Commentary Magazine


Posts For: September 13, 2010

New York GOP Prefers Dem Victory to Insurgent Candidate

Dissatisfaction with President Obama and the Democrats in Congress is leading observers to give Republicans an even chance of ousting the majority in both houses. But instead of looking forward to a fall campaign in which they will be part of a national turkey shoot of Democratic incumbents, New York Republicans are already threatening to blow what little remains of their party.

The reason is the prospect that Carl Paladino, a well-funded Albany insider who has taken up the cudgels for the Tea Party, might defeat former Congressman Rick Lazio, the party regulars’ chosen candidate for governor. Lazio is best remembered as the not-ready-for-prime-time human crash dummy that collided with the Hillary Clinton juggernaut in 2000. Lazio has floundered in his run this year and hasn’t a prayer of beating Democrat Andrew Cuomo in November.

Paladino might not do better, but the GOP leadership is committed to going quietly to the slaughterhouse with Lazio rather than take a chance on a problematic wild card like Paladino. But they aren’t just working for Lazio to prevail in the primary. They are acting as if the not altogether unlikely possibility of Paladino beating Lazio is a worse calamity than a landslide loss to Cuomo. In an article in yesterday’s New York Times, Republican leaders made it clear that Paladino’s insurgent run is a greater danger to them than the Democrats. This conclusion was amplified in today’s New York Post, where Fred Dicker reports that Harry Wilson, the GOP’s candidate for state controller, will back Cuomo in the fall if Paladino bests Lazio.

Even odder is the fact that according to the Times, the head of New York’s Conservative Party, whose continued existence has always been justified by its ability to act as a check on the elitist and establishmentarian preferences of the leadership of the state’s Republican Party, is also aghast about the way Paladino is harnessing Tea Party activism.

“If Carl Paladino wins this thing, it will cause severe damage — it could be for decades — to the Republican Party of New York State,” said Michael Long, chairman of the state Conservative Party, which usually aligns with the Republicans and has nominated Mr. Lazio this year. “The party,” he added, “would live in darkness for quite some time.”

Really, Mr. Long? Despite Paladino’s checkered record, would his primary victory make things any darker for the Republicans than the current situation, which produced a certain loser like Lazio? Could Paladino’s populism be worse for the long-term future of the party than the mess left by former governor George Pataki and his mentor, former senator Al D’Amato? If the dwindling number of registered Republicans in the state are willing to embrace a character like Paladino, maybe it’s because they think of their party as having become the home of a leadership that is just as corrupt and devoted to influence-peddling as the Democrats. The prospect that Republican voters would consider such a controversial figure rather than meekly accept their leadership’s lame choice is actually a sign that their moribund party still has a pulse, not a harbinger of its doom.

Dissatisfaction with President Obama and the Democrats in Congress is leading observers to give Republicans an even chance of ousting the majority in both houses. But instead of looking forward to a fall campaign in which they will be part of a national turkey shoot of Democratic incumbents, New York Republicans are already threatening to blow what little remains of their party.

The reason is the prospect that Carl Paladino, a well-funded Albany insider who has taken up the cudgels for the Tea Party, might defeat former Congressman Rick Lazio, the party regulars’ chosen candidate for governor. Lazio is best remembered as the not-ready-for-prime-time human crash dummy that collided with the Hillary Clinton juggernaut in 2000. Lazio has floundered in his run this year and hasn’t a prayer of beating Democrat Andrew Cuomo in November.

Paladino might not do better, but the GOP leadership is committed to going quietly to the slaughterhouse with Lazio rather than take a chance on a problematic wild card like Paladino. But they aren’t just working for Lazio to prevail in the primary. They are acting as if the not altogether unlikely possibility of Paladino beating Lazio is a worse calamity than a landslide loss to Cuomo. In an article in yesterday’s New York Times, Republican leaders made it clear that Paladino’s insurgent run is a greater danger to them than the Democrats. This conclusion was amplified in today’s New York Post, where Fred Dicker reports that Harry Wilson, the GOP’s candidate for state controller, will back Cuomo in the fall if Paladino bests Lazio.

Even odder is the fact that according to the Times, the head of New York’s Conservative Party, whose continued existence has always been justified by its ability to act as a check on the elitist and establishmentarian preferences of the leadership of the state’s Republican Party, is also aghast about the way Paladino is harnessing Tea Party activism.

“If Carl Paladino wins this thing, it will cause severe damage — it could be for decades — to the Republican Party of New York State,” said Michael Long, chairman of the state Conservative Party, which usually aligns with the Republicans and has nominated Mr. Lazio this year. “The party,” he added, “would live in darkness for quite some time.”

Really, Mr. Long? Despite Paladino’s checkered record, would his primary victory make things any darker for the Republicans than the current situation, which produced a certain loser like Lazio? Could Paladino’s populism be worse for the long-term future of the party than the mess left by former governor George Pataki and his mentor, former senator Al D’Amato? If the dwindling number of registered Republicans in the state are willing to embrace a character like Paladino, maybe it’s because they think of their party as having become the home of a leadership that is just as corrupt and devoted to influence-peddling as the Democrats. The prospect that Republican voters would consider such a controversial figure rather than meekly accept their leadership’s lame choice is actually a sign that their moribund party still has a pulse, not a harbinger of its doom.

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RE: No Deal, Mr. President

Matt Continetti agrees that John Boehner strayed off the “no tax hike” reservation and has been upstaged not only by other Republicans but by Democrats as well. The latest is Rep. Zack Space. (“We need to keep cutting taxes to spur our economy.”)

This afternoon, Sen. Mitch McConnell also took to the Senate floor, citing Sen. Joe Lieberman and other Democratic support for a full extension of the Bush tax cuts. (“The good news is that a growing chorus of Democrats, including at least five here in the Senate, are coming round on this issue. They oppose the tax hikes the administration is proposing. As Senator Lieberman put it earlier today, ‘I don’t think it makes sense to raise any federal taxes during the uncertain economy we are struggling through. The more money we leave in private hands, the quicker our economic recovery will be.’”) McConnell’s remarks are worth reading in full since they represent, I would suggest, the thinking of virtually every Republican office holder and candidate:

As for the next step, Republicans stood together just before the August recess and put together a plan that would save taxpayers $300 billion over the next 10 years. That’s a good place to start.

So Democrats have a choice: they can stand with us on this proposal and show that they finally realize we can’t spend our way out of the recession. Or they can continue to stand with an administration whose policies — real and threatened — represent the greatest obstacle to our nation’s economic recovery.

In other words, no deal, Mr. President.

Matt Continetti agrees that John Boehner strayed off the “no tax hike” reservation and has been upstaged not only by other Republicans but by Democrats as well. The latest is Rep. Zack Space. (“We need to keep cutting taxes to spur our economy.”)

This afternoon, Sen. Mitch McConnell also took to the Senate floor, citing Sen. Joe Lieberman and other Democratic support for a full extension of the Bush tax cuts. (“The good news is that a growing chorus of Democrats, including at least five here in the Senate, are coming round on this issue. They oppose the tax hikes the administration is proposing. As Senator Lieberman put it earlier today, ‘I don’t think it makes sense to raise any federal taxes during the uncertain economy we are struggling through. The more money we leave in private hands, the quicker our economic recovery will be.’”) McConnell’s remarks are worth reading in full since they represent, I would suggest, the thinking of virtually every Republican office holder and candidate:

As for the next step, Republicans stood together just before the August recess and put together a plan that would save taxpayers $300 billion over the next 10 years. That’s a good place to start.

So Democrats have a choice: they can stand with us on this proposal and show that they finally realize we can’t spend our way out of the recession. Or they can continue to stand with an administration whose policies — real and threatened — represent the greatest obstacle to our nation’s economic recovery.

In other words, no deal, Mr. President.

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Turkey: Worry

The patterns of the Cold War era — which was also the era of independence for much of Europe’s colonial empire — are beginning to recur in greater numbers. In one of the least desirable of those patterns, constitutional “democratization” in the emerging post-colonial nations made it easier for new strongmen to establish autocratic rule. Understandably, the West cheered on developing-world voters when they approved constitutional changes that broke the power of legacy autocrats. Too often, however, the old autocrats were merely replaced by new ones, who had used constitutional change not to empower the people but to vanquish their own rivals.

Turkey, where voters approved significant changes to the constitution this weekend, was never a colony. We can hope the post-colonial dynamic won’t play out there — but concern is amply justified. The revisions in question, proposed by the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), target the two elements of the national government that have most steadfastly sought to enforce Turkey’s Kemalist tradition of secularism: the military and the courts. AKP has pressed an overtly Islamist agenda since its formation from the older Islamist Virtue Party in 2002. But up to now, AKP has been stymied by the stature of the military general staff and the secularist tradition of the courts.

The new reforms approved by the voters remove those checks. One will allow Prime Minister Erdogan to try in civil court the military-coup plotters who seized control of the government in 1980, when Turkey was beset by internal violence. This power will prevent the military from serving as a check on radicalized political majorities. In a change much like FDR’s court-stacking proposal of 1937, another constitutional revision expands the nation’s constitutional court from 11 to 17 judges and provides that the prime minister will appoint 14 of them, with the legislature choosing the other three.

Erdogan has more sweeping changes in mind for the Turkish constitution, but those will wait until after next year’s national election. Although his popularity has been slipping steadily since 2005, observers of the constitutional referendum now award him the advantage in the 2011 contest. The U.S. and EU are expressing gratification at Turkey’s democratizing measures, but their effect will be to eliminate key checks on what Erdogan and AKP can do with a legislative majority.

Erdogan’s record is disturbing. Turkish and Western journalists are alarmed by his regular practice of threatening the media. Committed secularists in the courts and universities have found themselves slapped with trumped-up civil charges. AKP tried to lift the constitutional ban on wearing the Islamic veil in universities in 2008, but was stopped by the courts; secularists fear that with unchecked power, Islamists will proceed to mandating the veil for women.

Erdogan’s record in regional policy is equally disquieting: arming Syria, buddying up to Iran, buying weapons and nuclear plants from Russia, berating Israel and effectively supporting the erratic flotilla campaign against the Gaza blockade. This is a prime minister who proclaims in official press interviews that Rachel’s Tomb and the Cave of the Patriarchs “were not and never will be Jewish sites, but Islamic sites.” His priorities and ideological temperance are more than questionable.

There’s something surreal, in fact, about his NATO allies approving the new constitutional changes because they are “democratic.” Form over substance has been the calling card of the destabilizing, ideological autocrat throughout the 90 years since World War I; it’s past time for complacent Western liberals to figure that out.

The patterns of the Cold War era — which was also the era of independence for much of Europe’s colonial empire — are beginning to recur in greater numbers. In one of the least desirable of those patterns, constitutional “democratization” in the emerging post-colonial nations made it easier for new strongmen to establish autocratic rule. Understandably, the West cheered on developing-world voters when they approved constitutional changes that broke the power of legacy autocrats. Too often, however, the old autocrats were merely replaced by new ones, who had used constitutional change not to empower the people but to vanquish their own rivals.

Turkey, where voters approved significant changes to the constitution this weekend, was never a colony. We can hope the post-colonial dynamic won’t play out there — but concern is amply justified. The revisions in question, proposed by the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), target the two elements of the national government that have most steadfastly sought to enforce Turkey’s Kemalist tradition of secularism: the military and the courts. AKP has pressed an overtly Islamist agenda since its formation from the older Islamist Virtue Party in 2002. But up to now, AKP has been stymied by the stature of the military general staff and the secularist tradition of the courts.

The new reforms approved by the voters remove those checks. One will allow Prime Minister Erdogan to try in civil court the military-coup plotters who seized control of the government in 1980, when Turkey was beset by internal violence. This power will prevent the military from serving as a check on radicalized political majorities. In a change much like FDR’s court-stacking proposal of 1937, another constitutional revision expands the nation’s constitutional court from 11 to 17 judges and provides that the prime minister will appoint 14 of them, with the legislature choosing the other three.

Erdogan has more sweeping changes in mind for the Turkish constitution, but those will wait until after next year’s national election. Although his popularity has been slipping steadily since 2005, observers of the constitutional referendum now award him the advantage in the 2011 contest. The U.S. and EU are expressing gratification at Turkey’s democratizing measures, but their effect will be to eliminate key checks on what Erdogan and AKP can do with a legislative majority.

Erdogan’s record is disturbing. Turkish and Western journalists are alarmed by his regular practice of threatening the media. Committed secularists in the courts and universities have found themselves slapped with trumped-up civil charges. AKP tried to lift the constitutional ban on wearing the Islamic veil in universities in 2008, but was stopped by the courts; secularists fear that with unchecked power, Islamists will proceed to mandating the veil for women.

Erdogan’s record in regional policy is equally disquieting: arming Syria, buddying up to Iran, buying weapons and nuclear plants from Russia, berating Israel and effectively supporting the erratic flotilla campaign against the Gaza blockade. This is a prime minister who proclaims in official press interviews that Rachel’s Tomb and the Cave of the Patriarchs “were not and never will be Jewish sites, but Islamic sites.” His priorities and ideological temperance are more than questionable.

There’s something surreal, in fact, about his NATO allies approving the new constitutional changes because they are “democratic.” Form over substance has been the calling card of the destabilizing, ideological autocrat throughout the 90 years since World War I; it’s past time for complacent Western liberals to figure that out.

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Laugh of the Day

Go to my pal Iowahawk’s Twitter feed by clicking here. He’s reading through Meghan McCain’s new book, Dirty Sexy Politics, and picking out choice sentences. I haven’t laughed this hard since Maya Angelou read her inaugural poem in 1993.

Go to my pal Iowahawk’s Twitter feed by clicking here. He’s reading through Meghan McCain’s new book, Dirty Sexy Politics, and picking out choice sentences. I haven’t laughed this hard since Maya Angelou read her inaugural poem in 1993.

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Re: Getting Obama Half-Right — and All Wrong

I could not agree more with John. The first thing I thought of when I heard about the  Barack Obama anti-colonialist hubbub was the president’s Cairo speech. That celebrated exercise in “outreach” included this forgotten gem:

The relationship between Islam and the West includes centuries of co-existence and cooperation, but also conflict and religious wars. More recently, tension has been fed by colonialism that denied rights and opportunities to many Muslims, and a Cold War in which Muslim-majority countries were too often treated as proxies without regard to their own aspirations.

It is an arguable point that all Americans–considering the circumstances and meaning of this country’s founding–are default anti-colonialists. The story of America is the story of its continuing trajectory, from a collection of rights-deprived colonies to a liberal independent nation that defends liberty for all. For that very reason those who apologize for America as a colonial power can be said to lack some fundamental understanding of their country. This misunderstanding has long been evidenced in Obama’s own words and actions. To muddy up the discussion with birther paranoia is to begin to forfeit an important argument about the perils of the current administration’s world view.

I could not agree more with John. The first thing I thought of when I heard about the  Barack Obama anti-colonialist hubbub was the president’s Cairo speech. That celebrated exercise in “outreach” included this forgotten gem:

The relationship between Islam and the West includes centuries of co-existence and cooperation, but also conflict and religious wars. More recently, tension has been fed by colonialism that denied rights and opportunities to many Muslims, and a Cold War in which Muslim-majority countries were too often treated as proxies without regard to their own aspirations.

It is an arguable point that all Americans–considering the circumstances and meaning of this country’s founding–are default anti-colonialists. The story of America is the story of its continuing trajectory, from a collection of rights-deprived colonies to a liberal independent nation that defends liberty for all. For that very reason those who apologize for America as a colonial power can be said to lack some fundamental understanding of their country. This misunderstanding has long been evidenced in Obama’s own words and actions. To muddy up the discussion with birther paranoia is to begin to forfeit an important argument about the perils of the current administration’s world view.

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Keep Our Eye on the Ball — Iran

One of the objections to the “peace process” — in addition to the uptick in murders of Jews attendant thereto — is that it is a giant and dangerous distraction. The administration and much of the media have lost track of what’s important: Iran and the mounting evidence that the sanctions have been, as conservatives predicted, useless. The New York Post, to its credit, has not dropped the ball. In this sharp op-ed, the Post reminds us:

In June, the administration prodded the UN into issuing what President Obama called the “toughest sanctions ever.” But the words “United Nations” and “tough” don’t belong in the same sentence, and that’s a fact Iran has been quick to notice.

According to the UN report, Iran has barred two senior inspectors from their nuclear sites, said it “underestimated” the amount of uranium it has enriched, is developing secret nuke facilities far from prying eyes, and “accidentally” broke the seals on several pieces of equipment that the IAEA had shut down.

(And a dissident Iranian group, the People’s Mujahideen of Iran, charged last week that extensive tunneling near Tehran is connected to the production of weapons-grade plutonium.)

The “solution” to this, of course, is yet another round of Israel bashing. We aren’t making zero progress with Iran? So the UN turns to the Jewish state:

Handcuffed, tongue tied and generally bamboozled by the mullahs, the UN is instead focusing on a much easier target: Israel, the very country in Iran’s nuclear crosshairs.

The IAEA voted to censure Israel last year at its annual forum in Vienna, while refusing to even mention Iran. And it dialed up the pressure on Israel last month with a personal visit from the head of the IAEA, pushing Israel to join the non-proliferation treaty and accept UN inspectors at its nuclear sites.

We note, without surprise, that the IAEA chief has yet to visit Iran. Why, after all, would he bother?

The UN has given Iran and other bad actors the kid-gloves treatment for years, reserving its bare-knuckled fury for the Jewish state. And the IAEA is a mirror image of the UN at large — impotent in the face of tyrants, deadly serious on one front alone: in its attempts to deliver a knockout blow to Israel.

So much for multilateralism. The UN is, in a real sense, the perfect partner for Obama. It provides the patina of seriousness, a paper-thin coating to conceal the feckless attempts to disarm Iran, and it throws in some Israel-bashing for good measure. No wonder Obama loves the place.

Meanwhile, it might be a good idea for Jewish organizations to show the same focus as the Post. Forget the “peace process” sideshow and give up the fantasy that the UN or the IAEA will solve our national-security problem for us. The options boil down to : 1) The U.S. uses force; 2.) Israel uses force; or 3.) the Iranians get the bomb. The first is the best of the disagreeable options. It would be swell if American Jewish leaders started making that point.

One of the objections to the “peace process” — in addition to the uptick in murders of Jews attendant thereto — is that it is a giant and dangerous distraction. The administration and much of the media have lost track of what’s important: Iran and the mounting evidence that the sanctions have been, as conservatives predicted, useless. The New York Post, to its credit, has not dropped the ball. In this sharp op-ed, the Post reminds us:

In June, the administration prodded the UN into issuing what President Obama called the “toughest sanctions ever.” But the words “United Nations” and “tough” don’t belong in the same sentence, and that’s a fact Iran has been quick to notice.

According to the UN report, Iran has barred two senior inspectors from their nuclear sites, said it “underestimated” the amount of uranium it has enriched, is developing secret nuke facilities far from prying eyes, and “accidentally” broke the seals on several pieces of equipment that the IAEA had shut down.

(And a dissident Iranian group, the People’s Mujahideen of Iran, charged last week that extensive tunneling near Tehran is connected to the production of weapons-grade plutonium.)

The “solution” to this, of course, is yet another round of Israel bashing. We aren’t making zero progress with Iran? So the UN turns to the Jewish state:

Handcuffed, tongue tied and generally bamboozled by the mullahs, the UN is instead focusing on a much easier target: Israel, the very country in Iran’s nuclear crosshairs.

The IAEA voted to censure Israel last year at its annual forum in Vienna, while refusing to even mention Iran. And it dialed up the pressure on Israel last month with a personal visit from the head of the IAEA, pushing Israel to join the non-proliferation treaty and accept UN inspectors at its nuclear sites.

We note, without surprise, that the IAEA chief has yet to visit Iran. Why, after all, would he bother?

The UN has given Iran and other bad actors the kid-gloves treatment for years, reserving its bare-knuckled fury for the Jewish state. And the IAEA is a mirror image of the UN at large — impotent in the face of tyrants, deadly serious on one front alone: in its attempts to deliver a knockout blow to Israel.

So much for multilateralism. The UN is, in a real sense, the perfect partner for Obama. It provides the patina of seriousness, a paper-thin coating to conceal the feckless attempts to disarm Iran, and it throws in some Israel-bashing for good measure. No wonder Obama loves the place.

Meanwhile, it might be a good idea for Jewish organizations to show the same focus as the Post. Forget the “peace process” sideshow and give up the fantasy that the UN or the IAEA will solve our national-security problem for us. The options boil down to : 1) The U.S. uses force; 2.) Israel uses force; or 3.) the Iranians get the bomb. The first is the best of the disagreeable options. It would be swell if American Jewish leaders started making that point.

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RE: Give Americans a Break Already

Aside from statistical data, there is a body of compelling anecdotal evidence that American Muslims really aren’t under siege at all. For example, CNN reports:

Far from the media frenzy dominating headlines, from the so-called “ground zero mosque” to a pastor’s planned Quran burning, Aman Ali and Bassam Tariq traveled more than 13,000 miles into the heart of America over the last month, visiting 30 mosques in 30 days for Ramadan.

They began in New York, headed south and then cut across the country to California before making their way back, ending today in Michigan in the nation’s largest Muslim community. … Ali and Tariq were embraced nearly everywhere they went, from a Confederate souvenir shop in Georgia to the streets of Las Vegas, Nevada, to the hills of North Dakota where the nation’s first mosque was built in 1929.

The report is worth reading in full. It suggests — surprise, surprise! — that the “rising tide of Islamophobia” is a creation of the liberal media. Out in America, the citizenry is pretty decent, it turns out:

“After 13,000 miles, I think that America still exists, and I’m happy to know that it does,” said Tariq, a 23-year-old American of Pakistani descent. “It’s really made America feel like home to me in a way that I’ve never felt before. The America that we think about [as immigrants] is still actually there. I’ve seen it! And I’m seeing it still.”

But that’s not nearly as “newsworthy” as a crackpot pastor with 50 congregants who in the end decided not to burn the Koran. Any chance these fellows would get on This Week with Christiane Amanpour? Puleeze.

Aside from statistical data, there is a body of compelling anecdotal evidence that American Muslims really aren’t under siege at all. For example, CNN reports:

Far from the media frenzy dominating headlines, from the so-called “ground zero mosque” to a pastor’s planned Quran burning, Aman Ali and Bassam Tariq traveled more than 13,000 miles into the heart of America over the last month, visiting 30 mosques in 30 days for Ramadan.

They began in New York, headed south and then cut across the country to California before making their way back, ending today in Michigan in the nation’s largest Muslim community. … Ali and Tariq were embraced nearly everywhere they went, from a Confederate souvenir shop in Georgia to the streets of Las Vegas, Nevada, to the hills of North Dakota where the nation’s first mosque was built in 1929.

The report is worth reading in full. It suggests — surprise, surprise! — that the “rising tide of Islamophobia” is a creation of the liberal media. Out in America, the citizenry is pretty decent, it turns out:

“After 13,000 miles, I think that America still exists, and I’m happy to know that it does,” said Tariq, a 23-year-old American of Pakistani descent. “It’s really made America feel like home to me in a way that I’ve never felt before. The America that we think about [as immigrants] is still actually there. I’ve seen it! And I’m seeing it still.”

But that’s not nearly as “newsworthy” as a crackpot pastor with 50 congregants who in the end decided not to burn the Koran. Any chance these fellows would get on This Week with Christiane Amanpour? Puleeze.

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The Afghan Study Group Opines

Something called the Afghan Study Group has produced a report on “A New Way Forward in Afghanistan.” A quick glance at the list of signatories shows a group of individuals who are not exactly notable for their expertise in Afghanistan but who can be counted on to oppose any plan of winning a war, be it the “surge” in Iraq or the one now going on in Afghanistan. For instance: Yale law professor Bruce Ackerman, left-wing blogger and Arabist Juan Cole of the University of Michigan, economist James Galbraith of the University of Texas, telecom executive Leo Hindery, the notorious Iran apologists Flynt and Hillary Leverett, and, of course, anti-Israel propagandist Stephen Walt of Harvard. There are, to be sure, among the people who have signed on, a few who have actually spent some time in the region, such as former State Department employee Matthew Hoh and think-tanker Selig Harrison. But the report is notable for its standard anti-war bromides rather than any convincing “way forward” and certainly not for any “new way” put forth.

My article in COMMENTARY, on the “Case for Optimism,” offers a detailed rebuttal of many of the vapid arguments they make, but a few further observations are in order. First there is the wishful thinking that somehow victory isn’t important: “Protecting our interests does not require a U.S. military victory over the Taliban,” they write. “A Taliban takeover is unlikely even if the United States reduces its military commitment … and the risk of a new ‘safe haven’ there under more ‘friendly’ Taliban rule is overstated.” Talk about a triumph of hope over experience. The Taliban took over Afghanistan in the 1990s when the U.S. wasn’t involved and immediately turned their country into a safe haven for al-Qaeda. Why would they do any differently today? If anything, the ties between al-Qaeda and the Taliban are stronger today than they were in the 1990s.

Their recommendations are really grasping for straws. They loudly demand: “Emphasize power-sharing and political inclusion,” “encourage economic development,” and “engage regional and global stakeholders in a diplomatic effort designed to guarantee Afghan neutrality and foster regional stability.” As if the U.S. hasn’t been doing all of the above since 2001. Guess what? It hasn’t worked. The Taliban are a determined, well-armed insurgency group and they see no reason to reach a power-sharing deal, no matter what “regional and global stakeholders” say. Of course, there is not a hint of how key stakeholders such as Iran and Pakistan, which support the Taliban, can be convinced to cut them off. Instead, there is a blind hope that somehow “economic development” will ameliorate Afghanistan’s woes in the face of abundant evidence that the economic aid provided since 2001 has instead made the situation worse in many respects, by fueling out-of-control corruption.

The authors of this report, with their faith in negotiating with the enemy, would do well to read this recent Wall Street Journal dispatch by ace correspondent Yaroslav Trofimov, which notes what anyone with any knowledge of Afghanistan already knows. First, that “Afghanistan’s three largest ethnic minorities” oppose “outreach to the Taliban, which they said could pave the way for the fundamentalist group’s return to power and reignite civil war.” Second, “Unless it is dealt a decisive setback in coming months, the only thing the Taliban may be interested in negotiating with Mr. Karzai is how to secure control of the central government in Kabul.” Third, “Few Afghans … believe that the Taliban, who already control ethnic Pashtun pockets throughout northern and western Afghanistan, would really stop the war after gaining the south and the east.”

In other words, negotiations with the Taliban would not result in some kind of painless resolution of the long-running war. It would only make the war bigger and more deadly, with the likely result being a Taliban triumph — just as in the 1990s. The members of the Afghan Study Group seem to think that outcome would be in America’s interests. Luckily President Obama does not. He has been right to increase our commitment in Afghanistan in the face of such feckless second-guessing on the home front. I only hope he keeps his nerve as pressure builds for a premature pullout that would hand the jihadists their biggest victory ever.

Something called the Afghan Study Group has produced a report on “A New Way Forward in Afghanistan.” A quick glance at the list of signatories shows a group of individuals who are not exactly notable for their expertise in Afghanistan but who can be counted on to oppose any plan of winning a war, be it the “surge” in Iraq or the one now going on in Afghanistan. For instance: Yale law professor Bruce Ackerman, left-wing blogger and Arabist Juan Cole of the University of Michigan, economist James Galbraith of the University of Texas, telecom executive Leo Hindery, the notorious Iran apologists Flynt and Hillary Leverett, and, of course, anti-Israel propagandist Stephen Walt of Harvard. There are, to be sure, among the people who have signed on, a few who have actually spent some time in the region, such as former State Department employee Matthew Hoh and think-tanker Selig Harrison. But the report is notable for its standard anti-war bromides rather than any convincing “way forward” and certainly not for any “new way” put forth.

My article in COMMENTARY, on the “Case for Optimism,” offers a detailed rebuttal of many of the vapid arguments they make, but a few further observations are in order. First there is the wishful thinking that somehow victory isn’t important: “Protecting our interests does not require a U.S. military victory over the Taliban,” they write. “A Taliban takeover is unlikely even if the United States reduces its military commitment … and the risk of a new ‘safe haven’ there under more ‘friendly’ Taliban rule is overstated.” Talk about a triumph of hope over experience. The Taliban took over Afghanistan in the 1990s when the U.S. wasn’t involved and immediately turned their country into a safe haven for al-Qaeda. Why would they do any differently today? If anything, the ties between al-Qaeda and the Taliban are stronger today than they were in the 1990s.

Their recommendations are really grasping for straws. They loudly demand: “Emphasize power-sharing and political inclusion,” “encourage economic development,” and “engage regional and global stakeholders in a diplomatic effort designed to guarantee Afghan neutrality and foster regional stability.” As if the U.S. hasn’t been doing all of the above since 2001. Guess what? It hasn’t worked. The Taliban are a determined, well-armed insurgency group and they see no reason to reach a power-sharing deal, no matter what “regional and global stakeholders” say. Of course, there is not a hint of how key stakeholders such as Iran and Pakistan, which support the Taliban, can be convinced to cut them off. Instead, there is a blind hope that somehow “economic development” will ameliorate Afghanistan’s woes in the face of abundant evidence that the economic aid provided since 2001 has instead made the situation worse in many respects, by fueling out-of-control corruption.

The authors of this report, with their faith in negotiating with the enemy, would do well to read this recent Wall Street Journal dispatch by ace correspondent Yaroslav Trofimov, which notes what anyone with any knowledge of Afghanistan already knows. First, that “Afghanistan’s three largest ethnic minorities” oppose “outreach to the Taliban, which they said could pave the way for the fundamentalist group’s return to power and reignite civil war.” Second, “Unless it is dealt a decisive setback in coming months, the only thing the Taliban may be interested in negotiating with Mr. Karzai is how to secure control of the central government in Kabul.” Third, “Few Afghans … believe that the Taliban, who already control ethnic Pashtun pockets throughout northern and western Afghanistan, would really stop the war after gaining the south and the east.”

In other words, negotiations with the Taliban would not result in some kind of painless resolution of the long-running war. It would only make the war bigger and more deadly, with the likely result being a Taliban triumph — just as in the 1990s. The members of the Afghan Study Group seem to think that outcome would be in America’s interests. Luckily President Obama does not. He has been right to increase our commitment in Afghanistan in the face of such feckless second-guessing on the home front. I only hope he keeps his nerve as pressure builds for a premature pullout that would hand the jihadists their biggest victory ever.

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No Deal, Mr. President (Updated)

Whatever is going on with House Republicans, Senate Republicans seem to be holding firm on the extension of the Bush tax cuts. In the Washington Post, Sen. Minority Leader Mitch McConnell was emphatic:

McConnell said Democrats have zero chance of passing Obama’s plan in the Senate. He said not a single Republican would support it, leaving Democrats short of the 60 votes needed to cut off a filibuster. “That’s a debate we’re happy to have. That’s the kind of debate that unifies my caucus, from Olympia Snowe to Jim DeMint,” McConnell said, citing the most liberal and most conservative Republicans in the Senate.

That plan, of course, is a combination of new spending and selective tax cuts while allowing the Bush tax cuts to expire. It is not often that Snowe and DeMint are in lockstep, but the prospect of tax hikes in a recession has that effect. Moreover, a growing number of Democrats now support a full extension of the Bush tax cuts:

Half a dozen Democratic senators and Senate candidates have voiced support for a temporary extension of tax cuts for the rich. In the House, more and more incumbents have also taken that position. Among them is Rep. Gary Peters, a Michigan Democrat who represents a traditionally Republican seat in the Detroit suburbs. Peters told the Detroit Free Press last week that extending the cuts “is the right thing to do, as anything less jeopardizes economic recovery.”

Given all that, it is no surprise that Minority Whip Eric Cantor has put out a statement that makes clear he’s not about to allow a tax hike on “small business people and investors. Raising taxes in this environment is a non-starter for me and millions of American small business people who are struggling to keep the lights on and meet their payroll obligations.” Cantor is calling for “Speaker Pelosi and President Obama to allow all members of the House — Republican and Democrat — to vote on legislation that would prevent tax increases for every American.” That sounds like the emerging consensus for the GOP, as well as for moderate Democrats who want to hold on to their seats.

UPDATE: Senator Lieberman has also joined the “No Deal” bipartisan coalition. He has released a statement that reads, in part: ” I don’t think it makes sense to raise any federal taxes during the uncertain economy we are struggling through. The more money we leave in private hands, the quicker our economic recovery will be. And that means I will do everything I can to make sure Congress extends the so-called Bush tax cuts for another year and takes action to prevent the estate tax from rising back to where it was.”

Whatever is going on with House Republicans, Senate Republicans seem to be holding firm on the extension of the Bush tax cuts. In the Washington Post, Sen. Minority Leader Mitch McConnell was emphatic:

McConnell said Democrats have zero chance of passing Obama’s plan in the Senate. He said not a single Republican would support it, leaving Democrats short of the 60 votes needed to cut off a filibuster. “That’s a debate we’re happy to have. That’s the kind of debate that unifies my caucus, from Olympia Snowe to Jim DeMint,” McConnell said, citing the most liberal and most conservative Republicans in the Senate.

That plan, of course, is a combination of new spending and selective tax cuts while allowing the Bush tax cuts to expire. It is not often that Snowe and DeMint are in lockstep, but the prospect of tax hikes in a recession has that effect. Moreover, a growing number of Democrats now support a full extension of the Bush tax cuts:

Half a dozen Democratic senators and Senate candidates have voiced support for a temporary extension of tax cuts for the rich. In the House, more and more incumbents have also taken that position. Among them is Rep. Gary Peters, a Michigan Democrat who represents a traditionally Republican seat in the Detroit suburbs. Peters told the Detroit Free Press last week that extending the cuts “is the right thing to do, as anything less jeopardizes economic recovery.”

Given all that, it is no surprise that Minority Whip Eric Cantor has put out a statement that makes clear he’s not about to allow a tax hike on “small business people and investors. Raising taxes in this environment is a non-starter for me and millions of American small business people who are struggling to keep the lights on and meet their payroll obligations.” Cantor is calling for “Speaker Pelosi and President Obama to allow all members of the House — Republican and Democrat — to vote on legislation that would prevent tax increases for every American.” That sounds like the emerging consensus for the GOP, as well as for moderate Democrats who want to hold on to their seats.

UPDATE: Senator Lieberman has also joined the “No Deal” bipartisan coalition. He has released a statement that reads, in part: ” I don’t think it makes sense to raise any federal taxes during the uncertain economy we are struggling through. The more money we leave in private hands, the quicker our economic recovery will be. And that means I will do everything I can to make sure Congress extends the so-called Bush tax cuts for another year and takes action to prevent the estate tax from rising back to where it was.”

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Getting Obama Half-Right — and All Wrong

Newt Gingrich has created a new controversy with remarks to National Review Online: “What if [Obama] is so outside our comprehension, that only if you understand Kenyan, anti-colonial behavior, can you begin to piece together [his actions]?” As is sadly all too often the case with the former House speaker, he has said something that is half-sharp and half-politically destructive. He’s onto something by connecting Obama’s ideas to anti-colonialism, I think. The key principle in the social and political science Obama studied in the late 1970s and early 1980s was that colonialism was the great evil of the 20th century. The attacks on colonialism, which had been common on the left since the 1920s, were amplified in the 1960s by the reassertion of the Marxist-Leninist conception of “imperialism,” and for good reason — because the more general and less specific term “imperialism” was the way the left could put the United States at the center of its indictment of bourgeois Western corruption and rot.

To the extent that Obama believes that the West and the United States bear a considerable amount of blame for the parlous economic and political condition of other parts of the world and should offer some words of apologetic explanation, he may be operating (as Gingrich sort of suggests) from an ideological base in anti-colonialist, anti-imperialist thinking. This would go a long way to explaining, for example, his bizarre conduct toward Great Britain upon assuming the presidency — the snub of then-PM Gordon Brown, the presentation of a shoddy gift of DVDs, and the banishing of a bust of Churchill from the White House. Why do any of these things to this country’s closest ally unless there is some ideological root? That root could be anti-colonialist ideas, which always held that Great Britain was the worst colonial offender even if it hadn’t been the cruelest (the Belgians were the cruelest) because it portrayed itself as being so humane and orderly.

But by adding a connection to Obama’s father’s home country, Gingrich simply makes his anti-colonial point all but inaudible in the white-noise crackle produced by aligning himself, at least philosophically, with the “birther” crowd. To make the anti-colonial point, there was no need to mention Kenya; the center of anti-colonialist thinking during Obama’s formative educational years was on the Western left, particularly on social-science faculties at major universities here and in Europe. Far more important in this context, if you’re going to mention one of his parents, is his mother Stanley Ann Dunham, who did her academic training as an anthropologist as Obama was growing up. It would seem likely that any ideas of an anti-colonialist nature that Obama might have imbibed as a child would not have come from the father, whom he saw only twice in his life, but rather from his stoutly American, Kansas-to-Seattle-to-Hawaii mother, whose remarkable life journey also included taking up permanent residence on the academic left.

Gingrich might just have been careless in the way he was talking, and through that carelessness handed his party’s enemies a big stick to beat the GOP with at a particularly inopportune moment. Or he might have been sending a cutesy, cagey signal to the birthers that he had joined their number. Hard to say which would be worse.

Newt Gingrich has created a new controversy with remarks to National Review Online: “What if [Obama] is so outside our comprehension, that only if you understand Kenyan, anti-colonial behavior, can you begin to piece together [his actions]?” As is sadly all too often the case with the former House speaker, he has said something that is half-sharp and half-politically destructive. He’s onto something by connecting Obama’s ideas to anti-colonialism, I think. The key principle in the social and political science Obama studied in the late 1970s and early 1980s was that colonialism was the great evil of the 20th century. The attacks on colonialism, which had been common on the left since the 1920s, were amplified in the 1960s by the reassertion of the Marxist-Leninist conception of “imperialism,” and for good reason — because the more general and less specific term “imperialism” was the way the left could put the United States at the center of its indictment of bourgeois Western corruption and rot.

To the extent that Obama believes that the West and the United States bear a considerable amount of blame for the parlous economic and political condition of other parts of the world and should offer some words of apologetic explanation, he may be operating (as Gingrich sort of suggests) from an ideological base in anti-colonialist, anti-imperialist thinking. This would go a long way to explaining, for example, his bizarre conduct toward Great Britain upon assuming the presidency — the snub of then-PM Gordon Brown, the presentation of a shoddy gift of DVDs, and the banishing of a bust of Churchill from the White House. Why do any of these things to this country’s closest ally unless there is some ideological root? That root could be anti-colonialist ideas, which always held that Great Britain was the worst colonial offender even if it hadn’t been the cruelest (the Belgians were the cruelest) because it portrayed itself as being so humane and orderly.

But by adding a connection to Obama’s father’s home country, Gingrich simply makes his anti-colonial point all but inaudible in the white-noise crackle produced by aligning himself, at least philosophically, with the “birther” crowd. To make the anti-colonial point, there was no need to mention Kenya; the center of anti-colonialist thinking during Obama’s formative educational years was on the Western left, particularly on social-science faculties at major universities here and in Europe. Far more important in this context, if you’re going to mention one of his parents, is his mother Stanley Ann Dunham, who did her academic training as an anthropologist as Obama was growing up. It would seem likely that any ideas of an anti-colonialist nature that Obama might have imbibed as a child would not have come from the father, whom he saw only twice in his life, but rather from his stoutly American, Kansas-to-Seattle-to-Hawaii mother, whose remarkable life journey also included taking up permanent residence on the academic left.

Gingrich might just have been careless in the way he was talking, and through that carelessness handed his party’s enemies a big stick to beat the GOP with at a particularly inopportune moment. Or he might have been sending a cutesy, cagey signal to the birthers that he had joined their number. Hard to say which would be worse.

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ObamaCare Bending Up the Cost Curve

During his press conference on Friday, Jake Tapper, ABC’s excellent senior White House correspondent, asked President Obama about a new CMS (Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services) report that shows that the health-care cost curve is actually bending up — not down, as during the health-care debate Obama had promised it would. In response, Obama said this:

With respect to health care, what I said during the debate is the same thing I’m saying now and it’s the same thing I will say three or four years from now. Bending the cost curve on health care is hard to do. We’ve got hundreds of thousands of providers and doctors and systems and insurers. And what we did was we took every idea out there about how to reduce or at least slow the costs of health care over time.

But I said at the time, it wasn’t going to happen tomorrow, it wasn’t going to happen next year. It took us decades to get into a position where our health care costs were going up 6, 7, 10 percent a year. And so our goal is to slowly bring down those costs. … I haven’t read the entire study. Maybe you have. But if you — if what — the reports are true, what they’re saying is, is that as a consequence of us getting 30 million additional people health care, at the margins that’s going to increase our costs, we knew that. We didn’t think that we were going to cover 30 million people for free, but that the long-term trend in terms of how much the average family is going to be paying for health insurance is going to be improved as a consequence of health care.

And so our goal on health care is, if we can get, instead of health care costs going up 6 percent a year, it’s going up at the level of inflation, maybe just slightly above inflation, we’ve made huge progress.

The president should read the report, which can be found here. It incorporates the effects of health-care reform and estimates annual spending growth to be 0.2 percentage points higher than its February 2010 estimate, increasing from 6.1 percent to 6.3 percent. According to the Wall Street Journal, “The report by federal number-crunchers casts fresh doubt on Democrats’ argument that the health-care law would curb the sharp increase in costs over the long term.”

In 2009, the report reads, national health-care spending, public and private, totaled $2.5 trillion and accounted for 17.3 percent of the economy. The report predicts that health-care spending will rise to $4.6 trillion and account for 19.6 percent of the economy in 2019. By contrast, in February — before the passage of ObamaCare — the same team of government experts, using the same economic and demographic assumptions, predicted that national health-care spending would reach $4.5 trillion, or 19.3 percent of the gross domestic product, in 2019. The report also anticipates a big increase in health-care spending in 2014, when major provisions of the new law, including a requirement for most Americans to have insurance, take effect. From 2013 to 2014, for example, overall health-care spending is expected to increase by 9.2 percent, which is significantly more than the 6.6 percent increase predicted before ObamaCare became law. (For more, see this story.)

Beyond that, the report assumes that the law’s sweeping reduction in Medicare payments to doctors — 30 percent over the next three years — will actually take place. As Grace-Marie Turner points out, “Congress will not let payment rates be reduced to these levels, so health spending will increase further.”

And former CBO director Douglas Holtz-Eakin has written a paper arguing that ObamaCare provides strong incentives for employers to drop employer-sponsored health insurance for as many as 35 million Americans, funneling far more workers into taxpayer-funded health insurance, thereby raising the gross taxpayer cost of the subsidies by roughly $1.4 trillion in the first 10 years.

A core promise of the president’s signature legislative achievement, then, has been exposed as false. And for Obama, in light of the CMS report, to be talking about the cost of health care going up at or just above the level of inflation, which is running below 2 percent this year, is utterly fanciful. Moreover, the American people can be excused if during the health-care debate they didn’t pick up Obama’s warning that “bending the cost curve on health care is hard to do” and that he knew ObamaCare would increase costs in the short run. Those warnings were omitted, for example, in the president’s September 10, 2009 health-care speech to Congress, when Obama claimed that his plan “will slow the growth of health-care costs for our families, our businesses, and our government.” Obama even pointed out that “if we are able to slow the growth of health-care costs by just one-tenth of one percent each year, it will actually reduce the deficit by $4 trillion over the long term.” To reiterate: the new CMS report predicts an annual increase by two-tenths of one percent each year over the status quo — even accepting the Obama administration’s own ludicrously optimistic assumptions. The reality will be a good deal worse than the CMS report anticipates.

This is all of a piece. Claim after claim the president has made — on the stimulus package, on unemployment, on the deficit and the debt, on the “recovery summer,” on ObamaCare, and on so much more — is being shattered by events. The expectations he set were extraordinarily high and his performance so far is inept. That is one reason why Obama and his party will suffer enormous electoral losses seven weeks from now.

During his press conference on Friday, Jake Tapper, ABC’s excellent senior White House correspondent, asked President Obama about a new CMS (Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services) report that shows that the health-care cost curve is actually bending up — not down, as during the health-care debate Obama had promised it would. In response, Obama said this:

With respect to health care, what I said during the debate is the same thing I’m saying now and it’s the same thing I will say three or four years from now. Bending the cost curve on health care is hard to do. We’ve got hundreds of thousands of providers and doctors and systems and insurers. And what we did was we took every idea out there about how to reduce or at least slow the costs of health care over time.

But I said at the time, it wasn’t going to happen tomorrow, it wasn’t going to happen next year. It took us decades to get into a position where our health care costs were going up 6, 7, 10 percent a year. And so our goal is to slowly bring down those costs. … I haven’t read the entire study. Maybe you have. But if you — if what — the reports are true, what they’re saying is, is that as a consequence of us getting 30 million additional people health care, at the margins that’s going to increase our costs, we knew that. We didn’t think that we were going to cover 30 million people for free, but that the long-term trend in terms of how much the average family is going to be paying for health insurance is going to be improved as a consequence of health care.

And so our goal on health care is, if we can get, instead of health care costs going up 6 percent a year, it’s going up at the level of inflation, maybe just slightly above inflation, we’ve made huge progress.

The president should read the report, which can be found here. It incorporates the effects of health-care reform and estimates annual spending growth to be 0.2 percentage points higher than its February 2010 estimate, increasing from 6.1 percent to 6.3 percent. According to the Wall Street Journal, “The report by federal number-crunchers casts fresh doubt on Democrats’ argument that the health-care law would curb the sharp increase in costs over the long term.”

In 2009, the report reads, national health-care spending, public and private, totaled $2.5 trillion and accounted for 17.3 percent of the economy. The report predicts that health-care spending will rise to $4.6 trillion and account for 19.6 percent of the economy in 2019. By contrast, in February — before the passage of ObamaCare — the same team of government experts, using the same economic and demographic assumptions, predicted that national health-care spending would reach $4.5 trillion, or 19.3 percent of the gross domestic product, in 2019. The report also anticipates a big increase in health-care spending in 2014, when major provisions of the new law, including a requirement for most Americans to have insurance, take effect. From 2013 to 2014, for example, overall health-care spending is expected to increase by 9.2 percent, which is significantly more than the 6.6 percent increase predicted before ObamaCare became law. (For more, see this story.)

Beyond that, the report assumes that the law’s sweeping reduction in Medicare payments to doctors — 30 percent over the next three years — will actually take place. As Grace-Marie Turner points out, “Congress will not let payment rates be reduced to these levels, so health spending will increase further.”

And former CBO director Douglas Holtz-Eakin has written a paper arguing that ObamaCare provides strong incentives for employers to drop employer-sponsored health insurance for as many as 35 million Americans, funneling far more workers into taxpayer-funded health insurance, thereby raising the gross taxpayer cost of the subsidies by roughly $1.4 trillion in the first 10 years.

A core promise of the president’s signature legislative achievement, then, has been exposed as false. And for Obama, in light of the CMS report, to be talking about the cost of health care going up at or just above the level of inflation, which is running below 2 percent this year, is utterly fanciful. Moreover, the American people can be excused if during the health-care debate they didn’t pick up Obama’s warning that “bending the cost curve on health care is hard to do” and that he knew ObamaCare would increase costs in the short run. Those warnings were omitted, for example, in the president’s September 10, 2009 health-care speech to Congress, when Obama claimed that his plan “will slow the growth of health-care costs for our families, our businesses, and our government.” Obama even pointed out that “if we are able to slow the growth of health-care costs by just one-tenth of one percent each year, it will actually reduce the deficit by $4 trillion over the long term.” To reiterate: the new CMS report predicts an annual increase by two-tenths of one percent each year over the status quo — even accepting the Obama administration’s own ludicrously optimistic assumptions. The reality will be a good deal worse than the CMS report anticipates.

This is all of a piece. Claim after claim the president has made — on the stimulus package, on unemployment, on the deficit and the debt, on the “recovery summer,” on ObamaCare, and on so much more — is being shattered by events. The expectations he set were extraordinarily high and his performance so far is inept. That is one reason why Obama and his party will suffer enormous electoral losses seven weeks from now.

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RE: Giving Too Much?

A spokesman for Minority Whip Eric Cantor had this to say to me about the Bush tax cuts and a potential deal to give the president what he wants: “Eric will fight against all Obama/Pelosi/Reid efforts to raise taxes on working families, small-business people, and investors with every tool that he has.”

That really has been and should be the position for conservatives. There is zero reason, either politically or substantively, to allow Obama to hike taxes on anyone in this economy. And perhaps Boehner’s press release late Sunday is an effort to clarify that this is the position of House Republicans. I frankly can’t imagine a single GOP vote in favor of allowing any of the tax cuts to expire.

A spokesman for Minority Whip Eric Cantor had this to say to me about the Bush tax cuts and a potential deal to give the president what he wants: “Eric will fight against all Obama/Pelosi/Reid efforts to raise taxes on working families, small-business people, and investors with every tool that he has.”

That really has been and should be the position for conservatives. There is zero reason, either politically or substantively, to allow Obama to hike taxes on anyone in this economy. And perhaps Boehner’s press release late Sunday is an effort to clarify that this is the position of House Republicans. I frankly can’t imagine a single GOP vote in favor of allowing any of the tax cuts to expire.

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Amanpour Flacks for Ground Zero

In addition to her softball interview with Imam Abdul Rauf on This Week,  Christiane Amanpour hosted a panel on the state of Islam. She managed to find an evangelical who supported the Ground Zero mosque. All three of the panelists were pro–Ground Zero. Even worse, Amanpour — with not a shred of evidence — claimed that mosque opponents are taking the position that al-Qaeda is building the Ground Zero mosque. Huh? Is anyone making that argument? She also takes as fact that the Ground Zero incident was “whipped up by certain political interests.”

This sort of performance merely reinforces the perception that Amanpour plays fast and loose with the facts. And let’s get real — there is more than sloppiness at play here. Whether claiming that waterboarding is akin to torture by despotic regimes, parroting the CAIR line, advocating against the Iraq war, or throwing softballs at the Ground Zero mosque team, she has hardly been a role model for balanced journalism. Even liberal media critics have figured out that this is not the venue for her.

As a colleague with mainstream-news experience observed recently, it is hard to “believe ABC expects to hold or build an audience this way.” Maybe an MSNBC shouting-heads show would be up her alley — but a serious Sunday network talk show? At some point I suspect that the ABC brain trust will have to admit error and get her out of there.

In addition to her softball interview with Imam Abdul Rauf on This Week,  Christiane Amanpour hosted a panel on the state of Islam. She managed to find an evangelical who supported the Ground Zero mosque. All three of the panelists were pro–Ground Zero. Even worse, Amanpour — with not a shred of evidence — claimed that mosque opponents are taking the position that al-Qaeda is building the Ground Zero mosque. Huh? Is anyone making that argument? She also takes as fact that the Ground Zero incident was “whipped up by certain political interests.”

This sort of performance merely reinforces the perception that Amanpour plays fast and loose with the facts. And let’s get real — there is more than sloppiness at play here. Whether claiming that waterboarding is akin to torture by despotic regimes, parroting the CAIR line, advocating against the Iraq war, or throwing softballs at the Ground Zero mosque team, she has hardly been a role model for balanced journalism. Even liberal media critics have figured out that this is not the venue for her.

As a colleague with mainstream-news experience observed recently, it is hard to “believe ABC expects to hold or build an audience this way.” Maybe an MSNBC shouting-heads show would be up her alley — but a serious Sunday network talk show? At some point I suspect that the ABC brain trust will have to admit error and get her out of there.

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Now Liberal Women Are Mad at Him Too

Young people, old people, Hispanics, and independents have all grown weary of Obama. His base is grouchy, sensing that a deluge is coming. And now the self-appointed feminist bean counters are in a snit:

President Obama is facing new criticism from women’s rights groups for failing to nominate a woman to his core group of economic advisers.

Obama on Friday named longtime adviser Austan Goolsbee to head the Council of Economic Advisers after Christina Romer left to return to the University of California at Berkeley.

Women’s rights groups — including the National Organization for Women (NOW) and The New Agenda — have sharply criticized the White House for not including more women in prominent positions overseeing the economy and financial policy.

Not enough for them to have the secretary of state, the secretary of health and human services, the labor secretary, two new Supreme Court justices, and a potential chief of staff (Valerie Jarrett). You can almost sympathize with the White House. Almost – because it, along with every other Democratic administration in recent history, has played the diversity game, proudly showing off its women and minorities as evidence of its anti-bias credentials. Apparently, one of the rules now in this tiresome game is that a woman has to substitute for a woman, or a woman has to be named in the same policy area.

Good golly. If anything, women’s groups should be pleased that their sisters haven’t been sullied by association with possibly the worst economic team since Herbert Hoover. All those men will have a blot on their records, but not the liberal sisterhood.

This sure does seem badly out of date, a creaky remnant of the 1970s: “‘The problem with the president insulating himself with the old boys around him is that he is really not getting information about how people are struggling, how women are struggling,’ Terry O’Neill, head of NOW, said earlier last week.” Do people believe this claptrap anymore?

The real motive, however, may be to pressure the Obami into appointing a left-wing zealot (Elizabeth Warren) to head up the new consumer financial protection office. Maybe if they guilt-trip him, they’ll get their gal in the spot. Well, if Obama is willing to use yet another recess appointment, it’s possible, but there’s little chance she’ll get through the Senate. The current Senate (not to mention the next one) will be reluctant to rubber-stamp another extremist.

You wonder how much longer NOW will be in business. Perhaps NOW and the NAACP should get together for a going-out-of-business sale. Really, the rest of us have moved on. Isn’t it time they did too?

Young people, old people, Hispanics, and independents have all grown weary of Obama. His base is grouchy, sensing that a deluge is coming. And now the self-appointed feminist bean counters are in a snit:

President Obama is facing new criticism from women’s rights groups for failing to nominate a woman to his core group of economic advisers.

Obama on Friday named longtime adviser Austan Goolsbee to head the Council of Economic Advisers after Christina Romer left to return to the University of California at Berkeley.

Women’s rights groups — including the National Organization for Women (NOW) and The New Agenda — have sharply criticized the White House for not including more women in prominent positions overseeing the economy and financial policy.

Not enough for them to have the secretary of state, the secretary of health and human services, the labor secretary, two new Supreme Court justices, and a potential chief of staff (Valerie Jarrett). You can almost sympathize with the White House. Almost – because it, along with every other Democratic administration in recent history, has played the diversity game, proudly showing off its women and minorities as evidence of its anti-bias credentials. Apparently, one of the rules now in this tiresome game is that a woman has to substitute for a woman, or a woman has to be named in the same policy area.

Good golly. If anything, women’s groups should be pleased that their sisters haven’t been sullied by association with possibly the worst economic team since Herbert Hoover. All those men will have a blot on their records, but not the liberal sisterhood.

This sure does seem badly out of date, a creaky remnant of the 1970s: “‘The problem with the president insulating himself with the old boys around him is that he is really not getting information about how people are struggling, how women are struggling,’ Terry O’Neill, head of NOW, said earlier last week.” Do people believe this claptrap anymore?

The real motive, however, may be to pressure the Obami into appointing a left-wing zealot (Elizabeth Warren) to head up the new consumer financial protection office. Maybe if they guilt-trip him, they’ll get their gal in the spot. Well, if Obama is willing to use yet another recess appointment, it’s possible, but there’s little chance she’ll get through the Senate. The current Senate (not to mention the next one) will be reluctant to rubber-stamp another extremist.

You wonder how much longer NOW will be in business. Perhaps NOW and the NAACP should get together for a going-out-of-business sale. Really, the rest of us have moved on. Isn’t it time they did too?

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Planning Nancy’s Retirement

Democrats aren’t waiting for the election returns to start planning Nancy Pelosi’s ouster. Politico reports:

For the most part, Democrats have no obvious roadmap, no heir apparent to the Pelosi mantle, and a fairly thin bench around which to plan the future of their party. After the election, Democrats would face a power vacuum in the lower ranks – assuming current Majority Leader Steny Hoyer takes the helm as minority leader in a post-Pelosi Democratic caucus.

“This is a subject that everybody in town is thinking about,” said a former House Democrat who keeps close contact with his former colleagues. …

“If we lose it badly, Pelosi would have to leave, as might the whole leadership team,” said a veteran House Democrat, who spoke on the condition of anonymity. “I can see Hoyer becoming Minority Leader. And I can imagine that Jim Clyburn (D-S.C.) would stay as Whip, but then retire. They could become transitional leaders as we look for new leadership. It would have to sort itself out.”

Pelosi may have peaked on the day she assumed office, as an identity-politics champion. In four years she’s helped drive her party into the ground and our country deeper and deeper into debt. Rather than draining the swamp, she’s coddled corrupt pols. Her “historic” achievement — ramming through ObamaCare — may turn to dust as states opt out of the individual mandate and a new Congress defunds and then sets out to repeal the measure. Come to think of it, that may be Obama’s legacy as well.

Democrats aren’t waiting for the election returns to start planning Nancy Pelosi’s ouster. Politico reports:

For the most part, Democrats have no obvious roadmap, no heir apparent to the Pelosi mantle, and a fairly thin bench around which to plan the future of their party. After the election, Democrats would face a power vacuum in the lower ranks – assuming current Majority Leader Steny Hoyer takes the helm as minority leader in a post-Pelosi Democratic caucus.

“This is a subject that everybody in town is thinking about,” said a former House Democrat who keeps close contact with his former colleagues. …

“If we lose it badly, Pelosi would have to leave, as might the whole leadership team,” said a veteran House Democrat, who spoke on the condition of anonymity. “I can see Hoyer becoming Minority Leader. And I can imagine that Jim Clyburn (D-S.C.) would stay as Whip, but then retire. They could become transitional leaders as we look for new leadership. It would have to sort itself out.”

Pelosi may have peaked on the day she assumed office, as an identity-politics champion. In four years she’s helped drive her party into the ground and our country deeper and deeper into debt. Rather than draining the swamp, she’s coddled corrupt pols. Her “historic” achievement — ramming through ObamaCare — may turn to dust as states opt out of the individual mandate and a new Congress defunds and then sets out to repeal the measure. Come to think of it, that may be Obama’s legacy as well.

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In the Middle East, They Mean What They Say

Jackson Diehl takes a look at the ongoing peace talks: Bibi is talking peace and compromise (Netanyahu “spent the past week talking up a ‘historic compromise with our Palestinian neighbors’ and promising ‘to embrace original thinking’ to achieve it, even as ministers of his own cabinet loudly proclaim their opposition”). Meanwhile, Abbas is acting, well, like the Palestinians have acted for the past 60 years. When presented with the basic requirements of a peace deal (“Israel is recognized as ‘the national state of the Jewish people’ and that a stringent security regime ensures that ‘there will be no repetition of what occurred after we left Lebanon and Gaza’”), Abbas makes clear that the PA’s mindset hasn’t changed at all:

[I]t’s worth noting that Abbas, following his first extended private conversation with Netanyahu in Washington, spent the subsequent days giving interviews to Arab media in which he publicly rejected each of those terms. Palestinians, he said, will never recognize Israel as a Jewish state; they will not allow Israeli forces to remain in the West Bank. In fact, if he’s pressured to make any concessions, he told the al-Quds newspaper, “I’ll grab my briefcase and leave.”

Palestinian partisans rush to explain: Abbas says such things only because he is under terrible domestic pressure, not only from Hamas but from the Palestinian “street.” But is he? A study of recent Palestinian opinion polls by David Pollock of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy pointed out that 60 percent of Palestinians will accept “mutual recognition of Israel as the state for the Jewish people and Palestine as the state for the Palestinian people.” Half say they could tolerate an interim Israeli presence on the Jordanian border “for reasons of security.”

No wonder Obama was telling the rabbis to ignore the parties’ public statements, for if they focused on what Bibi and Abbas were saying, it would become apparent that Obama has done nothing to alter the dynamic that has prevented a resolution of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict for 60 years. Israel wants a deal; the Palestinians don’t have the will or the ability to make one. If Abbas really did share the yearning for a peace deal, he’d be preparing his side for compromise, not stoking the flames of rejectionism that has kept his side stateless these many decades.

In fact, it’s arguable that Obama has made things much worse. He’s emphasized the settlements — the PA’s favorite excuse for rejecting a deal — and given the PA the impression that this and perhaps other concessions can be extracted from Israel without corresponding moves by the Palestinians. So once again, he is doing the PA’s bidding, publicly turning the screws on Israel on settlements, while ignoring Abbas’s obvious disdain for a workable peace agreement.

Contrary to Obama’s advice, I think it’s time we started taking everyone in the Middle East at their word. Israel wants a deal, will defend itself against the Iranian threat, and isn’t going to continue to dole out unilateral concessions. The Palestinians can’t agree to the essential elements of a peace deal. Iran wants to dominate the region and wipe Israel off the map. Once the administration takes the Middle East players and their motives at face value, there might be a chance to construct an effective and reality-based foreign strategy. But not before.

Jackson Diehl takes a look at the ongoing peace talks: Bibi is talking peace and compromise (Netanyahu “spent the past week talking up a ‘historic compromise with our Palestinian neighbors’ and promising ‘to embrace original thinking’ to achieve it, even as ministers of his own cabinet loudly proclaim their opposition”). Meanwhile, Abbas is acting, well, like the Palestinians have acted for the past 60 years. When presented with the basic requirements of a peace deal (“Israel is recognized as ‘the national state of the Jewish people’ and that a stringent security regime ensures that ‘there will be no repetition of what occurred after we left Lebanon and Gaza’”), Abbas makes clear that the PA’s mindset hasn’t changed at all:

[I]t’s worth noting that Abbas, following his first extended private conversation with Netanyahu in Washington, spent the subsequent days giving interviews to Arab media in which he publicly rejected each of those terms. Palestinians, he said, will never recognize Israel as a Jewish state; they will not allow Israeli forces to remain in the West Bank. In fact, if he’s pressured to make any concessions, he told the al-Quds newspaper, “I’ll grab my briefcase and leave.”

Palestinian partisans rush to explain: Abbas says such things only because he is under terrible domestic pressure, not only from Hamas but from the Palestinian “street.” But is he? A study of recent Palestinian opinion polls by David Pollock of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy pointed out that 60 percent of Palestinians will accept “mutual recognition of Israel as the state for the Jewish people and Palestine as the state for the Palestinian people.” Half say they could tolerate an interim Israeli presence on the Jordanian border “for reasons of security.”

No wonder Obama was telling the rabbis to ignore the parties’ public statements, for if they focused on what Bibi and Abbas were saying, it would become apparent that Obama has done nothing to alter the dynamic that has prevented a resolution of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict for 60 years. Israel wants a deal; the Palestinians don’t have the will or the ability to make one. If Abbas really did share the yearning for a peace deal, he’d be preparing his side for compromise, not stoking the flames of rejectionism that has kept his side stateless these many decades.

In fact, it’s arguable that Obama has made things much worse. He’s emphasized the settlements — the PA’s favorite excuse for rejecting a deal — and given the PA the impression that this and perhaps other concessions can be extracted from Israel without corresponding moves by the Palestinians. So once again, he is doing the PA’s bidding, publicly turning the screws on Israel on settlements, while ignoring Abbas’s obvious disdain for a workable peace agreement.

Contrary to Obama’s advice, I think it’s time we started taking everyone in the Middle East at their word. Israel wants a deal, will defend itself against the Iranian threat, and isn’t going to continue to dole out unilateral concessions. The Palestinians can’t agree to the essential elements of a peace deal. Iran wants to dominate the region and wipe Israel off the map. Once the administration takes the Middle East players and their motives at face value, there might be a chance to construct an effective and reality-based foreign strategy. But not before.

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Who Knew Employers Would Stop Hiring?

To all but the Democrats and the class-warfare mongers (I repeat myself), this comes as no surprise:

The uncertainty over looming tax increases is starting to affect both investing and corporate decision-making.

The economy remains the biggest factor in many investors’ and businesses’ decisions. But worries over whether Congress will extend some of the expiring Bush-era tax breaks are emerging as another important one. … Small-business owners say unease about tax policy, along with the economy, has led them to hold off on hiring and investment. And many advisers are encouraging well-to-do clients to sell appreciated assets to avoid higher capital-gains taxes.

Until Obama offered a round of business tax cuts, the Democrats had operated as if tax policy had a negligible impact on employment and investment. So they were “stumped” when jobs didn’t materialize. Lo and behold — who knew? — businesses are getting ready for the tax hit by hiring fewer workers:

The prospect of higher taxes in 2011 and beyond also could be weighing on business owners’ operational decision-making. In its July survey of small-business owners, the National Federation of Independent Business found that 22% of small businesses said the most important problem they faced was taxes, up from 19% a year earlier. More businesses—29%—identified poor sales as their No. 1 problem, but that was down from 34% a year earlier. …

“It’s like deer in the headlights. Nobody is doing much of anything about expanding or hiring or investing in new equipment,” said Ken Keith, owner of Kasbar Inc., a Winston-Salem, N.C., accounting firm that works with small businesses.

Target Plastics Inc., a Salem, Ore., maker of custom plastic products, used to have seven employees, but now it has only two full-time workers, with an additional person working half-time, said owner Melissa Hescock.

“I’ve basically cut back because of the amount of taxes,” Ms. Hescock said, including recent state increases and anticipated future federal boosts. “I have fewer people doing more work.”

If the administration had an entrepreneur or two in its ranks, if there were not merely pols and academicians populating the White House, someone might have seen this coming. But we have a president and a vice president who have never run anything, let alone a profitmaking enterprise, not to mention political hacks like David Axelrod who froth with contempt for “Wall Street” (i.e., those who supply and manage capital). So they are amazed that all their handiwork has indeed paralyzed employers.

It’s exactly what you figured would happen if a leftist law professor wound up in the Oval Office.

To all but the Democrats and the class-warfare mongers (I repeat myself), this comes as no surprise:

The uncertainty over looming tax increases is starting to affect both investing and corporate decision-making.

The economy remains the biggest factor in many investors’ and businesses’ decisions. But worries over whether Congress will extend some of the expiring Bush-era tax breaks are emerging as another important one. … Small-business owners say unease about tax policy, along with the economy, has led them to hold off on hiring and investment. And many advisers are encouraging well-to-do clients to sell appreciated assets to avoid higher capital-gains taxes.

Until Obama offered a round of business tax cuts, the Democrats had operated as if tax policy had a negligible impact on employment and investment. So they were “stumped” when jobs didn’t materialize. Lo and behold — who knew? — businesses are getting ready for the tax hit by hiring fewer workers:

The prospect of higher taxes in 2011 and beyond also could be weighing on business owners’ operational decision-making. In its July survey of small-business owners, the National Federation of Independent Business found that 22% of small businesses said the most important problem they faced was taxes, up from 19% a year earlier. More businesses—29%—identified poor sales as their No. 1 problem, but that was down from 34% a year earlier. …

“It’s like deer in the headlights. Nobody is doing much of anything about expanding or hiring or investing in new equipment,” said Ken Keith, owner of Kasbar Inc., a Winston-Salem, N.C., accounting firm that works with small businesses.

Target Plastics Inc., a Salem, Ore., maker of custom plastic products, used to have seven employees, but now it has only two full-time workers, with an additional person working half-time, said owner Melissa Hescock.

“I’ve basically cut back because of the amount of taxes,” Ms. Hescock said, including recent state increases and anticipated future federal boosts. “I have fewer people doing more work.”

If the administration had an entrepreneur or two in its ranks, if there were not merely pols and academicians populating the White House, someone might have seen this coming. But we have a president and a vice president who have never run anything, let alone a profitmaking enterprise, not to mention political hacks like David Axelrod who froth with contempt for “Wall Street” (i.e., those who supply and manage capital). So they are amazed that all their handiwork has indeed paralyzed employers.

It’s exactly what you figured would happen if a leftist law professor wound up in the Oval Office.

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Give Americans a Break Already

The chattering class and the president have done their best lately to upbraid the American people. We’re Islamophobes. There is a rising tide of anti-Muslim sentiment. We’re losing touch with our values. Really, this is Seinfeld’s bizarro world. A passing familiarity with reality should confirm that, if anything, Americans should be commended for resisting the worse impulses the liberal intelligentsia accuse them of harboring.

On Fox News Sunday, Bill Kristol implored us to consider that Americans do have the right to be at least a little concerned about radical Muslims. The body count of those killed in the name of Islam is rather large. We’ve suffered through the 1993 and 2001 World Trade Center bombings, the attack on the U.S.S. Cole, and the Fort Hood massacre. Americans learned that Major Hasan killed 13 after screaming “Allahu Akbar,” yet there was no popular uprising nor even a demonstration when the Army put out a ludicrous report ignoring the motives of the jihadist. We recently had the Christmas Day and the Times Square bombers’ attempts to kill large numbers of Americans in the name of Islam. And we have an imam ready to build a grandiose mosque on the sight of the slaying of thousands. Have Americans rioted? Demanded Muslims be deported?

Last year, the FBI released its hate crimes report based on 2008 data. There were 1,519 criminal incidents based on religion. Of those 1,013 were against Jews. Muslim hate crimes? 105 in a country of 300 million. Americans may have some faults, but Islamophobia isn’t one of them.

Reuel Marc Gerecht writes that his multi-year study of anti-terrorism reveals no evidence we’ve persecuted Muslims:

Contrary to received wisdom, Americans have been, if anything, more tentative and cautious in their approach to the jihadist threat than many of our European allies, who routinely use surveillance, administrative detention, and prosecutorial methods much more intrusive than those employed by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, our primary counterterrorist organization on the home front. …

What becomes so striking about the United States after September 11—and the same may be said, perhaps a little less enthusiastically, of the Western Europeans—is how well-behaved Americans have been towards Muslim Americans. … Americans have shown themselves to be models of tolerance, all the more given the insidiousness of the threat.

It is therefore unjust and entirely inappropriate for the president, not to mention the elite punditocracy, to spend days finger-wagging at Americans for alleged but unproven bigotry. He apparently expects non-Muslim Americans not only to tolerate, respect, and accept Muslim Americans but also to celebrate misguided acts of provocation against non-Muslims.

Obama and the left’s “solution” to nonexistent anti-Muslim biogtry is to pretend we are not engaged in war against ideological foes. Unnamed “extremists” and “sorry” tag teams are the problem, you see. That’s not only false and counterproductive to our war efforts (and exceedingly unhelpful to moderate Muslims attempting to undercut radicalism in their own countries); it denies Americans the credit they are owed. Despite the fact that we are at war with radical jihadists, Americans have not generalized their antagonism toward all Muslims, nor abandoned their common sense, tolerance, and attachment to civil liberties.

George W. Bush deserves credit for setting an appropriate tone, but he would, I feel confident, be the first to credit his countrymen, who remain the most decent, fair-minded, and tolerant people on the planet. Too bad we don’t have a president who appreciates that.

The chattering class and the president have done their best lately to upbraid the American people. We’re Islamophobes. There is a rising tide of anti-Muslim sentiment. We’re losing touch with our values. Really, this is Seinfeld’s bizarro world. A passing familiarity with reality should confirm that, if anything, Americans should be commended for resisting the worse impulses the liberal intelligentsia accuse them of harboring.

On Fox News Sunday, Bill Kristol implored us to consider that Americans do have the right to be at least a little concerned about radical Muslims. The body count of those killed in the name of Islam is rather large. We’ve suffered through the 1993 and 2001 World Trade Center bombings, the attack on the U.S.S. Cole, and the Fort Hood massacre. Americans learned that Major Hasan killed 13 after screaming “Allahu Akbar,” yet there was no popular uprising nor even a demonstration when the Army put out a ludicrous report ignoring the motives of the jihadist. We recently had the Christmas Day and the Times Square bombers’ attempts to kill large numbers of Americans in the name of Islam. And we have an imam ready to build a grandiose mosque on the sight of the slaying of thousands. Have Americans rioted? Demanded Muslims be deported?

Last year, the FBI released its hate crimes report based on 2008 data. There were 1,519 criminal incidents based on religion. Of those 1,013 were against Jews. Muslim hate crimes? 105 in a country of 300 million. Americans may have some faults, but Islamophobia isn’t one of them.

Reuel Marc Gerecht writes that his multi-year study of anti-terrorism reveals no evidence we’ve persecuted Muslims:

Contrary to received wisdom, Americans have been, if anything, more tentative and cautious in their approach to the jihadist threat than many of our European allies, who routinely use surveillance, administrative detention, and prosecutorial methods much more intrusive than those employed by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, our primary counterterrorist organization on the home front. …

What becomes so striking about the United States after September 11—and the same may be said, perhaps a little less enthusiastically, of the Western Europeans—is how well-behaved Americans have been towards Muslim Americans. … Americans have shown themselves to be models of tolerance, all the more given the insidiousness of the threat.

It is therefore unjust and entirely inappropriate for the president, not to mention the elite punditocracy, to spend days finger-wagging at Americans for alleged but unproven bigotry. He apparently expects non-Muslim Americans not only to tolerate, respect, and accept Muslim Americans but also to celebrate misguided acts of provocation against non-Muslims.

Obama and the left’s “solution” to nonexistent anti-Muslim biogtry is to pretend we are not engaged in war against ideological foes. Unnamed “extremists” and “sorry” tag teams are the problem, you see. That’s not only false and counterproductive to our war efforts (and exceedingly unhelpful to moderate Muslims attempting to undercut radicalism in their own countries); it denies Americans the credit they are owed. Despite the fact that we are at war with radical jihadists, Americans have not generalized their antagonism toward all Muslims, nor abandoned their common sense, tolerance, and attachment to civil liberties.

George W. Bush deserves credit for setting an appropriate tone, but he would, I feel confident, be the first to credit his countrymen, who remain the most decent, fair-minded, and tolerant people on the planet. Too bad we don’t have a president who appreciates that.

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Who Ya Calling a Democrat?

Democrats are nervous about being Democrats, and even more nervous that voters will remember they were the ones who spent trillions, raised taxes, and passed a health-care bill they didn’t like. The solution? Run ads that hide their party affiliation and their “historic” accomplishments.

The New York Times describes the gambit:

Two years after arriving in Washington on a message of hope and change, Democratic candidates are not extolling their party’s accomplishments, but rather distancing themselves from their party’s agenda. … The images of Mr. Obama and Ms. Pelosi appear with more frequency than those of any other political figures — but nearly always in Republican advertisements. …

A review of hundreds of advertisements broadcast over the last six weeks found that Republicans were more than twice as likely to talk about jobs, often criticizing Democrats as not creating them. Republicans also mentioned health care far more than Democrats did. And when Democrats do bring up the issue, 38 percent of the commercials are critical of the new law.

It is silly, actually. Voters will figure out who the “D” and the “R” are on the ballot. All this simply reinforces the perception that Democrats are embarrassed by their own performance. And if that weren’t apparent, there is this:

With early voting beginning in several states in a few weeks and with Election Day less than two months away, some of the most vulnerable Democratic candidates have turned to another approach: pleading for a second chance.

“I’ve made my share of mistakes, but they were honest mistakes, and I’ve listened to your concerns and I’ve grown on the job,” said Gov. Chet Culver of Iowa, wearing a solemn expression that gives way to a slight smile. “I hope you give us the chance.”

Well, there’s always hope. But voters don’t seem in a forgiving mood.

Less than two years ago, the Republican “brand” (the image and set of reactions the party invoked) was toxic. Now it is the Democrats who have the radioactive party label — and a president who is dragging them down. And it turns out that the “Party of No” is a badge of honor, a reminder there is an alternative to the tax-and-spend liberals who have had two years at the helm.

Democrats are nervous about being Democrats, and even more nervous that voters will remember they were the ones who spent trillions, raised taxes, and passed a health-care bill they didn’t like. The solution? Run ads that hide their party affiliation and their “historic” accomplishments.

The New York Times describes the gambit:

Two years after arriving in Washington on a message of hope and change, Democratic candidates are not extolling their party’s accomplishments, but rather distancing themselves from their party’s agenda. … The images of Mr. Obama and Ms. Pelosi appear with more frequency than those of any other political figures — but nearly always in Republican advertisements. …

A review of hundreds of advertisements broadcast over the last six weeks found that Republicans were more than twice as likely to talk about jobs, often criticizing Democrats as not creating them. Republicans also mentioned health care far more than Democrats did. And when Democrats do bring up the issue, 38 percent of the commercials are critical of the new law.

It is silly, actually. Voters will figure out who the “D” and the “R” are on the ballot. All this simply reinforces the perception that Democrats are embarrassed by their own performance. And if that weren’t apparent, there is this:

With early voting beginning in several states in a few weeks and with Election Day less than two months away, some of the most vulnerable Democratic candidates have turned to another approach: pleading for a second chance.

“I’ve made my share of mistakes, but they were honest mistakes, and I’ve listened to your concerns and I’ve grown on the job,” said Gov. Chet Culver of Iowa, wearing a solemn expression that gives way to a slight smile. “I hope you give us the chance.”

Well, there’s always hope. But voters don’t seem in a forgiving mood.

Less than two years ago, the Republican “brand” (the image and set of reactions the party invoked) was toxic. Now it is the Democrats who have the radioactive party label — and a president who is dragging them down. And it turns out that the “Party of No” is a badge of honor, a reminder there is an alternative to the tax-and-spend liberals who have had two years at the helm.

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Giving Too Much?

Minority Leader John Boehner was doing fairly well up to now in positioning his party for the election and shaping an agenda. He drew the White House into a spat in Ohio, called for the resignation of the Obama economic team, and put forth a two-point plan (spending cuts and no tax hikes). Then, on Sunday he muddied the waters on Face the Nation:

If the only option I have is to vote for those at 250 and below, of course I’m going to do that. … But I’m going to do everything I can to fight to make sure that we extend the current tax rates for all Americans.

Did he let the Democrats off the hook — give away too much? After all, doesn’t he have a shot at ensuring that Nancy Pelosi be the one with only one option?

I suspect you’ll see some push back this week. It is not a good idea to give your opponents an escape hatch and I bet conservatives in and out of office will wonder why Boehner seems to be doing just that. An unnamed Boehner aide tried to explain the gambit:

Despite what Obama says, Republicans are not holding middle-class tax cuts hostage, and we’re not going to let him get away with those types of false claims. Our focus remains on getting bipartisan support for a freeze on all current rates, because that is what is best for the economy and small-business job creation. Boehner’s words were calculated to deprive Obama of the ability to continue making those false claims, and as a result, we are in a better position rhetorically to pressure more Democrats to support a full freeze.

Uh, I think the way to put pressure on the president is to not give him what he wants without a fight. And by the end of the day, Boehner seemed to be toughening up, putting out a statement that read, in part, “If the president is serious about job creation, there’s a clear way forward, and that’s for us to come together and pass legislation immediately that cuts spending to 2008 levels for the next year and stops all of the coming tax hikes by freezing all current tax rates for the next two years. Anything short of that may selfishly check a political box for the president, but it fails the American people.” Precisely right — so it’s hard to see the purpose of his remarks on Face the Nation.

Minority Leader John Boehner was doing fairly well up to now in positioning his party for the election and shaping an agenda. He drew the White House into a spat in Ohio, called for the resignation of the Obama economic team, and put forth a two-point plan (spending cuts and no tax hikes). Then, on Sunday he muddied the waters on Face the Nation:

If the only option I have is to vote for those at 250 and below, of course I’m going to do that. … But I’m going to do everything I can to fight to make sure that we extend the current tax rates for all Americans.

Did he let the Democrats off the hook — give away too much? After all, doesn’t he have a shot at ensuring that Nancy Pelosi be the one with only one option?

I suspect you’ll see some push back this week. It is not a good idea to give your opponents an escape hatch and I bet conservatives in and out of office will wonder why Boehner seems to be doing just that. An unnamed Boehner aide tried to explain the gambit:

Despite what Obama says, Republicans are not holding middle-class tax cuts hostage, and we’re not going to let him get away with those types of false claims. Our focus remains on getting bipartisan support for a freeze on all current rates, because that is what is best for the economy and small-business job creation. Boehner’s words were calculated to deprive Obama of the ability to continue making those false claims, and as a result, we are in a better position rhetorically to pressure more Democrats to support a full freeze.

Uh, I think the way to put pressure on the president is to not give him what he wants without a fight. And by the end of the day, Boehner seemed to be toughening up, putting out a statement that read, in part, “If the president is serious about job creation, there’s a clear way forward, and that’s for us to come together and pass legislation immediately that cuts spending to 2008 levels for the next year and stops all of the coming tax hikes by freezing all current tax rates for the next two years. Anything short of that may selfishly check a political box for the president, but it fails the American people.” Precisely right — so it’s hard to see the purpose of his remarks on Face the Nation.

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