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Responding to John Derbyshire (Again)

John Derbyshire has responded to my post in which I took him to task for his criticisms of President Bush’s initiative to fight AIDS in Africa. Here are a few reactions to what Derbyshire writes:

1. One way to judge a debate is by how much ground the other party concedes. With that in mind, Derbyshire began by saying this:

The subsidizing of expensive medications (the biggest part of our AIDS-relief effort, though not all of it) in fact has long-term consequences more likely to be negative than positive. The high incidence of AIDS in sub-Saharan Africa is caused by customary practices there. What is needed is for people to change those customary practices. Instead, at a cost of billions to the U.S. taxpayer, we have made it possible for Africans to continue in their unhealthy, disease-spreading habits.

He is now saying this:

“22 countries in Africa have had a greater than 25 percent decline in infections in the past 10 years.” Possibly so; but does this have anything to do with PEPFAR, which is the subject under discussion?

So Derbyshire has shifted from saying that thanks to the generous efforts of America, Africans are “continu[ing] in their unhealthy, disease-spreading habits,” to conceding that, as UNAIDS reports, HIV infections have significantly declined in the past decade. Derbyshire is now arguing whether PEPFAR deserves credit for the decline. That’s progress of a sort, I suppose. Read More

John Derbyshire has responded to my post in which I took him to task for his criticisms of President Bush’s initiative to fight AIDS in Africa. Here are a few reactions to what Derbyshire writes:

1. One way to judge a debate is by how much ground the other party concedes. With that in mind, Derbyshire began by saying this:

The subsidizing of expensive medications (the biggest part of our AIDS-relief effort, though not all of it) in fact has long-term consequences more likely to be negative than positive. The high incidence of AIDS in sub-Saharan Africa is caused by customary practices there. What is needed is for people to change those customary practices. Instead, at a cost of billions to the U.S. taxpayer, we have made it possible for Africans to continue in their unhealthy, disease-spreading habits.

He is now saying this:

“22 countries in Africa have had a greater than 25 percent decline in infections in the past 10 years.” Possibly so; but does this have anything to do with PEPFAR, which is the subject under discussion?

So Derbyshire has shifted from saying that thanks to the generous efforts of America, Africans are “continu[ing] in their unhealthy, disease-spreading habits,” to conceding that, as UNAIDS reports, HIV infections have significantly declined in the past decade. Derbyshire is now arguing whether PEPFAR deserves credit for the decline. That’s progress of a sort, I suppose.

(For those interested in the most relevant findings of the UNAIDS report, I would recommend page 11 [Figure 1.3], which shows drops in people aged 15–25 years who had sex before age 15 years and who had multiple partners in the past 12 months; page 22, which shows AIDS-related deaths by region, 1990-2009; page 27 [Figure 2.8], which shows the number of people newly infected with HIV as well as adult and child deaths due to AIDS; and page 28, which reports, “With an estimated 5.6 million … people living with HIV in 2009, South Africa’s epidemic remains the largest in the world. New indications show a slowing of HIV incidence amid some signs of a shift towards safer sex among young people. The annual HIV incidence among 18-year-olds declined sharply from 1.8% in 2005 to 0.8% in 2008, and among women 15–24 years old it dropped from 5.5% in 2003–2005 to 2.2% in 2005–2008.”)

So did PEPFAR have measurable effects? Drs. Eran Bendavid and Jayanta Bhattacharya evaluated the program’s outcomes in the Annals of Internal Medicine last year. They found that the program was responsible for a decrease of more than 10 percent in “deaths due to HIV or AIDS.” Millions of lives were saved thanks to “improved treatment and care of HIV-infected persons,” especially “the greater availability of highly active antiretroviral therapy,” which was an important focus of the program.

Admittedly, the prevalence of HIV infection in the population did not decline — precisely because people who would have died because of the virus were instead still living thanks to the drugs they received. But in the long run (as Drs. Julio Montaner, Viviane Lima, and Brian Williams note, also in the Annals), there is good reason to believe that “expanded antiretroviral therapy coverage may play a significant role in curbing the spread of HIV.”

More research will be necessary to fully determine the effects of PEPFAR, especially over the long term. But surveying the scientific literature to date, we can now reasonably conclude, I think, that while PEPFAR certainly isn’t solely responsible for the positive changes we’ve seen in Africa, it has contributed to them. And it has certainly not, as Derbyshire originally contended, made things worse.

2. Mr. Derbyshire writes:

There is then some argument that PEPFAR helps promote orderliness in poor nations. On this, I don’t have anything to add to what I said in my December 2 post. Mr. Wehner’s remarks are anyway just a chain of unjustified, unreferenced assertions. Some of them are contradicted by the much more knowledgeable Princeton N. Lyman and Stephen B. Wittels in the Foreign Affairs paper that was the hinge of my original post.

Mr. Wehner has nothing to say about that paper.

I thought my original piece was plenty long enough, but since Derbyshire insists on raising the topic: I have indeed read the essay by Lyman and Wittels that Derbyshire calls the “hinge” of his original post. The authors argue that, among other things, the U.S.’s commitment to helping treat HIV patients is limiting Washington’s leverage over recipient countries. But what I will tell you, which Derbyshire does not, is that Lyman and Wittels strongly support PEPFAR. But let them speak for themselves:

None of these issues [raised in the essay] should be allowed to undermine the commitment to treat all HIV/AIDS patients. This undertaking [PEPFAR and associated international programs] is one of the greatest humanitarian gestures in history and a statement by the developed countries that they refuse to deny life-saving treatments readily available in rich states to the millions elsewhere who need them. But the full implications of this commitment need to be addressed before they become a more serious problem.

Messrs. Lyman and Wittels are in fact offering steps that will “help sustain this major undertaking.” So the very essay on which Derbyshire rests his anti-PEPFAR case describes PEPFAR as “one of the greatest humanitarian gestures in history.” How inconvenient for Derbyshire.

3. Derbyshire writes, “If [Wehner] has read [the Lyman and Wittels essay] he will know how spurious is his comparison of PEPFAR — an ever-increasing permanent welfare commitment — to the 2004 tsunami relief effort, a one-off rescue mission.”

Actually, my comparison is not at all spurious. Remember, in his original post, Derbyshire wrote, “There is, however, no virtue in a government official spending your money and mine unless for some reason demonstrably connected to our national interest.”

My point is a simple one: even if you don’t believe that helping the victims of the tsunami was in the “national interest,” it still might be a good thing to do. Derbyshire’s argument, taken literally, denies such a thing. But when pressed on this, Derbyshire backs away from his original position. In fact, he now seems to favor “one-off disaster relief efforts in remote places.” Again, this is progress of a sort.

4. Derbyshire can’t seem to comprehend why I quoted Lincoln. Let me see if I can help him out. The quote articulates Lincoln’s view about the inherent dignity of all human beings, a belief that is relevant to this discussion since it touches on why we should care about people from other continents and other cultures — a sentiment that Derbyshire’s writings are arrestingly free of. Speaking of which: in reaction to my citing his 2006 comment that “I don’t care about Egyptians,” made after learning that around 1,000 Egyptians had perished in a tragic ferry accident at sea, Derbyshire writes this:

The rest is just more low ad hominem sneering. Goodness, how the man does sneer! He says that I am “eager to celebrate [my] callousness,” and quotes in support something I wrote in early 2006. Since I write roughly a hundred thousand words of fugitive journalism a year, that is around half a million words ago. I don’t see much “eagerness” there. If I were to mention, say, Brussels sprouts once every five years, would Mr. Wehner accuse me of being obsessed with that vegetable?

Let’s set aside the obvious irony — obvious to everyone but Derbyshire, that is — of having Derbyshire lecture anyone about sneering. I never said Derbyshire was “obsessed” with this matter — but clearly he was eager to express his views about his utter indifference to the death of many innocent people. Derbyshire now implies that his lack of compassion for Egyptians was because citizens like him were “so busy working for a living, caring for their families and friends, and worrying about the condition of their country that they have nothing to spare for the misfortunes of people in remote, unimportant places.”

Of course he was. Derbyshire’s empathy and mercy tank is empty; there is nothing to spare. Compassion fatigue takes a toll on us all.

5. Then there’s the matter of the Derbyshire put-downs like (but not limited to) this one:

Then there are some impertinent speculations concerning what I do and do not care about. I shall surrender here to the temptation that always comes over me when I am the target of sanctimonious bullying by self-congratulating prigs: Bite me, pal.

Perhaps at some point, Derbyshire will learn to distinguish crude, adolescent insults from witty ones. I would simply point out that Kathryn Lopez, Derbyshire’s colleague at National Review Online, rendered this carefully understated verdict on Derbyshire’s pieces: “I think the thread on President Bush, AIDS, and Africa took another unfortunate and unnecessary tonal turn this morning.”

John Derbyshire seems to have settled on a pattern. He makes bad arguments in callous ways and calls it conservatism. There are many things that might explain why Derbyshire says what he says; conservatism is not one of them.

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The Bush Comeback

According to Politico:

George W. Bush’s job approval rating as president has spiked to 47 percent, according to a Gallup poll released Monday. That’s one point higher than President Barack Obama’s job approval rating in a poll taken the same week.

This is the first time Gallup asked Americans to retrospectively rate Bush’s job performance. And it was a stunning turnaround from his low point of 25 percent in November 2008. The 47 percent number is 13 points higher than the last Gallup poll taken before Bush left office in 2009 and the highest rating for him since before Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

Politico goes on to report:

Bush’s 47 percent approval rating also raises serious questions about the wisdom of the White House’s decision to relentlessly attack him in the months before the Democrats’ historic losses in the midterm elections. The president had kept warning a House Republican majority would return to Bush-era policies. But Obama’s message did little to galvanize the liberal base, and independents flocked to the GOP on Election Day.

Bush’s rebound gives some credence to what he has long said – that history will eventually judge his presidency.

I know enough to know that public opinion polls are merely snapshots in time, that they can change quickly, and that they certainly do not constitute a final judgment on events. (The surge was extremely unpopular before it began to work, it should be pointed out.) We are still a long way from having anything like a reasonable historical verdict on either the Bush or the Obama presidency. Still, the most recent Gallup findings are noteworthy. The Bush Comeback is coming along rather well. Like some of his predecessors, with the passage of time, Bush’s strengths and achievements are coming into sharper focus. I would say the same thing about his successor’s weaknesses and failures.

According to Politico:

George W. Bush’s job approval rating as president has spiked to 47 percent, according to a Gallup poll released Monday. That’s one point higher than President Barack Obama’s job approval rating in a poll taken the same week.

This is the first time Gallup asked Americans to retrospectively rate Bush’s job performance. And it was a stunning turnaround from his low point of 25 percent in November 2008. The 47 percent number is 13 points higher than the last Gallup poll taken before Bush left office in 2009 and the highest rating for him since before Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

Politico goes on to report:

Bush’s 47 percent approval rating also raises serious questions about the wisdom of the White House’s decision to relentlessly attack him in the months before the Democrats’ historic losses in the midterm elections. The president had kept warning a House Republican majority would return to Bush-era policies. But Obama’s message did little to galvanize the liberal base, and independents flocked to the GOP on Election Day.

Bush’s rebound gives some credence to what he has long said – that history will eventually judge his presidency.

I know enough to know that public opinion polls are merely snapshots in time, that they can change quickly, and that they certainly do not constitute a final judgment on events. (The surge was extremely unpopular before it began to work, it should be pointed out.) We are still a long way from having anything like a reasonable historical verdict on either the Bush or the Obama presidency. Still, the most recent Gallup findings are noteworthy. The Bush Comeback is coming along rather well. Like some of his predecessors, with the passage of time, Bush’s strengths and achievements are coming into sharper focus. I would say the same thing about his successor’s weaknesses and failures.

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Reminds Me Of …

Pundits feel compelled to analogize every political figure or race to another pol or election. They debated whether 2010 was like 1994 or not. (Turns out it was like 1938.) Marco Rubio is like Barack Obama, except he hasn’t spent a career writing about himself, embraces American exceptionalism, and isn’t running for president now that he’s just been elected to the U.S. Senate.

So it is with Sarah Palin. She is wont to invoke Ronald Reagan as her model, but is this the Reagan of 1976, a base favorite who took on the party establishment and lost, or the Reagan of 1980, who took the party by storm and pivoted to win over what would become the Reagan Democrats? Richard Wolffe on Meet the Press invoked the memory of Howard Dean — a grassroots favorite who blew himself up during his primary run and would have been a problematic general-election candidate. But of course, all these are inexact comparisons because there has never been a political figure like Palin — a celebrity of this ilk who combines brilliant political instincts and confounding shortcomings.

Yes, history is a useful guide to the future, except when it isn’t and when there are lots of histories to guide us. The mistake that pundits make — because it reveals their prognostications to be nothing more than mere guesses and demonstrates that political “science” is a misnomer – is to minimize the importance of individual personalities and actual races. It is the human effort and the running of the race that decides elections, although demographics, unemployment figures, and the like help shape the playing field. We’re not going to know anything about Palin’s chances unless and until we see her going toe to toe with reporters, opponents, and debate moderators, and until it’s clear whom she’s running against and how they run their races.

What we can say is that Palin is not Reagan or Dean or anyone else. And 2012 will be exactly like no other race in history. The idiosyncratic nature of presidential politics, especially in a 24/7 news environment, makes us appreciate how deliciously unpredictable politics can be. As an intensely human endeavor, how could it be otherwise?

Pundits feel compelled to analogize every political figure or race to another pol or election. They debated whether 2010 was like 1994 or not. (Turns out it was like 1938.) Marco Rubio is like Barack Obama, except he hasn’t spent a career writing about himself, embraces American exceptionalism, and isn’t running for president now that he’s just been elected to the U.S. Senate.

So it is with Sarah Palin. She is wont to invoke Ronald Reagan as her model, but is this the Reagan of 1976, a base favorite who took on the party establishment and lost, or the Reagan of 1980, who took the party by storm and pivoted to win over what would become the Reagan Democrats? Richard Wolffe on Meet the Press invoked the memory of Howard Dean — a grassroots favorite who blew himself up during his primary run and would have been a problematic general-election candidate. But of course, all these are inexact comparisons because there has never been a political figure like Palin — a celebrity of this ilk who combines brilliant political instincts and confounding shortcomings.

Yes, history is a useful guide to the future, except when it isn’t and when there are lots of histories to guide us. The mistake that pundits make — because it reveals their prognostications to be nothing more than mere guesses and demonstrates that political “science” is a misnomer – is to minimize the importance of individual personalities and actual races. It is the human effort and the running of the race that decides elections, although demographics, unemployment figures, and the like help shape the playing field. We’re not going to know anything about Palin’s chances unless and until we see her going toe to toe with reporters, opponents, and debate moderators, and until it’s clear whom she’s running against and how they run their races.

What we can say is that Palin is not Reagan or Dean or anyone else. And 2012 will be exactly like no other race in history. The idiosyncratic nature of presidential politics, especially in a 24/7 news environment, makes us appreciate how deliciously unpredictable politics can be. As an intensely human endeavor, how could it be otherwise?

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Now It’s All About Pelosi

Republicans are gleeful. Sober Democrats are horrified. But many liberal columnists — the very ones who cheered on ObamaCare, ignored and disparaged the Tea Party, and rooted for Obama in 2008 — are rushing to defend her. It’s all about Nancy Pelosi. In more ways than one.

Those defending her effort to remain the House Democrats’ leader seem as obsessively indifferent as she is to the meaning of the midterm elections. We are told, “She’s losing her job not because she does it poorly but because she does it so well.” That, as Bill Clinton would say, depends on the meaning of “well.” If “well” is piling up a mound of red ink with nothing to show for it, she did well. If decimating her own caucus is “well,” then she’s second to none. If passing a hugely unpopular health-care bill that has already proved to be more fiscally irresponsible than anyone would let on, she is a superstar.

Now, of course, the left is obliged to defend her. She pushed the agenda for which they rooted and embodies the statist liberalism they adore. But Americans plainly hate that agenda, and the economy remains in the doldrums, in large part because that agenda has freaked out employers. If a politician advances neither the public good nor her party’s interests, isn’t it time to give her the boot? The left would rather have a “historic accomplishment” quite likely wiped out in the next few years than it would a viable governing majority. Republicans reply, “Way to go!”

There is another school of thought on the left. We have to indulge her, we are told, because she is so darn admirable. She ignored the voters, ridiculed the Tea Party, refused to hold a vote on the Bush tax cuts, and recognized that the voters punished her party because those jobs, jobs, jobs never emerged. So naturally, they insist, we should let her stay. They realize that it might not be the best thing for the party, but gosh, what a spunky gal she is. It has become a “boost Nancy’s self-esteem” movement on the left. Swell for her, not so hot for a Democratic Party struggling to assure the public that it “gets” the message the voters are sending.

Others point to the “unfairness” of allowing Harry Reid to keep his job while Pelosi is, her non-deluded colleagues hope, hustled offstage. To that I can only say, “Take it up with Chuck Schumer.” He’s apparently not nervy enough to make a play for Reid’s post. And, Reid’s defenders would argue, at least he didn’t lose the majority for his caucus like Nancy did for hers.

Unless the rump leftist caucus comes down with a case of common sense, Pelosi is likely to remain atop the House Democratic caucus. Even more troubling for Democrats who aspire to pull out of their party’s tailspin, the “Damn the voters, full speed ahead!” mentality may also dominate the White House’s thinking. If so, the tsunami of 2012 will make 2010′s results look like a ripple.

Republicans are gleeful. Sober Democrats are horrified. But many liberal columnists — the very ones who cheered on ObamaCare, ignored and disparaged the Tea Party, and rooted for Obama in 2008 — are rushing to defend her. It’s all about Nancy Pelosi. In more ways than one.

Those defending her effort to remain the House Democrats’ leader seem as obsessively indifferent as she is to the meaning of the midterm elections. We are told, “She’s losing her job not because she does it poorly but because she does it so well.” That, as Bill Clinton would say, depends on the meaning of “well.” If “well” is piling up a mound of red ink with nothing to show for it, she did well. If decimating her own caucus is “well,” then she’s second to none. If passing a hugely unpopular health-care bill that has already proved to be more fiscally irresponsible than anyone would let on, she is a superstar.

Now, of course, the left is obliged to defend her. She pushed the agenda for which they rooted and embodies the statist liberalism they adore. But Americans plainly hate that agenda, and the economy remains in the doldrums, in large part because that agenda has freaked out employers. If a politician advances neither the public good nor her party’s interests, isn’t it time to give her the boot? The left would rather have a “historic accomplishment” quite likely wiped out in the next few years than it would a viable governing majority. Republicans reply, “Way to go!”

There is another school of thought on the left. We have to indulge her, we are told, because she is so darn admirable. She ignored the voters, ridiculed the Tea Party, refused to hold a vote on the Bush tax cuts, and recognized that the voters punished her party because those jobs, jobs, jobs never emerged. So naturally, they insist, we should let her stay. They realize that it might not be the best thing for the party, but gosh, what a spunky gal she is. It has become a “boost Nancy’s self-esteem” movement on the left. Swell for her, not so hot for a Democratic Party struggling to assure the public that it “gets” the message the voters are sending.

Others point to the “unfairness” of allowing Harry Reid to keep his job while Pelosi is, her non-deluded colleagues hope, hustled offstage. To that I can only say, “Take it up with Chuck Schumer.” He’s apparently not nervy enough to make a play for Reid’s post. And, Reid’s defenders would argue, at least he didn’t lose the majority for his caucus like Nancy did for hers.

Unless the rump leftist caucus comes down with a case of common sense, Pelosi is likely to remain atop the House Democratic caucus. Even more troubling for Democrats who aspire to pull out of their party’s tailspin, the “Damn the voters, full speed ahead!” mentality may also dominate the White House’s thinking. If so, the tsunami of 2012 will make 2010′s results look like a ripple.

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LIVE BLOG: Will There Be Any Surprises?

In past “wave” elections, weird things happen in Senate races no one expects. In ’80, it was the victory of Jeremiah Denton in Alabama. In ’94, it was Fred Thompson winning in a landslide in a race everyone thought would be close. In 2008, it was the bouncing of Elizabeth Dole in North Carolina. What about this year? There may not be one, because everything has been so closely watched. It may be that the presumed victory of Ron Johnson in Wisconsin over Russ Feingold would have been the surprise in an earlier election cycle, before the news cycle became constant and political news sources became so incredibly numerous.

In past “wave” elections, weird things happen in Senate races no one expects. In ’80, it was the victory of Jeremiah Denton in Alabama. In ’94, it was Fred Thompson winning in a landslide in a race everyone thought would be close. In 2008, it was the bouncing of Elizabeth Dole in North Carolina. What about this year? There may not be one, because everything has been so closely watched. It may be that the presumed victory of Ron Johnson in Wisconsin over Russ Feingold would have been the surprise in an earlier election cycle, before the news cycle became constant and political news sources became so incredibly numerous.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

The last time I read such slobbery praise was in Laurence Tribe’s letter to Obama. The Washington Post on Ted Sorensen: “Amply endowed with the qualities required for an intimate adviser at the highest levels, Mr. Sorensen was regarded as a man of ideas and ideals, keen intellect and a passion for public service.” That reminds me, come January, there won’t be a single Kennedy in office for the first time since 1947 (thanks to my guru on all things Kennedy), when JFK came along with Richard Nixon. And no, an ex-husband — Andrew Cuomo — doesn’t count.

The last union defection like this was in 1976. “Union households back the Democratic candidate in their district over the GOP by a 54 to 42 percent margin, lower than the 64 to 34 percent split in 2006 and the worst performance for Democrats among labor union households in exit polling dating back to 1976. Since 1976, labor union households have backed Democratic Congressional candidates by an average margin of 62 to 35 percent.”

The last excuse: losing is good for us! “Large gains by Republicans on Election Day Tuesday could actually improve President Obama’s chances of reelection in 2012, a centrist senator said Monday. Retiring Sen. Evan Bayh (D-Ind.) said that if Republicans take control of the House and make the Senate close, as expected, it could open an opportunity for both parties to work together, an environment that would help the president politically.” Take it from me, winning is always better than losing.

The last round of Fox News Senate polls: Sharron Angle, Ken Buck, and Mark Kirk all lead. Washington is “down to the wire.”

The last of 20 reasons for the Democratic meltdown is the most important (the other 19 are dead on as well). “America is a center-right, aspirational nation. Democrats thought the financial crisis and near-landslide 2008 election meant it somehow wasn’t anymore. So they attempted to graft an essentially artificial, elitist (especially cap-and-trade) agenda onto the body politic. It didn’t take and is in the process of being rejected.”

The last act in Harry Reid’s political career? “If Harry Reid loses this election, it will be a crushing end to a storied political career. The majority leader of the United States Senate will have been defeated after four terms by an opponent he doesn’t respect or even take seriously. He will be the victim, in his view, of an electorate gone mad, taken down in his prime after rising higher than anyone from his state ever has.” His contempt for us has no bounds.

The last thing GOP presidential contenders want to do is seem like they are in cahoots with the mainstream media in trying to chase Sarah Palin out of the race. “Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney (R) said Monday it would be ‘great’ for former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin (R) to run for president in 2012. … A spokesman for Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, another possible 2012 GOP presidential candidate, said Palin deserves credit and thanks for her work for the Republican Party. ‘We’re all on the same team, and anonymously sourced stories that try and divide us exemplify one reason why Americans outside the beltway hold D.C. in such contempt,’ said Alex Conant, the Pawlenty spokesman.”

The last time I read such slobbery praise was in Laurence Tribe’s letter to Obama. The Washington Post on Ted Sorensen: “Amply endowed with the qualities required for an intimate adviser at the highest levels, Mr. Sorensen was regarded as a man of ideas and ideals, keen intellect and a passion for public service.” That reminds me, come January, there won’t be a single Kennedy in office for the first time since 1947 (thanks to my guru on all things Kennedy), when JFK came along with Richard Nixon. And no, an ex-husband — Andrew Cuomo — doesn’t count.

The last union defection like this was in 1976. “Union households back the Democratic candidate in their district over the GOP by a 54 to 42 percent margin, lower than the 64 to 34 percent split in 2006 and the worst performance for Democrats among labor union households in exit polling dating back to 1976. Since 1976, labor union households have backed Democratic Congressional candidates by an average margin of 62 to 35 percent.”

The last excuse: losing is good for us! “Large gains by Republicans on Election Day Tuesday could actually improve President Obama’s chances of reelection in 2012, a centrist senator said Monday. Retiring Sen. Evan Bayh (D-Ind.) said that if Republicans take control of the House and make the Senate close, as expected, it could open an opportunity for both parties to work together, an environment that would help the president politically.” Take it from me, winning is always better than losing.

The last round of Fox News Senate polls: Sharron Angle, Ken Buck, and Mark Kirk all lead. Washington is “down to the wire.”

The last of 20 reasons for the Democratic meltdown is the most important (the other 19 are dead on as well). “America is a center-right, aspirational nation. Democrats thought the financial crisis and near-landslide 2008 election meant it somehow wasn’t anymore. So they attempted to graft an essentially artificial, elitist (especially cap-and-trade) agenda onto the body politic. It didn’t take and is in the process of being rejected.”

The last act in Harry Reid’s political career? “If Harry Reid loses this election, it will be a crushing end to a storied political career. The majority leader of the United States Senate will have been defeated after four terms by an opponent he doesn’t respect or even take seriously. He will be the victim, in his view, of an electorate gone mad, taken down in his prime after rising higher than anyone from his state ever has.” His contempt for us has no bounds.

The last thing GOP presidential contenders want to do is seem like they are in cahoots with the mainstream media in trying to chase Sarah Palin out of the race. “Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney (R) said Monday it would be ‘great’ for former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin (R) to run for president in 2012. … A spokesman for Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, another possible 2012 GOP presidential candidate, said Palin deserves credit and thanks for her work for the Republican Party. ‘We’re all on the same team, and anonymously sourced stories that try and divide us exemplify one reason why Americans outside the beltway hold D.C. in such contempt,’ said Alex Conant, the Pawlenty spokesman.”

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When Will Voters Stop Throwing the Bums Out?

Scott Rasmussen makes a convincing case that the “tidal shift” we will see at the polls tomorrow is the Democrats’ own darn fault:

While most voters now believe that cutting government spending is good for the economy, congressional Democrats have convinced them that they want to increase government spending. After the president proposed a $50 billion infrastructure plan in September, for example, Rasmussen Reports polling found that 61% of voters believed cutting spending would create more jobs than the president’s plan.

Central to the Democrats’ electoral woes was the debate on health-care reform. From the moment in May 2009 when the Congressional Budget Office announced that the president’s plan would cost a trillion dollars, most voters opposed it. Today 53% want to repeal it. Opposition was always more intense than support, and opposition was especially high among senior citizens, who vote in high numbers in midterm elections.

The Democrats ridiculed the Republicans as the “party of no,” insisting that the GOP’s own relative lack of popularity would be enough to keep the Democrats in power. That thinking was wrong in 1994. It was wrong coming from the GOP in 2006. And it’s just as wrong in 2010. The opposition party, when the majority party is messing up, need only be resolute in its opposition. And that — even their critics admit — the Republicans certainly have been for two years. Anticipating Tuesday’s tsunami, Rasmussen concludes:

This reflects a fundamental rejection of both political parties. More precisely, it is a rejection of a bipartisan political elite that’s lost touch with the people they are supposed to serve. Based on our polling, 51% now see Democrats as the party of big government and nearly as many see Republicans as the party of big business. That leaves no party left to represent the American people.

Well, unless one of the parties decides to do just that. It’s not set in stone that both will continue to defy the voters. I am less optimistic that Obama will toss aside his statist agenda or become less antagonistic toward the private sector. There is, I think, a greater opportunity for the Republicans not only to oppose Obama but also to offer their own reformist agenda, which is in sync with the public’s desire for fiscal sobriety, smaller government, and personal responsibility (reestablishing the principle of “moral hazard” in the business context). GOP governors can opt out of ObamaCare’s individual mandate. Congress can pass an extension of the Bush tax cuts. Both Senate and House Republicans can work on real tax and education reform, take a David Cameron–like approach to slashing government spending, and get serious about domestic energy production.

You say that Obama won’t go along with most of this? Well, probably not. Still, the GOP shouldn’t, if it wants to end the cycle of “throw the bums out” elections, shirk from offering the public a taste of a conservative alternative to Obamaism. Senate Democrats may filibuster spending cuts or a repeal of ObamaCare, and Obama may veto these and other measures. But that will set the table for 2012 and provide voters with a clear choice. And it might just be that those Democrats who fear another tsunami in 2012 would join with Republicans on a number of measures – leaving the White House with few allies. After all that Obama did for (to?) them, I imagine some Democrats would be more than happy to return the “favor” and look out for their own political futures.

Scott Rasmussen makes a convincing case that the “tidal shift” we will see at the polls tomorrow is the Democrats’ own darn fault:

While most voters now believe that cutting government spending is good for the economy, congressional Democrats have convinced them that they want to increase government spending. After the president proposed a $50 billion infrastructure plan in September, for example, Rasmussen Reports polling found that 61% of voters believed cutting spending would create more jobs than the president’s plan.

Central to the Democrats’ electoral woes was the debate on health-care reform. From the moment in May 2009 when the Congressional Budget Office announced that the president’s plan would cost a trillion dollars, most voters opposed it. Today 53% want to repeal it. Opposition was always more intense than support, and opposition was especially high among senior citizens, who vote in high numbers in midterm elections.

The Democrats ridiculed the Republicans as the “party of no,” insisting that the GOP’s own relative lack of popularity would be enough to keep the Democrats in power. That thinking was wrong in 1994. It was wrong coming from the GOP in 2006. And it’s just as wrong in 2010. The opposition party, when the majority party is messing up, need only be resolute in its opposition. And that — even their critics admit — the Republicans certainly have been for two years. Anticipating Tuesday’s tsunami, Rasmussen concludes:

This reflects a fundamental rejection of both political parties. More precisely, it is a rejection of a bipartisan political elite that’s lost touch with the people they are supposed to serve. Based on our polling, 51% now see Democrats as the party of big government and nearly as many see Republicans as the party of big business. That leaves no party left to represent the American people.

Well, unless one of the parties decides to do just that. It’s not set in stone that both will continue to defy the voters. I am less optimistic that Obama will toss aside his statist agenda or become less antagonistic toward the private sector. There is, I think, a greater opportunity for the Republicans not only to oppose Obama but also to offer their own reformist agenda, which is in sync with the public’s desire for fiscal sobriety, smaller government, and personal responsibility (reestablishing the principle of “moral hazard” in the business context). GOP governors can opt out of ObamaCare’s individual mandate. Congress can pass an extension of the Bush tax cuts. Both Senate and House Republicans can work on real tax and education reform, take a David Cameron–like approach to slashing government spending, and get serious about domestic energy production.

You say that Obama won’t go along with most of this? Well, probably not. Still, the GOP shouldn’t, if it wants to end the cycle of “throw the bums out” elections, shirk from offering the public a taste of a conservative alternative to Obamaism. Senate Democrats may filibuster spending cuts or a repeal of ObamaCare, and Obama may veto these and other measures. But that will set the table for 2012 and provide voters with a clear choice. And it might just be that those Democrats who fear another tsunami in 2012 would join with Republicans on a number of measures – leaving the White House with few allies. After all that Obama did for (to?) them, I imagine some Democrats would be more than happy to return the “favor” and look out for their own political futures.

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Democrats Will Need to Regroup

Gallup reports today:

Barack Obama averaged 44.7% job approval during the seventh quarter of his presidency. His average approval rating has declined each quarter since he took office, falling by more than two percentage points in the most recent quarter to establish a new low. …

Obama’s seventh-quarter average ranks on the low end of comparable averages among the nine presidents since Eisenhower, although it is similar to that of several of the more recently elected presidents, including Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, and Bill Clinton.

That is to say, unless the economy turns around as it did under Reagan, or the administration does as under Clinton, Obama is headed for one-termer status. In the meantime, he remains an albatross around the necks of Democratic candidates.

It therefore is not only the case that Obama will face an energized and enlarged Republican congressional contingent; Democrats will assess the election results themselves as well as Obama’s declining political fortunes. Those not swept out to sea by the 2010 tsunami will need to figure out how to distance themselves from the president, at least the version we saw in his first two years in office. On the Democratic side of the aisle, first will be the finger-pointing and then the bickering. “Go left!” will scream the liberals left in office and in the blogosphere. “That’s nuts!” will reply those from moderate states and those who remember all too well the Carter and Clinton years.

In other words, 2011 may be just as fascinating a political year as is 2010. For political junkies, the wild ride continues.

Gallup reports today:

Barack Obama averaged 44.7% job approval during the seventh quarter of his presidency. His average approval rating has declined each quarter since he took office, falling by more than two percentage points in the most recent quarter to establish a new low. …

Obama’s seventh-quarter average ranks on the low end of comparable averages among the nine presidents since Eisenhower, although it is similar to that of several of the more recently elected presidents, including Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, and Bill Clinton.

That is to say, unless the economy turns around as it did under Reagan, or the administration does as under Clinton, Obama is headed for one-termer status. In the meantime, he remains an albatross around the necks of Democratic candidates.

It therefore is not only the case that Obama will face an energized and enlarged Republican congressional contingent; Democrats will assess the election results themselves as well as Obama’s declining political fortunes. Those not swept out to sea by the 2010 tsunami will need to figure out how to distance themselves from the president, at least the version we saw in his first two years in office. On the Democratic side of the aisle, first will be the finger-pointing and then the bickering. “Go left!” will scream the liberals left in office and in the blogosphere. “That’s nuts!” will reply those from moderate states and those who remember all too well the Carter and Clinton years.

In other words, 2011 may be just as fascinating a political year as is 2010. For political junkies, the wild ride continues.

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Why the November Election Will Be Unprecedented

Gallup just released its weekly “generic” poll, and for the second week in a row it is forecasting a colossal wipeout for Democrats — with likely voters voting Republican by a margin between 12 and 17 points. Rasmussen, widely and unfairly considered biased towards Republicans, has shown a markedly smaller Republican lead, but this week its likely-voter number has Republicans besting Democrats by 8 percent. Meanwhile, statewide and district-wide polls suggest that a minor surge by Democrats at the end of September seems either to have evaporated or was never all that real in the first place.

The potential for a GOP landslide has been much-discussed. One thing that has been less noted is the extraordinarily dramatic nature of the voter turnaround here. In 1992, the election that preceded the one in November 1994, the non-Democratic vote for president nationwide was 57 percent (Bush + Perot), and  Republicans actually picked up 9 seats in the House. It is true that the 1994 elections came as a huge surprise, but that was in part due to an odd misreading of the election results in 1992 by pundits and pollsters and Bill Clinton, who staked his first two years on a massive government health-care plan rather than taking account of the fact that 19 percent of Americans had just voted for a lunatic single-issue candidate who spent a year yelling and screaming about the size of the deficit. Those Perot voters took a look at Clinton and simply integrated themselves into the GOP electorate.

The story of America since 2006 is radically different. In the two elections preceding this one, Democratsoutperformed Republicans nationally by a margin of 53-46 both in the 2006 midterm and the 2008 Obama triumph. The results in 2010, if they go as it appears they will, are unlike those in 1992 because there was nothing in 2008 that anticipated them.

An 8-t0-15 point Republican margin in 2010, which seems increasingly possible, will represent a partisan and ideological turnaround of 15 to 24 percent. That is without precedent in the modern era. At the presidential level, Ronald Reagan’s victory over Jimmy Carter in 1980 was a landslide but still featured a shift away from Carter of 11 points among the electorate (Carter dropped from 51 percent in 1976 to 40 percent). George W. Bush did increase his own vote total by 22 percent between 2000 and 2004, but that was an affirmation of what was taken to be a successful first term, not a repudiation of the party in power (and John Kerry increased the Democratic vote total over 2000 by 15 percent).

Michael Barone has described the current political dynamic as suggestive of a new “open-field politics” in which every election is any party’s to win. Certainly, the fact that the majority of the vote went from center-left in 2000 (Gore+Nader=53 percent) to center-right in 2002 and 2004 to liberal left in 2006 and 2008 demonstrates a far greater ideological and partisan fluidity than we’ve ever seen. But Barone’s term doesn’t quite get at the vertiginous effect of a shift as extreme as the one we may be seeing in 2010.

There’s no reason to think that independents and disaffected Democrats are going to become Republicans, the way the Perotistas did. But the goings-on after Barack Obama’s inauguration may have created a new swing-voting camp of anti-liberals, at least as far as Democratic party orthodoxy defines “liberal,” and how this new camp views the post-November political dynamic will define American politics for the next decade.

Gallup just released its weekly “generic” poll, and for the second week in a row it is forecasting a colossal wipeout for Democrats — with likely voters voting Republican by a margin between 12 and 17 points. Rasmussen, widely and unfairly considered biased towards Republicans, has shown a markedly smaller Republican lead, but this week its likely-voter number has Republicans besting Democrats by 8 percent. Meanwhile, statewide and district-wide polls suggest that a minor surge by Democrats at the end of September seems either to have evaporated or was never all that real in the first place.

The potential for a GOP landslide has been much-discussed. One thing that has been less noted is the extraordinarily dramatic nature of the voter turnaround here. In 1992, the election that preceded the one in November 1994, the non-Democratic vote for president nationwide was 57 percent (Bush + Perot), and  Republicans actually picked up 9 seats in the House. It is true that the 1994 elections came as a huge surprise, but that was in part due to an odd misreading of the election results in 1992 by pundits and pollsters and Bill Clinton, who staked his first two years on a massive government health-care plan rather than taking account of the fact that 19 percent of Americans had just voted for a lunatic single-issue candidate who spent a year yelling and screaming about the size of the deficit. Those Perot voters took a look at Clinton and simply integrated themselves into the GOP electorate.

The story of America since 2006 is radically different. In the two elections preceding this one, Democratsoutperformed Republicans nationally by a margin of 53-46 both in the 2006 midterm and the 2008 Obama triumph. The results in 2010, if they go as it appears they will, are unlike those in 1992 because there was nothing in 2008 that anticipated them.

An 8-t0-15 point Republican margin in 2010, which seems increasingly possible, will represent a partisan and ideological turnaround of 15 to 24 percent. That is without precedent in the modern era. At the presidential level, Ronald Reagan’s victory over Jimmy Carter in 1980 was a landslide but still featured a shift away from Carter of 11 points among the electorate (Carter dropped from 51 percent in 1976 to 40 percent). George W. Bush did increase his own vote total by 22 percent between 2000 and 2004, but that was an affirmation of what was taken to be a successful first term, not a repudiation of the party in power (and John Kerry increased the Democratic vote total over 2000 by 15 percent).

Michael Barone has described the current political dynamic as suggestive of a new “open-field politics” in which every election is any party’s to win. Certainly, the fact that the majority of the vote went from center-left in 2000 (Gore+Nader=53 percent) to center-right in 2002 and 2004 to liberal left in 2006 and 2008 demonstrates a far greater ideological and partisan fluidity than we’ve ever seen. But Barone’s term doesn’t quite get at the vertiginous effect of a shift as extreme as the one we may be seeing in 2010.

There’s no reason to think that independents and disaffected Democrats are going to become Republicans, the way the Perotistas did. But the goings-on after Barack Obama’s inauguration may have created a new swing-voting camp of anti-liberals, at least as far as Democratic party orthodoxy defines “liberal,” and how this new camp views the post-November political dynamic will define American politics for the next decade.

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Time for Democrats to Correct Course on Israel

In an interesting interview with Steve Moore, Minority Whip Eric Cantor explains the new face of the Republican Party — reform-minded, fiscally disciplined, and energetic. He also has this interesting observation on the pro-Israel coalition:

Mr. Cantor believes the American-Jewish community is overwhelmingly Democratic because Jews “are prone to want to help the underdog.” But he thinks the Jewish allegiance to the Democratic Party is changing, in large part because of Israel. “I tell the Jewish groups that more and more of the problems with convincing folks that Israel’s security is synonymous with our own comes from the Democrats. There are a lot in the progressive movement in this country who do not feel that the U.S. should ever be leaning towards Israel. They are openly hostile” toward the Jewish state.

Mr. Cantor points to a poll indicating that 46% of American Jews say they would consider voting for another individual for president. “That is astonishing given the history. Reagan got 40%—that was probably the high water mark.”

There are multiple reasons for Jewish allegiance to the Democratic Party, and I tend to favor an explanation other than Cantor’s. But his analysis of the Democratic caucus is candid and accurate. However, there is an opportunity for the Democratic Party, or a significant segment of it, to right itself and re-establish its full-throated support for Israel.

Certainly there are hard-core leftists who played footsie with Soros Street, signed on to the Gaza 54 letter, and cheered Obama’s Israel policy. But far more members of the Democratic caucus in the Senate and House were pulled by partisan concerns and felt obliged to run interference for Obama. For months and months they dared not criticize the administration. When Obama “condemned” Israel, many reacted with platitudes rather than a sharp rebuke of the president. When it came to the flotilla, the Senate letter (and the House letter to a lesser extent) revealed Democrats’ reluctance to challenge the president on his straddling at the UN.

But the landscape is about to shift dramatically. Obama’s approval ratings are tumbling. Those Democrats who survive the 2010 tsunami will owe little loyalty to the Obama team. And the putrid results of Obama’s flawed Middle East policy are now there for all to see. In other words, there is little reason for House and Senate Democrats to follow the Obama administration’s lead on Israel. We already saw a hint of this when 87 senators signed on to a letter that, in effect, warned Obama not to blame Bibi for the potential collapse of the peace talks.

Once the 2010 midterms are behind us, J Street completes its collapse, and the damage to the Democratic Party is assessed, there is an opportunity for those pro-Israel Democrats who pulled their punches to reconnect with their Republican colleagues and re-establish that broad-based pro-Israel coalition. A good start would be a unified message on Iran along the lines Joe Lieberman detailed in his recent speech on the subject. Another would be some congressional action with regard to political and human rights abuses in the Muslim World. Why are we giving billions to Mubarak when he represses his people? Why aren’t we cutting funds to the UN Human Rights Council?

There are still liberal Democrats who will shy away from such moves and be uneasy about confronting the administration. But frankly, carrying water for the Obami is not good for one’s political health. And Democrats will be all too familiar with that truism come November.

In an interesting interview with Steve Moore, Minority Whip Eric Cantor explains the new face of the Republican Party — reform-minded, fiscally disciplined, and energetic. He also has this interesting observation on the pro-Israel coalition:

Mr. Cantor believes the American-Jewish community is overwhelmingly Democratic because Jews “are prone to want to help the underdog.” But he thinks the Jewish allegiance to the Democratic Party is changing, in large part because of Israel. “I tell the Jewish groups that more and more of the problems with convincing folks that Israel’s security is synonymous with our own comes from the Democrats. There are a lot in the progressive movement in this country who do not feel that the U.S. should ever be leaning towards Israel. They are openly hostile” toward the Jewish state.

Mr. Cantor points to a poll indicating that 46% of American Jews say they would consider voting for another individual for president. “That is astonishing given the history. Reagan got 40%—that was probably the high water mark.”

There are multiple reasons for Jewish allegiance to the Democratic Party, and I tend to favor an explanation other than Cantor’s. But his analysis of the Democratic caucus is candid and accurate. However, there is an opportunity for the Democratic Party, or a significant segment of it, to right itself and re-establish its full-throated support for Israel.

Certainly there are hard-core leftists who played footsie with Soros Street, signed on to the Gaza 54 letter, and cheered Obama’s Israel policy. But far more members of the Democratic caucus in the Senate and House were pulled by partisan concerns and felt obliged to run interference for Obama. For months and months they dared not criticize the administration. When Obama “condemned” Israel, many reacted with platitudes rather than a sharp rebuke of the president. When it came to the flotilla, the Senate letter (and the House letter to a lesser extent) revealed Democrats’ reluctance to challenge the president on his straddling at the UN.

But the landscape is about to shift dramatically. Obama’s approval ratings are tumbling. Those Democrats who survive the 2010 tsunami will owe little loyalty to the Obama team. And the putrid results of Obama’s flawed Middle East policy are now there for all to see. In other words, there is little reason for House and Senate Democrats to follow the Obama administration’s lead on Israel. We already saw a hint of this when 87 senators signed on to a letter that, in effect, warned Obama not to blame Bibi for the potential collapse of the peace talks.

Once the 2010 midterms are behind us, J Street completes its collapse, and the damage to the Democratic Party is assessed, there is an opportunity for those pro-Israel Democrats who pulled their punches to reconnect with their Republican colleagues and re-establish that broad-based pro-Israel coalition. A good start would be a unified message on Iran along the lines Joe Lieberman detailed in his recent speech on the subject. Another would be some congressional action with regard to political and human rights abuses in the Muslim World. Why are we giving billions to Mubarak when he represses his people? Why aren’t we cutting funds to the UN Human Rights Council?

There are still liberal Democrats who will shy away from such moves and be uneasy about confronting the administration. But frankly, carrying water for the Obami is not good for one’s political health. And Democrats will be all too familiar with that truism come November.

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Economy of Effort in Pakistan

As Pakistan’s situation sours, it is melancholy to observe the Obama administration’s response. The river flooding that has submerged a fifth of Pakistan’s territory is a catastrophe that warrants concerted, heroic international action. Few nations anywhere could deal effectively with domestic disaster on such a scale. The official death toll of less than 2,000 to date is misleading about the scope of the problem: the economic toll is devastating, with 17 million acres of crops and farmland lost and millions of farm animals dead or diseased. At least 20 million of Pakistan’s 170 million people have been displaced by the flooding. Now farmers are concerned that they won’t be able to plant next year’s crops, a setback that would mean two full years of near-zero agricultural production for the nation.

Pakistan’s serious ongoing problems have only worsened with the historic floods. Confidence in the feckless Zardari government has plummeted to a new low; in a high-level meeting with President Zardari on Monday, the Pakistani military demanded that some of his ministers be dismissed, an action widely interpreted as the veiled threat of a coup. Pervez Musharraf, a semi-retired coup leader himself, then clarified the significance of the threat in statements made to the media.

One of the Pakistani military’s greatest concerns is the breach of national sovereignty represented by NATO’s cross-border attacks on terrorist strongholds in the country’s northwestern region. The coup warning to Zardari was given as drone strikes on Waziristan ramped up over the past week. Today, Pakistan’s military has closed off NATO’s main supply line into Afghanistan, a move that will affect NATO operations very quickly if it can’t be reversed.

Meanwhile, here’s an excerpt from Tuesday’s sympathetic New York Times account of the Obama approach to the boiling pot in Pakistan:

In his most recent visit to Pakistan, Richard C. Holbrooke … said the international community could not be expected to provide all the billions of dollars needed to repair the flood damage, a warning interpreted here as a rebuke of the civilian government and its mismanagement.

This helpful communication is bolstered by news of a key Obama policy thrust, one that can only be introduced with the time-honored “wait for it”:

In particular, Washington wants the government to raise taxes on the wealthy landed and commercial class, a shortcoming that has become especially galling as Pakistan’s dependence on foreign donors rises.

To summarize: what Obama’s doing about Pakistan is attacking its territory, lecturing its leadership on the limits of international liability for its problems, and urging it to raise taxes on the rich. The State Department points out that U.S. military helicopters are delivering aid to Pakistan; but so are other organizations, public and private. The American aid effort isn’t standing out for either scope or effectiveness. Indeed, Pakistan’s situation is so dire that it demands much more than the delivery of food and plastic sheeting. It demands what only a stronger America could provide: material partnership for promoting economic and political recovery.

Pakistan is NATO’s logistic hub for Afghanistan; without its willing support, NATO would be wholly dependent on supply routes governed by Russia. The country is a hideout for terrorists, al-Qaeda, and Taliban alike. It is also, of course, nuclear-armed. Putting greater effort into Pakistan is neither overly “interventionist” nor irrelevant to our security — and we Americans would feel ourselves much better able to do it if we were not in debt-and-government-shock from Obama’s domestic political assault. Handling Pakistan as an “economy of effort” theater is a recipe for failure, but that’s how the Obama administration has approached it. The 2010 flooding, with its dreadful economic and human toll, is basically serving to accelerate the inevitable.

As Pakistan’s situation sours, it is melancholy to observe the Obama administration’s response. The river flooding that has submerged a fifth of Pakistan’s territory is a catastrophe that warrants concerted, heroic international action. Few nations anywhere could deal effectively with domestic disaster on such a scale. The official death toll of less than 2,000 to date is misleading about the scope of the problem: the economic toll is devastating, with 17 million acres of crops and farmland lost and millions of farm animals dead or diseased. At least 20 million of Pakistan’s 170 million people have been displaced by the flooding. Now farmers are concerned that they won’t be able to plant next year’s crops, a setback that would mean two full years of near-zero agricultural production for the nation.

Pakistan’s serious ongoing problems have only worsened with the historic floods. Confidence in the feckless Zardari government has plummeted to a new low; in a high-level meeting with President Zardari on Monday, the Pakistani military demanded that some of his ministers be dismissed, an action widely interpreted as the veiled threat of a coup. Pervez Musharraf, a semi-retired coup leader himself, then clarified the significance of the threat in statements made to the media.

One of the Pakistani military’s greatest concerns is the breach of national sovereignty represented by NATO’s cross-border attacks on terrorist strongholds in the country’s northwestern region. The coup warning to Zardari was given as drone strikes on Waziristan ramped up over the past week. Today, Pakistan’s military has closed off NATO’s main supply line into Afghanistan, a move that will affect NATO operations very quickly if it can’t be reversed.

Meanwhile, here’s an excerpt from Tuesday’s sympathetic New York Times account of the Obama approach to the boiling pot in Pakistan:

In his most recent visit to Pakistan, Richard C. Holbrooke … said the international community could not be expected to provide all the billions of dollars needed to repair the flood damage, a warning interpreted here as a rebuke of the civilian government and its mismanagement.

This helpful communication is bolstered by news of a key Obama policy thrust, one that can only be introduced with the time-honored “wait for it”:

In particular, Washington wants the government to raise taxes on the wealthy landed and commercial class, a shortcoming that has become especially galling as Pakistan’s dependence on foreign donors rises.

To summarize: what Obama’s doing about Pakistan is attacking its territory, lecturing its leadership on the limits of international liability for its problems, and urging it to raise taxes on the rich. The State Department points out that U.S. military helicopters are delivering aid to Pakistan; but so are other organizations, public and private. The American aid effort isn’t standing out for either scope or effectiveness. Indeed, Pakistan’s situation is so dire that it demands much more than the delivery of food and plastic sheeting. It demands what only a stronger America could provide: material partnership for promoting economic and political recovery.

Pakistan is NATO’s logistic hub for Afghanistan; without its willing support, NATO would be wholly dependent on supply routes governed by Russia. The country is a hideout for terrorists, al-Qaeda, and Taliban alike. It is also, of course, nuclear-armed. Putting greater effort into Pakistan is neither overly “interventionist” nor irrelevant to our security — and we Americans would feel ourselves much better able to do it if we were not in debt-and-government-shock from Obama’s domestic political assault. Handling Pakistan as an “economy of effort” theater is a recipe for failure, but that’s how the Obama administration has approached it. The 2010 flooding, with its dreadful economic and human toll, is basically serving to accelerate the inevitable.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

It’s getting harder for Jeffrey Goldberg to be protective of J Street when Jeremy Ben Ami lies to Goldberg’s colleague.

It’s getting harder to pretend that this election will be anything but a Democratic disaster. “With a little over a month until Election Day, Congressional Republicans have the clear advantage with voters nationwide, a new CNN/Opinion Research Corporation Poll says. In a generic ballot match-up, the Republican leads the Democrat by 9 points among likely voters — 53 percent to 44 percent. … But the new survey suggests Republicans could be in even a better position than they were in 1994, when the GOP stunned the Democrats with their gain of 54 seats in the House and eight seats in the upper chamber.”

It’s getting harder to maintain the position that the Democrats deserve to govern. “Amid a high stakes struggle to connect with voters, House Democrats turned Friday to celebrity comedian Stephen Colbert to highlight the plight of migrant farm workers. He promptly returned the favor by turning Congress — specifically a Judiciary subcommittee — into his personal comedy club.”

It’s getting harder for Democrats to keep their base in line. “Liberals are expressing outrage that Democrats are not holding a vote to extend tax cuts for the middle class before the elections.”

It’s getting harder for Obama to come up with a plausible rationale for why his Iranian engagement policy makes sense. “To have a President [Ahmadinejad] who makes outrageous, offensive statements like this does not serve the interests of the Iranian people, does not strengthen Iran’s stature in the world community. And there is an easy solution to this, which is to have a Iranian government act responsibly in the international community, along the lines of not just basic codes of conduct or diplomatic norms, but just basic humanity and common decency.” Umm, but doesn’t Ahmadinejad’s speech suggest that … oh, never mind. I think Obama is hopeless (and also unwilling to suggest military force as a viable option).

It’s getting harder for Democrats to keep their heads about them. Bill Kristol writes, “[T]he Democratic party is in meltdown, the Obama White House is in disarray, and the voters are in rebellion against both of them. … It looks as if 2010 will be a bigger electoral landslide than 1994, and more significant as well.”

It’s getting harder to pretend the Tea Partiers are unsophisticated. Larry Kudlow points out that they are a lot brighter than the Beltway economic geniuses: “With all the Fed’s pump-priming since late 2008, there is still $1 trillion of excess bank reserves sitting on deposit at the central bank. This massive cash hoard suggests that liquidity is not the problem for the financial system or the economy. And putting another $1 trillion into excess reserves only doubles the problem. A much better idea would be a fiscal freeze on spending, tax rates and regulations. This is apparently what the tea-party-driven Republican congressional leaders intend for their election platform.” Sure is.

It’s getting harder for Jeffrey Goldberg to be protective of J Street when Jeremy Ben Ami lies to Goldberg’s colleague.

It’s getting harder to pretend that this election will be anything but a Democratic disaster. “With a little over a month until Election Day, Congressional Republicans have the clear advantage with voters nationwide, a new CNN/Opinion Research Corporation Poll says. In a generic ballot match-up, the Republican leads the Democrat by 9 points among likely voters — 53 percent to 44 percent. … But the new survey suggests Republicans could be in even a better position than they were in 1994, when the GOP stunned the Democrats with their gain of 54 seats in the House and eight seats in the upper chamber.”

It’s getting harder to maintain the position that the Democrats deserve to govern. “Amid a high stakes struggle to connect with voters, House Democrats turned Friday to celebrity comedian Stephen Colbert to highlight the plight of migrant farm workers. He promptly returned the favor by turning Congress — specifically a Judiciary subcommittee — into his personal comedy club.”

It’s getting harder for Democrats to keep their base in line. “Liberals are expressing outrage that Democrats are not holding a vote to extend tax cuts for the middle class before the elections.”

It’s getting harder for Obama to come up with a plausible rationale for why his Iranian engagement policy makes sense. “To have a President [Ahmadinejad] who makes outrageous, offensive statements like this does not serve the interests of the Iranian people, does not strengthen Iran’s stature in the world community. And there is an easy solution to this, which is to have a Iranian government act responsibly in the international community, along the lines of not just basic codes of conduct or diplomatic norms, but just basic humanity and common decency.” Umm, but doesn’t Ahmadinejad’s speech suggest that … oh, never mind. I think Obama is hopeless (and also unwilling to suggest military force as a viable option).

It’s getting harder for Democrats to keep their heads about them. Bill Kristol writes, “[T]he Democratic party is in meltdown, the Obama White House is in disarray, and the voters are in rebellion against both of them. … It looks as if 2010 will be a bigger electoral landslide than 1994, and more significant as well.”

It’s getting harder to pretend the Tea Partiers are unsophisticated. Larry Kudlow points out that they are a lot brighter than the Beltway economic geniuses: “With all the Fed’s pump-priming since late 2008, there is still $1 trillion of excess bank reserves sitting on deposit at the central bank. This massive cash hoard suggests that liquidity is not the problem for the financial system or the economy. And putting another $1 trillion into excess reserves only doubles the problem. A much better idea would be a fiscal freeze on spending, tax rates and regulations. This is apparently what the tea-party-driven Republican congressional leaders intend for their election platform.” Sure is.

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RE: It’s Not About O’Donnell

Abe has pegged the meaning of Christine O’Donnell. To paraphrase the deathless 1992 campaign slogan: “It’s the political tsunami, stupid.” The Democrats will hope to make the Delaware Senate campaign about O’Donnell’s peculiarities — and it’s their job to do that, just as it’s Republicans’ job to make it about her garden-variety tax-and-spend opponent. But the Democrats won’t be able to undermine the strength of the nationwide voter revolt by branding the Tea Party with the image of Christine O’Donnell. The brand has already been slapped on — and it didn’t deter the notoriously conventional GOP voters in a famously Blue State.

It’s becoming clear that ObamaCare, cap-and-trade, bank bailouts, private-sector takeovers, czars of the week, and epic deficit spending are more alarming to voters than Ms. O’Donnell’s views on sanctity in private life. As a (relevant) aside, I give most voters credit for understanding that O’Donnell doesn’t propose using the power of the state to enforce on others the particular views for which she has recently gained notoriety. That level of interference in private life is antithetical to the Tea Party demand for smaller government; indeed, under the daily assault of Obama’s energetic regulators, a growing number of voters are associating such intrusiveness explicitly and resentfully with the political left.

But the national electoral dynamic this year isn’t about O’Donnell; it’s about changing course. And in making their choice, the Republican voters in Delaware showed a perfect comprehension many senior conservatives haven’t. A vote for Mike Castle was, in fact, a vote for the status quo. The voters knew what they were voting for — and many of them would have said that the kind of strategic voting urged on them by pundits and political professionals is exactly what has produced the status quo.

I agree with Peter Wehner that Karl Rove is being excoriated unfairly for his stance on the Delaware primary. I think some of the most popular and entrenched figures in conservative politics have some catching up to do, but I predict most of them will do it. Perspicacity is what got them to where they are.

But the people are on the move. George W. Bush said often during the 2004 campaign that the poll that mattered was the one that occurred in the voting booth. In a majority of “voting booth” polls this year, the people have signaled that their dissatisfaction with our current course outweighs everything else. The tsunami is real — and to essay a metaphor, candidates like Christine O’Donnell are riding it on a surfboard. The Democratic Party is largely paralyzed on the beach, and many of the conservatives who don’t want to share its fate will have to get out on their surfboards and do the best they can, under the most unpredictable conditions we’ve seen for a long time.

Abe has pegged the meaning of Christine O’Donnell. To paraphrase the deathless 1992 campaign slogan: “It’s the political tsunami, stupid.” The Democrats will hope to make the Delaware Senate campaign about O’Donnell’s peculiarities — and it’s their job to do that, just as it’s Republicans’ job to make it about her garden-variety tax-and-spend opponent. But the Democrats won’t be able to undermine the strength of the nationwide voter revolt by branding the Tea Party with the image of Christine O’Donnell. The brand has already been slapped on — and it didn’t deter the notoriously conventional GOP voters in a famously Blue State.

It’s becoming clear that ObamaCare, cap-and-trade, bank bailouts, private-sector takeovers, czars of the week, and epic deficit spending are more alarming to voters than Ms. O’Donnell’s views on sanctity in private life. As a (relevant) aside, I give most voters credit for understanding that O’Donnell doesn’t propose using the power of the state to enforce on others the particular views for which she has recently gained notoriety. That level of interference in private life is antithetical to the Tea Party demand for smaller government; indeed, under the daily assault of Obama’s energetic regulators, a growing number of voters are associating such intrusiveness explicitly and resentfully with the political left.

But the national electoral dynamic this year isn’t about O’Donnell; it’s about changing course. And in making their choice, the Republican voters in Delaware showed a perfect comprehension many senior conservatives haven’t. A vote for Mike Castle was, in fact, a vote for the status quo. The voters knew what they were voting for — and many of them would have said that the kind of strategic voting urged on them by pundits and political professionals is exactly what has produced the status quo.

I agree with Peter Wehner that Karl Rove is being excoriated unfairly for his stance on the Delaware primary. I think some of the most popular and entrenched figures in conservative politics have some catching up to do, but I predict most of them will do it. Perspicacity is what got them to where they are.

But the people are on the move. George W. Bush said often during the 2004 campaign that the poll that mattered was the one that occurred in the voting booth. In a majority of “voting booth” polls this year, the people have signaled that their dissatisfaction with our current course outweighs everything else. The tsunami is real — and to essay a metaphor, candidates like Christine O’Donnell are riding it on a surfboard. The Democratic Party is largely paralyzed on the beach, and many of the conservatives who don’t want to share its fate will have to get out on their surfboards and do the best they can, under the most unpredictable conditions we’ve seen for a long time.

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Boxing In the Democrats

It wasn’t a good day for House Minority Leader John Boehner. As the Wall Street Journal editors explain, he smudged up a clear and effective distinction between the parties on the Bush tax cuts, leaving his members dazed:

Republicans scrambled yesterday to regain their footing, with House Minority Whip Eric Cantor returning to the winning GOP argument that any tax hike on “working families, small-business people and investors” is a “non-starter.” We hope so. As for Mr. Boehner, this stumble on the easy issue of taxation in the best GOP year since 1994 makes us wonder if he’s ready for prime time.

Fortunately, House Republicans didn’t compound their leader’s error. To the contrary, they moved swiftly to box in their Democratic colleagues in advance of the midterm elections. Roll Call reports:

The top Republicans on three House committees on Monday called on their Democratic counterparts to clear committee agendas immediately and begin work on a bipartisan bill to create jobs by freezing spending and cutting taxes.

In their letter to the chairmen of the Ways and Means, Appropriations and Budget Committees, Ranking Members Dave Camp (Mich.), Jerry Lewis (Calif.) and Paul Ryan (Wis.) proposed the House work to enact a two–point plan to extend the Bush tax cuts for two years and freeze non-security discretionary spending at 2008 levels.

It’s smart politics — which Democrats are brave enough to vote no or to stall? — and smart policy. What’s interesting is that both Camp and Ryan, two of the sharpest reform-minded congressmen in the Republican caucus (both of whom made a good impression at the health-care summit), are leading the charge. They have figured out that this is no time to be a squish. Elections, after all, are about choices, and this move presents voters with a stark one.

It wasn’t a good day for House Minority Leader John Boehner. As the Wall Street Journal editors explain, he smudged up a clear and effective distinction between the parties on the Bush tax cuts, leaving his members dazed:

Republicans scrambled yesterday to regain their footing, with House Minority Whip Eric Cantor returning to the winning GOP argument that any tax hike on “working families, small-business people and investors” is a “non-starter.” We hope so. As for Mr. Boehner, this stumble on the easy issue of taxation in the best GOP year since 1994 makes us wonder if he’s ready for prime time.

Fortunately, House Republicans didn’t compound their leader’s error. To the contrary, they moved swiftly to box in their Democratic colleagues in advance of the midterm elections. Roll Call reports:

The top Republicans on three House committees on Monday called on their Democratic counterparts to clear committee agendas immediately and begin work on a bipartisan bill to create jobs by freezing spending and cutting taxes.

In their letter to the chairmen of the Ways and Means, Appropriations and Budget Committees, Ranking Members Dave Camp (Mich.), Jerry Lewis (Calif.) and Paul Ryan (Wis.) proposed the House work to enact a two–point plan to extend the Bush tax cuts for two years and freeze non-security discretionary spending at 2008 levels.

It’s smart politics — which Democrats are brave enough to vote no or to stall? — and smart policy. What’s interesting is that both Camp and Ryan, two of the sharpest reform-minded congressmen in the Republican caucus (both of whom made a good impression at the health-care summit), are leading the charge. They have figured out that this is no time to be a squish. Elections, after all, are about choices, and this move presents voters with a stark one.

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Back to the Future

Robert Reich, President Clinton’s secretary of Labor, has an op-ed in today’s New York Times in which he tries to explain why the recovery from the “Great Recession” has been so sluggish. He fails to do that, but the article is a window into why the Obama administration has failed so dismally in this area: liberals are hopelessly stuck in the past. And in order to remain so, they distort history and manipulate statistics.

As always, Reich blames the rich for making too much money, noting that while the top 1 percent had only 9 percent of total income in the late 1970s, today’s super-rich take in 23.5 percent. These figures are based on adjusted gross income reported in federal tax returns and so should be looked at carefully to see how they square with “compensation,” which is something very different. But Reich simply ignores the fact that whenever there has been a major technological development, from the full-rigged ship in the 15th century to the microprocessor in the 20th, there has always quickly followed an inflorescence of fortunes based on the new technology. This, inevitably, causes income inequality to widen. The poor don’t get poorer, the rich just get suddenly much richer. The more fundamental the new technology is, the more the gap will widen, and the microprocessor is the most fundamental new technology since agriculture 10,000 years ago.

Just look at the Forbes 400 list to see how many brand-new fortunes are based on the microprocessor. Seven of the top 10 are (neither Wal-Mart nor Bloomberg would have been possible without cheap computing power). Any attempt to flatten the income curve in these revolutionary terms and thus reduce inequality would inescapably reduce wealth creation.

He writes, “What’s more, the rich don’t necessarily invest their earnings and savings in the American economy; they send them anywhere around the globe where they’ll summon the highest returns — sometimes that’s here, but often it’s the Cayman Islands, China or elsewhere.” That’s perfectly true. But the rich living in the Cayman Islands, China, and elsewhere do exactly the same thing, often investing in America, which enjoys robust capital inflows as well as outflows. We now have a nearly total global economy, especially when it comes to capital. Any attempt to change that would be disastrous for both the United States and the world. Read More

Robert Reich, President Clinton’s secretary of Labor, has an op-ed in today’s New York Times in which he tries to explain why the recovery from the “Great Recession” has been so sluggish. He fails to do that, but the article is a window into why the Obama administration has failed so dismally in this area: liberals are hopelessly stuck in the past. And in order to remain so, they distort history and manipulate statistics.

As always, Reich blames the rich for making too much money, noting that while the top 1 percent had only 9 percent of total income in the late 1970s, today’s super-rich take in 23.5 percent. These figures are based on adjusted gross income reported in federal tax returns and so should be looked at carefully to see how they square with “compensation,” which is something very different. But Reich simply ignores the fact that whenever there has been a major technological development, from the full-rigged ship in the 15th century to the microprocessor in the 20th, there has always quickly followed an inflorescence of fortunes based on the new technology. This, inevitably, causes income inequality to widen. The poor don’t get poorer, the rich just get suddenly much richer. The more fundamental the new technology is, the more the gap will widen, and the microprocessor is the most fundamental new technology since agriculture 10,000 years ago.

Just look at the Forbes 400 list to see how many brand-new fortunes are based on the microprocessor. Seven of the top 10 are (neither Wal-Mart nor Bloomberg would have been possible without cheap computing power). Any attempt to flatten the income curve in these revolutionary terms and thus reduce inequality would inescapably reduce wealth creation.

He writes, “What’s more, the rich don’t necessarily invest their earnings and savings in the American economy; they send them anywhere around the globe where they’ll summon the highest returns — sometimes that’s here, but often it’s the Cayman Islands, China or elsewhere.” That’s perfectly true. But the rich living in the Cayman Islands, China, and elsewhere do exactly the same thing, often investing in America, which enjoys robust capital inflows as well as outflows. We now have a nearly total global economy, especially when it comes to capital. Any attempt to change that would be disastrous for both the United States and the world.

He writes:

Meanwhile, as the economy grows, the vast majority in the middle naturally want to live better. Their consequent spending fuels continued growth and creates enough jobs for almost everyone, at least for a time. But because this situation can’t be sustained, at some point — 1929 and 2008 offer ready examples — the bill comes due.

This time around, policymakers had knowledge their counterparts didn’t have in 1929; they knew they could avoid immediate financial calamity by flooding the economy with money. But, paradoxically, averting another Great Depression-like calamity removed political pressure for more fundamental reform. We’re left instead with a long and seemingly endless Great Jobs Recession.

The Great Depression and its aftermath demonstrate that there is only one way back to full recovery: through more widely shared prosperity. In the 1930s, the American economy was completely restructured. New Deal measures — Social Security, a 40-hour work week with time-and-a-half overtime, unemployment insurance, the right to form unions and bargain collectively, the minimum wage — leveled the playing field.

Where do I begin? The depression that began in 1929 came out of a severe depression in American agriculture, caused by a revival in European agriculture and falling food prices owing to land once devoted to fodder crops for horses and mules being turned over to production of human food as the internal combustion engine took over the transportation and farm-equipment sectors. It did not come out of excess personal debt and a real estate bubble.

They didn’t know in 1929 that you could avoid immediate financial calamity by flooding the economy with money? Here’s what Benjamin Strong, governor of the New York Federal Reserve and effectively head of the Fed, wrote in 1928. “The very existence of the Federal Reserve System is a safeguard against anything like a calamity growing out of money rates. … We have the power to deal with such an emergency instantly by flooding the Street with money.” The problem was that the Federal Reserve didn’t flood the economy with money after the crash in 1929 (Ben Strong died in late 1928) but kept interest rates high. An ordinary stock market crash and economic depression were turned into the Great Depression by horrendous government mistakes, of which the Fed’s was only one.

And if the New Deal was the way back to full recovery, why did it take 10 years (and suddenly vast orders for war materiél) to achieve it? Robert Reich should read Amity Shlaes’s The Forgotten Man: A New History of the Great Depression, which pretty well demolishes the now ancient notions about the New Deal that liberals cling to, sort of like the way people in fly-over country cling to guns and religion.

He writes,

In the decades after World War II, legislation like the G.I. Bill, a vast expansion of public higher education and civil rights and voting rights laws further reduced economic inequality. Much of this was paid for with a 70 percent to 90 percent marginal income tax on the highest incomes.

Ah, the good old days of 91 percent tax rates on those rascally rich guys! Of course, those were mere nominal rates, the rich didn’t pay anything like that much, because deductions and other tax fiddles were nearly limitless in those days. All interest rates were deductible, for instance, allowing someone in the 91 percent bracket to borrow money and have Uncle Sam pay 91 percent of the interest costs.

I could go on, but you get the picture.

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A Damning Admission

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

One adviser at the time said Mr. Obama calculated that an open-ended commitment would undermine the rest of his agenda. “Our Afghan policy was focused as much as anything on domestic politics,” the adviser said. “He would not risk losing the moderate to centrist Democrats in the middle of health insurance reform and he viewed that legislation as the make-or-break legislation for his administration.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

If only such a thing could be said now.

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

One adviser at the time said Mr. Obama calculated that an open-ended commitment would undermine the rest of his agenda. “Our Afghan policy was focused as much as anything on domestic politics,” the adviser said. “He would not risk losing the moderate to centrist Democrats in the middle of health insurance reform and he viewed that legislation as the make-or-break legislation for his administration.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

If only such a thing could be said now.

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How Bad in 2010?

Obama is tumbling in the polls, and his party will bear the brunt. That’s what Gallup reports today:

President Obama averaged 47.3% job approval during his sixth quarter in office, spanning April 20-July 19 — his lowest quarterly average to date. Americans’ approval of Obama has declined at least slightly in each quarter of his presidency. … The average presidential job approval rating across all presidents in Gallup’s trends since Franklin Roosevelt is 54%, about seven points above Obama’s sixth quarter average. … Elected presidents with sub-50% approval ratings in their sixth quarters in office — Carter, Reagan, and Clinton — tended to see more significant midterm congressional seat losses than other presidents.

Just how bad could those midterm losses be? Gallup’s chart going back to 1946 is eye-opening. In 1994, Bill Clinton was at 46 percent approval, and Democrats lost 53 House seats. LBJ was at 44 percent, and the Democrats lost 47 seats in 1966 (just two years after the 1964 landslide).

The problem may be even more acute for Democrats this year insofar as Obama’s approval is especially low in the very House districts that are in play. The extent of the losses will depend on a variety of factors in individual races, but the blame will fall on Obama. If history is any guide, the damage will be great as will the Democrats’ anger at the White House.

UPDATE: Gallup is not an outlier: “A year after President Barack Obama’s political honeymoon ended, his job approval rating has dropped to a negative 44 – 48 percent, his worst net score ever, and American voters say by a narrow 39 – 36 percent margin that they would vote for an unnamed Republican rather than President Obama in 2012, according to a Quinnipiac University poll released today. … American voters also say 48 – 40 percent Obama does not deserve reelection in 2012.”

Obama is tumbling in the polls, and his party will bear the brunt. That’s what Gallup reports today:

President Obama averaged 47.3% job approval during his sixth quarter in office, spanning April 20-July 19 — his lowest quarterly average to date. Americans’ approval of Obama has declined at least slightly in each quarter of his presidency. … The average presidential job approval rating across all presidents in Gallup’s trends since Franklin Roosevelt is 54%, about seven points above Obama’s sixth quarter average. … Elected presidents with sub-50% approval ratings in their sixth quarters in office — Carter, Reagan, and Clinton — tended to see more significant midterm congressional seat losses than other presidents.

Just how bad could those midterm losses be? Gallup’s chart going back to 1946 is eye-opening. In 1994, Bill Clinton was at 46 percent approval, and Democrats lost 53 House seats. LBJ was at 44 percent, and the Democrats lost 47 seats in 1966 (just two years after the 1964 landslide).

The problem may be even more acute for Democrats this year insofar as Obama’s approval is especially low in the very House districts that are in play. The extent of the losses will depend on a variety of factors in individual races, but the blame will fall on Obama. If history is any guide, the damage will be great as will the Democrats’ anger at the White House.

UPDATE: Gallup is not an outlier: “A year after President Barack Obama’s political honeymoon ended, his job approval rating has dropped to a negative 44 – 48 percent, his worst net score ever, and American voters say by a narrow 39 – 36 percent margin that they would vote for an unnamed Republican rather than President Obama in 2012, according to a Quinnipiac University poll released today. … American voters also say 48 – 40 percent Obama does not deserve reelection in 2012.”

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The Beinart Critique, Dismantled

In his new book, The Icarus Syndrome: A History of American Hubris, Peter Beinart, formerly editor of the New Republic and now a senior fellow at the New America Foundation, takes aim at the syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer.

“There are no normal times.” With those words, written in 1991 and aimed straight at Jeane Kirkpatrick, the younger conservative generation fired its first shot.

The marksman was columnist Charles Krauthammer, an acid-tongued ex-psychiatrist from Montreal, and a man young enough to be Kirkpatrick’s son.

Beinart spends several pages summarizing and quoting from Foreign Affairs magazine, in which Krauthammer’s essay, “The Unipolar Moment,” appeared. Krauthammer argued: “We are in for abnormal times. Our best hope for safety in such times, as in difficult times past, is in American strength and will — the strength and will to lead a unipolar world, unashamedly laying down the rules of world order and being prepared to enforce them.” Krauthammer wrote that we must “confront” and, “if necessary, disarm” nations he called “Weapon States” like Iraq under Saddam Hussein and North Korea.

Beinart didn’t like “The Unipolar Moment” and wrote this:

It was no coincidence that Krauthammer published his attack on Kirkpatrick soon after the Gulf War. As usual in the development of hubris bubbles, it was only once things that formerly looked hard — like liberating Kuwait — had been made to look easy that people set their sights higher. Had America proved militarily unable to keep Saddam from gobbling his neighbors, Krauthammer could not have seriously proposed launching a new war, inside Iraq itself, to rid him of his unconventional weapons.

That all sounds very intriguing, except for one thing. On the first page of the Krauthammer essay, in the by-line, we read this:

Charles Krauthammer is a syndicated columnist. This article is adapted from the author’s Henry M. Jackson Memorial Lecture delivered in Washington, D.C., Sept. 18, 1990.

Why does that matter? Because Krauthammer’s essay was adopted from a lecture he gave months before there could possibly have been a “hubris bubble.” Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait occurred on August 2, 1990. Krauthammer delivered his lecture on September 18. Operation Desert Storm didn’t begin until January 17, 1991. And hostilities ceased on February 28. The timeline of events, then, demolishes the Beinart critique.

The Krauthammer lecture itself, it’s worth adding, was no state secret. It was public, it was published, and it has been available as a monograph, in addition to the reference in the Foreign Affairs essay. In reading “The Unipolar Moment” — which was published months after the lecture on which it was based and which is not substantively different from the September 18 lecture — it is clear that the outcome of the war was unknown at the time it was written.

So Krauthammer didn’t set his sights higher because the liberation of Kuwait had been “made to look easy.” When he articulated his views on the “unipolar moment,” Kuwait had been invaded but it hadn’t been liberated. The U.S. was still months away from war. And, in fact, many predicted that if America went to war, it would be a difficult and bloody undertaking. (“Amid talk of body bags, honor and patriotism, the U.S. Congress yesterday began a formal debate on whether to go to war in the Persian Gulf,” the Toronto Star reported on January 11, 1991. “‘The 45,000 body bags that the Pentagon has sent to the gulf are all the evidence we need of the high cost in blood,’ said Senator Edward Kennedy. He added some military experts have estimated American casualties at the rate of 3,000 a week.”) That explains, in part, why the Senate vote on the Gulf War resolution was so close (52-47).

All of this is noteworthy not simply because of Beinart’s sloppiness (which is noteworthy enough), but because Beinart concocts an interpretative theory that is utter nonsense. It is based on a completely wrong premise. He builds a false explanation based on a false fact.

Beinart is not the first to have done so. On November 29, 2009 Andrew Sullivan, in a posting titled “The Positioning of Charles Krauthammer,” charged that while he had advocated a gasoline tax in December 2008, in Krauthammer’s “latest column” on climate change, “the gas tax idea is missing.” The reason, Sullivan informed us, was that “In the end, the conservative intelligentsia is much more invested in obstructing and thereby neutering Obama and the Democrats than in solving any actual problems in front of us. It’s a game for them, and they play it with impunity.”

There was one problem with Sullivan’s analysis: the column he refers to was published not in November 2009 but in May 2008 — when George W. Bush was still president and Barack Obama hadn’t yet won the Democratic nomination. Krauthammer proceeded to eviscerate Sullivan, who had the decency to issue an abject apology and correction. I wonder if Beinart will show the same decency, having made the same error.

I have some advice for liberals in general, but most especially for those who formerly edited the New Republic. First, learn to read dates on essays and columns before you attack them. Second, don’t impugn a person’s motives when your charges can so easily be shown to be false. And third, if you decide to target an individual and engage in a public debate, you might think about choosing someone other than Charles Krauthammer. Otherwise you will be made to look like fools.

In his new book, The Icarus Syndrome: A History of American Hubris, Peter Beinart, formerly editor of the New Republic and now a senior fellow at the New America Foundation, takes aim at the syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer.

“There are no normal times.” With those words, written in 1991 and aimed straight at Jeane Kirkpatrick, the younger conservative generation fired its first shot.

The marksman was columnist Charles Krauthammer, an acid-tongued ex-psychiatrist from Montreal, and a man young enough to be Kirkpatrick’s son.

Beinart spends several pages summarizing and quoting from Foreign Affairs magazine, in which Krauthammer’s essay, “The Unipolar Moment,” appeared. Krauthammer argued: “We are in for abnormal times. Our best hope for safety in such times, as in difficult times past, is in American strength and will — the strength and will to lead a unipolar world, unashamedly laying down the rules of world order and being prepared to enforce them.” Krauthammer wrote that we must “confront” and, “if necessary, disarm” nations he called “Weapon States” like Iraq under Saddam Hussein and North Korea.

Beinart didn’t like “The Unipolar Moment” and wrote this:

It was no coincidence that Krauthammer published his attack on Kirkpatrick soon after the Gulf War. As usual in the development of hubris bubbles, it was only once things that formerly looked hard — like liberating Kuwait — had been made to look easy that people set their sights higher. Had America proved militarily unable to keep Saddam from gobbling his neighbors, Krauthammer could not have seriously proposed launching a new war, inside Iraq itself, to rid him of his unconventional weapons.

That all sounds very intriguing, except for one thing. On the first page of the Krauthammer essay, in the by-line, we read this:

Charles Krauthammer is a syndicated columnist. This article is adapted from the author’s Henry M. Jackson Memorial Lecture delivered in Washington, D.C., Sept. 18, 1990.

Why does that matter? Because Krauthammer’s essay was adopted from a lecture he gave months before there could possibly have been a “hubris bubble.” Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait occurred on August 2, 1990. Krauthammer delivered his lecture on September 18. Operation Desert Storm didn’t begin until January 17, 1991. And hostilities ceased on February 28. The timeline of events, then, demolishes the Beinart critique.

The Krauthammer lecture itself, it’s worth adding, was no state secret. It was public, it was published, and it has been available as a monograph, in addition to the reference in the Foreign Affairs essay. In reading “The Unipolar Moment” — which was published months after the lecture on which it was based and which is not substantively different from the September 18 lecture — it is clear that the outcome of the war was unknown at the time it was written.

So Krauthammer didn’t set his sights higher because the liberation of Kuwait had been “made to look easy.” When he articulated his views on the “unipolar moment,” Kuwait had been invaded but it hadn’t been liberated. The U.S. was still months away from war. And, in fact, many predicted that if America went to war, it would be a difficult and bloody undertaking. (“Amid talk of body bags, honor and patriotism, the U.S. Congress yesterday began a formal debate on whether to go to war in the Persian Gulf,” the Toronto Star reported on January 11, 1991. “‘The 45,000 body bags that the Pentagon has sent to the gulf are all the evidence we need of the high cost in blood,’ said Senator Edward Kennedy. He added some military experts have estimated American casualties at the rate of 3,000 a week.”) That explains, in part, why the Senate vote on the Gulf War resolution was so close (52-47).

All of this is noteworthy not simply because of Beinart’s sloppiness (which is noteworthy enough), but because Beinart concocts an interpretative theory that is utter nonsense. It is based on a completely wrong premise. He builds a false explanation based on a false fact.

Beinart is not the first to have done so. On November 29, 2009 Andrew Sullivan, in a posting titled “The Positioning of Charles Krauthammer,” charged that while he had advocated a gasoline tax in December 2008, in Krauthammer’s “latest column” on climate change, “the gas tax idea is missing.” The reason, Sullivan informed us, was that “In the end, the conservative intelligentsia is much more invested in obstructing and thereby neutering Obama and the Democrats than in solving any actual problems in front of us. It’s a game for them, and they play it with impunity.”

There was one problem with Sullivan’s analysis: the column he refers to was published not in November 2009 but in May 2008 — when George W. Bush was still president and Barack Obama hadn’t yet won the Democratic nomination. Krauthammer proceeded to eviscerate Sullivan, who had the decency to issue an abject apology and correction. I wonder if Beinart will show the same decency, having made the same error.

I have some advice for liberals in general, but most especially for those who formerly edited the New Republic. First, learn to read dates on essays and columns before you attack them. Second, don’t impugn a person’s motives when your charges can so easily be shown to be false. And third, if you decide to target an individual and engage in a public debate, you might think about choosing someone other than Charles Krauthammer. Otherwise you will be made to look like fools.

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Toomey’s Path to Victory: Don’t Listen to Rick

In today’s New York Post, COMMENTARY magazine contributor Abby Wisse Schachter writes about the voters’ “revolt in Pennsylvania,” as conservative Republican Pat Toomey now leads incumbent and newly minted Democrat Arlen Specter by a 45-to-31 percent margin in the latest Franklin & College poll. Given the rising tide of dissatisfaction with President Barack Obama and the Democratic-controlled Congress; the cynical Specter party switch may turn out to have been in vain.

Interestingly, Schachter quotes former Republican Senator Rick Santorum (who backed Specter against Toomey in the 2004 GOP primary, which the latter lost by a whisker) as advising Toomey to stick to the economy while continuing his campaign in the coming months. He’s right about that but given the way his own career in the Senate ended in a landslide loss to lackluster Democrat Bob Casey, Jr. in 2006, Santorum is probably the last person Toomey should be listening to. Nevertheless, Santorum’s rise and fall provides an interesting set of lessons for Northeastern Republicans.

• Good Timing is Crucial: Santorum was first elected to the Senate in 1994, the year of the GOP Congressional avalanche led by Newt Gingrich. He lost his seat in 2006, the year the Democrats took back both houses of Congress. If, as it seems to be the case today, 2010 will be a big Republican year, Toomey’s got this point nailed.

• Be Fortunate in Your Opponents: In 1994, Santorum beat Harris Wofford, an old-time New Deal Democrat who didn’t excite voters in a year when being the incumbent didn’t help. In 2000, when Santorum won an easy race for re-election, he faced conservative Democrat Rep. Ron Klink. Besides an unfortunate name and no statewide appeal, Klink was intensely disliked by his party’s liberal base. Toomey has this category in his favor too. Specter has the burden of being an incumbent who also lacks an enthusiastic base, since most Democrats are less than thrilled about backing a turncoat whose cynicism is legendary.

• Don’t Let Your Opponent Brand You as an Extremist: In 1994, both Santorum and Wofford were able to say that their opponents represented their party’s hard-liners. Neither was able to capture the center but in a Republican year Santorum won a narrow victory. In 2000, after six years of doing his best to portray himself as a politician more interested in serving his constituents than in ideology, Santorum was immune to the Democratic strategy of branding him as an extremist. But by 2006, after a second term during which he acted as if the audience he cared most about was his party’s base as he maneuvered for a possible future run for the White House (an ambition that, believe it or not, he still seems to harbor), the Democrats were easily able to label Santorum as the embodiment of the Conservative Christian movement. This is a potential danger for Toomey as he is every bit the social conservative Santorum was. But as a relatively fresh face on the statewide level, Toomey has the chance to show voters what he cares most about: free market economics. Being pro-life isn’t the kiss of death in Pennsylvania — many Democrats, including the man who beat Santorum in 2006, are against abortion — but coming across as a rigid extremist is fatal.

• Stick to Your Principles: Voters respect a candidate who sticks to his guns even if they disagree on some issues. In 2006, as a two-term incumbent who had become part of a Senate leadership that had presided over a vast expansion of federal spending, Santorum was no longer able to portray himself as a principled conservative on economic issues. Toomey has built all his campaigns for office on opposing not only more taxes and spending but also the whole system of patronage and earmarks by which politicians have always bought the votes of their constituents. In a year in which anger at government is again at a fever pitch, Toomey is perfectly positioned to run against Arlen Specter, whose whole career has been built on the existing corrupt system.

Thus, while Pat Toomey is right to welcome Santorum’s belated support, the latter’s best advice would be “do as I say, not as I did.”

In today’s New York Post, COMMENTARY magazine contributor Abby Wisse Schachter writes about the voters’ “revolt in Pennsylvania,” as conservative Republican Pat Toomey now leads incumbent and newly minted Democrat Arlen Specter by a 45-to-31 percent margin in the latest Franklin & College poll. Given the rising tide of dissatisfaction with President Barack Obama and the Democratic-controlled Congress; the cynical Specter party switch may turn out to have been in vain.

Interestingly, Schachter quotes former Republican Senator Rick Santorum (who backed Specter against Toomey in the 2004 GOP primary, which the latter lost by a whisker) as advising Toomey to stick to the economy while continuing his campaign in the coming months. He’s right about that but given the way his own career in the Senate ended in a landslide loss to lackluster Democrat Bob Casey, Jr. in 2006, Santorum is probably the last person Toomey should be listening to. Nevertheless, Santorum’s rise and fall provides an interesting set of lessons for Northeastern Republicans.

• Good Timing is Crucial: Santorum was first elected to the Senate in 1994, the year of the GOP Congressional avalanche led by Newt Gingrich. He lost his seat in 2006, the year the Democrats took back both houses of Congress. If, as it seems to be the case today, 2010 will be a big Republican year, Toomey’s got this point nailed.

• Be Fortunate in Your Opponents: In 1994, Santorum beat Harris Wofford, an old-time New Deal Democrat who didn’t excite voters in a year when being the incumbent didn’t help. In 2000, when Santorum won an easy race for re-election, he faced conservative Democrat Rep. Ron Klink. Besides an unfortunate name and no statewide appeal, Klink was intensely disliked by his party’s liberal base. Toomey has this category in his favor too. Specter has the burden of being an incumbent who also lacks an enthusiastic base, since most Democrats are less than thrilled about backing a turncoat whose cynicism is legendary.

• Don’t Let Your Opponent Brand You as an Extremist: In 1994, both Santorum and Wofford were able to say that their opponents represented their party’s hard-liners. Neither was able to capture the center but in a Republican year Santorum won a narrow victory. In 2000, after six years of doing his best to portray himself as a politician more interested in serving his constituents than in ideology, Santorum was immune to the Democratic strategy of branding him as an extremist. But by 2006, after a second term during which he acted as if the audience he cared most about was his party’s base as he maneuvered for a possible future run for the White House (an ambition that, believe it or not, he still seems to harbor), the Democrats were easily able to label Santorum as the embodiment of the Conservative Christian movement. This is a potential danger for Toomey as he is every bit the social conservative Santorum was. But as a relatively fresh face on the statewide level, Toomey has the chance to show voters what he cares most about: free market economics. Being pro-life isn’t the kiss of death in Pennsylvania — many Democrats, including the man who beat Santorum in 2006, are against abortion — but coming across as a rigid extremist is fatal.

• Stick to Your Principles: Voters respect a candidate who sticks to his guns even if they disagree on some issues. In 2006, as a two-term incumbent who had become part of a Senate leadership that had presided over a vast expansion of federal spending, Santorum was no longer able to portray himself as a principled conservative on economic issues. Toomey has built all his campaigns for office on opposing not only more taxes and spending but also the whole system of patronage and earmarks by which politicians have always bought the votes of their constituents. In a year in which anger at government is again at a fever pitch, Toomey is perfectly positioned to run against Arlen Specter, whose whole career has been built on the existing corrupt system.

Thus, while Pat Toomey is right to welcome Santorum’s belated support, the latter’s best advice would be “do as I say, not as I did.”

Read Less

Flotsam and Jetsam

Ruth Marcus explains: “So can a chastened Obama regain the lost sense of excitement and opportunity? Eventually, perhaps, but never entirely. The second time is never as thrilling.” Especially when the thrill was based on cotton-candy rhetoric and a blank slate onto which Obama told us we were projecting our hopes and dreams. If there is no there there, then the thrill is not likely to return.

Michael Barone says that if the election were held today, it would be worse for the Democrats than it was 1994 or 2002. He calls it “the makings of an epic party disaster.”

Charles Krauthammer on Obama and the KSM trial: “The president is not going to admit error. He never does. He does in the abstract, but he will never admit he actually makes a human error on anything. So he won’t on this. But he knows what’s going to happen, which is the Congress will rebel on this and it will pull the funding, [and] get him off the hook. And the issue [will] end up behind him even though he doesn’t do it himself.” Noting he never mentioned terrorism in the SOTU, Krauthammer adds: “In fact, because his two decisions — the KSM trial in Manhattan and the granting of Miranda rights to the guy who tried to blow up the airplane — are indefensible.”

Matt Continetti points out that it takes Speaker Nancy Pelosi to make Sen. Carl Levin look wise on national security. Levin says of Pelosi’s idea to apply Obama’s freeze to defense spending: “That’s kind of hard to do in the middle of a war.” But maybe if we hop over the Pentagon fence. And then pole vault in. And then. Yeah, she is Speaker of the House.

Liberals think Rahm Emanual’s kicking the can down the road on health-care reform (“Congress would deal first with jobs, then banking regulation, and then circle back around to health-care reform”) makes no sense. Well, only if you want to stave off an epic party disaster, I suppose.

But at least Obama still has the postgraduate-degree voters according to Gallup: “The support of postgraduates, who tend to be more liberal and Democratic in their political orientation, was important to Obama’s being elected president. Since he has become president, postgraduates have been among his more reliable supporters, backing him at higher levels than do those in other educational groups.” But that poll was taken before the SOTU and Obama flunked his midterm on the campaign-finance-reform law. That might lose him a few points.

Tom Bevan catches Obama sort of admitting that the health-care bills wouldn’t really, absolutely have allowed everyone to keep their existing health plans. Stuff “snuck in,” you see. If there has ever been a president less willing to take responsibility for anything, I’m hard pressed to recall who it was. And no — George W. Bush did admit error on the initial conduct of the Iraq war and on Katrina, so he’s not even in the ballpark of Obama blame-shifting.

Fred Barnes says Obama is trapped: “President Obama’s greatest need is to escape the ideological grip of congressional Democrats and the liberal base of the Democratic party (they’re one and the same). But he either doesn’t recognize this or, as a conventional liberal himself, isn’t so inclined. This self-inflicted difficulty has put Obama in worse political straits than President Clinton faced after the Republican landslide of 1994.” Unlike Clinton, however, Obama seems to lack the flexibility and ideological creativity to get himself out of his self-made jam.

Ruth Marcus explains: “So can a chastened Obama regain the lost sense of excitement and opportunity? Eventually, perhaps, but never entirely. The second time is never as thrilling.” Especially when the thrill was based on cotton-candy rhetoric and a blank slate onto which Obama told us we were projecting our hopes and dreams. If there is no there there, then the thrill is not likely to return.

Michael Barone says that if the election were held today, it would be worse for the Democrats than it was 1994 or 2002. He calls it “the makings of an epic party disaster.”

Charles Krauthammer on Obama and the KSM trial: “The president is not going to admit error. He never does. He does in the abstract, but he will never admit he actually makes a human error on anything. So he won’t on this. But he knows what’s going to happen, which is the Congress will rebel on this and it will pull the funding, [and] get him off the hook. And the issue [will] end up behind him even though he doesn’t do it himself.” Noting he never mentioned terrorism in the SOTU, Krauthammer adds: “In fact, because his two decisions — the KSM trial in Manhattan and the granting of Miranda rights to the guy who tried to blow up the airplane — are indefensible.”

Matt Continetti points out that it takes Speaker Nancy Pelosi to make Sen. Carl Levin look wise on national security. Levin says of Pelosi’s idea to apply Obama’s freeze to defense spending: “That’s kind of hard to do in the middle of a war.” But maybe if we hop over the Pentagon fence. And then pole vault in. And then. Yeah, she is Speaker of the House.

Liberals think Rahm Emanual’s kicking the can down the road on health-care reform (“Congress would deal first with jobs, then banking regulation, and then circle back around to health-care reform”) makes no sense. Well, only if you want to stave off an epic party disaster, I suppose.

But at least Obama still has the postgraduate-degree voters according to Gallup: “The support of postgraduates, who tend to be more liberal and Democratic in their political orientation, was important to Obama’s being elected president. Since he has become president, postgraduates have been among his more reliable supporters, backing him at higher levels than do those in other educational groups.” But that poll was taken before the SOTU and Obama flunked his midterm on the campaign-finance-reform law. That might lose him a few points.

Tom Bevan catches Obama sort of admitting that the health-care bills wouldn’t really, absolutely have allowed everyone to keep their existing health plans. Stuff “snuck in,” you see. If there has ever been a president less willing to take responsibility for anything, I’m hard pressed to recall who it was. And no — George W. Bush did admit error on the initial conduct of the Iraq war and on Katrina, so he’s not even in the ballpark of Obama blame-shifting.

Fred Barnes says Obama is trapped: “President Obama’s greatest need is to escape the ideological grip of congressional Democrats and the liberal base of the Democratic party (they’re one and the same). But he either doesn’t recognize this or, as a conventional liberal himself, isn’t so inclined. This self-inflicted difficulty has put Obama in worse political straits than President Clinton faced after the Republican landslide of 1994.” Unlike Clinton, however, Obama seems to lack the flexibility and ideological creativity to get himself out of his self-made jam.

Read Less




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