Commentary Magazine


Posts For: June 16, 2011

Pawlenty Comeback Needs More Than Time

Much of the commentary about Tim Pawlenty in the last three days has centered on whether or not the former Minnesota governor can recover from his abysmal performance in the Republican presidential debate in New Hampshire on Monday. Pawlenty’s defenders believe that the memory of the awkward moment when he froze when asked to back up strong criticisms of rival Mitt Romney will soon fade.

While positive spin was to be expected from Pawlenty’s camp, even as sharp an observer as Rush Limbaugh dismissed the furor over Pawlenty’s refusal to repeat his denunciation of Romney’s Massachusetts health care bill as “Obamneycare” to his face. Limbaugh claimed this week that it was all the invention of liberal journalists who wanted more internecine warfare between the candidates rather than a chorus of condemnation of President Obama.

But though Rush’s instincts are usually on target when it comes to scoping out the Republican lineup, the problem here is that it was conservatives who were more turned off by Pawlenty’s timidity when given the opportunity to take on his main rival than anyone on the left. After all, it was conservatives who blasted Romney’s lame attempt to draw a distinction between his Massachusetts legislation and Obamacare. Rather than an invitation to a “food fight,” as Pawlenty’s backer Vin Webber put it, this was Pawlenty’s chance to hammer this point home and he flubbed it, leaving viewers with the impression that he was the sort of person who would talk about a rival behind his back but wasn’t man enough to say the same words to his face.

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Much of the commentary about Tim Pawlenty in the last three days has centered on whether or not the former Minnesota governor can recover from his abysmal performance in the Republican presidential debate in New Hampshire on Monday. Pawlenty’s defenders believe that the memory of the awkward moment when he froze when asked to back up strong criticisms of rival Mitt Romney will soon fade.

While positive spin was to be expected from Pawlenty’s camp, even as sharp an observer as Rush Limbaugh dismissed the furor over Pawlenty’s refusal to repeat his denunciation of Romney’s Massachusetts health care bill as “Obamneycare” to his face. Limbaugh claimed this week that it was all the invention of liberal journalists who wanted more internecine warfare between the candidates rather than a chorus of condemnation of President Obama.

But though Rush’s instincts are usually on target when it comes to scoping out the Republican lineup, the problem here is that it was conservatives who were more turned off by Pawlenty’s timidity when given the opportunity to take on his main rival than anyone on the left. After all, it was conservatives who blasted Romney’s lame attempt to draw a distinction between his Massachusetts legislation and Obamacare. Rather than an invitation to a “food fight,” as Pawlenty’s backer Vin Webber put it, this was Pawlenty’s chance to hammer this point home and he flubbed it, leaving viewers with the impression that he was the sort of person who would talk about a rival behind his back but wasn’t man enough to say the same words to his face.

This terrible moment was made even worse because it came on the same night that Michele Bachmann, Pawlenty’s Minnesota antagonist and principle rival in the Iowa caucuses made an impressive debut on the national stage. Pawlenty has branded himself as something of a wimp, not exactly the impression he wanted to leave Republicans with on the night they were introduced to the gutsy though sometimes reckless Bachmann.

It is, of course, true that this happened very early in the process and, as Weber told the New York Times, the media’s attention span is short. That means he has plenty of time to make up for his gaffe and continue giving substantive and impressive speeches such as his campaign launch in Iowa and his economics speech at the University of Chicago. But the question for Pawlenty is whether the Republicans who have been trying to evaluate a largely unknown Midwestern governor have now gotten the idea that he is too “Minnesota nice” to take on Romney, let alone Barack Obama next year. If that is who Pawlenty really is, time isn’t the answer to his problems. The lingering suspicion is that Monday’s moment was not matter of bad coaching or just a bad night but a window into Pawlenty’s pleasant but placid character. If that turns out to be the case, no amount of spin will save his campaign.

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Reid’s Strategy: More Paul Ryan Attacks

Now that even Sen. Harry Reid’s fellow Democrats are getting fed up with the party’s budget delays, the senator is trying to shift anger back to the GOP by ramping up his denunciations of the Republican Medicare plan on the Senate floor.

“We know Republicans have put together a budget that destroys Medicare,” said Reid on Tuesday. “It appears clear they would rather balance the budget on the backs of seniors.”

Today Reid continued his attacks, saying that the Republican plan is to “end Medicare, slash Medicaid and put millions of seniors at risk.”

Part of Reid’s strategy is to distract from Democratic budget delays, but his assaults may end up forcing the GOP into a more defensive position on Medicare. Despite Democratic claims that Rep. Paul Ryan’s Medicare plan is politically toxic, a 45 percent plurality of Americans still remain undecided on the issue, according to the Wall Street Journal/NBC poll released today. That presents a big opening for Republicans to defend the Ryan plan, but it’s a two-way street: the numbers indicate that a large number of Americans could also be susceptible to Democratic criticism of the proposal.

However, Democrats may be wrong if they’re counting on the Medicare issue to easily sway voters in their direction. The same poll found that 38 percent are more likely to vote for a candidate who supports Ryan’s Medicare reform, while virtually the same number — 37 percent — are less likely to vote for that candidate. Further, 18% say it won’t make a difference in determining their vote, and 7% are undecided about whether it will make a difference.

That doesn’t mean Republicans should be overly-confident either. Reid’s attacks could present a significant challenge for the GOP, as it attempts to simultaneously defend its Medicare proposals while still keeping the focus on the Democrats’ failure to produce a budget.

Now that even Sen. Harry Reid’s fellow Democrats are getting fed up with the party’s budget delays, the senator is trying to shift anger back to the GOP by ramping up his denunciations of the Republican Medicare plan on the Senate floor.

“We know Republicans have put together a budget that destroys Medicare,” said Reid on Tuesday. “It appears clear they would rather balance the budget on the backs of seniors.”

Today Reid continued his attacks, saying that the Republican plan is to “end Medicare, slash Medicaid and put millions of seniors at risk.”

Part of Reid’s strategy is to distract from Democratic budget delays, but his assaults may end up forcing the GOP into a more defensive position on Medicare. Despite Democratic claims that Rep. Paul Ryan’s Medicare plan is politically toxic, a 45 percent plurality of Americans still remain undecided on the issue, according to the Wall Street Journal/NBC poll released today. That presents a big opening for Republicans to defend the Ryan plan, but it’s a two-way street: the numbers indicate that a large number of Americans could also be susceptible to Democratic criticism of the proposal.

However, Democrats may be wrong if they’re counting on the Medicare issue to easily sway voters in their direction. The same poll found that 38 percent are more likely to vote for a candidate who supports Ryan’s Medicare reform, while virtually the same number — 37 percent — are less likely to vote for that candidate. Further, 18% say it won’t make a difference in determining their vote, and 7% are undecided about whether it will make a difference.

That doesn’t mean Republicans should be overly-confident either. Reid’s attacks could present a significant challenge for the GOP, as it attempts to simultaneously defend its Medicare proposals while still keeping the focus on the Democrats’ failure to produce a budget.

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What Do You Mean “We,” Mr. Press Secretary?

White House press secretary Jay Carney was asked about the statement yesterday by DNC chairman Debbie Wasserman Schulz when, speaking for Democrats, she declared, “We own the economy.” Carney’s response was, “We all own the economy.”

I’m reminded of the old joke when the Lone Ranger and Tonto spot a horde of Indian braves approaching them, ready for battle. “It looks like we’re in trouble, Tonto,” the Lone Ranger says to his sidekick. To which Tonto replies, “What do you mean ‘we,’ white man?”

What do you mean “we,” Mr. Press Secretary?

Whether Jay Carney likes it or not, the political rules are in place and they are long-standing: the president gets the credit and the blame for the state of the economy. Those rules won’t change for Barack Obama. He owns the economy. Get used to it.

White House press secretary Jay Carney was asked about the statement yesterday by DNC chairman Debbie Wasserman Schulz when, speaking for Democrats, she declared, “We own the economy.” Carney’s response was, “We all own the economy.”

I’m reminded of the old joke when the Lone Ranger and Tonto spot a horde of Indian braves approaching them, ready for battle. “It looks like we’re in trouble, Tonto,” the Lone Ranger says to his sidekick. To which Tonto replies, “What do you mean ‘we,’ white man?”

What do you mean “we,” Mr. Press Secretary?

Whether Jay Carney likes it or not, the political rules are in place and they are long-standing: the president gets the credit and the blame for the state of the economy. Those rules won’t change for Barack Obama. He owns the economy. Get used to it.

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The Chronicle of Higher Education Re-Invents Cole

Speaking about James Risen’s single-source allegation that nefarious forces sought to blacklist University of Michigan professor Juan Cole, The Chronicle of Higher Education‘s blog wrote this :

In 2006, Yale University denied him a teaching post after faculty in the sociology and history departments had voted to hire him, a move that many supporters alleged was the result of divisive political opinions on his blog…

Sometimes, details matter. I happen to follow Yale’s history department closely (having spent four undergraduate years and five post-graduate years there, and counting many faculty members among my friends), and here’s what The Chronicle omitted:

  • The posting to which Cole applied was for someone that could combine policy experience with academic depth. Cole has the academic depth, but he does not have the policy experience.
  • While the history and sociology departments did vote in favor of Cole’s appointment, faculty members in the departments say they did so by unprecedented slim margins. This led senior officials to raise eyebrows at the lack of consensus.
  • Stripping away his politics, Cole is a scholar of the 19th century Middle East. Yale already has a tenured faculty member who focuses on the 19th century Middle East and so to maximize the department’s reach, the administration did not consider Cole a wise choice.
  • While Cole trumpets his rejection by Yale to project himself as a martyr, The Chronicle ignores that around the same time, Duke University rejected Cole. The multiple rejections suggest perhaps something else was to blame for Cole’s rejections (perhaps Cole himself).

Now, Alana raises some fine points here, and Cole complains that perhaps some mysterious blacklisting caused the number of invitations he received to curtail. Cole wants to be a martyr, but sometimes there’s a simpler truth: Cole might know Iraq’s history — even if he filters it through a theoretical prism — but at the time he had not been to Iraq and, as far as I know, he still has not been. Back in 2003 and 2004, he might have gotten away lecturing to analysts who knew far less than he did. But as more and more people had on-the-ground experience in Iraq, many came to conclude that bombast and turn-of-phrase did not substitute for precision, nor did mutlilingual compilation of news translate into accuracy. Simply put, CIA analysts and others — Risen, perhaps, excepted — concluded the professor had no clothes. No mysterious government conspiracy was needed to discredit Cole; he did a pretty good job himself.

Speaking about James Risen’s single-source allegation that nefarious forces sought to blacklist University of Michigan professor Juan Cole, The Chronicle of Higher Education‘s blog wrote this :

In 2006, Yale University denied him a teaching post after faculty in the sociology and history departments had voted to hire him, a move that many supporters alleged was the result of divisive political opinions on his blog…

Sometimes, details matter. I happen to follow Yale’s history department closely (having spent four undergraduate years and five post-graduate years there, and counting many faculty members among my friends), and here’s what The Chronicle omitted:

  • The posting to which Cole applied was for someone that could combine policy experience with academic depth. Cole has the academic depth, but he does not have the policy experience.
  • While the history and sociology departments did vote in favor of Cole’s appointment, faculty members in the departments say they did so by unprecedented slim margins. This led senior officials to raise eyebrows at the lack of consensus.
  • Stripping away his politics, Cole is a scholar of the 19th century Middle East. Yale already has a tenured faculty member who focuses on the 19th century Middle East and so to maximize the department’s reach, the administration did not consider Cole a wise choice.
  • While Cole trumpets his rejection by Yale to project himself as a martyr, The Chronicle ignores that around the same time, Duke University rejected Cole. The multiple rejections suggest perhaps something else was to blame for Cole’s rejections (perhaps Cole himself).

Now, Alana raises some fine points here, and Cole complains that perhaps some mysterious blacklisting caused the number of invitations he received to curtail. Cole wants to be a martyr, but sometimes there’s a simpler truth: Cole might know Iraq’s history — even if he filters it through a theoretical prism — but at the time he had not been to Iraq and, as far as I know, he still has not been. Back in 2003 and 2004, he might have gotten away lecturing to analysts who knew far less than he did. But as more and more people had on-the-ground experience in Iraq, many came to conclude that bombast and turn-of-phrase did not substitute for precision, nor did mutlilingual compilation of news translate into accuracy. Simply put, CIA analysts and others — Risen, perhaps, excepted — concluded the professor had no clothes. No mysterious government conspiracy was needed to discredit Cole; he did a pretty good job himself.

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Abdullah’s Hypocritical Lament

Jordan’s monarchs have always gotten a free pass from the Western press no matter what their country did or how despotic the Hashemite regime was. That explains the way King Abdullah turned an interview with the Washington Post yesterday into another commercial for his government as a force for peace and democracy.

Abdullah was in the nation’s capital for talks with President Obama in which he urged him to take “bold steps to “jump-start peace talks” between Israel and the Palestinians. Abdullah seemed to be reading from the Obama playbook when he said that Israel had to act now to save itself: “If it’s not a two-state solution, then it’s a one-state solution,” he said. “And then, is it going to be apartheid, or is it going to be democracy?”

Astonishingly, Abdullah went on to lecture Israel about the need for granting democratic rights to Palestinians and said that the ascendance of right-wing parties in Israel was the result of too much American support: “When you get billions in aid and your weapons resupplied and your ammunition stock resupplied, you don’t learn the lesson that war is bad and nobody wins,” Abdullah said.

That the autocratic, unelected leader of a minority regime such as that of Jordan would be allowed to lecture a democracy like Israel on this score without being challenged is a tribute to Jordan’s incredibly good public relations if nothing else. If anybody needs democracy, it is the Palestinian majority in Jordan that has chafed for generations under minority Bedouin rule. But although he is as much under the gun as other Arab autocrats during the year of the Arab Spring, Abdullah was not asked by the Post about giving his own people some rights.

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Jordan’s monarchs have always gotten a free pass from the Western press no matter what their country did or how despotic the Hashemite regime was. That explains the way King Abdullah turned an interview with the Washington Post yesterday into another commercial for his government as a force for peace and democracy.

Abdullah was in the nation’s capital for talks with President Obama in which he urged him to take “bold steps to “jump-start peace talks” between Israel and the Palestinians. Abdullah seemed to be reading from the Obama playbook when he said that Israel had to act now to save itself: “If it’s not a two-state solution, then it’s a one-state solution,” he said. “And then, is it going to be apartheid, or is it going to be democracy?”

Astonishingly, Abdullah went on to lecture Israel about the need for granting democratic rights to Palestinians and said that the ascendance of right-wing parties in Israel was the result of too much American support: “When you get billions in aid and your weapons resupplied and your ammunition stock resupplied, you don’t learn the lesson that war is bad and nobody wins,” Abdullah said.

That the autocratic, unelected leader of a minority regime such as that of Jordan would be allowed to lecture a democracy like Israel on this score without being challenged is a tribute to Jordan’s incredibly good public relations if nothing else. If anybody needs democracy, it is the Palestinian majority in Jordan that has chafed for generations under minority Bedouin rule. But although he is as much under the gun as other Arab autocrats during the year of the Arab Spring, Abdullah was not asked by the Post about giving his own people some rights.

Yet Abdullah’s carping about Israel is particularly absurd and hypocritical. Israel’s turn to the right, it has little, if anything, to do with American support. Rather, it is the direct result of Palestinian rejectionism that has utterly destroyed the Israeli left in successive elections in the last decade. Israel has already embraced the two-state solution that he advocates but it has been rejected time and again by the Palestinians who even now refuse to even negotiate with the Jewish state. Even worse, the Palestinian “moderates” that Abdullah and Obama want Israel to make concessions to have now embraced a coalition with the Islamists of Hamas making peace even less likely.

If there is any country that has been coddled by the United States it is Jordan, not Israel. It was Abdullah’s father, after all, the charming and popular Hussein, who is responsible for the unification of Jerusalem and Israel’s capture of the West Bank. It was he who embraced Egyptian dictator Gamal Abdel Nasser and war against Israel in 1967. Hussein also supported Saddam Hussein’s invasion of Kuwait. Though he was loved in Israel for making peace with it in 1994, over the decades he slaughtered thousands of Palestinians in order to hold onto his kingdom. Yet the United States, and Israel have always been so desperate to preserve that monarchy that they have winked at everything its rulers have done.

If Abdullah cares that much about democracy, he ought to try it at home. And if he’s worried about peace, the king and his friend President Obama need to start pressuring the Palestinians, not Israel, to negotiate.

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In Defense of Peter King

Rep. Peter King appeared on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” and offered a strong, intelligent defense of his Congressional hearings on the radicalization of Muslims, in this case the radicalization that takes place in prisons.

The critics of King are living in a make-believe world. The rest of us live in the real one, where the radicalization of young Muslim men is (a) taking place and (b) poses a significant threat to our nation. Even Attorney General Eric Holder has admitted that the radicalization of young men of the Islamic faith keeps him awake at night.

King himself has said that “the overwhelming majority of Muslims are outstanding Americans,” but he is concerned about efforts to radicalize a small number that could lead to violence. And he’s right to be concerned. In his “Morning Joe” interview, the representative from New York’s 3rd District says he’d be derelict in his duties if he didn’t hold the hearings and added that he isn’t about to back down. Rep. King is right on the first count and he deserves credit on the second one. His hearings are not only defensible; they are necessary.

Rep. Peter King appeared on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” and offered a strong, intelligent defense of his Congressional hearings on the radicalization of Muslims, in this case the radicalization that takes place in prisons.

The critics of King are living in a make-believe world. The rest of us live in the real one, where the radicalization of young Muslim men is (a) taking place and (b) poses a significant threat to our nation. Even Attorney General Eric Holder has admitted that the radicalization of young men of the Islamic faith keeps him awake at night.

King himself has said that “the overwhelming majority of Muslims are outstanding Americans,” but he is concerned about efforts to radicalize a small number that could lead to violence. And he’s right to be concerned. In his “Morning Joe” interview, the representative from New York’s 3rd District says he’d be derelict in his duties if he didn’t hold the hearings and added that he isn’t about to back down. Rep. King is right on the first count and he deserves credit on the second one. His hearings are not only defensible; they are necessary.

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No Sympathy For “Unemployed” Millionaires

Mitt Romney should have known that his joke during a Tampa campaign stop today about being “unemployed” himself would draw fire. It’s not much of a gaffe but predictably Democratic National Committee Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz pounced on it. Assuming a pose of high dudgeon, she huffed that his silly remark was “out of touch,” “inappropriate” and “insensitive” to the unemployed. What’s more she went on to blast him as “a man who wants for nothing” who is advocating for the “failed policies of the past” that “got us into the situation we’re in.”

I know party chairs are supposed to blast everything said by the other side but does Wasserman Schultz really think this sort of self-righteousness impresses anyone? After all, it’s not as if “employed” politicians, such as the congresswoman herself, are considered by most Americans to have an honest job.

What’s more, wasn’t she the one who said yesterday that the Democrats “owned the economy?” But I guess that just means they own the parts that are not a colossal failure, as opposed to the unemployment rate that is currently higher than the one that Barack Obama inherited in January 2009. If anything, Wasserman Schultz would do better to refrain from any comments herself that might draw attention to this issue.

As for Romney, as much as his weak joke won’t hurt him with Republicans, if he really is the GOP frontrunner, he’s going to have to remember that every word that comes out of his mouth is fodder for his critics as well as those of his party. Moreover as an extremely wealthy man whose fortune was made at Bain Capital in part by downsizing faltering companies and outsourcing their jobs, he is particularly vulnerable to swipes about his financial career, a point that Wasserman Schultz’s over-the-top harrumphing about his joke entirely missed. That speaks volumes not only about Romney’s need to be more careful but the DNC chair’s ineptitude.

Mitt Romney should have known that his joke during a Tampa campaign stop today about being “unemployed” himself would draw fire. It’s not much of a gaffe but predictably Democratic National Committee Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz pounced on it. Assuming a pose of high dudgeon, she huffed that his silly remark was “out of touch,” “inappropriate” and “insensitive” to the unemployed. What’s more she went on to blast him as “a man who wants for nothing” who is advocating for the “failed policies of the past” that “got us into the situation we’re in.”

I know party chairs are supposed to blast everything said by the other side but does Wasserman Schultz really think this sort of self-righteousness impresses anyone? After all, it’s not as if “employed” politicians, such as the congresswoman herself, are considered by most Americans to have an honest job.

What’s more, wasn’t she the one who said yesterday that the Democrats “owned the economy?” But I guess that just means they own the parts that are not a colossal failure, as opposed to the unemployment rate that is currently higher than the one that Barack Obama inherited in January 2009. If anything, Wasserman Schultz would do better to refrain from any comments herself that might draw attention to this issue.

As for Romney, as much as his weak joke won’t hurt him with Republicans, if he really is the GOP frontrunner, he’s going to have to remember that every word that comes out of his mouth is fodder for his critics as well as those of his party. Moreover as an extremely wealthy man whose fortune was made at Bain Capital in part by downsizing faltering companies and outsourcing their jobs, he is particularly vulnerable to swipes about his financial career, a point that Wasserman Schultz’s over-the-top harrumphing about his joke entirely missed. That speaks volumes not only about Romney’s need to be more careful but the DNC chair’s ineptitude.

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Did the Bush White House ‘”Spy'” on Juan Cole?

That’s what the New York Times is reporting, based solely on the allegations of one former CIA officer. Glenn Carle, who was at the agency for 23 years, told the Times the Bush White House asked the CIA  to collect “damaging personal information” on University of Michigan professor and deranged conspiracy-monger Juan Cole, apparently because the administration was concerned about Cole’s criticism of the Iraq war:

In an interview, Mr. Carle said his supervisor at the National Intelligence Council told him in 2005 that White House officials wanted “to get” Professor Cole, and made clear that he wanted Mr. Carle to collect information about him, an effort Mr. Carle rebuffed. Months later, Mr. Carle said, he confronted a C.I.A. official after learning of another attempt to collect information about Professor Cole. Mr. Carle said he contended at the time that such actions would have been unlawful.

It’s an entertaining article to say the least, but the Times wasn’t able to get anyone, including other CIA officials, to corroborate Carle’s story. There are a few key pieces of information the Times  leaves out. One is that Carle’s soon-to-be-released book (which the Times only mentions in passing), is about Carle’s disillusionment with the CIA and the war on terror. Here’s what Lawrence Wilkerson has to say about the book, in an endorsement on Carle’s website:

“In The Interrogator, Glenn Carle has done more than simply lift a part of the curtain behind which are lurking despicable men such as John Yoo and Douglas Feith, he has turned the stage lights on those who stand out front and continue to receive rave reviews from the rabid right wing, men such as Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld. But most of all, Carle’s moving and emotional story—in spite of CIA redactions to the text—has exposed us all, from the CIA officers who turned a blind eye, to the cabinet members who should have known better, to the American people themselves because they allowed such people to corrupt our nation. I know; I was one of them.”

Sounds like Carle isn’t a big fan of the Bush administration. It might have been helpful for the Times to include that piece of background in its article. The Times also avoids the obvious question, which is why would the Bush administration use CIA manpower to dig up dirt to discredit Juan Cole, when they could have easily found the same information by looking at his delusional online ramblings?

That’s what the New York Times is reporting, based solely on the allegations of one former CIA officer. Glenn Carle, who was at the agency for 23 years, told the Times the Bush White House asked the CIA  to collect “damaging personal information” on University of Michigan professor and deranged conspiracy-monger Juan Cole, apparently because the administration was concerned about Cole’s criticism of the Iraq war:

In an interview, Mr. Carle said his supervisor at the National Intelligence Council told him in 2005 that White House officials wanted “to get” Professor Cole, and made clear that he wanted Mr. Carle to collect information about him, an effort Mr. Carle rebuffed. Months later, Mr. Carle said, he confronted a C.I.A. official after learning of another attempt to collect information about Professor Cole. Mr. Carle said he contended at the time that such actions would have been unlawful.

It’s an entertaining article to say the least, but the Times wasn’t able to get anyone, including other CIA officials, to corroborate Carle’s story. There are a few key pieces of information the Times  leaves out. One is that Carle’s soon-to-be-released book (which the Times only mentions in passing), is about Carle’s disillusionment with the CIA and the war on terror. Here’s what Lawrence Wilkerson has to say about the book, in an endorsement on Carle’s website:

“In The Interrogator, Glenn Carle has done more than simply lift a part of the curtain behind which are lurking despicable men such as John Yoo and Douglas Feith, he has turned the stage lights on those who stand out front and continue to receive rave reviews from the rabid right wing, men such as Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld. But most of all, Carle’s moving and emotional story—in spite of CIA redactions to the text—has exposed us all, from the CIA officers who turned a blind eye, to the cabinet members who should have known better, to the American people themselves because they allowed such people to corrupt our nation. I know; I was one of them.”

Sounds like Carle isn’t a big fan of the Bush administration. It might have been helpful for the Times to include that piece of background in its article. The Times also avoids the obvious question, which is why would the Bush administration use CIA manpower to dig up dirt to discredit Juan Cole, when they could have easily found the same information by looking at his delusional online ramblings?

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GOP Field Takes Shape With Romney Out Front

Two new polls today show Mitt Romney with a significant lead over the rest of the GOP presidential field. First there’s Rasmussen, which found 33 percent of likely Republican voters supporting Romney, with Rep. Michele Bachmann coming in at a surprise second place at 19 percent. The rest of the candidates — Herman Cain, Newt Gingrich, Ron Paul, Tim Pawlenty, Rick Santorum and Jon Huntsman — all garner 10 percent or less.

The second poll by NBC/Wall Street Journal also has Romney in the lead with 30 percent of registered GOP primary voters supporting him. But when it comes to the rest of the candidates, the poll found markedly less support for Bachmann than Rasmussen, possibly because it included Sarah Palin and Rick Perry as contenders. Palin gets 14 percent support, Cain gets 12 percent, Perry gets 8 percent, Paul gets 7 percent and Gingrich gets 6 percent. Bachmann and the rest of the field — Pawlenty, Santorum and Huntsman – each bring in less than 5 percent.

One question in the NBC/Wall Street Journal poll removed Palin, Perry, Huntsman, Cain from the equation, which gave Romney 43 percent support. Bachmann ties Paul for second place at 11 percent, which is still significantly lower than her showing in the Rasmussen poll.

One reason for the discrepancy may be because the NBC/Wall Street Journal poll took place during the June 9- June 13 period, which was mainly before Bachmann’s breakout performance in the New Hampshire debate on June 13. The Rasmussen poll was taken after the debate.

The two polls give the Romney campaign a major boost, and he’s quickly solidifying his position as the definitive frontrunner. They also underscore a growing problem for Pawlenty, who failed to position himself as the Romney alternative in either poll. But the Rasmussen findings should give Bachmann’s campaign reasons for optimism — she seems to be eclipsing Pawlenty as Romney’s biggest competitor. Her objective now is to keep this momentum going.

Two new polls today show Mitt Romney with a significant lead over the rest of the GOP presidential field. First there’s Rasmussen, which found 33 percent of likely Republican voters supporting Romney, with Rep. Michele Bachmann coming in at a surprise second place at 19 percent. The rest of the candidates — Herman Cain, Newt Gingrich, Ron Paul, Tim Pawlenty, Rick Santorum and Jon Huntsman — all garner 10 percent or less.

The second poll by NBC/Wall Street Journal also has Romney in the lead with 30 percent of registered GOP primary voters supporting him. But when it comes to the rest of the candidates, the poll found markedly less support for Bachmann than Rasmussen, possibly because it included Sarah Palin and Rick Perry as contenders. Palin gets 14 percent support, Cain gets 12 percent, Perry gets 8 percent, Paul gets 7 percent and Gingrich gets 6 percent. Bachmann and the rest of the field — Pawlenty, Santorum and Huntsman – each bring in less than 5 percent.

One question in the NBC/Wall Street Journal poll removed Palin, Perry, Huntsman, Cain from the equation, which gave Romney 43 percent support. Bachmann ties Paul for second place at 11 percent, which is still significantly lower than her showing in the Rasmussen poll.

One reason for the discrepancy may be because the NBC/Wall Street Journal poll took place during the June 9- June 13 period, which was mainly before Bachmann’s breakout performance in the New Hampshire debate on June 13. The Rasmussen poll was taken after the debate.

The two polls give the Romney campaign a major boost, and he’s quickly solidifying his position as the definitive frontrunner. They also underscore a growing problem for Pawlenty, who failed to position himself as the Romney alternative in either poll. But the Rasmussen findings should give Bachmann’s campaign reasons for optimism — she seems to be eclipsing Pawlenty as Romney’s biggest competitor. Her objective now is to keep this momentum going.

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Obama-Lauer Interview on Economy May Come Back to Haunt

There are a lot of people to credit for this clip.  (I’ll offer a hat tip to Allahpundit who in turn credits others.)  It’s from a February 2009 interview a newly elected President Obama did with NBC’s Matt Lauer, in which Obama says about the economy, “”I will be held accountable… If I don’t have this done in three years, then there’s going to be a one-term proposition.”

When the Obama presidency was just 10 days old, that seemed like a safe thing to say. Now that he’s two-and-a-half years into his presidency and the economy is struggling, his words may come back to haunt him.

Of course, what Obama said at the dawn of his administration made perfect sense; he would be given a grace period for some period of time – but after that, he and his party would be held responsible for his/their policies. That happened during the 2010 mid-term election, which was an epic rebuke of Democrats. And it will happen in 2012 as well.

Obama still has less than eight months before he reaches the three-year mark of his presidency. He better hope they go better than the first 29 months.

There are a lot of people to credit for this clip.  (I’ll offer a hat tip to Allahpundit who in turn credits others.)  It’s from a February 2009 interview a newly elected President Obama did with NBC’s Matt Lauer, in which Obama says about the economy, “”I will be held accountable… If I don’t have this done in three years, then there’s going to be a one-term proposition.”

When the Obama presidency was just 10 days old, that seemed like a safe thing to say. Now that he’s two-and-a-half years into his presidency and the economy is struggling, his words may come back to haunt him.

Of course, what Obama said at the dawn of his administration made perfect sense; he would be given a grace period for some period of time – but after that, he and his party would be held responsible for his/their policies. That happened during the 2010 mid-term election, which was an epic rebuke of Democrats. And it will happen in 2012 as well.

Obama still has less than eight months before he reaches the three-year mark of his presidency. He better hope they go better than the first 29 months.

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Dem Pressure, More Revelations Doomed Weiner

Rep. Anthony Weiner will finally resign today after consulting with his wife, sources tell the New York Times. Many had speculated that he would wait to step down until his wife returned from an overseas diplomacy trip with her boss Hillary Clinton, and they were right.

The past few days have made it clear there is no way Weiner could return to work after a stint in rehab. Even more embarrassing private messages from the congressman have continued to trickle out during the last 24 hours, and there’s no indication that the humiliation will end anytime soon.

The publicity vultures are swooping in. First there was the press conference yesterday with the exotic dancer Ginger Lee and Gloria Allred. Since then, TMZ has released more private messages between Lee and Weiner. There’s more to this, but at some point in the last day or two the story seemed to have crossed the line from politics to lashon hara.

There’s not really much more to say on the subject. Weiner will hold a press conference today, and then it will be over. Hopefully he’ll be able to resolve the issue with his wife and family. Hopefully he’ll be able to get the help it seems he needs. But his resignation puts this story to a close. There comes a time when dwelling on these scandals is no longer helpful.

Rep. Anthony Weiner will finally resign today after consulting with his wife, sources tell the New York Times. Many had speculated that he would wait to step down until his wife returned from an overseas diplomacy trip with her boss Hillary Clinton, and they were right.

The past few days have made it clear there is no way Weiner could return to work after a stint in rehab. Even more embarrassing private messages from the congressman have continued to trickle out during the last 24 hours, and there’s no indication that the humiliation will end anytime soon.

The publicity vultures are swooping in. First there was the press conference yesterday with the exotic dancer Ginger Lee and Gloria Allred. Since then, TMZ has released more private messages between Lee and Weiner. There’s more to this, but at some point in the last day or two the story seemed to have crossed the line from politics to lashon hara.

There’s not really much more to say on the subject. Weiner will hold a press conference today, and then it will be over. Hopefully he’ll be able to resolve the issue with his wife and family. Hopefully he’ll be able to get the help it seems he needs. But his resignation puts this story to a close. There comes a time when dwelling on these scandals is no longer helpful.

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Kristof’s “Satire”: Why Don’t We Emulate the Military?

Who knew Nick Kristof could be so funny? Normally the New York Times columnist is earnest in the extreme. But today he uncorks a hilarious (if possibly inadvertent) satire of “liberal fascist” thinking, headlined “Our Lefty Military.”  His premise is our armed forces should be the model on which we base society—“it’s the purest application of socialism there is,” he approvingly quotes retired Gen. Wesley Clark.

You see, the military does a great job of integrating people of all races and backgrounds. It’s hierarchical yet “nurtures… camaraderie.” It offers “single-payer health care,” a “day care system for working parents,” and lots of opportunities for higher education. Why, Kristof wonders, don’t we emulate the military’s example across America?

Good idea. And while we’re at it, why don’t we mandate that all Americans have to accept orders from a government employee who will tell them when they can go to work, what jobs they will perform, when they can exercise, when they can go to sleep, where they can live, what they can wear, where they can travel, etc? And, just to make sure we get our money’s worth for all the goodies we plan to dole out to the population (free health care! free day care!), let’s also mandate that all citizens will have to undertake life-threatening tasks on a regular basis.

Of course I’m sure there won’t be any problem paying for an expansion of all those benefits to the rest of society. Sure, the military’s Tricare medical benefits for retirees are so costly as to be “unsustainable,” in the words of Defense Secretary Bob Gates. But no doubt Kristof can perform some budget legerdemain that can make a far larger version of single-payer cost-effective for the entire country. And while we’re at it, why don’t we offer everyone government-subsidized groceries just like at military PXs?

Some unkind critics might suggest Kristof is making the same kind of arguments Hitler and Mussolini once made. They too were inspired by the military model and wanted to apply it across society writ large. But that would be to miss the larger point: Kristof is only joking. Right?

Who knew Nick Kristof could be so funny? Normally the New York Times columnist is earnest in the extreme. But today he uncorks a hilarious (if possibly inadvertent) satire of “liberal fascist” thinking, headlined “Our Lefty Military.”  His premise is our armed forces should be the model on which we base society—“it’s the purest application of socialism there is,” he approvingly quotes retired Gen. Wesley Clark.

You see, the military does a great job of integrating people of all races and backgrounds. It’s hierarchical yet “nurtures… camaraderie.” It offers “single-payer health care,” a “day care system for working parents,” and lots of opportunities for higher education. Why, Kristof wonders, don’t we emulate the military’s example across America?

Good idea. And while we’re at it, why don’t we mandate that all Americans have to accept orders from a government employee who will tell them when they can go to work, what jobs they will perform, when they can exercise, when they can go to sleep, where they can live, what they can wear, where they can travel, etc? And, just to make sure we get our money’s worth for all the goodies we plan to dole out to the population (free health care! free day care!), let’s also mandate that all citizens will have to undertake life-threatening tasks on a regular basis.

Of course I’m sure there won’t be any problem paying for an expansion of all those benefits to the rest of society. Sure, the military’s Tricare medical benefits for retirees are so costly as to be “unsustainable,” in the words of Defense Secretary Bob Gates. But no doubt Kristof can perform some budget legerdemain that can make a far larger version of single-payer cost-effective for the entire country. And while we’re at it, why don’t we offer everyone government-subsidized groceries just like at military PXs?

Some unkind critics might suggest Kristof is making the same kind of arguments Hitler and Mussolini once made. They too were inspired by the military model and wanted to apply it across society writ large. But that would be to miss the larger point: Kristof is only joking. Right?

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Council on Foreign Relations’ “Vogue Moment”

Vogue magazine had a bit of embarrassment when, just as the Arab spring protests got going, they featured a fawning profile of Syrian first lady Asma al-Assad. While the editors defended it at the time, the piece has now quietly disappeared from the magazine’s website.

I guess it says a lot about my general nerdiness that I’m more prone to read the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) annual report than I am to read Vogue. But, after seeing the big photo on page 9 of CFR President Richard Haass and Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi, I suspect I know how the Vanity Fair editor must feel. Just as Asma al-Assad was the humane face to a reformist regime in certain elite circles, Qaddafi became the symbol of successful engagement to Haass and his fellow realists. I wonder how that assessment is holding up and whether any copy editors are looking for a new job. (Ed. Note: An earlier version of this item mistakenly attributed Vogue‘s article to Vanity Fair. Our apologies.)

Vogue magazine had a bit of embarrassment when, just as the Arab spring protests got going, they featured a fawning profile of Syrian first lady Asma al-Assad. While the editors defended it at the time, the piece has now quietly disappeared from the magazine’s website.

I guess it says a lot about my general nerdiness that I’m more prone to read the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) annual report than I am to read Vogue. But, after seeing the big photo on page 9 of CFR President Richard Haass and Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi, I suspect I know how the Vanity Fair editor must feel. Just as Asma al-Assad was the humane face to a reformist regime in certain elite circles, Qaddafi became the symbol of successful engagement to Haass and his fellow realists. I wonder how that assessment is holding up and whether any copy editors are looking for a new job. (Ed. Note: An earlier version of this item mistakenly attributed Vogue‘s article to Vanity Fair. Our apologies.)

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Good Riddance Anthony Weiner

The reported decision of Anthony Weiner to resign his House seat will probably be greeted with great relief by members of his party. Weiner has finally come to his senses and realized he can’t continue to serve after attaining pariah status. This is due as much to his public lying as to his inappropriate behavior.

In the last several days there had been a groundswell of support for Weiner on the left. Weiner had a strong liberal fan base that loved the way he bullied his opponents and smeared them with impunity. They hoped the Brooklyn congressman could survive this scandal the way the man who had conducted his marriage — Bill Clinton — had survived l’affaire Lewinsky. Some argued, not without justice, other politicians have been embroiled in scandals even worse than Weiner’s without resigning. Louisiana Republican Senator David Vitter, who was involved with prostitutes, is the best such example. He not only didn’t resign but was subsequently re-elected. But Louisiana’s loose moral standards in terms of personal behavior and official corruption ought not to be adopted by the rest of the nation.

But let’s understand what’s been going on here. Republicans called for Weiner to resign to embarrass the Democrats. Democrats needed Weiner to resign to remove a distraction that had derailed their political agenda. Yet despite that, Weiner needed to leave for two reasons that had nothing to do with party politics.

First, the notion it is acceptable for a married member of Congress to be making lewd advances to women on the Internet who had contacted him because of his political positions is not one with which most Americans can live. Private people are entitled to private peccadilloes, but members of the United States Congress should not use their offices as platforms for that sort of behavior.

But even worse was the brazen manner in which Weiner spent a week lying about his behavior while accusing his political opponents of having orchestrated a hoax. His apologists said that was understandable since he was just lying about an embarrassing personal situation. But it was more than that. Remember his tirade outside of his office during which he: a. accused right-wingers of trying to sabotage him; b. insulted and bullied the press; c. Tried to divert the press from his story by casually putting out a smear about Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas’ integrity? That performance alone illustrated everything wrong with Anthony Weiner and our political culture.

The day Weiner resigns will be a good one for Congress. He won’t be the last lout, bully and liar to serve in that august body, but his exit will mean there is one less such individual on the public payroll.

The reported decision of Anthony Weiner to resign his House seat will probably be greeted with great relief by members of his party. Weiner has finally come to his senses and realized he can’t continue to serve after attaining pariah status. This is due as much to his public lying as to his inappropriate behavior.

In the last several days there had been a groundswell of support for Weiner on the left. Weiner had a strong liberal fan base that loved the way he bullied his opponents and smeared them with impunity. They hoped the Brooklyn congressman could survive this scandal the way the man who had conducted his marriage — Bill Clinton — had survived l’affaire Lewinsky. Some argued, not without justice, other politicians have been embroiled in scandals even worse than Weiner’s without resigning. Louisiana Republican Senator David Vitter, who was involved with prostitutes, is the best such example. He not only didn’t resign but was subsequently re-elected. But Louisiana’s loose moral standards in terms of personal behavior and official corruption ought not to be adopted by the rest of the nation.

But let’s understand what’s been going on here. Republicans called for Weiner to resign to embarrass the Democrats. Democrats needed Weiner to resign to remove a distraction that had derailed their political agenda. Yet despite that, Weiner needed to leave for two reasons that had nothing to do with party politics.

First, the notion it is acceptable for a married member of Congress to be making lewd advances to women on the Internet who had contacted him because of his political positions is not one with which most Americans can live. Private people are entitled to private peccadilloes, but members of the United States Congress should not use their offices as platforms for that sort of behavior.

But even worse was the brazen manner in which Weiner spent a week lying about his behavior while accusing his political opponents of having orchestrated a hoax. His apologists said that was understandable since he was just lying about an embarrassing personal situation. But it was more than that. Remember his tirade outside of his office during which he: a. accused right-wingers of trying to sabotage him; b. insulted and bullied the press; c. Tried to divert the press from his story by casually putting out a smear about Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas’ integrity? That performance alone illustrated everything wrong with Anthony Weiner and our political culture.

The day Weiner resigns will be a good one for Congress. He won’t be the last lout, bully and liar to serve in that august body, but his exit will mean there is one less such individual on the public payroll.

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Huntsman’s Target: GOP, Not Obama

Last week, we wrote about how presidential wannabe Jon Huntsman is still so loyal to his former boss Barack Obama he won’t criticize the president by name. But apparently, Huntsman’s chief strategist John Weaver has no such compunctions about blasting his own party.

Esquire quotes Weaver speaking of the Republican Party as being “a bunch of cranks” that is “nowhere near being a national governing party.”

Weaver, who helped run John McCain’s campaign, is following through on that notion by crafting a Huntsman run predicated on contempt for both the party whose nomination he seeks and its activists. The liberal Esquirethinks Monday’s GOP debate that gave major boosts to both Mitt Romney and Michele Bachmann exposed the field as extremists. According to them, that gives Huntsman an opening to be a major contender. But Esquire and Weaver fail to explain how he hopes to win the nomination of an increasingly conservative party by running as a liberal.

Both Huntsman and Weaver make it clear the former Utah governor and ambassador to China will run on a platform calling for a bug out in Afghanistan and Libya. While some support for isolationism and war fatigue exists within Republican circles, the main constituency for this sort of a candidate exists in the Democratic Party, not the GOP. The “cranks” for which Weaver has such disdain are the ones who catapulted the Republicans to a record midterm landslide last November. And it is largely those “cranks” and Tea Partiers who will pick their party’s presidential nominee.

Huntsman continues to rack up laudatory press clippings from publications with little sympathy for his party or its base. Which means it is rapidly becoming apparent there has never before been a candidate with so much support in the press and absolutely no appeal to the voters of the party to whose nomination he aspires.

Last week, we wrote about how presidential wannabe Jon Huntsman is still so loyal to his former boss Barack Obama he won’t criticize the president by name. But apparently, Huntsman’s chief strategist John Weaver has no such compunctions about blasting his own party.

Esquire quotes Weaver speaking of the Republican Party as being “a bunch of cranks” that is “nowhere near being a national governing party.”

Weaver, who helped run John McCain’s campaign, is following through on that notion by crafting a Huntsman run predicated on contempt for both the party whose nomination he seeks and its activists. The liberal Esquirethinks Monday’s GOP debate that gave major boosts to both Mitt Romney and Michele Bachmann exposed the field as extremists. According to them, that gives Huntsman an opening to be a major contender. But Esquire and Weaver fail to explain how he hopes to win the nomination of an increasingly conservative party by running as a liberal.

Both Huntsman and Weaver make it clear the former Utah governor and ambassador to China will run on a platform calling for a bug out in Afghanistan and Libya. While some support for isolationism and war fatigue exists within Republican circles, the main constituency for this sort of a candidate exists in the Democratic Party, not the GOP. The “cranks” for which Weaver has such disdain are the ones who catapulted the Republicans to a record midterm landslide last November. And it is largely those “cranks” and Tea Partiers who will pick their party’s presidential nominee.

Huntsman continues to rack up laudatory press clippings from publications with little sympathy for his party or its base. Which means it is rapidly becoming apparent there has never before been a candidate with so much support in the press and absolutely no appeal to the voters of the party to whose nomination he aspires.

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Al Gore Warms Up to Romney

Mitt Romney’s recent statements endorsing the idea global warming is the result of human activity have raised eyebrows among conservatives who see such a stance as a capitulation to liberal myths. But the strongest sign his stand might cost him conservative votes hasn’t come from a Republican but from someone whom members of his own party can’t stand: former Vice President Al Gore. Gore, who has made a lucrative career peddling alarmist ideas about the environment since his time in Washington, gave Romney a big thumbs up in his own blog, praising him for taking on the “anti-science wing of the Republican Party.”

As Politico pointed out  last week, Romney’s views on global warming haven’t received much attention because conservative critics have been so focused on what they rightly consider his hypocritical record on health care. But with the former Massachusetts governor now widely considered the frontrunner of the GOP presidential field, he ought to expect even greater scrutiny on a host of other issues. Which means the Al Gore endorsement will probably be thrown in Romney’s face in both campaign ads and perhaps even at a future Republican debate (though perhaps not by Tim Pawlenty who has already shown himself too timorous to criticize Romney to his face).

To be fair, Romney’s stance on global warming is nowhere near as extreme as that of Gore, who won an Oscar and a Nobel Peace Prize for his film about the subject even though many of the extreme claims about both warming and the consequences of such a trend have been debunked. He has also, unlike Jon Huntsman, not endorsed cap and trade policies that would hamstring the U.S. economy for the sake of warming ideology. But the presidential candidate has stuck to a position that seems calculated to keep his options open in a general election: endorsing global warming science while expressing skepticism about liberal ideas put forward to do something about it.

Still, Romney’s global warming statements have given conservative critics another reason to be wary of him and, no doubt, will fuel the determination of many in the party to stop him from being the nominee. This may not present a problem for him at the moment. The GOP field is crowded, and Romney may not need many conservative votes to win pluralities in the first states to vote. But after the early primaries, when in all likelihood Romney will be left to face one or two surviving challengers from the right, he may come to regret Al Gore’s endorsement.

Mitt Romney’s recent statements endorsing the idea global warming is the result of human activity have raised eyebrows among conservatives who see such a stance as a capitulation to liberal myths. But the strongest sign his stand might cost him conservative votes hasn’t come from a Republican but from someone whom members of his own party can’t stand: former Vice President Al Gore. Gore, who has made a lucrative career peddling alarmist ideas about the environment since his time in Washington, gave Romney a big thumbs up in his own blog, praising him for taking on the “anti-science wing of the Republican Party.”

As Politico pointed out  last week, Romney’s views on global warming haven’t received much attention because conservative critics have been so focused on what they rightly consider his hypocritical record on health care. But with the former Massachusetts governor now widely considered the frontrunner of the GOP presidential field, he ought to expect even greater scrutiny on a host of other issues. Which means the Al Gore endorsement will probably be thrown in Romney’s face in both campaign ads and perhaps even at a future Republican debate (though perhaps not by Tim Pawlenty who has already shown himself too timorous to criticize Romney to his face).

To be fair, Romney’s stance on global warming is nowhere near as extreme as that of Gore, who won an Oscar and a Nobel Peace Prize for his film about the subject even though many of the extreme claims about both warming and the consequences of such a trend have been debunked. He has also, unlike Jon Huntsman, not endorsed cap and trade policies that would hamstring the U.S. economy for the sake of warming ideology. But the presidential candidate has stuck to a position that seems calculated to keep his options open in a general election: endorsing global warming science while expressing skepticism about liberal ideas put forward to do something about it.

Still, Romney’s global warming statements have given conservative critics another reason to be wary of him and, no doubt, will fuel the determination of many in the party to stop him from being the nominee. This may not present a problem for him at the moment. The GOP field is crowded, and Romney may not need many conservative votes to win pluralities in the first states to vote. But after the early primaries, when in all likelihood Romney will be left to face one or two surviving challengers from the right, he may come to regret Al Gore’s endorsement.

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Gambler on a Losing Streak

Jennifer Rubin summarizes the White House’s continuing efforts to spin President Obama’s “1967 lines with agreed swaps” formulation as “nothing new.” In one sense, the argument the president said nothing new in his May 19 speech is a joke. In another, however, it is indeed not new — but not in a sense that reflects well on the president.

Obama’s formulation is similar to the 1969 Rogers Plan, proposed by President Nixon’s secretary of state, who wanted changes to the 1967 lines “confined to insubstantial alterations required for mutual security” agreed upon by the parties. On May 19, Obama said borders should be “based on the 1967 lines with mutually agreed swaps, so that secure and recognized borders are established for both states.” The Palestinians have made it clear, on numerous occasions, they will not agree to anything other than insubstantial alterations.

But the Rogers Plan never became U.S. policy: it was killed by President Nixon and his national security adviser, Henry Kissinger — neither of whom ever endorsed it.

Yehuda Avner’s invaluable recent book, The Prime Ministers: An Intimate Narrative of Israeli Leadership, provides some essential background about the Rogers Plan. Rogers had announced his plan without consulting Israel. He envisioned an Israeli withdrawal and what  he described as a “state of peace” to be “guaranteed” by the U.S., Russia, Britain and France. Prime Minister Golda Meir thought it was preposterous. Israeli Ambassador Yitzhak Rabin prepared material to be distributed to various reporters, politicians and opinion makers, reflecting Israel’s talking papers with senior administration officials. The material asserted:

U.S. policy as it is now unfolding comes close to the advocacy and development of an imposed settlement. . . . [T]he U.S. proposals do more than undermine the principle of negotiation; they preempt its very prospect. If the United States has already determined what the “secure and recognized boundaries” are there is no point in Israel taking part in any negotiations with anybody at all. Why should the Arabs consent to give Israel more than what America is recommending publicly?

Rabin soon reported that Rogers was in retreat and a columnist had quoted Kissinger telling Nixon that “Rogers is like a gambler on a losing streak. He wants to increase his stakes all the time. The whole thing is doomed to futility.”

Rogers was simply the secretary of state on an ill-considered State Department venture; he did not have the benefit of prior experience trying to force Israel back to indefensible lines, nor the lessons of complete withdrawals from Lebanon and Gaza. Barack Obama lacks any such excuse for his multiple efforts to have Israel accede to Palestinian demands before negotiations even begin. But he keeps at it, like a gambler on a losing streak.

Jennifer Rubin summarizes the White House’s continuing efforts to spin President Obama’s “1967 lines with agreed swaps” formulation as “nothing new.” In one sense, the argument the president said nothing new in his May 19 speech is a joke. In another, however, it is indeed not new — but not in a sense that reflects well on the president.

Obama’s formulation is similar to the 1969 Rogers Plan, proposed by President Nixon’s secretary of state, who wanted changes to the 1967 lines “confined to insubstantial alterations required for mutual security” agreed upon by the parties. On May 19, Obama said borders should be “based on the 1967 lines with mutually agreed swaps, so that secure and recognized borders are established for both states.” The Palestinians have made it clear, on numerous occasions, they will not agree to anything other than insubstantial alterations.

But the Rogers Plan never became U.S. policy: it was killed by President Nixon and his national security adviser, Henry Kissinger — neither of whom ever endorsed it.

Yehuda Avner’s invaluable recent book, The Prime Ministers: An Intimate Narrative of Israeli Leadership, provides some essential background about the Rogers Plan. Rogers had announced his plan without consulting Israel. He envisioned an Israeli withdrawal and what  he described as a “state of peace” to be “guaranteed” by the U.S., Russia, Britain and France. Prime Minister Golda Meir thought it was preposterous. Israeli Ambassador Yitzhak Rabin prepared material to be distributed to various reporters, politicians and opinion makers, reflecting Israel’s talking papers with senior administration officials. The material asserted:

U.S. policy as it is now unfolding comes close to the advocacy and development of an imposed settlement. . . . [T]he U.S. proposals do more than undermine the principle of negotiation; they preempt its very prospect. If the United States has already determined what the “secure and recognized boundaries” are there is no point in Israel taking part in any negotiations with anybody at all. Why should the Arabs consent to give Israel more than what America is recommending publicly?

Rabin soon reported that Rogers was in retreat and a columnist had quoted Kissinger telling Nixon that “Rogers is like a gambler on a losing streak. He wants to increase his stakes all the time. The whole thing is doomed to futility.”

Rogers was simply the secretary of state on an ill-considered State Department venture; he did not have the benefit of prior experience trying to force Israel back to indefensible lines, nor the lessons of complete withdrawals from Lebanon and Gaza. Barack Obama lacks any such excuse for his multiple efforts to have Israel accede to Palestinian demands before negotiations even begin. But he keeps at it, like a gambler on a losing streak.

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Senate Ethanol Victory May Be Reversed

On Tuesday, 45 Senate Democrats (and Socialist Bernie Sanders) joined with 13 Republicans to save federal ethanol subsidies. The largely partisan vote ended Oklahoma Senator Tom Coburn’s effort to put a stop to this costly boondoggle that does little to promote American energy independence but a lot for refiners and corn farmers.

But this latest victory for a lobby that squeezes more than $6 billion a year out of the government may be short-lived. The Washington Post reported yesterday a new bi-partisan initiative might be in the works to reverse this vote and finally end Washington’s ethanol addiction. According to the Post, up to 20 Democrats may be willing to change sides on the issue if a new effort led by California Senator Dianne Feinstein comes to the floor. The paper’s sources claim this week’s ethanol industry victory was, in large measure, a rebuke for the independent-minded Coburn who has been a scourge of all government spending and is deeply disliked by Democrats.

The ethanol subsidy, which began in the Jimmy Carter era and has become even more costly in subsequent decades, is a tribute to the influence of the agriculture lobby and corn growing states like Iowa. Indeed, the ethanol lobby’s grip on Washington more or less coincided with the emergence of the Iowa caucuses as the first test of strength in presidential primary years. But in this era of budget crisis, even the ethanol lobbyists themselves are beginning to understand the free ride for corn farmers and the middle men who refine the fuel supplement is about to end. Though most presidential candidates like Mitt Romney still routinely endorse ethanol subsidies, the willingness of challengers such as Tim Pawlenty to call for an end to them is a measure of the change in the political climate. While ethanol is just a tiny piece of the fiscal puzzle, it is an outrageous waste of taxpayer dollars.

Thus, the stage is set for another round of legislative battle over the issue. Feinstein is hoping she can gather enough votes to end the 45 cents a gallon tax credit for ethanol in gasoline. Meanwhile Sen. John McCain is seeking to stop the flow of federal dollars for ethanol blender pumps and storage facilities. Given her status as a member of the majority, Democrat Feinstein’s amendment has a decent chance to get the 60 votes that would stop a pro-ethanol filibuster.

Unfortunately, the ethanol lobby isn’t that worried about the votes. Even if they lose, they know these bills will wind up being spiked because of procedural issues. Nevertheless, the willingness of some Democrats to join with conservatives on this issue may mark the beginning of the end of this special interest scandal.

On Tuesday, 45 Senate Democrats (and Socialist Bernie Sanders) joined with 13 Republicans to save federal ethanol subsidies. The largely partisan vote ended Oklahoma Senator Tom Coburn’s effort to put a stop to this costly boondoggle that does little to promote American energy independence but a lot for refiners and corn farmers.

But this latest victory for a lobby that squeezes more than $6 billion a year out of the government may be short-lived. The Washington Post reported yesterday a new bi-partisan initiative might be in the works to reverse this vote and finally end Washington’s ethanol addiction. According to the Post, up to 20 Democrats may be willing to change sides on the issue if a new effort led by California Senator Dianne Feinstein comes to the floor. The paper’s sources claim this week’s ethanol industry victory was, in large measure, a rebuke for the independent-minded Coburn who has been a scourge of all government spending and is deeply disliked by Democrats.

The ethanol subsidy, which began in the Jimmy Carter era and has become even more costly in subsequent decades, is a tribute to the influence of the agriculture lobby and corn growing states like Iowa. Indeed, the ethanol lobby’s grip on Washington more or less coincided with the emergence of the Iowa caucuses as the first test of strength in presidential primary years. But in this era of budget crisis, even the ethanol lobbyists themselves are beginning to understand the free ride for corn farmers and the middle men who refine the fuel supplement is about to end. Though most presidential candidates like Mitt Romney still routinely endorse ethanol subsidies, the willingness of challengers such as Tim Pawlenty to call for an end to them is a measure of the change in the political climate. While ethanol is just a tiny piece of the fiscal puzzle, it is an outrageous waste of taxpayer dollars.

Thus, the stage is set for another round of legislative battle over the issue. Feinstein is hoping she can gather enough votes to end the 45 cents a gallon tax credit for ethanol in gasoline. Meanwhile Sen. John McCain is seeking to stop the flow of federal dollars for ethanol blender pumps and storage facilities. Given her status as a member of the majority, Democrat Feinstein’s amendment has a decent chance to get the 60 votes that would stop a pro-ethanol filibuster.

Unfortunately, the ethanol lobby isn’t that worried about the votes. Even if they lose, they know these bills will wind up being spiked because of procedural issues. Nevertheless, the willingness of some Democrats to join with conservatives on this issue may mark the beginning of the end of this special interest scandal.

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Obama Wants Israel to Pay for UN Veto

Obama administration officials are in Israel this week for more talks with Israel and the Palestinians. Their goal isn’t simply to try and get Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to bend to the president’s demand Israel accept the 1967 lines as the starting point for future negotiations, though that is certainly on the top of their agenda. It is to force Israel to make concessions that will somehow convince the Palestinians to abandon their effort to have the United Nations recognize an independent Palestinian state inside those same 1967 borders.

The Americans are pretending the purpose of the president’s controversial Middle East policy speech and the subsequent diplomatic hammering of Israel by Secretary of State Clinton and envoy Dennis Ross is to revive the long stalled peace talks with the Palestinians. But no one seriously believes the Palestinians are interested in negotiations. They have had several opportunities during the two and a half years of the Obama administration but have consistently refused.

Now the Palestinians have decided the Third World anti-Israel majority in the United Nations will eliminate the need for them to even go through the charade of negotiations. UN recognition will mean they can have their state without recognizing Israel’s legitimacy or agreeing to end the conflict. This is a recipe for more bloodshed and an end of American influence in the region. Which is why any U.S. administration, even one as unfriendly to Israel as that of Obama, must veto such a resolution. But the president, who pines for the love of the Arab world in vain, doesn’t want to do it. So he is putting all of his effort into making Israel bribe the Palestinians into dropping the UN initiative.

This is madness for a number of reasons.

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Obama administration officials are in Israel this week for more talks with Israel and the Palestinians. Their goal isn’t simply to try and get Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to bend to the president’s demand Israel accept the 1967 lines as the starting point for future negotiations, though that is certainly on the top of their agenda. It is to force Israel to make concessions that will somehow convince the Palestinians to abandon their effort to have the United Nations recognize an independent Palestinian state inside those same 1967 borders.

The Americans are pretending the purpose of the president’s controversial Middle East policy speech and the subsequent diplomatic hammering of Israel by Secretary of State Clinton and envoy Dennis Ross is to revive the long stalled peace talks with the Palestinians. But no one seriously believes the Palestinians are interested in negotiations. They have had several opportunities during the two and a half years of the Obama administration but have consistently refused.

Now the Palestinians have decided the Third World anti-Israel majority in the United Nations will eliminate the need for them to even go through the charade of negotiations. UN recognition will mean they can have their state without recognizing Israel’s legitimacy or agreeing to end the conflict. This is a recipe for more bloodshed and an end of American influence in the region. Which is why any U.S. administration, even one as unfriendly to Israel as that of Obama, must veto such a resolution. But the president, who pines for the love of the Arab world in vain, doesn’t want to do it. So he is putting all of his effort into making Israel bribe the Palestinians into dropping the UN initiative.

This is madness for a number of reasons.

First, there is no reason for the U.S. to fold when in all likelihood, the Palestinians will have to give up anyway. Their plan has no chance of success.

Second, any Israeli concessions at this point will not lead to real peace talks. Had PA leader Mahmoud Abbas been willing to accept a Palestinian state in peace alongside Israel in borders that largely resemble what Obama is demanding, he could have said yes to such an offer in 2008 when Ehud Olmert put it on the table. But he said no then just as his predecessor Yasir Arafat said no to previous Israeli offers in 2000 and 2001. Given that he is now part of a coalition with the Islamists of Hamas, there is literally no chance Abbas can make peace now–no matter what gifts he is handed by Obama.

Netanyahu and Israel’s supporters in the United States are being told the Jewish state must give in on the borders to help Obama in the UN. But whether Netanyahu caves or not, there will be no peace talks and no UN recognition of a Palestinian state. All that would be accomplished by an Israeli surrender would be giving up its only bargaining chips — territory — in exchange for nothing. Even worse, doing so now would be an implicit recognition of Hamas’ legitimacy, which would mark yet another departure by the Obama administration from the pro-Israel policies of its predecessors.

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