Commentary Magazine


Posts For: May 7, 2010

So, What’s the British Outcome Mean?

Jokes abound. One colleague tells me it’s a Mick Jagger election: no one got any satisfaction. I’m reminded of Zhou Enlai’s response when asked about the significance of the French Revolution: it’s too soon to tell. But at the risk of being proved wrong by political developments over the next few hours, and analysis of the results over the next few years, let me offer a take.

First, one really heartening fact: as Martin Bright points out, it was a bad night for Islamists and fascists. The Respect coalition — Ken Livingstone’s ill-sorted collection of Islamist sympathizers — was crushed all around. George Galloway (what a relief to no longer have to describe him as George Galloway, MP) got the boot. The BNP was routed. Various MPs targeted by the Muslim Public Affairs Committee survived. This is all very satisfactory.

The second fact was the unexpectedly bad performance of the Liberal Democrats. When the first exit poll appeared at 10 p.m. local time, showing that the Lib Dems were likely to lose seats, no one — myself included — thought it had any credibility. It did. The tricky question is why. The explanation now percolating in commentators’ columns is that Nick Clegg rode a boomlet up and then rode it down.

I don’t discount that possibility, but here’s another: there never was that much support for the Lib Dems in the first place. The so-called Golden Rule of British political opinion polling for the past 20 years has been that the poll showing the worst result for Labour is the most accurate. The Tories are, usually, the beneficiary on the day of this nonexistent Labour support.

It may be that, in the middle weeks of the campaign, this non-support abandoned Labour (perhaps because no one wanted to say they were voting for Gordon Brown when they weren’t) and jumped ship to the Lib Dems. And then came the day that the non-support did what it usually does — slosh back to the Tories. That’s just speculation, but for now I incline to the belief that the Lib Dems became, for a brief moment, the verbally acceptable alternative for voters who actually had entirely different plans in mind.

The third fact, obviously, was that Cameron was unable to climb the mountain. And it was a mountain. Only once in Britain’s post-1945 electoral history has a government with a clear majority in the Commons been defeated and replaced by a different government, also with a clear majority. And that was in 1970, which was a shock result. It’s fair, probably, to say that Cameron might have been expected — should have been expected, maybe — to do better. But the mountain was really, really big.

The fourth fact is that the Tory successes were surprisingly random. Seats relatively high on their target list were not won — but this was (almost) balanced by successes where their odds seemed slim. The conclusion I draw is that this was an election where good constituency MPs were rewarded, and bad ones were punished. The expenses scandal of last year may have had a lot to do with this — Jacqui Smith, for example, went down to defeat. But it may also say something about the decay of parties as the organizing force in British politics, a subject I’ve complained about before. If so, it helps explain why Cameron couldn’t quite pull it off.

So, what’s next? As Yogi Berra supposedly said, predictions are dangerous, especially when they’re about the future. There are three things that will be decided over the next few hours, or days: who’ll be PM, whether there will be a coalition government, and when the next election is. My bet on the third point is October 2010: I see no way a coherent, stable government can be formed from the existing alignment in the Commons. As for the first point: Cameron. No one appears to want to do a deal with Gordon Brown except Brown himself.

The interesting question is how and on what terms Cameron will be installed in No. 10. One possibility is a full coalition government, with the Liberal Democrats. But except for the fact that both the Tories and the Lib Dems want to be in government, they have very little in common. They are miles apart on foreign policy and have less in common domestically than the Tories and Labour. A coalition between them would lack any organizing principle. Its price would probably be some sort of electoral reform — a possibility that is chewing up the newswires right now. I have written at length on the genesis of proportional representation in Britain, and I won’t burden anyone with that now. Suffice it to say that my research makes me very skeptical about its desirability.

A second possibility, therefore, is a Tory government drawing support on an issue-by-issue basis from the Lib Dems, Labour, the Ulster Unionists, and the other minor parties. This, to my mind, is the most likely possibility, but it’s also one of the least capable of offering strong leadership in response to the fiscal crisis. Come the next election, this might evolve into a Tory and Lib Dem agreement that each would focus its fire on Labour. That would gain the Tories enough seats to form a government, and the Lib Dems enough seats to move out of their status as the eternal bridesmaid of British politics.

And then there’s a third possibility. The Tories and Labour, in fact, have at least as much in common with each other as they do with the Liberal Democrats. In 1931, during the greatest of Britain’s previous fiscal crises, the collapse of the Labour government led to the election of a Tory-dominated government of national unity, with only the more extreme elements in British politics (elements of the Labour Party, the Lloyd George Liberals, and Oswald Mosely) left on the side.

I don’t expect this to happen again. But if it did, and if the Tories and Labour both concentrated their electoral fire in the subsequent election on the Lib Dems, the result would probably be a Lib Dem wipeout. I wonder if this thought has occurred to Nick Clegg as he entertains offers from Cameron and Brown.

Jokes abound. One colleague tells me it’s a Mick Jagger election: no one got any satisfaction. I’m reminded of Zhou Enlai’s response when asked about the significance of the French Revolution: it’s too soon to tell. But at the risk of being proved wrong by political developments over the next few hours, and analysis of the results over the next few years, let me offer a take.

First, one really heartening fact: as Martin Bright points out, it was a bad night for Islamists and fascists. The Respect coalition — Ken Livingstone’s ill-sorted collection of Islamist sympathizers — was crushed all around. George Galloway (what a relief to no longer have to describe him as George Galloway, MP) got the boot. The BNP was routed. Various MPs targeted by the Muslim Public Affairs Committee survived. This is all very satisfactory.

The second fact was the unexpectedly bad performance of the Liberal Democrats. When the first exit poll appeared at 10 p.m. local time, showing that the Lib Dems were likely to lose seats, no one — myself included — thought it had any credibility. It did. The tricky question is why. The explanation now percolating in commentators’ columns is that Nick Clegg rode a boomlet up and then rode it down.

I don’t discount that possibility, but here’s another: there never was that much support for the Lib Dems in the first place. The so-called Golden Rule of British political opinion polling for the past 20 years has been that the poll showing the worst result for Labour is the most accurate. The Tories are, usually, the beneficiary on the day of this nonexistent Labour support.

It may be that, in the middle weeks of the campaign, this non-support abandoned Labour (perhaps because no one wanted to say they were voting for Gordon Brown when they weren’t) and jumped ship to the Lib Dems. And then came the day that the non-support did what it usually does — slosh back to the Tories. That’s just speculation, but for now I incline to the belief that the Lib Dems became, for a brief moment, the verbally acceptable alternative for voters who actually had entirely different plans in mind.

The third fact, obviously, was that Cameron was unable to climb the mountain. And it was a mountain. Only once in Britain’s post-1945 electoral history has a government with a clear majority in the Commons been defeated and replaced by a different government, also with a clear majority. And that was in 1970, which was a shock result. It’s fair, probably, to say that Cameron might have been expected — should have been expected, maybe — to do better. But the mountain was really, really big.

The fourth fact is that the Tory successes were surprisingly random. Seats relatively high on their target list were not won — but this was (almost) balanced by successes where their odds seemed slim. The conclusion I draw is that this was an election where good constituency MPs were rewarded, and bad ones were punished. The expenses scandal of last year may have had a lot to do with this — Jacqui Smith, for example, went down to defeat. But it may also say something about the decay of parties as the organizing force in British politics, a subject I’ve complained about before. If so, it helps explain why Cameron couldn’t quite pull it off.

So, what’s next? As Yogi Berra supposedly said, predictions are dangerous, especially when they’re about the future. There are three things that will be decided over the next few hours, or days: who’ll be PM, whether there will be a coalition government, and when the next election is. My bet on the third point is October 2010: I see no way a coherent, stable government can be formed from the existing alignment in the Commons. As for the first point: Cameron. No one appears to want to do a deal with Gordon Brown except Brown himself.

The interesting question is how and on what terms Cameron will be installed in No. 10. One possibility is a full coalition government, with the Liberal Democrats. But except for the fact that both the Tories and the Lib Dems want to be in government, they have very little in common. They are miles apart on foreign policy and have less in common domestically than the Tories and Labour. A coalition between them would lack any organizing principle. Its price would probably be some sort of electoral reform — a possibility that is chewing up the newswires right now. I have written at length on the genesis of proportional representation in Britain, and I won’t burden anyone with that now. Suffice it to say that my research makes me very skeptical about its desirability.

A second possibility, therefore, is a Tory government drawing support on an issue-by-issue basis from the Lib Dems, Labour, the Ulster Unionists, and the other minor parties. This, to my mind, is the most likely possibility, but it’s also one of the least capable of offering strong leadership in response to the fiscal crisis. Come the next election, this might evolve into a Tory and Lib Dem agreement that each would focus its fire on Labour. That would gain the Tories enough seats to form a government, and the Lib Dems enough seats to move out of their status as the eternal bridesmaid of British politics.

And then there’s a third possibility. The Tories and Labour, in fact, have at least as much in common with each other as they do with the Liberal Democrats. In 1931, during the greatest of Britain’s previous fiscal crises, the collapse of the Labour government led to the election of a Tory-dominated government of national unity, with only the more extreme elements in British politics (elements of the Labour Party, the Lloyd George Liberals, and Oswald Mosely) left on the side.

I don’t expect this to happen again. But if it did, and if the Tories and Labour both concentrated their electoral fire in the subsequent election on the Lib Dems, the result would probably be a Lib Dem wipeout. I wonder if this thought has occurred to Nick Clegg as he entertains offers from Cameron and Brown.

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The End of the Welfare-State Model?

Stuart Varney of Fox Business News said Thursday on Fox News Special Report that what we are witnessing with the debt crisis in Greece and the swoon of the markets over the last week and a half is the end of the welfare-state model of governance. I think he’s right.

Markets are notorious for sometimes being oblivious to developments in the economy that, in retrospect, seem obvious — and then, suddenly, waking up and acting. The American economy began to slow down in the spring of 1929, for instance, but Wall Street — usually ahead of the economy — paid no attention and soared over the summer to heights unseen before. Then, on the day after Labor Day, for a trivial reason, the market panicked in the last hour of trading, and the mood turned instantly from “the sky’s the limit” to “every man for himself.” Six weeks later, the great crash of 1929 happened.

For years, democratic governments have been promising citizens ever-increasing benefits in the future to win votes in the present. What they haven’t been doing is arranging to pay for them. Instead, they have used phony bookkeeping to make things look under control. New York City did this in the 60s and 70s until one day the banks said they weren’t rolling over the city’s paper anymore. Now, Greece has suffered the same fate. It lied to the EU to get in and has been cooking the books to hide the gathering fiscal disaster ever since. The market has now made it clear that it thinks Greek bonds are for wallpaper, not investing. With more than 10 billion euros in bonds coming due on May 19, Greece had no choice but to accept draconian cuts in its benefits and strict accountability in the future to be bailed out by its euro-zone partners. They, of course, fear the collapse of the euro as a currency and a spreading contagion to larger countries that have also been doing what Greece has done for so long.

Europe would need $60 trillion in the bank, earning government-borrowing-rate interest, to fund its future welfare benefits. Needless to say, no country has four times its GDP in the bank.

In short, the market has suddenly become aware that the emperor known as the welfare state is, financially speaking, buck naked. The cost of insuring against bank default in Europe, according to Bloomberg, is now more than it was when Lehman Brothers collapsed. Other rates are nowhere near those levels, but it would not take much to set off a global panic. Markets have been down all week, and the Dow was down today by 1.34 percent, down 7 percent since Monday.

Great Britain and the United States, insulated from the crisis in Europe because they do not use the euro, have big financial promises they can’t pay for, either. President Obama, of course, wants to make more promises.

If Greece stands up to its unions and its outraged bureaucrats and reforms its ways, I suspect the current crisis will pass. But unless the rest of the democratic world reforms its ways — and soon — then, as Bette Davis famously said in All About Eve: “Fasten your seat belts. It’s going to be a bumpy night.”

Stuart Varney of Fox Business News said Thursday on Fox News Special Report that what we are witnessing with the debt crisis in Greece and the swoon of the markets over the last week and a half is the end of the welfare-state model of governance. I think he’s right.

Markets are notorious for sometimes being oblivious to developments in the economy that, in retrospect, seem obvious — and then, suddenly, waking up and acting. The American economy began to slow down in the spring of 1929, for instance, but Wall Street — usually ahead of the economy — paid no attention and soared over the summer to heights unseen before. Then, on the day after Labor Day, for a trivial reason, the market panicked in the last hour of trading, and the mood turned instantly from “the sky’s the limit” to “every man for himself.” Six weeks later, the great crash of 1929 happened.

For years, democratic governments have been promising citizens ever-increasing benefits in the future to win votes in the present. What they haven’t been doing is arranging to pay for them. Instead, they have used phony bookkeeping to make things look under control. New York City did this in the 60s and 70s until one day the banks said they weren’t rolling over the city’s paper anymore. Now, Greece has suffered the same fate. It lied to the EU to get in and has been cooking the books to hide the gathering fiscal disaster ever since. The market has now made it clear that it thinks Greek bonds are for wallpaper, not investing. With more than 10 billion euros in bonds coming due on May 19, Greece had no choice but to accept draconian cuts in its benefits and strict accountability in the future to be bailed out by its euro-zone partners. They, of course, fear the collapse of the euro as a currency and a spreading contagion to larger countries that have also been doing what Greece has done for so long.

Europe would need $60 trillion in the bank, earning government-borrowing-rate interest, to fund its future welfare benefits. Needless to say, no country has four times its GDP in the bank.

In short, the market has suddenly become aware that the emperor known as the welfare state is, financially speaking, buck naked. The cost of insuring against bank default in Europe, according to Bloomberg, is now more than it was when Lehman Brothers collapsed. Other rates are nowhere near those levels, but it would not take much to set off a global panic. Markets have been down all week, and the Dow was down today by 1.34 percent, down 7 percent since Monday.

Great Britain and the United States, insulated from the crisis in Europe because they do not use the euro, have big financial promises they can’t pay for, either. President Obama, of course, wants to make more promises.

If Greece stands up to its unions and its outraged bureaucrats and reforms its ways, I suspect the current crisis will pass. But unless the rest of the democratic world reforms its ways — and soon — then, as Bette Davis famously said in All About Eve: “Fasten your seat belts. It’s going to be a bumpy night.”

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Nonproliferation We Can Believe In

Each day seems to bring news of another ill-advised policy move by the Obama administration. Today’s comes from a May 6 New York Times article quoting administration officials on a civil nuclear cooperation agreement with Russia, which George W. Bush shelved in the wake of the August 2008 invasion of Georgia. Obama wants to revive it.

According to the Times, “Reviving the agreement has been a top priority for Russia since Mr. Obama took office.” The issue brief on the agreement from the Nuclear Threat Initiative website outlines these provisions:

If concluded, the agreement would allow cooperation on a wide range of issues, including the development of advanced reactor technologies, production of mixed-oxide (MOX, a mix of plutonium and uranium oxides) fuel, and storage and possible reprocessing of U.S.-origin spent nuclear fuel in Russia.

There are sound arguments against moving irresponsibly on any of these provisions, but sending spent uranium of U.S. origin to Russia for storage and reprocessing tops the list. Most of the instances of nuclear smuggling since the end of the Cold War trace back to Russia. The latest incident in which the collusion of Russians is probable occurred in Georgia in March 2010 (though Russian officials deny it). Russian nationals have been involved in all aspects of Iran’s nuclear-weapons program, from warhead design to the procurement of prohibited technology and materials. Russia also, of course, has an official role in Iran’s civil nuclear-power program, which only complicates the assessment of Moscow’s true overall involvement.

It’s worth noting, moreover, that the agreement could include the shipment of uranium of U.S. origin to Russia from the other nations whose reactor complexes use our uranium under contract. This would, in and of itself, introduce an additional window of vulnerability into the lifetime security of reactor fuel.

The Times article cites a concern from the deal’s critics that Obama wouldn’t be getting enough from Russia in exchange for reviving the nuclear cooperation agreement. But a more basic criticism is that the agreement would conflict directly with Obama’s own policy emphasis on securing nuclear materials around the globe. The progress of his nonproliferation effort to date looks like a vignette from Monty Python: on the one hand, getting good citizens Chile and Mexico to shuffle some uranium around and accept U.S. help in upgrading their reactors; on the other, hoping to ship U.S. uranium to Russia, the nation with the highest rate of unauthorized uranium leakage. Maybe Obama’s proliferation-security advisers should try Hillary Clinton’s checklist method for a while. Whatever they’re doing now isn’t producing a coherent policy.

Each day seems to bring news of another ill-advised policy move by the Obama administration. Today’s comes from a May 6 New York Times article quoting administration officials on a civil nuclear cooperation agreement with Russia, which George W. Bush shelved in the wake of the August 2008 invasion of Georgia. Obama wants to revive it.

According to the Times, “Reviving the agreement has been a top priority for Russia since Mr. Obama took office.” The issue brief on the agreement from the Nuclear Threat Initiative website outlines these provisions:

If concluded, the agreement would allow cooperation on a wide range of issues, including the development of advanced reactor technologies, production of mixed-oxide (MOX, a mix of plutonium and uranium oxides) fuel, and storage and possible reprocessing of U.S.-origin spent nuclear fuel in Russia.

There are sound arguments against moving irresponsibly on any of these provisions, but sending spent uranium of U.S. origin to Russia for storage and reprocessing tops the list. Most of the instances of nuclear smuggling since the end of the Cold War trace back to Russia. The latest incident in which the collusion of Russians is probable occurred in Georgia in March 2010 (though Russian officials deny it). Russian nationals have been involved in all aspects of Iran’s nuclear-weapons program, from warhead design to the procurement of prohibited technology and materials. Russia also, of course, has an official role in Iran’s civil nuclear-power program, which only complicates the assessment of Moscow’s true overall involvement.

It’s worth noting, moreover, that the agreement could include the shipment of uranium of U.S. origin to Russia from the other nations whose reactor complexes use our uranium under contract. This would, in and of itself, introduce an additional window of vulnerability into the lifetime security of reactor fuel.

The Times article cites a concern from the deal’s critics that Obama wouldn’t be getting enough from Russia in exchange for reviving the nuclear cooperation agreement. But a more basic criticism is that the agreement would conflict directly with Obama’s own policy emphasis on securing nuclear materials around the globe. The progress of his nonproliferation effort to date looks like a vignette from Monty Python: on the one hand, getting good citizens Chile and Mexico to shuffle some uranium around and accept U.S. help in upgrading their reactors; on the other, hoping to ship U.S. uranium to Russia, the nation with the highest rate of unauthorized uranium leakage. Maybe Obama’s proliferation-security advisers should try Hillary Clinton’s checklist method for a while. Whatever they’re doing now isn’t producing a coherent policy.

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Kosovars Identify with Israel, Not Palestinians

What do Palestinians imagine an independent state will be like? After 16 years of Palestinian Authority and Hamas misrule in the West Bank and Gaza, we know it is not Shimon Peres’s vision of Benelux prosperity that he articulated in his faux visionary/comic 1993 book The New Middle East. According to Frida Ghitis, who writes in the Miami Herald, the answer is Kosovo.

Writing from Pristina, the capital of that Balkan enclave, Ghitis explains that Kosovo’s formula — a forced withdrawal of Serbian forces, followed by a unilateral declaration of independence and protection by international forces –- is worth emulating to some Palestinians. But as Ghitis rightly notes, the analogy between the Palestinians and the Kosovars is limited to their shared Muslim faith and desire for self-rule. Unlike Serbia, Israel has always been willing to live side by side with its Arab neighbors. Even more to the point:

Unlike Palestinians, Kosovars and their leaders never expressed a wish or intention to destroy all of Serbia. They never challenged Serbia’s right to exist, as Palestinians have about Israel. In fact, Kosovo’s new constitution affirms the nascent country has no designs on any more territory. Palestinians, even today, stand deeply divided in their aims. The charter of the radical Hamas, which rules Gaza, still calls for Israel’s destruction.

An even greater difference is the character of Kosovar and Palestinian political cultures, as Ghitis writes:

The differences between Kosovars and Palestinians are, in fact, so strong that many in Kosovo have identified more with Israelis than with Palestinians. About 90 percent of Kosovars are ethnic Albanians — secular Muslims — demographically overwhelmed in a region where they find themselves surrounded by tens of millions of ethnic Slavs. It’s a situation some Kosovars say resembles that of Israel, surrounded by hundreds millions of often-hostile Arabs.

The creation of a virtually independent Kosovo has not been without problems. It is, as any Palestinian state would be, an economic basket case, totally reliant not only on foreign protection but also foreign aid. Yet for all the misgivings we might have about NATO’s Kosovo commitment, unlike the Hamasistan in Gaza, Kosovo is not a lethal threat to the surrounding countries, and it is not allied with Iran. Salam Fayyad’s talk about a unilateral Palestinian declaration of independence should be met with reminders that Kosovo is not a relevant model to the Middle East conflict. Until Palestinians resolve to put away terror and accept the legitimacy of a Jewish state in Israel, talk of independence for the Palestinians is merely a tactic in their ongoing war against the Jews, not a bid for peace.

What do Palestinians imagine an independent state will be like? After 16 years of Palestinian Authority and Hamas misrule in the West Bank and Gaza, we know it is not Shimon Peres’s vision of Benelux prosperity that he articulated in his faux visionary/comic 1993 book The New Middle East. According to Frida Ghitis, who writes in the Miami Herald, the answer is Kosovo.

Writing from Pristina, the capital of that Balkan enclave, Ghitis explains that Kosovo’s formula — a forced withdrawal of Serbian forces, followed by a unilateral declaration of independence and protection by international forces –- is worth emulating to some Palestinians. But as Ghitis rightly notes, the analogy between the Palestinians and the Kosovars is limited to their shared Muslim faith and desire for self-rule. Unlike Serbia, Israel has always been willing to live side by side with its Arab neighbors. Even more to the point:

Unlike Palestinians, Kosovars and their leaders never expressed a wish or intention to destroy all of Serbia. They never challenged Serbia’s right to exist, as Palestinians have about Israel. In fact, Kosovo’s new constitution affirms the nascent country has no designs on any more territory. Palestinians, even today, stand deeply divided in their aims. The charter of the radical Hamas, which rules Gaza, still calls for Israel’s destruction.

An even greater difference is the character of Kosovar and Palestinian political cultures, as Ghitis writes:

The differences between Kosovars and Palestinians are, in fact, so strong that many in Kosovo have identified more with Israelis than with Palestinians. About 90 percent of Kosovars are ethnic Albanians — secular Muslims — demographically overwhelmed in a region where they find themselves surrounded by tens of millions of ethnic Slavs. It’s a situation some Kosovars say resembles that of Israel, surrounded by hundreds millions of often-hostile Arabs.

The creation of a virtually independent Kosovo has not been without problems. It is, as any Palestinian state would be, an economic basket case, totally reliant not only on foreign protection but also foreign aid. Yet for all the misgivings we might have about NATO’s Kosovo commitment, unlike the Hamasistan in Gaza, Kosovo is not a lethal threat to the surrounding countries, and it is not allied with Iran. Salam Fayyad’s talk about a unilateral Palestinian declaration of independence should be met with reminders that Kosovo is not a relevant model to the Middle East conflict. Until Palestinians resolve to put away terror and accept the legitimacy of a Jewish state in Israel, talk of independence for the Palestinians is merely a tactic in their ongoing war against the Jews, not a bid for peace.

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Linkage Threat: Will Israel Pay the Price for Obama’s Nuclear Delusions?

While the world watches and waits to see what, if anything, Washington will do to stop Iran’s nuclear program, the greatest obstacle to action may not be just the president’s indifference to the existential threat to Israel or the possibility such a development would pose to regional stability. Instead, as it is rapidly becoming evident, one of the fundamental problems here may be something else: the Obama administration’s obsession with pursuing the left’s Cold War agenda against nuclear arms.

As the New York Times‘s report (mentioned earlier today by Jennifer) shows, President Obama plans to revive a civilian nuclear agreement with Russia, one that had been spiked by the Bush administration after Moscow’s invasion of Georgia in 2008. When it comes to nuclear issues, the administration’s priority remains the futile pursuit of agreements that will diminish America’s nuclear edge rather than an all-out effort to stop the spread of such weapons. As was the case with last year’s decision to betray past promises to the Czech Republic and Poland on missile defense to appease Russia, Obama’s main concern seems to be conciliating America’s antagonists rather than solidarity with allies. Rather than wait to see if Russia will make good on the vague pledges it has made about supporting the United States on Iran, Obama has gone ahead and handed the Medvedev/Putin regime a major victory in exchange for nothing.

Yet as troubling as this foolish determination to please Russia’s new autocrats may be, it is merely part of a larger agenda in which the administration’s interest in nuclear issues has created a situation that, rather than isolating the rogue regime in Tehran, may serve to harm Israel. As the United Nations’s month-long nuclear nonproliferation conference that began last week has shown, Washington’s push on the issue has been derailed. The president’s much-heralded deference to international opinion and his clear interest in appeasing Russia and China have contributed to a situation where the main topic of conversation is becoming not how to stop Iran but rather how to disarm its intended victim Israel. The fact that Israel’s possession of nukes is purely defensive — after all, it is the only nation marked for extinction by many of its neighbors as well as by the Iranian regime — is more easily forgotten amid the new emphasis given to banning nukes started by Obama. This is reinforced by a statement earlier this week from the head of the UN’s International Atomic Energy Agency, Yukiya Amano, who is asking for international input on an Arab-led push to have Israel join the Nonproliferation Treaty, in a move that increases pressure on Jerusalem to disclose more information about its own nuclear weapons.

A great deal of attention has been paid to the dangerous position articulated by some in the administration of calling for linkage between American efforts to stop Iran and “progress” in peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians. This is a dead end for Israel, not only because the two issues are not related, but also because the Palestinians’ lack of interest in a peace agreement would, under such an arrangement, ensure that nothing is done about Iran.

But perhaps even more dangerous is the growing international sentiment in favor of linking Iran’s nuclear program with Israel’s, and such moral equivalence between a potential aggressor and a potential victim is strengthened by the administration’s desire to revive the left’s old “ban all the nukes” spirit. Like America’s nuclear deterrent that kept the peace in Europe for 40 years after World War II and ultimately ensured that the fall of the Soviet Empire would be peaceful rather than bloody, Israel’s nuclear deterrent is not a threat to its neighbors but a guarantee that all-out war won’t happen. If, as it is becoming rapidly apparent, international nonproliferation diplomacy becomes more a matter of hammering Israel than of isolating Iran, we will have President Obama’s foolish nuclear obsession to thank for it.

While the world watches and waits to see what, if anything, Washington will do to stop Iran’s nuclear program, the greatest obstacle to action may not be just the president’s indifference to the existential threat to Israel or the possibility such a development would pose to regional stability. Instead, as it is rapidly becoming evident, one of the fundamental problems here may be something else: the Obama administration’s obsession with pursuing the left’s Cold War agenda against nuclear arms.

As the New York Times‘s report (mentioned earlier today by Jennifer) shows, President Obama plans to revive a civilian nuclear agreement with Russia, one that had been spiked by the Bush administration after Moscow’s invasion of Georgia in 2008. When it comes to nuclear issues, the administration’s priority remains the futile pursuit of agreements that will diminish America’s nuclear edge rather than an all-out effort to stop the spread of such weapons. As was the case with last year’s decision to betray past promises to the Czech Republic and Poland on missile defense to appease Russia, Obama’s main concern seems to be conciliating America’s antagonists rather than solidarity with allies. Rather than wait to see if Russia will make good on the vague pledges it has made about supporting the United States on Iran, Obama has gone ahead and handed the Medvedev/Putin regime a major victory in exchange for nothing.

Yet as troubling as this foolish determination to please Russia’s new autocrats may be, it is merely part of a larger agenda in which the administration’s interest in nuclear issues has created a situation that, rather than isolating the rogue regime in Tehran, may serve to harm Israel. As the United Nations’s month-long nuclear nonproliferation conference that began last week has shown, Washington’s push on the issue has been derailed. The president’s much-heralded deference to international opinion and his clear interest in appeasing Russia and China have contributed to a situation where the main topic of conversation is becoming not how to stop Iran but rather how to disarm its intended victim Israel. The fact that Israel’s possession of nukes is purely defensive — after all, it is the only nation marked for extinction by many of its neighbors as well as by the Iranian regime — is more easily forgotten amid the new emphasis given to banning nukes started by Obama. This is reinforced by a statement earlier this week from the head of the UN’s International Atomic Energy Agency, Yukiya Amano, who is asking for international input on an Arab-led push to have Israel join the Nonproliferation Treaty, in a move that increases pressure on Jerusalem to disclose more information about its own nuclear weapons.

A great deal of attention has been paid to the dangerous position articulated by some in the administration of calling for linkage between American efforts to stop Iran and “progress” in peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians. This is a dead end for Israel, not only because the two issues are not related, but also because the Palestinians’ lack of interest in a peace agreement would, under such an arrangement, ensure that nothing is done about Iran.

But perhaps even more dangerous is the growing international sentiment in favor of linking Iran’s nuclear program with Israel’s, and such moral equivalence between a potential aggressor and a potential victim is strengthened by the administration’s desire to revive the left’s old “ban all the nukes” spirit. Like America’s nuclear deterrent that kept the peace in Europe for 40 years after World War II and ultimately ensured that the fall of the Soviet Empire would be peaceful rather than bloody, Israel’s nuclear deterrent is not a threat to its neighbors but a guarantee that all-out war won’t happen. If, as it is becoming rapidly apparent, international nonproliferation diplomacy becomes more a matter of hammering Israel than of isolating Iran, we will have President Obama’s foolish nuclear obsession to thank for it.

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WEB EXCLUSIVE: “Shake Up the Army, Dave”

Those were the words of Pete Schoomaker, then chief of staff of the Army, to General David Petraeus, who at the time (2005) was commander of the Combined Arms Center at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. The context of Schoomaker’s remarks was that the war in Iraq, which had been going on for more than two years, wasn’t going well. The trajectory of events was, in fact, alarming. So Schoomaker tasked Petraeus, the leader of a group of intellectual-warriors in the Army, to rethink our counterinsurgency (COIN) strategy. The job was to determine the right overarching concepts and intellectual underpinnings of the war — and then to put them into practice.

To finish reading this COMMENTARY Web Exclusive, click here.

Those were the words of Pete Schoomaker, then chief of staff of the Army, to General David Petraeus, who at the time (2005) was commander of the Combined Arms Center at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. The context of Schoomaker’s remarks was that the war in Iraq, which had been going on for more than two years, wasn’t going well. The trajectory of events was, in fact, alarming. So Schoomaker tasked Petraeus, the leader of a group of intellectual-warriors in the Army, to rethink our counterinsurgency (COIN) strategy. The job was to determine the right overarching concepts and intellectual underpinnings of the war — and then to put them into practice.

To finish reading this COMMENTARY Web Exclusive, click here.

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Huffington Post Takes Down the Leveretts

I usually don’t tout Huffington Post columns, but a not-to-be missed one by Omid Memarian should be read in full. Bit by bit, Memarian chips away at the facade of intellectual credibility that Flynt and Hillary Mann Leverett, the mullahs’ favorite mouthpieces, have erected. He begins with this:

The list of foreigners who unconditionally support the Islamic Republic of Iran is short but not unexpected: Omar Albashir of Sudan, Hassan Nasrallah of Hezbollah, Khalid Mashal of Hamas, and Hugo Chavez of Venezuela might be at the top. Add to this list an unlikely duo: Flynt Leverett and his wife, Hillary Mann Leverett. Notwithstanding over two decades of collective experience working for organizations and entities like the CIA, the American Israeli Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, and the National Security Council, the Leveretts are today America’s most prominent, and abrasive, defenders of the Iranian regime and its president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Though they cloak their analysis in the guise of strategic thinking and anti-war diplomacy, their writings betray a dangerous lack of understanding of Iran’s internal realities as well as an almost bigoted contempt for the Iranian people.

The particulars of the Leveretts’ misinformation campaign on behalf of the Iranian regime are then laid out in great detail. Well, it’s about time. Others have done an ample job debunking the couple, as do the Leveretts’ own words. But with this, Memarian delivers the knockout blow to the mullahs’ shills.

I usually don’t tout Huffington Post columns, but a not-to-be missed one by Omid Memarian should be read in full. Bit by bit, Memarian chips away at the facade of intellectual credibility that Flynt and Hillary Mann Leverett, the mullahs’ favorite mouthpieces, have erected. He begins with this:

The list of foreigners who unconditionally support the Islamic Republic of Iran is short but not unexpected: Omar Albashir of Sudan, Hassan Nasrallah of Hezbollah, Khalid Mashal of Hamas, and Hugo Chavez of Venezuela might be at the top. Add to this list an unlikely duo: Flynt Leverett and his wife, Hillary Mann Leverett. Notwithstanding over two decades of collective experience working for organizations and entities like the CIA, the American Israeli Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, and the National Security Council, the Leveretts are today America’s most prominent, and abrasive, defenders of the Iranian regime and its president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Though they cloak their analysis in the guise of strategic thinking and anti-war diplomacy, their writings betray a dangerous lack of understanding of Iran’s internal realities as well as an almost bigoted contempt for the Iranian people.

The particulars of the Leveretts’ misinformation campaign on behalf of the Iranian regime are then laid out in great detail. Well, it’s about time. Others have done an ample job debunking the couple, as do the Leveretts’ own words. But with this, Memarian delivers the knockout blow to the mullahs’ shills.

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Sestak Ties Specter

The first poll that doesn’t have Arlen Specter in the lead in the Pennsylvania Democratic Senate primary race is out today. The daily tracking poll by Muhlenberg College shows him tied with Joe Sestak.

Perhaps the Swift Boat ad has turned off voters. Or it might be that Sestak’s own devastating ad (reminding Democratic voters that George W. Bush declared, with Specter at his side in the 2004 Senate race, “I can count on this man”) has sunk in. And frankly, Specter is the quintessential Washington insider — there for decades, finger to the wind — who voters are none too enamored of these days.

Should Sestak prevail in the primary, it will set up quite a battle with Pat Toomey. Domestic issues will surely dominate. But here’s a race in which the left’s foreign-policy stance will clearly be on display. You may recall that Sestak was one of the 54 congressmen to sign the J Street–inspired Gaza letter. J Street supported Sestak and cooed about his foreign-policy stances:

He brings this philosophy into his work on American foreign policy and has insisted that at the time of the invasion of Iraq, the United States “should have simultaneously pursued a regional diplomatic offensive against what is the real clear and present danger in the region: the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the lack of democratic institutions in the region.” … Crucially, Congressman Sestak believes that the United States needs to pursue a “diplomatic surge” with Iran. He argues that Iran is strongly disinterested in having a chaotic Iraq located next-door and that as such, an American withdrawal can be used to create diplomatic leverage with Iran.

How’s that diplomatic surge working out? If Sestak slays Specter, many Republicans will cheer that the man who gives opportunism a bad name will finally gave gotten his due. However, for supporters of Israel, there could hardly be a worse addition to the U.S. Senate than the congressman from J Street.

The first poll that doesn’t have Arlen Specter in the lead in the Pennsylvania Democratic Senate primary race is out today. The daily tracking poll by Muhlenberg College shows him tied with Joe Sestak.

Perhaps the Swift Boat ad has turned off voters. Or it might be that Sestak’s own devastating ad (reminding Democratic voters that George W. Bush declared, with Specter at his side in the 2004 Senate race, “I can count on this man”) has sunk in. And frankly, Specter is the quintessential Washington insider — there for decades, finger to the wind — who voters are none too enamored of these days.

Should Sestak prevail in the primary, it will set up quite a battle with Pat Toomey. Domestic issues will surely dominate. But here’s a race in which the left’s foreign-policy stance will clearly be on display. You may recall that Sestak was one of the 54 congressmen to sign the J Street–inspired Gaza letter. J Street supported Sestak and cooed about his foreign-policy stances:

He brings this philosophy into his work on American foreign policy and has insisted that at the time of the invasion of Iraq, the United States “should have simultaneously pursued a regional diplomatic offensive against what is the real clear and present danger in the region: the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the lack of democratic institutions in the region.” … Crucially, Congressman Sestak believes that the United States needs to pursue a “diplomatic surge” with Iran. He argues that Iran is strongly disinterested in having a chaotic Iraq located next-door and that as such, an American withdrawal can be used to create diplomatic leverage with Iran.

How’s that diplomatic surge working out? If Sestak slays Specter, many Republicans will cheer that the man who gives opportunism a bad name will finally gave gotten his due. However, for supporters of Israel, there could hardly be a worse addition to the U.S. Senate than the congressman from J Street.

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Iran Engagement Lives

The Washington Post reports:

In a highly unusual move, Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki hosted a dinner Thursday for the 15 members of the U.N. Security Council, including a senior U.S. diplomat, at the Iranian mission’s sumptuous Fifth Avenue townhouse in New York, according to Security Council diplomats. … The United States was represented at the dinner, but not by its top diplomat, Susan E. Rice. Alejandro D. Wolff, the second-ranking ambassador at the U.S. mission to the United Nations, attended instead.

The administration hastens to add that this doesn’t signal that we are backing away from sanctions (albeit the itty-bitty ones we are negotiating), and we should, I suppose, be thankful that Rice herself didn’t attend. But the administration can’t help but reveal its muddled approach: “The United States maintained that its presence at the dinner should not be interpreted as a sign that it is backing away from sanctions. ‘This is a dual-track strategy of engagement on one hand and pressure on the other,’ the U.S. official said.” The result is, of course, a mixed message — and an ineffective policy. We can’t commit to regime change — for that might anger the mullahs or smear the Green Movement. We can’t pass crippling sanctions, because that would cause too much pain and impair our ability to resume engagement.

So we seek halfhearted sanctions that have no hope of success, as we signal — plead, in fact — for the Iranians to return to the bargaining table, where they can resume the stalling tactics that have bought them months and months of time to pursue their nuclear program. The notion that we should isolate Iran, engage in a full-court press to make it a pariah state, and push for, at the very least, petroleum sanctions is alien to this administration. We shouldn’t then worry about a dinner party. We should worry that the administration has given up on preventing the mullahs from getting the bomb.

The Washington Post reports:

In a highly unusual move, Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki hosted a dinner Thursday for the 15 members of the U.N. Security Council, including a senior U.S. diplomat, at the Iranian mission’s sumptuous Fifth Avenue townhouse in New York, according to Security Council diplomats. … The United States was represented at the dinner, but not by its top diplomat, Susan E. Rice. Alejandro D. Wolff, the second-ranking ambassador at the U.S. mission to the United Nations, attended instead.

The administration hastens to add that this doesn’t signal that we are backing away from sanctions (albeit the itty-bitty ones we are negotiating), and we should, I suppose, be thankful that Rice herself didn’t attend. But the administration can’t help but reveal its muddled approach: “The United States maintained that its presence at the dinner should not be interpreted as a sign that it is backing away from sanctions. ‘This is a dual-track strategy of engagement on one hand and pressure on the other,’ the U.S. official said.” The result is, of course, a mixed message — and an ineffective policy. We can’t commit to regime change — for that might anger the mullahs or smear the Green Movement. We can’t pass crippling sanctions, because that would cause too much pain and impair our ability to resume engagement.

So we seek halfhearted sanctions that have no hope of success, as we signal — plead, in fact — for the Iranians to return to the bargaining table, where they can resume the stalling tactics that have bought them months and months of time to pursue their nuclear program. The notion that we should isolate Iran, engage in a full-court press to make it a pariah state, and push for, at the very least, petroleum sanctions is alien to this administration. We shouldn’t then worry about a dinner party. We should worry that the administration has given up on preventing the mullahs from getting the bomb.

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Obama’s Reality Gap

Morton Kondracke writes:

From BP to banks, health insurance companies to special interest lobbyists, Obama & Co. pass up no opportunity to slash and bash — except when they are asking for industry cooperation or appealing for national unity.

The dichotomy between one rhetorical mood and the other is so pronounced, you almost suspect that the administration and its leader are bipolar. …

President Barack Obama certainly is not a socialist — let alone a communist — as some of his far-out detractors claim. But he and his aides certainly are in populist, “whack industry” mode.

From BP to banks, health insurance companies to special interest lobbyists, Obama & Co. pass up no opportunity to slash and bash — except when they are asking for industry cooperation or appealing for national unity.

The dichotomy between one rhetorical mood and the other is so pronounced, you almost suspect that the administration and its leader are bipolar.

Kondrake wonders if Obama is just a liberal with a deep suspicion of free enterprise. Perhaps — but that does not explain the rank hypocrisy that permeates not only his tone with businesses but also with an array of adversaries and critics.

Here’s another theory: the Obama self-created image — practiced in the Ivy League, cultivated in memoirs, nurtured on the campaign trail, and enhanced by the media — of an intellectual, a moderate, a unifier, and most of all a charismatic figure whose mere presence is transformative has a life of its own, unrelated to Obama’s actual political agenda and beliefs. To discover the latter one need only look at his pre-senatorial associations (from Rev. Wright to Bill Ayers), his record in the Senate (the most liberal among many liberals), his legislative goals (a mix of special-interest trinkets and monstrously complicated statist measures), and his staff’s fetish for bullying (from Bibi to Fox News to Rush Limbaugh). So naturally the result is what Kondrake calls “bipolar” and others call “hypocrisy.” It is also why Obama is so expert — perhaps the only thing in which he is expert — in campaigning. For campaigning is the art of spinning a discrete image, a reality that may or may not coincide with the outside world, and selling it relentlessly to the public. That, after all, is what Obama does and has done throughout his adult life. Unfortunately, eventually the public catches on — and then poll numbers sink, a wave election builds, and the facade crumbles. But it takes a while for people to catch on.

Morton Kondracke writes:

From BP to banks, health insurance companies to special interest lobbyists, Obama & Co. pass up no opportunity to slash and bash — except when they are asking for industry cooperation or appealing for national unity.

The dichotomy between one rhetorical mood and the other is so pronounced, you almost suspect that the administration and its leader are bipolar. …

President Barack Obama certainly is not a socialist — let alone a communist — as some of his far-out detractors claim. But he and his aides certainly are in populist, “whack industry” mode.

From BP to banks, health insurance companies to special interest lobbyists, Obama & Co. pass up no opportunity to slash and bash — except when they are asking for industry cooperation or appealing for national unity.

The dichotomy between one rhetorical mood and the other is so pronounced, you almost suspect that the administration and its leader are bipolar.

Kondrake wonders if Obama is just a liberal with a deep suspicion of free enterprise. Perhaps — but that does not explain the rank hypocrisy that permeates not only his tone with businesses but also with an array of adversaries and critics.

Here’s another theory: the Obama self-created image — practiced in the Ivy League, cultivated in memoirs, nurtured on the campaign trail, and enhanced by the media — of an intellectual, a moderate, a unifier, and most of all a charismatic figure whose mere presence is transformative has a life of its own, unrelated to Obama’s actual political agenda and beliefs. To discover the latter one need only look at his pre-senatorial associations (from Rev. Wright to Bill Ayers), his record in the Senate (the most liberal among many liberals), his legislative goals (a mix of special-interest trinkets and monstrously complicated statist measures), and his staff’s fetish for bullying (from Bibi to Fox News to Rush Limbaugh). So naturally the result is what Kondrake calls “bipolar” and others call “hypocrisy.” It is also why Obama is so expert — perhaps the only thing in which he is expert — in campaigning. For campaigning is the art of spinning a discrete image, a reality that may or may not coincide with the outside world, and selling it relentlessly to the public. That, after all, is what Obama does and has done throughout his adult life. Unfortunately, eventually the public catches on — and then poll numbers sink, a wave election builds, and the facade crumbles. But it takes a while for people to catch on.

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If You Can’t Beat ‘Em, Quit

The special election in Hawaii has turned into another Democratic fiasco. As this report explains:

Despite spending more than $300,000, frustrated House Democrats may abandon efforts to win a special election in Hawaii after quiet diplomacy failed to end a high-level party feud that threatens their prospects.

“It’s an extremely difficult race, since two Democratic candidates are splitting the vote,” said Rep. Chris Van Hollen of Maryland, chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.

“The local Democrats haven’t been able to come together and resolve that, so we’ll have to re-evaluate our participation.”

Recent public and private polls show Republican Charles Djou ahead in a race to fill out the remaining few months in the term of former Rep. Neil Abercrombie, who left Congress earlier this year to run for governor.

Now ballots are already out by mail (they must be returned by May 22), so this smacks of taking your bat and going home when you’re down five runs in the eighth inning. But however the Democrats spin it, the loss of a Democratic seat in Hawaii of all places is going to sting:

At first glance, the political stakes involved are scant — the winner is assured of serving in Congress only until this fall’s midterm elections, when all 435 House seats are on the ballot.

But the psychological impact of a Republican victory in the state where President Barack Obama was born could be considerable. GOP officials say they are on a path to take control of the House this fall, and seize every opportunity to claim momentum.

Obama has recorded robo calls for “a Democrat” without specifying which one, a tactic that seems, well, dumb. Involve the president but don’t tell voters who to support? It’s odd to say the least.

It is one more sign for Democrats that this is no ordinary year. Come to think of it, the Democrats might manage to lose key races in Hawaii and Illinois — vividly making the point that even among the president’s most ardent supporters, the voters have had enough of Democratic one-party government.

The special election in Hawaii has turned into another Democratic fiasco. As this report explains:

Despite spending more than $300,000, frustrated House Democrats may abandon efforts to win a special election in Hawaii after quiet diplomacy failed to end a high-level party feud that threatens their prospects.

“It’s an extremely difficult race, since two Democratic candidates are splitting the vote,” said Rep. Chris Van Hollen of Maryland, chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.

“The local Democrats haven’t been able to come together and resolve that, so we’ll have to re-evaluate our participation.”

Recent public and private polls show Republican Charles Djou ahead in a race to fill out the remaining few months in the term of former Rep. Neil Abercrombie, who left Congress earlier this year to run for governor.

Now ballots are already out by mail (they must be returned by May 22), so this smacks of taking your bat and going home when you’re down five runs in the eighth inning. But however the Democrats spin it, the loss of a Democratic seat in Hawaii of all places is going to sting:

At first glance, the political stakes involved are scant — the winner is assured of serving in Congress only until this fall’s midterm elections, when all 435 House seats are on the ballot.

But the psychological impact of a Republican victory in the state where President Barack Obama was born could be considerable. GOP officials say they are on a path to take control of the House this fall, and seize every opportunity to claim momentum.

Obama has recorded robo calls for “a Democrat” without specifying which one, a tactic that seems, well, dumb. Involve the president but don’t tell voters who to support? It’s odd to say the least.

It is one more sign for Democrats that this is no ordinary year. Come to think of it, the Democrats might manage to lose key races in Hawaii and Illinois — vividly making the point that even among the president’s most ardent supporters, the voters have had enough of Democratic one-party government.

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Obama Loses Americans’ Confidence

According to a new Hotline poll, voters have lost trust in Obama:

Seven in 10 voters say the economy will improve over the next 12 months, according to the new Allstate/National Journal Heartland Monitor poll, while just 27% believe the economy will worsen. But 56% of voters say they have less confidence that elected officials in DC will make good financial and economic decisions. …

Voters have lost faith in Obama to craft solutions to the country’s economic challenges. Just 39% say they trust Obama more than GOPers in Congress, while 32% say they believe the GOP has the right ideas. That 7-point gap is down from a 29-point Obama advantage in the April ’09 poll.

Only 39% of voters said they would vote to re-elect Pres. Obama if the election were held today, while 50% say they would vote for someone else. A quarter of voters would definitely vote to re-elect Obama, while 37% would definitely vote for someone else.

The reasons for this are clear: unemployment remains high, the recovery is unsteady, and home prices haven’t recovered. But the voters haven’t just soured on the economy — they’ve soured on Obama. Maybe by pulling off a grand bait-and-switch (running as a moderate and governing from the left), he lost the voters’ confidence. Perhaps saying so many things that aren’t so — ObamaCare would save money, the relationship with Israel is rock-solid, George W. Bush is responsible for the deficit — wasn’t the best idea. Over time he has frittered away the precious commodity of presidential credibility. And maybe the public simply doesn’t buy the holier-than-thou routine from Obama (in which he is civil while others are not, he is nonpartisan while others are craven hacks). They now see him as a big-government partisan liberal who hasn’t fixed the economy. It’s a wonder his numbers aren’t worse.

According to a new Hotline poll, voters have lost trust in Obama:

Seven in 10 voters say the economy will improve over the next 12 months, according to the new Allstate/National Journal Heartland Monitor poll, while just 27% believe the economy will worsen. But 56% of voters say they have less confidence that elected officials in DC will make good financial and economic decisions. …

Voters have lost faith in Obama to craft solutions to the country’s economic challenges. Just 39% say they trust Obama more than GOPers in Congress, while 32% say they believe the GOP has the right ideas. That 7-point gap is down from a 29-point Obama advantage in the April ’09 poll.

Only 39% of voters said they would vote to re-elect Pres. Obama if the election were held today, while 50% say they would vote for someone else. A quarter of voters would definitely vote to re-elect Obama, while 37% would definitely vote for someone else.

The reasons for this are clear: unemployment remains high, the recovery is unsteady, and home prices haven’t recovered. But the voters haven’t just soured on the economy — they’ve soured on Obama. Maybe by pulling off a grand bait-and-switch (running as a moderate and governing from the left), he lost the voters’ confidence. Perhaps saying so many things that aren’t so — ObamaCare would save money, the relationship with Israel is rock-solid, George W. Bush is responsible for the deficit — wasn’t the best idea. Over time he has frittered away the precious commodity of presidential credibility. And maybe the public simply doesn’t buy the holier-than-thou routine from Obama (in which he is civil while others are not, he is nonpartisan while others are craven hacks). They now see him as a big-government partisan liberal who hasn’t fixed the economy. It’s a wonder his numbers aren’t worse.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

“Recovery” means something other than a steady, predictable improvement in the economy: “The Dow Jones industrial average plunged nearly 1,000 points in afternoon trading before recovering significantly Thursday — but it was enough to sow chaos on Wall Street as traders blamed everything from a technical glitch to chaos in the Greek economy. In Washington, the sudden drop — the biggest within a single trading day in Dow history — underscored just how fragile the nascent recovery could be, as the White House tries to convince the public that signs of growth mean the economy has begun to turn the corner.”

“Transparent” means you have to be taken to court to disclose documents to congressional investigators: “Senate Homeland Security Committee Chairman Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) and ranking Republican Susan Collins (Maine) on Thursday said they are poised to press their subpoena fight with the Obama administration into court. Lieberman and Collins, speaking separately, both said the Justice and Defense departments have been uncooperative with their efforts to obtain more information about the November 2009 shootings at Fort Hood, Texas, that killed 13 people.”

Reset” means all is forgiven: “President Obama is preparing to revive a civilian nuclear cooperation agreement with Moscow that his predecessor shelved two years ago in protest of Russia’s war on its tiny neighbor, Georgia, administration officials said Thursday. Renewing the agreement would be the latest step in Mr. Obama’s drive to repair relations between the two powers, at a time when he is seeking Moscow’s support for tough new sanctions against Iran. But word of the move has generated consternation in Congress, where some lawmakers were already skeptical of the agreement and now worry that Mr. Obama is giving Russia too much.”

“Awareness of the potential political consequences of the actions” means holy cow — the Democrats are going to get wiped out! Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland: “I think we need to proceed with some awareness of the potential political consequences of the actions that are undertaken here in Washington.”

Civility” means his critics should shut up. “Less than a week after promoting the need to treat others ‘with courtesy and respect,’ the unhappy warrior was at it again yesterday with a misleading attack on the motives of an opponent. Responding to an amendment offered by Senator Richard Shelby to limit the scope of the proposed Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, Mr. Obama said, ‘I will not allow amendments like this one written by Wall Street’s lobbyists to pass for reform.’ Mr. Civility was insulting the gentleman from Alabama, but even if delivered in dignified language, the attack was false.”

ObamaCare” means you’re not going to keep your health-care plan. Yuval Levin explains that “it turns out that several major corporations are drawing up plans to end their employee health benefits once Obamacare gets up and running. They’ve done the math and figured out that the penalty they would have to pay for dropping their workers would be much lower than the costs of continuing to insure them, and now there will be a new taxpayer-subsidized option for those workers to turn to in state exchanges, so why not cut them off?”

For the New York Times,a pragmatist“ means a law-school dean (Elena Kagan) who signs an amicus brief arguing that military recruiters can be banned from campuses despite a contrary federal law. “She repeatedly criticized ‘don’t ask, don’t tell,’ the policy that bars gay men and lesbians from openly serving in the military. At one point she called it ‘a moral injustice of the first order.’  She also joined a legal brief urging the Supreme Court to overturn the law that denied federal funds to colleges and universities that barred military recruiters.”

“Recovery” means something other than a steady, predictable improvement in the economy: “The Dow Jones industrial average plunged nearly 1,000 points in afternoon trading before recovering significantly Thursday — but it was enough to sow chaos on Wall Street as traders blamed everything from a technical glitch to chaos in the Greek economy. In Washington, the sudden drop — the biggest within a single trading day in Dow history — underscored just how fragile the nascent recovery could be, as the White House tries to convince the public that signs of growth mean the economy has begun to turn the corner.”

“Transparent” means you have to be taken to court to disclose documents to congressional investigators: “Senate Homeland Security Committee Chairman Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) and ranking Republican Susan Collins (Maine) on Thursday said they are poised to press their subpoena fight with the Obama administration into court. Lieberman and Collins, speaking separately, both said the Justice and Defense departments have been uncooperative with their efforts to obtain more information about the November 2009 shootings at Fort Hood, Texas, that killed 13 people.”

Reset” means all is forgiven: “President Obama is preparing to revive a civilian nuclear cooperation agreement with Moscow that his predecessor shelved two years ago in protest of Russia’s war on its tiny neighbor, Georgia, administration officials said Thursday. Renewing the agreement would be the latest step in Mr. Obama’s drive to repair relations between the two powers, at a time when he is seeking Moscow’s support for tough new sanctions against Iran. But word of the move has generated consternation in Congress, where some lawmakers were already skeptical of the agreement and now worry that Mr. Obama is giving Russia too much.”

“Awareness of the potential political consequences of the actions” means holy cow — the Democrats are going to get wiped out! Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland: “I think we need to proceed with some awareness of the potential political consequences of the actions that are undertaken here in Washington.”

Civility” means his critics should shut up. “Less than a week after promoting the need to treat others ‘with courtesy and respect,’ the unhappy warrior was at it again yesterday with a misleading attack on the motives of an opponent. Responding to an amendment offered by Senator Richard Shelby to limit the scope of the proposed Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, Mr. Obama said, ‘I will not allow amendments like this one written by Wall Street’s lobbyists to pass for reform.’ Mr. Civility was insulting the gentleman from Alabama, but even if delivered in dignified language, the attack was false.”

ObamaCare” means you’re not going to keep your health-care plan. Yuval Levin explains that “it turns out that several major corporations are drawing up plans to end their employee health benefits once Obamacare gets up and running. They’ve done the math and figured out that the penalty they would have to pay for dropping their workers would be much lower than the costs of continuing to insure them, and now there will be a new taxpayer-subsidized option for those workers to turn to in state exchanges, so why not cut them off?”

For the New York Times,a pragmatist“ means a law-school dean (Elena Kagan) who signs an amicus brief arguing that military recruiters can be banned from campuses despite a contrary federal law. “She repeatedly criticized ‘don’t ask, don’t tell,’ the policy that bars gay men and lesbians from openly serving in the military. At one point she called it ‘a moral injustice of the first order.’  She also joined a legal brief urging the Supreme Court to overturn the law that denied federal funds to colleges and universities that barred military recruiters.”

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