Commentary Magazine


Topic: adviser

A Former Clinton Adviser Pushes the Panic Button

William Galston, a first-rate academic mind who was a top domestic adviser to President Clinton, begins his piece in the New Republic this way:

Earth to House Democrats: It’s time to push the panic button. But don’t take my word for it; consider the evidence.

After analyzing the evidence, this is how Galston concludes:

It’s too late to enact legislation that will actually affect the economy’s performance between now and November, but it may not be too late for Democrats to better align their agenda with the public’s economic concerns. And they could get lucky: The four remaining employment reports between now and the election might show accelerating job creation in the private sector and a more rapid decline in unemployment than we have seen thus far. That would give embattled incumbents the chance to argue—more credibly than they can now—that we’re on the right track and shouldn’t turn back.

On the other hand, it’s entirely possible that none of this matters now, that the voters likely to turn out this fall have already concluded that with one-party control of the legislative and executive branches, Democrats will continue to take the country further to the left than the majority of the electorate would like. If so, Democrats should probably prepare themselves for the two words they dread the most—“Speaker Boehner.”

It will be hard for Obama acolytes in the press to dismiss this as more “the sky is falling” predictions from Republican critics, now, won’t it?

William Galston, a first-rate academic mind who was a top domestic adviser to President Clinton, begins his piece in the New Republic this way:

Earth to House Democrats: It’s time to push the panic button. But don’t take my word for it; consider the evidence.

After analyzing the evidence, this is how Galston concludes:

It’s too late to enact legislation that will actually affect the economy’s performance between now and November, but it may not be too late for Democrats to better align their agenda with the public’s economic concerns. And they could get lucky: The four remaining employment reports between now and the election might show accelerating job creation in the private sector and a more rapid decline in unemployment than we have seen thus far. That would give embattled incumbents the chance to argue—more credibly than they can now—that we’re on the right track and shouldn’t turn back.

On the other hand, it’s entirely possible that none of this matters now, that the voters likely to turn out this fall have already concluded that with one-party control of the legislative and executive branches, Democrats will continue to take the country further to the left than the majority of the electorate would like. If so, Democrats should probably prepare themselves for the two words they dread the most—“Speaker Boehner.”

It will be hard for Obama acolytes in the press to dismiss this as more “the sky is falling” predictions from Republican critics, now, won’t it?

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Leftists Beware: Kagan Favored Ban on Late-Term Abortions

The problem with nominating a blank slate, as Jane Hamsher capably argues, is that the president and his supporters have to take on faith that their nominee is “with them” on the issues they care about. But what if they haven’t seen all the documents or can’t quite be sure what she actually believes? It turns into a freak-out for the president’s supporters. And that is what may ensue on the issue nearest and dearest to the left — abortion. The AP reports:

As a White House adviser in 1997, Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan urged then-President Bill Clinton to support a ban on late-term abortions, a political compromise that put the administration at odds with abortion rights groups.

Documents reviewed Monday by The Associated Press show Kagan encouraging Clinton to support a bill that would have banned all abortions of viable fetuses except when the physical health of the mother was at risk. The documents from Clinton’s presidential library are among the first to surface in which Kagan weighs in the thorny issue of abortion.

The abortion proposal was a compromise by Democratic Sen. Tom Daschle. Clinton supported it, but the proposal failed and Clinton vetoed a stricter Republican ban.

And if the left isn’t annoyed enough with Rahm Emanuel, there is this:

The memo is more of a political calculation than a legal brief, but Kagan and Reed urged Clinton to support the compromise despite noting that the Justice Department believed the proposal was unconstitutional.

“We recommend that you endorse the Daschle amendment in order to sustain your credibility on HR 1122 and prevent Congress from overriding your veto,” they wrote.

The memo noted that another White House adviser, Rahm Emmanuel, also supported the idea. Emmanuel is now Obama’s chief of staff.

Uh oh. Well, the left will have a tizzy, the leftist blogosphere will criticize Obama for “playing it safe” with an unreliable stealth nominee, and then the White House will have to reassure its supporters that she’s definitely with them — but of course, they wouldn’t have ever asked her how she’d rule on abortion. Conservatives would do well to pipe down. Let the administration untangle itself from this one and explain why it chose someone who has no paper trail and spent her entire career convincing conflicting sides that she was a sympathetic ear.

The problem with nominating a blank slate, as Jane Hamsher capably argues, is that the president and his supporters have to take on faith that their nominee is “with them” on the issues they care about. But what if they haven’t seen all the documents or can’t quite be sure what she actually believes? It turns into a freak-out for the president’s supporters. And that is what may ensue on the issue nearest and dearest to the left — abortion. The AP reports:

As a White House adviser in 1997, Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan urged then-President Bill Clinton to support a ban on late-term abortions, a political compromise that put the administration at odds with abortion rights groups.

Documents reviewed Monday by The Associated Press show Kagan encouraging Clinton to support a bill that would have banned all abortions of viable fetuses except when the physical health of the mother was at risk. The documents from Clinton’s presidential library are among the first to surface in which Kagan weighs in the thorny issue of abortion.

The abortion proposal was a compromise by Democratic Sen. Tom Daschle. Clinton supported it, but the proposal failed and Clinton vetoed a stricter Republican ban.

And if the left isn’t annoyed enough with Rahm Emanuel, there is this:

The memo is more of a political calculation than a legal brief, but Kagan and Reed urged Clinton to support the compromise despite noting that the Justice Department believed the proposal was unconstitutional.

“We recommend that you endorse the Daschle amendment in order to sustain your credibility on HR 1122 and prevent Congress from overriding your veto,” they wrote.

The memo noted that another White House adviser, Rahm Emmanuel, also supported the idea. Emmanuel is now Obama’s chief of staff.

Uh oh. Well, the left will have a tizzy, the leftist blogosphere will criticize Obama for “playing it safe” with an unreliable stealth nominee, and then the White House will have to reassure its supporters that she’s definitely with them — but of course, they wouldn’t have ever asked her how she’d rule on abortion. Conservatives would do well to pipe down. Let the administration untangle itself from this one and explain why it chose someone who has no paper trail and spent her entire career convincing conflicting sides that she was a sympathetic ear.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Will Arlen Specter get his comeuppance? Joe Sestak begins to pull away in the polls.

Will the Democrats lose in Colorado? “Republicans are now well positioned for a statewide resurgence, threatening several Democratic seats in the midterm elections and raising questions about whether the opening chapter of the Obama administration has eroded gains that Democrats had been making here for the previous six years.”

Will John Murtha’s district go Republican? “This once safely Democratic district where Murtha reigned for 35 years is now a toss-up. Longtime Murtha aide Mark Critz, 48, vows to carry on his former boss’s legacy, while Republican businessman Tim Burns, 42, tries to leverage anti-Washington passion by treating his opponent as an incumbent tied to the ‘liberal Pelosi-Obama agenda.'”

Will the Obama administration wise up? Even the Washington Post‘s editors fret that “the administration has not given more consideration to other approaches, including the possibility of designating suspects as enemy combatants to allow for lengthier interrogations, which could yield intelligence to thwart terrorist operations and future attacks. In part, this is a reflection of the administration’s mind-set. In explaining the handling of Mr. Shahzad, two administration officials told us that they believe that the law categorically bars them from holding a U.S. citizen as an enemy combatant. This is not correct.”

Sounds like there is hope. Will Eric Holder keep sounding like Andy McCarthy? Holder on This Week: “The [Miranda] system we have in place has proven to be effective,” Holder said. “I think we also want to look and determine whether we have the necessary flexibility — whether we have a system that deals with situations that agents now confront. … We’re now dealing with international terrorism. … I think we have to give serious consideration to at least modifying that public-safety exception [to the Miranda requirements]. And that’s one of the things that I think we’re going to be reaching out to Congress, to come up with a proposal that is both constitutional, but that is also relevant to our times and the threats that we now face.” Wow. The left will have a meltdown.

Will any White House adviser tell the president that this sort of thing makes them all sound crazy? “Deputy National Security Adviser John Brennan said Sunday that, despite the attempted Times Square attack orchestrated by the Pakistani Taliban in the heart of New York City, trying professed 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed in Manhattan is still an option that’s on the table.”

Will Republicans learn the right lesson from the British elections? Fred Barnes: “In the British election, this was one reason Labor was able to turn out its core vote and keep Conservatives from winning a majority. The lesson for Republican, facing an unpopular Democratic Party, is obvious: don’t expect circumstances to win for you. You need to run an aggressive campaign.”

On Richard Goldstone’s apartheid record, will anyone be surprised that Matthew Yglesias is “inclined to give him a pass”? Once you’ve vilified Israel, you earn a lifetime pass from the anti-Israel left. (By the way, credit to Ron Radosh for spotting Goldstone’s apartheid record a few months back.)

Will Arlen Specter get his comeuppance? Joe Sestak begins to pull away in the polls.

Will the Democrats lose in Colorado? “Republicans are now well positioned for a statewide resurgence, threatening several Democratic seats in the midterm elections and raising questions about whether the opening chapter of the Obama administration has eroded gains that Democrats had been making here for the previous six years.”

Will John Murtha’s district go Republican? “This once safely Democratic district where Murtha reigned for 35 years is now a toss-up. Longtime Murtha aide Mark Critz, 48, vows to carry on his former boss’s legacy, while Republican businessman Tim Burns, 42, tries to leverage anti-Washington passion by treating his opponent as an incumbent tied to the ‘liberal Pelosi-Obama agenda.'”

Will the Obama administration wise up? Even the Washington Post‘s editors fret that “the administration has not given more consideration to other approaches, including the possibility of designating suspects as enemy combatants to allow for lengthier interrogations, which could yield intelligence to thwart terrorist operations and future attacks. In part, this is a reflection of the administration’s mind-set. In explaining the handling of Mr. Shahzad, two administration officials told us that they believe that the law categorically bars them from holding a U.S. citizen as an enemy combatant. This is not correct.”

Sounds like there is hope. Will Eric Holder keep sounding like Andy McCarthy? Holder on This Week: “The [Miranda] system we have in place has proven to be effective,” Holder said. “I think we also want to look and determine whether we have the necessary flexibility — whether we have a system that deals with situations that agents now confront. … We’re now dealing with international terrorism. … I think we have to give serious consideration to at least modifying that public-safety exception [to the Miranda requirements]. And that’s one of the things that I think we’re going to be reaching out to Congress, to come up with a proposal that is both constitutional, but that is also relevant to our times and the threats that we now face.” Wow. The left will have a meltdown.

Will any White House adviser tell the president that this sort of thing makes them all sound crazy? “Deputy National Security Adviser John Brennan said Sunday that, despite the attempted Times Square attack orchestrated by the Pakistani Taliban in the heart of New York City, trying professed 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed in Manhattan is still an option that’s on the table.”

Will Republicans learn the right lesson from the British elections? Fred Barnes: “In the British election, this was one reason Labor was able to turn out its core vote and keep Conservatives from winning a majority. The lesson for Republican, facing an unpopular Democratic Party, is obvious: don’t expect circumstances to win for you. You need to run an aggressive campaign.”

On Richard Goldstone’s apartheid record, will anyone be surprised that Matthew Yglesias is “inclined to give him a pass”? Once you’ve vilified Israel, you earn a lifetime pass from the anti-Israel left. (By the way, credit to Ron Radosh for spotting Goldstone’s apartheid record a few months back.)

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Jerusalem Really IS a Final Status Issue?

David Axelrod pronounces: “The president agrees that Jerusalem as an issue can’t be the first issue for negotiations.” What’s more, he wants us to know that “Jerusalem should ‘probably be the last’ issue negotiated, Axelrod said, echoing the position of Israel’s government, which is that the issue is too sensitive to discuss before other issues, including borders, are settled.”

So let’s review. The adviser who went on the Sunday talk shows to make clear how angry Obama was over a Jerusalem housing project and has personally counseled the president to go beserk with the Israelis over the issue and who presumably is aware of the threat to abstain rather than veto a UN resolution should that building proceed now says it’s the last issue we should talk about. If you’re confused, I’m sure the parties in the region are, too. There are several explanations.

Perhaps Axelrod and the rest of the Obama crew are simply telling every party what it wants to hear, raising Palestinian expectations and simultaneously giving Jews assurances on the Israeli capital. It is a recipe for disaster, of course, once negotiations begin and everyone has a different set of expectations and understanding of the U.S. position.

Another explanation: Obama has abandoned the entire Jerusalem gambit after raising it to the level of an international incident, damaging U.S.-Israel relations, and encouraging more Palestinian violence. It would be a remarkable turnaround.

Or the Obama brain trust may be practicing some bizarre word games and hoping everyone plays along. Yes, yes, Jerusalem is a final status issue, but we can’t let Israel “predetermine” the outcome by building in its capital (even though this was precisely the agreement reached with the Bush administration), so “final” doesn’t mean they won’t make demands on the Israeli government now.

It’s not clear what the Obama gurus are up to or whether there is even a strategy here. Whatever it is, it certainly is not “smart” — that is, coherent, credible, and clear — diplomacy.

David Axelrod pronounces: “The president agrees that Jerusalem as an issue can’t be the first issue for negotiations.” What’s more, he wants us to know that “Jerusalem should ‘probably be the last’ issue negotiated, Axelrod said, echoing the position of Israel’s government, which is that the issue is too sensitive to discuss before other issues, including borders, are settled.”

So let’s review. The adviser who went on the Sunday talk shows to make clear how angry Obama was over a Jerusalem housing project and has personally counseled the president to go beserk with the Israelis over the issue and who presumably is aware of the threat to abstain rather than veto a UN resolution should that building proceed now says it’s the last issue we should talk about. If you’re confused, I’m sure the parties in the region are, too. There are several explanations.

Perhaps Axelrod and the rest of the Obama crew are simply telling every party what it wants to hear, raising Palestinian expectations and simultaneously giving Jews assurances on the Israeli capital. It is a recipe for disaster, of course, once negotiations begin and everyone has a different set of expectations and understanding of the U.S. position.

Another explanation: Obama has abandoned the entire Jerusalem gambit after raising it to the level of an international incident, damaging U.S.-Israel relations, and encouraging more Palestinian violence. It would be a remarkable turnaround.

Or the Obama brain trust may be practicing some bizarre word games and hoping everyone plays along. Yes, yes, Jerusalem is a final status issue, but we can’t let Israel “predetermine” the outcome by building in its capital (even though this was precisely the agreement reached with the Bush administration), so “final” doesn’t mean they won’t make demands on the Israeli government now.

It’s not clear what the Obama gurus are up to or whether there is even a strategy here. Whatever it is, it certainly is not “smart” — that is, coherent, credible, and clear — diplomacy.

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Why Doesn’t Obama “Panic” About Iran?

We are told there is a “little bit of panic” in the White House over the Gulf of Mexico oil leak. White House flacks worry it threatens Obama’s aura of competence (if one supposes that sky-high unemployment, the loss of key gubernatorial races and the Massachusetts Senate seat, the gaping deficit, and his sagging poll numbers haven’t already scuffed it up). Politico reports:

“There is no good answer to this,” one senior administration official said. “There is no readily apparent solution besides one that could take three months. … If it doesn’t show the impotence of the government, it shows the limits of the government.”

Hope and change was Obama’s headline message in 2008, but those atop his campaign have always said that it was Obama’s cool competence — exemplified by his level-headed handling of the financial meltdown during the campaign’s waning days — that sealed the deal with independents and skeptical Democrats. The promise of rational, responsive and efficient government is Obama’s brand, his justification for bigger and bolder federal interventions and, ultimately, his rationale for a second term.

I suppose there are symbolic moments that provide a tipping point, but have the reporters not noticed that those bigger and bolder federal interventions are what is driving down his and the Democrats’ popularity? The panic, I think, is indicative not of the magnitude of the issue or the reaction of the public (Does a majority of the public really blame Obama for the oil spill?) but instead of the obsession of this administration (and its media handmaidens) with spin, image, and communication as the answer to every challenge Obama faces. (“‘They weren’t slow on the response; they were slow on talking about it,’ an outside White House adviser said.”)

What is interesting is what isn’t panicking the White House. The “we have no plan” Iran memo from Robert Gates doesn’t panic them. SCUD missiles in Syria only engenders “deep concern.” Sky-high unemployment figures with little prospect of robust job creation? Yawn.

And it’s equally interesting what sort of villian gets the administration’s attention: “At the same time, they’ve identified a villain — BP — with Interior Secretary Ken Salazar saying he’d keep a ‘boot on the neck’ of the company to ensure it would pay for and toil over a cleanup of historic proportions.” An exasperated reader emails me: “Will we hear Robert Gibbs say, ‘ We will keep the boot on the neck of the Iranian nuclear program'”? Uh, no.

In sum, the oil spill is an illuminating event — in large part because it stands in contrast to the more serious threats and the lackadaisical attitude this administration demonstrates toward everything that doesn’t threaten the president’s image and political standing. But here’s the thing: what’s going to happen to that aura of competence when the mullahs get a nuclear weapon? Ah, now that will be a communications problem.

We are told there is a “little bit of panic” in the White House over the Gulf of Mexico oil leak. White House flacks worry it threatens Obama’s aura of competence (if one supposes that sky-high unemployment, the loss of key gubernatorial races and the Massachusetts Senate seat, the gaping deficit, and his sagging poll numbers haven’t already scuffed it up). Politico reports:

“There is no good answer to this,” one senior administration official said. “There is no readily apparent solution besides one that could take three months. … If it doesn’t show the impotence of the government, it shows the limits of the government.”

Hope and change was Obama’s headline message in 2008, but those atop his campaign have always said that it was Obama’s cool competence — exemplified by his level-headed handling of the financial meltdown during the campaign’s waning days — that sealed the deal with independents and skeptical Democrats. The promise of rational, responsive and efficient government is Obama’s brand, his justification for bigger and bolder federal interventions and, ultimately, his rationale for a second term.

I suppose there are symbolic moments that provide a tipping point, but have the reporters not noticed that those bigger and bolder federal interventions are what is driving down his and the Democrats’ popularity? The panic, I think, is indicative not of the magnitude of the issue or the reaction of the public (Does a majority of the public really blame Obama for the oil spill?) but instead of the obsession of this administration (and its media handmaidens) with spin, image, and communication as the answer to every challenge Obama faces. (“‘They weren’t slow on the response; they were slow on talking about it,’ an outside White House adviser said.”)

What is interesting is what isn’t panicking the White House. The “we have no plan” Iran memo from Robert Gates doesn’t panic them. SCUD missiles in Syria only engenders “deep concern.” Sky-high unemployment figures with little prospect of robust job creation? Yawn.

And it’s equally interesting what sort of villian gets the administration’s attention: “At the same time, they’ve identified a villain — BP — with Interior Secretary Ken Salazar saying he’d keep a ‘boot on the neck’ of the company to ensure it would pay for and toil over a cleanup of historic proportions.” An exasperated reader emails me: “Will we hear Robert Gibbs say, ‘ We will keep the boot on the neck of the Iranian nuclear program'”? Uh, no.

In sum, the oil spill is an illuminating event — in large part because it stands in contrast to the more serious threats and the lackadaisical attitude this administration demonstrates toward everything that doesn’t threaten the president’s image and political standing. But here’s the thing: what’s going to happen to that aura of competence when the mullahs get a nuclear weapon? Ah, now that will be a communications problem.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Ouch: Charlie Crist’s campaign manager and handpicked Senate appointee dumps him.

Yikes (for Democrats): “Republican Congressman Mark Kirk has earned a modest pick-up in support, while his Democratic opponent, Alexi Giannoulias, appears stalled in the first Rasmussen Reports telephone survey of Likely Voters in the state following the government’s seizure of the failed Broadway Bank, the institution owned by Giannoulias’ family. Kirk now attracts 46% support in Illinois’ race for the U.S. Senate, up from 41% in early April.”

More yikes (for Democrats): “A new poll has businessman Tim Burns (R) leading former Murtha aide Mark Critz (D) 46-40. Republicans appear to have a real opportunity to take over the seat of the late Rep. John Murtha’s (D-Pa.), as another poll shows their candidate in the lead.”

Still: “Iran will never agree to exchange its low-level enriched uranium for nuclear fuel rods enriched abroad, a top adviser to Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said Friday.”

Bunk — is the claim that GM has paid back its taxpayer bailout, says Rep. Paul Ryan: “These claims struck me as odd and misleading. The federal government still owns over 60% of this auto company. This so-called repayment is actually a transfer of $6.7 billion from one taxpayer-funded bailout account to another.”

Fine: “Jewish groups are calling on U.N. member representatives to walk out in protest when Iran’s president speaks next week at the United Nations. Mahmoud Ahmadenijad’s plans to address the U.N. Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference on May 3 makes a mockery of the proceedings, Jewish groups said.” But why don’t they call for the administration to leave the Human Rights Council or the Commission on the Status of Women?

Uh-oh: “The nation’s gross domestic product, the value of all goods and services produced, grew at an annual rate of 3.2% after climbing 5.6% in the fourth quarter, the Commerce Department said Friday. That’s not nearly fast enough to bring down stubbornly high unemployment. In addition, threats ranging from turmoil in Europe to the difficulty smaller businesses face in borrowing money are clouding the prospects for continued recovery.”

Yup: “Crist still does not grasp that the country wants a check on Obama, not an enabler in Republican or independent skin. The backlash over spending, soaring debt, government take-over of major industries, and Obamacare calls for a new breed of GOP leaders who are unafraid to stand in the gap and stop the Obama agenda. Crist’s failure to understand that is what sunk his candidacy in the GOP and will likely do so in the general election.”

Ouch: Charlie Crist’s campaign manager and handpicked Senate appointee dumps him.

Yikes (for Democrats): “Republican Congressman Mark Kirk has earned a modest pick-up in support, while his Democratic opponent, Alexi Giannoulias, appears stalled in the first Rasmussen Reports telephone survey of Likely Voters in the state following the government’s seizure of the failed Broadway Bank, the institution owned by Giannoulias’ family. Kirk now attracts 46% support in Illinois’ race for the U.S. Senate, up from 41% in early April.”

More yikes (for Democrats): “A new poll has businessman Tim Burns (R) leading former Murtha aide Mark Critz (D) 46-40. Republicans appear to have a real opportunity to take over the seat of the late Rep. John Murtha’s (D-Pa.), as another poll shows their candidate in the lead.”

Still: “Iran will never agree to exchange its low-level enriched uranium for nuclear fuel rods enriched abroad, a top adviser to Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said Friday.”

Bunk — is the claim that GM has paid back its taxpayer bailout, says Rep. Paul Ryan: “These claims struck me as odd and misleading. The federal government still owns over 60% of this auto company. This so-called repayment is actually a transfer of $6.7 billion from one taxpayer-funded bailout account to another.”

Fine: “Jewish groups are calling on U.N. member representatives to walk out in protest when Iran’s president speaks next week at the United Nations. Mahmoud Ahmadenijad’s plans to address the U.N. Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference on May 3 makes a mockery of the proceedings, Jewish groups said.” But why don’t they call for the administration to leave the Human Rights Council or the Commission on the Status of Women?

Uh-oh: “The nation’s gross domestic product, the value of all goods and services produced, grew at an annual rate of 3.2% after climbing 5.6% in the fourth quarter, the Commerce Department said Friday. That’s not nearly fast enough to bring down stubbornly high unemployment. In addition, threats ranging from turmoil in Europe to the difficulty smaller businesses face in borrowing money are clouding the prospects for continued recovery.”

Yup: “Crist still does not grasp that the country wants a check on Obama, not an enabler in Republican or independent skin. The backlash over spending, soaring debt, government take-over of major industries, and Obamacare calls for a new breed of GOP leaders who are unafraid to stand in the gap and stop the Obama agenda. Crist’s failure to understand that is what sunk his candidacy in the GOP and will likely do so in the general election.”

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Fox News tells us: “A Scout is trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous and kind — and completely addicted to Nintendo Wii. The Boy Scouts of America — a group founded on the principles of building character and improving physical fitness — have introduced a brand new award for academic achievement in video gaming, a move that has child health experts atwitter.”

Elliott Abrams: “Israelis are living under the threat of annihilation every day. … If the world does not act, I believe Israel will act, and I hope the U.S. will. We keep saying it’s unacceptable for Iran to have a bomb, but we don’t mean it. We mean it’s terrible, we don’t want it. But when Israel says it’s unacceptable, they mean it.”

In a three-way race, Charlie Crist still loses.

And his staffers aren’t sticking with him: “The adviser said that Mr. Crist expects to lose his entire professional campaign staff, and it isn’t clear who he will bring on as replacements. GOP officials have instructed party political operatives not to work in opposition to the Republican nominee, and Democratic campaign workers are unlikely to sign on to work against Mr. Meek.” No money and no staff — this campaign could prove even more anemic than his GOP primary bid.

Now that’s a funny joke: “At a cocktail party full of Washington whisperers one says to the other, ‘I hear Jim Jones just resigned.’ Says the other: ‘How can you tell?'” Unfortunately, it’s not funny that we have a national security adviser who many find “is the disconnected, remote chief of a system that has thus far seemingly favored lengthy (some might say dithering) process over the production of good, clear policies, a process that cuts out key officials, and one that has been too dominated by the circle of pols that are close to the president.”

The press finds Robert Gibbs funny: “Gibbs said at one of his briefings, ‘This is the most transparent administration in the history of our country.’ Peals of laughter broke out in the briefing room.”

Depending on which poll you look at, John McCain is either in a dogfight or a walkaway Senate primary.

Republicans hung tough and got some concessions on the finance bill: “Senate Republicans say Democrats have made important concessions on a Wall Street reform bill and the chamber agreed by unanimous consent Wednesday evening to proceed to debate on the legislation. The bill was reported to the floor Wednesday night and debate is set to begin on Thursday. Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.) released a statement Wednesday afternoon touting ‘a key agreement’ to resolve disagreements over a $50 billion fund to liquidate troubled banks.” I wonder what would have happened had Ben Nelson done the same on health-care reform.

Fox News tells us: “A Scout is trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous and kind — and completely addicted to Nintendo Wii. The Boy Scouts of America — a group founded on the principles of building character and improving physical fitness — have introduced a brand new award for academic achievement in video gaming, a move that has child health experts atwitter.”

Elliott Abrams: “Israelis are living under the threat of annihilation every day. … If the world does not act, I believe Israel will act, and I hope the U.S. will. We keep saying it’s unacceptable for Iran to have a bomb, but we don’t mean it. We mean it’s terrible, we don’t want it. But when Israel says it’s unacceptable, they mean it.”

In a three-way race, Charlie Crist still loses.

And his staffers aren’t sticking with him: “The adviser said that Mr. Crist expects to lose his entire professional campaign staff, and it isn’t clear who he will bring on as replacements. GOP officials have instructed party political operatives not to work in opposition to the Republican nominee, and Democratic campaign workers are unlikely to sign on to work against Mr. Meek.” No money and no staff — this campaign could prove even more anemic than his GOP primary bid.

Now that’s a funny joke: “At a cocktail party full of Washington whisperers one says to the other, ‘I hear Jim Jones just resigned.’ Says the other: ‘How can you tell?'” Unfortunately, it’s not funny that we have a national security adviser who many find “is the disconnected, remote chief of a system that has thus far seemingly favored lengthy (some might say dithering) process over the production of good, clear policies, a process that cuts out key officials, and one that has been too dominated by the circle of pols that are close to the president.”

The press finds Robert Gibbs funny: “Gibbs said at one of his briefings, ‘This is the most transparent administration in the history of our country.’ Peals of laughter broke out in the briefing room.”

Depending on which poll you look at, John McCain is either in a dogfight or a walkaway Senate primary.

Republicans hung tough and got some concessions on the finance bill: “Senate Republicans say Democrats have made important concessions on a Wall Street reform bill and the chamber agreed by unanimous consent Wednesday evening to proceed to debate on the legislation. The bill was reported to the floor Wednesday night and debate is set to begin on Thursday. Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.) released a statement Wednesday afternoon touting ‘a key agreement’ to resolve disagreements over a $50 billion fund to liquidate troubled banks.” I wonder what would have happened had Ben Nelson done the same on health-care reform.

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Abbas Gets a White House Visit

Fox News reports:

President Barack Obama’s Middle East envoy wrapped up his latest diplomatic mission Sunday without getting the Palestinians to agree to indirect peace talks with Israel, but there were signs the impasse could be broken soon.George Mitchell said he would return to the region next week, signaling he is making progress.

Palestinian officials said President Mahmoud Abbas plans to consult with Arab countries at the end of the week and could soon be heading to the White House for talks with Obama. Abbas needs to decide whether to engage with Israel, with Mitchell as a go-between, even though Israel has rejected his demands to freeze new construction for Jews in east Jerusalem, the Palestinians’ hoped-for capital.

A senior Palestinian official said Abbas was inclined to agree to the talks, in large part because of personal appeals in recent days from Obama, Mitchell and U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was discussing internal Palestinian deliberations.

Wait. Abbas is meeting with Obama at the White House after the multiple snubs to Netanyahu? Yup. And it’s not hard to figure out why. The Obami are rewarding intransigence and bribing Abbas not to embarrass George Mitchell and crew by wrecking the proximity talks. Fox notes that the Obami hve been “trying to coax Abbas back to the table”:

Last week, Obama wrote to Abbas, promising to work hard to achieve a comprehensive Mideast peace deal and asking the Palestinian leader to agree to indirect talks, according to an Abbas aide who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the content of the letter with the media.

Obama also wrote that he looks forward to seeing Abbas soon, the aide said. He said an Obama-Abbas meeting could take place in the second half of May, but that no formal invitation was issued and no date set.

Another Abbas adviser, Saeb Erekat, said the Palestinians had requested a White House meeting in the past, and that Mitchell told them that Obama agreed to such a meeting. Erekat also said no date has been set.

The reversal of American Middle East policy is nearly complete. We insult the Israeli prime minister and coo over the Palestinian leader who celebrates terrorists, refuses to meet face to face with the Israelis, and lacks the ability (or the will) to recognize the Jewish state. Well, this is certainly a test for the American Jewish community — what say they about this latest sign of the Obami’s new found pro-Palestinian orientation? Or will they be snowed by the latest White House PR offensive and mutely accept this latest indication that the “rock-solid” relationship is that between Obama and the PA and not that between Obama and Israel?

And as for the “peace process,” one wonders what the Obami will do when all of this ends in yet another failure. For, of course, Abbas can’t possibly conclude a peace deal. With the help of the Obami, he will — no doubt —  find some way to shift the blame when it comes to the Israelis. That’s the sort of thing for which they can rely upon their new best friend in the White House.

Fox News reports:

President Barack Obama’s Middle East envoy wrapped up his latest diplomatic mission Sunday without getting the Palestinians to agree to indirect peace talks with Israel, but there were signs the impasse could be broken soon.George Mitchell said he would return to the region next week, signaling he is making progress.

Palestinian officials said President Mahmoud Abbas plans to consult with Arab countries at the end of the week and could soon be heading to the White House for talks with Obama. Abbas needs to decide whether to engage with Israel, with Mitchell as a go-between, even though Israel has rejected his demands to freeze new construction for Jews in east Jerusalem, the Palestinians’ hoped-for capital.

A senior Palestinian official said Abbas was inclined to agree to the talks, in large part because of personal appeals in recent days from Obama, Mitchell and U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was discussing internal Palestinian deliberations.

Wait. Abbas is meeting with Obama at the White House after the multiple snubs to Netanyahu? Yup. And it’s not hard to figure out why. The Obami are rewarding intransigence and bribing Abbas not to embarrass George Mitchell and crew by wrecking the proximity talks. Fox notes that the Obami hve been “trying to coax Abbas back to the table”:

Last week, Obama wrote to Abbas, promising to work hard to achieve a comprehensive Mideast peace deal and asking the Palestinian leader to agree to indirect talks, according to an Abbas aide who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the content of the letter with the media.

Obama also wrote that he looks forward to seeing Abbas soon, the aide said. He said an Obama-Abbas meeting could take place in the second half of May, but that no formal invitation was issued and no date set.

Another Abbas adviser, Saeb Erekat, said the Palestinians had requested a White House meeting in the past, and that Mitchell told them that Obama agreed to such a meeting. Erekat also said no date has been set.

The reversal of American Middle East policy is nearly complete. We insult the Israeli prime minister and coo over the Palestinian leader who celebrates terrorists, refuses to meet face to face with the Israelis, and lacks the ability (or the will) to recognize the Jewish state. Well, this is certainly a test for the American Jewish community — what say they about this latest sign of the Obami’s new found pro-Palestinian orientation? Or will they be snowed by the latest White House PR offensive and mutely accept this latest indication that the “rock-solid” relationship is that between Obama and the PA and not that between Obama and Israel?

And as for the “peace process,” one wonders what the Obami will do when all of this ends in yet another failure. For, of course, Abbas can’t possibly conclude a peace deal. With the help of the Obami, he will — no doubt —  find some way to shift the blame when it comes to the Israelis. That’s the sort of thing for which they can rely upon their new best friend in the White House.

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Obama Drops His Game Face: The VAT Is Back

Obama really can’t conceal his fascination with a VAT. The AP reports:

President Barack Obama suggested Wednesday that a new value-added tax on Americans is still on the table, seeming to show more openness to the idea than his aides have expressed in recent days.

Before deciding what revenue options are best for dealing with the deficit and the economy, Obama said in an interview with CNBC, “I want to get a better picture of what our options are.”

After Obama adviser Paul Volcker recently raised the prospect of a value-added tax, or VAT, the Senate voted 85-13 last week for a nonbinding “sense of the Senate” resolution that calls the such a tax “a massive tax increase that will cripple families on fixed income and only further push back America’s economic recovery.”

For days, White House spokesmen have said the president has not proposed and is not considering a VAT.

“I think I directly answered this the other day by saying that it wasn’t something that the president had under consideration,” White House press secretary Robert Gibbs told reporters shortly before Obama spoke with CNBC.

OK, so it’s back on the table, now? No, no. Not at all. “After the interview, White House deputy communications director Jen Psaki said nothing has changed and the White House is ‘not considering’ a VAT.” You wonder how they do this with a straight face. And you wonder whether Obama cares at all about the number of Democratic losses this November. He forces through a hugely unpopular health-care bill with a bevy of new taxes (including taxes on those making less than $200,000), he’s made clear he wants the Bush tax cuts repealed, and now he holds out the prospect of a VAT. Apparently, he is determined to hand the tax issue back to the Republicans. I suspect this interview may pop up in a few campaign ads this fall.

Obama really can’t conceal his fascination with a VAT. The AP reports:

President Barack Obama suggested Wednesday that a new value-added tax on Americans is still on the table, seeming to show more openness to the idea than his aides have expressed in recent days.

Before deciding what revenue options are best for dealing with the deficit and the economy, Obama said in an interview with CNBC, “I want to get a better picture of what our options are.”

After Obama adviser Paul Volcker recently raised the prospect of a value-added tax, or VAT, the Senate voted 85-13 last week for a nonbinding “sense of the Senate” resolution that calls the such a tax “a massive tax increase that will cripple families on fixed income and only further push back America’s economic recovery.”

For days, White House spokesmen have said the president has not proposed and is not considering a VAT.

“I think I directly answered this the other day by saying that it wasn’t something that the president had under consideration,” White House press secretary Robert Gibbs told reporters shortly before Obama spoke with CNBC.

OK, so it’s back on the table, now? No, no. Not at all. “After the interview, White House deputy communications director Jen Psaki said nothing has changed and the White House is ‘not considering’ a VAT.” You wonder how they do this with a straight face. And you wonder whether Obama cares at all about the number of Democratic losses this November. He forces through a hugely unpopular health-care bill with a bevy of new taxes (including taxes on those making less than $200,000), he’s made clear he wants the Bush tax cuts repealed, and now he holds out the prospect of a VAT. Apparently, he is determined to hand the tax issue back to the Republicans. I suspect this interview may pop up in a few campaign ads this fall.

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Crist’s Escape Hatch Closes

Charlie Crist can stay in the Republican primary and lose, run as an independent and lose, or just go away. That’s what the polls seem to suggest, no doubt to the dismay of those who fancy the Republican party as Democrat-lite. This report observes that “the gilded political career of Florida Gov. Charlie Crist is dangerously close to expiration.” What once seemed like a face-saving move — an independent bid — now sounds like a potential debacle:

Of the three alternatives, an independent bid might prove to be the most advantageous path to the Senate. But his top supporters and donors in Washington made clear Tuesday that they would yank their support if he left the Republican Party. … “If he runs as an independent, I think the best day he has is the day he announces,” a longtime Crist adviser conceded. “The normal rules of gravity apply. How do you raise money?” This source, who has talked to Crist about his decision, said, “I told him that every Republican official is going to support [Republican Senate challenger Marco] Rubio. And by telegraphing this, you’re making them jump.”

This is all a bit, well, pathetic. Crist was a respected governor, ran a horrid campaign, revealed himself to be badly out of touch with his party’s base, imagined he had some personal appeal that extended beyond party identification, and now faces humiliation. Florida is an expensive state in which to run a campaign, and the absence of an available fund-raising apparatus is a serious impediment to Crist’s running as an independent. He might still try to mount such a run — he’s got little to lose at this point, and he may have passed the point where a graceful exit is possible. Like his entire campaign, it won’t be pretty should he decide to test how much appeal he has without the “R” next to his name.

Charlie Crist can stay in the Republican primary and lose, run as an independent and lose, or just go away. That’s what the polls seem to suggest, no doubt to the dismay of those who fancy the Republican party as Democrat-lite. This report observes that “the gilded political career of Florida Gov. Charlie Crist is dangerously close to expiration.” What once seemed like a face-saving move — an independent bid — now sounds like a potential debacle:

Of the three alternatives, an independent bid might prove to be the most advantageous path to the Senate. But his top supporters and donors in Washington made clear Tuesday that they would yank their support if he left the Republican Party. … “If he runs as an independent, I think the best day he has is the day he announces,” a longtime Crist adviser conceded. “The normal rules of gravity apply. How do you raise money?” This source, who has talked to Crist about his decision, said, “I told him that every Republican official is going to support [Republican Senate challenger Marco] Rubio. And by telegraphing this, you’re making them jump.”

This is all a bit, well, pathetic. Crist was a respected governor, ran a horrid campaign, revealed himself to be badly out of touch with his party’s base, imagined he had some personal appeal that extended beyond party identification, and now faces humiliation. Florida is an expensive state in which to run a campaign, and the absence of an available fund-raising apparatus is a serious impediment to Crist’s running as an independent. He might still try to mount such a run — he’s got little to lose at this point, and he may have passed the point where a graceful exit is possible. Like his entire campaign, it won’t be pretty should he decide to test how much appeal he has without the “R” next to his name.

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Dialogue with the Wrong American Muslim Partners

The New York Times is reporting that the Obama administration has come a long way from the president’s campaign practices that had him keeping his distance from Muslims. According to the paper’s Andrea Elliott, “his administration has reached out to this politically isolated constituency in a sustained and widening effort that has left even skeptics surprised.”

There is, of course, nothing wrong with a man who once considered the notion that he might be a Muslim to be a “smear” now having members of his administration meet with representatives of a minority group. However, when this same administration has banned the use of language that might give anyone the notion that America is fighting Islamist extremists, it places stories such as Elliott’s in a different light. The problem here is not talking with Muslims or Arab-Americans or even attempts to rectify any potential injustices that might have occurred in the course of pursuing the war on Islamic terror. Rather it is the fact that the groups that are the subject of this attention are themselves questionable.

One example of the president’s outreach cited by the Times is the fact that senior White House adviser Valerie Jarrett spoke at the annual convention of the Islamic Society of North America, a group that has consistently served to rationalize anti-Western and anti-Israel terrorism and that was an unindicted co-conspirator in the federal prosecution of the Holy Land Foundation, whose leaders were convicted in 2008 of funneling American funds to Hamas terrorists. When the administration grants its official seal of approval to radical groups such as the ISNA, it helps these people drown out the voices of genuine moderates who are far more representative of most American Muslims. As investigative journalist Steve Emerson told the Times: “I think dialogue is good, but it has to be with genuine moderates. These are the wrong groups to legitimize.”

Moreover, if the influence of such people on the administration is to reinforce its desire to literally walk away from the war on terror and to pretend that radical Islam is not the driving force behind America’s foes through the banning of such terms as “jihad” and “Islamic terrorism” in comments by officials, then it must be acknowledged that the problem here goes deeper than public relations.

Yet the blame for whitewashing radical institutions and players isn’t all the fault of the White House. Another driving force behind this trend is the New York Times itself. It should be noted that Andrea Elliott, the author of today’s piece, won the Pulitzer Prize for feature writing for her 2007 series about the Islamic Society of Bay Ridge in Brooklyn and the lives of immigrant Muslims. Yet nowhere in the three-part 11,000-word story did she mention that one of the Islamic Society’s congregants went on a shooting spree in 1994 at the Brooklyn Bridge, where he murdered a 16-year-old Jew named Ari Halberstam after hearing an anti-Semitic sermon at this mosque. Later it turned out that Elliott was completely unaware (or at least claimed to be unaware) of the most famous incident involving the institution on which her story centered.

The point is, for those who want to ignore the truth about the danger from homegrown Islamist radicals, the tendency is to deny any link between Islam and terror, even if this means pretending that radicals who support violence are really peaceful moderates. This is a bad recipe for journalism as well as for public policy.

The New York Times is reporting that the Obama administration has come a long way from the president’s campaign practices that had him keeping his distance from Muslims. According to the paper’s Andrea Elliott, “his administration has reached out to this politically isolated constituency in a sustained and widening effort that has left even skeptics surprised.”

There is, of course, nothing wrong with a man who once considered the notion that he might be a Muslim to be a “smear” now having members of his administration meet with representatives of a minority group. However, when this same administration has banned the use of language that might give anyone the notion that America is fighting Islamist extremists, it places stories such as Elliott’s in a different light. The problem here is not talking with Muslims or Arab-Americans or even attempts to rectify any potential injustices that might have occurred in the course of pursuing the war on Islamic terror. Rather it is the fact that the groups that are the subject of this attention are themselves questionable.

One example of the president’s outreach cited by the Times is the fact that senior White House adviser Valerie Jarrett spoke at the annual convention of the Islamic Society of North America, a group that has consistently served to rationalize anti-Western and anti-Israel terrorism and that was an unindicted co-conspirator in the federal prosecution of the Holy Land Foundation, whose leaders were convicted in 2008 of funneling American funds to Hamas terrorists. When the administration grants its official seal of approval to radical groups such as the ISNA, it helps these people drown out the voices of genuine moderates who are far more representative of most American Muslims. As investigative journalist Steve Emerson told the Times: “I think dialogue is good, but it has to be with genuine moderates. These are the wrong groups to legitimize.”

Moreover, if the influence of such people on the administration is to reinforce its desire to literally walk away from the war on terror and to pretend that radical Islam is not the driving force behind America’s foes through the banning of such terms as “jihad” and “Islamic terrorism” in comments by officials, then it must be acknowledged that the problem here goes deeper than public relations.

Yet the blame for whitewashing radical institutions and players isn’t all the fault of the White House. Another driving force behind this trend is the New York Times itself. It should be noted that Andrea Elliott, the author of today’s piece, won the Pulitzer Prize for feature writing for her 2007 series about the Islamic Society of Bay Ridge in Brooklyn and the lives of immigrant Muslims. Yet nowhere in the three-part 11,000-word story did she mention that one of the Islamic Society’s congregants went on a shooting spree in 1994 at the Brooklyn Bridge, where he murdered a 16-year-old Jew named Ari Halberstam after hearing an anti-Semitic sermon at this mosque. Later it turned out that Elliott was completely unaware (or at least claimed to be unaware) of the most famous incident involving the institution on which her story centered.

The point is, for those who want to ignore the truth about the danger from homegrown Islamist radicals, the tendency is to deny any link between Islam and terror, even if this means pretending that radicals who support violence are really peaceful moderates. This is a bad recipe for journalism as well as for public policy.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Jeffrey Herf discovers that “liberals should be willing to devote more efforts to the moral and political delegitimation of radical Islamism. It is a form of totalitarian ideology. It is profoundly reactionary and deeply anti-Semitic and, in this sense, racist. It draws on a radicalization and selective reading of the religion of Islam. During both World War II and the cold war, the United States derived great strategic value from naming its adversaries and publicly discussing and denouncing their ideologies. It fought wars of ideas that accompanied the force of arms. We need to understand the importance of doing that today as well.” Who knew?

Candidate Obama denied that Zbigniew Brzezinski was an adviser on the Middle East, but now Brzezinski’s giving Obama a nudge to impose a peace plan. It’s almost as if candidate Obama had disguised his true inclinations on Israel.

The mainstream media have hyped the comments of stray Tea Party activists but almost entirely ignored the doubling of anti-Semitic incidents in 2009. “Of course, recent history has shown American media only concerned with acts of violence when they fit into an agenda being advanced.”

Maybe we should bring back the term “Islamic radicalism“: “Chilling new details about the foiled Al Qaeda plot to blow up the city’s busiest subways have emerged as a fourth suspect was quietly arrested in Pakistan, the Daily News has learned. The unidentified man, who helped plan the plot, is expected to be extradited to the U.S. to betried in Brooklyn Federal Court with Adis Medunjanin and Zarein Ahmedzay of Flushing, Queens, sources said.”

Imagine the damage she’d do with a lifetime appointment: “The White House moved quickly today to squelch the widening speculation that Hillary Clinton could be nominated to the Supreme Court, as Senator Orrin Hatch suggested this morning.”

Shocking as it may seem, North Korea is not going to be sweet-talked into giving up its nuclear ambitions.

It’s not just Israel that’s staying away: “President Obama is holding one of the biggest global summits ever on U.S. soil starting Monday, but for all the hoopla, the event will be missing America’s strongest allies. As remarkable as it is, the fact that neither British Prime Minister Gordon Brown nor Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu are attending President Obama’s nuclear security summit in Washington Monday and Tuesday is not altogether surprising.Relations with both countries — Israel in particular — have grown strained under Obama. Combined with Afghan President Hamid Karzai’s recent defiance of the administration, questions are growing about the president’s ability to maintain important relationships. … The president’s critics, many of them from the Bush administration, say the summit absences — heads of state from Australia and Saudia Arabia also are not attending — are the most glaring examples of a floundering foreign policy that treats rivals and enemies better than friends.”

An expensive broken promise by Obama: “Taxpayers earning less than $200,000 a year will pay roughly $3.9 billion more in taxes — in 2019 alone — because of healthcare reform, according to the Joint Committee on Taxation, Congress’s official scorekeeper for legislation. The new law raises $15.2 billion over 10 years by limiting the medical expense deduction, a provision widely used by taxpayers who either have a serious illness or are older.”

Charles Krauthammer on Bart Stupak: “The guy’s political epitaph will read ‘A good man who played over his head.’ He held out and then he got squeezed by the president and the speaker. He caved. And the worst part of it was that he pretended that the instrument of surrender he signed was a victory. It’s a sad ending to a long career.”

Jeffrey Herf discovers that “liberals should be willing to devote more efforts to the moral and political delegitimation of radical Islamism. It is a form of totalitarian ideology. It is profoundly reactionary and deeply anti-Semitic and, in this sense, racist. It draws on a radicalization and selective reading of the religion of Islam. During both World War II and the cold war, the United States derived great strategic value from naming its adversaries and publicly discussing and denouncing their ideologies. It fought wars of ideas that accompanied the force of arms. We need to understand the importance of doing that today as well.” Who knew?

Candidate Obama denied that Zbigniew Brzezinski was an adviser on the Middle East, but now Brzezinski’s giving Obama a nudge to impose a peace plan. It’s almost as if candidate Obama had disguised his true inclinations on Israel.

The mainstream media have hyped the comments of stray Tea Party activists but almost entirely ignored the doubling of anti-Semitic incidents in 2009. “Of course, recent history has shown American media only concerned with acts of violence when they fit into an agenda being advanced.”

Maybe we should bring back the term “Islamic radicalism“: “Chilling new details about the foiled Al Qaeda plot to blow up the city’s busiest subways have emerged as a fourth suspect was quietly arrested in Pakistan, the Daily News has learned. The unidentified man, who helped plan the plot, is expected to be extradited to the U.S. to betried in Brooklyn Federal Court with Adis Medunjanin and Zarein Ahmedzay of Flushing, Queens, sources said.”

Imagine the damage she’d do with a lifetime appointment: “The White House moved quickly today to squelch the widening speculation that Hillary Clinton could be nominated to the Supreme Court, as Senator Orrin Hatch suggested this morning.”

Shocking as it may seem, North Korea is not going to be sweet-talked into giving up its nuclear ambitions.

It’s not just Israel that’s staying away: “President Obama is holding one of the biggest global summits ever on U.S. soil starting Monday, but for all the hoopla, the event will be missing America’s strongest allies. As remarkable as it is, the fact that neither British Prime Minister Gordon Brown nor Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu are attending President Obama’s nuclear security summit in Washington Monday and Tuesday is not altogether surprising.Relations with both countries — Israel in particular — have grown strained under Obama. Combined with Afghan President Hamid Karzai’s recent defiance of the administration, questions are growing about the president’s ability to maintain important relationships. … The president’s critics, many of them from the Bush administration, say the summit absences — heads of state from Australia and Saudia Arabia also are not attending — are the most glaring examples of a floundering foreign policy that treats rivals and enemies better than friends.”

An expensive broken promise by Obama: “Taxpayers earning less than $200,000 a year will pay roughly $3.9 billion more in taxes — in 2019 alone — because of healthcare reform, according to the Joint Committee on Taxation, Congress’s official scorekeeper for legislation. The new law raises $15.2 billion over 10 years by limiting the medical expense deduction, a provision widely used by taxpayers who either have a serious illness or are older.”

Charles Krauthammer on Bart Stupak: “The guy’s political epitaph will read ‘A good man who played over his head.’ He held out and then he got squeezed by the president and the speaker. He caved. And the worst part of it was that he pretended that the instrument of surrender he signed was a victory. It’s a sad ending to a long career.”

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From the Annals of Politics and the English Language

Laura Ingraham, as guest host of the O’Reilly Factor, takes on the Obama administration’s possible ban on the term “Islamic extremism” in our national-security strategy. She does a very nice job of carving up former Clinton NSC adviser Nancy Soderberg, a woman who is both ignorant and tendentious. Over on Special Report with Bret Baier, Charles Krauthammer offers some intelligent and insightful comments on this subject. But I’ll report; you decide.

Laura Ingraham, as guest host of the O’Reilly Factor, takes on the Obama administration’s possible ban on the term “Islamic extremism” in our national-security strategy. She does a very nice job of carving up former Clinton NSC adviser Nancy Soderberg, a woman who is both ignorant and tendentious. Over on Special Report with Bret Baier, Charles Krauthammer offers some intelligent and insightful comments on this subject. But I’ll report; you decide.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

You don’t say: “The trademark suit sported by North Korean leader Kim Jong-Il is now in fashion worldwide thanks to his greatness, Pyongyang’s official website said Wednesday. Uriminzokkiri, quoting an article in communist party newspaper Rodong Sinmun, said the modest-looking suits have gripped people’s imagination and become a global vogue. … Kim and his deceased father Kim Il-Sung are at the heart of a personality cult that borders on religion, with near-magical powers ascribed to the younger Kim. Rainbows supposedly appeared over sacred Mount Paekdu where Kim Jong-Il was allegedly born, and he is said once to have scored 11 holes-in-one in a single round of golf.”

ObamaCare seems not to have helped: “A record-low percentage of U.S. voters — 28% — say most members of Congress deserve to be re-elected. The previous low was 29% in October 1992.”

It might be more satisfying for Republicans to beat him at the polls, but forced retirement would be a fitting end: “Amidst growing speculation he might retire, Rep. Bart Stupak’s (D-Mich.) office declined to rule it out on Wednesday.”

It might have something to do with the 14.1 percent unemployment rate: “A new poll of Michigan voters’ preferences in the governor’s race has troubling results for Democrats. The two leading Democratic candidates would lose to any of the three top Republican challengers if the election were held today. … That indicates a more energized Republican voter base, just two years after Democrat Barack Obama’s historic election as president had increased the number of voters identifying with the Democratic Party. In 2008, the number of self-described Democrats in Michigan was as much as eight percentage points above the Republican number.”

Jobs do appear to be a popular campaign theme for Republicans: “Delaware businesswoman Michele Rollins announced Wednesday she will run for the at-large House seat currently held by Republican Rep. Mike Castle, landing the GOP a credible recruit in a tough open-seat race. In an e-mail soliciting contributions from supporters, Rollins blasted Democrats for putting job creation on ‘the back burner’ and acknowledged the campaign would be ‘difficult and challenging.'”

You knew this was coming: “White House adviser Paul Volcker said the United States may need to consider raising taxes to control deficits. He also said a European-style value-added tax could gain support. The former chairman of the Federal Reserve who is an outside adviser to President Barack Obama, said the value-added tax ‘was not as toxic an idea’ as it has been in the past, according to a Reuters report.”

Marco Rubio’s star keeps rising: “Ex-FL House Speaker Marco Rubio (R) has seen a fundraising surge over the last 3 months, pulling in $3.6M in what was once an insurgent bid against an insurmountable foe. Rubio’s jaw-dropping figure likely puts him atop, or near the top, of the list of most successful candidates over the first quarter.”

The Orthodox Union writes to Bibi, praising his defense of a unified Jerusalem: “Mr. Prime Minister, we cannot state strongly enough our belief that the Government and people of the State of Israel hold Yerushalayim in trust for the Jewish People no matter where they may live, for we all have a share in the holy city. We applaud your faithfulness to this trust, which realizes the ancient Jewish dream of ascending the foothills of Jerusalem, and keeps alive the hopes of millions of Jews who, for centuries, could not set foot in Jerusalem, yet raised their voices at the end of innumerable Pesach sedarim gone by to say, as we all did last week, with full conviction and deep longing la-shana ha-ba’a bi-Yerushalayim.”

You don’t say: “The trademark suit sported by North Korean leader Kim Jong-Il is now in fashion worldwide thanks to his greatness, Pyongyang’s official website said Wednesday. Uriminzokkiri, quoting an article in communist party newspaper Rodong Sinmun, said the modest-looking suits have gripped people’s imagination and become a global vogue. … Kim and his deceased father Kim Il-Sung are at the heart of a personality cult that borders on religion, with near-magical powers ascribed to the younger Kim. Rainbows supposedly appeared over sacred Mount Paekdu where Kim Jong-Il was allegedly born, and he is said once to have scored 11 holes-in-one in a single round of golf.”

ObamaCare seems not to have helped: “A record-low percentage of U.S. voters — 28% — say most members of Congress deserve to be re-elected. The previous low was 29% in October 1992.”

It might be more satisfying for Republicans to beat him at the polls, but forced retirement would be a fitting end: “Amidst growing speculation he might retire, Rep. Bart Stupak’s (D-Mich.) office declined to rule it out on Wednesday.”

It might have something to do with the 14.1 percent unemployment rate: “A new poll of Michigan voters’ preferences in the governor’s race has troubling results for Democrats. The two leading Democratic candidates would lose to any of the three top Republican challengers if the election were held today. … That indicates a more energized Republican voter base, just two years after Democrat Barack Obama’s historic election as president had increased the number of voters identifying with the Democratic Party. In 2008, the number of self-described Democrats in Michigan was as much as eight percentage points above the Republican number.”

Jobs do appear to be a popular campaign theme for Republicans: “Delaware businesswoman Michele Rollins announced Wednesday she will run for the at-large House seat currently held by Republican Rep. Mike Castle, landing the GOP a credible recruit in a tough open-seat race. In an e-mail soliciting contributions from supporters, Rollins blasted Democrats for putting job creation on ‘the back burner’ and acknowledged the campaign would be ‘difficult and challenging.'”

You knew this was coming: “White House adviser Paul Volcker said the United States may need to consider raising taxes to control deficits. He also said a European-style value-added tax could gain support. The former chairman of the Federal Reserve who is an outside adviser to President Barack Obama, said the value-added tax ‘was not as toxic an idea’ as it has been in the past, according to a Reuters report.”

Marco Rubio’s star keeps rising: “Ex-FL House Speaker Marco Rubio (R) has seen a fundraising surge over the last 3 months, pulling in $3.6M in what was once an insurgent bid against an insurmountable foe. Rubio’s jaw-dropping figure likely puts him atop, or near the top, of the list of most successful candidates over the first quarter.”

The Orthodox Union writes to Bibi, praising his defense of a unified Jerusalem: “Mr. Prime Minister, we cannot state strongly enough our belief that the Government and people of the State of Israel hold Yerushalayim in trust for the Jewish People no matter where they may live, for we all have a share in the holy city. We applaud your faithfulness to this trust, which realizes the ancient Jewish dream of ascending the foothills of Jerusalem, and keeps alive the hopes of millions of Jews who, for centuries, could not set foot in Jerusalem, yet raised their voices at the end of innumerable Pesach sedarim gone by to say, as we all did last week, with full conviction and deep longing la-shana ha-ba’a bi-Yerushalayim.”

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No More Islamic Terrorism!

Under siege during the Christmas Day bomb incident, the Obami huffily insisted that they do too know we are at war and that they do too take it seriously. Their policy decisions and actions suggest otherwise. This report explains:

President Barack Obama’s advisers plan to remove terms such as “Islamic radicalism” from a document outlining national security strategy and will use the new version to emphasize that the U.S. does not view Muslim nations through the lens of terrorism, counterterrorism officials say.

The change would be a significant shift in the National Security Strategy, a document that previously outlined the Bush Doctrine of preventive war. It currently states, “The struggle against militant Islamic radicalism is the great ideological conflict of the early years of the 21st century.”

It’s all about Muslim outreach, you see. Don’t want to identify whom it is we are fighting, because their co-religionists might take offense. That these co-religionists are often the victims of Islamic radicalism is irrelevant to the Obami. That this rhetorical mush is the sort of thing that prevents us from anticipating and preventing jihadist attacks like the Fort Hood massacre is also not of any apparent concern. It’s all about getting away from the Bush administration mindset: “That shift away from terrorism has been building for a year, since Obama went to Cairo and promised a ‘new beginning’ in the relationship between the U.S. and the Muslim world. The White House believes the previous administration based that relationship entirely on fighting terrorism and winning the war of ideas.”

So let’s focus on the really important stuff: global-warming training. We don’t want to say “Islamic extremism,” but we have a new team at the NSC that “has not only helped change the vocabulary of fighting terrorism, but also has shaped the way the country invests in Muslim businesses, studies global warming, supports scientific research and combats polio.” We learn that when “officials from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration returned from Indonesia, the NSC got a rundown about research opportunities on global warming.” Nice.

All of this would be well enough if we didn’t face radical jihadists who are ideologically motivated to slaughter Americans. Nor is there the slightest evidence that this Muslim outreach is helping to solve the most urgent issues we face:

Peter Feaver, a Duke University political scientist and former Bush adviser, is skeptical of Obama’s engagement effort. It “doesn’t appear to have created much in the way of strategic benefit” in the Middle East peace process or in negotiations over Iran’s nuclear ambitions, he said.

Obama runs the political risk of seeming to adopt politically correct rhetoric abroad while appearing tone-deaf on national security issues at home, Feaver said.

It is, like so much of what Obama does, the sort of thing you’d expect a college professor plucked out an Ivy League faculty directory to do if he were suddenly elevated to the presidency. Renounce use of nuclear weapons! Free health care for all! Change the subject from terrorism to cooperation! Unfortunately, we live in the real world, and all that runs up against hard truths and unpleasant facts. It is a dangerous time for such an unserious approach to the world.

Under siege during the Christmas Day bomb incident, the Obami huffily insisted that they do too know we are at war and that they do too take it seriously. Their policy decisions and actions suggest otherwise. This report explains:

President Barack Obama’s advisers plan to remove terms such as “Islamic radicalism” from a document outlining national security strategy and will use the new version to emphasize that the U.S. does not view Muslim nations through the lens of terrorism, counterterrorism officials say.

The change would be a significant shift in the National Security Strategy, a document that previously outlined the Bush Doctrine of preventive war. It currently states, “The struggle against militant Islamic radicalism is the great ideological conflict of the early years of the 21st century.”

It’s all about Muslim outreach, you see. Don’t want to identify whom it is we are fighting, because their co-religionists might take offense. That these co-religionists are often the victims of Islamic radicalism is irrelevant to the Obami. That this rhetorical mush is the sort of thing that prevents us from anticipating and preventing jihadist attacks like the Fort Hood massacre is also not of any apparent concern. It’s all about getting away from the Bush administration mindset: “That shift away from terrorism has been building for a year, since Obama went to Cairo and promised a ‘new beginning’ in the relationship between the U.S. and the Muslim world. The White House believes the previous administration based that relationship entirely on fighting terrorism and winning the war of ideas.”

So let’s focus on the really important stuff: global-warming training. We don’t want to say “Islamic extremism,” but we have a new team at the NSC that “has not only helped change the vocabulary of fighting terrorism, but also has shaped the way the country invests in Muslim businesses, studies global warming, supports scientific research and combats polio.” We learn that when “officials from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration returned from Indonesia, the NSC got a rundown about research opportunities on global warming.” Nice.

All of this would be well enough if we didn’t face radical jihadists who are ideologically motivated to slaughter Americans. Nor is there the slightest evidence that this Muslim outreach is helping to solve the most urgent issues we face:

Peter Feaver, a Duke University political scientist and former Bush adviser, is skeptical of Obama’s engagement effort. It “doesn’t appear to have created much in the way of strategic benefit” in the Middle East peace process or in negotiations over Iran’s nuclear ambitions, he said.

Obama runs the political risk of seeming to adopt politically correct rhetoric abroad while appearing tone-deaf on national security issues at home, Feaver said.

It is, like so much of what Obama does, the sort of thing you’d expect a college professor plucked out an Ivy League faculty directory to do if he were suddenly elevated to the presidency. Renounce use of nuclear weapons! Free health care for all! Change the subject from terrorism to cooperation! Unfortunately, we live in the real world, and all that runs up against hard truths and unpleasant facts. It is a dangerous time for such an unserious approach to the world.

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The Error-Ridden Obama Middle East Policy

In a must-read analysis of the Obami assault on Israel, Elliott Abrams writes:

Since the Oslo Accords of 1993, 17 years of efforts under three American presidents and six Israeli prime ministers have taught five clear lessons. Each of them is being ignored by President Obama, which is why his own particular “peace process” has so greatly harmed real efforts at peace. Today the only factor uniting Palestinian, Israeli, and Arab leaders is distrust of the quality, sagacity, and reliability of American leadership in the region.

The lessons Abrams enumerates suggest that we are in for a dangerous and destabilizing period in which the U.S.-Israeli alliance is torn asunder. First in the list of grievous errors: rather than provide Israel with security and reassurance, the Obami are out to bludgeon the Jewish state to cough up concessions:

During the George W. Bush years, the leader of the Israeli right, Ariel Sharon, decided to abandon the idea of a “Greater Israel,” impose constraints on settlement construction in the West Bank (no new settlements, no outward expansion of settlement territory), and remove every settlement in Gaza and four small ones in the West Bank. His closest advisers say all of this was possible for him only in the context of unwavering American support for Israel’s security steps—including the targeting and killing of Hamas terrorists and the refusal to deal with a terrorist leader like Arafat. What was the turning point for Sharon? Bush’s June 24, 2002, speech, where he abandoned Arafat, denounced Palestinian terrorism, and said thorough reforms were the only possible basis for Palestinian statehood. Reassured, Sharon began to act.

Contrast this with the Obama administration, where Israel has been “condemned”—the toughest word in the diplomatic dictionary—for a housing project.

Second, the Obami have failed to hold the Palestinians accountable for their own behavior or make any demands that one would ordinarily place on a party to a negotiation:

Had there been early and regular insistence that incitement end, the Mughrabi incident would never have taken place. The price for such negligence is being paid in both Israeli and Palestinian society: Every such action and every vicious broadcast helps persuade Israelis that Palestinians do not truly seek peace and helps raise a new generation of Palestinians who see Jews as enemies to hate, not neighbors with whom to reach an accommodation. This infantilization of Palestinian society, moreover, moves it further from the responsibilities of statehood, for it holds harmless the most destructive elements of West Bank life and suggests that standards of decency are not necessarily part of progress toward “peace.”

Coupled with these errors is the inordinate fixation on the Palestinian conflict, as the Iran menace goes unchecked. (“Arab leaders want to know what we will do to stop Iran; they want to know if their ally in Washington is going to be the top power in the region. Israelis wonder where the “uh oh, this will make Islamic extremists angry” argument stops. Does anyone think al-Qaeda or the Taliban would be mollified by a settlement freeze?”) And then we see the obsession with what has surely become a counterproductive peace process: “First, it means we care more about getting Syria, Egypt, or others to endorse some negotiating plan than we do about their own internal situations. . . . Second, we use all our chips for the negotiating sessions, instead of applying them to the hard work of nation building. We ask Arab states to reach out to Israel (which they will not do) when we should be demanding that they reach out to the Palestinians (which they might).”

In assessing all of this, one can’t but conclude that the errors are too fundamental and too serious to be easily reversed. It is not as if the problem were a stray comment or a clumsy encounter or one misguided adviser. It is rather the confluence of all of the bad judgments and ill-conceived ideas, which Abrams sets forth, surely held near and dear by the president himself, that have brought about the current crisis in U.S.-Israeli relations. The fixation on fruitless peace processing is not unique to the Obama administration, but has become a far more dangerous endeavor in combination with the Obami’s infatuation with the Palestinian bargaining stance and their determination to muscle Israel into concessions. It’s one thing to have fruitless talks in which the Israelis need not fear the American interlocutors; it’s quite another to be dragged to the table fearing that the Obami have in a very real sense bought into the Palestinian victimology and have become their agent rather than the proverbial “honest broker.”

The results of the Obami’s error-ridden approach are becoming apparent with each passing day: more international attacks on the legitimacy of the Jewish state and its right to self defense (Obama does it, why shouldn’t they?), the reinforcement of the Palestinian rejectionist mentality, and the looming danger of a nuclear-armed Iran, to which the U.S. has no serious response. The Obami are not simply placing Israel at risk; they are marginalizing the U.S. as a bulwark against the terror-sponsoring states of Iran and Syria and against despotic regimes far from the Middle East (they too are watching the Obami’s conduct and drawing lessons). And along the way, we have forfeited that credibility which Clinton told AIPAC the U.S. was so concerned about.

What must friends and foes think, after all, when we abandon our ally, when we ignore violent provocations, when we water down to thin gruel any response to the mullahs, and when we ignore the human-rights atrocities throughout the Muslim World? They see, sadly, the reality of the Obama White House — an administration that is frittering away America’s standing in the world and fast losing its reputation as a defender of democracy, human rights, and freedom. Israel is the immediate victim, but the entire world will become more dangerous and less free as a result.

In a must-read analysis of the Obami assault on Israel, Elliott Abrams writes:

Since the Oslo Accords of 1993, 17 years of efforts under three American presidents and six Israeli prime ministers have taught five clear lessons. Each of them is being ignored by President Obama, which is why his own particular “peace process” has so greatly harmed real efforts at peace. Today the only factor uniting Palestinian, Israeli, and Arab leaders is distrust of the quality, sagacity, and reliability of American leadership in the region.

The lessons Abrams enumerates suggest that we are in for a dangerous and destabilizing period in which the U.S.-Israeli alliance is torn asunder. First in the list of grievous errors: rather than provide Israel with security and reassurance, the Obami are out to bludgeon the Jewish state to cough up concessions:

During the George W. Bush years, the leader of the Israeli right, Ariel Sharon, decided to abandon the idea of a “Greater Israel,” impose constraints on settlement construction in the West Bank (no new settlements, no outward expansion of settlement territory), and remove every settlement in Gaza and four small ones in the West Bank. His closest advisers say all of this was possible for him only in the context of unwavering American support for Israel’s security steps—including the targeting and killing of Hamas terrorists and the refusal to deal with a terrorist leader like Arafat. What was the turning point for Sharon? Bush’s June 24, 2002, speech, where he abandoned Arafat, denounced Palestinian terrorism, and said thorough reforms were the only possible basis for Palestinian statehood. Reassured, Sharon began to act.

Contrast this with the Obama administration, where Israel has been “condemned”—the toughest word in the diplomatic dictionary—for a housing project.

Second, the Obami have failed to hold the Palestinians accountable for their own behavior or make any demands that one would ordinarily place on a party to a negotiation:

Had there been early and regular insistence that incitement end, the Mughrabi incident would never have taken place. The price for such negligence is being paid in both Israeli and Palestinian society: Every such action and every vicious broadcast helps persuade Israelis that Palestinians do not truly seek peace and helps raise a new generation of Palestinians who see Jews as enemies to hate, not neighbors with whom to reach an accommodation. This infantilization of Palestinian society, moreover, moves it further from the responsibilities of statehood, for it holds harmless the most destructive elements of West Bank life and suggests that standards of decency are not necessarily part of progress toward “peace.”

Coupled with these errors is the inordinate fixation on the Palestinian conflict, as the Iran menace goes unchecked. (“Arab leaders want to know what we will do to stop Iran; they want to know if their ally in Washington is going to be the top power in the region. Israelis wonder where the “uh oh, this will make Islamic extremists angry” argument stops. Does anyone think al-Qaeda or the Taliban would be mollified by a settlement freeze?”) And then we see the obsession with what has surely become a counterproductive peace process: “First, it means we care more about getting Syria, Egypt, or others to endorse some negotiating plan than we do about their own internal situations. . . . Second, we use all our chips for the negotiating sessions, instead of applying them to the hard work of nation building. We ask Arab states to reach out to Israel (which they will not do) when we should be demanding that they reach out to the Palestinians (which they might).”

In assessing all of this, one can’t but conclude that the errors are too fundamental and too serious to be easily reversed. It is not as if the problem were a stray comment or a clumsy encounter or one misguided adviser. It is rather the confluence of all of the bad judgments and ill-conceived ideas, which Abrams sets forth, surely held near and dear by the president himself, that have brought about the current crisis in U.S.-Israeli relations. The fixation on fruitless peace processing is not unique to the Obama administration, but has become a far more dangerous endeavor in combination with the Obami’s infatuation with the Palestinian bargaining stance and their determination to muscle Israel into concessions. It’s one thing to have fruitless talks in which the Israelis need not fear the American interlocutors; it’s quite another to be dragged to the table fearing that the Obami have in a very real sense bought into the Palestinian victimology and have become their agent rather than the proverbial “honest broker.”

The results of the Obami’s error-ridden approach are becoming apparent with each passing day: more international attacks on the legitimacy of the Jewish state and its right to self defense (Obama does it, why shouldn’t they?), the reinforcement of the Palestinian rejectionist mentality, and the looming danger of a nuclear-armed Iran, to which the U.S. has no serious response. The Obami are not simply placing Israel at risk; they are marginalizing the U.S. as a bulwark against the terror-sponsoring states of Iran and Syria and against despotic regimes far from the Middle East (they too are watching the Obami’s conduct and drawing lessons). And along the way, we have forfeited that credibility which Clinton told AIPAC the U.S. was so concerned about.

What must friends and foes think, after all, when we abandon our ally, when we ignore violent provocations, when we water down to thin gruel any response to the mullahs, and when we ignore the human-rights atrocities throughout the Muslim World? They see, sadly, the reality of the Obama White House — an administration that is frittering away America’s standing in the world and fast losing its reputation as a defender of democracy, human rights, and freedom. Israel is the immediate victim, but the entire world will become more dangerous and less free as a result.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Michael Barone on ObamaCare: “In fall 2009, Democrats could have pivoted on health care to craft a popular bill or a watered-down unpopular bill to be passed by a bipartisan safe-seat coalition. Instead, they plunged ahead and rammed through unpopular bills on party-line votes. … It’s beginning to look like the goal of health care legislation was a bridge too far. There’s a reason it’s hard to pass unpopular legislation on party-line votes. It’s not the Senate rules. It’s called democracy.”

Prospects don’t look bright for ObamaCare: “House Democratic leaders hoping to pass a health care reform bill by the Easter congressional recess face increasingly difficult odds, as several of the party’s rank-and-file have come out against the plan passed by the Senate in December. According to an ongoing CNN survey, 17 House Democrats indicate that they would vote no on the Senate plan as currently written, including six members who voted in favor of the House bill passed in November.”

Especially without the pro-life Democrats: “House Democratic leaders abandoned a long struggle to appease the most ardent abortion opponents in their ranks, gambling Thursday that they can secure the support for President Barack Obama’s sweeping health care legislation with showdown votes looming next week. … Congressional leaders are hoping they can find enough support from other wavering Democrats to pass legislation that only cleared the House by five votes in an earlier incarnation.” But where are such votes?

No one has spotted them yet: “Our latest whip count shows no progress for House Dem leadership. In fact, more members are sneaking onto the watch list, as Rep. Steve Kagen (D-WI) voiced concern over whether the Senate would actually pass a sidecar bill.”

More cringey news from Illinois for Democrats: “The owner of the Boston Blackie’s restaurant chain — a man with strong political ties to U.S. Senate candidate Alexi Giannoulias — was charged today with bank fraud, along with the owner’s son and an employee. Boston Blackie’s owner Nick Giannis, 62, his son, Chris Giannis, 38, and Boston Blackie’s manager Andy Bakopoulos, 38, allegedly defrauded Charter One and Washington Mutual banks of nearly $2 million, Cook County prosecutors said.”

In the New York Senate race: “Encouraged by state and national Republican Party leaders, Dan Senor, an author, private equity executive and Defense Department adviser in the last Bush administration, is seriously considering a political challenge against Senator Kirsten E. Gillibrand, according to three people told of the discussions. … The Republican leaders, who cautioned that they were not backing any single candidate, have told Mr. Senor that his deep ties in the party, expertise on national security and background as a businessman would make him a formidable candidate.” Well, if you’re a Republican with political ambitions, this is certainly the year to make a run.

Mark Levin pierces the fog of sanctimony surrounding the Justice Department lawyers who previously represented terrorists: “And on what basis do we think the Obama administration selected these seven lawyers (there may be more) from 1 million other lawyers to serve in top political positions at Justice? Is it a coincidence that they had roles (direct or related) in defending detainees? … Personnel makes policy, and that includes lawyers in policy positions. So, while the selection of these lawyers clearly has some relationship to their private practices, the attempt to identify who they are and what they’re doing since being appointed is said to be off limits, unless, of course, you appointed them. Preposterous.”

Let’s face it: the”most transparent administration in history” isn’t. Sen. Jeff Sessions, for one, wants to know why Eric Holder didn’t disclose in his confirmation hearing an amicus brief in support of Jose Padilla.

A wonderful suggestion by George Will: no one should go to the State of the Union. “Next year, Roberts and the rest of the justices should stay away from the president’s address. So should the uniformed military, who are out of place in a setting of competitive political grandstanding. For that matter, the 535 legislators should boycott these undignified events. They would, if there were that many congressional grown-ups averse to being props in the childishness of popping up from their seats to cheer, or remaining sullenly seated in semi-pouts, as the politics of the moment dictates.”

Michael Barone on ObamaCare: “In fall 2009, Democrats could have pivoted on health care to craft a popular bill or a watered-down unpopular bill to be passed by a bipartisan safe-seat coalition. Instead, they plunged ahead and rammed through unpopular bills on party-line votes. … It’s beginning to look like the goal of health care legislation was a bridge too far. There’s a reason it’s hard to pass unpopular legislation on party-line votes. It’s not the Senate rules. It’s called democracy.”

Prospects don’t look bright for ObamaCare: “House Democratic leaders hoping to pass a health care reform bill by the Easter congressional recess face increasingly difficult odds, as several of the party’s rank-and-file have come out against the plan passed by the Senate in December. According to an ongoing CNN survey, 17 House Democrats indicate that they would vote no on the Senate plan as currently written, including six members who voted in favor of the House bill passed in November.”

Especially without the pro-life Democrats: “House Democratic leaders abandoned a long struggle to appease the most ardent abortion opponents in their ranks, gambling Thursday that they can secure the support for President Barack Obama’s sweeping health care legislation with showdown votes looming next week. … Congressional leaders are hoping they can find enough support from other wavering Democrats to pass legislation that only cleared the House by five votes in an earlier incarnation.” But where are such votes?

No one has spotted them yet: “Our latest whip count shows no progress for House Dem leadership. In fact, more members are sneaking onto the watch list, as Rep. Steve Kagen (D-WI) voiced concern over whether the Senate would actually pass a sidecar bill.”

More cringey news from Illinois for Democrats: “The owner of the Boston Blackie’s restaurant chain — a man with strong political ties to U.S. Senate candidate Alexi Giannoulias — was charged today with bank fraud, along with the owner’s son and an employee. Boston Blackie’s owner Nick Giannis, 62, his son, Chris Giannis, 38, and Boston Blackie’s manager Andy Bakopoulos, 38, allegedly defrauded Charter One and Washington Mutual banks of nearly $2 million, Cook County prosecutors said.”

In the New York Senate race: “Encouraged by state and national Republican Party leaders, Dan Senor, an author, private equity executive and Defense Department adviser in the last Bush administration, is seriously considering a political challenge against Senator Kirsten E. Gillibrand, according to three people told of the discussions. … The Republican leaders, who cautioned that they were not backing any single candidate, have told Mr. Senor that his deep ties in the party, expertise on national security and background as a businessman would make him a formidable candidate.” Well, if you’re a Republican with political ambitions, this is certainly the year to make a run.

Mark Levin pierces the fog of sanctimony surrounding the Justice Department lawyers who previously represented terrorists: “And on what basis do we think the Obama administration selected these seven lawyers (there may be more) from 1 million other lawyers to serve in top political positions at Justice? Is it a coincidence that they had roles (direct or related) in defending detainees? … Personnel makes policy, and that includes lawyers in policy positions. So, while the selection of these lawyers clearly has some relationship to their private practices, the attempt to identify who they are and what they’re doing since being appointed is said to be off limits, unless, of course, you appointed them. Preposterous.”

Let’s face it: the”most transparent administration in history” isn’t. Sen. Jeff Sessions, for one, wants to know why Eric Holder didn’t disclose in his confirmation hearing an amicus brief in support of Jose Padilla.

A wonderful suggestion by George Will: no one should go to the State of the Union. “Next year, Roberts and the rest of the justices should stay away from the president’s address. So should the uniformed military, who are out of place in a setting of competitive political grandstanding. For that matter, the 535 legislators should boycott these undignified events. They would, if there were that many congressional grown-ups averse to being props in the childishness of popping up from their seats to cheer, or remaining sullenly seated in semi-pouts, as the politics of the moment dictates.”

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Other than That, Mr. Biden, How’d You Like Your Trip?

Joe Biden’s Israel trip has turned into a semi-fiasco, as David has noted. He was a poor substitute, the Israelis thought, for Obama. Then he condemned the Israelis’ decision to build 1,600 homes in their nation’s capital:

“I condemn the decision by the government of Israel to advance planning for new housing units in East Jerusalem,” Biden, currently in Israel, said in a statement. “The substance and timing of the announcement, particularly with the launching of proximity talks, is precisely the kind of step that undermines the trust we need right now and runs counter to the constructive discussions that I’ve had here in Israel.”

“We must build an atmosphere to support negotiations, not complicate them,” Biden continued. “This announcement underscores the need to get negotiations under way that can resolve all the outstanding issues of the conflict.”

Biden showed up an hour and a half late for dinner tonight at Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s residence, the pool reporter Janine Zacharia reported, suggesting the reason was U.S. consultations over the Interior Ministry’s housing announcement today. Biden and Netanyahu “took no questions,” Zacharia wrote. “In fact nobody took any questions all day.”

Well, that’s pretty much par for the course. Obama wanted to focus on settlements? Well, that’s what the U.S. and Israel are now discussing at high decibels in a very public way — during what was supposed to be a fence-mending visit.

And notice the language Biden employed: “condemn.” A Capitol Hill Republican leadership adviser sends this keen observation:

What kind of language is this?  Isn’t “condemn” reserved for things like beating dissidents, or even terror attacks? Whatever you think of the decision, the Obama administration couldn’t have said they felt it undermined the peace process, were “very disappointed,” saw it as “a step backward” or something like that?

A quick search of the White House website shows that in June, Gibbs said Obama “condemned the violence” in Iran.

In May, Obama released a statement on Aung San Suu Kyi, saying, “I strongly condemn her house arrest and detention, which have also been condemned around the world.”

The same month, Obama “strongly condemn[ed]” a North Korean nuclear test and missile launch.

In July, Obama said, “I strongly condemn the attacks that occurred this morning in Jakarta.”

The October bombings in Baghdad prompted Obama to say, “I strongly condemn these outrageous attacks on the Iraqi people…”

Last month, we had this: “The United States and the European Union condemn the continuing human rights violations in Iran since the June 12 election.”

The adviser wonders whether Obama and company really think a housing complex is “on the same plane as all these things that rightly deserved condemnation.” In Obama’s skewed vision, it seems so. For this crowd, allies are fair game for vitriol, but diplomatic niceties take priority over criticism of despots.

Bashing Israel, frequently and publicly, is what passes for smart diplomacy by the Obami — as is sending the VP in the president’s place (in contrast to Obama’s visits to the “Muslim World” to deliver his fractured version of Middle East history) and converting a housing issue into a nasty public spat.

In this, Biden and the rest of the Obama team have made clear, in case there were any doubt, that there is little reason why Israelis should rely on, or have confidence in, the American negotiating team. And if “proximity talks” require the presence of a trusted interlocutor to visit with both sides and probe for common agreement, we can imagine those talks will be perfectly useless, and indeed, another counterproductive exercise in raising expectations and deflecting attention from the real issue. That, by the way, is not housing complexes. It is the refusal of the Palestinians and Israel’s Arab neighbors to recognize the Jewish state. Until that happens, and until the Palestinians definitively repudiate terrorism and establish a state with functioning institutions, the smart diplomats are spinning their wheels. When they aren’t inflaming the situation, that is.

Joe Biden’s Israel trip has turned into a semi-fiasco, as David has noted. He was a poor substitute, the Israelis thought, for Obama. Then he condemned the Israelis’ decision to build 1,600 homes in their nation’s capital:

“I condemn the decision by the government of Israel to advance planning for new housing units in East Jerusalem,” Biden, currently in Israel, said in a statement. “The substance and timing of the announcement, particularly with the launching of proximity talks, is precisely the kind of step that undermines the trust we need right now and runs counter to the constructive discussions that I’ve had here in Israel.”

“We must build an atmosphere to support negotiations, not complicate them,” Biden continued. “This announcement underscores the need to get negotiations under way that can resolve all the outstanding issues of the conflict.”

Biden showed up an hour and a half late for dinner tonight at Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s residence, the pool reporter Janine Zacharia reported, suggesting the reason was U.S. consultations over the Interior Ministry’s housing announcement today. Biden and Netanyahu “took no questions,” Zacharia wrote. “In fact nobody took any questions all day.”

Well, that’s pretty much par for the course. Obama wanted to focus on settlements? Well, that’s what the U.S. and Israel are now discussing at high decibels in a very public way — during what was supposed to be a fence-mending visit.

And notice the language Biden employed: “condemn.” A Capitol Hill Republican leadership adviser sends this keen observation:

What kind of language is this?  Isn’t “condemn” reserved for things like beating dissidents, or even terror attacks? Whatever you think of the decision, the Obama administration couldn’t have said they felt it undermined the peace process, were “very disappointed,” saw it as “a step backward” or something like that?

A quick search of the White House website shows that in June, Gibbs said Obama “condemned the violence” in Iran.

In May, Obama released a statement on Aung San Suu Kyi, saying, “I strongly condemn her house arrest and detention, which have also been condemned around the world.”

The same month, Obama “strongly condemn[ed]” a North Korean nuclear test and missile launch.

In July, Obama said, “I strongly condemn the attacks that occurred this morning in Jakarta.”

The October bombings in Baghdad prompted Obama to say, “I strongly condemn these outrageous attacks on the Iraqi people…”

Last month, we had this: “The United States and the European Union condemn the continuing human rights violations in Iran since the June 12 election.”

The adviser wonders whether Obama and company really think a housing complex is “on the same plane as all these things that rightly deserved condemnation.” In Obama’s skewed vision, it seems so. For this crowd, allies are fair game for vitriol, but diplomatic niceties take priority over criticism of despots.

Bashing Israel, frequently and publicly, is what passes for smart diplomacy by the Obami — as is sending the VP in the president’s place (in contrast to Obama’s visits to the “Muslim World” to deliver his fractured version of Middle East history) and converting a housing issue into a nasty public spat.

In this, Biden and the rest of the Obama team have made clear, in case there were any doubt, that there is little reason why Israelis should rely on, or have confidence in, the American negotiating team. And if “proximity talks” require the presence of a trusted interlocutor to visit with both sides and probe for common agreement, we can imagine those talks will be perfectly useless, and indeed, another counterproductive exercise in raising expectations and deflecting attention from the real issue. That, by the way, is not housing complexes. It is the refusal of the Palestinians and Israel’s Arab neighbors to recognize the Jewish state. Until that happens, and until the Palestinians definitively repudiate terrorism and establish a state with functioning institutions, the smart diplomats are spinning their wheels. When they aren’t inflaming the situation, that is.

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Could Democrats Save Themselves?

Douglas Schoen, a Democratic pollster and adviser, has a heretical idea: the Democrats should co-opt the Tea Party movement. That’s right — don’t mock or ignore or deride the Tea Party activists. Join ‘em! He explains why radical action is needed: “The Democratic brand is in trouble—big trouble. There are at least eight Senate seats up for grabs, and another two or three potentially in play, putting control of the Senate in play.” So what to do? For starters:

They need pro-growth, fiscally conservative policies. The tea party movement is not a Republican movement, and anyone who sees it as such is making a mistake. Rather, the tea party movement is a reaffirmation of a trend that has long been happening in American politics since 1964, with the move away from liberal, big-spending and big-taxing policies. It played out with California’s Proposition 13 in 1978, which limited property taxes there and inspired nationwide tax revolts just two years before Ronald Reagan was elected. It was evident when the Republicans won control of the House and Senate in 1994. And it certainly contributed to George W. Bush’s election and re-election in 2000 and 2004.

Well, that’s going to go over like a lead balloon in the Democratic party and among liberal pundits. They’ve been calling the Tea Partiers wackos and urging the passage of the leftist agenda. Schoen says this is nuts. (“It is a profound mistake to believe that the Democratic resurgence and President Barack Obama’s election were a validation or an endorsement of a return to big government and Democratic liberalism.”) No more ObamaCare, he says. Forget it. The voters have rejected it. Instead, focus on jobs and — tax cuts. Yeah, wow. He argues:

These policies include a broad-based payroll tax holiday, building from the one Sens. Charles Schumer (D., N.Y.) and Orrin Hatch (R., Utah) have embraced, an extension of the Bush tax cuts, educational initiatives to educate the next generation of entrepreneurs, and tax policies that provide clear incentives to small businesses to get started and to hire new employees.

(This, by the way, is how you know Evan Bayh wasn’t a moderate or centrist; he never said any of this.) Schoen’s formula for success is, in effect, “not Obama” — “deficit reduction and spending cuts, as well as a willingness to consider a continuation of the Bush tax cuts for another year until growth is stimulated.” And on health care, he counsels that the Democrats need to “start over and embrace ideas that have broad-based support, like insurance reform, cost control, affordability, eliminating denials of insurance coverage based on pre-existing conditions, and electronic record-keeping.”

Republicans reading this may get nervous. What if the Democrats listen to him? They needn’t fear. The chances are quite slim that Obama and the Democratic congressional leadership would accept all this reasoned advice, for it would be a massive admission of error and a validation of what Republicans have been saying for over a year.

After the November election, the Democrats may have no choice. But for now, I think they’ll go right on trekking over that “precipice.” Schoen’s got the right idea — just the wrong audience.

Douglas Schoen, a Democratic pollster and adviser, has a heretical idea: the Democrats should co-opt the Tea Party movement. That’s right — don’t mock or ignore or deride the Tea Party activists. Join ‘em! He explains why radical action is needed: “The Democratic brand is in trouble—big trouble. There are at least eight Senate seats up for grabs, and another two or three potentially in play, putting control of the Senate in play.” So what to do? For starters:

They need pro-growth, fiscally conservative policies. The tea party movement is not a Republican movement, and anyone who sees it as such is making a mistake. Rather, the tea party movement is a reaffirmation of a trend that has long been happening in American politics since 1964, with the move away from liberal, big-spending and big-taxing policies. It played out with California’s Proposition 13 in 1978, which limited property taxes there and inspired nationwide tax revolts just two years before Ronald Reagan was elected. It was evident when the Republicans won control of the House and Senate in 1994. And it certainly contributed to George W. Bush’s election and re-election in 2000 and 2004.

Well, that’s going to go over like a lead balloon in the Democratic party and among liberal pundits. They’ve been calling the Tea Partiers wackos and urging the passage of the leftist agenda. Schoen says this is nuts. (“It is a profound mistake to believe that the Democratic resurgence and President Barack Obama’s election were a validation or an endorsement of a return to big government and Democratic liberalism.”) No more ObamaCare, he says. Forget it. The voters have rejected it. Instead, focus on jobs and — tax cuts. Yeah, wow. He argues:

These policies include a broad-based payroll tax holiday, building from the one Sens. Charles Schumer (D., N.Y.) and Orrin Hatch (R., Utah) have embraced, an extension of the Bush tax cuts, educational initiatives to educate the next generation of entrepreneurs, and tax policies that provide clear incentives to small businesses to get started and to hire new employees.

(This, by the way, is how you know Evan Bayh wasn’t a moderate or centrist; he never said any of this.) Schoen’s formula for success is, in effect, “not Obama” — “deficit reduction and spending cuts, as well as a willingness to consider a continuation of the Bush tax cuts for another year until growth is stimulated.” And on health care, he counsels that the Democrats need to “start over and embrace ideas that have broad-based support, like insurance reform, cost control, affordability, eliminating denials of insurance coverage based on pre-existing conditions, and electronic record-keeping.”

Republicans reading this may get nervous. What if the Democrats listen to him? They needn’t fear. The chances are quite slim that Obama and the Democratic congressional leadership would accept all this reasoned advice, for it would be a massive admission of error and a validation of what Republicans have been saying for over a year.

After the November election, the Democrats may have no choice. But for now, I think they’ll go right on trekking over that “precipice.” Schoen’s got the right idea — just the wrong audience.

Read Less

The Obami’s Engagement Dead End

Hillary Clinton is now decrying the emergence in Iran of a military dictatorship. She declares:

“We see that the government of Iran, the supreme leader, the president, the Parliament is being supplanted and that Iran is moving toward a military dictatorship. … I think the trend with this greater and greater military lock on leadership decisions should be disturbing to Iranians, as well as to those of us on the outside,” Mrs. Clinton told reporters as she flew from Qatar to Saudi Arabia.

There are a couple of problems with this. First, Clinton appears to root for the mullahs. Why in the world are we seemingly bemoaning the plight of the Supreme Leader? Could we perhaps take the side of real regime change and root for the democracy protestors? Too much to expect, I think. Even the New York Times notices the cul-de-sac in which this sort of argument puts Clinton: “But in prodding the clerics and politicians to take action, Mrs. Clinton found herself in the awkward position of celebrating the early days of the Islamic Revolution. Iran today, she said, is ‘a far cry from the Islamic republic that had elections and different points of view within the leadership circle.'” So the current regime isn’t as swell as the old regime, but we’re rooting for ‘em anyway. And this is what passes for smart diplomacy.

But there is another problem here. If the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) is infesting and manipulating the regime, and if its reach extends to the political apparatus, how are itty-bitty, narrowly focused sanctions going to work? Amir Taheri observes that the IRGC essentially turned “Tehran into a sealed citadel with checkpoints at all points of entry” in response to the Feb. 11 protests. He observes of the IRGC:

Their leaders are more strident than many of the regime’s leaders, vetoing countless attempts by mullahs and politicians to reach a compromise with the portion of the opposition still calling for reform rather than regime change. Revolutionary Guard generals frequently appear on television to call for mass arrests and show trials. A weak and indecisive caliph, Mr. Khamenei has so far refused to endorse the kind of “final solution” the generals demand.

Abroad, the Revolutionary Guard pursues an aggressive policy aimed at “filling the vacuum” the generals hope will be created when the U.S. disengages from Iraq and Afghanistan by funding terrorist groups and their political front organizations. The IRGC has reportedly created a special desk to monitor the coming parliamentary elections in Baghdad and Kabul with the aim of helping pro-Tehran elements win power.

Hmm. But the Obami are going to come up with very narrowly framed sanctions, they keep telling us. This is to avoid impacting the rest of the government and to keep the Iranian population at large – the same population that has already pretty much figured out who the bad guys are – from becoming upset with the U.S. (although they are actually already upset with the U.S. for granting legitimacy to the regime).

You wonder how the Obami, such smart and educated folks, got so tied up in knots. Well, it seems like they had not a clue about whom they were dealing when they headed down the regime road. The New York Times tells us:

Ray Takeyh, a former Iran adviser to the Obama administration, said administration officials were learning from experience.

“There was a thesis a year ago that the differences between the United States and Iran was subject to diplomatic mediation, that they could find areas of common experience, that we were ready to have a dialogue with each other,” Mr. Takeyh said, but “those anticipations discounted the extent how the Iranian theocracy views engagement with the United States as a threat to its ideological identity.”

Even the Gray Lady can figure it out: “And if Mrs. Clinton is correct that the Revolutionary Guards, not the politicians or the clerics, are becoming the central power in Iran, the prospects for rapprochement can only look worse. Not that Iran’s political and religious leaders, so far, have demonstrated much interest in Mr. Obama’s outreach.”

There is only one reasonable and viable path out of this: regime change. Not mullah boosterism. Not pin-prick sanctions to get the mullahs back to dickering with us in Vienna. There are Iranians dying in the street to displace the regime — mullahs, IRGC, the whole gaggle of thugs — and that is the horse we should be betting on.

Hillary Clinton is now decrying the emergence in Iran of a military dictatorship. She declares:

“We see that the government of Iran, the supreme leader, the president, the Parliament is being supplanted and that Iran is moving toward a military dictatorship. … I think the trend with this greater and greater military lock on leadership decisions should be disturbing to Iranians, as well as to those of us on the outside,” Mrs. Clinton told reporters as she flew from Qatar to Saudi Arabia.

There are a couple of problems with this. First, Clinton appears to root for the mullahs. Why in the world are we seemingly bemoaning the plight of the Supreme Leader? Could we perhaps take the side of real regime change and root for the democracy protestors? Too much to expect, I think. Even the New York Times notices the cul-de-sac in which this sort of argument puts Clinton: “But in prodding the clerics and politicians to take action, Mrs. Clinton found herself in the awkward position of celebrating the early days of the Islamic Revolution. Iran today, she said, is ‘a far cry from the Islamic republic that had elections and different points of view within the leadership circle.'” So the current regime isn’t as swell as the old regime, but we’re rooting for ‘em anyway. And this is what passes for smart diplomacy.

But there is another problem here. If the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) is infesting and manipulating the regime, and if its reach extends to the political apparatus, how are itty-bitty, narrowly focused sanctions going to work? Amir Taheri observes that the IRGC essentially turned “Tehran into a sealed citadel with checkpoints at all points of entry” in response to the Feb. 11 protests. He observes of the IRGC:

Their leaders are more strident than many of the regime’s leaders, vetoing countless attempts by mullahs and politicians to reach a compromise with the portion of the opposition still calling for reform rather than regime change. Revolutionary Guard generals frequently appear on television to call for mass arrests and show trials. A weak and indecisive caliph, Mr. Khamenei has so far refused to endorse the kind of “final solution” the generals demand.

Abroad, the Revolutionary Guard pursues an aggressive policy aimed at “filling the vacuum” the generals hope will be created when the U.S. disengages from Iraq and Afghanistan by funding terrorist groups and their political front organizations. The IRGC has reportedly created a special desk to monitor the coming parliamentary elections in Baghdad and Kabul with the aim of helping pro-Tehran elements win power.

Hmm. But the Obami are going to come up with very narrowly framed sanctions, they keep telling us. This is to avoid impacting the rest of the government and to keep the Iranian population at large – the same population that has already pretty much figured out who the bad guys are – from becoming upset with the U.S. (although they are actually already upset with the U.S. for granting legitimacy to the regime).

You wonder how the Obami, such smart and educated folks, got so tied up in knots. Well, it seems like they had not a clue about whom they were dealing when they headed down the regime road. The New York Times tells us:

Ray Takeyh, a former Iran adviser to the Obama administration, said administration officials were learning from experience.

“There was a thesis a year ago that the differences between the United States and Iran was subject to diplomatic mediation, that they could find areas of common experience, that we were ready to have a dialogue with each other,” Mr. Takeyh said, but “those anticipations discounted the extent how the Iranian theocracy views engagement with the United States as a threat to its ideological identity.”

Even the Gray Lady can figure it out: “And if Mrs. Clinton is correct that the Revolutionary Guards, not the politicians or the clerics, are becoming the central power in Iran, the prospects for rapprochement can only look worse. Not that Iran’s political and religious leaders, so far, have demonstrated much interest in Mr. Obama’s outreach.”

There is only one reasonable and viable path out of this: regime change. Not mullah boosterism. Not pin-prick sanctions to get the mullahs back to dickering with us in Vienna. There are Iranians dying in the street to displace the regime — mullahs, IRGC, the whole gaggle of thugs — and that is the horse we should be betting on.

Read Less




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