Commentary Magazine


Topic: Alaska

The Other Haley

Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour, head of the Republican Governors Association and making his way onto the list of 2012 presidential contenders, touts the Tea Party–GOP big tent:

On the issues foremost in voters’ minds—the economy, jobs, spending, taxes, debt and deficits—the overwhelming majority of tea party voters and Republican voters are in strong agreement.

That is why it was tremendously important for Republican prospects in the 2010 elections that tea partiers did not run as independents or third-party candidates. To do so would have split the votes of those who know the Obama-Pelosi-Reid policies don’t work and are hurting our economy.

Every Republican should be pleased that these tea party candidates chose to run in our primaries. In the vast majority of cases, their participation was welcomed, even cultivated, by GOP leaders—and rightly so.

In other words, there may be differences in tone and style, and not all Tea Party candidates are ready for prime time, but the Republican Party has sidestepped the fissure that the chattering class promised was coming. Barbour is also canny enough to tell Beltway Republicans to butt out of primaries — and Lisa Murkowski not to let the door hit her on the way out of the Senate leadership team. (“We have no right whatsoever to substitute our will or judgment for that of the voters. Sen. Lisa Murkowski lost the GOP primary in Alaska to Joe Miller. Now she’s launched a write-in campaign to get re-elected. There is no excuse for this campaign, and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell was right to demand her resignation from the GOP leadership.”)

Barbour is not so subtly making the point that it is not in the interests of either establishment GOP figures or the Tea Parties (or members of the former seeking to ingratiate themselves with the latter) to play up the media-created antagonism between the two groups. In fact, the two groups are overlapping — many Tea Partiers are Republicans, the movement’s darling was the VP nominee in 2008, and its greatest salesmen are well-known conservative politicians and media figures.

Barbour has been an uber-competent governor, a successful leader of the RGA, and a savvy analyst of the GOP’s travails and resurgence. Whether he finally decides to run for president and can prove successful remains to be seen. But he’s not doing himself any harm with commonsense calls for unity and a firm restatement of conservatives’ agenda (“creating jobs instead of more massive government, controlling spending and not raising taxes, and delaying and then repealing ObamaCare”).

Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour, head of the Republican Governors Association and making his way onto the list of 2012 presidential contenders, touts the Tea Party–GOP big tent:

On the issues foremost in voters’ minds—the economy, jobs, spending, taxes, debt and deficits—the overwhelming majority of tea party voters and Republican voters are in strong agreement.

That is why it was tremendously important for Republican prospects in the 2010 elections that tea partiers did not run as independents or third-party candidates. To do so would have split the votes of those who know the Obama-Pelosi-Reid policies don’t work and are hurting our economy.

Every Republican should be pleased that these tea party candidates chose to run in our primaries. In the vast majority of cases, their participation was welcomed, even cultivated, by GOP leaders—and rightly so.

In other words, there may be differences in tone and style, and not all Tea Party candidates are ready for prime time, but the Republican Party has sidestepped the fissure that the chattering class promised was coming. Barbour is also canny enough to tell Beltway Republicans to butt out of primaries — and Lisa Murkowski not to let the door hit her on the way out of the Senate leadership team. (“We have no right whatsoever to substitute our will or judgment for that of the voters. Sen. Lisa Murkowski lost the GOP primary in Alaska to Joe Miller. Now she’s launched a write-in campaign to get re-elected. There is no excuse for this campaign, and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell was right to demand her resignation from the GOP leadership.”)

Barbour is not so subtly making the point that it is not in the interests of either establishment GOP figures or the Tea Parties (or members of the former seeking to ingratiate themselves with the latter) to play up the media-created antagonism between the two groups. In fact, the two groups are overlapping — many Tea Partiers are Republicans, the movement’s darling was the VP nominee in 2008, and its greatest salesmen are well-known conservative politicians and media figures.

Barbour has been an uber-competent governor, a successful leader of the RGA, and a savvy analyst of the GOP’s travails and resurgence. Whether he finally decides to run for president and can prove successful remains to be seen. But he’s not doing himself any harm with commonsense calls for unity and a firm restatement of conservatives’ agenda (“creating jobs instead of more massive government, controlling spending and not raising taxes, and delaying and then repealing ObamaCare”).

Read Less

Obama Finally Notices the Tea Party

The Chicago pols who occupy the White House may not know much about economics or the Middle East, but they are unparalleled in their devotion to (obsessed with, really) partisanship and attack-dog politics. They’ve gone after Fox News, the Chamber of Commerce, talk show hosts, town hall protesters, Justice Alito, Wall Street, Sarah Palin, and, of course, the Republican Party. So it shouldn’t surprise anyone that the White House is contemplating a smear attack on the Tea Party, according to the New York Times:

White House and Congressional Democratic strategists are trying to energize dispirited Democratic voters over the coming six weeks, in hopes of limiting the party’s losses and keeping control of the House and Senate. The strategists see openings to exploit after a string of Tea Party successes split Republicans in a number of states, culminating last week with developments that scrambled Senate races in Delaware and Alaska.

Translation: the White House is so panicked and has been so unsuccessful in juicing up the base (wasn’t ObamaCare supposed to do that?) that it now wants to assail a movement of millions of Americans, risk further alienating independents (who loathe hyper-partisanship), and demonstrate just how desperate the Democrats are by attacking the Tea Partiers. Even the Times thinks it’s a dopey idea:

In 1994, Democrats were in power and similarly took hope when Republican primaries yielded candidates deemed too far right for the general election. Yet the wave against Democrats that year was strong enough to carry those newcomers into office and put Republicans in control of Congress for the first time in 40 years.

Except for Ms. O’Donnell in Delaware, Republican nominees that Democrats like to showcase as extremists — including in Senate races in Nevada, Colorado, Kentucky and even blue-state Connecticut — are even with their Democratic rivals in polls or ahead.

The danger in all this — aside from making their political predicament worse — is that it elevates the Tea Party and sets the populist advocates up for some post-election gloating. (“Obama went after us and we beat Obama.”) And for a president who will need to learn to get along, for the first time in his presidency, with committed conservative lawmakers, it’s probably not the best idea to run a vicious, personal attack on them. Some of them — most, in fact — are likely to get elected, and they may be in no mood to compromise with a president who tags every opponent as an “extremist.” But then the Obami aren’t nearly as concerned about governing as they are about campaigning.

The Chicago pols who occupy the White House may not know much about economics or the Middle East, but they are unparalleled in their devotion to (obsessed with, really) partisanship and attack-dog politics. They’ve gone after Fox News, the Chamber of Commerce, talk show hosts, town hall protesters, Justice Alito, Wall Street, Sarah Palin, and, of course, the Republican Party. So it shouldn’t surprise anyone that the White House is contemplating a smear attack on the Tea Party, according to the New York Times:

White House and Congressional Democratic strategists are trying to energize dispirited Democratic voters over the coming six weeks, in hopes of limiting the party’s losses and keeping control of the House and Senate. The strategists see openings to exploit after a string of Tea Party successes split Republicans in a number of states, culminating last week with developments that scrambled Senate races in Delaware and Alaska.

Translation: the White House is so panicked and has been so unsuccessful in juicing up the base (wasn’t ObamaCare supposed to do that?) that it now wants to assail a movement of millions of Americans, risk further alienating independents (who loathe hyper-partisanship), and demonstrate just how desperate the Democrats are by attacking the Tea Partiers. Even the Times thinks it’s a dopey idea:

In 1994, Democrats were in power and similarly took hope when Republican primaries yielded candidates deemed too far right for the general election. Yet the wave against Democrats that year was strong enough to carry those newcomers into office and put Republicans in control of Congress for the first time in 40 years.

Except for Ms. O’Donnell in Delaware, Republican nominees that Democrats like to showcase as extremists — including in Senate races in Nevada, Colorado, Kentucky and even blue-state Connecticut — are even with their Democratic rivals in polls or ahead.

The danger in all this — aside from making their political predicament worse — is that it elevates the Tea Party and sets the populist advocates up for some post-election gloating. (“Obama went after us and we beat Obama.”) And for a president who will need to learn to get along, for the first time in his presidency, with committed conservative lawmakers, it’s probably not the best idea to run a vicious, personal attack on them. Some of them — most, in fact — are likely to get elected, and they may be in no mood to compromise with a president who tags every opponent as an “extremist.” But then the Obami aren’t nearly as concerned about governing as they are about campaigning.

Read Less

O’Donnell’s Victory and What It Means

1. The victory of Christine O’Donnell in the Delaware Senate race is the fourth defeat for the so-called “establishment” Republican candidate in a primary this year — preceded by Rand Paul in Kentucky, Sharron Angle in Nevada, and Joe Miller in Alaska. That’s the East Coast, a border state, the Southwest, and way the hell and gone — an unmistakable demonstration that the Republican Party is reconstituting itself in an unprecedented fashion.

2. There seems to be a general presumption that O’Donnell can’t win, because polling suggests she has a long haul and because there are many questions about her fitness. Granted, all relevant signs suggest the man she defeated, Mike Castle, would have been the likely winner and she has an uphill climb. But can she win? Don’t be ridiculous. Of course she can win — in theory at least. She’s out of money, but her political stardom should allow her to raise millions from grassroots Tea Partiers nationwide and close the money gap with her Democratic rival.

3. The presumption among delighted people on the left-liberal side is that all this roiling on the right suggests a party in disarray and a movement intent on cannibalizing itself. That’s one way to look at it. The other is that the GOP is actually expanding and seizing the populist mood that seems to be the national direction — even though the GOP leadership, especially in the Senate, is finding the whole business unnerving and destructive.

1. The victory of Christine O’Donnell in the Delaware Senate race is the fourth defeat for the so-called “establishment” Republican candidate in a primary this year — preceded by Rand Paul in Kentucky, Sharron Angle in Nevada, and Joe Miller in Alaska. That’s the East Coast, a border state, the Southwest, and way the hell and gone — an unmistakable demonstration that the Republican Party is reconstituting itself in an unprecedented fashion.

2. There seems to be a general presumption that O’Donnell can’t win, because polling suggests she has a long haul and because there are many questions about her fitness. Granted, all relevant signs suggest the man she defeated, Mike Castle, would have been the likely winner and she has an uphill climb. But can she win? Don’t be ridiculous. Of course she can win — in theory at least. She’s out of money, but her political stardom should allow her to raise millions from grassroots Tea Partiers nationwide and close the money gap with her Democratic rival.

3. The presumption among delighted people on the left-liberal side is that all this roiling on the right suggests a party in disarray and a movement intent on cannibalizing itself. That’s one way to look at it. The other is that the GOP is actually expanding and seizing the populist mood that seems to be the national direction — even though the GOP leadership, especially in the Senate, is finding the whole business unnerving and destructive.

Read Less

A Costly Error for the GOP?

Charles Krauthammer doesn’t mince words (when does he ever?) on the endorsement of Christine O’Donnell. He calls the decision to back the Tea Party darling (who has a boatload of  vulnerabilities) “destructive, capricious and irresponsible” and that if she wins it “could be the difference between Republican and Democratic control.” As he puts it, “Delaware is not Alaska.”

In some cases, the Tea Party activists and their endorsers have dodged a bullet. In Kentucky, Rand Paul is now comfortably ahead, no thanks to his own gaffes and erratic performance. But in states that aren’t traditionally Red, even in a wave election year, it’s important to select competent, electable candidates if the party’s goal is to maximize its numbers.

As I have pointed out in the past, 51 seats doesn’t necessarily give one “control” of the Senate. But, as one smart GOP operative told me, “It would be a disaster — literally throwing a seat away and potentially a shot at the majority.” On the other hand, it might be a valuable lesson for the GOP to learn about the importance of candidate selection.

Charles Krauthammer doesn’t mince words (when does he ever?) on the endorsement of Christine O’Donnell. He calls the decision to back the Tea Party darling (who has a boatload of  vulnerabilities) “destructive, capricious and irresponsible” and that if she wins it “could be the difference between Republican and Democratic control.” As he puts it, “Delaware is not Alaska.”

In some cases, the Tea Party activists and their endorsers have dodged a bullet. In Kentucky, Rand Paul is now comfortably ahead, no thanks to his own gaffes and erratic performance. But in states that aren’t traditionally Red, even in a wave election year, it’s important to select competent, electable candidates if the party’s goal is to maximize its numbers.

As I have pointed out in the past, 51 seats doesn’t necessarily give one “control” of the Senate. But, as one smart GOP operative told me, “It would be a disaster — literally throwing a seat away and potentially a shot at the majority.” On the other hand, it might be a valuable lesson for the GOP to learn about the importance of candidate selection.

Read Less

Another Democratic Disappointment: No GOP Fight in Alaska

Democrats, who have precious little to cheer about, were hoping that the nip-and-tuck GOP Senate primary in Alaska would devolve into a messy, prolonged fight. Sorry, guys. Lisa Murkowski showed some class and party loyalty:

U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski has conceded her Alaska Senate primary race to Joe Miller. The Republican made the concession speech Tuesday night, a full week after the primary. …

“We all know that this has been a long week, a terribly long week,” she said at campaign headquarters. She said that while there were outstanding votes, “I don’t see a scenario where the primary will turn out in my favor, and that is a reality that is before me at this point in time.”

OK, she’s taken some hits as a shoveler of pork, but those Republicans who have been trashing her might want to give her some credit. She didn’t pull an “Al Franken,” and she pretty much ensured that the seat will stay in the GOP column. As for the Democrats, that nothing-going-right streak remains intact.

Democrats, who have precious little to cheer about, were hoping that the nip-and-tuck GOP Senate primary in Alaska would devolve into a messy, prolonged fight. Sorry, guys. Lisa Murkowski showed some class and party loyalty:

U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski has conceded her Alaska Senate primary race to Joe Miller. The Republican made the concession speech Tuesday night, a full week after the primary. …

“We all know that this has been a long week, a terribly long week,” she said at campaign headquarters. She said that while there were outstanding votes, “I don’t see a scenario where the primary will turn out in my favor, and that is a reality that is before me at this point in time.”

OK, she’s taken some hits as a shoveler of pork, but those Republicans who have been trashing her might want to give her some credit. She didn’t pull an “Al Franken,” and she pretty much ensured that the seat will stay in the GOP column. As for the Democrats, that nothing-going-right streak remains intact.

Read Less

Queen Esther Goes to Alaska

As Jen noted yesterday, Sarah Palin, widely considered intellectually deficient by many Jews I know, appeared at a shabbaton (a study session on the Jewish Sabbath) the evening before she spoke at Glenn Beck’s rally. The shabbaton took place at the Hershey Lodge, near Hershey Park in Pennsylvania, which has probably been attended more frequently on the Sabbath by many Northeastern Jews than their local synagogues. Benyamin Korn offers details in an article in the online New York Sun:

My colleague Sheya, director of PalinTV, presented Mrs. Palin with the ArtScroll edition of Perek Shira, a commentary on the song of celebration sung by Jewish women during the exodus from Egypt. Mrs. Palin received the Hebrew volume with obvious delight; she has used the biblical Book of Esther as bedtime reading material for her eight-year-old daughter, Piper. She wants Willow to emulate Esther, Jewish history’s great heroine, who risked everything to save the Jewish people from Haman’s plan for genocide.

Although 65 years have passed since the Holocaust, the threat of genocide still hangs over the Jewish people — and again from Persia. Iran openly threatens to wipe Israel off the map. Hamas, with its charter calling for the extermination of the Jewish State, fires rockets at Israeli schoolchildren. Syria races to build chemical and biological weapons to use against Israel. Mrs. Palin makes it clear that she recognizes these threats to America’s ally, Israel, and wants to end them. She minced no words in her remarks to the Pennsylvania Family Institute, criticizing the Obama administration for “coddling our enemies while abandoning our treasured ally, Israel.”

Maybe it’s not just Palin’s right-wing politics that gets secular Jews so riled up. Maybe it’s also that Palin, that idiot, may actually know more about Judaism and feel no discomfort about emulating  Jewish traditions and Jewish particularism in the way that they seem to.

As Jen noted yesterday, Sarah Palin, widely considered intellectually deficient by many Jews I know, appeared at a shabbaton (a study session on the Jewish Sabbath) the evening before she spoke at Glenn Beck’s rally. The shabbaton took place at the Hershey Lodge, near Hershey Park in Pennsylvania, which has probably been attended more frequently on the Sabbath by many Northeastern Jews than their local synagogues. Benyamin Korn offers details in an article in the online New York Sun:

My colleague Sheya, director of PalinTV, presented Mrs. Palin with the ArtScroll edition of Perek Shira, a commentary on the song of celebration sung by Jewish women during the exodus from Egypt. Mrs. Palin received the Hebrew volume with obvious delight; she has used the biblical Book of Esther as bedtime reading material for her eight-year-old daughter, Piper. She wants Willow to emulate Esther, Jewish history’s great heroine, who risked everything to save the Jewish people from Haman’s plan for genocide.

Although 65 years have passed since the Holocaust, the threat of genocide still hangs over the Jewish people — and again from Persia. Iran openly threatens to wipe Israel off the map. Hamas, with its charter calling for the extermination of the Jewish State, fires rockets at Israeli schoolchildren. Syria races to build chemical and biological weapons to use against Israel. Mrs. Palin makes it clear that she recognizes these threats to America’s ally, Israel, and wants to end them. She minced no words in her remarks to the Pennsylvania Family Institute, criticizing the Obama administration for “coddling our enemies while abandoning our treasured ally, Israel.”

Maybe it’s not just Palin’s right-wing politics that gets secular Jews so riled up. Maybe it’s also that Palin, that idiot, may actually know more about Judaism and feel no discomfort about emulating  Jewish traditions and Jewish particularism in the way that they seem to.

Read Less

Sarah Palin’s Certain Type of Genius

Over at Slate, no fan club of Sarah Palin’s, John Dickerson concedes:

Sarah Palin has special medicine. That’s about the only clear conclusion to be drawn from Tuesday’s primary results. She backed five candidates in Arizona, Florida, and Alaska—and they all won. The rest of the results from the evening defied easy matching. The themes of anti-incumbency and voter anger are still out there, but the candidates who mastered those forces (or avoided them) did so in different ways.

The aspect of Palin that elicits admiration and respect even from liberal critics is her unerring eye for political talent and her certain genius for understanding where the public is going, usually before it does. It is what makes record producers and TV execs famous and rich: a feel for the public’s taste that defies conventional wisdom and relies not so much on careful analysis (who’d have imagined a slick series about ad execs in the 1960s would prove so addictive for so many viewers?) but on gut instinct.

As Dickerson notes:

Twenty of the candidates she’s endorsed have won. Ten have lost. That’s a pretty good record. Her biggest victory looks like it might come in the Republican Senate primary in her home state. … She didn’t go all out for [likely upset winner Joe] Miller but she worked for him more than a lot of her other endorsed candidates, promoting his candidacy but also tearing down his opponent. Palin can take some credit for a portion of his good showing. … Palin now has more support for a favorite story line of hers: The pundits and so-called experts said things were going to go one way but she had faith; she knew the real deal. This is part of her larger pitch: that she understands something fundamental about conservative voters.

And it’s not simply candidates that she gets right. Her death-panel zinger not only revealed an underlying truth about ObamaCare’s plans to ration care; she also managed, with a hot button phrase, to electrify critics and infuriate defenders of the bill. Her populist appeal, and sometimes overdone criticism of elite media, was in 2008 a precursor of the Tea Party movement — conservatism that is anti-establishment, small-government-minded, and celebrates individual responsibility.

Now, being a political soothsayer and a superb judge of talent (she plucked Nikki Haley out of obscurity by watching a single video) doesn’t ensure a successful candidacy or an effective presidency. But it’s not nothing. And having experienced an over-credentialed pseudo-intellectual president who lacks a basic understanding of the American people, the public may find something refreshing about someone who “gets” what the country is about. Palin knows what to look for in candidates because she is in sync with the center-right zeitgeist. If she knows what the country is about and what makes it successful, the argument would go, she might possess, as Dickerson explains, “a special light to guide the country out of the muck.” (This was the secret to Ronald Reagan, by the way. It didn’t matter what the issue was — he would get it “right” because he instinctively understood the superiority of free markets, the destiny of America, and the character of his fellow citizens. Yes, all caveats apply, and Palin is not Reagan.)

It’s not clear whether Palin will run in 2012 or could even win the nomination, but her potential opponents and the media underestimate her at their peril. And if she doesn’t win, whichever Republican does would be crazy not to take her counsel and guidance. The lady knows a thing or two about how to win races.

Over at Slate, no fan club of Sarah Palin’s, John Dickerson concedes:

Sarah Palin has special medicine. That’s about the only clear conclusion to be drawn from Tuesday’s primary results. She backed five candidates in Arizona, Florida, and Alaska—and they all won. The rest of the results from the evening defied easy matching. The themes of anti-incumbency and voter anger are still out there, but the candidates who mastered those forces (or avoided them) did so in different ways.

The aspect of Palin that elicits admiration and respect even from liberal critics is her unerring eye for political talent and her certain genius for understanding where the public is going, usually before it does. It is what makes record producers and TV execs famous and rich: a feel for the public’s taste that defies conventional wisdom and relies not so much on careful analysis (who’d have imagined a slick series about ad execs in the 1960s would prove so addictive for so many viewers?) but on gut instinct.

As Dickerson notes:

Twenty of the candidates she’s endorsed have won. Ten have lost. That’s a pretty good record. Her biggest victory looks like it might come in the Republican Senate primary in her home state. … She didn’t go all out for [likely upset winner Joe] Miller but she worked for him more than a lot of her other endorsed candidates, promoting his candidacy but also tearing down his opponent. Palin can take some credit for a portion of his good showing. … Palin now has more support for a favorite story line of hers: The pundits and so-called experts said things were going to go one way but she had faith; she knew the real deal. This is part of her larger pitch: that she understands something fundamental about conservative voters.

And it’s not simply candidates that she gets right. Her death-panel zinger not only revealed an underlying truth about ObamaCare’s plans to ration care; she also managed, with a hot button phrase, to electrify critics and infuriate defenders of the bill. Her populist appeal, and sometimes overdone criticism of elite media, was in 2008 a precursor of the Tea Party movement — conservatism that is anti-establishment, small-government-minded, and celebrates individual responsibility.

Now, being a political soothsayer and a superb judge of talent (she plucked Nikki Haley out of obscurity by watching a single video) doesn’t ensure a successful candidacy or an effective presidency. But it’s not nothing. And having experienced an over-credentialed pseudo-intellectual president who lacks a basic understanding of the American people, the public may find something refreshing about someone who “gets” what the country is about. Palin knows what to look for in candidates because she is in sync with the center-right zeitgeist. If she knows what the country is about and what makes it successful, the argument would go, she might possess, as Dickerson explains, “a special light to guide the country out of the muck.” (This was the secret to Ronald Reagan, by the way. It didn’t matter what the issue was — he would get it “right” because he instinctively understood the superiority of free markets, the destiny of America, and the character of his fellow citizens. Yes, all caveats apply, and Palin is not Reagan.)

It’s not clear whether Palin will run in 2012 or could even win the nomination, but her potential opponents and the media underestimate her at their peril. And if she doesn’t win, whichever Republican does would be crazy not to take her counsel and guidance. The lady knows a thing or two about how to win races.

Read Less

It Isn’t Getting Any Better for the Democrats

Maybe the Democrats need an exorcist or a Feng Shui expert, or both. But they better hurry. I don’t know how much more bad news one party can bear:

The hung jury in Rod Blagojevich’s corruption trial could be seen as a win for either the prosecution or the defense. The only clear losers were Democrats, who face the prospect of another trial in the middle of a tough election season.

A second trial will continue to draw national attention to a political culture rife with back-room deals and shady characters. And Mr. Blagojevich’s conviction on a single count of lying to federal agents ensures Republicans will be able to run pictures of a felon standing next to any number of Democratic candidates the former governor has posed alongside over the years.

“It’s very bad news for the Democrats,” said Dick Simpson, a political scientist at the University of Illinois at Chicago. “From Alaska to Arkansas, the Republicans will use this to say not only are Democrats big spenders but look how corrupt they are.”

And it’s not like it’s their only ethics problem. Charlie Rangel and Maxine Waters are sure to pop up in a number of GOP ads. As will Nancy Pelosi’s “drain the swamp” remarks. (But on the other hand, “Investigate 68 percent of America!” might be one for the ages.)

What we do know at this stage, with less than 75 days before the election, is that Democrats haven’t been able to turn around the economy or the political narrative. The question remains how bad the wipeout will be and which Democrats will save themselves from the Obama curse.

Maybe the Democrats need an exorcist or a Feng Shui expert, or both. But they better hurry. I don’t know how much more bad news one party can bear:

The hung jury in Rod Blagojevich’s corruption trial could be seen as a win for either the prosecution or the defense. The only clear losers were Democrats, who face the prospect of another trial in the middle of a tough election season.

A second trial will continue to draw national attention to a political culture rife with back-room deals and shady characters. And Mr. Blagojevich’s conviction on a single count of lying to federal agents ensures Republicans will be able to run pictures of a felon standing next to any number of Democratic candidates the former governor has posed alongside over the years.

“It’s very bad news for the Democrats,” said Dick Simpson, a political scientist at the University of Illinois at Chicago. “From Alaska to Arkansas, the Republicans will use this to say not only are Democrats big spenders but look how corrupt they are.”

And it’s not like it’s their only ethics problem. Charlie Rangel and Maxine Waters are sure to pop up in a number of GOP ads. As will Nancy Pelosi’s “drain the swamp” remarks. (But on the other hand, “Investigate 68 percent of America!” might be one for the ages.)

What we do know at this stage, with less than 75 days before the election, is that Democrats haven’t been able to turn around the economy or the political narrative. The question remains how bad the wipeout will be and which Democrats will save themselves from the Obama curse.

Read Less

Let Me Clarify My Clarification of My Clear Remarks

Barack Obama’s clarification of his “let me be clear” statement on the Ground Zero mosque (and subsequent clarification of his clarification) is reminiscent of his 2008 “let me be clear” statement on Jerusalem — when he told 7,000 people at AIPAC that the city “must remain undivided” and then repeatedly clarified his “poor phrasing,” finally endorsing a divided Jerusalem while claiming he had not backtracked from his initial statement.

Students of foreign policy may be bemused and somewhat alarmed to see this happening again. In both cases, Obama’s statements were prepared remarks on an important issue with foreign-policy implications, followed by retreats in the face of criticism, followed by denials that they were retreats, amid widespread recognition that they were, in fact, retreats. It was not an attractive quality in a candidate, and it is a dangerous one in a president.

Sarah Palin noted on her Facebook page that we “all know they have the right to do it [build a mosque steps away from where radical Islamists killed 3,000 people], but should they?” She suggested the president endorse the New York governor’s offer of assistance for finding an alternative location. The New York Sun editorialized that she had made a practical proposal while speaking more forthrightly than the famously eloquent president, raising this question:

How did one of the most intellectual presidents in history, a constitutional law professor with a government-provided staff of legal experts and policy geniuses and an ability, rarely if ever matched, to speak in lofty tones, manage to get himself in a position where he will end up following the lead of an ex-governor who has been constantly set down by the left as but a one-time beauty queen without brains and who has been watching the whole fracas from a lake-side camp at Alaska?

Possibly one of them was overrated and the other underrated back in 2008, particularly in light of the respective offices for which they were running. It may have had something to do with a media organizing itself to push a misleading narrative. I want to go on record as supporting the constitutional right to build the Ground Zero mosque while clarifying that I do not necessarily mean it is a wise use of rights. Is there an award for courageous blogging?

Barack Obama’s clarification of his “let me be clear” statement on the Ground Zero mosque (and subsequent clarification of his clarification) is reminiscent of his 2008 “let me be clear” statement on Jerusalem — when he told 7,000 people at AIPAC that the city “must remain undivided” and then repeatedly clarified his “poor phrasing,” finally endorsing a divided Jerusalem while claiming he had not backtracked from his initial statement.

Students of foreign policy may be bemused and somewhat alarmed to see this happening again. In both cases, Obama’s statements were prepared remarks on an important issue with foreign-policy implications, followed by retreats in the face of criticism, followed by denials that they were retreats, amid widespread recognition that they were, in fact, retreats. It was not an attractive quality in a candidate, and it is a dangerous one in a president.

Sarah Palin noted on her Facebook page that we “all know they have the right to do it [build a mosque steps away from where radical Islamists killed 3,000 people], but should they?” She suggested the president endorse the New York governor’s offer of assistance for finding an alternative location. The New York Sun editorialized that she had made a practical proposal while speaking more forthrightly than the famously eloquent president, raising this question:

How did one of the most intellectual presidents in history, a constitutional law professor with a government-provided staff of legal experts and policy geniuses and an ability, rarely if ever matched, to speak in lofty tones, manage to get himself in a position where he will end up following the lead of an ex-governor who has been constantly set down by the left as but a one-time beauty queen without brains and who has been watching the whole fracas from a lake-side camp at Alaska?

Possibly one of them was overrated and the other underrated back in 2008, particularly in light of the respective offices for which they were running. It may have had something to do with a media organizing itself to push a misleading narrative. I want to go on record as supporting the constitutional right to build the Ground Zero mosque while clarifying that I do not necessarily mean it is a wise use of rights. Is there an award for courageous blogging?

Read Less

Obama Deserved This One

After sneering at Sarah Palin on everything from the death panels (i.e., Medicare rationing) to nuclear policy (Obama is enthralled with START and NPT, renounces nuclear retaliation against NPT signatories if they strike with chemical or biological weapons, and has done precious little to halt Iran and now Burma as they pursue nuclear weapons), Obama got his comeuppance from the former governor, who knows a thing or two about oil spills. She writes:

[A]s a former chief executive, I humbly offer this advice to the President: you must verify. That means you must meet with [BP CEO  Hayward. Demand answers. In the interview today, the President said: “I don’t sit around just talking to experts because this is a college seminar. We talk to these folks because they potentially have the best answers, so I know whose ass to kick.”

Please, sir, for the sake of the Gulf residents, reach out to experts who have experience holding oil companies accountable. I suggested a few weeks ago that you start with Alaska’s Department of Natural Resources, led by Commissioner Tom Irwin. Having worked with Tom and his DNR and AGIA team led by Marty Rutherford, I can vouch for their integrity and expertise in dealing with Big Oil and overseeing its developments. We’ve all lived and worked through the Exxon-Valdez spill. They can help you. Give them a call. Or, what the heck, give me a call.

Ouch. At times like this, you appreciate both her innate political smarts and the degree to which the media vastly overestimated Obama’s.

After sneering at Sarah Palin on everything from the death panels (i.e., Medicare rationing) to nuclear policy (Obama is enthralled with START and NPT, renounces nuclear retaliation against NPT signatories if they strike with chemical or biological weapons, and has done precious little to halt Iran and now Burma as they pursue nuclear weapons), Obama got his comeuppance from the former governor, who knows a thing or two about oil spills. She writes:

[A]s a former chief executive, I humbly offer this advice to the President: you must verify. That means you must meet with [BP CEO  Hayward. Demand answers. In the interview today, the President said: “I don’t sit around just talking to experts because this is a college seminar. We talk to these folks because they potentially have the best answers, so I know whose ass to kick.”

Please, sir, for the sake of the Gulf residents, reach out to experts who have experience holding oil companies accountable. I suggested a few weeks ago that you start with Alaska’s Department of Natural Resources, led by Commissioner Tom Irwin. Having worked with Tom and his DNR and AGIA team led by Marty Rutherford, I can vouch for their integrity and expertise in dealing with Big Oil and overseeing its developments. We’ve all lived and worked through the Exxon-Valdez spill. They can help you. Give them a call. Or, what the heck, give me a call.

Ouch. At times like this, you appreciate both her innate political smarts and the degree to which the media vastly overestimated Obama’s.

Read Less

Embarrassing

In an interview with NBC, President Obama sets the record straight with respect to his administration’s much-criticized handling of the oil-spill crisis. Far from flailing in his response to the environmental disaster, Obama has been way ahead of the curve all along. As early as a month ago, he assures us, he was facing the elements down in the Gulf, gaining first-hand intelligence from local fishermen on “whose a** to kick.”

The nation should rejoice in being led by such a diligent a**-kicker in chief in this time of crisis. The latest Punic mission has been to stop offshore drilling in the Gulf of Mexico and the North Slope of Alaska for at least another six months, halt already-planned exploratory deep-sea-drilling operations, and cancel lease sales in the Gulf. Subjected to such measures — as proactive as would be the crippling of the airline industry in response to a plane crash — the guilty a**es are indeed sore already. Which is warm comfort for the administration’s repeated failures to stop the spill or contain its spread along the coast.

In an interview with NBC, President Obama sets the record straight with respect to his administration’s much-criticized handling of the oil-spill crisis. Far from flailing in his response to the environmental disaster, Obama has been way ahead of the curve all along. As early as a month ago, he assures us, he was facing the elements down in the Gulf, gaining first-hand intelligence from local fishermen on “whose a** to kick.”

The nation should rejoice in being led by such a diligent a**-kicker in chief in this time of crisis. The latest Punic mission has been to stop offshore drilling in the Gulf of Mexico and the North Slope of Alaska for at least another six months, halt already-planned exploratory deep-sea-drilling operations, and cancel lease sales in the Gulf. Subjected to such measures — as proactive as would be the crippling of the airline industry in response to a plane crash — the guilty a**es are indeed sore already. Which is warm comfort for the administration’s repeated failures to stop the spill or contain its spread along the coast.

Read Less

Turkey Needs More Democracy

There have been a number of articles, such as this one in the Wall Street Journal by Rob Pollock, trenchantly dissecting the decline of Turkey. This once stalwart ally of America and Israel now supports the sort of rabid anti-Israel, pro-Hamas sentiment displayed by the Gaza flotilla. This is indeed an alarming trend, not only for what it says about the future of Israeli-Turkish relations (which, sadly, seem to be beyond salvation at the moment), but also for what it says about the prospects for democracy in the Middle East.

Israel aside, Turkey has been the most durable democracy in the region, although its freedom has always been tempered by occasional military interventions (sometimes called “soft coups”) to safeguard the secularist legacy of Ataturk. In recent years, the military has pulled back from politics and allowed the ascension of the Islamist AK Party led by Prime Minister Erdogan. There were mutterings about military intervention in 2007, when Erdogan chose a fellow AK party member, Abdullah Gul, to fill the largely ceremonial post of president, but nothing happened. Turkey is today arguably the freest it has been with a popular prime minister ruling based on a solid majority. Freedom House notes: “The July 2007 elections were widely judged to have been free and fair, with reports of more open debate on traditionally sensitive issues.”

And yet those free and fair elections have produced a government that is increasingly anti-Israel and anti-American — a government that often sounds indistinguishable from dictatorships such as Iran and Syria. This would seem to offer one more piece of evidence to those — ranging from many Israelis to American Realpolitikers and Middle East despots — who believe that the Middle East is simply not ready for democracy and that if you allow elections, the result will be to entrench Hamas, Hezbollah, and their fellow travelers.

For my part, I am not ready to give up on promoting democracy, especially in countries such as Iran and Syria, where it is hard to imagine that any alternative government could possibly be worse than the status quo. In the case of Iran, there is actually a good deal of reason to believe that a democratically elected government would be considerably more moderate and liberal than the incumbent regime, although it may decide to keep Iran’s nuclear weapons program going.

What about countries such as Egypt, Jordan and Saudi Arabia, which are reasonably friendly toward the U.S. under their current rulers — and in the case of Egypt and Jordan, have even made peace with Israel? Does the Turkish precedent (and the troubled results of elections in Lebanon and the Palestinian territories) suggest a go-slow attitude toward electoral reform? It certainly suggests that elections are by no means a panacea and that unelected rulers may in fact be more friendly to the West than those who could win a popular mandate. But that doesn’t mean that an unpopular status quo can be sustained forever. Sooner or later, for example, an ailing and elderly Hosni Mubarak will pass from the scene, and it is by no means clear that his son will be able to follow him.

The trick from the American standpoint is to promote gradual liberalization without risking a takeover by extremist groups such as Hamas, which would be interested in “one vote, one man, one time.” Democracy, as we know, involves more than voting; it must have checks and balances provided by an independent press corps, judiciary, and political opposition. Turkey has been deficient in all these regards, which helps to explain why, despite its regular elections, it is rated as only “partly free” by Freedom House.

Many of the limitations on popular democracy were imposed by the secularist military, but the AK Party has made use of state power to its own benefit. For instance, it has pursued massive legal cases based on dubious evidence against dozens of secularists who are accused of plotting to undermine the government. Then there are continuing restrictions on press freedom. Freedom House notes:

A 2006 antiterrorism law reintroduced jail sentences for journalists, and Article 301 of the 2004 revised penal code allows journalists and others to be prosecuted for discussing subjects such as the division of Cyprus and the 1915 mass killings of Armenians by Turks, which many consider to have been genocide. People have been charged under the same article for crimes such as insulting the armed services and denigrating “Turkishness”; very few have been convicted, but the trials are time-consuming and expensive. An April 2008 amendment changed Article 301’s language to prohibit insulting “the Turkish nation,” with a maximum sentence of two instead of three years, but cases continue to be brought under that and other clauses. For example, in 2009 a journalist who wrote an article denouncing what he said was the unlawful imprisonment of his father, also a journalist, was himself sentenced to 14 months in prison….

Nearly all media organizations are owned by giant holding companies with interests in other sectors, contributing to self-censorship. In 2009, the Dogan holding company, which owns many media outlets, was ordered to pay crippling fines for tax evasion in what was widely described as a politicized case stemming from Dogan’s criticism of AK and its members. The internet is subject to the same censorship policies that apply to other media, and a 2007 law allows the state to block access to websites deemed to insult Ataturk or whose content includes criminal activities. This law has been used to block access to the video-sharing website YouTube since 2008, as well as several other websites in 2009.

Turkey has suffered not only from such restrictions but also from the fact that the secularist opposition has been in disarray. The Republican People’s Party, founded by Ataturk, has just chosen a new leader to replace its longtime head, who had to step down after the appearance of an Internet sex video in which he apparently played a starring role.

The opposition has its work cut out for it. As one prominent Turkish columnist has noted, while AK did well initially, “since 2007 its reign has been tainted by repressive tactics against the secular media, an effort to control the judiciary, excessive use of wiretapping by law enforcement, and a legal jihad against members of the armed forces in ‘coup’ investigations where the lines between fact and fiction often seem blurry.” And now tainted as well by anti-Israeli and anti-American animus.

While Turkey’s experience should not lead to a dismissal of democratization in the Middle East, it should remind us that democracy, especially when partial and limited, is no cure-all for a country’s ills. We should also keep in mind, however, in the case of Turkey as well as other countries, that the best cure for democracy’s ills may well be more democracy.

There have been a number of articles, such as this one in the Wall Street Journal by Rob Pollock, trenchantly dissecting the decline of Turkey. This once stalwart ally of America and Israel now supports the sort of rabid anti-Israel, pro-Hamas sentiment displayed by the Gaza flotilla. This is indeed an alarming trend, not only for what it says about the future of Israeli-Turkish relations (which, sadly, seem to be beyond salvation at the moment), but also for what it says about the prospects for democracy in the Middle East.

Israel aside, Turkey has been the most durable democracy in the region, although its freedom has always been tempered by occasional military interventions (sometimes called “soft coups”) to safeguard the secularist legacy of Ataturk. In recent years, the military has pulled back from politics and allowed the ascension of the Islamist AK Party led by Prime Minister Erdogan. There were mutterings about military intervention in 2007, when Erdogan chose a fellow AK party member, Abdullah Gul, to fill the largely ceremonial post of president, but nothing happened. Turkey is today arguably the freest it has been with a popular prime minister ruling based on a solid majority. Freedom House notes: “The July 2007 elections were widely judged to have been free and fair, with reports of more open debate on traditionally sensitive issues.”

And yet those free and fair elections have produced a government that is increasingly anti-Israel and anti-American — a government that often sounds indistinguishable from dictatorships such as Iran and Syria. This would seem to offer one more piece of evidence to those — ranging from many Israelis to American Realpolitikers and Middle East despots — who believe that the Middle East is simply not ready for democracy and that if you allow elections, the result will be to entrench Hamas, Hezbollah, and their fellow travelers.

For my part, I am not ready to give up on promoting democracy, especially in countries such as Iran and Syria, where it is hard to imagine that any alternative government could possibly be worse than the status quo. In the case of Iran, there is actually a good deal of reason to believe that a democratically elected government would be considerably more moderate and liberal than the incumbent regime, although it may decide to keep Iran’s nuclear weapons program going.

What about countries such as Egypt, Jordan and Saudi Arabia, which are reasonably friendly toward the U.S. under their current rulers — and in the case of Egypt and Jordan, have even made peace with Israel? Does the Turkish precedent (and the troubled results of elections in Lebanon and the Palestinian territories) suggest a go-slow attitude toward electoral reform? It certainly suggests that elections are by no means a panacea and that unelected rulers may in fact be more friendly to the West than those who could win a popular mandate. But that doesn’t mean that an unpopular status quo can be sustained forever. Sooner or later, for example, an ailing and elderly Hosni Mubarak will pass from the scene, and it is by no means clear that his son will be able to follow him.

The trick from the American standpoint is to promote gradual liberalization without risking a takeover by extremist groups such as Hamas, which would be interested in “one vote, one man, one time.” Democracy, as we know, involves more than voting; it must have checks and balances provided by an independent press corps, judiciary, and political opposition. Turkey has been deficient in all these regards, which helps to explain why, despite its regular elections, it is rated as only “partly free” by Freedom House.

Many of the limitations on popular democracy were imposed by the secularist military, but the AK Party has made use of state power to its own benefit. For instance, it has pursued massive legal cases based on dubious evidence against dozens of secularists who are accused of plotting to undermine the government. Then there are continuing restrictions on press freedom. Freedom House notes:

A 2006 antiterrorism law reintroduced jail sentences for journalists, and Article 301 of the 2004 revised penal code allows journalists and others to be prosecuted for discussing subjects such as the division of Cyprus and the 1915 mass killings of Armenians by Turks, which many consider to have been genocide. People have been charged under the same article for crimes such as insulting the armed services and denigrating “Turkishness”; very few have been convicted, but the trials are time-consuming and expensive. An April 2008 amendment changed Article 301’s language to prohibit insulting “the Turkish nation,” with a maximum sentence of two instead of three years, but cases continue to be brought under that and other clauses. For example, in 2009 a journalist who wrote an article denouncing what he said was the unlawful imprisonment of his father, also a journalist, was himself sentenced to 14 months in prison….

Nearly all media organizations are owned by giant holding companies with interests in other sectors, contributing to self-censorship. In 2009, the Dogan holding company, which owns many media outlets, was ordered to pay crippling fines for tax evasion in what was widely described as a politicized case stemming from Dogan’s criticism of AK and its members. The internet is subject to the same censorship policies that apply to other media, and a 2007 law allows the state to block access to websites deemed to insult Ataturk or whose content includes criminal activities. This law has been used to block access to the video-sharing website YouTube since 2008, as well as several other websites in 2009.

Turkey has suffered not only from such restrictions but also from the fact that the secularist opposition has been in disarray. The Republican People’s Party, founded by Ataturk, has just chosen a new leader to replace its longtime head, who had to step down after the appearance of an Internet sex video in which he apparently played a starring role.

The opposition has its work cut out for it. As one prominent Turkish columnist has noted, while AK did well initially, “since 2007 its reign has been tainted by repressive tactics against the secular media, an effort to control the judiciary, excessive use of wiretapping by law enforcement, and a legal jihad against members of the armed forces in ‘coup’ investigations where the lines between fact and fiction often seem blurry.” And now tainted as well by anti-Israeli and anti-American animus.

While Turkey’s experience should not lead to a dismissal of democratization in the Middle East, it should remind us that democracy, especially when partial and limited, is no cure-all for a country’s ills. We should also keep in mind, however, in the case of Turkey as well as other countries, that the best cure for democracy’s ills may well be more democracy.

Read Less

Flotsam and Jetsam

But they are supposed to go into harm’s way for their country: the Navy takes away the lard and water hoses from a 60-year tradition in which plebes climb a greased 21-foot monument. Why? They might get hurt. A former Naval Academy graduate chimes in: “We’re going to send these guys to war but they can’t climb a monument because they might get hurt? Come on.” Next thing you know, they’ll be allowing proper names in Scrabble.

But don’t we have a First Amendment or something? “Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin accused the president of being in the pocket of Big Oil, a charge usually leveled by Democrats at the GOP. ‘You’ve got to have a license to drive a car in this country, but, regrettably, you can get on a TV show and say virtually anything,’ White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said.” Gosh, if we only licensed talking heads.

But he’s a “genius”! “Millions of Americans are out of work, the budget deficit is in the trillions and Europe is flirting with economic collapse. Fear not, says Larry Summers, the chief economic adviser to President Obama. It is merely a ‘fluctuation.’” His long-winded gobbledygook about moving from the G-7 to the G-20 “was vintage Summers: smart, esoteric — and utterly unhelpful.”

But isn’t it like allowing Keith Olbermann to review a George W. Bush biography? The Washington Post has David Frum (who’s carved out a niche in Limbaugh-bashing for the mainstream media) review the latest biography of Rush Limbaugh. Surprise, surprise, he concludes: “It might seem ominous for an intellectual movement to be led by a man who does not think creatively, who does not respect the other side of the argument and who frequently says things that are not intended as truth.”

But you didn’t really buy all that “transparency” jazz did you? “The Justice Department has rejected a Republican request to appoint a special counsel to investigate allegations that the White House offered a job to Rep. Joe Sestak if he would drop out of the Pennsylvania Senate Democratic primary. … In the letter to [Rep. Darrell] Issa, Assistant Attorney General Ronald Weich wrote that the DOJ could handle the allegations without creating a special counsel. But Weich gave no indication that the department was looking into the Sestak matter.”

But if David Axelrod is right about there being “no evidence” of a deal, then Sestak is lying. Mark Hemingway: “There’s no good outcome here for the White House. Either the White House did something illegal here or their party’s Senate candidate in Pennsylvania is a delusional fabulist. But regardless, their prolonged foot-dragging here only appears to be making things worse.”

But the White House said, “Trust us”: “The number two Democrat in the Senate, who has close ties to the White House, is urging Rep. Joe Sestak to come clean. Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin told CNN Tuesday that the Pennsylvania Democrat should fully explain whether Obama administration officials pressed him to drop his Democratic primary challenge to Sen. Arlen Specter in exchange for a job.”

But Democrats insisted we needed a humungous new uber-department! James Carafano on the BP response: “Explain to me why nine years after 9/11 we struggle with disasters. Well, the answer is easy. Homeland Security wastes its time on routine disaster; the secretary worries more about how to grant amnesty to illegals than battling terrorists and preparing for catastrophes. Congress dumps money in wasteful programs and uses 108 committees, sub-committees, and commissions to provide chaotic and incoherent oversight to the department.”

But (as a sharp colleague suggested) couldn’t we work out a deal where Richard Blumenthal and Rand Paul both exit their races? Jonah Goldberg sums up why conservatives should carry no water for Paul: “[I]t’s certainly repugnant and bizarre for libertarians like Paul to lament the lost rights of bigots rather than to rejoice at the restored rights of integrationists.” (By the way, would Paul commend Obama for doing nothing at all about the BP spill?)

But they are supposed to go into harm’s way for their country: the Navy takes away the lard and water hoses from a 60-year tradition in which plebes climb a greased 21-foot monument. Why? They might get hurt. A former Naval Academy graduate chimes in: “We’re going to send these guys to war but they can’t climb a monument because they might get hurt? Come on.” Next thing you know, they’ll be allowing proper names in Scrabble.

But don’t we have a First Amendment or something? “Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin accused the president of being in the pocket of Big Oil, a charge usually leveled by Democrats at the GOP. ‘You’ve got to have a license to drive a car in this country, but, regrettably, you can get on a TV show and say virtually anything,’ White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said.” Gosh, if we only licensed talking heads.

But he’s a “genius”! “Millions of Americans are out of work, the budget deficit is in the trillions and Europe is flirting with economic collapse. Fear not, says Larry Summers, the chief economic adviser to President Obama. It is merely a ‘fluctuation.’” His long-winded gobbledygook about moving from the G-7 to the G-20 “was vintage Summers: smart, esoteric — and utterly unhelpful.”

But isn’t it like allowing Keith Olbermann to review a George W. Bush biography? The Washington Post has David Frum (who’s carved out a niche in Limbaugh-bashing for the mainstream media) review the latest biography of Rush Limbaugh. Surprise, surprise, he concludes: “It might seem ominous for an intellectual movement to be led by a man who does not think creatively, who does not respect the other side of the argument and who frequently says things that are not intended as truth.”

But you didn’t really buy all that “transparency” jazz did you? “The Justice Department has rejected a Republican request to appoint a special counsel to investigate allegations that the White House offered a job to Rep. Joe Sestak if he would drop out of the Pennsylvania Senate Democratic primary. … In the letter to [Rep. Darrell] Issa, Assistant Attorney General Ronald Weich wrote that the DOJ could handle the allegations without creating a special counsel. But Weich gave no indication that the department was looking into the Sestak matter.”

But if David Axelrod is right about there being “no evidence” of a deal, then Sestak is lying. Mark Hemingway: “There’s no good outcome here for the White House. Either the White House did something illegal here or their party’s Senate candidate in Pennsylvania is a delusional fabulist. But regardless, their prolonged foot-dragging here only appears to be making things worse.”

But the White House said, “Trust us”: “The number two Democrat in the Senate, who has close ties to the White House, is urging Rep. Joe Sestak to come clean. Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin told CNN Tuesday that the Pennsylvania Democrat should fully explain whether Obama administration officials pressed him to drop his Democratic primary challenge to Sen. Arlen Specter in exchange for a job.”

But Democrats insisted we needed a humungous new uber-department! James Carafano on the BP response: “Explain to me why nine years after 9/11 we struggle with disasters. Well, the answer is easy. Homeland Security wastes its time on routine disaster; the secretary worries more about how to grant amnesty to illegals than battling terrorists and preparing for catastrophes. Congress dumps money in wasteful programs and uses 108 committees, sub-committees, and commissions to provide chaotic and incoherent oversight to the department.”

But (as a sharp colleague suggested) couldn’t we work out a deal where Richard Blumenthal and Rand Paul both exit their races? Jonah Goldberg sums up why conservatives should carry no water for Paul: “[I]t’s certainly repugnant and bizarre for libertarians like Paul to lament the lost rights of bigots rather than to rejoice at the restored rights of integrationists.” (By the way, would Paul commend Obama for doing nothing at all about the BP spill?)

Read Less

Flotsam and Jetsam

Mind-boggling: Admiral Mike Mullen proclaims, “Iran getting a nuclear weapon would be incredibly destabilizing. Attacking them would also create the same kind of outcome. …In an area that’s so unstable right now, we just don’t need more of that.” The only difference is that one way there’s a nuclear-armed revolutionary Islamic state.

Priceless: “Goldman Sachs is launching an aggressive response to its political and legal challenges with an unlikely ally at its side — President Barack Obama’s former White House counsel, Gregory Craig.”

Suspicious: “The Securities and Exchange Commission fraud case against Goldman Sachs may be settled before it ever sees a courtroom. Yet intentionally or not, the SEC has already secured at least one victory in the court of media opinion. Last Friday, the same day that the government unexpectedly announced its Goldman lawsuit, the SEC’s inspector general released his exhaustive, 151-page report on the agency’s failure to investigate alleged fraudster R. Allen Stanford. Mr. Stanford was indicted last June for operating a Ponzi scheme that bilked investors out of $8 billion. … But the SEC is very good at nailing politically correct targets like Goldman years after the fact on charges that have little or nothing to do with the investing public. On the Goldman case, by the way, the news broke yesterday that the SEC commissioners split 3-2 on whether to bring the lawsuit — a rare partisan split on such a prominent case and further evidence of its thin legal basis.” And just in the nick of time to help the PR on the financial regulations bill!

Definitive (confirmation that the Dems are in a heap of trouble): “Republican candidates now hold a 10-point lead over Democrats in the latest edition of the Generic Congressional Ballot, tying the GOP’s high for the year recorded the second week in March and their biggest lead in nearly three years of weekly tracking.”

Frightening but not surprising: “It may be too late to stop Iran developing a nuclear weapon, a former senior US defence official has warned. The official, who has long experience with several US administrations, said President Obama had waited too long to take tough action against Tehran. ‘Fifteen months into his administration, Iran has faced no significant consequences for continuing with its uranium-enrichment programme, despite two deadlines set by Obama, which came and went without anything happening,’ the former official, who was speaking on condition of anonymity, told The Times. ‘Now it may be too late to stop Iran from becoming nuclear-capable.’”

Gutsy: “After being stonewalled by the Obama administration for five months, Senators Joe Lieberman, I-Conn., and Susan Collins, R-Me, issued subpoenas Monday to Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Attorney General Eric Holder for a list of witnesses and documents regarding the Nov. 5, 2009 Fort Hood massacre.”

Irrelevant: “Mitt Romney continues to look like the early front-runner for the GOP presidential nomination in 2012. A Public Policy Polling (D) survey shows Romney leading former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee in every region except the South, where Huckabee uses his home-field advantage to lead the field.” Ask Rudy Giuliani what early polls mean.

Depressing: “Both left and right [in Israel] are troubled, and both largely about the same things, especially the Iranian nuclear program combined with growing tensions with the Obama administration. ‘There is a confluence of two very worrying events,’ said Michael Freund, a rightist columnist for The Jerusalem Post in a telephone interview. ‘One is the Iranian threat, an existential threat. Add to that the fact that for the first time in recent memory there is a president in the White House who is not overly sensitive to the Jewish state and its interests. You put the two together and it will affect anyone’s mood, even an optimist like me.” Overly? Not at all.

Mind-boggling: Admiral Mike Mullen proclaims, “Iran getting a nuclear weapon would be incredibly destabilizing. Attacking them would also create the same kind of outcome. …In an area that’s so unstable right now, we just don’t need more of that.” The only difference is that one way there’s a nuclear-armed revolutionary Islamic state.

Priceless: “Goldman Sachs is launching an aggressive response to its political and legal challenges with an unlikely ally at its side — President Barack Obama’s former White House counsel, Gregory Craig.”

Suspicious: “The Securities and Exchange Commission fraud case against Goldman Sachs may be settled before it ever sees a courtroom. Yet intentionally or not, the SEC has already secured at least one victory in the court of media opinion. Last Friday, the same day that the government unexpectedly announced its Goldman lawsuit, the SEC’s inspector general released his exhaustive, 151-page report on the agency’s failure to investigate alleged fraudster R. Allen Stanford. Mr. Stanford was indicted last June for operating a Ponzi scheme that bilked investors out of $8 billion. … But the SEC is very good at nailing politically correct targets like Goldman years after the fact on charges that have little or nothing to do with the investing public. On the Goldman case, by the way, the news broke yesterday that the SEC commissioners split 3-2 on whether to bring the lawsuit — a rare partisan split on such a prominent case and further evidence of its thin legal basis.” And just in the nick of time to help the PR on the financial regulations bill!

Definitive (confirmation that the Dems are in a heap of trouble): “Republican candidates now hold a 10-point lead over Democrats in the latest edition of the Generic Congressional Ballot, tying the GOP’s high for the year recorded the second week in March and their biggest lead in nearly three years of weekly tracking.”

Frightening but not surprising: “It may be too late to stop Iran developing a nuclear weapon, a former senior US defence official has warned. The official, who has long experience with several US administrations, said President Obama had waited too long to take tough action against Tehran. ‘Fifteen months into his administration, Iran has faced no significant consequences for continuing with its uranium-enrichment programme, despite two deadlines set by Obama, which came and went without anything happening,’ the former official, who was speaking on condition of anonymity, told The Times. ‘Now it may be too late to stop Iran from becoming nuclear-capable.’”

Gutsy: “After being stonewalled by the Obama administration for five months, Senators Joe Lieberman, I-Conn., and Susan Collins, R-Me, issued subpoenas Monday to Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Attorney General Eric Holder for a list of witnesses and documents regarding the Nov. 5, 2009 Fort Hood massacre.”

Irrelevant: “Mitt Romney continues to look like the early front-runner for the GOP presidential nomination in 2012. A Public Policy Polling (D) survey shows Romney leading former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee in every region except the South, where Huckabee uses his home-field advantage to lead the field.” Ask Rudy Giuliani what early polls mean.

Depressing: “Both left and right [in Israel] are troubled, and both largely about the same things, especially the Iranian nuclear program combined with growing tensions with the Obama administration. ‘There is a confluence of two very worrying events,’ said Michael Freund, a rightist columnist for The Jerusalem Post in a telephone interview. ‘One is the Iranian threat, an existential threat. Add to that the fact that for the first time in recent memory there is a president in the White House who is not overly sensitive to the Jewish state and its interests. You put the two together and it will affect anyone’s mood, even an optimist like me.” Overly? Not at all.

Read Less

Democrats Freak Over GOP Women — Again

Politico reports:

Two of the conservative movement’s biggest stars, former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin and Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.), lavished praise on each other Wednesday at a boisterous rally held at the Minneapolis Convention Center. Before a predominantly female crowd of more than 11,000 fans, the two high-profile Republicans ripped President Obama at an event that doubled as a fundraiser for Bachmann’s re-election campaign.

Alas, the fellas –  2012 presidential contender and now-Governor Tim Pawlenty and Rep. John Kline (R-Minn.) — slunk into the background. Palin and Bachmann made hay out of Obama’s Nuclear Posture Review:

If, in fact, there is a nation who is compliant with all the rules ahead of time… if they fire against the United States a nuclear weapon, a biological weapon or maybe a cyber attack, we won’t be firing back with nuclear weapons,” Bachmann insisted.“Doesn’t that make us feel safe?” she asked to a laughing audience.

The Left does what it usually does when confronted with attractive conservative women: it goes bonkers. Greg Sargent tweets: “Dem talking points bashing Bachmann and Palin are really going to pay huge dividends this fall.” Huh? Let me get this straight: the Democrats in Congress are going to spend their time attacking two women with huge conservative and Tea Party followings, one of whom isn’t in office or on the ballot? Well, it makes about as much sense as running against George W. Bush, a strategy some have suggested is also in the offing.

These are not the tactics of a confident party that is secure in its record and aided by a popular president. It reeks of desperation. And just imagine if Republicans picked two women, neither of whom was in a leadership position, as the focal point of their attacks. They might be accused of having a “female” problem — by Politico, for example.

Politico reports:

Two of the conservative movement’s biggest stars, former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin and Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.), lavished praise on each other Wednesday at a boisterous rally held at the Minneapolis Convention Center. Before a predominantly female crowd of more than 11,000 fans, the two high-profile Republicans ripped President Obama at an event that doubled as a fundraiser for Bachmann’s re-election campaign.

Alas, the fellas –  2012 presidential contender and now-Governor Tim Pawlenty and Rep. John Kline (R-Minn.) — slunk into the background. Palin and Bachmann made hay out of Obama’s Nuclear Posture Review:

If, in fact, there is a nation who is compliant with all the rules ahead of time… if they fire against the United States a nuclear weapon, a biological weapon or maybe a cyber attack, we won’t be firing back with nuclear weapons,” Bachmann insisted.“Doesn’t that make us feel safe?” she asked to a laughing audience.

The Left does what it usually does when confronted with attractive conservative women: it goes bonkers. Greg Sargent tweets: “Dem talking points bashing Bachmann and Palin are really going to pay huge dividends this fall.” Huh? Let me get this straight: the Democrats in Congress are going to spend their time attacking two women with huge conservative and Tea Party followings, one of whom isn’t in office or on the ballot? Well, it makes about as much sense as running against George W. Bush, a strategy some have suggested is also in the offing.

These are not the tactics of a confident party that is secure in its record and aided by a popular president. It reeks of desperation. And just imagine if Republicans picked two women, neither of whom was in a leadership position, as the focal point of their attacks. They might be accused of having a “female” problem — by Politico, for example.

Read Less

Flotsam and Jetsam

But it was supposed to help the Democrats: “Gallup’s most recent polling of the generic ballot shows a net five-point bounce for the Republicans, post-health care passage. The poll of registered voters now shows a lead of 47%-44%; Republicans had trailed by a similar 47%-44% margin in the first and second weeks of March, and by a 47%-45% margin in last week’s tracking results.  The loss for the Democrats comes mostly from independent voters; the gain for Republicans comes from Republican and Democratic voters turning toward the GOP.”

But it hasn’t, explains Jeffrey Anderson: “The Democrats had optimistically claimed that turning a deaf ear to the American people and passing their unpopular bill would make it popular. But Scott Rasmussen observes that ‘the overriding tone of the data is that passage of the legislation has not changed anything. Those who opposed it before now want to repeal it. Those who supported the legislation oppose repealing it.’ Unfortunately for the Democrats, the former number is a lot bigger than the latter one.”

But Obama said voters would learn to love it once it passed: “In addition to sharing Republicans’ and Democrats’ concerns about the bill’s failure to address healthcare costs, and sharing Republicans’ concerns about government intervention and costs, the majority of independents agree with Democrats that the bill doesn’t do enough to regulate the healthcare industry. As a result, independents concur with four of the five critiques tested, one more than members of either political party do.”

But Obama said voters didn’t care about “process”: Gallup asked “whether Americans believe the methods Democratic leaders used to secure passage of the bill represented ‘an abuse of power’ or ‘an appropriate use’ of the majority party’s power in Congress. Nearly 9 in 10 Republicans see it as abuse of power, whereas a smaller majority of Democrats (70%) call it an appropriate use of power. The majority of independents agree with most Republicans on this question.”

But the Republican insiders told us that Charlie Crist was the “safe” choice: “Former FL GOP chair Jim Greer is the subject of a criminal investigation after an audit showed he may have profited from party activity, according to sources with knowledge of the investigation. … Under pressure from major donors and party elders, Greer announced in early Jan. he would resign in Feb. Donors had been upset with his stewardship of party finances, and with spending many saw as beneficial to Gov. Charlie Crist (R), Greer’s major backer when he became chair. Greer is supporting Crist in the primary against ex-FL House Speaker Marco Rubio (R), which did not sit well with the state’s activist base.”

But don’t they know that Henry Waxman will haul them in front of his committee to read them the riot act? “Boeing Co. will take a charge of $150 million due to the recent health care overhaul legislation, the aircraft maker said Wednesday. The charge will hurt earnings by 20 cents per share in the first quarter of 2010. In 2013 Boeing will no longer be able to claim an income tax deduction related to certain prescription drug benefits for retirees. Accounting rules require that the company take the charge during the period the legislation is enacted. Several other companies have said they will take accounting charges due to the health care reform bill including AT&T, AK Steel Corp., Caterpillar Inc. and 3M Co.”

But what about the rest of the country? “The top House Republican says the White House’s decision to begin offshore drilling across huge expanses of ocean is a ‘positive step,’ but he’s still blasting the Obama administration for keeping areas on the West Coast closed to such exploration. House Minority Leader John Boehner, an Ohio Republican, said that the administration ‘continues to defy the will of the American people,’ who he says supported a 2008 congressional decision to allow oil exploration off the Pacific Coast and Alaska.”

But Obama was going to keep unemployment at 8 percent and “pivot” from ObamaCare to job creation: “Private-sector employers unexpectedly shed 23,000 jobs in March, according to a measure of private-sector employment released this morning, reminding us of the very choppy nature of this recovery.”

But it was supposed to help the Democrats: “Gallup’s most recent polling of the generic ballot shows a net five-point bounce for the Republicans, post-health care passage. The poll of registered voters now shows a lead of 47%-44%; Republicans had trailed by a similar 47%-44% margin in the first and second weeks of March, and by a 47%-45% margin in last week’s tracking results.  The loss for the Democrats comes mostly from independent voters; the gain for Republicans comes from Republican and Democratic voters turning toward the GOP.”

But it hasn’t, explains Jeffrey Anderson: “The Democrats had optimistically claimed that turning a deaf ear to the American people and passing their unpopular bill would make it popular. But Scott Rasmussen observes that ‘the overriding tone of the data is that passage of the legislation has not changed anything. Those who opposed it before now want to repeal it. Those who supported the legislation oppose repealing it.’ Unfortunately for the Democrats, the former number is a lot bigger than the latter one.”

But Obama said voters would learn to love it once it passed: “In addition to sharing Republicans’ and Democrats’ concerns about the bill’s failure to address healthcare costs, and sharing Republicans’ concerns about government intervention and costs, the majority of independents agree with Democrats that the bill doesn’t do enough to regulate the healthcare industry. As a result, independents concur with four of the five critiques tested, one more than members of either political party do.”

But Obama said voters didn’t care about “process”: Gallup asked “whether Americans believe the methods Democratic leaders used to secure passage of the bill represented ‘an abuse of power’ or ‘an appropriate use’ of the majority party’s power in Congress. Nearly 9 in 10 Republicans see it as abuse of power, whereas a smaller majority of Democrats (70%) call it an appropriate use of power. The majority of independents agree with most Republicans on this question.”

But the Republican insiders told us that Charlie Crist was the “safe” choice: “Former FL GOP chair Jim Greer is the subject of a criminal investigation after an audit showed he may have profited from party activity, according to sources with knowledge of the investigation. … Under pressure from major donors and party elders, Greer announced in early Jan. he would resign in Feb. Donors had been upset with his stewardship of party finances, and with spending many saw as beneficial to Gov. Charlie Crist (R), Greer’s major backer when he became chair. Greer is supporting Crist in the primary against ex-FL House Speaker Marco Rubio (R), which did not sit well with the state’s activist base.”

But don’t they know that Henry Waxman will haul them in front of his committee to read them the riot act? “Boeing Co. will take a charge of $150 million due to the recent health care overhaul legislation, the aircraft maker said Wednesday. The charge will hurt earnings by 20 cents per share in the first quarter of 2010. In 2013 Boeing will no longer be able to claim an income tax deduction related to certain prescription drug benefits for retirees. Accounting rules require that the company take the charge during the period the legislation is enacted. Several other companies have said they will take accounting charges due to the health care reform bill including AT&T, AK Steel Corp., Caterpillar Inc. and 3M Co.”

But what about the rest of the country? “The top House Republican says the White House’s decision to begin offshore drilling across huge expanses of ocean is a ‘positive step,’ but he’s still blasting the Obama administration for keeping areas on the West Coast closed to such exploration. House Minority Leader John Boehner, an Ohio Republican, said that the administration ‘continues to defy the will of the American people,’ who he says supported a 2008 congressional decision to allow oil exploration off the Pacific Coast and Alaska.”

But Obama was going to keep unemployment at 8 percent and “pivot” from ObamaCare to job creation: “Private-sector employers unexpectedly shed 23,000 jobs in March, according to a measure of private-sector employment released this morning, reminding us of the very choppy nature of this recovery.”

Read Less

Less than Meets the Eye — Again

The thing about Obama is that there is always less than meets the eye. He went to Copenhagen twice, each time with spinners expecting the fix was in and Obama could deliver a huge political win; but there was no game plan; there was no Chicago Olympics or global-warming deal. Obama intends to sweep away Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, but not really. There is no executive order. There will be a long study and maybe, sometime, there will be congressional action. Obama had a plan for Iran: prove his bona fides by engagement, pivot to crippling sanctions, and hold military force as an option. Instead, he’s been meandering around in engagement and coming up with mini-sanctions. No cleverly devised plan after all.

Now we hear that the proposal to regulate CO2 by bureaucratic fiat is being whittled down to a mini-gambit that won’t go into effect until after 2010, when, by gosh, we’ll have a new Congress:

The Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) pledge Monday to move slowly on the implementation of upcoming greenhouse gas rules may give cover to some Capitol Hill Democrats to vote against blocking climate rules entirely, according to lobbyists and activists.

EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson said in a letter to a group of Senate Democrats on Monday that upcoming rules to limit emissions from power plants and other industrial facilities won’t take effect in 2010. She also told the eight Democrats — who mostly hail from coal-producing or coal-reliant states — that the rules will initially be narrower than EPA had planned.

On one level, this is another exercise in cynicism. You see, Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) has a plan to bar the EPA from regulating greenhouse gases. But the Hill reports, “One environmental lobbyist said EPA’s action ‘absolutely’ gives Democrats cover to vote against [Sen. Lisa] Murkowski’s plan by providing time for work on climate legislation.” On the other hand, it’s evidence that the Obami aren’t really equipped to push through much of their radical agenda, so they must resort once again to delay, misdirection, and half-measures to avoid wigging out their base. Still, the EPA’s newest mini-gambit isn’t enough to win over some Democrats, especially those from energy-producing states:

Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.), who led the letter to EPA from the eight Democrats, is preparing a bill that would temporarily prevent EPA rules while Congress works on a broader climate and energy bill. He praised EPA’s action but said it hasn’t changed his mind. “I am glad to see that the EPA is showing some willingness to set their timetable for regulation into the future — this is good progress, but I am concerned it may not go far enough,” Rockefeller said in a prepared statement.

The environmental lobbyists are squawking about the need to “defend science from politics, defend our children’s future from polluters, and defend our economy from the stranglehold of special interests.” Maybe that sort of thing worked better before Climategate, record unemployment, and Obama’s ratings collapse. But now, it reinforces the chasm between Obama’s agenda and his accomplishments. It is further proof that the Obami have a lot of bark and no bite when it comes to reinventing America or putting in a New Foundation, or whatever they call it these days. That’s very good news indeed.

The thing about Obama is that there is always less than meets the eye. He went to Copenhagen twice, each time with spinners expecting the fix was in and Obama could deliver a huge political win; but there was no game plan; there was no Chicago Olympics or global-warming deal. Obama intends to sweep away Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, but not really. There is no executive order. There will be a long study and maybe, sometime, there will be congressional action. Obama had a plan for Iran: prove his bona fides by engagement, pivot to crippling sanctions, and hold military force as an option. Instead, he’s been meandering around in engagement and coming up with mini-sanctions. No cleverly devised plan after all.

Now we hear that the proposal to regulate CO2 by bureaucratic fiat is being whittled down to a mini-gambit that won’t go into effect until after 2010, when, by gosh, we’ll have a new Congress:

The Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) pledge Monday to move slowly on the implementation of upcoming greenhouse gas rules may give cover to some Capitol Hill Democrats to vote against blocking climate rules entirely, according to lobbyists and activists.

EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson said in a letter to a group of Senate Democrats on Monday that upcoming rules to limit emissions from power plants and other industrial facilities won’t take effect in 2010. She also told the eight Democrats — who mostly hail from coal-producing or coal-reliant states — that the rules will initially be narrower than EPA had planned.

On one level, this is another exercise in cynicism. You see, Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) has a plan to bar the EPA from regulating greenhouse gases. But the Hill reports, “One environmental lobbyist said EPA’s action ‘absolutely’ gives Democrats cover to vote against [Sen. Lisa] Murkowski’s plan by providing time for work on climate legislation.” On the other hand, it’s evidence that the Obami aren’t really equipped to push through much of their radical agenda, so they must resort once again to delay, misdirection, and half-measures to avoid wigging out their base. Still, the EPA’s newest mini-gambit isn’t enough to win over some Democrats, especially those from energy-producing states:

Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.), who led the letter to EPA from the eight Democrats, is preparing a bill that would temporarily prevent EPA rules while Congress works on a broader climate and energy bill. He praised EPA’s action but said it hasn’t changed his mind. “I am glad to see that the EPA is showing some willingness to set their timetable for regulation into the future — this is good progress, but I am concerned it may not go far enough,” Rockefeller said in a prepared statement.

The environmental lobbyists are squawking about the need to “defend science from politics, defend our children’s future from polluters, and defend our economy from the stranglehold of special interests.” Maybe that sort of thing worked better before Climategate, record unemployment, and Obama’s ratings collapse. But now, it reinforces the chasm between Obama’s agenda and his accomplishments. It is further proof that the Obami have a lot of bark and no bite when it comes to reinventing America or putting in a New Foundation, or whatever they call it these days. That’s very good news indeed.

Read Less

Forget the Democracy, They Have a Planet to Save

Diane Ravitch of NYU and Brookings writes that she is bothered by “the idea that President Obama has pledged to join the other advanced nations in paying billions to corrupt and despotic regimes to help them become green. Will he borrow billions from China so we can afford to pay China to become green? Will we finance the kleptocrats in Zimbabwe, Somalia, Sudan and other regimes? How much of the billions will go for greenness and how much for Mercedes, BMWs, and other baubles for the despots?”

Well, that’s unfortunately what the Green agenda looks like — a racket for the third world, which now uses questionable science to advance its money-grabbing schemes. And with the $100 billion in funding the Obama team was willing to pony up in Copenhagen, it seems as though they have a friend in the White House amenable to this sort of thing. It also is likely to further turn off the American public, which already was not too keen on the hysterical Green agenda.

But watch out: the Green racket is about to get serious. The trial lawyers are now moving in to get their share of the scam. No, really. This is no joke:

Across the country, trial lawyers and green pressure groups—if that’s not redundant—are teaming up to sue electric utilities for carbon emissions under “nuisance” laws. A group of 12 Gulf Coast residents whose homes were damaged by Katrina are suing 33 energy companies for greenhouse gas emissions that allegedly contributed to the global warming that allegedly made the hurricane worse. Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal and seven state AG allies plus New York City are suing American Electric Power and other utilities for a host of supposed eco-maladies. A native village in Alaska is suing Exxon and 23 oil and energy companies for coastal erosion.

At least the states’ lawyers are candidly revealing that they are in the hold-up game, seeking to “compel measures that will stem global warming regardless of what happens in the legislature.” Just in case you thought that important policy decisions had to be passed by elected leaders. (“The nuisance suits ask the courts to make such fundamentally political decisions themselves, with judges substituting their views for those of the elected branches.”)

All of this is refreshing, in a sense, to those who have been skeptical all along as to the motives and tactics of the environmental busybodies. Cold hard cash seems to be a big objective here — moving it from the private to public sector and from developed to third-world countries. And as the public’s resistance mounts, those peddling the agenda are showing their true, quite anti-democratic tendencies. International deals (which the president hoped would box in the U.S. Congress), an EPA edict on carbon emissions, and a barrage of lawsuits all aim to one degree or another to evade the normal process of lawmaking and the sticky business of gaining popular consent for radical policy initiatives. Makes one miss the days when the Green hysterics felt compelled to scare the public into supporting their agenda.

Diane Ravitch of NYU and Brookings writes that she is bothered by “the idea that President Obama has pledged to join the other advanced nations in paying billions to corrupt and despotic regimes to help them become green. Will he borrow billions from China so we can afford to pay China to become green? Will we finance the kleptocrats in Zimbabwe, Somalia, Sudan and other regimes? How much of the billions will go for greenness and how much for Mercedes, BMWs, and other baubles for the despots?”

Well, that’s unfortunately what the Green agenda looks like — a racket for the third world, which now uses questionable science to advance its money-grabbing schemes. And with the $100 billion in funding the Obama team was willing to pony up in Copenhagen, it seems as though they have a friend in the White House amenable to this sort of thing. It also is likely to further turn off the American public, which already was not too keen on the hysterical Green agenda.

But watch out: the Green racket is about to get serious. The trial lawyers are now moving in to get their share of the scam. No, really. This is no joke:

Across the country, trial lawyers and green pressure groups—if that’s not redundant—are teaming up to sue electric utilities for carbon emissions under “nuisance” laws. A group of 12 Gulf Coast residents whose homes were damaged by Katrina are suing 33 energy companies for greenhouse gas emissions that allegedly contributed to the global warming that allegedly made the hurricane worse. Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal and seven state AG allies plus New York City are suing American Electric Power and other utilities for a host of supposed eco-maladies. A native village in Alaska is suing Exxon and 23 oil and energy companies for coastal erosion.

At least the states’ lawyers are candidly revealing that they are in the hold-up game, seeking to “compel measures that will stem global warming regardless of what happens in the legislature.” Just in case you thought that important policy decisions had to be passed by elected leaders. (“The nuisance suits ask the courts to make such fundamentally political decisions themselves, with judges substituting their views for those of the elected branches.”)

All of this is refreshing, in a sense, to those who have been skeptical all along as to the motives and tactics of the environmental busybodies. Cold hard cash seems to be a big objective here — moving it from the private to public sector and from developed to third-world countries. And as the public’s resistance mounts, those peddling the agenda are showing their true, quite anti-democratic tendencies. International deals (which the president hoped would box in the U.S. Congress), an EPA edict on carbon emissions, and a barrage of lawsuits all aim to one degree or another to evade the normal process of lawmaking and the sticky business of gaining popular consent for radical policy initiatives. Makes one miss the days when the Green hysterics felt compelled to scare the public into supporting their agenda.

Read Less

Missiles? Yawn

The Obama administration’s reaction to Iran’s Sajjil-2 missile launch on Wednesday has been beyond perfunctory; in fact, it has been disjointed and blasé to the point of haplessness. One has the sense of a vacuum where the conventional signals on defense policy used to be, as if no serious effort were being made.

The Sajjil missile program is two things. It’s a game-changer for our own missile-defense planning—a type of game-changer anticipated in theory for some years, and now being tested live in Iran. The pace of its development is, in the words of Israel’s former missile-defense chief, “phenomenal.” The launch-testing program started in November 2008 and has straddled two U.S. administrations, a political disadvantage for the objective analysis of its import. But from a professional military standpoint, the program’s progress naturally cues an adjustment to our own planning.

It’s therefore misleading—even a touch disingenuous—for the Pentagon’s spokesman to dismiss the Sajjil-2 launch on December 16 (the missile’s second successful launch ever) as “not particularly different than [sic] anything we’ve seen before.” This is narrowly accurate, but it’s not what matters. Downplaying the significance of the Sajjil program is lazy and sloppy; the professional approach would be conveying that we are taking steps to position ourselves for its emergence—which we are, at least from a long-term programmatic perspective.

The Sajjil is also the kind of missile program Obama had in mind in September, when he announced he was changing our missile-defense policy to be better prepared for the “emerging medium-range threat.” This announcement was made with some fanfare, attended by a phalanx of officials and experts explaining how the Obama policy would position us better for missile defense in the near future. It’s therefore particularly odd that the administration spokesmen didn’t make that connection in their public comments about Wednesday’s missile launch.

Perhaps they were deterred by the fact that the individual elements of Obama’s missile-defense plan are either not proven against an Iran/Sajjil threat scenario or out of sync with the Sajjil program’s rapid time line (e.g., the ground-launched version of the Navy’s SM-3, which is to substitute for Bush’s silo-based interceptors in Europe, doesn’t exist yet). But I doubt it. Spinning a policy initiative to de-emphasize its inconvenient particulars is just basic political competence. In theory, Obama’s policy shift in September was targeted precisely on the threat represented by the Sajjil. That no one in an official capacity has promptly spun this point for positive effect argues a weird lack of interest and focus.

Media reports are pairing the Sajjil-2 launch with Monday’s earlier announcement that the Pentagon will test our silo-based interceptors—which are operationally deployed in Alaska and California— against a simulated Iranian attack scenario in January. The testing program for U.S missile defenses has concentrated on a North Korea scenario up to now, with the threat mimicking the No Dong missile, the prototype for Iran’s older Shahab. This certainly seems linked to the Sajjil story. But since the silo-based interceptors are exactly the ones Obama has decided not to put in Europe, it’s another story with loose ends. What does it mean that we are doing this?

We can speculate, and many are busy doing just that; but we shouldn’t have to. Neither should Iran—or Russia or China, for that matter. There is no downside to sending signals on this topic that are clear, consistent, and unified. There is a serious downside, however, to sending signals about our defense policy that come off as detached and random.

The Obama administration’s reaction to Iran’s Sajjil-2 missile launch on Wednesday has been beyond perfunctory; in fact, it has been disjointed and blasé to the point of haplessness. One has the sense of a vacuum where the conventional signals on defense policy used to be, as if no serious effort were being made.

The Sajjil missile program is two things. It’s a game-changer for our own missile-defense planning—a type of game-changer anticipated in theory for some years, and now being tested live in Iran. The pace of its development is, in the words of Israel’s former missile-defense chief, “phenomenal.” The launch-testing program started in November 2008 and has straddled two U.S. administrations, a political disadvantage for the objective analysis of its import. But from a professional military standpoint, the program’s progress naturally cues an adjustment to our own planning.

It’s therefore misleading—even a touch disingenuous—for the Pentagon’s spokesman to dismiss the Sajjil-2 launch on December 16 (the missile’s second successful launch ever) as “not particularly different than [sic] anything we’ve seen before.” This is narrowly accurate, but it’s not what matters. Downplaying the significance of the Sajjil program is lazy and sloppy; the professional approach would be conveying that we are taking steps to position ourselves for its emergence—which we are, at least from a long-term programmatic perspective.

The Sajjil is also the kind of missile program Obama had in mind in September, when he announced he was changing our missile-defense policy to be better prepared for the “emerging medium-range threat.” This announcement was made with some fanfare, attended by a phalanx of officials and experts explaining how the Obama policy would position us better for missile defense in the near future. It’s therefore particularly odd that the administration spokesmen didn’t make that connection in their public comments about Wednesday’s missile launch.

Perhaps they were deterred by the fact that the individual elements of Obama’s missile-defense plan are either not proven against an Iran/Sajjil threat scenario or out of sync with the Sajjil program’s rapid time line (e.g., the ground-launched version of the Navy’s SM-3, which is to substitute for Bush’s silo-based interceptors in Europe, doesn’t exist yet). But I doubt it. Spinning a policy initiative to de-emphasize its inconvenient particulars is just basic political competence. In theory, Obama’s policy shift in September was targeted precisely on the threat represented by the Sajjil. That no one in an official capacity has promptly spun this point for positive effect argues a weird lack of interest and focus.

Media reports are pairing the Sajjil-2 launch with Monday’s earlier announcement that the Pentagon will test our silo-based interceptors—which are operationally deployed in Alaska and California— against a simulated Iranian attack scenario in January. The testing program for U.S missile defenses has concentrated on a North Korea scenario up to now, with the threat mimicking the No Dong missile, the prototype for Iran’s older Shahab. This certainly seems linked to the Sajjil story. But since the silo-based interceptors are exactly the ones Obama has decided not to put in Europe, it’s another story with loose ends. What does it mean that we are doing this?

We can speculate, and many are busy doing just that; but we shouldn’t have to. Neither should Iran—or Russia or China, for that matter. There is no downside to sending signals on this topic that are clear, consistent, and unified. There is a serious downside, however, to sending signals about our defense policy that come off as detached and random.

Read Less

Who Needs Congress?

Even for the Obami, it’s a bit shocking. Climate-change legislation is going nowhere, a victim to the realization that its costs vastly outweigh any supposed benefits. But that’s not slowing down the Obama team:

The Obama administration moved closer Monday to issuing regulations on greenhouse gases, a step that would enable it to limit emissions across the economy even if Congress fails to enact climate legislation.

The move, which coincided with the first day of the international climate summit in Copenhagen, seemed timed to reassure delegates there that the United States is committed to reducing its emissions even if domestic legislation remains bogged down. But it provoked condemnation from key Republicans and from U.S. business groups, which vowed to tie up any regulations in litigation.

What, you think this smacks of anti-constitutional arrogance and imperiousness? Well, some agree, and the backlash, quite apart from the years of court challenges, may be swift in coming:

“The stick approach isn’t going to work. In fact, Congress may retaliate,” said Mark Helmke, a senior adviser to Sen. Richard G. Lugar (R-Ind.). “They could stop the funding, and they could change the law.”

Anticipating EPA action, Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) tried unsuccessfully in September to prevent the agency from spending money to regulate stationary sources of greenhouse gases, such as power plants or factories, for one year. Murkowski, the ranking Republican on the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, said in a statement Monday that the endangerment finding was “a blunt instrument that will severely hamper our attempts to bolster the economy and get Americans back to work.”

Sen. Olympia Snowe says it’s “regrettable” — practically a meltdown for her. And the most endangered senator, Blanche Lincoln (already on the hot seat for failing to oppose health-care reform that her constituents hate), is perturbed as well.

Aside from the issue of subjecting American business to a regime of new mind-numbing regulation and fines just at the moment the science of global warming is under attack, the statist impulse and abject disregard for constitutional governance is breathtaking, but perhaps not startling. The Obami crowd brought us czarmania and newly elastic incarnations of executive privilege. They declared war on insufficiently deferential news outlets and the Chamber of Commerce. So they’re certainly not going to be slowed down by lack of congressional action or, more properly said, the refusal of Congress to pass cap-and-trade legislation to micromanage the entire U.S. economy. It should be sobering to those on both sides of the aisle who think that ours is a government of checks and balances and separation of powers.

Even for the Obami, it’s a bit shocking. Climate-change legislation is going nowhere, a victim to the realization that its costs vastly outweigh any supposed benefits. But that’s not slowing down the Obama team:

The Obama administration moved closer Monday to issuing regulations on greenhouse gases, a step that would enable it to limit emissions across the economy even if Congress fails to enact climate legislation.

The move, which coincided with the first day of the international climate summit in Copenhagen, seemed timed to reassure delegates there that the United States is committed to reducing its emissions even if domestic legislation remains bogged down. But it provoked condemnation from key Republicans and from U.S. business groups, which vowed to tie up any regulations in litigation.

What, you think this smacks of anti-constitutional arrogance and imperiousness? Well, some agree, and the backlash, quite apart from the years of court challenges, may be swift in coming:

“The stick approach isn’t going to work. In fact, Congress may retaliate,” said Mark Helmke, a senior adviser to Sen. Richard G. Lugar (R-Ind.). “They could stop the funding, and they could change the law.”

Anticipating EPA action, Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) tried unsuccessfully in September to prevent the agency from spending money to regulate stationary sources of greenhouse gases, such as power plants or factories, for one year. Murkowski, the ranking Republican on the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, said in a statement Monday that the endangerment finding was “a blunt instrument that will severely hamper our attempts to bolster the economy and get Americans back to work.”

Sen. Olympia Snowe says it’s “regrettable” — practically a meltdown for her. And the most endangered senator, Blanche Lincoln (already on the hot seat for failing to oppose health-care reform that her constituents hate), is perturbed as well.

Aside from the issue of subjecting American business to a regime of new mind-numbing regulation and fines just at the moment the science of global warming is under attack, the statist impulse and abject disregard for constitutional governance is breathtaking, but perhaps not startling. The Obami crowd brought us czarmania and newly elastic incarnations of executive privilege. They declared war on insufficiently deferential news outlets and the Chamber of Commerce. So they’re certainly not going to be slowed down by lack of congressional action or, more properly said, the refusal of Congress to pass cap-and-trade legislation to micromanage the entire U.S. economy. It should be sobering to those on both sides of the aisle who think that ours is a government of checks and balances and separation of powers.

Read Less




Welcome to Commentary Magazine.
We hope you enjoy your visit.
As a visitor to our site, you are allowed 8 free articles this month.
This is your first of 8 free articles.

If you are already a digital subscriber, log in here »

Print subscriber? For free access to the website and iPad, register here »

To subscribe, click here to see our subscription offers »

Please note this is an advertisement skip this ad
Clearly, you have a passion for ideas.
Subscribe today for unlimited digital access to the publication that shapes the minds of the people who shape our world.
Get for just
YOU HAVE READ OF 8 FREE ARTICLES THIS MONTH.
FOR JUST
YOU HAVE READ OF 8 FREE ARTICLES THIS MONTH.
FOR JUST
Welcome to Commentary Magazine.
We hope you enjoy your visit.
As a visitor, you are allowed 8 free articles.
This is your first article.
You have read of 8 free articles this month.
YOU HAVE READ 8 OF 8
FREE ARTICLES THIS MONTH.
for full access to
CommentaryMagazine.com
INCLUDES FULL ACCESS TO:
Digital subscriber?
Print subscriber? Get free access »
Call to subscribe: 1-800-829-6270
You can also subscribe
on your computer at
CommentaryMagazine.com.
LOG IN WITH YOUR
COMMENTARY MAGAZINE ID
Don't have a CommentaryMagazine.com log in?
CREATE A COMMENTARY
LOG IN ID
Enter you email address and password below. A confirmation email will be sent to the email address that you provide.