Commentary Magazine


Posts For: December 10, 2010

And the Washington Madness Just Got Even Crazier

In the Senate, Vermont’s Bernie Sanders was in the seventh hour of a filibuster against the tax-cut deal, showing that when you give an old Socialist Jew a microphone, you do something more dangerous than you know. Then, suddenly, as Sanders was blathering on, the president appeared in the White House briefing room with Bill Clinton.

Clinton endorsed the tax-cut deal, and began leaning into the microphone and talking. And talking. And talking. And then…the president said, and I’m not kidding, “Michelle is waiting for me,” patted Clinton on the back, and left his predecessor there at the microphone. And he is talking and talking and talking.

“I’m out of politics now,” said Bill Clinton, two minutes after saying he did 133 events for Democrats in 2010. This is a treasure trove of self-revelatory stuff, as is Sanders’s filibuster, which features him praising a book on the Senate floor by Arianna Huffington, an article in Slate…

In the Senate, Vermont’s Bernie Sanders was in the seventh hour of a filibuster against the tax-cut deal, showing that when you give an old Socialist Jew a microphone, you do something more dangerous than you know. Then, suddenly, as Sanders was blathering on, the president appeared in the White House briefing room with Bill Clinton.

Clinton endorsed the tax-cut deal, and began leaning into the microphone and talking. And talking. And talking. And then…the president said, and I’m not kidding, “Michelle is waiting for me,” patted Clinton on the back, and left his predecessor there at the microphone. And he is talking and talking and talking.

“I’m out of politics now,” said Bill Clinton, two minutes after saying he did 133 events for Democrats in 2010. This is a treasure trove of self-revelatory stuff, as is Sanders’s filibuster, which features him praising a book on the Senate floor by Arianna Huffington, an article in Slate…

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Obama’s Not-So-Very-Good Week

David Brooks is not only an outstanding columnist; he’s also a friend. And so I want to register a friendly dissent with his column today.

As Rick noted, David argues that Barack Obama ran for president as a “network liberal” — defined as  one who believes progress is achieved by leaders savvy enough to build coalitions. (Brooks contrasts this with “cluster liberals/cluster conservatives,” meaning those who believe that victory is achieved through “maximum unity” and that “partisan might” should be “bluntly applied.”) But in office, Brooks writes, “Obama, like George W. Bush before him, narrowed his networks.”

That is, I think, an unfair reading of the Bush presidency.

One of the first significant legislative undertakings of President Bush, for example, was No Child Left Behind, which was the result of substantial bipartisan cooperation. President Obama has, until now, shown no such inclination to work with Republicans. In the first term, Bush also worked with Democrats on Medicare prescription drugs. Both the Afghanistan and Iraq war resolutions had substantial to overwhelming bipartisan support; so did the Patriot Act. Even on the 2001 tax cuts, Bush worked with Democrats and took into account their input. (Then House Democratic leader Richard Gephardt said a corporate tax cut was a non-starter with his caucus; he suggested instead sending out rebate checks to low- and moderate-income households. In response Bush, against his better judgment, instructed the White House staff to replace the corporate rate cut with Gephardt’s rebates. For more, see Karl Rove’s Courage and Consequence, chapter 19.)

At comparable points in their presidency, then, George W. Bush was much more of a “network conservative” than Obama has been a “network liberal.” Read More

David Brooks is not only an outstanding columnist; he’s also a friend. And so I want to register a friendly dissent with his column today.

As Rick noted, David argues that Barack Obama ran for president as a “network liberal” — defined as  one who believes progress is achieved by leaders savvy enough to build coalitions. (Brooks contrasts this with “cluster liberals/cluster conservatives,” meaning those who believe that victory is achieved through “maximum unity” and that “partisan might” should be “bluntly applied.”) But in office, Brooks writes, “Obama, like George W. Bush before him, narrowed his networks.”

That is, I think, an unfair reading of the Bush presidency.

One of the first significant legislative undertakings of President Bush, for example, was No Child Left Behind, which was the result of substantial bipartisan cooperation. President Obama has, until now, shown no such inclination to work with Republicans. In the first term, Bush also worked with Democrats on Medicare prescription drugs. Both the Afghanistan and Iraq war resolutions had substantial to overwhelming bipartisan support; so did the Patriot Act. Even on the 2001 tax cuts, Bush worked with Democrats and took into account their input. (Then House Democratic leader Richard Gephardt said a corporate tax cut was a non-starter with his caucus; he suggested instead sending out rebate checks to low- and moderate-income households. In response Bush, against his better judgment, instructed the White House staff to replace the corporate rate cut with Gephardt’s rebates. For more, see Karl Rove’s Courage and Consequence, chapter 19.)

At comparable points in their presidency, then, George W. Bush was much more of a “network conservative” than Obama has been a “network liberal.”

Second, David — in contrasting Obama favorably this week with “cluster liberals” — writes:

Cluster liberals in the House and the commentariat are angry. They have no strategy for how Obama could have better played his weak hand — with a coming Republican majority, an expiring tax law and several Democratic senators from red states insisting on extending all the cuts. They just sense the waning of their moment and are howling in protest.

They believe nonliberals are blackmailers or hostage-takers or the concentrated repositories of human evil, so, of course, they see coalition-building as collaboration. They are also convinced that Democrats should never start a negotiation because they will always end up losing in the end. (Perhaps psychologists can explain the interesting combination: intellectual self-confidence alongside a political inferiority complex.)

Some of this analysis I agree with. I would point out, however, that (a) during his press conference, Obama was as visibly angry as many people can recall seeing him, and (b) the term “hostage takers” was used by Obama against Republicans.

Finally, I disagree with David’s verdict that Obama had “a very good week.” Brooks’s argument is that Obama has put himself in a position to govern again, and I understand and have some sympathy with the point he’s making: Obama is distancing himself from his liberal base and, in so doing, embracing a policy that is both fairly popular and wise.

What’s going to damage Obama, though, is the manner in which the distancing was done. The president’s base is enraged at him; what we’re seeing looks very much like a political revolt within his own ranks. It’s stating the obvious to say that having members of your own congressional caucus cursing at you is not a very good thing. And as President George H.W. Bush found out with his violation of his “no new taxes” pledge, creating fury within your base in order to tack to the center can hurt one rather than help one.

Nor is it clear yet that Nancy Pelosi will even bring the legislation Obama has blessed to the floor for a vote without changes. I assume she will — but if the speaker decides not to, and if as a result Obama fails to get this deal signed into law, it will be a terrifically damaging blow to his prestige and his presidency. And even if Obama does succeed, he has created enormous unhappiness and mistrust among his base. This won’t be forgotten any time soon. Presidents, while needing to distance themselves from their base at times, don’t usually succeed when they are at war with it.

Democratic tempers will cool over time; new political battles will reconnect Obama to his party. And the key variable remains the economy. If in 2012 unemployment is going down, if the economy is growing at a brisk pace, and if people are confident about the trajectory the country is on, Obama will be in good shape with both his base and with independents. For now, though, the president is in a precarious position, having (for the moment at least) lost his base without having won over the rest of the country. It may be that the former is necessary to achieve the latter — but the way these things are done matters quite a lot. And this has been ugly all the way around.

If David Brooks is right and this week signaled the beginning of a fundamental change in Obama’s governing philosophy, then the president has helped himself. If, on the other hand, what Obama did this week was simply an anomaly, a tactical shift without a fundamental rethinking, then he has complicated his life and damaged his presidency.

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Obama Congratulates China on Human Rights

Did Barack Obama flaunt the famous presidential ego again? Some are criticizing the opening of his written statement congratulating jailed Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo on winning the Nobel Peace Prize. Obama begins by saying, “One year ago, I was humbled to receive the Nobel Peace Prize — an award that speaks to our highest aspirations, and that has been claimed by giants of history and courageous advocates who have sacrificed for freedom and justice.”

Let’s be fair. Within the context of the Obama oeuvre, this line is generosity itself. He even went on to write, “Mr. Liu Xiaobo is far more deserving of this award than I was.” Offense expunged.

However, his true misstep comes later in the statement. “We respect China’s extraordinary accomplishment in lifting millions out of poverty,” Obama writes, “and believe that human rights include the dignity that comes with freedom from want.” He did go on to suggest Liu Xiaobo be released from prison (as if it were a one-off case having nothing to do with the larger question of human rights in China), but the damage was already done. There was no more conclusive way to erase the significance of the Nobel committee’s choice than for the American president to contort himself into praising the human-rights accomplishments of the regime that imprisoned the absentee winner. It’s bad enough that Obama is scared to lead the world in the promotion of human rights and liberty. It’s worse that he won’t even capitalize on decisions like the one made in Norway and take an unapologetically pro–human rights stand alongside international bodies that are willing to lead.

If he thinks playing nice with autocrats will give the U.S. leverage, he’s wrong. Perhaps he hasn’t read the leaked diplomatic cable noting that Beijing was “scared to death” that Nancy Pelosi would raise the issue of human rights during a 2009 visit to China. Therein lies the power of American ideals. Now go back and look at the twisted, content-free gibberish Obama offered as flattery for China today. Who sounds scared to death to you?

Did Barack Obama flaunt the famous presidential ego again? Some are criticizing the opening of his written statement congratulating jailed Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo on winning the Nobel Peace Prize. Obama begins by saying, “One year ago, I was humbled to receive the Nobel Peace Prize — an award that speaks to our highest aspirations, and that has been claimed by giants of history and courageous advocates who have sacrificed for freedom and justice.”

Let’s be fair. Within the context of the Obama oeuvre, this line is generosity itself. He even went on to write, “Mr. Liu Xiaobo is far more deserving of this award than I was.” Offense expunged.

However, his true misstep comes later in the statement. “We respect China’s extraordinary accomplishment in lifting millions out of poverty,” Obama writes, “and believe that human rights include the dignity that comes with freedom from want.” He did go on to suggest Liu Xiaobo be released from prison (as if it were a one-off case having nothing to do with the larger question of human rights in China), but the damage was already done. There was no more conclusive way to erase the significance of the Nobel committee’s choice than for the American president to contort himself into praising the human-rights accomplishments of the regime that imprisoned the absentee winner. It’s bad enough that Obama is scared to lead the world in the promotion of human rights and liberty. It’s worse that he won’t even capitalize on decisions like the one made in Norway and take an unapologetically pro–human rights stand alongside international bodies that are willing to lead.

If he thinks playing nice with autocrats will give the U.S. leverage, he’s wrong. Perhaps he hasn’t read the leaked diplomatic cable noting that Beijing was “scared to death” that Nancy Pelosi would raise the issue of human rights during a 2009 visit to China. Therein lies the power of American ideals. Now go back and look at the twisted, content-free gibberish Obama offered as flattery for China today. Who sounds scared to death to you?

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RE: Why Aren’t There Any Republican Scientists?

Alana’s reference to the Pew Research poll that used the membership of the American Association for the Advancement of Science as a proxy for American scientists generally, which it is not, reminds me of perhaps the most famous poll in American History, the Literary Digest poll for the presidential election of 1936.

The Literary Digest, a middlebrow magazine perhaps roughly analogous to the Atlantic or Harper’s today, polled a huge number of people — 2,500,000 all told — and came up with the prediction that Alf Landon, the Republican candidate, would decisively defeat FDR. He didn’t. In fact he won only two states and eight electoral votes, tying the lowest total of any major party candidate since modern party politics began around the time of the Civil War.

What went wrong? As with the Pew Research poll, the problem was the pool from which the sample was drawn. The Digest used its own subscription base, people with registered automobiles, and those with telephones. In the Depression, that skewed the sample way up the socioeconomic scale. (It would not be until 1946 that half of American households had a telephone.)

When the poll was first published, it had a gloss of believability about it. Republicans had done well in the Maine gubernatorial and congressional races (which were then held in September), and Maine had a reputation a being a bellwether state. “As Maine goes,” went the political proverb, “so goes the nation.”

After the election, Democrats gleefully changed  the saying to “As Maine goes, so goes Vermont.” And the Literary Digest soon folded.

Alana’s reference to the Pew Research poll that used the membership of the American Association for the Advancement of Science as a proxy for American scientists generally, which it is not, reminds me of perhaps the most famous poll in American History, the Literary Digest poll for the presidential election of 1936.

The Literary Digest, a middlebrow magazine perhaps roughly analogous to the Atlantic or Harper’s today, polled a huge number of people — 2,500,000 all told — and came up with the prediction that Alf Landon, the Republican candidate, would decisively defeat FDR. He didn’t. In fact he won only two states and eight electoral votes, tying the lowest total of any major party candidate since modern party politics began around the time of the Civil War.

What went wrong? As with the Pew Research poll, the problem was the pool from which the sample was drawn. The Digest used its own subscription base, people with registered automobiles, and those with telephones. In the Depression, that skewed the sample way up the socioeconomic scale. (It would not be until 1946 that half of American households had a telephone.)

When the poll was first published, it had a gloss of believability about it. Republicans had done well in the Maine gubernatorial and congressional races (which were then held in September), and Maine had a reputation a being a bellwether state. “As Maine goes,” went the political proverb, “so goes the nation.”

After the election, Democrats gleefully changed  the saying to “As Maine goes, so goes Vermont.” And the Literary Digest soon folded.

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Israel’s Critics Cry About Being Repressed … from Their Usual Soapbox at the New York Times

That the New York Times’s Roger Cohen has a problem with Israel is not exactly a secret. As far as he is concerned, the country’s democratically elected government and the people who elected it don’t measure up to his moral standards. Moreover, he and those who share his views, like writer Peter Beinart, think that any Jewish or non-Jewish friends of Israel who prefer to focus their efforts on continuing to defend Israel against an Arab/Muslim siege and anti-Zionist campaigners who seek to isolate it rather than spend their time flaying it for perceived sins are also not living up to the standards they are setting for them.

Today Cohen weighs in again to tell the sad tale of a liberal American who went to Israel to work for left-wing causes there and claims to have gotten into a scuffle with right-wingers after a demonstration in Tel Aviv during which he and his friends waved signs that said “Zionists Are Not Settlers.” Politics in Israel can be a bit rougher than what we’re used to here in America, but there’s no excuse for violence. It would have been far better for his antagonists to merely point out that Zionists have always been “settlers,” since there would be no state of Israel had not some Jews had the chutzpah to jump-start the rebirth of Jewish life in the Jewish homeland by planting roots in places where Arabs didn’t want them to be. Like, for example, the metropolis of Tel Aviv, where the demonstration took place, which a century ago was nothing but a small annoying Jewish settlement on the outskirts of Arab Jaffa.

But Cohen isn’t content to merely blackguard Israelis or their supporters. In order to put forward his argument in a way in which those who agree with him can be portrayed as victims rather than judgmental critics who don’t understand Israel’s dilemma, he has to claim that their views are being suppressed. Thus, it isn’t enough for him to promote the views of the left-wing lobby J Street or to echo the arguments of Beinart about Israel’s moral failures; he must also claim that the “debate remains stifled.” Read More

That the New York Times’s Roger Cohen has a problem with Israel is not exactly a secret. As far as he is concerned, the country’s democratically elected government and the people who elected it don’t measure up to his moral standards. Moreover, he and those who share his views, like writer Peter Beinart, think that any Jewish or non-Jewish friends of Israel who prefer to focus their efforts on continuing to defend Israel against an Arab/Muslim siege and anti-Zionist campaigners who seek to isolate it rather than spend their time flaying it for perceived sins are also not living up to the standards they are setting for them.

Today Cohen weighs in again to tell the sad tale of a liberal American who went to Israel to work for left-wing causes there and claims to have gotten into a scuffle with right-wingers after a demonstration in Tel Aviv during which he and his friends waved signs that said “Zionists Are Not Settlers.” Politics in Israel can be a bit rougher than what we’re used to here in America, but there’s no excuse for violence. It would have been far better for his antagonists to merely point out that Zionists have always been “settlers,” since there would be no state of Israel had not some Jews had the chutzpah to jump-start the rebirth of Jewish life in the Jewish homeland by planting roots in places where Arabs didn’t want them to be. Like, for example, the metropolis of Tel Aviv, where the demonstration took place, which a century ago was nothing but a small annoying Jewish settlement on the outskirts of Arab Jaffa.

But Cohen isn’t content to merely blackguard Israelis or their supporters. In order to put forward his argument in a way in which those who agree with him can be portrayed as victims rather than judgmental critics who don’t understand Israel’s dilemma, he has to claim that their views are being suppressed. Thus, it isn’t enough for him to promote the views of the left-wing lobby J Street or to echo the arguments of Beinart about Israel’s moral failures; he must also claim that the “debate remains stifled.”

What is his proof? Because left-wingers who tried to disrupt a speech being given by Israel’s prime minster were “dragged out” of the auditorium where Netanyahu was trying to speak in New Orleans. Never mind that if someone tried to do that to President Obama, he’d be arrested. What else? Because one synagogue in Massachusetts decided not to host a J Street leader. Shocking. Want more? Cohen claims that AIPAC, a vast group with across-the-board support from American Jews, won’t debate J Street, a small group largely funded by financier George Soros (though the group spent years inexplicably lying about Soros’s role in propping up this Potemkin organization) that is dedicated to supporting American pressure on Israel. Even worse, the young Jew whose story Cohen tells is getting some negative feedback from friends about his J Street activities. Isn’t that awful?

The truth is, despite promoting itself as the liberal alternative to AIPAC, a stance that ought to make it popular due to the fact that most Jews are liberals, J Street has little grassroots Jewish support. That’s because it has systematically taken stands on Israel’s right to self-defense and the nuclear threat from Iran that strike most Jews as being outside the pro-Israel consensus. But far from being silenced, J Street is the darling of a mainstream media that has consistently promoted it, especially in places where Israel’s supporters have trouble making their voices heard. Like the opinion pages of the New York Times.

But Cohen did get one thing right. He notes in passing that the administration’s latest attempt to pressure Israel failed because “President Barack Obama had virtually no domestic constituency” for his policy. This is absolutely true. The vast majority of Americans, both Jewish and non-Jewish, support the Jewish state and oppose twisting its arm in this manner. That they hold to this belief despite the constant drumbeat of attacks on Israel, such as those by Cohen, his Times colleague Nicholas Kristof, and Peter Beinart, speaks volumes about how marginal J Street still is.

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Liberals, Pragmatists, and Taxes

A week ago, David Brooks revealed a “vision” that would vindicate his belief in Barack Obama as a “pragmatist”: a State of the Union address proposing comprehensive tax reform to “lower rates and make the tax code fair,” eliminating loopholes and special-interest provisions. Today the lead article in the New York Times reports that Obama is “considering whether to push early next year for an overhaul of the income tax code to lower rates and raise revenues.” As Abe notes, Obama is learning economics in spite of himself.

It was not so long ago that Obama thought higher tax rates were essential for fairness — to help spread the wealth. In his 2008 colloquy with Charlie Gibson, Obama supported doubling tax rates on capital gains even if that generated less revenue — “for purposes of fairness.” A few days ago, Obama was angry about the inability to impose higher tax rates next year; he promised to try again in two years. If Brooks’s vision proves true, it will be one of the fastest transformations of a politician from doctrinaire liberal to pragmatic tax-cutter.

Two days ago, William Galston emphasized the pragmatism more directly in a New Republic post entitled “The Only Way Obama Can Win in 2012.” Galston urged Obama to move “comprehensive tax reform to the center of his agenda” with a State of the Union speech proposing a broadened tax base and reduced rates, making the system simpler and fairer. In his column today, Brooks has a new label for Obama: “network liberal” — a liberal willing to network with non-liberals to do things such as this week’s tax deal. Brooks urges Obama to bring a “networking style” to reforming the tax code.

There is a great networking opportunity right in front of Obama: Mike Pence’s flat tax proposal. It is a progressive tax with a large standard deduction and dependent exemptions for low- and middle-income taxpayers: after that, “the more money you make, the more you pay.” The tax would be “fair, simple and effective;” and you could tweet tax returns.

Perhaps a pragmatist is simply a liberal who has been shellacked by reality and wants to network. We’ll see.

A week ago, David Brooks revealed a “vision” that would vindicate his belief in Barack Obama as a “pragmatist”: a State of the Union address proposing comprehensive tax reform to “lower rates and make the tax code fair,” eliminating loopholes and special-interest provisions. Today the lead article in the New York Times reports that Obama is “considering whether to push early next year for an overhaul of the income tax code to lower rates and raise revenues.” As Abe notes, Obama is learning economics in spite of himself.

It was not so long ago that Obama thought higher tax rates were essential for fairness — to help spread the wealth. In his 2008 colloquy with Charlie Gibson, Obama supported doubling tax rates on capital gains even if that generated less revenue — “for purposes of fairness.” A few days ago, Obama was angry about the inability to impose higher tax rates next year; he promised to try again in two years. If Brooks’s vision proves true, it will be one of the fastest transformations of a politician from doctrinaire liberal to pragmatic tax-cutter.

Two days ago, William Galston emphasized the pragmatism more directly in a New Republic post entitled “The Only Way Obama Can Win in 2012.” Galston urged Obama to move “comprehensive tax reform to the center of his agenda” with a State of the Union speech proposing a broadened tax base and reduced rates, making the system simpler and fairer. In his column today, Brooks has a new label for Obama: “network liberal” — a liberal willing to network with non-liberals to do things such as this week’s tax deal. Brooks urges Obama to bring a “networking style” to reforming the tax code.

There is a great networking opportunity right in front of Obama: Mike Pence’s flat tax proposal. It is a progressive tax with a large standard deduction and dependent exemptions for low- and middle-income taxpayers: after that, “the more money you make, the more you pay.” The tax would be “fair, simple and effective;” and you could tweet tax returns.

Perhaps a pragmatist is simply a liberal who has been shellacked by reality and wants to network. We’ll see.

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Obama Understands Economics in Spite of Himself

It turns out that Barack Obama understands the economic good sense of the so-called “tax cuts for the rich.” How do we know this? From reading the following in today’s New York Times: “President Obama is considering whether to push early next year for an overhaul of the income tax code to lower rates and raise revenues in what would be his first major effort to begin addressing the long-term growth of the national debt.” Did you catch that? “[T]o lower rates and raise revenues.” It is the reality of that negative correlation — and not a desire to comfort the rich at the expense of the poor — that lies behind the proposal to keep the Bush tax cuts in place on higher incomes. Lowering tax rates does not mean lowering tax revenues.

Many conservatives understand that by lowering tax rates on the rich, you can raise tax revenues, because this makes people with higher incomes more likely to invest capital in taxable ventures. In fact, this happened under Coolidge, Kennedy, Reagan, and George W. Bush. What’s news is that Obama is, at least in principle, aware of it.

However, as evidenced by his reluctance to let this happen among those earning $1 million or more a year — where it would do the most to pay off the debt and stimulate the economy — he seems to think the fundamental rules of economics change when applied to rich people. At that point, something called “fairness” kicks in, like quantum physics, to change the understood workings of the universe. “Republicans are going to have to explain to the American people over the next two years how making those tax cuts for the high end permanent squares with their stated desire to start reducing deficits and debt,” he said. To paraphrase a great campaigner, his own explanation is the one he’s been waiting for.

It turns out that Barack Obama understands the economic good sense of the so-called “tax cuts for the rich.” How do we know this? From reading the following in today’s New York Times: “President Obama is considering whether to push early next year for an overhaul of the income tax code to lower rates and raise revenues in what would be his first major effort to begin addressing the long-term growth of the national debt.” Did you catch that? “[T]o lower rates and raise revenues.” It is the reality of that negative correlation — and not a desire to comfort the rich at the expense of the poor — that lies behind the proposal to keep the Bush tax cuts in place on higher incomes. Lowering tax rates does not mean lowering tax revenues.

Many conservatives understand that by lowering tax rates on the rich, you can raise tax revenues, because this makes people with higher incomes more likely to invest capital in taxable ventures. In fact, this happened under Coolidge, Kennedy, Reagan, and George W. Bush. What’s news is that Obama is, at least in principle, aware of it.

However, as evidenced by his reluctance to let this happen among those earning $1 million or more a year — where it would do the most to pay off the debt and stimulate the economy — he seems to think the fundamental rules of economics change when applied to rich people. At that point, something called “fairness” kicks in, like quantum physics, to change the understood workings of the universe. “Republicans are going to have to explain to the American people over the next two years how making those tax cuts for the high end permanent squares with their stated desire to start reducing deficits and debt,” he said. To paraphrase a great campaigner, his own explanation is the one he’s been waiting for.

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Morning Commentary

Liberals may still be grumbling about Obama’s tax-cut deal with Republicans, but Charles Krauthammer argues that the president actually won the face-off with the GOP: “If Obama had asked for a second stimulus directly, he would have been laughed out of town. Stimulus I was so reviled that the Democrats banished the word from their lexicon throughout the 2010 campaign. And yet, despite a very weak post-election hand, Obama got the Republicans to offer to increase spending and cut taxes by $990 billion over two years. Two-thirds of that is above and beyond extension of the Bush tax cuts but includes such urgent national necessities as windmill subsidies.”

As China escalates its crackdown on the media in preparation for the Nobel Peace Prize ceremony for jailed Chinese activist Liu Xiaobo today, Obama has issued a statement (as Pete noted here) urging China to release the laureate: “One year ago, I was humbled to receive the Nobel Peace Prize — an award that speaks to our highest aspirations, and that has been claimed by giants of history and courageous advocates who have sacrificed for freedom and justice. Mr. Liu Xiaobo is far more deserving of this award than I was.”

Furthering his image as a “James Bond villain,” Julian Assange’s WikiLeaks office is literally carved into the side of a cliff 100 feet below a Stockholm park. The New York Post has photos.

With the recent masthead change at the New Republic, Ron Radosh suggests that the magazine start embracing a less-statist approach to domestic issues.

The bill to repeal “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” didn’t make it through the Senate last night, but Politico warns not to discount the legislation just yet: “[I]n a strange twist fit for a zombie movie, proponents of dismantling the law emerged from the bewildering defeat on Capitol Hill declaring that an end to the ban on gays in uniform not only isn’t dead—but that victory may finally be within sight. While that might be a tad optimistic on their part, the fact that appeal still mustered a pulse was a testament to the persistence of repeal advocates, the political risks even some Republicans see in offending gay voters, and the unpredictability of the closing days of a lame-duck congressional session.”

Hugo Chavez’s Socialist Party is seeking to censor online media in Venezuela. A bill making its way through the parliament yesterday would ban websites that the government believes could incite “violence” against Chavez.

Liberals may still be grumbling about Obama’s tax-cut deal with Republicans, but Charles Krauthammer argues that the president actually won the face-off with the GOP: “If Obama had asked for a second stimulus directly, he would have been laughed out of town. Stimulus I was so reviled that the Democrats banished the word from their lexicon throughout the 2010 campaign. And yet, despite a very weak post-election hand, Obama got the Republicans to offer to increase spending and cut taxes by $990 billion over two years. Two-thirds of that is above and beyond extension of the Bush tax cuts but includes such urgent national necessities as windmill subsidies.”

As China escalates its crackdown on the media in preparation for the Nobel Peace Prize ceremony for jailed Chinese activist Liu Xiaobo today, Obama has issued a statement (as Pete noted here) urging China to release the laureate: “One year ago, I was humbled to receive the Nobel Peace Prize — an award that speaks to our highest aspirations, and that has been claimed by giants of history and courageous advocates who have sacrificed for freedom and justice. Mr. Liu Xiaobo is far more deserving of this award than I was.”

Furthering his image as a “James Bond villain,” Julian Assange’s WikiLeaks office is literally carved into the side of a cliff 100 feet below a Stockholm park. The New York Post has photos.

With the recent masthead change at the New Republic, Ron Radosh suggests that the magazine start embracing a less-statist approach to domestic issues.

The bill to repeal “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” didn’t make it through the Senate last night, but Politico warns not to discount the legislation just yet: “[I]n a strange twist fit for a zombie movie, proponents of dismantling the law emerged from the bewildering defeat on Capitol Hill declaring that an end to the ban on gays in uniform not only isn’t dead—but that victory may finally be within sight. While that might be a tad optimistic on their part, the fact that appeal still mustered a pulse was a testament to the persistence of repeal advocates, the political risks even some Republicans see in offending gay voters, and the unpredictability of the closing days of a lame-duck congressional session.”

Hugo Chavez’s Socialist Party is seeking to censor online media in Venezuela. A bill making its way through the parliament yesterday would ban websites that the government believes could incite “violence” against Chavez.

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Vanity Flair

The Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo was rightly awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. President Obama, in his statement about the award, began this way:

One year ago, I was humbled to receive the Nobel Peace Prize — an award that speaks to our highest aspirations, and that has been claimed by giants of history and courageous advocates who have sacrificed for freedom and justice. Mr. Liu Xiaobo is far more deserving of this award than I was.

No kidding. And just in case we forgot that Obama received the Nobel Peace Prize last year, he reminds us — at the end of his three-paragraph statement — “I regret that Mr. Liu and his wife were denied the opportunity to attend the ceremony that Michelle and I attended last year.”

This statement makes one wonder if there are any limits to Mr. Obama’s narcissism. In thinking about the Obama White House, one is reminded (once again) of the words of John Bunyan’s Pilgrim, who in his dreams saw a town before him. “It bears the name of Vanity Fair, because the town where it is kept is lighter that vanity, and also because all that is sold there, or that comes there, is vanity.”

(H/T: Byron York)

The Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo was rightly awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. President Obama, in his statement about the award, began this way:

One year ago, I was humbled to receive the Nobel Peace Prize — an award that speaks to our highest aspirations, and that has been claimed by giants of history and courageous advocates who have sacrificed for freedom and justice. Mr. Liu Xiaobo is far more deserving of this award than I was.

No kidding. And just in case we forgot that Obama received the Nobel Peace Prize last year, he reminds us — at the end of his three-paragraph statement — “I regret that Mr. Liu and his wife were denied the opportunity to attend the ceremony that Michelle and I attended last year.”

This statement makes one wonder if there are any limits to Mr. Obama’s narcissism. In thinking about the Obama White House, one is reminded (once again) of the words of John Bunyan’s Pilgrim, who in his dreams saw a town before him. “It bears the name of Vanity Fair, because the town where it is kept is lighter that vanity, and also because all that is sold there, or that comes there, is vanity.”

(H/T: Byron York)

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Go Navy

Wow:

Wow:

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Why Aren’t There Any Republican Scientists? The Answer May Not Be So Complicated.

Over at Slate, Daniel Sarewitz cites a 2009 Pew Research poll that found only 6 percent of scientists are Republicans, while 55 percent are Democrats. According to Sarewitz, this poses a problem because several controversial scientific issues — such as global warming and embryonic stem cell research — are intrinsically tied to partisan policy positions.

But while Sarewitz looks into the potential political dilemmas of this trend, he doesn’t spend as much time focusing on the really interesting question: why are so few scientists Republicans?

Left-wing bloggers have come up with the predictably unconvincing responses (i.e., there are no Republicans in science because Republicans hate facts), but there may be a much more simple explanation buried in the original polling report. According to Pew, the survey’s sample of scientists was extracted entirely from the membership rolls at the American Association for the Advancement of Science:

Results for the scientist survey are based on 2,533 online interviews conducted from May 1 to June 14, 2009 with members of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), under the direction of Princeton Survey Research Associates International. A sample of 9,998 members was drawn from the AAAS membership list excluding those who were not based in the United States or whose membership type identified them as primary or secondary-level educators.

And the society didn’t just provide Pew with its membership list. “[AAAS Director] Waylon Butler and his colleagues as AAAS were instrumental at constructing the sample of scientists and managing the recruitments of participants for the scientist survey,” says the Pew report.

This is important, because the AAAS is (as its name suggests) a political advocacy group. And, according to its website, the top issues it advocates for are climate change legislation, increased funding for the National Science Foundation, stem cell research, and green energy initiatives. Obviously, these aren’t the types of efforts that Republicans tend to support. It’s not hard to see why GOPers wouldn’t want to shell out the $146 membership fee to join an organization whose main mission is to advocate for issues they personally oppose.

So it makes sense that the Pew poll may be skewed in favor of liberal Democrats. But the question of where most scientists stand on the political spectrum is still worth looking into, and I’m curious to see what a broader study might show.

Over at Slate, Daniel Sarewitz cites a 2009 Pew Research poll that found only 6 percent of scientists are Republicans, while 55 percent are Democrats. According to Sarewitz, this poses a problem because several controversial scientific issues — such as global warming and embryonic stem cell research — are intrinsically tied to partisan policy positions.

But while Sarewitz looks into the potential political dilemmas of this trend, he doesn’t spend as much time focusing on the really interesting question: why are so few scientists Republicans?

Left-wing bloggers have come up with the predictably unconvincing responses (i.e., there are no Republicans in science because Republicans hate facts), but there may be a much more simple explanation buried in the original polling report. According to Pew, the survey’s sample of scientists was extracted entirely from the membership rolls at the American Association for the Advancement of Science:

Results for the scientist survey are based on 2,533 online interviews conducted from May 1 to June 14, 2009 with members of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), under the direction of Princeton Survey Research Associates International. A sample of 9,998 members was drawn from the AAAS membership list excluding those who were not based in the United States or whose membership type identified them as primary or secondary-level educators.

And the society didn’t just provide Pew with its membership list. “[AAAS Director] Waylon Butler and his colleagues as AAAS were instrumental at constructing the sample of scientists and managing the recruitments of participants for the scientist survey,” says the Pew report.

This is important, because the AAAS is (as its name suggests) a political advocacy group. And, according to its website, the top issues it advocates for are climate change legislation, increased funding for the National Science Foundation, stem cell research, and green energy initiatives. Obviously, these aren’t the types of efforts that Republicans tend to support. It’s not hard to see why GOPers wouldn’t want to shell out the $146 membership fee to join an organization whose main mission is to advocate for issues they personally oppose.

So it makes sense that the Pew poll may be skewed in favor of liberal Democrats. But the question of where most scientists stand on the political spectrum is still worth looking into, and I’m curious to see what a broader study might show.

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Six of One, Half a Dozen of the Other

People will enjoy this clip, an exchange between CBS’s Late Late Show host Craig Ferguson and liberal journalist Richard Wolffe.

After listening to Wolffe’s political analysis, Ferguson says, “You’re a Democrat, aren’t you?” Wolffe counters by saying, “I am a journalist.” To which Ferguson replies, “A journalist? Much the same thing, isn’t it?”

Mr. Wolffe has nothing to say in response, since he can’t deny his blindingly obvious political or partisan leanings.

Game, set, and match to Mr. Ferguson.

People will enjoy this clip, an exchange between CBS’s Late Late Show host Craig Ferguson and liberal journalist Richard Wolffe.

After listening to Wolffe’s political analysis, Ferguson says, “You’re a Democrat, aren’t you?” Wolffe counters by saying, “I am a journalist.” To which Ferguson replies, “A journalist? Much the same thing, isn’t it?”

Mr. Wolffe has nothing to say in response, since he can’t deny his blindingly obvious political or partisan leanings.

Game, set, and match to Mr. Ferguson.

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