Commentary Magazine


Posts For: September 24, 2010

J Street Unmasked

It’s been a mystery: what sliver of the electorate is J Street representing? Where is the market for virulent left-wing, anti-Israel propaganda disguised as tough love? It is hard to believe there is a significant segment of American Jewry that this group represents. Actually, we now know that J Street, for all intents and purposes, represents the views and is a wholly owned subsidiary of one individual — George Soros, the gazillionaire who seems to think anti-Semitism is caused by pushy Jews. In 2003, JTA had this report:

“There is a resurgence of anti-Semitism in Europe. The policies of the Bush administration and the Sharon administration contribute to that,” Soros said. “It’s not specifically anti-Semitism, but it does manifest itself in anti-Semitism as well. I’m critical of those policies.”

“If we change that direction, then anti-Semitism also will diminish,” he said. “I can’t see how one could confront it directly.” That is a point made by Israel’s most vociferous critics, whom some Jewish activists charge with using anti-Zionism as a guise for anti-Semitism.

Eli Lake has the scoop. J Street is not so much a “group” as it is a front for Soros (shouldn’t it really be “Soros Street”?), who has funded J Street to the tune of $750,000 over a three-year period. Lake reminds us of Soros’s background:

Mr. Soros made billions as a hedge fund manager and currency speculator, founding the Quantum hedge fund that, until the early 1980s, was based in an offshore tax haven in the Dutch Antilles Islands. Both his business success and his subsequent charitable giving in support of favored political and social causes have made him a figure of immense controversy both in the United States and around the world.

One of the world’s wealthiest philanthropists, Mr. Soros gave initially gave money to support Eastern European dissidents at the end of the Cold War, particularly in his native Hungary, through the Open Society Institute.

But during the George W. Bush administration, Mr. Soros stepped up his funding of more partisan liberal organizations in the United States, including MoveOn.org and Media Matters for America. He has also strongly criticized U.S. policies regarding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, including the Bush administration’ decision in 2007 not to recognize a Palestinian unity government that included the militant Islamist Hamas movement.

So if Soros Street’s line bears an uncanny resemblance to that of Israel’s enemies, you know why.

Soros’s underwriting of the faux pro-Israel group, as Michael Goldfarb aptly documents, directly contradicts the repeated representations of Soros’s executive director, Jeremy Ben Ami, and J Street’s own website. Ben Ami was quickly out spinning that he hadn’t really lied because … well, the explanation is less convincing than “It depends on what the meaning of ‘is’ is.” The usually sympathetic Ron Kampeas wasn’t buying it:

In the “Myths and Facts” section of its website, J Street denied the “myth” that Soros “founded and is the primary funder of J Street” as follows: “George Soros did not found J Street. In fact, George Soros very publicly stated his decision not to be engaged in J Street when it was launched – precisely out of fear that his involvement would be used against the organization. J Street’s Executive Director has stated many times that he would in fact be very pleased to have funding from Mr. Soros and the offer remains open to him to be a funder should he wish to support the effort.”

In an interview, Ben-Ami denied that the conditional tense of the last sentence, and saying that an offer “remains open” leaves little room to infer Soros had given the group any money. He insisted that the characterization was truthful. “This was not founded by him, he didn’t provide initial funding,” he said. “I stand by the way that is phrased — I still want him to support us more.”

However, in an interview with Moment Magazine in March of this year, Ben-Ami was even more direct in his denial: “We got tagged as having his support, without the benefit of actually getting funded!”

Ben-Ami said J Street’s board kept contributions secret as a matter of policy, but that it was also his understanding that Soros continued to prefer to keep his funding off the record.

It was his policy, you see, to lie.

Even odder, about half of Soros Street’s money comes from a mysterious woman from Hong Kong (you can’t make this stuff up). She may be involved in the gambling biz:

The group’s 990 forms … show the group’s single largest contribution, in the odd sum of $811,697 coming from one Consolacion Ediscul of Happy Valley, a Hong Kong suburb. Ediscul, whose name is Filipino, has no presence on Google or Nexis aside from this story, and people I spoke to in Jewish groups left and right had never heard of her.

It is, to say the least, unusual that a group would get half its budget from a foreigner doing a favor to a business associate.

She is “an associate” of a J Street board member, Bill Benter. The connection? “Happy Valley is the site of a major racetrack, and Benter is “regarded by many of his peers as the most successful sports bettor in the world.”

To be clear, J Street repeatedly has misrepresented its source of funding and is largely supported by a Hong Kong national and a gazillionaire with known anti-Semitic views. Isn’t it about time that J Street stopped being treated as a legitimate “pro-Israel” group? Frankly, any lawmaker who has accepted funding or support should give it back and in the future steer clear of Soros Street.

It’s been a mystery: what sliver of the electorate is J Street representing? Where is the market for virulent left-wing, anti-Israel propaganda disguised as tough love? It is hard to believe there is a significant segment of American Jewry that this group represents. Actually, we now know that J Street, for all intents and purposes, represents the views and is a wholly owned subsidiary of one individual — George Soros, the gazillionaire who seems to think anti-Semitism is caused by pushy Jews. In 2003, JTA had this report:

“There is a resurgence of anti-Semitism in Europe. The policies of the Bush administration and the Sharon administration contribute to that,” Soros said. “It’s not specifically anti-Semitism, but it does manifest itself in anti-Semitism as well. I’m critical of those policies.”

“If we change that direction, then anti-Semitism also will diminish,” he said. “I can’t see how one could confront it directly.” That is a point made by Israel’s most vociferous critics, whom some Jewish activists charge with using anti-Zionism as a guise for anti-Semitism.

Eli Lake has the scoop. J Street is not so much a “group” as it is a front for Soros (shouldn’t it really be “Soros Street”?), who has funded J Street to the tune of $750,000 over a three-year period. Lake reminds us of Soros’s background:

Mr. Soros made billions as a hedge fund manager and currency speculator, founding the Quantum hedge fund that, until the early 1980s, was based in an offshore tax haven in the Dutch Antilles Islands. Both his business success and his subsequent charitable giving in support of favored political and social causes have made him a figure of immense controversy both in the United States and around the world.

One of the world’s wealthiest philanthropists, Mr. Soros gave initially gave money to support Eastern European dissidents at the end of the Cold War, particularly in his native Hungary, through the Open Society Institute.

But during the George W. Bush administration, Mr. Soros stepped up his funding of more partisan liberal organizations in the United States, including MoveOn.org and Media Matters for America. He has also strongly criticized U.S. policies regarding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, including the Bush administration’ decision in 2007 not to recognize a Palestinian unity government that included the militant Islamist Hamas movement.

So if Soros Street’s line bears an uncanny resemblance to that of Israel’s enemies, you know why.

Soros’s underwriting of the faux pro-Israel group, as Michael Goldfarb aptly documents, directly contradicts the repeated representations of Soros’s executive director, Jeremy Ben Ami, and J Street’s own website. Ben Ami was quickly out spinning that he hadn’t really lied because … well, the explanation is less convincing than “It depends on what the meaning of ‘is’ is.” The usually sympathetic Ron Kampeas wasn’t buying it:

In the “Myths and Facts” section of its website, J Street denied the “myth” that Soros “founded and is the primary funder of J Street” as follows: “George Soros did not found J Street. In fact, George Soros very publicly stated his decision not to be engaged in J Street when it was launched – precisely out of fear that his involvement would be used against the organization. J Street’s Executive Director has stated many times that he would in fact be very pleased to have funding from Mr. Soros and the offer remains open to him to be a funder should he wish to support the effort.”

In an interview, Ben-Ami denied that the conditional tense of the last sentence, and saying that an offer “remains open” leaves little room to infer Soros had given the group any money. He insisted that the characterization was truthful. “This was not founded by him, he didn’t provide initial funding,” he said. “I stand by the way that is phrased — I still want him to support us more.”

However, in an interview with Moment Magazine in March of this year, Ben-Ami was even more direct in his denial: “We got tagged as having his support, without the benefit of actually getting funded!”

Ben-Ami said J Street’s board kept contributions secret as a matter of policy, but that it was also his understanding that Soros continued to prefer to keep his funding off the record.

It was his policy, you see, to lie.

Even odder, about half of Soros Street’s money comes from a mysterious woman from Hong Kong (you can’t make this stuff up). She may be involved in the gambling biz:

The group’s 990 forms … show the group’s single largest contribution, in the odd sum of $811,697 coming from one Consolacion Ediscul of Happy Valley, a Hong Kong suburb. Ediscul, whose name is Filipino, has no presence on Google or Nexis aside from this story, and people I spoke to in Jewish groups left and right had never heard of her.

It is, to say the least, unusual that a group would get half its budget from a foreigner doing a favor to a business associate.

She is “an associate” of a J Street board member, Bill Benter. The connection? “Happy Valley is the site of a major racetrack, and Benter is “regarded by many of his peers as the most successful sports bettor in the world.”

To be clear, J Street repeatedly has misrepresented its source of funding and is largely supported by a Hong Kong national and a gazillionaire with known anti-Semitic views. Isn’t it about time that J Street stopped being treated as a legitimate “pro-Israel” group? Frankly, any lawmaker who has accepted funding or support should give it back and in the future steer clear of Soros Street.

Read Less

Britain’s Dwindling Defense Budget

American officials are right to be concerned about the further evisceration of British defense capabilities that is apparently planned by the Tory-Liberal Democratic coalition government. Britain has already seen the size of its armed forces shrivel since the end of the Cold War, but Prime Minister David Cameron and Defense Minister Liam Fox apparently have more cuts in the works, expected to be in the range of 10 to 20 percent. Defense spending as a percentage of GDP, already far below the U.S. level, is likely to fall under 2 percent, putting Britain in the same league as Italy, Spain, and other countries with little in the way of significant and deployable military resources.

The Telegraph reports that “the cuts…. will lead to a substantial reduction in the size of the Army, which will also have to give up many of its tanks and armoured vehicles.” Also on the chopping block are the frigates that are needed to fight pirates and other valuable weapons systems that allow Britain to punch far above its weight in the international system. For all of Cameron’s and Fox’s empty and unconvincing rhetoric about maintaining British capabilities while slashing the defense budget, the reality is that their planned budget will continue the sad undoing of Britain’s global leadership role, which traces back to the 16th century.

The Financial Times, hardly a bastion of right-wingery, denounces the cuts in an editorial that warns “there is little sign of coherent geopolitical thinking behind Britain’s planned defence cuts. Instead, this has turned into a money-driven rather than a threat-driven process.” The FT notes that it is particularly striking that at the same time that Cameron is chopping defense, he “is sticking stubbornly to his promise simultaneously to raise Britain’s spending on overseas aid to 0.7 per cent of GDP. This is a bizarre choice of priorities, especially for a Conservative prime minister and particularly when the country is still at war in Afghanistan.”

I would emphasize how bizarre this is for a Tory prime minister. If the Conservatives are not the strong-on-defense party, what identity do they have left? There is a lesson here for those Republicans who might be tempted to adopt a green-eyeshade approach to our own defense policy. As Danielle Pletka and Tom Donnelly eloquently warn in today’s Washington Post:

Conservatives, and the party that putatively represents them, need to decide whether they wish to continue to warrant that trust. They can continue to be the party of Eisenhower and Reagan, supporting and resourcing a robust American role in the world. Or they can reinvent themselves as a combination of Ebenezer Scrooge and George McGovern, withdrawing from the world to a countinghouse America.

The need to maintain American strength — which won’t be cheap — is all the more imperative when one of our few reliable allies is slashing its own defense budget. That means, like it or not, that we will have to do more than ever to maintain global security, or else the entire world will pay a staggering price as terrorists, pirates, weapons proliferators, and other international menaces run free.

American officials are right to be concerned about the further evisceration of British defense capabilities that is apparently planned by the Tory-Liberal Democratic coalition government. Britain has already seen the size of its armed forces shrivel since the end of the Cold War, but Prime Minister David Cameron and Defense Minister Liam Fox apparently have more cuts in the works, expected to be in the range of 10 to 20 percent. Defense spending as a percentage of GDP, already far below the U.S. level, is likely to fall under 2 percent, putting Britain in the same league as Italy, Spain, and other countries with little in the way of significant and deployable military resources.

The Telegraph reports that “the cuts…. will lead to a substantial reduction in the size of the Army, which will also have to give up many of its tanks and armoured vehicles.” Also on the chopping block are the frigates that are needed to fight pirates and other valuable weapons systems that allow Britain to punch far above its weight in the international system. For all of Cameron’s and Fox’s empty and unconvincing rhetoric about maintaining British capabilities while slashing the defense budget, the reality is that their planned budget will continue the sad undoing of Britain’s global leadership role, which traces back to the 16th century.

The Financial Times, hardly a bastion of right-wingery, denounces the cuts in an editorial that warns “there is little sign of coherent geopolitical thinking behind Britain’s planned defence cuts. Instead, this has turned into a money-driven rather than a threat-driven process.” The FT notes that it is particularly striking that at the same time that Cameron is chopping defense, he “is sticking stubbornly to his promise simultaneously to raise Britain’s spending on overseas aid to 0.7 per cent of GDP. This is a bizarre choice of priorities, especially for a Conservative prime minister and particularly when the country is still at war in Afghanistan.”

I would emphasize how bizarre this is for a Tory prime minister. If the Conservatives are not the strong-on-defense party, what identity do they have left? There is a lesson here for those Republicans who might be tempted to adopt a green-eyeshade approach to our own defense policy. As Danielle Pletka and Tom Donnelly eloquently warn in today’s Washington Post:

Conservatives, and the party that putatively represents them, need to decide whether they wish to continue to warrant that trust. They can continue to be the party of Eisenhower and Reagan, supporting and resourcing a robust American role in the world. Or they can reinvent themselves as a combination of Ebenezer Scrooge and George McGovern, withdrawing from the world to a countinghouse America.

The need to maintain American strength — which won’t be cheap — is all the more imperative when one of our few reliable allies is slashing its own defense budget. That means, like it or not, that we will have to do more than ever to maintain global security, or else the entire world will pay a staggering price as terrorists, pirates, weapons proliferators, and other international menaces run free.

Read Less

The Meltdown Has Happened

On Wednesday, upon hearing news that TV stunt comedian Stephen Colbert was to testify before a House panel on immigration, I wrote a blog post called “Scenes from a Political Meltdown” in which I predicted it would not happen, because someone would intervene to prevent the Democratic majority in Congress from making a suicidal error in turning over discussion of an important issue to a master mocker.

Well, I was wrong. It happened this morning. Colbert, playing his blowhard-conservative-pseudo-O’Reilly character, was screamingly funny (you can watch him here). Among other things, he attempted to introduce the results of his colonoscopy into the Congressional Record. The members of Congress were screamingly funny too, only unintentionally. There were expressions of surprise, motions to get Colbert off the stage, pained stabs at making jokes alongside a professional, and so on.

At least when Sasha Baron Cohen’s Borat and Bruno took politicians by surprise, the politicians had no idea who Baron Cohen was. Everybody in that room, including Committee chair Zoe Lofgren, knew exactly who Colbert was.

This may have been the single biggest pointless blunder in American political history, and I am not kidding. With an election only five weeks from now in which Democrats are poised for major losses, this morning’s depiction of Congress as ludicrous dupes of a TV personality — which will be replayed for weeks — will make the analogistic point that the majority is unfit to be running things. How exactly will they argue otherwise?

Did Colbert himself understand the damage he was going to do to the political and ideological forces he clearly supports by mocking the political process they control in this way? Is he, secretly, more O’Reilly than O’Reilly? Whatever is the case, the disaster was predictable and could have been avoided. I know, because I predicted it. What I didn’t predict is that the House leadership and the Democratic leadership generally are in such a state of degeneration that they didn’t know, or didn’t try, to intervene before this political Jonestown.

UPDATE: Oh my Lord. Speaker of the House Margaret Dumont Nancy Pelosi has defended Colbert’s appearance: “He’s an American. He has a point of view.”

On Wednesday, upon hearing news that TV stunt comedian Stephen Colbert was to testify before a House panel on immigration, I wrote a blog post called “Scenes from a Political Meltdown” in which I predicted it would not happen, because someone would intervene to prevent the Democratic majority in Congress from making a suicidal error in turning over discussion of an important issue to a master mocker.

Well, I was wrong. It happened this morning. Colbert, playing his blowhard-conservative-pseudo-O’Reilly character, was screamingly funny (you can watch him here). Among other things, he attempted to introduce the results of his colonoscopy into the Congressional Record. The members of Congress were screamingly funny too, only unintentionally. There were expressions of surprise, motions to get Colbert off the stage, pained stabs at making jokes alongside a professional, and so on.

At least when Sasha Baron Cohen’s Borat and Bruno took politicians by surprise, the politicians had no idea who Baron Cohen was. Everybody in that room, including Committee chair Zoe Lofgren, knew exactly who Colbert was.

This may have been the single biggest pointless blunder in American political history, and I am not kidding. With an election only five weeks from now in which Democrats are poised for major losses, this morning’s depiction of Congress as ludicrous dupes of a TV personality — which will be replayed for weeks — will make the analogistic point that the majority is unfit to be running things. How exactly will they argue otherwise?

Did Colbert himself understand the damage he was going to do to the political and ideological forces he clearly supports by mocking the political process they control in this way? Is he, secretly, more O’Reilly than O’Reilly? Whatever is the case, the disaster was predictable and could have been avoided. I know, because I predicted it. What I didn’t predict is that the House leadership and the Democratic leadership generally are in such a state of degeneration that they didn’t know, or didn’t try, to intervene before this political Jonestown.

UPDATE: Oh my Lord. Speaker of the House Margaret Dumont Nancy Pelosi has defended Colbert’s appearance: “He’s an American. He has a point of view.”

Read Less

Clinton’s Slander Against Israeli Democracy

Bill Clinton’s  comments on the number of Russian immigrants and settlers in the Israel Defense Forces do indeed, as Jennifer said, sound xenophobic. But Clinton’s slander is far more dangerous than mere xenophobia. For when he says the increased presence of “children of Russians and settlers, the hardest-core people against a division of the land… presents a staggering problem,” what he’s implying is that these soldiers cannot be trusted to obey a government order to evacuate territory — or in other words, that Israel is no longer a democratic state where the government controls the army. And nothing could be further from the truth.

It’s true that for the last decade, roughly one-third of newly minted infantry officers have been Orthodox Jews, almost triple their 12 percent share in the overall Jewish population. It’s also true that Russian immigrants and their children, representing about one-sixth of the Jewish population, constitute one-fourth of all combat soldiers.

But all this was equally true five years ago, when Israel withdrew from every inch of Gaza, dismantled its 21 settlements and evacuated four West Bank settlements to boot. Yet of the approximately 50,000 soldiers involved in the disengagement, a mere 63 refused to obey the evacuation order — about a tenth of a percent. That’s less than the number of leftists who have refused to serve in the West Bank — though they, too, are a tiny minority.

Both numbers are minuscule for a very good reason: most Israelis of every political stripe accept the principle that in a democracy, the army takes orders from the government regardless of the soldiers’ own political views. That’s as true of “Russians” and settlers as it is of secular leftists — as both the disengagement and several subsequent evacuations of illegal settlement outposts show. If Clinton offered no evidence for his libelous insinuation to the contrary, it’s because there isn’t any.

Nevertheless, if Clinton is truly concerned, the ones to blame aren’t the Russians and settlers but his secular leftist friends. For while army service is mandatory in Israel, combat units are strictly voluntary. Thus, if Russians and Orthodox Jews (most of whom, incidentally, aren’t settlers) are disproportionately represented in front-line units, it’s because they’re disproportionately willing to volunteer for combat duty, while the children of veteran Israeli leftists prefer safer jobs to the rear.

Consider, for instance, the demographic breakdown of the 13-man combat platoon in which a friend’s son currently serves: five men from hesder yeshivas, which combine Torah study with army service; four mizrahim (Israelis of Middle Eastern/North African descent); one Russian immigrant; one Ethiopian immigrant; one French immigrant; and one Israeli Arab (a real rarity, since non-Druse Arabs aren’t drafted, and very few volunteer). Glaringly absent are the Israeli-born, secular, Ashkenazi Jews of Clinton’s fond memories. Yet this group far outnumbers both Russian immigrants and Orthodox Jews.

Their shrinking presence in combat units troubles me, too — not out of any concern for Israeli democracy, but for what it says about their willingness to defend the country. But the army hasn’t suffered a hostile takeover. Clinton’s beloved leftists simply abdicated.

Bill Clinton’s  comments on the number of Russian immigrants and settlers in the Israel Defense Forces do indeed, as Jennifer said, sound xenophobic. But Clinton’s slander is far more dangerous than mere xenophobia. For when he says the increased presence of “children of Russians and settlers, the hardest-core people against a division of the land… presents a staggering problem,” what he’s implying is that these soldiers cannot be trusted to obey a government order to evacuate territory — or in other words, that Israel is no longer a democratic state where the government controls the army. And nothing could be further from the truth.

It’s true that for the last decade, roughly one-third of newly minted infantry officers have been Orthodox Jews, almost triple their 12 percent share in the overall Jewish population. It’s also true that Russian immigrants and their children, representing about one-sixth of the Jewish population, constitute one-fourth of all combat soldiers.

But all this was equally true five years ago, when Israel withdrew from every inch of Gaza, dismantled its 21 settlements and evacuated four West Bank settlements to boot. Yet of the approximately 50,000 soldiers involved in the disengagement, a mere 63 refused to obey the evacuation order — about a tenth of a percent. That’s less than the number of leftists who have refused to serve in the West Bank — though they, too, are a tiny minority.

Both numbers are minuscule for a very good reason: most Israelis of every political stripe accept the principle that in a democracy, the army takes orders from the government regardless of the soldiers’ own political views. That’s as true of “Russians” and settlers as it is of secular leftists — as both the disengagement and several subsequent evacuations of illegal settlement outposts show. If Clinton offered no evidence for his libelous insinuation to the contrary, it’s because there isn’t any.

Nevertheless, if Clinton is truly concerned, the ones to blame aren’t the Russians and settlers but his secular leftist friends. For while army service is mandatory in Israel, combat units are strictly voluntary. Thus, if Russians and Orthodox Jews (most of whom, incidentally, aren’t settlers) are disproportionately represented in front-line units, it’s because they’re disproportionately willing to volunteer for combat duty, while the children of veteran Israeli leftists prefer safer jobs to the rear.

Consider, for instance, the demographic breakdown of the 13-man combat platoon in which a friend’s son currently serves: five men from hesder yeshivas, which combine Torah study with army service; four mizrahim (Israelis of Middle Eastern/North African descent); one Russian immigrant; one Ethiopian immigrant; one French immigrant; and one Israeli Arab (a real rarity, since non-Druse Arabs aren’t drafted, and very few volunteer). Glaringly absent are the Israeli-born, secular, Ashkenazi Jews of Clinton’s fond memories. Yet this group far outnumbers both Russian immigrants and Orthodox Jews.

Their shrinking presence in combat units troubles me, too — not out of any concern for Israeli democracy, but for what it says about their willingness to defend the country. But the army hasn’t suffered a hostile takeover. Clinton’s beloved leftists simply abdicated.

Read Less

Unpacking Bill Clinton’s Arguments

During the past week, former President Clinton has been granting a lot of interviews. In each of them, he is asked, in one form or another, what he would advise President Obama and Democrats to do given the current – and for them toxic – political environment.

During his interview with The News Hour, Clinton had this to offer:

What the American people need to do is to do what’s best for themselves and their family. The only things that really matter are: what are we going to do now? And once you settle on that, who is more likely to do it? If the election is about that, I think we’ll do fine.

In his interview with his former aide George Stephanopoulos, Clinton said this:

I would say, “I know a lot of people are mad, and a lot of people are tired. Apathetic. And I respect that. Because we’re not yet out of the hole we’ve got in. [Republicans] had eight years to dig the hole. They say we have 21 months, throw us out, put them back in. I just want you to understand that every election is a choice, not a referendum.  It’s a choice here.”

Clinton added:

I knew I’d done the right things in ’94. … I’d like to see him do something I didn’t do. I’d like to see him say, “Here’s what I think this election’s about. The only thing that matters is what we’re going to do now. Here are the three things I think we ought to do now.  Here’s why I think our side’s more likely to do it.  And let me tell you something, we couldn’t get out of this $3 trillion hole in 21 months.”

The options are limited for Democrats, so Clinton’s recommendation may be as good as any. And there’s a surface appeal to his “give us two more years and, if that doesn’t work out, fire us” gambit.

But here’s what’s wrong with Clinton’s recommendation. For people to have faith in what public officials promise, they have to be able to place a certain amount of credibility in them. And if they don’t trust what lawmakers have done to them in the past, they’re not likely to trust what they say about the future.

Obama and Democrats can’t simply wipe the slate clean and start over. “What are we going to do now” isn’t the only thing that matters. “What you have done to me” matters as well – and Democrats are exceedingly vulnerable in this respect. Also, the hole-was-bigger-than-we-ever-imagined excuse sounds plaintive and self-pitying, especially because the Obama administration made a series of predictions (unemployment won’t exceed 8 percent, 2010 will be the “Summer of Recovery” in which 500,000 jobs per month will be created, ObamaCare will bend the cost curve down, etc.) that were wrong and that are shattering their credibility.

A final point: it’s revealing how often Democrats reach for the formulation that every election is “a choice, not a referendum.” Actually, elections are often a combination of both, and that’s perfectly reasonable; it’s a form of accountability. When Ronald Reagan ran for reelection, it was based in large part on how much progress the country had made under his stewardship. The famous “Morning in America” ad highlighted a litany of economic statistics during the Reagan years to remind people just how much he had achieved. He wanted the 1984 election to be, in good measure, a referendum on what he had accomplished.

The fact that Democrats today are so eager to insist that the midterm election isn’t a referendum tells you everything you need to know. They don’t have a record to run on or to be proud of. They would prefer that the last two years of their legislative achievements disappear into a black hole. The problem for Democrats is that voters won’t allow that to happen.

During the past week, former President Clinton has been granting a lot of interviews. In each of them, he is asked, in one form or another, what he would advise President Obama and Democrats to do given the current – and for them toxic – political environment.

During his interview with The News Hour, Clinton had this to offer:

What the American people need to do is to do what’s best for themselves and their family. The only things that really matter are: what are we going to do now? And once you settle on that, who is more likely to do it? If the election is about that, I think we’ll do fine.

In his interview with his former aide George Stephanopoulos, Clinton said this:

I would say, “I know a lot of people are mad, and a lot of people are tired. Apathetic. And I respect that. Because we’re not yet out of the hole we’ve got in. [Republicans] had eight years to dig the hole. They say we have 21 months, throw us out, put them back in. I just want you to understand that every election is a choice, not a referendum.  It’s a choice here.”

Clinton added:

I knew I’d done the right things in ’94. … I’d like to see him do something I didn’t do. I’d like to see him say, “Here’s what I think this election’s about. The only thing that matters is what we’re going to do now. Here are the three things I think we ought to do now.  Here’s why I think our side’s more likely to do it.  And let me tell you something, we couldn’t get out of this $3 trillion hole in 21 months.”

The options are limited for Democrats, so Clinton’s recommendation may be as good as any. And there’s a surface appeal to his “give us two more years and, if that doesn’t work out, fire us” gambit.

But here’s what’s wrong with Clinton’s recommendation. For people to have faith in what public officials promise, they have to be able to place a certain amount of credibility in them. And if they don’t trust what lawmakers have done to them in the past, they’re not likely to trust what they say about the future.

Obama and Democrats can’t simply wipe the slate clean and start over. “What are we going to do now” isn’t the only thing that matters. “What you have done to me” matters as well – and Democrats are exceedingly vulnerable in this respect. Also, the hole-was-bigger-than-we-ever-imagined excuse sounds plaintive and self-pitying, especially because the Obama administration made a series of predictions (unemployment won’t exceed 8 percent, 2010 will be the “Summer of Recovery” in which 500,000 jobs per month will be created, ObamaCare will bend the cost curve down, etc.) that were wrong and that are shattering their credibility.

A final point: it’s revealing how often Democrats reach for the formulation that every election is “a choice, not a referendum.” Actually, elections are often a combination of both, and that’s perfectly reasonable; it’s a form of accountability. When Ronald Reagan ran for reelection, it was based in large part on how much progress the country had made under his stewardship. The famous “Morning in America” ad highlighted a litany of economic statistics during the Reagan years to remind people just how much he had achieved. He wanted the 1984 election to be, in good measure, a referendum on what he had accomplished.

The fact that Democrats today are so eager to insist that the midterm election isn’t a referendum tells you everything you need to know. They don’t have a record to run on or to be proud of. They would prefer that the last two years of their legislative achievements disappear into a black hole. The problem for Democrats is that voters won’t allow that to happen.

Read Less

A Possible Obama Primary Challenge

Last night, MSNBC’s Keith Olbermann interviewed the filmmaker Michael Moore. Both of them are disgusted with the Democratic Party and its leadership. Now Olbermann and Moore inhabit a fantasy world in which Democrats are failing not because they passed ObamaCare but because they don’t have the courage to trumpet their support for it. Democrats, you see, are too spineless and too passive, not willing to thump their chests to celebrate their role in passing incredibly unpopular legislation.

This is what happens to dogmatic people when their grand ideological ambitions fail. It cannot be because of any defects in their ideology; the problem must rest with weak-willed politicians who aren’t aggressive enough to fight on behalf of their ideology. They don’t have the courage of their convictions.

This critique is of course ludicrous. But for President Obama, it highlights a serious threat: in the aftermath of the forthcoming midterm elections, where Democrats are going to suffer enormous losses, liberals will grow more angry, more disillusioned, and more disgusted with Obama and the Democratic Party establishment. They will blame the election losses on them, not on liberalism; and quicker than you can imagine, the defections will begin. And if Obama doesn’t begin to turn things around in 2011, he may well face a challenge from within his own party.

That might seem unthinkable now — but let’s see where things stand on November 3, when the recriminations get really ugly.

Failed presidencies elicit primary challenges. Just ask Jimmy Carter.

We’re clearly not at this point yet, of course, and a challenge to Obama is still more unlikely than not. And we haven’t seen a sitting president dislodged since LBJ. (Eugene McCarthy nearly defeated Johnson in the New Hampshire primary; Johnson withdrew shortly after that, and Hubert Humphrey went on to win the Democratic nomination.) But you can count on this: to protect liberalism, the left will jettison even Obama if it deems it necessary for The Cause. If Obama remains or becomes increasingly radioactive in 2011, liberals will seek to separate their movement from a deeply unpopular president. And the man who in the past has been so quick to throw others (like Jeremiah Wright) under the bus may find himself suffering a similar fate. The cruelest cut of all, of course, would be for this act to come courtesy of those who were once Obama’s more worshipful supporters.

That is part of the danger of having built a campaign on a cult of personality.

Last night, MSNBC’s Keith Olbermann interviewed the filmmaker Michael Moore. Both of them are disgusted with the Democratic Party and its leadership. Now Olbermann and Moore inhabit a fantasy world in which Democrats are failing not because they passed ObamaCare but because they don’t have the courage to trumpet their support for it. Democrats, you see, are too spineless and too passive, not willing to thump their chests to celebrate their role in passing incredibly unpopular legislation.

This is what happens to dogmatic people when their grand ideological ambitions fail. It cannot be because of any defects in their ideology; the problem must rest with weak-willed politicians who aren’t aggressive enough to fight on behalf of their ideology. They don’t have the courage of their convictions.

This critique is of course ludicrous. But for President Obama, it highlights a serious threat: in the aftermath of the forthcoming midterm elections, where Democrats are going to suffer enormous losses, liberals will grow more angry, more disillusioned, and more disgusted with Obama and the Democratic Party establishment. They will blame the election losses on them, not on liberalism; and quicker than you can imagine, the defections will begin. And if Obama doesn’t begin to turn things around in 2011, he may well face a challenge from within his own party.

That might seem unthinkable now — but let’s see where things stand on November 3, when the recriminations get really ugly.

Failed presidencies elicit primary challenges. Just ask Jimmy Carter.

We’re clearly not at this point yet, of course, and a challenge to Obama is still more unlikely than not. And we haven’t seen a sitting president dislodged since LBJ. (Eugene McCarthy nearly defeated Johnson in the New Hampshire primary; Johnson withdrew shortly after that, and Hubert Humphrey went on to win the Democratic nomination.) But you can count on this: to protect liberalism, the left will jettison even Obama if it deems it necessary for The Cause. If Obama remains or becomes increasingly radioactive in 2011, liberals will seek to separate their movement from a deeply unpopular president. And the man who in the past has been so quick to throw others (like Jeremiah Wright) under the bus may find himself suffering a similar fate. The cruelest cut of all, of course, would be for this act to come courtesy of those who were once Obama’s more worshipful supporters.

That is part of the danger of having built a campaign on a cult of personality.

Read Less

The Swing Seats Will Be a Bloodbath

According to the latest findings by Glen Bolger of Public Opinion Strategies:

The generic ballot shows Republicans leading 44%-39%. Besides all of the usual regional crosstabs, we also broke it out by the type of district. We looked at the sample in the 66 Democratic INCUMBENT districts that Charlie Cook lists as either toss-up or leaning Democratic at the time of the survey.  In that key crosstab of Swing Democratic Incumbent Seats, the Republican lead grows to 49%-31% on the generic ballot. That is a very powerful crosstab that says the wave is coming.

Among the remaining Democratic districts (Likely/Safe Dem, and open seats), the generic ballot is an unsurprisingly 33% GOP/51% Dem — a sign that the historically safe Dem seat will remain so, while the swing seats will be a bloodbath. By the way, all of in the GOP held seats, the generic is the reverse of the base Dem seats — 52% GOP/32% Dem. Very few, if any, Republican incumbents will be defeated.

Likewise, President Obama’s numbers with likely voters are similar to the national average — 46% approve/51% disapprove. However, in the Swing Democratic Incumbent Seats. he has a much worse 40% approve/57% disapprove.  (Keep in mind, many of these Swing Seats are held by Democrats despite the fact that John McCain either won the district in 2008, or, even if losing, outperformed his national result.)

If Democrats sustain as much damage in the swing seats as Bolger anticipates, it could more than wipe out the gains Democrats made in the House in both the 2006 and 2008 elections. And that would be nothing short of remarkable.

According to the latest findings by Glen Bolger of Public Opinion Strategies:

The generic ballot shows Republicans leading 44%-39%. Besides all of the usual regional crosstabs, we also broke it out by the type of district. We looked at the sample in the 66 Democratic INCUMBENT districts that Charlie Cook lists as either toss-up or leaning Democratic at the time of the survey.  In that key crosstab of Swing Democratic Incumbent Seats, the Republican lead grows to 49%-31% on the generic ballot. That is a very powerful crosstab that says the wave is coming.

Among the remaining Democratic districts (Likely/Safe Dem, and open seats), the generic ballot is an unsurprisingly 33% GOP/51% Dem — a sign that the historically safe Dem seat will remain so, while the swing seats will be a bloodbath. By the way, all of in the GOP held seats, the generic is the reverse of the base Dem seats — 52% GOP/32% Dem. Very few, if any, Republican incumbents will be defeated.

Likewise, President Obama’s numbers with likely voters are similar to the national average — 46% approve/51% disapprove. However, in the Swing Democratic Incumbent Seats. he has a much worse 40% approve/57% disapprove.  (Keep in mind, many of these Swing Seats are held by Democrats despite the fact that John McCain either won the district in 2008, or, even if losing, outperformed his national result.)

If Democrats sustain as much damage in the swing seats as Bolger anticipates, it could more than wipe out the gains Democrats made in the House in both the 2006 and 2008 elections. And that would be nothing short of remarkable.

Read Less

In Defense of Harry

I’m the last person to defend Harry Reid. But between the mean-spirited, humorless Reid and the mean-spirited, humorless feminists, Harry is my man. Oh, am I allowed to say that? At issue was Reid’s praise (notice the word “praise”) of Kirsten Gillibrand for being the “hottest member of the Senate,” an apparent reference to her inclusion on The Hill’s Most Beautiful List. He also said some other nice things about her. So what do the feminists do?

The shrews high-minded ladies activists are outraged, demanding an apology. In the true spirit of the 1970s, when opening a door or standing up for a lady female would evoke not a smile or an appreciative nod but a cry a determined statement of feminists principles, these gals have nothing better to do than excoriate Reid. One pronounced, “He had a chance to clarify his comments and instead of clarifying it his spokesperson just said, ‘yeah, that’s basically what he meant,’ and in this day and age if that is the way he is going to refer to one of the seventeen women in the Senate, then you know he should just get back on his dinosaur and go back to Nevada and stay there.” Good impulse, bad reason.

This sort of hysterical fit disproportionate response over nothing remotely important is a sign that women have come very far indeed. As they say about academic politics, the feminists’ complaints these days are so bitter because the stakes are so low.

I’m the last person to defend Harry Reid. But between the mean-spirited, humorless Reid and the mean-spirited, humorless feminists, Harry is my man. Oh, am I allowed to say that? At issue was Reid’s praise (notice the word “praise”) of Kirsten Gillibrand for being the “hottest member of the Senate,” an apparent reference to her inclusion on The Hill’s Most Beautiful List. He also said some other nice things about her. So what do the feminists do?

The shrews high-minded ladies activists are outraged, demanding an apology. In the true spirit of the 1970s, when opening a door or standing up for a lady female would evoke not a smile or an appreciative nod but a cry a determined statement of feminists principles, these gals have nothing better to do than excoriate Reid. One pronounced, “He had a chance to clarify his comments and instead of clarifying it his spokesperson just said, ‘yeah, that’s basically what he meant,’ and in this day and age if that is the way he is going to refer to one of the seventeen women in the Senate, then you know he should just get back on his dinosaur and go back to Nevada and stay there.” Good impulse, bad reason.

This sort of hysterical fit disproportionate response over nothing remotely important is a sign that women have come very far indeed. As they say about academic politics, the feminists’ complaints these days are so bitter because the stakes are so low.

Read Less

Independents Are the Dems’ Undoing

The Pew poll is the latest survey to identify the Democrats’ key problem: those who will likely vote in November really are very angry with them. Pew finds Republicans have a seven-point advantage in generic congressional polling. Moreover, “the GOP’s advantage swells to 13 points among independent likely voters. … Just two years ago, Obama held an eight-point lead among independents, according to exit polls by the National Election Pool.”

In sum, Obama has done more than dispirit Democrats and energize Republicans:

All things considered, support for the Republicans and political energy among independents is closely linked to disillusionment with Obama’s policies and the president himself. Fully 69% of independent voters who say Obama’s policies have made the economy worse favor the Republican candidate in their district – and 80% say they will definitely vote. Disapproval of the president’s job performance, anger at the federal government and opposition to the health care legislation also are closely associated with support for Republican candidates.

Could Obama get these voters back in 2012? I suppose if he changed his economic policies and pulled the plug on his health-care reform, that might satisfy the enraged independents. (Hey, he could take the GOP’s Pledge!) But what are the chances of that happening?

The Pew poll is the latest survey to identify the Democrats’ key problem: those who will likely vote in November really are very angry with them. Pew finds Republicans have a seven-point advantage in generic congressional polling. Moreover, “the GOP’s advantage swells to 13 points among independent likely voters. … Just two years ago, Obama held an eight-point lead among independents, according to exit polls by the National Election Pool.”

In sum, Obama has done more than dispirit Democrats and energize Republicans:

All things considered, support for the Republicans and political energy among independents is closely linked to disillusionment with Obama’s policies and the president himself. Fully 69% of independent voters who say Obama’s policies have made the economy worse favor the Republican candidate in their district – and 80% say they will definitely vote. Disapproval of the president’s job performance, anger at the federal government and opposition to the health care legislation also are closely associated with support for Republican candidates.

Could Obama get these voters back in 2012? I suppose if he changed his economic policies and pulled the plug on his health-care reform, that might satisfy the enraged independents. (Hey, he could take the GOP’s Pledge!) But what are the chances of that happening?

Read Less

It’s Not Just Afghanistan

Peter Baker at The New York Times (h/t Peter Feaver) highlights this nugget from Bob Woodward’s book:

During a daily intelligence briefing in May 2009, [Dennis] Blair warned the president that radicals with American and European passports were being trained in Pakistan to attack their homelands. Mr. Emanuel afterward chastised him, saying, “You’re just trying to put this on us so it’s not your fault.” Mr. Blair also skirmished with Mr. Brennan about a report on the failed airliner terrorist attack on Dec. 25. Mr. Obama later forced Mr. Blair out.

Let’s unpack this: seven months before the Christmas Day bombing attempt and a year before the Times Square bomber’s failed effort, Blair was trying to raise the red flag about jihadists attacks on the homeland. What he got was a chewing out by the Obama hacks, who think such matters shouldn’t be “put” on them. It’s baffling really — is this above Obama’s pay grade?

Here again, we have the startling indifference to national security and the domination of politics over policy. You can just see the wheels clicking: We don’t want to get blamed. We’ll have no plausible deniability if they don’t keep telling us stuff.

Even Jimmy Carter, shocked by Afghanistan, took national security seriously (albeit, he was hobbled by incompetency). Obama really is in a class by himself when it comes to shirking national-security concerns.

Peter Baker at The New York Times (h/t Peter Feaver) highlights this nugget from Bob Woodward’s book:

During a daily intelligence briefing in May 2009, [Dennis] Blair warned the president that radicals with American and European passports were being trained in Pakistan to attack their homelands. Mr. Emanuel afterward chastised him, saying, “You’re just trying to put this on us so it’s not your fault.” Mr. Blair also skirmished with Mr. Brennan about a report on the failed airliner terrorist attack on Dec. 25. Mr. Obama later forced Mr. Blair out.

Let’s unpack this: seven months before the Christmas Day bombing attempt and a year before the Times Square bomber’s failed effort, Blair was trying to raise the red flag about jihadists attacks on the homeland. What he got was a chewing out by the Obama hacks, who think such matters shouldn’t be “put” on them. It’s baffling really — is this above Obama’s pay grade?

Here again, we have the startling indifference to national security and the domination of politics over policy. You can just see the wheels clicking: We don’t want to get blamed. We’ll have no plausible deniability if they don’t keep telling us stuff.

Even Jimmy Carter, shocked by Afghanistan, took national security seriously (albeit, he was hobbled by incompetency). Obama really is in a class by himself when it comes to shirking national-security concerns.

Read Less

The Hacks Weren’t the Problem

Michael Gerson sums up Bob Woodward’s portrait of Obama:

The more we know about Obama’s views of the Afghan war, the less confidence he inspires. Is there a historical precedent for an American president, in time of war, hoping to convey an impression of studied, professorial ambivalence about the war itself? Is it possible to imagine Franklin Roosevelt or Harry Truman purposely cultivating such ambiguity?

Yes, President Obama has sent more skilled, well-led troops to Afghanistan. But he has also created a strategic challenge for America. Our enemy is patient and determined. Our president, by his own account, is neither.

Gerson describes Obama as “reluctant,” which is a generous characterization of a commander in chief who never seemed to grasp the distinction between political horse-trading and military strategy. (“Are we supposed to be reassured that a president, of no proven military judgment, driven at least partially by political calculations, imposed a split-the-difference approach only loosely related to actual need or analysis?”)

It’s neither sufficient nor accurate to blame the political hacks in the room. Granted that “Generals” Emanuel and Axelrod had no business dragging political concerns into war-planning. But the biggest problem was the president himself. As Gerson notes:

It is the most basic duty of a commander in chief to pursue the national interest above any other interest. The introduction of partisan considerations into strategic decisions merits a special contempt.

So it wasn’t reluctance on Obama’s part so much as dereliction of his duties. We all would like to think that our presidents behave admirably in matters of war and peace, and that they understand the grave responsibility that goes with the office. But it’s time to give up the fiction that Obama is thoughtful or nonideological. He’s neither. He’s simply a Chicago pol who has risen above his abilities.

Michael Gerson sums up Bob Woodward’s portrait of Obama:

The more we know about Obama’s views of the Afghan war, the less confidence he inspires. Is there a historical precedent for an American president, in time of war, hoping to convey an impression of studied, professorial ambivalence about the war itself? Is it possible to imagine Franklin Roosevelt or Harry Truman purposely cultivating such ambiguity?

Yes, President Obama has sent more skilled, well-led troops to Afghanistan. But he has also created a strategic challenge for America. Our enemy is patient and determined. Our president, by his own account, is neither.

Gerson describes Obama as “reluctant,” which is a generous characterization of a commander in chief who never seemed to grasp the distinction between political horse-trading and military strategy. (“Are we supposed to be reassured that a president, of no proven military judgment, driven at least partially by political calculations, imposed a split-the-difference approach only loosely related to actual need or analysis?”)

It’s neither sufficient nor accurate to blame the political hacks in the room. Granted that “Generals” Emanuel and Axelrod had no business dragging political concerns into war-planning. But the biggest problem was the president himself. As Gerson notes:

It is the most basic duty of a commander in chief to pursue the national interest above any other interest. The introduction of partisan considerations into strategic decisions merits a special contempt.

So it wasn’t reluctance on Obama’s part so much as dereliction of his duties. We all would like to think that our presidents behave admirably in matters of war and peace, and that they understand the grave responsibility that goes with the office. But it’s time to give up the fiction that Obama is thoughtful or nonideological. He’s neither. He’s simply a Chicago pol who has risen above his abilities.

Read Less

Too Tough a Vote

Another Democratic scheme has blown up in the faces of lawmakers:

Democrats have decided not to seek a pre-election showdown on the soon-to-expire Bush tax cuts, saying lawmakers will instead wage the legislative battle with Republicans in a lame-duck session in November.

Harry Reid’s spinner said it was all the GOP’s fault. Nonsense, says Mitch McConnell, who would have loved to have an up or down vote on extension of all the Bush tax cuts. The Gray Lady pronounces:

The decision by the Democratic Senate leadership effectively freezes the debate for the rest of the midterm election season. House Democrats have said for weeks that the Senate debate should happen before they take up the issue. And it means that candidates on both sides of the aisle will be able to use the issue on the campaign trail.

Hmm. How’s that going to work for Democrats? “We didn’t take a vote because… we were afraid we’d lose.” Doesn’t really sing. Or maybe: “Because it would drive a stake through what is left of the moderates’ election prospects.” Honest but embarrassing. Perhaps: “Because we’re in the midst of a blazing recovery, the economy can absorb another hit.” (Ugh, probably want to stay away from that phrase.)

I’m not sure what “use” avoiding a tax cut vote will be to Democrats. It’s certainly not a profile in political courage.

Another Democratic scheme has blown up in the faces of lawmakers:

Democrats have decided not to seek a pre-election showdown on the soon-to-expire Bush tax cuts, saying lawmakers will instead wage the legislative battle with Republicans in a lame-duck session in November.

Harry Reid’s spinner said it was all the GOP’s fault. Nonsense, says Mitch McConnell, who would have loved to have an up or down vote on extension of all the Bush tax cuts. The Gray Lady pronounces:

The decision by the Democratic Senate leadership effectively freezes the debate for the rest of the midterm election season. House Democrats have said for weeks that the Senate debate should happen before they take up the issue. And it means that candidates on both sides of the aisle will be able to use the issue on the campaign trail.

Hmm. How’s that going to work for Democrats? “We didn’t take a vote because… we were afraid we’d lose.” Doesn’t really sing. Or maybe: “Because it would drive a stake through what is left of the moderates’ election prospects.” Honest but embarrassing. Perhaps: “Because we’re in the midst of a blazing recovery, the economy can absorb another hit.” (Ugh, probably want to stay away from that phrase.)

I’m not sure what “use” avoiding a tax cut vote will be to Democrats. It’s certainly not a profile in political courage.

Read Less

Pledging with Restraint

I’m with Yuval Levin (smart move in nearly all circumstances) on the Republicans’ Pledge to America :

On the whole, in both substantive and political terms, the Pledge is a very smart and impressive document. Conservatives always love to complain that Republican members of congress and their staffs never get anything right. Here is some proof to the contrary.

It is tricky to do three things simultaneously, which I think, by and large, the document does. First, a party wants to give its candidates a road map for the remainder of the campaign. New candidates and neophyte campaigns can look to the Pledge for some basic policy objectives. The message is clear: focus on the big, primarily economic, issues. Second, with liberals and media (I repeat myself) spinning the notion that Republicans are “divided,” it is helpful to put out a document that various factions of the party can agree with. Social conservatives are generally delighted, and economic conservatives should be as well, with strong statements on taxes, spending control, and repeal of ObamaCare. (Recall that not too long ago, there was disagreement on the right as to whether “repeal and replace” was the correct position.) Hawks should be pleased with the robust statements on missile defense and the war on terror. (“We will oppose all efforts to force our military, intelligence, and law enforcement personnel operating overseas to extend ‘Miranda Rights’ to foreign terrorists.”) And finally, the document doesn’t create any problems for candidates — nothing too extreme, nothing for the left to seize upon as wacky. Even on the hot-button issue of abortion, the positions articulated are ones that garner substantial popular support:

We will establish a government-wide prohibition on taxpayer funding of abortion and subsidies for insurance coverage that includes abortion. This prohibition would go further and enact into law what is known as the Hyde Amendment as well as ban other instances of federal subsidies for abortion services. We will also enact into law conscience protections for health care providers, including doctors, nurses, and hospitals.

John McCormack sums up: “There are, of course, other ‘social’ conservative issues–like embryo-destructive research and ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ — but the party is divided on those issues, which explains why the House GOP didn’t put them in the pledge.” Sounds like these people actually want to win this time.

And on immigration reform, restraint also was evident:

The problem of illegal immigration and Mexican drug cartels engaged in an increasingly violent conflict means we need all hands on deck to address this challenge. We will reaffirm the authority of state and local law enforcement to assist in the enforcement of all federal immigration laws. … We must take action to secure our borders, and that action starts with enforcing our laws. We will ensure that the Border Patrol has the tools and authorities to establish operational control at the border and prohibit the Secretaries of the Interior and Agriculture from interfering with Border Patrol enforcement activities on federal lands.

Not exactly fire and brimstone stuff. Instead, sensible, modest, and popular.

Ultimately, what’s in the document is not so important as having a document and avoiding numerous potholes. The GOP did that. That’s not bad for a party that was flat on its back two years ago.

I’m with Yuval Levin (smart move in nearly all circumstances) on the Republicans’ Pledge to America :

On the whole, in both substantive and political terms, the Pledge is a very smart and impressive document. Conservatives always love to complain that Republican members of congress and their staffs never get anything right. Here is some proof to the contrary.

It is tricky to do three things simultaneously, which I think, by and large, the document does. First, a party wants to give its candidates a road map for the remainder of the campaign. New candidates and neophyte campaigns can look to the Pledge for some basic policy objectives. The message is clear: focus on the big, primarily economic, issues. Second, with liberals and media (I repeat myself) spinning the notion that Republicans are “divided,” it is helpful to put out a document that various factions of the party can agree with. Social conservatives are generally delighted, and economic conservatives should be as well, with strong statements on taxes, spending control, and repeal of ObamaCare. (Recall that not too long ago, there was disagreement on the right as to whether “repeal and replace” was the correct position.) Hawks should be pleased with the robust statements on missile defense and the war on terror. (“We will oppose all efforts to force our military, intelligence, and law enforcement personnel operating overseas to extend ‘Miranda Rights’ to foreign terrorists.”) And finally, the document doesn’t create any problems for candidates — nothing too extreme, nothing for the left to seize upon as wacky. Even on the hot-button issue of abortion, the positions articulated are ones that garner substantial popular support:

We will establish a government-wide prohibition on taxpayer funding of abortion and subsidies for insurance coverage that includes abortion. This prohibition would go further and enact into law what is known as the Hyde Amendment as well as ban other instances of federal subsidies for abortion services. We will also enact into law conscience protections for health care providers, including doctors, nurses, and hospitals.

John McCormack sums up: “There are, of course, other ‘social’ conservative issues–like embryo-destructive research and ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ — but the party is divided on those issues, which explains why the House GOP didn’t put them in the pledge.” Sounds like these people actually want to win this time.

And on immigration reform, restraint also was evident:

The problem of illegal immigration and Mexican drug cartels engaged in an increasingly violent conflict means we need all hands on deck to address this challenge. We will reaffirm the authority of state and local law enforcement to assist in the enforcement of all federal immigration laws. … We must take action to secure our borders, and that action starts with enforcing our laws. We will ensure that the Border Patrol has the tools and authorities to establish operational control at the border and prohibit the Secretaries of the Interior and Agriculture from interfering with Border Patrol enforcement activities on federal lands.

Not exactly fire and brimstone stuff. Instead, sensible, modest, and popular.

Ultimately, what’s in the document is not so important as having a document and avoiding numerous potholes. The GOP did that. That’s not bad for a party that was flat on its back two years ago.

Read Less

Meet the Muslim World

Would it be Islamaphobic to call attention to this horrifying interview about wife beating according to Muhammad? Would it be too much to ask that the left and the Obama administration take a break from obsessing over apartment-building in egalitarian Israel to notice that “beating etiquette” is what passes for “honoring your wife” in the Muslim World? (No and yes, in case there was any doubt.)

But then again, this is not the worst of it for the women and girls of the Muslim World. Let’s not forget the stonings, the child brides, and the honor killings (which are the natural extension of pummeling one’s wife — “Eventually [a] husband could find he has honored wife so widely and deeply that he’s meted out an honor killing”).

You’d have to be blind or handsomely entertained to miss all that. Speaking of which, maybe next time Maureen Dowd is feted in Saudi Arabia, she can refrain from purring about the progress of Muslim women and ask about these sorts of thing. No, I don’t suppose she would.

Would it be Islamaphobic to call attention to this horrifying interview about wife beating according to Muhammad? Would it be too much to ask that the left and the Obama administration take a break from obsessing over apartment-building in egalitarian Israel to notice that “beating etiquette” is what passes for “honoring your wife” in the Muslim World? (No and yes, in case there was any doubt.)

But then again, this is not the worst of it for the women and girls of the Muslim World. Let’s not forget the stonings, the child brides, and the honor killings (which are the natural extension of pummeling one’s wife — “Eventually [a] husband could find he has honored wife so widely and deeply that he’s meted out an honor killing”).

You’d have to be blind or handsomely entertained to miss all that. Speaking of which, maybe next time Maureen Dowd is feted in Saudi Arabia, she can refrain from purring about the progress of Muslim women and ask about these sorts of thing. No, I don’t suppose she would.

Read Less

Flotsam and Jetsam

Bill Clinton sounds like he swallowed a eugenics textbook. “[T]he most delicious part of that [slur on the Russian immigrants to Israel] performance was his extraordinary—no, his fantastical, his risible, his marvelously ludicrous—foray into sociology, with the ranking of Israelis’ attitudes toward peace according to their national origins.” Yup, it sure was a “spurious, illiterate, and really amazingly racist lesson in Israeli politics.”

But it sounds like he has an excuse: a protein deficiency. But even if he had a chicken leg now and then, I suspect he’d still say dumb things.

Rush Holt sounds like an AIPAC board member. The Emergency Committee for Israel ( whaich ran ads against him) sure does get results.

Nancy Pelosi sounds loopier than usual. “The momentum is with us.” And what’s with the Evita Peron pose?

Eliot Spitzer sounds like he’s peddling himself as a guru to “the dirtiest, nastiest” politicians. He’s found his niche.

Obama sounds like he’s got a plan to flee the midterm election recriminations. He will finally get to Indonesia — in November.

Chris Christie sounds like he’s an overachiever. “Part of Gov. Chris Christie’s belt-tightening plan for New Jersey was the termination of $7.5 million in public funding for Planned Parenthood clinics in the state.” He says he’s not interested in running for president, but that’s what Obama said in 2006. (It doesn’t get much better than this.)

Independents sound like Republicans these days. “In an Associated Press-GfK Poll this month, 58 percent of independents and 60 percent of Republicans said politics is making them angry, compared with 31 percent of Democrats who said so. … The figures are the latest cautionary note for Democrats, who face a Nov. 2 Election Day in which the sluggish economy and President Barack Obama’s tepid popularity give Republicans a strong chance to capture control of the House and perhaps the Senate. They also help explain why independents, who can be pivotal in many congressional races, prefer their GOP candidate over the Democrat by 52 percent to 36 percent — which grows to 62 percent to 29 percent among independents considered likeliest to vote.” Wait — 62 percent?!

Bill Clinton sounds like he swallowed a eugenics textbook. “[T]he most delicious part of that [slur on the Russian immigrants to Israel] performance was his extraordinary—no, his fantastical, his risible, his marvelously ludicrous—foray into sociology, with the ranking of Israelis’ attitudes toward peace according to their national origins.” Yup, it sure was a “spurious, illiterate, and really amazingly racist lesson in Israeli politics.”

But it sounds like he has an excuse: a protein deficiency. But even if he had a chicken leg now and then, I suspect he’d still say dumb things.

Rush Holt sounds like an AIPAC board member. The Emergency Committee for Israel ( whaich ran ads against him) sure does get results.

Nancy Pelosi sounds loopier than usual. “The momentum is with us.” And what’s with the Evita Peron pose?

Eliot Spitzer sounds like he’s peddling himself as a guru to “the dirtiest, nastiest” politicians. He’s found his niche.

Obama sounds like he’s got a plan to flee the midterm election recriminations. He will finally get to Indonesia — in November.

Chris Christie sounds like he’s an overachiever. “Part of Gov. Chris Christie’s belt-tightening plan for New Jersey was the termination of $7.5 million in public funding for Planned Parenthood clinics in the state.” He says he’s not interested in running for president, but that’s what Obama said in 2006. (It doesn’t get much better than this.)

Independents sound like Republicans these days. “In an Associated Press-GfK Poll this month, 58 percent of independents and 60 percent of Republicans said politics is making them angry, compared with 31 percent of Democrats who said so. … The figures are the latest cautionary note for Democrats, who face a Nov. 2 Election Day in which the sluggish economy and President Barack Obama’s tepid popularity give Republicans a strong chance to capture control of the House and perhaps the Senate. They also help explain why independents, who can be pivotal in many congressional races, prefer their GOP candidate over the Democrat by 52 percent to 36 percent — which grows to 62 percent to 29 percent among independents considered likeliest to vote.” Wait — 62 percent?!

Read Less




Welcome to Commentary Magazine.
We hope you enjoy your visit.
As a visitor to our site, you are allowed 8 free articles this month.
This is your first of 8 free articles.

If you are already a digital subscriber, log in here »

Print subscriber? For free access to the website and iPad, register here »

To subscribe, click here to see our subscription offers »

Please note this is an advertisement skip this ad
Clearly, you have a passion for ideas.
Subscribe today for unlimited digital access to the publication that shapes the minds of the people who shape our world.
Get for just
YOU HAVE READ OF 8 FREE ARTICLES THIS MONTH.
FOR JUST
YOU HAVE READ OF 8 FREE ARTICLES THIS MONTH.
FOR JUST
Welcome to Commentary Magazine.
We hope you enjoy your visit.
As a visitor, you are allowed 8 free articles.
This is your first article.
You have read of 8 free articles this month.
YOU HAVE READ 8 OF 8
FREE ARTICLES THIS MONTH.
for full access to
CommentaryMagazine.com
INCLUDES FULL ACCESS TO:
Digital subscriber?
Print subscriber? Get free access »
Call to subscribe: 1-800-829-6270
You can also subscribe
on your computer at
CommentaryMagazine.com.
LOG IN WITH YOUR
COMMENTARY MAGAZINE ID
Don't have a CommentaryMagazine.com log in?
CREATE A COMMENTARY
LOG IN ID
Enter you email address and password below. A confirmation email will be sent to the email address that you provide.