Commentary Magazine


Posts For: July 28, 2010

Massachusetts Dems Still Trying to Reverse Bush v. Gore

It’s a little late to help Al Gore, but the loyal Democrats of Massachusetts are still trying to reverse the outcome of the 2000 presidential election. The Bay State’s legislature ratified a bill today mandating that, in the future, all of their votes in the electoral college will go to whichever candidate wins the national popular vote — no matter whom the citizens of Massachusetts preferred. The catch to this scheme is that it will not go into effect until the total of electoral votes from states that have passed similar laws reaches 270 — the number of votes needed to win the presidency.

While the Electoral College has always had its critics, grousing over the arcane system devised by the Founders was never loud enough to reach the point where an alternative might be seriously considered — at least not until the hanging chads of Florida in 2000. The razor-thin outcome of that state’s voting embittered Democrats, many of whom cling to the fiction that the 2000 election was “stolen.” It wasn’t — but the anomalous result, whereby the winner of the most electoral votes did not also win the popular vote, was seen, not unreasonably, as somehow unfair. Though resistance from small states would make a constitutional amendment abolishing the Electoral College virtually impossible, a scenario whereby enough states embrace the plan that Massachusetts has just passed — which would abolish the College for all intents and purposes — is a realistic option. At this moment, five generally Democratic states — Hawaii, Illinois, Maryland, New Jersey, and Washington — in addition to Massachusetts have ratified such laws. That gives advocates of the idea 73 electoral votes. That’s a long way from 270 but it is not a stretch to imagine that the addition of a few large Blue States to that total would put the Electoral College on the verge of extinction.

It is understandable that most contemporary Americans view with dismay the Founders’ desire to put the selection of the president in the hands of notables rather than those of the people. But the virtues of the College are not limited to the pull of tradition, though that should not be underestimated. Critics of the current system point out that the realities of Electoral College mathematics push presidential candidates to concentrate their energies on states whose votes are up for grabs while they ignore those that are safely in the pockets of either party. But its abolition will more or less render all small states and non-urban areas no-go zones for the candidates. An election in which only the national popular vote counts might limit the campaigns to the two coasts and a few big cities in between them, with most of the country being truly relegated to the status of “flyover” territory. Will that be an improvement?

Even more to the point, we should remember that the real reason this “reform” is being championed by some legislators is the fact that the Democrats were the losers in 2000. Had the outcome been the reverse — and prior to the last weekend before the voting that year, when revelations about Bush’s DUI came out, an outcome in which Bush won the popular vote and Gore the Electoral College was widely seen as the more likely result — would Democrats be so eager to junk the system? And will Boston Democrats really be happy if their electoral votes wind up going to a Republican that was swamped in Massachusetts but won elsewhere?

Imperfect though it is, the Electoral College is an embodiment of the Founders’ belief in both federalism and the idea that the country ought not to be dominated by the largest states. The partisan rancor that has divided this country in the 10 years since Bush v. Gore is a poor reason to scrap a venerable institution.

It’s a little late to help Al Gore, but the loyal Democrats of Massachusetts are still trying to reverse the outcome of the 2000 presidential election. The Bay State’s legislature ratified a bill today mandating that, in the future, all of their votes in the electoral college will go to whichever candidate wins the national popular vote — no matter whom the citizens of Massachusetts preferred. The catch to this scheme is that it will not go into effect until the total of electoral votes from states that have passed similar laws reaches 270 — the number of votes needed to win the presidency.

While the Electoral College has always had its critics, grousing over the arcane system devised by the Founders was never loud enough to reach the point where an alternative might be seriously considered — at least not until the hanging chads of Florida in 2000. The razor-thin outcome of that state’s voting embittered Democrats, many of whom cling to the fiction that the 2000 election was “stolen.” It wasn’t — but the anomalous result, whereby the winner of the most electoral votes did not also win the popular vote, was seen, not unreasonably, as somehow unfair. Though resistance from small states would make a constitutional amendment abolishing the Electoral College virtually impossible, a scenario whereby enough states embrace the plan that Massachusetts has just passed — which would abolish the College for all intents and purposes — is a realistic option. At this moment, five generally Democratic states — Hawaii, Illinois, Maryland, New Jersey, and Washington — in addition to Massachusetts have ratified such laws. That gives advocates of the idea 73 electoral votes. That’s a long way from 270 but it is not a stretch to imagine that the addition of a few large Blue States to that total would put the Electoral College on the verge of extinction.

It is understandable that most contemporary Americans view with dismay the Founders’ desire to put the selection of the president in the hands of notables rather than those of the people. But the virtues of the College are not limited to the pull of tradition, though that should not be underestimated. Critics of the current system point out that the realities of Electoral College mathematics push presidential candidates to concentrate their energies on states whose votes are up for grabs while they ignore those that are safely in the pockets of either party. But its abolition will more or less render all small states and non-urban areas no-go zones for the candidates. An election in which only the national popular vote counts might limit the campaigns to the two coasts and a few big cities in between them, with most of the country being truly relegated to the status of “flyover” territory. Will that be an improvement?

Even more to the point, we should remember that the real reason this “reform” is being championed by some legislators is the fact that the Democrats were the losers in 2000. Had the outcome been the reverse — and prior to the last weekend before the voting that year, when revelations about Bush’s DUI came out, an outcome in which Bush won the popular vote and Gore the Electoral College was widely seen as the more likely result — would Democrats be so eager to junk the system? And will Boston Democrats really be happy if their electoral votes wind up going to a Republican that was swamped in Massachusetts but won elsewhere?

Imperfect though it is, the Electoral College is an embodiment of the Founders’ belief in both federalism and the idea that the country ought not to be dominated by the largest states. The partisan rancor that has divided this country in the 10 years since Bush v. Gore is a poor reason to scrap a venerable institution.

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GOP Puts Principle Ahead of Politics and Backs President

According to the New York Times,

the House of Representatives agreed on Tuesday to provide $37 billion to continue financing America’s two wars, but the vote showed deepening divisions and anxiety among Democrats over the course of the nearly nine-year-old conflict in Afghanistan. The 308-to-114 vote, with strong Republican support, came after the leak of an archive of classified battlefield reports from Afghanistan that fueled new debate over the course of the war and whether President Obama’s counterinsurgency strategy could work.

GOP support was strong indeed: 160 Republicans backed the war spending, while only 12 opposed it. By way of comparison, 148 Democrats backed the war spending, while 102 opposed it.

This is a good opportunity, then, to praise Republicans for standing with a Democratic president during a war that is increasingly unpopular.

I am reminded how, during the Bush years, the situation was very much reversed. Virtually the entire Democratic Party, with very few exceptions, turned hard against the Iraq war (which most of them initially supported). It is one of the most irresponsible and reckless displays we have seen in modern political history.

Democrats’ opposition to Bush and the surge was so intense, their commitment to a particular (defeatist) narrative so strong, and their eagerness to withdraw from Iraq so irresistible that they declared the Petraeus-led surge would not and could not work. It was simply incomprehensible to consider any other possibility.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, for example, declared that “this surge is not accomplishing anything” and in April 2007 announced flatly that the Iraq war was “lost.” A young senator from Illinois, on the night President Bush announced the surge, proclaimed, “I am not persuaded that 20,000 additional troops in Iraq are going to solve the sectarian violence there. In fact, I think it will do the reverse.” So said Barack Obama. Not to be outdone, Senator Joseph Biden declared: “If he surges another 20, 30 [thousand], or whatever number he’s going to, into Baghdad, it’ll be a tragic mistake.”

(I can’t help but point out that a few future Journolisters joined in the Surrender Chorus as well, with Time magazine’s Joe Klein ridiculing “Bush’s futile pipe dream” and the New Republic’s Jonathan Chait, having convinced himself that he brought some actual knowledge and expertise to the debate, said he found “something genuinely bizarre” about those Americans who actually supported the new strategy. “It is not just that they are wrong. . . . It’s that they are completely detached from reality. Their arguments have nothing to do with what is actually happening in Iraq.” The detachment from reality, of course, was found among people like Chait, whose self-declared hatred for Bush caused him to once again look foolish.)

In the case of Afghanistan, GOP and conservative opposition to Obama on domestic polices, which is fierce, has not led them to oppose Obama in his efforts to win the war. The Republican Party is, in this instance, the responsible party, standing with a wartime president in a conflict of enormous significance. With a new commanding general in place and a new counterinsurgency strategy in the very early states of implementation, now is not the time to go wobbly. To its credit, the GOP, unlike the Democratic Party with Iraq, is holding shape.

According to the New York Times,

the House of Representatives agreed on Tuesday to provide $37 billion to continue financing America’s two wars, but the vote showed deepening divisions and anxiety among Democrats over the course of the nearly nine-year-old conflict in Afghanistan. The 308-to-114 vote, with strong Republican support, came after the leak of an archive of classified battlefield reports from Afghanistan that fueled new debate over the course of the war and whether President Obama’s counterinsurgency strategy could work.

GOP support was strong indeed: 160 Republicans backed the war spending, while only 12 opposed it. By way of comparison, 148 Democrats backed the war spending, while 102 opposed it.

This is a good opportunity, then, to praise Republicans for standing with a Democratic president during a war that is increasingly unpopular.

I am reminded how, during the Bush years, the situation was very much reversed. Virtually the entire Democratic Party, with very few exceptions, turned hard against the Iraq war (which most of them initially supported). It is one of the most irresponsible and reckless displays we have seen in modern political history.

Democrats’ opposition to Bush and the surge was so intense, their commitment to a particular (defeatist) narrative so strong, and their eagerness to withdraw from Iraq so irresistible that they declared the Petraeus-led surge would not and could not work. It was simply incomprehensible to consider any other possibility.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, for example, declared that “this surge is not accomplishing anything” and in April 2007 announced flatly that the Iraq war was “lost.” A young senator from Illinois, on the night President Bush announced the surge, proclaimed, “I am not persuaded that 20,000 additional troops in Iraq are going to solve the sectarian violence there. In fact, I think it will do the reverse.” So said Barack Obama. Not to be outdone, Senator Joseph Biden declared: “If he surges another 20, 30 [thousand], or whatever number he’s going to, into Baghdad, it’ll be a tragic mistake.”

(I can’t help but point out that a few future Journolisters joined in the Surrender Chorus as well, with Time magazine’s Joe Klein ridiculing “Bush’s futile pipe dream” and the New Republic’s Jonathan Chait, having convinced himself that he brought some actual knowledge and expertise to the debate, said he found “something genuinely bizarre” about those Americans who actually supported the new strategy. “It is not just that they are wrong. . . . It’s that they are completely detached from reality. Their arguments have nothing to do with what is actually happening in Iraq.” The detachment from reality, of course, was found among people like Chait, whose self-declared hatred for Bush caused him to once again look foolish.)

In the case of Afghanistan, GOP and conservative opposition to Obama on domestic polices, which is fierce, has not led them to oppose Obama in his efforts to win the war. The Republican Party is, in this instance, the responsible party, standing with a wartime president in a conflict of enormous significance. With a new commanding general in place and a new counterinsurgency strategy in the very early states of implementation, now is not the time to go wobbly. To its credit, the GOP, unlike the Democratic Party with Iraq, is holding shape.

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Abbas Stiffs Obama on Direct Talks … Again

Just days after the Obama administration threw a lollipop to the Palestinian Authority and its president, Mahmoud Abbas, they are once again showing the Americans who’s the boss in the Middle East peace negotiations. Last week, the United States upgraded the diplomatic status of the PA’s American mission. From now on, the PA’s Washington office will have the status of a “general delegation” — the same it enjoys in the European Union. This is still a step below a full-fledged embassy, a status reserved for sovereign nations. But it does give the PA’s representatives full diplomatic immunity, a not-insignificant factor when you’re the envoy of a coalition of terrorist groups, such as the one that makes up Fatah, the dominant force within the PA. The move was made with the tacit approval of Israel and is intended to give Abbas a shot in the arm as he continues to struggle for legitimacy in the face of growing challenges from the rival Hamas faction, which has possession of Gaza.

But this move, like so many similar measures that have been put into effect over the years to boost the shaky credibility of the Palestinian Authority, is not enough to get Abbas to agree to the one thing President Obama wants from him: direct peace talks with Israel.

According to Reuters, Abbas will tell a meeting of the Arab League tomorrow that direct talks with Israel are still out of the question. The reason for this stand is no mystery. Abbas insists that he won’t sit down with the Israelis until the United States guarantees that the talks will be based on the idea that Israel must withdraw to the 1949 armistice lines and until a complete freeze on building Jewish homes in the territories is implemented. In other words, Abbas won’t talk until Israel has conceded in advance the substance of the talks! The Palestinian president doesn’t want to negotiate. He wants the Americans to hand him the Israelis on a silver platter even before negotiations commence. In spite of Obama’s preference for more pressure on Israel, that isn’t going to happen — which is just fine with Abbas.

That’s because the last thing the Palestinian leader wants is a viable peace process, a fact that the administration may finally be starting to understand. Had Abbas wanted to accept a Palestinian state in the West Bank, Gaza, and part of Jerusalem, he could have accepted Ehud Olmert’s offer from 2008. He refused to even discuss that proposal because a peace deal would have forced him to accept not only peace but also the legitimacy of a Jewish state, even one inside truncated borders. Abbas knows that he cannot sign a peace agreement of any sort and survive, so he continues to prevaricate and seek excuses for not holding direct talks. The only question is how long it will take before Obama finally understands that although the Israelis have accepted the concept of a two-state solution, it is the Palestinians, who stand to benefit from such a scheme, who are incapable of accepting it. Until he does, the peace-process charade will continue.

Just days after the Obama administration threw a lollipop to the Palestinian Authority and its president, Mahmoud Abbas, they are once again showing the Americans who’s the boss in the Middle East peace negotiations. Last week, the United States upgraded the diplomatic status of the PA’s American mission. From now on, the PA’s Washington office will have the status of a “general delegation” — the same it enjoys in the European Union. This is still a step below a full-fledged embassy, a status reserved for sovereign nations. But it does give the PA’s representatives full diplomatic immunity, a not-insignificant factor when you’re the envoy of a coalition of terrorist groups, such as the one that makes up Fatah, the dominant force within the PA. The move was made with the tacit approval of Israel and is intended to give Abbas a shot in the arm as he continues to struggle for legitimacy in the face of growing challenges from the rival Hamas faction, which has possession of Gaza.

But this move, like so many similar measures that have been put into effect over the years to boost the shaky credibility of the Palestinian Authority, is not enough to get Abbas to agree to the one thing President Obama wants from him: direct peace talks with Israel.

According to Reuters, Abbas will tell a meeting of the Arab League tomorrow that direct talks with Israel are still out of the question. The reason for this stand is no mystery. Abbas insists that he won’t sit down with the Israelis until the United States guarantees that the talks will be based on the idea that Israel must withdraw to the 1949 armistice lines and until a complete freeze on building Jewish homes in the territories is implemented. In other words, Abbas won’t talk until Israel has conceded in advance the substance of the talks! The Palestinian president doesn’t want to negotiate. He wants the Americans to hand him the Israelis on a silver platter even before negotiations commence. In spite of Obama’s preference for more pressure on Israel, that isn’t going to happen — which is just fine with Abbas.

That’s because the last thing the Palestinian leader wants is a viable peace process, a fact that the administration may finally be starting to understand. Had Abbas wanted to accept a Palestinian state in the West Bank, Gaza, and part of Jerusalem, he could have accepted Ehud Olmert’s offer from 2008. He refused to even discuss that proposal because a peace deal would have forced him to accept not only peace but also the legitimacy of a Jewish state, even one inside truncated borders. Abbas knows that he cannot sign a peace agreement of any sort and survive, so he continues to prevaricate and seek excuses for not holding direct talks. The only question is how long it will take before Obama finally understands that although the Israelis have accepted the concept of a two-state solution, it is the Palestinians, who stand to benefit from such a scheme, who are incapable of accepting it. Until he does, the peace-process charade will continue.

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Fox Dominates Cable News Ratings

According to the Huffington Post, Fox News continued its complete domination of cable-news ratings in July. The network averaged 1.85 million viewers in primetime for the month — more than CNN, MSNBC, and HLN combined. The top 11 rated programs, each with a total of more than a million viewers, belong to Fox News (three programs topped two million viewers). As a point of comparison, no other program on any other cable network was able to draw as many as a million viewers (Hardball with Chris Matthews, for example, was able to draw only a little more than half a million watchers).

The dominance of Fox News is an extraordinary media phenomenon. Roger Ailes is a genius at his profession. And the success of Fox News continues to cause liberals to vent and fume, pout and lash out, whine and act irrationally. Sometimes breaking up a quasi-monopoly will do that to people.

In any event, it’s time for liberals to make their own inner peace with a Fox-dominated cable-news world. If they don’t, they will continue to go around the bend.

According to the Huffington Post, Fox News continued its complete domination of cable-news ratings in July. The network averaged 1.85 million viewers in primetime for the month — more than CNN, MSNBC, and HLN combined. The top 11 rated programs, each with a total of more than a million viewers, belong to Fox News (three programs topped two million viewers). As a point of comparison, no other program on any other cable network was able to draw as many as a million viewers (Hardball with Chris Matthews, for example, was able to draw only a little more than half a million watchers).

The dominance of Fox News is an extraordinary media phenomenon. Roger Ailes is a genius at his profession. And the success of Fox News continues to cause liberals to vent and fume, pout and lash out, whine and act irrationally. Sometimes breaking up a quasi-monopoly will do that to people.

In any event, it’s time for liberals to make their own inner peace with a Fox-dominated cable-news world. If they don’t, they will continue to go around the bend.

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A Big Shocker

Simon Heffer of the UK’s Daily Telegraph writes:

The shock about coming to America after an absence of four months is how, in that time, respect for and confidence in President Obama has slumped. It wasn’t good in March; now the effect of what one blogger has called his apparent “impotence” has taken hold.

After listening to many of the things that have gone wrong, Heffer says, “This immediate proof of mismanagement adds to the cumulative feeling on so many other fronts that Mr Obama and his team simply don’t understand governance.” He ends his column by saying what others have said before: “In that ecstatic dawn in November 2008, the Democrats would not have thought that things could turn out like this.”

No, they wouldn’t have. But they should have. It turns out that former community organizers don’t necessarily make for successful presidents.

Who knew?

Simon Heffer of the UK’s Daily Telegraph writes:

The shock about coming to America after an absence of four months is how, in that time, respect for and confidence in President Obama has slumped. It wasn’t good in March; now the effect of what one blogger has called his apparent “impotence” has taken hold.

After listening to many of the things that have gone wrong, Heffer says, “This immediate proof of mismanagement adds to the cumulative feeling on so many other fronts that Mr Obama and his team simply don’t understand governance.” He ends his column by saying what others have said before: “In that ecstatic dawn in November 2008, the Democrats would not have thought that things could turn out like this.”

No, they wouldn’t have. But they should have. It turns out that former community organizers don’t necessarily make for successful presidents.

Who knew?

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The Media Disinfectant

In his column in Politico today, Roger Simon writes this:

Chuck Todd, political director and chief White House correspondent for NBC News, who was not part of Journolist, told me this:

“I am sure Ezra [Klein] had good intentions when he created it, but I am offended the right is using this as a sledgehammer against those of us who don’t practice activist journalism.

“Journolist was pretty offensive. Those of us who are mainstream journalists got mixed in with journalists with an agenda. Those folks who thought they were improving journalism are destroying the credibility of journalism.

“This has kept me up nights. I try to be fair. It’s very depressing.”

Agreed. It is very depressing. But it is still a good thing that this story broke; after all, now, when it comes to key segments of the journalistic world, all of us better understand just what it is we’re dealing with. For some, what has been uncovered was a revelation. For others, it was simply a confirmation. Either way, it is useful information to have out and about. Sunlight is the best disinfectant, as Justice Brandeis once said.

In his column in Politico today, Roger Simon writes this:

Chuck Todd, political director and chief White House correspondent for NBC News, who was not part of Journolist, told me this:

“I am sure Ezra [Klein] had good intentions when he created it, but I am offended the right is using this as a sledgehammer against those of us who don’t practice activist journalism.

“Journolist was pretty offensive. Those of us who are mainstream journalists got mixed in with journalists with an agenda. Those folks who thought they were improving journalism are destroying the credibility of journalism.

“This has kept me up nights. I try to be fair. It’s very depressing.”

Agreed. It is very depressing. But it is still a good thing that this story broke; after all, now, when it comes to key segments of the journalistic world, all of us better understand just what it is we’re dealing with. For some, what has been uncovered was a revelation. For others, it was simply a confirmation. Either way, it is useful information to have out and about. Sunlight is the best disinfectant, as Justice Brandeis once said.

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The Precarious First Amendment

The DISCLOSE Act — a nefarious attempt to do through the backdoor that which the Supreme Court barred by the front door, namely government regulation of First Amendment–protected speech — is dead for now. It is a lesson in how precarious (57-41 was the cloture vote) is our attachment to basic constitutional values. Well, you say, the Supreme Court would have struck it down, just as the justices did the core of McCain-Feingold. Perhaps — if the current Court composition remained in tact. And if Justice Kennedy woke up on the right side of the bed. But, again, it would have been close.

This, I think, should alarm and not reassure us. The name of the game for far too many elected liberals is to game the system, tip the scales, and trample on the rights of their opponents. It is the same mentality we see when a Senate candidate tries to take down perfectly reasonable ads that raise unpleasant facts about his record. Rather than debate and employ more speech, it has become too common among liberals wary of the wrath of voters to tell everyone else to shut up. It is the same mentality that causes Democratic congressional leadership to vilify and sneer at fellow citizens and label them un-American for exercising basic rights of assembly and speech on the most hotly debated legislation (ObamaCare) of the moment. It is the same mentality that motivates the White House to ostracize a news organization critical of its performance.

The totalitarian impulse of the left is not a pretty sight. The voters and people of goodwill on both sides of the political aisle should declare, “Enough!” The “solution” to speech that one doesn’t like is more speech. We forget that at our peril.

The DISCLOSE Act — a nefarious attempt to do through the backdoor that which the Supreme Court barred by the front door, namely government regulation of First Amendment–protected speech — is dead for now. It is a lesson in how precarious (57-41 was the cloture vote) is our attachment to basic constitutional values. Well, you say, the Supreme Court would have struck it down, just as the justices did the core of McCain-Feingold. Perhaps — if the current Court composition remained in tact. And if Justice Kennedy woke up on the right side of the bed. But, again, it would have been close.

This, I think, should alarm and not reassure us. The name of the game for far too many elected liberals is to game the system, tip the scales, and trample on the rights of their opponents. It is the same mentality we see when a Senate candidate tries to take down perfectly reasonable ads that raise unpleasant facts about his record. Rather than debate and employ more speech, it has become too common among liberals wary of the wrath of voters to tell everyone else to shut up. It is the same mentality that causes Democratic congressional leadership to vilify and sneer at fellow citizens and label them un-American for exercising basic rights of assembly and speech on the most hotly debated legislation (ObamaCare) of the moment. It is the same mentality that motivates the White House to ostracize a news organization critical of its performance.

The totalitarian impulse of the left is not a pretty sight. The voters and people of goodwill on both sides of the political aisle should declare, “Enough!” The “solution” to speech that one doesn’t like is more speech. We forget that at our peril.

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Time for a Uniter, Not a Divider

Pat Caddell and Douglas Schoen, two Democratic pollsters and consultants, repeatedly have tried to warn their fellow Democrats that they are blowing it — going too far left, passing legislation disliked by the public, and ignoring the issues voters care about most. Now they’re going after Obama for his excessive divisiveness: “Rather than being a unifier, Mr. Obama has divided America on the basis of race, class and partisanship. Moreover, his cynical approach to governance has encouraged his allies to pursue a similar strategy of racially divisive politics on his behalf.”

On race, there was Gatesgate and then the New Black Panther Party scandal. As to the latter, they explain:

On an issue that has gotten much less attention, but is potentially just as divisive, the Justice Department has pointedly refused to prosecute three members of the New Black Panther Party for voter intimidation at the polls on Election Day 2008.

It is the job of the Department of Justice to protect all American voters from voter discrimination and voter intimidation—whether committed by the far right, the far left, or the New Black Panthers. It is unacceptable for the Department of Justice to continue to stonewall on this issue.

No, the case is not “small potatoes’ — it goes to the heart of Obama’s promise to be post-racial and to the essence of what “equal protection” means.

It’s not just racial antagonisms that Obama has exacerbated. As Caddell and Schoen observe, no president in recent memory has played the class-warfare card and maligned private industry as much as Obama. (“He bashes Wall Street and insurance companies whenever convenient to advance his programs, yet he has been eager to accept campaign contributions and negotiate with these very same banks and corporations behind closed doors in order to advance his political agenda.”)

But it is on partisanship that Obama has really excelled. The sneering disrespect for political opponents, the refusal to engage in any genuine give-and-take with the GOP, and his obnoxious vilification of his predecessor have distinguished this White House as the most politically vindictive and obsessive (going even so far as to put political hacks in the center of foreign policy formulation) since Richard Nixon’s.

This is not just a disappointment to his starry-eyed supporters; it’s also politically disastrous for Obama. He’s managed to alienate the great swath of independent voters for whom all this is deeply troubling, if not frightening. The public may be ready for a post-post-partisan and post-post-racial president. Maybe someone who can offer hope and change from the old-style politics of personal destruction.

Pat Caddell and Douglas Schoen, two Democratic pollsters and consultants, repeatedly have tried to warn their fellow Democrats that they are blowing it — going too far left, passing legislation disliked by the public, and ignoring the issues voters care about most. Now they’re going after Obama for his excessive divisiveness: “Rather than being a unifier, Mr. Obama has divided America on the basis of race, class and partisanship. Moreover, his cynical approach to governance has encouraged his allies to pursue a similar strategy of racially divisive politics on his behalf.”

On race, there was Gatesgate and then the New Black Panther Party scandal. As to the latter, they explain:

On an issue that has gotten much less attention, but is potentially just as divisive, the Justice Department has pointedly refused to prosecute three members of the New Black Panther Party for voter intimidation at the polls on Election Day 2008.

It is the job of the Department of Justice to protect all American voters from voter discrimination and voter intimidation—whether committed by the far right, the far left, or the New Black Panthers. It is unacceptable for the Department of Justice to continue to stonewall on this issue.

No, the case is not “small potatoes’ — it goes to the heart of Obama’s promise to be post-racial and to the essence of what “equal protection” means.

It’s not just racial antagonisms that Obama has exacerbated. As Caddell and Schoen observe, no president in recent memory has played the class-warfare card and maligned private industry as much as Obama. (“He bashes Wall Street and insurance companies whenever convenient to advance his programs, yet he has been eager to accept campaign contributions and negotiate with these very same banks and corporations behind closed doors in order to advance his political agenda.”)

But it is on partisanship that Obama has really excelled. The sneering disrespect for political opponents, the refusal to engage in any genuine give-and-take with the GOP, and his obnoxious vilification of his predecessor have distinguished this White House as the most politically vindictive and obsessive (going even so far as to put political hacks in the center of foreign policy formulation) since Richard Nixon’s.

This is not just a disappointment to his starry-eyed supporters; it’s also politically disastrous for Obama. He’s managed to alienate the great swath of independent voters for whom all this is deeply troubling, if not frightening. The public may be ready for a post-post-partisan and post-post-racial president. Maybe someone who can offer hope and change from the old-style politics of personal destruction.

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Incovenient Truths Denied by Sestak

On Monday, Joe Sestak ventured to the Pennsylvania press club. He tried to explain away his pledge to give back donations from those who received earmarks. It was only a “personal” pledge (reneging on a personal pledge is OK?). He argued that he really hadn’t voted for TARP money when, in fact, in October 2008 he voted against withholding $350B in TARP money.

He also got cornered on the Emergency Committee for Israel. The video should be watched in full, for it is as squirrelly a performance as you will see from a pol. First, he tries to suggest that the ad is down. (Well, ECI actually doubled its ad buy.) Then, he claimed he really didn’t know. (He thinks ignorance is endearing? We are supposed to imagine his attorney never told him, “Sorry, but Comcast wouldn’t cave.”) Then he claims that the ECI ad was “false” — but provides no specifics. (I suppose if a pledge not to take money from earmark beneficiaries is not a pledge, then a letter indicting Israel for imposing ”collective punishment” isn’t a condemnation of Israel for inflicting collective punishment.) And once again, he claims he went to CAIR to lecture them on terrorism. (No explanation was given for the slobbering praise for the group, nor was any repudiation of CAIR forthcoming now that several officials have been identified as engaged in terrorist activities.)

What is unnerving about the performance is the total conviction with which he asserts facts that simply aren’t so. He betrays not a hint of self-awareness nor of remorse for dabbling with jihadism. Voters should take note: this is not a pol who takes facts seriously, and consequently not one to be persuaded by experience or evidence that contradicts his strongly held beliefs. Gosh, does that remind you of another liberal politician?

On Monday, Joe Sestak ventured to the Pennsylvania press club. He tried to explain away his pledge to give back donations from those who received earmarks. It was only a “personal” pledge (reneging on a personal pledge is OK?). He argued that he really hadn’t voted for TARP money when, in fact, in October 2008 he voted against withholding $350B in TARP money.

He also got cornered on the Emergency Committee for Israel. The video should be watched in full, for it is as squirrelly a performance as you will see from a pol. First, he tries to suggest that the ad is down. (Well, ECI actually doubled its ad buy.) Then, he claimed he really didn’t know. (He thinks ignorance is endearing? We are supposed to imagine his attorney never told him, “Sorry, but Comcast wouldn’t cave.”) Then he claims that the ECI ad was “false” — but provides no specifics. (I suppose if a pledge not to take money from earmark beneficiaries is not a pledge, then a letter indicting Israel for imposing ”collective punishment” isn’t a condemnation of Israel for inflicting collective punishment.) And once again, he claims he went to CAIR to lecture them on terrorism. (No explanation was given for the slobbering praise for the group, nor was any repudiation of CAIR forthcoming now that several officials have been identified as engaged in terrorist activities.)

What is unnerving about the performance is the total conviction with which he asserts facts that simply aren’t so. He betrays not a hint of self-awareness nor of remorse for dabbling with jihadism. Voters should take note: this is not a pol who takes facts seriously, and consequently not one to be persuaded by experience or evidence that contradicts his strongly held beliefs. Gosh, does that remind you of another liberal politician?

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Why No Outrage Over Oliver Stone?

Oliver Stone’s outburst of rank anti-Semitism in an interview last weekend with the Sunday Times of London has barely created a ripple in the mainstream media. Just as the sophisticates in liberal media outlets and the Hollywood elite gave a collective shrug of indifference when Mel Gibson issued his original anti-Semitic rantings, we have heard not much at all from the trend setters (too busy with their Roman Polanski victory celebrations?). The ADL issued a statement that nicely sums up what others prefer to ignore:

Oliver Stone has once again shown his conspiratorial colors with his comments about ‘Jewish domination of the media’ and control over U.S. foreign policy. His words conjure up some of the most stereotypical and conspiratorial notions of undue Jewish power and influence.

The myth of Jewish control is an old stereotype that persists to this day. Stone uses it in a particularly egregious fashion by suggesting that Hitler has gotten an unfair shake because of Jewish influence.

This is the most absurd kind of analysis and shows the extent to which Oliver Stone is willing to propound his anti-Semitic and conspiratorial views.

Israel’s Diaspora Affairs and Public Diplomacy Minister Yuli Edelstein blasted Stone:

“Beyond the ignorance he proves with his comments, his demonization of the Jewish people could be a sequel to the Protocols of the Elders of Zion,” the minister said. “When a man of Stone’s stature says such things, it could lead to a new wave of anti-Semitism and anti-Israelism, and it may even cause real harm to Jewish communities and individuals.”

It’s not like Stone’s interview didn’t have newsworthy remarks:

In the interview, Stone said America’s focus on the Holocaust was a product of the “Jewish domination of the media.” He said his upcoming Showtime documentary series Secret History of America would put Hitler and Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin “in context.” “Hitler did far more damage to the Russians than the Jewish people, 25 or 30 [million killed],” Stone said … Stone, who recently met with Ahmadinejad, said American policy toward Iran was “horrible.”

“Iran isn’t necessarily the good guy,” he said. “But we don’t know the full story!”

By contrast, Stone praised Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez as “a brave, blunt, earthy” man, who does not censor the Internet in his country.

Stone also raised an uproar when he defended Hitler at a press conference in January.

“Hitler is an easy scapegoat throughout history and it’s been used cheaply,” he said at the time. “He’s the product of a series of actions. It’s cause and effect.”

Maybe it’s Stone’s long leftist track record — who can forget his glowing biopic of Fidel Castro? — that has earned him a pass from the liberal U.S. media.

But maybe there is something else at work. Stone’s venomous rant against “Jewish domination of the media” and his assertion about the “Israel lobby” (“They stay on top of every comment, the most powerful lobby in Washington. Israel has f***** up United States foreign policy for years”) are not so different from what comes from the lips of Stephen Walt and John Mearsheimer, the writings of the Israel-hating left, and the bile-drenched blogs of those who, for example, claimed John McCain was surrounded by Jewish neocon advisers.

It’s reasonable to conclude that Oliver Stone hasn’t been called out by the liberals — those who advertise themselves as experts on diversity and bigotry — because a great deal of what he said doesn’t sound all that objectionable to far too many of them. And of course, it’s rather embarrassing for those seeking respectability (the “tough love for Israel” gang) to illuminate that anti-Israel venom is, when you scratch the surface, nothing more than old-fashioned Jew-hating.

Oliver Stone’s outburst of rank anti-Semitism in an interview last weekend with the Sunday Times of London has barely created a ripple in the mainstream media. Just as the sophisticates in liberal media outlets and the Hollywood elite gave a collective shrug of indifference when Mel Gibson issued his original anti-Semitic rantings, we have heard not much at all from the trend setters (too busy with their Roman Polanski victory celebrations?). The ADL issued a statement that nicely sums up what others prefer to ignore:

Oliver Stone has once again shown his conspiratorial colors with his comments about ‘Jewish domination of the media’ and control over U.S. foreign policy. His words conjure up some of the most stereotypical and conspiratorial notions of undue Jewish power and influence.

The myth of Jewish control is an old stereotype that persists to this day. Stone uses it in a particularly egregious fashion by suggesting that Hitler has gotten an unfair shake because of Jewish influence.

This is the most absurd kind of analysis and shows the extent to which Oliver Stone is willing to propound his anti-Semitic and conspiratorial views.

Israel’s Diaspora Affairs and Public Diplomacy Minister Yuli Edelstein blasted Stone:

“Beyond the ignorance he proves with his comments, his demonization of the Jewish people could be a sequel to the Protocols of the Elders of Zion,” the minister said. “When a man of Stone’s stature says such things, it could lead to a new wave of anti-Semitism and anti-Israelism, and it may even cause real harm to Jewish communities and individuals.”

It’s not like Stone’s interview didn’t have newsworthy remarks:

In the interview, Stone said America’s focus on the Holocaust was a product of the “Jewish domination of the media.” He said his upcoming Showtime documentary series Secret History of America would put Hitler and Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin “in context.” “Hitler did far more damage to the Russians than the Jewish people, 25 or 30 [million killed],” Stone said … Stone, who recently met with Ahmadinejad, said American policy toward Iran was “horrible.”

“Iran isn’t necessarily the good guy,” he said. “But we don’t know the full story!”

By contrast, Stone praised Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez as “a brave, blunt, earthy” man, who does not censor the Internet in his country.

Stone also raised an uproar when he defended Hitler at a press conference in January.

“Hitler is an easy scapegoat throughout history and it’s been used cheaply,” he said at the time. “He’s the product of a series of actions. It’s cause and effect.”

Maybe it’s Stone’s long leftist track record — who can forget his glowing biopic of Fidel Castro? — that has earned him a pass from the liberal U.S. media.

But maybe there is something else at work. Stone’s venomous rant against “Jewish domination of the media” and his assertion about the “Israel lobby” (“They stay on top of every comment, the most powerful lobby in Washington. Israel has f***** up United States foreign policy for years”) are not so different from what comes from the lips of Stephen Walt and John Mearsheimer, the writings of the Israel-hating left, and the bile-drenched blogs of those who, for example, claimed John McCain was surrounded by Jewish neocon advisers.

It’s reasonable to conclude that Oliver Stone hasn’t been called out by the liberals — those who advertise themselves as experts on diversity and bigotry — because a great deal of what he said doesn’t sound all that objectionable to far too many of them. And of course, it’s rather embarrassing for those seeking respectability (the “tough love for Israel” gang) to illuminate that anti-Israel venom is, when you scratch the surface, nothing more than old-fashioned Jew-hating.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

The wave is about to hit the Democrats. The latest poll from Reuters-Ipsos: “Only 34 percent approved of Obama’s handling of the economy and jobs compared to 46 percent who deemed it unsatisfactory. This is a sharp decline from early 2009 shortly after he took office when over a half of those surveyed approved of Obama’s handling of the worst financial crisis in decades. … Republicans hold a 46-44 percent lead over Democrats when participants were asked which party they planned to support in November. And 72 percent of Republicans said they are certain to vote on November 2, compared to 49 percent of Democrats.”

It’s not been smooth sailing for Donald Berwick: “Dr. Berwick is still struggling to tamp down a furor over past statements in which he discussed the rationing of health care and expressed affection for the British health care system. And he is finding his ability to do his job clouded by the circumstances of his appointment, with many Republicans in open revolt over President Obama’s decision to place him in the post without a Senate confirmation vote. Dr. Berwick never had a confirmation hearing and has not responded publicly to critics. The White House declined to make him available for an interview.” (Has the Gray Lady discovered that this is the least-transparent administration in history?)

Obama is wrecking private-sector confidence, says Mort Zuckerman: “The growing tension between the Obama administration and business is a cause for national concern. The president has lost the confidence of employers, whose worries over taxes and the increased costs of new regulation are holding back investment and growth. The government must appreciate that confidence is an imperative if business is to invest, take risks and put the millions of unemployed back to productive work.”

Obama’s poll numbers continue to dive: “The Rasmussen Reports daily Presidential Tracking Poll for Tuesday shows that 25% of the nation’s voters Strongly Approve of the way that Barack Obama is performing his role as president. Forty-five percent (45%) Strongly Disapprove, giving Obama a Presidential Approval Index rating of -20.” His RealClearPolitics disapproval rating average is at a new high.

Peter Kirsanow of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights sends a shot over the bow of a fellow commissioner and the mainstream media, which prefer to misrepresent or ignore the uncontroverted evidence in the New Black Panther Party scandal.

Like rats fleeing a sinking ship, House Democrats are distancing themselves from Speaker Nancy Pelosi: “House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) on Tuesday noted that it was Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), not him, who promised to ‘drain the swamp’ of corruption in Washington.”

The Charlie Rangel settlement talks run aground. It seems there was a sleazy backroom meeting to try to settle Rangel’s sleazy dealings: “Rep. Charlie Rangel’s chances of cutting an ethics deal are in jeopardy over allegations that he met privately with Ethics Committee Chairwoman Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.) Monday night without any Republican members of the bipartisan panel present. Sources close to Rangel deny that there was an attempt to cut a backroom deal with Lofgren, but Rangel’s attorneys met with Democratic ethics committee staff Monday, according to people close to the investigation.”

The Senate fails to submarine the First Amendment: “The Senate failed to advance a campaign finance bill Tuesday, dealing a blow to Democrats who were trying to pass a key piece of their agenda before the August recess. … The three Republican centrists considered most likely to support the bill, Sens. Olympia Snowe (Maine), Susan Collins (Maine) and Scott Brown (Mass.), all voted against it … despite heavy lobbying from liberal groups such as MoveOn.org. … Democrats were also missing the vote of Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.), who was absent from the Senate on Tuesday because he was attending a funeral.”

The wave is about to hit the Democrats. The latest poll from Reuters-Ipsos: “Only 34 percent approved of Obama’s handling of the economy and jobs compared to 46 percent who deemed it unsatisfactory. This is a sharp decline from early 2009 shortly after he took office when over a half of those surveyed approved of Obama’s handling of the worst financial crisis in decades. … Republicans hold a 46-44 percent lead over Democrats when participants were asked which party they planned to support in November. And 72 percent of Republicans said they are certain to vote on November 2, compared to 49 percent of Democrats.”

It’s not been smooth sailing for Donald Berwick: “Dr. Berwick is still struggling to tamp down a furor over past statements in which he discussed the rationing of health care and expressed affection for the British health care system. And he is finding his ability to do his job clouded by the circumstances of his appointment, with many Republicans in open revolt over President Obama’s decision to place him in the post without a Senate confirmation vote. Dr. Berwick never had a confirmation hearing and has not responded publicly to critics. The White House declined to make him available for an interview.” (Has the Gray Lady discovered that this is the least-transparent administration in history?)

Obama is wrecking private-sector confidence, says Mort Zuckerman: “The growing tension between the Obama administration and business is a cause for national concern. The president has lost the confidence of employers, whose worries over taxes and the increased costs of new regulation are holding back investment and growth. The government must appreciate that confidence is an imperative if business is to invest, take risks and put the millions of unemployed back to productive work.”

Obama’s poll numbers continue to dive: “The Rasmussen Reports daily Presidential Tracking Poll for Tuesday shows that 25% of the nation’s voters Strongly Approve of the way that Barack Obama is performing his role as president. Forty-five percent (45%) Strongly Disapprove, giving Obama a Presidential Approval Index rating of -20.” His RealClearPolitics disapproval rating average is at a new high.

Peter Kirsanow of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights sends a shot over the bow of a fellow commissioner and the mainstream media, which prefer to misrepresent or ignore the uncontroverted evidence in the New Black Panther Party scandal.

Like rats fleeing a sinking ship, House Democrats are distancing themselves from Speaker Nancy Pelosi: “House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) on Tuesday noted that it was Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), not him, who promised to ‘drain the swamp’ of corruption in Washington.”

The Charlie Rangel settlement talks run aground. It seems there was a sleazy backroom meeting to try to settle Rangel’s sleazy dealings: “Rep. Charlie Rangel’s chances of cutting an ethics deal are in jeopardy over allegations that he met privately with Ethics Committee Chairwoman Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.) Monday night without any Republican members of the bipartisan panel present. Sources close to Rangel deny that there was an attempt to cut a backroom deal with Lofgren, but Rangel’s attorneys met with Democratic ethics committee staff Monday, according to people close to the investigation.”

The Senate fails to submarine the First Amendment: “The Senate failed to advance a campaign finance bill Tuesday, dealing a blow to Democrats who were trying to pass a key piece of their agenda before the August recess. … The three Republican centrists considered most likely to support the bill, Sens. Olympia Snowe (Maine), Susan Collins (Maine) and Scott Brown (Mass.), all voted against it … despite heavy lobbying from liberal groups such as MoveOn.org. … Democrats were also missing the vote of Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.), who was absent from the Senate on Tuesday because he was attending a funeral.”

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