Natural gas entrepreneur T. Boone Pickens gave $453,250 to the liberal think tank Center for American Progress (CAP) in 2008 and 2009 through his nonprofit groups, to support its National Clean Energy Project events. At the time, Pickens was pressing lawmakers to adopt a bill to subsidize construction of natural gas filling stations. The legislation would have directly helped a company Pickens co-founded called Clean Energy Fuels, which describes itself as “the leading provider of natural gas for transportation.”
Topic: Center for American Progress
This morning, the Washington Post’s Peter Wallsten followed up on never-ending controversy about the Center for American Progress’s anti-Israel bloggers, and what it means for the Obama administration’s close ties to the think tank. (Incidentally, I wrote about this topic yesterday for the New York Post as well.)
According to WaPo, the scandal has caused a lot of hand-wringing in the administration – the White House’s Jewish community liaison reportedly told the Wiesenthal Center’s Rabbi Abraham Cooper that the situation at CAP was “troubling,” adding “that is not this administration.”
The controversy over Center for American Progress’s anti-Israel bloggers has dragged on for what seems like an eternity in blog-time. When the story first broke, Newt Gingrich was still a GOP frontrunner, the battle over the payroll tax cut was still suspenseful, and Ben Smith was still at Politico. I only say all this to emphasize how absurdly long it took the AJC and ADL to weigh in on the issue:
The American Jewish Committee and the Anti-Defamation League weighed in last week on the mushrooming anti-Israel scandal surrounding a group of bloggers working for the U.S. think tank Center for American Progress (CAP).
Jason Isaacson, the AJC’s director of government and international affairs, told the Jerusalem Post by e-mail on Friday that “think tanks are entitled to their political viewpoints – but they’re not free to slander with impunity. References to Israeli ‘apartheid’ or ‘Israel-firsters’ are so false and hateful they reveal an ugly bias no serious policy center can countenance.”
You can always count on the Center for American Progress — a Democratic Party propaganda shop disguised as a think tank — to come up with a cheap partisan screed on any issue. And with their response to my concerns about cutting the defense budget, they do not disappoint. Their Matt Duss claims that my concern about cutting troop size is evidence of my animus against President Obama and that I was a cheerleader for a smaller force size under President Bush.
This feat he accomplishes through highly selective, indeed misleading, quotation. For instance, he cites a 2003 Foreign Affairs article I wrote in which I hailed the successful invasion of Iraq as a signal military achievement. He utterly ignores the fact that while I did say the U.S. armed forces could do more with less in a conventional conflict, I noted that this was not the case in nation-building and counterinsurgency. Here is what the article said:
It may make sense to transform some heavy armored units into lighter,
more deployable formations. It makes no sense to reduce the size of
the army as whole, an idea that Rumsfeld once toyed with. The army has
already shrunk from 18 active-duty divisions in 1990 to 10 today — a
force that is not adequate for all its responsibilities, which include
deployments in Afghanistan, Bosnia, Kosovo, Sinai, South Korea, and
now Iraq. The army is overstretched and having to lean more heavily on
the reserves and the National Guard for vital functions such as
policing and civil affairs. These part-time soldiers are not happy
about becoming full-timers. The marines should pick up some of the
slack by shouldering occupation duties in Iraq and elsewhere. But the
active-duty army still needs to be increased in size. Airpower, no
matter how awesome, cannot police newly liberated countries — or
build democratic governments. Read More
George Lakoff is a linguistics professor at Berkeley who made a name for himself in left-liberal circles by claiming the problem with left-liberalism was its failure to “reframe” the discussion in a way that would make Americans think well of left-liberalism. His book, Don’t Think of an Elephant, was particularly popular. Today, on Politico, Lakoff diagnoses the primary problem that plagued Democrats on Tuesday as a “massive communications failure” owing to its refusal to understand properly that
[C]onservatives have an extensive, but not obvious communications system, with many think tanks, framing experts, training institutes, a system of spokespeople linked by talking points, and bookers booking their people not just on radio and TV, but in lots of civic venues. This system is active not only in elections, but 24/7/365. Democrats have no comparable system.
This is a perfect summary of a certain way of thinking on the Left that is so insular it must look to reasons other than policy choices to explain away the American people’s frustrating unwillingness to go along mutely with whatever the Left wants. In the Lakoff worldview, liberal ideas can’t get to the people who should want them because conservatives have formed such an impregnable wall. In his worldview, the forces arrayed loosely to promote liberal ideas are as nothing, notwithstanding the fact that they are: NPR, the New York Times, the Washington Post, the editorial boards and reportorial staffs of most news organizations, the Ford Foundation, the Carnegie Endowment, the Rockefeller Foundation, the MacArthur Foundation, the Center for American Progress, Media Matters for America, the press staffs of nearly 300 Democratic House and Senate members, the White House press office, the Democratic National Committee, the liberal blogsphere, CNN, MSNBC, the Sierra Club, the Environmental Defense Fund…
There’s more nonsense later in the piece, but I stopped reading after Lakoff “reframed” independent voters as “biconceptuals.”
George Clooney’s visit to the White House yesterday sent the press corps into something like a swoon as press secretary Robert Gibbs cut short the daily press conference so all present could ogle the actor and pepper him with a few easy questions. Clooney was there to talk to President Obama about the trip he had just taken to southern Sudan, a place that may soon replace Darfur as the focus of fears about the genocidal behavior of President Omar Hassan al-Bashir’s criminal regime.
To Clooney’s credit, his interest in Sudan seems genuine. He has lent his name and support to the Enough Project (which is run out of the left-wing Center for American Progress), a group that seeks to prevent African genocides such as the ones that have taken place in Darfur and Rwanda. But as much as Clooney’s concern about the imminent threat of war in southern Sudan between the largely Christian inhabitants of the region and the Muslim government in Khartoum is justified, his prescription for preventing it is a bit vague.
As for his reception by President Obama, Clooney was rapturous in describing his joy at what he thought was Obama’s intense interest in the subject — “You could feel the energy in the room” — and the sharpness of his questions. But what Clooney and the similarly starstruck press coverage of his visit failed to understand is that the current mess and the strength of Bashir’s current position stems in no small measure from the lack of “energy” demonstrated by the administration on this issue in the last year and a half. In case Clooney hasn’t noticed, human rights concerns have been accorded the lowest possible foreign policy priority by the Obama administration, as its stances toward Iran and China have demonstrated.
Even more to the point, the president’s special envoy to Sudan, Scot Gration, has placed the United States firmly on the side of appeasing Bashir, to the dismay of many advocates for the Darfuri people. That policy has set up the southern Sudanese as Bashir’s next likely victims, since the only way to ensure that such genocides don’t take place is by helping to get rid of Bashir and his Islamist gang, not by buying them off.
But unfortunately, Clooney’s idea of “robust diplomacy” is not designed to generate much pressure on the White House. He wants America to do something, but he’s not sure what. At one point, Clooney discussed the possibility for increased sanctions on the Sudanese government and the indicted war criminal at its head. At others, he mooted the possibility of a U.S. decision to normalize relations with Bashir and even consent to the suspension of his indictment by the International Criminal Court if the Sudanese leader makes peace with both southern Sudan and Darfur. As a last resort, he spoke of U.S. military action to interdict the Sudanese government’s forces and prevent another mass slaughter.
The answer for Clooney is that Gration has already proved that appeasement won’t work and that getting Bashir off the hook on war-crimes charges will merely give him impunity to commit future atrocities. As for the prospect of American intervention, Clooney ought not to hold his breath waiting for Obama to act. Having come in to office decrying the “neoconservative” agenda of trying to promote human rights and democracy around the world, the president has demonstrated that such causes are unlikely to generate action from this White House.
The disconnect between the sincere desire of liberals like Clooney to do something to help the Sudanese and their unwillingness to draw serious conclusions about how America should deal with Islamist mass murderers like Bashir is the problem here. If Clooney wants something more than lip service from Obama, he’s going to have to confront the administration, not lend his star power to the White House media strategy.
The Washington Post and the Wall Street Journal agree — Obama’s end-around the Senate on the zealous czarina of consumer protection is outrageous. S. 1 in the 112th Congress? Defund the consumer protection agency.
Lots of Democratic Senate candidates agree with the GOP: “Senate Democratic candidates are wavering over whether to support President Obama’s plan to raise taxes on families earning more than $250,000 a year. At least seven Democrats in battleground states say they support or could support extending tax breaks for families who make more than $250,000.”
Karl Rove and his conservative critics agree — Lisa Murkowski’s independent run is “sad and sorry.”
Independents agree with Republicans: refudiate Obamanomics. “A new comprehensive national survey shows that independent voters—who voted for Barack Obama by a 52%-to-44% margin in the 2008 presidential election—are now moving strongly in the direction of the Republican Party. … Today, independents say they lean more toward the Republican Party than the Democratic Party, 50% to 25%, and that the Republican Party is closer to their views by 52% to 30%. … More generally, independents made clear in the survey what they want candidates to do: Decrease the size and scope of government, cut spending and taxes, balance the budget, reduce the federal debt, reduce the power of special interests and unions, repeal and replace the health-care legislation, and decrease partisanship.”
Colin Powell and his (former?) party finally agree: Obama needs to “shift the way in which he has been doing things. … I think the American people feel that too many programs have come down. … There are so many rocks in our knapsack now that we’re having trouble carrying it.”
At least conservatives and Maureen Dowd can agree on this about Obama: “Empathy seems more like an abstract concept than something to practice. He has never shaken off that slight patronizing attitude toward the working-class voters he is losing now, the ones he dubbed ‘bitter’ during his campaign. There is no premium in trying to save people’s jobs and lift them up and give them health care if they feel that you can’t relate to them.”
The left and right can agree that the latest administration move on Sudan is a disgrace: “After long, and reportedly heated, arguments inside the White House over the proper balance between carrot and stick, officials have produced a document that is highly specific about inducements and carefully vague about threats. … John Norris, a Sudan expert at the Center for American Progress and former head of the Enough Project, calls the package ‘unseemly.’”
I think we can all agree that Christiane Amanpour is the weakest Sunday talk-show host. Not only does she not ask a serious follow-up question of Hillary Clinton, but Ahmadinejad runs circles around her. (The proof of her ineptitude? You don’t see Ahmadinejad submitting to an interview with Candy Crowley or Chris Wallace.)
John Podesta, of the leftist Center for American Progress (and Obama’s transition-team leader), is trying to assure voters that after November, Obama really will listen to them. Honest. Podesta says (my comments in brackets):
“After November, you’ll see some soul-searching and some changes particularly in the way that he’s talked to the American people and really communicated [because a "communication" failure sounds so much better than a policy failure], particularly, I think, with the business community [which the Center for American Progress is more than happy to bash],” Podesta said Tuesday morning on MSNBC.
“You’ll see, I think, at least a willingness to kind of listen to ideas to move forward with people,” he added. “And you know, I think that the president does level with people [well, except for the sort of howlers like "ObamaCare will save money"]. He’s pretty straightforward about what he thinks works, what he thinks doesn’t [it's just that his judgment is so off-kilter, I guess].” …
“After the election, there’s no question … that the public mood, the public spirit is asking for a conversation around kitchen tables and boardrooms about how the country can get together to move forward,” Podesta said.
Didn’t Obama run on this promise – in 2008? Well, now he really means it, we are told. Maybe Podesta, who I don’t recall opposing any part of Obama’s agenda, is telling the Obami they won’t have any choice but to listen to voters. Or maybe Podesta is jockeying for Rahm Emanuel’s job, given that he’s assuring the president that all he needs is a better “message” and some platitudes.
Nevertheless, if you have one of the party’s most influential liberals saying it’s time for a makeover of more than the furniture in the White House, then it’s time for Democrats to start planning ahead for the electoral avalanche.
In a fascinating interview with Robert Costa, Democratic pollster and analyst Pat Caddell zeroes in on the Democrats’ impending doom (“the general outcome is baked”) and on Obama’s failure to live up to expectations (“The killer in American politics is disappointment. When you are elected on expectations, and you fail to meet them, your decline steepens”). But his most cogent analysis focuses on Obama’s base. He writes:
The people who own the party — George Soros, the Center for American Progress, the public-employee union bosses, rich folks flying private jets to “ideas festivals” in Aspen — they’re Obama’s base.
Yowser. He omitted only the liberal media, but I suppose they too — along with young people, old people, Hispanics, working- and middle-class whites, and even 42 percent of Jews — have grown disillusioned as well.
It is debatable whether the puny base is the result of Obama’s extreme agenda or the reason it is so extreme. If you believe the former, Obama has traveled so far left that he’s lost virtually everyone else in the Democratic coalition and turned off independents as well. But if you follow Caddell’s implication (that this is the group that “owns” the party), Obama takes these steps because that’s what his core constituency wants. Why persist in supporting the repeal of the Bush tax cuts? These groups wouldn’t accept anything less. Why install controversial figures by recess appointment (e.g. Craig Becker, Donald Berwick)? Well, these are the sorts of appointees that give his “base” reassurance. Why continue to push climate change regulation and anti-business legislation in the midst of a recession? You got it — give the base what it wants.
Both phenomena are likely at work. Obama is inclined to go left. He thereby withers his base, increasing the clout of these slivers of the electorate. And he feels compelled to keep them happy, given that his political standing is so fragile.
Obama now is truly in a tough spot, one of his own making, I will grant you. Does he reposition to try to recapture his lost supporters, or stick with the grab bag of interest groups that encourage his most destructive inclinations? Hard to say. At this point, I would wager that not even Obama or his closest advisers have figured out what to do.
It is not that we didn’t know this before, but reading the New York Times – surely designed to be as favorable toward Obama as the reporter could possibly manage — one is left slack-jawed. Obama doesn’t like being commander in chief, isn’t good at it, and has relied on one tutor, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, who is leaving next year. The report should be read in full. But a few low-lights:
A year and a half into his presidency, Mr. Obama appears to be a reluctant warrior. Even as he draws down troops in Iraq, he has been abundantly willing to use force to advance national interests, tripling forces in Afghanistan, authorizing secret operations in Yemen and Somalia, and escalating drone strikes in Pakistan. But advisers said he did not see himself as a war president in the way his predecessor did. His speech on Tuesday is notable because he talks in public about the wars only sporadically, determined not to let them define his presidency.
A former adviser to the president, who like others insisted on anonymity in order to discuss the situation candidly, said that Mr. Obama’s relationship with the military was ‘troubled’ and that he ‘doesn’t have a handle on it.’ …
Reliant on Mr. Gates, Mr. Obama has made limited efforts to know his service chiefs or top commanders, and has visited the Pentagon only once, not counting a Sept. 11 commemoration. He ended Mr. Bush’s practice of weekly videoconferences with commanders, preferring to work through the chain of command and wary, aides said, of being drawn into managing the wars. …
Last December, the president gave the military 30,000 more troops, but also a ticking clock. … “He didn’t understand or grasp the military culture,” said Lawrence J. Korb, a former Pentagon official at the liberal Center for American Progress. “He got over that particular quandary and put them back in the box by saying, ‘O.K., I’m giving you 18 months.’ ”
As we all suspected, he compromised our Afghanistan war strategy for the sake of domestic politics:
One adviser at the time said Mr. Obama calculated that an open-ended commitment would undermine the rest of his agenda. “Our Afghan policy was focused as much as anything on domestic politics,” the adviser said. “He would not risk losing the moderate to centrist Democrats in the middle of health insurance reform and he viewed that legislation as the make-or-break legislation for his administration.”
He simply doesn’t want to do the things that are expected of the commander in chief, and the military’s ire is profound:
The schisms among his team, though, are born in part out of uncertainty about his true commitment. His reticence to talk much publicly about the wars may owe to the political costs of alienating his base as well as the demands of other issues. Senior Pentagon and military officials said they understood that he presided over a troubled economy, but noted that he was not losing 30 American soldiers a month on Wall Street. …
“From an image point of view, he doesn’t seem to embrace it, almost like you have to drag him into doing it,” said Peter D. Feaver, a Bush adviser with military contacts. “There’s deep uncertainty and perhaps doubt in the military about his commitment to see the wars through to a successful conclusion.”
This was a man not only unprepared to be president but disposed to shirk the most important aspect of the job. It is a measure of his hubris and stubbornness that he has refused to, as Feaver succinctly puts it, “embrace” the role, that is, to commit in word and deed his full attention and effort to leading the country in war. He doesn’t want to be a wartime president? Well, sorry — he is.
The only comfort one can draw from this appalling portrait is that perhaps, just perhaps, after November, when his dream of transforming America is crushed by an electoral blow-back, he will belatedly do his job.
It seems the Democrats inside the Beltway, some of them anyway, are nervous. The economy is tanking, the recovery isn’t happening, and they are going to get run out of town by the voters. So what was an election-season stunt is now a “no, nevermind.” The Washington Post reports:
With the economy rapidly weakening, some senior Democrats are having second thoughts about raising taxes on the nation’s wealthiest families and are pressing party leaders to consider extending the full array of Bush administration tax cuts, at least through next year.
This rethinking comes barely a month after Democrats trumpeted plans to stage a high-stakes battle over taxes in the final weeks before the November congressional elections.
It seems they’ve discovered that raising taxes in a hobbled economy is a bad idea. (“A growing cadre of Democrats – alarmed by evidence that the recovery is losing steam and fearful of wounding conservative Democrats in a tough election year – are advocating a plan that would permanently extend tax cuts benefiting the middle class while renewing breaks for the wealthy through 2011, senior Democratic aides said.”) The left is going bonkers at the possibility that the Democratic Party would concede a central philosophical point and give up a last-minute gambit to save legislators’ skins. They are worried about the debt all of the sudden:
In an op-ed this week in the Financial Times, John Podesta of the Center for American Progress and Robert Greenstein of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, argued that extending the high-income tax breaks even temporarily would send a bad signal to investors worried about rising U.S. debt.
No concern about the debt while Obama was on a spending spree. And didn’t they argue the stimulus was too small? Oh, consistency and the hobgoblin of little minds, and all that.
Not to fear, dear leftists, the president is with you: “Obama administration officials and the Democratic leaders of the House and Senate, meanwhile, say they are determined to stay the course and still hoping to spend September and October on a debate that forces Republicans to defend expensive tax breaks for a tiny, wealthy minority.” Economic literacy has not been their strong suit, and neither has winning elections.
Jonathan Rauch has written an interesting cover story in the National Journal on “The Tea Party Paradox.” He argues that the country has indeed moved to the right but it’s not clear whether this is happening in a way that helps the GOP in the long run (he does say it will help Republicans in the short term, for sure).
In his article, Rauch quotes from something I recently wrote, in which I pointed to opinion polls showing that a growing percentage of Americans regard the Democrats as too liberal. “What’s happening, in other words, is that an increasing number of Americans are becoming more conservative,” I wrote. “This is more fallout from the Age of Obama. Mr. Obama is, for the GOP, the gift that keeps on giving.”
Then comes this:
Wrong, replies Ruy Teixeira, a Democratic-leaning political analyst and a senior fellow with the liberal Center for American Progress. “It’s not Obama that’s the gift that keeps on giving, it’s the economy that’s the gift that keeps on giving,” he said in a recent interview. “I think it’s a judgment on how things are going in the country. I don’t think it’s a judgment to take the country in a conservative direction.”
Teixeira is repeating an argument some of the New Republic’s bloggers make ad nauseam: the problem isn’t Obama; it’s the economy. If Obama had a roaring economy, he’d be far more popular than he is. Obama’s policies are not to blame; the conditions of the country are. To which one could respond: if during the presidency of Jimmy Carter, the inflation and interest rates had been 2 percent instead of topping 18 percent, Carter would have been more popular too. But they weren’t, and he wasn’t. Mr. Carter was judged a failure and jettisoned from office after a single term because people believed the conditions of the country were due, in large measure, to his performance as president.
Teixeira’s argument can work when a president has been in office for one month; it’s harder to pull off when he’s been in office for more than 18 months. And if you read public-opinion polls carefully, what you will find isn’t simply that people are upset by the state of the economy; they are also troubled by Obama’s response to the economy. They believe he’s pursuing policies that are making things worse, not better. That is why Obama’s poll ratings are sinking and why his party is in danger of losing both the House and the Senate come November. And in response to Obamaism, the nation is, in significant respects, moving in a more conservative direction.
This trend is not inexorable. If liberals are correct and the policies that Obama is pursing are wise and necessary, then we will see their manifestation: unemployment figures will tumble, the deficit will shrink, the economy will come roaring back — and Obama will sail to victory in 2012. The country will also give liberalism a second look. But if conservatives are correct and the policies Obama is pursuing are misguided, then we will see that manifest itself, too. And Obama and his party will continue to pay a very heavy price for this.
It’s true that many people ascribe too much influence to the president when it comes to the economy. On the other hand, administration policies matter quite a lot — and when the Obama administration makes grand, sweeping claims for its economic policies and insists the stimulus package will keep unemployment below 8 percent when it ends up topping 10 percent, the public is right to hold the White House responsible.
American voters tend to be pretty fair and reasonable. They don’t expect the president to be a magician — but they do insist on progress, on results, and on accountability. Obama is no exception. These days, liberals comfort themselves by telling each other that in his second year as president, Ronald Reagan was unpopular too, and Obama is really another Reagan. Conservatives hear this comparison and chuckle; Obama is more nearly the antithesis of Reagan — they point out — and the policies Obama is pursuing will not meet with nearly the same success as Reagan’s did.
Time will tell who is right and who is wrong. At this stage, conservatives certainly have the better of the argument, though this political drama has several more acts to play out. But here’s one thing you can be sure of: if unemployment is still high, if the deficit and debt are still exploding, and if the economy is still struggling in 2011 and 2012, then the Teixeira/TNR effort to create miles of distance between Obama and the economic conditions of the country will fail. Appeals to sophisticated political-science models and pleas for more time and understanding will fail. Lashing out at critics and Bush won’t work. And if dogmatic liberals continue to insist, as they have in the past, that “the widespread conclusion that Obama is losing popularity because he’s too liberal … is totally unpersuasive,” they will be seen as increasingly detached from reality.
The public will hold the president accountable for his actions. That is what Obama’s increasingly desperate courtiers are most afraid of.
Tucker Carlson at the Daily Caller is sitting in the catbird’s seat. He has reams of JournoList e-mails revealing how vicious the blogospheric left is. They wish their opponents dead (Rush Limbaugh). Their contempt for conservatives runneth over. And they plainly are all on the same “team” — plotting, delegating, and coordinating their cheerleading for the Obami, as well as attacks on Obama’s opponents. Moreover, we now have a great mystery, a sort of D.C. parlor game: what else does Carlson have?
“Journalists” — what do we call such people (undercover activists)? — and their editors are waiting for shoes to drop. A case in point: Ben Smith ran a story on the potential involvement of Politico reporters. I then spotted in one of the Daily Caller’s releases the name Laura Rozen, who covers foreign policy for Politico. Her use of a blind quote to relate an accusation of “dual loyalty” against Dennis Ross was widely criticized in a range of Jewish and conservative publications.
A sample via Daily Caller:
ALYSSA ROSENBERG, GOVERNMENT EXECUTIVE: I’ve gotta be all non-partisan on GovExec, so I hope you’ll all indulge me a minute here. On Monday night in Manassas, the band warming up the crowd before Obama arrived played “I Need You To Survive.” I think the core lyrics are pretty good statement of principles for progressives, especially going forward from a victory like this one:
It is his will, that every need be supplied.
You are important to me, I need you to survive.
You are important to me, I need you to survive.
I pray for you, You pray for me.
I love you, I need you to survive.
I won’t harm you with words from my mouth.
I love you, I need you to survive.
It is his will, that every need be supplied.
You are important to me, I need you to survive.
A lot of horribly ugly stuff got repudiated tonight. But it doesn’t end here. We need to keep making the case to the folks who disagreed with us, the folks who booed McCain during his concession speech tonight.
MATT DUSS, CENTER FOR AMERICAN PROGRESS: [Mccain aide] Randy Scheunemann Fired [last week]
LAURA ROZEN, MOTHER JONES (NOW POLITICO): Can you imagine if these bozos had won?
LAURA ROZEN: People we no longer have to listen to: would it be unwise to start a thread of people we are grateful we no longer have to listen to? If not, I’ll start off: Michael Rubin.
MICHAEL COHEN, NEW AMERICA FOUNDATION: Mark Penn and Bob Shrum. Anyone who uses the expression “Real America.” We should send there ass to Gitmo!
JESSE TAYLOR, PANDAGON.NET: Michael Barone? Please?
LAURA ROZEN: Karl Rove, Newt Gingrich (afraid it’s not true), Drill Here Drill Now, And David Addington, John Yoo, we’ll see you in court?
I e-mailed Ben and asked if Rozen didn’t “count” because these comments predated her employment by Politico. He promptly answered that he hadn’t seen this particular e-mail and would have included it and asked his editor about it if he had. He directed me to Jim VanderHei, who asked if I had seen any Rozen JournoList comments after she was hired by Politico. I answered that we were all dealing with what Daily Caller was doling out. He provided this explanation of Politico’s approach to this issue:
We have an unmistakably clear rule that anyone hired here check their ideology at the door. That means no political contributions or activism — and no partisan comments on air, on Twitter, on Facebook, in print, anywhere. We recognize the people we hire are not dull, blank slates — and that everyone has personal opinions. What we demand is that those opinions remain personal (and private) once hired — and that they fully understand we are a nonpartisan media outlet. We have hired some people with partisan backgrounds and had great success in getting them to go through ideological detox and become straight news reporters. The Laura Rozen emails the Daily Caller reported on pre-dated her work here. I have not seen any emails she wrote as a POLITICO employee that trouble me.
This raises at least two issues. First, it seems that the JournoList participants now have a very high standard of objectivity to maintain, especially if they now want to act as real reporters. Are they really checking their ideology at the door, or are they tipping the scales? The problem with baring one’s partisan views — especially ones so personally vindictive — is that it creates a cloud of doubt about everything you write. Second, VandeHei and every other editor with a JournoList participant is now waiting to see if there are any other e-mails that “trouble” them. If more pop up, will heads roll?
I use Rozen as an example, but the problem is far wider. The Washington Post has been mute. What if anything do they do about Ezra Klein? (Maybe if they were aware of his hyper-nasty attacks on the right, the Post editors wouldn’t have taken his recommendation on Dave Weigel.) The JournoList crowd have done a bang-up job of undermining not only their own credibility but also that of their employers. (Even those who are opinion writers are revealed not to be principled purveyors of ideas but meanspirited attack dogs.) How widespread the damage is has yet to be determined.
The Obami admit Israel is a strategic asset.
The UN isn’t likely to admit this: “The Turkish charity that led the flotilla involved in a deadly Israeli raid has extensive connections with Turkey’s political elite, and the group’s efforts to challenge Israel’s blockade of Gaza received support at the top levels of the governing party, Turkish diplomats and government officials said.” It’s almost as though Israel were set up by an Islamic partnership between Iran, Turkey, and Hamas. Someone should set up an investigation to look into that.
A liberal think tank admits that the Bart Stupak-inspired executive order on abortion funding was a sham. Jessica Arons of Center for American Progress ”explains that the law and the president’s executive order do not prohibit federal funding for abortion in the pre-existing condition insurance plans (PCIPs).”
You have to admit that Obama has transformed the political landscape. Patty Murray is now in trouble: “Washington’s Senate race looks increasingly like a referendum on incumbent Democrat Patty Murray with two Republican candidates edging past her this month. A new Rasmussen Reports telephone survey of Likely Voters in Washington State finds Republican hopefuls Dino Rossi and Clint Didier both earning 48% support in match-ups with Murray. She, in turn, picks up 45% of the vote against the two GOP challengers.”
Obama admits the election is a referendum on him. “President Obama said in an interview Friday that voters should hold him accountable for the struggling economy, but that his policies are restoring it to health.” I wonder whether he still gives himself a B+.
Tom Jensen of Democratic Public Policy Polling admits that Obama’s numbers are terrible: “He trails Mitt Romney 46-43, Mike Huckabee 47-45, Newt Gingrich 46-45, and is even tied with Sarah Palin at 46. … Obviously 2012 is a long ways off and the immediate relevance of these numbers is limited. It’s possible we’ll look back on polls like this 28 months from now after Obama’s been reelected and laugh. But it’s also possible that we’ll look back on the summer of 2010 after he’s been defeated and see it as the time when his prospects for reelection really took a turn for the worse.”
I admit I can’t get worked up about presidential vacations. If Obama were in the Oval Office more, things might be worse.
Unlike the Washington Post reporter who assured us that the U.S. had been vindicated on its approach to Sudan, the AP has figured out what’s going on:
The words of the Obama administration were unequivocal: Sudan must do more to fight terror and improve human rights. If it did, it would be rewarded. If not, it would be punished.
Nine months later, problems with Sudan have grown worse. Yet the administration has not clamped down. If anything, it has made small conciliatory gestures.
Activists say the backtracking sends a message that the United States is not serious about confronting Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir, whom an international court charged with genocide on Monday.
The report highlights that there has never been any real method of measuring whether our “engagement” is working, despite the promise by UN Ambassador Susan Rice that there would be “significant consequences for parties that backslide or simply stand still.” In practice, the Obami have done nothing:
“There will be no rewards for the status quo, no incentives without concrete and tangible progress,” said the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Susan Rice. “There will be significant consequences for parties that backslide or simply stand still. All parties will be held to account.”
Since then, there has been backsliding, as the administration has acknowledged. It issued a statement Friday, together with Norway and the United Kingdom, criticizing Sudan for worsening human rights violations throughout the country and for breaking cease-fires in Darfur, noting its use of aerial bombardment and the deployment of local militias.
Yet the U.S. has not punished Sudan. Instead, it has offered small incentives. The State Department recently expanded visa services for Sudanese citizens in its embassy in Khartoum. It also sent a low-level representative to al-Bashir’s inauguration.
Administration officials say Sudan is regularly discussed at high-level meetings. Officials say they use indicators to measure progress in Sudan, but have declined to say what those indicators are. Even a top lawmaker dealing with Africa issues, Rep. Donald Payne, D-N.J., said he has difficulty getting information.
“I haven’t heard what the benchmarks are or what specifically will be done if they are not met,” said Payne, chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Africa subcommittee.
The White House’s top Africa policy adviser, Michelle Gavin, said the administration never intended to have specific metrics that would automatically prompt a reaction. Instead, the White House would use the indicators to continually reassess its policy.
But there has been no reassessment. I don’t often agree with the Center for American Progress, but the head of its anti-genocide program is spot on when he concludes that giving Sudan a “pass” was a mistake:
“If the parties, particularly the ruling party, do not understand that there will be real consequences for a return to war, and real benefits for peace in the country, then the U.S. has lost its biggest point of influence in the effort to avert the worst-case scenario.”
In other words, whether by design or execution, the Obama policy has been a complete failure. Sounds like the Middle East.
Yesterday’s double terrorist bombing in Kampala is both a heart wrenching tragedy and a clarifying moment. Why would Islamists target an international sporting event in Uganda? After all, we’ve been told by our most thoughtful analysts and academics that terrorism is a response to insensitive Western policy. Earlier in the same day that bombs killed scores of soccer fans, the Center for American Progress’s Larry Korb told the Washington Times, “Once you attach a religious thing, you’re basically saying somehow or other this [terrorism] is caused by the religion. Most Muslims are not that way.” Surely there is a rational explanation for yesterday’s attack that avoids our “attaching a religious thing” to it, right?
“Uganda is a major infidel country supporting the so-called government of Somalia,” said Sheikh Yusuf Isse of the Islamist al-Shabaab group. “We know Uganda is against Islam and so we are very happy at what has happened in Kampala. That is the best news we ever heard.”
He means to tell us that the secular man-made-disaster organization al-Shabaab allegedly killed innocent sports fans because Uganda is an infidel country? This sounds an awful lot like George W. Bush’s claim that we were attacked on September 11 because of our defining freedoms. And every enlightened Westerner knows that’s just a bunch of simplistic jingoism, right?
Well, you tell me what’s more simplistic and obtuse: a nuanced policy which maintains, as Bush put it, “terrorists practice a fringe form of Islamic extremism that has been rejected by Muslim scholars and the vast majority of Muslim clerics,” or a White House-directed terrorism policy whereby the word “Islam” is literally banned for fear of being mean to those who brag of killing infidels.
Which attitude speaks more to a sense of decadent Western denial: one which acknowledges the very reasons being given by Islamists for the bombing of two bars in Africa or one in which America is assumed to earn its Islamist enemies ultimately because of its Israel policies?
The cutest part of Barack Obama’s no-Islam policy is that it’s reversed in every area outside of terrorism. NASA now exists to point out Islamic achievements. Iran is to be talked out of a nuclear weapon specifically because of the soundness of its great Islamic heritage. Obama holds an “Entrepreneurship Summit” in Washington in order to “bring business and social entrepreneurs from Muslim-majority countries to the United States and send their American counterparts to learn from your countries.”
What a great turn it would be if our president could actually learn what Islamists are trying so hard to teach us.
Obama’s decision to send 1,200 National Guard troops to patrol the border is regarded as insufficient by conservatives and even the mainstream media. But it’s also alienating his liberal base, the New York Times explains, as immigration advocates are peeved:
[Obama] has confounded allies who say he is squandering his chance to address it in a comprehensive way. …
They said that in focusing first on border security, Mr. Obama might be giving up his best leverage for winning approval of broader but more politically contentious steps to address the status of the millions of immigrants already in the United States illegally, and the needs of employers who rely on their labor.
“I’m trying to reconcile the stated belief of this president when he was a candidate, what he has said publicly — as recently as a naturalization ceremony last month — and what his actions are,” said Angela Kelley, vice president for immigration policy at the Center for American Progress, a left-leaning organization that is a close ally of the Obama administration. “I think there’s a big gap there.”
She shouldn’t spend much time on that endeavor. There’s a very long list of broken campaign promises, she must know. Moreover, the fact that this interest in immigration is only coming up now should clue Kelley in to the president’s underwhelming interest in fighting a touchy legislative battle on this issue. (“Since the beginning of his presidency, Mr. Obama has been dogged by questions about his commitment to immigration legislation that would provide a path to citizenship for the estimated 12 million people who are living in this country without legal documentation.”)
This is not unlike the ObamaCare battle. He managed to infuriate conservatives and independents and also turn off many on the left who were only interested in reform if they got the public option. And it’s not all that different from his dilemma on Israel. He bashed Israel to the delight of Israel’s Arab neighbors while freaking out his Jewish supporters, whom he now must “charm.” The result is that many Jews still don’t trust him, and he’s also disappointing his Palestinian friends.
It’s quite a knack to alienate voters along the entire political spectrum. But Obama is showing how it can be done. It starts with running as a blank slate and allowing opposing groups to believe the president will be “with them.” Add in lots of insincere rhetoric, a lack of governing skills, and a tone deafness to the electorate, and you have a president whose approval ratings continue to plunge.
John Norris of the Center for American Progress is irate with Obama. Yes, yes, all that “shouting about democracy from the rooftops à la George W. Bush was not effective,” he insists. But still. He’s plainly disgusted with the latest example of Obama’s indifference to human rights and democracy promotion, specifically his handling of the fraudulent elections in Sudan. He explains that they were a joke from the start given the regime’s refusal to implement an agreement calling for free and fair elections. He continues:
For veteran Sudan watchers, none of this comes as much of a shock. Analysts looking for democratic upsides have had to console themselves with the few examples in which opposition groups have gained a toehold of political space to publicly question the regime. What is more surprising, however, has been the muddled and squeamish posture of U.S. President Barack Obama’s administration toward Sudan’s election — one that underscores a larger, ongoing struggle to place democracy promotion effectively within the context of U.S. foreign policy more broadly.
His disdain for the president’s envoy is apparent:
Obama’s special envoy for Sudan, retired Maj. Gen. J. Scott Gration, no stranger to gaffes, triggered his most recent bout of eye-rolling in both Sudan and Washington when he emerged from a meeting with the National Election Commission 11 days ago and declared that the commission’s members had given him “confidence that the elections will start on time and they would be as free and as fair as possible.” The comments were unfortunate enough by themselves, but their timing also conspired against them; Gration spoke just as increasing numbers of opposition parties and candidates were either boycotting the election completely or pulling out of the presidential contest — as did the largest party in South Sudan — because the election was transparently neither free nor fair.
Why the rose-colored glasses from the special envoy? Gration is clearly eager to view this election as a necessary benchmark, a box to check, on the road to the broader issue of independence for South Sudan, which will be determined in a January 2011 referendum. Any suggestion that Sudan’s election was flawed could provoke Bashir to try to disrupt the January referendum, Gration fears, and indeed, Bashir has made threats to this effect. Still, the imperatives of his short-term diplomacy seemed to be at odds with the long-term goal of transforming Sudan into a freer and more democratic place.
Well, Norris and others on the Left are learning the hard way: the administration would simply rather not be in the business of rocking the boats of despots. He cheerily suggests, “One hopes that this administration has learned from its initial stumbles. Obama will have an important opportunity to get it right when he offers his first public comments on Sudan’s election in the days to come.” But the administration rarely thinks it has stumbled — after all, the Gray Lady tells the Obami what a swell job they are doing.
Evan Bayh’s departure is unmistakably rotten news for Democrats. As the Washington Post report puts it:
Bayh dealt a triple blow to his Democratic Party and to President Obama with his announcement Monday that he is sick of the partisanship in Washington and will not seek a third term. The decision put his seat — and, some forecasters said, possibly his party’s Senate majority — in jeopardy, sent a discomforting message to already demoralized Democrats about this year’s political climate and reminded voters that Obama has yet to usher in the post-partisan era, a major theme of his 2008 campaign.
But liberals can’t accept the underlying message — that Obama and the Democratic leadership have failed to govern and are chasing moderates out of the party. So the battle is on to make this about the “system” or “partisanship” — floating and amorphous defects untraceable to Obama or any particular Democratic leader. Then there are the Republicans — the Party of No. The Wall Street Journal‘s editors sum up the spin:
Democrats have responded by blaming “obstructionist” Republicans, who lack the votes to block anything by themselves; or a failure to communicate the right message, though President Obama is a master communicator; or even Madison’s framework of checks and balances, though this system has worked better than all others for some 225 years.
John Podesta, who ran Mr. Obama’s transition and heads the Center for American Progress that has supplied the Administration’s ideas, summed up the liberal-media mood last week when he told the Financial Times that American governance now “sucks.” If you can’t blame your own ideas, blame the system.
Ruth Marcus is a case in point, whining, “The Senate, with its endless holds and 60-vote points of order, may be the epitome of a place that knows neither victory nor defeat.” She talks to Bayh, who obliges with a generic slam on the system: “The way Congress is working right now, I decided I could make a better contribution to my state and country on a smaller stage. … There are some ideologues in the Senate. There are some staunch partisans. The vast majority are good, decent people who are trapped in a system that does not let that goodness and decency translate itself into legislative accomplishments.”
So no one is responsible, or everyone is. And it’s all a generic downer. But is this right? It seems that the essence of leadership — what Obama is supposed to be providing — is to forge an agenda, corral Congress, and get stuff done. All this smacks of Obama’s “It is hard” complaint about the Middle East. Well, yes, but he also isn’t up for the job, based on what we’ve seen.
And then there’s the substance of what Congress has been doing for the past year. It’s been pursuing a far-Left agenda in the face of polling and election returns showing that the public disapproves, and strongly so, of its course. Congress then hit the wall when Massachusetts sent Scott Brown to the Senate. So now it’s stymied — no idea what to do. Gridlock is proclaimed. Well, why not head for the Center, pass that bipartisan jobs bill and a limited list of health-care reforms? Oh, can’t do that, because Reid-Obama-Pelosi won’t allow it. This then is an error of overreach and inept leadership by three Democrats who can’t shed their ideological rigidity. The system hasn’t failed — liberal rule has been repudiated. There’s a difference.
But fine. If liberals admit failure and claim that the country is ungovernable, then voters can choose another set of lawmakers and another direction. It only works, you see, to claim that the system is a mess when you don’t control everything. Otherwise, it’s an admission of incompetence.
You can’t say Obama isn’t bringing people together. The Obami’s favorite leftist think tank, the Center for American Progress, says that Obama’s gambit to close Guantanamo was characterized by “a series of mistakes and missteps by his administration that will delay the prison’s closure for months.” The center chides the administration for not really thinking things through. Not enough staff, no game plan once the closure policy was announced, and no push-back against the “fear-mongering” (that would be the opposition of the vast majority of the American people to moving terrorists to U.S. soil). And naturally, our allies didn’t want to help out:
“Many American allies are willing to help the United States and accept detainees, but quite reasonably expected the United States to share in the responsibility,” [Center scholar Ken] Gude wrote. “It is a hard sell for America’s allies to tell their citizens that they are accepting Guantanamo detainees even though the U.S. Congress feels that they are too dangerous for release in America.”
The center thinks closing Guantanamo is a grand idea, just ineptly executed. So the suggestion is to move back the deadline (no problem for an administration that doesn’t take deadlines all that seriously, at least when dealing with the Iranian mullahs), send the detainees to federal court, and send those convicted to SuperMax prisons or Bagram in Afghanistan (which perhaps can duplicate at great expense the exact facilities already in place at Guantanamo). Well, the prescription may not be acceptable to the American people or to Congress, but they got one thing right: Guantanamo isn’t closing anytime soon.
Once again the smart set, the team of geniuses, proved to be startlingly inept. Filled with hubris and moral righteousness, Obama announced a policy with no political support and no game plan for implementation. The public and Congress balked, but their concerns were given the back of the hand. False choices between our values and national security, the Obami sniffed. As with its failed effort at Iranian engagement and its disastrous approach to the Middle East “peace process,” the administration’s ill-conceived Guantanamo scheme has faltered. It seems that campaign one-liners are no substitute for good governance.