Commentary Magazine


Topic: Advisor

Manchin to Fight Obama — or Switch?

A report suggests that Senate Republicans are trying to lure Joe Manchin to switch parties:

Aside from his pick of committee assignments (likely the Energy and Natural Resources Committee), Manchin might get support for one of his pet projects — a plant to convert coal to diesel fuel that has stalled under Democratic leadership in Washington. …

Republicans believe Manchin is particularly susceptible to the overture because he is up for reelection in 2012 and will have to be on the ticket with President Obama, who is direly unpopular in West Virginia. Democrat Ben Nelson of Nebraska and Independent Joe Lieberman are the other two prime targets of Republican advances.

For now, Manchin says he’s not switching. But he certainly didn’t close any doors:

“He was elected as a Democrat and he has to go to Washington as a Democrat to try, in good faith, to make the changes in the party he campaigned on,” said one Manchin advisor. “Now, if that doesn’t work and Democrats aren’t receptive, I don’t know what possibilities that leaves open.”

Not exactly a pledge of perpetual loyalty to his party, is it?

Manchin’s problem is not as acute as Ben Nelson’s is. Nelson infuriated his home state by caving on ObamaCare, thereby setting himself up as the  “60th vote” (as were all Democrats in the cloture vote) target in 2012. It is questionable whether a party change would save Nelson; even if he switched — à la Arlen Specter — Nelson could well face a primary challenge. And from Manchin’s perspective, he was able to swim against the tide by differentiating himself from Obama and his liberal helpmates inside the Beltway. Provided he now carries through and joins with Republicans on key votes on the budget, health care, etc., shouldn’t his chances improve in 2012?

All this raises the question as to whether a bare majority in the Senate is all that important to the GOP. The issue, aside from chairmanships of committees, is not which party “controls” the Senate. That will be a case-by-case affair, determined by the relative craftiness of Harry Reid and Mitch McConnell in cobbling together temporary alliances of 60 senators. In that regard, the Republicans’ policy objectives might be better served — and the image of bipartisanship enhanced — by inducing Manchin, Nelson, and Lieberman to vote with them as Democrats.

And let’s not forget the gift the Republicans have received: Harry Reid — pursed lips, perpetual gaffes, nasty demeanor, and all — retaining the Senate majority leader spot. That seems almost too good an opportunity to give up.

So I don’t expect the GOP to try all that hard to convince the three most likely candidates to switch parties. If Obama’s fortunes continue to slide, some of them may be chasing the GOP before too long.

A report suggests that Senate Republicans are trying to lure Joe Manchin to switch parties:

Aside from his pick of committee assignments (likely the Energy and Natural Resources Committee), Manchin might get support for one of his pet projects — a plant to convert coal to diesel fuel that has stalled under Democratic leadership in Washington. …

Republicans believe Manchin is particularly susceptible to the overture because he is up for reelection in 2012 and will have to be on the ticket with President Obama, who is direly unpopular in West Virginia. Democrat Ben Nelson of Nebraska and Independent Joe Lieberman are the other two prime targets of Republican advances.

For now, Manchin says he’s not switching. But he certainly didn’t close any doors:

“He was elected as a Democrat and he has to go to Washington as a Democrat to try, in good faith, to make the changes in the party he campaigned on,” said one Manchin advisor. “Now, if that doesn’t work and Democrats aren’t receptive, I don’t know what possibilities that leaves open.”

Not exactly a pledge of perpetual loyalty to his party, is it?

Manchin’s problem is not as acute as Ben Nelson’s is. Nelson infuriated his home state by caving on ObamaCare, thereby setting himself up as the  “60th vote” (as were all Democrats in the cloture vote) target in 2012. It is questionable whether a party change would save Nelson; even if he switched — à la Arlen Specter — Nelson could well face a primary challenge. And from Manchin’s perspective, he was able to swim against the tide by differentiating himself from Obama and his liberal helpmates inside the Beltway. Provided he now carries through and joins with Republicans on key votes on the budget, health care, etc., shouldn’t his chances improve in 2012?

All this raises the question as to whether a bare majority in the Senate is all that important to the GOP. The issue, aside from chairmanships of committees, is not which party “controls” the Senate. That will be a case-by-case affair, determined by the relative craftiness of Harry Reid and Mitch McConnell in cobbling together temporary alliances of 60 senators. In that regard, the Republicans’ policy objectives might be better served — and the image of bipartisanship enhanced — by inducing Manchin, Nelson, and Lieberman to vote with them as Democrats.

And let’s not forget the gift the Republicans have received: Harry Reid — pursed lips, perpetual gaffes, nasty demeanor, and all — retaining the Senate majority leader spot. That seems almost too good an opportunity to give up.

So I don’t expect the GOP to try all that hard to convince the three most likely candidates to switch parties. If Obama’s fortunes continue to slide, some of them may be chasing the GOP before too long.

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RE: Why Israel Can’t Rely on American Jewish “Leaders”

Rabbi Jack Moline in an online bulletin board has this to say about my post from yesterday:

My argument with the piece is not disagreement but its gratuitous nastiness. That is especially true because the author elected not to go to the source (my contact info is part of what was distributed), a distressing choice being made by ideologues on both sides of many issues.

Most amusing has been the responses of some contrary colleagues (not only Conservative). It boils down to: the meetings should never have taken place and I should have been invited.

First, Moline offers no substantive response to my post, no indication that it misrepresented his original report, and no reason to believe he can engage successfully in a battle of ideas. He has “no disagreement with it,” and he has no real bone to pick with Obama’s Iran policy. Huh? Well, this only serves to confirm the take of one of my readers, who concluded that the rabbis “were out of their league.” Second, he’s “amused” by his colleagues who think the meeting should never have taken place. Such contempt for colleagues — from a rabbi no less! And bravo for the savvy contrary colleagues, who were just the type Moline no doubt screened out from the meeting. Those who questioned the value of the meeting were right that the attendees were enabling the president and his policies, which are inimical to the interests of Israel.

In reply to the outpouring of condescension from Moline, one rabbi responded with this:

I did not want my comments to be amusing but rather challenging and thought provoking. … I served as advisor to the Governor of New Jersey and as legislative assistant to the ranking Senator in New York, as well as a commissioner in New Jersey for six years. I mention this to let you know  I know a little about the game of politics. When Rabbis meet as a group with the president, Governor, Senator,  Congressman, etc. it is because the presidents’ advisors feel comfortable with those who were invited. I know I will be criticized by saying this, but it is the way I see it. I arranged enough meetings for clergy of all faiths to know how the game is played. I had and have no wish to meet with Pres. Obama unless I know I can make a difference. I am not jealous but I am curious if the President left feeling informed or if he felt he used the guests in attendance — and won them over. I did meet a number of times with Presidents Bush, father and son. Not bragging. They were happy to use me. This is the game of politics.

Well that rabbi at least understands what Moline does not — that Moline was being used. More than that, Moline is using his position not to represent his community and confront the president but rather to give comfort and aid to the only president to condemn Israel and to attempt to reorient American policy away from its democratic ally and toward the Muslim despots who threaten the Jewish state. Did Moline try to extract a promise from Obama to use military force to remove an existential threat to Israel if other options failed? Did he take the opportunity to demand that Obama vow to resupply Israel if need be in a military confrontation with Iran? Did he quiz the president on why he has snubbed and undermined the Green Movement (by defunding Iranian human rights groups and engaging their oppressors)? Did he ask Obama why we have tolerated the transfer of missiles to Hezbollah? No.

Moline is quite concerned about his own critics and those of the administration, whom he dismisses as “nasty.” These critics are not nearly as harsh as history will be to those who failed to stand up for Israel in its moment of need.

Rabbi Jack Moline in an online bulletin board has this to say about my post from yesterday:

My argument with the piece is not disagreement but its gratuitous nastiness. That is especially true because the author elected not to go to the source (my contact info is part of what was distributed), a distressing choice being made by ideologues on both sides of many issues.

Most amusing has been the responses of some contrary colleagues (not only Conservative). It boils down to: the meetings should never have taken place and I should have been invited.

First, Moline offers no substantive response to my post, no indication that it misrepresented his original report, and no reason to believe he can engage successfully in a battle of ideas. He has “no disagreement with it,” and he has no real bone to pick with Obama’s Iran policy. Huh? Well, this only serves to confirm the take of one of my readers, who concluded that the rabbis “were out of their league.” Second, he’s “amused” by his colleagues who think the meeting should never have taken place. Such contempt for colleagues — from a rabbi no less! And bravo for the savvy contrary colleagues, who were just the type Moline no doubt screened out from the meeting. Those who questioned the value of the meeting were right that the attendees were enabling the president and his policies, which are inimical to the interests of Israel.

In reply to the outpouring of condescension from Moline, one rabbi responded with this:

I did not want my comments to be amusing but rather challenging and thought provoking. … I served as advisor to the Governor of New Jersey and as legislative assistant to the ranking Senator in New York, as well as a commissioner in New Jersey for six years. I mention this to let you know  I know a little about the game of politics. When Rabbis meet as a group with the president, Governor, Senator,  Congressman, etc. it is because the presidents’ advisors feel comfortable with those who were invited. I know I will be criticized by saying this, but it is the way I see it. I arranged enough meetings for clergy of all faiths to know how the game is played. I had and have no wish to meet with Pres. Obama unless I know I can make a difference. I am not jealous but I am curious if the President left feeling informed or if he felt he used the guests in attendance — and won them over. I did meet a number of times with Presidents Bush, father and son. Not bragging. They were happy to use me. This is the game of politics.

Well that rabbi at least understands what Moline does not — that Moline was being used. More than that, Moline is using his position not to represent his community and confront the president but rather to give comfort and aid to the only president to condemn Israel and to attempt to reorient American policy away from its democratic ally and toward the Muslim despots who threaten the Jewish state. Did Moline try to extract a promise from Obama to use military force to remove an existential threat to Israel if other options failed? Did he take the opportunity to demand that Obama vow to resupply Israel if need be in a military confrontation with Iran? Did he quiz the president on why he has snubbed and undermined the Green Movement (by defunding Iranian human rights groups and engaging their oppressors)? Did he ask Obama why we have tolerated the transfer of missiles to Hezbollah? No.

Moline is quite concerned about his own critics and those of the administration, whom he dismisses as “nasty.” These critics are not nearly as harsh as history will be to those who failed to stand up for Israel in its moment of need.

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Are Jews That Gullible?

Ben Smith says that he was dubious about the Obama team’s charm offensive with American Jews. After all, how could they be so foolish as to take puffery seriously and be wowed by a lunch with Elie Wiesel? Aren’t Jews, you know, supposed to be smarter than that? After all, the underlying policy hasn’t changed one iota. And in fact the administration is flaunting its anti-Israel connections.

Smith also picks up this tidbit:

Kim Kardashian and Justin Bieber drew the camera flashes at the White House Correspondents dinner, but foreign policy geeks took closer note of the TPM table, where National Security Council Chief of Staff Denis McDonough — probably the most powerful foreign policy staffer in the administration — was seated with the two grand old men of “realist politics,” former National Security Advisors Brent Scowcroft and Zbigniew Brzezinski.

Also at the table, New America’s Steve Clemons, who qualified that he and the others are “progressive realists” and added that the table also included “Sex and the City” creator Darren Starr and TPM founder Josh Marshall, the host.

Scowcroft and Brzezinski have been vying for influence in the Obama White House since Obama introduced the latter in Iowa, then distanced himself from him over Israel. They’re currently central to the efforts to persuade Obama to advance his own Mideast peace plan.

McDonough, who came up on the process-oriented Hill, tends to keep his own broader views on foreign policy close to the vest.

To translate: one of the administration’s key foreign-policy hands goes to the most highly publicized event in town to hob-nob with the advisor who Obama had sworn during the campaign not to be an advisor, who has suggested that we shoot down Israeli planes if they cross Iraqi air space on the way to Iran, and who wants to impose a peace deal on Israel. And, for good measure, he sits with the purveyors of a website infamous for puff pieces on terrorists and committed to a hard-left anti-Israel line. It was an act of defiance — see who our friends are? Well, I guess we do.

So the question remains whether the Jewish community is as easily lulled into passivity as the Obama administration believes. Can a few carefully worded speeches get American Jews off their backs? After all, they’ve been so mute about the effort by Obama to undermine sanctions. And really, they were able to “condemn” Israel without being condemned in turn by the Jewish groups, which have clung so dearly to the Democratic Party. Smith shouldn’t be skeptical: American Jewish officialdom is falling over themselves to make up with the administration. Whether rank-and-file members and the larger Jewish community are as easily swayed, remains to be seen.

Ben Smith says that he was dubious about the Obama team’s charm offensive with American Jews. After all, how could they be so foolish as to take puffery seriously and be wowed by a lunch with Elie Wiesel? Aren’t Jews, you know, supposed to be smarter than that? After all, the underlying policy hasn’t changed one iota. And in fact the administration is flaunting its anti-Israel connections.

Smith also picks up this tidbit:

Kim Kardashian and Justin Bieber drew the camera flashes at the White House Correspondents dinner, but foreign policy geeks took closer note of the TPM table, where National Security Council Chief of Staff Denis McDonough — probably the most powerful foreign policy staffer in the administration — was seated with the two grand old men of “realist politics,” former National Security Advisors Brent Scowcroft and Zbigniew Brzezinski.

Also at the table, New America’s Steve Clemons, who qualified that he and the others are “progressive realists” and added that the table also included “Sex and the City” creator Darren Starr and TPM founder Josh Marshall, the host.

Scowcroft and Brzezinski have been vying for influence in the Obama White House since Obama introduced the latter in Iowa, then distanced himself from him over Israel. They’re currently central to the efforts to persuade Obama to advance his own Mideast peace plan.

McDonough, who came up on the process-oriented Hill, tends to keep his own broader views on foreign policy close to the vest.

To translate: one of the administration’s key foreign-policy hands goes to the most highly publicized event in town to hob-nob with the advisor who Obama had sworn during the campaign not to be an advisor, who has suggested that we shoot down Israeli planes if they cross Iraqi air space on the way to Iran, and who wants to impose a peace deal on Israel. And, for good measure, he sits with the purveyors of a website infamous for puff pieces on terrorists and committed to a hard-left anti-Israel line. It was an act of defiance — see who our friends are? Well, I guess we do.

So the question remains whether the Jewish community is as easily lulled into passivity as the Obama administration believes. Can a few carefully worded speeches get American Jews off their backs? After all, they’ve been so mute about the effort by Obama to undermine sanctions. And really, they were able to “condemn” Israel without being condemned in turn by the Jewish groups, which have clung so dearly to the Democratic Party. Smith shouldn’t be skeptical: American Jewish officialdom is falling over themselves to make up with the administration. Whether rank-and-file members and the larger Jewish community are as easily swayed, remains to be seen.

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ObamaCare Bedevils Romney

Mitt Romney is the most experienced presidential candidate of the 2012 aspirants, having slogged through the 2008 primary and pre-primary campaigns. He has written a book and developed an easier, less stilted demeanor and public persona. He speaks authoritatively on foreign policy. But he has a big problem: ObamaCare looks a good deal like the ex-governor’s RomneyCare, his signature health-care legislation. A former advisor and MIT economist Jonathan Gruber remarks: “If any one person in the world deserves credit for where we are now (with the passage of the new federal law) it’s Mitt Romney.” Yikes.

Romney’s plan includes mandatory insurance for individuals — an anathema to conservatives. And the plan faces hard realities, which conservatives predict will befall ObamaCare too. The Wall Street Journal editors explain:

Three of largest four — Blue Cross Blue Shield, Tufts Health Plan and Fallon Community Health — posted operating losses in 2009. In an emergency suit heard in Boston superior court yesterday, they argued that the arbitrary rate cap will result in another $100 million in collective losses this year and make it impossible to pay the anticipated cost of claims. It may even threaten the near-term solvency of some companies.

So until the matter is resolved, the insurers have simply stopped selling new policies. A court decision is expected by Monday, but state officials have demanded that the insurers — under the threat of fines and other regulatory punishments — resume offering quotes by today and to revert to year-old base premiums. Let that one sink in: Mr. Patrick has made the health insurance business so painful the government actually has to order private companies to sell their products (albeit at sub-market costs). . . .

On top of that, like ObamaCare, integral to the Massachusetts overhaul are mandates that require insurers to cover anyone who applies regardless of health status or pre-existing conditions and to charge everyone about the same rates. This allows people to wait until they’re about to incur major medical expenses before buying insurance and transfer the costs to everyone else. This week Blue Cross Blue Shield reported a big uptick in short-term customers who ran up costs more than four times the average, only to drop the coverage within three months.

Romney cites the differences between the bills — his contained no massive tax hike and didn’t savage Medicare. Mostly, he’s focused on the Tenth Amendment — the argument that the federal government shouldn’t and can’t constitutionally occupy the health-care field, which has been subject to state regulation. It’s far from clear that this will be enough to satisfy the Republican primary electorate, which is going to hear Romney’s opponents attack him for passing ObamaCare-lite. They likely will be proposing market-based plans akin to those which the GOP proposed in Congress. But for whatever reason — perhaps concern about reviving the flip-flop label — Romney isn’t disowning his past effort and he’ll have to withstand the onslaught if he’s going to do better than second place this time around. Every candidate has handicaps but in an election in which the Republicans are trying to elect a president to rip out ObamaCare before it takes root, Romney will have his work cut out for him, living down what was once a selling point for his candidacy.

Mitt Romney is the most experienced presidential candidate of the 2012 aspirants, having slogged through the 2008 primary and pre-primary campaigns. He has written a book and developed an easier, less stilted demeanor and public persona. He speaks authoritatively on foreign policy. But he has a big problem: ObamaCare looks a good deal like the ex-governor’s RomneyCare, his signature health-care legislation. A former advisor and MIT economist Jonathan Gruber remarks: “If any one person in the world deserves credit for where we are now (with the passage of the new federal law) it’s Mitt Romney.” Yikes.

Romney’s plan includes mandatory insurance for individuals — an anathema to conservatives. And the plan faces hard realities, which conservatives predict will befall ObamaCare too. The Wall Street Journal editors explain:

Three of largest four — Blue Cross Blue Shield, Tufts Health Plan and Fallon Community Health — posted operating losses in 2009. In an emergency suit heard in Boston superior court yesterday, they argued that the arbitrary rate cap will result in another $100 million in collective losses this year and make it impossible to pay the anticipated cost of claims. It may even threaten the near-term solvency of some companies.

So until the matter is resolved, the insurers have simply stopped selling new policies. A court decision is expected by Monday, but state officials have demanded that the insurers — under the threat of fines and other regulatory punishments — resume offering quotes by today and to revert to year-old base premiums. Let that one sink in: Mr. Patrick has made the health insurance business so painful the government actually has to order private companies to sell their products (albeit at sub-market costs). . . .

On top of that, like ObamaCare, integral to the Massachusetts overhaul are mandates that require insurers to cover anyone who applies regardless of health status or pre-existing conditions and to charge everyone about the same rates. This allows people to wait until they’re about to incur major medical expenses before buying insurance and transfer the costs to everyone else. This week Blue Cross Blue Shield reported a big uptick in short-term customers who ran up costs more than four times the average, only to drop the coverage within three months.

Romney cites the differences between the bills — his contained no massive tax hike and didn’t savage Medicare. Mostly, he’s focused on the Tenth Amendment — the argument that the federal government shouldn’t and can’t constitutionally occupy the health-care field, which has been subject to state regulation. It’s far from clear that this will be enough to satisfy the Republican primary electorate, which is going to hear Romney’s opponents attack him for passing ObamaCare-lite. They likely will be proposing market-based plans akin to those which the GOP proposed in Congress. But for whatever reason — perhaps concern about reviving the flip-flop label — Romney isn’t disowning his past effort and he’ll have to withstand the onslaught if he’s going to do better than second place this time around. Every candidate has handicaps but in an election in which the Republicans are trying to elect a president to rip out ObamaCare before it takes root, Romney will have his work cut out for him, living down what was once a selling point for his candidacy.

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Lawmakers Plead for Sanity

Top Republican House members, including Reps. John Boehner, Eric Cantor, Kevin McCarthy, and Pete Session, have written a letter to the president, which reads in part:

Despite Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s admission that the ill-timed announcement of the approval of a residential development was “regrettable,” it is our understanding that at your direction, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton chastised the Prime Minister on the phone and then in public. Furthermore, your Senior Advisor, David Axelrod, chose to excoriate Israel on national television. Your Administration’s decision to escalate this issue is extremely harmful to US-Israeli relations, which, according to Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren, are now at a 35-year low.

While your Administration clamors over the announcement of a proposed residential development years away from completion, fran continues to develop its nuclear weapons capability and Hamas and Hezbollah rearm and re-energize. Remarks made by your Cabinet and advisers embolden Israel’s enemies — who are wholly committed to destroying the Jewish State — and undermine the critical relationship we have with our strongest ally for democracy and peace in the Middle East.

Israel has demonstrated its willingness to advance the peace process — even when its concessions have led to decreased security. When Israel withdrew from Gaza in 2005, the region became a haven for Hamas and led to repeated rocket and mortar attacks on Israeli cities. It is therefore unrealistic for you to request that Israel continue to make significant confidence building gestures while putting no real pressure upon the instigators of armed violence.

Instead of continuing to make unrealistic demands of Israel, we encourage you and your Administration to address the real issues threatening stability in the region. We  respectfully request that you publicly express the United States’ unwavering support for Israel, acknowledge its status as a willing partner in the peace process, and reiterate its sovereign right to defend itself against attacks from those who seek its destruction.

Democrats who posit themselves as friends of Israel are now in a quandary: remain silent or try to drag the administration back into the bipartisan consensus on Middle East policy?

The newly Democratic Arlen Specter tried his best in a floor speech. He got off to a very poor start, misrepresenting that “there are 1,600 new settlements in East Jerusalem in violation of Israeli commitments.” To the contrary, the apartment complex is not a “settlement,” nor is this part of an Israeli commitment. The Israeli government never pledged to forgo building in its eternal and undivided capital. He concedes, “that Prime Minister Netanyahu was blindsided by the announcement. It is further acknowledged that the Israeli Minister of the Interior is a member of the ultra-conservative Shaos party whose participation is essential to the continuation of the coalition government.” And he implores the administration to get a game plan:

These matters need to be thought through before making public pronouncements that could significantly damage the U.S.-Israeli relationship and give aid and comfort to the enemies of the Mideast peace process.  The rock solid alliance between the United States and Israel has withstood significant disagreements for six decades. The mutual interests which bind these two countries together have always been stronger than the most substantial differences. The United States needs to respect Israeli security interests, understanding that Israel cannot lose a war and survive. The United States has many layers of defense to protect our security interests and survive.

I suggest that if we all take a few deep breaths, think through the pending questions and reflect on the importance of maintaining U.S.-Israeli solidarity, we can weather this storm.

Democrat Robert Andrews has sent his own letter pleading that “minor policy differences” not be allowed to disrupt the relationship and imploring the administration to work out “differences in private whenever possible.”

Allowing for understandable partisan differences and some egregious factual errors, the message is the same: enough already. The Obami have few defenders on this one and many anxious lawmakers. It seems as though once again this gang did not think through the ramifications — either domestic or international — of their own actions.

Top Republican House members, including Reps. John Boehner, Eric Cantor, Kevin McCarthy, and Pete Session, have written a letter to the president, which reads in part:

Despite Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s admission that the ill-timed announcement of the approval of a residential development was “regrettable,” it is our understanding that at your direction, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton chastised the Prime Minister on the phone and then in public. Furthermore, your Senior Advisor, David Axelrod, chose to excoriate Israel on national television. Your Administration’s decision to escalate this issue is extremely harmful to US-Israeli relations, which, according to Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren, are now at a 35-year low.

While your Administration clamors over the announcement of a proposed residential development years away from completion, fran continues to develop its nuclear weapons capability and Hamas and Hezbollah rearm and re-energize. Remarks made by your Cabinet and advisers embolden Israel’s enemies — who are wholly committed to destroying the Jewish State — and undermine the critical relationship we have with our strongest ally for democracy and peace in the Middle East.

Israel has demonstrated its willingness to advance the peace process — even when its concessions have led to decreased security. When Israel withdrew from Gaza in 2005, the region became a haven for Hamas and led to repeated rocket and mortar attacks on Israeli cities. It is therefore unrealistic for you to request that Israel continue to make significant confidence building gestures while putting no real pressure upon the instigators of armed violence.

Instead of continuing to make unrealistic demands of Israel, we encourage you and your Administration to address the real issues threatening stability in the region. We  respectfully request that you publicly express the United States’ unwavering support for Israel, acknowledge its status as a willing partner in the peace process, and reiterate its sovereign right to defend itself against attacks from those who seek its destruction.

Democrats who posit themselves as friends of Israel are now in a quandary: remain silent or try to drag the administration back into the bipartisan consensus on Middle East policy?

The newly Democratic Arlen Specter tried his best in a floor speech. He got off to a very poor start, misrepresenting that “there are 1,600 new settlements in East Jerusalem in violation of Israeli commitments.” To the contrary, the apartment complex is not a “settlement,” nor is this part of an Israeli commitment. The Israeli government never pledged to forgo building in its eternal and undivided capital. He concedes, “that Prime Minister Netanyahu was blindsided by the announcement. It is further acknowledged that the Israeli Minister of the Interior is a member of the ultra-conservative Shaos party whose participation is essential to the continuation of the coalition government.” And he implores the administration to get a game plan:

These matters need to be thought through before making public pronouncements that could significantly damage the U.S.-Israeli relationship and give aid and comfort to the enemies of the Mideast peace process.  The rock solid alliance between the United States and Israel has withstood significant disagreements for six decades. The mutual interests which bind these two countries together have always been stronger than the most substantial differences. The United States needs to respect Israeli security interests, understanding that Israel cannot lose a war and survive. The United States has many layers of defense to protect our security interests and survive.

I suggest that if we all take a few deep breaths, think through the pending questions and reflect on the importance of maintaining U.S.-Israeli solidarity, we can weather this storm.

Democrat Robert Andrews has sent his own letter pleading that “minor policy differences” not be allowed to disrupt the relationship and imploring the administration to work out “differences in private whenever possible.”

Allowing for understandable partisan differences and some egregious factual errors, the message is the same: enough already. The Obami have few defenders on this one and many anxious lawmakers. It seems as though once again this gang did not think through the ramifications — either domestic or international — of their own actions.

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He’s New, The Ideas Are Old

With Barack Obama on the precipice of the nomination, there is increased focus on exactly what policy prescriptions he is suggesting. When Hillary Clinton tried to suggest it was “all words,” the media made a collective grimace. She was raining on their Obama-mania parade. What she did not say–because you just can’t say it in a Democratic primary race–is that he offers a bland, warmed-over liberalism.

But now even the Washington Post has noticed, reporting that he “has not emphasized any signature domestic issue, or signaled that he would take his party in a specific direction.” The campaign is really all about him. You either buy into the new politics, the transformative power of good wishes and high ideals, or you think it’s a bunch of hooey.

The Post is not alone in noticing that there is no there there. Daniel Henninger observes that the Democratic primary descended into a personality battle because both candidates agreed on the same liberal policy positions. He says of Obama:

[W]hat the politics of Barack Obama reveal is a very standard liberal, at best.His stated view of how to relieve the plight of young black men in failing school is what the teachers unions have had on offer for 20 years. In July 2007 remarks on selecting judges, reprinted yesterday in the New York Times, Obama conveyed a philosophy grounded in a remarkably explicit obsession with class and incomes. To the entitlement bombs of Social Security and Medicare, he would add expansions of Medicaid and subsidies to some businesses for health-care costs. His desire to raise the cap on Social Security taxes will hit the $100,000 two-income families who applauded Hillary’s appeal on college debt.

Had the Democrats wanted someone whose ideas were innovative and exciting, they wouldn’t have chosen the most predictably extreme ideologue in the U.S. Senate. So if McCain’s campaign has been dinged for lacking a narrative or message–for not putting his views in an easily understandable package–at least he has some that are not shopworn retreads from the 1970’s. Or as Bruce Reed, a key advisor to both Clintons puts it, the Democrats are badly in need of candidate with ” as many proof points as possible that we’re not the weak-on-defense, big-spending liberal the Republicans always say they are.” It is simply not clear they have found that candidate.

With Barack Obama on the precipice of the nomination, there is increased focus on exactly what policy prescriptions he is suggesting. When Hillary Clinton tried to suggest it was “all words,” the media made a collective grimace. She was raining on their Obama-mania parade. What she did not say–because you just can’t say it in a Democratic primary race–is that he offers a bland, warmed-over liberalism.

But now even the Washington Post has noticed, reporting that he “has not emphasized any signature domestic issue, or signaled that he would take his party in a specific direction.” The campaign is really all about him. You either buy into the new politics, the transformative power of good wishes and high ideals, or you think it’s a bunch of hooey.

The Post is not alone in noticing that there is no there there. Daniel Henninger observes that the Democratic primary descended into a personality battle because both candidates agreed on the same liberal policy positions. He says of Obama:

[W]hat the politics of Barack Obama reveal is a very standard liberal, at best.His stated view of how to relieve the plight of young black men in failing school is what the teachers unions have had on offer for 20 years. In July 2007 remarks on selecting judges, reprinted yesterday in the New York Times, Obama conveyed a philosophy grounded in a remarkably explicit obsession with class and incomes. To the entitlement bombs of Social Security and Medicare, he would add expansions of Medicaid and subsidies to some businesses for health-care costs. His desire to raise the cap on Social Security taxes will hit the $100,000 two-income families who applauded Hillary’s appeal on college debt.

Had the Democrats wanted someone whose ideas were innovative and exciting, they wouldn’t have chosen the most predictably extreme ideologue in the U.S. Senate. So if McCain’s campaign has been dinged for lacking a narrative or message–for not putting his views in an easily understandable package–at least he has some that are not shopworn retreads from the 1970’s. Or as Bruce Reed, a key advisor to both Clintons puts it, the Democrats are badly in need of candidate with ” as many proof points as possible that we’re not the weak-on-defense, big-spending liberal the Republicans always say they are.” It is simply not clear they have found that candidate.

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Why Don’t They Like Him?

Barack Obama has repeatedly expressed amazement that Jewish voters have concerns about his candidacy. He has suggested, in essence, that they are irrational–seizing on his name or the remarks of other African-Americans or buying into internet chatter claiming he is a closet Muslim. And his defenders have insisted he doesn’t have a Jewish problem at all. But the available evidence suggests that he does, and there are a number of compelling reasons why Jews have not supported him to the degree that they’ve supported past Democratic nominees.

Stephen Herbits, recently retired as Secretary General of the World Jewish Congress and an advisor to the Secretaries of Defense in four administrations, has provided an exhaustive analysis of the situation, must-reading for anyone serious about exploring this issue.

First, there is little doubt that Obama has a problem with Jewish voters, even Democratic primary voters who would be natural supporters insofar as many are high-income, high-education voters. Herbits explains:

In Pennsylvania, exit polls show that Senator Clinton beat Senator Obama by 24 percentage points amongst Pennsylvanian Jews, outpacing the general population by 13 points, and even outpacing the Protestant population which favored Senator Clinton by a ten point margin. With Jews comprising 8 % of the Pennsylvania primary electorate, these percentages are large enough to be determinative in a close general election race. Senator Clinton won amongst Jews by similarly large margins in states like New York and New Jersey. In Florida where Jews accounted for 9% of primary voters, the margin exceeded 30 points. In Nevada where Jews accounted for some 5%, the margin exceeded 40 points.

So why are Jewish voters wary of him? Herbits contends that the issue is one of “credibilty.” He writes:

Senator Obama makes statements of solidarity with the Jewish community. Yet, his determination to meet with Mahmoud Ahmadinejad runs counter to his professed sensitivity to Jewish concerns. His relationships with unabashed anti-Semitic and anti-Israel individuals calls into question his sincerity. His 20-year comfort with Jeremiah Wright, and his previous tolerance and defense of his pastor who preaches “Zionism equals Racism” reveals his ability to tolerate, defend and find comfort with others who share such views.

Although Obama professes concern for Israel, his willingness to meet directly with Ahmadinejad goes to the nub of the matter, Herbits contends:

Since the Holocaust, few individuals advancing dangerous anti-Semitic views have risen to lead nations. Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad denies the Holocaust, calls for the State of Israel to be wiped off the map and defies the international community by continuing to pursue nuclear capability. Iran is also the world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism – arming, training and directing groups like Hezbollah, Hamas and Islamic Jihad. . . .

Such a meeting would be devastating to the psyche of entire Jewish world. Since 2005, Jewish communities around the world have been fighting to marginalize and contain Ahmadinejad. Jewish communities condemn Hugo Chavez and other radical leaders for welcoming Ahmadinejad. They condemn the Russian government for their relationship with the Iranian regime. Recently, the United States, Israel and Jewish communities around the world condemned the Swiss for an economic agreement with the Iranian regime.

Throughout Europe there is a multinational effort to designate Ahmadinejad persona non grata throughout European capitals and at the EU. For years, the United States has worked with begrudging allies to isolate and contain the Iranian regime. And yet, Senator Obama has pledged that as President of the United States he will be featured on the front page of newspapers around the world shaking hands with a rabid anti-Semite who supports terrorist attacks against the United States and its allies, is pursing a nuclear capability, and denies the Holocaust. Such an image would be a victory for terrorism, a victory for extremists, and a defeat for peace and international security. The Jewish community will sooner vote for Senator McCain than be party to facilitating that meeting with Ahmadinejad.

Herbits goes on to detail Obama’s troubling associations with Reverend Wright, as well as with anti-Israel figures like Edward Said, Ali Abunimah, and Rashid Khalidi–all of whom raise red flags for Jews.

In short, the problem is real and the reasons for Jewish antipathy are based on facts about Obama’s stated policies and long-term relationships. But to recognize that would require Obama to address central concerns about his candidacy, concerns which might set off alarm bells for many non-Jewish voters, e.g. his outlook on the Middle East, his views on terrorism, and his proclivity to travel with radicals who spout anti-American and anti-Israel gibberish. Far better to deny the problem exists. Or to attribute it to those pesky, irrational American Jews.

Barack Obama has repeatedly expressed amazement that Jewish voters have concerns about his candidacy. He has suggested, in essence, that they are irrational–seizing on his name or the remarks of other African-Americans or buying into internet chatter claiming he is a closet Muslim. And his defenders have insisted he doesn’t have a Jewish problem at all. But the available evidence suggests that he does, and there are a number of compelling reasons why Jews have not supported him to the degree that they’ve supported past Democratic nominees.

Stephen Herbits, recently retired as Secretary General of the World Jewish Congress and an advisor to the Secretaries of Defense in four administrations, has provided an exhaustive analysis of the situation, must-reading for anyone serious about exploring this issue.

First, there is little doubt that Obama has a problem with Jewish voters, even Democratic primary voters who would be natural supporters insofar as many are high-income, high-education voters. Herbits explains:

In Pennsylvania, exit polls show that Senator Clinton beat Senator Obama by 24 percentage points amongst Pennsylvanian Jews, outpacing the general population by 13 points, and even outpacing the Protestant population which favored Senator Clinton by a ten point margin. With Jews comprising 8 % of the Pennsylvania primary electorate, these percentages are large enough to be determinative in a close general election race. Senator Clinton won amongst Jews by similarly large margins in states like New York and New Jersey. In Florida where Jews accounted for 9% of primary voters, the margin exceeded 30 points. In Nevada where Jews accounted for some 5%, the margin exceeded 40 points.

So why are Jewish voters wary of him? Herbits contends that the issue is one of “credibilty.” He writes:

Senator Obama makes statements of solidarity with the Jewish community. Yet, his determination to meet with Mahmoud Ahmadinejad runs counter to his professed sensitivity to Jewish concerns. His relationships with unabashed anti-Semitic and anti-Israel individuals calls into question his sincerity. His 20-year comfort with Jeremiah Wright, and his previous tolerance and defense of his pastor who preaches “Zionism equals Racism” reveals his ability to tolerate, defend and find comfort with others who share such views.

Although Obama professes concern for Israel, his willingness to meet directly with Ahmadinejad goes to the nub of the matter, Herbits contends:

Since the Holocaust, few individuals advancing dangerous anti-Semitic views have risen to lead nations. Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad denies the Holocaust, calls for the State of Israel to be wiped off the map and defies the international community by continuing to pursue nuclear capability. Iran is also the world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism – arming, training and directing groups like Hezbollah, Hamas and Islamic Jihad. . . .

Such a meeting would be devastating to the psyche of entire Jewish world. Since 2005, Jewish communities around the world have been fighting to marginalize and contain Ahmadinejad. Jewish communities condemn Hugo Chavez and other radical leaders for welcoming Ahmadinejad. They condemn the Russian government for their relationship with the Iranian regime. Recently, the United States, Israel and Jewish communities around the world condemned the Swiss for an economic agreement with the Iranian regime.

Throughout Europe there is a multinational effort to designate Ahmadinejad persona non grata throughout European capitals and at the EU. For years, the United States has worked with begrudging allies to isolate and contain the Iranian regime. And yet, Senator Obama has pledged that as President of the United States he will be featured on the front page of newspapers around the world shaking hands with a rabid anti-Semite who supports terrorist attacks against the United States and its allies, is pursing a nuclear capability, and denies the Holocaust. Such an image would be a victory for terrorism, a victory for extremists, and a defeat for peace and international security. The Jewish community will sooner vote for Senator McCain than be party to facilitating that meeting with Ahmadinejad.

Herbits goes on to detail Obama’s troubling associations with Reverend Wright, as well as with anti-Israel figures like Edward Said, Ali Abunimah, and Rashid Khalidi–all of whom raise red flags for Jews.

In short, the problem is real and the reasons for Jewish antipathy are based on facts about Obama’s stated policies and long-term relationships. But to recognize that would require Obama to address central concerns about his candidacy, concerns which might set off alarm bells for many non-Jewish voters, e.g. his outlook on the Middle East, his views on terrorism, and his proclivity to travel with radicals who spout anti-American and anti-Israel gibberish. Far better to deny the problem exists. Or to attribute it to those pesky, irrational American Jews.

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Taking His Sweet Time

“Keep your friends close, but your enemies closer.” When it comes to following Don Corleone’s sage advice, Barack Obama is a natural. Sure, he’s tight with Ted Kennedy and Bill Richardson, but they didn’t baptize his kids (like Jeremiah Wright), or advise him on foreign policy (like Robert Malley). Obama’s talent for cleaving to his political enemies is definitely a “change” from politics as usual. But is it change we can believe in?

The exit of Malley from Obama’s campaign is yet another instance in which the candidate who speaks of “the fierce urgency of now” addresses an immediate and obvious problem with the galling indifference of whenever. For at least six months, we’ve known that Robert Malley’s associates and his record of anti-Israel revisionism have no place in an American presidential campaign. But Obama, being Obama, could no sooner denounce his Arafat-embracing Middle East advisor than, say, not sell out his grandmother. Instead, the campaign shrugged the issue off by claiming Malley was not a “day-to-day” advisor.

Just as in the case of Jeremiah Wright, Obama tried to wish the whole thing away until the very source of the problem addressed him directly. Rev. Wright picked a fight with Obama, and Robert Malley called Obama up to cut ties. I’m not sure why Malley said that his own dealings with Hamas would be a “distraction,” when it’s doubtful Obama would have noticed.

Setting aside the ideological implications of Obama’s friendly enemies, why is no one alarmed by a Presidential nominee who, to quote another mob movie, has a habit of being late to his own funeral. Is Obama slow in analyzing crises because he’s carefully considering all the angles? Or because he can’t be bothered with any issue that distracts him from his historic destiny? He’ll answer the phone at 3 AM–only it’ll have been ringing since 3 in the afternoon.

“Keep your friends close, but your enemies closer.” When it comes to following Don Corleone’s sage advice, Barack Obama is a natural. Sure, he’s tight with Ted Kennedy and Bill Richardson, but they didn’t baptize his kids (like Jeremiah Wright), or advise him on foreign policy (like Robert Malley). Obama’s talent for cleaving to his political enemies is definitely a “change” from politics as usual. But is it change we can believe in?

The exit of Malley from Obama’s campaign is yet another instance in which the candidate who speaks of “the fierce urgency of now” addresses an immediate and obvious problem with the galling indifference of whenever. For at least six months, we’ve known that Robert Malley’s associates and his record of anti-Israel revisionism have no place in an American presidential campaign. But Obama, being Obama, could no sooner denounce his Arafat-embracing Middle East advisor than, say, not sell out his grandmother. Instead, the campaign shrugged the issue off by claiming Malley was not a “day-to-day” advisor.

Just as in the case of Jeremiah Wright, Obama tried to wish the whole thing away until the very source of the problem addressed him directly. Rev. Wright picked a fight with Obama, and Robert Malley called Obama up to cut ties. I’m not sure why Malley said that his own dealings with Hamas would be a “distraction,” when it’s doubtful Obama would have noticed.

Setting aside the ideological implications of Obama’s friendly enemies, why is no one alarmed by a Presidential nominee who, to quote another mob movie, has a habit of being late to his own funeral. Is Obama slow in analyzing crises because he’s carefully considering all the angles? Or because he can’t be bothered with any issue that distracts him from his historic destiny? He’ll answer the phone at 3 AM–only it’ll have been ringing since 3 in the afternoon.

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You Know, It’s On YouTube

Barack Obama’s promise to meet with the world’s dictators without preconditons has been a subject of intense debate in the Democratic primary race and a focus of much ridicule by John McCain and conservatives for over a year. Now that Obama is heading into the general election, he is claiming, or rather his advisor is, that it’s all a misunderstanding.

Susan Rice, his foreign policy advisor ( I think even he admits she really is an “official” one), argued that it’s those mean Republicans telling tales and that “nobody said he would initiate contacts at the presidential level; that requires due preparation and advance work.” She also contends that Obama never said that he would meet unconditionally with rogue states like Iran.

Huh?

Others have pointed out that Obama said exactly this in the CNN/You Tube debate and that his liberal cohorts in the media have been defending this position for almost a year.

What’s more, after that initial debate, the two candidates spent days arguing about their respective positons. Obama defended his position in an NBC interview. If there were any doubt, this should refresh your recollection:

“The notion that I was somehow going to be inviting them over for tea next week without having initial envoys meet is ridiculous,” he said in an interview outside his Senate office. “But the general principle is one that I think Senator Clinton is wrong on, and that is if we are laying out preconditions that prevent us from speaking frankly to these folks, then we are continuing with Bush-Cheney policies.”

Moreover, when Clinton appeared to flip flop on her position in the fall of 2007, Obama chastized her and restated his own view – that direct talks with Iran was part of a smart, new foreign policy.

Most damning  is this exchange from the Texas debate on February 21:

CAMPBELL BROWN: Senator Obama, just to follow up, you had said in a previous CNN debate that you would meet with the leaders of Cuban, Iran, North Korea, among others, so presumably you would be willing to meet with the new leader of Cuba.

OBAMA: That’s correct. Now, keep in mind that the starting point for our policy in Cuba should be the liberty of the Cuban people. And I think we recognize that that liberty has not existed throughout the Castro regime. And we now have an opportunity to potentially change the relationship between the United States and Cuba after over half a century.

I would meet without preconditions, although Senator Clinton is right that there has to be preparation. It is very important for us to make sure that there was an agenda, and on that agenda was human rights, releasing of political prisoners, opening up the press. And that preparation might take some time.

But I do think that it’s important for the United States not just to talk to its friends, but also to talk to its enemies. In fact, that’s where diplomacy makes the biggest difference.

In short, it is a lie, plain and simple, that Obama never promised direct, unconditional presidential talks with Iran, Syria, Cuba, and North Korea. He took pride in that position and tried to beat Clinton over the head with it for a year. Now that it has proved to be the subject of ridicule and unsustainable in a general election context he’s pretending to have never said it. Is this the New Politics? Or is it rather lame and transparent double-talk?

Barack Obama’s promise to meet with the world’s dictators without preconditons has been a subject of intense debate in the Democratic primary race and a focus of much ridicule by John McCain and conservatives for over a year. Now that Obama is heading into the general election, he is claiming, or rather his advisor is, that it’s all a misunderstanding.

Susan Rice, his foreign policy advisor ( I think even he admits she really is an “official” one), argued that it’s those mean Republicans telling tales and that “nobody said he would initiate contacts at the presidential level; that requires due preparation and advance work.” She also contends that Obama never said that he would meet unconditionally with rogue states like Iran.

Huh?

Others have pointed out that Obama said exactly this in the CNN/You Tube debate and that his liberal cohorts in the media have been defending this position for almost a year.

What’s more, after that initial debate, the two candidates spent days arguing about their respective positons. Obama defended his position in an NBC interview. If there were any doubt, this should refresh your recollection:

“The notion that I was somehow going to be inviting them over for tea next week without having initial envoys meet is ridiculous,” he said in an interview outside his Senate office. “But the general principle is one that I think Senator Clinton is wrong on, and that is if we are laying out preconditions that prevent us from speaking frankly to these folks, then we are continuing with Bush-Cheney policies.”

Moreover, when Clinton appeared to flip flop on her position in the fall of 2007, Obama chastized her and restated his own view – that direct talks with Iran was part of a smart, new foreign policy.

Most damning  is this exchange from the Texas debate on February 21:

CAMPBELL BROWN: Senator Obama, just to follow up, you had said in a previous CNN debate that you would meet with the leaders of Cuban, Iran, North Korea, among others, so presumably you would be willing to meet with the new leader of Cuba.

OBAMA: That’s correct. Now, keep in mind that the starting point for our policy in Cuba should be the liberty of the Cuban people. And I think we recognize that that liberty has not existed throughout the Castro regime. And we now have an opportunity to potentially change the relationship between the United States and Cuba after over half a century.

I would meet without preconditions, although Senator Clinton is right that there has to be preparation. It is very important for us to make sure that there was an agenda, and on that agenda was human rights, releasing of political prisoners, opening up the press. And that preparation might take some time.

But I do think that it’s important for the United States not just to talk to its friends, but also to talk to its enemies. In fact, that’s where diplomacy makes the biggest difference.

In short, it is a lie, plain and simple, that Obama never promised direct, unconditional presidential talks with Iran, Syria, Cuba, and North Korea. He took pride in that position and tried to beat Clinton over the head with it for a year. Now that it has proved to be the subject of ridicule and unsustainable in a general election context he’s pretending to have never said it. Is this the New Politics? Or is it rather lame and transparent double-talk?

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Back To The Point

After his advisor muddied the waters a bit with the age issue, John McCain steers the conversation back today to Barack Obama’s endorsement by Hamas.

McCain also told reporters that the recent complimentary remarks for Obama by a Hamas spokesman are also fair game for debate. Prefacing his comment by saying that he believes that it’s clear that Obama “shares nothing of the values or goals of Hamas,” the presumptive GOP nominee added that the Palestinian organization’s favorable assessment of Obama’s candidacy is “a legitimate point of discussion.”

(And was he offended by the “bearings” remark? Not really.)

McCain is correct in this respect: it is important to understand that Obama’s positions (e.g. his willingness to meet with Hamas’ sponsor Iran) and his rhetoric (“nobody is suffering more than the Palestinian people”) have consequences and are interpreted by our adversaries as providing them with a political and diplomatic advantage. As McCain explained on Bill O’Reilly’s show last night, naive overtures of this type only enhance their stature on the world stage. That is a significant issue which goes to the candidates’ competence and outlook in managing foreign policy.

After his advisor muddied the waters a bit with the age issue, John McCain steers the conversation back today to Barack Obama’s endorsement by Hamas.

McCain also told reporters that the recent complimentary remarks for Obama by a Hamas spokesman are also fair game for debate. Prefacing his comment by saying that he believes that it’s clear that Obama “shares nothing of the values or goals of Hamas,” the presumptive GOP nominee added that the Palestinian organization’s favorable assessment of Obama’s candidacy is “a legitimate point of discussion.”

(And was he offended by the “bearings” remark? Not really.)

McCain is correct in this respect: it is important to understand that Obama’s positions (e.g. his willingness to meet with Hamas’ sponsor Iran) and his rhetoric (“nobody is suffering more than the Palestinian people”) have consequences and are interpreted by our adversaries as providing them with a political and diplomatic advantage. As McCain explained on Bill O’Reilly’s show last night, naive overtures of this type only enhance their stature on the world stage. That is a significant issue which goes to the candidates’ competence and outlook in managing foreign policy.

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Obama’s Missile Gap

Is Joseph Cirincione Barack Obama’s “top advisor” on nuclear affairs, as I stated here last week? He has denied it adamantly (scroll down to the comments section of my post), and even though I could not identify any other nuclear experts closer to the candidate, I am happy to take him at his word. It would be better to call him an Obama nuclear advisor rather than his top nuclear advisor.

Whatever his precise status in the campaign, there is no question about his views. Cirincione has backed away from his assertion that the Syrian facility destroyed by Israel last September was not a nuclear reactor. But does he stand by his views on missile defense?

Writing in the Globalist back in October, Cirincione compared the Bush administration’s effort to defend against Iranian nuclear-tipped missiles to “the Israeli settler movement,” saying that both “want to create facts on the ground that will make it difficult for successors to reverse course.”

On the one hand, he argues, spending billions to build radar stations and interceptor sites in Poland and the Czech republic is pouring money down the drain: “All evidence indicates that this U.S. anti-missile system is incapable of intercepting any long-range missiles.”

On the other hand, he argues, we are terrifying the Kremlin through our recklessness. “Russian military planners cannot count” on the fact that the system won’t work.  Indeed “the U.S. bases would have a real, though limited, capability against Russia’s nuclear deterrent force.”

Will it or won’t it work? Or will it only work against Russian missiles and let Iranian ones fly through? I confess to being confused.

Either way, what does Cirincione propose instead? “If the administration had any sense,” he writes, “it would ditch this technologically weak and strategically unnecessary plan — and instead seize the Russian proposal to use the radar at its Azerbaijan base bordering Iran.”

True, “that radar is not as powerful as the American radar” slated for deployment in the Czech republic. But never mind, even if the Russian proposal won’t work, it will work. The Azerbaijan radar would serve to “provide real military capabilities against any future Iranian threat.”

Am I alone thinking that this line of argument is a remarkably brazen attempt to have things both ways?

Memo to Barack Obama: when the time comes this fall to debate John McCain on defense issues, it might be helpful to get a second opinion from another adviser rather than two contradictory ones from Joseph Cirincione.

Is Joseph Cirincione Barack Obama’s “top advisor” on nuclear affairs, as I stated here last week? He has denied it adamantly (scroll down to the comments section of my post), and even though I could not identify any other nuclear experts closer to the candidate, I am happy to take him at his word. It would be better to call him an Obama nuclear advisor rather than his top nuclear advisor.

Whatever his precise status in the campaign, there is no question about his views. Cirincione has backed away from his assertion that the Syrian facility destroyed by Israel last September was not a nuclear reactor. But does he stand by his views on missile defense?

Writing in the Globalist back in October, Cirincione compared the Bush administration’s effort to defend against Iranian nuclear-tipped missiles to “the Israeli settler movement,” saying that both “want to create facts on the ground that will make it difficult for successors to reverse course.”

On the one hand, he argues, spending billions to build radar stations and interceptor sites in Poland and the Czech republic is pouring money down the drain: “All evidence indicates that this U.S. anti-missile system is incapable of intercepting any long-range missiles.”

On the other hand, he argues, we are terrifying the Kremlin through our recklessness. “Russian military planners cannot count” on the fact that the system won’t work.  Indeed “the U.S. bases would have a real, though limited, capability against Russia’s nuclear deterrent force.”

Will it or won’t it work? Or will it only work against Russian missiles and let Iranian ones fly through? I confess to being confused.

Either way, what does Cirincione propose instead? “If the administration had any sense,” he writes, “it would ditch this technologically weak and strategically unnecessary plan — and instead seize the Russian proposal to use the radar at its Azerbaijan base bordering Iran.”

True, “that radar is not as powerful as the American radar” slated for deployment in the Czech republic. But never mind, even if the Russian proposal won’t work, it will work. The Azerbaijan radar would serve to “provide real military capabilities against any future Iranian threat.”

Am I alone thinking that this line of argument is a remarkably brazen attempt to have things both ways?

Memo to Barack Obama: when the time comes this fall to debate John McCain on defense issues, it might be helpful to get a second opinion from another adviser rather than two contradictory ones from Joseph Cirincione.

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But Aren’t They Narrow-Minded Bigots?

Barack Obama tries the “I’m sorry if you were offended, but I was really right” approach. Does he not understand what he said? (Even the New York Times could figure it out, quoting a former John Edwards’ advisor: “It could mean he’s rendered himself unelectable. This is a perfect example of why Democrats lose elections.”) Apparently Obama does not, and this is starting to sound familiar.

The Washington Post reports this about Barack Obama’s team:

They described Obama as frustrated with himself for word choices such as “cling” and references to hot-button issues including religion and guns, but also stunned at the uproar over what to him seemed a fundamental fact of American life.

Well there you have it: he’s shocked, shocked to hear that people might be upset about his theory that they are bitter and psychologically dependent on guns, religion, anti-immigrant sentiment and protectionism. (Again, his own devotion to the latter is based on what exactly?) The problem was the word “cling.” Had he used “grasp” or “find irrational refuge in” instead of “cling” the fall out would have been mild.

Well, it is hard to deny that this goes to the issue of his utter cluelessness about average Americans. Why don’t they get the brilliance of Rev. Wright and how would anyone mind that he sat in Wright’s pews for so long? Ah, they are judgmental and ignorant of their country’s own racial divisions. Why is everyone in a tizzy about his sage analysis of rural America when any Harvard Ph.D would echo it virtually verbatim? Ah, once again folks are just ignorant and defensive.

Give the man his due. I think most observers would acknowledge that Obama is entirely capable of assuming the presidency of any Ivy League institution. He understands its values and ethos and speaks its language. The notion of a “dignity promotion” for despotic régimes seems entirely credible in these places. He and the academic Left have got more dimensions of compatibilty than an eHarmony convention.

But what about the presidency of the rest of the country? He still doesn’t understand what’s the matter with the darn fools. (He has managed to make Hillary Clinton seem by comparison like salt of the earth and the best friend of Middle America.) He may have even lost the mainstream media. ( Ouch, ouch, ouch and ouch.) Obama seems ever to be talking past, or over the heads of, the masses. In short, he just may be too erudite and sophisticated for the likes of us.

Barack Obama tries the “I’m sorry if you were offended, but I was really right” approach. Does he not understand what he said? (Even the New York Times could figure it out, quoting a former John Edwards’ advisor: “It could mean he’s rendered himself unelectable. This is a perfect example of why Democrats lose elections.”) Apparently Obama does not, and this is starting to sound familiar.

The Washington Post reports this about Barack Obama’s team:

They described Obama as frustrated with himself for word choices such as “cling” and references to hot-button issues including religion and guns, but also stunned at the uproar over what to him seemed a fundamental fact of American life.

Well there you have it: he’s shocked, shocked to hear that people might be upset about his theory that they are bitter and psychologically dependent on guns, religion, anti-immigrant sentiment and protectionism. (Again, his own devotion to the latter is based on what exactly?) The problem was the word “cling.” Had he used “grasp” or “find irrational refuge in” instead of “cling” the fall out would have been mild.

Well, it is hard to deny that this goes to the issue of his utter cluelessness about average Americans. Why don’t they get the brilliance of Rev. Wright and how would anyone mind that he sat in Wright’s pews for so long? Ah, they are judgmental and ignorant of their country’s own racial divisions. Why is everyone in a tizzy about his sage analysis of rural America when any Harvard Ph.D would echo it virtually verbatim? Ah, once again folks are just ignorant and defensive.

Give the man his due. I think most observers would acknowledge that Obama is entirely capable of assuming the presidency of any Ivy League institution. He understands its values and ethos and speaks its language. The notion of a “dignity promotion” for despotic régimes seems entirely credible in these places. He and the academic Left have got more dimensions of compatibilty than an eHarmony convention.

But what about the presidency of the rest of the country? He still doesn’t understand what’s the matter with the darn fools. (He has managed to make Hillary Clinton seem by comparison like salt of the earth and the best friend of Middle America.) He may have even lost the mainstream media. ( Ouch, ouch, ouch and ouch.) Obama seems ever to be talking past, or over the heads of, the masses. In short, he just may be too erudite and sophisticated for the likes of us.

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Barack Blogs B’Ivrit

In his effort to win a greater share of the Jewish vote, Barack Obama has now launched a blog in Hebrew. Based on the first two posts, he’s clearly not putting too much time into it just yet: One is a letter from his Middle East advisor Eric Lynn; the other is a speech he gave in March 2007 on Middle East policy. But we should not underestimate the cleverness of this move.

One of the least understood aspects of Israel-Diaspora relations is the high-bandwidth sharing of information and opinions between liberal American Jews and the left-leaning Israeli media elite. This is clearly a two-way street: American Jewish opinion tends to follow whatever the mainstream media in Israel has to say about Israeli politics, while the Israeli media tend to parrot American Jewish thinking about the United States. Thus you often find Israeli pundits opposing the war in Iraq (despite the fact that the elimination of Saddam Hussein was one of the greatest strategic windfalls in Israel’s history), or criticizing Christian Zionists (usually without having ever met any of them).

Barack Obama understands that Hillary is crushing him in Israeli polls, and that this reverberates back into the American Jewish debate over who is better for Israel. It’s a bit of a stretch to imagine that this alone will tip the scales on the American Jewish vote. But as part of a broader strategy, it makes more sense than one might think.

In his effort to win a greater share of the Jewish vote, Barack Obama has now launched a blog in Hebrew. Based on the first two posts, he’s clearly not putting too much time into it just yet: One is a letter from his Middle East advisor Eric Lynn; the other is a speech he gave in March 2007 on Middle East policy. But we should not underestimate the cleverness of this move.

One of the least understood aspects of Israel-Diaspora relations is the high-bandwidth sharing of information and opinions between liberal American Jews and the left-leaning Israeli media elite. This is clearly a two-way street: American Jewish opinion tends to follow whatever the mainstream media in Israel has to say about Israeli politics, while the Israeli media tend to parrot American Jewish thinking about the United States. Thus you often find Israeli pundits opposing the war in Iraq (despite the fact that the elimination of Saddam Hussein was one of the greatest strategic windfalls in Israel’s history), or criticizing Christian Zionists (usually without having ever met any of them).

Barack Obama understands that Hillary is crushing him in Israeli polls, and that this reverberates back into the American Jewish debate over who is better for Israel. It’s a bit of a stretch to imagine that this alone will tip the scales on the American Jewish vote. But as part of a broader strategy, it makes more sense than one might think.

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This Won’t Help

For those who don’t think that Barack Obama’s current advisers have problematic views about Israel, I’m sure Jimmy Carter will raise no issue. Wait, though: he’s not an advisor, you say–just a supporter. True enough. But will he be a featured speaker at the convention? And will Obama be asked about Carter’s contention that Israel practices apartheid?

Better yet, someone might ask Carter why he supports Obama: it might be their shared infatuation with dictators or their commitment to take an even-handed approach to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. So much in common! Perhaps Carter will consider a VP slot.

For those who don’t think that Barack Obama’s current advisers have problematic views about Israel, I’m sure Jimmy Carter will raise no issue. Wait, though: he’s not an advisor, you say–just a supporter. True enough. But will he be a featured speaker at the convention? And will Obama be asked about Carter’s contention that Israel practices apartheid?

Better yet, someone might ask Carter why he supports Obama: it might be their shared infatuation with dictators or their commitment to take an even-handed approach to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. So much in common! Perhaps Carter will consider a VP slot.

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The McCain Kickoff Tour

The McCain team held a media call to kick off what they internally call the “Bio Tour” and what is formally known as “The Service To America Tour.” With stops at McCain Field in Mississippi, McCain’s high school in Alexandria, Virginia, the U.S. Naval Academy and in Florida (where McCain went to naval flight school) the tour, according to Senior Advisor Steve Schmidt, will start the “formal process of introducing Senator McCain to the American people.” Schmidt explained that they will do this through “personal stories” which show how McCain’s life and values were shaped and which McCain hopes to use to “connect his past to the present and to the future.”

Schmidt was asked by Michael Goldfarb of the Weekly Standard about Barack Obama’s association with Tony McPeak and Reverend Wright and what this revealed about Obama’s outlook on Israel. Schmidt began by saying, “Senator McCain just returned from Israel. He is a great friend of Israel.” He then went on to explain that McCain understands the role of Israel in the world’s peace and security and the link between Iraq and Israel, noting that bin Laden had declared that his forces would first defeat the West in Iraq and “then in Israel.” He carefully said, “The American people will make a determination about Barack Obama should he be the nominee.” He did say that McPeak and “others” had made ” a lot of disturbing comments,” but that the focus should be on Obama whose rhetoric is “detached ” from reality and who, Schmidt contends, says he favors a few style of politics but who “day after day makes inaccurate and misleading attacks, many personality based.”

I asked him about Obama’s stated intention to raise income taxes on Americans making $75,000 or more and also raise the capital gains tax. Schmidt responded that after the Bio Tour McCain would devote considerable time to talking about the economy. He then damned Obama with faint praise for being “very articulate and very smooth,” but went on to jab him for contending that taxpayers who make $75,000 are rich. Schmidt said bluntly, ” $75,000 is not rich” and explained that these taxpayers are hardworking people struggling to pay the mortgage and save for college. As for a capital gains tax increase, he said this would have a “disastrous effect on the economy.” He then disputed the conventional wisdom that Democrats would be advantaged in tough economic times, declaring that McCain would win the economic argument and explain how Obama’s tax notions would “literally tank the American economy.”

Other highlights: 1) He denied the allegation by Rep. Heath Shuler that McCain was seeking to block discharge of the SAVE border security bill and 2) When asked about Juan Hernandez (a McCain supporter who has become a lightning rod for criticism from activists who opposed comprehensive immigration reform), Schmidt said that what matters is McCain’s own position: to stress border security first, insist on biometric ID cards and employer sanctions for hiring illegals and only then address the issue of people already here in a “compassionate way.” Pressed again about Hernandez, he repeated that what counts is McCain’s views and went on to say that McCain has consolidated support from conservatives to the same degree George W. Bush had done at the same point in 2000.

Bottom line: Schmidt was careful not to count Hillary Clinton out. But from every indication the McCain team seems prepared and itching to take on Obama.

The McCain team held a media call to kick off what they internally call the “Bio Tour” and what is formally known as “The Service To America Tour.” With stops at McCain Field in Mississippi, McCain’s high school in Alexandria, Virginia, the U.S. Naval Academy and in Florida (where McCain went to naval flight school) the tour, according to Senior Advisor Steve Schmidt, will start the “formal process of introducing Senator McCain to the American people.” Schmidt explained that they will do this through “personal stories” which show how McCain’s life and values were shaped and which McCain hopes to use to “connect his past to the present and to the future.”

Schmidt was asked by Michael Goldfarb of the Weekly Standard about Barack Obama’s association with Tony McPeak and Reverend Wright and what this revealed about Obama’s outlook on Israel. Schmidt began by saying, “Senator McCain just returned from Israel. He is a great friend of Israel.” He then went on to explain that McCain understands the role of Israel in the world’s peace and security and the link between Iraq and Israel, noting that bin Laden had declared that his forces would first defeat the West in Iraq and “then in Israel.” He carefully said, “The American people will make a determination about Barack Obama should he be the nominee.” He did say that McPeak and “others” had made ” a lot of disturbing comments,” but that the focus should be on Obama whose rhetoric is “detached ” from reality and who, Schmidt contends, says he favors a few style of politics but who “day after day makes inaccurate and misleading attacks, many personality based.”

I asked him about Obama’s stated intention to raise income taxes on Americans making $75,000 or more and also raise the capital gains tax. Schmidt responded that after the Bio Tour McCain would devote considerable time to talking about the economy. He then damned Obama with faint praise for being “very articulate and very smooth,” but went on to jab him for contending that taxpayers who make $75,000 are rich. Schmidt said bluntly, ” $75,000 is not rich” and explained that these taxpayers are hardworking people struggling to pay the mortgage and save for college. As for a capital gains tax increase, he said this would have a “disastrous effect on the economy.” He then disputed the conventional wisdom that Democrats would be advantaged in tough economic times, declaring that McCain would win the economic argument and explain how Obama’s tax notions would “literally tank the American economy.”

Other highlights: 1) He denied the allegation by Rep. Heath Shuler that McCain was seeking to block discharge of the SAVE border security bill and 2) When asked about Juan Hernandez (a McCain supporter who has become a lightning rod for criticism from activists who opposed comprehensive immigration reform), Schmidt said that what matters is McCain’s own position: to stress border security first, insist on biometric ID cards and employer sanctions for hiring illegals and only then address the issue of people already here in a “compassionate way.” Pressed again about Hernandez, he repeated that what counts is McCain’s views and went on to say that McCain has consolidated support from conservatives to the same degree George W. Bush had done at the same point in 2000.

Bottom line: Schmidt was careful not to count Hillary Clinton out. But from every indication the McCain team seems prepared and itching to take on Obama.

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Obama’s Church and Israel’s “Ethnic Bomb”

It is becoming clear that the Trinity United Church of Christ’s anti-Israel stance represents a significant aspect of its political agenda. The blog Sweetness & Light dug up a June 2007 missive published in the church’s newsletter accusing Israel of developing an “ethnic bomb” that kills only blacks and Arabs.

The piece was written by Ali Baghdadi, who was, among other things, “Middle East advisor” to Louis Farrakhan. The rant takes the form of a sappy and delusional open letter to Oprah Winfrey, in response to her accepting Elie Wiesel’s invitation to visit Israel. Baghdadi describes Israel’s “apartheid” regime and writes, “I must tell you that Israel was the closest ally to the white supremacists of South Africa.”

The real danger in Obama’s relationship to this church has barely been touched upon despite all the press the situation has received. There is a verifiable convergence of the ideas promoted in Rev. Jeremiah Wright’s brand of black liberation theology and the anti-American, anti-Semitic doctrine of radical Islam. America’s current enemies are crazed clerics who wail about Israeli oppression and who damn America before cheering crowds. This description also fits Barack Obama’s pastor of twenty years. That the two types of hate-filled holy men have connected, at least in print, is hardly a surprise. And the slack that liberals want to extend to Jeremiah Wright is merely the “root-cause” terrorist argument re-purposed: We have to understand their reasons, etc. This is what Obama brings with him, and it’s an implausibly generous gift to those who want to destroy us.

It is becoming clear that the Trinity United Church of Christ’s anti-Israel stance represents a significant aspect of its political agenda. The blog Sweetness & Light dug up a June 2007 missive published in the church’s newsletter accusing Israel of developing an “ethnic bomb” that kills only blacks and Arabs.

The piece was written by Ali Baghdadi, who was, among other things, “Middle East advisor” to Louis Farrakhan. The rant takes the form of a sappy and delusional open letter to Oprah Winfrey, in response to her accepting Elie Wiesel’s invitation to visit Israel. Baghdadi describes Israel’s “apartheid” regime and writes, “I must tell you that Israel was the closest ally to the white supremacists of South Africa.”

The real danger in Obama’s relationship to this church has barely been touched upon despite all the press the situation has received. There is a verifiable convergence of the ideas promoted in Rev. Jeremiah Wright’s brand of black liberation theology and the anti-American, anti-Semitic doctrine of radical Islam. America’s current enemies are crazed clerics who wail about Israeli oppression and who damn America before cheering crowds. This description also fits Barack Obama’s pastor of twenty years. That the two types of hate-filled holy men have connected, at least in print, is hardly a surprise. And the slack that liberals want to extend to Jeremiah Wright is merely the “root-cause” terrorist argument re-purposed: We have to understand their reasons, etc. This is what Obama brings with him, and it’s an implausibly generous gift to those who want to destroy us.

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On The Same Team

Since John McCain wrapped up the nomination last week, his campaign and the RNC have effectively merged efforts for the 2008 election. The change is dramatic and affords McCain the assistance and research capabilities of the RNC. For example, in response to the announcement that the AFL-CIO will now spend $53M to target McCain, the RNC has put out a statement:

The AFL-CIO’s campaign against John McCain clearly demonstrates their priorities lie in attack politics as opposed to focusing on American families. Voters looking for something new will find it in John McCain’s campaign to help working families–not the AFL-CIO’s partisan attacks. Considering Senators Obama and Clinton’s frequent denunciations of special interests, they must reject the unions’ campaign against Senator McCain.

And Alex Conant, RNC Press Secretary, has come out with a nicely packaged bit of oppo research questioning whether an attack operation by big labor is really “new politics” or just the same old story of special interest money. Likewise, in response to the attack on McCain’s role in insisting that Boeing not receive a no-bid contract for a U.S. Air Force tanker, the RNC and McCain made sure to circulate this from McCain advisor Steve Schmidt:

Over the past few days, there have been a number of political attacks launched by John McCain’s political opponents attempting to blame him for the Boeing Company not being awarded the USAF tanker contract. Incredibly, several news organizations have parroted the attack. Here are the facts:

John McCain uncovered a massive taxpayer rip-off and evidence leading to corruption convictions for Boeing and Pentagon officials, some of whom went to jail for their crimes. The CEO of Boeing resigned.

John McCain’s investigation saved the taxpayers over $6 billion dollars.

So wrapping up the GOP nomination has many benefits for McCain–watching the Democrats snipe, for example–but one of them should not be underestimated: the full machinery of the the RNC is now at his disposal.

Since John McCain wrapped up the nomination last week, his campaign and the RNC have effectively merged efforts for the 2008 election. The change is dramatic and affords McCain the assistance and research capabilities of the RNC. For example, in response to the announcement that the AFL-CIO will now spend $53M to target McCain, the RNC has put out a statement:

The AFL-CIO’s campaign against John McCain clearly demonstrates their priorities lie in attack politics as opposed to focusing on American families. Voters looking for something new will find it in John McCain’s campaign to help working families–not the AFL-CIO’s partisan attacks. Considering Senators Obama and Clinton’s frequent denunciations of special interests, they must reject the unions’ campaign against Senator McCain.

And Alex Conant, RNC Press Secretary, has come out with a nicely packaged bit of oppo research questioning whether an attack operation by big labor is really “new politics” or just the same old story of special interest money. Likewise, in response to the attack on McCain’s role in insisting that Boeing not receive a no-bid contract for a U.S. Air Force tanker, the RNC and McCain made sure to circulate this from McCain advisor Steve Schmidt:

Over the past few days, there have been a number of political attacks launched by John McCain’s political opponents attempting to blame him for the Boeing Company not being awarded the USAF tanker contract. Incredibly, several news organizations have parroted the attack. Here are the facts:

John McCain uncovered a massive taxpayer rip-off and evidence leading to corruption convictions for Boeing and Pentagon officials, some of whom went to jail for their crimes. The CEO of Boeing resigned.

John McCain’s investigation saved the taxpayers over $6 billion dollars.

So wrapping up the GOP nomination has many benefits for McCain–watching the Democrats snipe, for example–but one of them should not be underestimated: the full machinery of the the RNC is now at his disposal.

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Not An Even Match

When Barack Obama advisor Samantha Power called Hillary Clinton a “monster,” Clinton called for her head and Power was gone. (Her departure may also have been related to her suggestion that Obama was not going to stick to any silly campaign promises about getting out of Iraq.) When Clinton supporter Geraldine Ferraro says that Obama would not be where he is if he were white, the Obama camp goes ballistic and Clinton brushes it off. In fact, her campaign manager goes to far as to suggest Obama is playing racial politics.

Is it any wonder that observers suspect Obama is a wimp, playing by some outmoded set of rules against the in-it-to-win-it Clintons? One sign of whether he believes he can stay on cruise control all the way to the convention will be how he uses his time tonight and tomorrow after an expected win in Mississippi. He’s chosen to do cable news interviews rather than another speech, which is a smart move. More of the same rhetoric (“change,” “turn the page,” “I was right on Iraq” etc.) would, I think, be a missed opportunity. If he uses his free media time to pound home his counterattack talking points–Clinton isn’t actually that experienced and would take the country back to the bad old days of scandal and political venom–we will know he’s “in it to win it.”

When Barack Obama advisor Samantha Power called Hillary Clinton a “monster,” Clinton called for her head and Power was gone. (Her departure may also have been related to her suggestion that Obama was not going to stick to any silly campaign promises about getting out of Iraq.) When Clinton supporter Geraldine Ferraro says that Obama would not be where he is if he were white, the Obama camp goes ballistic and Clinton brushes it off. In fact, her campaign manager goes to far as to suggest Obama is playing racial politics.

Is it any wonder that observers suspect Obama is a wimp, playing by some outmoded set of rules against the in-it-to-win-it Clintons? One sign of whether he believes he can stay on cruise control all the way to the convention will be how he uses his time tonight and tomorrow after an expected win in Mississippi. He’s chosen to do cable news interviews rather than another speech, which is a smart move. More of the same rhetoric (“change,” “turn the page,” “I was right on Iraq” etc.) would, I think, be a missed opportunity. If he uses his free media time to pound home his counterattack talking points–Clinton isn’t actually that experienced and would take the country back to the bad old days of scandal and political venom–we will know he’s “in it to win it.”

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“They’re Both Not Ready to Have That 3 A.M. Phone Call”

Did John McCain say that? Nope. Susan Rice, a top Barack Obama advisor, said it–about Clinton and her own advisee. That, fundamentally, is the problem with the Clinton attack and Obama’s counterattack. (“I know she talks about visiting 80 countries. It’s not clear, ya know, was she negotiating treaties or agreements or was she handling crises during this period of time? My sense is the answer is no.”)

Now, she may argue, and I think she is slowly getting around to this, that she is just tougher and more savvy about the world than Obama. The problem there (at least in a primary) is that, as a Clinton advisor let on, “Military stuff just doesn’t make it with Democratic voters.” Nevertheless, Clinton does not need to become Bush-lite to convince Democratic primary voters that there is something flimsy and unrealistic about Obama’s approach. (Is Obama still going to have tea with Hugo Chavez or would he ask that Chavez stop supporting FARC and undermining his Columbian Colombian neighbors first?) This ultimately makes him vulnerable to a McCain attack in the general election. In this regard, McCain’s capture of the nomination provides Clinton with a talking point about who is best able to go toe-to-toe with him. As the national security issue transforms into an electability issue, it becomes more potent for voters, and more importantly, for those superdelegates who will ultimately put one of the candidates over the 2025 delegate total.

Did John McCain say that? Nope. Susan Rice, a top Barack Obama advisor, said it–about Clinton and her own advisee. That, fundamentally, is the problem with the Clinton attack and Obama’s counterattack. (“I know she talks about visiting 80 countries. It’s not clear, ya know, was she negotiating treaties or agreements or was she handling crises during this period of time? My sense is the answer is no.”)

Now, she may argue, and I think she is slowly getting around to this, that she is just tougher and more savvy about the world than Obama. The problem there (at least in a primary) is that, as a Clinton advisor let on, “Military stuff just doesn’t make it with Democratic voters.” Nevertheless, Clinton does not need to become Bush-lite to convince Democratic primary voters that there is something flimsy and unrealistic about Obama’s approach. (Is Obama still going to have tea with Hugo Chavez or would he ask that Chavez stop supporting FARC and undermining his Columbian Colombian neighbors first?) This ultimately makes him vulnerable to a McCain attack in the general election. In this regard, McCain’s capture of the nomination provides Clinton with a talking point about who is best able to go toe-to-toe with him. As the national security issue transforms into an electability issue, it becomes more potent for voters, and more importantly, for those superdelegates who will ultimately put one of the candidates over the 2025 delegate total.

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Time To Crow

The Hillary Clinton team together with Senators Evan Bayh and Chuck Schumer held a press call to tout the results from last night. Both senators echoed the same theme: as voters get “serious” (that word was used multiple times), they will come around to Clinton. Schumer bluntly added, “You never count her out.”

In answers to questions, campaign head Mark Penn, advisor Harold Ickes, and spokesman Phil Singer wanted to get out several messages:

1) Barack Obama has yet to be vetted and, as Penn noted, “just a couple of days” of hard questions led to a dramatic decrease in his poll numbers. (There was much encouragement to look at the Obama team’s “puzzling” answers to NAFTA-gate and get “just some basic information” about Tony Rezko.)

2) They repeatedly rebuffed any questions about a VP spot for Clinton, saying she was focused on winning.

3) They again seemed to minimize states like “Idaho, Nebraska, and Kansas,” which Obama has won, but which the Democratic nominee is unlikely to win in November. They termed upcoming Wyoming and Mississippi “challenging.”

4) Ickes is pushing undeclared superdelegates to come their way, or, at the very least, to “stand back” and see what else comes to light about Obama.

5) Clearly, they see this as a key moment in the race. Ickes declared they “turned a corner” after a “dry spell.”

Just one more observation: These folks seem to think the world of Republicans, how tough they are, how effective they are in dishing dirt and how hard they will be in a general election. Who knew?

The Hillary Clinton team together with Senators Evan Bayh and Chuck Schumer held a press call to tout the results from last night. Both senators echoed the same theme: as voters get “serious” (that word was used multiple times), they will come around to Clinton. Schumer bluntly added, “You never count her out.”

In answers to questions, campaign head Mark Penn, advisor Harold Ickes, and spokesman Phil Singer wanted to get out several messages:

1) Barack Obama has yet to be vetted and, as Penn noted, “just a couple of days” of hard questions led to a dramatic decrease in his poll numbers. (There was much encouragement to look at the Obama team’s “puzzling” answers to NAFTA-gate and get “just some basic information” about Tony Rezko.)

2) They repeatedly rebuffed any questions about a VP spot for Clinton, saying she was focused on winning.

3) They again seemed to minimize states like “Idaho, Nebraska, and Kansas,” which Obama has won, but which the Democratic nominee is unlikely to win in November. They termed upcoming Wyoming and Mississippi “challenging.”

4) Ickes is pushing undeclared superdelegates to come their way, or, at the very least, to “stand back” and see what else comes to light about Obama.

5) Clearly, they see this as a key moment in the race. Ickes declared they “turned a corner” after a “dry spell.”

Just one more observation: These folks seem to think the world of Republicans, how tough they are, how effective they are in dishing dirt and how hard they will be in a general election. Who knew?

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