Commentary Magazine


Topic: aide

A Sermon on Morality

For a fellow who presumably doesn’t much care for finger-wagging moralists, E.J. Dionne Jr. of the Washington Post has gotten quite good at that role over the years.

In his column today, Dionne deals with the fall from grace of Rep. Mark Souder, who resigned after admitting to an affair with an aide, as an opportunity to “shout as forcefully as I can to my conservative Christian friends: Enough! … Enough with pretending that personal virtue is connected with political creeds. Enough with condemning your adversaries, sometimes viciously, and then insisting upon understanding after the failures of someone on your own side become known to the world.”

Dionne ends his column on Souder this way:

“Let he who is without sin cast the first stone.” It’s a scriptural passage that no doubt appeals to Mark Souder. But it would be lovely if conservative Christians remembered Jesus’ words not only when needing a lifeline but also when they are tempted to give speeches or send out mailers excoriating their political foes as permissive anti-family libertines. How many more scandals will it take for people who call themselves Christian to rediscover the virtues of humility and solidarity?

And wouldn’t it be lovely if liberal Christians remembered Jesus’s words when they were tempted, as the prominent liberal evangelical Jim Wallis has been, to say words excoriating their political foes as war criminals. I have in mind, for example, what Wallis said here:

I believe that Dick Cheney is a liar; that Donald Rumsfeld is also a liar; and that George W. Bush was, and is, clueless about how to be the president of the United States. … Almost 4,000 young Americans are dead because of the lies of this administration, tens of thousands more wounded and maimed for life, hundreds of thousands of Iraqis also dead, and 400 billion dollars wasted — because of their lies, incompetence, and corruption.

But I don’t favor impeachment, as some have suggested. I would wait until after the election, when they are out of office, and then I would favor investigations of the top officials of the Bush administration on official deception, war crimes, and corruption charges. And if they are found guilty of these high crimes, I believe they should spend the rest of their lives in prison — after offering their repentance to every American family who has lost a son, daughter, father, mother, brother, or sister. Deliberately lying about going to war should not be forgiven.

It’s worth noting that Dionne has had glowing things to say about Wallis, going so far as comparing him to the Old Testament prophets like Jeremiah, Amos, Micah, or Isaiah — something that, on reflection, even E.J. must cringe at.

Mr. Wallis doesn’t exhaust the list of offenders, by any means. Take the case of Randall Balmer, an influential professor of American religious history at Barnard College, Columbia University, an editor for Christianity Today, author of a dozen books, and Emmy Award nominee. In his book To Change the World, the sociologist James Davison Hunter writes that in Thy Kingdom Come: An Evangelical’s Lament:

[Balmer’s] disdain for the Christian Right lead him to engage in name-calling that is as one-dimensional and dehumanizing as the most extreme voices of the Christian Right, labeling his opponents “right-wing zealots” and “bullies” and their followers “minions,” who together are “intolerant,” “vicious,” “militaristic,” “bloviating,” and theocratic. In this regard, his perspective also matches the Manichaeism of the most extreme voices of the Christian Right for there is no shade or nuance in his description of the political realities with which he is wrestling.

I don’t recall Dionne often, or ever, specifically taking on liberal evangelicals for their slashing rhetoric — to say nothing of the left’s often uncivil and vicious attacks against conservatives, from George W. Bush on down. (Some examples can be found here.) The Outrage Meter seems to have been out of commission during that brief eight-year interlude.

And so let me take E.J.’s column to shout out as forcefully as I can to my liberal Christian friends: enough! Enough with the double standards. Enough with condemning your adversaries, sometimes viciously, in a spirit that is markedly un-Christian. Enough with pretending that all the vices lie on one side rather than on both. Enough of the Manichaeism. Enough with the rigid ideology. Enough with the hypocrisy. Enough with pretending that you care about civility when what you really care about is advancing liberalism.

For a fellow who presumably doesn’t much care for finger-wagging moralists, E.J. Dionne Jr. of the Washington Post has gotten quite good at that role over the years.

In his column today, Dionne deals with the fall from grace of Rep. Mark Souder, who resigned after admitting to an affair with an aide, as an opportunity to “shout as forcefully as I can to my conservative Christian friends: Enough! … Enough with pretending that personal virtue is connected with political creeds. Enough with condemning your adversaries, sometimes viciously, and then insisting upon understanding after the failures of someone on your own side become known to the world.”

Dionne ends his column on Souder this way:

“Let he who is without sin cast the first stone.” It’s a scriptural passage that no doubt appeals to Mark Souder. But it would be lovely if conservative Christians remembered Jesus’ words not only when needing a lifeline but also when they are tempted to give speeches or send out mailers excoriating their political foes as permissive anti-family libertines. How many more scandals will it take for people who call themselves Christian to rediscover the virtues of humility and solidarity?

And wouldn’t it be lovely if liberal Christians remembered Jesus’s words when they were tempted, as the prominent liberal evangelical Jim Wallis has been, to say words excoriating their political foes as war criminals. I have in mind, for example, what Wallis said here:

I believe that Dick Cheney is a liar; that Donald Rumsfeld is also a liar; and that George W. Bush was, and is, clueless about how to be the president of the United States. … Almost 4,000 young Americans are dead because of the lies of this administration, tens of thousands more wounded and maimed for life, hundreds of thousands of Iraqis also dead, and 400 billion dollars wasted — because of their lies, incompetence, and corruption.

But I don’t favor impeachment, as some have suggested. I would wait until after the election, when they are out of office, and then I would favor investigations of the top officials of the Bush administration on official deception, war crimes, and corruption charges. And if they are found guilty of these high crimes, I believe they should spend the rest of their lives in prison — after offering their repentance to every American family who has lost a son, daughter, father, mother, brother, or sister. Deliberately lying about going to war should not be forgiven.

It’s worth noting that Dionne has had glowing things to say about Wallis, going so far as comparing him to the Old Testament prophets like Jeremiah, Amos, Micah, or Isaiah — something that, on reflection, even E.J. must cringe at.

Mr. Wallis doesn’t exhaust the list of offenders, by any means. Take the case of Randall Balmer, an influential professor of American religious history at Barnard College, Columbia University, an editor for Christianity Today, author of a dozen books, and Emmy Award nominee. In his book To Change the World, the sociologist James Davison Hunter writes that in Thy Kingdom Come: An Evangelical’s Lament:

[Balmer’s] disdain for the Christian Right lead him to engage in name-calling that is as one-dimensional and dehumanizing as the most extreme voices of the Christian Right, labeling his opponents “right-wing zealots” and “bullies” and their followers “minions,” who together are “intolerant,” “vicious,” “militaristic,” “bloviating,” and theocratic. In this regard, his perspective also matches the Manichaeism of the most extreme voices of the Christian Right for there is no shade or nuance in his description of the political realities with which he is wrestling.

I don’t recall Dionne often, or ever, specifically taking on liberal evangelicals for their slashing rhetoric — to say nothing of the left’s often uncivil and vicious attacks against conservatives, from George W. Bush on down. (Some examples can be found here.) The Outrage Meter seems to have been out of commission during that brief eight-year interlude.

And so let me take E.J.’s column to shout out as forcefully as I can to my liberal Christian friends: enough! Enough with the double standards. Enough with condemning your adversaries, sometimes viciously, in a spirit that is markedly un-Christian. Enough with pretending that all the vices lie on one side rather than on both. Enough of the Manichaeism. Enough with the rigid ideology. Enough with the hypocrisy. Enough with pretending that you care about civility when what you really care about is advancing liberalism.

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RE: Did Chuck DeVore Exaggerate His Military Service?

Both DeVore and his press aide contacted me, quite exercised about my post regarding his military service. I imagine the Los Angeles Times is getting the same treatment. DeVore e-mails:

I actually have the micro-cassette recording of Lebanon. You can hear multiple bursts of automatic weapons fire with the Israeli officer finally saying “OK, we are done” and then ordering the  press off the hill. Zelnick stayed to complete his report, BTW, much to the discomfort of his cameraman.

But the issue of proximity, of course, is what is in question.

His press aide complains: “But it’s a he-said, she-said exercise — not even close to ‘Hillary Clinton’s Bosnian gun fire fantasy.’ It’s a shame you’d participate in tearing down the only pro-Israel candidate in this race or [in] either party.”

First, Clinton chose to confess her erroneous recollection, or that too would have been a she-said, they-said incident. Second, a candidate’s pro- or anti-Israel leanings are irrelevant to an issue of character. I frankly don’t care whether Richard Blumenthal is the next John Bolton; he’s unfit to serve. Third, Carly Fiorina is solidly pro-Israel and has repeatedly criticized Obama’s Israel policy and his approach to Iran. She is warmly received and embraced by California Jewish Republicans. Readers will assess just how credible the DeVore team is.

On the radio appearance, his aide says that he introduced himself as a reservist. Yes, but the statement was about his present status. In the debate, he also says things like: “Well, as I mentioned before, I am the sole candidate on either side of the aisle with military experience. I’m a lieutenant colonel of military intelligence within the U.S. army.” Hmm. Wouldn’t the average person think he meant “regular Army” in that capacity? And in a response to a question on Mirandizing terrorists, DeVore says: “Well, this is a very critical question. I am looking at my U.S. Army Military I.D. card and at the bottom it says Geneva Conventions I.D. Card. On the back it indicates that I am Geneva Conventions Category Four. Which is a field grade officer out of anything that means that if I am captured by Geneva Conventions signatory, I can’t be forced to do physical work and of course Enlisted people will laugh at that. The point though is that I am the only candidate out of both my Republican opponents and Barbara Boxer whose actually studied the law of war and knows the Geneva Convention because we have to study it as someone going though the Command General Staff College in the U.S. Army.” I think the average listener would conclude this is evidence of service in the regular Army.

Well, you have the account of the candidate and of a well-respected (by liberals and conservative alike) press reporter. And there is a transcript of the debate. Voters will have to decide whether DeVore was exaggerating his service. Maybe he should hold a press conference and let the media ask all the questions they like.

Both DeVore and his press aide contacted me, quite exercised about my post regarding his military service. I imagine the Los Angeles Times is getting the same treatment. DeVore e-mails:

I actually have the micro-cassette recording of Lebanon. You can hear multiple bursts of automatic weapons fire with the Israeli officer finally saying “OK, we are done” and then ordering the  press off the hill. Zelnick stayed to complete his report, BTW, much to the discomfort of his cameraman.

But the issue of proximity, of course, is what is in question.

His press aide complains: “But it’s a he-said, she-said exercise — not even close to ‘Hillary Clinton’s Bosnian gun fire fantasy.’ It’s a shame you’d participate in tearing down the only pro-Israel candidate in this race or [in] either party.”

First, Clinton chose to confess her erroneous recollection, or that too would have been a she-said, they-said incident. Second, a candidate’s pro- or anti-Israel leanings are irrelevant to an issue of character. I frankly don’t care whether Richard Blumenthal is the next John Bolton; he’s unfit to serve. Third, Carly Fiorina is solidly pro-Israel and has repeatedly criticized Obama’s Israel policy and his approach to Iran. She is warmly received and embraced by California Jewish Republicans. Readers will assess just how credible the DeVore team is.

On the radio appearance, his aide says that he introduced himself as a reservist. Yes, but the statement was about his present status. In the debate, he also says things like: “Well, as I mentioned before, I am the sole candidate on either side of the aisle with military experience. I’m a lieutenant colonel of military intelligence within the U.S. army.” Hmm. Wouldn’t the average person think he meant “regular Army” in that capacity? And in a response to a question on Mirandizing terrorists, DeVore says: “Well, this is a very critical question. I am looking at my U.S. Army Military I.D. card and at the bottom it says Geneva Conventions I.D. Card. On the back it indicates that I am Geneva Conventions Category Four. Which is a field grade officer out of anything that means that if I am captured by Geneva Conventions signatory, I can’t be forced to do physical work and of course Enlisted people will laugh at that. The point though is that I am the only candidate out of both my Republican opponents and Barbara Boxer whose actually studied the law of war and knows the Geneva Convention because we have to study it as someone going though the Command General Staff College in the U.S. Army.” I think the average listener would conclude this is evidence of service in the regular Army.

Well, you have the account of the candidate and of a well-respected (by liberals and conservative alike) press reporter. And there is a transcript of the debate. Voters will have to decide whether DeVore was exaggerating his service. Maybe he should hold a press conference and let the media ask all the questions they like.

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Can Democrats Really Replicate the PA-12?

Karl Rove reminds us of several key points regarding the Pennsylvania 12th special election. First, Mark Critz carried no water for Obama, unlike the vast majority of incumbent Democrats:

Murtha’s longtime aide, Mark Critz, won with a message that he was pro-life, pro-gun, and anti-ObamaCare, while benefiting from a sympathy vote for Murtha’s legacy. … White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs says “This is the type of race [the] GOP has to win.” He is right, but just how many other Democrats will be running this year as pro-life, pro-gun, anti-ObamaCare, and against cap and trade?

Second, there was a huge advantage in Democratic registration in this race (“Democrats outnumber Republicans by 137,000 voters, 62 percent to 29 percent”) — greater than what dozens of vulnerable House Democrats enjoy. And yet Tim Burns lost by only 7.5 points.

And finally, the enthusiasm gap remains a big concern for Democrats: “The Democratic turnout in Kentucky declined 8 percent from the last midterm, while GOP turnout rose 27 percent. In Arkansas, the hot Democratic Senate primary produced a 15 percent increase in turnout from four years ago — but the GOP turnout more than doubled, up 122 percent.”

To sum up, if Democrats could boost their enthusiasm, run only candidates who opposed the Obama agenda, and had in every race an advantage in registration of more than 30 points, they would be in swell shape. But back in the real world, very few races will look that way.

Karl Rove reminds us of several key points regarding the Pennsylvania 12th special election. First, Mark Critz carried no water for Obama, unlike the vast majority of incumbent Democrats:

Murtha’s longtime aide, Mark Critz, won with a message that he was pro-life, pro-gun, and anti-ObamaCare, while benefiting from a sympathy vote for Murtha’s legacy. … White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs says “This is the type of race [the] GOP has to win.” He is right, but just how many other Democrats will be running this year as pro-life, pro-gun, anti-ObamaCare, and against cap and trade?

Second, there was a huge advantage in Democratic registration in this race (“Democrats outnumber Republicans by 137,000 voters, 62 percent to 29 percent”) — greater than what dozens of vulnerable House Democrats enjoy. And yet Tim Burns lost by only 7.5 points.

And finally, the enthusiasm gap remains a big concern for Democrats: “The Democratic turnout in Kentucky declined 8 percent from the last midterm, while GOP turnout rose 27 percent. In Arkansas, the hot Democratic Senate primary produced a 15 percent increase in turnout from four years ago — but the GOP turnout more than doubled, up 122 percent.”

To sum up, if Democrats could boost their enthusiasm, run only candidates who opposed the Obama agenda, and had in every race an advantage in registration of more than 30 points, they would be in swell shape. But back in the real world, very few races will look that way.

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Can Specter Buy Pennsylvanians Enough Drinks to Stay in Office?

Those of us who love the classic novels of Anthony Trollope and his tales of the travails of the stump in the rough-and-tumble world of Victorian British politics could not help but smile at the description in today’s New York Times of a campaign stop by Arlen Specter at a pub in Ambler, Pennsylvania. The article described the ambivalence of voters about the 80-year-old’s braggadocio about using his influence and patronage to buy the voters support. But in case anybody didn’t get the point of his campaign, the piece’s final line summed it up:

But Mr. Specter stayed on message at the pub. As he was departing, an aide called out to the crowd of 70 people: “Senator Specter just bought the next round, so hit the bar.”

Just like Trollope’s would-be parliamentarians who trolled for votes in pubs by buying the affection of publicans who served up the free pints to the voters, so too, apparently, must Pennsylvania’s senior senator.

But far from being merely an amusing sidebar to the real issues, Specter’s pose as the source of all sorts of free stuff for Pennsylvanians really is the whole focus of his re-election effort. At a black-church service yesterday, he boasted of intimidating the secretary of agriculture into coughing up more money for a local program. Later at a union rally at Philadelphia’s Marine Terminal along the Delaware River, Specter and his ally Governor Ed Rendell bragged about the money he has squeezed out of the federal budget for the region as well as his support for the patronage that rained down from President Obama’s stimulus bill, which he supported.

In any normal political year, these sorts of accomplishments might foreclose the possibility of defeat for Specter. But this isn’t any normal political year. At a time when voters are fed up with out-of-control government spending, some have begun to ask whose money it is that Specter is doling out in small packages to the public and realizing that the answer is … their own. While his opponent Rep. Joe Sestak may not be a disciple of limited government (that choice will be presented to voters in November, when the all-but-certain Republican nominee Pat Toomey will be on the ballot), the Democratic challenger has a point when he notes that the only job Specter is truly interested in saving is his own.

While one should never underestimate the capacity of Pennsylvania’s pro-Specter Democratic machine to turn out compliant voters when they are determined to do so, it would appear that Specter’s desperate last campaign bears more than a passing resemblance to some of the ones described by Trollope. Like the novelist’s protagonists, the senator may discover tomorrow that there are not enough free drinks in the world to buy an election for a candidate that the public won’t stomach.

Those of us who love the classic novels of Anthony Trollope and his tales of the travails of the stump in the rough-and-tumble world of Victorian British politics could not help but smile at the description in today’s New York Times of a campaign stop by Arlen Specter at a pub in Ambler, Pennsylvania. The article described the ambivalence of voters about the 80-year-old’s braggadocio about using his influence and patronage to buy the voters support. But in case anybody didn’t get the point of his campaign, the piece’s final line summed it up:

But Mr. Specter stayed on message at the pub. As he was departing, an aide called out to the crowd of 70 people: “Senator Specter just bought the next round, so hit the bar.”

Just like Trollope’s would-be parliamentarians who trolled for votes in pubs by buying the affection of publicans who served up the free pints to the voters, so too, apparently, must Pennsylvania’s senior senator.

But far from being merely an amusing sidebar to the real issues, Specter’s pose as the source of all sorts of free stuff for Pennsylvanians really is the whole focus of his re-election effort. At a black-church service yesterday, he boasted of intimidating the secretary of agriculture into coughing up more money for a local program. Later at a union rally at Philadelphia’s Marine Terminal along the Delaware River, Specter and his ally Governor Ed Rendell bragged about the money he has squeezed out of the federal budget for the region as well as his support for the patronage that rained down from President Obama’s stimulus bill, which he supported.

In any normal political year, these sorts of accomplishments might foreclose the possibility of defeat for Specter. But this isn’t any normal political year. At a time when voters are fed up with out-of-control government spending, some have begun to ask whose money it is that Specter is doling out in small packages to the public and realizing that the answer is … their own. While his opponent Rep. Joe Sestak may not be a disciple of limited government (that choice will be presented to voters in November, when the all-but-certain Republican nominee Pat Toomey will be on the ballot), the Democratic challenger has a point when he notes that the only job Specter is truly interested in saving is his own.

While one should never underestimate the capacity of Pennsylvania’s pro-Specter Democratic machine to turn out compliant voters when they are determined to do so, it would appear that Specter’s desperate last campaign bears more than a passing resemblance to some of the ones described by Trollope. Like the novelist’s protagonists, the senator may discover tomorrow that there are not enough free drinks in the world to buy an election for a candidate that the public won’t stomach.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Flotsam and Jetsam

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Abbas Gets a White House Visit

Fox News reports:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fox News reports:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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What Did He Say?!

At times Obama seems to embody the worst characteristics of the Left — near comical moral equivalence, indifference to human rights, and a willingness to disregard America’s stature as the world’s leading democracy. Add in some jaw-dropping egotism and you have a scene like this:

President Obama said Sunday that the United States is still “working on” democracy and a top aide said he has taken “historic steps” to improve democracy in the United States during his time in office. The remarks came as Obama met with Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev — one of the U.S. president’s many meetings with world leaders ahead of this week’s nuclear summit.

Kazakhstan, which has been touting its record on combating nuclear proliferation, is a key player in the NATO supply network to Afghanistan and currently heads the Organization of Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE).

Some observers see a conflict between Kazakhstan’s chairmanship of the 56-nation OSCE, which plays an important role in monitoring elections in emerging democracies, and its own widely criticized human rights record.

But if the Obama administration saw any disconnect, it kept its criticism to itself.

“In connection with the OSCE, the presidents had a very lengthy discussion of issues of democracy and human rights,” NSC senior director Mike McFaul said on a conference call with reporters Sunday. “Both presidents agreed that you don’t ever reach democracy; you always have to work at it. And in particular, President Obama reminded his Kazakh counterpart that we, too, are working to improve our democracy.” …

“You seemed to be suggesting there was some equivalence between their issues of democracy and the United States’ issues, when you said that President Obama assured him that we, too, are working on our democracy,” [Wall Street Journal reporter Jonathan]Weisman said. “Is there equivalence between the problems that President Nazarbayev is confronting and the state of democracy in the United States?”

“Absolutely not. … There was no equivalence meant whatsoever,” McFaul said. “[Obama's] taken, I think, rather historic steps to improve our own democracy since coming to office here in the United States.”

This is astounding in several respects. First lumping the U.S. in with Kazakhstan has to be a new low (high) in moral obtuseness. As the report notes:

The State Department’s own 2009 human rights report on Kazakhstan reported widespread human rights violations, including severe limits on citizens’ rights to change their government; detainee and prisoner torture and other abuse; unhealthy prison conditions; arbitrary arrest and detention; lack of an independent judiciary; restrictions on freedom of speech, the press, assembly, and association; and pervasive corruption, especially in law enforcement and the judicial system.

Freedom House’s 2010 world survey declared Kazakhstan “not free” and said, “Kazakhstan holds the chairmanship of the OSCE for the year 2010 despite a record of fraudulent elections and repression of independent critics in the media and civil society — behavior that only grew worse as 2010 approached.”

The latest Human Rights Watch report on Kazakhstan was entitled, “An atmosphere of quiet repression.”

Furthermore, what has Obama done that qualifies as historic steps to improve our own democracy? I’m stumped to think of a single thing. Great transparency? Hmm. Haven’t seen that in the health-care legislative process of elsewhere. Toleration and civility for the opposition? Puhleez. Does Obama regard his own presidency as some historic leap forward for American democracy? Apparently so, a troubling sign that his narcissism continues to grow by leaps and bounds.

At times Obama seems to embody the worst characteristics of the Left — near comical moral equivalence, indifference to human rights, and a willingness to disregard America’s stature as the world’s leading democracy. Add in some jaw-dropping egotism and you have a scene like this:

President Obama said Sunday that the United States is still “working on” democracy and a top aide said he has taken “historic steps” to improve democracy in the United States during his time in office. The remarks came as Obama met with Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev — one of the U.S. president’s many meetings with world leaders ahead of this week’s nuclear summit.

Kazakhstan, which has been touting its record on combating nuclear proliferation, is a key player in the NATO supply network to Afghanistan and currently heads the Organization of Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE).

Some observers see a conflict between Kazakhstan’s chairmanship of the 56-nation OSCE, which plays an important role in monitoring elections in emerging democracies, and its own widely criticized human rights record.

But if the Obama administration saw any disconnect, it kept its criticism to itself.

“In connection with the OSCE, the presidents had a very lengthy discussion of issues of democracy and human rights,” NSC senior director Mike McFaul said on a conference call with reporters Sunday. “Both presidents agreed that you don’t ever reach democracy; you always have to work at it. And in particular, President Obama reminded his Kazakh counterpart that we, too, are working to improve our democracy.” …

“You seemed to be suggesting there was some equivalence between their issues of democracy and the United States’ issues, when you said that President Obama assured him that we, too, are working on our democracy,” [Wall Street Journal reporter Jonathan]Weisman said. “Is there equivalence between the problems that President Nazarbayev is confronting and the state of democracy in the United States?”

“Absolutely not. … There was no equivalence meant whatsoever,” McFaul said. “[Obama's] taken, I think, rather historic steps to improve our own democracy since coming to office here in the United States.”

This is astounding in several respects. First lumping the U.S. in with Kazakhstan has to be a new low (high) in moral obtuseness. As the report notes:

The State Department’s own 2009 human rights report on Kazakhstan reported widespread human rights violations, including severe limits on citizens’ rights to change their government; detainee and prisoner torture and other abuse; unhealthy prison conditions; arbitrary arrest and detention; lack of an independent judiciary; restrictions on freedom of speech, the press, assembly, and association; and pervasive corruption, especially in law enforcement and the judicial system.

Freedom House’s 2010 world survey declared Kazakhstan “not free” and said, “Kazakhstan holds the chairmanship of the OSCE for the year 2010 despite a record of fraudulent elections and repression of independent critics in the media and civil society — behavior that only grew worse as 2010 approached.”

The latest Human Rights Watch report on Kazakhstan was entitled, “An atmosphere of quiet repression.”

Furthermore, what has Obama done that qualifies as historic steps to improve our own democracy? I’m stumped to think of a single thing. Great transparency? Hmm. Haven’t seen that in the health-care legislative process of elsewhere. Toleration and civility for the opposition? Puhleez. Does Obama regard his own presidency as some historic leap forward for American democracy? Apparently so, a troubling sign that his narcissism continues to grow by leaps and bounds.

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From the Horse’s Mouth: Petraeus on Israel

Back on March 13, terrorist groupie Mark Perry — a former Arafat aide who now pals around with Hamas and Hezbollah — posted an article on Foreign Policy’s website, claiming that General David Petraeus was behind the administration’s policy of getting tough with Israel. He attributed to Petraeus the view that “Israel’s intransigence” — meaning its unwillingness to give up every inch of the West Bank and East Jerusalem tomorrow — “could cost American lives.” His item received wide circulation though it may be doubted whether, as he now says, “It changed the way people think about the conflict.”

I tried to set the record straight with two Commentary items (see here and here) in which I suggested, based on talking to an officer familiar with Petraeus’s thinking, that Perry’s item was a gross distortion —in fact a fraud. I noted that in Petraeus’s view, the Israeli-Palestinian peace process was only one factor among many affecting U.S. interests in the region and that Israeli settlements were far from the only, or even the main, obstacle to peace. I even suggested — again, based on inside information — that the 56-page posture statement that Central Command had submitted to Congress, which stated that the Arab-Israeli conflict “foments anti-American sentiment, due to a perception of U.S. favoritism for Israel,” was not the best indicator of his thinking. Better to look at what he actually told Congress — in a hearing he barely mentioned Israel (until prompted to do so) and never talked about settlements at all.

This brought hoots of derision from commentators on both the Left and the Right, who claimed that I was putting words into Petraeus’s mouth — that I was, in Joe Klein’s phrase, taking a “flying leap.” Predictably piling on were Andrew Sullivan, who said I was “glossing over” what Petraeus said, and Robert Wright, who claimed that, “by Boot’s lights, Petraeus is anti-Israel.” Diana West added a truly inventive spin, by suggesting that Petraeus was a protégé of Stephen Walt, who was his faculty adviser many years ago at Princeton before the good professor won renown as a leading basher of the “Israel Lobby” and the state of Israel itself. It was from Walt, Ms. West claims, that Petraeus imbibed his “Arabist, anti-Israel attitudes.”

So who was off-base here: those of us who tried to explain the nuances of General Petraeus’s thinking or those bloggers and commentators who tried to suggest that he is a strident critic of Israel?

The answer has now been publicly provided by Petraeus himself in a speech in New Hampshire. Watch it for yourself. A good summary is provided by the American Spectator’s Philip Klein, who was present at the event and asked Petraeus to clarify his thinking.

The general said that it was “unhelpful” that “bloggers” had “picked … up” what he had said and “spun it.” He noted that, aside from Israel’s actions, there are many other important factors standing in the way of peace, including “a whole bunch of extremist organizations, some of which by the way deny Israel’s right to exist. There’s a country that has a nuclear program who denies that the Holocaust took place. So again we have all these factors in there. This [Israel] is just one.”

What about Perry’s claim that American support for Israel puts our soldiers at risk? Petraeus said, “There is no mention of lives anywhere in there. I actually reread the statement. It doesn’t say that at all.”

He concluded by noting that he had sent to General Gabi Ashkenazi, chief of staff of the Israel Defense Forces, the “blog by Max Boot” which, he said, had “picked apart this whole thing, as he typically does, pretty astutely.”

I hope Petraeus’s comments will put an end to this whole weird episode. Those who are either happy or unhappy about the administration’s approach to Israel should lodge their compliments or complaints where they belong — at the White House, not at Central Command.

Back on March 13, terrorist groupie Mark Perry — a former Arafat aide who now pals around with Hamas and Hezbollah — posted an article on Foreign Policy’s website, claiming that General David Petraeus was behind the administration’s policy of getting tough with Israel. He attributed to Petraeus the view that “Israel’s intransigence” — meaning its unwillingness to give up every inch of the West Bank and East Jerusalem tomorrow — “could cost American lives.” His item received wide circulation though it may be doubted whether, as he now says, “It changed the way people think about the conflict.”

I tried to set the record straight with two Commentary items (see here and here) in which I suggested, based on talking to an officer familiar with Petraeus’s thinking, that Perry’s item was a gross distortion —in fact a fraud. I noted that in Petraeus’s view, the Israeli-Palestinian peace process was only one factor among many affecting U.S. interests in the region and that Israeli settlements were far from the only, or even the main, obstacle to peace. I even suggested — again, based on inside information — that the 56-page posture statement that Central Command had submitted to Congress, which stated that the Arab-Israeli conflict “foments anti-American sentiment, due to a perception of U.S. favoritism for Israel,” was not the best indicator of his thinking. Better to look at what he actually told Congress — in a hearing he barely mentioned Israel (until prompted to do so) and never talked about settlements at all.

This brought hoots of derision from commentators on both the Left and the Right, who claimed that I was putting words into Petraeus’s mouth — that I was, in Joe Klein’s phrase, taking a “flying leap.” Predictably piling on were Andrew Sullivan, who said I was “glossing over” what Petraeus said, and Robert Wright, who claimed that, “by Boot’s lights, Petraeus is anti-Israel.” Diana West added a truly inventive spin, by suggesting that Petraeus was a protégé of Stephen Walt, who was his faculty adviser many years ago at Princeton before the good professor won renown as a leading basher of the “Israel Lobby” and the state of Israel itself. It was from Walt, Ms. West claims, that Petraeus imbibed his “Arabist, anti-Israel attitudes.”

So who was off-base here: those of us who tried to explain the nuances of General Petraeus’s thinking or those bloggers and commentators who tried to suggest that he is a strident critic of Israel?

The answer has now been publicly provided by Petraeus himself in a speech in New Hampshire. Watch it for yourself. A good summary is provided by the American Spectator’s Philip Klein, who was present at the event and asked Petraeus to clarify his thinking.

The general said that it was “unhelpful” that “bloggers” had “picked … up” what he had said and “spun it.” He noted that, aside from Israel’s actions, there are many other important factors standing in the way of peace, including “a whole bunch of extremist organizations, some of which by the way deny Israel’s right to exist. There’s a country that has a nuclear program who denies that the Holocaust took place. So again we have all these factors in there. This [Israel] is just one.”

What about Perry’s claim that American support for Israel puts our soldiers at risk? Petraeus said, “There is no mention of lives anywhere in there. I actually reread the statement. It doesn’t say that at all.”

He concluded by noting that he had sent to General Gabi Ashkenazi, chief of staff of the Israel Defense Forces, the “blog by Max Boot” which, he said, had “picked apart this whole thing, as he typically does, pretty astutely.”

I hope Petraeus’s comments will put an end to this whole weird episode. Those who are either happy or unhappy about the administration’s approach to Israel should lodge their compliments or complaints where they belong — at the White House, not at Central Command.

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Scott Brown’s Victory — a Curious Interpretation

According to Obama’s aide David Axelrod, here is the deeper, almost metaphysical meaning of the Massachusetts Senate race:

“It’s an analogy I used the other day,” Axelrod said. “I always believed in the presidential race they just didn’t want to shut the race down because they liked Obama, they thought he had potential. But he was new. He was four years out of the State Senate and they weren’t prepared to hand him an early knockout. They wanted him to go through the entire battle, and they wanted to judge him based on how he performed on that long hard road.

“And actually, with Massachusetts, I think people wanted to see this debate go on for a while and they wanted to see our suppositions tested and retested. But what Massachusetts did at the end of the day was that it persuaded people on our side of the fight not to make the perfect the enemy of the good. And it really rallied our base behind the president’s proposal.”

If Mr. Axelrod believes this, he must suffer from an almost clinical case of delusion. (Calling Dr. Krauthammer. Calling Dr. Krauthammer. Please report to duty.)

The notion that the public rejected the Democratic candidate in a Senate race in Massachusetts for a Republican who ran against ObamaCare, simply in order to see how Obama performed on “that long hard road,” is rather silly and adolescent. (It is also condescending to voters, who aren’t terribly interested in being part of some kind of manufactured, Axelrod-directed drama.)

David Axelrod is forcing prosaic political events into some kind of romantic notion about Obama that is detached from reality. But I suppose such things might be expected from a group that has perpetrated a cult-of-personality around Obama and who referred to him during the campaign as a “Black Jesus.” Still, it’s weird.

It will be interesting, and in some respects amusing, to see how Axelrod interprets the results of the mid-term election, which might well inflict enormous damage on the Democratic Party. If it happens, it will undoubtedly be seen as yet one more great trial in the great life and times of liberalism’s political Messiah.

According to Obama’s aide David Axelrod, here is the deeper, almost metaphysical meaning of the Massachusetts Senate race:

“It’s an analogy I used the other day,” Axelrod said. “I always believed in the presidential race they just didn’t want to shut the race down because they liked Obama, they thought he had potential. But he was new. He was four years out of the State Senate and they weren’t prepared to hand him an early knockout. They wanted him to go through the entire battle, and they wanted to judge him based on how he performed on that long hard road.

“And actually, with Massachusetts, I think people wanted to see this debate go on for a while and they wanted to see our suppositions tested and retested. But what Massachusetts did at the end of the day was that it persuaded people on our side of the fight not to make the perfect the enemy of the good. And it really rallied our base behind the president’s proposal.”

If Mr. Axelrod believes this, he must suffer from an almost clinical case of delusion. (Calling Dr. Krauthammer. Calling Dr. Krauthammer. Please report to duty.)

The notion that the public rejected the Democratic candidate in a Senate race in Massachusetts for a Republican who ran against ObamaCare, simply in order to see how Obama performed on “that long hard road,” is rather silly and adolescent. (It is also condescending to voters, who aren’t terribly interested in being part of some kind of manufactured, Axelrod-directed drama.)

David Axelrod is forcing prosaic political events into some kind of romantic notion about Obama that is detached from reality. But I suppose such things might be expected from a group that has perpetrated a cult-of-personality around Obama and who referred to him during the campaign as a “Black Jesus.” Still, it’s weird.

It will be interesting, and in some respects amusing, to see how Axelrod interprets the results of the mid-term election, which might well inflict enormous damage on the Democratic Party. If it happens, it will undoubtedly be seen as yet one more great trial in the great life and times of liberalism’s political Messiah.

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Sexual Orientation and the Military

Supporters of the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy are finding it hard to make persuasive arguments in its favor. At least that’s the only conclusion I can draw from the bizarre suggestion put forward at a Senate hearing by John Sheehan, a retired four-star Marine general who once ran NATO’s Atlantic Command. He suggested that Dutch soldiers failed to prevent the Srebrenica massacre in 1995 because there were too many gays in the ranks! The Dutch reaction is on-target:

“It is astonishing that a man of his stature can utter such complete nonsense,” Dutch defense-ministry spokesman Roger van de Wetering said in response.

“The Srebrenica massacre and the involvement of UN soldiers was extensively investigated by the Netherlands, international organizations and the United Nations.

“Never was there in any way concluded that the sexual orientation of soldiers played a role.”

Next, perhaps, General Sheehan will suggest that Israel’s failure to more decisively defeat Hezbollah in 2006 was also due to the presence of openly gay service people. That might also explain Britain’s failure to pacify Basra. And the Spartans’ failure to defeat the Persians at Thermopylae. Or not.

Bizarre as this argument is, a rejoinder from British journalist Toby Young was just as weird. He writes, “Isn’t the General aware that some of the finest soldiers in the history of warfare have been ‘openly homosexual’?” Actually, while the sexuality of various generals such as Bernard Law Montgomery and Lord Kitchener has been much gossiped about, it is hard to think of any prominent commanders who were openly gay since the days of antiquity. The example Young cites is truly off-the-wall: Orde Wingate.

I happen to know a fair amount about Wingate, an unconventional British army officer who rose to fame commanding the Chindit special force in Japanese-held Burma in World War II. Previously he had served with distinction in Palestine and Abyssinia. He is still remembered in Israel for his strong Zionism. I’m writing about Wingate in my history of guerrilla warfare, and, having read pretty much everything that has been published about him, I have not found a single suggestion that he was homosexual. Until now.

Admittedly, Wingate was very odd; for instance, he received visitors to his quarters in the nude. But gay? If Young has any actual evidence to support this allegation, he doesn’t present it. Actually Wingate was devoted to his wife Lorna, an intelligent beauty whom he met in 1933 when she was just 16 years old and he was 31. He immediately dumped his fiancée and married her. His letters to her were full of longing and devotion. Young is making up history as he goes along by suggesting that there was something sexual about Wingate’s relationship with his aide Abraham Akavia, who worked with him in Palestine and Abyssinia.

The general point remains valid. There have undoubtedly been many brave, successful gay soldiers. But I object to the modern habit, especially common among trendy academics, of attributing homosexuality to random historical figures based on scant evidence — a trend that has even encompassed Abraham Lincoln. This is projecting our own obsession with sex into the past.

Supporters of the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy are finding it hard to make persuasive arguments in its favor. At least that’s the only conclusion I can draw from the bizarre suggestion put forward at a Senate hearing by John Sheehan, a retired four-star Marine general who once ran NATO’s Atlantic Command. He suggested that Dutch soldiers failed to prevent the Srebrenica massacre in 1995 because there were too many gays in the ranks! The Dutch reaction is on-target:

“It is astonishing that a man of his stature can utter such complete nonsense,” Dutch defense-ministry spokesman Roger van de Wetering said in response.

“The Srebrenica massacre and the involvement of UN soldiers was extensively investigated by the Netherlands, international organizations and the United Nations.

“Never was there in any way concluded that the sexual orientation of soldiers played a role.”

Next, perhaps, General Sheehan will suggest that Israel’s failure to more decisively defeat Hezbollah in 2006 was also due to the presence of openly gay service people. That might also explain Britain’s failure to pacify Basra. And the Spartans’ failure to defeat the Persians at Thermopylae. Or not.

Bizarre as this argument is, a rejoinder from British journalist Toby Young was just as weird. He writes, “Isn’t the General aware that some of the finest soldiers in the history of warfare have been ‘openly homosexual’?” Actually, while the sexuality of various generals such as Bernard Law Montgomery and Lord Kitchener has been much gossiped about, it is hard to think of any prominent commanders who were openly gay since the days of antiquity. The example Young cites is truly off-the-wall: Orde Wingate.

I happen to know a fair amount about Wingate, an unconventional British army officer who rose to fame commanding the Chindit special force in Japanese-held Burma in World War II. Previously he had served with distinction in Palestine and Abyssinia. He is still remembered in Israel for his strong Zionism. I’m writing about Wingate in my history of guerrilla warfare, and, having read pretty much everything that has been published about him, I have not found a single suggestion that he was homosexual. Until now.

Admittedly, Wingate was very odd; for instance, he received visitors to his quarters in the nude. But gay? If Young has any actual evidence to support this allegation, he doesn’t present it. Actually Wingate was devoted to his wife Lorna, an intelligent beauty whom he met in 1933 when she was just 16 years old and he was 31. He immediately dumped his fiancée and married her. His letters to her were full of longing and devotion. Young is making up history as he goes along by suggesting that there was something sexual about Wingate’s relationship with his aide Abraham Akavia, who worked with him in Palestine and Abyssinia.

The general point remains valid. There have undoubtedly been many brave, successful gay soldiers. But I object to the modern habit, especially common among trendy academics, of attributing homosexuality to random historical figures based on scant evidence — a trend that has even encompassed Abraham Lincoln. This is projecting our own obsession with sex into the past.

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From the 2006 Files

When the Eric Massa scandal broke, some assured us that this was nothing like the Mark Foley scandal of 2006. After all, Foley’s were underage male victims. Massa preyed only on adult employees. (Not a great ad campaign, but a distinction nevertheless.) And besides, there was no complicity on behalf of the Democratic leadership or failure to investigate Massa, unlike what the Democrats claimed had been the case with the Republican leadership in 2006. So no problem, right? Uh … no. Politico reports:

The House ethics committee closed its investigation into sexual harassment allegations against former Rep. Eric Massa on Wednesday afternoon — even as an aide to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi acknowledged for the first time that her office learned of concerns about Massa far earlier than previously known.

Sources familiar with the situation told POLITICO that the bipartisan committee decided to close its investigation into the case because Massa’s resignation — effective at 5 p.m. Monday — deprived the committee of jurisdiction over him.

But House Republicans cried foul, with one senior GOP aide saying that the new information about Pelosi’s office “further underscores” the need to find out what actually happened.

Pelosi is said not to know about the specific wrongdoing but merely “that Massa was living with several aides, had hired too many staff members and used foul language around his staff. Racalto [Massa's chief of staff], also raised concerns about ‘the way Massa ran his office’ and informed Pelosi’s member-services staffer that he had asked Massa to move out of the group house on Capitol Hill, the Pelosi aide said.” And all this follows the revelation that Massa had a history of groping and harassment in the Navy. Switch the names and the parties, and this could be straight out of 2006 when the Republicans were under fire:

“This is completely unacceptable,” a senior GOP aide said of the committee’s decision to end its investigation. “If it’s true that Democratic members of the House ethics committee are blocking an investigation of what their own leaders knew about Massa, it proves beyond a shadow of a doubt that Speaker Pelosi has no intention of keeping her promise to lead the most open, honest and ethical Congress in history. What are Democrats on the ethics committee afraid of? What is the Democratic leadership hiding?”

Granted, the Democrats have time to correct the problem. They could, if they are inclined to, conduct a serious investigation into who knew what and when. But the presence of a growing, nasty ethics scandal and the judgment of the House speaker at a time when the Democrats are struggling with ObamaCare smacks of the perfect storm — the convergence of bad news and awful media that has the potential to sink the majority party. And should the Democrats sweep this under the rug — for Massa is now departed — the stench will linger for months.

Arguably, 2010 isn’t like  2006 or 1994. This time there is ObamaCare, Massa, Charlie Rangel, the spigot of red ink, and sky-high unemployment. So 2010 could well be worse for the party in power, which suddenly seems as though it can’t get anything right.

When the Eric Massa scandal broke, some assured us that this was nothing like the Mark Foley scandal of 2006. After all, Foley’s were underage male victims. Massa preyed only on adult employees. (Not a great ad campaign, but a distinction nevertheless.) And besides, there was no complicity on behalf of the Democratic leadership or failure to investigate Massa, unlike what the Democrats claimed had been the case with the Republican leadership in 2006. So no problem, right? Uh … no. Politico reports:

The House ethics committee closed its investigation into sexual harassment allegations against former Rep. Eric Massa on Wednesday afternoon — even as an aide to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi acknowledged for the first time that her office learned of concerns about Massa far earlier than previously known.

Sources familiar with the situation told POLITICO that the bipartisan committee decided to close its investigation into the case because Massa’s resignation — effective at 5 p.m. Monday — deprived the committee of jurisdiction over him.

But House Republicans cried foul, with one senior GOP aide saying that the new information about Pelosi’s office “further underscores” the need to find out what actually happened.

Pelosi is said not to know about the specific wrongdoing but merely “that Massa was living with several aides, had hired too many staff members and used foul language around his staff. Racalto [Massa's chief of staff], also raised concerns about ‘the way Massa ran his office’ and informed Pelosi’s member-services staffer that he had asked Massa to move out of the group house on Capitol Hill, the Pelosi aide said.” And all this follows the revelation that Massa had a history of groping and harassment in the Navy. Switch the names and the parties, and this could be straight out of 2006 when the Republicans were under fire:

“This is completely unacceptable,” a senior GOP aide said of the committee’s decision to end its investigation. “If it’s true that Democratic members of the House ethics committee are blocking an investigation of what their own leaders knew about Massa, it proves beyond a shadow of a doubt that Speaker Pelosi has no intention of keeping her promise to lead the most open, honest and ethical Congress in history. What are Democrats on the ethics committee afraid of? What is the Democratic leadership hiding?”

Granted, the Democrats have time to correct the problem. They could, if they are inclined to, conduct a serious investigation into who knew what and when. But the presence of a growing, nasty ethics scandal and the judgment of the House speaker at a time when the Democrats are struggling with ObamaCare smacks of the perfect storm — the convergence of bad news and awful media that has the potential to sink the majority party. And should the Democrats sweep this under the rug — for Massa is now departed — the stench will linger for months.

Arguably, 2010 isn’t like  2006 or 1994. This time there is ObamaCare, Massa, Charlie Rangel, the spigot of red ink, and sky-high unemployment. So 2010 could well be worse for the party in power, which suddenly seems as though it can’t get anything right.

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Campbell’s Al-Arian Letter Surfaces

During Friday’s Republican Senate debate, Tom Campbell defended his receipt of campaign funds from Sami Al-Arian as well as the letter Campbell wrote in defense of Al-Arian, after the latter was fired by the University of South Florida. In the debate Campbell claimed the letter was written before Al-Arian’s controversial appearance on the Bill O’Reilly program. But that claim seems to be false and a new round of controversy has begun.

The letter that Campbell wrote on January 22, 2002, in support of Sami Al-Arian, who had been fired by the University of South Florida (and who pleaded guilty in 2006 to terrorism charges), is now circulating. Contrary to Campbell’s protestations, according to which there was nothing generally known about Al-Arian at the time (He said in the debate: “There is one other point to be raised, and that is that he was a professor, and he was terminated from his position at the University of South Florida before any of this evidence came out”), by 2000 much was known of Al-Arian’s activities. However, that did not dissuade Campbell from taking campaign money from him for his race that year, or — in 2002 — from sending a letter defending Al-Arian. He wrote in January 2002:

During my time in Congress, I served, inter alia, on the International Relations Committee and the Judiciary Committee.  In those capacities, I came to know of the practice of using secret evidence against non-citizens in keeping them in detention even when they were not a security risk to the United States, and even when they were not soon to be deported.  I introduced legislation to stop this practice, and worked hard to achieve that end.  In this effort, I came to know Professor Sami Al-Arian, whose brother-in-law had been subjected to this practice.

In the interest of full disclosure, I wish you to know that, after we came to know each other, Professor Al-Arian helped me raise funds for my campaign for U.S. Senate, an effort which, nevertheless, did not succeed.

Moreover, contrary to his statement in the debate, Campbell conceded in the letter that he was aware of Al-Arian’s 2001 appearance on the Bill O’Reilly show: “I read a transcript of the O’Reilly Factor interview last autumn, and I did not see anything whereby Professor Al-Arian attempted to claim he was representing the views of the University of South Florida.” So let the professor keep his spot, Campbell argued, because he wasn’t saying all those awful things as a representative of the university.

The O’Reilly interview from the fall of 2001 is an eye-opener. This sequence is especially instructive:

O’REILLY: In — in 1988, you did a little speaking engagement in Cleveland, and you were quoted as saying, “Jihad is our path. Victory to Islam. Death to Israel. Revolution. Revolution until victory. Rolling to Jerusalem.” Did you say that?

AL-ARIAN: Let me just put it into context. When resident Bush talked about crusade, we understand what he meant here. The Muslim world thought he is going to carry a cross and go invade the Muslim world and turn them into Christians. We have to understand the context. When you say “Death to Israel,” you mean death to occupation, death to apartheid, death to oppression, death to…

O’REILLY: But not death to any human being?

AL-ARIAN: No, absolutely not. Absolutely not.

O’REILLY: No.

AL-ARIAN: Absolutely not.

O’REILLY: All right. So now what we have here is you saying death to Israel. You’re bringing a guy over here who gets paid by the good citizens of Florida and then goes back and becomes one of the lieutenants or generals of the Islamic jihad, but you don’t know nothing about it. Another guy sets up an interview with Osama bin Laden for ABC, and you don know anything about that.

You know, Doctor, it looks to me like there’s something wrong down there at the University of South Florida. Am I getting — am I getting the wrong impression here?

AL-ARIAN: You’re getting completely wrong impression because you can pick and choose and interpret it, you know, different ways.

The fact of the matter is we have been involved in intellectual-type activity. We brought dozens of people. All of them are intellectual type.  You’re going to get the apple — a bad apple or two, but that — if you focus on them, you get one conclusion.

The fact of the matter is that we’ve been investigated by the FBI for many years…

O’REILLY: Correct.

AL-ARIAN: …and there has been no wrongdoing whatsoever even suggested.

So this was the man from whom Campbell accepted funds and for whose sake he went out of his way to plead with the university that he be kept on staff. It seems as though Campbell never met an Israel-bashing, Islamic jihadist who raised any concerns, even after 9/11.

The Carly Fiorina campaign is calling for Campbell to correct the record and change his website: “Tom Campbell has refused to release this letter despite repeated calls for him to do so. Now we know why. The content of the letter itself, and the date on which it was written reveal that what Tom Campbell told voters in Friday’s debate about his relationship with Al-Arian—and just as importantly, what he knew about him at the time—is quite simply false.” A Fiorina aide goes further, telling me: “Tom Campbell flat out lied in the debate about what he knew and when he knew it, and he flat out lies on his new Campbell ‘facts’ website — it’s so brazen you have to wonder he’s convinced himself that he doesn’t have a terrorism problem.”

Suffice it to say, we are off to the races on this latest revelation.

UPDATE: Chuck DeVore’s Communications Director has chimed in with a statement including this: “We’ve known from the start that Tom Campbell has a problematic past with Islamist radicals, and this just fills in some details. What’s troubling is that two of the three Republicans running for US Senate in California this year have a troubling history in this regard. While Campbell was a darling of the anti-Israel set, Carly Fiorina was presiding over illegal technology transfers to Iran, and delivering paeans to Islamic civilization while the fires at the World Trade Center were still smoldering.” Fiorina has denied any illegal technology transfers occured to Iran during her tenure at Hewlett Packard.

During Friday’s Republican Senate debate, Tom Campbell defended his receipt of campaign funds from Sami Al-Arian as well as the letter Campbell wrote in defense of Al-Arian, after the latter was fired by the University of South Florida. In the debate Campbell claimed the letter was written before Al-Arian’s controversial appearance on the Bill O’Reilly program. But that claim seems to be false and a new round of controversy has begun.

The letter that Campbell wrote on January 22, 2002, in support of Sami Al-Arian, who had been fired by the University of South Florida (and who pleaded guilty in 2006 to terrorism charges), is now circulating. Contrary to Campbell’s protestations, according to which there was nothing generally known about Al-Arian at the time (He said in the debate: “There is one other point to be raised, and that is that he was a professor, and he was terminated from his position at the University of South Florida before any of this evidence came out”), by 2000 much was known of Al-Arian’s activities. However, that did not dissuade Campbell from taking campaign money from him for his race that year, or — in 2002 — from sending a letter defending Al-Arian. He wrote in January 2002:

During my time in Congress, I served, inter alia, on the International Relations Committee and the Judiciary Committee.  In those capacities, I came to know of the practice of using secret evidence against non-citizens in keeping them in detention even when they were not a security risk to the United States, and even when they were not soon to be deported.  I introduced legislation to stop this practice, and worked hard to achieve that end.  In this effort, I came to know Professor Sami Al-Arian, whose brother-in-law had been subjected to this practice.

In the interest of full disclosure, I wish you to know that, after we came to know each other, Professor Al-Arian helped me raise funds for my campaign for U.S. Senate, an effort which, nevertheless, did not succeed.

Moreover, contrary to his statement in the debate, Campbell conceded in the letter that he was aware of Al-Arian’s 2001 appearance on the Bill O’Reilly show: “I read a transcript of the O’Reilly Factor interview last autumn, and I did not see anything whereby Professor Al-Arian attempted to claim he was representing the views of the University of South Florida.” So let the professor keep his spot, Campbell argued, because he wasn’t saying all those awful things as a representative of the university.

The O’Reilly interview from the fall of 2001 is an eye-opener. This sequence is especially instructive:

O’REILLY: In — in 1988, you did a little speaking engagement in Cleveland, and you were quoted as saying, “Jihad is our path. Victory to Islam. Death to Israel. Revolution. Revolution until victory. Rolling to Jerusalem.” Did you say that?

AL-ARIAN: Let me just put it into context. When resident Bush talked about crusade, we understand what he meant here. The Muslim world thought he is going to carry a cross and go invade the Muslim world and turn them into Christians. We have to understand the context. When you say “Death to Israel,” you mean death to occupation, death to apartheid, death to oppression, death to…

O’REILLY: But not death to any human being?

AL-ARIAN: No, absolutely not. Absolutely not.

O’REILLY: No.

AL-ARIAN: Absolutely not.

O’REILLY: All right. So now what we have here is you saying death to Israel. You’re bringing a guy over here who gets paid by the good citizens of Florida and then goes back and becomes one of the lieutenants or generals of the Islamic jihad, but you don’t know nothing about it. Another guy sets up an interview with Osama bin Laden for ABC, and you don know anything about that.

You know, Doctor, it looks to me like there’s something wrong down there at the University of South Florida. Am I getting — am I getting the wrong impression here?

AL-ARIAN: You’re getting completely wrong impression because you can pick and choose and interpret it, you know, different ways.

The fact of the matter is we have been involved in intellectual-type activity. We brought dozens of people. All of them are intellectual type.  You’re going to get the apple — a bad apple or two, but that — if you focus on them, you get one conclusion.

The fact of the matter is that we’ve been investigated by the FBI for many years…

O’REILLY: Correct.

AL-ARIAN: …and there has been no wrongdoing whatsoever even suggested.

So this was the man from whom Campbell accepted funds and for whose sake he went out of his way to plead with the university that he be kept on staff. It seems as though Campbell never met an Israel-bashing, Islamic jihadist who raised any concerns, even after 9/11.

The Carly Fiorina campaign is calling for Campbell to correct the record and change his website: “Tom Campbell has refused to release this letter despite repeated calls for him to do so. Now we know why. The content of the letter itself, and the date on which it was written reveal that what Tom Campbell told voters in Friday’s debate about his relationship with Al-Arian—and just as importantly, what he knew about him at the time—is quite simply false.” A Fiorina aide goes further, telling me: “Tom Campbell flat out lied in the debate about what he knew and when he knew it, and he flat out lies on his new Campbell ‘facts’ website — it’s so brazen you have to wonder he’s convinced himself that he doesn’t have a terrorism problem.”

Suffice it to say, we are off to the races on this latest revelation.

UPDATE: Chuck DeVore’s Communications Director has chimed in with a statement including this: “We’ve known from the start that Tom Campbell has a problematic past with Islamist radicals, and this just fills in some details. What’s troubling is that two of the three Republicans running for US Senate in California this year have a troubling history in this regard. While Campbell was a darling of the anti-Israel set, Carly Fiorina was presiding over illegal technology transfers to Iran, and delivering paeans to Islamic civilization while the fires at the World Trade Center were still smoldering.” Fiorina has denied any illegal technology transfers occured to Iran during her tenure at Hewlett Packard.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

A rapper and his entourage in the Situation Room? “Were Jay & Bey & Co. issued the relevant security clearances? Do we even care anymore?” Well, in any case, “Is an amazingly successful businessman-slash-rapper who rose from the mean streets of Brooklyn to world-wide fame and fortune less qualified to deal with the vicissitudes, the obstacles, the demands, the crises of foreign policy and national security than Mr. Obama’s little coterie of Chicago-pol friends who’ve been running it so surpassingly excellently thus far?”

Another retirement, another Democratic seat becomes a toss-up. According to the Cook Political Report: “[Rep. Bill] Delahunt’s decision to leave doesn’t make this district a lost cause for Democrats by any means, but credible Republicans including former state Treasurer Joe Malone and state Rep. Jeffrey Perry are likely to run, and no Democrat appears capable of clearing a primary field. In a normal year, Democrats would enjoy a considerable advantage in an open seat race in MA-10. But this year, Democrats’ initial advantage isn’t great enough to warrant rating this race more favorably than a Toss Up.”

This might explain why all those voters are so angry: “President Obama’s policies would add more than $9.7 trillion to the national debt over the next decade, congressional budget analysts said Friday, including more than $2 trillion that Obama proposes to devote to extending a variety of tax cuts enacted during the Bush administration. The 10-year outlook by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office is somewhat gloomier than White House projections, which found that Obama’s policies would add $8.5 trillion to the debt by 2020. While the two agencies are in relative agreement about the short-term budget picture, with both predicting a deficit of about $1.5 trillion this year and $1.3 trillion in 2011, the CBO is less optimistic about future years, predicting that deficits will grow rapidly after 2015.”

And why they don’t like ObamaCare, as James Capretta explains: “The president started off last year by saying he wanted to ‘bend the cost-curve’ even as he broadened coverage. But after a year of partisan political and legislative maneuvering, all that’s left is a massive entitlement expansion. The new costs would get piled on top of the unreformed and unaffordable entitlements already on the books. It’s a budgetary disaster in the making.”

How many times has “shpilkes” been used in a mainstream-media headline? (How many ABC.com readers even know what it means?)

Even before Harry Reid’s latest boneheaded remark: “Two of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s Republican challengers have again crossed the 50% threshold and now hold double-digit leads in Nevada’s U.S. Senate race. One big hurdle for the incumbent is that most Nevada voters are strongly opposed to the health care legislation championed by Reid and President Barack Obama. The latest Rasmussen Reports telephone survey of likely voters in the state finds Sue Lowden, ex-chairman of the Nevada Republican Party, with a 51% to 38% lead on Reid. Seven percent (7%) prefer some other candidate, but just three percent (3%) are undecided.”

From the “2006 All Over Again” file: “Eager to avoid a repeat of the Mark Foley scandal, House Democratic leaders moved quickly last month when a staffer for Rep. Eric Massa complained that he’d made advances to a junior male aide. But rumors about Massa had been circulating for months in both Democratic and Republican circles on Capitol Hill, and GOP operatives even considered digging into them on their own. However, sources say there wasn’t evidence of any wrongdoing until Massa’s then-legislative director contacted the office of House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) in early February. … But a Massa aide told POLITICO that Massa — who is married and has children — has been engaged in inappropriate behavior ‘for eight months.’”

And Massa will resign Monday.

John McCain is trying to get the Gang of 14 back to beat reconciliation. No takers. And reconciliation is sort of irrelevant. But other than that, a great idea.

A rapper and his entourage in the Situation Room? “Were Jay & Bey & Co. issued the relevant security clearances? Do we even care anymore?” Well, in any case, “Is an amazingly successful businessman-slash-rapper who rose from the mean streets of Brooklyn to world-wide fame and fortune less qualified to deal with the vicissitudes, the obstacles, the demands, the crises of foreign policy and national security than Mr. Obama’s little coterie of Chicago-pol friends who’ve been running it so surpassingly excellently thus far?”

Another retirement, another Democratic seat becomes a toss-up. According to the Cook Political Report: “[Rep. Bill] Delahunt’s decision to leave doesn’t make this district a lost cause for Democrats by any means, but credible Republicans including former state Treasurer Joe Malone and state Rep. Jeffrey Perry are likely to run, and no Democrat appears capable of clearing a primary field. In a normal year, Democrats would enjoy a considerable advantage in an open seat race in MA-10. But this year, Democrats’ initial advantage isn’t great enough to warrant rating this race more favorably than a Toss Up.”

This might explain why all those voters are so angry: “President Obama’s policies would add more than $9.7 trillion to the national debt over the next decade, congressional budget analysts said Friday, including more than $2 trillion that Obama proposes to devote to extending a variety of tax cuts enacted during the Bush administration. The 10-year outlook by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office is somewhat gloomier than White House projections, which found that Obama’s policies would add $8.5 trillion to the debt by 2020. While the two agencies are in relative agreement about the short-term budget picture, with both predicting a deficit of about $1.5 trillion this year and $1.3 trillion in 2011, the CBO is less optimistic about future years, predicting that deficits will grow rapidly after 2015.”

And why they don’t like ObamaCare, as James Capretta explains: “The president started off last year by saying he wanted to ‘bend the cost-curve’ even as he broadened coverage. But after a year of partisan political and legislative maneuvering, all that’s left is a massive entitlement expansion. The new costs would get piled on top of the unreformed and unaffordable entitlements already on the books. It’s a budgetary disaster in the making.”

How many times has “shpilkes” been used in a mainstream-media headline? (How many ABC.com readers even know what it means?)

Even before Harry Reid’s latest boneheaded remark: “Two of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s Republican challengers have again crossed the 50% threshold and now hold double-digit leads in Nevada’s U.S. Senate race. One big hurdle for the incumbent is that most Nevada voters are strongly opposed to the health care legislation championed by Reid and President Barack Obama. The latest Rasmussen Reports telephone survey of likely voters in the state finds Sue Lowden, ex-chairman of the Nevada Republican Party, with a 51% to 38% lead on Reid. Seven percent (7%) prefer some other candidate, but just three percent (3%) are undecided.”

From the “2006 All Over Again” file: “Eager to avoid a repeat of the Mark Foley scandal, House Democratic leaders moved quickly last month when a staffer for Rep. Eric Massa complained that he’d made advances to a junior male aide. But rumors about Massa had been circulating for months in both Democratic and Republican circles on Capitol Hill, and GOP operatives even considered digging into them on their own. However, sources say there wasn’t evidence of any wrongdoing until Massa’s then-legislative director contacted the office of House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) in early February. … But a Massa aide told POLITICO that Massa — who is married and has children — has been engaged in inappropriate behavior ‘for eight months.’”

And Massa will resign Monday.

John McCain is trying to get the Gang of 14 back to beat reconciliation. No takers. And reconciliation is sort of irrelevant. But other than that, a great idea.

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Paterson, Spitzer, Sharpton — An Eternal Golden Braid

New York Governor David Paterson attempted to suppress an investigation into an aide’s alleged beating of said aide’s girlfriend, and lied to an ethics panel about the free tickets he scored to the World Series. In this, he follows Eliot Spitzer, whom he succeeded after Spitzer attempted to convince a banker to contravene federal banking laws (that is actually why he had to resign, not because he hired a prostitute, but since prosecutors decided for unclear reasons not to indict him, that part is forgotten). Paterson, in his sure-to-fail attempt to hold on to power for a few more months, just secured the critical moral and ethical support of none other than Al Sharpton, who is to ethics as oil is to water.

But let’s get back to Spitzer, who has been working to stage a comeback of sorts, writing in Slate and appearing on TV and in general acting like an eminence grise of some kind. The New York Times reports that a New York lawyer of my acquaintance, Lloyd Constantine, has written a book about his experience as one of Spitzer’s lieutenants and confidants called A Journal of the Plague Year. Word about the book and its unvarnished portrait of Spitzer’s decline and fall was greeted violently by Spitzer, who issued the following statement to the Times:

What Mr. Constantine has written is little more than a self-serving and largely inaccurate interpretation of events mixed with unfounded speculation. That such a close adviser and confidant of my family and member of my administration would choose to write such a book is a fundamental breach of trust.

Let’s not mince words here. Eliot Spitzer has a personality disorder. Lloyd Constantine is a very, very rich man, an anti-trust lawyer who secured a massive judgment in a case a few years ago against Visa and Mastercard that netted him, personally, in excess of $100 million. He didn’t need to write a book for money, and for that matter, he didn’t need to shlep up to Albany to help his old friend Spitzer out when Eliot became governor. The “fundamental breach of trust” here was Spitzer’s, not Constantine’s. Spitzer is the one who made a mockery out of his governorship, who brought shame on everyone who ever worked for him or gave him money or voted for him.

His breathtakingly self-righteous response to the fact that someone has had the nerve to write a book about the horrific experience of serving as Spitzer’s underling reveals that his troubles have taught Spitzer nothing and improved him not a whit. Constantine’s flaw was not in writing about Spitzer after the fact, but in failing to see before the fact Spitzer’s disgusting conduct in the years before he ran for governor — using his powers as the state’s attorney general in inappropriate ways and, when criticized for doing so, threatening his critics with ruination and destruction for having the temerity to cross him — offered every indication of the genuinely bad character that would be revealed during his disastrous and blessedly brief tenure. And that he is still revealing now. And that his choice of David Paterson as running mate revealed as well. And that Paterson’s scurrying behind the legs of Al Sharpton reveals about him.

New York Governor David Paterson attempted to suppress an investigation into an aide’s alleged beating of said aide’s girlfriend, and lied to an ethics panel about the free tickets he scored to the World Series. In this, he follows Eliot Spitzer, whom he succeeded after Spitzer attempted to convince a banker to contravene federal banking laws (that is actually why he had to resign, not because he hired a prostitute, but since prosecutors decided for unclear reasons not to indict him, that part is forgotten). Paterson, in his sure-to-fail attempt to hold on to power for a few more months, just secured the critical moral and ethical support of none other than Al Sharpton, who is to ethics as oil is to water.

But let’s get back to Spitzer, who has been working to stage a comeback of sorts, writing in Slate and appearing on TV and in general acting like an eminence grise of some kind. The New York Times reports that a New York lawyer of my acquaintance, Lloyd Constantine, has written a book about his experience as one of Spitzer’s lieutenants and confidants called A Journal of the Plague Year. Word about the book and its unvarnished portrait of Spitzer’s decline and fall was greeted violently by Spitzer, who issued the following statement to the Times:

What Mr. Constantine has written is little more than a self-serving and largely inaccurate interpretation of events mixed with unfounded speculation. That such a close adviser and confidant of my family and member of my administration would choose to write such a book is a fundamental breach of trust.

Let’s not mince words here. Eliot Spitzer has a personality disorder. Lloyd Constantine is a very, very rich man, an anti-trust lawyer who secured a massive judgment in a case a few years ago against Visa and Mastercard that netted him, personally, in excess of $100 million. He didn’t need to write a book for money, and for that matter, he didn’t need to shlep up to Albany to help his old friend Spitzer out when Eliot became governor. The “fundamental breach of trust” here was Spitzer’s, not Constantine’s. Spitzer is the one who made a mockery out of his governorship, who brought shame on everyone who ever worked for him or gave him money or voted for him.

His breathtakingly self-righteous response to the fact that someone has had the nerve to write a book about the horrific experience of serving as Spitzer’s underling reveals that his troubles have taught Spitzer nothing and improved him not a whit. Constantine’s flaw was not in writing about Spitzer after the fact, but in failing to see before the fact Spitzer’s disgusting conduct in the years before he ran for governor — using his powers as the state’s attorney general in inappropriate ways and, when criticized for doing so, threatening his critics with ruination and destruction for having the temerity to cross him — offered every indication of the genuinely bad character that would be revealed during his disastrous and blessedly brief tenure. And that he is still revealing now. And that his choice of David Paterson as running mate revealed as well. And that Paterson’s scurrying behind the legs of Al Sharpton reveals about him.

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Leveretts Revealed

Although not the first to look at the mullahs’ favorite Washington power couple, Michael Crowley does a particularly adept job at revealing the depths of Flynt and Hillary Mann Leverett’s shilling for the Iranian regime and for Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, personally:

I asked the Leveretts why, if Ahmadinejad enjoys such broad support, his regime has cracked down so brutally. In fact, they told me, Ahmadinejad has shown restraint. “It’s become politically incorrect and impossible to say it, but … this government hasn’t even begun to deploy the force it’s capable of using,’”says Hillary. (Even the videotaped shooting of Neda Agha-Soltan on a Tehran street was an ‘exceptional’ and ‘isolated’ case, she says.) . … The Leveretts also sought to account for Ahmadinejad’s threats against Israel as shrewd regional politics. “It does get to him when he’s described to the outside world as anti-Semitic. He would describe himself as anti-Zionist,” Flynt explains. ‘Resistance to Israel is an important theme to him. … If it’s crazy, it’s crazy like a fox.’”

Flynt still denies, in the face of multiple credible accounts, that he was fired by the Bush administration. And then there is a curious reference by the Leveretts to matters that one would think are not for public discussion. Crowley writes: “By last spring, they were warning that Obama had already ‘lost’ Iran, complaining that he had not halted Bush-era covert programs against Iran’s nuclear program.” Are the Leveretts going so far as to comment on covert operations, however obliquely? Certainly, they would know the peril in which they might find themselves for commenting publicly on top-secret matters.

But Flynt and Hillary are remarkably candid about their about-face on Iran and Israel:

Hillary says her dealings with Iranian diplomats as a Bush White House aide at the start of the Afghanistan war made her understand Tehran’s willingness to engage. “It seems that the Leveretts are almost frozen in time circa 2003 on this,” says Tufts University professor Daniel Drezner. The Leveretts have also come to accept the realist critique that Israel occupies too great a role in America’s foreign policy calculus; Flynt clashed with fellow Bush officials about what peace-process concessions Israel should be asked to make, for instance. “For a lot of pro-Israel groups, these [views of Iran] are non-starters,” he says.

Or perhaps, on some level, they have actually grown to admire Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. In our meeting, I pressed them to say just how they feel about the Iranian leader. Geopolitics aside, did they consider him a despicable human being? “I think he’s actually a quite intelligent man,” Flynt replied. “I think he also has really extraordinary political skills.” “[T]he idea that he’s stupid or doesn’t understand retail politics is also pretty divorced from reality,” Hillary added. But that wasn’t the question.

Crowley notes that the Leveretts’ act is too much even for some of their former admirers. But alas, there must be other rewards for those who so gleefully cheerlead for the butchers of Tehran. And when wounded allies ask, “What are Flynt and Hillary doing?” the answer is simple: making a handsome living, creating a profile, and basking in the glow of J Street and of the other enablers of the anti-anti-mullah brigade.

Although not the first to look at the mullahs’ favorite Washington power couple, Michael Crowley does a particularly adept job at revealing the depths of Flynt and Hillary Mann Leverett’s shilling for the Iranian regime and for Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, personally:

I asked the Leveretts why, if Ahmadinejad enjoys such broad support, his regime has cracked down so brutally. In fact, they told me, Ahmadinejad has shown restraint. “It’s become politically incorrect and impossible to say it, but … this government hasn’t even begun to deploy the force it’s capable of using,’”says Hillary. (Even the videotaped shooting of Neda Agha-Soltan on a Tehran street was an ‘exceptional’ and ‘isolated’ case, she says.) . … The Leveretts also sought to account for Ahmadinejad’s threats against Israel as shrewd regional politics. “It does get to him when he’s described to the outside world as anti-Semitic. He would describe himself as anti-Zionist,” Flynt explains. ‘Resistance to Israel is an important theme to him. … If it’s crazy, it’s crazy like a fox.’”

Flynt still denies, in the face of multiple credible accounts, that he was fired by the Bush administration. And then there is a curious reference by the Leveretts to matters that one would think are not for public discussion. Crowley writes: “By last spring, they were warning that Obama had already ‘lost’ Iran, complaining that he had not halted Bush-era covert programs against Iran’s nuclear program.” Are the Leveretts going so far as to comment on covert operations, however obliquely? Certainly, they would know the peril in which they might find themselves for commenting publicly on top-secret matters.

But Flynt and Hillary are remarkably candid about their about-face on Iran and Israel:

Hillary says her dealings with Iranian diplomats as a Bush White House aide at the start of the Afghanistan war made her understand Tehran’s willingness to engage. “It seems that the Leveretts are almost frozen in time circa 2003 on this,” says Tufts University professor Daniel Drezner. The Leveretts have also come to accept the realist critique that Israel occupies too great a role in America’s foreign policy calculus; Flynt clashed with fellow Bush officials about what peace-process concessions Israel should be asked to make, for instance. “For a lot of pro-Israel groups, these [views of Iran] are non-starters,” he says.

Or perhaps, on some level, they have actually grown to admire Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. In our meeting, I pressed them to say just how they feel about the Iranian leader. Geopolitics aside, did they consider him a despicable human being? “I think he’s actually a quite intelligent man,” Flynt replied. “I think he also has really extraordinary political skills.” “[T]he idea that he’s stupid or doesn’t understand retail politics is also pretty divorced from reality,” Hillary added. But that wasn’t the question.

Crowley notes that the Leveretts’ act is too much even for some of their former admirers. But alas, there must be other rewards for those who so gleefully cheerlead for the butchers of Tehran. And when wounded allies ask, “What are Flynt and Hillary doing?” the answer is simple: making a handsome living, creating a profile, and basking in the glow of J Street and of the other enablers of the anti-anti-mullah brigade.

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The Latest Charlie Crist Headache

As if Charlie Crist didn’t have enough problems, along comes this story about the Florida state Republican Party, which until recently was headed by Crist’s close confidante Jim Greer:

Donors and party activists are livid over newly revealed records that suggest outgoing chairman Jim Greer used the party as a personal slush fund for lavish travel and entertainment. The records also show that executive director Delmar Johnson padded his $103,000 salary with a secret, $260,000 fundraising contract and another $42,000 for expenses — at the same time the once mighty Florida GOP was having to lay off employees amid anemic fundraising. . . .

Greer has long been known as a flamboyant chairman who enjoyed entourages, charter jets and belting out Elvis at party galas. But even the biggest critics of Gov. Charlie Crist’s hand-picked chairman were stunned by revelations that he entered into a lucrative secret contract with a stealth company set up by his most loyal aide de camp, 30-year-old [GOP executive director Delmar] Johnson, a former Crist campaign aide. The contract would pay Johnson a 10 percent commission on all major donations to the state Republican Party.

This will likely become yet another source of angst for Crist, as party activists and ordinary voters question what he knew about his chairman’s activities and how this reflects on his judgment. (“Crist has said he didn’t know about Johnson’s contract, but some activists aren’t satisfied. Crist is the de facto head of the party and its biggest fundraiser.”) It seems as though Marco Rubio’s outsiderness is proving again to be an advantage. For now Rubio is taking a restrained line, calling for an audit “looking at how expenditures have been made in the past and make sure that going forward people are confident when they give money to the Republican party, it’s going toward good things.” Sometimes it is best simply to get out of the way while your opponent is drowning.

As if Charlie Crist didn’t have enough problems, along comes this story about the Florida state Republican Party, which until recently was headed by Crist’s close confidante Jim Greer:

Donors and party activists are livid over newly revealed records that suggest outgoing chairman Jim Greer used the party as a personal slush fund for lavish travel and entertainment. The records also show that executive director Delmar Johnson padded his $103,000 salary with a secret, $260,000 fundraising contract and another $42,000 for expenses — at the same time the once mighty Florida GOP was having to lay off employees amid anemic fundraising. . . .

Greer has long been known as a flamboyant chairman who enjoyed entourages, charter jets and belting out Elvis at party galas. But even the biggest critics of Gov. Charlie Crist’s hand-picked chairman were stunned by revelations that he entered into a lucrative secret contract with a stealth company set up by his most loyal aide de camp, 30-year-old [GOP executive director Delmar] Johnson, a former Crist campaign aide. The contract would pay Johnson a 10 percent commission on all major donations to the state Republican Party.

This will likely become yet another source of angst for Crist, as party activists and ordinary voters question what he knew about his chairman’s activities and how this reflects on his judgment. (“Crist has said he didn’t know about Johnson’s contract, but some activists aren’t satisfied. Crist is the de facto head of the party and its biggest fundraiser.”) It seems as though Marco Rubio’s outsiderness is proving again to be an advantage. For now Rubio is taking a restrained line, calling for an audit “looking at how expenditures have been made in the past and make sure that going forward people are confident when they give money to the Republican party, it’s going toward good things.” Sometimes it is best simply to get out of the way while your opponent is drowning.

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Blame Obama for Blaming Bush

Jonathan Martin reports:

After three consecutive losses in statewide races, some top Democrats are questioning a tactic aimed at boosting the party’s candidates in each of those contests: Bush-bashing. . . “Voters are pretty tired of the blame game,” said longtime Democratic strategist Steve Hildebrand, a top aide on Obama’s presidential campaign. “What a stupid strategy that was.”

Almost on cue, James Carville pops up to counsel: “Democrats would not be playing the blame game with one another for the loss or for the health-care debacle if they had only pointed fingers at those (or in this case, the one) who put Americans (and most of the world) in the predicament we’re in: George W. Bush.”

There is one big problem with shifting tactics: the “not Bush” strategy comes right from Obama and is frankly more an obsession than a strategy. Starting with his Inaugural Address, continuing through his announcement on stem-cell research, barreling on through his ill-advised anti-terror policies and Middle East gambit (more daylight between the U.S. and Israel!), and casting blame for the jobless recovery, Obama has reflexively blamed Bush for nearly everything. It is how he got elected and now he can’t seem to give it up. It fills in the time, of course, when he’s not passing his own agenda and not succeeding in any foreign-policy effort.

It was stunningly petty conduct by Obama, behavior we really haven’t seen from any other president once in office. It is part of Obama’s larger failing — the inability or unwillingness to transition from a campaign partisan to an effective chief executive. While the “blame Bush” tactic was never effective, now it looks counterproductive and tone deaf. Martin explains:

“This isn’t 2008, and to voters, you no longer represent a beacon of hope, change and a brighter day,” wrote Democratic consultants Kristian Denny Todd and Steve Jarding in Friday’s POLITICO, in a piece addressed to their party. “Instead, 12 months into your ‘mandate to change,’ Americans see you as a card-carrying member of the arrogant political establishment that they increasingly believe is out of touch at best and self-serving at worst.”

Further, given the flurry of major steps Obama has taken in the year since he took office — from the stimulus to more bailouts to health care — Bush looks even more distant in the public’s rearview mirror.

“Obama has made so many moves and changes that it is hard to argue that all the Bush screw-ups are still the leading reason things aren’t better,” explained Democratic pollster Paul Maslin.

The excuse mongering only reinforces the growing perception that Obama is isolated, disconnected, and in over his head. Whether he is willing to give up the security blanket of blaming Bush for his travails remains to be seen. But until he moves on, his fellow Democrats will have a hard time doing so. They can add that to the list of their Obama-induced woes this election year.

Jonathan Martin reports:

After three consecutive losses in statewide races, some top Democrats are questioning a tactic aimed at boosting the party’s candidates in each of those contests: Bush-bashing. . . “Voters are pretty tired of the blame game,” said longtime Democratic strategist Steve Hildebrand, a top aide on Obama’s presidential campaign. “What a stupid strategy that was.”

Almost on cue, James Carville pops up to counsel: “Democrats would not be playing the blame game with one another for the loss or for the health-care debacle if they had only pointed fingers at those (or in this case, the one) who put Americans (and most of the world) in the predicament we’re in: George W. Bush.”

There is one big problem with shifting tactics: the “not Bush” strategy comes right from Obama and is frankly more an obsession than a strategy. Starting with his Inaugural Address, continuing through his announcement on stem-cell research, barreling on through his ill-advised anti-terror policies and Middle East gambit (more daylight between the U.S. and Israel!), and casting blame for the jobless recovery, Obama has reflexively blamed Bush for nearly everything. It is how he got elected and now he can’t seem to give it up. It fills in the time, of course, when he’s not passing his own agenda and not succeeding in any foreign-policy effort.

It was stunningly petty conduct by Obama, behavior we really haven’t seen from any other president once in office. It is part of Obama’s larger failing — the inability or unwillingness to transition from a campaign partisan to an effective chief executive. While the “blame Bush” tactic was never effective, now it looks counterproductive and tone deaf. Martin explains:

“This isn’t 2008, and to voters, you no longer represent a beacon of hope, change and a brighter day,” wrote Democratic consultants Kristian Denny Todd and Steve Jarding in Friday’s POLITICO, in a piece addressed to their party. “Instead, 12 months into your ‘mandate to change,’ Americans see you as a card-carrying member of the arrogant political establishment that they increasingly believe is out of touch at best and self-serving at worst.”

Further, given the flurry of major steps Obama has taken in the year since he took office — from the stimulus to more bailouts to health care — Bush looks even more distant in the public’s rearview mirror.

“Obama has made so many moves and changes that it is hard to argue that all the Bush screw-ups are still the leading reason things aren’t better,” explained Democratic pollster Paul Maslin.

The excuse mongering only reinforces the growing perception that Obama is isolated, disconnected, and in over his head. Whether he is willing to give up the security blanket of blaming Bush for his travails remains to be seen. But until he moves on, his fellow Democrats will have a hard time doing so. They can add that to the list of their Obama-induced woes this election year.

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Squandering Mr. Obama’s Teachable Moment

In his interview with George Stephanopoulos yesterday, President Obama said this:

The same thing that swept Scott Brown into office swept me into office. People are angry, and they’re frustrated. Not just because of what’s happened in the last year or two years, but what’s happened over the last eight years.

He went on to say this as well:

If there’s one thing that I regret this year, is that we were so busy just getting stuff done and dealing with the immediate crises that were in front of us, that I think we lost some of that sense of speaking directly to the American people about what their core values are and why we have to make sure those institutions are matching up with those values. And that I do think is a mistake of mine. I think the assumption was, if I just focus on policy, if I just focus on the, you know this provision, or that law, or are we making a good, rational decision here … that people will get it. … What they’ve ended up seeing is this feeling of remoteness and detachment where, you know, there’s these technocrats up here, these folks who are making decisions. … I think that I can do a better job of that and partly because I do believe that we’re in a stronger position now than we were in a year ago. That also means, by the way, that we can spread out what we do so it’s not so cram-packed. It doesn’t mean I back off the agenda of health care, or energy, or education, or financial regulatory reform, or dealing with our deficits. But it does mean that it doesn’t have to be all on top of the other piled on. And we’ve got a lot more time to explain to people why we’re doing what we’re doing. We have a lot more time to answer critics who argue that we’re not doing the right thing.

What a shame; the election in Massachusetts was a wonderful teachable moment for Mr. Obama — and he seems to have drawn all the wrong lessons from it.

First, the president is still engaged in whining and finger-pointing, an act that long ago became tiresome. Unable to master events, he increasingly looks for ways to scapegoat them. Blaming everything under the sun on the “last eight years” won’t cut it (especially since one of the last eight years now covers Obama’s tenure). It simply makes Mr. Obama look petty and small-minded.

Second, Mr. Obama and his press spokesman Robert Gibbs and his top aide David Axelrod are practicing psychiatry without a license. They speak about the need to “understand” the public’s “anger,” as if it was a rooted in something other than a reasonable verdict on Mr. Obama’s agenda so far. The polling data shows that what is costing the Democrats isn’t some kind of free-floating anger that has gripped voters in need of therapy; it is opposition to what Obama and the Democrats are trying to do to the nation.

Third, the president’s “mistake” is that he and his administration were just so busy doing so much good stuff for so many people that, well, they plainly forgot to explain to simple-minded Americans just how much good stuff the Obama administration is doing for them. I guess Rahm Emanuel needs to add “remind people how great I am” to the presidential “to do” list.

Fourth, Obama and his acolytes believe they have a “communications problem” when in fact they have a substance and competence problem. They are pushing proposals that are counterproductive and highly unpopular; that is why the American people are rising up against the president and his agenda.

Mr. Obama’s words are so laughably out of touch I’m not sure he really believes them. If he does, he is more self-deluded than I imagined. And his administration is in more trouble than I thought.

In his interview with George Stephanopoulos yesterday, President Obama said this:

The same thing that swept Scott Brown into office swept me into office. People are angry, and they’re frustrated. Not just because of what’s happened in the last year or two years, but what’s happened over the last eight years.

He went on to say this as well:

If there’s one thing that I regret this year, is that we were so busy just getting stuff done and dealing with the immediate crises that were in front of us, that I think we lost some of that sense of speaking directly to the American people about what their core values are and why we have to make sure those institutions are matching up with those values. And that I do think is a mistake of mine. I think the assumption was, if I just focus on policy, if I just focus on the, you know this provision, or that law, or are we making a good, rational decision here … that people will get it. … What they’ve ended up seeing is this feeling of remoteness and detachment where, you know, there’s these technocrats up here, these folks who are making decisions. … I think that I can do a better job of that and partly because I do believe that we’re in a stronger position now than we were in a year ago. That also means, by the way, that we can spread out what we do so it’s not so cram-packed. It doesn’t mean I back off the agenda of health care, or energy, or education, or financial regulatory reform, or dealing with our deficits. But it does mean that it doesn’t have to be all on top of the other piled on. And we’ve got a lot more time to explain to people why we’re doing what we’re doing. We have a lot more time to answer critics who argue that we’re not doing the right thing.

What a shame; the election in Massachusetts was a wonderful teachable moment for Mr. Obama — and he seems to have drawn all the wrong lessons from it.

First, the president is still engaged in whining and finger-pointing, an act that long ago became tiresome. Unable to master events, he increasingly looks for ways to scapegoat them. Blaming everything under the sun on the “last eight years” won’t cut it (especially since one of the last eight years now covers Obama’s tenure). It simply makes Mr. Obama look petty and small-minded.

Second, Mr. Obama and his press spokesman Robert Gibbs and his top aide David Axelrod are practicing psychiatry without a license. They speak about the need to “understand” the public’s “anger,” as if it was a rooted in something other than a reasonable verdict on Mr. Obama’s agenda so far. The polling data shows that what is costing the Democrats isn’t some kind of free-floating anger that has gripped voters in need of therapy; it is opposition to what Obama and the Democrats are trying to do to the nation.

Third, the president’s “mistake” is that he and his administration were just so busy doing so much good stuff for so many people that, well, they plainly forgot to explain to simple-minded Americans just how much good stuff the Obama administration is doing for them. I guess Rahm Emanuel needs to add “remind people how great I am” to the presidential “to do” list.

Fourth, Obama and his acolytes believe they have a “communications problem” when in fact they have a substance and competence problem. They are pushing proposals that are counterproductive and highly unpopular; that is why the American people are rising up against the president and his agenda.

Mr. Obama’s words are so laughably out of touch I’m not sure he really believes them. If he does, he is more self-deluded than I imagined. And his administration is in more trouble than I thought.

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RE: Time to Clean House

Dana Milbank reminds me that there’s another White House aide who deserves to be shown the door: the ever-snide Robert Gibbs. Milbank explains:

Gibbs acts as though he’s playing himself in the movie version of his job. In this imaginary film, he is the smart-alecky press secretary, offering zippy comebacks and cracking jokes to make his questioners look ridiculous. It’s no great feat to make reporters look bad, but this act also sends a televised image of a cocksure White House to ordinary Americans watching at home.

This is the most visible manifestation of a larger problem the Obama White House has. Many Obama loyalists from the 2008 race still seem, after a year on the job, to be having trouble exiting campaign mode. They sometimes appear to be running a taxpayer-funded rapid-response operation.

Sometimes? We’ve been treated to attacks from Gibbs on Fox, Gallup, radio talk-show hosts, and CNBC reporters. As Milbank describes, he waves off reporters’ legitimate inquiries with the back of his hand — the perfect metaphor for the contempt with which this White House treats critics. A case in point of the abject rudeness that Gibbs displays:

The press secretary drummed a bah-dum-bum on the lectern. [CBS's Chip] Reid ignored the percussion and asked whether the “groundswell of support for a Republican in the blue state of Massachusetts for a candidate who’s running against the president’s agenda” meant that “the White House has simply lost touch with the American people.”

Gibbs gave another dismissive wave and cited a CBS News poll that wasn’t about Massachusetts.

“Good diversion,” Reid replied.

“I hate to quote CBS to CBS,” Gibbs continued with a grin.

Funny, huh? No, not really. The Obama team has brought its style of Chicago politics — nontransparent, corrupt, undemocratic, and bullying — to Washington. It makes no effort to conceal it; instead it showcases it every day from the White House press room. Gibbs in that regard is the perfect face for the Obama White House — arrogant and just plain boorish.

So if Obama is looking to turn over a new leaf — and it’s not sure that he is — or even if he wants to present a more appealing image to the voters, he’d do well to dump Gibbs. There have been some pretty good Democratic press secretaries (Mike McCurry among the best), so they should be able to come up with another mouthpiece. The message is a different problem, but the least they can do is find a less obnoxious messenger.

Dana Milbank reminds me that there’s another White House aide who deserves to be shown the door: the ever-snide Robert Gibbs. Milbank explains:

Gibbs acts as though he’s playing himself in the movie version of his job. In this imaginary film, he is the smart-alecky press secretary, offering zippy comebacks and cracking jokes to make his questioners look ridiculous. It’s no great feat to make reporters look bad, but this act also sends a televised image of a cocksure White House to ordinary Americans watching at home.

This is the most visible manifestation of a larger problem the Obama White House has. Many Obama loyalists from the 2008 race still seem, after a year on the job, to be having trouble exiting campaign mode. They sometimes appear to be running a taxpayer-funded rapid-response operation.

Sometimes? We’ve been treated to attacks from Gibbs on Fox, Gallup, radio talk-show hosts, and CNBC reporters. As Milbank describes, he waves off reporters’ legitimate inquiries with the back of his hand — the perfect metaphor for the contempt with which this White House treats critics. A case in point of the abject rudeness that Gibbs displays:

The press secretary drummed a bah-dum-bum on the lectern. [CBS's Chip] Reid ignored the percussion and asked whether the “groundswell of support for a Republican in the blue state of Massachusetts for a candidate who’s running against the president’s agenda” meant that “the White House has simply lost touch with the American people.”

Gibbs gave another dismissive wave and cited a CBS News poll that wasn’t about Massachusetts.

“Good diversion,” Reid replied.

“I hate to quote CBS to CBS,” Gibbs continued with a grin.

Funny, huh? No, not really. The Obama team has brought its style of Chicago politics — nontransparent, corrupt, undemocratic, and bullying — to Washington. It makes no effort to conceal it; instead it showcases it every day from the White House press room. Gibbs in that regard is the perfect face for the Obama White House — arrogant and just plain boorish.

So if Obama is looking to turn over a new leaf — and it’s not sure that he is — or even if he wants to present a more appealing image to the voters, he’d do well to dump Gibbs. There have been some pretty good Democratic press secretaries (Mike McCurry among the best), so they should be able to come up with another mouthpiece. The message is a different problem, but the least they can do is find a less obnoxious messenger.

Read Less




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