Commentary Magazine


Topic: Barney Frank

Will Crocker Endorsement Save Hagel?

This isn’t like most of the other Chuck Hagel endorsements, which have hurt him more than they’ve helped him. Ambassador Ryan Crocker’s support is actually meaningful, especially for someone like Hagel, who was a big critic of the Iraq war while Crocker was ambassador to that country. He pens a strong defense of Hagel at the Wall Street Journal today:

Mr. Hagel understands far better than most the evils of Hamas and Hezbollah, both backed by Iran. He also appreciates the importance of looking in and among those groups for fissures that might lead to internal debate, dissension or division—or even to areas of agreement with the U.S. In the months after the 9/11 attacks, I negotiated with Iranian officials regarding Afghanistan; it accomplished a little of both, spurring agreement on some issues and internal debate among the Iranians on others. 

Chuck Hagel understood this, as he understood the importance of the unsuccessful talks I had with the Iranians in 2007, when I was serving as U.S. ambassador to Iraq. The failure of those talks helped convince Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki that a diplomatic solution to Iranian interference in Iraq wasn’t possible, at which point he decided to use his army successfully against Iranian-backed militias.

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This isn’t like most of the other Chuck Hagel endorsements, which have hurt him more than they’ve helped him. Ambassador Ryan Crocker’s support is actually meaningful, especially for someone like Hagel, who was a big critic of the Iraq war while Crocker was ambassador to that country. He pens a strong defense of Hagel at the Wall Street Journal today:

Mr. Hagel understands far better than most the evils of Hamas and Hezbollah, both backed by Iran. He also appreciates the importance of looking in and among those groups for fissures that might lead to internal debate, dissension or division—or even to areas of agreement with the U.S. In the months after the 9/11 attacks, I negotiated with Iranian officials regarding Afghanistan; it accomplished a little of both, spurring agreement on some issues and internal debate among the Iranians on others. 

Chuck Hagel understood this, as he understood the importance of the unsuccessful talks I had with the Iranians in 2007, when I was serving as U.S. ambassador to Iraq. The failure of those talks helped convince Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki that a diplomatic solution to Iranian interference in Iraq wasn’t possible, at which point he decided to use his army successfully against Iranian-backed militias.

Most of the argument is made in personal terms that are moot; Crocker reassures that Hagel’s heart is in the right place on Israel, and that he understands the magnitude of the Iranian threat. But for the rest of us judging him based on his public record, the evidence just isn’t there.

The endorsement may also be too late to matter. Even if President Obama hasn’t made up his mind yet, both sides are digging in and the fight is becoming increasingly bitter. Obama wouldn’t just be picking a battle with Republicans. Plenty of liberal Democrats, most recently Barney Frank, have also opposed the possible nomination. The gay community is still wary of Hagel’s position on Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, and women’s groups are lobbying for a female secretary of defense now that Hillary Clinton is leaving the State Department.

The longer Obama waits to make a decision, the more divisive the issue will become. And unless Hagel has a lot more supporters of Crocker’s caliber waiting in the wings, he’s not going to be able to match the level of the opposition. Maybe that doesn’t matter to Obama; at the end of the day, it’s still his choice. If he wants Hagel badly enough, then he’ll suffer through the fight.

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Basic Info About Israel Still Eluding Dems

When Massachusetts Democrat Barney Frank finally unburdens the Congress of his belligerent presence after his current term, he will leave two primary legacies. The first is his role in the housing crisis and subsequent deep recession by protecting Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac from much-needed reforms, and the second is his decision to take the nastiness found in the far corners of the liberal blogosphere and mainstream it, introducing it into the regular give-and-take of the Congress. Those seeking comity and civility in American public life had few greater obstacles than Frank during his time in the House.

But Frank has a chance at a third legacy: there is a possibility that his district, deep blue but perhaps tired of Democratic governance in the age of Obama (as when his state voted for Scott Brown), may give a Republican a serious look to succeed Frank. That Republican is the Georgetown and Harvard-educated Marine reservist Sean Bielat, who ran against Frank last time and gave him a bit of a scare. (When Bielat met Frank for the first time during the election, he told him it was a pleasure to meet his congressman. Frank’s response: “I wish I could say the same.”) But with the renewed controversy over the broad Democratic Party opposition to recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, a statement made by Joseph P. Kennedy III, Bielat’s Democratic opponent for the seat, may garner some increased scrutiny.

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When Massachusetts Democrat Barney Frank finally unburdens the Congress of his belligerent presence after his current term, he will leave two primary legacies. The first is his role in the housing crisis and subsequent deep recession by protecting Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac from much-needed reforms, and the second is his decision to take the nastiness found in the far corners of the liberal blogosphere and mainstream it, introducing it into the regular give-and-take of the Congress. Those seeking comity and civility in American public life had few greater obstacles than Frank during his time in the House.

But Frank has a chance at a third legacy: there is a possibility that his district, deep blue but perhaps tired of Democratic governance in the age of Obama (as when his state voted for Scott Brown), may give a Republican a serious look to succeed Frank. That Republican is the Georgetown and Harvard-educated Marine reservist Sean Bielat, who ran against Frank last time and gave him a bit of a scare. (When Bielat met Frank for the first time during the election, he told him it was a pleasure to meet his congressman. Frank’s response: “I wish I could say the same.”) But with the renewed controversy over the broad Democratic Party opposition to recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, a statement made by Joseph P. Kennedy III, Bielat’s Democratic opponent for the seat, may garner some increased scrutiny.

In a primary debate earlier this summer, the Democratic candidates were asked about Mitt Romney’s comments in Jerusalem about the city’s status as Israel’s capital. Kennedy offered the following statement, in direct contravention of an observable reality: “I think that the capital of Israel is Tel Aviv.”

It is true that some have decided not to recognize Jerusalem as the capital until a two-state solution is in place, even though much of Jerusalem is not contested nor considered “occupied.” This is a silly affront to Israeli sovereignty, but even that is a far cry from the bizarre claim that Tel Aviv is Israel’s capital. No one in Israel argues this, and the mayor of Tel Aviv has gone out of his way to ask people to please stop lying about the status of his city. Those who claim Tel Aviv is the capital of Israel are attempting to express a uniquely uninformed brand of trendy leftist opposition to Israel.

Kennedy not only said that Tel Aviv is Israel’s capital (it’s not), but he also said that this reflects longtime American policy (it doesn’t). Some are pointing out that Kennedy’s fairy tale about Tel Aviv conflicts with what is on his website, but since he obviously has nothing to do with his own website, it only goes to show that his Tel Aviv pronouncements are his own and not those he’s hired to speak for him. Carl in Jerusalem notes that Kennedy’s great-grandfather was no friend to the Jewish people, but his grandfather, Robert Kennedy, was. (To the extent that a Palestinian assassin murdered Robert Kennedy to prevent a pro-Israel voice from gaining the White House.) So the Kennedy family influence is not the determining factor here either.

Kennedy’s comments also came before the Democratic National Convention scene in which Democratic delegates voted down adding a reference to Jerusalem back into the party platform, and booed loudly when the pro-Israel language was added over their objections. So Kennedy’s comments may be indicative of the Democratic Party’s antipathy toward Israel, but they were not inspired by the convention mess. Kennedy can’t blame this on his anyone but himself, and Bielat has decided that the best way to take Kennedy to task for these comments is simply to make sure people hear them. So Bielat has put together an ad letting Kennedy speak for himself:

Bielat (who seems to have a stronger grasp of basic geography) would like Kennedy to at least have to answer to the voting public for his foolishness. If he does, Frank’s new legacy might be helping to turn a blue district red. If not, Kennedy seems like the kind of politician that will make Frank’s current legacy look good by comparison.

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Common Ground with Barney Frank

In an interview with New York’s Jason Zengerle, Representative Barney Frank said this:

It seems like you’re leaving in large part because of this dysfunctional atmosphere.

I’m 73 years old. I’ve been doing this since October of 1967, and I’ve seen too many people stay here beyond when they should. I don’t have the energy I used to have. I don’t like it anymore, I’m tired, and my nerves are frayed. And I dislike the negativism of the media. I think the media has gotten cynical and negative to a point where it’s unproductive.

Is that a recent development?

It’s been a progressive development, or a regressive development. And I include even Jon Stewart and Colbert in this. The negativism—it hurts liberals, it hurts Democrats. The more government is discredited, the harder it is to get things done. And the media, by constantly harping on the negative and ignoring anything positive, plays a very conservative role substantively.

But isn’t part of that just because the media is expected to be adversarial?

Who expects it to be adversarial? Where did you read that? Did you read that in the First Amendment? Where did you read that the media is expected to be adversarial? It should be skeptical, why adversarial? Adversarial means you’re the enemy. Seriously, where does that come from?

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In an interview with New York’s Jason Zengerle, Representative Barney Frank said this:

It seems like you’re leaving in large part because of this dysfunctional atmosphere.

I’m 73 years old. I’ve been doing this since October of 1967, and I’ve seen too many people stay here beyond when they should. I don’t have the energy I used to have. I don’t like it anymore, I’m tired, and my nerves are frayed. And I dislike the negativism of the media. I think the media has gotten cynical and negative to a point where it’s unproductive.

Is that a recent development?

It’s been a progressive development, or a regressive development. And I include even Jon Stewart and Colbert in this. The negativism—it hurts liberals, it hurts Democrats. The more government is discredited, the harder it is to get things done. And the media, by constantly harping on the negative and ignoring anything positive, plays a very conservative role substantively.

But isn’t part of that just because the media is expected to be adversarial?

Who expects it to be adversarial? Where did you read that? Did you read that in the First Amendment? Where did you read that the media is expected to be adversarial? It should be skeptical, why adversarial? Adversarial means you’re the enemy. Seriously, where does that come from?

Okay, maybe “skeptical” is the better word.

But that’s a very different word. You reflect the attitude: adversarial. And there is nothing in any theory that I have ever seen that says when you report events that you’re supposed to think, I’m the adversary, so that means I want to defeat them, I want to undermine them, I want to discredit them. Why is that the media’s role? But you’ve accurately stated it, and I think it’s a great mistake.

Do you think I just showed my hand there?

No, I don’t think you showed your hand personally. I think you reflected the Weltschmerz.

But you know the old aphorism, “Afflict the comfortable, comfort the afflicted.” I think that’s more what I was trying to get at.

When have you comforted the afflicted? I don’t see that in the media. I don’t see reporting that comforts low-income people or the environment. I think it’s negative about everybody.

But that’s a different problem. It’s the problem of sensationalism: The bad news is the stuff that gets the headlines.

That’s because you choose to give it the headlines.

I would add some amendments to what Representative Frank says. For example, the press, as a general matter, was hardly adversarial when it came to Barack Obama in 2008. As one intellectually honest reporter, Time magazine’s Mark Halperin, put it, “It was extreme bias, extreme pro-Obama coverage.”

That said, I think Barney Frank is onto something important. There is a kind of corrosive cynicism that exists among journalists specifically and the political class more broadly that is injurious to self-government. There is an eagerness to be drawn to negativism in a way that distorts reality. It’s not as if negative things don’t happen and shouldn’t be covered; it’s that selective coverage can make individuals and institutions out to be cartoon images.

Viewing oneself in an adversarial relationship with those in power also leads to a leakage of trust in our governing institutions, which is (from my viewpoint) problematic. And by concentrating their focus on what goes wrong – on the knaves and fools rather than on competent, low-key lawmakers — journalists create a kind of carnival mirror when it comes to politicians.

Most members of Congress, from both parties, are not jackasses – but you wouldn’t know that from how Congress is covered. And many who cover politics jump with glee on misstatements by politicians, as if a gaffe is more newsworthy than a serious policy address. We all know it’s much easier to comment on something controversial that’s said on “Morning Joe” or “Fox and Friends” than it is to read a CBO report on income inequality or the fiscal consequences of the Affordable Care Act. It’s easier to cover a pastor who is intent on burning a Koran than it is to read the latest research on the success of Head Start.

These aren’t always easy calls. Sometimes the press has to explore controversial events. And I would be among the last people in the world to discourage vigorous debate in politics. Nor should we expect a presidential campaign to resemble a Brookings Institution seminar. My point is that the role of journalists isn’t to focus almost exclusively on what’s controversial, or silly, or uncivilized; or to try to humble and expose the politically powerful. It is to provide a fair-minded appraisal of events and reality (which is what reporters are supposed to do) and to inform and provide perspective on public debates in an intelligent manner (which is what commentators are supposed to do).

I’d add one other observation: Many members of the press tend to promote what they bemoan. For example, they complain about how presidential campaigns focus on trivial matters even as they cannot resist covering trivial stories. (By the end of the Obama v. Romney campaign, for example, let’s see how much attention is paid to Mitt Romney’s dog Seamus and his trip to Canada in car-top carrier v. his Medicare plan.) The press – parts of it, anyway — hyper-focus on provocative statements by media personalities rather than on premium support as an alternative to the current fee-for-service system in health care.

There are of course impressive exceptions to what I’m describing. Many journalists are serious-minded individuals who have a command of issues that is impressive. But somehow the total is less than the sum of the parts. That is, I think, what Barney Frank was trying to say — and in this instance, I concur with the liberal representative from Massachusetts.

 

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The Messy Results of Self-Government

You can count on one hand (and maybe less) the number of public policy issues with which I agree with Barney Frank. But in an appearance on C-SPAN’s “Washington Journal” last week, Representative Frank made some sense.

When asked about what’s wrong with the budget process, Frank said the problem, at its core, is “indecision on the part of the voters.” He pointed out that Congress is not an autonomous instrument that operates on its own; public opinion has a lot of influence. “The public has a question it has to resolve,” according to Frank. “The public wants a certain level of government activity but it wants to provide a level of revenue that’s not enough for that activity.” The main reason we have a budget deficit is there’s “a greater public demand for services than there is a willingness to pay the taxes.” And his hope in 2012 is that we see “a resolution on the part of the public.”

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You can count on one hand (and maybe less) the number of public policy issues with which I agree with Barney Frank. But in an appearance on C-SPAN’s “Washington Journal” last week, Representative Frank made some sense.

When asked about what’s wrong with the budget process, Frank said the problem, at its core, is “indecision on the part of the voters.” He pointed out that Congress is not an autonomous instrument that operates on its own; public opinion has a lot of influence. “The public has a question it has to resolve,” according to Frank. “The public wants a certain level of government activity but it wants to provide a level of revenue that’s not enough for that activity.” The main reason we have a budget deficit is there’s “a greater public demand for services than there is a willingness to pay the taxes.” And his hope in 2012 is that we see “a resolution on the part of the public.”

We’ll see what the 2012 election brings. But there’s no doubt the public is complicit in the mess we’re in, and some of its disdain for Congress should reflect back on the polity. Consider politics on a national level since 2008. The public voted for Democratic control of the presidency, the House, and the Senate. Democrats then passed legislation many Americans didn’t like (and none of which was particularly surprising). Then, in 2010, the public — unhappy with the way things were going — registered its unhappiness, resulting in an epic mid-term win for Republicans. As a result, Republican won control of the House. And that, in turn, has led to gridlock, which was the inevitable outcome of the 2010 election. Yet, now many Americans are frustrated with gridlock and the fact that politicians can’t agree on things.

The legendary NFL football coach Bill Parcells used to say, “You are what your record says you are.” Similarly, the American people are what the government we voted for says we are. It’s the result of our hands, our voices, and our votes. No one ever said that self-government was easy or pretty.

 

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RE: Is the Right Worse Than the Left?

When it comes to plain old bigotry, no. George Will in today’s column quotes Charles Blow’s March 26, 2010, column in  the Times. Blow notes that the “far right,” by which he means either mainstream conservatives or a group so small as to be of no importance, has romanticized the country of the past, a country that no longer exists. He writes:

Even the optics must be irritating. A woman (Nancy Pelosi) pushed the health care bill through the House. The bill’s most visible and vocal proponents included a gay man (Barney Frank) and a Jew (Anthony Weiner). And the black man in the White House signed the bill into law. It’s enough to make a good old boy go crazy.

As Will points out, Blow thus casually pronounces that conservatives are all “misogynistic, homophobic, racist anti-Semites.” Since I personally know lots of female, gay, non-white, and Jewish conservatives, none of whom are good ol’ boys — a group with which I am also not unfamiliar — I can testify that Blow is mistaken.

Bigotry can be defined as taking a group of people who share one characteristic — race, sex, ethnicity, sexual orientation, political outlook, good-ol’-boyness, whatever — and assuming without evidence that they share another unrelated and undesirable characteristic. All blondes are dumb, for instance.

By that definition, Charles Blow is a bigot.

When it comes to plain old bigotry, no. George Will in today’s column quotes Charles Blow’s March 26, 2010, column in  the Times. Blow notes that the “far right,” by which he means either mainstream conservatives or a group so small as to be of no importance, has romanticized the country of the past, a country that no longer exists. He writes:

Even the optics must be irritating. A woman (Nancy Pelosi) pushed the health care bill through the House. The bill’s most visible and vocal proponents included a gay man (Barney Frank) and a Jew (Anthony Weiner). And the black man in the White House signed the bill into law. It’s enough to make a good old boy go crazy.

As Will points out, Blow thus casually pronounces that conservatives are all “misogynistic, homophobic, racist anti-Semites.” Since I personally know lots of female, gay, non-white, and Jewish conservatives, none of whom are good ol’ boys — a group with which I am also not unfamiliar — I can testify that Blow is mistaken.

Bigotry can be defined as taking a group of people who share one characteristic — race, sex, ethnicity, sexual orientation, political outlook, good-ol’-boyness, whatever — and assuming without evidence that they share another unrelated and undesirable characteristic. All blondes are dumb, for instance.

By that definition, Charles Blow is a bigot.

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Good Thing Bush the Unilateralist Is Gone

Now the Democrats can focus on rebuilding all those broken international alliances. Here’s Barney Frank doing his part, earlier today: “And the liberal community’s got to focus more on Afghanistan, Iraq, NATO,” he said. “NATO is a great drain on our treasury and serves no strategic purpose.”

Does he know how to reassure our skittish friends or what?

Now the Democrats can focus on rebuilding all those broken international alliances. Here’s Barney Frank doing his part, earlier today: “And the liberal community’s got to focus more on Afghanistan, Iraq, NATO,” he said. “NATO is a great drain on our treasury and serves no strategic purpose.”

Does he know how to reassure our skittish friends or what?

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Pelosi and the GOP Win

As a Republican reader e-mails, “The Dems want Pelosi as their leader, and so do we!” Well, that’s the Obama era for you. The vote and the post-vote grousing by dismayed Blue Dog Democrats tell us a few things.

Most important, Pelosi has a lot of disgruntled moderates who are very nervous that in 2012 they will join their defeated 2010 colleagues, among them more than 30 Blue Dogs. As the New York Times reported, there are a number of Democrats who weren’t about to go along with the “everything is fine, perfectly fine” narrative:

“It’s time for new leadership after the worst electoral defeat since 1948,” said Representative Jim Cooper, Democrat of Tennessee.

Some of the Democrats defeated this month counseled strongly against keeping Ms. Pelosi, and one did not mince words. “Have they lost their minds?” asked Representative Allen Boyd, a defeated Democrat, as he passed by the Cannon Caucus Room, where the election was occurring.

The dissenters didn’t go quietly:

Appearing with Reps. Mike Ross (D-Ark.), Larry Kissell (D-N.C.) and Jim Matheson (D-Utah), who formally nominated Shuler for the post, Shuler said “there was a lot of unrest in the room” surrounding the votes. …

“I consider myself one of Nancy Pelosi’s closest friends in Congress. I think we missed an opportunity today to send a signal to America that we understand what happened in this past election,” said Rep. Bill Pascrell (D-N.J.), who wanted the elections pushed back.

But the purposefully oblivious, like Rep. Barney Frank, weren’t giving any ground:

Asked if Pelosi’s abysmal approval ratings among independents pose a problem for the party looking ahead to 2012, Frank said they don’t, “because she’s not running for president.”

“You people are focused on this; the voters aren’t,” he said, referring to the media. “The general public is much more focused on substance.”

Frank asserted that Pelosi had “virtually nothing” to do with the poor election outcome for Democrats.

“Going forward,” he said, “we will be judged on what the public policies are.”

The question remains: does Pelosi now become a useful foil for the Republicans or for the president? If Obama is cagey enough, he’ll pick some fights with her, get serious about spending reduction, and ignore her advice on national security. Should he go that route, he’ll regain some lost ground. But if Pelosi entices the president to stay the course, gives no ground on spending, and remains the poster girl for the left wing of the left wing, then Republicans in 2012 will run once again at the Obama-Pelosi-Reid agenda.

The problem with the liberals’ insistence that they need Pelosi to remain a resolute defender of the left is that Obama needs to run roughshod over her and the rump liberal caucus in order to survive. For all the talk of a GOP “civil war,” the real action won’t be on that side of the aisle; from what we’ve seen so far, the Tea Partiers and establishment Republicans are working things out with a minimum of acrimony. The same, I suspect, won’t be true for the Democrats.

As a Republican reader e-mails, “The Dems want Pelosi as their leader, and so do we!” Well, that’s the Obama era for you. The vote and the post-vote grousing by dismayed Blue Dog Democrats tell us a few things.

Most important, Pelosi has a lot of disgruntled moderates who are very nervous that in 2012 they will join their defeated 2010 colleagues, among them more than 30 Blue Dogs. As the New York Times reported, there are a number of Democrats who weren’t about to go along with the “everything is fine, perfectly fine” narrative:

“It’s time for new leadership after the worst electoral defeat since 1948,” said Representative Jim Cooper, Democrat of Tennessee.

Some of the Democrats defeated this month counseled strongly against keeping Ms. Pelosi, and one did not mince words. “Have they lost their minds?” asked Representative Allen Boyd, a defeated Democrat, as he passed by the Cannon Caucus Room, where the election was occurring.

The dissenters didn’t go quietly:

Appearing with Reps. Mike Ross (D-Ark.), Larry Kissell (D-N.C.) and Jim Matheson (D-Utah), who formally nominated Shuler for the post, Shuler said “there was a lot of unrest in the room” surrounding the votes. …

“I consider myself one of Nancy Pelosi’s closest friends in Congress. I think we missed an opportunity today to send a signal to America that we understand what happened in this past election,” said Rep. Bill Pascrell (D-N.J.), who wanted the elections pushed back.

But the purposefully oblivious, like Rep. Barney Frank, weren’t giving any ground:

Asked if Pelosi’s abysmal approval ratings among independents pose a problem for the party looking ahead to 2012, Frank said they don’t, “because she’s not running for president.”

“You people are focused on this; the voters aren’t,” he said, referring to the media. “The general public is much more focused on substance.”

Frank asserted that Pelosi had “virtually nothing” to do with the poor election outcome for Democrats.

“Going forward,” he said, “we will be judged on what the public policies are.”

The question remains: does Pelosi now become a useful foil for the Republicans or for the president? If Obama is cagey enough, he’ll pick some fights with her, get serious about spending reduction, and ignore her advice on national security. Should he go that route, he’ll regain some lost ground. But if Pelosi entices the president to stay the course, gives no ground on spending, and remains the poster girl for the left wing of the left wing, then Republicans in 2012 will run once again at the Obama-Pelosi-Reid agenda.

The problem with the liberals’ insistence that they need Pelosi to remain a resolute defender of the left is that Obama needs to run roughshod over her and the rump liberal caucus in order to survive. For all the talk of a GOP “civil war,” the real action won’t be on that side of the aisle; from what we’ve seen so far, the Tea Partiers and establishment Republicans are working things out with a minimum of acrimony. The same, I suspect, won’t be true for the Democrats.

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Is Frank Toast?

Robert Snider of Pajamas Media is flatly predicting Barney Frank’s defeat next week (h/t Instapundit). He makes a good case.

I have thought for a while now that Frank was in deep trouble, and the fact that he loaned his campaign $200,000 last week (and he’s not a rich man) has only confirmed that. A sitting committee chairman who can’t outraise his little-known opponent? Now that’s trouble.

According to Snider, Frank’s tepid support for Israel is one of his problems:

A record number of AIPAC members, over one thousand, attended its dinner in Boston this year. That is an objective indication of the level of fear in the Jewish community. Barney Frank gave a short statement in which he assured the audience that if there is a crisis, the audience could count on him. Frank’s statement showed a devastating lack of understanding of the issue. If there is a crisis in the Middle East, it will be too late. Frank was greeted by a wall of coldness: members walked out to show their displeasure. Frank’s body language and the tone of his statement were uncertain. In the several events I attended in which there was a substantial Jewish audience, Bielat’s announcement that “I am Sean Bielat and I am running against Barney Frank” was greeted by unusually loud and enthusiastic applause. AIPAC members define the term “opinion makers.”

The polls close in Massachusetts at 8 p.m. I imagine exit polling will be announced almost instantly.

Robert Snider of Pajamas Media is flatly predicting Barney Frank’s defeat next week (h/t Instapundit). He makes a good case.

I have thought for a while now that Frank was in deep trouble, and the fact that he loaned his campaign $200,000 last week (and he’s not a rich man) has only confirmed that. A sitting committee chairman who can’t outraise his little-known opponent? Now that’s trouble.

According to Snider, Frank’s tepid support for Israel is one of his problems:

A record number of AIPAC members, over one thousand, attended its dinner in Boston this year. That is an objective indication of the level of fear in the Jewish community. Barney Frank gave a short statement in which he assured the audience that if there is a crisis, the audience could count on him. Frank’s statement showed a devastating lack of understanding of the issue. If there is a crisis in the Middle East, it will be too late. Frank was greeted by a wall of coldness: members walked out to show their displeasure. Frank’s body language and the tone of his statement were uncertain. In the several events I attended in which there was a substantial Jewish audience, Bielat’s announcement that “I am Sean Bielat and I am running against Barney Frank” was greeted by unusually loud and enthusiastic applause. AIPAC members define the term “opinion makers.”

The polls close in Massachusetts at 8 p.m. I imagine exit polling will be announced almost instantly.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Only now does Barney Frank fess up that he missed the Freddie and Fannie debacle. “I was too late to see they were a problem. … I did see them as an important source of rental housing. I did not foresee the extent to which bad decisions … were causing problems.” But Obama said it was all Bush’s fault.

It is not only Jews, young people, and Hispanics who are disenchanted with Obama. “The White House may view the last 18 months as historic, racking up a legislative scorecard that includes a $787 billion stimulus package and an overhaul of the health care system. A majority of women, however, see it as a failure, according to a new poll conducted by Kellyanne Conway for The Kitchen Cabinet, a conservative women’s group. … Fifty-six percent of women consider the health care reform law a failure, while 29 percent view it as a success, according to the poll. The economic stimulus package is viewed only slightly more favorably: 53 percent say it was a failure, while 34 percent say it was a success.”

Only Obama and Joe Biden think the economy is getting better. “Gallup’s Economic Confidence Index in September found 65% of independents saying the economy is ‘getting worse,’ tying July’s reading for their highest pessimism of the year, and similar to August. Independents’ views of the economy align much more closely with Republicans’ than with Democrats’, and are worse than they were a year ago, when 58% said the economy was getting worse.”

Only yesterday, it seems, Sharron Angle was labeled an unelectable crackpot. Now: “Former Nevada state Assemblywoman Sharron Angle (R) raised an eye-popping $14 million between July 1 and Sept. 30 for her challenge to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D), a stunning number that far eclipses the cash-collection totals of other prominent candidates seeking Senate seats next month.”

Only three weeks to go before the midterms. So it’s time to throw in the towel on the job-killing deepwater-drilling moratorium. “The Obama administration announced Tuesday it is lifting the controversial freeze on deepwater oil-and-gas drilling imposed after the BP oil spill began.”

Only one more lie by J Street revealed yesterday. It was in that regard a better day than most. Their non-denial denial and blatant excising of the record are now familiar tactics.

Not only Jeremy Ben-Ami has problems. Joe Sestak is getting slammed for taking J Street money. Will he give it back?

Only the White House thinks it’s a good idea to make up allegations aimed at the Chamber of Commerce: “In a potential sign of Democratic unease with the White House midterm political strategy, some of President Obama’s allies have begun to question his sustained attack on the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which has long claimed bipartisanship but is being increasingly identified as a GOP ally. Some Democrats on Capitol Hill worry that the White House is going too far in charging that the politically powerful business lobby may be using foreign money to fuel its election efforts. The charge ignites strong feelings among job-hungry voters. But Democrats are concerned that it may be overstated and could harm moderate Democrats in swing districts.”

Only now does Barney Frank fess up that he missed the Freddie and Fannie debacle. “I was too late to see they were a problem. … I did see them as an important source of rental housing. I did not foresee the extent to which bad decisions … were causing problems.” But Obama said it was all Bush’s fault.

It is not only Jews, young people, and Hispanics who are disenchanted with Obama. “The White House may view the last 18 months as historic, racking up a legislative scorecard that includes a $787 billion stimulus package and an overhaul of the health care system. A majority of women, however, see it as a failure, according to a new poll conducted by Kellyanne Conway for The Kitchen Cabinet, a conservative women’s group. … Fifty-six percent of women consider the health care reform law a failure, while 29 percent view it as a success, according to the poll. The economic stimulus package is viewed only slightly more favorably: 53 percent say it was a failure, while 34 percent say it was a success.”

Only Obama and Joe Biden think the economy is getting better. “Gallup’s Economic Confidence Index in September found 65% of independents saying the economy is ‘getting worse,’ tying July’s reading for their highest pessimism of the year, and similar to August. Independents’ views of the economy align much more closely with Republicans’ than with Democrats’, and are worse than they were a year ago, when 58% said the economy was getting worse.”

Only yesterday, it seems, Sharron Angle was labeled an unelectable crackpot. Now: “Former Nevada state Assemblywoman Sharron Angle (R) raised an eye-popping $14 million between July 1 and Sept. 30 for her challenge to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D), a stunning number that far eclipses the cash-collection totals of other prominent candidates seeking Senate seats next month.”

Only three weeks to go before the midterms. So it’s time to throw in the towel on the job-killing deepwater-drilling moratorium. “The Obama administration announced Tuesday it is lifting the controversial freeze on deepwater oil-and-gas drilling imposed after the BP oil spill began.”

Only one more lie by J Street revealed yesterday. It was in that regard a better day than most. Their non-denial denial and blatant excising of the record are now familiar tactics.

Not only Jeremy Ben-Ami has problems. Joe Sestak is getting slammed for taking J Street money. Will he give it back?

Only the White House thinks it’s a good idea to make up allegations aimed at the Chamber of Commerce: “In a potential sign of Democratic unease with the White House midterm political strategy, some of President Obama’s allies have begun to question his sustained attack on the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which has long claimed bipartisanship but is being increasingly identified as a GOP ally. Some Democrats on Capitol Hill worry that the White House is going too far in charging that the politically powerful business lobby may be using foreign money to fuel its election efforts. The charge ignites strong feelings among job-hungry voters. But Democrats are concerned that it may be overstated and could harm moderate Democrats in swing districts.”

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A District to Watch on Nov. 2

A 14-term incumbent who is chairman of one the most powerful committees in Congress would, in an ordinary election, be a shoe-in for a 15th term unless he were under indictment. Barney Frank hasn’t faced serious opposition in the 4th district of Massachusetts since 1982, winning his races by 30-50 points when he had any opposition at all. But he’s running scared this time around. He’s brought in Bill Clinton and has raised tons of money (no problem for the chairman of the House Financial Services Committee).

But Byron York is reporting that his little-known, 35-year-old Republican opponent, Sean Bielat, is within striking distance, only 10 points behind in a recent poll.

It might be a good idea to keep an eye on results in the 4th Massachusetts. The polls close in Massachusetts at 8 p.m. eastern time, and results should come in pretty quickly. If Bielat can pull off a win there, it will be a sure sign of a blow-out election for Republicans. If he even comes close, it will mean a very good night.

A 14-term incumbent who is chairman of one the most powerful committees in Congress would, in an ordinary election, be a shoe-in for a 15th term unless he were under indictment. Barney Frank hasn’t faced serious opposition in the 4th district of Massachusetts since 1982, winning his races by 30-50 points when he had any opposition at all. But he’s running scared this time around. He’s brought in Bill Clinton and has raised tons of money (no problem for the chairman of the House Financial Services Committee).

But Byron York is reporting that his little-known, 35-year-old Republican opponent, Sean Bielat, is within striking distance, only 10 points behind in a recent poll.

It might be a good idea to keep an eye on results in the 4th Massachusetts. The polls close in Massachusetts at 8 p.m. eastern time, and results should come in pretty quickly. If Bielat can pull off a win there, it will be a sure sign of a blow-out election for Republicans. If he even comes close, it will mean a very good night.

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Finally, Barney Frank Confesses

You must remember the denials, the hissy fits, and the outrage. In the wake of the 2008 financial meltdown, Democrats — and Barney Frank specifically — screamed that it was outrageous to hold them responsible for promoting home ownership to everyone and anyone, regardless of creditworthiness, or for their cozy relationship with Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Well, getting a jump on his Day of Atonement, Barney Frank has decided to come clean:

For years, Frank was a staunch supporter of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the giant government housing agencies that played such an enormous role in the financial meltdown that thrust the economy into the Great Recession. But in a recent CNBC interview, Frank told me that he was ready to say goodbye to Fannie and Freddie.

“I hope by next year we’ll have abolished Fannie and Freddie,” he said. Remarkable. And he went on to say that “it was a great mistake to push lower-income people into housing they couldn’t afford and couldn’t really handle once they had it.” He then added, “I had been too sanguine about Fannie and Freddie.”

When I asked Frank about a long-term phase-out plan that would shrink Fannie and Freddie portfolios and mortgage-purchase limits, and merge the agencies into the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) for a separate low-income program that would get government out of middle-income housing subsidies, he replied: “Larry, that, I think, is exactly what we should be doing.”

Hmm. You mean it wasn’t all George W. Bush’s fault? You mean conservative economists and pundits who pointed to the role of Democrats and their Freddie and Fannie clients had it right? You mean the White House meme — that a vote for Republicans (who unsuccessfully tried to rein in Freddie and Fannie) would be reckless — is hooey?

Now imagine if George Bush came forward to say, “I was wrong on Iraq.” Do you think, just maybe, that would be front-page headlines? Just asking.

You must remember the denials, the hissy fits, and the outrage. In the wake of the 2008 financial meltdown, Democrats — and Barney Frank specifically — screamed that it was outrageous to hold them responsible for promoting home ownership to everyone and anyone, regardless of creditworthiness, or for their cozy relationship with Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Well, getting a jump on his Day of Atonement, Barney Frank has decided to come clean:

For years, Frank was a staunch supporter of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the giant government housing agencies that played such an enormous role in the financial meltdown that thrust the economy into the Great Recession. But in a recent CNBC interview, Frank told me that he was ready to say goodbye to Fannie and Freddie.

“I hope by next year we’ll have abolished Fannie and Freddie,” he said. Remarkable. And he went on to say that “it was a great mistake to push lower-income people into housing they couldn’t afford and couldn’t really handle once they had it.” He then added, “I had been too sanguine about Fannie and Freddie.”

When I asked Frank about a long-term phase-out plan that would shrink Fannie and Freddie portfolios and mortgage-purchase limits, and merge the agencies into the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) for a separate low-income program that would get government out of middle-income housing subsidies, he replied: “Larry, that, I think, is exactly what we should be doing.”

Hmm. You mean it wasn’t all George W. Bush’s fault? You mean conservative economists and pundits who pointed to the role of Democrats and their Freddie and Fannie clients had it right? You mean the White House meme — that a vote for Republicans (who unsuccessfully tried to rein in Freddie and Fannie) would be reckless — is hooey?

Now imagine if George Bush came forward to say, “I was wrong on Iraq.” Do you think, just maybe, that would be front-page headlines? Just asking.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Sounds like every pro-Israel organization and self-described pro-Israel candidate should be in agreement with Noah Pollak: “Congress funds 22 percent of the [UN Human Rights] Council’s activities. Is it right to collude in allowing a democratic ally to become an international punching bag for activists who are only prevented from treating us the same way by virtue of our greater power? And should the United States help promote the idea that one of the most important and effective national security tools we employ — targeted killings — is an act of state terrorism that must be prosecuted by international courts? … It is time that the administration abandoned the Council. And it is time that Congress stopped funding it.”

Sounds like Nixon: “The hypocrisy of the Obama Justice Department has reached staggering proportions on a host of issues stemming from the New Black Panther voter-intimidation case. Such systemic evasion of justice breeds lawlessness. The Justice Department’s latest thumb in the eye of its critics came in an Aug. 11 letter from Assistant Attorney General Thomas E. Perez to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights.”

Sounds like the Big Apple is part of second America: “A majority of New Yorkers remain opposed to a mosque proposed as part of a planned Islamic cultural center near ground zero and the issue will be a factor for many voters this fall, according to a statewide poll released Wednesday. The Siena College poll showed 63 percent of New York voters surveyed oppose the project, with 27 percent supporting it.”

Sounds like the rest of California: “The city of Bell gave nearly $900,000 in loans to former City Administrator Robert Rizzo, city employees and at least two council members in the last several years, according to records reviewed by The Times. … The loans raise new questions about how officials were compensated in Bell. The Times revealed last month that top city administrators were among the highest paid in the nation, sparking outrage and investigations by both L.A. County prosecutors and the California attorney general. Rizzo’s contract for this year called for him to receive more than $1.5 million in salary and benefits. The loans appear to have come on top of that compensation.”

Sounds like Milton Friedman: “Almost every action the president has taken has deepened and lengthened the downturn. … His policies are anti-investment, anti-jobs, and anti-growth. Raising taxes — with a 15 percent hike on certain small business corporations, new taxes to pay for ObamaCare, and an increase on the dividend tax from 15 percent to nearly 40 percent — depresses new investment throughout the economy.” Worth reading in full; Mitt Romney appears ready to roll in 2012.

Sounds like Barney Frank is spitting mad: “President Obama, whom I greatly admire … when the economic recovery bill — we’re supposed to call it the ‘recovery bill,’ not the ‘stimulus’ bill; that’s what the focus groups tell us — he predicted or his aides predicted at the time that if it passed, unemployment would get under 8 percent. … That was a dumb thing to do.” Focus groups at the White House — how Clintonian!

Sounds like Charlie Crist is taking political lessons from Obama and Pelosi: “Crist recently refunded a $9,600 contribution from Jim Greer, the indicted former Republican Party of Florida chairman. ‘He asked for it back, so I gave it to him,’ said Crist. But Crist said that doesn’t apply to anyone who asks for a refund. Asked what was different about Greer, Crist said, ‘I think he really needed it.'” The rest of the donors will just spend it on dumb things like groceries, mortgages, family vacations, and Marco Rubio, you see.

Sounds like every pro-Israel organization and self-described pro-Israel candidate should be in agreement with Noah Pollak: “Congress funds 22 percent of the [UN Human Rights] Council’s activities. Is it right to collude in allowing a democratic ally to become an international punching bag for activists who are only prevented from treating us the same way by virtue of our greater power? And should the United States help promote the idea that one of the most important and effective national security tools we employ — targeted killings — is an act of state terrorism that must be prosecuted by international courts? … It is time that the administration abandoned the Council. And it is time that Congress stopped funding it.”

Sounds like Nixon: “The hypocrisy of the Obama Justice Department has reached staggering proportions on a host of issues stemming from the New Black Panther voter-intimidation case. Such systemic evasion of justice breeds lawlessness. The Justice Department’s latest thumb in the eye of its critics came in an Aug. 11 letter from Assistant Attorney General Thomas E. Perez to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights.”

Sounds like the Big Apple is part of second America: “A majority of New Yorkers remain opposed to a mosque proposed as part of a planned Islamic cultural center near ground zero and the issue will be a factor for many voters this fall, according to a statewide poll released Wednesday. The Siena College poll showed 63 percent of New York voters surveyed oppose the project, with 27 percent supporting it.”

Sounds like the rest of California: “The city of Bell gave nearly $900,000 in loans to former City Administrator Robert Rizzo, city employees and at least two council members in the last several years, according to records reviewed by The Times. … The loans raise new questions about how officials were compensated in Bell. The Times revealed last month that top city administrators were among the highest paid in the nation, sparking outrage and investigations by both L.A. County prosecutors and the California attorney general. Rizzo’s contract for this year called for him to receive more than $1.5 million in salary and benefits. The loans appear to have come on top of that compensation.”

Sounds like Milton Friedman: “Almost every action the president has taken has deepened and lengthened the downturn. … His policies are anti-investment, anti-jobs, and anti-growth. Raising taxes — with a 15 percent hike on certain small business corporations, new taxes to pay for ObamaCare, and an increase on the dividend tax from 15 percent to nearly 40 percent — depresses new investment throughout the economy.” Worth reading in full; Mitt Romney appears ready to roll in 2012.

Sounds like Barney Frank is spitting mad: “President Obama, whom I greatly admire … when the economic recovery bill — we’re supposed to call it the ‘recovery bill,’ not the ‘stimulus’ bill; that’s what the focus groups tell us — he predicted or his aides predicted at the time that if it passed, unemployment would get under 8 percent. … That was a dumb thing to do.” Focus groups at the White House — how Clintonian!

Sounds like Charlie Crist is taking political lessons from Obama and Pelosi: “Crist recently refunded a $9,600 contribution from Jim Greer, the indicted former Republican Party of Florida chairman. ‘He asked for it back, so I gave it to him,’ said Crist. But Crist said that doesn’t apply to anyone who asks for a refund. Asked what was different about Greer, Crist said, ‘I think he really needed it.'” The rest of the donors will just spend it on dumb things like groceries, mortgages, family vacations, and Marco Rubio, you see.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Patrick Fitzgerald gets beaten by Blago 23-1. Well, if the prosecution biz isn’t going so well, “[t]here’s always Armitage International, where Rich Armitage and his band of fixers ply their trade. After all, Armitage owes him one—a big one.”

Michael Kinsley gets just about everything wrong in his column with lines like this: “Some people say that tact or respect for the survivors of victims of 9/11 should dissuade these Muslims from building their center [Michael, it is a mosque] on this particular spot. This argument avoids both the constitutional question and the issue of bigotry.” No, you really can have objections that aren’t legal ones and aren’t based on prejudice (even Muslims now object to it). And it’s nice to know he favored letting the Carmelite nuns keep their spot at Auschwitz, but that’s really not a argument that’s going to gain him support, not even 29%.

The picture gets bleaker for Democrats every day: “With today’s ratings changes in 10 House districts, The Cook Political Report is now raising its House forecast from a Republican net gain of between 32 and 42 seats to a gain of between 35 and 45 seats, with the odds of an outcome larger than that range greater than the odds of a lesser outcome. A turnover of 39 seats would tip majority status into Republican hands.”

William Galston gets no applause from his party for honest analysis like this (registration required): “All signs point to major losses for the Democratic party in the US midterm elections this November. The recovery is slowing, while recent job figures have all but ended hopes that unemployment will fall fast enough to change voter’s minds. But for President Barack Obama it really does not matter whether his party loses its congressional majority, or merely a large number of seats. In either case, the days of single-party government in Washington will be over.” And Obama’s grip on it as well.

Steven Calabresi gets to the nub of Obama’s problem: “President Obama gets in trouble in unscripted moments because at some level he does not really know America very well nor does he thoroughly identify with it. … Unscripted moments are deadly for Obama because they reveal the vast disconnect between his world view and that of people living in the Midwest, the Plains and Rocky Mountain states, and the South.” And Manhattan too!

The White House gets a warning from Harry Reid when he’s going to embarrass Obama, but Democrats get no such courtesy from the president.

Tim Pawlenty gets in another jab at Obama: “Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty — a likely GOP presidential candidate in 2012 — is stepping up his rhetoric against President Obama, saying the commander-in-chief is ‘clueless’ when it comes to the economy and lacks common sense on the controversial mosque and Islamic center near Ground Zero. … First of all he is clueless on a number of key issues on our time, including our economy. … And then, No. 2, he doesn’t have the depth of experience to run a large complex organization particularly in a time of crisis and its getting away from him.” I’m thinking there isn’t going to be too much GOP disagreement about that.

The administration never gets the message that civilian courts are not the place to put enemy combatants: “A judge on Tuesday dismissed piracy charges against six Somali nationals accused of attacking a Navy ship off the coast of Africa, concluding the U.S. government failed to make the case their alleged actions amounted to piracy.”

It gets clearer all the time that isolationism is what binds the far right and far left. (That, and bashing Israel.) “Reps. Barney Frank (D-Mass.) and Ron Paul (R-Texas) are urging lawmakers on both sides of the aisle to push the President’s Commission on Deficit Reduction for cuts in military spending, as they seek signatories to a letter circulated Tuesday.”

Patrick Fitzgerald gets beaten by Blago 23-1. Well, if the prosecution biz isn’t going so well, “[t]here’s always Armitage International, where Rich Armitage and his band of fixers ply their trade. After all, Armitage owes him one—a big one.”

Michael Kinsley gets just about everything wrong in his column with lines like this: “Some people say that tact or respect for the survivors of victims of 9/11 should dissuade these Muslims from building their center [Michael, it is a mosque] on this particular spot. This argument avoids both the constitutional question and the issue of bigotry.” No, you really can have objections that aren’t legal ones and aren’t based on prejudice (even Muslims now object to it). And it’s nice to know he favored letting the Carmelite nuns keep their spot at Auschwitz, but that’s really not a argument that’s going to gain him support, not even 29%.

The picture gets bleaker for Democrats every day: “With today’s ratings changes in 10 House districts, The Cook Political Report is now raising its House forecast from a Republican net gain of between 32 and 42 seats to a gain of between 35 and 45 seats, with the odds of an outcome larger than that range greater than the odds of a lesser outcome. A turnover of 39 seats would tip majority status into Republican hands.”

William Galston gets no applause from his party for honest analysis like this (registration required): “All signs point to major losses for the Democratic party in the US midterm elections this November. The recovery is slowing, while recent job figures have all but ended hopes that unemployment will fall fast enough to change voter’s minds. But for President Barack Obama it really does not matter whether his party loses its congressional majority, or merely a large number of seats. In either case, the days of single-party government in Washington will be over.” And Obama’s grip on it as well.

Steven Calabresi gets to the nub of Obama’s problem: “President Obama gets in trouble in unscripted moments because at some level he does not really know America very well nor does he thoroughly identify with it. … Unscripted moments are deadly for Obama because they reveal the vast disconnect between his world view and that of people living in the Midwest, the Plains and Rocky Mountain states, and the South.” And Manhattan too!

The White House gets a warning from Harry Reid when he’s going to embarrass Obama, but Democrats get no such courtesy from the president.

Tim Pawlenty gets in another jab at Obama: “Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty — a likely GOP presidential candidate in 2012 — is stepping up his rhetoric against President Obama, saying the commander-in-chief is ‘clueless’ when it comes to the economy and lacks common sense on the controversial mosque and Islamic center near Ground Zero. … First of all he is clueless on a number of key issues on our time, including our economy. … And then, No. 2, he doesn’t have the depth of experience to run a large complex organization particularly in a time of crisis and its getting away from him.” I’m thinking there isn’t going to be too much GOP disagreement about that.

The administration never gets the message that civilian courts are not the place to put enemy combatants: “A judge on Tuesday dismissed piracy charges against six Somali nationals accused of attacking a Navy ship off the coast of Africa, concluding the U.S. government failed to make the case their alleged actions amounted to piracy.”

It gets clearer all the time that isolationism is what binds the far right and far left. (That, and bashing Israel.) “Reps. Barney Frank (D-Mass.) and Ron Paul (R-Texas) are urging lawmakers on both sides of the aisle to push the President’s Commission on Deficit Reduction for cuts in military spending, as they seek signatories to a letter circulated Tuesday.”

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Senator Brown Objects

Scott Brown, who was a critical vote in passing the financial-regulation bill in the Senate, proves he’s as smart as CONTENTIONS readers. He writes a letter to Rep. Barney Frank and Sen. Chris Dodd:

I am writing you to express my strong opposition to the $19 billion bank tax that was included in the financial reform bill during the conference committee. This tax was not in the Senate version of the bill, which I supported. If the final version of this bill contains these higher taxes, I will not support it.

It is especially troubling that this provision was inserted in the conference report in the dead of night without hearings or economic analysis.  While some will try to argue this isn’t a tax, this new provision takes real money away from the economy, making it unavailable for lending on Main Street, and gives it to Washington. That sounds like a tax to me. …

Imposing this new tax is the wrong option. Our economy is still struggling. It is wrong to impose higher taxes and ignore the impact it will have on our economy without considering other ways we might offset the costs of the measure.  I am asking that the conference committee find a way to offset the cost of the bill by cutting unnecessary federal spending. There are hundreds of billions in unspent federal funds sitting around, some authorized years ago for long-dead initiatives. Congress needs to start to looking there first, and I stand ready to help.

Well, maybe this isn’t a done deal yet. And maybe — in tribute to the legendary Robert Byrd — there should be some extended, very extended debate on the whole bill. Really, how many senators know what’s in this thing?

Scott Brown, who was a critical vote in passing the financial-regulation bill in the Senate, proves he’s as smart as CONTENTIONS readers. He writes a letter to Rep. Barney Frank and Sen. Chris Dodd:

I am writing you to express my strong opposition to the $19 billion bank tax that was included in the financial reform bill during the conference committee. This tax was not in the Senate version of the bill, which I supported. If the final version of this bill contains these higher taxes, I will not support it.

It is especially troubling that this provision was inserted in the conference report in the dead of night without hearings or economic analysis.  While some will try to argue this isn’t a tax, this new provision takes real money away from the economy, making it unavailable for lending on Main Street, and gives it to Washington. That sounds like a tax to me. …

Imposing this new tax is the wrong option. Our economy is still struggling. It is wrong to impose higher taxes and ignore the impact it will have on our economy without considering other ways we might offset the costs of the measure.  I am asking that the conference committee find a way to offset the cost of the bill by cutting unnecessary federal spending. There are hundreds of billions in unspent federal funds sitting around, some authorized years ago for long-dead initiatives. Congress needs to start to looking there first, and I stand ready to help.

Well, maybe this isn’t a done deal yet. And maybe — in tribute to the legendary Robert Byrd — there should be some extended, very extended debate on the whole bill. Really, how many senators know what’s in this thing?

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RE: Useful Idiot

A devoted reader who wrings no hands over dead non-peace activists who are killed attacking Israeli forces (do we mourn suicide bombers? — the rules are getting murky) and never quarterbacks on Monday morning tells me that the designation should be “useless idiot” and she is right. The next in the dock is Barney Frank, who, as a “Jew”, is ashamed — he confesses — of Israel and says Palestinians are a victimized minority. He’s calling for an independent inquiry, which suggests that the UN might want to put Richard Goldstone on a retainer rather than pay by the libel; it adds up, you know. Plainly, the J Street sewer is overflowing and washing up on the shore. Frank has sized up the situation, rendered a verdict, and is prepared to throw the Jewish state to the wolves. But he will tell you he is pro-Israel. If so, the word has lost all meaning.

A devoted reader who wrings no hands over dead non-peace activists who are killed attacking Israeli forces (do we mourn suicide bombers? — the rules are getting murky) and never quarterbacks on Monday morning tells me that the designation should be “useless idiot” and she is right. The next in the dock is Barney Frank, who, as a “Jew”, is ashamed — he confesses — of Israel and says Palestinians are a victimized minority. He’s calling for an independent inquiry, which suggests that the UN might want to put Richard Goldstone on a retainer rather than pay by the libel; it adds up, you know. Plainly, the J Street sewer is overflowing and washing up on the shore. Frank has sized up the situation, rendered a verdict, and is prepared to throw the Jewish state to the wolves. But he will tell you he is pro-Israel. If so, the word has lost all meaning.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

What passes for “science” with the global-warming crowd: “Crucial data on the American climate, part of the basis for proposed trillion-dollar global warming legislation, is churned out by a 120-year-old weather system that has remained mostly unchanged since Benjamin Harrison was in the White House. The network measures surface temperature by tallying paper reports sent in by snail mail from volunteers whose data, according to critics, often resembles a hodgepodge of guesswork, mathematical interpolation and simple human error.”

American unseriousness on Iran personified (from an unnamed official): “We are exploring a range of options to achieve our objectives of securing Iran’s compliance with the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and UNSCR resolutions.” But not any time soon: “Ambassador Emanuel Issoze-Ngondet, who is president of the Security Council for the month of March, said the Iranian nuclear issue was not on the agenda of the 15-nation panel this month, but council members might still hold a meeting on it. ‘We think the question could come to the table [in March],’ Issoze-Ngondet told reporters through an interpreter. ‘But right now we are waiting. We’re following the process that’s ongoing. We’re waiting for the right time to bring the Security Council to deal with it.'” Feel safer yet?

From the “Middle East is hard” file: “Vice President Joe Biden, President Obama’s big picture guy, is set to draw it for the Israelis next week in a major address: Confront Iran internationally, talk peace regionally. Bold strokes, but already Biden’s initiative is being dogged by scribbly little details — timing on Iran, building in Jerusalem, restoration in the West Bank, and just how far apart will Israelis and the Palestinians sit.” It’s a scribbly little detail that there’s no remote chance of a peace deal, I suppose.

Democratic infighting continues: “House Financial Services Committee Chairman Barney Frank on Tuesday blasted a proposal floated by Senate negotiators to place a proposed consumer protection agency inside the Federal Reserve. ‘I was incredulous,’ the Massachusetts Democrat said. ‘After all the Fed bashing we’ve heard? The Fed’s such a weak engine, so let’s give them consumer protection? It’s almost a bad joke. I was very disappointed.'” The proposal he’s bashing is Democratic Senator Chris Dodd’s.

Mickey Kaus doesn’t expect to win the California U.S. Senate race against Barbara Boxer. “My goal is to get attacked. If they notice me enough to attack me I will declare victory.” This is going to be fun.

James Taranto cracks: “If we were cynical, we’d suspect this is all a ruse–that Kaus’s real aim is to get an op-ed published in the New York Times when he fails to return the nomination papers in a timely fashion.”

Oh good grief: Dan Rather whines that there were only six women of 42 participants at the health-care summit. Yes, one was the Speaker of the House.

A good day at the Supreme Court for Second Amendment advocates: “The Supreme Court on Tuesday seemed poised to require state and local governments to obey the Second Amendment guarantee of a personal right to a gun, but with perhaps considerable authority to regulate that right.  The dominant sentiment on the Court was to extend the Amendment beyond the federal level, based on the 14th Amendment’s guarantee of ‘due process,’ since doing so through another part of the 14th Amendment would raise too many questions about what other rights might emerge.”

According to the latest Rasmussen poll, it doesn’t matter which Republican or Democrat is on the ballot in the Arkansas senate race; the Republican always leads. Could be true in a lot of states this year.

What passes for “science” with the global-warming crowd: “Crucial data on the American climate, part of the basis for proposed trillion-dollar global warming legislation, is churned out by a 120-year-old weather system that has remained mostly unchanged since Benjamin Harrison was in the White House. The network measures surface temperature by tallying paper reports sent in by snail mail from volunteers whose data, according to critics, often resembles a hodgepodge of guesswork, mathematical interpolation and simple human error.”

American unseriousness on Iran personified (from an unnamed official): “We are exploring a range of options to achieve our objectives of securing Iran’s compliance with the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and UNSCR resolutions.” But not any time soon: “Ambassador Emanuel Issoze-Ngondet, who is president of the Security Council for the month of March, said the Iranian nuclear issue was not on the agenda of the 15-nation panel this month, but council members might still hold a meeting on it. ‘We think the question could come to the table [in March],’ Issoze-Ngondet told reporters through an interpreter. ‘But right now we are waiting. We’re following the process that’s ongoing. We’re waiting for the right time to bring the Security Council to deal with it.'” Feel safer yet?

From the “Middle East is hard” file: “Vice President Joe Biden, President Obama’s big picture guy, is set to draw it for the Israelis next week in a major address: Confront Iran internationally, talk peace regionally. Bold strokes, but already Biden’s initiative is being dogged by scribbly little details — timing on Iran, building in Jerusalem, restoration in the West Bank, and just how far apart will Israelis and the Palestinians sit.” It’s a scribbly little detail that there’s no remote chance of a peace deal, I suppose.

Democratic infighting continues: “House Financial Services Committee Chairman Barney Frank on Tuesday blasted a proposal floated by Senate negotiators to place a proposed consumer protection agency inside the Federal Reserve. ‘I was incredulous,’ the Massachusetts Democrat said. ‘After all the Fed bashing we’ve heard? The Fed’s such a weak engine, so let’s give them consumer protection? It’s almost a bad joke. I was very disappointed.'” The proposal he’s bashing is Democratic Senator Chris Dodd’s.

Mickey Kaus doesn’t expect to win the California U.S. Senate race against Barbara Boxer. “My goal is to get attacked. If they notice me enough to attack me I will declare victory.” This is going to be fun.

James Taranto cracks: “If we were cynical, we’d suspect this is all a ruse–that Kaus’s real aim is to get an op-ed published in the New York Times when he fails to return the nomination papers in a timely fashion.”

Oh good grief: Dan Rather whines that there were only six women of 42 participants at the health-care summit. Yes, one was the Speaker of the House.

A good day at the Supreme Court for Second Amendment advocates: “The Supreme Court on Tuesday seemed poised to require state and local governments to obey the Second Amendment guarantee of a personal right to a gun, but with perhaps considerable authority to regulate that right.  The dominant sentiment on the Court was to extend the Amendment beyond the federal level, based on the 14th Amendment’s guarantee of ‘due process,’ since doing so through another part of the 14th Amendment would raise too many questions about what other rights might emerge.”

According to the latest Rasmussen poll, it doesn’t matter which Republican or Democrat is on the ballot in the Arkansas senate race; the Republican always leads. Could be true in a lot of states this year.

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J Street Is Ba-a-a-ck

When last we left the J Street gang, they were enjoying their Washington confab — though with many fewer congressional “hosts” once it became clear what the group’s agenda really was and what sort of Israel-bashing “artists” planned to entertain the assembled crowd. Then the conference itself proved informative. We learned that the J Streeters didn’t fancy calling themselves “pro-Israel,” at least not on college campuses. And we learned that what really got their juices flowing was a healthy dose of anti-anti-Iranian-regime propaganda and good old-fashioned neocon-bashing. Alas, there’s not much of a market for that on Capitol Hill, so their “lobbying” devolved into some mushy nothingness in which lawmakers were asked to do something to show they favored a two-state solution. (Gutsy stuff from these J Streeters, eh?)

Soon afterward we learned that J Street and NIAC shared some interesting conference calls, the object of which seemed to be, among other things, to get Dennis Ross. J Street didn’t like any of the Iran-sanction measures floating around Congress but seemed powerless to influence the votes.

So now that our memories are refreshed (ever since “engagement with Iran” became a laugh line, they’ve been sort of quiet), we see this report that J Street will “be increasing the number and amount of its contributions to US Congressional candidates by at least 50 percent in the coming year. The announcement comes a few weeks ahead of J Street’s first planned trip to bring members of Congress to Israel.” One wonders if Jimmy Carter and Mary Robinson are to be the tour guides.

And who are the recipients of the not-to-be-called-pro-Israel-if-it’s-inconvenient gang’s largesse? There are a bunch:

The 41 endorsees include one Republican, Rep. Charles Boustany of Louisiana, and one of the two Muslim members of Congress, Rep. Keith Ellison of Minnesota. Eight Jewish members also received JStreetPAC’s nod, including representatives Steve Cohen of Tennessee, Susan Davis of California, Barney Frank of Massachusetts and John Yarmuth of Kentucky, as well as the only senator on the list, Russ Feingold of Wisconsin.

Also on the list are Bob Filner of California, Jared Polis of Colorado, and Jan Schakowsky of Illinois.

Well, no one can excuse himself by pleading ignorance this time around, as did many of the “hosts” when confronted with J Street’s record in October. These lawmakers must be well aware of J Street’s anti-anti-Iran agenda and be quite enamored of its Israel-can-do-no-right rhetoric. One wonders if these lawmakers’ constituents share these views. That’s what elections are for, I suppose. We’ll find out soon enough whether there’s a market for Israel-bashing and Iran-sanction opposition.

When last we left the J Street gang, they were enjoying their Washington confab — though with many fewer congressional “hosts” once it became clear what the group’s agenda really was and what sort of Israel-bashing “artists” planned to entertain the assembled crowd. Then the conference itself proved informative. We learned that the J Streeters didn’t fancy calling themselves “pro-Israel,” at least not on college campuses. And we learned that what really got their juices flowing was a healthy dose of anti-anti-Iranian-regime propaganda and good old-fashioned neocon-bashing. Alas, there’s not much of a market for that on Capitol Hill, so their “lobbying” devolved into some mushy nothingness in which lawmakers were asked to do something to show they favored a two-state solution. (Gutsy stuff from these J Streeters, eh?)

Soon afterward we learned that J Street and NIAC shared some interesting conference calls, the object of which seemed to be, among other things, to get Dennis Ross. J Street didn’t like any of the Iran-sanction measures floating around Congress but seemed powerless to influence the votes.

So now that our memories are refreshed (ever since “engagement with Iran” became a laugh line, they’ve been sort of quiet), we see this report that J Street will “be increasing the number and amount of its contributions to US Congressional candidates by at least 50 percent in the coming year. The announcement comes a few weeks ahead of J Street’s first planned trip to bring members of Congress to Israel.” One wonders if Jimmy Carter and Mary Robinson are to be the tour guides.

And who are the recipients of the not-to-be-called-pro-Israel-if-it’s-inconvenient gang’s largesse? There are a bunch:

The 41 endorsees include one Republican, Rep. Charles Boustany of Louisiana, and one of the two Muslim members of Congress, Rep. Keith Ellison of Minnesota. Eight Jewish members also received JStreetPAC’s nod, including representatives Steve Cohen of Tennessee, Susan Davis of California, Barney Frank of Massachusetts and John Yarmuth of Kentucky, as well as the only senator on the list, Russ Feingold of Wisconsin.

Also on the list are Bob Filner of California, Jared Polis of Colorado, and Jan Schakowsky of Illinois.

Well, no one can excuse himself by pleading ignorance this time around, as did many of the “hosts” when confronted with J Street’s record in October. These lawmakers must be well aware of J Street’s anti-anti-Iran agenda and be quite enamored of its Israel-can-do-no-right rhetoric. One wonders if these lawmakers’ constituents share these views. That’s what elections are for, I suppose. We’ll find out soon enough whether there’s a market for Israel-bashing and Iran-sanction opposition.

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David Brooks Pleads: Don’t Blow Yourself Up

David Brooks pleads with the president he’s been rooting for not to blow it — or blow it any more. In a conversation with Gail Collins, he warns:

Go out and tell the voters of Massachusetts and the people answering all the polling questions that you hear them. Go out and say that maybe it’s not a great idea to pass the most complicated and largest piece of domestic legislation in a generation when the American people don’t like it. Show doubt. Don’t show arrogance. If President Obama comes out swinging, it will be his Katrina moment, the moment when the elitist tag will be permanently hung around his neck.

He confesses fondness for another health-care measure, but in the end Brooks comes down firmly on the side of not ignoring the loud voices of the voters shouting, “Stop!” He cautions: “If the Democrats act like the country hasn’t voiced a judgment, if they try to ram this through, there will be an explosion the likes of which we haven’t seen.”

One has the sense that he’s nervous, very nervous, that Obama and his crew won’t listen but will instead take that Katrina plunge. It is strange to have to warn a supposedly savvy politician — one with such a superior temperament, we are told — not to bury his head in the sand and show contempt for the voters. But Brooks is right to be nervous. So insular and ideological rigid are the Obama crew that they might just try to muscle their way through.

But on Brooks’s and ultimately the president’s side is the natural inclination of most politicians not to short-circuit their political careers for no good reason. Obama might prefer to press on, but who’s going to follow? We learned today that Rep. Barney Frank, Sen. Dianne Feinstein, Sen. Evan Bayh, and many others are having serious reservations about ignoring the public. That’s a good thing for the country, and it’s what may ultimately save Obama from himself.

David Brooks pleads with the president he’s been rooting for not to blow it — or blow it any more. In a conversation with Gail Collins, he warns:

Go out and tell the voters of Massachusetts and the people answering all the polling questions that you hear them. Go out and say that maybe it’s not a great idea to pass the most complicated and largest piece of domestic legislation in a generation when the American people don’t like it. Show doubt. Don’t show arrogance. If President Obama comes out swinging, it will be his Katrina moment, the moment when the elitist tag will be permanently hung around his neck.

He confesses fondness for another health-care measure, but in the end Brooks comes down firmly on the side of not ignoring the loud voices of the voters shouting, “Stop!” He cautions: “If the Democrats act like the country hasn’t voiced a judgment, if they try to ram this through, there will be an explosion the likes of which we haven’t seen.”

One has the sense that he’s nervous, very nervous, that Obama and his crew won’t listen but will instead take that Katrina plunge. It is strange to have to warn a supposedly savvy politician — one with such a superior temperament, we are told — not to bury his head in the sand and show contempt for the voters. But Brooks is right to be nervous. So insular and ideological rigid are the Obama crew that they might just try to muscle their way through.

But on Brooks’s and ultimately the president’s side is the natural inclination of most politicians not to short-circuit their political careers for no good reason. Obama might prefer to press on, but who’s going to follow? We learned today that Rep. Barney Frank, Sen. Dianne Feinstein, Sen. Evan Bayh, and many others are having serious reservations about ignoring the public. That’s a good thing for the country, and it’s what may ultimately save Obama from himself.

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If You Lose Barney Frank. . .

At some point, the saner Democrats have to call a halt to the Obami’s march over the political … what was it? Ah, yes … precipice. That it came less than 12 hours after the Massachusetts Senate vote and from a liberal stalwart like Barney Frank is the only mild surprise. He declares ObamaCare kaput. Hotline reports:

“I think the measure that would have passed, that is, some compromise between the House and Senate bill, which I would have voted for, although there were some aspects of both bills I would have liked to see change, I think that’s dead,” Frank said in an interview Wednesday morning on Sirius-XM Radio. “It is certainly the case that the bill that would have passed, a compromise between the House and Senate bills, isn’t going to pass, in my judgment, and certainly shouldn’t. … I know some of my Democratic colleagues had been thinking about ways to, in effect, get around the results by working in various parliamentary ways, looking at the rules, trying to get a health care bill passed that would have been the same bill that would have passed if [MA AG] Martha Coakley [D] had won, and I think that’s a mistake,” Frank said. “I will not support an effort to push through a House-Senate compromise bill despite an election. I’m disappointed in how it came out, but I think electoral results have to be respected.”

We are going to have a full week of this, and pushback from liberals, followed by counter-pushback from scared moderates before the State of the Union. By then the table will have been set and a new reality will have taken hold. Obama seems a bystander once again. He’s no longer shaping events or in command of his party. It’s every lawmaker for himself. And given Frank’s long track record in Democratic politics and talent for political survival (he’s escaped more than one near political death experience), I suspect that fellow Democrats are going to be far more inclined to listen to his advice than to Obama’s.

UPDATE: Frank has company, according to this report:

Sen. Russ Feingold (D-Wisc.) told a local reporter “it’s probably back to the drawing board on health care, which is unfortunate.” Rep. Bill Delahunt (D-Mass.) told MSNBC this morning he will advise Democratic leaders to scrap the big bill and move small, more popular pieces that can attract Republicans. And Anthony Weiner (D-N.Y.) said his leadership is “whistling past the graveyard” if they think Brown’s win won’t force a rethinking of the health care plan.

At some point, the saner Democrats have to call a halt to the Obami’s march over the political … what was it? Ah, yes … precipice. That it came less than 12 hours after the Massachusetts Senate vote and from a liberal stalwart like Barney Frank is the only mild surprise. He declares ObamaCare kaput. Hotline reports:

“I think the measure that would have passed, that is, some compromise between the House and Senate bill, which I would have voted for, although there were some aspects of both bills I would have liked to see change, I think that’s dead,” Frank said in an interview Wednesday morning on Sirius-XM Radio. “It is certainly the case that the bill that would have passed, a compromise between the House and Senate bills, isn’t going to pass, in my judgment, and certainly shouldn’t. … I know some of my Democratic colleagues had been thinking about ways to, in effect, get around the results by working in various parliamentary ways, looking at the rules, trying to get a health care bill passed that would have been the same bill that would have passed if [MA AG] Martha Coakley [D] had won, and I think that’s a mistake,” Frank said. “I will not support an effort to push through a House-Senate compromise bill despite an election. I’m disappointed in how it came out, but I think electoral results have to be respected.”

We are going to have a full week of this, and pushback from liberals, followed by counter-pushback from scared moderates before the State of the Union. By then the table will have been set and a new reality will have taken hold. Obama seems a bystander once again. He’s no longer shaping events or in command of his party. It’s every lawmaker for himself. And given Frank’s long track record in Democratic politics and talent for political survival (he’s escaped more than one near political death experience), I suspect that fellow Democrats are going to be far more inclined to listen to his advice than to Obama’s.

UPDATE: Frank has company, according to this report:

Sen. Russ Feingold (D-Wisc.) told a local reporter “it’s probably back to the drawing board on health care, which is unfortunate.” Rep. Bill Delahunt (D-Mass.) told MSNBC this morning he will advise Democratic leaders to scrap the big bill and move small, more popular pieces that can attract Republicans. And Anthony Weiner (D-N.Y.) said his leadership is “whistling past the graveyard” if they think Brown’s win won’t force a rethinking of the health care plan.

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