Commentary Magazine


Posts For: December 7, 2010

Obama’s Settlements Freeze Fold Is Blow to President, Not to Peace

On a day when President Obama was forced to acknowledge his defeat at the hands of congressional Republicans on the issue of tax cuts, it appears that he was also bested by another opponent: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. The announcement today that the Obama administration has given up on its effort to force Jerusalem to extend a construction freeze of Jewish settlements in the West Bank will be predictably denounced by those who have always equated progress toward peace with Israeli concessions. But the problem with Obama’s push for a freeze had little to do with any actual chance for peace and everything to do with the administration’s obsession with trying to corner Netanyahu.

Since both men were sworn into office last year within weeks of each other, Obama has pursued policies aimed at undermining an Israeli leader he believed was an obstacle to his near-messianic belief in his ability to make peace in the Middle East. But Netanyahu, a wiser man today than he was in his first term in office in the 1990s when he ran afoul of Bill Clinton, has been able to balance his obligation to protect Israel’s vital security interests on the ground with a need to avoid an open conflict with his country’s only ally. While stating his willingness to accept a two-state solution, Netanyahu faced down Obama in 2009 when the latter made an unprecedented attack on Israeli rights to Jerusalem. In 2010, the Israeli again compromised and accepted a temporary freeze on building in the West Bank but not in his country’s capital, Jerusalem.

The problem with Obama’s schemes was not only the president’s pointless antagonism for Israel but also that the other side of the peace process — the Palestinian Authority — had already made it clear that it would not accept a peace deal that recognized the legitimacy of a Jewish state, no matter where its borders were drawn or whether or not a single Jew remained anywhere in the West Bank. So rather than use the Israeli freeze as an invitation to negotiate, they stalled and waited for it to expire before demanding its resumption and, following Obama’s lead, its expansion into Jerusalem.

In the past three months, as the United States did its best to push him to renew the freeze, Netanyahu was again criticized by Israel’s critics for not doing enough for peace (while the same people ignored the Palestinians’ record of incitement and refusal to make peace on any terms), as well as by Israeli right-wingers (including some in his government) for being too soft with the Americans. Netanyahu agreed at one point to accept a freeze renewal but insisted that Obama would have to pay for it with assurances on other issues while still pointedly refusing to include Jerusalem in any deal to stop building Jewish homes. Many Israelis saw this as a reckless concession, but in the end it came to nothing, as Obama seems to prefer to fold on the issue rather than meet Israel halfway. While the future is far from certain, at the very least the prime minister can congratulate himself on avoiding a major public confrontation with Washington while keeping his own governing coalition intact.

But whether or not this was a victory for Netanyahu’s cautious diplomacy, this is no blow to peace. Sensible observers have been saying all along that the Palestinians’ lack of interest in a final-status agreement, as well as the split between Hamas and Fatah, ensured the failure of Obama’s initiative no matter how much Netanyahu was willing to give up. While we can expect Obama to regroup at some point in the not-so-distant future and renew his campaign of pressure on Israel, the end of his freeze folly illustrates again the president’s inability to understand the realities of the Middle East. While the blame for the lack of peace belongs to the Palestinians, the collapse of this initiative is more proof that this administration hasn’t a clue about foreign policy.

On a day when President Obama was forced to acknowledge his defeat at the hands of congressional Republicans on the issue of tax cuts, it appears that he was also bested by another opponent: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. The announcement today that the Obama administration has given up on its effort to force Jerusalem to extend a construction freeze of Jewish settlements in the West Bank will be predictably denounced by those who have always equated progress toward peace with Israeli concessions. But the problem with Obama’s push for a freeze had little to do with any actual chance for peace and everything to do with the administration’s obsession with trying to corner Netanyahu.

Since both men were sworn into office last year within weeks of each other, Obama has pursued policies aimed at undermining an Israeli leader he believed was an obstacle to his near-messianic belief in his ability to make peace in the Middle East. But Netanyahu, a wiser man today than he was in his first term in office in the 1990s when he ran afoul of Bill Clinton, has been able to balance his obligation to protect Israel’s vital security interests on the ground with a need to avoid an open conflict with his country’s only ally. While stating his willingness to accept a two-state solution, Netanyahu faced down Obama in 2009 when the latter made an unprecedented attack on Israeli rights to Jerusalem. In 2010, the Israeli again compromised and accepted a temporary freeze on building in the West Bank but not in his country’s capital, Jerusalem.

The problem with Obama’s schemes was not only the president’s pointless antagonism for Israel but also that the other side of the peace process — the Palestinian Authority — had already made it clear that it would not accept a peace deal that recognized the legitimacy of a Jewish state, no matter where its borders were drawn or whether or not a single Jew remained anywhere in the West Bank. So rather than use the Israeli freeze as an invitation to negotiate, they stalled and waited for it to expire before demanding its resumption and, following Obama’s lead, its expansion into Jerusalem.

In the past three months, as the United States did its best to push him to renew the freeze, Netanyahu was again criticized by Israel’s critics for not doing enough for peace (while the same people ignored the Palestinians’ record of incitement and refusal to make peace on any terms), as well as by Israeli right-wingers (including some in his government) for being too soft with the Americans. Netanyahu agreed at one point to accept a freeze renewal but insisted that Obama would have to pay for it with assurances on other issues while still pointedly refusing to include Jerusalem in any deal to stop building Jewish homes. Many Israelis saw this as a reckless concession, but in the end it came to nothing, as Obama seems to prefer to fold on the issue rather than meet Israel halfway. While the future is far from certain, at the very least the prime minister can congratulate himself on avoiding a major public confrontation with Washington while keeping his own governing coalition intact.

But whether or not this was a victory for Netanyahu’s cautious diplomacy, this is no blow to peace. Sensible observers have been saying all along that the Palestinians’ lack of interest in a final-status agreement, as well as the split between Hamas and Fatah, ensured the failure of Obama’s initiative no matter how much Netanyahu was willing to give up. While we can expect Obama to regroup at some point in the not-so-distant future and renew his campaign of pressure on Israel, the end of his freeze folly illustrates again the president’s inability to understand the realities of the Middle East. While the blame for the lack of peace belongs to the Palestinians, the collapse of this initiative is more proof that this administration hasn’t a clue about foreign policy.

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Wait, So Tax Cuts Work, Says Leftie?

Kevin Drum of the progressive magazine Mother Jones, in a blog post about the president’s press conference, concludes with these thoughts:

Hated or not, Obama’s tax deal is fairly good for the economy and it quite likely cements his reelection chances. If GDP growth is even in the neighborhood of 3%, I don’t think he’s beatable….Looking at American politics from a 100,000-foot level, conservatives have won. Programmatic liberalism is essentially dead for a good long time, and small bore stuff is probably the best we can hope for over the next 10-20 years — though social liberalism will continue to make steady advances. I reserve judgment on whose fault that is.

So the tax deal is good and will help the economy — and will kill off “programmatic liberalism.” Isn’t that an acknowledgment by a leading leftist blogger that “programmatic liberalism” of the sort Obama has attempted is economically unsound? Drum says he is reserving judgment on whose fault that is. But maybe it’s not the fault of a who, but rather a what — an unworkable philosophy.

Kevin Drum of the progressive magazine Mother Jones, in a blog post about the president’s press conference, concludes with these thoughts:

Hated or not, Obama’s tax deal is fairly good for the economy and it quite likely cements his reelection chances. If GDP growth is even in the neighborhood of 3%, I don’t think he’s beatable….Looking at American politics from a 100,000-foot level, conservatives have won. Programmatic liberalism is essentially dead for a good long time, and small bore stuff is probably the best we can hope for over the next 10-20 years — though social liberalism will continue to make steady advances. I reserve judgment on whose fault that is.

So the tax deal is good and will help the economy — and will kill off “programmatic liberalism.” Isn’t that an acknowledgment by a leading leftist blogger that “programmatic liberalism” of the sort Obama has attempted is economically unsound? Drum says he is reserving judgment on whose fault that is. But maybe it’s not the fault of a who, but rather a what — an unworkable philosophy.

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A Performance That Will Live in Infamy

I’m not sure I could have gotten through the Obama press conference just now without John’s bracing live-blog posts. I have to say, the president’s political performance was the most partisan I have seen from an American chief executive. The references to the needs of the people were perfunctory and disordered, at best. The cast of President Obama’s rhetoric was entirely in the mold of the bruised ideologue.

I don’t recall Obama ever coming off in a national forum quite so much like a leftist community organizer. In demonizing his political opponents, lecturing his base, and vowing to fight on in a long struggle, Obama appeared to be channeling his political roots in radical activism. He evoked an activist street fighter on the steps of city hall more than a president of the United States. The president is our head of government but also our head of state: a ceremonial symbol of national unity. One of his chief duties is to be happy about that.

As a partisan performance, Obama’s today didn’t stop with the relatively benign Democrat-versus-Republican divide. It recalled the European political sense in which partisanship is narrowly based on ethnicity or ideology, and opposes the putative complacency of all social compacts and central authorities. I suspect that one of the most difficult things for Obama himself, as well as for the more radical in his political base, is coming to grips with the truth that some homage must still be paid to the traditional compact of the U.S. government with its people. It was not, in fact, politically possible for Obama or the Democrats in Congress to imperil the finances of the middle class with a quixotic standoff over raising tax rates on the wealthy.

The people are, by and large, middle-class householders with no interest in suffering to make ideological points. The source of Obama’s peculiar dissonance in American politics is that he doesn’t feel, in his gut, that that is a good thing.

I’m not sure I could have gotten through the Obama press conference just now without John’s bracing live-blog posts. I have to say, the president’s political performance was the most partisan I have seen from an American chief executive. The references to the needs of the people were perfunctory and disordered, at best. The cast of President Obama’s rhetoric was entirely in the mold of the bruised ideologue.

I don’t recall Obama ever coming off in a national forum quite so much like a leftist community organizer. In demonizing his political opponents, lecturing his base, and vowing to fight on in a long struggle, Obama appeared to be channeling his political roots in radical activism. He evoked an activist street fighter on the steps of city hall more than a president of the United States. The president is our head of government but also our head of state: a ceremonial symbol of national unity. One of his chief duties is to be happy about that.

As a partisan performance, Obama’s today didn’t stop with the relatively benign Democrat-versus-Republican divide. It recalled the European political sense in which partisanship is narrowly based on ethnicity or ideology, and opposes the putative complacency of all social compacts and central authorities. I suspect that one of the most difficult things for Obama himself, as well as for the more radical in his political base, is coming to grips with the truth that some homage must still be paid to the traditional compact of the U.S. government with its people. It was not, in fact, politically possible for Obama or the Democrats in Congress to imperil the finances of the middle class with a quixotic standoff over raising tax rates on the wealthy.

The people are, by and large, middle-class householders with no interest in suffering to make ideological points. The source of Obama’s peculiar dissonance in American politics is that he doesn’t feel, in his gut, that that is a good thing.

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He Has Met the Enemy, and They Are Him

President Obama, who during the heat of the 2010 midterm election referred to Republicans as “enemies,” has now decided to refine things a bit. The car-in-the-ditch analogy is out; the-GOP-as-hostage-takers is in.

As John mentioned, in Obama’s press conference earlier today the president, in discussing the tax cut deal he has negotiated with Republicans, said, “It’s tempting not to negotiate with hostage takers unless the hostage gets harmed. … In this case, the hostage was the American people, and I was not willing to see them get harmed.”

Mr. Obama has mastered the ability to look both unprincipled and graceless at the same time. There is also a touch of bipolarity in this administration that is doing a fair amount of damage to it.

In the Washington Post this morning, under the headline “The president extends an olive branch to the GOP,” we read this:

Although his liberal supporters are furious about the decision, President Obama’s willingness to extend all of the George W. Bush-era tax cuts is part of what White House officials say is a deliberate strategy: to demonstrate his ability to compromise with Republicans and portray the president as the last reasonable man in a sharply partisan Washington. The move is based on a political calculation, drawn from his party’s midterm defeat, that places a premium on winning back independent voters.

It’s not clear to me how referring to a party that just smashed your own in an epic midterm election as “hostage takers” is going to help Mr. Obama either win back independents or appear as “the last reasonable man in a sharply partisan Washington.”

It appears to me that Obama is a man of tremendous internal contradictions. He fancies himself as a post-partisan, post-ideological figure who alone can elevate public discourse. He obviously took great pride in presenting himself as America’s Socrates during the presidential campaign.

At the same time, Mr. Obama is a man of unusual arrogance who, if things don’t go his way, becomes prickly. He lashes out. And he begins to feel sorry for himself. Notoriously thin-skinned and accustomed to worshipful treatment by those around him (including the press), Obama is now clearly disquieted.

On some deep level, Obama must understand that, at this moment at least, his presidency is coming apart. It’s not at all clear to me that he’s particularly well equipped to deal with the shifting fortunes, the hardships, and the battering that a president must endure. Difficult circumstances seem to be bringing out his worst qualities rather than his best. And that may be what was on display this afternoon.

President Obama, who during the heat of the 2010 midterm election referred to Republicans as “enemies,” has now decided to refine things a bit. The car-in-the-ditch analogy is out; the-GOP-as-hostage-takers is in.

As John mentioned, in Obama’s press conference earlier today the president, in discussing the tax cut deal he has negotiated with Republicans, said, “It’s tempting not to negotiate with hostage takers unless the hostage gets harmed. … In this case, the hostage was the American people, and I was not willing to see them get harmed.”

Mr. Obama has mastered the ability to look both unprincipled and graceless at the same time. There is also a touch of bipolarity in this administration that is doing a fair amount of damage to it.

In the Washington Post this morning, under the headline “The president extends an olive branch to the GOP,” we read this:

Although his liberal supporters are furious about the decision, President Obama’s willingness to extend all of the George W. Bush-era tax cuts is part of what White House officials say is a deliberate strategy: to demonstrate his ability to compromise with Republicans and portray the president as the last reasonable man in a sharply partisan Washington. The move is based on a political calculation, drawn from his party’s midterm defeat, that places a premium on winning back independent voters.

It’s not clear to me how referring to a party that just smashed your own in an epic midterm election as “hostage takers” is going to help Mr. Obama either win back independents or appear as “the last reasonable man in a sharply partisan Washington.”

It appears to me that Obama is a man of tremendous internal contradictions. He fancies himself as a post-partisan, post-ideological figure who alone can elevate public discourse. He obviously took great pride in presenting himself as America’s Socrates during the presidential campaign.

At the same time, Mr. Obama is a man of unusual arrogance who, if things don’t go his way, becomes prickly. He lashes out. And he begins to feel sorry for himself. Notoriously thin-skinned and accustomed to worshipful treatment by those around him (including the press), Obama is now clearly disquieted.

On some deep level, Obama must understand that, at this moment at least, his presidency is coming apart. It’s not at all clear to me that he’s particularly well equipped to deal with the shifting fortunes, the hardships, and the battering that a president must endure. Difficult circumstances seem to be bringing out his worst qualities rather than his best. And that may be what was on display this afternoon.

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Bush, Obama, and the Restoration of Perspective

As Pete mentioned earlier, a new Gallup poll has George W. Bush’s approval rating up at 47 percent. This means that the former president currently enjoys a one-point lead on Barack Obama, whose current approval rating is at 46 percent. There is a sensible urge to dismiss the significance of such polls. All presidents become more popular after leaving office. It’s unlikely they all benefit from the spontaneous acknowledgement of their true genius. Nostalgia and a grass-is-greener impulse are as much responsible for these opinion rehabilitations as are fact-based assessments. Bush, like all American ex-presidents, is benefitting from his fellow citizens’ sentimentality and their appreciation for the difficulties of the office, no matter who holds it.  But the fact that Bush was once thought so deleterious to the country as to be a presidential outlier makes this insignificant development extremely significant.

The new poll means that Bush is not some dark deviation from the tradition of American leadership; he’s an American president who will be judged as having gotten some things wrong and others right while trying to do a very hard job. What it also demonstrates is that the hysterical critics of yesteryear lost all perspective on policy and history. In 2008, during a debate on the matter, Slate’s Jacob Weisberg cavalierly pronounced that “Bush was obviously the worst president of the past 50 years.” Yes, so obviously that two years later most Americans don’t consider him to be the worst president of the last three years.

Comparing the poll results demonstrates that Barack Obama is not, conversely, The One. Just as the demonization of Bush is exposed as ridiculous, so too is the deification of Obama. For him, this officially ends any benefit he might once have yielded from blaming the country’s woes on Bush. Americans, at this point in time, think more highly of the job done by Obama’s predecessor than of the one being done by Obama. Where the president once found a scapegoat, he now finds, in relative terms, a winner. If these trends in popularity continue, further jabs at George W. Bush will start to look like sour grapes. What’s more, if these trends continue, Bush could transcend the realm of the unexceptional and join the ranks of the distinguished. For now, it’s enough to note that some perspective has been restored.

As Pete mentioned earlier, a new Gallup poll has George W. Bush’s approval rating up at 47 percent. This means that the former president currently enjoys a one-point lead on Barack Obama, whose current approval rating is at 46 percent. There is a sensible urge to dismiss the significance of such polls. All presidents become more popular after leaving office. It’s unlikely they all benefit from the spontaneous acknowledgement of their true genius. Nostalgia and a grass-is-greener impulse are as much responsible for these opinion rehabilitations as are fact-based assessments. Bush, like all American ex-presidents, is benefitting from his fellow citizens’ sentimentality and their appreciation for the difficulties of the office, no matter who holds it.  But the fact that Bush was once thought so deleterious to the country as to be a presidential outlier makes this insignificant development extremely significant.

The new poll means that Bush is not some dark deviation from the tradition of American leadership; he’s an American president who will be judged as having gotten some things wrong and others right while trying to do a very hard job. What it also demonstrates is that the hysterical critics of yesteryear lost all perspective on policy and history. In 2008, during a debate on the matter, Slate’s Jacob Weisberg cavalierly pronounced that “Bush was obviously the worst president of the past 50 years.” Yes, so obviously that two years later most Americans don’t consider him to be the worst president of the last three years.

Comparing the poll results demonstrates that Barack Obama is not, conversely, The One. Just as the demonization of Bush is exposed as ridiculous, so too is the deification of Obama. For him, this officially ends any benefit he might once have yielded from blaming the country’s woes on Bush. Americans, at this point in time, think more highly of the job done by Obama’s predecessor than of the one being done by Obama. Where the president once found a scapegoat, he now finds, in relative terms, a winner. If these trends in popularity continue, further jabs at George W. Bush will start to look like sour grapes. What’s more, if these trends continue, Bush could transcend the realm of the unexceptional and join the ranks of the distinguished. For now, it’s enough to note that some perspective has been restored.

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LIVE BLOG: Obama Isn’t Carter or Truman…

…he’s turning into Howard Beale.

…he’s turning into Howard Beale.

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LIVE BLOG: Yipe

Well…that was interesting…he spent the first half insulting Republicans and the conclusion screaming at Democrats and left-liberals…All in all, one of the strangest political events of my lifetime.

Well…that was interesting…he spent the first half insulting Republicans and the conclusion screaming at Democrats and left-liberals…All in all, one of the strangest political events of my lifetime.

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LIVE BLOG: We Are Not In Kansas Anymore

Hoo boy. Obama is now screaming at the left for not loving him enough. “The New York Times editorial page does not permeate all across the country.”

Hoo boy. Obama is now screaming at the left for not loving him enough. “The New York Times editorial page does not permeate all across the country.”

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LIVE BLOG: “We’ll Be Discussing the Budget”

Barack Obama is now arguing that the politics of budget-cutting will help him in 2012 because the high-end tax cuts “cost” $700 billion. “They will have to rethink their position or they won’t do very well in 2012,” he said. So he wants to go into 2012 fighting for tax increases.

Barack Obama is now arguing that the politics of budget-cutting will help him in 2012 because the high-end tax cuts “cost” $700 billion. “They will have to rethink their position or they won’t do very well in 2012,” he said. So he wants to go into 2012 fighting for tax increases.

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LIVE BLOG: “You Can’t Just Stand on the Sidelines and Be a Bomb-Thrower”

So far in this press conference, Obama has compared Republicans to hostage takers, bomb throwers, and terrorists.

So far in this press conference, Obama has compared Republicans to hostage takers, bomb throwers, and terrorists.

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LIVE BLOG: “I Don’t See How the Republicans Win That Argument”

Obama believes he can beat the GOP in the coming years on extending all the Bush tax cuts when he just lost it — because we need to build roads and bridges and because we’re falling behind on math education. This has the quality of an intellectual nervous breakdown.

Obama believes he can beat the GOP in the coming years on extending all the Bush tax cuts when he just lost it — because we need to build roads and bridges and because we’re falling behind on math education. This has the quality of an intellectual nervous breakdown.

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LIVE BLOG: “I Will Be Happy to See If the Republicans Test Me on a Whole Bunch of Issues”

Well, this president is an innovator. He has called a press conference intended to announce a new set of policies that will help the economy and the American people, and he is talking as though he had to negotiate with terrorists and made the best of a bad deal. Never really seen anything like it.

Well, this president is an innovator. He has called a press conference intended to announce a new set of policies that will help the economy and the American people, and he is talking as though he had to negotiate with terrorists and made the best of a bad deal. Never really seen anything like it.

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LIVE BLOG: “This Is Not a Circumstance in Which I Have Failed to Convince the American People”

Seriously, the president is on terrible footing here, arguing that his position on extending only part of the Bush tax cuts is really popular.  If he could have won on a matter of principle but gave in on it because he was giving in to hostage takers, it really does make him seem weak.

Seriously, the president is on terrible footing here, arguing that his position on extending only part of the Bush tax cuts is really popular.  If he could have won on a matter of principle but gave in on it because he was giving in to hostage takers, it really does make him seem weak.

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LIVE BLOG: Obama the Bipartisan Guy

Obama just compared Republicans who advocated the full extension of the Bush tax cuts to hostage takers.

Obama just compared Republicans who advocated the full extension of the Bush tax cuts to hostage takers.

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LIVE BLOG: “Economic Boost”

He says “it’s an economic boost larger than most forecasters predicted.” Now cites studies saying the recovery will now go at a faster pace. That might well be true—one hopes it is—but it might have been wiser for him not to make promises on economic and job growth after the disastrous mistake of having his people promise an 8 percent unemployment rate after the stimulus.

He says “it’s an economic boost larger than most forecasters predicted.” Now cites studies saying the recovery will now go at a faster pace. That might well be true—one hopes it is—but it might have been wiser for him not to make promises on economic and job growth after the disastrous mistake of having his people promise an 8 percent unemployment rate after the stimulus.

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LIVE BLOG: “The American People Already Agree With Me”

Obama cites polls saying “the American people” want the top-level tax cuts to expire, but the problem is he can’t get what he wants through the Senate. So what he wants is popular, and what the Republicans want is unpopular, and yet he can’t win. Then he follows up with: “I thought this was a strong position for us to take into the election,” he says.

“The American people were persuaded by this,” he says. Oh, they were? I can understand, sort of, why he’s arguing this way, but it seems detached from elementary reality. If the American people were persuaded by him, why did he get the “shellacking” he did?

Obama cites polls saying “the American people” want the top-level tax cuts to expire, but the problem is he can’t get what he wants through the Senate. So what he wants is popular, and what the Republicans want is unpopular, and yet he can’t win. Then he follows up with: “I thought this was a strong position for us to take into the election,” he says.

“The American people were persuaded by this,” he says. Oh, they were? I can understand, sort of, why he’s arguing this way, but it seems detached from elementary reality. If the American people were persuaded by him, why did he get the “shellacking” he did?

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LIVE BLOG: Obama’s Opening Statement at Press Conference

–”I’m as opposed to the high-end tax cuts as I’ve been for four years,” says the president. That’s a peculiar thing to say about a policy he’s about to lobby for. He  also seems to think it will help him in 2012 to fight once again against the permanent extension of the Bush tax cuts. This is, to put it mildly, incoherent.

–Obama comes out saying he promised to make sure paychecks wouldn’t shrink on January 1st, a promise he made “as president.” In other words, it’s a promise that supersedes his promise to allow the Bush tax cuts to expire.

–”I’m as opposed to the high-end tax cuts as I’ve been for four years,” says the president. That’s a peculiar thing to say about a policy he’s about to lobby for. He  also seems to think it will help him in 2012 to fight once again against the permanent extension of the Bush tax cuts. This is, to put it mildly, incoherent.

–Obama comes out saying he promised to make sure paychecks wouldn’t shrink on January 1st, a promise he made “as president.” In other words, it’s a promise that supersedes his promise to allow the Bush tax cuts to expire.

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Pass the Dream Act

Michael Gerson makes a terrific case for why Republicans should sign on to the Dream Act in the waning days of this Congress. But, of course, most Republicans don’t want to go anywhere near the legislation for fear of being accused of providing amnesty to illegal aliens. In fact, most of what has been called amnesty over the past several years — including proposed legislation supported by the Bush administration in 2006 and 2007 — was not. The so-called amnesty plans required heavy fines for those who had entered or remained in the country illegally, along with a host of other legal hurdles that petitioners would have to jump over.

But the Dream Act is amnesty — of the most worthy kind. As Gerson explains, here’s what the Dream Act does:

The legislation would create a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants brought to the United States as children. Applicants must have graduated from high school or have gotten a GED. They would be given a conditional legal status for six years, in which they must complete two years of college or serve at least two years in the military. If they failed to meet the requirements — or committed a crime (other than a non-drug-related misdemeanor) — they would lose their legal status and could be deported. If they succeeded, they would be granted a green card and could apply for citizenship.

We have no intention of ever deporting kids who’ve grown up in the United States, played by all the rules, and want to better themselves and serve the only nation they’ve ever known — sending them to countries they don’t remember and whose language they may not even speak. So why not quit playing games and pass this humane piece of legislation? The chances for passage will diminish in January as even more immigration restrictionists take their seats — Republicans ought to welcome this opportunity to get it done now when they don’t have to take all the blame. It won’t be popular with some on the right — but it’s the right thing to do.

Michael Gerson makes a terrific case for why Republicans should sign on to the Dream Act in the waning days of this Congress. But, of course, most Republicans don’t want to go anywhere near the legislation for fear of being accused of providing amnesty to illegal aliens. In fact, most of what has been called amnesty over the past several years — including proposed legislation supported by the Bush administration in 2006 and 2007 — was not. The so-called amnesty plans required heavy fines for those who had entered or remained in the country illegally, along with a host of other legal hurdles that petitioners would have to jump over.

But the Dream Act is amnesty — of the most worthy kind. As Gerson explains, here’s what the Dream Act does:

The legislation would create a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants brought to the United States as children. Applicants must have graduated from high school or have gotten a GED. They would be given a conditional legal status for six years, in which they must complete two years of college or serve at least two years in the military. If they failed to meet the requirements — or committed a crime (other than a non-drug-related misdemeanor) — they would lose their legal status and could be deported. If they succeeded, they would be granted a green card and could apply for citizenship.

We have no intention of ever deporting kids who’ve grown up in the United States, played by all the rules, and want to better themselves and serve the only nation they’ve ever known — sending them to countries they don’t remember and whose language they may not even speak. So why not quit playing games and pass this humane piece of legislation? The chances for passage will diminish in January as even more immigration restrictionists take their seats — Republicans ought to welcome this opportunity to get it done now when they don’t have to take all the blame. It won’t be popular with some on the right — but it’s the right thing to do.

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The Most Ludicrous Film Ever Made?

This is an actual motion picture. This is not a joke. This is not an SNL skit. This is an adaptation of a great American novel. It is. Really.

It is not being released in theaters. You can only watch it on DVD. Go ahead. Order it.

This is an actual motion picture. This is not a joke. This is not an SNL skit. This is an adaptation of a great American novel. It is. Really.

It is not being released in theaters. You can only watch it on DVD. Go ahead. Order it.

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The Divide Between Obama and His Base Widens

Count me among those who believe the agreement by President Obama to extend the Bush tax cuts to be a huge substantive (and political) victory for the GOP. There is, I think, one fact above all others that places things in their proper perspective: arguably the most liberal president in American history, still with huge majorities in the House and Senate, agreed to extend tax cuts that he and his party have been hammering for the better part of a decade.

The tectonic plates shifted yesterday — and they shifted as a result of the epic midterm election. After two years of activist government unseen since the middle part of the 1960s, things are going in the opposite direction.

The president knows it, and he’s clearly unhappy about it. Mr. Obama was clearly annoyed with the deal he felt forced to sign, going out of his way to express his distaste for allowing tax cuts to go to high-wage earners. And of course, there was the requisite Obama vanity and self-conceit. The lack of a deal on tax cuts would “be a chilling prospect for the American people whose taxes are currently scheduled to go up on January 1st because of arrangements that were made back in 2001 and 2003 under the Bush tax cuts,” Obama informed us. “I am not willing to let that happen. … I’m not willing to let working families across this country become collateral damage for political warfare here in Washington. And I’m not willing to let our economy slip backwards just as we’re pulling ourselves out of this devastating recession.”

Leave it to Barack the Great to once again hover high above politics as usual, the adult among the clamoring children, the voice of reason against the unruly political mob.

The president’s remarks were clearly aimed at his liberal base, which is terribly unhappy with him (see these stories here and here). In fact, according to the Hill, “House Democrats signaled Monday they will fight the tax-cut deal President Obama announced a day earlier with Republicans.” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, in a post on Twitter, made clear her unhappiness with the tax deal.

This is very dangerous territory Mr. Obama is now in. He hasn’t done nearly enough to win back the confidence of independents — but he’s done more than enough to outrage his political base. We might even have the extraordinary situation of Speaker Pelosi leading the campaign to defeat a deal blessed by the president.

Obama set astronomical expectations when he ran, and so the disappointment among his core supporters is especially acute. Some on the left are eager to distance themselves from what they perceive to be a failing presidency. And we are in the midst of the weakest recovery since the government started keeping unemployment statistics. The Obama presidency is battered and adrift right now. The man who was supposed to revivify liberalism and the Democratic Party is overseeing their partial collapse. It is an amazing thing to witness.

Count me among those who believe the agreement by President Obama to extend the Bush tax cuts to be a huge substantive (and political) victory for the GOP. There is, I think, one fact above all others that places things in their proper perspective: arguably the most liberal president in American history, still with huge majorities in the House and Senate, agreed to extend tax cuts that he and his party have been hammering for the better part of a decade.

The tectonic plates shifted yesterday — and they shifted as a result of the epic midterm election. After two years of activist government unseen since the middle part of the 1960s, things are going in the opposite direction.

The president knows it, and he’s clearly unhappy about it. Mr. Obama was clearly annoyed with the deal he felt forced to sign, going out of his way to express his distaste for allowing tax cuts to go to high-wage earners. And of course, there was the requisite Obama vanity and self-conceit. The lack of a deal on tax cuts would “be a chilling prospect for the American people whose taxes are currently scheduled to go up on January 1st because of arrangements that were made back in 2001 and 2003 under the Bush tax cuts,” Obama informed us. “I am not willing to let that happen. … I’m not willing to let working families across this country become collateral damage for political warfare here in Washington. And I’m not willing to let our economy slip backwards just as we’re pulling ourselves out of this devastating recession.”

Leave it to Barack the Great to once again hover high above politics as usual, the adult among the clamoring children, the voice of reason against the unruly political mob.

The president’s remarks were clearly aimed at his liberal base, which is terribly unhappy with him (see these stories here and here). In fact, according to the Hill, “House Democrats signaled Monday they will fight the tax-cut deal President Obama announced a day earlier with Republicans.” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, in a post on Twitter, made clear her unhappiness with the tax deal.

This is very dangerous territory Mr. Obama is now in. He hasn’t done nearly enough to win back the confidence of independents — but he’s done more than enough to outrage his political base. We might even have the extraordinary situation of Speaker Pelosi leading the campaign to defeat a deal blessed by the president.

Obama set astronomical expectations when he ran, and so the disappointment among his core supporters is especially acute. Some on the left are eager to distance themselves from what they perceive to be a failing presidency. And we are in the midst of the weakest recovery since the government started keeping unemployment statistics. The Obama presidency is battered and adrift right now. The man who was supposed to revivify liberalism and the Democratic Party is overseeing their partial collapse. It is an amazing thing to witness.

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