potential victim. Reports documenting the latest depravity are no longer greeted with disbelief or even shock by those who have come to appreciate the fate that awaits many a small Muslim girl whose “fathers … are the brokers of their misery, selling them to old men for . . . what? To pay off debts? To pare down the number of mouths to feed?” The latest comes from Yemen:

A 13-year-old Yemeni girl has died of injuries to her genitals four days after a family-arranged marriage, a human rights group said

The practice of marrying young girls is widespread in Yemen and has drawn the attention of international rights groups seeking to pressure the government to outlaw child marriages. Legislation that would make it illegal for those under the age of 17 to marry is in serious peril after strong opposition from some of Yemen’s most influential Islamic leaders.

As we learn with each of these incidents, the victims whose stories make the papers are not the exceptions but the rule — one enforced by clerics and courts:

More than a quarter of Yemen’s females marry before age 15, according to a report last year by the Social Affairs Ministry. Tribal custom also plays a role, including the belief that a young bride can be shaped into an obedient wife, bear more children and be kept away from temptation.

Last month, a group of the country’s highest Islamic authorities declared those supporting a ban on child marriages to be apostates.

A February 2009 law set the minimum age for marriage at 17, but it was repealed and sent back to parliament’s constitutional committee for review after some lawmakers called it un-Islamic. The committee is expected to make a final decision on the legislation this month. …

The issue of Yemen’s child brides got widespread attention three years ago when an 8-year-old girl boldly went by herself to a courtroom and demanded a judge dissolve her marriage to a man in his 30s. She eventually won a divorce, and legislators began looking at ways to curb the practice.

In September, a 12-year-old Yemeni child-bride died after struggling for three days in labor to give birth, a local human rights organization said.

Yemen once set 15 as the minimum age for marriage, but parliament annulled that law in the 1990s, saying parents should decide when a daughter marries.

Obama and his dutiful but largely mute secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, don’t spend much time on things like this. They are entirely absorbed with grave matters such as Jerusalem apartment permits and whether a peace can be imposed on the one democratic country in the Middle East in which women enjoy equal rights and the protection of the law. The Obami don’t spend much time on human rights at all these days — whether it is a student rotting in Evian prison or a 13-year-old girl who has bled to death, no doubt in excruciating agony. You see, it’s not so much the Muslim people who are receiving the attention of the Obami but rather their oppressors, with whom Obama imagines he can do business or get along in some fashion. If there is a more cynical and less hope-filled approach to the Middle East, I’m hard pressed to conjure it up.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Not what he had in mind when he signed the “historic” health-care bill: Obama hits a new low in the Fox News/Opinion Dynamics poll, at 43 percent approval. Only 38 percent of independents approve of his performance. Still, it’s better than Congress, which manages only a 21 percent approval.

Not what Democrats were predicting when Obama won Colorado in 2008: now all the potential Republican Senate candidates lead all the possible Democrats, and Obama’s approval is down to 43 percent.

Not what Arlen Specter was hoping for when he switched parties: “Republican Pat Toomey is back on top 46 – 41 percent over Sen. Arlen Specter in Pennsylvania’s seesaw U.S. Senate race, while Attorney General Tom Corbett, the leader for the Republican gubernatorial nomination, remains ahead of each of the three top Democratic contenders by double digits, according to a Quinnipiac University poll released today. Gov. Ed Rendell’s job approval rating is 45 – 45 percent, up from a negative 43 – 49 percent last month, the independent Quinnipiac (KWIN-uh-pe-ack) University survey finds. But President Barack Obama’s approval is a negative 45 – 49 percent, down from 49 – 46 percent.”

Not what is helpful in defeating “Islamic radicalism“: taking out any mention of that phrase from the National Security Strategy document. “But some fear sanitizing the NSS may actually confuse our allies; those within the Muslim world who oppose violent jihad and expect the US to very clearly and very publicly do the same. Elliot Abrams, Former Bush Deputy National Security Advisor says, ‘One of the things we are doing there is we’re not really helping moderates in the Islamic world. They have a fight against Islamic extremism, we’re on their side and when we are afraid to even discuss the problem we look fearful and weak.’”

Not what Obama wants to hear: Joe Lieberman wants to carefully review the START treaty: “My vote on the START Treaty will thus depend in large measure on whether I am convinced the Administration has put forward an appropriate and adequately-funded plan to sustain and modernize the smaller nuclear stockpile it envisions. I also remain deeply concerned that — regardless of the merits of the NPR and START on paper — we are losing the real world fight to prevent rogue regimes like Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons. If Iran continues on its current trajectory and crosses the nuclear threshold, it will inflict irreparable harm on the global nonproliferation regime.”

Not what Michael Steele wanted to hear after he played the race card: “For the first time since revelations that the RNC had spent some $1,946 at a risque L.A. nightclub, a member of the national body has called on Steele to step aside. In a letter to Steele dated today, NC GOP chair Tom Fetzer asks the chairman to step aside for what he says is the good of the party.”

Not what anyone has been waiting to hear: “Spitzer: I’ve got the urge to run again.” Free advice — stay away from words like “urge.”

Not what most Americans, I suspect, believe Congress should be spending its time on: “A Democratic member of Congress next week is holding a hearing into baseball players’ use of chewing tobacco.”

Not what Congress is spending its time on: “The nation’s fiscal path is ‘unsustainable,’ and the problem ‘cannot be solved through minor tinkering,’ the head of the Congressional Budget Office said Thursday morning. Doug Elmendorf, best known for arbitrating the costs of various health care proposals, added his voice to a growing chorus of economic experts who predict dire consequences if political leaders don’t scale back spending, increase taxes or both — and soon.”

Not what he had in mind when he signed the “historic” health-care bill: Obama hits a new low in the Fox News/Opinion Dynamics poll, at 43 percent approval. Only 38 percent of independents approve of his performance. Still, it’s better than Congress, which manages only a 21 percent approval.

Not what Democrats were predicting when Obama won Colorado in 2008: now all the potential Republican Senate candidates lead all the possible Democrats, and Obama’s approval is down to 43 percent.

Not what Arlen Specter was hoping for when he switched parties: “Republican Pat Toomey is back on top 46 – 41 percent over Sen. Arlen Specter in Pennsylvania’s seesaw U.S. Senate race, while Attorney General Tom Corbett, the leader for the Republican gubernatorial nomination, remains ahead of each of the three top Democratic contenders by double digits, according to a Quinnipiac University poll released today. Gov. Ed Rendell’s job approval rating is 45 – 45 percent, up from a negative 43 – 49 percent last month, the independent Quinnipiac (KWIN-uh-pe-ack) University survey finds. But President Barack Obama’s approval is a negative 45 – 49 percent, down from 49 – 46 percent.”

Not what is helpful in defeating “Islamic radicalism“: taking out any mention of that phrase from the National Security Strategy document. “But some fear sanitizing the NSS may actually confuse our allies; those within the Muslim world who oppose violent jihad and expect the US to very clearly and very publicly do the same. Elliot Abrams, Former Bush Deputy National Security Advisor says, ‘One of the things we are doing there is we’re not really helping moderates in the Islamic world. They have a fight against Islamic extremism, we’re on their side and when we are afraid to even discuss the problem we look fearful and weak.’”

Not what Obama wants to hear: Joe Lieberman wants to carefully review the START treaty: “My vote on the START Treaty will thus depend in large measure on whether I am convinced the Administration has put forward an appropriate and adequately-funded plan to sustain and modernize the smaller nuclear stockpile it envisions. I also remain deeply concerned that — regardless of the merits of the NPR and START on paper — we are losing the real world fight to prevent rogue regimes like Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons. If Iran continues on its current trajectory and crosses the nuclear threshold, it will inflict irreparable harm on the global nonproliferation regime.”

Not what Michael Steele wanted to hear after he played the race card: “For the first time since revelations that the RNC had spent some $1,946 at a risque L.A. nightclub, a member of the national body has called on Steele to step aside. In a letter to Steele dated today, NC GOP chair Tom Fetzer asks the chairman to step aside for what he says is the good of the party.”

Not what anyone has been waiting to hear: “Spitzer: I’ve got the urge to run again.” Free advice — stay away from words like “urge.”

Not what most Americans, I suspect, believe Congress should be spending its time on: “A Democratic member of Congress next week is holding a hearing into baseball players’ use of chewing tobacco.”

Not what Congress is spending its time on: “The nation’s fiscal path is ‘unsustainable,’ and the problem ‘cannot be solved through minor tinkering,’ the head of the Congressional Budget Office said Thursday morning. Doug Elmendorf, best known for arbitrating the costs of various health care proposals, added his voice to a growing chorus of economic experts who predict dire consequences if political leaders don’t scale back spending, increase taxes or both — and soon.”

Read Less




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