Commentary Magazine


Topic: Carl Levin

Is Eric Holder Trying to Protect the IRS?

A remarkable conversation about the IRS’s illegal targeting of conservative groups took place on Friday in Washington. According to Rep. Darrell Issa’s office, at 5:01 Friday Brian Fallon, a former aide to Chuck Schumer and currently a communications aide to Attorney General Eric Holder, called Issa’s office. By mistake. And it’s quite a mistake.

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A remarkable conversation about the IRS’s illegal targeting of conservative groups took place on Friday in Washington. According to Rep. Darrell Issa’s office, at 5:01 Friday Brian Fallon, a former aide to Chuck Schumer and currently a communications aide to Attorney General Eric Holder, called Issa’s office. By mistake. And it’s quite a mistake.

The purpose of the call, according to a letter Issa wrote to Holder, was to work with the intended recipient of the call to strategically leak damaging information to selected, friendly reporters and to coordinate a damage-control plan. The intended recipient of the call was apparently Rep. Elijah Cummings, the ranking Democrat on the House Oversight Committee who has gotten quite visibly nervous over the extent of the investigation into the IRS abuse–despite his attempts to protect the abusers.

Here’s Jonathan Strong at Breitbart:

The aide, Brian Fallon, is a former senior aide to Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and a well-known personality on Capitol Hill. The letter describes Fallon as “audibly shaken” when he realizes his request to leak documents to help get ahead of news stories about them was mistakenly made to the very office he was seeking to undermine. Issa believes the call was intended to be made to Democratic Rep. Elijah Cumming’s staff, the ranking member on the oversight panel, the letter said.

According to the letter, Fallon – who is not named in the letter but confirmed he made the call – asked if the aides could release the IRS scandal documents to “selected reporters” to give Fallon an “opportunity to comment publicly on it.”

Fallon explained to Issa aides that the Justice Department’s Office of Legislative Affairs had not permitted him to release the documents to the public and he wanted to get ahead of the story “before the Majority” – meaning Issa – could share it, according to the letter.

Issa aides – who had placed the call on speakerphone – were “caught off guard by the unusual nature of the call and the odd request” and asked Fallon to “e-mail the material for evaluation.”

“At this point,” Fallon “abruptly placed the call on hold for approximately three minutes.” When Fallon returned to the call, “he was audibly shaken. He immediately stated that there was a ‘change in plans’ and that there would be no effort” by DOJ to release the material early.

In other words, it looks like Holder’s Department of Justice is seeking to help the IRS and the Democrats protecting the IRS. And the only reason the public knows about it is that Holder’s office accidentally called the wrong phone. Oops.

The left’s response to the IRS targeting scandal has morphed over time as more information has come to light. Mostly gone are the truthers who think nothing unethical happened or that this is an aimless witch hunt. It’s now clear to any sentient person that the IRS was indeed engaged in this targeting scheme ahead of a presidential election. Additionally, as I wrote last week, it’s since been revealed that the IRS began destroying evidence once the investigation into the targeting began.

That particular destruction of evidence concerned Lois Lerner, the former official at the center of the scandal, in order to get rid of her email correspondence. The media yawned at the revelation of the destruction of evidence, apparently tiring of this story. So the same day of Fallon’s phone call to Issa’s staff, the IRS admitted it lost the email of “five more workers who figure in the investigation into the alleged targeting of conservative nonprofit groups,” as the Wall Street Journal reported.

The Democratic response to the investigation has thus gone from the eminently silly denial that anything untoward took place to actively trying to thwart the investigation and run interference for the IRS–which, in its targeting scheme, was only following the pronouncements of high-level congressional Democrats, after all. And those Democrats have gotten quite uncomfortable with the investigation. Democratic Sen. Carl Levin has put together a report attacking the inspector general conducting the investigation.

Such interference and/or stonewalling wouldn’t be out of character for this DOJ. As the Washington Examiner reported yesterday, according to the department’s inspector general “Department of Justice senior officials have barred or delayed the inspector general there from gaining access to documents crucial to high-visibility investigations.”

The “nothing to see here” brigade has lost any semblance of credibility. In response, they’d like to make sure there’s actually nothing to see by the time investigators come looking for it.

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The Missing Element in Western Aid to the Syrian Rebels

Showing once again the difficulty of keeping any “covert action” truly secret, the news media have been full of stories in recent days about how the U.S. is providing assistance to arm and train the Syrian rebels.

The New York Times actually tracked the flow of aircraft delivering arms bought by Saudi Arabia and Qatar and channeled through Turkey and Jordan with American advice and assistance. The Wall Street Journal, in the meantime, reports that the American intelligence community is sharing information with the rebels, while the Associated Press writes of the CIA training effort going on in Jordan for secular rebels.

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Showing once again the difficulty of keeping any “covert action” truly secret, the news media have been full of stories in recent days about how the U.S. is providing assistance to arm and train the Syrian rebels.

The New York Times actually tracked the flow of aircraft delivering arms bought by Saudi Arabia and Qatar and channeled through Turkey and Jordan with American advice and assistance. The Wall Street Journal, in the meantime, reports that the American intelligence community is sharing information with the rebels, while the Associated Press writes of the CIA training effort going on in Jordan for secular rebels.

These are significant steps in the right direction–toward helping to overthrow Bashar Assad–even if they do raise questions about why the U.S. isn’t maximizing its influence by providing arms directly. There is, however, a large missing element: No one is providing aid to the rebels to stop Assad from bombing them. With the regime having lost control of much of northern Syria, its best bet to keep the rebels off balance and to prevent the establishment of an alternative government on Syrian soil is to use aircraft and missiles to spread indiscriminate terror in rebel-held areas. The rebels lack the capacity to down Syrian aircraft or to stop missile launchings.

In part this is because the U.S. has lobbied its allies not to provide portable anti-aircraft missiles such as the Stinger to the rebels for fear they could wind up falling into the wrong hands. This is a legitimate concern, but if we are not going to allow the rebels to defend themselves, this argues all the more for the U.S. and our allies to take action ourselves to stop the Syrian air force.

This would not be hard to do, the most direct and effective option simply being to create a no-fly zone across the entire country and shoot down any Syrian aircraft that take to the skies. This could be complimented with air strikes on missile launchers and would probably necessitate the suppression of Syrian air defenses. This could be done without significant risk to American and coalition aircraft–witness how easily Israeli aircraft have penetrated Syrian airspace to bomb a nuclear reactor or, more recently, a convoy apparently transporting weapons to Hezbollah.

A less robust approach–but still better than nothing–would be to use Patriot missile batteries in Turkey to enforce a more limited no-fly zone along Syria’s northern border. These batteries could not only stop Syrian aircraft but also Scud missiles. This was the option advocated in a letter sent last week to the administration by Senators Carl Levin and John McCain, who also urged President Obama “to provide more robust assistance directly to vetted opposition groups.”

Such steps are long overdue. Otherwise, the killing will simply continue and Syria will sink deeper into chaos, with extremist groups gaining ever more sway and the conflict spreading ever farther afield.

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Dems to Turn Obama Campaign Talking Points into Legislation

Democrats in Congress frustrated by President Obama’s repeated refusal to release all of his papers from his days in the Illinois state senate and his college transcripts are introducing legislation that would force the president to release his political records and Columbia transcripts–just in case he misrepresented his back story to enable his transfer there.

Just kidding! Democrats are introducing legislation to force Mitt Romney to release his tax returns. Running out of retired baseball players to prosecute and looking for some other creative ways to cynically use their taxpayer-funded salaries to waste everyone’s time and money on a political stunt designed to treat the Congress as if it were a liberal super-PAC, Democrats have seized on the issue of Romney’s tax returns as a nifty way to legislate campaign ads from the Senate floor. Senators Carl Levin and Dick Durbin can’t even pretend that this is not what they’re doing, even though the legislation would obviously force all candidates to comply:

Sen. Carl Levin told reporters that the Senate proposal would shed new light on the use of shell corporations based overseas to help U.S. companies and individuals avoid U.S. taxes. But Durbin confirmed the timing of the proposal is designed to highlight Democratic complaints with Romney’s investments.

“Clearly, I think the American people are entitled to more,” Durbin said, of the two years of tax returns Romney has so far said he will release. “I also think he has an obligation to explain why he and his family decided that offshore tax havens are the right place to park their money and their wealth. Those are legitimate questions.”

The two suggested they would move the item as an amendment to some other larger bill in coming weeks, which could force a Senate floor debate.

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Democrats in Congress frustrated by President Obama’s repeated refusal to release all of his papers from his days in the Illinois state senate and his college transcripts are introducing legislation that would force the president to release his political records and Columbia transcripts–just in case he misrepresented his back story to enable his transfer there.

Just kidding! Democrats are introducing legislation to force Mitt Romney to release his tax returns. Running out of retired baseball players to prosecute and looking for some other creative ways to cynically use their taxpayer-funded salaries to waste everyone’s time and money on a political stunt designed to treat the Congress as if it were a liberal super-PAC, Democrats have seized on the issue of Romney’s tax returns as a nifty way to legislate campaign ads from the Senate floor. Senators Carl Levin and Dick Durbin can’t even pretend that this is not what they’re doing, even though the legislation would obviously force all candidates to comply:

Sen. Carl Levin told reporters that the Senate proposal would shed new light on the use of shell corporations based overseas to help U.S. companies and individuals avoid U.S. taxes. But Durbin confirmed the timing of the proposal is designed to highlight Democratic complaints with Romney’s investments.

“Clearly, I think the American people are entitled to more,” Durbin said, of the two years of tax returns Romney has so far said he will release. “I also think he has an obligation to explain why he and his family decided that offshore tax havens are the right place to park their money and their wealth. Those are legitimate questions.”

The two suggested they would move the item as an amendment to some other larger bill in coming weeks, which could force a Senate floor debate.

I, for one, agree that the American people are entitled to more. I’d start with a budget–something Senate Democrats steadfastly refuse to do. GOP House Speaker John Boehner also thinks the American people deserve more: “The American people are asking, where are the jobs? They’re not asking where in the hell the tax returns are,” he told the Washington Post.

Well that may be, but what could Durbin and Levin possibly care what Americans are asking for? It’s silly season, after all–a time that seems strangely permanent in Harry Reid’s Senate. Besides, it’s just congressional legislation designed with a specific individual political opponent of Durbin and Levin’s in mind. It’s not like there’s any way such a standard could be abused. What could possibly go wrong?

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Dems Try to Muscle Jews into Backing Russian Treaty

The call by Democratic senators Chuck Schumer and Carl Levin for AIPAC to back passage of the stalled START treaty with Russia speaks volumes about the growing desperation of both the White House and its Senate allies.

The administration is reportedly going all-out to push Jewish groups to lobby for the treaty, but it is unlikely that AIPAC will succumb to the pressure. The group has been scrupulous about sticking to its agenda of working only on behalf of Israel-related issues, a policy that keeps it strictly neutral on arms control measures like START. Nevertheless, Schumer and Levin claim that friends of Israel are obligated to back a measure that is key to Obama’s “reset” of relations with Russia because it is the price the United States must pay to keep the Medvedev/Putin regime on board with the effort to stop Iran from obtaining nuclear capacity.

That’s an argument that the liberal-leaning Anti-Defamation League as well as Obama’s cheering section at the National Jewish Democratic Council and J Street have accepted, though the latter group seems to be backing it more out of a knee-jerk reaction to any appeasement measure rather than concern about Iranian nukes. But this selling point is based on a false assumption about both Russia’s intentions and its interests.

While the need to build an anti-Iranian coalition is something all friends of Israel care about, it is far from clear that Obama’s impulse to sacrifice America’s own defense interests in the cause of making the authoritarian regime in Moscow more comfortable is something that will tangibly impact the ability of the international community to confront Tehran. The Russians have exacted a high price from Obama for their half-hearted support for tepid sanctions on Iran that are clearly inadequate to the task, even though it is obviously just as much in their interest to stop Tehran as it is in the rest of the international community’s.

Moreover, once we strip away the talk about this treaty’s being essential to Iran policy, it is easy to see that its passage has more to do with Obama’s fetish about arms control agreements than anything else, and it is on the merits of that issue alone that this issue should be decided.

As for Jewish groups that might be tempted to wade in on START, they also need to understand that the push to pass the treaty before the end of the year in Congress’s lame duck session smacks of the sort of partisanship that groups like AIPAC and the ADL ought to avoid. While Jewish Democrats are fond of castigating the GOP for attempting to win votes by comparing its record on Israel to that of the Democrats, what’s going on here is a far more blatant instance of Jewish groups carrying the water for one side of the political aisle. The Senate ought to wait until January, when newly elected members are seated and will have a chance to consider this treaty. And Jewish and pro-Israel organizations should stay out of a fight that has everything to do with the Obama administration’s foreign policy obsessions and little to do with the defense of Israel.

The call by Democratic senators Chuck Schumer and Carl Levin for AIPAC to back passage of the stalled START treaty with Russia speaks volumes about the growing desperation of both the White House and its Senate allies.

The administration is reportedly going all-out to push Jewish groups to lobby for the treaty, but it is unlikely that AIPAC will succumb to the pressure. The group has been scrupulous about sticking to its agenda of working only on behalf of Israel-related issues, a policy that keeps it strictly neutral on arms control measures like START. Nevertheless, Schumer and Levin claim that friends of Israel are obligated to back a measure that is key to Obama’s “reset” of relations with Russia because it is the price the United States must pay to keep the Medvedev/Putin regime on board with the effort to stop Iran from obtaining nuclear capacity.

That’s an argument that the liberal-leaning Anti-Defamation League as well as Obama’s cheering section at the National Jewish Democratic Council and J Street have accepted, though the latter group seems to be backing it more out of a knee-jerk reaction to any appeasement measure rather than concern about Iranian nukes. But this selling point is based on a false assumption about both Russia’s intentions and its interests.

While the need to build an anti-Iranian coalition is something all friends of Israel care about, it is far from clear that Obama’s impulse to sacrifice America’s own defense interests in the cause of making the authoritarian regime in Moscow more comfortable is something that will tangibly impact the ability of the international community to confront Tehran. The Russians have exacted a high price from Obama for their half-hearted support for tepid sanctions on Iran that are clearly inadequate to the task, even though it is obviously just as much in their interest to stop Tehran as it is in the rest of the international community’s.

Moreover, once we strip away the talk about this treaty’s being essential to Iran policy, it is easy to see that its passage has more to do with Obama’s fetish about arms control agreements than anything else, and it is on the merits of that issue alone that this issue should be decided.

As for Jewish groups that might be tempted to wade in on START, they also need to understand that the push to pass the treaty before the end of the year in Congress’s lame duck session smacks of the sort of partisanship that groups like AIPAC and the ADL ought to avoid. While Jewish Democrats are fond of castigating the GOP for attempting to win votes by comparing its record on Israel to that of the Democrats, what’s going on here is a far more blatant instance of Jewish groups carrying the water for one side of the political aisle. The Senate ought to wait until January, when newly elected members are seated and will have a chance to consider this treaty. And Jewish and pro-Israel organizations should stay out of a fight that has everything to do with the Obama administration’s foreign policy obsessions and little to do with the defense of Israel.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Enough already. CNN cans Rick Sanchez.

Enough already. Yuval Levin suggests the White House scrap the fawning praise: “Rahm Emanuel, speaking to President Obama at his departure announcement today, said: ‘I want to thank you for being the toughest leader any country could ask for in the toughest times any president has ever faced.’ Really? The toughest times any president has ever faced? Tougher than the times Lincoln faced? Washington? FDR? Truman? Reagan? And the toughest leader any country could ask for? Yeah?”

Enough already. Nagging  young people doesn’t work. “President Obama is trying to do what he can to close any enthusiasm gap with the GOP. For the second time in a week, Obama told thousands of young people attending a rally to come out and vote in this fall’s mid-term elections to preserve Democratic majorities in Congress that could help the president move forward on his agenda.”

Enough already. Even Michael Bloomberg has had it with Obama’s anti-business outlook. “Obama never said he would be anything other than what he is now. He is a liberal guy, very pro-union, not particularly interested in business.” And he’s not interested in national security. And he’s not interested in entitlement reform. He’s very interested in partisan politics, however.

Enough already. Sen. Carl Levin is having none of this “flexibility” on the Afghanistan-war troop deadline. “‘The president is now under pressure from inside and outside the military to build flexibility into that July 2011 date,’ Levin said in prepared remarks he’s set to deliver to the Council on Foreign Relations. ‘I want to tell you why I believe sticking to that date is essential to success, and why President Obama should not, and I believe will not, modify the July 2011 date.’” Unfortunately, I suspect the president agrees.

Enough already. San Franciscans and their mayor want to take back their streets and sidewalks from the homeless.

Enough already. Kool-Aid non-drinkers say the White House’s gin-up-the-base election strategy is a loser. “In a new memo, the Third Way says the electorate has shifted over the past two years, becoming more conservative. They say that even candidates who are able to match Mr. Obama’s turnout among base voters will likely lose.”

Enough already. CNN cans Rick Sanchez.

Enough already. Yuval Levin suggests the White House scrap the fawning praise: “Rahm Emanuel, speaking to President Obama at his departure announcement today, said: ‘I want to thank you for being the toughest leader any country could ask for in the toughest times any president has ever faced.’ Really? The toughest times any president has ever faced? Tougher than the times Lincoln faced? Washington? FDR? Truman? Reagan? And the toughest leader any country could ask for? Yeah?”

Enough already. Nagging  young people doesn’t work. “President Obama is trying to do what he can to close any enthusiasm gap with the GOP. For the second time in a week, Obama told thousands of young people attending a rally to come out and vote in this fall’s mid-term elections to preserve Democratic majorities in Congress that could help the president move forward on his agenda.”

Enough already. Even Michael Bloomberg has had it with Obama’s anti-business outlook. “Obama never said he would be anything other than what he is now. He is a liberal guy, very pro-union, not particularly interested in business.” And he’s not interested in national security. And he’s not interested in entitlement reform. He’s very interested in partisan politics, however.

Enough already. Sen. Carl Levin is having none of this “flexibility” on the Afghanistan-war troop deadline. “‘The president is now under pressure from inside and outside the military to build flexibility into that July 2011 date,’ Levin said in prepared remarks he’s set to deliver to the Council on Foreign Relations. ‘I want to tell you why I believe sticking to that date is essential to success, and why President Obama should not, and I believe will not, modify the July 2011 date.’” Unfortunately, I suspect the president agrees.

Enough already. San Franciscans and their mayor want to take back their streets and sidewalks from the homeless.

Enough already. Kool-Aid non-drinkers say the White House’s gin-up-the-base election strategy is a loser. “In a new memo, the Third Way says the electorate has shifted over the past two years, becoming more conservative. They say that even candidates who are able to match Mr. Obama’s turnout among base voters will likely lose.”

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Never Learn, Do They?

At a time like this, you suspect that the Obami are incapable or unwilling to learn from past errors:

Senior White House officials told a group of Jewish lawmakers Wednesday morning that the Obama administration is pushing Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to extend the now-lapsed settlement building moratorium for 60 days as one way to allow Israeli-Palestinian peace talks to continue, said Sen. Carl Levin (D-MI) in an exclusive interview with The Cable. …

If Netanyahu accepts the deal, which he has shown no public signs of doing, negotiations begun by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Sept. 1 would likely proceed past the U.S. midterm elections on Nov. 2. It is still unclear what exactly would be different on the Israeli or Palestinian sides after the 60 day period expired that would allow the process to move forward from there.

So aside from the fact that Netanyahu would reject it, and aside from the fact that it would only produce a repetition of the current Perils of Pauline routine, it is a fine idea.

Equally telling was this: “Levin, who organized the meeting, declined to specify how the White House is trying to convince Abbas to continue with the peace talks if the 60-day freeze is not implemented.” Most likely because the Obami have no plan; their sole “plan” is to plead with and pressure Bibi in private and in public.

The Obama team has never grasped their signal failure — the obsessive fixation on settlements. That fundamental diplomatic error (coupled with their refusal to accept that the PA is neither willing nor able to put an end to terrorism and to give up the dream of a one-state solution) means one thing: the entire Obama Middle East policy has been both a waste of time and counterproductive.

At a time like this, you suspect that the Obami are incapable or unwilling to learn from past errors:

Senior White House officials told a group of Jewish lawmakers Wednesday morning that the Obama administration is pushing Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to extend the now-lapsed settlement building moratorium for 60 days as one way to allow Israeli-Palestinian peace talks to continue, said Sen. Carl Levin (D-MI) in an exclusive interview with The Cable. …

If Netanyahu accepts the deal, which he has shown no public signs of doing, negotiations begun by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Sept. 1 would likely proceed past the U.S. midterm elections on Nov. 2. It is still unclear what exactly would be different on the Israeli or Palestinian sides after the 60 day period expired that would allow the process to move forward from there.

So aside from the fact that Netanyahu would reject it, and aside from the fact that it would only produce a repetition of the current Perils of Pauline routine, it is a fine idea.

Equally telling was this: “Levin, who organized the meeting, declined to specify how the White House is trying to convince Abbas to continue with the peace talks if the 60-day freeze is not implemented.” Most likely because the Obami have no plan; their sole “plan” is to plead with and pressure Bibi in private and in public.

The Obama team has never grasped their signal failure — the obsessive fixation on settlements. That fundamental diplomatic error (coupled with their refusal to accept that the PA is neither willing nor able to put an end to terrorism and to give up the dream of a one-state solution) means one thing: the entire Obama Middle East policy has been both a waste of time and counterproductive.

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Going-Out-of-Business Sale in the Senate

Despite their tendency to make life more difficult for themselves, Republicans will enjoy greater numbers in the U.S. Senate after November. So Obama and Harry Reid are in essence having a going-out-of-business sale. In Reid’s case, he may actually be out of a job, but in any event, he’s not going to enjoy a hefty majority to pass major pieces of the liberal agenda.

Hence, Obama is threatening to install the new consumer protection agency head by recess appointment. And Carl Levin is junking up the defense authorization bill:

Last year, Senate Armed Services Committee chairman Carl Levin (D-MI), to the chagrin of Republicans, successfully added language expanding protections from hate crimes. This year, Democrats are expected to attempt to add the “American Dream Act,” a bill that would provide a path to U.S. citizenship for illegal immigrant students, to the defense authorization bill. …

What is unprecedented, however, is that the bill could come to the Senate floor without the support of the committee’s top Republican, John McCain (R-AZ).McCain adamantly opposes the bill because it contains language that could lead to the repeal of the military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy, which bans homosexuals from serving openly in the military.

“It authorizes the repeal of DADT before the study is completed,” McCain told a gaggle of reporters in the Capitol Monday, referring to the Defense Department’s ongoing analysis of the impacts of a policy change.

Reid is also bent on staging a vote on taxes, despite the angst it is causing his caucus. As this report explains:

During the Democrats’ weekly caucus, a majority held there were greater risks associated with inaction, because that would give Republicans an opportunity to accuse Democrats of raising taxes across the board, Mr. Casey said. But a minority of Senate Democrats would prefer not to take a vote before the elections, Mr. Casey said. Some worry about being tagged with raising any taxes, even the top marginal rates.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada said he plans to hold a vote “before we leave” in a few weeks, but he didn’t promise he has the votes. “I hope so,” he said. “I think it would certainly be the right thing to do, and only one way of finding out, and that’s take a vote on it.”

Illustrating the tough sledding ahead in the Senate, Sen. Ben Nelson (D., Neb.), who wants to extend the tax cuts for everyone, didn’t back off his position Tuesday. “I favor extending all of the Bush tax cuts, every one of them,” he said.

I’m not sure which is worse for Reid — demonstrating his ineptness by losing a vote or ramming through a tax cut as the economy craters. (And his House colleagues may pull the rug out from under him: “This week, members of the Blue Dog and New Democrat coalitions—two more-conservative Democratic groups—were pushing colleagues to sign a letter urging House leaders to schedule a vote on a full extension.”)

In sum, the Senate Democrats will try mightily to get whatever they can before the electorate’s wrath is felt. The problem, of course, is for those Democratic survivors or wanna-be survivors who will have to explain the continued disdain shown the voters.

Despite their tendency to make life more difficult for themselves, Republicans will enjoy greater numbers in the U.S. Senate after November. So Obama and Harry Reid are in essence having a going-out-of-business sale. In Reid’s case, he may actually be out of a job, but in any event, he’s not going to enjoy a hefty majority to pass major pieces of the liberal agenda.

Hence, Obama is threatening to install the new consumer protection agency head by recess appointment. And Carl Levin is junking up the defense authorization bill:

Last year, Senate Armed Services Committee chairman Carl Levin (D-MI), to the chagrin of Republicans, successfully added language expanding protections from hate crimes. This year, Democrats are expected to attempt to add the “American Dream Act,” a bill that would provide a path to U.S. citizenship for illegal immigrant students, to the defense authorization bill. …

What is unprecedented, however, is that the bill could come to the Senate floor without the support of the committee’s top Republican, John McCain (R-AZ).McCain adamantly opposes the bill because it contains language that could lead to the repeal of the military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy, which bans homosexuals from serving openly in the military.

“It authorizes the repeal of DADT before the study is completed,” McCain told a gaggle of reporters in the Capitol Monday, referring to the Defense Department’s ongoing analysis of the impacts of a policy change.

Reid is also bent on staging a vote on taxes, despite the angst it is causing his caucus. As this report explains:

During the Democrats’ weekly caucus, a majority held there were greater risks associated with inaction, because that would give Republicans an opportunity to accuse Democrats of raising taxes across the board, Mr. Casey said. But a minority of Senate Democrats would prefer not to take a vote before the elections, Mr. Casey said. Some worry about being tagged with raising any taxes, even the top marginal rates.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada said he plans to hold a vote “before we leave” in a few weeks, but he didn’t promise he has the votes. “I hope so,” he said. “I think it would certainly be the right thing to do, and only one way of finding out, and that’s take a vote on it.”

Illustrating the tough sledding ahead in the Senate, Sen. Ben Nelson (D., Neb.), who wants to extend the tax cuts for everyone, didn’t back off his position Tuesday. “I favor extending all of the Bush tax cuts, every one of them,” he said.

I’m not sure which is worse for Reid — demonstrating his ineptness by losing a vote or ramming through a tax cut as the economy craters. (And his House colleagues may pull the rug out from under him: “This week, members of the Blue Dog and New Democrat coalitions—two more-conservative Democratic groups—were pushing colleagues to sign a letter urging House leaders to schedule a vote on a full extension.”)

In sum, the Senate Democrats will try mightily to get whatever they can before the electorate’s wrath is felt. The problem, of course, is for those Democratic survivors or wanna-be survivors who will have to explain the continued disdain shown the voters.

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Bipartisan Criticism of Obama Timeline for Afghanistan

At yesterday’s Senate hearing, both Sen. Carl Levin and Sen. John McCain heaped criticism on the management of the Afghan war. As this report makes clear, increasingly the spotlight is focused on Obama’s ill-fated decision to announce an unrealistic and counterproductive timeline for withdrawal of the troops:

The rising level of concern about the war effort in the U.S., shared by some military and civilian officials within the administration, is focusing increased attention on President Barack Obama’s decision to begin U.S. withdrawals in July 2011, always one of the most controversial aspects of his war plan.

Senior U.S. and Western officials acknowledged that they have done a poor job explaining to allies in the region that the U.S.-led coalition will remain committed to Afghanistan even as withdrawals begin next summer. One Western diplomat who has discussed the issue with the Obama administration said allies will attempt to make a stronger case in the coming months.

“Up until this point, I don’t think we have quite got that message across yet,” said the diplomat. “People are still focusing on July 2011 as an issue unto itself.”

That might be because the president made such a big deal of it and continued to emphasize after his West Point speech that he wasn’t enamored of “open-ended” commitments. But as conservative critics warned, that insistence has worked to the detriment of our war effort:

[C]urrent and former U.S. officials said there is increasing evidence that the short time frame is forcing the key actors in the war—particularly Afghan President Hamid Karzai and the Pakistani military leadership—to begin cutting deals to ensure their position in Afghanistan, a process that may be exacerbating sectarianism in a country where the insurgency is dominated by the Pashtun majority. … Earlier, Gen. Petraeus appeared to struggle with whether withdrawals should begin in July 2011. Pressed by Mr. Levin whether it was his “best personal, professional judgment” that reductions should begin then, Gen. Petraeus paused for eight seconds before appearing to hedge, saying “we have to be careful with timelines.”

There is no way to “explain” the timeline that will improve this situation. Obama needs to lift it, announce we are in this for the long haul, and commit himself to victory. Anything less is dereliction of his duty as commander in chief to win on a battlefield he defined as critical to our national security.

At yesterday’s Senate hearing, both Sen. Carl Levin and Sen. John McCain heaped criticism on the management of the Afghan war. As this report makes clear, increasingly the spotlight is focused on Obama’s ill-fated decision to announce an unrealistic and counterproductive timeline for withdrawal of the troops:

The rising level of concern about the war effort in the U.S., shared by some military and civilian officials within the administration, is focusing increased attention on President Barack Obama’s decision to begin U.S. withdrawals in July 2011, always one of the most controversial aspects of his war plan.

Senior U.S. and Western officials acknowledged that they have done a poor job explaining to allies in the region that the U.S.-led coalition will remain committed to Afghanistan even as withdrawals begin next summer. One Western diplomat who has discussed the issue with the Obama administration said allies will attempt to make a stronger case in the coming months.

“Up until this point, I don’t think we have quite got that message across yet,” said the diplomat. “People are still focusing on July 2011 as an issue unto itself.”

That might be because the president made such a big deal of it and continued to emphasize after his West Point speech that he wasn’t enamored of “open-ended” commitments. But as conservative critics warned, that insistence has worked to the detriment of our war effort:

[C]urrent and former U.S. officials said there is increasing evidence that the short time frame is forcing the key actors in the war—particularly Afghan President Hamid Karzai and the Pakistani military leadership—to begin cutting deals to ensure their position in Afghanistan, a process that may be exacerbating sectarianism in a country where the insurgency is dominated by the Pashtun majority. … Earlier, Gen. Petraeus appeared to struggle with whether withdrawals should begin in July 2011. Pressed by Mr. Levin whether it was his “best personal, professional judgment” that reductions should begin then, Gen. Petraeus paused for eight seconds before appearing to hedge, saying “we have to be careful with timelines.”

There is no way to “explain” the timeline that will improve this situation. Obama needs to lift it, announce we are in this for the long haul, and commit himself to victory. Anything less is dereliction of his duty as commander in chief to win on a battlefield he defined as critical to our national security.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Because all our problems are solved, there’s time for this: “Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Kan.), a former Marine and the sponsor of the bill in the upper chamber, has convinced 79 senators to sign on to the measure [to rename the Department of the Navy] he introduced in late February. But even though it has broad bipartisan support, the bill’s fate could be decided by Senate Armed Services Committee chairman Carl Levin (D-Mich.) and his GOP counterpart Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), who oppose the efforts to rename the Department of the Navy as the Department of the Navy and Marine Corps. The Marine Corps currently operates under the umbrella of the Department of the Navy.”

Because of columns like this, Newsweek became a self-parody. Eleanor Clift on Helen Thomas makes up a cover story and reaches an obnoxious conclusion: “She was talking about the settlers, and if she had said they should go back to Brooklyn, where many of them are from, she probably wouldn’t have made news.” And then she makes excuses for a bigot: “Thomas has always been outspoken on the Palestinian issue, phrasing questions in such a way that sometimes made eyes roll in the press room. The daughter of Lebanese immigrants who settled in Detroit, she felt she brought a perspective that people needed to hear.”

Because Obama is now a weight around the necks of his fellow Democrats, David Axelrod is forced to offer this spin: “I believe that ultimately these [2010] races are going to be decided at the local level at the, at the grass roots.  And the candidates who speak to the aspirations and concerns of people in their districts and states are going to win.”

Because there is no state in which Democrats escape Obama’s toxic effect: “Obamaland is crumbling. Democrats have firmly controlled Illinois, the president’s home state, for nearly a decade, turning it into what one Republican called ‘a deep blue state.’ But this has changed almost overnight. In the midterm elections on November 2, Democrats stand to lose the governorship, Obama’s old Senate seat, two to four House seats, and any number of state legislative seats and down-ticket statewide offices.”

Because there really is no way to overestimate their economic illiteracy, you shouldn’t be surprised when Democrats like House Majority Whip James Clyburn (D-S.C.) say things like “Republicans need to stop talking about cutting taxes and ‘look to the future with a little more compassion and bipartisanship.’”

Because they have no clue what to do about the listing economy — cutting taxes and easing up on business burdens aren’t in their repertoire – the Obami’s solution is always the same: more government spending.

Because the mainstream media continually carry water for the Democrats, the obvious always comes as a surprise to their readers and the chattering class: “We’re all familiar with the factional fights among Republicans, the party purges, and rabid RINO (a.k.a. Republican in Name Only) hunting. … The divisions in the Democratic Party are deepening, less than two years after its galvanizing 2008 victory that left liberals crowing about the prospect of a 40-year majority. With Republicans essentially stonewalling any hope of bipartisan support for Obama’s policies, the reason the significant Democrat majorities have not materialized into a steady stream of legislative victories is because of these ideological and political divisions within the Democratic caucus itself, largely between big-city liberals and swing-district centrists.”

Because all our problems are solved, there’s time for this: “Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Kan.), a former Marine and the sponsor of the bill in the upper chamber, has convinced 79 senators to sign on to the measure [to rename the Department of the Navy] he introduced in late February. But even though it has broad bipartisan support, the bill’s fate could be decided by Senate Armed Services Committee chairman Carl Levin (D-Mich.) and his GOP counterpart Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), who oppose the efforts to rename the Department of the Navy as the Department of the Navy and Marine Corps. The Marine Corps currently operates under the umbrella of the Department of the Navy.”

Because of columns like this, Newsweek became a self-parody. Eleanor Clift on Helen Thomas makes up a cover story and reaches an obnoxious conclusion: “She was talking about the settlers, and if she had said they should go back to Brooklyn, where many of them are from, she probably wouldn’t have made news.” And then she makes excuses for a bigot: “Thomas has always been outspoken on the Palestinian issue, phrasing questions in such a way that sometimes made eyes roll in the press room. The daughter of Lebanese immigrants who settled in Detroit, she felt she brought a perspective that people needed to hear.”

Because Obama is now a weight around the necks of his fellow Democrats, David Axelrod is forced to offer this spin: “I believe that ultimately these [2010] races are going to be decided at the local level at the, at the grass roots.  And the candidates who speak to the aspirations and concerns of people in their districts and states are going to win.”

Because there is no state in which Democrats escape Obama’s toxic effect: “Obamaland is crumbling. Democrats have firmly controlled Illinois, the president’s home state, for nearly a decade, turning it into what one Republican called ‘a deep blue state.’ But this has changed almost overnight. In the midterm elections on November 2, Democrats stand to lose the governorship, Obama’s old Senate seat, two to four House seats, and any number of state legislative seats and down-ticket statewide offices.”

Because there really is no way to overestimate their economic illiteracy, you shouldn’t be surprised when Democrats like House Majority Whip James Clyburn (D-S.C.) say things like “Republicans need to stop talking about cutting taxes and ‘look to the future with a little more compassion and bipartisanship.’”

Because they have no clue what to do about the listing economy — cutting taxes and easing up on business burdens aren’t in their repertoire – the Obami’s solution is always the same: more government spending.

Because the mainstream media continually carry water for the Democrats, the obvious always comes as a surprise to their readers and the chattering class: “We’re all familiar with the factional fights among Republicans, the party purges, and rabid RINO (a.k.a. Republican in Name Only) hunting. … The divisions in the Democratic Party are deepening, less than two years after its galvanizing 2008 victory that left liberals crowing about the prospect of a 40-year majority. With Republicans essentially stonewalling any hope of bipartisan support for Obama’s policies, the reason the significant Democrat majorities have not materialized into a steady stream of legislative victories is because of these ideological and political divisions within the Democratic caucus itself, largely between big-city liberals and swing-district centrists.”

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Flotsam and Jetsam

It took Barack Obama to turn an ex-president into a sleazy “bag man.”

What will it take for the left to break with the anti-Semites, racists, and Israel-bashers? “Democracy for America, the progressive group that grew out of Howard Dean’s campaign for president, is standing by its support for a House candidate who backs a radical single-state solution in the Middle East and suggested in an interview that Jewish Reps. Jane Harman and Henry Waxman should ‘pledge allegiance to this country as the country they represent.”

Will Obama take this opportunity to dump the witch hunt against CIA interrogators? Stephen Hayes recommends that he should: “The repercussions have been severe. CIA operators, already risk averse, are today far less willing to take risks in the field out of fear that a wrong decision, even a legal one that produced crucial intelligence, could send them to jail. Obama should also insist that the Justice Department aggressively investigate the alleged exposure of CIA officials by lawyers representing Guantánamo detainees. Photographs of officials were discovered in the cell of Mustafa Ahmed al Hawsawi and were reportedly provided by investigators working for the ACLU and the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers. John Rizzo, former CIA general counsel and a 30-year intelligence veteran, said that the breach was far graver than the leak of Valerie Plame’s name.”

It took a few weeks of criticism to reveal Peter Beinart’s vile attitudes toward his fellow Jews: Nathan Diament on Beinart’s latest outburst in the Israel-hating the New York Review of Books: “Peter goes way beyond debating substance and drifts into stereotyping and calumny, saying: ‘the same sort of settler fanatics who burn Palestinian olive groves also assassinated an Israeli prime minister. The same ultra-Orthodox hooligans who burn Christian holy books also attack Jewish women trying to pray at the Western Wall.’ He also slams Rav Ovadia Yosef and, apparently, anyone else in Israel who, we suppose, doesn’t agree with his view — or that of the editorial board of Ha’aretz — as to precisely what ought to happen.”

It took a year and a half of Obama’s presidency to ruin Blanche Lincoln’s career: “[Arkansas's] larger bloc of conservative Democrats and independents upset over the perception that the incumbent is overly cozy with the unpopular President Obama, the Agriculture Committee chair and Delta farmer’s daughter finds her 18-year congressional career in grave jeopardy.”

It took a determined Jewish mom from Los Angeles to figure out it only took a $15 dollar solar cooker (made of cardboard and aluminum) to help protect “female [Darfur] refugees who were being ruthlessly subjected to physical and sexual brutality when they left the relative safety of their refugee camps.” She’s done more for human rights in Darfur — much more — than Obama and his embarrassingly ineffective special envoy have.

Have you noticed that Democrats aren’t so willing to take unpopular stands for this president on national security? “The Senate Armed Services Committee dealt a big setback to President Obama’s plans to close the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay when lawmakers stripped funding for a new prison in Illinois to hold the detainees. Committee Chairman Carl Levin on Friday told reporters the committee, in a voice vote, stripped $245 million that would have gone to buy and retrofit the Thomson prison in Illinois.”

Charles Hurt catches Obama taking responsibility for “zilch” at his BP oil-spill press conference: “It was yet another performance of the ‘full responsibility’ flimflam. … President Obama repeatedly took ‘full responsibility’ for the blundering efforts to clog up the geyser of crude oil spewing into the Gulf of Mexico coating everything in sight. At the same time, Obama repeatedly denied that his administration was complicit in allowing the catastrophe to happen in the first place, slow to realize the devastating nature of it, or ham-handed in the five-week effort to try to stem the toxic tide. In other words, Obama — as he often does — took ‘full responsibility’ for being awesome.”

It took Barack Obama to turn an ex-president into a sleazy “bag man.”

What will it take for the left to break with the anti-Semites, racists, and Israel-bashers? “Democracy for America, the progressive group that grew out of Howard Dean’s campaign for president, is standing by its support for a House candidate who backs a radical single-state solution in the Middle East and suggested in an interview that Jewish Reps. Jane Harman and Henry Waxman should ‘pledge allegiance to this country as the country they represent.”

Will Obama take this opportunity to dump the witch hunt against CIA interrogators? Stephen Hayes recommends that he should: “The repercussions have been severe. CIA operators, already risk averse, are today far less willing to take risks in the field out of fear that a wrong decision, even a legal one that produced crucial intelligence, could send them to jail. Obama should also insist that the Justice Department aggressively investigate the alleged exposure of CIA officials by lawyers representing Guantánamo detainees. Photographs of officials were discovered in the cell of Mustafa Ahmed al Hawsawi and were reportedly provided by investigators working for the ACLU and the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers. John Rizzo, former CIA general counsel and a 30-year intelligence veteran, said that the breach was far graver than the leak of Valerie Plame’s name.”

It took a few weeks of criticism to reveal Peter Beinart’s vile attitudes toward his fellow Jews: Nathan Diament on Beinart’s latest outburst in the Israel-hating the New York Review of Books: “Peter goes way beyond debating substance and drifts into stereotyping and calumny, saying: ‘the same sort of settler fanatics who burn Palestinian olive groves also assassinated an Israeli prime minister. The same ultra-Orthodox hooligans who burn Christian holy books also attack Jewish women trying to pray at the Western Wall.’ He also slams Rav Ovadia Yosef and, apparently, anyone else in Israel who, we suppose, doesn’t agree with his view — or that of the editorial board of Ha’aretz — as to precisely what ought to happen.”

It took a year and a half of Obama’s presidency to ruin Blanche Lincoln’s career: “[Arkansas's] larger bloc of conservative Democrats and independents upset over the perception that the incumbent is overly cozy with the unpopular President Obama, the Agriculture Committee chair and Delta farmer’s daughter finds her 18-year congressional career in grave jeopardy.”

It took a determined Jewish mom from Los Angeles to figure out it only took a $15 dollar solar cooker (made of cardboard and aluminum) to help protect “female [Darfur] refugees who were being ruthlessly subjected to physical and sexual brutality when they left the relative safety of their refugee camps.” She’s done more for human rights in Darfur — much more — than Obama and his embarrassingly ineffective special envoy have.

Have you noticed that Democrats aren’t so willing to take unpopular stands for this president on national security? “The Senate Armed Services Committee dealt a big setback to President Obama’s plans to close the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay when lawmakers stripped funding for a new prison in Illinois to hold the detainees. Committee Chairman Carl Levin on Friday told reporters the committee, in a voice vote, stripped $245 million that would have gone to buy and retrofit the Thomson prison in Illinois.”

Charles Hurt catches Obama taking responsibility for “zilch” at his BP oil-spill press conference: “It was yet another performance of the ‘full responsibility’ flimflam. … President Obama repeatedly took ‘full responsibility’ for the blundering efforts to clog up the geyser of crude oil spewing into the Gulf of Mexico coating everything in sight. At the same time, Obama repeatedly denied that his administration was complicit in allowing the catastrophe to happen in the first place, slow to realize the devastating nature of it, or ham-handed in the five-week effort to try to stem the toxic tide. In other words, Obama — as he often does — took ‘full responsibility’ for being awesome.”

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Daniel Krauthammer on the Senate and Goldman Sachs

Daniel Krauthammer has a very intelligent and enlightening piece over at NRO on the Senate and Goldman Sachs, why what financial institutions do is quite different from what every other sector of the economy does, and how silly and misinformed Congress, and particularly people like Carl Levin, are in discussing this whole matter. Congress is guilty of “moral grandstanding and scapegoating” rather than meaningful reform, according to Krauthammer. That strikes me as quite right — and par for the course. But take a look for yourself.

Daniel Krauthammer has a very intelligent and enlightening piece over at NRO on the Senate and Goldman Sachs, why what financial institutions do is quite different from what every other sector of the economy does, and how silly and misinformed Congress, and particularly people like Carl Levin, are in discussing this whole matter. Congress is guilty of “moral grandstanding and scapegoating” rather than meaningful reform, according to Krauthammer. That strikes me as quite right — and par for the course. But take a look for yourself.

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Why Waxman Decided Against a Bully-athon

Daily Caller reports that Rep. Henry Waxman decided against a hearing to excoriate business executives for recording tax losses attributable to ObamaCare. The reason: not only did the companies have a legal obligation to do so (had they not, Sen. Carl Levin would no doubt be hauling them before his committee one day to decry the fraud on the shareholders); they also would have produced some very embarrassing evidence that ObamaCare is going to drive up health-care costs. The report explains:

Most significantly, documents unearthed by the investigation highlight companies that are considering dumping employees from their current health-care plans in the face of new costs from the health-care law. President Obama repeatedly promised his health-care law would let Americans keep their current insurance if they’re happy with it.

A March 3 internal Verizon memo on the impact health-care law said new taxes on insurance companies and health-care equipment manufacturers will be passed onto employers through higher prices.

Facing such increased costs, employers like Verizon “may consider exiting the health-care market and send employees to the exchanges,” the memo says.

Under the law, companies would pay fines for not providing insurance companies coverage. But, the Verizon memo said, the fines would be “modest” compared to providing coverage for employees.

In a March 25 e-mail, John Deere’s director of labor relations, Kenneth Hugh, said, “We ought to look at … denying coverage and just paying the penalty … we would need to figure out which one was more expensive.” John Deere faces a unique situation because of contracts with its unionized workers.

Whether or not companies are being forced to rescind employee coverage, they may need to raise insurance premiums, the documents show.

The top human resources official at Caterpillar said in a March 23 e-mail that the company will need to “figure out what this will cost us and collect that in increased premiums which we will attribute to the legislation”

Oops. Wrong answer. Bag the hearing. It seems that ObamaCare opponents would do well to get one or more of these execs in front of a committee and let them tell the American people what Obama and Waxman won’t — that ObamaCare isn’t going to guarantee they can keep their insurance and it is going to cost them a bundle. Republicans argue that divided government is needed to check Obama’s leftist agenda. As Waxman’s gambit shows, it’s also the only way to achieve congressional oversight.

Daily Caller reports that Rep. Henry Waxman decided against a hearing to excoriate business executives for recording tax losses attributable to ObamaCare. The reason: not only did the companies have a legal obligation to do so (had they not, Sen. Carl Levin would no doubt be hauling them before his committee one day to decry the fraud on the shareholders); they also would have produced some very embarrassing evidence that ObamaCare is going to drive up health-care costs. The report explains:

Most significantly, documents unearthed by the investigation highlight companies that are considering dumping employees from their current health-care plans in the face of new costs from the health-care law. President Obama repeatedly promised his health-care law would let Americans keep their current insurance if they’re happy with it.

A March 3 internal Verizon memo on the impact health-care law said new taxes on insurance companies and health-care equipment manufacturers will be passed onto employers through higher prices.

Facing such increased costs, employers like Verizon “may consider exiting the health-care market and send employees to the exchanges,” the memo says.

Under the law, companies would pay fines for not providing insurance companies coverage. But, the Verizon memo said, the fines would be “modest” compared to providing coverage for employees.

In a March 25 e-mail, John Deere’s director of labor relations, Kenneth Hugh, said, “We ought to look at … denying coverage and just paying the penalty … we would need to figure out which one was more expensive.” John Deere faces a unique situation because of contracts with its unionized workers.

Whether or not companies are being forced to rescind employee coverage, they may need to raise insurance premiums, the documents show.

The top human resources official at Caterpillar said in a March 23 e-mail that the company will need to “figure out what this will cost us and collect that in increased premiums which we will attribute to the legislation”

Oops. Wrong answer. Bag the hearing. It seems that ObamaCare opponents would do well to get one or more of these execs in front of a committee and let them tell the American people what Obama and Waxman won’t — that ObamaCare isn’t going to guarantee they can keep their insurance and it is going to cost them a bundle. Republicans argue that divided government is needed to check Obama’s leftist agenda. As Waxman’s gambit shows, it’s also the only way to achieve congressional oversight.

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Showboating Against Wall Street Greed

The marathon Goldman-bashathon yesterday suggests that Congress knows even less about financial reform than it does about health care. There was profanity from Sen. Carl Levin and histrionics from practically everyone else. The New York Times explains what really was going on:

For hour after hour on Tuesday, Democrats and Republicans interrogated Goldman’s mortgage men, including the chief executive, Lloyd C. Blankfein, and Fabrice Tourre, the employee named in the S.E.C. complaint, putting them on the spot over Wall Street’s questionable conduct at a legislatively propitious moment.

None of the Goldman executives have been found to have done anything wrong, but some Democrats were ready to place them in the same role played in past financial crises by high-fliers like Charles Keating, Michael Milken and Ken Lay, all of whom came to personify the excesses of the moment.

The hearings were the culmination of a Democratic strategy to take full advantage of the opportunity created by the S.E.C. civil case.

Frankly, it’s not even clear that the senators fully understood the transaction or were aware that there’s nothing illegal or unusual about investments between sophisticated players who are taking opposing bets in the marketplace. I was reminded of Rep. Louise Slaughter, who invoked the tale of an uninsured woman reduced to using her dead sister’s dentures. That had about as much to do with the merits of health-care reform — and revealed the paucity of lawmakers’ understanding of the subject – as a flaky fraud charge against Goldman Sachs does with financial reform. The hunger for anecdotal evidence of Wall Street greed — with little understanding of the anecdote — makes for good TV and poor reform.

There are real issues to be examined (e.g., the independence of rating agencies, the conflicts in investment-banking transactions), but it’s far from clear that the pending legislation is going to address those. But — like the frenzy to nix AIG bonuses — lawmakers aren’t as interested in legal niceties or creating a coherent, predictable financial system as they are in stoking populist anger against Wall Street. It is a convenient way of redirecting public anger away from them, of course. It might work, but we’re likely to wind up with financial “reform” that reforms very little.

The marathon Goldman-bashathon yesterday suggests that Congress knows even less about financial reform than it does about health care. There was profanity from Sen. Carl Levin and histrionics from practically everyone else. The New York Times explains what really was going on:

For hour after hour on Tuesday, Democrats and Republicans interrogated Goldman’s mortgage men, including the chief executive, Lloyd C. Blankfein, and Fabrice Tourre, the employee named in the S.E.C. complaint, putting them on the spot over Wall Street’s questionable conduct at a legislatively propitious moment.

None of the Goldman executives have been found to have done anything wrong, but some Democrats were ready to place them in the same role played in past financial crises by high-fliers like Charles Keating, Michael Milken and Ken Lay, all of whom came to personify the excesses of the moment.

The hearings were the culmination of a Democratic strategy to take full advantage of the opportunity created by the S.E.C. civil case.

Frankly, it’s not even clear that the senators fully understood the transaction or were aware that there’s nothing illegal or unusual about investments between sophisticated players who are taking opposing bets in the marketplace. I was reminded of Rep. Louise Slaughter, who invoked the tale of an uninsured woman reduced to using her dead sister’s dentures. That had about as much to do with the merits of health-care reform — and revealed the paucity of lawmakers’ understanding of the subject – as a flaky fraud charge against Goldman Sachs does with financial reform. The hunger for anecdotal evidence of Wall Street greed — with little understanding of the anecdote — makes for good TV and poor reform.

There are real issues to be examined (e.g., the independence of rating agencies, the conflicts in investment-banking transactions), but it’s far from clear that the pending legislation is going to address those. But — like the frenzy to nix AIG bonuses — lawmakers aren’t as interested in legal niceties or creating a coherent, predictable financial system as they are in stoking populist anger against Wall Street. It is a convenient way of redirecting public anger away from them, of course. It might work, but we’re likely to wind up with financial “reform” that reforms very little.

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Bullying in the Name of Financial Reform

In the frenzy to prove their populist bona fides, Sen. Carl Levin’s committee demanded and then leaked out a handful of Goldman Sachs e-mails. This led to a plethora of supposedly shocked mainstream reporters who were aghast to learn that there are times when one side profits by others’ losses. We do, after all, allow “selling short” in the U.S. Yes, it’s perfectly legal (not in Britain, however, so I suppose Levin could try to outlaw it here too). The issue with Goldman is whether fraud was committed in a deal with extremely sophisticated investors who understood all too well that others might gain from their losses. But that real case may be hard to prove and is not so politically attractive as the Wall Street “greed” story line.

The liberal spasm of outrage reached its low point on Fox News Sunday when Juan Williams went around the bend. The relevant exchange is comic but also instructive as to how liberals think of private industry, the rule of law, and government:

KRISTOL: Senator Levin’s committee — I’m sorry. Senator Levin authorized his staff to release e-mails that were provided to this investigation (inaudible) on the committee, ostensibly on the grounds that the committee was doing a serious investigation. Then they release e-mails that are simply, they say, embarrassing.

It’s an outrage, actually. What is — this is — now any business in the United States has to worry that any e-mail sent anywhere, at some point, if you — three years later, that could be made to look embarrassing to a chief executive who’s testifying on Tuesday.

And I say this as no fan of Goldman Sachs. But Lloyd Blankfein’s testifying Tuesday and they want to embarrass him or put him on the spot, and they release these e-mails.

KRISTOL: But the core issue here is the issue of rule of law and this notion that this bill increases executive authority discretion so much as opposed to other ways of fixing the financial crisis because of the bankruptcy code and the like, that it’s bad to increase the authority of the discretion of the big government in Washington this much. That is the core objection to the bill, the core dispute over the bill. For President Obama to pretend that the only reason you might not like this bill is if you were interested in bilking people as he said, that’s really ridiculous.

WILLIAMS: It’s not ridiculous when you read the e-mail. The core here is not the release of the e-mail but the content of the e- mail. The e-mails reveal that they are saying that people at Goldman Sachs are saying, you know what? We’re going to make money while investors are losing money. In fact, we’re going to have a windfall they say in the e- mail. That is the outrage in case you missed it. That’s why public outrage over the behavior by these Wall Street titans is over the top. And I might add, you know what else?

(CROSSTALK)

KRISTOL: Shouldn’t Senator Levin’s e-mails be released? He’s the public official. I mean, if he believes that everything should be transparent, let’s see the e-mail to his staff when he discussed whether to embarrass Lloyd Blankfein or not.

WILLIAMS: Listen, you are lost in the weeds on this. It doesn’t matter who released –

KRISTOL: It doesn’t matter what the rule of law in Washington?

WILLIAMS: Of course it matters, rule of law. But let me just say, you sit at your desk at your corporation, guess what? Your boss can read your e-mail. That is not the issue.

KRISTOL: You know what?

WILLIAMS: The issue is the government of these people –

KRISTOL: The Senate of the United States is not the boss of every employee at Goldman Sachs. That is a very revealing statement, Juan. Let me tell you something, we all work for Carl Levin. That is the future — what about the investors, the people who are putting money in these Wall Street firms and being gyped?

So the Democrats’ view of private industry is that there is no private industry. There is no better argument against the ever-expanding reach of the federal government in the name of “financial reform” than this sort of devil-may-care attitude about the right of politicians to peer into every nook and cranny of a business, read every e-mail, and haul executives before the glare of the cameras and then harangue them for devising transactions that the politicians only dimly understand. With the power to regulate goes the power to snoop, harass, and bully. We should be very wary of giving government officials too much leeway; they are certain to abuse it.

In the frenzy to prove their populist bona fides, Sen. Carl Levin’s committee demanded and then leaked out a handful of Goldman Sachs e-mails. This led to a plethora of supposedly shocked mainstream reporters who were aghast to learn that there are times when one side profits by others’ losses. We do, after all, allow “selling short” in the U.S. Yes, it’s perfectly legal (not in Britain, however, so I suppose Levin could try to outlaw it here too). The issue with Goldman is whether fraud was committed in a deal with extremely sophisticated investors who understood all too well that others might gain from their losses. But that real case may be hard to prove and is not so politically attractive as the Wall Street “greed” story line.

The liberal spasm of outrage reached its low point on Fox News Sunday when Juan Williams went around the bend. The relevant exchange is comic but also instructive as to how liberals think of private industry, the rule of law, and government:

KRISTOL: Senator Levin’s committee — I’m sorry. Senator Levin authorized his staff to release e-mails that were provided to this investigation (inaudible) on the committee, ostensibly on the grounds that the committee was doing a serious investigation. Then they release e-mails that are simply, they say, embarrassing.

It’s an outrage, actually. What is — this is — now any business in the United States has to worry that any e-mail sent anywhere, at some point, if you — three years later, that could be made to look embarrassing to a chief executive who’s testifying on Tuesday.

And I say this as no fan of Goldman Sachs. But Lloyd Blankfein’s testifying Tuesday and they want to embarrass him or put him on the spot, and they release these e-mails.

KRISTOL: But the core issue here is the issue of rule of law and this notion that this bill increases executive authority discretion so much as opposed to other ways of fixing the financial crisis because of the bankruptcy code and the like, that it’s bad to increase the authority of the discretion of the big government in Washington this much. That is the core objection to the bill, the core dispute over the bill. For President Obama to pretend that the only reason you might not like this bill is if you were interested in bilking people as he said, that’s really ridiculous.

WILLIAMS: It’s not ridiculous when you read the e-mail. The core here is not the release of the e-mail but the content of the e- mail. The e-mails reveal that they are saying that people at Goldman Sachs are saying, you know what? We’re going to make money while investors are losing money. In fact, we’re going to have a windfall they say in the e- mail. That is the outrage in case you missed it. That’s why public outrage over the behavior by these Wall Street titans is over the top. And I might add, you know what else?

(CROSSTALK)

KRISTOL: Shouldn’t Senator Levin’s e-mails be released? He’s the public official. I mean, if he believes that everything should be transparent, let’s see the e-mail to his staff when he discussed whether to embarrass Lloyd Blankfein or not.

WILLIAMS: Listen, you are lost in the weeds on this. It doesn’t matter who released –

KRISTOL: It doesn’t matter what the rule of law in Washington?

WILLIAMS: Of course it matters, rule of law. But let me just say, you sit at your desk at your corporation, guess what? Your boss can read your e-mail. That is not the issue.

KRISTOL: You know what?

WILLIAMS: The issue is the government of these people –

KRISTOL: The Senate of the United States is not the boss of every employee at Goldman Sachs. That is a very revealing statement, Juan. Let me tell you something, we all work for Carl Levin. That is the future — what about the investors, the people who are putting money in these Wall Street firms and being gyped?

So the Democrats’ view of private industry is that there is no private industry. There is no better argument against the ever-expanding reach of the federal government in the name of “financial reform” than this sort of devil-may-care attitude about the right of politicians to peer into every nook and cranny of a business, read every e-mail, and haul executives before the glare of the cameras and then harangue them for devising transactions that the politicians only dimly understand. With the power to regulate goes the power to snoop, harass, and bully. We should be very wary of giving government officials too much leeway; they are certain to abuse it.

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RE: The Tax Issue Is Back

As I’ve noted before, Obama has brought the tax issue roaring back. Nothing like a liberal president willing to raise taxes on the non-rich (after promising not to), small businesses, and capital before the economy has rebounded to remind voters of the difference between the two parties. The Wall Street Journal‘s editors note:

Bipartisanship has broken out in the Senate, not that the media bothered to notice. Last week John McCain introduced a resolution stating that “It is the sense of the Senate that the Value Added Tax is a massive tax increase that will cripple families on fixed income and only further push back America’s economic recovery.” The resolution passed 85 to 13.

A VAT is a form of national sales tax applied at every stage of production and carried through to the final price paid by consumers. The typical VAT rate in Europe is close to 20%. That’s about how high a VAT would have to be in the U.S. to balance the federal budget, according to the Tax Foundation. Mr. McCain said about his VAT resolution that “With the economy in such bad shape, we should be cutting tax rates now, shouldn’t we?”

Who were the 13? Two who are retiring — George Voinovich (R-Ohio) and Byron Dorgan (D-N.D.) — and a whole bunch of Democrats: Daniel Akaka (Hawaii), Jeff Bingaman (N.M.), Sherrod Brown (Ohio), Robert Byrd (W.Va.), Ben Cardin (Md.), Ted Kaufman (Del.), Carl Levin (Mich.), Jack Reed (R.I.), Tom Udall (N.M.), James Webb (Va.), and Sheldon Whitehouse (R.I.). Kaufman may be toast already, but the others might come to regret walking out on the tax limb.

As I’ve noted before, Obama has brought the tax issue roaring back. Nothing like a liberal president willing to raise taxes on the non-rich (after promising not to), small businesses, and capital before the economy has rebounded to remind voters of the difference between the two parties. The Wall Street Journal‘s editors note:

Bipartisanship has broken out in the Senate, not that the media bothered to notice. Last week John McCain introduced a resolution stating that “It is the sense of the Senate that the Value Added Tax is a massive tax increase that will cripple families on fixed income and only further push back America’s economic recovery.” The resolution passed 85 to 13.

A VAT is a form of national sales tax applied at every stage of production and carried through to the final price paid by consumers. The typical VAT rate in Europe is close to 20%. That’s about how high a VAT would have to be in the U.S. to balance the federal budget, according to the Tax Foundation. Mr. McCain said about his VAT resolution that “With the economy in such bad shape, we should be cutting tax rates now, shouldn’t we?”

Who were the 13? Two who are retiring — George Voinovich (R-Ohio) and Byron Dorgan (D-N.D.) — and a whole bunch of Democrats: Daniel Akaka (Hawaii), Jeff Bingaman (N.M.), Sherrod Brown (Ohio), Robert Byrd (W.Va.), Ben Cardin (Md.), Ted Kaufman (Del.), Carl Levin (Mich.), Jack Reed (R.I.), Tom Udall (N.M.), James Webb (Va.), and Sheldon Whitehouse (R.I.). Kaufman may be toast already, but the others might come to regret walking out on the tax limb.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Ruth Marcus explains: “So can a chastened Obama regain the lost sense of excitement and opportunity? Eventually, perhaps, but never entirely. The second time is never as thrilling.” Especially when the thrill was based on cotton-candy rhetoric and a blank slate onto which Obama told us we were projecting our hopes and dreams. If there is no there there, then the thrill is not likely to return.

Michael Barone says that if the election were held today, it would be worse for the Democrats than it was 1994 or 2002. He calls it “the makings of an epic party disaster.”

Charles Krauthammer on Obama and the KSM trial: “The president is not going to admit error. He never does. He does in the abstract, but he will never admit he actually makes a human error on anything. So he won’t on this. But he knows what’s going to happen, which is the Congress will rebel on this and it will pull the funding, [and] get him off the hook. And the issue [will] end up behind him even though he doesn’t do it himself.” Noting he never mentioned terrorism in the SOTU, Krauthammer adds: “In fact, because his two decisions — the KSM trial in Manhattan and the granting of Miranda rights to the guy who tried to blow up the airplane — are indefensible.”

Matt Continetti points out that it takes Speaker Nancy Pelosi to make Sen. Carl Levin look wise on national security. Levin says of Pelosi’s idea to apply Obama’s freeze to defense spending: “That’s kind of hard to do in the middle of a war.” But maybe if we hop over the Pentagon fence. And then pole vault in. And then. Yeah, she is Speaker of the House.

Liberals think Rahm Emanual’s kicking the can down the road on health-care reform (“Congress would deal first with jobs, then banking regulation, and then circle back around to health-care reform”) makes no sense. Well, only if you want to stave off an epic party disaster, I suppose.

But at least Obama still has the postgraduate-degree voters according to Gallup: “The support of postgraduates, who tend to be more liberal and Democratic in their political orientation, was important to Obama’s being elected president. Since he has become president, postgraduates have been among his more reliable supporters, backing him at higher levels than do those in other educational groups.” But that poll was taken before the SOTU and Obama flunked his midterm on the campaign-finance-reform law. That might lose him a few points.

Tom Bevan catches Obama sort of admitting that the health-care bills wouldn’t really, absolutely have allowed everyone to keep their existing health plans. Stuff “snuck in,” you see. If there has ever been a president less willing to take responsibility for anything, I’m hard pressed to recall who it was. And no — George W. Bush did admit error on the initial conduct of the Iraq war and on Katrina, so he’s not even in the ballpark of Obama blame-shifting.

Fred Barnes says Obama is trapped: “President Obama’s greatest need is to escape the ideological grip of congressional Democrats and the liberal base of the Democratic party (they’re one and the same). But he either doesn’t recognize this or, as a conventional liberal himself, isn’t so inclined. This self-inflicted difficulty has put Obama in worse political straits than President Clinton faced after the Republican landslide of 1994.” Unlike Clinton, however, Obama seems to lack the flexibility and ideological creativity to get himself out of his self-made jam.

Ruth Marcus explains: “So can a chastened Obama regain the lost sense of excitement and opportunity? Eventually, perhaps, but never entirely. The second time is never as thrilling.” Especially when the thrill was based on cotton-candy rhetoric and a blank slate onto which Obama told us we were projecting our hopes and dreams. If there is no there there, then the thrill is not likely to return.

Michael Barone says that if the election were held today, it would be worse for the Democrats than it was 1994 or 2002. He calls it “the makings of an epic party disaster.”

Charles Krauthammer on Obama and the KSM trial: “The president is not going to admit error. He never does. He does in the abstract, but he will never admit he actually makes a human error on anything. So he won’t on this. But he knows what’s going to happen, which is the Congress will rebel on this and it will pull the funding, [and] get him off the hook. And the issue [will] end up behind him even though he doesn’t do it himself.” Noting he never mentioned terrorism in the SOTU, Krauthammer adds: “In fact, because his two decisions — the KSM trial in Manhattan and the granting of Miranda rights to the guy who tried to blow up the airplane — are indefensible.”

Matt Continetti points out that it takes Speaker Nancy Pelosi to make Sen. Carl Levin look wise on national security. Levin says of Pelosi’s idea to apply Obama’s freeze to defense spending: “That’s kind of hard to do in the middle of a war.” But maybe if we hop over the Pentagon fence. And then pole vault in. And then. Yeah, she is Speaker of the House.

Liberals think Rahm Emanual’s kicking the can down the road on health-care reform (“Congress would deal first with jobs, then banking regulation, and then circle back around to health-care reform”) makes no sense. Well, only if you want to stave off an epic party disaster, I suppose.

But at least Obama still has the postgraduate-degree voters according to Gallup: “The support of postgraduates, who tend to be more liberal and Democratic in their political orientation, was important to Obama’s being elected president. Since he has become president, postgraduates have been among his more reliable supporters, backing him at higher levels than do those in other educational groups.” But that poll was taken before the SOTU and Obama flunked his midterm on the campaign-finance-reform law. That might lose him a few points.

Tom Bevan catches Obama sort of admitting that the health-care bills wouldn’t really, absolutely have allowed everyone to keep their existing health plans. Stuff “snuck in,” you see. If there has ever been a president less willing to take responsibility for anything, I’m hard pressed to recall who it was. And no — George W. Bush did admit error on the initial conduct of the Iraq war and on Katrina, so he’s not even in the ballpark of Obama blame-shifting.

Fred Barnes says Obama is trapped: “President Obama’s greatest need is to escape the ideological grip of congressional Democrats and the liberal base of the Democratic party (they’re one and the same). But he either doesn’t recognize this or, as a conventional liberal himself, isn’t so inclined. This self-inflicted difficulty has put Obama in worse political straits than President Clinton faced after the Republican landslide of 1994.” Unlike Clinton, however, Obama seems to lack the flexibility and ideological creativity to get himself out of his self-made jam.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Noemie Emery says the elite pundits blew it in hawking Obama’s candidacy: “Could it be that The One has misjudged both the times and the country?; that he made a strategic mistake in pushing for health care (and a tactical one in trusting the Congress)?; that he created a nightmare for most in his party, who face epic losses this year? … To acknowledge this is to indict their own judgment, to face the fact they themselves may be less than insightful, that ‘talking like us’ means next to nothing, and that writing for magazines doesn’t equip one for greatness, or leadership. In fact, it only equips one to write for more magazines.”

Rep. Bart Stupak is holding firm for now. He isn’t buying the Reid–Ben Nelson abortion compromise language, “arguing that the Senate bill would effectively allow millions to buy insurance plans covering abortion because of federal subsidies and break the long-standing Hyde rule preventing federal funding of abortions — even if the federal government isn’t signing the checks directly, as it would have with the now-dead public insurance option.” The Democrats claim they have enough votes even without Stupak and pro-life Democrats. Really? We’ll find out.

Talking Points Memo or American Spectator? “Most campaign-type Democrats think Coakley will pull out a victory Tuesday despite a lackluster campaign and independents and undecideds rapidly slipping from their column, but some openly warn that a close race in the Bay State is a real warning sign for November’s mid-term elections.”

Barack Obama or Newt Gingrich? “That’s what’s been lost this year … that whole sense of changing how Washington works.”

A former Justice Department official doesn’t think much of the Obama team’s flurry of excuses for not responding to discovery requests in the New Black Panther Party case: “They are relying on privileges that the Office of Legal Counsel says do not exist. … There is no privilege, for instance, saying that the Justice Department will not identify personnel working on the case. … Generally, a number of these privileges [are ones] I’ve literally never heard of.” Well, who ever heard of executive privilege for a social secretary?

New Hampshire once looked like a potential lost seat for the GOP. Not anymore. The Republican front-runner, Kelly Ayotte, leads Paul Hodes by 9 points in the latest poll.

Good for him: “The top Senate Democrat in charge of military affairs on Wednesday ended a three-day trip to Afghanistan with a message of optimism that the U.S. mission can still succeed. Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.), chairman of the Armed Services Committee, said he sees a higher confidence among U.S. military leaders and Afghan leaders that the war against insurgents can be successful.” And a lesson for Obama: if he leads on national security, his base will follow.

Politico has a forum on: “Massachusetts: Does the closer-than-anyone-expected race jeopardize the Democratic agenda?” If you have to ask, the answer is yes.

All that groveling for nothing: “Although a State Department China hand described constructive U.S.-China cooperation on Iran in Hill testimony today, there are more signs that China is trying to put the breaks on moving forward with new Iran sanctions at this time. … But a diplomatic source tells POLITICO that China is saying its political director may not necessarily be able to come to a meeting of the P5+1 — the five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany — that is scheduled for next weekend in New York.”

Noemie Emery says the elite pundits blew it in hawking Obama’s candidacy: “Could it be that The One has misjudged both the times and the country?; that he made a strategic mistake in pushing for health care (and a tactical one in trusting the Congress)?; that he created a nightmare for most in his party, who face epic losses this year? … To acknowledge this is to indict their own judgment, to face the fact they themselves may be less than insightful, that ‘talking like us’ means next to nothing, and that writing for magazines doesn’t equip one for greatness, or leadership. In fact, it only equips one to write for more magazines.”

Rep. Bart Stupak is holding firm for now. He isn’t buying the Reid–Ben Nelson abortion compromise language, “arguing that the Senate bill would effectively allow millions to buy insurance plans covering abortion because of federal subsidies and break the long-standing Hyde rule preventing federal funding of abortions — even if the federal government isn’t signing the checks directly, as it would have with the now-dead public insurance option.” The Democrats claim they have enough votes even without Stupak and pro-life Democrats. Really? We’ll find out.

Talking Points Memo or American Spectator? “Most campaign-type Democrats think Coakley will pull out a victory Tuesday despite a lackluster campaign and independents and undecideds rapidly slipping from their column, but some openly warn that a close race in the Bay State is a real warning sign for November’s mid-term elections.”

Barack Obama or Newt Gingrich? “That’s what’s been lost this year … that whole sense of changing how Washington works.”

A former Justice Department official doesn’t think much of the Obama team’s flurry of excuses for not responding to discovery requests in the New Black Panther Party case: “They are relying on privileges that the Office of Legal Counsel says do not exist. … There is no privilege, for instance, saying that the Justice Department will not identify personnel working on the case. … Generally, a number of these privileges [are ones] I’ve literally never heard of.” Well, who ever heard of executive privilege for a social secretary?

New Hampshire once looked like a potential lost seat for the GOP. Not anymore. The Republican front-runner, Kelly Ayotte, leads Paul Hodes by 9 points in the latest poll.

Good for him: “The top Senate Democrat in charge of military affairs on Wednesday ended a three-day trip to Afghanistan with a message of optimism that the U.S. mission can still succeed. Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.), chairman of the Armed Services Committee, said he sees a higher confidence among U.S. military leaders and Afghan leaders that the war against insurgents can be successful.” And a lesson for Obama: if he leads on national security, his base will follow.

Politico has a forum on: “Massachusetts: Does the closer-than-anyone-expected race jeopardize the Democratic agenda?” If you have to ask, the answer is yes.

All that groveling for nothing: “Although a State Department China hand described constructive U.S.-China cooperation on Iran in Hill testimony today, there are more signs that China is trying to put the breaks on moving forward with new Iran sanctions at this time. … But a diplomatic source tells POLITICO that China is saying its political director may not necessarily be able to come to a meeting of the P5+1 — the five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany — that is scheduled for next weekend in New York.”

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Obama tells us that we are “bearing witness”? Hard to see how that differs from enabling a murderous regime to avoid scrutiny: “At the height of Iran’s bloody civil unrest this year, a young doctor named Ramin Pourandarjani defied his superiors. He refused to sign death certificates at a Tehran prison that he said were falsified to cover up murder. He testified to a parliamentary committee that jailers were torturing and raping protesters, his family says. He told friends and family he feared for his life. And on Nov. 10, the 26-year-old doctor was found dead in the military clinic where he lived and worked.” 

The editorially liberal Seattle Times says “no” to ObamaCare: “The public option is in then out; the Medicare buy-in for 55-year-olds is in, then out. When the congressional dance stops, the Senate may have 60 votes, but for what? It will satisfy neither Obama’s frugal promise nor progressives’ lavish hopes. Already the Democratic Party’s former chairman, Howard Dean, says the bill is not worth passing in this form.”

You can see why the Daily Kos kids feel betrayed: “Senate Democratic leaders say last-minute changes to the health care bill include giving nonprofit health insurance companies an exemption from the excise tax on insurers, a revision pushed by Sen. Carl Levin, who is a major recipient of campaign contributions form mega nonprofit Blue Cross Blue Shield.”

On the Right, they are mad too. I think he means Ben Nelson: “Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Oka.) said it is ‘absolutely fictitious’ that there is an anti-abortion provision in the Senate Democrats’ reworked healthcare reform bill. ‘The negotiations, whoever did them, threw unborn babies under the bus,’ Coburn said.” From Sen. Richard Burr: “You have to compliment Ben Nelson for playing the price is right. . This isn’t the Louisiana Purchase. This is the Nebraska windfall.” Well, Nelson couldn’t have thought he’d keep his conservative supporters, right?

Huffington Post or National Review? “With unemployment at 10%, the idea that you can pass a bill whose only merit is that ‘liberals hate it’ just because the media will eat it up and print your talking points in the process is so cynical and short-sighted it’s hard to comprehend anyone would pursue it. It reflects a total insensitivity to the rage that is brewing on the popular front, which is manifest in every single poll out there.”

Headline from the Washington Post or Washington Times? “Health-care debate wearing on Democrats’ unity, popularity.”

Frank Rich or Rich Lowry? “Though the American left and right don’t agree on much, they are both now coalescing around the suspicion that Obama’s brilliant presidential campaign was as hollow as Tiger’s public image — a marketing scam designed to camouflage either his covert anti-American radicalism (as the right sees it) or spineless timidity (as the left sees it).”

James Carafano sums up the Obami’s spending priorities: “The White House priority is to push through a symbolic deal at Copenhagen which will justify spending hundreds-of-billions, cost up to two million American jobs and won’t actually really make us safe from the dangers of climate change…but they say we can’t afford spending two percent of the defense budget on missile defense which would provide real protection to a 13 trillion dollar economy.” Yup.

The Walpin scandal bubbles up to the surface of the mainstream media: “Congressional Republicans raised new concerns this week about the Obama administration’s firing of Gerald Walpin, who served as inspector general for the Corporation for National and Community Service. GOP lawmakers said White House visitors logs contradict statements made by the former chairman of CNCS, the agency that oversees AmeriCorps.”

Robert Wexler’s pro-Obami spin on the settlement-freeze debacle is too much even for Lestlie Gelb, who asks incredulously “So the Administration never asked Israel for freeze across the board — West Bank, East Jerusalem — on every and all kind of settlement activity?”

Kathleen Parker has figured out that Obama has a “grandiosity” problem, “an inflated self-confidence and a sense of power exceeding one’s means.” So he is reduced to passing a shlock health-care bill: “Thus, the man who was going to remain above the political fray has revealed himself as pluperfectly political, ready to settle for the very kind of mandate (without the public option) that he opposed as a candidate challenging Hillary Clinton. Rather than inspiring confidence, he has inspired a groundswell of disapproval and a populist uprising that may allow Republicans to clean House come November. In the meantime, left and right finally have discovered a common foe. Too bad for the country that his name is Obama.” And too bad so many pundits flacked for him during the campaign.

Obama tells us that we are “bearing witness”? Hard to see how that differs from enabling a murderous regime to avoid scrutiny: “At the height of Iran’s bloody civil unrest this year, a young doctor named Ramin Pourandarjani defied his superiors. He refused to sign death certificates at a Tehran prison that he said were falsified to cover up murder. He testified to a parliamentary committee that jailers were torturing and raping protesters, his family says. He told friends and family he feared for his life. And on Nov. 10, the 26-year-old doctor was found dead in the military clinic where he lived and worked.” 

The editorially liberal Seattle Times says “no” to ObamaCare: “The public option is in then out; the Medicare buy-in for 55-year-olds is in, then out. When the congressional dance stops, the Senate may have 60 votes, but for what? It will satisfy neither Obama’s frugal promise nor progressives’ lavish hopes. Already the Democratic Party’s former chairman, Howard Dean, says the bill is not worth passing in this form.”

You can see why the Daily Kos kids feel betrayed: “Senate Democratic leaders say last-minute changes to the health care bill include giving nonprofit health insurance companies an exemption from the excise tax on insurers, a revision pushed by Sen. Carl Levin, who is a major recipient of campaign contributions form mega nonprofit Blue Cross Blue Shield.”

On the Right, they are mad too. I think he means Ben Nelson: “Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Oka.) said it is ‘absolutely fictitious’ that there is an anti-abortion provision in the Senate Democrats’ reworked healthcare reform bill. ‘The negotiations, whoever did them, threw unborn babies under the bus,’ Coburn said.” From Sen. Richard Burr: “You have to compliment Ben Nelson for playing the price is right. . This isn’t the Louisiana Purchase. This is the Nebraska windfall.” Well, Nelson couldn’t have thought he’d keep his conservative supporters, right?

Huffington Post or National Review? “With unemployment at 10%, the idea that you can pass a bill whose only merit is that ‘liberals hate it’ just because the media will eat it up and print your talking points in the process is so cynical and short-sighted it’s hard to comprehend anyone would pursue it. It reflects a total insensitivity to the rage that is brewing on the popular front, which is manifest in every single poll out there.”

Headline from the Washington Post or Washington Times? “Health-care debate wearing on Democrats’ unity, popularity.”

Frank Rich or Rich Lowry? “Though the American left and right don’t agree on much, they are both now coalescing around the suspicion that Obama’s brilliant presidential campaign was as hollow as Tiger’s public image — a marketing scam designed to camouflage either his covert anti-American radicalism (as the right sees it) or spineless timidity (as the left sees it).”

James Carafano sums up the Obami’s spending priorities: “The White House priority is to push through a symbolic deal at Copenhagen which will justify spending hundreds-of-billions, cost up to two million American jobs and won’t actually really make us safe from the dangers of climate change…but they say we can’t afford spending two percent of the defense budget on missile defense which would provide real protection to a 13 trillion dollar economy.” Yup.

The Walpin scandal bubbles up to the surface of the mainstream media: “Congressional Republicans raised new concerns this week about the Obama administration’s firing of Gerald Walpin, who served as inspector general for the Corporation for National and Community Service. GOP lawmakers said White House visitors logs contradict statements made by the former chairman of CNCS, the agency that oversees AmeriCorps.”

Robert Wexler’s pro-Obami spin on the settlement-freeze debacle is too much even for Lestlie Gelb, who asks incredulously “So the Administration never asked Israel for freeze across the board — West Bank, East Jerusalem — on every and all kind of settlement activity?”

Kathleen Parker has figured out that Obama has a “grandiosity” problem, “an inflated self-confidence and a sense of power exceeding one’s means.” So he is reduced to passing a shlock health-care bill: “Thus, the man who was going to remain above the political fray has revealed himself as pluperfectly political, ready to settle for the very kind of mandate (without the public option) that he opposed as a candidate challenging Hillary Clinton. Rather than inspiring confidence, he has inspired a groundswell of disapproval and a populist uprising that may allow Republicans to clean House come November. In the meantime, left and right finally have discovered a common foe. Too bad for the country that his name is Obama.” And too bad so many pundits flacked for him during the campaign.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Susan Estrich writes ostensibly on the brewing controversy over new standards for mammography: “The longer answer is that you practice medicine on an individualized basis. While certain things may be true as a matter of ‘public health’ — like the costs of early mammograms outweighing their benefits — that doesn’t mean they’re true for you.” That, of course, is the best argument there is against ObamaCare and other like-minded government-run health-care schemes.

This didn’t take long: “After four years of grappling with how to appeal to voters, a group of top Republicans believe they’ve found a winning formula for 2010. Call it the McDonnell Strategy. The shorthand: run on economic policy, downplay divisive cultural issues, present an upbeat tone, target independent voters and focus on Democratic-controlled Washington—all without attacking President Barack Obama personally.”

Marty Peretz writes on a potential silver-lining in the civilian trial of KSM: “This is also likely to evoke from the millions and millions of enthusiasts of true jihad demonstrations of fidelity and enthusiasm. That is also a good thing. Otherwise, we will still be stunned every time Muslim terror strikes.” Well, the other option is that when Muslim terror does strike — as in Fort Hood — officials and mainstream media refuse to call it a Muslim terror strike.

Another Democrat refuses to play dumb: “Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., said after a briefing from Pentagon and Army officials that his committee will investigate how those and other e-mails involving the alleged shooter, Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan, were handled and why the U.S. military was not made aware of them before the Nov. 5 shooting. Levin said his committee is focused on determining whether the Defense Department’s representative on the terrorism task force acted appropriately and effectively. Levin also said he considers Hasan’s shooting spree, which killed 13 and wounded more than 30, an act of terrorism.”

A smart take on Obama’s Asia trip: “The problem with President Obama’s recent swing through Asia cannot be boiled down to the kowtow, the collapse of Copenhagen, or the rebukes in Beijing and Tokyo. Lack of success does not automatically add up to failure. The more damaging outcome of the trip for Obama is the entrenchment of the perception at home and abroad of the president as a pied piper of American retreat in the world.”

Obama tries to play defense: “President Barack Obama on Saturday urged Americans to show patience over the economy and argued that his just-concluded Asia trip was critical for U.S. exports, countering criticism he had returned empty-handed.”

James Pinkerton on health-care reform: “So what we have seen, and what we will continue to see, is the gradual peeling back of all the rationing and rationing-esque ‘reforms’ dreamed up by the national policy elites. Those elites are plenty smart, but the grad-school group is committed to an intellectual model that the American people reject. Think of it as the health-care equivalent of cap-and-trade–that is, a too-clever-by-half scheme that works well on a Cambridge chalkboard, and nowhere else.”

Her story and sticking to it: “Sen. Blanche Lincoln is a yes for debating health reform, but a no for the public option, and she and fellow centrists are making clear they expect Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to scrap his current plan for a government-run insurance program.” But if  a government-run health-care reform passes, which Lincoln’s constituents hates, she’ll have a tough time convincing them that she wasn’t responsible. After all, she could have stopped it in its tracks.

Voters can register their objections in the 2010 senate race: “Just 35% of New York State voters agree with Attorney General Eric Holder’s decision to try the confessed mastermind of the 9/11 terror attacks and five other suspected terrorists in a civilian court in New York City rather than before a military tribunal. A new Rasmussen Reports telephone survey in the state finds that 55% are opposed to that decision, which is part of the Obama administration’s effort to close the terrorist prison camp at the Guantanamo Naval Base in Cuba.”

Susan Estrich writes ostensibly on the brewing controversy over new standards for mammography: “The longer answer is that you practice medicine on an individualized basis. While certain things may be true as a matter of ‘public health’ — like the costs of early mammograms outweighing their benefits — that doesn’t mean they’re true for you.” That, of course, is the best argument there is against ObamaCare and other like-minded government-run health-care schemes.

This didn’t take long: “After four years of grappling with how to appeal to voters, a group of top Republicans believe they’ve found a winning formula for 2010. Call it the McDonnell Strategy. The shorthand: run on economic policy, downplay divisive cultural issues, present an upbeat tone, target independent voters and focus on Democratic-controlled Washington—all without attacking President Barack Obama personally.”

Marty Peretz writes on a potential silver-lining in the civilian trial of KSM: “This is also likely to evoke from the millions and millions of enthusiasts of true jihad demonstrations of fidelity and enthusiasm. That is also a good thing. Otherwise, we will still be stunned every time Muslim terror strikes.” Well, the other option is that when Muslim terror does strike — as in Fort Hood — officials and mainstream media refuse to call it a Muslim terror strike.

Another Democrat refuses to play dumb: “Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., said after a briefing from Pentagon and Army officials that his committee will investigate how those and other e-mails involving the alleged shooter, Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan, were handled and why the U.S. military was not made aware of them before the Nov. 5 shooting. Levin said his committee is focused on determining whether the Defense Department’s representative on the terrorism task force acted appropriately and effectively. Levin also said he considers Hasan’s shooting spree, which killed 13 and wounded more than 30, an act of terrorism.”

A smart take on Obama’s Asia trip: “The problem with President Obama’s recent swing through Asia cannot be boiled down to the kowtow, the collapse of Copenhagen, or the rebukes in Beijing and Tokyo. Lack of success does not automatically add up to failure. The more damaging outcome of the trip for Obama is the entrenchment of the perception at home and abroad of the president as a pied piper of American retreat in the world.”

Obama tries to play defense: “President Barack Obama on Saturday urged Americans to show patience over the economy and argued that his just-concluded Asia trip was critical for U.S. exports, countering criticism he had returned empty-handed.”

James Pinkerton on health-care reform: “So what we have seen, and what we will continue to see, is the gradual peeling back of all the rationing and rationing-esque ‘reforms’ dreamed up by the national policy elites. Those elites are plenty smart, but the grad-school group is committed to an intellectual model that the American people reject. Think of it as the health-care equivalent of cap-and-trade–that is, a too-clever-by-half scheme that works well on a Cambridge chalkboard, and nowhere else.”

Her story and sticking to it: “Sen. Blanche Lincoln is a yes for debating health reform, but a no for the public option, and she and fellow centrists are making clear they expect Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to scrap his current plan for a government-run insurance program.” But if  a government-run health-care reform passes, which Lincoln’s constituents hates, she’ll have a tough time convincing them that she wasn’t responsible. After all, she could have stopped it in its tracks.

Voters can register their objections in the 2010 senate race: “Just 35% of New York State voters agree with Attorney General Eric Holder’s decision to try the confessed mastermind of the 9/11 terror attacks and five other suspected terrorists in a civilian court in New York City rather than before a military tribunal. A new Rasmussen Reports telephone survey in the state finds that 55% are opposed to that decision, which is part of the Obama administration’s effort to close the terrorist prison camp at the Guantanamo Naval Base in Cuba.”

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But Why?

Barack Obama doesn’t really have an answer for why he wouldn’t meet privately with General Petraeus or go to Iraq. It is clear that he doesn’t like the topic and equally clear that saying “Bush” or “Republican” or “same old thing” in answer to every question is now standard operating procedure. A tougher press corps (maybe one that isn’t so “deferential” in the eyes of the MSM’s favorite new guru) would say “But why not go to Iraq?” or “Why haven’t you spoken privately to General Petraeus?”

There is no good answer to either of these, I suspect. The real answer is that he doesn’t care what he sees in Iraq or what he hears from Petraeus. Moreover, the prospect of him confronting information which contradicts his predetermined position would be politically uncomfortable.

Yet I seem to remember the Democrats pleading over the past years with President Bush to get diverse views, get the facts right, and not rely solely on his close-knit group of advisors. Senator Carl Levin said, in 2006, “He doesn’t want to see the facts. He doesn’t want to acknowledge reality. And if we’re going to change the course and change the dynamic in Iraq we’ve got to end this state of denial.” And in January 2007, it was Dick Durbin who castigated Bush for ignoring the advice of the military. It was 2004 when Senator Biden lectured Presdient Bush, “‘How can you be so sure when you know you don’t know the facts?” Fact gathering, listening to military experts, and confronting evidence are, it seems, passé. This is the New Politics.

Barack Obama doesn’t really have an answer for why he wouldn’t meet privately with General Petraeus or go to Iraq. It is clear that he doesn’t like the topic and equally clear that saying “Bush” or “Republican” or “same old thing” in answer to every question is now standard operating procedure. A tougher press corps (maybe one that isn’t so “deferential” in the eyes of the MSM’s favorite new guru) would say “But why not go to Iraq?” or “Why haven’t you spoken privately to General Petraeus?”

There is no good answer to either of these, I suspect. The real answer is that he doesn’t care what he sees in Iraq or what he hears from Petraeus. Moreover, the prospect of him confronting information which contradicts his predetermined position would be politically uncomfortable.

Yet I seem to remember the Democrats pleading over the past years with President Bush to get diverse views, get the facts right, and not rely solely on his close-knit group of advisors. Senator Carl Levin said, in 2006, “He doesn’t want to see the facts. He doesn’t want to acknowledge reality. And if we’re going to change the course and change the dynamic in Iraq we’ve got to end this state of denial.” And in January 2007, it was Dick Durbin who castigated Bush for ignoring the advice of the military. It was 2004 when Senator Biden lectured Presdient Bush, “‘How can you be so sure when you know you don’t know the facts?” Fact gathering, listening to military experts, and confronting evidence are, it seems, passé. This is the New Politics.

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