Commentary Magazine


Posts For: May 11, 2011

Mitt Doubling Down on RomneyCare, Not Apologizing For It

Mitt Romney gave Republicans a sneak preview of his big Michigan health care address with an op-ed published in today’s USA Today. The piece avoids any mention of the Massachusetts plan that Romney pushed to passage while he was governor of the Bay state. Instead, it demands the repeal of Obamacare and goes on to say that health care can be made better by an approach that centers on harnessing the power of the free market, malpractice and tax code reform and giving states the flexibility to make their own choices rather than the Democrats’ “top-down approach.”

Instead of apologizing for his own version of Obamacare, as most Republicans seem to think he should do, Romney seems to be taking the position that what America needs is for the other states to emulate Massachusetts. Rather than backing away from his past, he appears to be doubling down on it.

What Romney is calling for might be a reasonable proposal but the problem is that the thing about Obamacare that most Republican primary voters disliked the most was not so much the federal concept but the whole idea of government-run health care. He may argue, with some justice, that there are great differences between his idea and the monstrosity that Obama and the Democrats rammed down the country’s throat last year. But it’s going to be a tough sell to get Republicans who see Obamacare as their main rallying cry to buy into Romney’s concept.

But even as he attempts to finesse his campaign’s biggest problem, Romney appears to be winning the money primary.  According to the Washington Post, Romney has been amassing a substantial war chest of funds principally from the financial and banking industries, dwarfing the efforts of most of his current opponents.

Money goes a long way in politics and one shouldn’t underestimate the long-term impact of having a substantial financial advantage could have on the race for the GOP nomination. But if Romney can’t sell Republicans, especially the large percentage of primary and caucus voters who abhor anything that smacks of government-run health care, on the idea that his Massachusetts plan isn’t reminiscent of Obamacare, then it won’t matter how much cash his campaign has in the bank.

Mitt Romney gave Republicans a sneak preview of his big Michigan health care address with an op-ed published in today’s USA Today. The piece avoids any mention of the Massachusetts plan that Romney pushed to passage while he was governor of the Bay state. Instead, it demands the repeal of Obamacare and goes on to say that health care can be made better by an approach that centers on harnessing the power of the free market, malpractice and tax code reform and giving states the flexibility to make their own choices rather than the Democrats’ “top-down approach.”

Instead of apologizing for his own version of Obamacare, as most Republicans seem to think he should do, Romney seems to be taking the position that what America needs is for the other states to emulate Massachusetts. Rather than backing away from his past, he appears to be doubling down on it.

What Romney is calling for might be a reasonable proposal but the problem is that the thing about Obamacare that most Republican primary voters disliked the most was not so much the federal concept but the whole idea of government-run health care. He may argue, with some justice, that there are great differences between his idea and the monstrosity that Obama and the Democrats rammed down the country’s throat last year. But it’s going to be a tough sell to get Republicans who see Obamacare as their main rallying cry to buy into Romney’s concept.

But even as he attempts to finesse his campaign’s biggest problem, Romney appears to be winning the money primary.  According to the Washington Post, Romney has been amassing a substantial war chest of funds principally from the financial and banking industries, dwarfing the efforts of most of his current opponents.

Money goes a long way in politics and one shouldn’t underestimate the long-term impact of having a substantial financial advantage could have on the race for the GOP nomination. But if Romney can’t sell Republicans, especially the large percentage of primary and caucus voters who abhor anything that smacks of government-run health care, on the idea that his Massachusetts plan isn’t reminiscent of Obamacare, then it won’t matter how much cash his campaign has in the bank.

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Palestinian Flag to Fly at CUNY Commencement

The City University of New York, which has already outraged Israel supporters with its decision to honor anti-Israel playwright Tony Kushner, will also be taking the unusual step of flying a Palestinian flag at the upcoming commencement for City College, a spokesperson for the university told me today.

“The City College flies all of the flags that are flown at the United Nations,” the Vice President for Communications Mary Lou Edmondson told me. “It has nothing to do with foreign policy.”

But there’s one problem—the United Nations doesn’t fly the Palestinian flag. It only flies the flags of its 192 member states.

Then what prompted the college’s decision? I’ve asked Edmonson to clarify her statement, and haven’t heard back yet. But it seems pretty obvious that politics did play a role. CUNY’s City College hasn’t flown the flag in previous years, and so this decision had to have been made recently. And with the Kushner debate still raging, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is a no doubt the most volatile subject on campus.

Jeffrey Wiesenfeld, who’s been at the center of the Kushner controversy, said that the flag issue seemed to point to a double-standard at the university.

“I would think if we were going to fly the flags of aspiring nations, then we should certainly those of aspiring nations that have been in the mix even longer, like Tibet, like Kurdistan,” Wiesenfeld said. “In other words, whatever the policy is, it should be based on a consistency, but not a fashion of the moment.”

One City College faculty member said it reflected a deeper problem in academia. “It seems completely inappropriate, considering that there are no other flags of non-nations,” she said. “I just personally feel very upset by it because I feel that there’s so much anti-Israel sentiment in general, and specifically on college campuses.”

Flying the Palestinian flag is not a problem in itself. But flying it alongside the flags of UN member countries, at a public university, makes a particular statement. It says that CUNY’s City College is recognizing the state of Palestine, and its quest for UN member status, regardless of the outcome of the peace process. The college is free to argue that this has “nothing to do with foreign policy,” but the reality speaks for itself.

Update: CUNY’s City College VP of communications Mary Lou Edmondson emails this response: “I regret that I misspoke about the flags flown at the United Nations. At this time, in this 10th anniversary year of 9/11, we are focused on prominently displaying ten American flags in silent commemoration of the thousands of men and women who lost their lives.”

The City University of New York, which has already outraged Israel supporters with its decision to honor anti-Israel playwright Tony Kushner, will also be taking the unusual step of flying a Palestinian flag at the upcoming commencement for City College, a spokesperson for the university told me today.

“The City College flies all of the flags that are flown at the United Nations,” the Vice President for Communications Mary Lou Edmondson told me. “It has nothing to do with foreign policy.”

But there’s one problem—the United Nations doesn’t fly the Palestinian flag. It only flies the flags of its 192 member states.

Then what prompted the college’s decision? I’ve asked Edmonson to clarify her statement, and haven’t heard back yet. But it seems pretty obvious that politics did play a role. CUNY’s City College hasn’t flown the flag in previous years, and so this decision had to have been made recently. And with the Kushner debate still raging, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is a no doubt the most volatile subject on campus.

Jeffrey Wiesenfeld, who’s been at the center of the Kushner controversy, said that the flag issue seemed to point to a double-standard at the university.

“I would think if we were going to fly the flags of aspiring nations, then we should certainly those of aspiring nations that have been in the mix even longer, like Tibet, like Kurdistan,” Wiesenfeld said. “In other words, whatever the policy is, it should be based on a consistency, but not a fashion of the moment.”

One City College faculty member said it reflected a deeper problem in academia. “It seems completely inappropriate, considering that there are no other flags of non-nations,” she said. “I just personally feel very upset by it because I feel that there’s so much anti-Israel sentiment in general, and specifically on college campuses.”

Flying the Palestinian flag is not a problem in itself. But flying it alongside the flags of UN member countries, at a public university, makes a particular statement. It says that CUNY’s City College is recognizing the state of Palestine, and its quest for UN member status, regardless of the outcome of the peace process. The college is free to argue that this has “nothing to do with foreign policy,” but the reality speaks for itself.

Update: CUNY’s City College VP of communications Mary Lou Edmondson emails this response: “I regret that I misspoke about the flags flown at the United Nations. At this time, in this 10th anniversary year of 9/11, we are focused on prominently displaying ten American flags in silent commemoration of the thousands of men and women who lost their lives.”

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How to Make Polling into a Joke

A new AP-Gfk poll has Barack Obama at 60 percent approval rating. He’s above 50 percent on his reelect numbers and also on his handling of the economy, health care, unemployment, and even Libya. And the president is almost at the 50 percent mark when it comes to the deficit.

The president’s supporters are excited. Happy days are here again!

Not so fast.

As several writers have pointed out (see Jim Geraghty here and Ed Morrissey here), the party ID breakdown is 46 percent Democrat, 29 percent Republican, and 4 percent independent—a 17-point gap for Democrats. That is more than double the percent margin Obama won by in 2008, when Obama was truly popular. This 17-point gap also comes in the aftermath of the 2010 election when Gallup found that party ID was nearly even between Democrats and Republicans. Or, in short, this poll is a complete joke.

The only thing worth noting about it is that even in a poll showing a 17-point gap in favor of Democrats, former President George W. Bush is at 50 percent approval. It’s interesting to consider where Bush would be if the AP-Gfk poll was even a half-way serious one.

A new AP-Gfk poll has Barack Obama at 60 percent approval rating. He’s above 50 percent on his reelect numbers and also on his handling of the economy, health care, unemployment, and even Libya. And the president is almost at the 50 percent mark when it comes to the deficit.

The president’s supporters are excited. Happy days are here again!

Not so fast.

As several writers have pointed out (see Jim Geraghty here and Ed Morrissey here), the party ID breakdown is 46 percent Democrat, 29 percent Republican, and 4 percent independent—a 17-point gap for Democrats. That is more than double the percent margin Obama won by in 2008, when Obama was truly popular. This 17-point gap also comes in the aftermath of the 2010 election when Gallup found that party ID was nearly even between Democrats and Republicans. Or, in short, this poll is a complete joke.

The only thing worth noting about it is that even in a poll showing a 17-point gap in favor of Democrats, former President George W. Bush is at 50 percent approval. It’s interesting to consider where Bush would be if the AP-Gfk poll was even a half-way serious one.

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Clinging to the Peace Process Religion

The Wall Street Journal editorialized yesterday on the West’s “near religious pursuit of the peace process.” At the New Republic, Martin Peretz writes that we are “now being sermonized, mostly by journalistic oracles, to believe that these last months are a Prague Spring for Muslims” (Peretz is “not a believer”). At Tablet Magazine, Lee Smith describes the “moral rot” that has been “at the core of Western thinking about the Arab-Israeli conflict” for decades.

The “peace process” has long been a faith-based enterprise. Its articles of faith include the assertion that “everyone knows” the shape of the peace agreement (although “everyone” does not include the Palestinians); the Palestinians just want a state (although they keep refusing one); turning over land will produce peace (although the last two times—in Lebanon and Gaza—it produced war); and a Palestinian state would live “side by side in peace and security” (although it will not recognize a Jewish state, nor defensible borders, nor an end-of-claims agreement).

If peace processors really had faith, they would respond to the Fatah-Hamas agreement, which promises elections “next year,” and tell Fatah and Hamas to go ahead and hold them—and see if they are actually held; see if they produce Palestinian leaders with a mandate to make the concessions necessary to create a Palestinian state; and then draw the necessary conclusions. But peace processors are understandably reluctant to propose something that would risk losing their religion.

The Wall Street Journal editorialized yesterday on the West’s “near religious pursuit of the peace process.” At the New Republic, Martin Peretz writes that we are “now being sermonized, mostly by journalistic oracles, to believe that these last months are a Prague Spring for Muslims” (Peretz is “not a believer”). At Tablet Magazine, Lee Smith describes the “moral rot” that has been “at the core of Western thinking about the Arab-Israeli conflict” for decades.

The “peace process” has long been a faith-based enterprise. Its articles of faith include the assertion that “everyone knows” the shape of the peace agreement (although “everyone” does not include the Palestinians); the Palestinians just want a state (although they keep refusing one); turning over land will produce peace (although the last two times—in Lebanon and Gaza—it produced war); and a Palestinian state would live “side by side in peace and security” (although it will not recognize a Jewish state, nor defensible borders, nor an end-of-claims agreement).

If peace processors really had faith, they would respond to the Fatah-Hamas agreement, which promises elections “next year,” and tell Fatah and Hamas to go ahead and hold them—and see if they are actually held; see if they produce Palestinian leaders with a mandate to make the concessions necessary to create a Palestinian state; and then draw the necessary conclusions. But peace processors are understandably reluctant to propose something that would risk losing their religion.

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Syrian Apologist Kerry Gives Up on Assad

Sometimes even the most hard-core believers in Arab moderation have to accept reality. Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman John Kerry spent much of the last year predicting that Syria would embrace change at home and better relations with the United States abroad, now says the love affair between him and Syrian dictator Bashar Assad is over. With hundreds of Syrians dead after a brutal government crackdown against dissidents, Kerry tells Foreign Policy:

He obviously is not a reformer now. . . . I said we have to put him to the test. I’ve always said it’s a series of tests. The chance was lost and that’s the end of it.

Just as he did with the Iraq war—he supported it before he opposed it—the senator wouldn’t admit that he had been mistaken about Assad, even though he had flatly asserted as late as March that Syria was moving toward the United States:

I didn’t hold out hope. I said there were a series of things that if he engaged in them, there was a chance he would be able to produce a different paradigm. But he didn’t.

Kerry’s prime motivation for his recent role as an Assad apologist was a belief that he could convince the Syrian to jump-start the peace process with Israel. That’s a snare that’s continued to confuse Americans who don’t understand that the Assad regime needs the conflict with Israel to justify the dictatorship.

This sorry and disingenuous act make one long for former senator Arlen Specter, Kerry’s predecessor as the Assad clan’s best friend in Washington. Specter was shameless in his showboating during his frequent trips to Damascus. But at least Specter never pretended that Assad was about to change his spots the way Kerry did.

Sometimes even the most hard-core believers in Arab moderation have to accept reality. Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman John Kerry spent much of the last year predicting that Syria would embrace change at home and better relations with the United States abroad, now says the love affair between him and Syrian dictator Bashar Assad is over. With hundreds of Syrians dead after a brutal government crackdown against dissidents, Kerry tells Foreign Policy:

He obviously is not a reformer now. . . . I said we have to put him to the test. I’ve always said it’s a series of tests. The chance was lost and that’s the end of it.

Just as he did with the Iraq war—he supported it before he opposed it—the senator wouldn’t admit that he had been mistaken about Assad, even though he had flatly asserted as late as March that Syria was moving toward the United States:

I didn’t hold out hope. I said there were a series of things that if he engaged in them, there was a chance he would be able to produce a different paradigm. But he didn’t.

Kerry’s prime motivation for his recent role as an Assad apologist was a belief that he could convince the Syrian to jump-start the peace process with Israel. That’s a snare that’s continued to confuse Americans who don’t understand that the Assad regime needs the conflict with Israel to justify the dictatorship.

This sorry and disingenuous act make one long for former senator Arlen Specter, Kerry’s predecessor as the Assad clan’s best friend in Washington. Specter was shameless in his showboating during his frequent trips to Damascus. But at least Specter never pretended that Assad was about to change his spots the way Kerry did.

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Now Is Not the Time to Let Up on Qaddafi

It seems impossible for the American public and political class to keep track of more than one conflict at once. A few weeks ago Libya was on all the front pages. Then it was knocked off by the news of Osama bin Laden’s death and the worrying state of our relations with Pakistan. I am not sure that the latest news from Libya is enough to swing back attention in that direction but it is certainly good news—the Libyan rebels have taken the airport in Misurata, the country’s third biggest city.

It is their biggest victory to date, or at least their biggest since they repelled Qaddafi’s assault on Benghazi, but the earlier success was accomplished primarily by NATO airpower. This is more of a direct victory for a ragtag rebel force that is still only two months old and still in desperate need of weapons and training. For all their shortcomings,  the rebels have not gone away and they have shown the nerve to withstand Qaddafi’s heavy firepower and even, in this instance, prevail.

Yet there is little reason to think that this victory alone will break the stalemate. To do that will probably require more outside support for the rebel forces in the form of Special Operations trainers and tactical air controllers as well as more arms. There are certainly risks to this approach—it may be possible that we could wind up inadvertently helping some Islamists, but the risk of our present course is higher still: namely, a prolonged bloody stalemate that leaves Qaddafi in power to plot further mischief.

As I have argued in the past, assistance to the insurgents should be ramped up to ensure Qaddafi’s ouster—and planning for a post-Qaddafi order should be undertaken to avoid the chaos that engulfed Iraq and Afghanistan after the overthrow of their dictators. As a first step, let’s send American A-10s and AC-130s to pulverize Qaddafi’s ground forces—and Qaddafi himself as long as they planes are flying. Toppling the dictator could easily topple the Libyan regime. This may be a distasteful step, in as far as he is head of state, but Obama and other world leaders have already demanded that he leave office. A little more might be done to back up those words.

It seems impossible for the American public and political class to keep track of more than one conflict at once. A few weeks ago Libya was on all the front pages. Then it was knocked off by the news of Osama bin Laden’s death and the worrying state of our relations with Pakistan. I am not sure that the latest news from Libya is enough to swing back attention in that direction but it is certainly good news—the Libyan rebels have taken the airport in Misurata, the country’s third biggest city.

It is their biggest victory to date, or at least their biggest since they repelled Qaddafi’s assault on Benghazi, but the earlier success was accomplished primarily by NATO airpower. This is more of a direct victory for a ragtag rebel force that is still only two months old and still in desperate need of weapons and training. For all their shortcomings,  the rebels have not gone away and they have shown the nerve to withstand Qaddafi’s heavy firepower and even, in this instance, prevail.

Yet there is little reason to think that this victory alone will break the stalemate. To do that will probably require more outside support for the rebel forces in the form of Special Operations trainers and tactical air controllers as well as more arms. There are certainly risks to this approach—it may be possible that we could wind up inadvertently helping some Islamists, but the risk of our present course is higher still: namely, a prolonged bloody stalemate that leaves Qaddafi in power to plot further mischief.

As I have argued in the past, assistance to the insurgents should be ramped up to ensure Qaddafi’s ouster—and planning for a post-Qaddafi order should be undertaken to avoid the chaos that engulfed Iraq and Afghanistan after the overthrow of their dictators. As a first step, let’s send American A-10s and AC-130s to pulverize Qaddafi’s ground forces—and Qaddafi himself as long as they planes are flying. Toppling the dictator could easily topple the Libyan regime. This may be a distasteful step, in as far as he is head of state, but Obama and other world leaders have already demanded that he leave office. A little more might be done to back up those words.

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Obama Bounce: Republicans Approved of Killing Bin Laden

The killing of Osama bin Laden gave President Obama a moderate spike in his approval ratings, but it hasn’t convinced more registered voters to support him in 2012, according to the latest Gallup poll.

Forty-three percent of registered voters said they are more likely to vote for Obama and 40 percent said they are more likely to vote for the generic Republican presidential candidate. These numbers that are comparable to previous Gallup polls from April and February.

The finding discredits the idea that bin Laden’s killing will significantly bolster Obama’s chances in 2012. But that isn’t to say that it won’t help Obama during the campaign—the death of bin Laden gives him at least one achievement to run on. Before that, he had few successes to point to during his campaign.

However, the poll does indicate one problem for Obama. The bounce in his approval ratings came mainly from Republicans, who are the most enthusiastic about bin Laden’s death but who are highly unlikely to change their votes because of it. Democrats and independents are less impressed by the achievement, according to Gallup. While 52 Republicans said killing bin Laden was “extremely important” for the country, only 42 percent of independents and 44 percent of Democrats feel the same way.

In other words, if Obama wants to run on his bin Laden success, the people that appeals to most are ones who won’t vote for him anyway. He’ll need to come up with other achievements to stump on if he wants to win over independents and disillusioned Democrats.

The killing of Osama bin Laden gave President Obama a moderate spike in his approval ratings, but it hasn’t convinced more registered voters to support him in 2012, according to the latest Gallup poll.

Forty-three percent of registered voters said they are more likely to vote for Obama and 40 percent said they are more likely to vote for the generic Republican presidential candidate. These numbers that are comparable to previous Gallup polls from April and February.

The finding discredits the idea that bin Laden’s killing will significantly bolster Obama’s chances in 2012. But that isn’t to say that it won’t help Obama during the campaign—the death of bin Laden gives him at least one achievement to run on. Before that, he had few successes to point to during his campaign.

However, the poll does indicate one problem for Obama. The bounce in his approval ratings came mainly from Republicans, who are the most enthusiastic about bin Laden’s death but who are highly unlikely to change their votes because of it. Democrats and independents are less impressed by the achievement, according to Gallup. While 52 Republicans said killing bin Laden was “extremely important” for the country, only 42 percent of independents and 44 percent of Democrats feel the same way.

In other words, if Obama wants to run on his bin Laden success, the people that appeals to most are ones who won’t vote for him anyway. He’ll need to come up with other achievements to stump on if he wants to win over independents and disillusioned Democrats.

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Obama Mideast Speech Will Do Neither the U.S. Nor Israel Any Good

In the daily White House briefing today, Press Secretary Jay Carney let drop a rather important nugget of information: President Obama is planning to make a major speech on Middle East policy “fairly soon.” Carney didn’t add any other details, but the motivation behind the announcement or the timing of an imminent Obama speech isn’t hard to figure out.

First, despite the utter incompetence displayed by the administration with regard to the Arab-Israeli conflict, Obama is feeling confident about his standing in the world following the killing of Osama bin Laden. Obama feels that the Al Qaeda leader’s demise gives him some capital in the arena of foreign policy and the president is too much the liberal to want to save it up for a rainy day. On the contrary, whatever capital he does have is burning a hole in his pocket, and it’s no surprise that he would return to the first issue he addressed after his election: Israel and the Palestinians.

Second, Obama is fearful of being outmaneuvered again by Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu. At every step of their testy relationship, Obama has sought to discomfit the Israeli, but the initiatives that were intended to destabilize Netanyahu’s Cabinet or box him into an untenable position—the fights picked by the United States on settlements and Jerusalem, for example—have only strengthened him. Scheduled to address a joint meeting of Congress later this month at the invitation of House Speaker John Boehner, Netanyahu will have the opportunity to mobilize the bipartisan coalition that supports his country. By pushing ahead with his own speech, Obama may be seeking to preempt Netanyahu by obliging him to accept or reject a plan sponsored by his country’s only ally.

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In the daily White House briefing today, Press Secretary Jay Carney let drop a rather important nugget of information: President Obama is planning to make a major speech on Middle East policy “fairly soon.” Carney didn’t add any other details, but the motivation behind the announcement or the timing of an imminent Obama speech isn’t hard to figure out.

First, despite the utter incompetence displayed by the administration with regard to the Arab-Israeli conflict, Obama is feeling confident about his standing in the world following the killing of Osama bin Laden. Obama feels that the Al Qaeda leader’s demise gives him some capital in the arena of foreign policy and the president is too much the liberal to want to save it up for a rainy day. On the contrary, whatever capital he does have is burning a hole in his pocket, and it’s no surprise that he would return to the first issue he addressed after his election: Israel and the Palestinians.

Second, Obama is fearful of being outmaneuvered again by Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu. At every step of their testy relationship, Obama has sought to discomfit the Israeli, but the initiatives that were intended to destabilize Netanyahu’s Cabinet or box him into an untenable position—the fights picked by the United States on settlements and Jerusalem, for example—have only strengthened him. Scheduled to address a joint meeting of Congress later this month at the invitation of House Speaker John Boehner, Netanyahu will have the opportunity to mobilize the bipartisan coalition that supports his country. By pushing ahead with his own speech, Obama may be seeking to preempt Netanyahu by obliging him to accept or reject a plan sponsored by his country’s only ally.

With the Palestinians’ having taken themselves out of the peace process by means of a “unity” pact between the Fatah-led Palestinian Authority and the Hamas terrorists, the notion that an American plan could break the impasse is farcical. Many presidents before him have issued peace plans but none has worked and there is no reason to think that under the current circumstances Obama will succeed.

However, Obama has always been obsessed with the idea of outreach to the Islamic world, as illustrated by his June 2009 Cairo speech and his futile effort to “engage” Iran. By staking out a position that once again distances the United States from Israel, he may be hoping to propitiate Muslims, even though it is doubtful many will care. An Obama Middle East speech will likely do nothing for peace. But it is almost certain to undermine the U.S.-Israel alliance while doing little to advance American interests in the region.

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Fantasizing about the Deaths of Presidents

Noam Chomsky may have mused about the world’s reaction if President Bush had been assassinated in the same way that Osama bin Laden was, but an article at Cageprisoners picks up where Chomsky left off. It gives a fictional account—I hesitate to use the word “satire,” though that seems to be what they were going for—of the president’s death. By itself, the article is a clumsy exercise in moral equivalence that isn’t really worth commenting on. But the website topped off the piece with an extremely graphic image of Obama shot in the head.

It probably wouldn’t shock most people that Cageprisoners is run by a former Guantanamo Bay detainee, Moazzam Begg. But it may come as a surprise that the group has routinely partnered with Amnesty International, which was so taken by Begg that that it promoted him around the UK as a human rights activist.

This seems to be more than just simple naivety of Amnesty’s part. The organization benefited significantly from its partnership with Cageprisoners, using Begg’s story as a centerpiece of its anti-Guantanamo Bay propaganda. Amnesty has disingenuously presented him as a moderate for years, and this latest incident should prompt the group to publicly clarify its views on him.

Noam Chomsky may have mused about the world’s reaction if President Bush had been assassinated in the same way that Osama bin Laden was, but an article at Cageprisoners picks up where Chomsky left off. It gives a fictional account—I hesitate to use the word “satire,” though that seems to be what they were going for—of the president’s death. By itself, the article is a clumsy exercise in moral equivalence that isn’t really worth commenting on. But the website topped off the piece with an extremely graphic image of Obama shot in the head.

It probably wouldn’t shock most people that Cageprisoners is run by a former Guantanamo Bay detainee, Moazzam Begg. But it may come as a surprise that the group has routinely partnered with Amnesty International, which was so taken by Begg that that it promoted him around the UK as a human rights activist.

This seems to be more than just simple naivety of Amnesty’s part. The organization benefited significantly from its partnership with Cageprisoners, using Begg’s story as a centerpiece of its anti-Guantanamo Bay propaganda. Amnesty has disingenuously presented him as a moderate for years, and this latest incident should prompt the group to publicly clarify its views on him.

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The Self-Destructiveness of the Purity Test

Tom Marr is a conservative radio talk show host from Baltimore. While driving yesterday I listened to Marr, who was substituting for a national talk host. In the course of the program Marr said that Governor Mitch Daniels was a “fake” conservative. (So too, he added with certainty, is Governor Chris Christie.) Marr didn’t simply disagree with Daniels; he was dripping with contempt for him. At one point Marr asked “Did Ronald Reagan ever ask for a ‘truce’ on social issues, Governor Daniels?” (I’m citing his words from memory rather than from a transcript.)

Let’s see if we can sort through some of this, starting with the comparison to Reagan, the greatest political conservative we have ever known.

As it happens, as governor Reagan signed into law (a) permissive abortion legislation (which he later regretted) and (b) the first no-fault divorce law in the nation. Daniels, on the other hand, signed into law a measure imposing some of the nation’s tightest restrictions on abortions and made Indiana the first state to cut off funding to Planned Parenthood. He has a strong pro-life record. And Daniels’s education reform package is perhaps the most conservative and comprehensive any governor has ever put forward.

My point here isn’t that Daniels is the obvious person conservatives should support for president, in the event he decides to run. He may not be. At this stage it’s impossible to know which candidates will acquit themselves well and which will not. That’s what primaries are for.

The observations I want to make are separate and apart from the merits of a Daniels candidacy, and it starts with this one. The very purity test that Marr wants to impose on Daniels would have disqualified Reagan. That fact alone should give a moment’s pause to Marr and others who think like him.

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Tom Marr is a conservative radio talk show host from Baltimore. While driving yesterday I listened to Marr, who was substituting for a national talk host. In the course of the program Marr said that Governor Mitch Daniels was a “fake” conservative. (So too, he added with certainty, is Governor Chris Christie.) Marr didn’t simply disagree with Daniels; he was dripping with contempt for him. At one point Marr asked “Did Ronald Reagan ever ask for a ‘truce’ on social issues, Governor Daniels?” (I’m citing his words from memory rather than from a transcript.)

Let’s see if we can sort through some of this, starting with the comparison to Reagan, the greatest political conservative we have ever known.

As it happens, as governor Reagan signed into law (a) permissive abortion legislation (which he later regretted) and (b) the first no-fault divorce law in the nation. Daniels, on the other hand, signed into law a measure imposing some of the nation’s tightest restrictions on abortions and made Indiana the first state to cut off funding to Planned Parenthood. He has a strong pro-life record. And Daniels’s education reform package is perhaps the most conservative and comprehensive any governor has ever put forward.

My point here isn’t that Daniels is the obvious person conservatives should support for president, in the event he decides to run. He may not be. At this stage it’s impossible to know which candidates will acquit themselves well and which will not. That’s what primaries are for.

The observations I want to make are separate and apart from the merits of a Daniels candidacy, and it starts with this one. The very purity test that Marr wants to impose on Daniels would have disqualified Reagan. That fact alone should give a moment’s pause to Marr and others who think like him.

The reality is that men and women who have faced the burdens of governing in a complicated political realm inhabited by profoundly different people of profoundly different political views—as Reagan, Daniels, and Christie have, among others—will make mistakes from time to time. Over the course of their public lives they may utter remarks that are awkward and even sound dumb upon reflection. And they will stoop to compromises that aren’t ideal, even from their own perspective.

To return to Reagan once again: he raised taxes several times as president, including what at the time was the largest tax increase in American history. Does that historical fact disqualify Reagan from being a great conservative or a great president? Of course not. His overall record on taxes was fantastic. So was his economic stewardship in general. Reagan should be taken in the totality of his acts. And so should the rest of us.

My concern is that conservatives, at least the variety that Marr represents, become increasingly anti-empirical and even anti-intellectual. In judging a candidate they subordinate, or almost entirely overlook or even misrepresent, the substantive record of public officials in favor of the style they prefer, which is fierce, confrontational, in-your-face.

That certainly isn’t the style of Daniels. Nor was it, I might add, the Reagan style. He was a passionate and articulate advocate for conservatism. His words packed a powerful wallop, particularly in his earlier days. (It’s rarely commented upon, but the Reagan who campaigned for president in 1980 was in some respects different, and I think better and more effective, than the man who campaigned for Barry Goldwater in 1964.) Yet Reagan was never belittling and belligerent. He was, in fact, a man of impressive grace and remarkably free of rancor. He combined tough-mindedness with likability. And he used to tell his aides to remember that his political opponents were not his (or their) enemies.

If some conservatives are longing for candidates to adopt the style of Donald Trump or Sarah Palin (especially the thin-skinned Palin described by John yesterday)—if they believe that is the way to win over a majority of the American people—they are free to make their case. They may be smarter about politics than I am. But it is quite a different thing to allege that Daniels is a “fake” conservative when he has amassed one of the most impressive conservative governing records in the nation.

It is an oddly self-destructive impulse for a conservative radio talk show host like Marr to seek an auto-da-fé against some of the finest conservative governors in America. If that attitude spreads far and wide—if Tom Marr’s cast of mind were ever to become commonplace—then Barack Obama will be reelected and conservatism (if not the nation) will massively contract.

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Punishing Friends for the Behavior of Enemies

We now know that segments of the Pakistani intelligence agency have likely been bamboozling the United States for years on Osama bin Laden’s whereabouts, and one impulsive response has been to demand reductions in the country’s foreign aid. Members of congress want to act, they want to act now, and what better way than by cutting off the most essential component of the Pakistani economy, American tax dollars?

But the issue isn’t that straightforward, as the Cable’s Josh Rogin reports:

As Congress contemplates cutting U.S. aid to Pakistan in light of the discovery that Osama bin Laden had been hiding there for years, the funds most at risk from disgruntled lawmakers are those currently allocated to the civilian government that is  more sympathetic to Washington, rather than the money going to the Pakistani military, which is more wary of ties to the United States.

Rogin writes that the funding most vulnerable to cuts right now is the five-year $7.5 billion economic assistance program known as the Kerry-Lugar-Berman aid package. But lawmakers are understandably hesitant to cut military aid to Pakistan, since its assistance is critical to fighting the war on terror.

To cut off military aid would create a situation in which we’re supporting the radical elements of the Pakistani military, while abandoning the part of the government that’s actually on our side. That’s not a good argument cutting military aid, which is necessary for security. If anything, the shadiness of the Pakistani military suggests that the civilian government needs more support from the U.S. Lawmakers are eager to look as if they are taking some sort of action on Pakistan, but slashing aid to the civilian government would be punishing our friends for the behavior of our enemies.

We now know that segments of the Pakistani intelligence agency have likely been bamboozling the United States for years on Osama bin Laden’s whereabouts, and one impulsive response has been to demand reductions in the country’s foreign aid. Members of congress want to act, they want to act now, and what better way than by cutting off the most essential component of the Pakistani economy, American tax dollars?

But the issue isn’t that straightforward, as the Cable’s Josh Rogin reports:

As Congress contemplates cutting U.S. aid to Pakistan in light of the discovery that Osama bin Laden had been hiding there for years, the funds most at risk from disgruntled lawmakers are those currently allocated to the civilian government that is  more sympathetic to Washington, rather than the money going to the Pakistani military, which is more wary of ties to the United States.

Rogin writes that the funding most vulnerable to cuts right now is the five-year $7.5 billion economic assistance program known as the Kerry-Lugar-Berman aid package. But lawmakers are understandably hesitant to cut military aid to Pakistan, since its assistance is critical to fighting the war on terror.

To cut off military aid would create a situation in which we’re supporting the radical elements of the Pakistani military, while abandoning the part of the government that’s actually on our side. That’s not a good argument cutting military aid, which is necessary for security. If anything, the shadiness of the Pakistani military suggests that the civilian government needs more support from the U.S. Lawmakers are eager to look as if they are taking some sort of action on Pakistan, but slashing aid to the civilian government would be punishing our friends for the behavior of our enemies.

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Common and the American Terrorists

The story that the rapper Common has been invited to the White House has become an Internet source of controversy for days now due to his praise for a cop killer who is no run-of-the-mill cop killer:

While even casual hip-hop fans wouldn’t characterize him as a controversial rapper, Common found himself under the microscope after First Lady Michelle Obama invited him to the White House for an arts event. In question: the lyrics to “A Song for Assata,” about convicted cop-killer and former Black Panther Assata Shakur….The outrage centers on “A Song for Assata” lyrics like “Your power and pride is beautiful. May God bless your soul.” Shakur, formerly known as Joanne Chesimard, was convicted for the 1973 slaying of Trooper Werner Foerster on the New Jersey Turnpike. She escaped prison in 1979, and is living in asylum in Cuba.

One of those suspected of involvement in Chesimard’s jailbreak was Susan Rosenberg, a member of the Weather Underground—the same American terrorist organization in which Barack Obama’s Chicago colleague Bill Ayers was heavily involved—and the awardee of a mystifying Bill Clinton pardon in 2001. In the May COMMENTARY, George Russell offers a remarkable and infuriating examination of Susan Rosenberg’s recent book, An American Radical, that suggests why the world needs to know why the kind of ignorant praise offered by Common for Chesimard needs to be condemned:

An American Radical…is part of a PR assembly line intended to free more of Rosenberg’s jailed terrorist peers, whom she names as political prisoners still trapped in the belly of the American beast. They include well-known poster children of political victimhood such as Leonard Pelletier, serving life for the murder of two FBI agents at Wounded Knee; Mumia al-Jamal, on death row for the 1981 murder of a Philadelphia police officer; and Weather Underground member David Gilbert, still imprisoned for his role in the Rockland County Brink’s robbery.

Please read the whole thing.

The story that the rapper Common has been invited to the White House has become an Internet source of controversy for days now due to his praise for a cop killer who is no run-of-the-mill cop killer:

While even casual hip-hop fans wouldn’t characterize him as a controversial rapper, Common found himself under the microscope after First Lady Michelle Obama invited him to the White House for an arts event. In question: the lyrics to “A Song for Assata,” about convicted cop-killer and former Black Panther Assata Shakur….The outrage centers on “A Song for Assata” lyrics like “Your power and pride is beautiful. May God bless your soul.” Shakur, formerly known as Joanne Chesimard, was convicted for the 1973 slaying of Trooper Werner Foerster on the New Jersey Turnpike. She escaped prison in 1979, and is living in asylum in Cuba.

One of those suspected of involvement in Chesimard’s jailbreak was Susan Rosenberg, a member of the Weather Underground—the same American terrorist organization in which Barack Obama’s Chicago colleague Bill Ayers was heavily involved—and the awardee of a mystifying Bill Clinton pardon in 2001. In the May COMMENTARY, George Russell offers a remarkable and infuriating examination of Susan Rosenberg’s recent book, An American Radical, that suggests why the world needs to know why the kind of ignorant praise offered by Common for Chesimard needs to be condemned:

An American Radical…is part of a PR assembly line intended to free more of Rosenberg’s jailed terrorist peers, whom she names as political prisoners still trapped in the belly of the American beast. They include well-known poster children of political victimhood such as Leonard Pelletier, serving life for the murder of two FBI agents at Wounded Knee; Mumia al-Jamal, on death row for the 1981 murder of a Philadelphia police officer; and Weather Underground member David Gilbert, still imprisoned for his role in the Rockland County Brink’s robbery.

Please read the whole thing.

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Senate Democrats Move Left on Budget

Sen. Kent Conrad has revised parts of his budget plan, in response to complaints from Senate Democrats who thought the original plan was too conservative, The Hill reported today.

We still haven’t actually had a chance to see the plan, despite efforts by Republicans to get Conrad to disclose it. But according to reports, the new budget includes a $1 tax hike for every $1 in spending cuts:

Responding to strong criticism from liberals on the Budget Committee such as Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Ben Cardin (D-Md.) and Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Conrad altered his plan over the last week by embracing the 50-50 tax increases/spending cuts approach. That’s a significant move to the left after Obama last month suggested a three-to-one ratio of spending cuts to tax increases.

Conrad was under pressure from fellow Democrats to make the changes, and he needs the votes of all of his party members on the budget committee in order to get the plan through.

And it sounds like the modifications worked.

“It’s a more progressive budget, and I think it’s a stronger budget, than a week ago,” Sen. Bernie Sanders said.

Of course, by moving left on the budget, the Democrats will probably open themselves up to more public attacks when they finally do release the plan at some point in the next week or so.

Sen. Kent Conrad has revised parts of his budget plan, in response to complaints from Senate Democrats who thought the original plan was too conservative, The Hill reported today.

We still haven’t actually had a chance to see the plan, despite efforts by Republicans to get Conrad to disclose it. But according to reports, the new budget includes a $1 tax hike for every $1 in spending cuts:

Responding to strong criticism from liberals on the Budget Committee such as Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Ben Cardin (D-Md.) and Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Conrad altered his plan over the last week by embracing the 50-50 tax increases/spending cuts approach. That’s a significant move to the left after Obama last month suggested a three-to-one ratio of spending cuts to tax increases.

Conrad was under pressure from fellow Democrats to make the changes, and he needs the votes of all of his party members on the budget committee in order to get the plan through.

And it sounds like the modifications worked.

“It’s a more progressive budget, and I think it’s a stronger budget, than a week ago,” Sen. Bernie Sanders said.

Of course, by moving left on the budget, the Democrats will probably open themselves up to more public attacks when they finally do release the plan at some point in the next week or so.

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Pressure Grows on CUNY to Remove Kushner Critic

It was inevitable that the City University of New York would reverse its decision not to grant an honorary degree to playwright and Israel foe Tony Kushner. No such institution could possibly withstand the fury of the left-wing cultural establishment in the city or the wrath of the New York Times which devoted several articles, columns and editorials to the cause of defending the writer and excoriating his critics. But it is now becoming equally clear that the forces that raged at the original decision will not be satisfied until the man who stood up against Kushner is hounded off the CUNY board.

Two days after the CUNY’s board reversed itself, a Times article has appeared to help orchestrate the protests aimed at pressuring the institution to drive financier Jeffrey S. Wiesenfeld from his position at the university. Groups purporting to represent the faculty are claiming that Wiesenfeld is improperly interfering in the university. As proof they cite not only his position on Kushner but also his criticism of an October 2001 “teach-in” about 9/11 which centered on the supposed faults of the United States as well as his concerns about including what he considered anti-Semitic passages in required readings.

Wiesenfeld is rightly standing his ground but it is becoming apparent that despite the claims that refusing to support an honorary degree to Kushner was somehow a violation of academic freedom, what is really at stake in this controversy is an effort to silence anyone who dares to stand up against attacks on Israel. Though Kushner’s highly ideological plays and other writings are deemed so sacred that any opposition to honoring him is considered beyond the pale, Wiesenfeld’s passionate advocacy is considered so odious that he must be exiled from the university.

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It was inevitable that the City University of New York would reverse its decision not to grant an honorary degree to playwright and Israel foe Tony Kushner. No such institution could possibly withstand the fury of the left-wing cultural establishment in the city or the wrath of the New York Times which devoted several articles, columns and editorials to the cause of defending the writer and excoriating his critics. But it is now becoming equally clear that the forces that raged at the original decision will not be satisfied until the man who stood up against Kushner is hounded off the CUNY board.

Two days after the CUNY’s board reversed itself, a Times article has appeared to help orchestrate the protests aimed at pressuring the institution to drive financier Jeffrey S. Wiesenfeld from his position at the university. Groups purporting to represent the faculty are claiming that Wiesenfeld is improperly interfering in the university. As proof they cite not only his position on Kushner but also his criticism of an October 2001 “teach-in” about 9/11 which centered on the supposed faults of the United States as well as his concerns about including what he considered anti-Semitic passages in required readings.

Wiesenfeld is rightly standing his ground but it is becoming apparent that despite the claims that refusing to support an honorary degree to Kushner was somehow a violation of academic freedom, what is really at stake in this controversy is an effort to silence anyone who dares to stand up against attacks on Israel. Though Kushner’s highly ideological plays and other writings are deemed so sacred that any opposition to honoring him is considered beyond the pale, Wiesenfeld’s passionate advocacy is considered so odious that he must be exiled from the university.

But though the leftist faculty may think it is in the catbird seat on this issue with the Times cheering on their effort to make Wiesenfeld a pariah, they need to be careful about getting what they asked for. If Wiesenfeld is somehow forced off the board, this may cost the university far more in potential donations from Jewish supporters than the snub to Kushner would have done.

And speaking of the faculty, Phyllis Chesler, an emerita professor of Psychology and Women’s Studies at CUNY, writes on her blog to tell us that she has discovered who it was that started this mess. It turns out that it was none other than Michael Meeropol, a visiting professor of economics at John Jay College. Along with Amy Green, who also teaches at John Jay, Meeropol formally nominated Tony Kushner for an honorary degree. Meeropol is, of course, the son of Communist spies Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, who are depicted in Kushner’s Pulitzer Prize winning play Angels in America as innocent victims. For some New York cultural figures and intellectuals, Meeropol’s advocacy for Kushner may only confirm to them the importance of honoring the playwright. But for the rest of America, this ought to illustrate the absurdity of the attacks on Wiesenfeld.

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Democrats Impede Bill to Aid Peace Corps Rape Victims

The fact that many of the young American women who have selflessly dedicated years of their lives to helping people in the Third World have been the victims of sexual violence while working for the Peace Corps has been swept under the rug by the Agency for decades. Unfortunately, efforts to help the victims are being impeded by partisan considerations in which Democrats refuse to join any effort to pressure the Corps to act.

Thanks to the House Foreign Affairs Committee, this disgraceful situation is about to become a matter of concern for Congress. Chairwoman Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen’s committee will be holding a hearing today to highlight the plight of volunteers and the awful treatment that they have received from the Peace Corps, which in the minds of some, is comparable to the brutality they suffered while being assaulted.

The issue was highlighted on an ABC’s 20/20 program in January and in a New York Times article that appeared today. The problem is not just that Peace Corps workers are subjected to violence but that the Corps has had a consistent policy of covering up these incidents in order not to scare away potential volunteers and not to ruffle feathers in the countries where these crimes occur. A “blame the victim” mentality has prevailed in the Peace Corps that left these abused Americans with no one to turn to after attacks happen.

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The fact that many of the young American women who have selflessly dedicated years of their lives to helping people in the Third World have been the victims of sexual violence while working for the Peace Corps has been swept under the rug by the Agency for decades. Unfortunately, efforts to help the victims are being impeded by partisan considerations in which Democrats refuse to join any effort to pressure the Corps to act.

Thanks to the House Foreign Affairs Committee, this disgraceful situation is about to become a matter of concern for Congress. Chairwoman Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen’s committee will be holding a hearing today to highlight the plight of volunteers and the awful treatment that they have received from the Peace Corps, which in the minds of some, is comparable to the brutality they suffered while being assaulted.

The issue was highlighted on an ABC’s 20/20 program in January and in a New York Times article that appeared today. The problem is not just that Peace Corps workers are subjected to violence but that the Corps has had a consistent policy of covering up these incidents in order not to scare away potential volunteers and not to ruffle feathers in the countries where these crimes occur. A “blame the victim” mentality has prevailed in the Peace Corps that left these abused Americans with no one to turn to after attacks happen.

Now that it is in the cross-hairs of Congress and the media, the Peace Corps is singing a different tune promising to adopt a more “victim-centered approach.” But Texas Republican Ted Poe is seeking to make this promise a requirement with a bill that would force the Corps to change the way it treats victims of sexual assault. The legislation would require the Peace Corps to develop “sexual assault response teams” to collect forensic evidence and provide emergency health care and advocacy for victims after attacks.

The bill is being co-sponsored by Massachusetts Democrat Niki Tsongas but, according to the Times, she is having trouble getting members of her own party to back it. As the Times reports:

They worry that the legislation, and Wednesday’s hearing, might be used to undermine the Peace Corps — the legacy of a Democratic president — and cut its funding.

Apparently, just as some feminist groups were prepared to give President Bill Clinton a pass on his record of sexual harassment, so now some Democrats are willing to do the same with the Peace Corps on its sorry record on rape. We’ll be waiting to see whether feminist groups who claim to speak for female victims of sexual violence will also be so awed by the memory of John F. Kennedy that they will refuse to pressure Congress to help Peace Corps volunteers who have been victimized while serving their nation abroad.

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Go West Young Congressman!

Ohio Congressman Dennis Kucinich has a problem. The 2010 census has led to congressional districts being redrawn all around the country. In Ohio that means that if Kucinich wants to return to the House of Representatives in 2013, he will probably have to battle either Rep. Betty Sutton or Rep. Marcia Sutton in a newly redrawn district. He told a Cleveland-area TV station, “I don’t have anywhere I can run in Ohio; I have to start thinking about what my options are.”

Kucinich has long been thought to be the liberal who was most likely to challenge President Obama in Democratic primaries in 2012. While that possibility cannot be altogether dismissed, I still think it highly unlikely that any politician of any stature, even a Kucinich, will have the chutzpah to run against the first African-American president. But Kucinich, whose ideological approach to politics has earned him a reputation as one of the most left-wing members of Congress, may have another idea. He may follow Horace Greely’s advice and “go West” to seek his political fortune in another state.

According to Politico, Kucinich is actively exploring the possibility of upping stakes and moving to Washington state to run for Congress there next year. The idea is not as far-fetched as it might sound. His national reputation may aid him since, unlike most members of the lower house, he is not unknown outside of his home state. And moving to a more liberal state might be the ticket to keep his career alive. Apparently he has met with the state’s county Democratic chairs to talk about the state’s redrawn districts, attended party rallies and plans a fundraiser there. While eligibility might become an issue, Kucinich might establish residency there well in advance of 2012 to make it possible to run.

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Ohio Congressman Dennis Kucinich has a problem. The 2010 census has led to congressional districts being redrawn all around the country. In Ohio that means that if Kucinich wants to return to the House of Representatives in 2013, he will probably have to battle either Rep. Betty Sutton or Rep. Marcia Sutton in a newly redrawn district. He told a Cleveland-area TV station, “I don’t have anywhere I can run in Ohio; I have to start thinking about what my options are.”

Kucinich has long been thought to be the liberal who was most likely to challenge President Obama in Democratic primaries in 2012. While that possibility cannot be altogether dismissed, I still think it highly unlikely that any politician of any stature, even a Kucinich, will have the chutzpah to run against the first African-American president. But Kucinich, whose ideological approach to politics has earned him a reputation as one of the most left-wing members of Congress, may have another idea. He may follow Horace Greely’s advice and “go West” to seek his political fortune in another state.

According to Politico, Kucinich is actively exploring the possibility of upping stakes and moving to Washington state to run for Congress there next year. The idea is not as far-fetched as it might sound. His national reputation may aid him since, unlike most members of the lower house, he is not unknown outside of his home state. And moving to a more liberal state might be the ticket to keep his career alive. Apparently he has met with the state’s county Democratic chairs to talk about the state’s redrawn districts, attended party rallies and plans a fundraiser there. While eligibility might become an issue, Kucinich might establish residency there well in advance of 2012 to make it possible to run.

Though members of Congress sometimes shift their base of operations around a region or a state as gerrymandering erases old districts, moving to a new state to run for office is generally the province of celebrities such as Hillary Clinton or Robert F. Kennedy, both of whom ran successfully for the Senate in New York despite their slim or nonexistent ties to the state. For a sitting Congressman to do so is virtually unheard of in recent history.

But such state jumping was far from unusual in the early years of the republic as the Westward expansion allowed politicians to reinvent themselves in new settings. For example, Sam Houston was governor of Tennessee before moving to Texas to become a war hero and then a lone star governor and senator. Edward Dickinson Baker was born in Britain but became an Illinois congressman (where he befriended Abraham Lincoln) and then moved to Oregon to become a United States senator before being killed in action in the Civil War.

So while Kucinich’s move would be unorthodox, it would not be unprecedented. And if he picks the right West Coast district, it might be a real possibility.

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Guess Who Said “Newt Must Run” First?

As the world awaits that legendary tweet from Newt Gingrich announcing his presidential bid in 2012—a tweet that he already superseded on Monday with a tweet about how he was going on Sean Hannity’s show to discuss his presidential bid—I was reminded of an article from back in the day. The day was November 27, 1995, and I remember the article because I commissioned it and published it in The Weekly Standard, where I was then deputy editor. It was called “Why Newt Must Run.” To give you an idea of how times have changed, its author was…Arianna Huffington.

As the world awaits that legendary tweet from Newt Gingrich announcing his presidential bid in 2012—a tweet that he already superseded on Monday with a tweet about how he was going on Sean Hannity’s show to discuss his presidential bid—I was reminded of an article from back in the day. The day was November 27, 1995, and I remember the article because I commissioned it and published it in The Weekly Standard, where I was then deputy editor. It was called “Why Newt Must Run.” To give you an idea of how times have changed, its author was…Arianna Huffington.

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More Details From Hamas About Their Two-Phase Solution

Over the weekend, Hamas leader Khaled Meshal danced around the question over what the Islamist terrorist group meant by its newly declared acceptance of a two-state solution. As Rick wrote on Monday, he told the New York Times that this mean a Palestinian state in every inch of the territories that were occupied by Jordan and Egypt from 1949 to 1967 including Jerusalem with no swaps of territories with Israel. When asked whether this would mean an end to the conflict, he replied, “I don’t want to talk about that.”

Yesterday, Mahmoud Zahar, another senior Hamas official, filled in a few more details about the Hamas “peace” plan. According to the Jerusalem Post, though the group now says it will accept the idea of two states, the Palestinians will not recognize Israel, because doing so would “cancel the right of the next generations to liberate the lands.” He also noted that recognition of Israel could lead to Palestinian refugees losing their right of return.

He also clarified that Hamas’s unity pact with Fatah does not mean an end to “resistance” against Israel though the Islamists are interested in maintaining the current cease-fire along the border with Gaza (that is only intermittently broken by terrorist missiles aimed at Israeli civilians), they want it understood that “a truce is not peace.”

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Over the weekend, Hamas leader Khaled Meshal danced around the question over what the Islamist terrorist group meant by its newly declared acceptance of a two-state solution. As Rick wrote on Monday, he told the New York Times that this mean a Palestinian state in every inch of the territories that were occupied by Jordan and Egypt from 1949 to 1967 including Jerusalem with no swaps of territories with Israel. When asked whether this would mean an end to the conflict, he replied, “I don’t want to talk about that.”

Yesterday, Mahmoud Zahar, another senior Hamas official, filled in a few more details about the Hamas “peace” plan. According to the Jerusalem Post, though the group now says it will accept the idea of two states, the Palestinians will not recognize Israel, because doing so would “cancel the right of the next generations to liberate the lands.” He also noted that recognition of Israel could lead to Palestinian refugees losing their right of return.

He also clarified that Hamas’s unity pact with Fatah does not mean an end to “resistance” against Israel though the Islamists are interested in maintaining the current cease-fire along the border with Gaza (that is only intermittently broken by terrorist missiles aimed at Israeli civilians), they want it understood that “a truce is not peace.”

Interestingly, Zahar also warned that Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas would not be allowed to visit Hamas-ruled Gaza anytime soon.

There are those who are interpreting these comments as progress towards peace because this is the first time that Hamas has not insisted that there will only be an Arab state between the Mediterranean and the Jordan River. That may be so. But it is also being made clear that Hamas views the current cease fire or even the proclamation of a Palestinian state which they will rule in coalition with Fatah as just an interim move that would merely be a prelude to future aggression against Israel. There is no logical reason why Israel should agree to making more tangible concessions to the Palestinians as a result of these statements since the only result will be a continuation of the conflict on more unfavorable terms in the future. If even the cease-fire with the Palestinians is not to be permanent, what possible reason would there be for Israel to accept such terms, as many in the United States and Europe are urging, as a basis for negotiations?

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A Noun, A Verb and Bin Laden

As we recalled a couple of days ago, Vice President Joe Biden’s one example of genuine wit that I’m aware of was his line that a Rudy Giuliani sentence consisted of a noun, a verb and 9/11.  Those who listen to Biden’s boss are probably thinking about that painfully accurate quip every time he takes to the stump.

As Jackie Calmes of the New York Times notes in the paper’s Caucus blog today, President Obama’s standard speech about his administration has been revised in the last week. Every address, from commemorations to fundraisers in the last week has included a section where he takes credit for the killing of Osama bin Laden. According to Calmes, this will “be a staple of his political message into the 2012 election.”

By making the fateful decision to launch the expedition into Pakistan to get bin Laden, Obama has earned some bragging rights here. It might be easier for his opponents to stomach his strutting about this were he more gracious about giving credit to others such as predecessor, though he does praise the troops as part of his presentation. But those who are finding it tough to take Obama’s new image as a war leader had better get used to it. The killing of bin Laden enables the administration to portray its generally confused approach to armed conflicts (such as the decision to keep fighting in Afghanistan while setting a withdrawal date so as to encourage the Taliban to hold on until the Americans leave) as decisive and his feckless foreign policy as successful. Osama’s corpse will be the “bloody shirt” that Democrats wave endlessly as they attempt to convince Americans to give the president a second term.

We don’t doubt that poor Joe Biden, who has been known to doze off while his boss bloviates, will now help keep himself awake during presidential speeches by chuckling privately as he thinks of how his line about Giuliani can be revised to fit Obama.

As we recalled a couple of days ago, Vice President Joe Biden’s one example of genuine wit that I’m aware of was his line that a Rudy Giuliani sentence consisted of a noun, a verb and 9/11.  Those who listen to Biden’s boss are probably thinking about that painfully accurate quip every time he takes to the stump.

As Jackie Calmes of the New York Times notes in the paper’s Caucus blog today, President Obama’s standard speech about his administration has been revised in the last week. Every address, from commemorations to fundraisers in the last week has included a section where he takes credit for the killing of Osama bin Laden. According to Calmes, this will “be a staple of his political message into the 2012 election.”

By making the fateful decision to launch the expedition into Pakistan to get bin Laden, Obama has earned some bragging rights here. It might be easier for his opponents to stomach his strutting about this were he more gracious about giving credit to others such as predecessor, though he does praise the troops as part of his presentation. But those who are finding it tough to take Obama’s new image as a war leader had better get used to it. The killing of bin Laden enables the administration to portray its generally confused approach to armed conflicts (such as the decision to keep fighting in Afghanistan while setting a withdrawal date so as to encourage the Taliban to hold on until the Americans leave) as decisive and his feckless foreign policy as successful. Osama’s corpse will be the “bloody shirt” that Democrats wave endlessly as they attempt to convince Americans to give the president a second term.

We don’t doubt that poor Joe Biden, who has been known to doze off while his boss bloviates, will now help keep himself awake during presidential speeches by chuckling privately as he thinks of how his line about Giuliani can be revised to fit Obama.

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