Commentary Magazine


Posts For: October 13, 2010

Ahmadinejad Tour Provides Ominous Proof of Obama’s Failure

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s triumphant tour of Lebanon — which kicked off today with a rapturous welcome from crowds that lined the road from Beirut’s airport into the city — is more than a morale boost for the Iranian president or another demonstration of the strength of his Hezbollah ally that now dominates Lebanon’s government. It was more proof of both the Islamist regime’s increasing confidence and the failure of American efforts to isolate Iran.

Viewed through the prism of Lebanese politics, Ahmadinejad’s visit is part of Hezbollah’s attempt to solidify its grasp on power in a country that is now clearly back under the thumb of Iran’s ally Syria.

In terms of the Middle East peace process, Ahmadinejad’s scheduled jaunt into southern Lebanon tomorrow is a reminder of Iran’s desire to promote armed struggle against Israel. Since the Second Lebanon War, in 2006, Iran has paid for both the rearming of Hezbollah and the reconstruction of many areas in Lebanon that were destroyed in a fight that the Islamist terrorist group provoked. Ahmadinejad’s visit can be seen as a symbol of the transformation of Lebanon into a full-fledged confrontation state rather than the Western ally that many thought was created after the Cedar Revolution in 2005.

Just as devastating is the symbolism of the planned conclave between Ahmadinejad, Lebanese Prime Minister Sa’ad Hariri, and Turkish Prime Minster Tayyip Erdogan on Friday. Despite the brave talk emanating from Washington about America’s success in getting mild sanctions against Iran passed by the United Nations, Iran may be in a stronger diplomatic position today than it was two years ago. The spectacle of Turkey sliding closer to an informal alliance with Iran, and with Hezbollah, Iran, and Syria combining to compromise Lebanon’s independence, demonstrates that Iran’s influence is growing rather than shrinking as Obama has claimed.

With a friendly trading partner in NATO member Turkey, the Iranians must now believe that any sanctions, even ones that are harsher than those currently in place, will always be able to be flouted. And with terrorist allies ensconced on two of Israel’s borders — Hezbollah and a Lebanese Army that seems to be morphing into a Hezbollah auxiliary in the north and Hamas-run Gaza in the south — Iran is also in a position to launch destabilizing terror strikes against Israel, as well as raising the possibility of another bloody war on either front.

While President Obama and his foreign policy team have been chasing their tails trying to orchestrate dead-end peace talks between Israel and a Palestinian Authority that has no interest in peace, Iran’s own diplomatic offensive is gaining ground. As the clock keeps ticking toward the moment when Ahmadinejad can announce the success of Iran’s nuclear project, there is little sign that the administration understands that Iran’s successes are the fruit of Washington’s spurned attempts to engage Tehran and its lackluster campaign to promote sanctions.

With the cheers of his Lebanese allies and the sweet talk from Turkey still ringing in his ears, it would be understandable if Ahmadinejad concluded that he has once again bested Obama. But as troubling as this diplomatic triumph for Iran may be, the confidence it may have engendered in the Iranian regime is something that ought to scare the Middle East and the rest of the world. An Iranian government that thinks it cannot lose in a confrontation with America, Israel, or the West is one that is liable to do anything if challenged. The consequences of such a mindset may be incalculable.

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s triumphant tour of Lebanon — which kicked off today with a rapturous welcome from crowds that lined the road from Beirut’s airport into the city — is more than a morale boost for the Iranian president or another demonstration of the strength of his Hezbollah ally that now dominates Lebanon’s government. It was more proof of both the Islamist regime’s increasing confidence and the failure of American efforts to isolate Iran.

Viewed through the prism of Lebanese politics, Ahmadinejad’s visit is part of Hezbollah’s attempt to solidify its grasp on power in a country that is now clearly back under the thumb of Iran’s ally Syria.

In terms of the Middle East peace process, Ahmadinejad’s scheduled jaunt into southern Lebanon tomorrow is a reminder of Iran’s desire to promote armed struggle against Israel. Since the Second Lebanon War, in 2006, Iran has paid for both the rearming of Hezbollah and the reconstruction of many areas in Lebanon that were destroyed in a fight that the Islamist terrorist group provoked. Ahmadinejad’s visit can be seen as a symbol of the transformation of Lebanon into a full-fledged confrontation state rather than the Western ally that many thought was created after the Cedar Revolution in 2005.

Just as devastating is the symbolism of the planned conclave between Ahmadinejad, Lebanese Prime Minister Sa’ad Hariri, and Turkish Prime Minster Tayyip Erdogan on Friday. Despite the brave talk emanating from Washington about America’s success in getting mild sanctions against Iran passed by the United Nations, Iran may be in a stronger diplomatic position today than it was two years ago. The spectacle of Turkey sliding closer to an informal alliance with Iran, and with Hezbollah, Iran, and Syria combining to compromise Lebanon’s independence, demonstrates that Iran’s influence is growing rather than shrinking as Obama has claimed.

With a friendly trading partner in NATO member Turkey, the Iranians must now believe that any sanctions, even ones that are harsher than those currently in place, will always be able to be flouted. And with terrorist allies ensconced on two of Israel’s borders — Hezbollah and a Lebanese Army that seems to be morphing into a Hezbollah auxiliary in the north and Hamas-run Gaza in the south — Iran is also in a position to launch destabilizing terror strikes against Israel, as well as raising the possibility of another bloody war on either front.

While President Obama and his foreign policy team have been chasing their tails trying to orchestrate dead-end peace talks between Israel and a Palestinian Authority that has no interest in peace, Iran’s own diplomatic offensive is gaining ground. As the clock keeps ticking toward the moment when Ahmadinejad can announce the success of Iran’s nuclear project, there is little sign that the administration understands that Iran’s successes are the fruit of Washington’s spurned attempts to engage Tehran and its lackluster campaign to promote sanctions.

With the cheers of his Lebanese allies and the sweet talk from Turkey still ringing in his ears, it would be understandable if Ahmadinejad concluded that he has once again bested Obama. But as troubling as this diplomatic triumph for Iran may be, the confidence it may have engendered in the Iranian regime is something that ought to scare the Middle East and the rest of the world. An Iranian government that thinks it cannot lose in a confrontation with America, Israel, or the West is one that is liable to do anything if challenged. The consequences of such a mindset may be incalculable.

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The Wave Continues to Rise

This report should shake up even the most optimistic of Democrats:

Republicans are winning eight out of 10 competitive open House seats surveyed in a groundbreaking new poll by The Hill. Taken on top of 11 GOP leads out of 12 freshman Democratic districts polled last week, The Hill 2010 Midterm Election Poll points toward 19 Republican victories out of 22 races, while Democrats win only two and one is tied.

The telltale signs of a wave election — the vulnerability of previously “safe” seats — are popping up around the country:

The GOP appears ready to take retiring Rep. David Obey’s (D-Wis.) seat. The chairman of the Appropriations Committee announced his retirement in May, and Republican Sean Duffy holds a nine-point lead over Democrat Julie Lassa.

Democrats have held Arkansas’s 1st congressional district for almost a century, but Republicans have a solid lead going into November. The Hill’s poll found Republican candidate Rick Crawford leads by 12 points, 46 percent to Democrat Chad Causey’s 34. Rep. Marion Berry is retiring.

How’s the president doing pumping up the base? Not very well:

This week’s poll suggested Democrats face an enthusiasm gap in the districts surveyed despite efforts by Obama and national Democrats to close the difference. Ninety percent of Republicans surveyed said they will definitely vote, versus 85 percent for Democrats and 84 percent for independents.

Obama’s approval ratings were a net negative in the 10 districts, with 51 percent of likely voters voicing disapproval of the job he is doing. Among independent voters that number is higher, with 56 percent disapproving; 42 percent of independents “strongly disapprove” of the president.

Not even demonizing the Chamber of Commerce has helped his side.

There’s less than three weeks to go. At this point, the persuasion stage is drawing to an end, and both sides are shifting to mobilizing and turning out their supporters. Right now, Democrats don’t have enough of them, and those they do have aren’t go to be easy to drag to the polls. As for Republicans, they can only hope that Obama remains as visible and as unpopular as he now is.

This report should shake up even the most optimistic of Democrats:

Republicans are winning eight out of 10 competitive open House seats surveyed in a groundbreaking new poll by The Hill. Taken on top of 11 GOP leads out of 12 freshman Democratic districts polled last week, The Hill 2010 Midterm Election Poll points toward 19 Republican victories out of 22 races, while Democrats win only two and one is tied.

The telltale signs of a wave election — the vulnerability of previously “safe” seats — are popping up around the country:

The GOP appears ready to take retiring Rep. David Obey’s (D-Wis.) seat. The chairman of the Appropriations Committee announced his retirement in May, and Republican Sean Duffy holds a nine-point lead over Democrat Julie Lassa.

Democrats have held Arkansas’s 1st congressional district for almost a century, but Republicans have a solid lead going into November. The Hill’s poll found Republican candidate Rick Crawford leads by 12 points, 46 percent to Democrat Chad Causey’s 34. Rep. Marion Berry is retiring.

How’s the president doing pumping up the base? Not very well:

This week’s poll suggested Democrats face an enthusiasm gap in the districts surveyed despite efforts by Obama and national Democrats to close the difference. Ninety percent of Republicans surveyed said they will definitely vote, versus 85 percent for Democrats and 84 percent for independents.

Obama’s approval ratings were a net negative in the 10 districts, with 51 percent of likely voters voicing disapproval of the job he is doing. Among independent voters that number is higher, with 56 percent disapproving; 42 percent of independents “strongly disapprove” of the president.

Not even demonizing the Chamber of Commerce has helped his side.

There’s less than three weeks to go. At this point, the persuasion stage is drawing to an end, and both sides are shifting to mobilizing and turning out their supporters. Right now, Democrats don’t have enough of them, and those they do have aren’t go to be easy to drag to the polls. As for Republicans, they can only hope that Obama remains as visible and as unpopular as he now is.

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Recruiting for Conservatism

Gallup reports:

Record- or near-record-high percentages of Americans are critical of the size and scope of government, as measured by four Gallup trend questions updated in September. This sentiment stretches to 59% of Americans now believing the federal government has too much power, up eight percentage points from a year ago.

Nearly as many Americans also give the antigovernment response to a question asking whether government should do more to solve the country’s problems or whether it is doing too many things that should be left to businesses and individuals. Today’s 58% saying it is doing too much is just slightly below the 59% to 60% levels recorded in the mid- to late ’90s.

It is not simply Republicans who are recoiling from the size and growth of government. Sixty-five percent of independent respondents say the government has too much power, and 60 percent say it is doing too much.

The “opportunity” that Obama and his team perceived to grow the size and scope of government and reorder the relationship between the private and public sectors was ephemeral. The public was not prepared for and is now in rebellion against Obama’s statist agenda. The Tea Party movement is the quintessential expression of this aversion to big government, and these poll numbers explain why the movement and the candidates it has backed are resonating with the American people.

Modern conservatism is based above all else on the notion that government must be limited to ensure our freedom and prosperity. That Obama has been able to garner such a widespread following for this ideal makes him one of conservatism’s most effective recruiters.

Gallup reports:

Record- or near-record-high percentages of Americans are critical of the size and scope of government, as measured by four Gallup trend questions updated in September. This sentiment stretches to 59% of Americans now believing the federal government has too much power, up eight percentage points from a year ago.

Nearly as many Americans also give the antigovernment response to a question asking whether government should do more to solve the country’s problems or whether it is doing too many things that should be left to businesses and individuals. Today’s 58% saying it is doing too much is just slightly below the 59% to 60% levels recorded in the mid- to late ’90s.

It is not simply Republicans who are recoiling from the size and growth of government. Sixty-five percent of independent respondents say the government has too much power, and 60 percent say it is doing too much.

The “opportunity” that Obama and his team perceived to grow the size and scope of government and reorder the relationship between the private and public sectors was ephemeral. The public was not prepared for and is now in rebellion against Obama’s statist agenda. The Tea Party movement is the quintessential expression of this aversion to big government, and these poll numbers explain why the movement and the candidates it has backed are resonating with the American people.

Modern conservatism is based above all else on the notion that government must be limited to ensure our freedom and prosperity. That Obama has been able to garner such a widespread following for this ideal makes him one of conservatism’s most effective recruiters.

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RE: Abuse of Power

Pete, I have to disagree with you. What the White House is doing by attacking the Chamber of Commerce is not “abuse of power.” It may be a rhetorical outrage, and low, and slimy, and McCarthyite, but it does not rise to an “abuse of power,” because no power other than lung power is being exercised by the president and his people. If the administration or Congress takes actual steps against the chamber — an investigation, or a lawsuit, or something like that — then an abuse of power will have been committed. But unfairness is not abuse.

Pete, I have to disagree with you. What the White House is doing by attacking the Chamber of Commerce is not “abuse of power.” It may be a rhetorical outrage, and low, and slimy, and McCarthyite, but it does not rise to an “abuse of power,” because no power other than lung power is being exercised by the president and his people. If the administration or Congress takes actual steps against the chamber — an investigation, or a lawsuit, or something like that — then an abuse of power will have been committed. But unfairness is not abuse.

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Amanpour Campaigns for Blumenthal

Regular readers know that I’ve kept a close eye on the ludicrously biased Christiane Amanpour. Her biases usually reveal themselves in the foreign policy realm. But a reader points out how partisan her segment on the Connecticut Senate race was this weekend. The transcript doesn’t do her shilling for the Democrat justice. Take eight minutes and watch the segment. I’ll highlight a few of the more egregious examples.

First, Amanpour’s opening describes Linda McMahon as “a wealthy” businesswoman who has spent “tens of millions of her own fortune.” Blumenthal is not described in any such unflattering terms (e.g., as a “professional politician who got trapped in a series of lies”). Her expression as she questions (and re-questions) McMahon about the minimum wage and the images of women in the World Wrestling Entertainment events reveals Amanpour’s obvious disdain and incredulity. Next, around the six-minute mark, she finally gets to Richard Blumenthal’s lying about his war record. She asks a single question — a process question, as to whether it will hurt him — with no follow-up. Her expression is one of serious contemplation.

You’d expect this on MSNBC. But ABC News has on Sunday mornings (and, frankly, in its evening broadcasts as well) tried to steer clear of liberal hackery. Amanpour’s disinclination to hide or even restrain her unbridled partisanship isn’t getting ABC ratings. But it could very well ruin its brand. Maybe the brain trust that gave her the job should reconsider if it is worth it keeping her there.

Regular readers know that I’ve kept a close eye on the ludicrously biased Christiane Amanpour. Her biases usually reveal themselves in the foreign policy realm. But a reader points out how partisan her segment on the Connecticut Senate race was this weekend. The transcript doesn’t do her shilling for the Democrat justice. Take eight minutes and watch the segment. I’ll highlight a few of the more egregious examples.

First, Amanpour’s opening describes Linda McMahon as “a wealthy” businesswoman who has spent “tens of millions of her own fortune.” Blumenthal is not described in any such unflattering terms (e.g., as a “professional politician who got trapped in a series of lies”). Her expression as she questions (and re-questions) McMahon about the minimum wage and the images of women in the World Wrestling Entertainment events reveals Amanpour’s obvious disdain and incredulity. Next, around the six-minute mark, she finally gets to Richard Blumenthal’s lying about his war record. She asks a single question — a process question, as to whether it will hurt him — with no follow-up. Her expression is one of serious contemplation.

You’d expect this on MSNBC. But ABC News has on Sunday mornings (and, frankly, in its evening broadcasts as well) tried to steer clear of liberal hackery. Amanpour’s disinclination to hide or even restrain her unbridled partisanship isn’t getting ABC ratings. But it could very well ruin its brand. Maybe the brain trust that gave her the job should reconsider if it is worth it keeping her there.

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Going After Pelosi

Here’s an idea for the White House spin squad: the wipeout of 2010 is a rejection of Nancy Pelosi, not Obama. Politico tries it out:

In the home stretch of the 2010 campaign, Speaker Nancy Pelosi, more than even President Barack Obama, is emerging as the heaviest drag on Democratic hopes of holding on to the House.

In district after district, from Florida’s Gold Coast to central Ohio, in the Ozark Mountains, on the Minnesota prairie and in retiree-laden Arizona, Pelosi’s face, plastered on billboards, recorded in video clips and emblazoned on mailers, is casting a pall over her colleagues’ chances of winning reelection.

Conventional wisdom holds that midterm elections are referendums on the president — and Obama is certainly the central figure in the unfolding drama of the 2010 election. But if Democrats lose the House, it’s likely to be as much a rejection of the policies and politics of a woman who has managed to simultaneously become one of the most powerful speakers in congressional history and one of the most unpopular figures in American politics today.

Now wait a sec. Aren’t those “policies and politics” Obama’s as well? In what regard did Pelosi and Obama ever disagree? True, Pelosi’s demeanor is even more grating than the president’s, but the agenda she jammed through was Obama’s — and his villains are hers.

Certainly the Republicans are using her image and record against her own members. She, after all, has an approval rating much worse than Obama’s. But she is also a useful reminder that no matter how “independent” a Democratic congressman claims to be, he still votes with the extreme leftist leadership that runs the House. And it was she who refused to allow her members to take a vote on the Bush tax cuts, providing a vivid example of just what a Democratic majority means in the House. (I don’t rule out the possibility that, in addition to these factors, some GOP candidates are hesitant to go after the president personally with the same zeal they can direct at his ideological twin.)

But regardless of the number of posters bearing her photograph, the target of most GOP candidates is indeed the president. They are promising to repeal ObamaCare. They are promising to act as a check on the administration’s agenda. Make no mistake, Pelosi may be a useful foil, but the ultimate target is Obama and his agenda. But after the returns are in, watch the finger-pointing epidemic that will break out. You can be certain that the White House will be all too pleased to blame this on Pelosi.

Here’s an idea for the White House spin squad: the wipeout of 2010 is a rejection of Nancy Pelosi, not Obama. Politico tries it out:

In the home stretch of the 2010 campaign, Speaker Nancy Pelosi, more than even President Barack Obama, is emerging as the heaviest drag on Democratic hopes of holding on to the House.

In district after district, from Florida’s Gold Coast to central Ohio, in the Ozark Mountains, on the Minnesota prairie and in retiree-laden Arizona, Pelosi’s face, plastered on billboards, recorded in video clips and emblazoned on mailers, is casting a pall over her colleagues’ chances of winning reelection.

Conventional wisdom holds that midterm elections are referendums on the president — and Obama is certainly the central figure in the unfolding drama of the 2010 election. But if Democrats lose the House, it’s likely to be as much a rejection of the policies and politics of a woman who has managed to simultaneously become one of the most powerful speakers in congressional history and one of the most unpopular figures in American politics today.

Now wait a sec. Aren’t those “policies and politics” Obama’s as well? In what regard did Pelosi and Obama ever disagree? True, Pelosi’s demeanor is even more grating than the president’s, but the agenda she jammed through was Obama’s — and his villains are hers.

Certainly the Republicans are using her image and record against her own members. She, after all, has an approval rating much worse than Obama’s. But she is also a useful reminder that no matter how “independent” a Democratic congressman claims to be, he still votes with the extreme leftist leadership that runs the House. And it was she who refused to allow her members to take a vote on the Bush tax cuts, providing a vivid example of just what a Democratic majority means in the House. (I don’t rule out the possibility that, in addition to these factors, some GOP candidates are hesitant to go after the president personally with the same zeal they can direct at his ideological twin.)

But regardless of the number of posters bearing her photograph, the target of most GOP candidates is indeed the president. They are promising to repeal ObamaCare. They are promising to act as a check on the administration’s agenda. Make no mistake, Pelosi may be a useful foil, but the ultimate target is Obama and his agenda. But after the returns are in, watch the finger-pointing epidemic that will break out. You can be certain that the White House will be all too pleased to blame this on Pelosi.

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What a New National Security Adviser Means for Foreign Policy

There has been much speculation in Washington circles about what it means that Tom Donilon has replaced James Jones as national security adviser. My hunch is: not much. I am not particularly persuaded by theories that hold that Donilon is more left-wing than Jones, and that he will clash more with senior generals. Jones, after all, was not exactly an outspoken advocate of the surge in Afghanistan (or for that matter in Iraq).

My sense is that a lot of the reason why he was appointed, even though Obama had barely met him, was so that Obama, who has no experience in military affairs, would have a high-profile retired officer on his staff who could with credibility stand up to the Pentagon. Jones made news in the summer of 2009 when he warned Gen. Stanley McChrystal that any further troop requests would be a “whisky tango foxtrot” moment for the White House. McChrystal asked for more troops anyway, because they were necessary. Most of his request wound up being granted not because of any decision made by Jones or by Donilon, who was then deputy national security adviser but widely seen as the power behind Jones’s throne. The ultimate call was made, unsurprisingly, by Barack Obama himself. That’s the way it always is and always has to be. The president is the “decider in chief.”

A good national security adviser can help marshal the information the boss needs to make good decisions and then help to implement them, but it is extremely rare for a national security adviser to be a major power in his or her own right. Henry Kissinger and Zbigniew Brzezinski are notable exceptions to this rule, but there haven’t been many others — and it has been many decades since they were in power. Usually, the national security adviser is a reflection of the president. This was certainly the case with Condi Rice, who was widely faulted for not doing a better job of getting the Bush administration to march in lockstep behind the president’s policies. That failure was ultimately not hers but George W. Bush’s. It was he, after all, who appointed her and gave her the power she had — or didn’t have. So, too, it will be with Donilon. He is certainly not a foreign policy intellectual like Kissinger or Brzezinski; he is a consummate staffer. There’s nothing wrong with that. But what it means is that we shouldn’t expect much change from his appointment.

There has been much speculation in Washington circles about what it means that Tom Donilon has replaced James Jones as national security adviser. My hunch is: not much. I am not particularly persuaded by theories that hold that Donilon is more left-wing than Jones, and that he will clash more with senior generals. Jones, after all, was not exactly an outspoken advocate of the surge in Afghanistan (or for that matter in Iraq).

My sense is that a lot of the reason why he was appointed, even though Obama had barely met him, was so that Obama, who has no experience in military affairs, would have a high-profile retired officer on his staff who could with credibility stand up to the Pentagon. Jones made news in the summer of 2009 when he warned Gen. Stanley McChrystal that any further troop requests would be a “whisky tango foxtrot” moment for the White House. McChrystal asked for more troops anyway, because they were necessary. Most of his request wound up being granted not because of any decision made by Jones or by Donilon, who was then deputy national security adviser but widely seen as the power behind Jones’s throne. The ultimate call was made, unsurprisingly, by Barack Obama himself. That’s the way it always is and always has to be. The president is the “decider in chief.”

A good national security adviser can help marshal the information the boss needs to make good decisions and then help to implement them, but it is extremely rare for a national security adviser to be a major power in his or her own right. Henry Kissinger and Zbigniew Brzezinski are notable exceptions to this rule, but there haven’t been many others — and it has been many decades since they were in power. Usually, the national security adviser is a reflection of the president. This was certainly the case with Condi Rice, who was widely faulted for not doing a better job of getting the Bush administration to march in lockstep behind the president’s policies. That failure was ultimately not hers but George W. Bush’s. It was he, after all, who appointed her and gave her the power she had — or didn’t have. So, too, it will be with Donilon. He is certainly not a foreign policy intellectual like Kissinger or Brzezinski; he is a consummate staffer. There’s nothing wrong with that. But what it means is that we shouldn’t expect much change from his appointment.

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Abuse of Power

It is astonishing, really.

The president of the United States has accused the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, despite its denial and without supporting evidence, of illegally funneling foreign money into U.S. campaigns. “Just this week,” Barack Obama said recently about the chamber, “we learned that one of the largest groups paying for these [political] ads regularly takes in money from foreign corporations. So groups that receive foreign money are spending huge sums to influence American elections.”

On CBS’s Face the Nation, host Bob Schieffer asked David Axelrod, senior adviser to the president, if there is any evidence to support their accusation. Axelrod responded this way: “Well, do you have any evidence that it’s not, Bob?”

Likewise, Obama’s press secretary, Robert Gibbs, wouldn’t back away from the incendiary charges yesterday. “The president will continue to make the argument that we don’t know where this money comes from and entities like the Chamber have said they get money from overseas,” Gibbs told reporters at the White House.

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It is astonishing, really.

The president of the United States has accused the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, despite its denial and without supporting evidence, of illegally funneling foreign money into U.S. campaigns. “Just this week,” Barack Obama said recently about the chamber, “we learned that one of the largest groups paying for these [political] ads regularly takes in money from foreign corporations. So groups that receive foreign money are spending huge sums to influence American elections.”

On CBS’s Face the Nation, host Bob Schieffer asked David Axelrod, senior adviser to the president, if there is any evidence to support their accusation. Axelrod responded this way: “Well, do you have any evidence that it’s not, Bob?”

Likewise, Obama’s press secretary, Robert Gibbs, wouldn’t back away from the incendiary charges yesterday. “The president will continue to make the argument that we don’t know where this money comes from and entities like the Chamber have said they get money from overseas,” Gibbs told reporters at the White House.

Set aside the hypocrisy of this whole episode. (My former White House colleague Ed Gillespie points out that no Democrats, least of all Obama, 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.) Set aside the fact that Mr. Axelrod concedes that the chamber is abiding by long-standing rules, that it doesn’t have to disclose its donors list, and that no other organizations are disclosing theirs. Set aside the fact that the chamber has 115 foreign-member affiliates who pay a total of less than $100,000 in membership dues to a group whose total budget is more than $200 million. And set aside the fact that various news organizations have dismissed the charges, including the New York Times, which reports, “a closer examination shows that there is little evidence that what the chamber does in collecting overseas dues is improper or even unusual, according to both liberal and conservative election-law lawyers and campaign finance documents.”

What we are witnessing is the abuse of power. We are now in a situation in which the president and his most senior advisers feel completely at liberty to throw out unsubstantiated charges and put the burden on people (and institutions) to prove their innocence. Liberals once referred to such tactics as McCarthyism. But Joseph McCarthy, for all his abuses, was “only” a United States senator, one member out of 100. The president and his advisers, on the other hand, have at their disposal far more power and the ability to inflict far more injury.

What Obama and his aides are demanding is that the Chamber of Commerce prove a negative — and in doing so, they are trying to intimidate the chamber into disclosing what is, by law, privileged information. “If the Chamber doesn’t have anything to hide about these contributions,” Mr. Axelrod says, “and I take them at their word that they don’t, then why not disclose? Why not let people see where their money is coming from?”

Let’s see if we can help Mr. Axelrod out by providing him with an explanation.

For one thing, he is employing the guilty-until-proven-innocent argument. For another, the White House’s standard is being selectively applied. And it encourages slanderous charges because it forces innocent people to disprove them. All this is troubling in any case; but it is triply pernicious when it is practiced by those with unmatched power, because they have an unparalleled capacity to intimidate American citizens.

In further answering Axelrod’s argument, consider this thought experiment. It’s the year 2021, and a partisan critic of a future president repeatedly asserts that the president is addicted to child pornography. It turns out that the critic has no proof of the charge — but when told he is asking the president to prove a negative, he responds: “I take the president at his word. But just to be sure, we’d like to examine his phone records and text messages, his computer accounts, and his credit card receipts. What we want, in other words, is full access to all the relevant information we need. After all, if he’s innocent, why not disclose this information? Why not let people see what you’re doing with your life and free time?”

It must be obvious to Messrs. Axelrod and Obama that what they are doing is irresponsible, dangerous, and deeply illiberal. It’s important to note, however, that this libel is taking place within a particular context. The attack on the Chamber of Commerce is only the most recent link in a long chain. The Obama White House has targeted Karl Rove, Ed Gillespie, and John Boehner; George W. Bush and Dick Cheney; conservative talk radio; Fox News; the state of Arizona; the Supreme Court (for its decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission); members of the Tea Party; critics of ObamaCare who attended town hall meetings; pharmaceutical, insurance, and oil companies; corporate executives, Wall Street, and the “rich.”

All this ugliness comes to us courtesy of a man who said during the 2008 campaign that “the times are too serious, the stakes are too high for this same partisan playbook”; who told us that we should “resist the temptation to fall back on the same partisanship and pettiness and immaturity that has poisoned our politics for so long”; and who assured us, on the night of his election, “I will listen to you, especially when we disagree.”

Back in October 2009, I wrote about this White House’s burning anger and resentment toward its critics and what it foreshadowed. That inferno is burning hotter than ever – and if it goes unchecked, it will eventually lead to a crisis.

In an August 16, 1971, memorandum from White House Counsel John Dean to Lawrence Higby, titled “Dealing with our Political Enemies,” Dean wrote:

This memorandum addresses the matter of how we can maximize the fact of our incumbency in dealing with persons known to be active in their opposition to our Administration; stated a bit more bluntly – how we can use the available federal machinery to screw our political enemies.

At comparable stages in their first terms, the Obama administration seems to be at least as eager as the Nixon administration to use the available federal machinery to “screw our political enemies.” We know how things turned out for the Nixon administration. President Obama cannot say he hasn’t been forewarned.

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Pulling Teeth at the State Department

Having kept a running count of the number of times the Obama administration has refused to answer if it is bound by the 2004 Bush letter (22 times so far), it is a pleasure to report that it took only six attempts yesterday to get the State Department spokesman, P.J. Crowley, to answer whether the U.S. recognizes Israel as a Jewish state.

Crowley’s first response tried to throw reporters off the track with the tantalizing suggestion that George Mitchell just might go — it would be logical — back to the region at some point. Asked a second time, Crowley responded that we “recognize [Israel’s] aspiration.” On the reporters’ third through fifth tries, Crowley proved hard of hearing. On the sixth attempt, after a 14-word preface, he finally responded: “yes.”

QUESTION: P.J., do you recognize Israel as a Jewish state and will you try to convince the Palestinians to recognize it?

MR. CROWLEY: We will continue our discussions with the parties. I would expect, following up on the Arab League meetings of late last week that George Mitchell will go to the region at some point. I’m not announcing anything, but I — it would be logical for us to follow up directly with the parties, see where they are. [Blah, blah, blah.] Read More

Having kept a running count of the number of times the Obama administration has refused to answer if it is bound by the 2004 Bush letter (22 times so far), it is a pleasure to report that it took only six attempts yesterday to get the State Department spokesman, P.J. Crowley, to answer whether the U.S. recognizes Israel as a Jewish state.

Crowley’s first response tried to throw reporters off the track with the tantalizing suggestion that George Mitchell just might go — it would be logical — back to the region at some point. Asked a second time, Crowley responded that we “recognize [Israel’s] aspiration.” On the reporters’ third through fifth tries, Crowley proved hard of hearing. On the sixth attempt, after a 14-word preface, he finally responded: “yes.”

QUESTION: P.J., do you recognize Israel as a Jewish state and will you try to convince the Palestinians to recognize it?

MR. CROWLEY: We will continue our discussions with the parties. I would expect, following up on the Arab League meetings of late last week that George Mitchell will go to the region at some point. I’m not announcing anything, but I — it would be logical for us to follow up directly with the parties, see where they are. [Blah, blah, blah.]

QUESTION: And do you recognize Israel as a Jewish state?

MR. CROWLEY: We recognize the aspiration of the people of Israel. It has — it’s a democracy. In that democracy, there’s a guarantee of freedom and liberties to all of its citizens. But as the Secretary has said, we understand that — the special character of the state of Israel.

QUESTION: Is that a yes or no?

QUESTION: P.J., it’s — do you want to answer his question or —

QUESTION: Did you say yes or no to that question from Michel?

MR. CROWLEY: Hmm?

QUESTION: Michel’s question was a yes or no sort of question. I was wondering whether that was a yes or no.

MR. CROWLEY: We recognize that Israel is a – as it says itself, is a Jewish state, yes.

The original question had a second part to it: “ … and will you try to convince the Palestinians to recognize it?” After a reporter repeated the question, it took Crowley 162 halting words to respond:

QUESTION: … Does the U.S. want the Palestinians to recognize Israel as a Jewish state?

MR. CROWLEY: Look, I will be happy to go back over and offer some — I’m trying — I’m not making any news here. We have recognized the special nature of the Israeli state. It is a state for the Jewish people. It is a state for other citizens of other faiths as well. But this is the aspiration of the — what Prime Minister Netanyahu said yesterday is, in essence, the — a core demand of the Israeli Government, which we support, is a recognition that Israel is a part of the region, acceptance by the region of the existence of the state of Israel as the homeland of the Jewish people and that is what they want to see through this negotiation. We understand this aspiration and the prime minister was talking yesterday about the fact that just as they aspire to a state for the Jewish people in the Middle East, they understand the aspirations of the Palestinian people for a state of their own.

Why is it so hard to get the Obama administration to reiterate basic commitments the U.S. has made — in writing — to Israel? The Bush letter stated that the U.S. is “strongly committed to … [Israel] as a Jewish state.” This administration has to be prodded six times to answer whether it recognizes Israel as a Jewish state and — after an affirmative response is extracted — cannot give a one-word answer on whether it wants the Palestinians to recognize one as well.

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The Peace Process Lacks Palestinian Peacemakers

Oh no, they tell us Mahmoud Abbas is on the ropes. A new cadre of PA figures is on the rise that is “less supportive of negotiations with Israel’s government.” Less than Abbas? Or more candid? You can’t get much less supportive than Abbas and his current crew, who continue to extol the names of terrorists and flee negotiations at the first opportune moment. But then again, Abbas has been reduced to the status of Arab League messenger boy. The new PA leadership wants to employ Gandhi-like nonviolent resistance? All they need is a tradition of nonviolent resistance, an ideology that shuns violence, and a popular consensus that killing Jews is a bad thing. I think Gandhi’s idea of a “march to the sea” isn’t exactly what the Palestinians have in mind.

But let’s understand the import of this: even within the PA, Abbas lacks a base of support. And he, we are told by the Obami, is the man and this is the unique moment that are going to give birth to a peace deal. Yes, it’s quite absurd.

It seems there is never quite the right Palestinian leader in place. This one is well-meaning, but has no backing. That one is popular, but allergic to peace talks. Another, after all, was imprisoned for terrorism. Perhaps there just isn’t someone who is willing to make a deal and who enjoys support within the Palestinian leadership and population. It might just be that the past 18 months of peace-processing, not to mention the past 60 years, have been a colossal waste of time.

Oh no, they tell us Mahmoud Abbas is on the ropes. A new cadre of PA figures is on the rise that is “less supportive of negotiations with Israel’s government.” Less than Abbas? Or more candid? You can’t get much less supportive than Abbas and his current crew, who continue to extol the names of terrorists and flee negotiations at the first opportune moment. But then again, Abbas has been reduced to the status of Arab League messenger boy. The new PA leadership wants to employ Gandhi-like nonviolent resistance? All they need is a tradition of nonviolent resistance, an ideology that shuns violence, and a popular consensus that killing Jews is a bad thing. I think Gandhi’s idea of a “march to the sea” isn’t exactly what the Palestinians have in mind.

But let’s understand the import of this: even within the PA, Abbas lacks a base of support. And he, we are told by the Obami, is the man and this is the unique moment that are going to give birth to a peace deal. Yes, it’s quite absurd.

It seems there is never quite the right Palestinian leader in place. This one is well-meaning, but has no backing. That one is popular, but allergic to peace talks. Another, after all, was imprisoned for terrorism. Perhaps there just isn’t someone who is willing to make a deal and who enjoys support within the Palestinian leadership and population. It might just be that the past 18 months of peace-processing, not to mention the past 60 years, have been a colossal waste of time.

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Poor Joe Biden

Joe Biden was apparently selected as Obama’s running mate for his experience and foreign policy gravitas. It is only in Washington D.C. that longevity can be confused with wisdom; Biden has plenty of the former and precious little of the latter, having been wrong on almost every national security issue for the past 30 years.

But as things would work out, Biden’s running mate, known for his charisma and political prowess, is proving to be a bore and politically toxic. So the job of rallying the base for the midterms falls to Biden. As this report explains:

Now, at 67, in an election season when his party feels beaten down, when voters are angry and afraid, when the cool, cerebral detachment that seemed so appealing in Mr. Obama in 2008 is raising questions about whether he can “connect,” Mr. Biden is trying to fill the void — even as strategists in both parties see Democrats’ prospects dimming.

Mr. Biden has been zipping around the country to places like Columbia, S.C., and hard-hit Rust Belt cities like Akron, Ohio, and Pittsburgh, while Mr. Obama has been confining himself largely to friendlier settings like college campuses and big-dollar fund-raisers.

Unfortunately, Biden isn’t much better at politicking than he is at foreign policy. He tells a crowd that they are the dullest he’s ever encountered. His “recovery summer” blather is now mocked by pundits and political opponents. But just as no one ever really votes for the vice president in presidential elections, no one in the midterms really pays too much attention to the VP:

“Democrats have it in their heads that he is still more popular in a lot of blue-collar districts where Obama is having a toxic effect,” said David Wasserman, who tracks House races for the nonpartisan Cook Political Report. “To most voters, a Biden campaign visit doesn’t make President Obama disappear.”

For all his troubles, Biden may be traded to the State Department for Hillary Clinton in 2012. And then we can really see all that Biden knows about foreign policy. Well, he probably wouldn’t be any worse than the current secretary.

Joe Biden was apparently selected as Obama’s running mate for his experience and foreign policy gravitas. It is only in Washington D.C. that longevity can be confused with wisdom; Biden has plenty of the former and precious little of the latter, having been wrong on almost every national security issue for the past 30 years.

But as things would work out, Biden’s running mate, known for his charisma and political prowess, is proving to be a bore and politically toxic. So the job of rallying the base for the midterms falls to Biden. As this report explains:

Now, at 67, in an election season when his party feels beaten down, when voters are angry and afraid, when the cool, cerebral detachment that seemed so appealing in Mr. Obama in 2008 is raising questions about whether he can “connect,” Mr. Biden is trying to fill the void — even as strategists in both parties see Democrats’ prospects dimming.

Mr. Biden has been zipping around the country to places like Columbia, S.C., and hard-hit Rust Belt cities like Akron, Ohio, and Pittsburgh, while Mr. Obama has been confining himself largely to friendlier settings like college campuses and big-dollar fund-raisers.

Unfortunately, Biden isn’t much better at politicking than he is at foreign policy. He tells a crowd that they are the dullest he’s ever encountered. His “recovery summer” blather is now mocked by pundits and political opponents. But just as no one ever really votes for the vice president in presidential elections, no one in the midterms really pays too much attention to the VP:

“Democrats have it in their heads that he is still more popular in a lot of blue-collar districts where Obama is having a toxic effect,” said David Wasserman, who tracks House races for the nonpartisan Cook Political Report. “To most voters, a Biden campaign visit doesn’t make President Obama disappear.”

For all his troubles, Biden may be traded to the State Department for Hillary Clinton in 2012. And then we can really see all that Biden knows about foreign policy. Well, he probably wouldn’t be any worse than the current secretary.

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Americans’ Own Experiences vs. Obama’s Rhetoric

The Obama recovery bears an uncanny resemblance to a recession. That’s the New York Times‘s take:

Less than a month before November elections, the United States is mired in a grim New Normal that could last for years. . . Call it recession or recovery, for tens of millions of Americans, there’s little difference.

Born of a record financial collapse, this recession has been more severe than any since the Great Depression and has left an enormous oversupply of houses and office buildings and crippling debt. The decision last week by leading mortgage lenders to freeze foreclosures, and calls for a national moratorium, could cast a long shadow of uncertainty over banks and the housing market. Put simply, the national economy has fallen so far that it could take years to climb back.

Or put differently, Obama’s economic policies have been entirely ineffective in addressing historically high unemployment and underemployment. The Times notes:

At the current rate of job creation, the nation would need nine more years to recapture the jobs lost during the recession. And that doesn’t even account for five million or six million jobs needed in that time to keep pace with an expanding population. Even top Obama officials concede the unemployment rate could climb higher still.

But Obama insists on a massive tax increase on the “rich” and a bevy of new regulations and mandates on employers. Certainly, nine more years of Obama-like policies aren’t going to bring unemployment down. As the Times examines the dreary economic conditions across the country, one is struck by the disconnect between the White House’s rhetoric and the economic predicament faced by Americans, as well as the equally vast disconnect between the administration’s anti-growth, anti-business policies and the economic challenges these people are facing.

In this economic climate, Obama’s hyper-partisan, desperate rhetoric seems particularly jarring. He’s talking about phony foreign donors to the Chamber of Commerce; in suburban Arizona, “subdivisions sit in the desert, some half-built and some dreamy wisps, like the emerald green putting green sitting amid acres of scrub and cacti. Signs offer discounts, distress sales and rent with the first and second month free. Discounts do not help if your income is cut in half.” Obama rails at Wall Street; in Cherry Hill, New Jersey, meanwhile, “home prices have fallen by 16 percent since 2006, and houses now take twice as long to sell as they did five years ago. That’s enough to inflict pain on homeowners who need to sell because of a job loss or drop in income. Some are being forced to get rid of their houses in short sales, asking less than they owe on a mortgage. As of last week, 10 percent of all listings in this well-tended suburb were being offered as short sales.” Obama is obsessed with George Bush and Citizens United; in Atlanta, “small banks are a particular disaster, 43 having gone under in Georgia since 2008. (Federal regulators closed 129 nationally this year, up from 25 last year.) Real estate was the beginning, the middle and the end of the troubles.”

No wonder Obama’s ratings are diving. He is talking about things that bear no relation to voters’ concerns. He insists his policies have worked, but voters’ own experiences tell them otherwise. Obama’s rhetoric against a growing list of political adversaries only reinforces the impression that he is focused on the wrong things. The analogy is not Jimmy Carter. It is Herbert Hoover by way of Richard Nixon.

The Obama recovery bears an uncanny resemblance to a recession. That’s the New York Times‘s take:

Less than a month before November elections, the United States is mired in a grim New Normal that could last for years. . . Call it recession or recovery, for tens of millions of Americans, there’s little difference.

Born of a record financial collapse, this recession has been more severe than any since the Great Depression and has left an enormous oversupply of houses and office buildings and crippling debt. The decision last week by leading mortgage lenders to freeze foreclosures, and calls for a national moratorium, could cast a long shadow of uncertainty over banks and the housing market. Put simply, the national economy has fallen so far that it could take years to climb back.

Or put differently, Obama’s economic policies have been entirely ineffective in addressing historically high unemployment and underemployment. The Times notes:

At the current rate of job creation, the nation would need nine more years to recapture the jobs lost during the recession. And that doesn’t even account for five million or six million jobs needed in that time to keep pace with an expanding population. Even top Obama officials concede the unemployment rate could climb higher still.

But Obama insists on a massive tax increase on the “rich” and a bevy of new regulations and mandates on employers. Certainly, nine more years of Obama-like policies aren’t going to bring unemployment down. As the Times examines the dreary economic conditions across the country, one is struck by the disconnect between the White House’s rhetoric and the economic predicament faced by Americans, as well as the equally vast disconnect between the administration’s anti-growth, anti-business policies and the economic challenges these people are facing.

In this economic climate, Obama’s hyper-partisan, desperate rhetoric seems particularly jarring. He’s talking about phony foreign donors to the Chamber of Commerce; in suburban Arizona, “subdivisions sit in the desert, some half-built and some dreamy wisps, like the emerald green putting green sitting amid acres of scrub and cacti. Signs offer discounts, distress sales and rent with the first and second month free. Discounts do not help if your income is cut in half.” Obama rails at Wall Street; in Cherry Hill, New Jersey, meanwhile, “home prices have fallen by 16 percent since 2006, and houses now take twice as long to sell as they did five years ago. That’s enough to inflict pain on homeowners who need to sell because of a job loss or drop in income. Some are being forced to get rid of their houses in short sales, asking less than they owe on a mortgage. As of last week, 10 percent of all listings in this well-tended suburb were being offered as short sales.” Obama is obsessed with George Bush and Citizens United; in Atlanta, “small banks are a particular disaster, 43 having gone under in Georgia since 2008. (Federal regulators closed 129 nationally this year, up from 25 last year.) Real estate was the beginning, the middle and the end of the troubles.”

No wonder Obama’s ratings are diving. He is talking about things that bear no relation to voters’ concerns. He insists his policies have worked, but voters’ own experiences tell them otherwise. Obama’s rhetoric against a growing list of political adversaries only reinforces the impression that he is focused on the wrong things. The analogy is not Jimmy Carter. It is Herbert Hoover by way of Richard Nixon.

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The Itty-Bitty Presidency

Obama started his presidency as an international political rock star. Europeans swooned. They gave him a Nobel Peace Prize just for showing up. The campaign had a messianic quality, and the presidency at least offered a respite from the Bush-bashing and the Clinton-hating. Even if the expectations were overblown and unrealistic, the vision was high-minded.

But unlike the vision, the actual president has turned out to be exceptionally small-minded. His enemies list has grown long — Fox News, the Chamber of Commerce, the “professional left,” talk show hosts, the lazy liberal base, the 24/7 media cycle, Wall Street, the House minority leader, and on it goes. He persists in reducing the prestige of his office and decimating the image of himself as a unifier. As Ed Gillespie has pointed out: “This kind of rhetoric and behavior only reinforces the idea that [Obama] is not up for the office. … It’s just the latest in a long litany of demons that they’ve tried to attack, going all the way back to Rush Limbaugh, John Boehner, Mitch McConnell … it’s what they do.”

It’s been a turn-off for independents, who find this sort of behavior unseemly, and it hasn’t — if this was the intention — managed to keep the base pumped up. Instead, Obama has elevated his opponents and further eroded his credibility. It’s a sign of tone-deafness both in the White House and in a president who temperamentally cannot tolerate dissent or criticism. He must vilify opponents, not simply rebut their arguments.

We will find out if this is a flawed strategy born of Chicago bully-boys or a reflection of the president’s core personality. The former is reversible, the latter probably isn’t. The liberal punditocracy has speculated that John Boehner and Mitch McConnell are no match for Obama and that Congress will overreach by appearing too confrontational. There is always that possibility. But those theories assume that the president has a winning persona and is adept at staying above the fray. His first two years have shown just the opposite.

The 2012 GOP primary voters will be looking for many qualities in a nominee — conservative values, executive competence, etc. But they would do well to look for a happy warrior; the contrast between such a figure and Obama may be quite compelling.

Obama started his presidency as an international political rock star. Europeans swooned. They gave him a Nobel Peace Prize just for showing up. The campaign had a messianic quality, and the presidency at least offered a respite from the Bush-bashing and the Clinton-hating. Even if the expectations were overblown and unrealistic, the vision was high-minded.

But unlike the vision, the actual president has turned out to be exceptionally small-minded. His enemies list has grown long — Fox News, the Chamber of Commerce, the “professional left,” talk show hosts, the lazy liberal base, the 24/7 media cycle, Wall Street, the House minority leader, and on it goes. He persists in reducing the prestige of his office and decimating the image of himself as a unifier. As Ed Gillespie has pointed out: “This kind of rhetoric and behavior only reinforces the idea that [Obama] is not up for the office. … It’s just the latest in a long litany of demons that they’ve tried to attack, going all the way back to Rush Limbaugh, John Boehner, Mitch McConnell … it’s what they do.”

It’s been a turn-off for independents, who find this sort of behavior unseemly, and it hasn’t — if this was the intention — managed to keep the base pumped up. Instead, Obama has elevated his opponents and further eroded his credibility. It’s a sign of tone-deafness both in the White House and in a president who temperamentally cannot tolerate dissent or criticism. He must vilify opponents, not simply rebut their arguments.

We will find out if this is a flawed strategy born of Chicago bully-boys or a reflection of the president’s core personality. The former is reversible, the latter probably isn’t. The liberal punditocracy has speculated that John Boehner and Mitch McConnell are no match for Obama and that Congress will overreach by appearing too confrontational. There is always that possibility. But those theories assume that the president has a winning persona and is adept at staying above the fray. His first two years have shown just the opposite.

The 2012 GOP primary voters will be looking for many qualities in a nominee — conservative values, executive competence, etc. But they would do well to look for a happy warrior; the contrast between such a figure and Obama may be quite compelling.

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Another Attempt to Distract, Another Losing Issue

Obama’s attack on the Chamber of Commerce for its imaginary foreign donors hasn’t succeeded in distracting voters. Gallup reports:

Creating jobs and securing the country’s borders are most top-of-mind when Americans are asked what the federal government is currently not doing that it should be doing. …

The poll also asked the reverse question — what is the federal government currently doing that it should not be doing? Overall, Americans are somewhat less likely to offer a specific response on this question (71% do), with healthcare legislation most commonly mentioned, by 18%.

Let’s see, the items voters care most about are the items Obama has done nothing about (immigration reform) or has made worse through his policies (taxing, regulating, passing mandates on employers).

Aside from it’s falsity, the Chamber of Commerce attack is peculiar. It’s not directly aimed at the GOP. (What is he saying, “Don’t elect Republicans because they may have taken money from the chamber, which I am accusing without evidence has foreign contributors“?) And it blows to smithereens the White House’s claim that the administration isn’t anti-business. Liberal blogger Greg Sargent observes:

The full-scale assault from the White House and Dems on the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and Karl Rove’s groups shows no signs of abating. But is it already a political flop?

Some commentators are rushing to proclaim this offensive a political failure. Mark Halperin, for instance, wondered allowed today: “I’m not sure how this appeals to voters.” Halperin then stated this as outright fact: “It’s just not relevant to voters.”

Republicans are now entering the fray — and they, too, agree it’s a political flop, claiming that it will make Dems look anti-business. “All that Democrats have done is remind people of their anti-business fervor while drawing attention to the fact that their anti-growth policies have failed to put Americans back to work,” reads a statement from Eric Cantor’s office.

Well, it’s not the first, nor I suspect the last, desperate stunt and irrelevant issue Obama will toss out in the next three weeks. And it sure isn’t going to help Chuck Schumer raise big bucks from Wall Street. Like much of what the White House does, the chamber gambit has very little upside and quite some downside for the Democrats. The GOP can hardly believe its good fortune.

Obama’s attack on the Chamber of Commerce for its imaginary foreign donors hasn’t succeeded in distracting voters. Gallup reports:

Creating jobs and securing the country’s borders are most top-of-mind when Americans are asked what the federal government is currently not doing that it should be doing. …

The poll also asked the reverse question — what is the federal government currently doing that it should not be doing? Overall, Americans are somewhat less likely to offer a specific response on this question (71% do), with healthcare legislation most commonly mentioned, by 18%.

Let’s see, the items voters care most about are the items Obama has done nothing about (immigration reform) or has made worse through his policies (taxing, regulating, passing mandates on employers).

Aside from it’s falsity, the Chamber of Commerce attack is peculiar. It’s not directly aimed at the GOP. (What is he saying, “Don’t elect Republicans because they may have taken money from the chamber, which I am accusing without evidence has foreign contributors“?) And it blows to smithereens the White House’s claim that the administration isn’t anti-business. Liberal blogger Greg Sargent observes:

The full-scale assault from the White House and Dems on the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and Karl Rove’s groups shows no signs of abating. But is it already a political flop?

Some commentators are rushing to proclaim this offensive a political failure. Mark Halperin, for instance, wondered allowed today: “I’m not sure how this appeals to voters.” Halperin then stated this as outright fact: “It’s just not relevant to voters.”

Republicans are now entering the fray — and they, too, agree it’s a political flop, claiming that it will make Dems look anti-business. “All that Democrats have done is remind people of their anti-business fervor while drawing attention to the fact that their anti-growth policies have failed to put Americans back to work,” reads a statement from Eric Cantor’s office.

Well, it’s not the first, nor I suspect the last, desperate stunt and irrelevant issue Obama will toss out in the next three weeks. And it sure isn’t going to help Chuck Schumer raise big bucks from Wall Street. Like much of what the White House does, the chamber gambit has very little upside and quite some downside for the Democrats. The GOP can hardly believe its good fortune.

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Where Is Obama Going?

Obama is now politically toxic in many states. So where is he going on the campaign trail? The White House schedule is telling. He’s going to Delaware, where the Democrat is already running away with the race. He’s going to Massachusetts, the bluest state until the voters disregarded his advice and elected Scott Brown. He’s going to California and Nevada, but for fundraisers, not big public events. He’s going to Rhode Island (Rhode Island?), where one supposes he can do no harm.

The number of competitive races in which he is holding public events is limited to Washington (Patty Murray), Minnesota (gubernatorial candidate Mark Dayton), and Ohio (Gov. Ted Strickland). That’s it. And he better be careful in both Washington (where a large plurality think his economic policies have hurt more than they’ve helped) and Ohio (where his approval rating has plummeted). Oh, and he’s going to Oregon for the Democratic gubernatorial candidate, who had this to say:

Oregon’s Democratic candidate for governor said Tuesday that President Obama’s health care reform bill will be a “toxic” issue in 2012 unless states are given the opportunity to address the problem of rising medical costs. …

“I supported the passage of the bill but I think we need to recognize that this was really health insurance reform and not health care reform,” he said in an interview over coffee at a Portland diner. “What it’s done is provided most people in the country financial access to medical care by 2014. The problem is it didn’t deal with the underlying cost drivers, and those are embedded in the delivery system.”

Should be a fun campaign trip.

It’s tricky finding places where Obama won’t do damage to the candidates he’s supposed to be helping. The White House seems to think gubernatorial races are “safer” for Obama than the Senate contests, where all those unpopular votes on the stimulus, ObamaCare, etc., are sure to come up. But the reality of a 24/7 news environment is that wherever Obama goes, he makes the news — and Republican Senate and House candidates have the benefit of free media to remind voters across the country whose agenda they are opposed to and who has been making all those silly promises (e.g., ObamaCare will save money). Unfortunately for the Dems, you really can’t hide the president of the United States.

Obama is now politically toxic in many states. So where is he going on the campaign trail? The White House schedule is telling. He’s going to Delaware, where the Democrat is already running away with the race. He’s going to Massachusetts, the bluest state until the voters disregarded his advice and elected Scott Brown. He’s going to California and Nevada, but for fundraisers, not big public events. He’s going to Rhode Island (Rhode Island?), where one supposes he can do no harm.

The number of competitive races in which he is holding public events is limited to Washington (Patty Murray), Minnesota (gubernatorial candidate Mark Dayton), and Ohio (Gov. Ted Strickland). That’s it. And he better be careful in both Washington (where a large plurality think his economic policies have hurt more than they’ve helped) and Ohio (where his approval rating has plummeted). Oh, and he’s going to Oregon for the Democratic gubernatorial candidate, who had this to say:

Oregon’s Democratic candidate for governor said Tuesday that President Obama’s health care reform bill will be a “toxic” issue in 2012 unless states are given the opportunity to address the problem of rising medical costs. …

“I supported the passage of the bill but I think we need to recognize that this was really health insurance reform and not health care reform,” he said in an interview over coffee at a Portland diner. “What it’s done is provided most people in the country financial access to medical care by 2014. The problem is it didn’t deal with the underlying cost drivers, and those are embedded in the delivery system.”

Should be a fun campaign trip.

It’s tricky finding places where Obama won’t do damage to the candidates he’s supposed to be helping. The White House seems to think gubernatorial races are “safer” for Obama than the Senate contests, where all those unpopular votes on the stimulus, ObamaCare, etc., are sure to come up. But the reality of a 24/7 news environment is that wherever Obama goes, he makes the news — and Republican Senate and House candidates have the benefit of free media to remind voters across the country whose agenda they are opposed to and who has been making all those silly promises (e.g., ObamaCare will save money). Unfortunately for the Dems, you really can’t hide the president of the United States.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Only now does Barney Frank fess up that he missed the Freddie and Fannie debacle. “I was too late to see they were a problem. … I did see them as an important source of rental housing. I did not foresee the extent to which bad decisions … were causing problems.” But Obama said it was all Bush’s fault.

It is not only Jews, young people, and Hispanics who are disenchanted with Obama. “The White House may view the last 18 months as historic, racking up a legislative scorecard that includes a $787 billion stimulus package and an overhaul of the health care system. A majority of women, however, see it as a failure, according to a new poll conducted by Kellyanne Conway for The Kitchen Cabinet, a conservative women’s group. … Fifty-six percent of women consider the health care reform law a failure, while 29 percent view it as a success, according to the poll. The economic stimulus package is viewed only slightly more favorably: 53 percent say it was a failure, while 34 percent say it was a success.”

Only Obama and Joe Biden think the economy is getting better. “Gallup’s Economic Confidence Index in September found 65% of independents saying the economy is ‘getting worse,’ tying July’s reading for their highest pessimism of the year, and similar to August. Independents’ views of the economy align much more closely with Republicans’ than with Democrats’, and are worse than they were a year ago, when 58% said the economy was getting worse.”

Only yesterday, it seems, Sharron Angle was labeled an unelectable crackpot. Now: “Former Nevada state Assemblywoman Sharron Angle (R) raised an eye-popping $14 million between July 1 and Sept. 30 for her challenge to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D), a stunning number that far eclipses the cash-collection totals of other prominent candidates seeking Senate seats next month.”

Only three weeks to go before the midterms. So it’s time to throw in the towel on the job-killing deepwater-drilling moratorium. “The Obama administration announced Tuesday it is lifting the controversial freeze on deepwater oil-and-gas drilling imposed after the BP oil spill began.”

Only one more lie by J Street revealed yesterday. It was in that regard a better day than most. Their non-denial denial and blatant excising of the record are now familiar tactics.

Not only Jeremy Ben-Ami has problems. Joe Sestak is getting slammed for taking J Street money. Will he give it back?

Only the White House thinks it’s a good idea to make up allegations aimed at the Chamber of Commerce: “In a potential sign of Democratic unease with the White House midterm political strategy, some of President Obama’s allies have begun to question his sustained attack on the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which has long claimed bipartisanship but is being increasingly identified as a GOP ally. Some Democrats on Capitol Hill worry that the White House is going too far in charging that the politically powerful business lobby may be using foreign money to fuel its election efforts. The charge ignites strong feelings among job-hungry voters. But Democrats are concerned that it may be overstated and could harm moderate Democrats in swing districts.”

Only now does Barney Frank fess up that he missed the Freddie and Fannie debacle. “I was too late to see they were a problem. … I did see them as an important source of rental housing. I did not foresee the extent to which bad decisions … were causing problems.” But Obama said it was all Bush’s fault.

It is not only Jews, young people, and Hispanics who are disenchanted with Obama. “The White House may view the last 18 months as historic, racking up a legislative scorecard that includes a $787 billion stimulus package and an overhaul of the health care system. A majority of women, however, see it as a failure, according to a new poll conducted by Kellyanne Conway for The Kitchen Cabinet, a conservative women’s group. … Fifty-six percent of women consider the health care reform law a failure, while 29 percent view it as a success, according to the poll. The economic stimulus package is viewed only slightly more favorably: 53 percent say it was a failure, while 34 percent say it was a success.”

Only Obama and Joe Biden think the economy is getting better. “Gallup’s Economic Confidence Index in September found 65% of independents saying the economy is ‘getting worse,’ tying July’s reading for their highest pessimism of the year, and similar to August. Independents’ views of the economy align much more closely with Republicans’ than with Democrats’, and are worse than they were a year ago, when 58% said the economy was getting worse.”

Only yesterday, it seems, Sharron Angle was labeled an unelectable crackpot. Now: “Former Nevada state Assemblywoman Sharron Angle (R) raised an eye-popping $14 million between July 1 and Sept. 30 for her challenge to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D), a stunning number that far eclipses the cash-collection totals of other prominent candidates seeking Senate seats next month.”

Only three weeks to go before the midterms. So it’s time to throw in the towel on the job-killing deepwater-drilling moratorium. “The Obama administration announced Tuesday it is lifting the controversial freeze on deepwater oil-and-gas drilling imposed after the BP oil spill began.”

Only one more lie by J Street revealed yesterday. It was in that regard a better day than most. Their non-denial denial and blatant excising of the record are now familiar tactics.

Not only Jeremy Ben-Ami has problems. Joe Sestak is getting slammed for taking J Street money. Will he give it back?

Only the White House thinks it’s a good idea to make up allegations aimed at the Chamber of Commerce: “In a potential sign of Democratic unease with the White House midterm political strategy, some of President Obama’s allies have begun to question his sustained attack on the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which has long claimed bipartisanship but is being increasingly identified as a GOP ally. Some Democrats on Capitol Hill worry that the White House is going too far in charging that the politically powerful business lobby may be using foreign money to fuel its election efforts. The charge ignites strong feelings among job-hungry voters. But Democrats are concerned that it may be overstated and could harm moderate Democrats in swing districts.”

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