Commentary Magazine


Topic: CBS

Tuning Out Obama

It’s like the joke: “Boy, the food at this place is really terrible.” “Yeah, I know — and such small portions.” Obama’s speech was widely panned, and he had such a small audience:

Barack Obama’s first address from the Oval Office delivered 32.1 million viewers Tuesday evening. The speech ranks as the president’s second least-watched major cross-network primetime event. … The 20-minute address was viewed across 11 networks — ABC, CBS, FOX, NBC, TEL, UNI, CNN, CNBC, FOXNC, MSNBC, and TWC. The audience is down 33% from Obama’s first State of the Union address in January and down 21% from his last primetime speech announcing a strategy for U.S. involvement in Afghanistan last December. Of Obama’s major addresses, last night was the least-watched telecast yet. But the president’s health care reform press conference last July pulled a smaller audience, drawing 24.7 million.

In other words, Obama is no longer a draw, and the public is tuning him out — and off. It is a function of both his overexposure and his polarizing effect. Everyone who wants to see him has seen plenty of him, and many can’t bear to watch/listen to him. Others who are sympathetic no doubt find it painful to watch him flounder. In this case, the tune-out inclination was exacerbated, I think, by the fact that the public — which is much savvier than Obama thinks — understood that the president wasn’t going to say anything of substance. This was a “save Obama” speech, not a “save the Gulf” speech.

A more self-disciplined and introspective president would know that being omnipresent isn’t the way to retain the public’s interest and affection. Quite the opposite.

It’s like the joke: “Boy, the food at this place is really terrible.” “Yeah, I know — and such small portions.” Obama’s speech was widely panned, and he had such a small audience:

Barack Obama’s first address from the Oval Office delivered 32.1 million viewers Tuesday evening. The speech ranks as the president’s second least-watched major cross-network primetime event. … The 20-minute address was viewed across 11 networks — ABC, CBS, FOX, NBC, TEL, UNI, CNN, CNBC, FOXNC, MSNBC, and TWC. The audience is down 33% from Obama’s first State of the Union address in January and down 21% from his last primetime speech announcing a strategy for U.S. involvement in Afghanistan last December. Of Obama’s major addresses, last night was the least-watched telecast yet. But the president’s health care reform press conference last July pulled a smaller audience, drawing 24.7 million.

In other words, Obama is no longer a draw, and the public is tuning him out — and off. It is a function of both his overexposure and his polarizing effect. Everyone who wants to see him has seen plenty of him, and many can’t bear to watch/listen to him. Others who are sympathetic no doubt find it painful to watch him flounder. In this case, the tune-out inclination was exacerbated, I think, by the fact that the public — which is much savvier than Obama thinks — understood that the president wasn’t going to say anything of substance. This was a “save Obama” speech, not a “save the Gulf” speech.

A more self-disciplined and introspective president would know that being omnipresent isn’t the way to retain the public’s interest and affection. Quite the opposite.

Read Less

Barack Obama “Really Excited” by Helen Thomas

In respect of the comment of the Washington columnist for Hearst Newspapers, Helen Thomas, that the Jews of Israel should “go home” to Germany and Poland, there are two points to be made.

The first is that these comments should come as no surprise whatsoever to anyone who has followed Ms. Thomas’s career. The Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America has a page full of the relevant details; back in 2008 even the Washington Post, not known for being a knee-jerk defender of Israel, was writing of Thomas’s “stridency in criticizing Israel and defending its enemies.” President George W. Bush’s press secretary Tony Snow once described her as offering “the Hezbollah view,” and back in 1991, George H.W. Bush, also not known for being a knee-jerk defender of Israel, had to explain publicly to Ms. Thomas why Iraq was not justified in lobbing scud missiles into Israel.

The second is that, even given Ms. Thomas’s well known status as a virulent critic of Israel and as more of a speechifier than questioner at White House press conferences, President Obama has chosen to call on her at two of his six full-scale press conferences. The only ones who have gotten called on more by Mr. Obama work for either the big five television networks (ABC, NBC, CBS, Fox News Channel, and CNN) or the Associated Press or Bloomberg wire services.

At his first presidential press conference, Mr. Obama called on her as follows: “All right, Helen. This is my inaugural moment here. I’m really excited.”

Her question: “Mr. President, do you think that Pakistan are maintaining the safe havens in Afghanistan for these so-called terrorists? And also, do you know of any country in the Middle East that has nuclear weapons?”

At Mr. Obama’s most recent press conference, the president called on her again and she said, “Mr. President, when are you going to get out of Afghanistan? Why are we continuing to kill and die there? What is the real excuse? And don’t give us this Bushism, ‘if we don’t go there, they’ll all come here.’”

At a third press conference, Ms. Thomas had gotten in a question even without being formally called on. Mr. Obama responded, “Hold on a second, Helen.”

You can maybe excuse calling on her at the first press conference on the grounds that Mr. Obama or his press aides wanted to defer to her seniority, to sound a note of continuity with past presidencies, and to elevate the new president’s stature somehow by showing the public that the same woman who once hounded Reagan is now hounding him. But three questions in six press conferences for Helen Thomas? And the president pronouncing himself “really excited”?

It’s enough to make a person wonder whether either the president or some of his close advisers are sympathetic to Ms. Thomas’s views or, at least, think they deserve a more prominent place in the public eye.

In respect of the comment of the Washington columnist for Hearst Newspapers, Helen Thomas, that the Jews of Israel should “go home” to Germany and Poland, there are two points to be made.

The first is that these comments should come as no surprise whatsoever to anyone who has followed Ms. Thomas’s career. The Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America has a page full of the relevant details; back in 2008 even the Washington Post, not known for being a knee-jerk defender of Israel, was writing of Thomas’s “stridency in criticizing Israel and defending its enemies.” President George W. Bush’s press secretary Tony Snow once described her as offering “the Hezbollah view,” and back in 1991, George H.W. Bush, also not known for being a knee-jerk defender of Israel, had to explain publicly to Ms. Thomas why Iraq was not justified in lobbing scud missiles into Israel.

The second is that, even given Ms. Thomas’s well known status as a virulent critic of Israel and as more of a speechifier than questioner at White House press conferences, President Obama has chosen to call on her at two of his six full-scale press conferences. The only ones who have gotten called on more by Mr. Obama work for either the big five television networks (ABC, NBC, CBS, Fox News Channel, and CNN) or the Associated Press or Bloomberg wire services.

At his first presidential press conference, Mr. Obama called on her as follows: “All right, Helen. This is my inaugural moment here. I’m really excited.”

Her question: “Mr. President, do you think that Pakistan are maintaining the safe havens in Afghanistan for these so-called terrorists? And also, do you know of any country in the Middle East that has nuclear weapons?”

At Mr. Obama’s most recent press conference, the president called on her again and she said, “Mr. President, when are you going to get out of Afghanistan? Why are we continuing to kill and die there? What is the real excuse? And don’t give us this Bushism, ‘if we don’t go there, they’ll all come here.’”

At a third press conference, Ms. Thomas had gotten in a question even without being formally called on. Mr. Obama responded, “Hold on a second, Helen.”

You can maybe excuse calling on her at the first press conference on the grounds that Mr. Obama or his press aides wanted to defer to her seniority, to sound a note of continuity with past presidencies, and to elevate the new president’s stature somehow by showing the public that the same woman who once hounded Reagan is now hounding him. But three questions in six press conferences for Helen Thomas? And the president pronouncing himself “really excited”?

It’s enough to make a person wonder whether either the president or some of his close advisers are sympathetic to Ms. Thomas’s views or, at least, think they deserve a more prominent place in the public eye.

Read Less

Oil Spill Looking More and More Like Katrina

Marc Ambinder, perhaps the most eager Obama-spinner in the blogosphere (unlike others on the left who take principled stances against Obama’s insufficiently extreme positions, Ambinder invariably has an excuse at the ready), says this about the BP oil spill:

If you watched the first block of the evening news programs, especially CBS Evening News and ABC’s World News, you can plainly see that the White House’s effort to pre-emptively choke off the assignment of blame for the continuing existentially-threatening oil spill has failed. The perceived problem: they’re not doing enough. They deferred too much to BP. The real problem: nothing like this has ever happened before. There is no script. Sadly, BP does seem to be the only entity remotely capable of doing anything. [emphasis in original]

Hmm. Was it an excuse for the Bush administration that a hurricane (Katrina) of that magnitude had never hit New Orleans? Was there a script then? Weren’t the local and state authorities the ones charged with the immediate response?

Moreover, Ambinder is simply wrong. From the very same ABC News report:

As thick oil flows into the sensitive marshes of the Louisiana coast, Gov. Bobby Jindal called on the White House and BP today to either stop the oil spill or get out of his way. Jindal is still waiting for the federal government to provide millions of feet in boom and to approve an emergency permit for a state plan to dredge and build new barrier islands to keep the oil from reaching the marshes and wetlands. Jindal is so desperate for the islands, he’s said he’ll build them even if it sends him to jail.

In fact, even the liberals’ favorite cable network, MSNBC, is starting to ask some tough questions. Ed Shultz (h/t Glenn Reynolds) queries whether there isn’t something the administration can do — send clean-up squads or at least work on keeping the oil offshore. Unlike Ambinder’s spin-a-thon, Shultz blasts:

It’s on your watch. We need to come up with some kind of huge plan on what we’re going to do, because we’ve spent thirty days waiting for BP, waiting for Transocean, who’ve done a great job of just washing their hands of all of this. Let me just say this, Washington: It’s time to get it on. It’s time to get real serious about this.

It’s apparent that the feds lack the expertise to cap the spill and that BP is trying an array of methods to cut off the flow. But that doesn’t mean Obama and his minions can’t assist rather than hinder local authorities in dealing with the aftermath. Moreover, the administration hasn’t been fulfilling its regulatory function:

The federal agency responsible for regulating U.S. offshore oil drilling repeatedly ignored warnings from government scientists about environmental risks in its push to approve energy exploration activities quickly, according to numerous documents and interviews. … Interviews and documents show numerous examples in which senior officials discounted scientific data and advice — even from scientists elsewhere in the federal government — that would have impeded oil and gas companies drilling offshore.

Yes, the problem existed under the Bush administration. “But the pattern of dismissing biologists’ input has continued under the Obama administration.”

In sum, Obama has grandstanded and excoriated BP but done nothing to help the situation. Setting up a commission to find fault doesn’t really count. That, after all, is Obama’s usual tact — blame others and give speeches. This time, not withstanding the helpful spin of a few devoted fans like Ambinder, it doesn’t seem to be working.

Marc Ambinder, perhaps the most eager Obama-spinner in the blogosphere (unlike others on the left who take principled stances against Obama’s insufficiently extreme positions, Ambinder invariably has an excuse at the ready), says this about the BP oil spill:

If you watched the first block of the evening news programs, especially CBS Evening News and ABC’s World News, you can plainly see that the White House’s effort to pre-emptively choke off the assignment of blame for the continuing existentially-threatening oil spill has failed. The perceived problem: they’re not doing enough. They deferred too much to BP. The real problem: nothing like this has ever happened before. There is no script. Sadly, BP does seem to be the only entity remotely capable of doing anything. [emphasis in original]

Hmm. Was it an excuse for the Bush administration that a hurricane (Katrina) of that magnitude had never hit New Orleans? Was there a script then? Weren’t the local and state authorities the ones charged with the immediate response?

Moreover, Ambinder is simply wrong. From the very same ABC News report:

As thick oil flows into the sensitive marshes of the Louisiana coast, Gov. Bobby Jindal called on the White House and BP today to either stop the oil spill or get out of his way. Jindal is still waiting for the federal government to provide millions of feet in boom and to approve an emergency permit for a state plan to dredge and build new barrier islands to keep the oil from reaching the marshes and wetlands. Jindal is so desperate for the islands, he’s said he’ll build them even if it sends him to jail.

In fact, even the liberals’ favorite cable network, MSNBC, is starting to ask some tough questions. Ed Shultz (h/t Glenn Reynolds) queries whether there isn’t something the administration can do — send clean-up squads or at least work on keeping the oil offshore. Unlike Ambinder’s spin-a-thon, Shultz blasts:

It’s on your watch. We need to come up with some kind of huge plan on what we’re going to do, because we’ve spent thirty days waiting for BP, waiting for Transocean, who’ve done a great job of just washing their hands of all of this. Let me just say this, Washington: It’s time to get it on. It’s time to get real serious about this.

It’s apparent that the feds lack the expertise to cap the spill and that BP is trying an array of methods to cut off the flow. But that doesn’t mean Obama and his minions can’t assist rather than hinder local authorities in dealing with the aftermath. Moreover, the administration hasn’t been fulfilling its regulatory function:

The federal agency responsible for regulating U.S. offshore oil drilling repeatedly ignored warnings from government scientists about environmental risks in its push to approve energy exploration activities quickly, according to numerous documents and interviews. … Interviews and documents show numerous examples in which senior officials discounted scientific data and advice — even from scientists elsewhere in the federal government — that would have impeded oil and gas companies drilling offshore.

Yes, the problem existed under the Bush administration. “But the pattern of dismissing biologists’ input has continued under the Obama administration.”

In sum, Obama has grandstanded and excoriated BP but done nothing to help the situation. Setting up a commission to find fault doesn’t really count. That, after all, is Obama’s usual tact — blame others and give speeches. This time, not withstanding the helpful spin of a few devoted fans like Ambinder, it doesn’t seem to be working.

Read Less

RE: Obama Won’t Say Who Killed Daniel Pearl

Jennifer wrote this afternoon, regarding the signing of the bill named for Daniel Pearl, who died a martyr to freedom of the press: ”Has Obama made this [freedom of the press] a priority with any thugocracy? No. And when signing a bill in the name of someone who elevated and personified the freedom of expression, Obama at least could have departed from his campaign to delete the name of our enemies from the public lexicon.”

He might also have taken questions from the press. As Chip Reid of CBS points out, the reporters were herded out of the room after the ceremony. “There was some rich irony at the White House today — President Obama signed the Press Freedom Act,” he wrote, “and then promptly refused to take any questions.” This is nothing new: as his presidency has evolved, Obama has become more and more remote from the press, except when he is in total control.

The press has never been so tightly controlled as it is now in the Obama White House. The president hasn’t held a formal press conference since last July 22. Perhaps he felt so badly burned by how that one turned out that he is unwilling to face a repeat. The only thing memorable about that conference, of course, was his coming down hard on the side of Professor Henry Louis Gates regarding his recent confrontation with Cambridge police. Obama said the police had acted stupidly and implied that racial profiling had been at work. It turned out that Obama didn’t know what he was talking about and that it had been Gates who injected race into what had been proper police procedure. He had to work hard to undo the damage.

Shouting questions at presidents is an old American tradition, and one remembers with affection how Ronald Reagan used to answer the ones he wanted to answer and elaborately pretend not to be able to hear those he didn’t want to answer. But then Ronald Reagan was a man of immense charm. Barack Obama is a man with far more self-regard than charm, and it’s really beginning to show.

Jennifer wrote this afternoon, regarding the signing of the bill named for Daniel Pearl, who died a martyr to freedom of the press: ”Has Obama made this [freedom of the press] a priority with any thugocracy? No. And when signing a bill in the name of someone who elevated and personified the freedom of expression, Obama at least could have departed from his campaign to delete the name of our enemies from the public lexicon.”

He might also have taken questions from the press. As Chip Reid of CBS points out, the reporters were herded out of the room after the ceremony. “There was some rich irony at the White House today — President Obama signed the Press Freedom Act,” he wrote, “and then promptly refused to take any questions.” This is nothing new: as his presidency has evolved, Obama has become more and more remote from the press, except when he is in total control.

The press has never been so tightly controlled as it is now in the Obama White House. The president hasn’t held a formal press conference since last July 22. Perhaps he felt so badly burned by how that one turned out that he is unwilling to face a repeat. The only thing memorable about that conference, of course, was his coming down hard on the side of Professor Henry Louis Gates regarding his recent confrontation with Cambridge police. Obama said the police had acted stupidly and implied that racial profiling had been at work. It turned out that Obama didn’t know what he was talking about and that it had been Gates who injected race into what had been proper police procedure. He had to work hard to undo the damage.

Shouting questions at presidents is an old American tradition, and one remembers with affection how Ronald Reagan used to answer the ones he wanted to answer and elaborately pretend not to be able to hear those he didn’t want to answer. But then Ronald Reagan was a man of immense charm. Barack Obama is a man with far more self-regard than charm, and it’s really beginning to show.

Read Less

Obama Doesn’t Like the iPad

For someone who is supposed to be the very essence of cool and with-it-ness, President Obama gave a remarkably technophobic if not luddite talk at Hampton University yesterday.

With iPods and iPads and Xboxes and PlayStations — none of which I know how to work — information becomes a distraction, a diversion, a form of entertainment, rather than a tool of empowerment, rather than the means of emancipation. … With so many voices clamoring for attention on blogs, on cable, on talk radio, it can be difficult, at times, to sift through it all; to know what to believe; to figure out who’s telling the truth and who’s not.

As opposed to the old days, I suppose, when you knew that if you heard it on NBC, CBS, ABC, or read it in the New York Times or the Washington Post, it was gospel. “We can’t stop these changes,” Obama said, clearly implying that he wished he could, and urged the students to adapt to them.

More evidence, it seems to me, that liberalism — an artifact of the Industrial Revolution — doesn’t find the post-industrial age of the microprocessor at all congenial. The old gatekeepers of information available to the masses are gone, and the liberal in chief doesn’t like it one bit.

Maybe that’s why liberals are always so angry and humorless: they know they are losing in this new age dawning.

For someone who is supposed to be the very essence of cool and with-it-ness, President Obama gave a remarkably technophobic if not luddite talk at Hampton University yesterday.

With iPods and iPads and Xboxes and PlayStations — none of which I know how to work — information becomes a distraction, a diversion, a form of entertainment, rather than a tool of empowerment, rather than the means of emancipation. … With so many voices clamoring for attention on blogs, on cable, on talk radio, it can be difficult, at times, to sift through it all; to know what to believe; to figure out who’s telling the truth and who’s not.

As opposed to the old days, I suppose, when you knew that if you heard it on NBC, CBS, ABC, or read it in the New York Times or the Washington Post, it was gospel. “We can’t stop these changes,” Obama said, clearly implying that he wished he could, and urged the students to adapt to them.

More evidence, it seems to me, that liberalism — an artifact of the Industrial Revolution — doesn’t find the post-industrial age of the microprocessor at all congenial. The old gatekeepers of information available to the masses are gone, and the liberal in chief doesn’t like it one bit.

Maybe that’s why liberals are always so angry and humorless: they know they are losing in this new age dawning.

Read Less

RE: Newsweek Squeak

John, I wanted to follow up on your post on Newsweek by linking to this interview between Jon Meacham and Jon Stewart on The Daily Show [it can be found here and here]. During it, Meacham says this:

I do not believe that Newsweek is the only catcher in the rye between democracy and ignorance, but I think we’re one of them. And I don’t think there are that many on the edge of that cliff.

Ah, no.

For years I had subscribed to Newsweek, though I dropped the subscription last year, when I thought the magazine took a dive for the worst. I found the “new” Newsweek to be horrible in layout and in many (though certainly not all) of the writers it regularly featured. Jacob Weisberg and Jonathan Alter are not vital to the success of the American Republic. Trust me.

Regardless of your views about the quality of Newsweek, though, the notion that it is one of the “few catchers in the rye between democracy and ignorance” is risible. It was a liberal-leaning newsmagazine that mirrored almost perfectly the conventional wisdom of the political class. It was not, and never has been, indispensible, close to indispensible, or marginally indispensible. In fact, American democracy and American public discourse will not be one bit worse off when it disappears from the scene.

My three children will do fine growing up in a world without Newsweek.

Meacham also insisted that Newsweek has been “one of the very few common denominators in a fragmented world.” It actually has not been that.

Newsweek represented a point of view that was philosophically liberal. In some years it did that better than in other years. But it was not a “common denominator” for us, as much as Meacham wishes it were. And I, for one, believe the “fragmented” media world we live in is far superior to the one that came before it. The consensus that existed among journalists when their profession was dominated by Time and Newsweek, by ABC, NBC, and CBS, by the New York Times and the Washington Post, was stupefying. The narratives were virtually all the same because the worldviews of reporters were almost all the same. What we had were a “herd of independent minds” trying to tell us how to think, which stories were worthy of our attention, and how to process those stories.

Today we live in a far more interesting, variegated, and informed world. There are now genuine clashes of ideas — and facts can now be checked in a way they never were in the past. (See Dan Rather’s and CBS’s reliance on bogus documents for a “60 Minutes” report charging that President Bush received favorable treatment in the National Guard, something that two decades ago could have cost Bush the presidency instead of Rather his job.)

It isn’t a perfect world by any means. And I’m not in favor of a world in which there are only commentators, only bloggers, only opinion-makers. We still need newspapers and news organizations that report and break news. For example, the New York Times, whatever its drawbacks, still provides excellent coverage of international affairs. During the Iraq war reporters like John Burns, Dexter Filkins, and Michael Gordon provided outstanding coverage.

We still need journalists reporting on oil wells that explode and leak, British elections being held, wars being fought, genocide unfolding, riots occurring in Greece, and all the rest. The good news is that we live in a world that features both “hard news” and informed commentary, to a degree we have never had before.

In that respect, what we have today is a vast improvement over the past. It also means that the truth and reality of the world in which we live has a better chance of being apprehended by the American citizenry.

I can understand on a personal and a professional level why Jon Meacham is shattered by what has happened to his magazine. But it is a tragedy for Newsweek, not for America — and not for American journalism.

John, I wanted to follow up on your post on Newsweek by linking to this interview between Jon Meacham and Jon Stewart on The Daily Show [it can be found here and here]. During it, Meacham says this:

I do not believe that Newsweek is the only catcher in the rye between democracy and ignorance, but I think we’re one of them. And I don’t think there are that many on the edge of that cliff.

Ah, no.

For years I had subscribed to Newsweek, though I dropped the subscription last year, when I thought the magazine took a dive for the worst. I found the “new” Newsweek to be horrible in layout and in many (though certainly not all) of the writers it regularly featured. Jacob Weisberg and Jonathan Alter are not vital to the success of the American Republic. Trust me.

Regardless of your views about the quality of Newsweek, though, the notion that it is one of the “few catchers in the rye between democracy and ignorance” is risible. It was a liberal-leaning newsmagazine that mirrored almost perfectly the conventional wisdom of the political class. It was not, and never has been, indispensible, close to indispensible, or marginally indispensible. In fact, American democracy and American public discourse will not be one bit worse off when it disappears from the scene.

My three children will do fine growing up in a world without Newsweek.

Meacham also insisted that Newsweek has been “one of the very few common denominators in a fragmented world.” It actually has not been that.

Newsweek represented a point of view that was philosophically liberal. In some years it did that better than in other years. But it was not a “common denominator” for us, as much as Meacham wishes it were. And I, for one, believe the “fragmented” media world we live in is far superior to the one that came before it. The consensus that existed among journalists when their profession was dominated by Time and Newsweek, by ABC, NBC, and CBS, by the New York Times and the Washington Post, was stupefying. The narratives were virtually all the same because the worldviews of reporters were almost all the same. What we had were a “herd of independent minds” trying to tell us how to think, which stories were worthy of our attention, and how to process those stories.

Today we live in a far more interesting, variegated, and informed world. There are now genuine clashes of ideas — and facts can now be checked in a way they never were in the past. (See Dan Rather’s and CBS’s reliance on bogus documents for a “60 Minutes” report charging that President Bush received favorable treatment in the National Guard, something that two decades ago could have cost Bush the presidency instead of Rather his job.)

It isn’t a perfect world by any means. And I’m not in favor of a world in which there are only commentators, only bloggers, only opinion-makers. We still need newspapers and news organizations that report and break news. For example, the New York Times, whatever its drawbacks, still provides excellent coverage of international affairs. During the Iraq war reporters like John Burns, Dexter Filkins, and Michael Gordon provided outstanding coverage.

We still need journalists reporting on oil wells that explode and leak, British elections being held, wars being fought, genocide unfolding, riots occurring in Greece, and all the rest. The good news is that we live in a world that features both “hard news” and informed commentary, to a degree we have never had before.

In that respect, what we have today is a vast improvement over the past. It also means that the truth and reality of the world in which we live has a better chance of being apprehended by the American citizenry.

I can understand on a personal and a professional level why Jon Meacham is shattered by what has happened to his magazine. But it is a tragedy for Newsweek, not for America — and not for American journalism.

Read Less

Republican Resurrection

Michael Barone is a person with extraordinary knowledge about politics. So his statement in the American Enterprise Institute’s blog, The American, caught my attention: “Recent polls tell me that the Democratic Party is in the worst shape I have seen during my 50 years of following politics closely.”

Barone devotes his article to looking back at the biggest GOP victory of the last 80 years – the off-year election of 1946, in which Republicans won 13 Senate seats and 55 seats in the House – and explores the similarities and differences today.

Speaking of today, Obama’s approval rating in the latest CBS poll is at an all-time low of 44 percent, a staggering 24 points below where it was just a year ago. When it comes to health care, the President’s approval rating is even lower: only 34 percent approved, while 55 percent said they disapproved.

Republicans now lead on the congressional generic ballot in both the Gallup survey (+3) and the Rasmussen survey (+9). Voters now trust Republicans more than Democrats on nine out of 10 key issues – including on health care, which is nearly unprecedented. Following the passage of the health care bill, 53 percent now say they trust Republicans on the issue of health care, versus 37 percent who place their trust in Democrats. And according to a Marist poll, since ObamaCare passed, 53 percent of those polled said their opinion of the president has not changed. But 29 percent said their opinion of Obama has gotten worse. And only 18 percent — fewer than two in 10 — said their opinion of Obama has gotten better. To add salt to the wound: among independents, Tea Partiers’ views are preferred to Obama’s by a 50 percent to 38 percent margin.

This erosion of support for the Democratic party in such a compressed period of time is unlike anything I can recall. Democrats continue to hope that things will turn around between now and the mid-term elections. But with every passing month, this wish appears fanciful. Democrats like Bill Clinton predicted Obama and his party’s approval ratings would jump in the aftermath ObamaCare’s passage; many of us said the opposite. So far, the opposite is happening. Nor is opposition to Obama and Democrats likely to recede much between now and November; in fact it may well intensify.

Early last year, the GOP was bloodied and on the ropes, and out came the epitaphs. Sam Tanenhaus wrote a book titled The Death of Conservatism. Democrats like James Carville were saying, “A Democratic majority is emerging, and it’s my hypothesis, one I share with a great many others, that this majority will guarantee the Democrats remain in power for the next 40 years.” Today, after 15 months of Obama, Nancy Pelosi, and Harry Reid, it looks like Democrats may fall around 38 years short of that prediction. And Mr. Tanenhaus might want to get used to the concept of resurrection. Because that is what is unfolding before our eyes.

The strong wind at the backs of Republicans will at some point shift; that is the nature of American politics. For now, though, everyone agrees that November will be bad for Democrats. The only question is just how bad. At this juncture, I would say: very bad.

Michael Barone is a person with extraordinary knowledge about politics. So his statement in the American Enterprise Institute’s blog, The American, caught my attention: “Recent polls tell me that the Democratic Party is in the worst shape I have seen during my 50 years of following politics closely.”

Barone devotes his article to looking back at the biggest GOP victory of the last 80 years – the off-year election of 1946, in which Republicans won 13 Senate seats and 55 seats in the House – and explores the similarities and differences today.

Speaking of today, Obama’s approval rating in the latest CBS poll is at an all-time low of 44 percent, a staggering 24 points below where it was just a year ago. When it comes to health care, the President’s approval rating is even lower: only 34 percent approved, while 55 percent said they disapproved.

Republicans now lead on the congressional generic ballot in both the Gallup survey (+3) and the Rasmussen survey (+9). Voters now trust Republicans more than Democrats on nine out of 10 key issues – including on health care, which is nearly unprecedented. Following the passage of the health care bill, 53 percent now say they trust Republicans on the issue of health care, versus 37 percent who place their trust in Democrats. And according to a Marist poll, since ObamaCare passed, 53 percent of those polled said their opinion of the president has not changed. But 29 percent said their opinion of Obama has gotten worse. And only 18 percent — fewer than two in 10 — said their opinion of Obama has gotten better. To add salt to the wound: among independents, Tea Partiers’ views are preferred to Obama’s by a 50 percent to 38 percent margin.

This erosion of support for the Democratic party in such a compressed period of time is unlike anything I can recall. Democrats continue to hope that things will turn around between now and the mid-term elections. But with every passing month, this wish appears fanciful. Democrats like Bill Clinton predicted Obama and his party’s approval ratings would jump in the aftermath ObamaCare’s passage; many of us said the opposite. So far, the opposite is happening. Nor is opposition to Obama and Democrats likely to recede much between now and November; in fact it may well intensify.

Early last year, the GOP was bloodied and on the ropes, and out came the epitaphs. Sam Tanenhaus wrote a book titled The Death of Conservatism. Democrats like James Carville were saying, “A Democratic majority is emerging, and it’s my hypothesis, one I share with a great many others, that this majority will guarantee the Democrats remain in power for the next 40 years.” Today, after 15 months of Obama, Nancy Pelosi, and Harry Reid, it looks like Democrats may fall around 38 years short of that prediction. And Mr. Tanenhaus might want to get used to the concept of resurrection. Because that is what is unfolding before our eyes.

The strong wind at the backs of Republicans will at some point shift; that is the nature of American politics. For now, though, everyone agrees that November will be bad for Democrats. The only question is just how bad. At this juncture, I would say: very bad.

Read Less

Gibbs: The Perfect Obami Mouthpiece

Chris Stirewalt writes:

When will President Obama give up on the Robert Gibbs experiment? Immediately after Obama made a surprise appearance in a snow-emptied press briefing room to emphasize that he was sincere about his new call for bipartisanship, Gibb took the podium for a bit of prop comedy at the expense of the GOP. In taking follow-up questions from reporters, Gibbs went into a rehearsed, tedious bit Sarah Palin writing talking points on her hand. He wrote his grocery list and “ hope and change” on his own hand. That he lacked the good sense to keep his palm on the podium after Obama’s remarks should be enough to get him sacked.

On one level, this is true — Gibbs’ snide demeanor and sneering attitude toward both the news corps and critics don’t aid the president. But again, let’s be clear: Obama hired Gibbs, likes Gibbs, and keeps Gibbs there. According to TV news reports this morning, the president did not rebuke Gibbs after the anti-Palin stunt. Of course he didn’t. The experiment here is not Gibbs but the phony, insincere bipartisanship.

Even mainstream news outlets are on to the hollowness of the new Obama bipartisan gambit. CBS reports:

Mr. Obama said he “won’t hesitate to embrace a good idea from my friends in the minority party.” But he wants his way. He wants his energy policy enacted along with his jobs bill, his financial regulatory reform and his health care plan.And if the opposition continues to block his objectives, he said he “won’t hesitate to condemn what I consider to be obstinacy that’s rooted not in substantive disagreement but in political expedience.”

When a sitting president calls for bipartisanship by the opposition – he really means surrender. And if they block his proposals, its “obstinacy” and not political views they hold as strongly as he holds his.

So it is not Gibbs who is in danger of losing his job. He gives voice to the inner sneer of the Obama White House, the low regard in which it holds all opponents. Only David Letterman could better embody the prevailing attitude: “Aren’t we cool, and aren’t they all dopes out there?” Yes, Gibbs does give away the game from time to time, but the Obami can’t restrain themselves. They have their perfect spokesman. He’s not going anywhere, unless he gets a promotion as a reward for his year of showing us precisely what the Obami think of themselves and the rest of us.

Chris Stirewalt writes:

When will President Obama give up on the Robert Gibbs experiment? Immediately after Obama made a surprise appearance in a snow-emptied press briefing room to emphasize that he was sincere about his new call for bipartisanship, Gibb took the podium for a bit of prop comedy at the expense of the GOP. In taking follow-up questions from reporters, Gibbs went into a rehearsed, tedious bit Sarah Palin writing talking points on her hand. He wrote his grocery list and “ hope and change” on his own hand. That he lacked the good sense to keep his palm on the podium after Obama’s remarks should be enough to get him sacked.

On one level, this is true — Gibbs’ snide demeanor and sneering attitude toward both the news corps and critics don’t aid the president. But again, let’s be clear: Obama hired Gibbs, likes Gibbs, and keeps Gibbs there. According to TV news reports this morning, the president did not rebuke Gibbs after the anti-Palin stunt. Of course he didn’t. The experiment here is not Gibbs but the phony, insincere bipartisanship.

Even mainstream news outlets are on to the hollowness of the new Obama bipartisan gambit. CBS reports:

Mr. Obama said he “won’t hesitate to embrace a good idea from my friends in the minority party.” But he wants his way. He wants his energy policy enacted along with his jobs bill, his financial regulatory reform and his health care plan.And if the opposition continues to block his objectives, he said he “won’t hesitate to condemn what I consider to be obstinacy that’s rooted not in substantive disagreement but in political expedience.”

When a sitting president calls for bipartisanship by the opposition – he really means surrender. And if they block his proposals, its “obstinacy” and not political views they hold as strongly as he holds his.

So it is not Gibbs who is in danger of losing his job. He gives voice to the inner sneer of the Obama White House, the low regard in which it holds all opponents. Only David Letterman could better embody the prevailing attitude: “Aren’t we cool, and aren’t they all dopes out there?” Yes, Gibbs does give away the game from time to time, but the Obami can’t restrain themselves. They have their perfect spokesman. He’s not going anywhere, unless he gets a promotion as a reward for his year of showing us precisely what the Obami think of themselves and the rest of us.

Read Less

Crist Struggles

Somehow, I don’t think this helps Gov. Charlie Crist:

Florida Gov. Charlie Crist said Thursday that despite being attacked from the right by former state House Speaker Marco Rubio, his rival in the state’s GOP Senate primary, he is no “RINO.” Asked during an interview with CBS’s “Early Show” for his response to critics who have called him a “Republican in name only” — better known by the acronym RINO — Crist said “if I’m a RINO, then so is Ronald Reagan.”

Ouch. This is the equivalent of Obama’s “I am not an ideologue” pronouncement. It’s the sort of cringing denial that comes only when many voters think the accusation is true. Crist then said that he, too, was in favor of  “less taxing, less spending, less government, more freedom,” but was just more “pragmatic” than Marco Rubio. He opined that the voters ”don’t want bickering and some ideologue on one end or the other to sort of be a standard bearer.” Hmm. I think conservative voters actually do want a standard bearer.

You get the sense that it’s just not clicking for Crist. He is not the rock star of the conservatives and is trying to tell Republicans in a primary race that they are wrong to want a rock star. But they do, and voters generally don’t want to be told they’ve got it all wrong. Moreover, what got Crist in trouble in the first place was his preference for accommodating and embracing (literally) Obama, rather than staunchly opposing him. Signaling that he is “pragmatic” is not what voters (either in the primary or general election) in a wave opposition election want to hear. They want someone to stop the governing party from doing more destructive things.

Perhaps Crist will figure this out, but it may not be the right moment for him. Sometimes the voters just want what the voters want.

Somehow, I don’t think this helps Gov. Charlie Crist:

Florida Gov. Charlie Crist said Thursday that despite being attacked from the right by former state House Speaker Marco Rubio, his rival in the state’s GOP Senate primary, he is no “RINO.” Asked during an interview with CBS’s “Early Show” for his response to critics who have called him a “Republican in name only” — better known by the acronym RINO — Crist said “if I’m a RINO, then so is Ronald Reagan.”

Ouch. This is the equivalent of Obama’s “I am not an ideologue” pronouncement. It’s the sort of cringing denial that comes only when many voters think the accusation is true. Crist then said that he, too, was in favor of  “less taxing, less spending, less government, more freedom,” but was just more “pragmatic” than Marco Rubio. He opined that the voters ”don’t want bickering and some ideologue on one end or the other to sort of be a standard bearer.” Hmm. I think conservative voters actually do want a standard bearer.

You get the sense that it’s just not clicking for Crist. He is not the rock star of the conservatives and is trying to tell Republicans in a primary race that they are wrong to want a rock star. But they do, and voters generally don’t want to be told they’ve got it all wrong. Moreover, what got Crist in trouble in the first place was his preference for accommodating and embracing (literally) Obama, rather than staunchly opposing him. Signaling that he is “pragmatic” is not what voters (either in the primary or general election) in a wave opposition election want to hear. They want someone to stop the governing party from doing more destructive things.

Perhaps Crist will figure this out, but it may not be the right moment for him. Sometimes the voters just want what the voters want.

Read Less

RE: Time to Clean House

Dana Milbank reminds me that there’s another White House aide who deserves to be shown the door: the ever-snide Robert Gibbs. Milbank explains:

Gibbs acts as though he’s playing himself in the movie version of his job. In this imaginary film, he is the smart-alecky press secretary, offering zippy comebacks and cracking jokes to make his questioners look ridiculous. It’s no great feat to make reporters look bad, but this act also sends a televised image of a cocksure White House to ordinary Americans watching at home.

This is the most visible manifestation of a larger problem the Obama White House has. Many Obama loyalists from the 2008 race still seem, after a year on the job, to be having trouble exiting campaign mode. They sometimes appear to be running a taxpayer-funded rapid-response operation.

Sometimes? We’ve been treated to attacks from Gibbs on Fox, Gallup, radio talk-show hosts, and CNBC reporters. As Milbank describes, he waves off reporters’ legitimate inquiries with the back of his hand — the perfect metaphor for the contempt with which this White House treats critics. A case in point of the abject rudeness that Gibbs displays:

The press secretary drummed a bah-dum-bum on the lectern. [CBS's Chip] Reid ignored the percussion and asked whether the “groundswell of support for a Republican in the blue state of Massachusetts for a candidate who’s running against the president’s agenda” meant that “the White House has simply lost touch with the American people.”

Gibbs gave another dismissive wave and cited a CBS News poll that wasn’t about Massachusetts.

“Good diversion,” Reid replied.

“I hate to quote CBS to CBS,” Gibbs continued with a grin.

Funny, huh? No, not really. The Obama team has brought its style of Chicago politics — nontransparent, corrupt, undemocratic, and bullying — to Washington. It makes no effort to conceal it; instead it showcases it every day from the White House press room. Gibbs in that regard is the perfect face for the Obama White House — arrogant and just plain boorish.

So if Obama is looking to turn over a new leaf — and it’s not sure that he is — or even if he wants to present a more appealing image to the voters, he’d do well to dump Gibbs. There have been some pretty good Democratic press secretaries (Mike McCurry among the best), so they should be able to come up with another mouthpiece. The message is a different problem, but the least they can do is find a less obnoxious messenger.

Dana Milbank reminds me that there’s another White House aide who deserves to be shown the door: the ever-snide Robert Gibbs. Milbank explains:

Gibbs acts as though he’s playing himself in the movie version of his job. In this imaginary film, he is the smart-alecky press secretary, offering zippy comebacks and cracking jokes to make his questioners look ridiculous. It’s no great feat to make reporters look bad, but this act also sends a televised image of a cocksure White House to ordinary Americans watching at home.

This is the most visible manifestation of a larger problem the Obama White House has. Many Obama loyalists from the 2008 race still seem, after a year on the job, to be having trouble exiting campaign mode. They sometimes appear to be running a taxpayer-funded rapid-response operation.

Sometimes? We’ve been treated to attacks from Gibbs on Fox, Gallup, radio talk-show hosts, and CNBC reporters. As Milbank describes, he waves off reporters’ legitimate inquiries with the back of his hand — the perfect metaphor for the contempt with which this White House treats critics. A case in point of the abject rudeness that Gibbs displays:

The press secretary drummed a bah-dum-bum on the lectern. [CBS's Chip] Reid ignored the percussion and asked whether the “groundswell of support for a Republican in the blue state of Massachusetts for a candidate who’s running against the president’s agenda” meant that “the White House has simply lost touch with the American people.”

Gibbs gave another dismissive wave and cited a CBS News poll that wasn’t about Massachusetts.

“Good diversion,” Reid replied.

“I hate to quote CBS to CBS,” Gibbs continued with a grin.

Funny, huh? No, not really. The Obama team has brought its style of Chicago politics — nontransparent, corrupt, undemocratic, and bullying — to Washington. It makes no effort to conceal it; instead it showcases it every day from the White House press room. Gibbs in that regard is the perfect face for the Obama White House — arrogant and just plain boorish.

So if Obama is looking to turn over a new leaf — and it’s not sure that he is — or even if he wants to present a more appealing image to the voters, he’d do well to dump Gibbs. There have been some pretty good Democratic press secretaries (Mike McCurry among the best), so they should be able to come up with another mouthpiece. The message is a different problem, but the least they can do is find a less obnoxious messenger.

Read Less

Flotsam and Jetsam

Another Red State senator with a potential re-election problem: “Incumbent Democratic Senator Byron Dorgan may have a serious problem on his hands if Republicans recruit Governor John Hoeven to run for the U.S. Senate in North Dakota next year. The first Rasmussen Reports Election 2010 telephone survey of likely voters in North Dakota finds the popular Republican governor leading Dorgan by 22 points — 58% to 36%.”

Harry Reid says any senator who didn’t get a “deal” is a sucker. Well, he didn’t quite say it that way — but almost: “I don’t know if there’s a senator who doesn’t have something in this bill that’s important to them. … And if they don’t have something in it that’s important to them, then it’s doesn’t speak well for them.” Next we’ll be hearing that the Cornhusker Kickback is “golden.”

James Pinkerton explains: “It’s not sausage-making, it’s three-card-monte-playing. … But the whole point of three-card-monte is not to build an enduring monument of some kind–the point is to get the money away from the rubes. Or, in this case, the votes away from the voters. We’ll see in 11 months how this game plays out.”

Sen. Ben Nelson is convinced that the backlash against him is “all orchestrated.” Yes, the outrage from the right-to-life community, the governor, and the local branch of Americans for Prosperity is quite “orchestrated,” and they will be equally united when he comes up for re-election.

Three of her top two reasons for opposing ObamaCare: “1. Forces you to pay up to 8% of your income to private insurance corporations — whether you want to or not. 2. If you refuse to buy the insurance, you’ll have to pay penalties of up to 2% of your annual income to the IRS. … 5. Paid for by taxes on the middle class insurance plan you have right now through your employer, causing them to cut back benefits and increase co-pays.” Jane Hamsher or Dana Perino?

CBS headline: “Democrats Worry of Dismal Mid-Term.” Democratic pollster Celinda Lake says, “Our voters are less enthusiastic than Republicans and independents.” And that was before the 1 a.m. Senate health-care vote.

In Virginia, which Obama won in 2008 by 5 percentage points, voters disapprove of his performance by a 54 to 44 percent margin. Only 30 percent of white voters approve of his performance.

Isn’t it delusional to think a bill that more than 60 percent of voters disfavor is going to help the party that passed it on a strict party-line vote? “Slumping in the polls and struggling to pass climate and financial legislation, President Barack Obama and Democratic leaders are counting on an historic health care victory to buoy their electoral prospects in 2010. … Last week’s Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll not only showed a substantial majority opposed to the plan, but for the first time, it showed a plurality favoring the status quo over passage.”

Independents disapprove of Obama’s performance by a lot — more than a dozen points on average.

Many of them may be in agreement with Michael Goodwin: “I now regard his campaign as a sly bait-and-switch operation, promising one thing and delivering another. Shame on me. Equally surprising, he has become an insufferable bore. The grace notes and charm have vanished, with peevishness and petty spite his default emotions. His rhetorical gifts now serve his loathsome habit of fear-mongering.”

Another Red State senator with a potential re-election problem: “Incumbent Democratic Senator Byron Dorgan may have a serious problem on his hands if Republicans recruit Governor John Hoeven to run for the U.S. Senate in North Dakota next year. The first Rasmussen Reports Election 2010 telephone survey of likely voters in North Dakota finds the popular Republican governor leading Dorgan by 22 points — 58% to 36%.”

Harry Reid says any senator who didn’t get a “deal” is a sucker. Well, he didn’t quite say it that way — but almost: “I don’t know if there’s a senator who doesn’t have something in this bill that’s important to them. … And if they don’t have something in it that’s important to them, then it’s doesn’t speak well for them.” Next we’ll be hearing that the Cornhusker Kickback is “golden.”

James Pinkerton explains: “It’s not sausage-making, it’s three-card-monte-playing. … But the whole point of three-card-monte is not to build an enduring monument of some kind–the point is to get the money away from the rubes. Or, in this case, the votes away from the voters. We’ll see in 11 months how this game plays out.”

Sen. Ben Nelson is convinced that the backlash against him is “all orchestrated.” Yes, the outrage from the right-to-life community, the governor, and the local branch of Americans for Prosperity is quite “orchestrated,” and they will be equally united when he comes up for re-election.

Three of her top two reasons for opposing ObamaCare: “1. Forces you to pay up to 8% of your income to private insurance corporations — whether you want to or not. 2. If you refuse to buy the insurance, you’ll have to pay penalties of up to 2% of your annual income to the IRS. … 5. Paid for by taxes on the middle class insurance plan you have right now through your employer, causing them to cut back benefits and increase co-pays.” Jane Hamsher or Dana Perino?

CBS headline: “Democrats Worry of Dismal Mid-Term.” Democratic pollster Celinda Lake says, “Our voters are less enthusiastic than Republicans and independents.” And that was before the 1 a.m. Senate health-care vote.

In Virginia, which Obama won in 2008 by 5 percentage points, voters disapprove of his performance by a 54 to 44 percent margin. Only 30 percent of white voters approve of his performance.

Isn’t it delusional to think a bill that more than 60 percent of voters disfavor is going to help the party that passed it on a strict party-line vote? “Slumping in the polls and struggling to pass climate and financial legislation, President Barack Obama and Democratic leaders are counting on an historic health care victory to buoy their electoral prospects in 2010. … Last week’s Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll not only showed a substantial majority opposed to the plan, but for the first time, it showed a plurality favoring the status quo over passage.”

Independents disapprove of Obama’s performance by a lot — more than a dozen points on average.

Many of them may be in agreement with Michael Goodwin: “I now regard his campaign as a sly bait-and-switch operation, promising one thing and delivering another. Shame on me. Equally surprising, he has become an insufferable bore. The grace notes and charm have vanished, with peevishness and petty spite his default emotions. His rhetorical gifts now serve his loathsome habit of fear-mongering.”

Read Less

Flotsam and Jetsam

Tom Jensen of Public Policy Polling observes that Sen. Michael Bennet is trailing all Republicans in a potential 2010 race, one by as much as nine points. He notes that this “is a reminder that Democratic Governors sure didn’t do their party in the Senate any favors with their appointments last year. The appointments of Michael Bennet in Colorado, Ted Kaufman in Delaware, Roland Burris in Illinois, and Kirsten Gillibrand in New York put all of those seats in play for next year and it really didn’t have to be that way.”

James Capretta and Yuval Levin explain ReidCare: ”In other words, rather than build on the failed cost-control model of Medicare, they now want to actually further burden Medicare itself. Why take a roundabout path to failure when a direct one is available? The irrationality of this solution is staggering. But, of course, it’s a solution to Reid’s political problem, not to the nation’s health care financing crisis.”

The New York Times thinks ReidCare is in trouble too: “Democratic leaders hit a rough patch Friday in their push for sweeping health care legislation, as they tried to fend off criticism of their proposals from a top Medicare official, Republicans and even members of their own party. . .Republicans said [the Medicare actuary's] report confirmed what they had been saying for months. ‘It is a remarkable report,’ said Senator Mike Johanns, Republican of Nebraska. ‘It is a roundhouse blow to the Reid plan.’” We’ll see.

Dana Milbank thinks Senate Democrats could find a better leader. He explains that “as his public-option gambit demonstrated, merely dangling proposals, regardless of how meritorious they may be, doesn’t cause them to become law — and it may cause Democrats from more conservative states, such as Lincoln’s Arkansas, to lose their jobs.” And lose his own as well. Millbank thinks his caucus might be happier with Dick Durbin or Chuck Schumer. Well, they might get their wish, given Reid’s polling.

Looking at the dismal polling on ObamaCare and the CBS polling showing Obama leading George W. Bush by only a 50-to-44-percent margin, James Taranto argues that ”these results almost surely represent a backlash against Obama and Congress’s Democrats. Their insistence on pushing ahead and forcing on the country a health-care scheme that by now is almost as unpopular as it is monstrous is without a doubt a major factor here.” And it might be that a cold, ultra-liberal president who blames his problems on his predecessor really isn’t what they all had in mind.

An excellent development, and perhaps a sign that the Obami are waking up to the reality of the thugocracy of Iran: “More than $2 billion allegedly held on behalf of Iran in Citigroup Inc. accounts were secretly ordered frozen last year by a federal court in Manhattan, in what appears to be the biggest seizure of Iranian assets abroad since the 1979 Islamic revolution. . .President Barack Obama has pledged to enact new economic sanctions on Iran at year-end if Tehran doesn’t respond to international calls for negotiations over its nuclear-fuel program.”

Obama is still sliding: “The Rasmussen Reports daily Presidential Tracking Poll for Saturday shows that 25% of the nation’s voters Strongly Approve of the way that Barack Obama is performing his role as President. Forty-one percent (41%) Strongly Disapprove giving Obama a Presidential Approval Index rating of -16. That’s the lowest Approval Index rating yet recorded for this President.”

It’s the “international community” after all: “Iranian Prime Minister Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez and Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe plan to address negotiators at international climate talks in Copenhagen next week.”

Tom Jensen of Public Policy Polling observes that Sen. Michael Bennet is trailing all Republicans in a potential 2010 race, one by as much as nine points. He notes that this “is a reminder that Democratic Governors sure didn’t do their party in the Senate any favors with their appointments last year. The appointments of Michael Bennet in Colorado, Ted Kaufman in Delaware, Roland Burris in Illinois, and Kirsten Gillibrand in New York put all of those seats in play for next year and it really didn’t have to be that way.”

James Capretta and Yuval Levin explain ReidCare: ”In other words, rather than build on the failed cost-control model of Medicare, they now want to actually further burden Medicare itself. Why take a roundabout path to failure when a direct one is available? The irrationality of this solution is staggering. But, of course, it’s a solution to Reid’s political problem, not to the nation’s health care financing crisis.”

The New York Times thinks ReidCare is in trouble too: “Democratic leaders hit a rough patch Friday in their push for sweeping health care legislation, as they tried to fend off criticism of their proposals from a top Medicare official, Republicans and even members of their own party. . .Republicans said [the Medicare actuary's] report confirmed what they had been saying for months. ‘It is a remarkable report,’ said Senator Mike Johanns, Republican of Nebraska. ‘It is a roundhouse blow to the Reid plan.’” We’ll see.

Dana Milbank thinks Senate Democrats could find a better leader. He explains that “as his public-option gambit demonstrated, merely dangling proposals, regardless of how meritorious they may be, doesn’t cause them to become law — and it may cause Democrats from more conservative states, such as Lincoln’s Arkansas, to lose their jobs.” And lose his own as well. Millbank thinks his caucus might be happier with Dick Durbin or Chuck Schumer. Well, they might get their wish, given Reid’s polling.

Looking at the dismal polling on ObamaCare and the CBS polling showing Obama leading George W. Bush by only a 50-to-44-percent margin, James Taranto argues that ”these results almost surely represent a backlash against Obama and Congress’s Democrats. Their insistence on pushing ahead and forcing on the country a health-care scheme that by now is almost as unpopular as it is monstrous is without a doubt a major factor here.” And it might be that a cold, ultra-liberal president who blames his problems on his predecessor really isn’t what they all had in mind.

An excellent development, and perhaps a sign that the Obami are waking up to the reality of the thugocracy of Iran: “More than $2 billion allegedly held on behalf of Iran in Citigroup Inc. accounts were secretly ordered frozen last year by a federal court in Manhattan, in what appears to be the biggest seizure of Iranian assets abroad since the 1979 Islamic revolution. . .President Barack Obama has pledged to enact new economic sanctions on Iran at year-end if Tehran doesn’t respond to international calls for negotiations over its nuclear-fuel program.”

Obama is still sliding: “The Rasmussen Reports daily Presidential Tracking Poll for Saturday shows that 25% of the nation’s voters Strongly Approve of the way that Barack Obama is performing his role as President. Forty-one percent (41%) Strongly Disapprove giving Obama a Presidential Approval Index rating of -16. That’s the lowest Approval Index rating yet recorded for this President.”

It’s the “international community” after all: “Iranian Prime Minister Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez and Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe plan to address negotiators at international climate talks in Copenhagen next week.”

Read Less

CBC vs. NBC, CBS, and ABC

The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) is owned by the Canadian government and is not exactly famous for rocking establishment boats. That makes this no-beating-around-the-bush opinion piece on Climategate even more interesting.

In contrast to government-owned CBC, we have privately owned NBC, CBS, and ABC to keep the American people up to date on the important issues of the day. So here, in its entirety, is what these three networks have had to say on this ever-growing story since it broke two weeks ago:

“                                                                                             ”

That’s right, nothing whatsoever. Sort of makes you proud to be an American.

The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) is owned by the Canadian government and is not exactly famous for rocking establishment boats. That makes this no-beating-around-the-bush opinion piece on Climategate even more interesting.

In contrast to government-owned CBC, we have privately owned NBC, CBS, and ABC to keep the American people up to date on the important issues of the day. So here, in its entirety, is what these three networks have had to say on this ever-growing story since it broke two weeks ago:

“                                                                                             ”

That’s right, nothing whatsoever. Sort of makes you proud to be an American.

Read Less

How’s the Dithering Going?

Obama’s overall approval rating in the latest CBS poll is down 3 points from the previous month, but the slide in his numbers on Afghanistan are dramatic. In April, 58 percent approved and 21 percent disapproved of his handling of the war. Now 38 percent approve and 43 disapprove. The biggest change is among independents: “Last month, 44% of independents approved and 36% disapproved of the job President Obama was doing on Afghanistan. Now, more independents disapprove than approve: 49% disapprove, and just 30% approve.”

This follows months of White House seminars and a battle of the leakers. Because the president has yet to make up his mind, we also haven’t heard a robust explanation of what we are doing and how we are going to achieve our aims. In addition, since April, Obama’s overall foreign-policy approval has slid from 59 to 50 percent.

Could it be that indecision isn’t playing well at home? Possibly. Public opinion can be fickle, especially on foreign policy. But the president and his spinners are kidding themselves if they think there is no price to be paid among voters for angst-ridden decision making. The president is expected to choose and to lead. He is doing neither. The voters are starting to fret.

Obama’s overall approval rating in the latest CBS poll is down 3 points from the previous month, but the slide in his numbers on Afghanistan are dramatic. In April, 58 percent approved and 21 percent disapproved of his handling of the war. Now 38 percent approve and 43 disapprove. The biggest change is among independents: “Last month, 44% of independents approved and 36% disapproved of the job President Obama was doing on Afghanistan. Now, more independents disapprove than approve: 49% disapprove, and just 30% approve.”

This follows months of White House seminars and a battle of the leakers. Because the president has yet to make up his mind, we also haven’t heard a robust explanation of what we are doing and how we are going to achieve our aims. In addition, since April, Obama’s overall foreign-policy approval has slid from 59 to 50 percent.

Could it be that indecision isn’t playing well at home? Possibly. Public opinion can be fickle, especially on foreign policy. But the president and his spinners are kidding themselves if they think there is no price to be paid among voters for angst-ridden decision making. The president is expected to choose and to lead. He is doing neither. The voters are starting to fret.

Read Less

Obama’s Bad Numbers

New NBC/Wall Street Journal and NY Times/CBS polls have plenty of data to worry Obamaphiles. In the head-to-head national RealClearPolitics.com averages Barack Obama’s lead over Hillary Clinton is shrinking fast. (And many of these polls surveyed voters in significant part before the latest Wright eruption.)

A few tidbits from the NBC/WSJ poll: Obama has dropped 5 points in the “has background/set of values I identify with” and 48% find Obama’s associations with Wright and Bill Ayers a major or moderate concern.

From the NY Times/CBS poll: Obama now is tied with John McCain while Clinton beats him in the head-to-head match ups. And things are heading in the wrong direction on other counts as the Times explains:

Fifty-one percent of Democratic voters say they expect Mr. Obama to win their party’s nomination, down from 69 percent a month ago. Forty-eight percent of Democrats say Mr. Obama is the candidate with the best chance of beating Senator John McCain, the presumptive Republican nominee, down from 56 percent a month ago.

Obama still leads Clinton in both of these polls. But what will the polls say after the public has digested the latest epsiode in the Wright-Obama debacle?

The real news is now Clinton has more than Harold Ickes’ hunches to discuss with the superdelegates. The Times lets on that “some party leaders and superdelegates said the Wright controversy has given them pause, raising questions about Mr. Obama’s electability in the general election next fall.” Imagine that. Superdelegates are precisely the type of people (elected official, professional poll watchers, scared of their constituents) who are the most likely to “pause” ( which may be Times-speak for “break out in a cold sweat”) when they see a political firestorm and don’t know if all the shoes have dropped.

But perhaps by Tuesday all will be forgotten and Obama will cruise to wins in Indiana and North Carolinaes with an impressive coalition of whites/women/African Americans/union voters/seniors. Why, just like he did last time he won a primary in a populous state — Wisconsin. That was on February 19.

New NBC/Wall Street Journal and NY Times/CBS polls have plenty of data to worry Obamaphiles. In the head-to-head national RealClearPolitics.com averages Barack Obama’s lead over Hillary Clinton is shrinking fast. (And many of these polls surveyed voters in significant part before the latest Wright eruption.)

A few tidbits from the NBC/WSJ poll: Obama has dropped 5 points in the “has background/set of values I identify with” and 48% find Obama’s associations with Wright and Bill Ayers a major or moderate concern.

From the NY Times/CBS poll: Obama now is tied with John McCain while Clinton beats him in the head-to-head match ups. And things are heading in the wrong direction on other counts as the Times explains:

Fifty-one percent of Democratic voters say they expect Mr. Obama to win their party’s nomination, down from 69 percent a month ago. Forty-eight percent of Democrats say Mr. Obama is the candidate with the best chance of beating Senator John McCain, the presumptive Republican nominee, down from 56 percent a month ago.

Obama still leads Clinton in both of these polls. But what will the polls say after the public has digested the latest epsiode in the Wright-Obama debacle?

The real news is now Clinton has more than Harold Ickes’ hunches to discuss with the superdelegates. The Times lets on that “some party leaders and superdelegates said the Wright controversy has given them pause, raising questions about Mr. Obama’s electability in the general election next fall.” Imagine that. Superdelegates are precisely the type of people (elected official, professional poll watchers, scared of their constituents) who are the most likely to “pause” ( which may be Times-speak for “break out in a cold sweat”) when they see a political firestorm and don’t know if all the shoes have dropped.

But perhaps by Tuesday all will be forgotten and Obama will cruise to wins in Indiana and North Carolinaes with an impressive coalition of whites/women/African Americans/union voters/seniors. Why, just like he did last time he won a primary in a populous state — Wisconsin. That was on February 19.

Read Less

Never Forget (The Stupid Thing I Said)

Conventional wisdom dictates that candidates are best served when they get beyond their campaign slip-ups as soon as possible. Yet, in recent weeks, only John McCain seems to have understood this. McCain’s most embarrassing moment–his incorrect claim that Iran is training al-Qaeda during a news conference in Jordan–quickly evaporated from the news, as McCain acknowledged his error and moved on. Meanwhile, both Democratic candidates have done the exact opposite: their campaigns have responded to fumbles by dwelling on them, keeping their errors in the headlines well beyond their expected shelf-lives.

First came Hillary Clinton’s assertion that she had landed “under sniper fired” during a 1996 trip to Bosnia. When CBS footage of Hillary smiling on the runway of Tuzla airport during that trip immediately discredited this fabrication, she apologized for having “misspoken” and sought to put the affair behind her. Yet husband Bill, continuing his impressive streak of always saying the wrong thing, refused to let the controversy die. Two weeks later, he attempted to use Hillary’s lie to her advantage, arguing that even if snipers didn’t actually fire at Hillary, his wife had shown immense courage in visiting Bosnia at all. Of course, this backfired completely, with Hillary’s distortion immediately returning to the headlines.

Now Barack Obama has followed up with his own refusal to let a recent faux pas die. For the past two weeks, Obama has confronted charges of elitism, stemming from his description of working-class Pennsylvanians as “bitter” and clinging to “guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren’t like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations.” Well, just in case voters haven’t ingested enough of Hillary’s references to the “bitter” remark, Obama has provided his own reminder, with his campaign website declaring “There’s nothing ‘elitist’ about 1,365,019 people donating to our campaign for change.” Can there be anything more self-defeating than referencing a campaign low point when publicizing such an impressive figure?

Conventional wisdom dictates that candidates are best served when they get beyond their campaign slip-ups as soon as possible. Yet, in recent weeks, only John McCain seems to have understood this. McCain’s most embarrassing moment–his incorrect claim that Iran is training al-Qaeda during a news conference in Jordan–quickly evaporated from the news, as McCain acknowledged his error and moved on. Meanwhile, both Democratic candidates have done the exact opposite: their campaigns have responded to fumbles by dwelling on them, keeping their errors in the headlines well beyond their expected shelf-lives.

First came Hillary Clinton’s assertion that she had landed “under sniper fired” during a 1996 trip to Bosnia. When CBS footage of Hillary smiling on the runway of Tuzla airport during that trip immediately discredited this fabrication, she apologized for having “misspoken” and sought to put the affair behind her. Yet husband Bill, continuing his impressive streak of always saying the wrong thing, refused to let the controversy die. Two weeks later, he attempted to use Hillary’s lie to her advantage, arguing that even if snipers didn’t actually fire at Hillary, his wife had shown immense courage in visiting Bosnia at all. Of course, this backfired completely, with Hillary’s distortion immediately returning to the headlines.

Now Barack Obama has followed up with his own refusal to let a recent faux pas die. For the past two weeks, Obama has confronted charges of elitism, stemming from his description of working-class Pennsylvanians as “bitter” and clinging to “guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren’t like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations.” Well, just in case voters haven’t ingested enough of Hillary’s references to the “bitter” remark, Obama has provided his own reminder, with his campaign website declaring “There’s nothing ‘elitist’ about 1,365,019 people donating to our campaign for change.” Can there be anything more self-defeating than referencing a campaign low point when publicizing such an impressive figure?

Read Less

Is the Bloom Off Obama’s Rose?

There is further evidence that something has changed in the Democratic primary race. In the latest CBS poll Barack Obama went from a 16 point lead in February to a 3 point lead (a statistical tie) over Hillary Clinton among Democratic primary voters. Clinton has made progress with both male and female voters. Worse still for Obama, he now trails John McCain among independents by 8 points (after leading him by 10 a month ago) and his lead over McCain overall is down 7 points. (Liberal bloggers are panicky about other polls showing Obama falling behind McCain in key swing states.)

Is this all attributable to the Reverend Wright revelations? Unlikely. More likely is that the combined impact of Wright, Clinton’s attacks on Obama’s readiness to be commander-in-chief and some closer media scrutiny has changed the lay of the land. More worrisome for Obama is the possibility that the novelty of his candidacy has worn off and like any fad, what once was exciting now seems trite.

Whether Clinton can continue to press ahead and rack up a needed series of primary wins remains to be seen. Her own unfavorability rating in the latest CBS poll is the highest of the three remaining presidential contenders. Her progress, it appears, has come from a decline in his appeal, not necessarily a burst of enthusiasm from Democratic primary voters about her.

So if there is now a contest between candidates over which can accumulate the most baggage and become less attractive in the eyes of voters it would be foolish to count out the Clintons. Once we’re out of the realm of inspiration and into the field of negative campaigning, they have few peers.

There is further evidence that something has changed in the Democratic primary race. In the latest CBS poll Barack Obama went from a 16 point lead in February to a 3 point lead (a statistical tie) over Hillary Clinton among Democratic primary voters. Clinton has made progress with both male and female voters. Worse still for Obama, he now trails John McCain among independents by 8 points (after leading him by 10 a month ago) and his lead over McCain overall is down 7 points. (Liberal bloggers are panicky about other polls showing Obama falling behind McCain in key swing states.)

Is this all attributable to the Reverend Wright revelations? Unlikely. More likely is that the combined impact of Wright, Clinton’s attacks on Obama’s readiness to be commander-in-chief and some closer media scrutiny has changed the lay of the land. More worrisome for Obama is the possibility that the novelty of his candidacy has worn off and like any fad, what once was exciting now seems trite.

Whether Clinton can continue to press ahead and rack up a needed series of primary wins remains to be seen. Her own unfavorability rating in the latest CBS poll is the highest of the three remaining presidential contenders. Her progress, it appears, has come from a decline in his appeal, not necessarily a burst of enthusiasm from Democratic primary voters about her.

So if there is now a contest between candidates over which can accumulate the most baggage and become less attractive in the eyes of voters it would be foolish to count out the Clintons. Once we’re out of the realm of inspiration and into the field of negative campaigning, they have few peers.

Read Less

She Has No Choice

Today, for the first time, Hillary Clinton said that she would be open to the possibility of a joint ticket with Barack Obama. She, of course, is speaking about a Clinton-Obama ticket, not the converse. Here’s the exchange from earlier today:

On CBS’ morning program, anchor Harry Smith said to Clinton, “We talked to a lot of people in Ohio who said there really isn’t that significant a difference between you two, and they’d like to see you both on the ticket.”

“Well, you know, that may be where this is headed.” Clinton said. “But of course we have to decide who is on the top of the ticket. I think the people of Ohio very clearly said that it should be me.”

The only way that Clinton could win the nomination at this point would be through convincing superdelegates to vote for her at the convention. This will be viewed by Obama supporters–the unprecedented million-plus people who have contributed money to his campaign, whom the Democrats do not want to alienate–as a power grab, and rightly so. To prevent the party from tearing itself to shreds, Clinton will have no choice but to offer Obama a position as her running mate. Whether he accepts her offer is a different question. He may bank on her losing to McCain, which would make him the presumable front runner in 2012. If Obama, on the other hand, wins the nomination, he will have no reason to make Clinton his running mate, ending (for good, I predict) her political ascent.

So today’s remarks are part of a well-coordinated strategy to increase her chances of convincing superdelegates to support her, even though she trails in pledged delegates, states won, and the popular vote. This olive branch is not motivated by a desire to save the Democratic Party (because the Clintons could care less about that) though that is its effect, insofar as keeping the party together just this once is vital for Clinton to have any shot at beating McCain should she become the nominee. To do that, she has no choice but to have Obama on the ticket with her.

Today, for the first time, Hillary Clinton said that she would be open to the possibility of a joint ticket with Barack Obama. She, of course, is speaking about a Clinton-Obama ticket, not the converse. Here’s the exchange from earlier today:

On CBS’ morning program, anchor Harry Smith said to Clinton, “We talked to a lot of people in Ohio who said there really isn’t that significant a difference between you two, and they’d like to see you both on the ticket.”

“Well, you know, that may be where this is headed.” Clinton said. “But of course we have to decide who is on the top of the ticket. I think the people of Ohio very clearly said that it should be me.”

The only way that Clinton could win the nomination at this point would be through convincing superdelegates to vote for her at the convention. This will be viewed by Obama supporters–the unprecedented million-plus people who have contributed money to his campaign, whom the Democrats do not want to alienate–as a power grab, and rightly so. To prevent the party from tearing itself to shreds, Clinton will have no choice but to offer Obama a position as her running mate. Whether he accepts her offer is a different question. He may bank on her losing to McCain, which would make him the presumable front runner in 2012. If Obama, on the other hand, wins the nomination, he will have no reason to make Clinton his running mate, ending (for good, I predict) her political ascent.

So today’s remarks are part of a well-coordinated strategy to increase her chances of convincing superdelegates to support her, even though she trails in pledged delegates, states won, and the popular vote. This olive branch is not motivated by a desire to save the Democratic Party (because the Clintons could care less about that) though that is its effect, insofar as keeping the party together just this once is vital for Clinton to have any shot at beating McCain should she become the nominee. To do that, she has no choice but to have Obama on the ticket with her.

Read Less

Of Campaigns and Crises

In at least one important sense, Barack Obama really does represent a new breed of politician, and Hillary Clinton an old one: campaigning.

While Hillary has focused on a time-tested divide-and-conquer battle plan, Obama is holding a nationwide group hug. In debates, Hillary cites facts and figures to support her healthcare and immigration propositions, whereas Obama tends to deflect challenges with personal stories and sweeping judgments. Hillary’s invitation to have “conversations” with the electorate, though broadcast on the Internet, feels as predictably manipulative as a Lifetime movie; Obama’s most notable videos aren’t even his own, but rather the work of creative supporters spread organically in true viral fashion. If the medium is the message, Obama is running a practically post-modern campaign.

The ease with which Obama has moved into each successive phase of the primary season has freed him up to spot and douse fires before they gain attention. Whether it’s the fictional Islamist charge or the Rezko “scandal” or his (truly scandalous) drivers-license-for-illegals position, forward momentum pulls him through scot-free. The Clinton camp is so hooked on following their game plan that no one sees the speed-bumps coming or even senses them once the car has stopped. By the time she reined her husband in, for example, it was clear to the rest of us that he’d done formidable damage. So it’s no surprise that Hillary’s campaign crisis came to her as. . . a surprise.

Now, Obama may have already beaten Hillary to the next punch: Iraq. If she couldn’t recognize a crisis among her own people, it’s doubtful she sees the one in Mesopotamia. I’m referring to the crisis suffered by our enemy. Documents recently seized by U.S. forces in Iraq find al Qaeda officials in a fit over their losses at the hands of Iraqi Sunnis and U.S. forces. Interestingly, in a CBS interview with Steve Kroft, Obama seems to be backing off the timetable approach to troop withdrawal:

Kroft: And you pull out according to that time table, regardless of the situation? Even if there’s serious sectarian violence?.

Obama: No, I always reserve as commander in chief, the right to assess the situation.

Meanwhile, Hillary is stuck trying to satisfy pre-surge anxiety by (insincerely) offering up proposed presidential declarations demanding an end to the war. By the time she realizes she’s read the public wrongly on this one, it may very well be too late.

In at least one important sense, Barack Obama really does represent a new breed of politician, and Hillary Clinton an old one: campaigning.

While Hillary has focused on a time-tested divide-and-conquer battle plan, Obama is holding a nationwide group hug. In debates, Hillary cites facts and figures to support her healthcare and immigration propositions, whereas Obama tends to deflect challenges with personal stories and sweeping judgments. Hillary’s invitation to have “conversations” with the electorate, though broadcast on the Internet, feels as predictably manipulative as a Lifetime movie; Obama’s most notable videos aren’t even his own, but rather the work of creative supporters spread organically in true viral fashion. If the medium is the message, Obama is running a practically post-modern campaign.

The ease with which Obama has moved into each successive phase of the primary season has freed him up to spot and douse fires before they gain attention. Whether it’s the fictional Islamist charge or the Rezko “scandal” or his (truly scandalous) drivers-license-for-illegals position, forward momentum pulls him through scot-free. The Clinton camp is so hooked on following their game plan that no one sees the speed-bumps coming or even senses them once the car has stopped. By the time she reined her husband in, for example, it was clear to the rest of us that he’d done formidable damage. So it’s no surprise that Hillary’s campaign crisis came to her as. . . a surprise.

Now, Obama may have already beaten Hillary to the next punch: Iraq. If she couldn’t recognize a crisis among her own people, it’s doubtful she sees the one in Mesopotamia. I’m referring to the crisis suffered by our enemy. Documents recently seized by U.S. forces in Iraq find al Qaeda officials in a fit over their losses at the hands of Iraqi Sunnis and U.S. forces. Interestingly, in a CBS interview with Steve Kroft, Obama seems to be backing off the timetable approach to troop withdrawal:

Kroft: And you pull out according to that time table, regardless of the situation? Even if there’s serious sectarian violence?.

Obama: No, I always reserve as commander in chief, the right to assess the situation.

Meanwhile, Hillary is stuck trying to satisfy pre-surge anxiety by (insincerely) offering up proposed presidential declarations demanding an end to the war. By the time she realizes she’s read the public wrongly on this one, it may very well be too late.

Read Less

60 Minutes’ Saddam Edit

There was a suspiciously abrupt edit during 60 Minutes last night on CBS. In the much-hyped broadcast Scott Pelley was interviewing FBI agent George Piro about his lengthy interrogation of Saddam Hussein. The audience was about to enjoy one of Piro’s supposed intel revelations when the slice occurred. From the 60 Minutes transcript:

What was Saddam’s opinion of Osama Bin Laden?

“He considered him to be a fanatic. And as such was very wary of him. He told me, ‘You can’t really trust fanatics,’” Piro says.

“Didn’t think of Bin Laden as an ally in his effort against the United States in this war against the United States?” Pelley asks.

“No. No. He didn’t wanna be seen with Bin Laden. And didn’t want to associate with Bin Laden,” Piro explains.

No, Piro doesn’t explain. 60 Minutes seems to have cut an artificial end into that last statement (view here with volume high). Piro starts to clarify or add to his comment about Saddam not wanting to associate with bin Laden when the camera and microphone are redirected towards Pelley. It should also be noted that the “No. No.” appears in the transcript only, not in the broadcast.

In a climate of fudged New York Times data on veterans and inflated Iraqi death counts in prominent journals, it doesn’t take a paranoid to want to know what, if anything, George Piro was starting so say when the edit occured. In fact, all Piro suggests up until that point is that Saddam didn’t trust bin Laden and didn’t want to be seen with him. This has no bearing on whether or not he’d work with him. Some important contextual clarifications may have followed and are now on CBS’ proverbial cutting room floor. Additionally, the “No. No.” needs to be accounted for.

60 Minutes take on this issue is particularly curious because Piro represents the Iraq Survey Group, and the most important (and underreported) finding of that body is that Saddam had financial and operational ties to various Islamist terrorist organizations throughout the region.

60 Minutes needs to make George Piro’s unedited answer available, so there can be no confusion on Piro’s understanding of Saddam’s terrorist associations.

There was a suspiciously abrupt edit during 60 Minutes last night on CBS. In the much-hyped broadcast Scott Pelley was interviewing FBI agent George Piro about his lengthy interrogation of Saddam Hussein. The audience was about to enjoy one of Piro’s supposed intel revelations when the slice occurred. From the 60 Minutes transcript:

What was Saddam’s opinion of Osama Bin Laden?

“He considered him to be a fanatic. And as such was very wary of him. He told me, ‘You can’t really trust fanatics,’” Piro says.

“Didn’t think of Bin Laden as an ally in his effort against the United States in this war against the United States?” Pelley asks.

“No. No. He didn’t wanna be seen with Bin Laden. And didn’t want to associate with Bin Laden,” Piro explains.

No, Piro doesn’t explain. 60 Minutes seems to have cut an artificial end into that last statement (view here with volume high). Piro starts to clarify or add to his comment about Saddam not wanting to associate with bin Laden when the camera and microphone are redirected towards Pelley. It should also be noted that the “No. No.” appears in the transcript only, not in the broadcast.

In a climate of fudged New York Times data on veterans and inflated Iraqi death counts in prominent journals, it doesn’t take a paranoid to want to know what, if anything, George Piro was starting so say when the edit occured. In fact, all Piro suggests up until that point is that Saddam didn’t trust bin Laden and didn’t want to be seen with him. This has no bearing on whether or not he’d work with him. Some important contextual clarifications may have followed and are now on CBS’ proverbial cutting room floor. Additionally, the “No. No.” needs to be accounted for.

60 Minutes take on this issue is particularly curious because Piro represents the Iraq Survey Group, and the most important (and underreported) finding of that body is that Saddam had financial and operational ties to various Islamist terrorist organizations throughout the region.

60 Minutes needs to make George Piro’s unedited answer available, so there can be no confusion on Piro’s understanding of Saddam’s terrorist associations.

Read Less