Commentary Magazine


Topic: Boston

Chicago and Boston Chose Liberalism Over First Amendment

Last week, I discussed liberal intolerance of those in opposition of their particular viewpoints, and almost on cue, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Boston Mayor Thomas Menino came onto the scene today to embody the ideals of modern-day liberalism: tolerance of only those with whom they already agree. Both mayors expressed support for same-sex marriage and not only expressed their personal opposition to Chick-fil-A’s social conservatism, but also those of their cities.

In a public letter to Chick-fil-A’s President Dan Cathy, and carbon copied to the owner of a property that it appears Chick-fil-A would occupy, Mayor Menino expressed his opposition to the chicken restaurant’s plans to locate in Boston. The strongly worded letter reads in part, “I was angry to learn on the heels of your prejudiced statements about your search for a site to locate in Boston. There is no place for discrimination on Boston’s Freedom Trail and no place for your company alongside it.”

To be clear, Chick-fil-A discriminates against no one, not employees and not customers; its policies expressly forbid it. Chick-fil-A and its president have expressed their support of the traditional family and Christian values, which are not by definition anti-gay. Their charitable organization, WinShape, has donated money not only to organizations that support traditional marriage, but also to foster homes, college scholarships and international relief efforts. Chick-fil-A’s other charitable contributions are irrelevant to those who view anyone who is not with them on the quest to redefine marriage as a bigot who must be taken down at any cost.

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Last week, I discussed liberal intolerance of those in opposition of their particular viewpoints, and almost on cue, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Boston Mayor Thomas Menino came onto the scene today to embody the ideals of modern-day liberalism: tolerance of only those with whom they already agree. Both mayors expressed support for same-sex marriage and not only expressed their personal opposition to Chick-fil-A’s social conservatism, but also those of their cities.

In a public letter to Chick-fil-A’s President Dan Cathy, and carbon copied to the owner of a property that it appears Chick-fil-A would occupy, Mayor Menino expressed his opposition to the chicken restaurant’s plans to locate in Boston. The strongly worded letter reads in part, “I was angry to learn on the heels of your prejudiced statements about your search for a site to locate in Boston. There is no place for discrimination on Boston’s Freedom Trail and no place for your company alongside it.”

To be clear, Chick-fil-A discriminates against no one, not employees and not customers; its policies expressly forbid it. Chick-fil-A and its president have expressed their support of the traditional family and Christian values, which are not by definition anti-gay. Their charitable organization, WinShape, has donated money not only to organizations that support traditional marriage, but also to foster homes, college scholarships and international relief efforts. Chick-fil-A’s other charitable contributions are irrelevant to those who view anyone who is not with them on the quest to redefine marriage as a bigot who must be taken down at any cost.

Not to be outdone, Chicago’s Mayor (and Barack Obama’s former chief of staff) Rahm Emanuel announced support of a Chicago alderman’s refusal to approve a building permit for Chick-fil-A in one of Chicago’s wards. The Volokh Conspiracy explains just how unconstitutional this move is:

But denying a private business permits because of such speech by its owner is a blatant First Amendment violation. Even when it comes to government contracting — where the government is choosing how to spend government money — the government generally may not discriminate based on the contractor’s speech, see Board of County Commissioners v. Umbehr (1996). It is even clearer that the government may not make decisions about how people will be allowed to use their own property based on the speaker’s past speech.

And this is so even if there is no statutory right to a particular kind of building permit (and I don’t know what the rule is under Illinois law). Even if the government may deny permits to people based on various reasons, it may not deny permits to people based on their exercise of his First Amendment rights. It doesn’t matter if the applicant expresses speech that doesn’t share the government officials’ values, or even the values of the majority of local citizens. It doesn’t matter if the applicant’s speech is seen as “disrespect[ful]” of certain groups. The First Amendment generally protects people’s rights to express such views without worrying that the government will deny them business permits as a result. That’s basic First Amendment law — but Alderman Moreno, Mayor Menino, and, apparently, Mayor Emanuel (if his statement is quoted in context), seem to either not know or not care about the law.

Of course, if Chick-fil-A actually discriminated in their serving or hiring decisions in Chicago in a way forbidden by Chicago or Illinois law, they could be punished for this violation, and possibly even denied future permits based on such illegal behavior. But the stories give no evidence of any such actions, and suggest that the city officials’ statements are based on the Chick-fil-A president’s speech, not any illegal conduct on the company’s part. Finally, note that the government may generally insist that, when it hires people to communicate a government message, those people use that government money only for the government-selected speech (see Rust v. Sullivan (1991)); but that power of the government to control its own speech is far removed from the government’s attempt in this case to retaliate against businesses for their owners’ speech.

Imagine, for a moment, if Governors Rick Perry or Chris Christie banned the sale of Ben & Jerry’s from their states because of that company’s support of same-sex marriage. What if, as his first act as president, Mitt Romney banned the Muppets from government-funded PBS after the Jim Henson company expressed their opposition to Chick-fil-A? You can just hear the wails of the editorial pages of the New York Times and Washington Post, the anchors of every major news station (including Fox) crying “FASCISM!” They would be absolutely correct in their charge. Using the government’s power to restrict commerce based on a personal vendetta is a chilling next step in a culture war that has turned business owners, job creators and people of faith into public enemies.

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Is Frank Toast?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Rep. Mark Kirk is stretching out his lead in Illinois. The last time his opponent led in a poll was October 11.

Pat Toomey is finishing strong in Pennsylvania.

If Obama is thinking of dumping Joe Biden, he can select Katie Couric as his VP. She sounds just like him: “Couric has spent recent weeks in Chicago, Philadelphia, Boston and New Brunswick, New Jersey. She is touring what she calls ‘this great unwashed middle of the country’ in an effort to divine the mood of the midterms.” Boston is the middle of the country?

Obama’s human rights policy is baffling. “On Monday, the Obama administration waived sections of a law meant to prevent the recruitment of child soldiers in Africa, paving the way for new military cooperation with four countries with poor human rights records — despite their use of underage troops. … So the Obama administration has determined that deepening military relationships with brutal dictatorships and unsavory regimes is the best way to reform them? That seems like a pretty big shift in policy. It still remains unclear what military assistance the United States actually plans to give to countries like Sudan, Chad, and Yemen, as well as how it will use its engagement to protect child soldiers.”

Rudy Giuliani (after one of the more bizarrely inept campaigns in recent memory) is considering another presidential run? I suppose this time he would compete before the Florida campaign.

Released from the hospital, Carly Fiorina is returning to the campaign. The race is still close, but no poll has shown her ahead.

If Obama is meeting with liberal bloggers less than a week before the election, the Dems are in a heap of trouble.

John Bolton sure is sounding presidential: “Dramatic developments in Europe in the past few weeks have graphically demonstrated the importance of America’s upcoming November 2 elections. Coming midway through President Obama’s term, there is little doubt these elections constitute a referendum on his philosophy, policies and performance. Any U.S. citizens who doubt the significance of their impending votes need only contemplate Europe to see the consequences of further pursuing the Obama agenda.”

Rep. Mark Kirk is stretching out his lead in Illinois. The last time his opponent led in a poll was October 11.

Pat Toomey is finishing strong in Pennsylvania.

If Obama is thinking of dumping Joe Biden, he can select Katie Couric as his VP. She sounds just like him: “Couric has spent recent weeks in Chicago, Philadelphia, Boston and New Brunswick, New Jersey. She is touring what she calls ‘this great unwashed middle of the country’ in an effort to divine the mood of the midterms.” Boston is the middle of the country?

Obama’s human rights policy is baffling. “On Monday, the Obama administration waived sections of a law meant to prevent the recruitment of child soldiers in Africa, paving the way for new military cooperation with four countries with poor human rights records — despite their use of underage troops. … So the Obama administration has determined that deepening military relationships with brutal dictatorships and unsavory regimes is the best way to reform them? That seems like a pretty big shift in policy. It still remains unclear what military assistance the United States actually plans to give to countries like Sudan, Chad, and Yemen, as well as how it will use its engagement to protect child soldiers.”

Rudy Giuliani (after one of the more bizarrely inept campaigns in recent memory) is considering another presidential run? I suppose this time he would compete before the Florida campaign.

Released from the hospital, Carly Fiorina is returning to the campaign. The race is still close, but no poll has shown her ahead.

If Obama is meeting with liberal bloggers less than a week before the election, the Dems are in a heap of trouble.

John Bolton sure is sounding presidential: “Dramatic developments in Europe in the past few weeks have graphically demonstrated the importance of America’s upcoming November 2 elections. Coming midway through President Obama’s term, there is little doubt these elections constitute a referendum on his philosophy, policies and performance. Any U.S. citizens who doubt the significance of their impending votes need only contemplate Europe to see the consequences of further pursuing the Obama agenda.”

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Not Doing His Party Any Favors

With a nod to Bill Buckley, I’d rather have economic policy set by the first 400 people in the Boston phone directory than by Larry Summers. If you needed further reason to subscribe to this view, there is this:

In the new poll released this week, 55% said that “increasing taxes on any Americans will slow the economy and kill jobs,” CNBC said. Only 40% said the Bush-era tax cuts should be canceled for higher earners, as President Barack Obama advocates. … The CNBC poll also showed significant erosion of support for placing more regulation on business. Eighteen months ago, 47% said increased regulation would be good for the economy. Now, only 34% say so. In addition, 55% of Americans said Obama’s overall economic plans have made things worse so far.

Meanwhile, Obama is trying to change the subject. But, alas, the new topic isn’t a winner: “President Barack Obama sought Wednesday to reintroduce his signature health-care bill to voters who don’t much like it or even understand it six months after he signed it.”

I’m not sure what Obama is accomplishing on behalf of Democratic candidates at this point. If anything, he is reminding voters that they don’t like his economic policies, never wanted ObamaCare, and would rather he didn’t raise taxes. Maybe an overseas trip would be preferable. (Not to Israel, of course. Catcalls and whistles from Israeli protesters wouldn’t look so great on the evening news.) As far as Democrats are concerned, the longer the better.

With a nod to Bill Buckley, I’d rather have economic policy set by the first 400 people in the Boston phone directory than by Larry Summers. If you needed further reason to subscribe to this view, there is this:

In the new poll released this week, 55% said that “increasing taxes on any Americans will slow the economy and kill jobs,” CNBC said. Only 40% said the Bush-era tax cuts should be canceled for higher earners, as President Barack Obama advocates. … The CNBC poll also showed significant erosion of support for placing more regulation on business. Eighteen months ago, 47% said increased regulation would be good for the economy. Now, only 34% say so. In addition, 55% of Americans said Obama’s overall economic plans have made things worse so far.

Meanwhile, Obama is trying to change the subject. But, alas, the new topic isn’t a winner: “President Barack Obama sought Wednesday to reintroduce his signature health-care bill to voters who don’t much like it or even understand it six months after he signed it.”

I’m not sure what Obama is accomplishing on behalf of Democratic candidates at this point. If anything, he is reminding voters that they don’t like his economic policies, never wanted ObamaCare, and would rather he didn’t raise taxes. Maybe an overseas trip would be preferable. (Not to Israel, of course. Catcalls and whistles from Israeli protesters wouldn’t look so great on the evening news.) As far as Democrats are concerned, the longer the better.

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“It’s a Free Country. I Wish It Weren’t.”

The governor of Massachusetts, Deval Patrick, appeared on a Boston radio show and was asked about the right of Glenn Beck and the hundreds of thousands of attendees at his Lincoln Memorial rally to do what they’ve done: “It’s a free country,” he said, then added almost off-handedly, “I wish it weren’t. but it’s a free country, and  you gotta respect that freedom.” The audio features my friend, Boston talk-show host Michael Graham discussing the matter. (You can skip ahead to the sound bite; it appears at 1:17.) With Patrick unable to reach 40 percent in the polls in his reelection bid (he’s still up 8 points over his Republican rival Charles Baker in part because of a strong third-party candidate), this could be the gaffe of the year. Or it would be, if he were a Republican.

Of course, Patrick doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be a free country. He just wishes, somewhere inside him, that it weren’t as free as it is for people he disagrees with. And have you ever noticed that when people use the phrase, “it’s a free country,” they usually use it to complain?

The governor of Massachusetts, Deval Patrick, appeared on a Boston radio show and was asked about the right of Glenn Beck and the hundreds of thousands of attendees at his Lincoln Memorial rally to do what they’ve done: “It’s a free country,” he said, then added almost off-handedly, “I wish it weren’t. but it’s a free country, and  you gotta respect that freedom.” The audio features my friend, Boston talk-show host Michael Graham discussing the matter. (You can skip ahead to the sound bite; it appears at 1:17.) With Patrick unable to reach 40 percent in the polls in his reelection bid (he’s still up 8 points over his Republican rival Charles Baker in part because of a strong third-party candidate), this could be the gaffe of the year. Or it would be, if he were a Republican.

Of course, Patrick doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be a free country. He just wishes, somewhere inside him, that it weren’t as free as it is for people he disagrees with. And have you ever noticed that when people use the phrase, “it’s a free country,” they usually use it to complain?

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Massachusetts Dems Still Trying to Reverse Bush v. Gore

It’s a little late to help Al Gore, but the loyal Democrats of Massachusetts are still trying to reverse the outcome of the 2000 presidential election. The Bay State’s legislature ratified a bill today mandating that, in the future, all of their votes in the electoral college will go to whichever candidate wins the national popular vote — no matter whom the citizens of Massachusetts preferred. The catch to this scheme is that it will not go into effect until the total of electoral votes from states that have passed similar laws reaches 270 — the number of votes needed to win the presidency.

While the Electoral College has always had its critics, grousing over the arcane system devised by the Founders was never loud enough to reach the point where an alternative might be seriously considered — at least not until the hanging chads of Florida in 2000. The razor-thin outcome of that state’s voting embittered Democrats, many of whom cling to the fiction that the 2000 election was “stolen.” It wasn’t — but the anomalous result, whereby the winner of the most electoral votes did not also win the popular vote, was seen, not unreasonably, as somehow unfair. Though resistance from small states would make a constitutional amendment abolishing the Electoral College virtually impossible, a scenario whereby enough states embrace the plan that Massachusetts has just passed — which would abolish the College for all intents and purposes — is a realistic option. At this moment, five generally Democratic states — Hawaii, Illinois, Maryland, New Jersey, and Washington — in addition to Massachusetts have ratified such laws. That gives advocates of the idea 73 electoral votes. That’s a long way from 270 but it is not a stretch to imagine that the addition of a few large Blue States to that total would put the Electoral College on the verge of extinction.

It is understandable that most contemporary Americans view with dismay the Founders’ desire to put the selection of the president in the hands of notables rather than those of the people. But the virtues of the College are not limited to the pull of tradition, though that should not be underestimated. Critics of the current system point out that the realities of Electoral College mathematics push presidential candidates to concentrate their energies on states whose votes are up for grabs while they ignore those that are safely in the pockets of either party. But its abolition will more or less render all small states and non-urban areas no-go zones for the candidates. An election in which only the national popular vote counts might limit the campaigns to the two coasts and a few big cities in between them, with most of the country being truly relegated to the status of “flyover” territory. Will that be an improvement?

Even more to the point, we should remember that the real reason this “reform” is being championed by some legislators is the fact that the Democrats were the losers in 2000. Had the outcome been the reverse — and prior to the last weekend before the voting that year, when revelations about Bush’s DUI came out, an outcome in which Bush won the popular vote and Gore the Electoral College was widely seen as the more likely result — would Democrats be so eager to junk the system? And will Boston Democrats really be happy if their electoral votes wind up going to a Republican that was swamped in Massachusetts but won elsewhere?

Imperfect though it is, the Electoral College is an embodiment of the Founders’ belief in both federalism and the idea that the country ought not to be dominated by the largest states. The partisan rancor that has divided this country in the 10 years since Bush v. Gore is a poor reason to scrap a venerable institution.

It’s a little late to help Al Gore, but the loyal Democrats of Massachusetts are still trying to reverse the outcome of the 2000 presidential election. The Bay State’s legislature ratified a bill today mandating that, in the future, all of their votes in the electoral college will go to whichever candidate wins the national popular vote — no matter whom the citizens of Massachusetts preferred. The catch to this scheme is that it will not go into effect until the total of electoral votes from states that have passed similar laws reaches 270 — the number of votes needed to win the presidency.

While the Electoral College has always had its critics, grousing over the arcane system devised by the Founders was never loud enough to reach the point where an alternative might be seriously considered — at least not until the hanging chads of Florida in 2000. The razor-thin outcome of that state’s voting embittered Democrats, many of whom cling to the fiction that the 2000 election was “stolen.” It wasn’t — but the anomalous result, whereby the winner of the most electoral votes did not also win the popular vote, was seen, not unreasonably, as somehow unfair. Though resistance from small states would make a constitutional amendment abolishing the Electoral College virtually impossible, a scenario whereby enough states embrace the plan that Massachusetts has just passed — which would abolish the College for all intents and purposes — is a realistic option. At this moment, five generally Democratic states — Hawaii, Illinois, Maryland, New Jersey, and Washington — in addition to Massachusetts have ratified such laws. That gives advocates of the idea 73 electoral votes. That’s a long way from 270 but it is not a stretch to imagine that the addition of a few large Blue States to that total would put the Electoral College on the verge of extinction.

It is understandable that most contemporary Americans view with dismay the Founders’ desire to put the selection of the president in the hands of notables rather than those of the people. But the virtues of the College are not limited to the pull of tradition, though that should not be underestimated. Critics of the current system point out that the realities of Electoral College mathematics push presidential candidates to concentrate their energies on states whose votes are up for grabs while they ignore those that are safely in the pockets of either party. But its abolition will more or less render all small states and non-urban areas no-go zones for the candidates. An election in which only the national popular vote counts might limit the campaigns to the two coasts and a few big cities in between them, with most of the country being truly relegated to the status of “flyover” territory. Will that be an improvement?

Even more to the point, we should remember that the real reason this “reform” is being championed by some legislators is the fact that the Democrats were the losers in 2000. Had the outcome been the reverse — and prior to the last weekend before the voting that year, when revelations about Bush’s DUI came out, an outcome in which Bush won the popular vote and Gore the Electoral College was widely seen as the more likely result — would Democrats be so eager to junk the system? And will Boston Democrats really be happy if their electoral votes wind up going to a Republican that was swamped in Massachusetts but won elsewhere?

Imperfect though it is, the Electoral College is an embodiment of the Founders’ belief in both federalism and the idea that the country ought not to be dominated by the largest states. The partisan rancor that has divided this country in the 10 years since Bush v. Gore is a poor reason to scrap a venerable institution.

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Do As I Say, Not As I Do

Here’s a damaging local Boston story on Senator John Kerry, his $7 million yacht, and his hypocrisy. The senator — who constantly rails against the “rich” (though he himself is rich, thanks to his wife) and speaks about how paying higher taxes evinces a spirit of admirable sacrifice — doesn’t look terribly happy trying to explain his own effort to (legally) evade paying higher taxes (on the order of $500,000). But it strikes me as though voters have a lot more reason to be unhappy with Kerry than Kerry has to be with reporters.

Hypocrisy isn’t an impressive trait in anyone, liberal or conservative.

Here’s a damaging local Boston story on Senator John Kerry, his $7 million yacht, and his hypocrisy. The senator — who constantly rails against the “rich” (though he himself is rich, thanks to his wife) and speaks about how paying higher taxes evinces a spirit of admirable sacrifice — doesn’t look terribly happy trying to explain his own effort to (legally) evade paying higher taxes (on the order of $500,000). But it strikes me as though voters have a lot more reason to be unhappy with Kerry than Kerry has to be with reporters.

Hypocrisy isn’t an impressive trait in anyone, liberal or conservative.

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Brown on Israel

Scott Brown might not be a rock-ribbed conservative on domestic matters — he’s gone along with the Democrats on finance reform and a overstuffed spending bill  (inaptly named a “jobs bill”), but on foreign policy, you’d be hard-pressed to find a Republican — other than Marco Rubio — who is as full-throated in his support for Israel and for an un-Obama foreign policy as Brown. At an AIPAC leadership meeting in Boston, he went after Obama’s shoddy performance:

Brown, addressing a pro-Israel group in Boston, tied Israel and the United States together in fighting against terrorism. He also called for further sanctions on Iran, saying “there is no greater strategic threat facing the world than a nuclear-armed Iran.”

“I don’t need polling or political strategists to help define a nuanced stance on Israel,” Brown said, according to a copy of his prepared remarks. “We are engaged in a worldwide struggle against radical, violent jihad. It is the defining issue of our time. Our best friends and the strongest allies in this fight are in the State of Israel.”

“Let’s remember – Israel is our ally. Israel is a democracy,” Brown added. “Hamas is a terrorist group with clear and genuine intentions of destroying Israel’s way of life.”

He made clear that Israel’s security and that of the U.S. are inseparable:

Now I know I am still the new guy on the block, with a little more than 100 days in the Senate under my belt, but I have placed U.S. – Israeli security as one of the most significant and highest priorities on my agenda,” he added.

Brown also said that one of his first acts in the senate was to tell Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid that “the senate could not take its eye off the ball in regards to the threat of Iran.”

“A safe, secure Israel, standing shoulder-to-shoulder with the United States and its allies is essential to the continued liberty of our nations,” Brown said. “Our fates have never been more intertwined. May God continue to bless Israel and the United States of America.”

While his opposition to ObamaCare was a central focus of his campaign, he was also forceful on terrorism (his line objecting to paying for terrorist lawyers brought the house down at his victory rally), and his campaign took off in the wake of the Christmas Day bombing plot. As much as low taxes and the repeal of ObamaCare, opposition to Obama’s brand of foreign policy (ingratiating ourselves with foes and spurning allies, indulging Israel’s enemies, ignoring human rights and democracy promotion, etc.) has become a fixture of the conservative agenda and a key theme in campaigns this year. It is both correct policy and offers a check, if not a complete antidote, to Obama’s not-at-all-smart diplomacy. But it is also popular with voters who haven’t seen foreign policy this badly run and our national security more perilous since the Carter years. At some point, even Democrats may realize this too.

Scott Brown might not be a rock-ribbed conservative on domestic matters — he’s gone along with the Democrats on finance reform and a overstuffed spending bill  (inaptly named a “jobs bill”), but on foreign policy, you’d be hard-pressed to find a Republican — other than Marco Rubio — who is as full-throated in his support for Israel and for an un-Obama foreign policy as Brown. At an AIPAC leadership meeting in Boston, he went after Obama’s shoddy performance:

Brown, addressing a pro-Israel group in Boston, tied Israel and the United States together in fighting against terrorism. He also called for further sanctions on Iran, saying “there is no greater strategic threat facing the world than a nuclear-armed Iran.”

“I don’t need polling or political strategists to help define a nuanced stance on Israel,” Brown said, according to a copy of his prepared remarks. “We are engaged in a worldwide struggle against radical, violent jihad. It is the defining issue of our time. Our best friends and the strongest allies in this fight are in the State of Israel.”

“Let’s remember – Israel is our ally. Israel is a democracy,” Brown added. “Hamas is a terrorist group with clear and genuine intentions of destroying Israel’s way of life.”

He made clear that Israel’s security and that of the U.S. are inseparable:

Now I know I am still the new guy on the block, with a little more than 100 days in the Senate under my belt, but I have placed U.S. – Israeli security as one of the most significant and highest priorities on my agenda,” he added.

Brown also said that one of his first acts in the senate was to tell Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid that “the senate could not take its eye off the ball in regards to the threat of Iran.”

“A safe, secure Israel, standing shoulder-to-shoulder with the United States and its allies is essential to the continued liberty of our nations,” Brown said. “Our fates have never been more intertwined. May God continue to bless Israel and the United States of America.”

While his opposition to ObamaCare was a central focus of his campaign, he was also forceful on terrorism (his line objecting to paying for terrorist lawyers brought the house down at his victory rally), and his campaign took off in the wake of the Christmas Day bombing plot. As much as low taxes and the repeal of ObamaCare, opposition to Obama’s brand of foreign policy (ingratiating ourselves with foes and spurning allies, indulging Israel’s enemies, ignoring human rights and democracy promotion, etc.) has become a fixture of the conservative agenda and a key theme in campaigns this year. It is both correct policy and offers a check, if not a complete antidote, to Obama’s not-at-all-smart diplomacy. But it is also popular with voters who haven’t seen foreign policy this badly run and our national security more perilous since the Carter years. At some point, even Democrats may realize this too.

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More Arrests, No Mirandizing in Times Square Bombing Investigation

Fox News reports that two Pakistani men in the Boston area have been arrested  in connection with the Times Square bombing attempt:

“These searches are the product of evidence that has been gathered in the investigation subsequent to the attempted Times Square bombing and do not relate to any known immediate threat to the public or active plot against the United States,” [Immigration and Customs Enforcement] spokeswoman Kelly Nantel said in the statement.

Specifically, one source said, the search warrants are the product of information obtained through interrogations of 30-year-old Faisal Shahzad, the main suspect in the May 1 attempted Times Square bombing who has now been charged with five federal offenses, including attempted use of a weapon of mass destruction.

This raises a few questions. First, doesn’t the “immediate” give one pause? Were these individuals a threat — but not immediately? Recall that on this one, the Obama team lucked out. They Mirandized the original suspect, Shahzad, who decided to keep talking. Had he not, we presumably would not have found the not-so-immediate threats. Second, these two are not being Mirandized, we learn:

The two Pakistani men have been arrested on “administrative charges,” which means federal authorities will not read them Miranda rights during any immediate interrogation. … One of the men arrested Thursday has been charged with overstaying his visa, and the other has been charged with staying in the country despite an order of removal, according to one source.

So, is this part of a new Obama administration approach to terror suspects? After all, these people were apprehended on U.S. soil and apparently may have conspired to kill Americans. Yet the administration — finally is not rushing to Mirandize terror suspects, who may yield additional intelligence information. About time, isn’t it?

Fox News reports that two Pakistani men in the Boston area have been arrested  in connection with the Times Square bombing attempt:

“These searches are the product of evidence that has been gathered in the investigation subsequent to the attempted Times Square bombing and do not relate to any known immediate threat to the public or active plot against the United States,” [Immigration and Customs Enforcement] spokeswoman Kelly Nantel said in the statement.

Specifically, one source said, the search warrants are the product of information obtained through interrogations of 30-year-old Faisal Shahzad, the main suspect in the May 1 attempted Times Square bombing who has now been charged with five federal offenses, including attempted use of a weapon of mass destruction.

This raises a few questions. First, doesn’t the “immediate” give one pause? Were these individuals a threat — but not immediately? Recall that on this one, the Obama team lucked out. They Mirandized the original suspect, Shahzad, who decided to keep talking. Had he not, we presumably would not have found the not-so-immediate threats. Second, these two are not being Mirandized, we learn:

The two Pakistani men have been arrested on “administrative charges,” which means federal authorities will not read them Miranda rights during any immediate interrogation. … One of the men arrested Thursday has been charged with overstaying his visa, and the other has been charged with staying in the country despite an order of removal, according to one source.

So, is this part of a new Obama administration approach to terror suspects? After all, these people were apprehended on U.S. soil and apparently may have conspired to kill Americans. Yet the administration — finally is not rushing to Mirandize terror suspects, who may yield additional intelligence information. About time, isn’t it?

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Iraqi Elections Encouraging

Terrible violence continues to upset Iraq — at least 35 dead from suicide bombings in Baghdad, 25 Sunni family members slain south of Baghdad. But this Rod Nordland article buried deep in the New York Times presents a glowing account of the last election — and appropriately so. He notes that voters made discerning decisions. The outcome reveals some notable trends:

Sectarianism is still a force in Iraq, but no longer the only significant force, as it was five years ago in the first election after Saddam Hussein fell. While some religious parties did well, it wasn’t well enough to dictate who will form a government….

Nor was tribalism a guarantee of victory. One tribal leader, Hamid Shafi al-Issawi, had counted on the 50,000 votes of his huge Issawi tribe in Anbar Province; he couldn’t even muster the few thousand votes needed to take a seat….

And (Boston, take note), the patronage vote was nearly nonexistent. Interior Minister Jawadal-Bolani, whose 500,000-strong ministry includes the local and national police, got only 3,000 votes and lost his seat, even though he headed his own list.

As a sign of how well the situation is going, Nordland quotes the Times‘ local correspondent in Fallujah, Saeed al-Jumaily, who has worked for the newspaper for seven years but for the first time feels “confident enough in the future to see his name published in it.”

A lot of bad things can — and probably will — still happen in Iraq but the election outcome, at least so far, hardly validates overblown fears that Iraq is “falling apart.” If anything it shows that, in one place at least, Arabs are taking to the democratic process with heartening enthusiasm.

Terrible violence continues to upset Iraq — at least 35 dead from suicide bombings in Baghdad, 25 Sunni family members slain south of Baghdad. But this Rod Nordland article buried deep in the New York Times presents a glowing account of the last election — and appropriately so. He notes that voters made discerning decisions. The outcome reveals some notable trends:

Sectarianism is still a force in Iraq, but no longer the only significant force, as it was five years ago in the first election after Saddam Hussein fell. While some religious parties did well, it wasn’t well enough to dictate who will form a government….

Nor was tribalism a guarantee of victory. One tribal leader, Hamid Shafi al-Issawi, had counted on the 50,000 votes of his huge Issawi tribe in Anbar Province; he couldn’t even muster the few thousand votes needed to take a seat….

And (Boston, take note), the patronage vote was nearly nonexistent. Interior Minister Jawadal-Bolani, whose 500,000-strong ministry includes the local and national police, got only 3,000 votes and lost his seat, even though he headed his own list.

As a sign of how well the situation is going, Nordland quotes the Times‘ local correspondent in Fallujah, Saeed al-Jumaily, who has worked for the newspaper for seven years but for the first time feels “confident enough in the future to see his name published in it.”

A lot of bad things can — and probably will — still happen in Iraq but the election outcome, at least so far, hardly validates overblown fears that Iraq is “falling apart.” If anything it shows that, in one place at least, Arabs are taking to the democratic process with heartening enthusiasm.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Disingenuous: David Axelrod claims no “snub” of Bibi Netanyahu was intended when the Obami disallowed any cameras, held no press conference, and leaked its continuing bullying of Israel.

Sadly accurate: Bill Kristol explains that the administration “is going out of its way to distance itself from the Israeli government” and that this represents “a turn against Israel” by the Obami.

Unacceptable? Stephen Hayes argues that it is inevitable: “In private, the Obama administration has repeatedly warned Israel against a preemptive strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities. Isolating Israel in this way sends the same message publicly; it says, in effect, ‘You think we overreacted to a housing spat in Jerusalem? Try bombing Iran.’ … They offer platitudes, and they focus obsessively on diplomacy that virtually no one thinks will prevent Iran from becoming a nuclear power. Ultimately, of course, it doesn’t matter whether China participates in a conference call about weak U.N. sanctions that will have a negligible effect on Iran’s behavior. And containment, the de facto policy on Iran today, will become the acknowledged Obama administration approach to Iran. Which means, of course, that Iran will have the bomb.”

Predictable (when you elect an ultra-liberal masquerading as a moderate): Matt Continetti explains that “gone is the charismatic young man who told the 2004 Democratic National Convention in Boston that there was no Blue America and no Red America, only the United States of America. All that remains is a partisan liberal Democrat whose health care policy bulldozed public opinion, enraged the electorate, poisoned the Congress, and set into motion a sequence of events the outcome of which cannot be foreseen.”

Silly: “No good options for President Obama in Khalid Sheikh Mohammed trial, “blares the Politico headline. Of course, there is — send him back to a military tribunal. The fact that “there doesn’t seem to be even the dim possibility of a political upside for the White House” is frankly beside the point and a dilemma entirely of its own ideological extremism and ineptitude.

Dangerously deluded (if she believes what she is saying): Valerie Jarrett argues that “we’re seeing steady progress in terms of a world coalition that will put that pressure on Iran … I think we have a strong force in the making and Iran will back down.”

Surprising (only to the media elites and those who’ve never been to a Tea Party): “When the tea party movement burst onto the scene last year to oppose President Barack Obama, the Democratic Congress, and the health care legislation they wanted to enact, some liberal critics were quick to label its activists as angry white men. As the populist conservative movement has gained a foothold over the past year, it’s become increasingly clear that the dismissive characterization was at least half wrong. Many of the tea party’s most influential grass-roots and national leaders are women, and a new poll released this week by Quinnipiac University suggests that women might make up a majority of the movement as well. As the populist conservative movement has gained a foothold over the past year, it’s become increasingly clear that the dismissive characterization was at least half wrong.”

Disingenuous: David Axelrod claims no “snub” of Bibi Netanyahu was intended when the Obami disallowed any cameras, held no press conference, and leaked its continuing bullying of Israel.

Sadly accurate: Bill Kristol explains that the administration “is going out of its way to distance itself from the Israeli government” and that this represents “a turn against Israel” by the Obami.

Unacceptable? Stephen Hayes argues that it is inevitable: “In private, the Obama administration has repeatedly warned Israel against a preemptive strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities. Isolating Israel in this way sends the same message publicly; it says, in effect, ‘You think we overreacted to a housing spat in Jerusalem? Try bombing Iran.’ … They offer platitudes, and they focus obsessively on diplomacy that virtually no one thinks will prevent Iran from becoming a nuclear power. Ultimately, of course, it doesn’t matter whether China participates in a conference call about weak U.N. sanctions that will have a negligible effect on Iran’s behavior. And containment, the de facto policy on Iran today, will become the acknowledged Obama administration approach to Iran. Which means, of course, that Iran will have the bomb.”

Predictable (when you elect an ultra-liberal masquerading as a moderate): Matt Continetti explains that “gone is the charismatic young man who told the 2004 Democratic National Convention in Boston that there was no Blue America and no Red America, only the United States of America. All that remains is a partisan liberal Democrat whose health care policy bulldozed public opinion, enraged the electorate, poisoned the Congress, and set into motion a sequence of events the outcome of which cannot be foreseen.”

Silly: “No good options for President Obama in Khalid Sheikh Mohammed trial, “blares the Politico headline. Of course, there is — send him back to a military tribunal. The fact that “there doesn’t seem to be even the dim possibility of a political upside for the White House” is frankly beside the point and a dilemma entirely of its own ideological extremism and ineptitude.

Dangerously deluded (if she believes what she is saying): Valerie Jarrett argues that “we’re seeing steady progress in terms of a world coalition that will put that pressure on Iran … I think we have a strong force in the making and Iran will back down.”

Surprising (only to the media elites and those who’ve never been to a Tea Party): “When the tea party movement burst onto the scene last year to oppose President Barack Obama, the Democratic Congress, and the health care legislation they wanted to enact, some liberal critics were quick to label its activists as angry white men. As the populist conservative movement has gained a foothold over the past year, it’s become increasingly clear that the dismissive characterization was at least half wrong. Many of the tea party’s most influential grass-roots and national leaders are women, and a new poll released this week by Quinnipiac University suggests that women might make up a majority of the movement as well. As the populist conservative movement has gained a foothold over the past year, it’s become increasingly clear that the dismissive characterization was at least half wrong.”

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From Disgusting to Odd

A question about Barack Obama is starting to take shape in the American mind: where does this stop? The “this” is the collective hodgepodge of delinquent policy, administrative incompetence, a bottomless capacity for self-delusion, hubris, and the vetoing of American opinion. The “this” is comprised of attempts to harness populist disaffection in order to create a diversion, the presidential campaign that never ends, the 24/7 up-and-down-the-dial interview blitz, the hyper-partisan “post-partisanship,” and, foremost, the compulsion to lay all blame at the feet of the previous president.

Back in October, Charles Krauthammer called Obama’s incessant denunciation of George W. Bush “disgusting.” Three months later, and still going strong, the habit is bordering on eccentric. Not merely in its preponderance, but in kind. Consider that Obama explained away Republican Scott Brown’s Massachusetts victory as resulting from Americans’ anger over the “past eight years.” A Republican won because of the voters’ rage toward Bush?

Also bordering on the eccentric is the president’s endless infatuation with his own story. On the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, Obama noted how the Soviet Union’s collapse paved the way for his path to the White House. He thought the Olympics would be in the bag if he flew to Copenhagen and recited a tale from the Book of Barack. When he went to Massachusetts to stump for Martha Coakley, he told the audience, “So it’s good to be back in Boston. . . I came back here a few years ago and gave a little speech that turned out pretty well.” This was a reference to the electrifying DNC Convention speech that made him a star. “Something about Boston folks have just always been good to me,” he said, as if the people of Massachusetts were obligated to uphold this benevolent tradition. This time he was heckled and the state took a fatal chunk out of his agenda.

And it is courting eccentricity to remain unable to take a definitive position: to amplify and wind down the same war in the same speech, to simultaneously rescue and punish big banks, to overrule the voters who put him in office and to “never stop fighting” for them.

Early in his presidency, Obama spoke of his belief in persistence. But his dogged effort to force his left-wing square-peg agenda into the moderate round hole of American politics feels more like an unhealthy obsession. He tried to “jam it down Americans’ throats.” Fine. But to keep jamming even after the public has regurgitated in such dramatic fashion?

For all this, Obama makes a tremendous show of his cool nerves. “I don’t rattle,” he said. In a way, that’s true. Blaming Republican failings for the Massachusetts Republican victory, for example, is not a sign of being rattled. It’s a sign of disconnected logic, a much more exotic subconscious defense. It requires a lot of psychological reapportioning not to get rattled while flailing on the world stage. Instead of losing your cool, you indulge in excessive denial or projection or sublimation. Something, after all, has got to give. It’s becoming clear that something is giving. As the Las Vegas Review-Journal’s Sherman Frederick put it, “this kind of weird delusion is consistent with the unbounded hubris of Team Obama.”

During the campaign, we heard endlessly about Barack Obama’s “presidential temperament.” But a few observers thought of it more as a strange placidity. What, in fact, is presidential about terminal aloofness? He’s the chief executive of a country that’s fighting two wars, struggling to get out from under an unprecedented financial breakdown, staring a near-nuclear Iran in the face, and on the constant receiving end of terrorist threats. Yet the most fired up we’ve ever seen Obama was when he decided a Cambridge Massachusetts police officer was “stupid” for inconveniencing his friend with a request to show ID. His second most animated moment came when some nobodies crashed his dinner party. What’s worrisome in this pattern is the president’s attachment to the personal. If we acknowledge that Obama weighs everything first by the degree to which it redounds on him personally, his failings are not so mysterious. If Obama has not conveyed to Americans that he hears their concerns, it may be because he doesn’t hear them. He merely hears pointers for his perpetual image upkeep.

Which makes you wonder where it ends. An object in motion stays in motion unless acted upon by external force. But for Obama, it’s all internal, personal.

What speaker of truth has the president’s ear? Is there a White House break man to slow this runaway train? Or are there only yes-men, mutes, and passive-aggressive leakers? How welcome some of the old Bush-style administration in-fighting would be right about now.

Of course, the President invites the harshest judgments. By continuing to campaign instead of lead he asks to be assessed as someone who has not yet proven himself. He forces comparisons with those he campaigned against. And so it is no surprise that the public is once again split between the general election tickets. If Obama is in campaign mode, why shouldn’t the electorate follow suit? The difference between today and 2008 is that today Obama can’t have his clean slate back.

A question about Barack Obama is starting to take shape in the American mind: where does this stop? The “this” is the collective hodgepodge of delinquent policy, administrative incompetence, a bottomless capacity for self-delusion, hubris, and the vetoing of American opinion. The “this” is comprised of attempts to harness populist disaffection in order to create a diversion, the presidential campaign that never ends, the 24/7 up-and-down-the-dial interview blitz, the hyper-partisan “post-partisanship,” and, foremost, the compulsion to lay all blame at the feet of the previous president.

Back in October, Charles Krauthammer called Obama’s incessant denunciation of George W. Bush “disgusting.” Three months later, and still going strong, the habit is bordering on eccentric. Not merely in its preponderance, but in kind. Consider that Obama explained away Republican Scott Brown’s Massachusetts victory as resulting from Americans’ anger over the “past eight years.” A Republican won because of the voters’ rage toward Bush?

Also bordering on the eccentric is the president’s endless infatuation with his own story. On the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, Obama noted how the Soviet Union’s collapse paved the way for his path to the White House. He thought the Olympics would be in the bag if he flew to Copenhagen and recited a tale from the Book of Barack. When he went to Massachusetts to stump for Martha Coakley, he told the audience, “So it’s good to be back in Boston. . . I came back here a few years ago and gave a little speech that turned out pretty well.” This was a reference to the electrifying DNC Convention speech that made him a star. “Something about Boston folks have just always been good to me,” he said, as if the people of Massachusetts were obligated to uphold this benevolent tradition. This time he was heckled and the state took a fatal chunk out of his agenda.

And it is courting eccentricity to remain unable to take a definitive position: to amplify and wind down the same war in the same speech, to simultaneously rescue and punish big banks, to overrule the voters who put him in office and to “never stop fighting” for them.

Early in his presidency, Obama spoke of his belief in persistence. But his dogged effort to force his left-wing square-peg agenda into the moderate round hole of American politics feels more like an unhealthy obsession. He tried to “jam it down Americans’ throats.” Fine. But to keep jamming even after the public has regurgitated in such dramatic fashion?

For all this, Obama makes a tremendous show of his cool nerves. “I don’t rattle,” he said. In a way, that’s true. Blaming Republican failings for the Massachusetts Republican victory, for example, is not a sign of being rattled. It’s a sign of disconnected logic, a much more exotic subconscious defense. It requires a lot of psychological reapportioning not to get rattled while flailing on the world stage. Instead of losing your cool, you indulge in excessive denial or projection or sublimation. Something, after all, has got to give. It’s becoming clear that something is giving. As the Las Vegas Review-Journal’s Sherman Frederick put it, “this kind of weird delusion is consistent with the unbounded hubris of Team Obama.”

During the campaign, we heard endlessly about Barack Obama’s “presidential temperament.” But a few observers thought of it more as a strange placidity. What, in fact, is presidential about terminal aloofness? He’s the chief executive of a country that’s fighting two wars, struggling to get out from under an unprecedented financial breakdown, staring a near-nuclear Iran in the face, and on the constant receiving end of terrorist threats. Yet the most fired up we’ve ever seen Obama was when he decided a Cambridge Massachusetts police officer was “stupid” for inconveniencing his friend with a request to show ID. His second most animated moment came when some nobodies crashed his dinner party. What’s worrisome in this pattern is the president’s attachment to the personal. If we acknowledge that Obama weighs everything first by the degree to which it redounds on him personally, his failings are not so mysterious. If Obama has not conveyed to Americans that he hears their concerns, it may be because he doesn’t hear them. He merely hears pointers for his perpetual image upkeep.

Which makes you wonder where it ends. An object in motion stays in motion unless acted upon by external force. But for Obama, it’s all internal, personal.

What speaker of truth has the president’s ear? Is there a White House break man to slow this runaway train? Or are there only yes-men, mutes, and passive-aggressive leakers? How welcome some of the old Bush-style administration in-fighting would be right about now.

Of course, the President invites the harshest judgments. By continuing to campaign instead of lead he asks to be assessed as someone who has not yet proven himself. He forces comparisons with those he campaigned against. And so it is no surprise that the public is once again split between the general election tickets. If Obama is in campaign mode, why shouldn’t the electorate follow suit? The difference between today and 2008 is that today Obama can’t have his clean slate back.

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The Beginning of the End of Obamaism?

ABC’s Rick Klein reports that the Democrats are “game-planning a few different scenarios” if Scott Brown wins. Maybe they’ll stall on seating him. Or perhaps they’ll try to cram the Senate bill down House Democrats’ throats. It doesn’t appear that “Start over” of “Stop committing political suicide” is one of the scenarios. Maybe, however, by Wednesday, reality will sink in if Martha Coakley, the Democrats, and ObamaCare get a thumbs-down from Massachusetts voters. (What do you suppose is going through the minds of Blue Dogs and Red State senators who have many, many more Republicans back home than Coakley does?)

Meanwhile, Republicans are practically daring them to ignore the voters:

“I’d love for the Democrats to try to not seat him, and I’d like to see them rush through health care,” [Massachusetts Republican National Committeeman Ron] Kaufman told us from Boston, where he’s helping Brown’s campaign in its final stages. “If either of those things happens, we’ll have a revolution in the streets — not just here but in Washington. I think they’re smarter than that. … If you read the language of a special bill that they rammed through to get him appointed in the first place, it says that [Kirk’s] term is over tomorrow night,” Kaufman told us.

”I am convinced that if Scott Brown wins this race in a comfortable margin — in a fair margin — then the Democrats are not suicidal enough to try to prevent him from being the duly elected senator,” he said.

Perhaps. We know that Obama, Pelosi, and Reid have been willing to sacrifice many in their ranks for the sake of the decades-old liberal dream of government-run health care. I don’t think that’s going to change. But what will, I suspect, is the willingness of their House and Senate colleagues to listen to political hokum (“The voters will learn to love it!”) and unsubstantiated spin (“Doing nothing is worse than passing a bill 60 percent of voters oppose”). At some point, those members at greater risk than Coakley — which, come to think of it, is virtually all of them — will say “Enough!” And then we might see the end of Obamaism — not necessarily the end of the president himself but of his experiment in ultra-liberalism in defiance of the majority of the electorate.

ABC’s Rick Klein reports that the Democrats are “game-planning a few different scenarios” if Scott Brown wins. Maybe they’ll stall on seating him. Or perhaps they’ll try to cram the Senate bill down House Democrats’ throats. It doesn’t appear that “Start over” of “Stop committing political suicide” is one of the scenarios. Maybe, however, by Wednesday, reality will sink in if Martha Coakley, the Democrats, and ObamaCare get a thumbs-down from Massachusetts voters. (What do you suppose is going through the minds of Blue Dogs and Red State senators who have many, many more Republicans back home than Coakley does?)

Meanwhile, Republicans are practically daring them to ignore the voters:

“I’d love for the Democrats to try to not seat him, and I’d like to see them rush through health care,” [Massachusetts Republican National Committeeman Ron] Kaufman told us from Boston, where he’s helping Brown’s campaign in its final stages. “If either of those things happens, we’ll have a revolution in the streets — not just here but in Washington. I think they’re smarter than that. … If you read the language of a special bill that they rammed through to get him appointed in the first place, it says that [Kirk’s] term is over tomorrow night,” Kaufman told us.

”I am convinced that if Scott Brown wins this race in a comfortable margin — in a fair margin — then the Democrats are not suicidal enough to try to prevent him from being the duly elected senator,” he said.

Perhaps. We know that Obama, Pelosi, and Reid have been willing to sacrifice many in their ranks for the sake of the decades-old liberal dream of government-run health care. I don’t think that’s going to change. But what will, I suspect, is the willingness of their House and Senate colleagues to listen to political hokum (“The voters will learn to love it!”) and unsubstantiated spin (“Doing nothing is worse than passing a bill 60 percent of voters oppose”). At some point, those members at greater risk than Coakley — which, come to think of it, is virtually all of them — will say “Enough!” And then we might see the end of Obamaism — not necessarily the end of the president himself but of his experiment in ultra-liberalism in defiance of the majority of the electorate.

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Two Speeches in Massachusetts

Scott Brown’s speech yesterday in Massachusetts deserves not only to be read but also remembered. It was simultaneously straightforward and sophisticated, understated and eloquent, perfectly presented with Boston heroes surrounding him. It was, for the reasons enumerated by Scott Johnson, a classic speech.

Barack Obama’s speech yesterday was vintage 2008 Obama, as he leaned into the microphone to push waves of applause higher as he sought to energize a base. He seemed happy to be back in campaign mode, where everything is aspiration, hope, and the promise of change. But this time he spoke against a backdrop of actually existing Obamanism, a president who turned out to be a liberal in a hurry, pushing the most partisan piece of legislation within memory, railing yesterday against “fat cats,” “Wall Street,” and “big banks … big insurance companies … big drug companies.” It was unpresidential.

It is fitting that in Massachusetts tomorrow, Obamanism will face a test that cannot be met by a Louisiana Purchase, or a Cornhusker Kickback, or a Collective Bargaining Kickback, or convening a vote at one in the morning or on a Saturday night. It will be a plebiscite that the president himself has nationalized — conducted on the last day of his first year, in the most liberal state in the nation, in the place where the original tea party occurred. If two polls taken yesterday are accurate (both showing Brown up by 9.6 points), it will be a shot heard ’round the world.

Scott Brown’s speech yesterday in Massachusetts deserves not only to be read but also remembered. It was simultaneously straightforward and sophisticated, understated and eloquent, perfectly presented with Boston heroes surrounding him. It was, for the reasons enumerated by Scott Johnson, a classic speech.

Barack Obama’s speech yesterday was vintage 2008 Obama, as he leaned into the microphone to push waves of applause higher as he sought to energize a base. He seemed happy to be back in campaign mode, where everything is aspiration, hope, and the promise of change. But this time he spoke against a backdrop of actually existing Obamanism, a president who turned out to be a liberal in a hurry, pushing the most partisan piece of legislation within memory, railing yesterday against “fat cats,” “Wall Street,” and “big banks … big insurance companies … big drug companies.” It was unpresidential.

It is fitting that in Massachusetts tomorrow, Obamanism will face a test that cannot be met by a Louisiana Purchase, or a Cornhusker Kickback, or a Collective Bargaining Kickback, or convening a vote at one in the morning or on a Saturday night. It will be a plebiscite that the president himself has nationalized — conducted on the last day of his first year, in the most liberal state in the nation, in the place where the original tea party occurred. If two polls taken yesterday are accurate (both showing Brown up by 9.6 points), it will be a shot heard ’round the world.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

At one time, this was thought to be a seat at risk for Republicans: “Former Congressman Rob Portman continues to have the edge on both his chief Democratic rivals in this year’s race for the U.S. Senate in Ohio.”

Charlie Cook has the Massachusetts Senate race as a toss-up, too: “Coakley has run an overly-cautious, somewhat clumsy campaign, only recently hitting the panic button. Some astute political observers note that even in attacking Brown, her campaign’s ads have been less impressive than the attacks on Brown launched by other entities. … To the extent Coakley may still have a tiny advantage, it appears not to meet the normal standard we have for a ‘lean’ rating: a competitive race but one in which one party has a clear advantage. We see no clear advantage.” This is Massachusetts, folks.

Why is it so close in Massachusetts? “Massachusetts politicos said that while anti-Washington sentiment is an element of what is happening in their state, they also blame state political dynamics in combination with presumption by the Democrats and the party’s candidate — Attorney General Martha Coakley — that the seat would be theirs without much of an effort. The Kennedy-anointed Coakley took nearly a week off from the campaign around Christmas. ‘A lot of Democrats in Massachusetts and certainly the Coakley campaign and myself thought this was going to be a lot easier than it’s turning out to be,’ said David Kravitz, a Boston lawyer and opera singer who runs a liberal political blog called bluemassgroup.com.”

It’s all a “political smear campaign,” he says: “Former UN weapons inspector turned Iraq war critic Scott Ritter has been caught in a police sex sting.” And his arrest (the charge was subsequently dismissed) in a 2001 Internet sex scandal was just a coincidence, I suppose.

Fred Barnes thinks ObamaCare isn’t a done deal yet in the House: “Republicans have a target-rich environment of 39 Democrats who voted in favor of Obamacare last year as possible defectors. Republicans will try to persuade as many of them as possible to switch, forcing Pelosi to find new Obamacare backers or see the health care bill die. … The 39 possible switchers include 11 pro-life Democrats who voted for Obamacare after a tough anti-abortion amendment was added. The compromise with the Senate bill isn’t likely to have as strong a provision barring the use of public funds to pay for abortions. Thus some of the pro-lifers could defect.”

Ben Nelson got booed at a pizza parlor. It seems his health-care vote has made him quite unpopular at home: “He used to be a popular figure back home, a Democrat who served eight years in the governor’s office and was elected twice to the Senate by a state that’s as red as the ‘N’ on football helmets. But Nelson has seen his approval ratings tumble in the wake of his wavering over the historic health care bill, his deal cutting with other Senate Democrats and, ultimately, his support to break a GOP filibuster and send the bill to a House-Senate conference committee.” Do other Red State Democrats think they’re immune from this reaction back home?

Elections have consequences: “The man once described by teachers’ union leaders as “the antithesis of everything we hold sacred about public education” was chosen to serve as state education commissioner by Governor-elect Christopher J. Christie on Wednesday. The nomination of Bret D. Schundler to the post underscored the governor’s determination to press ahead with his push for school vouchers, more charter schools and merit pay for teachers.”

Israel is helping in Haiti relief, though you won’t see much reporting on it.

Harry Reid is tanking: “36% approval to 58% disapproval, a 51-41 deficit against Sue Lowden, and a 50-42 one against Danny Tarkanian.” I suspect he’ll be joining Chris Dodd in retirement. You’d have thought that Democrats would have figured out how to dump him in the flap over his “Negro dialect” comments. But maybe it’s not too late. The Democratic Public Policy Polling outfit helpfully polls Democratic alternatives to Reid and finds that the Las Vegas mayor does best against GOP challengers.

At one time, this was thought to be a seat at risk for Republicans: “Former Congressman Rob Portman continues to have the edge on both his chief Democratic rivals in this year’s race for the U.S. Senate in Ohio.”

Charlie Cook has the Massachusetts Senate race as a toss-up, too: “Coakley has run an overly-cautious, somewhat clumsy campaign, only recently hitting the panic button. Some astute political observers note that even in attacking Brown, her campaign’s ads have been less impressive than the attacks on Brown launched by other entities. … To the extent Coakley may still have a tiny advantage, it appears not to meet the normal standard we have for a ‘lean’ rating: a competitive race but one in which one party has a clear advantage. We see no clear advantage.” This is Massachusetts, folks.

Why is it so close in Massachusetts? “Massachusetts politicos said that while anti-Washington sentiment is an element of what is happening in their state, they also blame state political dynamics in combination with presumption by the Democrats and the party’s candidate — Attorney General Martha Coakley — that the seat would be theirs without much of an effort. The Kennedy-anointed Coakley took nearly a week off from the campaign around Christmas. ‘A lot of Democrats in Massachusetts and certainly the Coakley campaign and myself thought this was going to be a lot easier than it’s turning out to be,’ said David Kravitz, a Boston lawyer and opera singer who runs a liberal political blog called bluemassgroup.com.”

It’s all a “political smear campaign,” he says: “Former UN weapons inspector turned Iraq war critic Scott Ritter has been caught in a police sex sting.” And his arrest (the charge was subsequently dismissed) in a 2001 Internet sex scandal was just a coincidence, I suppose.

Fred Barnes thinks ObamaCare isn’t a done deal yet in the House: “Republicans have a target-rich environment of 39 Democrats who voted in favor of Obamacare last year as possible defectors. Republicans will try to persuade as many of them as possible to switch, forcing Pelosi to find new Obamacare backers or see the health care bill die. … The 39 possible switchers include 11 pro-life Democrats who voted for Obamacare after a tough anti-abortion amendment was added. The compromise with the Senate bill isn’t likely to have as strong a provision barring the use of public funds to pay for abortions. Thus some of the pro-lifers could defect.”

Ben Nelson got booed at a pizza parlor. It seems his health-care vote has made him quite unpopular at home: “He used to be a popular figure back home, a Democrat who served eight years in the governor’s office and was elected twice to the Senate by a state that’s as red as the ‘N’ on football helmets. But Nelson has seen his approval ratings tumble in the wake of his wavering over the historic health care bill, his deal cutting with other Senate Democrats and, ultimately, his support to break a GOP filibuster and send the bill to a House-Senate conference committee.” Do other Red State Democrats think they’re immune from this reaction back home?

Elections have consequences: “The man once described by teachers’ union leaders as “the antithesis of everything we hold sacred about public education” was chosen to serve as state education commissioner by Governor-elect Christopher J. Christie on Wednesday. The nomination of Bret D. Schundler to the post underscored the governor’s determination to press ahead with his push for school vouchers, more charter schools and merit pay for teachers.”

Israel is helping in Haiti relief, though you won’t see much reporting on it.

Harry Reid is tanking: “36% approval to 58% disapproval, a 51-41 deficit against Sue Lowden, and a 50-42 one against Danny Tarkanian.” I suspect he’ll be joining Chris Dodd in retirement. You’d have thought that Democrats would have figured out how to dump him in the flap over his “Negro dialect” comments. But maybe it’s not too late. The Democratic Public Policy Polling outfit helpfully polls Democratic alternatives to Reid and finds that the Las Vegas mayor does best against GOP challengers.

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Obama’s Polling Blues

The raft of bad polling data continues for President Obama. When voters were asked in a CNN/Opinion Research survey published on Tuesday to rate Obama’s performance since taking office, 48 percent judged it a failure while 47 percent saw a success. This corresponds with a new Quinnipiac University poll released today, showing voters split 45-45 on whether Obama’s first year was a success or failure. Earlier this week, a CBS News poll showed Obama’s job approval rating at 46 percent, marking the first time he had polled below 50 percent in that survey. The CBS poll also showed that Obama’s support among independent voters has fallen 10 points in the last few months alone.

Today’s Gallup poll has Obama’s approval rating on the economy – far and away the most important issue for the country – at an anemic 40 percent. His approval rating on health care – the issue he has devoted most of his presidency to – is at 37 percent. These numbers are the lowest of his presidency. In addition, Obama has the highest disapproval rating of any president in the January after the first year in office. And as Glen Bolger of Public Opinion Strategies points out, since Gallup first started measuring presidential job approval, every single president has had a lower job approval on the last poll before their first mid-term election than they did at the beginning of that year.

These data points continue a trend more than half a year old. There is hardly any good news to be found for Democrats anywhere – and things are likely to get worse before they get better. In fact, they may get a whole lot worse for Democrats  sooner than anyone thought just a week or so ago. I have in mind, of course, the Senate race in Massachusetts between Republican Scott Brown and Democrat Martha Coakley, with the latest Rasmussen poll showing Brown within two points of Coakley. (Brown is ahead by two percentage points among those who are absolutely certain they will vote). The conventional wisdom is that the national and state Democratic party has been awakened in the nick of time and that Coakley – with lots of outside help and money – will pull out a victory.

I’m not so sure. She obviously has enormous advantages working in her favor. But the entire feel of this campaign is very bad for Democrats, including the lurching shift from complacency to over-the-top attack ads; the fact that the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee has purchased more than $550,000 in ads in the Boston and Springfield markets; the need for Coakley to rush down to Washington to speak before a group of lobbyists and special interest groups only a week before the election; the fine, confident performance by Brown in Tuesday’s debate versus the sub-par performance by Coakley; the spontaneous enthusiasm Brown is generating in Massachusetts; and now the roughing up of a Weekly Standard reporter by a Coakley aide/mercenary, exactly the kind of thing Coakley’s campaign does not need.

An enormous backlash against Obama and Democrats has been building in the country for months; that will continue regardless of what happens in Massachusetts on Tuesday. But if Scott Brown pulls out a victory, it would have enormously far-reaching consequences for Democrats and for modern-day liberalism. It would shake their confidence to the core. It would trigger panic and recriminations in the Democratic party. It might convince a few more lawmakers that passing ObamaCare is just about the worst thing they can do. And when combined with the results of the gubernatorial races in New Jersey and Virginia, it would lead many Democrats to conclude that embracing Barack Obama and his brand of liberalism is a political death sentence.

Liberalism’s “sort-of God” is crashing before our eyes. So, it seems, is his party. It is really quite an extraordinary thing to witness.

The raft of bad polling data continues for President Obama. When voters were asked in a CNN/Opinion Research survey published on Tuesday to rate Obama’s performance since taking office, 48 percent judged it a failure while 47 percent saw a success. This corresponds with a new Quinnipiac University poll released today, showing voters split 45-45 on whether Obama’s first year was a success or failure. Earlier this week, a CBS News poll showed Obama’s job approval rating at 46 percent, marking the first time he had polled below 50 percent in that survey. The CBS poll also showed that Obama’s support among independent voters has fallen 10 points in the last few months alone.

Today’s Gallup poll has Obama’s approval rating on the economy – far and away the most important issue for the country – at an anemic 40 percent. His approval rating on health care – the issue he has devoted most of his presidency to – is at 37 percent. These numbers are the lowest of his presidency. In addition, Obama has the highest disapproval rating of any president in the January after the first year in office. And as Glen Bolger of Public Opinion Strategies points out, since Gallup first started measuring presidential job approval, every single president has had a lower job approval on the last poll before their first mid-term election than they did at the beginning of that year.

These data points continue a trend more than half a year old. There is hardly any good news to be found for Democrats anywhere – and things are likely to get worse before they get better. In fact, they may get a whole lot worse for Democrats  sooner than anyone thought just a week or so ago. I have in mind, of course, the Senate race in Massachusetts between Republican Scott Brown and Democrat Martha Coakley, with the latest Rasmussen poll showing Brown within two points of Coakley. (Brown is ahead by two percentage points among those who are absolutely certain they will vote). The conventional wisdom is that the national and state Democratic party has been awakened in the nick of time and that Coakley – with lots of outside help and money – will pull out a victory.

I’m not so sure. She obviously has enormous advantages working in her favor. But the entire feel of this campaign is very bad for Democrats, including the lurching shift from complacency to over-the-top attack ads; the fact that the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee has purchased more than $550,000 in ads in the Boston and Springfield markets; the need for Coakley to rush down to Washington to speak before a group of lobbyists and special interest groups only a week before the election; the fine, confident performance by Brown in Tuesday’s debate versus the sub-par performance by Coakley; the spontaneous enthusiasm Brown is generating in Massachusetts; and now the roughing up of a Weekly Standard reporter by a Coakley aide/mercenary, exactly the kind of thing Coakley’s campaign does not need.

An enormous backlash against Obama and Democrats has been building in the country for months; that will continue regardless of what happens in Massachusetts on Tuesday. But if Scott Brown pulls out a victory, it would have enormously far-reaching consequences for Democrats and for modern-day liberalism. It would shake their confidence to the core. It would trigger panic and recriminations in the Democratic party. It might convince a few more lawmakers that passing ObamaCare is just about the worst thing they can do. And when combined with the results of the gubernatorial races in New Jersey and Virginia, it would lead many Democrats to conclude that embracing Barack Obama and his brand of liberalism is a political death sentence.

Liberalism’s “sort-of God” is crashing before our eyes. So, it seems, is his party. It is really quite an extraordinary thing to witness.

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Re: Could Massachusetts Save Us from ObamaCare?

John, a potential victory by Republican Scott Brown in the race to fill Ted Kennedy’s Senate seat – which would be “10″ on the political Richter scale — is now more than simply a pipe dream by conservatives looking to upset ObamaCare and deliver a megadose of political medicine to the cocooned Beltway set. The race seems to be fairly close. Scott Rasmussen, following a private poll with a margin of 11 points for State Attorney General Martha Coakley, shows that the race is now down to nine points. Here is the kicker:

Special elections are typically decided by who shows up to vote and it is clear from the data that Brown’s supporters are more enthusiastic. In fact, among those who are absolutely certain they will vote, Brown pulls to within two points of Coakley. That suggests a very low turnout will help the Republican and a higher turnout is better for the Democrat.

Coakley is not exactly wowing them in the Bay State. As Boston radio talk-show host Michael Graham reports:

She’s insisting that the obscure third-party candidate (named, ironically enough, “Joe Kennedy”) be included in the few debates she has agreed to participate in. So few debates, in fact, that their radio debate this morning on my station, WTKK-FM in Boston, is turning into a huge media event. It’s a smart strategy for Coakley, a weak and unimpressive candidate, but it also shows how little confidence her campaign team has in their candidate.

Now, this is Massachusetts, so don’t bet the farm on a Brown once-in-a-generation upset. But by the same token, this is Massachusetts. If a Democrat is in a close race to replace Ted Kennedy there, what does this say about the political landscapes in Arkansas, Nevada, and a lot of other states with competitive races? Frankly, if the election is close, Democrats should be very, very nervous.

John, a potential victory by Republican Scott Brown in the race to fill Ted Kennedy’s Senate seat – which would be “10″ on the political Richter scale — is now more than simply a pipe dream by conservatives looking to upset ObamaCare and deliver a megadose of political medicine to the cocooned Beltway set. The race seems to be fairly close. Scott Rasmussen, following a private poll with a margin of 11 points for State Attorney General Martha Coakley, shows that the race is now down to nine points. Here is the kicker:

Special elections are typically decided by who shows up to vote and it is clear from the data that Brown’s supporters are more enthusiastic. In fact, among those who are absolutely certain they will vote, Brown pulls to within two points of Coakley. That suggests a very low turnout will help the Republican and a higher turnout is better for the Democrat.

Coakley is not exactly wowing them in the Bay State. As Boston radio talk-show host Michael Graham reports:

She’s insisting that the obscure third-party candidate (named, ironically enough, “Joe Kennedy”) be included in the few debates she has agreed to participate in. So few debates, in fact, that their radio debate this morning on my station, WTKK-FM in Boston, is turning into a huge media event. It’s a smart strategy for Coakley, a weak and unimpressive candidate, but it also shows how little confidence her campaign team has in their candidate.

Now, this is Massachusetts, so don’t bet the farm on a Brown once-in-a-generation upset. But by the same token, this is Massachusetts. If a Democrat is in a close race to replace Ted Kennedy there, what does this say about the political landscapes in Arkansas, Nevada, and a lot of other states with competitive races? Frankly, if the election is close, Democrats should be very, very nervous.

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Crime Going Extinct?

In one of the more hopeful and underreported stories in recent months, we learned that for the first half of 2009 — a period of considerable economic distress in our country — crime fell by 4.4 percent nationwide, with the murder rate dropping by a staggering 10 percent, according to statistics recently released by the FBI (see links here and here). The decline in murders from one year to another is one of the more significant decreases we have ever experienced. (All four of the offenses that make up violent crime — murder, forcible rape, robbery, and aggravated assault — decreased nationwide. In addition to the murder rate declining by 10 percent, robbery also fell by 6.5 percent, forcible rape decreased by 3.3 percent, and aggravated assault declined by 3.2 percent.)

In disaggregating this data, we see that violent crime and aggravated assault decreased in major cities of over 1 million residents, dropping by 7 percent and 6.2 percent, respectively. Crime in America’s largest city, New York, has fallen by 11 percent from last year and by 35 percent since 2001. New York, with 461 murders through December 27, is on track for the lowest number of homicides since comprehensive record-keeping began in 1963.

In Los Angeles the murder rate for the first half of 2009 was down by almost 30 percent. In Washington, D.C., the murder rate fell by 26 percent from a comparable period last year, to its lowest in the last two decades. The first half of 2009 also witnessed a 14 percent decrease in homicides in Atlanta and a 10 percent drop in Boston. (It should be pointed out that some cities, like Baltimore and Detroit, saw their murder rate climb.)

The Washington Post summarized things well in its January 2 editorial:

The national decrease in murder began about two decades ago. In 1991, the national homicide rate hit 9.8 per 100,000 inhabitants, prompting forecasts of permanently rising street violence — then fell to 5.7 in 1999. Many wondered whether this “Great Crime Decline” could be sustained for another 10 years. The answer would appear to be yes: By 2008, the murder rate had drifted down to 5.4 per 100,000, the lowest level since 1965. And given the preliminary figures, the rate for 2009 should be lower still. Indeed, if present trends continue, America will experience a degree of public safety not known since the 1950s.

The reasons for the drop we have witnessed in violent crime since the 1990s are multiple, probably including higher incarceration rates and tougher sentencing; advances in policing (including targeting repeat offenders and high-crime areas, utilizing technology such as crime mapping and gunfire-detection systems, which allows police to rapidly respond to incidents, and identifying criminal patterns more effectively); the passing of the crack-cocaine epidemic; the aging of the population; an enormous investment in private security measures; a proliferation of surveillance cameras; more effective intervention and prevention; and more.

It is impossible to ascribe with precision the exact reasons that have led to the progress we have witnessed; they vary depending on cities and circumstances. But the moral of the story is clear enough: problems that at one time seemed intractable can yield, and yield quickly, to the right policies and to a determined citizenry. Fatalism and despair are not options. And the capacity of American ingenuity to address the challenges we face is remarkable. As Irving Kristol put it more than three decades ago, “One of the least appreciated virtues of this society is its natural recuperative powers — its capacity to change, as we say, but also its capacity to preserve itself, to adapt and survive. The strength of these powers always astonishes us, as we anticipate (even proclaim) an imminent apocalypse that somehow never comes.”

It is not terribly fashionable to focus on the progress we experience, whether it has to do with a drop in violent crime rates here at home or a more pacified situation in Iraq. We are prone to focus our attention on the problems we face and the things that are going wrong. But sometimes, to paraphrase James Boswell in The Life of Samuel Johnson, cheerfulness does break in.

In one of the more hopeful and underreported stories in recent months, we learned that for the first half of 2009 — a period of considerable economic distress in our country — crime fell by 4.4 percent nationwide, with the murder rate dropping by a staggering 10 percent, according to statistics recently released by the FBI (see links here and here). The decline in murders from one year to another is one of the more significant decreases we have ever experienced. (All four of the offenses that make up violent crime — murder, forcible rape, robbery, and aggravated assault — decreased nationwide. In addition to the murder rate declining by 10 percent, robbery also fell by 6.5 percent, forcible rape decreased by 3.3 percent, and aggravated assault declined by 3.2 percent.)

In disaggregating this data, we see that violent crime and aggravated assault decreased in major cities of over 1 million residents, dropping by 7 percent and 6.2 percent, respectively. Crime in America’s largest city, New York, has fallen by 11 percent from last year and by 35 percent since 2001. New York, with 461 murders through December 27, is on track for the lowest number of homicides since comprehensive record-keeping began in 1963.

In Los Angeles the murder rate for the first half of 2009 was down by almost 30 percent. In Washington, D.C., the murder rate fell by 26 percent from a comparable period last year, to its lowest in the last two decades. The first half of 2009 also witnessed a 14 percent decrease in homicides in Atlanta and a 10 percent drop in Boston. (It should be pointed out that some cities, like Baltimore and Detroit, saw their murder rate climb.)

The Washington Post summarized things well in its January 2 editorial:

The national decrease in murder began about two decades ago. In 1991, the national homicide rate hit 9.8 per 100,000 inhabitants, prompting forecasts of permanently rising street violence — then fell to 5.7 in 1999. Many wondered whether this “Great Crime Decline” could be sustained for another 10 years. The answer would appear to be yes: By 2008, the murder rate had drifted down to 5.4 per 100,000, the lowest level since 1965. And given the preliminary figures, the rate for 2009 should be lower still. Indeed, if present trends continue, America will experience a degree of public safety not known since the 1950s.

The reasons for the drop we have witnessed in violent crime since the 1990s are multiple, probably including higher incarceration rates and tougher sentencing; advances in policing (including targeting repeat offenders and high-crime areas, utilizing technology such as crime mapping and gunfire-detection systems, which allows police to rapidly respond to incidents, and identifying criminal patterns more effectively); the passing of the crack-cocaine epidemic; the aging of the population; an enormous investment in private security measures; a proliferation of surveillance cameras; more effective intervention and prevention; and more.

It is impossible to ascribe with precision the exact reasons that have led to the progress we have witnessed; they vary depending on cities and circumstances. But the moral of the story is clear enough: problems that at one time seemed intractable can yield, and yield quickly, to the right policies and to a determined citizenry. Fatalism and despair are not options. And the capacity of American ingenuity to address the challenges we face is remarkable. As Irving Kristol put it more than three decades ago, “One of the least appreciated virtues of this society is its natural recuperative powers — its capacity to change, as we say, but also its capacity to preserve itself, to adapt and survive. The strength of these powers always astonishes us, as we anticipate (even proclaim) an imminent apocalypse that somehow never comes.”

It is not terribly fashionable to focus on the progress we experience, whether it has to do with a drop in violent crime rates here at home or a more pacified situation in Iraq. We are prone to focus our attention on the problems we face and the things that are going wrong. But sometimes, to paraphrase James Boswell in The Life of Samuel Johnson, cheerfulness does break in.

Read Less

The Adams Family

I’ll leave judgments about the historical veracity of HBO’s new miniseries, John Adams, to those with some expertise in the field (at least one historian seems to think it’s not perfect, but not bad either). The real question is: Is it worth watching? And judging from the two episodes that aired this week, the series is (slightly) less than the sum of its parts. The good news, however, is that the parts are generally excellent.

Strong performances anchor the series. Paul Giamatti plays the title character, a lumpy, bald Boston lawyer who finds his way to greatness after successfully defending the British soldiers involved in the Boston massacre. Giamatti is characteristically frumpy here, but he lends Adams an interesting blend of arrogance and anxiety as well. He’s a patriot, yes, concerned for his country, but also about his own family, life, and legacy. It’s a showcase for Giamatti, but Tom Wilkinson (as Ben Franklin), Laura Linney (as Abigail Adams), David Morse (as George Washington) and Stephane Dillane (as Thomas Jefferson) also make quite the impression as well.

Meanwhile, from the costumes to the extravagant sets, everything on the production side is superb, but the standout element is the photography, which looks positively stunning in HD. Director of Photography Tak Fujimoto is a longtime Hollywood hand (I first recall noticing his work in 1991′s The Silence of the Lambs), and his visual trademarks are evident in nearly every scene.

He’s got two main modes behind the lens—the participant and the voyeur. The first mode is primarily used in the larger setpieces, most notably in the series’ opening sequence, which depicts the Boston Massacre; a handheld camera follows Adams as he stumbles through the streets and into the bloody scene, running side-by-side with the man as if his partner. It puts viewers inside the scene, makes them part of it. The more intimate scenes, mostly between Adams and his wife Abigail, are typically shot in low light, and often from another room, or behind an object. The effect is of peering in on history from the outside, watching an American founder from the outside.

The series’ weaknesses come mostly in the script by Kirk Ellis, which, at least at this point, has failed to bring the many other fine elements together. There are many strong moments, especially between John and Abigail (a nighttime monologue in which Adams, laying next to his silent wife, thinks through his dilemma—and those of the country—is particularly touching). But too many scenes feel overly scripted, as if the characters were simply spouting miniature editorials. I have no doubt they were eloquent men, but surely they stumbled once in a while? And in both of the inaugural episodes, there is far too much reliance on courtroom-style drama, as the series would really rather be Law & Order: American Revolution. Still, it’s by far the best thing on TV right now, and anyone with even a passing interest in the subject would do well to check it out.

I’ll leave judgments about the historical veracity of HBO’s new miniseries, John Adams, to those with some expertise in the field (at least one historian seems to think it’s not perfect, but not bad either). The real question is: Is it worth watching? And judging from the two episodes that aired this week, the series is (slightly) less than the sum of its parts. The good news, however, is that the parts are generally excellent.

Strong performances anchor the series. Paul Giamatti plays the title character, a lumpy, bald Boston lawyer who finds his way to greatness after successfully defending the British soldiers involved in the Boston massacre. Giamatti is characteristically frumpy here, but he lends Adams an interesting blend of arrogance and anxiety as well. He’s a patriot, yes, concerned for his country, but also about his own family, life, and legacy. It’s a showcase for Giamatti, but Tom Wilkinson (as Ben Franklin), Laura Linney (as Abigail Adams), David Morse (as George Washington) and Stephane Dillane (as Thomas Jefferson) also make quite the impression as well.

Meanwhile, from the costumes to the extravagant sets, everything on the production side is superb, but the standout element is the photography, which looks positively stunning in HD. Director of Photography Tak Fujimoto is a longtime Hollywood hand (I first recall noticing his work in 1991′s The Silence of the Lambs), and his visual trademarks are evident in nearly every scene.

He’s got two main modes behind the lens—the participant and the voyeur. The first mode is primarily used in the larger setpieces, most notably in the series’ opening sequence, which depicts the Boston Massacre; a handheld camera follows Adams as he stumbles through the streets and into the bloody scene, running side-by-side with the man as if his partner. It puts viewers inside the scene, makes them part of it. The more intimate scenes, mostly between Adams and his wife Abigail, are typically shot in low light, and often from another room, or behind an object. The effect is of peering in on history from the outside, watching an American founder from the outside.

The series’ weaknesses come mostly in the script by Kirk Ellis, which, at least at this point, has failed to bring the many other fine elements together. There are many strong moments, especially between John and Abigail (a nighttime monologue in which Adams, laying next to his silent wife, thinks through his dilemma—and those of the country—is particularly touching). But too many scenes feel overly scripted, as if the characters were simply spouting miniature editorials. I have no doubt they were eloquent men, but surely they stumbled once in a while? And in both of the inaugural episodes, there is far too much reliance on courtroom-style drama, as the series would really rather be Law & Order: American Revolution. Still, it’s by far the best thing on TV right now, and anyone with even a passing interest in the subject would do well to check it out.

Read Less

I . . . Agree with Michael Scheuer

Gabriel Schoenfeld has done a masterly job of dissecting the bizarre world view of retired CIA officer Michael Scheuer. But today Scheuer has actually written an article that I for the most part agree with. It’s called “Break Out the Shock and Awe,” and in it he cautions against the notion that “the U.S. military should rely more on covert operations and special forces to fight counterinsurgencies and irregular wars.” Only conventional forces, he argues, can deliver a lasting victory.

The reality is a little more complex. When they have skilled allied forces to fight alongside, American special operators can in fact deliver outsize results. That’s what happened in El Salvador in the 1980′s, when 55 Special Forces trainers helped defeat a communist insurgency. But in the absence of large, competent, conventional forces-and they have been notably lacking in Afghanistan and Iraq during most of the time we have fought there-special operators cannot magically defeat our enemies.

But even when delivering generally sound analysis, Scheuer goes astray. He writes:

Anyone who reads works on the recommended book lists of the Army chief of staff and the Marines Corps commandant — books by such writers as Stephen Ambrose, Ulysses S. Grant, William T. Sherman, and Dwight Eisenhower — will find little indication that wars can won by clandestine and special forces. Only Max Boot and his brethren at the Weekly Standard, Commentary and the National Review preach such nonsense as gospel.

I cannot speak for everyone at The Weekly Standard, COMMENTARY, or National Review, but off the top of my head (and speaking as the author of a book that is on the reading lists of both the Marine commandant and the chief of naval operations) I am hard put to think of any contributors to those publications who in fact “preach such nonsense as gospel.” Quite the reverse. Those publications have been supporting a surge of troops in Iraq precisely on the theory that special operators can’t do it alone.

Along with many of my “brethren” such as Fred Kagan, I have repeatedly warned against the special operations fallacy. For instance, in my Commentary article “How Not to Get Out of Iraq,” I wrote

If Special Operations Forces could not prevent the establishment under their noses of a Taliban-style “Islamic state” in Baquba during the past year, how much luck would they have operating from Kuwait or the Kurdish region, as suggested by proponents of this approach? It would be like trying to police Boston from Washington, D.C.

The major proponents of a commando-centric approach to fighting terrorists are not, in fact, to be found on the Right, especially now that Donald Rumsfeld is no longer at the Pentagon. They are primarily Democrats.  Some advocate this approach out of sheer ignorance; others do so out of political expediency.  All want to convince themselves that we can pull most of our troops out of Iraq and still keep Al Qaeda at bay. Scheuer would be well advised to aim his rhetorical fire a bit more carefully.

Gabriel Schoenfeld has done a masterly job of dissecting the bizarre world view of retired CIA officer Michael Scheuer. But today Scheuer has actually written an article that I for the most part agree with. It’s called “Break Out the Shock and Awe,” and in it he cautions against the notion that “the U.S. military should rely more on covert operations and special forces to fight counterinsurgencies and irregular wars.” Only conventional forces, he argues, can deliver a lasting victory.

The reality is a little more complex. When they have skilled allied forces to fight alongside, American special operators can in fact deliver outsize results. That’s what happened in El Salvador in the 1980′s, when 55 Special Forces trainers helped defeat a communist insurgency. But in the absence of large, competent, conventional forces-and they have been notably lacking in Afghanistan and Iraq during most of the time we have fought there-special operators cannot magically defeat our enemies.

But even when delivering generally sound analysis, Scheuer goes astray. He writes:

Anyone who reads works on the recommended book lists of the Army chief of staff and the Marines Corps commandant — books by such writers as Stephen Ambrose, Ulysses S. Grant, William T. Sherman, and Dwight Eisenhower — will find little indication that wars can won by clandestine and special forces. Only Max Boot and his brethren at the Weekly Standard, Commentary and the National Review preach such nonsense as gospel.

I cannot speak for everyone at The Weekly Standard, COMMENTARY, or National Review, but off the top of my head (and speaking as the author of a book that is on the reading lists of both the Marine commandant and the chief of naval operations) I am hard put to think of any contributors to those publications who in fact “preach such nonsense as gospel.” Quite the reverse. Those publications have been supporting a surge of troops in Iraq precisely on the theory that special operators can’t do it alone.

Along with many of my “brethren” such as Fred Kagan, I have repeatedly warned against the special operations fallacy. For instance, in my Commentary article “How Not to Get Out of Iraq,” I wrote

If Special Operations Forces could not prevent the establishment under their noses of a Taliban-style “Islamic state” in Baquba during the past year, how much luck would they have operating from Kuwait or the Kurdish region, as suggested by proponents of this approach? It would be like trying to police Boston from Washington, D.C.

The major proponents of a commando-centric approach to fighting terrorists are not, in fact, to be found on the Right, especially now that Donald Rumsfeld is no longer at the Pentagon. They are primarily Democrats.  Some advocate this approach out of sheer ignorance; others do so out of political expediency.  All want to convince themselves that we can pull most of our troops out of Iraq and still keep Al Qaeda at bay. Scheuer would be well advised to aim his rhetorical fire a bit more carefully.

Read Less




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