Commentary Magazine


Topic: David Broder

Gail Collins and Joe Lieberman: Not Much of a Competition There

Gail Collins of the New York Times has written a column upon Joe Lieberman’s announcement of his retirement from the Senate that, as with so many of her pieces, is written in a spirit of jocularity when its author actually has no observable sense of humor. This one is full of invective without wit. It’s as if Collins, whose tenure as the editor of the Times editorial page made for excellent bird-cage lining, were the bastard child of Don Rickles and David Broder.

Of Lieberman, she says he was, at the outset of his career, “extremely boring.” Of his speech yesterday, she writes: “Lieberman has reached a point in his public career when every single thing he does, including talking about his grandparents, is irritating.” She quotes “a friend in Connecticut” who said, “He’s the kind of guy who, when you see him in line at the supermarket, you go and get in a different line so you won’t have to make conversation.” She then tasks him, through a quote from a Connecticut pol, for “taking it personally” when people called him a baby-killer and a monster and evil for supporting the war in Iraq.

Listen. Hate Joe Lieberman all you want for his ideas — and she freely acknowledges she does hate him for “watering down” the health-care bill and “consolidating the intelligence services” — but it is simply preposterous to describe him as boring or the kind of person you flee from. Until the Iraq war rended the nation and heated up politics in Washington to a dangerous roil, Lieberman was certainly among the best-liked senators among people on both sides of the aisle. His staffers loved him, and so did the staffs of committees on which he served. And he is the opposite of boring: once (or maybe even twice) he won a contest that judged the funniest elected politician in Washington. Granted, that’s not much of a contest, but in the contest for unfunniest columnist in America, Gail Collins would win hands-down.

I know him a little; his daughter Rebecca is a very close friend of mine. At Rebecca’s wedding, Lieberman got up to make the paternal toast. “I am so happy today,” he said, “that I wish I could give you all an earmark.” If she lived a hundred lifetimes, Gail Collins would be unable to crack a joke one-thousandth as clever. Believe me, if you had to pick one or the other to go out and have a drink with, even if you were Noam Chomsky, you’d have a better time with Joe.

Gail Collins of the New York Times has written a column upon Joe Lieberman’s announcement of his retirement from the Senate that, as with so many of her pieces, is written in a spirit of jocularity when its author actually has no observable sense of humor. This one is full of invective without wit. It’s as if Collins, whose tenure as the editor of the Times editorial page made for excellent bird-cage lining, were the bastard child of Don Rickles and David Broder.

Of Lieberman, she says he was, at the outset of his career, “extremely boring.” Of his speech yesterday, she writes: “Lieberman has reached a point in his public career when every single thing he does, including talking about his grandparents, is irritating.” She quotes “a friend in Connecticut” who said, “He’s the kind of guy who, when you see him in line at the supermarket, you go and get in a different line so you won’t have to make conversation.” She then tasks him, through a quote from a Connecticut pol, for “taking it personally” when people called him a baby-killer and a monster and evil for supporting the war in Iraq.

Listen. Hate Joe Lieberman all you want for his ideas — and she freely acknowledges she does hate him for “watering down” the health-care bill and “consolidating the intelligence services” — but it is simply preposterous to describe him as boring or the kind of person you flee from. Until the Iraq war rended the nation and heated up politics in Washington to a dangerous roil, Lieberman was certainly among the best-liked senators among people on both sides of the aisle. His staffers loved him, and so did the staffs of committees on which he served. And he is the opposite of boring: once (or maybe even twice) he won a contest that judged the funniest elected politician in Washington. Granted, that’s not much of a contest, but in the contest for unfunniest columnist in America, Gail Collins would win hands-down.

I know him a little; his daughter Rebecca is a very close friend of mine. At Rebecca’s wedding, Lieberman got up to make the paternal toast. “I am so happy today,” he said, “that I wish I could give you all an earmark.” If she lived a hundred lifetimes, Gail Collins would be unable to crack a joke one-thousandth as clever. Believe me, if you had to pick one or the other to go out and have a drink with, even if you were Noam Chomsky, you’d have a better time with Joe.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Quicker than we imagined: “By 47 to 45 percent, Americans say Obama is a better president than George W. Bush. But that two point margin is down from a 23 point advantage one year ago. ‘Democrats may want to think twice about bringing up former President George W. Bush’s name while campaigning this year,” says CNN Polling Director Keating Holland.’”

Sooner than either imagined: “Embattled Democrats are increasingly turning to former President Bill Clinton to prop up their campaigns in the final weeks before November’s midterm elections. The former president is far and away the biggest draw for the party less than a month out, hitting races in states where Democrats would rather President Obama stay away.”

A White House departure didn’t come fast enough for some. Peter Feaver: “The only thing surprising about Jim Jones’s departure is he survived this long.” His buffoonery was his defining characteristic.

About time that someone started debunking the president’s accusations about “foreign money.” The Gray Lady: “[A] closer examination shows that there is little evidence that what the [Chamber of Commerce] does in collecting overseas dues is improper or even unusual, according to both liberal and conservative election-law lawyers and campaign finance documents. In fact, the controversy over the Chamber of Commerce financing may say more about the Washington spin cycle — where an Internet blog posting can be quickly picked up by like-minded groups and become political fodder for the president himself — than it does about the vagaries of campaign finance.” Actually, it says more about the president’s penchant for telling untruths.

Belatedly, we learn that Jewish-American leaders had serious concerns all along about Obama’s Middle East policy. How brave of them to go public only when Obama’s political standing is in decline.

Democrats finally run out of patience with Jerry Brown and demand that he apologize for a campaign associate who called Meg Whitman a “whore.” Yes, there goes the Golden State. Again.

Much too late, Obama gets around to publicly calling for the release of Chinese dissident and now Nobel Peace Prize winner Liu Xiaobo.

No rush — the Arab League stalls, hoping the Obami might up the bribes incentives for Bibi to extend the settlement moratorium. “Arab countries will give the US one month to find a compromise which can save peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians after negotiations stalled over the issue of Israeli building in West Bank settlements, AFP reported a diplomat at the Arab League meeting in Libya as saying on Friday. The unnamed diplomat said that a resolution to be approved later Friday by the Arab League Follow-up Committee on the peace process calls for the US administration to be given ‘a one month chance to seek the resumption of negotiations, including a halt to settlement [building].’”

Suddenly, David Broder discovers Rob Portman: “Now 54 and a fitness fanatic, Portman has achieved his status by being smart, disciplined and a team player. Business people know he does his homework, and Democrats find him approachable. Except for [Mitch] Daniels, there are few Republicans who have delved as deeply into fiscal and budgetary policy, trade and health care as has Portman, who notably expanded the Office of Management and Budget’s focus on Medicare and Medicaid, even when Bush showed little interest in the issue.”

An overnight sensation: Wisconsin GOP Senate candidate Ron Johnson. “In this year of political surprises, Mr. Johnson inhabits a niche all his own. He emerged from the tea party without being fully of it. … Mr. Johnson says he employs 120 people at a single plant that makes specialized plastics. ‘I’m not some big corporation. I run the type of business [that] is the backbone of our economy, the engine of job creation.’ America’s prosperity stems from its ‘freedoms, the free market,’ Mr. Johnson says. ‘I think people get that.’”

Eventually, we come full circle. Bush administration critic Jack Goldsmith argues we shouldn’t have military tribunals or civil trials. Just lock ‘em up. Sounds good to me.

It took long enough. Jeffrey Goldberg confirms that Matthew Yglesias is an ignoramus when it comes to Israel.

Quicker than we imagined: “By 47 to 45 percent, Americans say Obama is a better president than George W. Bush. But that two point margin is down from a 23 point advantage one year ago. ‘Democrats may want to think twice about bringing up former President George W. Bush’s name while campaigning this year,” says CNN Polling Director Keating Holland.’”

Sooner than either imagined: “Embattled Democrats are increasingly turning to former President Bill Clinton to prop up their campaigns in the final weeks before November’s midterm elections. The former president is far and away the biggest draw for the party less than a month out, hitting races in states where Democrats would rather President Obama stay away.”

A White House departure didn’t come fast enough for some. Peter Feaver: “The only thing surprising about Jim Jones’s departure is he survived this long.” His buffoonery was his defining characteristic.

About time that someone started debunking the president’s accusations about “foreign money.” The Gray Lady: “[A] closer examination shows that there is little evidence that what the [Chamber of Commerce] does in collecting overseas dues is improper or even unusual, according to both liberal and conservative election-law lawyers and campaign finance documents. In fact, the controversy over the Chamber of Commerce financing may say more about the Washington spin cycle — where an Internet blog posting can be quickly picked up by like-minded groups and become political fodder for the president himself — than it does about the vagaries of campaign finance.” Actually, it says more about the president’s penchant for telling untruths.

Belatedly, we learn that Jewish-American leaders had serious concerns all along about Obama’s Middle East policy. How brave of them to go public only when Obama’s political standing is in decline.

Democrats finally run out of patience with Jerry Brown and demand that he apologize for a campaign associate who called Meg Whitman a “whore.” Yes, there goes the Golden State. Again.

Much too late, Obama gets around to publicly calling for the release of Chinese dissident and now Nobel Peace Prize winner Liu Xiaobo.

No rush — the Arab League stalls, hoping the Obami might up the bribes incentives for Bibi to extend the settlement moratorium. “Arab countries will give the US one month to find a compromise which can save peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians after negotiations stalled over the issue of Israeli building in West Bank settlements, AFP reported a diplomat at the Arab League meeting in Libya as saying on Friday. The unnamed diplomat said that a resolution to be approved later Friday by the Arab League Follow-up Committee on the peace process calls for the US administration to be given ‘a one month chance to seek the resumption of negotiations, including a halt to settlement [building].’”

Suddenly, David Broder discovers Rob Portman: “Now 54 and a fitness fanatic, Portman has achieved his status by being smart, disciplined and a team player. Business people know he does his homework, and Democrats find him approachable. Except for [Mitch] Daniels, there are few Republicans who have delved as deeply into fiscal and budgetary policy, trade and health care as has Portman, who notably expanded the Office of Management and Budget’s focus on Medicare and Medicaid, even when Bush showed little interest in the issue.”

An overnight sensation: Wisconsin GOP Senate candidate Ron Johnson. “In this year of political surprises, Mr. Johnson inhabits a niche all his own. He emerged from the tea party without being fully of it. … Mr. Johnson says he employs 120 people at a single plant that makes specialized plastics. ‘I’m not some big corporation. I run the type of business [that] is the backbone of our economy, the engine of job creation.’ America’s prosperity stems from its ‘freedoms, the free market,’ Mr. Johnson says. ‘I think people get that.’”

Eventually, we come full circle. Bush administration critic Jack Goldsmith argues we shouldn’t have military tribunals or civil trials. Just lock ‘em up. Sounds good to me.

It took long enough. Jeffrey Goldberg confirms that Matthew Yglesias is an ignoramus when it comes to Israel.

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More Drama! Add Some Suspense!

We are into silly season (OK, sillier) in the mainstream media — the point in the election cycle where they feel obligated to create tension, suggest there is some parity between the sides in a wave election year, and assure readers that all is not what it seems. You get nonsensical columns like this from the dean of conventional wisdom, David Broder:

Thus, the biggest paradox of the 2010 campaign year — that Republicans are poised for major gains, even though their reputation as a party has not really recovered from the Bush years and there is no evidence that voters think they have developed better ideas than the Democrats have for improving the economy.

Paradox? Isn’t this what happened in 1994 and 2006?

Broder tells us that the Republicans are a mess, resorting to off-the-wall candidates who endanger their prospects (“states have been flirting all year with the danger that their primaries will produce candidates reflecting the internal dynamics of right-wing constituencies scary to the broader electorate”). But read on and you find out that:

On the other hand, this year’s primaries have given Republicans candidates for governor capable of winning in states such as Pennsylvania, Ohio, Illinois, Wisconsin, Michigan, Iowa, Oregon and especially California, to add to Texas, Georgia and perhaps Florida, which they already hold. This could enhance the reputation of the GOP as a governing party beyond measure.

So have the wackos taken over or not? Is Marco Rubio a right-wing, scary guy or the future of the GOP? Was it a good thing Joe Miller upset Lisa Murkowski or a harbinger of a political apocalypse for the GOP? It’s all a bit unclear because the chattering class is disinclined to recognize the obvious (both because they have to write clever things and because they don’t like what’s going on): Republicans can’t win every race, but they are going to win a whole bunch, in large part because of the populist uprising  generated by the liberals’ overreach. It’s not fancy. It’s not complicated. But it is what’s going on.

We are into silly season (OK, sillier) in the mainstream media — the point in the election cycle where they feel obligated to create tension, suggest there is some parity between the sides in a wave election year, and assure readers that all is not what it seems. You get nonsensical columns like this from the dean of conventional wisdom, David Broder:

Thus, the biggest paradox of the 2010 campaign year — that Republicans are poised for major gains, even though their reputation as a party has not really recovered from the Bush years and there is no evidence that voters think they have developed better ideas than the Democrats have for improving the economy.

Paradox? Isn’t this what happened in 1994 and 2006?

Broder tells us that the Republicans are a mess, resorting to off-the-wall candidates who endanger their prospects (“states have been flirting all year with the danger that their primaries will produce candidates reflecting the internal dynamics of right-wing constituencies scary to the broader electorate”). But read on and you find out that:

On the other hand, this year’s primaries have given Republicans candidates for governor capable of winning in states such as Pennsylvania, Ohio, Illinois, Wisconsin, Michigan, Iowa, Oregon and especially California, to add to Texas, Georgia and perhaps Florida, which they already hold. This could enhance the reputation of the GOP as a governing party beyond measure.

So have the wackos taken over or not? Is Marco Rubio a right-wing, scary guy or the future of the GOP? Was it a good thing Joe Miller upset Lisa Murkowski or a harbinger of a political apocalypse for the GOP? It’s all a bit unclear because the chattering class is disinclined to recognize the obvious (both because they have to write clever things and because they don’t like what’s going on): Republicans can’t win every race, but they are going to win a whole bunch, in large part because of the populist uprising  generated by the liberals’ overreach. It’s not fancy. It’s not complicated. But it is what’s going on.

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Smart Campaign, Dim White House

There is certainly no shortage of boos for Obama’s Oval Office debacle Tuesday night. David Broder poses the “How can such smart campaigners be so dumb in governing?” question:

If there is any value in President Obama’s knocking himself out to dramatize on prime-time television his impotence in the face of the Gulf of Mexico oil leak calamity, I wish someone would explain it. His multiple inspection trips to the afflicted and threatened states, his Oval Office TV address to the nation, and now his sit-down with the executives of BP have certainly established his personal connection with one of the worst environmental disasters in history. But the only thing people want to hear from him is word that the problem is on its way to being solved — and this message he cannot deliver.

Part of the problem is a president who still believes in his oratorical abilities (despite abundant evidence that his powers of persuasion disappeared on Election Day 2008) — and a staff unable to tell the president that less is more. Part of it is panic, as Obama sees his presidency coming apart at the seams. But Broder himself supplies a good deal of the answer:

Uncertainties in Washington about energy policy, taxes, financial regulation — to say nothing about bad-news bulletins from Afghanistan and other overseas datelines — cloud the economic picture more than oil plumes pollute the gulf. But Obama seems focused on the relatively insignificant.

Indeed, Obama often seems to be off-topic — obsessing over health care while Americans are worried about jobs, and fixated on paper agreements for a nuke-free world and Jerusalem housing projects while Iran builds the bomb. He plainly doesn’t have a clue about how to solve the big issues (e.g., restoring economic growth, stopping the mullahs), so he focuses on what is within his grasp (jamming through health-care reform, bullying Israel). The things within his grasp, of course, coincide with his extreme ideological goals (displacing the private health-care industry, turning the screws on Israel while moving closer to its Muslim neighbors).

In answer, then, to Broder’s query, a smart campaign team becomes a disastrous administration by ignoring the political disposition of the country, embarking on ideological quests, and, of course, having a narcissist for president, one unable to hire or listen to anyone but yes men.

There is certainly no shortage of boos for Obama’s Oval Office debacle Tuesday night. David Broder poses the “How can such smart campaigners be so dumb in governing?” question:

If there is any value in President Obama’s knocking himself out to dramatize on prime-time television his impotence in the face of the Gulf of Mexico oil leak calamity, I wish someone would explain it. His multiple inspection trips to the afflicted and threatened states, his Oval Office TV address to the nation, and now his sit-down with the executives of BP have certainly established his personal connection with one of the worst environmental disasters in history. But the only thing people want to hear from him is word that the problem is on its way to being solved — and this message he cannot deliver.

Part of the problem is a president who still believes in his oratorical abilities (despite abundant evidence that his powers of persuasion disappeared on Election Day 2008) — and a staff unable to tell the president that less is more. Part of it is panic, as Obama sees his presidency coming apart at the seams. But Broder himself supplies a good deal of the answer:

Uncertainties in Washington about energy policy, taxes, financial regulation — to say nothing about bad-news bulletins from Afghanistan and other overseas datelines — cloud the economic picture more than oil plumes pollute the gulf. But Obama seems focused on the relatively insignificant.

Indeed, Obama often seems to be off-topic — obsessing over health care while Americans are worried about jobs, and fixated on paper agreements for a nuke-free world and Jerusalem housing projects while Iran builds the bomb. He plainly doesn’t have a clue about how to solve the big issues (e.g., restoring economic growth, stopping the mullahs), so he focuses on what is within his grasp (jamming through health-care reform, bullying Israel). The things within his grasp, of course, coincide with his extreme ideological goals (displacing the private health-care industry, turning the screws on Israel while moving closer to its Muslim neighbors).

In answer, then, to Broder’s query, a smart campaign team becomes a disastrous administration by ignoring the political disposition of the country, embarking on ideological quests, and, of course, having a narcissist for president, one unable to hire or listen to anyone but yes men.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

The question is whether anyone has written a funnier, more devastating parody of liberal Jews than this. Definitely not!

The question is becoming not whether Israel will strike Iran, but when: “Israel, which initially tolerated President Obama’s effort to thwart Iranian nuclear ambitions through sanctions, has grown increasingly impatient in recent weeks with the approach and concerned that whatever is agreed to now at the U.N. Security Council will only allow Iran more time to advance its program.” When will mainstream Jewish groups voice impatience with Obama?

The question is when will the lies stop? Richard Blumenthal declared that he isn’t going to allow the race to be “about attacks on my character and service. … I have made mistakes. … I regret them. And I have taken responsibility.” No, he hasn’t. He has never apologized. He’s just sorry he got caught.

The question this election season for candidates, David Broder says, is whether you are with Obama or against him. “A liberal government is struggling to impose its agenda on an electorate increasingly responsive to an activist conservative movement operating inside the Republican Party. … [T]he Democrats are facing a populist backlash against the interventionist, expensive policies that Obama and others have pursued.”

The question is whether Obama “wasted” a Supreme Court nomination. According to a Fox poll, 33 percent don’t know whether Elena Kagan should be confirmed, which is exactly the right answer, given the paucity of information on her views and her lack of judicial track record.

The question is whether Obama should use this opportunity to abolish the job of director of national intelligence. John Noonan writes: “Unnecessary bureaucracy has a venomous effect on the national security establishment, whether it’s infantry or intelligence. The director of national intelligence, which has ballooned to a 1,500-man supporting office, was a top down solution to a bottom up problem.”

The question is whether there is any reason not to put Chris Christie on the shortlist for a place on the GOP ticket for 2012: “New Jersey Governor Chris Christie may have set a record for the speediest veto in American history on Thursday when he rejected an income tax surcharge passed by the Democratic legislature two minutes after it arrived on his desk. … Mr. Christie continues to stand out as a lone voice of economic sanity in Trenton and as a national fiscal leader.” I can’t think of one. (And by 2012, he’ll have had more years of executive experience — both in running the U.S. attorney’s office and as governor – than Obama did when he took office.)

The question is whether voters will laugh: Obama is going to run against George W. Bush in the 2010 election. Republicans are crossing their fingers that he be really serious about deploying this buck-passing, transparent gambit.

The question is now whether the Gray Lady will endorse him anyway. New York Times editor Clark Hoyt gives a somewhat candid assessment of the Times story on Richard Blumenthal’s serial lies, concluding: “In the end, through all the swirling sand the article has kicked up, a clear set of facts remains uncontested: On more than one occasion, Blumenthal said he had served in Vietnam when he had not. Did people the Times talked to have agendas? Sure. Did the Times independently verify the information? Yes, and that’s what counts.”

The question is whether anyone has written a funnier, more devastating parody of liberal Jews than this. Definitely not!

The question is becoming not whether Israel will strike Iran, but when: “Israel, which initially tolerated President Obama’s effort to thwart Iranian nuclear ambitions through sanctions, has grown increasingly impatient in recent weeks with the approach and concerned that whatever is agreed to now at the U.N. Security Council will only allow Iran more time to advance its program.” When will mainstream Jewish groups voice impatience with Obama?

The question is when will the lies stop? Richard Blumenthal declared that he isn’t going to allow the race to be “about attacks on my character and service. … I have made mistakes. … I regret them. And I have taken responsibility.” No, he hasn’t. He has never apologized. He’s just sorry he got caught.

The question this election season for candidates, David Broder says, is whether you are with Obama or against him. “A liberal government is struggling to impose its agenda on an electorate increasingly responsive to an activist conservative movement operating inside the Republican Party. … [T]he Democrats are facing a populist backlash against the interventionist, expensive policies that Obama and others have pursued.”

The question is whether Obama “wasted” a Supreme Court nomination. According to a Fox poll, 33 percent don’t know whether Elena Kagan should be confirmed, which is exactly the right answer, given the paucity of information on her views and her lack of judicial track record.

The question is whether Obama should use this opportunity to abolish the job of director of national intelligence. John Noonan writes: “Unnecessary bureaucracy has a venomous effect on the national security establishment, whether it’s infantry or intelligence. The director of national intelligence, which has ballooned to a 1,500-man supporting office, was a top down solution to a bottom up problem.”

The question is whether there is any reason not to put Chris Christie on the shortlist for a place on the GOP ticket for 2012: “New Jersey Governor Chris Christie may have set a record for the speediest veto in American history on Thursday when he rejected an income tax surcharge passed by the Democratic legislature two minutes after it arrived on his desk. … Mr. Christie continues to stand out as a lone voice of economic sanity in Trenton and as a national fiscal leader.” I can’t think of one. (And by 2012, he’ll have had more years of executive experience — both in running the U.S. attorney’s office and as governor – than Obama did when he took office.)

The question is whether voters will laugh: Obama is going to run against George W. Bush in the 2010 election. Republicans are crossing their fingers that he be really serious about deploying this buck-passing, transparent gambit.

The question is now whether the Gray Lady will endorse him anyway. New York Times editor Clark Hoyt gives a somewhat candid assessment of the Times story on Richard Blumenthal’s serial lies, concluding: “In the end, through all the swirling sand the article has kicked up, a clear set of facts remains uncontested: On more than one occasion, Blumenthal said he had served in Vietnam when he had not. Did people the Times talked to have agendas? Sure. Did the Times independently verify the information? Yes, and that’s what counts.”

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More Obama!

The Washington Post tries to throw Obama and the Democrats a lifeline. It’s understandable that the liberal media — which witnessed a complete repudiation of Obama and his agenda at the polls — would scramble to help him out. After all, they invested so much credibility in helping to elect him. But the advice they offer is simply daft:

Strategists at both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue say it is now clear that, although Obama’s name will not be on the ballot, it will fall to him to build the case for the activist approach that he has pressed his party to take over the past 16 months. And just as important, they say, he must take the lead in making the argument against the Republicans.

Are they joking? The president who in 17 months could not sell ObamaCare to the American people and whose agenda has shifted the country to the right is now expected to remind the entire populace, when his poll numbers are sliding downward, that Democrats believe in big government, lots of regulation, and higher taxes? The Republican reaction is likely to be: Oh, please do!

And by the way, the reporters identify not a single “strategist” other than David Axelrod and congressional Democrats. So the sentence is misleading. It should begin “Democratic pols at both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue have convinced themselves, despite evidence of the president’s declining popularity …”

The reporters then bizarrely offer up Mark Critz as an example of how candidates can craft their own message. But wait: that message was anti-Obama. As George Will reminds Post readers over on the op-ed page, Critz is “right-to-life and pro-gun. He accused his opponent of wanting heavier taxes. He said he would have voted against Barack Obama’s health-care plan and promised to vote against cap-and-trade legislation, which is a tax increase supposedly somehow related to turning down the planet’s thermostat.”

And David Broder, who is not exactly a strategist but is also no GOP booster, is even more blunt in the Post‘s opinion section:

We saw the anti-Washington sentiment Tuesday in Kentucky, where Rand Paul, the physician son of libertarian Rep. Ron Paul, easily defeated Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s handpicked candidate for the Republican nomination for a vacant Senate seat — and credited his win to the Tea Partyers. The same sentiment carried to Arkansas, where incumbent Democratic Sen. Blanche Lincoln was forced into a runoff by her labor-backed challenger, Lt. Gov. Bill Halter. And it claimed its largest victim of the year so far in Pennsylvania’s Sen. Arlen Specter. Run out of the Republican Party last year by a GOP challenger, he fell embarrassingly to a less-known younger congressman in a bid for the Democratic nomination. His failure showed the Obama White House once again to be a toothless tiger — with its endorsements now having failed in Virginia, New Jersey, Massachusetts and Pennsylvania. No good news for the president there.

Republicans would dearly love Obama to test the Post reporters’ theory that the Democrats’ problem is not enough big-government cheerleading. And they would be ecstatic if he came to do it in every close district in the country. Then there will be no denying that the results will be a true reflection of the country’s evaluation of him.

The Washington Post tries to throw Obama and the Democrats a lifeline. It’s understandable that the liberal media — which witnessed a complete repudiation of Obama and his agenda at the polls — would scramble to help him out. After all, they invested so much credibility in helping to elect him. But the advice they offer is simply daft:

Strategists at both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue say it is now clear that, although Obama’s name will not be on the ballot, it will fall to him to build the case for the activist approach that he has pressed his party to take over the past 16 months. And just as important, they say, he must take the lead in making the argument against the Republicans.

Are they joking? The president who in 17 months could not sell ObamaCare to the American people and whose agenda has shifted the country to the right is now expected to remind the entire populace, when his poll numbers are sliding downward, that Democrats believe in big government, lots of regulation, and higher taxes? The Republican reaction is likely to be: Oh, please do!

And by the way, the reporters identify not a single “strategist” other than David Axelrod and congressional Democrats. So the sentence is misleading. It should begin “Democratic pols at both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue have convinced themselves, despite evidence of the president’s declining popularity …”

The reporters then bizarrely offer up Mark Critz as an example of how candidates can craft their own message. But wait: that message was anti-Obama. As George Will reminds Post readers over on the op-ed page, Critz is “right-to-life and pro-gun. He accused his opponent of wanting heavier taxes. He said he would have voted against Barack Obama’s health-care plan and promised to vote against cap-and-trade legislation, which is a tax increase supposedly somehow related to turning down the planet’s thermostat.”

And David Broder, who is not exactly a strategist but is also no GOP booster, is even more blunt in the Post‘s opinion section:

We saw the anti-Washington sentiment Tuesday in Kentucky, where Rand Paul, the physician son of libertarian Rep. Ron Paul, easily defeated Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s handpicked candidate for the Republican nomination for a vacant Senate seat — and credited his win to the Tea Partyers. The same sentiment carried to Arkansas, where incumbent Democratic Sen. Blanche Lincoln was forced into a runoff by her labor-backed challenger, Lt. Gov. Bill Halter. And it claimed its largest victim of the year so far in Pennsylvania’s Sen. Arlen Specter. Run out of the Republican Party last year by a GOP challenger, he fell embarrassingly to a less-known younger congressman in a bid for the Democratic nomination. His failure showed the Obama White House once again to be a toothless tiger — with its endorsements now having failed in Virginia, New Jersey, Massachusetts and Pennsylvania. No good news for the president there.

Republicans would dearly love Obama to test the Post reporters’ theory that the Democrats’ problem is not enough big-government cheerleading. And they would be ecstatic if he came to do it in every close district in the country. Then there will be no denying that the results will be a true reflection of the country’s evaluation of him.

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Stop the Presses: David Broder Sings Palin’s Praises

Hold on to your hat: the dean of conventional Beltway wisdom, David Broder, proclaims that we should “take Sarah Palin seriously.” Oh my! But she knows nothing, says Chris Matthews. She plays to the racist Tea Party crowd, bellows E.J. Dionne. She’s a dope and a bimbo, proclaims the Beagle Blogger. Nonsense, says Broder:

I gave her high marks for her vice presidential acceptance speech in St. Paul. But then, and always throughout that campaign, she was laboring to do more than establish her own place. She was selling a ticket headed by John McCain against formidable Democratic opposition and burdened by the legacy of the Bush administration.

Blessed with an enthusiastic audience of conservative activists, Palin used the Tea Party gathering and coverage on the cable networks to display the full repertoire she possesses, touching on national security, economics, fiscal and social policy, and every other area where she could draw a contrast with Barack Obama and point up what Republicans see as vulnerabilities in Washington.

Could it be that, as Broder says, “she has locked herself firmly in the populist embrace that every skillful outsider candidate from George Wallace to Jimmy Carter to Ronald Reagan to Bill Clinton has utilized when running against ‘the political establishment’”? Uh … yeah. Broder suggests that those inclined to mock her should start paying attention. And that advice he aims squarely at the White House sneerers: “Those who want to stop her will need more ammunition than deriding her habit of writing on her hand. The lady is good.”

This sort of unconventional-conventional wisdom is precisely what drives the Palin haters up the wall. Stop taking her seriously! Remember the Tina Fey parodies — she’s a joke! Her critics have gotten used to the luxury of a shared assumption among “serious” pundits that Palin is not ready for the big leagues. They’ve become accustomed to deriding her with cheap jokes and snide references. But along the way, they stopped listening to her and watching how the trajectory of her political development tracked the emergence of a grassroots, anti-statist movement. In their haste to denigrate her gig on Fox, they missed her new-and-improved sound-bite-polished TV delivery. Now along comes the dean of the Beltway to tell them: you guys have been asleep!

Palin is not yet a declared candidate. She has many obstacles to overcome and many skeptics to win over. If she runs, she will face contenders with more business and executive experience and less baggage. If she is to become the nominee of her party, she will need to develop not just a boffo speech but more discipline and a set of serious policy proposals. But she has several years to do all that. For now, she’s winning newfound respect by those who are actually paying attention to what she is saying and how she is saying it – and not merely to the size of her breasts or the notes on her hand. And for a candidate whose biggest challenge is to be taken seriously by skeptics, that is no small thing.

Hold on to your hat: the dean of conventional Beltway wisdom, David Broder, proclaims that we should “take Sarah Palin seriously.” Oh my! But she knows nothing, says Chris Matthews. She plays to the racist Tea Party crowd, bellows E.J. Dionne. She’s a dope and a bimbo, proclaims the Beagle Blogger. Nonsense, says Broder:

I gave her high marks for her vice presidential acceptance speech in St. Paul. But then, and always throughout that campaign, she was laboring to do more than establish her own place. She was selling a ticket headed by John McCain against formidable Democratic opposition and burdened by the legacy of the Bush administration.

Blessed with an enthusiastic audience of conservative activists, Palin used the Tea Party gathering and coverage on the cable networks to display the full repertoire she possesses, touching on national security, economics, fiscal and social policy, and every other area where she could draw a contrast with Barack Obama and point up what Republicans see as vulnerabilities in Washington.

Could it be that, as Broder says, “she has locked herself firmly in the populist embrace that every skillful outsider candidate from George Wallace to Jimmy Carter to Ronald Reagan to Bill Clinton has utilized when running against ‘the political establishment’”? Uh … yeah. Broder suggests that those inclined to mock her should start paying attention. And that advice he aims squarely at the White House sneerers: “Those who want to stop her will need more ammunition than deriding her habit of writing on her hand. The lady is good.”

This sort of unconventional-conventional wisdom is precisely what drives the Palin haters up the wall. Stop taking her seriously! Remember the Tina Fey parodies — she’s a joke! Her critics have gotten used to the luxury of a shared assumption among “serious” pundits that Palin is not ready for the big leagues. They’ve become accustomed to deriding her with cheap jokes and snide references. But along the way, they stopped listening to her and watching how the trajectory of her political development tracked the emergence of a grassroots, anti-statist movement. In their haste to denigrate her gig on Fox, they missed her new-and-improved sound-bite-polished TV delivery. Now along comes the dean of the Beltway to tell them: you guys have been asleep!

Palin is not yet a declared candidate. She has many obstacles to overcome and many skeptics to win over. If she runs, she will face contenders with more business and executive experience and less baggage. If she is to become the nominee of her party, she will need to develop not just a boffo speech but more discipline and a set of serious policy proposals. But she has several years to do all that. For now, she’s winning newfound respect by those who are actually paying attention to what she is saying and how she is saying it – and not merely to the size of her breasts or the notes on her hand. And for a candidate whose biggest challenge is to be taken seriously by skeptics, that is no small thing.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Sen. Richard Shelby’s hold on all Obama nominees to get his pork is getting slammed from all sides. For starters, it takes the focus off the truly egregious nominees (e.g., Dawn Johnsen, Harold Craig Becker).

And he’s done a bang-up job of giving the White House a rare moment on the high ground. “The White House on Friday shot back at Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Ala.) who recently took the unusual step of placing a blanket hold on all of the administration’s nominees. White House Communications Director Dan Pfeiffer accused Shelby of seeking political gain in preventing the government from doing its job.”

But it remains gloom and doom for Democrats at the DNC meeting: “In regional meetings and in the hallways of the downtown hotel where they were meeting, DNC members voiced frustration about their fortunes and, with a measure of urgency, plotted about how best to navigate through what is shaping up to be one of their most difficult election cycles in recent history. Some party officials sought to ward off complacency with pointed reminders about just how perilous this year could be.”

David Broder notes that there was no follow-up by the White House after the televised question-and-answer time with House Republicans, which suggests to Broder that “the president and his people may not realize the degree to which Republican frustration with Pelosi’s management of the House has created opportunities for Obama — if he is willing to engage as directly as he did in his Illinois Senate days.” Or maybe the whole question-and-answer routine was just more spin, and Obama has no intention of altering his far-Left agenda.

John Yoo takes Obama to task: “Obama believes the president should lead a revolution in society, the economy, and the political system, but defer on national security and foreign policy to the other branches of government. This upends the Framers’ vision of the presidency. They thought the chief executive’s powers would expand broadly to meet external challenges while playing a modest role at home.”

Back in September, the Los Angeles Times called on Eric Holder to come clean on the New Black Panther Party case. Now the Providence Journal turns up the heat: “Instead of letting questions fester about a potentially troublesome matter, the Obama administration should come clean about its decision to dismiss a case involving what looked like racist voter intimidation in 2008. Then, hopefully, everyone can move on. …The Justice Department may enforce our laws, but it is not above them. Instead of stonewalling, it should share with the public who made this decision to drop the case, and why.”

The State of the Union bounce seems to have faded: “The Rasmussen Reports daily Presidential Tracking Poll for Saturday shows that 26% of the nation’s voters Strongly Approve of the way that Barack Obama is performing his role as President. Forty-one percent (41%) Strongly Disapprove which Obama a Presidential Approval Index rating of -15. That matches the President’s ratings just before the State-of-the-Union Address.”

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand might be asked why the repeal of the Bush tax cuts is good for her state: “Federal income-tax rates in the top brackets will be restored to their pre-2001 levels next year, the Bush-era cuts in capital gains and dividend taxes will be partially reversed, and itemized deductions for high-income filers (including deductions for state and local taxes) will be curtailed. If all of this comes to pass, it will spell trouble for the New York state budget for a simple reason: New York’s finances are balanced on a narrow pinnacle of high-income households, and higher federal taxes drive top-earning New Yorkers to lower their overall tax burdens by sheltering incomes, earning less, or moving to lower-tax states.”

Jonathan Chait calls Jamie Gorelick a “corrupt hack” for lobbying for lenders who don’t want the federal government to drive them out of the student loan business. Conservatives may not agree with the reason, but the conclusion — “cross Gorelick off the list of Democrats suitable to hold office” — is one that will get bipartisan support.

Sen. Richard Shelby’s hold on all Obama nominees to get his pork is getting slammed from all sides. For starters, it takes the focus off the truly egregious nominees (e.g., Dawn Johnsen, Harold Craig Becker).

And he’s done a bang-up job of giving the White House a rare moment on the high ground. “The White House on Friday shot back at Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Ala.) who recently took the unusual step of placing a blanket hold on all of the administration’s nominees. White House Communications Director Dan Pfeiffer accused Shelby of seeking political gain in preventing the government from doing its job.”

But it remains gloom and doom for Democrats at the DNC meeting: “In regional meetings and in the hallways of the downtown hotel where they were meeting, DNC members voiced frustration about their fortunes and, with a measure of urgency, plotted about how best to navigate through what is shaping up to be one of their most difficult election cycles in recent history. Some party officials sought to ward off complacency with pointed reminders about just how perilous this year could be.”

David Broder notes that there was no follow-up by the White House after the televised question-and-answer time with House Republicans, which suggests to Broder that “the president and his people may not realize the degree to which Republican frustration with Pelosi’s management of the House has created opportunities for Obama — if he is willing to engage as directly as he did in his Illinois Senate days.” Or maybe the whole question-and-answer routine was just more spin, and Obama has no intention of altering his far-Left agenda.

John Yoo takes Obama to task: “Obama believes the president should lead a revolution in society, the economy, and the political system, but defer on national security and foreign policy to the other branches of government. This upends the Framers’ vision of the presidency. They thought the chief executive’s powers would expand broadly to meet external challenges while playing a modest role at home.”

Back in September, the Los Angeles Times called on Eric Holder to come clean on the New Black Panther Party case. Now the Providence Journal turns up the heat: “Instead of letting questions fester about a potentially troublesome matter, the Obama administration should come clean about its decision to dismiss a case involving what looked like racist voter intimidation in 2008. Then, hopefully, everyone can move on. …The Justice Department may enforce our laws, but it is not above them. Instead of stonewalling, it should share with the public who made this decision to drop the case, and why.”

The State of the Union bounce seems to have faded: “The Rasmussen Reports daily Presidential Tracking Poll for Saturday shows that 26% of the nation’s voters Strongly Approve of the way that Barack Obama is performing his role as President. Forty-one percent (41%) Strongly Disapprove which Obama a Presidential Approval Index rating of -15. That matches the President’s ratings just before the State-of-the-Union Address.”

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand might be asked why the repeal of the Bush tax cuts is good for her state: “Federal income-tax rates in the top brackets will be restored to their pre-2001 levels next year, the Bush-era cuts in capital gains and dividend taxes will be partially reversed, and itemized deductions for high-income filers (including deductions for state and local taxes) will be curtailed. If all of this comes to pass, it will spell trouble for the New York state budget for a simple reason: New York’s finances are balanced on a narrow pinnacle of high-income households, and higher federal taxes drive top-earning New Yorkers to lower their overall tax burdens by sheltering incomes, earning less, or moving to lower-tax states.”

Jonathan Chait calls Jamie Gorelick a “corrupt hack” for lobbying for lenders who don’t want the federal government to drive them out of the student loan business. Conservatives may not agree with the reason, but the conclusion — “cross Gorelick off the list of Democrats suitable to hold office” — is one that will get bipartisan support.

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Is Obama Really Shaken?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Why Is Napolitano Still There?

Mickey Kaus wants to know why the chattering class is being so nice to Janet Napolitano. Maureen Dowd, David Broder, and a bunch of former and current office-holders rallied around her over the weekend. But she is a national punch line, forever tied to her “the system worked” hooey, so what’s the story? Kaus muses: “Does she give great parties? Is it that DHS has a highly effective, overactive P.R. person? Or does America’s bureaucratic capital simply overvalue those whose first instinct is to defend their bureaucracy?” Well, even conservatives who know her say she is pleasant, and that counts for something, I suppose. But when Michael Chertoff damns her with faint praise (“her heart is in the right place”) I get a bit suspicious.

Here’s a theory: it is in everyone’s interest (except that of the American people, but their views don’t count for much on vital national issues such as health care, so why listen to them on this, right?) to keep her around. The Republicans don’t want this to stop with the Secretary of Homeland Security. They place responsibility on the president and his weirdly inappropriate conduct of the war against Islamic fundamentalists (whom he won’t identify as the enemy). And as long as she is around saying dopey things, the Republicans’ case that the Obami are out to lunch on anti-terrorism is strengthened. She is a useful piñata. Meanwhile, the Democrats don’t want any heads to start rolling because then the public might get the idea that this is a really big deal. Dumping her would be inconsistent with their line that they’ve always been on top of things. And then the White House never likes to fire anyone (recall how long it took to get rid of 9/11 “truther” Van Jones) because that might suggest the Obami either have made a specific mistake or, more generally, lack judgment. So she just might be safe in the near term. Which makes everyone happy. Except the public.

Mickey Kaus wants to know why the chattering class is being so nice to Janet Napolitano. Maureen Dowd, David Broder, and a bunch of former and current office-holders rallied around her over the weekend. But she is a national punch line, forever tied to her “the system worked” hooey, so what’s the story? Kaus muses: “Does she give great parties? Is it that DHS has a highly effective, overactive P.R. person? Or does America’s bureaucratic capital simply overvalue those whose first instinct is to defend their bureaucracy?” Well, even conservatives who know her say she is pleasant, and that counts for something, I suppose. But when Michael Chertoff damns her with faint praise (“her heart is in the right place”) I get a bit suspicious.

Here’s a theory: it is in everyone’s interest (except that of the American people, but their views don’t count for much on vital national issues such as health care, so why listen to them on this, right?) to keep her around. The Republicans don’t want this to stop with the Secretary of Homeland Security. They place responsibility on the president and his weirdly inappropriate conduct of the war against Islamic fundamentalists (whom he won’t identify as the enemy). And as long as she is around saying dopey things, the Republicans’ case that the Obami are out to lunch on anti-terrorism is strengthened. She is a useful piñata. Meanwhile, the Democrats don’t want any heads to start rolling because then the public might get the idea that this is a really big deal. Dumping her would be inconsistent with their line that they’ve always been on top of things. And then the White House never likes to fire anyone (recall how long it took to get rid of 9/11 “truther” Van Jones) because that might suggest the Obami either have made a specific mistake or, more generally, lack judgment. So she just might be safe in the near term. Which makes everyone happy. Except the public.

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The Supreme Court Watch

There is good reason to believe that one or more Supreme Court justices will step down in 2010. The rumors have swirled for some time that Justice Stevens will retire. Moreover, it seems increasingly likely that the Democrats may lose Senate seats, dropping their ranks below the filibuster-proof 60. That makes post-2010 Supreme Court confirmation fights a bit trickier and reduces the chances of a hard-core liberal activist making it to the Court after the 2010 elections. So if the liberal/activist justices are thinking of retirement in the next few years, 2010 is the time to do it.

Obama made a political calculation with Sonia Sotomayor that the benefits of a “wise Latina” outweighed the long term benefits of having a top-flight liberal intellectual on the Court, who might go toe-to-toe with the conservative heavyweights (and have the ability from time to time to corral the mercurial Justice Anthony Kennedy). That calculation made some sense if one supposes Sotomayor would not be Obama’s only appointment.

In some respects the Sotomayor confirmation hearing was a boon to conservative jurists and scholars. As Ed Whelan notes, despite Obama’s attempt to elevate “empathy,” and a filibuster-proof Democratic majority, judicial activists came away disappointed “as Sotomayor, in close consultation with the White House, tried to disguise herself as a judicial conservative. ‘The task of a judge is not to make law, it is to apply the law,’ she averred. Judges are ‘like umpires,’ she said. She pretended to walk away from her support for freewheeling resort to foreign and international legal materials. And, perhaps most strikingly, she emphatically repudiated Obama’s own empathy standard.” What’s more, liberals grudgingly figured out that Jeffrey Rosen was right — they could have come up with a better nominee.

In 2010 Obama might go for a top-flight nominee with impeccable credentials and a willingness to be candid about his or her judicial philosophy. But the temptation is great, especially as Obama’s ratings are sinking and his Democratic colleagues are floundering in the polls, to once again play the political angle. Recall that with this crowd everything is political — the Afghanistan war strategy, the census, and especially the Justice Department. So the political consiglieres may well be pushing for a minority-group nominee (haven’t Asians been drifting toward the Republican camp?) or a charismatic figure around whom to rally as they seek to paint the Republicans as the grouchy, bad guys. Find someone who will be good on TV! Play the gender/ethnicity/race card! (Besides, if the Obami are confident in securing a second term, what’s the rush? They’ll have many more years to put boringly competent and intellectually precise people on the Court.)

So it may well be that once again an unexceptional but dependable liberal will get the nod.  But we can, I think, be assured of one thing: David Broder notwithstanding, Janet Napolitano will be off the short list.

There is good reason to believe that one or more Supreme Court justices will step down in 2010. The rumors have swirled for some time that Justice Stevens will retire. Moreover, it seems increasingly likely that the Democrats may lose Senate seats, dropping their ranks below the filibuster-proof 60. That makes post-2010 Supreme Court confirmation fights a bit trickier and reduces the chances of a hard-core liberal activist making it to the Court after the 2010 elections. So if the liberal/activist justices are thinking of retirement in the next few years, 2010 is the time to do it.

Obama made a political calculation with Sonia Sotomayor that the benefits of a “wise Latina” outweighed the long term benefits of having a top-flight liberal intellectual on the Court, who might go toe-to-toe with the conservative heavyweights (and have the ability from time to time to corral the mercurial Justice Anthony Kennedy). That calculation made some sense if one supposes Sotomayor would not be Obama’s only appointment.

In some respects the Sotomayor confirmation hearing was a boon to conservative jurists and scholars. As Ed Whelan notes, despite Obama’s attempt to elevate “empathy,” and a filibuster-proof Democratic majority, judicial activists came away disappointed “as Sotomayor, in close consultation with the White House, tried to disguise herself as a judicial conservative. ‘The task of a judge is not to make law, it is to apply the law,’ she averred. Judges are ‘like umpires,’ she said. She pretended to walk away from her support for freewheeling resort to foreign and international legal materials. And, perhaps most strikingly, she emphatically repudiated Obama’s own empathy standard.” What’s more, liberals grudgingly figured out that Jeffrey Rosen was right — they could have come up with a better nominee.

In 2010 Obama might go for a top-flight nominee with impeccable credentials and a willingness to be candid about his or her judicial philosophy. But the temptation is great, especially as Obama’s ratings are sinking and his Democratic colleagues are floundering in the polls, to once again play the political angle. Recall that with this crowd everything is political — the Afghanistan war strategy, the census, and especially the Justice Department. So the political consiglieres may well be pushing for a minority-group nominee (haven’t Asians been drifting toward the Republican camp?) or a charismatic figure around whom to rally as they seek to paint the Republicans as the grouchy, bad guys. Find someone who will be good on TV! Play the gender/ethnicity/race card! (Besides, if the Obami are confident in securing a second term, what’s the rush? They’ll have many more years to put boringly competent and intellectually precise people on the Court.)

So it may well be that once again an unexceptional but dependable liberal will get the nod.  But we can, I think, be assured of one thing: David Broder notwithstanding, Janet Napolitano will be off the short list.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Why Should They Applaud Corruption?

David Broder thinks we should be applauding a health-care bill that stinks. He nevertheless acknowledges:

Forced to bargain for every vote among the 60 in his caucus, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid did what he usually does: He reduced the negotiations to his own level of transactional morality. Incapable of summoning his colleagues to statesmanship, he made the deals look as crass and parochial as many of them were — encasing a historic achievement in a wrapping of payoff and patronage. The taint has rubbed off on the bill.

But really, it is much more than that. The “taint” has not simply rubbed off on the bill; it is at the heart of it and has created separate classes of health-care recipients based on the political sway of their state’s senator. Nebraska seniors will get better health care than will those from California, whose senators didn’t manage to snag any carve-outs or extra goodies. Imagine if an amendment were introduced that all states must have the same reimbursement rates for Medicare and Medicaid and that spending for health centers and other facilities will be done by an independent commission (like the BRAC). How quickly before the deal would unravel? Well, that sounds like a fine amendment for the Senate when and if the bill returns to the Senate for a vote (provided the House isn’t forced to simply swallow the Senate version).

The Christmas recess, like the August recess, affords lawmakers the chance to hear from their constituents. There are many groups to hear from. Jeffrey Anderson reels off a list:

They’ll get to hear from people who don’t want to pay higher taxes, higher premiums, and higher overall health costs; who don’t want to lose their consumer-driven health plans; who don’t want to see colossal sums of money siphoned out of Medicare and spent on Obamacare; who don’t want a health-care system based on political cronyism (witness the shameless exemption of the longshoreman’s union from the tax on ‘Cadillac plans,’ and the survival of Medicare Advantage in Florida but not anywhere else). They’ll get to hear from people who don’t want to see a trillion dollars over 12 years be transferred from taxpayers to insurers; who don’t want to see deficits rise and the quality of care fall; and who don’t want to have the federal government inject itself into the historically and rightfully private relationship between patient and doctor.

In other words, there are constituents who hate nearly ever aspect of the bill, and lawmakers should understand there are few voters who share Broder’s view that this is acceptable, meritorious legislation.

What next, then? If Rep. Bart Stupak is serious about voting “no” on the bill with the Reid-Nelson abortion-subsidy language and has a core group who will follow him, Nancy Pelosi is going to have to go looking for votes to make up for loss of these votes. The job of ObamaCare opponents will be to make sure the bill’s noxious elements are so well known that Pelosi will run out of members willing to walk the plank. Can it be done? We’ll find out.

David Broder thinks we should be applauding a health-care bill that stinks. He nevertheless acknowledges:

Forced to bargain for every vote among the 60 in his caucus, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid did what he usually does: He reduced the negotiations to his own level of transactional morality. Incapable of summoning his colleagues to statesmanship, he made the deals look as crass and parochial as many of them were — encasing a historic achievement in a wrapping of payoff and patronage. The taint has rubbed off on the bill.

But really, it is much more than that. The “taint” has not simply rubbed off on the bill; it is at the heart of it and has created separate classes of health-care recipients based on the political sway of their state’s senator. Nebraska seniors will get better health care than will those from California, whose senators didn’t manage to snag any carve-outs or extra goodies. Imagine if an amendment were introduced that all states must have the same reimbursement rates for Medicare and Medicaid and that spending for health centers and other facilities will be done by an independent commission (like the BRAC). How quickly before the deal would unravel? Well, that sounds like a fine amendment for the Senate when and if the bill returns to the Senate for a vote (provided the House isn’t forced to simply swallow the Senate version).

The Christmas recess, like the August recess, affords lawmakers the chance to hear from their constituents. There are many groups to hear from. Jeffrey Anderson reels off a list:

They’ll get to hear from people who don’t want to pay higher taxes, higher premiums, and higher overall health costs; who don’t want to lose their consumer-driven health plans; who don’t want to see colossal sums of money siphoned out of Medicare and spent on Obamacare; who don’t want a health-care system based on political cronyism (witness the shameless exemption of the longshoreman’s union from the tax on ‘Cadillac plans,’ and the survival of Medicare Advantage in Florida but not anywhere else). They’ll get to hear from people who don’t want to see a trillion dollars over 12 years be transferred from taxpayers to insurers; who don’t want to see deficits rise and the quality of care fall; and who don’t want to have the federal government inject itself into the historically and rightfully private relationship between patient and doctor.

In other words, there are constituents who hate nearly ever aspect of the bill, and lawmakers should understand there are few voters who share Broder’s view that this is acceptable, meritorious legislation.

What next, then? If Rep. Bart Stupak is serious about voting “no” on the bill with the Reid-Nelson abortion-subsidy language and has a core group who will follow him, Nancy Pelosi is going to have to go looking for votes to make up for loss of these votes. The job of ObamaCare opponents will be to make sure the bill’s noxious elements are so well known that Pelosi will run out of members willing to walk the plank. Can it be done? We’ll find out.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Mitt Romney has a 10-point plan to revive the economy. The best idea: “Stop frightening the private sector by continuing to hold GM stock, by imposing tighter and tighter controls on compensation, and by pursuing a public insurance plan to compete with private insurers. Government encroachment on free enterprise is depressing investment and job creation.”

Why not a peace process that works? “What if instead of squandering it for sixty years on victimology and bomb-making the Palestinians had taken all the talent and ingenuity and energy for which they’re famous and expended it on building a state; on establishing a democratic government; on turning malarial swamps and barren deserts into rich, fertile farmland; on pioneering breakthroughs in science, medicine, mathematics, and technology; on music, literature, art, movies; on creating a live nation booming with progress and awash in Nobel Prizes?”

Republican Mike Castle leads by 6 points in the latest poll in the Delaware Senate race.

Gallup polling on Afghanistan: “President Obama has managed to thread the needle with his newly announced Afghanistan strategy, with his approach winning the approval of a majority of both Democrats (58%) and Republicans (55%) in a USA Today/Gallup poll conducted Wednesday night. … Regarding the timetable component of Obama’s new policy, the plurality of Americans, 46%, say it is too soon to set a timetable for beginning to withdraw troops.” Sometimes good policy does make good politics.

Charles Krauthammer has reason to worry over that “call to arms so ambivalent, so tentative, so defensive”: “Words matter because will matters. Success in war depends on three things: a brave and highly skilled soldiery, such as the 2009 U.S. military, the finest counterinsurgency force in history; brilliant, battle-tested commanders such as Gens. David Petraeus and McChrystal, fresh from the success of the surge in Iraq; and the will to prevail as personified by the commander in chief. … Has there ever been a call to arms more dispiriting, a trumpet more uncertain?”

David Broder ruefully observes: “Obama’s rhetoric was skilled enough that many of his listeners Tuesday thought they heard him promise that the buildup of forces in Afghanistan he has ordered will be suspended as early as 2011. But Defense Secretary Robert Gates, who is incapable of dissembling, quickly made it clear that the withdrawal will begin — not end — that year, and only if battlefield conditions permit.”

The New York Times headline reads: “Obama Tackles Jobless Woes, but Warns of Limited Funds.” Translation: sorry we spent all your money and we still have sky-high unemployment.

Sen. Ben Nelson threatens to filibuster ObamaCare without a Stupak amendment that prohibits abortion funding.

Mitt Romney has a 10-point plan to revive the economy. The best idea: “Stop frightening the private sector by continuing to hold GM stock, by imposing tighter and tighter controls on compensation, and by pursuing a public insurance plan to compete with private insurers. Government encroachment on free enterprise is depressing investment and job creation.”

Why not a peace process that works? “What if instead of squandering it for sixty years on victimology and bomb-making the Palestinians had taken all the talent and ingenuity and energy for which they’re famous and expended it on building a state; on establishing a democratic government; on turning malarial swamps and barren deserts into rich, fertile farmland; on pioneering breakthroughs in science, medicine, mathematics, and technology; on music, literature, art, movies; on creating a live nation booming with progress and awash in Nobel Prizes?”

Republican Mike Castle leads by 6 points in the latest poll in the Delaware Senate race.

Gallup polling on Afghanistan: “President Obama has managed to thread the needle with his newly announced Afghanistan strategy, with his approach winning the approval of a majority of both Democrats (58%) and Republicans (55%) in a USA Today/Gallup poll conducted Wednesday night. … Regarding the timetable component of Obama’s new policy, the plurality of Americans, 46%, say it is too soon to set a timetable for beginning to withdraw troops.” Sometimes good policy does make good politics.

Charles Krauthammer has reason to worry over that “call to arms so ambivalent, so tentative, so defensive”: “Words matter because will matters. Success in war depends on three things: a brave and highly skilled soldiery, such as the 2009 U.S. military, the finest counterinsurgency force in history; brilliant, battle-tested commanders such as Gens. David Petraeus and McChrystal, fresh from the success of the surge in Iraq; and the will to prevail as personified by the commander in chief. … Has there ever been a call to arms more dispiriting, a trumpet more uncertain?”

David Broder ruefully observes: “Obama’s rhetoric was skilled enough that many of his listeners Tuesday thought they heard him promise that the buildup of forces in Afghanistan he has ordered will be suspended as early as 2011. But Defense Secretary Robert Gates, who is incapable of dissembling, quickly made it clear that the withdrawal will begin — not end — that year, and only if battlefield conditions permit.”

The New York Times headline reads: “Obama Tackles Jobless Woes, but Warns of Limited Funds.” Translation: sorry we spent all your money and we still have sky-high unemployment.

Sen. Ben Nelson threatens to filibuster ObamaCare without a Stupak amendment that prohibits abortion funding.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

The guru of conventional Beltway wisdom, David Broder, has had enough: “The more President Obama examines our options in Afghanistan, the less he likes the choices he sees. But, as the old saying goes, to govern is to choose — and he has stretched the internal debate to the breaking point. … The cost of indecision is growing every day. Americans, our allies who have contributed their own troops to the struggle against al-Qaeda and the Taliban, and the Afghans and their government are waiting impatiently, while the challenge is getting worse.”

A devastating portrait of Eric Holder: “The dispassion, the self-reverence, the blindness of the man, are marvelous to behold, and so perfectly reflect the president he so perfectly serves. ‘Neutral and detached’ people shall ‘understand the reasons why’ he made those decisions, shall see he has left ‘the politics out of it,’ and shall recognize what’s right — something the rest of us, benighted and bellicose souls that we are, have never managed to do with respect to the disposition of those committing mass murders of Americans in their ongoing war against our civilization.”

Another nail in the coffin of PelosiCare: “The House-approved healthcare overhaul would raise the costs of healthcare by $289 billion over the next 10 years, according to an analysis by the nonpartisan, independent Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS).”

And that’s not all: “A plan to slash more than $500 billion from future Medicare spending — one of the biggest sources of funding for President Obama’s proposed overhaul of the nation’s health-care system — would sharply reduce benefits for some senior citizens and could jeopardize access to care for millions of others, according to a government evaluation released Saturday.”

Surprise, surprise: the Obami are bothered by the cost of winning the war in Afghanistan.

Rep. Peter King: “Like many New Yorkers and members of the families of the nearly 3,000 innocent Americans murdered on that horrific Tuesday morning eight years ago, I’m outraged and insulted by President Obama’s decision to transfer Khalid Sheik Mohammed, the admitted mastermind of the 9/11 attacks, to New York City for trial in civilian federal court. The decision will go down in history as one of the worst made by any US president. While it may be hailed by Europeans, the ACLU and the far-left-wing of the Democratic Party, the president’s action actually threatens American lives and weakens US national security.” I wonder what Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand will say.

Enough is enough, says Secretary of Defense Robert Gates: “Defense Secretary Robert Gates has blocked the public release of any more pictures of foreign detainees abused by their U.S. captors, saying their release would endanger American soldiers. The Obama administration filed a brief with the Supreme Court late Friday saying that Mr. Gates has invoked new powers blocking the release of the photos.”

Steve Schmidt vs. Sarah Palin. Hmm. Is there any doubt who’s got a better chance of being on a 2012 campaign? It’s one thing to lose a campaign, quite another to go down as the perpetual bad-mouther of your VP candidate.

The guru of conventional Beltway wisdom, David Broder, has had enough: “The more President Obama examines our options in Afghanistan, the less he likes the choices he sees. But, as the old saying goes, to govern is to choose — and he has stretched the internal debate to the breaking point. … The cost of indecision is growing every day. Americans, our allies who have contributed their own troops to the struggle against al-Qaeda and the Taliban, and the Afghans and their government are waiting impatiently, while the challenge is getting worse.”

A devastating portrait of Eric Holder: “The dispassion, the self-reverence, the blindness of the man, are marvelous to behold, and so perfectly reflect the president he so perfectly serves. ‘Neutral and detached’ people shall ‘understand the reasons why’ he made those decisions, shall see he has left ‘the politics out of it,’ and shall recognize what’s right — something the rest of us, benighted and bellicose souls that we are, have never managed to do with respect to the disposition of those committing mass murders of Americans in their ongoing war against our civilization.”

Another nail in the coffin of PelosiCare: “The House-approved healthcare overhaul would raise the costs of healthcare by $289 billion over the next 10 years, according to an analysis by the nonpartisan, independent Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS).”

And that’s not all: “A plan to slash more than $500 billion from future Medicare spending — one of the biggest sources of funding for President Obama’s proposed overhaul of the nation’s health-care system — would sharply reduce benefits for some senior citizens and could jeopardize access to care for millions of others, according to a government evaluation released Saturday.”

Surprise, surprise: the Obami are bothered by the cost of winning the war in Afghanistan.

Rep. Peter King: “Like many New Yorkers and members of the families of the nearly 3,000 innocent Americans murdered on that horrific Tuesday morning eight years ago, I’m outraged and insulted by President Obama’s decision to transfer Khalid Sheik Mohammed, the admitted mastermind of the 9/11 attacks, to New York City for trial in civilian federal court. The decision will go down in history as one of the worst made by any US president. While it may be hailed by Europeans, the ACLU and the far-left-wing of the Democratic Party, the president’s action actually threatens American lives and weakens US national security.” I wonder what Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand will say.

Enough is enough, says Secretary of Defense Robert Gates: “Defense Secretary Robert Gates has blocked the public release of any more pictures of foreign detainees abused by their U.S. captors, saying their release would endanger American soldiers. The Obama administration filed a brief with the Supreme Court late Friday saying that Mr. Gates has invoked new powers blocking the release of the photos.”

Steve Schmidt vs. Sarah Palin. Hmm. Is there any doubt who’s got a better chance of being on a 2012 campaign? It’s one thing to lose a campaign, quite another to go down as the perpetual bad-mouther of your VP candidate.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

From Rasmussen: “Forty-five percent (45%) of U.S. voters now give President Obama poor marks for his handling of the economy, the highest level of disapproval this year. A new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds that 39% believe the president is doing a good or excellent job on the economy following the announcement last week that unemployment in October rose to 10.2 percent, the highest level in 26 years.”

Maybe the White House and Democratic congressional leadership should start paying attention to the voters: “The health-care battle appears to be helping Republicans running for the Senate. Two Quinnipiac polls released Thursday show the leading GOP candidates in Connecticut and Ohio growing their leads. Former Rep. Rob Simmons (R-Conn.) leads Sen. Chris Dodd (D-Conn.), 49-38, and former Rep. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) has opened his first leads over two potential Democratic opponents.”

And the White House and Congress want to spend lots more money: “The federal budget deficit for October rose more than expected to $176.36 billion, the government announced moments ago, up from $155.53 billion in October 2008. This is the largest October deficit on record. It is the first month of fiscal 2010. The total national debt — the sum of all deficits from the beginning of the republic until today — is now up to nearly $12 trillion. A healthy economy should not have a deficit that’s more than about 3 percent of its GDP. Even with a GDP that’s gone positive in the third quarter, the U.S. deficit now projects out to about 11 to 12 percent of GDP. And that’s scary.” Scary indeed, especially for incumbents.

On Major Nadal Hasan’s business cards identifying himself as a Soldier of Allah: “‘He was making no secret of allegiances,’ said former FBI agent Brad Garrett, an ABC News consultant. ‘It’s one more piece of evidence that might have come out if investigators had taken a hard look at Hasan,’ said Garrett. “‘It doesn’t say he’s about to go out and shoot a bunch of people, but there’s something not quite right for an Army major to self-identify that way.’” Not quite.

Charles Krauthammer: “What a surprise — that someone who shouts ‘Allahu Akbar’ (the ‘God is great’ jihadist battle cry) as he is shooting up a room of American soldiers might have Islamist motives. It certainly was a surprise to the mainstream media, which spent the weekend after the Fort Hood massacre playing down Nidal Hasan’s religious beliefs.”

Sarah Palin denounces PelosiCare and suggests her own version: “Let’s get back to discussing market-driven, patient-centered, result-driven solutions, like, for example, allowing people to purchase insurance across state lines, tackling existing government waste and fraud, and reforming medical malpractice laws (tort reform) to stop unwarranted lawsuits that force doctors to order unnecessary procedures just to cover themselves.” Take away the names, describe PelosiCare, and I suspect that a majority of Americans would favor PalinCare.

David Broder agrees with Palin on one thing: PelosiCare is a financial train wreck. “Just as it did under Republican control in the George W. Bush years, when it passed but did not pay for a Medicare prescription drug benefit, it is about to hand out the goodies and leave it to the next generation to pick up the bill.”

From Rasmussen: “Forty-five percent (45%) of U.S. voters now give President Obama poor marks for his handling of the economy, the highest level of disapproval this year. A new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds that 39% believe the president is doing a good or excellent job on the economy following the announcement last week that unemployment in October rose to 10.2 percent, the highest level in 26 years.”

Maybe the White House and Democratic congressional leadership should start paying attention to the voters: “The health-care battle appears to be helping Republicans running for the Senate. Two Quinnipiac polls released Thursday show the leading GOP candidates in Connecticut and Ohio growing their leads. Former Rep. Rob Simmons (R-Conn.) leads Sen. Chris Dodd (D-Conn.), 49-38, and former Rep. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) has opened his first leads over two potential Democratic opponents.”

And the White House and Congress want to spend lots more money: “The federal budget deficit for October rose more than expected to $176.36 billion, the government announced moments ago, up from $155.53 billion in October 2008. This is the largest October deficit on record. It is the first month of fiscal 2010. The total national debt — the sum of all deficits from the beginning of the republic until today — is now up to nearly $12 trillion. A healthy economy should not have a deficit that’s more than about 3 percent of its GDP. Even with a GDP that’s gone positive in the third quarter, the U.S. deficit now projects out to about 11 to 12 percent of GDP. And that’s scary.” Scary indeed, especially for incumbents.

On Major Nadal Hasan’s business cards identifying himself as a Soldier of Allah: “‘He was making no secret of allegiances,’ said former FBI agent Brad Garrett, an ABC News consultant. ‘It’s one more piece of evidence that might have come out if investigators had taken a hard look at Hasan,’ said Garrett. “‘It doesn’t say he’s about to go out and shoot a bunch of people, but there’s something not quite right for an Army major to self-identify that way.’” Not quite.

Charles Krauthammer: “What a surprise — that someone who shouts ‘Allahu Akbar’ (the ‘God is great’ jihadist battle cry) as he is shooting up a room of American soldiers might have Islamist motives. It certainly was a surprise to the mainstream media, which spent the weekend after the Fort Hood massacre playing down Nidal Hasan’s religious beliefs.”

Sarah Palin denounces PelosiCare and suggests her own version: “Let’s get back to discussing market-driven, patient-centered, result-driven solutions, like, for example, allowing people to purchase insurance across state lines, tackling existing government waste and fraud, and reforming medical malpractice laws (tort reform) to stop unwarranted lawsuits that force doctors to order unnecessary procedures just to cover themselves.” Take away the names, describe PelosiCare, and I suspect that a majority of Americans would favor PalinCare.

David Broder agrees with Palin on one thing: PelosiCare is a financial train wreck. “Just as it did under Republican control in the George W. Bush years, when it passed but did not pay for a Medicare prescription drug benefit, it is about to hand out the goodies and leave it to the next generation to pick up the bill.”

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Left and Right

Broadly speaking, the political mood of the public can be gauged in terms of its shifting calculation of risk and reward. If, as in the period from about 1980 to 2004, the promise of new rewards outweighs the fears of accompanying risk, the market-oriented Republicans will be the beneficiaries. But if, as in the period from 1932 to 1966, the fear of risk is more salient than the hope of enhanced rewards, the result will be movement away from free-market policies and towards the presumed protections of government regulation.

For all its benefits, globalization (and the accompanying issues of massive illegal immigration) has brought to an end the period that privileged risk over reward. The Republican Party seems unable to face up to this shift. Some of my GOP friends blame it all on Bush. They rail at the failings of the Bush administration with the kind of vitriol usually reserved for leftists. Others, taken aback by the plunge in Republican party identification, trot out consoling ploys along the lines of “You should have seen the other guy!” Take, for example, Congressman Tom Cole of Oklahoma. While he acknowledges the unpopularity of the GOP, after a wave of scandals, the setbacks in Iraq, etc., he also emphasizes the misfortunes of the Democrat-controlled Congress.

Cole sees the 2008 election as shaping up like the one in 1992, when incumbents of both parties had a hard time. It’s true that Congress as a whole has only a 29 percent approval rating, lower than that of President Bush. But the problem for the GOP is that, as Washington Post columnist David Broder notes, half of the voters blame Bush and the Republicans; only 25 percent place the onus on the Democrats.

Another excuse Republicans are likely to make is that America is still, largely, a center-Right country. That’s true—but the center has shifted towards the Left. On a range of key issues, from trade to health care to economic inequality, the number of Americans who share some classic Democratic concerns has risen, notes the Wall Street Journal. A recent Pew poll found that “Three-quarters of the population is worried about growing income inequality. Pew also showed that two-thirds of those polled favor government-funded health care for all.” At the same time, Pew reports that “Support for a government safety net for the poor is at its highest level since 1987.”

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Broadly speaking, the political mood of the public can be gauged in terms of its shifting calculation of risk and reward. If, as in the period from about 1980 to 2004, the promise of new rewards outweighs the fears of accompanying risk, the market-oriented Republicans will be the beneficiaries. But if, as in the period from 1932 to 1966, the fear of risk is more salient than the hope of enhanced rewards, the result will be movement away from free-market policies and towards the presumed protections of government regulation.

For all its benefits, globalization (and the accompanying issues of massive illegal immigration) has brought to an end the period that privileged risk over reward. The Republican Party seems unable to face up to this shift. Some of my GOP friends blame it all on Bush. They rail at the failings of the Bush administration with the kind of vitriol usually reserved for leftists. Others, taken aback by the plunge in Republican party identification, trot out consoling ploys along the lines of “You should have seen the other guy!” Take, for example, Congressman Tom Cole of Oklahoma. While he acknowledges the unpopularity of the GOP, after a wave of scandals, the setbacks in Iraq, etc., he also emphasizes the misfortunes of the Democrat-controlled Congress.

Cole sees the 2008 election as shaping up like the one in 1992, when incumbents of both parties had a hard time. It’s true that Congress as a whole has only a 29 percent approval rating, lower than that of President Bush. But the problem for the GOP is that, as Washington Post columnist David Broder notes, half of the voters blame Bush and the Republicans; only 25 percent place the onus on the Democrats.

Another excuse Republicans are likely to make is that America is still, largely, a center-Right country. That’s true—but the center has shifted towards the Left. On a range of key issues, from trade to health care to economic inequality, the number of Americans who share some classic Democratic concerns has risen, notes the Wall Street Journal. A recent Pew poll found that “Three-quarters of the population is worried about growing income inequality. Pew also showed that two-thirds of those polled favor government-funded health care for all.” At the same time, Pew reports that “Support for a government safety net for the poor is at its highest level since 1987.”

Republicans have long been the party of de-regulation in the name of freer markets. Yet, a recent Wall Street Journal-NBC News Poll finds a dramatic shift by Republican voters against our current free trade policies. Sixty percent “agreed with a statement that free trade has been bad for the U.S. and said they would agree with a Republican candidate who favored tougher regulations to limit foreign imports.” Indeed, faced with growing competition from inexpensive Chinese imports that don’t have to incorporate the costs of American safety requirements, some U.S. manufacturers are receptive to new regulations that, as they see it, could level the playing field.

The socially-conservative Right is waning as the Left waxes. It’s not just that evangelicals are increasingly divided among themselves. Pew found that between 1987 and this year, support for “old-fashioned values about family and marriage” had dropped 11 percentage points. The percentage of those who said gay teachers should be fired dropped 23 points.” Politicians have noticed. When Fred Thompson was asked by Sean Hannity about James Dobson’s criticism of him, the former senator, once seen as the great social conservative hope, replied curtly “I don’t dance to anyone’s tune.”

With Karl Rove’s fantasies of a GOP realignment having come to an end, Republicans have been pouncing on Bush’s numerous inadequacies. They are all too real, but so are the underlying changes that will be with us after Bush leaves the White House. From the look of things, the Republicans are no more ready to adapt than were their Democratic predecessors of the 1970’s.

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Bloomberg’s “Leadership”

Washington Post columnist David Broder wrote on Sunday about the strengths of an independent ticket for 2008 with Michael Bloomberg as the presidential and Nebraska Senator Chuck Hagel as the vice-presidential candidate. Broder cites Hagel on Bloomberg: “A guy like Bloomberg could have deep credibility as a candidate because” he’s a “proven leader.” Leadership, Broder himself goes on to say, “is precisely what Bloomberg demonstrates every day as mayor.” Broder and Hagel have it exactly wrong. As the recent and easily-preventable deaths of two fireman in the Deutsche Bank building fire of August 18th made clear, Bloomberg is a hands-off mayor who—in everything from Ground Zero to subway breakdowns to ferry crashes to repeated Con Ed blackouts to school bus snafus—has been anything but a leader.

Standing on the edge of Ground Zero, the Deutsche Bank building survived 9/11. But it was so badly damaged that the asbestos and other chemical compounds used in its construction spread throughout the building, turning the structure into a toxic pile of rubbish, “a vertical Love Canal.” Though scheduled for demolition, under Bloomberg’s “leadership” all but the top floors of the building are still standing, six years after 9/11.

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Washington Post columnist David Broder wrote on Sunday about the strengths of an independent ticket for 2008 with Michael Bloomberg as the presidential and Nebraska Senator Chuck Hagel as the vice-presidential candidate. Broder cites Hagel on Bloomberg: “A guy like Bloomberg could have deep credibility as a candidate because” he’s a “proven leader.” Leadership, Broder himself goes on to say, “is precisely what Bloomberg demonstrates every day as mayor.” Broder and Hagel have it exactly wrong. As the recent and easily-preventable deaths of two fireman in the Deutsche Bank building fire of August 18th made clear, Bloomberg is a hands-off mayor who—in everything from Ground Zero to subway breakdowns to ferry crashes to repeated Con Ed blackouts to school bus snafus—has been anything but a leader.

Standing on the edge of Ground Zero, the Deutsche Bank building survived 9/11. But it was so badly damaged that the asbestos and other chemical compounds used in its construction spread throughout the building, turning the structure into a toxic pile of rubbish, “a vertical Love Canal.” Though scheduled for demolition, under Bloomberg’s “leadership” all but the top floors of the building are still standing, six years after 9/11.

The building’s owner is the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation (LMDC), a hapless organization jointly run by the governor and the mayor, created to help guide the rebuilding of Ground Zero. LMDC purchased the Deutsche Bank building after 9/11 to take responsibility for its safe and timely demolition. But Bloomberg has additional responsibilities: the city’s Building and Fire Departments (of which he is ultimately in charge) are responsible for making sure that safety standards are met during the stunningly slow process of demolition. Each of these agencies failed in its mission. Had the Fire or Buildings Departments done their job, they would have found that not only was there no plan for how to deal with a fire as is required by law, but that the water system needed to fight a fire had been disabled. But it gets worse. Bovis, the giant construction company given the contract for the demolition, subcontracted it to a mob-run front company (named, weirdly, John Galt, after the name of the architect engineer in Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged).

But John Galt had no experience in the difficult task of asbestos removal, and violated safety standards with impunity. Somehow all this escaped the city’s notice until after it sent firefighters into a building veiled in sheathing to keep contaminants (and smoke and fire, as it turned out) from escaping.

But what’s really striking is that, with the exception of one column by Juan Gonzalez of the Daily News, no one has pointed a finger at Bloomberg. Editorials have called for the head of the Fire Commissioner and denounced the LMDC, but Bloomberg has been held blameless. Imagine, for a moment, that the administrations of mayors Koch or Dinkins (or Giuliani), men without $20 billion fortunes and lacking personal friendships with the city’s media elite, had hired an incompetent construction company whose shoddy work led to the deaths of two of New York’s bravest. The press would be in a frenzy, furiously demanding answers from the mayor. But a week after the tragedy, the press has had virtually nothing to say about Bloomberg’s role in the tragedy. Now that’s leadership.

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