Commentary Magazine


Topic: Bill Kristol

The Nobility of Politics

William Kristol, among his many duties, hosts Conversations with Bill Kristol, which feature in-depth conversations with leading figures in American public life. (The interviews are sponsored by the Foundation for Constitutional Government, a not-for-profit organization devoted to supporting the serious study of politics and political philosophy.) Among those interviewed by Kristol are Elliott Abrams, Leon and Amy Kass, Charles Murray, and Harvey Mansfield.

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William Kristol, among his many duties, hosts Conversations with Bill Kristol, which feature in-depth conversations with leading figures in American public life. (The interviews are sponsored by the Foundation for Constitutional Government, a not-for-profit organization devoted to supporting the serious study of politics and political philosophy.) Among those interviewed by Kristol are Elliott Abrams, Leon and Amy Kass, Charles Murray, and Harvey Mansfield.

My intention is to eventually focus on each of the conversations, which are fascinating. But I want to start with the discussion Kristol had with his former teacher, Dr. Mansfield, a longtime professor of political philosophy at Harvard.

Professor Mansfield started out intending to be a political scientist but moved to political philosophy. A teacher of Mansfield’s, Sam Beer, convinced him that political science needed a theoretical background, a foundation underneath it. As an undergraduate, Mansfield concluded that:

political science was not enough by itself because it doesn’t judge. When you study facts, facts ask to be judged. A fact presents itself as something, which is either good or bad – and people who deal with facts either deserve to be praised or blamed.

It doesn’t seem really possible to stop and say, “I’m not going to be concerned with evaluation.” Political philosophy is concerned with evaluation because political facts aren’t sufficient by themselves and they ask to be judged.

This is quite a crucial point; it is what’s known in philosophy as the facts-value distinction, in which facts are considered “what is” and values are “what ought to be.” Facts may be true and explain the material world, but they can’t see beyond the material to help us understand the good, the beautiful and the true. They can’t elucidate what is justice and why human beings have inherent dignity. Facts alone can’t impart wisdom or explain what is right and moral. They can’t quite make sense of statements like “My kingdom is not of this world” and “Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.”

One of the distinctions between the ancients and the moderns–with Machiavelli being considered the founder of modern political philosophy–is that the former, most especially Plato and Aristotle, were more concerned with “the invisible standing behind the visible and necessary to it,” in Mansfield’s words. In Book VII of Aristotle’s Politics, for example, we’re told about the primacy of the good of the soul and that “the best way of life, both for states and for individuals, is the life of goodness.” Moderns, on the other hand, begin from what is visible and are never really able to transcend it.

To be sure, in politics, as in life, facts matter. We can’t operate in our own universe; we have to lead our lives within the four corners of reality. Politics, then, is about respecting facts and being empirically minded. But politics rightly understood is also about ascertaining what the good life and the proper end of the state are. Political philosophy should not aim for the “transvaluation of values”; its aim should be promoting virtue (arête) and human flourishing (eudaimonia).

In speaking about Aristotle, Professor Mansfield says this:

he much more criticizes Plato than, I think, is necessary for him to do. And this too is perhaps a kind of stance on Aristotle’s part to show that Plato had this failing – or maybe it isn’t altogether a failing – of giving too low a view of politics. Politics deserves – there’s a certain nobility to it, in fact, a terrific nobility to it.

And, so Aristotle wanted to bring to our attention the splendor of politics and of the moral virtue that people show in politics. And he thought that Plato had not done this sufficiently. And, so on every page, so to speak, there is a kind of critique of Plato and then Aristotle’s Ethics – there’s an, actually, statement of disagreement with his revered teacher, which he says that he loves his friend, but he loves the truth more, the most beautiful kind of criticism you could give or get.

The nobility and splendor of politics is often obscured; that is the product of being broken people, often passionately holding competing points of view, imperfectly trying to order our lives together. Yet at its deepest level, beneath all the conflict and noise and triviality, there is–there has been, there can be–an ennoblement to politics. From time to time it can bend the arc of the moral universe a bit closer toward justice, make life a little more decent, treat people somewhat more humanely. And that’s actually something worth reminding ourselves about now and then, as Professor Mansfield and his former student Bill Kristol do in their splendid conversation.

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Republicans Must Be Smart, Not Craven

As Congress reconvenes, Democrats are insisting that President Obama’s re-election means that House Republicans are going to have to give in to his demands for tax increases on the wealthy. While this will do very little to actually solve the impending budget crisis, the president’s supporters have a point when they claim that his victory means a majority of Americans supported his rhetoric about backing a balanced approach that would involve spending cuts in equal proportion to revenue increases. But as James Pethokoukis writes at AEI Ideas, a close look at what the president is asking for throws any notion of balance out the window.

It may be, as Bill Kristol pointed out on Fox News the other day, that it makes no sense for the GOP to “fall on its sword for a bunch of millionaires.” Speaker John Boehner’s initial offer to raise revenue by eliminating tax deductions for the wealthy was an indication that Republicans are prepared to start bargaining. And as Kristol said, there is an argument to be made that if the House leadership bargains the tax increase cutoff up, it may be good politics. But there should be no illusions that what the president is offering is a balanced plan in any sense of the word.

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As Congress reconvenes, Democrats are insisting that President Obama’s re-election means that House Republicans are going to have to give in to his demands for tax increases on the wealthy. While this will do very little to actually solve the impending budget crisis, the president’s supporters have a point when they claim that his victory means a majority of Americans supported his rhetoric about backing a balanced approach that would involve spending cuts in equal proportion to revenue increases. But as James Pethokoukis writes at AEI Ideas, a close look at what the president is asking for throws any notion of balance out the window.

It may be, as Bill Kristol pointed out on Fox News the other day, that it makes no sense for the GOP to “fall on its sword for a bunch of millionaires.” Speaker John Boehner’s initial offer to raise revenue by eliminating tax deductions for the wealthy was an indication that Republicans are prepared to start bargaining. And as Kristol said, there is an argument to be made that if the House leadership bargains the tax increase cutoff up, it may be good politics. But there should be no illusions that what the president is offering is a balanced plan in any sense of the word.

As Pethokoukis writes,

According to Obama’s math, his “balanced” plan cuts the projected cumulative debt by $4.4 trillion over ten years with 36% of the reduction coming from a $1.6 trillion tax increases — 80% from wealthier Americans, 20% from business. So, basically, $2 in spending cuts for each $1 in tax hikes. “Balanced.”

But once you begin to dig into the numbers, the plan doesn’t look balanced at all.

Talk of mandates is empty rhetoric whether it is meant to undercut the president or bolster his standing. His Electoral College majority is his mandate to govern and certain deference to his re-election is customary. But that doesn’t mean Republicans need to abandon their principles or acquiesce to a plan that does nothing to address the deficit or entitlement reform.

Pethokoukis also illustrates that what the president is calling for bears a greater resemblance to the fiscal follies of Europe than American notions of fiscal austerity such as the Simpson-Bowles plan:

Even if you include interest savings, 60% of the debt reduction comes from tax hikes. Obama is making the exact mistake Europe is making by employing a tax-hike heavy version of fiscal austerity. Indeed, a 2010 analysis by AEI scholars found that successful fiscal consolidations are heavy on spending cuts, light on tax hikes. Even Bill Clinton’s debt reduction plan was 2-1 in favor of spending cuts. The Obama plan is dangerously unbalanced, especially given the weak economic recovery.

The point here is that for all of the Democratic bravado about Obama’s mandate to tax the rich and do as he likes, there is still plenty of room for Republicans to both bargain constructively to avoid the fiscal cliff and to defend their principles. The president has as much if not far more to lose from a standoff that would wreck an already weak economy. Now is the time for Republicans to be smart but not craven.

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Bye Bye Biden?

In an editorial in The Weekly Standard, Bill Kristol argues that President Obama would be wise to replace Vice President Joe Biden with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. This kind of speculation — the incumbent president replacing the vice president in order to re-energize his campaign — goes on every four years. It almost never happens.

This time it might.

For one thing, Biden is literally, God love him, a buffoon. His counsel and predictions are almost always wrong, from telling us we’d see an increase in 500,000 jobs a month during the 2010 “recovery summer” (a figure that was ludicrously off target) to advising the president not to take out Osama bin Laden. More often than not, Biden makes news by his verbal miscues (“jobs” is a three-letter word, Obama “has a big stick, I promise you,” et cetera). He’s a person who’s almost impossible to take seriously. Read More

In an editorial in The Weekly Standard, Bill Kristol argues that President Obama would be wise to replace Vice President Joe Biden with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. This kind of speculation — the incumbent president replacing the vice president in order to re-energize his campaign — goes on every four years. It almost never happens.

This time it might.

For one thing, Biden is literally, God love him, a buffoon. His counsel and predictions are almost always wrong, from telling us we’d see an increase in 500,000 jobs a month during the 2010 “recovery summer” (a figure that was ludicrously off target) to advising the president not to take out Osama bin Laden. More often than not, Biden makes news by his verbal miscues (“jobs” is a three-letter word, Obama “has a big stick, I promise you,” et cetera). He’s a person who’s almost impossible to take seriously.

In addition, the president is frantically trying to boost his standing with (in particular) college educated white women, and his mindset is that placing Hillary Clinton on the ticket could seal the deal. It’s also a decision that would energize liberals without offending anyone within the Democratic Party (Biden has no real constituency).

A final reason — and I think an under appreciated one — is the anger the president and his closest advisers harbor for the vice president, whose “Meet the Press” interview forced Obama to announce his support for same-sex marriage earlier than he wanted to. Worse, at least from the president’s perspective, is that what Biden did was to make Obama’s announcement look political rather than principled.

Obama, marinated in the Chicago Way of politics, doesn’t possess any deep sense of personal loyalty. (See the bus Obama’s “spiritual mentor” Jeremiah Wright found himself under for more.) And whatever residual loyalty the president felt for Biden has, I think, been shattered after Biden’s “Meet the Press” misstep.

Right now, Barack Obama is on course to lose the election. He’ll be as ruthless as he thinks he needs to be in order to turn his fortunes around.

Bill Kristol may be on to something. If I were Joe Biden, God love him, I’d be worried.

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LIVE BLOG: Obama on American Exceptionalism

President Obama is still talking American greatness: “What we can do – what America does better than anyone – is spark the creativity and imagination of our people. We are the nation that put cars in driveways and computers in offices; the nation of Edison and the Wright brothers; of Google and Facebook. In America, innovation doesn’t just change our lives. It’s how we make a living.”

Bill Kristol first noted this change in Obama’s references to America in early January.

President Obama is still talking American greatness: “What we can do – what America does better than anyone – is spark the creativity and imagination of our people. We are the nation that put cars in driveways and computers in offices; the nation of Edison and the Wright brothers; of Google and Facebook. In America, innovation doesn’t just change our lives. It’s how we make a living.”

Bill Kristol first noted this change in Obama’s references to America in early January.

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The Definition of ‘Anti-Israel’

Last week, Steve Clemons organized a contingent of foreign-policy officials and commentators to send a letter to President Obama urging the U.S. to support the anti-settlement resolution at the UN.

It included many prominent critics of the Israel — Peter Beinart, Chas Freeman, and Andrew Sullivan, to name just a few.

Based on their well-documented eagerness to condemn Israel whenever possible, the Washington Post’s Jennifer Rubin referred to the group as “Israel-bashers” – prompting an angry response from Clemons and setting off a debate about the meaning of “pro-Israel,” according to Ben Smith:

The group J Street has been waging, and mostly losing, a political fight with more hawkish allies of Israel over the meaning of the term “pro-Israel,” and today another Washington skirmish erupts on the topic. …

There are two fights underway at the moment: One is defining the politically acceptable space in Washington for debating Israel policy; the other is the push by Bill Kristol and his allies to identify support for Israel explicitly with the Republican Party. That latter effort, ironically, has some of the same goals of the former, which would like to see the Democratic Party soften its hard line.

I wholeheartedly disagree with Smith’s assessment. I highly doubt that any Israel supporters on the right want to turn support for Israel into a partisan issue, especially since pro-Israel views are widespread throughout both political parties. As we saw from the midterm elections, it’s politically suicidal for candidates to take anti-Israel stances — regardless of party affiliation — because those are positions that most of the public disagree with.

As for Clemons’s protestations at being called anti-Israel, I have several comments.

Being critical of settlement construction is not an inherently anti-Israel position. But the tone of the argument and the way it’s framed and presented is a good indicator of whether someone is a friend or foe of the Jewish state.

Calling on Israel to halt settlement construction within the framework of peace negotiations — like in a statement from the Quartet — is one thing. Overturning years of precedent by joining together with enemies of Israel, as they grandstand and demonize the Jewish state in an international public forum, is appalling and would be a disgraceful way to treat any ally. Read More

Last week, Steve Clemons organized a contingent of foreign-policy officials and commentators to send a letter to President Obama urging the U.S. to support the anti-settlement resolution at the UN.

It included many prominent critics of the Israel — Peter Beinart, Chas Freeman, and Andrew Sullivan, to name just a few.

Based on their well-documented eagerness to condemn Israel whenever possible, the Washington Post’s Jennifer Rubin referred to the group as “Israel-bashers” – prompting an angry response from Clemons and setting off a debate about the meaning of “pro-Israel,” according to Ben Smith:

The group J Street has been waging, and mostly losing, a political fight with more hawkish allies of Israel over the meaning of the term “pro-Israel,” and today another Washington skirmish erupts on the topic. …

There are two fights underway at the moment: One is defining the politically acceptable space in Washington for debating Israel policy; the other is the push by Bill Kristol and his allies to identify support for Israel explicitly with the Republican Party. That latter effort, ironically, has some of the same goals of the former, which would like to see the Democratic Party soften its hard line.

I wholeheartedly disagree with Smith’s assessment. I highly doubt that any Israel supporters on the right want to turn support for Israel into a partisan issue, especially since pro-Israel views are widespread throughout both political parties. As we saw from the midterm elections, it’s politically suicidal for candidates to take anti-Israel stances — regardless of party affiliation — because those are positions that most of the public disagree with.

As for Clemons’s protestations at being called anti-Israel, I have several comments.

Being critical of settlement construction is not an inherently anti-Israel position. But the tone of the argument and the way it’s framed and presented is a good indicator of whether someone is a friend or foe of the Jewish state.

Calling on Israel to halt settlement construction within the framework of peace negotiations — like in a statement from the Quartet — is one thing. Overturning years of precedent by joining together with enemies of Israel, as they grandstand and demonize the Jewish state in an international public forum, is appalling and would be a disgraceful way to treat any ally.

That’s the entire point of the resolution before the Security Council. It’s meant to single out and scapegoat Israel for the delays in the peace process. In reality, there are many obstructions to the negotiations — the biggest ones coming from the Palestinian side — and neither Clemons’s letter nor the Security Council resolution mentions any of them.

What else can that be called except bias?

If Clemons seriously wants to see the end of settlement-building, I can’t imagine a worse way to go about it than by supporting a UN resolution. Historically, more progress has been made on curbing settlement construction when the U.S. has lobbied Israel privately (e.g., the secret agreements under Sharon and Bush). And I fail to see how humiliating one of our closest and most loyal allies in front of the world will help bring about further progress on peace negotiations.

The UN resolution demonizes Israel, unfairly scapegoats Israel and undermines peace negotiations. If that’s not anti-Israel, then what is?

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Two Very Different GOP Responses to DADT Repeal

Two stories from yesterday highlight very different reactions to the recent Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell repeal, from two prominent Republican lawmakers who both fought to keep the policy in place.

The first one focuses on John McCain, who helped lead the charge against the repeal in the Senate. Now that the repeal passed, McCain has promised to do all he can to help the troops deal with the new challenge successfully:

“I think I have to do everything I can to make sure that the impact on morale, retention, recruitment and battle effectiveness of the military is minimized as much as possible,” the Arizona Republican and Vietnam war hero said on Fox Business.

“It’s the law. I’ve got to do whatever I can to help the men and women who are serving, particularly in combat, cope with this situation.”

McCain has supported “don’t ask, don’t tell” since it was put in place under then-President Clinton, but the 2008 GOP presidential contender said last year he would consider endorsing the repeal if the military leadership decided that was best.

Compare that to the reaction of Rep. Joe Wilson, the incoming chair of the House Armed Services Committee military personnel panel, who said he will work to find ways to reinstate the policy:

The new Republican chairman of the House Armed Services Committee’s military personnel panel says he will hold hearings to look at the Pentagon’s plans allow openly gay people to serve, and he will look for chances to reinstate the ban lifted by Congress in December.

Rep. Joe Wilson, R-S.C., who became the personnel subcommittee chairman on Wednesday when the 112th Congress convened, said it was “irresponsible” for Congress to repeal the ban on openly gay service members without giving the House of Representatives time to hold hearings into what is involved in changing the law and how the change might effect current and future service members.

I understand some people are still nervous about the impact of the DADT changes, but I honestly can’t think of a worse way to respond to the repeal than what Wilson is proposing. Now that Congress has made its decision on the matter, lawmakers need to trust that the institutions of our military will handle the implementation process appropriately and responsibly. Does anyone really believe that members of Congress have a better grasp on how to impose these policy changes than the current military leadership? Read More

Two stories from yesterday highlight very different reactions to the recent Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell repeal, from two prominent Republican lawmakers who both fought to keep the policy in place.

The first one focuses on John McCain, who helped lead the charge against the repeal in the Senate. Now that the repeal passed, McCain has promised to do all he can to help the troops deal with the new challenge successfully:

“I think I have to do everything I can to make sure that the impact on morale, retention, recruitment and battle effectiveness of the military is minimized as much as possible,” the Arizona Republican and Vietnam war hero said on Fox Business.

“It’s the law. I’ve got to do whatever I can to help the men and women who are serving, particularly in combat, cope with this situation.”

McCain has supported “don’t ask, don’t tell” since it was put in place under then-President Clinton, but the 2008 GOP presidential contender said last year he would consider endorsing the repeal if the military leadership decided that was best.

Compare that to the reaction of Rep. Joe Wilson, the incoming chair of the House Armed Services Committee military personnel panel, who said he will work to find ways to reinstate the policy:

The new Republican chairman of the House Armed Services Committee’s military personnel panel says he will hold hearings to look at the Pentagon’s plans allow openly gay people to serve, and he will look for chances to reinstate the ban lifted by Congress in December.

Rep. Joe Wilson, R-S.C., who became the personnel subcommittee chairman on Wednesday when the 112th Congress convened, said it was “irresponsible” for Congress to repeal the ban on openly gay service members without giving the House of Representatives time to hold hearings into what is involved in changing the law and how the change might effect current and future service members.

I understand some people are still nervous about the impact of the DADT changes, but I honestly can’t think of a worse way to respond to the repeal than what Wilson is proposing. Now that Congress has made its decision on the matter, lawmakers need to trust that the institutions of our military will handle the implementation process appropriately and responsibly. Does anyone really believe that members of Congress have a better grasp on how to impose these policy changes than the current military leadership?

Not to mention that holding hearings and investigations will only serve to complicate and drag out the process even more:

Armed services committee aides, speaking on condition of anonymity, said hearings will focus on implementation issues, from housing to benefits to changes in criminal laws — which would have the effect of slowing down the change.

The Republican argument for keeping DADT in place was that our military shouldn’t have to deal with a major policy change while embroiled in two wars. Now that the ban has been lifted, McCain is taking the correct approach by offering to help ensure that the transition goes as smoothly as possible. Wilson’s proposals will only impede that effort, creating additional hurtles for our troops.

I know I keep returning to what Bill Kristol wrote in late December, but his advice to conservatives on this issue was dead-on: “Don’t fret, don’t whine.” Now that DADT’s been lifted, there’s no point in harping on it. There are more important battles out there to fight, more damaging policies that need to be repealed (ObamaCare being a perfect example). Congress had its say on the matter; now it’s time for lawmakers to step back and let our military take it from here.

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Do Palin’s Tweets Indicate Support for DADT Repeal?

That’s what some people are wondering after the former Alaska governor re-tweeted a message from conservative commentator Tammy Bruce, which blasted proponents of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell:

“But this hypocrisy is just truly too much. Enuf already–the more someone complains about the homos the more we should look under their bed,” Bruce tweeted, suggesting that virulent opposition to gays may reflect the individual has something to hide.

Soon after, Palin re-tweeted the message to her following of more than 350,000 followers.

“I think @SarahPalinUSA RT my tweet is her first comment on DADT, treatment of gays & attempts to marginalize us–thank you Governor,” Bruce responded on Twitter.

“I know Gov Palin & this “anti-gay” meme has been a lie–plain & simple. She’s a decent woman & friend to the community,” Bruce said later.

A Palin spokesman has not yet responded to ABC News’ request for comment on the Twitter exchange.

As Allahpundit rightly notes, “It should be stressed that retweeting does not necessarily connote agreement,” but he also adds that “[i]t does suggest a de facto endorsement when unaccompanied by a substantive response.” Seeing as this is the first time Palin has come close to weighing in on the DADT repeal — and also considering how the media obsesses over even the most benign of Palin’s comments — she must have realized how this message would be interpreted.

While there were mainstream conservatives who opposed DADT repeal, most accepted it without too much grousing once it passed. After the repeal, Bill Kristol also called on conservatives to “cool it” on the subject and move on. By calling out those on the right who can’t stop complaining about DADT, Palin seemed to be making the same suggestion.

So far, Palin has been able to maintain her conservative credentials among both the values voters and libertarian-leaning conservatives, and it will be interesting to see if she can keep that balance during the 2012 presidential campaign.

That’s what some people are wondering after the former Alaska governor re-tweeted a message from conservative commentator Tammy Bruce, which blasted proponents of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell:

“But this hypocrisy is just truly too much. Enuf already–the more someone complains about the homos the more we should look under their bed,” Bruce tweeted, suggesting that virulent opposition to gays may reflect the individual has something to hide.

Soon after, Palin re-tweeted the message to her following of more than 350,000 followers.

“I think @SarahPalinUSA RT my tweet is her first comment on DADT, treatment of gays & attempts to marginalize us–thank you Governor,” Bruce responded on Twitter.

“I know Gov Palin & this “anti-gay” meme has been a lie–plain & simple. She’s a decent woman & friend to the community,” Bruce said later.

A Palin spokesman has not yet responded to ABC News’ request for comment on the Twitter exchange.

As Allahpundit rightly notes, “It should be stressed that retweeting does not necessarily connote agreement,” but he also adds that “[i]t does suggest a de facto endorsement when unaccompanied by a substantive response.” Seeing as this is the first time Palin has come close to weighing in on the DADT repeal — and also considering how the media obsesses over even the most benign of Palin’s comments — she must have realized how this message would be interpreted.

While there were mainstream conservatives who opposed DADT repeal, most accepted it without too much grousing once it passed. After the repeal, Bill Kristol also called on conservatives to “cool it” on the subject and move on. By calling out those on the right who can’t stop complaining about DADT, Palin seemed to be making the same suggestion.

So far, Palin has been able to maintain her conservative credentials among both the values voters and libertarian-leaning conservatives, and it will be interesting to see if she can keep that balance during the 2012 presidential campaign.

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Morning Commentary

So how’s that “reset” with Russia going? Turns out the U.S.’s light criticism of Mikhail Khodorkovsky’s six-year prison sentence last week did little to faze the Kremlin. Russian police arrested 130 protesters during a New Year’s Eve demonstration against the Khodorkovsky verdict and the country’s prohibition of free assembly.

Greece and the state of California have two things in common — spiraling debt and an unwillingness to take responsibility for it. According to Victor Davis Hanson, it’s no coincidence that both populations can’t stop railing against “them” — the others who apparently created the financial messes Greece and California now face. Writes Hanson: “Oz is over with and the Greeks are furious at ‘them.’ Furious in the sense that everyone must be blamed except themselves. So they protest and demonstrate that they do not wish to stop borrowing money to sustain a lifestyle that they have not earned—but do not wish to cut ties either with their EU beneficiaries and go it alone as in the 1970s. So they rage against reality.”

Over at the Wall Street Journal, Jamie Kirchick calls out Julian Assange for leaking information that has served only to weaken our democracy-supporting allies, such as Zimbabwe Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai: “Which leads us back to WikiLeaks and Mr. Assange, who lacks any appreciation for the subtleties of international statecraft, many of which are not at all devious. If Mr. Assange were genuinely committed to democracy, as he claims, he would reveal the minutes of Mr. Mugabe’s war cabinet, or the private musings of the Chinese Politburo that has sustained the Zimbabwean dictator for over three decades.”

Is Obama now cribbing speech tips from the National Review? Bill Kristol has the scoop on the president’s sudden appreciation for American exceptionalism.

With a new year comes a whole host of brand new state laws you may have already unwittingly broken. If you’re from California, check out Mark Hemingway’s post at the Washington Examiner — he has saved you the time of going through the Golden State’s 725 new laws by highlighting the ones that will probably irk you the most.

The incoming Republican chair of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, Rep. Darrell Issa, told Ed Henry on CNN yesterday that he won’t investigate whether President Obama offered Joe Sestak a position in the administration in exchange for dropping out of the Democratic Senate primary in Pennsylvania last year: “That’s — it was wrong if it was done in the Bush administration. It’s wrong in the Obama administration. But remember, the focus of our committee has always been, and you look at all the work I’ve done over the past four years on the oversight committee; it has been consistently about looking for waste, fraud and abuse. That’s the vast majority of what we do,” Issa told Henry. Issa had previously called the Sestak incident “Obama’s Watergate” and said that the Obama administration may have committed “up to three felonies” by making the deal.

So how’s that “reset” with Russia going? Turns out the U.S.’s light criticism of Mikhail Khodorkovsky’s six-year prison sentence last week did little to faze the Kremlin. Russian police arrested 130 protesters during a New Year’s Eve demonstration against the Khodorkovsky verdict and the country’s prohibition of free assembly.

Greece and the state of California have two things in common — spiraling debt and an unwillingness to take responsibility for it. According to Victor Davis Hanson, it’s no coincidence that both populations can’t stop railing against “them” — the others who apparently created the financial messes Greece and California now face. Writes Hanson: “Oz is over with and the Greeks are furious at ‘them.’ Furious in the sense that everyone must be blamed except themselves. So they protest and demonstrate that they do not wish to stop borrowing money to sustain a lifestyle that they have not earned—but do not wish to cut ties either with their EU beneficiaries and go it alone as in the 1970s. So they rage against reality.”

Over at the Wall Street Journal, Jamie Kirchick calls out Julian Assange for leaking information that has served only to weaken our democracy-supporting allies, such as Zimbabwe Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai: “Which leads us back to WikiLeaks and Mr. Assange, who lacks any appreciation for the subtleties of international statecraft, many of which are not at all devious. If Mr. Assange were genuinely committed to democracy, as he claims, he would reveal the minutes of Mr. Mugabe’s war cabinet, or the private musings of the Chinese Politburo that has sustained the Zimbabwean dictator for over three decades.”

Is Obama now cribbing speech tips from the National Review? Bill Kristol has the scoop on the president’s sudden appreciation for American exceptionalism.

With a new year comes a whole host of brand new state laws you may have already unwittingly broken. If you’re from California, check out Mark Hemingway’s post at the Washington Examiner — he has saved you the time of going through the Golden State’s 725 new laws by highlighting the ones that will probably irk you the most.

The incoming Republican chair of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, Rep. Darrell Issa, told Ed Henry on CNN yesterday that he won’t investigate whether President Obama offered Joe Sestak a position in the administration in exchange for dropping out of the Democratic Senate primary in Pennsylvania last year: “That’s — it was wrong if it was done in the Bush administration. It’s wrong in the Obama administration. But remember, the focus of our committee has always been, and you look at all the work I’ve done over the past four years on the oversight committee; it has been consistently about looking for waste, fraud and abuse. That’s the vast majority of what we do,” Issa told Henry. Issa had previously called the Sestak incident “Obama’s Watergate” and said that the Obama administration may have committed “up to three felonies” by making the deal.

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Morning Commentary

Iranian leaders have cut long-time food and gas subsidies in an attempt to boost the country’s sanctions-stifled economy. The move caused prices on everyday goods to skyrocket, angering an already unhappy citizenry. Truck drivers have been striking for days over gas costs, and it looks like more strikes at the marketplaces are imminent.

Bill Kristol urges conservatives not to get hysterical about the Don’t Ask Don’t Tell repeal. Sure, it wasn’t the outcome that some wanted, but those who believe our troops can’t handle the policy change are seriously underestimating the strength and character of our soldiers: “[Blogger Cassy] Fiano’s advice to conservatives? Cool It. We join in her suggestion. … As Fiano writes, it’s a ‘massive insult to our military’ to assume that soldiers can’t handle the challenge of integrating openly gay troops. True, this is a burden they might have been spared while fighting two wars. But they’ll deal with it,” wrote Kristol.

The Wall Street Journal thinks PolitiFact may need a fact-checker. The media watchdog group recently declared that the phrase “government takeover of healthcare” was the “lie of the year.” Of course, that phrase isn’t so much a “fact” as it is an informed opinion about the recent health-care reforms. As the WSJ editorial board writes, “PolitiFact’s decree is part of a larger journalistic trend that seeks to recast all political debates as matters of lies, misinformation and ‘facts,’ rather than differences of world view or principles. PolitiFact wants to define for everyone else what qualifies as a ‘fact,’ though in political debates the facts are often legitimately in dispute.”

S.E. Cupp wonders how liberals can reconcile the campaign to save polar bears with their reverence for Darwinism. After all, if certain species can’t hack it on their own, should we really be messing with evolution’s master plan? “Maybe we should admit that our science is not as perfect as we would like to believe and that nature is ultimately inexplicable and beyond our control. There is no sense in meddling with the extinction of polar bears, not when so many more pressing human problems await,” argues Cupp.

Have you always wanted to combine the joyful celebration of the holiday season with a blind, irrational hatred for the Jewish state? Well now you can, thanks to the creative types at the anti-Israel Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement. NGO Monitor reports that “During the 2010 Christmas season, NGOs such as Sabeel, War on Want (UK), Trócaire, and Pax Christi are once again exploiting the holiday for radical attacks against Israel, through politicized Christmas carols, cards, and messages, and calls for donations and gift giving.” Yes, that holiday card featuring the three wise men blocked by an Israeli Apartheid Wall looks like it would be the perfect seasons-greeting for co-workers.

Iranian leaders have cut long-time food and gas subsidies in an attempt to boost the country’s sanctions-stifled economy. The move caused prices on everyday goods to skyrocket, angering an already unhappy citizenry. Truck drivers have been striking for days over gas costs, and it looks like more strikes at the marketplaces are imminent.

Bill Kristol urges conservatives not to get hysterical about the Don’t Ask Don’t Tell repeal. Sure, it wasn’t the outcome that some wanted, but those who believe our troops can’t handle the policy change are seriously underestimating the strength and character of our soldiers: “[Blogger Cassy] Fiano’s advice to conservatives? Cool It. We join in her suggestion. … As Fiano writes, it’s a ‘massive insult to our military’ to assume that soldiers can’t handle the challenge of integrating openly gay troops. True, this is a burden they might have been spared while fighting two wars. But they’ll deal with it,” wrote Kristol.

The Wall Street Journal thinks PolitiFact may need a fact-checker. The media watchdog group recently declared that the phrase “government takeover of healthcare” was the “lie of the year.” Of course, that phrase isn’t so much a “fact” as it is an informed opinion about the recent health-care reforms. As the WSJ editorial board writes, “PolitiFact’s decree is part of a larger journalistic trend that seeks to recast all political debates as matters of lies, misinformation and ‘facts,’ rather than differences of world view or principles. PolitiFact wants to define for everyone else what qualifies as a ‘fact,’ though in political debates the facts are often legitimately in dispute.”

S.E. Cupp wonders how liberals can reconcile the campaign to save polar bears with their reverence for Darwinism. After all, if certain species can’t hack it on their own, should we really be messing with evolution’s master plan? “Maybe we should admit that our science is not as perfect as we would like to believe and that nature is ultimately inexplicable and beyond our control. There is no sense in meddling with the extinction of polar bears, not when so many more pressing human problems await,” argues Cupp.

Have you always wanted to combine the joyful celebration of the holiday season with a blind, irrational hatred for the Jewish state? Well now you can, thanks to the creative types at the anti-Israel Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement. NGO Monitor reports that “During the 2010 Christmas season, NGOs such as Sabeel, War on Want (UK), Trócaire, and Pax Christi are once again exploiting the holiday for radical attacks against Israel, through politicized Christmas carols, cards, and messages, and calls for donations and gift giving.” Yes, that holiday card featuring the three wise men blocked by an Israeli Apartheid Wall looks like it would be the perfect seasons-greeting for co-workers.

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What to Do About the Failed Bush-Obama Approach to NoKo

If you sense that the international threats are multiplying — from Syria, from Iran, from North Korea — you are right. That suggests that the Obama team’s assertion — that our problems in the world are traceable to insufficiently smart diplomacy by the Bush team — is wrong. The Fox News Sunday roundtable had an enlightening discussion on the North Korean problem:

LIZ CHENEY: … I think that we’ve seen time and time again, North Korea, if they test a nuclear weapon, there are no consequences. If they build a reactor for the Syrians, there are no consequences. And what they’ve learned is that their belligerence, in fact, oftentimes yields from us capitulation and concessions.

I think that it’s time for us to put them back on the terrorist list, and I think it’s time for to us be very direct with China and say, you know, if you really do want to be the world power that you aspire to be, you’ve got to step up to the plate here. You can’t just benefit from the open economic system in the United States, from the open economies around the world. If you really do view yourself as a world power, and you want the rest of the world to you view you that way –

CHRIS WALLACE: But don’t you think we’re saying that?

CHENEY: I don’t know. I don’t think that we are, actually. I think that we’ve been tiptoeing around the Chinese. I think if you look at what happened last July, when we said we were going to have joint military exercises with the South Koreans, the Chinese objected and said don’t do it in the Yellow Sea. We said OK and we moved it. … I think we should be clear to the Chinese that if they don’t step up to the plate and get the North Koreans — they are the North Korean’s largest trading partner, their closer ally. If they do not engage more effectively and directly in getting the North Koreans to stop what they’re doing, the result will be a nuclear proliferation in that neighborhood. … Read More

If you sense that the international threats are multiplying — from Syria, from Iran, from North Korea — you are right. That suggests that the Obama team’s assertion — that our problems in the world are traceable to insufficiently smart diplomacy by the Bush team — is wrong. The Fox News Sunday roundtable had an enlightening discussion on the North Korean problem:

LIZ CHENEY: … I think that we’ve seen time and time again, North Korea, if they test a nuclear weapon, there are no consequences. If they build a reactor for the Syrians, there are no consequences. And what they’ve learned is that their belligerence, in fact, oftentimes yields from us capitulation and concessions.

I think that it’s time for us to put them back on the terrorist list, and I think it’s time for to us be very direct with China and say, you know, if you really do want to be the world power that you aspire to be, you’ve got to step up to the plate here. You can’t just benefit from the open economic system in the United States, from the open economies around the world. If you really do view yourself as a world power, and you want the rest of the world to you view you that way –

CHRIS WALLACE: But don’t you think we’re saying that?

CHENEY: I don’t know. I don’t think that we are, actually. I think that we’ve been tiptoeing around the Chinese. I think if you look at what happened last July, when we said we were going to have joint military exercises with the South Koreans, the Chinese objected and said don’t do it in the Yellow Sea. We said OK and we moved it. … I think we should be clear to the Chinese that if they don’t step up to the plate and get the North Koreans — they are the North Korean’s largest trading partner, their closer ally. If they do not engage more effectively and directly in getting the North Koreans to stop what they’re doing, the result will be a nuclear proliferation in that neighborhood. …

As the conversation unfolds, Juan Williams accuses Cheney and Bill Kristol of “warmongering” — although neither suggested the use of military force. Cheney and Kristol did suggest a change in approach, which plainly doesn’t amount to going to war against North Korea:

CHENEY: Do you think that what we’ve been doing for the last five years has worked? I mean, what we’ve been doing, basically, is saying we’re going to offer carrots to the North Koreans, because we’re going to talk them out of their program, and we’re going to plead with them to stop? And, by the way, we’re going to ignore evidence that they have got an enrichment program going on, which we learned this week they actually do have going on. …

WILLIAMS: But I must say, the Chinese have now said let’s have more six-party talks. The U.S. government, the Obama administration, has refused those talks. They don’t want more talks. They’re being very clear and hard-lined. So, it does not seem to me that your argument that there is somehow softness going on here is in the play at all. What’s going on is we need to find a way to resolve the issue, and the administration, contrary to what Bill had to say, has been demonstrating admirable restraint and not warmongering and saying, oh, yes, go in there and start a fight that you can’t finish.

KRISTOL: I’m not for warmongering. I am for doing whatever you can do through covert action and other — bribes (ph) and everything. … If they’re doing it, more power to them. Just as in Iran, the stocks (ph) and that virus (ph) seems to have slowed down their nuclear program.

As with Iran, what’s going to do more good, all the talks we’ve had, or actually subverting their nuclear program? In North Korea, what would do the most good is trying to find fissures in the military, people who are upset about his 27-year-old son taking over, and bringing down the regime.

So do we continue the failed engagement tactics of the last years of the Bush administration and the first two years of this one, or do we try something new — more direct discussion with China, increased military presence in the region, commitment to regime change in North Korea, and refraining from rewarding North Korea’s bad behavior? Attempts at engagement have failed — spectacularly so. It seems we have little choice but to try something different. And no, it’s not “warmongering” to oppose aggression by our foes.

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FPI Conference (Part One)

At the second day of the Foreign Policy Initiative’s 2010 forum, the administration’s representatives were there to soothe and to stress bipartisanship, which they carried out with mixed results. The day began with an assist from Sen. Joe Lieberman, who emphasized bipartisanship on Iraq and Afghanistan. Returning from a trip to Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan, he asserted that although “the U.S. has never been as engaged as we are today across the Middle East,” there is nevertheless “heightened uneasiness… about America’s staying power.” He voiced optimism about the newly formed government in Iraq, stressing the need for the U.S. to remain engaged and to ensure the government “reflects the will of the Iraqi people” and not foreign governments, especially the Iranian regime. He urged the administration to accept any invitation by the Iraqi government to extend our presence beyond the 2011 date set forth in the Status of Forces Agreement.

Lieberman was heartened by progress since his last visit in July to Afghanistan. He observed that we have begun to “turn the tide” and emphasized the improved strategy and command structure implemented in the last two years. “Simply put, America has gotten its act together,” he explained. However, he was sharply critical of the July 2011 withdrawal deadline, which, he explained, “exacerbated the central strategic problem,” namely that individuals and groups “continue to hedge their bets” with Taliban forces as long as they are uncertain about American resolve. He noted with approval the administration’s recent effort “to begin to downplay the 2011 date.” He urged the development of a long-term security pact that might include an American airbase in the country.

In response to questions posed by moderator Bill Kristol, he expressed confidence that the administration would not squander gains in Iraq. But he also expressed some fear that, on Afghanistan, there would “emerge an unusual alliance of the anti-war Democrats and isolationist… or fiscally hawkish Republicans.” As for the administration, he believes “they are in it to win it.” On Pakistan, he explained the dilemma: we get more anti-terrorism information from that country than any other, yet its security forces continue to have links to the Taliban.

On Iran, Lieberman sounded hopeful on congressional bipartisanship; “not tomorrow,” but soon, he hopes for a resolution calling on the White House to use all available sanctions, to continue sanctions even if talks resume, and to express that if sanctions fail, we will use force to prevent a nuclear-armed Iran. As to the last item, the problem remains not Congress but the administration.

Lieberman’s theme was: “The Obama story is as much about continuity as it is about change.” We need to hope he is right.

At the second day of the Foreign Policy Initiative’s 2010 forum, the administration’s representatives were there to soothe and to stress bipartisanship, which they carried out with mixed results. The day began with an assist from Sen. Joe Lieberman, who emphasized bipartisanship on Iraq and Afghanistan. Returning from a trip to Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan, he asserted that although “the U.S. has never been as engaged as we are today across the Middle East,” there is nevertheless “heightened uneasiness… about America’s staying power.” He voiced optimism about the newly formed government in Iraq, stressing the need for the U.S. to remain engaged and to ensure the government “reflects the will of the Iraqi people” and not foreign governments, especially the Iranian regime. He urged the administration to accept any invitation by the Iraqi government to extend our presence beyond the 2011 date set forth in the Status of Forces Agreement.

Lieberman was heartened by progress since his last visit in July to Afghanistan. He observed that we have begun to “turn the tide” and emphasized the improved strategy and command structure implemented in the last two years. “Simply put, America has gotten its act together,” he explained. However, he was sharply critical of the July 2011 withdrawal deadline, which, he explained, “exacerbated the central strategic problem,” namely that individuals and groups “continue to hedge their bets” with Taliban forces as long as they are uncertain about American resolve. He noted with approval the administration’s recent effort “to begin to downplay the 2011 date.” He urged the development of a long-term security pact that might include an American airbase in the country.

In response to questions posed by moderator Bill Kristol, he expressed confidence that the administration would not squander gains in Iraq. But he also expressed some fear that, on Afghanistan, there would “emerge an unusual alliance of the anti-war Democrats and isolationist… or fiscally hawkish Republicans.” As for the administration, he believes “they are in it to win it.” On Pakistan, he explained the dilemma: we get more anti-terrorism information from that country than any other, yet its security forces continue to have links to the Taliban.

On Iran, Lieberman sounded hopeful on congressional bipartisanship; “not tomorrow,” but soon, he hopes for a resolution calling on the White House to use all available sanctions, to continue sanctions even if talks resume, and to express that if sanctions fail, we will use force to prevent a nuclear-armed Iran. As to the last item, the problem remains not Congress but the administration.

Lieberman’s theme was: “The Obama story is as much about continuity as it is about change.” We need to hope he is right.

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RE: A Significant Letter

I concur with Pete and the e21 authors. The e21 group not only has the benefit of Pete’s wisdom but that of a number of other key thinkers also. Keith Hennessey, formerly Assistant to the President for Economic Policy and Director of the National Economic Council under President Bush; Bill Kristol; and Andrew Laperriere, a Managing Director of International Strategy and Investment Group Inc., are on its board of advisers. And its staff and contributors includes impressive, serious economic and policy gurus. We’ll be hearing more from them in the days and weeks ahead. The group that released an open letter signed by a list of economists, business leaders, and policy wonks (including Michael Boskin, Roger Hertog, Amity Shlaes, Paul Singer, and John Taylor) is certainly going to be of critical importance in the public discussion ahead.

As the Wall Street Journal points out, this group is not alone in raising concerns about the Fed’s printing press. The e21 group has been discussing the issue with Republican office holders and potential 2012 candidates and has come on the heels of criticism of the plan both by Rep. Paul Ryan and Sarah Palin. The report explains:

“Printing money is no substitute for pro-growth fiscal policy,” said Rep. Mike Pence, an Indiana Republican who has been privy to early discussions with the group of conservatives rallying opposition to the Fed plan. He said the signatories to the letter “represent a growing chorus of Americans who know that we should be seeking to stimulate our economy with tax relief, spending restraint and regulatory reform rather than masking our fundamental problems by artificially creating inflation.”

The Fed faces potential pressure of a different sort from the left as well. Some prominent Democratic congressmen, including the current chairman of the House Financial Services Committee, have endorsed the quantitative-easing move.

If nothing else, the letter and the emergence on the scene of a group like e21 will demonstrate that Republicans are serious about weighty economic issues and focused on the long-term health of the dollar and the U.S. economy. The party of no — which really was never only about no — is getting some intellectual heft. This is good for it, but even more important for the country and the public debate.

I concur with Pete and the e21 authors. The e21 group not only has the benefit of Pete’s wisdom but that of a number of other key thinkers also. Keith Hennessey, formerly Assistant to the President for Economic Policy and Director of the National Economic Council under President Bush; Bill Kristol; and Andrew Laperriere, a Managing Director of International Strategy and Investment Group Inc., are on its board of advisers. And its staff and contributors includes impressive, serious economic and policy gurus. We’ll be hearing more from them in the days and weeks ahead. The group that released an open letter signed by a list of economists, business leaders, and policy wonks (including Michael Boskin, Roger Hertog, Amity Shlaes, Paul Singer, and John Taylor) is certainly going to be of critical importance in the public discussion ahead.

As the Wall Street Journal points out, this group is not alone in raising concerns about the Fed’s printing press. The e21 group has been discussing the issue with Republican office holders and potential 2012 candidates and has come on the heels of criticism of the plan both by Rep. Paul Ryan and Sarah Palin. The report explains:

“Printing money is no substitute for pro-growth fiscal policy,” said Rep. Mike Pence, an Indiana Republican who has been privy to early discussions with the group of conservatives rallying opposition to the Fed plan. He said the signatories to the letter “represent a growing chorus of Americans who know that we should be seeking to stimulate our economy with tax relief, spending restraint and regulatory reform rather than masking our fundamental problems by artificially creating inflation.”

The Fed faces potential pressure of a different sort from the left as well. Some prominent Democratic congressmen, including the current chairman of the House Financial Services Committee, have endorsed the quantitative-easing move.

If nothing else, the letter and the emergence on the scene of a group like e21 will demonstrate that Republicans are serious about weighty economic issues and focused on the long-term health of the dollar and the U.S. economy. The party of no — which really was never only about no — is getting some intellectual heft. This is good for it, but even more important for the country and the public debate.

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Can Obama Triangulate?

Bill Kristol is optimistic. On Fox News Sunday, he predicted:

We’re going to have an agreement on extending current tax rates for three or four years, I think. We’re going to have an agreement that we shouldn’t have earmarks. There’ll be an agreement on some spending cuts. There’ll be an agreement on prosecuting the war in Afghanistan.

All of this makes perfect sense for Republicans. They will dispel the notion that they are wackos incapable of governing. The positions outlined above are not divisive ones within the Republican Party. Yes, GOP Senate leadership has expressed skepticism about the value of an earmark ban, but if one is proposed, no Republican would be inclined  to vote against it.

As for the Democrats, each of these issues will exacerbate the split between the left and the far left. The same House members who are cheering Nancy Pelosi’s  plan to stay on as minority leader, the netroot activists, and the liberal blogosphere will be in an uproar on spending cuts (we already had a preview when the debt commission released its preliminary report), tax cuts for the “rich,” and a Bush-like commitment to Afghanistan (i.e., the withdrawal of the withdrawal deadline). It’s not going to make Obama’s life easier within his own party; on the contrary, the howls and screeches will get worse.

Does this help Obama, showing how reasonable he is? Well, there will be plenty to show he is not so amenable to the voters’ wishes or the concerns of business. He is, so far, refusing to deal on ObamaCare, a major irritant to independent and conservative voters and a barrier to meaningful deficit-cutting. The danger here is that, as he often does, Obama winds up pleasing no one. His base is increasingly grouchy and dispirited; his adversaries don’t take his promises of fiscal sobriety seriously. But at this point, Obama has no choice — his 2008 coalition has fractured, and he has lost independents. If he does nothing, he’s a one-term president; so he might as well try something else. Unless, of course, he can’t bring himself to break faith with the hard left.

Bill Kristol is optimistic. On Fox News Sunday, he predicted:

We’re going to have an agreement on extending current tax rates for three or four years, I think. We’re going to have an agreement that we shouldn’t have earmarks. There’ll be an agreement on some spending cuts. There’ll be an agreement on prosecuting the war in Afghanistan.

All of this makes perfect sense for Republicans. They will dispel the notion that they are wackos incapable of governing. The positions outlined above are not divisive ones within the Republican Party. Yes, GOP Senate leadership has expressed skepticism about the value of an earmark ban, but if one is proposed, no Republican would be inclined  to vote against it.

As for the Democrats, each of these issues will exacerbate the split between the left and the far left. The same House members who are cheering Nancy Pelosi’s  plan to stay on as minority leader, the netroot activists, and the liberal blogosphere will be in an uproar on spending cuts (we already had a preview when the debt commission released its preliminary report), tax cuts for the “rich,” and a Bush-like commitment to Afghanistan (i.e., the withdrawal of the withdrawal deadline). It’s not going to make Obama’s life easier within his own party; on the contrary, the howls and screeches will get worse.

Does this help Obama, showing how reasonable he is? Well, there will be plenty to show he is not so amenable to the voters’ wishes or the concerns of business. He is, so far, refusing to deal on ObamaCare, a major irritant to independent and conservative voters and a barrier to meaningful deficit-cutting. The danger here is that, as he often does, Obama winds up pleasing no one. His base is increasingly grouchy and dispirited; his adversaries don’t take his promises of fiscal sobriety seriously. But at this point, Obama has no choice — his 2008 coalition has fractured, and he has lost independents. If he does nothing, he’s a one-term president; so he might as well try something else. Unless, of course, he can’t bring himself to break faith with the hard left.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Who knew coconuts were so dangerous?

Who knew Obama’s speech to India’s parliament would be so historic? “This will be the first time a teleprompter will be used in the nearly 100-feet high dome-shaped hall that has portraits of eminent national leaders adorning its walls. Indian politicians are known for making impromptu long speeches and perhaps that is why some parliament officials, who did not wish to be named, sounded rather surprised with the idea of a teleprompter for Obama. ‘We thought Obama is a trained orator and skilled in the art of mass address with his continuous eye contact,’ an official, who did not wish to be identified because of security restrictions, said.”

Who knew it was all about the failure to deliver on jobs, jobs, jobs? Nancy Pelosi, for one: “Nine and a half percent unemployment damaged the majority. … What made a difference in the election is the fact that they said we are spending money, and where are the jobs?” Precisely.

Who knew? Obama has an ego problem, according to Politico. Next up: Obama is a liberal.

Who knew writing books about yourself wasn’t adequate preparation for the presidency? “He came across as a young man in a grown-up’s game—impressive but not presidential. A politician but not a leader, managing American policy at home and American power abroad with disturbing amateurishness. Indeed, there was a growing perception of the inability to run the machinery of government and to find the right people to manage it. A man who was once seen as a talented and even charismatic rhetorician is now seen as lacking real experience or even the ability to stop America’s decline. ‘Yes we can,’ he once said, but now America asks, ‘Can he?’”

Who knew Olbermann was even a “journalist”? This, from Richard Benedetto, is dead on: “Is Keith Olbermann a hypocrite? It is always hypocritical to criticize others for something you are doing yourself. But that point aside, let’s stop pretending that TV talking heads such as Olbermann, Hannity, Matthews, O’Reilly et. al. are journalists, and therefore must adhere to traditional journalism standards. They are not journalists. They are ideological partisans who take sides in political debate.” (Who do we think leaked the donation records — archrival Matthews?)

Who knew Obama had “accomplished” so much? “Last, April Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak disregarded appeals from the Obama administration and violated his own public promises by renewing the ‘emergency law’ that for decades has allowed security forces to prevent public demonstrations, break up political meetings, close media outlets and arrest opposition activists without charge. When the administration protested, Egyptian officials assured it that the law henceforth would be applied only in terrorism and drug cases. The White House cited that pledge in a recent summary of its human rights accomplishments.”

Who knew Nancy Pelosi had such good friends on the right? Bill Kristol: “Now there are those, of a churlish disposition, who would note that Speaker Pelosi has presided over the largest loss of House seats by a party in a midterm election in 62 years. There are second-guessers who would question her strategy and tactics on the stimulus, cap and trade, and health care. There are Democrats tempted by the superficial attraction of a new face as leader of their party in the House. There are Democrats in swing districts who are tempted by the prospect of their party following a more moderate path. … We urge Democrats to reject all such considerations and counsels. We urge the remaining House Democrats to keep Nancy Pelosi as their leader. … For the good of the republic (and the GOP), House Democrats in the 112th Congress need to march further down the path they blazed in the 111th Congress.” And Charlie Rangel and Maxine Waters — you hang in there and fight to the bitter end!

Who knew 2010 was the easy part? “Witness the announcement this morning by Nebraska Attorney General Jon Bruning (R) that he was forming an exploratory committee to look at a run against Sen. Ben Nelson (D) in 2012. … Democrats must defend 23 seats while there are just 10 GOP seats up for grabs. And, it’s not just raw numbers that make the cycle daunting for Democrats — it’s where the races are taking place. In addition to Nelson, who represents a state where President Obama won just 42 percent in 2008, Democrats will have to defend seats in Missouri, Ohio, West Virginia, Florida, North Dakota, Montana and Virginia — not exactly the friendliest of states for their side at the moment.”

Who knew there was someone who could top Michael Bloomberg? “New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg was taken aback by President Obama’s arrogance, Rupert Murdoch said in an interview with an Australian outlet. Bloomberg described his conversation with Obama as ‘verbal ping-pong,’ Murdoch told the Australian Financial Review, and said he had a ‘pleasant’ day golfing on Martha’s Vineyard with the president. He came back and said, ‘I never met in my life such an arrogant man,’ Murdoch said.”

Who knew coconuts were so dangerous?

Who knew Obama’s speech to India’s parliament would be so historic? “This will be the first time a teleprompter will be used in the nearly 100-feet high dome-shaped hall that has portraits of eminent national leaders adorning its walls. Indian politicians are known for making impromptu long speeches and perhaps that is why some parliament officials, who did not wish to be named, sounded rather surprised with the idea of a teleprompter for Obama. ‘We thought Obama is a trained orator and skilled in the art of mass address with his continuous eye contact,’ an official, who did not wish to be identified because of security restrictions, said.”

Who knew it was all about the failure to deliver on jobs, jobs, jobs? Nancy Pelosi, for one: “Nine and a half percent unemployment damaged the majority. … What made a difference in the election is the fact that they said we are spending money, and where are the jobs?” Precisely.

Who knew? Obama has an ego problem, according to Politico. Next up: Obama is a liberal.

Who knew writing books about yourself wasn’t adequate preparation for the presidency? “He came across as a young man in a grown-up’s game—impressive but not presidential. A politician but not a leader, managing American policy at home and American power abroad with disturbing amateurishness. Indeed, there was a growing perception of the inability to run the machinery of government and to find the right people to manage it. A man who was once seen as a talented and even charismatic rhetorician is now seen as lacking real experience or even the ability to stop America’s decline. ‘Yes we can,’ he once said, but now America asks, ‘Can he?’”

Who knew Olbermann was even a “journalist”? This, from Richard Benedetto, is dead on: “Is Keith Olbermann a hypocrite? It is always hypocritical to criticize others for something you are doing yourself. But that point aside, let’s stop pretending that TV talking heads such as Olbermann, Hannity, Matthews, O’Reilly et. al. are journalists, and therefore must adhere to traditional journalism standards. They are not journalists. They are ideological partisans who take sides in political debate.” (Who do we think leaked the donation records — archrival Matthews?)

Who knew Obama had “accomplished” so much? “Last, April Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak disregarded appeals from the Obama administration and violated his own public promises by renewing the ‘emergency law’ that for decades has allowed security forces to prevent public demonstrations, break up political meetings, close media outlets and arrest opposition activists without charge. When the administration protested, Egyptian officials assured it that the law henceforth would be applied only in terrorism and drug cases. The White House cited that pledge in a recent summary of its human rights accomplishments.”

Who knew Nancy Pelosi had such good friends on the right? Bill Kristol: “Now there are those, of a churlish disposition, who would note that Speaker Pelosi has presided over the largest loss of House seats by a party in a midterm election in 62 years. There are second-guessers who would question her strategy and tactics on the stimulus, cap and trade, and health care. There are Democrats tempted by the superficial attraction of a new face as leader of their party in the House. There are Democrats in swing districts who are tempted by the prospect of their party following a more moderate path. … We urge Democrats to reject all such considerations and counsels. We urge the remaining House Democrats to keep Nancy Pelosi as their leader. … For the good of the republic (and the GOP), House Democrats in the 112th Congress need to march further down the path they blazed in the 111th Congress.” And Charlie Rangel and Maxine Waters — you hang in there and fight to the bitter end!

Who knew 2010 was the easy part? “Witness the announcement this morning by Nebraska Attorney General Jon Bruning (R) that he was forming an exploratory committee to look at a run against Sen. Ben Nelson (D) in 2012. … Democrats must defend 23 seats while there are just 10 GOP seats up for grabs. And, it’s not just raw numbers that make the cycle daunting for Democrats — it’s where the races are taking place. In addition to Nelson, who represents a state where President Obama won just 42 percent in 2008, Democrats will have to defend seats in Missouri, Ohio, West Virginia, Florida, North Dakota, Montana and Virginia — not exactly the friendliest of states for their side at the moment.”

Who knew there was someone who could top Michael Bloomberg? “New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg was taken aback by President Obama’s arrogance, Rupert Murdoch said in an interview with an Australian outlet. Bloomberg described his conversation with Obama as ‘verbal ping-pong,’ Murdoch told the Australian Financial Review, and said he had a ‘pleasant’ day golfing on Martha’s Vineyard with the president. He came back and said, ‘I never met in my life such an arrogant man,’ Murdoch said.”

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Don’t forget: “But most of America is white.” So it’s no big deal that the Jon Stewart–Stephen Colbert crowd was nearly all white. The Tea Partiers, on the other hand, are a bunch of racists.

Don’t hold your breath. Forty-seven percent of Democratic voters would like a primary challenger to Obama in 2012. The first sign of any serious challenge will be vilified and strangled in the crib.

Don’t expect comedians to be effective political organizers. Apparently, the Dems’ hopes were misplaced. “When Stewart turned serious near the end of the two-hour event, he called for calm in the public discourse but avoided any talk of the coming election and, to the likely dismay of Democratic operatives, he did not implore the surely left-leaning crowd to vote … ‘I’m really happy you guys are here, even if none of us are quite sure why,’ [Stewart] quipped.”

Don’t believe that the midterm elections’ impact will be limited to domestic policy. “[Rep. Tom] Price has ‘no doubt’ that the GOP will be allying with a number of Democrats on Iran, which he called ‘front and center’ on the party’s national security agenda as outlined in the ‘Pledge to America.’” Maybe Obama will figure out that conducting a robust national security policy is one of the few remaining ways to rescue his presidency.

Don’t underestimate the number of times you will hear the “R” word in the next week. Haley Barbour starts us out: “Well, there’s no question that this midterm election is a referendum on Obama’s policies. He talks about it, the public talks about it. The dominant issues in America are all of this spending, outrageous spending, sense of debt, skyrocketing deficits, joblessness. And what the American people are looking at and they’re saying, ‘The Obama policies aren’t working. They–we need new policies. We need a, we need an economic growth agenda.’ So it’s very clearly a referendum” (emphasis added). Or if you prefer: “They’re voting to, they’re voting to–they will vote, in my opinion, to repudiate these policies. If Republicans win, that’s what it will be, a repudiation of Obama’s policies” (emphasis added).

Don’t think you’ll find a better exemplar of the midterms than Florida. Bill Kristol on Fox News Sunday explains: “For Bill Clinton, with the blessing of the White House, to try and force [Kendirck Meek] out of the race one week out for this opportunistic governor of Florida who’s been a Republican, who’s embarrassed himself this year, who’s going to lose anyway, even if Meek got out of the race, I’m convinced, I think it’s pathetic. And I think it’s demoralizing for Democrats. Conversely, for conservatives like myself, seeing Marco Rubio as the face of the future of the Republican Party, as opposed to Charlie Crist, four years ago Charlie Crist was being heralded by the Republican establishment. He was the new governor of Florida, he was a VP possibility for John McCain. Everyone fought for his endorsement in 2008. The replacement of Charlie Crist by Marco Rubio for me is what’s so heartening about the future of the Republican Party.”

Don’t see much difference between the Democrats and the Republicans when it comes to midterm predictions. “Now, for Democratic consultants and campaign officials who have plotted and strategized for months to preserve the embattled House majority, there’s nothing left to do but sit and wait for the expected horrors of Election Day to unfold. There is nearly uniform consensus among Democratic campaign professionals that the House is gone — the only question, it seems, is how many seats they will lose. … A senior party consultant who was on the low end with his predictions said the party would lose between 40 and 50 seats. On the high end, one Democratic consultant said losses could number around 70 seats.”

Don’t forget: “But most of America is white.” So it’s no big deal that the Jon Stewart–Stephen Colbert crowd was nearly all white. The Tea Partiers, on the other hand, are a bunch of racists.

Don’t hold your breath. Forty-seven percent of Democratic voters would like a primary challenger to Obama in 2012. The first sign of any serious challenge will be vilified and strangled in the crib.

Don’t expect comedians to be effective political organizers. Apparently, the Dems’ hopes were misplaced. “When Stewart turned serious near the end of the two-hour event, he called for calm in the public discourse but avoided any talk of the coming election and, to the likely dismay of Democratic operatives, he did not implore the surely left-leaning crowd to vote … ‘I’m really happy you guys are here, even if none of us are quite sure why,’ [Stewart] quipped.”

Don’t believe that the midterm elections’ impact will be limited to domestic policy. “[Rep. Tom] Price has ‘no doubt’ that the GOP will be allying with a number of Democrats on Iran, which he called ‘front and center’ on the party’s national security agenda as outlined in the ‘Pledge to America.’” Maybe Obama will figure out that conducting a robust national security policy is one of the few remaining ways to rescue his presidency.

Don’t underestimate the number of times you will hear the “R” word in the next week. Haley Barbour starts us out: “Well, there’s no question that this midterm election is a referendum on Obama’s policies. He talks about it, the public talks about it. The dominant issues in America are all of this spending, outrageous spending, sense of debt, skyrocketing deficits, joblessness. And what the American people are looking at and they’re saying, ‘The Obama policies aren’t working. They–we need new policies. We need a, we need an economic growth agenda.’ So it’s very clearly a referendum” (emphasis added). Or if you prefer: “They’re voting to, they’re voting to–they will vote, in my opinion, to repudiate these policies. If Republicans win, that’s what it will be, a repudiation of Obama’s policies” (emphasis added).

Don’t think you’ll find a better exemplar of the midterms than Florida. Bill Kristol on Fox News Sunday explains: “For Bill Clinton, with the blessing of the White House, to try and force [Kendirck Meek] out of the race one week out for this opportunistic governor of Florida who’s been a Republican, who’s embarrassed himself this year, who’s going to lose anyway, even if Meek got out of the race, I’m convinced, I think it’s pathetic. And I think it’s demoralizing for Democrats. Conversely, for conservatives like myself, seeing Marco Rubio as the face of the future of the Republican Party, as opposed to Charlie Crist, four years ago Charlie Crist was being heralded by the Republican establishment. He was the new governor of Florida, he was a VP possibility for John McCain. Everyone fought for his endorsement in 2008. The replacement of Charlie Crist by Marco Rubio for me is what’s so heartening about the future of the Republican Party.”

Don’t see much difference between the Democrats and the Republicans when it comes to midterm predictions. “Now, for Democratic consultants and campaign officials who have plotted and strategized for months to preserve the embattled House majority, there’s nothing left to do but sit and wait for the expected horrors of Election Day to unfold. There is nearly uniform consensus among Democratic campaign professionals that the House is gone — the only question, it seems, is how many seats they will lose. … A senior party consultant who was on the low end with his predictions said the party would lose between 40 and 50 seats. On the high end, one Democratic consultant said losses could number around 70 seats.”

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Bill Clinton’s main task is getting people to drop out of Senate races. “Charlie Crist personally called a top adviser to Bill Clinton and asked if the former president would discuss with Kendrick Meek the possibility of dropping out of the Florida Senate race, according to a source close to Clinton.”

The Democrats’ main problem: their side is depressed, and their opponents are fired up. “The latest absentee ballot statistics released this afternoon by the state of Pennsylvania show a strong Republican tilt in the Keystone State, a bad sign for Democratic candidates up and down the ticket. According to the secretary of state’s office, 53,226 absentee ballots have been returned by registered Republicans in Pennsylvania compared with 37,631 by registered Democrats.”

The Dems’ main enemy has been their own agenda. “Regardless of whether the stimulus bill has helped the economy, or even prevented further losses, voters don’t believe the mammoth spending and tax cut bill has helped. And because no House Republicans voted for the bill, the perceived failure is wholly owned by Democrats. But a failed stimulus may have been forgivable, if Democrats had done something else to turn around the jobs picture. Instead, the party moved on to cap and trade and health care. … The party sealed its fate when Democrats cast a Sunday vote to pass health care reform, effectively alienating seniors and male voters. In the end, the 111th Congress has been one of the most effective in recent history. That efficiency, and their accomplishments, will cost them seats.”

Republicans’ main lesson from 2010 should be about candidate selection. Or, as Bill Kristol observed, it “would be nice to have Delaware.”

J Street’s main activity is whining now. Too much partisanship on Israel! Sort of odd for a group that spends its time (when not running interference for Richard Goldstone) attacking AIPAC and conservative pro-Israel supporters. Funny, though its policy director can’t manage to explain what’s wrong with “the Republican Jewish Coalition’s ad against Democratic Senator Barbara Boxer, claiming that she ‘remained silent as the Obama administration pressured Israel and supported Israel’s enemies.’” B0xer hasn’t exactly stood up to the administration on anything, let alone Israel.

The Dems’ main mantra – not Bush! — is problematic. A new poll by Democrat Doug Schoen finds that by a 48-to-43 percent margin, voters think George W. Bush was a better president than Obama. (Umm, Jeb, are you listening?) Nothing like Obama to make the country appreciate his predecessor(s).

The main takeaway from Charlie Cook (subscription required): the House Dems are toast. “It’s now clear that this is largest House playing field since 1994 and Democrats’ losses may well exceed the 52 seats they lost that year. … Democrats can’t blame their losses on money. Democratic messages simply aren’t staving off GOP candidates. Democrats’ strategy of endlessly exploiting opponents’ personal baggage has failed to disqualify Republicans like retired Army Lt. Col. Allen West. … Democratic attempts to portray GOP foes as proponents of three different third rails — outsourcing, the Fair Tax, and Social Security privatization — have had limited success in isolated cases, but have likewise failed to salvage races across the board.”

The White House’s main dilemma: where can Obama do more good than harm? “They could send him to Wisconsin, but the Senate seat appeared to be slipping away despite a recent presidential visit. Maybe Colorado? The Senate contest there was much closer, but it wasn’t clear – given the state’s changing political sentiments – whether a visit by Obama would help. Washington, California and Nevada were out, given that he had just campaigned out West. The advisers easily eliminated West Virginia and Kentucky, two states that were hostile to Obama in the presidential race and have grown even more so.”

Bill Clinton’s main task is getting people to drop out of Senate races. “Charlie Crist personally called a top adviser to Bill Clinton and asked if the former president would discuss with Kendrick Meek the possibility of dropping out of the Florida Senate race, according to a source close to Clinton.”

The Democrats’ main problem: their side is depressed, and their opponents are fired up. “The latest absentee ballot statistics released this afternoon by the state of Pennsylvania show a strong Republican tilt in the Keystone State, a bad sign for Democratic candidates up and down the ticket. According to the secretary of state’s office, 53,226 absentee ballots have been returned by registered Republicans in Pennsylvania compared with 37,631 by registered Democrats.”

The Dems’ main enemy has been their own agenda. “Regardless of whether the stimulus bill has helped the economy, or even prevented further losses, voters don’t believe the mammoth spending and tax cut bill has helped. And because no House Republicans voted for the bill, the perceived failure is wholly owned by Democrats. But a failed stimulus may have been forgivable, if Democrats had done something else to turn around the jobs picture. Instead, the party moved on to cap and trade and health care. … The party sealed its fate when Democrats cast a Sunday vote to pass health care reform, effectively alienating seniors and male voters. In the end, the 111th Congress has been one of the most effective in recent history. That efficiency, and their accomplishments, will cost them seats.”

Republicans’ main lesson from 2010 should be about candidate selection. Or, as Bill Kristol observed, it “would be nice to have Delaware.”

J Street’s main activity is whining now. Too much partisanship on Israel! Sort of odd for a group that spends its time (when not running interference for Richard Goldstone) attacking AIPAC and conservative pro-Israel supporters. Funny, though its policy director can’t manage to explain what’s wrong with “the Republican Jewish Coalition’s ad against Democratic Senator Barbara Boxer, claiming that she ‘remained silent as the Obama administration pressured Israel and supported Israel’s enemies.’” B0xer hasn’t exactly stood up to the administration on anything, let alone Israel.

The Dems’ main mantra – not Bush! — is problematic. A new poll by Democrat Doug Schoen finds that by a 48-to-43 percent margin, voters think George W. Bush was a better president than Obama. (Umm, Jeb, are you listening?) Nothing like Obama to make the country appreciate his predecessor(s).

The main takeaway from Charlie Cook (subscription required): the House Dems are toast. “It’s now clear that this is largest House playing field since 1994 and Democrats’ losses may well exceed the 52 seats they lost that year. … Democrats can’t blame their losses on money. Democratic messages simply aren’t staving off GOP candidates. Democrats’ strategy of endlessly exploiting opponents’ personal baggage has failed to disqualify Republicans like retired Army Lt. Col. Allen West. … Democratic attempts to portray GOP foes as proponents of three different third rails — outsourcing, the Fair Tax, and Social Security privatization — have had limited success in isolated cases, but have likewise failed to salvage races across the board.”

The White House’s main dilemma: where can Obama do more good than harm? “They could send him to Wisconsin, but the Senate seat appeared to be slipping away despite a recent presidential visit. Maybe Colorado? The Senate contest there was much closer, but it wasn’t clear – given the state’s changing political sentiments – whether a visit by Obama would help. Washington, California and Nevada were out, given that he had just campaigned out West. The advisers easily eliminated West Virginia and Kentucky, two states that were hostile to Obama in the presidential race and have grown even more so.”

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Awkward. Charles Krauthammer vs. Tina Totenberg.

Unsurprising. “The knives are out for Christiane Amanpour at ABC News’ DC bureau.” The only people happy about NPR’s firing of Juan Williams are the ABC execs whose decision to put her in the This Week host chair is now a distant second in the “Top 10 dumbest news-division decisions.” (Parker-Spitzer on CNN is a close third.)

Stark. “POLITICO surveyed early voting through Saturday in 20 states, and in 14 of the 15 that have voter registration by party, the GOP’s early turnout percentage is running ahead of the party’s share of statewide voter registration — whether measured against 2006 or 2008, when President Barack Obama’s campaign led to a surge in Democratic voter registration. As a result, Republicans say they’re turning the tables on the Democratic dominance of early voting that paved the way for Obama’s victory in 2008 — and that independents’ lean toward the GOP this year will do the rest.”

Unbelievable, even for NPR. Bill Kristol on Fox News Sunday: “So much to dislike about NPR, it’s hard to know where to begin. For me, the CEO’s comment, I mean, the arrogance of it. Juan has worked at NPR for — how long? … And she, in a public forum, having had someone call you to fire you, not having had a meeting with you to discuss anything, says he should see a psychiatrist. I mean, that really is unbelievable.” Why isn’t anyone calling for her to be fired?

Pathetic. “The Democratic Senate candidate from West Virginia, Gov. Joe Manchin, says he didn’t understand key details of the health care reform legislation when he publicly endorsed it in March — an endorsement he has since withdrawn.”

Transparent. The new 2012 presidential contenders’ game is to run down figures like Karl Rove and leap to Christine O’Donnell’s defense to prove your Tea Party bona fides. Puleez. Is shilling for an unelectable candidate really going to convince voters of your own savvy judgment?

What?! Ari Berman of the Nation says a smaller, more leftist Democratic congressional caucus will help the party. This is the Newsweek theory of politics — we’ll have fewer supporters and be more successful!

Awkward. Charles Krauthammer vs. Tina Totenberg.

Unsurprising. “The knives are out for Christiane Amanpour at ABC News’ DC bureau.” The only people happy about NPR’s firing of Juan Williams are the ABC execs whose decision to put her in the This Week host chair is now a distant second in the “Top 10 dumbest news-division decisions.” (Parker-Spitzer on CNN is a close third.)

Stark. “POLITICO surveyed early voting through Saturday in 20 states, and in 14 of the 15 that have voter registration by party, the GOP’s early turnout percentage is running ahead of the party’s share of statewide voter registration — whether measured against 2006 or 2008, when President Barack Obama’s campaign led to a surge in Democratic voter registration. As a result, Republicans say they’re turning the tables on the Democratic dominance of early voting that paved the way for Obama’s victory in 2008 — and that independents’ lean toward the GOP this year will do the rest.”

Unbelievable, even for NPR. Bill Kristol on Fox News Sunday: “So much to dislike about NPR, it’s hard to know where to begin. For me, the CEO’s comment, I mean, the arrogance of it. Juan has worked at NPR for — how long? … And she, in a public forum, having had someone call you to fire you, not having had a meeting with you to discuss anything, says he should see a psychiatrist. I mean, that really is unbelievable.” Why isn’t anyone calling for her to be fired?

Pathetic. “The Democratic Senate candidate from West Virginia, Gov. Joe Manchin, says he didn’t understand key details of the health care reform legislation when he publicly endorsed it in March — an endorsement he has since withdrawn.”

Transparent. The new 2012 presidential contenders’ game is to run down figures like Karl Rove and leap to Christine O’Donnell’s defense to prove your Tea Party bona fides. Puleez. Is shilling for an unelectable candidate really going to convince voters of your own savvy judgment?

What?! Ari Berman of the Nation says a smaller, more leftist Democratic congressional caucus will help the party. This is the Newsweek theory of politics — we’ll have fewer supporters and be more successful!

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Never the Policy

It’s never the policy. That is the Democrats’ watchword when it comes to explaining failure, whether it is substantive or political.

On domestic policy, Obama is now complaining we’ve all gotten the wrong idea that he is a tax-and-spend liberal. On Fox News Sunday, Bill Kristol explained:

Now, it’s a little farcical since he was a tax-and-spend liberal Democrat. He had chances not to be. He could have cut a deal on taxes six weeks ago, accepted the Republican proposal to extend the Bush tax rates and say, “You know what? I’m not your traditional tax- hiking Democrat.”

He insisted on tax hikes. He’s a huge spender. But I think that’s very revealing. When a liberal says, “I can’t look like a tax- and-spend liberal Democrat,” he is conceding you can’t govern this country as a liberal Democrat.

If I were a liberal, I’d be upset about that. It would be as if a conservative president said, “Well, I’ve learned I can’t just look like some conservative.” I mean, the whole point of Barack Obama’s presidency was to be the next wave of liberalism. Isn’t that why they were so excited two years ago?

The foreign policy version of this was set forth by David Ignatius by way of Zbig Brzezinski and Brent Scowcroft. You get this gobbledygook:

What perplexed both men was the disconnect between Obama’s strategic vision and what he has been able to achieve. “He makes dramatic presidential speeches,” said Brzezinski, “but it’s never translated into a process in which good ideas become strategies.”

They are perplexed because they do not find fault with the underlying assumptions of Obama’s foreign policy. So it’s distraction by the economy or failure to “implement” his foreign policy vision that is the problem. And they’re very miffed, of course, that Obama didn’t cram a peace deal down the Israelis’ throats.

The domestic and foreign policy excuses abound — the Republicans undermined Obama, Bibi wrecked the peace process, the 24/7 news cycle makes governing impossible, and the country is ungovernable or irrational. The degree to which the president and his team lack virtually any ability to reflect on and evaluate the substance of their agenda is remarkable. There is, of course, no one in the White House who does not embrace a leftist ideology. They therefore must ignore populist unrest, ample polling, and any evidence that suggests that their economic policy and foreign policy vision is fundamentally flawed, not to mention politically untenable.

Republicans should keep their fingers crossed that this obtuseness is heartfelt and long-lasting. Should the White House internalize the lessons of the past two years (e.g., Keynesian economics is a bust, the Palestinians aren’t ready for a peace deal, the public resists the vast expansion of the public sector), they might be able to adjust course and rescue the Obama presidency. But so far, I see no danger of that occurring.

It’s never the policy. That is the Democrats’ watchword when it comes to explaining failure, whether it is substantive or political.

On domestic policy, Obama is now complaining we’ve all gotten the wrong idea that he is a tax-and-spend liberal. On Fox News Sunday, Bill Kristol explained:

Now, it’s a little farcical since he was a tax-and-spend liberal Democrat. He had chances not to be. He could have cut a deal on taxes six weeks ago, accepted the Republican proposal to extend the Bush tax rates and say, “You know what? I’m not your traditional tax- hiking Democrat.”

He insisted on tax hikes. He’s a huge spender. But I think that’s very revealing. When a liberal says, “I can’t look like a tax- and-spend liberal Democrat,” he is conceding you can’t govern this country as a liberal Democrat.

If I were a liberal, I’d be upset about that. It would be as if a conservative president said, “Well, I’ve learned I can’t just look like some conservative.” I mean, the whole point of Barack Obama’s presidency was to be the next wave of liberalism. Isn’t that why they were so excited two years ago?

The foreign policy version of this was set forth by David Ignatius by way of Zbig Brzezinski and Brent Scowcroft. You get this gobbledygook:

What perplexed both men was the disconnect between Obama’s strategic vision and what he has been able to achieve. “He makes dramatic presidential speeches,” said Brzezinski, “but it’s never translated into a process in which good ideas become strategies.”

They are perplexed because they do not find fault with the underlying assumptions of Obama’s foreign policy. So it’s distraction by the economy or failure to “implement” his foreign policy vision that is the problem. And they’re very miffed, of course, that Obama didn’t cram a peace deal down the Israelis’ throats.

The domestic and foreign policy excuses abound — the Republicans undermined Obama, Bibi wrecked the peace process, the 24/7 news cycle makes governing impossible, and the country is ungovernable or irrational. The degree to which the president and his team lack virtually any ability to reflect on and evaluate the substance of their agenda is remarkable. There is, of course, no one in the White House who does not embrace a leftist ideology. They therefore must ignore populist unrest, ample polling, and any evidence that suggests that their economic policy and foreign policy vision is fundamentally flawed, not to mention politically untenable.

Republicans should keep their fingers crossed that this obtuseness is heartfelt and long-lasting. Should the White House internalize the lessons of the past two years (e.g., Keynesian economics is a bust, the Palestinians aren’t ready for a peace deal, the public resists the vast expansion of the public sector), they might be able to adjust course and rescue the Obama presidency. But so far, I see no danger of that occurring.

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ECI 1 – Soros Street 0

The leftist Tablet looks at the Senate race. The most interesting is Pennsylvania (h/t Ben Smith):

PENNSYLVANIA
Jewish candidate guy: Senator Arlen Specter (D).
People who are actually running: Joe Sestak (J Street) and Pat Toomey (Emergency Committee for Israel).
Who’s going to win? In general, a Gentile. In particular, Pat Toomey. In a way, Bill Kristol.
Why this is still a Jewish story: This race is kind of weird. Arlen Specter switched parties, robbing Republicans of their only Jewish senator, and then lost the Democratic primary to Joe Sestak. Then, with no Jewish candidates in the race, this became the surrogate electoral battleground for Israeli-American politics: Bill Kristol’s newly formed Pro-Israel, Pro-Committee Emergency Committee for Israel cut an ad attacking Sestak, and then the Pro-Israel, Pro-Peace, Iffy-Soros J Street made their own defending him.
Fun fact: Toomey’s press secretary, Nachama Soloveichik, is “an heir to America’s leading Orthodox rabbinic dynasty.”

It’s not so weird at all. As we’ve seen in recent polling, Israel enjoys broad bipartisan support. J Street does not. When ECI focused on this race, illuminating Sestak’s record, it illustrated both. Frankly, it’s weird that a Jewish magazine finds it peculiar that a race without a Jewish candidate could center on Israel. Perhaps it should take a look at the polls we’ve been examining. It seems the entire electorate of Pennsylvania has revealed itself to be part of the “Israel Lobby.” Only those who equate support for Israel solely with American Jewish political activity would fine this strange.

The leftist Tablet looks at the Senate race. The most interesting is Pennsylvania (h/t Ben Smith):

PENNSYLVANIA
Jewish candidate guy: Senator Arlen Specter (D).
People who are actually running: Joe Sestak (J Street) and Pat Toomey (Emergency Committee for Israel).
Who’s going to win? In general, a Gentile. In particular, Pat Toomey. In a way, Bill Kristol.
Why this is still a Jewish story: This race is kind of weird. Arlen Specter switched parties, robbing Republicans of their only Jewish senator, and then lost the Democratic primary to Joe Sestak. Then, with no Jewish candidates in the race, this became the surrogate electoral battleground for Israeli-American politics: Bill Kristol’s newly formed Pro-Israel, Pro-Committee Emergency Committee for Israel cut an ad attacking Sestak, and then the Pro-Israel, Pro-Peace, Iffy-Soros J Street made their own defending him.
Fun fact: Toomey’s press secretary, Nachama Soloveichik, is “an heir to America’s leading Orthodox rabbinic dynasty.”

It’s not so weird at all. As we’ve seen in recent polling, Israel enjoys broad bipartisan support. J Street does not. When ECI focused on this race, illuminating Sestak’s record, it illustrated both. Frankly, it’s weird that a Jewish magazine finds it peculiar that a race without a Jewish candidate could center on Israel. Perhaps it should take a look at the polls we’ve been examining. It seems the entire electorate of Pennsylvania has revealed itself to be part of the “Israel Lobby.” Only those who equate support for Israel solely with American Jewish political activity would fine this strange.

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No Good Explanation for Not Taking a Vote

The nearly incomprehensible decision by the Democratic leadership to avoid a vote on the extension of the Bush tax cuts is the latest problem for Democratic incumbents. On Fox News Sunday, Juan Williams tried out a novel defense: Nancy Pelosi couldn’t take a vote, because the mean Republicans would twist the minds of voters and get them all confused. The discussion went as follows:

HUME: So this poor little Speaker of the House presiding over this massive majority has the vote she says to win on this issue and send her members home, having voted to stave off the tax cuts for nearly everybody, and she was afraid of what the minority Republicans were going to say about it? And you seriously — do you believe that?

WILLIAMS: Did you just say stave off tax cuts for everyone?

HUME: Tax increases. I’m sorry.

WILLIAMS: That’s a distortion.

HUME: Tax increases. Read More

The nearly incomprehensible decision by the Democratic leadership to avoid a vote on the extension of the Bush tax cuts is the latest problem for Democratic incumbents. On Fox News Sunday, Juan Williams tried out a novel defense: Nancy Pelosi couldn’t take a vote, because the mean Republicans would twist the minds of voters and get them all confused. The discussion went as follows:

HUME: So this poor little Speaker of the House presiding over this massive majority has the vote she says to win on this issue and send her members home, having voted to stave off the tax cuts for nearly everybody, and she was afraid of what the minority Republicans were going to say about it? And you seriously — do you believe that?

WILLIAMS: Did you just say stave off tax cuts for everyone?

HUME: Tax increases. I’m sorry.

WILLIAMS: That’s a distortion.

HUME: Tax increases.

KRISTOL: The fact is — I was with four Republican Senate candidates this week by chance in New York at a little event. And they said — I asked, “How is the tax debate going?”

And they said, look, until now, it’s been the traditional Democratic/Republican debate. Democrats say they want to cut taxes for the middle class. Republicans say, you don’t want to raise any taxes in a recession. And it was probably kind of a wash politically.

All of that — now, maybe they’re wrong, but all of them were extremely happy. This was the night — the day after Nancy Pelosi adjourned the House without allowing a vote — without allowing a vote on the coming tax increase. Every Republican challenger can now say you have been in charge for two years, you could have dealt with this, you could have cut whatever deals you needed to cut to do as Juan said and bring over some of those moderate Republicans. You could have insisted on an up-or- down vote. You didn’t.

Every American now faces a tax increase in January thanks to this Democratic Congress doing nothing.

LIASSON: … Well, the problem is that they might very well get some kind of a deal, a temporary extension or whatever, in the lame duck.

The problem is that every Democrat now has to go home now without saying, “I voted to continue lower taxes for the middle class.” I do think that the White House and the Democrats overestimated how strong their argument was going to be and how easy it was going to be to keep all the Democrats on one page on this. I mean, I think if they had all their Democrats, they would have brought it up for a vote.

Now, their argument is Republicans are holding the middle class tax cut hostage to continuing the tax cuts for the rich. The problem with that is, if you don’t have a vote and kind of show them holding it hostage, how do you know that they really are?

Yeah, that’s a problem. So the Obama-Pelosi-Reid brain trust has saddled incumbent Democrats with more baggage. OK, but after the deluge that’s about to hit, won’t the Obami have a post-election epiphany, as Bill Clinton did? Don’t be too certain.

Mara Liasson says the White House doesn’t believe in all that moving to the center hooey, but reality is reality: “Look, I think that I can tell you on very good authority that at the White House, they totally reject the idea that he would adopt the Clinton model and move to the center. Now, that being said, everything is going to change in November.” Bill Kristol thinks some personnel changes may help: “I think the president has cleverly and sort of carefully gotten rid of the incredibly arrogant, smart alecks who dominated the White House in the first term — Rahm Emanuel, Larry Summers, Pete Orszag. They knew best. They were so clever. Never let a crisis go to waste. We can jam stuff through. No problem. This president can carry anything off. That is not Pete Rouse’s attitude. Pete Rouse worked for Tom Daschle for 19 years. He cut a lot of deals with Congress.”

But it really is up to Obama — he’s not one for cutting deals, and he certainly isn’t one to admit error. His liberal extremism has imperiled his presidency and sunk his party. His irritation with all but his most fervent supporters has left him alienated from voters and even from his party’s base. The question remains: is he willing and able to shift course? After running on a change theme and trying to radically change America, he is the one who will have to change. Unless, of course, one term is plenty for him.

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