Commentary Magazine


Topic: Charles Krauthammer

Flotsam and Jetsam

Don’t be president, then. “Obama miffed by questions on U.S.”

Don’t think Dems fail to grasp how toxic ObamaCare is. “A leading Senate Democrat vowed Friday to introduce legislation killing a part of the new healthcare reform law that imposes new tax-filing requirements on small businesses. Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.), chairman of the Finance Committee and a leading architect of the reform law, said a provision requiring businesses to report more purchases to the IRS will impose undue paperwork burdens on companies amid an economic downturn when they can least afford it.”

Don’t get your hopes up. “All the president has to do is abandon some foolish ideological presuppositions, get down to work, and stop fishing for compliments. If he did so, he’d end up getting genuine compliments—from us and, we dare say, from the American people. And then his self-respect would have a firmer ground than vanity.”

Don’t underestimate your impact, Nancy. “‘We didn’t lose the election because of me,’ Ms. Pelosi told National Public Radio in an interview that aired Friday morning.” No wonder Republicans are “giddy.”

Don’t believe that Obama learned anything from his rebuffs in Copenhagen (on global warming and the Olympics). Charles Krauthammer nails it: “Whenever a president walks into a room with another head of state and he walks out empty-handed — he’s got a failure on his hands. And this was self-inflicted. With Obama it’s now becoming a ritual. It’s a combination of incompetence,  inexperience, and arrogance. He was handed a treaty by the Bush administration. It was done. But he wanted to improve on it. And instead, so far, he’s got nothing. … And this is a pattern with Obama. He thinks he can reinvent the world. With Iran, he decides he has a silver tongue, he’ll sweet-talk ’em into a deal. He gets humiliated over and over again. With the Russians he does a reset, he gives up missile defense, he gets nothing.”

Don’t you wish the Obami would stop giving excuses that make them sound even more incompetent? “The U.S. position on settlements has not officially changed, [National Security Council's Dan] Shapiro said. The United States still believes that the Israeli settlement moratorium should be extended, but that Palestinians should stay in peace talks even if it is not. He said that President Obama — who said Monday that Israeli settlement construction was ‘never helpful’ to peace talks Israel announced further construction plans in East Jerusalem — wasn’t trying to publicly criticize Netanyahu with his remarks. He simply answered a question put to him in a direct way, said Shapiro.” But not publicly criticize Bibi? They are frightfully inept — or disingenuous.

Don’t you miss smart diplomacy? “President Obama’s failure to conclude the Korea-United States Free Trade Agreement (KORUS) is a disaster. It reveals a stunning level of ineptitude and seriously undermines America’s leadership in the global economy. The implications extend far beyond selling Buicks in Busan. … The debacle in Seoul is a slap in the face of a critical U.S. ally in a critical region, and it will cast doubt on U.S. trade promises in other negotiations elsewhere. But if an American president loses his credibility, the damage spreads beyond the narrow confines of economic deals and Northeast Asia.”

Don’t be shocked. CNN’s guest roster skews left.

Don’t let your family pet do this at home. “A 150-pound mountain lion was no match for a squirrel-chasing terrier on a farm in eastern South Dakota. Jack the Jack Russell weighs only 17 pounds, and yet he managed to trap the cougar up a tree on Tuesday. Jack’s owner, Chad Strenge, told The Argus Leader that the dog ‘trees cats all the time,’ and that the plucky terrier probably ‘figured it was just a cat.’”

Don’t be president, then. “Obama miffed by questions on U.S.”

Don’t think Dems fail to grasp how toxic ObamaCare is. “A leading Senate Democrat vowed Friday to introduce legislation killing a part of the new healthcare reform law that imposes new tax-filing requirements on small businesses. Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.), chairman of the Finance Committee and a leading architect of the reform law, said a provision requiring businesses to report more purchases to the IRS will impose undue paperwork burdens on companies amid an economic downturn when they can least afford it.”

Don’t get your hopes up. “All the president has to do is abandon some foolish ideological presuppositions, get down to work, and stop fishing for compliments. If he did so, he’d end up getting genuine compliments—from us and, we dare say, from the American people. And then his self-respect would have a firmer ground than vanity.”

Don’t underestimate your impact, Nancy. “‘We didn’t lose the election because of me,’ Ms. Pelosi told National Public Radio in an interview that aired Friday morning.” No wonder Republicans are “giddy.”

Don’t believe that Obama learned anything from his rebuffs in Copenhagen (on global warming and the Olympics). Charles Krauthammer nails it: “Whenever a president walks into a room with another head of state and he walks out empty-handed — he’s got a failure on his hands. And this was self-inflicted. With Obama it’s now becoming a ritual. It’s a combination of incompetence,  inexperience, and arrogance. He was handed a treaty by the Bush administration. It was done. But he wanted to improve on it. And instead, so far, he’s got nothing. … And this is a pattern with Obama. He thinks he can reinvent the world. With Iran, he decides he has a silver tongue, he’ll sweet-talk ’em into a deal. He gets humiliated over and over again. With the Russians he does a reset, he gives up missile defense, he gets nothing.”

Don’t you wish the Obami would stop giving excuses that make them sound even more incompetent? “The U.S. position on settlements has not officially changed, [National Security Council's Dan] Shapiro said. The United States still believes that the Israeli settlement moratorium should be extended, but that Palestinians should stay in peace talks even if it is not. He said that President Obama — who said Monday that Israeli settlement construction was ‘never helpful’ to peace talks Israel announced further construction plans in East Jerusalem — wasn’t trying to publicly criticize Netanyahu with his remarks. He simply answered a question put to him in a direct way, said Shapiro.” But not publicly criticize Bibi? They are frightfully inept — or disingenuous.

Don’t you miss smart diplomacy? “President Obama’s failure to conclude the Korea-United States Free Trade Agreement (KORUS) is a disaster. It reveals a stunning level of ineptitude and seriously undermines America’s leadership in the global economy. The implications extend far beyond selling Buicks in Busan. … The debacle in Seoul is a slap in the face of a critical U.S. ally in a critical region, and it will cast doubt on U.S. trade promises in other negotiations elsewhere. But if an American president loses his credibility, the damage spreads beyond the narrow confines of economic deals and Northeast Asia.”

Don’t be shocked. CNN’s guest roster skews left.

Don’t let your family pet do this at home. “A 150-pound mountain lion was no match for a squirrel-chasing terrier on a farm in eastern South Dakota. Jack the Jack Russell weighs only 17 pounds, and yet he managed to trap the cougar up a tree on Tuesday. Jack’s owner, Chad Strenge, told The Argus Leader that the dog ‘trees cats all the time,’ and that the plucky terrier probably ‘figured it was just a cat.’”

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Dems and GOP Both Have Their Issues

Democrats and Republicans each have their problems. On the Democratic side, the head of the party cannot fathom that there is a link between his statist agenda (and the red ink and anemic growth that accompanies it) and the voters’ insistence on dumping those responsible for the agenda’s passage. As the Washington Post‘s editors delicately put it:

[W]e would have preferred to see more in the way of a presidential acknowledgement that voters’ reaction might be more than simple misperception on their part or failure to communicate adequately on his. Certainly, Mr. Obama’s description of his new administration coping with a flurry of emergencies does not extend to his decision to launch an ambitious health-reform agenda in the midst of the maelstrom. Mr. Obama said voters were understandably disappointed that the change in atmosphere he had promised had failed to materialize. But the examples he cited — the “ugly mess” of getting health reform passed, or the fact that he, “in the rush to get things done, had to sign a bunch of bills that had earmarks in them” — involved hard-headed decisions on the part of administration strategists to do what it took to achieve their ends.

Or, if you prefer the bluntness of Charles Krauthammer:

The Republicans won by default. And their prize is nothing more than a two-year lease on the House. The building was available because the previous occupant had been evicted for arrogant misbehavior and, by rule, alas, the House cannot be left vacant.

The president, however, remains clueless. In his next-day news conference, he had the right demeanor — subdued, his closest approximation of humility — but was uncomprehending about what just happened. The “folks” are apparently just “frustrated” that “progress” is just too slow. Asked three times whether popular rejection of his policy agenda might have had something to do with the shellacking he took, he looked as if he’d been asked whether the sun had risen in the West. Why, no, he said.

In short, the Democrats are in denial, the worst culprits responsible for the leftist jag remain in the House (the lucky possessors of the Bluest districts one could gerrymander), and the country is in no mood to see them defend the Obama agenda that voters just rejected en masse. Read More

Democrats and Republicans each have their problems. On the Democratic side, the head of the party cannot fathom that there is a link between his statist agenda (and the red ink and anemic growth that accompanies it) and the voters’ insistence on dumping those responsible for the agenda’s passage. As the Washington Post‘s editors delicately put it:

[W]e would have preferred to see more in the way of a presidential acknowledgement that voters’ reaction might be more than simple misperception on their part or failure to communicate adequately on his. Certainly, Mr. Obama’s description of his new administration coping with a flurry of emergencies does not extend to his decision to launch an ambitious health-reform agenda in the midst of the maelstrom. Mr. Obama said voters were understandably disappointed that the change in atmosphere he had promised had failed to materialize. But the examples he cited — the “ugly mess” of getting health reform passed, or the fact that he, “in the rush to get things done, had to sign a bunch of bills that had earmarks in them” — involved hard-headed decisions on the part of administration strategists to do what it took to achieve their ends.

Or, if you prefer the bluntness of Charles Krauthammer:

The Republicans won by default. And their prize is nothing more than a two-year lease on the House. The building was available because the previous occupant had been evicted for arrogant misbehavior and, by rule, alas, the House cannot be left vacant.

The president, however, remains clueless. In his next-day news conference, he had the right demeanor — subdued, his closest approximation of humility — but was uncomprehending about what just happened. The “folks” are apparently just “frustrated” that “progress” is just too slow. Asked three times whether popular rejection of his policy agenda might have had something to do with the shellacking he took, he looked as if he’d been asked whether the sun had risen in the West. Why, no, he said.

In short, the Democrats are in denial, the worst culprits responsible for the leftist jag remain in the House (the lucky possessors of the Bluest districts one could gerrymander), and the country is in no mood to see them defend the Obama agenda that voters just rejected en masse.

As for the Republicans, their problem is in recognizing that two component parts of the GOP — the Tea Partiers and the establishment (i.e., professional pols) — are dependent on one another. It might satisfy some would-be leaders of the Tea Party contingent to attack Karl Rove or Ed Gillespie, but is that what building a governing majority is all about? The Tea Party brought energy, ideological firmness, and grassroots organization to a moribund Republican Party. But the Republican Party provided many of the most electable, sober conservatives (e.g., Rob Portman, Dan Coats, John Boozman) who can translate the Tea Party agenda into legislation. If the party had run only Sharron Angles and Christine O’Donnells, there would have been no “shellacking”; without the Tea Party, there would have been no unifying theme and no electoral wave to put those seasoned conservatives into office.

The GOP, therefore, could use some unifiers — namely those who understand that the name of the game is not to spend time poking their fingers in the eye of half of the conservative coalition. The challenge now is to devise a strategy that first stops the Obama onslaught and then offers a thoughtful conservative alternative. The GOP is badly in need of such unifying figures — both to navigate the next two years and to lead the party in 2012. Those who find it personally satisfying to bicker with their allies do damage to their cause — and ultimately their own career objectives.

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The Chronically Unserious Dana Milbank

Fox News has an unparalleled capacity to cause liberal journalists to say really stupid things. Take the case of the chronically unserious Dana Milbank. (Who can forget this moment?) In his Washington Post column, Milbank opens things this way:

John Boehner, Haley Barbour and other Republican leaders held a “results watch” at the Grand Hyatt in downtown Washington. For a true victory party, you had to go to Fox News.

At Rupert Murdoch’s cable network, the entity that birthed and nurtured the Tea Party movement, Election Day was the culmination of two years of hard work to bring down Barack Obama – and it was time for an on-air celebration of a job well done.

“That’s an earthquake,” exulted Fox’s own Sarah Palin, upon learning the not-unexpected news that Republicans would gain control of the House. “It’s a big darn deal.”

“It’s a comeuppance,” Fox News contributor (and Post columnist) Charles Krauthammer contributed.

“I have one word,” said Sean Hannity. “Historic.”

And Chris Wallace struggled for words. “A gigantic – not a wave election but a tidal wave election,” he envisioned.

This cheerleading on the final day of the 2010 election cycle was to be expected.

It was to be expected, and for a simple reason: what the commentators and reporters on Fox said is indisputable. Even President Obama, himself, referred to the results of the 2010 midterm election as a “shellacking.” And also Milbank’s former Washington Post colleague Howard Kurtz and Ben Smith and Jonathan Martin of Politico used the word “bloodbath” to describe the election. So were Obama, Kurtz, Smith, and Martin “cheerleading” as well? So long as they don’t appear on Fox, the answer seems to be no.

Milbank decided to compound his tendentiousness by willfully misleading readers. Mr. Milbank writes:

The victory party would have to focus on the 60-seat gain Fox projected for Republicans in the House – an enormous win, though not at the upper end of the forecasts. Fox commentator Karl Rove, pleading for “perspective,” said it still qualified as a “blowout evening.” To be fair and balanced, Fox brought in a nominal Democrat, pollster Doug Schoen. “This is a complete repudiation of the Democratic Party,” he proclaimed.

So which Democrats does Milbank leave off this list? How about Bob Beckel, Juan Williams, Kirsten Powers, Geraldo Ferraro, Joe Trippi, and Pat Caddell? Why would Milbank neglect to name any of these individuals? Because it would run counter to the narrative he’s trying to advance. Thomas Huxley referred to such things as “the slaying of a beautiful deduction by an ugly fact.”

The Washington Post publishes some of the finest columnists who have ever graced the pages of an American newspaper. But it also, alas, publishes Dana Milbank.

Fox News has an unparalleled capacity to cause liberal journalists to say really stupid things. Take the case of the chronically unserious Dana Milbank. (Who can forget this moment?) In his Washington Post column, Milbank opens things this way:

John Boehner, Haley Barbour and other Republican leaders held a “results watch” at the Grand Hyatt in downtown Washington. For a true victory party, you had to go to Fox News.

At Rupert Murdoch’s cable network, the entity that birthed and nurtured the Tea Party movement, Election Day was the culmination of two years of hard work to bring down Barack Obama – and it was time for an on-air celebration of a job well done.

“That’s an earthquake,” exulted Fox’s own Sarah Palin, upon learning the not-unexpected news that Republicans would gain control of the House. “It’s a big darn deal.”

“It’s a comeuppance,” Fox News contributor (and Post columnist) Charles Krauthammer contributed.

“I have one word,” said Sean Hannity. “Historic.”

And Chris Wallace struggled for words. “A gigantic – not a wave election but a tidal wave election,” he envisioned.

This cheerleading on the final day of the 2010 election cycle was to be expected.

It was to be expected, and for a simple reason: what the commentators and reporters on Fox said is indisputable. Even President Obama, himself, referred to the results of the 2010 midterm election as a “shellacking.” And also Milbank’s former Washington Post colleague Howard Kurtz and Ben Smith and Jonathan Martin of Politico used the word “bloodbath” to describe the election. So were Obama, Kurtz, Smith, and Martin “cheerleading” as well? So long as they don’t appear on Fox, the answer seems to be no.

Milbank decided to compound his tendentiousness by willfully misleading readers. Mr. Milbank writes:

The victory party would have to focus on the 60-seat gain Fox projected for Republicans in the House – an enormous win, though not at the upper end of the forecasts. Fox commentator Karl Rove, pleading for “perspective,” said it still qualified as a “blowout evening.” To be fair and balanced, Fox brought in a nominal Democrat, pollster Doug Schoen. “This is a complete repudiation of the Democratic Party,” he proclaimed.

So which Democrats does Milbank leave off this list? How about Bob Beckel, Juan Williams, Kirsten Powers, Geraldo Ferraro, Joe Trippi, and Pat Caddell? Why would Milbank neglect to name any of these individuals? Because it would run counter to the narrative he’s trying to advance. Thomas Huxley referred to such things as “the slaying of a beautiful deduction by an ugly fact.”

The Washington Post publishes some of the finest columnists who have ever graced the pages of an American newspaper. But it also, alas, publishes Dana Milbank.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Awkward. Charles Krauthammer vs. Tina Totenberg.

Unsurprising. “The knives are out for Christiane Amanpour at ABC News’ DC bureau.” The only people happy about NPR’s firing of Juan Williams are the ABC execs whose decision to put her in the This Week host chair is now a distant second in the “Top 10 dumbest news-division decisions.” (Parker-Spitzer on CNN is a close third.)

Stark. “POLITICO surveyed early voting through Saturday in 20 states, and in 14 of the 15 that have voter registration by party, the GOP’s early turnout percentage is running ahead of the party’s share of statewide voter registration — whether measured against 2006 or 2008, when President Barack Obama’s campaign led to a surge in Democratic voter registration. As a result, Republicans say they’re turning the tables on the Democratic dominance of early voting that paved the way for Obama’s victory in 2008 — and that independents’ lean toward the GOP this year will do the rest.”

Unbelievable, even for NPR. Bill Kristol on Fox News Sunday: “So much to dislike about NPR, it’s hard to know where to begin. For me, the CEO’s comment, I mean, the arrogance of it. Juan has worked at NPR for — how long? … And she, in a public forum, having had someone call you to fire you, not having had a meeting with you to discuss anything, says he should see a psychiatrist. I mean, that really is unbelievable.” Why isn’t anyone calling for her to be fired?

Pathetic. “The Democratic Senate candidate from West Virginia, Gov. Joe Manchin, says he didn’t understand key details of the health care reform legislation when he publicly endorsed it in March — an endorsement he has since withdrawn.”

Transparent. The new 2012 presidential contenders’ game is to run down figures like Karl Rove and leap to Christine O’Donnell’s defense to prove your Tea Party bona fides. Puleez. Is shilling for an unelectable candidate really going to convince voters of your own savvy judgment?

What?! Ari Berman of the Nation says a smaller, more leftist Democratic congressional caucus will help the party. This is the Newsweek theory of politics — we’ll have fewer supporters and be more successful!

Awkward. Charles Krauthammer vs. Tina Totenberg.

Unsurprising. “The knives are out for Christiane Amanpour at ABC News’ DC bureau.” The only people happy about NPR’s firing of Juan Williams are the ABC execs whose decision to put her in the This Week host chair is now a distant second in the “Top 10 dumbest news-division decisions.” (Parker-Spitzer on CNN is a close third.)

Stark. “POLITICO surveyed early voting through Saturday in 20 states, and in 14 of the 15 that have voter registration by party, the GOP’s early turnout percentage is running ahead of the party’s share of statewide voter registration — whether measured against 2006 or 2008, when President Barack Obama’s campaign led to a surge in Democratic voter registration. As a result, Republicans say they’re turning the tables on the Democratic dominance of early voting that paved the way for Obama’s victory in 2008 — and that independents’ lean toward the GOP this year will do the rest.”

Unbelievable, even for NPR. Bill Kristol on Fox News Sunday: “So much to dislike about NPR, it’s hard to know where to begin. For me, the CEO’s comment, I mean, the arrogance of it. Juan has worked at NPR for — how long? … And she, in a public forum, having had someone call you to fire you, not having had a meeting with you to discuss anything, says he should see a psychiatrist. I mean, that really is unbelievable.” Why isn’t anyone calling for her to be fired?

Pathetic. “The Democratic Senate candidate from West Virginia, Gov. Joe Manchin, says he didn’t understand key details of the health care reform legislation when he publicly endorsed it in March — an endorsement he has since withdrawn.”

Transparent. The new 2012 presidential contenders’ game is to run down figures like Karl Rove and leap to Christine O’Donnell’s defense to prove your Tea Party bona fides. Puleez. Is shilling for an unelectable candidate really going to convince voters of your own savvy judgment?

What?! Ari Berman of the Nation says a smaller, more leftist Democratic congressional caucus will help the party. This is the Newsweek theory of politics — we’ll have fewer supporters and be more successful!

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Liberal Feminists Freak Out

Charles Krauthammer spots one of the most important political developments of 2010:

The rise of the conservative woman. Sarah Palin’s influence is the most obvious manifestation of the trend. But the bigger story is the coming of age of a whole generation of smart, aggressive Republican women, from the staunchly conservative Nikki Haley (now leading the South Carolina governor’s race) and the stauncher-still Sharron Angle (neck-and-neck with Harry Reid in Nevada) to the more moderate California variety, where both Carly Fiorina (for Senate) and Meg Whitman (for governor) are within striking distance in a state highly blue and deeply green. And they are not only a force in themselves; they represent an immense constituency that establishment feminism forgot — or disdained.

And these women are threatening to decimate the professional gender grievants’ notion that “feminism” is coterminous with a liberal, statist, abortion-on-demand agenda. The reason, I would suggest, that the left went so nuts over Christine O’Donnell is not simply because she rendered a vulnerable seat safe for the Democrats or because she showed that Tea Party enthusiasts’ judgment is not infallible. It is because she provided solace to nervous liberal feminists  –”See, this wacky dame is what conservative women are all about.” Sarah Palin has proved to be politically astute, Sharron Angle had Harry Reid on the defensive in their debate, and Carly Fiorina is showing that a pro-lifer can be competitive in California; but not to fear — O’Donnell will discredit them all. Or so the theory went.

In fact, she’s done no damage to the GOP beyond her state’s borders and arguably has taken some of the heat off Angle and others. There is a whole new generation of conservative women who threaten to narrow the gender gap and to rob liberals of the argument that opposition to abortion is misogynistic. Liberals are right to be afraid: O’Donnell won’t even rate a footnote in history, but the influence of all the “Mama Grizzlies” will be with us for a long time.

Charles Krauthammer spots one of the most important political developments of 2010:

The rise of the conservative woman. Sarah Palin’s influence is the most obvious manifestation of the trend. But the bigger story is the coming of age of a whole generation of smart, aggressive Republican women, from the staunchly conservative Nikki Haley (now leading the South Carolina governor’s race) and the stauncher-still Sharron Angle (neck-and-neck with Harry Reid in Nevada) to the more moderate California variety, where both Carly Fiorina (for Senate) and Meg Whitman (for governor) are within striking distance in a state highly blue and deeply green. And they are not only a force in themselves; they represent an immense constituency that establishment feminism forgot — or disdained.

And these women are threatening to decimate the professional gender grievants’ notion that “feminism” is coterminous with a liberal, statist, abortion-on-demand agenda. The reason, I would suggest, that the left went so nuts over Christine O’Donnell is not simply because she rendered a vulnerable seat safe for the Democrats or because she showed that Tea Party enthusiasts’ judgment is not infallible. It is because she provided solace to nervous liberal feminists  –”See, this wacky dame is what conservative women are all about.” Sarah Palin has proved to be politically astute, Sharron Angle had Harry Reid on the defensive in their debate, and Carly Fiorina is showing that a pro-lifer can be competitive in California; but not to fear — O’Donnell will discredit them all. Or so the theory went.

In fact, she’s done no damage to the GOP beyond her state’s borders and arguably has taken some of the heat off Angle and others. There is a whole new generation of conservative women who threaten to narrow the gender gap and to rob liberals of the argument that opposition to abortion is misogynistic. Liberals are right to be afraid: O’Donnell won’t even rate a footnote in history, but the influence of all the “Mama Grizzlies” will be with us for a long time.

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The Half-Hearted Commander in Chief

Charles Krauthammer sums up conservatives’ horrified reaction to Bob Woodward’s book:

What kind of commander in chief sends tens of thousands of troops to war announcing in advance a fixed date for beginning their withdrawal? One who doesn’t have his heart in it. One who doesn’t really want to win but is making some kind of political gesture. One who thinks he has to be seen as trying but is preparing the ground — meaning, the political cover — for failure.

Until now, the above was just inference from the president’s public rhetoric. No longer. Now we have the private quotes.

You would think the left, which wasn’t game on the war anyway, would be equally horrified. But they are in a state of shock as it is. I suspect as Obama’s position erodes, they’ll be heard from, as well.

As Krauthammer notes, the president is concerned primarily, maybe exclusively, with keeping his party together. Aside from the impropriety of elevating partisanship over matters of national security, it is exceptionally passive:

Is it not Obama’s job as president and party leader to bring the party with him? This is the man who made Berlin coo, America swoon and the Nobel committee lose its mind. Yet he cannot get his own party to follow him on what he insists is a matter of vital national interest?

Did he even try? Obama spent endless hours cajoling and persuading individual members of Congress to garner every last vote for health-care reform. Has he done a fraction of that for Afghanistan — argued, pleaded, horse-traded, twisted even a single arm?

And what about persuading the country at large? Every war is arduous and requires continual presidential explication, inspiration and encouragement.

But he would do so only if he were committed to victory and understood the ramifications of defeat. Plainly, he doesn’t — and that is the source of the problem and the real lesson to be learned Woodward’s book. Where we go from here — a more fulsome devotion to victory, or a stubborn adherence to his 2011 deadline? We don’t know. We can only hope that with a Republican House (and possibly Senate) that his domestic agenda will be thwarted — and he therefore will turn to matters on which he can maintain his relevance and rescue his legacy. To do that, of course, he’s going to have to make sure we win.

Charles Krauthammer sums up conservatives’ horrified reaction to Bob Woodward’s book:

What kind of commander in chief sends tens of thousands of troops to war announcing in advance a fixed date for beginning their withdrawal? One who doesn’t have his heart in it. One who doesn’t really want to win but is making some kind of political gesture. One who thinks he has to be seen as trying but is preparing the ground — meaning, the political cover — for failure.

Until now, the above was just inference from the president’s public rhetoric. No longer. Now we have the private quotes.

You would think the left, which wasn’t game on the war anyway, would be equally horrified. But they are in a state of shock as it is. I suspect as Obama’s position erodes, they’ll be heard from, as well.

As Krauthammer notes, the president is concerned primarily, maybe exclusively, with keeping his party together. Aside from the impropriety of elevating partisanship over matters of national security, it is exceptionally passive:

Is it not Obama’s job as president and party leader to bring the party with him? This is the man who made Berlin coo, America swoon and the Nobel committee lose its mind. Yet he cannot get his own party to follow him on what he insists is a matter of vital national interest?

Did he even try? Obama spent endless hours cajoling and persuading individual members of Congress to garner every last vote for health-care reform. Has he done a fraction of that for Afghanistan — argued, pleaded, horse-traded, twisted even a single arm?

And what about persuading the country at large? Every war is arduous and requires continual presidential explication, inspiration and encouragement.

But he would do so only if he were committed to victory and understood the ramifications of defeat. Plainly, he doesn’t — and that is the source of the problem and the real lesson to be learned Woodward’s book. Where we go from here — a more fulsome devotion to victory, or a stubborn adherence to his 2011 deadline? We don’t know. We can only hope that with a Republican House (and possibly Senate) that his domestic agenda will be thwarted — and he therefore will turn to matters on which he can maintain his relevance and rescue his legacy. To do that, of course, he’s going to have to make sure we win.

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A Costly Error for the GOP?

Charles Krauthammer doesn’t mince words (when does he ever?) on the endorsement of Christine O’Donnell. He calls the decision to back the Tea Party darling (who has a boatload of  vulnerabilities) “destructive, capricious and irresponsible” and that if she wins it “could be the difference between Republican and Democratic control.” As he puts it, “Delaware is not Alaska.”

In some cases, the Tea Party activists and their endorsers have dodged a bullet. In Kentucky, Rand Paul is now comfortably ahead, no thanks to his own gaffes and erratic performance. But in states that aren’t traditionally Red, even in a wave election year, it’s important to select competent, electable candidates if the party’s goal is to maximize its numbers.

As I have pointed out in the past, 51 seats doesn’t necessarily give one “control” of the Senate. But, as one smart GOP operative told me, “It would be a disaster — literally throwing a seat away and potentially a shot at the majority.” On the other hand, it might be a valuable lesson for the GOP to learn about the importance of candidate selection.

Charles Krauthammer doesn’t mince words (when does he ever?) on the endorsement of Christine O’Donnell. He calls the decision to back the Tea Party darling (who has a boatload of  vulnerabilities) “destructive, capricious and irresponsible” and that if she wins it “could be the difference between Republican and Democratic control.” As he puts it, “Delaware is not Alaska.”

In some cases, the Tea Party activists and their endorsers have dodged a bullet. In Kentucky, Rand Paul is now comfortably ahead, no thanks to his own gaffes and erratic performance. But in states that aren’t traditionally Red, even in a wave election year, it’s important to select competent, electable candidates if the party’s goal is to maximize its numbers.

As I have pointed out in the past, 51 seats doesn’t necessarily give one “control” of the Senate. But, as one smart GOP operative told me, “It would be a disaster — literally throwing a seat away and potentially a shot at the majority.” On the other hand, it might be a valuable lesson for the GOP to learn about the importance of candidate selection.

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Obama’s Chat with the Rabbis

Just before the Jewish New Year, Obama had a conference call with a group of rabbis. (These calls, by the way, are invariably cringe inducing, most especially last year’s, when Obama told them to go hawk ObamaCare from their bimas.) This time, Obama solemnly instructed the rabbis not to take seriously anything the Palestinians and Israelis say about the peace talks in public. Honestly, the talks are going great. We know, because the president is “stunned at how cordial and constructive the talks were.” I wonder if he’ll be stunned when they collapse. In other words, the fact that Abbas continues to vilify the Jewish state (presumably now both in English and Arabic) and threatens to walk out in no way indicates that he’s not serious about peace, you see.

Meanwhile, for a dose of reality, Charles Krauthammer explained to us why Mahmoud Abbas has zero incentive to stick it out:

You don’t need to be prescient to see that coming. Abbas has already announced that is what he’ll do. That would solve all of Abbas’s problems. It would obviate signing on to a final settlement, fend off Hamas and make Israel the fall guy. The trifecta. Why not walk out? The world, which already condemns Israel even for self-defense, will be only too eager to blame Israel for the negotiation breakdown. And there is growing pressure to create a Palestinian state even if the talks fail — i.e., even if the Palestinians make no concessions at all. So why make any?

Too bad the president and rabbis didn’t discuss that, nor presumably the real threat to Israel’s and our security — the looming possibility of a nuclear-armed Iran.

Just before the Jewish New Year, Obama had a conference call with a group of rabbis. (These calls, by the way, are invariably cringe inducing, most especially last year’s, when Obama told them to go hawk ObamaCare from their bimas.) This time, Obama solemnly instructed the rabbis not to take seriously anything the Palestinians and Israelis say about the peace talks in public. Honestly, the talks are going great. We know, because the president is “stunned at how cordial and constructive the talks were.” I wonder if he’ll be stunned when they collapse. In other words, the fact that Abbas continues to vilify the Jewish state (presumably now both in English and Arabic) and threatens to walk out in no way indicates that he’s not serious about peace, you see.

Meanwhile, for a dose of reality, Charles Krauthammer explained to us why Mahmoud Abbas has zero incentive to stick it out:

You don’t need to be prescient to see that coming. Abbas has already announced that is what he’ll do. That would solve all of Abbas’s problems. It would obviate signing on to a final settlement, fend off Hamas and make Israel the fall guy. The trifecta. Why not walk out? The world, which already condemns Israel even for self-defense, will be only too eager to blame Israel for the negotiation breakdown. And there is growing pressure to create a Palestinian state even if the talks fail — i.e., even if the Palestinians make no concessions at all. So why make any?

Too bad the president and rabbis didn’t discuss that, nor presumably the real threat to Israel’s and our security — the looming possibility of a nuclear-armed Iran.

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A Damning Admission

In his superb column today, Charles Krauthammer highlights a paragraph from Peter Baker’s New York Times story on Barack Obama as commander in chief:

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.”

“If this is true,” Krauthammer writes, “Obama’s military leadership can only be called scandalous.”

Quite right. And it’s not the first time such a thing has been said about Obama. Here is a paragraph from a June 23 Washington Post article on the controversy then surrounding General Stanley McChrystal:

McChrystal’s apparent disdain for his civilian colleagues, and the facts on the ground in Afghanistan, have exposed the enduring fault lines in the agreement Obama forged last fall among policymakers and military commanders. In exchange for approving McChrystal’s request for more troops and treasure, Obama imposed, and the military accepted, two deadlines sought by his political aides. In December, one year after the strategy was announced, the situation would be reviewed and necessary adjustments made. In July 2011, the troops would begin to come home. [emphasis added]

These are damning admissions — war policies not only being influenced by partisan considerations but in important respects being driven by them.

In embracing a new counterinsurgency strategy in Afghanistan, President Obama made the right decision. At the same time, he made a political accommodation on the withdrawal date, which we now know is undermining our efforts. Earlier this week, I pointed out that Marine Commandant General James Conway, in speaking about the 2011 deadline, said this: “In some ways, we think right now it’s probably giving our enemy sustenance. We think that he may be saying to himself … ‘Hey, you know, we only have to hold out for so long.’” Intelligence intercepts suggest that Taliban fighters have been encouraged by the talk of the U.S. beginning to withdraw troops next year, according to Conway. Yet in Tuesday’s prime-time address to the nation, Obama, rather than walk back from his arbitrary withdrawal date, went out of his way to re-emphasize it. “Make no mistake,” the president said, “this transition will begin because open-ended war serves neither our interests nor the Afghan people’s.”

It turns out that the locution “our interests” refers not to America’s national interests but to Obama’s political self-interest instead.

I worked for President George W. Bush for most of two terms. It is not only inconceivable that he would have allowed such a thing to happen, as he showed in his embrace of the surge despite gale-force political winds and intense pressure from Republicans to withdraw from Iraq because it was damaging the GOP. And I would wager a good deal of money that if a political adviser had even suggested such a thing to him, he would have exploded in anger and probably fired the offending party on the spot. And he would have been right to do so.

“Among the thirty-five men who have held the presidential office,” Dean Acheson wrote in Present at the Creation, “Mr. Truman will stand with the few who in the midst of great difficulties managed their offices with eminent benefit to the public interest. … In the last analysis Mr. Truman’s methods reflected the basic integrity of his own character.”

If only such a thing could be said now.

In his superb column today, Charles Krauthammer highlights a paragraph from Peter Baker’s New York Times story on Barack Obama as commander in chief:

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.”

“If this is true,” Krauthammer writes, “Obama’s military leadership can only be called scandalous.”

Quite right. And it’s not the first time such a thing has been said about Obama. Here is a paragraph from a June 23 Washington Post article on the controversy then surrounding General Stanley McChrystal:

McChrystal’s apparent disdain for his civilian colleagues, and the facts on the ground in Afghanistan, have exposed the enduring fault lines in the agreement Obama forged last fall among policymakers and military commanders. In exchange for approving McChrystal’s request for more troops and treasure, Obama imposed, and the military accepted, two deadlines sought by his political aides. In December, one year after the strategy was announced, the situation would be reviewed and necessary adjustments made. In July 2011, the troops would begin to come home. [emphasis added]

These are damning admissions — war policies not only being influenced by partisan considerations but in important respects being driven by them.

In embracing a new counterinsurgency strategy in Afghanistan, President Obama made the right decision. At the same time, he made a political accommodation on the withdrawal date, which we now know is undermining our efforts. Earlier this week, I pointed out that Marine Commandant General James Conway, in speaking about the 2011 deadline, said this: “In some ways, we think right now it’s probably giving our enemy sustenance. We think that he may be saying to himself … ‘Hey, you know, we only have to hold out for so long.’” Intelligence intercepts suggest that Taliban fighters have been encouraged by the talk of the U.S. beginning to withdraw troops next year, according to Conway. Yet in Tuesday’s prime-time address to the nation, Obama, rather than walk back from his arbitrary withdrawal date, went out of his way to re-emphasize it. “Make no mistake,” the president said, “this transition will begin because open-ended war serves neither our interests nor the Afghan people’s.”

It turns out that the locution “our interests” refers not to America’s national interests but to Obama’s political self-interest instead.

I worked for President George W. Bush for most of two terms. It is not only inconceivable that he would have allowed such a thing to happen, as he showed in his embrace of the surge despite gale-force political winds and intense pressure from Republicans to withdraw from Iraq because it was damaging the GOP. And I would wager a good deal of money that if a political adviser had even suggested such a thing to him, he would have exploded in anger and probably fired the offending party on the spot. And he would have been right to do so.

“Among the thirty-five men who have held the presidential office,” Dean Acheson wrote in Present at the Creation, “Mr. Truman will stand with the few who in the midst of great difficulties managed their offices with eminent benefit to the public interest. … In the last analysis Mr. Truman’s methods reflected the basic integrity of his own character.”

If only such a thing could be said now.

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Why He Doesn’t Explain Why We Fight

Charles Krauthammer’s (I won’t say “must-read,” because all are) column today critiques both what Obama said on Tuesday (much discussion of deadlines) and what he did not. As to the latter, Krauthammer explains:

Where does America stand on the spreading threats to stability, decency and U.S. interests from the Horn of Africa to the Hindu Kush?

On this, not a word. Instead, Obama made a strange and clumsy segue into a pep talk on the economy. Rebuilding it, he declared, “must be our central mission as a people, and my central responsibility as president.” This in a speech ostensibly about the two wars he is directing. He could not have made more clear where his priorities lie, and how much he sees foreign policy — war policy — as subordinate to his domestic ambitions.

Unfortunately, what for Obama is a distraction is life or death for U.S. troops now on patrol in Kandahar province. Some presidents may not like being wartime leaders. But they don’t get to decide. History does. Obama needs to accept the role. It’s not just the U.S. military, as [the New York Times‘s] Baker reports, that is “worried he is not fully invested in the cause.” Our allies, too, are experiencing doubt. And our enemies are drawing sustenance.

One can understand why Obama does not like to speak about a worldwide, amorphous war against jihadists. Many of the policies he has implemented are based on the premise that we are not engaged in a war to save our civilization. The Obama administration Mirandizes the Christmas Day  and the Times Square terrorists because these are “one-offs,” as Janet Napolitano put it. They offer KSM a public trial because they turn a blind eye to the impact such a trial would have on jihadists around the world. They excise “jihadist” and “Islamic fundamentalist” from their vocabulary because they imagine the war has nothing to do with ideology. (Al-Qaeda is an extremist group, but of what kind? Are they environmental or animal-rights activists who’ve gone over the edge — or murderers who kill in the name of Islam?)

Obama can’t talk about the struggle we are engaged in against Islamic fascists, because he doesn’t believe we’re in such a struggle. Or he pretends we’re not, because to acknowledge reality would make all his deadlines – and the announcement that his central task is the economy — seem ludicrous. And they are.

Charles Krauthammer’s (I won’t say “must-read,” because all are) column today critiques both what Obama said on Tuesday (much discussion of deadlines) and what he did not. As to the latter, Krauthammer explains:

Where does America stand on the spreading threats to stability, decency and U.S. interests from the Horn of Africa to the Hindu Kush?

On this, not a word. Instead, Obama made a strange and clumsy segue into a pep talk on the economy. Rebuilding it, he declared, “must be our central mission as a people, and my central responsibility as president.” This in a speech ostensibly about the two wars he is directing. He could not have made more clear where his priorities lie, and how much he sees foreign policy — war policy — as subordinate to his domestic ambitions.

Unfortunately, what for Obama is a distraction is life or death for U.S. troops now on patrol in Kandahar province. Some presidents may not like being wartime leaders. But they don’t get to decide. History does. Obama needs to accept the role. It’s not just the U.S. military, as [the New York Times‘s] Baker reports, that is “worried he is not fully invested in the cause.” Our allies, too, are experiencing doubt. And our enemies are drawing sustenance.

One can understand why Obama does not like to speak about a worldwide, amorphous war against jihadists. Many of the policies he has implemented are based on the premise that we are not engaged in a war to save our civilization. The Obama administration Mirandizes the Christmas Day  and the Times Square terrorists because these are “one-offs,” as Janet Napolitano put it. They offer KSM a public trial because they turn a blind eye to the impact such a trial would have on jihadists around the world. They excise “jihadist” and “Islamic fundamentalist” from their vocabulary because they imagine the war has nothing to do with ideology. (Al-Qaeda is an extremist group, but of what kind? Are they environmental or animal-rights activists who’ve gone over the edge — or murderers who kill in the name of Islam?)

Obama can’t talk about the struggle we are engaged in against Islamic fascists, because he doesn’t believe we’re in such a struggle. Or he pretends we’re not, because to acknowledge reality would make all his deadlines – and the announcement that his central task is the economy — seem ludicrous. And they are.

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Obama from the Oval Office

First, a visual observation: he looked scrawny and ill-at-ease at the large, empty desk. There were no funny hand gestures this time, as there was for the Oil Spill address. This speech did have some good moments, which I will start with.

First, he clearly debunked the notion that we are bugging out of Iraq:

Going forward, a transitional force of U.S. troops will remain in Iraq with a different mission: advising and assisting Iraq’s Security Forces; supporting Iraqi troops in targeted counter-terrorism missions; and protecting our civilians. Consistent with our agreement with the Iraqi government, all U.S. troops will leave by the end of next year. As our military draws down, our dedicated civilians — diplomats, aid workers, and advisors — are moving into the lead to support Iraq as it strengthens its government, resolves political disputes, resettles those displaced by war, and builds ties with the region and the world. And that is a message that Vice President Biden is delivering to the Iraqi people through his visit there today.

This new approach reflects our long-term partnership with Iraq — one based upon mutual interests, and mutual respect. Of course, violence will not end with our combat mission. Extremists will continue to set off bombs, attack Iraqi civilians and try to spark sectarian strife. But ultimately, these terrorists will fail to achieve their goals. Iraqis are a proud people. They have rejected sectarian war, and they have no interest in endless destruction. They understand that, in the end, only Iraqis can resolve their differences and police their streets. Only Iraqis can build a democracy within their borders. What America can do, and will do, is provide support for the Iraqi people as both a friend and a partner.

And he put forth a positive statement on the Afghanistan war:

As we speak, al Qaeda continues to plot against us, and its leadership remains anchored in the border region of Afghanistan and Pakistan. We will disrupt, dismantle, and defeat al Qaeda, while preventing Afghanistan from again serving as a base for terrorists. And because of our drawdown in Iraq, we are now able to apply the resources necessary to go on offense. In fact, over the last 19 months, nearly a dozen al Qaeda leaders –and hundreds of Al Qaeda’s extremist allies–have been killed or captured around the world.

Within Afghanistan, I have ordered the deployment of additional troops who — under the command of General David Petraeus — are fighting to break the Taliban’s momentum. As with the surge in Iraq, these forces will be in place for a limited time to provide space for the Afghans to build their capacity and secure their own future.

But those comments were, regrettably, far outweighed by a number of unhelpful, ungracious, and downright inaccurate moments.

First, in his recap and praise of George W. Bush’s administration, he never explained how it was that we succeeded in Iraq. It was of course that same surge that we are now using in Afghanistan. He said this about Bush:

This afternoon, I spoke to former President George W. Bush. It’s well known that he and I disagreed about the war from its outset. Yet no one could doubt President Bush’s support for our troops, or his love of country and commitment to our security. As I have said, there were patriots who supported this war, and patriots who opposed it. And all of us are united in appreciation for our servicemen and women, and our hope for Iraq’s future.

But Mr. President, Bush was not just a great guy — he was right. It was one more instance of the lack of introspection and grace that has characterized Obama’s entire presidency.

Next, he reiterated the Afghanistan deadline, trying to fuzz it up rather than revoke it:

[A]s was the case in Iraq, we cannot do for Afghans what they must ultimately do for themselves. That’s why we are training Afghan Security Forces and supporting a political resolution to Afghanistan’s problems. And, next July, we will begin a transition to Afghan responsibility. The pace of our troop reductions will be determined by conditions on the ground, and our support for Afghanistan will endure. But make no mistake: this transition will begin — because open-ended war serves neither our interests nor the Afghan people’s.

You see, Obama’s not into open-ended commitment. This is the same counterproductive claptrap that has been roundly criticized and that reveals him to be fundamentally disinterested in foreign policy. It is also why both friends and enemies doubt our staying power.

But most of all, the bulk of the speech had nothing to do with either Iraq or Afghanistan — it was a pep talk for his domestic agenda. This cements the sense that he simply wants out of messy foreign commitments. He also repeated a number of domestic policy canards. This was among the worst, blaming our debt on wars rather than on domestic fiscal gluttony: “We have spent over a trillion dollars at war, often financed by borrowing from overseas. This, in turn, has short-changed investments in our own people, and contributed to record deficits. For too long, we have put off tough decisions on everything from our manufacturing base to our energy policy to education reform.”

He is arguing for more spending.

Obama is still candidate Obama, never tiring of reminding us that he kept his campaign pledge and ever eager to push aside foreign policy challenges so he can get on with the business of remaking America. All in all, it was what we were promised it would not be — self-serving, disingenuous, ungracious, and unreassuring.

UPDATE: COMMENTARY contributor Jonah Goldberg’s smart take is here.

UPDATE II: Charles Krauthammer’s reaction is here.

First, a visual observation: he looked scrawny and ill-at-ease at the large, empty desk. There were no funny hand gestures this time, as there was for the Oil Spill address. This speech did have some good moments, which I will start with.

First, he clearly debunked the notion that we are bugging out of Iraq:

Going forward, a transitional force of U.S. troops will remain in Iraq with a different mission: advising and assisting Iraq’s Security Forces; supporting Iraqi troops in targeted counter-terrorism missions; and protecting our civilians. Consistent with our agreement with the Iraqi government, all U.S. troops will leave by the end of next year. As our military draws down, our dedicated civilians — diplomats, aid workers, and advisors — are moving into the lead to support Iraq as it strengthens its government, resolves political disputes, resettles those displaced by war, and builds ties with the region and the world. And that is a message that Vice President Biden is delivering to the Iraqi people through his visit there today.

This new approach reflects our long-term partnership with Iraq — one based upon mutual interests, and mutual respect. Of course, violence will not end with our combat mission. Extremists will continue to set off bombs, attack Iraqi civilians and try to spark sectarian strife. But ultimately, these terrorists will fail to achieve their goals. Iraqis are a proud people. They have rejected sectarian war, and they have no interest in endless destruction. They understand that, in the end, only Iraqis can resolve their differences and police their streets. Only Iraqis can build a democracy within their borders. What America can do, and will do, is provide support for the Iraqi people as both a friend and a partner.

And he put forth a positive statement on the Afghanistan war:

As we speak, al Qaeda continues to plot against us, and its leadership remains anchored in the border region of Afghanistan and Pakistan. We will disrupt, dismantle, and defeat al Qaeda, while preventing Afghanistan from again serving as a base for terrorists. And because of our drawdown in Iraq, we are now able to apply the resources necessary to go on offense. In fact, over the last 19 months, nearly a dozen al Qaeda leaders –and hundreds of Al Qaeda’s extremist allies–have been killed or captured around the world.

Within Afghanistan, I have ordered the deployment of additional troops who — under the command of General David Petraeus — are fighting to break the Taliban’s momentum. As with the surge in Iraq, these forces will be in place for a limited time to provide space for the Afghans to build their capacity and secure their own future.

But those comments were, regrettably, far outweighed by a number of unhelpful, ungracious, and downright inaccurate moments.

First, in his recap and praise of George W. Bush’s administration, he never explained how it was that we succeeded in Iraq. It was of course that same surge that we are now using in Afghanistan. He said this about Bush:

This afternoon, I spoke to former President George W. Bush. It’s well known that he and I disagreed about the war from its outset. Yet no one could doubt President Bush’s support for our troops, or his love of country and commitment to our security. As I have said, there were patriots who supported this war, and patriots who opposed it. And all of us are united in appreciation for our servicemen and women, and our hope for Iraq’s future.

But Mr. President, Bush was not just a great guy — he was right. It was one more instance of the lack of introspection and grace that has characterized Obama’s entire presidency.

Next, he reiterated the Afghanistan deadline, trying to fuzz it up rather than revoke it:

[A]s was the case in Iraq, we cannot do for Afghans what they must ultimately do for themselves. That’s why we are training Afghan Security Forces and supporting a political resolution to Afghanistan’s problems. And, next July, we will begin a transition to Afghan responsibility. The pace of our troop reductions will be determined by conditions on the ground, and our support for Afghanistan will endure. But make no mistake: this transition will begin — because open-ended war serves neither our interests nor the Afghan people’s.

You see, Obama’s not into open-ended commitment. This is the same counterproductive claptrap that has been roundly criticized and that reveals him to be fundamentally disinterested in foreign policy. It is also why both friends and enemies doubt our staying power.

But most of all, the bulk of the speech had nothing to do with either Iraq or Afghanistan — it was a pep talk for his domestic agenda. This cements the sense that he simply wants out of messy foreign commitments. He also repeated a number of domestic policy canards. This was among the worst, blaming our debt on wars rather than on domestic fiscal gluttony: “We have spent over a trillion dollars at war, often financed by borrowing from overseas. This, in turn, has short-changed investments in our own people, and contributed to record deficits. For too long, we have put off tough decisions on everything from our manufacturing base to our energy policy to education reform.”

He is arguing for more spending.

Obama is still candidate Obama, never tiring of reminding us that he kept his campaign pledge and ever eager to push aside foreign policy challenges so he can get on with the business of remaking America. All in all, it was what we were promised it would not be — self-serving, disingenuous, ungracious, and unreassuring.

UPDATE: COMMENTARY contributor Jonah Goldberg’s smart take is here.

UPDATE II: Charles Krauthammer’s reaction is here.

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Juan Williams vs. Israel

On Fox News Sunday, Juan Williams had this to say about the upcoming talks between the Palestinian Authority and Israel:

Well, the question is about settlements. I mean, you know, what you hear from Abbas is if they go back into the settlements that he cuts off the talk.

Last time the reason the talks got cut off was because Israel launched an offensive in Gaza. So now we have a break. The question is can Netanyahu hold together as — his forces in Israel in terms of Israeli politics to say, “You know what? We are best served by some sort of peace, despite the pressures,” and I think there are tremendous pressures on Israel, that there has to be a sense that we are about peace first and foremost.

And I think for the — for the last few times that negotiations have taken place, the emphasis has been on asserting that Israel has been victimized by terrorist activities, by Hamas, by the failure of the Palestinians to govern themselves.

This perfectly expresses the views of the left on Israel — and is perfectly wrong. If it were all about the settlements, the Palestinians would have their own state several times over — at Camp David, and on silver platter from former prime minister Ehud Olmert, most recently. We have had an extended “break” not because of Gaza but because Obama spent 18 months dangling the prospect of a settlement freeze before Abbas’s eyes and leading him to believe the Palestinians could get everything their hearts desired from the U.S. administration.

Next up in the misinformation and outright distortion parade: Bibi is somehow out of step with Israeli public opinion. Yes, the majority of Israelis want talks and a two-state solution, but the infatuation with “land for peace” has dulled considerably in the wake of land-for-war episodes (Lebanon and then Gaza). And Bibi is quite popular. Does Williams expect that some other government could forge a consensus for a peace deal? (Perhaps the 10 percent of Israelis who like Obama would.)

The last is the doozy, and it unfortunately represents the left’s growing indifference to Israel’s security. You see, Williams lectures, we’ve spent altogether too much time talking about terrorism and the Palestinians’ utter failure at self-government. After all, who wants to talk about the refusal of the PA to condemn terrorism? Why do we need to focus on the Palestinians’ ongoing violence and continual calls for incitement (in Arabic) while they talk peace (in English)? And really, what do viable civil institutions — that can enforce the rule of law and a peace deal and develop a productive relationship with Israel — have to do with peace talks?

It is all perfectly foolish and, unfortunately, one suspects, representative of the Obami’s thinking. You can hear the teeth-grinding inside the White House, the impatience with all this concern about defensible borders and an enforceable peace. This is the mindset of the gang that is “affronted” when Israel builds in its own capital and treats the Israeli prime minister as if he were a fly to be swatted away.

As Charles Krauthammer aptly summed up:

The world is tired of these troublesome Jews, 6 million — that number again — hard by the Mediterranean, refusing every invitation to national suicide. For which they are relentlessly demonized, ghettoized and constrained from defending themselves, even as the more committed anti-Zionists — Iranian in particular — openly prepare a more final solution.

The only good news on the horizon is that with Obama’s plummeting popularity and evident nervousness about American Jewish support (otherwise why the charm offensive?), Israel has good reason to wait him out. Go ahead, talk — every two weeks. When the Palestinians are ready to renounce violence and give up the dream of a one-state solution (200 meetings from now? a thousand?), Israel will be waiting.

On Fox News Sunday, Juan Williams had this to say about the upcoming talks between the Palestinian Authority and Israel:

Well, the question is about settlements. I mean, you know, what you hear from Abbas is if they go back into the settlements that he cuts off the talk.

Last time the reason the talks got cut off was because Israel launched an offensive in Gaza. So now we have a break. The question is can Netanyahu hold together as — his forces in Israel in terms of Israeli politics to say, “You know what? We are best served by some sort of peace, despite the pressures,” and I think there are tremendous pressures on Israel, that there has to be a sense that we are about peace first and foremost.

And I think for the — for the last few times that negotiations have taken place, the emphasis has been on asserting that Israel has been victimized by terrorist activities, by Hamas, by the failure of the Palestinians to govern themselves.

This perfectly expresses the views of the left on Israel — and is perfectly wrong. If it were all about the settlements, the Palestinians would have their own state several times over — at Camp David, and on silver platter from former prime minister Ehud Olmert, most recently. We have had an extended “break” not because of Gaza but because Obama spent 18 months dangling the prospect of a settlement freeze before Abbas’s eyes and leading him to believe the Palestinians could get everything their hearts desired from the U.S. administration.

Next up in the misinformation and outright distortion parade: Bibi is somehow out of step with Israeli public opinion. Yes, the majority of Israelis want talks and a two-state solution, but the infatuation with “land for peace” has dulled considerably in the wake of land-for-war episodes (Lebanon and then Gaza). And Bibi is quite popular. Does Williams expect that some other government could forge a consensus for a peace deal? (Perhaps the 10 percent of Israelis who like Obama would.)

The last is the doozy, and it unfortunately represents the left’s growing indifference to Israel’s security. You see, Williams lectures, we’ve spent altogether too much time talking about terrorism and the Palestinians’ utter failure at self-government. After all, who wants to talk about the refusal of the PA to condemn terrorism? Why do we need to focus on the Palestinians’ ongoing violence and continual calls for incitement (in Arabic) while they talk peace (in English)? And really, what do viable civil institutions — that can enforce the rule of law and a peace deal and develop a productive relationship with Israel — have to do with peace talks?

It is all perfectly foolish and, unfortunately, one suspects, representative of the Obami’s thinking. You can hear the teeth-grinding inside the White House, the impatience with all this concern about defensible borders and an enforceable peace. This is the mindset of the gang that is “affronted” when Israel builds in its own capital and treats the Israeli prime minister as if he were a fly to be swatted away.

As Charles Krauthammer aptly summed up:

The world is tired of these troublesome Jews, 6 million — that number again — hard by the Mediterranean, refusing every invitation to national suicide. For which they are relentlessly demonized, ghettoized and constrained from defending themselves, even as the more committed anti-Zionists — Iranian in particular — openly prepare a more final solution.

The only good news on the horizon is that with Obama’s plummeting popularity and evident nervousness about American Jewish support (otherwise why the charm offensive?), Israel has good reason to wait him out. Go ahead, talk — every two weeks. When the Palestinians are ready to renounce violence and give up the dream of a one-state solution (200 meetings from now? a thousand?), Israel will be waiting.

Read Less

The Comeuppance

As the left has become increasingly frustrated with a large majority of the country over the Ground Zero mosque, its leaders have, as Charles Krauthammer describes, reached for their defense of last resort: “Pull out the bigotry charge, the trump that preempts debate and gives no credit to the seriousness and substance of the contrary argument.” He explains:

This smug attribution of bigotry to two-thirds of the population hinges on the insistence on a complete lack of connection between Islam and radical Islam, a proposition that dovetails perfectly with the Obama administration’s pretense that we are at war with nothing more than “violent extremists” of inscrutable motive and indiscernible belief. Those who reject this as both ridiculous and politically correct (an admitted redundancy) are declared Islamophobes, the ad hominem du jour.

It is a measure of the corruption of liberal thought and the collapse of its self-confidence that, finding itself so widely repudiated, it resorts reflexively to the cheapest race-baiting (in a colorful variety of forms).

The election, Ground Zero mosque notwithstanding, was not going to be pretty for the Democrats. But at least it could be, the chattering class reasoned (not convincingly, but in the dead of night, thinking of what they could say on CNN or MSNBC when the right was in full gloat), chalked up to the economy. Not Obama’s policies about the economy, mind you. But the economy. Bush screwed things up worse than they ever imagined. Or something like that.

Now, however, the election is about more than the liberal agenda; it is about liberals themselves. It turns out the left – shocking, I know – predominates in the media and White House but not in the country. They are outnumbered, vastly so. And they forgot to be ingratiating and polite to the rubes with the ballots. The result, Kauthammer predicts, will be “a comeuppance [that] is due the arrogant elites whose undisguised contempt for the great unwashed prevents them from conceding a modicum of serious thought to those who dare oppose them.”

The voters, I suspect, have had it with the sneers and, yes, the race-card playing. They’ve had it with being told things they know aren’t so. They’ve had it with being called un-American. They have had it with insane accusations that they are paid opponents of ObamaCare or the Ground Zero mosque.

The public has reason to dislike not merely the policies but also the ethos of the liberal governing class. They have every right to be mad and to throw them out. So naturally, that makes them racists.

As the left has become increasingly frustrated with a large majority of the country over the Ground Zero mosque, its leaders have, as Charles Krauthammer describes, reached for their defense of last resort: “Pull out the bigotry charge, the trump that preempts debate and gives no credit to the seriousness and substance of the contrary argument.” He explains:

This smug attribution of bigotry to two-thirds of the population hinges on the insistence on a complete lack of connection between Islam and radical Islam, a proposition that dovetails perfectly with the Obama administration’s pretense that we are at war with nothing more than “violent extremists” of inscrutable motive and indiscernible belief. Those who reject this as both ridiculous and politically correct (an admitted redundancy) are declared Islamophobes, the ad hominem du jour.

It is a measure of the corruption of liberal thought and the collapse of its self-confidence that, finding itself so widely repudiated, it resorts reflexively to the cheapest race-baiting (in a colorful variety of forms).

The election, Ground Zero mosque notwithstanding, was not going to be pretty for the Democrats. But at least it could be, the chattering class reasoned (not convincingly, but in the dead of night, thinking of what they could say on CNN or MSNBC when the right was in full gloat), chalked up to the economy. Not Obama’s policies about the economy, mind you. But the economy. Bush screwed things up worse than they ever imagined. Or something like that.

Now, however, the election is about more than the liberal agenda; it is about liberals themselves. It turns out the left – shocking, I know – predominates in the media and White House but not in the country. They are outnumbered, vastly so. And they forgot to be ingratiating and polite to the rubes with the ballots. The result, Kauthammer predicts, will be “a comeuppance [that] is due the arrogant elites whose undisguised contempt for the great unwashed prevents them from conceding a modicum of serious thought to those who dare oppose them.”

The voters, I suspect, have had it with the sneers and, yes, the race-card playing. They’ve had it with being told things they know aren’t so. They’ve had it with being called un-American. They have had it with insane accusations that they are paid opponents of ObamaCare or the Ground Zero mosque.

The public has reason to dislike not merely the policies but also the ethos of the liberal governing class. They have every right to be mad and to throw them out. So naturally, that makes them racists.

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Krauthammer and Dean Agree: Obama Blew It

Charles Krauthammer, as he is wont to do, makes a salient observation. On Obama’s Iftar speech at the White House, which begat arguably the worst week of his presidency, he writes:

It takes no courage whatsoever to bask in the applause of a Muslim audience as you promise to stand stoutly for their right to build a mosque, giving the unmistakable impression that you endorse the idea. What takes courage is to then respectfully ask that audience to reflect upon the wisdom of the project and to consider whether the imam’s alleged goal of interfaith understanding might not be better achieved by accepting the New York governor’s offer to help find another site.

In his own way (with the required sneers at conservatives), Howard Dean, of all people, makes the same point:

This center may be intended as a bridge or a healing gesture but it will not be perceived that way unless a dialogue with a real attempt to understand each other happens. That means the builders have to be willing to go beyond what is their right and be willing to talk about feelings whether the feelings are “justified” or not. No doubt the Republic will survive if this center is built on its current site or not. But I think this is a missed opportunity to try to have an open discussion about why this is a big deal, because it is a big deal to a lot of Americans who are not just right-wing politicians pushing the hate button again. I think those people need to be heard respectfully, whether they are right or whether they are wrong.

But not Obama – the great healer, the no-Blue-America-no-Red-America politician. In reality, Obama is stymied when he can’t charm his opposition or shame them into accepting his position.

We have seen this consistently in his Middle East policy. In fact, it is his habitual mode of Muslim outreach — whether in his fawning engagement of Iran (which demanded neglect of the Green Movement), his failed attempt to dispatch an ambassador to Syria, his Cairo speechifying, or his appointing an envoy, who voiced suspicion of the prosecution of terrorists by his own government, to the Organization of the Islamic Conference. Obama imagines that by simply telling Muslim leaders (certainly, not democracy advocates or human-rights protesters) what they want to hear, we will improve our image and cool their ire toward the U.S. But this is childlike and shortsighted.

If one is really going to advance our interests or mediate successfully between parties with conflicting interests and values, it won’t do to simply stamp your foot and simply insist everyone show empathy toward and defer to the Muslims’ point of view (or that of one segment of Muslims). It’s not going to win over the 68 percent of Americans. It’s not going to bring peace to the Middle East. It’s not going to make Obama an effective or popular president.

Of course I don’t believe Obama is a Muslim. But his excessive deference to Muslim states abroad and now to the American Muslim community has set many Americans’ teeth on edge and fueled conspiratorialists’ suspicions. There’s not much he should or can do about the latter. But the American people, not to mention our allies, sense that there is something very much amiss in all the genuflecting. That, in part, is why the mosque controversy has been so devastating for Obama.

Charles Krauthammer, as he is wont to do, makes a salient observation. On Obama’s Iftar speech at the White House, which begat arguably the worst week of his presidency, he writes:

It takes no courage whatsoever to bask in the applause of a Muslim audience as you promise to stand stoutly for their right to build a mosque, giving the unmistakable impression that you endorse the idea. What takes courage is to then respectfully ask that audience to reflect upon the wisdom of the project and to consider whether the imam’s alleged goal of interfaith understanding might not be better achieved by accepting the New York governor’s offer to help find another site.

In his own way (with the required sneers at conservatives), Howard Dean, of all people, makes the same point:

This center may be intended as a bridge or a healing gesture but it will not be perceived that way unless a dialogue with a real attempt to understand each other happens. That means the builders have to be willing to go beyond what is their right and be willing to talk about feelings whether the feelings are “justified” or not. No doubt the Republic will survive if this center is built on its current site or not. But I think this is a missed opportunity to try to have an open discussion about why this is a big deal, because it is a big deal to a lot of Americans who are not just right-wing politicians pushing the hate button again. I think those people need to be heard respectfully, whether they are right or whether they are wrong.

But not Obama – the great healer, the no-Blue-America-no-Red-America politician. In reality, Obama is stymied when he can’t charm his opposition or shame them into accepting his position.

We have seen this consistently in his Middle East policy. In fact, it is his habitual mode of Muslim outreach — whether in his fawning engagement of Iran (which demanded neglect of the Green Movement), his failed attempt to dispatch an ambassador to Syria, his Cairo speechifying, or his appointing an envoy, who voiced suspicion of the prosecution of terrorists by his own government, to the Organization of the Islamic Conference. Obama imagines that by simply telling Muslim leaders (certainly, not democracy advocates or human-rights protesters) what they want to hear, we will improve our image and cool their ire toward the U.S. But this is childlike and shortsighted.

If one is really going to advance our interests or mediate successfully between parties with conflicting interests and values, it won’t do to simply stamp your foot and simply insist everyone show empathy toward and defer to the Muslims’ point of view (or that of one segment of Muslims). It’s not going to win over the 68 percent of Americans. It’s not going to bring peace to the Middle East. It’s not going to make Obama an effective or popular president.

Of course I don’t believe Obama is a Muslim. But his excessive deference to Muslim states abroad and now to the American Muslim community has set many Americans’ teeth on edge and fueled conspiratorialists’ suspicions. There’s not much he should or can do about the latter. But the American people, not to mention our allies, sense that there is something very much amiss in all the genuflecting. That, in part, is why the mosque controversy has been so devastating for Obama.

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Hiding Behind Rudy

In the midst of the Ground Zero mosque debacle, there is, it seems, some benefit that liberals think they will derive in trying to show they are not unmoved by “reasonable” Republicans, only by those fiery, nasty ones. A case in point is Jonathan Capehart, who tells us he respects what Rudy Giuliani had to say, but he not all those conservatives deploying “needlessly inflammatory and divisive rhetoric that makes a mockery of everyone’s professed support of freedom of religion.” Well, maybe he’s referring to Newt Gingrich, whose comment, Pete pointed out, really was over the top. But I suspect he’s pointing to the broad range of conservatives – John Boehner, Sarah Palin, and the rest.

What, then, did Rudy say that meets Capehart’s test? First there was this, reported by Maggie Haberman of Politico:

He takes a very hard line, including saying that “decent Muslims” will not be offended by the opposition because they want peace as much as others do. …

[RUDY]: “So it not only is exactly the wrong place, right at ground zero, but it’s a mosque supported by an imam who has a record of support for causes that were sympathetic with terrorism. Come on! We’re gonna allow that at ground zero?

“This is a desecration,” he added. “Nobody would allow something like that at Pearl Harbor. Let’s have some respect for who died there and why they died there. Let’s not put this off on some kind of politically correct theory.

“I mean, they died there because of Islamic extremist terrorism. They are our enemy, we can say that, the world will not end when we say that. And the reality is, it will not and should not insult any decent Muslim because decent Muslims should be as opposed to Islamic extremism as you and I are.”

That’s OK, in Capehart’s book. Seems strong stuff compared to Palin. (“Mr. President, should they or should they not build a mosque steps away from where radical Islamists killed 3,000 people? Please tell us your position. We all know that they have the right to do it, but should they?”) And it’s a bit tougher than Boehner. (“The decision to build this mosque so close to ground zero is deeply troubling, as is the president’s decision to endorse it. The American people certainly don’t support it. The fact that someone has the right to do something doesn’t necessarily make it the right thing to do. That is the essence of tolerance, peace and understanding.”) So what’s Capehart’s beef with them?

Rudy had some additional words today:

“The question here is a question of sensitivity and are you really what you pretend to be,” Giuliani said. “The idea of this is supposed to be healing, the idea that Muslims care about what Christians and Jews do. … If you’re going to so horribly offend the people … who are most directly affected by this … then how are you healing?”

And he, like nearly every other Republican, questioned the imam’s motives:

“I’m confused by the imam,” Giuliani said. “I see all the things that you’re saying, but I also see a man that says America was an accessory to Sept. 11.”

He noted that an Arab prince who tried to give $10 million to New York had his donation returned — by Giuliani himself — for making similar points shortly after the attacks. He also noted that Rauf has refused to denounce Hamas.

“Those quotes trouble me but here’s what troubles me more — if he’s truly about healing he will not go forward with this project because this project is not healing,” he said, adding, “This project is creating tremendous pain for people who paid the ultimate sacrifice.”

“The question is should they build it, are they displaying the sensitivity they claim by building it,” he said.

He added, “All this is doing is creating more division, more anger, more hatred.”

In short, there is not one iota of difference between what Rudy is saying and what virtually every other conservative critic of the Ground Zero mosque is saying. It is simply hard, terribly hard, for Capehart and other liberals to acknowledge that Sarah Palin, Charles Krauthammer, John Boehner, Marco Rubio, and a host of other conservatives are the nuanced, reasonable ones in the debate. But he should be honest about it rather than hiding behind Rudy.

In the midst of the Ground Zero mosque debacle, there is, it seems, some benefit that liberals think they will derive in trying to show they are not unmoved by “reasonable” Republicans, only by those fiery, nasty ones. A case in point is Jonathan Capehart, who tells us he respects what Rudy Giuliani had to say, but he not all those conservatives deploying “needlessly inflammatory and divisive rhetoric that makes a mockery of everyone’s professed support of freedom of religion.” Well, maybe he’s referring to Newt Gingrich, whose comment, Pete pointed out, really was over the top. But I suspect he’s pointing to the broad range of conservatives – John Boehner, Sarah Palin, and the rest.

What, then, did Rudy say that meets Capehart’s test? First there was this, reported by Maggie Haberman of Politico:

He takes a very hard line, including saying that “decent Muslims” will not be offended by the opposition because they want peace as much as others do. …

[RUDY]: “So it not only is exactly the wrong place, right at ground zero, but it’s a mosque supported by an imam who has a record of support for causes that were sympathetic with terrorism. Come on! We’re gonna allow that at ground zero?

“This is a desecration,” he added. “Nobody would allow something like that at Pearl Harbor. Let’s have some respect for who died there and why they died there. Let’s not put this off on some kind of politically correct theory.

“I mean, they died there because of Islamic extremist terrorism. They are our enemy, we can say that, the world will not end when we say that. And the reality is, it will not and should not insult any decent Muslim because decent Muslims should be as opposed to Islamic extremism as you and I are.”

That’s OK, in Capehart’s book. Seems strong stuff compared to Palin. (“Mr. President, should they or should they not build a mosque steps away from where radical Islamists killed 3,000 people? Please tell us your position. We all know that they have the right to do it, but should they?”) And it’s a bit tougher than Boehner. (“The decision to build this mosque so close to ground zero is deeply troubling, as is the president’s decision to endorse it. The American people certainly don’t support it. The fact that someone has the right to do something doesn’t necessarily make it the right thing to do. That is the essence of tolerance, peace and understanding.”) So what’s Capehart’s beef with them?

Rudy had some additional words today:

“The question here is a question of sensitivity and are you really what you pretend to be,” Giuliani said. “The idea of this is supposed to be healing, the idea that Muslims care about what Christians and Jews do. … If you’re going to so horribly offend the people … who are most directly affected by this … then how are you healing?”

And he, like nearly every other Republican, questioned the imam’s motives:

“I’m confused by the imam,” Giuliani said. “I see all the things that you’re saying, but I also see a man that says America was an accessory to Sept. 11.”

He noted that an Arab prince who tried to give $10 million to New York had his donation returned — by Giuliani himself — for making similar points shortly after the attacks. He also noted that Rauf has refused to denounce Hamas.

“Those quotes trouble me but here’s what troubles me more — if he’s truly about healing he will not go forward with this project because this project is not healing,” he said, adding, “This project is creating tremendous pain for people who paid the ultimate sacrifice.”

“The question is should they build it, are they displaying the sensitivity they claim by building it,” he said.

He added, “All this is doing is creating more division, more anger, more hatred.”

In short, there is not one iota of difference between what Rudy is saying and what virtually every other conservative critic of the Ground Zero mosque is saying. It is simply hard, terribly hard, for Capehart and other liberals to acknowledge that Sarah Palin, Charles Krauthammer, John Boehner, Marco Rubio, and a host of other conservatives are the nuanced, reasonable ones in the debate. But he should be honest about it rather than hiding behind Rudy.

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Reasons for Conservatives Not to Fiddle with the Constitution

CONTENTIONS’ Pete Wehner and others have participated in a New York Times forum on immigration reform, specifically focused on the notion that we should amend the 14th Amendment. It should come as no surprise to regular readers that I concur with Pete’s take. There are certainly political considerations, as Pete reminds us: “Hispanics are among the fastest growing demographic groups in America. The party of Lincoln and Reagan can appeal to them with a principled stand on illegal immigration, in combination with policies that increase economic growth, entrepreneurship, and social cohesion.” But I find the following to be the most compelling reasons for conservatives to oppose a constitutional amendment repealing birthright citizenship:

For one thing, the evidence that “anchor babies” are a magnet for illegal immigration doesn’t exist (the main motivators are searching for work and better economic conditions). For another, amending the 14th Amendment — which would require a vote of two-thirds of both the House and the Senate, followed by a ratification of three-fourths of the state legislatures — is a distraction from necessary things that need to be done, including securing the southern border, toughening enforcement policies, and expediting the legal process to cut the average deportation time.

It would also be a dramatic and unnecessary break with precedent. As a general matter, conservatives oppose tinkering with the Constitution, especially for empty causes.

It is because the repeal of birthright citizenship is so radical an idea (the most extreme solution to a problem that can be resolved by less draconian means) and so antithetical to the evidence-based, reasoned arguments that conservatives generally engage in that I find the push for a revision of the Constitution so objectionable. I admit to being somewhat shocked that so many usually sober-minded conservatives are serious about the idea.

Tamar Jacoby explains what a push for a constitutional amendment would and wouldn’t do:

Amending the Constitution is, and should be, an extremely difficult process – we’ve done it only 17 times since the Bill of Rights. The 14th Amendment cuts to the heart of what it means to be American. A reconsideration would touch on some of the most deeply felt issues in our political psyche – slavery, immigration, assimilation, racial and ethnic equality. And the debate would give new meaning to the word “wrenching,” all but tearing the country apart. Yet because of the way the constitutional process is rigged against change, the fight would probably not produce an amendment.

Besides, even if it did, that would hardly fix what’s broken about our immigration system. Revoking birthright citizenship would punish the children of the workers who have entered illegally in past decades. But it would do little to prevent others from coming in the future. They come overwhelmingly to work, not to have babies. And it would only make it harder – immeasurably harder – to assimilate those already here.

Perhaps this is an unseemly election-year stunt that will vanish once the votes are counted in November. We can only hope so, and also hope for a return to a perfectly rational solution: a tall wall (border enforcement) and a wide gate (a very generous legal-immigration policy), to borrow from Charles Krauthammer.

CONTENTIONS’ Pete Wehner and others have participated in a New York Times forum on immigration reform, specifically focused on the notion that we should amend the 14th Amendment. It should come as no surprise to regular readers that I concur with Pete’s take. There are certainly political considerations, as Pete reminds us: “Hispanics are among the fastest growing demographic groups in America. The party of Lincoln and Reagan can appeal to them with a principled stand on illegal immigration, in combination with policies that increase economic growth, entrepreneurship, and social cohesion.” But I find the following to be the most compelling reasons for conservatives to oppose a constitutional amendment repealing birthright citizenship:

For one thing, the evidence that “anchor babies” are a magnet for illegal immigration doesn’t exist (the main motivators are searching for work and better economic conditions). For another, amending the 14th Amendment — which would require a vote of two-thirds of both the House and the Senate, followed by a ratification of three-fourths of the state legislatures — is a distraction from necessary things that need to be done, including securing the southern border, toughening enforcement policies, and expediting the legal process to cut the average deportation time.

It would also be a dramatic and unnecessary break with precedent. As a general matter, conservatives oppose tinkering with the Constitution, especially for empty causes.

It is because the repeal of birthright citizenship is so radical an idea (the most extreme solution to a problem that can be resolved by less draconian means) and so antithetical to the evidence-based, reasoned arguments that conservatives generally engage in that I find the push for a revision of the Constitution so objectionable. I admit to being somewhat shocked that so many usually sober-minded conservatives are serious about the idea.

Tamar Jacoby explains what a push for a constitutional amendment would and wouldn’t do:

Amending the Constitution is, and should be, an extremely difficult process – we’ve done it only 17 times since the Bill of Rights. The 14th Amendment cuts to the heart of what it means to be American. A reconsideration would touch on some of the most deeply felt issues in our political psyche – slavery, immigration, assimilation, racial and ethnic equality. And the debate would give new meaning to the word “wrenching,” all but tearing the country apart. Yet because of the way the constitutional process is rigged against change, the fight would probably not produce an amendment.

Besides, even if it did, that would hardly fix what’s broken about our immigration system. Revoking birthright citizenship would punish the children of the workers who have entered illegally in past decades. But it would do little to prevent others from coming in the future. They come overwhelmingly to work, not to have babies. And it would only make it harder – immeasurably harder – to assimilate those already here.

Perhaps this is an unseemly election-year stunt that will vanish once the votes are counted in November. We can only hope so, and also hope for a return to a perfectly rational solution: a tall wall (border enforcement) and a wide gate (a very generous legal-immigration policy), to borrow from Charles Krauthammer.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Gloom and doom from the Democrats: “Dems are worried that a new feud between the WH and their liberal base is further endangering the party’s candidates during the midterms, exacerbating an already immense enthusiasm gap.”

Succinct brilliance from Charles Krauthammer: “No commercial tower over Gettysburg, no convent at Auschwitz — and no mosque at Ground Zero. Build it anywhere but there.”

Evasion from Rep. Anthony Weiner on the Ground Zero mosque. Is it too hard a question, or is his answer too unpopular?

A warning from the Democrats’ own ranks. Rick Sloan, acting executive director of UCubed, a community-service project of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers: “You can talk about deficit reduction, health-care reform—you can talk about all those things but you’re talking past the jobless voters.” And from a Democratic voting analyst: “Unemployment in the individual congressional districts ‘is the leading factor in determining the November elections. … The hope of the administration is it’s trending down when the elections are held, but they’re running out of time.”

A dose of reality from Colorado: “The first Rasmussen Reports post-primary telephone survey of Likely Voters in Colorado shows a close U.S. Senate race between Republican challenger Ken Buck and incumbent Democratic Senator Michael Bennet. Buck attracts 46% support, while Bennet picks up 41% of the vote.” So much for the notion that Colorado proves Obama still has political mojo.

An effort to save Republicans from themselves on birthright citizenship, from Michael Gerson: “The Radical Republicans who wrote the 14th Amendment were, in fact, quite radical. … Their main goal was expressed in birthright citizenship: to prevent a future majority from stealing the rights of children of any background, as long as they were born in America. Today’s dispute over birthright citizenship reveals the immigration debate in its starkest form. Usually, opponents of illegal immigration speak of giving lawbreakers what they deserve. But this does not apply in the case of an infant. … The radical, humane vision of the 14th Amendment can be put another way: No child born in America can be judged unworthy by John Boehner, because each is his equal.”

Surprising sanity from the Gray Lady’s editors: “We believe that the United States has a powerful national interest in Afghanistan, in depriving Al Qaeda of a safe haven on either side of the Afghanistan-Pakistan border. This country would also do enormous damage to its moral and strategic standing if it now simply abandoned the Afghan people to the Taliban’s brutalities. … But reports from the ground have been so relentlessly grim — July’s death toll of 66 American troops was the highest since the war began — that Mr. Obama needs to do a better job right now of explaining the strategy and how he is measuring progress.”

Gloom and doom from the Democrats: “Dems are worried that a new feud between the WH and their liberal base is further endangering the party’s candidates during the midterms, exacerbating an already immense enthusiasm gap.”

Succinct brilliance from Charles Krauthammer: “No commercial tower over Gettysburg, no convent at Auschwitz — and no mosque at Ground Zero. Build it anywhere but there.”

Evasion from Rep. Anthony Weiner on the Ground Zero mosque. Is it too hard a question, or is his answer too unpopular?

A warning from the Democrats’ own ranks. Rick Sloan, acting executive director of UCubed, a community-service project of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers: “You can talk about deficit reduction, health-care reform—you can talk about all those things but you’re talking past the jobless voters.” And from a Democratic voting analyst: “Unemployment in the individual congressional districts ‘is the leading factor in determining the November elections. … The hope of the administration is it’s trending down when the elections are held, but they’re running out of time.”

A dose of reality from Colorado: “The first Rasmussen Reports post-primary telephone survey of Likely Voters in Colorado shows a close U.S. Senate race between Republican challenger Ken Buck and incumbent Democratic Senator Michael Bennet. Buck attracts 46% support, while Bennet picks up 41% of the vote.” So much for the notion that Colorado proves Obama still has political mojo.

An effort to save Republicans from themselves on birthright citizenship, from Michael Gerson: “The Radical Republicans who wrote the 14th Amendment were, in fact, quite radical. … Their main goal was expressed in birthright citizenship: to prevent a future majority from stealing the rights of children of any background, as long as they were born in America. Today’s dispute over birthright citizenship reveals the immigration debate in its starkest form. Usually, opponents of illegal immigration speak of giving lawbreakers what they deserve. But this does not apply in the case of an infant. … The radical, humane vision of the 14th Amendment can be put another way: No child born in America can be judged unworthy by John Boehner, because each is his equal.”

Surprising sanity from the Gray Lady’s editors: “We believe that the United States has a powerful national interest in Afghanistan, in depriving Al Qaeda of a safe haven on either side of the Afghanistan-Pakistan border. This country would also do enormous damage to its moral and strategic standing if it now simply abandoned the Afghan people to the Taliban’s brutalities. … But reports from the ground have been so relentlessly grim — July’s death toll of 66 American troops was the highest since the war began — that Mr. Obama needs to do a better job right now of explaining the strategy and how he is measuring progress.”

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Flotsam and Jetsam

It’s not just that Journolisters (Journoapparatchiks?) are foul-mouthed; they need to get out more, says Jeffrey Goldberg about the lefties’ vulgar insult of Nascar fans: “It is true, in my limited exposure to Nascar fans, that many Nascar partisans are advocates of small government, lower taxes and a strong national defense, but I have not run into racists, anti-Semites or conspiracy-mongerers at Nascar events, either.” By the way, Rahm Emanuel had to apologize for using “retard” — what about this crew?

It’s not just conservatives who oppose the Ground Zero mosque: “Just 20% of U.S. voters favor the building of an Islamic mosque near the Ground Zero site of the World Trade Center in New York City, according to a new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey. Fifty-four percent (54%) oppose the planned building of a mosque near where Muslim terrorists brought down the skyscrapers by crashing commercial airliners into them on September 11, 2001. Three thousand people died in the incident and related attacks that day.”

It’s not just critics who thought Obama should have gone to the Gulf on vacation: “US President Barack Obama and his family will spend a vacation weekend on the Gulf Coast in Florida next month, showing solidarity with a tourism industry hurt by the BP oil spill.”

It’s not just Republicans who think Rep. Charlie Rangel has a lot of explaining to do: “Embattled Rep. Charles Rangel, the former chairman of the powerful House Ways and Means Committee, committed an undisclosed ethics violation, a House investigatory subcommittee determined Thursday. Congressional officials knowledgeable with the ethics process said the exact nature of the violation — or violations — won’t be publicly revealed until Rangel goes before an eight-person adjudicatory subcommittee of the House Committee on Standards of Official Conduct next Thursday to state his case.”

It’s not just employment numbers that are looking bad. “In the latest sign of renewed turbulence in the housing market, an industry group said Thursday that sales of existing homes fell 5.1% in June. The National Association of Realtors reported that existing home sales fell last month to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.37 million units, down from 5.66 million in May.”

It’s not just conservatives who think the Obami behaved badly in the Shirley Sherrod incident. Richard Cohen: “The coward in question is Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack who, even though from Iowa, fired Sherrod in a New York minute, and by extension and tradition — ‘The buck stops here,’ remember? — Barack Obama himself. Where do they get off treating anyone so shabbily?”

It’s not just the election that Republicans should keep their eyes on, warns Charles Krauthammer: “But assuming the elections go as currently projected, Obama’s follow-on reforms are dead. Except for the fact that a lame-duck session, freezing in place the lopsided Democratic majorities of November 2008, would be populated by dozens of Democratic members who had lost reelection (in addition to those retiring). They could then vote for anything — including measures they today shun as the midterms approach and their seats are threatened — because they would have nothing to lose. They would be unemployed. And playing along with Obama might even brighten the prospects for, say, an ambassadorship to a sunny Caribbean isle.”

It’s not just that Journolisters (Journoapparatchiks?) are foul-mouthed; they need to get out more, says Jeffrey Goldberg about the lefties’ vulgar insult of Nascar fans: “It is true, in my limited exposure to Nascar fans, that many Nascar partisans are advocates of small government, lower taxes and a strong national defense, but I have not run into racists, anti-Semites or conspiracy-mongerers at Nascar events, either.” By the way, Rahm Emanuel had to apologize for using “retard” — what about this crew?

It’s not just conservatives who oppose the Ground Zero mosque: “Just 20% of U.S. voters favor the building of an Islamic mosque near the Ground Zero site of the World Trade Center in New York City, according to a new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey. Fifty-four percent (54%) oppose the planned building of a mosque near where Muslim terrorists brought down the skyscrapers by crashing commercial airliners into them on September 11, 2001. Three thousand people died in the incident and related attacks that day.”

It’s not just critics who thought Obama should have gone to the Gulf on vacation: “US President Barack Obama and his family will spend a vacation weekend on the Gulf Coast in Florida next month, showing solidarity with a tourism industry hurt by the BP oil spill.”

It’s not just Republicans who think Rep. Charlie Rangel has a lot of explaining to do: “Embattled Rep. Charles Rangel, the former chairman of the powerful House Ways and Means Committee, committed an undisclosed ethics violation, a House investigatory subcommittee determined Thursday. Congressional officials knowledgeable with the ethics process said the exact nature of the violation — or violations — won’t be publicly revealed until Rangel goes before an eight-person adjudicatory subcommittee of the House Committee on Standards of Official Conduct next Thursday to state his case.”

It’s not just employment numbers that are looking bad. “In the latest sign of renewed turbulence in the housing market, an industry group said Thursday that sales of existing homes fell 5.1% in June. The National Association of Realtors reported that existing home sales fell last month to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.37 million units, down from 5.66 million in May.”

It’s not just conservatives who think the Obami behaved badly in the Shirley Sherrod incident. Richard Cohen: “The coward in question is Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack who, even though from Iowa, fired Sherrod in a New York minute, and by extension and tradition — ‘The buck stops here,’ remember? — Barack Obama himself. Where do they get off treating anyone so shabbily?”

It’s not just the election that Republicans should keep their eyes on, warns Charles Krauthammer: “But assuming the elections go as currently projected, Obama’s follow-on reforms are dead. Except for the fact that a lame-duck session, freezing in place the lopsided Democratic majorities of November 2008, would be populated by dozens of Democratic members who had lost reelection (in addition to those retiring). They could then vote for anything — including measures they today shun as the midterms approach and their seats are threatened — because they would have nothing to lose. They would be unemployed. And playing along with Obama might even brighten the prospects for, say, an ambassadorship to a sunny Caribbean isle.”

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Flotsam and Jetsam

If you give the liberal newspapers 11 months, they will eventually catch up with conservative media.

If you give Jonathan Chait a lifetime, he never will. Refusal to pursue voter-intimidation cases against nonwhite people, he says, is a “tiny matter.” (Does he know that it’s not just Fox that’s covering the scandal but the Washington Post too?)

If they gave grades for charm, Nancy Pelosi would be failing: “While trying to mend ties between her caucus and the White House, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi turned her ire toward her Senate colleagues on Thursday, blaming Senate delays in passing the Democratic agenda for the disappointing jobs picture heading into the midterm elections.”

If you keep hoping for Peter Beinart to write something that is factually supported and more than an ad hominem attack on conservatives, you’ll be disappointed. He says Republicans think you have to be Christian to be American. Or something. No, don’t read the whole thing. Or any of it.

If you think liberals aren’t angst-ridden, think again. Greg Sargent complains about Robert Gibbs’s comment on losing the House: “[I]t’s pretty clear now that Dems have good reason to be furious about Gibbs’s misstep. It has forced a days-long media process story about whether they’re going to lose the House and about tensions between them and the White House. This is happening just when Dems are trying to turn the spotlight away from themselves and onto Republicans in order to persuade voters that this fall’s elections represent a choice between competing governing philosophies.”

If you also thought it was bizarre that Obama was invoking race to explain why al-Qaeda kills Africans, you are in good company. Charles Krauthammer: “I found a more interesting element in the interview when he said al-Qaeda doesn’t respect African life. I mean, it doesn’t respect Indonesian life, Pakistani life, Iraqi life, American life. Of course it doesn’t respect African life, but it’s not because of race. It doesn’t respect anyone or any organization, any people who won’t accept the extreme interpretation of Islam and the bringing on of one rule under sharia.”

If Republicans are doing this well in fundraising, you have to think they’re going to do very well in November. (That sure was the pattern for Democrats in 2008.) “Republicans are outraising Democrats in nearly a dozen open Senate races, increasing their hopes of significantly narrowing the Democrats’ majority in November.”

If you like a good news story: “A judge had resentenced a 70-year-old civil rights lawyer to 10 years in prison for letting a jailed Egyptian sheik communicate with his radical followers. Federal Judge John Koeltl sentenced Lynne Stewart in Manhattan after she pleaded with him to reimpose the two-year, four-month sentence he had originally given her in 2006.” You might want to avert your eyes from the photo, however.

 

If you give the liberal newspapers 11 months, they will eventually catch up with conservative media.

If you give Jonathan Chait a lifetime, he never will. Refusal to pursue voter-intimidation cases against nonwhite people, he says, is a “tiny matter.” (Does he know that it’s not just Fox that’s covering the scandal but the Washington Post too?)

If they gave grades for charm, Nancy Pelosi would be failing: “While trying to mend ties between her caucus and the White House, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi turned her ire toward her Senate colleagues on Thursday, blaming Senate delays in passing the Democratic agenda for the disappointing jobs picture heading into the midterm elections.”

If you keep hoping for Peter Beinart to write something that is factually supported and more than an ad hominem attack on conservatives, you’ll be disappointed. He says Republicans think you have to be Christian to be American. Or something. No, don’t read the whole thing. Or any of it.

If you think liberals aren’t angst-ridden, think again. Greg Sargent complains about Robert Gibbs’s comment on losing the House: “[I]t’s pretty clear now that Dems have good reason to be furious about Gibbs’s misstep. It has forced a days-long media process story about whether they’re going to lose the House and about tensions between them and the White House. This is happening just when Dems are trying to turn the spotlight away from themselves and onto Republicans in order to persuade voters that this fall’s elections represent a choice between competing governing philosophies.”

If you also thought it was bizarre that Obama was invoking race to explain why al-Qaeda kills Africans, you are in good company. Charles Krauthammer: “I found a more interesting element in the interview when he said al-Qaeda doesn’t respect African life. I mean, it doesn’t respect Indonesian life, Pakistani life, Iraqi life, American life. Of course it doesn’t respect African life, but it’s not because of race. It doesn’t respect anyone or any organization, any people who won’t accept the extreme interpretation of Islam and the bringing on of one rule under sharia.”

If Republicans are doing this well in fundraising, you have to think they’re going to do very well in November. (That sure was the pattern for Democrats in 2008.) “Republicans are outraising Democrats in nearly a dozen open Senate races, increasing their hopes of significantly narrowing the Democrats’ majority in November.”

If you like a good news story: “A judge had resentenced a 70-year-old civil rights lawyer to 10 years in prison for letting a jailed Egyptian sheik communicate with his radical followers. Federal Judge John Koeltl sentenced Lynne Stewart in Manhattan after she pleaded with him to reimpose the two-year, four-month sentence he had originally given her in 2006.” You might want to avert your eyes from the photo, however.

 

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Flotsam and Jetsam

How dumb does Obama think businessmen are? “The White House has launched a coordinated campaign to push back against the perception taking hold in corporate America and on Wall Street that President Barack Obama is promoting an anti-business agenda.” Besides, wasn’t his populist, anti–Wall Street rhetoric supposed to be the key to minimizing midterm losses?

How upset do you think the White House is that the West Virginia governor has put another Senate seat at risk? “West Virginia Attorney General Darrell McGraw (D) cleared the way for Gov. Joe Manchin (D) to call a November 2010 special election for the late Sen. Robert Byrd’s (D-W.Va.) seat. The legal opinion McGraw issued Thursday did not give a specific timeline for a special election, but suggests using the already scheduled election this November.”

How slow do you think things are in Washington if the Politico forum is about whether Sarah Palin should replace Michael Steele? Yeah, like she needs, or would ever contemplate taking, that job.

How nervous do you think this Sarah Palin ad made the 2012 GOP contenders? Whatever you think of her, the ad is really good.

How much weight do you think the neo-isolationists and paleo-conservatives have in the GOP? Not much right now if Ann Coulter and Ron Paul are the only pro–Michael Steele voices. But Republicans should be wary — there is always the temptation to pull up the drawbridge.

How angry do you think Americans will be with Obama when they realize this? (More than they already are, that is): “After nearly a decade of federal tax cuts, Americans could awaken New Year’s Day with a whopper of a hangover. Breaks covering everything from child tax credits to the death tax are set to expire that day, less than six months from now, bringing higher payments for nearly every American who pays taxes. ‘We’ve never in history seen anything quite like this, where such a major portion of the tax code is set to expire on a single date and affect so many Americans all at once,’ said Scott Hodge, president of The Tax Foundation, a Washington nonprofit that tracks tax policies.”

How much trouble do you think Obama is in when Ruth Marcus sounds like John Podhoretz?

How many GOP 2012 candidates do you think will take this smart advice on immigration reform from Charles Krauthammer?It seems to me that the Republicans ought to argue enforcement first — and then a very generous, open and humane solution for those already here.” Not enough, I fear.

How dumb does Obama think businessmen are? “The White House has launched a coordinated campaign to push back against the perception taking hold in corporate America and on Wall Street that President Barack Obama is promoting an anti-business agenda.” Besides, wasn’t his populist, anti–Wall Street rhetoric supposed to be the key to minimizing midterm losses?

How upset do you think the White House is that the West Virginia governor has put another Senate seat at risk? “West Virginia Attorney General Darrell McGraw (D) cleared the way for Gov. Joe Manchin (D) to call a November 2010 special election for the late Sen. Robert Byrd’s (D-W.Va.) seat. The legal opinion McGraw issued Thursday did not give a specific timeline for a special election, but suggests using the already scheduled election this November.”

How slow do you think things are in Washington if the Politico forum is about whether Sarah Palin should replace Michael Steele? Yeah, like she needs, or would ever contemplate taking, that job.

How nervous do you think this Sarah Palin ad made the 2012 GOP contenders? Whatever you think of her, the ad is really good.

How much weight do you think the neo-isolationists and paleo-conservatives have in the GOP? Not much right now if Ann Coulter and Ron Paul are the only pro–Michael Steele voices. But Republicans should be wary — there is always the temptation to pull up the drawbridge.

How angry do you think Americans will be with Obama when they realize this? (More than they already are, that is): “After nearly a decade of federal tax cuts, Americans could awaken New Year’s Day with a whopper of a hangover. Breaks covering everything from child tax credits to the death tax are set to expire that day, less than six months from now, bringing higher payments for nearly every American who pays taxes. ‘We’ve never in history seen anything quite like this, where such a major portion of the tax code is set to expire on a single date and affect so many Americans all at once,’ said Scott Hodge, president of The Tax Foundation, a Washington nonprofit that tracks tax policies.”

How much trouble do you think Obama is in when Ruth Marcus sounds like John Podhoretz?

How many GOP 2012 candidates do you think will take this smart advice on immigration reform from Charles Krauthammer?It seems to me that the Republicans ought to argue enforcement first — and then a very generous, open and humane solution for those already here.” Not enough, I fear.

Read Less




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