Commentary Magazine


Posts For: November 22, 2010

RE: Out of the TSA Scanner and into the Fire

I’m with Linda Chavez. The TSA’s body scanners and pat-down inspections may be tiresome and annoying, but it’s far from clear that there is a good alternative. As she points out, Charles Krauthammer’s suggestion to simply rely on profiling wouldn’t offer much of a defense against jihadist operatives, who are hardly likely to show up on a “martyrdom” mission wearing full tribal regalia. (That would more likely be a Saudi businessman.)

One of the things that make al-Qaeda and its affiliates so hard to combat is that they have been able to recruit all sorts of people, including not only Arabs but also Indonesians, Pakistanis, Europeans, and Americans. The only thing that all these terrorists have in common is their devotion to ultra-fundamentalist doctrines, but that is hardly something that can be noticed at a glance; it probably would not even be noticed in the course of  a typically perfunctory interview. True, they are also all Muslims, but they don’t necessarily advertise their religion — who, after all, could tell at a glance whether someone is a Pakistani Muslim or an Indian Hindu? Some people even confuse Sikhs with Muslims. Do we want to profile anyone who  looks “funny” or has a “funny” name? Anyone who is Muslim? Or Arab?

Mind you: I am not opposed on civil liberties grounds to profiling. To the extent that it is a useful technique, it should be employed by cops and airport security personnel alike. But alas, terrorists don’t fit any particular ethnic or racial category. Behavioral profiling is more useful: there are many actions that passengers take — such as buying a one-way ticket or paying cash or looking nervous in line or traveling from Yemen — that legitimately expose them to extra scrutiny. But even at its best, profiling is only one technique, and it is fallible — particularly because terrorists will go to great lengths to disguise themselves and blend in with their surroundings.

I don’t like being patted down any more than the next guy (unless it’s by Pamela Anderson!), but it does sound like a security precaution that makes sense. I can understand the backlash against TSA, particularly because of the sometimes inane way that bureaucrats will implement any policy, but body scanners and pat-downs are, I fear, part of the price of safety in this age of Islamist terrorism.

I’m with Linda Chavez. The TSA’s body scanners and pat-down inspections may be tiresome and annoying, but it’s far from clear that there is a good alternative. As she points out, Charles Krauthammer’s suggestion to simply rely on profiling wouldn’t offer much of a defense against jihadist operatives, who are hardly likely to show up on a “martyrdom” mission wearing full tribal regalia. (That would more likely be a Saudi businessman.)

One of the things that make al-Qaeda and its affiliates so hard to combat is that they have been able to recruit all sorts of people, including not only Arabs but also Indonesians, Pakistanis, Europeans, and Americans. The only thing that all these terrorists have in common is their devotion to ultra-fundamentalist doctrines, but that is hardly something that can be noticed at a glance; it probably would not even be noticed in the course of  a typically perfunctory interview. True, they are also all Muslims, but they don’t necessarily advertise their religion — who, after all, could tell at a glance whether someone is a Pakistani Muslim or an Indian Hindu? Some people even confuse Sikhs with Muslims. Do we want to profile anyone who  looks “funny” or has a “funny” name? Anyone who is Muslim? Or Arab?

Mind you: I am not opposed on civil liberties grounds to profiling. To the extent that it is a useful technique, it should be employed by cops and airport security personnel alike. But alas, terrorists don’t fit any particular ethnic or racial category. Behavioral profiling is more useful: there are many actions that passengers take — such as buying a one-way ticket or paying cash or looking nervous in line or traveling from Yemen — that legitimately expose them to extra scrutiny. But even at its best, profiling is only one technique, and it is fallible — particularly because terrorists will go to great lengths to disguise themselves and blend in with their surroundings.

I don’t like being patted down any more than the next guy (unless it’s by Pamela Anderson!), but it does sound like a security precaution that makes sense. I can understand the backlash against TSA, particularly because of the sometimes inane way that bureaucrats will implement any policy, but body scanners and pat-downs are, I fear, part of the price of safety in this age of Islamist terrorism.

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RE: Paul Krugman’s Fantasy World

I agree with Pete that Paul Krugman seems to be losing it entirely. His column this morning essentially accuses Republicans of not caring about the country, only about their own political advantage, as though a wrecked economy would be in the party’s interest.

Pete quotes Krugman, quoting Obama as follows:

“We [the Obama administration] didn’t actually, I think, do what Franklin Delano Roosevelt did, which was basically wait for six months until the thing had gotten so bad that it became an easier sell politically because we thought that was irresponsible. We had to act quickly.”

According to Krugman, “this is a right-wing smear,” and Mr. Obama, it turns out, “buys the right-wing smear.”

I am not a fan of President Obama, heaven knows, but could he possibly have so little knowledge of American history, not to mention his great predecessor in the White House, as to not know when presidents were inaugurated prior to 1936, and to have never heard of the Hundred Days? Things couldn’t have been any worse on March 4, 1933. Banks in 38 states were already closed. The stock exchange had announced it would not open that day and did not know when it would. Between March 4 and June 16, FDR signed into law the Emergency Banking Relief Act, created the Civilian Conservation Corps, took the country off the gold standard, signed the Federal Emergency Relief Act, the Agricultural Adjustment Act, established the Tennessee Valley Authority, signed the Federal Securities Act, got Congress to cancel gold clauses in contracts, signed the National Employment Act, the Homeowners Refinancing Act, the Banking Act of 1933, the Farm Credit Act, the Emergency Railroad Transportation Act, and the National Industrial Recovery Act.

An easier sell? The Emergency Banking Relief Act passed both houses of Congress in less than a day (no, they didn’t read it). Roosevelt was, essentially, the dictator of the United States (in the sense that all power was placed in his hands for a limited time to meet the emergency, a la the old Roman Republic) for three months.

As for a right-wing smear, I had never heard this tale before. It would be interesting to track it down.

I agree with Pete that Paul Krugman seems to be losing it entirely. His column this morning essentially accuses Republicans of not caring about the country, only about their own political advantage, as though a wrecked economy would be in the party’s interest.

Pete quotes Krugman, quoting Obama as follows:

“We [the Obama administration] didn’t actually, I think, do what Franklin Delano Roosevelt did, which was basically wait for six months until the thing had gotten so bad that it became an easier sell politically because we thought that was irresponsible. We had to act quickly.”

According to Krugman, “this is a right-wing smear,” and Mr. Obama, it turns out, “buys the right-wing smear.”

I am not a fan of President Obama, heaven knows, but could he possibly have so little knowledge of American history, not to mention his great predecessor in the White House, as to not know when presidents were inaugurated prior to 1936, and to have never heard of the Hundred Days? Things couldn’t have been any worse on March 4, 1933. Banks in 38 states were already closed. The stock exchange had announced it would not open that day and did not know when it would. Between March 4 and June 16, FDR signed into law the Emergency Banking Relief Act, created the Civilian Conservation Corps, took the country off the gold standard, signed the Federal Emergency Relief Act, the Agricultural Adjustment Act, established the Tennessee Valley Authority, signed the Federal Securities Act, got Congress to cancel gold clauses in contracts, signed the National Employment Act, the Homeowners Refinancing Act, the Banking Act of 1933, the Farm Credit Act, the Emergency Railroad Transportation Act, and the National Industrial Recovery Act.

An easier sell? The Emergency Banking Relief Act passed both houses of Congress in less than a day (no, they didn’t read it). Roosevelt was, essentially, the dictator of the United States (in the sense that all power was placed in his hands for a limited time to meet the emergency, a la the old Roman Republic) for three months.

As for a right-wing smear, I had never heard this tale before. It would be interesting to track it down.

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Where Are the Smart Liberals?

So who does Job remind you of? I bet you didn’t think of Barack Obama. But that’s what pops into Jon Meacham’s mind, as Rick noted, prompting many of us to wonder how Newsweek lasted as long as it did. It was Newsweek‘s Evan Thomas who first proclaimed Obama a “sort of God,” so I suppose this tale is the modern version of Paradise Lost.

Has Obama lost his family? Become destitute? No, he’s just not popular anymore. Meacham explains:

Outside politics, President Obama thinks of himself less as a professor or community organizer and more as a writer — a man who observes reality, interprets it internally, and then recasts it on the page in his own voice and through his own eyes. And he is a reader of serious books.

Given that, he might find Alter’s new book congenial. John Boehner is not exactly a case of boils, but the president may feel differently at the moment, and thus the story of Job could be of some use to him.

Like Obama, Job was once the highly favored one:

Would that I were as in moons of yore, as the days when God watched over me,
when he shined his lamp over my head. …

But the Lord withdraws his protection, inflicting pain and death and misery on Job, who cries:

Terror rolls over me, pursues my path like the wind. …
At night my limbs are pierced, and my sinews know no rest.
With great power he seizes my garment, grabs hold of me at the collar.
He hurls me into the muck, and I become like dust and ashes.

God is having none of it. He will not be questioned by a mortal, even a mortal whom he once loved and who has honored him. Fairly snarling, the Lord taunts Job from a whirlwind: “Where were you when I founded earth? / Tell, if you know understanding.”

If you think about it (stop before you get a headache), this is utter nonsense. Obama has not been tested or punished to measure his faith in God. He’s being evaluated by voters for a shoddy two years. The entire point of the Job story is that Job had done nothing to deserve his fate, so far as mortals can imagine. Read More

So who does Job remind you of? I bet you didn’t think of Barack Obama. But that’s what pops into Jon Meacham’s mind, as Rick noted, prompting many of us to wonder how Newsweek lasted as long as it did. It was Newsweek‘s Evan Thomas who first proclaimed Obama a “sort of God,” so I suppose this tale is the modern version of Paradise Lost.

Has Obama lost his family? Become destitute? No, he’s just not popular anymore. Meacham explains:

Outside politics, President Obama thinks of himself less as a professor or community organizer and more as a writer — a man who observes reality, interprets it internally, and then recasts it on the page in his own voice and through his own eyes. And he is a reader of serious books.

Given that, he might find Alter’s new book congenial. John Boehner is not exactly a case of boils, but the president may feel differently at the moment, and thus the story of Job could be of some use to him.

Like Obama, Job was once the highly favored one:

Would that I were as in moons of yore, as the days when God watched over me,
when he shined his lamp over my head. …

But the Lord withdraws his protection, inflicting pain and death and misery on Job, who cries:

Terror rolls over me, pursues my path like the wind. …
At night my limbs are pierced, and my sinews know no rest.
With great power he seizes my garment, grabs hold of me at the collar.
He hurls me into the muck, and I become like dust and ashes.

God is having none of it. He will not be questioned by a mortal, even a mortal whom he once loved and who has honored him. Fairly snarling, the Lord taunts Job from a whirlwind: “Where were you when I founded earth? / Tell, if you know understanding.”

If you think about it (stop before you get a headache), this is utter nonsense. Obama has not been tested or punished to measure his faith in God. He’s being evaluated by voters for a shoddy two years. The entire point of the Job story is that Job had done nothing to deserve his fate, so far as mortals can imagine.

This brings me to another point. What’s happened to liberal intellectuals these days? It seems they’ve fallen down on the job and ceased to be serious people. I mean, comparing Obama to Job is downright embarrassing. Does the Gray Lady have no standards?

Another case in point: there apparently is a new film out about Fran Lebowitz directed by Martin Scorsese. The problem is that while liberal New Yorkers imagine her to be the quintessential left-leaning intellectual (actually, they don’t need the modifier since, by definition, are intellectuals share their worldview), she hasn’t written anything of note for years, and the sum total of her “contribution” to the intellectual and cultural life of the nation’s greatest city is a string of one-liners. Even this reviewer is somewhat put off:

Except for a children’s book and a series of wise Vanity Fair articles in the 1990s (which were really just well-edited conversations between Lebowitz and an editor on broad subjects such as race and money), Lebowitz hasn’t produced much. Instead, she’s a study in brilliant coasting, which can’t be as fun as it seems. For all its many laughs, “Public Speaking” carries a necessary undercurrent of the morose.

“No one has wasted time the way I have,” Lebowitz tells Scorsese’s camera in her usual rat-a-tat delivery, a voice coarsened by years of smoking. “[I am] the outstanding waster of time of my generation. It was 1979, I looked up, it was 2007.”

Instead of writing, Lebowitz spends her time talking about American society and culture — either through paid appearances on the lecture circuit or from her usual booth at the Waverly Inn, a dimly-lit, exclusively small West Village restaurant co-owned by her friend Graydon Carter, who edits Vanity Fair.

Talking, she says, is all she ever wanted to do.

You really can’t make this stuff up. And one wonders, is this thin gruel of cultural poses and condescension all the left has to offer anymore?

There’s much more: New York is too expensive to be interesting anymore. Tourists are “herds of hillbillies.” Gay men, who so dazzled Lebowitz with their highbrow tastes in the 1970s, have let her down by working so diligently to get married and join the army. And revenge is a wonderful thing: “I absolutely believe in revenge. People always say revenge is a dish best served cold. No. It’s good any time you can get it.”

She is asked: Is there such a thing as being born lucky? Yes, she replies: “Any white, gentile, straight man who is not president of the United States, failed. That’s what a big piece of luck that is, okay?”

Not exactly John Kenneth Galbraith. Or even Dorothy Parker.

The trouble liberals face in maintaining their intellectual chops is that they operate in a world of knowing glances, incomplete sentences, and shared cultural references. Conformity is seen as a sign of intellectual prowess. And you need not write anything intelligible, let alone intellectually compelling, to qualify as a liberal public intellectual.

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FBI Hate Crime Stats Again Debunk Myth of Anti-Muslim Backlash

One of the standard tropes of mainstream-media discourse in the post-9/11 era is that American Muslims have been subjected to a backlash in which they have been subjected to discrimination and hate crimes. Though there was little or no actual statistical evidence of bias attacks or any sort of official discrimination, this notion that America is a hostile place for Muslims helped change the nature of the debate over the proposed Ground Zero Islamic Center and mosque that dominated the airwaves this past summer. Publications such as Time magazine asked, “Does America Have a Muslim Problem?” in August despite the fact that they could provide nothing but anecdotal evidence for their assumption that the answer to their query was an undoubted “yes.”

Though the success of this claim of Muslim victimhood was largely the result of successful propagandizing by groups such as the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR), which is dedicated to promoting the idea that the United States is a foe of Islam, it has become a commonplace assumption that a post-9/11 anti-Muslim backlash was real and that anti-Muslim attacks in this country are a widespread and persistent phenomena. It is this assumption that was the foundation for the belief that a Ground Zero mosque dedicated to reminding Americans not to think ill of Muslims was not only appropriate but also necessary.

As I wrote in the October issue of COMMENTARY, FBI hate-crime statistics for the years 2000 to 2008 showed that not only were anti-Muslim bias crimes rare but that they were also far less numerous throughout this supposed period of a backlash than anti-Semitic bias crimes.

The release of the latest FBI report on hate crimes this week adds more weight to the doubts raised about the mythical backlash against Muslims. The new statistics published on the U.S. Department of Justice website show that there were only 107 reported incidents of anti-Islamic hate crimes in the country during 2009. While each incident (not only actual crimes are reported, as the total published by the FBI includes all those reported or alleged without respect to whether or not the crime was proved to have occurred) is deplorable, this represents only 8 percent of all religious-based bias crimes and less than 2 percent of hate crimes tabulated last year.

Even more to the point, the number of anti-Jewish hate crimes dwarfed again the number of anti-Islamic attacks, as they have every year since such statistics were first kept: 931 anti-Semitic incidents, compared with 107 anti-Islamic incidents, a ratio of better than 8 to 1.  The same was true in 2008, when the figures were 1,013 anti-Jewish incidents to 105 anti-Muslim incidents. Indeed, even in 2001, the worst year for anti-Muslim hate crimes, there were still more than twice as many anti-Jewish incidents as those with anti-Islamic motivations. Throughout this period, the vast majority of hate crimes motivated by religion have been directed against Jews, not Muslims.

Despite the constant drumbeat of incitement from those extremists purporting to represent the interests of American Muslims, anti-Islamic hate crimes remain rare occurrences. The idea that anti-Muslim bigotry is a dominant theme in American society or that violent haters have disproportionately victimized believers in Islam is simply without foundation. And far from giving sanction to such bigotry, the hallmark of American discourse since 9/11 has been a conscious effort to disassociate Islam from the war being waged against the West by Islamist terrorists. The new statistics provide fresh proof that the claim of an anti-Muslim backlash is unfounded.

One of the standard tropes of mainstream-media discourse in the post-9/11 era is that American Muslims have been subjected to a backlash in which they have been subjected to discrimination and hate crimes. Though there was little or no actual statistical evidence of bias attacks or any sort of official discrimination, this notion that America is a hostile place for Muslims helped change the nature of the debate over the proposed Ground Zero Islamic Center and mosque that dominated the airwaves this past summer. Publications such as Time magazine asked, “Does America Have a Muslim Problem?” in August despite the fact that they could provide nothing but anecdotal evidence for their assumption that the answer to their query was an undoubted “yes.”

Though the success of this claim of Muslim victimhood was largely the result of successful propagandizing by groups such as the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR), which is dedicated to promoting the idea that the United States is a foe of Islam, it has become a commonplace assumption that a post-9/11 anti-Muslim backlash was real and that anti-Muslim attacks in this country are a widespread and persistent phenomena. It is this assumption that was the foundation for the belief that a Ground Zero mosque dedicated to reminding Americans not to think ill of Muslims was not only appropriate but also necessary.

As I wrote in the October issue of COMMENTARY, FBI hate-crime statistics for the years 2000 to 2008 showed that not only were anti-Muslim bias crimes rare but that they were also far less numerous throughout this supposed period of a backlash than anti-Semitic bias crimes.

The release of the latest FBI report on hate crimes this week adds more weight to the doubts raised about the mythical backlash against Muslims. The new statistics published on the U.S. Department of Justice website show that there were only 107 reported incidents of anti-Islamic hate crimes in the country during 2009. While each incident (not only actual crimes are reported, as the total published by the FBI includes all those reported or alleged without respect to whether or not the crime was proved to have occurred) is deplorable, this represents only 8 percent of all religious-based bias crimes and less than 2 percent of hate crimes tabulated last year.

Even more to the point, the number of anti-Jewish hate crimes dwarfed again the number of anti-Islamic attacks, as they have every year since such statistics were first kept: 931 anti-Semitic incidents, compared with 107 anti-Islamic incidents, a ratio of better than 8 to 1.  The same was true in 2008, when the figures were 1,013 anti-Jewish incidents to 105 anti-Muslim incidents. Indeed, even in 2001, the worst year for anti-Muslim hate crimes, there were still more than twice as many anti-Jewish incidents as those with anti-Islamic motivations. Throughout this period, the vast majority of hate crimes motivated by religion have been directed against Jews, not Muslims.

Despite the constant drumbeat of incitement from those extremists purporting to represent the interests of American Muslims, anti-Islamic hate crimes remain rare occurrences. The idea that anti-Muslim bigotry is a dominant theme in American society or that violent haters have disproportionately victimized believers in Islam is simply without foundation. And far from giving sanction to such bigotry, the hallmark of American discourse since 9/11 has been a conscious effort to disassociate Islam from the war being waged against the West by Islamist terrorists. The new statistics provide fresh proof that the claim of an anti-Muslim backlash is unfounded.

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Couric Too Tough for Palin?

A snippet of a Sarah Palin interview with Sean Hannity is out. The subject is whether she would do another interview with Katie Couric:

“As for doing an interview, though, with a reporter who already has such a bias against whatever it is that I would come out and say? Why waste my time? No.”

“I want to help clean up the state that is so sorry today of journalism. And I have a communications degree. I studied journalism, who, what, where, when, and why of reporting. I will speak to reporters who still understand that cornerstone of our democracy, that expectation that the public has for truth to be reported. And then we get to decide our own opinion based on the facts reported to us.”

“So a journalist, a reporter who is so biased and will, no doubt, spin and gin up whatever it is that I have to say to create controversy, I swear to you, I will not my waste my time with her. Or him.”

If you haven’t noticed, I’m not a fan of many of the mainstream-media interviewers (or Couric’s comment about the “unwashed” Americans), but come on. How’s Palin supposed to broaden her appeal and show her mettle if she avoids settings in which she’s going to face skeptical questioning? Can you imagine Ronald Reagan pulling this?

Or, more to the point, who can forget George H.W. Bush telling off Dan Rather? It’s in hostile encounters that candidates show their stuff and demonstrate good humor.
Palin has become so accustomed to feeding the base what it wants to hear that she risks proving her critics’ point: that she is too divisive and, frankly, defensive to win the presidency. Rather than hiding from Couric, shouldn’t Palin invite her up for a bear hunt? I mean, isn’t that the sort of thing a strong-willed, defiant conservative woman would do?

A snippet of a Sarah Palin interview with Sean Hannity is out. The subject is whether she would do another interview with Katie Couric:

“As for doing an interview, though, with a reporter who already has such a bias against whatever it is that I would come out and say? Why waste my time? No.”

“I want to help clean up the state that is so sorry today of journalism. And I have a communications degree. I studied journalism, who, what, where, when, and why of reporting. I will speak to reporters who still understand that cornerstone of our democracy, that expectation that the public has for truth to be reported. And then we get to decide our own opinion based on the facts reported to us.”

“So a journalist, a reporter who is so biased and will, no doubt, spin and gin up whatever it is that I have to say to create controversy, I swear to you, I will not my waste my time with her. Or him.”

If you haven’t noticed, I’m not a fan of many of the mainstream-media interviewers (or Couric’s comment about the “unwashed” Americans), but come on. How’s Palin supposed to broaden her appeal and show her mettle if she avoids settings in which she’s going to face skeptical questioning? Can you imagine Ronald Reagan pulling this?

Or, more to the point, who can forget George H.W. Bush telling off Dan Rather? It’s in hostile encounters that candidates show their stuff and demonstrate good humor.
Palin has become so accustomed to feeding the base what it wants to hear that she risks proving her critics’ point: that she is too divisive and, frankly, defensive to win the presidency. Rather than hiding from Couric, shouldn’t Palin invite her up for a bear hunt? I mean, isn’t that the sort of thing a strong-willed, defiant conservative woman would do?

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Paul Krugman’s Fantasy World

Some writers eventually take up residence in the Land Beyond Parody. Such is the case with the New York Times’s Paul Krugman.

For example, revisiting a concern he expressed in early 2008 about a few kind words Barack Obama had to say about Ronald Reagan (Reagan offered a “sense of dynamism and entrepreneurship that had been missing”), Krugman writes, “it was ridiculous, they said, to think of Obama as a captive of right-wing mythology. But are you so sure about that now?”

How could we be, with the ever-vigilant Dr. Krugman on the case?

According to the Princeton professor, this time President Obama’s unpardonable sin is saying this: “We didn’t actually, I think, do what Franklin Delano Roosevelt did, which was basically wait for six months until the thing had gotten so bad that it became an easier sell politically because we thought that was irresponsible. We had to act quickly.”

According to Krugman, “this is a right-wing smear,” and Mr. Obama, it turns out, “buys the right-wing smear.”

It gets worse: “More and more,” Krugman writes, “it’s becoming clear that progressives who had their hearts set on Obama were engaged in a huge act of self-delusion. Once you got past the soaring rhetoric you noticed, if you actually paid attention to what he said, that he largely accepted the conservative storyline, a view of the world, including a mythological history, that bears little resemblance to the facts. And confronted with a situation utterly at odds with that storyline … he stayed with the myth.”

What appears to be happening is that, as some of us anticipated, the left is distancing itself from Obama because his presidency is perceived to be coming apart. Those on the left desperately want to protect their ideology from the collateral damage of a failed presidency. So the new narrative is that Obama is not really a liberal at all or, in this instance, he’s actually a quasi-conservative, at least when it comes to his “view of the world” and the “mythological history” he embraces.

These recriminations cannot be good news for either President Obama or for liberalism. Nor can any of this be easy for Mr. Krugman. He is, after all, the man who, in the aftermath of Obama’s election, wrote this:

A magnificent victory for Barack Obama. And bear in mind that the campaign, in its final stages, was really about different philosophies of governing. This wasn’t like the 2004 campaign, which was essentially fought over fake issues — Bush running on national security and social issues, then claiming that he had a mandate to privatize Social Security. In this election, Obama proudly stood up for progressive values and the superiority of progressive policies; John McCain, in return, denounced him as a socialist, a redistributor. And the American people rendered their verdict.

I guess at that time, Krugman wasn’t able to get past the soaring rhetoric to actually pay attention to what Obama said.

With every passing week, Paul Krugman ventures further into the fantasy world he is constructing in the wake of the collapse of liberalism’s former demigod. It is a somewhat affecting and endlessly amusing thing to watch.

Some writers eventually take up residence in the Land Beyond Parody. Such is the case with the New York Times’s Paul Krugman.

For example, revisiting a concern he expressed in early 2008 about a few kind words Barack Obama had to say about Ronald Reagan (Reagan offered a “sense of dynamism and entrepreneurship that had been missing”), Krugman writes, “it was ridiculous, they said, to think of Obama as a captive of right-wing mythology. But are you so sure about that now?”

How could we be, with the ever-vigilant Dr. Krugman on the case?

According to the Princeton professor, this time President Obama’s unpardonable sin is saying this: “We didn’t actually, I think, do what Franklin Delano Roosevelt did, which was basically wait for six months until the thing had gotten so bad that it became an easier sell politically because we thought that was irresponsible. We had to act quickly.”

According to Krugman, “this is a right-wing smear,” and Mr. Obama, it turns out, “buys the right-wing smear.”

It gets worse: “More and more,” Krugman writes, “it’s becoming clear that progressives who had their hearts set on Obama were engaged in a huge act of self-delusion. Once you got past the soaring rhetoric you noticed, if you actually paid attention to what he said, that he largely accepted the conservative storyline, a view of the world, including a mythological history, that bears little resemblance to the facts. And confronted with a situation utterly at odds with that storyline … he stayed with the myth.”

What appears to be happening is that, as some of us anticipated, the left is distancing itself from Obama because his presidency is perceived to be coming apart. Those on the left desperately want to protect their ideology from the collateral damage of a failed presidency. So the new narrative is that Obama is not really a liberal at all or, in this instance, he’s actually a quasi-conservative, at least when it comes to his “view of the world” and the “mythological history” he embraces.

These recriminations cannot be good news for either President Obama or for liberalism. Nor can any of this be easy for Mr. Krugman. He is, after all, the man who, in the aftermath of Obama’s election, wrote this:

A magnificent victory for Barack Obama. And bear in mind that the campaign, in its final stages, was really about different philosophies of governing. This wasn’t like the 2004 campaign, which was essentially fought over fake issues — Bush running on national security and social issues, then claiming that he had a mandate to privatize Social Security. In this election, Obama proudly stood up for progressive values and the superiority of progressive policies; John McCain, in return, denounced him as a socialist, a redistributor. And the American people rendered their verdict.

I guess at that time, Krugman wasn’t able to get past the soaring rhetoric to actually pay attention to what Obama said.

With every passing week, Paul Krugman ventures further into the fantasy world he is constructing in the wake of the collapse of liberalism’s former demigod. It is a somewhat affecting and endlessly amusing thing to watch.

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Ben Smith Spills the Beans: Obama’s Middle East Policy Is a Disaster

Ben Smith reveals what nearly every serious Middle East observer already knows: Obama has made things worse, not better, in that volatile region. He reports:

Instead of becoming a heady triumph of his diplomatic skill and special insight, Obama’s peace process is viewed almost universally in Israel as a mistake-riddled fantasy. And far from becoming the transcendent figure in a centuries-old drama, Obama has become just another frustrated player on a hardened Mideast landscape. …

Meanwhile, Palestinian leaders have refused American demands to hold peace talks with the Israelis before the freeze is extended. Talks with Arab states over gestures intended to build Israeli confidence – a key part of Obama’s early plan — have long since been scrapped.

The political peace process to which Obama committed so much energy is considered a failure so far. And in the world’s most pro-American state, the public and its leaders have lost any faith in Obama and – increasingly — even in the notion of a politically negotiated peace.

Obama naturally blames everyone else. But the criticism is biting and personal: it is Obama and his misguided ideology that are at the root of the problem: Read More

Ben Smith reveals what nearly every serious Middle East observer already knows: Obama has made things worse, not better, in that volatile region. He reports:

Instead of becoming a heady triumph of his diplomatic skill and special insight, Obama’s peace process is viewed almost universally in Israel as a mistake-riddled fantasy. And far from becoming the transcendent figure in a centuries-old drama, Obama has become just another frustrated player on a hardened Mideast landscape. …

Meanwhile, Palestinian leaders have refused American demands to hold peace talks with the Israelis before the freeze is extended. Talks with Arab states over gestures intended to build Israeli confidence – a key part of Obama’s early plan — have long since been scrapped.

The political peace process to which Obama committed so much energy is considered a failure so far. And in the world’s most pro-American state, the public and its leaders have lost any faith in Obama and – increasingly — even in the notion of a politically negotiated peace.

Obama naturally blames everyone else. But the criticism is biting and personal: it is Obama and his misguided ideology that are at the root of the problem:

[T]he American president has been diminished, even in an era without active hostilities between Israelis and Palestinians. His demands on the parties appear to shrink each month, with the path to a grand peace settlement narrowing to the vanishing point. The lack of Israeli faith in him and his process has them using the talks to extract more tangible security assurances – the jets. And though America remains beloved, Obama is about as popular here as he is in Oklahoma. A Jerusalem Post poll in May found 9 percent of Israelis consider Obama “pro-Israel,” while 48 percent say he’s “pro-Palestinian.” …

“Israelis really hate Obama’s guts,” said Shmuel Rosner, a columnist for two leading Israeli newspapers. “We used to trust Americans to act like Americans, and this guy is like a European leader.”

Many senior Israeli leaders have concluded that Hillary Clinton and John McCain were right about Obama’s naivete and inexperience.

“The naïve liberals who are at the heart of the administration really believe in all the misconceptions the Palestinians and all their friends all over the world are trying to place,” said Yossi Kuperwasser, a former high-ranking military intelligence officer who is now deputy director general of the Ministry of Strategic Affairs.

But in some sense, Ben Smith’s account is too generous. It is not merely that Obama has made hash out of the Israeli-Palestinian negotiations; it is that he has undermined American stature more broadly in the Middle East. Yes, the Israelis and the PA regard him as foolish, but what’s even more important is that so do the Syrians, Saudis, and Iranians. He has wasted time on the non-peace process and in fact exacerbated tensions as the other nations looked on. The aging Sunni leaders regard him with alarm: has he no idea what to do about Iran? The mullahs regard him with contempt: he has already told them that they need not worry about military action.

Obama is right — there is such a thing as linkage, but not in the way he imagined. The progress of the Middle East non-peace talks is irrelevant to the threat of an Iranian nuclear power. But what is highly relevant, and deeply troubling, is the perception of an American administration in over its head, disloyal to friends, and anxious to make a deal at any cost to preserve the patina of competency it is struggling to maintain. And to make matters worse, it’s fair to conclude that beyond the Middle East — in China, Russia, and North Korea — they are learning the same lesson.

One final note. The well-sourced and dead-on report comes from Ben Smith, not the nominal foreign affairs reporter for Politico. This is because the latter, a former Journo-list member, is among the worse and least-informative foreign affairs “reporters” out there. In fact, she’s no more than a scribe for the Obami and the J Street crowd. And that explains why none of the material, widely available to followers of the mainstream media, was ever reported by her. Maybe it’s time to get a full-time person on the foreign affairs beat who actually reports rather than regurgitates the left’s take on American foreign policy.

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The Revolt Against the TSA: It’s the Election, Part 2

And all of a sudden, people are going bananas about the inconveniences and unpleasantnesses of airport security. Why? Well, yes, it appears the Transportation Safety Administration has tightened up its procedures, including pat-downs. And it has, in recent months, stepped up its testing of full-body scanners — which are extremely inconvenient devices, because they don’t work very well yet. But while no one should doubt the sincerity of people’s anger and disgust, I think something else is going on here.

It may be that the TSA story has taken on a life of its own because Obama and the Democrats have refused to hear the very plain message coming from the November election — as the failure to depose Nancy Pelosi last week and the president’s gobsmacking declaration to people who had volunteered in the November election debacle that they had converted “Yes, we can” into “Yes, we did” suggest.

The message of the election was: No, stop, enough. The federal government has gotten too big, is doing too much, and may be acting in ways that are impinging on our freedoms. Through a coincidence unfortunate for the Obama administration’s political future, it just so happens that the same month in which the public was explaining this to the political class, the terror threat rose, and the TSA instituted tougher measures to counter it. And where do people outside Washington encounter the federal government directly? At the airport.

I do not share the negative emotions here. I have been through both a pat-down and full-body screen (twice in the latter case), and found them both deeply annoying. But it was nothing personal. It seemed to me that the TSA employees were just doing their jobs, and they are tough jobs, especially since some members of the inconvenienced traveling public blame them unfairly for the inconvenience.

That is exactly what the Obama people seem to have expected when they tightened things without telling anybody — that nobody would take it personally, that it would all be understood as part of the public interest. And who knows — under other conditions, that expectation might well have been met. But the libertarian outrage expressed by the electorate on November 2 seems not to have made a dent in the way the Democratic leadership is pursuing power or handling itself, and so the TSA has been left wide open and exposed to a pretty thoroughgoing and unpleasant public pat-down of its own.

When populist issues bubble up and take government officials by surprise, it’s often a sign of how profoundly out of touch the politicians and the people who work for them are getting. It happens to every administration. Reagan had Bitburg in 1985; Bush the Elder had his note card reading, “Message: I Care“; Bill Clinton had midnight basketball; George W. Bush had Dubai Ports World. What happens when these things blow up is that the government is so busy talking to itself and concerning itself with its own internal deliberations on policy that it forgets how these things might look or be experienced outside the executive branch.

They lose the benefit of the doubt. And once that is lost, it’s very hard to get back.

And all of a sudden, people are going bananas about the inconveniences and unpleasantnesses of airport security. Why? Well, yes, it appears the Transportation Safety Administration has tightened up its procedures, including pat-downs. And it has, in recent months, stepped up its testing of full-body scanners — which are extremely inconvenient devices, because they don’t work very well yet. But while no one should doubt the sincerity of people’s anger and disgust, I think something else is going on here.

It may be that the TSA story has taken on a life of its own because Obama and the Democrats have refused to hear the very plain message coming from the November election — as the failure to depose Nancy Pelosi last week and the president’s gobsmacking declaration to people who had volunteered in the November election debacle that they had converted “Yes, we can” into “Yes, we did” suggest.

The message of the election was: No, stop, enough. The federal government has gotten too big, is doing too much, and may be acting in ways that are impinging on our freedoms. Through a coincidence unfortunate for the Obama administration’s political future, it just so happens that the same month in which the public was explaining this to the political class, the terror threat rose, and the TSA instituted tougher measures to counter it. And where do people outside Washington encounter the federal government directly? At the airport.

I do not share the negative emotions here. I have been through both a pat-down and full-body screen (twice in the latter case), and found them both deeply annoying. But it was nothing personal. It seemed to me that the TSA employees were just doing their jobs, and they are tough jobs, especially since some members of the inconvenienced traveling public blame them unfairly for the inconvenience.

That is exactly what the Obama people seem to have expected when they tightened things without telling anybody — that nobody would take it personally, that it would all be understood as part of the public interest. And who knows — under other conditions, that expectation might well have been met. But the libertarian outrage expressed by the electorate on November 2 seems not to have made a dent in the way the Democratic leadership is pursuing power or handling itself, and so the TSA has been left wide open and exposed to a pretty thoroughgoing and unpleasant public pat-down of its own.

When populist issues bubble up and take government officials by surprise, it’s often a sign of how profoundly out of touch the politicians and the people who work for them are getting. It happens to every administration. Reagan had Bitburg in 1985; Bush the Elder had his note card reading, “Message: I Care“; Bill Clinton had midnight basketball; George W. Bush had Dubai Ports World. What happens when these things blow up is that the government is so busy talking to itself and concerning itself with its own internal deliberations on policy that it forgets how these things might look or be experienced outside the executive branch.

They lose the benefit of the doubt. And once that is lost, it’s very hard to get back.

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Out of the TSA Scanner and into the Fire

Looks like there might be a simple fix to the problem of full-body scans at airports: distorting the images so that they no longer look like naked people but rather fun-house images. According to the nuclear scientist who came up with the solution and offered it to the TSA four years ago, hidden explosives or weapons would still show up on the scan, without travelers feeling that their privates had been exposed to the world.

The new rallying call on the right is to drop the scans and pat-downs for most passengers in favor of profiling. Charles Krauthammer’s funny and provocative column last week made the case that the only reason we continue to inconvenience all travelers in the name of protecting security is that “people are too cowed to even question the absurd taboo against profiling — when the profile of the airline attacker is narrow, concrete, uniquely definable, and universally known.”

Would that we could easily profile what a terrorist looks like. Does anyone really believe that al-Qaeda is likely to place a bomb on a passenger outfitted in traditional Muslim garb? Or even on a typically Middle Eastern–looking passenger? Among recent terrorists who have been arrested or killed are blond, blue-eyed Germans and Americans, including an American woman, and a number of Africans, like the underwear-bomber, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, and a group of Somalis in Minnesota. Ignoring people who “don’t look like terrorists” would be dangerous policy indeed.

Nor is the Israeli model the answer. Israel has one major airport in a tiny country. As anyone who has been through Israeli security knows, we could never adopt the thorough questioning and screening used there in our busy hubs. Years ago, I learned firsthand exactly how serious the Israelis are when I was pulled out of line at Tel-Aviv’s Ben Gurion Airport. After more than a half-hour’s questioning and pat-down, with all my luggage unpacked and carefully inspected, I asked whether I was ever going to be permitted to leave Israel, which I was visiting as an official guest of the government at the time. “Yes,” the agent told me, “but not necessarily on an airplane.” Eventually I was allowed to board, but only after the intervention of an American-born Israeli soldier who recognized me from the newspaper and confirmed that I really was who I claimed to be.

I, for one, would rather endure a body scanner than a half-hour interrogation each time I fly.

Looks like there might be a simple fix to the problem of full-body scans at airports: distorting the images so that they no longer look like naked people but rather fun-house images. According to the nuclear scientist who came up with the solution and offered it to the TSA four years ago, hidden explosives or weapons would still show up on the scan, without travelers feeling that their privates had been exposed to the world.

The new rallying call on the right is to drop the scans and pat-downs for most passengers in favor of profiling. Charles Krauthammer’s funny and provocative column last week made the case that the only reason we continue to inconvenience all travelers in the name of protecting security is that “people are too cowed to even question the absurd taboo against profiling — when the profile of the airline attacker is narrow, concrete, uniquely definable, and universally known.”

Would that we could easily profile what a terrorist looks like. Does anyone really believe that al-Qaeda is likely to place a bomb on a passenger outfitted in traditional Muslim garb? Or even on a typically Middle Eastern–looking passenger? Among recent terrorists who have been arrested or killed are blond, blue-eyed Germans and Americans, including an American woman, and a number of Africans, like the underwear-bomber, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, and a group of Somalis in Minnesota. Ignoring people who “don’t look like terrorists” would be dangerous policy indeed.

Nor is the Israeli model the answer. Israel has one major airport in a tiny country. As anyone who has been through Israeli security knows, we could never adopt the thorough questioning and screening used there in our busy hubs. Years ago, I learned firsthand exactly how serious the Israelis are when I was pulled out of line at Tel-Aviv’s Ben Gurion Airport. After more than a half-hour’s questioning and pat-down, with all my luggage unpacked and carefully inspected, I asked whether I was ever going to be permitted to leave Israel, which I was visiting as an official guest of the government at the time. “Yes,” the agent told me, “but not necessarily on an airplane.” Eventually I was allowed to board, but only after the intervention of an American-born Israeli soldier who recognized me from the newspaper and confirmed that I really was who I claimed to be.

I, for one, would rather endure a body scanner than a half-hour interrogation each time I fly.

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Christie-mania

In a lengthy piece on Chris Christie filled with winks and nods to the left and more than a few unsubstantiated jibes (Christie, we are told, was previously a “political hack,” and it’s just the “sane” wing of the GOP that likes him), Jason Zengerie of New York magazine nevertheless provides an interesting peek inside Christie’s political operation and just a sliver of hope to his fans that he might still be persuaded to make a 2012 presidential run.

Why the excitement?

These are strange days for Republicans. After their historic midterm victories, they are seemingly ascendant, with George Will hailing 2010 as “conservatism’s best year in 30 years—since the election of Ronald Reagan.” And yet there is no Reagan-like figure to lead them. In Congress, John Boehner and Mitch McConnell are Establishmentarians ill-suited to the fervor of the times. The Republicans who are currently angling to run for the White House in 2012—Mitch Daniels, Tim Pawlenty, Mitt Romney, John Thune, to name a few—inspire little enthusiasm. Sarah Palin, the one potential presidential candidate who does get Republican pulses racing, is such a polarizing figure that the party Establishment is terrified she’ll run. At the very moment that the GOP appears poised to return from its short sojourn in the political wilderness, the party is desperately searching for a leader. Which explains conservatives’ serious—and sudden—infatuation with Chris Christie. Read More

In a lengthy piece on Chris Christie filled with winks and nods to the left and more than a few unsubstantiated jibes (Christie, we are told, was previously a “political hack,” and it’s just the “sane” wing of the GOP that likes him), Jason Zengerie of New York magazine nevertheless provides an interesting peek inside Christie’s political operation and just a sliver of hope to his fans that he might still be persuaded to make a 2012 presidential run.

Why the excitement?

These are strange days for Republicans. After their historic midterm victories, they are seemingly ascendant, with George Will hailing 2010 as “conservatism’s best year in 30 years—since the election of Ronald Reagan.” And yet there is no Reagan-like figure to lead them. In Congress, John Boehner and Mitch McConnell are Establishmentarians ill-suited to the fervor of the times. The Republicans who are currently angling to run for the White House in 2012—Mitch Daniels, Tim Pawlenty, Mitt Romney, John Thune, to name a few—inspire little enthusiasm. Sarah Palin, the one potential presidential candidate who does get Republican pulses racing, is such a polarizing figure that the party Establishment is terrified she’ll run. At the very moment that the GOP appears poised to return from its short sojourn in the political wilderness, the party is desperately searching for a leader. Which explains conservatives’ serious—and sudden—infatuation with Chris Christie.

That explains the search for someone, but why him?

He has set the tone, in part, by being “a strong governor who has opinions and is willing to express them,” he said. When I asked him about New Jersey senator Frank Lautenberg’s criticism of his decision to cancel the tunnel, Christie shot back, “All he knows how to do is blow hot air … so I don’t really care what Frank Lautenberg has to say about much of anything.” Anything? “I’m always willing to read something in the paper that he said, and if he makes sense, I’m happy to work with him on it. I haven’t found one yet.” Christie believes his aggressive approach sends a signal to everyone else in the state. “The tone I’m trying to set for New Jersey is: action. Less talk, more action. And I think that’s what I’m doing as governor, and I think we’ve gotten a lot of stuff done already because of that, because I’m pushing and pushing and pushing.” …

Christie’s combativeness has made him a popular figure with the tea party in a way that someone like Indiana governor Mitch Daniels—who’s fought some of the same fiscal battles in his state but with the mien of an accountant—can only dream of. More than anything, Christie fills the longing, currently felt in all corners of the GOP (and beyond), for a stern taskmaster. “People just want to be treated like adults,” Christie says. “They just want to be told the truth. They know we’re in tough times, and they’re willing to sacrifice. But they want shared sacrifice.”

Less well known is his ability to co-opt and work with key Democrats in the deep Blue State. (He’s “cultivated strong relationships with the three most prominent Democratic power brokers currently not in jail.”)

The good news for Christie fans is that there are a few scraps suggesting that he hasn’t entirely closed the door on a 2012 run.  (“Christie’s actions aren’t those of someone who has ruled out a presidential bid.”) His staff’s YouTube videos, the trip to Iowa, and some whispers from his political confidantes are encouraging those in the GOP who are searching for Mr. Right.

But the premise underlying the piece is a bit off. The reason Christie has become a “star” is not because he’s captured the imagination of the “sane” wing of the party but because he transcends the divide (which is part real and part media-driven hype) between Tea Partiers and establishment Republicans. He combines serious governance with political theater. He’s got undeniable stage presence, but he’s also a serious budget wonk. He has no patience with political insiders, yet he’s learned to handle his opponents. And he’s become a master at disarming the liberal media without personal acrimony or a sense of victimhood.

But your reading glasses would have to be exceptionally rosy to see real evidence of a 2012 stealth campaign. The most his supporters can hope for is that the field of current contenders will prove underwhelming and that a serious movement to draft Christie will develop. But if the governor resists the entreaties of his fans, Republicans should remember that he became an overnight success thanks to a bunch of irresistible YouTube moments. Who’s to say that someone else couldn’t do the same?

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Explaining Foreign Policy Failures

Jackson Diehl thinks Obama’s foreign policy is badly out of date. Obama is frantic to conclude an old-style nuclear arms treaty while the “threat of nuclear weapons now comes from rogue states such as North Korea, Iran and Syria, and maybe from terrorist organizations.” He’s obsessed over Israeli settlements, which leads to bizarre dealmaking efforts (“a campaign that even Palestinian and Arab leaders have watched with bafflement”), while the real threat to peace and stability in the region is the rise of the Iranian axis and a nuclear-armed, revolutionary Islamic state.

Why is Obama fixated on issues that were in vogue when he was a college student and oblivious or disinterested in the world as we find it in 2010? One can argue that this is simply a function of leftist ideology — a worldview frozen in time and sealed off from reality. In that conception, our enemies are misunderstood, America’s problems are largely of its own making, and we’d be better off re-creating the U.S. in the image of Western Europe than in pushing despotic regimes to democratize.

Then there is the rudderless-ship explanation. As Diehl observes: “this administration is notable for its lack of grand strategy — or strategists. Its top foreign-policy makers are a former senator, a Washington lawyer and a former Senate staffer. There is no Henry Kissinger, no Zbigniew Brzezinski, no Condoleezza Rice; no foreign policy scholar.” We’ve seen the same in the economic realm — there is no one who understands free markets, has experience as an entrepreneur, or questions the class warfare, anti-business stance that has characterized the first two years of Obama’s term. In short, the administration is in over its head in a very complex and dangerous world.

And then there is the possibility that there is a method, however inept, to the Obama foreign policy approach. It is the path of least resistance. We want to make progress with the Russians, so we  give them what they want. The Palestinians harp on settlements, so we become their agent. Iran isn’t amenable to sanctions or engagement, but we’d better make sure no one gets the idea that we are headed for a military confrontation. The Chinese don’t want to talk about human rights, so we don’t. It’s always easier to beat up on small allies than to stand up to intransigent bullies.

None of these explanations is entirely satisfying or mutually exclusive. Obama’s foreign policy is made all the more curious by the fact that sometimes he gets it right. Obama, however reluctantly, has followed the Bush approach in Iraq and attempted to duplicate it in Afghanistan. In these areas he’s departed from the leftist playbook and to a large extent followed the advice of the one truly expert national security guru he has: Gen. David Petraeus. So go figure.

Perhaps it comes down to this: only when faced with the prospect of a massive loss of American credibility (e.g., a defeat in Afghanistan), a severe domestic backlash (American Jews’ falling out with him), or resolute opposition (from Israel on Jerusalem) does Obama do what is smart and productive for American interests. In other words, only when exhausting all other opportunities and trying every which way to force his ideologically driven preferences does he stumble upon a reasonable outcome. This, if true, contains a powerful lesson for Israel, for Obama’s domestic critics, and for our other allies: hang tough, be clear about the Obama administration’s errors, and don’t blink. Chances are, he will instead.

Jackson Diehl thinks Obama’s foreign policy is badly out of date. Obama is frantic to conclude an old-style nuclear arms treaty while the “threat of nuclear weapons now comes from rogue states such as North Korea, Iran and Syria, and maybe from terrorist organizations.” He’s obsessed over Israeli settlements, which leads to bizarre dealmaking efforts (“a campaign that even Palestinian and Arab leaders have watched with bafflement”), while the real threat to peace and stability in the region is the rise of the Iranian axis and a nuclear-armed, revolutionary Islamic state.

Why is Obama fixated on issues that were in vogue when he was a college student and oblivious or disinterested in the world as we find it in 2010? One can argue that this is simply a function of leftist ideology — a worldview frozen in time and sealed off from reality. In that conception, our enemies are misunderstood, America’s problems are largely of its own making, and we’d be better off re-creating the U.S. in the image of Western Europe than in pushing despotic regimes to democratize.

Then there is the rudderless-ship explanation. As Diehl observes: “this administration is notable for its lack of grand strategy — or strategists. Its top foreign-policy makers are a former senator, a Washington lawyer and a former Senate staffer. There is no Henry Kissinger, no Zbigniew Brzezinski, no Condoleezza Rice; no foreign policy scholar.” We’ve seen the same in the economic realm — there is no one who understands free markets, has experience as an entrepreneur, or questions the class warfare, anti-business stance that has characterized the first two years of Obama’s term. In short, the administration is in over its head in a very complex and dangerous world.

And then there is the possibility that there is a method, however inept, to the Obama foreign policy approach. It is the path of least resistance. We want to make progress with the Russians, so we  give them what they want. The Palestinians harp on settlements, so we become their agent. Iran isn’t amenable to sanctions or engagement, but we’d better make sure no one gets the idea that we are headed for a military confrontation. The Chinese don’t want to talk about human rights, so we don’t. It’s always easier to beat up on small allies than to stand up to intransigent bullies.

None of these explanations is entirely satisfying or mutually exclusive. Obama’s foreign policy is made all the more curious by the fact that sometimes he gets it right. Obama, however reluctantly, has followed the Bush approach in Iraq and attempted to duplicate it in Afghanistan. In these areas he’s departed from the leftist playbook and to a large extent followed the advice of the one truly expert national security guru he has: Gen. David Petraeus. So go figure.

Perhaps it comes down to this: only when faced with the prospect of a massive loss of American credibility (e.g., a defeat in Afghanistan), a severe domestic backlash (American Jews’ falling out with him), or resolute opposition (from Israel on Jerusalem) does Obama do what is smart and productive for American interests. In other words, only when exhausting all other opportunities and trying every which way to force his ideologically driven preferences does he stumble upon a reasonable outcome. This, if true, contains a powerful lesson for Israel, for Obama’s domestic critics, and for our other allies: hang tough, be clear about the Obama administration’s errors, and don’t blink. Chances are, he will instead.

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The Wondrous Comedy Stylings of Rabbi Michael Lerner

I must confess I get a thrill up my leg when I see I’ve received an e-mail from Rabbi Michael Lerner, the founder of Tikkun magazine, because I know I’m about to have a really good laugh. Today’s e-mail is a Thanksgiving missive:

No matter how difficult it may be in a world filled with pain and cruelty, there are moments when it is important to stop looking at all the problems and focus on all the good. And that’s part of what Thanksgiving could be about for you this year. Life is so amazing, and our universe so awesome, filled with realities that transcend our capacity to comprehend, and inviting us to awe and wonder and radical amazement! Give yourself and your friends a day dedicated to truly feeling those kinds of feelings!!!! …

It might start with a group of friends or family taking a walk to visit some part of nature that they really love. … It might continue with each family member, guest, or friend being asked to bring something (a book, a poem, a video, a movie, a song, a musical instrument to play some music, a cd or dvd) that they believe will give you an experience for which you are grateful. …

Then, you might consider asking each person to share something that they particularly appreciate in another person who is there at the
gathering. Or to tell about some other person who has been a special teacher, friend, or care-giver to you during the past year. Even if you are only a guest at someone else’s celebration, you can initiate or at least suggest this to the people you meet there! To prepare, you might even make a list of the things you are truly grateful for in your life before you go to someone else’s home for Thanksgiving. …

So at this point you’re probably wondering, what’s the joke? Ah, it’s all in the set-up, you see. Because here’s the punchline:

I think you will find that when you’ve followed some of these steps preparatory to the meal, that you can then turn the conversation to talk about the absurdity of the War in Afghanistan and the misguided nature of the War on Terror. … Or talk about the ongoing tragedy in the Middle East and the need for a progressive Middle Path which is both pro-Israel and pro-Palestine, and refuses to play the “blame game” of which side is “really bad” and which side is “really good” but instead recognizes that both sides have co-created this mess. You might even want to discuss the misguided move by the US to offer military incentives to Israel to restart negotiations. … For all the “realists” at your table ask them how well they think things turned out for Obama and the Democrats these past two years by following the “realistic” path in D.C. rather than fighting for a more progressive or visionary alternative.

Yes, greet Thanksgiving with wonder and amazement by attacking the U.S. and Israel, and then attack people at your Thanksgiving table for having the temerity to think or have thought otherwise!!!! (Those four exclamation points courtesy of Rabbi Michael Lerner, who loves exclamation points almost as much as he likes to draw analogues between Israel and Nazi Germany!!!!)!!!!

I must confess I get a thrill up my leg when I see I’ve received an e-mail from Rabbi Michael Lerner, the founder of Tikkun magazine, because I know I’m about to have a really good laugh. Today’s e-mail is a Thanksgiving missive:

No matter how difficult it may be in a world filled with pain and cruelty, there are moments when it is important to stop looking at all the problems and focus on all the good. And that’s part of what Thanksgiving could be about for you this year. Life is so amazing, and our universe so awesome, filled with realities that transcend our capacity to comprehend, and inviting us to awe and wonder and radical amazement! Give yourself and your friends a day dedicated to truly feeling those kinds of feelings!!!! …

It might start with a group of friends or family taking a walk to visit some part of nature that they really love. … It might continue with each family member, guest, or friend being asked to bring something (a book, a poem, a video, a movie, a song, a musical instrument to play some music, a cd or dvd) that they believe will give you an experience for which you are grateful. …

Then, you might consider asking each person to share something that they particularly appreciate in another person who is there at the
gathering. Or to tell about some other person who has been a special teacher, friend, or care-giver to you during the past year. Even if you are only a guest at someone else’s celebration, you can initiate or at least suggest this to the people you meet there! To prepare, you might even make a list of the things you are truly grateful for in your life before you go to someone else’s home for Thanksgiving. …

So at this point you’re probably wondering, what’s the joke? Ah, it’s all in the set-up, you see. Because here’s the punchline:

I think you will find that when you’ve followed some of these steps preparatory to the meal, that you can then turn the conversation to talk about the absurdity of the War in Afghanistan and the misguided nature of the War on Terror. … Or talk about the ongoing tragedy in the Middle East and the need for a progressive Middle Path which is both pro-Israel and pro-Palestine, and refuses to play the “blame game” of which side is “really bad” and which side is “really good” but instead recognizes that both sides have co-created this mess. You might even want to discuss the misguided move by the US to offer military incentives to Israel to restart negotiations. … For all the “realists” at your table ask them how well they think things turned out for Obama and the Democrats these past two years by following the “realistic” path in D.C. rather than fighting for a more progressive or visionary alternative.

Yes, greet Thanksgiving with wonder and amazement by attacking the U.S. and Israel, and then attack people at your Thanksgiving table for having the temerity to think or have thought otherwise!!!! (Those four exclamation points courtesy of Rabbi Michael Lerner, who loves exclamation points almost as much as he likes to draw analogues between Israel and Nazi Germany!!!!)!!!!

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Reminds Me Of …

Pundits feel compelled to analogize every political figure or race to another pol or election. They debated whether 2010 was like 1994 or not. (Turns out it was like 1938.) Marco Rubio is like Barack Obama, except he hasn’t spent a career writing about himself, embraces American exceptionalism, and isn’t running for president now that he’s just been elected to the U.S. Senate.

So it is with Sarah Palin. She is wont to invoke Ronald Reagan as her model, but is this the Reagan of 1976, a base favorite who took on the party establishment and lost, or the Reagan of 1980, who took the party by storm and pivoted to win over what would become the Reagan Democrats? Richard Wolffe on Meet the Press invoked the memory of Howard Dean — a grassroots favorite who blew himself up during his primary run and would have been a problematic general-election candidate. But of course, all these are inexact comparisons because there has never been a political figure like Palin — a celebrity of this ilk who combines brilliant political instincts and confounding shortcomings.

Yes, history is a useful guide to the future, except when it isn’t and when there are lots of histories to guide us. The mistake that pundits make — because it reveals their prognostications to be nothing more than mere guesses and demonstrates that political “science” is a misnomer — is to minimize the importance of individual personalities and actual races. It is the human effort and the running of the race that decides elections, although demographics, unemployment figures, and the like help shape the playing field. We’re not going to know anything about Palin’s chances unless and until we see her going toe to toe with reporters, opponents, and debate moderators, and until it’s clear whom she’s running against and how they run their races.

What we can say is that Palin is not Reagan or Dean or anyone else. And 2012 will be exactly like no other race in history. The idiosyncratic nature of presidential politics, especially in a 24/7 news environment, makes us appreciate how deliciously unpredictable politics can be. As an intensely human endeavor, how could it be otherwise?

Pundits feel compelled to analogize every political figure or race to another pol or election. They debated whether 2010 was like 1994 or not. (Turns out it was like 1938.) Marco Rubio is like Barack Obama, except he hasn’t spent a career writing about himself, embraces American exceptionalism, and isn’t running for president now that he’s just been elected to the U.S. Senate.

So it is with Sarah Palin. She is wont to invoke Ronald Reagan as her model, but is this the Reagan of 1976, a base favorite who took on the party establishment and lost, or the Reagan of 1980, who took the party by storm and pivoted to win over what would become the Reagan Democrats? Richard Wolffe on Meet the Press invoked the memory of Howard Dean — a grassroots favorite who blew himself up during his primary run and would have been a problematic general-election candidate. But of course, all these are inexact comparisons because there has never been a political figure like Palin — a celebrity of this ilk who combines brilliant political instincts and confounding shortcomings.

Yes, history is a useful guide to the future, except when it isn’t and when there are lots of histories to guide us. The mistake that pundits make — because it reveals their prognostications to be nothing more than mere guesses and demonstrates that political “science” is a misnomer — is to minimize the importance of individual personalities and actual races. It is the human effort and the running of the race that decides elections, although demographics, unemployment figures, and the like help shape the playing field. We’re not going to know anything about Palin’s chances unless and until we see her going toe to toe with reporters, opponents, and debate moderators, and until it’s clear whom she’s running against and how they run their races.

What we can say is that Palin is not Reagan or Dean or anyone else. And 2012 will be exactly like no other race in history. The idiosyncratic nature of presidential politics, especially in a 24/7 news environment, makes us appreciate how deliciously unpredictable politics can be. As an intensely human endeavor, how could it be otherwise?

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Get a Governor!

Jonathan Capehart makes a cogent argument for Obama to bring in a former Democratic governor “to widen his circle of confidants beyond his Chicago security blanketendell.” He recommends Ed Rendell or Jennifer Granholm. He explains:

As governors of struggling industrial states, Rendell and Granholm have had to make the painful budgetary decisions that Washington continues to put off. They have faced an angry and fearful electorate and have had to be inventive in addressing their states’ problems. The people they govern are the very voters Obama continues to have trouble connecting with. … Although they are party stars who wouldn’t upset the base, they could bring an “outsider” perspective to the West Wing. And because of term limits, both will be available come January.

Obama might do better with a governor who managed to hand the baton to a Democratic successor or who didn’t hike taxes (as Granholm did repeatedly), but he is on to something. In fact, the advice to bring a governor into the West Wing is even more apt for the GOP when it comes to selecting its 2012 nominee.

The Republicans also need an “outsider” voice not marred by years of Beltway bickering and who possesses a solid base of support in the heartland. The GOP also needs someone who has demonstrated competency in managing his state’s fiscal condition during a challenging era. And yes, having someone who connects with ordinary Americans would be an advantage over Obama, who at times can barely contain his disdain for his fellow countrymen.

So if the un-Obama is the Republicans’ ideal candidate, then a competent, experienced, fiscally hawkish governor or ex-governor should fit the bill. A doer rather than a talker would be ideal. There are plenty of Republicans who fit this bill — Tim Pawlenty, Bobby Jindal, Chris Christie, and Jeb Bush, to name a few. And Sarah Palin, who’s struggled to combat a well-entrenched media narrative, has a story to tell as well — about budget reform, fiscal sobriety, and fighting corruption.

The gap that Capehart identifies is not simply in Obama’s staff; it is in the president himself, who has shown little talent for governance and, for all his vaunted communication skills, is increasingly isolated from voters. Avoiding that set of deficiencies is a guide for the GOP in choosing a candidate who will match up well against Obama in 2012. Now all that Republicans need is a governor or ex-governor willing to run who can both excite and expand the base. Yes, it is a tall but hardly impossible order.

Jonathan Capehart makes a cogent argument for Obama to bring in a former Democratic governor “to widen his circle of confidants beyond his Chicago security blanketendell.” He recommends Ed Rendell or Jennifer Granholm. He explains:

As governors of struggling industrial states, Rendell and Granholm have had to make the painful budgetary decisions that Washington continues to put off. They have faced an angry and fearful electorate and have had to be inventive in addressing their states’ problems. The people they govern are the very voters Obama continues to have trouble connecting with. … Although they are party stars who wouldn’t upset the base, they could bring an “outsider” perspective to the West Wing. And because of term limits, both will be available come January.

Obama might do better with a governor who managed to hand the baton to a Democratic successor or who didn’t hike taxes (as Granholm did repeatedly), but he is on to something. In fact, the advice to bring a governor into the West Wing is even more apt for the GOP when it comes to selecting its 2012 nominee.

The Republicans also need an “outsider” voice not marred by years of Beltway bickering and who possesses a solid base of support in the heartland. The GOP also needs someone who has demonstrated competency in managing his state’s fiscal condition during a challenging era. And yes, having someone who connects with ordinary Americans would be an advantage over Obama, who at times can barely contain his disdain for his fellow countrymen.

So if the un-Obama is the Republicans’ ideal candidate, then a competent, experienced, fiscally hawkish governor or ex-governor should fit the bill. A doer rather than a talker would be ideal. There are plenty of Republicans who fit this bill — Tim Pawlenty, Bobby Jindal, Chris Christie, and Jeb Bush, to name a few. And Sarah Palin, who’s struggled to combat a well-entrenched media narrative, has a story to tell as well — about budget reform, fiscal sobriety, and fighting corruption.

The gap that Capehart identifies is not simply in Obama’s staff; it is in the president himself, who has shown little talent for governance and, for all his vaunted communication skills, is increasingly isolated from voters. Avoiding that set of deficiencies is a guide for the GOP in choosing a candidate who will match up well against Obama in 2012. Now all that Republicans need is a governor or ex-governor willing to run who can both excite and expand the base. Yes, it is a tall but hardly impossible order.

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Obama Reaches Out to the Chamber of Commerce

One of the low points of the midterm elections came when the Obama administration started darkly insinuating — without evidence — that the Chamber of Commerce was secretly funded by shady foreign corporations. Conservatives immediately denounced these attacks as cheap, desperate, and unsubstantiated.

Now President Obama seems finally to be conceding that his attacks on the Chamber were nothing more than baseless, cynical political maneuvering. According to Politico, Obama has begun reaching out to the Chamber and is planning to speak at one of its events next month:

Moving to repair a deep rift with leading CEOs, President Barack Obama plans to speak at a U.S. Chamber of Commerce event next month and the two sides are trying to work out details, White House and Chamber officials said Saturday.

The talks mark a dramatic rapprochement between the Chamber, which spent tens of millions of dollars in the midterm election to defeat Democrats, and the president, who openly criticized the “world’s largest business federation” for accepting contributions from undisclosed donors.

Considering the fact that Obama referred to the Chamber as “a threat to our democracy” during the election, this move can’t be seen as anything other than a complete about-face. Mike Allen calls it “the White House’s clearest move to the center since the Nov. 2 elections,” and he’s right. Hopefully this is a sign that the Obama administration is going to begin heeding the message voters sent earlier this month.

But if Obama does start working more closely with pro-business groups, it will be interesting to see what the response will be from his left-leaning supporters, who are already becoming vocal about their lack of faith in the president.

One of the low points of the midterm elections came when the Obama administration started darkly insinuating — without evidence — that the Chamber of Commerce was secretly funded by shady foreign corporations. Conservatives immediately denounced these attacks as cheap, desperate, and unsubstantiated.

Now President Obama seems finally to be conceding that his attacks on the Chamber were nothing more than baseless, cynical political maneuvering. According to Politico, Obama has begun reaching out to the Chamber and is planning to speak at one of its events next month:

Moving to repair a deep rift with leading CEOs, President Barack Obama plans to speak at a U.S. Chamber of Commerce event next month and the two sides are trying to work out details, White House and Chamber officials said Saturday.

The talks mark a dramatic rapprochement between the Chamber, which spent tens of millions of dollars in the midterm election to defeat Democrats, and the president, who openly criticized the “world’s largest business federation” for accepting contributions from undisclosed donors.

Considering the fact that Obama referred to the Chamber as “a threat to our democracy” during the election, this move can’t be seen as anything other than a complete about-face. Mike Allen calls it “the White House’s clearest move to the center since the Nov. 2 elections,” and he’s right. Hopefully this is a sign that the Obama administration is going to begin heeding the message voters sent earlier this month.

But if Obama does start working more closely with pro-business groups, it will be interesting to see what the response will be from his left-leaning supporters, who are already becoming vocal about their lack of faith in the president.

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Plan Ahead: How to Stop State Bailouts

This timely and important piece looks at whether it makes sense to set up a bankruptcy procedure for states, a process that currently exists only for cities and other municipalities. Law professor David Skeel makes a compelling case that it would be perfectly constitutional for Congress to set up a bankruptcy system for states. But should we? He argues:

The principal candidates for restructuring in states like California or Illinois are the state’s bonds and its contracts with public employees. Ideally, bondholders would vote to approve a restructuring. But if they dug in their heels and resisted proposals to restructure their debt, a bankruptcy chapter for states should allow (as municipal bankruptcy already does) for a proposal to be “crammed down” over their objections under certain circumstances. This eliminates the hold-out problem—the refusal of a minority of bondholders to agree to the terms of a restructuring—that can foil efforts to restructure outside of bankruptcy.

The bankruptcy law should give debtor states even more power to rewrite union contracts, if the court approves. Interestingly, it is easier to renegotiate a burdensome union contract in municipal bankruptcy than in a corporate bankruptcy. Vallejo has used this power in its bankruptcy case, which was filed in 2008. It is possible that a state could even renegotiate existing pension benefits in bankruptcy, although this is much less clear and less likely than the power to renegotiate an ongoing contract.

But if governors of states like California and Illinois won’t cut spending and renegotiate union contracts, would they really put their states into a bankruptcy proceeding?

The risk that politicians won’t make as much use of their bankruptcy options as they should does not mean that bankruptcy is a bad idea. For all its limitations, it would give a resolute state a new, more effective tool for paring down the state’s debts. And many a governor might find alluring the possibility of shifting blame for a new frugality onto a bankruptcy court that “made him do it” rather than take direct responsibility for tough choices.

The nub of the concern underlying Skeel’s proposal is the fear that California and other states will come to the feds looking for a bailout. Without an alternative like bankruptcy, the administration and the Congress might be tempted to give it to them. As a reader points out, we can imagine, just as happened in the 2008 financial meltdown, state officials pleading that they are on the brink of a meltdown, prisons will close, police will be fired, governments will shut down, etc.

It makes sense, therefore, for Congress to think this through now while the election is fresh in their minds. I’m not entirely sold on the idea of bankruptcy for states, but why shouldn’t Republican House leaders explore this and other alternatives, including a straightforward legislation prohibiting state bailouts? Let the Senate Democrats try to filibuster that one, or Obama promise to veto it. The incident that triggered the Tea Party movement, you will recall, was not ObamaCare or massive spending, although these became part of the agenda. It was the mortgage-bailout scheme — the idea that you’d be paying your neighbor’s mortgage. It is this sense of indignation and the call to personal — and state — responsibility that House and Senate GOP leaders should focus on. If they do it now, before the “emergency!” hollering begins, they stand a much better chance of holding the line and forcing California, Illinois, and the rest to fix their own fiscal messes.

This timely and important piece looks at whether it makes sense to set up a bankruptcy procedure for states, a process that currently exists only for cities and other municipalities. Law professor David Skeel makes a compelling case that it would be perfectly constitutional for Congress to set up a bankruptcy system for states. But should we? He argues:

The principal candidates for restructuring in states like California or Illinois are the state’s bonds and its contracts with public employees. Ideally, bondholders would vote to approve a restructuring. But if they dug in their heels and resisted proposals to restructure their debt, a bankruptcy chapter for states should allow (as municipal bankruptcy already does) for a proposal to be “crammed down” over their objections under certain circumstances. This eliminates the hold-out problem—the refusal of a minority of bondholders to agree to the terms of a restructuring—that can foil efforts to restructure outside of bankruptcy.

The bankruptcy law should give debtor states even more power to rewrite union contracts, if the court approves. Interestingly, it is easier to renegotiate a burdensome union contract in municipal bankruptcy than in a corporate bankruptcy. Vallejo has used this power in its bankruptcy case, which was filed in 2008. It is possible that a state could even renegotiate existing pension benefits in bankruptcy, although this is much less clear and less likely than the power to renegotiate an ongoing contract.

But if governors of states like California and Illinois won’t cut spending and renegotiate union contracts, would they really put their states into a bankruptcy proceeding?

The risk that politicians won’t make as much use of their bankruptcy options as they should does not mean that bankruptcy is a bad idea. For all its limitations, it would give a resolute state a new, more effective tool for paring down the state’s debts. And many a governor might find alluring the possibility of shifting blame for a new frugality onto a bankruptcy court that “made him do it” rather than take direct responsibility for tough choices.

The nub of the concern underlying Skeel’s proposal is the fear that California and other states will come to the feds looking for a bailout. Without an alternative like bankruptcy, the administration and the Congress might be tempted to give it to them. As a reader points out, we can imagine, just as happened in the 2008 financial meltdown, state officials pleading that they are on the brink of a meltdown, prisons will close, police will be fired, governments will shut down, etc.

It makes sense, therefore, for Congress to think this through now while the election is fresh in their minds. I’m not entirely sold on the idea of bankruptcy for states, but why shouldn’t Republican House leaders explore this and other alternatives, including a straightforward legislation prohibiting state bailouts? Let the Senate Democrats try to filibuster that one, or Obama promise to veto it. The incident that triggered the Tea Party movement, you will recall, was not ObamaCare or massive spending, although these became part of the agenda. It was the mortgage-bailout scheme — the idea that you’d be paying your neighbor’s mortgage. It is this sense of indignation and the call to personal — and state — responsibility that House and Senate GOP leaders should focus on. If they do it now, before the “emergency!” hollering begins, they stand a much better chance of holding the line and forcing California, Illinois, and the rest to fix their own fiscal messes.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Here’s the “civil war” the liberal punditocracy has been pining for: “Liberals want Obama to confront Republicans more directly. Moderates, remembering how Bill Clinton altered course after losing control of Congress in 1994 and won reelection in 1996, want the president to work more cooperatively with Republicans in hopes of avoiding gridlock.”

Here’s another national security disaster in the making: “The Obama administration has dispatched a team of experts to Asian capitals to report that North Korea appears to have started a program to enrich uranium, possibly to manufacture more nuclear weapons, a senior U.S. administration official said Saturday. The team was sent out after North Korea told two visiting American experts earlier this month that it possessed such a program and showed them a facility where it claimed the enrichment was taking place.” It sort of puts in context how daft were those meetings and planning for a “nuke-free world.”

Here’s the beginning of the walk-back: “Heeding a sudden furor, John Pistole, administrator of the Transportation Security Administration, said in a Sunday afternoon statement to POLITICO that airport screening procedures ‘will be adapted as conditions warrant,’ in an effort to make them “as minimally invasive as possible, while still providing the security that the American people want and deserve.”

Here’s why voters hate pols: there is always one rule for politicians and another for the rest of us. “Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said Sunday that security threats were a concern in the Transportation Security Administration’s new invasive pat-downs and body scans, but heartily acknowledged that she wouldn’t want to go through the screening herself.”

Here’s Mona Charen’s case for why Sarah Palin shouldn’t run for president: “Voters chose a novice with plenty of starpower in 2008 and will be inclined to swing strongly in the other direction in 2012. Americans will be looking for sober competence, managerial skill, and maturity — not sizzle and flash. … There is no denying that Sarah Palin has been harshly, sometimes even brutally, treated by the press and the entertainment gaggle. But any prominent Republican must expect and be able to transcend that. Palin compares herself to Reagan. But Reagan didn’t mud-wrestle with the press. Palin seems consumed and obsessed by it, as her rapid Twitter finger attests, and thus she encourages the sniping.” I imagine that such advice is simply brushed off as part of the GOP establishment plot to get her.

Here’s further evidence that the Obami just don’t get it. Hillary Clinton isn’t giving up on civilian trials for terrorists. “So I don’t think you can, as a — as a rule, say, ‘Oh, no more civilian trials,’ or ‘no more military commission.'” Sure you can; it’s just that the leftists who dominate the Obama legal brain trust are putting up quite a fuss.

Here’s another sign that Obama’s ditzy peace-process Hail Mary isn’t going to help matters: “The Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, said on Sunday that any American proposal for restarting Israeli-Palestinian negotiations must include a complete halt in Israeli settlement building, including in East Jerusalem.” Gosh, where do you think he got the idea that building in Jerusalem was such a hot-button, non-final-status issue?

Here’s the “civil war” the liberal punditocracy has been pining for: “Liberals want Obama to confront Republicans more directly. Moderates, remembering how Bill Clinton altered course after losing control of Congress in 1994 and won reelection in 1996, want the president to work more cooperatively with Republicans in hopes of avoiding gridlock.”

Here’s another national security disaster in the making: “The Obama administration has dispatched a team of experts to Asian capitals to report that North Korea appears to have started a program to enrich uranium, possibly to manufacture more nuclear weapons, a senior U.S. administration official said Saturday. The team was sent out after North Korea told two visiting American experts earlier this month that it possessed such a program and showed them a facility where it claimed the enrichment was taking place.” It sort of puts in context how daft were those meetings and planning for a “nuke-free world.”

Here’s the beginning of the walk-back: “Heeding a sudden furor, John Pistole, administrator of the Transportation Security Administration, said in a Sunday afternoon statement to POLITICO that airport screening procedures ‘will be adapted as conditions warrant,’ in an effort to make them “as minimally invasive as possible, while still providing the security that the American people want and deserve.”

Here’s why voters hate pols: there is always one rule for politicians and another for the rest of us. “Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said Sunday that security threats were a concern in the Transportation Security Administration’s new invasive pat-downs and body scans, but heartily acknowledged that she wouldn’t want to go through the screening herself.”

Here’s Mona Charen’s case for why Sarah Palin shouldn’t run for president: “Voters chose a novice with plenty of starpower in 2008 and will be inclined to swing strongly in the other direction in 2012. Americans will be looking for sober competence, managerial skill, and maturity — not sizzle and flash. … There is no denying that Sarah Palin has been harshly, sometimes even brutally, treated by the press and the entertainment gaggle. But any prominent Republican must expect and be able to transcend that. Palin compares herself to Reagan. But Reagan didn’t mud-wrestle with the press. Palin seems consumed and obsessed by it, as her rapid Twitter finger attests, and thus she encourages the sniping.” I imagine that such advice is simply brushed off as part of the GOP establishment plot to get her.

Here’s further evidence that the Obami just don’t get it. Hillary Clinton isn’t giving up on civilian trials for terrorists. “So I don’t think you can, as a — as a rule, say, ‘Oh, no more civilian trials,’ or ‘no more military commission.'” Sure you can; it’s just that the leftists who dominate the Obama legal brain trust are putting up quite a fuss.

Here’s another sign that Obama’s ditzy peace-process Hail Mary isn’t going to help matters: “The Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, said on Sunday that any American proposal for restarting Israeli-Palestinian negotiations must include a complete halt in Israeli settlement building, including in East Jerusalem.” Gosh, where do you think he got the idea that building in Jerusalem was such a hot-button, non-final-status issue?

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