Commentary Magazine


Posts For: May 25, 2011

Does a Home in Arizona Mean Palin is Running? Not Necessarily.

With so many big names having dropped out of the Republican presidential contest, speculation about those who are still thought to be considering running is getting more intense. That means that any kernel of information about a potential candidate is going to be analyzed to death and perhaps blown out of proportion. Which is one way of interpreting a report in the New York Times about Sarah Palin buying a home in Arizona.

The piece, which bears the headline “Signs Grow That Palin May Run,” contains some recycled gossip about Palin’s intentions. But it also contains one original piece of information. The paper has learned that the former Alaska governor and her husband have purchased a $1.7 million home in Scottsdale, Arizona.

By itself this doesn’t tell us much, if anything, about whether Palin will run. It is true, as the Times tells us, an Arizona home would be a convenient spot to serve as a home base for a national campaign than Wasilla, Alaska. But it is just as likely that she wanted a place close to her daughter Bristol who has already moved to Arizona. The scheduled release of a film about her brief service as governor of Alaska as well as her planned return to public appearances is fueling speculation about Palin running and encouraging her fans. But, as the paper also points out, most of her other recent moves seem better suited to the serve the interests of her one-woman media conglomerate than a presidential candidacy.

Palin did recently tell Greta van Susteren that she still had “that fire in the belly” that got her into politics. But she also said time is running out for her to make up her mind. Yet that self-imposed deadline may not be valid since Palin’s name recognition and ability to raise money could easily overcome the disadvantages that come with a late start.

A more interesting obstacle for Palin would be the prior entry of a candidate who is seeking to appeal to the almost the exact same demographic: Michelle Bachmann. Bachmann’s Tea Party and conservative Christian stands overlap almost completely with those of Palin. Though Bachmann’s name recognition and resources are miniscule compared to Palin’s, if the Alaskan waits until her rival establishes herself as a well-funded challenger it could create a damaging conflict in the event of her own candidacy. With Bachmann already raising money and about to declare, her progress may have an impact on Palin’s decision.

But all that is assuming that Palin has any real intention of running for president. Which is something that despite the desperate attempts of both her supporters and the mainstream media to unravel the mystery is a question to which the answer remains unknown to everyone except Palin.

With so many big names having dropped out of the Republican presidential contest, speculation about those who are still thought to be considering running is getting more intense. That means that any kernel of information about a potential candidate is going to be analyzed to death and perhaps blown out of proportion. Which is one way of interpreting a report in the New York Times about Sarah Palin buying a home in Arizona.

The piece, which bears the headline “Signs Grow That Palin May Run,” contains some recycled gossip about Palin’s intentions. But it also contains one original piece of information. The paper has learned that the former Alaska governor and her husband have purchased a $1.7 million home in Scottsdale, Arizona.

By itself this doesn’t tell us much, if anything, about whether Palin will run. It is true, as the Times tells us, an Arizona home would be a convenient spot to serve as a home base for a national campaign than Wasilla, Alaska. But it is just as likely that she wanted a place close to her daughter Bristol who has already moved to Arizona. The scheduled release of a film about her brief service as governor of Alaska as well as her planned return to public appearances is fueling speculation about Palin running and encouraging her fans. But, as the paper also points out, most of her other recent moves seem better suited to the serve the interests of her one-woman media conglomerate than a presidential candidacy.

Palin did recently tell Greta van Susteren that she still had “that fire in the belly” that got her into politics. But she also said time is running out for her to make up her mind. Yet that self-imposed deadline may not be valid since Palin’s name recognition and ability to raise money could easily overcome the disadvantages that come with a late start.

A more interesting obstacle for Palin would be the prior entry of a candidate who is seeking to appeal to the almost the exact same demographic: Michelle Bachmann. Bachmann’s Tea Party and conservative Christian stands overlap almost completely with those of Palin. Though Bachmann’s name recognition and resources are miniscule compared to Palin’s, if the Alaskan waits until her rival establishes herself as a well-funded challenger it could create a damaging conflict in the event of her own candidacy. With Bachmann already raising money and about to declare, her progress may have an impact on Palin’s decision.

But all that is assuming that Palin has any real intention of running for president. Which is something that despite the desperate attempts of both her supporters and the mainstream media to unravel the mystery is a question to which the answer remains unknown to everyone except Palin.

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Budget Debate Flashback

Now that Senate Democrats have forced a pointless vote on Rep. Paul Ryan’s budget plan this afternoon, it’s worth taking a look back at the time (long ago) when they actually claimed to be serious about passing a budget:

Gearing up for negotiations with Congress over his proposed budget, President Obama chided Republican lawmakers Monday for opposing his initiatives without offering alternatives.

“I do think that the Republican Party right now hasn’t sort of figured out what it’s for,” Obama said in a White House interview with The Courier-Journal and reporters from five other newspapers. “And so as a proxy, they’ve just decided ‘we’re going to be against whatever the other side is for.’ That’s not what’s needed in an economic crisis.”

The old Obama attacked the GOP for being the party of no ideas, and now the new Obama is attacking the GOP for proposing changes to the unsustainable status quo.

Democrats will now ramp up this criticism against the majority of Senate Republicans who voted for the Ryan plan today. Even though the budget vote failed (as was expected) the GOP managed to hold it together, with only five members opposing the plan: Sen. Susan Collins, Sen. Olympia Snowe, Sen. Scott Brown, Sen. Lisa Murkowsky, and Sen. Rand Paul.

Public opinion on Ryan’s budget plan is still shifting, and the GOP hopes to have an opportunity to still win that debate. Putting up a unified front like they did today is an important first step.

Now that Senate Democrats have forced a pointless vote on Rep. Paul Ryan’s budget plan this afternoon, it’s worth taking a look back at the time (long ago) when they actually claimed to be serious about passing a budget:

Gearing up for negotiations with Congress over his proposed budget, President Obama chided Republican lawmakers Monday for opposing his initiatives without offering alternatives.

“I do think that the Republican Party right now hasn’t sort of figured out what it’s for,” Obama said in a White House interview with The Courier-Journal and reporters from five other newspapers. “And so as a proxy, they’ve just decided ‘we’re going to be against whatever the other side is for.’ That’s not what’s needed in an economic crisis.”

The old Obama attacked the GOP for being the party of no ideas, and now the new Obama is attacking the GOP for proposing changes to the unsustainable status quo.

Democrats will now ramp up this criticism against the majority of Senate Republicans who voted for the Ryan plan today. Even though the budget vote failed (as was expected) the GOP managed to hold it together, with only five members opposing the plan: Sen. Susan Collins, Sen. Olympia Snowe, Sen. Scott Brown, Sen. Lisa Murkowsky, and Sen. Rand Paul.

Public opinion on Ryan’s budget plan is still shifting, and the GOP hopes to have an opportunity to still win that debate. Putting up a unified front like they did today is an important first step.

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Bachmann Takes to the Internet to Raise Funds and Blast Obama on Israel

In 2008, the Obama campaign revolutionized political fundraising with a massive Internet operation that enabled him to overcome Hillary Clinton’s advantage with large givers via a deluge of small contributors. Though all candidates are attempting to reach out to supporters via technology and social networks, it looks as if Republican outlier Michelle Bachmann is the one most determined to emulate the president she hopes to unseat in using the Internet to fund her campaign.

Today, Bachmann sent out an e-mail blast to supporters urging them to donate to her potential candidacy. Her goal is to raise $240,000 in 24 hours. While that isn’t much compared to the vast sums Mitt Romney has been raising on Wall Street, if she succeeds, it will be a sign that the Tea Party favorite’s effort to create a boomlet to launch her candidacy is starting to click. As Obama proved four years ago, if you have a message that resonates with a broad connected audience you can overcome even the most formidable financial resources deployed by your rivals.

But the fundraiser isn’t all Bachmann has going for her. Seeking to capitalize on the opening provided to pro-Israel Republicans by President Obama’s swipe at Israel this past week, Bachmann’s campaign has already put up an Internet ad asking readers to sign a petition attacking the president saying “Obama Betrays Israel.” The ad, which is linked to a microsite that is sponsored by her Congressional campaign committee, is aimed at Jewish and Israeli websites and will help her build an e-mail list of pro-Israel readers that will probably net her more Christian names than those of Jewish supporters.

Bachmann is hoping to use a coalition of Tea Party activists and conservative Christians to break out of the second tier of GOP candidates. While she has yet to declare her candidacy, her ability to tap into the Republican grass roots via the Internet proves that she could be a formidable primary and caucus opponent for a group of establishment candidates that are failing to generate as much fervor from the party rank and file.

In 2008, the Obama campaign revolutionized political fundraising with a massive Internet operation that enabled him to overcome Hillary Clinton’s advantage with large givers via a deluge of small contributors. Though all candidates are attempting to reach out to supporters via technology and social networks, it looks as if Republican outlier Michelle Bachmann is the one most determined to emulate the president she hopes to unseat in using the Internet to fund her campaign.

Today, Bachmann sent out an e-mail blast to supporters urging them to donate to her potential candidacy. Her goal is to raise $240,000 in 24 hours. While that isn’t much compared to the vast sums Mitt Romney has been raising on Wall Street, if she succeeds, it will be a sign that the Tea Party favorite’s effort to create a boomlet to launch her candidacy is starting to click. As Obama proved four years ago, if you have a message that resonates with a broad connected audience you can overcome even the most formidable financial resources deployed by your rivals.

But the fundraiser isn’t all Bachmann has going for her. Seeking to capitalize on the opening provided to pro-Israel Republicans by President Obama’s swipe at Israel this past week, Bachmann’s campaign has already put up an Internet ad asking readers to sign a petition attacking the president saying “Obama Betrays Israel.” The ad, which is linked to a microsite that is sponsored by her Congressional campaign committee, is aimed at Jewish and Israeli websites and will help her build an e-mail list of pro-Israel readers that will probably net her more Christian names than those of Jewish supporters.

Bachmann is hoping to use a coalition of Tea Party activists and conservative Christians to break out of the second tier of GOP candidates. While she has yet to declare her candidacy, her ability to tap into the Republican grass roots via the Internet proves that she could be a formidable primary and caucus opponent for a group of establishment candidates that are failing to generate as much fervor from the party rank and file.

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Standing Up to Demagoguery

Although John is probably right that the “boomlet” for Paul Ryan fizzled yesterday when the Democrat Kathy Hochul won a special election to represent western New York in Congress, the lasting and more significant lesson is that demagoguery works. Even at a time when Medicare is “headed for a painful collapse” (in Ryan’s words), the Democrats convinced voters that, if elected to Congress, Jane Corwin would cruelly support “the radical Republican plan to end Medicare.”

Whether Corwin was any good at answering the charge is beside the question. Nor is Peter wrong when he says that “Republicans need . . . to become almost as adept at defending the Ryan plan as Paul Ryan is.” The more basic question, though, is not how to defend the Ryan plan—or any other Republican proposal—but how to counter the demagoguery.

Ryan’s ability to untangle complicated policy ideas, as displayed in the five-minute video that Pete posted, is second to none. Moreover, Ryan’s generous impulse to clarify and explain—to treat policy disagreements respectfully—is the ethos of a great statesman. Small wonder that Jonah Goldberg is chanting over at National Review Online: “Run, Paul Ryan, Run.”

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Although John is probably right that the “boomlet” for Paul Ryan fizzled yesterday when the Democrat Kathy Hochul won a special election to represent western New York in Congress, the lasting and more significant lesson is that demagoguery works. Even at a time when Medicare is “headed for a painful collapse” (in Ryan’s words), the Democrats convinced voters that, if elected to Congress, Jane Corwin would cruelly support “the radical Republican plan to end Medicare.”

Whether Corwin was any good at answering the charge is beside the question. Nor is Peter wrong when he says that “Republicans need . . . to become almost as adept at defending the Ryan plan as Paul Ryan is.” The more basic question, though, is not how to defend the Ryan plan—or any other Republican proposal—but how to counter the demagoguery.

Ryan’s ability to untangle complicated policy ideas, as displayed in the five-minute video that Pete posted, is second to none. Moreover, Ryan’s generous impulse to clarify and explain—to treat policy disagreements respectfully—is the ethos of a great statesman. Small wonder that Jonah Goldberg is chanting over at National Review Online: “Run, Paul Ryan, Run.”

But Ryan is doomed to fail. Rational dialogue and respectful policy disagreement cannot stand up to demagoguery, at least not in the American public square, at least not since the summer of 1987, when the late Senator Edward M. Kennedy torpedoed the nomination of Robert H. Bork to the Supreme Court with one speech on the floor of the U.S. Senate:

Robert Bork’s America is a land in which women would be forced into back-alley abortions, blacks would sit at segregated lunch counters, rogue police could break down citizens’ doors in midnight raids, schoolchildren could not be taught about evolution, writers and artists could be censored at the whim of the Government, and the doors of the Federal courts would be shut on the fingers of millions of citizens for whom the judiciary is—and is often the only—protector of the individual rights that are the heart of our democracy.

Because he was a public figure, Senator Kennedy was not liable for slander, but he crossed a bright moral line into viciousness, and when he was not driven from public life as a consequence, he brought America over the line with him. The only reasonable response to Kennedy was delivered 17 years too late—and to a different senator altogether—but by then Kennedy had already been honored with a public service award named for the vice president of the same administration that nominated Bork.

For much of my adult life, I have watched as the American left destroys careers and reputations with shamelessness and impunity. The right treats the left as the ideological opposition, but the left treats the right as its enemy. And in that sense, the Democratic Party (the electioneering wing of the American left) has ceased to be a party at all. In 1798, John Adams wrote to the inhabitants of Harrison County, Virginia:

The parties ought to be like the sexes, mutually beneficial to each other. And woe will be to that country, which supinely suffers malicious demagogues to excite jealousies, foment prejudices, and stimulate animosities between them.

Democratic partisans will scoff that Republicans are the true demagogues. But as its response to the budget crisis abundantly shows—from President Obama’s cartoonish budget speech last month to the advertisements for Kathy Hochul in suburban Buffalo and Rochester this week—the Democratic Party is not interested in solving a national problem. It is interested only in stimulating animosity against anyone who threatens its power. Demagoguery is not a style of rhetoric, but a mode of conduct. Republicans need not descend into demagoguery to hit back hard—to sharpen its arguments, broaden its characterizations, unleash its ridicule, point its slogans. More than anything, though, Republicans need to acknowledge that they do not find themselves in a debate with friendly opponents, but in a life-and-death struggle for America’s very future. Fight accordingly.

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Astronauts Decry Obama’s Betrayal of JFK’s Space Exploration Vision

Last week I wrote about the sad fact that the Endeavor shuttle flight marked the last manned NASA mission for the foreseeable future. Today, three commanders of U.S. missions to the moon, including the first and the last men on the Moon, decried President Obama’s decision to shut down the Constellation program that might returned Americans to space.

Neil Armstrong, Jim Lovell and Gene Cernan co-authored a piece in today’s USA Today that contrasted the president’s refusal to make a serious commitment to space exploration with the record of another Democratic president to whom many compare Obama. Today happens to be the 50th anniversary of John F. Kennedy’s memorable May 25, 1961 speech to a joint session of Congress during which he challenged the nation to go to the Moon:

First, I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to the Earth. No single space project in this period will be more impressive to mankind, or more important for the long-range exploration of space; and none will be so difficult or expensive to accomplish.

The general apathy about space in the country seems to reinforce the conclusion of some that the race to the Moon was just a byproduct of a Cold War rivalry that bears no relevance to our situation today. It is true that post-Sputnik fears about Soviet domination of space helped drive the Eisenhower administration to back NASA. But it must be understood that Kennedy’s inspirational rhetoric spoke to something deeper in the American soul than fear of Communism. Kennedy’s belief was that the United States can and should be first, not only to the Moon, but also in industry and science and that it must become “the world’s leading space-faring nation.” But rather than continuing that vision, Obama has adopted a pedestrian and short-sighted policy that has contributed to a situation that will force any American astronaut or scientific project to buy a ticket on (irony of ironies) a Russian spacecraft. Kennedy’s belief in national greatness is simply incompatible with Obama’s view of America as a generally negative force in history.

Obama’s admirers are fond of likening him to JFK, but so far the only apt comparison lies in the Camelot-like fawning on the president that characterizes much of the mainstream media’s coverage of the president. Armstrong, Lovell and Cernan believe Obama’s killing of Constellation means that he has strayed significantly not only from NASA’s operational mandate but also from Kennedy’s vision. The president was elected on a slogan promising “hope” but after decades of neglect of NASA by Washington it is Obama who has effectively killed JFK’s dream of America’s mission in space.

As they conclude:

Kennedy launched America on that new ocean. For 50 years we explored the waters to become the leader in space exploration. Today, under the announced objectives, the voyage is over. John F. Kennedy would have been sorely disappointed.

Last week I wrote about the sad fact that the Endeavor shuttle flight marked the last manned NASA mission for the foreseeable future. Today, three commanders of U.S. missions to the moon, including the first and the last men on the Moon, decried President Obama’s decision to shut down the Constellation program that might returned Americans to space.

Neil Armstrong, Jim Lovell and Gene Cernan co-authored a piece in today’s USA Today that contrasted the president’s refusal to make a serious commitment to space exploration with the record of another Democratic president to whom many compare Obama. Today happens to be the 50th anniversary of John F. Kennedy’s memorable May 25, 1961 speech to a joint session of Congress during which he challenged the nation to go to the Moon:

First, I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to the Earth. No single space project in this period will be more impressive to mankind, or more important for the long-range exploration of space; and none will be so difficult or expensive to accomplish.

The general apathy about space in the country seems to reinforce the conclusion of some that the race to the Moon was just a byproduct of a Cold War rivalry that bears no relevance to our situation today. It is true that post-Sputnik fears about Soviet domination of space helped drive the Eisenhower administration to back NASA. But it must be understood that Kennedy’s inspirational rhetoric spoke to something deeper in the American soul than fear of Communism. Kennedy’s belief was that the United States can and should be first, not only to the Moon, but also in industry and science and that it must become “the world’s leading space-faring nation.” But rather than continuing that vision, Obama has adopted a pedestrian and short-sighted policy that has contributed to a situation that will force any American astronaut or scientific project to buy a ticket on (irony of ironies) a Russian spacecraft. Kennedy’s belief in national greatness is simply incompatible with Obama’s view of America as a generally negative force in history.

Obama’s admirers are fond of likening him to JFK, but so far the only apt comparison lies in the Camelot-like fawning on the president that characterizes much of the mainstream media’s coverage of the president. Armstrong, Lovell and Cernan believe Obama’s killing of Constellation means that he has strayed significantly not only from NASA’s operational mandate but also from Kennedy’s vision. The president was elected on a slogan promising “hope” but after decades of neglect of NASA by Washington it is Obama who has effectively killed JFK’s dream of America’s mission in space.

As they conclude:

Kennedy launched America on that new ocean. For 50 years we explored the waters to become the leader in space exploration. Today, under the announced objectives, the voyage is over. John F. Kennedy would have been sorely disappointed.

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Re: How to Defend Medicare Reform

I agree with Pete that Paul Ryan’s Medicare reform proposal cannot be run away from, that it needs to be vigorously defended, and that the Ryan “Infomercial” he cites is an excellent beginning.

Unfortunately, five minutes is a long, long time for people who are not interested in politics (a group that—pace fellow political junkies—consists of the vast mass of the American people).

So in addition to calm, well-articulated appeals to reason such as the video, I propose a slogan for Republican candidates to repeat endlessly against their opponents whenever they start to demagogue: The Democratic Party is the party of debt, defeat, and decline.

The most famous alliteration in American politics, that the Democrats were the party of “rum, Romanism, and Rebellion,” was, of course, a disaster for the Republicans in the election of 1884. Coined by a bigoted Protestant clergyman late in the campaign, it alienated the growing Catholic voting block, which was enough to tip New York and its 36 electoral votes into the Democratic column by a scant 1,047 votes, giving the election to Grover Cleveland. Cleveland was the first Democrat elected to the White House in 28 years.

But no one, except Democrats, should be offended here. And they will be offended precisely because the slogan is true.

I agree with Pete that Paul Ryan’s Medicare reform proposal cannot be run away from, that it needs to be vigorously defended, and that the Ryan “Infomercial” he cites is an excellent beginning.

Unfortunately, five minutes is a long, long time for people who are not interested in politics (a group that—pace fellow political junkies—consists of the vast mass of the American people).

So in addition to calm, well-articulated appeals to reason such as the video, I propose a slogan for Republican candidates to repeat endlessly against their opponents whenever they start to demagogue: The Democratic Party is the party of debt, defeat, and decline.

The most famous alliteration in American politics, that the Democrats were the party of “rum, Romanism, and Rebellion,” was, of course, a disaster for the Republicans in the election of 1884. Coined by a bigoted Protestant clergyman late in the campaign, it alienated the growing Catholic voting block, which was enough to tip New York and its 36 electoral votes into the Democratic column by a scant 1,047 votes, giving the election to Grover Cleveland. Cleveland was the first Democrat elected to the White House in 28 years.

But no one, except Democrats, should be offended here. And they will be offended precisely because the slogan is true.

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Defending the Ryan Plan Isn’t Enough

Peter is right that Republicans will need to ratchet up their efforts to defend the Ryan plan after the NY-26 defeat. But they also need to go beyond that, and make the case that maintaining the status quo (which is the only alternative the plan-less Democrats are offering right now) will do serious damage to seniors. And not just at some vague point in the far future. The Medicare trust fund will be tapped out in less than a decade.

At the Washington Examiner, Conn Carroll writes:

Republicans cannot keep playing defense on Medicare and hope voters will see the light. They need to aggressively go negative on the Democrats failure to produce a viable Medicare plan. They need to explain how this well hurt seniors and that the pain is coming a lot sooner than they think.

Because the Democrats don’t have their own plan, they’ve been able to attack the GOP proposal without having to defend their own. Republicans have to continue to support the Ryan budget, but they’re not going to be able to win this fight simply by defending it. The Democrats have shown that they’re willing to spread complete falsehoods and blatant propaganda in their attempt to turn the Ryan budget into a political liability, and they’re not going to stop anytime soon.

The only way to slow the attacks on the Ryan plan is to put the Democrats on the defense. Why have they not yet produced a budget? What are they planning on doing about the looming Medicare crisis? What are their plans for tackling the deficit?

Whether or not you support all of the components of the Ryan plan, at least he has taken the first step toward tackling these issues. The Democrats, in contrast, have been too busy playing politics to even produce a budget proposal. Our fiscal problems aren’t going away anytime soon—in fact, they’re approaching the point of catastrophe. The public needs to question why the Democrats haven’t been serious about dealing with them.

Peter is right that Republicans will need to ratchet up their efforts to defend the Ryan plan after the NY-26 defeat. But they also need to go beyond that, and make the case that maintaining the status quo (which is the only alternative the plan-less Democrats are offering right now) will do serious damage to seniors. And not just at some vague point in the far future. The Medicare trust fund will be tapped out in less than a decade.

At the Washington Examiner, Conn Carroll writes:

Republicans cannot keep playing defense on Medicare and hope voters will see the light. They need to aggressively go negative on the Democrats failure to produce a viable Medicare plan. They need to explain how this well hurt seniors and that the pain is coming a lot sooner than they think.

Because the Democrats don’t have their own plan, they’ve been able to attack the GOP proposal without having to defend their own. Republicans have to continue to support the Ryan budget, but they’re not going to be able to win this fight simply by defending it. The Democrats have shown that they’re willing to spread complete falsehoods and blatant propaganda in their attempt to turn the Ryan budget into a political liability, and they’re not going to stop anytime soon.

The only way to slow the attacks on the Ryan plan is to put the Democrats on the defense. Why have they not yet produced a budget? What are they planning on doing about the looming Medicare crisis? What are their plans for tackling the deficit?

Whether or not you support all of the components of the Ryan plan, at least he has taken the first step toward tackling these issues. The Democrats, in contrast, have been too busy playing politics to even produce a budget proposal. Our fiscal problems aren’t going away anytime soon—in fact, they’re approaching the point of catastrophe. The public needs to question why the Democrats haven’t been serious about dealing with them.

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Key Jewish Donor Breaks With Obama

One of the most important Democratic donors in the past two decades, whose generous contributions helped pay for the DNC headquarters in Washington, D.C., has indicated that he will not contribute to President Obama’s reelection campaign in 2012, because of the administration’s stance on Israel.

Billionaire financier Haim Saban told CNBC last night that Obama hasn’t done enough to show support for Israel. He also said that he has no plans to contribute to the president’s campaign.

“President Obama has raised so much money and will raise so much money through the Internet, more than anybody before him. And he frankly doesn’t, I believe, need any of my donations,” said Saban.

“I’m very perplexed as to why the president, who’s been to Cairo, to Saudi Arabia, to Turkey, has not made a stop in Israel and spoken to the Israeli people,” he continued. “I believe that the president can clarify to the Israeli people what his positions are on Israel and calm them down. Because they are not calm right now.”

There have been reports that Obama is losing Jewish support after his clash with Prime Minister Netanyahu last week, but this development is the most significant so far. If a key donor like Saban has decided to break with the president, then there are likely others who will follow suit.

Steve Rosen, director of the Washington office of the Middle East Forum, and a former AIPAC official, said that this is part of a trend of Democrats rejecting Obama’s policy toward Israel.

“It’s not happening in isolation. It’s happening in a context in which Harry Reid broke with the president in the last two days,” Rosen told me. “I think that Saban is another step in that direction.”

Saban told CNBC that he will continue to enlist others to contribute to Democratic candidates. The DNC, which has received millions from Saban over the years, hasn’t yet replied to a request for comment.

One of the most important Democratic donors in the past two decades, whose generous contributions helped pay for the DNC headquarters in Washington, D.C., has indicated that he will not contribute to President Obama’s reelection campaign in 2012, because of the administration’s stance on Israel.

Billionaire financier Haim Saban told CNBC last night that Obama hasn’t done enough to show support for Israel. He also said that he has no plans to contribute to the president’s campaign.

“President Obama has raised so much money and will raise so much money through the Internet, more than anybody before him. And he frankly doesn’t, I believe, need any of my donations,” said Saban.

“I’m very perplexed as to why the president, who’s been to Cairo, to Saudi Arabia, to Turkey, has not made a stop in Israel and spoken to the Israeli people,” he continued. “I believe that the president can clarify to the Israeli people what his positions are on Israel and calm them down. Because they are not calm right now.”

There have been reports that Obama is losing Jewish support after his clash with Prime Minister Netanyahu last week, but this development is the most significant so far. If a key donor like Saban has decided to break with the president, then there are likely others who will follow suit.

Steve Rosen, director of the Washington office of the Middle East Forum, and a former AIPAC official, said that this is part of a trend of Democrats rejecting Obama’s policy toward Israel.

“It’s not happening in isolation. It’s happening in a context in which Harry Reid broke with the president in the last two days,” Rosen told me. “I think that Saban is another step in that direction.”

Saban told CNBC that he will continue to enlist others to contribute to Democratic candidates. The DNC, which has received millions from Saban over the years, hasn’t yet replied to a request for comment.

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Politicizing Israel Ain’t Very Democratic

In the wake of President Obama’s Middle East policy speech, those worried about political blowback to the Democratic Party are once again warning against “politicizing” support for Israel. This argument is resurrected anytime Republicans wish to take credit for their party’s support for the Jewish state—as was the case during the presidency of George W. Bush—or when a Democrat appears to be lukewarm if not hostile toward Israel, as has been the case with Obama.

As Politico reported this week, the AIPAC conference was the venue for yet another scrum on this issue after Obama’s invocation of the 1967 borders. While both Republicans and Democrats pushed back hard against the president’s stand, Republicans were not shy about pointing out that it was the leader of the Democrats who had once again picked a fight with Israel. Jewish Democrats answered this swipe by warning that such arguments chip away at the bipartisan friendship with the Jewish state. But these objections only seem to be heard when one of the two parties—the Democrats—appear to be losing ground on the issue. Which makes it a bit more self-serving on their part than they care to admit.

Democracy only works when politicians are held accountable to the voters. If some Democrats are insufficiently supportive of Israel it only stands to reason that their opponents would make overtures to the pro-Israel community. But since Democrats have always considered the Jewish vote to be in their pockets, the invocation of an issue that makes them less attractive to a substantial portion of that group is considered by them to be a low blow.

In recent campaigns, when Republicans appealed to voters on the issue of Israel, they were unsuccessful, because many Jewish Democrats shouted that the GOP was seeking to brand all Democrats—not just some—as anti-Israel. But given Obama’s hostility to Netanyahu and his policy shifts on Jerusalem and the 1967 borders, it cannot be reasonably argued that pointing this out hurts Israel. Indeed, it may well only be the fear of the potential political consequences in terms of fundraising and potential votes that has kept Obama from even more pressure on Israel. This is a concern that makes the prospect of a second term a troubling prospect to many friends of the Jewish state.

The idea that there is something illegitimate about pointing out a politician’s failures on this score is an absurd partisan point that has nothing to do with concern for Israel. After all, Democrats had no scruples about soliciting funds from pro-Israel donors for their futile attempt to keep Rand Paul out of the Senate last year. While most Republicans and Democrats remain ardent friends of Israel, not all are. If Democrats fear that Republican inroads on the issue will cause some in their party, particularly on the left, to abandon support for Israel than the problem is with those Democrats, not with attempts to hold them accountable. Taking the issue off the table is merely a way of allowing anyone who dissents from that consensus to get away with it. Doing so today may help the president’s reelection chances but it does nothing to help Israel.

In the wake of President Obama’s Middle East policy speech, those worried about political blowback to the Democratic Party are once again warning against “politicizing” support for Israel. This argument is resurrected anytime Republicans wish to take credit for their party’s support for the Jewish state—as was the case during the presidency of George W. Bush—or when a Democrat appears to be lukewarm if not hostile toward Israel, as has been the case with Obama.

As Politico reported this week, the AIPAC conference was the venue for yet another scrum on this issue after Obama’s invocation of the 1967 borders. While both Republicans and Democrats pushed back hard against the president’s stand, Republicans were not shy about pointing out that it was the leader of the Democrats who had once again picked a fight with Israel. Jewish Democrats answered this swipe by warning that such arguments chip away at the bipartisan friendship with the Jewish state. But these objections only seem to be heard when one of the two parties—the Democrats—appear to be losing ground on the issue. Which makes it a bit more self-serving on their part than they care to admit.

Democracy only works when politicians are held accountable to the voters. If some Democrats are insufficiently supportive of Israel it only stands to reason that their opponents would make overtures to the pro-Israel community. But since Democrats have always considered the Jewish vote to be in their pockets, the invocation of an issue that makes them less attractive to a substantial portion of that group is considered by them to be a low blow.

In recent campaigns, when Republicans appealed to voters on the issue of Israel, they were unsuccessful, because many Jewish Democrats shouted that the GOP was seeking to brand all Democrats—not just some—as anti-Israel. But given Obama’s hostility to Netanyahu and his policy shifts on Jerusalem and the 1967 borders, it cannot be reasonably argued that pointing this out hurts Israel. Indeed, it may well only be the fear of the potential political consequences in terms of fundraising and potential votes that has kept Obama from even more pressure on Israel. This is a concern that makes the prospect of a second term a troubling prospect to many friends of the Jewish state.

The idea that there is something illegitimate about pointing out a politician’s failures on this score is an absurd partisan point that has nothing to do with concern for Israel. After all, Democrats had no scruples about soliciting funds from pro-Israel donors for their futile attempt to keep Rand Paul out of the Senate last year. While most Republicans and Democrats remain ardent friends of Israel, not all are. If Democrats fear that Republican inroads on the issue will cause some in their party, particularly on the left, to abandon support for Israel than the problem is with those Democrats, not with attempts to hold them accountable. Taking the issue off the table is merely a way of allowing anyone who dissents from that consensus to get away with it. Doing so today may help the president’s reelection chances but it does nothing to help Israel.

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How to Defend Medicare Reform

Earlier today, in the context of the election in NY-26 and Medicare, I argued that lawmakers who voted for the House GOP budget need to redouble their efforts to defend their votes and Medicare reform—and in doing so they need to marshal the strongest possible arguments to make their case. This five-minute video is a very good start:

Reform-minded Republicans are in the political fight for their lives; they need to replicate this kind of effort (as well as many more) over and over and over again. If they do, they have a very good chance to fundamentally recast the entitlement debate and emerge victorious. If not, they’ll have their heads handed to them.

Earlier today, in the context of the election in NY-26 and Medicare, I argued that lawmakers who voted for the House GOP budget need to redouble their efforts to defend their votes and Medicare reform—and in doing so they need to marshal the strongest possible arguments to make their case. This five-minute video is a very good start:

Reform-minded Republicans are in the political fight for their lives; they need to replicate this kind of effort (as well as many more) over and over and over again. If they do, they have a very good chance to fundamentally recast the entitlement debate and emerge victorious. If not, they’ll have their heads handed to them.

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Momentum Builds to Keep U.S. Forces in Iraq

Fred Kagan, the most influential and best-informed military analyst in Washington, has another must-read report on why it is so important for the U.S. to remain militarily engaged in Iraq beyond the end of this year.

The Iraqi Security Forces will not be able to defend Iraq’s sovereignty, maintain its independence from Iran, or ensure Iraq’s internal stability without American assistance, including some ground forces in Iraq, for a number of years. The absence of a US strategic partnership with and military presence in Iraq will weaken the Iraqi military and could lead to the breakdown of internal security and political gains, which in turn could cause renewed communal conflict and the reemergence of militant Islamist groups. Iran’s use of proxy military groups poses the most immediate and serious threat to Iraqi security. Combined with Iran’s conventional, particularly missile, threat, the current military balance pitting Iraq by itself against Iran gives Tehran military dominance at every level of escalation.

Luckily, momentum seems to be building to keep U.S. forces in Iraq past 2011. As the New York Times notes, Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki has said

he would meet with Iraqi leaders to discuss whether American forces should remain beyond the end of the year. If a majority of Iraqi lawmakers and political leaders support the idea, Maliki said, he would be open to asking some American forces to stay. And he told Sadr’s supporters that they would have to accept the majority’s decision.

That’s a heartening change from the lack of interest Maliki has shown in the past in extending the U.S. troop presence. It should induce a modest degree of optimism that a breakthrough might be imminent, at least on the Iraqi side, although one should never count on Iraqi politicos to get anything done too expeditiously. They have a habit of waiting until the 11th hour—and beyond.

If the Iraqis do request a U.S. troop extension, the only remaining question will be whether President Obama, who campaigned on a pledge to pull out of Iraq, will seize the opportunity. My bet is he will, because U.S. troops will not remain in a combat presence. He can still argue that he has presided over the end of the war—but that some troops have to remain behind to prevent another war from breaking out.

Fred Kagan, the most influential and best-informed military analyst in Washington, has another must-read report on why it is so important for the U.S. to remain militarily engaged in Iraq beyond the end of this year.

The Iraqi Security Forces will not be able to defend Iraq’s sovereignty, maintain its independence from Iran, or ensure Iraq’s internal stability without American assistance, including some ground forces in Iraq, for a number of years. The absence of a US strategic partnership with and military presence in Iraq will weaken the Iraqi military and could lead to the breakdown of internal security and political gains, which in turn could cause renewed communal conflict and the reemergence of militant Islamist groups. Iran’s use of proxy military groups poses the most immediate and serious threat to Iraqi security. Combined with Iran’s conventional, particularly missile, threat, the current military balance pitting Iraq by itself against Iran gives Tehran military dominance at every level of escalation.

Luckily, momentum seems to be building to keep U.S. forces in Iraq past 2011. As the New York Times notes, Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki has said

he would meet with Iraqi leaders to discuss whether American forces should remain beyond the end of the year. If a majority of Iraqi lawmakers and political leaders support the idea, Maliki said, he would be open to asking some American forces to stay. And he told Sadr’s supporters that they would have to accept the majority’s decision.

That’s a heartening change from the lack of interest Maliki has shown in the past in extending the U.S. troop presence. It should induce a modest degree of optimism that a breakthrough might be imminent, at least on the Iraqi side, although one should never count on Iraqi politicos to get anything done too expeditiously. They have a habit of waiting until the 11th hour—and beyond.

If the Iraqis do request a U.S. troop extension, the only remaining question will be whether President Obama, who campaigned on a pledge to pull out of Iraq, will seize the opportunity. My bet is he will, because U.S. troops will not remain in a combat presence. He can still argue that he has presided over the end of the war—but that some troops have to remain behind to prevent another war from breaking out.

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White House: Jewish “Right of Return” Should Be Negotiated

This story from Foreign Policy gives you an idea of how clueless the Obama administration is on the Middle East. During a conference call with the media, White House deputy national security advisor Ben Rhodes responded to a question about Jewish “refugees” from Arab countries by saying that the Jewish “right of return” to these states should be on the table.

“Certainly the U.S., in our role, is attuned to all the concerns on both sides to include interests among Israel and others in Jewish refugees, so it is something that would come up in the context of negotiations,” said Rhodes, according to a report by The Cable’s Josh Rogin. “And certainly, we believe that ultimately the parties themselves should negotiate this. We can introduce ideas, we can introduce parameters for potential negotiation.”

Rhodes added that, “We believe those types of issues . . . could certainly be a part of that discussion and put on the table and it’s something that we would obviously be involved in.”

There are two obvious problems with this. The first is that if the White House believes that the so-called “Jewish right of return” is on the table, then that means that they view the right of return for Palestinians as a legitimate issue that should be open to negotiation. This is wrong—the Palestinian right of return means the end of Israel’s existence. It’s not something that can be on the table.

The second problem is that the administration is clearly unaware that there are no “Jewish refugees,” thanks to the state of Israel, which took them in when they were expelled from Arab and Muslim countries. Others went to the United States and Canada. All were successfully integrated into those countries rather than kept in stateless penury like the Palestinian Arabs to be used as propaganda props. But leaving that point aside, why would the administration assume that any of these Jews would want to return to undemocratic Arab states where they were treated as second-class citizens?

The White House’s statement deserves just as much mockery as Herman Cain’s the other day, if not more. Cain is a long-shot presidential candidate, who has admitted that he’s not well-versed on foreign policy. But Ben Rhodes is the guy who’s actually supposed to be advising the president on these issues, and that makes his comment far more unsettling.

This story from Foreign Policy gives you an idea of how clueless the Obama administration is on the Middle East. During a conference call with the media, White House deputy national security advisor Ben Rhodes responded to a question about Jewish “refugees” from Arab countries by saying that the Jewish “right of return” to these states should be on the table.

“Certainly the U.S., in our role, is attuned to all the concerns on both sides to include interests among Israel and others in Jewish refugees, so it is something that would come up in the context of negotiations,” said Rhodes, according to a report by The Cable’s Josh Rogin. “And certainly, we believe that ultimately the parties themselves should negotiate this. We can introduce ideas, we can introduce parameters for potential negotiation.”

Rhodes added that, “We believe those types of issues . . . could certainly be a part of that discussion and put on the table and it’s something that we would obviously be involved in.”

There are two obvious problems with this. The first is that if the White House believes that the so-called “Jewish right of return” is on the table, then that means that they view the right of return for Palestinians as a legitimate issue that should be open to negotiation. This is wrong—the Palestinian right of return means the end of Israel’s existence. It’s not something that can be on the table.

The second problem is that the administration is clearly unaware that there are no “Jewish refugees,” thanks to the state of Israel, which took them in when they were expelled from Arab and Muslim countries. Others went to the United States and Canada. All were successfully integrated into those countries rather than kept in stateless penury like the Palestinian Arabs to be used as propaganda props. But leaving that point aside, why would the administration assume that any of these Jews would want to return to undemocratic Arab states where they were treated as second-class citizens?

The White House’s statement deserves just as much mockery as Herman Cain’s the other day, if not more. Cain is a long-shot presidential candidate, who has admitted that he’s not well-versed on foreign policy. But Ben Rhodes is the guy who’s actually supposed to be advising the president on these issues, and that makes his comment far more unsettling.

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Decisions on Presidential Runs That No One is Waiting For

A great many Republicans are spending their time waiting around to hear whether potential candidates for president who have already made it clear they aren’t running will change their minds. But as much as some people really are on the edge of their seats hoping against hope that Chris Christie or Rick Perry, Sarah Palin, or even Paul Ryan will take the plunge, there are other potential candidates who are the only ones interested in their decisions.

One such example is that of George Pataki, the three-term New York governor who left his state and his party in such dismal shape when he fled Albany in January 2007 that both the Empire State and its bankrupt Republican party are still trying to recover from his incompetent reign. And yet, according to Politico, Pataki is attempting to float the idea of a run for the presidency. Of course, since no one else was wondering whether he would run, Pataki has been forced to raise the question himself.

Pataki is planning on spending much of the coming month in New Hampshire where he will talk about the national debt. One supposes that this topic interests him because he is probably tired of talking about the debts that New York state incurred during his governorship when he proved that “tax and spend” was a motto that could be applied to Republicans as well as Democrats.

Another non-candidate seeking to stir up interest in their non-candidacy is Rudy Giuliani. Despite the fact that virtually no one in the Republican Party is thinking about a reprise of the former New York City mayor’s disastrous 2008 presidential run, Giuliani mentioned that he was thinking about trying again on Meet the Press earlier this month. But even though that trial balloon crashed and burned like the Hindenburg, the Giuliani camp sent up another Zeppelin earlier this week in the form of a statement from Congressman Peter King who told the Washington Examiner that the former mayor is “very close to saying he’s going to run.”

Granted, his stature as a leader and a successful mayor gives Giuliani a rationale for a presidential run that the feckless Pataki lacks. But as poor as Giuliani’s chances of victory in the Republican primaries were in 2008, they would be far worse four years later. As thin as the GOP field may appear today, Giuliani has already proven that there is little appetite among Republicans for a northeastern mayor who was a moderate on social issues even if his stands on foreign affairs were exemplary.

Though there are some Republicans waiting for candidates who will never declare their intent to run for president, nobody is waiting for either Pataki or Giuliani except themselves.

A great many Republicans are spending their time waiting around to hear whether potential candidates for president who have already made it clear they aren’t running will change their minds. But as much as some people really are on the edge of their seats hoping against hope that Chris Christie or Rick Perry, Sarah Palin, or even Paul Ryan will take the plunge, there are other potential candidates who are the only ones interested in their decisions.

One such example is that of George Pataki, the three-term New York governor who left his state and his party in such dismal shape when he fled Albany in January 2007 that both the Empire State and its bankrupt Republican party are still trying to recover from his incompetent reign. And yet, according to Politico, Pataki is attempting to float the idea of a run for the presidency. Of course, since no one else was wondering whether he would run, Pataki has been forced to raise the question himself.

Pataki is planning on spending much of the coming month in New Hampshire where he will talk about the national debt. One supposes that this topic interests him because he is probably tired of talking about the debts that New York state incurred during his governorship when he proved that “tax and spend” was a motto that could be applied to Republicans as well as Democrats.

Another non-candidate seeking to stir up interest in their non-candidacy is Rudy Giuliani. Despite the fact that virtually no one in the Republican Party is thinking about a reprise of the former New York City mayor’s disastrous 2008 presidential run, Giuliani mentioned that he was thinking about trying again on Meet the Press earlier this month. But even though that trial balloon crashed and burned like the Hindenburg, the Giuliani camp sent up another Zeppelin earlier this week in the form of a statement from Congressman Peter King who told the Washington Examiner that the former mayor is “very close to saying he’s going to run.”

Granted, his stature as a leader and a successful mayor gives Giuliani a rationale for a presidential run that the feckless Pataki lacks. But as poor as Giuliani’s chances of victory in the Republican primaries were in 2008, they would be far worse four years later. As thin as the GOP field may appear today, Giuliani has already proven that there is little appetite among Republicans for a northeastern mayor who was a moderate on social issues even if his stands on foreign affairs were exemplary.

Though there are some Republicans waiting for candidates who will never declare their intent to run for president, nobody is waiting for either Pataki or Giuliani except themselves.

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Obama’s Tough Talk on Libya Not Matched by Tough Action

President Obama was talking tough on Libya while in London today to meet with Prime Minister David Cameron. According to the New York Times account:

Mr. Obama said that although the two had agreed to rule out “boots on the ground,” they would “continue Libya operations until Qaddafi’s attacks on the people cease.” The Libya leader “must leave office,” Mr. Obama said, and needs to understand “that there won’t be a let-up in the pressure.”

Yet there is a curious mismatch between ends and means. The U.S., in particular, is not applying the pressure necessary to topple Qaddafi fast.

The Times has another revealing article today on the conduct of NATO air operations. Reporter Eric Schmitt notes the chain of command for air strikes is “convoluted,” starting “with political orders from Brussels,” passing “though two military command centers in Italy,” and concluding with controllers aboard an AWACS airplane over the Mediterranean which conveys orders to the actual aircraft. He also notes:

With no troops on the ground, NATO planners and pilots acknowledge that they often cannot pinpoint the shifting battle lines in cities like Misurata. . . . Information on Libyan forces filters up from Central Intelligence Agency officers and allied special operations troops working with the rebels on the ground, as well as from the rebels themselves. But NATO planners say they have no direct contact with anyone on the ground to help coordinate the roughly 50 allied attack missions every night. . . . Commanders begin reviewing targets 96 hours ahead and prepare a final list 24 hours before missions take off. Bombs are then loaded on planes and scores of aircraft take to the skies from bases around the Mediterranean.

This reminds me of the way air operations were conducted in the 1990s, with targeting lists being prepared well in advance of missions. This made air power much less effective than it has since become in Iraq and Afghanistan where pilots are in direct contact with ground troops who guide them into targets they can see with their own eyes. If direct links with the ground aren’t present, then air strikes will not be as effective as they need to be—especially since Qaddafi is exploiting NATO’s sensitivity about civilian casualties by having his troops abandon marked military vehicles and fight incognito.

Moreover, the U.S. is refusing to participate fully in the attack missions. We are providing support of all kinds, including Predator drones, but we are not sending our own aircraft to bomb targets even though some of the aircraft in our arsenal (e.g. A-10s and AC-130) are the most capable ground-attack aircraft around. Ironically, the British and French, after spending years complaining about American unilateralism, are now complaining that the U.S. is being too multilateral—and they have a point.

The way to break through this logjam is to put NATO tactical-air controllers on the ground with Libyan rebel forces so they can direct pinpoint air strikes. We also need to commit U.S. aircraft directly to strike missions and expand the target list to include the infrastructure supporting Qaddafi’s regime as well as his ground forces even if when are not actually attacking rebel forces or civilians. Yes, this may impose more of a short-term strain on the U.S. Navy and Air Force but it will save resources in the long run by shortening this conflict—and making good on Obama’s sweeping words.

President Obama was talking tough on Libya while in London today to meet with Prime Minister David Cameron. According to the New York Times account:

Mr. Obama said that although the two had agreed to rule out “boots on the ground,” they would “continue Libya operations until Qaddafi’s attacks on the people cease.” The Libya leader “must leave office,” Mr. Obama said, and needs to understand “that there won’t be a let-up in the pressure.”

Yet there is a curious mismatch between ends and means. The U.S., in particular, is not applying the pressure necessary to topple Qaddafi fast.

The Times has another revealing article today on the conduct of NATO air operations. Reporter Eric Schmitt notes the chain of command for air strikes is “convoluted,” starting “with political orders from Brussels,” passing “though two military command centers in Italy,” and concluding with controllers aboard an AWACS airplane over the Mediterranean which conveys orders to the actual aircraft. He also notes:

With no troops on the ground, NATO planners and pilots acknowledge that they often cannot pinpoint the shifting battle lines in cities like Misurata. . . . Information on Libyan forces filters up from Central Intelligence Agency officers and allied special operations troops working with the rebels on the ground, as well as from the rebels themselves. But NATO planners say they have no direct contact with anyone on the ground to help coordinate the roughly 50 allied attack missions every night. . . . Commanders begin reviewing targets 96 hours ahead and prepare a final list 24 hours before missions take off. Bombs are then loaded on planes and scores of aircraft take to the skies from bases around the Mediterranean.

This reminds me of the way air operations were conducted in the 1990s, with targeting lists being prepared well in advance of missions. This made air power much less effective than it has since become in Iraq and Afghanistan where pilots are in direct contact with ground troops who guide them into targets they can see with their own eyes. If direct links with the ground aren’t present, then air strikes will not be as effective as they need to be—especially since Qaddafi is exploiting NATO’s sensitivity about civilian casualties by having his troops abandon marked military vehicles and fight incognito.

Moreover, the U.S. is refusing to participate fully in the attack missions. We are providing support of all kinds, including Predator drones, but we are not sending our own aircraft to bomb targets even though some of the aircraft in our arsenal (e.g. A-10s and AC-130) are the most capable ground-attack aircraft around. Ironically, the British and French, after spending years complaining about American unilateralism, are now complaining that the U.S. is being too multilateral—and they have a point.

The way to break through this logjam is to put NATO tactical-air controllers on the ground with Libyan rebel forces so they can direct pinpoint air strikes. We also need to commit U.S. aircraft directly to strike missions and expand the target list to include the infrastructure supporting Qaddafi’s regime as well as his ground forces even if when are not actually attacking rebel forces or civilians. Yes, this may impose more of a short-term strain on the U.S. Navy and Air Force but it will save resources in the long run by shortening this conflict—and making good on Obama’s sweeping words.

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Thank You, Mr. President

In its editorial on the Obama administration coming out in favor of reauthorization of key Patriot Act provisions, the Wall Street Journal writes:

When George W. Bush was President, the Patriot Act became part of the liberal conspiracy theory that Republicans were engaged in a lawless crusade to turn the U.S. into a police state. But the Patriot Act can now join Guantanamo, military commissions, unlimited detention, drone strikes, the state secrets doctrine and Middle Eastern democracy as Bush policies that Mr. Obama has embraced one way or another.

That’s a very handy litany the Journal has provided, and an encouraging one, too.

It’s worth recalling the ferocious liberal attacks against President Bush for his counterterrorism policies. The fact that a liberal Democratic president has seen fit to embrace many of them—including policies that he criticized during the campaign—is quite important. Such things are often the best way a nation can reach consensus on certain issues (think of Nixon’s going to China and Bill Clinton’s embracing welfare reform). What is becoming more and more clear with the passage of time is that the counterterrorism architecture put in place by Obama’s predecessor was not only right; it is now in the process of being vindicated even by those who once lacerated Mr. Bush.

Just as Harry Truman deserves credit for helping to shape the post-World War II world, George W. Bush deserves credit for helping to shape the post-9/11 world. Barack Obama will never say so, but his actions demonstrate it. And in this instance, actions are far more significant than words.

In its editorial on the Obama administration coming out in favor of reauthorization of key Patriot Act provisions, the Wall Street Journal writes:

When George W. Bush was President, the Patriot Act became part of the liberal conspiracy theory that Republicans were engaged in a lawless crusade to turn the U.S. into a police state. But the Patriot Act can now join Guantanamo, military commissions, unlimited detention, drone strikes, the state secrets doctrine and Middle Eastern democracy as Bush policies that Mr. Obama has embraced one way or another.

That’s a very handy litany the Journal has provided, and an encouraging one, too.

It’s worth recalling the ferocious liberal attacks against President Bush for his counterterrorism policies. The fact that a liberal Democratic president has seen fit to embrace many of them—including policies that he criticized during the campaign—is quite important. Such things are often the best way a nation can reach consensus on certain issues (think of Nixon’s going to China and Bill Clinton’s embracing welfare reform). What is becoming more and more clear with the passage of time is that the counterterrorism architecture put in place by Obama’s predecessor was not only right; it is now in the process of being vindicated even by those who once lacerated Mr. Bush.

Just as Harry Truman deserves credit for helping to shape the post-World War II world, George W. Bush deserves credit for helping to shape the post-9/11 world. Barack Obama will never say so, but his actions demonstrate it. And in this instance, actions are far more significant than words.

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Learning the Lesson of NY-26

The victory by Democrat Kathy Hochul in New York’s 26th congressional district—one of the most conservative districts in the Empire State—is being interpreted in the media as a watershed of sorts. “After two years of getting pummeled over spending and the size of government, Democrats now appear to have found a political weapon that’s capable of evening out the fight: Medicare,” Alexander Burns wrote at Politico. “The popular entitlement program wasn’t the sole issue behind Kathy Hochul’s upset victory in a New York special election Tuesday night, but strategists in both parties say it was an important force.”

The results of the election will cause more than a few Republican knees to wobble, especially in Congress. We’re going to read more stories about certain members of the House leadership who were against Representative Paul Ryan’s budget, most especially his reform of Medicare. There will be some hand-wringing, panicked conference calls, and recriminations.

This is exactly the wrong response. Whatever House Republicans think about one the Ryan plan—I myself happen to think it is a bold, courageous, politically risky and necessary plan—they are now attached to it. Democrats will make sure of that. They are going to hyper-focus on Medicare between now and the 2012 election, demagoging it to their heart’s content, and elements within the press will help them along in their efforts.

Rather than flee like spooked animals from the Ryan plan, Republicans need to redouble their efforts to defend it. That is one thing that the GOP candidate in the 26th District, Jane Corwin, didn’t do. Distancing oneself from Medicare reform, trying to change the subject, or offering half-hearted defenses for it simply won’t work. What Republicans need to do is to become almost as adept at defending the Ryan plan as Paul Ryan is. That won’t be easy. But it has now become essential.

House Republicans have thrown their hat over the Medicare wall. They are now engaged in a fierce political battle over it. There are two options available to them: fight or flight. They had better choose the former; and they all had better marshal the strongest possible arguments to make their case.

Republicans did the right thing. Now they have to show they’re willing to defend what they did. If that’s the lesson the GOP draws from last night’s loss, it’ll have been well worth it.

The victory by Democrat Kathy Hochul in New York’s 26th congressional district—one of the most conservative districts in the Empire State—is being interpreted in the media as a watershed of sorts. “After two years of getting pummeled over spending and the size of government, Democrats now appear to have found a political weapon that’s capable of evening out the fight: Medicare,” Alexander Burns wrote at Politico. “The popular entitlement program wasn’t the sole issue behind Kathy Hochul’s upset victory in a New York special election Tuesday night, but strategists in both parties say it was an important force.”

The results of the election will cause more than a few Republican knees to wobble, especially in Congress. We’re going to read more stories about certain members of the House leadership who were against Representative Paul Ryan’s budget, most especially his reform of Medicare. There will be some hand-wringing, panicked conference calls, and recriminations.

This is exactly the wrong response. Whatever House Republicans think about one the Ryan plan—I myself happen to think it is a bold, courageous, politically risky and necessary plan—they are now attached to it. Democrats will make sure of that. They are going to hyper-focus on Medicare between now and the 2012 election, demagoging it to their heart’s content, and elements within the press will help them along in their efforts.

Rather than flee like spooked animals from the Ryan plan, Republicans need to redouble their efforts to defend it. That is one thing that the GOP candidate in the 26th District, Jane Corwin, didn’t do. Distancing oneself from Medicare reform, trying to change the subject, or offering half-hearted defenses for it simply won’t work. What Republicans need to do is to become almost as adept at defending the Ryan plan as Paul Ryan is. That won’t be easy. But it has now become essential.

House Republicans have thrown their hat over the Medicare wall. They are now engaged in a fierce political battle over it. There are two options available to them: fight or flight. They had better choose the former; and they all had better marshal the strongest possible arguments to make their case.

Republicans did the right thing. Now they have to show they’re willing to defend what they did. If that’s the lesson the GOP draws from last night’s loss, it’ll have been well worth it.

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More on Ryan and Medicare and 2012

I would like to revise and extend my remarks from last night regarding the meaning of the special election in New York. I do not think the Paul Ryan budget poses a mortal danger to Republicans in 2012, or that Paul Ryan has become an albatross. The fact that Republicans have put the only serious proposal on the table to deal with the coming budget calamity will count in their favor with independent voters next year—though it must be said that the specifics of that proposal are worthy of debate and revision and should not be considered sacrosanct.

Case in point: This morning brought more bad economic news, with a gigantic drop in durable goods orders and sales that is part, but only part, of the reason forecasters are significantly downgrading  their expectations on second-quarter GDP growth. Anemic growth is not only troubling for the president and the Democrats because of the negligible effect it will have on pocketbooks and employment; it will also make the eyepopping deficit and debt numbers even more eye-popping as we head into 2012.

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I would like to revise and extend my remarks from last night regarding the meaning of the special election in New York. I do not think the Paul Ryan budget poses a mortal danger to Republicans in 2012, or that Paul Ryan has become an albatross. The fact that Republicans have put the only serious proposal on the table to deal with the coming budget calamity will count in their favor with independent voters next year—though it must be said that the specifics of that proposal are worthy of debate and revision and should not be considered sacrosanct.

Case in point: This morning brought more bad economic news, with a gigantic drop in durable goods orders and sales that is part, but only part, of the reason forecasters are significantly downgrading  their expectations on second-quarter GDP growth. Anemic growth is not only troubling for the president and the Democrats because of the negligible effect it will have on pocketbooks and employment; it will also make the eyepopping deficit and debt numbers even more eye-popping as we head into 2012.

In isolation, as was the case of this special election, Democrats and Obama can focus on supposed GOP threats to Medicare. But the president and his party next year will have to account for the economy and the size of government as a whole, and even with an openly biased press trying to secure his reelection, Obama will not be able to flee from explaining what it is he intends to do to avoid the cliff, or the brick wall, or the chasm, or whatever metaphor you can find for the moment when the entitlements literally eat up the entire federal budget. And, as Jonathan points out, he will have to account as well for the changes to Medicare in his own health-care plan, which remains unpopular.

All that said, the notion that Paul Ryan himself is in a position to be the standard-bearer for the Republican party in 2012 was dealt a mortal blow last night. He has said he isn’t going to run, but if the party and its leaders were to coalesce around the idea of him running over the course of the next six weeks, his decision could have been overturned. That won’t happen now.

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Buffalo Lessons for GOP: Demagogue Entitlements

Republicans are licking their wounds this morning after a stunning loss in the special election for New York’s 26th Congressional District. While Kathy Hochul’s win was still due in part in to the presence on the ballot of a third party false-flag Tea Party candidate, in reality a Democrat who helped siphon votes from the Republican, there’s no denying that the result could be a momentum changer for the national parties.

In case anyone missed the point the Democrats were trying to make last night, the crowd at Hochul’s jubilant headquarters chanted “Medicare, Medicare” to emphasize the fact that their party’s successful effort to demagogue the issue of Medicare reform. House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan’s visionary reform plan was attacked relentlessly as a GOP effort to throw grandma off a cliff, and it would be futile for Republicans to deny that it worked to some extent. Hochul did better than recent previous Democratic candidates (including this year’s “Tea Party” candidate) as well as President Obama in this generally Republican district so the Dems have a right to crow.

Republican incumbents who voted for Ryan’s plan should expect to get the same treatment. But while Jane Corwin, the hapless GOP loser has admitted that she was slow to pick up on this trend and late in answering back, other Republicans had better not make the same mistake. The question is what can they do about it?

The answer is fairly simple. Fight fire with fire.

Instead of adopting a lame defensive posture as Corwin did, Republicans are going to have try and hang President Obama’s own Medicare reform proposal around the necks of Democrats. Since the consequences of Obama’s plan are far more draconian than those of Ryan’s, the challenge for GOP candidates in the coming year will be to demand that Democrats either support or disavow Obama’s scheme the way Corwin was tied to the Ryan proposal.

But a cynical tit-for-tit rhetorical exchange to balance out the demagoguery isn’t enough for Republicans. They must also go on the offensive about the bigger picture here: the plague of entitlements that can sink the country. GOP candidates must not be shy about labeling their opponents as defenders of a sick status quo that is bleeding money from the national exchequer. Fear of the elderly’s being treated unfairly must also be answered by appealing to the national fear of debt and loathing of taxes. In 2010, Republicans successfully harnessed those sentiments to take back Congress. If they don’t return to that theme, Nancy Pelosi will be taking back the gavel in January 2013.

Republicans are licking their wounds this morning after a stunning loss in the special election for New York’s 26th Congressional District. While Kathy Hochul’s win was still due in part in to the presence on the ballot of a third party false-flag Tea Party candidate, in reality a Democrat who helped siphon votes from the Republican, there’s no denying that the result could be a momentum changer for the national parties.

In case anyone missed the point the Democrats were trying to make last night, the crowd at Hochul’s jubilant headquarters chanted “Medicare, Medicare” to emphasize the fact that their party’s successful effort to demagogue the issue of Medicare reform. House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan’s visionary reform plan was attacked relentlessly as a GOP effort to throw grandma off a cliff, and it would be futile for Republicans to deny that it worked to some extent. Hochul did better than recent previous Democratic candidates (including this year’s “Tea Party” candidate) as well as President Obama in this generally Republican district so the Dems have a right to crow.

Republican incumbents who voted for Ryan’s plan should expect to get the same treatment. But while Jane Corwin, the hapless GOP loser has admitted that she was slow to pick up on this trend and late in answering back, other Republicans had better not make the same mistake. The question is what can they do about it?

The answer is fairly simple. Fight fire with fire.

Instead of adopting a lame defensive posture as Corwin did, Republicans are going to have try and hang President Obama’s own Medicare reform proposal around the necks of Democrats. Since the consequences of Obama’s plan are far more draconian than those of Ryan’s, the challenge for GOP candidates in the coming year will be to demand that Democrats either support or disavow Obama’s scheme the way Corwin was tied to the Ryan proposal.

But a cynical tit-for-tit rhetorical exchange to balance out the demagoguery isn’t enough for Republicans. They must also go on the offensive about the bigger picture here: the plague of entitlements that can sink the country. GOP candidates must not be shy about labeling their opponents as defenders of a sick status quo that is bleeding money from the national exchequer. Fear of the elderly’s being treated unfairly must also be answered by appealing to the national fear of debt and loathing of taxes. In 2010, Republicans successfully harnessed those sentiments to take back Congress. If they don’t return to that theme, Nancy Pelosi will be taking back the gavel in January 2013.

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The West’s Shalit Test, and Israel’s

Alan Baker, a former legal advisor to Israel’s Foreign Ministry, made an important point in yesterday’s Jerusalem Post: Once Fatah and Hamas finalize their planned Palestinian unity government, the Palestinian Authority will no longer be able to disclaim responsibility for what happens in Gaza. Inter alia, that means it won’t be able to disclaim responsibility for Gilad Shalit, the Israeli soldier kidnapped by Hamas in a cross-border raid five years ago.

As Baker noted, this leaves the PA with three choices. One is to secure Shalit’s release. The second is to admit direct complicity in a war crime: Even if you buy Hamas sympathizers’ claim that Shalit is a legitimate prisoner of war, holding him incommunicado for five years, without even visits by the Red Cross, is a war crime by any standard. The third is to admit that, unity government notwithstanding, the PA still doesn’t actually control Gaza—in which case it fails to meet a basic requirement for statehood under the Montevideo Convention: governmental control over the relevant territory.

Where Baker is wrong, however, is saying this makes Shalit’s fate a crucial test for the new PA government, because the PA has no reason to believe the world will care. Why should the PA worry about complicity in a war crime if the European Union and the Obama administration will nevertheless keep giving it hundreds of millions of dollars a year? Alternatively, why should it worry about lacking de-facto control over Gaza if the vast majority of the world’s countries will recognize a Palestinian state in the pre-1967 lines come September anyway?

Thus rather than being a test for the PA, this is a test for the West. Both the EU and Washington have repeatedly condemned Shalit’s ongoing captivity. Will they now put their money—and their UN votes—where their mouths are and insist that the PA release him as the price of continued funding or recognition? Or will they follow the usual pattern of refusing to penalize the PA no matter what it does?

For the EU, the answer is self-evident: There’s no chance of its ever penalizing the PA. But the Europeans ought to at least be forced to confront their own hypocrisy on human rights instead of being allowed to sweep it comfortably under the rug. The Obama administration, in contrast, might act, but only if it feels sufficient pressure.

Yet neither the EU nor Washington will feel any pressure at all unless Israel and its overseas supporters make an issue of Shalit. And many Israel supporters won’t feel comfortable pressing this issue if Israel’s government seems indifferent.

Ultimately, therefore, this is a test for Jerusalem: Will it press the PA hard over this issue and lobby Western countries to do the same? Or would it rather choose between abandoning Shalit and tamely accepting Hamas’s terms—1,000 terrorists for one kidnapped soldier?

Alan Baker, a former legal advisor to Israel’s Foreign Ministry, made an important point in yesterday’s Jerusalem Post: Once Fatah and Hamas finalize their planned Palestinian unity government, the Palestinian Authority will no longer be able to disclaim responsibility for what happens in Gaza. Inter alia, that means it won’t be able to disclaim responsibility for Gilad Shalit, the Israeli soldier kidnapped by Hamas in a cross-border raid five years ago.

As Baker noted, this leaves the PA with three choices. One is to secure Shalit’s release. The second is to admit direct complicity in a war crime: Even if you buy Hamas sympathizers’ claim that Shalit is a legitimate prisoner of war, holding him incommunicado for five years, without even visits by the Red Cross, is a war crime by any standard. The third is to admit that, unity government notwithstanding, the PA still doesn’t actually control Gaza—in which case it fails to meet a basic requirement for statehood under the Montevideo Convention: governmental control over the relevant territory.

Where Baker is wrong, however, is saying this makes Shalit’s fate a crucial test for the new PA government, because the PA has no reason to believe the world will care. Why should the PA worry about complicity in a war crime if the European Union and the Obama administration will nevertheless keep giving it hundreds of millions of dollars a year? Alternatively, why should it worry about lacking de-facto control over Gaza if the vast majority of the world’s countries will recognize a Palestinian state in the pre-1967 lines come September anyway?

Thus rather than being a test for the PA, this is a test for the West. Both the EU and Washington have repeatedly condemned Shalit’s ongoing captivity. Will they now put their money—and their UN votes—where their mouths are and insist that the PA release him as the price of continued funding or recognition? Or will they follow the usual pattern of refusing to penalize the PA no matter what it does?

For the EU, the answer is self-evident: There’s no chance of its ever penalizing the PA. But the Europeans ought to at least be forced to confront their own hypocrisy on human rights instead of being allowed to sweep it comfortably under the rug. The Obama administration, in contrast, might act, but only if it feels sufficient pressure.

Yet neither the EU nor Washington will feel any pressure at all unless Israel and its overseas supporters make an issue of Shalit. And many Israel supporters won’t feel comfortable pressing this issue if Israel’s government seems indifferent.

Ultimately, therefore, this is a test for Jerusalem: Will it press the PA hard over this issue and lobby Western countries to do the same? Or would it rather choose between abandoning Shalit and tamely accepting Hamas’s terms—1,000 terrorists for one kidnapped soldier?

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Score: Bibi 3, Barack 0

My take today in the New York Post:

In a demonstration of political and policy haplessness almost without precedent, the president of the United States decided last week for the third time in three years to go after a beloved ally of the United States with no practical goal and for no practical purpose.

And for the third time, he has had his hat handed to him.

The whole piece can be found here.

My take today in the New York Post:

In a demonstration of political and policy haplessness almost without precedent, the president of the United States decided last week for the third time in three years to go after a beloved ally of the United States with no practical goal and for no practical purpose.

And for the third time, he has had his hat handed to him.

The whole piece can be found here.

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