Commentary Magazine


Topic: conservatives

Re: Conservatives and Climate Change

I want to thank Peter Wehner for his gracious remarks about my response to his pieces about climate change and the responsibility of conservatives to take a constructive approach to the issue. There is, as he said, much we agree upon, and I continue to be impressed by Peter’s seriousness of purpose and his desire to conduct this discussion on a high plane where hysteria and neo-religious rhetoric about global warming are out of place.

However, I also want to briefly respond to two of his points.

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I want to thank Peter Wehner for his gracious remarks about my response to his pieces about climate change and the responsibility of conservatives to take a constructive approach to the issue. There is, as he said, much we agree upon, and I continue to be impressed by Peter’s seriousness of purpose and his desire to conduct this discussion on a high plane where hysteria and neo-religious rhetoric about global warming are out of place.

However, I also want to briefly respond to two of his points.

The first is to say he’s right that skeptical conservatives need not respond to global warming zealots with the same level of vituperation they have been subjected to by the other side. I should not have implied that responding in kind to unreasoning attacks was justifiable. There is no need for those who do not subscribe to the catechism of environmental extremists to sink to their level when it comes to trying to anathematize their foes.

Second, I want to note, as Peter has done, that though most scientists seem to think that a) there is no doubt about both the nature of the threat of climate change; b) the responsibility of humans for the problem; and c) the need for us to adopt stringent measures in response, many respected members of the scientific community still do not subscribe to these views. One such, Richard Lindzen, an atmospheric physicist and the Alfred P. Sloan Professor of Meteorology at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, has published extensively on the issue. His persuasive writings (one of which can be found here), along with others who share his views, have given skeptics an informed leg to stand on with respect to the controversy.

I will leave it to Professor Lindzen and his colleagues to argue about the science. But so long as that debate is ongoing, it is likely that many of us who perceive the bias behind many environmental extremists and can foresee no practical result from the damaging and draconian measures they propose to avert the alleged danger, will continue to be skeptical about the issue.

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Conservatives’ Warming Skepticism Rooted in Environmentalist Hysteria

My colleague Peter Wehner’s two posts (here and here) on the question of conservatives and climate change were, as we have come to expect from him, thoughtful and the result of serious contemplation. It behooves all those who venture an opinion about the subject of the environment and the debate over global warming to examine the question as carefully as he has and to express themselves with as much circumspection and respect for opposing views as Peter has done. It is no small compliment to Peter that the numerous responses to his posts we have published have, for the most part, been both intelligent and serious attempts to engage on the issue.

Nevertheless, I think it is unfair to blame conservatives for playing an obstructionist role in the debate about what we now call “climate change” rather than the more inflammatory “global warming.” If, as Peter would like, there is to be a constructive discussion about efforts that would supposedly ameliorate a potential problem, what is needed from those promoting the theory of global warming is the same level of sober reflection and suggestions rooted in evidence that he would like conservatives to adopt.

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My colleague Peter Wehner’s two posts (here and here) on the question of conservatives and climate change were, as we have come to expect from him, thoughtful and the result of serious contemplation. It behooves all those who venture an opinion about the subject of the environment and the debate over global warming to examine the question as carefully as he has and to express themselves with as much circumspection and respect for opposing views as Peter has done. It is no small compliment to Peter that the numerous responses to his posts we have published have, for the most part, been both intelligent and serious attempts to engage on the issue.

Nevertheless, I think it is unfair to blame conservatives for playing an obstructionist role in the debate about what we now call “climate change” rather than the more inflammatory “global warming.” If, as Peter would like, there is to be a constructive discussion about efforts that would supposedly ameliorate a potential problem, what is needed from those promoting the theory of global warming is the same level of sober reflection and suggestions rooted in evidence that he would like conservatives to adopt.

Peter is right to say it is foolish for conservatives to adopt a position that the globe cannot be getting warmer and that it is impossible for humans to be contributing to this situation. Anyone with even a cursory knowledge of life on this planet during just the last 2,000 years of recorded history knows that climate change has occurred several times during this period. And it is certainly possible that the amount of carbon dioxide produced by human activity might play a role in any warming in the last century.

But given the apocalyptic scenarios routinely put forward by warming hysterics such as Al Gore and the level of invective that the political left has consistently spewed in response to even the most reasonable of questions about their assertions, it has been difficult for conservatives to avoid responding in kind. Because so much of the talk about warming has been coached in terms that are the stuff of science fiction rather than real world science in which competing interests can be weighed against each other, it’s also been hard for skeptics to get too worked about a problem they know isn’t as bad as Gore or the worst of the screamers about the issue claim. The planet may be getting a bit warmer, but the notion that it is melting or that life here will be made substantially worse for the vast majority of Earth’s inhabitants is not only not proved, it may be more of a case of wishful thinking by some warmers than anything that can be termed science.

Even more to the point is the fact that many of the warming polemics have been motivated not so much by “science” as by an ideological predisposition by some to view capitalism and the prosperity-producing economic activity that it has generated as inherently sinful. Some on the right may be in denial about the possibility of warming. But it is the pseudo-religious spirit always lurking behind so much environmentalist rhetoric that has provoked most of the skepticism about their theories. Their inflexibility and willingness to either doctor the evidence or simply lie about it has undermined their credulity, a factor that has understandably led the public to doubt the truth of their assertions about what science really says.

Moreover, they also know the prescriptions for fixing warming are primarily focused on restricting the market and economic freedom. The ideological fervor of the warmers smacks of previous attempts by intellectuals to dictate economic practices and the basic organizing principles of human activity. Because we know those efforts were the product of the hubris of the intellectuals and led inevitably to sorrow and often slaughter, it is little wonder that, as Peter says, many prefer to simply shut the door on the possibility of a repeat of such miseries. The vagaries of nature may be awful but so, too, are those of humans when in the grips of ideological passions. That is especially true as even the environmental lobby can offer no guarantee that warming will cease even if we adopted every one of their extreme prescriptions.

Since none of the solutions that have been proposed seem either practical or politically feasible and are rooted more in a neo-socialist belief that First World economies and capitalists must be made to pay for their sins, few can be surprised about the unwillingness of many Americans to simply bow to the dictates of what they are told is the unalterable verdict of science.

Just as troubling is the notion that warming is an inherent evil. In the past, a warming climate has led to greater food production and periods of growth and prosperity while cooling was associated with poverty and scarcity. While there may be a case to be made that warming will hurt more people the next time, it is rarely, if ever, presented. Like so much else about the case for global warming alarm, the dangers are more assumed than proven.

Rather than the onus being on conservatives to bow to the dictates of warming science, it is the responsibility of those who wish to convince skeptics to make their case in a more accountable fashion. The problem with the debate about warming is not so much a matter of denial or hyper-skepticism on the part of conservatives as it is with the warmers’ tendency to transform theories and computer models into a catechism. The environment hasn’t just been politicized. It has become a pseudo-religion with intellectual high priests who treat themselves as a Magisterium that may dispense absolution (cap and trade) and punish non-believers. Instead of engaging with skeptics, warmers have treated those who question them as heretics to be ostracized and/or rhetorically burned at the stake.

So long as that is the case, the assertion that conservatives are playing the role of obstructionists won’t advance the debate. Rather than waiting for conservatives to find a way to accommodate warming theories to the principles of a free society, the onus remains on the environmental alarmists to present more reasoned and truthful interpretation of their data and practical suggestions not based in ideologies that have nothing to do with science.

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Liberal Slurs of Conservative Motives Par for the Course

Greg Sargent is the liberal blogger for the Washington Post. He recently expressed his barely uncontained fury at Republicans, and Mitt Romney in particular, for daring to impugn Barack Obama’s motives. “Republicans react with bloody screams of outrage whenever Dems suggest that they might be trying to sabotage the recovery in order to harm Obama politically and make it easier for them to recapture the White House,” according to Sargent. “Yet here Romney has now made an even broader charge, arguing that Obama is making policy decisions across the board that he ‘knows’ are ‘counter to the interests of the country,’ including major decisions involving war and  national security.”

Sargent concludes this way: “When Romney falsely claims that Obama apologized for America, insinuates that we should find his values suspect, and implies that we should be vaguely suspicious intentions towards the country [sic], it’s routinely treated a ‘part of the game.’ Now that Romney has taken this line of attack to its ultimate conclusion, I’m not expecting the reaction to be any different.”

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Greg Sargent is the liberal blogger for the Washington Post. He recently expressed his barely uncontained fury at Republicans, and Mitt Romney in particular, for daring to impugn Barack Obama’s motives. “Republicans react with bloody screams of outrage whenever Dems suggest that they might be trying to sabotage the recovery in order to harm Obama politically and make it easier for them to recapture the White House,” according to Sargent. “Yet here Romney has now made an even broader charge, arguing that Obama is making policy decisions across the board that he ‘knows’ are ‘counter to the interests of the country,’ including major decisions involving war and  national security.”

Sargent concludes this way: “When Romney falsely claims that Obama apologized for America, insinuates that we should find his values suspect, and implies that we should be vaguely suspicious intentions towards the country [sic], it’s routinely treated a ‘part of the game.’ Now that Romney has taken this line of attack to its ultimate conclusion, I’m not expecting the reaction to be any different.”

I’ve addressed the issue of political discourse and impugning motives before. And people can link to Sargent’s blog to see the case Romney made for his judgments (including the fact that Obama’s decision to withdraw in September 2012 more than 30,000 troops in the midst of the fighting season in Afghanistan, and made contrary to every military commander’s recommendation, makes no military sense). For now I’ll simply say that Sargent’s outrage appears to be – what shall we say? – highly selective. After all, President Obama makes a point of impugning the motives of Republicans in almost every speech and interview he does these days, including his recent “60 Minutes” interview, in which he said of GOP opposition to his tax proposals: “And I could not get Republicans to go ahead and say, ‘You’re right. We’re gonna put country ahead of party.’” (Obama also takes delight in saying that Republicans are eager to have children with autism and Down syndrome “fend for themselves.”)

This is a common Obama refrain – that unlike our high-minded, unstained, pure-of-heart president, Republicans are putting their party ahead of their country and making major policy decisions they know are counter to the interests of the country. But this charge goes uncommented upon by almost everyone in the press, including Sargent.

How curious.

As for Obama’s charge that Republicans want “dirty air and dirty water,” Sargent betrays the arrogance of reactionary liberalism, which assumes that if one opposes their policies one must expect – indeed they must want — the worst possible outcome. So the only way to a healthy environment is to embrace the regulations that Obama’s administration has implemented; to do anything less means you are wishing destruction upon Earth. I recall similar arguments being made about welfare reform in the 1990s. If you embraced reform, you wanted poor people to suffer. Conservatism was a form of sociopathy. Compassion was synonymous with reactionary liberalism.

In fact, welfare reform, by virtually every objective measure, helped the poor. From the high-water mark of 1994, the national welfare caseload declined by more than 60 percent during the course of a decade. Not only did the numbers of people on welfare plunge, but, in the wake of the 1996 welfare-reform bill, overall poverty, child poverty, black child poverty, and child hunger all decreased, while employment figures for single mothers rose. Welfare reform ranks  among the most successful social reforms of the last 50 years. And yet liberals excoriated conservatives for favoring reform, criticizing not only their policies but their motivations.

And it continues to this day, as Obama demonstrates at almost every political stop. Now that Obama has taken this line of attack to its ultimate conclusion, I’m not expecting Sargent’s reaction to be any different than it has been in the past: support for Obama or complicit silence. I’ll leave it to others to judge what motivations may be driving Greg Sargent.

 

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A Novel Idea: Pay-as-You-Go Government

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie is still acting as if he means what he says about controlling the costs of government. By canceling the long-planned construction of a second commuter tunnel under the Hudson River today, Christie has reaffirmed the principle that government should not try to do more than it can afford. A close look at the finances of the scheme showed that cost overruns were likely to send the bill on the project to as much as $14 billion, almost $6 billion more than the original estimate. That means that New Jersey — which is to say, New Jersey’s taxpayers — would have to pay at least $8 billion of that amount, the remainder being contributed by New York’s Port Authority and the federal government. But in the absence of givebacks by the state’s civil-service unions, whose contracts and pensions threaten to send the state into the red even if the tunnel were not to be paid for, Christie said no, to the utter consternation of the unions, the rest of the political class, and New York Times‘s columnist Paul Krugman.

Other politicians (like Christie’s predecessor Jon Corzine, who authorized ground breaking on the project without thinking about the costs to the taxpayers) are shocked by Christie’s chutzpah. The idea that government should only undertake those projects it can pay for without having to further bilk the taxpayers is considered a shocking concept.

Krugman, the Times editorial page, the unions, and many of the politicians who have worked for this project all think the mere fact that the tunnel is needed justifies any amount of debt to build it. They also seem to think that worrying about where the extra $6 billion will come from is just silly.

They are right in that a new tunnel is desperately needed. New Jersey Transit is currently forced to share one Hudson River tunnel that is owned by Amtrak. The result is massive congestion and delays that will only get worse in the years to come. Even worse, since Amtrak owns the tunnel, to the injury of those commuters who take NJ Transit, the worst commuter line in the region (in terms of its on-time record), is added the insult of often having to wait for long periods while Amtrak trains breeze through — Amtrak always getting priority from the dispatchers. This means that there is a large (and generally ill-tempered) constituency of commuters who would like to see the tunnel built. Among them is Krugman, who confessed on his blog that: “And yes, if anyone should mention it, I am a resident of New Jersey who often visits Manhattan, and therefore has a personal stake in this project. You got a problem with that?”

As it happens, I, too, am a daily NJ Transit commuter into New York. But as much as the prospect of a better train ride in the distant future appeals to me, I’d bet that the majority of disgruntled and delayed passengers would prefer not to have their taxes raised. Nor would they like Krugman’s suggestion that Christie radically raise gasoline taxes to pay for the cost overruns, since almost all of them drive their cars to the train stations from which they start and end their daily trek to work. Voters are sick and tired of tax-and-spend politicians who think nothing about the long-term consequences of their largesse, so long as someone else is paying for it.

Christie will probably take a lot of flak for his decision, perhaps even more than the criticism he took for his confrontation with the state’s teacher unions. But the bet here is that the majority of the people of New Jersey — including many of those unhappy souls who are forced to take NJ Transit — prefer to have a governor who doesn’t think he has a right to pick their pockets in order to play the hero by championing expensive projects. In case Krugman forgot, that’s the reason Christie was elected last year and why so many other fiscal conservatives will rout free-spending liberals in the congressional elections this fall. And whether or not Krugman has a problem with that, it’s what we Americans call democracy.

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie is still acting as if he means what he says about controlling the costs of government. By canceling the long-planned construction of a second commuter tunnel under the Hudson River today, Christie has reaffirmed the principle that government should not try to do more than it can afford. A close look at the finances of the scheme showed that cost overruns were likely to send the bill on the project to as much as $14 billion, almost $6 billion more than the original estimate. That means that New Jersey — which is to say, New Jersey’s taxpayers — would have to pay at least $8 billion of that amount, the remainder being contributed by New York’s Port Authority and the federal government. But in the absence of givebacks by the state’s civil-service unions, whose contracts and pensions threaten to send the state into the red even if the tunnel were not to be paid for, Christie said no, to the utter consternation of the unions, the rest of the political class, and New York Times‘s columnist Paul Krugman.

Other politicians (like Christie’s predecessor Jon Corzine, who authorized ground breaking on the project without thinking about the costs to the taxpayers) are shocked by Christie’s chutzpah. The idea that government should only undertake those projects it can pay for without having to further bilk the taxpayers is considered a shocking concept.

Krugman, the Times editorial page, the unions, and many of the politicians who have worked for this project all think the mere fact that the tunnel is needed justifies any amount of debt to build it. They also seem to think that worrying about where the extra $6 billion will come from is just silly.

They are right in that a new tunnel is desperately needed. New Jersey Transit is currently forced to share one Hudson River tunnel that is owned by Amtrak. The result is massive congestion and delays that will only get worse in the years to come. Even worse, since Amtrak owns the tunnel, to the injury of those commuters who take NJ Transit, the worst commuter line in the region (in terms of its on-time record), is added the insult of often having to wait for long periods while Amtrak trains breeze through — Amtrak always getting priority from the dispatchers. This means that there is a large (and generally ill-tempered) constituency of commuters who would like to see the tunnel built. Among them is Krugman, who confessed on his blog that: “And yes, if anyone should mention it, I am a resident of New Jersey who often visits Manhattan, and therefore has a personal stake in this project. You got a problem with that?”

As it happens, I, too, am a daily NJ Transit commuter into New York. But as much as the prospect of a better train ride in the distant future appeals to me, I’d bet that the majority of disgruntled and delayed passengers would prefer not to have their taxes raised. Nor would they like Krugman’s suggestion that Christie radically raise gasoline taxes to pay for the cost overruns, since almost all of them drive their cars to the train stations from which they start and end their daily trek to work. Voters are sick and tired of tax-and-spend politicians who think nothing about the long-term consequences of their largesse, so long as someone else is paying for it.

Christie will probably take a lot of flak for his decision, perhaps even more than the criticism he took for his confrontation with the state’s teacher unions. But the bet here is that the majority of the people of New Jersey — including many of those unhappy souls who are forced to take NJ Transit — prefer to have a governor who doesn’t think he has a right to pick their pockets in order to play the hero by championing expensive projects. In case Krugman forgot, that’s the reason Christie was elected last year and why so many other fiscal conservatives will rout free-spending liberals in the congressional elections this fall. And whether or not Krugman has a problem with that, it’s what we Americans call democracy.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Other than that, he’s done just fine. Howard Fineman: “Obama misread his mandate. … Obama misread the clock. … Obama misread his surroundings.” And most of all, the mainstream media misread him.

Other than “delusional,” how would you describe this? “White House senior adviser David Axelrod said Sunday on NBC’s Meet the Press that he thinks voters will eventually warm to health care reform.”

Other than the Obami, who likes ObamaCare? “Many Democrats have joined Republicans in pushing for the repeal of a tax provision in the new health care law that imposes a huge information-reporting burden on small businesses.” And that’s the New York Times reporting.

Other than Larry King, who has the good sense to retire, is there a worse interviewer than Christiane Amanpour? Not a single tough follow-up question in her chat with Imam Abdul Rauf, no queries about his funding for the Ground Zero mosque, and no questions about his statements blaming the U.S. for 9/11. ABC execs who thought putting her in the host’s chair was a great idea should be embarrassed.

Other than keeping the current line-up, what personnel decision would be a loser? “There are indications that Obama plans to replace Emanuel with a loyalist. Among the names being floated is Valerie Jarrett, whose sole qualification for having a White House job is that she is a long-time Obama friend. In one of the most hilariously revealing utterances of the Obama presidency, Jarrett stated that the White House was ‘speaking truth to power’ by castigating Fox News. To make Jarrett chief of staff would be disastrous.”

Other than this, the recovery is going swell: “President Obama’s new chairman of the Council of Economic Affairs (CEA) said Sunday that the national unemployment rate will not decrease significantly anytime soon.”

Other than losing independents, turning off his base, and energizing conservatives, Obama has been great for his party. “Obama voters evince little interest in the midterm election. When they express goodwill toward the president, it rarely extends to his allies in Congress. Many do not consider themselves Democrats. Pew’s survey experts routinely ask respondents to characterize the president in a single word. In their most recent poll, conducted this summer, more respondents than ever answered with the word ‘disappointing.’ Some who threw their lot in with Obama expressed a sense of being let down by the man who promised change and pledged to transform the country. Some attributed that to their own lofty expectations and, perhaps, their naivete. Others pointed to what they saw as his lack of focus on the still-faltering economy.” These were people who voted for him in 2008.

Other than that, he’s done just fine. Howard Fineman: “Obama misread his mandate. … Obama misread the clock. … Obama misread his surroundings.” And most of all, the mainstream media misread him.

Other than “delusional,” how would you describe this? “White House senior adviser David Axelrod said Sunday on NBC’s Meet the Press that he thinks voters will eventually warm to health care reform.”

Other than the Obami, who likes ObamaCare? “Many Democrats have joined Republicans in pushing for the repeal of a tax provision in the new health care law that imposes a huge information-reporting burden on small businesses.” And that’s the New York Times reporting.

Other than Larry King, who has the good sense to retire, is there a worse interviewer than Christiane Amanpour? Not a single tough follow-up question in her chat with Imam Abdul Rauf, no queries about his funding for the Ground Zero mosque, and no questions about his statements blaming the U.S. for 9/11. ABC execs who thought putting her in the host’s chair was a great idea should be embarrassed.

Other than keeping the current line-up, what personnel decision would be a loser? “There are indications that Obama plans to replace Emanuel with a loyalist. Among the names being floated is Valerie Jarrett, whose sole qualification for having a White House job is that she is a long-time Obama friend. In one of the most hilariously revealing utterances of the Obama presidency, Jarrett stated that the White House was ‘speaking truth to power’ by castigating Fox News. To make Jarrett chief of staff would be disastrous.”

Other than this, the recovery is going swell: “President Obama’s new chairman of the Council of Economic Affairs (CEA) said Sunday that the national unemployment rate will not decrease significantly anytime soon.”

Other than losing independents, turning off his base, and energizing conservatives, Obama has been great for his party. “Obama voters evince little interest in the midterm election. When they express goodwill toward the president, it rarely extends to his allies in Congress. Many do not consider themselves Democrats. Pew’s survey experts routinely ask respondents to characterize the president in a single word. In their most recent poll, conducted this summer, more respondents than ever answered with the word ‘disappointing.’ Some who threw their lot in with Obama expressed a sense of being let down by the man who promised change and pledged to transform the country. Some attributed that to their own lofty expectations and, perhaps, their naivete. Others pointed to what they saw as his lack of focus on the still-faltering economy.” These were people who voted for him in 2008.

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The Budget Fudge

In a portion of last night’s speech that rankled many conservatives, Obama pointed the finger at defense spending as the cause of our fiscal woes: “We have spent over a trillion dollars at war, often financed by borrowing from overseas. This, in turn, has short-changed investments in our own people, and contributed to record deficits. For too long, we have put off tough decisions on everything from our manufacturing base to our energy policy to education reform.” This is hooey.

The Washington Post explains:

Federal domestic spending increased a record 16 percent to $3.2 trillion in 2009, the Census Bureau reported Tuesday, largely because of a boost in aid to the unemployed and the huge economic stimulus package enacted to rescue the sinking economy.

The rise in spending was the largest since the Census Bureau began compiling the data in 1983. The Washington region was among the biggest beneficiaries of the government’s spending.

With congressional elections looming this fall, the spike in federal spending has emerged as one of the nation’s most contentious political issues.

Many Republicans accuse President Obama and his Democratic allies of being reckless spenders who are harming the nation’s long-term economic prospects by inflating the deficit.

It doesn’t appear that defense spending is the problem:

Overall, the largest chunk of federal spending – about 46 percent of the $3.2 trillion – went to Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security, entitlement programs that are projected to swell as the population ages.

Pay for federal employees accounted for nearly $300 billion of the spending and nearly half of that went to the Defense Department payroll.

In July, Gary Schmitt debunked the idea that defense spending is driving our deficits:

Right now, Defense’s share of federal outlays—including those for Iraq and Afghanistan—is 18 percent.  That’s the same level it was at during the Clinton years.  In contrast, mandatory spending eats up some 56 percent of federal spending, while discretionary non-defense spending is 19 percent.  Core entitlement spending (Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid) is now double that of defense. And while entitlement spending and debt service will continue to explode, the Pentagon’s share of federal spending will be shrinking to 15 percent within the next few years. While the Obama administration has already cut some $300 billion in defense programs, it has been spending nearly $800 billion to (supposedly) stimulate the economy.

This is yet another example of two Obama traits. First, he makes stuff up. Really, what he said last night is not remotely true no matter how you do the math. And second, he stretches the truth to sustain an ideological preference: he wants to spend more and more on domestic programs, so he’s anxious to trim as much from our defense budget as possible. And to do that, we can’t make open-ended commitments.

In a portion of last night’s speech that rankled many conservatives, Obama pointed the finger at defense spending as the cause of our fiscal woes: “We have spent over a trillion dollars at war, often financed by borrowing from overseas. This, in turn, has short-changed investments in our own people, and contributed to record deficits. For too long, we have put off tough decisions on everything from our manufacturing base to our energy policy to education reform.” This is hooey.

The Washington Post explains:

Federal domestic spending increased a record 16 percent to $3.2 trillion in 2009, the Census Bureau reported Tuesday, largely because of a boost in aid to the unemployed and the huge economic stimulus package enacted to rescue the sinking economy.

The rise in spending was the largest since the Census Bureau began compiling the data in 1983. The Washington region was among the biggest beneficiaries of the government’s spending.

With congressional elections looming this fall, the spike in federal spending has emerged as one of the nation’s most contentious political issues.

Many Republicans accuse President Obama and his Democratic allies of being reckless spenders who are harming the nation’s long-term economic prospects by inflating the deficit.

It doesn’t appear that defense spending is the problem:

Overall, the largest chunk of federal spending – about 46 percent of the $3.2 trillion – went to Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security, entitlement programs that are projected to swell as the population ages.

Pay for federal employees accounted for nearly $300 billion of the spending and nearly half of that went to the Defense Department payroll.

In July, Gary Schmitt debunked the idea that defense spending is driving our deficits:

Right now, Defense’s share of federal outlays—including those for Iraq and Afghanistan—is 18 percent.  That’s the same level it was at during the Clinton years.  In contrast, mandatory spending eats up some 56 percent of federal spending, while discretionary non-defense spending is 19 percent.  Core entitlement spending (Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid) is now double that of defense. And while entitlement spending and debt service will continue to explode, the Pentagon’s share of federal spending will be shrinking to 15 percent within the next few years. While the Obama administration has already cut some $300 billion in defense programs, it has been spending nearly $800 billion to (supposedly) stimulate the economy.

This is yet another example of two Obama traits. First, he makes stuff up. Really, what he said last night is not remotely true no matter how you do the math. And second, he stretches the truth to sustain an ideological preference: he wants to spend more and more on domestic programs, so he’s anxious to trim as much from our defense budget as possible. And to do that, we can’t make open-ended commitments.

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Hiding Behind Rudy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rudy had some additional words today:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rudy had some additional words today:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Rand Paul Really Is Against the Afghanistan War

Rich Lowry tells us that Rand Paul let on that his foreign-policy views aren’t much different than his father’s. Rich writes:

He clearly thinks we have no business being in Afghanistan anymore, although he’s very reluctant to come out and say it. At one point he even seemed to suggest he doesn’t want to give his personal view of the war out of respect for the Constitution (it’s not the role of Congress to micro-manage wars.

(He does know that Congress funds wars, right?)

Whoa. We just went through a flap with Michael Steele over his statements on Afghanistan. Granted,  Steele added to his woes by making the obnoxious and inaccurate comment that it was Obama’s war. But the substance of Steele’s comments were rejected by every Republican official — except Rep. Ron Paul — and by the vast majority of conservative pundits. In a chorus, they declared that this war is essential to America’s security and that support for it is a basic tenet of the GOP. So what, then, is the rationale for those conservatives to support Paul for the Senate?

In a real sense, this is more troubling than his civil rights lunacy. The 1964 Civil Rights Act isn’t coming up for a vote anytime soon, but support for the war sure will. If he’s fundamentally opposed to a critical aspect of the war on Islamic terror — and doesn’t have the courage to say so — it’s hard to fathom why voters who want a robust effort to defeat Islamic terrorists shouldn’t be very, very concerned. Sometimes politics triumphs over policy; but on issues of war and peace, shouldn’t good policy trump partisan loyalty?

Rich Lowry tells us that Rand Paul let on that his foreign-policy views aren’t much different than his father’s. Rich writes:

He clearly thinks we have no business being in Afghanistan anymore, although he’s very reluctant to come out and say it. At one point he even seemed to suggest he doesn’t want to give his personal view of the war out of respect for the Constitution (it’s not the role of Congress to micro-manage wars.

(He does know that Congress funds wars, right?)

Whoa. We just went through a flap with Michael Steele over his statements on Afghanistan. Granted,  Steele added to his woes by making the obnoxious and inaccurate comment that it was Obama’s war. But the substance of Steele’s comments were rejected by every Republican official — except Rep. Ron Paul — and by the vast majority of conservative pundits. In a chorus, they declared that this war is essential to America’s security and that support for it is a basic tenet of the GOP. So what, then, is the rationale for those conservatives to support Paul for the Senate?

In a real sense, this is more troubling than his civil rights lunacy. The 1964 Civil Rights Act isn’t coming up for a vote anytime soon, but support for the war sure will. If he’s fundamentally opposed to a critical aspect of the war on Islamic terror — and doesn’t have the courage to say so — it’s hard to fathom why voters who want a robust effort to defeat Islamic terrorists shouldn’t be very, very concerned. Sometimes politics triumphs over policy; but on issues of war and peace, shouldn’t good policy trump partisan loyalty?

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Obama Tries to Put the Immigration Onus on GOP

While the ostensible purpose of President Obama’s speech at American University this morning on immigration reform was to put forward a realistic proposal, it was clear that his main intent was to try and put Republicans on the spot.

Calling, as he is fond of doing on every issue, for others to put aside politics, he specifically challenged the GOP to support his rather loosely defined plan that called for giving illegal immigrants a path to citizenship, an attempt to control the border as well as rationalizing the complex and largely unfair existing immigration statutes. He claimed that he was merely being forced to clean up the mess left behind by others since he “won’t just kick the can down the road” on this issue. Asserting that the Democrats are behind him, he said the whole question of reform would rest on whether Republicans would join him on the issue. It was only toward the end of the speech that he acknowledged in passing that his “predecessor” had “shown courage” on the issue. In fact, George W. Bush put forward a not dissimilar package of immigration reform in 2005.

It’s no secret that the chances of passage of any such bill in the current Congress are less than nil. Far from a stark partisan division on the issue, many Democrats have indulged in the same sort of “demagoguery” on immigration that Obama seemed to imply was limited to Republicans. In fact, had the Democrats in Congress been united and passionate advocates of this cause, President Bush would have succeeded in his attempt to do more or less what Obama says he wants to accomplish. It is a testament to Obama’s knowledge of this political reality that he did not spend much of his speech bashing the controversial Arizona law enabling law-enforcement personnel to inquire about the immigration status of a person already in trouble with the law. Nor did he follow Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s lead when she recently told a South American journalist that Obama would order the Justice Department to sue Arizona to stop the measure’s enforcement. Indeed, the worst he said of the law was that it was “divisive.”

It is an unfortunate fact that many on the right have boxed themselves in on immigration to the point where any position on it other than a call for a draconian crackdown on illegals and mass deportation (which Obama rightly claims is unrealistic) is considered akin to amnesty. While the president attempted to pose somewhat disingenuously as the man between two extremes, by offering those here illegally a path to citizenship (preceded by paying a fine, waiting in line behind those who have applied via the legal apparatus, and learning English), he is unlikely to get much support from many conservatives or moderates from either party. That’s a shame, since Obama’s proposals, like those of Bush before him, constitute nothing more than recognition of reality in terms of both law enforcement and the undeniable demand that exists here for low-wage foreign workers. While neither this Congress nor its successor is likely to pass such a bill, that does not mean that it shouldn’t.

But unlike Bush, who unveiled his immigration plan at the start of his second term hoping (in vain, as it turned out) to cash in some of his political capital on an issue he cared about, Obama’s purpose here seems to be about politics, not principle, as he is hoping that Hispanics will blame Republicans for the inevitable failure of this proposal. While this may ratchet up the Hispanic vote for the Democrats, it’s hard to see how this will work in a midterm election in which many Democrats around the country are just as likely to resent illegal immigrants as Republicans.

While the ostensible purpose of President Obama’s speech at American University this morning on immigration reform was to put forward a realistic proposal, it was clear that his main intent was to try and put Republicans on the spot.

Calling, as he is fond of doing on every issue, for others to put aside politics, he specifically challenged the GOP to support his rather loosely defined plan that called for giving illegal immigrants a path to citizenship, an attempt to control the border as well as rationalizing the complex and largely unfair existing immigration statutes. He claimed that he was merely being forced to clean up the mess left behind by others since he “won’t just kick the can down the road” on this issue. Asserting that the Democrats are behind him, he said the whole question of reform would rest on whether Republicans would join him on the issue. It was only toward the end of the speech that he acknowledged in passing that his “predecessor” had “shown courage” on the issue. In fact, George W. Bush put forward a not dissimilar package of immigration reform in 2005.

It’s no secret that the chances of passage of any such bill in the current Congress are less than nil. Far from a stark partisan division on the issue, many Democrats have indulged in the same sort of “demagoguery” on immigration that Obama seemed to imply was limited to Republicans. In fact, had the Democrats in Congress been united and passionate advocates of this cause, President Bush would have succeeded in his attempt to do more or less what Obama says he wants to accomplish. It is a testament to Obama’s knowledge of this political reality that he did not spend much of his speech bashing the controversial Arizona law enabling law-enforcement personnel to inquire about the immigration status of a person already in trouble with the law. Nor did he follow Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s lead when she recently told a South American journalist that Obama would order the Justice Department to sue Arizona to stop the measure’s enforcement. Indeed, the worst he said of the law was that it was “divisive.”

It is an unfortunate fact that many on the right have boxed themselves in on immigration to the point where any position on it other than a call for a draconian crackdown on illegals and mass deportation (which Obama rightly claims is unrealistic) is considered akin to amnesty. While the president attempted to pose somewhat disingenuously as the man between two extremes, by offering those here illegally a path to citizenship (preceded by paying a fine, waiting in line behind those who have applied via the legal apparatus, and learning English), he is unlikely to get much support from many conservatives or moderates from either party. That’s a shame, since Obama’s proposals, like those of Bush before him, constitute nothing more than recognition of reality in terms of both law enforcement and the undeniable demand that exists here for low-wage foreign workers. While neither this Congress nor its successor is likely to pass such a bill, that does not mean that it shouldn’t.

But unlike Bush, who unveiled his immigration plan at the start of his second term hoping (in vain, as it turned out) to cash in some of his political capital on an issue he cared about, Obama’s purpose here seems to be about politics, not principle, as he is hoping that Hispanics will blame Republicans for the inevitable failure of this proposal. While this may ratchet up the Hispanic vote for the Democrats, it’s hard to see how this will work in a midterm election in which many Democrats around the country are just as likely to resent illegal immigrants as Republicans.

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Did Chuck DeVore Exaggerate His Military Service?

I think we’re going to see a flurry of stories on what politicians said about their military service. Howard Dean says the New York Times story on Richard Blumenthal was a “hatchet” job, but if a candidate’s lies about his military service aren’t fair game, I don’t know what is.

The Los Angeles Times has a biographical story on Chuck DeVore, currently running third in the California Senate race. This is not in the league of Richard Blumenthal; it’s more Hillary Clinton–style puffery:

Throughout the campaign, DeVore has emphasized his service as a military officer and a young Reagan White House appointee at the Pentagon as experiences that helped make him the most qualified candidate. But at times he appears to have overstated those accomplishments, particularly his experience under fire and his role in the development of a U.S.-Israeli anti-ballistic-missile defense program.

What does the Times have? In a radio debate, he said he was the only candidate who’d served in the military: “I’m a lieutenant colonel of military intelligence within the U.S. Army,” he said. The Times acknowledges that his campaign literature refers to him as a “lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Army retired reserves.” And DeVore argues that it is technically correct to say he is “in the Army” since the reserves are part of the Army. OK, I sort of buy that — but he certainly must have known that the listening audience would have thought he meant the regular Army. This is dicier:

He spoke during the debate of being “shot at in Lebanon” but did not make clear that the shooting occurred in the 1980s while DeVore was a college student studying Arabic and other subjects in the Middle East. Nor did he note that while the shooting was in his vicinity, there was no indication he was a target or was in actual danger.

Now we’re into the territory of Hillary Clinton’s Bosnian gunfire fantasy. The Times tracks down former ABC News correspondent Bob Zelnick (not a partisan liberal by any means) to debunk DeVore’s story.

This is not as damning as Blumenthal’s repeated and direct lies, but it doesn’t help his cause. DeVore is a solid conservative with a firm pro-Israel position who hasn’t gotten much traction in the race. He shouldn’t have puffed up his military background to try to distinguish himself. Conservatives often surge late in Republican primaries, but this may well hold down his level of support among conservatives who have spent the better part of a week pointing out that there are few things lower than misleading voters about your military record.

I think we’re going to see a flurry of stories on what politicians said about their military service. Howard Dean says the New York Times story on Richard Blumenthal was a “hatchet” job, but if a candidate’s lies about his military service aren’t fair game, I don’t know what is.

The Los Angeles Times has a biographical story on Chuck DeVore, currently running third in the California Senate race. This is not in the league of Richard Blumenthal; it’s more Hillary Clinton–style puffery:

Throughout the campaign, DeVore has emphasized his service as a military officer and a young Reagan White House appointee at the Pentagon as experiences that helped make him the most qualified candidate. But at times he appears to have overstated those accomplishments, particularly his experience under fire and his role in the development of a U.S.-Israeli anti-ballistic-missile defense program.

What does the Times have? In a radio debate, he said he was the only candidate who’d served in the military: “I’m a lieutenant colonel of military intelligence within the U.S. Army,” he said. The Times acknowledges that his campaign literature refers to him as a “lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Army retired reserves.” And DeVore argues that it is technically correct to say he is “in the Army” since the reserves are part of the Army. OK, I sort of buy that — but he certainly must have known that the listening audience would have thought he meant the regular Army. This is dicier:

He spoke during the debate of being “shot at in Lebanon” but did not make clear that the shooting occurred in the 1980s while DeVore was a college student studying Arabic and other subjects in the Middle East. Nor did he note that while the shooting was in his vicinity, there was no indication he was a target or was in actual danger.

Now we’re into the territory of Hillary Clinton’s Bosnian gunfire fantasy. The Times tracks down former ABC News correspondent Bob Zelnick (not a partisan liberal by any means) to debunk DeVore’s story.

This is not as damning as Blumenthal’s repeated and direct lies, but it doesn’t help his cause. DeVore is a solid conservative with a firm pro-Israel position who hasn’t gotten much traction in the race. He shouldn’t have puffed up his military background to try to distinguish himself. Conservatives often surge late in Republican primaries, but this may well hold down his level of support among conservatives who have spent the better part of a week pointing out that there are few things lower than misleading voters about your military record.

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Couldn’t Happen to a More Deserving Guy

The latest Quinnipiac Poll shows that Joe Sestak is closing in fast on Arlen Specter for the Democratic nomination for Senate in Pennsylvania.

A month ago, Specter was ahead by 53-32. In the latest poll his lead has shrunk to only 47-39, with two weeks to go. This, of course, is the sort of momentum that Scott Brown showed in the closing days of the Massachusetts senate race four months ago.  Specter is the veritable poster child of all that is wrong with Washington. He is a long-time incumbent (first elected to the Senate in 1980) and seems devoid of any political principle beyond getting elected and reelected.

He has switched parties twice for precisely that reason. (To be sure, Winston Churchill switched parties twice also, but he crossed the aisle the first time because he agreed with the Liberal agenda more than with that of the Conservatives and he switched back 20 years later when the Liberals were heading, quickly, toward political oblivion).

If Sestak knocks off Specter, there won’t be a tear shed outside of Specter’s own bedroom, and it will be one more indication that November could be a lot of fun.

The latest Quinnipiac Poll shows that Joe Sestak is closing in fast on Arlen Specter for the Democratic nomination for Senate in Pennsylvania.

A month ago, Specter was ahead by 53-32. In the latest poll his lead has shrunk to only 47-39, with two weeks to go. This, of course, is the sort of momentum that Scott Brown showed in the closing days of the Massachusetts senate race four months ago.  Specter is the veritable poster child of all that is wrong with Washington. He is a long-time incumbent (first elected to the Senate in 1980) and seems devoid of any political principle beyond getting elected and reelected.

He has switched parties twice for precisely that reason. (To be sure, Winston Churchill switched parties twice also, but he crossed the aisle the first time because he agreed with the Liberal agenda more than with that of the Conservatives and he switched back 20 years later when the Liberals were heading, quickly, toward political oblivion).

If Sestak knocks off Specter, there won’t be a tear shed outside of Specter’s own bedroom, and it will be one more indication that November could be a lot of fun.

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Not Your Father’s Tories

In the British general election to be held on Thursday, the latest polls show the Conservative Party in the lead. Normally, that would gladden the hearts of American conservatives, who have long regarded the Tories as their closest compatriots overseas. But this is not your father’s Conservative Party. It has been remade as a “centrist” (i.e., liberal) party by David Cameron. Nowhere is this clearer than in the area of defense. The Tories have been opportunistically attacking the Labor government for not doing enough for the troops. But what are the Tories going to do? If this Reuters report is to be believed, they will slash defense spending, which is already too low, to meet British commitments around the world:

The Royal United Services Institute (RUSI) think tank in London has said the most optimistic scenario would mean the Ministry of Defense could face a cut in its budget of around 11 percent in real terms over the six years to 2016/17.

The Tories claim they can make such cuts while enhancing military capabilities by slashing wasteful spending. Count me as skeptical. The British defense budget has already been cut to the bone, with the Royal Navy down to its lowest size in centuries. There is a desperate need to spend more — not less. If the Conservatives carry out this catastrophic program, it will have serious repercussions for the U.S. because we will be able to count on even less support from our closest ally. That, in turn, will mean more unilateral operations in places like Afghanistan.

In the British general election to be held on Thursday, the latest polls show the Conservative Party in the lead. Normally, that would gladden the hearts of American conservatives, who have long regarded the Tories as their closest compatriots overseas. But this is not your father’s Conservative Party. It has been remade as a “centrist” (i.e., liberal) party by David Cameron. Nowhere is this clearer than in the area of defense. The Tories have been opportunistically attacking the Labor government for not doing enough for the troops. But what are the Tories going to do? If this Reuters report is to be believed, they will slash defense spending, which is already too low, to meet British commitments around the world:

The Royal United Services Institute (RUSI) think tank in London has said the most optimistic scenario would mean the Ministry of Defense could face a cut in its budget of around 11 percent in real terms over the six years to 2016/17.

The Tories claim they can make such cuts while enhancing military capabilities by slashing wasteful spending. Count me as skeptical. The British defense budget has already been cut to the bone, with the Royal Navy down to its lowest size in centuries. There is a desperate need to spend more — not less. If the Conservatives carry out this catastrophic program, it will have serious repercussions for the U.S. because we will be able to count on even less support from our closest ally. That, in turn, will mean more unilateral operations in places like Afghanistan.

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Obama Undercuts Immigration Reform

As I’ve commented before, Obama has been, at best, a lukewarm supporter of immigration reform. Given the choice between solving a knotty, divisive issue, the resolution of which would incur the wrath of the Democratic Party’s main source of financial support (Big Labor), or simply fanning a political issue that ensnares conservatives, Obama has tended to favor the latter. Dana Milbank catches him at it again:

Air Force One was about seven miles over Appalachia this week when President Obama dropped a bomb on his party. Senate Democrats had that very day circulated an immigration reform proposal, and the Associated Press, receiving a leaked copy, reported on the “draft legislation.” But as Obama returned to Washington from Illinois Wednesday night, he walked back to the press cabin on the presidential aircraft and, in an impromptu Q&A, essentially declared immigration reform dead. He said “there may not be an appetite” for it. Obama’s retreat — after encouraging senators only weeks ago to take up immigration reform — clotheslined Senate Democrats. Since their proposal had already leaked, they had no choice but to go ahead with the rollout of the plan Obama had just doomed. “I don’t know in what context the statement was made last night,” Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid told reporters at Thursday night’s rollout.

Milbank observes that this has left a vacuum of leadership, thereby dooming any Democratic plan. Well, it’s not that clear any of the Democrats were all that serious or enthusiastic about pushing forward. Nevertheless, the president’s cynicism in 2010 is reminiscent of his cynicism in 2007, when he helped submarine the McCain-Kennedy bill. He is, it seems, willing to excoriate conservative opponents of immigration reform and tut-tut about the nasty tone of the immigration debate but unwilling to risk any political capital to try to pass comprehensive reform. Hispanic activists — like pro-Israel supporters — should figure out when they are being played as patsies  and learn to focus on what Obama does, rather than what he says.

As I’ve commented before, Obama has been, at best, a lukewarm supporter of immigration reform. Given the choice between solving a knotty, divisive issue, the resolution of which would incur the wrath of the Democratic Party’s main source of financial support (Big Labor), or simply fanning a political issue that ensnares conservatives, Obama has tended to favor the latter. Dana Milbank catches him at it again:

Air Force One was about seven miles over Appalachia this week when President Obama dropped a bomb on his party. Senate Democrats had that very day circulated an immigration reform proposal, and the Associated Press, receiving a leaked copy, reported on the “draft legislation.” But as Obama returned to Washington from Illinois Wednesday night, he walked back to the press cabin on the presidential aircraft and, in an impromptu Q&A, essentially declared immigration reform dead. He said “there may not be an appetite” for it. Obama’s retreat — after encouraging senators only weeks ago to take up immigration reform — clotheslined Senate Democrats. Since their proposal had already leaked, they had no choice but to go ahead with the rollout of the plan Obama had just doomed. “I don’t know in what context the statement was made last night,” Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid told reporters at Thursday night’s rollout.

Milbank observes that this has left a vacuum of leadership, thereby dooming any Democratic plan. Well, it’s not that clear any of the Democrats were all that serious or enthusiastic about pushing forward. Nevertheless, the president’s cynicism in 2010 is reminiscent of his cynicism in 2007, when he helped submarine the McCain-Kennedy bill. He is, it seems, willing to excoriate conservative opponents of immigration reform and tut-tut about the nasty tone of the immigration debate but unwilling to risk any political capital to try to pass comprehensive reform. Hispanic activists — like pro-Israel supporters — should figure out when they are being played as patsies  and learn to focus on what Obama does, rather than what he says.

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A Lot of E-Mails — from Christian Zionists

On an average day, the White House gets 100,000 e-mails. Yesterday, 20 percent of those, if it was an average day, came from one group, on one issue. Christians United for Israel, in a written statement, explains: “More than 20,000 Christian Zionists emailed the White House in just over twenty-four hours in order to express their disappointment with the Obama Administration’s exaggerated and unnecessary reaction to last week’s announcement by Israel’s Interior Ministry on construction permits in Jerusalem. The emails were sent in response to an action alert distributed at noon yesterday by Christians United for Israel (CUFI).” The statement continues:

“The incredible response to our action alert is a clear indication that Christian Zionists are firmly committed to a strong US-Israel relationship,” said Pastor John Hagee, founder and chairman of CUFI.

“While the timing of the Interior Ministry’s announcement was regrettable, the Administration has turned a minor flap into a much larger incident.  This overreaction does not advance the cause of peace, and may well imperil it.  Let’s not forget that the Israelis have taken repeated risks for peace over the years and continue to support direct negotiations towards a two state solution.  Nothing about this Israeli approach has changed,” said David Brog, CUFI executive director.

“CUFI will continue this effort through the week, and our hope is that in the following days the President will recognize that Americans of all faiths expect his administration to be a more careful steward of the long-standing US-Israel relationship,” Brog said.

There is, it seems, a broad coalition — from secular, liberal Jews to Christian conservatives — that takes strong exception to the Obama anti-Israel offensive. And while the Left and J Street crowd remain on the other side egging the administration on, they seem on this one to be badly outnumbered. As in so many things, the Obami find themselves tied to the hip with the Left — and facing a broad and energized coalition on the other side. No one can say they haven’t brought people together or encouraged political participation.

On an average day, the White House gets 100,000 e-mails. Yesterday, 20 percent of those, if it was an average day, came from one group, on one issue. Christians United for Israel, in a written statement, explains: “More than 20,000 Christian Zionists emailed the White House in just over twenty-four hours in order to express their disappointment with the Obama Administration’s exaggerated and unnecessary reaction to last week’s announcement by Israel’s Interior Ministry on construction permits in Jerusalem. The emails were sent in response to an action alert distributed at noon yesterday by Christians United for Israel (CUFI).” The statement continues:

“The incredible response to our action alert is a clear indication that Christian Zionists are firmly committed to a strong US-Israel relationship,” said Pastor John Hagee, founder and chairman of CUFI.

“While the timing of the Interior Ministry’s announcement was regrettable, the Administration has turned a minor flap into a much larger incident.  This overreaction does not advance the cause of peace, and may well imperil it.  Let’s not forget that the Israelis have taken repeated risks for peace over the years and continue to support direct negotiations towards a two state solution.  Nothing about this Israeli approach has changed,” said David Brog, CUFI executive director.

“CUFI will continue this effort through the week, and our hope is that in the following days the President will recognize that Americans of all faiths expect his administration to be a more careful steward of the long-standing US-Israel relationship,” Brog said.

There is, it seems, a broad coalition — from secular, liberal Jews to Christian conservatives — that takes strong exception to the Obama anti-Israel offensive. And while the Left and J Street crowd remain on the other side egging the administration on, they seem on this one to be badly outnumbered. As in so many things, the Obami find themselves tied to the hip with the Left — and facing a broad and energized coalition on the other side. No one can say they haven’t brought people together or encouraged political participation.

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Would the White House Fall for This?

Conservatives must hope that the White House takes this sort of gibberish about the Massachusetts debacle from Frank Rich seriously:

It was not a referendum on Barack Obama, who in every poll remains one of the most popular politicians in America. It was not a rejection of universal health care, which Massachusetts mandated (with Scott Brown’s State Senate vote) in 2006. It was not a harbinger of a resurgent G.O.P., whose numbers remain in the toilet. Brown had the good sense not to identify himself as a Republican in either his campaign advertising or his victory speech.

Everything is fine, perfectly fine. According to Rich, the real issue is that Obama was not angry enough or  wasn’t everywhere enough. Or Left-leaning enough. You can almost sense Republican candidates and operatives holding their collective breath, smilingly nervously and whispering to each other, “They couldn’t be that obtuse, could they?”

As if the Democrats didn’t have enough problems, Rich and many other of his ilk are counseling Obama to go hard Left and shed any facade of bipartisanship. This certainly will test just how low the Democrats’ standing with independent voters can go. If Massachusetts proved anything, it is that the course that Rich counsels — gin up the base — is a losing proposition. Should the White House and Democratic congressional candidates follow that advice, they will cede the entire Center of the political spectrum to the Republicans, who will gladly scoop up those voters, forge a coalition with enthusiastic conservatives, and roll to victory in race after race. That is precisely what happened in Virginia, New Jersey, and Massachusetts.

It remains to be seen whether Obama is going to follow Rich’s advice, and more important, whether anyone on the ballot in 2010 will be dim enough to do so as well. Republicans can dream that Democrats will plunge over the political cliff, but they shouldn’t count on it. Unlike New York Times columnists, members of Congress get out now and then, read local press, and pay attention to polls. Their future depends on it. And when they do, they might realize that the problem is not too little leftism, but too much, and not too little political demagoguery, but too much.

Conservatives must hope that the White House takes this sort of gibberish about the Massachusetts debacle from Frank Rich seriously:

It was not a referendum on Barack Obama, who in every poll remains one of the most popular politicians in America. It was not a rejection of universal health care, which Massachusetts mandated (with Scott Brown’s State Senate vote) in 2006. It was not a harbinger of a resurgent G.O.P., whose numbers remain in the toilet. Brown had the good sense not to identify himself as a Republican in either his campaign advertising or his victory speech.

Everything is fine, perfectly fine. According to Rich, the real issue is that Obama was not angry enough or  wasn’t everywhere enough. Or Left-leaning enough. You can almost sense Republican candidates and operatives holding their collective breath, smilingly nervously and whispering to each other, “They couldn’t be that obtuse, could they?”

As if the Democrats didn’t have enough problems, Rich and many other of his ilk are counseling Obama to go hard Left and shed any facade of bipartisanship. This certainly will test just how low the Democrats’ standing with independent voters can go. If Massachusetts proved anything, it is that the course that Rich counsels — gin up the base — is a losing proposition. Should the White House and Democratic congressional candidates follow that advice, they will cede the entire Center of the political spectrum to the Republicans, who will gladly scoop up those voters, forge a coalition with enthusiastic conservatives, and roll to victory in race after race. That is precisely what happened in Virginia, New Jersey, and Massachusetts.

It remains to be seen whether Obama is going to follow Rich’s advice, and more important, whether anyone on the ballot in 2010 will be dim enough to do so as well. Republicans can dream that Democrats will plunge over the political cliff, but they shouldn’t count on it. Unlike New York Times columnists, members of Congress get out now and then, read local press, and pay attention to polls. Their future depends on it. And when they do, they might realize that the problem is not too little leftism, but too much, and not too little political demagoguery, but too much.

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Enough with the Yemen Terrorist Pipeline

The Obami are a stubborn lot. Even new and troubling evidence regarding the inanity of releasing dangerous Guantanamo detainees cannot shake them from their fixation with closing the facility. Administration background briefers tell the media — still – that we have to shut Guantanamo to protect our “values.” (Does “common sense” or “the right of self-defense” make the list of values?) “Close Guantanamo!” was a campaign slogan devised with little information and pronounced in the heady opening days of the new Obama administration, before the commander in chief could survey the obvious political and practical problems of shuttering a secure, humane facility that could indefinitely hold those who would surely, if given the chance, return to kill more Americans.

Not only Republicans but  Senate Intelligence Chairman Diane Feinstein are pleading with the administration to at the very least halt the release of detainees to Yemen, something which conservatives including Rep. Frank Wolf has been strenuously objecting to for some time. The facts about the Yemen connection are just beginning to emerge:

The al Qaeda chapter in Yemen has re-emerged under the leadership of a former secretary to Osama bin Laden. Along with a dozen other al Qaeda members, he was allowed to escape from a Yemeni jail in 2006. His deputy, Said Ali al-Shihri, was a Saudi inmate at Gitmo who after his release “graduated” from that country’s terrorist “rehabilitation” program before moving to Yemen last year. About a fifth of the so-called graduates have ended back on the Saudi terror most-wanted list, according to a GAO study this year.

And we are told that investigators (to the extent they can get information from the now-lawyered up “defendant” and from other sources) are exploring whether Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab “was in contact with al-Shihri and another Guantanamo alum who turned up at the AQAP, Muhammad al-Awfi.” We also know from an earlier release study that “one in seven freed Gitmo detainees—61 in all—returned to terrorism. Al-Shihri and Abdullah Ghulam Rasoul, the Taliban’s operations leader in southern Afghanistan, are merely the best known. The Pentagon has since updated its findings, and we’re told the numbers are even worse.” It would be nice to know more about the extent of the Yemen recidivism problem, but as Stephen Hayes has reported, the Obama administration has refused to release that data to members of Congress and the public at large. (We can guess why.) And, finally, it appears that Anwar Al-Awlaki, Major Nadal Hassan’s favorite imam, who recently escaped a raid in Yemen, provided some “spiritual guidance” to Abdulmutallab, as well.

It is remarkable that before the Christmas Day bombing, the administration thought it was a good idea to dump detainees back into Yemen. After all, the administration — one supposes the president, specifically — did order a predator bombing in that country to strike a hotbed of terrorist activity. So why would they then and even after the Abdulmutallab bombing attack want to persist in effect with resupplying places like Yemen with Guantanamo detainees? It is nothing short of jaw-dropping, really. And it reveals the degree to which ideology has overtaken sound judgment.

The Obami are a stubborn lot. Even new and troubling evidence regarding the inanity of releasing dangerous Guantanamo detainees cannot shake them from their fixation with closing the facility. Administration background briefers tell the media — still – that we have to shut Guantanamo to protect our “values.” (Does “common sense” or “the right of self-defense” make the list of values?) “Close Guantanamo!” was a campaign slogan devised with little information and pronounced in the heady opening days of the new Obama administration, before the commander in chief could survey the obvious political and practical problems of shuttering a secure, humane facility that could indefinitely hold those who would surely, if given the chance, return to kill more Americans.

Not only Republicans but  Senate Intelligence Chairman Diane Feinstein are pleading with the administration to at the very least halt the release of detainees to Yemen, something which conservatives including Rep. Frank Wolf has been strenuously objecting to for some time. The facts about the Yemen connection are just beginning to emerge:

The al Qaeda chapter in Yemen has re-emerged under the leadership of a former secretary to Osama bin Laden. Along with a dozen other al Qaeda members, he was allowed to escape from a Yemeni jail in 2006. His deputy, Said Ali al-Shihri, was a Saudi inmate at Gitmo who after his release “graduated” from that country’s terrorist “rehabilitation” program before moving to Yemen last year. About a fifth of the so-called graduates have ended back on the Saudi terror most-wanted list, according to a GAO study this year.

And we are told that investigators (to the extent they can get information from the now-lawyered up “defendant” and from other sources) are exploring whether Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab “was in contact with al-Shihri and another Guantanamo alum who turned up at the AQAP, Muhammad al-Awfi.” We also know from an earlier release study that “one in seven freed Gitmo detainees—61 in all—returned to terrorism. Al-Shihri and Abdullah Ghulam Rasoul, the Taliban’s operations leader in southern Afghanistan, are merely the best known. The Pentagon has since updated its findings, and we’re told the numbers are even worse.” It would be nice to know more about the extent of the Yemen recidivism problem, but as Stephen Hayes has reported, the Obama administration has refused to release that data to members of Congress and the public at large. (We can guess why.) And, finally, it appears that Anwar Al-Awlaki, Major Nadal Hassan’s favorite imam, who recently escaped a raid in Yemen, provided some “spiritual guidance” to Abdulmutallab, as well.

It is remarkable that before the Christmas Day bombing, the administration thought it was a good idea to dump detainees back into Yemen. After all, the administration — one supposes the president, specifically — did order a predator bombing in that country to strike a hotbed of terrorist activity. So why would they then and even after the Abdulmutallab bombing attack want to persist in effect with resupplying places like Yemen with Guantanamo detainees? It is nothing short of jaw-dropping, really. And it reveals the degree to which ideology has overtaken sound judgment.

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Loyal Opposition Must Give Obama Cover to Reverse Afghan Exit

While conservative critics of President Obama are right to point out the flaws in his Afghanistan plan, the fact that he has committed himself to fighting there renders our misgivings secondary considerations. The purpose of a loyal opposition is not merely to oppose the faction in power but also to support it when it does the right thing. So long as Barack Obama is prepared to fight Islamists in Afghanistan — or anywhere else — he deserves the backing of conservatives on this point. That is especially true when so much of the president’s own party is either opposed or lukewarm about America’s duty to prevent the Taliban from returning to power.

Though we may be rightly worried about the impact of Obama’s statement that U.S. troops will begin to leave Afghanistan in 18 months, the proper response to this blunder is to begin to advocate strongly that Obama use his discretion as commander in chief to keep our forces in the field as long as the enemy poses a threat to the Afghan government. The push to give him the political cover to back off his imprudent promise of withdrawal cannot start too soon. His speech seemed at times more concerned with mollifying his critics on the Left than sounding a clarion call to battle against evil. Indeed, the refusal to use the word victory as a goal even once was troubling. But now that Obama “owns” this war, the facts on the ground may well leave him no choice but to ignore his deadline rather than face the humiliation of a collapse. History teaches us that wars often render the prior political calculations of the combatants irrelevant. Though some — not without reason — assume the worst about Obama’s intentions, we must not succumb to the temptation to merely play politics on this point. Rather, it is proper that the tone of conservative advocacy on Afghanistan not be one of blind opposition but rather one that seeks to bolster the president’s resolve while opposing those who seek to undermine it.

The stakes here are considerable, as the notion of a pre-announced exit date is apparently spreading no small amount of panic in Afghanistan and Pakistan. As the New York Times reports today, American diplomats are working overtime trying to convince government officials in the two countries that Obama’s plan is not to “cut and run.” The fear is real that those who commit themselves to support American and NATO efforts will eventually be left to the mercy of the Islamists. We may well point to these predictable results of Obama’s equivocation as evidence of the administration’s amateurish approach to policy as well as the president’s lack of comfort in articulating a martial cause. Revulsion against Obama’s economic policies, his health-care boondoggle, and a generally feckless foreign policy has breathed new life into a conservative movement that had lost its way during the last years of the Bush presidency. Conservatives must continue to vigorously fight Obama on all those points. But on Afghanistan, the instinct to oppose Obama must give way to the superior obligation to support a just war in which America must prevail.

While conservative critics of President Obama are right to point out the flaws in his Afghanistan plan, the fact that he has committed himself to fighting there renders our misgivings secondary considerations. The purpose of a loyal opposition is not merely to oppose the faction in power but also to support it when it does the right thing. So long as Barack Obama is prepared to fight Islamists in Afghanistan — or anywhere else — he deserves the backing of conservatives on this point. That is especially true when so much of the president’s own party is either opposed or lukewarm about America’s duty to prevent the Taliban from returning to power.

Though we may be rightly worried about the impact of Obama’s statement that U.S. troops will begin to leave Afghanistan in 18 months, the proper response to this blunder is to begin to advocate strongly that Obama use his discretion as commander in chief to keep our forces in the field as long as the enemy poses a threat to the Afghan government. The push to give him the political cover to back off his imprudent promise of withdrawal cannot start too soon. His speech seemed at times more concerned with mollifying his critics on the Left than sounding a clarion call to battle against evil. Indeed, the refusal to use the word victory as a goal even once was troubling. But now that Obama “owns” this war, the facts on the ground may well leave him no choice but to ignore his deadline rather than face the humiliation of a collapse. History teaches us that wars often render the prior political calculations of the combatants irrelevant. Though some — not without reason — assume the worst about Obama’s intentions, we must not succumb to the temptation to merely play politics on this point. Rather, it is proper that the tone of conservative advocacy on Afghanistan not be one of blind opposition but rather one that seeks to bolster the president’s resolve while opposing those who seek to undermine it.

The stakes here are considerable, as the notion of a pre-announced exit date is apparently spreading no small amount of panic in Afghanistan and Pakistan. As the New York Times reports today, American diplomats are working overtime trying to convince government officials in the two countries that Obama’s plan is not to “cut and run.” The fear is real that those who commit themselves to support American and NATO efforts will eventually be left to the mercy of the Islamists. We may well point to these predictable results of Obama’s equivocation as evidence of the administration’s amateurish approach to policy as well as the president’s lack of comfort in articulating a martial cause. Revulsion against Obama’s economic policies, his health-care boondoggle, and a generally feckless foreign policy has breathed new life into a conservative movement that had lost its way during the last years of the Bush presidency. Conservatives must continue to vigorously fight Obama on all those points. But on Afghanistan, the instinct to oppose Obama must give way to the superior obligation to support a just war in which America must prevail.

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McCain (Finally) Joins The Battle

To the consternation of many conservatives, John McCain has seemed reluctant to go after his potential Democratic adversaries with great force. That will change a bit today in a speech on judges at Wake Forrest University. Yes, his remarks contain the expected, impassioned plea for judicial restraint and words of praise for Justices Alito, Roberts, and Rehnquist. And he also puts in a brief defense of his role in the Gang of 14, which, he contends, helped get through two Supreme Court and several appeal court judges but has nonetheless been a sore spot with some conservatives.

But it is his sharp words about his Democratic opponents (on a day when they wait for election returns without making much news until tonight) that may catch the most attention. McCain explains:

Obama in particular likes to talk up his background as a lecturer on law, and also as someone who can work across the aisle to get things done. But when Judge Roberts was nominated, it seemed to bring out more the lecturer in Senator Obama than it did the guy who can get things done. He went right along with the partisan crowd, and was among the 22 senators to vote against this highly qualified nominee. And just where did John Roberts fall short, by the Senator’s measure? Well, a justice of the court, as Senator Obama explained it – and I quote – should share “one’s deepest values, one’s core concerns, one’s broader perspectives on how the world works, and the depth and breadth of one’s empathy.

These vague words attempt to justify judicial activism – come to think of it, they sound like an activist judge wrote them. And whatever they mean exactly, somehow Senator Obama’s standards proved too lofty a standard for a nominee who was brilliant, fair-minded, and learned in the law, a nominee of clear rectitude who had proved more than the equal of any lawyer on the Judiciary Committee, and who today is respected by all as the Chief Justice of the United States. Somehow, by Senator Obama’s standard, even Judge Roberts didn’t measure up. And neither did Justice Samuel Alito. Apparently, nobody quite fits the bill except for an elite group of activist judges, lawyers, and law professors who think they know wisdom when they see it – and they see it only in each other.

It is a measure of how tame the debate has been that these are some of the most ideologically pointed lines to be spoken by McCain so far. Clearly, he and his campaign must believe this issue is a winner against both Democratic opponents, a chance to paint them as outside the mainstream. McCain–who is understandably hesitant to take any step that might turn off independents–may have found one of the rare issues he thinks can both please conservatives and keep independents on his side. Unfortunately for him, it’s a rare voter who casts his or her ballot for President solely on the basis of judicial philosophy and potential Supreme Court picks.

To the consternation of many conservatives, John McCain has seemed reluctant to go after his potential Democratic adversaries with great force. That will change a bit today in a speech on judges at Wake Forrest University. Yes, his remarks contain the expected, impassioned plea for judicial restraint and words of praise for Justices Alito, Roberts, and Rehnquist. And he also puts in a brief defense of his role in the Gang of 14, which, he contends, helped get through two Supreme Court and several appeal court judges but has nonetheless been a sore spot with some conservatives.

But it is his sharp words about his Democratic opponents (on a day when they wait for election returns without making much news until tonight) that may catch the most attention. McCain explains:

Obama in particular likes to talk up his background as a lecturer on law, and also as someone who can work across the aisle to get things done. But when Judge Roberts was nominated, it seemed to bring out more the lecturer in Senator Obama than it did the guy who can get things done. He went right along with the partisan crowd, and was among the 22 senators to vote against this highly qualified nominee. And just where did John Roberts fall short, by the Senator’s measure? Well, a justice of the court, as Senator Obama explained it – and I quote – should share “one’s deepest values, one’s core concerns, one’s broader perspectives on how the world works, and the depth and breadth of one’s empathy.

These vague words attempt to justify judicial activism – come to think of it, they sound like an activist judge wrote them. And whatever they mean exactly, somehow Senator Obama’s standards proved too lofty a standard for a nominee who was brilliant, fair-minded, and learned in the law, a nominee of clear rectitude who had proved more than the equal of any lawyer on the Judiciary Committee, and who today is respected by all as the Chief Justice of the United States. Somehow, by Senator Obama’s standard, even Judge Roberts didn’t measure up. And neither did Justice Samuel Alito. Apparently, nobody quite fits the bill except for an elite group of activist judges, lawyers, and law professors who think they know wisdom when they see it – and they see it only in each other.

It is a measure of how tame the debate has been that these are some of the most ideologically pointed lines to be spoken by McCain so far. Clearly, he and his campaign must believe this issue is a winner against both Democratic opponents, a chance to paint them as outside the mainstream. McCain–who is understandably hesitant to take any step that might turn off independents–may have found one of the rare issues he thinks can both please conservatives and keep independents on his side. Unfortunately for him, it’s a rare voter who casts his or her ballot for President solely on the basis of judicial philosophy and potential Supreme Court picks.

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Losing His Touch?

Barack Obama, many conservatives would argue, has lots of faults. But being a poor orator isn’t generally thought to be one of them. Nevertheless, there seems to have been an outbreak of applause failure at Obama’s recent speeches.

The New York Times provides a harsh review of Obama’s speech to the Building Trades Council today, noting he “seemed to offer another rationale for the self-inflicted brouhaha that has dominated the political debate for four days running.” And the crowd? The Times reports:

As Mr. Obama spoke about the controversy, the crowd largely listened in silence. When he concluded, applause broke out, but it was far from the standing ovation Mr. Obama received when he addressed the matter to voters late last week in Indiana.

Must have been an off day.

But what about his speech yesterday before the AP? Dana Milbank tells us: “On the same day, the two media darlings of the presidential election cycle came to address their base–and McCain easily bested his likely opponent.” Obama was “defensive and somber.” The crowd? “McCain got a standing ovation–an honor Obama did not receive when his turn came two hours later.”

Has the Great Inspirer lost his touch? It could be that the bloom is off the rose, as far as the press is concerned. (He certainly is getting a lot of harsh criticism from the non-Kool Aid-drinking Left, which has essentially given up trying to help him get out of his fix.) Or perhaps Obama is less engaging when under fire. It may be that his initial stump speech–the one he trotted out endlessly about good ideas dying in Washington–was the best he had. But what does he say now? “I am not a snob” doesn’t seem to be working.

Barack Obama, many conservatives would argue, has lots of faults. But being a poor orator isn’t generally thought to be one of them. Nevertheless, there seems to have been an outbreak of applause failure at Obama’s recent speeches.

The New York Times provides a harsh review of Obama’s speech to the Building Trades Council today, noting he “seemed to offer another rationale for the self-inflicted brouhaha that has dominated the political debate for four days running.” And the crowd? The Times reports:

As Mr. Obama spoke about the controversy, the crowd largely listened in silence. When he concluded, applause broke out, but it was far from the standing ovation Mr. Obama received when he addressed the matter to voters late last week in Indiana.

Must have been an off day.

But what about his speech yesterday before the AP? Dana Milbank tells us: “On the same day, the two media darlings of the presidential election cycle came to address their base–and McCain easily bested his likely opponent.” Obama was “defensive and somber.” The crowd? “McCain got a standing ovation–an honor Obama did not receive when his turn came two hours later.”

Has the Great Inspirer lost his touch? It could be that the bloom is off the rose, as far as the press is concerned. (He certainly is getting a lot of harsh criticism from the non-Kool Aid-drinking Left, which has essentially given up trying to help him get out of his fix.) Or perhaps Obama is less engaging when under fire. It may be that his initial stump speech–the one he trotted out endlessly about good ideas dying in Washington–was the best he had. But what does he say now? “I am not a snob” doesn’t seem to be working.

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The Other Sign It’s Silly Season

As John pointed out, it is not a very productive exercise to speculate about John McCain’s VP picks this far in advance. But journalists run out of things to write about and it’s an easy topic. The other easy one: finding aggrieved anti-McCain conservatives. Or ones who aren’t all that aggrieved, but who won’t say they are perfectly satisfied with McCain.

Stories like this only require a phone call to James Dobson, who is always good for some anti-McCain quotes (though he apparently is inching closer to McCain, according to another outlet), and to others, whose encouraging comments about McCain’s outreach to conservatives (“the process has begun”) are construed as somehow indicating disapproval. The relevance and king-making importance of Dobson’s opinion is never questioned, of course. Yet hasn’t the candidate he despises won the nomination?

The fact that a large number of Democrats indicate in polls they will defect to McCain if their choice doesn’t get the nomination and that McCain enjoys greater support among his party’s voters than do either of his opponents doesn’t quite jibe with the storyline. Nevermind. It would be a non-story to report that Republicans are unifying behind McCain just as they did with other nominees in prior elections. It’s newsier to find conservatives who would like McCain to do “more” for them–no matter how much this skews the picture.

As John pointed out, it is not a very productive exercise to speculate about John McCain’s VP picks this far in advance. But journalists run out of things to write about and it’s an easy topic. The other easy one: finding aggrieved anti-McCain conservatives. Or ones who aren’t all that aggrieved, but who won’t say they are perfectly satisfied with McCain.

Stories like this only require a phone call to James Dobson, who is always good for some anti-McCain quotes (though he apparently is inching closer to McCain, according to another outlet), and to others, whose encouraging comments about McCain’s outreach to conservatives (“the process has begun”) are construed as somehow indicating disapproval. The relevance and king-making importance of Dobson’s opinion is never questioned, of course. Yet hasn’t the candidate he despises won the nomination?

The fact that a large number of Democrats indicate in polls they will defect to McCain if their choice doesn’t get the nomination and that McCain enjoys greater support among his party’s voters than do either of his opponents doesn’t quite jibe with the storyline. Nevermind. It would be a non-story to report that Republicans are unifying behind McCain just as they did with other nominees in prior elections. It’s newsier to find conservatives who would like McCain to do “more” for them–no matter how much this skews the picture.

Read Less




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