Commentary Magazine


Topic: ABC News

Obama Losing the Public on the War

The most recent Washington Post/ABC News poll showed Obama losing ground with the public on Afghanistan:

Support for the war in Afghanistan has hit a new low and President Obama’s approval rating for handling it has declined sharply since spring – results that portend trouble for the administration as the violence there grows. With Obama’s surge under way – and casualties rising – the number of Americans who say the war in Afghanistan has been worth fighting has declined from 52 percent in December to 43 percent now. And his approval rating for handling it, 56 percent in April, is down to 45 percent.

Voters’ support for the war depends on whether they make the connection between the war and U.S. security:

Fifty-three percent of Americans say the war in Afghanistan has improved the long-term security of the United States – a majority, but hardly an overpowering one. Fifty percent say the same about the war in Iraq. And many fewer – 25 percent in both cases – say these wars have done “a great deal” to contribute to long-term security, a weak result given their costs in lives and lucre. It matters: Among people who say the Afghanistan war has improved U.S. security, 68 percent also say the war has been worth fighting. In Iraq, among those who see security gains, 72 percent say that war’s been worth it.

There are several explanations for the slippage in support. First, it may be a function of the public’s loss of confidence in Obama in general. At the beginning of his term, if a policy or viewpoint was associated with Obama, the voters were inclined to give it thumbs up. The reverse may be true now. And those who are supportive of the war — including a great number of conservatives — may approve of the handling of the war regardless of (or even in spite of) Obama.

Another possibility is that Obama’s war strategy has managed to please no one. Conservatives are losing confidence because Obama has insisted on an unworkable and counterproductive deadline for our troops to pull out. Liberals have long since given up on defending the “good war.” Trying to split the difference — between cutting and running, on the one hand, and an unqualified commitment to victory, on the other — has unnerved voters of both parties, not to mention our allies.

And yet a third possibility is that long wars are unpopular in democracies, and absent compelling and constant leadership, the public inevitably becomes restless and eventually hostile to the war. Obama — aside from the replacement of Gen. Stanley McChrystal — has rarely talked about the war of late and hasn’t been effective in explaining the connection between Afghanistan and our national security. There is an argument, of course, (if you accept the first explanation, namely that the public is losing confidence generally in Obama) that it wouldn’t help for him to do or say more on the subject. But, frankly, he hasn’t been trying all that hard. And if the public doesn’t listen to him, the administration needs to find someone who will be able to carry the message consistently and effectively. Maybe if we had a serious person as national security advisor or if Hillary weren’t bogged down with minutiae one of them could assume the national explainer role.

Those supportive of the war effort have tried their best to fend off isolationists on both the right and the left. But ultimately there is no replacement for firm presidential leadership. With the selection of Gen. David Petraeus, a move cheered by both Democrats and Republicans, and a solid Rose Garden speech, Obama seemed to be stepping up to the plate. But, alas, within days, the administration was reiterating its timeline for a troop withdrawal. Since McChrystal’s departure, Obama hasn’t followed up with an effort to educate and win over the public.

As skilled as Petraeus is and as magnificent as our troops are, they can’t win the war without an effective and enthusiastic commander in chief. Now is the time for Obama to get his act together. Otherwise we will suffer a devastating loss and he will bear the burden of that loss.

The most recent Washington Post/ABC News poll showed Obama losing ground with the public on Afghanistan:

Support for the war in Afghanistan has hit a new low and President Obama’s approval rating for handling it has declined sharply since spring – results that portend trouble for the administration as the violence there grows. With Obama’s surge under way – and casualties rising – the number of Americans who say the war in Afghanistan has been worth fighting has declined from 52 percent in December to 43 percent now. And his approval rating for handling it, 56 percent in April, is down to 45 percent.

Voters’ support for the war depends on whether they make the connection between the war and U.S. security:

Fifty-three percent of Americans say the war in Afghanistan has improved the long-term security of the United States – a majority, but hardly an overpowering one. Fifty percent say the same about the war in Iraq. And many fewer – 25 percent in both cases – say these wars have done “a great deal” to contribute to long-term security, a weak result given their costs in lives and lucre. It matters: Among people who say the Afghanistan war has improved U.S. security, 68 percent also say the war has been worth fighting. In Iraq, among those who see security gains, 72 percent say that war’s been worth it.

There are several explanations for the slippage in support. First, it may be a function of the public’s loss of confidence in Obama in general. At the beginning of his term, if a policy or viewpoint was associated with Obama, the voters were inclined to give it thumbs up. The reverse may be true now. And those who are supportive of the war — including a great number of conservatives — may approve of the handling of the war regardless of (or even in spite of) Obama.

Another possibility is that Obama’s war strategy has managed to please no one. Conservatives are losing confidence because Obama has insisted on an unworkable and counterproductive deadline for our troops to pull out. Liberals have long since given up on defending the “good war.” Trying to split the difference — between cutting and running, on the one hand, and an unqualified commitment to victory, on the other — has unnerved voters of both parties, not to mention our allies.

And yet a third possibility is that long wars are unpopular in democracies, and absent compelling and constant leadership, the public inevitably becomes restless and eventually hostile to the war. Obama — aside from the replacement of Gen. Stanley McChrystal — has rarely talked about the war of late and hasn’t been effective in explaining the connection between Afghanistan and our national security. There is an argument, of course, (if you accept the first explanation, namely that the public is losing confidence generally in Obama) that it wouldn’t help for him to do or say more on the subject. But, frankly, he hasn’t been trying all that hard. And if the public doesn’t listen to him, the administration needs to find someone who will be able to carry the message consistently and effectively. Maybe if we had a serious person as national security advisor or if Hillary weren’t bogged down with minutiae one of them could assume the national explainer role.

Those supportive of the war effort have tried their best to fend off isolationists on both the right and the left. But ultimately there is no replacement for firm presidential leadership. With the selection of Gen. David Petraeus, a move cheered by both Democrats and Republicans, and a solid Rose Garden speech, Obama seemed to be stepping up to the plate. But, alas, within days, the administration was reiterating its timeline for a troop withdrawal. Since McChrystal’s departure, Obama hasn’t followed up with an effort to educate and win over the public.

As skilled as Petraeus is and as magnificent as our troops are, they can’t win the war without an effective and enthusiastic commander in chief. Now is the time for Obama to get his act together. Otherwise we will suffer a devastating loss and he will bear the burden of that loss.

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RE: Sometimes the Sky Really Is Falling

Pete, your insights proved quite timely. The ABC/Washington Post poll has nothing but bad, very bad, news for Obama:

Public confidence in President Obama has hit a new low, according to the latest Washington Post-ABC News poll. Four months before midterm elections that will define the second half of his term, nearly six in 10 voters say they lack faith in the president to make the right decisions for the country, and a clear majority once again disapproves of how he is dealing with the economy. …

Overall, more than a third of voters polled — 36 percent — say they have no confidence or only some confidence in the president, congressional Democrats and congressional Republicans. Among independents, this disillusionment is higher still. About two-thirds of all voters say they are dissatisfied with or angry about the way the federal government is working.

This spells trouble for Obama’s fellow Democrats:

Democrats nationally remain on the defensive as they seek to retain both houses of Congress this fall. Registered voters are closely divided on the question of whether they will back Republicans or Democrats in House races. Among those who say they are sure to cast ballots in November, 49 percent side with the GOP and 45 percent with Democrats.

Overall, a slim majority of all voters say they would prefer Republican control of Congress so that the legislative branch would act as a check on the president’s policies. Those most likely to vote in the midterms prefer the GOP over continued Democratic rule by a sizable margin of 56 percent to 41 percent.

In short, Obama has lost the confidence of the voters on the issues that matter most. (“Just 43 percent of all Americans now say they approve of the job Obama is doing on the economy, while 54 percent disapprove.”) They will take it out on those with a “D” next to their names in November.

Pete, your insights proved quite timely. The ABC/Washington Post poll has nothing but bad, very bad, news for Obama:

Public confidence in President Obama has hit a new low, according to the latest Washington Post-ABC News poll. Four months before midterm elections that will define the second half of his term, nearly six in 10 voters say they lack faith in the president to make the right decisions for the country, and a clear majority once again disapproves of how he is dealing with the economy. …

Overall, more than a third of voters polled — 36 percent — say they have no confidence or only some confidence in the president, congressional Democrats and congressional Republicans. Among independents, this disillusionment is higher still. About two-thirds of all voters say they are dissatisfied with or angry about the way the federal government is working.

This spells trouble for Obama’s fellow Democrats:

Democrats nationally remain on the defensive as they seek to retain both houses of Congress this fall. Registered voters are closely divided on the question of whether they will back Republicans or Democrats in House races. Among those who say they are sure to cast ballots in November, 49 percent side with the GOP and 45 percent with Democrats.

Overall, a slim majority of all voters say they would prefer Republican control of Congress so that the legislative branch would act as a check on the president’s policies. Those most likely to vote in the midterms prefer the GOP over continued Democratic rule by a sizable margin of 56 percent to 41 percent.

In short, Obama has lost the confidence of the voters on the issues that matter most. (“Just 43 percent of all Americans now say they approve of the job Obama is doing on the economy, while 54 percent disapprove.”) They will take it out on those with a “D” next to their names in November.

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Democrats Realize the Cost of Obamaism — to Them

Rick Klein of ABC News writes:

The House landscape, when combined with President Obama’s drop in popularity among critical independent voters, has the president’s fellow Democrats in a defensive mode, even as the president himself begins to go on offense on the campaign trail. That means extreme skepticism in the rank-and-file as Congress reconvenes this week for what’s likely to be the last major legislative push before campaigning subsumes policy-making.

It’s not simply that there are more than enough seats to flip control of the House and maybe of the Senate as well; it is that Democrats must now traverse a political landscape in which Obama and his agenda threaten their viability. As Klein notes:

As Democrats consult their lists of vulnerable seats, the agenda isn’t likely to help them much.Energy and immigration reform cut more along geographic boundaries than party lines. Moderate and conservative Democrats — including many vulnerable House members in the West and South — are among those who are least anxious to see action on hot-button policy issues, and are particularly concerned about runaway government spending.

If Republicans win big in November, it may not mean the end of the Obama presidency (we certainly have learned that two years in politics is forever) but it will end his aura of political invincibility. Those Democrats who survive will need to chart their own course. And internationally, friends and foes will begin to calculate and calibrate their behavior, knowing Obama may be a one-term president.

Rick Klein of ABC News writes:

The House landscape, when combined with President Obama’s drop in popularity among critical independent voters, has the president’s fellow Democrats in a defensive mode, even as the president himself begins to go on offense on the campaign trail. That means extreme skepticism in the rank-and-file as Congress reconvenes this week for what’s likely to be the last major legislative push before campaigning subsumes policy-making.

It’s not simply that there are more than enough seats to flip control of the House and maybe of the Senate as well; it is that Democrats must now traverse a political landscape in which Obama and his agenda threaten their viability. As Klein notes:

As Democrats consult their lists of vulnerable seats, the agenda isn’t likely to help them much.Energy and immigration reform cut more along geographic boundaries than party lines. Moderate and conservative Democrats — including many vulnerable House members in the West and South — are among those who are least anxious to see action on hot-button policy issues, and are particularly concerned about runaway government spending.

If Republicans win big in November, it may not mean the end of the Obama presidency (we certainly have learned that two years in politics is forever) but it will end his aura of political invincibility. Those Democrats who survive will need to chart their own course. And internationally, friends and foes will begin to calculate and calibrate their behavior, knowing Obama may be a one-term president.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

The best argument against Elena Kagan: “Ms. Kagan took it upon herself to draft language for ACOG [American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists] to insert into its findings, and then she had the gall to present the amended statement to the president without acknowledging that it had been altered, for political reasons, at her direction. Ms. Kagan drafted language stating that partial-birth abortion ‘may be the best or most appropriate procedure in a particular circumstance.’ This later became the linchpin of lower court fact-finding and the Supreme Court’s decision (largely reversed a decade later) that a ban on partial-birth abortions was unconstitutional. Without the language, those particularly inhumane abortions would have been banned a decade earlier.”

The best indication Obama has taken his party too far left: “By an average 10 percentage-point margin since March, 45% to 35%, independent registered voters have consistently preferred the Republican to the Democrat when asked which congressional candidate they would vote for in their district. Independents’ preference for Republicans has been generally consistent over this time, with the gap in favor of Republicans increasing slightly since March, from 8 to 12 points.”

Not the best timing for Charlie Crist: “The arrest of former Florida GOP Chairman Jim Greer, and the lurid allegations of theft and sexual harassment, have riveted Florida’s political class. Now the trial has been set for October 18, date that seems to guarantee that they’ll be central to the election, bad news for Establishment Republicans in general and most of all for Charlie Crist, Greer’s patron”

The best the Democrats can do: “Democratic leaders are likely to punt the task of renewing Bush-era tax cuts until after the election.Voters in November’s midterms will thus be left without a clear idea of their future tax rates when they go to the polls.” It seems that majority status is too vexing a burden for them.

It is best to assume that Obama is not serious about immigration reform. The ABC News headline: “President Obama Pushes Immigration Reform — But Offers No Deadlines, No Specifics.”

Not the best year for Democrats if a Republican is leading in the Oregon gubernatorial race.

The best strategy for the Palestinians is to let Obama beat up on Israel: “Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said Thursday he would not start direct peace talks with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, unless progress was made in U.S.-mediated contacts on the issues of borders and security.” That, in a nutshell, is what is wrong with “proximity” talks.

The best argument against Elena Kagan: “Ms. Kagan took it upon herself to draft language for ACOG [American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists] to insert into its findings, and then she had the gall to present the amended statement to the president without acknowledging that it had been altered, for political reasons, at her direction. Ms. Kagan drafted language stating that partial-birth abortion ‘may be the best or most appropriate procedure in a particular circumstance.’ This later became the linchpin of lower court fact-finding and the Supreme Court’s decision (largely reversed a decade later) that a ban on partial-birth abortions was unconstitutional. Without the language, those particularly inhumane abortions would have been banned a decade earlier.”

The best indication Obama has taken his party too far left: “By an average 10 percentage-point margin since March, 45% to 35%, independent registered voters have consistently preferred the Republican to the Democrat when asked which congressional candidate they would vote for in their district. Independents’ preference for Republicans has been generally consistent over this time, with the gap in favor of Republicans increasing slightly since March, from 8 to 12 points.”

Not the best timing for Charlie Crist: “The arrest of former Florida GOP Chairman Jim Greer, and the lurid allegations of theft and sexual harassment, have riveted Florida’s political class. Now the trial has been set for October 18, date that seems to guarantee that they’ll be central to the election, bad news for Establishment Republicans in general and most of all for Charlie Crist, Greer’s patron”

The best the Democrats can do: “Democratic leaders are likely to punt the task of renewing Bush-era tax cuts until after the election.Voters in November’s midterms will thus be left without a clear idea of their future tax rates when they go to the polls.” It seems that majority status is too vexing a burden for them.

It is best to assume that Obama is not serious about immigration reform. The ABC News headline: “President Obama Pushes Immigration Reform — But Offers No Deadlines, No Specifics.”

Not the best year for Democrats if a Republican is leading in the Oregon gubernatorial race.

The best strategy for the Palestinians is to let Obama beat up on Israel: “Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said Thursday he would not start direct peace talks with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, unless progress was made in U.S.-mediated contacts on the issues of borders and security.” That, in a nutshell, is what is wrong with “proximity” talks.

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RE: Did Obama Try to Cover Up His Blago Contacts?

ABC News, by far the most diligent of the broadcast network news outlets, has stepped up to the plate on the Blago case, with an informative report and a segment on the nightly news.

Conservatives rightly bash mainstream outlets when they are too docile in covering Obama, but when one does its job, it deserves some praise. So where are the rest of the media?

ABC News, by far the most diligent of the broadcast network news outlets, has stepped up to the plate on the Blago case, with an informative report and a segment on the nightly news.

Conservatives rightly bash mainstream outlets when they are too docile in covering Obama, but when one does its job, it deserves some praise. So where are the rest of the media?

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Maybe Democrats Haven’t Hit Bottom Yet

In case you had any doubt that voters are in a throw-the-bums-out mood, the Washington Post/ABC News poll shows that only 29 percent of voters are inclined to re-elect their House member, a figure lower than in 1994, when the House flipped to GOP control. With each week that passes, a rebound for Democratic incumbents seems more remote. Indeed, as Obama gets hammered on everything from his shady job offers to Joe Sestak and Andrew Romanoff to the BP spill, languishing job growth, and expansion of the debt, there is good reason to predict that the political climate will get worse for Democrats.

This does not mean that individual candidates can’t swim against the tide. If Republican challengers are too wacky for the electorate (e.g., Rand Paul) or run lousy races, they are entirely capable of blowing their chances. And conversely, the few Democrats who are able to show that they voted against Obama on the most unpopular legislation might save themselves.

What Democrats aren’t going to get away with is an abrupt change of face that attempts to fudge their record. A case in point is Gerry Connolly, my representative in the 11th Virginia congressional  district. Although he has no primary challengers, he is running automated calls telling voters that he stood up to Obama on excess spending. Uh, not remotely. He voted for ObamaCare, for cap-and-trade, and for the stimulus bill. Voters aren’t as gullible as Connolly imagines, so he better hope that voters who are going to get socked with a bevy of new taxes as a result of legislation he helped pass are in a forgiving mood.

In case you had any doubt that voters are in a throw-the-bums-out mood, the Washington Post/ABC News poll shows that only 29 percent of voters are inclined to re-elect their House member, a figure lower than in 1994, when the House flipped to GOP control. With each week that passes, a rebound for Democratic incumbents seems more remote. Indeed, as Obama gets hammered on everything from his shady job offers to Joe Sestak and Andrew Romanoff to the BP spill, languishing job growth, and expansion of the debt, there is good reason to predict that the political climate will get worse for Democrats.

This does not mean that individual candidates can’t swim against the tide. If Republican challengers are too wacky for the electorate (e.g., Rand Paul) or run lousy races, they are entirely capable of blowing their chances. And conversely, the few Democrats who are able to show that they voted against Obama on the most unpopular legislation might save themselves.

What Democrats aren’t going to get away with is an abrupt change of face that attempts to fudge their record. A case in point is Gerry Connolly, my representative in the 11th Virginia congressional  district. Although he has no primary challengers, he is running automated calls telling voters that he stood up to Obama on excess spending. Uh, not remotely. He voted for ObamaCare, for cap-and-trade, and for the stimulus bill. Voters aren’t as gullible as Connolly imagines, so he better hope that voters who are going to get socked with a bevy of new taxes as a result of legislation he helped pass are in a forgiving mood.

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Why Shouldn’t Helen Thomas Be Expelled from the White House Press Corps?

Politico reports that several individual members of the press say they don’t much like Helen Thomas’s anti-Semitic rant (they don’t use that term, of course), but, hey, she apologized — so let bygones be bygones:

“She doesn’t speak for the WHCA,” said White House Correspondents’ Association  President Ed Chen. “Her views are hers alone. And now she’s apologized. Policing the views of opinion columnists can start us all all down a path that history suggests is best avoided.”

“Helen Thomas does not speak for me, and she does not represent the White House press corps,” said McClatchy’s Steve Thomma. “It was an offensive comment. She was right to apologize for it.”

“Helen has been a columnist for about a decade now and her strong beliefs on the Middle East are well known,” said ABC News’ Ann Compton. “I think I saw that she regretted these remarks and realized they were hurtful and inappropriate. Ari Fleischer is a private citizen and certainly free to express his opinion that this was a firing offense even for an opinion columnist. I would agree with you that Helen enjoys a rather special status as the White House. But I think her employer will have to decide whether the comments went over the line.”

Only Ari Fleischer has gone on record calling for her to be fired. One unidentified report agrees: “This is disgusting stuff. … If anyone else said it, they would probably be fired. Ari has every right to be mad.” Ori Nir, of the leftist, usually Israel-bashing (and deceptively named) Americans for Peace Now, pipes up: “Ms. Thomas’ comments were repugnant. She did the right thing by apologizing for making them. Whether she should end her relationship with Hearst over these comments is up to her and Hearst.” Well, far be it for him to call for someone spouting such repugnant comments to lose the privilege of sitting in the White House briefing room.

An official with a Jewish organization in Washington e-mails me:

It’s hard to believe that a company like Hearst would want to have it’s [sic] most visible public association be with a vile bigot, let alone a “reporter” so ignorant of history and the fact of unbroken Jewish inhabitance in Israel going back to before the birth of Jesus. I wonder if she’ll continue to get called on at the White House, given her style of questioning and obvious mindset. How far does one have to go these days before it’s simply odious and beyond the bounds of civil discourse?

Apparently, there is no limit to how far one can go — provided Jews are the object of the venom.

Politico reports that several individual members of the press say they don’t much like Helen Thomas’s anti-Semitic rant (they don’t use that term, of course), but, hey, she apologized — so let bygones be bygones:

“She doesn’t speak for the WHCA,” said White House Correspondents’ Association  President Ed Chen. “Her views are hers alone. And now she’s apologized. Policing the views of opinion columnists can start us all all down a path that history suggests is best avoided.”

“Helen Thomas does not speak for me, and she does not represent the White House press corps,” said McClatchy’s Steve Thomma. “It was an offensive comment. She was right to apologize for it.”

“Helen has been a columnist for about a decade now and her strong beliefs on the Middle East are well known,” said ABC News’ Ann Compton. “I think I saw that she regretted these remarks and realized they were hurtful and inappropriate. Ari Fleischer is a private citizen and certainly free to express his opinion that this was a firing offense even for an opinion columnist. I would agree with you that Helen enjoys a rather special status as the White House. But I think her employer will have to decide whether the comments went over the line.”

Only Ari Fleischer has gone on record calling for her to be fired. One unidentified report agrees: “This is disgusting stuff. … If anyone else said it, they would probably be fired. Ari has every right to be mad.” Ori Nir, of the leftist, usually Israel-bashing (and deceptively named) Americans for Peace Now, pipes up: “Ms. Thomas’ comments were repugnant. She did the right thing by apologizing for making them. Whether she should end her relationship with Hearst over these comments is up to her and Hearst.” Well, far be it for him to call for someone spouting such repugnant comments to lose the privilege of sitting in the White House briefing room.

An official with a Jewish organization in Washington e-mails me:

It’s hard to believe that a company like Hearst would want to have it’s [sic] most visible public association be with a vile bigot, let alone a “reporter” so ignorant of history and the fact of unbroken Jewish inhabitance in Israel going back to before the birth of Jesus. I wonder if she’ll continue to get called on at the White House, given her style of questioning and obvious mindset. How far does one have to go these days before it’s simply odious and beyond the bounds of civil discourse?

Apparently, there is no limit to how far one can go — provided Jews are the object of the venom.

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Oil Spill Looking More and More Like Katrina

Marc Ambinder, perhaps the most eager Obama-spinner in the blogosphere (unlike others on the left who take principled stances against Obama’s insufficiently extreme positions, Ambinder invariably has an excuse at the ready), says this about the BP oil spill:

If you watched the first block of the evening news programs, especially CBS Evening News and ABC’s World News, you can plainly see that the White House’s effort to pre-emptively choke off the assignment of blame for the continuing existentially-threatening oil spill has failed. The perceived problem: they’re not doing enough. They deferred too much to BP. The real problem: nothing like this has ever happened before. There is no script. Sadly, BP does seem to be the only entity remotely capable of doing anything. [emphasis in original]

Hmm. Was it an excuse for the Bush administration that a hurricane (Katrina) of that magnitude had never hit New Orleans? Was there a script then? Weren’t the local and state authorities the ones charged with the immediate response?

Moreover, Ambinder is simply wrong. From the very same ABC News report:

As thick oil flows into the sensitive marshes of the Louisiana coast, Gov. Bobby Jindal called on the White House and BP today to either stop the oil spill or get out of his way. Jindal is still waiting for the federal government to provide millions of feet in boom and to approve an emergency permit for a state plan to dredge and build new barrier islands to keep the oil from reaching the marshes and wetlands. Jindal is so desperate for the islands, he’s said he’ll build them even if it sends him to jail.

In fact, even the liberals’ favorite cable network, MSNBC, is starting to ask some tough questions. Ed Shultz (h/t Glenn Reynolds) queries whether there isn’t something the administration can do — send clean-up squads or at least work on keeping the oil offshore. Unlike Ambinder’s spin-a-thon, Shultz blasts:

It’s on your watch. We need to come up with some kind of huge plan on what we’re going to do, because we’ve spent thirty days waiting for BP, waiting for Transocean, who’ve done a great job of just washing their hands of all of this. Let me just say this, Washington: It’s time to get it on. It’s time to get real serious about this.

It’s apparent that the feds lack the expertise to cap the spill and that BP is trying an array of methods to cut off the flow. But that doesn’t mean Obama and his minions can’t assist rather than hinder local authorities in dealing with the aftermath. Moreover, the administration hasn’t been fulfilling its regulatory function:

The federal agency responsible for regulating U.S. offshore oil drilling repeatedly ignored warnings from government scientists about environmental risks in its push to approve energy exploration activities quickly, according to numerous documents and interviews. … Interviews and documents show numerous examples in which senior officials discounted scientific data and advice — even from scientists elsewhere in the federal government — that would have impeded oil and gas companies drilling offshore.

Yes, the problem existed under the Bush administration. “But the pattern of dismissing biologists’ input has continued under the Obama administration.”

In sum, Obama has grandstanded and excoriated BP but done nothing to help the situation. Setting up a commission to find fault doesn’t really count. That, after all, is Obama’s usual tact — blame others and give speeches. This time, not withstanding the helpful spin of a few devoted fans like Ambinder, it doesn’t seem to be working.

Marc Ambinder, perhaps the most eager Obama-spinner in the blogosphere (unlike others on the left who take principled stances against Obama’s insufficiently extreme positions, Ambinder invariably has an excuse at the ready), says this about the BP oil spill:

If you watched the first block of the evening news programs, especially CBS Evening News and ABC’s World News, you can plainly see that the White House’s effort to pre-emptively choke off the assignment of blame for the continuing existentially-threatening oil spill has failed. The perceived problem: they’re not doing enough. They deferred too much to BP. The real problem: nothing like this has ever happened before. There is no script. Sadly, BP does seem to be the only entity remotely capable of doing anything. [emphasis in original]

Hmm. Was it an excuse for the Bush administration that a hurricane (Katrina) of that magnitude had never hit New Orleans? Was there a script then? Weren’t the local and state authorities the ones charged with the immediate response?

Moreover, Ambinder is simply wrong. From the very same ABC News report:

As thick oil flows into the sensitive marshes of the Louisiana coast, Gov. Bobby Jindal called on the White House and BP today to either stop the oil spill or get out of his way. Jindal is still waiting for the federal government to provide millions of feet in boom and to approve an emergency permit for a state plan to dredge and build new barrier islands to keep the oil from reaching the marshes and wetlands. Jindal is so desperate for the islands, he’s said he’ll build them even if it sends him to jail.

In fact, even the liberals’ favorite cable network, MSNBC, is starting to ask some tough questions. Ed Shultz (h/t Glenn Reynolds) queries whether there isn’t something the administration can do — send clean-up squads or at least work on keeping the oil offshore. Unlike Ambinder’s spin-a-thon, Shultz blasts:

It’s on your watch. We need to come up with some kind of huge plan on what we’re going to do, because we’ve spent thirty days waiting for BP, waiting for Transocean, who’ve done a great job of just washing their hands of all of this. Let me just say this, Washington: It’s time to get it on. It’s time to get real serious about this.

It’s apparent that the feds lack the expertise to cap the spill and that BP is trying an array of methods to cut off the flow. But that doesn’t mean Obama and his minions can’t assist rather than hinder local authorities in dealing with the aftermath. Moreover, the administration hasn’t been fulfilling its regulatory function:

The federal agency responsible for regulating U.S. offshore oil drilling repeatedly ignored warnings from government scientists about environmental risks in its push to approve energy exploration activities quickly, according to numerous documents and interviews. … Interviews and documents show numerous examples in which senior officials discounted scientific data and advice — even from scientists elsewhere in the federal government — that would have impeded oil and gas companies drilling offshore.

Yes, the problem existed under the Bush administration. “But the pattern of dismissing biologists’ input has continued under the Obama administration.”

In sum, Obama has grandstanded and excoriated BP but done nothing to help the situation. Setting up a commission to find fault doesn’t really count. That, after all, is Obama’s usual tact — blame others and give speeches. This time, not withstanding the helpful spin of a few devoted fans like Ambinder, it doesn’t seem to be working.

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Did Chuck DeVore Exaggerate His Military Service?

I think we’re going to see a flurry of stories on what politicians said about their military service. Howard Dean says the New York Times story on Richard Blumenthal was a “hatchet” job, but if a candidate’s lies about his military service aren’t fair game, I don’t know what is.

The Los Angeles Times has a biographical story on Chuck DeVore, currently running third in the California Senate race. This is not in the league of Richard Blumenthal; it’s more Hillary Clinton–style puffery:

Throughout the campaign, DeVore has emphasized his service as a military officer and a young Reagan White House appointee at the Pentagon as experiences that helped make him the most qualified candidate. But at times he appears to have overstated those accomplishments, particularly his experience under fire and his role in the development of a U.S.-Israeli anti-ballistic-missile defense program.

What does the Times have? In a radio debate, he said he was the only candidate who’d served in the military: “I’m a lieutenant colonel of military intelligence within the U.S. Army,” he said. The Times acknowledges that his campaign literature refers to him as a “lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Army retired reserves.” And DeVore argues that it is technically correct to say he is “in the Army” since the reserves are part of the Army. OK, I sort of buy that — but he certainly must have known that the listening audience would have thought he meant the regular Army. This is dicier:

He spoke during the debate of being “shot at in Lebanon” but did not make clear that the shooting occurred in the 1980s while DeVore was a college student studying Arabic and other subjects in the Middle East. Nor did he note that while the shooting was in his vicinity, there was no indication he was a target or was in actual danger.

Now we’re into the territory of Hillary Clinton’s Bosnian gunfire fantasy. The Times tracks down former ABC News correspondent Bob Zelnick (not a partisan liberal by any means) to debunk DeVore’s story.

This is not as damning as Blumenthal’s repeated and direct lies, but it doesn’t help his cause. DeVore is a solid conservative with a firm pro-Israel position who hasn’t gotten much traction in the race. He shouldn’t have puffed up his military background to try to distinguish himself. Conservatives often surge late in Republican primaries, but this may well hold down his level of support among conservatives who have spent the better part of a week pointing out that there are few things lower than misleading voters about your military record.

I think we’re going to see a flurry of stories on what politicians said about their military service. Howard Dean says the New York Times story on Richard Blumenthal was a “hatchet” job, but if a candidate’s lies about his military service aren’t fair game, I don’t know what is.

The Los Angeles Times has a biographical story on Chuck DeVore, currently running third in the California Senate race. This is not in the league of Richard Blumenthal; it’s more Hillary Clinton–style puffery:

Throughout the campaign, DeVore has emphasized his service as a military officer and a young Reagan White House appointee at the Pentagon as experiences that helped make him the most qualified candidate. But at times he appears to have overstated those accomplishments, particularly his experience under fire and his role in the development of a U.S.-Israeli anti-ballistic-missile defense program.

What does the Times have? In a radio debate, he said he was the only candidate who’d served in the military: “I’m a lieutenant colonel of military intelligence within the U.S. Army,” he said. The Times acknowledges that his campaign literature refers to him as a “lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Army retired reserves.” And DeVore argues that it is technically correct to say he is “in the Army” since the reserves are part of the Army. OK, I sort of buy that — but he certainly must have known that the listening audience would have thought he meant the regular Army. This is dicier:

He spoke during the debate of being “shot at in Lebanon” but did not make clear that the shooting occurred in the 1980s while DeVore was a college student studying Arabic and other subjects in the Middle East. Nor did he note that while the shooting was in his vicinity, there was no indication he was a target or was in actual danger.

Now we’re into the territory of Hillary Clinton’s Bosnian gunfire fantasy. The Times tracks down former ABC News correspondent Bob Zelnick (not a partisan liberal by any means) to debunk DeVore’s story.

This is not as damning as Blumenthal’s repeated and direct lies, but it doesn’t help his cause. DeVore is a solid conservative with a firm pro-Israel position who hasn’t gotten much traction in the race. He shouldn’t have puffed up his military background to try to distinguish himself. Conservatives often surge late in Republican primaries, but this may well hold down his level of support among conservatives who have spent the better part of a week pointing out that there are few things lower than misleading voters about your military record.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Heck of an ad campaign: “A threatening TV commercial appearing in Pennsylvania has residents of the state spooked by its ‘Orwellian’ overtones, and critics are calling it a government attempt to scare delinquent citizens into paying back taxes. In the 30-second ad, ominous mechanical sounds whir in the background as a satellite camera zooms in through the clouds and locks onto an average Pennsylvania.”

He may be on permanent vacation soon: “Despite White House claims of all hands being on deck to respond to the oil slick crisis in the Gulf, Department of the Interior chief of staff Tom Strickland was in the Grand Canyon with his wife last week participating in activities that included white-water rafting, ABC News has learned. Other leaders of the Interior Department, not to mention other agencies, were focused on coordinating the federal response to the major oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Strickland’s participation in a trip that administration officials insisted was ‘work-focused’ nonetheless raised eyebrows within even his own department, sources told ABC News.”

Chuck Schumer declares there are “better ways” than Joe Lieberman’s proposal (to strip terrorists of citizenship and forgo Miranda warnings) to obtain information from terrorists. True, but this administration already outlawed enhanced interrogation.

Not a “lone wolf” at all, it seems: “U.S. and Pakistani investigators are giving increased credence to possible links between accused Times Square bomb plotter Faisal Shahzad and the Pakistan Taliban, with one senior Pakistani official saying Mr. Faisal received instruction from the Islamist group’s suicide-bomb trainer. If the links are verified, it would mark a stark shift in how the Pakistan Taliban—an affiliate of the Taliban in Afghanistan—and related jihadist groups in Pakistan pursue their goals. Until now, they have focused on attacks within Pakistan and in India, but they appear to be ramping up efforts to attack the U.S.”

The crack reporters at the Washington Post couldn’t figure out that the conservative blogger they hired wasn’t conservative. Well, that’s what they get for listening to Ezra Klein.

You knew this was coming: “Major donors are asking Florida Gov. Charlie Crist to return money contributed to his Senate campaign now that he’s running as an independent candidate. In a letter sent Wednesday, the 20 donors say Crist broke the trust of his supporters by not staying in the Republican primary.”

The new Newsweek is a bust and goes on the auction block: “The Washington Post Co. is putting Newsweek up for sale in hopes that another owner can figure out how to stem losses at the 77-year-old weekly magazine.”

Alas, not including Michael Steele, three more people leaving the RNC, but not to worry: “The official stressed that the departures had nothing to do with the turmoil that has rocked the RNC in recent months. Several top officials were either fired or quit the committee last month in the wake of a spending scandal involving a risqué nightclub.”

Heck of an ad campaign: “A threatening TV commercial appearing in Pennsylvania has residents of the state spooked by its ‘Orwellian’ overtones, and critics are calling it a government attempt to scare delinquent citizens into paying back taxes. In the 30-second ad, ominous mechanical sounds whir in the background as a satellite camera zooms in through the clouds and locks onto an average Pennsylvania.”

He may be on permanent vacation soon: “Despite White House claims of all hands being on deck to respond to the oil slick crisis in the Gulf, Department of the Interior chief of staff Tom Strickland was in the Grand Canyon with his wife last week participating in activities that included white-water rafting, ABC News has learned. Other leaders of the Interior Department, not to mention other agencies, were focused on coordinating the federal response to the major oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Strickland’s participation in a trip that administration officials insisted was ‘work-focused’ nonetheless raised eyebrows within even his own department, sources told ABC News.”

Chuck Schumer declares there are “better ways” than Joe Lieberman’s proposal (to strip terrorists of citizenship and forgo Miranda warnings) to obtain information from terrorists. True, but this administration already outlawed enhanced interrogation.

Not a “lone wolf” at all, it seems: “U.S. and Pakistani investigators are giving increased credence to possible links between accused Times Square bomb plotter Faisal Shahzad and the Pakistan Taliban, with one senior Pakistani official saying Mr. Faisal received instruction from the Islamist group’s suicide-bomb trainer. If the links are verified, it would mark a stark shift in how the Pakistan Taliban—an affiliate of the Taliban in Afghanistan—and related jihadist groups in Pakistan pursue their goals. Until now, they have focused on attacks within Pakistan and in India, but they appear to be ramping up efforts to attack the U.S.”

The crack reporters at the Washington Post couldn’t figure out that the conservative blogger they hired wasn’t conservative. Well, that’s what they get for listening to Ezra Klein.

You knew this was coming: “Major donors are asking Florida Gov. Charlie Crist to return money contributed to his Senate campaign now that he’s running as an independent candidate. In a letter sent Wednesday, the 20 donors say Crist broke the trust of his supporters by not staying in the Republican primary.”

The new Newsweek is a bust and goes on the auction block: “The Washington Post Co. is putting Newsweek up for sale in hopes that another owner can figure out how to stem losses at the 77-year-old weekly magazine.”

Alas, not including Michael Steele, three more people leaving the RNC, but not to worry: “The official stressed that the departures had nothing to do with the turmoil that has rocked the RNC in recent months. Several top officials were either fired or quit the committee last month in the wake of a spending scandal involving a risqué nightclub.”

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The No-Fly List Didn’t Work, Mr. Holder

Eric Holder tried to assure us that — to borrow a phrase — the system (i.e., the no-fly list) worked. But it didn’t, and the media, increasingly unwilling to cover for the Obama spin machine, is telling a different story:

The no-fly list failed to keep the Times Square suspect off the plane. Faisal Shahzad had boarded a jetliner bound for the United Arab Emirates Monday night before federal authorities pulled him back.

The night’s events, gradually coming to light, underscored the flaws in the nation’s aviation security system, which despite its technologies, lists and information sharing, often comes down to someone making a right call.

As federal agents closed in, Faisal Shahzad was aboard Emirates Flight 202. He reserved a ticket on the way to John F. Kennedy International Airport, paid cash on arrival and walked through security without being stopped. By the time Customs and Border Protection officials spotted Shahzad’s name on the passenger list and recognized him as the bombing suspect they were looking for, he was in his seat and the plane was preparing to leave the gate.

So what really happened?

[I]t seemed clear the airline either never saw or ignored key information that would kept Shahzad off the plane, a fact that dampened what was otherwise hailed as a fast, successful law enforcement operation.

The no-fly list is supposed to mean just that. And Shahzad’s name was added to the list early Monday afternoon as a result of breaking developments in the investigation, according to a law enforcement official, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss an ongoing investigation.

But when Emirates sold the ticket, it was working off an outdated list. Airline officials would have had to check a Web forum where updates are sent if it were to flag him. Because they didn’t, law enforcement officials were not aware of his travel plans until they received the passenger list 30 minutes before takeoff, the official said.

By that time, passengers are usually on board.

The administration is now pointing fingers at the airline. But former 9/11 commissioner Lee Hamilton says we should have a better system in place:

Hamilton reminds ABC News that “the 9/11 commission recommended that you had to have biometric evidence, documentarian evidence of people coming in and exiting” the country. “We’ve done a pretty good job on the first part of it people entering the country. But with regard to those exiting the country we simply have not been able to set up a system to deal with that and it showed in this case.”

Hamilton says “we need to have in this country a system of checking people leaving the country so that we can protect against the very sort of thing that happened here — or at least almost happened here.”

But if we believed Holder, there’d be nothing to investigate and no further improvements to be made. Everything worked fine, he said.

This is a regrettable but now familiar habit of the Obama team. The administration’s top officials either speak without a full grasp of the facts or they intentionally mislead us, hoping not to expose the missteps and inadequacies of the system. Because Congress (Sen. Joe Lieberman excepted) refuses to exercise appropriate oversight and the administration refuses to agree to any external reviews (akin to the 9/11 commission), the exact nature of the flaws and the decision-making process surrounding these incidents are never fully explored, and those responsible for errors are not held accountable. Recall that not a single adviser or staffer lost his job over the Christmas Day bomber.

We have benefited from the relative ineptitude of two terrorists — one who could have incinerated a plane-load of people and another who could have killed scores of people and created havoc in Times Square. The administration calls these “failed” incidents and thereby skates from incident to incident, never quite coming clean on its shortcomings. We should be pleased Shahzad was quickly apprehended, but we should demand a full explanation as to how he got on the plane.

Eric Holder tried to assure us that — to borrow a phrase — the system (i.e., the no-fly list) worked. But it didn’t, and the media, increasingly unwilling to cover for the Obama spin machine, is telling a different story:

The no-fly list failed to keep the Times Square suspect off the plane. Faisal Shahzad had boarded a jetliner bound for the United Arab Emirates Monday night before federal authorities pulled him back.

The night’s events, gradually coming to light, underscored the flaws in the nation’s aviation security system, which despite its technologies, lists and information sharing, often comes down to someone making a right call.

As federal agents closed in, Faisal Shahzad was aboard Emirates Flight 202. He reserved a ticket on the way to John F. Kennedy International Airport, paid cash on arrival and walked through security without being stopped. By the time Customs and Border Protection officials spotted Shahzad’s name on the passenger list and recognized him as the bombing suspect they were looking for, he was in his seat and the plane was preparing to leave the gate.

So what really happened?

[I]t seemed clear the airline either never saw or ignored key information that would kept Shahzad off the plane, a fact that dampened what was otherwise hailed as a fast, successful law enforcement operation.

The no-fly list is supposed to mean just that. And Shahzad’s name was added to the list early Monday afternoon as a result of breaking developments in the investigation, according to a law enforcement official, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss an ongoing investigation.

But when Emirates sold the ticket, it was working off an outdated list. Airline officials would have had to check a Web forum where updates are sent if it were to flag him. Because they didn’t, law enforcement officials were not aware of his travel plans until they received the passenger list 30 minutes before takeoff, the official said.

By that time, passengers are usually on board.

The administration is now pointing fingers at the airline. But former 9/11 commissioner Lee Hamilton says we should have a better system in place:

Hamilton reminds ABC News that “the 9/11 commission recommended that you had to have biometric evidence, documentarian evidence of people coming in and exiting” the country. “We’ve done a pretty good job on the first part of it people entering the country. But with regard to those exiting the country we simply have not been able to set up a system to deal with that and it showed in this case.”

Hamilton says “we need to have in this country a system of checking people leaving the country so that we can protect against the very sort of thing that happened here — or at least almost happened here.”

But if we believed Holder, there’d be nothing to investigate and no further improvements to be made. Everything worked fine, he said.

This is a regrettable but now familiar habit of the Obama team. The administration’s top officials either speak without a full grasp of the facts or they intentionally mislead us, hoping not to expose the missteps and inadequacies of the system. Because Congress (Sen. Joe Lieberman excepted) refuses to exercise appropriate oversight and the administration refuses to agree to any external reviews (akin to the 9/11 commission), the exact nature of the flaws and the decision-making process surrounding these incidents are never fully explored, and those responsible for errors are not held accountable. Recall that not a single adviser or staffer lost his job over the Christmas Day bomber.

We have benefited from the relative ineptitude of two terrorists — one who could have incinerated a plane-load of people and another who could have killed scores of people and created havoc in Times Square. The administration calls these “failed” incidents and thereby skates from incident to incident, never quite coming clean on its shortcomings. We should be pleased Shahzad was quickly apprehended, but we should demand a full explanation as to how he got on the plane.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Ben Smith spots bias at the Washington Post.

CEOs spots the worst place to do business: “California ranks last among the states and Washington D.C. as a place to do business, according to Chief Executive magazine. It is the second year in a row that the state was given that dubious distinction.”

Stuart Rothenberg spots trouble for Russ Feingold: “When former Wisconsin Gov. Tommy Thompson (R) announced recently that he wouldn’t enter the 2010 Senate race and challenge Democratic Sen. Russ Feingold, many of us crossed the state off our list of competitive races. Maybe we were a bit premature. Two more Republicans — former state Commerce Secretary Dick Leinenkugel and businessman Ron Johnson — are joining the two GOPers already in the contest, businessman Terrence Wall and Dave Westlake, and the newly expanded field is just one reason for reconsidering my knee-jerk judgment. None of these four hopefuls possesses all of the qualities of the ideal challenger. But this cycle, Republicans may not need ideal challengers to win, even in the Badger State.”

And Rothenberg spots a pickup possibility for the GOP in the Hawaii House special election. “According to recent polling, Republicans now have a legitimate chance to takeover Hawaii’s 1st District in this month’s special election. What was once only a scenario now looks like a real possibility, and even Democratic observers are worried about the race.”

Victor Davis Hanson spots the pattern: “The jihadist symptoms of Major Hasan were ignored; General Casey lamented the possible ramifications of Hasan’s killings to the army’s diversity program; the warnings of Mr. Mutallab’s father about his son’s jihadist tendencies were ignored but the latter’s Miranda rights were not; and the Times Square would-be bomber was quite rashly and on little evidence falsely equated with a ‘white’ bomber with perhaps domestic-terrorism overtones (when it looks like there is a Pakistani radical-Islamist connection) — a sort of pattern has been established, one both implicit and explicit.”

It’s not hard to spot a rising GOP star: “Once again showing that he means to shake up Trenton, Gov. Christopher J. Christie declined on Monday to reappoint a sitting justice to the New Jersey Supreme Court, instead appointing someone who he said would show the restraint that was missing from the court. … Speaking to reporters in Trenton, Mr. Christie had only kind words for Justice Wallace, but he described the historically liberal court as ‘out of control’ over the last three decades, usurping the roles of the governor and the Legislature in setting social and tax policies.” (As a bonus, Christie succeeded in freaking out the Democrats: “New Jersey Democrats, furious with Gov. Chris Christie over his decision to replace a moderate African-American on the state Supreme Court, vowed Tuesday not even to consider the Republican governor’s nominee.”)

Fox News spots the latest evidence that Obama is failing to thwart the mullahs’ nuclear ambitions or to isolate the regime. “Two of the world’s worst dictators are thumbing their noses at the U.N. as it tries to shore up support for increased sanctions against Iran. According to press reports, Iran secretly agreed last month to provide Zimbabwe with oil in return for exclusive access to the crippled African nation’s precious uranium ore.”

Jake Tapper spots a sign of improvement in the Obama administration’s terror-fighting operation: “ABC News has learned that the High-Value Interrogation Group, or HIG, is involved in the interrogation of Faisal Shahzad, the man arrested last night in the investigation into the failed Times Square bombing. After the arrest of the failed Christmas Day 2009 bomber Umar Farouq Abdulmutallab, the Obama administration was criticized for not having yet made operational the HIG, a special interrogation team for high-value terrorist suspects, though the Special Task Force on Interrogations and Transfer Policies had announced its recommendation to form such a group in August 2009.”

Newsbusters spots the left down in the dumps that the Times Square bomber wasn’t a Tea Partier: “It appears that it wasn’t only media types such as MSNBC’s Contessa Brewer who were disappointed that the Times Square bombing suspect turned out to be a Muslim. They were joined by virtually the entire leftwing blogosphere in their frustration that the suspect wasn’t a tea party activist or a member of a ‘rightwing’ militia group.”

Ben Smith spots bias at the Washington Post.

CEOs spots the worst place to do business: “California ranks last among the states and Washington D.C. as a place to do business, according to Chief Executive magazine. It is the second year in a row that the state was given that dubious distinction.”

Stuart Rothenberg spots trouble for Russ Feingold: “When former Wisconsin Gov. Tommy Thompson (R) announced recently that he wouldn’t enter the 2010 Senate race and challenge Democratic Sen. Russ Feingold, many of us crossed the state off our list of competitive races. Maybe we were a bit premature. Two more Republicans — former state Commerce Secretary Dick Leinenkugel and businessman Ron Johnson — are joining the two GOPers already in the contest, businessman Terrence Wall and Dave Westlake, and the newly expanded field is just one reason for reconsidering my knee-jerk judgment. None of these four hopefuls possesses all of the qualities of the ideal challenger. But this cycle, Republicans may not need ideal challengers to win, even in the Badger State.”

And Rothenberg spots a pickup possibility for the GOP in the Hawaii House special election. “According to recent polling, Republicans now have a legitimate chance to takeover Hawaii’s 1st District in this month’s special election. What was once only a scenario now looks like a real possibility, and even Democratic observers are worried about the race.”

Victor Davis Hanson spots the pattern: “The jihadist symptoms of Major Hasan were ignored; General Casey lamented the possible ramifications of Hasan’s killings to the army’s diversity program; the warnings of Mr. Mutallab’s father about his son’s jihadist tendencies were ignored but the latter’s Miranda rights were not; and the Times Square would-be bomber was quite rashly and on little evidence falsely equated with a ‘white’ bomber with perhaps domestic-terrorism overtones (when it looks like there is a Pakistani radical-Islamist connection) — a sort of pattern has been established, one both implicit and explicit.”

It’s not hard to spot a rising GOP star: “Once again showing that he means to shake up Trenton, Gov. Christopher J. Christie declined on Monday to reappoint a sitting justice to the New Jersey Supreme Court, instead appointing someone who he said would show the restraint that was missing from the court. … Speaking to reporters in Trenton, Mr. Christie had only kind words for Justice Wallace, but he described the historically liberal court as ‘out of control’ over the last three decades, usurping the roles of the governor and the Legislature in setting social and tax policies.” (As a bonus, Christie succeeded in freaking out the Democrats: “New Jersey Democrats, furious with Gov. Chris Christie over his decision to replace a moderate African-American on the state Supreme Court, vowed Tuesday not even to consider the Republican governor’s nominee.”)

Fox News spots the latest evidence that Obama is failing to thwart the mullahs’ nuclear ambitions or to isolate the regime. “Two of the world’s worst dictators are thumbing their noses at the U.N. as it tries to shore up support for increased sanctions against Iran. According to press reports, Iran secretly agreed last month to provide Zimbabwe with oil in return for exclusive access to the crippled African nation’s precious uranium ore.”

Jake Tapper spots a sign of improvement in the Obama administration’s terror-fighting operation: “ABC News has learned that the High-Value Interrogation Group, or HIG, is involved in the interrogation of Faisal Shahzad, the man arrested last night in the investigation into the failed Times Square bombing. After the arrest of the failed Christmas Day 2009 bomber Umar Farouq Abdulmutallab, the Obama administration was criticized for not having yet made operational the HIG, a special interrogation team for high-value terrorist suspects, though the Special Task Force on Interrogations and Transfer Policies had announced its recommendation to form such a group in August 2009.”

Newsbusters spots the left down in the dumps that the Times Square bomber wasn’t a Tea Partier: “It appears that it wasn’t only media types such as MSNBC’s Contessa Brewer who were disappointed that the Times Square bombing suspect turned out to be a Muslim. They were joined by virtually the entire leftwing blogosphere in their frustration that the suspect wasn’t a tea party activist or a member of a ‘rightwing’ militia group.”

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The War in Afghanistan: Where We Are Now

We have reached a key juncture in the Afghanistan war. Generals David Petraeus and Stanley McChrystal have spent the last year getting the right “inputs” in place, meaning getting the structures right, putting the best leaders in charge, developing the right concepts, providing the authority and resources necessary, and so forth. We are now at the very early stages of the “output” phase, with a counterinsurgency (COIN) offensive in Helmand province that began in February and a forthcoming offensive in Kandahar. This campaign will unfold over the next 18 months or so and will go a long way toward determining the outcome of the war.

As we enter this new phase of the war — with, for the first time, a properly resourced counterinsurgency strategy in place — it’s important to understand the situation on the ground, including public sentiment, which is a crucial component of a successful COIN strategy.

A new report by the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), “Shaping the War in Afghanistan: The Situation in the Spring of 2010,” provides useful information, much of it culled from other recent reports and surveys (like the Department of Defense’s April report on progress toward security and stability in Afghanistan and an analysis of public opinion in Afghanistan conducted by ABC News, the BBC, and ARD).

Among the encouraging data points:

  • After steep declines in recent years there’s been a 30-point advance in views that the country is headed in the right direction; 70 percent now say so, the most since 2005. Afghans’ expectations that their own lives will be better a year from now have jumped by 20 points, to 71 percent, a new high. And there’s been a 14-point rise in expectations that the next generation will have a better life, to 61 percent.
  • Seventy (70) percent say living conditions are better now than they were under the Taliban.
  • Sixty-eight (68) percent of Afghans continue to support the presence of U.S. forces in their country – and nearly as many, 61 percent, favor the coming surge of Western troops initiated by President Obama.
  • There’s been a 14-point gain from last year, to 83 percent, in the view among Afghans that it was right for the United States to invade and overthrow the Taliban just more than eight years ago. And the number of Afghans who say attacking Western forces can be justified has dropped sharply, from 25 percent a year ago to 8 percent, a new low. (It jumps to 22 percent in the South – but that’s half of what it was there a year ago.)
  • President Karzai’s performance rating is only 40 percent in Helmand but 72 percent in the rest of the country – making him, by my count, more popular in Afghanistan than President Obama is in America.
  • Afghans confidence in their government reached a new high (since polling started in September 2008). Between September and March of 2009, Afghan confidence in the national administration increased by six percentage points to 45 percent, confidence in the provincial governor increased by five percentage points to 47 percent, and confidence in the district governors increased by six percentage points to 44 percent. When asked if the government was heading in the right direction, 59 percent of Afghans responded “yes.” This represents an increase of eight percent over the previous September 2009.
  • In March 2010, 30 percent of Afghans believed that the government was less corrupt than one year prior while 24 percent believed that it was more corrupt.

On the other side of the ledger:

  • Just 38 percent rate the work of the United States in Afghanistan positively – up 6 points in the past year, but far below its peak, 68 percent, in 2005. (NATO’s ratings are as low, and flat.) Fifty-one (51) percent have a favorable view of the United States overall – vastly below its high point, 83 percent, in 2005. And U.S. favorability drops to 35 percent in the East and 29 percent in the South (vs. 59 percent in the rest of the country) – again, plummeting where the United States is most actively engaged in combat.
  • Just 42 percent in the South and East support the presence of U.S. forces in their area, compared with 78 percent in the rest of the country.
  • More Afghans say the United States and NATO are doing worse, not better, in avoiding civilian casualties, by 43-24 percent. (This may reflect dismay over widely publicized individual incidents, such as the bombing of a pair of hijacked fuel tankers in September that killed scores of civilians in Kunduz province.
  • Nearly all Afghans – 95 percent – say official corruption is a problem in their area, up 23 points since 2007. Seventy-six (76) percent say it’s a big problem; both are new highs.
  • Only 29 percent of Afghans had a very good or good opinion of ISAF (International Security Assistance Force), with an additional 34 percent reporting a neutral rating.
  • We are focusing on 121 districts that have been deemed as critical to success. Of those 121, there are just 29 (24 percent) in which the population sympathizes with the Afghan government. While doubts about Afghan governance, writ large, doesn’t translate directly into support for the Taliban, which is still much-hated, it certainly doesn’t help matters. (In addition, the data for the 121 districts are not necessarily indicative of all of Afghanistan, especially given that they are the focus of the COIN campaign precisely because of the level of threats within them.)
  • Just 38 percent rate the work of the United States in Afghanistan positively – up 6 points in the past year, but far below its peak, 68 percent, in 2005. (NATO’s ratings are as low, and flat.) Fifty-one (51) percent have a favorable view of the United States overall – vastly below its high point, 83 percent, in 2005. And U.S. favorability drops to 35 percent in the East and 29 percent in the South (vs. 59 percent in the rest of the country) – again, plummeting where the United States is most actively engaged in combat.
  • Just 42 percent in the South and East support the presence of U.S. forces in their area, compared with 78 percent in the rest of the country.
  • More Afghans say the United States and NATO are doing worse, not better, in avoiding civilian casualties, by 43-24 percent. (This may reflect dismay over widely publicized individual incidents, such as the bombing of a pair of hijacked fuel tankers in September that killed scores of civilians in Kunduz province.)
  • Nearly all Afghans – 95 percent – say official corruption is a problem in their area, up 23 points since 2007. Seventy-six (76) percent say it’s a big problem; both are new highs.
  • Only 29 percent of Afghans had a very good or good opinion of ISAF (International Security Assistance Force), with an additional 34 percent reporting a neutral rating.
  • We are focusing on 121 districts that have been deemed as critical to success. Of those 121, there are just 29 (24 percent) in which the population sympathizes with the Afghan government. While doubts about Afghan governance, writ large, doesn’t translate directly into support for the Taliban, which is still much-hated, it certainly doesn’t help matters. (In addition, the data for the 121 districts are not necessarily indicative of all of Afghanistan, especially given that they are the focus of the COIN campaign precisely because of the level of threats within them.)

It’s quite a mixed picture, then — but since the beginning of 2009, a low-water mark, we’ve seen an increase in the performance ratings of the Afghan army, the Afghan government, Hamid Karzai, and the U.S. presence in Afghanistan.

The CSIS report also documents the rising intensity of the fighting, the increase in IED attacks, opium-poppy-cultivation trends, the growth in the (licit) GDP, and the growing strength of the Afghan National Army and Afghan National Police (the ANA has largely exceeded its recruiting goals between 2009 and 2010 and now includes more than 112,000 Afghans; the ANP now counts more than 102,000 Afghans in its ranks). And according to the most recent Department of Defense report, 52 percent of Afghans believe insurgents are the greatest source of insecurity, while only 1 percent believes the National Army/Police are primarily to blame. In the words of the DoD report: “This perception provides an opportunity for the Afghan Government, with the support of the international community, to improve its legitimacy and enhance popular perception of the government.”

In the end, increasing the legitimacy of the government will be key as to whether the war has a successful outcome. Nobody understands this better than David Petraeus and Stanley McChrystal.

Stay tuned.

We have reached a key juncture in the Afghanistan war. Generals David Petraeus and Stanley McChrystal have spent the last year getting the right “inputs” in place, meaning getting the structures right, putting the best leaders in charge, developing the right concepts, providing the authority and resources necessary, and so forth. We are now at the very early stages of the “output” phase, with a counterinsurgency (COIN) offensive in Helmand province that began in February and a forthcoming offensive in Kandahar. This campaign will unfold over the next 18 months or so and will go a long way toward determining the outcome of the war.

As we enter this new phase of the war — with, for the first time, a properly resourced counterinsurgency strategy in place — it’s important to understand the situation on the ground, including public sentiment, which is a crucial component of a successful COIN strategy.

A new report by the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), “Shaping the War in Afghanistan: The Situation in the Spring of 2010,” provides useful information, much of it culled from other recent reports and surveys (like the Department of Defense’s April report on progress toward security and stability in Afghanistan and an analysis of public opinion in Afghanistan conducted by ABC News, the BBC, and ARD).

Among the encouraging data points:

  • After steep declines in recent years there’s been a 30-point advance in views that the country is headed in the right direction; 70 percent now say so, the most since 2005. Afghans’ expectations that their own lives will be better a year from now have jumped by 20 points, to 71 percent, a new high. And there’s been a 14-point rise in expectations that the next generation will have a better life, to 61 percent.
  • Seventy (70) percent say living conditions are better now than they were under the Taliban.
  • Sixty-eight (68) percent of Afghans continue to support the presence of U.S. forces in their country – and nearly as many, 61 percent, favor the coming surge of Western troops initiated by President Obama.
  • There’s been a 14-point gain from last year, to 83 percent, in the view among Afghans that it was right for the United States to invade and overthrow the Taliban just more than eight years ago. And the number of Afghans who say attacking Western forces can be justified has dropped sharply, from 25 percent a year ago to 8 percent, a new low. (It jumps to 22 percent in the South – but that’s half of what it was there a year ago.)
  • President Karzai’s performance rating is only 40 percent in Helmand but 72 percent in the rest of the country – making him, by my count, more popular in Afghanistan than President Obama is in America.
  • Afghans confidence in their government reached a new high (since polling started in September 2008). Between September and March of 2009, Afghan confidence in the national administration increased by six percentage points to 45 percent, confidence in the provincial governor increased by five percentage points to 47 percent, and confidence in the district governors increased by six percentage points to 44 percent. When asked if the government was heading in the right direction, 59 percent of Afghans responded “yes.” This represents an increase of eight percent over the previous September 2009.
  • In March 2010, 30 percent of Afghans believed that the government was less corrupt than one year prior while 24 percent believed that it was more corrupt.

On the other side of the ledger:

  • Just 38 percent rate the work of the United States in Afghanistan positively – up 6 points in the past year, but far below its peak, 68 percent, in 2005. (NATO’s ratings are as low, and flat.) Fifty-one (51) percent have a favorable view of the United States overall – vastly below its high point, 83 percent, in 2005. And U.S. favorability drops to 35 percent in the East and 29 percent in the South (vs. 59 percent in the rest of the country) – again, plummeting where the United States is most actively engaged in combat.
  • Just 42 percent in the South and East support the presence of U.S. forces in their area, compared with 78 percent in the rest of the country.
  • More Afghans say the United States and NATO are doing worse, not better, in avoiding civilian casualties, by 43-24 percent. (This may reflect dismay over widely publicized individual incidents, such as the bombing of a pair of hijacked fuel tankers in September that killed scores of civilians in Kunduz province.
  • Nearly all Afghans – 95 percent – say official corruption is a problem in their area, up 23 points since 2007. Seventy-six (76) percent say it’s a big problem; both are new highs.
  • Only 29 percent of Afghans had a very good or good opinion of ISAF (International Security Assistance Force), with an additional 34 percent reporting a neutral rating.
  • We are focusing on 121 districts that have been deemed as critical to success. Of those 121, there are just 29 (24 percent) in which the population sympathizes with the Afghan government. While doubts about Afghan governance, writ large, doesn’t translate directly into support for the Taliban, which is still much-hated, it certainly doesn’t help matters. (In addition, the data for the 121 districts are not necessarily indicative of all of Afghanistan, especially given that they are the focus of the COIN campaign precisely because of the level of threats within them.)
  • Just 38 percent rate the work of the United States in Afghanistan positively – up 6 points in the past year, but far below its peak, 68 percent, in 2005. (NATO’s ratings are as low, and flat.) Fifty-one (51) percent have a favorable view of the United States overall – vastly below its high point, 83 percent, in 2005. And U.S. favorability drops to 35 percent in the East and 29 percent in the South (vs. 59 percent in the rest of the country) – again, plummeting where the United States is most actively engaged in combat.
  • Just 42 percent in the South and East support the presence of U.S. forces in their area, compared with 78 percent in the rest of the country.
  • More Afghans say the United States and NATO are doing worse, not better, in avoiding civilian casualties, by 43-24 percent. (This may reflect dismay over widely publicized individual incidents, such as the bombing of a pair of hijacked fuel tankers in September that killed scores of civilians in Kunduz province.)
  • Nearly all Afghans – 95 percent – say official corruption is a problem in their area, up 23 points since 2007. Seventy-six (76) percent say it’s a big problem; both are new highs.
  • Only 29 percent of Afghans had a very good or good opinion of ISAF (International Security Assistance Force), with an additional 34 percent reporting a neutral rating.
  • We are focusing on 121 districts that have been deemed as critical to success. Of those 121, there are just 29 (24 percent) in which the population sympathizes with the Afghan government. While doubts about Afghan governance, writ large, doesn’t translate directly into support for the Taliban, which is still much-hated, it certainly doesn’t help matters. (In addition, the data for the 121 districts are not necessarily indicative of all of Afghanistan, especially given that they are the focus of the COIN campaign precisely because of the level of threats within them.)

It’s quite a mixed picture, then — but since the beginning of 2009, a low-water mark, we’ve seen an increase in the performance ratings of the Afghan army, the Afghan government, Hamid Karzai, and the U.S. presence in Afghanistan.

The CSIS report also documents the rising intensity of the fighting, the increase in IED attacks, opium-poppy-cultivation trends, the growth in the (licit) GDP, and the growing strength of the Afghan National Army and Afghan National Police (the ANA has largely exceeded its recruiting goals between 2009 and 2010 and now includes more than 112,000 Afghans; the ANP now counts more than 102,000 Afghans in its ranks). And according to the most recent Department of Defense report, 52 percent of Afghans believe insurgents are the greatest source of insecurity, while only 1 percent believes the National Army/Police are primarily to blame. In the words of the DoD report: “This perception provides an opportunity for the Afghan Government, with the support of the international community, to improve its legitimacy and enhance popular perception of the government.”

In the end, increasing the legitimacy of the government will be key as to whether the war has a successful outcome. Nobody understands this better than David Petraeus and Stanley McChrystal.

Stay tuned.

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Obama’s Sales Job Flops

Mara Liasson on Fox News Sunday described the aftermath of ObamaCare:

What’s happened this week is that although the polls haven’t moved in any big way, there’s been a slight narrowing of the difference between the positive and negative feelings about this. Still, there’s more negative than positive.

But for the Democrats, what’s really important for the midterms is that finally, the intensity among the Democratic base, the number of Democrats who are strongly supportive of this, has come way up. And it’s beginning at least to balance out the strongly negative feelings that the Republicans have been riding among their base.

We don’t know yet if this is the high-water mark for the opposition to this, if it’s going to grow or if it’s going to dissipate.

But one of the problems I do think the White House is going to have, and they’re going to have to come up with an answer to this, is that premiums are likely to go up, and they might even start going up in a lot of places before November, before all of the things that would keep premiums down kick in, long before.

So Republicans are going to be able to say in the fall, “Ah-ha, your premiums went up,” just like they’re going to say, “Ah-ha, there’s still 10 percent unemployment.” And the White House knows it has a huge selling job ahead of it, and I think the president started this week and they’re just going to have to keep at it.

In other words, “Ah-ha — you sold us a bill of goods.” As Bill Kristol pointed out, it’s worse than that really. Citing the Washington Post/ABC News poll (with a stark undersampling of Republicans), he explains that voters aren’t embracing the “historic” achievement that Obama and the media spinners are touting:

The media celebrates it as historic, on the level of Medicare and Social Security. The president of the United States goes out and spends a week campaigning for it.Forty-six to 50 — people disapprove of it. He hasn’t moved the numbers at all. He’s slightly generated more Democratic enthusiasm, but the overall public sentiment is negative. Independents are negative. The generic congressional ballot is bad for the Democrats.

Among those who were asked, “Would you vote on this issue? Would you be more likely to vote for a congressional candidate who supports or opposes,” it’s 26-32. That is really bad for the Democrats.

I mean, if they couldn’t take advantage of the momentum of passing this legislation, the signing ceremony, the media, the president traveling around, when are they going to have a bump?

This emphasizes just how limited Obama’s ability to move public opinion is. He persuaded 53 percent of the voters to elect him, but he’s convinced them of precious little since then. They don’t buy that the stimulus worked. They don’t think closing Guantanamo is a good idea. (Last January 47 percent wanted to keep Guantanamo open; now 60 percent do.) And they aren’t buying his sales pitch that his monstrous health-care scheme is going to cut the deficit, save them money, or improve their own medical care.

Real experience with ObamaCare, as with the stimulus plan, may cement voters’ take on the legislation as the premium hikes and Medicare cuts take their toll. The risk with overselling and misrepresenting to the voters either a candidate or a piece of legislation  is that sooner or later they catch on — and then they get the chance to exact their revenge at the ballot box. As the president said, that’s what elections are for.

Mara Liasson on Fox News Sunday described the aftermath of ObamaCare:

What’s happened this week is that although the polls haven’t moved in any big way, there’s been a slight narrowing of the difference between the positive and negative feelings about this. Still, there’s more negative than positive.

But for the Democrats, what’s really important for the midterms is that finally, the intensity among the Democratic base, the number of Democrats who are strongly supportive of this, has come way up. And it’s beginning at least to balance out the strongly negative feelings that the Republicans have been riding among their base.

We don’t know yet if this is the high-water mark for the opposition to this, if it’s going to grow or if it’s going to dissipate.

But one of the problems I do think the White House is going to have, and they’re going to have to come up with an answer to this, is that premiums are likely to go up, and they might even start going up in a lot of places before November, before all of the things that would keep premiums down kick in, long before.

So Republicans are going to be able to say in the fall, “Ah-ha, your premiums went up,” just like they’re going to say, “Ah-ha, there’s still 10 percent unemployment.” And the White House knows it has a huge selling job ahead of it, and I think the president started this week and they’re just going to have to keep at it.

In other words, “Ah-ha — you sold us a bill of goods.” As Bill Kristol pointed out, it’s worse than that really. Citing the Washington Post/ABC News poll (with a stark undersampling of Republicans), he explains that voters aren’t embracing the “historic” achievement that Obama and the media spinners are touting:

The media celebrates it as historic, on the level of Medicare and Social Security. The president of the United States goes out and spends a week campaigning for it.Forty-six to 50 — people disapprove of it. He hasn’t moved the numbers at all. He’s slightly generated more Democratic enthusiasm, but the overall public sentiment is negative. Independents are negative. The generic congressional ballot is bad for the Democrats.

Among those who were asked, “Would you vote on this issue? Would you be more likely to vote for a congressional candidate who supports or opposes,” it’s 26-32. That is really bad for the Democrats.

I mean, if they couldn’t take advantage of the momentum of passing this legislation, the signing ceremony, the media, the president traveling around, when are they going to have a bump?

This emphasizes just how limited Obama’s ability to move public opinion is. He persuaded 53 percent of the voters to elect him, but he’s convinced them of precious little since then. They don’t buy that the stimulus worked. They don’t think closing Guantanamo is a good idea. (Last January 47 percent wanted to keep Guantanamo open; now 60 percent do.) And they aren’t buying his sales pitch that his monstrous health-care scheme is going to cut the deficit, save them money, or improve their own medical care.

Real experience with ObamaCare, as with the stimulus plan, may cement voters’ take on the legislation as the premium hikes and Medicare cuts take their toll. The risk with overselling and misrepresenting to the voters either a candidate or a piece of legislation  is that sooner or later they catch on — and then they get the chance to exact their revenge at the ballot box. As the president said, that’s what elections are for.

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Clinton Scolded, Russia and Iran Gloat

While Hillary Clinton congratulates herself for the state of U.S.-Israeli relations, she is, for now, on the receiving end of what one might genuinely call an affront. It seems that Vladimir Putin read her the riot act  — in front of the onlooking news corps. Oh, yes. ABC News reports:

When reporters traveling with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in Moscow were informed that a last-minute meeting with Russia’s Prime Minister Valdimir Putin had been added to the schedule, they were told they would only get to see a few seconds of handshakes before being ushered out.

Instead, with cameras rolling, they watched Putin spend six minutes rattling off a number of complaints he has with the United States.

He barked about trade and scolded her about the 1974 Jackson-Vanik amendment. “Reporters were surprised at the length of Putin’s list of issues and the fact that he did it in front of the Russian and American press corps, a pool reporter noted.” In other words, Putin went out of the way to bully the U.S. Secretary of State in public. Just to show who is boss? And this follows the announcement that, instead of cooperating to isolate Iran, Russia will build a nuclear power plant for the mullahs — an announcement issued to “greet” Hillary.

In short, the Russians have now shown us what resetting the U.S.-Russian relationship means. Putin has figured out that there is no risk — so long as you aren’t a small democratic ally of the U.S. — of incurring the wrath of the Obami. No condemnations or even frowns will be forthcoming. This is, you see, what comes from throwing ourselves at our adversaries’ feet and scorning our allies. Adversaries learn to take advantage of us while friends learn not to trust us.

And where does that leave our Iran policy? No prospect of international sanctions. The U.S. sanctions bill is languishing in Congress. The mullahs feel neither isolated nor besieged. It is not they whom the Obami are pressuring this week. We eagerly await Hillary’s Monday speech to AIPAC when she can explain the wizardry at work here. We’ll be all ears.

While Hillary Clinton congratulates herself for the state of U.S.-Israeli relations, she is, for now, on the receiving end of what one might genuinely call an affront. It seems that Vladimir Putin read her the riot act  — in front of the onlooking news corps. Oh, yes. ABC News reports:

When reporters traveling with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in Moscow were informed that a last-minute meeting with Russia’s Prime Minister Valdimir Putin had been added to the schedule, they were told they would only get to see a few seconds of handshakes before being ushered out.

Instead, with cameras rolling, they watched Putin spend six minutes rattling off a number of complaints he has with the United States.

He barked about trade and scolded her about the 1974 Jackson-Vanik amendment. “Reporters were surprised at the length of Putin’s list of issues and the fact that he did it in front of the Russian and American press corps, a pool reporter noted.” In other words, Putin went out of the way to bully the U.S. Secretary of State in public. Just to show who is boss? And this follows the announcement that, instead of cooperating to isolate Iran, Russia will build a nuclear power plant for the mullahs — an announcement issued to “greet” Hillary.

In short, the Russians have now shown us what resetting the U.S.-Russian relationship means. Putin has figured out that there is no risk — so long as you aren’t a small democratic ally of the U.S. — of incurring the wrath of the Obami. No condemnations or even frowns will be forthcoming. This is, you see, what comes from throwing ourselves at our adversaries’ feet and scorning our allies. Adversaries learn to take advantage of us while friends learn not to trust us.

And where does that leave our Iran policy? No prospect of international sanctions. The U.S. sanctions bill is languishing in Congress. The mullahs feel neither isolated nor besieged. It is not they whom the Obami are pressuring this week. We eagerly await Hillary’s Monday speech to AIPAC when she can explain the wizardry at work here. We’ll be all ears.

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No Half a Loaf for These Guys!

As John outlined, there are no great or even good options for Democrats, unless of course they were to regroup, come up with a more modest package of health-care reforms, and get a solid but unassuming bill passed. But, no. The Democrats won’t entertain anything of the sort. Jake Tapper reports:

Before House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., brings the Senate Democrats’ health care reform legislation to the floor for a vote, she and her team are currently assessing whether or not they have the votes to pass it.

They need 217 votes, a majority of the 432 members currently in Congress. They don’t have them right now.

If the House doesn’t have the votes, senior White House officials say they would like Congress to pursue a more modest health care reform bill.

But there seems little desire for that among House Democrats, who would like to focus on jobs.

“We are NOT doing scaled back bill,” a senior House leadership source emails ABC News.

Tapper goes through the math, as many of us have, ticking off the loss of some “yes” votes from last year’s vote. So non-deluded political pundits and politicians all are reaching the same conclusion: there is no there there. Observers scratch their heads, shuffle their feet, and wonder: just how is Obama-Reid-Pelosi going to get out of this one?

Because the troika has egged on its base and refused to come to terms with the political reality, it will be mighty hard to go to what Tapper calls “Plan C” (a scaled-down bill) until ObamaCare finally loses. And by then, in the wake of a humiliating defeat, it’s not clear there will be the stomach to regroup and do it all again. (In 1994, once HillaryCare couldn’t garner enough votes, health-care reform was kaput and Bill Clinton moved on to other things.)

Obama and the Democrats are giving themselves four weeks — another inexplicable move. What will occur in that time? Why Republicans, Tea Party activists, and other anti-ObamaCare forces will work themselves into a fevered pitch, and the Reid-Pelosi-Obama brain trust will twist in the wind. It is yet another nearly unimaginable move in a series of calamitous political decisions. If Obama and the Democrats had tried, they couldn’t have come up with an approach better designed to invigorate their opponents and dispirit their own base.

As John outlined, there are no great or even good options for Democrats, unless of course they were to regroup, come up with a more modest package of health-care reforms, and get a solid but unassuming bill passed. But, no. The Democrats won’t entertain anything of the sort. Jake Tapper reports:

Before House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., brings the Senate Democrats’ health care reform legislation to the floor for a vote, she and her team are currently assessing whether or not they have the votes to pass it.

They need 217 votes, a majority of the 432 members currently in Congress. They don’t have them right now.

If the House doesn’t have the votes, senior White House officials say they would like Congress to pursue a more modest health care reform bill.

But there seems little desire for that among House Democrats, who would like to focus on jobs.

“We are NOT doing scaled back bill,” a senior House leadership source emails ABC News.

Tapper goes through the math, as many of us have, ticking off the loss of some “yes” votes from last year’s vote. So non-deluded political pundits and politicians all are reaching the same conclusion: there is no there there. Observers scratch their heads, shuffle their feet, and wonder: just how is Obama-Reid-Pelosi going to get out of this one?

Because the troika has egged on its base and refused to come to terms with the political reality, it will be mighty hard to go to what Tapper calls “Plan C” (a scaled-down bill) until ObamaCare finally loses. And by then, in the wake of a humiliating defeat, it’s not clear there will be the stomach to regroup and do it all again. (In 1994, once HillaryCare couldn’t garner enough votes, health-care reform was kaput and Bill Clinton moved on to other things.)

Obama and the Democrats are giving themselves four weeks — another inexplicable move. What will occur in that time? Why Republicans, Tea Party activists, and other anti-ObamaCare forces will work themselves into a fevered pitch, and the Reid-Pelosi-Obama brain trust will twist in the wind. It is yet another nearly unimaginable move in a series of calamitous political decisions. If Obama and the Democrats had tried, they couldn’t have come up with an approach better designed to invigorate their opponents and dispirit their own base.

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Who Did That?!

Even Gail Collins doesn’t buy Obama’s act. She thinks the populist hooey and Beltway-bashing doesn’t really work coming from the Ivy League–educated president who’s been in office for a year:

Obama does not really do angry. Peeved, yes. He looked pretty peeved when he was being interviewed by Diane Sawyer of ABC News the other night. If he can’t manage mellow with Diane Sawyer, what’s he going to do on Friday when he has scheduled a meeting with the House Republicans? Have you ever seen all the House Republicans in one place? It’s like a herd of rabid otters.

Looking out at the motley crew seated before him for the big speech, the president seemed at times to be pretending that he had never seen these people before in his life. “Washington has been telling us to wait for decades,” he complained at one point, as if he was a visitor from the heartland with a petition that he wanted to deliver if only he could get an appointment with someone on the appropriations committee.

She attributes all this to an outbreak of crankiness. But really it’s phoniness — as phony as Bill Clinton biting his lower lip. Obama is play-acting, affecting anger he doesn’t really feel (otherwise we’d have seen it before Scott Brown’s victory, right?). And meanwhile he’s donning the mantle of outsider while occupying the Oval office.

He got to the presidency as the leader of a new sort of politics. Unburdened by ideology, more cerebral and less craven than all who ever came before him, he was going to leave pettiness and perpetual campaigning behind and institute a new way of governing based on respect for the public and his opponents and heightened transparency. Now he’s upset that some fellow’s been running things for a year, acting like “change” was just a campaign slogan, so he’s going to get to the bottom of it. You can get whiplash trying to figure out which role he’s playing and whether he could possibly believe we haven’t noticed that the practitioner of all this secrecy, inside dealing, and hard-ball politics is the man behind the curtain … er … podium.

Even Gail Collins doesn’t buy Obama’s act. She thinks the populist hooey and Beltway-bashing doesn’t really work coming from the Ivy League–educated president who’s been in office for a year:

Obama does not really do angry. Peeved, yes. He looked pretty peeved when he was being interviewed by Diane Sawyer of ABC News the other night. If he can’t manage mellow with Diane Sawyer, what’s he going to do on Friday when he has scheduled a meeting with the House Republicans? Have you ever seen all the House Republicans in one place? It’s like a herd of rabid otters.

Looking out at the motley crew seated before him for the big speech, the president seemed at times to be pretending that he had never seen these people before in his life. “Washington has been telling us to wait for decades,” he complained at one point, as if he was a visitor from the heartland with a petition that he wanted to deliver if only he could get an appointment with someone on the appropriations committee.

She attributes all this to an outbreak of crankiness. But really it’s phoniness — as phony as Bill Clinton biting his lower lip. Obama is play-acting, affecting anger he doesn’t really feel (otherwise we’d have seen it before Scott Brown’s victory, right?). And meanwhile he’s donning the mantle of outsider while occupying the Oval office.

He got to the presidency as the leader of a new sort of politics. Unburdened by ideology, more cerebral and less craven than all who ever came before him, he was going to leave pettiness and perpetual campaigning behind and institute a new way of governing based on respect for the public and his opponents and heightened transparency. Now he’s upset that some fellow’s been running things for a year, acting like “change” was just a campaign slogan, so he’s going to get to the bottom of it. You can get whiplash trying to figure out which role he’s playing and whether he could possibly believe we haven’t noticed that the practitioner of all this secrecy, inside dealing, and hard-ball politics is the man behind the curtain … er … podium.

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Public Trusts Fox, Not So Much the White House

The Democratic polling outfit Public Policy Polling reveals:

Americans do not trust the major tv news operations in the country- except for Fox News. Our newest survey looking at perceptions of ABC News, CBS News, CNN, Fox News, and NBC News finds Fox as the only one that more people say they trust than distrust. 49% say they trust it to 37% who do not. CNN does next best at a 39/41 spread, followed by NBC at 35/44, CBS at 32/46, and ABC at 31/46.

This will certainly be unwelcome news to the White House, but it is also further evidence that the Obama administration may have the ability to lift its enemies to new heights of popularity. Perhaps all that vilification from the White House demonstrated that Fox wasn’t the patsy of the administration. Or maybe viewers can judge for themselves — and have long since tuned out the advice of the White House on everything from health care to which news outlet they should watch.

It is certainly one more bit of evidence that the White House is out of touch with the public and that its spin has ceased to move public opinion (at least in the intended direction). It is also a lesson to the mainstream media: sycophantic coverage doesn’t play well with public.

The Democratic polling outfit Public Policy Polling reveals:

Americans do not trust the major tv news operations in the country- except for Fox News. Our newest survey looking at perceptions of ABC News, CBS News, CNN, Fox News, and NBC News finds Fox as the only one that more people say they trust than distrust. 49% say they trust it to 37% who do not. CNN does next best at a 39/41 spread, followed by NBC at 35/44, CBS at 32/46, and ABC at 31/46.

This will certainly be unwelcome news to the White House, but it is also further evidence that the Obama administration may have the ability to lift its enemies to new heights of popularity. Perhaps all that vilification from the White House demonstrated that Fox wasn’t the patsy of the administration. Or maybe viewers can judge for themselves — and have long since tuned out the advice of the White House on everything from health care to which news outlet they should watch.

It is certainly one more bit of evidence that the White House is out of touch with the public and that its spin has ceased to move public opinion (at least in the intended direction). It is also a lesson to the mainstream media: sycophantic coverage doesn’t play well with public.

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What Obama Needs Is a Calendar…

The New York Times this morning reports that Obama is trying to “turn around his presidency.”

That would be an excellent idea in the wake of the results of Tuesday’s election in Massachusetts. But I have my doubts that he is going to change his approach, his attitude, or his agenda. He doesn’t seem to have changed his rhetoric. The Times quotes the president in an ABC News interview as saying:

Here’s my assessment of not just the vote in Massachusetts but the mood around the country — the same thing that swept Scott Brown into office swept me into office. People are angry and they are frustrated. Not just because of what’s happened in the last year or two years, but what’s happened over the last eight years.

Ummm, Mr. President, one of those eight years was on your watch. This is January 2010, not 2009. The people of Massachusetts didn’t elect a Republican senator to a seat held by a Democrat since 1952 because of the failures of a Republican president.

I usually hate having to watch the State of the Union speech, but the one President Obama will deliver next Wednesday is must-see TV. If we get more of the failure-of-the-last-eight-years rhetoric, Obama’s political capital — already severely depleted — will be gone. If he acknowledges that he blew it in his first year and will mend his ways, the American people — a forgiving group — will give him another chance.

By the way, if the Republicans need someone to give the Republican response, I have a suggestion: Scott Brown.

The New York Times this morning reports that Obama is trying to “turn around his presidency.”

That would be an excellent idea in the wake of the results of Tuesday’s election in Massachusetts. But I have my doubts that he is going to change his approach, his attitude, or his agenda. He doesn’t seem to have changed his rhetoric. The Times quotes the president in an ABC News interview as saying:

Here’s my assessment of not just the vote in Massachusetts but the mood around the country — the same thing that swept Scott Brown into office swept me into office. People are angry and they are frustrated. Not just because of what’s happened in the last year or two years, but what’s happened over the last eight years.

Ummm, Mr. President, one of those eight years was on your watch. This is January 2010, not 2009. The people of Massachusetts didn’t elect a Republican senator to a seat held by a Democrat since 1952 because of the failures of a Republican president.

I usually hate having to watch the State of the Union speech, but the one President Obama will deliver next Wednesday is must-see TV. If we get more of the failure-of-the-last-eight-years rhetoric, Obama’s political capital — already severely depleted — will be gone. If he acknowledges that he blew it in his first year and will mend his ways, the American people — a forgiving group — will give him another chance.

By the way, if the Republicans need someone to give the Republican response, I have a suggestion: Scott Brown.

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A New Day

Nothing like a once-in-a-generation political upset to shake up incumbents, right? Two developments demonstrate that despite White House denial, the rest of the political establishment is taking stock and making adjustments.

On the defection-from-ObamaCare front, Sen. Dianne Feinstein is the latest voice of sanity to pipe up. ABC News reports:

“I can tell you the situation has changed dramatically. And I think it’s a sweep across the country and I think that the (White House Economic Adviser) Larry Summers’s of the world have to see it, the administration has to see it and we have to see it. And therefore everything is jobs and the economy and education. People are worried about education,” she said.

“You see anger. People are worried. And when they’re worried they don’t want to take on a broad new responsibility,” like health care reform, she said.

Meanwhile, Republicans are assessing their opportunities and will put new pressure on incumbents who previously didn’t consider themselves vulnerable. Evan Bayh has had the luxury to vote with his liberal leadership while talking like a fiscal conservative back home. That may end. Hotline reports:

In the wake of winning MA, GOPers are looking to put 1 more state in play if they can convince House GOP Conference chair Mike Pence to run against Sen. Evan Bayh (R-IN). … The NRSC has polled IN, and their survey shows Pence in a competitive position, though he trails Bayh in initial matchups.

(I’m betting that polling will shift post-Brown as voters realize there are options to the status quo.)

Now maybe Feinstein can be sweet-talked by the White House into continuing on the ObamaCare jag. Maybe Bayh isn’t concerned about his re-election. But I doubt it. These are mature politicians who can read the election returns for themselves. The White House will have a tough time convincing them to pretend all is well and the only problem has been insufficient speed in passing a grossly unpopular health-care bill.

Nothing like a once-in-a-generation political upset to shake up incumbents, right? Two developments demonstrate that despite White House denial, the rest of the political establishment is taking stock and making adjustments.

On the defection-from-ObamaCare front, Sen. Dianne Feinstein is the latest voice of sanity to pipe up. ABC News reports:

“I can tell you the situation has changed dramatically. And I think it’s a sweep across the country and I think that the (White House Economic Adviser) Larry Summers’s of the world have to see it, the administration has to see it and we have to see it. And therefore everything is jobs and the economy and education. People are worried about education,” she said.

“You see anger. People are worried. And when they’re worried they don’t want to take on a broad new responsibility,” like health care reform, she said.

Meanwhile, Republicans are assessing their opportunities and will put new pressure on incumbents who previously didn’t consider themselves vulnerable. Evan Bayh has had the luxury to vote with his liberal leadership while talking like a fiscal conservative back home. That may end. Hotline reports:

In the wake of winning MA, GOPers are looking to put 1 more state in play if they can convince House GOP Conference chair Mike Pence to run against Sen. Evan Bayh (R-IN). … The NRSC has polled IN, and their survey shows Pence in a competitive position, though he trails Bayh in initial matchups.

(I’m betting that polling will shift post-Brown as voters realize there are options to the status quo.)

Now maybe Feinstein can be sweet-talked by the White House into continuing on the ObamaCare jag. Maybe Bayh isn’t concerned about his re-election. But I doubt it. These are mature politicians who can read the election returns for themselves. The White House will have a tough time convincing them to pretend all is well and the only problem has been insufficient speed in passing a grossly unpopular health-care bill.

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