Commentary Magazine


Posts For: July 26, 2010

You Want to Talk About Scandal?

Forget Wikileaks. For genuine scandal, check out the newly released letter from the U.S. embassy in London to Scotland’s First Minister Alex Salmond. It reveals a) the Obama administration’s passivity in the run-up to Scotland’s release of Lockerbie bomber Abdel Baset al-Megrahi, b) the administration’s deception in claiming to have had no foreknowledge of Megrahi’s release, and c) the administration’s inability to persuade other governments of anything.

Although President Obama previously said that he was “surprised, disappointed and angry” about Scotland’s release of Megrahi, the letter makes plain that there was no surprise whatsoever. The anger and disappointment now belong firmly to the American people. The letter contained a watery wink-and-nod “objection” to the release while simultaneously discussing how the U.S. would like to see the release proceed . Keeping the terrorist locked up or freeing him was just another Obaman false choice. Here’s how the State Department framed its hopes for the details of Megrahi’s liberation:

If a decision were made by Scotland to grant conditional release, two conditions would be very important to the Unites States and would partially mitigate the concerns of the American victims’ families. First, any such release should only come after the results of independent and comprehensive medical exams clearly establishing that Megrahi’s life expectancy is less than three months. The results of these exams should be made available to the Unites States and the families of the victims of Pan Am 103. The justification of releasing Megrahi on compassionate grounds would be more severely undercut the longer he is free before his actual death.

Second, the United States would strongly oppose any release that would permit Megrahi to travel outside of Scotland. We believe that the welcoming reception that Megrahi might receive if he is permitted to travel abroad would be extremely inappropriate given Megrahi’s conviction for a heinous crime that continues to have a deep and profound impact on so many. As such, compassionate release or bail should be conditioned on Megrahi remaining in Scotland.

0 for 2. A year later, Megrahi is alive and well in Libya. Forget outreach to the Muslim world and the open hand extended toward Iran. At this point, our president needs to make a speech in the capital of a free, Western country, affirming our ties with (and re-establishing our leadership of) the democratic world.

Forget Wikileaks. For genuine scandal, check out the newly released letter from the U.S. embassy in London to Scotland’s First Minister Alex Salmond. It reveals a) the Obama administration’s passivity in the run-up to Scotland’s release of Lockerbie bomber Abdel Baset al-Megrahi, b) the administration’s deception in claiming to have had no foreknowledge of Megrahi’s release, and c) the administration’s inability to persuade other governments of anything.

Although President Obama previously said that he was “surprised, disappointed and angry” about Scotland’s release of Megrahi, the letter makes plain that there was no surprise whatsoever. The anger and disappointment now belong firmly to the American people. The letter contained a watery wink-and-nod “objection” to the release while simultaneously discussing how the U.S. would like to see the release proceed . Keeping the terrorist locked up or freeing him was just another Obaman false choice. Here’s how the State Department framed its hopes for the details of Megrahi’s liberation:

If a decision were made by Scotland to grant conditional release, two conditions would be very important to the Unites States and would partially mitigate the concerns of the American victims’ families. First, any such release should only come after the results of independent and comprehensive medical exams clearly establishing that Megrahi’s life expectancy is less than three months. The results of these exams should be made available to the Unites States and the families of the victims of Pan Am 103. The justification of releasing Megrahi on compassionate grounds would be more severely undercut the longer he is free before his actual death.

Second, the United States would strongly oppose any release that would permit Megrahi to travel outside of Scotland. We believe that the welcoming reception that Megrahi might receive if he is permitted to travel abroad would be extremely inappropriate given Megrahi’s conviction for a heinous crime that continues to have a deep and profound impact on so many. As such, compassionate release or bail should be conditioned on Megrahi remaining in Scotland.

0 for 2. A year later, Megrahi is alive and well in Libya. Forget outreach to the Muslim world and the open hand extended toward Iran. At this point, our president needs to make a speech in the capital of a free, Western country, affirming our ties with (and re-establishing our leadership of) the democratic world.

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New Iran Sanctions Don’t Change the Equation

The announcement of what the European Union calls its “toughest sanctions ever” enacted against Iran is certainly a sign that momentum is building for a serious response to Tehran’s drive for nuclear weapons. The measure, which makes trade and financial dealings with the West more difficult, appears to exceed the watered-down sanctions package passed by the United Nations Security Council in June but falls short of the July 1 announcement by President Obama banning the sale of gasoline to Iran as well as tightening banking restrictions. Seen in conjunction with the UN and American announcements, one might think that the diplomatic tide is turning against Iran.

Taken out of the context of years of attempted appeasement of Iran and of European failure to prioritize stopping the Islamist regime’s nuclear project, one might be very much encouraged by a program that targets the Iranian Revolutionary Guard and individuals and companies that are connected to it. Indeed, if the Khamenei/Ahmadinejad government had not spent the last few years laughing at Western sanctions, tightening the regime’s iron grip on the country, and showing how little it cared about the piecemeal efforts to restrain its ambitions, it might seem as if Iran was being backed into a corner and that a genuine international consensus now exists that an Iranian bomb must not be allowed to come into existence.

But we can’t ignore the context of the last few years: the Bush administration punted on a tough response to Iran (and outsourced diplomacy on the issue to the Europeans); and the Obama administration followed with a year of attempted appeasement that went under the rubric of “engagement.” It is true that Obama now seems to understand that “engagement” had an effect opposite of what he intended: encouraging the Iranians to push harder for nukes and to crack down on dissidents rather than to embrace the chance for good relations. But after years of failure, all these sanctions packages may still be too little and too late. It’s not just that we don’t know how close the Iranians are to actually achieving nuclear capability. Whether they are only months or a year or two away from a bomb or, as the optimists among us would have it, several years away from an actual weapon, the legacy of a generation of Western appeasement and apathy may have engendered a belief in Tehran that everything Iran hears from the West is merely politically inspired noise that can be ignored with impunity as its lethal threat to Israel and the stability of the Middle East gets closer to reality.

Even worse would be if Iran believes that these sanctions packages are primarily a Western effort to prevent Israel from unilateral military action. Given the fact that many in the West have often acted as if the possibility of using force against Iran poses a greater danger than the Iranian nuke itself, this is a not an unreasonable interpretation of events. In the meantime, increased sanctions notwithstanding, there is little reason to think Iran is deterred or seriously considering changing its plans or behavior.

The announcement of what the European Union calls its “toughest sanctions ever” enacted against Iran is certainly a sign that momentum is building for a serious response to Tehran’s drive for nuclear weapons. The measure, which makes trade and financial dealings with the West more difficult, appears to exceed the watered-down sanctions package passed by the United Nations Security Council in June but falls short of the July 1 announcement by President Obama banning the sale of gasoline to Iran as well as tightening banking restrictions. Seen in conjunction with the UN and American announcements, one might think that the diplomatic tide is turning against Iran.

Taken out of the context of years of attempted appeasement of Iran and of European failure to prioritize stopping the Islamist regime’s nuclear project, one might be very much encouraged by a program that targets the Iranian Revolutionary Guard and individuals and companies that are connected to it. Indeed, if the Khamenei/Ahmadinejad government had not spent the last few years laughing at Western sanctions, tightening the regime’s iron grip on the country, and showing how little it cared about the piecemeal efforts to restrain its ambitions, it might seem as if Iran was being backed into a corner and that a genuine international consensus now exists that an Iranian bomb must not be allowed to come into existence.

But we can’t ignore the context of the last few years: the Bush administration punted on a tough response to Iran (and outsourced diplomacy on the issue to the Europeans); and the Obama administration followed with a year of attempted appeasement that went under the rubric of “engagement.” It is true that Obama now seems to understand that “engagement” had an effect opposite of what he intended: encouraging the Iranians to push harder for nukes and to crack down on dissidents rather than to embrace the chance for good relations. But after years of failure, all these sanctions packages may still be too little and too late. It’s not just that we don’t know how close the Iranians are to actually achieving nuclear capability. Whether they are only months or a year or two away from a bomb or, as the optimists among us would have it, several years away from an actual weapon, the legacy of a generation of Western appeasement and apathy may have engendered a belief in Tehran that everything Iran hears from the West is merely politically inspired noise that can be ignored with impunity as its lethal threat to Israel and the stability of the Middle East gets closer to reality.

Even worse would be if Iran believes that these sanctions packages are primarily a Western effort to prevent Israel from unilateral military action. Given the fact that many in the West have often acted as if the possibility of using force against Iran poses a greater danger than the Iranian nuke itself, this is a not an unreasonable interpretation of events. In the meantime, increased sanctions notwithstanding, there is little reason to think Iran is deterred or seriously considering changing its plans or behavior.

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No Isn’t Enough for Republicans

A story in the Washington Post about the GOP’s growing optimism that its no votes will be sufficient to reclaim control of Congress includes this quote by Representative Tom Cole, a deputy whip in the House:

We’re very comfortable where we’re at; we have very few members who feel endangered. We feel like we are reflecting a broader mood of dissatisfaction. Right now, the American people want us saying no.

The story also reports this:

There has been little public criticism within GOP ranks of the continued opposition. At the same time, some Republicans would like the no votes combined with more discussion of the party’s positive vision. Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.) said last week that Republicans were reluctant to adopt his comprehensive plan to bring down the federal deficit and reform Social Security and Medicare because “they are talking to their pollsters.”

Representative Cole is correct that the American people want Republicans to say no. It’s hard to come to any other conclusion when you analyze the polling data. But Representative Ryan is correct as well; Republicans need to combine their no votes — which are necessary and admirable — with a sufficiently detailed governing agenda. There are plenty of fine ideas out there — beginning with Ryan’s own plan, a Roadmap for America’s Future. That need not be the only one, by any means.

The danger Republicans face is that of developing a mindset that is defensive and de minimus; that of fearing that in offering up specific, concrete plans, they will open themselves up to criticisms and therefore win fewer House and Senate seats.

That is the perennial fear of politicians, and it needs to be resisted. For one thing, voters are looking for solutions rather than slogans. For another, the point of politics is not simply to gain power but also to govern responsibly once you attain it. Republicans need to have confidence in their ideas and, to the extent possible, win a mandate for them.

When Ronald Reagan ran for president in 1980, he was receiving a lot of counsel in favor of running a relatively content-free campaign. His supply-side agenda, it was said, would make him an enormous target for Jimmy Carter. The math didn’t add up. The public would never accept “voodoo economics.” Reagan wisely ignored that advice, won in a landslide, and — for the most part — governed based on the ideas he ran and won on. He is now considered among our greatest presidents. Reagan helped to transform his party and his nation. So did Margaret Thatcher in Great Britain. So, for that matter, did Abraham Lincoln.

These are the models Republican candidates should look to as they are told by pollsters and campaign advisers to say nothing substantive, to aim low, to play it safe. Republicans should be smart, aim high, and provide a clear alternative to Obamaism. It’s in their self-interest and in the nation’s best interests. Those are two pretty good reasons to do it.

A story in the Washington Post about the GOP’s growing optimism that its no votes will be sufficient to reclaim control of Congress includes this quote by Representative Tom Cole, a deputy whip in the House:

We’re very comfortable where we’re at; we have very few members who feel endangered. We feel like we are reflecting a broader mood of dissatisfaction. Right now, the American people want us saying no.

The story also reports this:

There has been little public criticism within GOP ranks of the continued opposition. At the same time, some Republicans would like the no votes combined with more discussion of the party’s positive vision. Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.) said last week that Republicans were reluctant to adopt his comprehensive plan to bring down the federal deficit and reform Social Security and Medicare because “they are talking to their pollsters.”

Representative Cole is correct that the American people want Republicans to say no. It’s hard to come to any other conclusion when you analyze the polling data. But Representative Ryan is correct as well; Republicans need to combine their no votes — which are necessary and admirable — with a sufficiently detailed governing agenda. There are plenty of fine ideas out there — beginning with Ryan’s own plan, a Roadmap for America’s Future. That need not be the only one, by any means.

The danger Republicans face is that of developing a mindset that is defensive and de minimus; that of fearing that in offering up specific, concrete plans, they will open themselves up to criticisms and therefore win fewer House and Senate seats.

That is the perennial fear of politicians, and it needs to be resisted. For one thing, voters are looking for solutions rather than slogans. For another, the point of politics is not simply to gain power but also to govern responsibly once you attain it. Republicans need to have confidence in their ideas and, to the extent possible, win a mandate for them.

When Ronald Reagan ran for president in 1980, he was receiving a lot of counsel in favor of running a relatively content-free campaign. His supply-side agenda, it was said, would make him an enormous target for Jimmy Carter. The math didn’t add up. The public would never accept “voodoo economics.” Reagan wisely ignored that advice, won in a landslide, and — for the most part — governed based on the ideas he ran and won on. He is now considered among our greatest presidents. Reagan helped to transform his party and his nation. So did Margaret Thatcher in Great Britain. So, for that matter, did Abraham Lincoln.

These are the models Republican candidates should look to as they are told by pollsters and campaign advisers to say nothing substantive, to aim low, to play it safe. Republicans should be smart, aim high, and provide a clear alternative to Obamaism. It’s in their self-interest and in the nation’s best interests. Those are two pretty good reasons to do it.

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No, It’s Not Because He’s a Muslim

You could waste a lifetime doing nothing but debunking Roger Cohen’s inanities, so I don’t usually bother. But this time, the star New York Times columnist ostensibly poses a reasonable question: why aren’t the official America and the media raising an outcry over the death of an American citizen in Israel’s May raid on a Gaza-bound flotilla?

Cohen’s answer is that Americans don’t care because Furkan Dogan was a Muslim. And to prove it, Cohen does his best to paint the 19-year-old as a secular saint whom Americans ought to care deeply about: Dogan “was proud of his American passport and dreamt of coming back [to America] after completing medical school. … [He] had just completed high school with excellent grades. … [He was] little interested in politics, but with an aspiring doctor’s concern for Palestinian suffering.”

Yet anyone who knows anything about the flotilla knows that Dogan was almost certainly nothing of the sort. The video footage of Turkish “humanitarians” aboard the Mavi Marmara – who carefully prepared their weapons and then brutally beat the commandos who rappelled from a chopper from the moment they landed — makes it clear that: a) the Turks attacked first with malice aforethought; and b) pretty much everyone on deck participated in the attack. Indeed, passengers and crew members later testified that the thugs had ordered all noncombatants below deck before the Israeli forces approached.

Moreover, photos of the battered, bloody Israeli commandos make it clear they had good reason to think their lives in danger and to open fire in self-defense.

And there’s another pesky fact Cohen should certainly know, as his own paper reported it: Dogan’s brother Mustafa was quoted by the Turkish daily Zaman afterward as saying that “we were not sorry to hear that he fell like a martyr.”

Americans have become all too familiar over the last decade with the kind of Muslims who laud “martyrdom.” They’re the ones who committed the 9/11 attacks and the Fort Hood Massacre; the ones who tried and failed to blow up an airliner last Christmas and to explode a bomb in Times Square this spring. And therefore, most Americans don’t have much use for the type.

In short, anyone who knows anything about the flotilla lacks sympathy for Dogan because of his behavior, not his religion.

But what about that vast majority of Americans who don’t know any of the above? Why don’t they care?

It’s very simple: they don’t care because Dogan moved back to Turkey with his family 17 years ago at the age of two. In other words, he’s primarily a Turk, not an American. It’s the same reason official America and the media have never shown any interest in the many American-Israelis killed by Palestinian suicide bombers: Americans tend to conclude that someone who has chosen to live outside America is primarily the responsibility of the country he (or, in this case, his parents) adopted, not the one he left.

It’s a perfectly reasonable conclusion. Only Roger Cohen could make it into evidence of anti-Muslim bias.

You could waste a lifetime doing nothing but debunking Roger Cohen’s inanities, so I don’t usually bother. But this time, the star New York Times columnist ostensibly poses a reasonable question: why aren’t the official America and the media raising an outcry over the death of an American citizen in Israel’s May raid on a Gaza-bound flotilla?

Cohen’s answer is that Americans don’t care because Furkan Dogan was a Muslim. And to prove it, Cohen does his best to paint the 19-year-old as a secular saint whom Americans ought to care deeply about: Dogan “was proud of his American passport and dreamt of coming back [to America] after completing medical school. … [He] had just completed high school with excellent grades. … [He was] little interested in politics, but with an aspiring doctor’s concern for Palestinian suffering.”

Yet anyone who knows anything about the flotilla knows that Dogan was almost certainly nothing of the sort. The video footage of Turkish “humanitarians” aboard the Mavi Marmara – who carefully prepared their weapons and then brutally beat the commandos who rappelled from a chopper from the moment they landed — makes it clear that: a) the Turks attacked first with malice aforethought; and b) pretty much everyone on deck participated in the attack. Indeed, passengers and crew members later testified that the thugs had ordered all noncombatants below deck before the Israeli forces approached.

Moreover, photos of the battered, bloody Israeli commandos make it clear they had good reason to think their lives in danger and to open fire in self-defense.

And there’s another pesky fact Cohen should certainly know, as his own paper reported it: Dogan’s brother Mustafa was quoted by the Turkish daily Zaman afterward as saying that “we were not sorry to hear that he fell like a martyr.”

Americans have become all too familiar over the last decade with the kind of Muslims who laud “martyrdom.” They’re the ones who committed the 9/11 attacks and the Fort Hood Massacre; the ones who tried and failed to blow up an airliner last Christmas and to explode a bomb in Times Square this spring. And therefore, most Americans don’t have much use for the type.

In short, anyone who knows anything about the flotilla lacks sympathy for Dogan because of his behavior, not his religion.

But what about that vast majority of Americans who don’t know any of the above? Why don’t they care?

It’s very simple: they don’t care because Dogan moved back to Turkey with his family 17 years ago at the age of two. In other words, he’s primarily a Turk, not an American. It’s the same reason official America and the media have never shown any interest in the many American-Israelis killed by Palestinian suicide bombers: Americans tend to conclude that someone who has chosen to live outside America is primarily the responsibility of the country he (or, in this case, his parents) adopted, not the one he left.

It’s a perfectly reasonable conclusion. Only Roger Cohen could make it into evidence of anti-Muslim bias.

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Wikileaks and the Final Defeat of Tet

I agree with Max that the content of the leaked Afghan war documents is underwhelming. The thousands of pedestrian, narrow-scope field reports tell us nothing we didn’t already know about the overall conduct of the war or our coalition partners’ roles in it. The real story here is how accurate our view of the war in Afghanistan has been: even the failures and missteps have been chronicled with thematic, if not always specific, fidelity.

A swelling chorus of voices is pondering the roles of New and Old Media in the Wikileaks disclosure, with its effect being compared to that of Tet and the Pentagon Papers (see here, here, here, and here, for example). These analogies are overblown — wildly so, in my view — but there is nevertheless an important New/Old Media dynamic to watch in this case. The question in the coming days will be whether the Old Media — of which Time, the Atlantic, the Washington Post, et al. are members — can establish a counterfactual narrative and make it politically decisive. Will Congress, for example, consider itself bound to accept the narrative that this massive leak amounts to a set of game-changing revelations?

I predict not. Although John Kerry has stated already that the leaked documents “raise serious questions about the reality of America’s policy toward Pakistan and Afghanistan,” my sense is that there is simply too much knowledge of that reality, both in Congress and among the public, for the political gambit to go anywhere. Much credit for that knowledge must go to New Media — independent online reporters like Michael Totten, Michael Yon, and COMMENTARY’s Max Boot, websites like Long War Journal and Small Wars Journal — which has labored to bring the war to the average reader in a level of detail unimaginable even two decades ago.

Credit is also due to both the Bush and Obama administrations and the military that has served them. In terms of “secrets” about the war, political or operational, there’s just no story in the leaked documents. We already know about all the categories of information revealed in them. They are, moreover, tactical-level reports from the field; they are not a source of “smoking-gun” policy documents like the Pentagon Papers’ infamous McNaughton Memo, which demonstrated that Johnson’s actual policy in Vietnam differed from the justification he presented to the public. (James Fallows raises this topic by referring to the McNaughton Memo in his Atlantic post, linked above.)

The severity of the leaks is related primarily to the damage they may do to our forces’ operational security in Afghanistan, and much of what is reflected about their activities is outdated now. Meanwhile, the eager hope of left-wing pundits that this leak will turn American sentiment to widespread anger and unrest is unfounded. From 1968 to 1971, Americans had few alternatives to Walter Cronkite and the New York Times. Today they have thousands. I believe the New Media will succeed in the signal task of burying Old Media’s “Tet-effect” talisman, once and for all.

I agree with Max that the content of the leaked Afghan war documents is underwhelming. The thousands of pedestrian, narrow-scope field reports tell us nothing we didn’t already know about the overall conduct of the war or our coalition partners’ roles in it. The real story here is how accurate our view of the war in Afghanistan has been: even the failures and missteps have been chronicled with thematic, if not always specific, fidelity.

A swelling chorus of voices is pondering the roles of New and Old Media in the Wikileaks disclosure, with its effect being compared to that of Tet and the Pentagon Papers (see here, here, here, and here, for example). These analogies are overblown — wildly so, in my view — but there is nevertheless an important New/Old Media dynamic to watch in this case. The question in the coming days will be whether the Old Media — of which Time, the Atlantic, the Washington Post, et al. are members — can establish a counterfactual narrative and make it politically decisive. Will Congress, for example, consider itself bound to accept the narrative that this massive leak amounts to a set of game-changing revelations?

I predict not. Although John Kerry has stated already that the leaked documents “raise serious questions about the reality of America’s policy toward Pakistan and Afghanistan,” my sense is that there is simply too much knowledge of that reality, both in Congress and among the public, for the political gambit to go anywhere. Much credit for that knowledge must go to New Media — independent online reporters like Michael Totten, Michael Yon, and COMMENTARY’s Max Boot, websites like Long War Journal and Small Wars Journal — which has labored to bring the war to the average reader in a level of detail unimaginable even two decades ago.

Credit is also due to both the Bush and Obama administrations and the military that has served them. In terms of “secrets” about the war, political or operational, there’s just no story in the leaked documents. We already know about all the categories of information revealed in them. They are, moreover, tactical-level reports from the field; they are not a source of “smoking-gun” policy documents like the Pentagon Papers’ infamous McNaughton Memo, which demonstrated that Johnson’s actual policy in Vietnam differed from the justification he presented to the public. (James Fallows raises this topic by referring to the McNaughton Memo in his Atlantic post, linked above.)

The severity of the leaks is related primarily to the damage they may do to our forces’ operational security in Afghanistan, and much of what is reflected about their activities is outdated now. Meanwhile, the eager hope of left-wing pundits that this leak will turn American sentiment to widespread anger and unrest is unfounded. From 1968 to 1971, Americans had few alternatives to Walter Cronkite and the New York Times. Today they have thousands. I believe the New Media will succeed in the signal task of burying Old Media’s “Tet-effect” talisman, once and for all.

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The Obama Presidency Unraveling

The Denver Post endorsed Barack Obama for President in 2008. So it’s yet one more indication of the problems now buffeting the Obama presidency when its editorial features sentences such these: “Welcome to the summer of malaise. Welcome back, Carter.” They are now becoming almost too numerous to list. But let’s try: Surging deficits. A very weak economy. Persistently high unemployment (far beyond what the Obama administration predicted). The unraveling of promises made about ObamaCare. Growing unhappiness in Europe with the United States. America’s enemies emboldened and its allies uncertain. Public confidence in Obama reaching new lows. Collapsing support for Obama among independents. Deepening unhappiness among the left. A huge advantage for Republicans in voter intensity. Republicans dominating when it comes to issues voters most care about. Respected Democrats like William Galston predicting that Democrats might lose the Senate as well as the House. Self-identified conservatives outnumbering self-identified liberals by more than a two-to-one margin. Confidence in Congress reaching new lows (11 percent in the most recent Gallup poll), etc.

Still, I’m confident that very smart bloggers over at the New Republic will offer — one more time — a very smart explanation for why President Obama bears absolutely none of the blame for the problems he is encountering. After all, Obama has done much of what they have recommended.

It is somewhat amusing and somewhat poignant to witness former Journolisters offering panicked and pathetic explanations for why the political world is crumbling around them.

The Denver Post endorsed Barack Obama for President in 2008. So it’s yet one more indication of the problems now buffeting the Obama presidency when its editorial features sentences such these: “Welcome to the summer of malaise. Welcome back, Carter.” They are now becoming almost too numerous to list. But let’s try: Surging deficits. A very weak economy. Persistently high unemployment (far beyond what the Obama administration predicted). The unraveling of promises made about ObamaCare. Growing unhappiness in Europe with the United States. America’s enemies emboldened and its allies uncertain. Public confidence in Obama reaching new lows. Collapsing support for Obama among independents. Deepening unhappiness among the left. A huge advantage for Republicans in voter intensity. Republicans dominating when it comes to issues voters most care about. Respected Democrats like William Galston predicting that Democrats might lose the Senate as well as the House. Self-identified conservatives outnumbering self-identified liberals by more than a two-to-one margin. Confidence in Congress reaching new lows (11 percent in the most recent Gallup poll), etc.

Still, I’m confident that very smart bloggers over at the New Republic will offer — one more time — a very smart explanation for why President Obama bears absolutely none of the blame for the problems he is encountering. After all, Obama has done much of what they have recommended.

It is somewhat amusing and somewhat poignant to witness former Journolisters offering panicked and pathetic explanations for why the political world is crumbling around them.

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ObamaCare Doesn’t Justify Secession

First, Republican Rand Paul wanted to revisit the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Now Representative Zach Wamp, following the lead of Texas Governor Rick Perry, wants to revisit the Civil War. “I hope that the American people will go to the ballot box in 2010 and 2012 so that states are not forced to consider separation from this government,” Wamp said during a recent interview with Hotline OnCall.

Representative Wamp praised Perry, who first floated the idea of secession in April 2009, for leading the push-back against health-care reform. “Patriots like Rick Perry have talked about these issues because the federal government is putting us in an untenable position at the state level,” said Wamp, who is competing with Knoxville Mayor Bill Haslam and Lieutenant Governor Ron Ramsey in an August 5 GOP primary race. (The winner will face Mike McWherter in November to decide who will replace Tennessee Democratic Governor Phil Bredesen.)

This kind of talk from Wamp and Perry is stupid and reckless. For one thing, it is evidence of a stunning inability to distinguish different historical moments. For some people, the times in which we live don’t appear to be dramatic enough; they have to equate the events we’re going through to the clash with Nazism, the hardships of the Great Depression, the Bolshevik Revolution, the American Revolution, or the stakes involved in the Civil War. It all tends to be quite silly and unhelpful.

Beyond that, though, is the fevered mindset that would suggest that “separation from this government” may be necessary. Do Wamp and Perry have any grasp of what they are talking about? Do they understand that the South seceded from the Union to maintain chattel slavery as a way of life? Or that Lincoln, our greatest president (and the first Republican president), waged the Civil War — which cost America around 620,000 lives (the equivalent of around 5 million lives today) — to keep the Union whole and free? Are Wamp and Perry really suggesting we take up, in a serious manner, the issue of secession again? Because of ObamaCare?

I am no shrinking violet when it comes to criticizing Barack Obama. I believe he’s doing great damage to the country, and conservatives need to check him at almost every point along the way. But to argue that differences in policy ought to lead us to consider secession is lunacy. It also shows a (presumably) unwitting contempt for America, for its history, and for its role and purpose in the world. When schoolchildren across America recite the Pledge of Allegiance, here are the words they say: “I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, and to the republic for which it stands, one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”

Our loyalty is to the United States of America. It is one nation. And it is indivisible.

America is a sublime achievement — an “inestimable jewel,” in the words of Lincoln. Lawmakers who speak about “separation from this government” are doing a great disservice to themselves, to their party, and to their country. They ought to cease and desist, now, before they embarrass themselves further.

First, Republican Rand Paul wanted to revisit the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Now Representative Zach Wamp, following the lead of Texas Governor Rick Perry, wants to revisit the Civil War. “I hope that the American people will go to the ballot box in 2010 and 2012 so that states are not forced to consider separation from this government,” Wamp said during a recent interview with Hotline OnCall.

Representative Wamp praised Perry, who first floated the idea of secession in April 2009, for leading the push-back against health-care reform. “Patriots like Rick Perry have talked about these issues because the federal government is putting us in an untenable position at the state level,” said Wamp, who is competing with Knoxville Mayor Bill Haslam and Lieutenant Governor Ron Ramsey in an August 5 GOP primary race. (The winner will face Mike McWherter in November to decide who will replace Tennessee Democratic Governor Phil Bredesen.)

This kind of talk from Wamp and Perry is stupid and reckless. For one thing, it is evidence of a stunning inability to distinguish different historical moments. For some people, the times in which we live don’t appear to be dramatic enough; they have to equate the events we’re going through to the clash with Nazism, the hardships of the Great Depression, the Bolshevik Revolution, the American Revolution, or the stakes involved in the Civil War. It all tends to be quite silly and unhelpful.

Beyond that, though, is the fevered mindset that would suggest that “separation from this government” may be necessary. Do Wamp and Perry have any grasp of what they are talking about? Do they understand that the South seceded from the Union to maintain chattel slavery as a way of life? Or that Lincoln, our greatest president (and the first Republican president), waged the Civil War — which cost America around 620,000 lives (the equivalent of around 5 million lives today) — to keep the Union whole and free? Are Wamp and Perry really suggesting we take up, in a serious manner, the issue of secession again? Because of ObamaCare?

I am no shrinking violet when it comes to criticizing Barack Obama. I believe he’s doing great damage to the country, and conservatives need to check him at almost every point along the way. But to argue that differences in policy ought to lead us to consider secession is lunacy. It also shows a (presumably) unwitting contempt for America, for its history, and for its role and purpose in the world. When schoolchildren across America recite the Pledge of Allegiance, here are the words they say: “I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, and to the republic for which it stands, one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”

Our loyalty is to the United States of America. It is one nation. And it is indivisible.

America is a sublime achievement — an “inestimable jewel,” in the words of Lincoln. Lawmakers who speak about “separation from this government” are doing a great disservice to themselves, to their party, and to their country. They ought to cease and desist, now, before they embarrass themselves further.

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Wikileaks, Insignificant

The Pentagon Papers they’re not. The New York Times and the Guardian, among others, are touting the massive leak of 92,000 classified documents relating to the Afghanistan War, which was unearthed by the Wikileaks website. What bombshells do these secret memos contain? Pretty much none, if you are an even marginally attentive follower of the news.

In fact, the only new thing I learned from the documents was that the Taliban have attacked coalition aircraft with heat-seeking missiles. That is interesting to learn but not necessarily terribly alarming because, even with such missiles, the insurgents have not managed to take down many aircraft — certainly nothing like the toll that Stingers took on the Red Army in the 1980s.

As for the other “revelations,” here is the best the Times could do after weeks of examining the documents:

The documents … suggest that Pakistan, an ostensible ally of the United States, allows representatives of its spy service to meet directly with the Taliban in secret strategy sessions to organize networks of militant groups that fight against American soldiers in Afghanistan. …

  • The military employs more and more drone aircraft to survey the battlefield and strike targets in Afghanistan, although their performance is less impressive than officially portrayed. Some crash or collide, forcing American troops to undertake risky retrieval missions before the Taliban can claim the drone’s weaponry.
  • The Central Intelligence Agency has expanded paramilitary operations inside Afghanistan. The units launch ambushes, order airstrikes and conduct night raids. From 2001 to 2008, the C.I.A. paid the budget of Afghanistan’s spy agency and ran it as a virtual subsidiary.
  • Secret commando units like Task Force 373 — a classified group of Army and Navy special operatives — work from a “capture/kill list” of about 70 top insurgent commanders. These missions, which have been stepped up under the Obama administration, claim notable successes, but have sometimes gone wrong, killing civilians and stoking Afghan resentment.

Is it really news to anyone that Pakistan supports the Taliban? Or that Special Operations Forces and the CIA are conducting raids against the Taliban? If so, these must be the worst-kept secrets in the world. Senior U.S. officials have quite openly spoken about Pakistan’s role and about the Special Operations raids. As usual, comments on the CIA’s role have been more circumspect, but the agency’s involvement has been written about in numerous books and articles and not denied by senior officials.

Perhaps the biggest faux news here is that unmanned aerial vehicles sometimes “crash or collide.” This would come as a revelation, presumably, only to those who believe that military operations in wartime should achieve a standard of perfection unknown in any other human activity.

The Guardian, as befitting the more freewheeling (and less factual) culture of British journalism, tries harder to hype the findings, which, it claims, provide a “devastating portrait of the failing war in Afghanistan.” Actually, the documents show no such thing. At most, they provide a ground-level view of difficulties the coalition experienced in Afghanistan between 2001 and 2009.

Nobody denies that the war was being lost in that period; in fact, that was the rationale for the surge in forces orchestrated by the Bush and Obama administrations since 2008 — to turn around a failing war effort. The documents do not at all reflect on how the war is going now because they don’t cover this year. Even if they did, their usefulness would be highly limited: like most such reports, they provide a soda-straw view of events narrowly circumscribed by time and location. The fact that blunders and casualties occur in wartime should hardly be news; whether those blunders and casualties amount to a failing war effort or whether they are part of the fog and friction normal even in victory is more than the documents can tell us.

The Wikileakers should certainly be castigated for their cavalier treatment of classified documents, which may make our troops’ jobs harder and more dangerous. Their enablers in the mainstream media should also come in for censure. Whoever provided the information to them should be prosecuted to the full extent of the law. But at the same time, we should recognize this disclosure for what it is: an unsuccessful attempt to damage the war effort. I doubt that anyone will remember this episode a year from now; what will count, as always, will be the outcome on the battlefield. Win, and a thousand missteps are forgiven; lose, and even the biggest tactical victories fade into insignificance.

The Pentagon Papers they’re not. The New York Times and the Guardian, among others, are touting the massive leak of 92,000 classified documents relating to the Afghanistan War, which was unearthed by the Wikileaks website. What bombshells do these secret memos contain? Pretty much none, if you are an even marginally attentive follower of the news.

In fact, the only new thing I learned from the documents was that the Taliban have attacked coalition aircraft with heat-seeking missiles. That is interesting to learn but not necessarily terribly alarming because, even with such missiles, the insurgents have not managed to take down many aircraft — certainly nothing like the toll that Stingers took on the Red Army in the 1980s.

As for the other “revelations,” here is the best the Times could do after weeks of examining the documents:

The documents … suggest that Pakistan, an ostensible ally of the United States, allows representatives of its spy service to meet directly with the Taliban in secret strategy sessions to organize networks of militant groups that fight against American soldiers in Afghanistan. …

  • The military employs more and more drone aircraft to survey the battlefield and strike targets in Afghanistan, although their performance is less impressive than officially portrayed. Some crash or collide, forcing American troops to undertake risky retrieval missions before the Taliban can claim the drone’s weaponry.
  • The Central Intelligence Agency has expanded paramilitary operations inside Afghanistan. The units launch ambushes, order airstrikes and conduct night raids. From 2001 to 2008, the C.I.A. paid the budget of Afghanistan’s spy agency and ran it as a virtual subsidiary.
  • Secret commando units like Task Force 373 — a classified group of Army and Navy special operatives — work from a “capture/kill list” of about 70 top insurgent commanders. These missions, which have been stepped up under the Obama administration, claim notable successes, but have sometimes gone wrong, killing civilians and stoking Afghan resentment.

Is it really news to anyone that Pakistan supports the Taliban? Or that Special Operations Forces and the CIA are conducting raids against the Taliban? If so, these must be the worst-kept secrets in the world. Senior U.S. officials have quite openly spoken about Pakistan’s role and about the Special Operations raids. As usual, comments on the CIA’s role have been more circumspect, but the agency’s involvement has been written about in numerous books and articles and not denied by senior officials.

Perhaps the biggest faux news here is that unmanned aerial vehicles sometimes “crash or collide.” This would come as a revelation, presumably, only to those who believe that military operations in wartime should achieve a standard of perfection unknown in any other human activity.

The Guardian, as befitting the more freewheeling (and less factual) culture of British journalism, tries harder to hype the findings, which, it claims, provide a “devastating portrait of the failing war in Afghanistan.” Actually, the documents show no such thing. At most, they provide a ground-level view of difficulties the coalition experienced in Afghanistan between 2001 and 2009.

Nobody denies that the war was being lost in that period; in fact, that was the rationale for the surge in forces orchestrated by the Bush and Obama administrations since 2008 — to turn around a failing war effort. The documents do not at all reflect on how the war is going now because they don’t cover this year. Even if they did, their usefulness would be highly limited: like most such reports, they provide a soda-straw view of events narrowly circumscribed by time and location. The fact that blunders and casualties occur in wartime should hardly be news; whether those blunders and casualties amount to a failing war effort or whether they are part of the fog and friction normal even in victory is more than the documents can tell us.

The Wikileakers should certainly be castigated for their cavalier treatment of classified documents, which may make our troops’ jobs harder and more dangerous. Their enablers in the mainstream media should also come in for censure. Whoever provided the information to them should be prosecuted to the full extent of the law. But at the same time, we should recognize this disclosure for what it is: an unsuccessful attempt to damage the war effort. I doubt that anyone will remember this episode a year from now; what will count, as always, will be the outcome on the battlefield. Win, and a thousand missteps are forgiven; lose, and even the biggest tactical victories fade into insignificance.

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Journolisters Risked Their Integrity

When you read those who were part of the now infamous Journolist group — hundreds of mostly liberal journalists and academics who joined an online listserv — they present their discussions as inoffensive, unexceptional, and even high-minded. Here’s how Time‘s Joe Klein describes Journolist:

[Ezra Klein and I] became friends and he asked me to join his list-serve–which, he said, would be the kind of place to have the sort of creative discussion we’d had over breakfast. It turned out to be exactly that…and more, a place to chat about music and sports, a place to meet some spectacularly smart academics I’d not met before–and, not least, a chance to interact with the latest generation of opinion journalists, most of whom didn’t have a very high opinion of me…. These conversations were private, as most good ones are. We were taking risks, testing our ideas against others…

Read More

When you read those who were part of the now infamous Journolist group — hundreds of mostly liberal journalists and academics who joined an online listserv — they present their discussions as inoffensive, unexceptional, and even high-minded. Here’s how Time‘s Joe Klein describes Journolist:

[Ezra Klein and I] became friends and he asked me to join his list-serve–which, he said, would be the kind of place to have the sort of creative discussion we’d had over breakfast. It turned out to be exactly that…and more, a place to chat about music and sports, a place to meet some spectacularly smart academics I’d not met before–and, not least, a chance to interact with the latest generation of opinion journalists, most of whom didn’t have a very high opinion of me…. These conversations were private, as most good ones are. We were taking risks, testing our ideas against others…

It sounds positively Platonic: great minds gathering to discuss great issues of the day. Iron sharpening iron. Who could object? And then, thanks to the groundbreaking work of the Daily Caller, we have the chance to read what Journolisters actually wrote. Creative and spectacularly smart things like this:

LAURA ROZEN: People we no longer have to listen to: would it be unwise to start a thread of people we are grateful we no longer have to listen to? If not, I’ll start off: Michael Rubin.

MICHAEL COHEN, NEW AMERICA FOUNDATION: Mark Penn and Bob Shrum. Anyone who uses the expression “Real America.” We should send there a** to Gitmo!

JESSE TAYLOR, PANDAGON.NET: Michael Barone?  Please?

LAURA ROZEN: Karl Rove, Newt Gingrich (afraid it’s not true), Drill Here Drill Now, And David Addington, John Yoo, we’ll see you in court?

JEFFREY TOOBIN, THE NEW YORKER: As a side note, does anyone know what prompted Michael Barone to go insane?

MATT DUSS: LEDEEN.

SPENCER ACKERMAN: Let’s just throw Ledeen against a wall. Or, pace Dr. Alterman, throw him through a plate glass window. I’ll bet a little spot of violence would shut him right the f*** up, as with most bullies.

JOE KLEIN, TIME: Pete Wehner…these sort of things always end badly.

ERIC ALTERMAN, AUTHOR, WHAT LIBERAL MEDIA: F****** Nascar retards…

Ah, but there’s more.

NPR producer Sarah Spitz wrote that that if Rush Limbaugh went into cardiac arrest, she would “laugh loudly like a maniac and watch his eyes bug out” as Limbaugh writhed in torment.

Spencer Ackerman of the Washington Independent urged his colleagues to deflect attention from Obama’s relationship with Jeremiah Wright by changing the subject. Pick one of Obama’s conservative critics, Ackerman wrote — “Fred Barnes, Karl Rove, who cares — and call them racists.”

Bloomberg’s Ryan Donmoyer adds this: “You know, at the risk of violating Godwin’s law, is anyone starting to see parallels here between the teabaggers and their tactics and the rise of the Brownshirts? Esp. Now that it’s getting violent? Reminds me of the Beer Hall fracases of the 1920s.”

And, of course, there is Fox News. “I am genuinely scared” of Fox, wrote Guardian columnist Daniel Davies, because it “shows you that a genuinely shameless and unethical media organisation *cannot* be controlled by any form of peer pressure or self-regulation, and nor can it be successfully cold-shouldered or ostracised. In order to have even a semblance of control, you need a tought legal framework.”

“I agree,” said Michael Scherer of Time. “[Roger] Ailes understands that his job is to build a tribal identity, not a news organizations. You can’t hurt Fox by saying it gets it wrong, if Ailes just uses the criticism to deepen the tribal identity.”

I understand people speaking candidly in e-mail exchanges and wanting to create a group of like-minded people to exchange ideas. And I accept that Journolist was started with good intentions. But somewhere along the line, it slipped off track.

What we had were journalists creating a “community” in which we see expressions of hatred that are both comically adolescent and almost psychopathic. We have them endorsing slander of innocent people simply because they hold a different point of view, comparing the Tea Party movement to Nazism, and participating in a post thread with the subject, “The line on Palin.” And we have journalists endorsing a “tough legal framework” to control what a news organization says.

What we have, in short, is intellectual corruption of a fairly high order. From what we have seen and from what those like Tucker Carlson and his colleagues (who have read the exchanges in detail) say, Journolist was — at least in good measure — a hotbed of hatred, political hackery, banality, and juvenile thuggery. It is the kind of thing you’d expect to hear from troubled, towel-snapping junior high boys. (It’s worth pointing out that if a principal got a hold of e-mails like the ones produced by Journolist, he would punish and probably suspend the offending eighth graders.)

Journolist provides a window into the mindset of the journalistic and academic left in this country. It is not a pretty sight. The demonization and dehumanization of critics is arresting. Those who hold contrary views to the Journolist crowd aren’t individuals who have honest disagreements; they are evil, malignant, and their voices need to be eliminated from the public square. It is illiberal in the extreme.

Some Journolist defenders argue that what has been published doesn’t capture the true nature of what went on at Journolist and that the published exchanges were taken out of context. The Daily Caller’s Tucker Carlson has a reasonable response:

So why don’t we publish whatever portions of the Journolist archive we have and end the debate? Because a lot of them have no obvious news value, for one thing. Gather 400 lefty reporters and academics on one listserv and it turns out you wind up with a strikingly high concentration of bitchiness. Shocking amounts, actually. So while it might be amusing to air threads theorizing about the personal and sexual shortcomings of various NewRepublic staffers, we’ve decided to pull back…. Anyone on Journolist who claims we quoted him “out of context” can reveal the context himself.

That is a fair challenge. If Journolist turns out to differ substantially from its portrayal, Journolisters should release the full exchanges. Ezra Klein, David Corn, Jonathan Chait, and Joe Klein have all offered defenses, though their efforts range from feeble to pathetic. (It was really and merely “an argument between moderate and left-wing journalists,” Chait assures us.) Assuming that Journolisters cannot provide a stronger defense, other members of the fourth estate should be troubled by what has been uncovered. After all, it is the probity of their profession that is being stripped away.

Those who participated in Journolist undoubtedly hope this story will fade away and be forgotten. I rather doubt it will. It is another episode in the long, downward slide of modern journalism. “We were taking risks,” Joe Klein writes in his own defense. And the Journolist participants surely were — not intellectual risks but risks with their integrity — and several of them have been caught dead-to-rights. “Broken eggs cannot be mended,” Lincoln said. Neither can some broken reputations.

In many respects, the whole thing is dispiriting. On the other hand, it has had a clarifying effect. It turns out that the worst caricatures of liberal journalists were not, at least in the case of some, a caricature at all.

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A Whole Litter of Beagles

The Beagle Blogger was not the only one obsessed with Sarah Palin’s pregnancy and her son Trig; it just turns out he was the only Obama cheerleader foolish enough to make an issue of it. If you want to see just how inane is the blogospheric left, take a gander at the pages and pages and pages of discussion on the Palin pregnancy and her son Trig in the latest installation of the Journolist Chronicles. It’s not a pretty sight, although it’s nice to know that even Ezra Klein could figure out it was a topic they all should stay away from (because like the Borg, they do not think independently). Yes, children, it’s either her son or, if not, (because they can spend hours mulling if it’s all a hoax) there really is no upside for the Obama camp in making a big deal of a politician who welcomes a Down Syndrome child into her home.

The important thing is to get their stories straight:

Moira Whelan
Sept 1, 2008, 8:49am

I dont think anyone from this list is running with it, but as I see it, the task is to set the frame that the Palin pick showed bad judgment on McCain’s part. That way when/if it does pop, it gets into that meme without people having to express outrage.

Yes, that was the “task” all along — to figure out how to shape and slant, spin and pedal, all for the greater good of electing Obama. And, you know, until he proved to be an imperfect warrior for the loony left, they didn’t stop after election day.

The Beagle Blogger was not the only one obsessed with Sarah Palin’s pregnancy and her son Trig; it just turns out he was the only Obama cheerleader foolish enough to make an issue of it. If you want to see just how inane is the blogospheric left, take a gander at the pages and pages and pages of discussion on the Palin pregnancy and her son Trig in the latest installation of the Journolist Chronicles. It’s not a pretty sight, although it’s nice to know that even Ezra Klein could figure out it was a topic they all should stay away from (because like the Borg, they do not think independently). Yes, children, it’s either her son or, if not, (because they can spend hours mulling if it’s all a hoax) there really is no upside for the Obama camp in making a big deal of a politician who welcomes a Down Syndrome child into her home.

The important thing is to get their stories straight:

Moira Whelan
Sept 1, 2008, 8:49am

I dont think anyone from this list is running with it, but as I see it, the task is to set the frame that the Palin pick showed bad judgment on McCain’s part. That way when/if it does pop, it gets into that meme without people having to express outrage.

Yes, that was the “task” all along — to figure out how to shape and slant, spin and pedal, all for the greater good of electing Obama. And, you know, until he proved to be an imperfect warrior for the loony left, they didn’t stop after election day.

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Really, Is There Any Alternative?

Candy Crowley on State of the Union had this exchange with former CIA director Michael Hayden:

COWLEY: … I mean, Iran doesn’t seem to be paying much attention to the sanctions. As far as we know, they are still trying to get nuclear capability. If it should, is there any alternative to taking out their facilities?

HAYDEN: It seems inexorable, doesn’t it?

We engage. They continue to move forward. We vote for sanctions. They continue to move forward. We try to deter, to dissuade. They continue to move forward.

My personal view is that Iran, left to its own devices, will get itself to that step right below a nuclear weapon, that permanent breakout stage, so the needle isn’t quite in the red for the international community. And, frankly, that will be as destabilizing as their actually having a weapon.

When I was in government, what we would used to mystically call “the kinetic option” was way down on our list. In my personal thinking — in my personal thinking; I need to emphasize that — I have begun to consider that that may not be the worst of all possible outcomes.

To put it differently, the most destabilizing event would be a nuclear-armed Iran, not a military strike on Iran. Hayden was not predicting what Obama would do, merely what should be done if all other options fail. It remains far from clear that the Obama team — which has been insistent on playing out engagement and then sanctions long after their utility was widely called into doubt — will act to prevent the worst of all possible outcomes.

What remains inexplicable is that the administration has openly and repeatedly pooh-poohed the idea of military action. You would think a team so desperate to avoid military conflict would recognize that a credible threat of force would be useful. But the administration can’t even bring itself to bluff. How likely is it, then, that it will deploy military force?

It is an election year, so voters have maximum leverage to extract answers and commitments from candidates. It would seem there is no more important question to ask than this: if force is needed, would you urge military action to prevent a nuclear-armed Iran? For those incumbents who answer yes, the next question should be: so what are you doing to persuade the administration to do just that?

Come to think of it, that is the most telling pair of questions to pose for those lawmakers, pundits, and groups advertising themselves as pro-Israel. If the answer to the first is “no,” the respondent can’t, in any meaningful sense, be considered pro-Israel. If the answer to the second is “nothing,” then we know the respondent is too timid, too ineffective, or too shortsighted to be of any help to Israel in the Jewish state’s hour of need.

Candy Crowley on State of the Union had this exchange with former CIA director Michael Hayden:

COWLEY: … I mean, Iran doesn’t seem to be paying much attention to the sanctions. As far as we know, they are still trying to get nuclear capability. If it should, is there any alternative to taking out their facilities?

HAYDEN: It seems inexorable, doesn’t it?

We engage. They continue to move forward. We vote for sanctions. They continue to move forward. We try to deter, to dissuade. They continue to move forward.

My personal view is that Iran, left to its own devices, will get itself to that step right below a nuclear weapon, that permanent breakout stage, so the needle isn’t quite in the red for the international community. And, frankly, that will be as destabilizing as their actually having a weapon.

When I was in government, what we would used to mystically call “the kinetic option” was way down on our list. In my personal thinking — in my personal thinking; I need to emphasize that — I have begun to consider that that may not be the worst of all possible outcomes.

To put it differently, the most destabilizing event would be a nuclear-armed Iran, not a military strike on Iran. Hayden was not predicting what Obama would do, merely what should be done if all other options fail. It remains far from clear that the Obama team — which has been insistent on playing out engagement and then sanctions long after their utility was widely called into doubt — will act to prevent the worst of all possible outcomes.

What remains inexplicable is that the administration has openly and repeatedly pooh-poohed the idea of military action. You would think a team so desperate to avoid military conflict would recognize that a credible threat of force would be useful. But the administration can’t even bring itself to bluff. How likely is it, then, that it will deploy military force?

It is an election year, so voters have maximum leverage to extract answers and commitments from candidates. It would seem there is no more important question to ask than this: if force is needed, would you urge military action to prevent a nuclear-armed Iran? For those incumbents who answer yes, the next question should be: so what are you doing to persuade the administration to do just that?

Come to think of it, that is the most telling pair of questions to pose for those lawmakers, pundits, and groups advertising themselves as pro-Israel. If the answer to the first is “no,” the respondent can’t, in any meaningful sense, be considered pro-Israel. If the answer to the second is “nothing,” then we know the respondent is too timid, too ineffective, or too shortsighted to be of any help to Israel in the Jewish state’s hour of need.

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It’s the Taxes

On Fox News Sunday and on This Week, the expiration of the Bush tax cuts was much discussed. Under the incredulous questioning of Jake Tapper, Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner claimed the economy wouldn’t be hurt by an enormous hike in tax rates, which will hit small businesses as well as “the rich” (who are also the investors, the employers, and the consumers needed to jump-start the economy). When Geithner says that growth has been “pretty good” and that employers are going to start hiring soon, you wonder if the Obami are delusional. But when Geithner says — after a spending spree to end all spending sprees — that the tax hike is needed to “make sure we can show the world that they’re willing as a country now to start to make some progress bringing down our long — our long-term deficits,” you see that the Obami really are rather deeply cynical. (The contrast with the show’s other guest, Chris Christie, who talked about cutting spending and taxes, could not have been more stark.)

On Fox, Brit Hume tried, without much success, to explain to Juan Williams why hiking taxes is a bad idea:

WILLIAMS: Let me finish this point. President Obama has already cut taxes…

HUME: When’s the last…

WILLIAMS: … as he points out for 95 percent of working people by cutting payroll taxes.

HUME: Well, that — just let me ask you this question. When’s the last time one of these poor people offered you a job?

The people who are the job creators, the people who have money to invest, capital to put at risk, to build enterprises and, they hope, make more money are people that have some money to begin with.

WILLIAMS: And God bless them. They’re important.

HUME: And if you — if you…

WILLIAMS: But don’t you have to have consumers?

HUME: … if you diminish, A, the amount of money they have on hand by taxing it away and the incentive they have to make more because they know a larger portion of it’s going to be taxed away, you are — you are dampening the impulse to grow the economy which is…

WALLACE: Mr. Williams, you get the final 20 seconds.

HUME: … in the hearts of business men across — and women…

WALLACE: Go.

HUME: … across the country.

WILLIAMS: I appreciate it. Consumers are the heart and soul of this economy. You’ve got to have people who are willing to go in…

(CROSSTALK)

WILLIAMS: … and spend money in order that small business will be in a position, then, to do the hiring. But you can’t have banks and small business saying…

WALLACE: OK.

WILLIAMS: … “You know what? We’re sitting on…”

WALLACE: All right.

WILLIAMS: “… our money because we’re worried about risk.” That’s ridiculous when they have the money.

So the way to get banks to loan more money is to raise taxes? It is hopeless, it seems, to explain it to the left, which simply cannot countenance letting investors, consumers, and employers keep more of their money.

One thing is certain: the voters will have a clear choice between tax cutters and tax hikers. There isn’t any way to fudge the answer for those on the ballot. For or against a big tax increase? If Americans at this point think that the economy is sagging and that tax hikes will hardly help matters, the Democrats are going to face some hostile audiences on the campaign trail.

On Fox News Sunday and on This Week, the expiration of the Bush tax cuts was much discussed. Under the incredulous questioning of Jake Tapper, Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner claimed the economy wouldn’t be hurt by an enormous hike in tax rates, which will hit small businesses as well as “the rich” (who are also the investors, the employers, and the consumers needed to jump-start the economy). When Geithner says that growth has been “pretty good” and that employers are going to start hiring soon, you wonder if the Obami are delusional. But when Geithner says — after a spending spree to end all spending sprees — that the tax hike is needed to “make sure we can show the world that they’re willing as a country now to start to make some progress bringing down our long — our long-term deficits,” you see that the Obami really are rather deeply cynical. (The contrast with the show’s other guest, Chris Christie, who talked about cutting spending and taxes, could not have been more stark.)

On Fox, Brit Hume tried, without much success, to explain to Juan Williams why hiking taxes is a bad idea:

WILLIAMS: Let me finish this point. President Obama has already cut taxes…

HUME: When’s the last…

WILLIAMS: … as he points out for 95 percent of working people by cutting payroll taxes.

HUME: Well, that — just let me ask you this question. When’s the last time one of these poor people offered you a job?

The people who are the job creators, the people who have money to invest, capital to put at risk, to build enterprises and, they hope, make more money are people that have some money to begin with.

WILLIAMS: And God bless them. They’re important.

HUME: And if you — if you…

WILLIAMS: But don’t you have to have consumers?

HUME: … if you diminish, A, the amount of money they have on hand by taxing it away and the incentive they have to make more because they know a larger portion of it’s going to be taxed away, you are — you are dampening the impulse to grow the economy which is…

WALLACE: Mr. Williams, you get the final 20 seconds.

HUME: … in the hearts of business men across — and women…

WALLACE: Go.

HUME: … across the country.

WILLIAMS: I appreciate it. Consumers are the heart and soul of this economy. You’ve got to have people who are willing to go in…

(CROSSTALK)

WILLIAMS: … and spend money in order that small business will be in a position, then, to do the hiring. But you can’t have banks and small business saying…

WALLACE: OK.

WILLIAMS: … “You know what? We’re sitting on…”

WALLACE: All right.

WILLIAMS: “… our money because we’re worried about risk.” That’s ridiculous when they have the money.

So the way to get banks to loan more money is to raise taxes? It is hopeless, it seems, to explain it to the left, which simply cannot countenance letting investors, consumers, and employers keep more of their money.

One thing is certain: the voters will have a clear choice between tax cutters and tax hikers. There isn’t any way to fudge the answer for those on the ballot. For or against a big tax increase? If Americans at this point think that the economy is sagging and that tax hikes will hardly help matters, the Democrats are going to face some hostile audiences on the campaign trail.

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They Don’t Have George W. Bush to Kick Around Anymore

To a greater extent than any administration that preceded it, the Obama team has obsessively blamed its predecessor for everything and anything. The public, however, has not been distracted. Americans have a president, only one, who is responsible for domestic and foreign policy. Regardless of whether they consider George W. Bush at fault for some of our current ills, they are no less annoyed with Obama’s performance. (Similarly, blaming BP for the Gulf oil spill hasn’t gotten Obama a free pass from the voters. They can be mad at both.)

Recent polling shows that there is no mileage left in the “Bush did it” strategy:

New polling shows that Bush’s standing among the electorate remains weak, and that voters for the most part still fault him for the nation’s ailing economy. But as President Obama’s popularity has stagnated, Democratic strategists say that drawing simple comparisons between the two leaders is not a surefire strategy to move voters their way.

Our current data brings into question the notion that you can run against Bush and win,” said Peter Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute. “Obviously Bush is not popular. The question is: Does it help Obama to run against the past in debating the future?”

The answer seems to be no. For one thing, Bush isn’t that much less popular than Obama:

A survey from Gallup released last week found that Bush’s personal favorability rating had increased 10 points since the last such poll in 2009. At 45%, it was just 7 points behind Obama’s, bringing into question whether attacking the Bush legacy would be very effective.

Moreover, with each passing month, Obama’s policies — from Israel to relations with allies to national security to taxes — compare unfavorably to Bush’s. If you take away the names and ask: “Close or keep open Gitmo?” or “Embrace or put daylight between the U.S. and Israel?” or “Raise or cut taxes?” the public doesn’t favor the policies of Obama. And by a wide margin:

A recent survey from Benenson Strategy Group, which has polled for the Obama campaign and the Democratic National Committee, specifically tested the potency of the Bush message. When asked to choose between a candidate who would support the Obama economic policies or one who “will start from scratch with new ideas to shrink government, cut taxes and grow the economy,” respondents preferred the latter by more than a 2-1 ratio.

It was, from the get-go, unseemly for Obama to blame his predecessor whenever his own policies didn’t turn out as advertised. (Maybe that is why no previous president resorted to this tactic for over a year into his term.) Now that it also has proven to be an ineffective tactic, we can only hope that Obama finally will stop employing it.

One final note: many conservatives have been miffed by Bush’s silence since he left office and by his steadfast refusal to defend his own record and that of those who worked long and hard for him. But perhaps there was great wisdom in that. The public needed time and distance to reacquaint themselves with Bush’s many positive attributes and accomplishments. (And Dick Cheney more than picked up the slack.) With the foil of the not-Bush president – one lacking in warmth for his fellow citizens, loyalty to allies, and magnanimity to foes –  the public has, in fact, grown fonder of Bush, the 43th president.

That is altogether fitting and deserved for a president who endured endless attacks and who was willing to sacrifice popularity for victory in war. It should also give some encouragement to those intrigued by the prospect of Bush the 45th president (Jeb). Maybe the Bush name isn’t so much of a liability after all.

To a greater extent than any administration that preceded it, the Obama team has obsessively blamed its predecessor for everything and anything. The public, however, has not been distracted. Americans have a president, only one, who is responsible for domestic and foreign policy. Regardless of whether they consider George W. Bush at fault for some of our current ills, they are no less annoyed with Obama’s performance. (Similarly, blaming BP for the Gulf oil spill hasn’t gotten Obama a free pass from the voters. They can be mad at both.)

Recent polling shows that there is no mileage left in the “Bush did it” strategy:

New polling shows that Bush’s standing among the electorate remains weak, and that voters for the most part still fault him for the nation’s ailing economy. But as President Obama’s popularity has stagnated, Democratic strategists say that drawing simple comparisons between the two leaders is not a surefire strategy to move voters their way.

Our current data brings into question the notion that you can run against Bush and win,” said Peter Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute. “Obviously Bush is not popular. The question is: Does it help Obama to run against the past in debating the future?”

The answer seems to be no. For one thing, Bush isn’t that much less popular than Obama:

A survey from Gallup released last week found that Bush’s personal favorability rating had increased 10 points since the last such poll in 2009. At 45%, it was just 7 points behind Obama’s, bringing into question whether attacking the Bush legacy would be very effective.

Moreover, with each passing month, Obama’s policies — from Israel to relations with allies to national security to taxes — compare unfavorably to Bush’s. If you take away the names and ask: “Close or keep open Gitmo?” or “Embrace or put daylight between the U.S. and Israel?” or “Raise or cut taxes?” the public doesn’t favor the policies of Obama. And by a wide margin:

A recent survey from Benenson Strategy Group, which has polled for the Obama campaign and the Democratic National Committee, specifically tested the potency of the Bush message. When asked to choose between a candidate who would support the Obama economic policies or one who “will start from scratch with new ideas to shrink government, cut taxes and grow the economy,” respondents preferred the latter by more than a 2-1 ratio.

It was, from the get-go, unseemly for Obama to blame his predecessor whenever his own policies didn’t turn out as advertised. (Maybe that is why no previous president resorted to this tactic for over a year into his term.) Now that it also has proven to be an ineffective tactic, we can only hope that Obama finally will stop employing it.

One final note: many conservatives have been miffed by Bush’s silence since he left office and by his steadfast refusal to defend his own record and that of those who worked long and hard for him. But perhaps there was great wisdom in that. The public needed time and distance to reacquaint themselves with Bush’s many positive attributes and accomplishments. (And Dick Cheney more than picked up the slack.) With the foil of the not-Bush president – one lacking in warmth for his fellow citizens, loyalty to allies, and magnanimity to foes –  the public has, in fact, grown fonder of Bush, the 43th president.

That is altogether fitting and deserved for a president who endured endless attacks and who was willing to sacrifice popularity for victory in war. It should also give some encouragement to those intrigued by the prospect of Bush the 45th president (Jeb). Maybe the Bush name isn’t so much of a liability after all.

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Stacking the Deck, Providing Cover

Face the Nation hosted a discussion on Sunday of the New Black Panther case. It was yet another obvious instance of shilling for the administration and covering for the media’s own abysmal delinquency in reporting on the case. The only guest who was remotely critical of the administration and who made any effort to argue that the case was serious and that the administration was stonewalling was John Fund. But his time was severely limited, and all he really offered was this:

JOHN FUND (Wall Street Journal): I know we don’t have all the facts because this Justice Department is stonewalling subpoenas issued by the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights. They even–

BOB SCHIEFFER: Big surprise.

JOHN FUND: –transferred one of the officials to South Carolina so he’s outside the jurisdiction of the Civil Rights Commission subpoenas. Look, two African-American poll watchers testified they were intimidated by these people. And this is part of a pattern –

BOB SCHIEFFER: But– but– no voter, John.

JOHN FUND: Well, we– we– we saw– we saw testimony that the voters said that they turned around and said they would came back. We don’t know if they ever came back. We do know that this is a pattern with the Justice Department. Kinston, North Carolina is a predominantly African-American city and voted to have non-partisan elections. The Justice Department said no, you can’t do that. You have to continue to give black voters the cue of Democrat versus Republican, so they’ll know who to vote for. And you go through it. Georgia. Georgia wanted to take social security data and verify the U.S. citizenship of people who were registering to vote. Justice Department said you couldn’t do that. There is a consistent politicization of the Justice Department. We just had a report clearing the Bush administration of illegality in the U.S. attorney’s case. I think that the Justice Department is clearly stonewalling these subpoenas because they have something to hide. Do I know exactly what they’re hiding? I don’t. And I just
want to say something about Mister West’s comments. I agree we’ve made great progress in race in this country.

Even that is incomplete and misleading. Poll workers, also protected under the Voting Rights Act, were intimidated and supplied affidavits attesting to the illegal behavior of the two Black Panthers at the polling place. Apparently, the U.S. Civil Rights commissioner who insists there was no evidence of intimidation wasn’t paying attention at the hearings. Had a more informed guest been allowed on the show, he or she might have explained:

For anyone who bothers to actually look at the record, the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights received direct evidence on that very issue. Those critics also miss the point that it is a crime to attempt to intimidate voters and anyone assisting voters, which would include poll watchers, and no one watching the videotape could come to any conclusion other than the New Black Panthers were trying to intimidate people at that poll in Philadelphia.

On the issue of poll watchers, one of the witnesses at the first hearing of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, Chris Hill, testified on that specific point and what happened when he got to the polling place. He was responding to a desperate phone call for help from one of the two black poll watchers who were stationed at the polling place. …

So there is witness testimony that both Black Panthers, including the one who was dismissed by the Justice Department, were physically threatening a poll watcher. And the witnesses made it clear that the two Black Panthers acted as a team, in concert, at the polling place. … Of course, no one knows if those voters ever came back – but we know for sure that they left without voting when Hill was there rather than try to get by the New Black Panthers. What is so odd about this is that Hill was then questioned about that testimony by Commissioner Abby Thernstrom, who has been one of the persons claiming there is no evidence that voters were kept from voting.

None of that was revealed on the show, and no one alluded to the multiple witnesses who claim that the Justice Department has shunned cases that don’t match the historical civil rights model (white bigots vs. minority victims). No one noted that the head of the Civil Rights Division has been accused of providing untruthful testimony on this point. Moreover, there was no discussion of Bob Schieffer’s own pathetic ignorance of the story for a year, nor any mention of how bizarre was his excuse that he missed the scandal: he was on vacation when a key witness testified.

This sort of display reinforces the impression that the media is biased and now dedicated to covering not only the Obami’s tracks but also its own.

Face the Nation hosted a discussion on Sunday of the New Black Panther case. It was yet another obvious instance of shilling for the administration and covering for the media’s own abysmal delinquency in reporting on the case. The only guest who was remotely critical of the administration and who made any effort to argue that the case was serious and that the administration was stonewalling was John Fund. But his time was severely limited, and all he really offered was this:

JOHN FUND (Wall Street Journal): I know we don’t have all the facts because this Justice Department is stonewalling subpoenas issued by the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights. They even–

BOB SCHIEFFER: Big surprise.

JOHN FUND: –transferred one of the officials to South Carolina so he’s outside the jurisdiction of the Civil Rights Commission subpoenas. Look, two African-American poll watchers testified they were intimidated by these people. And this is part of a pattern –

BOB SCHIEFFER: But– but– no voter, John.

JOHN FUND: Well, we– we– we saw– we saw testimony that the voters said that they turned around and said they would came back. We don’t know if they ever came back. We do know that this is a pattern with the Justice Department. Kinston, North Carolina is a predominantly African-American city and voted to have non-partisan elections. The Justice Department said no, you can’t do that. You have to continue to give black voters the cue of Democrat versus Republican, so they’ll know who to vote for. And you go through it. Georgia. Georgia wanted to take social security data and verify the U.S. citizenship of people who were registering to vote. Justice Department said you couldn’t do that. There is a consistent politicization of the Justice Department. We just had a report clearing the Bush administration of illegality in the U.S. attorney’s case. I think that the Justice Department is clearly stonewalling these subpoenas because they have something to hide. Do I know exactly what they’re hiding? I don’t. And I just
want to say something about Mister West’s comments. I agree we’ve made great progress in race in this country.

Even that is incomplete and misleading. Poll workers, also protected under the Voting Rights Act, were intimidated and supplied affidavits attesting to the illegal behavior of the two Black Panthers at the polling place. Apparently, the U.S. Civil Rights commissioner who insists there was no evidence of intimidation wasn’t paying attention at the hearings. Had a more informed guest been allowed on the show, he or she might have explained:

For anyone who bothers to actually look at the record, the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights received direct evidence on that very issue. Those critics also miss the point that it is a crime to attempt to intimidate voters and anyone assisting voters, which would include poll watchers, and no one watching the videotape could come to any conclusion other than the New Black Panthers were trying to intimidate people at that poll in Philadelphia.

On the issue of poll watchers, one of the witnesses at the first hearing of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, Chris Hill, testified on that specific point and what happened when he got to the polling place. He was responding to a desperate phone call for help from one of the two black poll watchers who were stationed at the polling place. …

So there is witness testimony that both Black Panthers, including the one who was dismissed by the Justice Department, were physically threatening a poll watcher. And the witnesses made it clear that the two Black Panthers acted as a team, in concert, at the polling place. … Of course, no one knows if those voters ever came back – but we know for sure that they left without voting when Hill was there rather than try to get by the New Black Panthers. What is so odd about this is that Hill was then questioned about that testimony by Commissioner Abby Thernstrom, who has been one of the persons claiming there is no evidence that voters were kept from voting.

None of that was revealed on the show, and no one alluded to the multiple witnesses who claim that the Justice Department has shunned cases that don’t match the historical civil rights model (white bigots vs. minority victims). No one noted that the head of the Civil Rights Division has been accused of providing untruthful testimony on this point. Moreover, there was no discussion of Bob Schieffer’s own pathetic ignorance of the story for a year, nor any mention of how bizarre was his excuse that he missed the scandal: he was on vacation when a key witness testified.

This sort of display reinforces the impression that the media is biased and now dedicated to covering not only the Obami’s tracks but also its own.

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Flotsam and Jestsam

Not like it’s out of the blue: “The number of U.S. Voters who view the issue of Taxes as Very Important has jumped 10 points from May to its highest level ever in Rasmussen Reports tracking. Still, Taxes rank fourth on a list of 10 issues regularly tracked by Rasmussen Reports.” Nothing like Democrats’ plan for a mammoth tax hike to raise the tax issue.

The administration is running out of spinners. Not even the New York Times will excuse this: “A prisoner who begs to stay indefinitely at the Guantánamo Bay detention center rather than be sent back to Algeria probably has a strong reason to fear the welcoming reception at home. Abdul Aziz Naji, who has been held at Guantánamo since 2002, told the Obama administration that he would be tortured if he was transferred to Algeria, by either the Algerian government or fundamentalist groups there. Though he offered to remain at the prison, the administration shipped him home last weekend and washed its hands of the man. Almost immediately upon arrival, he disappeared, and his family fears the worst. It is an act of cruelty that seems to defy explanation.”

One hundred days out, things are looking pretty gloomy for the Democrats: “Republicans have been touting their chances of retaking the House and, despite their almost 2-to-1 financial disadvantage, many observers – including White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs – believe it’s a possibility.”

The Obami would be wise to get the whole story out: “Correspondence obtained by The Sunday Times reveals the Obama administration considered compassionate release more palatable than locking up Abdel Baset al-Megrahi in a Libyan prison. … The document, acquired by a well-placed US source, threatens to undermine US President Barack Obama’s claim last week that all Americans were ‘surprised, disappointed and angry’ to learn of Megrahi’s release.”

You sense the Democrats are going to get blown out of the water in November if Obama is still trying to win over the MoveOn.org crowd.

Jake Tapper goes out in style with a grilling of Timothy Geithner on letting the Bush tax cuts expire. (“Don’t you think it will slow economic growth?”) The show is about to become unwatchable with Christiane Amanpour as host.

On Fox News Sunday, Mara Liasson and Bill Kristol agree that there’s no comparison between the administration and the media on Shirley Sherrod. The media showed itself to be irresponsible; the administration, out of its depth. Kristol: “I mean, the media — I was in the Reagan administration 25 years ago. The media reported things falsely. It’s not — this is not — this is nothing new. You’re — if you are the — a cabinet secretary, you have an obligation to the people working for you to make sure that the charges being leveled against them are true. And you can wait a day and, God, it would be horrible if Glenn Beck attacked the Obama administration for one show. That never happens, you know. I mean, the idea that you panic and fire someone based on one report that hadn’t been on television yet — right?”

A former Justice Department official says Democrats strain the outer limits of voters’ credulity if they claim ignorance of the New Black Panther scandal.

Not like it’s out of the blue: “The number of U.S. Voters who view the issue of Taxes as Very Important has jumped 10 points from May to its highest level ever in Rasmussen Reports tracking. Still, Taxes rank fourth on a list of 10 issues regularly tracked by Rasmussen Reports.” Nothing like Democrats’ plan for a mammoth tax hike to raise the tax issue.

The administration is running out of spinners. Not even the New York Times will excuse this: “A prisoner who begs to stay indefinitely at the Guantánamo Bay detention center rather than be sent back to Algeria probably has a strong reason to fear the welcoming reception at home. Abdul Aziz Naji, who has been held at Guantánamo since 2002, told the Obama administration that he would be tortured if he was transferred to Algeria, by either the Algerian government or fundamentalist groups there. Though he offered to remain at the prison, the administration shipped him home last weekend and washed its hands of the man. Almost immediately upon arrival, he disappeared, and his family fears the worst. It is an act of cruelty that seems to defy explanation.”

One hundred days out, things are looking pretty gloomy for the Democrats: “Republicans have been touting their chances of retaking the House and, despite their almost 2-to-1 financial disadvantage, many observers – including White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs – believe it’s a possibility.”

The Obami would be wise to get the whole story out: “Correspondence obtained by The Sunday Times reveals the Obama administration considered compassionate release more palatable than locking up Abdel Baset al-Megrahi in a Libyan prison. … The document, acquired by a well-placed US source, threatens to undermine US President Barack Obama’s claim last week that all Americans were ‘surprised, disappointed and angry’ to learn of Megrahi’s release.”

You sense the Democrats are going to get blown out of the water in November if Obama is still trying to win over the MoveOn.org crowd.

Jake Tapper goes out in style with a grilling of Timothy Geithner on letting the Bush tax cuts expire. (“Don’t you think it will slow economic growth?”) The show is about to become unwatchable with Christiane Amanpour as host.

On Fox News Sunday, Mara Liasson and Bill Kristol agree that there’s no comparison between the administration and the media on Shirley Sherrod. The media showed itself to be irresponsible; the administration, out of its depth. Kristol: “I mean, the media — I was in the Reagan administration 25 years ago. The media reported things falsely. It’s not — this is not — this is nothing new. You’re — if you are the — a cabinet secretary, you have an obligation to the people working for you to make sure that the charges being leveled against them are true. And you can wait a day and, God, it would be horrible if Glenn Beck attacked the Obama administration for one show. That never happens, you know. I mean, the idea that you panic and fire someone based on one report that hadn’t been on television yet — right?”

A former Justice Department official says Democrats strain the outer limits of voters’ credulity if they claim ignorance of the New Black Panther scandal.

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