Commentary Magazine


Posts For: August 13, 2010

Obama Sides with Ground Zero Mosque Builders vs. Americans

At the Iftar (end of Ramadan-day fast) shindig at the White House, Obama sided with CAIR, J Street, the ACLU, and the 29 percent of Americans who favor the Ground Zero mosque:

Recently, attention has been focused on the construction of mosques in certain communities – particularly in New York. Now, we must all recognize and respect the sensitivities surrounding the development of lower Manhattan. The 9/11 attacks were a deeply traumatic event for our country. The pain and suffering experienced by those who lost loved ones is unimaginable. So I understand the emotions that this issue engenders. Ground Zero is, indeed, hallowed ground.

But let me be clear: as a citizen, and as President, I believe that Muslims have the same right to practice their religion as anyone else in this country. That includes the right to build a place of worship and a community center on private property in lower Manhattan, in accordance with local laws and ordinances. This is America, and our commitment to religious freedom must be unshakable. The principle that people of all faiths are welcome in this country, and will not be treated differently by their government, is essential to who we are. The writ of our Founders must endure.

Rep. Peter King is the first elected official to respond. He issued this statement:

President Obama is wrong. It is insensitive and uncaring for the Muslim community to build a mosque in the shadow of Ground Zero. While the Muslim community has the right to build the mosque they are abusing that right by needlessly offending so many people who have suffered so much. The right and moral thing for President Obama to have done was to urge Muslim leaders to respect the families of those who died and move their mosque away from Ground Zero. Unfortunately the President caved into political correctness.

Obama has shown his true sentiments now, after weeks of concealing them, on an issue of deep significance not only to the families and loved ones of 3,000 slaughtered Americans but also to the vast majority of his fellow citizens. He has once again revealed himself to be divorced from the values and concerns of his countrymen. He is entirely – and to many Americans, horridly — a creature of the left, with little ability to make moral distinctions. His sympathies for the Muslim World take precedence over those, such as they are, for his fellow citizens. This is nothing short of an abomination.

At the Iftar (end of Ramadan-day fast) shindig at the White House, Obama sided with CAIR, J Street, the ACLU, and the 29 percent of Americans who favor the Ground Zero mosque:

Recently, attention has been focused on the construction of mosques in certain communities – particularly in New York. Now, we must all recognize and respect the sensitivities surrounding the development of lower Manhattan. The 9/11 attacks were a deeply traumatic event for our country. The pain and suffering experienced by those who lost loved ones is unimaginable. So I understand the emotions that this issue engenders. Ground Zero is, indeed, hallowed ground.

But let me be clear: as a citizen, and as President, I believe that Muslims have the same right to practice their religion as anyone else in this country. That includes the right to build a place of worship and a community center on private property in lower Manhattan, in accordance with local laws and ordinances. This is America, and our commitment to religious freedom must be unshakable. The principle that people of all faiths are welcome in this country, and will not be treated differently by their government, is essential to who we are. The writ of our Founders must endure.

Rep. Peter King is the first elected official to respond. He issued this statement:

President Obama is wrong. It is insensitive and uncaring for the Muslim community to build a mosque in the shadow of Ground Zero. While the Muslim community has the right to build the mosque they are abusing that right by needlessly offending so many people who have suffered so much. The right and moral thing for President Obama to have done was to urge Muslim leaders to respect the families of those who died and move their mosque away from Ground Zero. Unfortunately the President caved into political correctness.

Obama has shown his true sentiments now, after weeks of concealing them, on an issue of deep significance not only to the families and loved ones of 3,000 slaughtered Americans but also to the vast majority of his fellow citizens. He has once again revealed himself to be divorced from the values and concerns of his countrymen. He is entirely – and to many Americans, horridly — a creature of the left, with little ability to make moral distinctions. His sympathies for the Muslim World take precedence over those, such as they are, for his fellow citizens. This is nothing short of an abomination.

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Here Comes Bushehr

This story will probably rule the news cycle this weekend. The light-water reactor at Bushehr in southwestern Iran is to be fueled starting on August 21 and powered up in September. I’ve written about Bushehr’s significance several times (here and, earlier this week, here). The Bushehr reactor doesn’t have the meaning to Iran’s nuclear weapons program that the Iraqi and Syrian reactors had. Although the reactor could figure in Iran’s weapons program in the future, it’s not central to the production of weapons-grade material. I very much doubt Israel regards it as necessary to strike the Bushehr installation.

But fueling the reactor and powering it up send the clearest possible political signal: that Russia and Iran feel free to do it. The uranium fuel — provided by Moscow — has been stored in Iran since 2008, but Russia has held off on preparing the reactor for operation, largely because of calculations about U.S. objections. Timing the reactor start-up to squeeze more concessions from Iran was probably a factor too.

I suggested a few days ago (see the link above) that the coordinated rocket attacks on Israel and the attack by Lebanese troops on an IDF contingent in the north, which occurred on August 1 and 2, were related to the plan for Bushehr. Iran has been skittish all summer, fearing an imminent attack; powering up the Bushehr reactor is an event the mullahs probably expected to want some insurance for, in the form of a preoccupied Israel.

But whatever qualms the Iranians or Russians may have had about taking this action — one that directly contradicts the intent of UN sanctions and U.S.-EU policy — they appear to feel them no longer. The real significance of starting up the reactor next week is that Iran and Russia don’t fear doing it.

I predict we will hear from the Obama administration that this action is unhelpful, but that in a technical sense, it’s not all that important. And in a technical sense, it’s not. But in a political sense, as a signal of how seriously Iran and Russia take U.S. policy, it means everything that matters.

This story will probably rule the news cycle this weekend. The light-water reactor at Bushehr in southwestern Iran is to be fueled starting on August 21 and powered up in September. I’ve written about Bushehr’s significance several times (here and, earlier this week, here). The Bushehr reactor doesn’t have the meaning to Iran’s nuclear weapons program that the Iraqi and Syrian reactors had. Although the reactor could figure in Iran’s weapons program in the future, it’s not central to the production of weapons-grade material. I very much doubt Israel regards it as necessary to strike the Bushehr installation.

But fueling the reactor and powering it up send the clearest possible political signal: that Russia and Iran feel free to do it. The uranium fuel — provided by Moscow — has been stored in Iran since 2008, but Russia has held off on preparing the reactor for operation, largely because of calculations about U.S. objections. Timing the reactor start-up to squeeze more concessions from Iran was probably a factor too.

I suggested a few days ago (see the link above) that the coordinated rocket attacks on Israel and the attack by Lebanese troops on an IDF contingent in the north, which occurred on August 1 and 2, were related to the plan for Bushehr. Iran has been skittish all summer, fearing an imminent attack; powering up the Bushehr reactor is an event the mullahs probably expected to want some insurance for, in the form of a preoccupied Israel.

But whatever qualms the Iranians or Russians may have had about taking this action — one that directly contradicts the intent of UN sanctions and U.S.-EU policy — they appear to feel them no longer. The real significance of starting up the reactor next week is that Iran and Russia don’t fear doing it.

I predict we will hear from the Obama administration that this action is unhelpful, but that in a technical sense, it’s not all that important. And in a technical sense, it’s not. But in a political sense, as a signal of how seriously Iran and Russia take U.S. policy, it means everything that matters.

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Beyond Parody

Some things are beyond parody — like this: “Facing Ethics Charges, Rep. Waters Points Finger at Bush Administration.”

Some things are beyond parody — like this: “Facing Ethics Charges, Rep. Waters Points Finger at Bush Administration.”

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Anybody But Obama?

That’s the implication of this poll highlighted by Hotline:

Pres. Obama trails a generic GOPer in a WH ’12 re-election bid, according to a new CNN/Opinion Research Corp. poll released today. Among registered voters, fully half, 50%, said they were more likely to vote for a generic GOPer, while just 45% said they were more likely to vote for Obama.

It’s only 2010, and much can and will change before the 2012 election. But it’s a measure of how far the Republican Party has come that “any Republican” will do in the minds of voters right now.

However, the rub for Republicans is that not “any” Republican will be on the ballot; a specific one will. If they want to capitalize on a godlen opportunity, Republicans will need to choose wisely — selecting a standard-bearer who will consolidate, not alienate, the growing ranks of anti-Obama voters.

That’s the implication of this poll highlighted by Hotline:

Pres. Obama trails a generic GOPer in a WH ’12 re-election bid, according to a new CNN/Opinion Research Corp. poll released today. Among registered voters, fully half, 50%, said they were more likely to vote for a generic GOPer, while just 45% said they were more likely to vote for Obama.

It’s only 2010, and much can and will change before the 2012 election. But it’s a measure of how far the Republican Party has come that “any Republican” will do in the minds of voters right now.

However, the rub for Republicans is that not “any” Republican will be on the ballot; a specific one will. If they want to capitalize on a godlen opportunity, Republicans will need to choose wisely — selecting a standard-bearer who will consolidate, not alienate, the growing ranks of anti-Obama voters.

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Sniffing Out What “Pro-Israel” Means (Updated)

In the last week or so, the Emergency Committee for Israel has come out with ads on the anti-Israel records of Reps. Mary Jo Kilroy, Glenn Nye, and Jim Himes, specifically calling attention to their signatures on the Gaza 54 letter.

Dave Weigel, now writing for Slate (whose editors, unlike the Washington Post’s management, knew his political leanings before hiring him) observes:

“While it’s true that signing the J Street letter was a cause for concern,” said one official with a pro-Israel group, “and remains so, it’s also a fact that Congressman Himes has a consistently pro-Israel voting record and strong friends in the mainstream pro-Israel community.”

There was no such pushback when the Committee went after Rep. Joe Sestak (D-Penn.), now running for the Senate. But the aftermath of that attack — Sestak trying to get the ad pulled, and failing — ensures much more of this.

As an aside, this speaks volumes about Joe Sestak. To my knowledge, not a single pro-Israel group — no, J Street certainly doesn’t count on this one — rushed to his defense, either on or off the record. But CAIR did. (And with a record like this, don’t expect them to rush to Mary Jo Kilroy’s defense either.)

But I think there is good reason why Himes’s record should be scrutinized and why he is being funded by the Israel-bashers at J Street. He signed the Cohen-Boustany-Carnahan letter. What was that about? This report explains:

The letter urged Obama to become intimately involved in forcing talks between Israel and the PA, and said the creation of a Palestinian state must precede transparency of the PA government, control over security, or a stable economy.

An official with a real pro-Israel organization (that defends Israel’s right of self-defense and everything) explains:

Coming in the run up to the first ever meeting between President Obama and Prime Minister Netanyahu, just weeks before the speech in Cairo, the clear intent of that letter was to call on the President to impose a solution, something Israel and every previous American administration has rejected as a failed strategy.  More over, the letter totally ignores the history of the conflict, implying that the failure of the Arabs and the Palestinians to make peace is Israel’s fault as much as the Arabs, and that is simply as ignorant as it is offensive.

As the viciously anti-Israel M.J. Rosenberg noted at the time, the Cohen-Boustany-Carnahan letter was the left’s alternative to an AIPAC letter (which the overwhemlming number of House members signed onto):

The AIPAC letter sounds like it is calling for a Palestinian state to be worked out by the two sides. But its authors know full-well that no Israeli government (even a peace government) is going to risk enraging the right by agreeing to a Palestinian state unless it is the United States that is insisting upon it. The AIPAC letter does not envision a Palestinian State. Quite the contrary, its intent is to delay that state until there is no possibility of it ever being established.

It argues that America’s job is to serve as “trusted mediator and devoted friend of Israel.” It concedes that “no doubt our two governments [sic] will agree on many issues and disagree on others. The proven best way forward is to work closely and privately together both on areas of agreement and especially on areas of disagreement.”

That is what Himes wouldn’t sign.

So I’d be very curious to know just what “pro-Israel” group thinks Himes has been consistently pro-Israel. This, it should be noted, is precisely why ECI is needed. It is about time we start to parse what “pro-Israel” really means. It’s not signing the Gaza-54 letter or the Cohen-Boustany-Carnahan letter.

CORRECTION: Himes inexplicably signed both the AIPAC and the Cohen-Boustany-Carnahan letters. The latter explicitly declared that the U.S. should intervene because the parties could not reach agreement (i.e., back an imposed peace plan) and cheered the Arab Initiative, which would impose on Israel pre-1967 borders and re-divide Jerusalem. Perhaps Himes’s defense will be that he didn’t read what he signed, but those positions are not embraced by the vast majority of American Jews  – or even by the Obama administration (at least not yet).

In the last week or so, the Emergency Committee for Israel has come out with ads on the anti-Israel records of Reps. Mary Jo Kilroy, Glenn Nye, and Jim Himes, specifically calling attention to their signatures on the Gaza 54 letter.

Dave Weigel, now writing for Slate (whose editors, unlike the Washington Post’s management, knew his political leanings before hiring him) observes:

“While it’s true that signing the J Street letter was a cause for concern,” said one official with a pro-Israel group, “and remains so, it’s also a fact that Congressman Himes has a consistently pro-Israel voting record and strong friends in the mainstream pro-Israel community.”

There was no such pushback when the Committee went after Rep. Joe Sestak (D-Penn.), now running for the Senate. But the aftermath of that attack — Sestak trying to get the ad pulled, and failing — ensures much more of this.

As an aside, this speaks volumes about Joe Sestak. To my knowledge, not a single pro-Israel group — no, J Street certainly doesn’t count on this one — rushed to his defense, either on or off the record. But CAIR did. (And with a record like this, don’t expect them to rush to Mary Jo Kilroy’s defense either.)

But I think there is good reason why Himes’s record should be scrutinized and why he is being funded by the Israel-bashers at J Street. He signed the Cohen-Boustany-Carnahan letter. What was that about? This report explains:

The letter urged Obama to become intimately involved in forcing talks between Israel and the PA, and said the creation of a Palestinian state must precede transparency of the PA government, control over security, or a stable economy.

An official with a real pro-Israel organization (that defends Israel’s right of self-defense and everything) explains:

Coming in the run up to the first ever meeting between President Obama and Prime Minister Netanyahu, just weeks before the speech in Cairo, the clear intent of that letter was to call on the President to impose a solution, something Israel and every previous American administration has rejected as a failed strategy.  More over, the letter totally ignores the history of the conflict, implying that the failure of the Arabs and the Palestinians to make peace is Israel’s fault as much as the Arabs, and that is simply as ignorant as it is offensive.

As the viciously anti-Israel M.J. Rosenberg noted at the time, the Cohen-Boustany-Carnahan letter was the left’s alternative to an AIPAC letter (which the overwhemlming number of House members signed onto):

The AIPAC letter sounds like it is calling for a Palestinian state to be worked out by the two sides. But its authors know full-well that no Israeli government (even a peace government) is going to risk enraging the right by agreeing to a Palestinian state unless it is the United States that is insisting upon it. The AIPAC letter does not envision a Palestinian State. Quite the contrary, its intent is to delay that state until there is no possibility of it ever being established.

It argues that America’s job is to serve as “trusted mediator and devoted friend of Israel.” It concedes that “no doubt our two governments [sic] will agree on many issues and disagree on others. The proven best way forward is to work closely and privately together both on areas of agreement and especially on areas of disagreement.”

That is what Himes wouldn’t sign.

So I’d be very curious to know just what “pro-Israel” group thinks Himes has been consistently pro-Israel. This, it should be noted, is precisely why ECI is needed. It is about time we start to parse what “pro-Israel” really means. It’s not signing the Gaza-54 letter or the Cohen-Boustany-Carnahan letter.

CORRECTION: Himes inexplicably signed both the AIPAC and the Cohen-Boustany-Carnahan letters. The latter explicitly declared that the U.S. should intervene because the parties could not reach agreement (i.e., back an imposed peace plan) and cheered the Arab Initiative, which would impose on Israel pre-1967 borders and re-divide Jerusalem. Perhaps Himes’s defense will be that he didn’t read what he signed, but those positions are not embraced by the vast majority of American Jews  – or even by the Obama administration (at least not yet).

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RE: The West Is in Denial over Turkey

Evelyn, there is an aspect to the Turkish chemical-weapon story I’d like to pick up on. The Jerusalem Post notes that photos of eight Kurds (six men and two women) killed by Turkish chemical weapons were provided to the German media in March. Why have we not heard or seen much (any?) about this in the U.S. media? Well, you see, the 31 photos showed that the Kurds bodies were “severely deformed and torn to pieces.” It seems that the photos are so horrific “news organizations have been reluctant to publish them.”

So this is the new journalist guideline — if human-rights abominations are too awful, then they can’t be revealed? Or perhaps the rule is something different, namely that the coverage of atrocities by Muslim nations get precious little coverage by the media. Israel and the U.S. are inspected with a microscope, and when the facts aren’t there, the media and the left-wing propaganda industry (yes, the two often overlap) are happy to concoct some human-rights misdeeds or treat individual acts of misconduct as official policy.

When confronted with this imbalance and blatant double standard, liberal media mavens will tell you that we simply have to expect more of western democracies. Huh? Yes, the condescension toward nonwestern states (i.e., we can’t expect anything more, so therefore human-rights abuses aren’t “news”) is an insidious form of bias. Talk about the soft bigotry of low expectations.

The other excuse commonly given for the non-coverage of Muslim human-rights abuses is that we can’t get access to “closed” societies, so not much can be reported. There are two problems with this excuse: even when information is available, why isn’t it widely reported, and why don’t we read more about suppression of the media in the “Muslim World”?

A very smart COMMENTARY reader recently made this suggestion to me: why doesn’t Fox News (the others are hopeless) select a human-rights atrocity of the week? Yes, it’s sometimes hard to choose just one, but the endeavor would shed some light on exactly how these countries operate and the pathetic passivity of our administration. It would illuminate common practices in Muslim countries like stonings, honor killings, child marriages, and executions of gays. In other words, we need some entity to do what the ludicrously constituted UN Human Rights Council and the UN Commission on the Status of Women will not (because some of the worst abusers sit on these august bodies). How about it, Mr. Ailes? It seems an entirely worthwhile journalistic project that would distinguish its network. It might even force others to perk up.

Evelyn, there is an aspect to the Turkish chemical-weapon story I’d like to pick up on. The Jerusalem Post notes that photos of eight Kurds (six men and two women) killed by Turkish chemical weapons were provided to the German media in March. Why have we not heard or seen much (any?) about this in the U.S. media? Well, you see, the 31 photos showed that the Kurds bodies were “severely deformed and torn to pieces.” It seems that the photos are so horrific “news organizations have been reluctant to publish them.”

So this is the new journalist guideline — if human-rights abominations are too awful, then they can’t be revealed? Or perhaps the rule is something different, namely that the coverage of atrocities by Muslim nations get precious little coverage by the media. Israel and the U.S. are inspected with a microscope, and when the facts aren’t there, the media and the left-wing propaganda industry (yes, the two often overlap) are happy to concoct some human-rights misdeeds or treat individual acts of misconduct as official policy.

When confronted with this imbalance and blatant double standard, liberal media mavens will tell you that we simply have to expect more of western democracies. Huh? Yes, the condescension toward nonwestern states (i.e., we can’t expect anything more, so therefore human-rights abuses aren’t “news”) is an insidious form of bias. Talk about the soft bigotry of low expectations.

The other excuse commonly given for the non-coverage of Muslim human-rights abuses is that we can’t get access to “closed” societies, so not much can be reported. There are two problems with this excuse: even when information is available, why isn’t it widely reported, and why don’t we read more about suppression of the media in the “Muslim World”?

A very smart COMMENTARY reader recently made this suggestion to me: why doesn’t Fox News (the others are hopeless) select a human-rights atrocity of the week? Yes, it’s sometimes hard to choose just one, but the endeavor would shed some light on exactly how these countries operate and the pathetic passivity of our administration. It would illuminate common practices in Muslim countries like stonings, honor killings, child marriages, and executions of gays. In other words, we need some entity to do what the ludicrously constituted UN Human Rights Council and the UN Commission on the Status of Women will not (because some of the worst abusers sit on these august bodies). How about it, Mr. Ailes? It seems an entirely worthwhile journalistic project that would distinguish its network. It might even force others to perk up.

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The New Republic’s Keith Olbermann

In a story in the Washington Examiner, Stephen Hess, an expert on the presidency at the Brookings Institution, said Robert Gibbs’ remarks attacking the “professional left” shows how “unprepared” many in the Obama administration were for the rigors of the White House. “A lot of things had come too easy for them — a substantial election victory, and an almost messianic moment with the inauguration,” Hess said. “Governing is hard.”

The governing-is-hard theme is something some of us warned about a long time ago. And charting some of Obama’s early missteps caused commentators on the left, such as the New Republic’s Jonathan Chait, enormous irritation. In May 2009 he wrote:

In anticipation of his prophesy coming true, [Wehner’s] blogging for Commentary has become a gleeful chronicle of Obama’s imagined descent into dysfunction and popular repudiation.

Well, now. The “imagined descent” into popular repudiation (and dysfunction, for that matter) is no longer imagined, is it?

Popular repudiation is precisely what Obama and Democrats are experiencing on a scale that is extremely rare — one the may prove to be unprecedented — for a president who has been in office for less than two years.

William Galston, who served in the Clinton administration, has warned his party that it might not only lose the House; its majority in the Senate is endangered, too. And the polarization some of us highlighted early on in Obama’s presidency was in fact on the mark. Chait dismissed the observation at the time, but then came (for Chait) a rather unfortunate Gallup survey released in January 2010, which reported that Barack Obama was the most polarizing first-year president in recorded history.

Now we should keep in mind that Chait is the same individual who, in December 2008, assured his readers that “undiluted liberalism” in the area of health care was hugely popular and that the path to political dominance for Obama and Democrats; and who, in February 2007, wrote that there was “something genuinely bizarre” about those Americans who supported President Bush’s surge strategy in Iraq. “It is not just that they are wrong,” our modern-day Metternich insisted. “It’s that they are completely detached from reality.”

Such detached-from-reality insights continue apace. Earlier this year, for example, Chait wrote:

The perception has formed, perhaps indelibly, that the reason Democrats will get hammered in the 2010 elections is that the party moved too far left in general and tried to reform health care in particular. This perception owes itself, above all, to the habit that political analysts in the media and other outposts of mainstream thought have of ignoring structural factors.

Of course; health-care reform has nothing to do with Obama’s plight or that of the Democratic Party. So sayeth The Great Chait.

Never mind that Peter Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute, analyzes the empirical data and declares that “the health overhaul remains a political loser in most of the country.” Or that Democratic pollster Doug Schoen writes that “recent polling shows that the [health care] bill has been a disaster for the party. … There may well be no single initiative as unpopular as the administration’s health care reform bill.” Or that Charlie Cook, who specializes in election forecasts and political trends, declared earlier this year that from a political perspective, pushing health care was a “colossal miscalculation.” Yet Chait – who doesn’t specialize in election forecasts or political trends – knows better.

And what should we make of the fact that by nearly a 3-to-1 margin, voters in Missouri voters rejected a key provision of President Obama’s health-care law? Easy. “Missouri is not a ‘bellwether’ state right now,” Chait cheerfully informs us. Missouri, you see, has suddenly become Utah. And the individual mandate never was popular, don’t you know?

Chait has been reduced to arguing (ad nauseam) that Obama’s unpopularity has virtually nothing to do with Obama’s policies or his liberal ideology; it has to do with the very bad economy and those darn “structural factors.” Barack Obama is a fantastic president, you see; it’s just too bad the conditions in the country are miserable.

Jonathan has become something of an amusing read. It is not simply watching him try to twist reality to fit his ideological presuppositions, which is amusing enough; it is the whole packaged deal – the adolescent rage, exemplified in his “I hate Bush” rant, the playground taunts, the pretense of governing and policy expertise.

And there is the matter of Chait’s slightly peculiar personal obsessions. For example, he admits that one of his “guilty pleasures” is a “morbid fascination” with me and that one of his “shameful hobbies” is watching the “almost sensual pleasure” taken by me at the coming November elections – with the latter written under the headline “Wehner Throbs with Anticipation.” Now this doesn’t particularly bother me, but perhaps it should bother Mrs. Chait.

The New Republic was once the professional home to some of the nation’s preeminent intellectuals, public figures, and journalists. Today it provides a perch to Jonathan Chait, TNR’s version of Keith Olbermann

In a story in the Washington Examiner, Stephen Hess, an expert on the presidency at the Brookings Institution, said Robert Gibbs’ remarks attacking the “professional left” shows how “unprepared” many in the Obama administration were for the rigors of the White House. “A lot of things had come too easy for them — a substantial election victory, and an almost messianic moment with the inauguration,” Hess said. “Governing is hard.”

The governing-is-hard theme is something some of us warned about a long time ago. And charting some of Obama’s early missteps caused commentators on the left, such as the New Republic’s Jonathan Chait, enormous irritation. In May 2009 he wrote:

In anticipation of his prophesy coming true, [Wehner’s] blogging for Commentary has become a gleeful chronicle of Obama’s imagined descent into dysfunction and popular repudiation.

Well, now. The “imagined descent” into popular repudiation (and dysfunction, for that matter) is no longer imagined, is it?

Popular repudiation is precisely what Obama and Democrats are experiencing on a scale that is extremely rare — one the may prove to be unprecedented — for a president who has been in office for less than two years.

William Galston, who served in the Clinton administration, has warned his party that it might not only lose the House; its majority in the Senate is endangered, too. And the polarization some of us highlighted early on in Obama’s presidency was in fact on the mark. Chait dismissed the observation at the time, but then came (for Chait) a rather unfortunate Gallup survey released in January 2010, which reported that Barack Obama was the most polarizing first-year president in recorded history.

Now we should keep in mind that Chait is the same individual who, in December 2008, assured his readers that “undiluted liberalism” in the area of health care was hugely popular and that the path to political dominance for Obama and Democrats; and who, in February 2007, wrote that there was “something genuinely bizarre” about those Americans who supported President Bush’s surge strategy in Iraq. “It is not just that they are wrong,” our modern-day Metternich insisted. “It’s that they are completely detached from reality.”

Such detached-from-reality insights continue apace. Earlier this year, for example, Chait wrote:

The perception has formed, perhaps indelibly, that the reason Democrats will get hammered in the 2010 elections is that the party moved too far left in general and tried to reform health care in particular. This perception owes itself, above all, to the habit that political analysts in the media and other outposts of mainstream thought have of ignoring structural factors.

Of course; health-care reform has nothing to do with Obama’s plight or that of the Democratic Party. So sayeth The Great Chait.

Never mind that Peter Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute, analyzes the empirical data and declares that “the health overhaul remains a political loser in most of the country.” Or that Democratic pollster Doug Schoen writes that “recent polling shows that the [health care] bill has been a disaster for the party. … There may well be no single initiative as unpopular as the administration’s health care reform bill.” Or that Charlie Cook, who specializes in election forecasts and political trends, declared earlier this year that from a political perspective, pushing health care was a “colossal miscalculation.” Yet Chait – who doesn’t specialize in election forecasts or political trends – knows better.

And what should we make of the fact that by nearly a 3-to-1 margin, voters in Missouri voters rejected a key provision of President Obama’s health-care law? Easy. “Missouri is not a ‘bellwether’ state right now,” Chait cheerfully informs us. Missouri, you see, has suddenly become Utah. And the individual mandate never was popular, don’t you know?

Chait has been reduced to arguing (ad nauseam) that Obama’s unpopularity has virtually nothing to do with Obama’s policies or his liberal ideology; it has to do with the very bad economy and those darn “structural factors.” Barack Obama is a fantastic president, you see; it’s just too bad the conditions in the country are miserable.

Jonathan has become something of an amusing read. It is not simply watching him try to twist reality to fit his ideological presuppositions, which is amusing enough; it is the whole packaged deal – the adolescent rage, exemplified in his “I hate Bush” rant, the playground taunts, the pretense of governing and policy expertise.

And there is the matter of Chait’s slightly peculiar personal obsessions. For example, he admits that one of his “guilty pleasures” is a “morbid fascination” with me and that one of his “shameful hobbies” is watching the “almost sensual pleasure” taken by me at the coming November elections – with the latter written under the headline “Wehner Throbs with Anticipation.” Now this doesn’t particularly bother me, but perhaps it should bother Mrs. Chait.

The New Republic was once the professional home to some of the nation’s preeminent intellectuals, public figures, and journalists. Today it provides a perch to Jonathan Chait, TNR’s version of Keith Olbermann

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Why Are So Many Conservatives Backing a Radical Immigration Solution?

Mike Huckabee is showing some political courage:

Former Arkansas GOP Gov. Mike Huckabee says he is against changing the 14th Amendment to remove birthright citizenship.

“The Supreme Court has decided that, I think, in three different centuries,” Huckabeee said in a radio interview Wednesday with NPR. “In every single instance, they have affirmed that if you are born in this country, you are considered to be a citizen. The only option there is to change the Constitution.” …

But asked Wednesday if he supported such a change, Huckabee responded simply: “No.”

“Let me tell you what I would favor. I would favor having controlled borders,” said the 2008 GOP presidential candidate. “But that’s where the federal government has miserably and hopelessly failed us.”

Now, there’s a dose of conservative common sense. It is rather strange to see so many conservatives blithely suggesting a major Constitutional revision for a problem that stems from the failure of the federal government to carry out its duties under existing law.

Michael Gerson provides some historical perspective on the meaning and intention of the 14th Amendment:

The amendment reads: “All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside.” This is not the only place in the Constitution where birth is decisive. Any “natural born citizen” who meets age and residency requirements can be elected president.

Critics of birthright citizenship are in revolt against the plain meaning of words. They sometimes assert that “subject to the jurisdiction thereof” must exclude illegal immigrants. It doesn’t. Undocumented immigrants and their children are fully subject to American laws. The idea of “jurisdiction” had a specific meaning in the congressional debate surrounding approval of the 14th Amendment. “The language was designed,” says historian Garrett Epps, “to exclude two and only two groups: (1) children of diplomats accredited to the United States and (2) members of Indian tribes who maintained quasi-sovereign status under federal Indian law.”

As Gerson points out, it’s not as if this topic was ignored:

During the debate over the 14th Amendment, Sen. Edgar Cowan of Pennsylvania complained that birthright citizenship would include Gypsies, “who pay no taxes; who never perform military service; who do nothing, in fact, which becomes the citizen.” Others objected that the children of Chinese laborers would be covered. Supporters of the 14th Amendment conceded both cases — and defended them.

Of course, we can amend the Constitution. But conservatives should at least be honest: this would be a radical change, not simply an effort to fill in some missing gap in our Constitutional structure. Nor should conservatives underestimate the possibility that once the 14th Amendment is put into play, liberal interest groups would seek to expand and extend the amendment in a number of ways that conservatives would certainly find objectionable. The prospect of a Constitutional free-for-all should alarm sober conservatives.

We’ll see how far the discussion goes and who else has the nerve, from a conservative perspective, to resist an extreme solution to what is a rather simple problem. Rather than take a meat cleaver to the Constitution, why not get the federal government to do its job?

Mike Huckabee is showing some political courage:

Former Arkansas GOP Gov. Mike Huckabee says he is against changing the 14th Amendment to remove birthright citizenship.

“The Supreme Court has decided that, I think, in three different centuries,” Huckabeee said in a radio interview Wednesday with NPR. “In every single instance, they have affirmed that if you are born in this country, you are considered to be a citizen. The only option there is to change the Constitution.” …

But asked Wednesday if he supported such a change, Huckabee responded simply: “No.”

“Let me tell you what I would favor. I would favor having controlled borders,” said the 2008 GOP presidential candidate. “But that’s where the federal government has miserably and hopelessly failed us.”

Now, there’s a dose of conservative common sense. It is rather strange to see so many conservatives blithely suggesting a major Constitutional revision for a problem that stems from the failure of the federal government to carry out its duties under existing law.

Michael Gerson provides some historical perspective on the meaning and intention of the 14th Amendment:

The amendment reads: “All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside.” This is not the only place in the Constitution where birth is decisive. Any “natural born citizen” who meets age and residency requirements can be elected president.

Critics of birthright citizenship are in revolt against the plain meaning of words. They sometimes assert that “subject to the jurisdiction thereof” must exclude illegal immigrants. It doesn’t. Undocumented immigrants and their children are fully subject to American laws. The idea of “jurisdiction” had a specific meaning in the congressional debate surrounding approval of the 14th Amendment. “The language was designed,” says historian Garrett Epps, “to exclude two and only two groups: (1) children of diplomats accredited to the United States and (2) members of Indian tribes who maintained quasi-sovereign status under federal Indian law.”

As Gerson points out, it’s not as if this topic was ignored:

During the debate over the 14th Amendment, Sen. Edgar Cowan of Pennsylvania complained that birthright citizenship would include Gypsies, “who pay no taxes; who never perform military service; who do nothing, in fact, which becomes the citizen.” Others objected that the children of Chinese laborers would be covered. Supporters of the 14th Amendment conceded both cases — and defended them.

Of course, we can amend the Constitution. But conservatives should at least be honest: this would be a radical change, not simply an effort to fill in some missing gap in our Constitutional structure. Nor should conservatives underestimate the possibility that once the 14th Amendment is put into play, liberal interest groups would seek to expand and extend the amendment in a number of ways that conservatives would certainly find objectionable. The prospect of a Constitutional free-for-all should alarm sober conservatives.

We’ll see how far the discussion goes and who else has the nerve, from a conservative perspective, to resist an extreme solution to what is a rather simple problem. Rather than take a meat cleaver to the Constitution, why not get the federal government to do its job?

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The West Is in Denial over Turkey

Last week, I criticized Israel’s schizophrenia toward Turkey. But Israel is far ahead the rest of the West, where outright denial still reigns. Three reports this week highlighted Turkey’s growing role as an international problem child, yet Western governments seem oblivious.

One, which Jennifer cited yesterday, is the news that Turkey is deliberately undermining new sanctions on Iran by boosting its own gasoline exports to the mullahs. As this report notes, the sanctions were actually having an impact: “Iran’s gasoline imports fell 50 percent last month as sanctions spurred traders to halt supplies, according to Energy Market Consultants Ltd.” But Turkey moved quickly to fill the breach and has already become one of Iran’s top two suppliers (the other being China).

Western countries have repeatedly asserted that a nuclear Iran would be disastrous, but so would military action against Tehran. That means they have a vital interest in the success of sanctions because they have no Plan B. Yet Turkey has now openly pledged to do its best to make sanctions fail — and the Western response has been a deafening silence.
Then there is Corriere della Serra’s report that Turkey plans to ship arms to Hezbollah. This, too, directly undercuts a professed Western interest, that of preventing another Mideast war. It doesn’t take a genius to realize that the better armed Hezbollah is, the more confident it will feel about launching military assaults on Israel — and eventually, Israel will have to respond.

Moreover, aside from the quantitative boost they would give Hezbollah, Turkish arms could provide a major qualitative boost, as Turkey has access to all the most sophisticated NATO weaponry. This means that any new Israel-Hezbollah war would be far more devastating than the last because Israel would be forced to use more of its own capabilities to counter Hezbollah’s bigger, more sophisticated arsenal.

Western intelligence agencies reportedly “view the Turkish-Iranian plot with concern.” But Western governments haven’t uttered a peep.

Finally, there is Der Spiegel’s report that the Turks have used chemical weapons against the Kurds. German experts have deemed the evidence credible, and some German politicians, to their credit, are demanding an international investigation. Yet the German government has declined to take any diplomatic action, and other Western countries have been similarly mute.

Given the West’s professed concern for human rights, one might think it would be bothered by a NATO member adopting Saddam Hussein’s tactics. But where Turkey is concerned, it would apparently rather shut its eyes.

The accumulating evidence all points to the same conclusion: Turkey has switched its allegiance from the West to the radical axis led by Iran. And it seems doubtful that any Western action could reverse this shift totally. But because Turkey still needs the West in many ways, a strong Western response probably could at least moderate its behavior.
Instead, Ankara has able to undermine Western interests ever more blatantly without the West exacting any penalties whatsoever. And as long as Turkey can keep spurning the West cost-free, its slide toward Iran will only accelerate.

Last week, I criticized Israel’s schizophrenia toward Turkey. But Israel is far ahead the rest of the West, where outright denial still reigns. Three reports this week highlighted Turkey’s growing role as an international problem child, yet Western governments seem oblivious.

One, which Jennifer cited yesterday, is the news that Turkey is deliberately undermining new sanctions on Iran by boosting its own gasoline exports to the mullahs. As this report notes, the sanctions were actually having an impact: “Iran’s gasoline imports fell 50 percent last month as sanctions spurred traders to halt supplies, according to Energy Market Consultants Ltd.” But Turkey moved quickly to fill the breach and has already become one of Iran’s top two suppliers (the other being China).

Western countries have repeatedly asserted that a nuclear Iran would be disastrous, but so would military action against Tehran. That means they have a vital interest in the success of sanctions because they have no Plan B. Yet Turkey has now openly pledged to do its best to make sanctions fail — and the Western response has been a deafening silence.
Then there is Corriere della Serra’s report that Turkey plans to ship arms to Hezbollah. This, too, directly undercuts a professed Western interest, that of preventing another Mideast war. It doesn’t take a genius to realize that the better armed Hezbollah is, the more confident it will feel about launching military assaults on Israel — and eventually, Israel will have to respond.

Moreover, aside from the quantitative boost they would give Hezbollah, Turkish arms could provide a major qualitative boost, as Turkey has access to all the most sophisticated NATO weaponry. This means that any new Israel-Hezbollah war would be far more devastating than the last because Israel would be forced to use more of its own capabilities to counter Hezbollah’s bigger, more sophisticated arsenal.

Western intelligence agencies reportedly “view the Turkish-Iranian plot with concern.” But Western governments haven’t uttered a peep.

Finally, there is Der Spiegel’s report that the Turks have used chemical weapons against the Kurds. German experts have deemed the evidence credible, and some German politicians, to their credit, are demanding an international investigation. Yet the German government has declined to take any diplomatic action, and other Western countries have been similarly mute.

Given the West’s professed concern for human rights, one might think it would be bothered by a NATO member adopting Saddam Hussein’s tactics. But where Turkey is concerned, it would apparently rather shut its eyes.

The accumulating evidence all points to the same conclusion: Turkey has switched its allegiance from the West to the radical axis led by Iran. And it seems doubtful that any Western action could reverse this shift totally. But because Turkey still needs the West in many ways, a strong Western response probably could at least moderate its behavior.
Instead, Ankara has able to undermine Western interests ever more blatantly without the West exacting any penalties whatsoever. And as long as Turkey can keep spurning the West cost-free, its slide toward Iran will only accelerate.

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RE: A Sea Change in Attitudes Toward Gay Rights

Pete, you write:

We have seen a sea change in attitudes toward gay rights and same-sex marriage over the past two decades. It ranks as among the most successful social movements we have witnessed, both in terms of shaping public attitudes and in securing the legal right to marry, and there’s every reason to believe that it will continue.

This is on the money and should impact how this issue is addressed. It would seem that advocates of gay marriage and gay rights should avoid the error of the abortion-rights movement. Pro-choice forces rushed to the courts, preempted the democratic branches of government, spawned a national right-to-life movement aggrieved by the undemocratic treatment of a fundamental social issue, and along the way, lost the hearts and minds of the American people. It is a lesson that shouldn’t be lost on gay-rights advocates. Why must they race to the courthouse door if the American people are receptive to their arguments? It seems the time has come to work this out, as we do most social issues (at least those which haven’t yet been hijacked by the judiciary) in the court of public opinion.

As for opponents of gay marriage, they would be wise to figure out what arguments they think will carry the day with, as Pete correctly points out, a ”millennial generation [which views] sexual orientation in basically the same way they view a person being left-handed or right-handed.” Right now, they are losing the argument.

It is untrue that the Constitution is a living document. But American society is just that — a growing, evolving, shifting entity whose majority does reserve the right to change its mind on issues as fundamental as race, gender roles, and marriage. In a democratic country, those issues should be discussed and ultimately resolved by the people. Advocates and courts should resist the totalitarian impulse and allow the debate to unfold. Whether they will remains an open question.

Pete, you write:

We have seen a sea change in attitudes toward gay rights and same-sex marriage over the past two decades. It ranks as among the most successful social movements we have witnessed, both in terms of shaping public attitudes and in securing the legal right to marry, and there’s every reason to believe that it will continue.

This is on the money and should impact how this issue is addressed. It would seem that advocates of gay marriage and gay rights should avoid the error of the abortion-rights movement. Pro-choice forces rushed to the courts, preempted the democratic branches of government, spawned a national right-to-life movement aggrieved by the undemocratic treatment of a fundamental social issue, and along the way, lost the hearts and minds of the American people. It is a lesson that shouldn’t be lost on gay-rights advocates. Why must they race to the courthouse door if the American people are receptive to their arguments? It seems the time has come to work this out, as we do most social issues (at least those which haven’t yet been hijacked by the judiciary) in the court of public opinion.

As for opponents of gay marriage, they would be wise to figure out what arguments they think will carry the day with, as Pete correctly points out, a ”millennial generation [which views] sexual orientation in basically the same way they view a person being left-handed or right-handed.” Right now, they are losing the argument.

It is untrue that the Constitution is a living document. But American society is just that — a growing, evolving, shifting entity whose majority does reserve the right to change its mind on issues as fundamental as race, gender roles, and marriage. In a democratic country, those issues should be discussed and ultimately resolved by the people. Advocates and courts should resist the totalitarian impulse and allow the debate to unfold. Whether they will remains an open question.

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The Unpopularity of Pelosi and Reid

The recent poll by the Wall Street Journal/NBC News found that 21 percent of Americans approve of Congress while 72 percent disapprove. We also find this: views of Nancy Pelosi are “very positive” for 7 percent of the voters and “very negative” for 35 percent, while views of Harry Reid are “very positive” for 2 percent of the voters and “very negative” for 24 percent. And these numbers are from a poll that that gave a nine-point edge to Democrats in its sample without leaners (seven points with leaners).

Congress and its leaders are rarely popular; but they are rarely this unpopular.

The recent poll by the Wall Street Journal/NBC News found that 21 percent of Americans approve of Congress while 72 percent disapprove. We also find this: views of Nancy Pelosi are “very positive” for 7 percent of the voters and “very negative” for 35 percent, while views of Harry Reid are “very positive” for 2 percent of the voters and “very negative” for 24 percent. And these numbers are from a poll that that gave a nine-point edge to Democrats in its sample without leaners (seven points with leaners).

Congress and its leaders are rarely popular; but they are rarely this unpopular.

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Iran Doesn’t Just Threaten Israel

As Jonathan pointed out, we’ve gotten sidetracked on an unhelpful guessing game about Israel’s capability and will to carry out an attack on Iran if the U.S. fails to do so. It’s important, I think, to put this in the context of a larger, noxious trend among the Israel-bashers to set America’s interests as distinct from and in conflict with those of the Jewish state.

We have seen this in the assertion that failure to make progress on the peace process (i.e., to force Israel to cough up more concessions) endangers American lives in Afghanistan and elsewhere. We have seen this in the argument that America went to war in Iraq at Israel’s behest. (Don’t bother with facts; this is the left’s fantasy of an America imperiled by the Jewish state.) So naturally, the discussion of what to do about Iran — at least we’ve all agreed sanctions are meaningless — involves an effort to distance the U.S. from Israel and to focus on Israel’s military and political calculus, as if our interests were distinct. On that I’ll be brief: Israel will act if we don’t, for if it does not, the entire Zionist undertaking — a nation of refuge for world Jewry — dissolves.

But the emphasis on the existential threat to Israel ignores a more basic issue for Americans to ponder: a nuclear-armed Iran represents a dagger at the heart of America and an existential threat to our status as a superpower and guarantor of the West’s security. As to the former, Iran is pressing ahead with its long-range ballistic missile program. First the Middle East and Eastern Europe, then all of Europe and, within a matter of years, the U.S. will be within range of Iranian missiles. If those are nuclear and not conventional, what then? We’re not talking about whether Iran is going to be “merely” a destabilizing factor in the Middle East or whether it will set off an arms race with its neighbors or imperil Israel’s existence. We’re talking about whether America will then be at risk (and lacking sufficient missile-defense capabilities if we continue to hack away at our defense budget). The argument about whether mutual assured destruction can really work against Islamic fundamentalists who have an apocalyptic vision becomes not about Israel’s ability to deter an attack but about ours. Those who oppose American military action have an obligation to explain why America should place itself in that predicament.

And then there is the broader issue of America’s standing as the sole superpower and the defender of the Free World. Should the “unacceptable” become reality, the notion that America stands between free peoples and despots and provides an umbrella of security for itself and its allies will vanish, just as surely as will the Zionist ideal. Two administrations have declared the policy of the U.S. to be that Iran must not join the nuclear club. Obama himself has set nonproliferation as a top priority. So if Iran pushes forth, despite these commitments and attains what the U.S. has pronounced “unacceptable,” what ally henceforth would rely on us? What use would our security guarantees be? What meaning would any alliance with the U.S. have?

It is for these reasons, as well as the practical military reasons Jonathan outlined, that the U.S. must act militarily to defang the mullahs. It is not for Israel but for ourselves and the preservation of America’s standing in the world that we must act. The considerable doubt that Obama will do so should disturb every elected leader and the public at large. It is time to have a robust discussion, not about the existential threat to Israel — for that is obvious and has been amply discussed — but about the threat to America. Put in these terms, we should all be asking a single question: will Obama commit the U.S. to use military force to prevent a fundamental threat to the safety and security of the U.S. and the Free World?

As Jonathan pointed out, we’ve gotten sidetracked on an unhelpful guessing game about Israel’s capability and will to carry out an attack on Iran if the U.S. fails to do so. It’s important, I think, to put this in the context of a larger, noxious trend among the Israel-bashers to set America’s interests as distinct from and in conflict with those of the Jewish state.

We have seen this in the assertion that failure to make progress on the peace process (i.e., to force Israel to cough up more concessions) endangers American lives in Afghanistan and elsewhere. We have seen this in the argument that America went to war in Iraq at Israel’s behest. (Don’t bother with facts; this is the left’s fantasy of an America imperiled by the Jewish state.) So naturally, the discussion of what to do about Iran — at least we’ve all agreed sanctions are meaningless — involves an effort to distance the U.S. from Israel and to focus on Israel’s military and political calculus, as if our interests were distinct. On that I’ll be brief: Israel will act if we don’t, for if it does not, the entire Zionist undertaking — a nation of refuge for world Jewry — dissolves.

But the emphasis on the existential threat to Israel ignores a more basic issue for Americans to ponder: a nuclear-armed Iran represents a dagger at the heart of America and an existential threat to our status as a superpower and guarantor of the West’s security. As to the former, Iran is pressing ahead with its long-range ballistic missile program. First the Middle East and Eastern Europe, then all of Europe and, within a matter of years, the U.S. will be within range of Iranian missiles. If those are nuclear and not conventional, what then? We’re not talking about whether Iran is going to be “merely” a destabilizing factor in the Middle East or whether it will set off an arms race with its neighbors or imperil Israel’s existence. We’re talking about whether America will then be at risk (and lacking sufficient missile-defense capabilities if we continue to hack away at our defense budget). The argument about whether mutual assured destruction can really work against Islamic fundamentalists who have an apocalyptic vision becomes not about Israel’s ability to deter an attack but about ours. Those who oppose American military action have an obligation to explain why America should place itself in that predicament.

And then there is the broader issue of America’s standing as the sole superpower and the defender of the Free World. Should the “unacceptable” become reality, the notion that America stands between free peoples and despots and provides an umbrella of security for itself and its allies will vanish, just as surely as will the Zionist ideal. Two administrations have declared the policy of the U.S. to be that Iran must not join the nuclear club. Obama himself has set nonproliferation as a top priority. So if Iran pushes forth, despite these commitments and attains what the U.S. has pronounced “unacceptable,” what ally henceforth would rely on us? What use would our security guarantees be? What meaning would any alliance with the U.S. have?

It is for these reasons, as well as the practical military reasons Jonathan outlined, that the U.S. must act militarily to defang the mullahs. It is not for Israel but for ourselves and the preservation of America’s standing in the world that we must act. The considerable doubt that Obama will do so should disturb every elected leader and the public at large. It is time to have a robust discussion, not about the existential threat to Israel — for that is obvious and has been amply discussed — but about the threat to America. Put in these terms, we should all be asking a single question: will Obama commit the U.S. to use military force to prevent a fundamental threat to the safety and security of the U.S. and the Free World?

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Public Gets an “A” in Economics

As Pete pointed out, a large majority of Americans think the economy is getting worse. They aren’t simply being intransigent in refusing to buy the administration’s assurances that the recovery is in full swing. It turns out they have a pretty good sense of where the economy is headed. This report explains:

The number of U.S. workers filing new claims for jobless benefits unexpectedly rose last week to the highest level in close to six months, the latest evidence the economy’s recovery is faltering.  Thursday’s data came two days after the Federal Reserve spooked investors by downgrading its assessment of the economy. The increase in jobless claims added to worries in the stock market, which has failed to make any gains this year.

The number of new claims for state unemployment insurance rose by 2,000 to 484,000 in the week ended August 7, the second straight increase, the Labor Department said. Economists had expected claims to edge down to 469,000.

“This is not a good number,” said John Brady, an analyst at MF Global in Chicago. “Claims are going the wrong way. That has the market concerned.”

U.S. stocks closed down for a third straight day, pressured by the data and a disappointing revenue forecast from tech bellwether Cisco Systems Inc.

Obama’s happy talk about the recovery flies in the face of both Americans’ personal experience and widely available economic information. (“Data for the United States has been decidedly weak over the past couple of months, with private-sector job growth lagging expectations and the unemployment rate stuck at 9.5 percent. That has fed concerns the economy could be at risk of a renewed recession or face a debilitating bout of deflation as the bleak jobs market pressures incomes and prices.”) As the economy sags and public confidence does as well, the president’s insistence that things are looking up further erodes his credibility.

He keeps saying things that simply aren’t so. The public is no longer willing to extend him the benefit of the doubt and will take its wrath out on the president’s party in less than three months. Perhaps then the administration will acknowledge Obamanomics has failed and try a different approach to restoring growth and job creation.

As Pete pointed out, a large majority of Americans think the economy is getting worse. They aren’t simply being intransigent in refusing to buy the administration’s assurances that the recovery is in full swing. It turns out they have a pretty good sense of where the economy is headed. This report explains:

The number of U.S. workers filing new claims for jobless benefits unexpectedly rose last week to the highest level in close to six months, the latest evidence the economy’s recovery is faltering.  Thursday’s data came two days after the Federal Reserve spooked investors by downgrading its assessment of the economy. The increase in jobless claims added to worries in the stock market, which has failed to make any gains this year.

The number of new claims for state unemployment insurance rose by 2,000 to 484,000 in the week ended August 7, the second straight increase, the Labor Department said. Economists had expected claims to edge down to 469,000.

“This is not a good number,” said John Brady, an analyst at MF Global in Chicago. “Claims are going the wrong way. That has the market concerned.”

U.S. stocks closed down for a third straight day, pressured by the data and a disappointing revenue forecast from tech bellwether Cisco Systems Inc.

Obama’s happy talk about the recovery flies in the face of both Americans’ personal experience and widely available economic information. (“Data for the United States has been decidedly weak over the past couple of months, with private-sector job growth lagging expectations and the unemployment rate stuck at 9.5 percent. That has fed concerns the economy could be at risk of a renewed recession or face a debilitating bout of deflation as the bleak jobs market pressures incomes and prices.”) As the economy sags and public confidence does as well, the president’s insistence that things are looking up further erodes his credibility.

He keeps saying things that simply aren’t so. The public is no longer willing to extend him the benefit of the doubt and will take its wrath out on the president’s party in less than three months. Perhaps then the administration will acknowledge Obamanomics has failed and try a different approach to restoring growth and job creation.

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Another Group Fed Up with Obama?

Obama has been playing the Hispanic community for fools. As his polling numbers among this traditionally Democratic voting group eroded, he promised to elevate immigration reform to the top of the agenda. He had no intention of doing much of anything — other than decrying the efforts of Arizona to fill the void left by the federal government. Well, Obama has now managed to infuriate both proponents of a more restrictionist immigration policy and the Hispanic community. Politico reports:

President Barack Obama has lost the most trusted man in the Hispanic media.

Univision’s Jorge Ramos, an anchor on the nation’s largest Spanish-language television network, says Obama broke his promise to produce an immigration reform bill within a year of taking office. And Latinos are tired of the speeches, disillusioned by the lack of White House leadership and distrustful of the president, Ramos told POLITICO.

“He has a credibility problem right now with Latinos,” Ramos said. “We’ll see what the political circumstances are in a couple of years, but there is a serious credibility problem.”

Ramos has been called the Walter Cronkite of Spanish-language media, an unparalleled nationwide voice for Hispanics. And just like the famed CBS newsman’s commentary helped turn the country against the Vietnam War, Ramos may be on the leading edge of a movement within the Hispanic media to challenge the president on immigration — a shift that some observers believe is contributing to Obama’s eroding poll numbers among Latino voters.

Well, that’s some political karma. Obama’s cynical ploy has backfired spectacularly and revealed him to be very much a divider and not a uniter on a hot-button issue. There may not be consensus in the country on what to do about immigration. But increasingly, voters can agree that Obama is practicing the politics of division and doing so with so little finesse that he’s managing to annoy both sides in the debate.

Obama has been playing the Hispanic community for fools. As his polling numbers among this traditionally Democratic voting group eroded, he promised to elevate immigration reform to the top of the agenda. He had no intention of doing much of anything — other than decrying the efforts of Arizona to fill the void left by the federal government. Well, Obama has now managed to infuriate both proponents of a more restrictionist immigration policy and the Hispanic community. Politico reports:

President Barack Obama has lost the most trusted man in the Hispanic media.

Univision’s Jorge Ramos, an anchor on the nation’s largest Spanish-language television network, says Obama broke his promise to produce an immigration reform bill within a year of taking office. And Latinos are tired of the speeches, disillusioned by the lack of White House leadership and distrustful of the president, Ramos told POLITICO.

“He has a credibility problem right now with Latinos,” Ramos said. “We’ll see what the political circumstances are in a couple of years, but there is a serious credibility problem.”

Ramos has been called the Walter Cronkite of Spanish-language media, an unparalleled nationwide voice for Hispanics. And just like the famed CBS newsman’s commentary helped turn the country against the Vietnam War, Ramos may be on the leading edge of a movement within the Hispanic media to challenge the president on immigration — a shift that some observers believe is contributing to Obama’s eroding poll numbers among Latino voters.

Well, that’s some political karma. Obama’s cynical ploy has backfired spectacularly and revealed him to be very much a divider and not a uniter on a hot-button issue. There may not be consensus in the country on what to do about immigration. But increasingly, voters can agree that Obama is practicing the politics of division and doing so with so little finesse that he’s managing to annoy both sides in the debate.

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RE: Exporting the Imam’s Message

I was curious about the State Department’s invocation of Abe Foxman in defending its decision to send the imam of the planned Ground Zero mosque overseas. The spokesman declared, “I have heard in media reports, where, Abe Foxman of the ADL, has vouched for his religious views.” That seemed a bit odd, in part because the ADL — to the chagrin of the left — had released a statement urging the mosque be relocated and asserting:

In recommending that a different location be found for the Islamic Center, we are mindful that some legitimate questions have been raised about who is providing the funding to build it, and what connections, if any, its leaders might have with groups whose ideologies stand in contradiction to our shared values.  These questions deserve a response, and we hope those backing the project will be transparent and forthcoming.

I contacted the ADL, which had this response:

P.J. Crowley, State Department spokesman on FoxNews this morning mischaracterized what Abraham H. Foxman has said regarding Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, when he stated,

“…I have heard in media reports, where, Abe Foxman of the ADL, has vouched for his religious views…”

Mr. Foxman, who has known and had contact with the Imam on several occasions, has repeatedly said, “To the best of my knowledge he is a moderate and I have agreed to defend him against charges of his being a terrorist or extremist.”

Well, that is a helpful clarification, but frankly, it’s rather weak, given what we know about Rauf’s views on, for example, 9/11. In another era and with another ADL leader, I imagine a more robust response would have been forthcoming. An official of another Jewish organization remarked to me, “If the standard for ‘moderate’ includes embracing Hamas and implicating the United States in connection with 9/11, there is obviously a fundamental problem.” Indeed.

I was curious about the State Department’s invocation of Abe Foxman in defending its decision to send the imam of the planned Ground Zero mosque overseas. The spokesman declared, “I have heard in media reports, where, Abe Foxman of the ADL, has vouched for his religious views.” That seemed a bit odd, in part because the ADL — to the chagrin of the left — had released a statement urging the mosque be relocated and asserting:

In recommending that a different location be found for the Islamic Center, we are mindful that some legitimate questions have been raised about who is providing the funding to build it, and what connections, if any, its leaders might have with groups whose ideologies stand in contradiction to our shared values.  These questions deserve a response, and we hope those backing the project will be transparent and forthcoming.

I contacted the ADL, which had this response:

P.J. Crowley, State Department spokesman on FoxNews this morning mischaracterized what Abraham H. Foxman has said regarding Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, when he stated,

“…I have heard in media reports, where, Abe Foxman of the ADL, has vouched for his religious views…”

Mr. Foxman, who has known and had contact with the Imam on several occasions, has repeatedly said, “To the best of my knowledge he is a moderate and I have agreed to defend him against charges of his being a terrorist or extremist.”

Well, that is a helpful clarification, but frankly, it’s rather weak, given what we know about Rauf’s views on, for example, 9/11. In another era and with another ADL leader, I imagine a more robust response would have been forthcoming. An official of another Jewish organization remarked to me, “If the standard for ‘moderate’ includes embracing Hamas and implicating the United States in connection with 9/11, there is obviously a fundamental problem.” Indeed.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Gloom and doom from the Democrats: “Dems are worried that a new feud between the WH and their liberal base is further endangering the party’s candidates during the midterms, exacerbating an already immense enthusiasm gap.”

Succinct brilliance from Charles Krauthammer: “No commercial tower over Gettysburg, no convent at Auschwitz — and no mosque at Ground Zero. Build it anywhere but there.”

Evasion from Rep. Anthony Weiner on the Ground Zero mosque. Is it too hard a question, or is his answer too unpopular?

A warning from the Democrats’ own ranks. Rick Sloan, acting executive director of UCubed, a community-service project of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers: “You can talk about deficit reduction, health-care reform—you can talk about all those things but you’re talking past the jobless voters.” And from a Democratic voting analyst: “Unemployment in the individual congressional districts ‘is the leading factor in determining the November elections. … The hope of the administration is it’s trending down when the elections are held, but they’re running out of time.”

A dose of reality from Colorado: “The first Rasmussen Reports post-primary telephone survey of Likely Voters in Colorado shows a close U.S. Senate race between Republican challenger Ken Buck and incumbent Democratic Senator Michael Bennet. Buck attracts 46% support, while Bennet picks up 41% of the vote.” So much for the notion that Colorado proves Obama still has political mojo.

An effort to save Republicans from themselves on birthright citizenship, from Michael Gerson: “The Radical Republicans who wrote the 14th Amendment were, in fact, quite radical. … Their main goal was expressed in birthright citizenship: to prevent a future majority from stealing the rights of children of any background, as long as they were born in America. Today’s dispute over birthright citizenship reveals the immigration debate in its starkest form. Usually, opponents of illegal immigration speak of giving lawbreakers what they deserve. But this does not apply in the case of an infant. … The radical, humane vision of the 14th Amendment can be put another way: No child born in America can be judged unworthy by John Boehner, because each is his equal.”

Surprising sanity from the Gray Lady’s editors: “We believe that the United States has a powerful national interest in Afghanistan, in depriving Al Qaeda of a safe haven on either side of the Afghanistan-Pakistan border. This country would also do enormous damage to its moral and strategic standing if it now simply abandoned the Afghan people to the Taliban’s brutalities. … But reports from the ground have been so relentlessly grim — July’s death toll of 66 American troops was the highest since the war began — that Mr. Obama needs to do a better job right now of explaining the strategy and how he is measuring progress.”

Gloom and doom from the Democrats: “Dems are worried that a new feud between the WH and their liberal base is further endangering the party’s candidates during the midterms, exacerbating an already immense enthusiasm gap.”

Succinct brilliance from Charles Krauthammer: “No commercial tower over Gettysburg, no convent at Auschwitz — and no mosque at Ground Zero. Build it anywhere but there.”

Evasion from Rep. Anthony Weiner on the Ground Zero mosque. Is it too hard a question, or is his answer too unpopular?

A warning from the Democrats’ own ranks. Rick Sloan, acting executive director of UCubed, a community-service project of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers: “You can talk about deficit reduction, health-care reform—you can talk about all those things but you’re talking past the jobless voters.” And from a Democratic voting analyst: “Unemployment in the individual congressional districts ‘is the leading factor in determining the November elections. … The hope of the administration is it’s trending down when the elections are held, but they’re running out of time.”

A dose of reality from Colorado: “The first Rasmussen Reports post-primary telephone survey of Likely Voters in Colorado shows a close U.S. Senate race between Republican challenger Ken Buck and incumbent Democratic Senator Michael Bennet. Buck attracts 46% support, while Bennet picks up 41% of the vote.” So much for the notion that Colorado proves Obama still has political mojo.

An effort to save Republicans from themselves on birthright citizenship, from Michael Gerson: “The Radical Republicans who wrote the 14th Amendment were, in fact, quite radical. … Their main goal was expressed in birthright citizenship: to prevent a future majority from stealing the rights of children of any background, as long as they were born in America. Today’s dispute over birthright citizenship reveals the immigration debate in its starkest form. Usually, opponents of illegal immigration speak of giving lawbreakers what they deserve. But this does not apply in the case of an infant. … The radical, humane vision of the 14th Amendment can be put another way: No child born in America can be judged unworthy by John Boehner, because each is his equal.”

Surprising sanity from the Gray Lady’s editors: “We believe that the United States has a powerful national interest in Afghanistan, in depriving Al Qaeda of a safe haven on either side of the Afghanistan-Pakistan border. This country would also do enormous damage to its moral and strategic standing if it now simply abandoned the Afghan people to the Taliban’s brutalities. … But reports from the ground have been so relentlessly grim — July’s death toll of 66 American troops was the highest since the war began — that Mr. Obama needs to do a better job right now of explaining the strategy and how he is measuring progress.”

Read Less