Commentary Magazine


Topic: David Axelrod

Politico Swallows New White House Spin on Israel

It’s a new year and a somewhat new crew running things at the White House, what with Rahm Emanuel and David Axelrod gone, so it’s to be expected that we’re now getting a new spin about the Middle East from their successors. That’s the only way to interpret Ben Smith’s somewhat puzzling article in Politico today.

In the wake of the collapse of the administration’s last incompetent effort to get the Palestinians back to the negotiating table, there’s little question about the piece’s conclusion that the peace process is dead in the water. No one should be surprised that the president’s spin masters are attempting to absolve the president and his foreign-policy team of all blame for the Middle East failures that have marked their two years in office. But it is astonishing that Smith, who has been covering them during this period, has swallowed whole their absurd rewriting of the history of this period.

The main point of the piece seems to be that the White House is fed up with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. According to Smith, after two years of trying to “give Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu the benefit of the doubt as a prospective peace partner,” they’ve had it with him. Netanyahu’s “intransigence,” Smith writes, is chiefly responsible for the collapse of American diplomacy, though he — and his highly placed sources — concedes that the feckless Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas is no better. The conclusion is that Obama is giving up on the whole thing, since the chances “of a personal alliance growing between the Israeli leader and President Barack Obama to be just about zero.”

This makes for a neat narrative designed to make Obama look good, but only rings true if you haven’t been paying the slightest attention to U.S.-Israel relations since January 2009.

Contrary to Smith, if there has been one consistent point about the administration’s attitude toward Israel during this period, it has been its hostility to Netanyahu. From the start, Obama, who prior to his election claimed to be all right with Israel but not with Netanyahu’s Likud Party, showed his dissatisfaction with the outcome of the Israeli vote in February 2009. Rather than seek a common strategy to revive a peace process that had crashed in 2008, when Abbas refused Netanyahu’s predecessor Ehud Olmert’s offer of a Palestinian state, Obama was determined to create some distance between the United States and Israel. Though the Palestinians had already conceded that most Jewish neighborhoods in Jerusalem would stay under Israeli control even as they rejected Israel’s offer of peace, Obama drew a new line in the sand. The president demanded that Israel freeze all building, even in areas — like Jerusalem — where everyone knew that Israel would not retreat even in the event of peace. Finding themselves outflanked, the Palestinians had to similarly dig in their heels, and the last two years of failed attempts to get them back to the negotiating table were the inevitable result. Read More

It’s a new year and a somewhat new crew running things at the White House, what with Rahm Emanuel and David Axelrod gone, so it’s to be expected that we’re now getting a new spin about the Middle East from their successors. That’s the only way to interpret Ben Smith’s somewhat puzzling article in Politico today.

In the wake of the collapse of the administration’s last incompetent effort to get the Palestinians back to the negotiating table, there’s little question about the piece’s conclusion that the peace process is dead in the water. No one should be surprised that the president’s spin masters are attempting to absolve the president and his foreign-policy team of all blame for the Middle East failures that have marked their two years in office. But it is astonishing that Smith, who has been covering them during this period, has swallowed whole their absurd rewriting of the history of this period.

The main point of the piece seems to be that the White House is fed up with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. According to Smith, after two years of trying to “give Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu the benefit of the doubt as a prospective peace partner,” they’ve had it with him. Netanyahu’s “intransigence,” Smith writes, is chiefly responsible for the collapse of American diplomacy, though he — and his highly placed sources — concedes that the feckless Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas is no better. The conclusion is that Obama is giving up on the whole thing, since the chances “of a personal alliance growing between the Israeli leader and President Barack Obama to be just about zero.”

This makes for a neat narrative designed to make Obama look good, but only rings true if you haven’t been paying the slightest attention to U.S.-Israel relations since January 2009.

Contrary to Smith, if there has been one consistent point about the administration’s attitude toward Israel during this period, it has been its hostility to Netanyahu. From the start, Obama, who prior to his election claimed to be all right with Israel but not with Netanyahu’s Likud Party, showed his dissatisfaction with the outcome of the Israeli vote in February 2009. Rather than seek a common strategy to revive a peace process that had crashed in 2008, when Abbas refused Netanyahu’s predecessor Ehud Olmert’s offer of a Palestinian state, Obama was determined to create some distance between the United States and Israel. Though the Palestinians had already conceded that most Jewish neighborhoods in Jerusalem would stay under Israeli control even as they rejected Israel’s offer of peace, Obama drew a new line in the sand. The president demanded that Israel freeze all building, even in areas — like Jerusalem — where everyone knew that Israel would not retreat even in the event of peace. Finding themselves outflanked, the Palestinians had to similarly dig in their heels, and the last two years of failed attempts to get them back to the negotiating table were the inevitable result.

Obama’s first attempts to outmaneuver Netanyahu seemed to be based on a foolish hope that the prime minister would be forced into a coalition with the American favorite Tzipi Livni or out of office altogether. Rather than being weakened by this, Netanyahu gained strength. In the spring of 2010, Obama tried again when he deliberately picked a fight with Israel over the construction of new homes in existing Jewish neighborhoods in Jerusalem. The White House and the State Department subjected Netanyahu to an unprecedented campaign of abuse, but the result was no different than their previous efforts. Soon Obama was forced to back down and resort to a charm offensive aimed at damping down criticism from American Jews.

Rather than take responsibility for their own mistakes and the president’s relentless hostility to Netanyahu — whose grip on his parliamentary majority is stronger than ever — all we’re getting from the White House is more negative spin about Israel. But in order to believe a word of it, you’ve got to be afflicted with the sort of short-term memory loss that is the premise of Ben Smith’s article.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Just another charm offensive? “President Barack Obama is preparing new overtures to business that may start with a walk into the headquarters of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and a retreat with corporate chief executive officers, according to people familiar with his plans.” So long as he plans on keeping ObamaCare and the financial regulation bill and raises taxes, it’s hard to consider it more than atmospherics.

Just another way of spinning that the White House is getting rid of him as soon as possible. “David Axelrod’s long-anticipated departure from the White House is happening a little earlier than expected — right after President Barack Obama’s State of the Union speech in late January or early February — so the  senior adviser can ‘recharge his batteries,’ according to a senior administration official.”

Just another bad poll for the White House to ignore. “Just about as many Americans want Tea Party-backed members of Congress to take the lead in setting policy during the next year as choose President Obama, a USA TODAY/Gallup Poll finds. … The survey also underscores Obama’s weakened standing. His overall job approval rating, at 42%, is 1 percentage point higher than his historic low in midsummer. His 35% approval rating on the economy is the lowest of his presidency.”

Just another prominent conservative woman on the world stage? This one –Michèle Alliot-Marie, the foreign minister of France — plays rugby. ” The 64-year-old Gaullist is more than just another passive fan of the game. The normally austere MAM, as she is known in France, revealed in a rare informal television appearance in the mid-1980s that she had nearly been kicked out of school when she was young for converting the female handball squad into a rugby team. ‘I think that I’d still be able to make a pass,’ she noted.”

Just another move by Israel that’ll drive the left around the bend. How dare the Jewish state institute such democratic rules! “The Knesset passed the National Referendum Law during a late-night session Monday, approving legislation that will fundamentally alter Israeli negotiators’ ability to offer concrete peace deals involving the Golan Heights or east Jerusalem. The law, which was approved by a vote of 65-33, will require either a Knesset super-majority or a national referendum in order to hand over any annexed territories as part of a future peace deal.”

Just another day of nagging kids to eat vegetables. But is this really a job for the First Lady?

Just another human rights abomination in the “Muslim World.” Asia Bibi, a Pakistani mother of five, has been jailed for a year and sentenced to death for blasphemy. Although she might get a presidential pardon, that’s not the end of it. “Even if Ms. Bibi is pardoned or the Lahore High Court overturns the sentence, there are concerns about her safety. Many people acquitted on blasphemy charges continue to be hounded and are forced to move, change their identity or hide, the commission says.”

Just another political miscalculation and panic attack in the White House. “As the Senate’s leading Republican on nuclear security issues, Mr. Kyl has warned the White House for months that it couldn’t get its treaty ratified without addressing his concerns on warhead modernization and missile defenses. For months, the Administration gave him mere lip service. Now that it has discovered it doesn’t have the votes, the Administration is finally getting serious about Mr. Kyl’s concerns even as it is trying to bully him over immediate ratification. Republicans are right to take their time and debate this thoroughly.”

Just another charm offensive? “President Barack Obama is preparing new overtures to business that may start with a walk into the headquarters of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and a retreat with corporate chief executive officers, according to people familiar with his plans.” So long as he plans on keeping ObamaCare and the financial regulation bill and raises taxes, it’s hard to consider it more than atmospherics.

Just another way of spinning that the White House is getting rid of him as soon as possible. “David Axelrod’s long-anticipated departure from the White House is happening a little earlier than expected — right after President Barack Obama’s State of the Union speech in late January or early February — so the  senior adviser can ‘recharge his batteries,’ according to a senior administration official.”

Just another bad poll for the White House to ignore. “Just about as many Americans want Tea Party-backed members of Congress to take the lead in setting policy during the next year as choose President Obama, a USA TODAY/Gallup Poll finds. … The survey also underscores Obama’s weakened standing. His overall job approval rating, at 42%, is 1 percentage point higher than his historic low in midsummer. His 35% approval rating on the economy is the lowest of his presidency.”

Just another prominent conservative woman on the world stage? This one –Michèle Alliot-Marie, the foreign minister of France — plays rugby. ” The 64-year-old Gaullist is more than just another passive fan of the game. The normally austere MAM, as she is known in France, revealed in a rare informal television appearance in the mid-1980s that she had nearly been kicked out of school when she was young for converting the female handball squad into a rugby team. ‘I think that I’d still be able to make a pass,’ she noted.”

Just another move by Israel that’ll drive the left around the bend. How dare the Jewish state institute such democratic rules! “The Knesset passed the National Referendum Law during a late-night session Monday, approving legislation that will fundamentally alter Israeli negotiators’ ability to offer concrete peace deals involving the Golan Heights or east Jerusalem. The law, which was approved by a vote of 65-33, will require either a Knesset super-majority or a national referendum in order to hand over any annexed territories as part of a future peace deal.”

Just another day of nagging kids to eat vegetables. But is this really a job for the First Lady?

Just another human rights abomination in the “Muslim World.” Asia Bibi, a Pakistani mother of five, has been jailed for a year and sentenced to death for blasphemy. Although she might get a presidential pardon, that’s not the end of it. “Even if Ms. Bibi is pardoned or the Lahore High Court overturns the sentence, there are concerns about her safety. Many people acquitted on blasphemy charges continue to be hounded and are forced to move, change their identity or hide, the commission says.”

Just another political miscalculation and panic attack in the White House. “As the Senate’s leading Republican on nuclear security issues, Mr. Kyl has warned the White House for months that it couldn’t get its treaty ratified without addressing his concerns on warhead modernization and missile defenses. For months, the Administration gave him mere lip service. Now that it has discovered it doesn’t have the votes, the Administration is finally getting serious about Mr. Kyl’s concerns even as it is trying to bully him over immediate ratification. Republicans are right to take their time and debate this thoroughly.”

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Joe Biden’s—and the President’s—Sycophancy Problem

In an interview with GQ magazine, Vice President Biden, when asked about Barack Obama’s problem in being perceived as aloof, provided us with this answer: “I think what it is, is he’s so brilliant. He is an intellectual.”

So that’s the real explanation for the president’s troubles. It isn’t really a communications problem after all; it’s an IQ Gap between Obama and America. He’s just so much smarter, and so much better, than the rest of us. It can’t be easy for a man so gifted in so many ways to maintain the common touch. That, at least, seems to be the view from ObamaLand.

This, of course, is exactly what the president doesn’t need: aides like Biden, Valerie Jarrett, David Axelrod, and others who, as things get worse for Mr. Obama, double down on their flattery of him.

There are many things in life I’m confident Mr. Obama needs; more sycophancy from his advisers is not one of them. What he needs, in fact, are mature, responsible, well-grounded people with standing in his life to let him know what is happening to his presidency. It is coming apart for a variety of reasons, including dogmatism and ideological rigidity, growing incompetence, unwise policies, and the poor performance of the American economy. The problems are not all of Obama’s making — but he bears a large share of the blame for taking America in the wrong direction.

I have little doubt that Vice President Biden’s words reflect his true views. That may be the most worrisome thing of all for the president. Because if this fiction continues to be entertained, things will only get worse for Obama, and for us.

In an interview with GQ magazine, Vice President Biden, when asked about Barack Obama’s problem in being perceived as aloof, provided us with this answer: “I think what it is, is he’s so brilliant. He is an intellectual.”

So that’s the real explanation for the president’s troubles. It isn’t really a communications problem after all; it’s an IQ Gap between Obama and America. He’s just so much smarter, and so much better, than the rest of us. It can’t be easy for a man so gifted in so many ways to maintain the common touch. That, at least, seems to be the view from ObamaLand.

This, of course, is exactly what the president doesn’t need: aides like Biden, Valerie Jarrett, David Axelrod, and others who, as things get worse for Mr. Obama, double down on their flattery of him.

There are many things in life I’m confident Mr. Obama needs; more sycophancy from his advisers is not one of them. What he needs, in fact, are mature, responsible, well-grounded people with standing in his life to let him know what is happening to his presidency. It is coming apart for a variety of reasons, including dogmatism and ideological rigidity, growing incompetence, unwise policies, and the poor performance of the American economy. The problems are not all of Obama’s making — but he bears a large share of the blame for taking America in the wrong direction.

I have little doubt that Vice President Biden’s words reflect his true views. That may be the most worrisome thing of all for the president. Because if this fiction continues to be entertained, things will only get worse for Obama, and for us.

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Verging on Irrelevancy

When looking for hopeful signs of a move to the center by the Obama administration, observers point to the about-face on the 2011 troop-withdrawal deadline in Afghanistan and to possible acquiescence in extending the Bush tax cuts. But is there progress on the latter front?

The New York Post editors observe:

Meanwhile, in the White House, the left hand seems not to know what the far left hand is doing. Within hours yesterday, senior adviser David Axelrod gave contradictory statements on the question of extending the Bush-era tax cuts. …

We have to deal with the world as we find it,” Axelrod told the Huffington Post. “The world of what it takes to get this done.” He continued: “There are concerns [over multiple temporary extensions for the wealthy], but I don’t want to trade away security for the middle class in order to make that point.” …

Except, Axelrod then did a 180-degree turn, later telling National Journal: “We’re willing to discuss how we move forward. But we believe that it’s imperative to extend the tax cuts for the middle class, and don’t believe we can afford a permanent extension of tax cuts for the wealthy.”

It’s not hard to understand why “Axelrod [is] talking out of both sides of his face.” The White House doesn’t know what it wants to do and what it can get away with. Message control has broken down, so aides now freelance, trying to push the president in one direction or another. Not only does this create uncertainty for investors, employers, and consumers, but it also suggests that the president is an observer in his own administration.

Like nature, politics abhors a vacuum; with a shrinking presidency, others (advisers, Congress, 2012 contenders, wanna-be primary opponents, etc.) will rush forward to fill the void. After the 1994 midterms, Clinton memorably declared that the president was still relevant — and then proved it to be the case. So Obama had better get out of his funk and decide which direction he wants to go in the next two years. Otherwise, he will become increasingly irrelevant at home and dangerously ineffective overseas.

When looking for hopeful signs of a move to the center by the Obama administration, observers point to the about-face on the 2011 troop-withdrawal deadline in Afghanistan and to possible acquiescence in extending the Bush tax cuts. But is there progress on the latter front?

The New York Post editors observe:

Meanwhile, in the White House, the left hand seems not to know what the far left hand is doing. Within hours yesterday, senior adviser David Axelrod gave contradictory statements on the question of extending the Bush-era tax cuts. …

We have to deal with the world as we find it,” Axelrod told the Huffington Post. “The world of what it takes to get this done.” He continued: “There are concerns [over multiple temporary extensions for the wealthy], but I don’t want to trade away security for the middle class in order to make that point.” …

Except, Axelrod then did a 180-degree turn, later telling National Journal: “We’re willing to discuss how we move forward. But we believe that it’s imperative to extend the tax cuts for the middle class, and don’t believe we can afford a permanent extension of tax cuts for the wealthy.”

It’s not hard to understand why “Axelrod [is] talking out of both sides of his face.” The White House doesn’t know what it wants to do and what it can get away with. Message control has broken down, so aides now freelance, trying to push the president in one direction or another. Not only does this create uncertainty for investors, employers, and consumers, but it also suggests that the president is an observer in his own administration.

Like nature, politics abhors a vacuum; with a shrinking presidency, others (advisers, Congress, 2012 contenders, wanna-be primary opponents, etc.) will rush forward to fill the void. After the 1994 midterms, Clinton memorably declared that the president was still relevant — and then proved it to be the case. So Obama had better get out of his funk and decide which direction he wants to go in the next two years. Otherwise, he will become increasingly irrelevant at home and dangerously ineffective overseas.

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Predictions

On Tuesday, Democrats will suffer an epic defeat — worse even than in 1946, when Republicans gained 12 Senate seats and 55 House seats. The GOP will pick up at least 73 House seats, 10 Senate seats, and eight governorships. The GOP’s turnout will be huge and independents will break massively for Republican candidates across the country. Among Democrats, this will trigger despair and bitter recriminations. President Obama will immediately be placed on probation by his own party and may well face a serious primary challenge, just as Jimmy Carter did in 1979.

As Democrats sort through the rubble caused by Tuesday’s landslide — even Wisconsin will become a red state — they will realize what many of us have warned them of for quite some time: Barack Obama and his agenda are having a Kevorkian-like effect on the Democratic Party. If the economy doesn’t noticeably improve by next fall — and, at this stage, there are no signs that it will — more and more Democrats will find it in their self-interest to detach themselves from Obama. And Team Obama’s political strategy this cycle — in which they never settled on a consistent narrative beyond attacking huge swaths of the American people as being ignorant, unappreciative, and tinged with racism — will be judged as one of the most inept in American history.

The next two years will feature stalemate and confrontation between Capitol Hill and the White House. President Obama, unlike Bill Clinton, is not likely to tack to the center. Mr. Clinton was a New Democrat; Mr. Obama has shown himself to be a man of the left, through and through. The class of 2010 will be less interested in compromise with the president than the class of 1994. And the new Speaker of the House, John Boehner, will have far less latitude to strike deals than did Newt Gingrich.

In 2011, Paul Ryan, chairman of the Budget Committee, will emerge as one of the five most important Republicans on Capitol Hill. Marco Rubio will become a GOP superstar. And wise Republicans will promote governors as the face of the Republican Party, reassuring both independents and conservatives who are skeptical about Congressional Republicans and their capacity to govern well.

The danger for Barack Obama is that in the wake of his party’s crushing defeat, he will show little genuine self-reflection. The president, David Axelrod, and Valerie Jarrett may well comfort themselves by telling each other, especially in their private moments, that the public — gripped by fear, irrationality, and a touch of bigotry — was not able to comprehend Obama’s true greatness. Tuesday’s results will be interpreted as a “communications” failure and laid at the feet of a bad economy, which (they will insist) Obama has nothing to do with.

In point of fact, the American people are seeing things for what they are. And if Mr. Obama continues to rationalize his party’s comeuppance by making excuses, blaming others, and lashing out at his “enemies,” the president’s problems — already enormous — will multiply.

Barack Obama’s political world is about to be rocked. We’ll see how he reacts to it.

On Tuesday, Democrats will suffer an epic defeat — worse even than in 1946, when Republicans gained 12 Senate seats and 55 House seats. The GOP will pick up at least 73 House seats, 10 Senate seats, and eight governorships. The GOP’s turnout will be huge and independents will break massively for Republican candidates across the country. Among Democrats, this will trigger despair and bitter recriminations. President Obama will immediately be placed on probation by his own party and may well face a serious primary challenge, just as Jimmy Carter did in 1979.

As Democrats sort through the rubble caused by Tuesday’s landslide — even Wisconsin will become a red state — they will realize what many of us have warned them of for quite some time: Barack Obama and his agenda are having a Kevorkian-like effect on the Democratic Party. If the economy doesn’t noticeably improve by next fall — and, at this stage, there are no signs that it will — more and more Democrats will find it in their self-interest to detach themselves from Obama. And Team Obama’s political strategy this cycle — in which they never settled on a consistent narrative beyond attacking huge swaths of the American people as being ignorant, unappreciative, and tinged with racism — will be judged as one of the most inept in American history.

The next two years will feature stalemate and confrontation between Capitol Hill and the White House. President Obama, unlike Bill Clinton, is not likely to tack to the center. Mr. Clinton was a New Democrat; Mr. Obama has shown himself to be a man of the left, through and through. The class of 2010 will be less interested in compromise with the president than the class of 1994. And the new Speaker of the House, John Boehner, will have far less latitude to strike deals than did Newt Gingrich.

In 2011, Paul Ryan, chairman of the Budget Committee, will emerge as one of the five most important Republicans on Capitol Hill. Marco Rubio will become a GOP superstar. And wise Republicans will promote governors as the face of the Republican Party, reassuring both independents and conservatives who are skeptical about Congressional Republicans and their capacity to govern well.

The danger for Barack Obama is that in the wake of his party’s crushing defeat, he will show little genuine self-reflection. The president, David Axelrod, and Valerie Jarrett may well comfort themselves by telling each other, especially in their private moments, that the public — gripped by fear, irrationality, and a touch of bigotry — was not able to comprehend Obama’s true greatness. Tuesday’s results will be interpreted as a “communications” failure and laid at the feet of a bad economy, which (they will insist) Obama has nothing to do with.

In point of fact, the American people are seeing things for what they are. And if Mr. Obama continues to rationalize his party’s comeuppance by making excuses, blaming others, and lashing out at his “enemies,” the president’s problems — already enormous — will multiply.

Barack Obama’s political world is about to be rocked. We’ll see how he reacts to it.

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Senate Coming into Focus

The House outcome is no longer in dispute. As Jay Cost put it, it is either a tsunami or a “tsunami-to-end-all-tsunamis.” But in the Senate, with fewer seats up for grabs and the ones in play in Blue States, the question for the Senate is: 10 or fewer?

The surest pickups for the Republicans are North Dakota, Arkansas, and Indiana. Pat Toomey has re-established his lead (or it was never gone, depending on which poll you like). Sharron Angle, Mark Kirk (David Axelrod is already coming up with excuses), and Ron Johnson seem to be holding narrow but steady leads. Ken Buck, Dino Rossi, John Raese, and Carly Fiorina (“In the not to be missed category, Sen. Dianne Feinstein, stepped way out of the spin cycle yesterday, as she is often wont to do. Feinstein … was asked how things were going, and she replied, ‘bad'”) are each up or down a few, but within the margin of error. Connecticut and Delaware no longer appear competitive for the Republicans, but the GOP seems likely to hold Florida, Ohio, New Hampshire, Missouri, and Kentucky. Alaska is, well, confused. But we can assume that should Lisa Murkowski win, thanks to the good spellers of Alaska (who will have to write in her name correctly), she will caucus with the GOP.

So, yes, 10 of the seats currently held by Democrats could fall the Republicans’ way. If only nine of them did, the focus would shift to Joe Lieberman and Ben Nelson to see if they’d switch sides. Or we could wind up with a still remarkable seven- or eight-seat pickup.

Yes, the chairmanships and the balance on the committees depend on who has a majority. But neither side will have close to a filibuster-proof majority. From the GOP perspective, with the House virtually in the bag (and the subpoena power and chairmanships along with the majority), it might not be the worst of all things to have a slim Democratic majority (and some responsibility for governance) and watch Chuck Schumer duke it out with Dick Durbin to be the leader of the Democratic caucus.

The House outcome is no longer in dispute. As Jay Cost put it, it is either a tsunami or a “tsunami-to-end-all-tsunamis.” But in the Senate, with fewer seats up for grabs and the ones in play in Blue States, the question for the Senate is: 10 or fewer?

The surest pickups for the Republicans are North Dakota, Arkansas, and Indiana. Pat Toomey has re-established his lead (or it was never gone, depending on which poll you like). Sharron Angle, Mark Kirk (David Axelrod is already coming up with excuses), and Ron Johnson seem to be holding narrow but steady leads. Ken Buck, Dino Rossi, John Raese, and Carly Fiorina (“In the not to be missed category, Sen. Dianne Feinstein, stepped way out of the spin cycle yesterday, as she is often wont to do. Feinstein … was asked how things were going, and she replied, ‘bad'”) are each up or down a few, but within the margin of error. Connecticut and Delaware no longer appear competitive for the Republicans, but the GOP seems likely to hold Florida, Ohio, New Hampshire, Missouri, and Kentucky. Alaska is, well, confused. But we can assume that should Lisa Murkowski win, thanks to the good spellers of Alaska (who will have to write in her name correctly), she will caucus with the GOP.

So, yes, 10 of the seats currently held by Democrats could fall the Republicans’ way. If only nine of them did, the focus would shift to Joe Lieberman and Ben Nelson to see if they’d switch sides. Or we could wind up with a still remarkable seven- or eight-seat pickup.

Yes, the chairmanships and the balance on the committees depend on who has a majority. But neither side will have close to a filibuster-proof majority. From the GOP perspective, with the House virtually in the bag (and the subpoena power and chairmanships along with the majority), it might not be the worst of all things to have a slim Democratic majority (and some responsibility for governance) and watch Chuck Schumer duke it out with Dick Durbin to be the leader of the Democratic caucus.

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We Are Not Defensive!

Yesterday, in typically measured and tightly reasoned fashion, Michael Gerson made the case that the president is a snob. This is not an observation unique to Gerson. Every outlet from the New York Times to the Daily Beast to the Weekly Standard has remarked on Obama’s serial habit of denigrating fellow Americans. But Obama’s defining characteristic may not be his snobbery.

It is, as we have seen in the nonstop attacks on all but the remaining true believers, his thin-skinnedness. The White House sees dupes or rabid enemies at Fox News, Gallup, the Chamber of Commerce, and Tea Party gatherings. So David Axelrod, perhaps the president’s adviser, feels compelled to come out and declare that the president is not a snob. Yes, a bit reminiscent of Nixon’s “I am not a crook.” And equally ineffective.

It is an error that the White House has repeated throughout its first two years: elevating critics while diminishing the president’s own standing. It makes one pine for a president with a superior temperament.

Yesterday, in typically measured and tightly reasoned fashion, Michael Gerson made the case that the president is a snob. This is not an observation unique to Gerson. Every outlet from the New York Times to the Daily Beast to the Weekly Standard has remarked on Obama’s serial habit of denigrating fellow Americans. But Obama’s defining characteristic may not be his snobbery.

It is, as we have seen in the nonstop attacks on all but the remaining true believers, his thin-skinnedness. The White House sees dupes or rabid enemies at Fox News, Gallup, the Chamber of Commerce, and Tea Party gatherings. So David Axelrod, perhaps the president’s adviser, feels compelled to come out and declare that the president is not a snob. Yes, a bit reminiscent of Nixon’s “I am not a crook.” And equally ineffective.

It is an error that the White House has repeated throughout its first two years: elevating critics while diminishing the president’s own standing. It makes one pine for a president with a superior temperament.

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The Least-Smart Diplomat of Them All

Jackson Diehl is the latest Middle East watcher to figure out what went wrong with the non-direct, non-peace talks:

For 15 years and more, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas conducted peace talks with Israel in the absence of a freeze on Jewish settlement construction in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. Now, it appears as likely as not that his newborn negotiations with Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu — and their goal of agreement on a Palestinian state within a year — will expire because of Abbas’s refusal to talk in the absence of such a freeze. …

So why does Abbas stubbornly persist in his self-defeating position? In an interview with Israeli television Sunday night, he offered a remarkably candid explanation: “When Obama came to power, he is the one who announced that settlement activity must be stopped,” he said. “If America says it and Europe says it and the whole world says it, you want me not to say it?”

Well, yes. Just as many conservative critics have been saying — the immediate problem is a self-created one (“the settlement impasse originated not with Netanyahu or Abbas, but with Obama — who by insisting on an Israeli freeze has created a near-insuperable obstacle to the peace process he is trying to promote”). The longer-term problem is that the PA is not ready and able to make an enforceable peace agreement that recognizes the Jewish state. That, too, Abbas has candidly admitted.

You say, but doesn’t Dennis Ross or George Mitchell or Hillary Clinton know better? Maybe not. But even if they do, Obama is running the show, and he plainly doesn’t. Obama and his political hacks David Axelrod and Rahm Emanuel may have figured they could topple the Bibi government. But when that didn’t occur, what was the rationale for reintroducing the issue in September? The most generous explanation is that Obama is a novice and unteachable when it comes to the Middle East. A cynic would say that Obama knows very well that the PA can’t make a deal and would rather put the screws on Israel than figure out a way to keep the talks going.

Either way, Obama’s team has achieved some domestic bipartisan consensus here in the U.S.: his administration screwed this up, the PA is intransigent, and it is high time we stopped blaming Israel. For that, I suppose, we can be grateful.

Jackson Diehl is the latest Middle East watcher to figure out what went wrong with the non-direct, non-peace talks:

For 15 years and more, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas conducted peace talks with Israel in the absence of a freeze on Jewish settlement construction in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. Now, it appears as likely as not that his newborn negotiations with Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu — and their goal of agreement on a Palestinian state within a year — will expire because of Abbas’s refusal to talk in the absence of such a freeze. …

So why does Abbas stubbornly persist in his self-defeating position? In an interview with Israeli television Sunday night, he offered a remarkably candid explanation: “When Obama came to power, he is the one who announced that settlement activity must be stopped,” he said. “If America says it and Europe says it and the whole world says it, you want me not to say it?”

Well, yes. Just as many conservative critics have been saying — the immediate problem is a self-created one (“the settlement impasse originated not with Netanyahu or Abbas, but with Obama — who by insisting on an Israeli freeze has created a near-insuperable obstacle to the peace process he is trying to promote”). The longer-term problem is that the PA is not ready and able to make an enforceable peace agreement that recognizes the Jewish state. That, too, Abbas has candidly admitted.

You say, but doesn’t Dennis Ross or George Mitchell or Hillary Clinton know better? Maybe not. But even if they do, Obama is running the show, and he plainly doesn’t. Obama and his political hacks David Axelrod and Rahm Emanuel may have figured they could topple the Bibi government. But when that didn’t occur, what was the rationale for reintroducing the issue in September? The most generous explanation is that Obama is a novice and unteachable when it comes to the Middle East. A cynic would say that Obama knows very well that the PA can’t make a deal and would rather put the screws on Israel than figure out a way to keep the talks going.

Either way, Obama’s team has achieved some domestic bipartisan consensus here in the U.S.: his administration screwed this up, the PA is intransigent, and it is high time we stopped blaming Israel. For that, I suppose, we can be grateful.

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This Is All They’ve Got?

Liz Cheney, Howard Dean, and Bill Galston mixed it up on Face the Nation. Howard Dean didn’t have much material to work with. So he was back to arguing that the Tea Party is a fringe, racist group. As to that, Cheney responded:

I mean, I think that this notion that the tea parties is too far right is really wishful thinking or that the Republican Party is somehow on the fringe or the extreme of the American electorate. Again, I think it’s wishful thinking. I think that– you know all you have to do is look at somebody like Marco Rubio who won the Republican primary in Florida. And when he did, a lot of the pundits said, well, that’s great. He won the primary, but he’s clearly won be able to win the general election. And, he now has double-digit lead over Charlie Crist in that election. Crist was supposed to be the moderate Republican, who was going to come in and demonstrate that he could capture this supposed mass number of people who are in the center–just not the case. What the Tea Party stands for is a set of conservative principles which are for limited government, low taxes–really individual rights. And, you know, those aren’t fringe. I would say those are fundamental American values. So, you know, I understand why Governor Dean may be wanting to try to portray this as fringe, But I– I’d say, you know, continue to do that because I think that fringe is going to, in fact, demonstrate to you that they have enough support to have a very big win come election day this November.

Then there is the Chamber of Commerce. On this one, Dean felt obliged to wiggle away from the White House’s unsubstantiated charge. Again Dean came out looking rather feeble:

HOWARD DEAN: The Chamber of Commerce has become an arm of — finance arm of the Republican Party.
LIZ CHENEY (overlapping): Do you have evidence?
HOWARD DEAN: It’s ridiculous.
LIZ CHENEY (overlapping): Governor Dean, do you have evidence that any foreign money from the Chamber of Commerce is going into the American election right now.
HOWARD DEAN: That is not the issue. The issue is we have a right to–
LIZ CHENEY (overlapping): Well, that’s what David Axelrod–
HOWARD DEAN (overlapping): — we have a right to know if foreign money is going into the–
LIZ CHENEY (overlapping): — and the President of the United States thinks that’s the issue.
HOWARD DEAN: And we have a right to know if foreign money is going —
LIZ CHENEY (overlapping): That’s not the charge the President has made. … Governor Dean, look. If — if the President of the United States is going to stand up and make a charge, you can try to throw spaghetti here and see what sticks and hits. The President said there is foreign money from the Chamber of Commerce going into this election cycle through Republican Candidates. That’s not true. It’s not fair and it’s an abomination and a shame that he’s attempting to chill First Amendment rights–

That’s essentially what the Democrats are left with — arguing that a mass movement that has fielded front-running candidates is a fringe gang of racists and accusing with zero evidence that the GOP is taking foreign money via the Chamber of Commerce. If this seems rather lame to you, evidence that the Obama agenda is a political loser, you are not alone. On Election Day, the majority of voters, I suspect, will agree.

Liz Cheney, Howard Dean, and Bill Galston mixed it up on Face the Nation. Howard Dean didn’t have much material to work with. So he was back to arguing that the Tea Party is a fringe, racist group. As to that, Cheney responded:

I mean, I think that this notion that the tea parties is too far right is really wishful thinking or that the Republican Party is somehow on the fringe or the extreme of the American electorate. Again, I think it’s wishful thinking. I think that– you know all you have to do is look at somebody like Marco Rubio who won the Republican primary in Florida. And when he did, a lot of the pundits said, well, that’s great. He won the primary, but he’s clearly won be able to win the general election. And, he now has double-digit lead over Charlie Crist in that election. Crist was supposed to be the moderate Republican, who was going to come in and demonstrate that he could capture this supposed mass number of people who are in the center–just not the case. What the Tea Party stands for is a set of conservative principles which are for limited government, low taxes–really individual rights. And, you know, those aren’t fringe. I would say those are fundamental American values. So, you know, I understand why Governor Dean may be wanting to try to portray this as fringe, But I– I’d say, you know, continue to do that because I think that fringe is going to, in fact, demonstrate to you that they have enough support to have a very big win come election day this November.

Then there is the Chamber of Commerce. On this one, Dean felt obliged to wiggle away from the White House’s unsubstantiated charge. Again Dean came out looking rather feeble:

HOWARD DEAN: The Chamber of Commerce has become an arm of — finance arm of the Republican Party.
LIZ CHENEY (overlapping): Do you have evidence?
HOWARD DEAN: It’s ridiculous.
LIZ CHENEY (overlapping): Governor Dean, do you have evidence that any foreign money from the Chamber of Commerce is going into the American election right now.
HOWARD DEAN: That is not the issue. The issue is we have a right to–
LIZ CHENEY (overlapping): Well, that’s what David Axelrod–
HOWARD DEAN (overlapping): — we have a right to know if foreign money is going into the–
LIZ CHENEY (overlapping): — and the President of the United States thinks that’s the issue.
HOWARD DEAN: And we have a right to know if foreign money is going —
LIZ CHENEY (overlapping): That’s not the charge the President has made. … Governor Dean, look. If — if the President of the United States is going to stand up and make a charge, you can try to throw spaghetti here and see what sticks and hits. The President said there is foreign money from the Chamber of Commerce going into this election cycle through Republican Candidates. That’s not true. It’s not fair and it’s an abomination and a shame that he’s attempting to chill First Amendment rights–

That’s essentially what the Democrats are left with — arguing that a mass movement that has fielded front-running candidates is a fringe gang of racists and accusing with zero evidence that the GOP is taking foreign money via the Chamber of Commerce. If this seems rather lame to you, evidence that the Obama agenda is a political loser, you are not alone. On Election Day, the majority of voters, I suspect, will agree.

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Abuse of Power

It is astonishing, really.

The president of the United States has accused the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, despite its denial and without supporting evidence, of illegally funneling foreign money into U.S. campaigns. “Just this week,” Barack Obama said recently about the chamber, “we learned that one of the largest groups paying for these [political] ads regularly takes in money from foreign corporations. So groups that receive foreign money are spending huge sums to influence American elections.”

On CBS’s Face the Nation, host Bob Schieffer asked David Axelrod, senior adviser to the president, if there is any evidence to support their accusation. Axelrod responded this way: “Well, do you have any evidence that it’s not, Bob?”

Likewise, Obama’s press secretary, Robert Gibbs, wouldn’t back away from the incendiary charges yesterday. “The president will continue to make the argument that we don’t know where this money comes from and entities like the Chamber have said they get money from overseas,” Gibbs told reporters at the White House.

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It is astonishing, really.

The president of the United States has accused the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, despite its denial and without supporting evidence, of illegally funneling foreign money into U.S. campaigns. “Just this week,” Barack Obama said recently about the chamber, “we learned that one of the largest groups paying for these [political] ads regularly takes in money from foreign corporations. So groups that receive foreign money are spending huge sums to influence American elections.”

On CBS’s Face the Nation, host Bob Schieffer asked David Axelrod, senior adviser to the president, if there is any evidence to support their accusation. Axelrod responded this way: “Well, do you have any evidence that it’s not, Bob?”

Likewise, Obama’s press secretary, Robert Gibbs, wouldn’t back away from the incendiary charges yesterday. “The president will continue to make the argument that we don’t know where this money comes from and entities like the Chamber have said they get money from overseas,” Gibbs told reporters at the White House.

Set aside the hypocrisy of this whole episode. (My former White House colleague Ed Gillespie points out that no Democrats, least of all Obama, expressed concern about such outside spending in 2008, when more than $400 million was spent to help elect Barack Obama, much of it from undisclosed donors.) Set aside the fact that Mr. Axelrod concedes that the chamber is abiding by long-standing rules, that it doesn’t have to disclose its donors list, and that no other organizations are disclosing theirs. Set aside the fact that the chamber has 115 foreign-member affiliates who pay a total of less than $100,000 in membership dues to a group whose total budget is more than $200 million. And set aside the fact that various news organizations have dismissed the charges, including the New York Times, which reports, “a closer examination shows that there is little evidence that what the chamber does in collecting overseas dues is improper or even unusual, according to both liberal and conservative election-law lawyers and campaign finance documents.”

What we are witnessing is the abuse of power. We are now in a situation in which the president and his most senior advisers feel completely at liberty to throw out unsubstantiated charges and put the burden on people (and institutions) to prove their innocence. Liberals once referred to such tactics as McCarthyism. But Joseph McCarthy, for all his abuses, was “only” a United States senator, one member out of 100. The president and his advisers, on the other hand, have at their disposal far more power and the ability to inflict far more injury.

What Obama and his aides are demanding is that the Chamber of Commerce prove a negative — and in doing so, they are trying to intimidate the chamber into disclosing what is, by law, privileged information. “If the Chamber doesn’t have anything to hide about these contributions,” Mr. Axelrod says, “and I take them at their word that they don’t, then why not disclose? Why not let people see where their money is coming from?”

Let’s see if we can help Mr. Axelrod out by providing him with an explanation.

For one thing, he is employing the guilty-until-proven-innocent argument. For another, the White House’s standard is being selectively applied. And it encourages slanderous charges because it forces innocent people to disprove them. All this is troubling in any case; but it is triply pernicious when it is practiced by those with unmatched power, because they have an unparalleled capacity to intimidate American citizens.

In further answering Axelrod’s argument, consider this thought experiment. It’s the year 2021, and a partisan critic of a future president repeatedly asserts that the president is addicted to child pornography. It turns out that the critic has no proof of the charge — but when told he is asking the president to prove a negative, he responds: “I take the president at his word. But just to be sure, we’d like to examine his phone records and text messages, his computer accounts, and his credit card receipts. What we want, in other words, is full access to all the relevant information we need. After all, if he’s innocent, why not disclose this information? Why not let people see what you’re doing with your life and free time?”

It must be obvious to Messrs. Axelrod and Obama that what they are doing is irresponsible, dangerous, and deeply illiberal. It’s important to note, however, that this libel is taking place within a particular context. The attack on the Chamber of Commerce is only the most recent link in a long chain. The Obama White House has targeted Karl Rove, Ed Gillespie, and John Boehner; George W. Bush and Dick Cheney; conservative talk radio; Fox News; the state of Arizona; the Supreme Court (for its decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission); members of the Tea Party; critics of ObamaCare who attended town hall meetings; pharmaceutical, insurance, and oil companies; corporate executives, Wall Street, and the “rich.”

All this ugliness comes to us courtesy of a man who said during the 2008 campaign that “the times are too serious, the stakes are too high for this same partisan playbook”; who told us that we should “resist the temptation to fall back on the same partisanship and pettiness and immaturity that has poisoned our politics for so long”; and who assured us, on the night of his election, “I will listen to you, especially when we disagree.”

Back in October 2009, I wrote about this White House’s burning anger and resentment toward its critics and what it foreshadowed. That inferno is burning hotter than ever – and if it goes unchecked, it will eventually lead to a crisis.

In an August 16, 1971, memorandum from White House Counsel John Dean to Lawrence Higby, titled “Dealing with our Political Enemies,” Dean wrote:

This memorandum addresses the matter of how we can maximize the fact of our incumbency in dealing with persons known to be active in their opposition to our Administration; stated a bit more bluntly – how we can use the available federal machinery to screw our political enemies.

At comparable stages in their first terms, the Obama administration seems to be at least as eager as the Nixon administration to use the available federal machinery to “screw our political enemies.” We know how things turned out for the Nixon administration. President Obama cannot say he hasn’t been forewarned.

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Changing Washington, All Right

Ed Gillespie is justifiably steamed at the White House. He writes:

In their latest attempt to distract voters from their job-killing policies, President Obama, his White House and senior Democrats in Congress have added to their long list of bogeymen the outside groups that seek to help elect Republicans in November. They threaten congressional investigations, discuss private tax information and level baseless accusations of criminal activity against those who have been public in seeking to defeat Democratic candidates and their liberal agenda. Without a trace of irony, powerful Democratic officeholders lament that many who support these groups wish to remain anonymous.

None of these Democrats expressed concern about such outside spending in 2008, when more than $400 million was spent to help elect Barack Obama, much of it from undisclosed donors.

And if that were not enough, Obama’s closest political hack, Tailgunner David Axelrod, insists that no proof of wrongdoing was needed, “that it was up to the chamber to prove it hadn’t done anything wrong. In the West Wing, apparently, the American principle is that you’re guilty until proven innocent, and our highest elected and appointed officials are there to hurl the charges.”

The White House’s latest gambit reflects nearly all the worst qualities of the Obama administration — indifference to the facts, hyper-partisanship, political bullying, and excuse-mongering. For a candidate who wanted to change the tone and the way business is done in Washington, Obama has succeeded — in making both far worse than it has been for decades.

Ed Gillespie is justifiably steamed at the White House. He writes:

In their latest attempt to distract voters from their job-killing policies, President Obama, his White House and senior Democrats in Congress have added to their long list of bogeymen the outside groups that seek to help elect Republicans in November. They threaten congressional investigations, discuss private tax information and level baseless accusations of criminal activity against those who have been public in seeking to defeat Democratic candidates and their liberal agenda. Without a trace of irony, powerful Democratic officeholders lament that many who support these groups wish to remain anonymous.

None of these Democrats expressed concern about such outside spending in 2008, when more than $400 million was spent to help elect Barack Obama, much of it from undisclosed donors.

And if that were not enough, Obama’s closest political hack, Tailgunner David Axelrod, insists that no proof of wrongdoing was needed, “that it was up to the chamber to prove it hadn’t done anything wrong. In the West Wing, apparently, the American principle is that you’re guilty until proven innocent, and our highest elected and appointed officials are there to hurl the charges.”

The White House’s latest gambit reflects nearly all the worst qualities of the Obama administration — indifference to the facts, hyper-partisanship, political bullying, and excuse-mongering. For a candidate who wanted to change the tone and the way business is done in Washington, Obama has succeeded — in making both far worse than it has been for decades.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

This is what desperation looks like: “Forget the myth of an Obama recovery. The past week has been disastrous for the White House and America’s increasingly disillusioned Left. No wonder the angry and desperate Vice President Joe Biden is talking about ‘playing hell’ if his party suffers defeat in November.”

This is what old-style politics sounds like: “White House senior adviser David Axelrod said the U.S. Chamber of Commerce has the burden of proving false the charge by Democrats that the business group is funneling foreign money to Republican campaigns. Axelrod was pressed by CBS’ Bob Schieffer on Sunday for evidence that the foreign campaign contributions benefiting the GOP is more than ‘peanuts.’  ‘Do you have any evidence that it’s not, Bob?’ Axelrod said on ‘Face the Nation.’  Ed Gillespie responded that it “was ‘an unbelievable mentality’ for Axelrod to assert charges about foreign contributions without backing them up.” It’s all too believable, unfortunately.

This is what a wave election looks like: “Democrats are buying advertising in places they hadn’t previously reserved it, a strong indication the battlefield is expanding. That includes New England, which hasn’t a single Republican House member. A new ad by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee began airing this week in the Massachusetts district covering Cape Cod, where Democratic Rep. Bill Delahunt is retiring and ex-police sergeant Jeff Perry is posting a strong GOP challenge.”

This is what a lousy TV appearance looks like: “Alexi Giannoulias, the Illinois Democrat running for President Obama’s old Senate seat, said Sunday that he wants to “reform” the president’s health care overhaul, and that the $814 billion stimulus was imperfect but that it prevented Americans from standing in soup lines. Giannoulias, who appeared on NBC’s ‘Meet the Press’ to debate Republican Mark Kirk, was on the defensive throughout the debate regarding Obama’s policies, as well as his past work for his family’s community bank and its ties to mob figures.”

This is what an eloquent first lady’s writing looks like: “Though some Afghan leaders have condemned the violence and defended the rights of women, others maintain a complicit silence in hopes of achieving peace. But peace attained by compromising the rights of half of the population will not last. Offenses against women erode security for all Afghans — men and women. And a culture that tolerates injustice against one group of its people ultimately fails to respect and value all its citizens.” Yeah, I miss her too.

This is what the GOP sounded like in 2006. “The chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee brushed off various members’ ads touting opposition to President Obama and Speakers Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), saying that it simply shows the party is a big tent unlike the right.”

This is what “hope and change” looks like? “President Obama’s new National Security Advisor spent the decade prior to joining the White House as a legal advisor to powerful interests including Goldman Sachs and Citigroup, and as a lobbyist for Fannie Mae, where he oversaw the mortgage giant’s aggressive campaign to undermine the credibility of a probe into its accounting irregularities, according to government reports and public disclosure forms. … While housing sales were still booming, internally these were troubled years for the company. In a report first noted by ABC News in 2008, Donilon is described as someone who lobbied for and helped paint a rosy picture of Fannie Mae’s financial health to the company’s board. He did so at a time when Fannie Mae faced accusations that it was misstating its earnings from 1998 to 2004.”

This is what a flaky candidate sounds like: “Jerry Brown: Mammograms not effective.”

This is what desperation looks like: “Forget the myth of an Obama recovery. The past week has been disastrous for the White House and America’s increasingly disillusioned Left. No wonder the angry and desperate Vice President Joe Biden is talking about ‘playing hell’ if his party suffers defeat in November.”

This is what old-style politics sounds like: “White House senior adviser David Axelrod said the U.S. Chamber of Commerce has the burden of proving false the charge by Democrats that the business group is funneling foreign money to Republican campaigns. Axelrod was pressed by CBS’ Bob Schieffer on Sunday for evidence that the foreign campaign contributions benefiting the GOP is more than ‘peanuts.’  ‘Do you have any evidence that it’s not, Bob?’ Axelrod said on ‘Face the Nation.’  Ed Gillespie responded that it “was ‘an unbelievable mentality’ for Axelrod to assert charges about foreign contributions without backing them up.” It’s all too believable, unfortunately.

This is what a wave election looks like: “Democrats are buying advertising in places they hadn’t previously reserved it, a strong indication the battlefield is expanding. That includes New England, which hasn’t a single Republican House member. A new ad by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee began airing this week in the Massachusetts district covering Cape Cod, where Democratic Rep. Bill Delahunt is retiring and ex-police sergeant Jeff Perry is posting a strong GOP challenge.”

This is what a lousy TV appearance looks like: “Alexi Giannoulias, the Illinois Democrat running for President Obama’s old Senate seat, said Sunday that he wants to “reform” the president’s health care overhaul, and that the $814 billion stimulus was imperfect but that it prevented Americans from standing in soup lines. Giannoulias, who appeared on NBC’s ‘Meet the Press’ to debate Republican Mark Kirk, was on the defensive throughout the debate regarding Obama’s policies, as well as his past work for his family’s community bank and its ties to mob figures.”

This is what an eloquent first lady’s writing looks like: “Though some Afghan leaders have condemned the violence and defended the rights of women, others maintain a complicit silence in hopes of achieving peace. But peace attained by compromising the rights of half of the population will not last. Offenses against women erode security for all Afghans — men and women. And a culture that tolerates injustice against one group of its people ultimately fails to respect and value all its citizens.” Yeah, I miss her too.

This is what the GOP sounded like in 2006. “The chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee brushed off various members’ ads touting opposition to President Obama and Speakers Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), saying that it simply shows the party is a big tent unlike the right.”

This is what “hope and change” looks like? “President Obama’s new National Security Advisor spent the decade prior to joining the White House as a legal advisor to powerful interests including Goldman Sachs and Citigroup, and as a lobbyist for Fannie Mae, where he oversaw the mortgage giant’s aggressive campaign to undermine the credibility of a probe into its accounting irregularities, according to government reports and public disclosure forms. … While housing sales were still booming, internally these were troubled years for the company. In a report first noted by ABC News in 2008, Donilon is described as someone who lobbied for and helped paint a rosy picture of Fannie Mae’s financial health to the company’s board. He did so at a time when Fannie Mae faced accusations that it was misstating its earnings from 1998 to 2004.”

This is what a flaky candidate sounds like: “Jerry Brown: Mammograms not effective.”

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White House Retreat on Ground Zero Mosque?

David Axelrod and Elie Wiesel had a conversation at the 92nd Street Y. Axelrod, and presumably his boss, are disappointed with us — still — for our lack of moral sophistication. On the reaction to the Ground Zero mosque:

“It goes to the soul of our country — that sourness is something that is understandable in these kind of times,” said Axelrod, who arrived in Washington with Obama’s promise of a new tone in public life. “I think one of our great missions is to regenerate that sense of possibility that has always characterized the spirit of our country …

“We’ve seen in our history and the histories of other country — sometimes in tragic ways — what happens when there is a sense of economic distress and how it divides people.”

But had Axelrod come merely to grouse? Or was there an escape plan in the works for the Ground Zero debacle, which has left the president politically isolated even within his own party?

Wiesel, 82, said his solution would be to affirm to Imam Faisal Rauf that “I know your intentions are good” but that his plan would “hurt some people who have suffered.”

“Let’s turn it around — let’s do it together. Jews, Christians, and Muslims together will create this place, a center for interfaith, but sponsored together, financed together, worked out programs tighter, and show a symbol of solidarity, of religious solidarity,” Wiesel said. “It can become a very great symbol here — a great monument for humanity.”

“That sounds like a wonderful idea,” Axelrod replied, later calling it “a great idea” and one that “gives me hope.”

Umm, if it’s such a wonderful idea — and some would say one of the many obvious alternatives to a Muslim monument on the ashes of 3,000 innocents killed in the name of Islam — why didn’t the president and his crack team suggest it earlier? Why did the president refuse to engage in concerns about propriety and restraint, insisting, rather, that this was all about Muslims’ religious rights and the prejudices of the rest of us?

Now maybe Axelrod was freelancing here. But I doubt it. He is, as we’ve been told, one of the president’s inner circle of advisers, indeed one of those who egged on the president to support the Ground Zero mosque. It is, I think, a rather embarrassing retreat — some would say craven — for the administration to hide behind Elie Wiesel to resolve a political mess of its own making.

But if Axelrod is serious, shouldn’t the president follow up with a call for Rauf, asking him to rethink the essence of the project? It would, of course, be altogether fitting and indeed necessary to rename it as well. Why not the Elie Wiesel Center for Religious Tolerance? I await the enthusiastic endorsement of CAIR.

David Axelrod and Elie Wiesel had a conversation at the 92nd Street Y. Axelrod, and presumably his boss, are disappointed with us — still — for our lack of moral sophistication. On the reaction to the Ground Zero mosque:

“It goes to the soul of our country — that sourness is something that is understandable in these kind of times,” said Axelrod, who arrived in Washington with Obama’s promise of a new tone in public life. “I think one of our great missions is to regenerate that sense of possibility that has always characterized the spirit of our country …

“We’ve seen in our history and the histories of other country — sometimes in tragic ways — what happens when there is a sense of economic distress and how it divides people.”

But had Axelrod come merely to grouse? Or was there an escape plan in the works for the Ground Zero debacle, which has left the president politically isolated even within his own party?

Wiesel, 82, said his solution would be to affirm to Imam Faisal Rauf that “I know your intentions are good” but that his plan would “hurt some people who have suffered.”

“Let’s turn it around — let’s do it together. Jews, Christians, and Muslims together will create this place, a center for interfaith, but sponsored together, financed together, worked out programs tighter, and show a symbol of solidarity, of religious solidarity,” Wiesel said. “It can become a very great symbol here — a great monument for humanity.”

“That sounds like a wonderful idea,” Axelrod replied, later calling it “a great idea” and one that “gives me hope.”

Umm, if it’s such a wonderful idea — and some would say one of the many obvious alternatives to a Muslim monument on the ashes of 3,000 innocents killed in the name of Islam — why didn’t the president and his crack team suggest it earlier? Why did the president refuse to engage in concerns about propriety and restraint, insisting, rather, that this was all about Muslims’ religious rights and the prejudices of the rest of us?

Now maybe Axelrod was freelancing here. But I doubt it. He is, as we’ve been told, one of the president’s inner circle of advisers, indeed one of those who egged on the president to support the Ground Zero mosque. It is, I think, a rather embarrassing retreat — some would say craven — for the administration to hide behind Elie Wiesel to resolve a political mess of its own making.

But if Axelrod is serious, shouldn’t the president follow up with a call for Rauf, asking him to rethink the essence of the project? It would, of course, be altogether fitting and indeed necessary to rename it as well. Why not the Elie Wiesel Center for Religious Tolerance? I await the enthusiastic endorsement of CAIR.

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Chasing Away Donors

No wonder David Axelrod and the president are whining about money. Their side is short on it. It seems the big donors who gave so lavishly in 2008 are keeping their checkbooks closed this year. The New York Times explains:

The absence of these Democratic megadonors is contributing to a huge disparity in spending between pro-Republican and pro-Democratic groups. The groups wield huge influence in many House and Senate races because they can take in contributions of unlimited size.

In the last week, Republican-leaning groups outspent their Democratic counterparts on television by more than seven to one on Senate races and nearly four to one on House races across the country, according to data from the Campaign Media Analysis Group, which tracks political advertising. The gap shows few signs of abating, even with the midterm election season in full swing.

Why the stinginess? Well, the economy is bad, the party is going to lose big time — and the president excoriated independent spending, says the Gray Lady. You mean his donors took him seriously and got nervous? Seems so — another Obama brainstorm gone bad. It seems George Soros (aside from his J Street largess) is tightening the purse strings, as are other mega-donors. “Many major donors, in fact, seem to be drawing a distinction between continuing to support left-leaning policy organizations and other institutions, and giving money to political groups focused on this election.”

In sum, Obama’s policies have turned off business and leftist donors, and his rants on expenditures dimmed these people’s enthusiasm for campaign giving:

Some more ideological donors are also upset that the Obama administration has not been more aggressive in pushing a liberal agenda. Big donors from Wall Street, including hedge fund executives and investment bankers, are also angry at the administration.

It also appears, however, that Republicans have outmaneuvered their Democratic counterparts since the Citizens United decision. They have taken advantage of Democratic broadsides against the ruling, which have inevitably had an effect on the attitudes of Democratic donors.

For a campaign operation as astute as this one was, the Obama team has managed to turn off the electorate, its donors, and the media. That’s an impressive accomplishment.

No wonder David Axelrod and the president are whining about money. Their side is short on it. It seems the big donors who gave so lavishly in 2008 are keeping their checkbooks closed this year. The New York Times explains:

The absence of these Democratic megadonors is contributing to a huge disparity in spending between pro-Republican and pro-Democratic groups. The groups wield huge influence in many House and Senate races because they can take in contributions of unlimited size.

In the last week, Republican-leaning groups outspent their Democratic counterparts on television by more than seven to one on Senate races and nearly four to one on House races across the country, according to data from the Campaign Media Analysis Group, which tracks political advertising. The gap shows few signs of abating, even with the midterm election season in full swing.

Why the stinginess? Well, the economy is bad, the party is going to lose big time — and the president excoriated independent spending, says the Gray Lady. You mean his donors took him seriously and got nervous? Seems so — another Obama brainstorm gone bad. It seems George Soros (aside from his J Street largess) is tightening the purse strings, as are other mega-donors. “Many major donors, in fact, seem to be drawing a distinction between continuing to support left-leaning policy organizations and other institutions, and giving money to political groups focused on this election.”

In sum, Obama’s policies have turned off business and leftist donors, and his rants on expenditures dimmed these people’s enthusiasm for campaign giving:

Some more ideological donors are also upset that the Obama administration has not been more aggressive in pushing a liberal agenda. Big donors from Wall Street, including hedge fund executives and investment bankers, are also angry at the administration.

It also appears, however, that Republicans have outmaneuvered their Democratic counterparts since the Citizens United decision. They have taken advantage of Democratic broadsides against the ruling, which have inevitably had an effect on the attitudes of Democratic donors.

For a campaign operation as astute as this one was, the Obama team has managed to turn off the electorate, its donors, and the media. That’s an impressive accomplishment.

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If the Rubes Would Just Pay Attention!

Poor John Kerry. It’s not like every Democrat, including the president and David Axelrod, hasn’t said pretty much the same thing. But it’s just so darn easy to pick on the multi-millionaire whose yacht-docking tax scam went awry. Yesterday he pronounced :

A testy U.S. Sen. John F. Kerry yesterday blamed clueless voters with short attention spans for the uphill battle beleaguered Democrats are facing against Republicans across the nation. “We have an electorate that doesn’t always pay that much attention to what’s going on so people are influenced by a simple slogan rather than the facts or the truth or what’s happening,” Kerry told reporters after touring the Boston Medical Center yesterday.

Really, when you employ simplistic slogans and nonsensical messages, you run the risk of debasing the political system.

Then he went on to clarify that it really is the Republicans’ fault. (“Kerry added that voters should be mad at stonewalling Republicans and ‘big money’ in politics instead, referring to a bill blocked by Republicans Thursday that would reveal corporate and union leaders who fund big-bucks political ads.”)

What’s not to like about a campaign based on insulting the voters and blaming the minority party?

Poor John Kerry. It’s not like every Democrat, including the president and David Axelrod, hasn’t said pretty much the same thing. But it’s just so darn easy to pick on the multi-millionaire whose yacht-docking tax scam went awry. Yesterday he pronounced :

A testy U.S. Sen. John F. Kerry yesterday blamed clueless voters with short attention spans for the uphill battle beleaguered Democrats are facing against Republicans across the nation. “We have an electorate that doesn’t always pay that much attention to what’s going on so people are influenced by a simple slogan rather than the facts or the truth or what’s happening,” Kerry told reporters after touring the Boston Medical Center yesterday.

Really, when you employ simplistic slogans and nonsensical messages, you run the risk of debasing the political system.

Then he went on to clarify that it really is the Republicans’ fault. (“Kerry added that voters should be mad at stonewalling Republicans and ‘big money’ in politics instead, referring to a bill blocked by Republicans Thursday that would reveal corporate and union leaders who fund big-bucks political ads.”)

What’s not to like about a campaign based on insulting the voters and blaming the minority party?

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What’s Really Eating David Axelrod

In a New Republic cover story by Noam Scheiber, “What’s Really Eating David Axelrod? The Disillusionment of Obama’s Political Guru,” we are told this:

Obama and Axelrod both believe in changing Washington for its own sake. “It’s in the president’s nature, it’s also in David’s nature,” says Stephanie Cutter, a senior White House aide. … Whatever his tendency to fall in and out of love with politicians, there’s no evidence Axelrod has soured on Barack Obama. Quite the contrary — he is said to take enormous pride in the president’s legislative accomplishments. “When Obama rejects Axe’s political advice, David’s attitude is not like, ‘Why isn’t he listening to me?’” says one administra­tion official. “It’s more like, ‘This is why I love this guy. He’s willing to follow his heart even when the short-term politics are not with him.”’  Instead, the source of Axelrod’s disillusionment these days is Washington itself. … As long as he was a civilian, Axelrod could blame the pace of change on the flawed politicians he helped elect. He could always move on and invest his hopes in someone else. But now that he’s serving in government, it’s clear that the problem isn’t so much flawed people — though, like anyone, Obama has his flaws — as a ferociously stubborn, possibly irredeemable system. For an idealist like David Axelrod, that may be the most terrifying thought of all.

David Axelrod, like Obama’s other aides, begins with an unshakable premise: Barack Obama is a man of almost superhuman gifts and virtues. Yet even Axelrod cannot deny the beating the president and his party are being administered. The president has passed much of his agenda — and, in the process, he has become very nearly radioactive. Mr. Obama’s popularity is reaching new lows, distrust of the federal government is reaching new highs, independents are fleeing him and the Democratic party in striking numbers, and Democratic candidates are explicitly running against Obama and his record. The opposition to Obamaism is extraordinary in its depth and passion.

So how does someone like Axelrod reconcile his premise with this unpleasant reality? Why, blame Washington and the political establishment, of course. The system is not only “ferociously stubborn,” but quite possibly “irredeemable.” Barack Obama’s failures, you see, are the fault of the founders.

We have all heard this before — during the Carter years, when it was said the presidency was too large for any single person; and from Ronald Reagan’s first OMB director, David Stockman, who became deeply disillusioned when his budget-cutting agenda ran up against our system of checks and balances. In his book The Triumph of Politics, Stockman wrote this: “There is only one thing worse [than politicians with short time horizons], and that is ideological hubris. It is the assumption that the world can be made better by being remade overnight.”

This is precisely what Axelrod and many in Obama’s inner circle are afflicted with. And whatever problems plague Washington, they are not new. Nothing fundamental has changed about Washington since Obama ran for president in 2008, promising to drive the moneychangers out of the temple.

Governing always seems easier from afar — and every public official experiences a gap between his hopes and his achievements. But in this instance, a group of arrogant, zealous aides — devoted to an arrogant, ideological man — thought they could remake the world and transform Washington easily and instantaneously. But now that they have been at the helm for a bit more than 20 months, idealism is giving way to crushing disillusionment.

“The blind faith in, and passion for, Obama was like nothing [Anita] Dunn had ever seen before,” we read in Game Change. “Around Hopefund they joked about it all the time, praying it wouldn’t go to Obama’s head; his ego was robust enough already. They even conferred on the senator a new nickname: ‘Black Jesus.’”

Investing that much hope in a single individual was destined to end in disenchantment. There is a cautionary tale and an important reminder in all of this: The best public servants are individuals whose idealism is tempered with realism and maturity, who understand and appreciate the nature of American government, who are steady and well-grounded, and who understand the difference between politics and romantic dreams.

In a New Republic cover story by Noam Scheiber, “What’s Really Eating David Axelrod? The Disillusionment of Obama’s Political Guru,” we are told this:

Obama and Axelrod both believe in changing Washington for its own sake. “It’s in the president’s nature, it’s also in David’s nature,” says Stephanie Cutter, a senior White House aide. … Whatever his tendency to fall in and out of love with politicians, there’s no evidence Axelrod has soured on Barack Obama. Quite the contrary — he is said to take enormous pride in the president’s legislative accomplishments. “When Obama rejects Axe’s political advice, David’s attitude is not like, ‘Why isn’t he listening to me?’” says one administra­tion official. “It’s more like, ‘This is why I love this guy. He’s willing to follow his heart even when the short-term politics are not with him.”’  Instead, the source of Axelrod’s disillusionment these days is Washington itself. … As long as he was a civilian, Axelrod could blame the pace of change on the flawed politicians he helped elect. He could always move on and invest his hopes in someone else. But now that he’s serving in government, it’s clear that the problem isn’t so much flawed people — though, like anyone, Obama has his flaws — as a ferociously stubborn, possibly irredeemable system. For an idealist like David Axelrod, that may be the most terrifying thought of all.

David Axelrod, like Obama’s other aides, begins with an unshakable premise: Barack Obama is a man of almost superhuman gifts and virtues. Yet even Axelrod cannot deny the beating the president and his party are being administered. The president has passed much of his agenda — and, in the process, he has become very nearly radioactive. Mr. Obama’s popularity is reaching new lows, distrust of the federal government is reaching new highs, independents are fleeing him and the Democratic party in striking numbers, and Democratic candidates are explicitly running against Obama and his record. The opposition to Obamaism is extraordinary in its depth and passion.

So how does someone like Axelrod reconcile his premise with this unpleasant reality? Why, blame Washington and the political establishment, of course. The system is not only “ferociously stubborn,” but quite possibly “irredeemable.” Barack Obama’s failures, you see, are the fault of the founders.

We have all heard this before — during the Carter years, when it was said the presidency was too large for any single person; and from Ronald Reagan’s first OMB director, David Stockman, who became deeply disillusioned when his budget-cutting agenda ran up against our system of checks and balances. In his book The Triumph of Politics, Stockman wrote this: “There is only one thing worse [than politicians with short time horizons], and that is ideological hubris. It is the assumption that the world can be made better by being remade overnight.”

This is precisely what Axelrod and many in Obama’s inner circle are afflicted with. And whatever problems plague Washington, they are not new. Nothing fundamental has changed about Washington since Obama ran for president in 2008, promising to drive the moneychangers out of the temple.

Governing always seems easier from afar — and every public official experiences a gap between his hopes and his achievements. But in this instance, a group of arrogant, zealous aides — devoted to an arrogant, ideological man — thought they could remake the world and transform Washington easily and instantaneously. But now that they have been at the helm for a bit more than 20 months, idealism is giving way to crushing disillusionment.

“The blind faith in, and passion for, Obama was like nothing [Anita] Dunn had ever seen before,” we read in Game Change. “Around Hopefund they joked about it all the time, praying it wouldn’t go to Obama’s head; his ego was robust enough already. They even conferred on the senator a new nickname: ‘Black Jesus.’”

Investing that much hope in a single individual was destined to end in disenchantment. There is a cautionary tale and an important reminder in all of this: The best public servants are individuals whose idealism is tempered with realism and maturity, who understand and appreciate the nature of American government, who are steady and well-grounded, and who understand the difference between politics and romantic dreams.

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Soros Unmasked

We have learned that J Street is not the grassroots group it has made itself out to be; rather, it is but one anti-Israel organization that George Soros had founded and funded. It isn’t simply $750,000 for J Street to advance its (or rather, Soros’s) Israel-bashing agenda. There is also Human Rights Watch.

As many others have documented, Human Rights Watch is another exercise in false advertising. Noah Pollak has adeptly analyzed HRW’s anti-Israel agenda, which has featured infamous figures like Joe Stork. Who is HRW’s sugar daddy? None other than George Soros – to the tune of $100 million.

Then there is MoveOn.org, the leftist group that ran the infamous “General Betray-us” ads and sought to move the Democratic Party and the country left. Who was the founder and financier of MoveOn.org? Well, it wasn’t netroots sending in pennies and dimes. It was Soros, who fed the group $5 million. With his pocket change ($20,000), he also contributed to the legal defense fund for terrorist’s lawyer Lynne Stewart. Read More

We have learned that J Street is not the grassroots group it has made itself out to be; rather, it is but one anti-Israel organization that George Soros had founded and funded. It isn’t simply $750,000 for J Street to advance its (or rather, Soros’s) Israel-bashing agenda. There is also Human Rights Watch.

As many others have documented, Human Rights Watch is another exercise in false advertising. Noah Pollak has adeptly analyzed HRW’s anti-Israel agenda, which has featured infamous figures like Joe Stork. Who is HRW’s sugar daddy? None other than George Soros – to the tune of $100 million.

Then there is MoveOn.org, the leftist group that ran the infamous “General Betray-us” ads and sought to move the Democratic Party and the country left. Who was the founder and financier of MoveOn.org? Well, it wasn’t netroots sending in pennies and dimes. It was Soros, who fed the group $5 million. With his pocket change ($20,000), he also contributed to the legal defense fund for terrorist’s lawyer Lynne Stewart.

The pattern is clear here: where there is a well-funded group seeking to undermine the U.S.-Israel relationship, delegitimize Israel, or push for America’s retreat from the world, it’s a good bet Soros is behind it. HRW and J Street should be seen in that light — the facade for a billionaire whose animosity toward Israel is well documented and who figuratively and literally bets against the West. (He bragged in 1992 that he broke the Bank of England by selling short $10 billion in British pound sterling.) A pro-Israel activist sums up (I have provided links for reference purposes):

Jeremy Ben Ami says he wants to change the meaning of “pro-Israel,” and now this week we hear from him what we’ve suspected all along: that J Street is “with the values and principles” of George Soros, and we all know what that means when it comes to Israel. His $100m gift to Human Rights Watch after their founder denounces them in the New York Times as obsessed with Israel and having lost all moral basis, their top military analyst is outed as an avid collector of Nazi memorabilia, and the head of their Middle East division, who has a poster in her office for a movie praising suicide bombing, is caught with her hand in the Saudi cookie jar begging for money to beat up on Israel, is a vivid reminder of who J Street’s mentor is.

And, of course, at the center of this operation is Soros’s right-hand man, Mort Halperin, who heads Soros’s OSI (the entity that spreads Soros’s money around). Follow the bouncing ball: Halperin is OSI’s senior adviser, but he’s also on Soros Street’s advisory council to keep an eye on Soros’s investment. And to boot, he wrote Richard Goldstone’s defense. How efficient.

A number of questions remain: How long will J Street survive? Are Jeremy Ben Ami’s days as a Beltway operator over? (The activist comments: “So when Jeremy says he wants to ‘redefine’ the word ‘pro-Israel,’ yeah, he does. So as to include anti-Israel, and hostile to Israel, and ambivalent to Israel, and  pretty much anything but actually ‘PRO-Israel.’ The jig is up.”) It will be fascinating to see if the media and politicians grasp that Soros-Halperin groups aren’t genuine expressions of popular opinion but rather the play things of a single billionaire. Will those who receive Soros’s money — think tanks, organizations, politicians — become concerned that they will be viewed as weapons in Soros’s personal arsenal?

And while we are on the subject of shadowy funders, Obama and David Axelrod have been whining about the influence of independent money in America politics. Obama has been obsessing over “corporate money.” (“The only people who don’t want to disclose the truth are people with something to hide.”) He’s furious that “the biggest impediment we have right now is that independent expenditures coming from special interests — who we don’t know because they’re not obligated to disclose their contributions under a Supreme Court decision called Citizens United — means that in some places, you’ve got third parties that are spending millions more than the candidates combined, more than the parties in these states.” Axelrod is incensed about the “audacious stealth campaign being mounted by powerful corporate special interests.” He is so very concerned: “There is still time for the media to shine a light on these front groups. There is still time for an aroused public to rise up against this ominous special-interest hijacking of our elections. There is still time for candidates on both sides of the aisle to take the side of average Americans and challenge these groups to disclose their secret funders.”

So are they ready to call out Soros, demand that he stop flooding elections with his loot, and cut off ties with his lackeys? (One wonders if J Street’s officials will get any more White House visits.) Don’t hold your breath. It’s only the other guys’ money that is a threat; the liberals will — and apparently do — take Soros’s money anytime.

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ABC’s Humiliation

ABC News decided to put the overtly biased and under-informed Christiane Amanpour in the host chair for “This Week.” Perhaps they thought she had star quality or that MSNBC’s netroot viewers could be lured. But the result is a weekly display of journalistic malpractice.

Today was no different. Questioning David Axelrod, Amanpour assumes that the blame for the blow-up of the peace talks will lie in Israel’s hands:

AMANPOUR: I want to first, though, ask you about something very close to what the president has been doing, and that’s Middle East peace. The moratorium expires tonight.

AXELROD: Yes.

AMANPOUR: The president asked the Israeli prime minister to keep the moratorium on. He’s not going to do it. What is going to stop these talks from collapsing?

AXELROD: Well, look, I don’t want to prejudge what’s going to happen in the next many hours.

No possibility in the eyes of the pro-Palestinian Amanapour that the “collapse” is an orchestrated move for Abbas to flee in a huff.

Then there is this:

AMANPOUR: All right. But really a lot of people — I mean, people from all over the world, frankly, say to me here comes a president with a huge mandate, a huge reservoir of goodwill, huge promises to change, and with all of that, his popularity is down. People don’t appreciate some of the amazing legislative agenda that he’s accomplished. Is this a failure of leadership? Has he allowed the opposition to define him? [Emphasis added.]

Good grief. Is she on the White House payroll?

Not a single tough follow-up. No challenge when Axelrod went on a rant about Republican independent expenditures. She is, for all intents and purposes, doing the administration’s PR work. Contrast that with the questioning of Mitch McConnell:

AMANPOUR: You heard what David Axelrod said about the Republican plan on extending all the Bush-era tax cuts and that it would really, you know, put the country more in hock. Analysts say that’ll cause, you know, add some $4 trillion or so to the national debt. Are you really going to do that? Or do you think there would be a compromise on extending the middle-class tax cuts?

MCCONNELL: Well, let’s understand what we’re talking about here. This has been the tax rate for a decade. We’re talking about raising taxes in the middle of a recession. And most economists think that’s the worst thing you could do. The president himself was saying that was the worst thing you could do a year-and-a-half ago.

AMANPOUR: So do…

MCCONNELL: Raising taxes in the middle of a recession is a particularly bad idea, and Republicans don’t think that’s what we ought to do.

AMANPOUR: So do you not think you really, quote, unquote, “hold the middle-class tax cuts hostage” to all the tax cuts you want to…

(CROSSTALK)

MCCONNELL: Well, nothing’s being held hostage to anything. It was the Democrats themselves who decided not to have this debate.

AMANPOUR: But would you compromise on that, even after the election?

MCCONNELL: I — I was the only one who offered a bill. There was never a bill in the Senate. And you know why? Thirty-one Democrats in the House, five Democrats in the Senate said they agreed with me, that we ought not to raise taxes in the middle of a recession.

What might happen down the road is not the subject today. The question is, do we want to raise taxes in the middle of a very, very tough economy? All the Republicans think that’s a bad idea, and a substantial number of the Democrats think the same thing.

AMANPOUR: Right, but there’s also this huge thing that the people of the United States are worried about, and that is the deficit.

MCCONNELL: Absolutely.

AMANPOUR: And adding — keeping the tax cuts will add trillions to that. And let me ask you this. According to Howard Gleckman at the Tax Policy Center — let’s see what he’s just written — “McConnell would have to abolish all the rest of the government to get a balance by 2020, everything. No more national parks, no more NIH, no more highway construction, no more homeland security, oh, and no more Congress.”

And on it went in that vein.

Maybe she is on the Harry Reid and Chris Coons campaigns:

AMANPOUR: Even — even in your own state. And I want to ask you, actually, what are the qualifications are — do these people have? For instance, what is Christine O’Donnell’s qualification for actually governing? What is Sharron Angle’s actual qualification for governing?

MCCONNELL: Well, they won the primary fair and square against real competition, and they emerged as the nominee. And Sharron Angle is running no worse than dead even against the majority leader of the Senate. I think that’s pretty significant.

No such questioning to Axelrod about his party’s hapless candidates or whether Alexi Giannoulias from Illinois is ethically fit to serve in the Senate.

The roundtable was even worse as she took the Obama administration’s defense (“there’s no depression. There’s — the recession has ended. … But doesn’t it just add to the deficit, all these tax cuts? … And it turned out quite well [Bob Woodward’s book], would you say, for the administration?”) Never a skeptical comment or query about the administration’s position or performance.

ABC News execs have a choice: report the commercial sales from “This Week” as an in-kind donation to the Democratic Party or get a real journalist in that chair.

ABC News decided to put the overtly biased and under-informed Christiane Amanpour in the host chair for “This Week.” Perhaps they thought she had star quality or that MSNBC’s netroot viewers could be lured. But the result is a weekly display of journalistic malpractice.

Today was no different. Questioning David Axelrod, Amanpour assumes that the blame for the blow-up of the peace talks will lie in Israel’s hands:

AMANPOUR: I want to first, though, ask you about something very close to what the president has been doing, and that’s Middle East peace. The moratorium expires tonight.

AXELROD: Yes.

AMANPOUR: The president asked the Israeli prime minister to keep the moratorium on. He’s not going to do it. What is going to stop these talks from collapsing?

AXELROD: Well, look, I don’t want to prejudge what’s going to happen in the next many hours.

No possibility in the eyes of the pro-Palestinian Amanapour that the “collapse” is an orchestrated move for Abbas to flee in a huff.

Then there is this:

AMANPOUR: All right. But really a lot of people — I mean, people from all over the world, frankly, say to me here comes a president with a huge mandate, a huge reservoir of goodwill, huge promises to change, and with all of that, his popularity is down. People don’t appreciate some of the amazing legislative agenda that he’s accomplished. Is this a failure of leadership? Has he allowed the opposition to define him? [Emphasis added.]

Good grief. Is she on the White House payroll?

Not a single tough follow-up. No challenge when Axelrod went on a rant about Republican independent expenditures. She is, for all intents and purposes, doing the administration’s PR work. Contrast that with the questioning of Mitch McConnell:

AMANPOUR: You heard what David Axelrod said about the Republican plan on extending all the Bush-era tax cuts and that it would really, you know, put the country more in hock. Analysts say that’ll cause, you know, add some $4 trillion or so to the national debt. Are you really going to do that? Or do you think there would be a compromise on extending the middle-class tax cuts?

MCCONNELL: Well, let’s understand what we’re talking about here. This has been the tax rate for a decade. We’re talking about raising taxes in the middle of a recession. And most economists think that’s the worst thing you could do. The president himself was saying that was the worst thing you could do a year-and-a-half ago.

AMANPOUR: So do…

MCCONNELL: Raising taxes in the middle of a recession is a particularly bad idea, and Republicans don’t think that’s what we ought to do.

AMANPOUR: So do you not think you really, quote, unquote, “hold the middle-class tax cuts hostage” to all the tax cuts you want to…

(CROSSTALK)

MCCONNELL: Well, nothing’s being held hostage to anything. It was the Democrats themselves who decided not to have this debate.

AMANPOUR: But would you compromise on that, even after the election?

MCCONNELL: I — I was the only one who offered a bill. There was never a bill in the Senate. And you know why? Thirty-one Democrats in the House, five Democrats in the Senate said they agreed with me, that we ought not to raise taxes in the middle of a recession.

What might happen down the road is not the subject today. The question is, do we want to raise taxes in the middle of a very, very tough economy? All the Republicans think that’s a bad idea, and a substantial number of the Democrats think the same thing.

AMANPOUR: Right, but there’s also this huge thing that the people of the United States are worried about, and that is the deficit.

MCCONNELL: Absolutely.

AMANPOUR: And adding — keeping the tax cuts will add trillions to that. And let me ask you this. According to Howard Gleckman at the Tax Policy Center — let’s see what he’s just written — “McConnell would have to abolish all the rest of the government to get a balance by 2020, everything. No more national parks, no more NIH, no more highway construction, no more homeland security, oh, and no more Congress.”

And on it went in that vein.

Maybe she is on the Harry Reid and Chris Coons campaigns:

AMANPOUR: Even — even in your own state. And I want to ask you, actually, what are the qualifications are — do these people have? For instance, what is Christine O’Donnell’s qualification for actually governing? What is Sharron Angle’s actual qualification for governing?

MCCONNELL: Well, they won the primary fair and square against real competition, and they emerged as the nominee. And Sharron Angle is running no worse than dead even against the majority leader of the Senate. I think that’s pretty significant.

No such questioning to Axelrod about his party’s hapless candidates or whether Alexi Giannoulias from Illinois is ethically fit to serve in the Senate.

The roundtable was even worse as she took the Obama administration’s defense (“there’s no depression. There’s — the recession has ended. … But doesn’t it just add to the deficit, all these tax cuts? … And it turned out quite well [Bob Woodward’s book], would you say, for the administration?”) Never a skeptical comment or query about the administration’s position or performance.

ABC News execs have a choice: report the commercial sales from “This Week” as an in-kind donation to the Democratic Party or get a real journalist in that chair.

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RE: Blaming James Madison

A smart political reporter suggests that David Axelrod’s op-ed in the Washington Post is further evidence of the bizarre and entirely unproductive exercise in blaming the First Amendment for the Democrats’ political collapse. Axelrod whines:

All of Washington is in a frenzy, speculating about the outcome of the fall elections. Yet the development that could most tip the scales is getting far too little public attention. That hidden factor is the audacious stealth campaign being mounted by powerful corporate special interests that are vying to put their Republican allies in control of Congress and turn back common-sense reforms that strengthen America’s middle class.

Good grief — maybe that stuff works in Chicago but does the public at large buy any of that, or even care if a group called Americans for Prosperity is raising money for candidates who are attuned to the populist outcry against runaway spending? It is as though Axelrod thinks he is running a Democratic primary race and not working for President of the United States. This is what a high-ranking government official spends his time doing — grousing that the other side has more money?

But the telling sign is the last paragraph:

Pundits will spend a lot of time predicting who will win in November. But more is at stake than the fate of Democrats or Republicans. What’s at stake is whether the powerful corporate special interests will go back to writing our laws or whether our democracy will remain where it belongs — in the hands of the American people.

No, actually, what is at stake is control of the House and Senate and the complete repudiation of the Obama agenda. No wonder Axelrod wants to change the topic.

A smart political reporter suggests that David Axelrod’s op-ed in the Washington Post is further evidence of the bizarre and entirely unproductive exercise in blaming the First Amendment for the Democrats’ political collapse. Axelrod whines:

All of Washington is in a frenzy, speculating about the outcome of the fall elections. Yet the development that could most tip the scales is getting far too little public attention. That hidden factor is the audacious stealth campaign being mounted by powerful corporate special interests that are vying to put their Republican allies in control of Congress and turn back common-sense reforms that strengthen America’s middle class.

Good grief — maybe that stuff works in Chicago but does the public at large buy any of that, or even care if a group called Americans for Prosperity is raising money for candidates who are attuned to the populist outcry against runaway spending? It is as though Axelrod thinks he is running a Democratic primary race and not working for President of the United States. This is what a high-ranking government official spends his time doing — grousing that the other side has more money?

But the telling sign is the last paragraph:

Pundits will spend a lot of time predicting who will win in November. But more is at stake than the fate of Democrats or Republicans. What’s at stake is whether the powerful corporate special interests will go back to writing our laws or whether our democracy will remain where it belongs — in the hands of the American people.

No, actually, what is at stake is control of the House and Senate and the complete repudiation of the Obama agenda. No wonder Axelrod wants to change the topic.

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The Cocooned President

The Washington Post tells us that Obama is to be “deprived” within the next six months or so of the services of Rahm Emanuel, David Axelrod (who will go run Obama’s reelection campaign, a task indistinguishable from his current role), James Jones, and other advisers. (Before you get excited, remember who is picking their successors.) The Post tells us that the worldly and sophisticated president (the media told us he was, so how can that be wrong?) “doesn’t like new people.” Let’s hope that isn’t right. Because, to be frank, you’d expect more social adeptness and flexibility from a third grader (and I do). Unfortunately, the problem is all too real:

Recent White House hires reflect the president’s desire to surround himself with people he knows well. Elizabeth Warren, recently tapped as the government’s first consumer protection adviser, is someone Obama describes as a “dear friend.” Austan Goolsbee, brought in as the new chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers, has been in the Obama orbit much longer than the woman he replaced, Christina Romer.

It seems — really, who knew? — as though the president is too insulated:

“They miscalculated where people were out in the country on jobs, on spending, on the deficit, on debt,” said a longtime Democratic strategist who works with the White House on a variety of issues. “They have not been able to get ahead of any of it. And it’s all about the insularity. Otherwise how do you explain how a group who came in with more goodwill in decades squandered it?” The strategist asked not to be identified in order to speak freely about the president and his staff.

This is not an uncommon view among Democratic political professionals, many of whom share the goals of the White House but have grown frustrated with a staff they see as unapproachable and set in their ways.

The solution? Valerie Jarrett as chief of staff!

Apparently yes men and women, unwilling to challenge Obama’s basic assumptions or deliver inconvenient truths, are in high demand. No hope and change for Obama.

This peek at the White House’s circle-the-wagons mentality suggests that Obama is not one to reassess, clean house, and chart a new course after the midterms. It might take him out of his comfort zone. That’s bad news for the country, but music to the ears of the 2012 GOP presidential contenders.

The Washington Post tells us that Obama is to be “deprived” within the next six months or so of the services of Rahm Emanuel, David Axelrod (who will go run Obama’s reelection campaign, a task indistinguishable from his current role), James Jones, and other advisers. (Before you get excited, remember who is picking their successors.) The Post tells us that the worldly and sophisticated president (the media told us he was, so how can that be wrong?) “doesn’t like new people.” Let’s hope that isn’t right. Because, to be frank, you’d expect more social adeptness and flexibility from a third grader (and I do). Unfortunately, the problem is all too real:

Recent White House hires reflect the president’s desire to surround himself with people he knows well. Elizabeth Warren, recently tapped as the government’s first consumer protection adviser, is someone Obama describes as a “dear friend.” Austan Goolsbee, brought in as the new chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers, has been in the Obama orbit much longer than the woman he replaced, Christina Romer.

It seems — really, who knew? — as though the president is too insulated:

“They miscalculated where people were out in the country on jobs, on spending, on the deficit, on debt,” said a longtime Democratic strategist who works with the White House on a variety of issues. “They have not been able to get ahead of any of it. And it’s all about the insularity. Otherwise how do you explain how a group who came in with more goodwill in decades squandered it?” The strategist asked not to be identified in order to speak freely about the president and his staff.

This is not an uncommon view among Democratic political professionals, many of whom share the goals of the White House but have grown frustrated with a staff they see as unapproachable and set in their ways.

The solution? Valerie Jarrett as chief of staff!

Apparently yes men and women, unwilling to challenge Obama’s basic assumptions or deliver inconvenient truths, are in high demand. No hope and change for Obama.

This peek at the White House’s circle-the-wagons mentality suggests that Obama is not one to reassess, clean house, and chart a new course after the midterms. It might take him out of his comfort zone. That’s bad news for the country, but music to the ears of the 2012 GOP presidential contenders.

Read Less




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