Commentary Magazine


Posts For: October 26, 2010

More Than a Thumpin’

My column today in the New York Post says what happens on November 2 on a national scale is already baked in the cake; nothing that happens in the last week is going to make much of a difference (barring a huge event):

We’ve had 18 months of data points from many different sources that all tell the same story: Americans who vote have radically changed direction when it comes to which party they prefer. In both 2006 and 2008, voters said they preferred Democrats by margins of 8 to 12 points, and on Election Day handed Democrats landslide victories. But Republicans have led in the so-called “generic polls” since March 2009 without letup — and the gap between the two parties has remained stable at a level comparable to the previous Democratic advantage.

This means that, probably at minimum, 16 percent of the electorate has shifted from voting Democrat to declaring its intention to vote Republican. That is an astonishing degree of change, and it’s why you’ve heard so much talk about this being an unprecedented election.

Remember that the 1994 election, when Republicans seized control of Congress in the biggest midterm victory of the modern age, came after a presidential year in which the Democrat had gotten only 43 percent of the vote. The two non-Democrats combined for 57 percent in 1992. In hindsight, the prospect for a gigantic GOP victory in 1994 was evident.

But this midterm is coming after a Democrat won 53 percent of the vote in 2008. The buyer’s remorse on the part of those independents and Republicans who thought they’d give Barack Obama a shot is something entirely new.

And that buyer’s remorse is not momentary or sudden. The shift began 18 months ago. The trend line has been stable and long-lasting. Nothing from spring 2009 to autumn 2010 has come along to alter the trajectory. It is almost impossible that something will do so in the next seven days.

You can read the whole thing here.

My column today in the New York Post says what happens on November 2 on a national scale is already baked in the cake; nothing that happens in the last week is going to make much of a difference (barring a huge event):

We’ve had 18 months of data points from many different sources that all tell the same story: Americans who vote have radically changed direction when it comes to which party they prefer. In both 2006 and 2008, voters said they preferred Democrats by margins of 8 to 12 points, and on Election Day handed Democrats landslide victories. But Republicans have led in the so-called “generic polls” since March 2009 without letup — and the gap between the two parties has remained stable at a level comparable to the previous Democratic advantage.

This means that, probably at minimum, 16 percent of the electorate has shifted from voting Democrat to declaring its intention to vote Republican. That is an astonishing degree of change, and it’s why you’ve heard so much talk about this being an unprecedented election.

Remember that the 1994 election, when Republicans seized control of Congress in the biggest midterm victory of the modern age, came after a presidential year in which the Democrat had gotten only 43 percent of the vote. The two non-Democrats combined for 57 percent in 1992. In hindsight, the prospect for a gigantic GOP victory in 1994 was evident.

But this midterm is coming after a Democrat won 53 percent of the vote in 2008. The buyer’s remorse on the part of those independents and Republicans who thought they’d give Barack Obama a shot is something entirely new.

And that buyer’s remorse is not momentary or sudden. The shift began 18 months ago. The trend line has been stable and long-lasting. Nothing from spring 2009 to autumn 2010 has come along to alter the trajectory. It is almost impossible that something will do so in the next seven days.

You can read the whole thing here.

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A Nudge in Nevada?

Does having a voting machine pre-set to Harry Reid’s name in Nevada constitute the kind of “nudge” — the positive and subtle social engineering that, say, having a box indicating a charitable contribution being pre-checked for you might represent — Cass Sunstein recommends in his book of the same name?

Does having a voting machine pre-set to Harry Reid’s name in Nevada constitute the kind of “nudge” — the positive and subtle social engineering that, say, having a box indicating a charitable contribution being pre-checked for you might represent — Cass Sunstein recommends in his book of the same name?

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Dual Debacles in the Middle East?

In case you thought the Middle East couldn’t become more contentious and unstable than it already is, there is this report:

The United Nations backs Palestinian efforts to be ready for statehood by August and believes they will achieve that goal, the organization’s Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process Robert H. Serry said Monday.

“All international players are now in agreement that the Palestinians are ready for statehood at any point in the near future. We are in the homestretch of your agenda to reach that point by August next year, and you have our full support,” said Serry.

He added, “Palestinian statehood is not only a right, and in everyone’s interest: it is also doable.”

As I noted before, the legality of such a maneuver by the General Assembly is somewhat in doubt, but the impact on Israel and its foes would be serious. An Israel hand explains that the Palestinians may seek to be recognized “without a mention of exact borders in the resolution,” or they might opt for a straightforward anti-settlement resolution. The Israel guru notes, “So far, the Palestinians are keeping all their options open, using a variety of spokesmen who are not really authoritative.”

And we have gotten to this point because of diplomatic malpractice by the Obama administration. By distancing himself from Israel, condemning its building in its capital, elevating the settlement issue, and putting his own prestige on the line, Obama has made continued negotiations nearly impossible and UN gamesmanship quite likely. Where is the administration vowing not to allow the UN to dismantle Israel? Where is the pressure on the PA, financial and otherwise, to knock off this sort of talk? It’s not coming from the White House. It will be up to pro-Israel groups and the new Congress to insist that the Obama team head off the Jewish state’s dismemberment.

And while they are dealing with that potential calamity, the Obami might want to attend to Iran. The dual debacles — allowing a UN resolution to carve up Israel and allowing Iran to go nuclear — would define this presidency as one of the most feeble in history. Certainly the world it would leave to its successors would be infinitely more dangerous than the one it inherited.

In case you thought the Middle East couldn’t become more contentious and unstable than it already is, there is this report:

The United Nations backs Palestinian efforts to be ready for statehood by August and believes they will achieve that goal, the organization’s Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process Robert H. Serry said Monday.

“All international players are now in agreement that the Palestinians are ready for statehood at any point in the near future. We are in the homestretch of your agenda to reach that point by August next year, and you have our full support,” said Serry.

He added, “Palestinian statehood is not only a right, and in everyone’s interest: it is also doable.”

As I noted before, the legality of such a maneuver by the General Assembly is somewhat in doubt, but the impact on Israel and its foes would be serious. An Israel hand explains that the Palestinians may seek to be recognized “without a mention of exact borders in the resolution,” or they might opt for a straightforward anti-settlement resolution. The Israel guru notes, “So far, the Palestinians are keeping all their options open, using a variety of spokesmen who are not really authoritative.”

And we have gotten to this point because of diplomatic malpractice by the Obama administration. By distancing himself from Israel, condemning its building in its capital, elevating the settlement issue, and putting his own prestige on the line, Obama has made continued negotiations nearly impossible and UN gamesmanship quite likely. Where is the administration vowing not to allow the UN to dismantle Israel? Where is the pressure on the PA, financial and otherwise, to knock off this sort of talk? It’s not coming from the White House. It will be up to pro-Israel groups and the new Congress to insist that the Obama team head off the Jewish state’s dismemberment.

And while they are dealing with that potential calamity, the Obami might want to attend to Iran. The dual debacles — allowing a UN resolution to carve up Israel and allowing Iran to go nuclear — would define this presidency as one of the most feeble in history. Certainly the world it would leave to its successors would be infinitely more dangerous than the one it inherited.

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Senate Coming into Focus

The House outcome is no longer in dispute. As Jay Cost put it, it is either a tsunami or a “tsunami-to-end-all-tsunamis.” But in the Senate, with fewer seats up for grabs and the ones in play in Blue States, the question for the Senate is: 10 or fewer?

The surest pickups for the Republicans are North Dakota, Arkansas, and Indiana. Pat Toomey has re-established his lead (or it was never gone, depending on which poll you like). Sharron Angle, Mark Kirk (David Axelrod is already coming up with excuses), and Ron Johnson seem to be holding narrow but steady leads. Ken Buck, Dino Rossi, John Raese, and Carly Fiorina (“In the not to be missed category, Sen. Dianne Feinstein, stepped way out of the spin cycle yesterday, as she is often wont to do. Feinstein … was asked how things were going, and she replied, ‘bad'”) are each up or down a few, but within the margin of error. Connecticut and Delaware no longer appear competitive for the Republicans, but the GOP seems likely to hold Florida, Ohio, New Hampshire, Missouri, and Kentucky. Alaska is, well, confused. But we can assume that should Lisa Murkowski win, thanks to the good spellers of Alaska (who will have to write in her name correctly), she will caucus with the GOP.

So, yes, 10 of the seats currently held by Democrats could fall the Republicans’ way. If only nine of them did, the focus would shift to Joe Lieberman and Ben Nelson to see if they’d switch sides. Or we could wind up with a still remarkable seven- or eight-seat pickup.

Yes, the chairmanships and the balance on the committees depend on who has a majority. But neither side will have close to a filibuster-proof majority. From the GOP perspective, with the House virtually in the bag (and the subpoena power and chairmanships along with the majority), it might not be the worst of all things to have a slim Democratic majority (and some responsibility for governance) and watch Chuck Schumer duke it out with Dick Durbin to be the leader of the Democratic caucus.

The House outcome is no longer in dispute. As Jay Cost put it, it is either a tsunami or a “tsunami-to-end-all-tsunamis.” But in the Senate, with fewer seats up for grabs and the ones in play in Blue States, the question for the Senate is: 10 or fewer?

The surest pickups for the Republicans are North Dakota, Arkansas, and Indiana. Pat Toomey has re-established his lead (or it was never gone, depending on which poll you like). Sharron Angle, Mark Kirk (David Axelrod is already coming up with excuses), and Ron Johnson seem to be holding narrow but steady leads. Ken Buck, Dino Rossi, John Raese, and Carly Fiorina (“In the not to be missed category, Sen. Dianne Feinstein, stepped way out of the spin cycle yesterday, as she is often wont to do. Feinstein … was asked how things were going, and she replied, ‘bad'”) are each up or down a few, but within the margin of error. Connecticut and Delaware no longer appear competitive for the Republicans, but the GOP seems likely to hold Florida, Ohio, New Hampshire, Missouri, and Kentucky. Alaska is, well, confused. But we can assume that should Lisa Murkowski win, thanks to the good spellers of Alaska (who will have to write in her name correctly), she will caucus with the GOP.

So, yes, 10 of the seats currently held by Democrats could fall the Republicans’ way. If only nine of them did, the focus would shift to Joe Lieberman and Ben Nelson to see if they’d switch sides. Or we could wind up with a still remarkable seven- or eight-seat pickup.

Yes, the chairmanships and the balance on the committees depend on who has a majority. But neither side will have close to a filibuster-proof majority. From the GOP perspective, with the House virtually in the bag (and the subpoena power and chairmanships along with the majority), it might not be the worst of all things to have a slim Democratic majority (and some responsibility for governance) and watch Chuck Schumer duke it out with Dick Durbin to be the leader of the Democratic caucus.

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Liberal Echo Chamber

Obama has done what was seemingly impossible — he has lost David Brooks and made him into a scathing critic of the Democrats’ delusional thinking. A sample:

Over the past year, many Democrats have resolutely paid attention to those things that make them feel good, and they have carefully filtered out those negative things that make them feel sad.

For example, Democrats and their media enablers have paid lavish attention to Christine O’Donnell and Carl Paladino, even though these two Republican candidates have almost no chance of winning. That’s because it feels so delicious to feel superior to opponents you consider to be feeble-minded wackos.

On the whole “foreign money killed us” hooey, Brooks is merciless:

They see this campaign as a poetic confrontation between good (themselves) and pure evil (Karl Rove and his group, American Crossroads).

As Nancy Pelosi put it at a $50,000-a-couple fund-raiser, “Everything was going great and all of a sudden secret money from God knows where — because they won’t disclose it — is pouring in.”

Even allowing the menace of secret money, embracing this Paradise Lost epic means obscuring a few inconvenient facts: that Democrats were happy to benefit from millions of anonymous dollars in 2006, 2008 and today; that the spending by Rove’s group amounts to less than 1 percent of the total money spent on campaigns this year; that Democrats retain an overall spending advantage.

But legend rises above mere facticity, and this Lancelots-of-the-Left tale underlines a self-affirming message — that Democrats are engaged in a righteous crusade against the dark villain who tricked Americans into voting against John Kerry.

Oh, and they were always behind, and for nearly a year the American people have been screaming that they didn’t like the Democrats’ agenda.

Brooks is right that the blame-everyone-but-themselves phenomenon is  a bit cringe-inducing. (“Get a bottle of vodka and read Peter Baker’s article ‘The Education of President Obama’ from The New York Times Magazine a few weeks ago. Take a shot every time a White House official is quoted blaming Republicans for the Democrats’ political plight. You’ll be unconscious by page three.”)

Brooks aptly discusses the phenomenon but not the causes and contributors to this hear-no-danger/see-no-danger modus operandi. It is in large part a manifestation of the president’s own self-regard, a distorted sense of his own ability to mold events, and a conviction that garden-variety leftism in an appealing package = blinding wisdom.

But there is something else at work here. There is an endless loop of self-reinforcing fantasy that goes on among academics, pundits, “news” reporters, and elected Democrats. They feed each other’s prejudices (e.g., Tea Partiers are racists) and affirm one another’s erroneous judgments (Americans will learn to love ObamaCare). By minimizing or ignoring the administrations’ failures or misdeeds (the New Black Panther Party scandal, the abusive use of czars and recess appointments), the media and liberal interest groups contribute to a heady sense of infallibility. “No one cares about this stuff,” concludes the already puffed-up White House aides. “We can do whatever we want,” they tell their colleagues.

And most of all, they agree that those who do report bad news (e.g., Fox) or who do object to harebrained ideas (support for the Ground Zero mosque) are irrational or bigoted — maybe both. It’s always possible that the White House will finally learn the right lessons from the upcoming midterm wipeout. But perhaps it is also time for the liberal echo chamber to consider whether it is doing more harm than good to its own cause.

Obama has done what was seemingly impossible — he has lost David Brooks and made him into a scathing critic of the Democrats’ delusional thinking. A sample:

Over the past year, many Democrats have resolutely paid attention to those things that make them feel good, and they have carefully filtered out those negative things that make them feel sad.

For example, Democrats and their media enablers have paid lavish attention to Christine O’Donnell and Carl Paladino, even though these two Republican candidates have almost no chance of winning. That’s because it feels so delicious to feel superior to opponents you consider to be feeble-minded wackos.

On the whole “foreign money killed us” hooey, Brooks is merciless:

They see this campaign as a poetic confrontation between good (themselves) and pure evil (Karl Rove and his group, American Crossroads).

As Nancy Pelosi put it at a $50,000-a-couple fund-raiser, “Everything was going great and all of a sudden secret money from God knows where — because they won’t disclose it — is pouring in.”

Even allowing the menace of secret money, embracing this Paradise Lost epic means obscuring a few inconvenient facts: that Democrats were happy to benefit from millions of anonymous dollars in 2006, 2008 and today; that the spending by Rove’s group amounts to less than 1 percent of the total money spent on campaigns this year; that Democrats retain an overall spending advantage.

But legend rises above mere facticity, and this Lancelots-of-the-Left tale underlines a self-affirming message — that Democrats are engaged in a righteous crusade against the dark villain who tricked Americans into voting against John Kerry.

Oh, and they were always behind, and for nearly a year the American people have been screaming that they didn’t like the Democrats’ agenda.

Brooks is right that the blame-everyone-but-themselves phenomenon is  a bit cringe-inducing. (“Get a bottle of vodka and read Peter Baker’s article ‘The Education of President Obama’ from The New York Times Magazine a few weeks ago. Take a shot every time a White House official is quoted blaming Republicans for the Democrats’ political plight. You’ll be unconscious by page three.”)

Brooks aptly discusses the phenomenon but not the causes and contributors to this hear-no-danger/see-no-danger modus operandi. It is in large part a manifestation of the president’s own self-regard, a distorted sense of his own ability to mold events, and a conviction that garden-variety leftism in an appealing package = blinding wisdom.

But there is something else at work here. There is an endless loop of self-reinforcing fantasy that goes on among academics, pundits, “news” reporters, and elected Democrats. They feed each other’s prejudices (e.g., Tea Partiers are racists) and affirm one another’s erroneous judgments (Americans will learn to love ObamaCare). By minimizing or ignoring the administrations’ failures or misdeeds (the New Black Panther Party scandal, the abusive use of czars and recess appointments), the media and liberal interest groups contribute to a heady sense of infallibility. “No one cares about this stuff,” concludes the already puffed-up White House aides. “We can do whatever we want,” they tell their colleagues.

And most of all, they agree that those who do report bad news (e.g., Fox) or who do object to harebrained ideas (support for the Ground Zero mosque) are irrational or bigoted — maybe both. It’s always possible that the White House will finally learn the right lessons from the upcoming midterm wipeout. But perhaps it is also time for the liberal echo chamber to consider whether it is doing more harm than good to its own cause.

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Will Obama Learn Anything from the Midterms?

Michael Gerson conducts a must-read interview with Charlie Cook. In addition to predictions of a massive GOP wave, there is this discussion about Obama and the Democratic agenda:

Question: What lessons should Obama’s aides take away from these likely political reverses?

“It was the political aides,” counters Cook, “who lost the arguments. Rahm [Emanuel] knew they should cut a deal on health care, get to the economy.” But Obama held a different view of himself and his presidency. “He had already been first at everything. He wanted to be something other than the first — to be historical, game-changing, to have grand influence like FDR or LBJ. But he missed out on the day job,” which was jobs and economic growth.

Some, Cook says, “are told all their lives that they are the most brilliant people on the planet. They don’t get less bright, but hubris kicks in. [Obama] just assumed that he was going to be a success, as he had always been in life.”

According to Cook, this reflects a lack of experience. “Experience is not an end, it is a means to an end: judgment.” Cook said that a few years in the Senate “don’t give an understanding of institutions and their dynamics. If [Obama] had been in the Senate six or eight years, he might have accumulated the wisdom to match the intelligence.”

That’s about as devastating a critique as you are going to get from a neutral observer. Obama’s arrogance got the better of him; he knew better than everyone and will now pay the price.

But there was more going on than simply picking the wrong agenda items or refusing to temper his own ego. Obama’s ideological rigidity and policy preferences ran headlong into Americans’ skepticism about big government and their sense of moral outrage. The Tea Party is a movement grounded in the belief in limited government. But it was also born out of a sense that we have lost track of fundamental values — thrift, discipline, and humility, for starters — and as a result are seeing irresponsible spending, massive debt, and liberal statism.

Obama did not listen to the health-care town-hall attendees or to the voters of New Jersey, Virginia, or Massachusetts. Why should he? He didn’t pay attention to more sober-minded aides, polls, or his own nervous congressional allies. His absolute certainty in his own vision combined with his lack of understanding of the American polity and substantive policy (from economics to the Middle East). As his poll ratings and party’s electoral prospects continue to dive, he reacts with annoyance at the rubes in America who fail to appreciate his brilliance. Will such a president actually reverse course after an election? I have my doubts.

Michael Gerson conducts a must-read interview with Charlie Cook. In addition to predictions of a massive GOP wave, there is this discussion about Obama and the Democratic agenda:

Question: What lessons should Obama’s aides take away from these likely political reverses?

“It was the political aides,” counters Cook, “who lost the arguments. Rahm [Emanuel] knew they should cut a deal on health care, get to the economy.” But Obama held a different view of himself and his presidency. “He had already been first at everything. He wanted to be something other than the first — to be historical, game-changing, to have grand influence like FDR or LBJ. But he missed out on the day job,” which was jobs and economic growth.

Some, Cook says, “are told all their lives that they are the most brilliant people on the planet. They don’t get less bright, but hubris kicks in. [Obama] just assumed that he was going to be a success, as he had always been in life.”

According to Cook, this reflects a lack of experience. “Experience is not an end, it is a means to an end: judgment.” Cook said that a few years in the Senate “don’t give an understanding of institutions and their dynamics. If [Obama] had been in the Senate six or eight years, he might have accumulated the wisdom to match the intelligence.”

That’s about as devastating a critique as you are going to get from a neutral observer. Obama’s arrogance got the better of him; he knew better than everyone and will now pay the price.

But there was more going on than simply picking the wrong agenda items or refusing to temper his own ego. Obama’s ideological rigidity and policy preferences ran headlong into Americans’ skepticism about big government and their sense of moral outrage. The Tea Party is a movement grounded in the belief in limited government. But it was also born out of a sense that we have lost track of fundamental values — thrift, discipline, and humility, for starters — and as a result are seeing irresponsible spending, massive debt, and liberal statism.

Obama did not listen to the health-care town-hall attendees or to the voters of New Jersey, Virginia, or Massachusetts. Why should he? He didn’t pay attention to more sober-minded aides, polls, or his own nervous congressional allies. His absolute certainty in his own vision combined with his lack of understanding of the American polity and substantive policy (from economics to the Middle East). As his poll ratings and party’s electoral prospects continue to dive, he reacts with annoyance at the rubes in America who fail to appreciate his brilliance. Will such a president actually reverse course after an election? I have my doubts.

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Turkey Co-opts NATO Missile-Defense System to Hurt Israel and Help Iran

That Turkey has grown unrelentingly hostile to Israel, and cozy with Iran, is no longer news. But it is news, of the most disturbing kind, that Washington has chosen to actively collaborate in both the hostility and the coziness. Yet that’s what emerges from today’s Haaretz report on NATO’s planned missile-defense system: the U.S., it says, has agreed to Turkey’s demand that no information gathered by the system — whose primary goal is countering threats from Iran — be shared with Israel.

President George W. Bush, who conceived the system, had planned to station it in Eastern Europe. But due to Russia’s vehement opposition, President Barack Obama decided to relocate it to Turkey.

Ankara, reluctant to damage its burgeoning romance with Tehran, said it would agree only if four conditions were met. One, Turkish sources told Haaretz, was that “information gathered by the system not be given to any non-NATO member, and especially not to Israel.”

Moreover, the sources said, Washington has agreed to this demand. In other words, Washington has agreed that potentially vital information about Israel’s greatest enemy, gathered by a NATO facility that America conceived and will doubtless largely finance, won’t be shared with Israel.

Nor does the official excuse cited for this capitulation hold water: it’s true that Israel has information-gathering systems of its own devoted to Iran, but that doesn’t mean it has no need for NATO information. The new facility may well have capabilities Israel lacks.

The real reason, as the Turkish sources noted, is most likely that Washington had little choice: without Turkey’s consent, the project couldn’t go forward, and Ankara threatened a veto if its conditions weren’t met. Yet it was Obama’s own choice to relocate the project from two staunch American allies, Poland and the Czech Republic, to an increasingly hostile Turkey that left him vulnerable to this blackmail.

But Ankara posed another condition that may be even more worrying, given its coziness with Tehran: “direct Turkish access to any information gathered by the system.”

In May, Hakan Fidan became the new head of Turkish intelligence. Fidan, Haaretz reported at the time, “played a central role in tightening Turkish ties with Iran, especially on the nuclear issue.” He defended Iran’s nuclear program to the International Atomic Energy Agency and was one of the architects of the uranium-transfer deal that Turkey and Brazil concocted with Iran in May in an effort to avert a planned UN Security Council vote on new sanctions against Tehran.

Thus Turkey wants its intelligence service, whose chief’s main goal has been to tighten ties with Iran, to have direct access to a system whose main goal is to gather information about Iran. Does NATO really want to gamble that Fidan will not pass this information on to Tehran, thereby letting it know exactly what NATO knows about its capabilities?

Under these circumstances, the system could end up doing more harm then good. At the very least, Congress should be asking some tough questions about it — and, even more important, about the utility of continuing the pretense that Turkey is still a Western ally.

That Turkey has grown unrelentingly hostile to Israel, and cozy with Iran, is no longer news. But it is news, of the most disturbing kind, that Washington has chosen to actively collaborate in both the hostility and the coziness. Yet that’s what emerges from today’s Haaretz report on NATO’s planned missile-defense system: the U.S., it says, has agreed to Turkey’s demand that no information gathered by the system — whose primary goal is countering threats from Iran — be shared with Israel.

President George W. Bush, who conceived the system, had planned to station it in Eastern Europe. But due to Russia’s vehement opposition, President Barack Obama decided to relocate it to Turkey.

Ankara, reluctant to damage its burgeoning romance with Tehran, said it would agree only if four conditions were met. One, Turkish sources told Haaretz, was that “information gathered by the system not be given to any non-NATO member, and especially not to Israel.”

Moreover, the sources said, Washington has agreed to this demand. In other words, Washington has agreed that potentially vital information about Israel’s greatest enemy, gathered by a NATO facility that America conceived and will doubtless largely finance, won’t be shared with Israel.

Nor does the official excuse cited for this capitulation hold water: it’s true that Israel has information-gathering systems of its own devoted to Iran, but that doesn’t mean it has no need for NATO information. The new facility may well have capabilities Israel lacks.

The real reason, as the Turkish sources noted, is most likely that Washington had little choice: without Turkey’s consent, the project couldn’t go forward, and Ankara threatened a veto if its conditions weren’t met. Yet it was Obama’s own choice to relocate the project from two staunch American allies, Poland and the Czech Republic, to an increasingly hostile Turkey that left him vulnerable to this blackmail.

But Ankara posed another condition that may be even more worrying, given its coziness with Tehran: “direct Turkish access to any information gathered by the system.”

In May, Hakan Fidan became the new head of Turkish intelligence. Fidan, Haaretz reported at the time, “played a central role in tightening Turkish ties with Iran, especially on the nuclear issue.” He defended Iran’s nuclear program to the International Atomic Energy Agency and was one of the architects of the uranium-transfer deal that Turkey and Brazil concocted with Iran in May in an effort to avert a planned UN Security Council vote on new sanctions against Tehran.

Thus Turkey wants its intelligence service, whose chief’s main goal has been to tighten ties with Iran, to have direct access to a system whose main goal is to gather information about Iran. Does NATO really want to gamble that Fidan will not pass this information on to Tehran, thereby letting it know exactly what NATO knows about its capabilities?

Under these circumstances, the system could end up doing more harm then good. At the very least, Congress should be asking some tough questions about it — and, even more important, about the utility of continuing the pretense that Turkey is still a Western ally.

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The Failures of TARP

Liberals would have us believe that government is more trustworthy and competent than the private sector to manage large sums of money. A gaping deficit, ham-handedness in reacting to natural disasters, and unsustainable entitlement problems tell us otherwise. Now we learn:

TARP bailouts are far from over, even though Treasury’s ability to invest more money in the program has expired, a new oversight report finds. The special inspector general for the Troubled Asset Relief Program, Neil Barofsky, has prepared a report outlining problems, including rosy Treasury estimates for the program’s cost to taxpayers. …

The report criticizes TARP for failing to save enough struggling homeowners from foreclosure. The program has supported 207,000 permanent mortgage modifications intended to keep people in their homes. But 1.7 million homes have been foreclosed on since January 2009.

“The most specific of TARP’s Main Street goals, “preserving homeownership,” has so far fallen woefully short,” the report said.

The report also hit TARP for failing to increase lending for small businesses, going after the administration’s auto team for advocating to speed the rate of shuttering car dealerships in order to save General Motors.

As for Obama’s occasional claims that we have gotten our money back, the IG says it just isn’t so. At every turn we learn and relearn again that the government has no special expertise — in fact has no expertise — when it comes to running banks or car companies. It is no wonder that skepticism about government has grown. As it takes on more, spends more, and performs less well, voters get the idea that we should start taking responsibilities away from the government. We can start with ObamaCare. Imagine what an IG report on that would look like five or 10 years from now.

Liberals would have us believe that government is more trustworthy and competent than the private sector to manage large sums of money. A gaping deficit, ham-handedness in reacting to natural disasters, and unsustainable entitlement problems tell us otherwise. Now we learn:

TARP bailouts are far from over, even though Treasury’s ability to invest more money in the program has expired, a new oversight report finds. The special inspector general for the Troubled Asset Relief Program, Neil Barofsky, has prepared a report outlining problems, including rosy Treasury estimates for the program’s cost to taxpayers. …

The report criticizes TARP for failing to save enough struggling homeowners from foreclosure. The program has supported 207,000 permanent mortgage modifications intended to keep people in their homes. But 1.7 million homes have been foreclosed on since January 2009.

“The most specific of TARP’s Main Street goals, “preserving homeownership,” has so far fallen woefully short,” the report said.

The report also hit TARP for failing to increase lending for small businesses, going after the administration’s auto team for advocating to speed the rate of shuttering car dealerships in order to save General Motors.

As for Obama’s occasional claims that we have gotten our money back, the IG says it just isn’t so. At every turn we learn and relearn again that the government has no special expertise — in fact has no expertise — when it comes to running banks or car companies. It is no wonder that skepticism about government has grown. As it takes on more, spends more, and performs less well, voters get the idea that we should start taking responsibilities away from the government. We can start with ObamaCare. Imagine what an IG report on that would look like five or 10 years from now.

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Conservatives Must Govern with Prudence and Patience

In a recent interview with Philip Klein of the American Spectator, Representative Paul Ryan spoke about the limits of the strategy to defund ObamaCare:

Obviously, I’m in favor of anything we can do to stop it, to halt it, but the problem we have is, he [Obama] has to sign those bills. I get this question every single day, ‘If you take back Congress, you have the power of the purse, just defund the thing.’ Well, yeah, technically speaking, we can put riders in appropriations bills that say, ‘No such funds can go to HHS to do x, y, or z in implementing ObamaCare.’ He’s gotta sign those things. And he doesn’t strike me as the kind of person who would sign those things. And so that means we go to a continuing resolution or something like that. So I see a lot of stalemate — not over just whether we defund ObamaCare and cap and trade and FinReg or whatever — because he’s not going to agree to our spending levels anyway. We’re going to cut spending way below where he would go. So I don’t see him signing our spending bills, which are the bills you’d have to pass into law to defund ObamaCare.

There is no more committed budget cutter on Capitol Hill than Ryan, which is why his words are worth taking into account for conservatives who, once Republicans retake the House (as I fully expect they will), insist that the GOP repair much of the damage President Obama has done. It won’t be easy — and conservatives should internalize that fact sooner rather than later. There are certain governing and political realities that cannot be wished away. Repealing ObamaCare is impossible so long as Obama sits in the Oval Office — and even defunding the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act is going to prove to be exceedingly difficult. Those in the conservative movement who set that up as the standard of success are setting themselves and their closest political allies up for failure. Read More

In a recent interview with Philip Klein of the American Spectator, Representative Paul Ryan spoke about the limits of the strategy to defund ObamaCare:

Obviously, I’m in favor of anything we can do to stop it, to halt it, but the problem we have is, he [Obama] has to sign those bills. I get this question every single day, ‘If you take back Congress, you have the power of the purse, just defund the thing.’ Well, yeah, technically speaking, we can put riders in appropriations bills that say, ‘No such funds can go to HHS to do x, y, or z in implementing ObamaCare.’ He’s gotta sign those things. And he doesn’t strike me as the kind of person who would sign those things. And so that means we go to a continuing resolution or something like that. So I see a lot of stalemate — not over just whether we defund ObamaCare and cap and trade and FinReg or whatever — because he’s not going to agree to our spending levels anyway. We’re going to cut spending way below where he would go. So I don’t see him signing our spending bills, which are the bills you’d have to pass into law to defund ObamaCare.

There is no more committed budget cutter on Capitol Hill than Ryan, which is why his words are worth taking into account for conservatives who, once Republicans retake the House (as I fully expect they will), insist that the GOP repair much of the damage President Obama has done. It won’t be easy — and conservatives should internalize that fact sooner rather than later. There are certain governing and political realities that cannot be wished away. Repealing ObamaCare is impossible so long as Obama sits in the Oval Office — and even defunding the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act is going to prove to be exceedingly difficult. Those in the conservative movement who set that up as the standard of success are setting themselves and their closest political allies up for failure.

An alternative conservative governing agenda to Obamaism should commit to repealing ObamaCare; that is an entirely reasonable demand to make. But insisting that this commitment be legislated into law within months of the GOP’s retaking control of the House is simply fanciful. So long as Obama is president, the best that conservatives may hope for between now and 2012 is to stop the leftward lurch that has occurred during the past 21 months. That would itself be a significant achievement. Cauterizing the wound of a bleeding patient counts for something.

Beyond that, next spring Representative Ryan, as chairman of the House Budget Committee, will lay out an alternative to what Obama and Democrats have proposed. My guess is that it will be quite bold and ambitious. Still, what happens in 2011 needs to be seen as setting the stage for 2012. Ryan refers to this period as a “shadow boxing match” to the real fight — “2012,” Ryan says, “is the fight for the soul of America.”

The November 2 election will hopefully bring to Washington a large number of lawmakers who care more about the conservative cause than they do about a political career, who are skilled at tactics and strategy, and who are serious about reversing the trajectory of things. But the wise ones among them will also understand that the 2010 election results will probably set the stage for an intense, protracted, and at times frustrating struggle. Things rarely happen in politics as neatly, cleanly, and quickly as we like; this is in part the results of our Madisonian form of government.

In the aftermath of the midterm elections, the conservative movement should keep pressure on members of Congress to propose a governing blueprint that is equal to this moment — one that limits government and champions a growth agenda. At the same time, conservatives need to show some measure of maturity, sobriety, and patience. They cannot demand that everything be done all at once. They should not confuse lack of results (repealing or defunding ObamaCare) with lack of will. And for some conservative commentators to write “I have a feeling that if the GOP d/n repeal or defund Obamacare in 2011, there will be no GOP in 2012” is both unwise and apocalyptic. One of the characteristics of conservatives is prudence — “the god of this lower world,” in the words of Burke. In this instance that means pushing an agenda that re-limits government while rejecting utopian dreams and utopian demands. That’s worth keeping in mind as conservatives find themselves on the cusp of power again.

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A Democrat by Any Other Name

In the final week of the campaign, the Democrats are reduced to a series of Hail Marys and a string of unbelievable claims, one wackier than the next. The campaign “suddenly” went south for them when Karl Rove’s anonymous donors showed up. Next we heard that the voters were “scared” and not thinking straight. Then we learned that Democrats don’t really support Democratic leaders. Mississippi Democrat Gene Taylor revealed he didn’t even vote for Obama:

Mr. Taylor had heretofore kept that vote a secret, and perhaps it’s only a coincidence that he rolled it out amid the re-election fight of his career. The 11-term Member added that he won’t support Mrs. Pelosi for Speaker, another revelation considering his vote for her in 2009. “I’m very disappointed in how she’s veered to the left,” Mr. Taylor said, as if Mrs. Pelosi’s ideological predispositions were ever hidden.

Mr. Taylor joins a growing list of Democrats who voted for Mrs. Pelosi in 2009 but now profess to be shocked by her left turn. They include Idaho’s Walt Minnick, Pennsylvania’s Jason Altmire, Alabama’s Bobby Bright and Texas’s Chet Edwards, endangered incumbents all.

It’s somewhere between comical and insulting. The voters can figure out which are the D’s and which are the R’s. And they know that for all their protestations, the “moderates” and the “Blue Dogs” are simply Democrats who rubber-stamped the Obama-Reid-Pelosi agenda. And many of them are going to lose because they were led around by the nose by their liberal leaders and ignored their constituents. The aggrieved voters will exact their revenge next week.

In the final week of the campaign, the Democrats are reduced to a series of Hail Marys and a string of unbelievable claims, one wackier than the next. The campaign “suddenly” went south for them when Karl Rove’s anonymous donors showed up. Next we heard that the voters were “scared” and not thinking straight. Then we learned that Democrats don’t really support Democratic leaders. Mississippi Democrat Gene Taylor revealed he didn’t even vote for Obama:

Mr. Taylor had heretofore kept that vote a secret, and perhaps it’s only a coincidence that he rolled it out amid the re-election fight of his career. The 11-term Member added that he won’t support Mrs. Pelosi for Speaker, another revelation considering his vote for her in 2009. “I’m very disappointed in how she’s veered to the left,” Mr. Taylor said, as if Mrs. Pelosi’s ideological predispositions were ever hidden.

Mr. Taylor joins a growing list of Democrats who voted for Mrs. Pelosi in 2009 but now profess to be shocked by her left turn. They include Idaho’s Walt Minnick, Pennsylvania’s Jason Altmire, Alabama’s Bobby Bright and Texas’s Chet Edwards, endangered incumbents all.

It’s somewhere between comical and insulting. The voters can figure out which are the D’s and which are the R’s. And they know that for all their protestations, the “moderates” and the “Blue Dogs” are simply Democrats who rubber-stamped the Obama-Reid-Pelosi agenda. And many of them are going to lose because they were led around by the nose by their liberal leaders and ignored their constituents. The aggrieved voters will exact their revenge next week.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Peter Berkowitz makes mincemeat of an E.J. Dionne column. “Dionne continues to insist, contrary to the evidence, that the Tea Party is a small and inconsequential movement. He leaves unchallenged my main claim that many highly educated Americans misunderstand the Tea Party’s central commitment to limited government because the political science and history departments at the distinguished colleges and universities that credential them are failing to teach the principles of American constitutional government (I do not dispute Dionne’s assurance that he was well trained by his college teachers). And while insisting on the importance of a thoughtful conservatism, he seems to be unaware of its existence.” Ouch.

NPR makes the case (another one) for its own defunding. You see, “zombies and vampires are malleable metaphors; they’ve symbolized anxieties over wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, environmental holocaust, and technological disaster.” And you, fellow taxpayer, are funding this stuff.

She must make even Democrats shudder. Speaker Nancy Pelosi: “Everything was going great and all of a sudden secret money from God knows where — because they won’t disclose it — is pouring in.”

It sure makes that whole “race is narrowing!” storyline seem silly. “With Election Day eight days away, Republican candidates hold a nine-point lead over Democrats on the Generic Congressional Ballot for the week ending Sunday, October 24, 2010. It’s the second week in a row the gap between the parties has been that wide. Forty-nine percent (49%) of respondents say they would vote for their district’s Republican congressional candidate, while 40% would opt for his or her Democratic opponent. Even more worrisome for Democrats, however, is the finding that among the voters who are most closely following the midterm elections Republicans hold a 56% to 38% lead.”

Joe Sestak makes it competitive, but Pat Toomey is once again back in the lead in the Pennsylvania Senate race.

Rep. Shelley Berkley makes for a lively interview (h/t JTA). A sample: “[W]hile she faults President George W. Bush for many things during his presidency, she believes the Republican president was more personally committed to Israel than Obama. It’s this sort of blunt talk that impresses folks like [Gary] Bauer. … ‘I think she’s a leader in this regard,” says Bauer. … ‘There are other people on Capitol Hill that will privately say to their constituents, ‘Of course I’m with Israel and I’m talking to the White House behind the scenes’ to get the policy better. But she’s been willing to say it publicly. This is the way you can tell when a political figure really feels something in their heart.’ Because of her prominence on Israel, Berkley’s own constituents occasionally seem to forget how liberal she is.” Because liberals don’t bother with Israel these days?

Obama’s low standing, along with his unpopular agenda, makes Democratic candidates nervous — and suddenly declare their independence. If only they had voted that way, they might not be in such trouble.

Peter Berkowitz makes mincemeat of an E.J. Dionne column. “Dionne continues to insist, contrary to the evidence, that the Tea Party is a small and inconsequential movement. He leaves unchallenged my main claim that many highly educated Americans misunderstand the Tea Party’s central commitment to limited government because the political science and history departments at the distinguished colleges and universities that credential them are failing to teach the principles of American constitutional government (I do not dispute Dionne’s assurance that he was well trained by his college teachers). And while insisting on the importance of a thoughtful conservatism, he seems to be unaware of its existence.” Ouch.

NPR makes the case (another one) for its own defunding. You see, “zombies and vampires are malleable metaphors; they’ve symbolized anxieties over wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, environmental holocaust, and technological disaster.” And you, fellow taxpayer, are funding this stuff.

She must make even Democrats shudder. Speaker Nancy Pelosi: “Everything was going great and all of a sudden secret money from God knows where — because they won’t disclose it — is pouring in.”

It sure makes that whole “race is narrowing!” storyline seem silly. “With Election Day eight days away, Republican candidates hold a nine-point lead over Democrats on the Generic Congressional Ballot for the week ending Sunday, October 24, 2010. It’s the second week in a row the gap between the parties has been that wide. Forty-nine percent (49%) of respondents say they would vote for their district’s Republican congressional candidate, while 40% would opt for his or her Democratic opponent. Even more worrisome for Democrats, however, is the finding that among the voters who are most closely following the midterm elections Republicans hold a 56% to 38% lead.”

Joe Sestak makes it competitive, but Pat Toomey is once again back in the lead in the Pennsylvania Senate race.

Rep. Shelley Berkley makes for a lively interview (h/t JTA). A sample: “[W]hile she faults President George W. Bush for many things during his presidency, she believes the Republican president was more personally committed to Israel than Obama. It’s this sort of blunt talk that impresses folks like [Gary] Bauer. … ‘I think she’s a leader in this regard,” says Bauer. … ‘There are other people on Capitol Hill that will privately say to their constituents, ‘Of course I’m with Israel and I’m talking to the White House behind the scenes’ to get the policy better. But she’s been willing to say it publicly. This is the way you can tell when a political figure really feels something in their heart.’ Because of her prominence on Israel, Berkley’s own constituents occasionally seem to forget how liberal she is.” Because liberals don’t bother with Israel these days?

Obama’s low standing, along with his unpopular agenda, makes Democratic candidates nervous — and suddenly declare their independence. If only they had voted that way, they might not be in such trouble.

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