Commentary Magazine


Posts For: October 31, 2010

A Straw in the Wind?

One of the best predictors of elections over the years has been the mock elections held in schools. Most school kids only reflect what their parents think and, unlike parents avoiding pollsters and unwanted telephone calls, have no reason to either lie or clam up.

Michael Barone reports that in Washington state, 15,400 K-12 students voted, and Republican Dino Rossi won the Senate race 53 percent to 47 percent over Democratic incumbent Patty Murray. That’s comfortably beyond the margin within which Washington’s political establishment could fiddle with the votes to produce a favored outcome, which might well have happened in Rossi’s first, whisker-close run for governor in 2004.

That’s the good news. The bad news is that the job-killing proposal to tax the incomes of the rich, ending Washington’s income-tax-free status, passed in the mock election. Pushed by Bill Gates and his father (like they care about an additional few percentage points in taxes), the main force behind it has been the teachers’ unions, whose members will be the prime beneficiaries. Let’s hope, for the state of Washington’s economy, that the kids were more influenced by their teachers than their parents will be on Tuesday.

One of the best predictors of elections over the years has been the mock elections held in schools. Most school kids only reflect what their parents think and, unlike parents avoiding pollsters and unwanted telephone calls, have no reason to either lie or clam up.

Michael Barone reports that in Washington state, 15,400 K-12 students voted, and Republican Dino Rossi won the Senate race 53 percent to 47 percent over Democratic incumbent Patty Murray. That’s comfortably beyond the margin within which Washington’s political establishment could fiddle with the votes to produce a favored outcome, which might well have happened in Rossi’s first, whisker-close run for governor in 2004.

That’s the good news. The bad news is that the job-killing proposal to tax the incomes of the rich, ending Washington’s income-tax-free status, passed in the mock election. Pushed by Bill Gates and his father (like they care about an additional few percentage points in taxes), the main force behind it has been the teachers’ unions, whose members will be the prime beneficiaries. Let’s hope, for the state of Washington’s economy, that the kids were more influenced by their teachers than their parents will be on Tuesday.

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Is President Obama the New Woodrow Wilson?

Jen referred this morning to David Brooks’s column, in which he advises the President to change his ways after the midterm election, especially if it turns out to be as disastrous for Democrats as nearly everyone expects. And this means changing his politics, just as Bill Clinton did after the 1994 midterm:

Obama needs to redefine his identity. Bill Clinton gave himself a New Democrat label. Obama has never categorized himself so clearly. This ambiguity was useful in 2008 when people could project whatever they wanted onto him. But it has been harmful since. Obama came to be defined by his emergency responses to the fiscal crisis — by the things he had to do, not by the things he wanted to do. Then he got defined as an orthodox, big government liberal who lacks deep roots in American culture.

Unlike Clinton, who doesn’t have an ideological bone in his body, I’m not sure Obama has the capacity to do that. I’ve just finished reading Louis Auchincloss’s mini-biography of Woodrow Wilson (part of the “Penguin Lives” series), and I was struck by the similarities between the country’s first liberal president and the man who might be its last (I know, I know, ever the optimist).

Wilson was, at heart, an academic, the author of several books, (including Congressional Government, still in print after 125 years). He thought and acted like a professor even after he entered politics. Wilson always took it for granted, for instance, that he was the smartest guy in the room and acted accordingly. Does that sound familiar? Wilson was a remarkably powerful orator. (It was he who revived the custom of delivering the State of the Union message in person, a custom that had been dropped by Thomas Jefferson, a poor and most reluctant public speaker.)

Both men had very short public careers before the White House. Wilson’s only pre-presidential office was two years as Governor of New Jersey. And Wilson thought he had a pipeline to God, which allowed him to divine what was best for the world and gave him a moral obligation to give it to the world whether the world wanted it or not. This last tendency, evident even when he was president of Princeton University, became more pronounced with age as a series of debilitating strokes (the first at age 40) increasingly rigidified his personality.

Both Wilson and Obama were the subjects of remarkable public adulation, and both won the Nobel Peace Prize for their aspirations rather than their accomplishments. In Wilson’s case, at least, it only increased his sense of being God’s instrument on earth. Although the Republicans had won majorities just before Armistice Day in November 1918, in both houses of Congress — and the Senate’s consent by a two-thirds majority would be necessary to ratify any treaty — Wilson shut them out of any say in the treaty he went to Paris to negotiate with the other victorious powers. Obama, of course, shut the Republicans out of any say in both the stimulus bill and ObamaCare.

The result was disastrous for Wilson’s dream of world peace. So obsessed was he with creating a League of Nations that he was willing to surrender on almost everything else enunciated in his Fourteen Points to get it. Clemenceau and Lloyd George, shrewd and ruthless negotiators, played him like a fiddle. The result was the Treaty of Versailles, perhaps the most catastrophic work of diplomacy in world history, which produced a smoldering resentment in Germany at its harshness, a resentment exploited by Adolf Hitler.

When Wilson returned home, he flatly refused to compromise with the Republicans in the Senate and embarked on a speaking tour to build public pressure to force the treaty and the League through. The result was another stroke that left him incapacitated. The treaty was defeated 55-39, and when the Republicans tried to add a “reservation” that was essentially trivial but would have resulted in ratification, Wilson would have none of it. If he could not have the treaty, word for word, that he had negotiated, then he preferred nothing. He asked Democratic senators to vote against the amended treaty, and they did so. As a result, the United States did not join the League, which was hopelessly ineffective without the world’s greatest power, and what Wilson had hoped would be eternal peace became a 20-year truce.

President Obama, so far as I know, is in the best of health, but will he be any more able to deal with a changed political reality and work with Republicans? I hope so, but even this incorrigible optimist is not too confident of that.

Jen referred this morning to David Brooks’s column, in which he advises the President to change his ways after the midterm election, especially if it turns out to be as disastrous for Democrats as nearly everyone expects. And this means changing his politics, just as Bill Clinton did after the 1994 midterm:

Obama needs to redefine his identity. Bill Clinton gave himself a New Democrat label. Obama has never categorized himself so clearly. This ambiguity was useful in 2008 when people could project whatever they wanted onto him. But it has been harmful since. Obama came to be defined by his emergency responses to the fiscal crisis — by the things he had to do, not by the things he wanted to do. Then he got defined as an orthodox, big government liberal who lacks deep roots in American culture.

Unlike Clinton, who doesn’t have an ideological bone in his body, I’m not sure Obama has the capacity to do that. I’ve just finished reading Louis Auchincloss’s mini-biography of Woodrow Wilson (part of the “Penguin Lives” series), and I was struck by the similarities between the country’s first liberal president and the man who might be its last (I know, I know, ever the optimist).

Wilson was, at heart, an academic, the author of several books, (including Congressional Government, still in print after 125 years). He thought and acted like a professor even after he entered politics. Wilson always took it for granted, for instance, that he was the smartest guy in the room and acted accordingly. Does that sound familiar? Wilson was a remarkably powerful orator. (It was he who revived the custom of delivering the State of the Union message in person, a custom that had been dropped by Thomas Jefferson, a poor and most reluctant public speaker.)

Both men had very short public careers before the White House. Wilson’s only pre-presidential office was two years as Governor of New Jersey. And Wilson thought he had a pipeline to God, which allowed him to divine what was best for the world and gave him a moral obligation to give it to the world whether the world wanted it or not. This last tendency, evident even when he was president of Princeton University, became more pronounced with age as a series of debilitating strokes (the first at age 40) increasingly rigidified his personality.

Both Wilson and Obama were the subjects of remarkable public adulation, and both won the Nobel Peace Prize for their aspirations rather than their accomplishments. In Wilson’s case, at least, it only increased his sense of being God’s instrument on earth. Although the Republicans had won majorities just before Armistice Day in November 1918, in both houses of Congress — and the Senate’s consent by a two-thirds majority would be necessary to ratify any treaty — Wilson shut them out of any say in the treaty he went to Paris to negotiate with the other victorious powers. Obama, of course, shut the Republicans out of any say in both the stimulus bill and ObamaCare.

The result was disastrous for Wilson’s dream of world peace. So obsessed was he with creating a League of Nations that he was willing to surrender on almost everything else enunciated in his Fourteen Points to get it. Clemenceau and Lloyd George, shrewd and ruthless negotiators, played him like a fiddle. The result was the Treaty of Versailles, perhaps the most catastrophic work of diplomacy in world history, which produced a smoldering resentment in Germany at its harshness, a resentment exploited by Adolf Hitler.

When Wilson returned home, he flatly refused to compromise with the Republicans in the Senate and embarked on a speaking tour to build public pressure to force the treaty and the League through. The result was another stroke that left him incapacitated. The treaty was defeated 55-39, and when the Republicans tried to add a “reservation” that was essentially trivial but would have resulted in ratification, Wilson would have none of it. If he could not have the treaty, word for word, that he had negotiated, then he preferred nothing. He asked Democratic senators to vote against the amended treaty, and they did so. As a result, the United States did not join the League, which was hopelessly ineffective without the world’s greatest power, and what Wilson had hoped would be eternal peace became a 20-year truce.

President Obama, so far as I know, is in the best of health, but will he be any more able to deal with a changed political reality and work with Republicans? I hope so, but even this incorrigible optimist is not too confident of that.

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The Policies That Keep Us Safe

The foiled package-bomb plot originating in Yemen is the latest sign of how determined Islamist extremists remain in trying to strike the United States. Just in the past year, we have seen the shooting at Fort Hood, which left 13 people dead; an attempt to blow up a Detroit-bound airliner with explosives hidden in underwear; an attempt to set off an explosion in Times Square with explosives hidden in a vehicle; and the arrest of a suspect accused of plotting to attack the Washington subway. These attacks serve as a reminder, as Andy McCarthy notes, that our homeland remains very much in danger. So why isn’t terrorism more of an election issue? Largely because this is an area where there is — mercifully — a high degree of bipartisan agreement.

That hasn’t always been the case. Barack Obama ran for president not only pledging to pull out of Iraq but also to end what he viewed as the abuses of George W. Bush’s “war on terror.” The very term “war on terror” has been banished from the Obama administration’s lexicon, but luckily, most of the practices instituted by Bush have been continued.

Obama, recall, promised to close the Guantanamo Bay detention facility within a year, to try terrorists in civilian courts, to end “renditions” of terrorist suspects, to end torture, and to end or severely curtail warrantless wiretaps. What has he actually done?

He has limited the use of interrogation techniques against terrorism suspects — but they had already been curtailed by Bush, who banned the use of most “stress techniques” in his second term. But Obama hasn’t closed Gitmo, largely because of overwhelming congressional opposition. His plan to try Khalid Sheikh Muhammad in a civilian court came to naught. The military commissions are still in business. Suspected terrorists continue to be  held without trial, not only at Gitmo but also in the Parwan detention facility in Afghanistan. He signed an extension of the Patriot Act, which provides most of the surveillance authorities instituted after 9/11. Renditions continue. And Obama has actually stepped up the use of drone strikes to kill terrorists, especially but not exclusively in Pakistan. He has even placed an American citizen (Anwar al-Aliki, a leader of al-Qaeda’s Yemen branch) on the list for elimination without any judicial overview. Finally, he has essentially continued the Bush policy of drawing down slowly in Iraq while building up our forces in Afghanistan.

Thus Obama has, in most important respects, essentially ratified the post-9/11 measures instituted by the Bush administration. He has not instituted a “law enforcement” approach to terrorism, as was feared by so many of his critics and expected by so many of his supporters. A Republican president might approve harsher interrogation techniques or make some other changes at the margins, but I doubt that anything very substantial will change no matter who succeeds Obama — unless there is some horrific new attack on American soil, in which case the balance will swing even more against civil liberties.

Just as we have a wide degree of agreement now on how to fight terrorism at home, so we have bipartisan uncertainty about how to fight it in countries like Pakistan, Yemen, and Somalia. No one seriously suggests invading them barring another 9/11. The debate is mainly about how much and what kind of aid we should give to the governments in question, how much we can trust them to act on our behalf, and how many unilateral strikes we should carry out. These are not ideological questions; they are tough judgment calls on which experts of all stripes can disagree.

Obama, to his credit, hasn’t hesitated to approve drone strikes and other covert actions against terrorists in places like Somalia and Yemen, but there is a limit to what such measures can do. Defeating the terrorists who hide in these unstable areas requires improving their level of governance — a difficult, long-term project that we are attempting to undertake but without any great prospects of immediate success.

More than nine years after 9/11, we have made great strides in countering terrorism, especially in toughening up domestic security, increasing intelligence-gathering, and lowering barriers between law enforcement and intelligence. We still have more to do domestically — for instance, the latest plots highlight the need for better inspection of cargo. And there is much more to do abroad to try to root al-Qaeda out of its foreign bastions. But the greatest progress we have made is to reach a high degree of domestic consensus about what it takes to fight terrorism.

Give Obama credit for breaking his campaign pledges and essentially adopting the Bush approach. And of course, give Bush credit for weathering years of abuse from Senator Obama and other critics to hang tough and institute policies that have helped keep us safe.

The foiled package-bomb plot originating in Yemen is the latest sign of how determined Islamist extremists remain in trying to strike the United States. Just in the past year, we have seen the shooting at Fort Hood, which left 13 people dead; an attempt to blow up a Detroit-bound airliner with explosives hidden in underwear; an attempt to set off an explosion in Times Square with explosives hidden in a vehicle; and the arrest of a suspect accused of plotting to attack the Washington subway. These attacks serve as a reminder, as Andy McCarthy notes, that our homeland remains very much in danger. So why isn’t terrorism more of an election issue? Largely because this is an area where there is — mercifully — a high degree of bipartisan agreement.

That hasn’t always been the case. Barack Obama ran for president not only pledging to pull out of Iraq but also to end what he viewed as the abuses of George W. Bush’s “war on terror.” The very term “war on terror” has been banished from the Obama administration’s lexicon, but luckily, most of the practices instituted by Bush have been continued.

Obama, recall, promised to close the Guantanamo Bay detention facility within a year, to try terrorists in civilian courts, to end “renditions” of terrorist suspects, to end torture, and to end or severely curtail warrantless wiretaps. What has he actually done?

He has limited the use of interrogation techniques against terrorism suspects — but they had already been curtailed by Bush, who banned the use of most “stress techniques” in his second term. But Obama hasn’t closed Gitmo, largely because of overwhelming congressional opposition. His plan to try Khalid Sheikh Muhammad in a civilian court came to naught. The military commissions are still in business. Suspected terrorists continue to be  held without trial, not only at Gitmo but also in the Parwan detention facility in Afghanistan. He signed an extension of the Patriot Act, which provides most of the surveillance authorities instituted after 9/11. Renditions continue. And Obama has actually stepped up the use of drone strikes to kill terrorists, especially but not exclusively in Pakistan. He has even placed an American citizen (Anwar al-Aliki, a leader of al-Qaeda’s Yemen branch) on the list for elimination without any judicial overview. Finally, he has essentially continued the Bush policy of drawing down slowly in Iraq while building up our forces in Afghanistan.

Thus Obama has, in most important respects, essentially ratified the post-9/11 measures instituted by the Bush administration. He has not instituted a “law enforcement” approach to terrorism, as was feared by so many of his critics and expected by so many of his supporters. A Republican president might approve harsher interrogation techniques or make some other changes at the margins, but I doubt that anything very substantial will change no matter who succeeds Obama — unless there is some horrific new attack on American soil, in which case the balance will swing even more against civil liberties.

Just as we have a wide degree of agreement now on how to fight terrorism at home, so we have bipartisan uncertainty about how to fight it in countries like Pakistan, Yemen, and Somalia. No one seriously suggests invading them barring another 9/11. The debate is mainly about how much and what kind of aid we should give to the governments in question, how much we can trust them to act on our behalf, and how many unilateral strikes we should carry out. These are not ideological questions; they are tough judgment calls on which experts of all stripes can disagree.

Obama, to his credit, hasn’t hesitated to approve drone strikes and other covert actions against terrorists in places like Somalia and Yemen, but there is a limit to what such measures can do. Defeating the terrorists who hide in these unstable areas requires improving their level of governance — a difficult, long-term project that we are attempting to undertake but without any great prospects of immediate success.

More than nine years after 9/11, we have made great strides in countering terrorism, especially in toughening up domestic security, increasing intelligence-gathering, and lowering barriers between law enforcement and intelligence. We still have more to do domestically — for instance, the latest plots highlight the need for better inspection of cargo. And there is much more to do abroad to try to root al-Qaeda out of its foreign bastions. But the greatest progress we have made is to reach a high degree of domestic consensus about what it takes to fight terrorism.

Give Obama credit for breaking his campaign pledges and essentially adopting the Bush approach. And of course, give Bush credit for weathering years of abuse from Senator Obama and other critics to hang tough and institute policies that have helped keep us safe.

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RE: Down to West Virginia and Washington

If the GOP were to pick up nine seats and neither Ben Nelson nor Joe Lieberman could be lured across the aisle, that would tie the Senate at 50-50. That last happened after the 2000 election (before Jim Jeffords of Vermont crossed the aisle in the other direction a few months later and gave the Democrats a 51-49 majority). In 2001, that meant that Vice President Dick Cheney was the deciding vote on how the Senate would be organized. Now it would be Joe Biden. It would also mean that Biden would have to stick pretty close to home while the Senate was in session to be available to break any ties. Whether that would be a net plus or minus for the Republic, I know not.

But how likely is it that Lieberman or Nelson would switch? I agree with James Taranto that it’s not likely.

And then there’s Alaska. It’s now a Republican seat, but the current holder, Lisa Murkowski, lost the primary and decided, in a fit of chutzpah, to run a write-in campaign. Some polls show her ahead, but do they have any predictive value? I doubt it. I think a lot of people who told the pollsters they were voting for her will, on arriving at the polling booth, decide a write-in vote is just too much trouble and vote for Joe Miller. Even if she wins, I imagine that she would caucus with the Republicans, despite the fact that she was roundly denounced by her Republican colleagues for not accepting the results of the primary and thus putting the seat in jeopardy by splitting the vote. If that were to happen, and the Democrat were to win thanks to Murkowski’s ego, thereby depriving the Republicans of the majority, I don’t think that Murkowski will be invited to many future Republican picnics.

If the GOP were to pick up nine seats and neither Ben Nelson nor Joe Lieberman could be lured across the aisle, that would tie the Senate at 50-50. That last happened after the 2000 election (before Jim Jeffords of Vermont crossed the aisle in the other direction a few months later and gave the Democrats a 51-49 majority). In 2001, that meant that Vice President Dick Cheney was the deciding vote on how the Senate would be organized. Now it would be Joe Biden. It would also mean that Biden would have to stick pretty close to home while the Senate was in session to be available to break any ties. Whether that would be a net plus or minus for the Republic, I know not.

But how likely is it that Lieberman or Nelson would switch? I agree with James Taranto that it’s not likely.

And then there’s Alaska. It’s now a Republican seat, but the current holder, Lisa Murkowski, lost the primary and decided, in a fit of chutzpah, to run a write-in campaign. Some polls show her ahead, but do they have any predictive value? I doubt it. I think a lot of people who told the pollsters they were voting for her will, on arriving at the polling booth, decide a write-in vote is just too much trouble and vote for Joe Miller. Even if she wins, I imagine that she would caucus with the Republicans, despite the fact that she was roundly denounced by her Republican colleagues for not accepting the results of the primary and thus putting the seat in jeopardy by splitting the vote. If that were to happen, and the Democrat were to win thanks to Murkowski’s ego, thereby depriving the Republicans of the majority, I don’t think that Murkowski will be invited to many future Republican picnics.

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Hope and Change in a Muslim Country

One of the many unfortunate aspects of the Obama administration’s “Muslim outreach” policy is that too little attention is paid to success stories in the Middle East – regimes and activists who are modernizing, democratizing, and advancing the cause of women’s rights.

There is no better example than Aicha Ech Channa, an activist from Morocco who has survived multiple fatwas from religious extremists and gained support from a reformist monarch and international recognition for her extraordinary work on behalf of unwed mothers and children in Morocco. She is visiting the U.S. with Moroccan officials.

Aicha’s appearance is deceptive. She looks like a sweet grandmother, speaks fluent French, and has a sly sense of humor. You would never guess that for 40 years, she has been battling Islamists and quietly revolutionizing the lives of women in Morocco. When she began her work, unwed mothers were considered prostitutes, even if the pregnancy resulted from rape or incest. Under the threat of imprisonment and social ostracism, many abandoned their children, leaving them, Aicha explains, in the streets, in mosques, or even in the woods. She explains, “They just didn’t talk about it.”

This was the impetus, she explains, to create her own organization to assist unwed mothers, provide training and education, reconcile family members, and provide a legal mechanism for identifying the father and, if there is sufficient evidence, obtaining DNA testing to establish paternity. At the cost of $400 per month per person, she puts the women through job-training and literacy programs and provides psychological counseling, social services, and mediation with the father of the child. She operates restaurants and a catering service to employ unwed mothers who would otherwise be jobless. The goal is to have economically independent women and to insure that the country does not have a generation of cast-off children “who will be bitter toward their country.”

I ask if there is legal recourse for women in situations of rape and incest in Morocco. She answers: “Yes, in principle, but first you have to have the courage to go to the judge. So a lot of associations are there to go with women to the judge.” But this is not sufficient, she says. Her goal is much bigger. She contends that only through social and economic development can women and the country as a whole progress. She explains: “Everything is important. You have to develop a training system [for women]. Get involved in politics. Educate men.” She is candid that child labor remains a problem: “Little girls are working because the family is poor. Economic development is needed.”

If all this sounds as if it would be threatening to Islamic radicals, it was.  In 2000, a fatwa was issued. She explains that on June 6, 2000: “I dared to be interviewed on Al Jazeera for 45 minutes. I talked about rape, pedophilia, child workers, unwed mothers. … I was breaking taboos.” When she heard about the threat to have her punished, she recalls: “I wanted to throw in the towel. [But] there was a moment of solidarity.” From the media, private associations, and foreign embassies, she received calls of support. Then King Mohammed VI’s advisers contacted her and told her to stick with her work. To send the message to Islamist radicals, the reformist monarch invited her to the palace and gave her the Mohammed V Foundation’s Medal of Honor. She recalls the king’s comments: “I know you. I know what you do. I know what you write. I know what they write about you. Continue to do your work.” Also, in 2000, when she attended a ceremony honoring over 40 women’s organizations in Morocco, the king told the activists: “Alone I can’t change things. Together, hand in hand we can change things.”

Another fatwa followed, but so did international awards including the $1 million Opus Prize. She praises the change in the Family Code that the king championed but says changes to the law are needed. Unwed women still must go to court to register their children. She stresses that there needs to be “time to change.” Taking a water bottle from my side, she picks it up and pretends to pour it on the table. She analogizes society to dry land. “You have to pour water slowly or it floods.”

For Morocco, a moderate Muslim state in a region painted with a broad brush (by U.S. President, no less, who insists it is all the “Muslim World”), Aicha’s story is evidence that the country is modernizing. Ayache Khellaf, a senior expert on economic planning on the High Commission for Planning, an independent advisory organization in Morocco, explains: “The society is changing. The civil society is playing an important role. …  At one time people wanted to execute her. Now they are coming to hear her talk.” As one Morocco observer put it, “If she were doing this in Iran or Saudi or just about any other Muslim country, she would be dead by now, not getting medals of honor from the king.”

So if Muslim outreach is our goal, and cultivation of truly moderate, reformist Muslims is in our national-security interest, we would do well to stop showering attention on the despots of the region and pay more heed to those regimes and individuals who are actually offering, to borrow a phrase, hope and change.

One of the many unfortunate aspects of the Obama administration’s “Muslim outreach” policy is that too little attention is paid to success stories in the Middle East – regimes and activists who are modernizing, democratizing, and advancing the cause of women’s rights.

There is no better example than Aicha Ech Channa, an activist from Morocco who has survived multiple fatwas from religious extremists and gained support from a reformist monarch and international recognition for her extraordinary work on behalf of unwed mothers and children in Morocco. She is visiting the U.S. with Moroccan officials.

Aicha’s appearance is deceptive. She looks like a sweet grandmother, speaks fluent French, and has a sly sense of humor. You would never guess that for 40 years, she has been battling Islamists and quietly revolutionizing the lives of women in Morocco. When she began her work, unwed mothers were considered prostitutes, even if the pregnancy resulted from rape or incest. Under the threat of imprisonment and social ostracism, many abandoned their children, leaving them, Aicha explains, in the streets, in mosques, or even in the woods. She explains, “They just didn’t talk about it.”

This was the impetus, she explains, to create her own organization to assist unwed mothers, provide training and education, reconcile family members, and provide a legal mechanism for identifying the father and, if there is sufficient evidence, obtaining DNA testing to establish paternity. At the cost of $400 per month per person, she puts the women through job-training and literacy programs and provides psychological counseling, social services, and mediation with the father of the child. She operates restaurants and a catering service to employ unwed mothers who would otherwise be jobless. The goal is to have economically independent women and to insure that the country does not have a generation of cast-off children “who will be bitter toward their country.”

I ask if there is legal recourse for women in situations of rape and incest in Morocco. She answers: “Yes, in principle, but first you have to have the courage to go to the judge. So a lot of associations are there to go with women to the judge.” But this is not sufficient, she says. Her goal is much bigger. She contends that only through social and economic development can women and the country as a whole progress. She explains: “Everything is important. You have to develop a training system [for women]. Get involved in politics. Educate men.” She is candid that child labor remains a problem: “Little girls are working because the family is poor. Economic development is needed.”

If all this sounds as if it would be threatening to Islamic radicals, it was.  In 2000, a fatwa was issued. She explains that on June 6, 2000: “I dared to be interviewed on Al Jazeera for 45 minutes. I talked about rape, pedophilia, child workers, unwed mothers. … I was breaking taboos.” When she heard about the threat to have her punished, she recalls: “I wanted to throw in the towel. [But] there was a moment of solidarity.” From the media, private associations, and foreign embassies, she received calls of support. Then King Mohammed VI’s advisers contacted her and told her to stick with her work. To send the message to Islamist radicals, the reformist monarch invited her to the palace and gave her the Mohammed V Foundation’s Medal of Honor. She recalls the king’s comments: “I know you. I know what you do. I know what you write. I know what they write about you. Continue to do your work.” Also, in 2000, when she attended a ceremony honoring over 40 women’s organizations in Morocco, the king told the activists: “Alone I can’t change things. Together, hand in hand we can change things.”

Another fatwa followed, but so did international awards including the $1 million Opus Prize. She praises the change in the Family Code that the king championed but says changes to the law are needed. Unwed women still must go to court to register their children. She stresses that there needs to be “time to change.” Taking a water bottle from my side, she picks it up and pretends to pour it on the table. She analogizes society to dry land. “You have to pour water slowly or it floods.”

For Morocco, a moderate Muslim state in a region painted with a broad brush (by U.S. President, no less, who insists it is all the “Muslim World”), Aicha’s story is evidence that the country is modernizing. Ayache Khellaf, a senior expert on economic planning on the High Commission for Planning, an independent advisory organization in Morocco, explains: “The society is changing. The civil society is playing an important role. …  At one time people wanted to execute her. Now they are coming to hear her talk.” As one Morocco observer put it, “If she were doing this in Iran or Saudi or just about any other Muslim country, she would be dead by now, not getting medals of honor from the king.”

So if Muslim outreach is our goal, and cultivation of truly moderate, reformist Muslims is in our national-security interest, we would do well to stop showering attention on the despots of the region and pay more heed to those regimes and individuals who are actually offering, to borrow a phrase, hope and change.

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The German Example

Chris Caldwell provides one of the most important pieces of economic analysis since the financial meltdown more than two years ago. The focus is on Germany, but it tells us much about Obama and his mindset.

As for Germany, Caldwell explains they told the Obami and the Keynesians to buzz off:

“You won’t find a lot of Keynesians here,” explained one German economic policymaker in Berlin in September. That will not be news to anyone who has spoken to his counterparts in Washington. In their view, Germany is a skulker, a rotten citizen of the global economy, the macroeconomic equivalent of a juvenile delinquent, or worse. It is a smart aleck in the emergency ward that is the global economy. It is a flouter of the prescriptions of the new Doctor New Deal who sits in the White House.

And, wouldn’t you know it, Germany was right:

Germany’s growth in this year’s second quarter was 2.2 percent on a quarter-to-quarter basis. That means it is growing at almost 9 percent a year. Its unemployment rate has fallen to 7.5 percent, below what it was at the start of the global financial crisis—indeed, the lowest in 18 years. The second-biggest Western economy appears to be handling this deep recession much more effectively than the biggest—and emerging from it much earlier.

It seems the Germans’ skepticism of Keynesian alchemy — technically the “multiplier effect” (a dollar spent by the government magically transforms to more than a dollar in economic activity) – was correct. According to the Germans, the famed multiplier is actually a divider:

“Our research says the multiplier is more like .60,” says the German official. If he is correct, then a stimulus plan can actually deaden an economy rather than stimulate it. If he is correct, you might have been as well off to have taken the stimulus money and thrown it away.

Caldwell is straightforward — Germany already does a lot of “stimulating” and embodies many aspects of the social-welfare state. But his argument — and Germany’s — is compelling: anti-Obamanomics is superior to Obamanomics.

So what does this tell us about Obama? For starters, he operates in an intellectual cocoon. Remember, he told us that “all” economists believed in his Keynesian stimulus plan. Well, as he was spinning us, a body of research was building that Keynesianism is, to put it mildly, bunk:

The Harvard economist Alberto Alesina and his colleague Silvia Ardagna published an influential paper last fall in which they surveyed all the major fiscal adjustments in OECD countries between 1970 and 2007 and showed that tax cuts are more likely to increase growth than spending hikes. One of their most controversial findings—which comes from the work of two other Italian economists—is that cutting deficits can be expansionary, particularly if it is done through “large, decisive” government spending cuts, as it was in Ireland and Denmark in the 1980s. More generally, Alesina has argued that “monomaniacal” Keynesians have focused unduly on aggregate demand.

So much for the pose that Obama is a sophisticated intellectual. He is, rather, monomaniacally wedded to liberal dogma.

The German experience also tells us much about the bullying behavior of the Obama team. Domestic critics are brushed off, Israel is browbeaten, and Germany is harangued because they don’t roll over and comply with the misguided vision of the president. Caldwell explains:

Germany has been scolded, even browbeaten, by Obama administration officials, from Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner on down, for saving too much and spending too little. It has refused to stimulate its economy as the United States has done, on the grounds that the resulting budget deficits would not be sustainable and the policies themselves would not work. Administration officials have not been the only ones to warn the Germans about the path they’re on. On the eve of last summer’s G‑20 summit in Toronto, the economist and New York Times columnist Paul Krugman gave an interview to the German business paper Handelsblatt in which he said that, while Germany might think its deficits are big, they are peanuts “from an American viewpoint.” Germany cannot say it wasn’t warned.

There is a dreary predictability about Obama. Take outmoded liberal dogma. Double down on it. Ignore empirical evidence. Deride and bully opponents. And when the dogma fails, blame those who resisted. Whether we are talking about health care, economic policy, or the Middle East, the pattern is the same. It is not simply that Obama is wrong on the merits on these issues (although surely he is). It is that Obama’s self-image as the “smartest man in the room” prevents him from learning from errors, absorbing the experience of alternative policy choices, and showing grace and magnanimity toward friends and foes. No wonder Obama has become a sour figure, and the public has soured on him.

Chris Caldwell provides one of the most important pieces of economic analysis since the financial meltdown more than two years ago. The focus is on Germany, but it tells us much about Obama and his mindset.

As for Germany, Caldwell explains they told the Obami and the Keynesians to buzz off:

“You won’t find a lot of Keynesians here,” explained one German economic policymaker in Berlin in September. That will not be news to anyone who has spoken to his counterparts in Washington. In their view, Germany is a skulker, a rotten citizen of the global economy, the macroeconomic equivalent of a juvenile delinquent, or worse. It is a smart aleck in the emergency ward that is the global economy. It is a flouter of the prescriptions of the new Doctor New Deal who sits in the White House.

And, wouldn’t you know it, Germany was right:

Germany’s growth in this year’s second quarter was 2.2 percent on a quarter-to-quarter basis. That means it is growing at almost 9 percent a year. Its unemployment rate has fallen to 7.5 percent, below what it was at the start of the global financial crisis—indeed, the lowest in 18 years. The second-biggest Western economy appears to be handling this deep recession much more effectively than the biggest—and emerging from it much earlier.

It seems the Germans’ skepticism of Keynesian alchemy — technically the “multiplier effect” (a dollar spent by the government magically transforms to more than a dollar in economic activity) – was correct. According to the Germans, the famed multiplier is actually a divider:

“Our research says the multiplier is more like .60,” says the German official. If he is correct, then a stimulus plan can actually deaden an economy rather than stimulate it. If he is correct, you might have been as well off to have taken the stimulus money and thrown it away.

Caldwell is straightforward — Germany already does a lot of “stimulating” and embodies many aspects of the social-welfare state. But his argument — and Germany’s — is compelling: anti-Obamanomics is superior to Obamanomics.

So what does this tell us about Obama? For starters, he operates in an intellectual cocoon. Remember, he told us that “all” economists believed in his Keynesian stimulus plan. Well, as he was spinning us, a body of research was building that Keynesianism is, to put it mildly, bunk:

The Harvard economist Alberto Alesina and his colleague Silvia Ardagna published an influential paper last fall in which they surveyed all the major fiscal adjustments in OECD countries between 1970 and 2007 and showed that tax cuts are more likely to increase growth than spending hikes. One of their most controversial findings—which comes from the work of two other Italian economists—is that cutting deficits can be expansionary, particularly if it is done through “large, decisive” government spending cuts, as it was in Ireland and Denmark in the 1980s. More generally, Alesina has argued that “monomaniacal” Keynesians have focused unduly on aggregate demand.

So much for the pose that Obama is a sophisticated intellectual. He is, rather, monomaniacally wedded to liberal dogma.

The German experience also tells us much about the bullying behavior of the Obama team. Domestic critics are brushed off, Israel is browbeaten, and Germany is harangued because they don’t roll over and comply with the misguided vision of the president. Caldwell explains:

Germany has been scolded, even browbeaten, by Obama administration officials, from Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner on down, for saving too much and spending too little. It has refused to stimulate its economy as the United States has done, on the grounds that the resulting budget deficits would not be sustainable and the policies themselves would not work. Administration officials have not been the only ones to warn the Germans about the path they’re on. On the eve of last summer’s G‑20 summit in Toronto, the economist and New York Times columnist Paul Krugman gave an interview to the German business paper Handelsblatt in which he said that, while Germany might think its deficits are big, they are peanuts “from an American viewpoint.” Germany cannot say it wasn’t warned.

There is a dreary predictability about Obama. Take outmoded liberal dogma. Double down on it. Ignore empirical evidence. Deride and bully opponents. And when the dogma fails, blame those who resisted. Whether we are talking about health care, economic policy, or the Middle East, the pattern is the same. It is not simply that Obama is wrong on the merits on these issues (although surely he is). It is that Obama’s self-image as the “smartest man in the room” prevents him from learning from errors, absorbing the experience of alternative policy choices, and showing grace and magnanimity toward friends and foes. No wonder Obama has become a sour figure, and the public has soured on him.

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A Surplus of Enemies

A flock of liberal pundits is now trying to convince its members — and us — that losing the House and maybe the Senate is a really good thing for Obama. It’s not because he might moderate his views. Oh no, for in their book, Obama wasn’t radical enough. They suggest he’ll look better because he’ll have an “enemy” — John Boehner.

First, it would be nice if the punditocracy and the president, himself, talked more about the real enemies — Islamic terrorists, mullahs with nuclear ambitions, human-rights abusers, etc. For a gang who whimpered when their “patriotism was questioned” and decried “divisiveness” (i.e., the refusal to capitulate to the Obama agenda), this is rich.

But more important, the president’s problem is hardly a lack of “enemies.” The problem is, he has too many — Republicans, Wall Street, talk-show hosts, 24/7 media outlets, Fox, pollsters, insurance companies, Islamaphobe opponents of the Ground Zero mosque, the Chamber of Commerce, and, ultimately, the voters themselves, who are too irrational and too scared to appreciate his greatness. The “no-blue-states-no-red-states” candidate has morphed into an angry figure who treats opposition as illegitimate and opponents as “enemies.” Or as P.J. O’Rourke said of the Democrats, “They hate our guts.” And now the president can’t hide his feelings.

As Mickey Kaus points out, the growing enemies’ list isn’t helping Obama. Quite the opposite:

It’s amazing that the Blues don’t understand that all BHO’s comments, particularly the “punish your enemies” meme, are on FOX, talk radio, and the Internet. Your trash talk goes right into the other guy’s locker room. … It’s not just that rousing the Dem base also rouses the GOP base (which can hardly be roused more than it already is anyway). It’s that rousing the Dem base alienates the middle.

If he intends to base his last two years on vilifying Republicans, he may succeed — in solidifying the not-Obama, center-right coalition.

Bill Clinton ran circles around the GOP Congress following the 1994 midterm debacle because he was more amiable, flexible, and adroit than his opponents. Whatever his faults, Clinton didn’t hate our guts. He loved being president, and he loved being praised by his fellow citizens. Obama suffers us — first in silence, and now in public. And flexibility has really not been his strong suit. In short, Democrats long for a repeat of post-1994, but they lack the Bill Clinton part of the equation. (Frankly, they also lack the Newt Gingrich villain figure. Whatever their shortcomings, the current GOP leadership generally avoids personal displays of grandiosity and lacks a compulsion to say whatever ludicrously daft thought pops into their heads.)

So for those Democrats licking their chops at the prospect of an Obama-GOP face-off, they might want to reconsider. Isn’t it just as likely Obama will make the Republicans look better than the other way around? He’s sure done that during the midterm campaign.

A flock of liberal pundits is now trying to convince its members — and us — that losing the House and maybe the Senate is a really good thing for Obama. It’s not because he might moderate his views. Oh no, for in their book, Obama wasn’t radical enough. They suggest he’ll look better because he’ll have an “enemy” — John Boehner.

First, it would be nice if the punditocracy and the president, himself, talked more about the real enemies — Islamic terrorists, mullahs with nuclear ambitions, human-rights abusers, etc. For a gang who whimpered when their “patriotism was questioned” and decried “divisiveness” (i.e., the refusal to capitulate to the Obama agenda), this is rich.

But more important, the president’s problem is hardly a lack of “enemies.” The problem is, he has too many — Republicans, Wall Street, talk-show hosts, 24/7 media outlets, Fox, pollsters, insurance companies, Islamaphobe opponents of the Ground Zero mosque, the Chamber of Commerce, and, ultimately, the voters themselves, who are too irrational and too scared to appreciate his greatness. The “no-blue-states-no-red-states” candidate has morphed into an angry figure who treats opposition as illegitimate and opponents as “enemies.” Or as P.J. O’Rourke said of the Democrats, “They hate our guts.” And now the president can’t hide his feelings.

As Mickey Kaus points out, the growing enemies’ list isn’t helping Obama. Quite the opposite:

It’s amazing that the Blues don’t understand that all BHO’s comments, particularly the “punish your enemies” meme, are on FOX, talk radio, and the Internet. Your trash talk goes right into the other guy’s locker room. … It’s not just that rousing the Dem base also rouses the GOP base (which can hardly be roused more than it already is anyway). It’s that rousing the Dem base alienates the middle.

If he intends to base his last two years on vilifying Republicans, he may succeed — in solidifying the not-Obama, center-right coalition.

Bill Clinton ran circles around the GOP Congress following the 1994 midterm debacle because he was more amiable, flexible, and adroit than his opponents. Whatever his faults, Clinton didn’t hate our guts. He loved being president, and he loved being praised by his fellow citizens. Obama suffers us — first in silence, and now in public. And flexibility has really not been his strong suit. In short, Democrats long for a repeat of post-1994, but they lack the Bill Clinton part of the equation. (Frankly, they also lack the Newt Gingrich villain figure. Whatever their shortcomings, the current GOP leadership generally avoids personal displays of grandiosity and lacks a compulsion to say whatever ludicrously daft thought pops into their heads.)

So for those Democrats licking their chops at the prospect of an Obama-GOP face-off, they might want to reconsider. Isn’t it just as likely Obama will make the Republicans look better than the other way around? He’s sure done that during the midterm campaign.

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Let’s Not Forget the Letter

Lost in the rush of polls and soon to be forgotten (as the Democrats begin the blame-a-thon, and the moving vans arrive to pack off the casualties of Obamaism) was a multi-car pile-up in the left lane of legal scholarship. The culprit, we are reminded by the scalding wit of this observer, was Harvard law professor and Supreme Court advocate Laurence Tribe, who managed in a letter to his former student and now president to embarrass two Supreme Court justices (Sonia Sotomayor, for limited intellect; and Anthony Kennedy, for being perpetually influenced and never influencing). But it is Tribe’s own toadyism that is the real cringe-inducer. (It is not often we see such “pathetic grovelling and job-begging” from Harvard’s best-known liberal prof).

But that got me thinking. Doesn’t Tribe’s warning about Sotomayor’s shortcomings apply with equal force to Obama, himself?

Bluntly put she’s he’s not nearly as smart as she he seems to think she he is, and her his reputation for being something of a bully could well make her his liberal impulses backfire and simply add to the fire power of the Roberts/Alito/Scalia/Thomas conservative wing of the Court GOP.

You can understand why Obama and Sotomayor were sympatico.

And second, we must hold Tribe and the rest of the Harvard faculty partially responsible for the president’s distorted self-image. Those who were witnesses to Obama’s years as a law student can vouch that Tribe and his colleagues were no less slobbery when it came to student Obama some decades ago. They had their eye on him and figured he’d go far. His every word elicited praise. And as with the professors’ cooing, his placement on the Harvard Law Review was, it seems, based on factors other than legal scholarship, of which he produced none.

It is a pity that Sotomayor, Obama, and many less prominent names wind up with oversized egos and jobs for which they are underqualified. For that, as with so many other counterproductive contributions, we can blame, to some degree, the leftist intelligentsia who populate academia and the mainstream media. We often bear the brunt of their obsession with “diversity” (oh heavens, not the intellectual variety!) and their assurance that liberal conformity=brilliance and glibness=intellectualism. The good news is that the mainstream media are dying, and there is an election in 2012. The bad news: Sotomayor is there for life.

Lost in the rush of polls and soon to be forgotten (as the Democrats begin the blame-a-thon, and the moving vans arrive to pack off the casualties of Obamaism) was a multi-car pile-up in the left lane of legal scholarship. The culprit, we are reminded by the scalding wit of this observer, was Harvard law professor and Supreme Court advocate Laurence Tribe, who managed in a letter to his former student and now president to embarrass two Supreme Court justices (Sonia Sotomayor, for limited intellect; and Anthony Kennedy, for being perpetually influenced and never influencing). But it is Tribe’s own toadyism that is the real cringe-inducer. (It is not often we see such “pathetic grovelling and job-begging” from Harvard’s best-known liberal prof).

But that got me thinking. Doesn’t Tribe’s warning about Sotomayor’s shortcomings apply with equal force to Obama, himself?

Bluntly put she’s he’s not nearly as smart as she he seems to think she he is, and her his reputation for being something of a bully could well make her his liberal impulses backfire and simply add to the fire power of the Roberts/Alito/Scalia/Thomas conservative wing of the Court GOP.

You can understand why Obama and Sotomayor were sympatico.

And second, we must hold Tribe and the rest of the Harvard faculty partially responsible for the president’s distorted self-image. Those who were witnesses to Obama’s years as a law student can vouch that Tribe and his colleagues were no less slobbery when it came to student Obama some decades ago. They had their eye on him and figured he’d go far. His every word elicited praise. And as with the professors’ cooing, his placement on the Harvard Law Review was, it seems, based on factors other than legal scholarship, of which he produced none.

It is a pity that Sotomayor, Obama, and many less prominent names wind up with oversized egos and jobs for which they are underqualified. For that, as with so many other counterproductive contributions, we can blame, to some degree, the leftist intelligentsia who populate academia and the mainstream media. We often bear the brunt of their obsession with “diversity” (oh heavens, not the intellectual variety!) and their assurance that liberal conformity=brilliance and glibness=intellectualism. The good news is that the mainstream media are dying, and there is an election in 2012. The bad news: Sotomayor is there for life.

Read Less

Media Star Blames … the Media?

Jon Stewart is a media star. He’s rich and famous because he has perfected the art of news-tainment that a key demographic (young TV viewers with lots of dispensable income) can’t get enough of. So he holds a rally, is savvy enough to steer clear of real political issues, and slams the media, which has made him who he is. No, really:

Did Stewart and Colbert strike a blow for sanity, or just furnish an afternoon’s ephemeral entertainment? Jon turned serious at the end, even while acknowledging that “there are boundaries for a comedian/pundit/talker guy.”

And did he take aim at Washington? No, it was once again the low-hanging fruit of the 24-hour cable news “conflictinator.” This machine “did not cause our problems”—whew, I thought he might call for banning the channels—”but its existence makes solving them that much harder. … If we amplify everything, we hear nothing.”

So is Stewart part of the problem — the leading purveyor of snark in lieu of substance? Or is it lame to hold him — and those on the other 500 channels — responsible for what ails us? It reminds me of the Comedy Channel’s favorite pol, who proclaimed:

Meanwhile, you’re coming of age in a 24/7 media environment that bombards us with all kinds of content and exposes us to all kinds of arguments, some of which don’t rank all that high on the truth meter. With iPods and iPads; Xboxes and PlayStations; information becomes a distraction, a diversion, a form of entertainment, rather than a tool of empowerment. All of this is not only putting new pressures on you; it is putting new pressures on our country and on our democracy.

Yes, that was Obama. He, too, was once a media darling who now blames too much on the 24/7 news cycle.

It seems the media is a scapegoat, even for those who have benefited the most from it. You’d think that those who’ve attained fame and fortune would show a little more gratitude for the plethora of outlets that allow their message to reach hundreds of millions of Americans. And it would be swell if Obama and his liberal cheerleaders would show a little more enthusiasm for the vibrant, unruly, and delightfully robust political debate that is the hallmark of a free country and a functioning democracy.

Jon Stewart is a media star. He’s rich and famous because he has perfected the art of news-tainment that a key demographic (young TV viewers with lots of dispensable income) can’t get enough of. So he holds a rally, is savvy enough to steer clear of real political issues, and slams the media, which has made him who he is. No, really:

Did Stewart and Colbert strike a blow for sanity, or just furnish an afternoon’s ephemeral entertainment? Jon turned serious at the end, even while acknowledging that “there are boundaries for a comedian/pundit/talker guy.”

And did he take aim at Washington? No, it was once again the low-hanging fruit of the 24-hour cable news “conflictinator.” This machine “did not cause our problems”—whew, I thought he might call for banning the channels—”but its existence makes solving them that much harder. … If we amplify everything, we hear nothing.”

So is Stewart part of the problem — the leading purveyor of snark in lieu of substance? Or is it lame to hold him — and those on the other 500 channels — responsible for what ails us? It reminds me of the Comedy Channel’s favorite pol, who proclaimed:

Meanwhile, you’re coming of age in a 24/7 media environment that bombards us with all kinds of content and exposes us to all kinds of arguments, some of which don’t rank all that high on the truth meter. With iPods and iPads; Xboxes and PlayStations; information becomes a distraction, a diversion, a form of entertainment, rather than a tool of empowerment. All of this is not only putting new pressures on you; it is putting new pressures on our country and on our democracy.

Yes, that was Obama. He, too, was once a media darling who now blames too much on the 24/7 news cycle.

It seems the media is a scapegoat, even for those who have benefited the most from it. You’d think that those who’ve attained fame and fortune would show a little more gratitude for the plethora of outlets that allow their message to reach hundreds of millions of Americans. And it would be swell if Obama and his liberal cheerleaders would show a little more enthusiasm for the vibrant, unruly, and delightfully robust political debate that is the hallmark of a free country and a functioning democracy.

Read Less

Flotsam and Jetsam

So naturally, she had to go. “[Michelle] Rhee added a new urgency and righteous anger to the school reform movement, one that she will now take to a national platform. She asked how the District could compile an abysmal academic record and yet rate most of their teachers as meeting or exceeding expectations. She decreed that poverty was no longer a reason for expecting less of a child in Anacostia than one in Tenleytown.”

So now the New York Times sounds like National Review: “Rather than entertaining the possibility that the program they have pursued is genuinely and even legitimately unpopular, the White House and its allies have concluded that their political troubles amount to mainly a message and image problem.” The Gray Lady has also discovered Obama has an “elitism” problem. Who knew?

So smart are these Obama diplomats, we were told. Alas: “The White House spent an hour Friday afternoon trying to convince angry Hill staffers and human rights activists that ‘naming and shaming’ governments that recruit child soldiers, rather than imposing Congressionally-mandated sanctions on them, will better address the problem. But advocacy leaders are upset with the administration and rejected top White House officials’ contention that removing sanctions against four troubled states will be a positive move. … Overall, the call showed that the White House realized it botched the rollout of the decision but is standing by the decision itself. Next, they will have to defend it on Capitol Hill, where staffers are set to receive a special briefing on the issue next week.”

So let me see if I got this straight? President Obama goes to Florida in August to campaign for Rep. Kendrick Meek. Then recently, former President Clinton goes in to ‘campaign’ for Meek by trying to get him to drop out of the race. And voters this year are being accused of being ‘radical’ and ‘too angry’ because they are rejecting politics as usual?” That, from Susan Molinari.

So the administration’s flunky on the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights walks out to deny a quorum, preventing a vote on the interim report concerning the New Black Panther Party scandal. (But the vice chairman is no better — she didn’t show up.) Remember, your tax dollars are paying these people to play hide and seek.

So what is not to like about this man? Nothing yet.

So Obama is no George W. Bush. “Mr. Mubarak’s tightening sharply contrasts with his behavior during Egypt’s last major election season, in 2005. Then he loosened controls on the media, introduced a constitutional amendment allowing the first contested election for president, and released his principal secular challenger from jail. He did all this under heavy pressure from then-President George W. Bush, who had publicly called on Egypt to ‘lead the way’ in Arab political reform. … Mr. Mubarak’s actions reflect a common calculation across the Middle East: that this U.S. president, unlike his predecessor, is not particularly interested in democratic change.”

So what grade does he get? Obama said we should evaluate him on the economy: “An economy growing at a sluggish 2 percent, almost all economists agree, cannot produce nearly the demand needed to lower the nation’s painfully high 9.6 percent unemployment rate. And inventories continued to grow and the trade gap remained wide, as imports outpaced exports. The numbers are not likely to provide much of a morale boost for President Obama and Democrats, who are days away from crucial midterm elections. High unemployment and soaring foreclosure numbers in the Midwest and West already made this a particularly difficult election for Democrats. Friday’s numbers offer little relief.”

So what is missing from David Brooks’s excellent advice? “First, the president is going to have to win back independents. … Second, Obama needs to redefine his identity. … Third, Obama will need to respond to the nation’s fear of decline. … Fourth, Obama has to build an institutional structure to support a more moderate approach.” Well, a president who is moderate, flexible, and self-reflective.

So how did Obama get his reputation as an “intellectual”? James Taranto and I agree: “Professors imagine Obama is one of them because he shares their attitudes: their politically correct opinions, their condescending view of ordinary Americans, their belief in their own authority as an intellectual elite. He is the ideal product of the homogeneous world of contemporary academia. In his importance, they see a reflection of their self-importance.”

So naturally, she had to go. “[Michelle] Rhee added a new urgency and righteous anger to the school reform movement, one that she will now take to a national platform. She asked how the District could compile an abysmal academic record and yet rate most of their teachers as meeting or exceeding expectations. She decreed that poverty was no longer a reason for expecting less of a child in Anacostia than one in Tenleytown.”

So now the New York Times sounds like National Review: “Rather than entertaining the possibility that the program they have pursued is genuinely and even legitimately unpopular, the White House and its allies have concluded that their political troubles amount to mainly a message and image problem.” The Gray Lady has also discovered Obama has an “elitism” problem. Who knew?

So smart are these Obama diplomats, we were told. Alas: “The White House spent an hour Friday afternoon trying to convince angry Hill staffers and human rights activists that ‘naming and shaming’ governments that recruit child soldiers, rather than imposing Congressionally-mandated sanctions on them, will better address the problem. But advocacy leaders are upset with the administration and rejected top White House officials’ contention that removing sanctions against four troubled states will be a positive move. … Overall, the call showed that the White House realized it botched the rollout of the decision but is standing by the decision itself. Next, they will have to defend it on Capitol Hill, where staffers are set to receive a special briefing on the issue next week.”

So let me see if I got this straight? President Obama goes to Florida in August to campaign for Rep. Kendrick Meek. Then recently, former President Clinton goes in to ‘campaign’ for Meek by trying to get him to drop out of the race. And voters this year are being accused of being ‘radical’ and ‘too angry’ because they are rejecting politics as usual?” That, from Susan Molinari.

So the administration’s flunky on the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights walks out to deny a quorum, preventing a vote on the interim report concerning the New Black Panther Party scandal. (But the vice chairman is no better — she didn’t show up.) Remember, your tax dollars are paying these people to play hide and seek.

So what is not to like about this man? Nothing yet.

So Obama is no George W. Bush. “Mr. Mubarak’s tightening sharply contrasts with his behavior during Egypt’s last major election season, in 2005. Then he loosened controls on the media, introduced a constitutional amendment allowing the first contested election for president, and released his principal secular challenger from jail. He did all this under heavy pressure from then-President George W. Bush, who had publicly called on Egypt to ‘lead the way’ in Arab political reform. … Mr. Mubarak’s actions reflect a common calculation across the Middle East: that this U.S. president, unlike his predecessor, is not particularly interested in democratic change.”

So what grade does he get? Obama said we should evaluate him on the economy: “An economy growing at a sluggish 2 percent, almost all economists agree, cannot produce nearly the demand needed to lower the nation’s painfully high 9.6 percent unemployment rate. And inventories continued to grow and the trade gap remained wide, as imports outpaced exports. The numbers are not likely to provide much of a morale boost for President Obama and Democrats, who are days away from crucial midterm elections. High unemployment and soaring foreclosure numbers in the Midwest and West already made this a particularly difficult election for Democrats. Friday’s numbers offer little relief.”

So what is missing from David Brooks’s excellent advice? “First, the president is going to have to win back independents. … Second, Obama needs to redefine his identity. … Third, Obama will need to respond to the nation’s fear of decline. … Fourth, Obama has to build an institutional structure to support a more moderate approach.” Well, a president who is moderate, flexible, and self-reflective.

So how did Obama get his reputation as an “intellectual”? James Taranto and I agree: “Professors imagine Obama is one of them because he shares their attitudes: their politically correct opinions, their condescending view of ordinary Americans, their belief in their own authority as an intellectual elite. He is the ideal product of the homogeneous world of contemporary academia. In his importance, they see a reflection of their self-importance.”

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