Commentary Magazine


Posts For: September 15, 2010

The GOP Supports Christine O’Donnell

John Cornyn, head of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, came out in support of GOP candidate Christine O’Donnell. His statement can be found here.

This was a smart thing for Senator Cornyn to do. Here’s the reason: whatever one felt about the O’Donnell-Castle contest, it is now over. And if the NRSC was seen to be indifferent to O’Donnell’s fate, or as actively undermining her, it would have been terrible destructive to the Republican Party. It would have been viewed as a virtual declaration of war by some conservatives and Tea Party activists.

In the wake of the O’Donnell upset, some Republicans will be tempted to turn on the Tea Party movement; others will amplify their existing concerns and criticisms. Bill Kristol’s observations are worth bearing in mind in this regard. Bill opposed O’Donnell — but he makes this salient point:

Tea Party activism, enthusiasm and, yes, rebelliousness have been, on net, a very good thing for the GOP. Now in politics as in life, there can be, on occasions, too much of a good thing. Thus Delaware. But it’s still much, much better to be the party to which independents and new voters are flocking, and in which activists are energized, than not. And it’s better for the GOP, as the out party, that the anti-establishment and anti-incumbent wave is still building (which it clearly is) rather than ebbing. A year ago, the liberal media hoped tea partiers were going to generate suicidal third-party challenges, scare off independents from the Republicans, and generally destroy the Republican party. It turns out they’ve probably cost the GOP one Senate seat on the way to a huge off-year election victory. It’s a small price to pay.

In 2008, obituaries were being written about the GOP. In just 20 months, it has engineered a remarkable political comeback. The Tea Party movement is responsible for much, though certainly not all, of that success. But the Tea Party movement clearly does not view itself as an adjunct of any political party; it prides itself on its independence and its outsider status. Many of its members are deeply distrustful of the political establishment — including the Republican Party. Those concerns were exacerbated by the O’Donnell-Castle contest, which got quite nasty near the end. Senator Cornyn understood that if that breach wasn’t healed, and soon, the GOP would pay a high price. Which explains why last night’s reports that the NRSC would abandon Christine O’Donnell turned into a warm embrace this morning.

John Cornyn, head of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, came out in support of GOP candidate Christine O’Donnell. His statement can be found here.

This was a smart thing for Senator Cornyn to do. Here’s the reason: whatever one felt about the O’Donnell-Castle contest, it is now over. And if the NRSC was seen to be indifferent to O’Donnell’s fate, or as actively undermining her, it would have been terrible destructive to the Republican Party. It would have been viewed as a virtual declaration of war by some conservatives and Tea Party activists.

In the wake of the O’Donnell upset, some Republicans will be tempted to turn on the Tea Party movement; others will amplify their existing concerns and criticisms. Bill Kristol’s observations are worth bearing in mind in this regard. Bill opposed O’Donnell — but he makes this salient point:

Tea Party activism, enthusiasm and, yes, rebelliousness have been, on net, a very good thing for the GOP. Now in politics as in life, there can be, on occasions, too much of a good thing. Thus Delaware. But it’s still much, much better to be the party to which independents and new voters are flocking, and in which activists are energized, than not. And it’s better for the GOP, as the out party, that the anti-establishment and anti-incumbent wave is still building (which it clearly is) rather than ebbing. A year ago, the liberal media hoped tea partiers were going to generate suicidal third-party challenges, scare off independents from the Republicans, and generally destroy the Republican party. It turns out they’ve probably cost the GOP one Senate seat on the way to a huge off-year election victory. It’s a small price to pay.

In 2008, obituaries were being written about the GOP. In just 20 months, it has engineered a remarkable political comeback. The Tea Party movement is responsible for much, though certainly not all, of that success. But the Tea Party movement clearly does not view itself as an adjunct of any political party; it prides itself on its independence and its outsider status. Many of its members are deeply distrustful of the political establishment — including the Republican Party. Those concerns were exacerbated by the O’Donnell-Castle contest, which got quite nasty near the end. Senator Cornyn understood that if that breach wasn’t healed, and soon, the GOP would pay a high price. Which explains why last night’s reports that the NRSC would abandon Christine O’Donnell turned into a warm embrace this morning.

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Shining Light on the Israel-Haters

The Jew-haters among the European elite (yes, there’s quite a bit of overlap there) are pitching a fit. Why? Israel is moving ahead with a measure to force NGOs to be more transparent. Nervous that anti-Zionist groups will be unmasked as pawns of anti-Israel figures in European governments, the European Parliament “devoted [a session] to attacking a Knesset bill that seeks greater transparency regarding foreign governmental funding of NGOs operating in Israel.” There is reason for the members of Parliament to freak out:

Gerald Steinberg, the head of Jerusalembased NGO Monitor, told the Jerusalem Post on Tuesday that the session “was led by a small group of MEPs who work closely with the NGOs involved in the demonization of Israel.”

German Alexandra Thein, one of the European Parliament members who submitted the motion to debate the Knesset bill represents the Group of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe, and is a member of the Free Democratic Party (FDP). Thein, who is married to an Israeli- Arab, visited the Gaza Strip last January and met with Hamas legislators along with 49 other MEPs.

At one point her party’s Web site contained a link to the European Campaign to End the Siege on Gaza group. On her own Web site, Thein has a section called “Focus Palestine,” and posts notices about Israeli acts of “land discrimination.”

Steinberg also took time out to blast Human Rights Watch and its founder George Soros (who also provided the seed money for J Street) :

Steinberg said that “HRW claims to be ‘even-handed’ and to publish ‘credible reports,’ but this is contradicted by highly biased activities in the Middle East, particularly on the Arab-Israeli conflict.

“Time and again, HRW reports on Israel are based on false or unverifiable claims, and the analysis strips away the context of the conflict, denying Israelis the right to self-defense. George Soros has supported this travesty,” he said.

Well, the Knesset certainly hit a nerve, revealing once again that the political and social ostracism which kept anti-Semitism under wraps in the post-Holocaust years has vanished. It’s about time some light was shed on those who fund the demonization of Israel from the cafes and salons of European capitals.

The Jew-haters among the European elite (yes, there’s quite a bit of overlap there) are pitching a fit. Why? Israel is moving ahead with a measure to force NGOs to be more transparent. Nervous that anti-Zionist groups will be unmasked as pawns of anti-Israel figures in European governments, the European Parliament “devoted [a session] to attacking a Knesset bill that seeks greater transparency regarding foreign governmental funding of NGOs operating in Israel.” There is reason for the members of Parliament to freak out:

Gerald Steinberg, the head of Jerusalembased NGO Monitor, told the Jerusalem Post on Tuesday that the session “was led by a small group of MEPs who work closely with the NGOs involved in the demonization of Israel.”

German Alexandra Thein, one of the European Parliament members who submitted the motion to debate the Knesset bill represents the Group of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe, and is a member of the Free Democratic Party (FDP). Thein, who is married to an Israeli- Arab, visited the Gaza Strip last January and met with Hamas legislators along with 49 other MEPs.

At one point her party’s Web site contained a link to the European Campaign to End the Siege on Gaza group. On her own Web site, Thein has a section called “Focus Palestine,” and posts notices about Israeli acts of “land discrimination.”

Steinberg also took time out to blast Human Rights Watch and its founder George Soros (who also provided the seed money for J Street) :

Steinberg said that “HRW claims to be ‘even-handed’ and to publish ‘credible reports,’ but this is contradicted by highly biased activities in the Middle East, particularly on the Arab-Israeli conflict.

“Time and again, HRW reports on Israel are based on false or unverifiable claims, and the analysis strips away the context of the conflict, denying Israelis the right to self-defense. George Soros has supported this travesty,” he said.

Well, the Knesset certainly hit a nerve, revealing once again that the political and social ostracism which kept anti-Semitism under wraps in the post-Holocaust years has vanished. It’s about time some light was shed on those who fund the demonization of Israel from the cafes and salons of European capitals.

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True Friends of Israel

As we have noted, a new organization, the Friends of Israel Initiative, headed by former Spanish prime minister José María Aznar has been formed to combat efforts to delegitimize Israel and to make the positive case for why Israel is critical to the West. In a remarkable speech that should be read in full, Aznar explained:

Israel is under a new kind of attack. Not conventional war as in 1948, 56, 67 or 73. Not terrorism as we saw in the 70s, 80s and 90s. But a new kind of attack — an attack on Israel’s legitimacy, on her right to exist. A “soft-war,” where many of its adversaries are employing legal tricks, multinational bodies, and an army of dubious NGO’s to present internationally Israel as an illegitimate state, as a barbarian State, a State that should be isolated and converted into a pariah State.

We think this is intolerable. It is unjust, morally wrong, and a strategic risk — not only for Israel and its people — but for all of us. Israel is an integral part of the West, and the weaker it is, the weaker the entire West will be perceived to be.

He succinctly explains why we cannot let Israel — in other words, the Zionist undertaking — fail:

We want to stand up for the right of Israel to exist. Judeo-Christian values form the roots of our civilization. Delegitimizing Israel undermines our identity, warps our values and put at risk what we are and who we are.

So, dear friends, it is not only the threat that if Israel goes down, which, make no mistake, many of its enemies would like to see happen, we all go down. It is that letting Israel be demonized will lead to the delegitimation of our own cherished values. If Israel were to disappear by the force of its enemies, I sincerely doubt the West could remain as we know it.

That is the case that is too infrequently made. The Obami posit, in essence, that we are doing Israel a favor by offering our support, at great risk to ourselves. In fact, not only is Israel a valued ally, but the Jewish state is also crucial to us.

Perhaps Congress, becoming more daring in its defiance of a failing presidency, can help in this regard. In Congress, Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.)  and Rep. Albio Sires (D-N.J.) have introduced a resolution H.Con Res. 315:

“Recognizing the formation and supporting the objectives of the Friends of Israel Initiative.” It calls on Congress to recognize the formation of the Initiative, to affirm its goals as laid down in its mission statement as well as reaffirming Congress’s “enduring bipartisan support” for the US-Israeli relationship and for Israel’s right to exist as a secure and democratic Jewish state.

Sadly, this is very much needed because we have an administration that takes for granted — or abuses — our democratic ally. Caterwauling over a nonexistent wave of Islamophobia has distracted and befuddled the media (more so than usual). It is critical to redirect the public discussion and remind governments and their citizens what Israel stands for, why our relationship is essential, and why the notion of distancing ourselves from the Jewish state essentially means divorcing ourselves from the values at the core of Western civilization. The Friends of Israel couldn’t have stepped forward at a more opportune moment.

As we have noted, a new organization, the Friends of Israel Initiative, headed by former Spanish prime minister José María Aznar has been formed to combat efforts to delegitimize Israel and to make the positive case for why Israel is critical to the West. In a remarkable speech that should be read in full, Aznar explained:

Israel is under a new kind of attack. Not conventional war as in 1948, 56, 67 or 73. Not terrorism as we saw in the 70s, 80s and 90s. But a new kind of attack — an attack on Israel’s legitimacy, on her right to exist. A “soft-war,” where many of its adversaries are employing legal tricks, multinational bodies, and an army of dubious NGO’s to present internationally Israel as an illegitimate state, as a barbarian State, a State that should be isolated and converted into a pariah State.

We think this is intolerable. It is unjust, morally wrong, and a strategic risk — not only for Israel and its people — but for all of us. Israel is an integral part of the West, and the weaker it is, the weaker the entire West will be perceived to be.

He succinctly explains why we cannot let Israel — in other words, the Zionist undertaking — fail:

We want to stand up for the right of Israel to exist. Judeo-Christian values form the roots of our civilization. Delegitimizing Israel undermines our identity, warps our values and put at risk what we are and who we are.

So, dear friends, it is not only the threat that if Israel goes down, which, make no mistake, many of its enemies would like to see happen, we all go down. It is that letting Israel be demonized will lead to the delegitimation of our own cherished values. If Israel were to disappear by the force of its enemies, I sincerely doubt the West could remain as we know it.

That is the case that is too infrequently made. The Obami posit, in essence, that we are doing Israel a favor by offering our support, at great risk to ourselves. In fact, not only is Israel a valued ally, but the Jewish state is also crucial to us.

Perhaps Congress, becoming more daring in its defiance of a failing presidency, can help in this regard. In Congress, Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.)  and Rep. Albio Sires (D-N.J.) have introduced a resolution H.Con Res. 315:

“Recognizing the formation and supporting the objectives of the Friends of Israel Initiative.” It calls on Congress to recognize the formation of the Initiative, to affirm its goals as laid down in its mission statement as well as reaffirming Congress’s “enduring bipartisan support” for the US-Israeli relationship and for Israel’s right to exist as a secure and democratic Jewish state.

Sadly, this is very much needed because we have an administration that takes for granted — or abuses — our democratic ally. Caterwauling over a nonexistent wave of Islamophobia has distracted and befuddled the media (more so than usual). It is critical to redirect the public discussion and remind governments and their citizens what Israel stands for, why our relationship is essential, and why the notion of distancing ourselves from the Jewish state essentially means divorcing ourselves from the values at the core of Western civilization. The Friends of Israel couldn’t have stepped forward at a more opportune moment.

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The War Over COIN

In certain U.S. military circles, there has been a backlash against “COIN”– the acronym for counterinsurgency operations. This is a strategy for fighting guerrillas and terrorists, which has evolved over centuries and was last a focus of U.S. military study in the Vietnam War. Then in the 1970s it was discarded in a mental rubbish bin, only to be revived and updated midway through the Iraq War, when it became apparent that conventional, firepower-intensive ways of war were not going to defeat elusive insurgents. The key moment was the publication at the end of 2007 of the U.S. Army/Marine Corps Counterinsurgency Manual — the first manual on the subject produced for the general forces in decades. Shortly after it came out, one of its authors, General David Petraeus, was dispatched to Iraq to oversee the surge. The rest, as they say, is history.

Iraq seems to have validated many of the tenets of COIN theory, and Petraeus is now applying them to Afghanistan. A good summary of current COIN thinking can be found in Petraeus’s “Counterinsurgency Guidance,” which advises his troopers, inter alia, to “secure and serve the population,” “live among the people,” and “consult and build relationships.” All this sounds like common sense except that it runs counter to conventional military thinking, which calls for large forces to sweep through insurgent areas, killing lots of bad guys in the hope of defeating the insurgency. COIN theory is centered not on merely killing bad guys but on identifying them, which can only be done with the help of the populace.

No matter how many times these lessons are validated in battle, they have their critics in the conventional military, who argue that today the U.S. Army and Marine Corps, in particular, have put too much emphasis on COIN and not enough on conventional missions such as armored warfare or amphibious landings. They fret that by getting ready for COIN — a particularly thankless and difficult task — the military will be asked to do more of it, and they don’t think that’s in our national interest.

Nadia Schadlow, a leading security scholar and a senior program officer at the Smith Richardson Foundation (which, full disclosure, has provided some funding for my work), has now penned a compelling critique of the anti-COIN arguments in the Armed Forces Journal. The whole essay is well worth reading.

Schadlow argues that guerrilla warfare and terrorism are “recurring” forms of warfare and to prepare for them is the best way to ensure that adversaries will be deterred from attacking us. She also counters the argument that the army has become too COIN-centric, writing that “the Army’s overall approach over the past several years has been to build and train a force capable of fighting across the full spectrum of operations.”

She concludes:

The current COIN doctrine emerged as a corrective to the American tendency to take an engineering or technological approach to war, one that divorces war from its enduring human, psychological and political nature. COIN doctrine, therefore, fills an important gap by identifying operational and tactical requirements that are a part of war — particularly those wars that involve insurgents who are fighting to undermine legitimate governments and establish control over populations or territory.

This is a debate well worth having; no military force should subscribe exclusively to one worldview or orthodoxy. But in the continuing debate over COIN doctrine, count me on Schadlow’s side — we’d better get ready for these types of conflicts because guerrillas and terrorists aren’t going away.

In certain U.S. military circles, there has been a backlash against “COIN”– the acronym for counterinsurgency operations. This is a strategy for fighting guerrillas and terrorists, which has evolved over centuries and was last a focus of U.S. military study in the Vietnam War. Then in the 1970s it was discarded in a mental rubbish bin, only to be revived and updated midway through the Iraq War, when it became apparent that conventional, firepower-intensive ways of war were not going to defeat elusive insurgents. The key moment was the publication at the end of 2007 of the U.S. Army/Marine Corps Counterinsurgency Manual — the first manual on the subject produced for the general forces in decades. Shortly after it came out, one of its authors, General David Petraeus, was dispatched to Iraq to oversee the surge. The rest, as they say, is history.

Iraq seems to have validated many of the tenets of COIN theory, and Petraeus is now applying them to Afghanistan. A good summary of current COIN thinking can be found in Petraeus’s “Counterinsurgency Guidance,” which advises his troopers, inter alia, to “secure and serve the population,” “live among the people,” and “consult and build relationships.” All this sounds like common sense except that it runs counter to conventional military thinking, which calls for large forces to sweep through insurgent areas, killing lots of bad guys in the hope of defeating the insurgency. COIN theory is centered not on merely killing bad guys but on identifying them, which can only be done with the help of the populace.

No matter how many times these lessons are validated in battle, they have their critics in the conventional military, who argue that today the U.S. Army and Marine Corps, in particular, have put too much emphasis on COIN and not enough on conventional missions such as armored warfare or amphibious landings. They fret that by getting ready for COIN — a particularly thankless and difficult task — the military will be asked to do more of it, and they don’t think that’s in our national interest.

Nadia Schadlow, a leading security scholar and a senior program officer at the Smith Richardson Foundation (which, full disclosure, has provided some funding for my work), has now penned a compelling critique of the anti-COIN arguments in the Armed Forces Journal. The whole essay is well worth reading.

Schadlow argues that guerrilla warfare and terrorism are “recurring” forms of warfare and to prepare for them is the best way to ensure that adversaries will be deterred from attacking us. She also counters the argument that the army has become too COIN-centric, writing that “the Army’s overall approach over the past several years has been to build and train a force capable of fighting across the full spectrum of operations.”

She concludes:

The current COIN doctrine emerged as a corrective to the American tendency to take an engineering or technological approach to war, one that divorces war from its enduring human, psychological and political nature. COIN doctrine, therefore, fills an important gap by identifying operational and tactical requirements that are a part of war — particularly those wars that involve insurgents who are fighting to undermine legitimate governments and establish control over populations or territory.

This is a debate well worth having; no military force should subscribe exclusively to one worldview or orthodoxy. But in the continuing debate over COIN doctrine, count me on Schadlow’s side — we’d better get ready for these types of conflicts because guerrillas and terrorists aren’t going away.

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Trouble in VA-11

My congressman in the Virginia 11th district, Gerry Connolly, is having a tough time with the White House. TPM reports:

Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-VA) told TPM pointedly he wants at least a temporary extension, saying that he’s on the same page as former OMB director Peter Orszag. He said it “could do some harm” if the tax rates go up when the tax cuts expire as scheduled.

I told Connolly that the White House cited his support for extending the cuts temporarily as a wrinkle in their big plans. “They said that? I sure don’t want to complicate anything for anybody,” he told me.

He added, “A strong majority of the caucus is of the point of view to keep them for $250,000 and under, and they will stay there. Ours is the minority view, even though we’re gaining some.”

Connolly is in a jam. He’s blindly followed Obama on his leftward quest, eschewing the middle-of-the-road and pro-business line that kept Republican Tom Davis in office for 14 years. Now he is struggling with his leadership and the White House, which seems to think it’s not all that important that the Democrats hang on in VA-11.

What is Connolly’s message now — “I have no influence with my far-left leaders, but my heart is in the right place?” And what’s his excuse for not fighting them on cap-and-trade, the stimulus plan, and ObamaCare? You can see why the district is in play.

My congressman in the Virginia 11th district, Gerry Connolly, is having a tough time with the White House. TPM reports:

Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-VA) told TPM pointedly he wants at least a temporary extension, saying that he’s on the same page as former OMB director Peter Orszag. He said it “could do some harm” if the tax rates go up when the tax cuts expire as scheduled.

I told Connolly that the White House cited his support for extending the cuts temporarily as a wrinkle in their big plans. “They said that? I sure don’t want to complicate anything for anybody,” he told me.

He added, “A strong majority of the caucus is of the point of view to keep them for $250,000 and under, and they will stay there. Ours is the minority view, even though we’re gaining some.”

Connolly is in a jam. He’s blindly followed Obama on his leftward quest, eschewing the middle-of-the-road and pro-business line that kept Republican Tom Davis in office for 14 years. Now he is struggling with his leadership and the White House, which seems to think it’s not all that important that the Democrats hang on in VA-11.

What is Connolly’s message now — “I have no influence with my far-left leaders, but my heart is in the right place?” And what’s his excuse for not fighting them on cap-and-trade, the stimulus plan, and ObamaCare? You can see why the district is in play.

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Death Talks

While Bibi and Mahmoud Abbas are chatting (primarily to George Mitchell), largely for the sake of Obama’s ego, Israelis are being killed and more will be, as this report makes clear:

Terrorist activity directed against Israel will likely increase as the peace process advances, Shin Bet Chief Yuval Diskin warned the cabinet . …

During his briefing, the head of the internal security service said terror activity initiated in Gaza by Hamas’ armed wing, Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades, is premised on people who have been released from Israeli prisons and are taking orders from jailed terrorists. …

The Shin Bet chief told the ministers that as long as the diplomatic process advances, attempts to carry out terror attacks will increase. According to Diskin, the past three years have seen a drop in terror-related incidents. However, he said, “It is estimated that this period (of relative calm) may be coming to an end due to the peace talks.”

A couple of points are worth noting. First, when Obama and others chide Israel for not appreciating the need to take “risks for peace,” they show both arrogance and ignorance. Israel pays a very heavy price for the microscopic chance of getting something out of the talks. I would submit that there is no other country on the planet that would make the same calculation as Israel.

Second, Jewish leaders have largely sat by passively as the Obami and the mainstream media have set up the narrative: “Will Israel doom talks by lifting the moratorium?” This is a grave strategic error by Israel’s supporters. Israel didn’t walk out of talks when Abbas proved himself unable to provide security in areas under his control. The murders of Israelis are deemed a “distraction.” But Israel, with no hope in sight of a deal, declines to perpetuate a noxious idea — that there are areas in which Jews should not be living — and faces the world’s wrath. Pro-Israel groups would do well to start re-framing the debate: Why isn’t Abbas living up to his obligations and taking risks for peace?

Time magazine proffered the obnoxious suggestion that Israel isn’t interested in peace. The real question is: If Palestinians are, why are they still killing Jews? And if the answer is “the other Palestinians” — Hamas — are doing the killing, then we should acknowledge that Abbas is unable or unwilling to make and enforce a peace deal. And speaking of Time, I eagerly await the cover story showing the economic miracle of the West Bank,  with all the new shops and modern buildings, questioning why Palestinians care more about money than about peace.

While Bibi and Mahmoud Abbas are chatting (primarily to George Mitchell), largely for the sake of Obama’s ego, Israelis are being killed and more will be, as this report makes clear:

Terrorist activity directed against Israel will likely increase as the peace process advances, Shin Bet Chief Yuval Diskin warned the cabinet . …

During his briefing, the head of the internal security service said terror activity initiated in Gaza by Hamas’ armed wing, Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades, is premised on people who have been released from Israeli prisons and are taking orders from jailed terrorists. …

The Shin Bet chief told the ministers that as long as the diplomatic process advances, attempts to carry out terror attacks will increase. According to Diskin, the past three years have seen a drop in terror-related incidents. However, he said, “It is estimated that this period (of relative calm) may be coming to an end due to the peace talks.”

A couple of points are worth noting. First, when Obama and others chide Israel for not appreciating the need to take “risks for peace,” they show both arrogance and ignorance. Israel pays a very heavy price for the microscopic chance of getting something out of the talks. I would submit that there is no other country on the planet that would make the same calculation as Israel.

Second, Jewish leaders have largely sat by passively as the Obami and the mainstream media have set up the narrative: “Will Israel doom talks by lifting the moratorium?” This is a grave strategic error by Israel’s supporters. Israel didn’t walk out of talks when Abbas proved himself unable to provide security in areas under his control. The murders of Israelis are deemed a “distraction.” But Israel, with no hope in sight of a deal, declines to perpetuate a noxious idea — that there are areas in which Jews should not be living — and faces the world’s wrath. Pro-Israel groups would do well to start re-framing the debate: Why isn’t Abbas living up to his obligations and taking risks for peace?

Time magazine proffered the obnoxious suggestion that Israel isn’t interested in peace. The real question is: If Palestinians are, why are they still killing Jews? And if the answer is “the other Palestinians” — Hamas — are doing the killing, then we should acknowledge that Abbas is unable or unwilling to make and enforce a peace deal. And speaking of Time, I eagerly await the cover story showing the economic miracle of the West Bank,  with all the new shops and modern buildings, questioning why Palestinians care more about money than about peace.

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RE: A Whole Lot Harder

Charlie Cook (subscription required) wastes no time:

Marketing consultant Christine O’Donnell’s upset of Rep. Mike Castle in last night’s Republican primary puts this open seat, which should have been an easy pick up for the GOP, out of their reach. While the primary provided Democrats with enough fodder to bury O’Donnell, from her personal finances to dubious claims she made in a lawsuit against a former employer, the reality is that Delaware is a Democratic-leaning state where Democrats have a 17-point advantage over Republicans in voter registration. Democrats also have a strong candidate in New Castle County Executive Chris Coons, who saw his fortunes turn 180 degrees over the course of a few hours last night.

National Republicans harbor no delusions that they can make O’Donnell a viable candidate, issuing a terse one-sentence statement from National Republican Senatorial Committee Executive Director Rob Jesmer congratulating O’Donnell on her win. It is clear that the NRSC has no intention of playing in Delaware and will put their resources into more winnable races.

The Tea Party’s enthusiasm has contributed to wins by figures like Scott Brown, a candidate who is about as conservative as you can get and still be viable in Massachusetts. Success in electoral politics is not measured by whether you win primaries but rather by your track record in the general election. The former shows you are an influence in the party; the latter that you are a positive influence. When better candidates who are equally or more viable in the general race are substituted for worse ones (e.g., Joe Miller for Lisa Murkowski), that is something to crow about. But simply getting a sliver of your own base very excited at the expense of a broader appeal is nothing to be proud of — unless the point is to annoy the Republican establishment, not to win elections and influence the country’s agenda.

In November we’ll see whether Sharon Angle, Christine O’Donnell, Rand Paul, and Joe Miller are a new group of fresh, conservative guns or footnotes in history. I suspect the results will be mixed, as is the Tea Party’s blessing.

Charlie Cook (subscription required) wastes no time:

Marketing consultant Christine O’Donnell’s upset of Rep. Mike Castle in last night’s Republican primary puts this open seat, which should have been an easy pick up for the GOP, out of their reach. While the primary provided Democrats with enough fodder to bury O’Donnell, from her personal finances to dubious claims she made in a lawsuit against a former employer, the reality is that Delaware is a Democratic-leaning state where Democrats have a 17-point advantage over Republicans in voter registration. Democrats also have a strong candidate in New Castle County Executive Chris Coons, who saw his fortunes turn 180 degrees over the course of a few hours last night.

National Republicans harbor no delusions that they can make O’Donnell a viable candidate, issuing a terse one-sentence statement from National Republican Senatorial Committee Executive Director Rob Jesmer congratulating O’Donnell on her win. It is clear that the NRSC has no intention of playing in Delaware and will put their resources into more winnable races.

The Tea Party’s enthusiasm has contributed to wins by figures like Scott Brown, a candidate who is about as conservative as you can get and still be viable in Massachusetts. Success in electoral politics is not measured by whether you win primaries but rather by your track record in the general election. The former shows you are an influence in the party; the latter that you are a positive influence. When better candidates who are equally or more viable in the general race are substituted for worse ones (e.g., Joe Miller for Lisa Murkowski), that is something to crow about. But simply getting a sliver of your own base very excited at the expense of a broader appeal is nothing to be proud of — unless the point is to annoy the Republican establishment, not to win elections and influence the country’s agenda.

In November we’ll see whether Sharon Angle, Christine O’Donnell, Rand Paul, and Joe Miller are a new group of fresh, conservative guns or footnotes in history. I suspect the results will be mixed, as is the Tea Party’s blessing.

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Going-Out-of-Business Sale in the Senate

Despite their tendency to make life more difficult for themselves, Republicans will enjoy greater numbers in the U.S. Senate after November. So Obama and Harry Reid are in essence having a going-out-of-business sale. In Reid’s case, he may actually be out of a job, but in any event, he’s not going to enjoy a hefty majority to pass major pieces of the liberal agenda.

Hence, Obama is threatening to install the new consumer protection agency head by recess appointment. And Carl Levin is junking up the defense authorization bill:

Last year, Senate Armed Services Committee chairman Carl Levin (D-MI), to the chagrin of Republicans, successfully added language expanding protections from hate crimes. This year, Democrats are expected to attempt to add the “American Dream Act,” a bill that would provide a path to U.S. citizenship for illegal immigrant students, to the defense authorization bill. …

What is unprecedented, however, is that the bill could come to the Senate floor without the support of the committee’s top Republican, John McCain (R-AZ).McCain adamantly opposes the bill because it contains language that could lead to the repeal of the military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy, which bans homosexuals from serving openly in the military.

“It authorizes the repeal of DADT before the study is completed,” McCain told a gaggle of reporters in the Capitol Monday, referring to the Defense Department’s ongoing analysis of the impacts of a policy change.

Reid is also bent on staging a vote on taxes, despite the angst it is causing his caucus. As this report explains:

During the Democrats’ weekly caucus, a majority held there were greater risks associated with inaction, because that would give Republicans an opportunity to accuse Democrats of raising taxes across the board, Mr. Casey said. But a minority of Senate Democrats would prefer not to take a vote before the elections, Mr. Casey said. Some worry about being tagged with raising any taxes, even the top marginal rates.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada said he plans to hold a vote “before we leave” in a few weeks, but he didn’t promise he has the votes. “I hope so,” he said. “I think it would certainly be the right thing to do, and only one way of finding out, and that’s take a vote on it.”

Illustrating the tough sledding ahead in the Senate, Sen. Ben Nelson (D., Neb.), who wants to extend the tax cuts for everyone, didn’t back off his position Tuesday. “I favor extending all of the Bush tax cuts, every one of them,” he said.

I’m not sure which is worse for Reid — demonstrating his ineptness by losing a vote or ramming through a tax cut as the economy craters. (And his House colleagues may pull the rug out from under him: “This week, members of the Blue Dog and New Democrat coalitions—two more-conservative Democratic groups—were pushing colleagues to sign a letter urging House leaders to schedule a vote on a full extension.”)

In sum, the Senate Democrats will try mightily to get whatever they can before the electorate’s wrath is felt. The problem, of course, is for those Democratic survivors or wanna-be survivors who will have to explain the continued disdain shown the voters.

Despite their tendency to make life more difficult for themselves, Republicans will enjoy greater numbers in the U.S. Senate after November. So Obama and Harry Reid are in essence having a going-out-of-business sale. In Reid’s case, he may actually be out of a job, but in any event, he’s not going to enjoy a hefty majority to pass major pieces of the liberal agenda.

Hence, Obama is threatening to install the new consumer protection agency head by recess appointment. And Carl Levin is junking up the defense authorization bill:

Last year, Senate Armed Services Committee chairman Carl Levin (D-MI), to the chagrin of Republicans, successfully added language expanding protections from hate crimes. This year, Democrats are expected to attempt to add the “American Dream Act,” a bill that would provide a path to U.S. citizenship for illegal immigrant students, to the defense authorization bill. …

What is unprecedented, however, is that the bill could come to the Senate floor without the support of the committee’s top Republican, John McCain (R-AZ).McCain adamantly opposes the bill because it contains language that could lead to the repeal of the military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy, which bans homosexuals from serving openly in the military.

“It authorizes the repeal of DADT before the study is completed,” McCain told a gaggle of reporters in the Capitol Monday, referring to the Defense Department’s ongoing analysis of the impacts of a policy change.

Reid is also bent on staging a vote on taxes, despite the angst it is causing his caucus. As this report explains:

During the Democrats’ weekly caucus, a majority held there were greater risks associated with inaction, because that would give Republicans an opportunity to accuse Democrats of raising taxes across the board, Mr. Casey said. But a minority of Senate Democrats would prefer not to take a vote before the elections, Mr. Casey said. Some worry about being tagged with raising any taxes, even the top marginal rates.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada said he plans to hold a vote “before we leave” in a few weeks, but he didn’t promise he has the votes. “I hope so,” he said. “I think it would certainly be the right thing to do, and only one way of finding out, and that’s take a vote on it.”

Illustrating the tough sledding ahead in the Senate, Sen. Ben Nelson (D., Neb.), who wants to extend the tax cuts for everyone, didn’t back off his position Tuesday. “I favor extending all of the Bush tax cuts, every one of them,” he said.

I’m not sure which is worse for Reid — demonstrating his ineptness by losing a vote or ramming through a tax cut as the economy craters. (And his House colleagues may pull the rug out from under him: “This week, members of the Blue Dog and New Democrat coalitions—two more-conservative Democratic groups—were pushing colleagues to sign a letter urging House leaders to schedule a vote on a full extension.”)

In sum, the Senate Democrats will try mightily to get whatever they can before the electorate’s wrath is felt. The problem, of course, is for those Democratic survivors or wanna-be survivors who will have to explain the continued disdain shown the voters.

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A Whole Lot Harder

I share Karl Rove’s pessimism that the prospects for a GOP takeover of the Delaware Senate seat are now remote. He reels off a long list of Christine O’Donnell’s personal failings and credibility issues that are certain to come up in the general election She is, to put it mildly, a terribly flawed candidate. Rove correctly points out, “It does conservatives little good to support candidates who at the end of the day, while they may be conservative in their public statements, do not evince the characteristics of rectitude and truthfulness and sincerity and character that the voters are looking for.” He adds, “There is a lot of nutty things she has been saying. … This is not a race we’ll be able to win.”

If a couple of Senate seats are lost — and especially if the GOP falls just a seat or two short of the majority in the Senate — there will and should be some soul-searching in the Tea Party movement. There will also, I suspect, be valid concerns about those who encouraged and endorsed unelectable candidates. If you want to be a party leader, and not simply a prominent conservative, the expectation is that you will use your influence judiciously.

The Tea Party has injected enthusiasm and provided a unifying conservative economic message, but a movement and a political party are not the same. The latter must concern itself with elections and building a governing majority. And the former, if unchecked by judgment and maturity, can unintentionally do great damage to its own cause.

One final note: outsiderness in and of itself is not a decisive factor in electability. What matters is whether the candidate is plausible and can articulate an anti-Beltway message that taps into both conservatives and independents’ disgust with the governing class. It is highly questionable whether O’Donnell can do that. On the other hand, as Ben Smith points out, conservatives dumped a dreadful establishment candidate in the New York gubernatorial primary and pushed back on a state party that has shown zero adeptness of late:

The results in New York tonight cut at Cuomo in two ways, though he wasn’t on the ballot. The first and most obvious is an energized conservative base, which chose a real outsider — Buffalo developer Carl Paladino — as a more plausible, if extremely longshot, vessel for a “mad as hell” anti-Establishment campaign against the “status Cuomo” than would have been the Establishment Republican, a former bank lobbyist.

“This is the candidate that the base of the party wanted,” conceded State Republican Party Chairman Ed Cox, putting a good face on a terrible night that also included a third-place finish for his son in a congressional race on Long Island.

In sum: the lesson is to choose wisely. This is the big leagues.

I share Karl Rove’s pessimism that the prospects for a GOP takeover of the Delaware Senate seat are now remote. He reels off a long list of Christine O’Donnell’s personal failings and credibility issues that are certain to come up in the general election She is, to put it mildly, a terribly flawed candidate. Rove correctly points out, “It does conservatives little good to support candidates who at the end of the day, while they may be conservative in their public statements, do not evince the characteristics of rectitude and truthfulness and sincerity and character that the voters are looking for.” He adds, “There is a lot of nutty things she has been saying. … This is not a race we’ll be able to win.”

If a couple of Senate seats are lost — and especially if the GOP falls just a seat or two short of the majority in the Senate — there will and should be some soul-searching in the Tea Party movement. There will also, I suspect, be valid concerns about those who encouraged and endorsed unelectable candidates. If you want to be a party leader, and not simply a prominent conservative, the expectation is that you will use your influence judiciously.

The Tea Party has injected enthusiasm and provided a unifying conservative economic message, but a movement and a political party are not the same. The latter must concern itself with elections and building a governing majority. And the former, if unchecked by judgment and maturity, can unintentionally do great damage to its own cause.

One final note: outsiderness in and of itself is not a decisive factor in electability. What matters is whether the candidate is plausible and can articulate an anti-Beltway message that taps into both conservatives and independents’ disgust with the governing class. It is highly questionable whether O’Donnell can do that. On the other hand, as Ben Smith points out, conservatives dumped a dreadful establishment candidate in the New York gubernatorial primary and pushed back on a state party that has shown zero adeptness of late:

The results in New York tonight cut at Cuomo in two ways, though he wasn’t on the ballot. The first and most obvious is an energized conservative base, which chose a real outsider — Buffalo developer Carl Paladino — as a more plausible, if extremely longshot, vessel for a “mad as hell” anti-Establishment campaign against the “status Cuomo” than would have been the Establishment Republican, a former bank lobbyist.

“This is the candidate that the base of the party wanted,” conceded State Republican Party Chairman Ed Cox, putting a good face on a terrible night that also included a third-place finish for his son in a congressional race on Long Island.

In sum: the lesson is to choose wisely. This is the big leagues.

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Will Obama Change?

Let’s assume that the Republicans take the House and make large gains in the Senate, that many Obama advisers depart, and there is a great hue and cry among Democrats. Was Obama too liberal, or not tough enough? Did Obama overinterpret his mandate? Is his presidency “over”?

It is not unlike the debate that went on following the Democrats’ defeat in 1994, when Bill Clinton memorably asserted, “The president is still relevant here.” It turned out he was relevant, in part, because he desperately wanted a second term and, more important, had the intellectual and personal flexibility to reconfigure his agenda.

We will know soon enough whether Obama intends to dig in or bend to reality. Will he populate the new team with seasoned advisers outside his own circle and immune from the cult of The One? If he does, we’ll know he’s serious about rescuing his presidency and his prospects for 2012. Will he go along with a full extension of the Bush tax cuts? If he does, we’ll know he’s thrown in the towel on the class-warfare gambit and is seriously considering how to aid, not impede, employers. Will he tone down or drop altogether his Muslim outreach and begin to articulate the nature and motives of our enemy? If  he does, we’ll know he has recognized that his approach has failed to deliver results overseas and that domestically it has alienated if not infuriated average Americans. Will he clean house in the Justice Department? If he does, we’ll know he recognizes the cloud of corruption and politicization that plays into the narrative that the Chicago pols have simply transplanted their machine inside the Beltway. Will he drop the plan to close Guantanamo and give KSM a public trial? If he does, we’ll know he’s put away the childish obsession with being “not Bush” and recognized the substantive and political drawbacks to a national security policy designed to please the ACLU. And finally, will he lift the Afghanistan war troop-withdrawal deadline? If he does, we’ll know he’s accepted the responsibility and demands of being commander in chief and listened to the generals and not the political hacks.

There’s a chance he might do a couple of these. All or most? If he does, we’ll be shocked.

Let’s assume that the Republicans take the House and make large gains in the Senate, that many Obama advisers depart, and there is a great hue and cry among Democrats. Was Obama too liberal, or not tough enough? Did Obama overinterpret his mandate? Is his presidency “over”?

It is not unlike the debate that went on following the Democrats’ defeat in 1994, when Bill Clinton memorably asserted, “The president is still relevant here.” It turned out he was relevant, in part, because he desperately wanted a second term and, more important, had the intellectual and personal flexibility to reconfigure his agenda.

We will know soon enough whether Obama intends to dig in or bend to reality. Will he populate the new team with seasoned advisers outside his own circle and immune from the cult of The One? If he does, we’ll know he’s serious about rescuing his presidency and his prospects for 2012. Will he go along with a full extension of the Bush tax cuts? If he does, we’ll know he’s thrown in the towel on the class-warfare gambit and is seriously considering how to aid, not impede, employers. Will he tone down or drop altogether his Muslim outreach and begin to articulate the nature and motives of our enemy? If  he does, we’ll know he has recognized that his approach has failed to deliver results overseas and that domestically it has alienated if not infuriated average Americans. Will he clean house in the Justice Department? If he does, we’ll know he recognizes the cloud of corruption and politicization that plays into the narrative that the Chicago pols have simply transplanted their machine inside the Beltway. Will he drop the plan to close Guantanamo and give KSM a public trial? If he does, we’ll know he’s put away the childish obsession with being “not Bush” and recognized the substantive and political drawbacks to a national security policy designed to please the ACLU. And finally, will he lift the Afghanistan war troop-withdrawal deadline? If he does, we’ll know he’s accepted the responsibility and demands of being commander in chief and listened to the generals and not the political hacks.

There’s a chance he might do a couple of these. All or most? If he does, we’ll be shocked.

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About That Settlement Freeze

Israeli historian Yaacov Lozowick is in favor of continuing the settlement freeze that’s set to expire later this month — as long as the freeze is only in West Bank settlements that are actually up for discussion and that might plausibly be dismantled in a future peace deal with Palestinians. “Not in Modi’in Illit,” he said, referring to an ultra-Orthodox settlement immediately adjacent the Green Line, “which will remain in Israel no matter what, and certainly not in any part of Jerusalem.”

Israel annexed all of Jerusalem decades ago. And while very few Jews move to and build in Arab neighborhoods, enormous Jewish neighborhoods have been constructed on land that used to be empty. There is no chance these places will ever be part of a Palestinian state unless the Palestinians first conquer Israel. It doesn’t matter if Israelis should or should not have built in these areas. The fact is that they did. Hundreds of thousands of people live there today.

The same goes for some of the settlements near the Green Line, such as those in Gush Etzion. They have not been formally annexed to Israel like Jerusalem has, but because they can be annexed without disrupting or fatally compromising a Palestinian state in the future, they will be. Last year, after Jimmy Carter visited the Gush Etzion settlement of Neve Daniel, he said, “This particular settlement area is not one that I can envision ever being abandoned or changed over into Palestinian territory. This is part of settlements close to the 1967 line that I think will be here forever.”

Imposing a building freeze in areas that will never be Palestinian is actually a little bit dangerous. It puts these places on the table, so to speak, and tells the Palestinians they stand a chance of acquiring them as parts of their own state down the road if only enough pressure can be brought to bear.

But it isn’t going to happen. Israel is no more likely to uproot all these people than the hundreds of thousands of Palestinians in Hebron will voluntarily transfer themselves to Jordan. The only way to permanently relocate that many people in the Middle East is with an invasion or a ruthless campaign of mass murder.

Christopher Hitchens once wrote that “terrorism is the tactic of demanding the impossible, and demanding it at gunpoint.” The Palestinians need to understand that conquering areas where hundreds of thousands of Jews live is impossible. Many among them will continue insisting on it at gunpoint regardless, but at least they won’t be inadvertently egged on by the White House.

Israeli historian Yaacov Lozowick is in favor of continuing the settlement freeze that’s set to expire later this month — as long as the freeze is only in West Bank settlements that are actually up for discussion and that might plausibly be dismantled in a future peace deal with Palestinians. “Not in Modi’in Illit,” he said, referring to an ultra-Orthodox settlement immediately adjacent the Green Line, “which will remain in Israel no matter what, and certainly not in any part of Jerusalem.”

Israel annexed all of Jerusalem decades ago. And while very few Jews move to and build in Arab neighborhoods, enormous Jewish neighborhoods have been constructed on land that used to be empty. There is no chance these places will ever be part of a Palestinian state unless the Palestinians first conquer Israel. It doesn’t matter if Israelis should or should not have built in these areas. The fact is that they did. Hundreds of thousands of people live there today.

The same goes for some of the settlements near the Green Line, such as those in Gush Etzion. They have not been formally annexed to Israel like Jerusalem has, but because they can be annexed without disrupting or fatally compromising a Palestinian state in the future, they will be. Last year, after Jimmy Carter visited the Gush Etzion settlement of Neve Daniel, he said, “This particular settlement area is not one that I can envision ever being abandoned or changed over into Palestinian territory. This is part of settlements close to the 1967 line that I think will be here forever.”

Imposing a building freeze in areas that will never be Palestinian is actually a little bit dangerous. It puts these places on the table, so to speak, and tells the Palestinians they stand a chance of acquiring them as parts of their own state down the road if only enough pressure can be brought to bear.

But it isn’t going to happen. Israel is no more likely to uproot all these people than the hundreds of thousands of Palestinians in Hebron will voluntarily transfer themselves to Jordan. The only way to permanently relocate that many people in the Middle East is with an invasion or a ruthless campaign of mass murder.

Christopher Hitchens once wrote that “terrorism is the tactic of demanding the impossible, and demanding it at gunpoint.” The Palestinians need to understand that conquering areas where hundreds of thousands of Jews live is impossible. Many among them will continue insisting on it at gunpoint regardless, but at least they won’t be inadvertently egged on by the White House.

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Not So “Direct” After All

If you had any doubt about the efficacy of the “peace talks,” this should remind you that precious little is being accomplished:

[T]he “direct talks” between Israel and the Palestinians are taking more the form of negotiations between each side and the Americans, with both the Palestinians and Israel trying to convince the US of the reasonableness of their respective positions.

This is something that became evident looking at the slate of meetings held in Sharm on Tuesday. …

What was sorely absent from that rich menu of talks was a private meeting between Abbas and Netanyahu. That meeting might take place Wednesday in Jerusalem, but then again it might not.

As Elliott Abrams explained recently, the “mistake is to intrude too deeply and too often in what must be a bilateral negotiation.” So long as the parties are talking mostly to George Mitchell, nothing productive is being accomplished:

As Nahum Barnea wrote in the widest-circulation Israeli daily, Yedioth Ahronoth … “In all the talks that Israeli governments held in the past, with the Arab states and with the Palestinians, the Americans only got into the thick of the talks at the last stage. The talks were direct and bilateral. … Not this time. This time the Americans intend to sit at the negotiating table and to stay there. The talks will be direct, but trilateral.”

Not only will there be no progress in the talks, but, in proceeding this way, we’ll merely emphasize that the collapse of the talks is a failure of the Obama team. While predictable, there is no reason to welcome the Obami’s humiliation. After all, we need some veneer of credibility and the appearance of effectiveness if we are to continue to maintain alliances and confront the real national security crises we face.

If you had any doubt about the efficacy of the “peace talks,” this should remind you that precious little is being accomplished:

[T]he “direct talks” between Israel and the Palestinians are taking more the form of negotiations between each side and the Americans, with both the Palestinians and Israel trying to convince the US of the reasonableness of their respective positions.

This is something that became evident looking at the slate of meetings held in Sharm on Tuesday. …

What was sorely absent from that rich menu of talks was a private meeting between Abbas and Netanyahu. That meeting might take place Wednesday in Jerusalem, but then again it might not.

As Elliott Abrams explained recently, the “mistake is to intrude too deeply and too often in what must be a bilateral negotiation.” So long as the parties are talking mostly to George Mitchell, nothing productive is being accomplished:

As Nahum Barnea wrote in the widest-circulation Israeli daily, Yedioth Ahronoth … “In all the talks that Israeli governments held in the past, with the Arab states and with the Palestinians, the Americans only got into the thick of the talks at the last stage. The talks were direct and bilateral. … Not this time. This time the Americans intend to sit at the negotiating table and to stay there. The talks will be direct, but trilateral.”

Not only will there be no progress in the talks, but, in proceeding this way, we’ll merely emphasize that the collapse of the talks is a failure of the Obama team. While predictable, there is no reason to welcome the Obami’s humiliation. After all, we need some veneer of credibility and the appearance of effectiveness if we are to continue to maintain alliances and confront the real national security crises we face.

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Obama Decides It’s Time to Emote

Obama is so desperate to regain his popularity that he’s even emoting — kind of. Sam Youngman reports:

President Obama told a small crowd in Fairfax, Va., on Monday that he would stand in the hot sun with them and “feel their pain.”

He was meeting with a Fairfax family for a backyard discussion on the economy in an effort to improve voter perceptions about his empathy with ordinary people.

Unlike former President Clinton, who famously felt the pain of voters during a recession, Obama has not connected emotionally with voters over their worries and fears.

So on his list of things to do: show some emotional connection to the American people. It’s been a worry for some time among Democrats that his cool demeanor and nasty habit of demeaning Americans makes it, well, hard for voters to think he’s all that interested in their concerns:

Democratic strategists worry the president is seen as too aloof, and that this gets in the way of the administration’s message that the economy is slowly but surely recovering. … Democratic strategists worry this disconnect will lead to losses for Democrats at the polls in November, when the party fears it could lose control of the House and Senate.

“The problem is he doesn’t seem like he’s always trying to be empathetic,” said one Democratic strategist.

So now he’s dialing up the emotions.

Not unlike the “charm offensive” with American Jews, when the president’s policies fall flat he decides to persuade the skeptics that he really, honestly, truly is on their side. Granted, “politicians” and “sincerity” generally don’t belong in the same sentence, but Obama’s play-acting is so transparent and so obviously at odds with his personality and policy choices that it’s hard to believe he’s helping his cause much. It does however remind us that Bill Clinton was, as Holly Golightly’s friend put it, a “real phony.”

Obama is so desperate to regain his popularity that he’s even emoting — kind of. Sam Youngman reports:

President Obama told a small crowd in Fairfax, Va., on Monday that he would stand in the hot sun with them and “feel their pain.”

He was meeting with a Fairfax family for a backyard discussion on the economy in an effort to improve voter perceptions about his empathy with ordinary people.

Unlike former President Clinton, who famously felt the pain of voters during a recession, Obama has not connected emotionally with voters over their worries and fears.

So on his list of things to do: show some emotional connection to the American people. It’s been a worry for some time among Democrats that his cool demeanor and nasty habit of demeaning Americans makes it, well, hard for voters to think he’s all that interested in their concerns:

Democratic strategists worry the president is seen as too aloof, and that this gets in the way of the administration’s message that the economy is slowly but surely recovering. … Democratic strategists worry this disconnect will lead to losses for Democrats at the polls in November, when the party fears it could lose control of the House and Senate.

“The problem is he doesn’t seem like he’s always trying to be empathetic,” said one Democratic strategist.

So now he’s dialing up the emotions.

Not unlike the “charm offensive” with American Jews, when the president’s policies fall flat he decides to persuade the skeptics that he really, honestly, truly is on their side. Granted, “politicians” and “sincerity” generally don’t belong in the same sentence, but Obama’s play-acting is so transparent and so obviously at odds with his personality and policy choices that it’s hard to believe he’s helping his cause much. It does however remind us that Bill Clinton was, as Holly Golightly’s friend put it, a “real phony.”

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Not even Dana Milbank can make excuses for Imam Abdul Rauf: “He claims he wishes to improve the standing of Muslims in the United States, to build understanding between religions, and to enhance the reputation of America in the Muslim world. But in the weeks since he — unintentionally, he says — set off an international conflagration over his plans to build an Islamic center near the scene of the Sept. 11 terrorist attack in New York, he has set back all three of his goals.”

Not even Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chairman Chris Van Hollen is advocating a partial extension of the Bush tax cuts. “If [Republicans] were to come back and say, ‘hey, let’s just do one year for the top 2 percent, and permanent for the middle class,’ that would be something that obviously people would have to think about,’ Van Hollen said in an interview with Bloomberg this past weekend. Van Hollen’s suggestion partially mirrors a plan outlined by former White House budget director Peter Orszag, who argued that Democrats and Republicans should back a fixed two year extension of all the tax cuts and then end them altogether.”

Not even Senate Democrats want to end the Bush tax cuts: “[T]he list of Senate Democrats in favor of an extension is now up to five. Evan Bayh (Indiana), Kent Conrad (North Dakota) and Ben Nelson (Warren Buffett) were already on board, and this week Connecticut Independent-Democrat Joe Lieberman and Virginia’s Jim Webb came around.”

Not even Connecticut is safe for the Democrats. “Pres. Obama’s poll numbers have plummeted in Connecticut, a state he carried by an overwhelming margin 2 years ago. A majority of likely voters — 52% — in the Quinnipiac poll disapprove of how Obama is handling his job as president. Only 45% approve of his performance. The Quinnipiac survey found Blumenthal leading former WWE CEO Linda McMahon by 6 points — 51% to 45%.” Hey, if Scott Brown can win “Ted Kennedy’s seat” then McMahon can win ” Chris Dodd’s seat.”

Not even competent, says Mona Charen, of the president: “The president himself doesn’t at all concede that government is attempting to do too much (and failing at most of it). On the contrary, his vanity (and it is a common one for left-wingers) is that he believes his particular ideas on business investment, medical procedures, housing, and thousands of other matters are the solutions to our woes, but ‘politics’ keeps getting in the way.” All that Ivy League education did, it seems, is convince Obama of his own brilliance.

Not even Imam Abdul Rauf may be able to resist pressure to move the Ground Zero mosque. Now he’s telling us it is all about serving Lower Manhattan’s Muslim residents. Gosh, seems like there already are mosques in the neighborhood.

Not even second place for Charlie Crist if this trend continues: “The independent Senate bid of Florida Governor Charlie Crist is in serious trouble, according to a new Fox News poll. Crist drew 27 percent of likely voters in the poll of the three-way race. Republican Marco Rubio registered 43 percent support. Democrat Kendrick Meek came in third with 21 percent.” Republican Senate candidates also lead in the Fox poll in Nevada (by one point), Pennsylvania, and Ohio. Barbara Boxer is up by only 2 points.

Not even Dana Milbank can make excuses for Imam Abdul Rauf: “He claims he wishes to improve the standing of Muslims in the United States, to build understanding between religions, and to enhance the reputation of America in the Muslim world. But in the weeks since he — unintentionally, he says — set off an international conflagration over his plans to build an Islamic center near the scene of the Sept. 11 terrorist attack in New York, he has set back all three of his goals.”

Not even Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chairman Chris Van Hollen is advocating a partial extension of the Bush tax cuts. “If [Republicans] were to come back and say, ‘hey, let’s just do one year for the top 2 percent, and permanent for the middle class,’ that would be something that obviously people would have to think about,’ Van Hollen said in an interview with Bloomberg this past weekend. Van Hollen’s suggestion partially mirrors a plan outlined by former White House budget director Peter Orszag, who argued that Democrats and Republicans should back a fixed two year extension of all the tax cuts and then end them altogether.”

Not even Senate Democrats want to end the Bush tax cuts: “[T]he list of Senate Democrats in favor of an extension is now up to five. Evan Bayh (Indiana), Kent Conrad (North Dakota) and Ben Nelson (Warren Buffett) were already on board, and this week Connecticut Independent-Democrat Joe Lieberman and Virginia’s Jim Webb came around.”

Not even Connecticut is safe for the Democrats. “Pres. Obama’s poll numbers have plummeted in Connecticut, a state he carried by an overwhelming margin 2 years ago. A majority of likely voters — 52% — in the Quinnipiac poll disapprove of how Obama is handling his job as president. Only 45% approve of his performance. The Quinnipiac survey found Blumenthal leading former WWE CEO Linda McMahon by 6 points — 51% to 45%.” Hey, if Scott Brown can win “Ted Kennedy’s seat” then McMahon can win ” Chris Dodd’s seat.”

Not even competent, says Mona Charen, of the president: “The president himself doesn’t at all concede that government is attempting to do too much (and failing at most of it). On the contrary, his vanity (and it is a common one for left-wingers) is that he believes his particular ideas on business investment, medical procedures, housing, and thousands of other matters are the solutions to our woes, but ‘politics’ keeps getting in the way.” All that Ivy League education did, it seems, is convince Obama of his own brilliance.

Not even Imam Abdul Rauf may be able to resist pressure to move the Ground Zero mosque. Now he’s telling us it is all about serving Lower Manhattan’s Muslim residents. Gosh, seems like there already are mosques in the neighborhood.

Not even second place for Charlie Crist if this trend continues: “The independent Senate bid of Florida Governor Charlie Crist is in serious trouble, according to a new Fox News poll. Crist drew 27 percent of likely voters in the poll of the three-way race. Republican Marco Rubio registered 43 percent support. Democrat Kendrick Meek came in third with 21 percent.” Republican Senate candidates also lead in the Fox poll in Nevada (by one point), Pennsylvania, and Ohio. Barbara Boxer is up by only 2 points.

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A Primary Day Story — All True

I tell it in the New York Post today:

A poll worker directed me to feed my ballot through as you would feed a piece of paper into a fax machine. I began to do so — and found that the ballot was at least an inch too wide to go through.

“Oh, just fold it right there,” a poll worker said.

“I don’t think you’re supposed to do that,” I said.

“Yeah, fold it,” she said. “That’s got to be it.”

“It says not to fold anything right there on the ballot,” I said.

“Oh, OK,” she sighed.

There’s much more.

I tell it in the New York Post today:

A poll worker directed me to feed my ballot through as you would feed a piece of paper into a fax machine. I began to do so — and found that the ballot was at least an inch too wide to go through.

“Oh, just fold it right there,” a poll worker said.

“I don’t think you’re supposed to do that,” I said.

“Yeah, fold it,” she said. “That’s got to be it.”

“It says not to fold anything right there on the ballot,” I said.

“Oh, OK,” she sighed.

There’s much more.

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