Commentary Magazine


Topic: Bob Schieffer

Rove Faces Down Schieffer

Karl Rove gave a feisty interview on Face the Nation to Bob Schieffer — who couldn’t really explain why it was somehow dangerous for conservative 501(c)4 groups to give to Republicans but perfectly fine if Big Labor gives to the Democrats:

BOB SCHIEFFER: Let me just do a little shorthand here because if you add up the money raised by the congressional committees and the two national parties, Democrats have raised seven hundred fifty million dollars to the Republicans’ five hundred million dollars. … The two groups that you’re associated with alone expected to raise around sixty-five million dollars. And a lot of that money is coming from anonymous donors. So I — I — I want to just start with this. Why is the public interest served by flooding our politics with money from people who don’t want other people to know they’ve contributed?

KARL ROVE: Well, this has been going on for a long while. In fact, you left out a big player in this. Four unions alone will — will have — according to their own announcements spent two hundred and twenty-two million dollars in — in money on elections this year.

BOB SCHIEFFER: But we know who they are.

KARL ROVE: No, no, no you don’t, Bob. Here’s the disclosure report for the — for — for one who’s going to spend eighty-seven and a half million dollars — the American Federation of State commun — local and Community Employees. … They’re going to take in one hundred ninety million four hundred and seventy-seven do — thousand eight hundred and twenty-nine dollars, and that’s the extent of where you know where it’s coming from. So there’s a lot of money floating around in politics that’s not disclosed. Read More

Karl Rove gave a feisty interview on Face the Nation to Bob Schieffer — who couldn’t really explain why it was somehow dangerous for conservative 501(c)4 groups to give to Republicans but perfectly fine if Big Labor gives to the Democrats:

BOB SCHIEFFER: Let me just do a little shorthand here because if you add up the money raised by the congressional committees and the two national parties, Democrats have raised seven hundred fifty million dollars to the Republicans’ five hundred million dollars. … The two groups that you’re associated with alone expected to raise around sixty-five million dollars. And a lot of that money is coming from anonymous donors. So I — I — I want to just start with this. Why is the public interest served by flooding our politics with money from people who don’t want other people to know they’ve contributed?

KARL ROVE: Well, this has been going on for a long while. In fact, you left out a big player in this. Four unions alone will — will have — according to their own announcements spent two hundred and twenty-two million dollars in — in money on elections this year.

BOB SCHIEFFER: But we know who they are.

KARL ROVE: No, no, no you don’t, Bob. Here’s the disclosure report for the — for — for one who’s going to spend eighty-seven and a half million dollars — the American Federation of State commun — local and Community Employees. … They’re going to take in one hundred ninety million four hundred and seventy-seven do — thousand eight hundred and twenty-nine dollars, and that’s the extent of where you know where it’s coming from. So there’s a lot of money floating around in politics that’s not disclosed.

Moreover, the real difference between all these groups and Big Labor is that the latter takes money from union members involuntarily. Schieffer seemed unmoved by the facts. Rove then zeroed in on the massive hypocrisy game being played by the White House and bolstered by much of the mainstream media:

Bob, I don’t remember you having a program in 2000, when the NAACP spent ten million dollars from one single donor, running ads anonymous leave contributed, attacking George W. Bush. The — suddenly — everybody is gone spun up about it this year when Republicans have started to follow what the Democrats have been doing and create 501(c)4s, which can use less than half their money for express advocacy. But you have the environment America, feminist majority, humane society, legislative front and they were all — vote — Vote Vets, Human Rights Campaign, Planned Parenthood, League of Conservation Voters, Natural Resources Defense Council, Defenders of Wildlife and a bunch of others which are all liberal groups that have been using 501(c)4s with undisclosed money for years. … And it’s never been an issue until the President of the United States on the day when we have a bad economic jobs report, when we lose ninety-five jobs in September, and the unemployment rate is 9.6 percent, the President of the United States goes out and calls conservatives at the Chamber of Commerce and American Crossroads GPS, and says these are threats to democracy because they don’t disclose their donors. I don’t remember him ever saying that all these liberal groups were threats to democracy when they spent money exactly the same way we are.

Ouch.

And just as quickly as the hue and cry arose in opposition to conservative groups, it will go quiet again as Democrats form their own entities for the 2012 campaign. Then all that outside money will be a sign of the vibrancy of American politics. And so it is — for both sides.

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Abuse of Power

It is astonishing, really.

The president of the United States has accused the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, despite its denial and without supporting evidence, of illegally funneling foreign money into U.S. campaigns. “Just this week,” Barack Obama said recently about the chamber, “we learned that one of the largest groups paying for these [political] ads regularly takes in money from foreign corporations. So groups that receive foreign money are spending huge sums to influence American elections.”

On CBS’s Face the Nation, host Bob Schieffer asked David Axelrod, senior adviser to the president, if there is any evidence to support their accusation. Axelrod responded this way: “Well, do you have any evidence that it’s not, Bob?”

Likewise, Obama’s press secretary, Robert Gibbs, wouldn’t back away from the incendiary charges yesterday. “The president will continue to make the argument that we don’t know where this money comes from and entities like the Chamber have said they get money from overseas,” Gibbs told reporters at the White House.

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It is astonishing, really.

The president of the United States has accused the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, despite its denial and without supporting evidence, of illegally funneling foreign money into U.S. campaigns. “Just this week,” Barack Obama said recently about the chamber, “we learned that one of the largest groups paying for these [political] ads regularly takes in money from foreign corporations. So groups that receive foreign money are spending huge sums to influence American elections.”

On CBS’s Face the Nation, host Bob Schieffer asked David Axelrod, senior adviser to the president, if there is any evidence to support their accusation. Axelrod responded this way: “Well, do you have any evidence that it’s not, Bob?”

Likewise, Obama’s press secretary, Robert Gibbs, wouldn’t back away from the incendiary charges yesterday. “The president will continue to make the argument that we don’t know where this money comes from and entities like the Chamber have said they get money from overseas,” Gibbs told reporters at the White House.

Set aside the hypocrisy of this whole episode. (My former White House colleague Ed Gillespie points out that no Democrats, least of all Obama, expressed concern about such outside spending in 2008, when more than $400 million was spent to help elect Barack Obama, much of it from undisclosed donors.) Set aside the fact that Mr. Axelrod concedes that the chamber is abiding by long-standing rules, that it doesn’t have to disclose its donors list, and that no other organizations are disclosing theirs. Set aside the fact that the chamber has 115 foreign-member affiliates who pay a total of less than $100,000 in membership dues to a group whose total budget is more than $200 million. And set aside the fact that various news organizations have dismissed the charges, including the New York Times, which reports, “a closer examination shows that there is little evidence that what the chamber does in collecting overseas dues is improper or even unusual, according to both liberal and conservative election-law lawyers and campaign finance documents.”

What we are witnessing is the abuse of power. We are now in a situation in which the president and his most senior advisers feel completely at liberty to throw out unsubstantiated charges and put the burden on people (and institutions) to prove their innocence. Liberals once referred to such tactics as McCarthyism. But Joseph McCarthy, for all his abuses, was “only” a United States senator, one member out of 100. The president and his advisers, on the other hand, have at their disposal far more power and the ability to inflict far more injury.

What Obama and his aides are demanding is that the Chamber of Commerce prove a negative — and in doing so, they are trying to intimidate the chamber into disclosing what is, by law, privileged information. “If the Chamber doesn’t have anything to hide about these contributions,” Mr. Axelrod says, “and I take them at their word that they don’t, then why not disclose? Why not let people see where their money is coming from?”

Let’s see if we can help Mr. Axelrod out by providing him with an explanation.

For one thing, he is employing the guilty-until-proven-innocent argument. For another, the White House’s standard is being selectively applied. And it encourages slanderous charges because it forces innocent people to disprove them. All this is troubling in any case; but it is triply pernicious when it is practiced by those with unmatched power, because they have an unparalleled capacity to intimidate American citizens.

In further answering Axelrod’s argument, consider this thought experiment. It’s the year 2021, and a partisan critic of a future president repeatedly asserts that the president is addicted to child pornography. It turns out that the critic has no proof of the charge — but when told he is asking the president to prove a negative, he responds: “I take the president at his word. But just to be sure, we’d like to examine his phone records and text messages, his computer accounts, and his credit card receipts. What we want, in other words, is full access to all the relevant information we need. After all, if he’s innocent, why not disclose this information? Why not let people see what you’re doing with your life and free time?”

It must be obvious to Messrs. Axelrod and Obama that what they are doing is irresponsible, dangerous, and deeply illiberal. It’s important to note, however, that this libel is taking place within a particular context. The attack on the Chamber of Commerce is only the most recent link in a long chain. The Obama White House has targeted Karl Rove, Ed Gillespie, and John Boehner; George W. Bush and Dick Cheney; conservative talk radio; Fox News; the state of Arizona; the Supreme Court (for its decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission); members of the Tea Party; critics of ObamaCare who attended town hall meetings; pharmaceutical, insurance, and oil companies; corporate executives, Wall Street, and the “rich.”

All this ugliness comes to us courtesy of a man who said during the 2008 campaign that “the times are too serious, the stakes are too high for this same partisan playbook”; who told us that we should “resist the temptation to fall back on the same partisanship and pettiness and immaturity that has poisoned our politics for so long”; and who assured us, on the night of his election, “I will listen to you, especially when we disagree.”

Back in October 2009, I wrote about this White House’s burning anger and resentment toward its critics and what it foreshadowed. That inferno is burning hotter than ever – and if it goes unchecked, it will eventually lead to a crisis.

In an August 16, 1971, memorandum from White House Counsel John Dean to Lawrence Higby, titled “Dealing with our Political Enemies,” Dean wrote:

This memorandum addresses the matter of how we can maximize the fact of our incumbency in dealing with persons known to be active in their opposition to our Administration; stated a bit more bluntly – how we can use the available federal machinery to screw our political enemies.

At comparable stages in their first terms, the Obama administration seems to be at least as eager as the Nixon administration to use the available federal machinery to “screw our political enemies.” We know how things turned out for the Nixon administration. President Obama cannot say he hasn’t been forewarned.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

This is what desperation looks like: “Forget the myth of an Obama recovery. The past week has been disastrous for the White House and America’s increasingly disillusioned Left. No wonder the angry and desperate Vice President Joe Biden is talking about ‘playing hell’ if his party suffers defeat in November.”

This is what old-style politics sounds like: “White House senior adviser David Axelrod said the U.S. Chamber of Commerce has the burden of proving false the charge by Democrats that the business group is funneling foreign money to Republican campaigns. Axelrod was pressed by CBS’ Bob Schieffer on Sunday for evidence that the foreign campaign contributions benefiting the GOP is more than ‘peanuts.’  ‘Do you have any evidence that it’s not, Bob?’ Axelrod said on ‘Face the Nation.’  Ed Gillespie responded that it “was ‘an unbelievable mentality’ for Axelrod to assert charges about foreign contributions without backing them up.” It’s all too believable, unfortunately.

This is what a wave election looks like: “Democrats are buying advertising in places they hadn’t previously reserved it, a strong indication the battlefield is expanding. That includes New England, which hasn’t a single Republican House member. A new ad by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee began airing this week in the Massachusetts district covering Cape Cod, where Democratic Rep. Bill Delahunt is retiring and ex-police sergeant Jeff Perry is posting a strong GOP challenge.”

This is what a lousy TV appearance looks like: “Alexi Giannoulias, the Illinois Democrat running for President Obama’s old Senate seat, said Sunday that he wants to “reform” the president’s health care overhaul, and that the $814 billion stimulus was imperfect but that it prevented Americans from standing in soup lines. Giannoulias, who appeared on NBC’s ‘Meet the Press’ to debate Republican Mark Kirk, was on the defensive throughout the debate regarding Obama’s policies, as well as his past work for his family’s community bank and its ties to mob figures.”

This is what an eloquent first lady’s writing looks like: “Though some Afghan leaders have condemned the violence and defended the rights of women, others maintain a complicit silence in hopes of achieving peace. But peace attained by compromising the rights of half of the population will not last. Offenses against women erode security for all Afghans — men and women. And a culture that tolerates injustice against one group of its people ultimately fails to respect and value all its citizens.” Yeah, I miss her too.

This is what the GOP sounded like in 2006. “The chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee brushed off various members’ ads touting opposition to President Obama and Speakers Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), saying that it simply shows the party is a big tent unlike the right.”

This is what “hope and change” looks like? “President Obama’s new National Security Advisor spent the decade prior to joining the White House as a legal advisor to powerful interests including Goldman Sachs and Citigroup, and as a lobbyist for Fannie Mae, where he oversaw the mortgage giant’s aggressive campaign to undermine the credibility of a probe into its accounting irregularities, according to government reports and public disclosure forms. … While housing sales were still booming, internally these were troubled years for the company. In a report first noted by ABC News in 2008, Donilon is described as someone who lobbied for and helped paint a rosy picture of Fannie Mae’s financial health to the company’s board. He did so at a time when Fannie Mae faced accusations that it was misstating its earnings from 1998 to 2004.”

This is what a flaky candidate sounds like: “Jerry Brown: Mammograms not effective.”

This is what desperation looks like: “Forget the myth of an Obama recovery. The past week has been disastrous for the White House and America’s increasingly disillusioned Left. No wonder the angry and desperate Vice President Joe Biden is talking about ‘playing hell’ if his party suffers defeat in November.”

This is what old-style politics sounds like: “White House senior adviser David Axelrod said the U.S. Chamber of Commerce has the burden of proving false the charge by Democrats that the business group is funneling foreign money to Republican campaigns. Axelrod was pressed by CBS’ Bob Schieffer on Sunday for evidence that the foreign campaign contributions benefiting the GOP is more than ‘peanuts.’  ‘Do you have any evidence that it’s not, Bob?’ Axelrod said on ‘Face the Nation.’  Ed Gillespie responded that it “was ‘an unbelievable mentality’ for Axelrod to assert charges about foreign contributions without backing them up.” It’s all too believable, unfortunately.

This is what a wave election looks like: “Democrats are buying advertising in places they hadn’t previously reserved it, a strong indication the battlefield is expanding. That includes New England, which hasn’t a single Republican House member. A new ad by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee began airing this week in the Massachusetts district covering Cape Cod, where Democratic Rep. Bill Delahunt is retiring and ex-police sergeant Jeff Perry is posting a strong GOP challenge.”

This is what a lousy TV appearance looks like: “Alexi Giannoulias, the Illinois Democrat running for President Obama’s old Senate seat, said Sunday that he wants to “reform” the president’s health care overhaul, and that the $814 billion stimulus was imperfect but that it prevented Americans from standing in soup lines. Giannoulias, who appeared on NBC’s ‘Meet the Press’ to debate Republican Mark Kirk, was on the defensive throughout the debate regarding Obama’s policies, as well as his past work for his family’s community bank and its ties to mob figures.”

This is what an eloquent first lady’s writing looks like: “Though some Afghan leaders have condemned the violence and defended the rights of women, others maintain a complicit silence in hopes of achieving peace. But peace attained by compromising the rights of half of the population will not last. Offenses against women erode security for all Afghans — men and women. And a culture that tolerates injustice against one group of its people ultimately fails to respect and value all its citizens.” Yeah, I miss her too.

This is what the GOP sounded like in 2006. “The chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee brushed off various members’ ads touting opposition to President Obama and Speakers Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), saying that it simply shows the party is a big tent unlike the right.”

This is what “hope and change” looks like? “President Obama’s new National Security Advisor spent the decade prior to joining the White House as a legal advisor to powerful interests including Goldman Sachs and Citigroup, and as a lobbyist for Fannie Mae, where he oversaw the mortgage giant’s aggressive campaign to undermine the credibility of a probe into its accounting irregularities, according to government reports and public disclosure forms. … While housing sales were still booming, internally these were troubled years for the company. In a report first noted by ABC News in 2008, Donilon is described as someone who lobbied for and helped paint a rosy picture of Fannie Mae’s financial health to the company’s board. He did so at a time when Fannie Mae faced accusations that it was misstating its earnings from 1998 to 2004.”

This is what a flaky candidate sounds like: “Jerry Brown: Mammograms not effective.”

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Stacking the Deck, Providing Cover

Face the Nation hosted a discussion on Sunday of the New Black Panther case. It was yet another obvious instance of shilling for the administration and covering for the media’s own abysmal delinquency in reporting on the case. The only guest who was remotely critical of the administration and who made any effort to argue that the case was serious and that the administration was stonewalling was John Fund. But his time was severely limited, and all he really offered was this:

JOHN FUND (Wall Street Journal): I know we don’t have all the facts because this Justice Department is stonewalling subpoenas issued by the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights. They even–

BOB SCHIEFFER: Big surprise.

JOHN FUND: –transferred one of the officials to South Carolina so he’s outside the jurisdiction of the Civil Rights Commission subpoenas. Look, two African-American poll watchers testified they were intimidated by these people. And this is part of a pattern –

BOB SCHIEFFER: But– but– no voter, John.

JOHN FUND: Well, we– we– we saw– we saw testimony that the voters said that they turned around and said they would came back. We don’t know if they ever came back. We do know that this is a pattern with the Justice Department. Kinston, North Carolina is a predominantly African-American city and voted to have non-partisan elections. The Justice Department said no, you can’t do that. You have to continue to give black voters the cue of Democrat versus Republican, so they’ll know who to vote for. And you go through it. Georgia. Georgia wanted to take social security data and verify the U.S. citizenship of people who were registering to vote. Justice Department said you couldn’t do that. There is a consistent politicization of the Justice Department. We just had a report clearing the Bush administration of illegality in the U.S. attorney’s case. I think that the Justice Department is clearly stonewalling these subpoenas because they have something to hide. Do I know exactly what they’re hiding? I don’t. And I just
want to say something about Mister West’s comments. I agree we’ve made great progress in race in this country.

Even that is incomplete and misleading. Poll workers, also protected under the Voting Rights Act, were intimidated and supplied affidavits attesting to the illegal behavior of the two Black Panthers at the polling place. Apparently, the U.S. Civil Rights commissioner who insists there was no evidence of intimidation wasn’t paying attention at the hearings. Had a more informed guest been allowed on the show, he or she might have explained:

For anyone who bothers to actually look at the record, the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights received direct evidence on that very issue. Those critics also miss the point that it is a crime to attempt to intimidate voters and anyone assisting voters, which would include poll watchers, and no one watching the videotape could come to any conclusion other than the New Black Panthers were trying to intimidate people at that poll in Philadelphia.

On the issue of poll watchers, one of the witnesses at the first hearing of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, Chris Hill, testified on that specific point and what happened when he got to the polling place. He was responding to a desperate phone call for help from one of the two black poll watchers who were stationed at the polling place. …

So there is witness testimony that both Black Panthers, including the one who was dismissed by the Justice Department, were physically threatening a poll watcher. And the witnesses made it clear that the two Black Panthers acted as a team, in concert, at the polling place. … Of course, no one knows if those voters ever came back – but we know for sure that they left without voting when Hill was there rather than try to get by the New Black Panthers. What is so odd about this is that Hill was then questioned about that testimony by Commissioner Abby Thernstrom, who has been one of the persons claiming there is no evidence that voters were kept from voting.

None of that was revealed on the show, and no one alluded to the multiple witnesses who claim that the Justice Department has shunned cases that don’t match the historical civil rights model (white bigots vs. minority victims). No one noted that the head of the Civil Rights Division has been accused of providing untruthful testimony on this point. Moreover, there was no discussion of Bob Schieffer’s own pathetic ignorance of the story for a year, nor any mention of how bizarre was his excuse that he missed the scandal: he was on vacation when a key witness testified.

This sort of display reinforces the impression that the media is biased and now dedicated to covering not only the Obami’s tracks but also its own.

Face the Nation hosted a discussion on Sunday of the New Black Panther case. It was yet another obvious instance of shilling for the administration and covering for the media’s own abysmal delinquency in reporting on the case. The only guest who was remotely critical of the administration and who made any effort to argue that the case was serious and that the administration was stonewalling was John Fund. But his time was severely limited, and all he really offered was this:

JOHN FUND (Wall Street Journal): I know we don’t have all the facts because this Justice Department is stonewalling subpoenas issued by the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights. They even–

BOB SCHIEFFER: Big surprise.

JOHN FUND: –transferred one of the officials to South Carolina so he’s outside the jurisdiction of the Civil Rights Commission subpoenas. Look, two African-American poll watchers testified they were intimidated by these people. And this is part of a pattern –

BOB SCHIEFFER: But– but– no voter, John.

JOHN FUND: Well, we– we– we saw– we saw testimony that the voters said that they turned around and said they would came back. We don’t know if they ever came back. We do know that this is a pattern with the Justice Department. Kinston, North Carolina is a predominantly African-American city and voted to have non-partisan elections. The Justice Department said no, you can’t do that. You have to continue to give black voters the cue of Democrat versus Republican, so they’ll know who to vote for. And you go through it. Georgia. Georgia wanted to take social security data and verify the U.S. citizenship of people who were registering to vote. Justice Department said you couldn’t do that. There is a consistent politicization of the Justice Department. We just had a report clearing the Bush administration of illegality in the U.S. attorney’s case. I think that the Justice Department is clearly stonewalling these subpoenas because they have something to hide. Do I know exactly what they’re hiding? I don’t. And I just
want to say something about Mister West’s comments. I agree we’ve made great progress in race in this country.

Even that is incomplete and misleading. Poll workers, also protected under the Voting Rights Act, were intimidated and supplied affidavits attesting to the illegal behavior of the two Black Panthers at the polling place. Apparently, the U.S. Civil Rights commissioner who insists there was no evidence of intimidation wasn’t paying attention at the hearings. Had a more informed guest been allowed on the show, he or she might have explained:

For anyone who bothers to actually look at the record, the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights received direct evidence on that very issue. Those critics also miss the point that it is a crime to attempt to intimidate voters and anyone assisting voters, which would include poll watchers, and no one watching the videotape could come to any conclusion other than the New Black Panthers were trying to intimidate people at that poll in Philadelphia.

On the issue of poll watchers, one of the witnesses at the first hearing of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, Chris Hill, testified on that specific point and what happened when he got to the polling place. He was responding to a desperate phone call for help from one of the two black poll watchers who were stationed at the polling place. …

So there is witness testimony that both Black Panthers, including the one who was dismissed by the Justice Department, were physically threatening a poll watcher. And the witnesses made it clear that the two Black Panthers acted as a team, in concert, at the polling place. … Of course, no one knows if those voters ever came back – but we know for sure that they left without voting when Hill was there rather than try to get by the New Black Panthers. What is so odd about this is that Hill was then questioned about that testimony by Commissioner Abby Thernstrom, who has been one of the persons claiming there is no evidence that voters were kept from voting.

None of that was revealed on the show, and no one alluded to the multiple witnesses who claim that the Justice Department has shunned cases that don’t match the historical civil rights model (white bigots vs. minority victims). No one noted that the head of the Civil Rights Division has been accused of providing untruthful testimony on this point. Moreover, there was no discussion of Bob Schieffer’s own pathetic ignorance of the story for a year, nor any mention of how bizarre was his excuse that he missed the scandal: he was on vacation when a key witness testified.

This sort of display reinforces the impression that the media is biased and now dedicated to covering not only the Obami’s tracks but also its own.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

RomneyCare is a bust: “If you want a preview of President Obama’s health-care ‘reform,’ take a look at Massachusetts. In 2006, it enacted a “reform” that became a model for Obama. What’s happened since isn’t encouraging. The state did the easy part: expanding state-subsidized insurance coverage. It evaded the hard part: controlling costs and ensuring that spending improves people’s health. … What’s occurring in Massachusetts is the plausible future: Unchecked health spending shapes government priorities and inflates budget deficits and taxes, with small health gains. And they call this ‘reform’?”

Blanche Lincoln is sinking. A new poll shows her 25 points behind.

Panic is rising among Democrats for good reason: “Republican candidates now hold a nine-point lead over Democrats on the Generic Congressional Ballot for the week ending Sunday, July 18, the widest gap between the two parties in several weeks.”

Rep. Paul Ryan is ruling out 2012. His reason is very compelling.

Ben Smith is upset. Chris Wallace didn’t ask Sen. David Vitter a question about his new GOP challenger. Fair criticism. Imagine if Bob Schieffer hadn’t asked Eric Holder about the New  Black Panther case. Oh, right.

Kathy Dahlkemper is in trouble. Even apart from her knee-jerk anti-Israel voting record (and J Street stamp of approval), her votes on domestic issues are a killer. She “won a seat in Congress on a pledge to do something about the national debt. Then she went to Washington — and immediately voted to jack up borrowing by nearly $1 trillion. … Democratic pollster Mark Mellman said disgust with the stimulus and anxiety about the deficit is ‘really a metaphor for wasteful government spending.’ From the perspective of many voters, ‘a lot of their money has gone out the door to bail out big banks and big corporations while their jobs have been lost.’” That’s what the Democratic pollster is saying.

Chris Christie is a rock star among conservatives. Maybe the 2012 contenders should start gaining weight.

RomneyCare is a bust: “If you want a preview of President Obama’s health-care ‘reform,’ take a look at Massachusetts. In 2006, it enacted a “reform” that became a model for Obama. What’s happened since isn’t encouraging. The state did the easy part: expanding state-subsidized insurance coverage. It evaded the hard part: controlling costs and ensuring that spending improves people’s health. … What’s occurring in Massachusetts is the plausible future: Unchecked health spending shapes government priorities and inflates budget deficits and taxes, with small health gains. And they call this ‘reform’?”

Blanche Lincoln is sinking. A new poll shows her 25 points behind.

Panic is rising among Democrats for good reason: “Republican candidates now hold a nine-point lead over Democrats on the Generic Congressional Ballot for the week ending Sunday, July 18, the widest gap between the two parties in several weeks.”

Rep. Paul Ryan is ruling out 2012. His reason is very compelling.

Ben Smith is upset. Chris Wallace didn’t ask Sen. David Vitter a question about his new GOP challenger. Fair criticism. Imagine if Bob Schieffer hadn’t asked Eric Holder about the New  Black Panther case. Oh, right.

Kathy Dahlkemper is in trouble. Even apart from her knee-jerk anti-Israel voting record (and J Street stamp of approval), her votes on domestic issues are a killer. She “won a seat in Congress on a pledge to do something about the national debt. Then she went to Washington — and immediately voted to jack up borrowing by nearly $1 trillion. … Democratic pollster Mark Mellman said disgust with the stimulus and anxiety about the deficit is ‘really a metaphor for wasteful government spending.’ From the perspective of many voters, ‘a lot of their money has gone out the door to bail out big banks and big corporations while their jobs have been lost.’” That’s what the Democratic pollster is saying.

Chris Christie is a rock star among conservatives. Maybe the 2012 contenders should start gaining weight.

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Specter Loss Anticipated by White House

Via Taegan Goddard we get these snippets predicting doom for Arlen Specter:

We noted earlier that President Obama declined over the weekend to make a last minute campaign appearance for Sen. Arlen Specter (D-PA) in his tough primary fight against Rep. Joe Sestak (D-PA).

In an interview with WKYW-TV, CBS News anchor Bob Schieffer said, “I have been told on background that the White House is preparing for a Specter loss here, and that the president doesn’t want to be associated with that.”

Greg Sargent: “I’ve also learned that Veep Joe Biden will not be doing any campaign events for Specter in the final stretch, though it’s not immediately clear how significant this is. Last week Biden said he’d be doing events for Specter ‘as needed.’”

But of course Obama can’t help but be associated with a Specter defeat. It’s a direct reflection on him — his ill-conceived gambit to lure Specter to switch parties (rather than remain a permanent source of trouble for the Republicans) — and on the anti-Washington sentiment he and his Democratic allies in Congress have spawned. If Specter goes down to defeat, one can imagine that there will be many Democratic incumbents anxious to distance themselves from Obama. But having rubber-stamped his ultra-liberal and ultra-unpopular agenda, they may find there is no place to hide. And in all those races, Obama isn’t going to be able to avoid being “associated” with defeats for his party.

Via Taegan Goddard we get these snippets predicting doom for Arlen Specter:

We noted earlier that President Obama declined over the weekend to make a last minute campaign appearance for Sen. Arlen Specter (D-PA) in his tough primary fight against Rep. Joe Sestak (D-PA).

In an interview with WKYW-TV, CBS News anchor Bob Schieffer said, “I have been told on background that the White House is preparing for a Specter loss here, and that the president doesn’t want to be associated with that.”

Greg Sargent: “I’ve also learned that Veep Joe Biden will not be doing any campaign events for Specter in the final stretch, though it’s not immediately clear how significant this is. Last week Biden said he’d be doing events for Specter ‘as needed.’”

But of course Obama can’t help but be associated with a Specter defeat. It’s a direct reflection on him — his ill-conceived gambit to lure Specter to switch parties (rather than remain a permanent source of trouble for the Republicans) — and on the anti-Washington sentiment he and his Democratic allies in Congress have spawned. If Specter goes down to defeat, one can imagine that there will be many Democratic incumbents anxious to distance themselves from Obama. But having rubber-stamped his ultra-liberal and ultra-unpopular agenda, they may find there is no place to hide. And in all those races, Obama isn’t going to be able to avoid being “associated” with defeats for his party.

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Face the Voters

On Face the Nation, there was some serious talk as to why the Christmas Day bombing is so perilous for the Obama team. It is not simply that once again Democrats may be perceived as weak on national security. There is a more basic issue now rumbling through not just conservative circles but also in the mainstream media: can these people be trusted to do much of anything? Jan Crawford took up the competency angle:

The reason that’s an issue for Obama is that it goes to the bigger question of the competency of his government and the trust that people have in that government. You look at polls. Polls show that the trust in government is an all time low. Domestically, obviously, stimulus plan hasn’t worked. Unemployment is high. And so now we have a situation where a terrorist can get on an airplane, seemingly could have  been caught if some officials had just done a basic Google search of the database. And the Homeland Security secretary is insisting the system worked.

Really, what have the Obami done well? Not the stimulus plan. Not crafting a popular and coherent health-care bill. And not instilling confidence that there are competent people who can, when bombarded with intelligence, put it together to prevent an attack or even craft a policy designed to extract information after an attack. But Bob Schieffer, not exactly a fire-breathing conservative, really laid into the Obami. The problem is not only competence but also trust. The Democrats are consumed with political spin even on national security. He notes that Janet Napolitano was getting hammered but explains that this is a symptom of a bigger issue:

But she was just following the modern bipartisan public relations template in this age of information management. First, play down the problem. Second, emphasize what did not go wrong. Assure us that those in charge are investigating, and most important, emphasize no one in any position of responsibility is at fault. It’s not lying. But it’s not exactly the whole truth, certainly not the whole story. All she left out was that part about asking us to respect the privacy of those involved. Oh, I’m sorry. I got the government spin mixed up with the Tiger spin. Here is the difference. Tiger can hire as many people as he wants to make his excuses. It maydo him no good but it’s his money to spend as he wishes. When government officials insult us with spin they’re doing it on our dime, which is supposed to be used to operate the government, not to hold news conferences to tell us what a fine job people on the public payroll are doing. As we learned during Katrina, self-serving spin at the first sign of crisis does not help the situation. It makes it worse. Because it makes it harder to believe anything the government says. Real security is built on trust in government. That requires truth, which should be the beginning of government presentations, not the fallback position.

Yowser. Now that’s a narrative that should concern the Obami. Unfortunately, one wonders if they know what to do with a problem not solvable by spin and attack-dog tactics. At some point you really have to govern. Sadly, that is not their strong suit.

On Face the Nation, there was some serious talk as to why the Christmas Day bombing is so perilous for the Obama team. It is not simply that once again Democrats may be perceived as weak on national security. There is a more basic issue now rumbling through not just conservative circles but also in the mainstream media: can these people be trusted to do much of anything? Jan Crawford took up the competency angle:

The reason that’s an issue for Obama is that it goes to the bigger question of the competency of his government and the trust that people have in that government. You look at polls. Polls show that the trust in government is an all time low. Domestically, obviously, stimulus plan hasn’t worked. Unemployment is high. And so now we have a situation where a terrorist can get on an airplane, seemingly could have  been caught if some officials had just done a basic Google search of the database. And the Homeland Security secretary is insisting the system worked.

Really, what have the Obami done well? Not the stimulus plan. Not crafting a popular and coherent health-care bill. And not instilling confidence that there are competent people who can, when bombarded with intelligence, put it together to prevent an attack or even craft a policy designed to extract information after an attack. But Bob Schieffer, not exactly a fire-breathing conservative, really laid into the Obami. The problem is not only competence but also trust. The Democrats are consumed with political spin even on national security. He notes that Janet Napolitano was getting hammered but explains that this is a symptom of a bigger issue:

But she was just following the modern bipartisan public relations template in this age of information management. First, play down the problem. Second, emphasize what did not go wrong. Assure us that those in charge are investigating, and most important, emphasize no one in any position of responsibility is at fault. It’s not lying. But it’s not exactly the whole truth, certainly not the whole story. All she left out was that part about asking us to respect the privacy of those involved. Oh, I’m sorry. I got the government spin mixed up with the Tiger spin. Here is the difference. Tiger can hire as many people as he wants to make his excuses. It maydo him no good but it’s his money to spend as he wishes. When government officials insult us with spin they’re doing it on our dime, which is supposed to be used to operate the government, not to hold news conferences to tell us what a fine job people on the public payroll are doing. As we learned during Katrina, self-serving spin at the first sign of crisis does not help the situation. It makes it worse. Because it makes it harder to believe anything the government says. Real security is built on trust in government. That requires truth, which should be the beginning of government presentations, not the fallback position.

Yowser. Now that’s a narrative that should concern the Obami. Unfortunately, one wonders if they know what to do with a problem not solvable by spin and attack-dog tactics. At some point you really have to govern. Sadly, that is not their strong suit.

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Muddled Future, Fractured History

There is, it seems, some agreement that the speech last night was a bit of a mess. Bob Schieffer, noting that exit ramps have been constructed before the deployment, observed:  “I just don’t understand the logic of how that works.” John Dickerson at Slate, not exactly the heart of neo-conservatism, writes that he did order a troop increase:

The rest, though, is a bit blurry. According to his speech, Obama is escalating while retreating, adding more troops while also setting a date for their departure. Obama said he was putting pressure on the Afghan government, but he didn’t suggest how. Some of the blurring was by design. He smudged the border between Afghanistan and Pakistan, explaining that while he was sending troops to Afghanistan, the struggle was now more regional than it was when the war started eight years ago.

And David Ignatius was similarly skeptical of the obsession with an exit plan, wondering why the president doesn’t really get the problem with telling the enemy that we have limited patience to fight. He relates his conversation with the president:

He has defined success downward, by focusing on the ability to transfer control to the Afghans. He shows little interest in the big ideas of counterinsurgency and insists he will avoid “a nation-building commitment in Afghanistan.” That will make it easier to declare a “good enough” outcome in July 2011, if not victory.

When I asked Obama if the Taliban wouldn’t simply wait us out, he was dismissive: “This is an argument that I don’t give a lot of credence to, because if you follow the logic of this argument, then you would never leave. Right? Essentially you’d be signing on to have Afghanistan as a protectorate of the United States indefinitely.”

Well, no, actually. You convince the enemy you’ll stay until you win. You win, and then you leave. It really isn’t that hard. As Ignatius notes of the president’s apparent cluelessness: “Obama thinks that setting deadlines will force the Afghans to get their act together at last. That strikes me as the most dubious premise of his strategy. He is telling his adversary that he will start leaving on a certain date, and telling his ally to be ready to take over then, or else.”

But if Obama’s war vision was confused, the account of his own presidency was positively unrecognizable. It seemed that he was speaking of some other presidency, or one he hoped to have had, when he, for example, declared: “We have forged a new beginning between America and the Muslim World — one that recognizes our mutual interest in breaking a cycle of conflict, and that promises a future in which those who kill innocents are isolated by those who stand up for peace and prosperity and human dignity.” What is he talking about? The Middle East “peace process” is in a shambles, and he has left a trail of disappointed and aggrieved Muslims — from the Palestinian Authority, which thought it was getting the impossible, to the democracy advocates, who thought they had a friend in the White House. What’s new, exactly? Read More

There is, it seems, some agreement that the speech last night was a bit of a mess. Bob Schieffer, noting that exit ramps have been constructed before the deployment, observed:  “I just don’t understand the logic of how that works.” John Dickerson at Slate, not exactly the heart of neo-conservatism, writes that he did order a troop increase:

The rest, though, is a bit blurry. According to his speech, Obama is escalating while retreating, adding more troops while also setting a date for their departure. Obama said he was putting pressure on the Afghan government, but he didn’t suggest how. Some of the blurring was by design. He smudged the border between Afghanistan and Pakistan, explaining that while he was sending troops to Afghanistan, the struggle was now more regional than it was when the war started eight years ago.

And David Ignatius was similarly skeptical of the obsession with an exit plan, wondering why the president doesn’t really get the problem with telling the enemy that we have limited patience to fight. He relates his conversation with the president:

He has defined success downward, by focusing on the ability to transfer control to the Afghans. He shows little interest in the big ideas of counterinsurgency and insists he will avoid “a nation-building commitment in Afghanistan.” That will make it easier to declare a “good enough” outcome in July 2011, if not victory.

When I asked Obama if the Taliban wouldn’t simply wait us out, he was dismissive: “This is an argument that I don’t give a lot of credence to, because if you follow the logic of this argument, then you would never leave. Right? Essentially you’d be signing on to have Afghanistan as a protectorate of the United States indefinitely.”

Well, no, actually. You convince the enemy you’ll stay until you win. You win, and then you leave. It really isn’t that hard. As Ignatius notes of the president’s apparent cluelessness: “Obama thinks that setting deadlines will force the Afghans to get their act together at last. That strikes me as the most dubious premise of his strategy. He is telling his adversary that he will start leaving on a certain date, and telling his ally to be ready to take over then, or else.”

But if Obama’s war vision was confused, the account of his own presidency was positively unrecognizable. It seemed that he was speaking of some other presidency, or one he hoped to have had, when he, for example, declared: “We have forged a new beginning between America and the Muslim World — one that recognizes our mutual interest in breaking a cycle of conflict, and that promises a future in which those who kill innocents are isolated by those who stand up for peace and prosperity and human dignity.” What is he talking about? The Middle East “peace process” is in a shambles, and he has left a trail of disappointed and aggrieved Muslims — from the Palestinian Authority, which thought it was getting the impossible, to the democracy advocates, who thought they had a friend in the White House. What’s new, exactly?

But the next line was the jaw dropper: “We must make it clear to every man, woman and child around the world who lives under the dark cloud of tyranny that America will speak out on behalf of their human rights, and tend to the light of freedom, and justice, and opportunity, and respect for the dignity of all peoples.” Well we “must,” but he’s done nothing of the sort, repeatedly downgrading, diminishing, and discarding human rights and democracy promotion. He hasn’t spoken out to or on behalf of the Chinese democracy advocates. When he had the chance, he did nothing to “tend the light of freedom and justice” in Iran. When he could have showed the Dalai Lama that he valued “respect for the dignity of all peoples,” he decided it was more important to show the Chinese Communists his inner toadiness. Really, embellishment in a speech is to be expected, but this was one big lie.

Obama never did say “victory,” and that is telling. It’s not his thing. As a colleague points out, what Obama believes in is leaving. You see, “America will have to show our strength in the way that we end wars and prevent conflict.” I’m sure the Taliban are delighted to hear that, as are our foes around the world, who will be only too happy to have Obama “show strength” by bugging out of hard conflicts. It’s an inanity, the sort of thing a college grad student would say. We show strength in victory. We show strength by standing up to thugs. We show strength by building our military and not penny-pinching on Defense Department budgets. But don’t expect to hear that from this president.

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Bill Richardson’s Remarkable Plan to Disarm Iran

Bill Richardson is not among the top tier of Democratic presidential candidates. But he is notable for having more foreign-policy experience than the leading three: John Edwards, Barack Obama, and Hillary Clinton. He served as UN ambassador from 1997 to 1998 and then went on to head the Department of Energy, where he dealt not only with the problems posed by OPEC and our dependence on imported oil, but also with the dependability and security of America’s arsenal of nuclear weapons.

With a two-theater war under way, and the menace of Iran’s nuclear program looming over the horizon, is Richardson worth a second look? Is he made of presidential timber, or perhaps vice-presidential timber?

We got a glimpse of him this past weekend on Face the Nation, where Bob Schieffer questioned him on what to do about Iran.

Richardson was adamant that he would not have invited the Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to speak at Columbia University and is “glad we didn’t let him go to Ground Zero.” He expressed determination to stop Iranian interference with the American war effort in Iraq: “We cannot have them, obviously, continue helping the [Iranian] Revolutionary Guards in Iraq.” And he is also determined to prevent the ayatollahs from acquiring the most fearsome weapon known to man: “we cannot have Iran have nuclear weapons.”

This is tough talk. What are Richardson’s means for realizing these laudable objectives? The way to accomplish them, he told Schieffer, “perhaps is a carrot-and-stick policy.”

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Bill Richardson is not among the top tier of Democratic presidential candidates. But he is notable for having more foreign-policy experience than the leading three: John Edwards, Barack Obama, and Hillary Clinton. He served as UN ambassador from 1997 to 1998 and then went on to head the Department of Energy, where he dealt not only with the problems posed by OPEC and our dependence on imported oil, but also with the dependability and security of America’s arsenal of nuclear weapons.

With a two-theater war under way, and the menace of Iran’s nuclear program looming over the horizon, is Richardson worth a second look? Is he made of presidential timber, or perhaps vice-presidential timber?

We got a glimpse of him this past weekend on Face the Nation, where Bob Schieffer questioned him on what to do about Iran.

Richardson was adamant that he would not have invited the Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to speak at Columbia University and is “glad we didn’t let him go to Ground Zero.” He expressed determination to stop Iranian interference with the American war effort in Iraq: “We cannot have them, obviously, continue helping the [Iranian] Revolutionary Guards in Iraq.” And he is also determined to prevent the ayatollahs from acquiring the most fearsome weapon known to man: “we cannot have Iran have nuclear weapons.”

This is tough talk. What are Richardson’s means for realizing these laudable objectives? The way to accomplish them, he told Schieffer, “perhaps is a carrot-and-stick policy.”

“Perhaps” a carrot-and-stick policy? Was the tentativeness revealed here just a verbal slip? To answer that, it helps to know just what are Richardson’s carrots and what are his sticks.

To begin with carrot number one, Richardson would not have voted–“as I regret Senator Clinton did”–for a Senate resolution designating Iran’s Revolutionary Guards as terrorists. “This was provocative. It didn’t need to happen.”

Carrot number two would be to cease “calling [the Iranians] names” and “labeling them terrorists,” which is “just making the situation worse and enflaming the Muslim world.”

Carrot number three would be to rule out a military strike against the facilities housing Iran’s nuclear-weapons program. Such a move, said Richardson, would be

enormously unwise, because it would strengthen the hard-liners in Iran like Ahmadinejad. It would embolden those elements in Iran that want to provoke a war against the United States. It would further inflame the Muslim world that is already very strongly against us as we’re trying to resolve the situation in Iraq and the Israeli-Palestinian issue. It would be a disastrous event.

Carrot number four would be to “engage Iran,” something that has to be done with tact. Thus, “I would go around Ahmadinejad. . . . I would go to the moderate Islamic clerics. I would talk to students. I would talk to university professors, business leaders. Forty percent of the vote in Iran in that last presidential election went to a moderate candidate.” Richardson was referring here to the ayatollah Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, who won 35 percent of the vote in a run-off in 2005, has been implicated as an organizer of Iranian terrorism abroad, and is known as one of the fathers of the Iranian nuclear-weapons effort. (It is true that, by comparison with Ahmadinejad, Rafsanjani was indeed the moderate candidate.)

Carrot number five is to help Iran transform its atomic weapons into a peaceful energy program: “we can work with them to develop a civilian nuclear-fuel cycle, perhaps with the Russians.”

Carrot number six would be to withdraw all American forces from neighboring Iraq within eight months of assuming office and then invite Iran to take part in a “reconciliation effort” that would involve an “all-Muslim peacekeeping force headed by the UN.”

Now for Richardson’s sticks. There is none. If this man is presidential or vice-presidential timber, we are talking of balsa wood.

To watch the tough-talking Richardson in action, click below.

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How Bad is Robert Gates?

America’s twenty-second Secretary of Defense came to prominence in the world of intelligence, having risen up through the ranks of the analytical division of the CIA. To anyone familiar with the intractable problems besetting that side of that agency, this was a background that at the very minimum raised questions about whether Gates would be a yes-man, a timid bureaucrat, or an empty suit.

But back in mid-February, Max Boot gave Gates a favorable review here, citing his handling of himself at a gathering of defense officials in Munich. We’ve now had another month of our new SecDef. It is time to ask again: how is he shaping up?

The war is issue number one. Prior to getting his job, Gates served on the Iraq Study Group led by James Baker, which counseled begging Iran and Syria for assistance—“dialogue” was the code word for this used in the report—in extricating ourselves from the conflict and abandoning Iraq to the wolves: the U.S. “must adjust its role in Iraq to encourage the Iraqi people to take control of their own destiny.”

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America’s twenty-second Secretary of Defense came to prominence in the world of intelligence, having risen up through the ranks of the analytical division of the CIA. To anyone familiar with the intractable problems besetting that side of that agency, this was a background that at the very minimum raised questions about whether Gates would be a yes-man, a timid bureaucrat, or an empty suit.

But back in mid-February, Max Boot gave Gates a favorable review here, citing his handling of himself at a gathering of defense officials in Munich. We’ve now had another month of our new SecDef. It is time to ask again: how is he shaping up?

The war is issue number one. Prior to getting his job, Gates served on the Iraq Study Group led by James Baker, which counseled begging Iran and Syria for assistance—“dialogue” was the code word for this used in the report—in extricating ourselves from the conflict and abandoning Iraq to the wolves: the U.S. “must adjust its role in Iraq to encourage the Iraqi people to take control of their own destiny.”

But Gates was on CBS’s Face the Nation with Bob Schieffer yesterday and made a convincing case for national patience with another direction entirely—the current troop surge:

The way I would characterize it is so far, so good. It’s very early. General Petraeus, the commander out there, has said that it’ll probably be summer before we know whether we’re being successful or not. But I would say that the Iraqis are meeting the commitments that they have made to us. They have made the appointments, the troops that they have promised are showing up, they are allowing operations in all neighborhoods, there is very little political interference with military operations. So here, at the very beginning, the commitments that have been made seem to be being kept.

On Face the Nation, Gates was also exceptionally deft in disarming Democratic calls for withdrawal, as called for in a bill before the House of Representatives. His posture here was disarmingly respectful—even as it threw a punch.

I believe everybody involved in this debate is patriotic and looking for the best thing for America. I think most people agree that, across the political spectrum, that leaving Iraq in chaos would be a mistake, a disaster for the United States, and so we’re all wrestling with what’s the best way to bring about a result that serves the long-term interests, not only of the Iraqi people but of the United States. . . . With respect to the specific bill in the House, the concern I have is that if you have specific deadlines and very strict conditions, it makes it difficult, if not impossible, for our commanders to achieve—to achieve their objectives. And frankly, as I read it, the House bill is more about withdrawal, regardless of the circumstances on the ground.

Then there was a side issue that, to judge by the intensity of Schieffer’s questioning, was to CBS not a side issue at all. Last week, General Pace, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, said that homosexual acts are immoral. Gates was pressed hard about this by Schieffer: “a lot of gay people are saying that that is a slur on thousands of people who are serving in the military right now”; and shouldn’t the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy be revised?

Gates got a bit testy answering this, but acquitted himself well:

Look, I’ve got a war in Iraq, a war in Afghanistan, challenges in Iran and North Korea and elsewhere, global war on terror, three budget bills totaling $715 billion. I think I’ve got quite a lot on my plate.

What Gates said about progress in the war on Iraq can be said about him: “So far, so good. It’s very early.”

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