Commentary Magazine


Posts For: April 21, 2011

Big Labor Plans Nationwide Protest for 2012

Considering the fact that its strategy didn’t end well in Wisconsin, the labor movement’s plan to stage nationwide protests leading up to the 2012 elections sounds like a gift for Republicans. Politico reports that instead of focusing on Obama’s presidential campaign—as labor did in 2008—the SEIU will devote much of its energy toward building a “grass-roots movement of public protest and organization similar to the massive show of pro-labor support that overran Madison, Wis. last month”:

The new plan, revealed in a planning document reviewed by POLITICO and in the subsequent interview with Henry, reflects the widening recognition by labor leaders that the shrinking national ranks of union members no longer carry the political heft they once did. The draft plan, titled “Fight for a Fair Economy” in what Henry said was a preliminary planning document, would reach outside union ranks to focus on “mobilizing underpaid, underemployed and unemployed workers” and “channeling anger about jobs into action for positive change.”

The Obama administration believes it can count on labor’s money and support without having to give much in return, and unions are tired of being taken for granted. So instead of focusing on lobbying and electing lawmakers, as the SEIU did in the lead-up to 2008, the organization is now trying to gather public support for its policy ideas.

The proposal could mean more bad news for Obama, who’s trying to position himself as a centrist to win over independents. The SEIU says it will be  “mobilizing underpaid, underemployed and unemployed workers” and “channeling anger about jobs into action for positive change.” In other words, the union will probably be rallying low-income, urban voters to support class warfare and anti-capitalist policies. Obama needs the support of these communities for his reelection bid, so it sounds like this plan could end up pulling him to the left.

Considering the fact that its strategy didn’t end well in Wisconsin, the labor movement’s plan to stage nationwide protests leading up to the 2012 elections sounds like a gift for Republicans. Politico reports that instead of focusing on Obama’s presidential campaign—as labor did in 2008—the SEIU will devote much of its energy toward building a “grass-roots movement of public protest and organization similar to the massive show of pro-labor support that overran Madison, Wis. last month”:

The new plan, revealed in a planning document reviewed by POLITICO and in the subsequent interview with Henry, reflects the widening recognition by labor leaders that the shrinking national ranks of union members no longer carry the political heft they once did. The draft plan, titled “Fight for a Fair Economy” in what Henry said was a preliminary planning document, would reach outside union ranks to focus on “mobilizing underpaid, underemployed and unemployed workers” and “channeling anger about jobs into action for positive change.”

The Obama administration believes it can count on labor’s money and support without having to give much in return, and unions are tired of being taken for granted. So instead of focusing on lobbying and electing lawmakers, as the SEIU did in the lead-up to 2008, the organization is now trying to gather public support for its policy ideas.

The proposal could mean more bad news for Obama, who’s trying to position himself as a centrist to win over independents. The SEIU says it will be  “mobilizing underpaid, underemployed and unemployed workers” and “channeling anger about jobs into action for positive change.” In other words, the union will probably be rallying low-income, urban voters to support class warfare and anti-capitalist policies. Obama needs the support of these communities for his reelection bid, so it sounds like this plan could end up pulling him to the left.

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Obama’s Bipolar Strategy

The outlines of President Obama’s political strategy are clear—to unleash, virtually on a daily basis, a series of dishonest and libelous attacks on Republicans while also coming across as likable, reasonable, a man who hovers above the political mud, a president ever in search of common ground.

Obama’s budget speech last week contained both elements. On the one hand, he portrayed the GOP vision as Hobbesian—crumbling roads and collapsing bridges, the elderly and children with autism and Down’s Syndrome left to fend for themselves. Having leveled those charges, Obama spoke at the end of his speech about the need to “come together,” insisting that we need to “bridge our differences” and “find common ground.”

As a political approach, this qualifies as bipolar. Obama’s slashing rhetoric is at war with his post-partisan, conciliatory, and civil image. The two are irreconcilable. And because they are, the two-direction course that Obama is pursuing can only reveal his extraordinary fraudulence. Obama has been president since January 2009; he has proven himself to be at his core prickly, arrogant, ideological, and prone to thuggish tactics. It isn’t pretty and it isn’t impressive—and for the sake of our politics, one can only hope it isn’t the path to reelection.

The outlines of President Obama’s political strategy are clear—to unleash, virtually on a daily basis, a series of dishonest and libelous attacks on Republicans while also coming across as likable, reasonable, a man who hovers above the political mud, a president ever in search of common ground.

Obama’s budget speech last week contained both elements. On the one hand, he portrayed the GOP vision as Hobbesian—crumbling roads and collapsing bridges, the elderly and children with autism and Down’s Syndrome left to fend for themselves. Having leveled those charges, Obama spoke at the end of his speech about the need to “come together,” insisting that we need to “bridge our differences” and “find common ground.”

As a political approach, this qualifies as bipolar. Obama’s slashing rhetoric is at war with his post-partisan, conciliatory, and civil image. The two are irreconcilable. And because they are, the two-direction course that Obama is pursuing can only reveal his extraordinary fraudulence. Obama has been president since January 2009; he has proven himself to be at his core prickly, arrogant, ideological, and prone to thuggish tactics. It isn’t pretty and it isn’t impressive—and for the sake of our politics, one can only hope it isn’t the path to reelection.

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The Spendathon Talkathon

At a town-hall meeting at Facebook headquarters, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg asks Barack Obama to name the areas in which he is willing to cut spending in order to bring down debt.

During Obama’s uninterrupted eight-plus-minute In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida of an answer he specifies precisely one thing he’s ready to cut: You guessed it – the Pentagon budget.

With that out of the way, he’s off to the races on taxing the rich and enumerating the many things he plans to spend on: health-care schemes, sci-fi travel and energy, and expanding the social safety net.

When the litany of dreams and delusions winds down, the hall falls completely silent. “I didn’t mean to cut off the applause,” says Zuckerberg, in fact cutting off the absence of applause, “It’s a very thorough answer.”

At a town-hall meeting at Facebook headquarters, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg asks Barack Obama to name the areas in which he is willing to cut spending in order to bring down debt.

During Obama’s uninterrupted eight-plus-minute In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida of an answer he specifies precisely one thing he’s ready to cut: You guessed it – the Pentagon budget.

With that out of the way, he’s off to the races on taxing the rich and enumerating the many things he plans to spend on: health-care schemes, sci-fi travel and energy, and expanding the social safety net.

When the litany of dreams and delusions winds down, the hall falls completely silent. “I didn’t mean to cut off the applause,” says Zuckerberg, in fact cutting off the absence of applause, “It’s a very thorough answer.”

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Standing Firm on Spending Cuts, Budget Reforms

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor warned Democrats that the GOP “will not grant their request for a debt limit increase” without major spending cuts or budget process reforms.

This strikes me as a wise strategy. Republicans are in a stronger position to get their way in the debt-limit debate than they were in government shutdown showdown. For one thing, a government shutdown would not be not nearly as damaging to the nation as the effects of not raising the debt ceiling. The president knows this; he cannot, and he will not, allow the country to default on its obligations. Doing so would imperil what Obama cares about most, his reelection. That is the central fact Republicans must bear in mind during negotiations.

In addition, much of the public is against raising the debt ceiling; if we have to do it, as we must, it certainly makes sense to link that act to major spending cuts or budget reforms. There’s an intuitive connection the public will make between Obama’s profligacy and having to raise the debt ceiling.

It doesn’t hurt, of course, that in 2006 then-Senator Obama voted against raising the debt ceiling and blamed having to do so on a failure of presidential leadership. Obama’s recent mea culpa won’t work; what he said was a matter of public record. His own credibility on this matter is badly damaged.

If one believes, as most Republicans do, that our deficit and debt are survival-level threats caused by out-of-control spending, then it makes perfect sense to use the debt-limit moment to leverage spending cuts and budget process reforms. (Insisting on a vote on a balanced budget amendment would be a mistake; it’s a symbolic vote which doesn’t have a chance of becoming law any time soon. It’s much better to force concessions that can be put into effect immediately.)

The negotiations will be tough; the attacks on the GOP will be ferocious and demagogic. No matter; Republicans should hold shape. They have the arguments on their side and a president who knows, at the end of the day, he has to raise the debt limit. And he will. But he will do so on Republican terms. Because in 2010, Republicans won.

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor warned Democrats that the GOP “will not grant their request for a debt limit increase” without major spending cuts or budget process reforms.

This strikes me as a wise strategy. Republicans are in a stronger position to get their way in the debt-limit debate than they were in government shutdown showdown. For one thing, a government shutdown would not be not nearly as damaging to the nation as the effects of not raising the debt ceiling. The president knows this; he cannot, and he will not, allow the country to default on its obligations. Doing so would imperil what Obama cares about most, his reelection. That is the central fact Republicans must bear in mind during negotiations.

In addition, much of the public is against raising the debt ceiling; if we have to do it, as we must, it certainly makes sense to link that act to major spending cuts or budget reforms. There’s an intuitive connection the public will make between Obama’s profligacy and having to raise the debt ceiling.

It doesn’t hurt, of course, that in 2006 then-Senator Obama voted against raising the debt ceiling and blamed having to do so on a failure of presidential leadership. Obama’s recent mea culpa won’t work; what he said was a matter of public record. His own credibility on this matter is badly damaged.

If one believes, as most Republicans do, that our deficit and debt are survival-level threats caused by out-of-control spending, then it makes perfect sense to use the debt-limit moment to leverage spending cuts and budget process reforms. (Insisting on a vote on a balanced budget amendment would be a mistake; it’s a symbolic vote which doesn’t have a chance of becoming law any time soon. It’s much better to force concessions that can be put into effect immediately.)

The negotiations will be tough; the attacks on the GOP will be ferocious and demagogic. No matter; Republicans should hold shape. They have the arguments on their side and a president who knows, at the end of the day, he has to raise the debt limit. And he will. But he will do so on Republican terms. Because in 2010, Republicans won.

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Obama Swings at Softballs

It was predictable that Obama wasn’t going to get grilled by anyone at his Facebook town hall meeting last night, but the degree of indulgence in the questions was plain embarrassing. Maybe the president can hold a town hall at an elementary school next time, or at a summit of Hollywood actors. They’d probably be a tougher crowd.

On the economy, Obama was asked what spending cuts his plan for the deficit might include, how he was going to balance spending cuts and the economic recovery, and whether he thought his deficit plan “demonstrated sufficient boldness.”

He was also asked how he could “assure the low to moderate homebuyers that they will have the opportunity to own their first home”; whether his administration would revisit the DREAM Act; whether he thought the education system needed an overhaul to “address the needs of modern students”; and which cost-saving health care policies he’d like to install in the future.

The only “tough” question of the night was the last one. Obama was asked, “If you had to do anything differently during your first four years, what would it be?” And as Byron York writes, the president wasn’t even able to give a straight answer.

At the Weekly Standard, Mark Hemingway wonders how long this charade can continue. “I don’t know how much longer the president can hold out on asking the tough questions,” he wrote. “One hopes that the national press corps is as embarrassed by yesterday’s puffery and rightfully frustrated by the lack of specifics in Obama’s budget plan. The president owes it to the American people to start answering the tough questions.”

No doubt about it. The problem now is getting someone close enough to him to ask the question out loud.

It was predictable that Obama wasn’t going to get grilled by anyone at his Facebook town hall meeting last night, but the degree of indulgence in the questions was plain embarrassing. Maybe the president can hold a town hall at an elementary school next time, or at a summit of Hollywood actors. They’d probably be a tougher crowd.

On the economy, Obama was asked what spending cuts his plan for the deficit might include, how he was going to balance spending cuts and the economic recovery, and whether he thought his deficit plan “demonstrated sufficient boldness.”

He was also asked how he could “assure the low to moderate homebuyers that they will have the opportunity to own their first home”; whether his administration would revisit the DREAM Act; whether he thought the education system needed an overhaul to “address the needs of modern students”; and which cost-saving health care policies he’d like to install in the future.

The only “tough” question of the night was the last one. Obama was asked, “If you had to do anything differently during your first four years, what would it be?” And as Byron York writes, the president wasn’t even able to give a straight answer.

At the Weekly Standard, Mark Hemingway wonders how long this charade can continue. “I don’t know how much longer the president can hold out on asking the tough questions,” he wrote. “One hopes that the national press corps is as embarrassed by yesterday’s puffery and rightfully frustrated by the lack of specifics in Obama’s budget plan. The president owes it to the American people to start answering the tough questions.”

No doubt about it. The problem now is getting someone close enough to him to ask the question out loud.

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Boehner and the Foreign Policy Wedge

An address to a joint session of Congress by a friendly foreign leader is a fairly common occurrence, but some liberals are treating the invitation extended by Speaker of the House John Boehner to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as a partisan intrusion into American foreign policy. That’s the spin about the proposed Netanyahu speech in today’s front-page story in the New York Times. According to the Times’s Helene Cooper, by inviting Netanyahu to speak the GOP leadership seeks to preempt the administration’s possible plans for putting forward a detailed plan to solve the decades-old Arab-Israeli conflict.

With the ongoing battles over the federal budget and debt limits, it’s not likely that Speaker Boehner is devoting that much effort to thinking about the Middle East peace process. But there is no denying that GOP leaders have no qualms about offering a national platform to a foreign leader whom President Obama has gone out of his way to insult and marginalize over the past two years. The president’s distaste for Netanyahu and less than enthusiastic support for the U.S. alliance with Israel is not exactly a state secret. But given the strong bipartisan support for Israel in the country, the speaker understands there is no downside in associating himself and his party with Netanyahu.

Republicans have been frequently accused in recent years of trying to make Israel a “wedge” issue to peel away Jewish voters from the Democrats, a charge that is repeated in the Times piece. Cooper quotes Brian Katulis of the Center for American Progress as trashing the invitation to Netanyahu as an attempt to make partisan hay, which the liberal think tank thinks is actually “bad for Israel.” But the assertion that this mild interference in Obama’s efforts to outmaneuver Netanyahu is bad for the Jewish state or foolishly partisan misunderstands what is at stake.

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An address to a joint session of Congress by a friendly foreign leader is a fairly common occurrence, but some liberals are treating the invitation extended by Speaker of the House John Boehner to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as a partisan intrusion into American foreign policy. That’s the spin about the proposed Netanyahu speech in today’s front-page story in the New York Times. According to the Times’s Helene Cooper, by inviting Netanyahu to speak the GOP leadership seeks to preempt the administration’s possible plans for putting forward a detailed plan to solve the decades-old Arab-Israeli conflict.

With the ongoing battles over the federal budget and debt limits, it’s not likely that Speaker Boehner is devoting that much effort to thinking about the Middle East peace process. But there is no denying that GOP leaders have no qualms about offering a national platform to a foreign leader whom President Obama has gone out of his way to insult and marginalize over the past two years. The president’s distaste for Netanyahu and less than enthusiastic support for the U.S. alliance with Israel is not exactly a state secret. But given the strong bipartisan support for Israel in the country, the speaker understands there is no downside in associating himself and his party with Netanyahu.

Republicans have been frequently accused in recent years of trying to make Israel a “wedge” issue to peel away Jewish voters from the Democrats, a charge that is repeated in the Times piece. Cooper quotes Brian Katulis of the Center for American Progress as trashing the invitation to Netanyahu as an attempt to make partisan hay, which the liberal think tank thinks is actually “bad for Israel.” But the assertion that this mild interference in Obama’s efforts to outmaneuver Netanyahu is bad for the Jewish state or foolishly partisan misunderstands what is at stake.

If Obama intends to follow through on the threat already articulated by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to unveil his own peace plan, then he is making an appalling blunder. The failure of the peace process has nothing to do with alleged lack of Israeli concessions (which have already led to the installation of an Islamist terror regime in Gaza and an autonomous government led by Fatah in the West Bank) nor even a failure of American leadership. American presidents have been issuing Middle East peace plans for decades, and there is no reason to believe that Barack Obama can succeed in imposing his will on the region any more than Richard Nixon, Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, or Bill Clinton did.

So long as the Palestinians won’t recognize the legitimacy of a Jewish state no matter what its borders then there is nothing that the United States or Israel can do about it. Indeed, the refusal of the Palestinian Authority to return to direct negotiations, and its plan to go to the United Nations to get approval for a unilateral assertion of sovereignty over disputed territory, illustrate yet again the Palestinian disdain for a mutually-agreed upon settlement. That Obama fails to understand this basic truth makes his forthcoming foray into the peace process all the more misguided.

Obama’s mishandling of Middle East policy ranks far below Obamacare and tax-and-spending policy as Republican issues. But if the president blunders his way into another dispute with Israel, it will become a legitimate matter for public debate. Though it’s not clear that there are all that many votes up for grabs here, both Republicans and Democrats have an obligation to speak up against any Obama plan that futilely seeks to impose conditions on Israel that its democratically elected government rejects. Far from putting Obama “on the spot,” as the Times claims, what is ripening is merely the fruit of the administration’s own mistakes.

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The Stakes in Syria, and Obama’s Silence

Until now I have not been overly critical of the Obama administration’s response to the Arab Spring. Although the president has often been tardy and hesitant, he has generally done the right thing by backing the people of Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, and Yemen in their desire to be rid of hated dictators. What I find puzzling, even inexplicable, is his failure to speak out more forcefully on behalf of the Syrian people who are in open revolt against one of the most anti-American dictators in the entire region.

Bashar Assad is an integral part of the Iranian strategy to dominate the region; without Syrian help, the Iranians would be hard put to funnel support to Hezbollah, Hamas, and other terrorist groups that are much closer to Damascus than they are to Tehran. The Assad regime has even gone so far as to connive in the murder and kidnapping of Americans, from Lebanon in the 1980s to Iraq more recently.

In the case of Egypt, it is not that hard to imagine that a future government will be a lot less friendly to Western interests than Hosni Mubarak was. In the case of Syria, it’s hard to imagine that any future regime could be more hostile to the West than the Assad regime.

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Until now I have not been overly critical of the Obama administration’s response to the Arab Spring. Although the president has often been tardy and hesitant, he has generally done the right thing by backing the people of Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, and Yemen in their desire to be rid of hated dictators. What I find puzzling, even inexplicable, is his failure to speak out more forcefully on behalf of the Syrian people who are in open revolt against one of the most anti-American dictators in the entire region.

Bashar Assad is an integral part of the Iranian strategy to dominate the region; without Syrian help, the Iranians would be hard put to funnel support to Hezbollah, Hamas, and other terrorist groups that are much closer to Damascus than they are to Tehran. The Assad regime has even gone so far as to connive in the murder and kidnapping of Americans, from Lebanon in the 1980s to Iraq more recently.

In the case of Egypt, it is not that hard to imagine that a future government will be a lot less friendly to Western interests than Hosni Mubarak was. In the case of Syria, it’s hard to imagine that any future regime could be more hostile to the West than the Assad regime.

Even if some type of Muslim Brotherhood-backed regime takes over in Syria—which is a possible if not probable outcome—it would probably still be a win for the West, because it would not as easy for a Sunni leader to cooperate with Shiite Iran as it is for the Alawites now in power. (The Alawites are a Shiite sect.)

Israelis are understandably perturbed by the possibility of turmoil on their border but they should understand that what has kept Syria from openly attacking Israel since 1973 (there was also a short, sharp dust-up in 1982 which cost the Syrians a significant part of their air force and air defenses) is not any softening on the part of the Assad regime; it is sheer terror of Israeli retaliation. Even while avoiding a frontal clash with the IDF, Assad has been funneling copious quantities of aid to Hezbollah and Hamas, among other groups, which they can then use against Israel. He has also plotted to develop nuclear weapons—or at least he did until Israeli aircraft bombed his reactor in 2007.

Presumably any future Syrian regime—unless it is run by suicidal lunatics who would make Mahmoud Ahmadinejad look rational and cautious by comparison—would be equally deterred from openly attacking Israel. It is just possible, moreover, that a successor to Assad might actually be less hostile to the “Zionist entity,” or at least might put less emphasis on anti-Zionism as a cornerstone of Syrian policy, choosing to pursue domestic development instead. It is possible, too, that Assad’s successor may choose to give up Syria’s decades-old quest to dominate Lebanon (whose independence many Syrians still refuse to accept).

If this were to come to pass, there would be a huge strategic swing in the Middle East away from the radical bloc led by Iran and toward the more pro-Western side. Those are the stakes in Syria. They could not be any bigger.

Given how much the U.S. stands to benefit from Assad’s downfall, it is downright curious that President Obama has been so mealy-mouthed and hesitant in speaking and acting in favor of the demonstrators. Why isn’t he condemning the slaughter of innocent protesters more loudly? Why isn’t he orchestrating international sanctions against the Assad regime? Why isn’t he freezing the assets of Assad and his retainers and referring them for international prosecution? Why isn’t he sending non-military aid to regime opponents?

There is no need for military action but there is much more we could do at this stage to encourage the peaceful overthrow of the dictator in Damascus. That Obama isn’t doing any of it is simply a head-scratcher.

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Likable Enough?

Recently, the conventional wisdom has been that Obama’s slipping job approval rating is offset by the fact that Americans still like him on a personal level. But at the Wall Street Journal, Daniel Henninger writes that the president’s recent behavior has done a lot to undermine his likeability:

The Barack Obama we’ve been seeing lately is a different personality than the one that made a miracle run to the White House in 2008. Obama.2008 was engaging, patient, open, optimistic and a self-identified conciliator. Obama.2011 has been something else—testy, petulant, impatient, arrogant and increasingly a divider.

Henninger is referring to Obama’s recent blowup at a Dallas reporter and his overtly partisan deficit speech. This testiness isn’t exactly new. Remember that there were signs of it even during the 2008 election, when Obama kicked the Washington Times, the New York Post, and the Dallas Morning News off his campaign plane after the papers endorsed Sen. John McCain.

His irritability didn’t attract much attention at the time. But the fact that Americans are now increasingly unhappy with his job performance means that they’re more likely to notice his personal faults. We’re already beginning to see this, with ABC News reporting that the president’s personal popularity ratings are at a career low.

And while an infatuated media glossed over Obama’s petulant behavior during the 2008 campaign, we may see a very different response to his 2012 bid. One of Obama’s biggest mistakes during his time in office may be his abrasive treatment of the press. After years of getting FOIA requests stonewalled, being berated by reportedly hostile White House press officials, and dealing with an unprecedented lack of transparency, the media may not be as eager to act as Obama’s personal cheering section again.

Recently, the conventional wisdom has been that Obama’s slipping job approval rating is offset by the fact that Americans still like him on a personal level. But at the Wall Street Journal, Daniel Henninger writes that the president’s recent behavior has done a lot to undermine his likeability:

The Barack Obama we’ve been seeing lately is a different personality than the one that made a miracle run to the White House in 2008. Obama.2008 was engaging, patient, open, optimistic and a self-identified conciliator. Obama.2011 has been something else—testy, petulant, impatient, arrogant and increasingly a divider.

Henninger is referring to Obama’s recent blowup at a Dallas reporter and his overtly partisan deficit speech. This testiness isn’t exactly new. Remember that there were signs of it even during the 2008 election, when Obama kicked the Washington Times, the New York Post, and the Dallas Morning News off his campaign plane after the papers endorsed Sen. John McCain.

His irritability didn’t attract much attention at the time. But the fact that Americans are now increasingly unhappy with his job performance means that they’re more likely to notice his personal faults. We’re already beginning to see this, with ABC News reporting that the president’s personal popularity ratings are at a career low.

And while an infatuated media glossed over Obama’s petulant behavior during the 2008 campaign, we may see a very different response to his 2012 bid. One of Obama’s biggest mistakes during his time in office may be his abrasive treatment of the press. After years of getting FOIA requests stonewalled, being berated by reportedly hostile White House press officials, and dealing with an unprecedented lack of transparency, the media may not be as eager to act as Obama’s personal cheering section again.

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Jerry Brown’s Cooked Goose

In the current issue of the Claremont Review of Books, William Voegeli masterfully summarizes more than 50 years of California politics in “The Tao of Jerry”:

By 2012 Democrats will have held simultaneous majorities in both chambers for 50 of the preceding 54 years. Even as the national GOP mounted a surprising comeback in the 2010 midterm elections . . . Democrats won all eight statewide offices, held a U.S. Senate seat, and increased their majority in the state legislature.

After half a century of Democratic rule, California faces a bleak financial future:

California faces years of austerity. According to a report issued in November 2010 by the Legislative Analyst’s Office (LAO)—California’s counterpart to the Congressional Budget Office—the state’s general fund is heading for a $20 billion shortfall every year until 2016, as far ahead as LAO cares to project. Since LAO does not expect general fund revenues to exceed $100 billion until 2015, these deficits would be more than one-fifth of the state’s budget for half a decade.

The long-term deficits are structural—the result of the “blue-state model of high taxes, big government, and strong public employee unions,” combined with a “severe practical defect” that makes the model unsustainable: it is “doomed if the people who live under it, accepting or even demanding its benefits with their votes, are unwilling to pay its bills.”

The Democratic solution to the private economy’s failure to cover the cost of government is always to raise the cost of government: levy more taxes. But withdrawing more funds from the private economy to turn them over to a government that cannot produce a balanced budget, even with some of the highest tax rates in the nation, is a solution that may have run its course. The golden goose may have finally been cooked just too many times.  

In the current issue of the Claremont Review of Books, William Voegeli masterfully summarizes more than 50 years of California politics in “The Tao of Jerry”:

By 2012 Democrats will have held simultaneous majorities in both chambers for 50 of the preceding 54 years. Even as the national GOP mounted a surprising comeback in the 2010 midterm elections . . . Democrats won all eight statewide offices, held a U.S. Senate seat, and increased their majority in the state legislature.

After half a century of Democratic rule, California faces a bleak financial future:

California faces years of austerity. According to a report issued in November 2010 by the Legislative Analyst’s Office (LAO)—California’s counterpart to the Congressional Budget Office—the state’s general fund is heading for a $20 billion shortfall every year until 2016, as far ahead as LAO cares to project. Since LAO does not expect general fund revenues to exceed $100 billion until 2015, these deficits would be more than one-fifth of the state’s budget for half a decade.

The long-term deficits are structural—the result of the “blue-state model of high taxes, big government, and strong public employee unions,” combined with a “severe practical defect” that makes the model unsustainable: it is “doomed if the people who live under it, accepting or even demanding its benefits with their votes, are unwilling to pay its bills.”

The Democratic solution to the private economy’s failure to cover the cost of government is always to raise the cost of government: levy more taxes. But withdrawing more funds from the private economy to turn them over to a government that cannot produce a balanced budget, even with some of the highest tax rates in the nation, is a solution that may have run its course. The golden goose may have finally been cooked just too many times.  

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Trump Is the Charlie Sheen of Birthers

It sounds like even Donald Trump is getting tired of his “birther” routine. Today on CNN’s American Morning, the potential GOP candidate blew up when he was asked about Obama’s birth certificate.

You have to stop asking me about a birth certificate. . . . Every time I go on a show—like an example, this morning—the first question you ask me is about the birth certificate. . . . So I go on a show, I want to talk about how we’re gonna salvage ourselves from losing $300 billion this year from China. And the person always asks “Mr. Trump, let’s talk about the birth certificate.”

CNN’s Ali Velshi then pointed out that it was Trump himself who was keeping the birther issue in the spotlight. “If you don’t want it handled, let’s get it on the record right now that you believe Barack Obama was born in the United States. And I promise you, after this, nobody at CNN will ever ask you this question again,” said Velshi.

Trump responded, “I wish I could say that. I wish I could say that with certainty.”

Trump is a smart guy, and he has to realize that the birther issue is the only reason he’s getting much media attention in the first place. Does he really think CNN cares about his views on any serious subjects? Pretty clearly, they want him on the air so they can catch him saying something outlandish. It would be as if Charlie Sheen complained that he was getting asked too many questions about his personal life. What else would he expect reporters to be interested in?

It sounds like even Donald Trump is getting tired of his “birther” routine. Today on CNN’s American Morning, the potential GOP candidate blew up when he was asked about Obama’s birth certificate.

You have to stop asking me about a birth certificate. . . . Every time I go on a show—like an example, this morning—the first question you ask me is about the birth certificate. . . . So I go on a show, I want to talk about how we’re gonna salvage ourselves from losing $300 billion this year from China. And the person always asks “Mr. Trump, let’s talk about the birth certificate.”

CNN’s Ali Velshi then pointed out that it was Trump himself who was keeping the birther issue in the spotlight. “If you don’t want it handled, let’s get it on the record right now that you believe Barack Obama was born in the United States. And I promise you, after this, nobody at CNN will ever ask you this question again,” said Velshi.

Trump responded, “I wish I could say that. I wish I could say that with certainty.”

Trump is a smart guy, and he has to realize that the birther issue is the only reason he’s getting much media attention in the first place. Does he really think CNN cares about his views on any serious subjects? Pretty clearly, they want him on the air so they can catch him saying something outlandish. It would be as if Charlie Sheen complained that he was getting asked too many questions about his personal life. What else would he expect reporters to be interested in?

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Obama’s Numbers Go Down as Gas Price Goes Up

No question Obama has been suffering in the polls recently, but The Hill sums up just how dire the situation is for him. Since Obama announced his candidacy for reelection on April 4, “the president’s numbers have gone down in every poll conducted during that period,” Sam Youngman reports. “Pollsters attribute the president’s dropping poll numbers to the rise of gasoline prices, which historically have taken a toll on the popularity of the White House.”

Although a gallon of gas has gone up in price by a national average of 14 cents in just two weeks, there are broader economic concerns, as well as the apparent military stalemate in Libya, which have likely added to the widespread disapproval. And tackling these sinking poll numbers will be tough for Obama. Spending more face-time with the American people hasn’t worked—his recent speech on the deficit and town hall meetings have made that clear. Obama will also be spending more time at fundraising events with wealthy donors as his reelection campaign gets underway, something that could make him appear out of touch with the growing concerns of the American people.

No question Obama has been suffering in the polls recently, but The Hill sums up just how dire the situation is for him. Since Obama announced his candidacy for reelection on April 4, “the president’s numbers have gone down in every poll conducted during that period,” Sam Youngman reports. “Pollsters attribute the president’s dropping poll numbers to the rise of gasoline prices, which historically have taken a toll on the popularity of the White House.”

Although a gallon of gas has gone up in price by a national average of 14 cents in just two weeks, there are broader economic concerns, as well as the apparent military stalemate in Libya, which have likely added to the widespread disapproval. And tackling these sinking poll numbers will be tough for Obama. Spending more face-time with the American people hasn’t worked—his recent speech on the deficit and town hall meetings have made that clear. Obama will also be spending more time at fundraising events with wealthy donors as his reelection campaign gets underway, something that could make him appear out of touch with the growing concerns of the American people.

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Where Daniels Stands, Not Where His Grandparents Came From

Political observers have been trying to figure out whether Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels wants to run for president. It may be months or longer before this question is answered. In the meantime, it’s just as important to figure out whether he is up to the task.

On economic issues, Daniels seems like the perfect candidate. He is a successful GOP governor who has made fiscal sanity his personal crusade. But like it or not, foreign policy will always be a president’s main responsibility. And on that score, Daniels has been something of a blank slate.

Thus the news that Daniels is accepting an award from the Arab American Institute (AAI) is more than a little curious. The AAI is a left-leaning organization founded by onetime Democratic Party activist James Zogby. Although it is far more respectable than terrorist front groups like the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR), it has also been among the most consistent voices downplaying the threat from Islamist terror and opposing American efforts to fight back against Islamist enemies of freedom. And needless to say, like Zogby, it is no friend to the State of Israel.

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Political observers have been trying to figure out whether Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels wants to run for president. It may be months or longer before this question is answered. In the meantime, it’s just as important to figure out whether he is up to the task.

On economic issues, Daniels seems like the perfect candidate. He is a successful GOP governor who has made fiscal sanity his personal crusade. But like it or not, foreign policy will always be a president’s main responsibility. And on that score, Daniels has been something of a blank slate.

Thus the news that Daniels is accepting an award from the Arab American Institute (AAI) is more than a little curious. The AAI is a left-leaning organization founded by onetime Democratic Party activist James Zogby. Although it is far more respectable than terrorist front groups like the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR), it has also been among the most consistent voices downplaying the threat from Islamist terror and opposing American efforts to fight back against Islamist enemies of freedom. And needless to say, like Zogby, it is no friend to the State of Israel.

Daniels’s acceptance of this award has caused lefty bloggers to crow that it will doom his prospective candidacy. At TPM, Benjy Sarlin points out that Daniels is being singled out at time when “some GOP presidential contenders ratchet up their anti-Muslim rhetoric to toxic levels. . . .” His proposed “truce” on divisive social issues appealed to the AAI, which compared Daniels favorably to Newt Gingrich and Sarah Palin. Besides, the group was impressed by the heretofore little known fact that the governor is the grandson of Syrian immigrants. Bigots on the right will never stand for that, Alex Pareene suggests at Salon. “[D]oes anyone think they’d support a candidate who is actually Arab?” he chortles.

But these insinuations are beside the point. Nobody, especially not neoconservatives who have been loudly championing the cause of freedom in the Arab world, has anything against Daniels’s heritage. Nor, despite the fervent efforts of some to promote the myth that there has been a post 9-11 backlash against Muslims in this country, do many other Americans care about his origins. What voters do have a right to ask is whether the governor shares the foreign policy views of the group that is honoring him.

The AAI is a group that is hostile to Israel as well as to efforts to fight Islamism. Representative Nick Rahall, Democrat of West Virginia and one of the most virulent opponents of Israel in Congress, is a previous winner of the award. Moreover, in a statement posted on the group’s website, spokesman Omar Tewfik, compared Daniels to other potential GOP candidates:

Gov. Daniels piques our interest not only because he is Arab American. . . . He has insisted that other issues not become a distraction and has not pandered to the anti-Muslim, anti-Arab sentiments expressed by many other potential GOP presidential candidates.

You don’t need a translator to understand this statement. The AAI hopes that Daniels is someone who will be less zealous in opposing Arab extremism and in supporting Israel. Perhaps the group is unaware that Daniels is outspoken in his defense of the Jewish State, as he emphasized in accepting the Anti-Defamation’s League “Man of Achievement Award” in November 2009. But since the governor hasn’t yet sought to distance himself from the AAI or the notion that his fellow Republicans are all anti-Arab bigots, he leaves the impression that Omar Tewfik might actually be right about him.

The bottom line here isn’t prejudice but policy. If Mitch Daniels thinks he can be elected president while letting left-wing Arab propagandists like Zogby and his crew define his views, he’s kidding himself. What Zogby and other Israel-bashers always forget is that support for the Jewish state is wide and deep. Candidates that place themselves outside this broad consensus haven’t a prayer.

If Daniels is going to run, he needs to clarify his views on America’s place in the world and, yes, its alliance with the State of Israel. But if they turn out to be more in line with those of Zogby, Tewfik, and the wags at Salon and TPM than with his fellow Republicans, then he’d be better off staying in Indianapolis.

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It’s Obama’s Stalemate

“We rushed into this [Libya] without a plan,” David Barno, a retired Army general who once commanded U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan, told the Los Angeles Times. “Now we’re out in the middle, going in circles.”

U.S. officials concede to the Times that some of their assumptions before they intervened in the Libyan conflict may have been “faulty.” Among them was (a) the notion that air power alone would degrade Muammar Qaddafi’s military to the point where he would be forced to halt his attacks and (b) the U.S. could leave the airstrikes primarily to warplanes from Britain, France, and other European countries.

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“We rushed into this [Libya] without a plan,” David Barno, a retired Army general who once commanded U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan, told the Los Angeles Times. “Now we’re out in the middle, going in circles.”

U.S. officials concede to the Times that some of their assumptions before they intervened in the Libyan conflict may have been “faulty.” Among them was (a) the notion that air power alone would degrade Muammar Qaddafi’s military to the point where he would be forced to halt his attacks and (b) the U.S. could leave the airstrikes primarily to warplanes from Britain, France, and other European countries.

“By the U.S. taking a back-seat role, it has a psychological effect on the mission,” said Dan Fata, a former Defense Department official who was responsible for overseeing NATO issues during the George W. Bush administration. “If I’m Qaddafi, I’m thinking I can probably wait the Europeans out.”

That would be a reasonable surmise.

If the United States had acted quickly and forcefully in the early days of the uprising, it’s quite likely that Qaddafi could have been removed from power, which would have been a good thing. But President Obama delayed, sent conflicting signals and then decided to intervene only at the 11th hour. That was bad enough; that Obama did so in a way that was irresolute and radiated weakness made things worse. And now we are where we are.

Obama himself has conceded we now “have a stalemate on the ground militarily.” But the president assures us that Qaddafi is still getting squeezed in all kinds of other ways. He’s “becoming more and more isolated,” which I’m sure troubles Qaddafi to no end. “The “noose is tightening,” the president assures us (it’s been tightening for more than a month now). And Obama’s expectation is that “if we continue to apply that pressure and continue to protect civilians, which NATO is doing very capably” — a dubious claim — “then I think over the long term, Qaddafi will go and we will be successful.”

Over the long term, Qaddafi will go — because like all of us, in the long term Qaddafi will die. But whether this intervention will be deemed to be successful is another matter entirely. If we do have a satisfactory outcome in Libya — which looks increasingly unlikely at this juncture — then the credit will go to the French and the British, not to us.

Mr. Obama has mishandled this situation in almost every way imaginable — and right now, Qaddafi is humbling America and NATO, both of which look impotent. It turns out a community organizer leaves something to be desired as commander-in-chief.

Who knew?

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