Commentary Magazine


Posts For: September 29, 2011

The Obama Meltdown

Oh, my.

According to Rasmussen Reports, President Obama leads GOP presidential candidate Herman Cain by only five points. In addition, the president is drawing less than 40 percent support from those polled (39 percent v. 34 percent). And in a new Harris poll, Mr. Obama trails Representative Ron Paul by two points.

What this suggests is that Mr. Obama’s slide in the polls in accelerating, and it’s not clear just where the floor for him is. What we are witnessing is an Obama Meltdown, with the public turning hard and in overwhelming numbers against the president. We may soon get to the point where anyone short of a deceased person – Mel Gibson, Barry Bonds, Lady Gaga — may be within single digits of Mr. Obama in any given poll.

The Obama presidency is being crushed by events. So is Mr. Obama’s party. An open revolt among Democrats is getting closer by the day.

Oh, my.

According to Rasmussen Reports, President Obama leads GOP presidential candidate Herman Cain by only five points. In addition, the president is drawing less than 40 percent support from those polled (39 percent v. 34 percent). And in a new Harris poll, Mr. Obama trails Representative Ron Paul by two points.

What this suggests is that Mr. Obama’s slide in the polls in accelerating, and it’s not clear just where the floor for him is. What we are witnessing is an Obama Meltdown, with the public turning hard and in overwhelming numbers against the president. We may soon get to the point where anyone short of a deceased person – Mel Gibson, Barry Bonds, Lady Gaga — may be within single digits of Mr. Obama in any given poll.

The Obama presidency is being crushed by events. So is Mr. Obama’s party. An open revolt among Democrats is getting closer by the day.

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Cartoonist to be Tried for Insulting Islam

If free speech and religious tolerance–even tolerance toward those who renounce religion–is the mark of a liberal, free society, then Turkey is moving headlong into Islamic Republic of Iran territory. A cartoonist who questioned religious devotion and the existence of God in a cartoon will be tried in Turkey.  According to Hurriyet, “The Istanbul chief public prosecutor’s office charged cartoonist Bahadır Baruter with ”insulting the religious values adopted by a part of the population’ and requested his imprisonment for up to one year.”

If Turkey’s Jews were the canary in the coal mine, then Turkey today has become the Centralia mine fire. No longer can Turkey be said to enjoy freedom of religion, a free press, or the trappings of any other modern, European society.

If free speech and religious tolerance–even tolerance toward those who renounce religion–is the mark of a liberal, free society, then Turkey is moving headlong into Islamic Republic of Iran territory. A cartoonist who questioned religious devotion and the existence of God in a cartoon will be tried in Turkey.  According to Hurriyet, “The Istanbul chief public prosecutor’s office charged cartoonist Bahadır Baruter with ”insulting the religious values adopted by a part of the population’ and requested his imprisonment for up to one year.”

If Turkey’s Jews were the canary in the coal mine, then Turkey today has become the Centralia mine fire. No longer can Turkey be said to enjoy freedom of religion, a free press, or the trappings of any other modern, European society.

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Palin Should Be More Honest About Her Reasons For Not Running

As a general rule, my view is the less said about Sarah Palin these days, the better. But she gave an interview to Fox’s Greta van Susteren that did catch my eye. Governor Palin, in discussing whether or not she would run for the presidency, said this:

Does a title shackle a person? Are they, someone like me who’s maverick – you know I do go rogue and I call it like I see it and I don’t mind stirring it up in order to get people to think and debate aggressively and to find solutions to the problems that our country is facing – somebody like me, is a title and is a campaign too shackling? Does that prohibit me from being out there, out of the box, not allowing handlers to shape me and to force my message to be what donors or what contributors or what political pundits want it to be. Does a title take away my freedom to call it like I see it and to affect positive change that we need in this country? That’s the biggest contemplation piece in my process.

Where to begin?

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As a general rule, my view is the less said about Sarah Palin these days, the better. But she gave an interview to Fox’s Greta van Susteren that did catch my eye. Governor Palin, in discussing whether or not she would run for the presidency, said this:

Does a title shackle a person? Are they, someone like me who’s maverick – you know I do go rogue and I call it like I see it and I don’t mind stirring it up in order to get people to think and debate aggressively and to find solutions to the problems that our country is facing – somebody like me, is a title and is a campaign too shackling? Does that prohibit me from being out there, out of the box, not allowing handlers to shape me and to force my message to be what donors or what contributors or what political pundits want it to be. Does a title take away my freedom to call it like I see it and to affect positive change that we need in this country? That’s the biggest contemplation piece in my process.

Where to begin?

How about with the observation that the argument that titles like president/presidential candidate shackles a person just doesn’t hold together. Ms. Palin complains that a run for the presidency would “prohibit” her from getting her message out because “handlers” would “shape me and … force my message to be” what others would want it to be.

But where is it written in stone that a candidate has to accede to the wishes of her “handlers”? Self-confident candidates – and I’ve known a few in my time — would simply ignore advice that they consider limiting. Indeed, one of the great opportunities afforded to those running for president is to inject certain issues into the public conversation and to get people to debate solutions to our challenges (think Ronald Reagan and supply side economics). Having worked in the White House, I can report to Ms. Palin that, based on my observations, the title “president” is not limiting or shackling in the least. President Lincoln didn’t find it so. He was actually able to advance some fairly significant ideas during both his various candidacies and his presidency. The presidency, in fact, allows an individual to shape history in a way that few others can ever hope to experience.

That isn’t a reason by itself to run for president. Ms. Palin may well have other interests. The grind of a campaign may no longer appeal to her. Neither might the pay cut. I get all that. But justifying a decision not to run for president by insisting that she’s better than the process – that she’s too “rogue,” too “independent,” and too much of a “maverick” to be constrained by a campaign and the office of the presidency – is embarrassing. It also reveals, I think, a deep-seated insecurity. Ms. Palin knows full well she wouldn’t do well running for president (give her points for self-awareness), but she feels the need to try to place a cloak of virtue around herself to explain it.

Governor Palin should be more honest with us, and with herself, for the reasons she won’t run. Because the idea that she can influence events more as a Fox News analyst (which may be a great gig) than as president of the United States is quite silly. She can’t possibly believe that. Can she?

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HHS Bans Staff from Speaking Freely with Media

Health and Human Services has just released a revised media policy, which forbids staffers from talking to journalists without first getting authorization from the HHS press office. The policy also bans employees from speaking off-the-record with reporters, rules that could significantly hinder investigative journalism.

Health-focused trade publications, which are dependent on confidential sources in agencies like the HHS, are already blasting the policy. Jim Dickinson, editor of FDA Webview and FDA Review called them a “Soviet-style power grab” and warned that the “existing [trade] media will likely die out” because of them:

The new formal HHS Guidelines on the Provision of Information to the News Media represent, to this 36-year veteran of reporting FDA news, a Soviet-style power-grab. By requiring all HHS employees to arrange their information-sharing with news media through their agency press office, HHS has formalized a creeping information-control mechanism that informally began during the Clinton Administration and was accelerated by the Bush and Obama administrations.

Consider how impossible these guidelines make the acquisition by a journalist of confidential internal sources in an agency like FDA. The existence of such confidential sources gave an economic foundation to and made possible the foundation of my own media, and the founding of earlier trade media such as The Pink Sheet and Food Chemical News, among many others.

The rules will make accurate coverage of the HHS much more difficult. Banning HHS staffers from talking off-the-record could have a chilling effect, and requiring them to get their conversations with journalists authorized by the media relations office means that the public will get less truth and more spin.

And as Cato’s Michael Cannon points out, the policy changes come at a noteworthy time:

Since this came on the heels of an HHS official announcing that the agency is scuttling ObamaCare‘s long-term care entitlement, a.k.a. the “CLASS Act,” one wonders if there is a connection.  Or maybe HHS is just motivated by a general fear that the more the public learns about ObamaCare, the less we will like it.

It sounds like the changes have been happening slowly for some time, but the agency’s decision might have been prompted by an embarrassing email leak from the CLASS Act office last week. The major concern now is that if HHS gets away with this new policy, other government agencies could end up following suit.

Health and Human Services has just released a revised media policy, which forbids staffers from talking to journalists without first getting authorization from the HHS press office. The policy also bans employees from speaking off-the-record with reporters, rules that could significantly hinder investigative journalism.

Health-focused trade publications, which are dependent on confidential sources in agencies like the HHS, are already blasting the policy. Jim Dickinson, editor of FDA Webview and FDA Review called them a “Soviet-style power grab” and warned that the “existing [trade] media will likely die out” because of them:

The new formal HHS Guidelines on the Provision of Information to the News Media represent, to this 36-year veteran of reporting FDA news, a Soviet-style power-grab. By requiring all HHS employees to arrange their information-sharing with news media through their agency press office, HHS has formalized a creeping information-control mechanism that informally began during the Clinton Administration and was accelerated by the Bush and Obama administrations.

Consider how impossible these guidelines make the acquisition by a journalist of confidential internal sources in an agency like FDA. The existence of such confidential sources gave an economic foundation to and made possible the foundation of my own media, and the founding of earlier trade media such as The Pink Sheet and Food Chemical News, among many others.

The rules will make accurate coverage of the HHS much more difficult. Banning HHS staffers from talking off-the-record could have a chilling effect, and requiring them to get their conversations with journalists authorized by the media relations office means that the public will get less truth and more spin.

And as Cato’s Michael Cannon points out, the policy changes come at a noteworthy time:

Since this came on the heels of an HHS official announcing that the agency is scuttling ObamaCare‘s long-term care entitlement, a.k.a. the “CLASS Act,” one wonders if there is a connection.  Or maybe HHS is just motivated by a general fear that the more the public learns about ObamaCare, the less we will like it.

It sounds like the changes have been happening slowly for some time, but the agency’s decision might have been prompted by an embarrassing email leak from the CLASS Act office last week. The major concern now is that if HHS gets away with this new policy, other government agencies could end up following suit.

Read Less




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