Commentary Magazine


Posts For: November 10, 2010

What About the Other CIA Witchhunt?

After three years,  John Durham, the special prosecutor appointed by Eric Holder to investigate the destruction of tapes showing enhanced interrogation techniques employed by CIA officials, has closed the case. As this report notes, this “is the latest example of Justice Department officials’ declining to seek criminal penalties for some of the controversial episodes in the C.I.A.’s now defunct detention and interrogation program.”

But what about the other witchhunt investigation that Obama has ordered, or rather the reinvestigation of CIA officials for use of those enhanced techniques? As I have previously reported, professional prosecutors had already ruled out filing criminal charges, but the Obama team, anxious for its pound of flesh, insisted that Durham reinvestigate these same operatives. Does the termination of the tape case suggest that this investigation, loudly protested by career CIA officials, including Leon Panetta, is going to be shut down as well?

I wouldn’t be so sure. An individual with knowledge of Durham’s investigation (who is also highly critical of the Obama administration’s decision to contravene the decision of career prosecutors) emphasizes that these are “totally separate cases.” He nevertheless observes that from what he has seen, Durham and his team seem “like straight shooters — very thorough, trying to get a full understanding” of the issues.

A former Justice Department official likewise cautions: “I think it would prove too much to read something into the fact that he announced the closing of one investigation without announcing the results of the other. The tapes investigation started in January 2008, while it was expanded by Holder to cover interrogators in August 2009. That’s a big-time gap. With that said, it is not as if Durham was not coming across interrogator behavior in the course of investigating the tape destruction.”

Perhaps the most insightful reaction came from a former high-ranking national security official who was deeply troubled by the administration’s decision to place CIA employees back in legal peril. In response to my question asking him to assess what Durham’s dismissal of the tape case might say about the interrogation inquiry, he replied simply, “Not at all clear. One can hope.”

The decision to set Durham loose on CIA operatives already exonerated under a prior administration was another misbegotten and dangerous idea by the Obami, one of many that signaled to CIA officials that they would be foolhardy not to be risk-averse in their anti-terrorism activities. So, indeed, we should hope that Durham shows himself once again to be a wise prosecutor and shuts down a politically motivated inquest.

After three years,  John Durham, the special prosecutor appointed by Eric Holder to investigate the destruction of tapes showing enhanced interrogation techniques employed by CIA officials, has closed the case. As this report notes, this “is the latest example of Justice Department officials’ declining to seek criminal penalties for some of the controversial episodes in the C.I.A.’s now defunct detention and interrogation program.”

But what about the other witchhunt investigation that Obama has ordered, or rather the reinvestigation of CIA officials for use of those enhanced techniques? As I have previously reported, professional prosecutors had already ruled out filing criminal charges, but the Obama team, anxious for its pound of flesh, insisted that Durham reinvestigate these same operatives. Does the termination of the tape case suggest that this investigation, loudly protested by career CIA officials, including Leon Panetta, is going to be shut down as well?

I wouldn’t be so sure. An individual with knowledge of Durham’s investigation (who is also highly critical of the Obama administration’s decision to contravene the decision of career prosecutors) emphasizes that these are “totally separate cases.” He nevertheless observes that from what he has seen, Durham and his team seem “like straight shooters — very thorough, trying to get a full understanding” of the issues.

A former Justice Department official likewise cautions: “I think it would prove too much to read something into the fact that he announced the closing of one investigation without announcing the results of the other. The tapes investigation started in January 2008, while it was expanded by Holder to cover interrogators in August 2009. That’s a big-time gap. With that said, it is not as if Durham was not coming across interrogator behavior in the course of investigating the tape destruction.”

Perhaps the most insightful reaction came from a former high-ranking national security official who was deeply troubled by the administration’s decision to place CIA employees back in legal peril. In response to my question asking him to assess what Durham’s dismissal of the tape case might say about the interrogation inquiry, he replied simply, “Not at all clear. One can hope.”

The decision to set Durham loose on CIA operatives already exonerated under a prior administration was another misbegotten and dangerous idea by the Obami, one of many that signaled to CIA officials that they would be foolhardy not to be risk-averse in their anti-terrorism activities. So, indeed, we should hope that Durham shows himself once again to be a wise prosecutor and shuts down a politically motivated inquest.

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The Other Dowd

OK, it’s lazy to let a relative write your column. But we should go easy on Maureen, for her brother Kevin is plainly the political maven in the Dowd family, being the sibling who apparently observes America not merely from Manhattan taxi cabs. A  sample of the column she subcontracted to him:

On Nov. 2, voters across every spectrum loudly stated their preference for a return to American exceptionalism, self-reliance, limited government and personal freedoms. … It is probably a product of the revisionist history we now teach in our schools that the Tea Party, a replica of the beginnings of the American Revolution, was marginalized and mocked as a lunatic fringe group by a dismissive news media.

That same media is becoming increasingly aware that its creation is in over his head. He seems unaware of, or ambivalent about, the results of his actions. The last three weeks of the campaign were particularly unseemly. The vision of the President of the United States, one who spoke of civility and hope and change, exposed as just another Chicago pol, viciously and personally attacking his opponents, was undignified.

When my children were small, I used to take them to visit my mother. One of her favorite lines if they complained was, “Do you want some cheese with that whine?” We may have to call Switzerland to get enough cheese for the presidential whines. Read More

OK, it’s lazy to let a relative write your column. But we should go easy on Maureen, for her brother Kevin is plainly the political maven in the Dowd family, being the sibling who apparently observes America not merely from Manhattan taxi cabs. A  sample of the column she subcontracted to him:

On Nov. 2, voters across every spectrum loudly stated their preference for a return to American exceptionalism, self-reliance, limited government and personal freedoms. … It is probably a product of the revisionist history we now teach in our schools that the Tea Party, a replica of the beginnings of the American Revolution, was marginalized and mocked as a lunatic fringe group by a dismissive news media.

That same media is becoming increasingly aware that its creation is in over his head. He seems unaware of, or ambivalent about, the results of his actions. The last three weeks of the campaign were particularly unseemly. The vision of the President of the United States, one who spoke of civility and hope and change, exposed as just another Chicago pol, viciously and personally attacking his opponents, was undignified.

When my children were small, I used to take them to visit my mother. One of her favorite lines if they complained was, “Do you want some cheese with that whine?” We may have to call Switzerland to get enough cheese for the presidential whines.

What is interesting — aside from the usual nature/nurture debate it might provoke — is how much closer the mainstream-media narrative is to the Kevin narrative. What Kevin and many others on the right have observed for two years — an excess of dangerous presidential hubris, a tone-deaf White House, a vibrant Tea Party movement, liberal overreach – is only now becoming part of the mainstream conventional wisdom. Or as Noemie Emery points out, even Esquire concedes that The One’s “aura” has dimmed. Sounding rather Kevin-esque, the style-is-everything crowd finds Obama suddenly a disappointment:

President Obama, after all, was elected by virtue of his personality, which provided not only contrast but novelty, and was grounded in his near-perfect pitch when addressing audiences large and small. Sure, he was cool and cerebral, but he was also confident, almost cocky, because he had the power to summon inspiring rhetoric on command, which meant that he had the power to summon us on command. …

Now his gift has all but deserted him, and all that prevents the story from becoming tragic is his own apparent refusal to be affected by it. … Of course, Obama has never turned his back on us, but so many Americans have turned their backs on him that it amounts to The Anointed One, as he is sometimes referred, being stripped of something that can never return: his anointment. And without it — without his air of destiny, without the idea of Obama augmenting his actuality — the rooms he used to occupy so effortlessly have changed dimensions on him, until at times he might as well be speaking from the bottom of a well.

What Kevin observes with glee (the downsizing of The Ego), many in the national press corps now treat as fact and the left views with exasperation. Conservatives who cringed and gritted through more than one painful George W. Bush press conference can relate to how the left feels watching Obama as sulker in chief (“the press conference was so painfully incommensurate to its historical moment that one had to wonder if he knew it — if he knew that even on this observance of loss he was losing his audience”).

So you now have columns by liberals that sound identical to those written by conservatives. Take a guess as to the author of this one, who frets about “the shellackee in chief” and Nancy Pelosi’s reaction to the election:

Their instincts have tended more toward blaming the dogs for not understanding how good the food is for them, not accepting that it’s time to tweak the recipe.

The president’s self-diagnosis in his post-election news conference was dominated by the assessment that voters had simply failed to grasp — and that his failure lay chiefly in explaining clearly enough — why the administration took the steps it did.

That’s Ruth Marcus, but it could easily have been Ross Douthat or Rich Lowry — or any of us here at CONTENTIONS.

There is something rather unifying — like when the whole country watched the final M*A*S*H episode — about the emerging consensus. True, the left considers the cause of the shellacking to be insufficient liberalism, while the right views that explanation as daft. The “why” may be hotly disputed, but at least we’ve got some agreement on what is going on. On that score, there’s no denying that Obama is a unifier not a divider.

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Who’s the Least Self-Reflective of Them All?

It is a delightful coincidence for fans of George W. Bush that his memoirs and accompanying media onslaught should come just as Obama is in full funk mode following his midterm shellacking. What is even more amusing than the return of  the Decider to the public limelight is the reaction of the media, which have greeted the book precisely as one would expect. The press continually “misunderestimated” him, and they do so again.

A case in point is the Los Angeles Times book review, which finds Bush’s tome to be an “unexpectedly engrossing memoir.” Unexpected by those who considered him a simpleton. Like so many on the left, the Times‘s reviewer, Tim Rutten, is bothered that Bush wasn’t more bothered about waterboarding terrorists to save American lives. For liberals, the decision was reprehensible, or at the very least agonizing. For Bush, it was straightforward: waterboard KSM or risk American lives. That the press can’t understand the moral imperative for the president to act as he did tells us as much about mainstream journalists as it does about Bush.

Likewise, because their caricature of Bush so colored their perceptions, the media elites are amazed to find out how respectful Bush was of opponents:

Given the contentious political use Karl Rove and other Bush aides made of abortion, readers also may be interested in the former president’s unfailingly respectful discussion of the abortion-rights advocates with whom he disagrees. …

Actually, one of the impressions that arises repeatedly in “Decision Points” is how much civility and bi-partisan cooperation matter to Bush. “The death spiral of decency during my time in office, exacerbated by the advent of 24-hour cable news and hyper-partisan political blogs, was deeply disappointing,” he writes.

Shocking to the left, I suppose. But let’s be blunt: the Bush=Hitler derangement syndrome never embittered Bush, nor did he ever imagine it was the role of the president to be the partisan in chief.

Yes, the contrast with Obama is great. Bush wasn’t “eloquent,” we were told, yet he managed to communicate with great clarity where he stood and what he stood for. Bush was “divisive,” we were instructed, yet he was respectful and exceptionally kind to aides, foes, and average Americans. Bush was “isolated” and “stubborn,” but he turned around a losing war strategy, kept his composure after the 2006 midterms, and never blamed the voters for his political misfortunes. You would think the media would now consider whether their evaluation of Bush was wrong. But no, they prefer to be “surprised” or even confounded by a book that reveals their take on Bush to be badly out of sync with the real man.

And even worse for the liberal intelligentsia, they have to concede that Obama looks remarkably bad in comparison. Howard Kurtz writes that “it felt like we were watching The Decider vs. The Agonizer.” There is the halfhearted attempt to make agonizing a virtue, but really, is Hamlet the model we want for commander in chief?

The irony is delicious. The press objects that Bush was simple-minded and not reflective. Umm, I think it’s called “projection” when one’s critique of others amounts to a spot-on self-diagnosis. The media would do well to reflect a bit more on whether their own coverage of Bush was accurate or remotely fair. But that’s not their style. They are, as Rutten would put it, “singularly unapologetic.”

It is a delightful coincidence for fans of George W. Bush that his memoirs and accompanying media onslaught should come just as Obama is in full funk mode following his midterm shellacking. What is even more amusing than the return of  the Decider to the public limelight is the reaction of the media, which have greeted the book precisely as one would expect. The press continually “misunderestimated” him, and they do so again.

A case in point is the Los Angeles Times book review, which finds Bush’s tome to be an “unexpectedly engrossing memoir.” Unexpected by those who considered him a simpleton. Like so many on the left, the Times‘s reviewer, Tim Rutten, is bothered that Bush wasn’t more bothered about waterboarding terrorists to save American lives. For liberals, the decision was reprehensible, or at the very least agonizing. For Bush, it was straightforward: waterboard KSM or risk American lives. That the press can’t understand the moral imperative for the president to act as he did tells us as much about mainstream journalists as it does about Bush.

Likewise, because their caricature of Bush so colored their perceptions, the media elites are amazed to find out how respectful Bush was of opponents:

Given the contentious political use Karl Rove and other Bush aides made of abortion, readers also may be interested in the former president’s unfailingly respectful discussion of the abortion-rights advocates with whom he disagrees. …

Actually, one of the impressions that arises repeatedly in “Decision Points” is how much civility and bi-partisan cooperation matter to Bush. “The death spiral of decency during my time in office, exacerbated by the advent of 24-hour cable news and hyper-partisan political blogs, was deeply disappointing,” he writes.

Shocking to the left, I suppose. But let’s be blunt: the Bush=Hitler derangement syndrome never embittered Bush, nor did he ever imagine it was the role of the president to be the partisan in chief.

Yes, the contrast with Obama is great. Bush wasn’t “eloquent,” we were told, yet he managed to communicate with great clarity where he stood and what he stood for. Bush was “divisive,” we were instructed, yet he was respectful and exceptionally kind to aides, foes, and average Americans. Bush was “isolated” and “stubborn,” but he turned around a losing war strategy, kept his composure after the 2006 midterms, and never blamed the voters for his political misfortunes. You would think the media would now consider whether their evaluation of Bush was wrong. But no, they prefer to be “surprised” or even confounded by a book that reveals their take on Bush to be badly out of sync with the real man.

And even worse for the liberal intelligentsia, they have to concede that Obama looks remarkably bad in comparison. Howard Kurtz writes that “it felt like we were watching The Decider vs. The Agonizer.” There is the halfhearted attempt to make agonizing a virtue, but really, is Hamlet the model we want for commander in chief?

The irony is delicious. The press objects that Bush was simple-minded and not reflective. Umm, I think it’s called “projection” when one’s critique of others amounts to a spot-on self-diagnosis. The media would do well to reflect a bit more on whether their own coverage of Bush was accurate or remotely fair. But that’s not their style. They are, as Rutten would put it, “singularly unapologetic.”

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Iron Dome into Storage

The case of Israel’s Iron Dome missile-defense system will continue to be instructive. Iron Dome has reportedly performed very well in testing, impressing expert observers and encouraging missile-defense advocates. (See here, here, and here for a taste of the reporting on it.) But the IDF announced this week that it will be putting Iron Dome in storage for the time being, bringing it out for deployment only in the case of dramatic increases in rocket and missile attacks.

Although the IDF complained about Iron Dome’s cost this summer (see link above), the U.S. has added substantial funding for missile-defense systems to our defense package for Israel. The thrust of Obama’s policy response to the threat from Iran is, in fact, expanding missile-defense options for Israel. Putting Iron Dome in storage is therefore unlikely to be a result of simple cost or training concerns. It’s more useful instead to parse this decision in terms of overall national-defense policy.

Other nations seeking to defend their populations with missile shields may well run into the decision factors Israel now faces. So we should pay attention to what they are. There are downsides to keeping Iron Dome constantly deployed: one is simply that terrorist attackers will know where its components are situated and become accustomed to what it looks like. Even if the components were moved around regularly, they would be more susceptible to sabotage and easier to analyze and defeat — particularly if using them from time to time gave attackers a chance to observe them in operation. Israel’s small size only amplifies this drawback.

Two other factors are more political and strategic in nature; they have to do with the environment of expectations in which Israel would operate with a constantly deployed Iron Dome system. The IDF spokesmen quoted in the linked articles above allude to one of these factors: the expectations of the Israeli people about being defended. Iron Dome is unlikely to intercept all incoming rockets or missiles. Its deployment should not create a basis for complacency. But it could easily do so — and thereby produce a new set of mistargeted political pressures on national-security policy.

In the same vein, the defensive promise of Iron Dome could well raise expectations, both inside Israel and abroad, that its deployment obviated the need for Israel to hold key territory and keep it cleared of terrorists and their weaponry. That conclusion would be false, but I imagine most readers see how quickly it would be drawn — and how vigorously it would be advanced as a talking point against Israel’s other irreducible security requirements. This effect on expectations would be felt in the peace-process negotiations but would also be a factor in the international approach to Iran.

A missile shield alone is not all Israel needs for security. And as a general rule, a missile shield should not be used as an excuse to let overall security conditions deteriorate. That outcome would be more than likely if Israel began deploying Iron Dome on a constant basis right now. Missile defense is necessary and useful, but it can’t be a substitute for a multifaceted national defense, one that includes a policy of suppressing threats rather than waiting passively to be attacked. These developing security-policy dynamics are not by any means unique to Israel’s situation. We should watch and learn from them.

The case of Israel’s Iron Dome missile-defense system will continue to be instructive. Iron Dome has reportedly performed very well in testing, impressing expert observers and encouraging missile-defense advocates. (See here, here, and here for a taste of the reporting on it.) But the IDF announced this week that it will be putting Iron Dome in storage for the time being, bringing it out for deployment only in the case of dramatic increases in rocket and missile attacks.

Although the IDF complained about Iron Dome’s cost this summer (see link above), the U.S. has added substantial funding for missile-defense systems to our defense package for Israel. The thrust of Obama’s policy response to the threat from Iran is, in fact, expanding missile-defense options for Israel. Putting Iron Dome in storage is therefore unlikely to be a result of simple cost or training concerns. It’s more useful instead to parse this decision in terms of overall national-defense policy.

Other nations seeking to defend their populations with missile shields may well run into the decision factors Israel now faces. So we should pay attention to what they are. There are downsides to keeping Iron Dome constantly deployed: one is simply that terrorist attackers will know where its components are situated and become accustomed to what it looks like. Even if the components were moved around regularly, they would be more susceptible to sabotage and easier to analyze and defeat — particularly if using them from time to time gave attackers a chance to observe them in operation. Israel’s small size only amplifies this drawback.

Two other factors are more political and strategic in nature; they have to do with the environment of expectations in which Israel would operate with a constantly deployed Iron Dome system. The IDF spokesmen quoted in the linked articles above allude to one of these factors: the expectations of the Israeli people about being defended. Iron Dome is unlikely to intercept all incoming rockets or missiles. Its deployment should not create a basis for complacency. But it could easily do so — and thereby produce a new set of mistargeted political pressures on national-security policy.

In the same vein, the defensive promise of Iron Dome could well raise expectations, both inside Israel and abroad, that its deployment obviated the need for Israel to hold key territory and keep it cleared of terrorists and their weaponry. That conclusion would be false, but I imagine most readers see how quickly it would be drawn — and how vigorously it would be advanced as a talking point against Israel’s other irreducible security requirements. This effect on expectations would be felt in the peace-process negotiations but would also be a factor in the international approach to Iran.

A missile shield alone is not all Israel needs for security. And as a general rule, a missile shield should not be used as an excuse to let overall security conditions deteriorate. That outcome would be more than likely if Israel began deploying Iron Dome on a constant basis right now. Missile defense is necessary and useful, but it can’t be a substitute for a multifaceted national defense, one that includes a policy of suppressing threats rather than waiting passively to be attacked. These developing security-policy dynamics are not by any means unique to Israel’s situation. We should watch and learn from them.

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Polling, Shmolling

Daniel Halper takes us through some midterm-election polling conducted by J Street on Jews’ views of Obama, Bibi, and Obama’s handling of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. As he points out, there is reason to be skeptical of anything coming out of that outfit. In this case, not surprisingly, J Street’s poll numbers are out of whack with virtually every reputable poll on Jewish opinion.

J Street would have us believe that Jews approve of Obama’s performance by a 60 to 40 percent margin, and of his handling of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict by a 53 to 47 percent margin. The J Streeters’ pollsters contend that American Jews favor Obama’s over Bibi’s handling of the Palestinian issue (51 percent to 49 percent). Even on its own terms, that’s not a ringing endorsement by overwhelmingly liberal Jews. But are these figures reliable? Let’s see how J Street’s latest offering compares with other polling.

The AJC found that 49 percent of U.S. Jews approve, while 45 percent disapprove, of Obama’s handling of U.S.-Israel relations, and 62 percent of American Jews approve and 27 percent disapprove of Bibi’s handling of U.S.-Israel relations. The AJC found that only 51 percent of Jews approve of Obama’s performance in general.

The McLaughlin poll conducted for the Emergency Committee for Israel found that only 52 percent of Jews approve of Obama’s overall performance.

The Brandeis study, using a much larger sample of Jewish opinion, found that only 25 percent of Jews approve of Obama’s handling of relations with Israel.

You get the picture. J Street’s polling data departs from virtually all other surveys we have seen of late. But then J Street’s other pronouncements — on its own funding and its involvement with Richard Goldstone — don’t resemble the truth either. At least the Soros-funded, not-actually-pro-Israel group is consistent in its relationship with the truth.

Daniel Halper takes us through some midterm-election polling conducted by J Street on Jews’ views of Obama, Bibi, and Obama’s handling of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. As he points out, there is reason to be skeptical of anything coming out of that outfit. In this case, not surprisingly, J Street’s poll numbers are out of whack with virtually every reputable poll on Jewish opinion.

J Street would have us believe that Jews approve of Obama’s performance by a 60 to 40 percent margin, and of his handling of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict by a 53 to 47 percent margin. The J Streeters’ pollsters contend that American Jews favor Obama’s over Bibi’s handling of the Palestinian issue (51 percent to 49 percent). Even on its own terms, that’s not a ringing endorsement by overwhelmingly liberal Jews. But are these figures reliable? Let’s see how J Street’s latest offering compares with other polling.

The AJC found that 49 percent of U.S. Jews approve, while 45 percent disapprove, of Obama’s handling of U.S.-Israel relations, and 62 percent of American Jews approve and 27 percent disapprove of Bibi’s handling of U.S.-Israel relations. The AJC found that only 51 percent of Jews approve of Obama’s performance in general.

The McLaughlin poll conducted for the Emergency Committee for Israel found that only 52 percent of Jews approve of Obama’s overall performance.

The Brandeis study, using a much larger sample of Jewish opinion, found that only 25 percent of Jews approve of Obama’s handling of relations with Israel.

You get the picture. J Street’s polling data departs from virtually all other surveys we have seen of late. But then J Street’s other pronouncements — on its own funding and its involvement with Richard Goldstone — don’t resemble the truth either. At least the Soros-funded, not-actually-pro-Israel group is consistent in its relationship with the truth.

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Inflation? What Inflation?

The Gray Lady is much concerned that we do not think that gold has hit a record high under Obama:

Gold is at a record only if you fail to adjust for inflation. And you should almost always adjust for inflation. Otherwise, you end up with meaningless records — Gold reaches record high! Oil reaches record high! Lettuce reaches record high! — that depend on the fact that a dollar in 2010 does not have the same value as a dollar did in, say, 1980.

And what precisely happened in 1980? Oh yes, we had an all-time high in the misery index — a combined inflation and unemployment figure of over 21 points. So it’s probably poor form to bring up 1980 as a “worst” case since our policy choices now bear an uncanny resemblance to those that served up record stagflation. Not to fear, says the Times, because “inflation is just 1.1 percent, compared with 2.7 percent when the year began.”

Except there is this:

Strong demand for raw materials from emerging markets and a flood of money promised by the U.S. Federal Reserve are pushing commodities prices to new highs.

The broad rally has gained steam since the Fed indicated in late August it would inject money into the U.S. economy. But the gains also reflect a powerful rebound from the financial crisis in China and other fast-growing markets. These forces may send prices higher still, potentially putting pressure on poor importing nations. …

Commodity prices largely continued a march toward new multi-year records. Copper climbed 2.2% Tuesday and is just pennies from an all-time high. Gold settled at $1,409.80, a new record, and cotton is at its highest in more than 140 years (though neither is near its inflation-adjusted peak). Corn has risen 22% in less than six weeks.

Some of the rise in commodity prices is attributable to increased demand in developing nations. But the Fed is certainly a significant factor. As bond yields go down, investors scramble to buy up commodities:

Investors had a record $320 billion parked in commodities as of September, says Barclays Capital.

Treasury prices, in part, reflect the shift. The price of the 30-year Treasury bond tumbled almost 2% Tuesday, pushing its yield, which moves in the opposite direction of price, up to 4.25%, the highest since June 3.

The run-up is aided by the U.S. dollar’s sustained fall, which further boosts commodities typically priced in the greenback.

But the New York Times isn’t worried. Because, you see, it’s not actually a record high for gold. Feel better? Didn’t think so.

The Gray Lady is much concerned that we do not think that gold has hit a record high under Obama:

Gold is at a record only if you fail to adjust for inflation. And you should almost always adjust for inflation. Otherwise, you end up with meaningless records — Gold reaches record high! Oil reaches record high! Lettuce reaches record high! — that depend on the fact that a dollar in 2010 does not have the same value as a dollar did in, say, 1980.

And what precisely happened in 1980? Oh yes, we had an all-time high in the misery index — a combined inflation and unemployment figure of over 21 points. So it’s probably poor form to bring up 1980 as a “worst” case since our policy choices now bear an uncanny resemblance to those that served up record stagflation. Not to fear, says the Times, because “inflation is just 1.1 percent, compared with 2.7 percent when the year began.”

Except there is this:

Strong demand for raw materials from emerging markets and a flood of money promised by the U.S. Federal Reserve are pushing commodities prices to new highs.

The broad rally has gained steam since the Fed indicated in late August it would inject money into the U.S. economy. But the gains also reflect a powerful rebound from the financial crisis in China and other fast-growing markets. These forces may send prices higher still, potentially putting pressure on poor importing nations. …

Commodity prices largely continued a march toward new multi-year records. Copper climbed 2.2% Tuesday and is just pennies from an all-time high. Gold settled at $1,409.80, a new record, and cotton is at its highest in more than 140 years (though neither is near its inflation-adjusted peak). Corn has risen 22% in less than six weeks.

Some of the rise in commodity prices is attributable to increased demand in developing nations. But the Fed is certainly a significant factor. As bond yields go down, investors scramble to buy up commodities:

Investors had a record $320 billion parked in commodities as of September, says Barclays Capital.

Treasury prices, in part, reflect the shift. The price of the 30-year Treasury bond tumbled almost 2% Tuesday, pushing its yield, which moves in the opposite direction of price, up to 4.25%, the highest since June 3.

The run-up is aided by the U.S. dollar’s sustained fall, which further boosts commodities typically priced in the greenback.

But the New York Times isn’t worried. Because, you see, it’s not actually a record high for gold. Feel better? Didn’t think so.

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The 2010 Midterm Election in Perspective

In shifting through the fine analysis that emerged in the aftermath of last week’s midterm elections, a few data points are particularly noteworthy:

  • Republicans picked up more House seats than in any election since 1938. Republicans now control the most House seats, and Democrats now have the smallest number of House seats, since 1946.
  • Fifty incumbent Democratic congressmen were defeated, while only two incumbent House Republicans lost.
  • Independents comprised 28 percent of the electorate and supported Republican congressional candidates by a margin of 56 to 38 percent. That represents a 36-point turnaround from the last midterm election, in 2006, when independents supported Democratic congressional candidates by 57 to 39 percent. In addition, independents trust Republicans to do a better job than Democrats by a margin of 23 points on jobs and employment, 23 points on the economy, 27 points on government spending, and 31 points on taxes.
  • Voters support repealing/replacing ObamaCare by 51 to 42 percent. Democrats oppose repeal by 80 to 16 percent — but both independents (by 57 to 31 percent) and Republicans (by 87 to 7 percent) want to repeal and replace it.
  • Sixty-five percent of voters said that the stimulus bill either hurt the economy or did no good — and those voters overwhelmingly favored the GOP.
  • Fifty-four percent of those voting said they were dissatisfied with the performance of Barack Obama — and they broke 85-11 for the Republicans. Read More

In shifting through the fine analysis that emerged in the aftermath of last week’s midterm elections, a few data points are particularly noteworthy:

  • Republicans picked up more House seats than in any election since 1938. Republicans now control the most House seats, and Democrats now have the smallest number of House seats, since 1946.
  • Fifty incumbent Democratic congressmen were defeated, while only two incumbent House Republicans lost.
  • Independents comprised 28 percent of the electorate and supported Republican congressional candidates by a margin of 56 to 38 percent. That represents a 36-point turnaround from the last midterm election, in 2006, when independents supported Democratic congressional candidates by 57 to 39 percent. In addition, independents trust Republicans to do a better job than Democrats by a margin of 23 points on jobs and employment, 23 points on the economy, 27 points on government spending, and 31 points on taxes.
  • Voters support repealing/replacing ObamaCare by 51 to 42 percent. Democrats oppose repeal by 80 to 16 percent — but both independents (by 57 to 31 percent) and Republicans (by 87 to 7 percent) want to repeal and replace it.
  • Sixty-five percent of voters said that the stimulus bill either hurt the economy or did no good — and those voters overwhelmingly favored the GOP.
  • Fifty-four percent of those voting said they were dissatisfied with the performance of Barack Obama — and they broke 85-11 for the Republicans.
  • Republicans have captured the seats in at least 57 of the 83 Democratic-held districts in which Obama won less than 55 percent of the vote.
  • Democrats hold a majority of the congressional delegation in only three states — Iowa, New Mexico, and Vermont — that don’t directly touch an ocean. Republicans similarly routed Democrats in gubernatorial races across the Midwest and the border states, from Ohio and Tennessee to Wisconsin and Iowa.
  • Republicans picked up 680 seats in state legislatures, the most in the modern era. 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 19 state house chambers. They now have unified control — meaning both chambers — of 26 state legislatures. And across the country, Republicans now control 55 chambers, Democrats have 38, and two are tied. (The Nebraska legislature is unicameral.)
  • Republicans have not enjoyed this much power in state capitals since the 1920s.
  • Voters who identified as ideologically conservative accounted for 41 percent of the turnout, an increase from the 34 percent figure in 2008 and the highest level recorded for any election since 1976.

Politico called the midterm elections a “bloodbath of a night for Democrats.” National Journal’s Ron Brownstein wrote, “If the U.S. genuinely used a parliamentary system, Tuesday’s result … would have represented a vote of no confidence in the president and the governing party.” And the Washington Examiner’s Michael Barone says that “you could argue that this is the best Republican showing ever.”

Apart from all that, it was a splendid midterm election for President Obama and his party.

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Watching DOJ

Judicial Watch continues to document the New Black Panther Party scandal, which was first reported by conservative media and now has attracted mainstream coverage. (But not the Gray Lady, which may have a tough time explaining to her readers next year why House Judiciary Chairman Lamar Smith is issuing all those subpoenas. Imagine tuning into Mad Men for the first time after a couple of seasons; you see the dilemma — at some point, there’s no use trying to catch up.)

In the latest batch of disclosures, Judicial Watch tells us:

[I]t has obtained documents from the Obama Department of Justice (DOJ) that provide new evidence that top political appointees at the DOJ were intimately involved in the decision to dismiss the voter intimidation case against the New Black Panther Party for Self Defense (NBPP). These new documents, which include internal DOJ email correspondence, directly contradict sworn testimony by Thomas Perez, Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division, who testified before the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights that no political leadership was involved in the decision. The new documents were obtained last week by Judicial Watch pursuant to a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit (Judicial Watch v. Department of Justice (No.10-851)).

You mean Perez gave false testimony to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights? Oh yes: Read More

Judicial Watch continues to document the New Black Panther Party scandal, which was first reported by conservative media and now has attracted mainstream coverage. (But not the Gray Lady, which may have a tough time explaining to her readers next year why House Judiciary Chairman Lamar Smith is issuing all those subpoenas. Imagine tuning into Mad Men for the first time after a couple of seasons; you see the dilemma — at some point, there’s no use trying to catch up.)

In the latest batch of disclosures, Judicial Watch tells us:

[I]t has obtained documents from the Obama Department of Justice (DOJ) that provide new evidence that top political appointees at the DOJ were intimately involved in the decision to dismiss the voter intimidation case against the New Black Panther Party for Self Defense (NBPP). These new documents, which include internal DOJ email correspondence, directly contradict sworn testimony by Thomas Perez, Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division, who testified before the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights that no political leadership was involved in the decision. The new documents were obtained last week by Judicial Watch pursuant to a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit (Judicial Watch v. Department of Justice (No.10-851)).

You mean Perez gave false testimony to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights? Oh yes:

The new documents include a series of emails between two political appointees: former Democratic election lawyer and current Deputy Associate Attorney General Sam Hirsch and Associate Attorney General Thomas Perrelli. Both DOJ officials were involved in detailed discussions regarding the NBPP decision. …

Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division Thomas Perez testified before the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights that no political appointees were involved in the NBPP decision. Perez suggested that the dispute was merely “a case of career people disagreeing with career people.”

In fact, political appointee Sam Hirsch sent an April 30, 2009, email to Steven Rosenbaum (then-Acting Assistant Deputy Attorney General in the Civil Rights) thanking Rosenbaum for “doing everything you’re doing to make sure that this case is properly resolved.” The next day, the DOJ began to reverse course on its NBPP voter intimidation lawsuit.

We’re going to see where the e-mail trail leads. There will be several storylines. First, how far will the scandal go? The administration may try to “amputate” at the assistant attorney general level (Perez), but evidence already revealed suggests that the associate attorney general level (the #3 position) can’t escape. But of course, the key question will be whether Eric Holder himself will be shoved off the stage. (We are going to get that frank discussion on race he’s been pining for regardless.)

Second, we’ll see how much interference Democrats are willing to run for the White House. The administration’s toady commissioner Michael Yaki tried his best to derail the commission’s investigation but wound up only embarrassing himself as the evidence gushed forth. Will House Democrats be in the mood to follow that path — or is this a fine opportunity to display their “independence” from the White House?

And finally, we’ll find out how much the administration has learned and how beholden it is to liberal activists. The Obama team has two options: (1) admit fault, repudiate a race-specific view of civil rights enforcement (e.g., only whites can be defendants), come clean, and let heads roll; or (2) fight tooth and nail, keep stonewalling, and reassure the NAACP and other liberal civil rights groups that they will stick with the left-leaning party line (i.e., civil rights laws are there to protect only “traditional” victims).

This issue is not remotely the biggest headache the administration will have to face in the next two years, but it sure will be revealing. And quite entertaining, I suspect.

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Ending Piracy: We Did It Before, We Must Do It Again

The news from the piracy front is all bad. The New York Times reports:

Last week, a band of [Somalian] pirates received what is widely believed to be a record ransom — around $10 million — for a hijacked South Korean supertanker, the Samho Dream. … Some of the bigger pirate bosses in this part of Somalia have been building mini armies from the millions they receive in ransoms, and it is widely believed that much of the money from the Samho Dream will go toward more weapons. At the same time, the Shabab, the powerful Islamist insurgent group that vows to enforce strict Islamic law across Somalia, seems to be getting more deeply involved in piracy.

This is more than a nuisance. It is a serious threat to global commerce, yet it is not getting a commensurate response. The U.S. and various other nations have sent naval vessels to patrol off the coast of Somalia but with extremely limited authority. They can only shoot at or detain pirates who are actually caught in the act of hijacking a ship — which doesn’t happen often. They are not allowed to blast suspected pirate vessels or raid pirate havens onshore. Even when pirates are actually caught, most of them are released. There had been hope that Kenya would try them, but as the Times notes, ”On Tuesday, a Kenyan court ordered the release of nine piracy suspects, saying the country could not prosecute them for crimes committed outside its territory.”

There is no secret about how to fight pirates. As I pointed out in this Foreign Affairs article, the Royal Navy and the U.S. Navy successfully eradicated piracy in the 18th and 19th centuries with a combination of measures ranging from quick executions of captured pirates to attacks on pirate safe havens. We don’t have to string up pirates from the yardarm today, but what we should do is bring them back for trial in the U.S., since piracy is the original crime of “universal jurisdiction.” Failing that, we will continue to see the problem metastasize and combine with the Islamist insurgency in Somalia to create a strategic and commercial nightmare.

The news from the piracy front is all bad. The New York Times reports:

Last week, a band of [Somalian] pirates received what is widely believed to be a record ransom — around $10 million — for a hijacked South Korean supertanker, the Samho Dream. … Some of the bigger pirate bosses in this part of Somalia have been building mini armies from the millions they receive in ransoms, and it is widely believed that much of the money from the Samho Dream will go toward more weapons. At the same time, the Shabab, the powerful Islamist insurgent group that vows to enforce strict Islamic law across Somalia, seems to be getting more deeply involved in piracy.

This is more than a nuisance. It is a serious threat to global commerce, yet it is not getting a commensurate response. The U.S. and various other nations have sent naval vessels to patrol off the coast of Somalia but with extremely limited authority. They can only shoot at or detain pirates who are actually caught in the act of hijacking a ship — which doesn’t happen often. They are not allowed to blast suspected pirate vessels or raid pirate havens onshore. Even when pirates are actually caught, most of them are released. There had been hope that Kenya would try them, but as the Times notes, ”On Tuesday, a Kenyan court ordered the release of nine piracy suspects, saying the country could not prosecute them for crimes committed outside its territory.”

There is no secret about how to fight pirates. As I pointed out in this Foreign Affairs article, the Royal Navy and the U.S. Navy successfully eradicated piracy in the 18th and 19th centuries with a combination of measures ranging from quick executions of captured pirates to attacks on pirate safe havens. We don’t have to string up pirates from the yardarm today, but what we should do is bring them back for trial in the U.S., since piracy is the original crime of “universal jurisdiction.” Failing that, we will continue to see the problem metastasize and combine with the Islamist insurgency in Somalia to create a strategic and commercial nightmare.

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Steele Will Go

Not surprising, efforts are underway to dislodge Michael Steele from the RNC chairmanship. The New York Times, quite accurately, reports:

Some senior party officials are maneuvering to put pressure on Michael Steele, the controversial party chairman, not to seek re-election when his term ends in January or, failing that, to encourage a challenger to step forward to take him on.

During the summer months, RNC committeemen made a calculated judgment: leave Steele in place for now, run a midterm campaign essentially without his help, and deal with him after the election. A veteran Republican on the national committee confided to me during the summer that there was general agreement that Steele would have to go.

Now, it is true that the Republicans managed a historic victory by virtue of Tea Party activists, a stunningly effective Republican Governors Association, a toxic president, and nearly 10 percent unemployment. But this is not the ideal way to run a party or an election. Moreover, Steele’s presence is a net negative for the party, a virtual “Not Ready for Prime Time” blinking sign.

Ask GOP operatives or potential staffers on the 2012 campaign who will replace Steele and you’ll get the same answer: “Almost anyone would be better.” The “who” is up for debate, but the question as to whether Steele should go, I would suggest, is virtually settled. Steele’s RNC operation may have demonstrated that national parties are not as critical as they once were, but the GOP isn’t about to test that proposition in a key presidential race. The Dems may decide to keep Pelosi and Reid, but be prepared to see the Republicans shed their deadwood, starting with their hapless chairman.

Not surprising, efforts are underway to dislodge Michael Steele from the RNC chairmanship. The New York Times, quite accurately, reports:

Some senior party officials are maneuvering to put pressure on Michael Steele, the controversial party chairman, not to seek re-election when his term ends in January or, failing that, to encourage a challenger to step forward to take him on.

During the summer months, RNC committeemen made a calculated judgment: leave Steele in place for now, run a midterm campaign essentially without his help, and deal with him after the election. A veteran Republican on the national committee confided to me during the summer that there was general agreement that Steele would have to go.

Now, it is true that the Republicans managed a historic victory by virtue of Tea Party activists, a stunningly effective Republican Governors Association, a toxic president, and nearly 10 percent unemployment. But this is not the ideal way to run a party or an election. Moreover, Steele’s presence is a net negative for the party, a virtual “Not Ready for Prime Time” blinking sign.

Ask GOP operatives or potential staffers on the 2012 campaign who will replace Steele and you’ll get the same answer: “Almost anyone would be better.” The “who” is up for debate, but the question as to whether Steele should go, I would suggest, is virtually settled. Steele’s RNC operation may have demonstrated that national parties are not as critical as they once were, but the GOP isn’t about to test that proposition in a key presidential race. The Dems may decide to keep Pelosi and Reid, but be prepared to see the Republicans shed their deadwood, starting with their hapless chairman.

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RE: Independent Voters Turn Right

As Pete pointed out yesterday, the midterm elections did not turn merely on the enthusiasm gap. Independent voters — the Holy Grail of politics — turned decisively against the Democrats. Charlie Cook explains:

Beyond the symbolism and images, big mistakes were made and Democrats seem happy to blame President Obama and the economy and not accept responsibility for pursuing an agenda that turned independent voters, who had voted by an 18-point margin in 2006 for Democrats, to vote for Republicans by an 18-point margin in 2010, according to exit polls.

This huge shift from one midterm election to the next, by a group that constitutes 26 percent of the electorate, is seismic. It is not a matter of turnout or partisan intensity; it is a clear indication that Democrats alienated voters in the middle who saw an agenda in 2009 and 2010 that was quite different and much more ideological that the one described in 2006 and 2008.

But it would be a mistake for Republicans to assume, just as it was for Democrats following the 2008 election, that they now have this large and decisive group in their grasp. You want proof? Try Senate races in Nevada, Delaware, and Colorado. The danger for the GOP is that while independents have been dislodged from the Democratic coalition, they can easily be turned off by Republican candidates.

The challenge for the GOP, as it is in each presidential election, is to form a center-right coalition that can gin up enthusiasm among the base but also reach out to those not automatically within the fold. Part of the challenge is to define policy objectives, and part is persona. The GOP has made strides in formulating the former, but the latter — the search for the “hot but not too hot” salesperson — has yet to begin in earnest. The dramatic swing in the independent vote should remain a cautionary tale: it’s easier to lose the independents than to keep them moored to your party.

As Pete pointed out yesterday, the midterm elections did not turn merely on the enthusiasm gap. Independent voters — the Holy Grail of politics — turned decisively against the Democrats. Charlie Cook explains:

Beyond the symbolism and images, big mistakes were made and Democrats seem happy to blame President Obama and the economy and not accept responsibility for pursuing an agenda that turned independent voters, who had voted by an 18-point margin in 2006 for Democrats, to vote for Republicans by an 18-point margin in 2010, according to exit polls.

This huge shift from one midterm election to the next, by a group that constitutes 26 percent of the electorate, is seismic. It is not a matter of turnout or partisan intensity; it is a clear indication that Democrats alienated voters in the middle who saw an agenda in 2009 and 2010 that was quite different and much more ideological that the one described in 2006 and 2008.

But it would be a mistake for Republicans to assume, just as it was for Democrats following the 2008 election, that they now have this large and decisive group in their grasp. You want proof? Try Senate races in Nevada, Delaware, and Colorado. The danger for the GOP is that while independents have been dislodged from the Democratic coalition, they can easily be turned off by Republican candidates.

The challenge for the GOP, as it is in each presidential election, is to form a center-right coalition that can gin up enthusiasm among the base but also reach out to those not automatically within the fold. Part of the challenge is to define policy objectives, and part is persona. The GOP has made strides in formulating the former, but the latter — the search for the “hot but not too hot” salesperson — has yet to begin in earnest. The dramatic swing in the independent vote should remain a cautionary tale: it’s easier to lose the independents than to keep them moored to your party.

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Round Two: Jerusalem Is Not a Settlement

Never let it be said that Obama has learned from past errors. He is not a man to divert course based on mere experience. No sir. His standoff with Israel earlier this year led to a war of words, strained relations with American Jewish groups, and a fraying of the U.S.-Israel relationship? Oh, well. Let’s try that again!

It does seem like deja vu all over again. This report bears an eerie resemblance to those from March of this year:

The US State Department on Tuesday responded immediately to claims made in a statement by the Prime Minister’s Office that east Jerusalem construction had no bearing on the peace process.

“There clearly is a link in the sense that it is incumbent upon both parties … they are responsible for creating conditions for a successful negotiation,” State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley said.

“To suggest that this kind of announcement would not have an impact on the Palestinian side I think is incorrect.”

The back-and-forth of statements between the Obama administration and the Prime Minister’s Office was over Israeli plans to advance 1,345 housing units in Jewish neighborhoods of east Jerusalem.

For his part, Bibi was having none of the same old, same old from Obama:

Netanyahu, in turn, sharply defended Israel’s right to build in Jerusalem, which it claims as its eternal united capital, even as the Palestinians claim the eastern party of the city as the capital of their future state.

“Jerusalem is not a settlement. Jerusalem is the capital of Israel,” the Prime Minister’s Office said in a statement on Tuesday, adding that the government had never agreed to place any restrictions on construction in Jerusalem, which has 800,000 residents.

So now we have a test of sorts — for pro-Israel congressmen of both parties, for Jewish groups, and for the administration. The last time around, Democratic congressmen and pro-Israel groups gave Obama a wide berth to go after the Israeli government. But the world has changed since then — and Obama is no longer in a commanding position domestically. So Chuck Schumer, Howard Berman, et al. — what say you? Now’s the time to dispel the image that you place partisan toadying above principled defense of the U.S.-Israel relationship.

Never let it be said that Obama has learned from past errors. He is not a man to divert course based on mere experience. No sir. His standoff with Israel earlier this year led to a war of words, strained relations with American Jewish groups, and a fraying of the U.S.-Israel relationship? Oh, well. Let’s try that again!

It does seem like deja vu all over again. This report bears an eerie resemblance to those from March of this year:

The US State Department on Tuesday responded immediately to claims made in a statement by the Prime Minister’s Office that east Jerusalem construction had no bearing on the peace process.

“There clearly is a link in the sense that it is incumbent upon both parties … they are responsible for creating conditions for a successful negotiation,” State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley said.

“To suggest that this kind of announcement would not have an impact on the Palestinian side I think is incorrect.”

The back-and-forth of statements between the Obama administration and the Prime Minister’s Office was over Israeli plans to advance 1,345 housing units in Jewish neighborhoods of east Jerusalem.

For his part, Bibi was having none of the same old, same old from Obama:

Netanyahu, in turn, sharply defended Israel’s right to build in Jerusalem, which it claims as its eternal united capital, even as the Palestinians claim the eastern party of the city as the capital of their future state.

“Jerusalem is not a settlement. Jerusalem is the capital of Israel,” the Prime Minister’s Office said in a statement on Tuesday, adding that the government had never agreed to place any restrictions on construction in Jerusalem, which has 800,000 residents.

So now we have a test of sorts — for pro-Israel congressmen of both parties, for Jewish groups, and for the administration. The last time around, Democratic congressmen and pro-Israel groups gave Obama a wide berth to go after the Israeli government. But the world has changed since then — and Obama is no longer in a commanding position domestically. So Chuck Schumer, Howard Berman, et al. — what say you? Now’s the time to dispel the image that you place partisan toadying above principled defense of the U.S.-Israel relationship.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Never underestimate the ability of GOP candidates to turn off voters who should be their natural allies. “Clearly, Sharron Angle’s ad depicting dark-skinned figures violating U.S. immigration laws angered many Hispanic voters in Nevada, especially after she clumsily tried to claim they might have been Asian. Similarly, the presence of anti-immigration hardliner Tom Tancredo on Colorado’s ballot as the de facto Republican candidate for governor helped fuel Hispanic turnout.”

A lot of conservatives wish Chris Christie had abided by the “never say never” rule and left just a crack open for a 2012 run.  He has a “51-38 percent approval rating, higher than President Barack Obama or any other statewide leader, according to a Quinnipiac University poll.”

Never confuse Keith Olbermann for a journalist, says Michael Kinsley. “Does anyone doubt what Olbermann’s views are on politics in general and these races [in which he contributed to the Democrats] in particular? Most journalists try to suppress their biases — Olbermann gets paid to flaunt his biases.”

George W. Bush was never self-pitying or a buck-passer, writes Mark McKinnon. “Bush never complains. He never blames others. He takes full responsibility for his campaigns, his administration, his life. He accepts the cards he’s dealt. That’s the George Bush I know.” Get ready for the Bush nostalgia. (His approval rating is statistically identical to Obama’s. Says as much about Obama as it does Bush, huh?)

Never mind luring him to switch parties. The National Republican Senate Committee is already going after Joe Manchin.

Never think “no” means “no.” Rick Perry says he’s not running in 2012, but he sure is going after someone who certainly will be.

Never mess with Stephen Hayes. Especially if you don’t have your facts straight.

Never forget: in victory, minor spats tend to fade. “[Sen. Jim] DeMint is co-sponsoring an amendment [Sen. John] Cornyn plans to offer that would put the Senate GOPers on record in support of a constitutional amendment requiring the federal budget to be balanced and thereby force Congress to put the brakes on government spending and require a supermajority to raise taxes. … Funny, Cornyn and DeMint working together to stop earmarks, require a balanced budget and prevent future tax increases without a congressional supermajority. DeMint was the major force behind the Senate Conservative Fund that contributed mightily the victories of many of the incoming GOP senators, while Cornyn headed the Senate Republican Campaign Committee that made some moves earlier in the 2010 campaign that were strongly criticized by conservatives.” Victory tends to make pols magnanimous.

Never underestimate the ability of GOP candidates to turn off voters who should be their natural allies. “Clearly, Sharron Angle’s ad depicting dark-skinned figures violating U.S. immigration laws angered many Hispanic voters in Nevada, especially after she clumsily tried to claim they might have been Asian. Similarly, the presence of anti-immigration hardliner Tom Tancredo on Colorado’s ballot as the de facto Republican candidate for governor helped fuel Hispanic turnout.”

A lot of conservatives wish Chris Christie had abided by the “never say never” rule and left just a crack open for a 2012 run.  He has a “51-38 percent approval rating, higher than President Barack Obama or any other statewide leader, according to a Quinnipiac University poll.”

Never confuse Keith Olbermann for a journalist, says Michael Kinsley. “Does anyone doubt what Olbermann’s views are on politics in general and these races [in which he contributed to the Democrats] in particular? Most journalists try to suppress their biases — Olbermann gets paid to flaunt his biases.”

George W. Bush was never self-pitying or a buck-passer, writes Mark McKinnon. “Bush never complains. He never blames others. He takes full responsibility for his campaigns, his administration, his life. He accepts the cards he’s dealt. That’s the George Bush I know.” Get ready for the Bush nostalgia. (His approval rating is statistically identical to Obama’s. Says as much about Obama as it does Bush, huh?)

Never mind luring him to switch parties. The National Republican Senate Committee is already going after Joe Manchin.

Never think “no” means “no.” Rick Perry says he’s not running in 2012, but he sure is going after someone who certainly will be.

Never mess with Stephen Hayes. Especially if you don’t have your facts straight.

Never forget: in victory, minor spats tend to fade. “[Sen. Jim] DeMint is co-sponsoring an amendment [Sen. John] Cornyn plans to offer that would put the Senate GOPers on record in support of a constitutional amendment requiring the federal budget to be balanced and thereby force Congress to put the brakes on government spending and require a supermajority to raise taxes. … Funny, Cornyn and DeMint working together to stop earmarks, require a balanced budget and prevent future tax increases without a congressional supermajority. DeMint was the major force behind the Senate Conservative Fund that contributed mightily the victories of many of the incoming GOP senators, while Cornyn headed the Senate Republican Campaign Committee that made some moves earlier in the 2010 campaign that were strongly criticized by conservatives.” Victory tends to make pols magnanimous.

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