Commentary Magazine


Posts For: October 12, 2010

Excavating the Left’s Tunnel Vision

After several hysterical pieces in the New York Times denouncing New Jersey Governor Chris Christie’s refusal to sink his state deeper in debt to build a train tunnel to New York, David Brooks attempts to inject a little sanity into the debate in his column today. His colleagues Paul Krugman and Bob Herbert waxed hysterical about the decision, claiming that the governor’s reluctance to spend billions on the tunnel that the state doesn’t have is based on irrational hatred of government.

Both claim that the refusal is based on a lack of vision and imagination and bespeaks a smallness of spirit. But, of course, this is pure hyperbole, with Krugman claiming that the cause of potentially making his (and mine, as I wrote last week) commute a bit quicker is comparable to building the Erie Canal or the Hoover Dam, projects that transformed the American economy and its history.

Krugman downplays the cost overruns on the project (which even Christie’s much greater estimates almost certainly underestimate) and claims that New Jersey was getting a bargain; but when all is said and done, what Christie has refused to do is to spend $8 billion or more to get $3 billion in federal money. I guess you have to have won a Nobel Prize in economics to think that’s a bargain. Herbert laments the loss of 6,000 construction jobs involved in the tunnel’s cancellation but fails to note that at $1 million+ per job, what we’re talking about here is a boondoggle that might have made Tony Soprano’s fictional mobster exploitation of “The Esplanade” look like small change.

Brooks acknowledges that the tunnel is needed but rightly notes that the state’s inability to afford it stems from the fact that our states and municipalities are drowning in debt largely generated by the costs of paying government employees and their pensions (an issue that Jeff Jacoby explores at length in this month’s issue of COMMENTARY). It’s all well and good to say that big infrastructure projects are exactly the sort of thing government should be doing, but the liberal addiction to public-sector spending has made that impossible. And the public-sector unions that dominate the Democratic Party make sure this never changes.

One reader reacted to my earlier post on this subject by claiming that what Christie has done is to try and live without debt, a bad policy for any government, business, or family. In fact, what Christie is attempting to do is establish the principle that there must be a limit to debt. Unless our states free themselves from the massive debt that government unions have created, it will become increasingly difficult for government to afford the basic services they are supposed to provide, let alone money pits like the Hudson River Tunnel.

Brooks laments the fact that the left won’t make the hard choices about which government expenditures to prioritize. But the problem here isn’t about priorities but a liberal philosophy that wants no limits on government’s power to spend and therefore tax. Under these circumstances, commonsense conservatives like Christie have no choice but to simply draw a line in the sand and say “no” to the tunnel.

After several hysterical pieces in the New York Times denouncing New Jersey Governor Chris Christie’s refusal to sink his state deeper in debt to build a train tunnel to New York, David Brooks attempts to inject a little sanity into the debate in his column today. His colleagues Paul Krugman and Bob Herbert waxed hysterical about the decision, claiming that the governor’s reluctance to spend billions on the tunnel that the state doesn’t have is based on irrational hatred of government.

Both claim that the refusal is based on a lack of vision and imagination and bespeaks a smallness of spirit. But, of course, this is pure hyperbole, with Krugman claiming that the cause of potentially making his (and mine, as I wrote last week) commute a bit quicker is comparable to building the Erie Canal or the Hoover Dam, projects that transformed the American economy and its history.

Krugman downplays the cost overruns on the project (which even Christie’s much greater estimates almost certainly underestimate) and claims that New Jersey was getting a bargain; but when all is said and done, what Christie has refused to do is to spend $8 billion or more to get $3 billion in federal money. I guess you have to have won a Nobel Prize in economics to think that’s a bargain. Herbert laments the loss of 6,000 construction jobs involved in the tunnel’s cancellation but fails to note that at $1 million+ per job, what we’re talking about here is a boondoggle that might have made Tony Soprano’s fictional mobster exploitation of “The Esplanade” look like small change.

Brooks acknowledges that the tunnel is needed but rightly notes that the state’s inability to afford it stems from the fact that our states and municipalities are drowning in debt largely generated by the costs of paying government employees and their pensions (an issue that Jeff Jacoby explores at length in this month’s issue of COMMENTARY). It’s all well and good to say that big infrastructure projects are exactly the sort of thing government should be doing, but the liberal addiction to public-sector spending has made that impossible. And the public-sector unions that dominate the Democratic Party make sure this never changes.

One reader reacted to my earlier post on this subject by claiming that what Christie has done is to try and live without debt, a bad policy for any government, business, or family. In fact, what Christie is attempting to do is establish the principle that there must be a limit to debt. Unless our states free themselves from the massive debt that government unions have created, it will become increasingly difficult for government to afford the basic services they are supposed to provide, let alone money pits like the Hudson River Tunnel.

Brooks laments the fact that the left won’t make the hard choices about which government expenditures to prioritize. But the problem here isn’t about priorities but a liberal philosophy that wants no limits on government’s power to spend and therefore tax. Under these circumstances, commonsense conservatives like Christie have no choice but to simply draw a line in the sand and say “no” to the tunnel.

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Franco Still Dead — and PA Still Not Talking Peace

Every once in a while, someone connected to the non-direct, non-peace talks pipes up with a true statement. Here’s a particularly refreshing dose of reality:

Vice Prime Minister and Strategic Affairs Minister Moshe Ya’alon said Tuesday that he saw “no chance of reaching a peace deal with the Palestinians in the near future.”

“In the eyes of Palestinians, the occupation began in ’48 and not in ’67,” Ya’alon told Army Radio. “Not only Hamas thinks this – Abu Mazen [Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas] does too.”

“Their refusal to recognize Israel as a Jewish state shows they have no interest in having Israel as a state beside theirs,” he added.

Now, aside from George Mitchell and Obama, doesn’t just about every one recognize that Ya’alon is right? When given the choice between recognizing the Jewish state and continuation of a settlement freeze, the PA chooses the latter. But that will end the talks! Well, yes, don’t we think that was the point? Obama put the parties in a box, with no face-saver available to either. Bibi can’t continue the freeze absent someone huge breakthrough (e.g., recognition of the Jewish state), and the PA can’t go without a settlement freeze, which the Obama team has elevated to the top of the agenda. So both parties now focus on shaping the best possible posture for the end of talks.

The parties last spoke on Sept. 26. The longer the non-talks don’t go on, the less anyone will notice or care.

Every once in a while, someone connected to the non-direct, non-peace talks pipes up with a true statement. Here’s a particularly refreshing dose of reality:

Vice Prime Minister and Strategic Affairs Minister Moshe Ya’alon said Tuesday that he saw “no chance of reaching a peace deal with the Palestinians in the near future.”

“In the eyes of Palestinians, the occupation began in ’48 and not in ’67,” Ya’alon told Army Radio. “Not only Hamas thinks this – Abu Mazen [Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas] does too.”

“Their refusal to recognize Israel as a Jewish state shows they have no interest in having Israel as a state beside theirs,” he added.

Now, aside from George Mitchell and Obama, doesn’t just about every one recognize that Ya’alon is right? When given the choice between recognizing the Jewish state and continuation of a settlement freeze, the PA chooses the latter. But that will end the talks! Well, yes, don’t we think that was the point? Obama put the parties in a box, with no face-saver available to either. Bibi can’t continue the freeze absent someone huge breakthrough (e.g., recognition of the Jewish state), and the PA can’t go without a settlement freeze, which the Obama team has elevated to the top of the agenda. So both parties now focus on shaping the best possible posture for the end of talks.

The parties last spoke on Sept. 26. The longer the non-talks don’t go on, the less anyone will notice or care.

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More on the Chamber of Commerce

I’m not sure we’ve ever had a White House press secretary like Robert Gibbs. His disdain for the media corps is only matched by his disdain for facts. On the unsubstantiated charges against the Chamber of Commerce, he blithely proclaims that “‘it doesn’t bother me at all’ that the fact-checking site PolitiFact has debunked the White House’s claim that the Chamber uses foreign donations to fund its political attacks. ‘The president will continue to make this argument,’ he said. ‘We don’t know where this money comes from.'”

That, in a nutshell, is the Obama White House. No wonder Jake Tapper asked whether this was akin to questioning Obama’s birthplace. We once expected a higher level of credibility and integrity from the White House than from a bunch of conspiracy wackos. No more.

I’m not sure we’ve ever had a White House press secretary like Robert Gibbs. His disdain for the media corps is only matched by his disdain for facts. On the unsubstantiated charges against the Chamber of Commerce, he blithely proclaims that “‘it doesn’t bother me at all’ that the fact-checking site PolitiFact has debunked the White House’s claim that the Chamber uses foreign donations to fund its political attacks. ‘The president will continue to make this argument,’ he said. ‘We don’t know where this money comes from.'”

That, in a nutshell, is the Obama White House. No wonder Jake Tapper asked whether this was akin to questioning Obama’s birthplace. We once expected a higher level of credibility and integrity from the White House than from a bunch of conspiracy wackos. No more.

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Low-Level Urban Terrorism: The Next Big Thing for Al-Qaeda?

Terrorism analysts Steven Simon and Jonathan Stevenson had an intriguing op-ed in the Washington Post on Sunday suggesting that al-Qaeda is moving away from trying to stage 9/11-style spectacular attacks and toward low-level urban terrorism. That, they argue, is the import of the warning from Washington and our allies that terror attacks may be imminent in Western Europe. There is little doubt that such operations have the capability to terrorize and paralyze. Witness the Mumbai attack in 2008, which they cite — or, for that matter, the Beltway sniper attacks in 2002, which they don’t mention.

Still. it’s quite a stretch to invoke comparisons with “Belfast or Beirut in the 1970s and 1980s.” Beirut was the scene of all-out warfare that included the use of artillery and other heavy weapons, pitting against each other primarily Muslim vs. Christian militias, who between them claimed to speak for most of the Lebanese population. Belfast was the scene of persistent terrorism carried out by the Provisional IRA, which claimed to represent the Catholic population of Northern Ireland (44 percent of the total). Whether or not the Lebanese militias or the IRA really spoke for most of their co-religionists, there is little doubt that they had a high level of support within their communities. Can the same be said about al-Qaeda and associated jihadist movements?

They probably enjoyed the greatest support in Muslim countries. Most of those countries are, however, dictatorships with effective security forces. They are unpromising terrain for urban warfare, as jihadists have learned in Syria, Egypt, and Algeria, among others. Western Europe and North America are more lightly policed and have Muslim communities where al-Qaeda can expect to draw some support — more in Europe than in the United States, but still a lot less than the support enjoyed by the IRA, Hezbollah, or other groups that have waged effective urban warfare. Al-Qaeda certainly has the capability to pull off isolated acts of terror along the lines of the London Underground bombing or the Mumbai attacks. But I very much doubt they have the capacity to stage such attacks in the West day after day as al-Qaeda in Iraq and the Jaish-al-Mahdi did in Iraq after 2003.

We should certainly take prudent precautions against such assaults, but we should also keep some perspective. It is still “spectacular” attacks that we need fear the most — and especially the prospect of terrorists getting their hands on nuclear weapons, which, as President Obama accurately observed, would be a “game-changer.”

Terrorism analysts Steven Simon and Jonathan Stevenson had an intriguing op-ed in the Washington Post on Sunday suggesting that al-Qaeda is moving away from trying to stage 9/11-style spectacular attacks and toward low-level urban terrorism. That, they argue, is the import of the warning from Washington and our allies that terror attacks may be imminent in Western Europe. There is little doubt that such operations have the capability to terrorize and paralyze. Witness the Mumbai attack in 2008, which they cite — or, for that matter, the Beltway sniper attacks in 2002, which they don’t mention.

Still. it’s quite a stretch to invoke comparisons with “Belfast or Beirut in the 1970s and 1980s.” Beirut was the scene of all-out warfare that included the use of artillery and other heavy weapons, pitting against each other primarily Muslim vs. Christian militias, who between them claimed to speak for most of the Lebanese population. Belfast was the scene of persistent terrorism carried out by the Provisional IRA, which claimed to represent the Catholic population of Northern Ireland (44 percent of the total). Whether or not the Lebanese militias or the IRA really spoke for most of their co-religionists, there is little doubt that they had a high level of support within their communities. Can the same be said about al-Qaeda and associated jihadist movements?

They probably enjoyed the greatest support in Muslim countries. Most of those countries are, however, dictatorships with effective security forces. They are unpromising terrain for urban warfare, as jihadists have learned in Syria, Egypt, and Algeria, among others. Western Europe and North America are more lightly policed and have Muslim communities where al-Qaeda can expect to draw some support — more in Europe than in the United States, but still a lot less than the support enjoyed by the IRA, Hezbollah, or other groups that have waged effective urban warfare. Al-Qaeda certainly has the capability to pull off isolated acts of terror along the lines of the London Underground bombing or the Mumbai attacks. But I very much doubt they have the capacity to stage such attacks in the West day after day as al-Qaeda in Iraq and the Jaish-al-Mahdi did in Iraq after 2003.

We should certainly take prudent precautions against such assaults, but we should also keep some perspective. It is still “spectacular” attacks that we need fear the most — and especially the prospect of terrorists getting their hands on nuclear weapons, which, as President Obama accurately observed, would be a “game-changer.”

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Misplaced Principles

The thesis of Max Boot’s post yesterday, on the possibility that a friendly grenade killed British aid worker Linda Norgrove, is well-taken. Hewing to a blindly narrow principle of fault-finding, as if the context of a tragedy doesn’t matter, is unworkable for sound judgment and policy. It produces kindergarten behavior: tearful demands for vengeance against whoever dealt the last slap or taunt, regardless of what the fray was about.

But absurdly narrow principles don’t stop with fault-finding. The U.S. is invoking a surreally absolute principle of “national sovereignty” this week in addressing Lebanon on the subject of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s visit, for which the Iranian leader reportedly left Tehran this afternoon. This visit is the most freighted one the Middle East has seen in decades. It represents the Islamic Republic’s revolutionary seal being affixed publicly to Lebanon – an egregious display Iran has been wary of mounting until now.

Al-Qaeda is apparently clearer on the import of this visit than the U.S. State Department. An affiliate calling itself the Abdullah Azzam Brigades has issued dramatic threats against the Ahmadinejad visit. These particular warnings may not amount to much, but they’re a reminder that Sunni Salafists will mount a resistance to Iranian triumphalism in Lebanon. That is hardly a comforting thought for Lebanon, Israel, or the larger Middle East. Indeed, it’s a harbinger of how this confrontation will unfold, with Saudi-funded jihadists on one side, an increasingly powerful, Iranian-backed Hezbollah on the other, and Lebanese and Israeli civilians trapped in the middle.

The most significant aspect of this visit is that Iran and Lebanon feel free to stage it. It’s something the U.S. should have stopped. We shower aid of all kinds, including military, on Lebanon. We would have had the cooperation of Saudi Arabia, Jordan, and Egypt – as well as France – in persuading Beirut not to do this. We have a clear and urgent interest in preventing Ahmadinejad’s destabilizing antics; this isn’t a meaningless seminar at Columbia U.; it’s a visit affirming the ascendancy of Iran and the Hezbollah terrorists over Lebanon’s political arrangements.

Under these circumstances, the Obama administration should have done better than emit an ineffectual diplomatic bleat at Beirut and then fully offset it with the caveat that “we respect that these are judgments for the Lebanese government to make.” The truth is, they’re not. Lebanon’s recognized government is not even sovereign over all its territory – it never has been – and Lebanese officials have good reason to fear assassination and make deals with outside actors. This is not a situation in which Lebanon should be allowed to make judgments that affect the entire region. Failing to look after U.S. interests in this matter imperils the whole Middle East.

The thesis of Max Boot’s post yesterday, on the possibility that a friendly grenade killed British aid worker Linda Norgrove, is well-taken. Hewing to a blindly narrow principle of fault-finding, as if the context of a tragedy doesn’t matter, is unworkable for sound judgment and policy. It produces kindergarten behavior: tearful demands for vengeance against whoever dealt the last slap or taunt, regardless of what the fray was about.

But absurdly narrow principles don’t stop with fault-finding. The U.S. is invoking a surreally absolute principle of “national sovereignty” this week in addressing Lebanon on the subject of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s visit, for which the Iranian leader reportedly left Tehran this afternoon. This visit is the most freighted one the Middle East has seen in decades. It represents the Islamic Republic’s revolutionary seal being affixed publicly to Lebanon – an egregious display Iran has been wary of mounting until now.

Al-Qaeda is apparently clearer on the import of this visit than the U.S. State Department. An affiliate calling itself the Abdullah Azzam Brigades has issued dramatic threats against the Ahmadinejad visit. These particular warnings may not amount to much, but they’re a reminder that Sunni Salafists will mount a resistance to Iranian triumphalism in Lebanon. That is hardly a comforting thought for Lebanon, Israel, or the larger Middle East. Indeed, it’s a harbinger of how this confrontation will unfold, with Saudi-funded jihadists on one side, an increasingly powerful, Iranian-backed Hezbollah on the other, and Lebanese and Israeli civilians trapped in the middle.

The most significant aspect of this visit is that Iran and Lebanon feel free to stage it. It’s something the U.S. should have stopped. We shower aid of all kinds, including military, on Lebanon. We would have had the cooperation of Saudi Arabia, Jordan, and Egypt – as well as France – in persuading Beirut not to do this. We have a clear and urgent interest in preventing Ahmadinejad’s destabilizing antics; this isn’t a meaningless seminar at Columbia U.; it’s a visit affirming the ascendancy of Iran and the Hezbollah terrorists over Lebanon’s political arrangements.

Under these circumstances, the Obama administration should have done better than emit an ineffectual diplomatic bleat at Beirut and then fully offset it with the caveat that “we respect that these are judgments for the Lebanese government to make.” The truth is, they’re not. Lebanon’s recognized government is not even sovereign over all its territory – it never has been – and Lebanese officials have good reason to fear assassination and make deals with outside actors. This is not a situation in which Lebanon should be allowed to make judgments that affect the entire region. Failing to look after U.S. interests in this matter imperils the whole Middle East.

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Why the Chamber of Commerce Attacks?

Think of it this way: Obama and Biden and Axelrod and Gibbs have to talk about something between now and November 2.

Think of it this way: Obama and Biden and Axelrod and Gibbs have to talk about something between now and November 2.

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ECI 1 – Soros Street 0

The leftist Tablet looks at the Senate race. The most interesting is Pennsylvania (h/t Ben Smith):

PENNSYLVANIA
Jewish candidate guy: Senator Arlen Specter (D).
People who are actually running: Joe Sestak (J Street) and Pat Toomey (Emergency Committee for Israel).
Who’s going to win? In general, a Gentile. In particular, Pat Toomey. In a way, Bill Kristol.
Why this is still a Jewish story: This race is kind of weird. Arlen Specter switched parties, robbing Republicans of their only Jewish senator, and then lost the Democratic primary to Joe Sestak. Then, with no Jewish candidates in the race, this became the surrogate electoral battleground for Israeli-American politics: Bill Kristol’s newly formed Pro-Israel, Pro-Committee Emergency Committee for Israel cut an ad attacking Sestak, and then the Pro-Israel, Pro-Peace, Iffy-Soros J Street made their own defending him.
Fun fact: Toomey’s press secretary, Nachama Soloveichik, is “an heir to America’s leading Orthodox rabbinic dynasty.”

It’s not so weird at all. As we’ve seen in recent polling, Israel enjoys broad bipartisan support. J Street does not. When ECI focused on this race, illuminating Sestak’s record, it illustrated both. Frankly, it’s weird that a Jewish magazine finds it peculiar that a race without a Jewish candidate could center on Israel. Perhaps it should take a look at the polls we’ve been examining. It seems the entire electorate of Pennsylvania has revealed itself to be part of the “Israel Lobby.” Only those who equate support for Israel solely with American Jewish political activity would fine this strange.

The leftist Tablet looks at the Senate race. The most interesting is Pennsylvania (h/t Ben Smith):

PENNSYLVANIA
Jewish candidate guy: Senator Arlen Specter (D).
People who are actually running: Joe Sestak (J Street) and Pat Toomey (Emergency Committee for Israel).
Who’s going to win? In general, a Gentile. In particular, Pat Toomey. In a way, Bill Kristol.
Why this is still a Jewish story: This race is kind of weird. Arlen Specter switched parties, robbing Republicans of their only Jewish senator, and then lost the Democratic primary to Joe Sestak. Then, with no Jewish candidates in the race, this became the surrogate electoral battleground for Israeli-American politics: Bill Kristol’s newly formed Pro-Israel, Pro-Committee Emergency Committee for Israel cut an ad attacking Sestak, and then the Pro-Israel, Pro-Peace, Iffy-Soros J Street made their own defending him.
Fun fact: Toomey’s press secretary, Nachama Soloveichik, is “an heir to America’s leading Orthodox rabbinic dynasty.”

It’s not so weird at all. As we’ve seen in recent polling, Israel enjoys broad bipartisan support. J Street does not. When ECI focused on this race, illuminating Sestak’s record, it illustrated both. Frankly, it’s weird that a Jewish magazine finds it peculiar that a race without a Jewish candidate could center on Israel. Perhaps it should take a look at the polls we’ve been examining. It seems the entire electorate of Pennsylvania has revealed itself to be part of the “Israel Lobby.” Only those who equate support for Israel solely with American Jewish political activity would fine this strange.

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Even Angry Voters Want Responsible Leaders

Democrats are, as Jennifer noted, rapidly coming to understand that the proportions of the Republican wave this fall may turn out to swamp not only incumbents in competitive districts but also those once thought safe. Voters have had enough of taxes and spending and deficits and are profoundly dissatisfied with the Obama administration. But even in the midst of what may prove to be an unprecedented midterm tsunami, there are races that will prove that no matter how angry voters may be, there are limits to what they will accept from insurgents seeking their votes.

One obvious example is the unelectable Christine O’Donnell in Delaware. But as frustrating as that lost opportunity for a Senate seat may be for the national GOP, the spectacle of their party’s New York gubernatorial nominee is even more embarrassing.

Carl Paladino won the New York GOP primary over Rick Lazio because he presented a well-funded alternative to a retread that had no pulse and no chance to tap into the vein of voter anger that has generated the Tea Party revolution. Paladino’s bull-in-the-china-shop personality seemed perfectly suited to the 2010 election. The thinking here was that if he could sustain his momentum with attacks on his liberal-establishment opponent in Andrew Cuomo, it was just possible that the real estate mogul could make this Blue State competitive. And some polls taken in September showed that this might be happening.

Yet what this races teaches is that it even angry voters are unprepared to elect a man who is not cool under fire and devoid of judgment as well as what Main Street America used to consider common decency. With the media spotlight shining on him in the aftermath of his stunning primary victory and polls showing him to be closing the gap with Cuomo, Paladino quickly came undone. Reacting to the coverage of the revelations about his fathering an out-of-wedlock child (not all of which was unsympathetic, as the candidate’s wife was trotted out to defend her husband and the notion of a blended, if unorthodox, family group), the nominee physically threatened a reporter and then began to make unsubstantiated charges about his opponent’s personal life.  While trying to pose as the victim of a prurient media, he engaged in personal slanders that made the coverage of his own life look tame. Then he used a speech before an Orthodox Jewish congregation in Brooklyn to make remarks that went beyond opposition to gay marriage and were easily construed as homophobic.

Paladino defends himself as a man who doesn’t bother with political correctness. But the pattern of his behavior in the past few weeks is more of an out-of-control blowhard who has no respect for anyone or anything. The result is that his standing in the polls has plunged, which has also damaged the already shaky chances of GOP Senate candidate Joseph DioGuardi, who is running against the vulnerable Kirsten Gillibrand.

The lesson here is that the electorate expects candidates for high office to more or less behave themselves. Rather than acting like a governor, Paladino has comported himself like the kind of guy who gets thrown out of bars for disorderly behavior. And even angry voters draw the line at electing someone like that to high office.

Democrats are, as Jennifer noted, rapidly coming to understand that the proportions of the Republican wave this fall may turn out to swamp not only incumbents in competitive districts but also those once thought safe. Voters have had enough of taxes and spending and deficits and are profoundly dissatisfied with the Obama administration. But even in the midst of what may prove to be an unprecedented midterm tsunami, there are races that will prove that no matter how angry voters may be, there are limits to what they will accept from insurgents seeking their votes.

One obvious example is the unelectable Christine O’Donnell in Delaware. But as frustrating as that lost opportunity for a Senate seat may be for the national GOP, the spectacle of their party’s New York gubernatorial nominee is even more embarrassing.

Carl Paladino won the New York GOP primary over Rick Lazio because he presented a well-funded alternative to a retread that had no pulse and no chance to tap into the vein of voter anger that has generated the Tea Party revolution. Paladino’s bull-in-the-china-shop personality seemed perfectly suited to the 2010 election. The thinking here was that if he could sustain his momentum with attacks on his liberal-establishment opponent in Andrew Cuomo, it was just possible that the real estate mogul could make this Blue State competitive. And some polls taken in September showed that this might be happening.

Yet what this races teaches is that it even angry voters are unprepared to elect a man who is not cool under fire and devoid of judgment as well as what Main Street America used to consider common decency. With the media spotlight shining on him in the aftermath of his stunning primary victory and polls showing him to be closing the gap with Cuomo, Paladino quickly came undone. Reacting to the coverage of the revelations about his fathering an out-of-wedlock child (not all of which was unsympathetic, as the candidate’s wife was trotted out to defend her husband and the notion of a blended, if unorthodox, family group), the nominee physically threatened a reporter and then began to make unsubstantiated charges about his opponent’s personal life.  While trying to pose as the victim of a prurient media, he engaged in personal slanders that made the coverage of his own life look tame. Then he used a speech before an Orthodox Jewish congregation in Brooklyn to make remarks that went beyond opposition to gay marriage and were easily construed as homophobic.

Paladino defends himself as a man who doesn’t bother with political correctness. But the pattern of his behavior in the past few weeks is more of an out-of-control blowhard who has no respect for anyone or anything. The result is that his standing in the polls has plunged, which has also damaged the already shaky chances of GOP Senate candidate Joseph DioGuardi, who is running against the vulnerable Kirsten Gillibrand.

The lesson here is that the electorate expects candidates for high office to more or less behave themselves. Rather than acting like a governor, Paladino has comported himself like the kind of guy who gets thrown out of bars for disorderly behavior. And even angry voters draw the line at electing someone like that to high office.

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Senate Sliding Toward GOP

A new batch of Senate polls are out. There’s not much good news for the Democrats:

Republican Linda McMahon cut her opponent’s advantage in Connecticut’s Senate race from 10 percentage points to 6 points in a week, according to a new Fox News battleground state poll. … [A]fter a debate that featured Blumenthal freezing up when asked about job creation, McMahon seems to be in contention. She now trails in the survey of likely voters 43 percent to 49 percent.

Sharron Angle clings to a two-point advantage over Harry Reid, and Dino Rossi is one point up on Patty Murray. Meanwhile, the most stark indication of the president’s declining fortunes comes from Ohio:

GOP Senate candidate Rob Portman, a former Cincinnati-area congressman and budget boss to President George W. Bush, maintained a 17-point lead for a second week over Democratic Lt. Gov. Lee Fisher in a new Fox News battleground state poll of likely voters. … But the killer for Democratic aspirations in Ohio this year is likely President Obama’s dreadful ratings in the state. This week’s poll saw Obama’s approval in the state fall to a new low in Ohio of 33 percent, down 5 points from last week.

The only positive note for the Democrats: Christine O’Donnell is trailing by double digits. It seems Karl Rove was right. Nevertheless, if McMahon continues to cut into Blumenthal’s lead and Rossi and Angle hold on, Delaware will not matter. It does and will continue to serve as a warning that the GOP is fully capable of shooting itself in the foot in 2012; not every Republican can win in the Obama era.

A new batch of Senate polls are out. There’s not much good news for the Democrats:

Republican Linda McMahon cut her opponent’s advantage in Connecticut’s Senate race from 10 percentage points to 6 points in a week, according to a new Fox News battleground state poll. … [A]fter a debate that featured Blumenthal freezing up when asked about job creation, McMahon seems to be in contention. She now trails in the survey of likely voters 43 percent to 49 percent.

Sharron Angle clings to a two-point advantage over Harry Reid, and Dino Rossi is one point up on Patty Murray. Meanwhile, the most stark indication of the president’s declining fortunes comes from Ohio:

GOP Senate candidate Rob Portman, a former Cincinnati-area congressman and budget boss to President George W. Bush, maintained a 17-point lead for a second week over Democratic Lt. Gov. Lee Fisher in a new Fox News battleground state poll of likely voters. … But the killer for Democratic aspirations in Ohio this year is likely President Obama’s dreadful ratings in the state. This week’s poll saw Obama’s approval in the state fall to a new low in Ohio of 33 percent, down 5 points from last week.

The only positive note for the Democrats: Christine O’Donnell is trailing by double digits. It seems Karl Rove was right. Nevertheless, if McMahon continues to cut into Blumenthal’s lead and Rossi and Angle hold on, Delaware will not matter. It does and will continue to serve as a warning that the GOP is fully capable of shooting itself in the foot in 2012; not every Republican can win in the Obama era.

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What the India-Pakistan Conflict Should Teach the West About the Middle East

A New York Times analysis yesterday discussed how the 63-year-old India-Pakistan conflict is undermining a vital American interest, one to which Washington has committed almost 100,000 soldiers: stabilizing Afghanistan so that it won’t revert to being a base for anti-American attacks. Pakistan’s fear of India, the report explained, spurs Islamabad to support the Taliban — the very people America is fighting in Afghanistan — as a bulwark against Indian influence in Kabul.

In short, resolving the India-Pakistan conflict could be vital to achieving America’s aims in Afghanistan. So why is Washington making no effort whatsoever to do so? Because, the Times explained, the conflict is not currently resolvable:

“It’s unfixable,” said C. Christine Fair, assistant professor at the Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University. “That’s why we’ll be working on this for the next 50 years. …

“If there was an easy way out of this, someone would have figured it out,” Professor Fair said. “But I don’t think it’s possible to untie this Gordian knot.”

It’s not that outside experts haven’t proposed various solutions, from formally dividing the disputed province of Kashmir (which is already divided de facto) to letting Kashmiris decide their own fate via a referendum. It’s just that none of the proposed solutions has ever proved acceptable to the parties that actually have to sign the deal: India and Pakistan.

The parallels to another conflict of almost identical duration, the Israeli-Arab one, are obvious. Here, too, outside experts have proposed various solutions, but none has yet proved acceptable to the parties that must actually sign the deals: Israel, the Palestinians, and Syria. That’s why, despite years of intensive negotiations and massive international involvement — both far exceeding anything ever tried with India-Pakistan — no agreement has yet been signed.

But there’s one huge difference between the two conflicts. In India-Pakistan, the West has recognized its inability to effect a solution and is therefore not wasting any time, money, or prestige on fruitless efforts. In the Israeli-Arab conflict, the delusion persists that it’s easily resolvable; indeed, “everyone knows the solution.” That this “solution” has repeatedly proved unacceptable to the parties themselves is somehow dismissed as unimportant. Therefore, massive amounts of Western time, money, and prestige continue to be spent on it to no avail.

Ironically, the one party spending almost no time, money, or prestige on this conflict is the Arab world — that same Arab world that, according to Western pundits, deems the Israeli-Palestinian conflict its No. 1 priority. That’s because Arab countries, unlike the West, are willing to acknowledge the facts: that the conflict is currently unsolvable, and that despite all the rhetoric about its importance, it actually matters little to the real regional problems.

Thus far, the peace-process fixation has caused nothing but harm: thousands of Israeli and Palestinian casualties, and for Palestinians, an economic tailspin from which they have yet to fully recover. But the price has also been paid by millions of other people worldwide — all those to whom the time, money, and prestige the West has squandered on this conflict might actually make a difference.

A New York Times analysis yesterday discussed how the 63-year-old India-Pakistan conflict is undermining a vital American interest, one to which Washington has committed almost 100,000 soldiers: stabilizing Afghanistan so that it won’t revert to being a base for anti-American attacks. Pakistan’s fear of India, the report explained, spurs Islamabad to support the Taliban — the very people America is fighting in Afghanistan — as a bulwark against Indian influence in Kabul.

In short, resolving the India-Pakistan conflict could be vital to achieving America’s aims in Afghanistan. So why is Washington making no effort whatsoever to do so? Because, the Times explained, the conflict is not currently resolvable:

“It’s unfixable,” said C. Christine Fair, assistant professor at the Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University. “That’s why we’ll be working on this for the next 50 years. …

“If there was an easy way out of this, someone would have figured it out,” Professor Fair said. “But I don’t think it’s possible to untie this Gordian knot.”

It’s not that outside experts haven’t proposed various solutions, from formally dividing the disputed province of Kashmir (which is already divided de facto) to letting Kashmiris decide their own fate via a referendum. It’s just that none of the proposed solutions has ever proved acceptable to the parties that actually have to sign the deal: India and Pakistan.

The parallels to another conflict of almost identical duration, the Israeli-Arab one, are obvious. Here, too, outside experts have proposed various solutions, but none has yet proved acceptable to the parties that must actually sign the deals: Israel, the Palestinians, and Syria. That’s why, despite years of intensive negotiations and massive international involvement — both far exceeding anything ever tried with India-Pakistan — no agreement has yet been signed.

But there’s one huge difference between the two conflicts. In India-Pakistan, the West has recognized its inability to effect a solution and is therefore not wasting any time, money, or prestige on fruitless efforts. In the Israeli-Arab conflict, the delusion persists that it’s easily resolvable; indeed, “everyone knows the solution.” That this “solution” has repeatedly proved unacceptable to the parties themselves is somehow dismissed as unimportant. Therefore, massive amounts of Western time, money, and prestige continue to be spent on it to no avail.

Ironically, the one party spending almost no time, money, or prestige on this conflict is the Arab world — that same Arab world that, according to Western pundits, deems the Israeli-Palestinian conflict its No. 1 priority. That’s because Arab countries, unlike the West, are willing to acknowledge the facts: that the conflict is currently unsolvable, and that despite all the rhetoric about its importance, it actually matters little to the real regional problems.

Thus far, the peace-process fixation has caused nothing but harm: thousands of Israeli and Palestinian casualties, and for Palestinians, an economic tailspin from which they have yet to fully recover. But the price has also been paid by millions of other people worldwide — all those to whom the time, money, and prestige the West has squandered on this conflict might actually make a difference.

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And These People Used to Like Him

OK, this is one rotten poll for the president:

More than 4 of 10 likely voters who say they once considered themselves Obama backers now are either less supportive or say they no longer support him at all, according to a Bloomberg National Poll conducted Oct. 7-10.

Three weeks before the Nov. 2 congressional elections that Republicans are trying to make a referendum on Obama, fewer than half of likely voters approve of the president’s job performance. Likely voters are more apt to say Obama’s policies have harmed rather than helped the economy. Among those who say they are most enthusiastic about voting this year, 6 of 10 say the Democrat has damaged the economy. …

The erosion of backing for Obama among onetime supporters has been most notable among two groups of voters who were central to his election: women and independents. More than 6 of 10 of the former Obama backers who have turned away from him are women; 53 percent of the onetime supporters are independents.

Yikes. as Andrew Malcolm put it, “Other than that, his virtually nonstop cross-country campaigning for embattled Democrats in the Nov. 2 election is working perfectly.”

Obama has fused disparate groups into one giant not-Obama coalition. Unless he wants to reinvent himself, it’s hard to see how he can revive his presidency.

OK, this is one rotten poll for the president:

More than 4 of 10 likely voters who say they once considered themselves Obama backers now are either less supportive or say they no longer support him at all, according to a Bloomberg National Poll conducted Oct. 7-10.

Three weeks before the Nov. 2 congressional elections that Republicans are trying to make a referendum on Obama, fewer than half of likely voters approve of the president’s job performance. Likely voters are more apt to say Obama’s policies have harmed rather than helped the economy. Among those who say they are most enthusiastic about voting this year, 6 of 10 say the Democrat has damaged the economy. …

The erosion of backing for Obama among onetime supporters has been most notable among two groups of voters who were central to his election: women and independents. More than 6 of 10 of the former Obama backers who have turned away from him are women; 53 percent of the onetime supporters are independents.

Yikes. as Andrew Malcolm put it, “Other than that, his virtually nonstop cross-country campaigning for embattled Democrats in the Nov. 2 election is working perfectly.”

Obama has fused disparate groups into one giant not-Obama coalition. Unless he wants to reinvent himself, it’s hard to see how he can revive his presidency.

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American Jews Wising Up?

The second AJC poll of the year has some interesting results:

Some 49 percent of U.S. Jews approve, while 45 percent disapprove, of the Obama administration’s handling of U.S.-Israel relations, according to a just-completed American Jewish Committee survey, its second national survey of American Jewish opinion conducted this year … AJC’s earlier survey, conducted in March, found that 55 percent approved and 37 percent disapproved.

In contrast, … 62 percent of American Jews approve, and 27 percent disapprove [of Bibi’s handling of U.S.-Israel relations], according to the new survey. In March, 57 percent approved and 30 percent disapproved.

A bare majority of American Jews (51 percent) approve of Obama’s overall performance, still higher than the nation as a whole, but not nearly the level of support (78 percent) he enjoyed on Election Day or for a good stretch of his term. American Jews’ specific views on Israel and Iran explain, in part, why they have become disenchanted with Obama:

American Jewish confidence in Obama’s approach to Iran has dropped with 43 percent approving of the administration’s handling of the Iran nuclear issue compared to 47 percent in March. Some 46 disapprove, up from 42 percent. Some 59 percent support and 35 percent oppose U.S. military action to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons. Some 70 percent support and some 26 oppose Israeli military action. …

Like the March results, the new survey found that 48 percent favor, and 45 percent oppose, establishment of a Palestinian state.

Regarding the future of West Bank settlements, 6 percent say “all,” 56 percent say “some,” and 37 percent say “none” should be dismantled as part of a permanent agreement with the Palestinians.

A majority of American Jews, 60 percent, continue to support a united Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, while 35 percent say Israel should compromise on the city’s status in a peace agreement with the Palestinians.

American Jews remain nearly unanimous, at 95 percent, in supporting a proposal requiring Palestinians to recognize Israel as a Jewish state in a final peace agreement.

These findings, in conjunction with the recent poll of all Americans that I discussed here, here and here, point to several important developments. In answer to the question of whether anything can wean Jews of their “sick addiction” to the Democratic Party, the answer seems to be “Obama.” At this rate, his level of support among Jews will roughly match the general population’s, an unheard of phenomenon for the past 75 years.

In addition, there is no significant market among American Jews for what Soros Street is selling; the front group’s disappearance on the national stage will not be missed. (Except perhaps by Richard Goldstone.)

And finally, “charm” or a “charm offensive” is no match for substance. Obama has changed his outward demeanor toward Bibi and lowered the anti-Israel rhetoric, but his policies haven’t changed. Jews and the rest of Americans increasingly are tuning out what he says and scrutinizing what he does. That spells trouble for a politician who has gotten all the way to the White House on words alone.

The second AJC poll of the year has some interesting results:

Some 49 percent of U.S. Jews approve, while 45 percent disapprove, of the Obama administration’s handling of U.S.-Israel relations, according to a just-completed American Jewish Committee survey, its second national survey of American Jewish opinion conducted this year … AJC’s earlier survey, conducted in March, found that 55 percent approved and 37 percent disapproved.

In contrast, … 62 percent of American Jews approve, and 27 percent disapprove [of Bibi’s handling of U.S.-Israel relations], according to the new survey. In March, 57 percent approved and 30 percent disapproved.

A bare majority of American Jews (51 percent) approve of Obama’s overall performance, still higher than the nation as a whole, but not nearly the level of support (78 percent) he enjoyed on Election Day or for a good stretch of his term. American Jews’ specific views on Israel and Iran explain, in part, why they have become disenchanted with Obama:

American Jewish confidence in Obama’s approach to Iran has dropped with 43 percent approving of the administration’s handling of the Iran nuclear issue compared to 47 percent in March. Some 46 disapprove, up from 42 percent. Some 59 percent support and 35 percent oppose U.S. military action to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons. Some 70 percent support and some 26 oppose Israeli military action. …

Like the March results, the new survey found that 48 percent favor, and 45 percent oppose, establishment of a Palestinian state.

Regarding the future of West Bank settlements, 6 percent say “all,” 56 percent say “some,” and 37 percent say “none” should be dismantled as part of a permanent agreement with the Palestinians.

A majority of American Jews, 60 percent, continue to support a united Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, while 35 percent say Israel should compromise on the city’s status in a peace agreement with the Palestinians.

American Jews remain nearly unanimous, at 95 percent, in supporting a proposal requiring Palestinians to recognize Israel as a Jewish state in a final peace agreement.

These findings, in conjunction with the recent poll of all Americans that I discussed here, here and here, point to several important developments. In answer to the question of whether anything can wean Jews of their “sick addiction” to the Democratic Party, the answer seems to be “Obama.” At this rate, his level of support among Jews will roughly match the general population’s, an unheard of phenomenon for the past 75 years.

In addition, there is no significant market among American Jews for what Soros Street is selling; the front group’s disappearance on the national stage will not be missed. (Except perhaps by Richard Goldstone.)

And finally, “charm” or a “charm offensive” is no match for substance. Obama has changed his outward demeanor toward Bibi and lowered the anti-Israel rhetoric, but his policies haven’t changed. Jews and the rest of Americans increasingly are tuning out what he says and scrutinizing what he does. That spells trouble for a politician who has gotten all the way to the White House on words alone.

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Nobel Prize Winners — a Teachable Moment?

A trio won the Nobel Prize for economics — Peter Diamond, Dale Mortensen, and Christopher Pissarides. Diamond’s nomination to the Federal Reserve Board has been held up by Republicans; whatever you think of the Nobel committee’s standards in economics, it will be a tad difficult to maintain the position that Diamond is not “qualified.” There may be other objections; if not, I suspect he’ll be confirmed.

But what is interesting is the substance of these economists’ work. The Wall Street Journal reports:

The research by the three economists concluded high unemployment can be the result of “friction,” which keeps employers and workers apart. That friction can be tough regulatory rules on firing, or the lack of appropriate skills among the unemployed, among other things.

The research has also focused on unemployment insurance, with one conclusion being that more generous benefits give rise to higher unemployment—because workers spend more time looking. This ultimately is a benefit to the economy, however, because it leads to workers landing jobs that better use their capabilities.

Hmm. Well that’s sort of interesting. So, for example, union rules that hinder termination of workers or a tort system that aids litigation by fired employees could worsen unemployment? Good to know. The most interesting, and politically significant, part concerns unemployment benefits.

Now, one of the winners was quick to add that “in today’s difficult economic climate, he doubted that unemployment insurance was much of a factor in high unemployment now. ‘I really don’t think this is a time to worry about that all that much,’ he said.” Umm. But didn’t he win a big prize for saying that this is a potential problem?

Here’s an idea: hold confirmation hearings for Diamond and ask him about his research and whether increasing the cost of labor (e.g., ObamaCare, minimum wage hikes), making the labor market less flexible (unionization), and extending unemployment benefits for years are helping or hindering our efforts to tame unemployment. If nothing else, it would be edifying.

A trio won the Nobel Prize for economics — Peter Diamond, Dale Mortensen, and Christopher Pissarides. Diamond’s nomination to the Federal Reserve Board has been held up by Republicans; whatever you think of the Nobel committee’s standards in economics, it will be a tad difficult to maintain the position that Diamond is not “qualified.” There may be other objections; if not, I suspect he’ll be confirmed.

But what is interesting is the substance of these economists’ work. The Wall Street Journal reports:

The research by the three economists concluded high unemployment can be the result of “friction,” which keeps employers and workers apart. That friction can be tough regulatory rules on firing, or the lack of appropriate skills among the unemployed, among other things.

The research has also focused on unemployment insurance, with one conclusion being that more generous benefits give rise to higher unemployment—because workers spend more time looking. This ultimately is a benefit to the economy, however, because it leads to workers landing jobs that better use their capabilities.

Hmm. Well that’s sort of interesting. So, for example, union rules that hinder termination of workers or a tort system that aids litigation by fired employees could worsen unemployment? Good to know. The most interesting, and politically significant, part concerns unemployment benefits.

Now, one of the winners was quick to add that “in today’s difficult economic climate, he doubted that unemployment insurance was much of a factor in high unemployment now. ‘I really don’t think this is a time to worry about that all that much,’ he said.” Umm. But didn’t he win a big prize for saying that this is a potential problem?

Here’s an idea: hold confirmation hearings for Diamond and ask him about his research and whether increasing the cost of labor (e.g., ObamaCare, minimum wage hikes), making the labor market less flexible (unionization), and extending unemployment benefits for years are helping or hindering our efforts to tame unemployment. If nothing else, it would be edifying.

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Seventy-Five Seats! Do I Hear 80?

So much for the storyline that the Democrats have turned the corner in the midterm races. The New York Times tells us:

Republicans are expanding the battle for the House into districts that Democrats had once considered relatively safe, while Democrats began a strategy of triage on Monday to fortify candidates who they believe stand the best chance of survival.

As Republicans made new investments in at least 10 races across the country, including two Democratic seats here in eastern Ohio, Democratic leaders took steps to pull out of some races entirely or significantly cut their financial commitment in several districts that the party won in the last two election cycles.

This is not uncommon in a wave election year. As the party with the advantage builds momentum and the party under siege loses supporters (financial and otherwise), the numbers get more dire for the latter. A romp turns into a rout. The party going under suffers from a despondent base, begins to look desperate, and lacks funds to try to turn things around. So far, these incumbents are officially being sacrificed in an effort to save others:

Representatives Steve Driehaus of Ohio, Suzanne M. Kosmas of Florida and Kathy Dahlkemper of Pennsylvania were among the Democrats who learned that they would no longer receive the same infusion of television advertising that party leaders had promised. Party strategists conceded that these races and several others were slipping out of reach.

But these are just a few. As the playing field expands, the incumbent party’s situation deteriorates:

The strategic decisions unfolded at a feverish pace on Monday over an unusually wide playing field of nearly 75 Congressional districts, including here in Ohio, a main battleground in the fight for the House and the Senate. The National Republican Congressional Committee, the party’s election arm in the House, can afford to make the new investments because the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and a host of newly formed political organizations have come to the aid of Republican candidates who have far less money than the Democratic incumbents. …

Television and radio advertisements are aimed at Representatives Charlie Wilson and Zack Space, both Democrats who were elected in 2006, while new pieces of literature tying the men to President Obama and the House speaker, Nancy Pelosi, are arriving in the mail.

If 75 seats are in play on Monday — how many will slip into that category by the weekend? Democrats insist that the playing field isn’t expanding at all. No, sirree. Everything is perfectly fine. But, listen, you can hardly blame them — absolute panic isn’t going to improve matters. It’s hard to think what would, at this point.

So much for the storyline that the Democrats have turned the corner in the midterm races. The New York Times tells us:

Republicans are expanding the battle for the House into districts that Democrats had once considered relatively safe, while Democrats began a strategy of triage on Monday to fortify candidates who they believe stand the best chance of survival.

As Republicans made new investments in at least 10 races across the country, including two Democratic seats here in eastern Ohio, Democratic leaders took steps to pull out of some races entirely or significantly cut their financial commitment in several districts that the party won in the last two election cycles.

This is not uncommon in a wave election year. As the party with the advantage builds momentum and the party under siege loses supporters (financial and otherwise), the numbers get more dire for the latter. A romp turns into a rout. The party going under suffers from a despondent base, begins to look desperate, and lacks funds to try to turn things around. So far, these incumbents are officially being sacrificed in an effort to save others:

Representatives Steve Driehaus of Ohio, Suzanne M. Kosmas of Florida and Kathy Dahlkemper of Pennsylvania were among the Democrats who learned that they would no longer receive the same infusion of television advertising that party leaders had promised. Party strategists conceded that these races and several others were slipping out of reach.

But these are just a few. As the playing field expands, the incumbent party’s situation deteriorates:

The strategic decisions unfolded at a feverish pace on Monday over an unusually wide playing field of nearly 75 Congressional districts, including here in Ohio, a main battleground in the fight for the House and the Senate. The National Republican Congressional Committee, the party’s election arm in the House, can afford to make the new investments because the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and a host of newly formed political organizations have come to the aid of Republican candidates who have far less money than the Democratic incumbents. …

Television and radio advertisements are aimed at Representatives Charlie Wilson and Zack Space, both Democrats who were elected in 2006, while new pieces of literature tying the men to President Obama and the House speaker, Nancy Pelosi, are arriving in the mail.

If 75 seats are in play on Monday — how many will slip into that category by the weekend? Democrats insist that the playing field isn’t expanding at all. No, sirree. Everything is perfectly fine. But, listen, you can hardly blame them — absolute panic isn’t going to improve matters. It’s hard to think what would, at this point.

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Changing Washington, All Right

Ed Gillespie is justifiably steamed at the White House. He writes:

In their latest attempt to distract voters from their job-killing policies, President Obama, his White House and senior Democrats in Congress have added to their long list of bogeymen the outside groups that seek to help elect Republicans in November. They threaten congressional investigations, discuss private tax information and level baseless accusations of criminal activity against those who have been public in seeking to defeat Democratic candidates and their liberal agenda. Without a trace of irony, powerful Democratic officeholders lament that many who support these groups wish to remain anonymous.

None of these Democrats expressed concern about such outside spending in 2008, when more than $400 million was spent to help elect Barack Obama, much of it from undisclosed donors.

And if that were not enough, Obama’s closest political hack, Tailgunner David Axelrod, insists that no proof of wrongdoing was needed, “that it was up to the chamber to prove it hadn’t done anything wrong. In the West Wing, apparently, the American principle is that you’re guilty until proven innocent, and our highest elected and appointed officials are there to hurl the charges.”

The White House’s latest gambit reflects nearly all the worst qualities of the Obama administration — indifference to the facts, hyper-partisanship, political bullying, and excuse-mongering. For a candidate who wanted to change the tone and the way business is done in Washington, Obama has succeeded — in making both far worse than it has been for decades.

Ed Gillespie is justifiably steamed at the White House. He writes:

In their latest attempt to distract voters from their job-killing policies, President Obama, his White House and senior Democrats in Congress have added to their long list of bogeymen the outside groups that seek to help elect Republicans in November. They threaten congressional investigations, discuss private tax information and level baseless accusations of criminal activity against those who have been public in seeking to defeat Democratic candidates and their liberal agenda. Without a trace of irony, powerful Democratic officeholders lament that many who support these groups wish to remain anonymous.

None of these Democrats expressed concern about such outside spending in 2008, when more than $400 million was spent to help elect Barack Obama, much of it from undisclosed donors.

And if that were not enough, Obama’s closest political hack, Tailgunner David Axelrod, insists that no proof of wrongdoing was needed, “that it was up to the chamber to prove it hadn’t done anything wrong. In the West Wing, apparently, the American principle is that you’re guilty until proven innocent, and our highest elected and appointed officials are there to hurl the charges.”

The White House’s latest gambit reflects nearly all the worst qualities of the Obama administration — indifference to the facts, hyper-partisanship, political bullying, and excuse-mongering. For a candidate who wanted to change the tone and the way business is done in Washington, Obama has succeeded — in making both far worse than it has been for decades.

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Not Spending Enough?!

The Obama team is crying deficit crocodile tears over the prospect of an extension of the Bush tax cuts to upper-income taxpayers, which it claims wouldn’t be fiscally prudent. (The more expensive extension for the “non-rich” is fine with the administration, however.) It’s laughable considering the utter lack of fiscal discipline by Obama and the Democratic Congress.

We learned from the CBO that “[s]pending rolled in for the year [2010] that ended September 30 at $3.45 trillion, second only to 2009’s $3.52 trillion in the record books.” Well, Obama blames the wars. Hardly. We know that “despite two wars, defense spending rose by 4.7% to $667 billion, down from an annual average increase of 8% from 2005 to 2009.”

What, then, are we spending gobs of money on?

Once again domestic accounts far and away led the increases. Medicaid rose by 8.7%, and unemployment benefits by an astonishing 34.3%—to $160 billion. The costs of jobless insurance have tripled in two years. CBO adds that if you take out the savings for deposit insurance, funding for all “other activities” of government—education, transportation, foreign aid, housing, and so on—rose by 13% in 2010.

As for the deficits, the 2010 total was $1.29 trillion, down slightly from $1.42 trillion. That’s a two-year total of $2.7 trillion, or more than the entire amount during the Reagan Administration, when deficits were supposed to be ruinous. Now liberal economists tell us that deficits are the key to restoring prosperity. But all we have to show for spending nearly 25% of GDP for two years running is a growth rate of 1.7% and 9.6% unemployment.

The Paul Krugman wing of the Democratic Party has convinced itself that we haven’t spent enough. But how much would suffice? The answer is always “more than we are now.” As the Wall Street Journal editors point out: “The 21.4% federal spending increase in two years ought to put to rest any debate about the nature of America’s fiscal problem. The Pelosi Congress has used the recession as an excuse to send spending to record heights, and its economic policies have contributed to a lousy recovery.”

It is an unconscionable record — and the reason, in large part, why its authors are going to take a drubbing in November.

The Obama team is crying deficit crocodile tears over the prospect of an extension of the Bush tax cuts to upper-income taxpayers, which it claims wouldn’t be fiscally prudent. (The more expensive extension for the “non-rich” is fine with the administration, however.) It’s laughable considering the utter lack of fiscal discipline by Obama and the Democratic Congress.

We learned from the CBO that “[s]pending rolled in for the year [2010] that ended September 30 at $3.45 trillion, second only to 2009’s $3.52 trillion in the record books.” Well, Obama blames the wars. Hardly. We know that “despite two wars, defense spending rose by 4.7% to $667 billion, down from an annual average increase of 8% from 2005 to 2009.”

What, then, are we spending gobs of money on?

Once again domestic accounts far and away led the increases. Medicaid rose by 8.7%, and unemployment benefits by an astonishing 34.3%—to $160 billion. The costs of jobless insurance have tripled in two years. CBO adds that if you take out the savings for deposit insurance, funding for all “other activities” of government—education, transportation, foreign aid, housing, and so on—rose by 13% in 2010.

As for the deficits, the 2010 total was $1.29 trillion, down slightly from $1.42 trillion. That’s a two-year total of $2.7 trillion, or more than the entire amount during the Reagan Administration, when deficits were supposed to be ruinous. Now liberal economists tell us that deficits are the key to restoring prosperity. But all we have to show for spending nearly 25% of GDP for two years running is a growth rate of 1.7% and 9.6% unemployment.

The Paul Krugman wing of the Democratic Party has convinced itself that we haven’t spent enough. But how much would suffice? The answer is always “more than we are now.” As the Wall Street Journal editors point out: “The 21.4% federal spending increase in two years ought to put to rest any debate about the nature of America’s fiscal problem. The Pelosi Congress has used the recession as an excuse to send spending to record heights, and its economic policies have contributed to a lousy recovery.”

It is an unconscionable record — and the reason, in large part, why its authors are going to take a drubbing in November.

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The YouTube Primary

On Saturday, Chris Christie won a straw poll at the Virginia Tea Party convention. No, it doesn’t mean he’s the front-runner in the GOP presidential primary or even that he is running. But it does remind us of two key considerations in assessing the GOP contest.

First, I am confident that a large number of those Tea Partiers got familiar with Christie from a series of YouTube videos that went viral. Christie cheerily taking on the press. Christie gallantly defending Meg Whitman. Christie bashing public-employee unions. Every week you look for the next in the “series.” It tells us that candidates can be made — or encouraged to run, at least — by select moments that encapsulate that candidate’s persona and beliefs. If the Howard Dean scream video in 2004 helped do him in, what’s to say that Christie or some other candidate can’t jump to the top of the GOP contenders’ list based on a few YouTube videos?

You say that this is a wacky way to select presidents? Well, my first response is yes. And my second is that candidates will still have to prove themselves over the course of a long campaign, but that is why name recognition and a big war chest mean so little at the beginning of a race. YouTube is the great political equalizer.

Moreover, this is yet another reminder that the GOP field is not set. Christie says he’s not interested in a presidential run, but a few more viral videos and straw polls and there will be a “Draft Christie” group. Others may make similar headway and restore or elevate their profile. Rep. Paul Ryan made a splash when most Americans saw him for the first time facing off against the president at the health-care summit. Some more episodes like that and he’ll have his own following, and maybe he’ll reconsider his decision not to make a run in 2012.

The 2012 campaign will be wild and woolly. And we’re going to learn much about candidates we currently know practically nothing about — and they’ll discover just how ambitious they actually are. Prognosticators should be wary: there’s no crystal ball for this race.

On Saturday, Chris Christie won a straw poll at the Virginia Tea Party convention. No, it doesn’t mean he’s the front-runner in the GOP presidential primary or even that he is running. But it does remind us of two key considerations in assessing the GOP contest.

First, I am confident that a large number of those Tea Partiers got familiar with Christie from a series of YouTube videos that went viral. Christie cheerily taking on the press. Christie gallantly defending Meg Whitman. Christie bashing public-employee unions. Every week you look for the next in the “series.” It tells us that candidates can be made — or encouraged to run, at least — by select moments that encapsulate that candidate’s persona and beliefs. If the Howard Dean scream video in 2004 helped do him in, what’s to say that Christie or some other candidate can’t jump to the top of the GOP contenders’ list based on a few YouTube videos?

You say that this is a wacky way to select presidents? Well, my first response is yes. And my second is that candidates will still have to prove themselves over the course of a long campaign, but that is why name recognition and a big war chest mean so little at the beginning of a race. YouTube is the great political equalizer.

Moreover, this is yet another reminder that the GOP field is not set. Christie says he’s not interested in a presidential run, but a few more viral videos and straw polls and there will be a “Draft Christie” group. Others may make similar headway and restore or elevate their profile. Rep. Paul Ryan made a splash when most Americans saw him for the first time facing off against the president at the health-care summit. Some more episodes like that and he’ll have his own following, and maybe he’ll reconsider his decision not to make a run in 2012.

The 2012 campaign will be wild and woolly. And we’re going to learn much about candidates we currently know practically nothing about — and they’ll discover just how ambitious they actually are. Prognosticators should be wary: there’s no crystal ball for this race.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

J Street throws in the towel, conceding that co-founder Daniel Levy said, “I believe that where Jewish history was in 1948 excused, for me — it was good enough for me — an act that was wrong.” The Soros Street gang even provides video.

The PA throws the offer of a settlement freeze back in Bibi’s face. “Senior Palestinian Authority negotiator Saeb Erekat on Monday stated that the Palestinian Authority unreservedly rejected Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s offer of a renewed building freeze in the West Bank in exchange for PA recognition of Israel as the Jewish national home.” I guess it’s not all about the settlements.

Voters are ready to throw out the Dems and with them, the Obama agenda. In every policy area listed (including the economy, spending, ethics, immigration, health care, and terrorism), at least 50 percent of voters think the Democrats’ policies are taking us in the wrong direction.

And more and more voters want to throw them out every day. The GOP hits a high in the RCP generic congressional polling, with an 8.2 point advantage.

Maybe it’s time for the Dems to throw a Hail Mary: “Democratic concerns about the House playing field broadening to record levels appear to only be getting worse as reports that Reps. Raul Grijalva (D-AZ) and Maurice Hinchey (D-NY) are vulnerable surfaced over the weekend. … The fact that the White House is focused on an inside-baseball campaign finance issue [its unsupported allegation that the Chamber of Commerce collects overseas money for campaign donations], instead of the economy shows how bad the political environment is for Democrats this year.”

Attacking mythical foreign donors isn’t working, so Obama throws this into the mix: “President Obama on Monday called for a ‘fundamental overhaul’ to the nation’s infrastructure that involves a $50 billion investment in roads, bridges, railways and electric grids he says are ‘woefully’ inadequate.” Excuse me, but wasn’t this what the stimulus was going to be used for? We’ve spent under Bush and Obama a couple of trillion, and we still need to spend more because that amount didn’t cover things we absolutely need? You can see why voters are infuriated.

Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.) throws out a few arguments in favor of ObamaCare’s constitutionality. None of them fly. She turns heel. I sometimes get the idea that liberals are unaccustomed and unprepared to have their deeply held, unsubstantiated beliefs challenged.

J Street throws in the towel, conceding that co-founder Daniel Levy said, “I believe that where Jewish history was in 1948 excused, for me — it was good enough for me — an act that was wrong.” The Soros Street gang even provides video.

The PA throws the offer of a settlement freeze back in Bibi’s face. “Senior Palestinian Authority negotiator Saeb Erekat on Monday stated that the Palestinian Authority unreservedly rejected Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s offer of a renewed building freeze in the West Bank in exchange for PA recognition of Israel as the Jewish national home.” I guess it’s not all about the settlements.

Voters are ready to throw out the Dems and with them, the Obama agenda. In every policy area listed (including the economy, spending, ethics, immigration, health care, and terrorism), at least 50 percent of voters think the Democrats’ policies are taking us in the wrong direction.

And more and more voters want to throw them out every day. The GOP hits a high in the RCP generic congressional polling, with an 8.2 point advantage.

Maybe it’s time for the Dems to throw a Hail Mary: “Democratic concerns about the House playing field broadening to record levels appear to only be getting worse as reports that Reps. Raul Grijalva (D-AZ) and Maurice Hinchey (D-NY) are vulnerable surfaced over the weekend. … The fact that the White House is focused on an inside-baseball campaign finance issue [its unsupported allegation that the Chamber of Commerce collects overseas money for campaign donations], instead of the economy shows how bad the political environment is for Democrats this year.”

Attacking mythical foreign donors isn’t working, so Obama throws this into the mix: “President Obama on Monday called for a ‘fundamental overhaul’ to the nation’s infrastructure that involves a $50 billion investment in roads, bridges, railways and electric grids he says are ‘woefully’ inadequate.” Excuse me, but wasn’t this what the stimulus was going to be used for? We’ve spent under Bush and Obama a couple of trillion, and we still need to spend more because that amount didn’t cover things we absolutely need? You can see why voters are infuriated.

Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.) throws out a few arguments in favor of ObamaCare’s constitutionality. None of them fly. She turns heel. I sometimes get the idea that liberals are unaccustomed and unprepared to have their deeply held, unsubstantiated beliefs challenged.

Read Less




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