Commentary Magazine


Posts For: October 18, 2010

The Muslim Brotherhood Takes Off Its Mask

Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood was never a “moderate” organization. I briefly interviewed their spokesman many years ago, and it could not have been more obvious that I was dealing with a dissembler. I know moderate Muslims when I see them, and these guys aren’t even in the same time zone.

Recently, though, for reasons I’m not quite sure about yet, they decided to stop playing the game, and we can thank Barry Rubin for paying particularly close attention to this development.

In calling for jihad against America, the West and Israel in terms virtually identical with Osama bin Laden’s rhetoric, the leader of Egypt’s powerful Muslim Brotherhood uttered one sentence that explains the contemporary Middle East.

Here it is: “The improvement and change that the [Muslim] nation seeks can only be attained through jihad and sacrifice and by raising a jihadi generation that pursues death just as its enemies pursue life.”

The Muslim Brotherhood is not a militia. It can’t seize the capital, and it can’t take on the army. It doesn’t control a state within a state, as Hamas and Hezbollah do. It can’t start a war with another country or draw in foreign powers. It can’t win an election, because Hosni Mubarak’s regime rigs the system. It does, however, have an enormous amount of clout on the streets.

I’ve been to more than a dozen Muslim countries and seen for myself how extraordinarily diverse they are. Some are as secular and irreligious as the nations of Western Europe. Egypt, though, is by far the most politically Islamicized place I’ve ever seen. And by that I don’t mean that Egyptians are more likely to pray and go to the mosque than people in other countries. The Kurds of Iraq are by and large conservative Muslims, but political Islamism barely registers there and is held in contempt by the majority.

In Egypt, it’s different, and you can see it and feel it in Cairo. The liberal and moderate Egyptians I spoke to were keenly aware that they’re part of a small minority that has no political future right now.

One reason for this is that Egypt’s current secular government — which is a less-ideological continuation of the Arab Nationalist regime founded by Gamal Abdel Nasser and his Free Officer’s Movement — has failed Egypt spectacularly in almost every possible way. Egypt’s experience with secular modernity has been a miserable one, and the Muslim Brotherhood’s slogan, “Islam is the solution,” sounds plausible to millions of people.

That isn’t the only reason, of course. Albanians fared far worse under the secular Communist regime of Enver Hoxha — which was similar in a lot ways to Kim Il-Sung’s in North Korea — yet Islamism never caught on there. No single explanation will suffice in Egypt or anywhere else.

Still, Mubarak’s ideology and government is rejected by a huge number of Egyptians for many of the same reasons the Shah’s regime in Iran was in the late 1970s. The Muslim Brotherhood will be a likely replacement if Mubarak’s government implodes or is overthrown. Given that the Brotherhood is becoming more extreme rather than less, the West may want to brace itself.

Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood was never a “moderate” organization. I briefly interviewed their spokesman many years ago, and it could not have been more obvious that I was dealing with a dissembler. I know moderate Muslims when I see them, and these guys aren’t even in the same time zone.

Recently, though, for reasons I’m not quite sure about yet, they decided to stop playing the game, and we can thank Barry Rubin for paying particularly close attention to this development.

In calling for jihad against America, the West and Israel in terms virtually identical with Osama bin Laden’s rhetoric, the leader of Egypt’s powerful Muslim Brotherhood uttered one sentence that explains the contemporary Middle East.

Here it is: “The improvement and change that the [Muslim] nation seeks can only be attained through jihad and sacrifice and by raising a jihadi generation that pursues death just as its enemies pursue life.”

The Muslim Brotherhood is not a militia. It can’t seize the capital, and it can’t take on the army. It doesn’t control a state within a state, as Hamas and Hezbollah do. It can’t start a war with another country or draw in foreign powers. It can’t win an election, because Hosni Mubarak’s regime rigs the system. It does, however, have an enormous amount of clout on the streets.

I’ve been to more than a dozen Muslim countries and seen for myself how extraordinarily diverse they are. Some are as secular and irreligious as the nations of Western Europe. Egypt, though, is by far the most politically Islamicized place I’ve ever seen. And by that I don’t mean that Egyptians are more likely to pray and go to the mosque than people in other countries. The Kurds of Iraq are by and large conservative Muslims, but political Islamism barely registers there and is held in contempt by the majority.

In Egypt, it’s different, and you can see it and feel it in Cairo. The liberal and moderate Egyptians I spoke to were keenly aware that they’re part of a small minority that has no political future right now.

One reason for this is that Egypt’s current secular government — which is a less-ideological continuation of the Arab Nationalist regime founded by Gamal Abdel Nasser and his Free Officer’s Movement — has failed Egypt spectacularly in almost every possible way. Egypt’s experience with secular modernity has been a miserable one, and the Muslim Brotherhood’s slogan, “Islam is the solution,” sounds plausible to millions of people.

That isn’t the only reason, of course. Albanians fared far worse under the secular Communist regime of Enver Hoxha — which was similar in a lot ways to Kim Il-Sung’s in North Korea — yet Islamism never caught on there. No single explanation will suffice in Egypt or anywhere else.

Still, Mubarak’s ideology and government is rejected by a huge number of Egyptians for many of the same reasons the Shah’s regime in Iran was in the late 1970s. The Muslim Brotherhood will be a likely replacement if Mubarak’s government implodes or is overthrown. Given that the Brotherhood is becoming more extreme rather than less, the West may want to brace itself.

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Tom Brokaw Discusses the Role of the Wars in the Upcoming Election

In his op-ed in the New York Times, Tom Brokaw, special correspondent for NBC News, points out that there’s no shortage of discussion about some large issues facing the country: the role and nature of the federal government in America’s future, public debt, jobs, health care, the influence of special interests, and the role of populist movements like the Tea Party. “In nearly every Congressional and Senate race, these are the issues that explode into attack ads, score points in debates and light up cable talk shows. In poll after poll, these are the issues that voters say are most important to them this year,” Brokaw writes. “Notice anything missing on the campaign landscape?”

Brokaw proceeds to answer his own question:

How about war? The United States is now in its ninth year of fighting in Afghanistan and Iraq, the longest wars in American history. Almost 5,000 men and women have been killed. More than 30,000 have been wounded, some so gravely they’re returning home to become, effectively, wards of their families and communities.

In those nine years, the United States has spent more than $1 trillion on combat operations and other parts of the war effort, including foreign aid, reconstruction projects, embassy costs and veterans’ health care. And the end is not in sight.

So why aren’t the wars and their human and economic consequences front and center in this campaign, right up there with jobs and taxes?

Notice anything missing from the description of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars?

How about something positive they have achieved — the end of two of the most malevolent regimes in modern history; a crucial defeat for al-Qaeda on a battleground of its own choosing (in Iraq); and the installation of representative governments in lands where such a thing has been alien, just for starters. In Iraq, you could add the toppling of and eventual death sentence administered to a man, Saddam Hussein, responsible for the deaths of more than a million Muslims. And in Afghanistan, you could add unprecedented rights for women.

Now, some of these gains remain tentative, and they many even prove to be temporary. We simply don’t know at this juncture. But to frame the Afghanistan and Iraq wars only in terms of their costs in American lives and treasure and to leave out any of the honorable and important achievements of the wars is irresponsible. It’s also revealing of the attitude of many contemporary liberals, who view the wars only through the lens of suffering and sacrifice.

I would add something else as well: one reason Iraq is a virtual non-issue in the 2010 election is precisely because things have improved so much from the dark days in 2006 and 2007, when Iraq, then on the edge of civil war, dominated American politics. The fact that it has dropped off the radar screen is an indication of the very progress Brokaw himself cannot seem to acknowledge.

There is no denying that there has been plenty of suffering as a result of these wars, as there are in all wars. But there have also been encouraging and heartening achievements by our troops, to which they themselves are eager to testify. The fact that Brokaw would see the sacrifice this nation and its warriors have made and yet pay no tribute to the many good things that have come to pass as a result of those sacrifices is a shame. Our troops don’t want or need to be treated as pitiable figures who have suffered in vain; most of them simply want to be treated as what they are: brave and honorable individuals who have achieved remarkable, and maybe historic, things.

In his op-ed in the New York Times, Tom Brokaw, special correspondent for NBC News, points out that there’s no shortage of discussion about some large issues facing the country: the role and nature of the federal government in America’s future, public debt, jobs, health care, the influence of special interests, and the role of populist movements like the Tea Party. “In nearly every Congressional and Senate race, these are the issues that explode into attack ads, score points in debates and light up cable talk shows. In poll after poll, these are the issues that voters say are most important to them this year,” Brokaw writes. “Notice anything missing on the campaign landscape?”

Brokaw proceeds to answer his own question:

How about war? The United States is now in its ninth year of fighting in Afghanistan and Iraq, the longest wars in American history. Almost 5,000 men and women have been killed. More than 30,000 have been wounded, some so gravely they’re returning home to become, effectively, wards of their families and communities.

In those nine years, the United States has spent more than $1 trillion on combat operations and other parts of the war effort, including foreign aid, reconstruction projects, embassy costs and veterans’ health care. And the end is not in sight.

So why aren’t the wars and their human and economic consequences front and center in this campaign, right up there with jobs and taxes?

Notice anything missing from the description of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars?

How about something positive they have achieved — the end of two of the most malevolent regimes in modern history; a crucial defeat for al-Qaeda on a battleground of its own choosing (in Iraq); and the installation of representative governments in lands where such a thing has been alien, just for starters. In Iraq, you could add the toppling of and eventual death sentence administered to a man, Saddam Hussein, responsible for the deaths of more than a million Muslims. And in Afghanistan, you could add unprecedented rights for women.

Now, some of these gains remain tentative, and they many even prove to be temporary. We simply don’t know at this juncture. But to frame the Afghanistan and Iraq wars only in terms of their costs in American lives and treasure and to leave out any of the honorable and important achievements of the wars is irresponsible. It’s also revealing of the attitude of many contemporary liberals, who view the wars only through the lens of suffering and sacrifice.

I would add something else as well: one reason Iraq is a virtual non-issue in the 2010 election is precisely because things have improved so much from the dark days in 2006 and 2007, when Iraq, then on the edge of civil war, dominated American politics. The fact that it has dropped off the radar screen is an indication of the very progress Brokaw himself cannot seem to acknowledge.

There is no denying that there has been plenty of suffering as a result of these wars, as there are in all wars. But there have also been encouraging and heartening achievements by our troops, to which they themselves are eager to testify. The fact that Brokaw would see the sacrifice this nation and its warriors have made and yet pay no tribute to the many good things that have come to pass as a result of those sacrifices is a shame. Our troops don’t want or need to be treated as pitiable figures who have suffered in vain; most of them simply want to be treated as what they are: brave and honorable individuals who have achieved remarkable, and maybe historic, things.

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Barack Obama Can’t Handle the Truth

In the well-known line from the movie A Few Good Men, Jack Nicholson tells Tom Cruise, “You can’t handle the truth!” It appears as if President Obama is finding himself in a similar predicament.

I base this conclusion on the president’s comments at a fundraising event on Saturday in West Newton, Massachusetts, where he said this:

Part of the reason that our politics seems so tough right now and facts and science and argument does not seem to be winning the day all the time is because we’re hardwired not to always think clearly when we’re scared. And the country’s scared.

According to press reports, the president told the several dozen donors that he was offering them his “view from the Oval Office.” He faulted the economic downturn for Americans’ inability to “think clearly” and said the burden is on the Democrats “to break through the fear and the frustration people are feeling.”

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In the well-known line from the movie A Few Good Men, Jack Nicholson tells Tom Cruise, “You can’t handle the truth!” It appears as if President Obama is finding himself in a similar predicament.

I base this conclusion on the president’s comments at a fundraising event on Saturday in West Newton, Massachusetts, where he said this:

Part of the reason that our politics seems so tough right now and facts and science and argument does not seem to be winning the day all the time is because we’re hardwired not to always think clearly when we’re scared. And the country’s scared.

According to press reports, the president told the several dozen donors that he was offering them his “view from the Oval Office.” He faulted the economic downturn for Americans’ inability to “think clearly” and said the burden is on the Democrats “to break through the fear and the frustration people are feeling.”

The views expressed by Obama are not new to him; he made similar comments at a fundraising event in San Francisco during the 2008 campaign, when he said, in discussing blue-collar Pennsylvanians who had seen their standard of living decline, “It’s not surprising then they get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren’t like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations.” Mr. Obama seems to have a particular weakness for saying supremely condescending things about the American people when speaking in front of rich liberals.

Part of the explanation for this may be a tendency for the president to pander to his base. And part of it may be a variation of what psychiatrists call Impulse Control Disorder, the tendency to seek short-term gain that ultimately proves harmful. (This explanation is appealing because the strategy of painting opposition to Obama’s agenda — which now includes a clear majority of the American people — as benighted is quite insane. But Obama may believe this and find himself unable to keep those views private.)

My hunch, though, is that what’s mostly at play here is vanity on a scale we are simply not familiar with — and a need to do what academics refer to as creating a narrative.

Mr. Obama clearly views himself as a world-historical figure. His election, he informed us, was going to heal the planet and slow the rise of the oceans. “This is our moment, this is our time,” Obama said time and again during the 2008 campaign. His goal was nothing less than “a nation healed, a world repaired, an America that believes again.” He was going to put people back to work and restore prosperity and promote the cause of peace. As president, Mr. Obama would end wars and convince America’s enemies to beat their swords into plowshares.

None of this has been achieved. The president’s ambitions mostly lie in ruins, his agenda has become radioactive, his party is on the cusp of an election-year thrashing perhaps unlike anything we’ve seen in our lifetimes. For a man of Obama’s self-regard, these failures must be rooted in something other than his own mistakes in judgment. And so, according to the president, they are.

It turns out that the problems lie not with Mr. Obama or even the stars; they lie with the American polity. The country should be seen as a small child — dazed and confused, scared to the point of having lost its senses. The situation in America is so bad, the level of irrationality so great, the ignorance so widespread, that even the preternatural precision and wisdom of the president’s arguments cannot carry the day. That seems to be the cast of mind of the man now inhabiting the Oval Office.

The president is also, consciously or not, creating a narrative to explain the defeat he and his party are about to be administered. The reasons are multiple — from the latent bigotry and racism of the Tea Party movement, to the lies of the GOP, to foreign-money corruption our politics, to the inability of the voting public to think clearly.

All this is nonsense, of course – and, for Obama, it is self-destructive. All of us, including political leaders, experience hardships and setbacks in life. In order to succeed, we need to respond to them in a way that is both honest and intelligent. And for that to happen, we need to see things as they are. We need to be grounded enough, and humble enough, to comprehend errors of our making. That is the sine qua non for adjusting to new facts and circumstances and to interpreting experiences in a way that will be beneficial.

President Obama seems almost incapable of such a thing. Rather, he is busily constructing an alternate reality. He is choosing to live in a world that begins with “Once upon a time.”

The president of the United States, it appears, can’t handle the truth. He and his party will suffer mightily because of is. So, alas, will our country.

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The Least-Smart Diplomat of Them All

Jackson Diehl is the latest Middle East watcher to figure out what went wrong with the non-direct, non-peace talks:

For 15 years and more, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas conducted peace talks with Israel in the absence of a freeze on Jewish settlement construction in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. Now, it appears as likely as not that his newborn negotiations with Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu — and their goal of agreement on a Palestinian state within a year — will expire because of Abbas’s refusal to talk in the absence of such a freeze. …

So why does Abbas stubbornly persist in his self-defeating position? In an interview with Israeli television Sunday night, he offered a remarkably candid explanation: “When Obama came to power, he is the one who announced that settlement activity must be stopped,” he said. “If America says it and Europe says it and the whole world says it, you want me not to say it?”

Well, yes. Just as many conservative critics have been saying — the immediate problem is a self-created one (“the settlement impasse originated not with Netanyahu or Abbas, but with Obama — who by insisting on an Israeli freeze has created a near-insuperable obstacle to the peace process he is trying to promote”). The longer-term problem is that the PA is not ready and able to make an enforceable peace agreement that recognizes the Jewish state. That, too, Abbas has candidly admitted.

You say, but doesn’t Dennis Ross or George Mitchell or Hillary Clinton know better? Maybe not. But even if they do, Obama is running the show, and he plainly doesn’t. Obama and his political hacks David Axelrod and Rahm Emanuel may have figured they could topple the Bibi government. But when that didn’t occur, what was the rationale for reintroducing the issue in September? The most generous explanation is that Obama is a novice and unteachable when it comes to the Middle East. A cynic would say that Obama knows very well that the PA can’t make a deal and would rather put the screws on Israel than figure out a way to keep the talks going.

Either way, Obama’s team has achieved some domestic bipartisan consensus here in the U.S.: his administration screwed this up, the PA is intransigent, and it is high time we stopped blaming Israel. For that, I suppose, we can be grateful.

Jackson Diehl is the latest Middle East watcher to figure out what went wrong with the non-direct, non-peace talks:

For 15 years and more, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas conducted peace talks with Israel in the absence of a freeze on Jewish settlement construction in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. Now, it appears as likely as not that his newborn negotiations with Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu — and their goal of agreement on a Palestinian state within a year — will expire because of Abbas’s refusal to talk in the absence of such a freeze. …

So why does Abbas stubbornly persist in his self-defeating position? In an interview with Israeli television Sunday night, he offered a remarkably candid explanation: “When Obama came to power, he is the one who announced that settlement activity must be stopped,” he said. “If America says it and Europe says it and the whole world says it, you want me not to say it?”

Well, yes. Just as many conservative critics have been saying — the immediate problem is a self-created one (“the settlement impasse originated not with Netanyahu or Abbas, but with Obama — who by insisting on an Israeli freeze has created a near-insuperable obstacle to the peace process he is trying to promote”). The longer-term problem is that the PA is not ready and able to make an enforceable peace agreement that recognizes the Jewish state. That, too, Abbas has candidly admitted.

You say, but doesn’t Dennis Ross or George Mitchell or Hillary Clinton know better? Maybe not. But even if they do, Obama is running the show, and he plainly doesn’t. Obama and his political hacks David Axelrod and Rahm Emanuel may have figured they could topple the Bibi government. But when that didn’t occur, what was the rationale for reintroducing the issue in September? The most generous explanation is that Obama is a novice and unteachable when it comes to the Middle East. A cynic would say that Obama knows very well that the PA can’t make a deal and would rather put the screws on Israel than figure out a way to keep the talks going.

Either way, Obama’s team has achieved some domestic bipartisan consensus here in the U.S.: his administration screwed this up, the PA is intransigent, and it is high time we stopped blaming Israel. For that, I suppose, we can be grateful.

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Obama’s Education, and Ours

The Obama administration has come to learn that its two most significant achievements — the stimulus and ObamaCare — are fundamentally flawed. President Obama’s admission that “there’s no such thing as shovel-ready projects” is to the stimulus what Ronald Reagan’s praising the freedoms of the Soviet Union would have been to the Cold War: a vitiation of the president’s political ideology. The same can be said for the administration’s granting waivers to big companies and unions, freeing almost 1 million employees from the ill effects of his health-care plan.

So the president is getting an education. Kind of like a school where the $862 billion tuition is picked up by the public and word problems describe real people in real circumstances. If unemployment is at 7.7 percent and you invest $7 billion of taxpayer money in the study of ant behavior, sage grouse mortality, and corporate travel and the refurbishment of abandoned forts, how many speeches attacking George W. Bush will you have to make before November?

Those opposed to the stimulus were not the reactive “party of no”; they were the party of knowing. They knew that warped incentives and listless bureaucracies make governments inefficient producers and employers. There is no such thing as a shovel-ready government project, because government cannot swing into therapeutic action the way liberals like to think. Conservatives know something else Barack Obama has yet to cover: there are shovel-ready jobs — in the private sector. At any given time, this country is bursting with entrepreneurs, Americans with blueprints and business plans on which they’re willing to stake everything. Perhaps next semester, Obama will learn about creating a friendly financial environment that allows small businesses to break ground, succeed, and hire. For now, it’s hampering regulations and looming taxes all the way.

The health-care-law exemptions granted to McDonald’s, the United Federation of Teachers, and 28 other employers expose the unfeasibility of ObamaCare at its core. The lucky parties didn’t want to incur the costs of phasing out annual caps on employee medical coverage. There is no reason to think doing so will be easier for employers who have not yet sought waivers. What did not work for McDonald’s and others will not work, period. The flood of objections has yet to begin. The waivers also threaten America’s claim to being a country of laws, not men. If every one of the president’s learned lessons results in a corresponding hall pass administered by the federal government, we will soon have compromised the legal framework vital to the conservation of an advanced and civilized society.

Even as Obama learns, he unlearns. He has not backed away from either the folly of stimulus or the debacle of ObamaCare. Similar to most educations today, his is as expensive as it is worthless. Like insuring more patients or cutting costs and surging forces or drawing down troops, the poles of ignorance and knowledge merely represent another false choice requiring no presidential decision. He’s seen the light but prefers the dark. “Obama 2.0,” as the administration conceives it, will involve more detailed explanations of the same bad policies. The rest of the country doesn’t enjoy this executive luxury. In a couple of weeks, concerned Americans will face a political choice that’s as real as it gets. It is unlikely that their education, hard earned these past 20 months, will go to waste.

The Obama administration has come to learn that its two most significant achievements — the stimulus and ObamaCare — are fundamentally flawed. President Obama’s admission that “there’s no such thing as shovel-ready projects” is to the stimulus what Ronald Reagan’s praising the freedoms of the Soviet Union would have been to the Cold War: a vitiation of the president’s political ideology. The same can be said for the administration’s granting waivers to big companies and unions, freeing almost 1 million employees from the ill effects of his health-care plan.

So the president is getting an education. Kind of like a school where the $862 billion tuition is picked up by the public and word problems describe real people in real circumstances. If unemployment is at 7.7 percent and you invest $7 billion of taxpayer money in the study of ant behavior, sage grouse mortality, and corporate travel and the refurbishment of abandoned forts, how many speeches attacking George W. Bush will you have to make before November?

Those opposed to the stimulus were not the reactive “party of no”; they were the party of knowing. They knew that warped incentives and listless bureaucracies make governments inefficient producers and employers. There is no such thing as a shovel-ready government project, because government cannot swing into therapeutic action the way liberals like to think. Conservatives know something else Barack Obama has yet to cover: there are shovel-ready jobs — in the private sector. At any given time, this country is bursting with entrepreneurs, Americans with blueprints and business plans on which they’re willing to stake everything. Perhaps next semester, Obama will learn about creating a friendly financial environment that allows small businesses to break ground, succeed, and hire. For now, it’s hampering regulations and looming taxes all the way.

The health-care-law exemptions granted to McDonald’s, the United Federation of Teachers, and 28 other employers expose the unfeasibility of ObamaCare at its core. The lucky parties didn’t want to incur the costs of phasing out annual caps on employee medical coverage. There is no reason to think doing so will be easier for employers who have not yet sought waivers. What did not work for McDonald’s and others will not work, period. The flood of objections has yet to begin. The waivers also threaten America’s claim to being a country of laws, not men. If every one of the president’s learned lessons results in a corresponding hall pass administered by the federal government, we will soon have compromised the legal framework vital to the conservation of an advanced and civilized society.

Even as Obama learns, he unlearns. He has not backed away from either the folly of stimulus or the debacle of ObamaCare. Similar to most educations today, his is as expensive as it is worthless. Like insuring more patients or cutting costs and surging forces or drawing down troops, the poles of ignorance and knowledge merely represent another false choice requiring no presidential decision. He’s seen the light but prefers the dark. “Obama 2.0,” as the administration conceives it, will involve more detailed explanations of the same bad policies. The rest of the country doesn’t enjoy this executive luxury. In a couple of weeks, concerned Americans will face a political choice that’s as real as it gets. It is unlikely that their education, hard earned these past 20 months, will go to waste.

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The Race to Baghdad

In a sense, it doesn’t matter whether Americans think Iran has too much influence in Iraq. Sunnis, in both Iraq and the larger region, increasingly think Iran has too much influence there — and that’s what matters to developments on the ground. Iraqi Sunnis have friends in Saudi Arabia and Egypt, but they are also a natural recruiting ground for al-Qaeda. A Sunni revolt against Iranian influence will not be carried out in the Iraqi editorial pages.

The pace of events has accelerated in the last two weeks. Iraq has been without a governing coalition since March, but on October 1, radical Shia leader Moqtada al-Sadr — who has lived in Iran since 2007, studying with the country’s most senior clerics — announced his backing of Nouri al-Maliki, the incumbent prime minister and head of the caretaker government. The U.S. has asked Maliki to distance himself from Sadr as a condition of continued American support. But things aren’t that simple, primarily because President Obama has made it so clear that American support to an Iraqi government doesn’t mean what it meant two years ago. Obama has declared combat “over” in Iraq and is withdrawing troops as he promised. To function independently, however, what Maliki needs is the guarantee of active U.S. force at his back — and that is precisely what Obama is busy removing.

The UK Guardian has a remarkably detailed article from the weekend outlining the collusion of Iran, Syria, and Hezbollah in the Maliki-Sadr hook-up. (See companion piece here.) I’m routinely somewhat skeptical of Guardian stories, but in addition to its extensive detail, this one is bolstered by echoes in the Arabic press of the energetic shuttle diplomacy by the principal actors. The reaction from the region’s loose Sunni coalition certainly seems to validate the Guardian’s facts; as outlined by the Al-Ahram piece linked at the top, Iraqi Sunnis have kicked into overdrive a campaign for support from the Sunni nations (Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Turkey).

It’s against this background that the defection to al-Qaeda of the “Anbar Awakening” Sunnis must be understood. Almost every nation in the Middle East is trying to “fix” the outcome in Iraq — a reality that is largely invisible to Americans, but is one of the two main factors in the Sunni defection. The other is the perception that Obama’s America is inert and irrelevant to the power competition in Iraq. Meanwhile, Iran has launched an aggressive, activist phase in its regional policy, a trend amplified by Ahmadinejad’s triumphal visit to Lebanon last week. The U.S. could have averted the visit; that it did not has reinforced our Obama-era image of feckless passivity at the worst possible times.

According to the Guardian, Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah’s condition for supporting the Maliki-Sadr coalition is a guarantee that all U.S. troops will leave Iraq in 2011. In the absence of clear, assertive U.S. policy, we will find ourselves increasingly boxed in by the plans of opponents who want to make our policy for us. In many cases, the opponents will be terrorists.

In a sense, it doesn’t matter whether Americans think Iran has too much influence in Iraq. Sunnis, in both Iraq and the larger region, increasingly think Iran has too much influence there — and that’s what matters to developments on the ground. Iraqi Sunnis have friends in Saudi Arabia and Egypt, but they are also a natural recruiting ground for al-Qaeda. A Sunni revolt against Iranian influence will not be carried out in the Iraqi editorial pages.

The pace of events has accelerated in the last two weeks. Iraq has been without a governing coalition since March, but on October 1, radical Shia leader Moqtada al-Sadr — who has lived in Iran since 2007, studying with the country’s most senior clerics — announced his backing of Nouri al-Maliki, the incumbent prime minister and head of the caretaker government. The U.S. has asked Maliki to distance himself from Sadr as a condition of continued American support. But things aren’t that simple, primarily because President Obama has made it so clear that American support to an Iraqi government doesn’t mean what it meant two years ago. Obama has declared combat “over” in Iraq and is withdrawing troops as he promised. To function independently, however, what Maliki needs is the guarantee of active U.S. force at his back — and that is precisely what Obama is busy removing.

The UK Guardian has a remarkably detailed article from the weekend outlining the collusion of Iran, Syria, and Hezbollah in the Maliki-Sadr hook-up. (See companion piece here.) I’m routinely somewhat skeptical of Guardian stories, but in addition to its extensive detail, this one is bolstered by echoes in the Arabic press of the energetic shuttle diplomacy by the principal actors. The reaction from the region’s loose Sunni coalition certainly seems to validate the Guardian’s facts; as outlined by the Al-Ahram piece linked at the top, Iraqi Sunnis have kicked into overdrive a campaign for support from the Sunni nations (Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Turkey).

It’s against this background that the defection to al-Qaeda of the “Anbar Awakening” Sunnis must be understood. Almost every nation in the Middle East is trying to “fix” the outcome in Iraq — a reality that is largely invisible to Americans, but is one of the two main factors in the Sunni defection. The other is the perception that Obama’s America is inert and irrelevant to the power competition in Iraq. Meanwhile, Iran has launched an aggressive, activist phase in its regional policy, a trend amplified by Ahmadinejad’s triumphal visit to Lebanon last week. The U.S. could have averted the visit; that it did not has reinforced our Obama-era image of feckless passivity at the worst possible times.

According to the Guardian, Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah’s condition for supporting the Maliki-Sadr coalition is a guarantee that all U.S. troops will leave Iraq in 2011. In the absence of clear, assertive U.S. policy, we will find ourselves increasingly boxed in by the plans of opponents who want to make our policy for us. In many cases, the opponents will be terrorists.

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RE: A Natural Experiment in Political Economy

John, your apt analysis got me thinking again about the impact of immigration, including illegal immigration, on California’s declining fortunes. As I wrote earlier this month, there is ample evidence that illegal immigration is not a significant factor in California’s woes. Your analysis sent me back to some data on the influx of illegal immigrants into two states — California and Texas — with radically different economic results.

It turns out that Texas has nearly as big an issue with illegal immigration as California. A September 2010 Pew study has these tidbits:

Unauthorized immigrants accounted for 3.7% of the nation’s population in 2009. Their shares of states’ total population were highest in California (6.9%), Nevada (6.8%) and Texas (6.5%). … California had the largest number (1.8 million) of unauthorized immigrants in the 2009 labor force, and they made up a larger share of the labor force there (9.3%) than in any other state except Nevada (9.4%). Texas had an estimated 1 million unauthorized immigrants in the labor force in 2009, which represented 8.7% of the labor force.

In other words, the sharply divergent economic policies and political environments of the two states have much to do with their radically different economic outputs; illegal immigration appears to be negligible factor.

John, your apt analysis got me thinking again about the impact of immigration, including illegal immigration, on California’s declining fortunes. As I wrote earlier this month, there is ample evidence that illegal immigration is not a significant factor in California’s woes. Your analysis sent me back to some data on the influx of illegal immigrants into two states — California and Texas — with radically different economic results.

It turns out that Texas has nearly as big an issue with illegal immigration as California. A September 2010 Pew study has these tidbits:

Unauthorized immigrants accounted for 3.7% of the nation’s population in 2009. Their shares of states’ total population were highest in California (6.9%), Nevada (6.8%) and Texas (6.5%). … California had the largest number (1.8 million) of unauthorized immigrants in the 2009 labor force, and they made up a larger share of the labor force there (9.3%) than in any other state except Nevada (9.4%). Texas had an estimated 1 million unauthorized immigrants in the labor force in 2009, which represented 8.7% of the labor force.

In other words, the sharply divergent economic policies and political environments of the two states have much to do with their radically different economic outputs; illegal immigration appears to be negligible factor.

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Democrats Aid Tea Partiers

Sharron Angle helped herself in the one and only debate against the often incoherent Harry Reid. In the post-debate Rasmussen poll, she is up by three points.

Meanwhile, in the Kentucky Senate race, Democrat Jack Conway released a simply bizarre ad attacking Rand Paul’s Christianity. (Even Jonathan Chait finds the ad revolting.) The Paul campaign was justifiably indignant and struck back with an ad of its own.

So here are two Tea Party–backed candidates with a propensity to blow themselves up with controversial statements. But two weeks before the eelction, they are demonstrating the sort of discipline and focus one would expect of their more politically experienced rivals. It is the Democrats in both these races who seem in over their heads, if not downright desperate. This tells us two things.

First, campaign skills can be learned very quickly by bright candidates. Novice candidates who are willing to take advice from advisers can surpass expectations, especially if those expectations are steadily lowered by the media and their opponents. We shouldn’t confuse campaign skills with the ability to govern (if nothing else, Obama has taught us that lesson); but the notion that only handpicked, groomed candidates can survive on the national stage has proved to be, like so much else Conventional Wisdom, hogwash.

Second, when looking to check a presidential agenda that they detest, the voters are willing to accommodate some occasional rhetorical excesses. They are not, of course, electing a  chief executive; they are electing people to stop the chief executive from doing things they don’t like. It is hard for Democrats to scare voters by painting their opponents as extremists. So they must resort to ever more hysterical claims and attacks to convince the public that the GOP challengers are so far beyond the pale that they aren’t fit to hold office. As of yet, neither Reid nor Conway has been able to do that.

None of this is to say that any Republican can win in this environment. But by not taking their opponents seriously and relying on scare tactics to fend off challengers, Democrats are helping the neophytes appear more seasoned and reasonable than the incumbents. As a result, some vulnerable GOP candidates are looking fairly strong two weeks before the election.

Sharron Angle helped herself in the one and only debate against the often incoherent Harry Reid. In the post-debate Rasmussen poll, she is up by three points.

Meanwhile, in the Kentucky Senate race, Democrat Jack Conway released a simply bizarre ad attacking Rand Paul’s Christianity. (Even Jonathan Chait finds the ad revolting.) The Paul campaign was justifiably indignant and struck back with an ad of its own.

So here are two Tea Party–backed candidates with a propensity to blow themselves up with controversial statements. But two weeks before the eelction, they are demonstrating the sort of discipline and focus one would expect of their more politically experienced rivals. It is the Democrats in both these races who seem in over their heads, if not downright desperate. This tells us two things.

First, campaign skills can be learned very quickly by bright candidates. Novice candidates who are willing to take advice from advisers can surpass expectations, especially if those expectations are steadily lowered by the media and their opponents. We shouldn’t confuse campaign skills with the ability to govern (if nothing else, Obama has taught us that lesson); but the notion that only handpicked, groomed candidates can survive on the national stage has proved to be, like so much else Conventional Wisdom, hogwash.

Second, when looking to check a presidential agenda that they detest, the voters are willing to accommodate some occasional rhetorical excesses. They are not, of course, electing a  chief executive; they are electing people to stop the chief executive from doing things they don’t like. It is hard for Democrats to scare voters by painting their opponents as extremists. So they must resort to ever more hysterical claims and attacks to convince the public that the GOP challengers are so far beyond the pale that they aren’t fit to hold office. As of yet, neither Reid nor Conway has been able to do that.

None of this is to say that any Republican can win in this environment. But by not taking their opponents seriously and relying on scare tactics to fend off challengers, Democrats are helping the neophytes appear more seasoned and reasonable than the incumbents. As a result, some vulnerable GOP candidates are looking fairly strong two weeks before the election.

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D.C.’s Loss May Be America’s Gain

School-reform champions Adrian Fenty and Michelle Rhee put the pressure on D.C.’s next mayor this weekend with a dead-on op-ed in the Washington Post. There’s a justified perception that teachers’ unions are a political force to be reckoned with. But despite their recent electoral loss, famed reformers like Rhee and Fenty have opened the opportunity for parents and their children to become an entity to be feared, too.

Fenty and Rhee earned national acclaim by staring down the D.C. teachers’ unions, supporting the rights of parents to choose among educational options for their children, and penalizing teachers and schools that failed students. Under their guidance, the D.C. school districts showed dramatic improvement.

Fenty and Rhee’s message this weekend was clear: if the momentum of D.C. schools stagnates or recedes, you can blame the presumptive new mayor, City Council Chairman Vincent Gray. He has all the tools he needs to succeed, they argue; but it remains to be seen whether he has the requisite political courage. They write:

We absolutely believe the progress can continue. Our presumptive new mayor is a native Washingtonian who cares deeply about education. We leave behind arguably the most talented and driven team that a school district administration could have. They are in the schools; they are in the central office; they are in other District agencies partnering with DCPS to modernize schools and update and support technologies. All of these people and more are getting up every morning and doing the incredibly difficult work that the cameras don’t see. As leaders, we simply “blocked and tackled” so that they could get things done.

Rhee and Fenty say that they failed to establish broad support for their initiatives. If the D.C. Democratic primary was the only indicator, perhaps they’re right.

But interest in school reform appears on the rise, and a large percentage of the public supports holding teachers accountable and taking a stand against the unions that allow bad teachers to hold on to their jobs, raises, and benefits at the expense of American children.

Among the most interesting of these recent developments is the buzz surrounding the documentary Waiting for Superman, which has pointed a public finger at the National Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers. But interest in genuine reform extends beyond the film. Want statistical proof? The latest Phi Delta Kappa/Gallup Poll reported that 72 percent of public-school parents wanted teachers to be paid “on the basis of his or her work.” A September Time poll also revealed a public that would favor Rhee and Fenty’s approach; 66 percent opposed tenure for public-school teachers; 71 percent wanted to establish merit pay; and a plurality thought teachers’ unions kept schools from improving. Also worth examination is the survey conducted by Harvard’s Program on Education Policy and Governance and Education Next, which shows a markedly pro-reform attitude.

Rhee and Fenty may no longer be in office, but here’s hoping they remain in the spotlight. Across the country, the political mood is surly and dissatisfied, but what reformers like the Tea Partiers have too often lacked is an articulate and experienced figurehead to organize behind. Fenty’s defeat and Rhee’s resignation may open up a bigger political opportunity. Whereas before, Rhee and Fenty were empowered to affect reform only in D.C., influencing the rest of the country by example, now they have the opportunity to become the voice of a national school-reform movement.

School-reform champions Adrian Fenty and Michelle Rhee put the pressure on D.C.’s next mayor this weekend with a dead-on op-ed in the Washington Post. There’s a justified perception that teachers’ unions are a political force to be reckoned with. But despite their recent electoral loss, famed reformers like Rhee and Fenty have opened the opportunity for parents and their children to become an entity to be feared, too.

Fenty and Rhee earned national acclaim by staring down the D.C. teachers’ unions, supporting the rights of parents to choose among educational options for their children, and penalizing teachers and schools that failed students. Under their guidance, the D.C. school districts showed dramatic improvement.

Fenty and Rhee’s message this weekend was clear: if the momentum of D.C. schools stagnates or recedes, you can blame the presumptive new mayor, City Council Chairman Vincent Gray. He has all the tools he needs to succeed, they argue; but it remains to be seen whether he has the requisite political courage. They write:

We absolutely believe the progress can continue. Our presumptive new mayor is a native Washingtonian who cares deeply about education. We leave behind arguably the most talented and driven team that a school district administration could have. They are in the schools; they are in the central office; they are in other District agencies partnering with DCPS to modernize schools and update and support technologies. All of these people and more are getting up every morning and doing the incredibly difficult work that the cameras don’t see. As leaders, we simply “blocked and tackled” so that they could get things done.

Rhee and Fenty say that they failed to establish broad support for their initiatives. If the D.C. Democratic primary was the only indicator, perhaps they’re right.

But interest in school reform appears on the rise, and a large percentage of the public supports holding teachers accountable and taking a stand against the unions that allow bad teachers to hold on to their jobs, raises, and benefits at the expense of American children.

Among the most interesting of these recent developments is the buzz surrounding the documentary Waiting for Superman, which has pointed a public finger at the National Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers. But interest in genuine reform extends beyond the film. Want statistical proof? The latest Phi Delta Kappa/Gallup Poll reported that 72 percent of public-school parents wanted teachers to be paid “on the basis of his or her work.” A September Time poll also revealed a public that would favor Rhee and Fenty’s approach; 66 percent opposed tenure for public-school teachers; 71 percent wanted to establish merit pay; and a plurality thought teachers’ unions kept schools from improving. Also worth examination is the survey conducted by Harvard’s Program on Education Policy and Governance and Education Next, which shows a markedly pro-reform attitude.

Rhee and Fenty may no longer be in office, but here’s hoping they remain in the spotlight. Across the country, the political mood is surly and dissatisfied, but what reformers like the Tea Partiers have too often lacked is an articulate and experienced figurehead to organize behind. Fenty’s defeat and Rhee’s resignation may open up a bigger political opportunity. Whereas before, Rhee and Fenty were empowered to affect reform only in D.C., influencing the rest of the country by example, now they have the opportunity to become the voice of a national school-reform movement.

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A Natural Experiment in Political Economy

One of the reasons that political science is such an inexact discipline is the difficulty of experimentation. If you want to test, say, a drug, you take a bunch of genetically identical rats, give half of them the drug and half a placebo, and see what differences turn up between the two groups. But testing a political theory (or an economic one — and political science was known in the 19th century as political economy) is harder to arrange. Rats don’t vote and people do, at least in democracies.

So political scientists, like astronomers, have to wait for natural experiments to come along. To test, for example, capitalism against Communism, one might want to take an economically and ethnically homogeneous country — Sweden would do nicely — and divide it in half. Place one half under one system and the other under the other and wait 50 years to see which half prospers more. But the Swedes are unlikely to agree to be the rats in this experiment. Fortunately, the vagaries of Great Power politics in the 20th century produced two situations surprisingly like the ideal experiment: Germany and Korea.

The evidence from these natural experiments is overwhelming: capitalism produces wealth and liberty; Communism produces poverty, war, and famine. The wonder is that there are still so many Marxists around.

Perhaps the reason is that ideology makes you stupid.

It is often pointed out that the states make great laboratories for political-science experiments. And an experiment has been underway for quite a while testing the liberal model — high taxes, extensive regulation, many government-provided social services, union-friendly laws — against the conservative model — low taxes, limited regulation and social services, right-to-work laws. The results are increasingly in. As Rich Lowry reports in National Review Online, the differences between California and Texas are striking. Between August 2009 and August 2010, the nation created a net of 214,000 jobs. Texas created more than half of them, 119,000. California lost 112,000 jobs in that period. Lowry writes:

Texas is a model of governmental restraint. In 2008, state and local expenditures were 25.5 percent of GDP in California, 22.8 in the U.S., and 17.3 in Texas. Back in 1987, levels of spending were roughly similar in these places. The recessions of 1991 and 2001 spiked spending everywhere, but each time Texas fought to bring it down to pre-recession levels. “Because of this policy decision,” the Texas Public Policy Foundation report notes, “Texas’ 2008 spending burden remained slightly below its 1987 levels — a major accomplishment.”

The result has been dramatic: “A new Texas Public Policy Foundation report notes that Texas experienced a decline of 2.3 percent from its peak employment [in the current recession], while the nation declined 5.7 percent and California 8.7 percent.” And people have been voting with their feet: A thousand people a day are moving to Texas. It will likely gain four House seats next year, while California for the first time since it became a state in 1850 will gain none.

So, again, the evidence would seem to be overwhelming: high tax-and-spend policies and regulation produces stagnation and unemployment, low tax-and-spend policies and regulatory restraint produce the opposite. So why are there still so many liberals?

Same reason.

One of the reasons that political science is such an inexact discipline is the difficulty of experimentation. If you want to test, say, a drug, you take a bunch of genetically identical rats, give half of them the drug and half a placebo, and see what differences turn up between the two groups. But testing a political theory (or an economic one — and political science was known in the 19th century as political economy) is harder to arrange. Rats don’t vote and people do, at least in democracies.

So political scientists, like astronomers, have to wait for natural experiments to come along. To test, for example, capitalism against Communism, one might want to take an economically and ethnically homogeneous country — Sweden would do nicely — and divide it in half. Place one half under one system and the other under the other and wait 50 years to see which half prospers more. But the Swedes are unlikely to agree to be the rats in this experiment. Fortunately, the vagaries of Great Power politics in the 20th century produced two situations surprisingly like the ideal experiment: Germany and Korea.

The evidence from these natural experiments is overwhelming: capitalism produces wealth and liberty; Communism produces poverty, war, and famine. The wonder is that there are still so many Marxists around.

Perhaps the reason is that ideology makes you stupid.

It is often pointed out that the states make great laboratories for political-science experiments. And an experiment has been underway for quite a while testing the liberal model — high taxes, extensive regulation, many government-provided social services, union-friendly laws — against the conservative model — low taxes, limited regulation and social services, right-to-work laws. The results are increasingly in. As Rich Lowry reports in National Review Online, the differences between California and Texas are striking. Between August 2009 and August 2010, the nation created a net of 214,000 jobs. Texas created more than half of them, 119,000. California lost 112,000 jobs in that period. Lowry writes:

Texas is a model of governmental restraint. In 2008, state and local expenditures were 25.5 percent of GDP in California, 22.8 in the U.S., and 17.3 in Texas. Back in 1987, levels of spending were roughly similar in these places. The recessions of 1991 and 2001 spiked spending everywhere, but each time Texas fought to bring it down to pre-recession levels. “Because of this policy decision,” the Texas Public Policy Foundation report notes, “Texas’ 2008 spending burden remained slightly below its 1987 levels — a major accomplishment.”

The result has been dramatic: “A new Texas Public Policy Foundation report notes that Texas experienced a decline of 2.3 percent from its peak employment [in the current recession], while the nation declined 5.7 percent and California 8.7 percent.” And people have been voting with their feet: A thousand people a day are moving to Texas. It will likely gain four House seats next year, while California for the first time since it became a state in 1850 will gain none.

So, again, the evidence would seem to be overwhelming: high tax-and-spend policies and regulation produces stagnation and unemployment, low tax-and-spend policies and regulatory restraint produce the opposite. So why are there still so many liberals?

Same reason.

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Media Bias, Liberal Cluelessness

Ross Douthat writes:

A month ago, a U.C.L.A. graduate student named Emily Ekins spent hours roaming a Tea Party rally on the Washington Mall, photographing every sign she saw.

Ekins, a former CATO Institute intern, was examining the liberal conceit that Tea Party marches are rife with racism and conspiracy theorizing. Last week, The Washington Post reported on her findings: just 5 percent of the 250 signs referenced Barack Obama’s race or religion, and 1 percent brought up his birth certificate. The majority focused on bailouts, deficits and spending — exactly the issues the Tea Partiers claim inspired their movement in the first place.

On one level, as Douthat points out, this is a lesson about desperate liberals making up comforting myths. (“The Democrats are weeks away from a midterm thumping that wasn’t supposed to happen, and the liberal mind is desperate for a narrative, a storyline, something to ease the pain of losing to a ragtag band of right-wing populists.”) But it is also a cautionary tale about the willful ineptitude and outright laziness of the mainstream media.

A single intern did what not a single mainstream outlet, with collectively thousands of cameramen and reporters, refused to do: get the facts. The mainstream media eagerly recited false accounts of racial epithets but could not be bothered to do a systematic report on the Tea Partiers’ actual message.

The media and elected liberals reinforce their own contrived narrative. Liberal leaders proclaim that the Tea Partiers are racists. The media dutifully report the accusations and search out the isolated Obama = Hitler signs. The liberals breathe a sigh of relief as they read the New York Times or watch MSNBC, which confirms that, yes, these people are wackos and racists. The cycle repeats. The only thing missing are facts.

While the mainstream media’s bias rankles conservatives, the latter should be pleased that the willful indifference to reality repeatedly deprives liberal officialdom of warning signals and essential feedback on the public reaction to their agenda. It is maddening for conservatives, but it is dangerous for liberals to operate in a world of fabrication.

Ross Douthat writes:

A month ago, a U.C.L.A. graduate student named Emily Ekins spent hours roaming a Tea Party rally on the Washington Mall, photographing every sign she saw.

Ekins, a former CATO Institute intern, was examining the liberal conceit that Tea Party marches are rife with racism and conspiracy theorizing. Last week, The Washington Post reported on her findings: just 5 percent of the 250 signs referenced Barack Obama’s race or religion, and 1 percent brought up his birth certificate. The majority focused on bailouts, deficits and spending — exactly the issues the Tea Partiers claim inspired their movement in the first place.

On one level, as Douthat points out, this is a lesson about desperate liberals making up comforting myths. (“The Democrats are weeks away from a midterm thumping that wasn’t supposed to happen, and the liberal mind is desperate for a narrative, a storyline, something to ease the pain of losing to a ragtag band of right-wing populists.”) But it is also a cautionary tale about the willful ineptitude and outright laziness of the mainstream media.

A single intern did what not a single mainstream outlet, with collectively thousands of cameramen and reporters, refused to do: get the facts. The mainstream media eagerly recited false accounts of racial epithets but could not be bothered to do a systematic report on the Tea Partiers’ actual message.

The media and elected liberals reinforce their own contrived narrative. Liberal leaders proclaim that the Tea Partiers are racists. The media dutifully report the accusations and search out the isolated Obama = Hitler signs. The liberals breathe a sigh of relief as they read the New York Times or watch MSNBC, which confirms that, yes, these people are wackos and racists. The cycle repeats. The only thing missing are facts.

While the mainstream media’s bias rankles conservatives, the latter should be pleased that the willful indifference to reality repeatedly deprives liberal officialdom of warning signals and essential feedback on the public reaction to their agenda. It is maddening for conservatives, but it is dangerous for liberals to operate in a world of fabrication.

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Obama Out of Steam

No one can hold a candle to Obama when it comes to whining and self-pity. He’s been misunderstood, he says. His opponents are so, well, oppositional. The media is insistent on getting answers and bothering him all the time. The public is not thinking straight. And so it goes.

Mickey Kaus considers Obama’s outbursts against the electorate to be “a form of political malpractice—making yourself look good to supporters, and to history, and to yourself, at the expense of the fellow Dems who are on the ballot.” But this is vintage Obama. It is always about him and his inability to reconcile his own self-image with the results he has achieved and the reaction he engenders. As Kaus observes:

We thought he was a great salesman. He turned out to be a lousy salesman. We thought he was a great politician. Instead he makes elementary mistakes and doesn’t learn from them. He didn’t know “shovel-ready” from a hole in the ground, and then somehow thinks admitting this ignorance without apology will add to his appeal.

As hard as it is for his supporters to accept this, it is even harder for Obama to recognize his own shortcomings. Instead, he tried hollering at the Republicans. Then he hollered at his supporters. And now he’s just moping:

Mindful that some of his early supporters are feeling deflated, President Obama offered a frank admission Sunday that the sour economy has made it tough for Democrats to retain the buoyant sense of optimism touched off by his election victory nearly two years ago. … “I know there are times when probably it’s hard to recapture that sense of possibility,” Obama said, recalling the night of his election victory. “It’s hard sometimes to say, ‘Yes we can.’ You sit thinking, ‘You know, maybe. I don’t know.’ It’s not as inspiring a slogan.”

But then he reverts to partisan sniping, at times sounding rather loopy:

He swiped repeatedly at Republicans, invoking Abraham Lincoln at one point and positing that the 16th president would have trouble winning the Republican nomination if he were a candidate today.

Because the modern GOP is in favor of slavery? Because, well … oh forget it. Even his insults are incoherent these days.

Obama has proved to be weak in a crisis, as Juan Williams candidly observed in June. He’s wasn’t up to the BP oil spill or terrorist attacks. And he’s not very good at managing his own political crisis. I suppose teaching law school, perpetually running for higher office, and writing semi-fictional books about himself weren’t the best preparation for the presidency.

No one can hold a candle to Obama when it comes to whining and self-pity. He’s been misunderstood, he says. His opponents are so, well, oppositional. The media is insistent on getting answers and bothering him all the time. The public is not thinking straight. And so it goes.

Mickey Kaus considers Obama’s outbursts against the electorate to be “a form of political malpractice—making yourself look good to supporters, and to history, and to yourself, at the expense of the fellow Dems who are on the ballot.” But this is vintage Obama. It is always about him and his inability to reconcile his own self-image with the results he has achieved and the reaction he engenders. As Kaus observes:

We thought he was a great salesman. He turned out to be a lousy salesman. We thought he was a great politician. Instead he makes elementary mistakes and doesn’t learn from them. He didn’t know “shovel-ready” from a hole in the ground, and then somehow thinks admitting this ignorance without apology will add to his appeal.

As hard as it is for his supporters to accept this, it is even harder for Obama to recognize his own shortcomings. Instead, he tried hollering at the Republicans. Then he hollered at his supporters. And now he’s just moping:

Mindful that some of his early supporters are feeling deflated, President Obama offered a frank admission Sunday that the sour economy has made it tough for Democrats to retain the buoyant sense of optimism touched off by his election victory nearly two years ago. … “I know there are times when probably it’s hard to recapture that sense of possibility,” Obama said, recalling the night of his election victory. “It’s hard sometimes to say, ‘Yes we can.’ You sit thinking, ‘You know, maybe. I don’t know.’ It’s not as inspiring a slogan.”

But then he reverts to partisan sniping, at times sounding rather loopy:

He swiped repeatedly at Republicans, invoking Abraham Lincoln at one point and positing that the 16th president would have trouble winning the Republican nomination if he were a candidate today.

Because the modern GOP is in favor of slavery? Because, well … oh forget it. Even his insults are incoherent these days.

Obama has proved to be weak in a crisis, as Juan Williams candidly observed in June. He’s wasn’t up to the BP oil spill or terrorist attacks. And he’s not very good at managing his own political crisis. I suppose teaching law school, perpetually running for higher office, and writing semi-fictional books about himself weren’t the best preparation for the presidency.

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Another Low for Amanpour

Each Sunday, This Week hits a new low. For sheer inanity, nothing to date has topped Meghan McCain on the show’s roundtable. What exactly does she bring to this? Well, self-parody for starters. Asked about Christine O’Donnell, McCain pronounces:

Well, I speak as a 26-year-old woman. And my problem is that, no matter what, Christine O’Donnell is making a mockery of running for public office. She has no real history, no real success in any kind of business. And what that sends to my generation is, one day, you can just wake up and run for Senate, no matter how much lack of experience you have. And it scares me for a lot of reasons, and I just know (inaudible) it just turns people off, because she’s seen as a nutjob.

I suppose the comments would have more weight if not coming from a celebrity-by-nepotism with “no real history, no real success in any kind of business.” Other than her father and her propensity to bash conservatives, what exactly are her qualifications to discuss much of anything? Ah, but that’s more than enough for Amanpour. Read More

Each Sunday, This Week hits a new low. For sheer inanity, nothing to date has topped Meghan McCain on the show’s roundtable. What exactly does she bring to this? Well, self-parody for starters. Asked about Christine O’Donnell, McCain pronounces:

Well, I speak as a 26-year-old woman. And my problem is that, no matter what, Christine O’Donnell is making a mockery of running for public office. She has no real history, no real success in any kind of business. And what that sends to my generation is, one day, you can just wake up and run for Senate, no matter how much lack of experience you have. And it scares me for a lot of reasons, and I just know (inaudible) it just turns people off, because she’s seen as a nutjob.

I suppose the comments would have more weight if not coming from a celebrity-by-nepotism with “no real history, no real success in any kind of business.” Other than her father and her propensity to bash conservatives, what exactly are her qualifications to discuss much of anything? Ah, but that’s more than enough for Amanpour.

McCain was also a font of misinformation regarding the impact of the Tea Party on younger voters:

MCCAIN: I wrote this out of personal experience. I know how I’m vilified on an absolutely daily basis. No matter what the Republican Party wants to think about this Tea Party movement, it is losing young voters at a rapid rate. And this isn’t going to change unless we start changing our message. …

AMANPOUR: She has a point, right? Young voters are the future. …

WILL: Not a political point. No, 20 months ago the question was, does the Republican Party have a future? In the last 20 months, we’ve had two things happen. A, the Tea Party movement has energized the Republican Party, and the Democrats are trying to hold onto one house of Congress right now. I don’t think that’s the sign of a party that’s in trouble.

DOWD: And I think Meghan’s right, but you have to also make the counterpoint. As Barack Obama won younger voters by 30 points. He as of right now has a difficulty getting any of those voters to a rally who have lost — a great deal are disappointed in what’s happened. …

So Amanpour brings on a political ignoramus, agrees with McCain’s “analysis,” and then must be corrected by two other guests who are too polite to simply say, “She doesn’t know what she is talking about.”

That was topped by Amanpour’s gleeful rooting for the administration’s crusade against political speech. There was this:

AMANPOUR: . . .I mean, where is campaign finance reform? Do you think it’s dead?

WILL: Dead.

AMANPOUR: Dead in the water?

WILL: Stake through it.

AMANPOUR: And you don’t like it all?

WILL: Absolutely wonderful development this year is — is the rolling back …

AMANPOUR: How can that be wonderful for a democracy, I mean, not to know where all of this money comes from and who’s putting it in?

WILL: What — what you’re talking about with the amount of money is speech. And the question is, do you have to notify the government before you can speak on politics?

(CROSSTALK)

AMANPOUR: … Justice Stevens (inaudible) that, you know, money doesn’t speak.

WILL: Well, almost all money in politics is spent on disseminating political advocacy. That’s just a fact. Now, Mr. Biden and — and the narrative from the Democrats has been this is secret money that the Koch brothers are putting into it. Well, get your story straight. Do we not — do we know who these guys are? I mean, some of them are about as anonymous as George Soros.

There isn’t a White House position for which Amanpour won’t vouch. There is no conservative principle that she doesn’t regard with disdain. How can unregulated speech be good for a democracy!? She is stumped.

I’m stumped, too. Amanpour is a ratings and journalistic disaster. It is hard to understand why she was picked for a serious Sunday talk-show-host position and even harder to understand what she is still doing there. The White House is taking an opportunity to clean house. Shouldn’t ABC News do the same?

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The Real Middle East Linkage

Barack Obama’s administration is a big fan of “linkage” — the theory that solving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict would, in his words, “change the strategic landscape of the Middle East” and “help us deal with terrorist organizations in the region.” And actually, he’s half right: America’s handling of this conflict does affect the Middle East’s strategic landscape. But the link, as newly declassified documents from the Vietnam War make clear, isn’t what Obama thinks it is. And therefore, his policies are making war more likely, not less.

Obama believes Palestinian suffering is a top Muslim concern that contributes greatly to radicalizing Muslim extremists. Thus, if America forced Israel to capitulate to Palestinian demands, not only would Muslims like America better, but all the Muslim world’s other problems would be easier to solve, because a key source of radicalization would be gone.

That version of linkage is clearly delusional. Just consider last month’s deadly bombing by Sunni extremists of a Shiite march in Pakistan. The march was one of several nationwide to “observe Al Quds Day, an annual protest to express solidarity with Palestinians and condemn Israel.” Yet solidarity with the Palestinians evidently ranks so low on the Muslim agenda that Sunnis and Shiites couldn’t suspend their mutual bloodletting for one day to unite around this issue. So how would a Palestinian state ease this Sunni-Shiite divide?

But as the Vietnam documents show, linkage does exist. When the 1973 Yom Kippur War erupted, forcing then-secretary of state Henry Kissinger to spend months brokering cease-fire agreements between Israel, Syria, and Egypt, the Vietnam War still raged. So after one of Kissinger’s trips to the region, then-ambassador to Saigon Graham Martin asked him “about the connection between what was happening in the Middle East and Vietnam.” Kissinger replied:

It hurt us with the Arabs. [Syrian President Hafez] Assad said in his talks with me, “You look what you’ve done to Taiwan, Cambodia, Vietnam, Portugal, etc.” … Assad said, “Therefore if you look at this, you will give up Israel, and so [Egyptian President Anwar] Sadat should simply not give in.”

In short, it wasn’t American support for Israel that hurt America with the Arabs, but the Arabs’ conviction that this support would prove ephemeral, as it had with other American allies. The more convinced the Arabs were that America would ultimately abandon its allies, the less reason they saw to compromise, the more inflexible their positions became, and the more they preferred alliances with America’s enemies instead (in this case, the Soviet Union).

The same dynamic is evident today. Obama’s avowed goal of putting “daylight” between the U.S. and Israel, coupled with his downgrading of other traditional American allies in favor of longtime enemies, has convinced Palestinians that if they hold out, America will eventually abandon Israel, too. And why compromise now if they could have it all later? Hence the flurry of new demands, like no negotiations without a settlement freeze, that they never posed before.

It seems some things never change. Today, too, the real link between Israel and the broader Middle Eastern strategic landscape remains America’s credibility as an ally.

Barack Obama’s administration is a big fan of “linkage” — the theory that solving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict would, in his words, “change the strategic landscape of the Middle East” and “help us deal with terrorist organizations in the region.” And actually, he’s half right: America’s handling of this conflict does affect the Middle East’s strategic landscape. But the link, as newly declassified documents from the Vietnam War make clear, isn’t what Obama thinks it is. And therefore, his policies are making war more likely, not less.

Obama believes Palestinian suffering is a top Muslim concern that contributes greatly to radicalizing Muslim extremists. Thus, if America forced Israel to capitulate to Palestinian demands, not only would Muslims like America better, but all the Muslim world’s other problems would be easier to solve, because a key source of radicalization would be gone.

That version of linkage is clearly delusional. Just consider last month’s deadly bombing by Sunni extremists of a Shiite march in Pakistan. The march was one of several nationwide to “observe Al Quds Day, an annual protest to express solidarity with Palestinians and condemn Israel.” Yet solidarity with the Palestinians evidently ranks so low on the Muslim agenda that Sunnis and Shiites couldn’t suspend their mutual bloodletting for one day to unite around this issue. So how would a Palestinian state ease this Sunni-Shiite divide?

But as the Vietnam documents show, linkage does exist. When the 1973 Yom Kippur War erupted, forcing then-secretary of state Henry Kissinger to spend months brokering cease-fire agreements between Israel, Syria, and Egypt, the Vietnam War still raged. So after one of Kissinger’s trips to the region, then-ambassador to Saigon Graham Martin asked him “about the connection between what was happening in the Middle East and Vietnam.” Kissinger replied:

It hurt us with the Arabs. [Syrian President Hafez] Assad said in his talks with me, “You look what you’ve done to Taiwan, Cambodia, Vietnam, Portugal, etc.” … Assad said, “Therefore if you look at this, you will give up Israel, and so [Egyptian President Anwar] Sadat should simply not give in.”

In short, it wasn’t American support for Israel that hurt America with the Arabs, but the Arabs’ conviction that this support would prove ephemeral, as it had with other American allies. The more convinced the Arabs were that America would ultimately abandon its allies, the less reason they saw to compromise, the more inflexible their positions became, and the more they preferred alliances with America’s enemies instead (in this case, the Soviet Union).

The same dynamic is evident today. Obama’s avowed goal of putting “daylight” between the U.S. and Israel, coupled with his downgrading of other traditional American allies in favor of longtime enemies, has convinced Palestinians that if they hold out, America will eventually abandon Israel, too. And why compromise now if they could have it all later? Hence the flurry of new demands, like no negotiations without a settlement freeze, that they never posed before.

It seems some things never change. Today, too, the real link between Israel and the broader Middle Eastern strategic landscape remains America’s credibility as an ally.

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This Is All They’ve Got?

Liz Cheney, Howard Dean, and Bill Galston mixed it up on Face the Nation. Howard Dean didn’t have much material to work with. So he was back to arguing that the Tea Party is a fringe, racist group. As to that, Cheney responded:

I mean, I think that this notion that the tea parties is too far right is really wishful thinking or that the Republican Party is somehow on the fringe or the extreme of the American electorate. Again, I think it’s wishful thinking. I think that– you know all you have to do is look at somebody like Marco Rubio who won the Republican primary in Florida. And when he did, a lot of the pundits said, well, that’s great. He won the primary, but he’s clearly won be able to win the general election. And, he now has double-digit lead over Charlie Crist in that election. Crist was supposed to be the moderate Republican, who was going to come in and demonstrate that he could capture this supposed mass number of people who are in the center–just not the case. What the Tea Party stands for is a set of conservative principles which are for limited government, low taxes–really individual rights. And, you know, those aren’t fringe. I would say those are fundamental American values. So, you know, I understand why Governor Dean may be wanting to try to portray this as fringe, But I– I’d say, you know, continue to do that because I think that fringe is going to, in fact, demonstrate to you that they have enough support to have a very big win come election day this November.

Then there is the Chamber of Commerce. On this one, Dean felt obliged to wiggle away from the White House’s unsubstantiated charge. Again Dean came out looking rather feeble:

HOWARD DEAN: The Chamber of Commerce has become an arm of — finance arm of the Republican Party.
LIZ CHENEY (overlapping): Do you have evidence?
HOWARD DEAN: It’s ridiculous.
LIZ CHENEY (overlapping): Governor Dean, do you have evidence that any foreign money from the Chamber of Commerce is going into the American election right now.
HOWARD DEAN: That is not the issue. The issue is we have a right to–
LIZ CHENEY (overlapping): Well, that’s what David Axelrod–
HOWARD DEAN (overlapping): — we have a right to know if foreign money is going into the–
LIZ CHENEY (overlapping): — and the President of the United States thinks that’s the issue.
HOWARD DEAN: And we have a right to know if foreign money is going –
LIZ CHENEY (overlapping): That’s not the charge the President has made. … Governor Dean, look. If — if the President of the United States is going to stand up and make a charge, you can try to throw spaghetti here and see what sticks and hits. The President said there is foreign money from the Chamber of Commerce going into this election cycle through Republican Candidates. That’s not true. It’s not fair and it’s an abomination and a shame that he’s attempting to chill First Amendment rights–

That’s essentially what the Democrats are left with — arguing that a mass movement that has fielded front-running candidates is a fringe gang of racists and accusing with zero evidence that the GOP is taking foreign money via the Chamber of Commerce. If this seems rather lame to you, evidence that the Obama agenda is a political loser, you are not alone. On Election Day, the majority of voters, I suspect, will agree.

Liz Cheney, Howard Dean, and Bill Galston mixed it up on Face the Nation. Howard Dean didn’t have much material to work with. So he was back to arguing that the Tea Party is a fringe, racist group. As to that, Cheney responded:

I mean, I think that this notion that the tea parties is too far right is really wishful thinking or that the Republican Party is somehow on the fringe or the extreme of the American electorate. Again, I think it’s wishful thinking. I think that– you know all you have to do is look at somebody like Marco Rubio who won the Republican primary in Florida. And when he did, a lot of the pundits said, well, that’s great. He won the primary, but he’s clearly won be able to win the general election. And, he now has double-digit lead over Charlie Crist in that election. Crist was supposed to be the moderate Republican, who was going to come in and demonstrate that he could capture this supposed mass number of people who are in the center–just not the case. What the Tea Party stands for is a set of conservative principles which are for limited government, low taxes–really individual rights. And, you know, those aren’t fringe. I would say those are fundamental American values. So, you know, I understand why Governor Dean may be wanting to try to portray this as fringe, But I– I’d say, you know, continue to do that because I think that fringe is going to, in fact, demonstrate to you that they have enough support to have a very big win come election day this November.

Then there is the Chamber of Commerce. On this one, Dean felt obliged to wiggle away from the White House’s unsubstantiated charge. Again Dean came out looking rather feeble:

HOWARD DEAN: The Chamber of Commerce has become an arm of — finance arm of the Republican Party.
LIZ CHENEY (overlapping): Do you have evidence?
HOWARD DEAN: It’s ridiculous.
LIZ CHENEY (overlapping): Governor Dean, do you have evidence that any foreign money from the Chamber of Commerce is going into the American election right now.
HOWARD DEAN: That is not the issue. The issue is we have a right to–
LIZ CHENEY (overlapping): Well, that’s what David Axelrod–
HOWARD DEAN (overlapping): — we have a right to know if foreign money is going into the–
LIZ CHENEY (overlapping): — and the President of the United States thinks that’s the issue.
HOWARD DEAN: And we have a right to know if foreign money is going –
LIZ CHENEY (overlapping): That’s not the charge the President has made. … Governor Dean, look. If — if the President of the United States is going to stand up and make a charge, you can try to throw spaghetti here and see what sticks and hits. The President said there is foreign money from the Chamber of Commerce going into this election cycle through Republican Candidates. That’s not true. It’s not fair and it’s an abomination and a shame that he’s attempting to chill First Amendment rights–

That’s essentially what the Democrats are left with — arguing that a mass movement that has fielded front-running candidates is a fringe gang of racists and accusing with zero evidence that the GOP is taking foreign money via the Chamber of Commerce. If this seems rather lame to you, evidence that the Obama agenda is a political loser, you are not alone. On Election Day, the majority of voters, I suspect, will agree.

Read Less

Who Knew? A Landslide!

Remember the Democratic “comeback”? Well, forget it. Poof, things — just this weekend — took a turn for the worse, pronounces Politico:

More bad polls. More bad fundraising numbers. More dreary talk on the Sunday shows. It added up to a brutal weekend for Democrats, as the consensus among election analysts, already bearish on the party’s prospects, took a turn for the worse over the past 48 hours.

In the eyes of the experts, the House Democratic majority most likely won’t survive Nov. 2, with political handicappers expanding their predictions to envision the possibility of a Democratic wipeout.

Analyst Stu Rothenberg pegs the number of competitive seats at 100. Charlie Cook says it’s 97. Virtually all of those seats are held by Democrats.

OK, so maybe the comeback storyline was as contrived as the president’s attack on the Chamber of Commerce. It’s now time for the media to cover their bets, adjust their headlines, and make sure that they are not left with egg on their collective face when the votes pour in on Election Day.

Actually, the analysts have been steadily increasing their projections for weeks now, and the fundraising bonanza for Republican candidates has been evident for some time. But the election coverage wouldn’t be complete without the faux Democratic revival, swiftly followed by the “Oh my, it’s a landslide!” recognition.

Next thing you know, we’ll be hearing that Sarah Palin is a great judge of political talent, the electorate is fed up with big government, the Tea Party is the most effective grassroots political movement in decades, and Obama’s incapable of shouldering blame for his party’s demise. This is all terribly startling to those who’ve chosen to put their fingers in their ears and hum whenever signs appeared that the Obama era has been a debacle for the left. But election results as decisive as those expected in two weeks are hard to ignore, even for a media as Democratic-friendly as this. So now’s the time to get those final predictions in, which, wouldn’t you know it, are pretty much what conservative analysts have been saying for weeks, if not months.

Remember the Democratic “comeback”? Well, forget it. Poof, things — just this weekend — took a turn for the worse, pronounces Politico:

More bad polls. More bad fundraising numbers. More dreary talk on the Sunday shows. It added up to a brutal weekend for Democrats, as the consensus among election analysts, already bearish on the party’s prospects, took a turn for the worse over the past 48 hours.

In the eyes of the experts, the House Democratic majority most likely won’t survive Nov. 2, with political handicappers expanding their predictions to envision the possibility of a Democratic wipeout.

Analyst Stu Rothenberg pegs the number of competitive seats at 100. Charlie Cook says it’s 97. Virtually all of those seats are held by Democrats.

OK, so maybe the comeback storyline was as contrived as the president’s attack on the Chamber of Commerce. It’s now time for the media to cover their bets, adjust their headlines, and make sure that they are not left with egg on their collective face when the votes pour in on Election Day.

Actually, the analysts have been steadily increasing their projections for weeks now, and the fundraising bonanza for Republican candidates has been evident for some time. But the election coverage wouldn’t be complete without the faux Democratic revival, swiftly followed by the “Oh my, it’s a landslide!” recognition.

Next thing you know, we’ll be hearing that Sarah Palin is a great judge of political talent, the electorate is fed up with big government, the Tea Party is the most effective grassroots political movement in decades, and Obama’s incapable of shouldering blame for his party’s demise. This is all terribly startling to those who’ve chosen to put their fingers in their ears and hum whenever signs appeared that the Obama era has been a debacle for the left. But election results as decisive as those expected in two weeks are hard to ignore, even for a media as Democratic-friendly as this. So now’s the time to get those final predictions in, which, wouldn’t you know it, are pretty much what conservative analysts have been saying for weeks, if not months.

Read Less

Never the Policy

It’s never the policy. That is the Democrats’ watchword when it comes to explaining failure, whether it is substantive or political.

On domestic policy, Obama is now complaining we’ve all gotten the wrong idea that he is a tax-and-spend liberal. On Fox News Sunday, Bill Kristol explained:

Now, it’s a little farcical since he was a tax-and-spend liberal Democrat. He had chances not to be. He could have cut a deal on taxes six weeks ago, accepted the Republican proposal to extend the Bush tax rates and say, “You know what? I’m not your traditional tax- hiking Democrat.”

He insisted on tax hikes. He’s a huge spender. But I think that’s very revealing. When a liberal says, “I can’t look like a tax- and-spend liberal Democrat,” he is conceding you can’t govern this country as a liberal Democrat.

If I were a liberal, I’d be upset about that. It would be as if a conservative president said, “Well, I’ve learned I can’t just look like some conservative.” I mean, the whole point of Barack Obama’s presidency was to be the next wave of liberalism. Isn’t that why they were so excited two years ago?

The foreign policy version of this was set forth by David Ignatius by way of Zbig Brzezinski and Brent Scowcroft. You get this gobbledygook:

What perplexed both men was the disconnect between Obama’s strategic vision and what he has been able to achieve. “He makes dramatic presidential speeches,” said Brzezinski, “but it’s never translated into a process in which good ideas become strategies.”

They are perplexed because they do not find fault with the underlying assumptions of Obama’s foreign policy. So it’s distraction by the economy or failure to “implement” his foreign policy vision that is the problem. And they’re very miffed, of course, that Obama didn’t cram a peace deal down the Israelis’ throats.

The domestic and foreign policy excuses abound — the Republicans undermined Obama, Bibi wrecked the peace process, the 24/7 news cycle makes governing impossible, and the country is ungovernable or irrational. The degree to which the president and his team lack virtually any ability to reflect on and evaluate the substance of their agenda is remarkable. There is, of course, no one in the White House who does not embrace a leftist ideology. They therefore must ignore populist unrest, ample polling, and any evidence that suggests that their economic policy and foreign policy vision is fundamentally flawed, not to mention politically untenable.

Republicans should keep their fingers crossed that this obtuseness is heartfelt and long-lasting. Should the White House internalize the lessons of the past two years (e.g., Keynesian economics is a bust, the Palestinians aren’t ready for a peace deal, the public resists the vast expansion of the public sector), they might be able to adjust course and rescue the Obama presidency. But so far, I see no danger of that occurring.

It’s never the policy. That is the Democrats’ watchword when it comes to explaining failure, whether it is substantive or political.

On domestic policy, Obama is now complaining we’ve all gotten the wrong idea that he is a tax-and-spend liberal. On Fox News Sunday, Bill Kristol explained:

Now, it’s a little farcical since he was a tax-and-spend liberal Democrat. He had chances not to be. He could have cut a deal on taxes six weeks ago, accepted the Republican proposal to extend the Bush tax rates and say, “You know what? I’m not your traditional tax- hiking Democrat.”

He insisted on tax hikes. He’s a huge spender. But I think that’s very revealing. When a liberal says, “I can’t look like a tax- and-spend liberal Democrat,” he is conceding you can’t govern this country as a liberal Democrat.

If I were a liberal, I’d be upset about that. It would be as if a conservative president said, “Well, I’ve learned I can’t just look like some conservative.” I mean, the whole point of Barack Obama’s presidency was to be the next wave of liberalism. Isn’t that why they were so excited two years ago?

The foreign policy version of this was set forth by David Ignatius by way of Zbig Brzezinski and Brent Scowcroft. You get this gobbledygook:

What perplexed both men was the disconnect between Obama’s strategic vision and what he has been able to achieve. “He makes dramatic presidential speeches,” said Brzezinski, “but it’s never translated into a process in which good ideas become strategies.”

They are perplexed because they do not find fault with the underlying assumptions of Obama’s foreign policy. So it’s distraction by the economy or failure to “implement” his foreign policy vision that is the problem. And they’re very miffed, of course, that Obama didn’t cram a peace deal down the Israelis’ throats.

The domestic and foreign policy excuses abound — the Republicans undermined Obama, Bibi wrecked the peace process, the 24/7 news cycle makes governing impossible, and the country is ungovernable or irrational. The degree to which the president and his team lack virtually any ability to reflect on and evaluate the substance of their agenda is remarkable. There is, of course, no one in the White House who does not embrace a leftist ideology. They therefore must ignore populist unrest, ample polling, and any evidence that suggests that their economic policy and foreign policy vision is fundamentally flawed, not to mention politically untenable.

Republicans should keep their fingers crossed that this obtuseness is heartfelt and long-lasting. Should the White House internalize the lessons of the past two years (e.g., Keynesian economics is a bust, the Palestinians aren’t ready for a peace deal, the public resists the vast expansion of the public sector), they might be able to adjust course and rescue the Obama presidency. But so far, I see no danger of that occurring.

Read Less

Flotsam and Jetsam

Without Obama, the GOP could never have gotten this far, this fast: “Two weeks before Election Day, Democrats fear their grip on the House may be gone, and Republicans are poised to celebrate big gains in the Senate and governors’ mansions as well. Analysts in both parties say all major indicators tilt toward the Republicans. President Barack Obama‘s policies are widely unpopular. Congress, run by the Democrats, rates even lower. Fear and anger over unemployment and deep deficits are energizing conservative voters; liberals are demoralized.”

The White House’s assault on the Chamber of Commerce is without evidence and without shame: “Democratic leaders in the House and Senate criticizing GOP groups for allegedly funneling foreign money into campaign ads have seen their party raise more than $1 million from political action committees affiliated with foreign companies.”

The White House truly is without friends. A New York Times reporter debunks the White House’s claim that it is all a communication problem; she says it’s really a policy problem. Yeah, the Times.

Without social and economic conservatives, it’s hard to win the GOP presidential nomination: “Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels has now managed to alienate prominent social and fiscal conservatives. The potential presidential candidate’s already rocky path to the Republican nomination became more treacherous this weekend after the country’s most powerful anti-tax activist and one of the House’s most respected fiscal conservatives disparaged Daniels’ openness to considering a controversial value added tax as part of a larger tax system overhaul.”

Without a doubt, Daniels would have been wise to consult with Gary Bauer before setting out on his pre-campaign tours: “I would say to Governor Mitch Daniels you know, it’s — it’s not our side that has declared war on social issues. I would love to be able to call a truce on it. The reason the social issues are in such play so many years is that others have declared war. There’s a major movement going on in this country to change the definition of marriage. Now, if — if Mitch Daniels thinks he can call a truce on that, that would be great, but as long as people are pushing to change the definition of marriage, there are going to be millions of Americans that say no; we want marriage to stay between one man and one woman.”

Without peer as the least-credible White House press secretary in recent memory: “Though Republicans across the country are hammering Democratic opponents by linking them to President Obama’s policies, White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs asserted Sunday that 2010 is a ‘local’ election.”

Without independents and strong support from their base, the Dems are heading for a wipeout: “Nearly two years after putting Obama in the White House, one-quarter of those who voted for the Democrat are defecting to the GOP or considering voting against the party in power this fall. Just half of them say they definitely will show up Nov. 2, according to an Associated Press-Knowledge Networks poll released two weeks before Obama’s first midterm elections.”

Without any self-awareness, Valerie Jarrett is still in messiah-mode: “‘He doesn’t have the shtick, you know, the way a lot of politicians do. He’s completely sincere and true and I think people are not used to seeing that in their politicians. So it’s taking people a while to realize that he’s actually a real person and he’s not just trying to pretend and fool them and trick them into thinking he’s something else.’ … Jarrett also blamed some of the president’s perceived problems on ‘the fact that there’s a kind of toxicity in the language.’ She said the president ‘always keeps an even tone and … he always looks for the better angels in people.’”

Without Obama, the GOP could never have gotten this far, this fast: “Two weeks before Election Day, Democrats fear their grip on the House may be gone, and Republicans are poised to celebrate big gains in the Senate and governors’ mansions as well. Analysts in both parties say all major indicators tilt toward the Republicans. President Barack Obama‘s policies are widely unpopular. Congress, run by the Democrats, rates even lower. Fear and anger over unemployment and deep deficits are energizing conservative voters; liberals are demoralized.”

The White House’s assault on the Chamber of Commerce is without evidence and without shame: “Democratic leaders in the House and Senate criticizing GOP groups for allegedly funneling foreign money into campaign ads have seen their party raise more than $1 million from political action committees affiliated with foreign companies.”

The White House truly is without friends. A New York Times reporter debunks the White House’s claim that it is all a communication problem; she says it’s really a policy problem. Yeah, the Times.

Without social and economic conservatives, it’s hard to win the GOP presidential nomination: “Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels has now managed to alienate prominent social and fiscal conservatives. The potential presidential candidate’s already rocky path to the Republican nomination became more treacherous this weekend after the country’s most powerful anti-tax activist and one of the House’s most respected fiscal conservatives disparaged Daniels’ openness to considering a controversial value added tax as part of a larger tax system overhaul.”

Without a doubt, Daniels would have been wise to consult with Gary Bauer before setting out on his pre-campaign tours: “I would say to Governor Mitch Daniels you know, it’s — it’s not our side that has declared war on social issues. I would love to be able to call a truce on it. The reason the social issues are in such play so many years is that others have declared war. There’s a major movement going on in this country to change the definition of marriage. Now, if — if Mitch Daniels thinks he can call a truce on that, that would be great, but as long as people are pushing to change the definition of marriage, there are going to be millions of Americans that say no; we want marriage to stay between one man and one woman.”

Without peer as the least-credible White House press secretary in recent memory: “Though Republicans across the country are hammering Democratic opponents by linking them to President Obama’s policies, White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs asserted Sunday that 2010 is a ‘local’ election.”

Without independents and strong support from their base, the Dems are heading for a wipeout: “Nearly two years after putting Obama in the White House, one-quarter of those who voted for the Democrat are defecting to the GOP or considering voting against the party in power this fall. Just half of them say they definitely will show up Nov. 2, according to an Associated Press-Knowledge Networks poll released two weeks before Obama’s first midterm elections.”

Without any self-awareness, Valerie Jarrett is still in messiah-mode: “‘He doesn’t have the shtick, you know, the way a lot of politicians do. He’s completely sincere and true and I think people are not used to seeing that in their politicians. So it’s taking people a while to realize that he’s actually a real person and he’s not just trying to pretend and fool them and trick them into thinking he’s something else.’ … Jarrett also blamed some of the president’s perceived problems on ‘the fact that there’s a kind of toxicity in the language.’ She said the president ‘always keeps an even tone and … he always looks for the better angels in people.’”

Read Less




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