Commentary Magazine


Posts For: September 20, 2010

Debating the DREAM Act (UPDATED)

The Defense Authorization Act, which is soon to come for a vote in the Senate, has a controversial provision added to it repealing “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” Whatever one thinks of the hot-button issue of gays in the military (personally, as I’ve written before, I believe that it is inevitable that gay service people will be allowed to serve openly), there should be much more agreement on another provision added to the bill: the DREAM Act. A good summary can be found in this Wall Street Journal article of how this provision would speed citizenship for those who arrived in the U.S. by the age of 15 if they attend college or serve in the armed forces for two years. This would open up a new avenue for service for those like David Cho, “an honor student and leader of the UCLA marching band,” who “plans to join the U.S. Air Force after he graduates in the spring — if Congress lets him.” Why it makes sense to turn away those like Cho who want to wear our nation’s uniform is beyond me. According to the Journal:

Sen. Jeff Sessions (R., Ala.) believes passage of the Dream Act would entice more people to sneak into the U.S. “When you take a policy that says you are going to reward people who have entered our country illegally with a guaranteed pathway to citizenship, and with billions of dollars in financial aid or benefits they would not otherwise be entitled to, what message are we sending?” Sen. Sessions said.

Count me as skeptical that the prospect of attending college or serving in our armed forces will really draw more undocumented immigrants to our shores. (Plenty are coming already simply in the hope of picking lettuce or working in construction.) But if it does, so what? Aren’t these precisely the kind of productive, highly motivated individuals that we want to see in this country?

Our ability to attract and integrate immigrants gives us a key long-term advantage over more homogenous societies such as Japan, China, and Western Europe. Immigrants are already serving proudly in the U.S. armed forces — as they have since the beginning of the Republic. It makes perfect sense to continue to make use of these dedicated volunteers, especially because of the valuable cultural and linguistic knowledge they can bring to our armed forces, which find themselves in need of such skills to wage a global counterinsurgency. In the process, we can use our armed forces and our universities as they have long been used — to integrate newcomers into the mainstream of American society. If we don’t, we risk expanding the underclass of undocumented immigrants who turn to illicit activities because legal work and education are closed to them.

ADDENDUM: One of the leading legal experts on the DREAM Act e-mails me that Senator Sessions’s objection is even less to the point than I realized: “The DREAM Act doesn’t cover anyone who enters the U.S. illegally today. It has a cut-off date, so the objection that it will ‘encourage illegal immigration’ seems just a little bit ‘off.’ ”

The Defense Authorization Act, which is soon to come for a vote in the Senate, has a controversial provision added to it repealing “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” Whatever one thinks of the hot-button issue of gays in the military (personally, as I’ve written before, I believe that it is inevitable that gay service people will be allowed to serve openly), there should be much more agreement on another provision added to the bill: the DREAM Act. A good summary can be found in this Wall Street Journal article of how this provision would speed citizenship for those who arrived in the U.S. by the age of 15 if they attend college or serve in the armed forces for two years. This would open up a new avenue for service for those like David Cho, “an honor student and leader of the UCLA marching band,” who “plans to join the U.S. Air Force after he graduates in the spring — if Congress lets him.” Why it makes sense to turn away those like Cho who want to wear our nation’s uniform is beyond me. According to the Journal:

Sen. Jeff Sessions (R., Ala.) believes passage of the Dream Act would entice more people to sneak into the U.S. “When you take a policy that says you are going to reward people who have entered our country illegally with a guaranteed pathway to citizenship, and with billions of dollars in financial aid or benefits they would not otherwise be entitled to, what message are we sending?” Sen. Sessions said.

Count me as skeptical that the prospect of attending college or serving in our armed forces will really draw more undocumented immigrants to our shores. (Plenty are coming already simply in the hope of picking lettuce or working in construction.) But if it does, so what? Aren’t these precisely the kind of productive, highly motivated individuals that we want to see in this country?

Our ability to attract and integrate immigrants gives us a key long-term advantage over more homogenous societies such as Japan, China, and Western Europe. Immigrants are already serving proudly in the U.S. armed forces — as they have since the beginning of the Republic. It makes perfect sense to continue to make use of these dedicated volunteers, especially because of the valuable cultural and linguistic knowledge they can bring to our armed forces, which find themselves in need of such skills to wage a global counterinsurgency. In the process, we can use our armed forces and our universities as they have long been used — to integrate newcomers into the mainstream of American society. If we don’t, we risk expanding the underclass of undocumented immigrants who turn to illicit activities because legal work and education are closed to them.

ADDENDUM: One of the leading legal experts on the DREAM Act e-mails me that Senator Sessions’s objection is even less to the point than I realized: “The DREAM Act doesn’t cover anyone who enters the U.S. illegally today. It has a cut-off date, so the objection that it will ‘encourage illegal immigration’ seems just a little bit ‘off.’ ”

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Dems’ Campaigning Isn’t Helping

Gallup reports:

Public approval of Congress remains in short supply in September, with 18% of Americans now approving of the job it is doing, similar to the 19% approving in August. Congress’ approval rating has not been above 20% since May, and has not surpassed 30% since September 2009. …

The decline in approval of Congress since the beginning of 2009 has closely paralleled the drop in approval for President Barack Obama over the same period. Both the president and the Democratic-led Congress saw a sharp slide in their public approval ratings last summer, punctuated by a sharp drop in October. Their ratings subsequently leveled off, but fell slightly further this summer, and remain at the lower level today.

Obama has pulled his party down with him, it seems, and the agenda that both Congress and the White House have embraced now threatens to be their undoing. Six weeks from now, the wreckage will be examined and the body count taken, but the cause of the debacle can no longer be seriously disputed.

Gallup reports:

Public approval of Congress remains in short supply in September, with 18% of Americans now approving of the job it is doing, similar to the 19% approving in August. Congress’ approval rating has not been above 20% since May, and has not surpassed 30% since September 2009. …

The decline in approval of Congress since the beginning of 2009 has closely paralleled the drop in approval for President Barack Obama over the same period. Both the president and the Democratic-led Congress saw a sharp slide in their public approval ratings last summer, punctuated by a sharp drop in October. Their ratings subsequently leveled off, but fell slightly further this summer, and remain at the lower level today.

Obama has pulled his party down with him, it seems, and the agenda that both Congress and the White House have embraced now threatens to be their undoing. Six weeks from now, the wreckage will be examined and the body count taken, but the cause of the debacle can no longer be seriously disputed.

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The Tea Party’s Challenge

There is a lot of chatter these days about the effect of the Tea Party movement on American politics. In the short term, the answer is blindingly obvious: It’s a huge boost for Republicans. The energy and enthusiasm the Tea Party movement is generating will work for GOP candidates and against Democratic candidates in almost every race in the country. Democrats are on course to be administered an epic defeat, one that will exceed, perhaps by a sizeable margin, even the one they experienced in 1994.

What the longer-term effects of the Tea Party will be on the GOP and the country is harder to know. The Tea Party is, at this stage in its development, much more of a protest movement than a governing philosophy. There is plenty of talk about “constitutional conservatism” — an encouraging impulse that seeks to ground political efforts in the American tradition — but what that means in practice isn’t always clear. To the extent that we can discern what the fuel is behind the Tea Party movement, it has to do with bringing the deficit and debt under control and checking the size, role, and reach of the federal government.

That is, I think, all for the better. But the Tea Party’s passions need to be channeled in constructive ways, beyond simply electoral politics. It eventually needs to become a force in how we govern the nation. And in this respect, work still remains to be done.

Candidates will tell you that at town-hall meetings Tea Party activists aim their fire against the Department of Education, earmarks, bailouts, and congressional salaries. That’s fine as far as it goes; President Obama increased nondefense discretionary spending by 10 percent for the last half of fiscal year 2009 and another 12 percent for fiscal year 2010. That certainly can be trimmed back. But we all know that the solution to our fiscal crisis can only be found in reforming and cutting entitlements. And here the picture begins to blur a bit.

Take as an example Christine O’Donnell, who is now the toast of many Tea Party supporters and conservatives from coast to coast. Much of her support is based on understandable unhappiness with the man she defeated, Mike Castle. But what do we really know about O’Donnell’s governing philosophy? Well, one thing we do know is that she ran an ad late in the campaign against Castle claiming this: “Keeping ObamaCare and cuts in Medicare: Castle for it, O’Donnell against it.”

The first part of that equation is fine; it’s the second part — the one about cuts in Medicare — that troubles me.

Today an estimated 47.4 million people are enrolled in Medicare, up by 38 percent from 1990. And by 2030, the number is projected to be 80.4 million. And as Representative Paul Ryan points out in “A Roadmap for America ’s Future,” Medicare has an unfunded liability — the excess of projected spending in its programs over the amount of revenue currently estimated to be available for them — of $38 trillion over the next 75 years. In just the next 5 years, by 2014, Medicare’s unfunded liability is projected to grow to $52 trillion. And when Social Security and Medicare are taken together, the total unfunded liability in the next five years will grow to $57 trillion.

Yet when asked in a poll question, “Overall, do you think the benefits from government programs such as Social Security and Medicare are worth the costs of those programs for taxpayers, or are they not worth the costs?” 62 percent of Tea Party respondents answered “worth it” while only 33 percent answered “not worth it.” This won’t do.

Authentic political leadership means confronting the facts as they are, explaining to people the magnitude of the fiscal problems we face, and showing the wisdom and skill to build a political coalition that will begin the hard work of going after weak claims and not just weak clients, to use David Stockman’s formulation.

It won’t be easy. Cutting the deficit and the debt is undemanding and effortless in the abstract; it gets a good deal harder when you begin to talk about raising the retirement age, progressive indexing (meaning linking the initial Social Security benefits of high- and middle-income earners to prices rather than to wages, as is currently the case), and gradually and thoughtfully transitioning toward a means-tested system of benefits in place of the current Social Security and Medicare systems.

Yet this is what the times demand of our political class — and, frankly, it is what the times demand of the citizenry itself. The American people cannot will the end without willing the means to the end. The Tea Party can play a useful and constructive role in all this, I think; but that means it has to be serious about governing, not just spouting vague slogans embracing easy cuts, “constitutional conservatism,” and reciting the failures and evils of “big government.”

In that sense, my concern isn’t that the Tea Party is too conservative; it is that it’s not conservative enough.

There is a lot of chatter these days about the effect of the Tea Party movement on American politics. In the short term, the answer is blindingly obvious: It’s a huge boost for Republicans. The energy and enthusiasm the Tea Party movement is generating will work for GOP candidates and against Democratic candidates in almost every race in the country. Democrats are on course to be administered an epic defeat, one that will exceed, perhaps by a sizeable margin, even the one they experienced in 1994.

What the longer-term effects of the Tea Party will be on the GOP and the country is harder to know. The Tea Party is, at this stage in its development, much more of a protest movement than a governing philosophy. There is plenty of talk about “constitutional conservatism” — an encouraging impulse that seeks to ground political efforts in the American tradition — but what that means in practice isn’t always clear. To the extent that we can discern what the fuel is behind the Tea Party movement, it has to do with bringing the deficit and debt under control and checking the size, role, and reach of the federal government.

That is, I think, all for the better. But the Tea Party’s passions need to be channeled in constructive ways, beyond simply electoral politics. It eventually needs to become a force in how we govern the nation. And in this respect, work still remains to be done.

Candidates will tell you that at town-hall meetings Tea Party activists aim their fire against the Department of Education, earmarks, bailouts, and congressional salaries. That’s fine as far as it goes; President Obama increased nondefense discretionary spending by 10 percent for the last half of fiscal year 2009 and another 12 percent for fiscal year 2010. That certainly can be trimmed back. But we all know that the solution to our fiscal crisis can only be found in reforming and cutting entitlements. And here the picture begins to blur a bit.

Take as an example Christine O’Donnell, who is now the toast of many Tea Party supporters and conservatives from coast to coast. Much of her support is based on understandable unhappiness with the man she defeated, Mike Castle. But what do we really know about O’Donnell’s governing philosophy? Well, one thing we do know is that she ran an ad late in the campaign against Castle claiming this: “Keeping ObamaCare and cuts in Medicare: Castle for it, O’Donnell against it.”

The first part of that equation is fine; it’s the second part — the one about cuts in Medicare — that troubles me.

Today an estimated 47.4 million people are enrolled in Medicare, up by 38 percent from 1990. And by 2030, the number is projected to be 80.4 million. And as Representative Paul Ryan points out in “A Roadmap for America ’s Future,” Medicare has an unfunded liability — the excess of projected spending in its programs over the amount of revenue currently estimated to be available for them — of $38 trillion over the next 75 years. In just the next 5 years, by 2014, Medicare’s unfunded liability is projected to grow to $52 trillion. And when Social Security and Medicare are taken together, the total unfunded liability in the next five years will grow to $57 trillion.

Yet when asked in a poll question, “Overall, do you think the benefits from government programs such as Social Security and Medicare are worth the costs of those programs for taxpayers, or are they not worth the costs?” 62 percent of Tea Party respondents answered “worth it” while only 33 percent answered “not worth it.” This won’t do.

Authentic political leadership means confronting the facts as they are, explaining to people the magnitude of the fiscal problems we face, and showing the wisdom and skill to build a political coalition that will begin the hard work of going after weak claims and not just weak clients, to use David Stockman’s formulation.

It won’t be easy. Cutting the deficit and the debt is undemanding and effortless in the abstract; it gets a good deal harder when you begin to talk about raising the retirement age, progressive indexing (meaning linking the initial Social Security benefits of high- and middle-income earners to prices rather than to wages, as is currently the case), and gradually and thoughtfully transitioning toward a means-tested system of benefits in place of the current Social Security and Medicare systems.

Yet this is what the times demand of our political class — and, frankly, it is what the times demand of the citizenry itself. The American people cannot will the end without willing the means to the end. The Tea Party can play a useful and constructive role in all this, I think; but that means it has to be serious about governing, not just spouting vague slogans embracing easy cuts, “constitutional conservatism,” and reciting the failures and evils of “big government.”

In that sense, my concern isn’t that the Tea Party is too conservative; it is that it’s not conservative enough.

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Smackdown: Convoy vs. Flotilla

Perhaps the biggest recent news in Gaza-blockade busting is the lack of enthusiasm for it shown by some regional governments. Beirut delayed the departure of the Lebanese “women’s flotilla” flagship, M/V Maryam, for much of July. After Maryam was finally allowed to leave Lebanon, the authorities in Greek Cyprus, the staging point for Maryam to pick up additional passengers, denied the ship permission to depart for Gaza. The flotilla organizers have so far been unable to mount the effort by any other means. A separate aid ship departing from Syria this past weekend simply headed for the Egyptian port of El-Arish, near the Rafah border crossing from Egypt into Gaza, rather than attempting to break the naval blockade.

Three vehicle convoys are now preparing to converge on Gaza, but they, like the Syrian ship, will assemble near Rafah in Egypt. One convoy, arranged by the Hamas-linked Viva Palestina activist group, left from London this weekend. Departures are planned from Morocco and Qatar as well. Reporting suggests that the convoys from Europe and Africa will be composed largely of passenger vehicles, reinforcing their character as publicity stunts rather than humanitarian aid missions.

The convoy from Casablanca has already hit a snag, however, and some elements of it are currently delayed in Morocco. Algeria has granted permission to cross its territory only provisionally and unofficially, a posture that Moroccan factions consider unsatisfactory. The Egyptians, meanwhile, refused to allow a Viva Palestina convoy to use the Rafah border crossing in January 2010, deporting British activist George Galloway and banning him from further activities in Egypt. Cairo’s foreign ministry has reiterated the ban this week, emphasizing that aid-convoy vehicles will not be allowed to use the border crossing. Any cargo they bring will have to be reloaded on an Egyptian-managed official convoy.

The refusal of Greece and Egypt to collude in blockade-running attempts is encouraging. By making order a priority, they eliminate the convenience third-party territory represents for activists originating from Turkey, Syria, or Lebanon. Other European authorities could take a lesson from them.

An interesting development thousands of miles away merits a mention as well. The New Zealand-based organization Kia Ora Gaza, while fundraising at a university in Hamilton last week, was startled to encounter push-back against its vituperative anti-Israel appeal (“one non-Jewish student … described [it] as ‘hate-preaching’”). Kia Ora Gaza activists were reportedly “told by Iraqi and Iranian students that they ‘were playing straight into Hamas’s hands.’” After an hour of being challenged by attendees, the Kia Ora Gaza group cut its event short and left, having taken in very few donations (one attendee counted a total of three).

No single event should be regarded as definitive, of course, but the trend here is positive — and very different from the narrative adhered to by the mainstream media. At times it seems as though the only ones who don’t “get it,” when it comes to Hamas, Islamism, and the cause-célèbre of Gaza, are the Western leftist elites.

Perhaps the biggest recent news in Gaza-blockade busting is the lack of enthusiasm for it shown by some regional governments. Beirut delayed the departure of the Lebanese “women’s flotilla” flagship, M/V Maryam, for much of July. After Maryam was finally allowed to leave Lebanon, the authorities in Greek Cyprus, the staging point for Maryam to pick up additional passengers, denied the ship permission to depart for Gaza. The flotilla organizers have so far been unable to mount the effort by any other means. A separate aid ship departing from Syria this past weekend simply headed for the Egyptian port of El-Arish, near the Rafah border crossing from Egypt into Gaza, rather than attempting to break the naval blockade.

Three vehicle convoys are now preparing to converge on Gaza, but they, like the Syrian ship, will assemble near Rafah in Egypt. One convoy, arranged by the Hamas-linked Viva Palestina activist group, left from London this weekend. Departures are planned from Morocco and Qatar as well. Reporting suggests that the convoys from Europe and Africa will be composed largely of passenger vehicles, reinforcing their character as publicity stunts rather than humanitarian aid missions.

The convoy from Casablanca has already hit a snag, however, and some elements of it are currently delayed in Morocco. Algeria has granted permission to cross its territory only provisionally and unofficially, a posture that Moroccan factions consider unsatisfactory. The Egyptians, meanwhile, refused to allow a Viva Palestina convoy to use the Rafah border crossing in January 2010, deporting British activist George Galloway and banning him from further activities in Egypt. Cairo’s foreign ministry has reiterated the ban this week, emphasizing that aid-convoy vehicles will not be allowed to use the border crossing. Any cargo they bring will have to be reloaded on an Egyptian-managed official convoy.

The refusal of Greece and Egypt to collude in blockade-running attempts is encouraging. By making order a priority, they eliminate the convenience third-party territory represents for activists originating from Turkey, Syria, or Lebanon. Other European authorities could take a lesson from them.

An interesting development thousands of miles away merits a mention as well. The New Zealand-based organization Kia Ora Gaza, while fundraising at a university in Hamilton last week, was startled to encounter push-back against its vituperative anti-Israel appeal (“one non-Jewish student … described [it] as ‘hate-preaching’”). Kia Ora Gaza activists were reportedly “told by Iraqi and Iranian students that they ‘were playing straight into Hamas’s hands.’” After an hour of being challenged by attendees, the Kia Ora Gaza group cut its event short and left, having taken in very few donations (one attendee counted a total of three).

No single event should be regarded as definitive, of course, but the trend here is positive — and very different from the narrative adhered to by the mainstream media. At times it seems as though the only ones who don’t “get it,” when it comes to Hamas, Islamism, and the cause-célèbre of Gaza, are the Western leftist elites.

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RE: Tim Kaine Struggles as Dems Face a Tsunami

Poor Tim Kaine. A day after he urges Democrats to stand by ObamaCare, this comes out:

Sixty-one percent (61%) of Likely U.S. Voters now at least somewhat favor repeal of the new national health care law, including 50% who Strongly Favor it. That’s up eight points from a week ago and the highest level of opposition measured since late May. … Only 33% say the health care plan will be good for the country, the lowest level measured since late July. Fifty-six percent (56%) disagree and believe the new law will be bad for the United States.

Meanwhile, Obama and his spinners are conducting events to tout their great accomplishment. You sometimes have to wonder which side they are rooting for.

Poor Tim Kaine. A day after he urges Democrats to stand by ObamaCare, this comes out:

Sixty-one percent (61%) of Likely U.S. Voters now at least somewhat favor repeal of the new national health care law, including 50% who Strongly Favor it. That’s up eight points from a week ago and the highest level of opposition measured since late May. … Only 33% say the health care plan will be good for the country, the lowest level measured since late July. Fifty-six percent (56%) disagree and believe the new law will be bad for the United States.

Meanwhile, Obama and his spinners are conducting events to tout their great accomplishment. You sometimes have to wonder which side they are rooting for.

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RE: Obama Finally Notices the Tea Party

Sensing that the New York Times story cast them in the roles of desperate partisans, the Obami are denying the report that they are planning an ad campaign to paint the Tea Partiers as extremists. Politico reports:

The story is “100 percent inaccurate,” a White House official told POLITICO. Times Washington Bureau Chief Dean Baquet counters that the “piece is accurate.”

OK, in a credibility contest between the Gray Lady and the Obama administration, it’s a close call. But really, is the White House denying that it isn’t contemplating such an ad offensive? That seems remarkable. Maybe it rejected it, or the proponents of such a strategy are embarrassed, but I find the denial a bit Clintonesque: “The first time Obama’s advisers heard about a national ad campaign is when the story showed up on the Times’ website last night.” But the concept — to paint the Tea Partiers as wackos — is certainly being deployed by Obama spinners and will, I strongly suspect, come up in ads in individual races.

The White House now has the worst of both worlds. The media and the voters get the sense that the Obama brain trust is defensive and panicky. If the ads run, this confirms the original story and makes the Obama team — shocking! — look less than candid. And if the ads don’t run, the liberal base is miffed, and the Tea Party claims another victory. As with so much in the Obama White House, the political operatives have managed to put themselves in a lose-lose position.

Sensing that the New York Times story cast them in the roles of desperate partisans, the Obami are denying the report that they are planning an ad campaign to paint the Tea Partiers as extremists. Politico reports:

The story is “100 percent inaccurate,” a White House official told POLITICO. Times Washington Bureau Chief Dean Baquet counters that the “piece is accurate.”

OK, in a credibility contest between the Gray Lady and the Obama administration, it’s a close call. But really, is the White House denying that it isn’t contemplating such an ad offensive? That seems remarkable. Maybe it rejected it, or the proponents of such a strategy are embarrassed, but I find the denial a bit Clintonesque: “The first time Obama’s advisers heard about a national ad campaign is when the story showed up on the Times’ website last night.” But the concept — to paint the Tea Partiers as wackos — is certainly being deployed by Obama spinners and will, I strongly suspect, come up in ads in individual races.

The White House now has the worst of both worlds. The media and the voters get the sense that the Obama brain trust is defensive and panicky. If the ads run, this confirms the original story and makes the Obama team — shocking! — look less than candid. And if the ads don’t run, the liberal base is miffed, and the Tea Party claims another victory. As with so much in the Obama White House, the political operatives have managed to put themselves in a lose-lose position.

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How the U.S. Military Polices Its Own Ranks

Anyone who follows the U.S. Army, or the war in Afghanistan, cannot fail to be horrified by reports of atrocities committed by a few soldiers from the 5th Stryker Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division in southern Afghanistan. If news accounts are accurate, a few soldiers decided to randomly kill Afghan civilians for sport. “Military documents allege that five members of the unit staged a total of three murders in Kandahar province between January and May,” the Washington Post writes, adding, “Members of the platoon have been charged with dismembering and photographing corpses, as well as hoarding a skull and other human bones.”

Awful as they are, these atrocities sound mild by comparison with countless other war crimes. Hundreds of Vietnamese were killed in the My Lai massacre. Even greater numbers of Algerians were randomly gunned down by French forces during the Algerian War of Independence in retaliation for grisly attacks on French civilians. The Russians in Afghanistan made a practice of targeting the civilian population — for example, by distributing booby-trapped toys. This is no way meant to be a defense of a few sick soldiers who deserve to have the book thrown at them if half of what is alleged is true. But some sense of perspective is necessary insofar as the Taliban and others will no doubt exploit this case to paint all American soldiers as murderers and torturers. Nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, the conduct of U.S. forces is exemplary by any standard. Their respect for human rights and the laws of war is equaled by few, if any other, military forces thrown into the maelstrom of a vicious insurgency.

Clearly there was a big problem in the 5th Stryker Brigade — something that I saw for myself when I visited the unit last year in the field. I had no inkling of such murderous abuses but the brigade seemed to be off-track in terms of their tactical doctrine, concentrating on hunting down insurgents rather than on winning the trust of the people, and relying too much on high-tech gadgetry. In doctrinal terms, they were pursuing “counterguerrilla” rather than “counterinsurgent” operations.

But there has been no suggestion that the brigade’s leadership, or the army in general, countenanced anything like these abuses. In fact, as usual with such excesses, it was military investigators who uncovered the wrongdoing. Perhaps, as the account by the Washington Post suggests, the military did not respond fast enough to alarms raised by a soldier’s father; if so, that situation needs to be corrected. But once military investigators get on the track of incidents like these, they are normally relentless in building a prosecution — so much so that, sometimes, innocent soldiers get put in the dock. That, too, is to be regretted. But, in general, the U.S. armed forces take such misconduct with the seriousness it deserves — something that cannot be said of all, or even most, militaries, the Israel Defense Forces being a rare exception. Of course, neither the U.S. armed forces nor the IDF can expect any thanks for their scrupulousness about observing human rights; predictably, they get pilloried as monsters while far more monstrous forces (including the enemies they fight, whether the Taliban or Hezbollah) get a pass in global news coverage.

Anyone who follows the U.S. Army, or the war in Afghanistan, cannot fail to be horrified by reports of atrocities committed by a few soldiers from the 5th Stryker Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division in southern Afghanistan. If news accounts are accurate, a few soldiers decided to randomly kill Afghan civilians for sport. “Military documents allege that five members of the unit staged a total of three murders in Kandahar province between January and May,” the Washington Post writes, adding, “Members of the platoon have been charged with dismembering and photographing corpses, as well as hoarding a skull and other human bones.”

Awful as they are, these atrocities sound mild by comparison with countless other war crimes. Hundreds of Vietnamese were killed in the My Lai massacre. Even greater numbers of Algerians were randomly gunned down by French forces during the Algerian War of Independence in retaliation for grisly attacks on French civilians. The Russians in Afghanistan made a practice of targeting the civilian population — for example, by distributing booby-trapped toys. This is no way meant to be a defense of a few sick soldiers who deserve to have the book thrown at them if half of what is alleged is true. But some sense of perspective is necessary insofar as the Taliban and others will no doubt exploit this case to paint all American soldiers as murderers and torturers. Nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, the conduct of U.S. forces is exemplary by any standard. Their respect for human rights and the laws of war is equaled by few, if any other, military forces thrown into the maelstrom of a vicious insurgency.

Clearly there was a big problem in the 5th Stryker Brigade — something that I saw for myself when I visited the unit last year in the field. I had no inkling of such murderous abuses but the brigade seemed to be off-track in terms of their tactical doctrine, concentrating on hunting down insurgents rather than on winning the trust of the people, and relying too much on high-tech gadgetry. In doctrinal terms, they were pursuing “counterguerrilla” rather than “counterinsurgent” operations.

But there has been no suggestion that the brigade’s leadership, or the army in general, countenanced anything like these abuses. In fact, as usual with such excesses, it was military investigators who uncovered the wrongdoing. Perhaps, as the account by the Washington Post suggests, the military did not respond fast enough to alarms raised by a soldier’s father; if so, that situation needs to be corrected. But once military investigators get on the track of incidents like these, they are normally relentless in building a prosecution — so much so that, sometimes, innocent soldiers get put in the dock. That, too, is to be regretted. But, in general, the U.S. armed forces take such misconduct with the seriousness it deserves — something that cannot be said of all, or even most, militaries, the Israel Defense Forces being a rare exception. Of course, neither the U.S. armed forces nor the IDF can expect any thanks for their scrupulousness about observing human rights; predictably, they get pilloried as monsters while far more monstrous forces (including the enemies they fight, whether the Taliban or Hezbollah) get a pass in global news coverage.

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Odierno on Iraq

Raymond Odierno, America’s longest-serving general in Iraq, was the subject of an important interview with David Feith in the Wall Street Journal. Pointing out that in 2004-2006 there was an open insurgency against Iraq as a whole, Odierno made a claim that a few years ago would have seemed fanciful: “Sectarian violence is almost zero. … Yes, there’s still some terrorism, but it’s not insurgents anymore.”

As for the surge, Odierno made this underappreciated point: the surge “shows we learned to adapt, to change. We changed our organization, we changed how we were equipped, and we changed how we did our operations—all while in contact [with the enemy]. That’s an incredible feat.” For those who claim that the Iraq war was a victory for Iran, Odierno disputed that assumption. “They might have balanced each other but how they balanced each other … [caused] significant instability in the region,” the general said. He added that 85 percent of Iraqis believe Iran is trying to harm their country. “Everybody I talk to, I mean every political leader, every military leader, every citizen—and if you’re there living and reading their newspapers and what they’re saying—it’s very clear they want to be their own country,” Odierno said. “They don’t want anybody—the United States, Iran, anybody—telling them what to do.”

On the inability of the Iraqis to form a government more than a half-year after the elections, he predicted a governing coalition will emerge by October. And he said the thing he’s been most pleased with is how the Iraqi military has remained neutral throughout.

On the broader meaning and ramifications of the Iraq war, Odierno said: “I think sometimes we don’t realize the importance of Iraq in the Middle East as a whole. A strong, democratic Iraq with a developing economy could really be a game-changer in the Middle East.”  He argued that “there’s a real opportunity here that I don’t think the citizens of the United States realize. I really truly believe there’s an opportunity we might never get again.” And he offered an assessment that is forgotten far more than it should be: “The fact that al Qaeda was targeting Iraq to be the center of their caliphate in order to carry forward terrorism around the world: They failed. … Now Iraqis are rejecting al Qaeda. Now we have a very important Middle Eastern country who is rejecting terrorism.”

During the darkest days of the Iraq war, many people settled on a narrative: it was a mistake of historic proportions that could not possibly turn out well. The surge was a “pipe dream.” New facts and changing circumstances could not shake people from their interpretation of events. No matter; reality does not depend on how dogmatists interpret it. And as we gain greater distance from the Iraq war, the good that it did comes into sharper focus.

Whether Iraq turns out to be the “game-changer in the Middle East” that Odierno says is possible remains to be seen. But this is what we know for now: the war was fought for honorable reasons. While serious mistakes were made and the cost has been quite high in several respects, Saddam — the genocidal leader of a criminal, soul-destroying tyranny — was removed from power. Al-Qaeda and militant Islam were dealt massive setbacks. The people of Iraq have been liberated. And a sworn enemy of America and freedom has become an ally and a (fragile) democracy. To be continued. But for now, that’s a pretty impressive outcome. Among many others, we have Ray Odierno to thank for that.

Raymond Odierno, America’s longest-serving general in Iraq, was the subject of an important interview with David Feith in the Wall Street Journal. Pointing out that in 2004-2006 there was an open insurgency against Iraq as a whole, Odierno made a claim that a few years ago would have seemed fanciful: “Sectarian violence is almost zero. … Yes, there’s still some terrorism, but it’s not insurgents anymore.”

As for the surge, Odierno made this underappreciated point: the surge “shows we learned to adapt, to change. We changed our organization, we changed how we were equipped, and we changed how we did our operations—all while in contact [with the enemy]. That’s an incredible feat.” For those who claim that the Iraq war was a victory for Iran, Odierno disputed that assumption. “They might have balanced each other but how they balanced each other … [caused] significant instability in the region,” the general said. He added that 85 percent of Iraqis believe Iran is trying to harm their country. “Everybody I talk to, I mean every political leader, every military leader, every citizen—and if you’re there living and reading their newspapers and what they’re saying—it’s very clear they want to be their own country,” Odierno said. “They don’t want anybody—the United States, Iran, anybody—telling them what to do.”

On the inability of the Iraqis to form a government more than a half-year after the elections, he predicted a governing coalition will emerge by October. And he said the thing he’s been most pleased with is how the Iraqi military has remained neutral throughout.

On the broader meaning and ramifications of the Iraq war, Odierno said: “I think sometimes we don’t realize the importance of Iraq in the Middle East as a whole. A strong, democratic Iraq with a developing economy could really be a game-changer in the Middle East.”  He argued that “there’s a real opportunity here that I don’t think the citizens of the United States realize. I really truly believe there’s an opportunity we might never get again.” And he offered an assessment that is forgotten far more than it should be: “The fact that al Qaeda was targeting Iraq to be the center of their caliphate in order to carry forward terrorism around the world: They failed. … Now Iraqis are rejecting al Qaeda. Now we have a very important Middle Eastern country who is rejecting terrorism.”

During the darkest days of the Iraq war, many people settled on a narrative: it was a mistake of historic proportions that could not possibly turn out well. The surge was a “pipe dream.” New facts and changing circumstances could not shake people from their interpretation of events. No matter; reality does not depend on how dogmatists interpret it. And as we gain greater distance from the Iraq war, the good that it did comes into sharper focus.

Whether Iraq turns out to be the “game-changer in the Middle East” that Odierno says is possible remains to be seen. But this is what we know for now: the war was fought for honorable reasons. While serious mistakes were made and the cost has been quite high in several respects, Saddam — the genocidal leader of a criminal, soul-destroying tyranny — was removed from power. Al-Qaeda and militant Islam were dealt massive setbacks. The people of Iraq have been liberated. And a sworn enemy of America and freedom has become an ally and a (fragile) democracy. To be continued. But for now, that’s a pretty impressive outcome. Among many others, we have Ray Odierno to thank for that.

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Obama’s War

Ever since President Obama came to office, conservatives have been expressing concern about his level of commitment to the war in Afghanistan. The deadline he announced last fall to begin a troop drawdown in the summer of 2011 only added to doubts about his staying power. But at every decision point, he has consistently opted to double down in Afghanistan rather than pull out, as many of his supporters urge.

Now, courtesy of the Washington Post, comes further confirmation, if any were needed, that no bug-out is imminent. “Despite discouraging news from Afghanistan and growing doubts in Congress and among the American public,” writes reporter Karen DeYoung, “the Obama administration has concluded that its war strategy is sound and that a December review, once seen as a pivotal moment, is unlikely to yield any major changes.”

This comes after a New York Times report on the extent to which Obama, once skeptical of General David Petraeus, has come to rely on him. My former boss, Les Gelb, president emeritus of the Council on Foreign Relations, is quoted as saying: “They are joined at the hip, but the leverage lies with Petraeus. And Petraeus has made plain, publicly, that after July 2011, he doesn’t think there should be a rapid pullout.” I think that’s right, and what it means is that Petraeus will have the time necessary to try to turn around a very difficult situation.

Whether he has enough troops, notwithstanding the recent surge, remains an open question. In the new Weekly Standard, Gary Schmitt makes a strong case, based on traditional counterinsurgency metrics, for sending three more brigades. “Adding three Army combat brigades, some 10,000 troops,” he writes, “would give commanders more flexibility to act with the kind of resoluteness that marked the surge in Iraq in 2007 and that allowed it to succeed.” Petraeus himself has made no such request (as far as I know), and it is far from clear if Obama would grant such a request. But it is hardly outside the realm of possibility. Increasingly, this is being seen as “Obama’s War,” and that means that Obama had better win it — or suffer the consequences.

Ever since President Obama came to office, conservatives have been expressing concern about his level of commitment to the war in Afghanistan. The deadline he announced last fall to begin a troop drawdown in the summer of 2011 only added to doubts about his staying power. But at every decision point, he has consistently opted to double down in Afghanistan rather than pull out, as many of his supporters urge.

Now, courtesy of the Washington Post, comes further confirmation, if any were needed, that no bug-out is imminent. “Despite discouraging news from Afghanistan and growing doubts in Congress and among the American public,” writes reporter Karen DeYoung, “the Obama administration has concluded that its war strategy is sound and that a December review, once seen as a pivotal moment, is unlikely to yield any major changes.”

This comes after a New York Times report on the extent to which Obama, once skeptical of General David Petraeus, has come to rely on him. My former boss, Les Gelb, president emeritus of the Council on Foreign Relations, is quoted as saying: “They are joined at the hip, but the leverage lies with Petraeus. And Petraeus has made plain, publicly, that after July 2011, he doesn’t think there should be a rapid pullout.” I think that’s right, and what it means is that Petraeus will have the time necessary to try to turn around a very difficult situation.

Whether he has enough troops, notwithstanding the recent surge, remains an open question. In the new Weekly Standard, Gary Schmitt makes a strong case, based on traditional counterinsurgency metrics, for sending three more brigades. “Adding three Army combat brigades, some 10,000 troops,” he writes, “would give commanders more flexibility to act with the kind of resoluteness that marked the surge in Iraq in 2007 and that allowed it to succeed.” Petraeus himself has made no such request (as far as I know), and it is far from clear if Obama would grant such a request. But it is hardly outside the realm of possibility. Increasingly, this is being seen as “Obama’s War,” and that means that Obama had better win it — or suffer the consequences.

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Billions for Nothing

The Obama team hasn’t been able to substantiate its claim that its economic policies have been of help. Now there is this:

By now, the only defense Democrats can mount of the Obama stimulus programs is that the economy would have been worse without them. There’s no way to disprove this counterfactual, but now we have some empirical evidence other than 9.6% unemployment and 1.6% growth.

It seems as though the $2.85 billion cash-for-clunkers program generated nothing much at all. Car purchases shifted to the months during which the bonanza was available, but “then it quickly hurt sales by about the same amount, in effect stealing purchases from the future.” Just as conservative critics predicted. And a new study by two university economists tells us there is no proof that it benefited the rest of the economy. (“There was ‘no noticeable difference’ in economic outcomes among the 957 metropolitan areas they studied. They did detect an economic blip in cities where the auto industry is concentrated but note that the rebound can’t be disentangled from the Chrysler and GM bailouts.”)

In short, we’ve spent billions and billions to no measurable benefit, an outcome expected by critics of Keynesian economics, who analogize fiscal-stimulus gambits to scooping water from one end of a lake and pouring it back into the other end. There’s no net gain, no mystical multiplier that raises the water level.

The Obama team and its spinners have oodles of excuses — the stimulus wasn’t big enough, the Republicans created uncertainty (I can’t begin to fathom how that one is supposed to make sense), and we should be appreciative that the economy hasn’t been much worse. The problem with all that is a lack of evidence. What we have is puddles of red ink, a limping economy, and high unemployment, which the Obami now concede will last a very long time. In private industry, a team that returned results like these would be fired en masse. In politics, the voters run the show and are likely to do just that.

The Obama team hasn’t been able to substantiate its claim that its economic policies have been of help. Now there is this:

By now, the only defense Democrats can mount of the Obama stimulus programs is that the economy would have been worse without them. There’s no way to disprove this counterfactual, but now we have some empirical evidence other than 9.6% unemployment and 1.6% growth.

It seems as though the $2.85 billion cash-for-clunkers program generated nothing much at all. Car purchases shifted to the months during which the bonanza was available, but “then it quickly hurt sales by about the same amount, in effect stealing purchases from the future.” Just as conservative critics predicted. And a new study by two university economists tells us there is no proof that it benefited the rest of the economy. (“There was ‘no noticeable difference’ in economic outcomes among the 957 metropolitan areas they studied. They did detect an economic blip in cities where the auto industry is concentrated but note that the rebound can’t be disentangled from the Chrysler and GM bailouts.”)

In short, we’ve spent billions and billions to no measurable benefit, an outcome expected by critics of Keynesian economics, who analogize fiscal-stimulus gambits to scooping water from one end of a lake and pouring it back into the other end. There’s no net gain, no mystical multiplier that raises the water level.

The Obama team and its spinners have oodles of excuses — the stimulus wasn’t big enough, the Republicans created uncertainty (I can’t begin to fathom how that one is supposed to make sense), and we should be appreciative that the economy hasn’t been much worse. The problem with all that is a lack of evidence. What we have is puddles of red ink, a limping economy, and high unemployment, which the Obami now concede will last a very long time. In private industry, a team that returned results like these would be fired en masse. In politics, the voters run the show and are likely to do just that.

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Washington’s West Bank Pyromania

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton made a stunning admission last week that has garnered far too little attention. After a de rigueur assertion that the Israeli-Palestinian “status quo is unsustainable,” she added, “That doesn’t mean it can’t be sustained for a year, or a decade, or two or three.”

But if so, why the rush to solve the conflict now, when all signs indicate that a deal is unachievable and another round of failed talks could greatly worsen the situation?

One could simply say she’s wrong; the status quo is intolerable for suffering Palestinians. But the facts are on her side.

First, the territories are experiencing unprecedented economic growth. The World Bank reported last week that the West Bank economy grew 9 percent in the first half of this year, while Gaza (you remember — that giant Israeli prison locked in hopeless poverty and misery?) grew an incredible 16 percent. For the West Bank, this represents a second year of strong growth; last year’s was 8.5 percent.

The World Bank hastened to declare that we should never mind the facts; growth under occupation is unsustainable. And growth in Gaza (which isn’t occupied) might well be: it was artificially boosted by reconstruction after last year’s war and the abrupt easing of Israel’s blockade in May. But the West Bank’s two-year surge shows that economic reforms like those instituted by Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad, coupled with a sharp drop in terror that has let Israel greatly ease its restrictions on Palestinian movement, make long-term growth quite feasible.

Second, West Bankers have evidently learned a lesson from the second intifada: support for terror there is very low, making a resurgence that would upset the current calm unlikely. Indeed, during a visit this month to the Balata refugee camp, once “a hotbed of extremism,” a Haaretz reporter “was hard-pressed to find any passersby who were willing to express support for it.” As resident Imad Hassan explained, “What good did this [terror] do us?”

By contrast, the current calm is doing West Bankers a lot of good, and they’re clearly savoring it. As Haaretz reported following a Ramadan visit to Ramallah last month:

The one phrase not on the lips of local shoppers in their conversations with this Israeli reporter on Wednesday was “the occupation” — unlike during prior visits, when the occupation and the conflict with the Jews were regularly raised. These days, the hot topic is business. Peace negotiations, and even the Gaza Strip, are irrelevant.

In short, West Bankers, too, consider the status quo tolerable; they’re more concerned with business than “the occupation.”

One thing, however, could yet disrupt this status quo: as several CONTENTIONS contributors have noted, negotiations that collapse amid mutual recriminations have triggered violent explosions in the past, and could well do so again.

So to try to achieve an agreement that overwhelming majorities of both Israelis and Palestinians believe is currently unachievable, the Obama administration is risking the violent implosion of a status quo that it admits is sustainable for decades. That isn’t “smart diplomacy”; it’s the irresponsibility of a pyromaniac near a barrel of gunpowder.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton made a stunning admission last week that has garnered far too little attention. After a de rigueur assertion that the Israeli-Palestinian “status quo is unsustainable,” she added, “That doesn’t mean it can’t be sustained for a year, or a decade, or two or three.”

But if so, why the rush to solve the conflict now, when all signs indicate that a deal is unachievable and another round of failed talks could greatly worsen the situation?

One could simply say she’s wrong; the status quo is intolerable for suffering Palestinians. But the facts are on her side.

First, the territories are experiencing unprecedented economic growth. The World Bank reported last week that the West Bank economy grew 9 percent in the first half of this year, while Gaza (you remember — that giant Israeli prison locked in hopeless poverty and misery?) grew an incredible 16 percent. For the West Bank, this represents a second year of strong growth; last year’s was 8.5 percent.

The World Bank hastened to declare that we should never mind the facts; growth under occupation is unsustainable. And growth in Gaza (which isn’t occupied) might well be: it was artificially boosted by reconstruction after last year’s war and the abrupt easing of Israel’s blockade in May. But the West Bank’s two-year surge shows that economic reforms like those instituted by Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad, coupled with a sharp drop in terror that has let Israel greatly ease its restrictions on Palestinian movement, make long-term growth quite feasible.

Second, West Bankers have evidently learned a lesson from the second intifada: support for terror there is very low, making a resurgence that would upset the current calm unlikely. Indeed, during a visit this month to the Balata refugee camp, once “a hotbed of extremism,” a Haaretz reporter “was hard-pressed to find any passersby who were willing to express support for it.” As resident Imad Hassan explained, “What good did this [terror] do us?”

By contrast, the current calm is doing West Bankers a lot of good, and they’re clearly savoring it. As Haaretz reported following a Ramadan visit to Ramallah last month:

The one phrase not on the lips of local shoppers in their conversations with this Israeli reporter on Wednesday was “the occupation” — unlike during prior visits, when the occupation and the conflict with the Jews were regularly raised. These days, the hot topic is business. Peace negotiations, and even the Gaza Strip, are irrelevant.

In short, West Bankers, too, consider the status quo tolerable; they’re more concerned with business than “the occupation.”

One thing, however, could yet disrupt this status quo: as several CONTENTIONS contributors have noted, negotiations that collapse amid mutual recriminations have triggered violent explosions in the past, and could well do so again.

So to try to achieve an agreement that overwhelming majorities of both Israelis and Palestinians believe is currently unachievable, the Obama administration is risking the violent implosion of a status quo that it admits is sustainable for decades. That isn’t “smart diplomacy”; it’s the irresponsibility of a pyromaniac near a barrel of gunpowder.

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Obama Finally Notices the Tea Party

The Chicago pols who occupy the White House may not know much about economics or the Middle East, but they are unparalleled in their devotion to (obsessed with, really) partisanship and attack-dog politics. They’ve gone after Fox News, the Chamber of Commerce, talk show hosts, town hall protesters, Justice Alito, Wall Street, Sarah Palin, and, of course, the Republican Party. So it shouldn’t surprise anyone that the White House is contemplating a smear attack on the Tea Party, according to the New York Times:

White House and Congressional Democratic strategists are trying to energize dispirited Democratic voters over the coming six weeks, in hopes of limiting the party’s losses and keeping control of the House and Senate. The strategists see openings to exploit after a string of Tea Party successes split Republicans in a number of states, culminating last week with developments that scrambled Senate races in Delaware and Alaska.

Translation: the White House is so panicked and has been so unsuccessful in juicing up the base (wasn’t ObamaCare supposed to do that?) that it now wants to assail a movement of millions of Americans, risk further alienating independents (who loathe hyper-partisanship), and demonstrate just how desperate the Democrats are by attacking the Tea Partiers. Even the Times thinks it’s a dopey idea:

In 1994, Democrats were in power and similarly took hope when Republican primaries yielded candidates deemed too far right for the general election. Yet the wave against Democrats that year was strong enough to carry those newcomers into office and put Republicans in control of Congress for the first time in 40 years.

Except for Ms. O’Donnell in Delaware, Republican nominees that Democrats like to showcase as extremists — including in Senate races in Nevada, Colorado, Kentucky and even blue-state Connecticut — are even with their Democratic rivals in polls or ahead.

The danger in all this — aside from making their political predicament worse — is that it elevates the Tea Party and sets the populist advocates up for some post-election gloating. (“Obama went after us and we beat Obama.”) And for a president who will need to learn to get along, for the first time in his presidency, with committed conservative lawmakers, it’s probably not the best idea to run a vicious, personal attack on them. Some of them — most, in fact — are likely to get elected, and they may be in no mood to compromise with a president who tags every opponent as an “extremist.” But then the Obami aren’t nearly as concerned about governing as they are about campaigning.

The Chicago pols who occupy the White House may not know much about economics or the Middle East, but they are unparalleled in their devotion to (obsessed with, really) partisanship and attack-dog politics. They’ve gone after Fox News, the Chamber of Commerce, talk show hosts, town hall protesters, Justice Alito, Wall Street, Sarah Palin, and, of course, the Republican Party. So it shouldn’t surprise anyone that the White House is contemplating a smear attack on the Tea Party, according to the New York Times:

White House and Congressional Democratic strategists are trying to energize dispirited Democratic voters over the coming six weeks, in hopes of limiting the party’s losses and keeping control of the House and Senate. The strategists see openings to exploit after a string of Tea Party successes split Republicans in a number of states, culminating last week with developments that scrambled Senate races in Delaware and Alaska.

Translation: the White House is so panicked and has been so unsuccessful in juicing up the base (wasn’t ObamaCare supposed to do that?) that it now wants to assail a movement of millions of Americans, risk further alienating independents (who loathe hyper-partisanship), and demonstrate just how desperate the Democrats are by attacking the Tea Partiers. Even the Times thinks it’s a dopey idea:

In 1994, Democrats were in power and similarly took hope when Republican primaries yielded candidates deemed too far right for the general election. Yet the wave against Democrats that year was strong enough to carry those newcomers into office and put Republicans in control of Congress for the first time in 40 years.

Except for Ms. O’Donnell in Delaware, Republican nominees that Democrats like to showcase as extremists — including in Senate races in Nevada, Colorado, Kentucky and even blue-state Connecticut — are even with their Democratic rivals in polls or ahead.

The danger in all this — aside from making their political predicament worse — is that it elevates the Tea Party and sets the populist advocates up for some post-election gloating. (“Obama went after us and we beat Obama.”) And for a president who will need to learn to get along, for the first time in his presidency, with committed conservative lawmakers, it’s probably not the best idea to run a vicious, personal attack on them. Some of them — most, in fact — are likely to get elected, and they may be in no mood to compromise with a president who tags every opponent as an “extremist.” But then the Obami aren’t nearly as concerned about governing as they are about campaigning.

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The Party of “No” Looks Darn Smart

As their political lives flash before their eyes, House Democrats who marched in lockstep with the president and Speaker Nancy Pelosi are now running from the sinking ship. The Washington Post reports:

Democrats from a number of states, including Texas, Ohio and North Carolina, are running away from Pelosi in a harsh political climate. Distancing one’s self from the speaker is nothing new for many Democrats. … but the number of incumbents and the volume of their criticism of the party House leader is larger than it has been in past election cycles — and the volume of their criticism is louder.

More than a few Democrats have said they are wavering on supporting Pelosi as their leader next year. At least four House Democrats are running ads stating their opposition to the speaker’s agenda, and one Democrat running in Tennessee called for her resignation.

This, of course, emphasizes the message behind the Republicans’ anti-Pelosi ads: she’s a menace to the Congress and the country. (“Republicans have decided to double down on their anti-Pelosi campaign, making her a central figure in their campaign this fall.”)

Moreover, it’s more than a little disingenuous for House members who supported all or a great deal of the Obama-Pelosi agenda to now be running from their collective record. Rep. Chet Edwards (D-Texas) may have voted against ObamaCare and cap-and-trade, but what about the other vulnerable House Democrats who voted for those measures plus the stimulus, the financial “reform” bill, and the rest of the Obama agenda? Only 34 Democrats voted against ObamaCare, 44 against cap-and-trade, and 11 against the original stimulus bill. By some estimates, there are now 80 vulnerable House Democrats. What’s the excuse for those who voted for all three of these measures?

Recall that in the Senate, every Democrat is the 60th vote (the minimum needed for cloture on ObamaCare) and not a single Democratic senator voted against the stimulus bill. How are they supposed to run from their leadership?

The public is unlikely to buy the election-eve confessions and conversions. By being the Party of No, the GOP quite adeptly shifted the responsibility — and then the anger — to the Democratic majority in both houses. Now the Party of No looks pretty smart, and many Democrats who will lose in November can only ruminate about what might have been if only they, too, had stood up to Pelosi before Labor Day 2010.

As their political lives flash before their eyes, House Democrats who marched in lockstep with the president and Speaker Nancy Pelosi are now running from the sinking ship. The Washington Post reports:

Democrats from a number of states, including Texas, Ohio and North Carolina, are running away from Pelosi in a harsh political climate. Distancing one’s self from the speaker is nothing new for many Democrats. … but the number of incumbents and the volume of their criticism of the party House leader is larger than it has been in past election cycles — and the volume of their criticism is louder.

More than a few Democrats have said they are wavering on supporting Pelosi as their leader next year. At least four House Democrats are running ads stating their opposition to the speaker’s agenda, and one Democrat running in Tennessee called for her resignation.

This, of course, emphasizes the message behind the Republicans’ anti-Pelosi ads: she’s a menace to the Congress and the country. (“Republicans have decided to double down on their anti-Pelosi campaign, making her a central figure in their campaign this fall.”)

Moreover, it’s more than a little disingenuous for House members who supported all or a great deal of the Obama-Pelosi agenda to now be running from their collective record. Rep. Chet Edwards (D-Texas) may have voted against ObamaCare and cap-and-trade, but what about the other vulnerable House Democrats who voted for those measures plus the stimulus, the financial “reform” bill, and the rest of the Obama agenda? Only 34 Democrats voted against ObamaCare, 44 against cap-and-trade, and 11 against the original stimulus bill. By some estimates, there are now 80 vulnerable House Democrats. What’s the excuse for those who voted for all three of these measures?

Recall that in the Senate, every Democrat is the 60th vote (the minimum needed for cloture on ObamaCare) and not a single Democratic senator voted against the stimulus bill. How are they supposed to run from their leadership?

The public is unlikely to buy the election-eve confessions and conversions. By being the Party of No, the GOP quite adeptly shifted the responsibility — and then the anger — to the Democratic majority in both houses. Now the Party of No looks pretty smart, and many Democrats who will lose in November can only ruminate about what might have been if only they, too, had stood up to Pelosi before Labor Day 2010.

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GOP: No Escape Route for the Democrats

A week after Minority Leader John Boehner’s bobble on extension of the Bush tax cuts, Minority Whip Eric Cantor is making sure there is no doubt about his party’s position: “Republicans unequivocally oppose any impending tax increase. House Republicans have called on Speaker Pelosi to allow the House to vote on legislation that would freeze all tax rates for the next two years.” In short, the GOP is not about to let the Democrats out of the corner the White House has painted them into.

Cantor explains the Republicans’ logic:

The reality is that this tax hike is just one more step along the way to creating an anticompetitive new norm in this country marked by bigger government, less growth and structurally higher taxes and unemployment.

The strategy to achieve the progressive left’s endgame is simple. First comes the provocative class warfare rhetoric. Second comes the vast assumption of government control over the economy. Third comes the growth of government spending and entitlements. And alas, higher taxes on our nation’s job creators and workers.

The only way out of this economic morass is through innovation, entrepreneurship and economic freedom. President Obama’s impending tax increase is not just a hike on a few “millionaires and billionaires,” as the White House tries to frame it. Roughly half of all small business income in America will face a higher rate, making this tax increase a direct assault on job creation and innovation.

But there is another reason for the GOP to hold firm: the Obama maneuver has split his party, made his base uneasy, and made life even more difficult for Democrats in unsafe seats (which is practically all of them). The White House has led its party to a position that is both substantively flawed (the president himself declared it foolhardy to raise taxes in a recession) and politically unsustainable. Bad policy meets bad politics. It has certainly been the Democrats’ pattern in the Obama era.

A week after Minority Leader John Boehner’s bobble on extension of the Bush tax cuts, Minority Whip Eric Cantor is making sure there is no doubt about his party’s position: “Republicans unequivocally oppose any impending tax increase. House Republicans have called on Speaker Pelosi to allow the House to vote on legislation that would freeze all tax rates for the next two years.” In short, the GOP is not about to let the Democrats out of the corner the White House has painted them into.

Cantor explains the Republicans’ logic:

The reality is that this tax hike is just one more step along the way to creating an anticompetitive new norm in this country marked by bigger government, less growth and structurally higher taxes and unemployment.

The strategy to achieve the progressive left’s endgame is simple. First comes the provocative class warfare rhetoric. Second comes the vast assumption of government control over the economy. Third comes the growth of government spending and entitlements. And alas, higher taxes on our nation’s job creators and workers.

The only way out of this economic morass is through innovation, entrepreneurship and economic freedom. President Obama’s impending tax increase is not just a hike on a few “millionaires and billionaires,” as the White House tries to frame it. Roughly half of all small business income in America will face a higher rate, making this tax increase a direct assault on job creation and innovation.

But there is another reason for the GOP to hold firm: the Obama maneuver has split his party, made his base uneasy, and made life even more difficult for Democrats in unsafe seats (which is practically all of them). The White House has led its party to a position that is both substantively flawed (the president himself declared it foolhardy to raise taxes in a recession) and politically unsustainable. Bad policy meets bad politics. It has certainly been the Democrats’ pattern in the Obama era.

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Tim Kaine Struggles as Dems Face Tsunami

At one time, Tim Kaine had a promising career. He was on Obama’s short list for VP and was mentioned as a possible Cabinet member. But instead, he was slotted as the head of the DNC and now watches as his party’s fortunes go down the drain. It’s hardly his fault; he’ll be no more responsible for the Democrats’ losses than Michael Steele will be for the GOP’s gains. But still, he makes a hapless spokesman for his party. And it is obvious that his task is to defend Obama, not to help his struggling congressional and Senate candidates.

On Candy Crowley’s State of the Union, he didn’t really have an explanation as to why so many Democrats are running against ObamaCare. The best he could muster was a plea to stop doing it:

KAINE: Well, Candy, I travel all over the country. I guess I’ve been in about 42 states, and most Democrats that I see on the trail are very proud of the accomplishment and they’re talking about it.

But you’re right, some, particularly House members in districts that, you know, can often get gerrymandered and become tough districts are distancing themselves from the health care bill. I don’t tell people how to run their races, but I’ve been on a ballot seven times and won seven races, and in my experience, you ought to be proud of what you’re doing and promote the accomplishments.

Now, obviously, folks who voted against health care, they’re going to talk about why. But I think for the Democratic Party, generally, this significant achievement for the uninsured, for people who have been abused by insurance company policies, for small businesses, for seniors, is something that we should be very proud of and we should be talking about.

I think he means that those in unsafe seats can’t win by defending their votes but that they should take one for the team. Then he struggled with this one:

CROWLEY: The Democrats have argued that because Republicans want to extend them for everyone, they are standing in the way of extending them for middle-class voters. Can’t you say the exact same thing about those 30-plus Democrats in the House and a handful of senators, all Democrats, who also think that even the wealthy should have their tax cuts stay in place? Aren’t they also standing in the way and holding middle-class taxes hostage?

KAINE: Well, it’s not standing in the way yet. We’re still in the debate and the dialogue place, and then we’re going to get to, eventually, having to vote. And I think that the comment that the speaker made in the clip that you showed is a good one, which is, if there’s uniform agreement — and there is — that we should extend tax cuts to middle-class folks and small businesses, then why do we need to wait until we fight out the other battle to go ahead and do what everybody agrees needs to be done?

CROWLEY: My point is that–

KAINE: I think uniform commitment by both Republicans and Democrats is important to act on, so we can give the middle class and small businesses tax relief.

CROWLEY: I guess my point is, you are slamming Republicans for holding the middle class hostage while they fight for the wealthy. Can’t the same be said for those Democrats who are now agreeing with Republicans on this extension?

KAINE: Well, they’re certainly expressing their preference. Now, I don’t think they’re expressing a preference to do exactly what the Republicans want to do. What the Republicans want to do is extend these tax cuts, make them permanent to the wealthy, and the CBO has estimated that would double the deficit projections going forward for the next couple of decades. This is from a Republican Party that’s been griping about deficits.

What I think the Democrats have been doing, that number that you mentioned, has been talking about some kind of a temporary extension for those at the top end. Obviously, this is going to be a hot debate in Congress between now and the end of the congressional session, but there isn’t any reason why if everyone agrees that tax cuts should go to middle class and small businesses, we can make that happen.

OK, she won that round. The Democrats’ class-warfare gambit doesn’t work, what with 38 Democratic House members and numerous Senate Democrats agreeing it’s dumb to raise taxes on anyone in a recession.

You see the problem. Kaine is Obama’s chosen chairman and owes his position and loyalty to the White House. But that’s not much help to Democratic candidates this year, who need to figure out how they can distance themselves from the president and his toxic agenda. As for Kaine, his mediocre tenure as Virginia governor looks positively brilliant in comparison with his current performance. Well, he’s just one of many Democrats to find their careers imperiled by Obama.

At one time, Tim Kaine had a promising career. He was on Obama’s short list for VP and was mentioned as a possible Cabinet member. But instead, he was slotted as the head of the DNC and now watches as his party’s fortunes go down the drain. It’s hardly his fault; he’ll be no more responsible for the Democrats’ losses than Michael Steele will be for the GOP’s gains. But still, he makes a hapless spokesman for his party. And it is obvious that his task is to defend Obama, not to help his struggling congressional and Senate candidates.

On Candy Crowley’s State of the Union, he didn’t really have an explanation as to why so many Democrats are running against ObamaCare. The best he could muster was a plea to stop doing it:

KAINE: Well, Candy, I travel all over the country. I guess I’ve been in about 42 states, and most Democrats that I see on the trail are very proud of the accomplishment and they’re talking about it.

But you’re right, some, particularly House members in districts that, you know, can often get gerrymandered and become tough districts are distancing themselves from the health care bill. I don’t tell people how to run their races, but I’ve been on a ballot seven times and won seven races, and in my experience, you ought to be proud of what you’re doing and promote the accomplishments.

Now, obviously, folks who voted against health care, they’re going to talk about why. But I think for the Democratic Party, generally, this significant achievement for the uninsured, for people who have been abused by insurance company policies, for small businesses, for seniors, is something that we should be very proud of and we should be talking about.

I think he means that those in unsafe seats can’t win by defending their votes but that they should take one for the team. Then he struggled with this one:

CROWLEY: The Democrats have argued that because Republicans want to extend them for everyone, they are standing in the way of extending them for middle-class voters. Can’t you say the exact same thing about those 30-plus Democrats in the House and a handful of senators, all Democrats, who also think that even the wealthy should have their tax cuts stay in place? Aren’t they also standing in the way and holding middle-class taxes hostage?

KAINE: Well, it’s not standing in the way yet. We’re still in the debate and the dialogue place, and then we’re going to get to, eventually, having to vote. And I think that the comment that the speaker made in the clip that you showed is a good one, which is, if there’s uniform agreement — and there is — that we should extend tax cuts to middle-class folks and small businesses, then why do we need to wait until we fight out the other battle to go ahead and do what everybody agrees needs to be done?

CROWLEY: My point is that–

KAINE: I think uniform commitment by both Republicans and Democrats is important to act on, so we can give the middle class and small businesses tax relief.

CROWLEY: I guess my point is, you are slamming Republicans for holding the middle class hostage while they fight for the wealthy. Can’t the same be said for those Democrats who are now agreeing with Republicans on this extension?

KAINE: Well, they’re certainly expressing their preference. Now, I don’t think they’re expressing a preference to do exactly what the Republicans want to do. What the Republicans want to do is extend these tax cuts, make them permanent to the wealthy, and the CBO has estimated that would double the deficit projections going forward for the next couple of decades. This is from a Republican Party that’s been griping about deficits.

What I think the Democrats have been doing, that number that you mentioned, has been talking about some kind of a temporary extension for those at the top end. Obviously, this is going to be a hot debate in Congress between now and the end of the congressional session, but there isn’t any reason why if everyone agrees that tax cuts should go to middle class and small businesses, we can make that happen.

OK, she won that round. The Democrats’ class-warfare gambit doesn’t work, what with 38 Democratic House members and numerous Senate Democrats agreeing it’s dumb to raise taxes on anyone in a recession.

You see the problem. Kaine is Obama’s chosen chairman and owes his position and loyalty to the White House. But that’s not much help to Democratic candidates this year, who need to figure out how they can distance themselves from the president and his toxic agenda. As for Kaine, his mediocre tenure as Virginia governor looks positively brilliant in comparison with his current performance. Well, he’s just one of many Democrats to find their careers imperiled by Obama.

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What’s It Going to Take in 2012?

On the Fox News Sunday roundtable, the panel discussed the 2012 GOP presidential front-runners. It is interesting that, aside from Sarah Palin, lesser-known Republicans seem to have gained top-tier credentials:

KRISTOL: … I think it won’t be the usual situation of nominating the next in line or the most senior person, the Bob Dole or the John McCain. So I think right now Palin is the frontrunner. We can say it’s a geological era away. It’s 17 months till Iowa. It’s not that long, you know? And she’s more — she probably has a slightly better chance than anyone else. She’s not an odds-on favorite, but she goes off with lower odds, better odds, than anyone else.

If I had to do win, place and show at this point, I would say Sarah Palin, Mitch Daniels and Paul Ryan. If I could make my trifecta bet, I think I would bet on them. But you know, there are 10 other people. …

WALLACE: Wait a minute. That’s really interesting…

KRISTOL: … who could be the nominee.

WALLACE: … because what you’re saying is, you know, that a lot of the — frankly, all of the conventional names we had on there, like Pawlenty and Romney and Barbour, you’re saying that they’re going to go for somebody that — none of the above?

KRISTOL: Look, those people could also win, and they’re impressive politicians in their own right, and have been good governors, in the case of someone like Haley Barbour. And there are senators who want to run, like John Thune. There are former governors like Pawlenty, Mitt Romney.

I just think — I don’t know. My sense is someone new, someone different, either someone who’s governing successfully, like Mitch Daniels — really a striking contrast with Obama — Paul Ryan, who will be at the center of things in 2011.

He’ll probably be chairman of the House Budget Committee if Republicans win the House. He will be articulating the Republican — he’ll set forth the Republican budget, articulating the Republican national vision against President Obama. And then Palin, who’s impressive, so — but you know, that could easily — I mean, this will shock you, but I could be wrong and one of those three will not be — will not be the nominee.

CHENEY: I think some of the people that Bill mentioned. I think Mitch Daniels is a clear, very interesting potential frontrunner. Paul Ryan is very interesting. I think you’ll have people who emerge after these 2010 elections as real challengers. You’ve got fascinating governors out there. Chris Christie is terrific. I think, you know, it’s impossible to sort of say it’s going to be the establishment guys.

With the Iowa caucuses (which we’ve learned aren’t very predictive of much, as Mike Huckabee can attest) well over a year away, it is nearly impossible to predict where the country, the economy, and the GOP base will be. If ObamaCare is defunded and/or repealed, does this boost the chances of Mitt Romney (whose biggest handicap is RomneyCare)? If Paul Ryan becomes the president’s chief nemesis in the new Congress, does his star rise? If Palin’s endorsees all win in 2010, does she take on an aura of invincibility — or if many of them lose, does her mojo evaporate?

The complications and permutations are endless. (And recall that Rudy Giuliani was the “front-runner” in the GOP polls until his campaign imploded and his Florida-first strategy proved to be a bust.) But we do know that the GOP base wants to offer an un-Obama. So look for a candidate who can connect emotionally with voters, advocate American exceptionalism, articulate who our enemies are, defend American capitalism, demonstrate executive acumen, point the way to fiscal sanity, and embody the values and outlook of the American heartland.

The candidates(s) who can do these things well and convince Republicans, who are desperate to recapture the White House, that they can go toe-to-toe with Obama will be at the top of the heap. And remember, many of the old rules (e.g., that a congressman can’t run, a presidential candidate has to look like a professional pol, an Ivy League background is a plus) simply don’t apply. It’s going to be one heck of an exciting ride.

On the Fox News Sunday roundtable, the panel discussed the 2012 GOP presidential front-runners. It is interesting that, aside from Sarah Palin, lesser-known Republicans seem to have gained top-tier credentials:

KRISTOL: … I think it won’t be the usual situation of nominating the next in line or the most senior person, the Bob Dole or the John McCain. So I think right now Palin is the frontrunner. We can say it’s a geological era away. It’s 17 months till Iowa. It’s not that long, you know? And she’s more — she probably has a slightly better chance than anyone else. She’s not an odds-on favorite, but she goes off with lower odds, better odds, than anyone else.

If I had to do win, place and show at this point, I would say Sarah Palin, Mitch Daniels and Paul Ryan. If I could make my trifecta bet, I think I would bet on them. But you know, there are 10 other people. …

WALLACE: Wait a minute. That’s really interesting…

KRISTOL: … who could be the nominee.

WALLACE: … because what you’re saying is, you know, that a lot of the — frankly, all of the conventional names we had on there, like Pawlenty and Romney and Barbour, you’re saying that they’re going to go for somebody that — none of the above?

KRISTOL: Look, those people could also win, and they’re impressive politicians in their own right, and have been good governors, in the case of someone like Haley Barbour. And there are senators who want to run, like John Thune. There are former governors like Pawlenty, Mitt Romney.

I just think — I don’t know. My sense is someone new, someone different, either someone who’s governing successfully, like Mitch Daniels — really a striking contrast with Obama — Paul Ryan, who will be at the center of things in 2011.

He’ll probably be chairman of the House Budget Committee if Republicans win the House. He will be articulating the Republican — he’ll set forth the Republican budget, articulating the Republican national vision against President Obama. And then Palin, who’s impressive, so — but you know, that could easily — I mean, this will shock you, but I could be wrong and one of those three will not be — will not be the nominee.

CHENEY: I think some of the people that Bill mentioned. I think Mitch Daniels is a clear, very interesting potential frontrunner. Paul Ryan is very interesting. I think you’ll have people who emerge after these 2010 elections as real challengers. You’ve got fascinating governors out there. Chris Christie is terrific. I think, you know, it’s impossible to sort of say it’s going to be the establishment guys.

With the Iowa caucuses (which we’ve learned aren’t very predictive of much, as Mike Huckabee can attest) well over a year away, it is nearly impossible to predict where the country, the economy, and the GOP base will be. If ObamaCare is defunded and/or repealed, does this boost the chances of Mitt Romney (whose biggest handicap is RomneyCare)? If Paul Ryan becomes the president’s chief nemesis in the new Congress, does his star rise? If Palin’s endorsees all win in 2010, does she take on an aura of invincibility — or if many of them lose, does her mojo evaporate?

The complications and permutations are endless. (And recall that Rudy Giuliani was the “front-runner” in the GOP polls until his campaign imploded and his Florida-first strategy proved to be a bust.) But we do know that the GOP base wants to offer an un-Obama. So look for a candidate who can connect emotionally with voters, advocate American exceptionalism, articulate who our enemies are, defend American capitalism, demonstrate executive acumen, point the way to fiscal sanity, and embody the values and outlook of the American heartland.

The candidates(s) who can do these things well and convince Republicans, who are desperate to recapture the White House, that they can go toe-to-toe with Obama will be at the top of the heap. And remember, many of the old rules (e.g., that a congressman can’t run, a presidential candidate has to look like a professional pol, an Ivy League background is a plus) simply don’t apply. It’s going to be one heck of an exciting ride.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

The Washington Post and the Wall Street Journal agree — Obama’s end-around the Senate on the zealous czarina of consumer protection is outrageous. S. 1 in the 112th Congress? Defund the consumer protection agency.

Lots of Democratic Senate candidates agree with the GOP: “Senate Democratic candidates are wavering over whether to support President Obama’s plan to raise taxes on families earning more than $250,000 a year. At least seven Democrats in battleground states say they support or could support extending tax breaks for families who make more than $250,000.”

Karl Rove and his conservative critics agree — Lisa Murkowski’s independent run is “sad and sorry.”

Independents agree with Republicans: refudiate Obamanomics. “A new comprehensive national survey shows that independent voters—who voted for Barack Obama by a 52%-to-44% margin in the 2008 presidential election—are now moving strongly in the direction of the Republican Party. … Today, independents say they lean more toward the Republican Party than the Democratic Party, 50% to 25%, and that the Republican Party is closer to their views by 52% to 30%. … More generally, independents made clear in the survey what they want candidates to do: Decrease the size and scope of government, cut spending and taxes, balance the budget, reduce the federal debt, reduce the power of special interests and unions, repeal and replace the health-care legislation, and decrease partisanship.”

Colin Powell and his (former?) party finally agree: Obama needs to “shift the way in which he has been doing things. … I think the American people feel that too many programs have come down. … There are so many rocks in our knapsack now that we’re having trouble carrying it.”

At least conservatives and Maureen Dowd can agree on this about Obama: “Empathy seems more like an abstract concept than something to practice. He has never shaken off that slight patronizing attitude toward the working-class voters he is losing now, the ones he dubbed ‘bitter’ during his campaign. There is no premium in trying to save people’s jobs and lift them up and give them health care if they feel that you can’t relate to them.”

The left and right can agree that the latest administration move on Sudan is a disgrace: “After long, and reportedly heated, arguments inside the White House over the proper balance between carrot and stick, officials have produced a document that is highly specific about inducements and carefully vague about threats. … John Norris, a Sudan expert at the Center for American Progress and former head of the Enough Project, calls the package ‘unseemly.’”

CAIR agrees with the late Tony Snow (one of his finest moments): Hezbollah never had a better spokesperson than Helen Thomas.

I think we can all agree that Christiane Amanpour is the weakest Sunday talk-show host. Not only does she not ask a serious follow-up question of Hillary Clinton, but Ahmadinejad runs circles around her. (The proof of her ineptitude? You don’t see Ahmadinejad submitting to an interview with Candy Crowley or Chris Wallace.)

The Washington Post and the Wall Street Journal agree — Obama’s end-around the Senate on the zealous czarina of consumer protection is outrageous. S. 1 in the 112th Congress? Defund the consumer protection agency.

Lots of Democratic Senate candidates agree with the GOP: “Senate Democratic candidates are wavering over whether to support President Obama’s plan to raise taxes on families earning more than $250,000 a year. At least seven Democrats in battleground states say they support or could support extending tax breaks for families who make more than $250,000.”

Karl Rove and his conservative critics agree — Lisa Murkowski’s independent run is “sad and sorry.”

Independents agree with Republicans: refudiate Obamanomics. “A new comprehensive national survey shows that independent voters—who voted for Barack Obama by a 52%-to-44% margin in the 2008 presidential election—are now moving strongly in the direction of the Republican Party. … Today, independents say they lean more toward the Republican Party than the Democratic Party, 50% to 25%, and that the Republican Party is closer to their views by 52% to 30%. … More generally, independents made clear in the survey what they want candidates to do: Decrease the size and scope of government, cut spending and taxes, balance the budget, reduce the federal debt, reduce the power of special interests and unions, repeal and replace the health-care legislation, and decrease partisanship.”

Colin Powell and his (former?) party finally agree: Obama needs to “shift the way in which he has been doing things. … I think the American people feel that too many programs have come down. … There are so many rocks in our knapsack now that we’re having trouble carrying it.”

At least conservatives and Maureen Dowd can agree on this about Obama: “Empathy seems more like an abstract concept than something to practice. He has never shaken off that slight patronizing attitude toward the working-class voters he is losing now, the ones he dubbed ‘bitter’ during his campaign. There is no premium in trying to save people’s jobs and lift them up and give them health care if they feel that you can’t relate to them.”

The left and right can agree that the latest administration move on Sudan is a disgrace: “After long, and reportedly heated, arguments inside the White House over the proper balance between carrot and stick, officials have produced a document that is highly specific about inducements and carefully vague about threats. … John Norris, a Sudan expert at the Center for American Progress and former head of the Enough Project, calls the package ‘unseemly.’”

CAIR agrees with the late Tony Snow (one of his finest moments): Hezbollah never had a better spokesperson than Helen Thomas.

I think we can all agree that Christiane Amanpour is the weakest Sunday talk-show host. Not only does she not ask a serious follow-up question of Hillary Clinton, but Ahmadinejad runs circles around her. (The proof of her ineptitude? You don’t see Ahmadinejad submitting to an interview with Candy Crowley or Chris Wallace.)

Read Less




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