Commentary Magazine


Posts For: November 4, 2010

Helicopter Ben Is at It Again

Ben Bernanke is nicknamed “Helicopter Ben” for his propensity to dump dollars into the economy — the equivalent of dropping greenbacks out of a helicopter. He’s at it again, in yet another attempt to add liquidity to an economy already soaked with cash. The Wall Street Journal explains:

The Federal Reserve, in a dramatic effort to rev up a “disappointingly slow” economic recovery, said it will buy $600 billion of U.S. government bonds over the next eight months to drive down interest rates and encourage more borrowing and growth.

Many outside the Fed, and some inside, see the move as a “Hail Mary” pass by Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke. He embraced highly unconventional policies during the financial crisis to ward off a financial-system collapse. But a year and a half later, he confronts an economy hobbled by high unemployment, a gridlocked political system and the threat of a Japan-like period of deflation, or a debilitating fall in consumer prices.

In other words, the Fed will print money and buy up bonds, thereby pushing up the cost of bonds (supply and demand at work) and pushing down their yield. “The Fed hopes that will result in lower interest rates for homeowners, consumers and businesses, which in turn will encourage more of them to borrow, spend and invest. The Fed figures it will also drive investors into stocks, corporate bonds and other riskier investments offering higher returns.”

Well, gosh, if it was that easy, why not print a trillion dollars or three? Well, the scheme, as you might imagine, has its risks.

The first, of course, is inflation. The Fed says not to worry, because the economy is limp. There is “so much spare capacity in the economy—including an unemployment rate at 9.6%, a real-estate landscape littered with more than 14 million unoccupied homes, and manufacturers operating with 28% of their productive capacity going unused.” Umm. But that suggests that the problem isn’t lack of liquidity (the banks are sitting on piles of cash). Moreover, the Fed will eventually, as they say, need to take the punch bowl away from the party — that is, jack up interest rates to shut off inflation as the economy gathers steam.

By the way, have you noticed commodity prices going up? Oh, yes:

An inflationary tide is beginning to ripple through America’s supermarkets and restaurants, threatening to end the tamest year of food pricing in nearly two decades.

Prices of staples including milk, beef, coffee, cocoa and sugar have risen sharply in recent months. And food makers and retailers including McDonald’s Corp., Kellogg Co. and Kroger Co. have begun to signal that they’ll try to make consumers shoulder more of the higher costs for ingredients.

The problem will get worse. As we flood the economy with dollars, we devalue our currency, making the price of imported goods, including oil — have you noticed pump prices lately? — more expensive. It has already begun, in fact. “Crude oil futures shot higher on Thursday on the back of a weaker dollar following the Federal Reserve’s decision to inject $600 billion into the U.S. economy.” That’s what happens when you drive the value of the dollar downward.

The risk of creating new speculative bubbles is real, and our trading partners are none too pleased about the Fed’s move. (“U.S. trading partners, particularly in the developing world, openly worry that the Fed’s money pumping is creating inflation in their own economies and a risk of asset-price bubbles. … In recent weeks, China, India, Australia and others have pushed their own interest rates higher to tamp down inflation forces.”)

You can understand why some regard this as a “Hail Mary.” Maybe it will work, maybe not. And maybe it will make things worse. But in the meantime, the most obvious  steps — reducing the cost of capital and labor, lessening the regulatory burden on employers, and getting our fiscal house in order — go unaddressed. On that front, the new Congress and the president should get cracking. Betting on Helicopter Ben to rescue the economy is the riskiest proposition of them all.

Ben Bernanke is nicknamed “Helicopter Ben” for his propensity to dump dollars into the economy — the equivalent of dropping greenbacks out of a helicopter. He’s at it again, in yet another attempt to add liquidity to an economy already soaked with cash. The Wall Street Journal explains:

The Federal Reserve, in a dramatic effort to rev up a “disappointingly slow” economic recovery, said it will buy $600 billion of U.S. government bonds over the next eight months to drive down interest rates and encourage more borrowing and growth.

Many outside the Fed, and some inside, see the move as a “Hail Mary” pass by Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke. He embraced highly unconventional policies during the financial crisis to ward off a financial-system collapse. But a year and a half later, he confronts an economy hobbled by high unemployment, a gridlocked political system and the threat of a Japan-like period of deflation, or a debilitating fall in consumer prices.

In other words, the Fed will print money and buy up bonds, thereby pushing up the cost of bonds (supply and demand at work) and pushing down their yield. “The Fed hopes that will result in lower interest rates for homeowners, consumers and businesses, which in turn will encourage more of them to borrow, spend and invest. The Fed figures it will also drive investors into stocks, corporate bonds and other riskier investments offering higher returns.”

Well, gosh, if it was that easy, why not print a trillion dollars or three? Well, the scheme, as you might imagine, has its risks.

The first, of course, is inflation. The Fed says not to worry, because the economy is limp. There is “so much spare capacity in the economy—including an unemployment rate at 9.6%, a real-estate landscape littered with more than 14 million unoccupied homes, and manufacturers operating with 28% of their productive capacity going unused.” Umm. But that suggests that the problem isn’t lack of liquidity (the banks are sitting on piles of cash). Moreover, the Fed will eventually, as they say, need to take the punch bowl away from the party — that is, jack up interest rates to shut off inflation as the economy gathers steam.

By the way, have you noticed commodity prices going up? Oh, yes:

An inflationary tide is beginning to ripple through America’s supermarkets and restaurants, threatening to end the tamest year of food pricing in nearly two decades.

Prices of staples including milk, beef, coffee, cocoa and sugar have risen sharply in recent months. And food makers and retailers including McDonald’s Corp., Kellogg Co. and Kroger Co. have begun to signal that they’ll try to make consumers shoulder more of the higher costs for ingredients.

The problem will get worse. As we flood the economy with dollars, we devalue our currency, making the price of imported goods, including oil — have you noticed pump prices lately? — more expensive. It has already begun, in fact. “Crude oil futures shot higher on Thursday on the back of a weaker dollar following the Federal Reserve’s decision to inject $600 billion into the U.S. economy.” That’s what happens when you drive the value of the dollar downward.

The risk of creating new speculative bubbles is real, and our trading partners are none too pleased about the Fed’s move. (“U.S. trading partners, particularly in the developing world, openly worry that the Fed’s money pumping is creating inflation in their own economies and a risk of asset-price bubbles. … In recent weeks, China, India, Australia and others have pushed their own interest rates higher to tamp down inflation forces.”)

You can understand why some regard this as a “Hail Mary.” Maybe it will work, maybe not. And maybe it will make things worse. But in the meantime, the most obvious  steps — reducing the cost of capital and labor, lessening the regulatory burden on employers, and getting our fiscal house in order — go unaddressed. On that front, the new Congress and the president should get cracking. Betting on Helicopter Ben to rescue the economy is the riskiest proposition of them all.

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Money Doesn’t Buy You Love — or Votes

The Democrats’ favorite excuse in the waning days of the campaign was that foreign money was their undoing. Soon-to-be-ex-Speaker (yeah, wow) Nancy Pelosi said everything was going fine until the Chamber of Commerce or Karl Rove or a mystery woman from Hong Kong (oh, wait — that was their side) opened up their wallets. Yes, it was bunk. But little did we know how much bunk it was:

In two-thirds of the House seats that Republicans picked up Tuesday, Democratic candidates had more money behind them, according to a Washington Post analysis of data from the Federal Election Commission. Overall, Democratic candidates in the 63 races that flipped to the GOP had $206.4 million behind them, a tally that includes candidate fundraising and spending by parties and interests. That compares with only $171.7 million for their GOP rivals.

The pattern appears to contradict widespread complaints from Democrats that they were being unfairly overrun by wealthy Republicans, many of whom donated money to conservative groups to spend on political races — unencumbered by the limits and public-disclosure requirements that constrain most political fundraising. The data show that even in many races in which Republicans had more outside help, they still had fewer resources than their Democratic opponents.

So it was in Senate races as well. Meg Whitman’s personal fortune was of no use. Neither did it help Linda McMahon. Sharron Angle outraised Harry Reid and still lost.

It seems that, rather than money, a candidate’s voting record, the economy, and the relative levels of enthusiasm of the parties’ supporters is what mattered. (“Republicans were able to win despite being badly outspent in Democratic-leaning districts. Outside Philadelphia, Rep. Patrick J. Murphy (D), the Democratic Party and groups backing them had about three times as much as conservatives and the campaign of former congressman Mike Fitzpatrick.”) Money is a convenient excuse, of course. But like blaming the voters’ “misperceptions,” it simply wasn’t the cause of the Democrats’ defeat. The voters knew exactly what they were doing, and no amount of money was going to convince them otherwise. And as for the self-financers, unless you are a solid candidate (Ron Johnson, for example), it’s better not to fritter away the family fortune.

The Democrats’ favorite excuse in the waning days of the campaign was that foreign money was their undoing. Soon-to-be-ex-Speaker (yeah, wow) Nancy Pelosi said everything was going fine until the Chamber of Commerce or Karl Rove or a mystery woman from Hong Kong (oh, wait — that was their side) opened up their wallets. Yes, it was bunk. But little did we know how much bunk it was:

In two-thirds of the House seats that Republicans picked up Tuesday, Democratic candidates had more money behind them, according to a Washington Post analysis of data from the Federal Election Commission. Overall, Democratic candidates in the 63 races that flipped to the GOP had $206.4 million behind them, a tally that includes candidate fundraising and spending by parties and interests. That compares with only $171.7 million for their GOP rivals.

The pattern appears to contradict widespread complaints from Democrats that they were being unfairly overrun by wealthy Republicans, many of whom donated money to conservative groups to spend on political races — unencumbered by the limits and public-disclosure requirements that constrain most political fundraising. The data show that even in many races in which Republicans had more outside help, they still had fewer resources than their Democratic opponents.

So it was in Senate races as well. Meg Whitman’s personal fortune was of no use. Neither did it help Linda McMahon. Sharron Angle outraised Harry Reid and still lost.

It seems that, rather than money, a candidate’s voting record, the economy, and the relative levels of enthusiasm of the parties’ supporters is what mattered. (“Republicans were able to win despite being badly outspent in Democratic-leaning districts. Outside Philadelphia, Rep. Patrick J. Murphy (D), the Democratic Party and groups backing them had about three times as much as conservatives and the campaign of former congressman Mike Fitzpatrick.”) Money is a convenient excuse, of course. But like blaming the voters’ “misperceptions,” it simply wasn’t the cause of the Democrats’ defeat. The voters knew exactly what they were doing, and no amount of money was going to convince them otherwise. And as for the self-financers, unless you are a solid candidate (Ron Johnson, for example), it’s better not to fritter away the family fortune.

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“Imperial Presidency,” Huh?

It’s fun to tally up the pieces of the convoy President Obama will bring with him to India on Saturday. But there is, of course, nothing wrong with the president traveling abroad in this fashion. Here’s one report on the preparations:

Communications set-up and nuclear button and majority of the White House staff will be in India accompanying the President on this three-day visit that will cover Mumbai and Delhi.

He will also be protected by a fleet of 34 warships, including an aircraft carrier, which will patrol the sea lanes off the Mumbai coast during his two-day stay there beginning Saturday. The measure has been taken as Mumbai attack in 2008 took place from the sea. …

Two jets, armed with advanced communication and security systems, and a fleet of over 40 cars will be part of Obama’s convoy.

Around 800 rooms have been booked for the President and his entourage in Taj Hotel and Hyatt.

The President will have a security ring of American elite Secret Service, which are tasked to guard the President, along with National Security Guards (NSG) and personnel from central paramilitary forces and local police in Mumbai and Delhi.

If the president were not well protected when visiting a city struck by armed terrorists two years earlier, we’d first have something to complain about.  Yet, reading this account put me in mind of someone who has warned against such a robust American demonstration of security abroad. In his 2008 book, The Post-American World, one of Obama’s biggest fans, Fareed Zakaria, complained about George W. Bush’s overseas visits. “President Bush’s foreign trips seem designed to require as little contact as possible with the countries he visits,” Zakaria wrote. “He is usually accompanied by two thousand or so Americans, as well as several airplanes, helicopters, and cars.” Lamenting the “Imperial Presidency,” Zakaria approvingly quoted former European minister for external affairs Chris Patten:

Attending any conference abroad, American cabinet officers arrive with the sort of entourage that would have done Darius proud. Hotels are commandeered; cities brought to a halt; innocent bystanders are barged into corners by thick-necked men with bits of plastic hanging out of their ears. It is not a spectacle that wins hearts and minds.

“Apart from the resentment that the imperial style produces, the aloof attitude means that American officials don’t benefit from the experience and expertise of foreigner,” Zakaria commented. I await his scathing condemnation of Obama’s gross escalation of an already arrogant and self-defeating practice. And in Zakaria’s hometown, no less.

Man, when Bush was president, you could write a book about anything.

It’s fun to tally up the pieces of the convoy President Obama will bring with him to India on Saturday. But there is, of course, nothing wrong with the president traveling abroad in this fashion. Here’s one report on the preparations:

Communications set-up and nuclear button and majority of the White House staff will be in India accompanying the President on this three-day visit that will cover Mumbai and Delhi.

He will also be protected by a fleet of 34 warships, including an aircraft carrier, which will patrol the sea lanes off the Mumbai coast during his two-day stay there beginning Saturday. The measure has been taken as Mumbai attack in 2008 took place from the sea. …

Two jets, armed with advanced communication and security systems, and a fleet of over 40 cars will be part of Obama’s convoy.

Around 800 rooms have been booked for the President and his entourage in Taj Hotel and Hyatt.

The President will have a security ring of American elite Secret Service, which are tasked to guard the President, along with National Security Guards (NSG) and personnel from central paramilitary forces and local police in Mumbai and Delhi.

If the president were not well protected when visiting a city struck by armed terrorists two years earlier, we’d first have something to complain about.  Yet, reading this account put me in mind of someone who has warned against such a robust American demonstration of security abroad. In his 2008 book, The Post-American World, one of Obama’s biggest fans, Fareed Zakaria, complained about George W. Bush’s overseas visits. “President Bush’s foreign trips seem designed to require as little contact as possible with the countries he visits,” Zakaria wrote. “He is usually accompanied by two thousand or so Americans, as well as several airplanes, helicopters, and cars.” Lamenting the “Imperial Presidency,” Zakaria approvingly quoted former European minister for external affairs Chris Patten:

Attending any conference abroad, American cabinet officers arrive with the sort of entourage that would have done Darius proud. Hotels are commandeered; cities brought to a halt; innocent bystanders are barged into corners by thick-necked men with bits of plastic hanging out of their ears. It is not a spectacle that wins hearts and minds.

“Apart from the resentment that the imperial style produces, the aloof attitude means that American officials don’t benefit from the experience and expertise of foreigner,” Zakaria commented. I await his scathing condemnation of Obama’s gross escalation of an already arrogant and self-defeating practice. And in Zakaria’s hometown, no less.

Man, when Bush was president, you could write a book about anything.

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Senate Shifts

Fred Barnes makes a key observation:

Ten Democrats whose seats are up in 2012 come from right-leaning states or saw their states scoot to the right this week: Ben Nelson of Nebraska, Bill Nelson of Florida, Herb Kohl of Wisconsin, Kent Conrad of North Dakota, Claire McCaskill of Missouri, Jim Webb of Virginia, Bob Casey of Pennsylvania, Debbie Stabenow of Michigan, Jon Tester of Montana, and Jeff Bingaman of New Mexico.

It’s a good bet that some or all of them will be sympathetic to cutting spending, extending the Bush tax cuts, scaling back ObamaCare, and supporting other parts of the Republican agenda. With Democratic allies, Republicans will have operational control of the Senate more often than Majority Leader Harry Reid and Mr. Obama will.

And let’s not forget Sherrod Brown of Ohio and Joe Manchin of West Virginia, who ran and won by repudiating Obama’s agenda. You may be skeptical that self-styled moderate Democrats will buck the president. Certainly, their track record in that regard is poor. But the 2010 midterm elections and these lawmakers’ own re-election have a way of focusing Democrats on the perils of Obamaism. And to give you a sense of the danger these Democrats face, Ohio, Nebraska, Florida, Wisconsin, Michigan, North Dakota, and New Mexico will all have Republican governors — and, if those officials do their jobs properly, a taste of what a conservative reform agenda looks like.

Will the Democrats at risk in 2012 desert Obama all the time? Of course not. But in key areas, it certainly will appear that there is a bipartisan consensus on one side and the president on the other. With Harry Reid — he of gaffes and never a sunny disposition — leading the Senate Democrats, this could become quite entertaining and, for the electorate, illuminating.

Fred Barnes makes a key observation:

Ten Democrats whose seats are up in 2012 come from right-leaning states or saw their states scoot to the right this week: Ben Nelson of Nebraska, Bill Nelson of Florida, Herb Kohl of Wisconsin, Kent Conrad of North Dakota, Claire McCaskill of Missouri, Jim Webb of Virginia, Bob Casey of Pennsylvania, Debbie Stabenow of Michigan, Jon Tester of Montana, and Jeff Bingaman of New Mexico.

It’s a good bet that some or all of them will be sympathetic to cutting spending, extending the Bush tax cuts, scaling back ObamaCare, and supporting other parts of the Republican agenda. With Democratic allies, Republicans will have operational control of the Senate more often than Majority Leader Harry Reid and Mr. Obama will.

And let’s not forget Sherrod Brown of Ohio and Joe Manchin of West Virginia, who ran and won by repudiating Obama’s agenda. You may be skeptical that self-styled moderate Democrats will buck the president. Certainly, their track record in that regard is poor. But the 2010 midterm elections and these lawmakers’ own re-election have a way of focusing Democrats on the perils of Obamaism. And to give you a sense of the danger these Democrats face, Ohio, Nebraska, Florida, Wisconsin, Michigan, North Dakota, and New Mexico will all have Republican governors — and, if those officials do their jobs properly, a taste of what a conservative reform agenda looks like.

Will the Democrats at risk in 2012 desert Obama all the time? Of course not. But in key areas, it certainly will appear that there is a bipartisan consensus on one side and the president on the other. With Harry Reid — he of gaffes and never a sunny disposition — leading the Senate Democrats, this could become quite entertaining and, for the electorate, illuminating.

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Diversity Matters Only on the Left

As the New York Post‘s editors remind us:

Remember the “angry, racist Tea Party?” For months, that was the line pushed by Democrats, the NAACP and much of the mainstream media. Funny, though: The Tea Party-inspired wave that produced historic Republican wins also revealed a substantial diversity in the movement.

Two African-Americans — Tim Scott from South Carolina and Allen West from Florida — won election to the House of Representatives, the first black Republicans to serve there in eight years. In a victory showing how far his state has come, Scott’s road to Congress included a GOP runoff win over the son of the late Strom Thurmond — once the face of Jim Crow racial intolerance.

Those new office holders also include Nikki Haley, the second Republican governor of Indian descent and the first woman governor of South Carolina, as well as “America’s first Latina governor in New Mexico’s Susana Martinez; Nevada’s first Latino governor, in Brian Sandoval; Texas Rep.-elect Francisco ‘Quico’ Canseco and, yes, the breakout Tea Party superstar of the campaign — Florida’s Sen.-elect Marco Rubio, a son of Cuban exiles.” New Hampshire has a new woman senator, Kelly Ayotte. Republican Mary Fallin was elected Oklahoma’s first woman governor, and Jan Brewer was elected in Arizona.

You missed the cheering from MALDEF and the NAACP? You didn’t hear the howls from NOW when Christine O’Donnell and Sharron Angle were defeated by their male opponents? You see, “diversity” is only an election issue for the left when the right is short on it. And indeed, as with Justice Clarence Thomas and Miguel Estrada, these conservatives don’t really “count” as minorities, and the women aren’t “real” women in the eyes of the left; they are sellouts or worse. Because they don’t spout the victimology mantra and are not devotees of big government, they are not “authentic.”

Aside from helping to shed the GOP’s image as a “white male only” party, the election of these individuals – in addition to the views and attributes they will bring to their jobs — have performed an important service. They will, one suspects, mute the obsessive diversity chatter that treats candidates as representatives of racial or ethnic groups rather than of the people they serve. After all, Nikki Haley isn’t actual the Indian-American governor; she’s the governor of South Carolina. And that’s exactly as it should be. Unless, of course, the point is not diversity but the endless churning of racial grievances.

As the New York Post‘s editors remind us:

Remember the “angry, racist Tea Party?” For months, that was the line pushed by Democrats, the NAACP and much of the mainstream media. Funny, though: The Tea Party-inspired wave that produced historic Republican wins also revealed a substantial diversity in the movement.

Two African-Americans — Tim Scott from South Carolina and Allen West from Florida — won election to the House of Representatives, the first black Republicans to serve there in eight years. In a victory showing how far his state has come, Scott’s road to Congress included a GOP runoff win over the son of the late Strom Thurmond — once the face of Jim Crow racial intolerance.

Those new office holders also include Nikki Haley, the second Republican governor of Indian descent and the first woman governor of South Carolina, as well as “America’s first Latina governor in New Mexico’s Susana Martinez; Nevada’s first Latino governor, in Brian Sandoval; Texas Rep.-elect Francisco ‘Quico’ Canseco and, yes, the breakout Tea Party superstar of the campaign — Florida’s Sen.-elect Marco Rubio, a son of Cuban exiles.” New Hampshire has a new woman senator, Kelly Ayotte. Republican Mary Fallin was elected Oklahoma’s first woman governor, and Jan Brewer was elected in Arizona.

You missed the cheering from MALDEF and the NAACP? You didn’t hear the howls from NOW when Christine O’Donnell and Sharron Angle were defeated by their male opponents? You see, “diversity” is only an election issue for the left when the right is short on it. And indeed, as with Justice Clarence Thomas and Miguel Estrada, these conservatives don’t really “count” as minorities, and the women aren’t “real” women in the eyes of the left; they are sellouts or worse. Because they don’t spout the victimology mantra and are not devotees of big government, they are not “authentic.”

Aside from helping to shed the GOP’s image as a “white male only” party, the election of these individuals – in addition to the views and attributes they will bring to their jobs — have performed an important service. They will, one suspects, mute the obsessive diversity chatter that treats candidates as representatives of racial or ethnic groups rather than of the people they serve. After all, Nikki Haley isn’t actual the Indian-American governor; she’s the governor of South Carolina. And that’s exactly as it should be. Unless, of course, the point is not diversity but the endless churning of racial grievances.

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Palin: The Opposite of Stupid

Sarah Palin in National Review:

The meaning of the 2010 election was rebuke, reject, and repeal. We rebuked Washington’s power grab, rejected this unwanted “fundamental transformation of America,” and began the process to repeal the dangerous policies inflicted on us. But this theme will only complement the theme of 2012, which is renew, revive, and restore. In 2012, we need to renew our optimistic, pioneering spirit, revive our free-market system, and restore constitutional limits and our standing in the world as the abiding beacon of freedom.

This political formulation is — I use the word advisedly — brilliant.

Sarah Palin in National Review:

The meaning of the 2010 election was rebuke, reject, and repeal. We rebuked Washington’s power grab, rejected this unwanted “fundamental transformation of America,” and began the process to repeal the dangerous policies inflicted on us. But this theme will only complement the theme of 2012, which is renew, revive, and restore. In 2012, we need to renew our optimistic, pioneering spirit, revive our free-market system, and restore constitutional limits and our standing in the world as the abiding beacon of freedom.

This political formulation is — I use the word advisedly — brilliant.

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Don’t Think of a Tsunami

George Lakoff is a linguistics professor at Berkeley who made a name for himself in left-liberal circles by claiming the problem with left-liberalism was its failure to “reframe” the discussion in a way that would make Americans think well of left-liberalism. His book, Don’t Think of an Elephant, was particularly popular. Today, on Politico, Lakoff diagnoses the primary problem that plagued Democrats on Tuesday as a “massive communications failure” owing to its refusal to understand properly that

[C]onservatives have an extensive, but not obvious communications system, with many think tanks, framing experts, training institutes, a system of spokespeople linked by talking points, and bookers booking their people not just on radio and TV, but in lots of civic venues. This system is active not only in elections, but 24/7/365. Democrats have no comparable system.

This is a perfect summary of a certain way of thinking on the Left that is so insular it must look to reasons other than policy choices to explain away the American people’s frustrating unwillingness to go along mutely with whatever the Left wants. In the Lakoff worldview, liberal ideas can’t get to the people who should want them because conservatives have formed such an impregnable wall. In his worldview, the forces arrayed loosely to promote liberal ideas are as nothing, notwithstanding the fact that they are:  NPR, the New York Times, the Washington Post, the editorial boards and reportorial staffs of most news organizations, the Ford Foundation, the Carnegie Endowment, the Rockefeller Foundation, the MacArthur Foundation, the Center for American Progress, Media Matters for America, the press staffs of nearly 300 Democratic House and Senate members, the White House press office, the Democratic National Committee, the liberal blogsphere, CNN, MSNBC, the Sierra Club, the Environmental Defense Fund…

There’s more nonsense later in the piece, but I stopped reading after Lakoff “reframed” independent voters as “biconceptuals.”

George Lakoff is a linguistics professor at Berkeley who made a name for himself in left-liberal circles by claiming the problem with left-liberalism was its failure to “reframe” the discussion in a way that would make Americans think well of left-liberalism. His book, Don’t Think of an Elephant, was particularly popular. Today, on Politico, Lakoff diagnoses the primary problem that plagued Democrats on Tuesday as a “massive communications failure” owing to its refusal to understand properly that

[C]onservatives have an extensive, but not obvious communications system, with many think tanks, framing experts, training institutes, a system of spokespeople linked by talking points, and bookers booking their people not just on radio and TV, but in lots of civic venues. This system is active not only in elections, but 24/7/365. Democrats have no comparable system.

This is a perfect summary of a certain way of thinking on the Left that is so insular it must look to reasons other than policy choices to explain away the American people’s frustrating unwillingness to go along mutely with whatever the Left wants. In the Lakoff worldview, liberal ideas can’t get to the people who should want them because conservatives have formed such an impregnable wall. In his worldview, the forces arrayed loosely to promote liberal ideas are as nothing, notwithstanding the fact that they are:  NPR, the New York Times, the Washington Post, the editorial boards and reportorial staffs of most news organizations, the Ford Foundation, the Carnegie Endowment, the Rockefeller Foundation, the MacArthur Foundation, the Center for American Progress, Media Matters for America, the press staffs of nearly 300 Democratic House and Senate members, the White House press office, the Democratic National Committee, the liberal blogsphere, CNN, MSNBC, the Sierra Club, the Environmental Defense Fund…

There’s more nonsense later in the piece, but I stopped reading after Lakoff “reframed” independent voters as “biconceptuals.”

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Right and Left Agree: Obama Stands Pat

The right and the left have something in common: neither is impressed with the White House’s initial reaction to the GOP blowout. George Will writes:

It is amazing the ingenuity Democrats invest in concocting explanations of voter behavior that erase what voters always care about, and this year more than ever — ideas. This election was a nationwide recoil against Barack Obama’s idea of unlimited government.

The more he denounced Republicans as the party of “no,” the better Republicans did. His denunciations enabled people to support Republicans without embracing them as anything other than impediments to him.

Rather, as Will points out, the “blame” is to be found elsewhere: “George W. Bush, Rush Limbaugh, Fox News, the Supreme Court, a Cincinnati congressman (John Boehner), Karl Rove, Americans for Prosperity and other “groups with harmless-sounding names” (Hillary Clinton’s ‘vast right-wing conspiracy’ redux), ‘shadowy third-party groups’ (they are as shadowy as steam calliopes), the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and, finally, the American people.” In his press conference, Obama added a new theory: the “misperception” of overreach.

Meanwhile, as I speculated yesterday, the left is not pleased with the Grumpy Gus routine. Greg Sargent observes Obama’s “surprisingly pessimistic tone.” Sargent frets:

More broadly, the bulk of the presser seemed to display the President feeling his way on a new and uncertain political landscape. …

First, with Republicans moving to roll back key chunks of his agenda, how does he draw a line against those efforts without allowing Republicans to paint him as arrogant and deaf to the message of last night’s results?

And second: How aggressively can he highlight the Republicans’ refusal to compromise, and thus claim the moral high ground, without undercutting the impression — one he clearly wants to feed — that he’s reaching out and trying to establish common ground with them?

Notice Sargent’s assumption: Obama won’t permit any ideological softening or substantive compromise. It’s all now a matter of tactics — how not to budge an inch and how to blame the GOP for daring to take the voters’ mandate seriously.

Maybe Obama will demonstrate new ideological flexibility and eschew the parts of his agenda that put John Boehner in the speaker’s chair. But if Will and Sargent are any indication, neither side really thinks that is possible. After all, they’ve been paying attention for the past two years, and there’s no evidence that Obama is able or willing to go that route.

The right and the left have something in common: neither is impressed with the White House’s initial reaction to the GOP blowout. George Will writes:

It is amazing the ingenuity Democrats invest in concocting explanations of voter behavior that erase what voters always care about, and this year more than ever — ideas. This election was a nationwide recoil against Barack Obama’s idea of unlimited government.

The more he denounced Republicans as the party of “no,” the better Republicans did. His denunciations enabled people to support Republicans without embracing them as anything other than impediments to him.

Rather, as Will points out, the “blame” is to be found elsewhere: “George W. Bush, Rush Limbaugh, Fox News, the Supreme Court, a Cincinnati congressman (John Boehner), Karl Rove, Americans for Prosperity and other “groups with harmless-sounding names” (Hillary Clinton’s ‘vast right-wing conspiracy’ redux), ‘shadowy third-party groups’ (they are as shadowy as steam calliopes), the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and, finally, the American people.” In his press conference, Obama added a new theory: the “misperception” of overreach.

Meanwhile, as I speculated yesterday, the left is not pleased with the Grumpy Gus routine. Greg Sargent observes Obama’s “surprisingly pessimistic tone.” Sargent frets:

More broadly, the bulk of the presser seemed to display the President feeling his way on a new and uncertain political landscape. …

First, with Republicans moving to roll back key chunks of his agenda, how does he draw a line against those efforts without allowing Republicans to paint him as arrogant and deaf to the message of last night’s results?

And second: How aggressively can he highlight the Republicans’ refusal to compromise, and thus claim the moral high ground, without undercutting the impression — one he clearly wants to feed — that he’s reaching out and trying to establish common ground with them?

Notice Sargent’s assumption: Obama won’t permit any ideological softening or substantive compromise. It’s all now a matter of tactics — how not to budge an inch and how to blame the GOP for daring to take the voters’ mandate seriously.

Maybe Obama will demonstrate new ideological flexibility and eschew the parts of his agenda that put John Boehner in the speaker’s chair. But if Will and Sargent are any indication, neither side really thinks that is possible. After all, they’ve been paying attention for the past two years, and there’s no evidence that Obama is able or willing to go that route.

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Tsunami Stat of the Day

From Jeremy Jacobs at National Journal:

Republicans picked up 680 seats in state legislatures, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures — an all time high. To put that number in perspective: In the 1994 GOP wave, Republicans picked up 472 seats. The previous record was in the post-Watergate election of 1974, when Democrats picked up 628 seats.

The GOP gained majorities in at least 14 state house chambers. They now have unified control — meaning both chambers — of 26 state legislatures.

From Jeremy Jacobs at National Journal:

Republicans picked up 680 seats in state legislatures, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures — an all time high. To put that number in perspective: In the 1994 GOP wave, Republicans picked up 472 seats. The previous record was in the post-Watergate election of 1974, when Democrats picked up 628 seats.

The GOP gained majorities in at least 14 state house chambers. They now have unified control — meaning both chambers — of 26 state legislatures.

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A Dwindling Band

I share the general joy on the right regarding the outcome of this election, but I am sorry to see go some of the Democrats who wound up losing — in particular, Reps. Ike Skelton of Missouri, John Spratt of South Carolina, and Gene Taylor of Mississippi.

All were longtime members of the House Armed Services Committee (Skelton is the outgoing chairman, Spratt the second-ranking Democrat, Taylor a subcommittee chairman). They are part of a dwindling band of centrist, strong-on-defense Democrats — a tradition stretching back to the days of Stuart Symington and Scoop Jackson. These days, alas, the Democrats are led by the likes of Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid. The fact that so many Blue Dog Democrats have been knocked off is good news for the short term, but it will have parlous consequences at some point in the future when Democrats succeed in taking back the House. The Democratic leaders on defense and foreign policy issues in the future are likely to be considerably to the left of today’s crop.

I share the general joy on the right regarding the outcome of this election, but I am sorry to see go some of the Democrats who wound up losing — in particular, Reps. Ike Skelton of Missouri, John Spratt of South Carolina, and Gene Taylor of Mississippi.

All were longtime members of the House Armed Services Committee (Skelton is the outgoing chairman, Spratt the second-ranking Democrat, Taylor a subcommittee chairman). They are part of a dwindling band of centrist, strong-on-defense Democrats — a tradition stretching back to the days of Stuart Symington and Scoop Jackson. These days, alas, the Democrats are led by the likes of Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid. The fact that so many Blue Dog Democrats have been knocked off is good news for the short term, but it will have parlous consequences at some point in the future when Democrats succeed in taking back the House. The Democratic leaders on defense and foreign policy issues in the future are likely to be considerably to the left of today’s crop.

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The Chronically Unserious Dana Milbank

Fox News has an unparalleled capacity to cause liberal journalists to say really stupid things. Take the case of the chronically unserious Dana Milbank. (Who can forget this moment?) In his Washington Post column, Milbank opens things this way:

John Boehner, Haley Barbour and other Republican leaders held a “results watch” at the Grand Hyatt in downtown Washington. For a true victory party, you had to go to Fox News.

At Rupert Murdoch’s cable network, the entity that birthed and nurtured the Tea Party movement, Election Day was the culmination of two years of hard work to bring down Barack Obama – and it was time for an on-air celebration of a job well done.

“That’s an earthquake,” exulted Fox’s own Sarah Palin, upon learning the not-unexpected news that Republicans would gain control of the House. “It’s a big darn deal.”

“It’s a comeuppance,” Fox News contributor (and Post columnist) Charles Krauthammer contributed.

“I have one word,” said Sean Hannity. “Historic.”

And Chris Wallace struggled for words. “A gigantic – not a wave election but a tidal wave election,” he envisioned.

This cheerleading on the final day of the 2010 election cycle was to be expected.

It was to be expected, and for a simple reason: what the commentators and reporters on Fox said is indisputable. Even President Obama, himself, referred to the results of the 2010 midterm election as a “shellacking.” And also Milbank’s former Washington Post colleague Howard Kurtz and Ben Smith and Jonathan Martin of Politico used the word “bloodbath” to describe the election. So were Obama, Kurtz, Smith, and Martin “cheerleading” as well? So long as they don’t appear on Fox, the answer seems to be no.

Milbank decided to compound his tendentiousness by willfully misleading readers. Mr. Milbank writes:

The victory party would have to focus on the 60-seat gain Fox projected for Republicans in the House – an enormous win, though not at the upper end of the forecasts. Fox commentator Karl Rove, pleading for “perspective,” said it still qualified as a “blowout evening.” To be fair and balanced, Fox brought in a nominal Democrat, pollster Doug Schoen. “This is a complete repudiation of the Democratic Party,” he proclaimed.

So which Democrats does Milbank leave off this list? How about Bob Beckel, Juan Williams, Kirsten Powers, Geraldo Ferraro, Joe Trippi, and Pat Caddell? Why would Milbank neglect to name any of these individuals? Because it would run counter to the narrative he’s trying to advance. Thomas Huxley referred to such things as “the slaying of a beautiful deduction by an ugly fact.”

The Washington Post publishes some of the finest columnists who have ever graced the pages of an American newspaper. But it also, alas, publishes Dana Milbank.

Fox News has an unparalleled capacity to cause liberal journalists to say really stupid things. Take the case of the chronically unserious Dana Milbank. (Who can forget this moment?) In his Washington Post column, Milbank opens things this way:

John Boehner, Haley Barbour and other Republican leaders held a “results watch” at the Grand Hyatt in downtown Washington. For a true victory party, you had to go to Fox News.

At Rupert Murdoch’s cable network, the entity that birthed and nurtured the Tea Party movement, Election Day was the culmination of two years of hard work to bring down Barack Obama – and it was time for an on-air celebration of a job well done.

“That’s an earthquake,” exulted Fox’s own Sarah Palin, upon learning the not-unexpected news that Republicans would gain control of the House. “It’s a big darn deal.”

“It’s a comeuppance,” Fox News contributor (and Post columnist) Charles Krauthammer contributed.

“I have one word,” said Sean Hannity. “Historic.”

And Chris Wallace struggled for words. “A gigantic – not a wave election but a tidal wave election,” he envisioned.

This cheerleading on the final day of the 2010 election cycle was to be expected.

It was to be expected, and for a simple reason: what the commentators and reporters on Fox said is indisputable. Even President Obama, himself, referred to the results of the 2010 midterm election as a “shellacking.” And also Milbank’s former Washington Post colleague Howard Kurtz and Ben Smith and Jonathan Martin of Politico used the word “bloodbath” to describe the election. So were Obama, Kurtz, Smith, and Martin “cheerleading” as well? So long as they don’t appear on Fox, the answer seems to be no.

Milbank decided to compound his tendentiousness by willfully misleading readers. Mr. Milbank writes:

The victory party would have to focus on the 60-seat gain Fox projected for Republicans in the House – an enormous win, though not at the upper end of the forecasts. Fox commentator Karl Rove, pleading for “perspective,” said it still qualified as a “blowout evening.” To be fair and balanced, Fox brought in a nominal Democrat, pollster Doug Schoen. “This is a complete repudiation of the Democratic Party,” he proclaimed.

So which Democrats does Milbank leave off this list? How about Bob Beckel, Juan Williams, Kirsten Powers, Geraldo Ferraro, Joe Trippi, and Pat Caddell? Why would Milbank neglect to name any of these individuals? Because it would run counter to the narrative he’s trying to advance. Thomas Huxley referred to such things as “the slaying of a beautiful deduction by an ugly fact.”

The Washington Post publishes some of the finest columnists who have ever graced the pages of an American newspaper. But it also, alas, publishes Dana Milbank.

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How’s the Peace Process Going?

The direct non-peace talks stopped being direct more than a month ago. Obama has tried to bribe and cajole Bibi into extending the settlement moratorium. It hasn’t worked, and the longer the hiatus, the less likely it seems that the talks would resume. And don’t expect things to improve, given the midterm elections’ results.

Elliott Abrams explains:

There is one clear bottom line from this election: Obama emerges from it a weakened president. And that, says ex-U.S. diplomat Elliott Abrams, means that “anyone who is trying to resist him feels probably that resistance is a little easier.” That will probably hold true in the case of the Middle East peace talks, where the U.S. president has been pushing the Israelis and Palestinians to come to an accord.

Now, says Abrams, “both sides out there [will] feel a little bit freer to push back.” And they’re almost certainly not the only ones who will see it that way. This election clearly does not make Barack Obama’s job as America’s diplomat in chief any easier.

In fact, there is so much downtime for the peace-talk negotiating team that its members are actually spending time talking to outside experts on efforts to promote democratization in Egypt. Maybe this is for real and bespeaks a recognition that their current sloth is a moral embarrassment and a strategic error. Or maybe this is just for show. But it also says something about the state of the non-peace, non-talks:

The fact that the key NSC regional officials participated in Tuesday’s meeting was interpreted by the outside foreign policy experts as a significant indicator that the Obama administration is giving more serious and high-level policy attention to the issue.

It may also be a sign as well that [Dennis] Ross and [Dan] Shapiro basically had both time and reason to devote to the issue because the Israeli-Palestinian peace process is currently on hold, and the Obama administration is “looking for a positive agenda in the region to talk about,” a participant posited. The Obama administration is also concerned, he suggested, that its previous diplomatic efforts to press Cairo in private conversations and in written statements to repeal its Emergency Law and to accept international elections monitors have been rejected or ignored.

I suspect there’s going to be a whole lot more rejecting and ignoring going on in the next two years. Obama has proven himself weak internationally and politically vulnerable at home; that is a recipe for international mischief-making by our foes and recalcitrance from our allies.

The direct non-peace talks stopped being direct more than a month ago. Obama has tried to bribe and cajole Bibi into extending the settlement moratorium. It hasn’t worked, and the longer the hiatus, the less likely it seems that the talks would resume. And don’t expect things to improve, given the midterm elections’ results.

Elliott Abrams explains:

There is one clear bottom line from this election: Obama emerges from it a weakened president. And that, says ex-U.S. diplomat Elliott Abrams, means that “anyone who is trying to resist him feels probably that resistance is a little easier.” That will probably hold true in the case of the Middle East peace talks, where the U.S. president has been pushing the Israelis and Palestinians to come to an accord.

Now, says Abrams, “both sides out there [will] feel a little bit freer to push back.” And they’re almost certainly not the only ones who will see it that way. This election clearly does not make Barack Obama’s job as America’s diplomat in chief any easier.

In fact, there is so much downtime for the peace-talk negotiating team that its members are actually spending time talking to outside experts on efforts to promote democratization in Egypt. Maybe this is for real and bespeaks a recognition that their current sloth is a moral embarrassment and a strategic error. Or maybe this is just for show. But it also says something about the state of the non-peace, non-talks:

The fact that the key NSC regional officials participated in Tuesday’s meeting was interpreted by the outside foreign policy experts as a significant indicator that the Obama administration is giving more serious and high-level policy attention to the issue.

It may also be a sign as well that [Dennis] Ross and [Dan] Shapiro basically had both time and reason to devote to the issue because the Israeli-Palestinian peace process is currently on hold, and the Obama administration is “looking for a positive agenda in the region to talk about,” a participant posited. The Obama administration is also concerned, he suggested, that its previous diplomatic efforts to press Cairo in private conversations and in written statements to repeal its Emergency Law and to accept international elections monitors have been rejected or ignored.

I suspect there’s going to be a whole lot more rejecting and ignoring going on in the next two years. Obama has proven himself weak internationally and politically vulnerable at home; that is a recipe for international mischief-making by our foes and recalcitrance from our allies.

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Voters to Obama: Stop Already. No Fast Choo-Choos.

In 1955, William F. Buckley Jr. inaugurated National Review—the magazine that may come to be known in the 21st Century as motive force in the rise of Marco Rubio—with this immortal description of its mission: “It stands athwart history, yelling Stop.” On Tuesday, the voters stood athwart Obama, yelling Stop. Or so I argue today in my column in the New York Post:

There was a simple message in this election — perhaps too simple for the editor of the Harvard Law Review, who probably prefers his messages ornate and laboriously complex. The message: Stop. You’ve done too much — spent too much, grown government too much, involved yourself in the inner workings of business too much. Stop. Instead, Obama talked about doing more, and said there was a “message to Republicans” in the results that they needed to compromise with him. Astonishing.

The president spent his press conference yesterday talking about ways he might look to “improve” his health-care plan around the edges, the need for middle-class tax cuts, and his desire to have government build nicer airports, high speed choo-choos, and maybe a supercomputer. (I’m not kidding. Read the transcript.) He could have said all these things at any time in the past two years. In fact, he did say all these things in the past two years. Saying them again is not an adequate response to the results on Tuesday night, to put it mildly.

In 1955, William F. Buckley Jr. inaugurated National Review—the magazine that may come to be known in the 21st Century as motive force in the rise of Marco Rubio—with this immortal description of its mission: “It stands athwart history, yelling Stop.” On Tuesday, the voters stood athwart Obama, yelling Stop. Or so I argue today in my column in the New York Post:

There was a simple message in this election — perhaps too simple for the editor of the Harvard Law Review, who probably prefers his messages ornate and laboriously complex. The message: Stop. You’ve done too much — spent too much, grown government too much, involved yourself in the inner workings of business too much. Stop. Instead, Obama talked about doing more, and said there was a “message to Republicans” in the results that they needed to compromise with him. Astonishing.

The president spent his press conference yesterday talking about ways he might look to “improve” his health-care plan around the edges, the need for middle-class tax cuts, and his desire to have government build nicer airports, high speed choo-choos, and maybe a supercomputer. (I’m not kidding. Read the transcript.) He could have said all these things at any time in the past two years. In fact, he did say all these things in the past two years. Saying them again is not an adequate response to the results on Tuesday night, to put it mildly.

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“I Feel My Pain”

Obama’s rather atrocious performance yesterday got me thinking. Bill Clinton, when he was in office, was considered by his critics (and some of his admirers) to be among the most self-indulgent presidents in memory. His dalliance with an intern nearly brought down his presidency. He was in all respects — from food to incessant lateness to a phony tear at Ron Brown’s funeral –undisciplined and self-absorbed. But he can’t hold a candle to Obama.

Clinton at least understood the basic equation in politics: the elected pol demonstrates concern for the citizenry (“I feel your pain”) and in return gets the cheers and support of the voters. Obama feels his own pain. Or as he said yesterday about the Democratic losses, “I feel bad.” Excuse me, but why do we care? He has just — to pick up on his favorite car metaphor — wrecked the family vehicle. I don’t think that deserves our empathy. It didn’t just happen to him; he is the source of the political catastrophe that has descended upon the Democratic Party.

Obama, at minor and major points in his career, has made it all about himself. The cult of personality dominated his campaign. He turned on Rev. Wright when Wright questioned Obama’s sincerity. He based his foreign policy on the egocentric notion that his mere presence would change historic, substantive disputes between the parties (i.e., Israel wants peace and the Palestinians want no Israel) and transform a radical Islamic regime. He became offended when Daniel Ortega brought up America’s role in the Bay of the Pigs. (Obama declared he had an alibi — he was a child.) He has painted critics as enemies and refused to recognize the legitimate grievances of the electorate and his own party. The loss is a function of the voters’ ignorance and misperceptions; the solution is more Obama in the heartland. You see the pattern.

No one gets to the Oval Office being a shrinking violet. But there is ego and then there is ego. To be a successful president — frankly to be successful at anything — you need to have some appreciation of your own limitations and of your place in the grand scheme of things. Obama lacks both, and hence, the ability to self-reflect and correct course. His outward demeanor — first annoyed and now sullen — and his disinclination to address the root of his failings (i.e., an agenda at odds with the disposition of the electorate) do not bode well for an Obama comeback.

Obama’s rather atrocious performance yesterday got me thinking. Bill Clinton, when he was in office, was considered by his critics (and some of his admirers) to be among the most self-indulgent presidents in memory. His dalliance with an intern nearly brought down his presidency. He was in all respects — from food to incessant lateness to a phony tear at Ron Brown’s funeral –undisciplined and self-absorbed. But he can’t hold a candle to Obama.

Clinton at least understood the basic equation in politics: the elected pol demonstrates concern for the citizenry (“I feel your pain”) and in return gets the cheers and support of the voters. Obama feels his own pain. Or as he said yesterday about the Democratic losses, “I feel bad.” Excuse me, but why do we care? He has just — to pick up on his favorite car metaphor — wrecked the family vehicle. I don’t think that deserves our empathy. It didn’t just happen to him; he is the source of the political catastrophe that has descended upon the Democratic Party.

Obama, at minor and major points in his career, has made it all about himself. The cult of personality dominated his campaign. He turned on Rev. Wright when Wright questioned Obama’s sincerity. He based his foreign policy on the egocentric notion that his mere presence would change historic, substantive disputes between the parties (i.e., Israel wants peace and the Palestinians want no Israel) and transform a radical Islamic regime. He became offended when Daniel Ortega brought up America’s role in the Bay of the Pigs. (Obama declared he had an alibi — he was a child.) He has painted critics as enemies and refused to recognize the legitimate grievances of the electorate and his own party. The loss is a function of the voters’ ignorance and misperceptions; the solution is more Obama in the heartland. You see the pattern.

No one gets to the Oval Office being a shrinking violet. But there is ego and then there is ego. To be a successful president — frankly to be successful at anything — you need to have some appreciation of your own limitations and of your place in the grand scheme of things. Obama lacks both, and hence, the ability to self-reflect and correct course. His outward demeanor — first annoyed and now sullen — and his disinclination to address the root of his failings (i.e., an agenda at odds with the disposition of the electorate) do not bode well for an Obama comeback.

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What We Had Here Was Not a Failure to Communicate

The day before the election, the New York Review of Books posted a rant about right-wing radio and TV hosts by Yale professor David Bromwich.

Regarding Rush Limbaugh, Bromwich mixed faux analysis (“Limbaugh seldom speaks overtly about race,” but “no careful listener can doubt that race is an element”) with personal insults (Limbaugh is a “demagogue” with a “sadistic streak” who “mixes truth and falsehood at pleasure” and is “almost infantile in his self-love”). Bromwich’s analysis of Glenn Beck was that he is a “charlatan” with an “alarmingly incoherent personality” who exerts his “strongest enchantment” when he “goes awry.” Nuanced.

It was surprising to see an article composed of little more than ad hominem attacks published in a journal with intellectual pretensions – but perhaps it simply reflected the well-known fact that left-wing intellectuals are hard-wired to write like that when they are scared.

Bromwich’s piece was a reminder of the leftist tendency to oscillate between love of the people in the abstract and disappointment in actually existing people. Two years ago, the people who attended Obama rallies were the people we were waiting for; two years later, the president’s press secretary told them to get drug-tested, the vice president lectured them to stop whining, and the president warned them he was beginning to think they were not serious. And those were the supporters; opponents were branded class enemies.

Bromwich attributes Obama’s political problems not to his policies or programs but to the absence of an effective communications strategy:

Looking back, one feels it was an astonishing negligence for the Obama White House to embark on a campaign for national health care without a solid strategy for fighting the tenacious opposition it could expect at the hands of Fox radio and TV.

Bromwich does not indicate what the strategy should have been — only that it should have been solid (solid strategies are the best kind). But if you can’t convince the public of your program when you have the mainstream media (CBS, NBC, ABC), public television (PBS), the most established cable news network (CNN), the “news” show most watched by young voters (The Daily Show), and unlimited access to the bully pulpit, it is not likely that your problem was the hands of a single network. More likely it was the people.

The day before the election, the New York Review of Books posted a rant about right-wing radio and TV hosts by Yale professor David Bromwich.

Regarding Rush Limbaugh, Bromwich mixed faux analysis (“Limbaugh seldom speaks overtly about race,” but “no careful listener can doubt that race is an element”) with personal insults (Limbaugh is a “demagogue” with a “sadistic streak” who “mixes truth and falsehood at pleasure” and is “almost infantile in his self-love”). Bromwich’s analysis of Glenn Beck was that he is a “charlatan” with an “alarmingly incoherent personality” who exerts his “strongest enchantment” when he “goes awry.” Nuanced.

It was surprising to see an article composed of little more than ad hominem attacks published in a journal with intellectual pretensions – but perhaps it simply reflected the well-known fact that left-wing intellectuals are hard-wired to write like that when they are scared.

Bromwich’s piece was a reminder of the leftist tendency to oscillate between love of the people in the abstract and disappointment in actually existing people. Two years ago, the people who attended Obama rallies were the people we were waiting for; two years later, the president’s press secretary told them to get drug-tested, the vice president lectured them to stop whining, and the president warned them he was beginning to think they were not serious. And those were the supporters; opponents were branded class enemies.

Bromwich attributes Obama’s political problems not to his policies or programs but to the absence of an effective communications strategy:

Looking back, one feels it was an astonishing negligence for the Obama White House to embark on a campaign for national health care without a solid strategy for fighting the tenacious opposition it could expect at the hands of Fox radio and TV.

Bromwich does not indicate what the strategy should have been — only that it should have been solid (solid strategies are the best kind). But if you can’t convince the public of your program when you have the mainstream media (CBS, NBC, ABC), public television (PBS), the most established cable news network (CNN), the “news” show most watched by young voters (The Daily Show), and unlimited access to the bully pulpit, it is not likely that your problem was the hands of a single network. More likely it was the people.

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More on How the Jewish Groups Did

The Emergency Committee for Israel’s executive director (and CONTENTIONS contributor), Noah Pollak, has released a statement:

Last night was a good night for the US-Israel relationship, with supporters of a strong alliance prevailing over a number of incumbents who had received financial and rhetorical support from anti-Israel groups. In Pennsylvania in particular, there was a close Senate race that resulted in the defeat of a candidate who had accused Israel of war crimes and helped raise money for an organization the FBI later called a front group for Hamas. ECI ran ads informing voters of that record, and no doubt many of those voters share our concerns. We are delighted with the result.

Meanwhile, the Republican Jewish Coalition points out that in 11 races in which RJC-supported candidates faced off against J Street–funded candidates, the RJC candidate came out on top in seven, including three Senate races.

It is important in trying to decipher all this to weed out the candidates who were always going to win and those who were never going to win. When you get down to competitive races, J Street proved to be no help to its chosen candidates and a great deal of trouble. In the future, do you think mainstream Democrats with a generally good record on Israel are going to take money from J Street? No. Why in the world would they? That will leave J Street with its hardened group of donors and the fringe Israel-bashers. Not so influential, I suppose. Maybe their big donor and his friend from Hong Kong will close up shop and spend their largess on groups that haven’t made themselves irrelevant.

The Emergency Committee for Israel’s executive director (and CONTENTIONS contributor), Noah Pollak, has released a statement:

Last night was a good night for the US-Israel relationship, with supporters of a strong alliance prevailing over a number of incumbents who had received financial and rhetorical support from anti-Israel groups. In Pennsylvania in particular, there was a close Senate race that resulted in the defeat of a candidate who had accused Israel of war crimes and helped raise money for an organization the FBI later called a front group for Hamas. ECI ran ads informing voters of that record, and no doubt many of those voters share our concerns. We are delighted with the result.

Meanwhile, the Republican Jewish Coalition points out that in 11 races in which RJC-supported candidates faced off against J Street–funded candidates, the RJC candidate came out on top in seven, including three Senate races.

It is important in trying to decipher all this to weed out the candidates who were always going to win and those who were never going to win. When you get down to competitive races, J Street proved to be no help to its chosen candidates and a great deal of trouble. In the future, do you think mainstream Democrats with a generally good record on Israel are going to take money from J Street? No. Why in the world would they? That will leave J Street with its hardened group of donors and the fringe Israel-bashers. Not so influential, I suppose. Maybe their big donor and his friend from Hong Kong will close up shop and spend their largess on groups that haven’t made themselves irrelevant.

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RE: Two Big Losers: Obama and Gerrymandering

John, it is certainly the case that ultra-gerrymandered districts have left California House races largely uncompetitive. Living in California for nearly 40 years — in several locations — I never saw a competitive House race. But as bad as the gerrymandering is, there’s another more fundamental reason for uncompetitive seats: to a large degree Californians have segregated themselves by geography.

Even if all the districts were in nice rectangular shapes, rather than the grotesque shapes resembling dragons and other mythical creatures, you still would have loads of safe seats — Democrats in the larger metropolitan areas of Los Angeles, San Francisco, Oakland, and San Jose, with Republicans in rural areas and the outer suburbs. In their informative book California Crackup, Joe Mathews and Mark Paul tell us:

“Redistricting is limited in its capacity to create a heavily competitive state,” wrote Bruce E. Cain, California’s leading scholar of redistricting, in a 2008 study. California’s new political geography, with Democrats controlling the coast and Republicans dominating inland areas, affords few chances to draw competitive districts. There are no Republican seats to be conjured up in the Bay Area, no Democratic seats in the Sierra or northern Sacramento Valley.

In fact, to make districts more ideologically balanced, you might want to draw even more creative district lines.

The solution, if there is one, is for the disenchanted to vote with their feet. They are already doing so in record numbers, thereby reducing California’s revenue, population, and eventually its electoral wattage. In the meantime, the new Congress should take a vow: no bailouts for California. Let Jerry Brown and Barbara Boxer figure out how to get their state out of a ditch — with no help from the rest of the American taxpayers.

John, it is certainly the case that ultra-gerrymandered districts have left California House races largely uncompetitive. Living in California for nearly 40 years — in several locations — I never saw a competitive House race. But as bad as the gerrymandering is, there’s another more fundamental reason for uncompetitive seats: to a large degree Californians have segregated themselves by geography.

Even if all the districts were in nice rectangular shapes, rather than the grotesque shapes resembling dragons and other mythical creatures, you still would have loads of safe seats — Democrats in the larger metropolitan areas of Los Angeles, San Francisco, Oakland, and San Jose, with Republicans in rural areas and the outer suburbs. In their informative book California Crackup, Joe Mathews and Mark Paul tell us:

“Redistricting is limited in its capacity to create a heavily competitive state,” wrote Bruce E. Cain, California’s leading scholar of redistricting, in a 2008 study. California’s new political geography, with Democrats controlling the coast and Republicans dominating inland areas, affords few chances to draw competitive districts. There are no Republican seats to be conjured up in the Bay Area, no Democratic seats in the Sierra or northern Sacramento Valley.

In fact, to make districts more ideologically balanced, you might want to draw even more creative district lines.

The solution, if there is one, is for the disenchanted to vote with their feet. They are already doing so in record numbers, thereby reducing California’s revenue, population, and eventually its electoral wattage. In the meantime, the new Congress should take a vow: no bailouts for California. Let Jerry Brown and Barbara Boxer figure out how to get their state out of a ditch — with no help from the rest of the American taxpayers.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

So much for the notion that it wasn’t a referendum on Obama. “I’m not recommending for every future President that they take a shellacking like they — like I did last night.” Notice the “I.”

So much for the Bill Clinton–like adjustment. “Obama admits he got a ’shellacking,’ but shows no sign of budging on core agenda.”

So much for the wishful thinking of the left blogosphere: “Republicans have picked up a net gain of 53 seats and were leading for another 13 Democratic-held seats. If current trend holds, Republicans could record their largest gains in the House in more than 70 years.”

So much for historical accuracy: “The newly divided government could be a recipe for gridlock or, as some veteran Capitol Hill operatives suggest, an opportunity for President Barack Obama and Congress to improve their weak standing with the American public by working together — a la Bill Clinton and Speaker Newt Gingrich.” Um, I don’t think Gingrich improved his standing.

So much for lessons learned. The left blogosphere is still spinning: “I think the root of the Democrats’ political troubles lies in the initial flurry of activity — the stimulus, restructuring TARP, and the auto bailout. In the public mind, this all become jumbled together as ‘the bailouts’ — a conflation carefully nurtured by Republicans — even though obviously Keynesian fiscal policy is not the same thing as a bailout. But the truth is that all those policies were highly unpopular, and all came to symbolize big government rescuing bad actors while average people paid the bill. It became a frame that colored perceptions of the entire Democratic agenda.” It didn’t “symbolize” big government — together with ObamaCare, it was big government.

So much for Rahm Emanuel’s handiwork. “The Democrats who handed Speaker Nancy Pelosi her majority were largely wiped out of Congress on Tuesday. Fourteen members of the freshman class of 2006, dubbed by Pelosi (D-Calif.) as her ‘majority makers,’ and 21 freshman elected in 2008 lost their seats with a handful of races still undecided. Republicans were able to win several more open seats that Democrats had won in those cycles.” No wonder Rahm developed a yen to be mayor.

So much for getting our money back. “GM said it intends to sell almost a quarter of its 1.5 billion shares of common stock, at a price between $26 to $29 a share. It also intends to sell 60 million shares of preferred stock with a liquidation value of $50 a share. That price range would suggest that the Treasury Department’s 60.8% stake in the company would be worth between $23.7 billion to $26.5 billion once the stock starts trading. That value would be well below the $40 billion in taxpayer money GM received from the government and has yet to repay.”

So much for stonewalling. Rep. Lamar Smith, who together with Rep. Frank Wolf labored to get to the bottom of the New Black Panther Party scandal, will be the House Judiciary chairman. Eric Holder therefore may be the first subpoenaed member of the administration. I sense a stampede of officials at DOJ running to spend more time with their families.

So much for the notion that it wasn’t a referendum on Obama. “I’m not recommending for every future President that they take a shellacking like they — like I did last night.” Notice the “I.”

So much for the Bill Clinton–like adjustment. “Obama admits he got a ’shellacking,’ but shows no sign of budging on core agenda.”

So much for the wishful thinking of the left blogosphere: “Republicans have picked up a net gain of 53 seats and were leading for another 13 Democratic-held seats. If current trend holds, Republicans could record their largest gains in the House in more than 70 years.”

So much for historical accuracy: “The newly divided government could be a recipe for gridlock or, as some veteran Capitol Hill operatives suggest, an opportunity for President Barack Obama and Congress to improve their weak standing with the American public by working together — a la Bill Clinton and Speaker Newt Gingrich.” Um, I don’t think Gingrich improved his standing.

So much for lessons learned. The left blogosphere is still spinning: “I think the root of the Democrats’ political troubles lies in the initial flurry of activity — the stimulus, restructuring TARP, and the auto bailout. In the public mind, this all become jumbled together as ‘the bailouts’ — a conflation carefully nurtured by Republicans — even though obviously Keynesian fiscal policy is not the same thing as a bailout. But the truth is that all those policies were highly unpopular, and all came to symbolize big government rescuing bad actors while average people paid the bill. It became a frame that colored perceptions of the entire Democratic agenda.” It didn’t “symbolize” big government — together with ObamaCare, it was big government.

So much for Rahm Emanuel’s handiwork. “The Democrats who handed Speaker Nancy Pelosi her majority were largely wiped out of Congress on Tuesday. Fourteen members of the freshman class of 2006, dubbed by Pelosi (D-Calif.) as her ‘majority makers,’ and 21 freshman elected in 2008 lost their seats with a handful of races still undecided. Republicans were able to win several more open seats that Democrats had won in those cycles.” No wonder Rahm developed a yen to be mayor.

So much for getting our money back. “GM said it intends to sell almost a quarter of its 1.5 billion shares of common stock, at a price between $26 to $29 a share. It also intends to sell 60 million shares of preferred stock with a liquidation value of $50 a share. That price range would suggest that the Treasury Department’s 60.8% stake in the company would be worth between $23.7 billion to $26.5 billion once the stock starts trading. That value would be well below the $40 billion in taxpayer money GM received from the government and has yet to repay.”

So much for stonewalling. Rep. Lamar Smith, who together with Rep. Frank Wolf labored to get to the bottom of the New Black Panther Party scandal, will be the House Judiciary chairman. Eric Holder therefore may be the first subpoenaed member of the administration. I sense a stampede of officials at DOJ running to spend more time with their families.

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