Commentary Magazine


Posts For: September 14, 2010

O’Donnell’s Victory and What It Means

1. The victory of Christine O’Donnell in the Delaware Senate race is the fourth defeat for the so-called “establishment” Republican candidate in a primary this year — preceded by Rand Paul in Kentucky, Sharron Angle in Nevada, and Joe Miller in Alaska. That’s the East Coast, a border state, the Southwest, and way the hell and gone — an unmistakable demonstration that the Republican Party is reconstituting itself in an unprecedented fashion.

2. There seems to be a general presumption that O’Donnell can’t win, because polling suggests she has a long haul and because there are many questions about her fitness. Granted, all relevant signs suggest the man she defeated, Mike Castle, would have been the likely winner and she has an uphill climb. But can she win? Don’t be ridiculous. Of course she can win — in theory at least. She’s out of money, but her political stardom should allow her to raise millions from grassroots Tea Partiers nationwide and close the money gap with her Democratic rival.

3. The presumption among delighted people on the left-liberal side is that all this roiling on the right suggests a party in disarray and a movement intent on cannibalizing itself. That’s one way to look at it. The other is that the GOP is actually expanding and seizing the populist mood that seems to be the national direction — even though the GOP leadership, especially in the Senate, is finding the whole business unnerving and destructive.

1. The victory of Christine O’Donnell in the Delaware Senate race is the fourth defeat for the so-called “establishment” Republican candidate in a primary this year — preceded by Rand Paul in Kentucky, Sharron Angle in Nevada, and Joe Miller in Alaska. That’s the East Coast, a border state, the Southwest, and way the hell and gone — an unmistakable demonstration that the Republican Party is reconstituting itself in an unprecedented fashion.

2. There seems to be a general presumption that O’Donnell can’t win, because polling suggests she has a long haul and because there are many questions about her fitness. Granted, all relevant signs suggest the man she defeated, Mike Castle, would have been the likely winner and she has an uphill climb. But can she win? Don’t be ridiculous. Of course she can win — in theory at least. She’s out of money, but her political stardom should allow her to raise millions from grassroots Tea Partiers nationwide and close the money gap with her Democratic rival.

3. The presumption among delighted people on the left-liberal side is that all this roiling on the right suggests a party in disarray and a movement intent on cannibalizing itself. That’s one way to look at it. The other is that the GOP is actually expanding and seizing the populist mood that seems to be the national direction — even though the GOP leadership, especially in the Senate, is finding the whole business unnerving and destructive.

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The Consequences of Clinton’s Expectations Game

Hillary Clinton’s happy talk about Middle East peace has become part of the soundtrack of the peace talks the administration has orchestrated. Both before and during her drop-in at Sharm el-Sheik, the secretary of state has exuded optimism about the American push for a renewal of a Jewish settlement freeze and the continuance of the negotiations between Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.

The rhetoric from the Americans has been largely devoted, as Jennifer noted, to direct pressure on the Israelis to make concessions, while demands on the Palestinians remain amorphous. But this imbalance in pressure is just part of the problem. The raising of expectations about peace arriving within another year (as Obama’s envoy George Mitchell keeps telling the press) may have negative consequences that neither Obama nor Clinton is prepared to face.

Given the realities of Palestinian politics, both parties to the talks know very well that the chances of an agreement on final-status issues are slim and none. With his Hamas rivals in control of Gaza and threatening him in the West Bank (where he maintains control only with the help of Israel), Abbas is in no position to make any move to advance peace. Meanwhile Netanyahu is getting beat up by the Israeli right for being weak in the face of American pressure. He may not wish to make concessions on settlements or borders that will compromise his country’s security and be considered irretrievably ceded to the Arabs no matter the outcome of the talks if there is little likelihood that the Palestinians will declare a complete end to their 62-year-old war to destroy Israel. But he also doesn’t want to be blamed for the collapse of the talks when he knows that sooner or later Abbas will bolt.

However long Clinton and Mitchell force Abbas and Netanyahu to dance with each other, at some point the music is going to stop, and when it does, the Americans will have little to show for this latest attempt to persuade Abbas to do what he knows he cannot do. (It was, after all, Abbas who turned down a Palestinian state only two years ago, when Ehud Olmert offered him the same deal Obama is talking about now.) At that point, the pressure on PA president to initiate a campaign of terror against the Israelis in an effort to compete with Hamas for Palestinian popularity may be irresistible. By building up hopes for peace when the foundation for a lasting agreement doesn’t exist, what Obama and Clinton may be generating is a repeat of the aftermath of Camp David 2000, when Israel said yes and Yasir Arafat said no to a deal very much along the lines that the peace processors claim they want now. Anyone who thinks another intifada is out of the question need only read the statements emanating from Hamas this week. As the New York Times reported this afternoon:

The commander of the military wing of Hamas, the Palestinian Islamist group that rules Gaza, issued a harsh statement against the Israeli-Palestinian peace talks, saying that Hamas remained committed to “liberating” Palestine from the Mediterranean Sea to the Jordan River, meaning both Israel itself and the West Bank it occupies. In a letter marking the end of the month of Ramadan, the Hamas military commander, Ahmad Al-Jaabari, said the path of jihad and resistance is the only way forward “until victory or martyrdom.” He criticized the Palestinian Authority under Mr. Abbas for negotiating “with the Zionist enemy.”

While the Americans may pretend that just a few more concessions from Netanyahu will do the trick, the specter of Hamas and a renewal of Palestinian violence remains the real obstacle to peace. Clinton’s sparkling optimism about the magic of diplomacy may be setting the stage for yet more bloodshed.

Hillary Clinton’s happy talk about Middle East peace has become part of the soundtrack of the peace talks the administration has orchestrated. Both before and during her drop-in at Sharm el-Sheik, the secretary of state has exuded optimism about the American push for a renewal of a Jewish settlement freeze and the continuance of the negotiations between Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.

The rhetoric from the Americans has been largely devoted, as Jennifer noted, to direct pressure on the Israelis to make concessions, while demands on the Palestinians remain amorphous. But this imbalance in pressure is just part of the problem. The raising of expectations about peace arriving within another year (as Obama’s envoy George Mitchell keeps telling the press) may have negative consequences that neither Obama nor Clinton is prepared to face.

Given the realities of Palestinian politics, both parties to the talks know very well that the chances of an agreement on final-status issues are slim and none. With his Hamas rivals in control of Gaza and threatening him in the West Bank (where he maintains control only with the help of Israel), Abbas is in no position to make any move to advance peace. Meanwhile Netanyahu is getting beat up by the Israeli right for being weak in the face of American pressure. He may not wish to make concessions on settlements or borders that will compromise his country’s security and be considered irretrievably ceded to the Arabs no matter the outcome of the talks if there is little likelihood that the Palestinians will declare a complete end to their 62-year-old war to destroy Israel. But he also doesn’t want to be blamed for the collapse of the talks when he knows that sooner or later Abbas will bolt.

However long Clinton and Mitchell force Abbas and Netanyahu to dance with each other, at some point the music is going to stop, and when it does, the Americans will have little to show for this latest attempt to persuade Abbas to do what he knows he cannot do. (It was, after all, Abbas who turned down a Palestinian state only two years ago, when Ehud Olmert offered him the same deal Obama is talking about now.) At that point, the pressure on PA president to initiate a campaign of terror against the Israelis in an effort to compete with Hamas for Palestinian popularity may be irresistible. By building up hopes for peace when the foundation for a lasting agreement doesn’t exist, what Obama and Clinton may be generating is a repeat of the aftermath of Camp David 2000, when Israel said yes and Yasir Arafat said no to a deal very much along the lines that the peace processors claim they want now. Anyone who thinks another intifada is out of the question need only read the statements emanating from Hamas this week. As the New York Times reported this afternoon:

The commander of the military wing of Hamas, the Palestinian Islamist group that rules Gaza, issued a harsh statement against the Israeli-Palestinian peace talks, saying that Hamas remained committed to “liberating” Palestine from the Mediterranean Sea to the Jordan River, meaning both Israel itself and the West Bank it occupies. In a letter marking the end of the month of Ramadan, the Hamas military commander, Ahmad Al-Jaabari, said the path of jihad and resistance is the only way forward “until victory or martyrdom.” He criticized the Palestinian Authority under Mr. Abbas for negotiating “with the Zionist enemy.”

While the Americans may pretend that just a few more concessions from Netanyahu will do the trick, the specter of Hamas and a renewal of Palestinian violence remains the real obstacle to peace. Clinton’s sparkling optimism about the magic of diplomacy may be setting the stage for yet more bloodshed.

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Sri Lanka’s Troubled Democracy

Sri Lanka has chosen a funny way to protest against claims that its democracy is waning.

Officials have impounded an issue of the Economist that features an editorial against Sri Lanka’s latest constitutional amendments. The editorial claims that the abolition of presidential term limits signals the Sri Lankan president is planning for a long stay in office and that another amendment expands the president’s powers and removes checks on the executive branch.

This apparent censorship is especially unfortunate given the magnitude of President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s past accomplishments. In 2009, his government oversaw the end of a 26-year-old civil war. His steadfast refusal to negotiate with Tamil Tiger terrorists set an example for counterinsurgency success.

Mr. Rajapaksa lost some credibility earlier this year after he won the election but then court-martialed his opponent, former army chief Sarath Fonseka. This was especially damaging because the close election had forced candidates to appeal to the Tamil minority – a welcome development in repairing Sri Lankan unity.

Impounding the Economist isn’t the only instance where press freedom has been threatened in Sri Lanka. Among other encroachments on liberty in the last year: Prageeth Ekneligoda, a journalist critical of the government, disappeared and has yet to be found; the oppositional Lanka News Web has been blocked for more than a year by the country’s primary Internet provider; three other publications were blocked before the election; and the Sri Lankan government has turned to Chinese IT experts to learn how to block “offensive” websites. That efforts to stifle free speech have extended beyond domestic publications to the international media suggests growing impunity.

Already, Reporters Without Borders has listed Sri Lanka among its countries under surveillance, and Freedom House reports that since 2009, “official rhetoric toward critical journalists and outlets has grown more hostile, often equating any form of criticism with treason.”

Sri Lanka’s democracy was able to withstand a bloody civil war lasting more than a quarter century. It would be a tragic irony if it couldn’t survive peacetime.

Sri Lanka has chosen a funny way to protest against claims that its democracy is waning.

Officials have impounded an issue of the Economist that features an editorial against Sri Lanka’s latest constitutional amendments. The editorial claims that the abolition of presidential term limits signals the Sri Lankan president is planning for a long stay in office and that another amendment expands the president’s powers and removes checks on the executive branch.

This apparent censorship is especially unfortunate given the magnitude of President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s past accomplishments. In 2009, his government oversaw the end of a 26-year-old civil war. His steadfast refusal to negotiate with Tamil Tiger terrorists set an example for counterinsurgency success.

Mr. Rajapaksa lost some credibility earlier this year after he won the election but then court-martialed his opponent, former army chief Sarath Fonseka. This was especially damaging because the close election had forced candidates to appeal to the Tamil minority – a welcome development in repairing Sri Lankan unity.

Impounding the Economist isn’t the only instance where press freedom has been threatened in Sri Lanka. Among other encroachments on liberty in the last year: Prageeth Ekneligoda, a journalist critical of the government, disappeared and has yet to be found; the oppositional Lanka News Web has been blocked for more than a year by the country’s primary Internet provider; three other publications were blocked before the election; and the Sri Lankan government has turned to Chinese IT experts to learn how to block “offensive” websites. That efforts to stifle free speech have extended beyond domestic publications to the international media suggests growing impunity.

Already, Reporters Without Borders has listed Sri Lanka among its countries under surveillance, and Freedom House reports that since 2009, “official rhetoric toward critical journalists and outlets has grown more hostile, often equating any form of criticism with treason.”

Sri Lanka’s democracy was able to withstand a bloody civil war lasting more than a quarter century. It would be a tragic irony if it couldn’t survive peacetime.

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George Packer’s Existential Crisis

Poor George Packer. The New Yorker’s staff writer is caught in a state of despair and crushing intellectual anguish. According to Packer,

Nine years later, the main fact of our lives is the overwhelming force of unreason. Evidence, knowledge, argument, proportionality, nuance, complexity, and the other indispensable tools of the liberal mind don’t stand a chance these days against the actual image of a mob burning an effigy, or the imagined image of a man burning a mound of books. Reason tries in its patient, level-headed way to explain, to question, to weigh competing claims, but it can hardly make itself heard and soon gives up.

What has caused Packer’s spirits to sink so low? The debate surrounding the plan to build a mosque and community center near Ground Zero, Florida pastor Terry Jones’s threat to burn the Koran (a threat he decided not to carry out), and the reaction it provoked. Granted, these were not great moments, but in the long sweep of history, I’m not sure they qualify as particularly troubling. And I’m quite sure that it’s not yet time to declare that Reason is Dead.

But wait; there are yet more lamentations from Packer:

In Wilsonian terms, we are around the year 1919 or 1920. The noble mission to make the world safe for democracy ended inconclusively, and its aftermath has curdled into an atmosphere more like that of the Palmer raids and the second coming of the Klan. This is why Obama seems less and less able to speak to and for our times. He’s the voice of reason incarnate, and maybe he’s too sane to be heard in either Jalalabad or Georgia. An epigraph for our times appears in Jonathan Franzen’s new novel “Freedom”: “The personality susceptible to the dream of limitless freedom is a personality also prone, should the dream ever sour, to misanthropy and rage.”

Who knew that an existential crisis could elicit such awful writing?

And, oh, by the way, what a convenient explanation Packer has manufactured for the failing presidency of his secular savior, Barack Obama (aka the Voice of Reason Incarnate). It turns out the president is simply too reasonable to be effective in this ugly, rambunctious, and deeply unreasonable world. Obama’s own failures and vanity, his own ineptness and philosophical deficiencies, have nothing at all to do with it. Obama is being brought low, you see, because he is simply too virtuous.

An epigraph for Packer’s times appear in Albert Camus’s The Fall: “In solitude and when fatigued, one is after all inclined to take oneself for a prophet. When all is said and done, that’s really what I am, having taken refuge in a desert of stones, fogs, and stagnant waters — an empty prophet for shabby times, Elijah without a messiah.”

Poor George Packer. The New Yorker’s staff writer is caught in a state of despair and crushing intellectual anguish. According to Packer,

Nine years later, the main fact of our lives is the overwhelming force of unreason. Evidence, knowledge, argument, proportionality, nuance, complexity, and the other indispensable tools of the liberal mind don’t stand a chance these days against the actual image of a mob burning an effigy, or the imagined image of a man burning a mound of books. Reason tries in its patient, level-headed way to explain, to question, to weigh competing claims, but it can hardly make itself heard and soon gives up.

What has caused Packer’s spirits to sink so low? The debate surrounding the plan to build a mosque and community center near Ground Zero, Florida pastor Terry Jones’s threat to burn the Koran (a threat he decided not to carry out), and the reaction it provoked. Granted, these were not great moments, but in the long sweep of history, I’m not sure they qualify as particularly troubling. And I’m quite sure that it’s not yet time to declare that Reason is Dead.

But wait; there are yet more lamentations from Packer:

In Wilsonian terms, we are around the year 1919 or 1920. The noble mission to make the world safe for democracy ended inconclusively, and its aftermath has curdled into an atmosphere more like that of the Palmer raids and the second coming of the Klan. This is why Obama seems less and less able to speak to and for our times. He’s the voice of reason incarnate, and maybe he’s too sane to be heard in either Jalalabad or Georgia. An epigraph for our times appears in Jonathan Franzen’s new novel “Freedom”: “The personality susceptible to the dream of limitless freedom is a personality also prone, should the dream ever sour, to misanthropy and rage.”

Who knew that an existential crisis could elicit such awful writing?

And, oh, by the way, what a convenient explanation Packer has manufactured for the failing presidency of his secular savior, Barack Obama (aka the Voice of Reason Incarnate). It turns out the president is simply too reasonable to be effective in this ugly, rambunctious, and deeply unreasonable world. Obama’s own failures and vanity, his own ineptness and philosophical deficiencies, have nothing at all to do with it. Obama is being brought low, you see, because he is simply too virtuous.

An epigraph for Packer’s times appear in Albert Camus’s The Fall: “In solitude and when fatigued, one is after all inclined to take oneself for a prophet. When all is said and done, that’s really what I am, having taken refuge in a desert of stones, fogs, and stagnant waters — an empty prophet for shabby times, Elijah without a messiah.”

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Saudi Arms Sale: Which War in View?

The sheer size of the proposed $60 billion arms sale to Saudi Arabia makes it worth critical reflection. The types of weapon systems in the Saudi shopping list are even more eye-catching. News outlets report that the sale is to be understood as a means of bolstering Saudi defenses and security confidence in the face of the threat from Iran. But the weapon systems in question don’t support that theory.

Other Persian Gulf nations like Bahrain and Kuwait have been loading up on missile-defense systems and air-defense fighters. The proposed Saudi sale, however, is weighted heavily toward strike aircraft (F-15s configured for ground attack) and anti-tank attack helicopters. The proposed sale includes 84 strike-configured F-15s along with the retrofit of the Saudis’ 72 existing F-15s, more than doubling the Royal Saudi Air Force’s (RSAF) inventory of medium-range strikers. Significantly, the purchase extends the range at which the RSAF can conduct ground strikes beyond the shorter, defense-oriented range of its British Tornado force.

The Saudis will also buy 70 Apache Longbow helicopters with laser-guided Hellfire missiles and 72 Black Hawk helicopters for combat transport. It’s not clear if any of these aircraft will supplant some of the 150 attack and multi-purpose helicopters the Saudis negotiated to buy from Russia a year ago. If all are delivered, the Saudis will have increased their heliborne ground combat capability by 500 percent.

The question is what they plan to do with all these aircraft. During the Saddam Hussein years, the threat of land attack against Saudi Arabia was obvious. Today, it’s not. The Saudis are buying for a major armed conflict on land, but nothing indicates that Iran presents a threat of that kind. Iran isn’t prepared militarily to invade the Arabian Peninsula, either by land or sea, nor is it making the effort to be. Iran is building up its navy, missile forces, and nuclear options; its regional “power projection” effort on land is accomplished through sponsoring terrorism. But the counterinsurgency warfare model (e.g., the U.S.’s in Iraq) is inapplicable in this case: population numbers and terrain inhibit the rise on the Arabian Peninsula of insurgencies with the profile of Hezbollah or the Taliban. The number of modern systems the Saudis propose to purchase outstrips such a requirement considerably.

They can’t be contemplating the invasion of Iran, even as a counter to an Iranian attack. Numbers and terrain are decisively arrayed against that as well. Riyadh is buying an unusually large number of weapons with which to project power and fight a land campaign at a greater range than ever before – but the weapons are a mismatch for the likely dimensions of a confrontation with Iran.

Perhaps the Saudis see a potential need to fight Iran on Iraqi or Kuwaiti territory in the future. It would certainly have to be a distant future, given the substantial U.S. military presence in those countries. This expeditionary concept would also be highly uncharacteristic in Saudi strategic thinking.

But Riyadh may be arming as a regional rival to Iran – not for the defense of its own territory but as the leader of an Arab coalition, formed to gain ascendancy over Iran as the power broker in the Levant. Western analysts tend to miss the fact that Iran’s moves against Israel constitute a plan to effectively occupy territory that the Arab nations consider theirs to fight for. The concerns on both sides are more than ethnic and historical: they involve competing eschatological ideas.

The resurgence of Turkey, erstwhile Ottoman ruler, only accelerates the sense of powerful regional rivals polishing up their designs on the Levant. The Saudis’ military shopping list doesn’t match their defensive requirements against Iran, but if the strategic driver is a race to Jerusalem, it contains exactly what they need. Congress should take a critical look at the numbers involved – and the U.S. should take one at our disjointed and increasingly passive approach to the region.

The sheer size of the proposed $60 billion arms sale to Saudi Arabia makes it worth critical reflection. The types of weapon systems in the Saudi shopping list are even more eye-catching. News outlets report that the sale is to be understood as a means of bolstering Saudi defenses and security confidence in the face of the threat from Iran. But the weapon systems in question don’t support that theory.

Other Persian Gulf nations like Bahrain and Kuwait have been loading up on missile-defense systems and air-defense fighters. The proposed Saudi sale, however, is weighted heavily toward strike aircraft (F-15s configured for ground attack) and anti-tank attack helicopters. The proposed sale includes 84 strike-configured F-15s along with the retrofit of the Saudis’ 72 existing F-15s, more than doubling the Royal Saudi Air Force’s (RSAF) inventory of medium-range strikers. Significantly, the purchase extends the range at which the RSAF can conduct ground strikes beyond the shorter, defense-oriented range of its British Tornado force.

The Saudis will also buy 70 Apache Longbow helicopters with laser-guided Hellfire missiles and 72 Black Hawk helicopters for combat transport. It’s not clear if any of these aircraft will supplant some of the 150 attack and multi-purpose helicopters the Saudis negotiated to buy from Russia a year ago. If all are delivered, the Saudis will have increased their heliborne ground combat capability by 500 percent.

The question is what they plan to do with all these aircraft. During the Saddam Hussein years, the threat of land attack against Saudi Arabia was obvious. Today, it’s not. The Saudis are buying for a major armed conflict on land, but nothing indicates that Iran presents a threat of that kind. Iran isn’t prepared militarily to invade the Arabian Peninsula, either by land or sea, nor is it making the effort to be. Iran is building up its navy, missile forces, and nuclear options; its regional “power projection” effort on land is accomplished through sponsoring terrorism. But the counterinsurgency warfare model (e.g., the U.S.’s in Iraq) is inapplicable in this case: population numbers and terrain inhibit the rise on the Arabian Peninsula of insurgencies with the profile of Hezbollah or the Taliban. The number of modern systems the Saudis propose to purchase outstrips such a requirement considerably.

They can’t be contemplating the invasion of Iran, even as a counter to an Iranian attack. Numbers and terrain are decisively arrayed against that as well. Riyadh is buying an unusually large number of weapons with which to project power and fight a land campaign at a greater range than ever before – but the weapons are a mismatch for the likely dimensions of a confrontation with Iran.

Perhaps the Saudis see a potential need to fight Iran on Iraqi or Kuwaiti territory in the future. It would certainly have to be a distant future, given the substantial U.S. military presence in those countries. This expeditionary concept would also be highly uncharacteristic in Saudi strategic thinking.

But Riyadh may be arming as a regional rival to Iran – not for the defense of its own territory but as the leader of an Arab coalition, formed to gain ascendancy over Iran as the power broker in the Levant. Western analysts tend to miss the fact that Iran’s moves against Israel constitute a plan to effectively occupy territory that the Arab nations consider theirs to fight for. The concerns on both sides are more than ethnic and historical: they involve competing eschatological ideas.

The resurgence of Turkey, erstwhile Ottoman ruler, only accelerates the sense of powerful regional rivals polishing up their designs on the Levant. The Saudis’ military shopping list doesn’t match their defensive requirements against Iran, but if the strategic driver is a race to Jerusalem, it contains exactly what they need. Congress should take a critical look at the numbers involved – and the U.S. should take one at our disjointed and increasingly passive approach to the region.

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Liberal Lament for GOP “Moderates” Misses the Point

Blogger Nate Silver is the latest liberal scribe to lament the way so-called moderates in the Republican party are being shown the door by outraged Tea Partiers. In his latest post (his blog is now hosted by the New York Times), he echoes the GOP establishment’s lament that a primary victory by Carl Paladino over Rick Lazio would hurt the Republican Party. The thinking there is that candidates like Paladino hurt the GOP “brand” by making it appear too extreme for mainstream voters to embrace.

Like some other Tea Party favorites around the nation, Paladino is a loose cannon. But it’s hard to accept the idea that a noisy anti-establishment gubernatorial nominee would harm the rest of the Republican ticket, especially in districts where the GOP has a chance to topple incumbent Democrats in Congress and the legislature. Lazio is dead in the water with no chance to beat Andrew Cuomo in November, but the party grandees seem to think that having a candidate at the top of the ticket who has no chance would be better than one who has the ability — and the money — to make more of a splash. But, as I wrote yesterday, the real reason why Republican leaders want no part of Paladino is that he is a threat to the go-along-to-get-along culture of Albany politics.

Silver is less interested in the realties of New York politics than in trying to sell us on the thesis that conservatism dooms Republicans. To that end, he speaks of the tradition of “Rockefeller” liberal Republicans who have done well in the past in New York. But Republicans have won elections in New York in the era that followed the domination of the party by the likes of Tom Dewey, Nelson Rockefeller, and Jacob Javits. Ronald Reagan won the state in both 1980 and 1984. And Al D’Amato and George Pataki each won three statewide votes by positioning themselves as common-sense conservatives, not traditional GOP liberals. It isn’t clear that the “moderate” Republicans whom Silver and the GOP big shots say will stay home in November still exist in any appreciable numbers. While I agree that Cuomo is in such a strong position that he probably needn’t fear any Republican opponent right now, the GOP’s only hope for a respectable showing in the governor’s race as well as for an increased turnout for other more competitive races is to convince alienated independents and Republicans, who were disillusioned by the tax-and-spend policies of Pataki’s later years in office, that there’s a chance for their party to finally embrace a platform of reform.

This exposes the key fallacy of the liberal reaction to the Tea Party and the anti-incumbent tide sweeping the nation this year. They seem to believe that voter outrage over the massive expansion of federal power and budget by Obama and the Democrats is a confidence trick being pulled off by conservatives rather than a genuine movement that taps into mainstream concerns. The central question today is not, as Silver says, whether moderates think “there is any longer a place for them within the [Republican] party.” Rather, it is whether Democrats understand that anger over taxes, government-funded patronage, and influence peddling is strong enough to create a political wave that could threaten their hold on even the bluest of states this fall.

Blogger Nate Silver is the latest liberal scribe to lament the way so-called moderates in the Republican party are being shown the door by outraged Tea Partiers. In his latest post (his blog is now hosted by the New York Times), he echoes the GOP establishment’s lament that a primary victory by Carl Paladino over Rick Lazio would hurt the Republican Party. The thinking there is that candidates like Paladino hurt the GOP “brand” by making it appear too extreme for mainstream voters to embrace.

Like some other Tea Party favorites around the nation, Paladino is a loose cannon. But it’s hard to accept the idea that a noisy anti-establishment gubernatorial nominee would harm the rest of the Republican ticket, especially in districts where the GOP has a chance to topple incumbent Democrats in Congress and the legislature. Lazio is dead in the water with no chance to beat Andrew Cuomo in November, but the party grandees seem to think that having a candidate at the top of the ticket who has no chance would be better than one who has the ability — and the money — to make more of a splash. But, as I wrote yesterday, the real reason why Republican leaders want no part of Paladino is that he is a threat to the go-along-to-get-along culture of Albany politics.

Silver is less interested in the realties of New York politics than in trying to sell us on the thesis that conservatism dooms Republicans. To that end, he speaks of the tradition of “Rockefeller” liberal Republicans who have done well in the past in New York. But Republicans have won elections in New York in the era that followed the domination of the party by the likes of Tom Dewey, Nelson Rockefeller, and Jacob Javits. Ronald Reagan won the state in both 1980 and 1984. And Al D’Amato and George Pataki each won three statewide votes by positioning themselves as common-sense conservatives, not traditional GOP liberals. It isn’t clear that the “moderate” Republicans whom Silver and the GOP big shots say will stay home in November still exist in any appreciable numbers. While I agree that Cuomo is in such a strong position that he probably needn’t fear any Republican opponent right now, the GOP’s only hope for a respectable showing in the governor’s race as well as for an increased turnout for other more competitive races is to convince alienated independents and Republicans, who were disillusioned by the tax-and-spend policies of Pataki’s later years in office, that there’s a chance for their party to finally embrace a platform of reform.

This exposes the key fallacy of the liberal reaction to the Tea Party and the anti-incumbent tide sweeping the nation this year. They seem to believe that voter outrage over the massive expansion of federal power and budget by Obama and the Democrats is a confidence trick being pulled off by conservatives rather than a genuine movement that taps into mainstream concerns. The central question today is not, as Silver says, whether moderates think “there is any longer a place for them within the [Republican] party.” Rather, it is whether Democrats understand that anger over taxes, government-funded patronage, and influence peddling is strong enough to create a political wave that could threaten their hold on even the bluest of states this fall.

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A Thatcherite Moment in America

President Obama, in attempting to gain traction just ahead of the midterm election, has homed in his message on taxes – and most especially, on “tax cut for the wealth.” Here is how Obama is framing his argument:

Ninety-seven percent of Americans make less than $250,000 a year — $250,000 a year or less. And I’m saying we can give those families — 97 percent permanent tax relief. And by the way, for those who make more than $250,000, they’d still get tax relief on the first $250,000; they just wouldn’t get it for income above that. Now, that seems like a common-sense thing to do. And what I’ve got is the Republicans holding middle-class tax relief hostage because they’re insisting we’ve got to give tax relief to millionaires and billionaires to the tune of about $100,000 per millionaire, which would cost over the course of 10 years, $700 billion, and that economists say is probably the worst way to stimulate the economy. That doesn’t make sense, and that’s an example of what this election is all about.

Let’s examine what the president said, starting with this observation: Obama’s sudden interest in the pernicious effects of large deficits is curious. There is no apparent limit to what Obama is willing to spend – yet when it comes to taxes, and almost only taxes, the president professes to be alarmed about the deficit. With that in mind, here’s a useful reference point: the $700 billion over 10 years that Obama is so eager to save is considerably less than Obama’s first (failed) stimulus package, which alone is estimated to have cost more than $860 billion. It would help Mr. Obama’s credibility if, in opposing taxes on fiscal grounds, he was not the most profligate president in American history. Read More

President Obama, in attempting to gain traction just ahead of the midterm election, has homed in his message on taxes – and most especially, on “tax cut for the wealth.” Here is how Obama is framing his argument:

Ninety-seven percent of Americans make less than $250,000 a year — $250,000 a year or less. And I’m saying we can give those families — 97 percent permanent tax relief. And by the way, for those who make more than $250,000, they’d still get tax relief on the first $250,000; they just wouldn’t get it for income above that. Now, that seems like a common-sense thing to do. And what I’ve got is the Republicans holding middle-class tax relief hostage because they’re insisting we’ve got to give tax relief to millionaires and billionaires to the tune of about $100,000 per millionaire, which would cost over the course of 10 years, $700 billion, and that economists say is probably the worst way to stimulate the economy. That doesn’t make sense, and that’s an example of what this election is all about.

Let’s examine what the president said, starting with this observation: Obama’s sudden interest in the pernicious effects of large deficits is curious. There is no apparent limit to what Obama is willing to spend – yet when it comes to taxes, and almost only taxes, the president professes to be alarmed about the deficit. With that in mind, here’s a useful reference point: the $700 billion over 10 years that Obama is so eager to save is considerably less than Obama’s first (failed) stimulus package, which alone is estimated to have cost more than $860 billion. It would help Mr. Obama’s credibility if, in opposing taxes on fiscal grounds, he was not the most profligate president in American history.

Second, according to the Congressional Budget Office, the cost for extending the Bush tax cuts to married taxpayers with income below $250,000 and single taxpayers with income below $200,000 – which Obama supports – would reduce revenues by almost $2 trillion over the 2011–2020 period. If Obama’s argument is that he should oppose tax cuts because of their adverse effect on the deficit, then presumably Obama should oppose extending any of the Bush tax cuts he has demonized for the better part of three years. Instead, Obama favors extending them to individuals making less than $200,000 per year.

Obama cannot have it both ways. He cannot on the one hand castigate Bush’s tax cuts as reckless, irresponsible, and ineffective while at the same time extending them for all but the highest income earners.

Third, Democrats assert that the Obama tax increase will hit only 3 percent of small businesses. “There aren’t 3 percent of small businesses in America that would qualify for that tax cut [one for families making more than $250,000],” Vice President Biden has said. Speaker Nancy Pelosi has chimed in as well, declaring that the tax increase on higher income earners would exempt “97 percent of small businesses.” In fact, it will hit fully half of all small-business income, since 85 percent of small-business owners are taxed on profits at individual tax rates.

Twenty months into his presidency, Barack Obama’s problems extend far beyond this particular tax debate. His problem is, in my estimation, conceptual and philosophical. He is trying to spur growth through extravagant government spending, which he believes will increase demand with its magic “multiplier effect.” If that theory worked, of course, we would not be experiencing economic deceleration with unemployment stuck at nearly 10 percent, the collapse of sales of new homes earlier this year, consumer confidence at an alarmingly low level, a “recovery summer” that saw us lose more than a quarter of a million jobs, and economic growth that is far lower than past post-recession recoveries. Yet Obama continues to double down, as if unchecked government spending, onerous new regulations, and higher tax rates on small businesses and our most productive workers is the road to prosperity.

The president is quite wrong about all of that – and it may be that Obama’s failures, for all their economic and human cost, serve a useful pedagogical function. Obama is reminding people, in fairly vivid ways, what works when it comes to economics – things such as rewarding effort and enterprise, recognizing the importance of incentives, creating certainty and stability that encourages investment and entrepreneurship, and honoring success and achievement.

In that sense, we might be reaching a moment similar to the one Margaret Thatcher faced when she was leader of the Opposition in Great Britain. The failures of the “old” Labour government were obvious to almost everyone – and that created a moment for Thatcher to become prime minister and for Thatcherism to take root.

“Where the state is too powerful,” Mrs. Thatcher told the Zurich Economic Society in 1977, “efficiency suffers and morality is threatened. Britain in the last two or three years provides a case-study of why collectivism will not work. It shows that ‘progressive’ theory was not progressive. On the contrary, it proved retrograde in practice. This is a lesson that democrats all over the world should heed.”

“Yet I face the future with optimism,” Thatcher went on to say. “Our ills are creating their own antibodies. Just as success generates problems, so failure breeds the will to fight back and the body politic strives to restore itself.”

It looks to me like we are seeing something similar taking place in America today. We’ll know more in seven weeks.

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The Good-Things-Only Health-Care System

Back in August 2009, Bill Clinton pled with Democrats not to lose their nerve and let a health-care bill die. He offered two comforting predictions:

I’m telling you no matter how low [Republicans] drive support for this with misinformation, the minute the president signs a health care reform bill his approval will go up. Secondly, within a year, when all those bad things they say will happen don’t happen, and all the good things happen, approval will explode.

What seems about to explode, in 49 days, is the same cigar that blew up in the Democrats’ face when they tried this in 1994. Back then it was simply a failed attempt, planned in secret by the president’s wife and a committee of experts; this time it was legislation, rammed through on a party-line vote, by legislators who six months after are unwilling to advertise their “historic” vote. The electorate seems considerably more angry this year.

The public instinctively knew that the endlessly-repeated promises about ObamaCare – it would be deficit-neutral; not affect those satisfied with their existing plans; not limit the quality or availability of medical care; and not produce (in Bill Clinton’s terms) any “bad things” but only “good things” — were false assurances. But the public was constantly told that CBO projections showed ObamaCare would reduce the deficit — and who were you gonna believe, the CBO or the Republicans’ “misinformation”?

In “Health Care: The Disquieting Truth” in the current issue of the New York Review of Books, Arnold Relman, a professor emeritus at Harvard Medical School, writes that:

The seemingly optimistic reports of the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), which were important in supporting the Democrats’ legislative proposals, should not be misunderstood. The deficit reduction predicted by the CBO referred to covering only the added costs of the legislation for the first ten years, not to the likelihood of stemming the continuously rising costs of existing federal programs.

Relman further notes that the CBO was concerned only with the federal budget, not state budgets or the financial condition of the entire public and private health-care system, which, he concludes, seems headed toward bankruptcy. He ends by describing a new study predicting ObamaCare will, in fact, add $562 billion to the federal deficit in the first ten years.

It is clear from Relman’s article that the Obama administration’s approach to health care is the same it adopted with respect to the budget. In the latter case, it massively increased spending — and is now arguing that a huge increase in taxes is necessary to cure the resulting “unsustainable” deficits. In the former, it pushed through changes and mandates that will dramatically increase health-care costs — and will next argue that health care must be government-controlled to cure the coming cost crisis.

Relman’s own cure is a dramatic restriction or elimination of private insurance and imposition of more government regulation and health care – which he says would “undoubtedly” result in “huge savings” while “making medical care more efficient and effective” at the same time. His approach would apparently produce only good things and not bad things.

Back in August 2009, Bill Clinton pled with Democrats not to lose their nerve and let a health-care bill die. He offered two comforting predictions:

I’m telling you no matter how low [Republicans] drive support for this with misinformation, the minute the president signs a health care reform bill his approval will go up. Secondly, within a year, when all those bad things they say will happen don’t happen, and all the good things happen, approval will explode.

What seems about to explode, in 49 days, is the same cigar that blew up in the Democrats’ face when they tried this in 1994. Back then it was simply a failed attempt, planned in secret by the president’s wife and a committee of experts; this time it was legislation, rammed through on a party-line vote, by legislators who six months after are unwilling to advertise their “historic” vote. The electorate seems considerably more angry this year.

The public instinctively knew that the endlessly-repeated promises about ObamaCare – it would be deficit-neutral; not affect those satisfied with their existing plans; not limit the quality or availability of medical care; and not produce (in Bill Clinton’s terms) any “bad things” but only “good things” — were false assurances. But the public was constantly told that CBO projections showed ObamaCare would reduce the deficit — and who were you gonna believe, the CBO or the Republicans’ “misinformation”?

In “Health Care: The Disquieting Truth” in the current issue of the New York Review of Books, Arnold Relman, a professor emeritus at Harvard Medical School, writes that:

The seemingly optimistic reports of the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), which were important in supporting the Democrats’ legislative proposals, should not be misunderstood. The deficit reduction predicted by the CBO referred to covering only the added costs of the legislation for the first ten years, not to the likelihood of stemming the continuously rising costs of existing federal programs.

Relman further notes that the CBO was concerned only with the federal budget, not state budgets or the financial condition of the entire public and private health-care system, which, he concludes, seems headed toward bankruptcy. He ends by describing a new study predicting ObamaCare will, in fact, add $562 billion to the federal deficit in the first ten years.

It is clear from Relman’s article that the Obama administration’s approach to health care is the same it adopted with respect to the budget. In the latter case, it massively increased spending — and is now arguing that a huge increase in taxes is necessary to cure the resulting “unsustainable” deficits. In the former, it pushed through changes and mandates that will dramatically increase health-care costs — and will next argue that health care must be government-controlled to cure the coming cost crisis.

Relman’s own cure is a dramatic restriction or elimination of private insurance and imposition of more government regulation and health care – which he says would “undoubtedly” result in “huge savings” while “making medical care more efficient and effective” at the same time. His approach would apparently produce only good things and not bad things.

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Five Greatest Conservative Books

Jonathan Rauch has done us all a great service by interviewing (as part of the fivebooks.com series) 10 individuals on what they consider to be the five most important conservative books. The full list can be found here. So can Jon’s interview with my former White House colleague, Karl Rove. Karl’s selection includes the Federalist Papers, Democracy in America, Conscience of a Conservative, Capitalism and Freedom, and the Theory of Moral Sentiments. The conversation with Karl is excellent; indeed, the other interviews (with Mitch Daniels, Yuval Levin, Peter Berkowitz, David Frum, and others) are also illuminating and engaging.

Interestingly, and quite surprisingly to me, Burke’s Reflections on the Revolution in France did not make the list (though Yuval, an outstanding scholar on Burke, did list Appeal from the New to the Old Whigs).

Jonathan Rauch has done us all a great service by interviewing (as part of the fivebooks.com series) 10 individuals on what they consider to be the five most important conservative books. The full list can be found here. So can Jon’s interview with my former White House colleague, Karl Rove. Karl’s selection includes the Federalist Papers, Democracy in America, Conscience of a Conservative, Capitalism and Freedom, and the Theory of Moral Sentiments. The conversation with Karl is excellent; indeed, the other interviews (with Mitch Daniels, Yuval Levin, Peter Berkowitz, David Frum, and others) are also illuminating and engaging.

Interestingly, and quite surprisingly to me, Burke’s Reflections on the Revolution in France did not make the list (though Yuval, an outstanding scholar on Burke, did list Appeal from the New to the Old Whigs).

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Shilling for the UN Human Rights Council

If they handed out prizes for the most disingenuous column of the year, this offering by the administration’s ambassador to the noxious UN Human Rights Council would win hands down. It isn’t easy to write a laudatory essay on the UNHRC, but Eileen Donahoe manages to do it. A sample (please don’t read the rest if you are prone to migraines or bouts of nausea):

In my limited time here, I have been very pleased by several developments that confirm U.S. participation was the correct decision.

First, by participating actively, listening carefully and speaking clearly about our values and priorities, we make a difference. Second, the extent to which we share common ground with other nations around the world on human rights is significant, and we must do all that we can to capitalize on that common ground.

Third, when the United States speaks with authenticity and passion on human rights, it has a disproportionate impact. We must take advantage of that fact.

She then has the temerity to proclaim: “Very importantly, we have vigorously and unequivocally protested the politicized efforts of some members to continually target Israel while ignoring serious problems in their own countries.”

Oh really? Did the U.S. block implementation of the Goldstone machinery, object to the Syrian blood libel, or head off the flotilla kangaroo inquest?

What is our great achievement? Donahoe asserts that we have spoken out against “serious human rights abuses in Iran, Burma, Sudan, China, Zimbabwe, Venezuela, Syria, Russia, Sri Lanka and elsewhere.” It would be swell if Obama and Hillary Clinton would do some of this, but there’s not much evidence that our membership in the UNHRC is essential in that regard, and indeed, we haven’t made many (any?) grand pronouncements to the faces of the representatives of those despotic regimes. We’ve monitored, she claims, and “co-led a cross regional effort” to condemn Iran. But again, is the price for such minimal bureaucratic action that we must empower the Israel-bashers and human rights abusers who sit on that body? It seems so. But, hey, the lady wants to keep her job.

Here’s an idea for the next Congress: defund our participation in the UNHRC. For reasons that escape me, Jewish “leaders” have refrained from doing so. Maybe displays like Donahoe’s will convince them that we are doing more harm than good there.

If they handed out prizes for the most disingenuous column of the year, this offering by the administration’s ambassador to the noxious UN Human Rights Council would win hands down. It isn’t easy to write a laudatory essay on the UNHRC, but Eileen Donahoe manages to do it. A sample (please don’t read the rest if you are prone to migraines or bouts of nausea):

In my limited time here, I have been very pleased by several developments that confirm U.S. participation was the correct decision.

First, by participating actively, listening carefully and speaking clearly about our values and priorities, we make a difference. Second, the extent to which we share common ground with other nations around the world on human rights is significant, and we must do all that we can to capitalize on that common ground.

Third, when the United States speaks with authenticity and passion on human rights, it has a disproportionate impact. We must take advantage of that fact.

She then has the temerity to proclaim: “Very importantly, we have vigorously and unequivocally protested the politicized efforts of some members to continually target Israel while ignoring serious problems in their own countries.”

Oh really? Did the U.S. block implementation of the Goldstone machinery, object to the Syrian blood libel, or head off the flotilla kangaroo inquest?

What is our great achievement? Donahoe asserts that we have spoken out against “serious human rights abuses in Iran, Burma, Sudan, China, Zimbabwe, Venezuela, Syria, Russia, Sri Lanka and elsewhere.” It would be swell if Obama and Hillary Clinton would do some of this, but there’s not much evidence that our membership in the UNHRC is essential in that regard, and indeed, we haven’t made many (any?) grand pronouncements to the faces of the representatives of those despotic regimes. We’ve monitored, she claims, and “co-led a cross regional effort” to condemn Iran. But again, is the price for such minimal bureaucratic action that we must empower the Israel-bashers and human rights abusers who sit on that body? It seems so. But, hey, the lady wants to keep her job.

Here’s an idea for the next Congress: defund our participation in the UNHRC. For reasons that escape me, Jewish “leaders” have refrained from doing so. Maybe displays like Donahoe’s will convince them that we are doing more harm than good there.

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Leave Us Alone

Andrew Malcolm, one of the few reasons to read the Los Angeles Times, has an amusing photo display of Obama’s decidedly un-Michelle eating habits. Malcolm writes:

First Lady Michelle Obama, who has been unable to convince the Smoker-in-Chief to give up that dreadful habit, now has some health suggestions for other American families and for restaurant menus across the country. The goal is to eat healthier, although that might hurt restaurant sales and cause disappointed children.

Obama, who has made combating childhood obesity and inactivity her favored causes, addressed the National Restaurant Assn. … She, of course, has her own personal chef brought in from Chicago and took full parental responsibility for guiding her daughters’ diets because parents are crucial habit-formers and role models, even in food choices.

I don’t much care if the president smokes or pigs out on fast food. In fact, I think it’s a poor idea to take away emotionally comforting habits from the man with his finger on the button. I don’t care, because these are personal choices, and he is an adult, a well-educated one with superb medical advice. What does grate on the nerves is the incessant nagging — don’t eat those fries, inflate your tires – that suggests that Americans are too dim to figure these things out for themselves. Moreover, it assumes it is the government’s job to screech at us.

And yes, it is a matter of perspective. Laura Bush was concerned with the women of Burma who are raped and murdered by a fascistic state. Michelle is growing — actually having the hired help grow — an organic garden. It’s the sort of thing that bored housewives from the Upper West Side or Beverly Hills would obsess about. It lack gravitas and perspective. But then that’s pretty much what the Obamas are all about.

Andrew Malcolm, one of the few reasons to read the Los Angeles Times, has an amusing photo display of Obama’s decidedly un-Michelle eating habits. Malcolm writes:

First Lady Michelle Obama, who has been unable to convince the Smoker-in-Chief to give up that dreadful habit, now has some health suggestions for other American families and for restaurant menus across the country. The goal is to eat healthier, although that might hurt restaurant sales and cause disappointed children.

Obama, who has made combating childhood obesity and inactivity her favored causes, addressed the National Restaurant Assn. … She, of course, has her own personal chef brought in from Chicago and took full parental responsibility for guiding her daughters’ diets because parents are crucial habit-formers and role models, even in food choices.

I don’t much care if the president smokes or pigs out on fast food. In fact, I think it’s a poor idea to take away emotionally comforting habits from the man with his finger on the button. I don’t care, because these are personal choices, and he is an adult, a well-educated one with superb medical advice. What does grate on the nerves is the incessant nagging — don’t eat those fries, inflate your tires – that suggests that Americans are too dim to figure these things out for themselves. Moreover, it assumes it is the government’s job to screech at us.

And yes, it is a matter of perspective. Laura Bush was concerned with the women of Burma who are raped and murdered by a fascistic state. Michelle is growing — actually having the hired help grow — an organic garden. It’s the sort of thing that bored housewives from the Upper West Side or Beverly Hills would obsess about. It lack gravitas and perspective. But then that’s pretty much what the Obamas are all about.

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Interviews with Tony Blair

If you’re a fan of Tony Blair, as I certainly am, then you’ll be interested in watching two interviews with him. The first, with PBS’s Charlie Rose, can be found here. The second, a conversation with former president Bill Clinton that took place yesterday, can be found here.

A great deal of the interview with Rose is devoted to Iraq and Iran, topics on which Blair is simply exceptional. The conversation with Clinton was somewhat wider ranging, more personal, and equally fascinating. Their comments about the “third way” are apposite to the broader debate we’re having in this country about the role and purpose of government. Both interviews are worth watching in their entirety. But judge for yourself.

If you’re a fan of Tony Blair, as I certainly am, then you’ll be interested in watching two interviews with him. The first, with PBS’s Charlie Rose, can be found here. The second, a conversation with former president Bill Clinton that took place yesterday, can be found here.

A great deal of the interview with Rose is devoted to Iraq and Iran, topics on which Blair is simply exceptional. The conversation with Clinton was somewhat wider ranging, more personal, and equally fascinating. Their comments about the “third way” are apposite to the broader debate we’re having in this country about the role and purpose of government. Both interviews are worth watching in their entirety. But judge for yourself.

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David Brooks vs. Straw Men

David Brooks is critical of an op-ed by AEI’s Arthur C. Brooks and Rep. Paul Ryan. The Times‘s Brooks is upset that the two conservatives don’t appreciate that there is a tradition of “limited but energetic” government, not simply “limited government.” Brooks is perhaps confusing Paul Ryan with Rand Paul.

Neither Ryan nor Brooks is a libertarian. And their op-ed rejects extreme notions (e.g., abolishing social security). Their sole plea is this:

[F]inding the right level of government for Americans is simply impossible unless we decide which ideal we prefer: a free enterprise society with a solid but limited safety net, or a cradle-to-grave, redistributive welfare state. Most Americans believe in assisting those temporarily down on their luck and those who cannot help themselves, as well as a public-private system of pensions for a secure retirement. But a clear majority believes that income redistribution and government care should be the exception and not the rule.

In fact, they make it clear that they are not for “no government”:

Nobody wants to privatize the Army or take away Grandma’s Social Security check. Even Friedrich Hayek in his famous book, “The Road to Serfdom,” reminded us that the state has legitimate—and critical—functions, from rectifying market failures to securing some minimum standard of living.

David Brooks has selected an odd target for his criticism. Ryan is among the most innovative reformers, one who has ideas on everything from education to health care. Is he really the example that Brooks is looking for? Brooks sounds the alarm:

If the current Republican Party regards every new bit of government action as a step on the road to serfdom, then the party will be taking this long, mainstream American tradition and exiling it from the G.O.P.

Well, he may be comforted by reading Ryan’s Roadmap. It strikes me as quite energetic.

Two additional points. Brooks claims that conservatism is supposed to be “nonideological and context driven.” Most modern conservatives believe it certainly is an ideology (although distinct from partisan loyalty). As for context, it is David, not Arthur, Brooks who seems to have lost track of where we are. We have experienced a gigantic spend-a-thon and a spasm of liberal statism. Ryan and Arthur Brooks are calling for a course correction. It seems an exceptionally timely adjustment.

David Brooks is critical of an op-ed by AEI’s Arthur C. Brooks and Rep. Paul Ryan. The Times‘s Brooks is upset that the two conservatives don’t appreciate that there is a tradition of “limited but energetic” government, not simply “limited government.” Brooks is perhaps confusing Paul Ryan with Rand Paul.

Neither Ryan nor Brooks is a libertarian. And their op-ed rejects extreme notions (e.g., abolishing social security). Their sole plea is this:

[F]inding the right level of government for Americans is simply impossible unless we decide which ideal we prefer: a free enterprise society with a solid but limited safety net, or a cradle-to-grave, redistributive welfare state. Most Americans believe in assisting those temporarily down on their luck and those who cannot help themselves, as well as a public-private system of pensions for a secure retirement. But a clear majority believes that income redistribution and government care should be the exception and not the rule.

In fact, they make it clear that they are not for “no government”:

Nobody wants to privatize the Army or take away Grandma’s Social Security check. Even Friedrich Hayek in his famous book, “The Road to Serfdom,” reminded us that the state has legitimate—and critical—functions, from rectifying market failures to securing some minimum standard of living.

David Brooks has selected an odd target for his criticism. Ryan is among the most innovative reformers, one who has ideas on everything from education to health care. Is he really the example that Brooks is looking for? Brooks sounds the alarm:

If the current Republican Party regards every new bit of government action as a step on the road to serfdom, then the party will be taking this long, mainstream American tradition and exiling it from the G.O.P.

Well, he may be comforted by reading Ryan’s Roadmap. It strikes me as quite energetic.

Two additional points. Brooks claims that conservatism is supposed to be “nonideological and context driven.” Most modern conservatives believe it certainly is an ideology (although distinct from partisan loyalty). As for context, it is David, not Arthur, Brooks who seems to have lost track of where we are. We have experienced a gigantic spend-a-thon and a spasm of liberal statism. Ryan and Arthur Brooks are calling for a course correction. It seems an exceptionally timely adjustment.

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Have You Heard the One About . . .

Polls are one way to see who’s ahead in the endless game of politics. Humor is another, for the guys on the losing side tend to be a bit grumpy.

FDR had a wonderful sense of humor. His remarks about his “little dog, Fala” are a classic. So is his “Martin, Barton, and Fish” line that became a staple of the 1940 reelection campaign. It was later echoed by Hubert Humphrey in his acceptance speech for the nomination for vice president at the 1964 Democratic convention, where he ended paragraph after paragraph with the line, “But not Senator Goldwater!” Ronald Reagan was forever telling funny stories and his deadpan masterpiece during a debate with Walter Mondale knocked the age issue out of the ballpark in 1984. Jimmy Carter, on the other hand, wouldn’t get a joke if it hit him on the nose. He got the boot after one term.

So who has the lead in humor this election? It isn’t the liberals. They, in fact, have been noticeably grumpy since the days of Hubert Humphrey, who, like Al Smith before him, was known as the Happy Warrior after Wordsworth’s great poem. According to liberals, the Tea Party movement is a hotbed of racism and a white-only club. The Tea Party begs to differ and this YouTube clip pretty much demolishes the idea with humor.

We’ll see who gets the last laugh on November 2nd. I don’t think it will be liberals.

Polls are one way to see who’s ahead in the endless game of politics. Humor is another, for the guys on the losing side tend to be a bit grumpy.

FDR had a wonderful sense of humor. His remarks about his “little dog, Fala” are a classic. So is his “Martin, Barton, and Fish” line that became a staple of the 1940 reelection campaign. It was later echoed by Hubert Humphrey in his acceptance speech for the nomination for vice president at the 1964 Democratic convention, where he ended paragraph after paragraph with the line, “But not Senator Goldwater!” Ronald Reagan was forever telling funny stories and his deadpan masterpiece during a debate with Walter Mondale knocked the age issue out of the ballpark in 1984. Jimmy Carter, on the other hand, wouldn’t get a joke if it hit him on the nose. He got the boot after one term.

So who has the lead in humor this election? It isn’t the liberals. They, in fact, have been noticeably grumpy since the days of Hubert Humphrey, who, like Al Smith before him, was known as the Happy Warrior after Wordsworth’s great poem. According to liberals, the Tea Party movement is a hotbed of racism and a white-only club. The Tea Party begs to differ and this YouTube clip pretty much demolishes the idea with humor.

We’ll see who gets the last laugh on November 2nd. I don’t think it will be liberals.

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Clinton Keeps Twisting Bibi’s Arm

The drumbeat from the Obami on a settlement moratorium continues. Hillary Clinton is now finger-wagging, continuing to apply public pressure on Israel to extend the settlement freeze. This report explains:

Speaking as she flew to Egypt for a second round of direct Israeli-Palestinian peace talks, Clinton said the two sides would get “down to business” and she repeated the U.S. view that Israel should extend its moratorium on new settlement construction in the West Bank.

She also sought to counter widespread pessimism over the first direct peace talks after a 20-month hiatus, given the political divisions in Israel and among the Palestinians.

“For me, this is a simple choice: no negotiations, no security, no state,” Clinton said as she began her journey to the Egyptian Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh, where the talks will take place on Tuesday.

The logic is impeccable – unless you realize that Israel has been negotiating for 60 years, making offer after offer — and the Palestinians still can’t give up the dream of a one-state solution. I suppose the choice is “simple” for them: terrorism over peace, rejectionism over compromise.

The imbalance in the U.S. rhetoric is telling. Clinton’s demand on Israel is pointed and specific: “The United States believes that the moratorium should be extended.” Her “demands” of the Palestinians are vague. It’s not even clear that there are any demands: “This has to be understood as an effort by both the prime minister and the president to get over the hurdle posed by the expiration of the original moratorium in order to continue negotiations. … There are obligations on both sides to ensure that these negotiations continue.” What might the Palestinians’ obligations be? (Stop inciting violence, stop publicly rejecting recognition of the Jewish state?) Hard to say – especially for Clinton.

The Obami are forever playing a scene from the Perils of Pauline, narrowly escaping catastrophe (i.e., the complete collapse of talks and the humiliation of the president who put a peace deal at the top of his foreign policy agenda). The train is barreling down the tracks again, and we’ll see if Clinton and her boss can wriggle free once more. Meanwhile, we are no closer to “peace” than we have been for 60 years. And those centrifuges in Iran keep on whirling.

The drumbeat from the Obami on a settlement moratorium continues. Hillary Clinton is now finger-wagging, continuing to apply public pressure on Israel to extend the settlement freeze. This report explains:

Speaking as she flew to Egypt for a second round of direct Israeli-Palestinian peace talks, Clinton said the two sides would get “down to business” and she repeated the U.S. view that Israel should extend its moratorium on new settlement construction in the West Bank.

She also sought to counter widespread pessimism over the first direct peace talks after a 20-month hiatus, given the political divisions in Israel and among the Palestinians.

“For me, this is a simple choice: no negotiations, no security, no state,” Clinton said as she began her journey to the Egyptian Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh, where the talks will take place on Tuesday.

The logic is impeccable – unless you realize that Israel has been negotiating for 60 years, making offer after offer — and the Palestinians still can’t give up the dream of a one-state solution. I suppose the choice is “simple” for them: terrorism over peace, rejectionism over compromise.

The imbalance in the U.S. rhetoric is telling. Clinton’s demand on Israel is pointed and specific: “The United States believes that the moratorium should be extended.” Her “demands” of the Palestinians are vague. It’s not even clear that there are any demands: “This has to be understood as an effort by both the prime minister and the president to get over the hurdle posed by the expiration of the original moratorium in order to continue negotiations. … There are obligations on both sides to ensure that these negotiations continue.” What might the Palestinians’ obligations be? (Stop inciting violence, stop publicly rejecting recognition of the Jewish state?) Hard to say – especially for Clinton.

The Obami are forever playing a scene from the Perils of Pauline, narrowly escaping catastrophe (i.e., the complete collapse of talks and the humiliation of the president who put a peace deal at the top of his foreign policy agenda). The train is barreling down the tracks again, and we’ll see if Clinton and her boss can wriggle free once more. Meanwhile, we are no closer to “peace” than we have been for 60 years. And those centrifuges in Iran keep on whirling.

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Money, Money

For months, Democratic operatives and liberal pundits (sometimes it is hard to tell the difference) have been declaring that the GOP’s chances were imperiled by fundraising woes and its cloddish RNC chairman. In fact, to anyone closely following conservative politics, it has been apparent that the plethora of third-party groups that have popped up in light of the RNC’s troubles have more than made up for the difference. The New York Times breaks the bad news to the Upper West Side:

Outside groups supporting Republican candidates in House and Senate races across the country have been swamping their Democratic-leaning counterparts on television since early August as the midterm election season has begun heating up.

Driving the disparity in the ad wars has been an array of Republican-oriented organizations that are set up so they can accept donations of unlimited size from individuals and corporations without having to disclose them. The situation raises the possibility that a relatively small cadre of deep-pocketed donors, unknown to the general public, is shaping the battle for Congress in the early going.

Democrats are said to be surprised and alarmed by this. But it was hardly a secret that Americans for Prosperity, Karl Rove’s American Crossroads, a newly invigorated Republican Governors Association, the Club for Growth, and a host of other groups have been raising gobs of cash. Now it’s apparent just how successful these groups have been:

In Senate races, Republican-leaning interest groups outspent Democratic-leaning ones on television $10.9 million to $1.3 million, from Aug. 1 to Sept. 8, according to Campaign Media Analysis Group, a company that tracks political advertising.

In the House, Republican-leaning groups outspent Democratic-leaning ones, $3.1 million to $1.5 million.

Or course Democrats have Big Labor as their piggy bank, but it’s not clear that Big Labor is going to the mat for the Democrats this cycle; after all, their millions in 2008 (hard and soft money) didn’t get them card check legislation.

The money gap tells us two things. First, just as Obama’s fundraising prowess in 2008 reflected an enthusiasm gap in the Democrats’ favor, the current GOP funding boom is evidence that now the Republicans are the ones pumped up. And second, this is yet another sign that the national political parties themselves are becoming less and less of a factor: they no longer influence candidate selection and are steadily being eclipsed by independent groups, which, no thanks to Sens. John McCain and Russ Feingold, remain free to exercise their core First Amendment rights.

Elites are fond of bemoaning the influence of money — yes, horrors! — in the political process. But what better sign of the health and vigor of our democratic process?

For months, Democratic operatives and liberal pundits (sometimes it is hard to tell the difference) have been declaring that the GOP’s chances were imperiled by fundraising woes and its cloddish RNC chairman. In fact, to anyone closely following conservative politics, it has been apparent that the plethora of third-party groups that have popped up in light of the RNC’s troubles have more than made up for the difference. The New York Times breaks the bad news to the Upper West Side:

Outside groups supporting Republican candidates in House and Senate races across the country have been swamping their Democratic-leaning counterparts on television since early August as the midterm election season has begun heating up.

Driving the disparity in the ad wars has been an array of Republican-oriented organizations that are set up so they can accept donations of unlimited size from individuals and corporations without having to disclose them. The situation raises the possibility that a relatively small cadre of deep-pocketed donors, unknown to the general public, is shaping the battle for Congress in the early going.

Democrats are said to be surprised and alarmed by this. But it was hardly a secret that Americans for Prosperity, Karl Rove’s American Crossroads, a newly invigorated Republican Governors Association, the Club for Growth, and a host of other groups have been raising gobs of cash. Now it’s apparent just how successful these groups have been:

In Senate races, Republican-leaning interest groups outspent Democratic-leaning ones on television $10.9 million to $1.3 million, from Aug. 1 to Sept. 8, according to Campaign Media Analysis Group, a company that tracks political advertising.

In the House, Republican-leaning groups outspent Democratic-leaning ones, $3.1 million to $1.5 million.

Or course Democrats have Big Labor as their piggy bank, but it’s not clear that Big Labor is going to the mat for the Democrats this cycle; after all, their millions in 2008 (hard and soft money) didn’t get them card check legislation.

The money gap tells us two things. First, just as Obama’s fundraising prowess in 2008 reflected an enthusiasm gap in the Democrats’ favor, the current GOP funding boom is evidence that now the Republicans are the ones pumped up. And second, this is yet another sign that the national political parties themselves are becoming less and less of a factor: they no longer influence candidate selection and are steadily being eclipsed by independent groups, which, no thanks to Sens. John McCain and Russ Feingold, remain free to exercise their core First Amendment rights.

Elites are fond of bemoaning the influence of money — yes, horrors! — in the political process. But what better sign of the health and vigor of our democratic process?

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Without Standards, It’s Hard to Tell Who Is a ‘Moderate’ Muslim

Bill McGurn observes that Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf didn’t exactly live up to his billing at the Council on Foreign Relations, whose president swooned over the imam’s “bridge building” credentials. Yeah, that is downright embarrassing when one considers the imam’s refusal to condemn Hamas, his incendiary plans to build on Ground Zero, and his past comments on 9/11. I suppose if you dummy down your standards enough, he can meet the chattering class’s definition of “moderate.” (The left is big on rewarding intentions, not so big on drawing lines or objectively assessing others on the results of their actions.)

McGurn doesn’t think that’s what we should be doing. Instead, he calls out Abdul Rauf (and by implication his spin squad) for mimicking liberals’ infatuation with moral relativism:

“The real battlefront, the real battle that we must wage together today,” he said, “is not between Muslims and non-Muslims. It is between moderates of all faith traditions against the extremists of all faith traditions.”

Now, the world has its share of Christian, Jewish, Hindu and other religious extremists. Sometimes that extremism leads to violence. At least in America, however, to compare this to the sustained, organized international war crimes planned and carried out by Islamic extremists beggars belief.

No one walks the streets of Manhattan fearing a Methodist may blow up his office, hijack his flight, or kill his son fighting in Afghanistan. Unless you are Angelina Jolie or the dean of Yale Law School, this is not only true but obvious.

Or unless you occupy the White House. Or write for the New York Times or the Daily Beast.

McGurn rightly concludes: “So where the Council on Foreign Relations may see in Imam Rauf the model of moderation, Americans may wonder whether a leader who cannot see what is uniquely threatening about Islamic extremism is the most effective spokesman for Muslim moderation.” It seems the rubes have a more finely tuned moral radar than do the condescending elites who are convinced the country is rife with bigotry.

While the liberal intelligentsia may be confused about what is a legal right and what is simply right – and between what is moderate and what is thinly veiled anti-Americanism — others are not. The much ridiculed George W. Bush was far more adept than is his successor and the liberal punditocracy at figuring out how to fight a war against Islamic jihadists without starting a domestic war against loyal American Muslims (or selling out truly moderate Muslims battling radicalism in the Middle East):

How different their approach (not to mention their results) is from that of George W. Bush, who could visit a mosque while the ruins of the Twin Towers were still smoldering, remind us that Muslim-Americans are free and equal citizens, and talk about how ordinary Muslim moms and dads wanted for their children what we want for ours. Maybe it had something to do with his being clear about the fight.

Or course this moral clarity is denigrated by the left as lacking “sophistication” or “nuance.” It is nothing of the sort. Unlike Obama and the 29 percent of New Yorkers who think the Ground Zero mosque is a dandy idea, Bush and the vast majority of Americans are not guilty of intellectual sloth. In one of the Bluest major cities in America, the citizenry has found it easy to spot a provocateur bent on heightening religious tensions rather than ameliorating them. Frankly, if CFR wanted a bridge builder, they should have invited Bush — or one of the 71 percent of New Yorkers who have figured out that Abdul Rauf is an exceedingly poor champion of reconciliation.

Bill McGurn observes that Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf didn’t exactly live up to his billing at the Council on Foreign Relations, whose president swooned over the imam’s “bridge building” credentials. Yeah, that is downright embarrassing when one considers the imam’s refusal to condemn Hamas, his incendiary plans to build on Ground Zero, and his past comments on 9/11. I suppose if you dummy down your standards enough, he can meet the chattering class’s definition of “moderate.” (The left is big on rewarding intentions, not so big on drawing lines or objectively assessing others on the results of their actions.)

McGurn doesn’t think that’s what we should be doing. Instead, he calls out Abdul Rauf (and by implication his spin squad) for mimicking liberals’ infatuation with moral relativism:

“The real battlefront, the real battle that we must wage together today,” he said, “is not between Muslims and non-Muslims. It is between moderates of all faith traditions against the extremists of all faith traditions.”

Now, the world has its share of Christian, Jewish, Hindu and other religious extremists. Sometimes that extremism leads to violence. At least in America, however, to compare this to the sustained, organized international war crimes planned and carried out by Islamic extremists beggars belief.

No one walks the streets of Manhattan fearing a Methodist may blow up his office, hijack his flight, or kill his son fighting in Afghanistan. Unless you are Angelina Jolie or the dean of Yale Law School, this is not only true but obvious.

Or unless you occupy the White House. Or write for the New York Times or the Daily Beast.

McGurn rightly concludes: “So where the Council on Foreign Relations may see in Imam Rauf the model of moderation, Americans may wonder whether a leader who cannot see what is uniquely threatening about Islamic extremism is the most effective spokesman for Muslim moderation.” It seems the rubes have a more finely tuned moral radar than do the condescending elites who are convinced the country is rife with bigotry.

While the liberal intelligentsia may be confused about what is a legal right and what is simply right – and between what is moderate and what is thinly veiled anti-Americanism — others are not. The much ridiculed George W. Bush was far more adept than is his successor and the liberal punditocracy at figuring out how to fight a war against Islamic jihadists without starting a domestic war against loyal American Muslims (or selling out truly moderate Muslims battling radicalism in the Middle East):

How different their approach (not to mention their results) is from that of George W. Bush, who could visit a mosque while the ruins of the Twin Towers were still smoldering, remind us that Muslim-Americans are free and equal citizens, and talk about how ordinary Muslim moms and dads wanted for their children what we want for ours. Maybe it had something to do with his being clear about the fight.

Or course this moral clarity is denigrated by the left as lacking “sophistication” or “nuance.” It is nothing of the sort. Unlike Obama and the 29 percent of New Yorkers who think the Ground Zero mosque is a dandy idea, Bush and the vast majority of Americans are not guilty of intellectual sloth. In one of the Bluest major cities in America, the citizenry has found it easy to spot a provocateur bent on heightening religious tensions rather than ameliorating them. Frankly, if CFR wanted a bridge builder, they should have invited Bush — or one of the 71 percent of New Yorkers who have figured out that Abdul Rauf is an exceedingly poor champion of reconciliation.

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A Costly Error for the GOP?

Charles Krauthammer doesn’t mince words (when does he ever?) on the endorsement of Christine O’Donnell. He calls the decision to back the Tea Party darling (who has a boatload of  vulnerabilities) “destructive, capricious and irresponsible” and that if she wins it “could be the difference between Republican and Democratic control.” As he puts it, “Delaware is not Alaska.”

In some cases, the Tea Party activists and their endorsers have dodged a bullet. In Kentucky, Rand Paul is now comfortably ahead, no thanks to his own gaffes and erratic performance. But in states that aren’t traditionally Red, even in a wave election year, it’s important to select competent, electable candidates if the party’s goal is to maximize its numbers.

As I have pointed out in the past, 51 seats doesn’t necessarily give one “control” of the Senate. But, as one smart GOP operative told me, “It would be a disaster — literally throwing a seat away and potentially a shot at the majority.” On the other hand, it might be a valuable lesson for the GOP to learn about the importance of candidate selection.

Charles Krauthammer doesn’t mince words (when does he ever?) on the endorsement of Christine O’Donnell. He calls the decision to back the Tea Party darling (who has a boatload of  vulnerabilities) “destructive, capricious and irresponsible” and that if she wins it “could be the difference between Republican and Democratic control.” As he puts it, “Delaware is not Alaska.”

In some cases, the Tea Party activists and their endorsers have dodged a bullet. In Kentucky, Rand Paul is now comfortably ahead, no thanks to his own gaffes and erratic performance. But in states that aren’t traditionally Red, even in a wave election year, it’s important to select competent, electable candidates if the party’s goal is to maximize its numbers.

As I have pointed out in the past, 51 seats doesn’t necessarily give one “control” of the Senate. But, as one smart GOP operative told me, “It would be a disaster — literally throwing a seat away and potentially a shot at the majority.” On the other hand, it might be a valuable lesson for the GOP to learn about the importance of candidate selection.

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Lending the GOP a Helping Hand

It’s becoming apparent that Obama’s latest economic plan has not won over even his own party. The latest Democrat to ditch the president is Sen. Ben Nelson, who is hinting he’d join a filibuster:

“It would be very hard for me to support that,” Nelson told reporters outside the Senate chamber before a vote this evening.

The list is growing:

“I don’t think we ought to be drawing a distinction at $250K,” Sen. Jim Webb (D-Va.) told Fox News.

Separately, Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.), who caucuses with Democrats, also expressed strong support for temporarily extending all of the tax cuts to aid the economic recovery.

“I don’t think it makes sense to raise any federal taxes during the uncertain economy we are struggling through,” he said. “The more money we leave in private hands, the quicker our economic recovery will be.”

In the House, several rank-and-file Democrats are urging their leaders to back an extension of all of the tax cuts. Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) has staked out the same position as Obama, that tax cuts should only be extended for the middle class.

“Given the continued fragility of our economy and slow pace of recovery, we share their concerns,” stated a draft letter being circulated by Rep. Gary Peters (D-Mich.) and other Democrats.

Democratic Sens. Ben Nelson (Neb.), Kent Conrad (N.D.), and Evan Bayh (Ind.) previously have questioned the wisdom of raising taxes during one of the roughest recessions on record.

One wonders exactly what the White House had in mind when they tossed this out. Did the brain trust imagine they could successfully play the class-warfare game as the economy is sinking into the abyss? Did they not understand that they have asked their congressional allies to walk the plank one too many times?

Rather than provide a rallying cry for his party, Obama has tossed yet another grenade into his own ranks. He certainly is the GOP’s greatest asset this election cycle.

It’s becoming apparent that Obama’s latest economic plan has not won over even his own party. The latest Democrat to ditch the president is Sen. Ben Nelson, who is hinting he’d join a filibuster:

“It would be very hard for me to support that,” Nelson told reporters outside the Senate chamber before a vote this evening.

The list is growing:

“I don’t think we ought to be drawing a distinction at $250K,” Sen. Jim Webb (D-Va.) told Fox News.

Separately, Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.), who caucuses with Democrats, also expressed strong support for temporarily extending all of the tax cuts to aid the economic recovery.

“I don’t think it makes sense to raise any federal taxes during the uncertain economy we are struggling through,” he said. “The more money we leave in private hands, the quicker our economic recovery will be.”

In the House, several rank-and-file Democrats are urging their leaders to back an extension of all of the tax cuts. Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) has staked out the same position as Obama, that tax cuts should only be extended for the middle class.

“Given the continued fragility of our economy and slow pace of recovery, we share their concerns,” stated a draft letter being circulated by Rep. Gary Peters (D-Mich.) and other Democrats.

Democratic Sens. Ben Nelson (Neb.), Kent Conrad (N.D.), and Evan Bayh (Ind.) previously have questioned the wisdom of raising taxes during one of the roughest recessions on record.

One wonders exactly what the White House had in mind when they tossed this out. Did the brain trust imagine they could successfully play the class-warfare game as the economy is sinking into the abyss? Did they not understand that they have asked their congressional allies to walk the plank one too many times?

Rather than provide a rallying cry for his party, Obama has tossed yet another grenade into his own ranks. He certainly is the GOP’s greatest asset this election cycle.

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Whitman Skewers Brown

I don’t often agree with Mark Halperin’s political take, which is often indistinguishable from the Democratic talking points of the day. But it’s hard to quibble with his observation that the Meg Whitman ad using Bill Clinton to skewer Jerry Brown’s tax record as governor is “probably the best TV spot by any campaign all cycle.” It does three things that a devastating political ad must do.

First, it uses a well-known figure not obviously aligned with the candidate to attack her opponent (i.e., get a credible, independent critic). Second, it drills down on an issue central to the campaign (taxes) while also hitting the opponent on character. And finally, it’s not an obvious out-of-context clip. By allowing Clinton to speak at length (he was a fast talker!), Whitman avoids the charge that her ad is a “hatchet” job.

And sure enough, Whitman has Brown running in circles, forcing him to apologize to Clinton (whom Brown attacked when the ad was released).

Some observers questioned Whitman’s street smarts and political skill when the eBay CEO announced her run. She has shown, unlike her opponent (whose fondness for Nazi analogies got him in hot water earlier in the race), that she knows how to handle herself and tie her opponent in knots. The race remains close, but if this keeps up, California will get to test the proposition that government should be run more like a business. A successful one, we hope.

I don’t often agree with Mark Halperin’s political take, which is often indistinguishable from the Democratic talking points of the day. But it’s hard to quibble with his observation that the Meg Whitman ad using Bill Clinton to skewer Jerry Brown’s tax record as governor is “probably the best TV spot by any campaign all cycle.” It does three things that a devastating political ad must do.

First, it uses a well-known figure not obviously aligned with the candidate to attack her opponent (i.e., get a credible, independent critic). Second, it drills down on an issue central to the campaign (taxes) while also hitting the opponent on character. And finally, it’s not an obvious out-of-context clip. By allowing Clinton to speak at length (he was a fast talker!), Whitman avoids the charge that her ad is a “hatchet” job.

And sure enough, Whitman has Brown running in circles, forcing him to apologize to Clinton (whom Brown attacked when the ad was released).

Some observers questioned Whitman’s street smarts and political skill when the eBay CEO announced her run. She has shown, unlike her opponent (whose fondness for Nazi analogies got him in hot water earlier in the race), that she knows how to handle herself and tie her opponent in knots. The race remains close, but if this keeps up, California will get to test the proposition that government should be run more like a business. A successful one, we hope.

Read Less




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