Commentary Magazine


Posts For: September 27, 2010

Flashpoint Senkakus

There is reason to be concerned about the spat between China and Japan, which erupted over a Chinese fishing trawler that entered the disputed waters of the Senkaku Island chain on September 7 and then proceeded to collide with two Japanese coastguard ships. The Japanese arrested the trawler’s master, releasing him finally on Friday after a mounting series of threats from China. Beijing cut off shipments of rare earth minerals to Japan — a blow to the Japanese auto and high-tech industries — and is now reportedly subjecting 90 percent of Japan-bound commercial shipments to bureaucratic inspections.

China is apparently doubling down on its confrontational posture, in ways that make it harder for both sides to revert to the status quo ante. This weekend the Chinese demanded an apology and monetary restitution from Japan. On Monday the Naoto Kan government in Tokyo, stung by editorial opposition to its release of the Chinese fishing captain last week, countered with a demand for compensation from China for the damage to its coastguard ships.

Difficult as such positions can be for Asian nations to draw back from, it’s China’s prosecution of a material stake in the disputed economic zone off the Senkaku Islands that may keep both sides in confrontation. Japan has reportedly identified Chinese drilling equipment in the disputed area and suspects that Beijing is preparing to drill for natural gas there. Oil and gas exploration by both nations goes back to 2004; Japan has already stated concerns that drilling performed within China’s acknowledged economic zone could tap gas reserves in the area claimed by Tokyo. Taiwan is another claimant to economic rights in the area, a factor that serves to complicate relations among the parties.

China has assumed a position it cannot back off from gracefully — and one involving its most important economic interests. The outcome of this confrontation will be a point of no return in one way or another. Neither China nor Japan will rest if it loses this face-off. More than economic assets are at stake; this is about power relations and the future of Asia. Of greatest concern in all of this is the basic fact that China was emboldened to pick this fight. Beijing apparently calculates that the U.S. will acquiesce in whatever de facto diplomatic triumph China’s leaders can achieve over Japan.

Japan is unlikely to back down, however. The outcome of this incident matters too greatly to its national future. It’s trite to talk about being at a crossroads, but that’s because the metaphor usually fits. Americans are faced with a choice of our own in this situation: either we are relevant to its resolution — a resolution involving one of our closest allies — or we are not. If we’re not, the status quo of the “Pax Americana” will not last much longer.

There is reason to be concerned about the spat between China and Japan, which erupted over a Chinese fishing trawler that entered the disputed waters of the Senkaku Island chain on September 7 and then proceeded to collide with two Japanese coastguard ships. The Japanese arrested the trawler’s master, releasing him finally on Friday after a mounting series of threats from China. Beijing cut off shipments of rare earth minerals to Japan — a blow to the Japanese auto and high-tech industries — and is now reportedly subjecting 90 percent of Japan-bound commercial shipments to bureaucratic inspections.

China is apparently doubling down on its confrontational posture, in ways that make it harder for both sides to revert to the status quo ante. This weekend the Chinese demanded an apology and monetary restitution from Japan. On Monday the Naoto Kan government in Tokyo, stung by editorial opposition to its release of the Chinese fishing captain last week, countered with a demand for compensation from China for the damage to its coastguard ships.

Difficult as such positions can be for Asian nations to draw back from, it’s China’s prosecution of a material stake in the disputed economic zone off the Senkaku Islands that may keep both sides in confrontation. Japan has reportedly identified Chinese drilling equipment in the disputed area and suspects that Beijing is preparing to drill for natural gas there. Oil and gas exploration by both nations goes back to 2004; Japan has already stated concerns that drilling performed within China’s acknowledged economic zone could tap gas reserves in the area claimed by Tokyo. Taiwan is another claimant to economic rights in the area, a factor that serves to complicate relations among the parties.

China has assumed a position it cannot back off from gracefully — and one involving its most important economic interests. The outcome of this confrontation will be a point of no return in one way or another. Neither China nor Japan will rest if it loses this face-off. More than economic assets are at stake; this is about power relations and the future of Asia. Of greatest concern in all of this is the basic fact that China was emboldened to pick this fight. Beijing apparently calculates that the U.S. will acquiesce in whatever de facto diplomatic triumph China’s leaders can achieve over Japan.

Japan is unlikely to back down, however. The outcome of this incident matters too greatly to its national future. It’s trite to talk about being at a crossroads, but that’s because the metaphor usually fits. Americans are faced with a choice of our own in this situation: either we are relevant to its resolution — a resolution involving one of our closest allies — or we are not. If we’re not, the status quo of the “Pax Americana” will not last much longer.

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Yes, We Can…Stay Home

The president, today, speaking to college newspaper editors, previewing what he will tell young voters this week: “You can’t sit it out, you can’t suddenly just check in once every ten years or so on an exciting presidential election and then not pay attention during big midterm elections where we’ve got a real big choice between Democrats and Republicans.”

The problem is that if, as Obama said, “we are the change we have been waiting for,” and the current condition of the country is the change “we’ve been waiting for,” why would “we” choose “us” again? “We” might even go with “them” even though “we” think “they”  bear a greater share of the blame for the mess you’re in. According to a new CNN/Opinion Research poll, “41 percent of adult Americans say congressional Republicans are more responsible for the nation’s economic problems, with 35 percent saying the Democrats are more to blame. … But 47 percent of those questioned say the economic policies of congressional Republicans are more likely to improve economic conditions, with 41 percent saying Democrats in Congress have the better prescriptions.”

In some sense, this is really Obama’s final card to play. He desperately needs to reconstitute the flash mob that arose in that stunning way in 2008 before it dissipated like vapor. Some attribute the loss of this potentially nation-changing political force to the thinness of Obama’s message — which did seem to boil down to change for the sake of change. But that actually might do the Obama voter too little credit. What kind of immediate future does a college-age or graduate-school Obama voter, piling up student-loan debt in preparation for entering a terrible job market, see for himself or herself in ObamaNation? Enough to stimulate him to go out and vote for a congressman or senator for whom he may have no particular interest or taste, but as a secondary means of expressing his enthusiasm for the 2008 vote he cast that seems to have delivered so little?

The president, today, speaking to college newspaper editors, previewing what he will tell young voters this week: “You can’t sit it out, you can’t suddenly just check in once every ten years or so on an exciting presidential election and then not pay attention during big midterm elections where we’ve got a real big choice between Democrats and Republicans.”

The problem is that if, as Obama said, “we are the change we have been waiting for,” and the current condition of the country is the change “we’ve been waiting for,” why would “we” choose “us” again? “We” might even go with “them” even though “we” think “they”  bear a greater share of the blame for the mess you’re in. According to a new CNN/Opinion Research poll, “41 percent of adult Americans say congressional Republicans are more responsible for the nation’s economic problems, with 35 percent saying the Democrats are more to blame. … But 47 percent of those questioned say the economic policies of congressional Republicans are more likely to improve economic conditions, with 41 percent saying Democrats in Congress have the better prescriptions.”

In some sense, this is really Obama’s final card to play. He desperately needs to reconstitute the flash mob that arose in that stunning way in 2008 before it dissipated like vapor. Some attribute the loss of this potentially nation-changing political force to the thinness of Obama’s message — which did seem to boil down to change for the sake of change. But that actually might do the Obama voter too little credit. What kind of immediate future does a college-age or graduate-school Obama voter, piling up student-loan debt in preparation for entering a terrible job market, see for himself or herself in ObamaNation? Enough to stimulate him to go out and vote for a congressman or senator for whom he may have no particular interest or taste, but as a secondary means of expressing his enthusiasm for the 2008 vote he cast that seems to have delivered so little?

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Vast Right-Wing Conspiracy, Redux

Some liberals — including the New Republic’s Jonathan Chait, who insisted in late 2008 and early 2009 that ObamaCare would be a great political success for Obama and the Democrats — continue to claim that they were right all along. The argument goes something like this: Obama’s troubles, which they can no longer deny, are completely unrelated to Obama’s signature domestic achievement. They have to do with “structural factors.” Health-care legislation, you see, has nothing to do with it. Nothing at all. But the evidence continues to shatter this claim. The Weekly Standard’s Jeffrey Anderson covers some of it here and here. And now we find out (courtesy of RealClearPolitics) that Democrat Joe Manchin, running for the open Senate seat in West Virginia, is joining the GOP’s call to repeal some pieces of health-care reform.

Hard as it is to imagine, people running for office have an even keener sense of what voters want, and don’t want, than writers at TNR. And the fact that few Democrats, if any, are running ads based on their support for ObamaCare, and many are now distancing themselves from it, tells you most of what you need to know.

Chait is working very hard to salvage his credibility — not an easy task, I grant you. (In addition to his health-care counsel, Chait declared that there was “something genuinely bizarre” about those Americans who supported President Bush’s surge strategy in Iraq. “It is not just that they are wrong,” he wrote in early 2007. “It’s that they are completely detached from reality.”) To that end, he is even beginning to anticipate ObamaCare’s failure — and, shockingly, Chait seems ready to blame the GOP. “If they [Republicans] can make the health care law fail by sabotaging its implemetation [sic], the public is going to hold President Obama responsible for the results, and Republicans will benefit politically,” according to Chait.

Chait is once again unraveling the Vast Right Wing Conspiracy. Those devilish Republicans are going to wreck Obama’s fantastically popular piece of legislation by sabotage-through-implementation and then take advantage of the ignorant, unwashed masses, who don’t realize just how wonderful ObamaCare really is.

Like the Psalmist, Jonathan Chait is crying out: “How long shall the wicked, O LORD, How long shall the wicked be jubilant?”

My guess is at least until November 3.

Some liberals — including the New Republic’s Jonathan Chait, who insisted in late 2008 and early 2009 that ObamaCare would be a great political success for Obama and the Democrats — continue to claim that they were right all along. The argument goes something like this: Obama’s troubles, which they can no longer deny, are completely unrelated to Obama’s signature domestic achievement. They have to do with “structural factors.” Health-care legislation, you see, has nothing to do with it. Nothing at all. But the evidence continues to shatter this claim. The Weekly Standard’s Jeffrey Anderson covers some of it here and here. And now we find out (courtesy of RealClearPolitics) that Democrat Joe Manchin, running for the open Senate seat in West Virginia, is joining the GOP’s call to repeal some pieces of health-care reform.

Hard as it is to imagine, people running for office have an even keener sense of what voters want, and don’t want, than writers at TNR. And the fact that few Democrats, if any, are running ads based on their support for ObamaCare, and many are now distancing themselves from it, tells you most of what you need to know.

Chait is working very hard to salvage his credibility — not an easy task, I grant you. (In addition to his health-care counsel, Chait declared that there was “something genuinely bizarre” about those Americans who supported President Bush’s surge strategy in Iraq. “It is not just that they are wrong,” he wrote in early 2007. “It’s that they are completely detached from reality.”) To that end, he is even beginning to anticipate ObamaCare’s failure — and, shockingly, Chait seems ready to blame the GOP. “If they [Republicans] can make the health care law fail by sabotaging its implemetation [sic], the public is going to hold President Obama responsible for the results, and Republicans will benefit politically,” according to Chait.

Chait is once again unraveling the Vast Right Wing Conspiracy. Those devilish Republicans are going to wreck Obama’s fantastically popular piece of legislation by sabotage-through-implementation and then take advantage of the ignorant, unwashed masses, who don’t realize just how wonderful ObamaCare really is.

Like the Psalmist, Jonathan Chait is crying out: “How long shall the wicked, O LORD, How long shall the wicked be jubilant?”

My guess is at least until November 3.

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S-300: Political Football

Americans looking for coherence in Russia’s on-again, off-again policy on the S-300 sale to Iran should focus on the overall thrust of Russian policy in the Putin era. Putin’s emphasis — with interstitial refinements from Dmitry Medvedev — is on supplanting American leadership with a set of multilateral bodies and rivalries in which Russia can wield increasing influence.

As with many of Putin’s foreign-policy moves, the S-300 sale is a tool for putting Russia at the center of a major decision point about international security. The prospect of the sale has given Europe, Asia, and the U.S. a reason to seek Russian cooperation. It has also given Russia an influence over Iran that no other nation has had in the past half-decade. This is related, in turn, to the trigger the sale has put in Russia’s hands: from any objective military analysis, the delivery of the S-300 to Iran would set the clock ticking on Israel’s window of feasibility for attacking the Iranian nuclear sites.

Russia wouldn’t let this valuable bargaining chip go for light and transient reasons. Everything in his history must tell us that Putin is letting go of this uniquely privileged position because he has what he wants: he doesn’t feel he needs the power of that particular position for the time being. If he wants it back, he can probably get it (unless China steps into the breach and sells its version of the S-300 to Iran instead). Meanwhile, cancelling the sale is a signal that Putin is satisfied with the benefits his policies have realized, to date, from Russian influence with Iran.

What benefits has he realized? In brief, he has succeeded in getting America’s closest allies to seek accommodation with Russia as a means of improving their position vis-à-vis Iran. I’ve written here and here, for example, about the Netanyahu government’s pragmatic outreach to Moscow, which recently produced a defense-cooperation agreement that would have been unthinkable even two years ago.

Equally significant is the September announcement by NATO’s political chief, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, that NATO’s future lies in structured cooperation with Russia on security issues, including missile defense. In the wake of that proclamation, France and Germany will hold a summit with Russia in October in preparation for the next G-20 conference. Their main topic will reportedly be “joint security issues.”

It cannot be reiterated too often that incorporating Russia in Europe’s missile defenses will give Russia an effective veto over anything it doesn’t like about those defenses. It will also give Moscow a means of dividing Europe from North America over the nature and purpose of our common defense arrangements. Assuming these incipient efforts move forward as proposed — all while Russia keeps missiles trained on Eastern Europe — it’s not too much to say that we will be witnessing the death throes of the NATO alliance.

These are heady achievements for Putin’s policies, but they’re not the only ones. Russia has succeeded in ingratiating itself with India to a much greater extent in the last 18 months, increasing arms cooperation dramatically and establishing itself as a partner in containing the Taliban. In all of these cases, a narrowly-focused and expedient passivity on the part of the U.S has smoothed Russia’s path. President Obama himself created the conditions for Russia to act as a spoiler in NATO missile defenses, by abandoning the installations planned for Eastern Europe and rushing into the ill-considered New START treaty. And his dilatory approach to Iran has been a key factor in driving the nations of the Eastern hemisphere to look to Russia for help, rather than counting on the U.S. to avert the security catastrophe of a nuclear-armed Iran.

It would actually be a better sign, at this point, if Putin still thought the S-300 sale was an indispensable bargaining chip. It would mean he still considered it necessary to leverage such a chip against U.S. power. But he no longer does — and that doesn’t mean he has changed. It means we have.

Americans looking for coherence in Russia’s on-again, off-again policy on the S-300 sale to Iran should focus on the overall thrust of Russian policy in the Putin era. Putin’s emphasis — with interstitial refinements from Dmitry Medvedev — is on supplanting American leadership with a set of multilateral bodies and rivalries in which Russia can wield increasing influence.

As with many of Putin’s foreign-policy moves, the S-300 sale is a tool for putting Russia at the center of a major decision point about international security. The prospect of the sale has given Europe, Asia, and the U.S. a reason to seek Russian cooperation. It has also given Russia an influence over Iran that no other nation has had in the past half-decade. This is related, in turn, to the trigger the sale has put in Russia’s hands: from any objective military analysis, the delivery of the S-300 to Iran would set the clock ticking on Israel’s window of feasibility for attacking the Iranian nuclear sites.

Russia wouldn’t let this valuable bargaining chip go for light and transient reasons. Everything in his history must tell us that Putin is letting go of this uniquely privileged position because he has what he wants: he doesn’t feel he needs the power of that particular position for the time being. If he wants it back, he can probably get it (unless China steps into the breach and sells its version of the S-300 to Iran instead). Meanwhile, cancelling the sale is a signal that Putin is satisfied with the benefits his policies have realized, to date, from Russian influence with Iran.

What benefits has he realized? In brief, he has succeeded in getting America’s closest allies to seek accommodation with Russia as a means of improving their position vis-à-vis Iran. I’ve written here and here, for example, about the Netanyahu government’s pragmatic outreach to Moscow, which recently produced a defense-cooperation agreement that would have been unthinkable even two years ago.

Equally significant is the September announcement by NATO’s political chief, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, that NATO’s future lies in structured cooperation with Russia on security issues, including missile defense. In the wake of that proclamation, France and Germany will hold a summit with Russia in October in preparation for the next G-20 conference. Their main topic will reportedly be “joint security issues.”

It cannot be reiterated too often that incorporating Russia in Europe’s missile defenses will give Russia an effective veto over anything it doesn’t like about those defenses. It will also give Moscow a means of dividing Europe from North America over the nature and purpose of our common defense arrangements. Assuming these incipient efforts move forward as proposed — all while Russia keeps missiles trained on Eastern Europe — it’s not too much to say that we will be witnessing the death throes of the NATO alliance.

These are heady achievements for Putin’s policies, but they’re not the only ones. Russia has succeeded in ingratiating itself with India to a much greater extent in the last 18 months, increasing arms cooperation dramatically and establishing itself as a partner in containing the Taliban. In all of these cases, a narrowly-focused and expedient passivity on the part of the U.S has smoothed Russia’s path. President Obama himself created the conditions for Russia to act as a spoiler in NATO missile defenses, by abandoning the installations planned for Eastern Europe and rushing into the ill-considered New START treaty. And his dilatory approach to Iran has been a key factor in driving the nations of the Eastern hemisphere to look to Russia for help, rather than counting on the U.S. to avert the security catastrophe of a nuclear-armed Iran.

It would actually be a better sign, at this point, if Putin still thought the S-300 sale was an indispensable bargaining chip. It would mean he still considered it necessary to leverage such a chip against U.S. power. But he no longer does — and that doesn’t mean he has changed. It means we have.

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RE: Hmm. Moratorium Ended. Non-Peace Talks Did Not.

A knowledgeable reader points to this smart take from Michael Singh on the settlement moratorium and the continuing diplomatic malpractice of the Obama Middle East squad: “Obama risks repeating his administration’s past diplomatic errors. Recall that it was Washington’s — not the Palestinians’ — early preoccupation with settlements that metastasized into a precondition delaying peace talks in 2009 and early 2010.” Yes, come to think of it, there were negotiations under George W. Bush with no moratorium at issue. Hmm. Could Obama have made things, you know, worse?

And by publicly pressuring Bibi, he doubled down on his error:

It is the U.S. public insistence on an extension of a freeze that seems overly rigid, rather than the parties’ own stances. One could argue that the president’s position is just rhetorical, and that in fact U.S. negotiators are working behind the scenes to broker a compromise (which it seems they are). Be this as it may, unequivocal and ultimately unnecessary public proclamations — especially when uttered by top U.S. officials — make those private efforts more difficult. For Netanyahu, any compromise will now seem to be the result of U.S. and international pressure, which will add fuel to the inevitable political attacks he will face from his right. For Abbas, openness to compromise makes him appear less committed on this sensitive issue than even the United States, reducing his room to maneuver.

My reader makes an additional point: if Abbas has to go running back to the Arab League for further instructions, is he in a position to make any kind of deal? The idea — we thought, but who knows — was to empower Abbas so he’d be able to negotiate and implement a deal. Now, he looks like an errand boy. There’s that smart diplomacy at work.

A knowledgeable reader points to this smart take from Michael Singh on the settlement moratorium and the continuing diplomatic malpractice of the Obama Middle East squad: “Obama risks repeating his administration’s past diplomatic errors. Recall that it was Washington’s — not the Palestinians’ — early preoccupation with settlements that metastasized into a precondition delaying peace talks in 2009 and early 2010.” Yes, come to think of it, there were negotiations under George W. Bush with no moratorium at issue. Hmm. Could Obama have made things, you know, worse?

And by publicly pressuring Bibi, he doubled down on his error:

It is the U.S. public insistence on an extension of a freeze that seems overly rigid, rather than the parties’ own stances. One could argue that the president’s position is just rhetorical, and that in fact U.S. negotiators are working behind the scenes to broker a compromise (which it seems they are). Be this as it may, unequivocal and ultimately unnecessary public proclamations — especially when uttered by top U.S. officials — make those private efforts more difficult. For Netanyahu, any compromise will now seem to be the result of U.S. and international pressure, which will add fuel to the inevitable political attacks he will face from his right. For Abbas, openness to compromise makes him appear less committed on this sensitive issue than even the United States, reducing his room to maneuver.

My reader makes an additional point: if Abbas has to go running back to the Arab League for further instructions, is he in a position to make any kind of deal? The idea — we thought, but who knows — was to empower Abbas so he’d be able to negotiate and implement a deal. Now, he looks like an errand boy. There’s that smart diplomacy at work.

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Ahmadinejad Goes to Yale

The U.S. and European delegations walk out on Ahmadinejad at the UN. The president proclaims himself outraged that the perennial Holocaust denier would say awful things. But Ahmadinejad is not without friends in the West. Oh, far from it. Hillary Mann Leverett, one half of the dynamic duo of mullah apologists, invited him to her class at Yale. I kid you not. This account gives you a flavor of what passes for scholarship in the Ivy League:

Leverett said what came across from the meeting was that “he was probably not the stereotype of a crazy irrational figure … He has a strategy for Iran.” She said she also hopes students understand “that it will take a lot more from the U.S. if we want to have a real policy of engagement.”

While Washington has expressed interest in engaging Tehran diplomatically, it has also been using measures to pressure Tehran, such as sanctions.

Leverett’s general approach to U.S.-Iranian relations involves a policy of engagement rather than pressure. Though her views, which differ from those of the previous and current administrations, are controversial, she holds that engagement with Iran and a changing of U.S. attitudes toward the regime is the only way to bring about productive relations with Tehran. …

“The senior advisor [who spoke to the students before the main circus act] was interesting for the students, because he has been a long-time friend of the president,” Leverett said. “He was able to explain to the students in a very interesting unique way, I mean they couldn’t have heard it anywhere else, Ahmedinejad’s personal background.”

No word on whether the bright young minds asked him about the murders, stonings, beatings, Holocaust denial, etc.

Perhaps Leverett next time can arrange for her class a field trip to the dolphin show with him.

The U.S. and European delegations walk out on Ahmadinejad at the UN. The president proclaims himself outraged that the perennial Holocaust denier would say awful things. But Ahmadinejad is not without friends in the West. Oh, far from it. Hillary Mann Leverett, one half of the dynamic duo of mullah apologists, invited him to her class at Yale. I kid you not. This account gives you a flavor of what passes for scholarship in the Ivy League:

Leverett said what came across from the meeting was that “he was probably not the stereotype of a crazy irrational figure … He has a strategy for Iran.” She said she also hopes students understand “that it will take a lot more from the U.S. if we want to have a real policy of engagement.”

While Washington has expressed interest in engaging Tehran diplomatically, it has also been using measures to pressure Tehran, such as sanctions.

Leverett’s general approach to U.S.-Iranian relations involves a policy of engagement rather than pressure. Though her views, which differ from those of the previous and current administrations, are controversial, she holds that engagement with Iran and a changing of U.S. attitudes toward the regime is the only way to bring about productive relations with Tehran. …

“The senior advisor [who spoke to the students before the main circus act] was interesting for the students, because he has been a long-time friend of the president,” Leverett said. “He was able to explain to the students in a very interesting unique way, I mean they couldn’t have heard it anywhere else, Ahmedinejad’s personal background.”

No word on whether the bright young minds asked him about the murders, stonings, beatings, Holocaust denial, etc.

Perhaps Leverett next time can arrange for her class a field trip to the dolphin show with him.

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RE: ABC’s Humiliation

Apropos your posting, Jennifer, Christiane Amanpour has been ABC’s “This Week host for nine Sundays — and a week ago last Sunday, on September 19, the show dropped to its lowest ratings in the 25-54 age demographic in more than seven years. According to Mediaite, the last time ABC had a lower rating in the demo was the August 24, 2003 show. Year-to-year, the show was down 29 percent in total viewers and 38 percent in the demo, while its popularity declined in both categories week-to-week as well (while that of NBC and CBS grew).

Just like the Philadelphia Eagles head coach Andy Reid acknowledged his mistake in making Kevin Kolb the starting quarterback and has now replaced him with Michael Vick, ABC’s brass should recognize the error of its ways and replace Amanpour with Jake Tapper, who not only received higher ratings than Amanpour but is also a far better (and more objective) host. Tapper is, in fact, among the nation’s best political reporters. For reasons Jen details, Amanpour is not.

Apropos your posting, Jennifer, Christiane Amanpour has been ABC’s “This Week host for nine Sundays — and a week ago last Sunday, on September 19, the show dropped to its lowest ratings in the 25-54 age demographic in more than seven years. According to Mediaite, the last time ABC had a lower rating in the demo was the August 24, 2003 show. Year-to-year, the show was down 29 percent in total viewers and 38 percent in the demo, while its popularity declined in both categories week-to-week as well (while that of NBC and CBS grew).

Just like the Philadelphia Eagles head coach Andy Reid acknowledged his mistake in making Kevin Kolb the starting quarterback and has now replaced him with Michael Vick, ABC’s brass should recognize the error of its ways and replace Amanpour with Jake Tapper, who not only received higher ratings than Amanpour but is also a far better (and more objective) host. Tapper is, in fact, among the nation’s best political reporters. For reasons Jen details, Amanpour is not.

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Hmm, Moratorium Ended. Non-Peace Talks Don’t.

The settlement moratorium ended today. For now, Bibi didn’t give away something for nothing. And for now, Abbas didn’t walk out. It seems that giving the Palestinians precisely what they want isn’t necessarily essential to Israel’s security. But for the sake of argument, let’s say Abbas stays in the room. What then? Is he ready to recognize the Jewish state as the Jewish state? We’ve seen no sign of it. And that is something that can’t be finessed.

It is interesting that the New York Times saw Bibi’s move in terms of its impact on Obama. (“For President Obama, who had publicly called on Israel to extend the freeze, the Israeli decision was another setback in what has been a tortuous effort to help resolve one of the world’s most intractable conflicts.”) And in a way, that is right. Bibi rebuffed Obama’s public pleas. Obama’s been trying to push a settlement freeze on Bibi from day one, and he’s having no luck. Still. Maybe Bibi has concluded there really is nothing to gain and much to lose from agreeing to the requests of Obama and George Mitchell.

For now, Abbas is stalling. (“Speaking in Paris during an official visit to France on Monday, Mr. Abbas said there would be no ‘quick decision’ on whether to withdraw from the peace talks, and he would consult with Arab leaders next Monday on how to proceed, according to The Associated Press. The announcement appeared designed to give American mediators time to continue diplomacy, but it remained unclear how Arab leaders would react.”) His bluff has been called. And he’s going to figure out some other gambit for getting out of doing what is required of him.

The settlement moratorium ended today. For now, Bibi didn’t give away something for nothing. And for now, Abbas didn’t walk out. It seems that giving the Palestinians precisely what they want isn’t necessarily essential to Israel’s security. But for the sake of argument, let’s say Abbas stays in the room. What then? Is he ready to recognize the Jewish state as the Jewish state? We’ve seen no sign of it. And that is something that can’t be finessed.

It is interesting that the New York Times saw Bibi’s move in terms of its impact on Obama. (“For President Obama, who had publicly called on Israel to extend the freeze, the Israeli decision was another setback in what has been a tortuous effort to help resolve one of the world’s most intractable conflicts.”) And in a way, that is right. Bibi rebuffed Obama’s public pleas. Obama’s been trying to push a settlement freeze on Bibi from day one, and he’s having no luck. Still. Maybe Bibi has concluded there really is nothing to gain and much to lose from agreeing to the requests of Obama and George Mitchell.

For now, Abbas is stalling. (“Speaking in Paris during an official visit to France on Monday, Mr. Abbas said there would be no ‘quick decision’ on whether to withdraw from the peace talks, and he would consult with Arab leaders next Monday on how to proceed, according to The Associated Press. The announcement appeared designed to give American mediators time to continue diplomacy, but it remained unclear how Arab leaders would react.”) His bluff has been called. And he’s going to figure out some other gambit for getting out of doing what is required of him.

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No Follow-Up on Obama’s Education Hypocrisy

The “Today Show” is belatedly celebrating our children’s return to school this month with a series on the state of the nation’s education system. So what better way to kick off a superficial look at the subject than with a superficial and fawning interview of President Barack Obama to solicit platitudes and plugs for his pet projects?

Obama was allowed to pontificate about the heroism of teachers so as to avoid antagonizing his allies in the teachers’ unions while still posing as a reformer. But in addition to calling for a longer school year, the president was still induced by Matt Lauer to say that, despite the appetite of the teachers’ unions and much of the educational establishment for more money to be poured into the public schools, many of the system’s worst problems have little to do with money and a great deal to do with the failures of parents and a culture that does not value discipline and learning. In a line that could actually be seen as a challenge to the unions, he pointed out that “You can’t defend a status quo in which a third of our kids are dropping out.” The answer was, instead, “radical change.”

But the president’s failure to draw the right conclusions about the need for such “radical change” was also highlighted by this interview for the “Today Show.” When asked on the show by Kelly Burnett of Florida whether his own children could get as good an education in the Washington, D.C. public schools as they are receiving in the elite private Sidwell Friends Academy they attend, the president bluntly said no. And though he tried to fudge this by saying that it is possible that some public schools in the district could be as good as a private school, most were not. Then, curiously, he pointed out that a person with influence such as himself could “maneuver” to get his children into such good public schools while most parents could not. He did not explain, why he, an ardent advocate of public schools, would not attempt to place his children in such a school, assuming that one actually exists.

Needless to say, there was no follow-up from Lauer about the difference between Obama and the vast majority of Washington’s parents. Even worse, there was no mention of the fact that the president had actually done his utmost to kill the District’s fledgling school-choice program, which had allowed at least some of those other parents to get their kids out of a system that Obama acknowledges is failing and into a decent private school like that frequented by Sasha and Malia Obama. That program was an example of an attempt at the sort of “radical change” which the president supposedly favors. But instead of nurturing it, Obama and his allies in Congress killed it in the name of liberal ideology and the fiat of the teachers’ unions, effectively sentencing another generation of Washington’s children to failed schools with no hope of escape.

The death of Washington D.C.’s school-choice experiment illustrates that Obama’s fealty to the unions is still the operative factor in the administration’s education policy. That he feels free to engage in this sort of hypocritical posturing about public education while placing his own children in the best possible private schools speaks volumes about the kid-glove treatment the president continues to get in the mainstream media.

The “Today Show” is belatedly celebrating our children’s return to school this month with a series on the state of the nation’s education system. So what better way to kick off a superficial look at the subject than with a superficial and fawning interview of President Barack Obama to solicit platitudes and plugs for his pet projects?

Obama was allowed to pontificate about the heroism of teachers so as to avoid antagonizing his allies in the teachers’ unions while still posing as a reformer. But in addition to calling for a longer school year, the president was still induced by Matt Lauer to say that, despite the appetite of the teachers’ unions and much of the educational establishment for more money to be poured into the public schools, many of the system’s worst problems have little to do with money and a great deal to do with the failures of parents and a culture that does not value discipline and learning. In a line that could actually be seen as a challenge to the unions, he pointed out that “You can’t defend a status quo in which a third of our kids are dropping out.” The answer was, instead, “radical change.”

But the president’s failure to draw the right conclusions about the need for such “radical change” was also highlighted by this interview for the “Today Show.” When asked on the show by Kelly Burnett of Florida whether his own children could get as good an education in the Washington, D.C. public schools as they are receiving in the elite private Sidwell Friends Academy they attend, the president bluntly said no. And though he tried to fudge this by saying that it is possible that some public schools in the district could be as good as a private school, most were not. Then, curiously, he pointed out that a person with influence such as himself could “maneuver” to get his children into such good public schools while most parents could not. He did not explain, why he, an ardent advocate of public schools, would not attempt to place his children in such a school, assuming that one actually exists.

Needless to say, there was no follow-up from Lauer about the difference between Obama and the vast majority of Washington’s parents. Even worse, there was no mention of the fact that the president had actually done his utmost to kill the District’s fledgling school-choice program, which had allowed at least some of those other parents to get their kids out of a system that Obama acknowledges is failing and into a decent private school like that frequented by Sasha and Malia Obama. That program was an example of an attempt at the sort of “radical change” which the president supposedly favors. But instead of nurturing it, Obama and his allies in Congress killed it in the name of liberal ideology and the fiat of the teachers’ unions, effectively sentencing another generation of Washington’s children to failed schools with no hope of escape.

The death of Washington D.C.’s school-choice experiment illustrates that Obama’s fealty to the unions is still the operative factor in the administration’s education policy. That he feels free to engage in this sort of hypocritical posturing about public education while placing his own children in the best possible private schools speaks volumes about the kid-glove treatment the president continues to get in the mainstream media.

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Thoroughly Modern Equestrian and Plural Royal Wife

Say what you will about the liberal bias and the lowered standards of the New York Times, but the Grey Lady can’t be topped for irony, especially when its editorial agenda collides with the lifestyles of the Arab world. A prime example was yesterday’s feature in the paper’s Sunday Sports section about the current head of the International Equestrian Federation, Princess Haya bint al-Hussein. Princess Haya is the daughter of the late King Hussein of Jordan and the wife of Sheik Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum, the ruler of Dubai. Actually, make that, as the Times puts it, the Sheik’s “junior wife.”

The profile of the fair princess goes all out to portray her as a feminist heroine who rode in the Olympics and defied the conventions of her Islamic homeland by becoming the only woman in Jordan who is licensed to drive heavy trucks. Which is, no doubt, pretty impressive. However, in countries such as Jordan and Dubai, where the government is an extension of the monarch’s whims, the fact that the king lets his tomboy daughter drive trucks says nothing about the way the majority of women are treated.

Nevertheless, the Times was most interested in the princess’s battle for re-election as the head of the equestrian federation. Though this organization has always been led by royalty, such as the Britain’s Prince Phillip, apparently some of its members are now engaging in lèse-majesté, challenging the princess because of her support for legalizing the drugging of horses even though her husband and his son have both been suspended from equestrian competitions for drug violations.

But whatever your opinion might be about drugs and horses, the princess was perfect fodder for the Times’s politicized sports section because of her status as an Arab Muslim and a woman in charge of an international sport (whether rich people riding horses who jump over fences is really a competitive sport is another question). But though reporter Katie Thomas writes breathlessly about the princess’s couture, poise, and her common touch with all the little people she meets in her horsey world, she isn’t terribly curious about what is, to any reader not obsessed with horses or fashion, the most interesting thing about the princess: her polygamous marriage.

Though she notes that the Sheik — who, at 61, is 25 years older than the princess — has a “senior” wife who is the mother to Dubai’s Crown Prince and is “rarely seen,” the question of how you can be a thoroughly modern and seemingly emancipated woman while sharing a husband with another woman is never posed. Instead, we are just supposed to be impressed by the fact that Princess Haya uses a BlackBerry and an iPhone.

The disconnect between the princess’s emancipated life with the patriarchal nature of her marriage is, no doubt, a complicated subject. But this is the same newspaper that reports about American polygamy as a freak show fraught with abuse of both women and children. Yet when confronted with “Big Love” Arab potentates and their trophy second wives who engage in a practice that most Americans rightly consider odious, the Times is prepared to bow and scrape like any courtier.

Say what you will about the liberal bias and the lowered standards of the New York Times, but the Grey Lady can’t be topped for irony, especially when its editorial agenda collides with the lifestyles of the Arab world. A prime example was yesterday’s feature in the paper’s Sunday Sports section about the current head of the International Equestrian Federation, Princess Haya bint al-Hussein. Princess Haya is the daughter of the late King Hussein of Jordan and the wife of Sheik Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum, the ruler of Dubai. Actually, make that, as the Times puts it, the Sheik’s “junior wife.”

The profile of the fair princess goes all out to portray her as a feminist heroine who rode in the Olympics and defied the conventions of her Islamic homeland by becoming the only woman in Jordan who is licensed to drive heavy trucks. Which is, no doubt, pretty impressive. However, in countries such as Jordan and Dubai, where the government is an extension of the monarch’s whims, the fact that the king lets his tomboy daughter drive trucks says nothing about the way the majority of women are treated.

Nevertheless, the Times was most interested in the princess’s battle for re-election as the head of the equestrian federation. Though this organization has always been led by royalty, such as the Britain’s Prince Phillip, apparently some of its members are now engaging in lèse-majesté, challenging the princess because of her support for legalizing the drugging of horses even though her husband and his son have both been suspended from equestrian competitions for drug violations.

But whatever your opinion might be about drugs and horses, the princess was perfect fodder for the Times’s politicized sports section because of her status as an Arab Muslim and a woman in charge of an international sport (whether rich people riding horses who jump over fences is really a competitive sport is another question). But though reporter Katie Thomas writes breathlessly about the princess’s couture, poise, and her common touch with all the little people she meets in her horsey world, she isn’t terribly curious about what is, to any reader not obsessed with horses or fashion, the most interesting thing about the princess: her polygamous marriage.

Though she notes that the Sheik — who, at 61, is 25 years older than the princess — has a “senior” wife who is the mother to Dubai’s Crown Prince and is “rarely seen,” the question of how you can be a thoroughly modern and seemingly emancipated woman while sharing a husband with another woman is never posed. Instead, we are just supposed to be impressed by the fact that Princess Haya uses a BlackBerry and an iPhone.

The disconnect between the princess’s emancipated life with the patriarchal nature of her marriage is, no doubt, a complicated subject. But this is the same newspaper that reports about American polygamy as a freak show fraught with abuse of both women and children. Yet when confronted with “Big Love” Arab potentates and their trophy second wives who engage in a practice that most Americans rightly consider odious, the Times is prepared to bow and scrape like any courtier.

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Lieberman Tries Talking Sense to the Dems — Again

Sen. Joe Lieberman, as he often does, tries to talk sense to his Democratic colleagues:

“My guess is that we will extend the so-called middle class tax cuts permanently, so to speak, and we will agree to extend the tax cuts for high income earners for at least a year or two,” Lieberman told CNN’s Candy Crowley on “State of the Union.”

“I favor that. It’s easy enough to say that people who make a lot of money don’t deserve a tax cut now, but the truth is if you have more money, you spend more money, you invest more money [and] that’s what we need to happen now to grow jobs and our economy.”

It’s not clear whether Lieberman merely hopes that his Democratic friends will do the right thing or whether he is predicting that they will. But if it’s the latter, what other than political cowardice (scared of their own base, are they?) is preventing them from taking the vote now?

Lieberman notes: “If we don’t do anything, everybody’s taxes go up in January . … It is a possibility and to me it’s the surest way to send America back into a second dip of a recession. So we’ve got to find a way to break through this partisan gridlock and come to a compromise.” Well, one way would be to change the composition of the House and Senate. I think that’s what the voters have in mind.

Sen. Joe Lieberman, as he often does, tries to talk sense to his Democratic colleagues:

“My guess is that we will extend the so-called middle class tax cuts permanently, so to speak, and we will agree to extend the tax cuts for high income earners for at least a year or two,” Lieberman told CNN’s Candy Crowley on “State of the Union.”

“I favor that. It’s easy enough to say that people who make a lot of money don’t deserve a tax cut now, but the truth is if you have more money, you spend more money, you invest more money [and] that’s what we need to happen now to grow jobs and our economy.”

It’s not clear whether Lieberman merely hopes that his Democratic friends will do the right thing or whether he is predicting that they will. But if it’s the latter, what other than political cowardice (scared of their own base, are they?) is preventing them from taking the vote now?

Lieberman notes: “If we don’t do anything, everybody’s taxes go up in January . … It is a possibility and to me it’s the surest way to send America back into a second dip of a recession. So we’ve got to find a way to break through this partisan gridlock and come to a compromise.” Well, one way would be to change the composition of the House and Senate. I think that’s what the voters have in mind.

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If the Rubes Would Just Pay Attention!

Poor John Kerry. It’s not like every Democrat, including the president and David Axelrod, hasn’t said pretty much the same thing. But it’s just so darn easy to pick on the multi-millionaire whose yacht-docking tax scam went awry. Yesterday he pronounced :

A testy U.S. Sen. John F. Kerry yesterday blamed clueless voters with short attention spans for the uphill battle beleaguered Democrats are facing against Republicans across the nation. “We have an electorate that doesn’t always pay that much attention to what’s going on so people are influenced by a simple slogan rather than the facts or the truth or what’s happening,” Kerry told reporters after touring the Boston Medical Center yesterday.

Really, when you employ simplistic slogans and nonsensical messages, you run the risk of debasing the political system.

Then he went on to clarify that it really is the Republicans’ fault. (“Kerry added that voters should be mad at stonewalling Republicans and ‘big money’ in politics instead, referring to a bill blocked by Republicans Thursday that would reveal corporate and union leaders who fund big-bucks political ads.”)

What’s not to like about a campaign based on insulting the voters and blaming the minority party?

Poor John Kerry. It’s not like every Democrat, including the president and David Axelrod, hasn’t said pretty much the same thing. But it’s just so darn easy to pick on the multi-millionaire whose yacht-docking tax scam went awry. Yesterday he pronounced :

A testy U.S. Sen. John F. Kerry yesterday blamed clueless voters with short attention spans for the uphill battle beleaguered Democrats are facing against Republicans across the nation. “We have an electorate that doesn’t always pay that much attention to what’s going on so people are influenced by a simple slogan rather than the facts or the truth or what’s happening,” Kerry told reporters after touring the Boston Medical Center yesterday.

Really, when you employ simplistic slogans and nonsensical messages, you run the risk of debasing the political system.

Then he went on to clarify that it really is the Republicans’ fault. (“Kerry added that voters should be mad at stonewalling Republicans and ‘big money’ in politics instead, referring to a bill blocked by Republicans Thursday that would reveal corporate and union leaders who fund big-bucks political ads.”)

What’s not to like about a campaign based on insulting the voters and blaming the minority party?

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President Obama, Self-Deluded

In his weekly radio address, President Obama devoted a few perfunctory words to his economic plans — and then spent the next eight paragraphs excoriating the Republican party.

The following day, the New York Times published a front-page story, which reported that:

Democratic candidates across the country are opening a fierce offensive of negative advertisements against Republicans, using lawsuits, tax filings, reports from the Better Business Bureau and even divorce proceedings to try to discredit their opponents and save their Congressional majority. Opposition research and attack advertising are used in almost every election, but these biting ads are coming far earlier than ever before, according to party strategists. … As they struggle to break through with economic messages, many Democrats are deploying the fruits of a yearlong investigation into the business and personal histories of Republican candidates in an effort to plant doubts about them and avoid having races become a national referendum on the performance of President Obama and his party.

And to think I still recall the words of an idealistic young man running for president in 2008, from his acceptance speech: “The times are too serious, the stakes are too high for this same partisan playbook.” Barack Obama went on to speak about

the promise of a democracy where we can find the strength and grace to bridge divides and unite in common effort.

I know there are those who dismiss such beliefs as happy talk. They claim that our insistence on something larger, something firmer and more honest in our public life is just a Trojan Horse for higher taxes and the abandonment of traditional values. And that’s to be expected. Because if you don’t have any fresh ideas, then you use stale tactics to scare the voters. If you don’t have a record to run on, then you paint your opponent as someone people should run from. You make a big election about small things.

Yet Obama himself has become what he preached against: a deeply divisive and partisan politician — a man who, because he does not have a record to run on, is painting his opponents as individuals voters should run from. He is employing the stalest of tactics in the crudest way possible.

What makes all of this particularly damaging for Obama is that the core of his appeal as a candidate was not his governing philosophy or his record of achievement; it was the mood he created. According to John Heilemann and Mark Halperin, Obama “believed it was possible to rise above the distortions and j’accuses that has turned politics into the sort of unedifying blood sport from which so many Americans recoiled.” Obama believed he would “somehow transcend the horror show.” And sure enough, in his February 10, 2007 announcement speech, Obama placed aesthetics above policy specifics. What’s stopped us from meeting our challenges, Obama said

is not the absence of sound policies and sensible plans. What’s stopped us is the failure of leadership, the smallness of our politics — the ease with which we’re distracted by the petty and trivial, our chronic avoidance of tough decisions, our preference for scoring cheap political points instead of rolling up our sleeves and building a working consensus to tackle big problems.

These words now sound as if they were uttered by a different man in a different time with an entirely different set of values. As president, Mr. Obama has accelerated the worst tendencies in modern politics. Yet he maintains an almost self-hypnotic belief that he is what he once claimed to be. Facts and reality don’t matter; the image cannot be allowed to die.

There is something at once poignant and alarming in watching the president continue to engage in this play acting, unable to free himself from his own self-delusion.

In his weekly radio address, President Obama devoted a few perfunctory words to his economic plans — and then spent the next eight paragraphs excoriating the Republican party.

The following day, the New York Times published a front-page story, which reported that:

Democratic candidates across the country are opening a fierce offensive of negative advertisements against Republicans, using lawsuits, tax filings, reports from the Better Business Bureau and even divorce proceedings to try to discredit their opponents and save their Congressional majority. Opposition research and attack advertising are used in almost every election, but these biting ads are coming far earlier than ever before, according to party strategists. … As they struggle to break through with economic messages, many Democrats are deploying the fruits of a yearlong investigation into the business and personal histories of Republican candidates in an effort to plant doubts about them and avoid having races become a national referendum on the performance of President Obama and his party.

And to think I still recall the words of an idealistic young man running for president in 2008, from his acceptance speech: “The times are too serious, the stakes are too high for this same partisan playbook.” Barack Obama went on to speak about

the promise of a democracy where we can find the strength and grace to bridge divides and unite in common effort.

I know there are those who dismiss such beliefs as happy talk. They claim that our insistence on something larger, something firmer and more honest in our public life is just a Trojan Horse for higher taxes and the abandonment of traditional values. And that’s to be expected. Because if you don’t have any fresh ideas, then you use stale tactics to scare the voters. If you don’t have a record to run on, then you paint your opponent as someone people should run from. You make a big election about small things.

Yet Obama himself has become what he preached against: a deeply divisive and partisan politician — a man who, because he does not have a record to run on, is painting his opponents as individuals voters should run from. He is employing the stalest of tactics in the crudest way possible.

What makes all of this particularly damaging for Obama is that the core of his appeal as a candidate was not his governing philosophy or his record of achievement; it was the mood he created. According to John Heilemann and Mark Halperin, Obama “believed it was possible to rise above the distortions and j’accuses that has turned politics into the sort of unedifying blood sport from which so many Americans recoiled.” Obama believed he would “somehow transcend the horror show.” And sure enough, in his February 10, 2007 announcement speech, Obama placed aesthetics above policy specifics. What’s stopped us from meeting our challenges, Obama said

is not the absence of sound policies and sensible plans. What’s stopped us is the failure of leadership, the smallness of our politics — the ease with which we’re distracted by the petty and trivial, our chronic avoidance of tough decisions, our preference for scoring cheap political points instead of rolling up our sleeves and building a working consensus to tackle big problems.

These words now sound as if they were uttered by a different man in a different time with an entirely different set of values. As president, Mr. Obama has accelerated the worst tendencies in modern politics. Yet he maintains an almost self-hypnotic belief that he is what he once claimed to be. Facts and reality don’t matter; the image cannot be allowed to die.

There is something at once poignant and alarming in watching the president continue to engage in this play acting, unable to free himself from his own self-delusion.

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Humanizing the Face of Evil

Mary Anastasia O’Grady has a priceless take-down of Jeffrey Goldberg’s visit to the dolphin show with Fidel Castro (“At most marine parks in the world the animals provide the entertainment. But at the Havana aquarium last month, Fidel Castro had a couple of humans eating out of his hand and clapping like trained seals.”) It’s certainly worth reading in full. A sample:

If the regime is to stay in power, it needs a new source of income to pay the secret police and keep the masses in rice. The best bet is the American tourist, last seen circa 1950 exploiting the locals, according to revolutionary lore, but now needed by the regime. It wants the U.S. travel ban lifted. To prevail, Castro needs to counteract rumors that he is a dictator. Solution: a makeover in the Atlantic. In Mr. Goldberg, he no doubt recognized the perfect candidate for the job.

Fidel’s step one was to tell Mr. Goldberg that he is outraged by anti-Semitism. “I don’t think that anyone has been slandered more than the Jews,” the old man proclaims to his guests. And by the way, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad should “stop picking on the Jews.” When Mr. Goldberg asks whether Castro will tell the Iranian himself, Castro says, “I am saying this so you can communicate it.” Translation: This should be the headline of your piece so that the American people will recognize my benevolence. Mr. Goldberg complied.

I personally hope he’s not discouraged. I was looking forward to a whole series — “Lifestyles of the Ruthless and Infamous.”

Mary Anastasia O’Grady has a priceless take-down of Jeffrey Goldberg’s visit to the dolphin show with Fidel Castro (“At most marine parks in the world the animals provide the entertainment. But at the Havana aquarium last month, Fidel Castro had a couple of humans eating out of his hand and clapping like trained seals.”) It’s certainly worth reading in full. A sample:

If the regime is to stay in power, it needs a new source of income to pay the secret police and keep the masses in rice. The best bet is the American tourist, last seen circa 1950 exploiting the locals, according to revolutionary lore, but now needed by the regime. It wants the U.S. travel ban lifted. To prevail, Castro needs to counteract rumors that he is a dictator. Solution: a makeover in the Atlantic. In Mr. Goldberg, he no doubt recognized the perfect candidate for the job.

Fidel’s step one was to tell Mr. Goldberg that he is outraged by anti-Semitism. “I don’t think that anyone has been slandered more than the Jews,” the old man proclaims to his guests. And by the way, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad should “stop picking on the Jews.” When Mr. Goldberg asks whether Castro will tell the Iranian himself, Castro says, “I am saying this so you can communicate it.” Translation: This should be the headline of your piece so that the American people will recognize my benevolence. Mr. Goldberg complied.

I personally hope he’s not discouraged. I was looking forward to a whole series — “Lifestyles of the Ruthless and Infamous.”

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Double-Talk from Moscow on Iran

The White House has been crowing that Russia’s decision last week not to sell advanced S-300 anti-aircraft missiles to Iran represents a big triumph of its attempt to “reset” relationships with Moscow. The reality is somewhat more complicated — and less to our liking.

The fact is that Russia has flirted with selling the S-300 to Iran for years without ever actually going through with the deal, thus suggesting that the Russians were not truly planning to transfer the technology after all — they were simply hoping to get a good payoff from the U.S., Saudi Arabia, and other countries alarmed by rising Iranian power. It’s impossible to know exactly what the Russians have gotten in return (such deals tend to be secret), but at a very minimum they managed to convince the Obama administration to scrap plans to put missile interceptors into Poland and the Czech Republic — a move that alarmed those stalwart allies. How much more can we expect from the Russians? Not that much, as indicated by this L.A. Times article:

Even as the White House praised Russia for declining to sell antiaircraft missiles to Iran in violation of U.N. sanctions, Russian diplomats were quietly recruiting other countries this week to undercut tougher penalties imposed on the Islamic Republic.

Russia supported weak United Nations sanctions approved in June to pressure Iran over its nuclear program. But it has strongly objected to tougher sanctions added individually by the United States, the European Union and four other countries. It fears those sanctions may end up hurting Russian companies that do business in Iran.

In other words, the Russians are up to their old tricks — paying lip service to stopping the Iranian nuclear program while sabotaging efforts to really get tough with Tehran. Beijing is pursuing a similar policy. Their intransigence means that the odds of really cracking down on Iran with international sanctions — the centerpiece of the Obama administration’s policy — are minimal. Other means, such as computer worms, can and should be used to sabotage and delay the Iranian nuclear program, but in the end the U.S. and Israel cannot avoid the toughest of choices: either act militarily or watch Iran go nuclear.

The White House has been crowing that Russia’s decision last week not to sell advanced S-300 anti-aircraft missiles to Iran represents a big triumph of its attempt to “reset” relationships with Moscow. The reality is somewhat more complicated — and less to our liking.

The fact is that Russia has flirted with selling the S-300 to Iran for years without ever actually going through with the deal, thus suggesting that the Russians were not truly planning to transfer the technology after all — they were simply hoping to get a good payoff from the U.S., Saudi Arabia, and other countries alarmed by rising Iranian power. It’s impossible to know exactly what the Russians have gotten in return (such deals tend to be secret), but at a very minimum they managed to convince the Obama administration to scrap plans to put missile interceptors into Poland and the Czech Republic — a move that alarmed those stalwart allies. How much more can we expect from the Russians? Not that much, as indicated by this L.A. Times article:

Even as the White House praised Russia for declining to sell antiaircraft missiles to Iran in violation of U.N. sanctions, Russian diplomats were quietly recruiting other countries this week to undercut tougher penalties imposed on the Islamic Republic.

Russia supported weak United Nations sanctions approved in June to pressure Iran over its nuclear program. But it has strongly objected to tougher sanctions added individually by the United States, the European Union and four other countries. It fears those sanctions may end up hurting Russian companies that do business in Iran.

In other words, the Russians are up to their old tricks — paying lip service to stopping the Iranian nuclear program while sabotaging efforts to really get tough with Tehran. Beijing is pursuing a similar policy. Their intransigence means that the odds of really cracking down on Iran with international sanctions — the centerpiece of the Obama administration’s policy — are minimal. Other means, such as computer worms, can and should be used to sabotage and delay the Iranian nuclear program, but in the end the U.S. and Israel cannot avoid the toughest of choices: either act militarily or watch Iran go nuclear.

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Why So Few David Petraeuses?

Renny McPherson, a former Marine who is now a student at Harvard Business School, raises a good question in the Boston Globe: Why isn’t the military producing more David Petraeuses? That is, commanders who are skilled at the highest level of command where the job is more about politics, diplomacy, and communication than it is about tactical maneuvering on the battlefield. The fact that Petraeus was appointed as Stanley McChrystal’s successor in Afghanistan, which required him to take a step down in the military hierarchy, is a sign of how few generals we have capable of doing the job.

“A large contributor to this failure,” McPherson writes, “is the military’s inflexible system of promotion, which can actively discourage young officers from getting the mind-expanding, challenging experiences that could turn them into potent generals.”

McPherson was involved in interviewing 37 “top military leaders,” who “reported that most beneficial experiences — sustained international experience, civilian graduate education, and taking on special opportunities out of the military mainstream — were the very ones that they felt discouraged from pursuing.” That is a very big problem because of the shift that McPherson rightly identifies:

Over the course of the 20th century, the United States became the dominant world power by advancing the technology of warfare. Now the information revolution, recent conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, and global counter-terrorism have shown that an expanded set of skills is required of our top officers. Today we need military leaders who can process the ever-larger amounts of information coming at them and who can communicate more dexterously up, down, and across; they also must be adept at dealing with nonmilitary institutions and quick to learn foreign cultures.

Petraeus is hardly alone in having the skills needed to tackle such challenges; General Ray Odierno has displayed much of the same skill set. But few others have, and that poses a real problem for the future — one that the Pentagon leadership needs to address as urgently as it addresses the future of expensive procurement programs.

Renny McPherson, a former Marine who is now a student at Harvard Business School, raises a good question in the Boston Globe: Why isn’t the military producing more David Petraeuses? That is, commanders who are skilled at the highest level of command where the job is more about politics, diplomacy, and communication than it is about tactical maneuvering on the battlefield. The fact that Petraeus was appointed as Stanley McChrystal’s successor in Afghanistan, which required him to take a step down in the military hierarchy, is a sign of how few generals we have capable of doing the job.

“A large contributor to this failure,” McPherson writes, “is the military’s inflexible system of promotion, which can actively discourage young officers from getting the mind-expanding, challenging experiences that could turn them into potent generals.”

McPherson was involved in interviewing 37 “top military leaders,” who “reported that most beneficial experiences — sustained international experience, civilian graduate education, and taking on special opportunities out of the military mainstream — were the very ones that they felt discouraged from pursuing.” That is a very big problem because of the shift that McPherson rightly identifies:

Over the course of the 20th century, the United States became the dominant world power by advancing the technology of warfare. Now the information revolution, recent conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, and global counter-terrorism have shown that an expanded set of skills is required of our top officers. Today we need military leaders who can process the ever-larger amounts of information coming at them and who can communicate more dexterously up, down, and across; they also must be adept at dealing with nonmilitary institutions and quick to learn foreign cultures.

Petraeus is hardly alone in having the skills needed to tackle such challenges; General Ray Odierno has displayed much of the same skill set. But few others have, and that poses a real problem for the future — one that the Pentagon leadership needs to address as urgently as it addresses the future of expensive procurement programs.

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The Rising Dragon and “Smart” Diplomacy

For years we have been hearing about how effective Chinese diplomacy is — a supposed contrast with a ham-handed, distracted Uncle Sam who was letting the rising dragon take over East Asia while we weren’t paying attention. No one should underestimate the rising military challenge posed by China. As Robert Kaplan notes in this Washington Post op-ed:

China has the world’s second-largest naval service, after only the United States. Rather than purchase warships across the board, it is developing niche capacities in sub-surface warfare and missile technology designed to hit moving targets at sea. At some point, the U.S. Navy is likely to be denied unimpeded access to the waters off East Asia. China’s 66 submarines constitute roughly twice as many warships as the entire British Royal Navy.

But a funny thing happened on the way to Chinese hegemony: its rise has alarmed pretty much all its neighbors, ranging from India and Australia to Japan and South Korea. The latest sign of how Chinese hectoring and bullying is souring other countries is the flap over a Chinese fishing trawler that collided with Japanese coast-guard vessels near a disputed island in the East China Sea that is claimed by both countries. The Japanese agreed to release the fishing captain on Friday after what the New York Times described as “a furious diplomatic assault from China,” which included the cut-off of “ministerial-level talks on issues like joint energy development, and curtailed visits to Japan by Chinese tourists.” In the short term, this is a victory for China. But for the long term, it leaves hard feelings behind and convinces many more Japanese — and other Asians — that China’s rise poses a threat to them.

Keep in mind that the Democrats, the current Japanese ruling party, came to power talking about weakening the U.S.-Japanese alliance and strengthening ties with China. If China were better behaved, that might have come to pass. But Chinese assertiveness is rubbing the Japanese the wrong way. The same is true with South Koreans, Australians, and other key Chinese trade partners. In those countries, too, hopes of a closer relationship with China have been frustrated; instead, they are drawing closer to the U.S.

The fundamental problem is that China’s ruling oligarchy has no Marxist legitimacy left; its only claim to power is to foster an aggressive Chinese nationalism. That may do wonders for support on the home front, but it is doomed to antagonize its neighbors and possibly bring into being a de facto coalition to contain Beijing. That, at least, should be the goal of American policy. Even as we continue to trade with China, we should make sure to curb its geo-political ambitions. That is a goal in which we should be able to get the cooperation of many of China’s neighbors — if we actually practice the sort of “smart power” diplomacy that the Obama-ites came into office promising.

For years we have been hearing about how effective Chinese diplomacy is — a supposed contrast with a ham-handed, distracted Uncle Sam who was letting the rising dragon take over East Asia while we weren’t paying attention. No one should underestimate the rising military challenge posed by China. As Robert Kaplan notes in this Washington Post op-ed:

China has the world’s second-largest naval service, after only the United States. Rather than purchase warships across the board, it is developing niche capacities in sub-surface warfare and missile technology designed to hit moving targets at sea. At some point, the U.S. Navy is likely to be denied unimpeded access to the waters off East Asia. China’s 66 submarines constitute roughly twice as many warships as the entire British Royal Navy.

But a funny thing happened on the way to Chinese hegemony: its rise has alarmed pretty much all its neighbors, ranging from India and Australia to Japan and South Korea. The latest sign of how Chinese hectoring and bullying is souring other countries is the flap over a Chinese fishing trawler that collided with Japanese coast-guard vessels near a disputed island in the East China Sea that is claimed by both countries. The Japanese agreed to release the fishing captain on Friday after what the New York Times described as “a furious diplomatic assault from China,” which included the cut-off of “ministerial-level talks on issues like joint energy development, and curtailed visits to Japan by Chinese tourists.” In the short term, this is a victory for China. But for the long term, it leaves hard feelings behind and convinces many more Japanese — and other Asians — that China’s rise poses a threat to them.

Keep in mind that the Democrats, the current Japanese ruling party, came to power talking about weakening the U.S.-Japanese alliance and strengthening ties with China. If China were better behaved, that might have come to pass. But Chinese assertiveness is rubbing the Japanese the wrong way. The same is true with South Koreans, Australians, and other key Chinese trade partners. In those countries, too, hopes of a closer relationship with China have been frustrated; instead, they are drawing closer to the U.S.

The fundamental problem is that China’s ruling oligarchy has no Marxist legitimacy left; its only claim to power is to foster an aggressive Chinese nationalism. That may do wonders for support on the home front, but it is doomed to antagonize its neighbors and possibly bring into being a de facto coalition to contain Beijing. That, at least, should be the goal of American policy. Even as we continue to trade with China, we should make sure to curb its geo-political ambitions. That is a goal in which we should be able to get the cooperation of many of China’s neighbors — if we actually practice the sort of “smart power” diplomacy that the Obama-ites came into office promising.

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What’s Really Eating David Axelrod

In a New Republic cover story by Noam Scheiber, “What’s Really Eating David Axelrod? The Disillusionment of Obama’s Political Guru,” we are told this:

Obama and Axelrod both believe in changing Washington for its own sake. “It’s in the president’s nature, it’s also in David’s nature,” says Stephanie Cutter, a senior White House aide. … Whatever his tendency to fall in and out of love with politicians, there’s no evidence Axelrod has soured on Barack Obama. Quite the contrary — he is said to take enormous pride in the president’s legislative accomplishments. “When Obama rejects Axe’s political advice, David’s attitude is not like, ‘Why isn’t he listening to me?’” says one administra­tion official. “It’s more like, ‘This is why I love this guy. He’s willing to follow his heart even when the short-term politics are not with him.”’  Instead, the source of Axelrod’s disillusionment these days is Washington itself. … As long as he was a civilian, Axelrod could blame the pace of change on the flawed politicians he helped elect. He could always move on and invest his hopes in someone else. But now that he’s serving in government, it’s clear that the problem isn’t so much flawed people — though, like anyone, Obama has his flaws — as a ferociously stubborn, possibly irredeemable system. For an idealist like David Axelrod, that may be the most terrifying thought of all.

David Axelrod, like Obama’s other aides, begins with an unshakable premise: Barack Obama is a man of almost superhuman gifts and virtues. Yet even Axelrod cannot deny the beating the president and his party are being administered. The president has passed much of his agenda — and, in the process, he has become very nearly radioactive. Mr. Obama’s popularity is reaching new lows, distrust of the federal government is reaching new highs, independents are fleeing him and the Democratic party in striking numbers, and Democratic candidates are explicitly running against Obama and his record. The opposition to Obamaism is extraordinary in its depth and passion.

So how does someone like Axelrod reconcile his premise with this unpleasant reality? Why, blame Washington and the political establishment, of course. The system is not only “ferociously stubborn,” but quite possibly “irredeemable.” Barack Obama’s failures, you see, are the fault of the founders.

We have all heard this before — during the Carter years, when it was said the presidency was too large for any single person; and from Ronald Reagan’s first OMB director, David Stockman, who became deeply disillusioned when his budget-cutting agenda ran up against our system of checks and balances. In his book The Triumph of Politics, Stockman wrote this: “There is only one thing worse [than politicians with short time horizons], and that is ideological hubris. It is the assumption that the world can be made better by being remade overnight.”

This is precisely what Axelrod and many in Obama’s inner circle are afflicted with. And whatever problems plague Washington, they are not new. Nothing fundamental has changed about Washington since Obama ran for president in 2008, promising to drive the moneychangers out of the temple.

Governing always seems easier from afar — and every public official experiences a gap between his hopes and his achievements. But in this instance, a group of arrogant, zealous aides — devoted to an arrogant, ideological man — thought they could remake the world and transform Washington easily and instantaneously. But now that they have been at the helm for a bit more than 20 months, idealism is giving way to crushing disillusionment.

“The blind faith in, and passion for, Obama was like nothing [Anita] Dunn had ever seen before,” we read in Game Change. “Around Hopefund they joked about it all the time, praying it wouldn’t go to Obama’s head; his ego was robust enough already. They even conferred on the senator a new nickname: ‘Black Jesus.’”

Investing that much hope in a single individual was destined to end in disenchantment. There is a cautionary tale and an important reminder in all of this: The best public servants are individuals whose idealism is tempered with realism and maturity, who understand and appreciate the nature of American government, who are steady and well-grounded, and who understand the difference between politics and romantic dreams.

In a New Republic cover story by Noam Scheiber, “What’s Really Eating David Axelrod? The Disillusionment of Obama’s Political Guru,” we are told this:

Obama and Axelrod both believe in changing Washington for its own sake. “It’s in the president’s nature, it’s also in David’s nature,” says Stephanie Cutter, a senior White House aide. … Whatever his tendency to fall in and out of love with politicians, there’s no evidence Axelrod has soured on Barack Obama. Quite the contrary — he is said to take enormous pride in the president’s legislative accomplishments. “When Obama rejects Axe’s political advice, David’s attitude is not like, ‘Why isn’t he listening to me?’” says one administra­tion official. “It’s more like, ‘This is why I love this guy. He’s willing to follow his heart even when the short-term politics are not with him.”’  Instead, the source of Axelrod’s disillusionment these days is Washington itself. … As long as he was a civilian, Axelrod could blame the pace of change on the flawed politicians he helped elect. He could always move on and invest his hopes in someone else. But now that he’s serving in government, it’s clear that the problem isn’t so much flawed people — though, like anyone, Obama has his flaws — as a ferociously stubborn, possibly irredeemable system. For an idealist like David Axelrod, that may be the most terrifying thought of all.

David Axelrod, like Obama’s other aides, begins with an unshakable premise: Barack Obama is a man of almost superhuman gifts and virtues. Yet even Axelrod cannot deny the beating the president and his party are being administered. The president has passed much of his agenda — and, in the process, he has become very nearly radioactive. Mr. Obama’s popularity is reaching new lows, distrust of the federal government is reaching new highs, independents are fleeing him and the Democratic party in striking numbers, and Democratic candidates are explicitly running against Obama and his record. The opposition to Obamaism is extraordinary in its depth and passion.

So how does someone like Axelrod reconcile his premise with this unpleasant reality? Why, blame Washington and the political establishment, of course. The system is not only “ferociously stubborn,” but quite possibly “irredeemable.” Barack Obama’s failures, you see, are the fault of the founders.

We have all heard this before — during the Carter years, when it was said the presidency was too large for any single person; and from Ronald Reagan’s first OMB director, David Stockman, who became deeply disillusioned when his budget-cutting agenda ran up against our system of checks and balances. In his book The Triumph of Politics, Stockman wrote this: “There is only one thing worse [than politicians with short time horizons], and that is ideological hubris. It is the assumption that the world can be made better by being remade overnight.”

This is precisely what Axelrod and many in Obama’s inner circle are afflicted with. And whatever problems plague Washington, they are not new. Nothing fundamental has changed about Washington since Obama ran for president in 2008, promising to drive the moneychangers out of the temple.

Governing always seems easier from afar — and every public official experiences a gap between his hopes and his achievements. But in this instance, a group of arrogant, zealous aides — devoted to an arrogant, ideological man — thought they could remake the world and transform Washington easily and instantaneously. But now that they have been at the helm for a bit more than 20 months, idealism is giving way to crushing disillusionment.

“The blind faith in, and passion for, Obama was like nothing [Anita] Dunn had ever seen before,” we read in Game Change. “Around Hopefund they joked about it all the time, praying it wouldn’t go to Obama’s head; his ego was robust enough already. They even conferred on the senator a new nickname: ‘Black Jesus.’”

Investing that much hope in a single individual was destined to end in disenchantment. There is a cautionary tale and an important reminder in all of this: The best public servants are individuals whose idealism is tempered with realism and maturity, who understand and appreciate the nature of American government, who are steady and well-grounded, and who understand the difference between politics and romantic dreams.

Read Less

Past His Prime

Like Michael Phelps, who breaks a record nearly every time he dives into the pool, Obama sets records almost every day. Sunday was no different. He has a new high mark for disapproval at Realclearpolitics.com, at 51.2 percent, and a new low, at 44.5 percent. And a new record spread, at 6.7 points.

To carry out the sports analogy, he now acts like an aging athlete with only memories of past glories to keep his spirits up. The Washington Post observes that “without Obama on the ballot this year, his grass-roots network is a shadow of its former self. And with just five weeks before the midterm elections, Obama’s political advisers acknowledge that transferring the goodwill he cultivated over a historic presidential bid to an array of other Democrats has proved difficult.” Umm, it’s also proved difficult for him to retain that goodwill. Ah, well, they’ll always have Iowa.

Meanwhile, he is playing in minor league venues:

President Obama will swoop into the heartland this week in a high-stakes bid to boost enthusiasm for Democrats by reigniting the coalition of young and minority voters who were critical to his success two years ago. … So on Tuesday in Madison, Obama will stage the first in a series of rallies on college campuses designed to persuade what some call his “surge” voters — the roughly 15 million Americans who voted for the first time in 2008 – to return to the polls this fall.

Five weeks to the election and he is still working on getting minority voters and college kids to turn out for him!? I can tell you, college kids are not going to turn out en masse for a midterm election. The Obama girls, the rock videos — where have they all gone? The Post trips down memory lane:

The students on this leafy, generally liberal campus once constituted one of the strongest battalions in Obama’s grass-roots army. Two years later, the political dynamic has changed. Across campus, stickers, signs or chalkings for any politician are scarce. The laundromat where Obama’s young volunteers once staged late-night phone banks and planned bus trips to neighboring Iowa has gone out of business. And some students who say they voted for Obama in 2008 now say they don’t even know who’s on the ballot this fall.

Now the kids are all about football and grades:

On Saturday, student organizers waved signs outside Camp Randall Stadium as thousands of fans filed out of the football game. The Badgers won in a rout, and the young Democrats tried to break through the excitement of the game with perhaps a more exciting announcement: “President Obama on campus Tuesday!”

Some fans gave thumbs up or yelled “Go, Obama!” Others responded disapprovingly, as in “How’s that hope and change working out for you?” Hundreds more walked past in their red-and-white gear without paying any attention.

One student, showing her flair for the art of understatement, intones that “the euphoria has dimmed down.” Well, that’s one way of putting it.

Like Michael Phelps, who breaks a record nearly every time he dives into the pool, Obama sets records almost every day. Sunday was no different. He has a new high mark for disapproval at Realclearpolitics.com, at 51.2 percent, and a new low, at 44.5 percent. And a new record spread, at 6.7 points.

To carry out the sports analogy, he now acts like an aging athlete with only memories of past glories to keep his spirits up. The Washington Post observes that “without Obama on the ballot this year, his grass-roots network is a shadow of its former self. And with just five weeks before the midterm elections, Obama’s political advisers acknowledge that transferring the goodwill he cultivated over a historic presidential bid to an array of other Democrats has proved difficult.” Umm, it’s also proved difficult for him to retain that goodwill. Ah, well, they’ll always have Iowa.

Meanwhile, he is playing in minor league venues:

President Obama will swoop into the heartland this week in a high-stakes bid to boost enthusiasm for Democrats by reigniting the coalition of young and minority voters who were critical to his success two years ago. … So on Tuesday in Madison, Obama will stage the first in a series of rallies on college campuses designed to persuade what some call his “surge” voters — the roughly 15 million Americans who voted for the first time in 2008 – to return to the polls this fall.

Five weeks to the election and he is still working on getting minority voters and college kids to turn out for him!? I can tell you, college kids are not going to turn out en masse for a midterm election. The Obama girls, the rock videos — where have they all gone? The Post trips down memory lane:

The students on this leafy, generally liberal campus once constituted one of the strongest battalions in Obama’s grass-roots army. Two years later, the political dynamic has changed. Across campus, stickers, signs or chalkings for any politician are scarce. The laundromat where Obama’s young volunteers once staged late-night phone banks and planned bus trips to neighboring Iowa has gone out of business. And some students who say they voted for Obama in 2008 now say they don’t even know who’s on the ballot this fall.

Now the kids are all about football and grades:

On Saturday, student organizers waved signs outside Camp Randall Stadium as thousands of fans filed out of the football game. The Badgers won in a rout, and the young Democrats tried to break through the excitement of the game with perhaps a more exciting announcement: “President Obama on campus Tuesday!”

Some fans gave thumbs up or yelled “Go, Obama!” Others responded disapprovingly, as in “How’s that hope and change working out for you?” Hundreds more walked past in their red-and-white gear without paying any attention.

One student, showing her flair for the art of understatement, intones that “the euphoria has dimmed down.” Well, that’s one way of putting it.

Read Less

Running on Empty

It is rare to have an election where the governing party is not (a) running on its record (six months after voting for ObamaCare, no Democrat advertises his vote), (b) promising to push the rest of its agenda (even a Congress with lopsided Democratic majorities did not enact card check and cap-and-trade), or (c) willing to risk a pre-election vote on its signature plan (tax increases for “the rich”). Five weeks before the election, the party is out of gas.

You can see this in California, where the Republican candidates for governor and senator are both first-time candidates and ex-CEOs (Meg Whitman and Carly Fiorina) running against two of the state’s most famous Democrats (Jerry Brown and Barbara Boxer) in races currently too close to call. In his TV ad, Jerry Brown looks straight at the camera and tells voters:

I’m Jerry Brown. California needs major changes. We have to live within our means, we have to return power and decision-making to the local level, closer to the people. And no new taxes without voter approval.

The statement is barely distinguishable from what a Tea Partier might say.

The Democratic candidate for lieutenant governor is Gavin Newsom — the mayor of the City and County of San Francisco, the bluest of blue areas in a Blue State. Recently he had this to say about the “stimulus” that shoveled federal funds to the state for redistribution to members of public employee unions, while private unemployment in California continued to soar:

Look, I understand why people are fearful. I don’t like this spending more than anyone else … and trust me, I understand the stimulus as well or better than anybody.  I mean, [as] a mayor of a county … you really understand it.  It is not wrong to criticize parts of that stimulus as disproportionately saving jobs in the public sector and not stimulating private sector economic growth. That is not something that I am proud to say, as a Democrat; it’s not something I want to say; but it’s true and [something] I must say.

Newsom is in a statistical dead heat with his Republican opponent (Abel Maldonado); his first ad will accuse Maldonado of supporting “the biggest tax increase in California history.”

In a state that now resembles Greece more than the Golden State it once was, with a $19 billion budget deficit that a 2009 sales tax increase was supposed to cure (but that simply gave California the highest state sales tax in the United States), the Democrats have no agenda — at least not one that seeks to distinguish itself from the Tea Party.

It is rare to have an election where the governing party is not (a) running on its record (six months after voting for ObamaCare, no Democrat advertises his vote), (b) promising to push the rest of its agenda (even a Congress with lopsided Democratic majorities did not enact card check and cap-and-trade), or (c) willing to risk a pre-election vote on its signature plan (tax increases for “the rich”). Five weeks before the election, the party is out of gas.

You can see this in California, where the Republican candidates for governor and senator are both first-time candidates and ex-CEOs (Meg Whitman and Carly Fiorina) running against two of the state’s most famous Democrats (Jerry Brown and Barbara Boxer) in races currently too close to call. In his TV ad, Jerry Brown looks straight at the camera and tells voters:

I’m Jerry Brown. California needs major changes. We have to live within our means, we have to return power and decision-making to the local level, closer to the people. And no new taxes without voter approval.

The statement is barely distinguishable from what a Tea Partier might say.

The Democratic candidate for lieutenant governor is Gavin Newsom — the mayor of the City and County of San Francisco, the bluest of blue areas in a Blue State. Recently he had this to say about the “stimulus” that shoveled federal funds to the state for redistribution to members of public employee unions, while private unemployment in California continued to soar:

Look, I understand why people are fearful. I don’t like this spending more than anyone else … and trust me, I understand the stimulus as well or better than anybody.  I mean, [as] a mayor of a county … you really understand it.  It is not wrong to criticize parts of that stimulus as disproportionately saving jobs in the public sector and not stimulating private sector economic growth. That is not something that I am proud to say, as a Democrat; it’s not something I want to say; but it’s true and [something] I must say.

Newsom is in a statistical dead heat with his Republican opponent (Abel Maldonado); his first ad will accuse Maldonado of supporting “the biggest tax increase in California history.”

In a state that now resembles Greece more than the Golden State it once was, with a $19 billion budget deficit that a 2009 sales tax increase was supposed to cure (but that simply gave California the highest state sales tax in the United States), the Democrats have no agenda — at least not one that seeks to distinguish itself from the Tea Party.

Read Less




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