Commentary Magazine


Posts For: May 23, 2010

Look Who’s Coming to the Tea Party

Andrew Cuomo announced his candidacy for governor of New York yesterday. According to the Daily News editorial, he says:

No to raising state taxes. No to borrowing to close historic budget deficits. Yes to capping state spending. Yes to capping local property-tax hikes. Yes to freezing the salaries of state workers. Yes to trimming “benefits and pensions that are out of line with economic reality.” Yes to charter schools. Yes to slashing by 20% a state government that has, by Cuomo’s count, 1,000 agencies. Yes to nonpartisan redistricting and full financial disclosure.

That’s the platform that Governor Chris Christie of New Jersey ran on as a Republican last November and beat the incumbent, deep-pocketed Jon Corzine, handily, despite the latter having President Obama campaigning for him. But Andrew Cuomo is, of course, a Democrat. He was married to a Kennedy. His father was governor from 1983 to 1995.

The father didn’t even try to reform Albany’s dysfunctional ways (although he gave nice speeches — in San Francisco and Terre Haute) but rather conducted business as usual with the state legislature and cooked the state books to hide the deepening fiscal crisis. Now his son has begun his campaign for his father’s old office by, effectively, declaring war on the legislature:

Cuomo is well aware that the Legislature – most especially [Assembly speaker Sheldon] Silver — has become expert in making stumblebums out of governors by acting as a defiantly obstructionist law unto itself. That’s why he plans to ask legislative candidates in this fall’s election to declare where they stand on his programs, with the intent of endorsing those who side with him.

I hope — for the sake of the state where I was born and have lived nearly all my life — that he means what he says. If I think he does, come November, I might even vote for him.

Andrew Cuomo announced his candidacy for governor of New York yesterday. According to the Daily News editorial, he says:

No to raising state taxes. No to borrowing to close historic budget deficits. Yes to capping state spending. Yes to capping local property-tax hikes. Yes to freezing the salaries of state workers. Yes to trimming “benefits and pensions that are out of line with economic reality.” Yes to charter schools. Yes to slashing by 20% a state government that has, by Cuomo’s count, 1,000 agencies. Yes to nonpartisan redistricting and full financial disclosure.

That’s the platform that Governor Chris Christie of New Jersey ran on as a Republican last November and beat the incumbent, deep-pocketed Jon Corzine, handily, despite the latter having President Obama campaigning for him. But Andrew Cuomo is, of course, a Democrat. He was married to a Kennedy. His father was governor from 1983 to 1995.

The father didn’t even try to reform Albany’s dysfunctional ways (although he gave nice speeches — in San Francisco and Terre Haute) but rather conducted business as usual with the state legislature and cooked the state books to hide the deepening fiscal crisis. Now his son has begun his campaign for his father’s old office by, effectively, declaring war on the legislature:

Cuomo is well aware that the Legislature – most especially [Assembly speaker Sheldon] Silver — has become expert in making stumblebums out of governors by acting as a defiantly obstructionist law unto itself. That’s why he plans to ask legislative candidates in this fall’s election to declare where they stand on his programs, with the intent of endorsing those who side with him.

I hope — for the sake of the state where I was born and have lived nearly all my life — that he means what he says. If I think he does, come November, I might even vote for him.

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Why Israel Can’t Rely on American Jewish “Leaders”

Rabbi Jack Moline, who organized the spin-a-thon for the White House attended by a group of rabbis, has circulated an e-mail summarizing the meeting. It is, to be blunt, embarrassing.

As to the build-up, Moline lets on that no one predisposed to say nasty things about Obama was invited, nor was anyone who didn’t vote for him. (“We also wanted people who had not engaged in the kinds of behaviors I mentioned in my introduction, which is to say people who had been positively predisposed to President Obama once the election was over, but found themselves troubled by what had transpired over the subsequent year.”) How comfy for the White House to be assured of a hand-selected group of those Jews who ignored all signs of Obama’s antipathy toward Israel (20 years in Rev. Wright’s church isn’t nothing) and who voted for Rashid Khalidi’s pal. In other words, these are Jews prone to disregard evidence of Obama’s hostility toward the Jewish state.

As to the substance, Moline got this response to a query as to why a Jerusalem housing permit was more important than stopping an Iranian nuclear program:

I can tell you that our hosts bristled, and they objected mightily to the comparison. Amb. Ross, who is the person in charge of Iran policy, made it clear that nothing is off the table when it comes to the objective of preventing Iran from becoming a nuclear power. The goal, however, is not to secure a short-term delay, but to remove possibility that efforts at creating a nuclear arsenal will resurface. That requires isolating Iran in the world community. Two years ago, Mr. Emanuel said, the United States was virtually isolated in the Middle East and Iran enjoyed the sympathy of much of the world. Today that situation is reversed, but both Russia and China are dragging their feet, hoping that the US will relieve them of the need to participate in sanctions and other isolating activities. (I might add here that yesterday afternoon, the announcement was made that Russia and China have signed onto sanctions.) The President spends a huge amount of time every day working on the problem of Iran, and is making progress. Ultimately, the goal is to see the fissures in Iranian society open to create a climate for systemic change.

Let’s count the inanities in that one. First,  Dennis Ross is in charge of Iran policy but hasn’t apparently been able to stop multiple officials from clearly signaling that military force is off the table. Second, it’s false that Iran enjoyed the sympathy of the world (there were multiple sanctions passed for Iran’s violations of UN agreements) or that the U.S. was isolated in the Middle East. For starters, we had a warm and robust relationship with Israel. And we had useful dealings with many of the moderate states, including Jordan, which was not induced by the president to issue provocative statements about Israel. Third, Moline certainly got the sanctions wrong — Russia has been exempted and the sanctions are of minimal value. The administration — of course — concealed Russia’s carve-outs from the assembled group. (Swell to hide the ball from the rabbis, nu?) And lastly, Obama may be working hard but there’s no credible plan to thwart the Iranian nuclear program, as Robert Gates pointed out earlier in the year when he sent up a warning flag.

Next up was the building issue, in which Ross, now the facilitator in chief who has chosen to disregard past lessons learned about Palestinian intransigence, tries to snow the rabbis with this howler:

As for building in Jerusalem, Amb. Ross very calmly pointed out that US policy on building in any territory captured in 1967 has not changed since the Johnson administration. The US has objected officially to all such activity which is defined by policy as settlements. He also noted that the last four high-level US officials to visit Israel were greeted by announcements of new settlement activity, going back to Sec’y of State Condoleeza Rice during the Bush administration. He emphasized that he understood that there were reasons in Israeli domestic politics that may have influenced those decisions, but it was no way to treat an ally out to make a point of support. Amb. Ross said that the matter of settlements and the matter of Palestinian provocations are avoidable distractions. A simple code of conduct that would move talks forward could prevent both, and the administration has been pressing both sides to adopt one.

Ross chose not to mention the Sharon-Bush agreements, on which the Obama team reneged, or to acknowledge that no other administration has made an international incident out of Jerusalem building. And it’s pure gall to chastise Israel that their conduct is “no way to treat an ally.” Apparently Ross was so desperate to return to one final round in government that he is now willing not only to join an administration hostile to Israel but also to join in the Israel-bashing.

Moline then reports on the list of forehead-slappers. There was this: “The Obama administration has been consistent in its support of Israel.” Oh really? Condemning the Jewish state is consistent support? Leaking the potential for an imposed peace deal is consistent support? Repeatedly snubbing Bibi is consistent support? And holding up the Cairo speech as evidence of their support, as Moline reports, is bizarre. It is this speech in which Obama cast the Palestinians in the role of enslaved African Americans, posited that Israel’s legitimacy rests on the Holocaust, soft-pedaled Iran’s nuclear ambitions, and chose to largely ignore 60 years of wars and rejectionism by the Palestinians and by Israel’s neighbors.

Then there is this one: “There has been no change in US policy toward Israel in the United Nations.” Whoa! We failed to veto an anti-Israel resolution. We joined the Israel-bashing Human Rights Council and let Israel’s prime antagonist onto the Commission on the Status of Women. And we apparently told the Palestinians that we wouldn’t veto a future resolution of condemnation if Israel continued to build in its eternal capital.

Moline reports that the administration’s representatives explained the order of their priorities: stopping Iran’s nuclear program, getting out of Iraq, and the Israel-Palestinian “peace process.” Unclear then, why every administration figure who speaks in public, including the president in Cairo, emphasizes the latter and gives short-shrift to Iran. Unclear then why the president has voiced a que sera, sera view of sanctions, carved out Russia from UN sanctions, and spent the last 17 months not promoting regime change, not adhering to deadlines, and not imposing crippling sanctions on the Iranian regime.

Moline said the major responses from the rabbis were to urge Obama to visit Israel, to express some concern of there being a double standard for Israel and to tell Obama that they were not “confident from the President himself that he feels Israel in his kishkes.” Not confident? Well, when you handpick the audience and don’t have knowledgeable representatives willing to take on the administration’s fabrications, that’s what you get. And finally, Moline gets very upset — more upset than at the president — for critics questioning the motives and actions of Rahm Emanuel.

This is what passes for “leadership” in American Jewry. A kabuki dance is orchestrated by an Obama fan to gather other Obama fans to air the mildest criticism and to avoid challenging the factual representations of an administration that is the most hostile to the Jewish state in history. As one Israeli hand who definitely isn’t going to be invited to any meetings with this president put it: “They may be fine rabbis, but they are out of their league here.” And by not directly and strongly taking on the president, they are, in fact, enabling the president’s anti-Israel stance. It is, come to think of it, more than an embarrassment; it is an egregious misuse of their status and it is every bit as dangerous as the quietude of American Jews in the 1930s.

Rabbi Jack Moline, who organized the spin-a-thon for the White House attended by a group of rabbis, has circulated an e-mail summarizing the meeting. It is, to be blunt, embarrassing.

As to the build-up, Moline lets on that no one predisposed to say nasty things about Obama was invited, nor was anyone who didn’t vote for him. (“We also wanted people who had not engaged in the kinds of behaviors I mentioned in my introduction, which is to say people who had been positively predisposed to President Obama once the election was over, but found themselves troubled by what had transpired over the subsequent year.”) How comfy for the White House to be assured of a hand-selected group of those Jews who ignored all signs of Obama’s antipathy toward Israel (20 years in Rev. Wright’s church isn’t nothing) and who voted for Rashid Khalidi’s pal. In other words, these are Jews prone to disregard evidence of Obama’s hostility toward the Jewish state.

As to the substance, Moline got this response to a query as to why a Jerusalem housing permit was more important than stopping an Iranian nuclear program:

I can tell you that our hosts bristled, and they objected mightily to the comparison. Amb. Ross, who is the person in charge of Iran policy, made it clear that nothing is off the table when it comes to the objective of preventing Iran from becoming a nuclear power. The goal, however, is not to secure a short-term delay, but to remove possibility that efforts at creating a nuclear arsenal will resurface. That requires isolating Iran in the world community. Two years ago, Mr. Emanuel said, the United States was virtually isolated in the Middle East and Iran enjoyed the sympathy of much of the world. Today that situation is reversed, but both Russia and China are dragging their feet, hoping that the US will relieve them of the need to participate in sanctions and other isolating activities. (I might add here that yesterday afternoon, the announcement was made that Russia and China have signed onto sanctions.) The President spends a huge amount of time every day working on the problem of Iran, and is making progress. Ultimately, the goal is to see the fissures in Iranian society open to create a climate for systemic change.

Let’s count the inanities in that one. First,  Dennis Ross is in charge of Iran policy but hasn’t apparently been able to stop multiple officials from clearly signaling that military force is off the table. Second, it’s false that Iran enjoyed the sympathy of the world (there were multiple sanctions passed for Iran’s violations of UN agreements) or that the U.S. was isolated in the Middle East. For starters, we had a warm and robust relationship with Israel. And we had useful dealings with many of the moderate states, including Jordan, which was not induced by the president to issue provocative statements about Israel. Third, Moline certainly got the sanctions wrong — Russia has been exempted and the sanctions are of minimal value. The administration — of course — concealed Russia’s carve-outs from the assembled group. (Swell to hide the ball from the rabbis, nu?) And lastly, Obama may be working hard but there’s no credible plan to thwart the Iranian nuclear program, as Robert Gates pointed out earlier in the year when he sent up a warning flag.

Next up was the building issue, in which Ross, now the facilitator in chief who has chosen to disregard past lessons learned about Palestinian intransigence, tries to snow the rabbis with this howler:

As for building in Jerusalem, Amb. Ross very calmly pointed out that US policy on building in any territory captured in 1967 has not changed since the Johnson administration. The US has objected officially to all such activity which is defined by policy as settlements. He also noted that the last four high-level US officials to visit Israel were greeted by announcements of new settlement activity, going back to Sec’y of State Condoleeza Rice during the Bush administration. He emphasized that he understood that there were reasons in Israeli domestic politics that may have influenced those decisions, but it was no way to treat an ally out to make a point of support. Amb. Ross said that the matter of settlements and the matter of Palestinian provocations are avoidable distractions. A simple code of conduct that would move talks forward could prevent both, and the administration has been pressing both sides to adopt one.

Ross chose not to mention the Sharon-Bush agreements, on which the Obama team reneged, or to acknowledge that no other administration has made an international incident out of Jerusalem building. And it’s pure gall to chastise Israel that their conduct is “no way to treat an ally.” Apparently Ross was so desperate to return to one final round in government that he is now willing not only to join an administration hostile to Israel but also to join in the Israel-bashing.

Moline then reports on the list of forehead-slappers. There was this: “The Obama administration has been consistent in its support of Israel.” Oh really? Condemning the Jewish state is consistent support? Leaking the potential for an imposed peace deal is consistent support? Repeatedly snubbing Bibi is consistent support? And holding up the Cairo speech as evidence of their support, as Moline reports, is bizarre. It is this speech in which Obama cast the Palestinians in the role of enslaved African Americans, posited that Israel’s legitimacy rests on the Holocaust, soft-pedaled Iran’s nuclear ambitions, and chose to largely ignore 60 years of wars and rejectionism by the Palestinians and by Israel’s neighbors.

Then there is this one: “There has been no change in US policy toward Israel in the United Nations.” Whoa! We failed to veto an anti-Israel resolution. We joined the Israel-bashing Human Rights Council and let Israel’s prime antagonist onto the Commission on the Status of Women. And we apparently told the Palestinians that we wouldn’t veto a future resolution of condemnation if Israel continued to build in its eternal capital.

Moline reports that the administration’s representatives explained the order of their priorities: stopping Iran’s nuclear program, getting out of Iraq, and the Israel-Palestinian “peace process.” Unclear then, why every administration figure who speaks in public, including the president in Cairo, emphasizes the latter and gives short-shrift to Iran. Unclear then why the president has voiced a que sera, sera view of sanctions, carved out Russia from UN sanctions, and spent the last 17 months not promoting regime change, not adhering to deadlines, and not imposing crippling sanctions on the Iranian regime.

Moline said the major responses from the rabbis were to urge Obama to visit Israel, to express some concern of there being a double standard for Israel and to tell Obama that they were not “confident from the President himself that he feels Israel in his kishkes.” Not confident? Well, when you handpick the audience and don’t have knowledgeable representatives willing to take on the administration’s fabrications, that’s what you get. And finally, Moline gets very upset — more upset than at the president — for critics questioning the motives and actions of Rahm Emanuel.

This is what passes for “leadership” in American Jewry. A kabuki dance is orchestrated by an Obama fan to gather other Obama fans to air the mildest criticism and to avoid challenging the factual representations of an administration that is the most hostile to the Jewish state in history. As one Israeli hand who definitely isn’t going to be invited to any meetings with this president put it: “They may be fine rabbis, but they are out of their league here.” And by not directly and strongly taking on the president, they are, in fact, enabling the president’s anti-Israel stance. It is, come to think of it, more than an embarrassment; it is an egregious misuse of their status and it is every bit as dangerous as the quietude of American Jews in the 1930s.

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Lying with Statistics Again

Tim Kaine, chairman of the Democratic National Committee, was on Fox News Sunday this morning, along with his Republican counterpart Michael Steele. Both men, of course, are in the job of boosting their parties, not giving non-tendentious analysis of the current political situation or honest predictions regarding the upcoming election. They’re in the rosy scenario business.

But Governor Kaine came up with a doozy of an example of lying with statistics. He said (as best I remember it, the transcript is not yet on-line): “Within the next few months the Obama administration will have created more jobs in 2010 than were created during the entire Bush presidency.” Let’s leave aside the fact that it’s the American economy that creates jobs, not administrations. The idea that a president is 100 percent responsible for the American economy is so stupid that only a member of the Washington press corps could believe it.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there has been so far in 2010 a net creation of 573,000 jobs. In the Bush years there was a net creation of 1,086,000 jobs. So if there is an average of at least 65,000 net new jobs created per month through December, Governor Kaine’s prediction will be “true” in a strictly mathematical sense.

But there’s a reason Benjamin Disraeli divided mendacity into three categories: lies, damned lies, and statistics.

Tim Kaine chooses his base lines dishonestly. Yes, there has been a net of 573,000 jobs created so far in 2010. But in the last 11 months of 2009 — while Obama was president, in other words — there were 3,961,000 jobs lost. So Obama is still in the hole to the tune of 3,388,000 jobs lost on his watch. In other words, Kaine starts the job clock running for Obama only after he had been president for more than 11 months, but George Bush’s job clock started the day he took the oath of office.

Of course, the Obama administration has been blaming George Bush for everything bad that happens on Obama’s watch. But if Obama is not responsible for the job losses in his first 11 months, then, surely, the job losses in the first 11 months of the Bush administration must be Bill Clinton’s fault. Those losses amounted to 1,746,000 jobs.  That would make Bush’s net job creation 2,832,000, still far above what is likely to be achieved in 2010.

It is fortunate for Democrats, who don’t mind bamboozling easily bamboozled Washington reporters (at least when numbers are concerned) with phony statistics, that the Bush administration started just as the recession of 2000-2001 was beginning and ended just as the recession of 2007 was kicking in big time. This allows them to bury the impressive job growth of the mid-Bush years (87,000 in 2003, 2,047,000 in 2004, 2,496,000 in 2005, 2,060,000 in 2006, 1,084,000 in 2007) beneath the job losses of the beginning and end of his term. To have two serious recessions during his presidency and still have a net job growth of over a million is, in fact, rather impressive.

What could have caused it? Well, as the Bureau of Labor Statistics chart on monthly unemployment shows, the unemployment rate in the Bush years began to decline in mid-2003 and continued to ratchet steadily downward for four years, until the housing bubble began to collapse. What happened in mid-2003 was that the Bush tax cuts kicked in.

That, of course, could be coincidence — not causation. But I doubt it.

Tim Kaine, chairman of the Democratic National Committee, was on Fox News Sunday this morning, along with his Republican counterpart Michael Steele. Both men, of course, are in the job of boosting their parties, not giving non-tendentious analysis of the current political situation or honest predictions regarding the upcoming election. They’re in the rosy scenario business.

But Governor Kaine came up with a doozy of an example of lying with statistics. He said (as best I remember it, the transcript is not yet on-line): “Within the next few months the Obama administration will have created more jobs in 2010 than were created during the entire Bush presidency.” Let’s leave aside the fact that it’s the American economy that creates jobs, not administrations. The idea that a president is 100 percent responsible for the American economy is so stupid that only a member of the Washington press corps could believe it.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there has been so far in 2010 a net creation of 573,000 jobs. In the Bush years there was a net creation of 1,086,000 jobs. So if there is an average of at least 65,000 net new jobs created per month through December, Governor Kaine’s prediction will be “true” in a strictly mathematical sense.

But there’s a reason Benjamin Disraeli divided mendacity into three categories: lies, damned lies, and statistics.

Tim Kaine chooses his base lines dishonestly. Yes, there has been a net of 573,000 jobs created so far in 2010. But in the last 11 months of 2009 — while Obama was president, in other words — there were 3,961,000 jobs lost. So Obama is still in the hole to the tune of 3,388,000 jobs lost on his watch. In other words, Kaine starts the job clock running for Obama only after he had been president for more than 11 months, but George Bush’s job clock started the day he took the oath of office.

Of course, the Obama administration has been blaming George Bush for everything bad that happens on Obama’s watch. But if Obama is not responsible for the job losses in his first 11 months, then, surely, the job losses in the first 11 months of the Bush administration must be Bill Clinton’s fault. Those losses amounted to 1,746,000 jobs.  That would make Bush’s net job creation 2,832,000, still far above what is likely to be achieved in 2010.

It is fortunate for Democrats, who don’t mind bamboozling easily bamboozled Washington reporters (at least when numbers are concerned) with phony statistics, that the Bush administration started just as the recession of 2000-2001 was beginning and ended just as the recession of 2007 was kicking in big time. This allows them to bury the impressive job growth of the mid-Bush years (87,000 in 2003, 2,047,000 in 2004, 2,496,000 in 2005, 2,060,000 in 2006, 1,084,000 in 2007) beneath the job losses of the beginning and end of his term. To have two serious recessions during his presidency and still have a net job growth of over a million is, in fact, rather impressive.

What could have caused it? Well, as the Bureau of Labor Statistics chart on monthly unemployment shows, the unemployment rate in the Bush years began to decline in mid-2003 and continued to ratchet steadily downward for four years, until the housing bubble began to collapse. What happened in mid-2003 was that the Bush tax cuts kicked in.

That, of course, could be coincidence — not causation. But I doubt it.

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Capturing the Imagination of the World

Barack Obama’s description of the barbaric butchering of Daniel Pearl — “one of those moments that captured the world’s imagination because it reminded us of how valuable a free press is” — represents, as Mark Steyn writes, a remarkably fatuous statement.

Pearl was beheaded by the architect of 9/11, on video, immediately after he pronounced himself an American Jew. No one watching it was reminded of how valuable a free press is; nor did it capture anyone’s imagination, other than that of the jihadists who downloaded it to congratulate themselves, re-energize their efforts, and recruit others. It came five months after jihadists flew two aircraft into the World Trade Center, murdering 3,000 people, and two months before a jihadist murdered another 30 people (the demographic equivalent of 1,350 people in a country the size of Israel) during a Passover seder at the Park Hotel in Netanya. These were not moments reminding us of the importance of tall buildings and nice hotels.

Ironically, Barack Obama will not be prosecuting Khalid Sheikh Mohammed for beheading Daniel Pearl (perhaps because reminding us of the value of a free press is not technically a crime), but rather for the act of war committed on September 11, 2001. Obama wants to try him not as an enemy combatant but as a common criminal, in a civilian trial, giving him a public platform to create another video to be watched by jihadists around the world. It will undoubtedly be one of those moments that capture the imagination of the world.

Barack Obama’s description of the barbaric butchering of Daniel Pearl — “one of those moments that captured the world’s imagination because it reminded us of how valuable a free press is” — represents, as Mark Steyn writes, a remarkably fatuous statement.

Pearl was beheaded by the architect of 9/11, on video, immediately after he pronounced himself an American Jew. No one watching it was reminded of how valuable a free press is; nor did it capture anyone’s imagination, other than that of the jihadists who downloaded it to congratulate themselves, re-energize their efforts, and recruit others. It came five months after jihadists flew two aircraft into the World Trade Center, murdering 3,000 people, and two months before a jihadist murdered another 30 people (the demographic equivalent of 1,350 people in a country the size of Israel) during a Passover seder at the Park Hotel in Netanya. These were not moments reminding us of the importance of tall buildings and nice hotels.

Ironically, Barack Obama will not be prosecuting Khalid Sheikh Mohammed for beheading Daniel Pearl (perhaps because reminding us of the value of a free press is not technically a crime), but rather for the act of war committed on September 11, 2001. Obama wants to try him not as an enemy combatant but as a common criminal, in a civilian trial, giving him a public platform to create another video to be watched by jihadists around the world. It will undoubtedly be one of those moments that capture the imagination of the world.

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No Virtue in Specter’s Self-Centered “Bipartisanship”

Regarding Arlen Specter, Dana Milbank writes:

He is ornery, vain, disloyal and a brazen opportunist. He lacks a discernible ideology, puts his finger to the political winds before casting a vote and in the end does what is good for Arlen Specter.

But Milbank is going to miss him, because “whatever his faults, he fought the forces of party unity and ideological purity that are pulling the country apart.”

This is wrong for multiple reasons. First, why is party disloyalty for the sake of doing “what is good” for a pol (i.e., his own perpetual re-election) a noble thing? Sacrificing party loyalty for a principled stance is a different matter. Joe Lieberman is the quintessential example — casting aside partisan loyalty to advocate a robust foreign policy and the promotion of American values. We can say the same of pro-life Democrats when they cast aside party loyalty to uphold their core beliefs (not very often as Bart Stupak showed). Charlie Crist and Arlen Specter are simply opportunists, sniffing out the most expedient position at the moment. Even Milbank concedes: “His Democratic primary opponent, Joe Sestak, finished off the hopelessly contorted Specter with an ad showing him receiving Bush’s endorsement in 2004 and playing Specter’s boast that ‘my change in party will enable me to be reelected.’ Specter will probably be remembered for that unprincipled quote. I’d prefer to remember him for something else.” Yes, because it demonstrates how disdainful is a philosophy built purely around a pol’s self-preservation.

Milbank is also off-base, because there is nothing wrong with offering voters a rather stark ideological choice. Big government or smaller? Human rights promotion or appeasement to dictators? High or low taxes? One gains a governing majority by presenting a well-thought-out vision on both domestic and foreign policy, getting voters to agree, and then going to Washington with a mandate to govern. And if a politician misrepresents what he is about during the campaign or overreaches (as Obama has done), then a new choice, a new election, and a new mandate will follow.

And finally, the country is not being “pulled apart.” We have a revival of grassroots politics, a new crop of candidates, and a vibrant debate about the role of government and America’s role in the world. How is that bad? And why shouldn’t we see this as an affirmation of the health of our democracy and of the benefits of new media that can assist organizers and facilitate a robust debate between competing philosophies?

In sum, bipartisanship, if conducted on a principled basis for good and honorable ends (e.g., defense of the country), is to be cherished. But bipartisanship without any purpose other than self-preservation or for destructive goals is no virtue. And that’s why Arlen Specter’s defeat is to be celebrated.

Regarding Arlen Specter, Dana Milbank writes:

He is ornery, vain, disloyal and a brazen opportunist. He lacks a discernible ideology, puts his finger to the political winds before casting a vote and in the end does what is good for Arlen Specter.

But Milbank is going to miss him, because “whatever his faults, he fought the forces of party unity and ideological purity that are pulling the country apart.”

This is wrong for multiple reasons. First, why is party disloyalty for the sake of doing “what is good” for a pol (i.e., his own perpetual re-election) a noble thing? Sacrificing party loyalty for a principled stance is a different matter. Joe Lieberman is the quintessential example — casting aside partisan loyalty to advocate a robust foreign policy and the promotion of American values. We can say the same of pro-life Democrats when they cast aside party loyalty to uphold their core beliefs (not very often as Bart Stupak showed). Charlie Crist and Arlen Specter are simply opportunists, sniffing out the most expedient position at the moment. Even Milbank concedes: “His Democratic primary opponent, Joe Sestak, finished off the hopelessly contorted Specter with an ad showing him receiving Bush’s endorsement in 2004 and playing Specter’s boast that ‘my change in party will enable me to be reelected.’ Specter will probably be remembered for that unprincipled quote. I’d prefer to remember him for something else.” Yes, because it demonstrates how disdainful is a philosophy built purely around a pol’s self-preservation.

Milbank is also off-base, because there is nothing wrong with offering voters a rather stark ideological choice. Big government or smaller? Human rights promotion or appeasement to dictators? High or low taxes? One gains a governing majority by presenting a well-thought-out vision on both domestic and foreign policy, getting voters to agree, and then going to Washington with a mandate to govern. And if a politician misrepresents what he is about during the campaign or overreaches (as Obama has done), then a new choice, a new election, and a new mandate will follow.

And finally, the country is not being “pulled apart.” We have a revival of grassroots politics, a new crop of candidates, and a vibrant debate about the role of government and America’s role in the world. How is that bad? And why shouldn’t we see this as an affirmation of the health of our democracy and of the benefits of new media that can assist organizers and facilitate a robust debate between competing philosophies?

In sum, bipartisanship, if conducted on a principled basis for good and honorable ends (e.g., defense of the country), is to be cherished. But bipartisanship without any purpose other than self-preservation or for destructive goals is no virtue. And that’s why Arlen Specter’s defeat is to be celebrated.

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RE: Judicial Victory

Max, I agree that it’s good news when the circuit court declines to apply to a foreign battlefield the constitutional protections afforded to Americans in criminal proceedings. (They should have done the same with Guantanamo, but that is water under the bridge.) But it leaves me at a loss to explain what coherent philosophy underlies Obama’s not-Bush national-security policy.

Obama will kill terrorists with drones but wants to try them in public if they manage to get here. (Isn’t that a perverse incentive?) And Obama wants to empty Guantanamo, where detainees have the right to file habeas corpus petitions, but drop any new terrorists we capture into Bagram, where no rules apply.

There are two possible conclusions one might draw. First, there is no coherent vision here, and all the mumbo-jumbo about “returning to our values” was meant to snow the left and to impugn the record of his predecessor, who prevented any attack on the homeland for seven and a half years. Alternatively, Obama believes the war on terror exists solely outside our borders. Reality keeps disrupting this paradigm — Fort Hood, the Christmas Day bomber, the Times Square bomber — which is why the administration insists, until the evidence to the contrary is overwhelming, that these are “lone wolves” or “one-off” incidents. If he had correctly labeled these as acts of war by a worldwide jihadist foe, he would then have been forced to concede that the domestic policies he employs for handling terrorists are entirely ill-suited to the threat we face.

Max, I agree that it’s good news when the circuit court declines to apply to a foreign battlefield the constitutional protections afforded to Americans in criminal proceedings. (They should have done the same with Guantanamo, but that is water under the bridge.) But it leaves me at a loss to explain what coherent philosophy underlies Obama’s not-Bush national-security policy.

Obama will kill terrorists with drones but wants to try them in public if they manage to get here. (Isn’t that a perverse incentive?) And Obama wants to empty Guantanamo, where detainees have the right to file habeas corpus petitions, but drop any new terrorists we capture into Bagram, where no rules apply.

There are two possible conclusions one might draw. First, there is no coherent vision here, and all the mumbo-jumbo about “returning to our values” was meant to snow the left and to impugn the record of his predecessor, who prevented any attack on the homeland for seven and a half years. Alternatively, Obama believes the war on terror exists solely outside our borders. Reality keeps disrupting this paradigm — Fort Hood, the Christmas Day bomber, the Times Square bomber — which is why the administration insists, until the evidence to the contrary is overwhelming, that these are “lone wolves” or “one-off” incidents. If he had correctly labeled these as acts of war by a worldwide jihadist foe, he would then have been forced to concede that the domestic policies he employs for handling terrorists are entirely ill-suited to the threat we face.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

The question is whether anyone has written a funnier, more devastating parody of liberal Jews than this. Definitely not!

The question is becoming not whether Israel will strike Iran, but when: “Israel, which initially tolerated President Obama’s effort to thwart Iranian nuclear ambitions through sanctions, has grown increasingly impatient in recent weeks with the approach and concerned that whatever is agreed to now at the U.N. Security Council will only allow Iran more time to advance its program.” When will mainstream Jewish groups voice impatience with Obama?

The question is when will the lies stop? Richard Blumenthal declared that he isn’t going to allow the race to be “about attacks on my character and service. … I have made mistakes. … I regret them. And I have taken responsibility.” No, he hasn’t. He has never apologized. He’s just sorry he got caught.

The question this election season for candidates, David Broder says, is whether you are with Obama or against him. “A liberal government is struggling to impose its agenda on an electorate increasingly responsive to an activist conservative movement operating inside the Republican Party. … [T]he Democrats are facing a populist backlash against the interventionist, expensive policies that Obama and others have pursued.”

The question is whether Obama “wasted” a Supreme Court nomination. According to a Fox poll, 33 percent don’t know whether Elena Kagan should be confirmed, which is exactly the right answer, given the paucity of information on her views and her lack of judicial track record.

The question is whether Obama should use this opportunity to abolish the job of director of national intelligence. John Noonan writes: “Unnecessary bureaucracy has a venomous effect on the national security establishment, whether it’s infantry or intelligence. The director of national intelligence, which has ballooned to a 1,500-man supporting office, was a top down solution to a bottom up problem.”

The question is whether there is any reason not to put Chris Christie on the shortlist for a place on the GOP ticket for 2012: “New Jersey Governor Chris Christie may have set a record for the speediest veto in American history on Thursday when he rejected an income tax surcharge passed by the Democratic legislature two minutes after it arrived on his desk. … Mr. Christie continues to stand out as a lone voice of economic sanity in Trenton and as a national fiscal leader.” I can’t think of one. (And by 2012, he’ll have had more years of executive experience — both in running the U.S. attorney’s office and as governor – than Obama did when he took office.)

The question is whether voters will laugh: Obama is going to run against George W. Bush in the 2010 election. Republicans are crossing their fingers that he be really serious about deploying this buck-passing, transparent gambit.

The question is now whether the Gray Lady will endorse him anyway. New York Times editor Clark Hoyt gives a somewhat candid assessment of the Times story on Richard Blumenthal’s serial lies, concluding: “In the end, through all the swirling sand the article has kicked up, a clear set of facts remains uncontested: On more than one occasion, Blumenthal said he had served in Vietnam when he had not. Did people the Times talked to have agendas? Sure. Did the Times independently verify the information? Yes, and that’s what counts.”

The question is whether anyone has written a funnier, more devastating parody of liberal Jews than this. Definitely not!

The question is becoming not whether Israel will strike Iran, but when: “Israel, which initially tolerated President Obama’s effort to thwart Iranian nuclear ambitions through sanctions, has grown increasingly impatient in recent weeks with the approach and concerned that whatever is agreed to now at the U.N. Security Council will only allow Iran more time to advance its program.” When will mainstream Jewish groups voice impatience with Obama?

The question is when will the lies stop? Richard Blumenthal declared that he isn’t going to allow the race to be “about attacks on my character and service. … I have made mistakes. … I regret them. And I have taken responsibility.” No, he hasn’t. He has never apologized. He’s just sorry he got caught.

The question this election season for candidates, David Broder says, is whether you are with Obama or against him. “A liberal government is struggling to impose its agenda on an electorate increasingly responsive to an activist conservative movement operating inside the Republican Party. … [T]he Democrats are facing a populist backlash against the interventionist, expensive policies that Obama and others have pursued.”

The question is whether Obama “wasted” a Supreme Court nomination. According to a Fox poll, 33 percent don’t know whether Elena Kagan should be confirmed, which is exactly the right answer, given the paucity of information on her views and her lack of judicial track record.

The question is whether Obama should use this opportunity to abolish the job of director of national intelligence. John Noonan writes: “Unnecessary bureaucracy has a venomous effect on the national security establishment, whether it’s infantry or intelligence. The director of national intelligence, which has ballooned to a 1,500-man supporting office, was a top down solution to a bottom up problem.”

The question is whether there is any reason not to put Chris Christie on the shortlist for a place on the GOP ticket for 2012: “New Jersey Governor Chris Christie may have set a record for the speediest veto in American history on Thursday when he rejected an income tax surcharge passed by the Democratic legislature two minutes after it arrived on his desk. … Mr. Christie continues to stand out as a lone voice of economic sanity in Trenton and as a national fiscal leader.” I can’t think of one. (And by 2012, he’ll have had more years of executive experience — both in running the U.S. attorney’s office and as governor – than Obama did when he took office.)

The question is whether voters will laugh: Obama is going to run against George W. Bush in the 2010 election. Republicans are crossing their fingers that he be really serious about deploying this buck-passing, transparent gambit.

The question is now whether the Gray Lady will endorse him anyway. New York Times editor Clark Hoyt gives a somewhat candid assessment of the Times story on Richard Blumenthal’s serial lies, concluding: “In the end, through all the swirling sand the article has kicked up, a clear set of facts remains uncontested: On more than one occasion, Blumenthal said he had served in Vietnam when he had not. Did people the Times talked to have agendas? Sure. Did the Times independently verify the information? Yes, and that’s what counts.”

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