Commentary Magazine


Topic: Christmas

Trying to Reinvent Obama

Dee Dee Myers is the latest Democrat to step forward offering advice to Obama. Her bottom line: change your personality. She finds him “calm,” “cool,” and “self-possessed.” The result, she says:

But while eschewing emotion — and its companion, vulnerability — Obama should be careful not to sacrifice empathy, the “I feel your pain” connection that sustained [Bill] Clinton. This connection is the shorthand people use to measure their leaders’ intentions. If people believe you’re on their side, they will trust your decisions. Too often, Obama leaves the impression that he stands alone — and likes it that way. Clinton was fond of saying, “We’re all going up or down together.” Obama must make sure that people know that he needs their help as much as they need his.

We’ve had a series of detached performances — Fort Hood and  the Christmas Day bombing — in which he was weirdly unemotional. A snippy showing at the health-care summit. And an attack on the Supreme Court. Indeed, he seems most engaged when he’s attacking his opponents, as he refers to the growing number of those who disagree with him.

Myers gives campaign-style advice in consultant-speak (“reconnect his biography to his agenda”):

Obama also needs to remind people that things weren’t always easy for him. The campaign introduced the country to a man whose life story was both unusual — a Kenyan father and a Kansan mother, a childhood spent in Hawaii and Indonesia — and broadly shared: a single mom who worked hard and sacrificed for her children and a family that faced difficult times but never lost its faith in the future.

But that all seems beside the point, oddly inappropriate for the presidency as opposed to the campaign. (There really is a difference between the two.) Something more fundamental is going on here: Obama seems not to respect his fellow citizens — the uninformed rubes who crashed the health-care town halls — nor care what they think. All his energy now is devoted to disregarding their strong aversion to his idea of health-care reform and forcing through a vote on something the public doesn’t want. It’s hard to bond with the American people, which is what Myers is suggesting, when your agenda conveys disdain for their concerns. Myers gets closer to the nub of the problem as she concludes:

Obama maintains a reservoir of goodwill. Even people who don’t approve of the job he’s doing like him personally. Most think he understands their problems and cares about people like them. In other words, people want to have a beer with him. They’re just not sure he wants to have a beer with them.

But that reservoir is being depleted over time. And who wants to have a beer with someone who doesn’t listen to anything you have to say?

It’s hard to conceal your personality in the 24/7 news cycle and in the most prominent job in the world. What was intriguing in the campaign — that cool, “superior” temperament — is now a liability. But it’s hard to change who you are. If Democrats are queasy about the president’s lacking warmth and empathy, not to mention some executive skills, there isn’t much they can do about it. Their dream candidate turned out to be rather flawed in ways that are critical to a successful presidency. They — and we — will have to live with that for a few more years.

Dee Dee Myers is the latest Democrat to step forward offering advice to Obama. Her bottom line: change your personality. She finds him “calm,” “cool,” and “self-possessed.” The result, she says:

But while eschewing emotion — and its companion, vulnerability — Obama should be careful not to sacrifice empathy, the “I feel your pain” connection that sustained [Bill] Clinton. This connection is the shorthand people use to measure their leaders’ intentions. If people believe you’re on their side, they will trust your decisions. Too often, Obama leaves the impression that he stands alone — and likes it that way. Clinton was fond of saying, “We’re all going up or down together.” Obama must make sure that people know that he needs their help as much as they need his.

We’ve had a series of detached performances — Fort Hood and  the Christmas Day bombing — in which he was weirdly unemotional. A snippy showing at the health-care summit. And an attack on the Supreme Court. Indeed, he seems most engaged when he’s attacking his opponents, as he refers to the growing number of those who disagree with him.

Myers gives campaign-style advice in consultant-speak (“reconnect his biography to his agenda”):

Obama also needs to remind people that things weren’t always easy for him. The campaign introduced the country to a man whose life story was both unusual — a Kenyan father and a Kansan mother, a childhood spent in Hawaii and Indonesia — and broadly shared: a single mom who worked hard and sacrificed for her children and a family that faced difficult times but never lost its faith in the future.

But that all seems beside the point, oddly inappropriate for the presidency as opposed to the campaign. (There really is a difference between the two.) Something more fundamental is going on here: Obama seems not to respect his fellow citizens — the uninformed rubes who crashed the health-care town halls — nor care what they think. All his energy now is devoted to disregarding their strong aversion to his idea of health-care reform and forcing through a vote on something the public doesn’t want. It’s hard to bond with the American people, which is what Myers is suggesting, when your agenda conveys disdain for their concerns. Myers gets closer to the nub of the problem as she concludes:

Obama maintains a reservoir of goodwill. Even people who don’t approve of the job he’s doing like him personally. Most think he understands their problems and cares about people like them. In other words, people want to have a beer with him. They’re just not sure he wants to have a beer with them.

But that reservoir is being depleted over time. And who wants to have a beer with someone who doesn’t listen to anything you have to say?

It’s hard to conceal your personality in the 24/7 news cycle and in the most prominent job in the world. What was intriguing in the campaign — that cool, “superior” temperament — is now a liability. But it’s hard to change who you are. If Democrats are queasy about the president’s lacking warmth and empathy, not to mention some executive skills, there isn’t much they can do about it. Their dream candidate turned out to be rather flawed in ways that are critical to a successful presidency. They — and we — will have to live with that for a few more years.

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Is This Post-Traumatic Cooking Syndrome?

Fox News reports:

The U.S. Army is investigating allegations that soldiers were attempting to poison the food supply at Fort Jackson in South Carolina. The ongoing probe began two months ago, Chris Grey, a spokesman for the Army’s Criminal Investigation Division, told Fox News. The Army is taking the allegations “extremely seriously,” Grey said, but so far, “there is no credible information to support the allegations.” The suspects were part of a Arabic translation program called “09 Lima” and use Arabic as their first language, two sources told Fox News. Another military source said they were Muslim.Grey would not confirm or deny the sources’ information.

Erick Stakelbeck of CBN adds this nugget:

A source with intimate knowledge of the investigation, which is ongoing, told CBN News investigators suspect the “Fort Jackson Five” may have been in contact with the group of five Washington, DC area Muslims that traveled to Pakistan to wage jihad against U.S. troops in December. That group was arrested by Pakistani authorities, also just before Christmas.

This incident raises further concern about the Army’s whitewash of the Fort Hood incident. Its review of the murder of 13 innocents seemed to go to great lengths to ignore Major Nadal Hasan’s jihadist motivation and the need to focus, specifically, on potential Islamic fundamentalists in its midst who may seek to kill fellow servicemen. We know that the Army had training on the subject before Fort Hood. And we know not much was done. We now know that the Fort Hood report was issued while the poisoning incident investigation was underway. And still the Army sought to soft-pedal the jihadist element.

There is a price to be paid, you see, when we fail to name, identify, understand, and focus on the nature of our enemy. When we dismiss these incidents as the result of some nebulous psychological illness or lump jihadism in with a grab bag of other threats or concerns bearing little relationship to the actual incidents we have experienced, we diffuse our efforts and distract ourselves from the sole task that should occupy our national security apparatus: identifying and destroying jihadists who want to butcher (or poison or blow up) Americans.  That singular focus can come only from the president. Hence, the problem.

Fox News reports:

The U.S. Army is investigating allegations that soldiers were attempting to poison the food supply at Fort Jackson in South Carolina. The ongoing probe began two months ago, Chris Grey, a spokesman for the Army’s Criminal Investigation Division, told Fox News. The Army is taking the allegations “extremely seriously,” Grey said, but so far, “there is no credible information to support the allegations.” The suspects were part of a Arabic translation program called “09 Lima” and use Arabic as their first language, two sources told Fox News. Another military source said they were Muslim.Grey would not confirm or deny the sources’ information.

Erick Stakelbeck of CBN adds this nugget:

A source with intimate knowledge of the investigation, which is ongoing, told CBN News investigators suspect the “Fort Jackson Five” may have been in contact with the group of five Washington, DC area Muslims that traveled to Pakistan to wage jihad against U.S. troops in December. That group was arrested by Pakistani authorities, also just before Christmas.

This incident raises further concern about the Army’s whitewash of the Fort Hood incident. Its review of the murder of 13 innocents seemed to go to great lengths to ignore Major Nadal Hasan’s jihadist motivation and the need to focus, specifically, on potential Islamic fundamentalists in its midst who may seek to kill fellow servicemen. We know that the Army had training on the subject before Fort Hood. And we know not much was done. We now know that the Fort Hood report was issued while the poisoning incident investigation was underway. And still the Army sought to soft-pedal the jihadist element.

There is a price to be paid, you see, when we fail to name, identify, understand, and focus on the nature of our enemy. When we dismiss these incidents as the result of some nebulous psychological illness or lump jihadism in with a grab bag of other threats or concerns bearing little relationship to the actual incidents we have experienced, we diffuse our efforts and distract ourselves from the sole task that should occupy our national security apparatus: identifying and destroying jihadists who want to butcher (or poison or blow up) Americans.  That singular focus can come only from the president. Hence, the problem.

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Spinning Obama’s Indifference to Foreign Policy

Buried on page 15 of the Washington Post (but not linkable) is an interesting chart and short column by Glenn Kessler. He writes: “When President Obama did not mention the Middle East peace process in his State of the Union speech, some commentators said it was an unusual lapse, perhaps signifying that he had lost interest in the issue after a year of disappointing results.” But no! Kessler jumps into the fray to defend the president (is he now on the White House payroll?) pointing out that lots of other presidents didn’t mention the Middle East either. Kessler spent time checking 50 of these and found that only 30 percent had mentioned the Middle East peace process. He then provided a chart, time line, and, sometime, photos. Wow. That’s a lot of spin … er … work on the subject.

But wait. Obama said that no other president had really tried hard enough to broker a peace deal. He was going to be different in that regard. He was going to roll up his sleeves and personally get involved. He was “impatient” with the lack of progress to date, remember? Well, not so much any more. And he’s belatedly reaching the conclusion that there is no peace to process. So, for all his spin, Kessler seems to prove the critics’ point: so much for Obama the Middle East peace maker.

But Kessler also distorts the gravamen of many of those who commented on Obama’s State of the Union omission. It wasn’t simply the failure to mention the Middle East non-peace process that raised eyebrows. It was Obama’s cursory, back-of-the-hand treatment of all matters of foreign policy and national security. He barely mentioned Iran, didn’t bother with any mention of the mullahs’ human-rights atrocities, and devoted a single sentence to the Christmas Day bombing incident (“We are filling unacceptable gaps revealed by the failed Christmas attack, with better airline security, and swifter action on our intelligence.”), and then repeated his mantra that he “prohibited torture.” (Wrong! It was illegal before him to begin with. He was the one who determined that all we could utilize in interrogations was the Army Field Manual — a distinction he purposefully blurs.) Perhaps if Kessler had compared the paragraphs devoted to terrorism in Obama’s speech with those of George W. Bush’s State of the Union addresses, we would have had a more meaningful bit of data.

Obama never tires of telling us that he’s not George W. Bush. Well, when it comes to focus and passion devoted to defending us in the war against Islamic fascists, I think he’s right.

Buried on page 15 of the Washington Post (but not linkable) is an interesting chart and short column by Glenn Kessler. He writes: “When President Obama did not mention the Middle East peace process in his State of the Union speech, some commentators said it was an unusual lapse, perhaps signifying that he had lost interest in the issue after a year of disappointing results.” But no! Kessler jumps into the fray to defend the president (is he now on the White House payroll?) pointing out that lots of other presidents didn’t mention the Middle East either. Kessler spent time checking 50 of these and found that only 30 percent had mentioned the Middle East peace process. He then provided a chart, time line, and, sometime, photos. Wow. That’s a lot of spin … er … work on the subject.

But wait. Obama said that no other president had really tried hard enough to broker a peace deal. He was going to be different in that regard. He was going to roll up his sleeves and personally get involved. He was “impatient” with the lack of progress to date, remember? Well, not so much any more. And he’s belatedly reaching the conclusion that there is no peace to process. So, for all his spin, Kessler seems to prove the critics’ point: so much for Obama the Middle East peace maker.

But Kessler also distorts the gravamen of many of those who commented on Obama’s State of the Union omission. It wasn’t simply the failure to mention the Middle East non-peace process that raised eyebrows. It was Obama’s cursory, back-of-the-hand treatment of all matters of foreign policy and national security. He barely mentioned Iran, didn’t bother with any mention of the mullahs’ human-rights atrocities, and devoted a single sentence to the Christmas Day bombing incident (“We are filling unacceptable gaps revealed by the failed Christmas attack, with better airline security, and swifter action on our intelligence.”), and then repeated his mantra that he “prohibited torture.” (Wrong! It was illegal before him to begin with. He was the one who determined that all we could utilize in interrogations was the Army Field Manual — a distinction he purposefully blurs.) Perhaps if Kessler had compared the paragraphs devoted to terrorism in Obama’s speech with those of George W. Bush’s State of the Union addresses, we would have had a more meaningful bit of data.

Obama never tires of telling us that he’s not George W. Bush. Well, when it comes to focus and passion devoted to defending us in the war against Islamic fascists, I think he’s right.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

A must-read new blog, Bad Rachel, is off with a bang, examining a study of Pashtun men in the Afghan army. “If through the good offices of our military—especially our women soldiers—we could help Afghani women unravel themselves from centuries of complicity in their own oppression and see themselves not as defiled, unclean, perpetually wanton creatures to be hidden away as if they were carriers of plague, but rather as noble members of the human race endowed with greatness and blessings: the giving of life, the tending to it mercifully and lovingly, and, most important, the imparting of lessons in real virtue—self-acceptance to their daughters and just plain acceptance to their sons—that would be gaining hearts and minds indeed.”

Obama doubles down on his George W. Bush buck-passing, repeating Eric Holder’s line that the Obama administration is treating terrorists just as its predecessor did. (No mention of the terrorists who were treated as combatants under Bush, and no word on why Obama’s not using the military-tribunal system put into place since many of the Bush-era terror cases.) Then the real double-talk starts: we got “actionable intelligence” from the Christmas Day bomber, the president says. But then why was he telling the American people that this was an “isolated extremist” in the days after the bombing? Something sure doesn’t add up.

Bill Kristol reminds us: “Robert Gibbs said to you right here at this desk, right here in snowy Washington, D.C., Chris, where you’re — you seem to have escaped from and enjoying nice weather there in Nashville — Gibbs said to you, what, two days after the Christmas bomber, ‘We got everything we needed from him.’ Do you remember that? There’s no — 50 minutes of interrogation with the FBI. That was great. Now — that was their spin then. Their spin now is, ‘Oh, it’s great. He’s talking again. He’s giving us lots of useful information.’ Which is it? Robert Gibbs was not telling the truth one of those two times. … When you have a White House that’s spinning constantly, they’re going to be criticized and they deserve to be criticized.”

Bill Sammon explains: “And Kit Bond was pretty direct, the senator saying the FBI director personally told him, ‘Look, the guy is talking to us again after five weeks but we got to keep that quiet. If that gets out, that could compromise national security.’ Because, of course, the intelligence that you’re getting from the guy is perishable. It’s actionable. And you don’t want to be blabbing to the world that the guy’s talking. So what happens? Twenty-four hours later, you have this unseemly spectacle of the White House press operation hurriedly summoning reporters to the West Wing to trumpet, ‘Guess what? He’s talking again! He’s talking again!’”

In case you thought it was very hard to get the federal budget under control: “Republican senator George LeMieux of Florida has done the math. If government spending were reduced to its 2007 level, we’d have a balanced budget (with a $163 billion surplus). Returning to the 2008 level of spending, the budget would be balanced in 2014 (a $133 billion surplus). And in both cases, that’s while keeping the Bush tax cuts across the board and indexing the loathed alternative minimum tax for inflation.”

Illinois Democrats had enough of this: “The ex-girlfriend who accused Democratic Lt. Governor nominee Scott Lee Cohen of threatening her with a knife said Saturday she ‘does not believe he is fit to hold any public office.”” Only a week after the nomination: “Embattled Democratic Lieutenant Governor nominee Scott Lee Cohen said Sunday night he’s dropping out of the race. ‘For the good of the people of [the] state of Illinois and the Democratic party I will resign,’ he said.”

Arlen Specter gets the endorsement of the  Pennsylvania Democratic party. But Democrats there don’t seem to like him all that much.

The Washington Post gives a blow-by-blow account of Sarah Palin’s appearance — her physical appearance, that is — at the Tea Party Convention. I can’t imagine them doing the same in the case of, say, Tim Pawlenty. One noteworthy observation: “In her lapel, a small pin with two flags — for Israel and the United States.”

Here’s a good bipartisan issue for conservatives to get behind: “The Obama administration is reaching out to business-friendly Democrats to win support for free-trade policies that divide the party. The effort is part of President Barack Obama’s push on trade that was launched with his State of the Union address. Obama said he wanted to double exports over the next five years as part of an effort to grow the U.S. economy.” If nothing else, it will annoy Big Labor.

A must-read new blog, Bad Rachel, is off with a bang, examining a study of Pashtun men in the Afghan army. “If through the good offices of our military—especially our women soldiers—we could help Afghani women unravel themselves from centuries of complicity in their own oppression and see themselves not as defiled, unclean, perpetually wanton creatures to be hidden away as if they were carriers of plague, but rather as noble members of the human race endowed with greatness and blessings: the giving of life, the tending to it mercifully and lovingly, and, most important, the imparting of lessons in real virtue—self-acceptance to their daughters and just plain acceptance to their sons—that would be gaining hearts and minds indeed.”

Obama doubles down on his George W. Bush buck-passing, repeating Eric Holder’s line that the Obama administration is treating terrorists just as its predecessor did. (No mention of the terrorists who were treated as combatants under Bush, and no word on why Obama’s not using the military-tribunal system put into place since many of the Bush-era terror cases.) Then the real double-talk starts: we got “actionable intelligence” from the Christmas Day bomber, the president says. But then why was he telling the American people that this was an “isolated extremist” in the days after the bombing? Something sure doesn’t add up.

Bill Kristol reminds us: “Robert Gibbs said to you right here at this desk, right here in snowy Washington, D.C., Chris, where you’re — you seem to have escaped from and enjoying nice weather there in Nashville — Gibbs said to you, what, two days after the Christmas bomber, ‘We got everything we needed from him.’ Do you remember that? There’s no — 50 minutes of interrogation with the FBI. That was great. Now — that was their spin then. Their spin now is, ‘Oh, it’s great. He’s talking again. He’s giving us lots of useful information.’ Which is it? Robert Gibbs was not telling the truth one of those two times. … When you have a White House that’s spinning constantly, they’re going to be criticized and they deserve to be criticized.”

Bill Sammon explains: “And Kit Bond was pretty direct, the senator saying the FBI director personally told him, ‘Look, the guy is talking to us again after five weeks but we got to keep that quiet. If that gets out, that could compromise national security.’ Because, of course, the intelligence that you’re getting from the guy is perishable. It’s actionable. And you don’t want to be blabbing to the world that the guy’s talking. So what happens? Twenty-four hours later, you have this unseemly spectacle of the White House press operation hurriedly summoning reporters to the West Wing to trumpet, ‘Guess what? He’s talking again! He’s talking again!’”

In case you thought it was very hard to get the federal budget under control: “Republican senator George LeMieux of Florida has done the math. If government spending were reduced to its 2007 level, we’d have a balanced budget (with a $163 billion surplus). Returning to the 2008 level of spending, the budget would be balanced in 2014 (a $133 billion surplus). And in both cases, that’s while keeping the Bush tax cuts across the board and indexing the loathed alternative minimum tax for inflation.”

Illinois Democrats had enough of this: “The ex-girlfriend who accused Democratic Lt. Governor nominee Scott Lee Cohen of threatening her with a knife said Saturday she ‘does not believe he is fit to hold any public office.”” Only a week after the nomination: “Embattled Democratic Lieutenant Governor nominee Scott Lee Cohen said Sunday night he’s dropping out of the race. ‘For the good of the people of [the] state of Illinois and the Democratic party I will resign,’ he said.”

Arlen Specter gets the endorsement of the  Pennsylvania Democratic party. But Democrats there don’t seem to like him all that much.

The Washington Post gives a blow-by-blow account of Sarah Palin’s appearance — her physical appearance, that is — at the Tea Party Convention. I can’t imagine them doing the same in the case of, say, Tim Pawlenty. One noteworthy observation: “In her lapel, a small pin with two flags — for Israel and the United States.”

Here’s a good bipartisan issue for conservatives to get behind: “The Obama administration is reaching out to business-friendly Democrats to win support for free-trade policies that divide the party. The effort is part of President Barack Obama’s push on trade that was launched with his State of the Union address. Obama said he wanted to double exports over the next five years as part of an effort to grow the U.S. economy.” If nothing else, it will annoy Big Labor.

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Did Democrats Get the Message?

The Wall Street Journal editors note:

In their seven stages of national health-care grief, Democrats are still hovering somewhere between shock and denial. The strategy seems to be to hold off for a bit and then continue the same march—or as Mr. Obama put it in Nashua, New Hampshire earlier this week, “We’ve got to punch it through.”

The White House and Congressional leadership doesn’t seem to have learned anything substantive from an historic electoral rebuke, and even its political lessons are badly amiss. If they thought ObamaCare was controversial before, they haven’t seen anything yet.

The main liberal coping mechanism is to blame the grubby political process. Sure, 54% of the public may oppose ObamaCare, according to the latest polling average at Real Clear Politics, with only 37% in favor. But what Democrats claim really cost them was buying Ben Nelson’s vote with special Medicaid dispensations for Nebraska.

There are several problems with this. For starters, the Democrats are calling voters dopes, which is never a good idea. And second, they are highlighting their own lack of basic political skills (i.e., the inability to explain their policy ideas to the public) and confessing to their own corruption. But all this is preferable in their own minds, I suppose, to confessing that their policy judgment was flawed. Because to do that would be to acknowledge that the cornerstone of their ultra-liberal agenda is not politically viable, that the country really doesn’t want to be herded into the offices of Big Insurance, and that a jumbo tax-and-spend scheme is freaking out independent voters, who now regard the Democrats as fiscally irresponsible. Better, then, to insult the voters and cop a plea to imagined failings.

Meanwhile, the parliamentary gimmickery isn’t quite over. As the editors explain:

While Mr. Obama hasn’t taken a public position on the political way forward, we hear the White House is privately urging Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid to “punch it through” with the budget reconciliation process. The House would pass the Senate’s Christmas Eve bill, then “fix” it with amendments that would require a bare partisan majority of 50 Senators (plus the Vice President) after only 20 hours of debate. Never before has this process been used for social and economic legislation of this magnitude.

This is where we left off in the Christmas-time scramble to pass ObamaCare, isn’t it? Procedural tricks, rushed votes, and no input from the minority. It doesn’t seem that the Scott Brown epic upset has really sunk in if they’re serious. But perhaps this is part of a grand show to keep the netroot base from going bonkers and to bide time. After all, who thinks the votes are still there to pass the same monstrous bill that helped vault Brown into the Senate? Not even the Pelosi-Reid-Obama triumvirate could be that daft, could it? I suppose we’ll find out if months more of pushing a grossly unpopular bill while unemployment remains sky high is really the way for Democrats to get back in the voters’ good graces.

The Wall Street Journal editors note:

In their seven stages of national health-care grief, Democrats are still hovering somewhere between shock and denial. The strategy seems to be to hold off for a bit and then continue the same march—or as Mr. Obama put it in Nashua, New Hampshire earlier this week, “We’ve got to punch it through.”

The White House and Congressional leadership doesn’t seem to have learned anything substantive from an historic electoral rebuke, and even its political lessons are badly amiss. If they thought ObamaCare was controversial before, they haven’t seen anything yet.

The main liberal coping mechanism is to blame the grubby political process. Sure, 54% of the public may oppose ObamaCare, according to the latest polling average at Real Clear Politics, with only 37% in favor. But what Democrats claim really cost them was buying Ben Nelson’s vote with special Medicaid dispensations for Nebraska.

There are several problems with this. For starters, the Democrats are calling voters dopes, which is never a good idea. And second, they are highlighting their own lack of basic political skills (i.e., the inability to explain their policy ideas to the public) and confessing to their own corruption. But all this is preferable in their own minds, I suppose, to confessing that their policy judgment was flawed. Because to do that would be to acknowledge that the cornerstone of their ultra-liberal agenda is not politically viable, that the country really doesn’t want to be herded into the offices of Big Insurance, and that a jumbo tax-and-spend scheme is freaking out independent voters, who now regard the Democrats as fiscally irresponsible. Better, then, to insult the voters and cop a plea to imagined failings.

Meanwhile, the parliamentary gimmickery isn’t quite over. As the editors explain:

While Mr. Obama hasn’t taken a public position on the political way forward, we hear the White House is privately urging Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid to “punch it through” with the budget reconciliation process. The House would pass the Senate’s Christmas Eve bill, then “fix” it with amendments that would require a bare partisan majority of 50 Senators (plus the Vice President) after only 20 hours of debate. Never before has this process been used for social and economic legislation of this magnitude.

This is where we left off in the Christmas-time scramble to pass ObamaCare, isn’t it? Procedural tricks, rushed votes, and no input from the minority. It doesn’t seem that the Scott Brown epic upset has really sunk in if they’re serious. But perhaps this is part of a grand show to keep the netroot base from going bonkers and to bide time. After all, who thinks the votes are still there to pass the same monstrous bill that helped vault Brown into the Senate? Not even the Pelosi-Reid-Obama triumvirate could be that daft, could it? I suppose we’ll find out if months more of pushing a grossly unpopular bill while unemployment remains sky high is really the way for Democrats to get back in the voters’ good graces.

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Bayh Has His Challenger

Republicans have landed a serious challenger to incumbent Sen. Evan Bayh: former senator Dan Coates. Coates will join a field of lesser known GOP contenders, but I suspect will soon clear the field. In addition to his time in the House and in the U.S. Senate (he filled Dan Quayle’s seat when Quayle became VP), Coates served as ambassador to Germany under George W. Bush. (He also was the “sherpa” for  Supreme Court nominees Harriet Miers and Sam Alito. The former couldn’t be helped, the later needed little assistance, but assigning the task to Coates was some indication of his standing among former colleagues.) Charlie Cook moves the race from “Solid Democratic” to “Leans Democratic” with Coates’s appearance in the race.

It’s not likely that in an ordinary election year Coates would venture back into electoral politics. But this is no ordinary year. Coates no doubt sees what other Republicans (as well as neutral observers) do in an increasingly long list of states: the chance for a solid conservative to take out a Democratic incumbent laboring under the burden of an unpopular ultra-liberal agenda in a state far more moderate than the Beltway Democratic leadership. In the short term, Coates’s candidacy will, one suspects, act to restrain Bayh from adhering too closely to his party’s liberal agenda. Indeed, in recent weeks, as high profile Republicans’ names were tossed about for the race, Bayh has been voicing more vocal opposition to the Obama agenda on everything from health-care reform to terrorism policy.

The problem for Bayh, however, are his votes. He was one of the 60 votes (the Democrats all are the 60th vote, remember) to jam through ObamaCare last Christmas. He also voted for the 2009 stimulus bill, which most voters consider to be a bust. He’ll have more opportunities this year to demonstrate whether he really is a fiscal conservative or just talks like one when viable challengers appear back home.

Republicans have landed a serious challenger to incumbent Sen. Evan Bayh: former senator Dan Coates. Coates will join a field of lesser known GOP contenders, but I suspect will soon clear the field. In addition to his time in the House and in the U.S. Senate (he filled Dan Quayle’s seat when Quayle became VP), Coates served as ambassador to Germany under George W. Bush. (He also was the “sherpa” for  Supreme Court nominees Harriet Miers and Sam Alito. The former couldn’t be helped, the later needed little assistance, but assigning the task to Coates was some indication of his standing among former colleagues.) Charlie Cook moves the race from “Solid Democratic” to “Leans Democratic” with Coates’s appearance in the race.

It’s not likely that in an ordinary election year Coates would venture back into electoral politics. But this is no ordinary year. Coates no doubt sees what other Republicans (as well as neutral observers) do in an increasingly long list of states: the chance for a solid conservative to take out a Democratic incumbent laboring under the burden of an unpopular ultra-liberal agenda in a state far more moderate than the Beltway Democratic leadership. In the short term, Coates’s candidacy will, one suspects, act to restrain Bayh from adhering too closely to his party’s liberal agenda. Indeed, in recent weeks, as high profile Republicans’ names were tossed about for the race, Bayh has been voicing more vocal opposition to the Obama agenda on everything from health-care reform to terrorism policy.

The problem for Bayh, however, are his votes. He was one of the 60 votes (the Democrats all are the 60th vote, remember) to jam through ObamaCare last Christmas. He also voted for the 2009 stimulus bill, which most voters consider to be a bust. He’ll have more opportunities this year to demonstrate whether he really is a fiscal conservative or just talks like one when viable challengers appear back home.

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Is Obama “Generally Mishandling the Terrorism Issue”?

That’s the question Politico’s forum is asking this morning. Yes, if you have to ask, it’s not a good sign for the administration. The forum participants do not pull their punches. A Princeton professor warns: “President Obama has not been able to articulate a clear national security agenda and on several issues, including Guantanamo and the NYC trials, the White House did not seem to have all their political ducks lined up before announcing a policy.” James Carafano of Heritage addresses the president: “Your detention, interrogation, and terrorist trial strategy has unraveled faster than an old sock. This is the perfect issue for you and the Republicans to sit down and craft a true bipartisan plan. Here is why 1) clearly this is the best interest of the nation if there is one issue where policy should trump politics this is it. 2) We know what the realistic options are.” A conservative advises: “Holding the terror trials in civilian courts could doom this Administration in a way that makes the health care cacophony seem like a Christmas choral performance.”

Moreover, there is already a widespread consensus and a ready-made model for what we can do. Leave Guantanamo open. Try KSM and his associates in military tribunals. Have terrorist suspects interrogated by trained intelligence personnel and don’t allow them to lawyer up before we get all available information. It’s not hard to figure out how to get this right. But it would entail an about-face and a rather humiliating admission that the Bush-era policies were instituted for good reasons and were well designed to combat the enemy we face.

In this case, the problem is not strictly speaking “political,” because it is Obama’s current policies that are unpopular and bringing him daily criticism. But a reversal would nevertheless be the subject of much hollering on the Left, which is already disillusioned with the president, who they imagined would have the political skills and the will to deliver on their ultra-liberal wish list. (I think the Lilly Ledbetter legislation is about it, unless you count a mediocre Supreme Court justice.) Rather, it would be a personal admission of failure and of poor judgment, a concession that the campaign rhetoric based on “not George Bush” was effective only as a club to whack the prior administration but not as a blueprint for governance.

It would, moreover, reveal as a lie the argument that we had strayed from out “values” or “lost our way” in the Bush years. It is Obama who has strayed. If he is to end the swirl of controversy and, more important, devise a rational national-security policy, he should dump his ill-fated and rather juvenile rejection of the policies that kept us safe for seven and a half years. And then he can rethink his engagement of the “Muslim world” and begin to explain in candid terms the nature of our enemy and their ideological underpinnings. But first things first. Let’s start with simply dumping the “not Bush” anti-terror strategy.

That’s the question Politico’s forum is asking this morning. Yes, if you have to ask, it’s not a good sign for the administration. The forum participants do not pull their punches. A Princeton professor warns: “President Obama has not been able to articulate a clear national security agenda and on several issues, including Guantanamo and the NYC trials, the White House did not seem to have all their political ducks lined up before announcing a policy.” James Carafano of Heritage addresses the president: “Your detention, interrogation, and terrorist trial strategy has unraveled faster than an old sock. This is the perfect issue for you and the Republicans to sit down and craft a true bipartisan plan. Here is why 1) clearly this is the best interest of the nation if there is one issue where policy should trump politics this is it. 2) We know what the realistic options are.” A conservative advises: “Holding the terror trials in civilian courts could doom this Administration in a way that makes the health care cacophony seem like a Christmas choral performance.”

Moreover, there is already a widespread consensus and a ready-made model for what we can do. Leave Guantanamo open. Try KSM and his associates in military tribunals. Have terrorist suspects interrogated by trained intelligence personnel and don’t allow them to lawyer up before we get all available information. It’s not hard to figure out how to get this right. But it would entail an about-face and a rather humiliating admission that the Bush-era policies were instituted for good reasons and were well designed to combat the enemy we face.

In this case, the problem is not strictly speaking “political,” because it is Obama’s current policies that are unpopular and bringing him daily criticism. But a reversal would nevertheless be the subject of much hollering on the Left, which is already disillusioned with the president, who they imagined would have the political skills and the will to deliver on their ultra-liberal wish list. (I think the Lilly Ledbetter legislation is about it, unless you count a mediocre Supreme Court justice.) Rather, it would be a personal admission of failure and of poor judgment, a concession that the campaign rhetoric based on “not George Bush” was effective only as a club to whack the prior administration but not as a blueprint for governance.

It would, moreover, reveal as a lie the argument that we had strayed from out “values” or “lost our way” in the Bush years. It is Obama who has strayed. If he is to end the swirl of controversy and, more important, devise a rational national-security policy, he should dump his ill-fated and rather juvenile rejection of the policies that kept us safe for seven and a half years. And then he can rethink his engagement of the “Muslim world” and begin to explain in candid terms the nature of our enemy and their ideological underpinnings. But first things first. Let’s start with simply dumping the “not Bush” anti-terror strategy.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

At one time, this was thought to be a seat at risk for Republicans: “Former Congressman Rob Portman continues to have the edge on both his chief Democratic rivals in this year’s race for the U.S. Senate in Ohio.”

Charlie Cook has the Massachusetts Senate race as a toss-up, too: “Coakley has run an overly-cautious, somewhat clumsy campaign, only recently hitting the panic button. Some astute political observers note that even in attacking Brown, her campaign’s ads have been less impressive than the attacks on Brown launched by other entities. … To the extent Coakley may still have a tiny advantage, it appears not to meet the normal standard we have for a ‘lean’ rating: a competitive race but one in which one party has a clear advantage. We see no clear advantage.” This is Massachusetts, folks.

Why is it so close in Massachusetts? “Massachusetts politicos said that while anti-Washington sentiment is an element of what is happening in their state, they also blame state political dynamics in combination with presumption by the Democrats and the party’s candidate — Attorney General Martha Coakley — that the seat would be theirs without much of an effort. The Kennedy-anointed Coakley took nearly a week off from the campaign around Christmas. ‘A lot of Democrats in Massachusetts and certainly the Coakley campaign and myself thought this was going to be a lot easier than it’s turning out to be,’ said David Kravitz, a Boston lawyer and opera singer who runs a liberal political blog called bluemassgroup.com.”

It’s all a “political smear campaign,” he says: “Former UN weapons inspector turned Iraq war critic Scott Ritter has been caught in a police sex sting.” And his arrest (the charge was subsequently dismissed) in a 2001 Internet sex scandal was just a coincidence, I suppose.

Fred Barnes thinks ObamaCare isn’t a done deal yet in the House: “Republicans have a target-rich environment of 39 Democrats who voted in favor of Obamacare last year as possible defectors. Republicans will try to persuade as many of them as possible to switch, forcing Pelosi to find new Obamacare backers or see the health care bill die. … The 39 possible switchers include 11 pro-life Democrats who voted for Obamacare after a tough anti-abortion amendment was added. The compromise with the Senate bill isn’t likely to have as strong a provision barring the use of public funds to pay for abortions. Thus some of the pro-lifers could defect.”

Ben Nelson got booed at a pizza parlor. It seems his health-care vote has made him quite unpopular at home: “He used to be a popular figure back home, a Democrat who served eight years in the governor’s office and was elected twice to the Senate by a state that’s as red as the ‘N’ on football helmets. But Nelson has seen his approval ratings tumble in the wake of his wavering over the historic health care bill, his deal cutting with other Senate Democrats and, ultimately, his support to break a GOP filibuster and send the bill to a House-Senate conference committee.” Do other Red State Democrats think they’re immune from this reaction back home?

Elections have consequences: “The man once described by teachers’ union leaders as “the antithesis of everything we hold sacred about public education” was chosen to serve as state education commissioner by Governor-elect Christopher J. Christie on Wednesday. The nomination of Bret D. Schundler to the post underscored the governor’s determination to press ahead with his push for school vouchers, more charter schools and merit pay for teachers.”

Israel is helping in Haiti relief, though you won’t see much reporting on it.

Harry Reid is tanking: “36% approval to 58% disapproval, a 51-41 deficit against Sue Lowden, and a 50-42 one against Danny Tarkanian.” I suspect he’ll be joining Chris Dodd in retirement. You’d have thought that Democrats would have figured out how to dump him in the flap over his “Negro dialect” comments. But maybe it’s not too late. The Democratic Public Policy Polling outfit helpfully polls Democratic alternatives to Reid and finds that the Las Vegas mayor does best against GOP challengers.

At one time, this was thought to be a seat at risk for Republicans: “Former Congressman Rob Portman continues to have the edge on both his chief Democratic rivals in this year’s race for the U.S. Senate in Ohio.”

Charlie Cook has the Massachusetts Senate race as a toss-up, too: “Coakley has run an overly-cautious, somewhat clumsy campaign, only recently hitting the panic button. Some astute political observers note that even in attacking Brown, her campaign’s ads have been less impressive than the attacks on Brown launched by other entities. … To the extent Coakley may still have a tiny advantage, it appears not to meet the normal standard we have for a ‘lean’ rating: a competitive race but one in which one party has a clear advantage. We see no clear advantage.” This is Massachusetts, folks.

Why is it so close in Massachusetts? “Massachusetts politicos said that while anti-Washington sentiment is an element of what is happening in their state, they also blame state political dynamics in combination with presumption by the Democrats and the party’s candidate — Attorney General Martha Coakley — that the seat would be theirs without much of an effort. The Kennedy-anointed Coakley took nearly a week off from the campaign around Christmas. ‘A lot of Democrats in Massachusetts and certainly the Coakley campaign and myself thought this was going to be a lot easier than it’s turning out to be,’ said David Kravitz, a Boston lawyer and opera singer who runs a liberal political blog called bluemassgroup.com.”

It’s all a “political smear campaign,” he says: “Former UN weapons inspector turned Iraq war critic Scott Ritter has been caught in a police sex sting.” And his arrest (the charge was subsequently dismissed) in a 2001 Internet sex scandal was just a coincidence, I suppose.

Fred Barnes thinks ObamaCare isn’t a done deal yet in the House: “Republicans have a target-rich environment of 39 Democrats who voted in favor of Obamacare last year as possible defectors. Republicans will try to persuade as many of them as possible to switch, forcing Pelosi to find new Obamacare backers or see the health care bill die. … The 39 possible switchers include 11 pro-life Democrats who voted for Obamacare after a tough anti-abortion amendment was added. The compromise with the Senate bill isn’t likely to have as strong a provision barring the use of public funds to pay for abortions. Thus some of the pro-lifers could defect.”

Ben Nelson got booed at a pizza parlor. It seems his health-care vote has made him quite unpopular at home: “He used to be a popular figure back home, a Democrat who served eight years in the governor’s office and was elected twice to the Senate by a state that’s as red as the ‘N’ on football helmets. But Nelson has seen his approval ratings tumble in the wake of his wavering over the historic health care bill, his deal cutting with other Senate Democrats and, ultimately, his support to break a GOP filibuster and send the bill to a House-Senate conference committee.” Do other Red State Democrats think they’re immune from this reaction back home?

Elections have consequences: “The man once described by teachers’ union leaders as “the antithesis of everything we hold sacred about public education” was chosen to serve as state education commissioner by Governor-elect Christopher J. Christie on Wednesday. The nomination of Bret D. Schundler to the post underscored the governor’s determination to press ahead with his push for school vouchers, more charter schools and merit pay for teachers.”

Israel is helping in Haiti relief, though you won’t see much reporting on it.

Harry Reid is tanking: “36% approval to 58% disapproval, a 51-41 deficit against Sue Lowden, and a 50-42 one against Danny Tarkanian.” I suspect he’ll be joining Chris Dodd in retirement. You’d have thought that Democrats would have figured out how to dump him in the flap over his “Negro dialect” comments. But maybe it’s not too late. The Democratic Public Policy Polling outfit helpfully polls Democratic alternatives to Reid and finds that the Las Vegas mayor does best against GOP challengers.

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They Were “Aspirational”

There seemed to be both a bureaucratic and an analytical “disconnect” in the posture communicated by the Obama administration yesterday on the Christmas airliner bombing. On the bureaucratic side, we heard a lot about processing intelligence faster and better, but nothing about executive accountability or improved criteria for the “no-fly list” except the promise of further review. Even more disquieting was the chief analytical point made both in the published White House report and in the oral comments of Obama’s officials: that our intelligence community had not realized the extent to which al-Qaeda on the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) had graduated from an “aspirational” to an “operational” terrorist group.

Forget, for the moment, whether the intelligence community ought to have realized it. The more fundamental question is why keeping a traveler with known terrorist associations off a passenger jet should have been contingent on intelligence believing his specific group to have gone beyond the “aspirational” level. In the simplest analytical terms, the main way in which we figure out which groups have become operational, as opposed to aspirational, is seeing them mount attacks. Waiting on that level of proof, rather than acting earlier and on more general suspicion, is a very dangerous approach.

There is no indication from the White House, however, of an intention to change that approach. Our analytical delay in recognizing AQAP as operational is instead being offered as a central reason for the failure – as if there were no impetus to act, in a given situation, without such recognition. The nature of the threat should convince us otherwise, of course: terrorist activity will never be so distinctive and detectable that we can afford to dismiss as definitive the absence of indicators. We must acknowledge, moreover, that in Abdulmutallab’s case, there was no absence of indicators; rather, there was a ridiculously comprehensive list of indicators.  Apparently the only thing missing was the intelligence community’s judgment that AQAP had become operational.

The lesson from Abdulmutallab’s bombing attempt is that our own criteria for action are creating a serious vulnerability for us. I am far less interested in which counterterrorism officials took vacation time after the Christmas Day attack than in the dangerous implications of this complacent security posture. This basic confusion about the urgency our suspicion ought to have – this, right here – is what needs to be corrected. If it is not, American lives will remain hostage to an overly bureaucratic approach to national security.

There seemed to be both a bureaucratic and an analytical “disconnect” in the posture communicated by the Obama administration yesterday on the Christmas airliner bombing. On the bureaucratic side, we heard a lot about processing intelligence faster and better, but nothing about executive accountability or improved criteria for the “no-fly list” except the promise of further review. Even more disquieting was the chief analytical point made both in the published White House report and in the oral comments of Obama’s officials: that our intelligence community had not realized the extent to which al-Qaeda on the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) had graduated from an “aspirational” to an “operational” terrorist group.

Forget, for the moment, whether the intelligence community ought to have realized it. The more fundamental question is why keeping a traveler with known terrorist associations off a passenger jet should have been contingent on intelligence believing his specific group to have gone beyond the “aspirational” level. In the simplest analytical terms, the main way in which we figure out which groups have become operational, as opposed to aspirational, is seeing them mount attacks. Waiting on that level of proof, rather than acting earlier and on more general suspicion, is a very dangerous approach.

There is no indication from the White House, however, of an intention to change that approach. Our analytical delay in recognizing AQAP as operational is instead being offered as a central reason for the failure – as if there were no impetus to act, in a given situation, without such recognition. The nature of the threat should convince us otherwise, of course: terrorist activity will never be so distinctive and detectable that we can afford to dismiss as definitive the absence of indicators. We must acknowledge, moreover, that in Abdulmutallab’s case, there was no absence of indicators; rather, there was a ridiculously comprehensive list of indicators.  Apparently the only thing missing was the intelligence community’s judgment that AQAP had become operational.

The lesson from Abdulmutallab’s bombing attempt is that our own criteria for action are creating a serious vulnerability for us. I am far less interested in which counterterrorism officials took vacation time after the Christmas Day attack than in the dangerous implications of this complacent security posture. This basic confusion about the urgency our suspicion ought to have – this, right here – is what needs to be corrected. If it is not, American lives will remain hostage to an overly bureaucratic approach to national security.

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Is Obama Really Shaken?

David Broder, like many pundits more conservative in outlook who have hoped for an Obama “Ah ha!” moment, seems to think that Obama will have an epiphany in the wake of the Christmas Day bombing plot. He contends:

The near-miss by a passenger plotting to blow up an American airliner as it flew into Detroit seems to have shocked this president as much as the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon did the last.

Really? It’s hard to discern. Obama has not ordered a review and reconsideration of his fundamental policy decisions. He has not declared that classifying terrorists as criminal defendants may require a second look. He’s still bent on closing Guantanamo. Eric Holder and the lefty lawyers still reign supreme at the Justice Department, and KSM is headed for trial. And so far, not a single Obama official has been fired for what the president concedes was an abominable screwup. We have no new declaration of U.S. policy. How shocked could he be?

Broder divines that the “Christmas plot appears to have shaken Obama like nothing else that happened in his first year.” But how can we tell? This seems, frankly, to be a bit of wishful thinking, just as observers listening to the Nobel Peace Prize speech saw glimmers of a tougher Iran policy or a more robust assertion of American exceptionalism. Certainly we’ve come a long way since the Hawaii performance, when the president proclaimed the Christmas Day bombing plot the work of an “isolated extremist,” but the reaction has been a flurry of incremental, bureaucratic adjustments. Former 9/11 commission member John Lehman let it rip, deriding the Obama response:

President Obama just doesn’t get it. … I don’t think he has a clue. It’s all pure spin. He’s ignoring key issues and taking respectable professionals like John Brennan and turning them into hacks and shills. It’s beyond contempt. The president has ignored the 9/11 Commission’s report. … This whole idea that we can fix things by jumping higher and faster is ridiculous. The fact is that the system worked just like we said it would work if the president failed to give the Director of National Intelligence the tools he needs: it’s bloated, bureaucratic, layered, and stultified.

President Obama continues to totally ignore one of the important thrusts of our 9/11 recommendations, which is that you have to approach counterterrorism as a multiagency intelligence issue, and not as a law-enforcement issue.

Obama and his political gurus have figured out that the president’s national-security stance — downplaying the war against Islamic fundamentalists, hyper-legalistic rhetoric, a refusal to recognize jihadist attacks as part of a concerted war on the West, etc. — is a political loser. The public, Congress, and the media recoiled in horror when they saw the president’s ho-hum reaction to an attempt to incinerate nearly 300 people. But understanding the political peril does not signify a commitment to rethink policy assumptions. That would require a fundamental reorientation away from the “not Bush” policies, including the decision to classify terrorists captured in the U.S. as criminal defendants and to try them in civilian courts. Even the Washington Post editors sense that the response is somehow not commensurate with the gravity of the intelligence failure:

Mr. Obama’s solutions have the air of the small bore: a “training course” for the National Security Agency; a “dedicated capability responsible for enhancing record information on possible terrorists … for watchlisting purposes.” Perhaps a series of individual tweaks will do the job. But the administration report suggests that the problem is less tractable than Mr. Obama has acknowledged. His depiction Thursday of the shortcomings was admirably honest and more frightening than previously portrayed. His proposed fixes did not entirely reassure.

The fixes do not reassure because they do not begin to address the most basic errors of the Obama administration and its odd predilection, made odder by mismatched rhetoric, to see the war against Islamic fundamentalists as peripheral to its agenda. We will know that Obama has really been “shaken” when the war on Islamic terrorists is identified as such, when that becomes the core mission of the administration and when the president’s policies and not just his rhetoric changes.

David Broder, like many pundits more conservative in outlook who have hoped for an Obama “Ah ha!” moment, seems to think that Obama will have an epiphany in the wake of the Christmas Day bombing plot. He contends:

The near-miss by a passenger plotting to blow up an American airliner as it flew into Detroit seems to have shocked this president as much as the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon did the last.

Really? It’s hard to discern. Obama has not ordered a review and reconsideration of his fundamental policy decisions. He has not declared that classifying terrorists as criminal defendants may require a second look. He’s still bent on closing Guantanamo. Eric Holder and the lefty lawyers still reign supreme at the Justice Department, and KSM is headed for trial. And so far, not a single Obama official has been fired for what the president concedes was an abominable screwup. We have no new declaration of U.S. policy. How shocked could he be?

Broder divines that the “Christmas plot appears to have shaken Obama like nothing else that happened in his first year.” But how can we tell? This seems, frankly, to be a bit of wishful thinking, just as observers listening to the Nobel Peace Prize speech saw glimmers of a tougher Iran policy or a more robust assertion of American exceptionalism. Certainly we’ve come a long way since the Hawaii performance, when the president proclaimed the Christmas Day bombing plot the work of an “isolated extremist,” but the reaction has been a flurry of incremental, bureaucratic adjustments. Former 9/11 commission member John Lehman let it rip, deriding the Obama response:

President Obama just doesn’t get it. … I don’t think he has a clue. It’s all pure spin. He’s ignoring key issues and taking respectable professionals like John Brennan and turning them into hacks and shills. It’s beyond contempt. The president has ignored the 9/11 Commission’s report. … This whole idea that we can fix things by jumping higher and faster is ridiculous. The fact is that the system worked just like we said it would work if the president failed to give the Director of National Intelligence the tools he needs: it’s bloated, bureaucratic, layered, and stultified.

President Obama continues to totally ignore one of the important thrusts of our 9/11 recommendations, which is that you have to approach counterterrorism as a multiagency intelligence issue, and not as a law-enforcement issue.

Obama and his political gurus have figured out that the president’s national-security stance — downplaying the war against Islamic fundamentalists, hyper-legalistic rhetoric, a refusal to recognize jihadist attacks as part of a concerted war on the West, etc. — is a political loser. The public, Congress, and the media recoiled in horror when they saw the president’s ho-hum reaction to an attempt to incinerate nearly 300 people. But understanding the political peril does not signify a commitment to rethink policy assumptions. That would require a fundamental reorientation away from the “not Bush” policies, including the decision to classify terrorists captured in the U.S. as criminal defendants and to try them in civilian courts. Even the Washington Post editors sense that the response is somehow not commensurate with the gravity of the intelligence failure:

Mr. Obama’s solutions have the air of the small bore: a “training course” for the National Security Agency; a “dedicated capability responsible for enhancing record information on possible terrorists … for watchlisting purposes.” Perhaps a series of individual tweaks will do the job. But the administration report suggests that the problem is less tractable than Mr. Obama has acknowledged. His depiction Thursday of the shortcomings was admirably honest and more frightening than previously portrayed. His proposed fixes did not entirely reassure.

The fixes do not reassure because they do not begin to address the most basic errors of the Obama administration and its odd predilection, made odder by mismatched rhetoric, to see the war against Islamic fundamentalists as peripheral to its agenda. We will know that Obama has really been “shaken” when the war on Islamic terrorists is identified as such, when that becomes the core mission of the administration and when the president’s policies and not just his rhetoric changes.

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Lies, Big Lies and Nancy Pelosi Press Conferences

Nancy Pelosi has had a her run of memorable moments — promising to drain the swamp of corruption (no, not anytime soon), warning that we were losing 500 million jobs a month and accusing the CIA of lying to her about the use of enhanced interrogation techniques. Then yesterday she comes up with a doozy in responding to a letter by C-SPAN that sought to televise the conference committee (which isn’t going to happen because it’s all to be done in secret cloakroom deals): “There has never been a more open process for any legislation.”

Well, we can’t say this sort of thing is out of character, can we? She seems not to recall that the Senate hid the bill until Sen. Bill Nelson’s vote had been bought and then rushed a bill to a 1:00 a.m. vote right before Christmas. She seems not to recall that the House staged a Saturday vote and broke her pledge to post the bill online 72 hours before the vote.

Mark Hemingway asks, “It’s no secret that Pelosi and Democratic leaders are desperate to pass health care reform, but do they really think delusional lies are the best way to win over the public?” Well, yes, I think they do. That’s why they keep saying things such as “we must pass it or go bankrupt.” That’s why they deny that there will be health-care rationing while they cut $500B out of Medicare. That’s why they refuse to call taxes “taxes.” That’s why they insist we are going to keep our insurance as the Mayo Clinic gets out of the Medicare business. That is why they boast that they are cutting spending on health-care when, as the Heritage Foundation points out, “total U.S. health care spending would increase by 0.7%, or $234 billion through 2019. . . and that’s after taking into account what little savings would be achieved by cutting Medicare benefits and encouraging employer to cut health benefits by taxing private insurance plans that are ‘too generous.’”

In short, the Democrats  are reduced to making up stuff, both on substance and on process, because what is in the bill is unpalatable to a majority of voters. And they certainly don’t want to discuss the details or put any of the final back-room bribery  . . . er . . .  legislative compromising . . . on C-SPAN.

Nancy Pelosi has had a her run of memorable moments — promising to drain the swamp of corruption (no, not anytime soon), warning that we were losing 500 million jobs a month and accusing the CIA of lying to her about the use of enhanced interrogation techniques. Then yesterday she comes up with a doozy in responding to a letter by C-SPAN that sought to televise the conference committee (which isn’t going to happen because it’s all to be done in secret cloakroom deals): “There has never been a more open process for any legislation.”

Well, we can’t say this sort of thing is out of character, can we? She seems not to recall that the Senate hid the bill until Sen. Bill Nelson’s vote had been bought and then rushed a bill to a 1:00 a.m. vote right before Christmas. She seems not to recall that the House staged a Saturday vote and broke her pledge to post the bill online 72 hours before the vote.

Mark Hemingway asks, “It’s no secret that Pelosi and Democratic leaders are desperate to pass health care reform, but do they really think delusional lies are the best way to win over the public?” Well, yes, I think they do. That’s why they keep saying things such as “we must pass it or go bankrupt.” That’s why they deny that there will be health-care rationing while they cut $500B out of Medicare. That’s why they refuse to call taxes “taxes.” That’s why they insist we are going to keep our insurance as the Mayo Clinic gets out of the Medicare business. That is why they boast that they are cutting spending on health-care when, as the Heritage Foundation points out, “total U.S. health care spending would increase by 0.7%, or $234 billion through 2019. . . and that’s after taking into account what little savings would be achieved by cutting Medicare benefits and encouraging employer to cut health benefits by taxing private insurance plans that are ‘too generous.’”

In short, the Democrats  are reduced to making up stuff, both on substance and on process, because what is in the bill is unpalatable to a majority of voters. And they certainly don’t want to discuss the details or put any of the final back-room bribery  . . . er . . .  legislative compromising . . . on C-SPAN.

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Obama Tries Once More

In a few hours, Obama went from not wanting to point fingers to labeling the intelligence community as the root of the Christmas Day bombing fiasco. The New York Times reports:

President Obama said Tuesday that the United States government had sufficient information to uncover the terror plot to bring down an airplane on Christmas Day, but intelligence officials “failed to connect those dots” that would have prevented the young Nigerian man from boarding the plane in Amsterdam.The Obama administration also suspended the transfer of detainees from the military prison at Guantanamo Bay to Yemen because of the deteriorating security situation there and the rising terror threats emanating in the country. Only days before the attempted bombing on Christmas, the United States sent six detainees back to Yemen. “This was not a failure to collect intelligence, it was a failure to integrate and understand the intelligence that we already had,” Mr. Obama said after a two-hour meeting with his national security team at the White House. He added, “We have to do better, we will do better and we have to do it quickly. American lives are on the line.”

But again, Obama’s actions never quite match his rhetoric, even the newer and more improved variety. As the Times dryly notes, “His remarks suggested that he was standing by his top national security officials, including those whose agencies failed to communicate with one another.” And although he won’t for now be repopulating the terrorist ranks in Yemen with any more Guantanamo detainees, he’s still bent on closing that facility. Why? We hear the same recycled campaign lines and the same unproven and increasingly unbelievable talking points:

We will close Guantanamo prison, which has damaged our national security interests and become a tremendous recruiting tool for al Qaeda.  In fact, that was an explicit rationale for the formation of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.  And, as I’ve always said, we will do so — we will close the prison in a manner that keeps the American people safe and secure.

Like health care, he told the base he would get it done, and it’s not coming off the list, now matter how many practical and political barriers remain. And as for his claim that we are shutting it down in a manner that keeps us safe, we know that simply isn’t true. In this instance, we have one or more detainees linked to the plot, and we know, although the Obami have been stingy on disclosure, that we have a significant recidivism problem. And really, how long are we going to buy into the “recruiting tool” argument?  (America’s relationship with Israel is no doubt a tool for jihadist recruitment  so. . .  Well, better not go there.) Any word on a review of the interrogation procedures employed in this instance (with the potential that more dots will be lost when we don’t ask the right questions and get every bit of data we can from one of these terrorists)? Any sign that a multi-year public trial for KSM – the mother of all “recruitment tools” — might be reconsidered? Nope.

One thing is certain: the Obami realize the political peril they are in. The rhetoric becomes more robust and the tone more serious with each day. But until those words are matched by action, the American people have every right to be concerned that the president still has not grasped the nature of our enemy and is reluctant to implement policies commensurate with the risk we face.

In a few hours, Obama went from not wanting to point fingers to labeling the intelligence community as the root of the Christmas Day bombing fiasco. The New York Times reports:

President Obama said Tuesday that the United States government had sufficient information to uncover the terror plot to bring down an airplane on Christmas Day, but intelligence officials “failed to connect those dots” that would have prevented the young Nigerian man from boarding the plane in Amsterdam.The Obama administration also suspended the transfer of detainees from the military prison at Guantanamo Bay to Yemen because of the deteriorating security situation there and the rising terror threats emanating in the country. Only days before the attempted bombing on Christmas, the United States sent six detainees back to Yemen. “This was not a failure to collect intelligence, it was a failure to integrate and understand the intelligence that we already had,” Mr. Obama said after a two-hour meeting with his national security team at the White House. He added, “We have to do better, we will do better and we have to do it quickly. American lives are on the line.”

But again, Obama’s actions never quite match his rhetoric, even the newer and more improved variety. As the Times dryly notes, “His remarks suggested that he was standing by his top national security officials, including those whose agencies failed to communicate with one another.” And although he won’t for now be repopulating the terrorist ranks in Yemen with any more Guantanamo detainees, he’s still bent on closing that facility. Why? We hear the same recycled campaign lines and the same unproven and increasingly unbelievable talking points:

We will close Guantanamo prison, which has damaged our national security interests and become a tremendous recruiting tool for al Qaeda.  In fact, that was an explicit rationale for the formation of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.  And, as I’ve always said, we will do so — we will close the prison in a manner that keeps the American people safe and secure.

Like health care, he told the base he would get it done, and it’s not coming off the list, now matter how many practical and political barriers remain. And as for his claim that we are shutting it down in a manner that keeps us safe, we know that simply isn’t true. In this instance, we have one or more detainees linked to the plot, and we know, although the Obami have been stingy on disclosure, that we have a significant recidivism problem. And really, how long are we going to buy into the “recruiting tool” argument?  (America’s relationship with Israel is no doubt a tool for jihadist recruitment  so. . .  Well, better not go there.) Any word on a review of the interrogation procedures employed in this instance (with the potential that more dots will be lost when we don’t ask the right questions and get every bit of data we can from one of these terrorists)? Any sign that a multi-year public trial for KSM – the mother of all “recruitment tools” — might be reconsidered? Nope.

One thing is certain: the Obami realize the political peril they are in. The rhetoric becomes more robust and the tone more serious with each day. But until those words are matched by action, the American people have every right to be concerned that the president still has not grasped the nature of our enemy and is reluctant to implement policies commensurate with the risk we face.

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Just a Notch on a Belt

Buried deep inside an angst-filled column complaining that Obama is underappreciated and overly criticized, Richard Cohen concedes what many on both the Right and Left suspect: “He wanted a health-care bill. Why? To cover the uncovered. Maybe. To rein in the insurance companies. Maybe. To lower costs. Maybe. What mattered most was getting a bill, any bill. This is not a cause. It’s a notch on a belt.” We suspect that is true in part because Obama never really told us what he wanted in the bill. He never sent a proposal to Congress. He didn’t spell out specific requirements for his plan in that game-changing (not) speech in September. Each time Congress moved ahead with one version or another, Obama praised the effort without much comment on the content. Some thought it was tactical. But maybe he never really cared what was in it.

That conclusion is reinforced by the bill’s content and timing. As for the content, it doesn’t do what the president in broadest strokes said he wanted to accomplish. James Capretta points out that this isn’t “universal” care:

The House and Senate bills would add 15 million or more people to [Medicaid's] rolls without any guarantee whatsoever that there will be doctors and hospitals that can see them. Ironically, the very Democrats who most frequently tout “universality” as the goal are also the ones who ensure it will never actually come about by insisting that America’s lower-income families enroll in government-run insurance — with no other options. Beyond the Medicaid expansion, Obamacare is really an obligation, not a right. Every citizen would be required to sign up with a government-approved health-insurance plan or pay a tax penalty for going without coverage.

And even its proponents concede there will still be 23 million or so uninsured. Nor does the bill meet the president’s goals of deficit neutrality or cost cutting:

[T]he claim that bill lowers the deficit means that, in addition to cutting Medicare by half a trillion dollars, the Senate would also raise half a trillion in new taxes — during a recession. Only a series of accounting gimmicks — such as implementing benefits beginning in 2014 but raising taxes starting in 2010, and double-counting Medicare savings — allowed Senate majority leader Harry Reid to get a CBO cost estimate that pretends to add “not one dime” to the deficit. Medicare actuary Foster found that the Senate bill would bend the cost curve up, not down, and that the new taxes on drugs, devices, and health-insurance plans would increase prices and health-insurance costs for consumers.

But the telltale sign that Obama doesn’t really much care about the merits of the bill or any of the bill’s promised benefits is the timeline. The Heritage Foundation lays this out in detail:

2010: Physician Medicare payments decrease 21% effective March 1, 2010

2011: “Annual Fee” tax on health insurance, allocated according to share of total premiums. Begins at $2 billion in 2011, then increases to $4 billion in 2012, $7 billion in 2013, $9 billion in the years 2014, 2015, and 2016, and eventually $10 billion for 2017 and every year thereafter. Two insurers in Nebraska and one in Michigan are exempt from this tax.

2012: Medicare payment penalties for hospitals with the highest readmission rates for selected conditions.

2013: Medicare tax increased from 2.9% to 3.8% for incomes over $250,000 (joint filers) or $200,000 (all others). (This is stated as an increase of 0.9 percentage points, to only the employee’s share of the FICA tax.)

2014: Individual mandate begins: Tax penalties for not having insurance begin at $95 or 0.5% of income, whichever is higher, rising to $495 or 1% of income in 2015 and $750 or 2% of income thereafter (indexed for inflation after 2016). These penalties are per adult, half that amount per child, to a maximum of three times the per-adult amount per family. The penalty is capped at the national average premium for the “bronze” plan.

2015: Establishment of Independent Medicare Advisory Board (IMAB) to recommend cuts in Medicare benefits; these cuts will go into effect automatically unless Congress passes, and the President signs, an override bill.

2016: Individual mandate penalty rises to $750 per adult ($375 per child), maximum $2,250 per family, or 2% of family income, whichever is higher (capped at the national average premium for the “bronze” plan). After 2016, the penalty will be increased each year to adjust for inflation.

2017: Itemized deduction for out-of-pocket medical expenses is limited to expenses over 10% of AGI for those over age 65.

Bottom line: nothing but taxes and Medicare cuts begin before 2014. This is not a serious plan to address a health-care “crisis,” is it? No. It is an effort to throw something up against the wall and clean up the mess later. It won’t be proven “not to work” before Obama’s last election because it isn’t designed to really do anything, other than raise taxes, for the next four years. It is the ultimate placeholder that Obama can check off on his to-do list without the responsibility for actually solving the crisis he told us we had to fix urgently – before Christmas 2009.

It is hard, then, to quibble with Cohen. This isn’t a serious effort to reform health care. It’s lazy governance from a president who couldn’t face failure or craft a coherent bill. He and Democrats in the House and Senate imagine that the voters are too dumb to figure this out. We’ll test that proposition in November.

Buried deep inside an angst-filled column complaining that Obama is underappreciated and overly criticized, Richard Cohen concedes what many on both the Right and Left suspect: “He wanted a health-care bill. Why? To cover the uncovered. Maybe. To rein in the insurance companies. Maybe. To lower costs. Maybe. What mattered most was getting a bill, any bill. This is not a cause. It’s a notch on a belt.” We suspect that is true in part because Obama never really told us what he wanted in the bill. He never sent a proposal to Congress. He didn’t spell out specific requirements for his plan in that game-changing (not) speech in September. Each time Congress moved ahead with one version or another, Obama praised the effort without much comment on the content. Some thought it was tactical. But maybe he never really cared what was in it.

That conclusion is reinforced by the bill’s content and timing. As for the content, it doesn’t do what the president in broadest strokes said he wanted to accomplish. James Capretta points out that this isn’t “universal” care:

The House and Senate bills would add 15 million or more people to [Medicaid's] rolls without any guarantee whatsoever that there will be doctors and hospitals that can see them. Ironically, the very Democrats who most frequently tout “universality” as the goal are also the ones who ensure it will never actually come about by insisting that America’s lower-income families enroll in government-run insurance — with no other options. Beyond the Medicaid expansion, Obamacare is really an obligation, not a right. Every citizen would be required to sign up with a government-approved health-insurance plan or pay a tax penalty for going without coverage.

And even its proponents concede there will still be 23 million or so uninsured. Nor does the bill meet the president’s goals of deficit neutrality or cost cutting:

[T]he claim that bill lowers the deficit means that, in addition to cutting Medicare by half a trillion dollars, the Senate would also raise half a trillion in new taxes — during a recession. Only a series of accounting gimmicks — such as implementing benefits beginning in 2014 but raising taxes starting in 2010, and double-counting Medicare savings — allowed Senate majority leader Harry Reid to get a CBO cost estimate that pretends to add “not one dime” to the deficit. Medicare actuary Foster found that the Senate bill would bend the cost curve up, not down, and that the new taxes on drugs, devices, and health-insurance plans would increase prices and health-insurance costs for consumers.

But the telltale sign that Obama doesn’t really much care about the merits of the bill or any of the bill’s promised benefits is the timeline. The Heritage Foundation lays this out in detail:

2010: Physician Medicare payments decrease 21% effective March 1, 2010

2011: “Annual Fee” tax on health insurance, allocated according to share of total premiums. Begins at $2 billion in 2011, then increases to $4 billion in 2012, $7 billion in 2013, $9 billion in the years 2014, 2015, and 2016, and eventually $10 billion for 2017 and every year thereafter. Two insurers in Nebraska and one in Michigan are exempt from this tax.

2012: Medicare payment penalties for hospitals with the highest readmission rates for selected conditions.

2013: Medicare tax increased from 2.9% to 3.8% for incomes over $250,000 (joint filers) or $200,000 (all others). (This is stated as an increase of 0.9 percentage points, to only the employee’s share of the FICA tax.)

2014: Individual mandate begins: Tax penalties for not having insurance begin at $95 or 0.5% of income, whichever is higher, rising to $495 or 1% of income in 2015 and $750 or 2% of income thereafter (indexed for inflation after 2016). These penalties are per adult, half that amount per child, to a maximum of three times the per-adult amount per family. The penalty is capped at the national average premium for the “bronze” plan.

2015: Establishment of Independent Medicare Advisory Board (IMAB) to recommend cuts in Medicare benefits; these cuts will go into effect automatically unless Congress passes, and the President signs, an override bill.

2016: Individual mandate penalty rises to $750 per adult ($375 per child), maximum $2,250 per family, or 2% of family income, whichever is higher (capped at the national average premium for the “bronze” plan). After 2016, the penalty will be increased each year to adjust for inflation.

2017: Itemized deduction for out-of-pocket medical expenses is limited to expenses over 10% of AGI for those over age 65.

Bottom line: nothing but taxes and Medicare cuts begin before 2014. This is not a serious plan to address a health-care “crisis,” is it? No. It is an effort to throw something up against the wall and clean up the mess later. It won’t be proven “not to work” before Obama’s last election because it isn’t designed to really do anything, other than raise taxes, for the next four years. It is the ultimate placeholder that Obama can check off on his to-do list without the responsibility for actually solving the crisis he told us we had to fix urgently – before Christmas 2009.

It is hard, then, to quibble with Cohen. This isn’t a serious effort to reform health care. It’s lazy governance from a president who couldn’t face failure or craft a coherent bill. He and Democrats in the House and Senate imagine that the voters are too dumb to figure this out. We’ll test that proposition in November.

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The Ballot Box Solution

The Wall Street Journal editors zero in on Sen. Ben Nelson’s infamous deal, the “Cornhusker Kickback,” which is going to replace the Bridge To Nowhere in legislative infamy. They explain:

Under the “Cornhusker Kickback,” the federal government will pay all of Nebraska’s new Medicaid costs forever, while taxpayers in the other 49 states will see their budgets explode as this safety-net program for the poor is expanded to one out of every five Americans.

“In addition to violating the most basic and universally held notions of what is fair and just,” the AGs wrote last week to the Democratic leadership, the Article I spending clause is limited to “general Welfare.” If Congress claims to be legitimately serving that interest by expanding the joint state-federal Medicaid program, then why is it relieving just one state of a mandate that otherwise applies to all states? In other words, serving the non-general welfare of Nebraska—for no other reason than political expediency—violates a basic Supreme Court check on the “display of arbitrary power” that was established in 1937′s Helvering v. Davis.

I am not a fan of reconstituting policy arguments as Constitutional claims, even when the legislative offense is as gross as this. At bottom, noxious legislation calls out for a legislative solution: a no vote by the other lawmakers whose constituents rightly see this as unfair and, at bottom, immoral. After all, why are Californians’ health needs not given the same consideration as Nebraskans’? And just because Sen. Feinstein and Boxer allowed Nelson to get away with a better deal in the Christmas rush doesn’t mean they and their colleagues shouldn’t take a second look. As the Journal‘s editors point out, Blue states really have reason to gripe:

In a December letter Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger lamented that ObamaCare would impose the “crushing new burden” of as much as $4 billion per year in new Medicaid spending in a state that is already deeply in the red. And in a Christmas Day op-ed in the Buffalo News, New York Governor David A. Paterson protested the almost $1 billion in new costs as well as the “unfairness of the Senate bill” when “New York already sends significantly more money to Washington than it gets back.”

There are, after all, Senate races in New York and California this year. It seems as though it would behoove Sens. Boxer and Gillibrand to defend their taxpayers’ interests. The same goes for the 53 California House members and the 29 New York representatives. Don’t at least a handful of the Democrats in those and other states object to the fact that their voters are going to be subsidizing Nebraskans only so that the latter don’t get too mad at Ben Nelson?

Perhaps the courts will find some legal infirmity with the deal. But the ultimate solution to this sort of chicanery is found at the ballot box.

The Wall Street Journal editors zero in on Sen. Ben Nelson’s infamous deal, the “Cornhusker Kickback,” which is going to replace the Bridge To Nowhere in legislative infamy. They explain:

Under the “Cornhusker Kickback,” the federal government will pay all of Nebraska’s new Medicaid costs forever, while taxpayers in the other 49 states will see their budgets explode as this safety-net program for the poor is expanded to one out of every five Americans.

“In addition to violating the most basic and universally held notions of what is fair and just,” the AGs wrote last week to the Democratic leadership, the Article I spending clause is limited to “general Welfare.” If Congress claims to be legitimately serving that interest by expanding the joint state-federal Medicaid program, then why is it relieving just one state of a mandate that otherwise applies to all states? In other words, serving the non-general welfare of Nebraska—for no other reason than political expediency—violates a basic Supreme Court check on the “display of arbitrary power” that was established in 1937′s Helvering v. Davis.

I am not a fan of reconstituting policy arguments as Constitutional claims, even when the legislative offense is as gross as this. At bottom, noxious legislation calls out for a legislative solution: a no vote by the other lawmakers whose constituents rightly see this as unfair and, at bottom, immoral. After all, why are Californians’ health needs not given the same consideration as Nebraskans’? And just because Sen. Feinstein and Boxer allowed Nelson to get away with a better deal in the Christmas rush doesn’t mean they and their colleagues shouldn’t take a second look. As the Journal‘s editors point out, Blue states really have reason to gripe:

In a December letter Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger lamented that ObamaCare would impose the “crushing new burden” of as much as $4 billion per year in new Medicaid spending in a state that is already deeply in the red. And in a Christmas Day op-ed in the Buffalo News, New York Governor David A. Paterson protested the almost $1 billion in new costs as well as the “unfairness of the Senate bill” when “New York already sends significantly more money to Washington than it gets back.”

There are, after all, Senate races in New York and California this year. It seems as though it would behoove Sens. Boxer and Gillibrand to defend their taxpayers’ interests. The same goes for the 53 California House members and the 29 New York representatives. Don’t at least a handful of the Democrats in those and other states object to the fact that their voters are going to be subsidizing Nebraskans only so that the latter don’t get too mad at Ben Nelson?

Perhaps the courts will find some legal infirmity with the deal. But the ultimate solution to this sort of chicanery is found at the ballot box.

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Sunday Spin on Christmas Day Bombing

Flipping from channel to channel or perusing the transcripts of the Sunday talk shows, it was hard not to cringe. Counterterrorism adviser John Brennan was everywhere. “We get it right most of the time…. We were alert all along… There wasn’t any smoking gun, just lots of clues we missed…. Yemen is really dangerous but we can’t say we’ll stop sending Guantanamo detainees there…. And Dick Cheney is very wrong…. The performance was defensive and otherworldly, alternately. One is tempted to say that, like Janet Napolitano, Brennan is not up to the job. That may well be the case, particularly as we learn about his own role in the missed clues. But we should be clear: this was all vetted in advance. This is the approved Obami version. These lines are the official talking points. So we come back to the fundamental question: why are they so bad at this? One longs for some candor and for some greater sense of urgency, the urgency that comes from realizing that we haven’t been on top of things and that we better get our act together — quickly.

The spin-meisters’ assurances stand in stark contrast to the bits and pieces of information slowly trickling out. We are learning from news accounts, in particular this eye-popping one, that the incompetence was rather breathtaking. A sample:

Collectively, the U.S. government had its head in the sand. The FBI had no representative at the meeting at the U.S. Embassy in Abuja, in the center of the country, the FBI maintains an attache only in Lagos, on the southern coast. The CIA did not tell the FBI about Abdulmutallab. Under the so-called Visa Viper program, the State Department received the report about the meeting with Abdulmutallab’s father, but it did not revoke the son’s visa. Rather, it made a note to closely scrutinize any future application to renew the visa. Likewise, the NCTC determined that there was no “reasonable suspicion” to conclude that Abdulmutallab was a terrorist, so he wasn’t put on the FBI’s Terrorist Screening Center watch list of some 400,000 names, or counted as one of 13,000 people who require extra screening before getting on a plane, or one of 4,000 names who are on the “no fly” list banned from getting on a plane at all. . .

The NCTC was set up to make sure that the various American agencies and intelligence services better shared information in the wake of 9/11, which might have been averted if the CIA and FBI had been in better communication about the al-Qaeda hijackers entering the country. But for reasons still not adequately explained, no one seems to have noticed other red flags in the intelligence system. The intelligence community had already picked up the intercepts indicating that al-Qaeda was planning to use a Nigerian for an attack on America. Other intercepts suggested a terror attack out of Yemen at Christmas, though officials believed the likely target would be somewhere in the Middle East, not in the United States. Finally, there were the intercepts between Abdulmutallab and the phone (and possibly a computer) used by al-Awlaki, the Yemen-based cleric. Such contact would seem to cry out for attention although an intelligence official said the intercepts did not indicate Abdulmutallab’s full name.

And so it goes. But from watching Brennan, one senses that the Obami are banking on the public not fully grasping this. One has the nagging feeling that they are hoping to get by on flimflam and recycled talking points. The dutiful spokespeople — Napolitano and now Brennan — are striving to keep their own jobs and to hold back the torrent of outrage that they fear will sweep them from office. So they are not informing or reassuring us. They are practicing damage control — limit the facts, label the facts, attack the critics, and minimize the enormity of the screw up.

How this incident is being handled suggests that some real Congressional oversight might be needed, or better yet, an independent commission. (Perhaps the 9/11 commission can be brought back since they’ve already figured out what to look for and what bureaucratic bumbling looks like.) At the very least, one wishes that the malefactors who are at least partially responsible would step aside and let those less invested in spinning the story explain what went wrong.

Flipping from channel to channel or perusing the transcripts of the Sunday talk shows, it was hard not to cringe. Counterterrorism adviser John Brennan was everywhere. “We get it right most of the time…. We were alert all along… There wasn’t any smoking gun, just lots of clues we missed…. Yemen is really dangerous but we can’t say we’ll stop sending Guantanamo detainees there…. And Dick Cheney is very wrong…. The performance was defensive and otherworldly, alternately. One is tempted to say that, like Janet Napolitano, Brennan is not up to the job. That may well be the case, particularly as we learn about his own role in the missed clues. But we should be clear: this was all vetted in advance. This is the approved Obami version. These lines are the official talking points. So we come back to the fundamental question: why are they so bad at this? One longs for some candor and for some greater sense of urgency, the urgency that comes from realizing that we haven’t been on top of things and that we better get our act together — quickly.

The spin-meisters’ assurances stand in stark contrast to the bits and pieces of information slowly trickling out. We are learning from news accounts, in particular this eye-popping one, that the incompetence was rather breathtaking. A sample:

Collectively, the U.S. government had its head in the sand. The FBI had no representative at the meeting at the U.S. Embassy in Abuja, in the center of the country, the FBI maintains an attache only in Lagos, on the southern coast. The CIA did not tell the FBI about Abdulmutallab. Under the so-called Visa Viper program, the State Department received the report about the meeting with Abdulmutallab’s father, but it did not revoke the son’s visa. Rather, it made a note to closely scrutinize any future application to renew the visa. Likewise, the NCTC determined that there was no “reasonable suspicion” to conclude that Abdulmutallab was a terrorist, so he wasn’t put on the FBI’s Terrorist Screening Center watch list of some 400,000 names, or counted as one of 13,000 people who require extra screening before getting on a plane, or one of 4,000 names who are on the “no fly” list banned from getting on a plane at all. . .

The NCTC was set up to make sure that the various American agencies and intelligence services better shared information in the wake of 9/11, which might have been averted if the CIA and FBI had been in better communication about the al-Qaeda hijackers entering the country. But for reasons still not adequately explained, no one seems to have noticed other red flags in the intelligence system. The intelligence community had already picked up the intercepts indicating that al-Qaeda was planning to use a Nigerian for an attack on America. Other intercepts suggested a terror attack out of Yemen at Christmas, though officials believed the likely target would be somewhere in the Middle East, not in the United States. Finally, there were the intercepts between Abdulmutallab and the phone (and possibly a computer) used by al-Awlaki, the Yemen-based cleric. Such contact would seem to cry out for attention although an intelligence official said the intercepts did not indicate Abdulmutallab’s full name.

And so it goes. But from watching Brennan, one senses that the Obami are banking on the public not fully grasping this. One has the nagging feeling that they are hoping to get by on flimflam and recycled talking points. The dutiful spokespeople — Napolitano and now Brennan — are striving to keep their own jobs and to hold back the torrent of outrage that they fear will sweep them from office. So they are not informing or reassuring us. They are practicing damage control — limit the facts, label the facts, attack the critics, and minimize the enormity of the screw up.

How this incident is being handled suggests that some real Congressional oversight might be needed, or better yet, an independent commission. (Perhaps the 9/11 commission can be brought back since they’ve already figured out what to look for and what bureaucratic bumbling looks like.) At the very least, one wishes that the malefactors who are at least partially responsible would step aside and let those less invested in spinning the story explain what went wrong.

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Got Your Seat Assignment?

In her pull-in-as-many-favors-with-media-elites-to-save-her-skin campaign, Janet Napolitano tells Maureen Dowd that you need to do your job:

“I think we do a disservice if we tell people there are 100 percent guarantees. I think we tell them we’re doing everything we can to reduce risk. I think we tell people that they are also part of the system. I mean, the passengers on this plane were a line of defense, the flight crew were a line of defense. So everybody has a shared responsibility here. You can’t just say, well, this government department or that government department’s got the whole shebang.”

Okay, does no one tell her to just stop talking?  Really, none of this is helping. For starters, I think after last week the majority of Americans don’t believe that the Obami are doing everything they can to keep us safe. John Brennan seems to have moved up to the pole position with Dennis Blair in the race for forced retirement with the revelation that he was briefed on underwear bombing. Somehow that information didn’t get circulated. The new Newsweek observes: “The briefing for Brennan is among a series of pre-Christmas warnings suggesting that the breakdown in the U.S. intelligence system prior to the Northwest attack may have been worse than has been publicly acknowledged.” So it seems they really weren’t doing everything to keep us safe.

And Napolitano gives the game away when she confesses that “one of the things that may come out of this awful day is perhaps a renewed sense of urgency.” But didn’t she just tell us that they were doing everything they.  . . Oh never mind. And she really doesn’t know how all this happened: “I want to know how this individual got on this plane with this material. I want to know so we can figure out what we should be doing to defeat that.” It might have something to do with the fact that the Obami weren’t doing everything to keep us safe.

But you really do have to marvel at Napolitano‘s not very subtle shifting of responsibility for travel security from the government to the public. One supposes that when you check in you’ll be getting a seat assignment and terrorist look-out shift. (No sleeping between noon and 2pm in Row 26!) Now, on one hand, this is at least a candid recognition that the passengers are the only participants of our security system who seem to be on the ball. But how exactly does this jibe with the unending series of petty, annoying, and downright stupid rules that serve to frustrate only innocent passengers doing their best to patrol the skies? Nothing in your lap for the last hour of flights? No one in their right mind can believe this poses some “defense” against terrorists. (Suffice it to say that even the dimmest terrorist can explode his underwear with 62 minutes to go on the flight.) Do they want to empower us, give us responsibility for our own defense, and restore confidence in our air security? Then stop frisking toddlers and help the public keep an eye on those individuals most likely to set their drawers on fire. And most of all, please just tell Napolitano to be quiet.

In her pull-in-as-many-favors-with-media-elites-to-save-her-skin campaign, Janet Napolitano tells Maureen Dowd that you need to do your job:

“I think we do a disservice if we tell people there are 100 percent guarantees. I think we tell them we’re doing everything we can to reduce risk. I think we tell people that they are also part of the system. I mean, the passengers on this plane were a line of defense, the flight crew were a line of defense. So everybody has a shared responsibility here. You can’t just say, well, this government department or that government department’s got the whole shebang.”

Okay, does no one tell her to just stop talking?  Really, none of this is helping. For starters, I think after last week the majority of Americans don’t believe that the Obami are doing everything they can to keep us safe. John Brennan seems to have moved up to the pole position with Dennis Blair in the race for forced retirement with the revelation that he was briefed on underwear bombing. Somehow that information didn’t get circulated. The new Newsweek observes: “The briefing for Brennan is among a series of pre-Christmas warnings suggesting that the breakdown in the U.S. intelligence system prior to the Northwest attack may have been worse than has been publicly acknowledged.” So it seems they really weren’t doing everything to keep us safe.

And Napolitano gives the game away when she confesses that “one of the things that may come out of this awful day is perhaps a renewed sense of urgency.” But didn’t she just tell us that they were doing everything they.  . . Oh never mind. And she really doesn’t know how all this happened: “I want to know how this individual got on this plane with this material. I want to know so we can figure out what we should be doing to defeat that.” It might have something to do with the fact that the Obami weren’t doing everything to keep us safe.

But you really do have to marvel at Napolitano‘s not very subtle shifting of responsibility for travel security from the government to the public. One supposes that when you check in you’ll be getting a seat assignment and terrorist look-out shift. (No sleeping between noon and 2pm in Row 26!) Now, on one hand, this is at least a candid recognition that the passengers are the only participants of our security system who seem to be on the ball. But how exactly does this jibe with the unending series of petty, annoying, and downright stupid rules that serve to frustrate only innocent passengers doing their best to patrol the skies? Nothing in your lap for the last hour of flights? No one in their right mind can believe this poses some “defense” against terrorists. (Suffice it to say that even the dimmest terrorist can explode his underwear with 62 minutes to go on the flight.) Do they want to empower us, give us responsibility for our own defense, and restore confidence in our air security? Then stop frisking toddlers and help the public keep an eye on those individuals most likely to set their drawers on fire. And most of all, please just tell Napolitano to be quiet.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Looks like there was good reason to hold up the TSA nominee: “The White House nominee to lead the Transportation Security Administration gave Congress misleading information about incidents in which he inappropriately accessed a federal database, possibly in violation of privacy laws, documents obtained by the Washington Post show.”

Another good reason to dump Dennis Blair: “A U.S. counter-terrorism official is sharply challenging the assertion Thursday by Dennis C. Blair, the Director of National Intelligence, that the al-Qaeda terrorist network is ‘diminished.’  .  .  . The U.S. counter-terrorism official told Politico: ‘Blair should, at a minimum, take a mulligan on this. He seems to be suggesting here that al-Qaeda is somehow less of a threat these days. That just ain’t so. And someone should remind him that inexperienced individuals have been responsible for carrying out major attacks. That includes the muscle men on 9/11 and a number of other terrorist attacks since then.’”

A taste of ObamaCare: “The Mayo Clinic, praised by President Barack Obama as a national model for efficient health care, will stop accepting Medicare patients as of tomorrow at one of its primary-care clinics in Arizona, saying the U.S. government pays too little. . . Mayo’s move to drop Medicare patients may be copied by family doctors, some of whom have stopped accepting new patients from the program, said Lori Heim, president of the American Academy of Family Physicians.”

Déjà vu all over again: “The former chairman of the 9/11 commission said that communications lapses that allowed a suspected terrorist to board a Detroit jetliner echoed the mistakes leading up to the 9/11 attacks. ‘It’s like reading the same script over again,’ said Thomas H. Kean, the 9/11 investigation’s top Republican and a former governor of New Jersey.”

A revolt is brewing against Gov.Charlie Crist’s state GOP chairman. Sure does seem as though “Charlie Crist is off his game. Way off his game, which was spectacular when it was good. . .Nowadays, Democrats have pretty much abandoned him, and hard-core GOP conservatives are flocking to Marco Rubio. Charlie’s not only lost his mo, he’s lost his mojo.”

Is David Broder kidding? “If there is anyone in the administration who embodies President Obama’s preference for quiet competence with ‘no drama,’ it is Janet Napolitano.” Well, she does seem to embody the essence of the Obama administration, but this is hardly reason for praise.

I suspect most Americans agree with Charles Krauthammer on this one: “The reason the country is uneasy about the Obama administration’s response to this attack is a distinct sense of not just incompetence but incomprehension. From the very beginning, President Obama has relentlessly tried to play down and deny the nature of the terrorist threat we continue to face. . . Any government can through laxity let someone slip through the cracks. But a government that refuses to admit that we are at war, indeed, refuses even to name the enemy — jihadist is a word banished from the Obama lexicon — turns laxity into a governing philosophy.”

The media elites didn’t make too much of this in the aftermath of the Fort Hood massacre, but now they have perked up: “The apparent ties between the Nigerian man charged with plotting to blow up an airliner on Christmas Day and a radical American-born Yemeni imam have cast a spotlight on a world of charismatic clerics who wield their Internet celebrity to indoctrinate young Muslims with extremist ideology and recruit them for al-Qaeda, American officials and counterterrorism specialists said.” But remember that the Obami are nevertheless going to give KSM a  public trial so he can use his “celebrity to indoctrinate young Muslims with extremist ideology and recruit them for al-Qaeda.”

Andy McCarthy on the Obami’s priorities: “Sure, this government can’t figure out how to move someone from the terrorist database to the no-fly list, but you can rest assured they’re fixated on the real problem:  bloggers who report that TSA issued a directive to increase security after the Christmas bombing attempt.”

This is how the housing crisis seems to have started: “The Obama administration’s $75 billion program to protect homeowners from foreclosure has been widely pronounced a disappointment, and some economists and real estate experts now contend it has done more harm than good.Since President Obama announced the program in February, it has lowered mortgage payments on a trial basis for hundreds of thousands of people but has largely failed to provide permanent relief. Critics increasingly argue that the program, Making Home Affordable, has raised false hopes among people who simply cannot afford their homes.”

Looks like there was good reason to hold up the TSA nominee: “The White House nominee to lead the Transportation Security Administration gave Congress misleading information about incidents in which he inappropriately accessed a federal database, possibly in violation of privacy laws, documents obtained by the Washington Post show.”

Another good reason to dump Dennis Blair: “A U.S. counter-terrorism official is sharply challenging the assertion Thursday by Dennis C. Blair, the Director of National Intelligence, that the al-Qaeda terrorist network is ‘diminished.’  .  .  . The U.S. counter-terrorism official told Politico: ‘Blair should, at a minimum, take a mulligan on this. He seems to be suggesting here that al-Qaeda is somehow less of a threat these days. That just ain’t so. And someone should remind him that inexperienced individuals have been responsible for carrying out major attacks. That includes the muscle men on 9/11 and a number of other terrorist attacks since then.’”

A taste of ObamaCare: “The Mayo Clinic, praised by President Barack Obama as a national model for efficient health care, will stop accepting Medicare patients as of tomorrow at one of its primary-care clinics in Arizona, saying the U.S. government pays too little. . . Mayo’s move to drop Medicare patients may be copied by family doctors, some of whom have stopped accepting new patients from the program, said Lori Heim, president of the American Academy of Family Physicians.”

Déjà vu all over again: “The former chairman of the 9/11 commission said that communications lapses that allowed a suspected terrorist to board a Detroit jetliner echoed the mistakes leading up to the 9/11 attacks. ‘It’s like reading the same script over again,’ said Thomas H. Kean, the 9/11 investigation’s top Republican and a former governor of New Jersey.”

A revolt is brewing against Gov.Charlie Crist’s state GOP chairman. Sure does seem as though “Charlie Crist is off his game. Way off his game, which was spectacular when it was good. . .Nowadays, Democrats have pretty much abandoned him, and hard-core GOP conservatives are flocking to Marco Rubio. Charlie’s not only lost his mo, he’s lost his mojo.”

Is David Broder kidding? “If there is anyone in the administration who embodies President Obama’s preference for quiet competence with ‘no drama,’ it is Janet Napolitano.” Well, she does seem to embody the essence of the Obama administration, but this is hardly reason for praise.

I suspect most Americans agree with Charles Krauthammer on this one: “The reason the country is uneasy about the Obama administration’s response to this attack is a distinct sense of not just incompetence but incomprehension. From the very beginning, President Obama has relentlessly tried to play down and deny the nature of the terrorist threat we continue to face. . . Any government can through laxity let someone slip through the cracks. But a government that refuses to admit that we are at war, indeed, refuses even to name the enemy — jihadist is a word banished from the Obama lexicon — turns laxity into a governing philosophy.”

The media elites didn’t make too much of this in the aftermath of the Fort Hood massacre, but now they have perked up: “The apparent ties between the Nigerian man charged with plotting to blow up an airliner on Christmas Day and a radical American-born Yemeni imam have cast a spotlight on a world of charismatic clerics who wield their Internet celebrity to indoctrinate young Muslims with extremist ideology and recruit them for al-Qaeda, American officials and counterterrorism specialists said.” But remember that the Obami are nevertheless going to give KSM a  public trial so he can use his “celebrity to indoctrinate young Muslims with extremist ideology and recruit them for al-Qaeda.”

Andy McCarthy on the Obami’s priorities: “Sure, this government can’t figure out how to move someone from the terrorist database to the no-fly list, but you can rest assured they’re fixated on the real problem:  bloggers who report that TSA issued a directive to increase security after the Christmas bombing attempt.”

This is how the housing crisis seems to have started: “The Obama administration’s $75 billion program to protect homeowners from foreclosure has been widely pronounced a disappointment, and some economists and real estate experts now contend it has done more harm than good.Since President Obama announced the program in February, it has lowered mortgage payments on a trial basis for hundreds of thousands of people but has largely failed to provide permanent relief. Critics increasingly argue that the program, Making Home Affordable, has raised false hopes among people who simply cannot afford their homes.”

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Obama’s Year of Living Blamelessly

Barack Obama has figured out what went wrong with Homeland Security this past Christmas: George W. Bush. “It’s becoming clear that the system that has been in place for years now is not sufficiently up to date to take full advantage of the information we collect and the knowledge we have,” Obama said Wednesday.

When you’re president of the United States, you can’t pass the buck to your superior. In response to this frustration, President Obama has developed what systems people like to call a “workaround”: He passes the buck to his predecessor. A lot.

He started blaming Bush during the presidential campaign, which was natural enough. Here is candidate Obama on Iran, for example: “It is time to turn the page on eight years of policies that have strengthened Iran and failed to secure America or our ally Israel.” But after becoming president, Obama just kept on going. On climate change: “After eight years in which there was resistance to even acknowledging the problem, I think my administration has been very clear that we intend to be a leader on this issue internationally.” On trying terror suspects: “The decisions that were made over the last eight years established an ad hoc legal approach for fighting terrorism that was neither effective nor sustainable.” And now, on the failed Christmas Day terror attack.

Here’s a prediction: Obama will find that he’s gone to the Blame Bush well one too many times. With the Christmas Day fiasco something has “become clear,” alright. But it’s not the failings of George W. Bush.  James Carafano of the Heritage Foundation notes, “Since 2001, there have been 28 failed terrorist attacks against the United States. That averages out to about three foiled attempts per year. That was until this year. This year there were six failed attempts that make 2009 a banner year — the most in one year.”  Unprecedented, as Obama likes to say. A historic first, as his supporters are fond of putting it. Well, you might say, that doesn’t mean that the Obama administration has necessarily opened us up to more attacks, right? Isn’t it fair to say that it has stopped more attacks? Not exactly.

Click here to read the rest of this Web Exclusive on COMMENTARY.

Barack Obama has figured out what went wrong with Homeland Security this past Christmas: George W. Bush. “It’s becoming clear that the system that has been in place for years now is not sufficiently up to date to take full advantage of the information we collect and the knowledge we have,” Obama said Wednesday.

When you’re president of the United States, you can’t pass the buck to your superior. In response to this frustration, President Obama has developed what systems people like to call a “workaround”: He passes the buck to his predecessor. A lot.

He started blaming Bush during the presidential campaign, which was natural enough. Here is candidate Obama on Iran, for example: “It is time to turn the page on eight years of policies that have strengthened Iran and failed to secure America or our ally Israel.” But after becoming president, Obama just kept on going. On climate change: “After eight years in which there was resistance to even acknowledging the problem, I think my administration has been very clear that we intend to be a leader on this issue internationally.” On trying terror suspects: “The decisions that were made over the last eight years established an ad hoc legal approach for fighting terrorism that was neither effective nor sustainable.” And now, on the failed Christmas Day terror attack.

Here’s a prediction: Obama will find that he’s gone to the Blame Bush well one too many times. With the Christmas Day fiasco something has “become clear,” alright. But it’s not the failings of George W. Bush.  James Carafano of the Heritage Foundation notes, “Since 2001, there have been 28 failed terrorist attacks against the United States. That averages out to about three foiled attempts per year. That was until this year. This year there were six failed attempts that make 2009 a banner year — the most in one year.”  Unprecedented, as Obama likes to say. A historic first, as his supporters are fond of putting it. Well, you might say, that doesn’t mean that the Obama administration has necessarily opened us up to more attacks, right? Isn’t it fair to say that it has stopped more attacks? Not exactly.

Click here to read the rest of this Web Exclusive on COMMENTARY.

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The Politics of Whining

Democrats are whimpering that Obama is being treated unfairly, that George W. Bush didn’t get as much criticism in handling shoe-bomber Richard Reid, and that those nasty Republicans are ganging up on the president. Really, this is sounding remarkably akin to an eight year-old who thinks his older brother was given favorable treatment by the relatives. And let me guess: the worst possible argument that Democrats could make right now is: “The media liked Bush better!”

But let’s consider why Bush was not lambasted in the same manner as Obama. Marc Thiessen explains:

The Richard Reid attack came almost immediately after 9/11, long before we figured out that we had other options than handing him over to law enforcement. After that came Jose Padilla, who was arrested at the Chicago airport on a mission from KSM to blow up apartment buildings in the United States. He was taken out of the criminal-justice system, declared an illegal enemy combatant, and transferred to the Charleston brig for interrogation.

The reason Obama is being savaged is that he and his crew appear to have learned nothing from 9/11. As Ruth Marcus put it:

The more I think about the Christmas all-but-bombing, the angrier I get. At the multiple failures that allowed Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab to get on the plane with explosives sewn in his underwear. And at the Obama administration’s initial, everything’s-fine-everybody-move-right-along reaction. . .

How can it be that screening technology is so lacking so long after the 9/11 Commission called for “priority attention” to detect explosives on passengers?

How can it be that our best line of defense seems to have been a combination of incompetence and bravery — incompetence by the attacker whose device failed to detonate properly, and bravery by passengers who acted so quickly to subdue him and put out the fire?

And how can it be, in the face of all this, that the administration’s communications strategy, cooked up on a conference call, was to assure us that officials were looking into things but in the meantime we should settle down?

(I think we can agree that when Marcus sounds like me, the Obama administration is in deep trouble.)

And there is more than the specifics of the incident or the fact that Obama had prior experiences to guide him this time around. Very clearly, Obama simply doesn’t match up favorably to his predecessor when it comes to the war on terror. Never for a moment did we doubt that Bush understood we were at war, who we were fighting, and the need to dump the criminal-justice model. We never had the sense that Bush was engaged in some grand experiment to cajole and flatter our enemies into giving up their grievances. And never did we believe the war on terror was not his top priority. Who can say that about Obama?

If Obama wants to indulge in liberal fantasies about how to “improve our image” with would-be terrorists, revert to a pre-9/11 model and give lackadaisical press conferences, so be it. But then he can’t expect to escape criticism for being . . . well . . . not George Bush.

Democrats are whimpering that Obama is being treated unfairly, that George W. Bush didn’t get as much criticism in handling shoe-bomber Richard Reid, and that those nasty Republicans are ganging up on the president. Really, this is sounding remarkably akin to an eight year-old who thinks his older brother was given favorable treatment by the relatives. And let me guess: the worst possible argument that Democrats could make right now is “The media liked Bush better!”

But let’s consider why Bush was not lambasted in the same manner as Obama. Marc Thiessen explains:

The Richard Reid attack came almost immediately after 9/11, long before we figured out that we had other options than handing him over to law enforcement. After that came Jose Padilla, who was arrested at the Chicago airport on a mission from KSM to blow up apartment buildings in the United States. He was taken out of the criminal-justice system, declared an illegal enemy combatant, and transferred to the Charleston brig for interrogation.

The reason Obama is being savaged is that he and his crew appear to have learned nothing from 9/11. As Ruth Marcus put it:

The more I think about the Christmas all-but-bombing, the angrier I get. At the multiple failures that allowed Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab to get on the plane with explosives sewn in his underwear. And at the Obama administration’s initial, everything’s-fine-everybody-move-right-along reaction. . .

How can it be that screening technology is so lacking so long after the 9/11 Commission called for “priority attention” to detect explosives on passengers?

How can it be that our best line of defense seems to have been a combination of incompetence and bravery — incompetence by the attacker whose device failed to detonate properly, and bravery by passengers who acted so quickly to subdue him and put out the fire?

And how can it be, in the face of all this, that the administration’s communications strategy, cooked up on a conference call, was to assure us that officials were looking into things but in the meantime we should settle down?

(I think we can agree that when Marcus sounds like me, the Obama administration is in deep trouble.)

And there is more than the specifics of the incident or the fact that Obama had prior experiences to guide him this time around. Very clearly, Obama simply doesn’t match up favorably to his predecessor when it comes to the war on terror. Never for a moment did we doubt that Bush understood we were at war, who we were fighting, and the need to dump the criminal-justice model. We never had the sense that Bush was engaged in some grand experiment to cajole and flatter our enemies into giving up their grievances. And never did we believe the war on terror was not his top priority. Who can say that about Obama?

If Obama wants to indulge in liberal fantasies about how to “improve our image” with would-be terrorists, revert to a pre-9/11 model and give lackadaisical press conferences, so be it. But then he can’t expect to escape criticism for being . . . well . . . not George Bush.

Democrats are whimpering that Obama is being treated unfairly, that George W. Bush didn’t get as much criticism in handling shoe-bomber Richard Reid, and that those nasty Republicans are ganging up on the president. Really, this is sounding remarkably akin to an eight year-old who thinks his older brother was given favorable treatment by the relatives. And let me guess: the worst possible argument that Democrats could make right now is: “The media liked Bush better!”

But let’s consider why Bush was not lambasted in the same manner as Obama. Marc Thiessen explains:

The Richard Reid attack came almost immediately after 9/11, long before we figured out that we had other options than handing him over to law enforcement. After that came Jose Padilla, who was arrested at the Chicago airport on a mission from KSM to blow up apartment buildings in the United States. He was taken out of the criminal-justice system, declared an illegal enemy combatant, and transferred to the Charleston brig for interrogation.

The reason Obama is being savaged is that he and his crew appear to have learned nothing from 9/11. As Ruth Marcus put it:

The more I think about the Christmas all-but-bombing, the angrier I get. At the multiple failures that allowed Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab to get on the plane with explosives sewn in his underwear. And at the Obama administration’s initial, everything’s-fine-everybody-move-right-along reaction. . .

How can it be that screening technology is so lacking so long after the 9/11 Commission called for “priority attention” to detect explosives on passengers?

How can it be that our best line of defense seems to have been a combination of incompetence and bravery — incompetence by the attacker whose device failed to detonate properly, and bravery by passengers who acted so quickly to subdue him and put out the fire?

And how can it be, in the face of all this, that the administration’s communications strategy, cooked up on a conference call, was to assure us that officials were looking into things but in the meantime we should settle down?

(I think we can agree that when Marcus sounds like me, the Obama administration is in deep trouble.)

And there is more than the specifics of the incident or the fact that Obama had prior experiences to guide him this time around. Very clearly, Obama simply doesn’t match up favorably to his predecessor when it comes to the war on terror. Never for a moment did we doubt that Bush understood we were at war, who we were fighting, and the need to dump the criminal-justice model. We never had the sense that Bush was engaged in some grand experiment to cajole and flatter our enemies into giving up their grievances. And never did we believe the war on terror was not his top priority. Who can say that about Obama?

If Obama wants to indulge in liberal fantasies about how to “improve our image” with would-be terrorists, revert to a pre-9/11 model and give lackadaisical press conferences, so be it. But then he can’t expect to escape criticism for being . . . well . . . not George Bush.

Democrats are whimpering that Obama is being treated unfairly, that George W. Bush didn’t get as much criticism in handling shoe-bomber Richard Reid, and that those nasty Republicans are ganging up on the president. Really, this is sounding remarkably akin to an eight year-old who thinks his older brother was given favorable treatment by the relatives. And let me guess: the worst possible argument that Democrats could make right now is “The media liked Bush better!”

But let’s consider why Bush was not lambasted in the same manner as Obama. Marc Thiessen explains:

The Richard Reid attack came almost immediately after 9/11, long before we figured out that we had other options than handing him over to law enforcement. After that came Jose Padilla, who was arrested at the Chicago airport on a mission from KSM to blow up apartment buildings in the United States. He was taken out of the criminal-justice system, declared an illegal enemy combatant, and transferred to the Charleston brig for interrogation.

The reason Obama is being savaged is that he and his crew appear to have learned nothing from 9/11. As Ruth Marcus put it:

The more I think about the Christmas all-but-bombing, the angrier I get. At the multiple failures that allowed Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab to get on the plane with explosives sewn in his underwear. And at the Obama administration’s initial, everything’s-fine-everybody-move-right-along reaction. . .

How can it be that screening technology is so lacking so long after the 9/11 Commission called for “priority attention” to detect explosives on passengers?

How can it be that our best line of defense seems to have been a combination of incompetence and bravery — incompetence by the attacker whose device failed to detonate properly, and bravery by passengers who acted so quickly to subdue him and put out the fire?

And how can it be, in the face of all this, that the administration’s communications strategy, cooked up on a conference call, was to assure us that officials were looking into things but in the meantime we should settle down?

(I think we can agree that when Marcus sounds like me, the Obama administration is in deep trouble.)

And there is more than the specifics of the incident or the fact that Obama had prior experiences to guide him this time around. Very clearly, Obama simply doesn’t match up favorably to his predecessor when it comes to the war on terror. Never for a moment did we doubt that Bush understood we were at war, who we were fighting, and the need to dump the criminal-justice model. We never had the sense that Bush was engaged in some grand experiment to cajole and flatter our enemies into giving up their grievances. And never did we believe the war on terror was not his top priority. Who can say that about Obama?

If Obama wants to indulge in liberal fantasies about how to “improve our image” with would-be terrorists, revert to a pre-9/11 model and give lackadaisical press conferences, so be it. But then he can’t expect to escape criticism for being . . . well . . . not George Bush.

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Connecting Dots

As we learn more about the catastrophic intelligence failure that allowed the Christmas Day bomber to get on a plane and come perilously close to slaughtering hundreds of passengers, the question inevitably centers on one question: who dropped the ball? This report gives as good an answer as any:

During Tuesday’s appearance, the president also said: “It’s been widely reported that the father of the suspect in the Christmas incident warned U.S. officials in Africa about his son’s extremist views. It now appears that weeks ago this information was passed to a component of our intelligence community, but was not effectively distributed so as to get the suspect’s name on a no-fly list.”

That “component” is apparently the NCTC, created on the recommendation of the 9/11 Commission. It’s not clear what analysts there should have done with the information. One possibility would have been to alert FBI agents.

The U.S. intelligence official said: “The United States government set up NCTC — and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence — to connect the dots on terrorism. If somebody thinks it could have been done better in this case, they know where to go for answers.”

And the Director of National Intelligence is Dennis Blair. If his job is to connect the dots and his boss says there was a catastrophic failure to do just that, how can Blair remain? At the very least he needs to explain what went wrong and why he didn’t successfully perform the sole task that was the purpose of his position.

Yesterday Rep. Peter King complained that the Obami have built an “iron curtain” and have a “stonewalling mentality” when it comes to sharing information with Congress on terrorist attacks. Actually, it seems as though they didn’t share information with each-other either — and now their reticence to explain anything to Congress can more clearly be seen as an effort to mask their own gross incompetence. A serious Congressional or independent investigation would be a smart idea. Otherwise, we may never know exactly what happened or what went wrong.

As we learn more about the catastrophic intelligence failure that allowed the Christmas Day bomber to get on a plane and come perilously close to slaughtering hundreds of passengers, the question inevitably centers on one question: who dropped the ball? This report gives as good an answer as any:

During Tuesday’s appearance, the president also said: “It’s been widely reported that the father of the suspect in the Christmas incident warned U.S. officials in Africa about his son’s extremist views. It now appears that weeks ago this information was passed to a component of our intelligence community, but was not effectively distributed so as to get the suspect’s name on a no-fly list.”

That “component” is apparently the NCTC, created on the recommendation of the 9/11 Commission. It’s not clear what analysts there should have done with the information. One possibility would have been to alert FBI agents.

The U.S. intelligence official said: “The United States government set up NCTC — and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence — to connect the dots on terrorism. If somebody thinks it could have been done better in this case, they know where to go for answers.”

And the Director of National Intelligence is Dennis Blair. If his job is to connect the dots and his boss says there was a catastrophic failure to do just that, how can Blair remain? At the very least he needs to explain what went wrong and why he didn’t successfully perform the sole task that was the purpose of his position.

Yesterday Rep. Peter King complained that the Obami have built an “iron curtain” and have a “stonewalling mentality” when it comes to sharing information with Congress on terrorist attacks. Actually, it seems as though they didn’t share information with each-other either — and now their reticence to explain anything to Congress can more clearly be seen as an effort to mask their own gross incompetence. A serious Congressional or independent investigation would be a smart idea. Otherwise, we may never know exactly what happened or what went wrong.

Read Less




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