Commentary Magazine


Topic: Boston Globe

Bain Story Recycled From Primaries

The Obama campaign managed to get the Boston Globe to pick up the story nobody else was buying: that Mitt Romney lied about leaving Bain Capital in 1999, based on documents filed with the SEC. As WaPo’s fact-checker Glenn Kessler notes, these claims had already been picked over and rejected by numerous outlets:

But now the Boston Globe has raised the issue again. The story seems to hinge on a quote from a former Securities and Exchange Commission member, which would have more credibility if the Globe had disclosed she was a regular contributor to Democrats. (Interestingly, “The Real Romney,” a book on the former Massachusetts governor, by Boston Globe reporters, states clearly that he left Bain when he went to run the Olympics and details the turmoil that ensued when he suddenly quit, nearly breaking up the partnership.)

We’re considering whether to once again take a deeper look at this, though it really feels like Groundhog Day again. There appears to be some confusion about how partnerships are structured and managed, or what SEC documents mean. (Just because you are listed as an owner of shares does not mean you have a managerial role.)

To accept some of the claims, one would have to believe that Romney, with the advice of his lawyers, lied on government documents and committed a criminal offense. Moreover, you would have to assume he willingly gave up his share to a few years of retirement earnings — potentially worth millions of dollars — so he could say his retirement started in 1999.

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The Obama campaign managed to get the Boston Globe to pick up the story nobody else was buying: that Mitt Romney lied about leaving Bain Capital in 1999, based on documents filed with the SEC. As WaPo’s fact-checker Glenn Kessler notes, these claims had already been picked over and rejected by numerous outlets:

But now the Boston Globe has raised the issue again. The story seems to hinge on a quote from a former Securities and Exchange Commission member, which would have more credibility if the Globe had disclosed she was a regular contributor to Democrats. (Interestingly, “The Real Romney,” a book on the former Massachusetts governor, by Boston Globe reporters, states clearly that he left Bain when he went to run the Olympics and details the turmoil that ensued when he suddenly quit, nearly breaking up the partnership.)

We’re considering whether to once again take a deeper look at this, though it really feels like Groundhog Day again. There appears to be some confusion about how partnerships are structured and managed, or what SEC documents mean. (Just because you are listed as an owner of shares does not mean you have a managerial role.)

To accept some of the claims, one would have to believe that Romney, with the advice of his lawyers, lied on government documents and committed a criminal offense. Moreover, you would have to assume he willingly gave up his share to a few years of retirement earnings — potentially worth millions of dollars — so he could say his retirement started in 1999.

The SEC documents in the Globe piece don’t appear to be new. Here’s WaPo’s Kessler from last January, throwing cold water on a document that the Globe seems to treat as a smoking gun:

In the [2002] Massachusetts [SEC] document, Romney is also listed as 100 percent owner of “Bain Capital Inc.” But there is less than meets the eye here. Bain Capital Inc. was the management firm, which was paid a management fee to run the funds and actually made virtually no profit, since it existed to pay salaries and expenses. After Romney formally left Bain in 2001, a new entity called “Bain Capital LLC” took over the management function.

By virtually all accounts, Romney was focused on the Olympics in the 1999-2002 period. Yet because Romney had not legally separated from Bain, his name is littered across Securities and Exchange Commission filings concerning Bain Capital deals during this period. The crazy quilt of private-equity structures, in some ways, makes his ownership appear even more ominous, as the filings list hundreds of thousands of shares controlled by Romney.

Even so, it is a real stretch to claim that Romney — himself — “closed” these stores. No evidence has emerged that he was involved in the KB Toys transaction. Indeed, when creditors sued over the dividend payment, they named six Bain-controlled entities and three Bain executives who had served on the board of KB Holdings.

The Globe is responsible for its own reporting, but clearly this was a story the Obama campaign has been trying to resurrect. The campaign has been blasting out the Globe article — and strongly-worded comments accusing Romney of either lying or being a criminal — for most of the day. The story is being dutifully picked up by news outlets, but most political reporters can probably see what’s going on here. The Obama campaign is playing dirty pool, planting flimsy stories that had already been settled months ago. Now the media will wade through the SEC documents again, and the Romney campaign will have to answer the same questions it answered last January. Even if this is thoroughly debunked, it hurts the Romney campaign simply because it’s in the news.

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Why So Few David Petraeuses?

Renny McPherson, a former Marine who is now a student at Harvard Business School, raises a good question in the Boston Globe: Why isn’t the military producing more David Petraeuses? That is, commanders who are skilled at the highest level of command where the job is more about politics, diplomacy, and communication than it is about tactical maneuvering on the battlefield. The fact that Petraeus was appointed as Stanley McChrystal’s successor in Afghanistan, which required him to take a step down in the military hierarchy, is a sign of how few generals we have capable of doing the job.

“A large contributor to this failure,” McPherson writes, “is the military’s inflexible system of promotion, which can actively discourage young officers from getting the mind-expanding, challenging experiences that could turn them into potent generals.”

McPherson was involved in interviewing 37 “top military leaders,” who “reported that most beneficial experiences — sustained international experience, civilian graduate education, and taking on special opportunities out of the military mainstream — were the very ones that they felt discouraged from pursuing.” That is a very big problem because of the shift that McPherson rightly identifies:

Over the course of the 20th century, the United States became the dominant world power by advancing the technology of warfare. Now the information revolution, recent conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, and global counter-terrorism have shown that an expanded set of skills is required of our top officers. Today we need military leaders who can process the ever-larger amounts of information coming at them and who can communicate more dexterously up, down, and across; they also must be adept at dealing with nonmilitary institutions and quick to learn foreign cultures.

Petraeus is hardly alone in having the skills needed to tackle such challenges; General Ray Odierno has displayed much of the same skill set. But few others have, and that poses a real problem for the future — one that the Pentagon leadership needs to address as urgently as it addresses the future of expensive procurement programs.

Renny McPherson, a former Marine who is now a student at Harvard Business School, raises a good question in the Boston Globe: Why isn’t the military producing more David Petraeuses? That is, commanders who are skilled at the highest level of command where the job is more about politics, diplomacy, and communication than it is about tactical maneuvering on the battlefield. The fact that Petraeus was appointed as Stanley McChrystal’s successor in Afghanistan, which required him to take a step down in the military hierarchy, is a sign of how few generals we have capable of doing the job.

“A large contributor to this failure,” McPherson writes, “is the military’s inflexible system of promotion, which can actively discourage young officers from getting the mind-expanding, challenging experiences that could turn them into potent generals.”

McPherson was involved in interviewing 37 “top military leaders,” who “reported that most beneficial experiences — sustained international experience, civilian graduate education, and taking on special opportunities out of the military mainstream — were the very ones that they felt discouraged from pursuing.” That is a very big problem because of the shift that McPherson rightly identifies:

Over the course of the 20th century, the United States became the dominant world power by advancing the technology of warfare. Now the information revolution, recent conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, and global counter-terrorism have shown that an expanded set of skills is required of our top officers. Today we need military leaders who can process the ever-larger amounts of information coming at them and who can communicate more dexterously up, down, and across; they also must be adept at dealing with nonmilitary institutions and quick to learn foreign cultures.

Petraeus is hardly alone in having the skills needed to tackle such challenges; General Ray Odierno has displayed much of the same skill set. But few others have, and that poses a real problem for the future — one that the Pentagon leadership needs to address as urgently as it addresses the future of expensive procurement programs.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

The Democrats catch flak for their Stephen Colbert stunt. Steny Hoyer is embarrassed: “House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) said on Sunday that comedian Stephen Colbert should not have appeared before a House subcommittee last week, blasting the move as ‘an embarrassment.’” Nancy Pelosi defends the move, affirming the sense that she’s going to be booted out of the House leadership.

The U.S. and Israeli media are catching on: Soros Street is a fraud. “The Washington Times report also revealed that one of J Street’s major donors was a Hong Kong-based businesswoman named Consolacion Esdicul. According to the tax returns, Esdicul donated $811,697 over three years. Asked if J Street had conducted a background check on Esdicul, [Amy] Spitalnick said she was not at liberty to divulge the process by which it examines whether to accept money from donors.” So maybe the money is Saudi? Or Iranian? Who knows?

Republican Charles Baker catches Gov. Patrick Duval: “With just five weeks to the election, Republican Charles D. Baker has pulled even with Governor Deval Patrick in a gubernatorial race shaped by anti-incumbent sentiment and unusually high excitement among Republican voters, according to a new Boston Globe poll. … Patrick, a Democrat, won support from 35 percent of likely voters, compared with 34 percent for Baker, a statistical tie given the poll’s margin of error.”

It’s not likely that Democrat Lee Fisher will catch Rob Portman in Ohio. “The numbers on the race to replace retiring Republican George Voinovich in the U.S. Senate … were in line with a number of other polls conducted in recent months, with the Republican — former Cincinnati congressman and Bush administration official Rob Portman — holding a 15 percentage point lead over the Democrat Lee Fisher, the state’s lieutenant governor.”

Sen. Barbara Boxer’s dismal record as senator is catching up with her. The liberal San Francisco Chronicle won’t endorse her: “The incumbent, Democrat Barbara Boxer, has failed to distinguish herself during her 18 years in office. There is no reason to believe that another six-year term would bring anything but more of the same uninspired representation. … It is extremely rare that this editorial page would offer no recommendation on any race, particularly one of this importance. This is one necessary exception. Boxer, first elected in 1992, would not rate on anyone’s list of most influential senators. Her most famous moments on Capitol Hill have not been ones of legislative accomplishment, but of delivering partisan shots.” Wow.

You really have to catch Candy Crowley’s State of the Union. After Dick Durbin declares that the Democrats have done everything right, Crowley asks: “So absolutely no culpability on the part of Democrats or the White House. This is all the Republicans’ fault that people are turning away from President Obama?” Priceless.

Chris Wallace catches Mara Liasson: Hasn’t the Obama agenda contributed to business uncertainty and kept billions on the sidelines of the economy? “Yes, I, on that part I totally agree,” admits Liasson.

The Democrats catch flak for their Stephen Colbert stunt. Steny Hoyer is embarrassed: “House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) said on Sunday that comedian Stephen Colbert should not have appeared before a House subcommittee last week, blasting the move as ‘an embarrassment.’” Nancy Pelosi defends the move, affirming the sense that she’s going to be booted out of the House leadership.

The U.S. and Israeli media are catching on: Soros Street is a fraud. “The Washington Times report also revealed that one of J Street’s major donors was a Hong Kong-based businesswoman named Consolacion Esdicul. According to the tax returns, Esdicul donated $811,697 over three years. Asked if J Street had conducted a background check on Esdicul, [Amy] Spitalnick said she was not at liberty to divulge the process by which it examines whether to accept money from donors.” So maybe the money is Saudi? Or Iranian? Who knows?

Republican Charles Baker catches Gov. Patrick Duval: “With just five weeks to the election, Republican Charles D. Baker has pulled even with Governor Deval Patrick in a gubernatorial race shaped by anti-incumbent sentiment and unusually high excitement among Republican voters, according to a new Boston Globe poll. … Patrick, a Democrat, won support from 35 percent of likely voters, compared with 34 percent for Baker, a statistical tie given the poll’s margin of error.”

It’s not likely that Democrat Lee Fisher will catch Rob Portman in Ohio. “The numbers on the race to replace retiring Republican George Voinovich in the U.S. Senate … were in line with a number of other polls conducted in recent months, with the Republican — former Cincinnati congressman and Bush administration official Rob Portman — holding a 15 percentage point lead over the Democrat Lee Fisher, the state’s lieutenant governor.”

Sen. Barbara Boxer’s dismal record as senator is catching up with her. The liberal San Francisco Chronicle won’t endorse her: “The incumbent, Democrat Barbara Boxer, has failed to distinguish herself during her 18 years in office. There is no reason to believe that another six-year term would bring anything but more of the same uninspired representation. … It is extremely rare that this editorial page would offer no recommendation on any race, particularly one of this importance. This is one necessary exception. Boxer, first elected in 1992, would not rate on anyone’s list of most influential senators. Her most famous moments on Capitol Hill have not been ones of legislative accomplishment, but of delivering partisan shots.” Wow.

You really have to catch Candy Crowley’s State of the Union. After Dick Durbin declares that the Democrats have done everything right, Crowley asks: “So absolutely no culpability on the part of Democrats or the White House. This is all the Republicans’ fault that people are turning away from President Obama?” Priceless.

Chris Wallace catches Mara Liasson: Hasn’t the Obama agenda contributed to business uncertainty and kept billions on the sidelines of the economy? “Yes, I, on that part I totally agree,” admits Liasson.

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A Stroll Down Memory Lane

According to USA Today, in an interview Vice President Biden said that

former president George W. Bush deserved some credit for sending additional troops to Iraq in 2007. But even though Biden said the surge worked militarily, he said he didn’t regret his vote in the Senate against it because Bush did not include a plan to address Iraq’s political problems. “I don’t regret a thing, what I said or did about Iraq policy,” he said. It was the Obama administration, Biden said, that put in the plan that led to success. “What was lacking in the past was a coherent political process.”

Where oh where to begin? Perhaps with a short journey down Memory Lane.

In January 2007, after President Bush announced the so-called surge of forces in Iraq, then-Senator Joseph Biden declared: “If he surges another 20, 30 [thousand], or whatever number he’s going to, into Baghdad, it’ll be a tragic mistake.” He called it “doomed” and “a fantasy.”

“The surge isn’t going to work either tactically or strategically,” Biden assured the Boston Globe in the summer of 2007. Even well into 2008, when the surge had made undeniable progress, Biden was still insisting it was a failure, that Bush had no strategy, and that “there is little evidence the Iraqis will settle their differences peacefully any time soon.”

If you’d like to see Biden in his own inimitable words, take a look at this.

One would be hard pressed to think of another person who was as persistently and consistently wrong about the surge as Biden (though Barack Obama would give him a good run for his money). Biden went so far as to advocate dividing up Iraq into three parts based on ethnicity, one of the more ill-informed and dangerous ideas to emerge among war critics.

The truth is that if Joe Biden had had his way, the war would have been lost, Iraq would probably be engulfed in something close to genocide, al-Qaeda would have emerged with its most important victory ever, and America would have sustained a defeat far worse than it did in Vietnam.

As for Biden’s claim that what was lacking in the past was a “coherent political process,” let’s be generous to the vice president: he doesn’t know what he’s talking about. The then-American ambassador to Iraq, Ryan Crocker, was one of its outstanding diplomats. And unlike the situation in Afghanistan under the Obama administration, in Iraq the commanding general at the time (David Petraeus) and the U.S. ambassador (Crocker) worked hand-in-glove. They were an extraordinarily effective team. In order to refresh Biden’s memory of the coherent political process that was in place, he might want to review Ambassador Crocker’s Senate testimony from September 2007, before a committee Biden himself sat on.

Of course, none of what Biden said is especially surprising. Over the years he has shown himself to be loquacious, personable, comically self-important (this video is priceless), and a somewhat buffoonish figure (who can forget this gem or these incidents here and here). Beyond that, if you go back to his record since he was first elected to Congress in the early 1970s, you will find few if any members of Congress whose record on national-security matters can be judged to have been as consistently bad as Biden’s (see here).

Over the years, Mr. Biden has said a countless number of things that are silly and wrong. We can add what he said to USA Today to the list. And you can bet there will be plenty more to come.

According to USA Today, in an interview Vice President Biden said that

former president George W. Bush deserved some credit for sending additional troops to Iraq in 2007. But even though Biden said the surge worked militarily, he said he didn’t regret his vote in the Senate against it because Bush did not include a plan to address Iraq’s political problems. “I don’t regret a thing, what I said or did about Iraq policy,” he said. It was the Obama administration, Biden said, that put in the plan that led to success. “What was lacking in the past was a coherent political process.”

Where oh where to begin? Perhaps with a short journey down Memory Lane.

In January 2007, after President Bush announced the so-called surge of forces in Iraq, then-Senator Joseph Biden declared: “If he surges another 20, 30 [thousand], or whatever number he’s going to, into Baghdad, it’ll be a tragic mistake.” He called it “doomed” and “a fantasy.”

“The surge isn’t going to work either tactically or strategically,” Biden assured the Boston Globe in the summer of 2007. Even well into 2008, when the surge had made undeniable progress, Biden was still insisting it was a failure, that Bush had no strategy, and that “there is little evidence the Iraqis will settle their differences peacefully any time soon.”

If you’d like to see Biden in his own inimitable words, take a look at this.

One would be hard pressed to think of another person who was as persistently and consistently wrong about the surge as Biden (though Barack Obama would give him a good run for his money). Biden went so far as to advocate dividing up Iraq into three parts based on ethnicity, one of the more ill-informed and dangerous ideas to emerge among war critics.

The truth is that if Joe Biden had had his way, the war would have been lost, Iraq would probably be engulfed in something close to genocide, al-Qaeda would have emerged with its most important victory ever, and America would have sustained a defeat far worse than it did in Vietnam.

As for Biden’s claim that what was lacking in the past was a “coherent political process,” let’s be generous to the vice president: he doesn’t know what he’s talking about. The then-American ambassador to Iraq, Ryan Crocker, was one of its outstanding diplomats. And unlike the situation in Afghanistan under the Obama administration, in Iraq the commanding general at the time (David Petraeus) and the U.S. ambassador (Crocker) worked hand-in-glove. They were an extraordinarily effective team. In order to refresh Biden’s memory of the coherent political process that was in place, he might want to review Ambassador Crocker’s Senate testimony from September 2007, before a committee Biden himself sat on.

Of course, none of what Biden said is especially surprising. Over the years he has shown himself to be loquacious, personable, comically self-important (this video is priceless), and a somewhat buffoonish figure (who can forget this gem or these incidents here and here). Beyond that, if you go back to his record since he was first elected to Congress in the early 1970s, you will find few if any members of Congress whose record on national-security matters can be judged to have been as consistently bad as Biden’s (see here).

Over the years, Mr. Biden has said a countless number of things that are silly and wrong. We can add what he said to USA Today to the list. And you can bet there will be plenty more to come.

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Jeb Bush Hiding in Plain Sight?

Joshua GreenAtlantic‘s fine political and investigative journalist, takes to the Boston Globe to make some observations about Jeb Bush. He writes:

[Mitt] Romney may have bested [in PAC fundraising] Sarah Palin, Newt Gingrich, and the rest of the field. But another potent political force — one who raised no money and has no PAC — could still win the nomination were he inclined to pursue it: Jeb Bush is the candidate hiding in plain sight. The brother and son of presidents stepped back from elected politics after his second term as Florida governor ended three years ago. At 57, he’s in his prime.

He is not buying that the Bush name is a problem:

For one thing, no obvious frontrunner has emerged nor seems likely to. … Another way of putting it is that each of the leading candidates is somehow flawed … Bush, on the other hand, has a solid conservative record that wasn’t amassed in Washington and broad appeal in a critical state; for a party conspicuously lacking a positive agenda, he’s also known as an ideas guy. Bush hasn’t followed the Tea Partiers to the political fringes — he opposed Arizona’s racial profiling law, for instance — but neither has he ignored them.

Green is spot on, but there is a potential deal breaker. It’s not at all clear that Jeb Bush wants to make a run and take a new round of ammunition aimed at his brother. This, however, is not an obstacle but a choice. If Jeb Bush, urged by Republicans anxious if not desperate to find a solid, electable conservative, decides his country and party need him, there’s no reason he wouldn’t be at or near the top of the pack of 2012 contenders. But there is plenty of time — no one really wants to hear announcements for 2012 candidates in the summer of 2010.

Joshua GreenAtlantic‘s fine political and investigative journalist, takes to the Boston Globe to make some observations about Jeb Bush. He writes:

[Mitt] Romney may have bested [in PAC fundraising] Sarah Palin, Newt Gingrich, and the rest of the field. But another potent political force — one who raised no money and has no PAC — could still win the nomination were he inclined to pursue it: Jeb Bush is the candidate hiding in plain sight. The brother and son of presidents stepped back from elected politics after his second term as Florida governor ended three years ago. At 57, he’s in his prime.

He is not buying that the Bush name is a problem:

For one thing, no obvious frontrunner has emerged nor seems likely to. … Another way of putting it is that each of the leading candidates is somehow flawed … Bush, on the other hand, has a solid conservative record that wasn’t amassed in Washington and broad appeal in a critical state; for a party conspicuously lacking a positive agenda, he’s also known as an ideas guy. Bush hasn’t followed the Tea Partiers to the political fringes — he opposed Arizona’s racial profiling law, for instance — but neither has he ignored them.

Green is spot on, but there is a potential deal breaker. It’s not at all clear that Jeb Bush wants to make a run and take a new round of ammunition aimed at his brother. This, however, is not an obstacle but a choice. If Jeb Bush, urged by Republicans anxious if not desperate to find a solid, electable conservative, decides his country and party need him, there’s no reason he wouldn’t be at or near the top of the pack of 2012 contenders. But there is plenty of time — no one really wants to hear announcements for 2012 candidates in the summer of 2010.

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The Real Victims of Unions’ Anti-Israel Boycotts

There is a direct and disturbing link between the growing anti-Israel radicalism of American unions that J.E. Dyer detailed yesterday and the horrific treatment of union activists in Iran described by columnist Sohrab Ahmari in both the Boston Globe and the International Herald Tribune.

Ahmari told of Mansour Osanloo, who had his tongue slit for the crime of organizing “17,000 transport workers to form Iran’s first post-Revolution independent union” in 2005 and is still in jail today. And of teacher Farzad Kamangar, who was executed along with four others for the crime of organizing a nationwide hunger strike by teachers “to protest unpaid wages and the arbitrary detention of teachers who question state education policy.”

The article concluded with a plea: “The Iranian labor movement deserves the support of Western progressives, just as American unions spoke out in support of Lech Walesa’s Solidarity during the 1980s.”

Doing so, Ahmari noted, could help the entire Iranian people throw off the yoke of their repressive regime: Tehran brutally suppresses union activism precisely because “the mullahs know that it took a massive general strike by Iranian workers to finally topple the shah — and usher in their own rise to power.” But union leaders need not support this larger goal in order to feel sympathy for colleagues being imprisoned, tortured, and killed for the crime of seeking higher wages and child-care allowances for female workers, as Osanloo was — or just for seeking to be paid at all, as Kamangar was.

At least, so one would think. But if any unions have responded to Ahmari’s plea, they have done so too far under the media radar for me to have noticed — or in other words, too quietly to make any difference.

In contrast, I can name a long list of labor unions worldwide that have loudly proclaimed planned boycotts of Israel, including Britain’s University and College Union (representing university lecturers), the Canadian Union of Public Employees (Ontario branch), the Swedish Port Workers Union, and an Italian food and retailing union (Flaica-Uniti-Cub). Yet Israel not only has dozens of independent and powerful labor unions of its own but also allows the free operation of dozens of independent trade unions in the “occupied territories.” Israel has not even interfered when Palestinian unions elected leaders affiliated with Hamas, despite deeming Hamas an illegal terrorist organization.

And this, of course, is precisely the problem. All human beings have limited time and energy. Thus if American and European union activists focus all their energy on Israel — where union organizers operate freely, with no fear of jail or torture — they have little to spare for those who need them most: their imprisoned, tortured, and executed fellow activists in Iran.

The irony is that Israel hasn’t even suffered much from all these boycotts. Instead, the price is being paid by the Mansour Osanloos and Farzad Kamangars of the world, whose cries for help are going unnoticed amid the din of all the anti-Israel noise.

There is a direct and disturbing link between the growing anti-Israel radicalism of American unions that J.E. Dyer detailed yesterday and the horrific treatment of union activists in Iran described by columnist Sohrab Ahmari in both the Boston Globe and the International Herald Tribune.

Ahmari told of Mansour Osanloo, who had his tongue slit for the crime of organizing “17,000 transport workers to form Iran’s first post-Revolution independent union” in 2005 and is still in jail today. And of teacher Farzad Kamangar, who was executed along with four others for the crime of organizing a nationwide hunger strike by teachers “to protest unpaid wages and the arbitrary detention of teachers who question state education policy.”

The article concluded with a plea: “The Iranian labor movement deserves the support of Western progressives, just as American unions spoke out in support of Lech Walesa’s Solidarity during the 1980s.”

Doing so, Ahmari noted, could help the entire Iranian people throw off the yoke of their repressive regime: Tehran brutally suppresses union activism precisely because “the mullahs know that it took a massive general strike by Iranian workers to finally topple the shah — and usher in their own rise to power.” But union leaders need not support this larger goal in order to feel sympathy for colleagues being imprisoned, tortured, and killed for the crime of seeking higher wages and child-care allowances for female workers, as Osanloo was — or just for seeking to be paid at all, as Kamangar was.

At least, so one would think. But if any unions have responded to Ahmari’s plea, they have done so too far under the media radar for me to have noticed — or in other words, too quietly to make any difference.

In contrast, I can name a long list of labor unions worldwide that have loudly proclaimed planned boycotts of Israel, including Britain’s University and College Union (representing university lecturers), the Canadian Union of Public Employees (Ontario branch), the Swedish Port Workers Union, and an Italian food and retailing union (Flaica-Uniti-Cub). Yet Israel not only has dozens of independent and powerful labor unions of its own but also allows the free operation of dozens of independent trade unions in the “occupied territories.” Israel has not even interfered when Palestinian unions elected leaders affiliated with Hamas, despite deeming Hamas an illegal terrorist organization.

And this, of course, is precisely the problem. All human beings have limited time and energy. Thus if American and European union activists focus all their energy on Israel — where union organizers operate freely, with no fear of jail or torture — they have little to spare for those who need them most: their imprisoned, tortured, and executed fellow activists in Iran.

The irony is that Israel hasn’t even suffered much from all these boycotts. Instead, the price is being paid by the Mansour Osanloos and Farzad Kamangars of the world, whose cries for help are going unnoticed amid the din of all the anti-Israel noise.

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Whittling Away at Bipartisan Support of Israel

Jeff Jacoby, the Boston Globe‘s excellent columnist, puts his finger on a disturbing trend: the increasing partisan split over Israel. This split was partially masked by the fact that a bipartisan group of 333 House members signed a letter in support of Israel — in effect, a rebuke to President Obama — organized by Majority Leader Steny Hoyer and Minority Whip Eric Cantor. But, as Jeff notes, “only seven Republicans… declined to sign the letter, compared with 91 Democrats — more than a third of the entire Democratic caucus.” Similarly, while the Gallup poll shows that 67 percent of Americans have a favorable view of Israel and only 15 percent support the Palestinians, there is a partisan split hidden in the numbers:

While support for Israel vs. the Palestinians has climbed to a stratospheric 85 percent among Republicans, the comparable figure for Democrats is an anemic 48 percent. (It was 60 percent for independents.)

These figures are hardly cause for panic. Support for Israel remains deep and strong in American politics, but you can see that the hard Left’s turn against Israel, which has been getting more pronounced for decades, is starting to affect the Democratic mainstream. My concern is that President Obama’s sharp rebukes of Prime Minister Netanyahu will further drive down support in his party for Israel — especially if the president decides to mount a concerted public campaign painting Israel as the culprit in the peace talks. For the time being, pro-Israel sentiment on Capitol Hill will somewhat rein in the president’s ability to punish Israel (although he would have a free hand not to veto the usual anti-Israel resolutions in the United Nations Security Council). But for how much longer can Israel count on the support of Democratic and Republican administrations alike? I don’t know, and that worries me — as it should worry all supporters of Israel.

Jeff Jacoby, the Boston Globe‘s excellent columnist, puts his finger on a disturbing trend: the increasing partisan split over Israel. This split was partially masked by the fact that a bipartisan group of 333 House members signed a letter in support of Israel — in effect, a rebuke to President Obama — organized by Majority Leader Steny Hoyer and Minority Whip Eric Cantor. But, as Jeff notes, “only seven Republicans… declined to sign the letter, compared with 91 Democrats — more than a third of the entire Democratic caucus.” Similarly, while the Gallup poll shows that 67 percent of Americans have a favorable view of Israel and only 15 percent support the Palestinians, there is a partisan split hidden in the numbers:

While support for Israel vs. the Palestinians has climbed to a stratospheric 85 percent among Republicans, the comparable figure for Democrats is an anemic 48 percent. (It was 60 percent for independents.)

These figures are hardly cause for panic. Support for Israel remains deep and strong in American politics, but you can see that the hard Left’s turn against Israel, which has been getting more pronounced for decades, is starting to affect the Democratic mainstream. My concern is that President Obama’s sharp rebukes of Prime Minister Netanyahu will further drive down support in his party for Israel — especially if the president decides to mount a concerted public campaign painting Israel as the culprit in the peace talks. For the time being, pro-Israel sentiment on Capitol Hill will somewhat rein in the president’s ability to punish Israel (although he would have a free hand not to veto the usual anti-Israel resolutions in the United Nations Security Council). But for how much longer can Israel count on the support of Democratic and Republican administrations alike? I don’t know, and that worries me — as it should worry all supporters of Israel.

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Shocked, Shocked the Media Missed the Story

Howard Kurtz observes that, once again, the mainstream media was stunned by a story they never saw coming. They never saw the Scott Brown wave building, he writes:

The mainstream media were lulled into complacency by Coakley’s big lead in the polls and Massachusetts’s reputation as the bluest of blue states.

“The national press, and frankly to some extent the local press, were taken by surprise,” says Mark Jurkowitz, the Boston Globe’s former media reporter. “The failure here was not to pick up on what was going on out there in the ether. A lot of journalists didn’t know who Scott Brown was or failed to take him seriously because he was a Republican running in an overwhelmingly Democratic state,” says Jurkowitz, now associate director of the Project for Excellence in Journalism.

One can understand that at the onset, the race seemed like a slam dunk for the Democrats. Martha Coakley was up 30 points in the polls. But as weeks passed and polls shifted, the mainstream media continued to snooze. The imbalance in crowd size and enthusiasm was evident, yet the media narrative didn’t change. Martha Coakley’s gaffes mounted, but the MSM plodded along. Conservative outlets and analysts who predicted a Brown win or even a close vote were derided as hopelessly out of touch.

This is nothing new. The mainstream media are usually surprised by stories unfavorable to the liberal narrative. For months in late 2007 and early 2008, they feigned ignorance of the Iraq surge’s success, until candidate Barack Obama visited and there was a mad scramble to catch up to the story. The New York Times ignored the Reverend Wright story for weeks during the campaign. The Van Jones story also caught the liberal media unaware. The ACORN scandal did too. And the New Jersey and Virginia gubernatorial GOP victories seemed to come out of nowhere — but these could then be ignored, they hastened to add, since they weren’t reflective of any national trend (until Scott Brown made it a trifecta). Then the tea party protest movement was ignored or mocked, as were the town hall protests. Notice how the ignored stories all share a common characteristic: bad news for the Left.

The media never seem to learn or improve. The pattern repeats because this is inevitably what comes from discounting facts adverse to one side and minimizing grassroots activism on the Right. When you deride and name-call citizen activists, you wind up missing entire political movements.

The media’s “slice of reality” coverage, of course, only reinforces the predilection of this White House to ignore bad news. It’s not real news, after all, if it’s on Fox. Rasmussen isn’t a real pollster. Gallup is like a 6-year-old with a crayon. And then you wake up only to find that the president’s approval is below 50 percent, the filibuster-proof Senate is no more, ObamaCare is comatose, and the Right has forged an alliance between independents, populists, and  mainstream conservatives. Funny how that happens when you’re pretending not to notice the tea party protests outside your window or are attempting to delegitimize one of the few new outlets actually covering all this news you’d rather forget.

Howard Kurtz observes that, once again, the mainstream media was stunned by a story they never saw coming. They never saw the Scott Brown wave building, he writes:

The mainstream media were lulled into complacency by Coakley’s big lead in the polls and Massachusetts’s reputation as the bluest of blue states.

“The national press, and frankly to some extent the local press, were taken by surprise,” says Mark Jurkowitz, the Boston Globe’s former media reporter. “The failure here was not to pick up on what was going on out there in the ether. A lot of journalists didn’t know who Scott Brown was or failed to take him seriously because he was a Republican running in an overwhelmingly Democratic state,” says Jurkowitz, now associate director of the Project for Excellence in Journalism.

One can understand that at the onset, the race seemed like a slam dunk for the Democrats. Martha Coakley was up 30 points in the polls. But as weeks passed and polls shifted, the mainstream media continued to snooze. The imbalance in crowd size and enthusiasm was evident, yet the media narrative didn’t change. Martha Coakley’s gaffes mounted, but the MSM plodded along. Conservative outlets and analysts who predicted a Brown win or even a close vote were derided as hopelessly out of touch.

This is nothing new. The mainstream media are usually surprised by stories unfavorable to the liberal narrative. For months in late 2007 and early 2008, they feigned ignorance of the Iraq surge’s success, until candidate Barack Obama visited and there was a mad scramble to catch up to the story. The New York Times ignored the Reverend Wright story for weeks during the campaign. The Van Jones story also caught the liberal media unaware. The ACORN scandal did too. And the New Jersey and Virginia gubernatorial GOP victories seemed to come out of nowhere — but these could then be ignored, they hastened to add, since they weren’t reflective of any national trend (until Scott Brown made it a trifecta). Then the tea party protest movement was ignored or mocked, as were the town hall protests. Notice how the ignored stories all share a common characteristic: bad news for the Left.

The media never seem to learn or improve. The pattern repeats because this is inevitably what comes from discounting facts adverse to one side and minimizing grassroots activism on the Right. When you deride and name-call citizen activists, you wind up missing entire political movements.

The media’s “slice of reality” coverage, of course, only reinforces the predilection of this White House to ignore bad news. It’s not real news, after all, if it’s on Fox. Rasmussen isn’t a real pollster. Gallup is like a 6-year-old with a crayon. And then you wake up only to find that the president’s approval is below 50 percent, the filibuster-proof Senate is no more, ObamaCare is comatose, and the Right has forged an alliance between independents, populists, and  mainstream conservatives. Funny how that happens when you’re pretending not to notice the tea party protests outside your window or are attempting to delegitimize one of the few new outlets actually covering all this news you’d rather forget.

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All Local Politics Is National

Jen cites a USA Today/Gallup poll that finds an overwhelming 72 percent of those surveyed Wednesday say Brown’s victory “reflects frustrations shared by many Americans, and the president and members of Congress should pay attention to it.” Just 18 percent say it “reflects political conditions in Massachusetts and doesn’t have a larger meaning for national politics.”

That will come to news to E.J. Dionne Jr., who, in a frantic pre-spin piece over at the Washington Post, wrote, “the important local factors of the sort [the Boston Globe's Joan] Vennochi underscores shouldn’t be overlooked in the effort to draw grand lessons about what this race means for the future of Obama, liberalism and our republic itself. Election results rarely have a single explanation.” Elsewhere in his PostPartisan piece, Dionne quotes Tip O’Neill’s line “All politics is still local.”

How convenient for E.J. to stumble across this insight just before the Democratic party’s historic loss in Massachusetts. Of course, every non-presidential election has some element of local politics involved; what made the Massachusetts race unusual is the degree to which it was nationalized and had national implications.

It should be said that Dionne’s track record is fairly spotty during the Age of Obama. Last week he predicted that the national attention of the race came just in the nick of time and that Martha Coakley would pull out a victory in his home state. And back in May, Dionne was counseling Republicans that they had to decide between “doctrinal purity” and winning — and that winning meant nominating “Obama huggers” — Republicans who had figuratively embraced the Obama agenda and literally embraced Obama himself.

Right now you can hardly find Democrats who want to hug Obama, figuratively or literally; and perhaps no non-presidential election in our lifetime has had larger meaning for national politics. The political ground has been shifting underneath us for many months now; much of the political class has ignored it. It will be interesting to see if liberals end their self-delusion in the wake of Brown’s epic win. I rather doubt they will.

Jen cites a USA Today/Gallup poll that finds an overwhelming 72 percent of those surveyed Wednesday say Brown’s victory “reflects frustrations shared by many Americans, and the president and members of Congress should pay attention to it.” Just 18 percent say it “reflects political conditions in Massachusetts and doesn’t have a larger meaning for national politics.”

That will come to news to E.J. Dionne Jr., who, in a frantic pre-spin piece over at the Washington Post, wrote, “the important local factors of the sort [the Boston Globe's Joan] Vennochi underscores shouldn’t be overlooked in the effort to draw grand lessons about what this race means for the future of Obama, liberalism and our republic itself. Election results rarely have a single explanation.” Elsewhere in his PostPartisan piece, Dionne quotes Tip O’Neill’s line “All politics is still local.”

How convenient for E.J. to stumble across this insight just before the Democratic party’s historic loss in Massachusetts. Of course, every non-presidential election has some element of local politics involved; what made the Massachusetts race unusual is the degree to which it was nationalized and had national implications.

It should be said that Dionne’s track record is fairly spotty during the Age of Obama. Last week he predicted that the national attention of the race came just in the nick of time and that Martha Coakley would pull out a victory in his home state. And back in May, Dionne was counseling Republicans that they had to decide between “doctrinal purity” and winning — and that winning meant nominating “Obama huggers” — Republicans who had figuratively embraced the Obama agenda and literally embraced Obama himself.

Right now you can hardly find Democrats who want to hug Obama, figuratively or literally; and perhaps no non-presidential election in our lifetime has had larger meaning for national politics. The political ground has been shifting underneath us for many months now; much of the political class has ignored it. It will be interesting to see if liberals end their self-delusion in the wake of Brown’s epic win. I rather doubt they will.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Charlie Cook says Scott Brown in now favored. Well, one poll has him up almost 10 points.

My, what a difference a year makes. From the Boston Globe no less: “The feverish excitement that propelled Barack Obama and scores of other Democrats to victory in 2008 has all but evaporated, worrying party leaders who are struggling to invigorate the base before Tuesday’s Massachusetts Senate race and November’s critical midterm contests, pollsters and party activists said.”

It might help if Obama were as good as Bill Clinton on the stump. Byron York reports that “it’s impossible to escape the conclusion that Clinton just blew Obama’s doors off. Obama’s speech was halting, wandering, and humorless; the president looked as if he didn’t want to be there. There’s no doubt the crowd was excited to see Obama, but he seemed so hesitant and out-of-rhythm at the top that it appeared he might have been having teleprompter trouble, and he was also clearly rattled and unable to handle the completely-predictable presence of a heckler.”

CNN reports: “Multiple advisers to President Obama have privately told party officials that they believe Democrat Martha Coakley is going to lose Tuesday’s special election to fill the Massachusetts Senate seat held by the late Ted Kennedy for more than 40 years, several Democratic sources told CNN Sunday.” Then going to Massachusetts was sort of like going to Copenhagen for the Olympics (and again for the climate-change confab) — at some point it might be a good idea to stop demonstrating Obama’s ineffectiveness.

Things have gotten so sticky for Democrats that Ben Nelson “offers to give back his ‘bribe’.” Might be too late: his job approval has dropped to 42 percent.

More from the Democrats’ gloom-and-doom file: Friday, Rep. Vic Snyder (D-Ark.) announced his retirement. Plus, a “SurveyUSA poll shows Rep. Steve Driehaus (D-Ohio), a freshman Democrat who represents the Cincinnati area, losing to former Republican congressman Steve Chabot, 56 to 39 percent.” He voted for both ObamaCare and cap-and-trade.

This take from Sen. Mitch McConnell sounds right: “Massachusetts is going to be a very, very close race regardless of who wins. … Regardless of who wins, we have here in effect a referendum on this national healthcare bill. The American people are telling us: ‘Please don’t pass it.’ … I think the politics are toxic for the Democrats either way.”

Lanny Davis at least doesn’t sound divorced from reality, like his fellow Democrats: “If Democrats lose in Massachusetts, it will simply mean Democrats and President Obama need find a new center to enact health care and other progressive legislation – meaning, they must sit down with Lindsey Graham, Olympia Snowe, Susan Collins, Orrin Hatch, John McCain and other GOP Senators with long records of bipartisan legislating — and moderate Democrats Ben Nelson, Blanche Lincoln, Evan Bayh, Mark Pryor, Mary Landrieu and others –and create a new health care bill that can command broad bipartisan support.” Imagine if Obama had done that from the start — New Jersey, Virginia, and Massachusetts might have looked a whole lot different, and Byron Dorgan might be running for re-election.

Charlie Cook says Scott Brown in now favored. Well, one poll has him up almost 10 points.

My, what a difference a year makes. From the Boston Globe no less: “The feverish excitement that propelled Barack Obama and scores of other Democrats to victory in 2008 has all but evaporated, worrying party leaders who are struggling to invigorate the base before Tuesday’s Massachusetts Senate race and November’s critical midterm contests, pollsters and party activists said.”

It might help if Obama were as good as Bill Clinton on the stump. Byron York reports that “it’s impossible to escape the conclusion that Clinton just blew Obama’s doors off. Obama’s speech was halting, wandering, and humorless; the president looked as if he didn’t want to be there. There’s no doubt the crowd was excited to see Obama, but he seemed so hesitant and out-of-rhythm at the top that it appeared he might have been having teleprompter trouble, and he was also clearly rattled and unable to handle the completely-predictable presence of a heckler.”

CNN reports: “Multiple advisers to President Obama have privately told party officials that they believe Democrat Martha Coakley is going to lose Tuesday’s special election to fill the Massachusetts Senate seat held by the late Ted Kennedy for more than 40 years, several Democratic sources told CNN Sunday.” Then going to Massachusetts was sort of like going to Copenhagen for the Olympics (and again for the climate-change confab) — at some point it might be a good idea to stop demonstrating Obama’s ineffectiveness.

Things have gotten so sticky for Democrats that Ben Nelson “offers to give back his ‘bribe’.” Might be too late: his job approval has dropped to 42 percent.

More from the Democrats’ gloom-and-doom file: Friday, Rep. Vic Snyder (D-Ark.) announced his retirement. Plus, a “SurveyUSA poll shows Rep. Steve Driehaus (D-Ohio), a freshman Democrat who represents the Cincinnati area, losing to former Republican congressman Steve Chabot, 56 to 39 percent.” He voted for both ObamaCare and cap-and-trade.

This take from Sen. Mitch McConnell sounds right: “Massachusetts is going to be a very, very close race regardless of who wins. … Regardless of who wins, we have here in effect a referendum on this national healthcare bill. The American people are telling us: ‘Please don’t pass it.’ … I think the politics are toxic for the Democrats either way.”

Lanny Davis at least doesn’t sound divorced from reality, like his fellow Democrats: “If Democrats lose in Massachusetts, it will simply mean Democrats and President Obama need find a new center to enact health care and other progressive legislation – meaning, they must sit down with Lindsey Graham, Olympia Snowe, Susan Collins, Orrin Hatch, John McCain and other GOP Senators with long records of bipartisan legislating — and moderate Democrats Ben Nelson, Blanche Lincoln, Evan Bayh, Mark Pryor, Mary Landrieu and others –and create a new health care bill that can command broad bipartisan support.” Imagine if Obama had done that from the start — New Jersey, Virginia, and Massachusetts might have looked a whole lot different, and Byron Dorgan might be running for re-election.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

The party of “no” is ahead in the congressional generic poll.

All that time “engaging” Iran was supposed to prepare the ground for international sanctions. But China and Russia are as unhelpful as ever. China sent only a low-level flunky to the international meeting: “China’s virtual snub has caused consternation among the four Western powers in the group, which had hoped to use the meeting to reach an agreement on whether to begin drafting a Security Council resolution on a fourth round of U.N. sanctions against Tehran.” And Russia thinks there is “still time for meaningful political engagement and efforts to find a solution.” I wonder if the Czech Republic and Poland can get their missile-defense systems back now.

Martha Coakley tells the Big Lie the weekend before the election, accusing Scott Brown of wanting to turn away rape victims from hospitals. It is so ludicrous and false (even by Boston Globe standards) that one wonders if that will be the final nail in her coffin.

More bad polling news for Coakley suggests that she was desperate to throw the long bomb.

Let’s get this straight: if ObamaCare proves to be so unpopular that Massachusetts sends a Republican to the Senate, the Democrats will try to force the hugely unpopular bill through with a bare 51-vote majority? Yup: “Democrats are prepared to use a budgetary procedure to pass healthcare reform legislation if they lose a key Senate race on Tuesday, a House leader said this weekend. … Senate Democrats had previously ruled out using reconciliation, reasoning that the maneuver was politically and procedurally risky. The tactic, for instance, leaves it up to the Senate parliamentarian to decide whether elements of the bill under consideration are relevant to the budget process, risking reforms seen as critical to Democrats’ reform efforts.” There is no reason to ever listen to the voters, they must figure.

Is there any wonder that there’s an “enthusiasm gap” in Massachusetts?

Obama is now resorting to good old-fashioned business-bashing: “The White House has spent months imploring banks to lend more money, so will President Obama’s new proposal to extract $117 billion from bank capital encourage new bank lending? Just asking. Welcome to one more installment in Washington’s year-long crusade to revive private business by assailing and soaking it. Mr. Obama’s new ‘Financial Crisis Responsibility Fee’—please don’t call it a tax—is being sold as a way to cover expected losses in the Troubled Asset Relief Program. That sounds reasonable, except that the banks designated to pay the fee aren’t those responsible for the losses. With the exception of Citigroup, those banks have repaid their TARP money with interest.”

Dana Milbank chides the Democrats for meeting in a bunker but then regurgitates the mind-numbingly silly and unsubstantiated mantra that has sent them marching over the political cliff: “They can pass health-care reform and have a losing year, or they can shelve health-care reform and have a disastrous year. Voters may not like the health-care bill, but they’ll punish the majority party even more for dithering and drifting without accomplishing anything.” Actually, I think they’re punishing them for ignoring the voters’ clear message.

The party of “no” is ahead in the congressional generic poll.

All that time “engaging” Iran was supposed to prepare the ground for international sanctions. But China and Russia are as unhelpful as ever. China sent only a low-level flunky to the international meeting: “China’s virtual snub has caused consternation among the four Western powers in the group, which had hoped to use the meeting to reach an agreement on whether to begin drafting a Security Council resolution on a fourth round of U.N. sanctions against Tehran.” And Russia thinks there is “still time for meaningful political engagement and efforts to find a solution.” I wonder if the Czech Republic and Poland can get their missile-defense systems back now.

Martha Coakley tells the Big Lie the weekend before the election, accusing Scott Brown of wanting to turn away rape victims from hospitals. It is so ludicrous and false (even by Boston Globe standards) that one wonders if that will be the final nail in her coffin.

More bad polling news for Coakley suggests that she was desperate to throw the long bomb.

Let’s get this straight: if ObamaCare proves to be so unpopular that Massachusetts sends a Republican to the Senate, the Democrats will try to force the hugely unpopular bill through with a bare 51-vote majority? Yup: “Democrats are prepared to use a budgetary procedure to pass healthcare reform legislation if they lose a key Senate race on Tuesday, a House leader said this weekend. … Senate Democrats had previously ruled out using reconciliation, reasoning that the maneuver was politically and procedurally risky. The tactic, for instance, leaves it up to the Senate parliamentarian to decide whether elements of the bill under consideration are relevant to the budget process, risking reforms seen as critical to Democrats’ reform efforts.” There is no reason to ever listen to the voters, they must figure.

Is there any wonder that there’s an “enthusiasm gap” in Massachusetts?

Obama is now resorting to good old-fashioned business-bashing: “The White House has spent months imploring banks to lend more money, so will President Obama’s new proposal to extract $117 billion from bank capital encourage new bank lending? Just asking. Welcome to one more installment in Washington’s year-long crusade to revive private business by assailing and soaking it. Mr. Obama’s new ‘Financial Crisis Responsibility Fee’—please don’t call it a tax—is being sold as a way to cover expected losses in the Troubled Asset Relief Program. That sounds reasonable, except that the banks designated to pay the fee aren’t those responsible for the losses. With the exception of Citigroup, those banks have repaid their TARP money with interest.”

Dana Milbank chides the Democrats for meeting in a bunker but then regurgitates the mind-numbingly silly and unsubstantiated mantra that has sent them marching over the political cliff: “They can pass health-care reform and have a losing year, or they can shelve health-care reform and have a disastrous year. Voters may not like the health-care bill, but they’ll punish the majority party even more for dithering and drifting without accomplishing anything.” Actually, I think they’re punishing them for ignoring the voters’ clear message.

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The Massachusetts Polls and the November Election

The most startling news since Barack Obama’s colossal victory over Hillary Clinton in Iowa was the Democratic poll in Massachusetts the other day showing the little-known Republican Scott Brown beating the state’s attorney general, Martha Coakley, in the special contest for the late Ted Kennedy’s Senate seat by a  point. A subsequent poll by the Boston Globe had the Democrat winning by 15. Somebody is very wrong here, obviously, and we won’t know until next Tuesday’s election which poll got the Massachusetts electorate right. But if the Democratic poll is closer to the truth, and if Coakley can’t come up with something to pull Brown’s numbers down over the next week, she is going to lose and a Republican is going to win an ineffable symbolic victory against Barack Obama and especially against health care.

And yet Republican politicians shouldn’t celebrate just yet—and not because of the talking-point excuses that are being handed out by Democrats and their spin doctors about how Democratic retirements and losses don’t mean anything. They mean an enormous amount. But a Brown victory in Massachusetts would suggest something rather more complicated than a simple Republican wave in 2010. It suggests that disgust with the political system has reached a level never before seen in the modern era, a disgust so profound that a little-known Republican can come to inhabit the Liberal Lion’s office.

There have been hints and whispers of this kind of trend before; the Ross Perot phenomenon in 1991-2, for example. Ever since, we’ve been hearing about the possibility of a political conflagration that would originate in the most stable part of any electorate, its center, as the two parties increasingly find themselves in the thrall of their extremes and find it impossible to appeal to the broad middle.

That notion seemed overblown, and was proved to be overblown; since 2000, the electorate has seemed uncommonly engaged with the two parties, with turnout rising enormously in each national election. Al Gore received the most votes in American history in 2000, only to be eclipsed by both George W. Bush and John Kerry in 2004; Bush was eclipsed by Barack Obama in 2008.

But it doesn’t seem overblown any longer. The Bush administration’s inability to prosecute the war in Iraq effectively in its first three-and-a-half years combined with Republican corruption and the incompetence on display in the wake of Hurricane Katrina to bring the Republican “brand” low in 2006 and 2008. Now the Obama administration’s wild overreach on health care, coupled with its response to the Christmas Day airline-bombing attempt, has brought it similar difficulties. And both parties have lost the confidence of the American people when it comes to explanations for the financial meltdown of 2008 and the responses to it.

And so you have a damaged Republican Party and a damaged Democratic Party, and the elected politicians who represent them. The election coming up will be the first mass test of the effect of this mass bipartisan antipathy. Anti-incumbent fervor will, naturally, hurt Democrats far more than Republicans because there are more Democratic incumbents. But Republican incumbents have every reason to beware as well, just so long as the Democrats trying to unseat them don’t run dogmatically to the Left.

The most startling news since Barack Obama’s colossal victory over Hillary Clinton in Iowa was the Democratic poll in Massachusetts the other day showing the little-known Republican Scott Brown beating the state’s attorney general, Martha Coakley, in the special contest for the late Ted Kennedy’s Senate seat by a  point. A subsequent poll by the Boston Globe had the Democrat winning by 15. Somebody is very wrong here, obviously, and we won’t know until next Tuesday’s election which poll got the Massachusetts electorate right. But if the Democratic poll is closer to the truth, and if Coakley can’t come up with something to pull Brown’s numbers down over the next week, she is going to lose and a Republican is going to win an ineffable symbolic victory against Barack Obama and especially against health care.

And yet Republican politicians shouldn’t celebrate just yet—and not because of the talking-point excuses that are being handed out by Democrats and their spin doctors about how Democratic retirements and losses don’t mean anything. They mean an enormous amount. But a Brown victory in Massachusetts would suggest something rather more complicated than a simple Republican wave in 2010. It suggests that disgust with the political system has reached a level never before seen in the modern era, a disgust so profound that a little-known Republican can come to inhabit the Liberal Lion’s office.

There have been hints and whispers of this kind of trend before; the Ross Perot phenomenon in 1991-2, for example. Ever since, we’ve been hearing about the possibility of a political conflagration that would originate in the most stable part of any electorate, its center, as the two parties increasingly find themselves in the thrall of their extremes and find it impossible to appeal to the broad middle.

That notion seemed overblown, and was proved to be overblown; since 2000, the electorate has seemed uncommonly engaged with the two parties, with turnout rising enormously in each national election. Al Gore received the most votes in American history in 2000, only to be eclipsed by both George W. Bush and John Kerry in 2004; Bush was eclipsed by Barack Obama in 2008.

But it doesn’t seem overblown any longer. The Bush administration’s inability to prosecute the war in Iraq effectively in its first three-and-a-half years combined with Republican corruption and the incompetence on display in the wake of Hurricane Katrina to bring the Republican “brand” low in 2006 and 2008. Now the Obama administration’s wild overreach on health care, coupled with its response to the Christmas Day airline-bombing attempt, has brought it similar difficulties. And both parties have lost the confidence of the American people when it comes to explanations for the financial meltdown of 2008 and the responses to it.

And so you have a damaged Republican Party and a damaged Democratic Party, and the elected politicians who represent them. The election coming up will be the first mass test of the effect of this mass bipartisan antipathy. Anti-incumbent fervor will, naturally, hurt Democrats far more than Republicans because there are more Democratic incumbents. But Republican incumbents have every reason to beware as well, just so long as the Democrats trying to unseat them don’t run dogmatically to the Left.

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A Real Race in Massachusetts

One poll has Scott Brown up by 1 point in the Massachusetts Senate race, another has him down by 15, and yet another down by 9. Mark Blumenthal of Pollster.com explains:

The big spread in results among the polls, and differences apparent within two of them, are all consistent in supporting one finding: The lower the turnout, the better the odds for Scott Brown. These differences indicate that the voters most interested and most likely to vote are Republican, while Democrats are more blase.

This was the same conclusion another pollster expressed to me, with the additional caveat that the Boston Globe poll, which had Martha Coakley up by 15, was taken a bit earlier (January 2-6) than the Public Policy Polling survey, which showed Brown up by 1.

But we really don’t know exactly where the race stands — a rarity in politics these days, when everyone is quite certain where races stand, except when they aren’t. (The 2008 New Hampshire Democratic primary in which Barack Obama surprised all the gurus is a case in point.) What is clear is that in one of the most liberal states in the country, a Republican, running against ObamaCare and on a national-security message akin to Liz Cheney’s, is in a dogfight to replace Ted Kennedy. It doesn’t help that the Democrats are threatening to ram through ObamaCare even if Brown wins, for that’s sure to further motivate those already angry Republicans and annoyed independents. If the name of the game is turnout, then themes that aggravate the anti-Obama and anti-Beltway Democrat voters are going to play well for Brown.

The race is a reminder for the pundit class: politics is a game played in the context of specific candidates (in this case a mediocre Democrat in this case trying to hide behind an independent candidate in debates), significant national developments (the rise of angry populists and the fading fortunes of D.C. Democrats), and the relative motivation of competing parties. To the extent that Democrats are losing quality candidates (or can’t recruit them), refuse to adjust their ultra-liberal agenda, and continue to ignore the public, the travails of Martha Coakley are going to be repeated again and again — and in locales with voters much more amenable than Bay Staters to the prospect of throwing out Democrats.

One poll has Scott Brown up by 1 point in the Massachusetts Senate race, another has him down by 15, and yet another down by 9. Mark Blumenthal of Pollster.com explains:

The big spread in results among the polls, and differences apparent within two of them, are all consistent in supporting one finding: The lower the turnout, the better the odds for Scott Brown. These differences indicate that the voters most interested and most likely to vote are Republican, while Democrats are more blase.

This was the same conclusion another pollster expressed to me, with the additional caveat that the Boston Globe poll, which had Martha Coakley up by 15, was taken a bit earlier (January 2-6) than the Public Policy Polling survey, which showed Brown up by 1.

But we really don’t know exactly where the race stands — a rarity in politics these days, when everyone is quite certain where races stand, except when they aren’t. (The 2008 New Hampshire Democratic primary in which Barack Obama surprised all the gurus is a case in point.) What is clear is that in one of the most liberal states in the country, a Republican, running against ObamaCare and on a national-security message akin to Liz Cheney’s, is in a dogfight to replace Ted Kennedy. It doesn’t help that the Democrats are threatening to ram through ObamaCare even if Brown wins, for that’s sure to further motivate those already angry Republicans and annoyed independents. If the name of the game is turnout, then themes that aggravate the anti-Obama and anti-Beltway Democrat voters are going to play well for Brown.

The race is a reminder for the pundit class: politics is a game played in the context of specific candidates (in this case a mediocre Democrat in this case trying to hide behind an independent candidate in debates), significant national developments (the rise of angry populists and the fading fortunes of D.C. Democrats), and the relative motivation of competing parties. To the extent that Democrats are losing quality candidates (or can’t recruit them), refuse to adjust their ultra-liberal agenda, and continue to ignore the public, the travails of Martha Coakley are going to be repeated again and again — and in locales with voters much more amenable than Bay Staters to the prospect of throwing out Democrats.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

I think most Americans expect consequences for incompetence: “Two senators said Sunday that despite President Barack Obama saying the buck stops with him on the Christmas Day bombing attempt, disciplinary action should be taken against those who let Nigerian suspect Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab slip through the cracks and get on the Detroit-bound flight. ‘People should be held responsible for what happened’ Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) said on CNN’s “State of the Union” Sunday. ‘And we can’t go back to the old Washington kind of routine, we are all responsible so therefore nobody is responsible. Somebody has got to be held responsible.’” Sen. Joe Lieberman agrees.

The mainstream media have figured it out: good campaigner, not so good president. “In winning the White House, Barack Obama’s team earned a reputation for skill and discipline in dominating the communications wars with opponents. In office, virtually the same team has struggled, spending much of the past year defending the administration’s actions on the two biggest domestic issues — the economy and health care.”

The Boston Globe poll has Martha Coakley up 15 points in Massachusetts. But here’s the interesting part: “Brown matches Coakley — both were at 47 percent — among the roughly 1 in 4 respondents who said they were ‘extremely interested’ in the race.”

Phil Klein notes that the Globe didn’t poll many independents.

The Nation or National Review? “The new unemployment numbers are devastating, and they should send up red flares in Washington, a city where officials have so far has been absurdly neglectful of the most serious social, economic and political crisis facing the country. …  President Obama and the Democrats in Congress face the prospect of serious setbacks in 2010 congressional and state races if they do not recognize that there is a disconnect between their focus and that of the American people who will decide the political direction of the country in November.”

Democrats probably didn’t need this: “Republican leaders called on Harry Reid to step down as Senate majority leader, Sunday, after the Nevada senator apologized for calling Barack Obama as a ‘light-skinned’ African-American who lacked a ‘Negro dialect, unless he wanted to have one.’ … Forgiveness from Obama and other black political leaders is unlikely to bring an end to the controversy. While it does not appear that Reid will be forced out of his leadership post for his racially insensitive comments, Democratic strategists describe the incident as a serious blow to his already difficult re-election campaign.”

But Democrats generally have faith that they can say anything and get away with it: “[Sen. Diane] Feinstein said she ‘saw no Democrats jumping out there and condemning Senator Lott. I know Senator Lott. I happen to be very fond of him. And he made a mistake.” Huh? Al Gore sure did. Obama did.

This sounds right: “The nation’s first elected African-American governor said on Sunday that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) should apologize to the entire country for his comments about President Barack Obama’s skin color. ‘The Reid apology should be to the totality of the American people,’ said Doug Wilder, former Virginia governor.”

Liz Cheney thinks we should stop making it worse: “It was actually a year ago today that the president announced the stimulus, because he said that we needed to put this in place in order to prevent — prevent unemployment from nearing double digits. So here we are, a year later, with unemployment, you know, over double digits, over 10 percent, having gone deeper into debt, and — and I think that the uncertainty in the economy isn’t because people are worried the stimulus won’t continue. I think the uncertainty is because people are watching things like the debate over the health care bill here, which has gone on and on and on, the actions by the administration, which I think are actually creating a drag on this recovery.”

I think most Americans expect consequences for incompetence: “Two senators said Sunday that despite President Barack Obama saying the buck stops with him on the Christmas Day bombing attempt, disciplinary action should be taken against those who let Nigerian suspect Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab slip through the cracks and get on the Detroit-bound flight. ‘People should be held responsible for what happened’ Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) said on CNN’s “State of the Union” Sunday. ‘And we can’t go back to the old Washington kind of routine, we are all responsible so therefore nobody is responsible. Somebody has got to be held responsible.’” Sen. Joe Lieberman agrees.

The mainstream media have figured it out: good campaigner, not so good president. “In winning the White House, Barack Obama’s team earned a reputation for skill and discipline in dominating the communications wars with opponents. In office, virtually the same team has struggled, spending much of the past year defending the administration’s actions on the two biggest domestic issues — the economy and health care.”

The Boston Globe poll has Martha Coakley up 15 points in Massachusetts. But here’s the interesting part: “Brown matches Coakley — both were at 47 percent — among the roughly 1 in 4 respondents who said they were ‘extremely interested’ in the race.”

Phil Klein notes that the Globe didn’t poll many independents.

The Nation or National Review? “The new unemployment numbers are devastating, and they should send up red flares in Washington, a city where officials have so far has been absurdly neglectful of the most serious social, economic and political crisis facing the country. …  President Obama and the Democrats in Congress face the prospect of serious setbacks in 2010 congressional and state races if they do not recognize that there is a disconnect between their focus and that of the American people who will decide the political direction of the country in November.”

Democrats probably didn’t need this: “Republican leaders called on Harry Reid to step down as Senate majority leader, Sunday, after the Nevada senator apologized for calling Barack Obama as a ‘light-skinned’ African-American who lacked a ‘Negro dialect, unless he wanted to have one.’ … Forgiveness from Obama and other black political leaders is unlikely to bring an end to the controversy. While it does not appear that Reid will be forced out of his leadership post for his racially insensitive comments, Democratic strategists describe the incident as a serious blow to his already difficult re-election campaign.”

But Democrats generally have faith that they can say anything and get away with it: “[Sen. Diane] Feinstein said she ‘saw no Democrats jumping out there and condemning Senator Lott. I know Senator Lott. I happen to be very fond of him. And he made a mistake.” Huh? Al Gore sure did. Obama did.

This sounds right: “The nation’s first elected African-American governor said on Sunday that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) should apologize to the entire country for his comments about President Barack Obama’s skin color. ‘The Reid apology should be to the totality of the American people,’ said Doug Wilder, former Virginia governor.”

Liz Cheney thinks we should stop making it worse: “It was actually a year ago today that the president announced the stimulus, because he said that we needed to put this in place in order to prevent — prevent unemployment from nearing double digits. So here we are, a year later, with unemployment, you know, over double digits, over 10 percent, having gone deeper into debt, and — and I think that the uncertainty in the economy isn’t because people are worried the stimulus won’t continue. I think the uncertainty is because people are watching things like the debate over the health care bill here, which has gone on and on and on, the actions by the administration, which I think are actually creating a drag on this recovery.”

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Down the Memory Hole

Imagine, for a moment, that you are the book review editor of a major newspaper, and a book has been written by someone who was a high-level public official deeply involved in what has been the biggest and most controversial story of the past half-decade.

This official has been mentioned in news stories in your paper on hundreds of occasions, your paper’s editorials have regularly railed against him and his colleagues, and your paper’s op-ed columnists have penned an entire oeuvre of scathing indictments of the policies he helped implement. The official, subjected to years of obloquy in your pages, writes an account of his involvement in the story that by any fair estimation is not just detailed and serious, but one of the most important and useful of its kind to date. Do you choose to review the book, or do you simply pretend that it was never written?

The book I’m talking about, of course, is War and Decision, former Under Secretary of Defense for Policy Doug Feith’s account of his role in the Iraq war. And it is being subjected to an astonishing and shameful blackout from many of America’s biggest newspapers. Noting the decision of the Washington Post and New York Times not to review the book, Rich Lowry wrote, “Apparently it’s OK to heap every failure in Iraq on Feith’s head, but then to turn around and pretend he’s a figure of no consequence when he writes a book.”

Curiosity got the better of me, so I checked to see whether the book has been reviewed by other large newspapers. The MSM does not disappoint: There has been no mention of War and Decision in USA Today, the LA Times, NY Daily News, Houston Chronicle, Boston Globe, Philadelphia Inquirer, Chicago Tribune, San Francisco Chronicle, or Miami Herald. What charming behavior from our nation’s journalism professionals. You would think the book interfered with the preferred narrative or something.

Imagine, for a moment, that you are the book review editor of a major newspaper, and a book has been written by someone who was a high-level public official deeply involved in what has been the biggest and most controversial story of the past half-decade.

This official has been mentioned in news stories in your paper on hundreds of occasions, your paper’s editorials have regularly railed against him and his colleagues, and your paper’s op-ed columnists have penned an entire oeuvre of scathing indictments of the policies he helped implement. The official, subjected to years of obloquy in your pages, writes an account of his involvement in the story that by any fair estimation is not just detailed and serious, but one of the most important and useful of its kind to date. Do you choose to review the book, or do you simply pretend that it was never written?

The book I’m talking about, of course, is War and Decision, former Under Secretary of Defense for Policy Doug Feith’s account of his role in the Iraq war. And it is being subjected to an astonishing and shameful blackout from many of America’s biggest newspapers. Noting the decision of the Washington Post and New York Times not to review the book, Rich Lowry wrote, “Apparently it’s OK to heap every failure in Iraq on Feith’s head, but then to turn around and pretend he’s a figure of no consequence when he writes a book.”

Curiosity got the better of me, so I checked to see whether the book has been reviewed by other large newspapers. The MSM does not disappoint: There has been no mention of War and Decision in USA Today, the LA Times, NY Daily News, Houston Chronicle, Boston Globe, Philadelphia Inquirer, Chicago Tribune, San Francisco Chronicle, or Miami Herald. What charming behavior from our nation’s journalism professionals. You would think the book interfered with the preferred narrative or something.

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Bigot Bowl

In the aftermath of Reverend Jeremiah Wright’s stunning reemergence as an obstacle to Barack Obama’s presidential prospects, left-wing pundits have settled on a new strategy for dealing with the fallout. It goes something like this: every time Wright’s name is mentioned, remind the public that the Republicans also have their bigots. In this vein, Ann Friedman of American Prospect has implored liberal bloggers to match every reference to Rev. Wright with a mention of Reverend John Hagee, the controversial evangelical pastor who has endorsed John McCain. Meanwhile, the “progressive” watch-dog group Media Matters lamented the greater coverage that Wright has received over Hagee, while the New York Times, Boston Globe, and Washington Post ran opinion pieces prominently highlighting Hagee’s endorsement of McCain in an apparent bid to neutralize the damage that Wright has caused Obama’s campaign.

But if these opinion-makers believe that they’ve found their escape route in calling attention to Hagee, they are sorely mistaken. For starters, the empirics don’t work in their favor, as Hagee’s relationship with McCain isn’t remotely analogous to Wright’s relationship with Obama. Indeed, despite Hagee’s disturbing bigotry–he has said that the planning of a gay pride parade in New Orleans prompted Hurricane Katrina as a divine response–he is merely one of McCain’s many endorsers. But Rev. Wright is, after all, Obama’s spiritual guide of two decades–a man that Obama respected so much that he refused to distance himself from Wright for months after the pastor’s anti-American vitriol first hit YouTube.

In turn, the sheer imprecision of the Hagee-is-McCain’s-Wright argument will ultimately keep liberal opinion-makers on the defensive. After all, when Michael Moore, Al Sharpton, and Jesse Jackson make their quadrennial pilgrimages to the Democratic National Convention, the Democrats will look downright hypocritical for having declared their outrage over the lesser-known Hagee. Voters will thus be reminded that, when it comes to relying on notorious bigots to mobilize key electoral cleavages, the Democrats are no better than Republicans. The difference, however, is that only the front-running Democratic candidate has compared one of these bigots to his grandmother.

In the aftermath of Reverend Jeremiah Wright’s stunning reemergence as an obstacle to Barack Obama’s presidential prospects, left-wing pundits have settled on a new strategy for dealing with the fallout. It goes something like this: every time Wright’s name is mentioned, remind the public that the Republicans also have their bigots. In this vein, Ann Friedman of American Prospect has implored liberal bloggers to match every reference to Rev. Wright with a mention of Reverend John Hagee, the controversial evangelical pastor who has endorsed John McCain. Meanwhile, the “progressive” watch-dog group Media Matters lamented the greater coverage that Wright has received over Hagee, while the New York Times, Boston Globe, and Washington Post ran opinion pieces prominently highlighting Hagee’s endorsement of McCain in an apparent bid to neutralize the damage that Wright has caused Obama’s campaign.

But if these opinion-makers believe that they’ve found their escape route in calling attention to Hagee, they are sorely mistaken. For starters, the empirics don’t work in their favor, as Hagee’s relationship with McCain isn’t remotely analogous to Wright’s relationship with Obama. Indeed, despite Hagee’s disturbing bigotry–he has said that the planning of a gay pride parade in New Orleans prompted Hurricane Katrina as a divine response–he is merely one of McCain’s many endorsers. But Rev. Wright is, after all, Obama’s spiritual guide of two decades–a man that Obama respected so much that he refused to distance himself from Wright for months after the pastor’s anti-American vitriol first hit YouTube.

In turn, the sheer imprecision of the Hagee-is-McCain’s-Wright argument will ultimately keep liberal opinion-makers on the defensive. After all, when Michael Moore, Al Sharpton, and Jesse Jackson make their quadrennial pilgrimages to the Democratic National Convention, the Democrats will look downright hypocritical for having declared their outrage over the lesser-known Hagee. Voters will thus be reminded that, when it comes to relying on notorious bigots to mobilize key electoral cleavages, the Democrats are no better than Republicans. The difference, however, is that only the front-running Democratic candidate has compared one of these bigots to his grandmother.

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No Help At All

The New York Times today does Barack Obama no favors on the ongoing Reverend Wright fiasco. First, it seems to confirm that a sense of personal pique rather than any “new information” on Wright caused Obama to finally denouce his former pastor. Recounting how Obama read the National Press Club remarks on his blackberry, the Times explains:

As Mr. Obama told close friends after watching the replay, he felt dumbfounded, even betrayed, particularly by Mr. Wright’s implication that Mr. Obama was being hypocritical. He could not tolerate that.

You see, any suggestion that Obama had tolerated, solicited and embraced Wright for political aims and then dumped him when whites got wind of Wright’s hateful radicalism was intolerable. But wasn’t it also true? There are plenty of facts suggesting that this is exactly what occurred. The Times provides additional evidence.

Obama tried to suggest at his press conference that he and Wright weren’t all that close. But that of course is poppycock. The Times recollects:

Only a few years ago, the tightness of the bond between Mr. Obama and Mr. Wright was difficult to overstate. Mr. Obama titled his second book, “The Audacity of Hope,” after one of Mr. Wright’s sermons, and his pastor was the first one he thanked when he gained election as a United States senator in 2004. “Let me thank my pastor, Jeremiah A. Wright Jr. of Trinity United Church of Christ,” Mr. Obama said that night, before going on to mention his family and friends.

In this learned and radical pastor, Mr. Obama found a guide who could explain Jesus and faith in terms intellectual no less than emotional, and who helped a man of mixed racial parentage come to understand himself as an African-American. “Our trials and triumphs became at once unique and universal, black and more than black,” Mr. Obama wrote in his autobiography “Dreams From My Father.”

At the same time, as Mr. Obama’s friends and aides now acknowledge, he was aware that, shorn of their South Side Chicago context, the words and cadences of a politically left-wing black minister could have a very problematic echo. So Mr. Obama haltingly distanced himself from his pastor.

And of course, Obama himself had constructed an autobiography with Wright at the center, the Times, reminds us:

Mr. Obama faced practical political considerations as well. He had made Mr. Wright a central figure in his personal narrative. His embrace of Mr. Wright’s church and its congregants, wealthy and working class and impoverished, formed the climax of his book. It was the moment, in his telling, when Mr. Obama finally pulled every disparate strand of his background together and found his faith.

Bottom line: the liberal media paper of record leaves little doubt that Obama’s claim of ignorance about Wright’s incendiary views is fraudulent. For a candidate running on virtue and as the Agent of Change this is deadly stuff. (Is it any wonder the Times‘ sister paper the Boston Globe finds the whole thing “depressing”?)

The New York Times today does Barack Obama no favors on the ongoing Reverend Wright fiasco. First, it seems to confirm that a sense of personal pique rather than any “new information” on Wright caused Obama to finally denouce his former pastor. Recounting how Obama read the National Press Club remarks on his blackberry, the Times explains:

As Mr. Obama told close friends after watching the replay, he felt dumbfounded, even betrayed, particularly by Mr. Wright’s implication that Mr. Obama was being hypocritical. He could not tolerate that.

You see, any suggestion that Obama had tolerated, solicited and embraced Wright for political aims and then dumped him when whites got wind of Wright’s hateful radicalism was intolerable. But wasn’t it also true? There are plenty of facts suggesting that this is exactly what occurred. The Times provides additional evidence.

Obama tried to suggest at his press conference that he and Wright weren’t all that close. But that of course is poppycock. The Times recollects:

Only a few years ago, the tightness of the bond between Mr. Obama and Mr. Wright was difficult to overstate. Mr. Obama titled his second book, “The Audacity of Hope,” after one of Mr. Wright’s sermons, and his pastor was the first one he thanked when he gained election as a United States senator in 2004. “Let me thank my pastor, Jeremiah A. Wright Jr. of Trinity United Church of Christ,” Mr. Obama said that night, before going on to mention his family and friends.

In this learned and radical pastor, Mr. Obama found a guide who could explain Jesus and faith in terms intellectual no less than emotional, and who helped a man of mixed racial parentage come to understand himself as an African-American. “Our trials and triumphs became at once unique and universal, black and more than black,” Mr. Obama wrote in his autobiography “Dreams From My Father.”

At the same time, as Mr. Obama’s friends and aides now acknowledge, he was aware that, shorn of their South Side Chicago context, the words and cadences of a politically left-wing black minister could have a very problematic echo. So Mr. Obama haltingly distanced himself from his pastor.

And of course, Obama himself had constructed an autobiography with Wright at the center, the Times, reminds us:

Mr. Obama faced practical political considerations as well. He had made Mr. Wright a central figure in his personal narrative. His embrace of Mr. Wright’s church and its congregants, wealthy and working class and impoverished, formed the climax of his book. It was the moment, in his telling, when Mr. Obama finally pulled every disparate strand of his background together and found his faith.

Bottom line: the liberal media paper of record leaves little doubt that Obama’s claim of ignorance about Wright’s incendiary views is fraudulent. For a candidate running on virtue and as the Agent of Change this is deadly stuff. (Is it any wonder the Times‘ sister paper the Boston Globe finds the whole thing “depressing”?)

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Fire Mark McKinnon

Sasha Issenberg interviews John McCain’s top media advisor Mark Mckinnon in today’s Boston Globe. In what has become a remarkable act of insubordination, McKinnon has been telling the press for weeks now that he’ll probably leave the campaign once Barack Obama becomes the Democratic nominee because he just likes the Illinois Senator so gosh darn much. Indeed, McKinnon says he wrote a memo to the McCain campaign before he was hired last year stating as much.

As McCain’s comeback picked up speed, McKinnon cast jealous glances toward Obama, who was the beneficiary of two unconventional, online videos that McKinnon considers the best work of the campaign: an early bootleg spoof of Apple’s “1984″ ad lampooning Hillary Clinton as “Big Brother” and a music video released in January by singer will.i.am featuring celebrities saying excerpts from an Obama speech.

McKinnon becomes visibly giddy when discussing the video, calling it “cool” and “really powerful stuff.”

“I’m a music guy,” said McKinnon. “You combine music and politics, I’m halfway there.”

McKinnon says that while he would have happily worked for McCain in a general election match-up against Hillary Clinton, he just can’t bring himself to support the presumed Republican nominee against Barack Obama. “I flash-forwarded to how I would feel in that position, and I realized that I’d be uncomfortable and it would be bad for McCain to have me in that slot,” he tells the Globe. McKinnon claims to deeply admire John McCain and wants to see him become president. Yet the desire to realize a McCain presidency evaporates into thin air once St. Obama steps onto the stage. What sort of loyalty is this, telling the media that you respect your boss only to the point that you would work for him unless your favored Democrat became the nominee? Not long ago, McKinnon could rightly be labeled as a “McCainiac” alongside Mark Salter, Mike Murphy or Marshall Wittmann. Now, McKinnon’s admiration for the Senator sounds about as genuine as that of John Weaver.

“We can live with whatever Mark has to do,” Salter tells the Globe. If this was last summer — after McCain had fired most of his top staff and was in serious debt — maybe such a forgiving attitude would be understandable. But now that John McCain will be the Republican nominee, why hasn’t the campaign fired McKinnon for going on like this? And, if he told the campaign that he wouldn’t continue working for McCain were Obama to become the nominee, why was he hired in the first place?

Sasha Issenberg interviews John McCain’s top media advisor Mark Mckinnon in today’s Boston Globe. In what has become a remarkable act of insubordination, McKinnon has been telling the press for weeks now that he’ll probably leave the campaign once Barack Obama becomes the Democratic nominee because he just likes the Illinois Senator so gosh darn much. Indeed, McKinnon says he wrote a memo to the McCain campaign before he was hired last year stating as much.

As McCain’s comeback picked up speed, McKinnon cast jealous glances toward Obama, who was the beneficiary of two unconventional, online videos that McKinnon considers the best work of the campaign: an early bootleg spoof of Apple’s “1984″ ad lampooning Hillary Clinton as “Big Brother” and a music video released in January by singer will.i.am featuring celebrities saying excerpts from an Obama speech.

McKinnon becomes visibly giddy when discussing the video, calling it “cool” and “really powerful stuff.”

“I’m a music guy,” said McKinnon. “You combine music and politics, I’m halfway there.”

McKinnon says that while he would have happily worked for McCain in a general election match-up against Hillary Clinton, he just can’t bring himself to support the presumed Republican nominee against Barack Obama. “I flash-forwarded to how I would feel in that position, and I realized that I’d be uncomfortable and it would be bad for McCain to have me in that slot,” he tells the Globe. McKinnon claims to deeply admire John McCain and wants to see him become president. Yet the desire to realize a McCain presidency evaporates into thin air once St. Obama steps onto the stage. What sort of loyalty is this, telling the media that you respect your boss only to the point that you would work for him unless your favored Democrat became the nominee? Not long ago, McKinnon could rightly be labeled as a “McCainiac” alongside Mark Salter, Mike Murphy or Marshall Wittmann. Now, McKinnon’s admiration for the Senator sounds about as genuine as that of John Weaver.

“We can live with whatever Mark has to do,” Salter tells the Globe. If this was last summer — after McCain had fired most of his top staff and was in serious debt — maybe such a forgiving attitude would be understandable. But now that John McCain will be the Republican nominee, why hasn’t the campaign fired McKinnon for going on like this? And, if he told the campaign that he wouldn’t continue working for McCain were Obama to become the nominee, why was he hired in the first place?

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Jacoby and the Path to Citizenship

He doesn’t get the attention that he deserves because he doesn’t work for one of the big Washington or New York publications, but Jeff Jacoby of the Boston Globe is one of America’s best conservative columnists. Therefore it is significant that in his column today he endorses an idea I’ve been pushing for a while: letting volunteers without Green Cards or American citizenship sign up to serve in our armed forces.

We already have procedures in place to expedite the citizenship process for permanent residents in uniform. But Jacoby argues that

the ability to earn American citizenship through military service needn’t be limited to legal immigrants. Among the millions of illegal immigrants living in the United States are an estimated 750,000 young men and women of military age, many of whom would welcome the opportunity to become US citizens in return for serving in the armed forces.

Expanding the recruitment pool to include them would make it easier for the military to build up its ranks without having to lower its standards. And what better way for illegal immigrants to come “out of the shadows” and assimilate fully into American life than by wearing their adopted country’s uniform in wartime?

Going further, he endorses an idea that Mike O’Hanlon and I have put forward of “opening military service not just to immigrants already here but to would-be immigrants elsewhere.”

This is an idea that raises predictable hackles from nativists, but as we’ve seen in this campaign season, the anti-immigrant lobby, while vocal and well-organized, hardly speaks for a majority of Republicans, much less a majority of Americans–or else John McCain, their bête noire, would never have won the Republican nomination.

Secretary of Defense Bob Gates has it within his power with the stroke of a pen to waive the Green Card requirement for enlistment. He should do it now. Otherwise the army in particular will have a hard time attracting all the high-quality volunteers that it needs, not only to fill today’s force but also the larger force we need to build for the future.

He doesn’t get the attention that he deserves because he doesn’t work for one of the big Washington or New York publications, but Jeff Jacoby of the Boston Globe is one of America’s best conservative columnists. Therefore it is significant that in his column today he endorses an idea I’ve been pushing for a while: letting volunteers without Green Cards or American citizenship sign up to serve in our armed forces.

We already have procedures in place to expedite the citizenship process for permanent residents in uniform. But Jacoby argues that

the ability to earn American citizenship through military service needn’t be limited to legal immigrants. Among the millions of illegal immigrants living in the United States are an estimated 750,000 young men and women of military age, many of whom would welcome the opportunity to become US citizens in return for serving in the armed forces.

Expanding the recruitment pool to include them would make it easier for the military to build up its ranks without having to lower its standards. And what better way for illegal immigrants to come “out of the shadows” and assimilate fully into American life than by wearing their adopted country’s uniform in wartime?

Going further, he endorses an idea that Mike O’Hanlon and I have put forward of “opening military service not just to immigrants already here but to would-be immigrants elsewhere.”

This is an idea that raises predictable hackles from nativists, but as we’ve seen in this campaign season, the anti-immigrant lobby, while vocal and well-organized, hardly speaks for a majority of Republicans, much less a majority of Americans–or else John McCain, their bête noire, would never have won the Republican nomination.

Secretary of Defense Bob Gates has it within his power with the stroke of a pen to waive the Green Card requirement for enlistment. He should do it now. Otherwise the army in particular will have a hard time attracting all the high-quality volunteers that it needs, not only to fill today’s force but also the larger force we need to build for the future.

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On McCain’s Sleeve

In a hastily arranged call with bloggers, John McCain began by touting his travels with Florida Gov. Charlie Crist, whose endorsement he termed a “coup.” However, he clearly had something on his mind: the accusation circulating in conservative circles that he disapproved of Justice Samuel Alito because he wore his conservatism “on his sleeve.”

He spoke with the energy and verve he usually reserved for discussions of fiscal discipline, saying that he supported and worked for Alito’s confirmation and frequently had said on the campaign trail that he would appoint justices in the mold of Justices Alito and Roberts. In follow-up questions McCain said that he did not recall ever having such a conversation of the type John Fund of the Wall Street Journal ascribed to him, but that he has been clear that he will search for justices devoted to originalist  interpretation. He added that the “beauty” of the Alito and Roberts nominations was that they had a clear record and “we could rely on them to strictly interpret the Constitution.”

Later in the call he was asked about appointing justices who might strike down McCain-Feingold campaign-finance reform. He gave an interesting answer  I had not heard previously. He said that he could not let his biases (i.e. his policy preferences) affect his decision to appoint strict constructionist judges who might not agree with him on part of his agenda. In short, he said that the decisions rendered by these judges might “far exceed my agenda.”

In response to my question as to whether Florida was a “must win” state, he would only say that it was “very important.” He acknowledged that the tone had gotten sharper in the last day or so and there was always a danger of turning off voters, but said that he was just responding to Mitt Romney’s attacks as he had in Iowa and New Hampshire. Not surprisingly, he said that his responses were accurate and Romney’s were “desperate.”

He also used the opportunity to toss some red meat to the base. First, he repeated a litany of issues on which he would be “eager” to debate the Democrats and said that the election would highlight “fundamental differences” between the parties. Second, in the context of a question about why he was no longer friends with Pat Buchanan, he was careful to say only nice things about Buchanan and then went out of his way to declare that it would be critical if he got the nomination to “really unite the party.” He stressed that the GOP “has a lot of work to do” and that ” we need everyone pulling in the same direction.”

Unfortunately, technical difficulties ended the call as he was explaining why he did not mind getting liberal newspaper endorsements (saying in effect that he was glad they support his agenda, even if he doesn’t support theirs) — including the Boston Globe, which along with the conservative Boston Herald favored him over near-favorite son Romney.

Bottom line: This was a “reassure the base” call. For those who don’t want to be reassured, it likely would not suffice. For those who needed a bit more assurance, his advocacy of strict judicial interpretation and his eagerness to take on the Democrats was likely welcome news.

In a hastily arranged call with bloggers, John McCain began by touting his travels with Florida Gov. Charlie Crist, whose endorsement he termed a “coup.” However, he clearly had something on his mind: the accusation circulating in conservative circles that he disapproved of Justice Samuel Alito because he wore his conservatism “on his sleeve.”

He spoke with the energy and verve he usually reserved for discussions of fiscal discipline, saying that he supported and worked for Alito’s confirmation and frequently had said on the campaign trail that he would appoint justices in the mold of Justices Alito and Roberts. In follow-up questions McCain said that he did not recall ever having such a conversation of the type John Fund of the Wall Street Journal ascribed to him, but that he has been clear that he will search for justices devoted to originalist  interpretation. He added that the “beauty” of the Alito and Roberts nominations was that they had a clear record and “we could rely on them to strictly interpret the Constitution.”

Later in the call he was asked about appointing justices who might strike down McCain-Feingold campaign-finance reform. He gave an interesting answer  I had not heard previously. He said that he could not let his biases (i.e. his policy preferences) affect his decision to appoint strict constructionist judges who might not agree with him on part of his agenda. In short, he said that the decisions rendered by these judges might “far exceed my agenda.”

In response to my question as to whether Florida was a “must win” state, he would only say that it was “very important.” He acknowledged that the tone had gotten sharper in the last day or so and there was always a danger of turning off voters, but said that he was just responding to Mitt Romney’s attacks as he had in Iowa and New Hampshire. Not surprisingly, he said that his responses were accurate and Romney’s were “desperate.”

He also used the opportunity to toss some red meat to the base. First, he repeated a litany of issues on which he would be “eager” to debate the Democrats and said that the election would highlight “fundamental differences” between the parties. Second, in the context of a question about why he was no longer friends with Pat Buchanan, he was careful to say only nice things about Buchanan and then went out of his way to declare that it would be critical if he got the nomination to “really unite the party.” He stressed that the GOP “has a lot of work to do” and that ” we need everyone pulling in the same direction.”

Unfortunately, technical difficulties ended the call as he was explaining why he did not mind getting liberal newspaper endorsements (saying in effect that he was glad they support his agenda, even if he doesn’t support theirs) — including the Boston Globe, which along with the conservative Boston Herald favored him over near-favorite son Romney.

Bottom line: This was a “reassure the base” call. For those who don’t want to be reassured, it likely would not suffice. For those who needed a bit more assurance, his advocacy of strict judicial interpretation and his eagerness to take on the Democrats was likely welcome news.

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