Commentary Magazine


Posts For: October 6, 2010

Jobs, Jobs, Jobs

It might sound surprising to some, but the economy still is not generating jobs, as this report explains:

U.S. employers shed more jobs in September than had been expected, according to two closely watched surveys, released Wednesday, that cast a shadow over the government’s official September jobs report, which is due Friday.

Private non-farm payroll employment fell by 39,000 jobs last month, according to the ADP National Employment Report. That was somewhat surprising, because the consensus forecast of mainstream economists had called for a gain of about 20,000 jobs.

The official job tally for September will be out this Friday — one final blow, I would predict, to Democratic incumbents. There may be liberals who still can’t fathom why voters don’t appreciate the “accomplishments” of this administration and Congress, but voters care almost exclusively about one thing: the revival of growth and job creation. The passage of multiple pieces of legislation, the run-up in the debt and the party-line vote on ObamaCare have been “accomplished,” but the voters — wouldn’t you know it — really don’t care about anything but results. And so long as the economy is in the doldrums, they aren’t going to be patting their elected leaders on the back.

It might sound surprising to some, but the economy still is not generating jobs, as this report explains:

U.S. employers shed more jobs in September than had been expected, according to two closely watched surveys, released Wednesday, that cast a shadow over the government’s official September jobs report, which is due Friday.

Private non-farm payroll employment fell by 39,000 jobs last month, according to the ADP National Employment Report. That was somewhat surprising, because the consensus forecast of mainstream economists had called for a gain of about 20,000 jobs.

The official job tally for September will be out this Friday — one final blow, I would predict, to Democratic incumbents. There may be liberals who still can’t fathom why voters don’t appreciate the “accomplishments” of this administration and Congress, but voters care almost exclusively about one thing: the revival of growth and job creation. The passage of multiple pieces of legislation, the run-up in the debt and the party-line vote on ObamaCare have been “accomplished,” but the voters — wouldn’t you know it — really don’t care about anything but results. And so long as the economy is in the doldrums, they aren’t going to be patting their elected leaders on the back.

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From the October Issue: “The Paranoid Style in Liberal Politics”

Over the  past 30 years, Charles and David Koch, owners of a Kansas-based family business called Koch Industries, have given hundreds of millions of dollars to organizations that advance their political views. Those views can be described as unevenly conservative and generally libertarian (pro-gay marriage, anti-ObamaCare). The donations are readily observable in foundation tax records posted on the Internet, as all such transactions are, and the brothers themselves have made many public appearances on behalf of the think tanks and magazines they fund, given speeches and media interviews, issued statements of support, sat on boards—even, in David’s case, made a hopeless and expensive run for the vice presidency on the Libertarian Party ticket in 1980.

Click here to read the rest of this article from COMMENTARY‘s October issue.

Over the  past 30 years, Charles and David Koch, owners of a Kansas-based family business called Koch Industries, have given hundreds of millions of dollars to organizations that advance their political views. Those views can be described as unevenly conservative and generally libertarian (pro-gay marriage, anti-ObamaCare). The donations are readily observable in foundation tax records posted on the Internet, as all such transactions are, and the brothers themselves have made many public appearances on behalf of the think tanks and magazines they fund, given speeches and media interviews, issued statements of support, sat on boards—even, in David’s case, made a hopeless and expensive run for the vice presidency on the Libertarian Party ticket in 1980.

Click here to read the rest of this article from COMMENTARY‘s October issue.

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The Biden-Hillary Switch: Don’t Scoff

Bob Woodward made news this week by asserting there is talk inside the Obama administration about saying goodbye to Joe Biden in 2012 and nominating Hillary Clinton in his stead as vice president for the Obama reelection bid. This revelation has been greeted with extreme skepticism by Obama-watchers like the Atlantic’s Marc Ambinder and others, who say it is not under consideration; Clinton and Robert Gibbs have issued flat denials. The skeptics say it’s been decades since anything like it was done. Gerald Ford swapped out Nelson Rockefeller for Bob Dole in 1976, but then neither Ford nor Rockefeller had actually been elected; Ford was brought in as veep after Spiro Agnew had to resign; only Franklin Roosevelt traded in vice presidents regularly, inadvertently blessing the country by doing so with Harry Truman in 1944, a decision that not only led to one of the most important and tough-minded presidencies in U.S. history but also saved  the nation from a President Henry Wallace, who proved himself, literally, a Communist stooge when he challenged Truman from the Left in 1948.

Fine, but that something hasn’t been done recently isn’t an argument. If one can say anything about Obama, it’s that he doesn’t follow precedent. And what this says to me is that he will almost certaintly consider something like it if he has reason to believe his reelection is in jeopardy in 2012. He was convinced to pick Joe Biden on the grounds that it would help him with working-class swing voters and because he couldn’t bring himself to pick Hillary in 2008. Biden has not been an asset; he hasn’t proved to be the national comic relief Dan Quayle was for George Bush the Elder, but that’s because the mainstream media are protective of the Obama administration. Biden could supply inadvertent daily hilarity, as he did yesterday by saying he would “strangle” a Republican if that imaginary Republican talked to him about closing the deficit. That he is not a national embarrassment is one mark of the way in which having a friendly media is a help to Obama.

Biden is not even as useful to Obama as Quayle was; Quayle did in fact do Bush some good by shoring up his boss’s support on the social-conservative Right when that could have melted down. Even so, recall that there was serious talk in 1992 of ditching Quayle for somebody else. Given that Bush scored 38 percent in November 1992, that Hail Mary play might have been of marginal utility to Bush, at least in the sense that it would have convinced voters he had a pulse, or wanted to do what it took to win, or wanted to change course, or something.

The problem with anointing Hillary would be the same as in 2008, I suppose; could Bill Clinton be kept from doing mischief? The answer would seem to be yes, since he is now the husband of the secretary of state and doesn’t seem to get much ink or be getting himself in too much trouble.

Anyway, if Obama needs to throw a change-up, and right now it’s looking like that’s a plausible thing, Hillary-for-Biden is as good a change-up as anything else one can think of. Biden could become a senior counselor or head of the DNC; he couldn’t become secretary of state, because that would be too cute. But then, who cares what Biden would be? Would Biden make trouble on his way out? That’s not his style. He would say it was his idea. He could go write a book, make television commercials, get nice and rich. A fine post-VP life.

Bob Woodward made news this week by asserting there is talk inside the Obama administration about saying goodbye to Joe Biden in 2012 and nominating Hillary Clinton in his stead as vice president for the Obama reelection bid. This revelation has been greeted with extreme skepticism by Obama-watchers like the Atlantic’s Marc Ambinder and others, who say it is not under consideration; Clinton and Robert Gibbs have issued flat denials. The skeptics say it’s been decades since anything like it was done. Gerald Ford swapped out Nelson Rockefeller for Bob Dole in 1976, but then neither Ford nor Rockefeller had actually been elected; Ford was brought in as veep after Spiro Agnew had to resign; only Franklin Roosevelt traded in vice presidents regularly, inadvertently blessing the country by doing so with Harry Truman in 1944, a decision that not only led to one of the most important and tough-minded presidencies in U.S. history but also saved  the nation from a President Henry Wallace, who proved himself, literally, a Communist stooge when he challenged Truman from the Left in 1948.

Fine, but that something hasn’t been done recently isn’t an argument. If one can say anything about Obama, it’s that he doesn’t follow precedent. And what this says to me is that he will almost certaintly consider something like it if he has reason to believe his reelection is in jeopardy in 2012. He was convinced to pick Joe Biden on the grounds that it would help him with working-class swing voters and because he couldn’t bring himself to pick Hillary in 2008. Biden has not been an asset; he hasn’t proved to be the national comic relief Dan Quayle was for George Bush the Elder, but that’s because the mainstream media are protective of the Obama administration. Biden could supply inadvertent daily hilarity, as he did yesterday by saying he would “strangle” a Republican if that imaginary Republican talked to him about closing the deficit. That he is not a national embarrassment is one mark of the way in which having a friendly media is a help to Obama.

Biden is not even as useful to Obama as Quayle was; Quayle did in fact do Bush some good by shoring up his boss’s support on the social-conservative Right when that could have melted down. Even so, recall that there was serious talk in 1992 of ditching Quayle for somebody else. Given that Bush scored 38 percent in November 1992, that Hail Mary play might have been of marginal utility to Bush, at least in the sense that it would have convinced voters he had a pulse, or wanted to do what it took to win, or wanted to change course, or something.

The problem with anointing Hillary would be the same as in 2008, I suppose; could Bill Clinton be kept from doing mischief? The answer would seem to be yes, since he is now the husband of the secretary of state and doesn’t seem to get much ink or be getting himself in too much trouble.

Anyway, if Obama needs to throw a change-up, and right now it’s looking like that’s a plausible thing, Hillary-for-Biden is as good a change-up as anything else one can think of. Biden could become a senior counselor or head of the DNC; he couldn’t become secretary of state, because that would be too cute. But then, who cares what Biden would be? Would Biden make trouble on his way out? That’s not his style. He would say it was his idea. He could go write a book, make television commercials, get nice and rich. A fine post-VP life.

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Is There a Solution to Romney’s Dilemma?

ObamaCare is making life miserable for many Democrats on the 2010 ballot. But that is nothing compared to the fits it will cause Mitt Romney, should he, as is widely expected, run for president in 2012. This report explains:

“I guarantee that, at the top of everyone’s list on how to differentiate your guy from Mitt Romney, the top of the list is health care — until and unless he takes the opportunity to say, ‘We tried, and it didn’t work. The individual mandate at the heart of Obamacare and Romneycare was wrong,’” said Bill Pascoe, a Republican strategist who wrote a post on his blog earlier this year titled “Say Goodbye to Mitt.”

So far, anyway, Romney is showing no signs of backing down. His message is the same today as it was in March, when there was still hope that voters would warm up to the Obama legislation once it passed. Romney blasts the federal law as a takeover of health care, while defending the 2005 Massachusetts version. He argues the two are as different as night and day, despite their common and most reviled feature, the mandate on individuals to purchase insurance.

I don’t think that’s going to fly; nor do I think simply “apologizing” for what he considers his signature achievement (as many Republicans are urging him to) will carry the day. Since 2008, Romney seems to have settled into his own skin, showing expertise on economic issues and a solid grasp of foreign policy. He’s less defensive and more at ease with a focus on pro-growth policies. However, a reversal on health-care reform will simply revive the concerns about flip-flopping and sincerity that weighed him down in 2008. On this one, I agree with Brent Bozell’s take: “I don’t know of any other potential candidate who has as big of a potential single-issue problem as this one.”

Well, some say, John McCain overcame the concerns from the base regarding his stance on immigration and managed to win the nomination in 2008. Yes, but “Repeal immigration reform!” was not the party’s clarion call.

If ObamaCare is repealed or is effectively neutralized before the 2012 primary season heats up, might that help Romney’s predicament? Perhaps, but as that debate rages, Romney will be queried as to where he stands and why he presumably favors the repeal of ObamaCare but not of RomneyCare.

Perhaps there is a more compelling distinction Romney can make between the president’s plan and his own. But sometimes there is no “solution” to a politician’s dilemma. Indeed, the upcoming tsunami that will wipe out many Democrats will testify to the proposition that officials can’t run from their records. If they are fundamentally out of sync with voters on a key issue, there’s no amount of clever packaging that will help them.

ObamaCare is making life miserable for many Democrats on the 2010 ballot. But that is nothing compared to the fits it will cause Mitt Romney, should he, as is widely expected, run for president in 2012. This report explains:

“I guarantee that, at the top of everyone’s list on how to differentiate your guy from Mitt Romney, the top of the list is health care — until and unless he takes the opportunity to say, ‘We tried, and it didn’t work. The individual mandate at the heart of Obamacare and Romneycare was wrong,’” said Bill Pascoe, a Republican strategist who wrote a post on his blog earlier this year titled “Say Goodbye to Mitt.”

So far, anyway, Romney is showing no signs of backing down. His message is the same today as it was in March, when there was still hope that voters would warm up to the Obama legislation once it passed. Romney blasts the federal law as a takeover of health care, while defending the 2005 Massachusetts version. He argues the two are as different as night and day, despite their common and most reviled feature, the mandate on individuals to purchase insurance.

I don’t think that’s going to fly; nor do I think simply “apologizing” for what he considers his signature achievement (as many Republicans are urging him to) will carry the day. Since 2008, Romney seems to have settled into his own skin, showing expertise on economic issues and a solid grasp of foreign policy. He’s less defensive and more at ease with a focus on pro-growth policies. However, a reversal on health-care reform will simply revive the concerns about flip-flopping and sincerity that weighed him down in 2008. On this one, I agree with Brent Bozell’s take: “I don’t know of any other potential candidate who has as big of a potential single-issue problem as this one.”

Well, some say, John McCain overcame the concerns from the base regarding his stance on immigration and managed to win the nomination in 2008. Yes, but “Repeal immigration reform!” was not the party’s clarion call.

If ObamaCare is repealed or is effectively neutralized before the 2012 primary season heats up, might that help Romney’s predicament? Perhaps, but as that debate rages, Romney will be queried as to where he stands and why he presumably favors the repeal of ObamaCare but not of RomneyCare.

Perhaps there is a more compelling distinction Romney can make between the president’s plan and his own. But sometimes there is no “solution” to a politician’s dilemma. Indeed, the upcoming tsunami that will wipe out many Democrats will testify to the proposition that officials can’t run from their records. If they are fundamentally out of sync with voters on a key issue, there’s no amount of clever packaging that will help them.

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The Pakistan Problem

There are many “problems from hell” that confront U.S. policymakers, but none is more complicated or more important than our relationship with Pakistan. It is once again in the news because of Pakistan’s harsh reaction to a NATO helicopter firing a couple of missiles into Pakistani territory after it came under fire from across the border. The result has been the closing of Torkham Gate, one of the main supply routes for NATO forces in Afghanistan, and the torching of a number of trucks carrying NATO supplies through Pakistan. This is Islamabad’s way of signaling its displeasure with what it views as a violation of its sovereignty. American officials, for their part, are growing increasingly and understandably exasperated with Pakistan’s double game: while receiving copious American aid and turning a blind eye to American drone strikes primarily directed against foreign jihadists, it is also continuing to support the Taliban and the Haqqani network as they target American and allied troops in Afghanistan.

I wish I knew how to solve this conundrum, but I don’t. No one does. We can’t simply cut off Pakistan, because its government does provide vital assistance in the war against terrorism, and we cannot permit a jihadist takeover of a nuclear-armed state. But nor can we simply live with Pakistan’s continuing role as supporter of terrorist groups that we (and other nations, including India) are fighting. That means we are stuck in a muddle — as we have been for a decade or more. We provide aid to the Pakistani military and try to bolster more moderate elements while realizing that we cannot press too hard because we lack sufficient leverage and risk sparking a destructive backlash.

The Obama administration has gotten slightly more muscular in its approach by stepping up drone strikes — a good idea. But at the same time, the president has made it harder to woo Pakistan because he has given credence to the notion that we are on our way out of Afghanistan. If that’s in fact the case — and I don’t believe it is — then Pakistan has no choice but to look after its own interests, and in the view of the Pakistani military, that means supporting jihadist proxy forces such as the Taliban. There is probably no way to wean the Pakistanis entirely off this strategy in the foreseeable future, but at least if Obama were to clarify his muddled rhetoric regarding a deadline for withdrawal and make it clear that the U.S. is in the region for the long term, he may change the incentive structure for the Pakistani officer corps and make it more palatable for them to take tougher action against terrorist groups, secure in the knowledge that we will not leave them in the lurch.

There are many “problems from hell” that confront U.S. policymakers, but none is more complicated or more important than our relationship with Pakistan. It is once again in the news because of Pakistan’s harsh reaction to a NATO helicopter firing a couple of missiles into Pakistani territory after it came under fire from across the border. The result has been the closing of Torkham Gate, one of the main supply routes for NATO forces in Afghanistan, and the torching of a number of trucks carrying NATO supplies through Pakistan. This is Islamabad’s way of signaling its displeasure with what it views as a violation of its sovereignty. American officials, for their part, are growing increasingly and understandably exasperated with Pakistan’s double game: while receiving copious American aid and turning a blind eye to American drone strikes primarily directed against foreign jihadists, it is also continuing to support the Taliban and the Haqqani network as they target American and allied troops in Afghanistan.

I wish I knew how to solve this conundrum, but I don’t. No one does. We can’t simply cut off Pakistan, because its government does provide vital assistance in the war against terrorism, and we cannot permit a jihadist takeover of a nuclear-armed state. But nor can we simply live with Pakistan’s continuing role as supporter of terrorist groups that we (and other nations, including India) are fighting. That means we are stuck in a muddle — as we have been for a decade or more. We provide aid to the Pakistani military and try to bolster more moderate elements while realizing that we cannot press too hard because we lack sufficient leverage and risk sparking a destructive backlash.

The Obama administration has gotten slightly more muscular in its approach by stepping up drone strikes — a good idea. But at the same time, the president has made it harder to woo Pakistan because he has given credence to the notion that we are on our way out of Afghanistan. If that’s in fact the case — and I don’t believe it is — then Pakistan has no choice but to look after its own interests, and in the view of the Pakistani military, that means supporting jihadist proxy forces such as the Taliban. There is probably no way to wean the Pakistanis entirely off this strategy in the foreseeable future, but at least if Obama were to clarify his muddled rhetoric regarding a deadline for withdrawal and make it clear that the U.S. is in the region for the long term, he may change the incentive structure for the Pakistani officer corps and make it more palatable for them to take tougher action against terrorist groups, secure in the knowledge that we will not leave them in the lurch.

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Blocking Ricciardone

So the Wall Street Journal editorial page thinks Senator Brownback is wrong to put a hold on the nomination of Frank Ricciardone as ambassador to Turkey, issuing an editorial averring that while “the Senator is free to criticize and oppose this nomination … Mr. Ricciardone deserves an up-or-down vote on the floor.” The editorial goes on to claim that Mr. Brownback’s hold on Mr. Ricciardone may “make Mr. Brownback feel good, but it undermines the executive’s ability to function and American foreign policy.”

Well, in this fight, sign me up with Senator Brownback. To begin with, the idea that American foreign policy is somehow undermined by the lack of an ambassador in Ankara is quaint. If America needs to communicate with the Turks, there are plenty of avenues, from phone calls to e-mail to the dozens of other American government officials based in Turkey.

But beyond that, if Mr. Ricciardone isn’t a nominee worth using every parliamentary procedure available under the rules to block, who is? This blog understands this perhaps better than any other forum; it was at CONTENTIONS that Joshua Muravchik posted, back in May 2007, a report of Mr. Ricciardone’s preposterous claim, as American ambassador in Cairo, that “[h]ere in Egypt as in the U.S., there is freedom of speech.”

That post prompted a memorable New York Sun editorial headlined “Recall Ricciardone,” reporting:

In the same television interview, Mr. Ricciardone was asked how he could watch the execution of Saddam Hussein. He replied, “Personally, I’m against execution in principle. My personal reaction is that it is abominable.” It was a strange reply, since the ambassador hadn’t been asked for his personal views of the death penalty.

The interviewer also asked whether the ambassador had heard the Egyptian song “I hate Israel,” whose lyric include “I love Yasser Arafat” and “I hate Ehud Barak.” The ambassador’s response, according to the transcript on the embassy’s Web site, was “Yes. I also watched his latest movie on a web site.” He went on to say, according to the transcript, “It is sort of interesting. I enjoyed it.”

An earlier Sun editorial, in 2004, “Ricciardone’s Return,” described the diplomat’s clumsy and counterproductive performance on the Iraq front.

Anyway, I share the concern of the folks at the Journal about undermining American foreign policy. I just think that confirming Mr. Ricciardone is way more likely to undermine American foreign policy than Mr. Brownback’s hold on him will.

So the Wall Street Journal editorial page thinks Senator Brownback is wrong to put a hold on the nomination of Frank Ricciardone as ambassador to Turkey, issuing an editorial averring that while “the Senator is free to criticize and oppose this nomination … Mr. Ricciardone deserves an up-or-down vote on the floor.” The editorial goes on to claim that Mr. Brownback’s hold on Mr. Ricciardone may “make Mr. Brownback feel good, but it undermines the executive’s ability to function and American foreign policy.”

Well, in this fight, sign me up with Senator Brownback. To begin with, the idea that American foreign policy is somehow undermined by the lack of an ambassador in Ankara is quaint. If America needs to communicate with the Turks, there are plenty of avenues, from phone calls to e-mail to the dozens of other American government officials based in Turkey.

But beyond that, if Mr. Ricciardone isn’t a nominee worth using every parliamentary procedure available under the rules to block, who is? This blog understands this perhaps better than any other forum; it was at CONTENTIONS that Joshua Muravchik posted, back in May 2007, a report of Mr. Ricciardone’s preposterous claim, as American ambassador in Cairo, that “[h]ere in Egypt as in the U.S., there is freedom of speech.”

That post prompted a memorable New York Sun editorial headlined “Recall Ricciardone,” reporting:

In the same television interview, Mr. Ricciardone was asked how he could watch the execution of Saddam Hussein. He replied, “Personally, I’m against execution in principle. My personal reaction is that it is abominable.” It was a strange reply, since the ambassador hadn’t been asked for his personal views of the death penalty.

The interviewer also asked whether the ambassador had heard the Egyptian song “I hate Israel,” whose lyric include “I love Yasser Arafat” and “I hate Ehud Barak.” The ambassador’s response, according to the transcript on the embassy’s Web site, was “Yes. I also watched his latest movie on a web site.” He went on to say, according to the transcript, “It is sort of interesting. I enjoyed it.”

An earlier Sun editorial, in 2004, “Ricciardone’s Return,” described the diplomat’s clumsy and counterproductive performance on the Iraq front.

Anyway, I share the concern of the folks at the Journal about undermining American foreign policy. I just think that confirming Mr. Ricciardone is way more likely to undermine American foreign policy than Mr. Brownback’s hold on him will.

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Obama’s Middle East Policy vs. Reality

While the frantic bribe-athon by the Obama administration continues to try reimposing the settlement moratorium, building has already resumed, according to this report:

Bulldozers have been working furiously on the construction of 350 new housing units in various settlements.

As the end of the freeze approached, the settlements have made great efforts to launch a massive building campaign in response. The Yesha Council has expressed satisfaction at the large amount of construction that has taken place so far.

But there is more:

A long queue of Palestinian laborers lined up Tuesday at the entrance to the settlement of Talmon, west of Ramallah. The vehicles with white license plates parked at the side of the road, and Palestinian workers exited the vehicles.

The workers waited for the security officer to check their identity cards before entering the various construction sites spread out over the settlement that have sprung up since the end of the building freeze.

So in the real world, Palestinians get jobs and Israelis get homes. From the vague description in the report, it seems as though building, to borrow a phrase, is “up” and “in” and not “out.” (The footprint of existing settlements is not being expanded from what we can glean from this report.) My, might that be a way of proceeding from here on out? It took over 18 months for the Obami to get the parties back to direct negotiations, albeit momentarily. Perhaps after another few months they can finally go back to the 2004 Bush-Sharon understanding on settlements. That might be “smart” diplomacy.

Meanwhile, some of my colleagues are debating whether Bill Clinton is offering a sly parody of the Obami’s “linkage” fetish:

Former U.S. President Bill Clinton said Tuesday that solving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict would take away much of the motivation for terrorism around the world.

He described the long-running conflict as the key problem in the region and said resolving it would have a knock on effect that could result in Syria ending its support for the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah and Iran turning back its controversial nuclear program.

No, I think he’s serious and the president shares the notion that if Abbas signs a piece of paper, all sorts of wonderful things will transpire. The idea that the cessation of terror and the defanging of the Iranian regime are preconditions for peace is alien to their thinking. But the upside-down view of the Middle East does explain why the non-peace talks are in disarray, the Iranian regime is gaining allies, and the Israelis will have to fend for themselves when it comes to the Iranian nuclear threat. Unfortunately, there is no adult supervision of the Obama foreign policy.

While the frantic bribe-athon by the Obama administration continues to try reimposing the settlement moratorium, building has already resumed, according to this report:

Bulldozers have been working furiously on the construction of 350 new housing units in various settlements.

As the end of the freeze approached, the settlements have made great efforts to launch a massive building campaign in response. The Yesha Council has expressed satisfaction at the large amount of construction that has taken place so far.

But there is more:

A long queue of Palestinian laborers lined up Tuesday at the entrance to the settlement of Talmon, west of Ramallah. The vehicles with white license plates parked at the side of the road, and Palestinian workers exited the vehicles.

The workers waited for the security officer to check their identity cards before entering the various construction sites spread out over the settlement that have sprung up since the end of the building freeze.

So in the real world, Palestinians get jobs and Israelis get homes. From the vague description in the report, it seems as though building, to borrow a phrase, is “up” and “in” and not “out.” (The footprint of existing settlements is not being expanded from what we can glean from this report.) My, might that be a way of proceeding from here on out? It took over 18 months for the Obami to get the parties back to direct negotiations, albeit momentarily. Perhaps after another few months they can finally go back to the 2004 Bush-Sharon understanding on settlements. That might be “smart” diplomacy.

Meanwhile, some of my colleagues are debating whether Bill Clinton is offering a sly parody of the Obami’s “linkage” fetish:

Former U.S. President Bill Clinton said Tuesday that solving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict would take away much of the motivation for terrorism around the world.

He described the long-running conflict as the key problem in the region and said resolving it would have a knock on effect that could result in Syria ending its support for the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah and Iran turning back its controversial nuclear program.

No, I think he’s serious and the president shares the notion that if Abbas signs a piece of paper, all sorts of wonderful things will transpire. The idea that the cessation of terror and the defanging of the Iranian regime are preconditions for peace is alien to their thinking. But the upside-down view of the Middle East does explain why the non-peace talks are in disarray, the Iranian regime is gaining allies, and the Israelis will have to fend for themselves when it comes to the Iranian nuclear threat. Unfortunately, there is no adult supervision of the Obama foreign policy.

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Avoiding a Huge Mistake

Some have surmised that President Obama’s request for a 60-day extension of Israel’s settlement moratorium — combined with a promise not to request any further extensions — is simply a transparent attempt to avoid an embarrassing collapse of the peace process a month before U.S. elections. But Leslie Susser reports that Benjamin Netanyahu has a “major strategic concern” regarding the request:

According to confidants, [Netanyahu] fears that as soon as any new 60-day freeze ends, the Americans will put a “take it or leave it peace plan” of their own on the table. With the U.S. midterm elections over, Obama might feel able to publicly present parameters for a peace deal that Netanyahu would find impossible to accept.

Israel might then find itself totally isolated and under intolerable international pressure. That is a scenario Netanyahu hopes the current negotiations with the Americans will help him avoid.

The continuing failure of the Obama administration to endorse the 2004 Bush letter — a document negotiated at great length, line by line, between the U.S. and Israel, and then  endorsed by both houses of Congress in a concurrent resolution, and then relied upon by Israel both in approving and proceeding with the Gaza withdrawal – is obviously one of the causes for Netanyahu’s concern. The proposed Obama letter lacks assurances to Israel of the “defensible borders” to which both the Bush and Clinton administrations committed the United States (as well as the other commitments memorialized in the Bush letter).

Susser writes that the U.S. might have to “sweeten the pot” to secure the approval of the seven-member Israeli “Septet,” the 19-member Israeli Security Cabinet, and the full 29-member Cabinet, all of which currently oppose the proposed deal. What is necessary, however, is not simply a “sweetened pot” but an acknowledgment of obligations the U.S. has already incurred.

And there is an even more fundamental point involved: a peace agreement that does not involve defensible borders will be one that repositions the parties for another war. As Elliott Abrams wrote in August, the 1967 lines will not produce peace, and those who back away from the idea of defensible borders are “making a huge mistake.”

Some have surmised that President Obama’s request for a 60-day extension of Israel’s settlement moratorium — combined with a promise not to request any further extensions — is simply a transparent attempt to avoid an embarrassing collapse of the peace process a month before U.S. elections. But Leslie Susser reports that Benjamin Netanyahu has a “major strategic concern” regarding the request:

According to confidants, [Netanyahu] fears that as soon as any new 60-day freeze ends, the Americans will put a “take it or leave it peace plan” of their own on the table. With the U.S. midterm elections over, Obama might feel able to publicly present parameters for a peace deal that Netanyahu would find impossible to accept.

Israel might then find itself totally isolated and under intolerable international pressure. That is a scenario Netanyahu hopes the current negotiations with the Americans will help him avoid.

The continuing failure of the Obama administration to endorse the 2004 Bush letter — a document negotiated at great length, line by line, between the U.S. and Israel, and then  endorsed by both houses of Congress in a concurrent resolution, and then relied upon by Israel both in approving and proceeding with the Gaza withdrawal – is obviously one of the causes for Netanyahu’s concern. The proposed Obama letter lacks assurances to Israel of the “defensible borders” to which both the Bush and Clinton administrations committed the United States (as well as the other commitments memorialized in the Bush letter).

Susser writes that the U.S. might have to “sweeten the pot” to secure the approval of the seven-member Israeli “Septet,” the 19-member Israeli Security Cabinet, and the full 29-member Cabinet, all of which currently oppose the proposed deal. What is necessary, however, is not simply a “sweetened pot” but an acknowledgment of obligations the U.S. has already incurred.

And there is an even more fundamental point involved: a peace agreement that does not involve defensible borders will be one that repositions the parties for another war. As Elliott Abrams wrote in August, the 1967 lines will not produce peace, and those who back away from the idea of defensible borders are “making a huge mistake.”

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Theoretical “Pro-Life” Dems Endangered

Politicians have to live with their records on health-care reform. Ostensibly pro-life Democrats somehow imagined there would be no penalty for voting for ObamaCare, which provides for federal funding of abortions (notwithstanding a faux and unenforceable executive order declaring that the law doesn’t mean what it says). Now lawmakers are discovering that there are consequences for voting for measures that violate your supposedly core convictions. Politico reports:

On a chilly January morning in Erie, Pa., members of the anti-abortion group Susan B. Anthony List stood outside Rep. Kathy Dahlkemper’s office to thank her for opposing a health care bill that didn’t include stringent abortion restrictions.

Ten months later, Dahlkemper and other anti-abortion Democrats are at risk of becoming an endangered species in the House.
She and others eventually signed on to the health reform law, endorsing an executive order that barred federal funding of abortions. But SBA List and other anti-abortion groups opposed the executive order, contending it was too weak.

To put it bluntly, these legislators betrayed their pro-life supporters, and the latter are now out to exact revenge. The pro-life activists’ bus tour is aptly named “Votes Have Consequences.”

It is about time that activists on both sides realized that, just as fiscally conservative Blue Dogs are more bark than bite, pro-life Democrats don’t really stand with their backers when the chips are down:

“I fundamentally reject the idea that the life issue is the full providence of any one party,” said Charmaine Yoest, president of Americans United for Life Action, which this week launched a $600,000 ‘Life Counts’ campaign against six anti-abortion Democrats. “That being said, the fact that [the] Democratic Party advanced the biggest expansion of abortion with health care is something they have to answer for.”

In other words, there are pro-life Democrats in theory, just not in practice. Come November, there will be fewer of them in office.

Politicians have to live with their records on health-care reform. Ostensibly pro-life Democrats somehow imagined there would be no penalty for voting for ObamaCare, which provides for federal funding of abortions (notwithstanding a faux and unenforceable executive order declaring that the law doesn’t mean what it says). Now lawmakers are discovering that there are consequences for voting for measures that violate your supposedly core convictions. Politico reports:

On a chilly January morning in Erie, Pa., members of the anti-abortion group Susan B. Anthony List stood outside Rep. Kathy Dahlkemper’s office to thank her for opposing a health care bill that didn’t include stringent abortion restrictions.

Ten months later, Dahlkemper and other anti-abortion Democrats are at risk of becoming an endangered species in the House.
She and others eventually signed on to the health reform law, endorsing an executive order that barred federal funding of abortions. But SBA List and other anti-abortion groups opposed the executive order, contending it was too weak.

To put it bluntly, these legislators betrayed their pro-life supporters, and the latter are now out to exact revenge. The pro-life activists’ bus tour is aptly named “Votes Have Consequences.”

It is about time that activists on both sides realized that, just as fiscally conservative Blue Dogs are more bark than bite, pro-life Democrats don’t really stand with their backers when the chips are down:

“I fundamentally reject the idea that the life issue is the full providence of any one party,” said Charmaine Yoest, president of Americans United for Life Action, which this week launched a $600,000 ‘Life Counts’ campaign against six anti-abortion Democrats. “That being said, the fact that [the] Democratic Party advanced the biggest expansion of abortion with health care is something they have to answer for.”

In other words, there are pro-life Democrats in theory, just not in practice. Come November, there will be fewer of them in office.

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The Laws of War Evidently Don’t Apply to Israel

The New York Times reported Monday on a U.S. soldier charged with killing Afghan civilians for fun. Yet much of the report was devoted to explaining why civilian killings by soldiers usually don’t result in indictments — like a 2008 case in which Marines allegedly fired indiscriminately at an Afghan road, killing 19 people and wounding 50. The case was closed because “the shootings began after a suicide bomber attacked the unit’s convoy,” and “the Marines said they had taken hostile gunfire after the explosion and had fired to defend themselves from perceived threats.” The Times explained:

It can be difficult to win a conviction, specialists in military law said, when defendants can make a plausible claim that they believed, in the confusion of the “fog of war,” that their lives were in danger and they needed to defend themselves.

“You often see cases of kids who just make dumb decisions,” said Gary Solis, who teaches the laws of war at Georgetown University. “But killings in the heat of the moment, they don’t usually try those guys. The guys you try are the ones who have an opportunity to consider what they are doing.”

Eugene R. Fidell, who teaches military law at Yale, added that it’s often hard to gather evidence in conflict zones.

In many cases, he said, months have passed by the time an accusation surfaces, and so units have rotated back from the tour of duty, records are poor, and it is difficult to find witnesses.

Moreover, in the Muslim world investigators are deeply reluctant, for cultural reasons, to exhume bodies and perform autopsies.

Astoundingly, even the lone human-rights advocate quoted agreed. “The large majority of civilian harm in both Iraq and Afghanistan takes place during legitimate military operations,” said Sarah Holewinksi, executive director of the Campaign for Innocent Victims in Conflict.

Clearly, all the above considerations also apply to Israel’s military operations in Lebanon and Gaza. Civilian deaths occurred in the heat of combat, when soldiers could plausibly have thought themselves endangered. Few witnesses will talk to Israeli investigators, yet testimony given to nongovernmental organizations is problematic as courtroom evidence, because attorneys and judges cannot question the witnesses themselves or form an impression of their credibility. And most victims are Muslims, who have religious objections to autopsies.

Yet when it comes to Israel, these factors are somehow dismissed as unimportant. That same day, the Times reported on an Israeli court’s conviction of two soldiers for crimes committed during last year’s Gaza war. Altogether, it noted, 48 cases have been opened. A third are “still in progress,” a few produced convictions, and the rest were closed, for the reasons cited above.

“But human rights groups say that the military’s criminal proceedings are insufficient” and that Israeli troops committed “atrocities that require outside investigation.”

The principle that the law applies equally to all is a cornerstone of modern Western civilization. Yet too many Westerners seem to reserve the protections granted by the laws of war for their own soldiers while denying them to Israel.

By so doing, they don’t just undermine Israel. They undermine their own civilization.

The New York Times reported Monday on a U.S. soldier charged with killing Afghan civilians for fun. Yet much of the report was devoted to explaining why civilian killings by soldiers usually don’t result in indictments — like a 2008 case in which Marines allegedly fired indiscriminately at an Afghan road, killing 19 people and wounding 50. The case was closed because “the shootings began after a suicide bomber attacked the unit’s convoy,” and “the Marines said they had taken hostile gunfire after the explosion and had fired to defend themselves from perceived threats.” The Times explained:

It can be difficult to win a conviction, specialists in military law said, when defendants can make a plausible claim that they believed, in the confusion of the “fog of war,” that their lives were in danger and they needed to defend themselves.

“You often see cases of kids who just make dumb decisions,” said Gary Solis, who teaches the laws of war at Georgetown University. “But killings in the heat of the moment, they don’t usually try those guys. The guys you try are the ones who have an opportunity to consider what they are doing.”

Eugene R. Fidell, who teaches military law at Yale, added that it’s often hard to gather evidence in conflict zones.

In many cases, he said, months have passed by the time an accusation surfaces, and so units have rotated back from the tour of duty, records are poor, and it is difficult to find witnesses.

Moreover, in the Muslim world investigators are deeply reluctant, for cultural reasons, to exhume bodies and perform autopsies.

Astoundingly, even the lone human-rights advocate quoted agreed. “The large majority of civilian harm in both Iraq and Afghanistan takes place during legitimate military operations,” said Sarah Holewinksi, executive director of the Campaign for Innocent Victims in Conflict.

Clearly, all the above considerations also apply to Israel’s military operations in Lebanon and Gaza. Civilian deaths occurred in the heat of combat, when soldiers could plausibly have thought themselves endangered. Few witnesses will talk to Israeli investigators, yet testimony given to nongovernmental organizations is problematic as courtroom evidence, because attorneys and judges cannot question the witnesses themselves or form an impression of their credibility. And most victims are Muslims, who have religious objections to autopsies.

Yet when it comes to Israel, these factors are somehow dismissed as unimportant. That same day, the Times reported on an Israeli court’s conviction of two soldiers for crimes committed during last year’s Gaza war. Altogether, it noted, 48 cases have been opened. A third are “still in progress,” a few produced convictions, and the rest were closed, for the reasons cited above.

“But human rights groups say that the military’s criminal proceedings are insufficient” and that Israeli troops committed “atrocities that require outside investigation.”

The principle that the law applies equally to all is a cornerstone of modern Western civilization. Yet too many Westerners seem to reserve the protections granted by the laws of war for their own soldiers while denying them to Israel.

By so doing, they don’t just undermine Israel. They undermine their own civilization.

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Cleaning Up After Mitchell and Obama

The Washington Post tells us that Dennis Ross is cultivating a “back channel” to Israeli officials to minimize the damage done by George Mitchell, the decidedly Israel-hostile State Department, and the president. Now the Post doesn’t put it quite that bluntly. But it comes close:

Ross’s role, described by officials and other sources close to the process, is highly sensitive because it might be seen as undercutting the mission of George J. Mitchell, President Obama’s special envoy for Middle East peace. Virtually no one interviewed would agree to be quoted by name because of such concerns. …

Sources in both the United States and Israel said that Ross has provided an element that had been missing from the bilateral relationship, which has been rocky since Obama took office.

But of course, if Obama really enjoyed a warm relationship with, or was even respected and trusted by, the Israeli government, no alternative channel would be needed, nor would the administration need to recite its bribes … er, promises … in writing to prevent the direct negotiations from unraveling.

But is Ross accomplishing anything? It doesn’t appear so. To be fair, he’s handicapped by the flawed approach that the president has clung stubbornly to, namely, the fixation on a settlement moratorium and a willful disregard of the PA’s inability and unwillingness to take the essential steps needed (e.g., recognition of the Jewish state) to reach a meaningful peace deal.

Ross may have convinced himself that things would be much worse were it not for his soothing presence, an unprovable hypothesis that one suspects is nevertheless necessary if one is to justify serving in an administration such as this. But frankly, all this remains a dangerous sideshow. As Abbas waits for instructions from his overseers at the Arab League, and Obama’s promises must be documented (we hope a notary is not required as well), those centrifuges keep spinning in Iran. No back channel to repair that debacle-in-the-making.

The Washington Post tells us that Dennis Ross is cultivating a “back channel” to Israeli officials to minimize the damage done by George Mitchell, the decidedly Israel-hostile State Department, and the president. Now the Post doesn’t put it quite that bluntly. But it comes close:

Ross’s role, described by officials and other sources close to the process, is highly sensitive because it might be seen as undercutting the mission of George J. Mitchell, President Obama’s special envoy for Middle East peace. Virtually no one interviewed would agree to be quoted by name because of such concerns. …

Sources in both the United States and Israel said that Ross has provided an element that had been missing from the bilateral relationship, which has been rocky since Obama took office.

But of course, if Obama really enjoyed a warm relationship with, or was even respected and trusted by, the Israeli government, no alternative channel would be needed, nor would the administration need to recite its bribes … er, promises … in writing to prevent the direct negotiations from unraveling.

But is Ross accomplishing anything? It doesn’t appear so. To be fair, he’s handicapped by the flawed approach that the president has clung stubbornly to, namely, the fixation on a settlement moratorium and a willful disregard of the PA’s inability and unwillingness to take the essential steps needed (e.g., recognition of the Jewish state) to reach a meaningful peace deal.

Ross may have convinced himself that things would be much worse were it not for his soothing presence, an unprovable hypothesis that one suspects is nevertheless necessary if one is to justify serving in an administration such as this. But frankly, all this remains a dangerous sideshow. As Abbas waits for instructions from his overseers at the Arab League, and Obama’s promises must be documented (we hope a notary is not required as well), those centrifuges keep spinning in Iran. No back channel to repair that debacle-in-the-making.

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Dems Circle the Wagons

Imagine if a month before the presidential election, the Republican nominee were making trips to Alabama to try to pump up the base. You’d suspect something was very amiss. And so it is with the midterms as the Democrats struggle to get their own supporters engaged in an election that could well spell the end of Democratic majorities in both houses of Congress, as well as the end of the Obama agenda.

The New York Times’s Peter Baker explains the extent of the problem:

With four weeks until Congressional elections that will shape the remainder of his term, President Obama is increasingly focused on generating enthusiasm within the base that helped put him in the White House two years ago, from college students to African-Americans.

But Mr. Obama has aimed much of his prodding — and not a small amount of personal pique — at the liberals most deflated by the first two years of his presidency. Assuming that many independents are out of reach, White House strategists are counting on Mr. Obama to energize, cajole, wheedle and even shame the left into matching the Tea Party momentum that has propelled Republicans this year.

Baker’s not all that impressed:

At times, though, the message has come across as scolding and testy, in the view of some Democrats. … The White House may be making progress closing the so-called enthusiasm gap with Republicans, according to Democratic strategists who point to improving poll numbers and fund-raising. But the fact that Mr. Obama needs to make such a concerted effort highlights the depth of disaffection among liberals over what they see as his failure to aggressively push for the change he promised.

And with every hyper-partisan speech, Obama sends shivers up the spines of moderate Democrats, who realize it is making their problem with independents even worse. (“‘Even if Democrats close the enthusiasm gap with their base, they still have another enthusiasm gap to close with moderates,’ said Anne Kim, domestic policy program director for [The Third Way]. ‘Democrats don’t have the luxury of leaning on their base to deliver wins because there simply aren’t enough liberals.'”)

Only two years ago, the media excoriated Republicans for playing to a narrower and narrower segment of the electorate. The pundits chastised the GOP for following a misguided strategy — trying to expand the base at the expense of appealing to the bulk of voters in the center of the political spectrum. Now it’s the Democrats’ turn to deploy a self-defeating strategy.

But in the case of the Democrats, this is the only gambit left. By pursuing an extreme agenda and ignoring the concerns of most voters for nearly two years, the Democrats can’t very well charge back to the center, promising restraint, fiscal sobriety, etc. So all they can do is plead with (or holler at) their base and try to scare the voters. In doing so, they reveal themselves to be both desperate and cynical. And that’s not an image that’s likely to get those starry-eyed young voters to the polls, is it?

Imagine if a month before the presidential election, the Republican nominee were making trips to Alabama to try to pump up the base. You’d suspect something was very amiss. And so it is with the midterms as the Democrats struggle to get their own supporters engaged in an election that could well spell the end of Democratic majorities in both houses of Congress, as well as the end of the Obama agenda.

The New York Times’s Peter Baker explains the extent of the problem:

With four weeks until Congressional elections that will shape the remainder of his term, President Obama is increasingly focused on generating enthusiasm within the base that helped put him in the White House two years ago, from college students to African-Americans.

But Mr. Obama has aimed much of his prodding — and not a small amount of personal pique — at the liberals most deflated by the first two years of his presidency. Assuming that many independents are out of reach, White House strategists are counting on Mr. Obama to energize, cajole, wheedle and even shame the left into matching the Tea Party momentum that has propelled Republicans this year.

Baker’s not all that impressed:

At times, though, the message has come across as scolding and testy, in the view of some Democrats. … The White House may be making progress closing the so-called enthusiasm gap with Republicans, according to Democratic strategists who point to improving poll numbers and fund-raising. But the fact that Mr. Obama needs to make such a concerted effort highlights the depth of disaffection among liberals over what they see as his failure to aggressively push for the change he promised.

And with every hyper-partisan speech, Obama sends shivers up the spines of moderate Democrats, who realize it is making their problem with independents even worse. (“‘Even if Democrats close the enthusiasm gap with their base, they still have another enthusiasm gap to close with moderates,’ said Anne Kim, domestic policy program director for [The Third Way]. ‘Democrats don’t have the luxury of leaning on their base to deliver wins because there simply aren’t enough liberals.'”)

Only two years ago, the media excoriated Republicans for playing to a narrower and narrower segment of the electorate. The pundits chastised the GOP for following a misguided strategy — trying to expand the base at the expense of appealing to the bulk of voters in the center of the political spectrum. Now it’s the Democrats’ turn to deploy a self-defeating strategy.

But in the case of the Democrats, this is the only gambit left. By pursuing an extreme agenda and ignoring the concerns of most voters for nearly two years, the Democrats can’t very well charge back to the center, promising restraint, fiscal sobriety, etc. So all they can do is plead with (or holler at) their base and try to scare the voters. In doing so, they reveal themselves to be both desperate and cynical. And that’s not an image that’s likely to get those starry-eyed young voters to the polls, is it?

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Empty Promises to Bibi

Josh Rogin reports on the non-progress in restoring the non-peace talks:

Special Envoy George Mitchell is back in the U.S. after a tour through the Middle East that included stop in Qatar, Egypt and Jordan. No progress reported on saving the peace talks and the key meeting of the Arab League where Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas will speak has been postponed until Friday. Clinton phoned Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu over the weekend.

[State Department spokesman P.J.] Crowley couldn’t and therefore didn’t answer persistent questions coming from one press corps member seeking to know when was the last time the U.S. failed to back up Israel at the U.N. The questioner was ostensibly referencing reports that the administration was trying to convince the Israelis to extend the settlement freeze by promising to veto any future attacks on Israel in international fora. “I’m not sure that is a question that can possibly be answered,” Crowley said.

Actually, reports during the Obami’s temper tantrum over housing permits in Jerusalem suggested that the administration was threatening not to veto such resolutions in the future. So we actually did have such a situation in March. But the Obami said they were “confused” and couldn’t  manage to veto a statement singling out Israel that surely would have been vetoed under the Bush and Clinton administrations.

So to put this in context, the administration is trying to lure Bibi into extending a freeze with the promise not to do (refrain from anti-Israel vetoes) what previously would never have been done — and therefore would never have been considered a bargaining chip. You can understand why Bibi is not jumping at the offer.

Josh Rogin reports on the non-progress in restoring the non-peace talks:

Special Envoy George Mitchell is back in the U.S. after a tour through the Middle East that included stop in Qatar, Egypt and Jordan. No progress reported on saving the peace talks and the key meeting of the Arab League where Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas will speak has been postponed until Friday. Clinton phoned Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu over the weekend.

[State Department spokesman P.J.] Crowley couldn’t and therefore didn’t answer persistent questions coming from one press corps member seeking to know when was the last time the U.S. failed to back up Israel at the U.N. The questioner was ostensibly referencing reports that the administration was trying to convince the Israelis to extend the settlement freeze by promising to veto any future attacks on Israel in international fora. “I’m not sure that is a question that can possibly be answered,” Crowley said.

Actually, reports during the Obami’s temper tantrum over housing permits in Jerusalem suggested that the administration was threatening not to veto such resolutions in the future. So we actually did have such a situation in March. But the Obami said they were “confused” and couldn’t  manage to veto a statement singling out Israel that surely would have been vetoed under the Bush and Clinton administrations.

So to put this in context, the administration is trying to lure Bibi into extending a freeze with the promise not to do (refrain from anti-Israel vetoes) what previously would never have been done — and therefore would never have been considered a bargaining chip. You can understand why Bibi is not jumping at the offer.

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Incivility to Be Sure

Next time the left whines that the right is too “angry” or that the Tea Partiers have debased the political debate in this country, remember which National Mall rally was polite, uplifting, and tidy and which hurled invectives at its opponents. And please also recall the rhetoric coming from the White House, which in the good ole days — two years ago — used to observe a certain level of decorum befitting the chief executive. The president and his spokesman now routinely name-call and demean the opposition. The latest example of this comes from the hapless Joe Biden, who tries his best to play attack dog for a White House pack that has plenty of them already:

Biden jokingly said that GOP protests about the need for a balanced budget made him want to strangle them, which the vice president quickly clarified was a figure of speech.

“If I hear one more Republican tell me about balancing the budget, I am going to strangle them,” Biden said at a fundraiser in Minnesota, according to a pool report. “To the press, that’s a figure of speech.”

Amused? No, and I suspect Biden realized it wasn’t when he hastened to make sure everyone understood he wasn’t contemplating homicide. Impatience with the unappreciative and annoyance with opponents have characterized the Obama team from Day 1. Unfortunately, “unappreciative” and “opposed” now apply to more than half the country. So the invectives must now encompass an ever-widening circle of doubters, detractors, and critics.

Now there’s nothing as uncivil as a liberal accusing the right of incivility. (Richard Cohen’s horrid column this week comparing the Tea Party to the Kent State shooters is a perfect example of this.) And there’s nothing quite so unattractive as an administration reduced to schoolyard taunts.

Next time the left whines that the right is too “angry” or that the Tea Partiers have debased the political debate in this country, remember which National Mall rally was polite, uplifting, and tidy and which hurled invectives at its opponents. And please also recall the rhetoric coming from the White House, which in the good ole days — two years ago — used to observe a certain level of decorum befitting the chief executive. The president and his spokesman now routinely name-call and demean the opposition. The latest example of this comes from the hapless Joe Biden, who tries his best to play attack dog for a White House pack that has plenty of them already:

Biden jokingly said that GOP protests about the need for a balanced budget made him want to strangle them, which the vice president quickly clarified was a figure of speech.

“If I hear one more Republican tell me about balancing the budget, I am going to strangle them,” Biden said at a fundraiser in Minnesota, according to a pool report. “To the press, that’s a figure of speech.”

Amused? No, and I suspect Biden realized it wasn’t when he hastened to make sure everyone understood he wasn’t contemplating homicide. Impatience with the unappreciative and annoyance with opponents have characterized the Obama team from Day 1. Unfortunately, “unappreciative” and “opposed” now apply to more than half the country. So the invectives must now encompass an ever-widening circle of doubters, detractors, and critics.

Now there’s nothing as uncivil as a liberal accusing the right of incivility. (Richard Cohen’s horrid column this week comparing the Tea Party to the Kent State shooters is a perfect example of this.) And there’s nothing quite so unattractive as an administration reduced to schoolyard taunts.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

So much for the idea that the Democrats’ political fortunes are improving. New polls show Republicans ahead in Senate races in Nevada, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, and Colorado. Carly Fiorina has again pulled close to Barbara Boxer in California.

So much for the Democrats’ core message. Greg Sargent warns, “If Dems are going to avert a major bloodbath in November, they need independents to embrace two core Dem messages that seem particularly geared towards those voters: The claim that a vote for the GOP is a vote to return to Bush policies; and the assertion that the GOP has been hijacked by whackjob Tea Party extremists. But it appears that indy voters are not yet buying either of these messages in the numbers Dems need.” Think for a moment: that’s the best “message” the Dems can come up with — false accusations against their opponents. Sometimes a party deserves what it gets.

So much for Obama’s ability to gin up the base. “A new poll finds that Latinos — a key bloc in Democrats’ electoral coalition — are less enthusiastic than voters overall about the looming midterm elections.”

So much for excising the name of our enemy. “Faisal Shahzad, who attempted to detonate a car bomb in New York’s Times Square on a crowded Saturday night, was sentenced to life in federal prison today. Before she pronounced sentence, Judge Miriam Cedarbaum said, ‘Mr. Shahzad, I think you should get up.’ Shahzad said ‘Allahu Akbar’ after hearing the sentence, and said he would ‘sacrifice a thousand lives for Allah.’ ‘War with Muslims has just begun,’ said Shahzad, who then predicted that ‘the defeat of the US is imminent, god willing.'”

So much for cowering to those who holler “Islamophobia!”: “As reports about an alleged al-Qaeda plot in Europe emerge, it is beginning to look as though a mosque in Hamburg where members of the 9/11 plot against the United States gathered once again has served as a crucial al-Qaeda recruiting ground. That raises an obvious question: Have Germany’s security services learned nothing in the last decade?” Have we? The FBI has likewise been cowed into forgoing undercover operations involving mosques here in the U.S.

So much for Obama rethinking his Afghanistan-war troop deadline. “US President Barack Obama has told congressional leaders he has no plans for any major changes in his Afghanistan war strategy for now, a letter released by the White House showed on Monday.”

So much for the campaign-reform maven: “Senator Russ Feingold, a leading voice for tight regulations on campaigns and elections, has been contacted by the National Football League today for using NFL footage without permission for a new campaign ad.”

So much for Obama’s pleading. “Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s forum of senior ministers met Tuesday but did not discuss negotiations with the Palestinians, despite expectations that the forum would discuss a proposal to extend the settlement freeze in exchange for American guarantees.”

So much for “change.” Megan McArdle on “New GM, Same Old UAW?”: “The UAW just voted to allow an old GM stamping plant in Indianapolis to be shut down, rather than offer wage concessions necessary to attract a new owner. … Labor trouble has flared up at the plant where the new Chevy Cruze is being made. The Cruze is one of the things that is supposed to save the new GM: a high quality small car. If they can’t get this right without clashing with the union, what hope for the rest of GM?”

So much for the idea that the Democrats’ political fortunes are improving. New polls show Republicans ahead in Senate races in Nevada, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, and Colorado. Carly Fiorina has again pulled close to Barbara Boxer in California.

So much for the Democrats’ core message. Greg Sargent warns, “If Dems are going to avert a major bloodbath in November, they need independents to embrace two core Dem messages that seem particularly geared towards those voters: The claim that a vote for the GOP is a vote to return to Bush policies; and the assertion that the GOP has been hijacked by whackjob Tea Party extremists. But it appears that indy voters are not yet buying either of these messages in the numbers Dems need.” Think for a moment: that’s the best “message” the Dems can come up with — false accusations against their opponents. Sometimes a party deserves what it gets.

So much for Obama’s ability to gin up the base. “A new poll finds that Latinos — a key bloc in Democrats’ electoral coalition — are less enthusiastic than voters overall about the looming midterm elections.”

So much for excising the name of our enemy. “Faisal Shahzad, who attempted to detonate a car bomb in New York’s Times Square on a crowded Saturday night, was sentenced to life in federal prison today. Before she pronounced sentence, Judge Miriam Cedarbaum said, ‘Mr. Shahzad, I think you should get up.’ Shahzad said ‘Allahu Akbar’ after hearing the sentence, and said he would ‘sacrifice a thousand lives for Allah.’ ‘War with Muslims has just begun,’ said Shahzad, who then predicted that ‘the defeat of the US is imminent, god willing.'”

So much for cowering to those who holler “Islamophobia!”: “As reports about an alleged al-Qaeda plot in Europe emerge, it is beginning to look as though a mosque in Hamburg where members of the 9/11 plot against the United States gathered once again has served as a crucial al-Qaeda recruiting ground. That raises an obvious question: Have Germany’s security services learned nothing in the last decade?” Have we? The FBI has likewise been cowed into forgoing undercover operations involving mosques here in the U.S.

So much for Obama rethinking his Afghanistan-war troop deadline. “US President Barack Obama has told congressional leaders he has no plans for any major changes in his Afghanistan war strategy for now, a letter released by the White House showed on Monday.”

So much for the campaign-reform maven: “Senator Russ Feingold, a leading voice for tight regulations on campaigns and elections, has been contacted by the National Football League today for using NFL footage without permission for a new campaign ad.”

So much for Obama’s pleading. “Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s forum of senior ministers met Tuesday but did not discuss negotiations with the Palestinians, despite expectations that the forum would discuss a proposal to extend the settlement freeze in exchange for American guarantees.”

So much for “change.” Megan McArdle on “New GM, Same Old UAW?”: “The UAW just voted to allow an old GM stamping plant in Indianapolis to be shut down, rather than offer wage concessions necessary to attract a new owner. … Labor trouble has flared up at the plant where the new Chevy Cruze is being made. The Cruze is one of the things that is supposed to save the new GM: a high quality small car. If they can’t get this right without clashing with the union, what hope for the rest of GM?”

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