Commentary Magazine


Topic: businessman

Who Is Najib Miqati?

So Hezbollah did it. Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri has been replaced with Najib Miqati, a man billed as a “compromise” leader who is time zones away from being a Hezbollah member but who nevertheless agrees with Hezbollah on the few things — which ultimately add up to everything — that matter most.

Miqati says he’s an independent centrist who disagrees with Hezbollah as much as he disagrees with everyone else in Lebanon. I believe him, actually, so long as he’s referring to the number of things he disagrees with Hezbollah about. He’s a Sunni and therefore obviously not a cheerleader for the parochial Shia sectarian interests that Hezbollah champions. There’s no chance he endorses the Iranian government’s reigning ideology of Velayat-e faqih, the totalitarian theocratic system Hezbollah would love to impose on Lebanon if it had the strength — which it doesn’t. Miqati is a billionaire businessman and does not even remotely share Hezbollah’s cartoonish paranoia about global capitalism and how it’s supposedly a nefarious Jewish-American plot.

What Miqati will do, however, is safeguard “the resistance,” as he has promised — meaning he won’t ask Hezbollah to hand over its weapons to the authorities — which is one of only two things Hezbollah requires of him. The second is repudiate the United Nations Special Tribunal for Lebanon. Everyone now expects the tribunal to indict Hezbollah for the assassination of the Sunni former prime minister Rafik Hariri, an event that may severely damage Hezbollah’s standing in the majority-Sunni Arab world even if it does have a prominent Sunni willing to provide some cover.

Hezbollah also needs, and will get, the same from Lebanon’s Christian president Michel Suleiman. Anything else these two leaders do in their official capacities is irrelevant from Hezbollah’s perspective.

Lebanon won’t likely ever resemble Gaza, which is under the complete control of an Islamist terrorist army. Hamas rules that beleaguered territory as the virtual Taliban of the eastern Mediterranean, but the Lebanese will blow their country to hell and gone all over again before submitting to something like that. Hezbollah knows it, as do the Syrians and the Iranians. They also know, or at least think they know, that they can bully the rest of the country into surrendering on the two most crucial items on its agenda, the ones that give Hezbollah the latitude to do whatever it wants in the Shia-majority areas that it does control directly.

We’re about to find out if that’s actually true. We’ll also most likely find out how true it remains if Israel takes the gloves off the next time there’s war.

So Hezbollah did it. Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri has been replaced with Najib Miqati, a man billed as a “compromise” leader who is time zones away from being a Hezbollah member but who nevertheless agrees with Hezbollah on the few things — which ultimately add up to everything — that matter most.

Miqati says he’s an independent centrist who disagrees with Hezbollah as much as he disagrees with everyone else in Lebanon. I believe him, actually, so long as he’s referring to the number of things he disagrees with Hezbollah about. He’s a Sunni and therefore obviously not a cheerleader for the parochial Shia sectarian interests that Hezbollah champions. There’s no chance he endorses the Iranian government’s reigning ideology of Velayat-e faqih, the totalitarian theocratic system Hezbollah would love to impose on Lebanon if it had the strength — which it doesn’t. Miqati is a billionaire businessman and does not even remotely share Hezbollah’s cartoonish paranoia about global capitalism and how it’s supposedly a nefarious Jewish-American plot.

What Miqati will do, however, is safeguard “the resistance,” as he has promised — meaning he won’t ask Hezbollah to hand over its weapons to the authorities — which is one of only two things Hezbollah requires of him. The second is repudiate the United Nations Special Tribunal for Lebanon. Everyone now expects the tribunal to indict Hezbollah for the assassination of the Sunni former prime minister Rafik Hariri, an event that may severely damage Hezbollah’s standing in the majority-Sunni Arab world even if it does have a prominent Sunni willing to provide some cover.

Hezbollah also needs, and will get, the same from Lebanon’s Christian president Michel Suleiman. Anything else these two leaders do in their official capacities is irrelevant from Hezbollah’s perspective.

Lebanon won’t likely ever resemble Gaza, which is under the complete control of an Islamist terrorist army. Hamas rules that beleaguered territory as the virtual Taliban of the eastern Mediterranean, but the Lebanese will blow their country to hell and gone all over again before submitting to something like that. Hezbollah knows it, as do the Syrians and the Iranians. They also know, or at least think they know, that they can bully the rest of the country into surrendering on the two most crucial items on its agenda, the ones that give Hezbollah the latitude to do whatever it wants in the Shia-majority areas that it does control directly.

We’re about to find out if that’s actually true. We’ll also most likely find out how true it remains if Israel takes the gloves off the next time there’s war.

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RE: Out of the TSA Scanner and into the Fire

I’m with Linda Chavez. The TSA’s body scanners and pat-down inspections may be tiresome and annoying, but it’s far from clear that there is a good alternative. As she points out, Charles Krauthammer’s suggestion to simply rely on profiling wouldn’t offer much of a defense against jihadist operatives, who are hardly likely to show up on a “martyrdom” mission wearing full tribal regalia. (That would more likely be a Saudi businessman.)

One of the things that make al-Qaeda and its affiliates so hard to combat is that they have been able to recruit all sorts of people, including not only Arabs but also Indonesians, Pakistanis, Europeans, and Americans. The only thing that all these terrorists have in common is their devotion to ultra-fundamentalist doctrines, but that is hardly something that can be noticed at a glance; it probably would not even be noticed in the course of  a typically perfunctory interview. True, they are also all Muslims, but they don’t necessarily advertise their religion — who, after all, could tell at a glance whether someone is a Pakistani Muslim or an Indian Hindu? Some people even confuse Sikhs with Muslims. Do we want to profile anyone who  looks “funny” or has a “funny” name? Anyone who is Muslim? Or Arab?

Mind you: I am not opposed on civil liberties grounds to profiling. To the extent that it is a useful technique, it should be employed by cops and airport security personnel alike. But alas, terrorists don’t fit any particular ethnic or racial category. Behavioral profiling is more useful: there are many actions that passengers take — such as buying a one-way ticket or paying cash or looking nervous in line or traveling from Yemen — that legitimately expose them to extra scrutiny. But even at its best, profiling is only one technique, and it is fallible — particularly because terrorists will go to great lengths to disguise themselves and blend in with their surroundings.

I don’t like being patted down any more than the next guy (unless it’s by Pamela Anderson!), but it does sound like a security precaution that makes sense. I can understand the backlash against TSA, particularly because of the sometimes inane way that bureaucrats will implement any policy, but body scanners and pat-downs are, I fear, part of the price of safety in this age of Islamist terrorism.

I’m with Linda Chavez. The TSA’s body scanners and pat-down inspections may be tiresome and annoying, but it’s far from clear that there is a good alternative. As she points out, Charles Krauthammer’s suggestion to simply rely on profiling wouldn’t offer much of a defense against jihadist operatives, who are hardly likely to show up on a “martyrdom” mission wearing full tribal regalia. (That would more likely be a Saudi businessman.)

One of the things that make al-Qaeda and its affiliates so hard to combat is that they have been able to recruit all sorts of people, including not only Arabs but also Indonesians, Pakistanis, Europeans, and Americans. The only thing that all these terrorists have in common is their devotion to ultra-fundamentalist doctrines, but that is hardly something that can be noticed at a glance; it probably would not even be noticed in the course of  a typically perfunctory interview. True, they are also all Muslims, but they don’t necessarily advertise their religion — who, after all, could tell at a glance whether someone is a Pakistani Muslim or an Indian Hindu? Some people even confuse Sikhs with Muslims. Do we want to profile anyone who  looks “funny” or has a “funny” name? Anyone who is Muslim? Or Arab?

Mind you: I am not opposed on civil liberties grounds to profiling. To the extent that it is a useful technique, it should be employed by cops and airport security personnel alike. But alas, terrorists don’t fit any particular ethnic or racial category. Behavioral profiling is more useful: there are many actions that passengers take — such as buying a one-way ticket or paying cash or looking nervous in line or traveling from Yemen — that legitimately expose them to extra scrutiny. But even at its best, profiling is only one technique, and it is fallible — particularly because terrorists will go to great lengths to disguise themselves and blend in with their surroundings.

I don’t like being patted down any more than the next guy (unless it’s by Pamela Anderson!), but it does sound like a security precaution that makes sense. I can understand the backlash against TSA, particularly because of the sometimes inane way that bureaucrats will implement any policy, but body scanners and pat-downs are, I fear, part of the price of safety in this age of Islamist terrorism.

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Despite Hype, Does Bloomberg Candidacy Have a Rationale?

The Washington Post pitches in today to join those hyping the notion that New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg is a viable third-party candidate for president in 2012. The Bloomberg boomlet, such as it is, is mostly the result of the nonstop efforts of the mayor’s staff and the billionaire’s various publication and public relations businesses, such as the Bloomberg Government website. But there have always been enough non-Bloomberg employees attracted by the mayor’s supposed centrism and independence to keep the idea alive.

So what’s the scenario for a Bloomberg candidacy? Of course, it starts and ends with money: Bloomberg has enough money to fund a first-class 50-state presidential run. And as his three mayoral victories demonstrate, he will spend as much money as is necessary.

Another integral element of the scenario is the ideological slot into which Bloomberg can fit. The former member of both the Democratic and Republican parties and his paid flacks have carefully crafted an image of a pragmatist middle-of-the-road technocrat who eschews labels and ideological rigidity. With American politics becoming increasingly polarized and the nation basically split between Red Staters who watch FOX News and Blue Staters who listen to NPR, Bloomberg is supposedly the perfect man to appeal to independents and partisans who are sick of gridlock.

The putative Bloomberg candidacy is helped by the current state of both major parties. The Democrats, led by an unpopular hyper-liberal Barack Obama, have lost the center. At the same time, the Bloomberg boosters are whispering that the Republicans, though on the rebound from their 2008 disaster, have swung too far to the right to appease their conservative base and the Tea Party insurgents to capture the centrists they’ll need to recapture the White House in 2012. And if Sarah Palin is the Republican nominee, they claim the GOP will be doomed. With the nation split between a leftist Obama and a right-wing Palin, a centrist Bloomberg will slip neatly between them and, lubricated by a campaign war chest that could dwarf even the impressive amounts raised in the last cycle by Obama, the mayor will cakewalk to victory, becoming the first ever third-party president.

It’s a neat plan, and if Palin is the GOP standard-bearer and if the economy is still in the doldrums in the summer and fall of 2012, thereby sinking Obama’s hopes, it’s just possible the wealthy mayor could win. Read More

The Washington Post pitches in today to join those hyping the notion that New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg is a viable third-party candidate for president in 2012. The Bloomberg boomlet, such as it is, is mostly the result of the nonstop efforts of the mayor’s staff and the billionaire’s various publication and public relations businesses, such as the Bloomberg Government website. But there have always been enough non-Bloomberg employees attracted by the mayor’s supposed centrism and independence to keep the idea alive.

So what’s the scenario for a Bloomberg candidacy? Of course, it starts and ends with money: Bloomberg has enough money to fund a first-class 50-state presidential run. And as his three mayoral victories demonstrate, he will spend as much money as is necessary.

Another integral element of the scenario is the ideological slot into which Bloomberg can fit. The former member of both the Democratic and Republican parties and his paid flacks have carefully crafted an image of a pragmatist middle-of-the-road technocrat who eschews labels and ideological rigidity. With American politics becoming increasingly polarized and the nation basically split between Red Staters who watch FOX News and Blue Staters who listen to NPR, Bloomberg is supposedly the perfect man to appeal to independents and partisans who are sick of gridlock.

The putative Bloomberg candidacy is helped by the current state of both major parties. The Democrats, led by an unpopular hyper-liberal Barack Obama, have lost the center. At the same time, the Bloomberg boosters are whispering that the Republicans, though on the rebound from their 2008 disaster, have swung too far to the right to appease their conservative base and the Tea Party insurgents to capture the centrists they’ll need to recapture the White House in 2012. And if Sarah Palin is the Republican nominee, they claim the GOP will be doomed. With the nation split between a leftist Obama and a right-wing Palin, a centrist Bloomberg will slip neatly between them and, lubricated by a campaign war chest that could dwarf even the impressive amounts raised in the last cycle by Obama, the mayor will cakewalk to victory, becoming the first ever third-party president.

It’s a neat plan, and if Palin is the GOP standard-bearer and if the economy is still in the doldrums in the summer and fall of 2012, thereby sinking Obama’s hopes, it’s just possible the wealthy mayor could win.

But there is one thing missing from the Bloomberg formula that any candidate, let alone one who expects to win the presidency without the help of a political party, must supply: a rationale for his candidacy. If we look at the history of major independent presidential candidates in the past century — Theodore Roosevelt, Robert LaFollette, Henry Wallace, Strom Thurmond, George Wallace, John Anderson, and Ross Perot — it is clear that the one thing they all had was an issue or set of issues that motivated their followers and voters to buck party loyalties.

The best precedent for Bloomberg might be Ross Perot. In 1992 and 1996, Perot made credible independent runs for the presidency and could have actually won in 1992 had the unstable candidate not imploded under the pressure of the campaign. But Perot’s success was not based solely on the fact that he had the money to pay for his ads. He had an issue: the push for a balanced budget.

But what’s Bloomberg’s issue? There are lots of things he says he is for. As the Post details, he wants a carbon tax, immigration reform, and his attitude toward health care for the elderly seems to be along the lines of those death panels that liberals say are a figment of Sarah Palin’s imagination. But none of those are winners, let alone the sort of thing that will fuel a candidacy. Can he run as a successful businessman who will fix the economy? Maybe. But that alludes to his resume. It is not a cause. Nor can he run on his record in New York, since that will mean explaining the sort of nanny-state intrusions into the lives of citizens — like bans on smoking and trans-fats — that are bound to sink him.

All this leads me to believe that the Bloomberg candidacy is more ego-driven smoke-blowing than anything else. The only rationale for a President Bloomberg is that the billionaire mayor thinks the presidency is the natural next step for a man who conquered the business world and then became the unchallenged king of New York politics. That’s an impressive record, but it is not a reason why Americans will abandon their party loyalties and make him president.

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Searching

As I noted on Friday, the GOP could use some unifiers who can fuse the Tea Party’s enthusiasm and small-government devotion with the mature street smarts of conservative stalwarts who possess bipartisan appeal. It is not an easy task. The media envision (and egg on) a competition for the soul of the GOP, and the battle for the 2012 nomination — Sarah Palin vs. everyone else. That sort of standoff may play out, but it’s not a useful paradigm if the Republicans hope to capture the White House.

The midterm results illustrate this vividly. Sarah Palin’s Tea Party favorites Joe Miller, Sharron Angle, and Christine O’Donnell all went down to defeat, as did independent Tom Tancredo, whom she backed in the Colorado gubernatorial race. Her critics cite this as evidence that while potent within the conservative movement, she lacks the appeal and political judgment required for the GOP to win in 2012. Her defenders will remind us that she also backed Marco Rubio, Rand Paul, and Nikki Haley, who all won. The argument for Rubio is not all that persuasive, of course; Rubio didn’t need Palin to win. The concern remains among conservatives: in a presidential race, you need to win not just deep Red States but also ones that are in play in competitive years.

There is another model. If Palin has reinforced doubts about her electability, Haley Barbour has some crowing to do. As head of the hugely successful Republican Governors’ Association, he can claim fundraising prowess and a role in the remarkable sweep in gubernatorial races from Maine to Florida to Wisconsin to New Mexico. The number of e-mails sent out touting his fundraising totals and electoral successes strongly suggests that he is getting his resume in order for a presidential run. But Barbour himself may not be the man to meld the two halves of the party. The image of an older, white Southern male with a successful lobbying career risks alienating the Tea Party contingent, whose enthusiasm and ideological zest led to many of those victories. Read More

As I noted on Friday, the GOP could use some unifiers who can fuse the Tea Party’s enthusiasm and small-government devotion with the mature street smarts of conservative stalwarts who possess bipartisan appeal. It is not an easy task. The media envision (and egg on) a competition for the soul of the GOP, and the battle for the 2012 nomination — Sarah Palin vs. everyone else. That sort of standoff may play out, but it’s not a useful paradigm if the Republicans hope to capture the White House.

The midterm results illustrate this vividly. Sarah Palin’s Tea Party favorites Joe Miller, Sharron Angle, and Christine O’Donnell all went down to defeat, as did independent Tom Tancredo, whom she backed in the Colorado gubernatorial race. Her critics cite this as evidence that while potent within the conservative movement, she lacks the appeal and political judgment required for the GOP to win in 2012. Her defenders will remind us that she also backed Marco Rubio, Rand Paul, and Nikki Haley, who all won. The argument for Rubio is not all that persuasive, of course; Rubio didn’t need Palin to win. The concern remains among conservatives: in a presidential race, you need to win not just deep Red States but also ones that are in play in competitive years.

There is another model. If Palin has reinforced doubts about her electability, Haley Barbour has some crowing to do. As head of the hugely successful Republican Governors’ Association, he can claim fundraising prowess and a role in the remarkable sweep in gubernatorial races from Maine to Florida to Wisconsin to New Mexico. The number of e-mails sent out touting his fundraising totals and electoral successes strongly suggests that he is getting his resume in order for a presidential run. But Barbour himself may not be the man to meld the two halves of the party. The image of an older, white Southern male with a successful lobbying career risks alienating the Tea Party contingent, whose enthusiasm and ideological zest led to many of those victories.

Meanwhile, Mitt Romney, who on paper might seem well-suited to the times (businessman, successful governor), is hobbled, maybe fatally, by his authorship of a health-care plan that bears a striking resemblance to the one which both Republican insiders and Tea Party activists are determined to obliterate. This is no small handicap.

So what’s the formula for success? Republicans supported and emerged victorious with serious-minded conservative candidates – Rob Portman in Ohio, Dan Coats in Indiana, and John Boozman in Arkansas – while finding new faces (Rubio, Ron Johnson) who avoided the hot-button rhetoric that derailed a number of the Tea Party candidates. Although ideologically not all that different from the Tea Party–preferred candidates, the GOP victors demonstrated how to meld fiscal conservatism with a more accessible brand of populism. They hardly disappointed the Tea Party crowd; but neither did they alienate independent voters.

Are there GOP hopefuls in 2012 who can fuse Tea Party populism with sober conservative governance? Many in the conservative intelligentsia pine for Gov. Chris Christie, who has become a rock star on YouTube; he won in a Blue State and now is battling against the Trenton insiders. And he’s doing it with showmanship that only Palin can top. But he joked that apparently only “suicide” would convince us that he wasn’t interested. I’m thinking he might be serious about not running.

Then there is Rep. Paul Ryan, soon to take over the chair of the Budget Committee. He excites many conservatives in and outside the Beltway. He’s brainy and articulate, with a shake-up-the-status-quo approach to entitlement and budget reform. He already matched up well against Obama, arguably winning a TKO in the health-care summit. And he will be front and center in the key legislative battles, in some ways the face of the GOP House majority, for the next two years. While he’s said he’s not interested in a 2012 run, he’s not been Christie-esque in his denials. As for the “rule” that House members can’t make viable presidential candidates, I think the rulebook was shredded in the last few years.

Of course, there is Marco Rubio, the party’s genuine superstar (with an immigrant story and deep belief in American exceptionalism), who proved to be an especially effective messenger of conservative principles. However, both he and his most fervent supporters seem to agree: it’s too soon.

So the search goes on. The good news for the GOP is that they have a slew of new governors (e.g., John Kasich) and senators and some retiring ones (Tim Pawlenty, Mitch Daniels) who understand how to forge the center-right coalition needed to get elected. A few faces familiar to political junkies (Mike Pence, John Thune) are also considering a run, which will test whether a Washington insider can nevertheless take on the mantle of reformer/outsider. Can any from this group of Republicans — who frankly lack magnetic personalities – also engage Tea Partiers? We will see.

So conservatives keep looking and trying to persuade the reluctant pols to throw their hats into the ring. Those who imagine they can win back the White House without full engagement of the 2010 winning formula (Tea Partiers plus traditionalists) should think again. A plan by half of the Republican alliance to overpower the other half is a formula for a second Obama term.

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Arming the Terrorists: Try, Try Again

Nigerian authorities opened cargo containers this week to find a large shipment of unauthorized arms at their port. Tightened surveillance in East Africa may be forcing Iran to ship arms to Hamas from transfer points further and further from Gaza: Israeli authorities suspect that the arms shipment, which was dropped off by an Iranian ship in July disguised as construction materials, was intended for Hamas.

On first glance, the implied route seems prohibitive. Getting the shipment to Gaza from a Nigerian port would still involve one or more transit paths that are under vigilant surveillance by regional authorities. Land transport to Egypt is the least likely method; besides poor road quality and the problems of highway bandits and border crossings, there was apparently no arrangement made for follow-on handling of the arms shipment inside Nigeria.

The way the cargo was dropped off suggests that it was supposed to be transshipped through Lagos to another port, perhaps somewhere on the North African coast. A local report indicates the agent in Nigeria was an Iranian businessman who has gone into hiding. The advantage of the swap in Nigeria would have been that a non-Iranian ship carried the arms cargo into the Mediterranean, where Israeli and U.S. intelligence, between them, are fully embedded with most port authorities.

The shipment was essentially orphaned at the drop-off point, however. A Nigerian official reports that there was a ham-handed attempt at bribing the port authorities to turn a blind eye to the cargo, which arrived without proper documentation. When that didn’t work, the drop-off ship simply left the port. The cargo sat unprocessed in its containers for months.

It’s possible that the arms were destined for the Shia Muslim Boko Haram insurgency in northern Nigeria. If they were, this would be the first detected instance of Iran trying to arm that insurgency directly. But Boko Haram’s arms route reportedly snakes across the northern border with Algeria, an arrangement dictated by the fact that the central government and the Christians of Nigeria’s south hold the ports. Moreover, Iran has been cultivating economic ties with Nigeria in the hope of importing uranium. Jeopardizing that relationship by arming an insurgency would appear counterproductive even to the unique geopolitical perspective in Tehran.

Perhaps the best news, if this was an arms shipment intended for Hamas, is that the Iranians seem to have miscalculated the law-enforcement environment in Nigeria’s ports. Presumably they will learn from this failure and prepare better for the next attempt. There are a lot of West African ports to choose from. We can be certain Iran will try again.

Nigerian authorities opened cargo containers this week to find a large shipment of unauthorized arms at their port. Tightened surveillance in East Africa may be forcing Iran to ship arms to Hamas from transfer points further and further from Gaza: Israeli authorities suspect that the arms shipment, which was dropped off by an Iranian ship in July disguised as construction materials, was intended for Hamas.

On first glance, the implied route seems prohibitive. Getting the shipment to Gaza from a Nigerian port would still involve one or more transit paths that are under vigilant surveillance by regional authorities. Land transport to Egypt is the least likely method; besides poor road quality and the problems of highway bandits and border crossings, there was apparently no arrangement made for follow-on handling of the arms shipment inside Nigeria.

The way the cargo was dropped off suggests that it was supposed to be transshipped through Lagos to another port, perhaps somewhere on the North African coast. A local report indicates the agent in Nigeria was an Iranian businessman who has gone into hiding. The advantage of the swap in Nigeria would have been that a non-Iranian ship carried the arms cargo into the Mediterranean, where Israeli and U.S. intelligence, between them, are fully embedded with most port authorities.

The shipment was essentially orphaned at the drop-off point, however. A Nigerian official reports that there was a ham-handed attempt at bribing the port authorities to turn a blind eye to the cargo, which arrived without proper documentation. When that didn’t work, the drop-off ship simply left the port. The cargo sat unprocessed in its containers for months.

It’s possible that the arms were destined for the Shia Muslim Boko Haram insurgency in northern Nigeria. If they were, this would be the first detected instance of Iran trying to arm that insurgency directly. But Boko Haram’s arms route reportedly snakes across the northern border with Algeria, an arrangement dictated by the fact that the central government and the Christians of Nigeria’s south hold the ports. Moreover, Iran has been cultivating economic ties with Nigeria in the hope of importing uranium. Jeopardizing that relationship by arming an insurgency would appear counterproductive even to the unique geopolitical perspective in Tehran.

Perhaps the best news, if this was an arms shipment intended for Hamas, is that the Iranians seem to have miscalculated the law-enforcement environment in Nigeria’s ports. Presumably they will learn from this failure and prepare better for the next attempt. There are a lot of West African ports to choose from. We can be certain Iran will try again.

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NJ-12

The New Jersey 12th is a traditionally Democratic district. Only in a wave election would the GOP contender have a shot, but this is such a year. If Democratic old-guarders like Rep. John Dingell are at risk, no seat is safe. And, in fact, RealClearPolitics currently lists the seat as just “leans Democratic.”

The Democratic incumbent is Rush Holt, a seven-termer who’s been on the defensive over his record on Israel. The Republican Scott Sipprelle, a venture-capital investor who’s never run for political office before, is campaigning as a full-throated fiscal conservative. But he made it clear that his differences with the administration and his opponent aren’t limited to domestic policy. I asked what he thought of the president’s approach to Iran. He replied: “The administration has succeeded neither in isolating Iran, slowing its nuclear ambitions, nor deflating its dangerous rhetoric. So I conclude that their approach has been a failure. Iran must understand that if it continues on this reckless path, the consequences will be unambiguously painful in terms of crippling economic sanctions and ‘effective isolation’ that will threaten the regime’s survival. America’s leadership is at stake on this issue.” And if Israel is forced to act unilaterally to prevent Iran from going nuclear? “The U.S. should stand with Israel,” he answers matter-of-factly.

Sipprelle didn’t mince words when it came to his opponent, who was a signatory on the Gaza 54 letter. “The enthusiastic endorsement of Mr. Holt by J Street and his apparent desire to cling to their warm embrace and their money will be a factor that voters consider when casting their ballots in November.” But he added that his opponent’s questionable funders extend beyond the Soros Street crowd, saying that voters should also consider “Mr. Holt’s unwillingness to repudiate Charlie Rangel [or to] return his large campaign donations to Mr. Holt’s campaign.”

Sipprelle is a businessman, not a politician, who sees an opening for outsiders not immersed in Beltway squabbling. While he aggressively criticizes Obama’s policies (“We should start over [on ObamaCare],” he argues), he plainly is appealing to independent and Democratic voters who, he contends, are turned off by hyperpartisanship. At a recent fundraiser in his state, Obama asserted that a GOP-controlled House would bring on “hand to hand combat.” Sipprelle observes: “We need problem-solving in America, not rigid partisanship. I have criticized Mr. Holt for his blind party politics, voting with Nancy Pelosi 99 percent of the time, making him just a cog in the partisan machine that is tearing the country apart. He is not exercising wisdom, principle, or good judgment. And he is not putting his country first.”

In an ordinary year, the New Jersey 12th district would not be in play. But in this extraordinary election year, Holt not only has a rotten economic record to defend but the baggage of an increasingly unpopular president and a toxic J Street. We’ll see in a few weeks if, even in one of the Bluest states, that’s too big a handicap in 2010.

The New Jersey 12th is a traditionally Democratic district. Only in a wave election would the GOP contender have a shot, but this is such a year. If Democratic old-guarders like Rep. John Dingell are at risk, no seat is safe. And, in fact, RealClearPolitics currently lists the seat as just “leans Democratic.”

The Democratic incumbent is Rush Holt, a seven-termer who’s been on the defensive over his record on Israel. The Republican Scott Sipprelle, a venture-capital investor who’s never run for political office before, is campaigning as a full-throated fiscal conservative. But he made it clear that his differences with the administration and his opponent aren’t limited to domestic policy. I asked what he thought of the president’s approach to Iran. He replied: “The administration has succeeded neither in isolating Iran, slowing its nuclear ambitions, nor deflating its dangerous rhetoric. So I conclude that their approach has been a failure. Iran must understand that if it continues on this reckless path, the consequences will be unambiguously painful in terms of crippling economic sanctions and ‘effective isolation’ that will threaten the regime’s survival. America’s leadership is at stake on this issue.” And if Israel is forced to act unilaterally to prevent Iran from going nuclear? “The U.S. should stand with Israel,” he answers matter-of-factly.

Sipprelle didn’t mince words when it came to his opponent, who was a signatory on the Gaza 54 letter. “The enthusiastic endorsement of Mr. Holt by J Street and his apparent desire to cling to their warm embrace and their money will be a factor that voters consider when casting their ballots in November.” But he added that his opponent’s questionable funders extend beyond the Soros Street crowd, saying that voters should also consider “Mr. Holt’s unwillingness to repudiate Charlie Rangel [or to] return his large campaign donations to Mr. Holt’s campaign.”

Sipprelle is a businessman, not a politician, who sees an opening for outsiders not immersed in Beltway squabbling. While he aggressively criticizes Obama’s policies (“We should start over [on ObamaCare],” he argues), he plainly is appealing to independent and Democratic voters who, he contends, are turned off by hyperpartisanship. At a recent fundraiser in his state, Obama asserted that a GOP-controlled House would bring on “hand to hand combat.” Sipprelle observes: “We need problem-solving in America, not rigid partisanship. I have criticized Mr. Holt for his blind party politics, voting with Nancy Pelosi 99 percent of the time, making him just a cog in the partisan machine that is tearing the country apart. He is not exercising wisdom, principle, or good judgment. And he is not putting his country first.”

In an ordinary year, the New Jersey 12th district would not be in play. But in this extraordinary election year, Holt not only has a rotten economic record to defend but the baggage of an increasingly unpopular president and a toxic J Street. We’ll see in a few weeks if, even in one of the Bluest states, that’s too big a handicap in 2010.

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Delay Would Make Israeli-Palestinian Deal More Likely, Not Less

On Monday, I argued that Washington’s push for final-status talks now, when neither Israelis nor Palestinians actually think a deal is possible, could substantially worsen a situation that’s currently tolerable for both sides — a concern that Gabi Ashkenazi, the chief of staff of Israel Defense Forces, reiterated yesterday. But there’s another reason why talks now are a bad idea: Contrary to the accepted wisdom, the conflict is likely to be more resolvable in another few decades, not less.

First, after 16 years of existence, the Palestinian Authority has only now, under Prime Minister Salam Fayyad, finally started building institutions of statehood. Time would enable these institutions to grow and develop, increasing the chances that whatever Palestinian state a deal established would be viable rather than collapse into chaos.

Second, after years of alternately attacking Israel itself and tacitly abetting Hamas’s attacks, the PA has only now started seriously fighting terror — albeit mainly because Hamas threatens its own survival. This long track record of complicity in terror has been a major obstacle to an agreement, because it convinced Israelis that further territorial withdrawals would undermine their own security unless accompanied by stringent security provisions, including the continued IDF presence in parts of the West Bank, which Palestinians reject.

But if the PA now demonstrates a serious, long-term commitment to counterterrorism — and two years isn’t even close to constituting “long-term” — less stringent security provisions would be possible. The paradigm is Israel’s 1994 treaty with Jordan: The 27 years of de facto peace that preceded the agreement created a level of trust that enabled far less complex security arrangements than peace with Egypt did.

Most importantly, however, time is needed to enable the emergence of a new generation of leaders who are actually prepared to accept the existence of a Jewish state — something both PA President Mahmoud Abbas and Prime Minister Fayyad have repeatedly refused to do.

Indeed, just yesterday, Fayyad stormed out of a meeting of the UN Ad Hoc Liaison Committee, which coordinates financial aid to the PA, rather than sign a summary statement referencing “two states for two peoples,” Jewish and Palestinian, rather than merely “two states.” Nor was this accidental: PA leaders are fine with two states, but only if both are Palestinian — with Israel’s conversion into a second Palestinian state being accomplished by flooding it with millions of descendants of Palestinian refugees.

This is due partly to the long shadow cast by Yasir Arafat, who dominated Palestinian politics for 50 years until his death in 2004. As Munib al-Masri — the West Bank’s wealthiest businessman, a close associate of Arafat’s, and a former supporter of Oslo who vehemently opposes the current talks — told Haaretz (Hebrew only) this month, neither Abbas “nor anyone else can concede more than Arafat did in negotiations with Israel. The Americans and Israelis don’t understand this.” And regarding the current generation, who grew up under Arafat’s thumb, he’s undoubtedly right.

But a new generation, growing up in a post-Arafat world, might be able to free itself of this shadow. And only once this happens will peace be possible.

On Monday, I argued that Washington’s push for final-status talks now, when neither Israelis nor Palestinians actually think a deal is possible, could substantially worsen a situation that’s currently tolerable for both sides — a concern that Gabi Ashkenazi, the chief of staff of Israel Defense Forces, reiterated yesterday. But there’s another reason why talks now are a bad idea: Contrary to the accepted wisdom, the conflict is likely to be more resolvable in another few decades, not less.

First, after 16 years of existence, the Palestinian Authority has only now, under Prime Minister Salam Fayyad, finally started building institutions of statehood. Time would enable these institutions to grow and develop, increasing the chances that whatever Palestinian state a deal established would be viable rather than collapse into chaos.

Second, after years of alternately attacking Israel itself and tacitly abetting Hamas’s attacks, the PA has only now started seriously fighting terror — albeit mainly because Hamas threatens its own survival. This long track record of complicity in terror has been a major obstacle to an agreement, because it convinced Israelis that further territorial withdrawals would undermine their own security unless accompanied by stringent security provisions, including the continued IDF presence in parts of the West Bank, which Palestinians reject.

But if the PA now demonstrates a serious, long-term commitment to counterterrorism — and two years isn’t even close to constituting “long-term” — less stringent security provisions would be possible. The paradigm is Israel’s 1994 treaty with Jordan: The 27 years of de facto peace that preceded the agreement created a level of trust that enabled far less complex security arrangements than peace with Egypt did.

Most importantly, however, time is needed to enable the emergence of a new generation of leaders who are actually prepared to accept the existence of a Jewish state — something both PA President Mahmoud Abbas and Prime Minister Fayyad have repeatedly refused to do.

Indeed, just yesterday, Fayyad stormed out of a meeting of the UN Ad Hoc Liaison Committee, which coordinates financial aid to the PA, rather than sign a summary statement referencing “two states for two peoples,” Jewish and Palestinian, rather than merely “two states.” Nor was this accidental: PA leaders are fine with two states, but only if both are Palestinian — with Israel’s conversion into a second Palestinian state being accomplished by flooding it with millions of descendants of Palestinian refugees.

This is due partly to the long shadow cast by Yasir Arafat, who dominated Palestinian politics for 50 years until his death in 2004. As Munib al-Masri — the West Bank’s wealthiest businessman, a close associate of Arafat’s, and a former supporter of Oslo who vehemently opposes the current talks — told Haaretz (Hebrew only) this month, neither Abbas “nor anyone else can concede more than Arafat did in negotiations with Israel. The Americans and Israelis don’t understand this.” And regarding the current generation, who grew up under Arafat’s thumb, he’s undoubtedly right.

But a new generation, growing up in a post-Arafat world, might be able to free itself of this shadow. And only once this happens will peace be possible.

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The Playing Field Shifts

Delaware may not be doable for the Republicans, but take a look at Wisconsin: “After a decisive win in Tuesday’s Republican Primary, businessman Ron Johnson now holds a seven-point lead over incumbent Democrat Russ Feingold in Wisconsin’s U.S. Senate race.” This may be part of a post-primary-vote bump, but still.

The Republicans need 10 seats to take the Senate. (I will put aside the possibility of a Joe Lieberman party switch.) Here are nine: Arkansas, Illinois, Indiana, North Dakota, Wisconsin, California, Nevada, Colorado, and Pennsylvania. Add either Washington or West Virginia and the GOP gets to 10. Hard? Yes. Impossible? Hardly.

Delaware may not be doable for the Republicans, but take a look at Wisconsin: “After a decisive win in Tuesday’s Republican Primary, businessman Ron Johnson now holds a seven-point lead over incumbent Democrat Russ Feingold in Wisconsin’s U.S. Senate race.” This may be part of a post-primary-vote bump, but still.

The Republicans need 10 seats to take the Senate. (I will put aside the possibility of a Joe Lieberman party switch.) Here are nine: Arkansas, Illinois, Indiana, North Dakota, Wisconsin, California, Nevada, Colorado, and Pennsylvania. Add either Washington or West Virginia and the GOP gets to 10. Hard? Yes. Impossible? Hardly.

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The Virginia 11th

As I noted yesterday, Gerry Connolly, the freshman representative from Virginia’s 11th, is one of a handful of vulnerable Democrats in the state. In the Republican primary, which was thought to be competitive, businessman Keith Fimian faced off against Fairfax County Supervisor Pat Herrity, whose father was a legendary and beloved figure in the county.

This was not the year to run an establishment insider. Fimian cruised to a huge double-digit win. Herrity said Fimian was too conservative, a losing argument in an off-year primary when the most devoted Republicans turn out to vote. Fimian accused Herrity of raising taxes, and that seemed to gain traction. Lesson: run as an outsider, adamantly opposed to tax increases.

Fimian and Connolly will stage a rematch of the 2008 contest. Then Connolly won by 11 points, with Obama carrying the district by 15 points. But this time around, Obama isn’t on the ballot to drive turnout and is a drag on his party, not a boost. Connolly will try to separate himself from the Washington spend-a-thon, but his record speaks for itself. Republicans smell a pickup. We’ll see how smart a race Fimian runs. He at least has the experience of beating one insider who was vulnerable on the tax issue.

As I noted yesterday, Gerry Connolly, the freshman representative from Virginia’s 11th, is one of a handful of vulnerable Democrats in the state. In the Republican primary, which was thought to be competitive, businessman Keith Fimian faced off against Fairfax County Supervisor Pat Herrity, whose father was a legendary and beloved figure in the county.

This was not the year to run an establishment insider. Fimian cruised to a huge double-digit win. Herrity said Fimian was too conservative, a losing argument in an off-year primary when the most devoted Republicans turn out to vote. Fimian accused Herrity of raising taxes, and that seemed to gain traction. Lesson: run as an outsider, adamantly opposed to tax increases.

Fimian and Connolly will stage a rematch of the 2008 contest. Then Connolly won by 11 points, with Obama carrying the district by 15 points. But this time around, Obama isn’t on the ballot to drive turnout and is a drag on his party, not a boost. Connolly will try to separate himself from the Washington spend-a-thon, but his record speaks for itself. Republicans smell a pickup. We’ll see how smart a race Fimian runs. He at least has the experience of beating one insider who was vulnerable on the tax issue.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Do the Kurds understand Israel better than the Obama administration does? Cliff May: “Many Kurds also have empathy for — and even feel an affinity with — Israelis and Jews. Unusual as this is within the ‘Muslim world,’ it makes sense when you think about it: Like Kurds, Jews are an ancient Middle Eastern people. Like Kurds, Jews have been targeted for genocide. Like Kurds, Israelis face an uncertain future among neighbors who range from merely hostile to openly exterminationist.” Falah Mustafa Bakir, head of the Kurdistan Regional Government’s Department of Foreign Relations, adds: “We can’t be hating them because Arabs hate them. We think it is in the interest of Iraq to have relations with Israel. And the day after the Israelis open an embassy in Baghdad, we will invite them to open a consulate here.”

Do Republicans have more Blue Senate seats in play than any election in recent memory? Seems that way: “Businessman Ron Johnson, endorsed at last weekend’s state Republican Convention, is now running virtually even against incumbent Democrat Russ Feingold in Wisconsin’s race for the U.S. Senate.”

Do evangelicals show more devotion to and knowledge of Israel than many American Jews? “The evangelical may not be able to identify Saint Anthony, Christopher, or Demetrius of Thessalonik, but we know—and revere—Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. To paraphrase an old Willie Nelson song, our heroes have always been Hebrews. Indeed, it is almost impossible to overestimate the influence of the Old Testament on the evangelical imagination. … Our theonomic justifications for Zionism are offensive to those who believe all political views much be secularized and denatured of religious influence. That, of course, is their problem and not ours. While it might not be polite to admit in liberal cosmopolitan company, there is nothing illogical or unreasonable in believing that the tribe of Judah has a historical right and providential claim to the land of Israel.”

Does Obama duck more tough questions than any president in recent memory? Obama at Thursday’s press conference: “‘There will be an official response shortly on the Sestak issue which I hope will answer your questions’ — and added that ‘shortly’ meant in the very near future.” Why isn’t the president able to give an official response?

Does Chris Matthews’s newfound criticism of Obama (e.g., “passing the hot potato” on the Sestak job offer) suggest more liberal defections from the Obama cult? Perhaps, or maybe it reminds you of LBJ losing Walter Cronkite. Well, I guess Cronkite had millions of viewers and Matthews doesn’t.

Does Rand Paul’s plunge in the polls signal to GOP excuse mongers that there’s more to lose than gain with Paul and that it’s time to look for Plan B?

Does Joe Lieberman’s hint that he might back Linda McMahon suggest that more iconoclastic endorsements might be under consideration? I bet Joe Sestak — the un-Lieberman on most every foreign-policy issue — might be a bit nervous.

Do the Kurds understand Israel better than the Obama administration does? Cliff May: “Many Kurds also have empathy for — and even feel an affinity with — Israelis and Jews. Unusual as this is within the ‘Muslim world,’ it makes sense when you think about it: Like Kurds, Jews are an ancient Middle Eastern people. Like Kurds, Jews have been targeted for genocide. Like Kurds, Israelis face an uncertain future among neighbors who range from merely hostile to openly exterminationist.” Falah Mustafa Bakir, head of the Kurdistan Regional Government’s Department of Foreign Relations, adds: “We can’t be hating them because Arabs hate them. We think it is in the interest of Iraq to have relations with Israel. And the day after the Israelis open an embassy in Baghdad, we will invite them to open a consulate here.”

Do Republicans have more Blue Senate seats in play than any election in recent memory? Seems that way: “Businessman Ron Johnson, endorsed at last weekend’s state Republican Convention, is now running virtually even against incumbent Democrat Russ Feingold in Wisconsin’s race for the U.S. Senate.”

Do evangelicals show more devotion to and knowledge of Israel than many American Jews? “The evangelical may not be able to identify Saint Anthony, Christopher, or Demetrius of Thessalonik, but we know—and revere—Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. To paraphrase an old Willie Nelson song, our heroes have always been Hebrews. Indeed, it is almost impossible to overestimate the influence of the Old Testament on the evangelical imagination. … Our theonomic justifications for Zionism are offensive to those who believe all political views much be secularized and denatured of religious influence. That, of course, is their problem and not ours. While it might not be polite to admit in liberal cosmopolitan company, there is nothing illogical or unreasonable in believing that the tribe of Judah has a historical right and providential claim to the land of Israel.”

Does Obama duck more tough questions than any president in recent memory? Obama at Thursday’s press conference: “‘There will be an official response shortly on the Sestak issue which I hope will answer your questions’ — and added that ‘shortly’ meant in the very near future.” Why isn’t the president able to give an official response?

Does Chris Matthews’s newfound criticism of Obama (e.g., “passing the hot potato” on the Sestak job offer) suggest more liberal defections from the Obama cult? Perhaps, or maybe it reminds you of LBJ losing Walter Cronkite. Well, I guess Cronkite had millions of viewers and Matthews doesn’t.

Does Rand Paul’s plunge in the polls signal to GOP excuse mongers that there’s more to lose than gain with Paul and that it’s time to look for Plan B?

Does Joe Lieberman’s hint that he might back Linda McMahon suggest that more iconoclastic endorsements might be under consideration? I bet Joe Sestak — the un-Lieberman on most every foreign-policy issue — might be a bit nervous.

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Eleven Senate Seats in Play?

The Cook Report (subscription required) explains:

Republicans scored a late but important recruiting success yesterday when businessman and former state Sen. Dino Rossi announced that he would challenge Democratic incumbent Sen. Patty Murray. Rossi’s announcement puts another Democratic-held seat in play. The race has been in the Solid Democratic column, but is moving to Toss Up, bringing the total number of competitive Democratic seats to 11.

As more seats come into play, the problems for the Democrats multiply. Spend money on Connecticut or Washington? Forget North Dakota and Delaware — they’re gone. How much money does Barbara Boxer need? And so it will go. Eleven seats doesn’t by any means guarantee or even make probable 11 GOP gains. It does, however, greatly increase the chances of 7-8 seats. And that’s more than enough to filibuster virtually any additions to the Obama spend-a-thon — and maybe to prevent funding of ObamaCare as well.

The Cook Report (subscription required) explains:

Republicans scored a late but important recruiting success yesterday when businessman and former state Sen. Dino Rossi announced that he would challenge Democratic incumbent Sen. Patty Murray. Rossi’s announcement puts another Democratic-held seat in play. The race has been in the Solid Democratic column, but is moving to Toss Up, bringing the total number of competitive Democratic seats to 11.

As more seats come into play, the problems for the Democrats multiply. Spend money on Connecticut or Washington? Forget North Dakota and Delaware — they’re gone. How much money does Barbara Boxer need? And so it will go. Eleven seats doesn’t by any means guarantee or even make probable 11 GOP gains. It does, however, greatly increase the chances of 7-8 seats. And that’s more than enough to filibuster virtually any additions to the Obama spend-a-thon — and maybe to prevent funding of ObamaCare as well.

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Not a Regional Party

After the 2008 election, there was much pontificating about the future of the Republican Party. It was destined, we were told, to become a rump party of the South, the last refuge of white, religious male voters. But all it took was a year and a half of Obama to convince Americans — both male and female, religious and not, in all regions of the country — that maybe it’s time to give the GOP another shot. Two states that exemplify this are New Hampshire (recall Republicans were thought to be extinct in New England) and Illinois.

Stuart Rothenberg writes, “Right now, I think the Republicans are positioned to win both Senate races.” As for New Hampshire, he comments:

I’ve met three of the four credible Republican candidates in the race — former Attorney General Kelly Ayotte, millionaire businessman Bill Binnie and conservative Ovide Lamontagne, the GOP’s unsuccessful nominee for governor in 1996 — and all three should have considerable appeal in the primary and in the fall.

What about the Democrat Paul Hodes?

Hodes is poised, confident and well-spoken, but he seems to think that he can make former President George W. Bush a major issue this year and that his own accomplishments in the House will demonstrate his independence and draw a favorable contrast with his eventual GOP opponent. In fact, I think Hodes is far too optimistic about his ability to dictate what the 2010 Senate race will be about.

It seems running against Bush isn’t going to work — but it’s apparently better than running on the Democrats’ agenda and calling in Obama to vouch for him:

National political currents (including intensity) are likely to favor Republicans, and as long as the GOP nominee isn’t hemorrhaging support after the primary, Hodes, who voted for the health care bill, cap-and-trade and the stimulus, will be on the defensive when fall arrives. An improvement in the national mood would, of course, improve the congressman’s prospects.

Rothenberg says Democrats in Illinois have a better shot, given their electoral advantage. But here, too, Rothenberg says Rep. Mark Kirk is the Republicans’ “ideal candidate for this seat,” and therefore, together with Alexi Giannoulias’s banking woes, he gives Republicans a pick-up opportunity.

So how did Republicans crawl out of the ditch and reestablish themselves in what were Democratic strongholds less than two years ago? Well, politics isn’t that complicated. Get good candidates. Watch the governing party’s overreach and underperformance. Understand the public antipathy for partisan excess and ideological extremism. And bingo, you have a viable alternative for voters to choose. Republicans will have to close the sale in these and other states, but they’re most of the way home — thanks to Obama and the Democratic congressional leadership.

After the 2008 election, there was much pontificating about the future of the Republican Party. It was destined, we were told, to become a rump party of the South, the last refuge of white, religious male voters. But all it took was a year and a half of Obama to convince Americans — both male and female, religious and not, in all regions of the country — that maybe it’s time to give the GOP another shot. Two states that exemplify this are New Hampshire (recall Republicans were thought to be extinct in New England) and Illinois.

Stuart Rothenberg writes, “Right now, I think the Republicans are positioned to win both Senate races.” As for New Hampshire, he comments:

I’ve met three of the four credible Republican candidates in the race — former Attorney General Kelly Ayotte, millionaire businessman Bill Binnie and conservative Ovide Lamontagne, the GOP’s unsuccessful nominee for governor in 1996 — and all three should have considerable appeal in the primary and in the fall.

What about the Democrat Paul Hodes?

Hodes is poised, confident and well-spoken, but he seems to think that he can make former President George W. Bush a major issue this year and that his own accomplishments in the House will demonstrate his independence and draw a favorable contrast with his eventual GOP opponent. In fact, I think Hodes is far too optimistic about his ability to dictate what the 2010 Senate race will be about.

It seems running against Bush isn’t going to work — but it’s apparently better than running on the Democrats’ agenda and calling in Obama to vouch for him:

National political currents (including intensity) are likely to favor Republicans, and as long as the GOP nominee isn’t hemorrhaging support after the primary, Hodes, who voted for the health care bill, cap-and-trade and the stimulus, will be on the defensive when fall arrives. An improvement in the national mood would, of course, improve the congressman’s prospects.

Rothenberg says Democrats in Illinois have a better shot, given their electoral advantage. But here, too, Rothenberg says Rep. Mark Kirk is the Republicans’ “ideal candidate for this seat,” and therefore, together with Alexi Giannoulias’s banking woes, he gives Republicans a pick-up opportunity.

So how did Republicans crawl out of the ditch and reestablish themselves in what were Democratic strongholds less than two years ago? Well, politics isn’t that complicated. Get good candidates. Watch the governing party’s overreach and underperformance. Understand the public antipathy for partisan excess and ideological extremism. And bingo, you have a viable alternative for voters to choose. Republicans will have to close the sale in these and other states, but they’re most of the way home — thanks to Obama and the Democratic congressional leadership.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Ben Smith spots bias at the Washington Post.

CEOs spots the worst place to do business: “California ranks last among the states and Washington D.C. as a place to do business, according to Chief Executive magazine. It is the second year in a row that the state was given that dubious distinction.”

Stuart Rothenberg spots trouble for Russ Feingold: “When former Wisconsin Gov. Tommy Thompson (R) announced recently that he wouldn’t enter the 2010 Senate race and challenge Democratic Sen. Russ Feingold, many of us crossed the state off our list of competitive races. Maybe we were a bit premature. Two more Republicans — former state Commerce Secretary Dick Leinenkugel and businessman Ron Johnson — are joining the two GOPers already in the contest, businessman Terrence Wall and Dave Westlake, and the newly expanded field is just one reason for reconsidering my knee-jerk judgment. None of these four hopefuls possesses all of the qualities of the ideal challenger. But this cycle, Republicans may not need ideal challengers to win, even in the Badger State.”

And Rothenberg spots a pickup possibility for the GOP in the Hawaii House special election. “According to recent polling, Republicans now have a legitimate chance to takeover Hawaii’s 1st District in this month’s special election. What was once only a scenario now looks like a real possibility, and even Democratic observers are worried about the race.”

Victor Davis Hanson spots the pattern: “The jihadist symptoms of Major Hasan were ignored; General Casey lamented the possible ramifications of Hasan’s killings to the army’s diversity program; the warnings of Mr. Mutallab’s father about his son’s jihadist tendencies were ignored but the latter’s Miranda rights were not; and the Times Square would-be bomber was quite rashly and on little evidence falsely equated with a ‘white’ bomber with perhaps domestic-terrorism overtones (when it looks like there is a Pakistani radical-Islamist connection) — a sort of pattern has been established, one both implicit and explicit.”

It’s not hard to spot a rising GOP star: “Once again showing that he means to shake up Trenton, Gov. Christopher J. Christie declined on Monday to reappoint a sitting justice to the New Jersey Supreme Court, instead appointing someone who he said would show the restraint that was missing from the court. … Speaking to reporters in Trenton, Mr. Christie had only kind words for Justice Wallace, but he described the historically liberal court as ‘out of control’ over the last three decades, usurping the roles of the governor and the Legislature in setting social and tax policies.” (As a bonus, Christie succeeded in freaking out the Democrats: “New Jersey Democrats, furious with Gov. Chris Christie over his decision to replace a moderate African-American on the state Supreme Court, vowed Tuesday not even to consider the Republican governor’s nominee.”)

Fox News spots the latest evidence that Obama is failing to thwart the mullahs’ nuclear ambitions or to isolate the regime. “Two of the world’s worst dictators are thumbing their noses at the U.N. as it tries to shore up support for increased sanctions against Iran. According to press reports, Iran secretly agreed last month to provide Zimbabwe with oil in return for exclusive access to the crippled African nation’s precious uranium ore.”

Jake Tapper spots a sign of improvement in the Obama administration’s terror-fighting operation: “ABC News has learned that the High-Value Interrogation Group, or HIG, is involved in the interrogation of Faisal Shahzad, the man arrested last night in the investigation into the failed Times Square bombing. After the arrest of the failed Christmas Day 2009 bomber Umar Farouq Abdulmutallab, the Obama administration was criticized for not having yet made operational the HIG, a special interrogation team for high-value terrorist suspects, though the Special Task Force on Interrogations and Transfer Policies had announced its recommendation to form such a group in August 2009.”

Newsbusters spots the left down in the dumps that the Times Square bomber wasn’t a Tea Partier: “It appears that it wasn’t only media types such as MSNBC’s Contessa Brewer who were disappointed that the Times Square bombing suspect turned out to be a Muslim. They were joined by virtually the entire leftwing blogosphere in their frustration that the suspect wasn’t a tea party activist or a member of a ‘rightwing’ militia group.”

Ben Smith spots bias at the Washington Post.

CEOs spots the worst place to do business: “California ranks last among the states and Washington D.C. as a place to do business, according to Chief Executive magazine. It is the second year in a row that the state was given that dubious distinction.”

Stuart Rothenberg spots trouble for Russ Feingold: “When former Wisconsin Gov. Tommy Thompson (R) announced recently that he wouldn’t enter the 2010 Senate race and challenge Democratic Sen. Russ Feingold, many of us crossed the state off our list of competitive races. Maybe we were a bit premature. Two more Republicans — former state Commerce Secretary Dick Leinenkugel and businessman Ron Johnson — are joining the two GOPers already in the contest, businessman Terrence Wall and Dave Westlake, and the newly expanded field is just one reason for reconsidering my knee-jerk judgment. None of these four hopefuls possesses all of the qualities of the ideal challenger. But this cycle, Republicans may not need ideal challengers to win, even in the Badger State.”

And Rothenberg spots a pickup possibility for the GOP in the Hawaii House special election. “According to recent polling, Republicans now have a legitimate chance to takeover Hawaii’s 1st District in this month’s special election. What was once only a scenario now looks like a real possibility, and even Democratic observers are worried about the race.”

Victor Davis Hanson spots the pattern: “The jihadist symptoms of Major Hasan were ignored; General Casey lamented the possible ramifications of Hasan’s killings to the army’s diversity program; the warnings of Mr. Mutallab’s father about his son’s jihadist tendencies were ignored but the latter’s Miranda rights were not; and the Times Square would-be bomber was quite rashly and on little evidence falsely equated with a ‘white’ bomber with perhaps domestic-terrorism overtones (when it looks like there is a Pakistani radical-Islamist connection) — a sort of pattern has been established, one both implicit and explicit.”

It’s not hard to spot a rising GOP star: “Once again showing that he means to shake up Trenton, Gov. Christopher J. Christie declined on Monday to reappoint a sitting justice to the New Jersey Supreme Court, instead appointing someone who he said would show the restraint that was missing from the court. … Speaking to reporters in Trenton, Mr. Christie had only kind words for Justice Wallace, but he described the historically liberal court as ‘out of control’ over the last three decades, usurping the roles of the governor and the Legislature in setting social and tax policies.” (As a bonus, Christie succeeded in freaking out the Democrats: “New Jersey Democrats, furious with Gov. Chris Christie over his decision to replace a moderate African-American on the state Supreme Court, vowed Tuesday not even to consider the Republican governor’s nominee.”)

Fox News spots the latest evidence that Obama is failing to thwart the mullahs’ nuclear ambitions or to isolate the regime. “Two of the world’s worst dictators are thumbing their noses at the U.N. as it tries to shore up support for increased sanctions against Iran. According to press reports, Iran secretly agreed last month to provide Zimbabwe with oil in return for exclusive access to the crippled African nation’s precious uranium ore.”

Jake Tapper spots a sign of improvement in the Obama administration’s terror-fighting operation: “ABC News has learned that the High-Value Interrogation Group, or HIG, is involved in the interrogation of Faisal Shahzad, the man arrested last night in the investigation into the failed Times Square bombing. After the arrest of the failed Christmas Day 2009 bomber Umar Farouq Abdulmutallab, the Obama administration was criticized for not having yet made operational the HIG, a special interrogation team for high-value terrorist suspects, though the Special Task Force on Interrogations and Transfer Policies had announced its recommendation to form such a group in August 2009.”

Newsbusters spots the left down in the dumps that the Times Square bomber wasn’t a Tea Partier: “It appears that it wasn’t only media types such as MSNBC’s Contessa Brewer who were disappointed that the Times Square bombing suspect turned out to be a Muslim. They were joined by virtually the entire leftwing blogosphere in their frustration that the suspect wasn’t a tea party activist or a member of a ‘rightwing’ militia group.”

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Ouch: Charlie Crist’s campaign manager and handpicked Senate appointee dumps him.

Yikes (for Democrats): “Republican Congressman Mark Kirk has earned a modest pick-up in support, while his Democratic opponent, Alexi Giannoulias, appears stalled in the first Rasmussen Reports telephone survey of Likely Voters in the state following the government’s seizure of the failed Broadway Bank, the institution owned by Giannoulias’ family. Kirk now attracts 46% support in Illinois’ race for the U.S. Senate, up from 41% in early April.”

More yikes (for Democrats): “A new poll has businessman Tim Burns (R) leading former Murtha aide Mark Critz (D) 46-40. Republicans appear to have a real opportunity to take over the seat of the late Rep. John Murtha’s (D-Pa.), as another poll shows their candidate in the lead.”

Still: “Iran will never agree to exchange its low-level enriched uranium for nuclear fuel rods enriched abroad, a top adviser to Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said Friday.”

Bunk — is the claim that GM has paid back its taxpayer bailout, says Rep. Paul Ryan: “These claims struck me as odd and misleading. The federal government still owns over 60% of this auto company. This so-called repayment is actually a transfer of $6.7 billion from one taxpayer-funded bailout account to another.”

Fine: “Jewish groups are calling on U.N. member representatives to walk out in protest when Iran’s president speaks next week at the United Nations. Mahmoud Ahmadenijad’s plans to address the U.N. Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference on May 3 makes a mockery of the proceedings, Jewish groups said.” But why don’t they call for the administration to leave the Human Rights Council or the Commission on the Status of Women?

Uh-oh: “The nation’s gross domestic product, the value of all goods and services produced, grew at an annual rate of 3.2% after climbing 5.6% in the fourth quarter, the Commerce Department said Friday. That’s not nearly fast enough to bring down stubbornly high unemployment. In addition, threats ranging from turmoil in Europe to the difficulty smaller businesses face in borrowing money are clouding the prospects for continued recovery.”

Yup: “Crist still does not grasp that the country wants a check on Obama, not an enabler in Republican or independent skin. The backlash over spending, soaring debt, government take-over of major industries, and Obamacare calls for a new breed of GOP leaders who are unafraid to stand in the gap and stop the Obama agenda. Crist’s failure to understand that is what sunk his candidacy in the GOP and will likely do so in the general election.”

Ouch: Charlie Crist’s campaign manager and handpicked Senate appointee dumps him.

Yikes (for Democrats): “Republican Congressman Mark Kirk has earned a modest pick-up in support, while his Democratic opponent, Alexi Giannoulias, appears stalled in the first Rasmussen Reports telephone survey of Likely Voters in the state following the government’s seizure of the failed Broadway Bank, the institution owned by Giannoulias’ family. Kirk now attracts 46% support in Illinois’ race for the U.S. Senate, up from 41% in early April.”

More yikes (for Democrats): “A new poll has businessman Tim Burns (R) leading former Murtha aide Mark Critz (D) 46-40. Republicans appear to have a real opportunity to take over the seat of the late Rep. John Murtha’s (D-Pa.), as another poll shows their candidate in the lead.”

Still: “Iran will never agree to exchange its low-level enriched uranium for nuclear fuel rods enriched abroad, a top adviser to Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said Friday.”

Bunk — is the claim that GM has paid back its taxpayer bailout, says Rep. Paul Ryan: “These claims struck me as odd and misleading. The federal government still owns over 60% of this auto company. This so-called repayment is actually a transfer of $6.7 billion from one taxpayer-funded bailout account to another.”

Fine: “Jewish groups are calling on U.N. member representatives to walk out in protest when Iran’s president speaks next week at the United Nations. Mahmoud Ahmadenijad’s plans to address the U.N. Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference on May 3 makes a mockery of the proceedings, Jewish groups said.” But why don’t they call for the administration to leave the Human Rights Council or the Commission on the Status of Women?

Uh-oh: “The nation’s gross domestic product, the value of all goods and services produced, grew at an annual rate of 3.2% after climbing 5.6% in the fourth quarter, the Commerce Department said Friday. That’s not nearly fast enough to bring down stubbornly high unemployment. In addition, threats ranging from turmoil in Europe to the difficulty smaller businesses face in borrowing money are clouding the prospects for continued recovery.”

Yup: “Crist still does not grasp that the country wants a check on Obama, not an enabler in Republican or independent skin. The backlash over spending, soaring debt, government take-over of major industries, and Obamacare calls for a new breed of GOP leaders who are unafraid to stand in the gap and stop the Obama agenda. Crist’s failure to understand that is what sunk his candidacy in the GOP and will likely do so in the general election.”

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How an Election Is Nationalized

Two races in Illinois and Pennsylvania exemplify the difficulties  Democrats are having these days. Regarding the Illinois Senate race, the Chicago Sun Times reports:

U.S. Rep. Mark Kirk said the arrest this week of a Giannoulias family friend and bank customer brings the amount of money Broadway Bank has lent to criminals to $52 million.

State Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias, Kirk’s Democratic opponent for U.S. Senate, has said that as chief loan officer of his family’s bank from 2002 to 2006, he did not check loan applicants’ arrest records.

Kirk, a North Shore Republican, calls that “reckless.”

And in a Friday news dump, Giannoulias announced he was giving back all the campaign funds he received from “bank fraudster Nick Giannis and his family.” So to sum up: to fill the seat of  Roland Burris, the Blago appointee (whose seat and the potential purchase thereof is the subject of the criminal trial later this year), the Democrats have nominated a banker who lent millions to mobsters, whose bank is on the verge of going under, and who pleads ignorance about his clients’ criminality. This is in a year in which backdoor deals, a series of ethics issues (e.g. Charlie Rangel, Eric Massa), and a general anti-insider sentiment has ensnared the Democrats. It’s hard to imagine a less appealing candidate for the Democrats. And frankly, if they aren’t lucky, Giannoulias and the other ethically challenged Democrats are going to become the poster boys — and the unifying message — for many Republicans outside Illinois.

Then there is Pennsylvania. Before we get to the Senate and gubernatorial races, both of which look promising for Republicans, there is a House special election. As Politico reports:

The special election to fill the House seat of the late Pennsylvania Democrat John Murtha will pit a candidate who fully embraces Murtha’s legacy against a Republican political newcomer who’s aiming to nationalize the election. Pennsylvania Republicans anointed businessman Tim Burns on Thursday as their candidate to face Murtha’s former district director, Mark Critz, in the May 18 election. Burns has been running on a down-the-line conservative platform of opposition to the stimulus, health care legislation and government spending.

And if the Obama-Reid-Pelosi troika push through ObamaCare, this may be an early warning sign (well, another warning sign after Scott Brown) as to  just how angry the electorate is and how willing the voters are to flip a seat that, in a normal election year, would be relatively safe for Democrats.

This is the stuff of wave elections — the collision of ethics scandals, voter anger, fiscal mismanagement, and, don’t forget, a floundering president. How big the wave will be depends, I think, on just how serious the Democrats are about dealing with their ethically challenged members and how determined they are to take the plunge on a monstrous health-care bill that voters generally loathe.

Two races in Illinois and Pennsylvania exemplify the difficulties  Democrats are having these days. Regarding the Illinois Senate race, the Chicago Sun Times reports:

U.S. Rep. Mark Kirk said the arrest this week of a Giannoulias family friend and bank customer brings the amount of money Broadway Bank has lent to criminals to $52 million.

State Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias, Kirk’s Democratic opponent for U.S. Senate, has said that as chief loan officer of his family’s bank from 2002 to 2006, he did not check loan applicants’ arrest records.

Kirk, a North Shore Republican, calls that “reckless.”

And in a Friday news dump, Giannoulias announced he was giving back all the campaign funds he received from “bank fraudster Nick Giannis and his family.” So to sum up: to fill the seat of  Roland Burris, the Blago appointee (whose seat and the potential purchase thereof is the subject of the criminal trial later this year), the Democrats have nominated a banker who lent millions to mobsters, whose bank is on the verge of going under, and who pleads ignorance about his clients’ criminality. This is in a year in which backdoor deals, a series of ethics issues (e.g. Charlie Rangel, Eric Massa), and a general anti-insider sentiment has ensnared the Democrats. It’s hard to imagine a less appealing candidate for the Democrats. And frankly, if they aren’t lucky, Giannoulias and the other ethically challenged Democrats are going to become the poster boys — and the unifying message — for many Republicans outside Illinois.

Then there is Pennsylvania. Before we get to the Senate and gubernatorial races, both of which look promising for Republicans, there is a House special election. As Politico reports:

The special election to fill the House seat of the late Pennsylvania Democrat John Murtha will pit a candidate who fully embraces Murtha’s legacy against a Republican political newcomer who’s aiming to nationalize the election. Pennsylvania Republicans anointed businessman Tim Burns on Thursday as their candidate to face Murtha’s former district director, Mark Critz, in the May 18 election. Burns has been running on a down-the-line conservative platform of opposition to the stimulus, health care legislation and government spending.

And if the Obama-Reid-Pelosi troika push through ObamaCare, this may be an early warning sign (well, another warning sign after Scott Brown) as to  just how angry the electorate is and how willing the voters are to flip a seat that, in a normal election year, would be relatively safe for Democrats.

This is the stuff of wave elections — the collision of ethics scandals, voter anger, fiscal mismanagement, and, don’t forget, a floundering president. How big the wave will be depends, I think, on just how serious the Democrats are about dealing with their ethically challenged members and how determined they are to take the plunge on a monstrous health-care bill that voters generally loathe.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Michael Barone on ObamaCare: “In fall 2009, Democrats could have pivoted on health care to craft a popular bill or a watered-down unpopular bill to be passed by a bipartisan safe-seat coalition. Instead, they plunged ahead and rammed through unpopular bills on party-line votes. … It’s beginning to look like the goal of health care legislation was a bridge too far. There’s a reason it’s hard to pass unpopular legislation on party-line votes. It’s not the Senate rules. It’s called democracy.”

Prospects don’t look bright for ObamaCare: “House Democratic leaders hoping to pass a health care reform bill by the Easter congressional recess face increasingly difficult odds, as several of the party’s rank-and-file have come out against the plan passed by the Senate in December. According to an ongoing CNN survey, 17 House Democrats indicate that they would vote no on the Senate plan as currently written, including six members who voted in favor of the House bill passed in November.”

Especially without the pro-life Democrats: “House Democratic leaders abandoned a long struggle to appease the most ardent abortion opponents in their ranks, gambling Thursday that they can secure the support for President Barack Obama’s sweeping health care legislation with showdown votes looming next week. … Congressional leaders are hoping they can find enough support from other wavering Democrats to pass legislation that only cleared the House by five votes in an earlier incarnation.” But where are such votes?

No one has spotted them yet: “Our latest whip count shows no progress for House Dem leadership. In fact, more members are sneaking onto the watch list, as Rep. Steve Kagen (D-WI) voiced concern over whether the Senate would actually pass a sidecar bill.”

More cringey news from Illinois for Democrats: “The owner of the Boston Blackie’s restaurant chain — a man with strong political ties to U.S. Senate candidate Alexi Giannoulias — was charged today with bank fraud, along with the owner’s son and an employee. Boston Blackie’s owner Nick Giannis, 62, his son, Chris Giannis, 38, and Boston Blackie’s manager Andy Bakopoulos, 38, allegedly defrauded Charter One and Washington Mutual banks of nearly $2 million, Cook County prosecutors said.”

In the New York Senate race: “Encouraged by state and national Republican Party leaders, Dan Senor, an author, private equity executive and Defense Department adviser in the last Bush administration, is seriously considering a political challenge against Senator Kirsten E. Gillibrand, according to three people told of the discussions. … The Republican leaders, who cautioned that they were not backing any single candidate, have told Mr. Senor that his deep ties in the party, expertise on national security and background as a businessman would make him a formidable candidate.” Well, if you’re a Republican with political ambitions, this is certainly the year to make a run.

Mark Levin pierces the fog of sanctimony surrounding the Justice Department lawyers who previously represented terrorists: “And on what basis do we think the Obama administration selected these seven lawyers (there may be more) from 1 million other lawyers to serve in top political positions at Justice? Is it a coincidence that they had roles (direct or related) in defending detainees? … Personnel makes policy, and that includes lawyers in policy positions. So, while the selection of these lawyers clearly has some relationship to their private practices, the attempt to identify who they are and what they’re doing since being appointed is said to be off limits, unless, of course, you appointed them. Preposterous.”

Let’s face it: the”most transparent administration in history” isn’t. Sen. Jeff Sessions, for one, wants to know why Eric Holder didn’t disclose in his confirmation hearing an amicus brief in support of Jose Padilla.

A wonderful suggestion by George Will: no one should go to the State of the Union. “Next year, Roberts and the rest of the justices should stay away from the president’s address. So should the uniformed military, who are out of place in a setting of competitive political grandstanding. For that matter, the 535 legislators should boycott these undignified events. They would, if there were that many congressional grown-ups averse to being props in the childishness of popping up from their seats to cheer, or remaining sullenly seated in semi-pouts, as the politics of the moment dictates.”

Michael Barone on ObamaCare: “In fall 2009, Democrats could have pivoted on health care to craft a popular bill or a watered-down unpopular bill to be passed by a bipartisan safe-seat coalition. Instead, they plunged ahead and rammed through unpopular bills on party-line votes. … It’s beginning to look like the goal of health care legislation was a bridge too far. There’s a reason it’s hard to pass unpopular legislation on party-line votes. It’s not the Senate rules. It’s called democracy.”

Prospects don’t look bright for ObamaCare: “House Democratic leaders hoping to pass a health care reform bill by the Easter congressional recess face increasingly difficult odds, as several of the party’s rank-and-file have come out against the plan passed by the Senate in December. According to an ongoing CNN survey, 17 House Democrats indicate that they would vote no on the Senate plan as currently written, including six members who voted in favor of the House bill passed in November.”

Especially without the pro-life Democrats: “House Democratic leaders abandoned a long struggle to appease the most ardent abortion opponents in their ranks, gambling Thursday that they can secure the support for President Barack Obama’s sweeping health care legislation with showdown votes looming next week. … Congressional leaders are hoping they can find enough support from other wavering Democrats to pass legislation that only cleared the House by five votes in an earlier incarnation.” But where are such votes?

No one has spotted them yet: “Our latest whip count shows no progress for House Dem leadership. In fact, more members are sneaking onto the watch list, as Rep. Steve Kagen (D-WI) voiced concern over whether the Senate would actually pass a sidecar bill.”

More cringey news from Illinois for Democrats: “The owner of the Boston Blackie’s restaurant chain — a man with strong political ties to U.S. Senate candidate Alexi Giannoulias — was charged today with bank fraud, along with the owner’s son and an employee. Boston Blackie’s owner Nick Giannis, 62, his son, Chris Giannis, 38, and Boston Blackie’s manager Andy Bakopoulos, 38, allegedly defrauded Charter One and Washington Mutual banks of nearly $2 million, Cook County prosecutors said.”

In the New York Senate race: “Encouraged by state and national Republican Party leaders, Dan Senor, an author, private equity executive and Defense Department adviser in the last Bush administration, is seriously considering a political challenge against Senator Kirsten E. Gillibrand, according to three people told of the discussions. … The Republican leaders, who cautioned that they were not backing any single candidate, have told Mr. Senor that his deep ties in the party, expertise on national security and background as a businessman would make him a formidable candidate.” Well, if you’re a Republican with political ambitions, this is certainly the year to make a run.

Mark Levin pierces the fog of sanctimony surrounding the Justice Department lawyers who previously represented terrorists: “And on what basis do we think the Obama administration selected these seven lawyers (there may be more) from 1 million other lawyers to serve in top political positions at Justice? Is it a coincidence that they had roles (direct or related) in defending detainees? … Personnel makes policy, and that includes lawyers in policy positions. So, while the selection of these lawyers clearly has some relationship to their private practices, the attempt to identify who they are and what they’re doing since being appointed is said to be off limits, unless, of course, you appointed them. Preposterous.”

Let’s face it: the”most transparent administration in history” isn’t. Sen. Jeff Sessions, for one, wants to know why Eric Holder didn’t disclose in his confirmation hearing an amicus brief in support of Jose Padilla.

A wonderful suggestion by George Will: no one should go to the State of the Union. “Next year, Roberts and the rest of the justices should stay away from the president’s address. So should the uniformed military, who are out of place in a setting of competitive political grandstanding. For that matter, the 535 legislators should boycott these undignified events. They would, if there were that many congressional grown-ups averse to being props in the childishness of popping up from their seats to cheer, or remaining sullenly seated in semi-pouts, as the politics of the moment dictates.”

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Obama could use an “intervention,” says Noemie Emery. “Denial is a river that runs through the White House, where the denizens are in the grip of two major delusions: One, that the country really wants really expensive big government, and two, that Obama is ‘sort of like God.’ Since early last spring, they’ve been waging a fight with the reality principle, convincing themselves (and fewer and fewer in the larger political universe) that in the very next speech, Obama will recapture that old campaign magic. If people don’t like what they’re doing, the way to regain and to hold their affection was to give them much more of the same.”

Obama could use a change of topic. ObamaCare is killing him: “The Rasmussen Reports daily Presidential Tracking Poll for Wednesday shows that 22% of the nation’s voters Strongly Approve of the way that Barack Obama is performing his role as President. Forty-three percent (43%) Strongly Disapprove giving Obama a Presidential Approval Index rating of -21. That matches the lowest Approval Index rating yet recorded for this President.”

Nancy Pelosi could use some votes. “Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s task of securing 216 votes for passage is only getting more difficult. Several members who voted against the legislation when it was first before the House in Nov. told Hotline OnCall [Tuesday] they would vote against the measure again, trimming the number of Dems who might be persuaded to make up the difference.”

The Democrats could use some esprit de corps (or a marriage counselor): “House Speaker Nancy Pelosi told White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel to stop assigning deadlines to Congress for finishing the health care reform bill. In a House-Senate leadership meeting on health care Tuesday, she essentially told Emanuel to ‘cool it,’ according to one Hill Democratic aide — an account confirmed by a second aide.”

We could all use less Glenn Beck and Eric Massa.

We could use more forthrightness about our feeble Iran policy. AIPAC steps up to the plate with a rare public letter expressing “outrage at the U.S. government’s continuing relationship with dozens of companies doing business with Iran. These ongoing financial dealings undermine longstanding American efforts to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapons capability.” Great. Now where’s the letter on the Obama administration’s pathetic effort to wriggle out of its promise to impose crippling sanctions?

The Democrats could use a break from the bad news in Virginia (which Bob McDonnell swept in a landslide in November): “Fairfax County businessman Keith Fimian, who unsuccessfully ran against former County Board chairman Gerry Connolly for the congressional seat of retiring Republican congressman Tom Davis, has just released a poll giving him a five-point lead over Connolly, the president of the Democrats’ 2008 freshman class. … Pollsters found voters in a strong ‘very anti-incumbent’ mood, with two-thirds (65 percent) saying they believe Washington is on the wrong track. And they’re blaming Congress in general — and Connolly in particular — for the mess.”

Democrats could use more enthusiasm, says Jonathan Chait: “Democrats face an enormous problem here. The electorate that shows up in November could be far more Republican than the electorate as a whole. In these circumstances, it seems like the party’s number one imperative has to be shoring up the base and giving its voters a reason to go to the polls in November.” His solution: pass ObamaCare! Which, of course, will only fire up conservatives even more.

Charlie Crist could use an exit plan. “Former House Speaker Marco Rubio’s stunning early lead in Florida’s Republican U.S. Senate race was confirmed today by an Insider Advantage/Florida Times-Union poll that shows him leading Gov. Charlie Crist by 34 points among likely voters in August’s primary.”

Obama could use an “intervention,” says Noemie Emery. “Denial is a river that runs through the White House, where the denizens are in the grip of two major delusions: One, that the country really wants really expensive big government, and two, that Obama is ‘sort of like God.’ Since early last spring, they’ve been waging a fight with the reality principle, convincing themselves (and fewer and fewer in the larger political universe) that in the very next speech, Obama will recapture that old campaign magic. If people don’t like what they’re doing, the way to regain and to hold their affection was to give them much more of the same.”

Obama could use a change of topic. ObamaCare is killing him: “The Rasmussen Reports daily Presidential Tracking Poll for Wednesday shows that 22% of the nation’s voters Strongly Approve of the way that Barack Obama is performing his role as President. Forty-three percent (43%) Strongly Disapprove giving Obama a Presidential Approval Index rating of -21. That matches the lowest Approval Index rating yet recorded for this President.”

Nancy Pelosi could use some votes. “Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s task of securing 216 votes for passage is only getting more difficult. Several members who voted against the legislation when it was first before the House in Nov. told Hotline OnCall [Tuesday] they would vote against the measure again, trimming the number of Dems who might be persuaded to make up the difference.”

The Democrats could use some esprit de corps (or a marriage counselor): “House Speaker Nancy Pelosi told White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel to stop assigning deadlines to Congress for finishing the health care reform bill. In a House-Senate leadership meeting on health care Tuesday, she essentially told Emanuel to ‘cool it,’ according to one Hill Democratic aide — an account confirmed by a second aide.”

We could all use less Glenn Beck and Eric Massa.

We could use more forthrightness about our feeble Iran policy. AIPAC steps up to the plate with a rare public letter expressing “outrage at the U.S. government’s continuing relationship with dozens of companies doing business with Iran. These ongoing financial dealings undermine longstanding American efforts to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapons capability.” Great. Now where’s the letter on the Obama administration’s pathetic effort to wriggle out of its promise to impose crippling sanctions?

The Democrats could use a break from the bad news in Virginia (which Bob McDonnell swept in a landslide in November): “Fairfax County businessman Keith Fimian, who unsuccessfully ran against former County Board chairman Gerry Connolly for the congressional seat of retiring Republican congressman Tom Davis, has just released a poll giving him a five-point lead over Connolly, the president of the Democrats’ 2008 freshman class. … Pollsters found voters in a strong ‘very anti-incumbent’ mood, with two-thirds (65 percent) saying they believe Washington is on the wrong track. And they’re blaming Congress in general — and Connolly in particular — for the mess.”

Democrats could use more enthusiasm, says Jonathan Chait: “Democrats face an enormous problem here. The electorate that shows up in November could be far more Republican than the electorate as a whole. In these circumstances, it seems like the party’s number one imperative has to be shoring up the base and giving its voters a reason to go to the polls in November.” His solution: pass ObamaCare! Which, of course, will only fire up conservatives even more.

Charlie Crist could use an exit plan. “Former House Speaker Marco Rubio’s stunning early lead in Florida’s Republican U.S. Senate race was confirmed today by an Insider Advantage/Florida Times-Union poll that shows him leading Gov. Charlie Crist by 34 points among likely voters in August’s primary.”

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CPAC: Past, Present, and Future

One former VP, a former (and current) presidential aspirant, and a future rock star came to the CPAC gathering today. Two of them aren’t running for president in 2012, and you can bet the other is.

Dick Cheney made a surprise appearance and, in essence, passed the baton to the generation of his daughter Liz. (She might be running for something before too long.) As for Marco Rubio:

The star of CPAC continued his rise in the Republican Party on Thursday with a story about his American Dream. Marco Rubio, who has surged to near-even with Gov. Charlie Crist in the Florida GOP Senate primary, used his speech in front of the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) to bash President Barack Obama, Republican defector Sen. Arlen Specter and, by connection, the centrist Crist.

Rubio suggested that Crist would be another senator in the mold of Specter (D-Pa.), who in the face of a tough reelection last year fled the GOP to become a Democrat.

“We already have one Arlen Specter,” Rubio said, adding: “We already have one Democratic Party.”

Ouch. But it’s clear that his invocation of the American dream, his staunch position on the war against Islamic fascists, and his full-throated conservative economic message are a hit with the base, and will likely transfer comfortably to a general-election race.

Cheney and Rubio made clear that they will not be running in 2012. But Mitt Romney surely will. Ben Smith summed it up:

Mitt Romney has gone from being an overeager suitor to being a favored son of the Conservative Political Action Conference since he ended his presidential campaign here in 2008, and his speech today was well-calibrated to an audience basking in a conservative resurgence and eager for attacks on Obama.

Sen. Scott Brown introduced Romney, sharing a bit of his new star power with the former governor, whose aides ran Brown’s campaign, and calling him perfectly qualified “to fix a broken economy.”

Romney’s prepared remarks lace into Obama on an array of issues, all hinged on a single theme: Obama has departed from American values.

Several things were noteworthy in his speech. First, unlike his potential competitor Tim Pawlenty, who’s taken to slamming the GOP and, indirectly, George. W. Bush, Romney wasn’t going there:

When it comes to shifting responsibility for failure, however, no one is a more frequent object of President Obama’s reproach than President Bush. It’s wearing so thin that even the late night shows make fun of it. I am convinced that history will judge President Bush far more kindly — he pulled us from a deepening recession following the attack of 9/11, he overcame teachers unions to test school children and evaluate schools, he took down the Taliban, waged a war against the jihadists and was not afraid to call it what it is — a war, and he kept us safe.

Classy, and, after a year of not-Bush in the Oval Office, I suspect the message will resonate with conservatives.

Second, Romney, who struggled to find footing with social conservatives and to establish his bona fides on abortion and other such issues,  focused almost exclusively on foreign policy and the economy. When he did talk about “strengthening families,” it was education and health care, not abortion and gay rights, that were his focus. If 2012 will be about “letting Romney be Romney,” then you’re going to hear less of the hot-button issues that rang as not quite authentic last time around and, rather, more of this: “Conservatism has had from its inception a vigorously positive, intellectually rigorous agenda.”

Third, he has clearly found his focus, which is a conservative economic message that goes after the Democrats’ statist agenda and touts his own business background. He is laying the case that Obama simply doesn’t understand how the economy works and isn’t prepared, even now, to be president:

As he frequently reminds us, he assumed the presidency at a difficult time. That’s the reason we argued during the campaign that these were not the times for on the job training. Had he or his advisors spent even a few years in the real economy, they would have learned that the number one cause of failure in the private sector is lack of focus, and that the first rule of turning around any troubled enterprise is focus, focus, focus. And so, when he assumed the presidency, his energy should have been focused on fixing the economy and creating jobs, and to succeeding in our fight against radical violent jihad in Iraq and Afghanistan. Instead, he applied his time and political capital to his ill-conceived healthcare takeover and to building his personal popularity in foreign countries. He failed to focus, and so he failed.

And finally, there is a reason Romney is saying nice things about both George W. Bush and Dick Cheney — he’s running against the not-Bush (and Cheney) national-security policy:

We will strengthen our security by building missile defense, restoring our military might, and standing-by and strengthening our intelligence officers. And conservatives believe in providing constitutional rights to our citizens, not to enemy combatants like Khalid Sheikh Mohammed! On our watch, the conversation with a would-be suicide bomber will not begin with the words, “You have the right to remain silent!”

Romney never quite clicked with the conservative base last time. But Republicans are notoriously forgiving types and have a habit of going back to the runner-up. If he’s going to run as Romney the businessman, experienced executive, free-market advocate, and tough-as-nails commander in chief, it will be quite a contrast with Obama. But first he’s got to wow the conservative base and get by some formidable competition. Bringing along Scott Brown to introduce him was one small sign that he understands the need to connect with not just mainstreet Republicans but also with the grassroots tea party movement, which carried Brown into office. No easy task, but then again, we should all get a grip — it is still 2010.

One former VP, a former (and current) presidential aspirant, and a future rock star came to the CPAC gathering today. Two of them aren’t running for president in 2012, and you can bet the other is.

Dick Cheney made a surprise appearance and, in essence, passed the baton to the generation of his daughter Liz. (She might be running for something before too long.) As for Marco Rubio:

The star of CPAC continued his rise in the Republican Party on Thursday with a story about his American Dream. Marco Rubio, who has surged to near-even with Gov. Charlie Crist in the Florida GOP Senate primary, used his speech in front of the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) to bash President Barack Obama, Republican defector Sen. Arlen Specter and, by connection, the centrist Crist.

Rubio suggested that Crist would be another senator in the mold of Specter (D-Pa.), who in the face of a tough reelection last year fled the GOP to become a Democrat.

“We already have one Arlen Specter,” Rubio said, adding: “We already have one Democratic Party.”

Ouch. But it’s clear that his invocation of the American dream, his staunch position on the war against Islamic fascists, and his full-throated conservative economic message are a hit with the base, and will likely transfer comfortably to a general-election race.

Cheney and Rubio made clear that they will not be running in 2012. But Mitt Romney surely will. Ben Smith summed it up:

Mitt Romney has gone from being an overeager suitor to being a favored son of the Conservative Political Action Conference since he ended his presidential campaign here in 2008, and his speech today was well-calibrated to an audience basking in a conservative resurgence and eager for attacks on Obama.

Sen. Scott Brown introduced Romney, sharing a bit of his new star power with the former governor, whose aides ran Brown’s campaign, and calling him perfectly qualified “to fix a broken economy.”

Romney’s prepared remarks lace into Obama on an array of issues, all hinged on a single theme: Obama has departed from American values.

Several things were noteworthy in his speech. First, unlike his potential competitor Tim Pawlenty, who’s taken to slamming the GOP and, indirectly, George. W. Bush, Romney wasn’t going there:

When it comes to shifting responsibility for failure, however, no one is a more frequent object of President Obama’s reproach than President Bush. It’s wearing so thin that even the late night shows make fun of it. I am convinced that history will judge President Bush far more kindly — he pulled us from a deepening recession following the attack of 9/11, he overcame teachers unions to test school children and evaluate schools, he took down the Taliban, waged a war against the jihadists and was not afraid to call it what it is — a war, and he kept us safe.

Classy, and, after a year of not-Bush in the Oval Office, I suspect the message will resonate with conservatives.

Second, Romney, who struggled to find footing with social conservatives and to establish his bona fides on abortion and other such issues,  focused almost exclusively on foreign policy and the economy. When he did talk about “strengthening families,” it was education and health care, not abortion and gay rights, that were his focus. If 2012 will be about “letting Romney be Romney,” then you’re going to hear less of the hot-button issues that rang as not quite authentic last time around and, rather, more of this: “Conservatism has had from its inception a vigorously positive, intellectually rigorous agenda.”

Third, he has clearly found his focus, which is a conservative economic message that goes after the Democrats’ statist agenda and touts his own business background. He is laying the case that Obama simply doesn’t understand how the economy works and isn’t prepared, even now, to be president:

As he frequently reminds us, he assumed the presidency at a difficult time. That’s the reason we argued during the campaign that these were not the times for on the job training. Had he or his advisors spent even a few years in the real economy, they would have learned that the number one cause of failure in the private sector is lack of focus, and that the first rule of turning around any troubled enterprise is focus, focus, focus. And so, when he assumed the presidency, his energy should have been focused on fixing the economy and creating jobs, and to succeeding in our fight against radical violent jihad in Iraq and Afghanistan. Instead, he applied his time and political capital to his ill-conceived healthcare takeover and to building his personal popularity in foreign countries. He failed to focus, and so he failed.

And finally, there is a reason Romney is saying nice things about both George W. Bush and Dick Cheney — he’s running against the not-Bush (and Cheney) national-security policy:

We will strengthen our security by building missile defense, restoring our military might, and standing-by and strengthening our intelligence officers. And conservatives believe in providing constitutional rights to our citizens, not to enemy combatants like Khalid Sheikh Mohammed! On our watch, the conversation with a would-be suicide bomber will not begin with the words, “You have the right to remain silent!”

Romney never quite clicked with the conservative base last time. But Republicans are notoriously forgiving types and have a habit of going back to the runner-up. If he’s going to run as Romney the businessman, experienced executive, free-market advocate, and tough-as-nails commander in chief, it will be quite a contrast with Obama. But first he’s got to wow the conservative base and get by some formidable competition. Bringing along Scott Brown to introduce him was one small sign that he understands the need to connect with not just mainstreet Republicans but also with the grassroots tea party movement, which carried Brown into office. No easy task, but then again, we should all get a grip — it is still 2010.

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Re: Obama Envoy Vouched for a Convicted Terrorist?

A few other data points regarding Obama’s Muslim envoy are worth noting. First, Obama’s envoy Rashad Hussain appeared at a CAIR Leadership Training Event this year. CAIR has created its own cottage industry by hassling airlines, intimidating government investigators, and generally spraying lawsuits and claims of “discrimination” at those who single out Muslims for additional scrutiny in efforts to defend ourselves in a war waged by Islamic fascists against our civilization. (CAIR figures also had their share of encounters with the law. See here and here.) So does Hussain share an affinity for the CAIR grievance-mongering perspective and its dedication to disrupting and litigating any anti-terrorism activity that might focus on those we should be focusing on? We don’t know, but again, it’s worth exploring.

Second, a helpful reader points out that George W. Bush also appointed a Muslim envoy to the Organization of Islamic Conference, Sada Cumber, a Texas businessman. That, I would contend, was an ill-advised move. But at least there was no apology offensive for America’s stance toward the “Muslim World.” When interviewed last year, Cumber listed among his greatest accomplishments “’strengthening the OIC’s denunciations of suicide bombing and terrorism in general,’ and said his efforts had been an ‘important catalyst’ in the case of a statement by [OIC secretary-general Ekmeleddin] Ihsanoglu last January calling suicide bombers ‘enemies of Islam’” Suffice it to say, I think Hussain has a different agenda in mind.

And finally, Hussain is not the only U.S. official with an apparent connection to Sami Al-Arian. This report explains:

Sami al-Arian, a University of South Florida computer-science professor and prominent Muslim activist, handed out $1,000 contributions to [Rep. Cynthia] McKinney and other lawmakers during a short burst of political giving between 1998 and 2001. … Al-Arian’s first legal campaign contribution on record was a $200 donation in 1998 to re-elect his local congressman, Rep. Jim Davis (D-Fla.), according to FEC records. Between 1999 and early 2001, the Islamist leader and his wife, Nahla, gave larger, multiple contributions to the campaigns of McKinney ($2,000), [David] Bonior ($3,200) and [Tom] Campbell ($1,300).

What was Al-Arian up to and why did he favor then Congressman (and now Senate candidate) Tom Campbell? The report continues that Al-Arian and other Muslim figures were looking to do away with “provisions of the 1996 Anti-Terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act, which allowed federal authorities to use classified information as a basis on which to hold foreign terrorist suspects and to deny that information to the suspects’ defense attorneys. The thinking behind the law, congressional sources say, was to allow domestic law-enforcement services to use foreign intelligence as evidence on which to detain and deport the foreign suspects. Much of that intelligence could not be revealed to the defense because it would put the sources of that intelligence in physical danger.” (Campbell, in fact, testified in favor of his donor’s position at a congressional hearing.)

Beyond that, the report tells us that a Campbell staffer “serve[d] as point man on the issue. That staffer, according to the program and subsequent AMC newsletter, spoke to an event for training Muslim activists on ‘How to Lobby Congress.’ The published agenda of the AMC’s June 2001 national conference shows that al-Arian was another AMC lobbying coach who helped train activists from around the country in lobbying Congress.” That staffer was most likely Suhail Khan, who  served as Campbell’s policy director and press secretary. And lo and behold, he appeared at the very same CAIR conference in 2009 – with none other than Hussain. (Campbell, too, was a CAIR fan. When a new headquarters opened in June 2000, “several members of Congress, including Republican Congressmen Tom Campbell and Democrat James Moran also came to lend their support.”) What a small world.

A few other data points regarding Obama’s Muslim envoy are worth noting. First, Obama’s envoy Rashad Hussain appeared at a CAIR Leadership Training Event this year. CAIR has created its own cottage industry by hassling airlines, intimidating government investigators, and generally spraying lawsuits and claims of “discrimination” at those who single out Muslims for additional scrutiny in efforts to defend ourselves in a war waged by Islamic fascists against our civilization. (CAIR figures also had their share of encounters with the law. See here and here.) So does Hussain share an affinity for the CAIR grievance-mongering perspective and its dedication to disrupting and litigating any anti-terrorism activity that might focus on those we should be focusing on? We don’t know, but again, it’s worth exploring.

Second, a helpful reader points out that George W. Bush also appointed a Muslim envoy to the Organization of Islamic Conference, Sada Cumber, a Texas businessman. That, I would contend, was an ill-advised move. But at least there was no apology offensive for America’s stance toward the “Muslim World.” When interviewed last year, Cumber listed among his greatest accomplishments “’strengthening the OIC’s denunciations of suicide bombing and terrorism in general,’ and said his efforts had been an ‘important catalyst’ in the case of a statement by [OIC secretary-general Ekmeleddin] Ihsanoglu last January calling suicide bombers ‘enemies of Islam’” Suffice it to say, I think Hussain has a different agenda in mind.

And finally, Hussain is not the only U.S. official with an apparent connection to Sami Al-Arian. This report explains:

Sami al-Arian, a University of South Florida computer-science professor and prominent Muslim activist, handed out $1,000 contributions to [Rep. Cynthia] McKinney and other lawmakers during a short burst of political giving between 1998 and 2001. … Al-Arian’s first legal campaign contribution on record was a $200 donation in 1998 to re-elect his local congressman, Rep. Jim Davis (D-Fla.), according to FEC records. Between 1999 and early 2001, the Islamist leader and his wife, Nahla, gave larger, multiple contributions to the campaigns of McKinney ($2,000), [David] Bonior ($3,200) and [Tom] Campbell ($1,300).

What was Al-Arian up to and why did he favor then Congressman (and now Senate candidate) Tom Campbell? The report continues that Al-Arian and other Muslim figures were looking to do away with “provisions of the 1996 Anti-Terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act, which allowed federal authorities to use classified information as a basis on which to hold foreign terrorist suspects and to deny that information to the suspects’ defense attorneys. The thinking behind the law, congressional sources say, was to allow domestic law-enforcement services to use foreign intelligence as evidence on which to detain and deport the foreign suspects. Much of that intelligence could not be revealed to the defense because it would put the sources of that intelligence in physical danger.” (Campbell, in fact, testified in favor of his donor’s position at a congressional hearing.)

Beyond that, the report tells us that a Campbell staffer “serve[d] as point man on the issue. That staffer, according to the program and subsequent AMC newsletter, spoke to an event for training Muslim activists on ‘How to Lobby Congress.’ The published agenda of the AMC’s June 2001 national conference shows that al-Arian was another AMC lobbying coach who helped train activists from around the country in lobbying Congress.” That staffer was most likely Suhail Khan, who  served as Campbell’s policy director and press secretary. And lo and behold, he appeared at the very same CAIR conference in 2009 – with none other than Hussain. (Campbell, too, was a CAIR fan. When a new headquarters opened in June 2000, “several members of Congress, including Republican Congressmen Tom Campbell and Democrat James Moran also came to lend their support.”) What a small world.

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The Great Absentee-Ballot Debate

A perennial Israeli debate erupted anew yesterday, after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced that he supported a proposal to extend the franchise to Israelis living abroad. What makes this debate so baffling is that both sides are partly right — meaning it should be easy to strike a compromise somewhere in the middle. But in 62 years, it hasn’t happened.

The proposal put forth by Netanyahu’s largest coalition partner, Yisrael Beiteinu, would allow absentee ballots for anyone who has held a valid Israeli passport for the past 10 years — about 500,000 people. And opponents are right that this is far too broad. First, in terms of sheer numbers, that constitutes 7 percent of the total population and fully 10 percent of eligible voters — a far higher proportion than is the norm in other countries that allow absentee voting.

Moreover, many of the 500,000 people in question have been living abroad full-time for many years. Indeed, you can have a valid Israeli passport for 10 years without setting foot in the country that entire time. Thus people who are not living in Israel and whose daily lives are unaffected by the country’s policies would have a disproportionate impact on the outcome of any election.

This is particularly problematic because Israel is a country at war. Overseas residents are not the ones who will suffer daily rocket fire if a territorial pullout goes wrong, nor will their sons’ lives be at risk if the government launches a military operation. Thus it is completely inappropriate to give them a major voice in electing those who will make such decisions.

Yet at the same time, proponents of absenting voting are right that the current system is irredeemably unfair. Under current law, the only people allowed to vote absentee are sailors and diplomats (and their families). Hence a businessman who lives in Israel year-round but happens to be abroad attending a major trade fair on Election Day cannot vote. Ditto for a professor who has taught for 20 years at an Israeli university but happens to be on sabbatical abroad during election year — unless he is willing to pay $1,000 to fly to Israel for Election Day and cast his ballot there. It is long past time for Israel to stop disenfranchising such citizens.

It is not technically difficult to distinguish permanent overseas residents from Israelis there temporarily, as it was in days gone by. The law could simply require absentee voters to have spent a specified proportion of the past five (or seven or 10) years in Israel, and ballot applications could be checked against border-control data to see if the applicant qualified.

The good news is that whereas Yisrael Beiteinu and Netanyahu’s Likud party largely support the bill, the other two main coalition partners, Labor and Shas, oppose it. That means there’s a chance that the government will at long last pass a reasonable compromise — one that will help those unfairly disenfranchised by current law while excluding those whose homes are permanently overseas.

A perennial Israeli debate erupted anew yesterday, after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced that he supported a proposal to extend the franchise to Israelis living abroad. What makes this debate so baffling is that both sides are partly right — meaning it should be easy to strike a compromise somewhere in the middle. But in 62 years, it hasn’t happened.

The proposal put forth by Netanyahu’s largest coalition partner, Yisrael Beiteinu, would allow absentee ballots for anyone who has held a valid Israeli passport for the past 10 years — about 500,000 people. And opponents are right that this is far too broad. First, in terms of sheer numbers, that constitutes 7 percent of the total population and fully 10 percent of eligible voters — a far higher proportion than is the norm in other countries that allow absentee voting.

Moreover, many of the 500,000 people in question have been living abroad full-time for many years. Indeed, you can have a valid Israeli passport for 10 years without setting foot in the country that entire time. Thus people who are not living in Israel and whose daily lives are unaffected by the country’s policies would have a disproportionate impact on the outcome of any election.

This is particularly problematic because Israel is a country at war. Overseas residents are not the ones who will suffer daily rocket fire if a territorial pullout goes wrong, nor will their sons’ lives be at risk if the government launches a military operation. Thus it is completely inappropriate to give them a major voice in electing those who will make such decisions.

Yet at the same time, proponents of absenting voting are right that the current system is irredeemably unfair. Under current law, the only people allowed to vote absentee are sailors and diplomats (and their families). Hence a businessman who lives in Israel year-round but happens to be abroad attending a major trade fair on Election Day cannot vote. Ditto for a professor who has taught for 20 years at an Israeli university but happens to be on sabbatical abroad during election year — unless he is willing to pay $1,000 to fly to Israel for Election Day and cast his ballot there. It is long past time for Israel to stop disenfranchising such citizens.

It is not technically difficult to distinguish permanent overseas residents from Israelis there temporarily, as it was in days gone by. The law could simply require absentee voters to have spent a specified proportion of the past five (or seven or 10) years in Israel, and ballot applications could be checked against border-control data to see if the applicant qualified.

The good news is that whereas Yisrael Beiteinu and Netanyahu’s Likud party largely support the bill, the other two main coalition partners, Labor and Shas, oppose it. That means there’s a chance that the government will at long last pass a reasonable compromise — one that will help those unfairly disenfranchised by current law while excluding those whose homes are permanently overseas.

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