Commentary Magazine


Posts For: August 23, 2010

The Left’s Canary Chokes in an Australian Mine

Australia faces its first federal hung parliament in 70 years — which is especially notable because, as the Sydney Morning Herald put it, “Australia is now established as the political canary in the American electoral coal-mine.”

In Australia, the political composition will likely force the left to choose between painful compromise and inaction. The irony is that citizens refused to believe Labor politicians’ newly adopted centrism — which is actually real, albeit reluctant, because it derives from political necessity. Instead they voted for honestly presented conservatives. American Democrats may find themselves in the same predicament soon.

Already one Labor prime minister, Kevin Rudd, has been impaled on a radical leftist agenda. Rudd finally resigned, and Julia Gillard became Australia’s first female prime minister, leading Labor in his place.

The American public may recognize the far-left mindset that drove Rudd’s shortsighted policy priorities. As yesterday’s Wall Street Journal pointed out, “[Rudd’s Keynesian] spending boom turned an A$19.7 billion surplus in 2007-2008 into an A$32.1 billion deficit the following fiscal year.” Rudd also pushed hard for economically unsound policies like cap-and-trade and a “super-profits tax” on Australia’s profitable mining industry. The Australian public was vociferously dissatisfied, and Labor is struggling to recover.

In the context of Rudd’s shunting, Gillard tried to regain the public’s trust in Labor by rebranding as a moderate.

American Democrats may be interested to know that the public apparently didn’t buy that centrist repositioning. Saturday’s election withheld a governing majority from Labor. Led by opposition prodigy Tony Abbott, the Liberals — Australia’s conservative party — have gained substantial public support in recent months, even though they too were unable to secure a governing majority. Now both Liberals and Labor are courting Green and Independent parliamentarians in an effort to build a coalition.

Unpleasant compromises now seem unavoidable for Labor, which spent its time in power trying to ram its agenda down voters’ throats despite the collective gag reflex. So Tony Abbott’s words might soon hold true for American Democrats: “I say that a Government which found it very hard to govern effectively with a majority of 17 seats will never be able to govern effectively in a minority.”

Australia faces its first federal hung parliament in 70 years — which is especially notable because, as the Sydney Morning Herald put it, “Australia is now established as the political canary in the American electoral coal-mine.”

In Australia, the political composition will likely force the left to choose between painful compromise and inaction. The irony is that citizens refused to believe Labor politicians’ newly adopted centrism — which is actually real, albeit reluctant, because it derives from political necessity. Instead they voted for honestly presented conservatives. American Democrats may find themselves in the same predicament soon.

Already one Labor prime minister, Kevin Rudd, has been impaled on a radical leftist agenda. Rudd finally resigned, and Julia Gillard became Australia’s first female prime minister, leading Labor in his place.

The American public may recognize the far-left mindset that drove Rudd’s shortsighted policy priorities. As yesterday’s Wall Street Journal pointed out, “[Rudd’s Keynesian] spending boom turned an A$19.7 billion surplus in 2007-2008 into an A$32.1 billion deficit the following fiscal year.” Rudd also pushed hard for economically unsound policies like cap-and-trade and a “super-profits tax” on Australia’s profitable mining industry. The Australian public was vociferously dissatisfied, and Labor is struggling to recover.

In the context of Rudd’s shunting, Gillard tried to regain the public’s trust in Labor by rebranding as a moderate.

American Democrats may be interested to know that the public apparently didn’t buy that centrist repositioning. Saturday’s election withheld a governing majority from Labor. Led by opposition prodigy Tony Abbott, the Liberals — Australia’s conservative party — have gained substantial public support in recent months, even though they too were unable to secure a governing majority. Now both Liberals and Labor are courting Green and Independent parliamentarians in an effort to build a coalition.

Unpleasant compromises now seem unavoidable for Labor, which spent its time in power trying to ram its agenda down voters’ throats despite the collective gag reflex. So Tony Abbott’s words might soon hold true for American Democrats: “I say that a Government which found it very hard to govern effectively with a majority of 17 seats will never be able to govern effectively in a minority.”

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Obama Ain’t No Reagan

Over at the American Enterprise Institute’s blog, William Inboden has written a smart piece, “Is Obama’s First Term Like Reagan’s?” Will addresses the narrative being put forth by President Obama’s aides, according to which Obama’s first term is analogous not to Carter’s (an increasingly common comparison these days) but to Reagan’s.

While granting that this is a clever try “if one can get past the irony of an administration simultaneously trying to dismantle the Reagan legacy while embracing the Reagan image,” Inboden writes, “As a matter of history, it is, well, dubious.” Inboden explains why. It’s worth the read.

Over at the American Enterprise Institute’s blog, William Inboden has written a smart piece, “Is Obama’s First Term Like Reagan’s?” Will addresses the narrative being put forth by President Obama’s aides, according to which Obama’s first term is analogous not to Carter’s (an increasingly common comparison these days) but to Reagan’s.

While granting that this is a clever try “if one can get past the irony of an administration simultaneously trying to dismantle the Reagan legacy while embracing the Reagan image,” Inboden writes, “As a matter of history, it is, well, dubious.” Inboden explains why. It’s worth the read.

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Less Is More

Gallup tells us:

President Obama’s job approval rating slipped to 43% for the week of Aug. 16-22, down one percentage point from the previous weekly low set a week ago.

The new low also marks the first weekly average in which 50% of Americans disapprove of Obama’s job performance. The erosion reflects particularly low ratings at the beginning of last week, including 41% for Aug. 15-17 and Aug. 16-18, the lowest three-day averages of his administration. By the end of the week, however, Obama’s job ratings inched up, averaging 44% approval Aug. 20-22.

The president arrived at Martha’s Vineyard, Mass., on Thursday, settling in with his family for a 10-day vacation, and for the most part dropping out of the daily news cycle. Whether this contributed to his slightly better ratings near the end of the week cannot be determined.

Could it be that less is more, that Obama’s flood-the-zone media approach is precisely wrong? Maybe Americans, both on the right and left, are so annoyed with him that merely disappearing from the TV screen helps his standing.

Judging from how upset people are over the Ground Zero mosque, this makes sense. Unfortunately for Democrats on the ballot, sooner or later Obama will be back from vacation and omnipresent again. But it could be worse — he could give another Oval Office address. The last one, as you may remember, sent his ratings skidding and drove his supporters to distraction.

Gallup tells us:

President Obama’s job approval rating slipped to 43% for the week of Aug. 16-22, down one percentage point from the previous weekly low set a week ago.

The new low also marks the first weekly average in which 50% of Americans disapprove of Obama’s job performance. The erosion reflects particularly low ratings at the beginning of last week, including 41% for Aug. 15-17 and Aug. 16-18, the lowest three-day averages of his administration. By the end of the week, however, Obama’s job ratings inched up, averaging 44% approval Aug. 20-22.

The president arrived at Martha’s Vineyard, Mass., on Thursday, settling in with his family for a 10-day vacation, and for the most part dropping out of the daily news cycle. Whether this contributed to his slightly better ratings near the end of the week cannot be determined.

Could it be that less is more, that Obama’s flood-the-zone media approach is precisely wrong? Maybe Americans, both on the right and left, are so annoyed with him that merely disappearing from the TV screen helps his standing.

Judging from how upset people are over the Ground Zero mosque, this makes sense. Unfortunately for Democrats on the ballot, sooner or later Obama will be back from vacation and omnipresent again. But it could be worse — he could give another Oval Office address. The last one, as you may remember, sent his ratings skidding and drove his supporters to distraction.

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The New Peace Process

The most important event in the new “peace process” took place last week, not in Washington but in Lebanon.

In Washington, it was clear from the Clinton-Mitchell media briefing Friday that while the administration has successfully pressured Mahmoud Abbas to talk to Israel, there is no agreement on anything else — not on the sequencing of issues, the terms of reference, the beginning point for the talks, or the role of Quartet statements:

QUESTION: Could you talk about the sequencing of the talks? Will they discuss territory, refugees, or Jerusalem first, or will this all be in parallel?

MR. MITCHELL: … It will be for the parties themselves to decide the manner by which [these issues] should be addressed.

***

QUESTION: Senator, is re-launching the direct negotiations without preconditions means that we are re-launching the direct negotiations without terms and references?

MR. MITCHELL: Only the parties can determine terms of reference and basis for negotiations, and they will do so when they meet and discuss these matters. …

***

QUESTION: … Can you tell us whether they’re going to start from scratch, or will they build on what talks that – during the Olmert period? …

MR. MITCHELL: The parties themselves will determine the basis on which they will proceed in the discussions…

***

QUESTION: So the talks won’t be based on the Quartet statement of March 19?

MR. MITCHELL: The parties are the only ones who can determine what the basis of their discussions are, and that is the case.

As one of Israel’s prominent bloggers is fond of asking, what could go wrong?

In Lebanon last week, the parliament lifted some employment restrictions on Palestinians who have lived for decades in squalid camps run by UNWRA. Previously, they lacked the right to seek citizenship, own property, attend public schools, receive public health care, or work in anything but menial or administrative jobs. Under the new law, they can work in more jobs (although not in professions such as lawyers, doctors, engineers, etc.), but they still lack all other rights. They are, in other words, the victims of legalized discrimination not by Israel but by their Arab brothers.

The new law was limited, according to the Lebanese Daily Star, because Lebanese “fear that granting the refugees the right to own property, among others, would be a slippery slope to permanent settlement.” The law passed only after a late June meeting with a delegation sent by Abbas, which promised that “Palestinian refugees would remain guests in Lebanon … and would not abandon their right of return.” Abbas thereby committed himself, once again, to a specious “right of return” that dooms any serious peace process with Israel.

Thomas Friedman yesterday called for a new Cairo speech by President Obama — to encourage not an interfaith dialogue but an intrafaith one within the Muslim world to heal “intracommunal divides.” Perhaps the president might use such a speech to term the treatment of Arab refugees by Arab countries an affront to human rights — and an obstacle to peace — and challenge them to “tear down those camps.” It would be a greater contribution to peace than the process he is initiating next week.

The most important event in the new “peace process” took place last week, not in Washington but in Lebanon.

In Washington, it was clear from the Clinton-Mitchell media briefing Friday that while the administration has successfully pressured Mahmoud Abbas to talk to Israel, there is no agreement on anything else — not on the sequencing of issues, the terms of reference, the beginning point for the talks, or the role of Quartet statements:

QUESTION: Could you talk about the sequencing of the talks? Will they discuss territory, refugees, or Jerusalem first, or will this all be in parallel?

MR. MITCHELL: … It will be for the parties themselves to decide the manner by which [these issues] should be addressed.

***

QUESTION: Senator, is re-launching the direct negotiations without preconditions means that we are re-launching the direct negotiations without terms and references?

MR. MITCHELL: Only the parties can determine terms of reference and basis for negotiations, and they will do so when they meet and discuss these matters. …

***

QUESTION: … Can you tell us whether they’re going to start from scratch, or will they build on what talks that – during the Olmert period? …

MR. MITCHELL: The parties themselves will determine the basis on which they will proceed in the discussions…

***

QUESTION: So the talks won’t be based on the Quartet statement of March 19?

MR. MITCHELL: The parties are the only ones who can determine what the basis of their discussions are, and that is the case.

As one of Israel’s prominent bloggers is fond of asking, what could go wrong?

In Lebanon last week, the parliament lifted some employment restrictions on Palestinians who have lived for decades in squalid camps run by UNWRA. Previously, they lacked the right to seek citizenship, own property, attend public schools, receive public health care, or work in anything but menial or administrative jobs. Under the new law, they can work in more jobs (although not in professions such as lawyers, doctors, engineers, etc.), but they still lack all other rights. They are, in other words, the victims of legalized discrimination not by Israel but by their Arab brothers.

The new law was limited, according to the Lebanese Daily Star, because Lebanese “fear that granting the refugees the right to own property, among others, would be a slippery slope to permanent settlement.” The law passed only after a late June meeting with a delegation sent by Abbas, which promised that “Palestinian refugees would remain guests in Lebanon … and would not abandon their right of return.” Abbas thereby committed himself, once again, to a specious “right of return” that dooms any serious peace process with Israel.

Thomas Friedman yesterday called for a new Cairo speech by President Obama — to encourage not an interfaith dialogue but an intrafaith one within the Muslim world to heal “intracommunal divides.” Perhaps the president might use such a speech to term the treatment of Arab refugees by Arab countries an affront to human rights — and an obstacle to peace — and challenge them to “tear down those camps.” It would be a greater contribution to peace than the process he is initiating next week.

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Let’s Talk About Reconciliation

As Abe details, the left has become so infuriated at critics of the Ground Zero mosque and so exasperated with Obama’s performance that it’s verging on the unintelligible. But while the left and the objects of its affection — the mosque builders — rage at those who want the mosque to simply be moved, they have given additional ammunition to the critics who have decried the Ground Zero mosque as more of a provocation and stunt than a symbol of healing.

Eric Cantor makes this point skillfully today:

Everyone accepts the fact that radical jihadists were the ones that perpetrated this crime — leave out the state sponsorship — everyone knows the reasons those individuals boarded those planes that morning was because they felt their religion — Islam allowed them to do it, or their version of Islam,” Cantor said.

If they wanted to build a mosque somewhere else, Cantor said he’d be in favor of it.

“But think about it,” he said. “Why would you want, as an imam, why would you want to put a cultural center right there if it’s meant to heal people when right away it’s caused such a national uproar? That is in and of itself evident of the fact that they’re not interested in healing or bringing people together. They’re interested in posing their view. That’s what so insensitive about it.”

And look at the results. The pro-mosque side has resorted to name-calling and offensive analogies. The cause of “reconciliation” has been set back and the entire country is now discussing why so many people are confused about Obama’s religion.

But this is really par for the course when it comes to the entire notion of Muslim outreach. The outreach is expected to go one way. When those supposed to be solicitous of Muslim sensitivities instead proffer their own interests, they are accused of being nationalistic, xenophobic, racist, and following in the footsteps of anti-Semites. My, this sounds like a faint echo of what Israel is subjected to every day.

Peace, reconciliation, tolerance — these all are cooperative activities. Perhaps the entire notion of “Muslim outreach” is flawed, based on the mistaken idea that one side — that would be the non-Muslim World — must atone, seek forgiveness, and boost the other’s ego. That, we are seeing, both here and in the Middle East is a recipe for disaster, for it enfeebles one side and alleviates them of the responsibility to examine their own actions, modify their behavior, and understand that their opponents’ concerns are grounded in history and experience. Like the “peace process,” it turns out that “Muslim outreach” creates more problems than it solves.

As Abe details, the left has become so infuriated at critics of the Ground Zero mosque and so exasperated with Obama’s performance that it’s verging on the unintelligible. But while the left and the objects of its affection — the mosque builders — rage at those who want the mosque to simply be moved, they have given additional ammunition to the critics who have decried the Ground Zero mosque as more of a provocation and stunt than a symbol of healing.

Eric Cantor makes this point skillfully today:

Everyone accepts the fact that radical jihadists were the ones that perpetrated this crime — leave out the state sponsorship — everyone knows the reasons those individuals boarded those planes that morning was because they felt their religion — Islam allowed them to do it, or their version of Islam,” Cantor said.

If they wanted to build a mosque somewhere else, Cantor said he’d be in favor of it.

“But think about it,” he said. “Why would you want, as an imam, why would you want to put a cultural center right there if it’s meant to heal people when right away it’s caused such a national uproar? That is in and of itself evident of the fact that they’re not interested in healing or bringing people together. They’re interested in posing their view. That’s what so insensitive about it.”

And look at the results. The pro-mosque side has resorted to name-calling and offensive analogies. The cause of “reconciliation” has been set back and the entire country is now discussing why so many people are confused about Obama’s religion.

But this is really par for the course when it comes to the entire notion of Muslim outreach. The outreach is expected to go one way. When those supposed to be solicitous of Muslim sensitivities instead proffer their own interests, they are accused of being nationalistic, xenophobic, racist, and following in the footsteps of anti-Semites. My, this sounds like a faint echo of what Israel is subjected to every day.

Peace, reconciliation, tolerance — these all are cooperative activities. Perhaps the entire notion of “Muslim outreach” is flawed, based on the mistaken idea that one side — that would be the non-Muslim World — must atone, seek forgiveness, and boost the other’s ego. That, we are seeing, both here and in the Middle East is a recipe for disaster, for it enfeebles one side and alleviates them of the responsibility to examine their own actions, modify their behavior, and understand that their opponents’ concerns are grounded in history and experience. Like the “peace process,” it turns out that “Muslim outreach” creates more problems than it solves.

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Even More Confirmation of Dems in Trouble

To add to what you said, Jen, Chris Cillizza, in an entry in the Washington Post different from the one you link to, writes this:

The simple truth is that over the past six to nine months, the Senate playing field has expanded to the point where there are now (at least) 15 races where a party switch is a real possibility — if not a probability.

Most of that expansion has benefited Republicans, who have effectively taken advantage of a national playing field tilted in their favor to take previously non-competitive races like Washington and Wisconsin and put them on the target list.

Cillizza points out that the Cook Political Report now rates “a whopping 18 races as either likely to switch, leaning switch or straight tossups” while the Rothenberg Political Report ranks 15 races with the potential to switch sides. And my hunch is that for Democrats, the political environment in November will be at least as bad as, and perhaps worse than, it is right now.

The pieces are in place for a repudiation of Obama, his party, and liberalism unlike anything we have ever seen, at least for a midterm election.

To add to what you said, Jen, Chris Cillizza, in an entry in the Washington Post different from the one you link to, writes this:

The simple truth is that over the past six to nine months, the Senate playing field has expanded to the point where there are now (at least) 15 races where a party switch is a real possibility — if not a probability.

Most of that expansion has benefited Republicans, who have effectively taken advantage of a national playing field tilted in their favor to take previously non-competitive races like Washington and Wisconsin and put them on the target list.

Cillizza points out that the Cook Political Report now rates “a whopping 18 races as either likely to switch, leaning switch or straight tossups” while the Rothenberg Political Report ranks 15 races with the potential to switch sides. And my hunch is that for Democrats, the political environment in November will be at least as bad as, and perhaps worse than, it is right now.

The pieces are in place for a repudiation of Obama, his party, and liberalism unlike anything we have ever seen, at least for a midterm election.

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Talk About a Cartoon Controversy

Why is no one questioning the media’s sham portrait of the Cordoba House/Park 51 mosque detractors? On Sunday, the New York Times’ Frank Rich leveled a flurry of nasty accusations at those on “the neocon and the Fox News Right” who object to the placement of the mosque near Ground Zero.  He substantiated none of them.

Every movement, Left and Right, has its embarrassing and inconsequential fringe. But what serious neoconservatives have been, as Rich claims, “calling Muslims every filthy name in the book”?  He never gets around to telling us. One assumes that if he had a name and a quote, Rich would be eager to furnish them.

His deliberate and cartoonish mischaracterization is doubly ignoble in light of his larger point. The column asserts that these phantom name-calling neoconservatives have, with their undocumented bigotry, nullified Gen. David Petraeus’s efforts at counterinsurgency and nation building in Afghanistan. When Muslims worldwide catch wind of all the anti-Islam obscenity, Rich claims, they will refuse to cooperate with Americans. He may well be right about the second part, but the only people broadcasting this undermining fiction are liberal-media types like Rich. And it is becoming, I fear, the lie big enough to be believed.

This same crowd has served to undermine American efforts in similar ways before. The liberal assertion that the Iraq War was an oil grab was adopted whole as jihadist propaganda. So too were hysterical claims of the Bush administration’s missionary purpose in remaking the Middle East.  How many times have witty liberal columns and progressive “documentary” scripts been played back to us as crude communiqués from mountain hideouts.

Reliance on slander is the sign of a weak position. Liberals have every right to voice their support for the mosque, but their case would be stronger if it were made on its own merits. The demonization of neoconservatives as bigots and the shell game that substitutes a defense of property rights and religious freedoms for matters of voluntary decency and good citizenship constitute a farce. Rich and his compatriots have ceded the argument by ignoring it.  But slander and subterfuge serve darker purposes in parts of the world where parties don’t have access to much analysis past sensational headlines and words from on high. Frank Rich scores his points at his, and our own, peril.

Why is no one questioning the media’s sham portrait of the Cordoba House/Park 51 mosque detractors? On Sunday, the New York Times’ Frank Rich leveled a flurry of nasty accusations at those on “the neocon and the Fox News Right” who object to the placement of the mosque near Ground Zero.  He substantiated none of them.

Every movement, Left and Right, has its embarrassing and inconsequential fringe. But what serious neoconservatives have been, as Rich claims, “calling Muslims every filthy name in the book”?  He never gets around to telling us. One assumes that if he had a name and a quote, Rich would be eager to furnish them.

His deliberate and cartoonish mischaracterization is doubly ignoble in light of his larger point. The column asserts that these phantom name-calling neoconservatives have, with their undocumented bigotry, nullified Gen. David Petraeus’s efforts at counterinsurgency and nation building in Afghanistan. When Muslims worldwide catch wind of all the anti-Islam obscenity, Rich claims, they will refuse to cooperate with Americans. He may well be right about the second part, but the only people broadcasting this undermining fiction are liberal-media types like Rich. And it is becoming, I fear, the lie big enough to be believed.

This same crowd has served to undermine American efforts in similar ways before. The liberal assertion that the Iraq War was an oil grab was adopted whole as jihadist propaganda. So too were hysterical claims of the Bush administration’s missionary purpose in remaking the Middle East.  How many times have witty liberal columns and progressive “documentary” scripts been played back to us as crude communiqués from mountain hideouts.

Reliance on slander is the sign of a weak position. Liberals have every right to voice their support for the mosque, but their case would be stronger if it were made on its own merits. The demonization of neoconservatives as bigots and the shell game that substitutes a defense of property rights and religious freedoms for matters of voluntary decency and good citizenship constitute a farce. Rich and his compatriots have ceded the argument by ignoring it.  But slander and subterfuge serve darker purposes in parts of the world where parties don’t have access to much analysis past sensational headlines and words from on high. Frank Rich scores his points at his, and our own, peril.

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A Pro-Jobs Measure Both Parties Should Support

There aren’t many opportunities these days for bipartisan agreement or for quick boosts to the flagging economy. But the passage of the South Korea free trade agreement would be both. The Washington Post reminds us:

For three years, since it was negotiated by the Bush administration, the free-trade agreement has languished in Congress. Now trade officials from both countries are trying to resolve the problems that have kept it bottled up, including a dispute over U.S. access to the South Korean auto market and restrictions on U.S. beef imposed after the mad cow scare several years ago.

The agreement would eventually eliminate tariffs between the two countries. Because those levies are typically higher on the South Korean side, administration officials estimate the deal could mean more than $10 billion annually in increased U.S. exports to Seoul and tens of thousands of new U.S. jobs. South Koreans say they would benefit from lower prices — some tariffs on food imports from the U.S. are as high as 40 percent — and a more efficient flow of investment in and out of their country.

This is such an obvious no-brainer that the only explanation for the failure to move forward must be and, in fact, is political: the power of Big Labor, specifically. When running for the nomination, Obama naturally voiced concerns about the agreement. But once safely in office he has of late “placed a priority on export promotion, calling it a key to job growth, and embraced the agreement with South Korea as a opportunity to weigh in on the broader debate over trade policy and advance U.S. interests.” He even dispatched his trade representative to drum up support around the country.

Yet it is far from clear that the agreement will be approved. Free trade is simply an anathema with many elected Democrats. (“Unions, environmental advocacy groups, and other organizations, meanwhile, are urging Obama to keep his campaign promises and stiffen the terms for South Korean access to the U.S. market.”)

This would be an opportunity for Obama to stand up to special interests, the Democrats in Congress to do the same, and both parties to claim credit for a pro-jobs measure. So, naturally, the safe bet is that nothing will get done.

There aren’t many opportunities these days for bipartisan agreement or for quick boosts to the flagging economy. But the passage of the South Korea free trade agreement would be both. The Washington Post reminds us:

For three years, since it was negotiated by the Bush administration, the free-trade agreement has languished in Congress. Now trade officials from both countries are trying to resolve the problems that have kept it bottled up, including a dispute over U.S. access to the South Korean auto market and restrictions on U.S. beef imposed after the mad cow scare several years ago.

The agreement would eventually eliminate tariffs between the two countries. Because those levies are typically higher on the South Korean side, administration officials estimate the deal could mean more than $10 billion annually in increased U.S. exports to Seoul and tens of thousands of new U.S. jobs. South Koreans say they would benefit from lower prices — some tariffs on food imports from the U.S. are as high as 40 percent — and a more efficient flow of investment in and out of their country.

This is such an obvious no-brainer that the only explanation for the failure to move forward must be and, in fact, is political: the power of Big Labor, specifically. When running for the nomination, Obama naturally voiced concerns about the agreement. But once safely in office he has of late “placed a priority on export promotion, calling it a key to job growth, and embraced the agreement with South Korea as a opportunity to weigh in on the broader debate over trade policy and advance U.S. interests.” He even dispatched his trade representative to drum up support around the country.

Yet it is far from clear that the agreement will be approved. Free trade is simply an anathema with many elected Democrats. (“Unions, environmental advocacy groups, and other organizations, meanwhile, are urging Obama to keep his campaign promises and stiffen the terms for South Korean access to the U.S. market.”)

This would be an opportunity for Obama to stand up to special interests, the Democrats in Congress to do the same, and both parties to claim credit for a pro-jobs measure. So, naturally, the safe bet is that nothing will get done.

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Meltdown Ahead

Chris Cillizza reports:

Some neutral observers and senior strategists within the party have begun to believe that the national political environment is not only similar to what they saw in 1994 — when Democrats lost control of the House and Senate — but could in fact be worse by Election Day. …

Combine the similarities between 1994 and 2010 on the generic ballot and presidential approval with a clear intensity gap between the Republican base (fired up to vote) and the Democratic base (less so), and Democratic strategists are worried that they are watching history repeat itself.

Sort of like conservative outlets have been explaining for months now, I suppose.

As Pete has aptly detailed, this in part explains the unhinged quality of the left’s rhetoric. Members of the left are infuriated and bewildered that the grand shift to a center-left nation proved as illusory as Obama’s political brilliance. But in voicing their fury, do they depress the base even more? Perhaps. But they will certainly poison the atmosphere for any potential for moderation and compromise by the surviving Democrats after November. “How can they co-operate with the crazy, Islamophobe cosnervatives?!” the left will rail.

The meltdown may not simply be electoral for liberals. They will need to figure out how to regroup and cope with a country so stiff-necked as to reject what they are peddling.

Chris Cillizza reports:

Some neutral observers and senior strategists within the party have begun to believe that the national political environment is not only similar to what they saw in 1994 — when Democrats lost control of the House and Senate — but could in fact be worse by Election Day. …

Combine the similarities between 1994 and 2010 on the generic ballot and presidential approval with a clear intensity gap between the Republican base (fired up to vote) and the Democratic base (less so), and Democratic strategists are worried that they are watching history repeat itself.

Sort of like conservative outlets have been explaining for months now, I suppose.

As Pete has aptly detailed, this in part explains the unhinged quality of the left’s rhetoric. Members of the left are infuriated and bewildered that the grand shift to a center-left nation proved as illusory as Obama’s political brilliance. But in voicing their fury, do they depress the base even more? Perhaps. But they will certainly poison the atmosphere for any potential for moderation and compromise by the surviving Democrats after November. “How can they co-operate with the crazy, Islamophobe cosnervatives?!” the left will rail.

The meltdown may not simply be electoral for liberals. They will need to figure out how to regroup and cope with a country so stiff-necked as to reject what they are peddling.

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Sestak Struggling

The Pennsylvania media reports that Joe Sestak is floundering:

More than midway through the political calendar, Sestak seems endlessly on the defensive. It’s partly of his own doing, but largely because Toomey, with a sharper message and flush finances, has been the aggressor.

So far, Pennsylvania’s U.S. Senate battle has been fought on Toomey’s terms.

Sestak has taken a beating on his Israel record, forcing him to go on MSNBC to deny that it’s a significant issue and to call in J Street for support. (The J Street gang ponied up only a tiny ad buy.) But that isn’t Sestak’s only problem:

Two days after the May 18 primary, Toomey went on the air with a commercial that highlighted Sestak’s support for health [care] reform, bailouts, and civilian trials for foreign terrorists. A few days later, after Sestak had appeared on NBC’s Meet the Press, Toomey’s campaign sent out a press release saying the interview showcased Sestak’s “sham independence.” …

Toomey has aired six television commercials about Sestak, painting him as an extreme liberal to the left of most members of his political party. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce aired two commercials linking Sestak to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and calling him “anti-business.”

Sestak tried to strike back last week by enlisting the Democratic Senate Campaign Committee to bandy charges that Toomey was a derivatives trader who helped sink the economy. The charges were generally derided as untrue, and Toomey surged to a nine-point lead in the race. Meanwhile, Sestak strained to explain why he had accepted campaign donations from recipients of earmarks, something he pledged to not do.

Sestak has suffered on three counts: his ultra-liberal voting record, the generally toxic political environment for the Democrats, and a certain incoherence in his own campaign. A case in point is the endorsement by former Sen. Chuck Hagel. This comes at a time when Sestak has labored to rebut attacks on his own Israel record and on his keynote address for CAIR. But Hagel seems a particularly poor messenger for Sestak. The National Democratic Jewish Council explained in 2007:

As Senator Hagel sits around for six more months and tries to decide whether to launch a futile bid for the White House, he has a lot of questions to answer about his commitment to Israel.  Consider this:

– In August 2006, Hagel was one of only 12 Senators who refused to write the EU asking them to declare Hezbollah a terrorist organization.

– In October 2000, Hagel was one of only 4 Senators who refused to sign a Senate letter in support of Israel.

– In November 2001, Hagel was one of only 11 Senators who refused to sign a letter urging President Bush not to meet with the late Yasir Arafat until his forces ended the violence against Israel.

– In December 2005, Hagel  was one of only 27 who refused to sign a letter to President Bush to pressure the Palestinian Authority to ban terrorist groups from participating in Palestinian legislative elections.

– In June 2004, Hagel refused to sign a letter urging President Bush to highlight Iran’s nuclear program at the G-8 summit. …

And here’s what the anti-Israel group, CAIR wrote in praise of Hagel:

“Potential presidential candidates for 2008, like Hillary Clinton, John McCain, Joe Biden and Newt Gingrich, were falling all over themselves to express their support for Israel. The only exception to that rule was Senator Chuck Hagel…” [Council on American-Islamic Relations, 8/28/06]

Not exactly an effective way to rebut arguments that his instincts lead him to positions — and allies — that are anti-Israel.

Sestak has time to recover, but he may not have the ability to. On this one, the White House might have been right: Arlen Specter was the more viable of the two Democratic contenders.

The Pennsylvania media reports that Joe Sestak is floundering:

More than midway through the political calendar, Sestak seems endlessly on the defensive. It’s partly of his own doing, but largely because Toomey, with a sharper message and flush finances, has been the aggressor.

So far, Pennsylvania’s U.S. Senate battle has been fought on Toomey’s terms.

Sestak has taken a beating on his Israel record, forcing him to go on MSNBC to deny that it’s a significant issue and to call in J Street for support. (The J Street gang ponied up only a tiny ad buy.) But that isn’t Sestak’s only problem:

Two days after the May 18 primary, Toomey went on the air with a commercial that highlighted Sestak’s support for health [care] reform, bailouts, and civilian trials for foreign terrorists. A few days later, after Sestak had appeared on NBC’s Meet the Press, Toomey’s campaign sent out a press release saying the interview showcased Sestak’s “sham independence.” …

Toomey has aired six television commercials about Sestak, painting him as an extreme liberal to the left of most members of his political party. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce aired two commercials linking Sestak to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and calling him “anti-business.”

Sestak tried to strike back last week by enlisting the Democratic Senate Campaign Committee to bandy charges that Toomey was a derivatives trader who helped sink the economy. The charges were generally derided as untrue, and Toomey surged to a nine-point lead in the race. Meanwhile, Sestak strained to explain why he had accepted campaign donations from recipients of earmarks, something he pledged to not do.

Sestak has suffered on three counts: his ultra-liberal voting record, the generally toxic political environment for the Democrats, and a certain incoherence in his own campaign. A case in point is the endorsement by former Sen. Chuck Hagel. This comes at a time when Sestak has labored to rebut attacks on his own Israel record and on his keynote address for CAIR. But Hagel seems a particularly poor messenger for Sestak. The National Democratic Jewish Council explained in 2007:

As Senator Hagel sits around for six more months and tries to decide whether to launch a futile bid for the White House, he has a lot of questions to answer about his commitment to Israel.  Consider this:

– In August 2006, Hagel was one of only 12 Senators who refused to write the EU asking them to declare Hezbollah a terrorist organization.

– In October 2000, Hagel was one of only 4 Senators who refused to sign a Senate letter in support of Israel.

– In November 2001, Hagel was one of only 11 Senators who refused to sign a letter urging President Bush not to meet with the late Yasir Arafat until his forces ended the violence against Israel.

– In December 2005, Hagel  was one of only 27 who refused to sign a letter to President Bush to pressure the Palestinian Authority to ban terrorist groups from participating in Palestinian legislative elections.

– In June 2004, Hagel refused to sign a letter urging President Bush to highlight Iran’s nuclear program at the G-8 summit. …

And here’s what the anti-Israel group, CAIR wrote in praise of Hagel:

“Potential presidential candidates for 2008, like Hillary Clinton, John McCain, Joe Biden and Newt Gingrich, were falling all over themselves to express their support for Israel. The only exception to that rule was Senator Chuck Hagel…” [Council on American-Islamic Relations, 8/28/06]

Not exactly an effective way to rebut arguments that his instincts lead him to positions — and allies — that are anti-Israel.

Sestak has time to recover, but he may not have the ability to. On this one, the White House might have been right: Arlen Specter was the more viable of the two Democratic contenders.

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Obama and Optical Illusions

Mark Halperin of Time magazine writes this:

In a move as predictable as Lucy pulling the football away from Charlie Brown, Democrats are using Social Security scare tactics to gain ground before the November election. President Barack Obama is not only tolerating this classic old politics maneuver by his party — he is leading the charge.

Halperin adds:

Obama is living in a parallel Vulcan universe if he thinks he and his strategists can spend the next two months using campaign appearances, advertising, robocalls and other voter communication to demonize Republicans on Social Security, and then turn around in January and try to make a deal on that same issue. … It is hard to imagine that Obama can be the leader of such a process in 2011 if he takes the current, sky-high level of personal and political mistrust and elevates it further by using Social Security as a weapon of distortion in September and October. And yet it appears that the White House believes there is no contradiction or connection between those two sequential presidential goals. Obama may be a hyper-rational guy, but his current rhetoric on Social Security defies logic if he wants to have a productive 2011.

This Social Security gambit, which will fail politically (as has so much of what Obama and his aides have tried), is simply more evidence that the core premise of the Obama campaign — that he would transcend the usual divisions in American politics, that he would elevate our discourse and reach across the aisle in an unprecedented way, and that he would act reasonably and responsibly in facing America’s challenges — was a mirage. It was an effective optical illusion, but it was, in fact, an optical illusion. And every week, it seems, it is being revealed as such.

Mark Halperin of Time magazine writes this:

In a move as predictable as Lucy pulling the football away from Charlie Brown, Democrats are using Social Security scare tactics to gain ground before the November election. President Barack Obama is not only tolerating this classic old politics maneuver by his party — he is leading the charge.

Halperin adds:

Obama is living in a parallel Vulcan universe if he thinks he and his strategists can spend the next two months using campaign appearances, advertising, robocalls and other voter communication to demonize Republicans on Social Security, and then turn around in January and try to make a deal on that same issue. … It is hard to imagine that Obama can be the leader of such a process in 2011 if he takes the current, sky-high level of personal and political mistrust and elevates it further by using Social Security as a weapon of distortion in September and October. And yet it appears that the White House believes there is no contradiction or connection between those two sequential presidential goals. Obama may be a hyper-rational guy, but his current rhetoric on Social Security defies logic if he wants to have a productive 2011.

This Social Security gambit, which will fail politically (as has so much of what Obama and his aides have tried), is simply more evidence that the core premise of the Obama campaign — that he would transcend the usual divisions in American politics, that he would elevate our discourse and reach across the aisle in an unprecedented way, and that he would act reasonably and responsibly in facing America’s challenges — was a mirage. It was an effective optical illusion, but it was, in fact, an optical illusion. And every week, it seems, it is being revealed as such.

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The Coming Hall of Fame Disaster

John Feinstein makes a depressing observation in his recent column on the indictment of Roger Clemens:

Even before [Mark] McGwire admitted his guilt, his name had appeared twice on a ballot for the Hall of Fame. He never received more than 25 percent support, much less the 75 percent needed to gain entry. The same fate almost certainly awaits Bonds, Clemens, Sosa, Palmeiro and even Rodriguez.

If you throw in Pete Rose, who had more hits than any player but is ineligible for the Hall of Fame because he bet on baseball while managing the Cincinnati Reds (and lied about it for almost 20 years before admitting it in a book), the sport’s all-time home run leader, its all-time hits leader, its most dominant pitcher of the past 50 years (Clemens) and its probable next all-time home runs leader (Rodriguez) are likely to be locked out of its Hall of Fame.

That’s not a black eye. That’s an out-and-out disaster.

John Feinstein makes a depressing observation in his recent column on the indictment of Roger Clemens:

Even before [Mark] McGwire admitted his guilt, his name had appeared twice on a ballot for the Hall of Fame. He never received more than 25 percent support, much less the 75 percent needed to gain entry. The same fate almost certainly awaits Bonds, Clemens, Sosa, Palmeiro and even Rodriguez.

If you throw in Pete Rose, who had more hits than any player but is ineligible for the Hall of Fame because he bet on baseball while managing the Cincinnati Reds (and lied about it for almost 20 years before admitting it in a book), the sport’s all-time home run leader, its all-time hits leader, its most dominant pitcher of the past 50 years (Clemens) and its probable next all-time home runs leader (Rodriguez) are likely to be locked out of its Hall of Fame.

That’s not a black eye. That’s an out-and-out disaster.

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My Vote for ‘Worst Piece of Commentary Ever by Anyone’

Over at the New York Times’s online commentary site, Opinionator, Dick Cavett wrote a piece that may have set a record for invoking bad metaphors. In an article of only 961 words, consider these:

It doesn’t take much, it seems, to lift the lid and let our home-grown racism and bigotry overflow.

We have collectively taken a pratfall on a moral whoopee cushion.

I like to think I’m not easily shocked, but here I am, seeing the emotions of the masses running like a freight train over the right to freedom of religion — never mind the right of eminent domain and private property.

A heyday is being had by a posse of the cheesiest Republican politicos (Lazio, Palin, quick-change artist John McCain and, of course, the self-anointed St. Joan of 9/11, R. Giuliani).

And of course Rush L. dependably pollutes the atmosphere with his particular brand of airborne sludge.

Sad to see Mr. Reid’s venerable knees buckle upon seeing the vilification heaped on Obama, and the resulting polls.

I got invigorating jolts from the president’s splendid speech — almost as good as Mayor Bloomberg’s
— but I was dismayed, after the worst had poured out their passionate intensity, to see him shed a few vertebrae the next day and step back.

Set aside for the moment that we are handing such a lethal propaganda grenade to our detractors around the world.

You can’t eat this particular cake and have it, too

This just may qualify as the single worst piece published by anyone. Anywhere. Ever.

Over at the New York Times’s online commentary site, Opinionator, Dick Cavett wrote a piece that may have set a record for invoking bad metaphors. In an article of only 961 words, consider these:

It doesn’t take much, it seems, to lift the lid and let our home-grown racism and bigotry overflow.

We have collectively taken a pratfall on a moral whoopee cushion.

I like to think I’m not easily shocked, but here I am, seeing the emotions of the masses running like a freight train over the right to freedom of religion — never mind the right of eminent domain and private property.

A heyday is being had by a posse of the cheesiest Republican politicos (Lazio, Palin, quick-change artist John McCain and, of course, the self-anointed St. Joan of 9/11, R. Giuliani).

And of course Rush L. dependably pollutes the atmosphere with his particular brand of airborne sludge.

Sad to see Mr. Reid’s venerable knees buckle upon seeing the vilification heaped on Obama, and the resulting polls.

I got invigorating jolts from the president’s splendid speech — almost as good as Mayor Bloomberg’s
— but I was dismayed, after the worst had poured out their passionate intensity, to see him shed a few vertebrae the next day and step back.

Set aside for the moment that we are handing such a lethal propaganda grenade to our detractors around the world.

You can’t eat this particular cake and have it, too

This just may qualify as the single worst piece published by anyone. Anywhere. Ever.

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RE: Mosque Builders Drop Mask of ‘Reconciliation’

The other guest on that segment of This Week, Jennifer, Rabbi Joy Levitt of the Jewish Community Center, seemed awfully ignorant of the religious history of New York City. She said:

Peter Stuyvesant refused to allow synagogues to be built in New York in the 1600s. It took an act of Congress here in Washington to allow a synagogue to be built. … The British wouldn’t allow synagogues to be built in New York City. So, we understand some of this pain, and yet we’ve also experienced a tremendous amount of support in this country, so I think we actually are in a position to both understand and be helpful, to support religious tolerance in this country.

Unlike the New England Puritans, the Quakers in Pennsylvania, and the Catholics in Maryland, the Dutch did not come to Manhattan to escape religious persecution or to build a shining city on a hill. They came to Manhattan to make a buck. Indeed, they did not even get around to building a proper church for 17 years. Named after St. Nicholas, Santa Claus has been the city’s patron saint ever since. (In fact, the modern version of Santa Claus is a wholly New York invention, developed by such New York writers as Clement Moore and the cartoonist Thomas Nast.)

Peter Stuyvesant, however, was a deeply religious man, adhering to the Dutch Reform Church. He banned both Jews and Quakers from New Amsterdam. They appealed to the Dutch West India Company in Amsterdam in what is known as the Flushing Remonstrance, often considered the birth of religious freedom in America. The company wrote Governor Stuyvesant and instructed him in no uncertain terms to mind his own business so that the Jews and Quakers could mind theirs.

Congregation Shearith Israel was founded in 1654, while Stuyvesant was still very much governor of New Amsterdam. It is the oldest Jewish congregation in the United States, now located at Central Park West and 70th Street. It did not require an act of Congress (which wouldn’t even exist until 1789 and Washington wouldn’t be the capital until 1800). All it took was a sharp rap on the knuckles by the Dutch West India Company to remind Peter Stuyvesant what New Amsterdam was all about.

And if the British wouldn’t allow synagogues to be built in New York City, how did Shearith Israel build one on Mill Street in 1730?

The other guest on that segment of This Week, Jennifer, Rabbi Joy Levitt of the Jewish Community Center, seemed awfully ignorant of the religious history of New York City. She said:

Peter Stuyvesant refused to allow synagogues to be built in New York in the 1600s. It took an act of Congress here in Washington to allow a synagogue to be built. … The British wouldn’t allow synagogues to be built in New York City. So, we understand some of this pain, and yet we’ve also experienced a tremendous amount of support in this country, so I think we actually are in a position to both understand and be helpful, to support religious tolerance in this country.

Unlike the New England Puritans, the Quakers in Pennsylvania, and the Catholics in Maryland, the Dutch did not come to Manhattan to escape religious persecution or to build a shining city on a hill. They came to Manhattan to make a buck. Indeed, they did not even get around to building a proper church for 17 years. Named after St. Nicholas, Santa Claus has been the city’s patron saint ever since. (In fact, the modern version of Santa Claus is a wholly New York invention, developed by such New York writers as Clement Moore and the cartoonist Thomas Nast.)

Peter Stuyvesant, however, was a deeply religious man, adhering to the Dutch Reform Church. He banned both Jews and Quakers from New Amsterdam. They appealed to the Dutch West India Company in Amsterdam in what is known as the Flushing Remonstrance, often considered the birth of religious freedom in America. The company wrote Governor Stuyvesant and instructed him in no uncertain terms to mind his own business so that the Jews and Quakers could mind theirs.

Congregation Shearith Israel was founded in 1654, while Stuyvesant was still very much governor of New Amsterdam. It is the oldest Jewish congregation in the United States, now located at Central Park West and 70th Street. It did not require an act of Congress (which wouldn’t even exist until 1789 and Washington wouldn’t be the capital until 1800). All it took was a sharp rap on the knuckles by the Dutch West India Company to remind Peter Stuyvesant what New Amsterdam was all about.

And if the British wouldn’t allow synagogues to be built in New York City, how did Shearith Israel build one on Mill Street in 1730?

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The Cheap Mental Stimulants of the NY Times

Apropos your post, Jennifer, about Maureen Dowd’s most recent temper tantrum: it is noteworthy how liberals, in the wake of the failures of Obama and the broader liberal effort to transform America, are expressing deepening alienation from our nation and turning on the American people with a vengeance.

This type of lashing out is now fairly commonplace and, for the liberal cause they claim to speak for, insane. Voters don’t like to be condescended to by a political class that possesses unchecked moral arrogance, and they don’t appreciate their nation’s being referred to as “irrational” and suffering from “some weird mass nervous breakdown” simply because they take positions contrary to those held by denizens of the Upper West Side.

In Saul Bellow’s 1964 novel, Herzog, the main character, Moses Herzog, a philosophy professor, refers to “the cheap mental stimulants of Alienation.” A lot of the commentariat, including Ms. Dowd, are showing signs of addiction to that cheap stimulant these days.

It comes at a cost.

Apropos your post, Jennifer, about Maureen Dowd’s most recent temper tantrum: it is noteworthy how liberals, in the wake of the failures of Obama and the broader liberal effort to transform America, are expressing deepening alienation from our nation and turning on the American people with a vengeance.

This type of lashing out is now fairly commonplace and, for the liberal cause they claim to speak for, insane. Voters don’t like to be condescended to by a political class that possesses unchecked moral arrogance, and they don’t appreciate their nation’s being referred to as “irrational” and suffering from “some weird mass nervous breakdown” simply because they take positions contrary to those held by denizens of the Upper West Side.

In Saul Bellow’s 1964 novel, Herzog, the main character, Moses Herzog, a philosophy professor, refers to “the cheap mental stimulants of Alienation.” A lot of the commentariat, including Ms. Dowd, are showing signs of addiction to that cheap stimulant these days.

It comes at a cost.

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RE: How Bad?

Democrats on the ballot are understandably infuriated with the White House. First, Robert Gibbs announced that the House could well be lost. Then, after months of trying to pump up the base, the White House went after the “professional left.” Rebecca Traister (h/t Ben Smith) wailed on behalf of Democrats: “Congratulations, administration, on helping to further ensure that the only people in the country absolutely guaranteed to go out and vote for Obama will now do so with a hell of a lot less enthusiasm.” Next up was the Ground Zero mosque fiasco.

The fury among Democrats shouldn’t be underestimated. A longtime Democratic operative steamed to me: “Valerie Jarret is the Barack-whisperer-in-chief. She has nurtured the myth of Obama’s supernatural powers longer than anyone — second only to her sidekick, Axelrod — and the two of them, and their bad ideas, are at the root of virtually every mistake and overreach out there, especially the ill-fated Muslim-outreach campaign launched in the first hours of the presidency. It was probably Jarrett who told the president it was a good idea to bow down to the king of Saudi Arabia, too.” Ouch.

But wasn’t this an act of bravery and courage, as the left punditocracy has trumpeted? Not for those trying to win elections, the operative explained:

By getting involved in this issue — which was on a glide path to work out fine at the local level — the president and his team have put every Democrat running for Congress in the crosshairs of an issue that is 70-30 the wrong way. “Mr. Candidate, do you agree with your president?” This is just the latest insult these guys have hurled at Congress. And what do you get? Does your 30% base like you more? I can’t remember a White House with so much contempt for its own party. And why? Because they love the sound of their own voice.

Yowser. August is a month that in recent years has been fraught with political peril and more than a few surprises. Democrats never imagined, however, that there would be a bombardment launched at them from the head of their own party. The smarter ones will run far from the president; the survivors after the election will owe the White House no loyalty. Forget the right-wingers; Obama’s biggest problem may be preventing a mutiny in his own party.

Democrats on the ballot are understandably infuriated with the White House. First, Robert Gibbs announced that the House could well be lost. Then, after months of trying to pump up the base, the White House went after the “professional left.” Rebecca Traister (h/t Ben Smith) wailed on behalf of Democrats: “Congratulations, administration, on helping to further ensure that the only people in the country absolutely guaranteed to go out and vote for Obama will now do so with a hell of a lot less enthusiasm.” Next up was the Ground Zero mosque fiasco.

The fury among Democrats shouldn’t be underestimated. A longtime Democratic operative steamed to me: “Valerie Jarret is the Barack-whisperer-in-chief. She has nurtured the myth of Obama’s supernatural powers longer than anyone — second only to her sidekick, Axelrod — and the two of them, and their bad ideas, are at the root of virtually every mistake and overreach out there, especially the ill-fated Muslim-outreach campaign launched in the first hours of the presidency. It was probably Jarrett who told the president it was a good idea to bow down to the king of Saudi Arabia, too.” Ouch.

But wasn’t this an act of bravery and courage, as the left punditocracy has trumpeted? Not for those trying to win elections, the operative explained:

By getting involved in this issue — which was on a glide path to work out fine at the local level — the president and his team have put every Democrat running for Congress in the crosshairs of an issue that is 70-30 the wrong way. “Mr. Candidate, do you agree with your president?” This is just the latest insult these guys have hurled at Congress. And what do you get? Does your 30% base like you more? I can’t remember a White House with so much contempt for its own party. And why? Because they love the sound of their own voice.

Yowser. August is a month that in recent years has been fraught with political peril and more than a few surprises. Democrats never imagined, however, that there would be a bombardment launched at them from the head of their own party. The smarter ones will run far from the president; the survivors after the election will owe the White House no loyalty. Forget the right-wingers; Obama’s biggest problem may be preventing a mutiny in his own party.

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Howard Dean on Fire

Candy Crowley is one of the livelier and more effective interviewers on the air. She did not disappoint with Howard Dean on Sunday. There was this humorous exchange:

CROWLEY: But what we found, Governor, in at least some of the races that we have had so far, is the fact that the president, while people still like him, they don’t approve of his policies and he doesn’t have coattails. We’re also finding now that there are certain Democrats that don’t actually want him in their district because he’s a drag.

DEAN: That’s not a problem. Here is the deal. It’s not the coattails. We know he doesn’t have coattails from the ’09 elections, the governor’s race. What he does do is set the tone for the Democratic Party in a way that nobody else can.

Look, obviously, I am partisan about this. I think we have better candidates than the Republicans do. They have had some unfortunate people winning, in terms of the mainstream — where the mainstream of America is, in some of their primaries.

We know he doesn’t have coattails? Oh my! Dean nevertheless suggested that Obama just get out there and fight like heck. Because if he doesn’t, the Democrats are going to lose big. (“This election, for better or for worse, depends on how hard the president fights between now and Election Day, and he shows every sign that he’s really serious about this.”) Got that, Mr. President? It’s all up to you.

What about Dean’s midterms predictions?

CROWLEY: How bad do you think it will be this fall, in November? What are your predictions? … Would you bet money on House Democrats staying in charge?

DEAN: I’d bet money on the Senate, for sure. The House is much tougher. I think, at the end of the day, we’re going to win in the House and we’re going to have a majority. It will probably be reduced to many — perhaps as small as a five or 10-seat majority.

Translation: Nancy Pelosi and the House Democratic majority are toast.

Crowley then asked about Gibbs and the sniping at the “professional left”:

DEAN: Well, look, I don’t think that the left — what Gibbs was talking about with the so-called professional left — I don’t know what he meant by that. You know, I think — but that is a very small number of people. I think there are a large number — I think that the people around the president have really misjudged what goes on elsewhere in the country, other than Washington, D.C.

I don’t think this is true of the president, but I do think his people, his political people, have got to go out and spend some time outside Washington for a while. The average Democrat is a progressive. And, you know, there are some things that are upsetting about the kind of deals that were made by the president’s people on health care.

Umm, isn’t this the Tea Partiers’ point — that the White House is insulated from reality?

Dean also made a key observation that seems to have eluded a White House all too eager to make life difficult for its own party:

We’ve got to win this election. And we’re going to have — after the election is over, we’ll go back to having our policy fights, but this is about winning. You cannot get anything done unless you have a Democratic president and a Democratic Senate and a Democratic House.

And Obama’s most cherished legislative accomplishment (about which Dean admitted, “I don’t like the health care bill. I would be one of the 56 percent who opposed it”) will evaporate if the Democrats get swept out of office.

Dean certainly is popping up a lot lately. I wonder if he’s thinking of running for something, or simply enacting revenge for the Obami’s refusal to keep him as head of the DNC.

Candy Crowley is one of the livelier and more effective interviewers on the air. She did not disappoint with Howard Dean on Sunday. There was this humorous exchange:

CROWLEY: But what we found, Governor, in at least some of the races that we have had so far, is the fact that the president, while people still like him, they don’t approve of his policies and he doesn’t have coattails. We’re also finding now that there are certain Democrats that don’t actually want him in their district because he’s a drag.

DEAN: That’s not a problem. Here is the deal. It’s not the coattails. We know he doesn’t have coattails from the ’09 elections, the governor’s race. What he does do is set the tone for the Democratic Party in a way that nobody else can.

Look, obviously, I am partisan about this. I think we have better candidates than the Republicans do. They have had some unfortunate people winning, in terms of the mainstream — where the mainstream of America is, in some of their primaries.

We know he doesn’t have coattails? Oh my! Dean nevertheless suggested that Obama just get out there and fight like heck. Because if he doesn’t, the Democrats are going to lose big. (“This election, for better or for worse, depends on how hard the president fights between now and Election Day, and he shows every sign that he’s really serious about this.”) Got that, Mr. President? It’s all up to you.

What about Dean’s midterms predictions?

CROWLEY: How bad do you think it will be this fall, in November? What are your predictions? … Would you bet money on House Democrats staying in charge?

DEAN: I’d bet money on the Senate, for sure. The House is much tougher. I think, at the end of the day, we’re going to win in the House and we’re going to have a majority. It will probably be reduced to many — perhaps as small as a five or 10-seat majority.

Translation: Nancy Pelosi and the House Democratic majority are toast.

Crowley then asked about Gibbs and the sniping at the “professional left”:

DEAN: Well, look, I don’t think that the left — what Gibbs was talking about with the so-called professional left — I don’t know what he meant by that. You know, I think — but that is a very small number of people. I think there are a large number — I think that the people around the president have really misjudged what goes on elsewhere in the country, other than Washington, D.C.

I don’t think this is true of the president, but I do think his people, his political people, have got to go out and spend some time outside Washington for a while. The average Democrat is a progressive. And, you know, there are some things that are upsetting about the kind of deals that were made by the president’s people on health care.

Umm, isn’t this the Tea Partiers’ point — that the White House is insulated from reality?

Dean also made a key observation that seems to have eluded a White House all too eager to make life difficult for its own party:

We’ve got to win this election. And we’re going to have — after the election is over, we’ll go back to having our policy fights, but this is about winning. You cannot get anything done unless you have a Democratic president and a Democratic Senate and a Democratic House.

And Obama’s most cherished legislative accomplishment (about which Dean admitted, “I don’t like the health care bill. I would be one of the 56 percent who opposed it”) will evaporate if the Democrats get swept out of office.

Dean certainly is popping up a lot lately. I wonder if he’s thinking of running for something, or simply enacting revenge for the Obami’s refusal to keep him as head of the DNC.

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The Blackmailer’s Paradox

With direct negotiations about to begin, Israeli negotiators should enroll in a crash course with the country’s Nobel laureate in economics, Prof. Robert Aumann. Aumann, whose specialty is game theory, offered valuable advice in an interview with Haaretz last month, in which he described a game-theory concept known as “the blackmailer’s paradox.”

“Someone offers Reuven and Shimon NIS 1,000 together, if they can manage to agree on the question of how to split the money between them. Reuven says to Shimon: ‘Great, let’s split it half and half.’ Shimon says: ‘No. I am not leaving here with less than NIS 900. You will get 100. Take it or leave it.’ Reuven says to him: ‘Be rational. What is the difference between us? Why should you get more?’ Shimon says: ‘Rational or not, do what you want. Either I leave here with 900 or with nothing. You decide.’

“Reuven thinks and says: ‘Okay, NIS 100 is money nevertheless. What am I going to do with this irrational mule? I myself am rational and I will take the 100. I need to advance my goal of getting as much money as possible, and my choice is between zero and 100. One hundred is still something.’

“What is the paradox? That the irrational person gets more than the rational person.”

The problem with Israel’s negotiations with both the Palestinians and Syria, Aumann said, is that the Arabs have successfully played the role of the blackmailer: they have convinced both themselves and Israel that their demands are sacred and must be met fully, whereas “we don’t manage to convince ourselves that anything is sacred.” And because Israel can’t convince itself, “there isn’t anything that we can convince the other side is sacred to us, that we’re willing to ‘be killed for it, rather than transgress.’”

Anyone familiar with the history of Israeli-Palestinian talks knows they have been one long string of unilateral Israeli concessions: in 17 years, Palestinian positions on borders, Jerusalem, and refugees haven’t budged an inch.

But Israel’s behavior has another negative consequence that Aumann didn’t mention: it results in international pressure for concessions being applied almost exclusively to Israel.

After all, the world just wants an agreement; it doesn’t much care what the deal looks like or what its long-term impact on Israel will be. And since the Palestinians have convinced world leaders that their demands are sacred, whereas Israel has convinced them that its demands can always be conceded for the sake of “peace,” these leaders very rationally conclude that an agreement will be obtained more easily by pressuring Israel than by pressuring the Palestinians and that Israel’s “demands” can be safely ignored.

If Israel is ever to change this pattern, its leaders must stop their incessant talk about the “painful concessions” a deal will require of Israel and start talking instead about the “painful concessions” it will require of the Palestinians. Israel must state its own demands loudly, clearly, and continuously, and make it crystal clear that there will be no deal unless they are met.

With direct negotiations about to begin, Israeli negotiators should enroll in a crash course with the country’s Nobel laureate in economics, Prof. Robert Aumann. Aumann, whose specialty is game theory, offered valuable advice in an interview with Haaretz last month, in which he described a game-theory concept known as “the blackmailer’s paradox.”

“Someone offers Reuven and Shimon NIS 1,000 together, if they can manage to agree on the question of how to split the money between them. Reuven says to Shimon: ‘Great, let’s split it half and half.’ Shimon says: ‘No. I am not leaving here with less than NIS 900. You will get 100. Take it or leave it.’ Reuven says to him: ‘Be rational. What is the difference between us? Why should you get more?’ Shimon says: ‘Rational or not, do what you want. Either I leave here with 900 or with nothing. You decide.’

“Reuven thinks and says: ‘Okay, NIS 100 is money nevertheless. What am I going to do with this irrational mule? I myself am rational and I will take the 100. I need to advance my goal of getting as much money as possible, and my choice is between zero and 100. One hundred is still something.’

“What is the paradox? That the irrational person gets more than the rational person.”

The problem with Israel’s negotiations with both the Palestinians and Syria, Aumann said, is that the Arabs have successfully played the role of the blackmailer: they have convinced both themselves and Israel that their demands are sacred and must be met fully, whereas “we don’t manage to convince ourselves that anything is sacred.” And because Israel can’t convince itself, “there isn’t anything that we can convince the other side is sacred to us, that we’re willing to ‘be killed for it, rather than transgress.’”

Anyone familiar with the history of Israeli-Palestinian talks knows they have been one long string of unilateral Israeli concessions: in 17 years, Palestinian positions on borders, Jerusalem, and refugees haven’t budged an inch.

But Israel’s behavior has another negative consequence that Aumann didn’t mention: it results in international pressure for concessions being applied almost exclusively to Israel.

After all, the world just wants an agreement; it doesn’t much care what the deal looks like or what its long-term impact on Israel will be. And since the Palestinians have convinced world leaders that their demands are sacred, whereas Israel has convinced them that its demands can always be conceded for the sake of “peace,” these leaders very rationally conclude that an agreement will be obtained more easily by pressuring Israel than by pressuring the Palestinians and that Israel’s “demands” can be safely ignored.

If Israel is ever to change this pattern, its leaders must stop their incessant talk about the “painful concessions” a deal will require of Israel and start talking instead about the “painful concessions” it will require of the Palestinians. Israel must state its own demands loudly, clearly, and continuously, and make it crystal clear that there will be no deal unless they are met.

Read Less

Mosque Builders Drop Mask of ‘Reconciliation’

Apparently getting their talking points from David Axelrod (or is it the other way around?), the Ground Zero mosque builders are comparing opposition to the mosque to anti-Semitism. Honest:

A leader of a planned Muslim community center near Manhattan’s Ground Zero compared opposition to the project to the persecution of Jews, in comments that could add to the controversy over the center’s proposed site. … Ms. [Daisy] Khan, appearing on ABC News’s “This Week” on Sunday, vowed to push ahead with plans to build a 15-story complex two blocks from the site of the 9/11 terrorist attacks in lower Manhattan, saying there was “too much at stake.”

The words could further inflame an already angry debate about the proposed location of the community center, which opponents denounce as a “victory mosque.”

Ya think? Now you might expect Khan’s inflammatory assertion to have been seriously challenged by the interviewer. Not with Christiane Amanpour as the host. The discussion went like this:

AMANPOUR: You talked about the state of Islam in the United States. And then we have this “Time” magazine cover that’s being talked about a lot right now. Basically, is America Islamophobic?

Is America Islamophobic? Are you concerned about the long-term relationship between American Muslims and the rest of society here?

KHAN: Yes, I think we are deeply concerned, because this is like a metastasized anti-Semitism. That’s what we feel right now. It’s not even Islamophobia, it’s beyond Islamophobia. It’s hate of Muslims. And we are deeply concerned. You know, I have had, yesterday had a council with all religious — Muslim religious leaders from around the country, and everybody is deeply concerned about what’s going on around the nation.

AMANPOUR: Do you agree with what she just said and how she described it?

LEVITT: Well, there is some part of it that feels very familiar, you know. Peter Stuyvesant refused to allow synagogues to be built in New York in the 1600s. It took an act of Congress here in Washington to allow a synagogue to be built. In Connecticut, there were no synagogues allowed to be built in the 1600s and the 1700s. The British wouldn’t allow synagogues to be built in New York City. So, we understand some of this pain, and yet we’ve also experienced a tremendous amount of support in this country, so I think we actually are in a position to both understand and be helpful, to support religious tolerance in this country.

A liberal with a Jewish organization was incensed: “Any suggestion that this particular mosque not be built in this particular place, and the objections of family members of 9/11, are in any way analogous to anti-Semitism or the struggles of the Jewish community in America is as insensitive and ignorant as it is offensive.” He continued:

And while it is not the case with this Imam, who at least appears to reject radicalism — despite his unwillingness to call Hamas a terrorist group and his suggestion that some terrorists are better than others — there is no corollary to Judaism, from the birth of the religion to that practiced by the first immigrants to this great country of ours or by Jews today. Judaism has never called for restoring the caliphate or violent jihad to kill Americans and infidels. You will hear that in mosques in America and around the world, but never in a synagogue, now or ever. To invoke anti-Semitism and ignore that further contradiction in the broader debate, and the concomitant lack of an Islamic reformation — as we have seen in both Judaism and Christianity — is also dishonest.

Nor did Amanpour challenge the imam’s refusal to detail the source(s) of the mosque’s funding:

AMANPOUR: How much money has been raised and are you prepared to discuss the issue of foreign funding? Let’s say there was foreign funding. How would you be able to know exactly where that money was coming from, what other projects elsewhere that they may have given money to?

KHAN: Well, this is where my counselor on my right is helping us, because our funding is going to be pretty much follow the same way that JCC got its fund-raising. First, we have to develop a board. Then the board is going to have a financial committee, fund-raising committee that will be in charge of the fund-raising. And we have promised that we will work with the Charities Bureau, that we will adhere to the highest and the strictest guidelines set forth by the Treasury Department, because there is so much angst about this. But we will follow the lead from Rabbi Joy Levitt.

AMANPOUR: Let me ask you also…

LEVITT: What Daisy means by that is that we went to our neighbors, we said who believes in our vision, who believes in a center of tolerance, who believes in diversity? We went to parlor (ph) meetings in people’s houses, and that’s how the support for the JCC came about.

That’s it. Not a single question about foreign funding or whether they’d open up their books. There was a good reason to go on This Week. (I suspect they wouldn’t have gone with Jake Tapper.)

The obscene comparison between opposition to the mosque and anti-Semitism (how do Abe Foxman, Harry Reid, and Howard Dean feel about this?) should obliterate the left’s claim that this is all about “understanding” and “reconciliation.” It seems the mosque builders are interested, just as their critics claimed, in perpetuating the Muslim victimology meme and stirring dissension. And how interesting that they chose to stir the pot with Jewish analogies.

Apparently getting their talking points from David Axelrod (or is it the other way around?), the Ground Zero mosque builders are comparing opposition to the mosque to anti-Semitism. Honest:

A leader of a planned Muslim community center near Manhattan’s Ground Zero compared opposition to the project to the persecution of Jews, in comments that could add to the controversy over the center’s proposed site. … Ms. [Daisy] Khan, appearing on ABC News’s “This Week” on Sunday, vowed to push ahead with plans to build a 15-story complex two blocks from the site of the 9/11 terrorist attacks in lower Manhattan, saying there was “too much at stake.”

The words could further inflame an already angry debate about the proposed location of the community center, which opponents denounce as a “victory mosque.”

Ya think? Now you might expect Khan’s inflammatory assertion to have been seriously challenged by the interviewer. Not with Christiane Amanpour as the host. The discussion went like this:

AMANPOUR: You talked about the state of Islam in the United States. And then we have this “Time” magazine cover that’s being talked about a lot right now. Basically, is America Islamophobic?

Is America Islamophobic? Are you concerned about the long-term relationship between American Muslims and the rest of society here?

KHAN: Yes, I think we are deeply concerned, because this is like a metastasized anti-Semitism. That’s what we feel right now. It’s not even Islamophobia, it’s beyond Islamophobia. It’s hate of Muslims. And we are deeply concerned. You know, I have had, yesterday had a council with all religious — Muslim religious leaders from around the country, and everybody is deeply concerned about what’s going on around the nation.

AMANPOUR: Do you agree with what she just said and how she described it?

LEVITT: Well, there is some part of it that feels very familiar, you know. Peter Stuyvesant refused to allow synagogues to be built in New York in the 1600s. It took an act of Congress here in Washington to allow a synagogue to be built. In Connecticut, there were no synagogues allowed to be built in the 1600s and the 1700s. The British wouldn’t allow synagogues to be built in New York City. So, we understand some of this pain, and yet we’ve also experienced a tremendous amount of support in this country, so I think we actually are in a position to both understand and be helpful, to support religious tolerance in this country.

A liberal with a Jewish organization was incensed: “Any suggestion that this particular mosque not be built in this particular place, and the objections of family members of 9/11, are in any way analogous to anti-Semitism or the struggles of the Jewish community in America is as insensitive and ignorant as it is offensive.” He continued:

And while it is not the case with this Imam, who at least appears to reject radicalism — despite his unwillingness to call Hamas a terrorist group and his suggestion that some terrorists are better than others — there is no corollary to Judaism, from the birth of the religion to that practiced by the first immigrants to this great country of ours or by Jews today. Judaism has never called for restoring the caliphate or violent jihad to kill Americans and infidels. You will hear that in mosques in America and around the world, but never in a synagogue, now or ever. To invoke anti-Semitism and ignore that further contradiction in the broader debate, and the concomitant lack of an Islamic reformation — as we have seen in both Judaism and Christianity — is also dishonest.

Nor did Amanpour challenge the imam’s refusal to detail the source(s) of the mosque’s funding:

AMANPOUR: How much money has been raised and are you prepared to discuss the issue of foreign funding? Let’s say there was foreign funding. How would you be able to know exactly where that money was coming from, what other projects elsewhere that they may have given money to?

KHAN: Well, this is where my counselor on my right is helping us, because our funding is going to be pretty much follow the same way that JCC got its fund-raising. First, we have to develop a board. Then the board is going to have a financial committee, fund-raising committee that will be in charge of the fund-raising. And we have promised that we will work with the Charities Bureau, that we will adhere to the highest and the strictest guidelines set forth by the Treasury Department, because there is so much angst about this. But we will follow the lead from Rabbi Joy Levitt.

AMANPOUR: Let me ask you also…

LEVITT: What Daisy means by that is that we went to our neighbors, we said who believes in our vision, who believes in a center of tolerance, who believes in diversity? We went to parlor (ph) meetings in people’s houses, and that’s how the support for the JCC came about.

That’s it. Not a single question about foreign funding or whether they’d open up their books. There was a good reason to go on This Week. (I suspect they wouldn’t have gone with Jake Tapper.)

The obscene comparison between opposition to the mosque and anti-Semitism (how do Abe Foxman, Harry Reid, and Howard Dean feel about this?) should obliterate the left’s claim that this is all about “understanding” and “reconciliation.” It seems the mosque builders are interested, just as their critics claimed, in perpetuating the Muslim victimology meme and stirring dissension. And how interesting that they chose to stir the pot with Jewish analogies.

Read Less

$4.4 Trillion

The Wall Street Journal editors remind us:

CBO’s mid-year review largely reinforces the bad news we already knew—to wit, that spending has exploded since Democrats took over Congress in 2007, first with the acquiescence of George W. Bush and then into hyperdrive after Mr. Obama entered the White House.

To appreciate the magnitude of this spending blowout, compare CBO’s budget “baseline” estimate in January 2008 with the baseline it released Thursday. The baseline predicts future spending based on the law at the time. As the nearby chart shows, in a mere 31 months Congress has added more than $4.4 trillion to the 10-year spending baseline. The 2008 and 2009 numbers are actual spending, the others are estimates. As recently as 2005, total federal spending was only $2.47 trillion.

Here’s a plan for the deficit commission: just return to the 2005 level of spending. Civilization as we know it would not end. The government would still deliver essential services and very much more.

True, Bush could have done more to curb spending. But really, there is no comparison between the administrations:

The annual average increase in domestic, nondefense discretionary spending—on the likes of education, food stamps, and things other than Medicaid, Medicare and Social Security—was 6.4% from 1999-2008. Yet in 2009, nondefense discretionary spending rose by 11.2%, and in 2010 it will grow by another 14.7%.

“We should be so lucky” should be the response the next time Obama threatens that the GOP will return us to the Bush era.

The Wall Street Journal editors remind us:

CBO’s mid-year review largely reinforces the bad news we already knew—to wit, that spending has exploded since Democrats took over Congress in 2007, first with the acquiescence of George W. Bush and then into hyperdrive after Mr. Obama entered the White House.

To appreciate the magnitude of this spending blowout, compare CBO’s budget “baseline” estimate in January 2008 with the baseline it released Thursday. The baseline predicts future spending based on the law at the time. As the nearby chart shows, in a mere 31 months Congress has added more than $4.4 trillion to the 10-year spending baseline. The 2008 and 2009 numbers are actual spending, the others are estimates. As recently as 2005, total federal spending was only $2.47 trillion.

Here’s a plan for the deficit commission: just return to the 2005 level of spending. Civilization as we know it would not end. The government would still deliver essential services and very much more.

True, Bush could have done more to curb spending. But really, there is no comparison between the administrations:

The annual average increase in domestic, nondefense discretionary spending—on the likes of education, food stamps, and things other than Medicaid, Medicare and Social Security—was 6.4% from 1999-2008. Yet in 2009, nondefense discretionary spending rose by 11.2%, and in 2010 it will grow by another 14.7%.

“We should be so lucky” should be the response the next time Obama threatens that the GOP will return us to the Bush era.

Read Less




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