Commentary Magazine


Posts For: October 22, 2010

Ed Koch Fingers a Congressman Hostile to Israel

Democrat Ed Koch and national security expert Dan Senor are supporting the Republican candidate in the NY-22 race. The reason why has to do with their assessment of the Democratic incumbent’s record on Israel. A portion of the Koch-Senor letter that I have obtained:

Unfortunately, when it comes to Maurice Hinchey, who represents New York’s 22nd District, we have one of the least sympathetic, most hostile lawmakers in Congress on all issues impacting the U.S.-Israel relationship. Hinchey is a member of a small group of Representatives that routinely votes against the bipartisan resolutions and legislation by which Congress supports the U.S.-Israel alliance.

Consider just a few items from his record:

—In 2002, at the height of the Intifada, as Israeli civilians were being murdered by the hundreds in suicide bombings, a simple House resolution expressing solidarity with Israel passed by a 352-21 margin. Hinchey voted “present.”

—In 2006, Hinchey voted against a bill to promote democratic institution-building in the Palestinian territories titled the “Palestinian Anti-Terrorism Act.” It passed 361-37.

—In 2009, he voted against a resolution condemning the Goldstone Report, an infamous product of the UN that accused Israel of intentionally committing war crimes in Gaza. The anti-Goldstone resolution passed 344-36.

—This year, he signed a letter to President Obama that accused Israel of the “de facto collective punishment” of Palestinians in Gaza and demanded that President Obama pressure Israel to open its borders with Gaza, a move that would leave Israel dangerously vulnerable to terrorism.

—Most stunningly of all, Hinchey voted against one of the Obama administration’s most important foreign policy initiatives, the Comprehensive Iran Sanctions Act, passed by overwhelming margins in both houses of Congress and signed into law this summer. This key piece of legislation, vital to both American and Israeli security, sailed through the House 412-12.

Hinchey voted against it.

If there is a Member of Congress who has voted more consistently against consensus American foreign policy interests and against U.S.-Israel friendship, we would be hard-pressed to name him.

This is the sort of “divisive” criticism that the left castigates. But it is coming from Democrat Ed Koch and is based on the congressman’s own voting record and signature on the Gaza 54 letter. Oh, and by the way, Hinchey’s endorsed and funded in part by … don’t even have to finish the sentence, do I? A voting record like that can only be admired by the sort of people who would defend Richard Goldstone, escort him around the Capitol, and lie about it.

Democrat Ed Koch and national security expert Dan Senor are supporting the Republican candidate in the NY-22 race. The reason why has to do with their assessment of the Democratic incumbent’s record on Israel. A portion of the Koch-Senor letter that I have obtained:

Unfortunately, when it comes to Maurice Hinchey, who represents New York’s 22nd District, we have one of the least sympathetic, most hostile lawmakers in Congress on all issues impacting the U.S.-Israel relationship. Hinchey is a member of a small group of Representatives that routinely votes against the bipartisan resolutions and legislation by which Congress supports the U.S.-Israel alliance.

Consider just a few items from his record:

—In 2002, at the height of the Intifada, as Israeli civilians were being murdered by the hundreds in suicide bombings, a simple House resolution expressing solidarity with Israel passed by a 352-21 margin. Hinchey voted “present.”

—In 2006, Hinchey voted against a bill to promote democratic institution-building in the Palestinian territories titled the “Palestinian Anti-Terrorism Act.” It passed 361-37.

—In 2009, he voted against a resolution condemning the Goldstone Report, an infamous product of the UN that accused Israel of intentionally committing war crimes in Gaza. The anti-Goldstone resolution passed 344-36.

—This year, he signed a letter to President Obama that accused Israel of the “de facto collective punishment” of Palestinians in Gaza and demanded that President Obama pressure Israel to open its borders with Gaza, a move that would leave Israel dangerously vulnerable to terrorism.

—Most stunningly of all, Hinchey voted against one of the Obama administration’s most important foreign policy initiatives, the Comprehensive Iran Sanctions Act, passed by overwhelming margins in both houses of Congress and signed into law this summer. This key piece of legislation, vital to both American and Israeli security, sailed through the House 412-12.

Hinchey voted against it.

If there is a Member of Congress who has voted more consistently against consensus American foreign policy interests and against U.S.-Israel friendship, we would be hard-pressed to name him.

This is the sort of “divisive” criticism that the left castigates. But it is coming from Democrat Ed Koch and is based on the congressman’s own voting record and signature on the Gaza 54 letter. Oh, and by the way, Hinchey’s endorsed and funded in part by … don’t even have to finish the sentence, do I? A voting record like that can only be admired by the sort of people who would defend Richard Goldstone, escort him around the Capitol, and lie about it.

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Weeding Out Extremism from the Tea Party

Matt Drudge links to a story in which, according to the Dallas Morning News, Republican congressional candidate Stephen Broden, a first-time candidate who is supported by the Tea Party Express and is challenging Representative Eddie Bernice Johnson in Texas’s 30th Congressional District, said he would not rule out a violent overthrow of the government if elections did not produce a change in leadership.

According to the report, in an exchange during a TV interview, Broden, a South Dallas pastor, was asked if violence would be an option in 2010, if the composition of the government remained unchanged by the elections. “The option is on the table,” Broden said. “I don’t think that we should remove anything from the table as it relates to our liberties and our freedoms. However, it is not the first option.”

Now, like almost every other person in America, I have never before heard of Stephen Broden. But you can bet that MSNBC, other media outlets, and the Democratic Party are going to do everything they can to turn Mr. Broden into a household name, to make him a symbol of the Tea Party movement.

Jonathan Neerman, head of the Dallas County Republican Party, said he’s never heard Broden advocate violence against the government.

“It is a disappointing, isolated incident,” Neerman said. He said he plans to discuss the matter with Broden’s campaign. And Ken Emanuelson, a Broden supporter and leading Tea Party organizer in Dallas, said he did not disagree with the “philosophical point” that people had the right to resist a tyrannical government. But, he said, “Do I see our government today anywhere close to that point? No, I don’t.”

I have news for Messrs. Neerman and Emanuelson: what Broden said is far worse than “disappointing” — and in this context, conceding him a “philosophical point” is quite unwise.

To say that a violent uprising is “on the table” is reckless. These remarks deserve to be condemned on their own terms. And it’s also important not to play into the caricature of the Tea Party movement created by its opponents — that the movement, at its core, is fringy, irresponsible, and has some latent sympathy with calls to revolution and political violence.

It doesn’t help, of course, that Nevada’s GOP Senate candidate (and Tea Party choice) Sharron Angle has said this:

Our Founding Fathers, they put that Second Amendment in there for a good reason, and that was for the people to protect themselves against a tyrannical government. In fact, Thomas Jefferson said it’s good for a country to have a revolution every 20 years. I hope that’s not where we’re going, but you know, if this Congress keeps going the way it is, people are really looking toward those Second Amendment remedies.

The Tea Party movement is a powerful, energetic, spontaneous, and widespread civic response to Obamaism. It will be seen, I believe, as a positive force in American politics, one that can help to limit the size, scope, and reach of government in our lives – and, more specifically, one that can help us deal with our entitlement crisis. But movements like these almost inevitably draw in supporters and candidates who take a justifiable impulse and channel it in exactly the wrong direction. That can’t always be helped. But what leaders and allies of the Tea Party movement can do is make it clear that incendiary rhetoric and misplaced historical analogies don’t have a place or a part in a responsible political movement.

The ballot is stronger than the bullet, Lincoln said, and we may thank heaven that, for Americans, this choice has long since been made. Those who wish to revisit this choice are temerarious and possibly pernicious. Those who care for and about the Tea Party movement might consider saying so.

Matt Drudge links to a story in which, according to the Dallas Morning News, Republican congressional candidate Stephen Broden, a first-time candidate who is supported by the Tea Party Express and is challenging Representative Eddie Bernice Johnson in Texas’s 30th Congressional District, said he would not rule out a violent overthrow of the government if elections did not produce a change in leadership.

According to the report, in an exchange during a TV interview, Broden, a South Dallas pastor, was asked if violence would be an option in 2010, if the composition of the government remained unchanged by the elections. “The option is on the table,” Broden said. “I don’t think that we should remove anything from the table as it relates to our liberties and our freedoms. However, it is not the first option.”

Now, like almost every other person in America, I have never before heard of Stephen Broden. But you can bet that MSNBC, other media outlets, and the Democratic Party are going to do everything they can to turn Mr. Broden into a household name, to make him a symbol of the Tea Party movement.

Jonathan Neerman, head of the Dallas County Republican Party, said he’s never heard Broden advocate violence against the government.

“It is a disappointing, isolated incident,” Neerman said. He said he plans to discuss the matter with Broden’s campaign. And Ken Emanuelson, a Broden supporter and leading Tea Party organizer in Dallas, said he did not disagree with the “philosophical point” that people had the right to resist a tyrannical government. But, he said, “Do I see our government today anywhere close to that point? No, I don’t.”

I have news for Messrs. Neerman and Emanuelson: what Broden said is far worse than “disappointing” — and in this context, conceding him a “philosophical point” is quite unwise.

To say that a violent uprising is “on the table” is reckless. These remarks deserve to be condemned on their own terms. And it’s also important not to play into the caricature of the Tea Party movement created by its opponents — that the movement, at its core, is fringy, irresponsible, and has some latent sympathy with calls to revolution and political violence.

It doesn’t help, of course, that Nevada’s GOP Senate candidate (and Tea Party choice) Sharron Angle has said this:

Our Founding Fathers, they put that Second Amendment in there for a good reason, and that was for the people to protect themselves against a tyrannical government. In fact, Thomas Jefferson said it’s good for a country to have a revolution every 20 years. I hope that’s not where we’re going, but you know, if this Congress keeps going the way it is, people are really looking toward those Second Amendment remedies.

The Tea Party movement is a powerful, energetic, spontaneous, and widespread civic response to Obamaism. It will be seen, I believe, as a positive force in American politics, one that can help to limit the size, scope, and reach of government in our lives – and, more specifically, one that can help us deal with our entitlement crisis. But movements like these almost inevitably draw in supporters and candidates who take a justifiable impulse and channel it in exactly the wrong direction. That can’t always be helped. But what leaders and allies of the Tea Party movement can do is make it clear that incendiary rhetoric and misplaced historical analogies don’t have a place or a part in a responsible political movement.

The ballot is stronger than the bullet, Lincoln said, and we may thank heaven that, for Americans, this choice has long since been made. Those who wish to revisit this choice are temerarious and possibly pernicious. Those who care for and about the Tea Party movement might consider saying so.

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Don’t Tell Me Why I Hate Woodrow Wilson

Professor David Greenberg writes in Slate today that the conservative dislike of Woodrow Wilson is “confused,” “bad as an interpretation of the facts,” and “demonstrably inaccurate.” He implies elsewhere that it is a “crackpot history” that requires not only debunking but also ridicule. But beyond the blustery rhetoric, Greenberg only proves that he misunderstands conservatives’ beef with the 28th president.

Full disclosure: in 2009, I graduated from Hillsdale College – which Greenberg blames for influencing Glenn Beck and, therefore, fueling the Tea Party’s hatred of Woodrow Wilson. More particularly, I was a student of Ronald J. Pestritto, whom Greenberg cites as particularly influential in demonizing Wilson. Having sat in Dr. Pestritto’s classroom and painstakingly highlighted my way through his book on Wilson, I understand his critique quite well. (I am also gruesomely familiar with Dr. Pestritto’s rigorous grading standards, and I can say with some certainty that the quality of Greenberg’s argument here would have earned him academic casualties.) I will not presume to speak for Dr. Pestritto — he has made his own case comprehensively — but after learning from him, I can at least explain why I dislike Woodrow Wilson as a president. It’s for very different reasons than those Greenberg presumes to attribute to me. Read More

Professor David Greenberg writes in Slate today that the conservative dislike of Woodrow Wilson is “confused,” “bad as an interpretation of the facts,” and “demonstrably inaccurate.” He implies elsewhere that it is a “crackpot history” that requires not only debunking but also ridicule. But beyond the blustery rhetoric, Greenberg only proves that he misunderstands conservatives’ beef with the 28th president.

Full disclosure: in 2009, I graduated from Hillsdale College – which Greenberg blames for influencing Glenn Beck and, therefore, fueling the Tea Party’s hatred of Woodrow Wilson. More particularly, I was a student of Ronald J. Pestritto, whom Greenberg cites as particularly influential in demonizing Wilson. Having sat in Dr. Pestritto’s classroom and painstakingly highlighted my way through his book on Wilson, I understand his critique quite well. (I am also gruesomely familiar with Dr. Pestritto’s rigorous grading standards, and I can say with some certainty that the quality of Greenberg’s argument here would have earned him academic casualties.) I will not presume to speak for Dr. Pestritto — he has made his own case comprehensively — but after learning from him, I can at least explain why I dislike Woodrow Wilson as a president. It’s for very different reasons than those Greenberg presumes to attribute to me.

Back to the Slate piece. The first several paragraphs can be skimmed, as the author bizarrely points out commonalities between Woodrow Wilson and George W. Bush and faults Glenn Beck for once not knowing something before he learned it. In the fifth paragraph, Greenberg makes a minor concession to the “nub of truth amid the distortion of the right’s Wilson-bashing.” He acknowledges that Woodrow Wilson expanded the power of the presidency, a Tea Party complaint.

But in actuality, that is only a secondary reason why conservatives dislike Wilsonian liberalism. In a nutshell, Wilson introduced the idea of a “living” Constitution, opening up infinite opportunities for revisionists to throw off the delicate balances within government so thoughtfully established in the original text. Wilson’s scholarly background taught him to embrace big government as the solution to the problems of the citizenry. He saw himself as a philosopher-king, much like the one we have today. And inherent in that perception was a condescending elitism. He became the patriarch of American paternalism, justifying his behavior with appeals to “history” as he perceived it.

The Tea Party movement argues that because of their academic snobbery, those who follow in the footsteps of Woodrow Wilson have lost touch with liberty-loving Americans. As evidence of this, I defer to Greenberg, who writes:

For Wilson, [presidential activism] involved regulating finance and the money supply, limiting the corporations’ demands on their laborers, aiding farmers, preventing monopolistic practices, and making the new federal income tax a graduated one. Just three months ago, I wrote in Slate that over the last century, almost no one has questioned these achievements; clearly, I hadn’t been watching enough Fox.

It is little surprise, then, that Greenberg defends Wilson in the ex-president’s own language. “Of course, even those who happily admit to wanting to repeal a century’s worth of regulation have to reckon with a fundamental flaw in today’s Wilson hatred: It’s completely ahistorical,” he writes. He goes on to paint Woodrow Wilson as the man of his times, a leader fearlessly responding to the pulse of his era, a president whose choices are only fathomable when history is properly considered. The problem with this argument is that the existence of “history” as a moving, authoritative force is questionable at best, and Woodrow Wilson made history as much as he responded to it. And it is a bit presumptuous of Greenberg, in any case, to claim a superior understanding of history’s motives and pathways.

But in the interest of dialogue, let’s grant Greenberg the generous assumption that Wilson really was the man of his time and that all his actions were justifiable as such. Toward the end of his article, he asserts:

Properly situated in this context, Wilson and other progressives emerge not as proto-fascists or wild renegades but as tempered, moderate reformers. They implemented major changes, but those changes were in tune with the mainstream of public sentiment.

In today’s electoral climate, this is precisely the last argument the author should be making – especially if the role of the president is to follow public opinion. But instead, today’s liberals take another cue from Wilson, who believed that a political leader must remain one step ahead of public opinion, pulling it along and shaping it without ever straying too far.

But Americans sense when they’re being dragged along by the ear. This, too, makes them resentful of Woodrow Wilson’s presidential example.

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Counterinsurgency 101

A number of commentators such as Fred Kaplan, David Ignatius, and Joe Klein have claimed that General Petraeus is abandoning counterinsurgency doctrine in Afghanistan in favor of a more kinetic counterterrorism approach designed to generate faster results. As evidence, they can point to an increase in air strike and Special Operations raids. This represents a fundamental misreading of counterinsurgency doctrine, which hardly eschews killing the enemy; rather, a proper counterinsurgency strategy has to be about more than simply killing the enemy — it has to have political, economic, diplomatic, legal, communications, and other elements to be successful. But that doesn’t mean you can ignore the imperative to kill or lock up insurgents — and Petraeus hasn’t, in either Iraq or Afghanistan.

Paula Broadwell, an Army reservist who has written a biography of Petraeus, sets the commentators straight in this post on Tom Ricks’s blog. She writes:

Since Petraeus has arrived in Afghanistan, he has increased the intensity of every element of a comprehensive civil-military COIN campaign, not just the so-called CT element. After my trip to Afghanistan last month, during which I visited at the battalion, division, and ISAF headquarters levels, it is clear to me that the “shift” is not one of focus, but of energy and increased intensity across all lines of the counterinsurgency effort.

That certainly confirms my impression of what’s going on. It is not a shift of focus but an intensified commitment to counterinsurgency in all its facets — which includes but is not limited to the counterterrorism “line of operation.” It is this sort of comprehensive approach that worked in Iraq and can work in Afghanistan, given sufficient time and commitment — whereas attempting to implement counterterrorism in isolation (as many critics want to do) is almost guaranteed to fail.

A number of commentators such as Fred Kaplan, David Ignatius, and Joe Klein have claimed that General Petraeus is abandoning counterinsurgency doctrine in Afghanistan in favor of a more kinetic counterterrorism approach designed to generate faster results. As evidence, they can point to an increase in air strike and Special Operations raids. This represents a fundamental misreading of counterinsurgency doctrine, which hardly eschews killing the enemy; rather, a proper counterinsurgency strategy has to be about more than simply killing the enemy — it has to have political, economic, diplomatic, legal, communications, and other elements to be successful. But that doesn’t mean you can ignore the imperative to kill or lock up insurgents — and Petraeus hasn’t, in either Iraq or Afghanistan.

Paula Broadwell, an Army reservist who has written a biography of Petraeus, sets the commentators straight in this post on Tom Ricks’s blog. She writes:

Since Petraeus has arrived in Afghanistan, he has increased the intensity of every element of a comprehensive civil-military COIN campaign, not just the so-called CT element. After my trip to Afghanistan last month, during which I visited at the battalion, division, and ISAF headquarters levels, it is clear to me that the “shift” is not one of focus, but of energy and increased intensity across all lines of the counterinsurgency effort.

That certainly confirms my impression of what’s going on. It is not a shift of focus but an intensified commitment to counterinsurgency in all its facets — which includes but is not limited to the counterterrorism “line of operation.” It is this sort of comprehensive approach that worked in Iraq and can work in Afghanistan, given sufficient time and commitment — whereas attempting to implement counterterrorism in isolation (as many critics want to do) is almost guaranteed to fail.

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Memo to Incoming Congress: Support Iran’s Opposition

When Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad received a hero’s welcome in Lebanon last week, with hordes of Lebanese lining the streets to cheer his pledge of another $450 million in aid, he sparked wall-to-wall outrage among another country’s citizens — his own.

Haaretz reported this week that the aid pledge infuriated not just the opposition but even the hard-line conservatives, who are normally Ahmadinejad’s closest allies: “How is it possible, they wanted to know, that Iran is going to help Lebanon while people stand in line in the streets of Tehran to fill reserve containers with gasoline in anticipation of the expected cut in government fuel subsidies.”

And, of course, this latest pledge is merely the tip of the iceberg: Israeli intelligence estimates that Iran gives Hezbollah $1 billion every year, along with $100 million to Hamas and $50 million to Islamic Jihad. It spent additional billions reconstructing southern Lebanon after Hezbollah’s 2006 war with Israel.

This isn’t the first time Iranians have protested the money its leaders devote to fomenting terror overseas instead of fostering development at home. But it’s a useful reminder that Iran’s policy of exporting terror and radical Islam reflects the will of a small ruling clique, not of the Iranian people. Thus regime change in Tehran could well reduce or even eliminate the threat Iran currently poses.

That is why Washington’s failure to support Iran’s opposition last year was such a horrendous missed opportunity. But it’s also why reversing this policy must be the No. 1 foreign policy priority of the new Congress elected in November.

Very little time remains to stop Iran’s nuclear program. Olli Heinonen, who monitored Iran for the International Atomic Energy Agency until his retirement this summer, warned in an interview with Haaretz this week that “we have about a year, until the end of 2011, or perhaps the start of 2012,” until Iran achieves “break-out capacity.” And then it will be too late.

Nobody seriously thinks the latest Swiss-cheese sanctions will produce an Iranian about-face by then. That leaves two choices: a military strike, which everyone professes to oppose, or regime change — which probably wouldn’t end the nuclear program but would mitigate the threat it poses. After all, the problem isn’t a nuclear Iran per se but a nuclear Iran that exports terror and radical Islam worldwide. A nuclear Iran whose government preferred to discontinue those particular exports would be much less problematic.

Unfortunately, with the momentum of 2009 having been lost, regime change is also probably impossible by then. But since it remains the best long-term solution, Congress must do everything possible to facilitate it.

At a minimum, that means offering vocal and unequivocal moral support — something protesters made clear they wanted last year when they chanted “Obama: either with the murderers or with us.” It may also mean technological support, like software that makes it easier for opposition communications to evade regime surveillance.

What Congress must do is find out from movement organizers themselves what they need — and then give it to them. There’s no excuse for continuing to waste this precious opportunity.

When Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad received a hero’s welcome in Lebanon last week, with hordes of Lebanese lining the streets to cheer his pledge of another $450 million in aid, he sparked wall-to-wall outrage among another country’s citizens — his own.

Haaretz reported this week that the aid pledge infuriated not just the opposition but even the hard-line conservatives, who are normally Ahmadinejad’s closest allies: “How is it possible, they wanted to know, that Iran is going to help Lebanon while people stand in line in the streets of Tehran to fill reserve containers with gasoline in anticipation of the expected cut in government fuel subsidies.”

And, of course, this latest pledge is merely the tip of the iceberg: Israeli intelligence estimates that Iran gives Hezbollah $1 billion every year, along with $100 million to Hamas and $50 million to Islamic Jihad. It spent additional billions reconstructing southern Lebanon after Hezbollah’s 2006 war with Israel.

This isn’t the first time Iranians have protested the money its leaders devote to fomenting terror overseas instead of fostering development at home. But it’s a useful reminder that Iran’s policy of exporting terror and radical Islam reflects the will of a small ruling clique, not of the Iranian people. Thus regime change in Tehran could well reduce or even eliminate the threat Iran currently poses.

That is why Washington’s failure to support Iran’s opposition last year was such a horrendous missed opportunity. But it’s also why reversing this policy must be the No. 1 foreign policy priority of the new Congress elected in November.

Very little time remains to stop Iran’s nuclear program. Olli Heinonen, who monitored Iran for the International Atomic Energy Agency until his retirement this summer, warned in an interview with Haaretz this week that “we have about a year, until the end of 2011, or perhaps the start of 2012,” until Iran achieves “break-out capacity.” And then it will be too late.

Nobody seriously thinks the latest Swiss-cheese sanctions will produce an Iranian about-face by then. That leaves two choices: a military strike, which everyone professes to oppose, or regime change — which probably wouldn’t end the nuclear program but would mitigate the threat it poses. After all, the problem isn’t a nuclear Iran per se but a nuclear Iran that exports terror and radical Islam worldwide. A nuclear Iran whose government preferred to discontinue those particular exports would be much less problematic.

Unfortunately, with the momentum of 2009 having been lost, regime change is also probably impossible by then. But since it remains the best long-term solution, Congress must do everything possible to facilitate it.

At a minimum, that means offering vocal and unequivocal moral support — something protesters made clear they wanted last year when they chanted “Obama: either with the murderers or with us.” It may also mean technological support, like software that makes it easier for opposition communications to evade regime surveillance.

What Congress must do is find out from movement organizers themselves what they need — and then give it to them. There’s no excuse for continuing to waste this precious opportunity.

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Chavez Still Chavez

It seems that a single meeting with Jewish leaders did not herald the dawning of a new age in Hugo Chavez’s relations with Jews or the Jewish state.

We saw Chavez literally wrap his arms around Ahmadinejad:

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez told reporters after a meeting with his Iranian counterpart Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in Tehran on Tuesday that cooperation with Iran was a “holy task” for Venezuela, Iran’s Fars news agency said.

Ahmadinejad in turn welcomed Venezuela’s support against the Islamic Republic’s western “bullies.” …

The progressive and fraternal stance of Venezuela in condemning sanctions against Iran imposed by the bullying powers is indicative of the deep and firm ties between the two countries,” Ahmadinejad was quoted as saying by the student news agency ISNA. … It was the ninth visit to Iran by Chavez, who has often described the Islamic country as his “second home.”

The regional “bully,” in case there was any doubt, is Israel.

And now there is this:

On the Mideast leg of an international tour, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez said Thursday that he and his Syrian counterpart are “on the offensive” against Western imperialism. …

“We’re on the offensive,” Chavez said. “We’re building an alternative.”

The two also discussed a proposed oil project and signed several economic agreements.

Chavez arrived in Syria on Wednesday from Tehran, where he and Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said they are united in efforts to establish a “new world order” that will eliminate Western dominance over global affairs.

If the “new world order” sounds vaguely fascistic — and one possibly without Jews in its midst — you have understood their drift.

As the U.S. dallies, Iran gathers friends — in another presidency, it would be called the Axis of Evil. Syria, Venezuela, Cuba, and to a large extent the increasingly Islamist Turkey have figured out that the U.S. is in retreat and that the new and potentially nuclear-armed Iran is where the action is.

It would be delightful if the likes of Fidel Castro and Hugo Chavez turned over a new leaf with regard to Iran’s genocidal ambitions and Israel. But that is the stuff of fantasy and bamboozled liberal pundits.

It seems that a single meeting with Jewish leaders did not herald the dawning of a new age in Hugo Chavez’s relations with Jews or the Jewish state.

We saw Chavez literally wrap his arms around Ahmadinejad:

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez told reporters after a meeting with his Iranian counterpart Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in Tehran on Tuesday that cooperation with Iran was a “holy task” for Venezuela, Iran’s Fars news agency said.

Ahmadinejad in turn welcomed Venezuela’s support against the Islamic Republic’s western “bullies.” …

The progressive and fraternal stance of Venezuela in condemning sanctions against Iran imposed by the bullying powers is indicative of the deep and firm ties between the two countries,” Ahmadinejad was quoted as saying by the student news agency ISNA. … It was the ninth visit to Iran by Chavez, who has often described the Islamic country as his “second home.”

The regional “bully,” in case there was any doubt, is Israel.

And now there is this:

On the Mideast leg of an international tour, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez said Thursday that he and his Syrian counterpart are “on the offensive” against Western imperialism. …

“We’re on the offensive,” Chavez said. “We’re building an alternative.”

The two also discussed a proposed oil project and signed several economic agreements.

Chavez arrived in Syria on Wednesday from Tehran, where he and Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said they are united in efforts to establish a “new world order” that will eliminate Western dominance over global affairs.

If the “new world order” sounds vaguely fascistic — and one possibly without Jews in its midst — you have understood their drift.

As the U.S. dallies, Iran gathers friends — in another presidency, it would be called the Axis of Evil. Syria, Venezuela, Cuba, and to a large extent the increasingly Islamist Turkey have figured out that the U.S. is in retreat and that the new and potentially nuclear-armed Iran is where the action is.

It would be delightful if the likes of Fidel Castro and Hugo Chavez turned over a new leaf with regard to Iran’s genocidal ambitions and Israel. But that is the stuff of fantasy and bamboozled liberal pundits.

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Forget the Chamber, Look at AFSCME

The president has been telling tall tales about the Chamber of Commerce and nefarious foreign money. But the chamber and every other independent source of campaign funding are puny compared with the Democrats’ piggybank:

The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees is now the biggest outside spender of the 2010 elections, thanks to an 11th-hour effort to boost Democrats that has vaulted the public-sector union ahead of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the AFL-CIO and a flock of new Republican groups in campaign spending.

The 1.6 million-member AFSCME is spending a total of $87.5 million on the elections after tapping into a $16 million emergency account to help fortify the Democrats’ hold on Congress. Last week, AFSCME dug deeper, taking out a $2 million loan to fund its push. The group is spending money on television advertisements, phone calls, campaign mailings and other political efforts, helped by a Supreme Court decision that loosened restrictions on campaign spending.

“We’re the big dog,” said Larry Scanlon, the head of AFSCME’s political operations. “But we don’t like to brag.”

Yes, all the talk of “corporate” money and the subversion of our democratic system by Wall Street is rather amusing considering the iron grip Big Labor has on the Democratic Party. We learn that “AFSCME’s campaign push accounts for an estimated 30% of what pro-Democratic groups, including unions, plan to spend on independent campaigns to elect Democrats.” But why so little focus on that source of campaign loot? Some would say, “Unions have mostly escaped attention in that debate, in part because they traditionally have spent much of their cash on other kinds of political activities, including get-out-the-vote efforts.”

Hmm. I don’t think that’s quite it. It might just be that in the mainstream media and White House PR machine, independent-groups-giving-to-Republicans = bad, while independent-groups-giving-to-Democrats = vibrant democracy. Aside from the hypocrisy factor, there is one overriding issue that makes unions’ giving so noxious:

Previously, most labor-sponsored campaign ads had to be funded by volunteer donations. Now, however, AFSCME can pay for ads using annual dues from members, which amount to about $390 per person. AFSCME said it will tap membership dues to pay for $17 million of ads backing Democrats this election.

The idea that working people can be forced to give up their earnings to fund campaigns that they may not personally support (or that, frankly, come much lower on their priority list than other household expenditures) is about as un-democratic as you can get.

The president has been telling tall tales about the Chamber of Commerce and nefarious foreign money. But the chamber and every other independent source of campaign funding are puny compared with the Democrats’ piggybank:

The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees is now the biggest outside spender of the 2010 elections, thanks to an 11th-hour effort to boost Democrats that has vaulted the public-sector union ahead of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the AFL-CIO and a flock of new Republican groups in campaign spending.

The 1.6 million-member AFSCME is spending a total of $87.5 million on the elections after tapping into a $16 million emergency account to help fortify the Democrats’ hold on Congress. Last week, AFSCME dug deeper, taking out a $2 million loan to fund its push. The group is spending money on television advertisements, phone calls, campaign mailings and other political efforts, helped by a Supreme Court decision that loosened restrictions on campaign spending.

“We’re the big dog,” said Larry Scanlon, the head of AFSCME’s political operations. “But we don’t like to brag.”

Yes, all the talk of “corporate” money and the subversion of our democratic system by Wall Street is rather amusing considering the iron grip Big Labor has on the Democratic Party. We learn that “AFSCME’s campaign push accounts for an estimated 30% of what pro-Democratic groups, including unions, plan to spend on independent campaigns to elect Democrats.” But why so little focus on that source of campaign loot? Some would say, “Unions have mostly escaped attention in that debate, in part because they traditionally have spent much of their cash on other kinds of political activities, including get-out-the-vote efforts.”

Hmm. I don’t think that’s quite it. It might just be that in the mainstream media and White House PR machine, independent-groups-giving-to-Republicans = bad, while independent-groups-giving-to-Democrats = vibrant democracy. Aside from the hypocrisy factor, there is one overriding issue that makes unions’ giving so noxious:

Previously, most labor-sponsored campaign ads had to be funded by volunteer donations. Now, however, AFSCME can pay for ads using annual dues from members, which amount to about $390 per person. AFSCME said it will tap membership dues to pay for $17 million of ads backing Democrats this election.

The idea that working people can be forced to give up their earnings to fund campaigns that they may not personally support (or that, frankly, come much lower on their priority list than other household expenditures) is about as un-democratic as you can get.

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NPR: Bringing Us Together

It is not easy to get Sarah Palin and the Daily Beast on the same side of an issue. But both are aghast at NPR’s firing of Juan Williams. Palin tweeted: “NPR defends 1st Amendment Right, but will fire u if u exercise it.” Howard Kurtz commented:

Did National Public Radio really fire Juan Williams for his remarks about Muslims—or the forum in which he made them?

I suspect that if he’d said the same thing to Charlie Rose, rather than on the O’Reilly Factor, he’d still have his radio job.

It’s no secret that some NPR folks have been uncomfortable with Williams’ role on Fox News, where he’s also a part-time commentator. Last year, Politico reported, NPR tried to persuade its White House correspondent, Mara Liasson, to give up her Fox gig.

What Williams said makes me uncomfortable, but it isn’t close to being a firing offense—not for someone who is paid for his opinions.

In these divisive times, it’s nice to see this outbreak of bipartisan horror. In the unscientific readers’ poll at the Washington Post, which one can assume has a healthy contingent of Democrats, 80 percent said NPR was wrong to fire Juan Williams. NPR pretends to be serving the “public” — but the public doesn’t countenance its wholly unreasonable actions.

On the left, there is embarrassment. So some hasten to add that they opposed the firing of Helen Thomas. Which would be like the Juan Williams situation in exactly what way? (Williams explained the regrettable sensation citizens feel when observing those who put their Muslim identity first; Thomas wants Jews to go back to the Holocaust countries.) The mind reels. That wins some prize for moral equivalence but conveys just how uncomfortable are those who might otherwise feel warmly toward NPR.

The NPR debacle is, of course, an example of the same sort of hypocrisy we see in universities. The latter are all about “academic freedom” — even to the point of inviting Ahmadinejad to speak on campus. But that doesn’t extend to conservatives, who generally are not acceptable on campuses of self-regarded elite institutions.

Now, in the legal sense, universities and institutions like NPR can hire whomever they want and fire whomever they want provided they are not in breach of employment agreements or state and federal discrimination laws. But for establishments that trumpet themselves as high-minded exemplars of vigorous debate and intellectual open-mindedness, there’s a hypocrisy problem, to say the least, when that freedom and open-mindedness is limited to those with doctrinaire liberal views.

And it is one heck of an argument for defunding NPR. That and Juan Williams’s $2M contract with Fox are the silver linings in all this.

It is not easy to get Sarah Palin and the Daily Beast on the same side of an issue. But both are aghast at NPR’s firing of Juan Williams. Palin tweeted: “NPR defends 1st Amendment Right, but will fire u if u exercise it.” Howard Kurtz commented:

Did National Public Radio really fire Juan Williams for his remarks about Muslims—or the forum in which he made them?

I suspect that if he’d said the same thing to Charlie Rose, rather than on the O’Reilly Factor, he’d still have his radio job.

It’s no secret that some NPR folks have been uncomfortable with Williams’ role on Fox News, where he’s also a part-time commentator. Last year, Politico reported, NPR tried to persuade its White House correspondent, Mara Liasson, to give up her Fox gig.

What Williams said makes me uncomfortable, but it isn’t close to being a firing offense—not for someone who is paid for his opinions.

In these divisive times, it’s nice to see this outbreak of bipartisan horror. In the unscientific readers’ poll at the Washington Post, which one can assume has a healthy contingent of Democrats, 80 percent said NPR was wrong to fire Juan Williams. NPR pretends to be serving the “public” — but the public doesn’t countenance its wholly unreasonable actions.

On the left, there is embarrassment. So some hasten to add that they opposed the firing of Helen Thomas. Which would be like the Juan Williams situation in exactly what way? (Williams explained the regrettable sensation citizens feel when observing those who put their Muslim identity first; Thomas wants Jews to go back to the Holocaust countries.) The mind reels. That wins some prize for moral equivalence but conveys just how uncomfortable are those who might otherwise feel warmly toward NPR.

The NPR debacle is, of course, an example of the same sort of hypocrisy we see in universities. The latter are all about “academic freedom” — even to the point of inviting Ahmadinejad to speak on campus. But that doesn’t extend to conservatives, who generally are not acceptable on campuses of self-regarded elite institutions.

Now, in the legal sense, universities and institutions like NPR can hire whomever they want and fire whomever they want provided they are not in breach of employment agreements or state and federal discrimination laws. But for establishments that trumpet themselves as high-minded exemplars of vigorous debate and intellectual open-mindedness, there’s a hypocrisy problem, to say the least, when that freedom and open-mindedness is limited to those with doctrinaire liberal views.

And it is one heck of an argument for defunding NPR. That and Juan Williams’s $2M contract with Fox are the silver linings in all this.

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Oh No, Not Israel!

The left is plainly miffed that liberal candidates are being called out for their inconsistent or downright hostile stance toward Israel. In a scurrilous column (in the Jerusalem Post no less), we are told of the menacing “Republican efforts to transform support for Israel from a long-standing bipartisan national consensus into a divisive partisan wedge issue.” That means that a Republican is challenging the pro-Israel bona fides of his J Street–endorsed opponent.

There are a few problems with this formulation. First, a candidate’s receipt of donations and support by any group is fair game in an election. If a candidate wants to defend J Street, he has every right to, but his opponent has every right to cite chapter and verse on the nature of the organization that finds his opponent so attractive. Likewise, if a candidate has signed on to the Gaza 54 letter or keynoted for CAIR or, or that matter, sat idly by as the administration bashed the Jewish state, that is fair game, too.

Second, if the bipartisan support for Israel were as strong as it has historically been, there would be no issue to divide candidates. But as we’ve examined over the past year, that bipartisan support has frayed, in large part because of a president hostile to the Jewish state. There simply is no rationale for excluding Israel or Iran or any foreign policy issue from political campaigns. They actually have presidential debates devoted solely to such topics.

And finally, this is yet another variation on the “Shut up, the left explained” theme that has become rampant in the Obama era. It’s odd that the cognitively superior among us (according to the president) would shun rational debate and demand that certain topics be off-limits. And strange, isn’t it, that those topics (the Ground Zero mosque, Israel, etc.) are ones in which the left is badly out of sync with popular opinion?

Frankly, I think liberals are stunned that they are being held to account for their associations, statements, and votes on Israel. No one has ever tried this in such a concerted fashion. Don’t they get that I call myself pro-Israel? Yes, they get that part; what they don’t get is how a supposedly pro-Israel candidate can act and vote in ways inimical to the interests of the Jewish state.

The left is plainly miffed that liberal candidates are being called out for their inconsistent or downright hostile stance toward Israel. In a scurrilous column (in the Jerusalem Post no less), we are told of the menacing “Republican efforts to transform support for Israel from a long-standing bipartisan national consensus into a divisive partisan wedge issue.” That means that a Republican is challenging the pro-Israel bona fides of his J Street–endorsed opponent.

There are a few problems with this formulation. First, a candidate’s receipt of donations and support by any group is fair game in an election. If a candidate wants to defend J Street, he has every right to, but his opponent has every right to cite chapter and verse on the nature of the organization that finds his opponent so attractive. Likewise, if a candidate has signed on to the Gaza 54 letter or keynoted for CAIR or, or that matter, sat idly by as the administration bashed the Jewish state, that is fair game, too.

Second, if the bipartisan support for Israel were as strong as it has historically been, there would be no issue to divide candidates. But as we’ve examined over the past year, that bipartisan support has frayed, in large part because of a president hostile to the Jewish state. There simply is no rationale for excluding Israel or Iran or any foreign policy issue from political campaigns. They actually have presidential debates devoted solely to such topics.

And finally, this is yet another variation on the “Shut up, the left explained” theme that has become rampant in the Obama era. It’s odd that the cognitively superior among us (according to the president) would shun rational debate and demand that certain topics be off-limits. And strange, isn’t it, that those topics (the Ground Zero mosque, Israel, etc.) are ones in which the left is badly out of sync with popular opinion?

Frankly, I think liberals are stunned that they are being held to account for their associations, statements, and votes on Israel. No one has ever tried this in such a concerted fashion. Don’t they get that I call myself pro-Israel? Yes, they get that part; what they don’t get is how a supposedly pro-Israel candidate can act and vote in ways inimical to the interests of the Jewish state.

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A Perfect Mess in the Middle East, Thanks to Obama

Obama’s “smart” Middle East diplomacy has strained relations with the Jewish state, alienated American Jews, stymied direct negotiations, raised and dashed the Palestinians’ hopes, and encouraged Israel delegitimizers, who now are pondering recognizing a Palestinian state. This report explains how matters are deteriorating:

Israel will pursue its own unilateral steps if the Palestinians do not return to the negotiating table and instead seek UN support for unilateral moves to declare a state within the pre- 1967 lines, a government source told The Jerusalem Post late Thursday night.
“If the Palestinians think that unilateral moves are a one-way street, they are sadly mistaken. It is an option that both sides have,” said the source.

It is not clear exactly which unilateral moves are under consideration. (“There was some speculation that Israel may be considering reviving aspects of former prime minister Ehud Olmert’s ‘convergence’ ideas for a unilateral withdrawal from isolated parts of the West Bank, evacuating settlements and deploying soldiers there instead.”) But it is an indication of the sorry state of the administration’s diplomatic efforts. We now have no direct talks, but we do have mutual threats of unilateral action.

Hillary Clinton is nervous, declaring: “There is no substitute for face-to-face discussion and, ultimately, for an agreement that leads to a just and lasting peace.” Less clear is what the U.S. would do to stave off such an effort. Is the administration prepared to veto any resolution? Cut funding to the PA?

The contrast between the Bush and Obama administrations could not be clearer. We’ve gone from a warm U.S.-Israeli relationship with direct talks to a frosty relationship and no direct talks. And meanwhile, those centrifuges keep spinning in Iran.

Obama’s “smart” Middle East diplomacy has strained relations with the Jewish state, alienated American Jews, stymied direct negotiations, raised and dashed the Palestinians’ hopes, and encouraged Israel delegitimizers, who now are pondering recognizing a Palestinian state. This report explains how matters are deteriorating:

Israel will pursue its own unilateral steps if the Palestinians do not return to the negotiating table and instead seek UN support for unilateral moves to declare a state within the pre- 1967 lines, a government source told The Jerusalem Post late Thursday night.
“If the Palestinians think that unilateral moves are a one-way street, they are sadly mistaken. It is an option that both sides have,” said the source.

It is not clear exactly which unilateral moves are under consideration. (“There was some speculation that Israel may be considering reviving aspects of former prime minister Ehud Olmert’s ‘convergence’ ideas for a unilateral withdrawal from isolated parts of the West Bank, evacuating settlements and deploying soldiers there instead.”) But it is an indication of the sorry state of the administration’s diplomatic efforts. We now have no direct talks, but we do have mutual threats of unilateral action.

Hillary Clinton is nervous, declaring: “There is no substitute for face-to-face discussion and, ultimately, for an agreement that leads to a just and lasting peace.” Less clear is what the U.S. would do to stave off such an effort. Is the administration prepared to veto any resolution? Cut funding to the PA?

The contrast between the Bush and Obama administrations could not be clearer. We’ve gone from a warm U.S.-Israeli relationship with direct talks to a frosty relationship and no direct talks. And meanwhile, those centrifuges keep spinning in Iran.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

It is getting worse, not better, for the Democrats in the congressional generic polling.

The recession has been worse for men than for women, but the Obama team needs female voters. So: “The National Economic Council released a report Thursday detailing women’s economic hardships and the different ways the administration is helping to alleviate their pain. … Economist Mark Perry, visiting scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, told The Daily Caller that the lack of attention to the economic problems of men has been foolish. ‘My initial impression of the report is that it completely ignores all of the significant and disproportionate hardships faced by men in the recession. We just went through an unprecedented ‘mancession,’ and it’s still not over.'”

There are worse things than being fired by NPR. “Fox News moved swiftly to turn the controversy over Juan Williams’s firing to its advantage, offering him an expanded role and a new three-year contract Thursday morning in a deal that amounts to nearly $2 million.”

What is worse — firing Juan Williams or concealing the underlying reason for it? Fred Barnes writes: “I have no doubt that Juan’s comments about Muslims were merely a pretext. There had been prior run-ins between NPR and Juan over his appearances on Fox. But fire him over remarks that most Americans would identify with? I didn’t think the loathing of Fox would cause NPR to do something so ideologically driven, unprofessional, and bigoted. … The motto is, Fox is fair and balanced. Mainstream media types sneer at this. Juan actually embodies it. He’s both fair and balanced. NPR is neither.”

He says he’s not running. But is there a worse nightmare for Obama in 2012? “In one long year, Mr. Christie, the governor of New Jersey, has gone from little-known prosecutor to GOP rock star. The Newark native won last November on a blunt promise to fix a ‘failed state.’ He’d stop the ‘madness’ of tax hikes and chronic overspending. He’d demand New Jersey ‘live within its means,’ tackling the rich public-employee benefits driving the state off the cliff. He’d be straight-up with voters. The promises won him election; it’s the follow-through that’s won him acclaim. Democrats were appalled when he impounded $2.2 billion in spending; taxpayers cheered. The liberal class gasped when he vetoed a ‘millionaire’s tax'; business owners hurrahed. He’s demanding government unions help close $46 billion in unfunded pension liabilities. He’s tough-talking but common-sense, and his approval rating keeps going up.”

Hard to recall a worse pre-election argument than Obama’s faux science explanation for the rise of anti-Obama sentiment. A real, former psychiatrist comments: “Faced with this truly puzzling conundrum, Dr. Obama diagnoses a heretofore undiscovered psychological derangement: anxiety-induced Obama Underappreciation Syndrome, wherein an entire population is so addled by its economic anxieties as to be neurologically incapable of appreciating the ‘facts and science’ undergirding Obamacare and the other blessings their president has bestowed upon them from on high.”

If anything, a change for the worse. “A majority of voters in key battleground races say President Obama has either brought no change to Washington or has brought change for the worse. In 10 competitive House districts, 41 percent of likely voters say Obama has brought change for the worse, and 30 percent say he has made no difference.”

It is getting worse, not better, for the Democrats in the congressional generic polling.

The recession has been worse for men than for women, but the Obama team needs female voters. So: “The National Economic Council released a report Thursday detailing women’s economic hardships and the different ways the administration is helping to alleviate their pain. … Economist Mark Perry, visiting scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, told The Daily Caller that the lack of attention to the economic problems of men has been foolish. ‘My initial impression of the report is that it completely ignores all of the significant and disproportionate hardships faced by men in the recession. We just went through an unprecedented ‘mancession,’ and it’s still not over.'”

There are worse things than being fired by NPR. “Fox News moved swiftly to turn the controversy over Juan Williams’s firing to its advantage, offering him an expanded role and a new three-year contract Thursday morning in a deal that amounts to nearly $2 million.”

What is worse — firing Juan Williams or concealing the underlying reason for it? Fred Barnes writes: “I have no doubt that Juan’s comments about Muslims were merely a pretext. There had been prior run-ins between NPR and Juan over his appearances on Fox. But fire him over remarks that most Americans would identify with? I didn’t think the loathing of Fox would cause NPR to do something so ideologically driven, unprofessional, and bigoted. … The motto is, Fox is fair and balanced. Mainstream media types sneer at this. Juan actually embodies it. He’s both fair and balanced. NPR is neither.”

He says he’s not running. But is there a worse nightmare for Obama in 2012? “In one long year, Mr. Christie, the governor of New Jersey, has gone from little-known prosecutor to GOP rock star. The Newark native won last November on a blunt promise to fix a ‘failed state.’ He’d stop the ‘madness’ of tax hikes and chronic overspending. He’d demand New Jersey ‘live within its means,’ tackling the rich public-employee benefits driving the state off the cliff. He’d be straight-up with voters. The promises won him election; it’s the follow-through that’s won him acclaim. Democrats were appalled when he impounded $2.2 billion in spending; taxpayers cheered. The liberal class gasped when he vetoed a ‘millionaire’s tax'; business owners hurrahed. He’s demanding government unions help close $46 billion in unfunded pension liabilities. He’s tough-talking but common-sense, and his approval rating keeps going up.”

Hard to recall a worse pre-election argument than Obama’s faux science explanation for the rise of anti-Obama sentiment. A real, former psychiatrist comments: “Faced with this truly puzzling conundrum, Dr. Obama diagnoses a heretofore undiscovered psychological derangement: anxiety-induced Obama Underappreciation Syndrome, wherein an entire population is so addled by its economic anxieties as to be neurologically incapable of appreciating the ‘facts and science’ undergirding Obamacare and the other blessings their president has bestowed upon them from on high.”

If anything, a change for the worse. “A majority of voters in key battleground races say President Obama has either brought no change to Washington or has brought change for the worse. In 10 competitive House districts, 41 percent of likely voters say Obama has brought change for the worse, and 30 percent say he has made no difference.”

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