Commentary Magazine


Topic: Charles Lane

Flotsam and Jetsam

Even Obama’s old seat may be lost. Mark Kirk has a small lead in two recent polls.

Even the White House couldn’t spin this one: “All signs point to huge Republican victories in two weeks, with the GOP now leading Democrats on virtually every measure in an Associated Press-GfK poll of people likely to vote in the first major elections of Barack Obama’s presidency … 50 percent say they will back the GOP candidate in their House district; 43 percent say they’ll support the Democrat … 54 percent disapprove of Obama’s job performance; 45 percent approve.” No wonder Obama wants to talk about the Chamber of Commerce.

Even the VP spot in 2012 is out, says Chris Christie. “Christie also once again said there’s ‘no way’ he’d run for president in 2012. But his wife suggested the freshman governor would be good in the role. ‘Oh, absolutely,’ Mary Pat Christie told MSNBC when asked if she thought her husband would make for a ‘good president.’” Hey, Obama changed his mind about running in 2008.

Even Christine O’Donnell (probably) knows it by heart: “At a Democratic fundraiser on Monday night, President Obama once again misquoted the Declaration of Independence’s most famous sentence and once again omitted its reference to our ‘Creator.’” If you are counting, this is the third time he edited the Preamble. “Other presidents didn’t deliberately misquote the Declaration, and they didn’t leave out (or rewrite) the words about our rights being endowed by our Creator.” But he’s an intellectual, don’t you see?

Even William Galston can’t convince me that Obama will “reach across the aisle” to work cooperatively with a GOP Congress. He should, but he sure isn’t laying the groundwork now.

Even the “unambiguous success” of the GM bailout really isn’t. Charles Lane explains that GM has $27 billion in unfunded pension-plan obligations. “Long term, the bailout can’t work unless the public buys GM’s cars. But the company’s share of the U.S. market was 19 percent in September 2010, down from 19.6 percent at the beginning of the year. Hence, [independent ratings agency] Fitch says, GM’s bonds deserve a ‘junk’ rating: BB-. That, too, is not a big surprise. But it does suggest that the success of the bailout is still, well, ambiguous. GM is not out of the woods yet, and neither are the taxpayers.”

Even the Harvard Club of New York has higher standards than CNN. “This year, the Midtown club turned down Mr. Spitzer’s application for membership — a rare snub by the club — because officials there did not want to be associated with Mr. Spitzer and the prostitution scandal that forced him from the governorship of New York in 2008, according to a person told of the decision by Harvard officials.” Shunning is a much-underrated tool in maintaining ethical standards. (Speaking of which, why did the same Harvard University have Spitzer speak last year on ethics?)

Even unacceptable to Human Rights Watch: “Human Rights Watch has slammed a ruling by an Emirati court which condones the beating of wives by their husbands, saying it sends out a signal that violence against women and children is acceptable.” Would be nice if Obama and his secretary of state would do so as well, since they’re all about human rights these days.

Even liberal Matthew Duss concedes that George Bush was on to something with his “freedom agenda.” In a backhanded way, he advises: “But just because the Bush administration latched onto this critique as a justification for its attempt to reorder the Middle East doesn’t mean it was necessarily wrong. A focus on security at the expense of democracy does generate bad consequences, and acknowledgement of this fact, by anyone, however late coming, is a good thing.” In all his suck-uppery to the PA, Obama has ignored this truism: “Political freedom is not a peripheral concern in Palestine — it is central to the U.S. goal of a functioning, viable, and democratic Palestinian state at peace with Israel.”

Even Obama’s old seat may be lost. Mark Kirk has a small lead in two recent polls.

Even the White House couldn’t spin this one: “All signs point to huge Republican victories in two weeks, with the GOP now leading Democrats on virtually every measure in an Associated Press-GfK poll of people likely to vote in the first major elections of Barack Obama’s presidency … 50 percent say they will back the GOP candidate in their House district; 43 percent say they’ll support the Democrat … 54 percent disapprove of Obama’s job performance; 45 percent approve.” No wonder Obama wants to talk about the Chamber of Commerce.

Even the VP spot in 2012 is out, says Chris Christie. “Christie also once again said there’s ‘no way’ he’d run for president in 2012. But his wife suggested the freshman governor would be good in the role. ‘Oh, absolutely,’ Mary Pat Christie told MSNBC when asked if she thought her husband would make for a ‘good president.’” Hey, Obama changed his mind about running in 2008.

Even Christine O’Donnell (probably) knows it by heart: “At a Democratic fundraiser on Monday night, President Obama once again misquoted the Declaration of Independence’s most famous sentence and once again omitted its reference to our ‘Creator.’” If you are counting, this is the third time he edited the Preamble. “Other presidents didn’t deliberately misquote the Declaration, and they didn’t leave out (or rewrite) the words about our rights being endowed by our Creator.” But he’s an intellectual, don’t you see?

Even William Galston can’t convince me that Obama will “reach across the aisle” to work cooperatively with a GOP Congress. He should, but he sure isn’t laying the groundwork now.

Even the “unambiguous success” of the GM bailout really isn’t. Charles Lane explains that GM has $27 billion in unfunded pension-plan obligations. “Long term, the bailout can’t work unless the public buys GM’s cars. But the company’s share of the U.S. market was 19 percent in September 2010, down from 19.6 percent at the beginning of the year. Hence, [independent ratings agency] Fitch says, GM’s bonds deserve a ‘junk’ rating: BB-. That, too, is not a big surprise. But it does suggest that the success of the bailout is still, well, ambiguous. GM is not out of the woods yet, and neither are the taxpayers.”

Even the Harvard Club of New York has higher standards than CNN. “This year, the Midtown club turned down Mr. Spitzer’s application for membership — a rare snub by the club — because officials there did not want to be associated with Mr. Spitzer and the prostitution scandal that forced him from the governorship of New York in 2008, according to a person told of the decision by Harvard officials.” Shunning is a much-underrated tool in maintaining ethical standards. (Speaking of which, why did the same Harvard University have Spitzer speak last year on ethics?)

Even unacceptable to Human Rights Watch: “Human Rights Watch has slammed a ruling by an Emirati court which condones the beating of wives by their husbands, saying it sends out a signal that violence against women and children is acceptable.” Would be nice if Obama and his secretary of state would do so as well, since they’re all about human rights these days.

Even liberal Matthew Duss concedes that George Bush was on to something with his “freedom agenda.” In a backhanded way, he advises: “But just because the Bush administration latched onto this critique as a justification for its attempt to reorder the Middle East doesn’t mean it was necessarily wrong. A focus on security at the expense of democracy does generate bad consequences, and acknowledgement of this fact, by anyone, however late coming, is a good thing.” In all his suck-uppery to the PA, Obama has ignored this truism: “Political freedom is not a peripheral concern in Palestine — it is central to the U.S. goal of a functioning, viable, and democratic Palestinian state at peace with Israel.”

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Stu Rothenberg doesn’t think much of the Dems’ Chamber of Commerce gambit: “This is what we call the political version of ‘jumping the shark’ — a desperate-looking charge that a campaign or a party hopes could be a game-changer. It’s pretty early for Democrats to jump the shark, and you have to wonder whether this is really the best shot they have in their arsenal. Yes, it might get some folks agitated, but not many. And it reeks of desperation.”

Voters don’t think much of it either: “Election Day is just two weeks away, and Republican candidates hold a nine-point lead over Democrats on the Generic Congressional Ballot for the week ending Sunday, October 17, 2010. … Even more worrisome for Democrats, however, is the finding that among the voters who are most closely following the midterm elections Republicans hold a 55% to 36% lead.”

CNN voters don’t think much of the Parker-Spitzer show, and Vic Matus thinks even less of Spitzer’s likening himself to Icarus: “Putz. He doesn’t even know the quotation. …It ends, ‘… they first make mad.’ As in insane. Which is precisely the case with Spitzer. … Sorry. I knew Icarus—Icarus was a friend of mine. Eliot Spitzer is no Icarus.”

Charles Lane doesn’t think much of Democrats’ excessive dependence on public-employee unions. “But in an era of increasing discontent over taxes, government spending and the perks of government employees, these are not necessarily the allies you want to have. A party that depends on the public employees to get elected will have trouble reaching out to the wider electorate — i.e., the people who pay the taxes that support public employee salaries and pensions. In politics, you never want to find yourself beholden to a minority whose core interests often clash with the interests of voters.”

Josh Rogin doesn’t think much of Jon Stewart’s claim that Sen. Tom Coburn is holding up aid to Haiti. “The problem is that Coburn’s hold is not responsible for delaying the $1.15 billion Congress already appropriated in late July to help Haiti. … Even the State Department acknowledges that Coburn is not responsible for the delay in this tranche of funds for Haiti.”

ABC doesn’t think much of Dems’ chances of holding the House majority: “In the House, many key House races have seen some tightening, but it’s not enough to make Democrats feel all that much better. Democrats have 63 seats in serious danger compared to just four for Republicans.”

Anyone who lives in the VA-11 (like me!) doesn’t think much of Marc Ambinder’s spin that Rep. Gerry Connolly “knows this district inside and out.” If he did, he would have maintained a moderate voting record like his predecessor Tom Davis, instead of rubber-stamping the Obama agenda and putting his seat at risk.

The liberal JTA doesn’t think much of Howard Berman’s claim that Mark Kirk didn’t have anything to do with the Iran-sanctions bill: “Kirk gets this one, I think, on points — as the Sun Times notes, Berman thanked [co-sponsor Rep. Rob] Andrews for his work, a hint that the bill he and Kirk shaped played a role in the final bill. So did AIPAC when the bill passed. And, the sanctions are pretty much identical.”

The Democratic Senate Campaign Committee doesn’t think much of its party’s chances in at least five races. A fundraising appeal, Ben Smith explains, “seems to concede what many on both sides now see as nearly done: Five open GOP-held seats, in Missouri, Kentucky, Ohio, New Hampshire, Florida, and Kansas, have slipped pretty near out of reach.”

Stu Rothenberg doesn’t think much of the Dems’ Chamber of Commerce gambit: “This is what we call the political version of ‘jumping the shark’ — a desperate-looking charge that a campaign or a party hopes could be a game-changer. It’s pretty early for Democrats to jump the shark, and you have to wonder whether this is really the best shot they have in their arsenal. Yes, it might get some folks agitated, but not many. And it reeks of desperation.”

Voters don’t think much of it either: “Election Day is just two weeks away, and Republican candidates hold a nine-point lead over Democrats on the Generic Congressional Ballot for the week ending Sunday, October 17, 2010. … Even more worrisome for Democrats, however, is the finding that among the voters who are most closely following the midterm elections Republicans hold a 55% to 36% lead.”

CNN voters don’t think much of the Parker-Spitzer show, and Vic Matus thinks even less of Spitzer’s likening himself to Icarus: “Putz. He doesn’t even know the quotation. …It ends, ‘… they first make mad.’ As in insane. Which is precisely the case with Spitzer. … Sorry. I knew Icarus—Icarus was a friend of mine. Eliot Spitzer is no Icarus.”

Charles Lane doesn’t think much of Democrats’ excessive dependence on public-employee unions. “But in an era of increasing discontent over taxes, government spending and the perks of government employees, these are not necessarily the allies you want to have. A party that depends on the public employees to get elected will have trouble reaching out to the wider electorate — i.e., the people who pay the taxes that support public employee salaries and pensions. In politics, you never want to find yourself beholden to a minority whose core interests often clash with the interests of voters.”

Josh Rogin doesn’t think much of Jon Stewart’s claim that Sen. Tom Coburn is holding up aid to Haiti. “The problem is that Coburn’s hold is not responsible for delaying the $1.15 billion Congress already appropriated in late July to help Haiti. … Even the State Department acknowledges that Coburn is not responsible for the delay in this tranche of funds for Haiti.”

ABC doesn’t think much of Dems’ chances of holding the House majority: “In the House, many key House races have seen some tightening, but it’s not enough to make Democrats feel all that much better. Democrats have 63 seats in serious danger compared to just four for Republicans.”

Anyone who lives in the VA-11 (like me!) doesn’t think much of Marc Ambinder’s spin that Rep. Gerry Connolly “knows this district inside and out.” If he did, he would have maintained a moderate voting record like his predecessor Tom Davis, instead of rubber-stamping the Obama agenda and putting his seat at risk.

The liberal JTA doesn’t think much of Howard Berman’s claim that Mark Kirk didn’t have anything to do with the Iran-sanctions bill: “Kirk gets this one, I think, on points — as the Sun Times notes, Berman thanked [co-sponsor Rep. Rob] Andrews for his work, a hint that the bill he and Kirk shaped played a role in the final bill. So did AIPAC when the bill passed. And, the sanctions are pretty much identical.”

The Democratic Senate Campaign Committee doesn’t think much of its party’s chances in at least five races. A fundraising appeal, Ben Smith explains, “seems to concede what many on both sides now see as nearly done: Five open GOP-held seats, in Missouri, Kentucky, Ohio, New Hampshire, Florida, and Kansas, have slipped pretty near out of reach.”

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Religious Provocateurs and the Liberal Elite

A crackpot pastor with a “flock” of 50 threatens to burn Korans. The entire political establishment, including the president and the defense secretary, Republican officials and 2012 contenders, and Christian and Jewish leaders implore him to stop. So much for the notion that America is a hotbed of Islamophobia. (The elite media — ever eager to show Americans’ “intolerance” – is the entity most responsible for fanning the flames on this one.)

We saw, of course, no similar outpouring of condemnation and pleading from the chattering class or from Muslim officials when Imam Rauf announced that he would build a mosque on the site where 3,000 Americans were incinerated in the name of Islam.You see, empathy runs only one way for the Muslim outreachers. Under no circumstances must we expect or request a modicum of respect for non-Muslims from the mosque builders. What is revealing in the Koran incident is not what it tells us about the pastor, but what it tells us about the left.

We’ve known for sometime, of course, that the left really doesn’t much mind it when the religious insults are hurled against Christians. The Piss Christ exhibit, you see, was an act of “artistic expression.” And as Daniel Gordis detailed, virulent anti-Semitism is not only acceptable but increasingly de rigueur in the liberal media. It’s only when Muslim sensibilities are involved that the left rushes forth in a tizzy about religious sensibilities. Contrast the insistence that the Koran-burning minister call off his stunt to the support the left gives to Imam Rauf’s incendiary act. The latter is construed as an “act of reconciliation”; only the former is recognized as divisive and hateful.

Charles Lane pegged it correctly:

The president seemed oblivious to the contradiction between his pressure on Jones and his view, repeated at Friday’s press conference, that the U.S. must strictly follow the Constitution when prosecuting terrorism suspects — lest the terrorists win by getting us to curtail liberty. “We can’t be frightened by a handful of people who are trying to do us harm,” he said. Yet to the extent Obama opposed [Rev. Terry] Jones’s exercise of free speech — including mere “threats of action” — because it might trigger a violent reaction, he was expressing, and yielding to, fear of those very “people.”…

Instead, the president of the United States broadcast his fear that a U.S. citizen’s exercise of his liberty will provoke Muslim violence — without even calling upon Muslims to refrain from such attacks, much less declaring that they would be completely unjustified, and correspondingly resisted.

Remember the Obama rule: tolerance is what Muslims should expect from non-Muslims, never the reverse.

Meanwhile, Rauf pronounces: “You know, had I known this would happen, we certainly would never have done this. … We would not have done something that would have created more divisiveness.” If he admits his effort at reconciliation was a debacle and has proved counterproductive, why not call if off? But to hear Mayor Bloomberg, the president, and the rest of the left, to urge him to do just that is to “betray our values” and engage in bigotry.

It is this sort of moral and intellectual incoherence that contributes to the disdain many citizens feel toward the liberal intelligentsia. The average American can figure out that we should use moral persuasion and public criticism to prevent gratuitous insults by misguided or intentionally provocative religious figures (and to ignore the truly marginal figures like the Koran burner, whose bonanza of publicity is sure to attract copycats). Unfortunately, the same can’t be said for the chattering class or this administration. It’s a wonder that confidence in elite institutions isn’t lower than it already is.

A crackpot pastor with a “flock” of 50 threatens to burn Korans. The entire political establishment, including the president and the defense secretary, Republican officials and 2012 contenders, and Christian and Jewish leaders implore him to stop. So much for the notion that America is a hotbed of Islamophobia. (The elite media — ever eager to show Americans’ “intolerance” – is the entity most responsible for fanning the flames on this one.)

We saw, of course, no similar outpouring of condemnation and pleading from the chattering class or from Muslim officials when Imam Rauf announced that he would build a mosque on the site where 3,000 Americans were incinerated in the name of Islam.You see, empathy runs only one way for the Muslim outreachers. Under no circumstances must we expect or request a modicum of respect for non-Muslims from the mosque builders. What is revealing in the Koran incident is not what it tells us about the pastor, but what it tells us about the left.

We’ve known for sometime, of course, that the left really doesn’t much mind it when the religious insults are hurled against Christians. The Piss Christ exhibit, you see, was an act of “artistic expression.” And as Daniel Gordis detailed, virulent anti-Semitism is not only acceptable but increasingly de rigueur in the liberal media. It’s only when Muslim sensibilities are involved that the left rushes forth in a tizzy about religious sensibilities. Contrast the insistence that the Koran-burning minister call off his stunt to the support the left gives to Imam Rauf’s incendiary act. The latter is construed as an “act of reconciliation”; only the former is recognized as divisive and hateful.

Charles Lane pegged it correctly:

The president seemed oblivious to the contradiction between his pressure on Jones and his view, repeated at Friday’s press conference, that the U.S. must strictly follow the Constitution when prosecuting terrorism suspects — lest the terrorists win by getting us to curtail liberty. “We can’t be frightened by a handful of people who are trying to do us harm,” he said. Yet to the extent Obama opposed [Rev. Terry] Jones’s exercise of free speech — including mere “threats of action” — because it might trigger a violent reaction, he was expressing, and yielding to, fear of those very “people.”…

Instead, the president of the United States broadcast his fear that a U.S. citizen’s exercise of his liberty will provoke Muslim violence — without even calling upon Muslims to refrain from such attacks, much less declaring that they would be completely unjustified, and correspondingly resisted.

Remember the Obama rule: tolerance is what Muslims should expect from non-Muslims, never the reverse.

Meanwhile, Rauf pronounces: “You know, had I known this would happen, we certainly would never have done this. … We would not have done something that would have created more divisiveness.” If he admits his effort at reconciliation was a debacle and has proved counterproductive, why not call if off? But to hear Mayor Bloomberg, the president, and the rest of the left, to urge him to do just that is to “betray our values” and engage in bigotry.

It is this sort of moral and intellectual incoherence that contributes to the disdain many citizens feel toward the liberal intelligentsia. The average American can figure out that we should use moral persuasion and public criticism to prevent gratuitous insults by misguided or intentionally provocative religious figures (and to ignore the truly marginal figures like the Koran burner, whose bonanza of publicity is sure to attract copycats). Unfortunately, the same can’t be said for the chattering class or this administration. It’s a wonder that confidence in elite institutions isn’t lower than it already is.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Even Max Baucus is criticizing Obama’s latest recess appointment, Donald Berwick, who is to head the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. Baucus said he was “‘troubled’ that Obama chose to install Berwich without a formal confirmation process. ‘Senate confirmation of presidential appointees is an essential process prescribed by the Constitution that serves as a check on executive power and protects Montanans and all Americans by ensuring that crucial questions are asked of the nominee — and answered,’ Baucus said in a statement.”

Even CNN can’t employ an editor (Octavia Nasr) who bemoans the death of Hezbollah leader Grand Ayatollah Mohammed Hussein Fadlallah. The New York Times dryly reports: “Ms. Nasr, a 20-year veteran of CNN, wrote on Twitter after the cleric died on Sunday, ‘Sad to hear of the passing of Sayyed Mohammed Hussein Fadlallah … One of Hezbollah’s giants I respect a lot.’ Ayatollah Fadlallah routinely denounced Israel and the United States, and supported suicide bombings against Israeli civilians. Ayatollah Fadlallah’s writings and preachings inspired the Dawa Party of Iraq and a generation of militants, including the founders of Hezbollah.”

Even Obama has figured out that direct negotiations are the only viable way to proceed with his “peace process.” The Palestinians are now miffed that their patron is starting to wise up. PLO representative Maen Rashid Areikat: “I hope [Obama's deadline] is not an attempt to pressure the Palestinians that if they don’t move to the direct talks, there will be a resumption of settlement construction in the West Bank.”

Even the “international community” will find it difficult to dispute the IDF’s evidence of Hezbollah in Lebanon. It won’t do anything about it, of course.

Even Democrats must realize that this is not the most transparent administration in history: “The website used to track stimulus spending does not meet the transparency requirements laid out by the administration last year, according to a report from the Government Accountability Office (GAO).”

Even Jewish cheerleaders for Obama have to be a little miffed that he — shocking, I know — isn’t going to Israel anytime soon: “President Barack Obama left the impression he had accepted an invitation to visit Israel, but don’t expect the trip any time soon. During Obama’s relationship-patching meetings at the White House on Tuesday with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli leader publicly asked the president and first lady Michelle Obama to come. Netanyahu said, ‘It’s about time.’ Obama replied that he looked forward to it.”

Even the ACLU should be upset about the NASA flap. The administrator said of Obama, “He wanted me to find a way to reach out to the Muslim world and engage much more with dominantly Muslim nations to help them feel good about their historic contribution to science, math and engineering.” Charles Lane asked, “[S]ince when is it U.S. government policy to offer or refuse cooperation with various nations based on the religion their people practice? Last time I checked, the Constitution expressly forbid the establishment of religion. How can it be consistent with that mandate and the deeply held political and cultural values that it expresses for the U.S. government to ‘reach out’ to another government because the people it rules are mostly of a particular faith?” A good reason to abolish the ambassadorship to the Organization of the Islamic Conference.

Even Max Baucus is criticizing Obama’s latest recess appointment, Donald Berwick, who is to head the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. Baucus said he was “‘troubled’ that Obama chose to install Berwich without a formal confirmation process. ‘Senate confirmation of presidential appointees is an essential process prescribed by the Constitution that serves as a check on executive power and protects Montanans and all Americans by ensuring that crucial questions are asked of the nominee — and answered,’ Baucus said in a statement.”

Even CNN can’t employ an editor (Octavia Nasr) who bemoans the death of Hezbollah leader Grand Ayatollah Mohammed Hussein Fadlallah. The New York Times dryly reports: “Ms. Nasr, a 20-year veteran of CNN, wrote on Twitter after the cleric died on Sunday, ‘Sad to hear of the passing of Sayyed Mohammed Hussein Fadlallah … One of Hezbollah’s giants I respect a lot.’ Ayatollah Fadlallah routinely denounced Israel and the United States, and supported suicide bombings against Israeli civilians. Ayatollah Fadlallah’s writings and preachings inspired the Dawa Party of Iraq and a generation of militants, including the founders of Hezbollah.”

Even Obama has figured out that direct negotiations are the only viable way to proceed with his “peace process.” The Palestinians are now miffed that their patron is starting to wise up. PLO representative Maen Rashid Areikat: “I hope [Obama's deadline] is not an attempt to pressure the Palestinians that if they don’t move to the direct talks, there will be a resumption of settlement construction in the West Bank.”

Even the “international community” will find it difficult to dispute the IDF’s evidence of Hezbollah in Lebanon. It won’t do anything about it, of course.

Even Democrats must realize that this is not the most transparent administration in history: “The website used to track stimulus spending does not meet the transparency requirements laid out by the administration last year, according to a report from the Government Accountability Office (GAO).”

Even Jewish cheerleaders for Obama have to be a little miffed that he — shocking, I know — isn’t going to Israel anytime soon: “President Barack Obama left the impression he had accepted an invitation to visit Israel, but don’t expect the trip any time soon. During Obama’s relationship-patching meetings at the White House on Tuesday with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli leader publicly asked the president and first lady Michelle Obama to come. Netanyahu said, ‘It’s about time.’ Obama replied that he looked forward to it.”

Even the ACLU should be upset about the NASA flap. The administrator said of Obama, “He wanted me to find a way to reach out to the Muslim world and engage much more with dominantly Muslim nations to help them feel good about their historic contribution to science, math and engineering.” Charles Lane asked, “[S]ince when is it U.S. government policy to offer or refuse cooperation with various nations based on the religion their people practice? Last time I checked, the Constitution expressly forbid the establishment of religion. How can it be consistent with that mandate and the deeply held political and cultural values that it expresses for the U.S. government to ‘reach out’ to another government because the people it rules are mostly of a particular faith?” A good reason to abolish the ambassadorship to the Organization of the Islamic Conference.

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The Democrats’ Obama-Induced Fury

Charles Lane does not mince words:

Millions of Americans long to tell their bosses “take this job and shove it.” Hardly any have the power and money to do so, especially in these recessionary times. Sen. Evan Bayh (D) of Indiana, however, is the exception. His stunning retirement from the Senate is essentially a loud and emphatic “screw you” to President Obama and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. For months now, Bayh has been screaming at the top of his voice that the party needs to reorient toward a more popular, centrist agenda — one that emphasizes jobs and fiscal responsibility over health care and cap and trade. Neither the White House nor the Senate leadership has given him the response he wanted. Their bungling of what should have been a routine bipartisan jobs bill last week seems to have been the last straw.

Lane seems to think there’s a possible Bayh primary challenge for 2012, which I find questionable. (I don’t sense that primary-voting Democrats are starved for a Clintonian Third Wave, minus the Clintons.) Less debatable however is his suspicion that Bayh’s seat is now ripe for a GOP pickup and that “if present trends continue, November could turn into a Republican rout.”

Lane also touches on the subtext here: the anger and disappointment of many Democrats who now look upon Obama as not a “sort of God” but rather as a curse. He has not merely failed to advance their decades-old agenda but is now perpetrating a Marx Brothers–like farce, racing around the political landscape, wrecking havoc on all of them. How annoyed, if not furious, must all those Democratic officeholders be? They are going to be out of jobs – while Obama declares himself to be content with one term and sneers at those in his party who are concerned with such mundane trifles as getting re-elected.

Wins by Chris Christie and Bob McDonnell last year were the first rumblings of trouble. Scott Brown was one political earthquake, and Evan Bayh may be a second. But the 10 on the Richter scale has not, I suspect, come. We’ll have to wait until November, when lots and lots of Democrats experience what it’s really like to run for office in the age of Obama. Is it any wonder that Bayh and so many other Democrats are choosing to forgo the experience?

Charles Lane does not mince words:

Millions of Americans long to tell their bosses “take this job and shove it.” Hardly any have the power and money to do so, especially in these recessionary times. Sen. Evan Bayh (D) of Indiana, however, is the exception. His stunning retirement from the Senate is essentially a loud and emphatic “screw you” to President Obama and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. For months now, Bayh has been screaming at the top of his voice that the party needs to reorient toward a more popular, centrist agenda — one that emphasizes jobs and fiscal responsibility over health care and cap and trade. Neither the White House nor the Senate leadership has given him the response he wanted. Their bungling of what should have been a routine bipartisan jobs bill last week seems to have been the last straw.

Lane seems to think there’s a possible Bayh primary challenge for 2012, which I find questionable. (I don’t sense that primary-voting Democrats are starved for a Clintonian Third Wave, minus the Clintons.) Less debatable however is his suspicion that Bayh’s seat is now ripe for a GOP pickup and that “if present trends continue, November could turn into a Republican rout.”

Lane also touches on the subtext here: the anger and disappointment of many Democrats who now look upon Obama as not a “sort of God” but rather as a curse. He has not merely failed to advance their decades-old agenda but is now perpetrating a Marx Brothers–like farce, racing around the political landscape, wrecking havoc on all of them. How annoyed, if not furious, must all those Democratic officeholders be? They are going to be out of jobs – while Obama declares himself to be content with one term and sneers at those in his party who are concerned with such mundane trifles as getting re-elected.

Wins by Chris Christie and Bob McDonnell last year were the first rumblings of trouble. Scott Brown was one political earthquake, and Evan Bayh may be a second. But the 10 on the Richter scale has not, I suspect, come. We’ll have to wait until November, when lots and lots of Democrats experience what it’s really like to run for office in the age of Obama. Is it any wonder that Bayh and so many other Democrats are choosing to forgo the experience?

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Sorry Blanche, You’re Toast

Charles Lane catches Obama writing Sen. Blanche Lincoln’s political obituary. During the meeting Senate Democrats had with Obama, the imperiled Red State senator practically pleaded with the president to turn to the Center. (“Are we willing as Democrats to push back on our own party?”) Her request was summarily denied. Any accommodation to “centrism” is a return to Bush policies, said Obama. Lane is stunned on two grounds by Obama’s stridency:

The first was the ease with which he cast Lincoln’s plea for a bit more centrism as a call for a return to Bushism — the “exact same proposals that were in place for the last eight years.” That’s not what she was advocating. … The president set up this strawman, and he pummeled it, rather than engaging Lincoln’s valid concerns. The second striking thing was how easily he appeared to write off Lincoln politically. Conceding nothing, he implied that her defeat was not only a foregone conclusion, but also an acceptable price to pay for staying the course on policy.

Well, at least the Red State senators and Blue Dog Democrats know where they stand. They are about to be pushed off that “precipice” Obama keeps talking about. But, as Lane notes, the dogmatic fidelity to leftism requires Obama to ignore some fairly convincing political evidence that this is the way to ruin for the Democratic party — and for Obama. (“If Virginia and New Jersey didn’t prove that, Massachusetts did. And November could prove it again.”)

This is what happens when arrogance and political extremism meet political tone-deafness. The Obami haven’t learned anything from Massachusetts; they simply are more candid that the Blanche Lincolns have no place in their party. But in doing so, they’re also writing off the majority of the electorate, which doesn’t share their fascination with big government and doesn’t appreciate their disdain for the ability of ordinary citizens to make decisions on their own. When Obama tells Lincoln to get lost, he’s also telling the voters of Arkansas (and a bunch of other states) that his agenda and his party’s political goals aren’t for them. Does he suppose that he can govern and win re-election by dismissing all centrists in this fashion? That’s a recipe for becoming a fringe minority party, not a broad governing majority. I suspect Lane is right: it will take a November 2010 election to ram that message home.

Charles Lane catches Obama writing Sen. Blanche Lincoln’s political obituary. During the meeting Senate Democrats had with Obama, the imperiled Red State senator practically pleaded with the president to turn to the Center. (“Are we willing as Democrats to push back on our own party?”) Her request was summarily denied. Any accommodation to “centrism” is a return to Bush policies, said Obama. Lane is stunned on two grounds by Obama’s stridency:

The first was the ease with which he cast Lincoln’s plea for a bit more centrism as a call for a return to Bushism — the “exact same proposals that were in place for the last eight years.” That’s not what she was advocating. … The president set up this strawman, and he pummeled it, rather than engaging Lincoln’s valid concerns. The second striking thing was how easily he appeared to write off Lincoln politically. Conceding nothing, he implied that her defeat was not only a foregone conclusion, but also an acceptable price to pay for staying the course on policy.

Well, at least the Red State senators and Blue Dog Democrats know where they stand. They are about to be pushed off that “precipice” Obama keeps talking about. But, as Lane notes, the dogmatic fidelity to leftism requires Obama to ignore some fairly convincing political evidence that this is the way to ruin for the Democratic party — and for Obama. (“If Virginia and New Jersey didn’t prove that, Massachusetts did. And November could prove it again.”)

This is what happens when arrogance and political extremism meet political tone-deafness. The Obami haven’t learned anything from Massachusetts; they simply are more candid that the Blanche Lincolns have no place in their party. But in doing so, they’re also writing off the majority of the electorate, which doesn’t share their fascination with big government and doesn’t appreciate their disdain for the ability of ordinary citizens to make decisions on their own. When Obama tells Lincoln to get lost, he’s also telling the voters of Arkansas (and a bunch of other states) that his agenda and his party’s political goals aren’t for them. Does he suppose that he can govern and win re-election by dismissing all centrists in this fashion? That’s a recipe for becoming a fringe minority party, not a broad governing majority. I suspect Lane is right: it will take a November 2010 election to ram that message home.

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The Cost of Overreach

Charles Lane writes: “Who would have thought that just one year into Obama’s promising presidency, the Democrats who had pinned their hopes on him would be dangerously close to political meltdown?” He thinks it is more than “the lousy economy, public concern about the messy health-care compromise, renewed fear of terrorism, the usual cyclical problems of the incumbent party in an off-year election.” He sees a break-up of the two parties into four subgroups: “Roughly speaking, the Democrats consist of a liberal wing (epitomized by, say, Howard Dean) and a centrist wing (think of Arkansas’s Blanche Lincoln). The Republicans include a conservative wing (e.g., Sen. George Voinovich of Ohio) and an ultra-conservative wing (Sarah Palin).”

But that doesn’t quite explain why the Democrats are disproportionately impacted and why it is Obama’s party rather than the GOP that is looking at a meltdown in the 2010 races. There is a simpler explanation: Obama and the Democrats overreached. The temptation is great when you’ve won a big election and the media is telling you that you are now the “permanent majority.” You overestimate the election results (e.g., the new New Deal!), treat opponents and the public with contempt (labeling town-hall attendees “un-American”), don’t think you have to keep promises (C-SPAN negotiations, only taxing the rich), and try to enact controversial legislation through narrow, strictly partisan majorities. Throw in some scandals, a grumpy president who seems out to lunch on national security, a terrorist attack (three, actually, last year), and pretty soon everyone is asking: who voted for these guys?

Republicans shouldn’t be celebrating yet. The Democrats may get wise, put off the hugely unpopular health-care bill, and scramble toward the political center. Unlike Republicans in 2006, Democrats have plenty of warning that they are heading over a political cliff. To avoid going over it, however, requires their making a real course correction, signaling that they “have heard the voters.” Otherwise, the voters will want to send them a message on Election Day.

Charles Lane writes: “Who would have thought that just one year into Obama’s promising presidency, the Democrats who had pinned their hopes on him would be dangerously close to political meltdown?” He thinks it is more than “the lousy economy, public concern about the messy health-care compromise, renewed fear of terrorism, the usual cyclical problems of the incumbent party in an off-year election.” He sees a break-up of the two parties into four subgroups: “Roughly speaking, the Democrats consist of a liberal wing (epitomized by, say, Howard Dean) and a centrist wing (think of Arkansas’s Blanche Lincoln). The Republicans include a conservative wing (e.g., Sen. George Voinovich of Ohio) and an ultra-conservative wing (Sarah Palin).”

But that doesn’t quite explain why the Democrats are disproportionately impacted and why it is Obama’s party rather than the GOP that is looking at a meltdown in the 2010 races. There is a simpler explanation: Obama and the Democrats overreached. The temptation is great when you’ve won a big election and the media is telling you that you are now the “permanent majority.” You overestimate the election results (e.g., the new New Deal!), treat opponents and the public with contempt (labeling town-hall attendees “un-American”), don’t think you have to keep promises (C-SPAN negotiations, only taxing the rich), and try to enact controversial legislation through narrow, strictly partisan majorities. Throw in some scandals, a grumpy president who seems out to lunch on national security, a terrorist attack (three, actually, last year), and pretty soon everyone is asking: who voted for these guys?

Republicans shouldn’t be celebrating yet. The Democrats may get wise, put off the hugely unpopular health-care bill, and scramble toward the political center. Unlike Republicans in 2006, Democrats have plenty of warning that they are heading over a political cliff. To avoid going over it, however, requires their making a real course correction, signaling that they “have heard the voters.” Otherwise, the voters will want to send them a message on Election Day.

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Job Killers

Offering a blast of common sense, Charles Lane suggests that we do three things to promote job growth: (1) end sugar protectionism and price supports (“In 2006, the Commerce Department estimated that the sugar program cost three confectionery manufacturing jobs for each job it saved in sugar growing and harvesting”); (2) repeal the Davis-Bacon Act, which requires federal contracts to pay the “prevailing” (i.e., union) wage, which now covers roughly a third of public construction spending, at an added cost to tax payers of $8.6B; and (3) reduce the minimum wage. He chides both the president and Republicans for failing to mention any of these in their list of job-creating ideas: “None of these measures alone, or even all three together, would eliminate unemployment. But they might significantly decrease it at a time when every job counts.”

Of course there are powerful special interests defending each of these, especially organized labor, which “argues for Davis-Bacon and the minimum wage with rhetoric about fairness and workers’ rights, despite economic evidence to the contrary.” The White House and Congress are not merely resistant to good ideas for improving the job outlook. They also want to make it worse. Cap-and-trade, card check, and ObamaCare all impose new costs, taxes, and mandates on business. Just as surely as Davis Bacon increases the cost of labor, new mandates to pay for super-duper health insurance for all but a fraction of workers will do so as well. If the minimum wage “prices low-skilled workers out of entry-level jobs,” ObamaCare will price workers at all levels out of jobs. And Midwestern senators have already figured out the job-killing implications of cap-and-trade.

It remains a wonder that politicians don’t seem to connect the dots between their policies and the impact on employment. Or maybe they do and simply don’t care. But let’s be clear: the jobs picture is bleak, and both Congress and the White House should jettison existing barriers to employment and junk agenda items that will make things worse if, as Lane says, “they’re really serious about putting America back to work.”

Offering a blast of common sense, Charles Lane suggests that we do three things to promote job growth: (1) end sugar protectionism and price supports (“In 2006, the Commerce Department estimated that the sugar program cost three confectionery manufacturing jobs for each job it saved in sugar growing and harvesting”); (2) repeal the Davis-Bacon Act, which requires federal contracts to pay the “prevailing” (i.e., union) wage, which now covers roughly a third of public construction spending, at an added cost to tax payers of $8.6B; and (3) reduce the minimum wage. He chides both the president and Republicans for failing to mention any of these in their list of job-creating ideas: “None of these measures alone, or even all three together, would eliminate unemployment. But they might significantly decrease it at a time when every job counts.”

Of course there are powerful special interests defending each of these, especially organized labor, which “argues for Davis-Bacon and the minimum wage with rhetoric about fairness and workers’ rights, despite economic evidence to the contrary.” The White House and Congress are not merely resistant to good ideas for improving the job outlook. They also want to make it worse. Cap-and-trade, card check, and ObamaCare all impose new costs, taxes, and mandates on business. Just as surely as Davis Bacon increases the cost of labor, new mandates to pay for super-duper health insurance for all but a fraction of workers will do so as well. If the minimum wage “prices low-skilled workers out of entry-level jobs,” ObamaCare will price workers at all levels out of jobs. And Midwestern senators have already figured out the job-killing implications of cap-and-trade.

It remains a wonder that politicians don’t seem to connect the dots between their policies and the impact on employment. Or maybe they do and simply don’t care. But let’s be clear: the jobs picture is bleak, and both Congress and the White House should jettison existing barriers to employment and junk agenda items that will make things worse if, as Lane says, “they’re really serious about putting America back to work.”

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