Commentary Magazine


Topic: BP

Former Clinton Officials Pessimistic About November

The Financial Times, in a story titled “Obama faces growing credibility crisis,” quotes two former Clinton administration officials. Their words will not reassure Democrats.

“If you ask me where the silver lining is for President Obama, I have to say I cannot see one,” according to William Galston, a former domestic adviser to President Clinton. “Just as BP’s failure to cap the well has been so damaging, Obama’s failure to cap unemployment will be his undoing. There is nothing he can do to affect the jobless rate before November.”

Not to be outdone, Rob Shapiro, another former Clinton administration official and a supporter of Obama, said, “The bottom line here is that Americans don’t believe in President Obama’s leadership. He has to find some way between now and November of demonstrating that he is a leader who can command confidence and, short of a 9/11 event or an Oklahoma City bombing, I can’t think of how he could do that.”

Messrs. Galston’s and Shapiro’s pessimism is fully warranted. As was said earlier this week, sometimes the sky really is falling. That is the case right now for Democrats — and it’s hard to see how things will get better for them between now and November 2. All the data point to a crushing loss for Democrats in the midterm election. It turns out that to be a Democratic lawmaker in the Age of Obama is a very dangerous thing. And the days of referring to Barack Obama as the next Lincoln and FDR, a “sort of God,” and a “black Jesus” appear to be over, don’t they?

The Financial Times, in a story titled “Obama faces growing credibility crisis,” quotes two former Clinton administration officials. Their words will not reassure Democrats.

“If you ask me where the silver lining is for President Obama, I have to say I cannot see one,” according to William Galston, a former domestic adviser to President Clinton. “Just as BP’s failure to cap the well has been so damaging, Obama’s failure to cap unemployment will be his undoing. There is nothing he can do to affect the jobless rate before November.”

Not to be outdone, Rob Shapiro, another former Clinton administration official and a supporter of Obama, said, “The bottom line here is that Americans don’t believe in President Obama’s leadership. He has to find some way between now and November of demonstrating that he is a leader who can command confidence and, short of a 9/11 event or an Oklahoma City bombing, I can’t think of how he could do that.”

Messrs. Galston’s and Shapiro’s pessimism is fully warranted. As was said earlier this week, sometimes the sky really is falling. That is the case right now for Democrats — and it’s hard to see how things will get better for them between now and November 2. All the data point to a crushing loss for Democrats in the midterm election. It turns out that to be a Democratic lawmaker in the Age of Obama is a very dangerous thing. And the days of referring to Barack Obama as the next Lincoln and FDR, a “sort of God,” and a “black Jesus” appear to be over, don’t they?

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Obama Beats the Record

In the RealClearPolitics poll average, Obama’s disapproval rating has reached an all-time high (48 percent), and his approval score, an all-time low (46.1 percent). Whatever he is doing — mainly attacking Republicans, BP, and Wall Street — isn’t working. You wonder how many Democratic candidates will have him in their ads. I’m betting many more Republicans than Democrats will be doing that. After all, the most critical factor in midterm congressional races is the political standing of the incumbent president. Right now, it looks like a tsunami is heading the Democrats’ way.

In the RealClearPolitics poll average, Obama’s disapproval rating has reached an all-time high (48 percent), and his approval score, an all-time low (46.1 percent). Whatever he is doing — mainly attacking Republicans, BP, and Wall Street — isn’t working. You wonder how many Democratic candidates will have him in their ads. I’m betting many more Republicans than Democrats will be doing that. After all, the most critical factor in midterm congressional races is the political standing of the incumbent president. Right now, it looks like a tsunami is heading the Democrats’ way.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

No joke: Mother Jones has an excellent expose on the al-Qaeda lawyers’ antics in showing terrorists photos of CIA officials.

No news network except Fox has picked up on the New Black Panther Party scandal.

No meltdown (yet): “The U.S. Senate race in Kentucky is little changed from earlier this month, with Republican Rand Paul continuing to hold a modest lead over Democrat Jack Conway. The latest Rasmussen Reports statewide telephone survey of Likely Voters shows Paul picking up 49% support to Conway’s 42%.”

No good news for the Democrats. Stuart Rothenberg: “The news on joblessness and the U.S. economy, combined with growing concerns over the federal deficit, Europe’s financial health (particularly growing debt), the lack of progress of the war in Afghanistan and the damage resulting from the BP oil gusher in the Gulf of Mexico, are burying the president and his party in an avalanche of public dissatisfaction.”

No answers (from Elena Kagan): “Republicans and Democrats alike expressed frustration that she wasn’t willing to answer more questions despite having once written a book review saying Supreme Court nominees needed to do just that.”

No “shift” or “rift” between Israel and the U.S., says Yoram Ettinger. It’s worse: “Obama is an ideologue, determined to change the US and the world, irrespective of his declining fortunes internally and externally.” The result is an “unbridgeable gap” between the two countries.

No better distillation of Obama’s flawed Middle East policy than this from Elliott Abrams: “The Obama Administration appears to have three basic premises about the Middle East. The first is that the key issue in the entire Middle East is the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The second is that it is a territorial conflict that can be resolved in essence by Israeli concessions. The third is that the central function of the United States is to serve as the PLO’s lawyer to broker those concessions so that an agreement can be signed.”

No cloture vote. With senators’ newfound concern for fiscal responsibility (it’s an election year), Harry Reid can’t round up enough votes to pass unemployment benefits. “Reid intends to call a vote Thursday evening on the smaller benefits bill — now paired with a homebuyer’s credit provision that may help garner more support. But the majority leader conceded he might not be able to clear the bill before the July recess. A more comprehensive tax extenders and unemployment benefits bill failed to pass the procedural block on three consecutive tries.”

No timeline on immigration reform: “President Barack Obama will talk about the urgency of the need for immigration reform in a major speech on Thursday, but will not give a timeline for action.” (It would be nice if he felt the same about a troop pullout from Afghanistan.) Makes you almost think he’s not serious about doing something, only making a campaign issue out of it.

No joke: Mother Jones has an excellent expose on the al-Qaeda lawyers’ antics in showing terrorists photos of CIA officials.

No news network except Fox has picked up on the New Black Panther Party scandal.

No meltdown (yet): “The U.S. Senate race in Kentucky is little changed from earlier this month, with Republican Rand Paul continuing to hold a modest lead over Democrat Jack Conway. The latest Rasmussen Reports statewide telephone survey of Likely Voters shows Paul picking up 49% support to Conway’s 42%.”

No good news for the Democrats. Stuart Rothenberg: “The news on joblessness and the U.S. economy, combined with growing concerns over the federal deficit, Europe’s financial health (particularly growing debt), the lack of progress of the war in Afghanistan and the damage resulting from the BP oil gusher in the Gulf of Mexico, are burying the president and his party in an avalanche of public dissatisfaction.”

No answers (from Elena Kagan): “Republicans and Democrats alike expressed frustration that she wasn’t willing to answer more questions despite having once written a book review saying Supreme Court nominees needed to do just that.”

No “shift” or “rift” between Israel and the U.S., says Yoram Ettinger. It’s worse: “Obama is an ideologue, determined to change the US and the world, irrespective of his declining fortunes internally and externally.” The result is an “unbridgeable gap” between the two countries.

No better distillation of Obama’s flawed Middle East policy than this from Elliott Abrams: “The Obama Administration appears to have three basic premises about the Middle East. The first is that the key issue in the entire Middle East is the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The second is that it is a territorial conflict that can be resolved in essence by Israeli concessions. The third is that the central function of the United States is to serve as the PLO’s lawyer to broker those concessions so that an agreement can be signed.”

No cloture vote. With senators’ newfound concern for fiscal responsibility (it’s an election year), Harry Reid can’t round up enough votes to pass unemployment benefits. “Reid intends to call a vote Thursday evening on the smaller benefits bill — now paired with a homebuyer’s credit provision that may help garner more support. But the majority leader conceded he might not be able to clear the bill before the July recess. A more comprehensive tax extenders and unemployment benefits bill failed to pass the procedural block on three consecutive tries.”

No timeline on immigration reform: “President Barack Obama will talk about the urgency of the need for immigration reform in a major speech on Thursday, but will not give a timeline for action.” (It would be nice if he felt the same about a troop pullout from Afghanistan.) Makes you almost think he’s not serious about doing something, only making a campaign issue out of it.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

The markets don’t have faith in Obama’s economic policies: “Stocks fell sharply Tuesday as a steep decline in consumer confidence aggravated growing concern about the global economy and sent the Standard & Poor’s 500-stock index to a new low for the year. Stocks fell from the start, continuing a trend that had begun overnight in Asia and spread to Europe, driving major indexes in the United States down about 3 percent.”

Allan Meltzer doesn’t think the markets are behaving irrationally to Obamanomics: “Two overarching reasons explain the failure of Obamanomics. First, administration economists and their outside supporters neglected the longer-term costs and consequences of their actions. Second, the administration and Congress have through their deeds and words heightened uncertainty about the economic future. High uncertainty is the enemy of investment and growth.”

Bill Clinton doesn’t follow Obama’s political judgment: “Former President Bill Clinton broke with the White House Tuesday and endorsed Sen. Michael Bennet’s (D-Colo.) primary challenger.”

Democratic Rep. Gene Taylor doesn’t pull any punches on Obama’s response to the BP oil spill. He says, “I haven’t seen this much incompetence since Michael Brown was running FEMA.’

The voters don’t like Obama’s Guantanamo decision: “A new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds that just 36% of voters agree with the president’s decision to close the Guantanamo facility, Obama’s first major act upon taking office. Fifty-four percent (54%) disagree with that decision.”

Israel doesn’t want to knuckle under to Obama on a  Middle East peace deal: “U.S. envoy to the Middle East George Mitchell is frustrated by the conduct of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in the proximity talks with the Palestinians. … A senior Israeli source updated on some of the content of the proximity talks said that the American frustration stems from the fact that Netanyahu has so far not given any clear answers on the borders of the future Palestinian state.”

Turkey doesn’t  appear impressed with Obama’s straddling on the flotilla incident: “Israel must apologize for its blockade of the Gaza Strip, as well as compensate the people of Gaza, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said in an interview to American television Monday, adding that such an apology would be a condition to continued Turkish mediation in any future peace talks between Israel and Syria.” Yes, the Turks want Israel to capitulate, and Obama’s half-measures have only whetted their appetite for more Israel-bashing.

Californians don’t like the Obama economy: “Californians’ concerns about their state economy mirrors similar worries in other states. ‘There’s a high level of discontentment,’ said poll analyst [Clifford] Young. ‘They’re mad. However, in California is not clear who they’re going to be mad at. It will be incumbent upon the different candidates to frame that to their advantage.'” Right now, they are mad at Barbara Boxer, who is under 50 percent in the poll — a bad sign for an incumbent.

Liberals don’t like Obama at all, says Fareed Zakaria: “Liberals are dismayed. They’re angry. They’re abandoning him.”

The markets don’t have faith in Obama’s economic policies: “Stocks fell sharply Tuesday as a steep decline in consumer confidence aggravated growing concern about the global economy and sent the Standard & Poor’s 500-stock index to a new low for the year. Stocks fell from the start, continuing a trend that had begun overnight in Asia and spread to Europe, driving major indexes in the United States down about 3 percent.”

Allan Meltzer doesn’t think the markets are behaving irrationally to Obamanomics: “Two overarching reasons explain the failure of Obamanomics. First, administration economists and their outside supporters neglected the longer-term costs and consequences of their actions. Second, the administration and Congress have through their deeds and words heightened uncertainty about the economic future. High uncertainty is the enemy of investment and growth.”

Bill Clinton doesn’t follow Obama’s political judgment: “Former President Bill Clinton broke with the White House Tuesday and endorsed Sen. Michael Bennet’s (D-Colo.) primary challenger.”

Democratic Rep. Gene Taylor doesn’t pull any punches on Obama’s response to the BP oil spill. He says, “I haven’t seen this much incompetence since Michael Brown was running FEMA.’

The voters don’t like Obama’s Guantanamo decision: “A new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds that just 36% of voters agree with the president’s decision to close the Guantanamo facility, Obama’s first major act upon taking office. Fifty-four percent (54%) disagree with that decision.”

Israel doesn’t want to knuckle under to Obama on a  Middle East peace deal: “U.S. envoy to the Middle East George Mitchell is frustrated by the conduct of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in the proximity talks with the Palestinians. … A senior Israeli source updated on some of the content of the proximity talks said that the American frustration stems from the fact that Netanyahu has so far not given any clear answers on the borders of the future Palestinian state.”

Turkey doesn’t  appear impressed with Obama’s straddling on the flotilla incident: “Israel must apologize for its blockade of the Gaza Strip, as well as compensate the people of Gaza, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said in an interview to American television Monday, adding that such an apology would be a condition to continued Turkish mediation in any future peace talks between Israel and Syria.” Yes, the Turks want Israel to capitulate, and Obama’s half-measures have only whetted their appetite for more Israel-bashing.

Californians don’t like the Obama economy: “Californians’ concerns about their state economy mirrors similar worries in other states. ‘There’s a high level of discontentment,’ said poll analyst [Clifford] Young. ‘They’re mad. However, in California is not clear who they’re going to be mad at. It will be incumbent upon the different candidates to frame that to their advantage.'” Right now, they are mad at Barbara Boxer, who is under 50 percent in the poll — a bad sign for an incumbent.

Liberals don’t like Obama at all, says Fareed Zakaria: “Liberals are dismayed. They’re angry. They’re abandoning him.”

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Galston Talks Sense About Israel

A sensible and intellectually honest  thinker (whose posts appear on a website replete with those who are neither), William Galston has developed a habit of talking political sense to Democrats determined to screen out bad news. He now gives us a report from his trip to Israel. It is more candid and useful than what we’ve been getting from Jewish groups, the administration, and Michael Oren (except when he thinks he’s talking privately).

Galston dispenses with the sugar-coating when explaining the current U.S.-Israeli relationship:

Never before have I sensed such a mood of foreboding, which has been triggered by two issues above all—the looming impasse in relations with the United States and a possible military confrontation with Iran. … There are persistent rumors here that the Obama administration hopes to bring down the current Israeli government and replace it with a more tractable coalition. Don’t hold your breath. … To bring about a new coalition without the hardliners, the Obama administration would have to threaten Israel with measures at least as tough as the ones George H. W. Bush and James Baker implemented two decades ago against the Shamir government, risking a huge domestic political backlash.

On Iran, Galston describes the vast divide between Obama and the Israelis:

Looking farther east, most Israelis—including many who are very dovish vis-a-vis the Palestinians—believe that only military force can prevent Iran from becoming a nuclear power in the near future, and they cannot understand why the United States resists this conclusion.

A few months ago I participated in a day-long exercise, organized by the Brookings Institution, simulating the aftermath of a surprise Israeli attack on Iranian nuclear facilities. The outcome wasn’t pretty—a forceful Iranian attack on American allies throughout the region and a serious rift in relations between Israel and the United States. The Israeli team hoped that the United States would back them with military measures against Iran that the American team refused to initiate.

As Galston observes, “the sand in the hourglass is running down quickly. Some time this fall, an administration headed toward a midterm election with a faltering economy and negative developments in two war zones may confront a genuine Middle East crisis. We can only hope that its contingency plans are in place and that they’re better than BP’s.” Unfortunately, we know — thanks to Secretary of Defense Robert Gates — that there really isn’t much contingency planning going on.

Whether it is a “shift” or a “rift,” the U.S.-Israel relationship is not what it used to be. There is foreboding in Israel because the realization is sinking in that the Obama administration in all likelihood will not be there to defend the Jewish state — either diplomatically or militarily — when Israel needs America most. You would think American Jewry would be gripped by the same sense of foreboding as their brothers and sisters in Israel — and motivated to do something about it. But like Obama, they are, in Galston’s words, “playing for time.” I hope that they at least have a contingency plan better than BP’s and a sense of urgency to put it into action.

A sensible and intellectually honest  thinker (whose posts appear on a website replete with those who are neither), William Galston has developed a habit of talking political sense to Democrats determined to screen out bad news. He now gives us a report from his trip to Israel. It is more candid and useful than what we’ve been getting from Jewish groups, the administration, and Michael Oren (except when he thinks he’s talking privately).

Galston dispenses with the sugar-coating when explaining the current U.S.-Israeli relationship:

Never before have I sensed such a mood of foreboding, which has been triggered by two issues above all—the looming impasse in relations with the United States and a possible military confrontation with Iran. … There are persistent rumors here that the Obama administration hopes to bring down the current Israeli government and replace it with a more tractable coalition. Don’t hold your breath. … To bring about a new coalition without the hardliners, the Obama administration would have to threaten Israel with measures at least as tough as the ones George H. W. Bush and James Baker implemented two decades ago against the Shamir government, risking a huge domestic political backlash.

On Iran, Galston describes the vast divide between Obama and the Israelis:

Looking farther east, most Israelis—including many who are very dovish vis-a-vis the Palestinians—believe that only military force can prevent Iran from becoming a nuclear power in the near future, and they cannot understand why the United States resists this conclusion.

A few months ago I participated in a day-long exercise, organized by the Brookings Institution, simulating the aftermath of a surprise Israeli attack on Iranian nuclear facilities. The outcome wasn’t pretty—a forceful Iranian attack on American allies throughout the region and a serious rift in relations between Israel and the United States. The Israeli team hoped that the United States would back them with military measures against Iran that the American team refused to initiate.

As Galston observes, “the sand in the hourglass is running down quickly. Some time this fall, an administration headed toward a midterm election with a faltering economy and negative developments in two war zones may confront a genuine Middle East crisis. We can only hope that its contingency plans are in place and that they’re better than BP’s.” Unfortunately, we know — thanks to Secretary of Defense Robert Gates — that there really isn’t much contingency planning going on.

Whether it is a “shift” or a “rift,” the U.S.-Israel relationship is not what it used to be. There is foreboding in Israel because the realization is sinking in that the Obama administration in all likelihood will not be there to defend the Jewish state — either diplomatically or militarily — when Israel needs America most. You would think American Jewry would be gripped by the same sense of foreboding as their brothers and sisters in Israel — and motivated to do something about it. But like Obama, they are, in Galston’s words, “playing for time.” I hope that they at least have a contingency plan better than BP’s and a sense of urgency to put it into action.

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Can We Find Out Who Kagan Is Before She Takes the Bench?

Election-law professor Rick Hansen (h/t Taegan Goddard) writes:

If you were trying to schedule Senate hearings on a Supreme Court nominee to garner the least attention possible, you could not have picked a day better than today. The sad death of Senator Byrd; the Supreme Court decides four major cases, including the gun case; Congress poised to pass a major financial reform bill, with now some uncertainty as to timing given the death of Sen. Byrd; the Afghanistan McChrystal fallout; continued concern over BP’s cleanup operations. It is no wonder that many Americans don’t know who Elena Kagan is.

Actually, they don’t know who she is because there is not much that is knowable. Most senators don’t have much more than her biography, her slender body of writings, and a pleasant office visit by which to assess her. Sen. Jeff Sesssions set forth the problem in his opening remarks:

Ms. Kagan certainly has numerous talents and many good qualities, but there are serious concerns about this nomination. Ms. Kagan has less real legal experience of any nominee in at least 50 years. And it’s not just that the nominee has not been a judge. She has barely practiced law and not with the intensity and duration from which I think real legal understanding occurs. Ms. Kagan has never tried a case before a jury. She argued her first appellate case just nine months ago. While academia certainly has value, there is no substitute, I think, for being in the harness of the law, handling real cases over a period of years.

We know less about this nominee than we did about every other justice at this stage in the confirmation process. Part of this problem may be solved by a spasm of candor from the nominee. That’s not likely, and even if she is more forthcoming than expected, we have no basis by which to assess whether she will be a competent jurist. Democrats who rubber-stamp her on the theory that the White House must know something they don’t are taking a risk — and neglecting their constitutional obligation. I suppose it’s old-fashioned to expect that senators read groundbreaking legislation before they vote and to demand answers from an underqualified, stealth nominee. (These are the same folks who wax lyrical about Sen. Robert Byrd’s defense of the world’s “greatest deliberative body.”)

Unfortunately, senators insist on blathering on, asking unintelligible questions that give nominees the chance to run out the clock and flatter their questioner by commending the blather. Here’s a suggestion for the senators: ask a questions that are fewer than 20 words, ask them again if she doesn’t answer, keep track of the list of unanswered questions, and demand that she provide real answers before a vote is taken. Obama got through a campaign without being adequately vetted; it’s not a standard we should emulate for a lifetime Supreme Court appointment.

Election-law professor Rick Hansen (h/t Taegan Goddard) writes:

If you were trying to schedule Senate hearings on a Supreme Court nominee to garner the least attention possible, you could not have picked a day better than today. The sad death of Senator Byrd; the Supreme Court decides four major cases, including the gun case; Congress poised to pass a major financial reform bill, with now some uncertainty as to timing given the death of Sen. Byrd; the Afghanistan McChrystal fallout; continued concern over BP’s cleanup operations. It is no wonder that many Americans don’t know who Elena Kagan is.

Actually, they don’t know who she is because there is not much that is knowable. Most senators don’t have much more than her biography, her slender body of writings, and a pleasant office visit by which to assess her. Sen. Jeff Sesssions set forth the problem in his opening remarks:

Ms. Kagan certainly has numerous talents and many good qualities, but there are serious concerns about this nomination. Ms. Kagan has less real legal experience of any nominee in at least 50 years. And it’s not just that the nominee has not been a judge. She has barely practiced law and not with the intensity and duration from which I think real legal understanding occurs. Ms. Kagan has never tried a case before a jury. She argued her first appellate case just nine months ago. While academia certainly has value, there is no substitute, I think, for being in the harness of the law, handling real cases over a period of years.

We know less about this nominee than we did about every other justice at this stage in the confirmation process. Part of this problem may be solved by a spasm of candor from the nominee. That’s not likely, and even if she is more forthcoming than expected, we have no basis by which to assess whether she will be a competent jurist. Democrats who rubber-stamp her on the theory that the White House must know something they don’t are taking a risk — and neglecting their constitutional obligation. I suppose it’s old-fashioned to expect that senators read groundbreaking legislation before they vote and to demand answers from an underqualified, stealth nominee. (These are the same folks who wax lyrical about Sen. Robert Byrd’s defense of the world’s “greatest deliberative body.”)

Unfortunately, senators insist on blathering on, asking unintelligible questions that give nominees the chance to run out the clock and flatter their questioner by commending the blather. Here’s a suggestion for the senators: ask a questions that are fewer than 20 words, ask them again if she doesn’t answer, keep track of the list of unanswered questions, and demand that she provide real answers before a vote is taken. Obama got through a campaign without being adequately vetted; it’s not a standard we should emulate for a lifetime Supreme Court appointment.

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What’s More Important, the Environment or the Environmentalists?

To the Obama administration, it seems that it’s the latter. According to Canada’s Financial Post (h/t Instapundit), the administration turned down an offer from the Dutch to send skimmer boats that are far better and more capable than the ones we have because the water they discharge back into the ocean doesn’t meet the regulatory requirement that it be 99.9985 percent pure. Skimmer boats in a disastrous oil spill, in other words, are subject to a rule intended for bilge pumps.

Why does neither the U.S. government nor the U.S. energy companies have on hand the cleanup technology available in Europe? Ironically, the superior European technology runs afoul of U.S. environmental rules. The voracious Dutch vessels, for example, continuously suck up vast quantities of oily water, extract most of the oil, and then spit overboard vast quantities of nearly oil-free water. Nearly oil-free isn’t good enough for the U.S. regulators, who have a standard of 15 parts per million — if water isn’t at least 99.9985 percent pure, it may not be returned to the Gulf of Mexico.

So thanks to a regulation that could have been waived in a second, rather than skim up most of the oil, the Obami chose to leave it all in the ocean. It gets worse:

The Americans, overwhelmed by the catastrophic consequences of the BP spill, finally relented and took the Dutch up on their offer — but only partly. Because the U.S. didn’t want Dutch ships working the Gulf, the U.S. airlifted the Dutch equipment to the Gulf and then retrofitted it to U.S. vessels. And rather than have experienced Dutch crews immediately operate the oil-skimming equipment, to appease labour unions, the U.S. postponed the clean-up operation to allow U.S. crews to be trained.

So rather than clean up the spilling oil, the Obami chose to put the interests of organized labor first.

The Dutch are the world’s foremost experts on protecting the margin between the sea and the land. It’s not hard to see why: one-third of the Netherlands is on that margin, below sea level. But the Obama administration preferred to play politics instead of getting all the help it could get as soon as it could get it.

The evidence is piling up that the Obama administration, through a combination of hubris, incompetence, and special-interest butt-kissing, has greatly worsened a very serious situation. I wonder when the American mainstream media is going to start reporting it.

To the Obama administration, it seems that it’s the latter. According to Canada’s Financial Post (h/t Instapundit), the administration turned down an offer from the Dutch to send skimmer boats that are far better and more capable than the ones we have because the water they discharge back into the ocean doesn’t meet the regulatory requirement that it be 99.9985 percent pure. Skimmer boats in a disastrous oil spill, in other words, are subject to a rule intended for bilge pumps.

Why does neither the U.S. government nor the U.S. energy companies have on hand the cleanup technology available in Europe? Ironically, the superior European technology runs afoul of U.S. environmental rules. The voracious Dutch vessels, for example, continuously suck up vast quantities of oily water, extract most of the oil, and then spit overboard vast quantities of nearly oil-free water. Nearly oil-free isn’t good enough for the U.S. regulators, who have a standard of 15 parts per million — if water isn’t at least 99.9985 percent pure, it may not be returned to the Gulf of Mexico.

So thanks to a regulation that could have been waived in a second, rather than skim up most of the oil, the Obami chose to leave it all in the ocean. It gets worse:

The Americans, overwhelmed by the catastrophic consequences of the BP spill, finally relented and took the Dutch up on their offer — but only partly. Because the U.S. didn’t want Dutch ships working the Gulf, the U.S. airlifted the Dutch equipment to the Gulf and then retrofitted it to U.S. vessels. And rather than have experienced Dutch crews immediately operate the oil-skimming equipment, to appease labour unions, the U.S. postponed the clean-up operation to allow U.S. crews to be trained.

So rather than clean up the spilling oil, the Obami chose to put the interests of organized labor first.

The Dutch are the world’s foremost experts on protecting the margin between the sea and the land. It’s not hard to see why: one-third of the Netherlands is on that margin, below sea level. But the Obama administration preferred to play politics instead of getting all the help it could get as soon as it could get it.

The evidence is piling up that the Obama administration, through a combination of hubris, incompetence, and special-interest butt-kissing, has greatly worsened a very serious situation. I wonder when the American mainstream media is going to start reporting it.

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Congressional Hypocrisy Watch

Speaking on the floor of the House of Representatives in support of the bill Congressional Democrats are putting forward to get around the Supreme Court’s decision to uphold free-speech rights in the Citizens United case, Rep. Hank Johnson (D-GA) pushes the limits of not only partisan demagoguery but also hypocrisy.

Johnson claims that a failure to pass this flimsy bill will mean that “we will see more Republicans getting elected.” That should help build a bi-partisan coalition for the bill.

Even worse, he claims that the failure of campaign-finance “reform” schemes, such as the provisions of the McCain-Feingold bill — that were rightly deemed unconstitutional by the high court — will allow “big business” to dominate American politics and thus benefit the GOP. The two examples of bad big businesses that he cites are the villainous BP and Goldman Sachs. But in doing so, he fails to mention that the head of his party, President Barack Obama, and not a Republican, got the most money of any politician from BP. As Politico reported back in May just after the Gulf oil spill began to gush, “During his time in the Senate and while running for president, Obama received a total of $77,051 from the oil giant and is the top recipient of BP PAC and individual money over the past 20 years, according to financial disclosure records.”

As for Goldman Sachs, it ranked second on the list of organizations or companies that bundled the most money for Obama in 2008. Its PACs and its individual employees donated a stunning $994,795 to the Democratic candidate.

But while Rep. Johnson and his colleagues attempt to revive restrictions on free speech in the name of electoral “reform,” there remain no laws on the books about Congressional hypocrisy.

Speaking on the floor of the House of Representatives in support of the bill Congressional Democrats are putting forward to get around the Supreme Court’s decision to uphold free-speech rights in the Citizens United case, Rep. Hank Johnson (D-GA) pushes the limits of not only partisan demagoguery but also hypocrisy.

Johnson claims that a failure to pass this flimsy bill will mean that “we will see more Republicans getting elected.” That should help build a bi-partisan coalition for the bill.

Even worse, he claims that the failure of campaign-finance “reform” schemes, such as the provisions of the McCain-Feingold bill — that were rightly deemed unconstitutional by the high court — will allow “big business” to dominate American politics and thus benefit the GOP. The two examples of bad big businesses that he cites are the villainous BP and Goldman Sachs. But in doing so, he fails to mention that the head of his party, President Barack Obama, and not a Republican, got the most money of any politician from BP. As Politico reported back in May just after the Gulf oil spill began to gush, “During his time in the Senate and while running for president, Obama received a total of $77,051 from the oil giant and is the top recipient of BP PAC and individual money over the past 20 years, according to financial disclosure records.”

As for Goldman Sachs, it ranked second on the list of organizations or companies that bundled the most money for Obama in 2008. Its PACs and its individual employees donated a stunning $994,795 to the Democratic candidate.

But while Rep. Johnson and his colleagues attempt to revive restrictions on free speech in the name of electoral “reform,” there remain no laws on the books about Congressional hypocrisy.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

We finally have the perfect (and poetic) telling of the Tipper and Al saga.

Obama finally tries to undo some of the damage wrought by his troop-pullout deadline: “We did not say, starting in July 2011, suddenly there will be no troops from the United States or allied countries in Afghanistan. … We didn’t say we’d be switching off the lights and closing the door behind us. … We said we’d begin a transition phase that would allow the Afghan government to take more and more responsibility.” Now he just needs an affirmative statement that we’re going to do whatever it takes to win.

The voters finally get to grade Obama and the Democrats in November. They won’t be getting a B+: “This year’s low approval ratings for Congress are a potentially ominous sign for President Obama and the Democratic majority in Congress. Gallup has found greater party seat change in Congress in midterm elections when Congress has had low approval ratings.” Congress has a 20 percent approval rating; in 1994, Democrats scored 23 percent and lost 53 seats.

Congress should finally defund this position: “Rashad Hussain, America’s special envoy to the Organization for the Islamic Conference (OIC), the Saudi-based body formed in 1969 to ‘protect’ Jerusalem from the Israelis, announced a new title this week for President Barack Obama. According to Hussain, Obama is America’s ‘Educator-in-Chief on Islam.'” Unfortunately, until we have a new president, there’s nothing to be done — other than object loudly to this: “Hussain has now divulged that the U.S. will support the OIC in the latter’s United Nations effort to criminalize ‘defamation of religion’ — widely perceived as a measure to suppress criticism of Muslim practices that violate human rights.”

Will the Washington Post finally admit that the paper was snookered into hiring David Weigel as an authentic conservative voice? The latest: he apologizes to readers — for comments made on the lefty Journolist. Ahh … doesn’t that meant that … ? Even the Post should be able to figure that out now.

Will Democrats (and the rest of the country) finally be rid of Harry Reid? “The latest Rasmussen Reports telephone survey of Likely Voters in Nevada shows [Sharon] Angle earning 48% support, while Reid, the state’s longtime Democratic senator, picks up 41% of the vote.”

Jonathan Chait finally stumbles onto the truth. On Rand Paul’s obfuscation regarding the BP fund: “He’s intellectually honest enough that he doesn’t want to lie about his views. But he’s not quite intellectually honest enough to actually say what his views are. So he just keeps talking about issues related to the question without answering it.”

We finally have the perfect (and poetic) telling of the Tipper and Al saga.

Obama finally tries to undo some of the damage wrought by his troop-pullout deadline: “We did not say, starting in July 2011, suddenly there will be no troops from the United States or allied countries in Afghanistan. … We didn’t say we’d be switching off the lights and closing the door behind us. … We said we’d begin a transition phase that would allow the Afghan government to take more and more responsibility.” Now he just needs an affirmative statement that we’re going to do whatever it takes to win.

The voters finally get to grade Obama and the Democrats in November. They won’t be getting a B+: “This year’s low approval ratings for Congress are a potentially ominous sign for President Obama and the Democratic majority in Congress. Gallup has found greater party seat change in Congress in midterm elections when Congress has had low approval ratings.” Congress has a 20 percent approval rating; in 1994, Democrats scored 23 percent and lost 53 seats.

Congress should finally defund this position: “Rashad Hussain, America’s special envoy to the Organization for the Islamic Conference (OIC), the Saudi-based body formed in 1969 to ‘protect’ Jerusalem from the Israelis, announced a new title this week for President Barack Obama. According to Hussain, Obama is America’s ‘Educator-in-Chief on Islam.'” Unfortunately, until we have a new president, there’s nothing to be done — other than object loudly to this: “Hussain has now divulged that the U.S. will support the OIC in the latter’s United Nations effort to criminalize ‘defamation of religion’ — widely perceived as a measure to suppress criticism of Muslim practices that violate human rights.”

Will the Washington Post finally admit that the paper was snookered into hiring David Weigel as an authentic conservative voice? The latest: he apologizes to readers — for comments made on the lefty Journolist. Ahh … doesn’t that meant that … ? Even the Post should be able to figure that out now.

Will Democrats (and the rest of the country) finally be rid of Harry Reid? “The latest Rasmussen Reports telephone survey of Likely Voters in Nevada shows [Sharon] Angle earning 48% support, while Reid, the state’s longtime Democratic senator, picks up 41% of the vote.”

Jonathan Chait finally stumbles onto the truth. On Rand Paul’s obfuscation regarding the BP fund: “He’s intellectually honest enough that he doesn’t want to lie about his views. But he’s not quite intellectually honest enough to actually say what his views are. So he just keeps talking about issues related to the question without answering it.”

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Bad News For Democrats Now “Fit To Print”

It’s no secret that, as a smart Brookings Institution pundit conceded recently to me, that the CBS/New York Times poll “slants left.” So that makes the latest survey all the more bracing for the White House ( if they’d stop ignoring bad news):

[D]espite intense news coverage and widespread public concern about the economic and ecological damage from the gulf disaster, most Americans remain far more concerned about jobs and the nation’s overall economy.

And in that regard, President Obama does not fare well: 54 percent of the public say he does not have a clear plan for creating jobs, while only 34 percent say he does, an ominous sign heading into this fall’s midterm elections.

Respondents were nearly evenly split on the president’s handling of the economy — 45 percent approve, 48 percent disapprove. His job approval rating remains just below 50 percent. And by a nearly 2-to-1 margin, Americans think the country is on the wrong track.

They are also impatient with Mr. Obama’s response to the oil disaster in the gulf, by a large margin, and attribute the spill to risks taken by BP and its partners in the failed well, according to the poll, which was conducted by telephone from June 16 to 2o with 1,259 adults.

And after his widely panned Oval office, the poll shows 59% of respondents don’t think Obama has a plan for cleaning up the Gulf.

The decline in Obama’s fortunes is not solely attributable to the oil spill, of course. It’s been a long time in coming, although Times readers have been sheltered from much of the bad news for Obama ( much like the president himself, we suspect). If they only read the Times, they might have missed the warning signs in the 2009 gubernatorial elections, written off the election of Scott Brown as a fluke, clung to the belief that the public would learn to love ObamaCare and been convinced George W. Bush could be blamed for everything that went wrong. But there’s no averting their eyes now — Obama and his party are in a heap of trouble and the election will in all likelihood deal a punishing blow to Democrats unlucky enough to be on the ballot.

It’s no secret that, as a smart Brookings Institution pundit conceded recently to me, that the CBS/New York Times poll “slants left.” So that makes the latest survey all the more bracing for the White House ( if they’d stop ignoring bad news):

[D]espite intense news coverage and widespread public concern about the economic and ecological damage from the gulf disaster, most Americans remain far more concerned about jobs and the nation’s overall economy.

And in that regard, President Obama does not fare well: 54 percent of the public say he does not have a clear plan for creating jobs, while only 34 percent say he does, an ominous sign heading into this fall’s midterm elections.

Respondents were nearly evenly split on the president’s handling of the economy — 45 percent approve, 48 percent disapprove. His job approval rating remains just below 50 percent. And by a nearly 2-to-1 margin, Americans think the country is on the wrong track.

They are also impatient with Mr. Obama’s response to the oil disaster in the gulf, by a large margin, and attribute the spill to risks taken by BP and its partners in the failed well, according to the poll, which was conducted by telephone from June 16 to 2o with 1,259 adults.

And after his widely panned Oval office, the poll shows 59% of respondents don’t think Obama has a plan for cleaning up the Gulf.

The decline in Obama’s fortunes is not solely attributable to the oil spill, of course. It’s been a long time in coming, although Times readers have been sheltered from much of the bad news for Obama ( much like the president himself, we suspect). If they only read the Times, they might have missed the warning signs in the 2009 gubernatorial elections, written off the election of Scott Brown as a fluke, clung to the belief that the public would learn to love ObamaCare and been convinced George W. Bush could be blamed for everything that went wrong. But there’s no averting their eyes now — Obama and his party are in a heap of trouble and the election will in all likelihood deal a punishing blow to Democrats unlucky enough to be on the ballot.

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In Praise of David Brooks

On Jim Lehrer’s NewsHour, David Brooks — while properly castigating Rep. Joe Barton for his politically inept defense of BP and his muddled attempt to draw an important principle from what is happening — said this:

He actually had a kernel of truth at the core of what he said, which is that we’re a nation of laws. We have laws to protect the unpopular, and to even protect people who do bad things. And we have a set of laws, when somebody does something bad, does something negligent, to force them to pay and compensate those who were damaged. And that’s all on the books. And what President Obama did when he very publicly and very brutally strong-armed BP into setting aside this $20 billion, is, he went around those laws. And some people think, “Oh, it’s no problem. It’s only BP.” Well, if you’re upset about — I mean, if, imagine if Dick Cheney did it to somebody he didn’t like and said, “Oh, we don’t happen to like you. We’re going to set $20 billion aside, and I will appoint the person who is going to decide what is going to happen to that $20 billion.”

Now, I’m not personally worried about what’s going to happen to this $20 billion, because Ken Feinberg, who was on the show earlier, is a hero. He will be honest. He will be straight. So, I’m not worried about that. I’m worried about the erosion of the rule of law, which is a president using the vast powers of the federal government to strong-arm a company, no matter how unpopular and no matter how badly they may have behaved.

David’s point is well put, and, when passions among the polity are running high, it was a responsible observation to make.

In A Man for All Seasons, Thomas More and William Roper have an exchange in which Roper says to More, “So now you’d give the Devil benefit of law!”

More answers: “Yes. What would you do? Cut a great road through the law to get after the Devil?” Roper replies, “I’d cut down every law in England to do that!” And More answers this way:

Oh? And when the last law was down, and the Devil turned round on you — where would you hide, Roper, the laws all being flat? This country’s planted thick with laws from coast to coast — man’s laws, not God’s — and if you cut them down — and you’re just the man to do it — d’you really think you could stand upright in the winds that would blow then? Yes, I’d give the Devil benefit of law, for my own safety’s sake.

During this crisis, BP has acted horribly on almost every level; but the rule of law still matters, even — and maybe especially — in instances like this.

On Jim Lehrer’s NewsHour, David Brooks — while properly castigating Rep. Joe Barton for his politically inept defense of BP and his muddled attempt to draw an important principle from what is happening — said this:

He actually had a kernel of truth at the core of what he said, which is that we’re a nation of laws. We have laws to protect the unpopular, and to even protect people who do bad things. And we have a set of laws, when somebody does something bad, does something negligent, to force them to pay and compensate those who were damaged. And that’s all on the books. And what President Obama did when he very publicly and very brutally strong-armed BP into setting aside this $20 billion, is, he went around those laws. And some people think, “Oh, it’s no problem. It’s only BP.” Well, if you’re upset about — I mean, if, imagine if Dick Cheney did it to somebody he didn’t like and said, “Oh, we don’t happen to like you. We’re going to set $20 billion aside, and I will appoint the person who is going to decide what is going to happen to that $20 billion.”

Now, I’m not personally worried about what’s going to happen to this $20 billion, because Ken Feinberg, who was on the show earlier, is a hero. He will be honest. He will be straight. So, I’m not worried about that. I’m worried about the erosion of the rule of law, which is a president using the vast powers of the federal government to strong-arm a company, no matter how unpopular and no matter how badly they may have behaved.

David’s point is well put, and, when passions among the polity are running high, it was a responsible observation to make.

In A Man for All Seasons, Thomas More and William Roper have an exchange in which Roper says to More, “So now you’d give the Devil benefit of law!”

More answers: “Yes. What would you do? Cut a great road through the law to get after the Devil?” Roper replies, “I’d cut down every law in England to do that!” And More answers this way:

Oh? And when the last law was down, and the Devil turned round on you — where would you hide, Roper, the laws all being flat? This country’s planted thick with laws from coast to coast — man’s laws, not God’s — and if you cut them down — and you’re just the man to do it — d’you really think you could stand upright in the winds that would blow then? Yes, I’d give the Devil benefit of law, for my own safety’s sake.

During this crisis, BP has acted horribly on almost every level; but the rule of law still matters, even — and maybe especially — in instances like this.

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Rediscovering the Wonders of Federalism in the Gulf

In reviewing the chaos, confusion, and bureaucratic snafus associated with the response to the BP oil spill, David Brooks discovers that “we have a federalism problem.” He observes:

All around the region there are local officials who think they know their towns best. They feel insulted by a distant and opaque bureaucracy lurking above. The balance between federal oversight and local control is off-kilter. We have vested too much authority in national officials who are really smart, but who are really distant. We should be leaving more power with local officials, who may not be as expert, but who have the advantage of being there on the ground.

Umm, we have a president — who came highly recommended as “really smart” — who has decided to federalize health care and the car industry and would like to do the same with industrial emissions, financial regulation, and almost anything else he can get his hands on. And “smart,” as we have learned the hard way, doesn’t mean smart about managing a crisis, or smart about economics, or smart about the medical profession, or smart about any other area of governance. In sum, the people in Washington, especially the president, may be glib and polished, but they possess no monopoly on “smart”; rather, they have an acute shortage of common sense and business experience.

This is a good reminder to be wary of giving the federal government tasks outside its expertise — which includes more than cleaning up an oil spill.

In reviewing the chaos, confusion, and bureaucratic snafus associated with the response to the BP oil spill, David Brooks discovers that “we have a federalism problem.” He observes:

All around the region there are local officials who think they know their towns best. They feel insulted by a distant and opaque bureaucracy lurking above. The balance between federal oversight and local control is off-kilter. We have vested too much authority in national officials who are really smart, but who are really distant. We should be leaving more power with local officials, who may not be as expert, but who have the advantage of being there on the ground.

Umm, we have a president — who came highly recommended as “really smart” — who has decided to federalize health care and the car industry and would like to do the same with industrial emissions, financial regulation, and almost anything else he can get his hands on. And “smart,” as we have learned the hard way, doesn’t mean smart about managing a crisis, or smart about economics, or smart about the medical profession, or smart about any other area of governance. In sum, the people in Washington, especially the president, may be glib and polished, but they possess no monopoly on “smart”; rather, they have an acute shortage of common sense and business experience.

This is a good reminder to be wary of giving the federal government tasks outside its expertise — which includes more than cleaning up an oil spill.

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Smart Campaign, Dim White House

There is certainly no shortage of boos for Obama’s Oval Office debacle Tuesday night. David Broder poses the “How can such smart campaigners be so dumb in governing?” question:

If there is any value in President Obama’s knocking himself out to dramatize on prime-time television his impotence in the face of the Gulf of Mexico oil leak calamity, I wish someone would explain it. His multiple inspection trips to the afflicted and threatened states, his Oval Office TV address to the nation, and now his sit-down with the executives of BP have certainly established his personal connection with one of the worst environmental disasters in history. But the only thing people want to hear from him is word that the problem is on its way to being solved — and this message he cannot deliver.

Part of the problem is a president who still believes in his oratorical abilities (despite abundant evidence that his powers of persuasion disappeared on Election Day 2008) — and a staff unable to tell the president that less is more. Part of it is panic, as Obama sees his presidency coming apart at the seams. But Broder himself supplies a good deal of the answer:

Uncertainties in Washington about energy policy, taxes, financial regulation — to say nothing about bad-news bulletins from Afghanistan and other overseas datelines — cloud the economic picture more than oil plumes pollute the gulf. But Obama seems focused on the relatively insignificant.

Indeed, Obama often seems to be off-topic — obsessing over health care while Americans are worried about jobs, and fixated on paper agreements for a nuke-free world and Jerusalem housing projects while Iran builds the bomb. He plainly doesn’t have a clue about how to solve the big issues (e.g., restoring economic growth, stopping the mullahs), so he focuses on what is within his grasp (jamming through health-care reform, bullying Israel). The things within his grasp, of course, coincide with his extreme ideological goals (displacing the private health-care industry, turning the screws on Israel while moving closer to its Muslim neighbors).

In answer, then, to Broder’s query, a smart campaign team becomes a disastrous administration by ignoring the political disposition of the country, embarking on ideological quests, and, of course, having a narcissist for president, one unable to hire or listen to anyone but yes men.

There is certainly no shortage of boos for Obama’s Oval Office debacle Tuesday night. David Broder poses the “How can such smart campaigners be so dumb in governing?” question:

If there is any value in President Obama’s knocking himself out to dramatize on prime-time television his impotence in the face of the Gulf of Mexico oil leak calamity, I wish someone would explain it. His multiple inspection trips to the afflicted and threatened states, his Oval Office TV address to the nation, and now his sit-down with the executives of BP have certainly established his personal connection with one of the worst environmental disasters in history. But the only thing people want to hear from him is word that the problem is on its way to being solved — and this message he cannot deliver.

Part of the problem is a president who still believes in his oratorical abilities (despite abundant evidence that his powers of persuasion disappeared on Election Day 2008) — and a staff unable to tell the president that less is more. Part of it is panic, as Obama sees his presidency coming apart at the seams. But Broder himself supplies a good deal of the answer:

Uncertainties in Washington about energy policy, taxes, financial regulation — to say nothing about bad-news bulletins from Afghanistan and other overseas datelines — cloud the economic picture more than oil plumes pollute the gulf. But Obama seems focused on the relatively insignificant.

Indeed, Obama often seems to be off-topic — obsessing over health care while Americans are worried about jobs, and fixated on paper agreements for a nuke-free world and Jerusalem housing projects while Iran builds the bomb. He plainly doesn’t have a clue about how to solve the big issues (e.g., restoring economic growth, stopping the mullahs), so he focuses on what is within his grasp (jamming through health-care reform, bullying Israel). The things within his grasp, of course, coincide with his extreme ideological goals (displacing the private health-care industry, turning the screws on Israel while moving closer to its Muslim neighbors).

In answer, then, to Broder’s query, a smart campaign team becomes a disastrous administration by ignoring the political disposition of the country, embarking on ideological quests, and, of course, having a narcissist for president, one unable to hire or listen to anyone but yes men.

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Where There’s a Will, There’s a Way in Afghanistan

Andrew Exum, a former Army Ranger, sometime consultant to General McChrystal, and a Middle East expert who blogs as “Abu Muqawama,” joins in the general hand-wringing over the state of Afghanistan. He says it’s “probably true” that the “United States and its allies have vital interests in Afghanistan and Pakistan,” but like much of the commentariat, he is growing pessimistic about our chances of safeguarding those interests. He renounces his previous belief that the “United States and its allies will devote the time, money, and troops to execute a counterinsurgency strategy in Afghanistan.” He now writes that this is “probably false”:

For a variety of reasons — some good, some less good, some having to do with massive oil spills that didn’t exist in 2009 and a financial crisis that didn’t exist in 2007 — the United States and its allies will likely not provide the resources necessary for a long-term counterinsurgency effort. They might have in 2003. But in 2009? In retrospect, it was always going to be unlikely, and I think I personally overestimated U.S. and allied resources available (including but not limited to political will).

I agree with him that the political will to prevail appears to be waning. But I think it’s bizarre that he treats “political will” as a fixed, exogenous factor like the weather or the terrain. Hurricane Katrina did not make impossible the success of the surge in Iraq; so too the BP oil spill does not make impossible the success of the ongoing surge in Afghanistan. The question is whether President Obama will have the will to see this through as President Bush did in the face of much greater public opposition.

All it would take would be a speech from the president saying something like this: “I was wrong about trying to set a timeline for American withdrawal. I wanted to inject fresh vigor into our military and diplomatic efforts. But I now realize that my talk about starting to pull American troops out next summer has been misinterpreted; it has caused some in the region to doubt our resolve. So let me be clear. We will stay as long as necessary to defeat the cruel evil of the Taliban, al-Qaeda, and associated extremists. I now pledge that, to paraphrase another young Democratic president, we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe, in order to assure the survival and the success of liberty in Afghanistan.”

Boom. With a few gutsy words like that, President Obama could instantly change assumptions about our willpower. That’s all it would take, because in all likelihood the Democratic Party would fall in behind him — or at least not challenge him too aggressively. Republicans, for their part, would enthusiastically support him as they have whenever he has increased our commitment to Afghanistan.

I admit that this is unlikely to happen (particularly the last line from John F. Kennedy, a very different kind of Democrat!), but it’s hardly impossible given that Obama has already done full or partial flip-flops on other issues, such as civil trials for terrorists and the closing of Gitmo. We have the resources (money, manpower) to prevail in Afghanistan — just as we had the resources to prevail in Iraq. The question is whether President Obama will commit those resources and give our commanders the time needed to make effective use of them.

That remains to be determined, but I would caution Andrew and others about suggesting that the necessary willpower simply doesn’t exist and can’t be manufactured. That can become a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Andrew Exum, a former Army Ranger, sometime consultant to General McChrystal, and a Middle East expert who blogs as “Abu Muqawama,” joins in the general hand-wringing over the state of Afghanistan. He says it’s “probably true” that the “United States and its allies have vital interests in Afghanistan and Pakistan,” but like much of the commentariat, he is growing pessimistic about our chances of safeguarding those interests. He renounces his previous belief that the “United States and its allies will devote the time, money, and troops to execute a counterinsurgency strategy in Afghanistan.” He now writes that this is “probably false”:

For a variety of reasons — some good, some less good, some having to do with massive oil spills that didn’t exist in 2009 and a financial crisis that didn’t exist in 2007 — the United States and its allies will likely not provide the resources necessary for a long-term counterinsurgency effort. They might have in 2003. But in 2009? In retrospect, it was always going to be unlikely, and I think I personally overestimated U.S. and allied resources available (including but not limited to political will).

I agree with him that the political will to prevail appears to be waning. But I think it’s bizarre that he treats “political will” as a fixed, exogenous factor like the weather or the terrain. Hurricane Katrina did not make impossible the success of the surge in Iraq; so too the BP oil spill does not make impossible the success of the ongoing surge in Afghanistan. The question is whether President Obama will have the will to see this through as President Bush did in the face of much greater public opposition.

All it would take would be a speech from the president saying something like this: “I was wrong about trying to set a timeline for American withdrawal. I wanted to inject fresh vigor into our military and diplomatic efforts. But I now realize that my talk about starting to pull American troops out next summer has been misinterpreted; it has caused some in the region to doubt our resolve. So let me be clear. We will stay as long as necessary to defeat the cruel evil of the Taliban, al-Qaeda, and associated extremists. I now pledge that, to paraphrase another young Democratic president, we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe, in order to assure the survival and the success of liberty in Afghanistan.”

Boom. With a few gutsy words like that, President Obama could instantly change assumptions about our willpower. That’s all it would take, because in all likelihood the Democratic Party would fall in behind him — or at least not challenge him too aggressively. Republicans, for their part, would enthusiastically support him as they have whenever he has increased our commitment to Afghanistan.

I admit that this is unlikely to happen (particularly the last line from John F. Kennedy, a very different kind of Democrat!), but it’s hardly impossible given that Obama has already done full or partial flip-flops on other issues, such as civil trials for terrorists and the closing of Gitmo. We have the resources (money, manpower) to prevail in Afghanistan — just as we had the resources to prevail in Iraq. The question is whether President Obama will commit those resources and give our commanders the time needed to make effective use of them.

That remains to be determined, but I would caution Andrew and others about suggesting that the necessary willpower simply doesn’t exist and can’t be manufactured. That can become a self-fulfilling prophecy.

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The Liberal Tipping Point Away from Obama

Jen and Pete, you both point out the grave disappointment expressed last night about Barack Obama’s speech on the part of MSNBC’s Chris Matthews, Keith Olbermann, and Howard Fineman. This is a significant development, because it indicates this is a liberal tipping point — both tactical and emotional — away from Barack Obama.

The bad polling news for Democrats and Obama, the apparent refusal of the economy to turn itself around dramatically enough to stave off a reckoning in the November elections, the worrisome headlines from Afghanistan, and the increasing public confusion about the response to the oil spill are now taking their toll on the finger-in-the-wind brigade. I’m referring to that breed of media and political professionals whose enthusiasm for the politicians they support and admire is conditioned in part on how the politicians are doing. The finger-in-the-wind brigade is made up of fair-weather friends. When they feel the political breezes shifting, they shift as well — from passionate support to analytical distance, then to careful criticism, then confused dismay, and eventually to outright contempt. This happened to George W. Bush in 2005 among the finger-in-the-wind brigade on the conservative side, and it’s now happening in 2010 on the liberal side.

In their various expressions of dismay and worry and even contempt, the members of the fair-weather brigade are holding Obama to a peculiar standard. They seem to want him to transmute the oil spill into a huge moral drama with BP or capitalism or deregulation or the carbon-based economy itself as the villain and Obama himself as the crusading muckraker who will take the bad guys down. Obama himself would like to do nothing more. That’s why, in just three days’ time, he (a) likened the oil spill to 9/11, (b) compared the cleanup to the American response to World War II, and (c) said that if we could put a man on the moon, we could fix the whole oil problem. He wants to figure out how to make this a “game changer” for him and for his left-liberal agenda.

The problem is, it can’t be. The accident was an accident, and the cleanup after the accident is one of those godawful, uninspiring, unthrilling, and highly confusing tasks that inevitably follow any accident. Nobody seems quite to have known what to do and when, and there were and are conflicting crosscurrents involving the potential environmental damage from the cleanup itself that cannot be wished or willed away through strong “leadership.” What’s happening is a catastrophe, but it’s the result of something very, very big that cannot be turned into a cause Obama can fight —  decades’ worth of policy decisions based on the desire to extract billions of gallons of oil invisibly, without public complaint, so that no one would have to see a rig or smell the work the way everybody in the New York metropolitan used to have to roll up his windows and put on the air conditioner going past exit 12 on the New Jersey Turnpike when Standard Oil refineries were still active there. The temptation to believe in semi-magical oil extraction proved so great that Obama himself found it irresistible this year.

But if the standard to which they are holding Obama is impossible, that’s because it’s hoist-by-his-own-petard time for Obama, as brought to you by Euripides. Anyone who greets a primary victory as Obama did in 2008 by saying that history would record that “this was the moment when the oceans began to recede” is just asking for it. And “it” may be upon him.

Jen and Pete, you both point out the grave disappointment expressed last night about Barack Obama’s speech on the part of MSNBC’s Chris Matthews, Keith Olbermann, and Howard Fineman. This is a significant development, because it indicates this is a liberal tipping point — both tactical and emotional — away from Barack Obama.

The bad polling news for Democrats and Obama, the apparent refusal of the economy to turn itself around dramatically enough to stave off a reckoning in the November elections, the worrisome headlines from Afghanistan, and the increasing public confusion about the response to the oil spill are now taking their toll on the finger-in-the-wind brigade. I’m referring to that breed of media and political professionals whose enthusiasm for the politicians they support and admire is conditioned in part on how the politicians are doing. The finger-in-the-wind brigade is made up of fair-weather friends. When they feel the political breezes shifting, they shift as well — from passionate support to analytical distance, then to careful criticism, then confused dismay, and eventually to outright contempt. This happened to George W. Bush in 2005 among the finger-in-the-wind brigade on the conservative side, and it’s now happening in 2010 on the liberal side.

In their various expressions of dismay and worry and even contempt, the members of the fair-weather brigade are holding Obama to a peculiar standard. They seem to want him to transmute the oil spill into a huge moral drama with BP or capitalism or deregulation or the carbon-based economy itself as the villain and Obama himself as the crusading muckraker who will take the bad guys down. Obama himself would like to do nothing more. That’s why, in just three days’ time, he (a) likened the oil spill to 9/11, (b) compared the cleanup to the American response to World War II, and (c) said that if we could put a man on the moon, we could fix the whole oil problem. He wants to figure out how to make this a “game changer” for him and for his left-liberal agenda.

The problem is, it can’t be. The accident was an accident, and the cleanup after the accident is one of those godawful, uninspiring, unthrilling, and highly confusing tasks that inevitably follow any accident. Nobody seems quite to have known what to do and when, and there were and are conflicting crosscurrents involving the potential environmental damage from the cleanup itself that cannot be wished or willed away through strong “leadership.” What’s happening is a catastrophe, but it’s the result of something very, very big that cannot be turned into a cause Obama can fight —  decades’ worth of policy decisions based on the desire to extract billions of gallons of oil invisibly, without public complaint, so that no one would have to see a rig or smell the work the way everybody in the New York metropolitan used to have to roll up his windows and put on the air conditioner going past exit 12 on the New Jersey Turnpike when Standard Oil refineries were still active there. The temptation to believe in semi-magical oil extraction proved so great that Obama himself found it irresistible this year.

But if the standard to which they are holding Obama is impossible, that’s because it’s hoist-by-his-own-petard time for Obama, as brought to you by Euripides. Anyone who greets a primary victory as Obama did in 2008 by saying that history would record that “this was the moment when the oceans began to recede” is just asking for it. And “it” may be upon him.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

With help from Saturday Night Live‘s Seth and Amy, Cliff May takes apart Jamie Rubin (no relation, thankfully).

With help from the IDF, we have a concise and thorough account of the flotilla incident.

With help from the increasingly unpopular president, “Republican candidates now hold a 10-point lead over Democrats on the Generic Congressional Ballot for the week ending Sunday, June 13. That ties the GOP’s largest ever lead, first reached in April, since it first edged ahead of the Democrats a year ago.”

With help from the upcoming elections: “There aren’t enough votes to include climate change rules in a Senate energy bill, a top Democrat said Tuesday. Sen. Byron Dorgan (D-N.D.), a senior member of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, dismissed any hopes his colleagues might have of including regulations to clamp down on emissions as part of a comprehensive energy bill this summer.”

With help from J Street (the Hamas lobby?), Israel’s enemies always have friends on Capitol Hill: “In the most open conflict in months between the left-leaning Israel group J Street and the traditional pro-Israel powerhouse AIPAC, the liberal group is asking members of Congress not to sign a letter backed by AIPAC that supports the Israeli side of the Gaza flotilla incident.”

With help from the NRA, House Democrats are in hot water again: “House Democrats are facing a backlash from some liberal and government reform advocacy groups over an exemption for the NRA. House Democrats are facing a backlash from some liberal and government reform advocacy groups over an exemption for the National Rifle Association that was added to a campaign finance bill.”

With the help of Rep. Peter King, we’re sniffing out who the real friends of Israel are: “Congressional Democrats say they want to defend Israel — but without taking on Israel’s enemies. Bizarre choice — so bizarre as to make their professed support for Israel practically meaningless. At issue is a resolution proposed by Rep. Pete King (R-Long Island) that calls on Washington to quit the US Human Rights Council — which two weeks ago voted 32-3 to condemn Israel’s raid on the Gaza-bound flotilla. Incredibly, not a single House Democrat — not even from the New York delegation — is willing to co-sponsor King’s resolution ‘unless we take out the language about the UN,’ he says. Why? No Democrat wants to go on record disagreeing with President Obama’s decision to end the Bush-era boycott of the anti-Israel council — whose members include such human-rights champions as Iran and Libya.”

With help from an inept White House and BP, Bobby Jindal is beginning to look like a leader: “Eight weeks into the oil spill disaster in the Gulf of the Mexico, Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal has told the National Guard that there’s no time left to wait for BP, so they’re taking matters into their own hands. In Fort Jackson, La., Jindal has ordered the Guard to start building barrier walls right in the middle of the ocean. The barriers, built nine miles off shore, are intended to keep the oil from reaching the coast by filling the gaps between barrier islands.”

With help from Saturday Night Live‘s Seth and Amy, Cliff May takes apart Jamie Rubin (no relation, thankfully).

With help from the IDF, we have a concise and thorough account of the flotilla incident.

With help from the increasingly unpopular president, “Republican candidates now hold a 10-point lead over Democrats on the Generic Congressional Ballot for the week ending Sunday, June 13. That ties the GOP’s largest ever lead, first reached in April, since it first edged ahead of the Democrats a year ago.”

With help from the upcoming elections: “There aren’t enough votes to include climate change rules in a Senate energy bill, a top Democrat said Tuesday. Sen. Byron Dorgan (D-N.D.), a senior member of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, dismissed any hopes his colleagues might have of including regulations to clamp down on emissions as part of a comprehensive energy bill this summer.”

With help from J Street (the Hamas lobby?), Israel’s enemies always have friends on Capitol Hill: “In the most open conflict in months between the left-leaning Israel group J Street and the traditional pro-Israel powerhouse AIPAC, the liberal group is asking members of Congress not to sign a letter backed by AIPAC that supports the Israeli side of the Gaza flotilla incident.”

With help from the NRA, House Democrats are in hot water again: “House Democrats are facing a backlash from some liberal and government reform advocacy groups over an exemption for the NRA. House Democrats are facing a backlash from some liberal and government reform advocacy groups over an exemption for the National Rifle Association that was added to a campaign finance bill.”

With the help of Rep. Peter King, we’re sniffing out who the real friends of Israel are: “Congressional Democrats say they want to defend Israel — but without taking on Israel’s enemies. Bizarre choice — so bizarre as to make their professed support for Israel practically meaningless. At issue is a resolution proposed by Rep. Pete King (R-Long Island) that calls on Washington to quit the US Human Rights Council — which two weeks ago voted 32-3 to condemn Israel’s raid on the Gaza-bound flotilla. Incredibly, not a single House Democrat — not even from the New York delegation — is willing to co-sponsor King’s resolution ‘unless we take out the language about the UN,’ he says. Why? No Democrat wants to go on record disagreeing with President Obama’s decision to end the Bush-era boycott of the anti-Israel council — whose members include such human-rights champions as Iran and Libya.”

With help from an inept White House and BP, Bobby Jindal is beginning to look like a leader: “Eight weeks into the oil spill disaster in the Gulf of the Mexico, Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal has told the National Guard that there’s no time left to wait for BP, so they’re taking matters into their own hands. In Fort Jackson, La., Jindal has ordered the Guard to start building barrier walls right in the middle of the ocean. The barriers, built nine miles off shore, are intended to keep the oil from reaching the coast by filling the gaps between barrier islands.”

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Obama’s Problem Isn’t Leadership — It’s Liberal Policy

In the endless wake of the BP oil spill, the new word is leadership. Everyone from Mitt Romney to James Carville to Maureen Dowd says that Barack Obama is in desperate need of some. In the New York Times, Dowd questioned how Obama came to “lose control of his own narrative.” On Good Morning America, Carville told George Stephanopoulos that Obama “looks like he’s not in control.” Romney penned a USA Today column about the absence of presidential command. “When a crisis is upon us,” he wrote, “America wants a leader, not a politician.” Go to any source and you’ll learn that Obama plays too much golf, shows too little anger, and is far too aloof to be a successful leader.

The criticisms have merit but are, in the end, secondary. If Obama’s policies — in the Gulf and beyond — were demonstrably effective, the same leadership style would be overlooked or reflexively praised. Reclaiming your own narrative — whatever that means — won’t get results; nor will looking like you’re in control or projecting bottomless empathy. Successful policy implementation gets results.

The popular exemplar here is Rudolph Giuliani. Yet national memory has skipped over important mundane details because New York City did, in fact, pull through after it was attacked. “We saw leadership on Sept. 11, 2001,” Romney wrote. “Rudy camped out at Ground Zero — he didn’t hole up in his office or retreat to his residence.” But if that’s all Giuliani did, his 9/11 performance would have gone down as hollow grandstanding. As Michael Powell reported in the New York Times, “There was garbage pickup on Sept. 12. City payroll checks went out on Sept. 13. On the sixth day, the stock exchange opened. Security was omnipresent.”

Speeches aside, had trash piled up on street corners and security been wanting, no one would have called Giuliani “America’s mayor.” Leadership isn’t an impressionistic art form in which symbols are aligned and tones calibrated in a decision-free vacuum. Leadership, rather, is public perception alongside the fact of concrete accomplishment.

And is it really accurate to say that Obama lacks the ability to head up a crusade, anyway? Even if we discount his force-of-nature presidential campaign, it wasn’t long ago that pundits were calling him unstoppable for ramming through transformative health-care legislation with barely a handful of true supporters.

Blaming Americans’ sense of uncertainty on the absence of a vaporous trait called presidential leadership isn’t only wrong; it’s detrimental to recovery because it lets bad policy off the hook. Obama believes in the power of government to fix the glitches and hazards of the free market. But every day, as the country watches the furious leak on the BP spill-cam juxtaposed with the manufactured fury of the White House, it’s more convinced of the limitations of big government. And as Americans learn of Washington’s pressure to push offshore drilling farther out into more risky depths, faith in regulation becomes its opposite. All this leaves Obama selling unrealistic policy. No amount of press conferences or beachfront photo-ops will change that. Giuliani simply held fast to what he knew the government could reasonably deliver: police protection and basic municipal services.

Most critical, the policy failings highlighted by the reaction to the spill reinforce Americans’ misgivings about the administration’s larger policy direction. People want jobs and, despite Obama’s claim of “saving” them, the most recent job-growth numbers prove that federal spending is insufficient to the task of raising employment levels. (Nevertheless, the president has just asked Congress for an additional $50 billion in recovery funds.) If Obama was successfully creating jobs, no one would dream of saddling him with the responsibility for a piece of commercial machinery that went bad 5,000 feet under the ocean. On top of unemployment worries, new independent reports on ObamaCare have cast credible doubts on its claims to consumer choice, expanded senior coverage, and general affordability. Not least damaging to Obama’s vision of a more activist federal government is the historic economic collapse of the European entitlement state.

On June 13, the New York Times’s Caucus blog noted, “Polls show that American voters give Mr. Obama the same mixed evaluation as before the spill. They like him personally but have reservations about his policies.” So, for all the convictions of the pundit class, this isn’t about the president’s personal qualities, leadership included. If Obama’s policies were enjoying success, Americans would be happy to call him a new kind of leader, a stealth leader, a reluctant leader, something. But with his agenda in such disrepair, it’s hard even to imagine what exactly Obama is expected to lead. The candidate who had promised to lower the sea levels is now stuck on the ocean floor.

In the endless wake of the BP oil spill, the new word is leadership. Everyone from Mitt Romney to James Carville to Maureen Dowd says that Barack Obama is in desperate need of some. In the New York Times, Dowd questioned how Obama came to “lose control of his own narrative.” On Good Morning America, Carville told George Stephanopoulos that Obama “looks like he’s not in control.” Romney penned a USA Today column about the absence of presidential command. “When a crisis is upon us,” he wrote, “America wants a leader, not a politician.” Go to any source and you’ll learn that Obama plays too much golf, shows too little anger, and is far too aloof to be a successful leader.

The criticisms have merit but are, in the end, secondary. If Obama’s policies — in the Gulf and beyond — were demonstrably effective, the same leadership style would be overlooked or reflexively praised. Reclaiming your own narrative — whatever that means — won’t get results; nor will looking like you’re in control or projecting bottomless empathy. Successful policy implementation gets results.

The popular exemplar here is Rudolph Giuliani. Yet national memory has skipped over important mundane details because New York City did, in fact, pull through after it was attacked. “We saw leadership on Sept. 11, 2001,” Romney wrote. “Rudy camped out at Ground Zero — he didn’t hole up in his office or retreat to his residence.” But if that’s all Giuliani did, his 9/11 performance would have gone down as hollow grandstanding. As Michael Powell reported in the New York Times, “There was garbage pickup on Sept. 12. City payroll checks went out on Sept. 13. On the sixth day, the stock exchange opened. Security was omnipresent.”

Speeches aside, had trash piled up on street corners and security been wanting, no one would have called Giuliani “America’s mayor.” Leadership isn’t an impressionistic art form in which symbols are aligned and tones calibrated in a decision-free vacuum. Leadership, rather, is public perception alongside the fact of concrete accomplishment.

And is it really accurate to say that Obama lacks the ability to head up a crusade, anyway? Even if we discount his force-of-nature presidential campaign, it wasn’t long ago that pundits were calling him unstoppable for ramming through transformative health-care legislation with barely a handful of true supporters.

Blaming Americans’ sense of uncertainty on the absence of a vaporous trait called presidential leadership isn’t only wrong; it’s detrimental to recovery because it lets bad policy off the hook. Obama believes in the power of government to fix the glitches and hazards of the free market. But every day, as the country watches the furious leak on the BP spill-cam juxtaposed with the manufactured fury of the White House, it’s more convinced of the limitations of big government. And as Americans learn of Washington’s pressure to push offshore drilling farther out into more risky depths, faith in regulation becomes its opposite. All this leaves Obama selling unrealistic policy. No amount of press conferences or beachfront photo-ops will change that. Giuliani simply held fast to what he knew the government could reasonably deliver: police protection and basic municipal services.

Most critical, the policy failings highlighted by the reaction to the spill reinforce Americans’ misgivings about the administration’s larger policy direction. People want jobs and, despite Obama’s claim of “saving” them, the most recent job-growth numbers prove that federal spending is insufficient to the task of raising employment levels. (Nevertheless, the president has just asked Congress for an additional $50 billion in recovery funds.) If Obama was successfully creating jobs, no one would dream of saddling him with the responsibility for a piece of commercial machinery that went bad 5,000 feet under the ocean. On top of unemployment worries, new independent reports on ObamaCare have cast credible doubts on its claims to consumer choice, expanded senior coverage, and general affordability. Not least damaging to Obama’s vision of a more activist federal government is the historic economic collapse of the European entitlement state.

On June 13, the New York Times’s Caucus blog noted, “Polls show that American voters give Mr. Obama the same mixed evaluation as before the spill. They like him personally but have reservations about his policies.” So, for all the convictions of the pundit class, this isn’t about the president’s personal qualities, leadership included. If Obama’s policies were enjoying success, Americans would be happy to call him a new kind of leader, a stealth leader, a reluctant leader, something. But with his agenda in such disrepair, it’s hard even to imagine what exactly Obama is expected to lead. The candidate who had promised to lower the sea levels is now stuck on the ocean floor.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Obama is finally meeting expectations: “That the WH would hold discussions with candidates about running for office, as they did with ex-CO House Speaker Andrew Romanoff (D) and Rep. Joe Sestak (D), is no surprise to most; 65% of voters — including 56% of GOPers — say it is business as usual for a WH to encourage candidates not to run for office. But a clear majority also believes the practice is either unethical or downright illegal. Four in 10 voters say the Obama admin had done something unethical, but not illegal; 12% said they believe the WH’s actions in approaching both Romanoff and Sestak about other jobs was illegal. Just 30% said the WH hadn’t done anything wrong.”

With technology at everyone’s fingertips, the public is finally getting a look at how too many politicians behave. But Rep. Etheridge apologized, so everything is OK, right? (Ben Smith dryly observes, “It’s pretty hard to think of a context in which Etheridge’s assault on the videographer would be acceptable.”)

Obama finally will address the country from the Oval Office. Not war, or bombings, or economic crisis, but rather a crisis in his own standing seems to have done it: “That the president has chosen this moment to give his first address from the Oval Office indicates not only the severity of the environmental and economic disaster caused by the BP oil spill, but also the perils the crisis poses for his presidency. With almost seven in ten Americans rating the federal response to the spill as negative — a worse rating than that for the government’s performance after Hurricane Katrina — the president’s political capital and his agenda are at risk.”

Iraqis finally get the knack of American democracy: “Iraq Parliament Opens, Then Recesses.”

Will American Jews finally wake up? “Asked if he sees Obama losing Jewish support, [Democrat Rep. Ron] Klein said, ‘I think there are a lot of people that are questioning. I’ve heard some people, a lot of conversations.'” I’ll believe it when I see the 2012 exit polls.

We finally have a perfect distillation of Obama’s foreign policy. The topic is Georgia, but Michael McFaul’s words could be applied to any issue: “Is it a foreign policy objective of the Obama administration to help end Russia’s occupation of Georgia in a peaceful manner and restore Georgia’s territorial integrity? Absolutely yes. … Have we made progress on the central objective? My answer is no. We haven’t. That’s the truth.”

The media finally have a beautiful, religious, conservative female candidate other than Sarah Palin to go after. She was endorsed by Palin, however. How long before there are demands for her OB-GYN files? Really, how certain are we that those adorable children are really hers?

Jonathan Chait finally discovers that the Beagle Blogger swings wildly from one position to another, mischaracterizing his opponents’ position.

Obama is finally meeting expectations: “That the WH would hold discussions with candidates about running for office, as they did with ex-CO House Speaker Andrew Romanoff (D) and Rep. Joe Sestak (D), is no surprise to most; 65% of voters — including 56% of GOPers — say it is business as usual for a WH to encourage candidates not to run for office. But a clear majority also believes the practice is either unethical or downright illegal. Four in 10 voters say the Obama admin had done something unethical, but not illegal; 12% said they believe the WH’s actions in approaching both Romanoff and Sestak about other jobs was illegal. Just 30% said the WH hadn’t done anything wrong.”

With technology at everyone’s fingertips, the public is finally getting a look at how too many politicians behave. But Rep. Etheridge apologized, so everything is OK, right? (Ben Smith dryly observes, “It’s pretty hard to think of a context in which Etheridge’s assault on the videographer would be acceptable.”)

Obama finally will address the country from the Oval Office. Not war, or bombings, or economic crisis, but rather a crisis in his own standing seems to have done it: “That the president has chosen this moment to give his first address from the Oval Office indicates not only the severity of the environmental and economic disaster caused by the BP oil spill, but also the perils the crisis poses for his presidency. With almost seven in ten Americans rating the federal response to the spill as negative — a worse rating than that for the government’s performance after Hurricane Katrina — the president’s political capital and his agenda are at risk.”

Iraqis finally get the knack of American democracy: “Iraq Parliament Opens, Then Recesses.”

Will American Jews finally wake up? “Asked if he sees Obama losing Jewish support, [Democrat Rep. Ron] Klein said, ‘I think there are a lot of people that are questioning. I’ve heard some people, a lot of conversations.'” I’ll believe it when I see the 2012 exit polls.

We finally have a perfect distillation of Obama’s foreign policy. The topic is Georgia, but Michael McFaul’s words could be applied to any issue: “Is it a foreign policy objective of the Obama administration to help end Russia’s occupation of Georgia in a peaceful manner and restore Georgia’s territorial integrity? Absolutely yes. … Have we made progress on the central objective? My answer is no. We haven’t. That’s the truth.”

The media finally have a beautiful, religious, conservative female candidate other than Sarah Palin to go after. She was endorsed by Palin, however. How long before there are demands for her OB-GYN files? Really, how certain are we that those adorable children are really hers?

Jonathan Chait finally discovers that the Beagle Blogger swings wildly from one position to another, mischaracterizing his opponents’ position.

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Carly Makes the Case for Throwing Out Rude Liberals

Carly Fiorina appeared on Meet the Press and gave one of her more impressive performances, in contrast with the rudeness and perpetual interruptions of the accompanying Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz. Fiorina, on Republican criticism of Obama’s handling of the gulf oil spill:

Well, I think there’s much in that that’s fair.  And there is a difference, obviously, between governing and leading, and running for office or campaigning.  Look, BP has huge accountability here, and they need to be held to account.  But the government has accountability as well. When we hear that there are 13 separate federal government agencies running around in confusion down there, when we hear that there is equipment that could be used to help clean up the Gulf sitting in warehouses, when we hear that there is assistance that is being pleaded for by local officials and that assistance is not coming, all of this leads to the impression that this is not yet an effort where the president is exerting as much control as is necessary to get this thing fixed.  Of course BP has responsibility, but we also need to understand, where were the government regulators?  Where was MMS, despite the fact that the leader of MMS had been brought in by Ken Salazar in a move to reform the agency, according to him?

That was followed by this exchange:

MR. GREGORY:  Well, and…

REP. WASSERMAN SCHULTZ:  David–right.

MR. GREGORY:  Well, hold on a minute, that’s–wait, because I wanted to go back to Carly Fiorina.  I mean, respond to that point, Carly, for one.  But for two, because there’s legitimacy to that, what, what is good government, going forward, in a crisis like this?

MS. FIORINA:  Good government needs to be efficient and effective.  I’m not talking about small or big, but I know from the real world that when things get too big and too complicated and two expensive, as our government is now, they don’t perform well.  These are vast, unaccountable bureaucracies.  They don’t coordinate with one another, and, as a result, they’re not effective. And may I just say, it was Ken Salazar who put in place the secretary or the head of MMS who just recently resigned and who came from the industry.  So I think…

REP. WASSERMAN SCHULTZ:  No, he didn’t.

MS. FIORINA:  …this is a question of the blame game to say this is all about Republicans…

REP. WASSERMAN SCHULTZ:  He came from the House.

MS. FIORINA:  …saying small government.  This is about efficient,effective government…

REP. WASSERMAN SCHULTZ:  Birnbaum was from the House.

MS. FIORINA:  …and efficient and effective response.  And what the American people are seeing is an ineffective response.

MR. GREGORY:  Did, did that head of MMS come from–did she work on the hill or did she come from industry?

REP. WASSERMAN SCHULTZ:  The head of MMS was from the House of Representatives.  Liz Birnbaum came from the U.S.  House of Representatives. She was an employee for many years, and then she moved from the House of Representatives to MMS. So I don’t know what she’s talking about.  But this is a big, expensive disaster.

MS. FIORINA:  And she was forced to resign because of her failure to reform the department as she promised to.

REP. WASSERMAN SCHULTZ:  In the year–excuse me, excuse me–in the year that she was, that, that she was there, there definitely was not enough reform, but she was cleaning up, in the process of cleaning up from years of a totally hands-off regulatory policy by the Bush administration…

MS. FIORINA:  Then why did she resign?

REP. WASSERMAN SCHULTZ:  …in which they had a scandal-ridden regulatory agency.

MR. GREGORY:  OK, but, Congresswoman, the reality is that if the president made a priority of reforming MMS, he also made the decision to curtail that reform, if it was incomplete, to move forward on more oil drilling, to…

REP. WASSERMAN SCHULTZ:  Which I don’t…

MR. GREGORY:  …to achieve political consensus on climate change legislation.  So it’s a question of the choices the president made.

REP. WASSERMAN SCHULTZ:  Look, as–well, in a–arguably in a year, you weren’t going to be able to clean up that regulatory mess that, that essentially was–left, left industry in charge of itself, and that’s why we ended up with this BP disaster.

MR. GREGORY:  All right.

REP. WASSERMAN SCHULTZ:  But as someone, unlike Ms. Fiorina, as someone who represents a Gulf state, who is totally opposed to expanding offshore oil drilling, unlike Ms. Fiorina, who even in the face of this BP disaster, would continue to allow offshore oil drilling as a solution, it is absolutely…

MR. GREGORY:  All right.

REP. WASSERMAN SCHULTZ:  …irresponsible to do that.  We need to focus…

MS. FIORINA:  If I may–if I may just say…

REP. WASSERMAN SCHULTZ:  No, no, no.  You keep interrupting me.

MS. FIORINA:  If I may just say, actually…

REP. WASSERMAN SCHULTZ:  Excuse me, excuse me.

MS. FIORINA:  …you–if I may just say that…

MR. GREGORY:  Hold, hold on, hold on one second.  Congressman***(as spoken)***let’s let Carly Fiorina respond.  Go ahead.

MS. FIORINA:  If I might just say, I am not defending the performance of MMS over many years.  Debbie Wasserman Schultz is absolutely correct that MMS has failed in its duties under both Republican and Democratic presidents.  That’s a fact.  It is also true that the reason President Obama reversed his decision on shallow offshore drilling is because the people in the Gulf course–Coast were pleading for jobs and we need the energy.

And on it went in this vein. Recall that Barbara Boxer drew attention to herself both by tangling with an African-American business leader and a general, revealing herself as both rude and out-of-touch. If Fiorina can repeat this MTP performance — showing that her liberal opponent is both obnoxious and uniformed — she will do very well in her race. Voters already disgusted by the political elite may welcome a Washington outsider who has a businesslike and civil approach to issues.

Carly Fiorina appeared on Meet the Press and gave one of her more impressive performances, in contrast with the rudeness and perpetual interruptions of the accompanying Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz. Fiorina, on Republican criticism of Obama’s handling of the gulf oil spill:

Well, I think there’s much in that that’s fair.  And there is a difference, obviously, between governing and leading, and running for office or campaigning.  Look, BP has huge accountability here, and they need to be held to account.  But the government has accountability as well. When we hear that there are 13 separate federal government agencies running around in confusion down there, when we hear that there is equipment that could be used to help clean up the Gulf sitting in warehouses, when we hear that there is assistance that is being pleaded for by local officials and that assistance is not coming, all of this leads to the impression that this is not yet an effort where the president is exerting as much control as is necessary to get this thing fixed.  Of course BP has responsibility, but we also need to understand, where were the government regulators?  Where was MMS, despite the fact that the leader of MMS had been brought in by Ken Salazar in a move to reform the agency, according to him?

That was followed by this exchange:

MR. GREGORY:  Well, and…

REP. WASSERMAN SCHULTZ:  David–right.

MR. GREGORY:  Well, hold on a minute, that’s–wait, because I wanted to go back to Carly Fiorina.  I mean, respond to that point, Carly, for one.  But for two, because there’s legitimacy to that, what, what is good government, going forward, in a crisis like this?

MS. FIORINA:  Good government needs to be efficient and effective.  I’m not talking about small or big, but I know from the real world that when things get too big and too complicated and two expensive, as our government is now, they don’t perform well.  These are vast, unaccountable bureaucracies.  They don’t coordinate with one another, and, as a result, they’re not effective. And may I just say, it was Ken Salazar who put in place the secretary or the head of MMS who just recently resigned and who came from the industry.  So I think…

REP. WASSERMAN SCHULTZ:  No, he didn’t.

MS. FIORINA:  …this is a question of the blame game to say this is all about Republicans…

REP. WASSERMAN SCHULTZ:  He came from the House.

MS. FIORINA:  …saying small government.  This is about efficient,effective government…

REP. WASSERMAN SCHULTZ:  Birnbaum was from the House.

MS. FIORINA:  …and efficient and effective response.  And what the American people are seeing is an ineffective response.

MR. GREGORY:  Did, did that head of MMS come from–did she work on the hill or did she come from industry?

REP. WASSERMAN SCHULTZ:  The head of MMS was from the House of Representatives.  Liz Birnbaum came from the U.S.  House of Representatives. She was an employee for many years, and then she moved from the House of Representatives to MMS. So I don’t know what she’s talking about.  But this is a big, expensive disaster.

MS. FIORINA:  And she was forced to resign because of her failure to reform the department as she promised to.

REP. WASSERMAN SCHULTZ:  In the year–excuse me, excuse me–in the year that she was, that, that she was there, there definitely was not enough reform, but she was cleaning up, in the process of cleaning up from years of a totally hands-off regulatory policy by the Bush administration…

MS. FIORINA:  Then why did she resign?

REP. WASSERMAN SCHULTZ:  …in which they had a scandal-ridden regulatory agency.

MR. GREGORY:  OK, but, Congresswoman, the reality is that if the president made a priority of reforming MMS, he also made the decision to curtail that reform, if it was incomplete, to move forward on more oil drilling, to…

REP. WASSERMAN SCHULTZ:  Which I don’t…

MR. GREGORY:  …to achieve political consensus on climate change legislation.  So it’s a question of the choices the president made.

REP. WASSERMAN SCHULTZ:  Look, as–well, in a–arguably in a year, you weren’t going to be able to clean up that regulatory mess that, that essentially was–left, left industry in charge of itself, and that’s why we ended up with this BP disaster.

MR. GREGORY:  All right.

REP. WASSERMAN SCHULTZ:  But as someone, unlike Ms. Fiorina, as someone who represents a Gulf state, who is totally opposed to expanding offshore oil drilling, unlike Ms. Fiorina, who even in the face of this BP disaster, would continue to allow offshore oil drilling as a solution, it is absolutely…

MR. GREGORY:  All right.

REP. WASSERMAN SCHULTZ:  …irresponsible to do that.  We need to focus…

MS. FIORINA:  If I may–if I may just say…

REP. WASSERMAN SCHULTZ:  No, no, no.  You keep interrupting me.

MS. FIORINA:  If I may just say, actually…

REP. WASSERMAN SCHULTZ:  Excuse me, excuse me.

MS. FIORINA:  …you–if I may just say that…

MR. GREGORY:  Hold, hold on, hold on one second.  Congressman***(as spoken)***let’s let Carly Fiorina respond.  Go ahead.

MS. FIORINA:  If I might just say, I am not defending the performance of MMS over many years.  Debbie Wasserman Schultz is absolutely correct that MMS has failed in its duties under both Republican and Democratic presidents.  That’s a fact.  It is also true that the reason President Obama reversed his decision on shallow offshore drilling is because the people in the Gulf course–Coast were pleading for jobs and we need the energy.

And on it went in this vein. Recall that Barbara Boxer drew attention to herself both by tangling with an African-American business leader and a general, revealing herself as both rude and out-of-touch. If Fiorina can repeat this MTP performance — showing that her liberal opponent is both obnoxious and uniformed — she will do very well in her race. Voters already disgusted by the political elite may welcome a Washington outsider who has a businesslike and civil approach to issues.

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The Erratic President

Now Obama looks like a fool and a liar. When confronted by Matt Lauer about why he hadn’t yet met with BP’s CEO, you could see the wheels clicking — excuse, excuse, what’s the excuse? — and Obama with a straight face said it would do no good to talk to the CEO, because he was just going to get spin from Tony Hayward (“[H]e’s going to say all the right things to me. I’m not interested in words, I’m interested in action.”) Even Chris Matthews was appalled.

So within days, Obama announces — he’s going to meet with the BP Chariman! Oh good grief. So forget the part about not needing to speak with BP. That was just a … um … er … hmm … lame excuse he cooked up on the spot.

There is a reason why the public is upset with Obama. It’s not merely a function of the unrealistic expectation that the president can solve all problems. The president looks fickle, confused, and erratic. Let’s have a drilling ban. No, let’s lift it and make BP pay for all the people we threw out of work! It becomes alarming with each passing day as we see how out of his depth the commander in chief (oh yes, he commands the armed forces too) is.

Harvard Law Review and a crease in the pants don’t signal readiness to be president. The voters have found out the hard way the price of electing someone who thought governing was just like campaigning and who had never run a city, a state, a military unit, or a profit-making firm.

Now Obama looks like a fool and a liar. When confronted by Matt Lauer about why he hadn’t yet met with BP’s CEO, you could see the wheels clicking — excuse, excuse, what’s the excuse? — and Obama with a straight face said it would do no good to talk to the CEO, because he was just going to get spin from Tony Hayward (“[H]e’s going to say all the right things to me. I’m not interested in words, I’m interested in action.”) Even Chris Matthews was appalled.

So within days, Obama announces — he’s going to meet with the BP Chariman! Oh good grief. So forget the part about not needing to speak with BP. That was just a … um … er … hmm … lame excuse he cooked up on the spot.

There is a reason why the public is upset with Obama. It’s not merely a function of the unrealistic expectation that the president can solve all problems. The president looks fickle, confused, and erratic. Let’s have a drilling ban. No, let’s lift it and make BP pay for all the people we threw out of work! It becomes alarming with each passing day as we see how out of his depth the commander in chief (oh yes, he commands the armed forces too) is.

Harvard Law Review and a crease in the pants don’t signal readiness to be president. The voters have found out the hard way the price of electing someone who thought governing was just like campaigning and who had never run a city, a state, a military unit, or a profit-making firm.

Read Less




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