Commentary Magazine


Topic: David Gergen

The Political Noose Tightens for Dems

Gallup’s generic ballot poll (courtesy of the indispensible RealClearPolitics) shows a 49-43 percent lead for the GOP, the largest lead for Republicans since the poll started in the midpoint of the last century. The fact that this is almost unsurprising is evidence of the dangers facing the Democratic Party, and the modern liberal agenda, this November.

Among the problems for Democrats is that the narrative of the election — a bad economy, profligate spending, misplaced priorities, and the Obama administration’s general incompetence — is just about baked into the cake, absent some extraordinary intervening events. And the news for President Obama and Democrats continues to get worse rather than better. Even David Gergen is turning on the president.

President Obama and his party have been on a fairly steady slide since last summer, based on virtually every conceivable political metric (approval ratings, generic ballot polls, enthusiasm gap, trust in government, confidence in Congress, support for the stimulus package, the unpopularity of health care reform, et cetera).

The only good news is that according to Gallup, Americans’ favorable ratings of the Democratic and Republican parties are near record lows for each, with a 36 percent favorable score for the Republican Party (which is five percentage points above the low established in December 1998), while the Democratic Party’s 43 percent is just two points higher than its record low measured in March. The current poll marks the second successive sub–50 percent rating for the Democrats after the party had been consistently above that mark since July 2006, meaning that even the good news for Democrats is qualified.

The political noose continues to tighten around the necks of Democrats. Cheerleaders of the president — and there are still plenty of those in the political class — will explain all this as the result of bad luck or blame it on the previous administration. The rest of America considers this the results of a president whose agenda is failing virtually across the board.

Gallup’s generic ballot poll (courtesy of the indispensible RealClearPolitics) shows a 49-43 percent lead for the GOP, the largest lead for Republicans since the poll started in the midpoint of the last century. The fact that this is almost unsurprising is evidence of the dangers facing the Democratic Party, and the modern liberal agenda, this November.

Among the problems for Democrats is that the narrative of the election — a bad economy, profligate spending, misplaced priorities, and the Obama administration’s general incompetence — is just about baked into the cake, absent some extraordinary intervening events. And the news for President Obama and Democrats continues to get worse rather than better. Even David Gergen is turning on the president.

President Obama and his party have been on a fairly steady slide since last summer, based on virtually every conceivable political metric (approval ratings, generic ballot polls, enthusiasm gap, trust in government, confidence in Congress, support for the stimulus package, the unpopularity of health care reform, et cetera).

The only good news is that according to Gallup, Americans’ favorable ratings of the Democratic and Republican parties are near record lows for each, with a 36 percent favorable score for the Republican Party (which is five percentage points above the low established in December 1998), while the Democratic Party’s 43 percent is just two points higher than its record low measured in March. The current poll marks the second successive sub–50 percent rating for the Democrats after the party had been consistently above that mark since July 2006, meaning that even the good news for Democrats is qualified.

The political noose continues to tighten around the necks of Democrats. Cheerleaders of the president — and there are still plenty of those in the political class — will explain all this as the result of bad luck or blame it on the previous administration. The rest of America considers this the results of a president whose agenda is failing virtually across the board.

Read Less

Turning the Tables

Michael Gerson echoes what many of us observed yesterday:

President Obama, as usual, was fluent, professorial and occasionally prickly. Some are impressed by the president’s informed, academic manner. Others (myself included) find an annoying condescension in Obama’s never-ending seminar. All the students — I mean elected legislators — were informed if their arguments were “legitimate” or not. Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) was arrogantly instructed that the “election’s over.”

There was a stature gap in the room, but not between Obama and the Republicans (as at the House Republican retreat). The stature gap was between Obama and his fellow Democrats. I would bet against any legislative team that includes Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), who turned in a nasty, embarrassing performance.

As Gerson notes, Republicans got the tone right. What is great fun and inspiring for the base on talk radio doesn’t necessarily do the trick in a nationally televised summit facing the President of the United States. Republicans took that to heart and conducted themselves with poise, decorum, and a certain policy sophistication we don’t always see on display. They didn’t need to beat Obama in the who-can-be-the-more-ponderous-wonk department. They needed to show they were not the know-nothings Obama had painted them to be. And in that, they succeeded handsomely. Or as David Gergen put it, the Republicans “intellectually had their best day in years.”

Nor is it so easy, as it becomes obvious that nothing has changed, to pretend there is broad-based support for Obama’s approach. It wasn’t just the poll numbers that Republicans recited at every chance. As Jake Tapper reported:

Unfortunately for President Obama, the bipartisan agreement is outside Blair House where today’s health care summit is taking place, and the agreement is among liberal and conservative protestors arguing for different reason that the Democrats’ current health care reform proposal isn’t the correct prescription. Conservatives argue that it’s too much government intrusion and socialism. Liberals argue that the various leading Democratic proposals don’t go far enough.

It took Obama and the inept duo of Reid and Pelosi to shove Dennis Kucinich, Jane Hamsher, Jim DeMint, and Olympia Snowe (who refused to show up yesterday) all on the same side of the debate – that is, in opposition to his monstrous plan. And it took the health-care summit to reveal that the rigid, unpleasant ones are not the members of “the party of no.” David Brooks observes:

The Republican leaders, Mitch McConnell and John Boehner, were smart enough to stand back and let Senator Lamar Alexander lead the way, which he did genially and intelligently. While Alexander was speaking, Reid and Pelosi wouldn’t even deign to look at him. … f you thought Republicans were a bunch of naysayers who don’t know or care about health care, then this was not the event for you. They more than held their own.

Obama then essentially failed to pin the blame on the Republicans, who generally seemed a bit more reasonable and genial than Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid, and company.  (Political Rule No. 1: Get inept opponents.) As Gerson sums up: “The whole exercise, in short, was an ambush. But the quarry, it seems, got away.” And with it, mostly likely, did the Democrats’ dream of passing ObamaCare.

Michael Gerson echoes what many of us observed yesterday:

President Obama, as usual, was fluent, professorial and occasionally prickly. Some are impressed by the president’s informed, academic manner. Others (myself included) find an annoying condescension in Obama’s never-ending seminar. All the students — I mean elected legislators — were informed if their arguments were “legitimate” or not. Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) was arrogantly instructed that the “election’s over.”

There was a stature gap in the room, but not between Obama and the Republicans (as at the House Republican retreat). The stature gap was between Obama and his fellow Democrats. I would bet against any legislative team that includes Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), who turned in a nasty, embarrassing performance.

As Gerson notes, Republicans got the tone right. What is great fun and inspiring for the base on talk radio doesn’t necessarily do the trick in a nationally televised summit facing the President of the United States. Republicans took that to heart and conducted themselves with poise, decorum, and a certain policy sophistication we don’t always see on display. They didn’t need to beat Obama in the who-can-be-the-more-ponderous-wonk department. They needed to show they were not the know-nothings Obama had painted them to be. And in that, they succeeded handsomely. Or as David Gergen put it, the Republicans “intellectually had their best day in years.”

Nor is it so easy, as it becomes obvious that nothing has changed, to pretend there is broad-based support for Obama’s approach. It wasn’t just the poll numbers that Republicans recited at every chance. As Jake Tapper reported:

Unfortunately for President Obama, the bipartisan agreement is outside Blair House where today’s health care summit is taking place, and the agreement is among liberal and conservative protestors arguing for different reason that the Democrats’ current health care reform proposal isn’t the correct prescription. Conservatives argue that it’s too much government intrusion and socialism. Liberals argue that the various leading Democratic proposals don’t go far enough.

It took Obama and the inept duo of Reid and Pelosi to shove Dennis Kucinich, Jane Hamsher, Jim DeMint, and Olympia Snowe (who refused to show up yesterday) all on the same side of the debate – that is, in opposition to his monstrous plan. And it took the health-care summit to reveal that the rigid, unpleasant ones are not the members of “the party of no.” David Brooks observes:

The Republican leaders, Mitch McConnell and John Boehner, were smart enough to stand back and let Senator Lamar Alexander lead the way, which he did genially and intelligently. While Alexander was speaking, Reid and Pelosi wouldn’t even deign to look at him. … f you thought Republicans were a bunch of naysayers who don’t know or care about health care, then this was not the event for you. They more than held their own.

Obama then essentially failed to pin the blame on the Republicans, who generally seemed a bit more reasonable and genial than Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid, and company.  (Political Rule No. 1: Get inept opponents.) As Gerson sums up: “The whole exercise, in short, was an ambush. But the quarry, it seems, got away.” And with it, mostly likely, did the Democrats’ dream of passing ObamaCare.

Read Less

LIVE BLOG: Some More on Obama’s Performance

John, I think Obama is suffering from three factors. First, the expectations for him, based on a good deal of media puffery, are  that he should dominate these events. When he doesn’t and looks like a beleagured professor or a midlevel executive whose employees are refusing to get on the same page, the disappointment is greater than for a mere mortal politician.

Second, he has the Democrats on his side, and the Republicans have Paul Ryan, Dave Camp, Lamar Alexander, and John Boehner (who is now doing a fine job drilling down on costs, abortion subsidies, and a leaner health-care plan). And it isn’t just me. Republicans are frankly delighted by some of the media reaction. (David Gergen from earlier today on Obama: “He doesn’t have a strong Democratic team behind him.” Wolf Blizter: “It looks like the Republicans certainly showed up ready to play.”)

Third, the event is too long and there are too many popular, substantive points to be raised by the Republicans for this to be the “game changer” Obama needed. Whoever came up with this idea at the White House is no doubt squirming.

John, I think Obama is suffering from three factors. First, the expectations for him, based on a good deal of media puffery, are  that he should dominate these events. When he doesn’t and looks like a beleagured professor or a midlevel executive whose employees are refusing to get on the same page, the disappointment is greater than for a mere mortal politician.

Second, he has the Democrats on his side, and the Republicans have Paul Ryan, Dave Camp, Lamar Alexander, and John Boehner (who is now doing a fine job drilling down on costs, abortion subsidies, and a leaner health-care plan). And it isn’t just me. Republicans are frankly delighted by some of the media reaction. (David Gergen from earlier today on Obama: “He doesn’t have a strong Democratic team behind him.” Wolf Blizter: “It looks like the Republicans certainly showed up ready to play.”)

Third, the event is too long and there are too many popular, substantive points to be raised by the Republicans for this to be the “game changer” Obama needed. Whoever came up with this idea at the White House is no doubt squirming.

Read Less

Flotsam and Jetsam

Jim Geraghty observes of Obama’s appearance in Ohio that the president was “defensive, prickly, almost indignant that he’s found himself in the tough spot that he’s in.” That’s pretty much par for the course when things aren’t going well. I think that superior temperament thing only works when he’s on top.

Mickey Kaus: “What do presidents do when they should fire themselves? They fire their advisers and bring in a new crew. That’s what may happen here. I’d guess we’re about 36 hours away from a Beltway call for ‘wise men.’ … If it wasn’t for his role in the Massachusetts Senate debate, I’d say we’re a week away from David Gergen’s touchdown at Reagan National.” But first Obama would have to acknowledge something is wrong — well, other than all those stubbornly angry people out there who don’t understand how hard he has been working.

The Obami never seem to learn anything. Andy McCarthy tells us: “The Justice Department has announced the release from Gitmo of a terrorist who conspired to bomb Los Angeles International Airport in the 2000 Millennium plot. Hassan Zumiri, who was part of an al-Qaeda affiliated terror cell in Montreal, has been repatriated to his native Algeria — a country so rife with terrorists that it was recently placed on the list of 14 countries whose travelers warrant enhanced screening at airports.”

They never learn anything because they avert their eyes from inconvenient truths. Tom Joscelyn on the Fort Hood report: “The report lumps all sorts of deviant and problematic behaviors together as if they have the same relevance to the events of November 5. Thus, we find a discussion of alcohol and drug abuse, sexual violence, elder abuse, and the disgusting methods employed by child molesters. We also learn of the deleterious effects of events ‘such as divorce, loss of a job, or death of a loved one,” all of which “may trigger suicide in those who are already vulnerable.’ . . .What is relevant is Hasan’s religious and political beliefs. He is a jihadist, although you would never know it by reading the Pentagon’s report.”

The Obama presidency has been a disaster for Big Labor. No card check. And now this: “Organized labor lost 10% of its members in the private sector last year, the largest decline in more than 25 years. The drop is on par with the fall in total employment but threatens to significantly limit labor’s ability to influence elections and legislation. . .Labor experts said theunion-membership losses would have a long-term impact on unions and their finances, because unions wouldn’t automatically regain members once the job market rebounded. In many cases, new jobs will be created at nonunion employers or plants.” Maybe union bosses should have spent less time and money lobbying for card check and for ObamaCare and more effort on pro-job measures.

Obama may find the public unreceptive to his populist pandering. Gallup finds: “Americans’ broad views about corporate spending in elections generally accord with the Supreme Court’s decision Thursday that abolished some decades-old restrictions on corporate political activity. Fifty-seven percent of Americans consider campaign donations to be a protected form of free speech, and 55% say corporate and union donations should be treated the same way under the law as donations from individuals are.” (A majority still think it’s more important to limit campaign donations.)

And meanwhile he hits a new low in approval (47 percent) in Gallup.

George Will anticipates Obama’s next ill-advised gambit: “If Obama can now resist the temptation of faux populism, if he does not rage, like Lear on the heath, against banks, he can be what Americans, eager for adult supervision, elected him to be: a prudent grown-up. For this elegant and intelligent man to suddenly discover his inner William Jennings Bryan (‘You shall not crucify America upon a cross of credit-default swaps’) would be akin to Fred Astaire donning coveralls and clodhoppers.” Unfortunately, in a year, the only time we’ve seen the “prudent grown-up” is on the Afghanistan surge — and then only with a lot of adolescent angst and ill-advised lefty rhetoric.

Still cringing over Sen. Arlen Specter’s “act like a lady” blunder, Gail Collins notices: “If the Democrats are looking for a wake-up call from Massachusetts, the big rooster in the room is the plethora of underwhelming candidates they are fielding.” Well, in this climate, it’s hard to recruit the cream of the crop.

Jim Geraghty observes of Obama’s appearance in Ohio that the president was “defensive, prickly, almost indignant that he’s found himself in the tough spot that he’s in.” That’s pretty much par for the course when things aren’t going well. I think that superior temperament thing only works when he’s on top.

Mickey Kaus: “What do presidents do when they should fire themselves? They fire their advisers and bring in a new crew. That’s what may happen here. I’d guess we’re about 36 hours away from a Beltway call for ‘wise men.’ … If it wasn’t for his role in the Massachusetts Senate debate, I’d say we’re a week away from David Gergen’s touchdown at Reagan National.” But first Obama would have to acknowledge something is wrong — well, other than all those stubbornly angry people out there who don’t understand how hard he has been working.

The Obami never seem to learn anything. Andy McCarthy tells us: “The Justice Department has announced the release from Gitmo of a terrorist who conspired to bomb Los Angeles International Airport in the 2000 Millennium plot. Hassan Zumiri, who was part of an al-Qaeda affiliated terror cell in Montreal, has been repatriated to his native Algeria — a country so rife with terrorists that it was recently placed on the list of 14 countries whose travelers warrant enhanced screening at airports.”

They never learn anything because they avert their eyes from inconvenient truths. Tom Joscelyn on the Fort Hood report: “The report lumps all sorts of deviant and problematic behaviors together as if they have the same relevance to the events of November 5. Thus, we find a discussion of alcohol and drug abuse, sexual violence, elder abuse, and the disgusting methods employed by child molesters. We also learn of the deleterious effects of events ‘such as divorce, loss of a job, or death of a loved one,” all of which “may trigger suicide in those who are already vulnerable.’ . . .What is relevant is Hasan’s religious and political beliefs. He is a jihadist, although you would never know it by reading the Pentagon’s report.”

The Obama presidency has been a disaster for Big Labor. No card check. And now this: “Organized labor lost 10% of its members in the private sector last year, the largest decline in more than 25 years. The drop is on par with the fall in total employment but threatens to significantly limit labor’s ability to influence elections and legislation. . .Labor experts said theunion-membership losses would have a long-term impact on unions and their finances, because unions wouldn’t automatically regain members once the job market rebounded. In many cases, new jobs will be created at nonunion employers or plants.” Maybe union bosses should have spent less time and money lobbying for card check and for ObamaCare and more effort on pro-job measures.

Obama may find the public unreceptive to his populist pandering. Gallup finds: “Americans’ broad views about corporate spending in elections generally accord with the Supreme Court’s decision Thursday that abolished some decades-old restrictions on corporate political activity. Fifty-seven percent of Americans consider campaign donations to be a protected form of free speech, and 55% say corporate and union donations should be treated the same way under the law as donations from individuals are.” (A majority still think it’s more important to limit campaign donations.)

And meanwhile he hits a new low in approval (47 percent) in Gallup.

George Will anticipates Obama’s next ill-advised gambit: “If Obama can now resist the temptation of faux populism, if he does not rage, like Lear on the heath, against banks, he can be what Americans, eager for adult supervision, elected him to be: a prudent grown-up. For this elegant and intelligent man to suddenly discover his inner William Jennings Bryan (‘You shall not crucify America upon a cross of credit-default swaps’) would be akin to Fred Astaire donning coveralls and clodhoppers.” Unfortunately, in a year, the only time we’ve seen the “prudent grown-up” is on the Afghanistan surge — and then only with a lot of adolescent angst and ill-advised lefty rhetoric.

Still cringing over Sen. Arlen Specter’s “act like a lady” blunder, Gail Collins notices: “If the Democrats are looking for a wake-up call from Massachusetts, the big rooster in the room is the plethora of underwhelming candidates they are fielding.” Well, in this climate, it’s hard to recruit the cream of the crop.

Read Less

Flotsam and Jetsam

Odd that Saudi Arabia isn’t contributing anything to Haiti, or even covering it on English-language state news. “It seems it was God’s little joke to hand the greatest supplies of oil and natural gas to a people who part with their riches for their own ends only.”

House Democrats are saying they aren’t voting for the Senate health-care bill. Maybe they won’t vote again for the House bill.

Democratic pollster and strategist Douglas Schoen: “The defeat of Martha Coakley represents a complete repudiation of President Obama’s domestic agenda, going well beyond health care. Massachusetts voters made it clear tonight with the decisive victory they gave to Republican Scott Brown that they want and expect the administration to pursue a dramatically different approach.” And he’s a Democrat.

Sen. Jim Webb is calling foul on the gamesmanship: “It is vital that we restore the respect of the American people in our system of government and in our leaders. To that end, I believe it would only be fair and prudent that we suspend further votes on health care legislation until Senator-elect Brown is seated.” Could it be that the White House has lost control of the process?

Lanny Davis is pleading for sanity: “Liberal Democrats might attempt to spin the shocking victory of Republican Scott Brown in Massachusetts by claiming that the loss was a result of a poor campaign by Martha Coakley. Would that it were so. This was a defeat not of the messenger, but of the message—and the sooner progressive Democrats face up to that fact, the better. It’s the substance, stupid! … The question is, will we stop listening to the strident, purist base of our party who seem to prefer defeat to winning elections and no change at all if they don’t get all the change they want. Stay tuned.”

Michael Gerson chides the see-no-danger Democrats: “So, a Republican has convincingly won Ted Kennedy’s former Senate seat. After opposing health reform. And supporting the waterboarding of terrorists. And appearing as a nude centerfold. In a state where Democrats outnumber Republicans by three to one. And where Republicans haven’t won a Senate election since 1972. After a high-profile visit by President Obama. Who won the state by 26 points last year. But who now carries no political weight in the bluest state in the country. With vicious, public recriminations starting among Democrats even before election day. Following major losses in Virginia and New Jersey. All of which led one popular Democratic blog to argue: ‘Why Massachusetts doesn’t matter.'”

Hard to argue that: “This is the first time in years that David Gergen has helped elect a Republican.” The line “This is the people’s seat” is going to go down with “I paid for this microphone” in campaign lore.

Chris Cillizza observes: “With the Coakley loss now in the rear view mirror, the attention of the political world will now quickly turn to the question of whether or not congressional Democrats — particularly those in swing areas — will start jumping ship.” I think the only question is how many jump. “Several Democratic operatives acknowledged privately over the past few days that a Coakley defeat could put control of the House in play if enough targeted members head for the hills. It remains to be seen whether those doomsday predictions come to pass but it’s now clear that Democrats must work day in and day out to avoid broad losses outside of the historic norms for a first term, midterm election.”

Hans von Spakovsky looks for clues to White House meddling in the New Black Panther Party case: “Perhaps the single most important question that the Department of Justice (DOJ) and the White House are refusing to answer in the growing scandal (for the stonewalling and subpoena violations make it a scandal) is which political appointees were involved in the obviously wrongful decision to dismiss the lawsuit — a civil suit filed under the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Newly released White House visitor records present strong circumstantial evidence of White House involvement in what should have been an independent and impartial law-enforcement decision.”

Before the returns were in last night, from Stuart Rothenberg: “If Brown wins, and he may, it will be the biggest political upset of my adult life. Some have compared a possible Republican win to Democrat Harris Wofford’s 1991 Pennsylvania special election Senate victory over Republican Dick Thornburgh, who was U.S. attorney general. But to me, a Brown win would be much bigger.” Yes, it is.

Odd that Saudi Arabia isn’t contributing anything to Haiti, or even covering it on English-language state news. “It seems it was God’s little joke to hand the greatest supplies of oil and natural gas to a people who part with their riches for their own ends only.”

House Democrats are saying they aren’t voting for the Senate health-care bill. Maybe they won’t vote again for the House bill.

Democratic pollster and strategist Douglas Schoen: “The defeat of Martha Coakley represents a complete repudiation of President Obama’s domestic agenda, going well beyond health care. Massachusetts voters made it clear tonight with the decisive victory they gave to Republican Scott Brown that they want and expect the administration to pursue a dramatically different approach.” And he’s a Democrat.

Sen. Jim Webb is calling foul on the gamesmanship: “It is vital that we restore the respect of the American people in our system of government and in our leaders. To that end, I believe it would only be fair and prudent that we suspend further votes on health care legislation until Senator-elect Brown is seated.” Could it be that the White House has lost control of the process?

Lanny Davis is pleading for sanity: “Liberal Democrats might attempt to spin the shocking victory of Republican Scott Brown in Massachusetts by claiming that the loss was a result of a poor campaign by Martha Coakley. Would that it were so. This was a defeat not of the messenger, but of the message—and the sooner progressive Democrats face up to that fact, the better. It’s the substance, stupid! … The question is, will we stop listening to the strident, purist base of our party who seem to prefer defeat to winning elections and no change at all if they don’t get all the change they want. Stay tuned.”

Michael Gerson chides the see-no-danger Democrats: “So, a Republican has convincingly won Ted Kennedy’s former Senate seat. After opposing health reform. And supporting the waterboarding of terrorists. And appearing as a nude centerfold. In a state where Democrats outnumber Republicans by three to one. And where Republicans haven’t won a Senate election since 1972. After a high-profile visit by President Obama. Who won the state by 26 points last year. But who now carries no political weight in the bluest state in the country. With vicious, public recriminations starting among Democrats even before election day. Following major losses in Virginia and New Jersey. All of which led one popular Democratic blog to argue: ‘Why Massachusetts doesn’t matter.'”

Hard to argue that: “This is the first time in years that David Gergen has helped elect a Republican.” The line “This is the people’s seat” is going to go down with “I paid for this microphone” in campaign lore.

Chris Cillizza observes: “With the Coakley loss now in the rear view mirror, the attention of the political world will now quickly turn to the question of whether or not congressional Democrats — particularly those in swing areas — will start jumping ship.” I think the only question is how many jump. “Several Democratic operatives acknowledged privately over the past few days that a Coakley defeat could put control of the House in play if enough targeted members head for the hills. It remains to be seen whether those doomsday predictions come to pass but it’s now clear that Democrats must work day in and day out to avoid broad losses outside of the historic norms for a first term, midterm election.”

Hans von Spakovsky looks for clues to White House meddling in the New Black Panther Party case: “Perhaps the single most important question that the Department of Justice (DOJ) and the White House are refusing to answer in the growing scandal (for the stonewalling and subpoena violations make it a scandal) is which political appointees were involved in the obviously wrongful decision to dismiss the lawsuit — a civil suit filed under the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Newly released White House visitor records present strong circumstantial evidence of White House involvement in what should have been an independent and impartial law-enforcement decision.”

Before the returns were in last night, from Stuart Rothenberg: “If Brown wins, and he may, it will be the biggest political upset of my adult life. Some have compared a possible Republican win to Democrat Harris Wofford’s 1991 Pennsylvania special election Senate victory over Republican Dick Thornburgh, who was U.S. attorney general. But to me, a Brown win would be much bigger.” Yes, it is.

Read Less

Flotsam and Jetsam

Stuart Rothenberg moves the Nevada Senate race to “lean takeover.” (No wonder Republicans have stopped calling for Harry Reid to step down. Mitch McConnell doesn’t want Reid to go anywhere.) As for Massachusetts, he says: “We continue to believe that [Martha] Coakley will win, though her margin could be so narrow as to cause more jitters on the Democratic side.”

John Fund sure thinks Harry Reid is toast: “In the end, I don’t believe Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid will run for re-election. Whether or not the health care bill he muscled through the Senate becomes law, the 70-year-old will bow out of his race for a fifth term. The major reason has nothing to do with his many verbal gaffes, the latest of which exploded over the weekend. The simple fact is that he probably can’t win re-election — almost no incumbent senator as far down in the polls has come back to win. Asked if Mr. Reid is finished, NBC Political Director Chuck Todd said yesterday, ‘I think so. I do — absolutely.'”

Scott Rasmussen has the race in Massachusetts down to a 2-point margin. Here’s the kicker (and another sign of momentum for Scott Brown): “All polling indicates that a lower turnout is better for the Republican. The new Rasmussen Reports poll shows that Brown is ahead by two percentage points among those who are absolutely certain they will vote. A week ago, he trailed by two among those certain to vote.”

David Gergen, who moderated the Massachusetts Senate debate, tips his hat to Scott Brown for his sharp retort: “Well, with all due respect, it’s not the Kennedys’ seat, and it’s not the Democrats’ seat, it’s the people’s seat.”

You can understand why they’re jittery: “It’s hard for some Democrats to believe that the candidate running to replace Ted Kennedy is being attacked over health care reform — in one of the bluest states in the union, no less. But Republican Scott Brown has got Democrats nervous — not just for his opponent Martha Coakley but about the fact that a loss in Massachusetts would be a body blow to Democratic reform efforts in Washington.”

They should be, considering the Democrat’s campaign, says James Taranto: “Coakley and her Washington insiders are running a campaign that can only be described as incredibly stupid.” Between the negativity, the insistence on carting around the independent candidate to debates, and misspelling the state’s name in an ad, it’s hard to quibble with that conclusion. Plus: “All the talk about enacting ObamaCare as some sort of twisted tribute to Ted Kennedy is beginning to seem a bit reminiscent of the freakish Paul Wellstone funeral service in 2002–a spectacle that cost the Democrats a Senate seat they weren’t supposed to lose.”

John McCormack is apparently the designated punching bag for failing candidates. First, Dede Scozzafava’s husband calls the cops on him, and now Coakley’s flunky shoves him into a railing. Charlie Crist’s people better be on the lookout!

Michael Gerson: “Obama’s rhetorical challenge runs deeper than the recession. In the most unexpected development of his presidency, what was once universally recognized as Obama’s greatest political strength — his oratory — now seems a serious weakness. … People want their president to be both the father and the mother of his country — a talent shared by politicians as diverse as Bill Clinton and George W. Bush (whose speeches I once helped write). Obama’s model, instead, is the coolness of Coolidge. It is old-fashioned. It may even be admirable. It is hard to call it effective. With every speech, a realization grows: A president lacking in drama may also be lacking in inspiration.”

On the way out, finally some honesty from Jon Corzine, who “acknowledged his inability to solve the state’s mounting fiscal problems.”

Stuart Rothenberg moves the Nevada Senate race to “lean takeover.” (No wonder Republicans have stopped calling for Harry Reid to step down. Mitch McConnell doesn’t want Reid to go anywhere.) As for Massachusetts, he says: “We continue to believe that [Martha] Coakley will win, though her margin could be so narrow as to cause more jitters on the Democratic side.”

John Fund sure thinks Harry Reid is toast: “In the end, I don’t believe Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid will run for re-election. Whether or not the health care bill he muscled through the Senate becomes law, the 70-year-old will bow out of his race for a fifth term. The major reason has nothing to do with his many verbal gaffes, the latest of which exploded over the weekend. The simple fact is that he probably can’t win re-election — almost no incumbent senator as far down in the polls has come back to win. Asked if Mr. Reid is finished, NBC Political Director Chuck Todd said yesterday, ‘I think so. I do — absolutely.'”

Scott Rasmussen has the race in Massachusetts down to a 2-point margin. Here’s the kicker (and another sign of momentum for Scott Brown): “All polling indicates that a lower turnout is better for the Republican. The new Rasmussen Reports poll shows that Brown is ahead by two percentage points among those who are absolutely certain they will vote. A week ago, he trailed by two among those certain to vote.”

David Gergen, who moderated the Massachusetts Senate debate, tips his hat to Scott Brown for his sharp retort: “Well, with all due respect, it’s not the Kennedys’ seat, and it’s not the Democrats’ seat, it’s the people’s seat.”

You can understand why they’re jittery: “It’s hard for some Democrats to believe that the candidate running to replace Ted Kennedy is being attacked over health care reform — in one of the bluest states in the union, no less. But Republican Scott Brown has got Democrats nervous — not just for his opponent Martha Coakley but about the fact that a loss in Massachusetts would be a body blow to Democratic reform efforts in Washington.”

They should be, considering the Democrat’s campaign, says James Taranto: “Coakley and her Washington insiders are running a campaign that can only be described as incredibly stupid.” Between the negativity, the insistence on carting around the independent candidate to debates, and misspelling the state’s name in an ad, it’s hard to quibble with that conclusion. Plus: “All the talk about enacting ObamaCare as some sort of twisted tribute to Ted Kennedy is beginning to seem a bit reminiscent of the freakish Paul Wellstone funeral service in 2002–a spectacle that cost the Democrats a Senate seat they weren’t supposed to lose.”

John McCormack is apparently the designated punching bag for failing candidates. First, Dede Scozzafava’s husband calls the cops on him, and now Coakley’s flunky shoves him into a railing. Charlie Crist’s people better be on the lookout!

Michael Gerson: “Obama’s rhetorical challenge runs deeper than the recession. In the most unexpected development of his presidency, what was once universally recognized as Obama’s greatest political strength — his oratory — now seems a serious weakness. … People want their president to be both the father and the mother of his country — a talent shared by politicians as diverse as Bill Clinton and George W. Bush (whose speeches I once helped write). Obama’s model, instead, is the coolness of Coolidge. It is old-fashioned. It may even be admirable. It is hard to call it effective. With every speech, a realization grows: A president lacking in drama may also be lacking in inspiration.”

On the way out, finally some honesty from Jon Corzine, who “acknowledged his inability to solve the state’s mounting fiscal problems.”

Read Less

Obama’s Amateur-Hour Road Show

Amid the media gang tackle of Sarah Palin as she flogs her book, the refrain that she was — and is — unworthy of respect as a policy cipher and ignoramus is heard again around the land. Liberal pundits still wax indignant about the chutzpah of the Republicans in nominating a person for the vice presidency who lacked experience and good judgment. And yet even as the focus on Palin reached a crescendo this week, the inexperienced person whom the Democrats put at the top of their ticket took his show on the road in Asia, and the negative reviews of his astonishingly bad performance while abroad are still coming in.

As a “news analysis” that appeared in yesterday’s New York Times noted, “with the novelty of a visit as America’s first black president having given way to the reality of having to plow through intractable issues like monetary policy (China), trade (Singapore, China, South Korea), security (Japan) and the 800-pound gorilla on the continent (China), Mr. Obama’s Asia trip has been, in many ways, a long, uphill slog.”

The media did not miss the way the Chinese leadership handled Obama. Even such a purveyor of the conventional wisdom as David Gergen wrote on CNN.com to compare Obama’s poor performance with that of another young and inexperienced president, John F. Kennedy, whose disastrous 1961 meeting with Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev gave the Russians the impression that the Americans didn’t know what they were doing and that they could be pushed around. That led to the nearly catastrophic showdown over missiles in Cuba a year later.

“Why bring up that story now, as President Obama comes home from Asia?” Gergen asks. “Because it has considerable relevance to his meetings in China with President Hu. Obama went into those sessions like Kennedy: with great hope that his charm and appeal to reason — qualities so admired in the United States — would work well with Hu. By numerous accounts, that is not at all what happened: reports from correspondents on the scene are replete with statements that Hu stiffed the President.”

Gergen is right. Though the most embarrassing moment of the trip was Obama’s obsequious deep bow to the Japanese emperor — which was duly noted by American bloggers and dismissed by the liberal punditry as well as by the White House — the real damage done to the national interest by Obama’s travels is the way he has come across to America’s rivals and foes, not to our allies. The Chinese, like the Iranians and the Russians, all think they have the measure of Barack Obama. He strikes them as a weak man more interested in trying to please and to evoke applause than in standing up for principles such as human rights or even the danger of nuclear proliferation. The occasional tough talk that has come from Obama has been undermined by his relentless devotion to engagement, which has convinced these countries that he is a leader to be trifled with. That is the only explanation for the disrespect that the Iranians have shown to his diplomatic outreach as well as for the harsh way in which the Chinese demonstrated their disdain for the president.

Gergen believes that Obama must treat this as a moment for a “wake up call” to revive his foreign policy. “For the President, the challenge is whether he will start approaching international affairs with a greater measure of toughness, standing up more firmly and assertively for American interests.”

We will soon see whether Obama is capable of doing that or whether his blind faith in engagement as well as his unbounded desire for adulation will lead to similar or worse fiascoes in the future. The problem, as the Kennedy example highlights, is that the country’s margin for error on dangerous foreign-policy issues is limited. Obama’s ongoing failure to act to halt Iran’s nuclear program is evidence of the price the country is paying for the president’s on-the-job education. Those laughing hardest at Sarah Palin’s antics may be enjoying themselves as her media circus rules the 24/7 news cycle. But Obama’s weakness, a fault rooted deeply in his inexperience in foreign affairs as well as in his overweening vanity, has become a major liability for the United States, the price of which has yet to be fully assessed.

Amid the media gang tackle of Sarah Palin as she flogs her book, the refrain that she was — and is — unworthy of respect as a policy cipher and ignoramus is heard again around the land. Liberal pundits still wax indignant about the chutzpah of the Republicans in nominating a person for the vice presidency who lacked experience and good judgment. And yet even as the focus on Palin reached a crescendo this week, the inexperienced person whom the Democrats put at the top of their ticket took his show on the road in Asia, and the negative reviews of his astonishingly bad performance while abroad are still coming in.

As a “news analysis” that appeared in yesterday’s New York Times noted, “with the novelty of a visit as America’s first black president having given way to the reality of having to plow through intractable issues like monetary policy (China), trade (Singapore, China, South Korea), security (Japan) and the 800-pound gorilla on the continent (China), Mr. Obama’s Asia trip has been, in many ways, a long, uphill slog.”

The media did not miss the way the Chinese leadership handled Obama. Even such a purveyor of the conventional wisdom as David Gergen wrote on CNN.com to compare Obama’s poor performance with that of another young and inexperienced president, John F. Kennedy, whose disastrous 1961 meeting with Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev gave the Russians the impression that the Americans didn’t know what they were doing and that they could be pushed around. That led to the nearly catastrophic showdown over missiles in Cuba a year later.

“Why bring up that story now, as President Obama comes home from Asia?” Gergen asks. “Because it has considerable relevance to his meetings in China with President Hu. Obama went into those sessions like Kennedy: with great hope that his charm and appeal to reason — qualities so admired in the United States — would work well with Hu. By numerous accounts, that is not at all what happened: reports from correspondents on the scene are replete with statements that Hu stiffed the President.”

Gergen is right. Though the most embarrassing moment of the trip was Obama’s obsequious deep bow to the Japanese emperor — which was duly noted by American bloggers and dismissed by the liberal punditry as well as by the White House — the real damage done to the national interest by Obama’s travels is the way he has come across to America’s rivals and foes, not to our allies. The Chinese, like the Iranians and the Russians, all think they have the measure of Barack Obama. He strikes them as a weak man more interested in trying to please and to evoke applause than in standing up for principles such as human rights or even the danger of nuclear proliferation. The occasional tough talk that has come from Obama has been undermined by his relentless devotion to engagement, which has convinced these countries that he is a leader to be trifled with. That is the only explanation for the disrespect that the Iranians have shown to his diplomatic outreach as well as for the harsh way in which the Chinese demonstrated their disdain for the president.

Gergen believes that Obama must treat this as a moment for a “wake up call” to revive his foreign policy. “For the President, the challenge is whether he will start approaching international affairs with a greater measure of toughness, standing up more firmly and assertively for American interests.”

We will soon see whether Obama is capable of doing that or whether his blind faith in engagement as well as his unbounded desire for adulation will lead to similar or worse fiascoes in the future. The problem, as the Kennedy example highlights, is that the country’s margin for error on dangerous foreign-policy issues is limited. Obama’s ongoing failure to act to halt Iran’s nuclear program is evidence of the price the country is paying for the president’s on-the-job education. Those laughing hardest at Sarah Palin’s antics may be enjoying themselves as her media circus rules the 24/7 news cycle. But Obama’s weakness, a fault rooted deeply in his inexperience in foreign affairs as well as in his overweening vanity, has become a major liability for the United States, the price of which has yet to be fully assessed.

Read Less

Out of the Box, or Off the Wall?

Over the past few months, I’ve written a few posts that raised questions about the arrangement of the marbles inside the brain of Michael Scheuer, the former head of the CIA’s Osama bin Laden unit and now a widely cited “expert” on counterterrorism. In his new book, The Road to Hell, Scheuer has turned around and accused me and some of his other critics of being “Israel Firsters,” Americans who put the interests of the state of Israel ahead of those of the United States, and therefore bent on discrediting him because he is exposing our “dual loyalty.”

Never mind that the allegation of treason he levels at me and others, including James Carroll, Max Boot, Steven Simon, Alan Dershowitz, David Gergen, Christopher Hitchens, Marvin Kalb, and Eliot Cohen is offered without a shred of evidence to back it up. And never mind that some of his targets, like Carroll, are themselves harsh critics of Israel.

Here is James Carroll writing about Israeli settlements in a recent column:

Among the factors that derailed the so-called peace process across the years was the ongoing Israeli expansion of settlements, despite agreements to stop. The integrity of Israel’s word was compromised, and its goodwill was questioned. Settlement construction, especially in the environs of Jerusalem, amounted to a radical prejudicing of any conceivable end-game agreement.

I have no idea why Carroll has ended up on Scheuer’s list of “Israel Firsters.” But it is amusing that even some sharp critics of Israel in the mainstream media are now wondering about the arrangement of Scheuer’s marbles, too.

On Bloomberg news, Scheuer’s new book has been reviewed by George Walden, a British member of parliament. When Scheuer argues that the United States is too closely allied to Israel and Saudi Arabia, writes Walden, he is being perfectly “sane.” But “[m]ixed in with his more reasonable opinions,” Walden continues, “we find some thinking that’s not so much out-of-the-box as off-the-wall”:

outrage is his steady state, and he pummels the reader with phrases such as “Hogwash!” and “A pox on them all!” Cool argument isn’t his forte, and he abhors complexity. Nuance is what the elites use to evade decisions, he shrieks.

The title of the Bloomberg news review is Eggheads, Mavericks, Nut Cases: Why the CIA Missed Bin Laden. One of the most marvelous things about the British is their penchant for understatement. Walden’s final assessment, that Scheuer is “mildly touched,” is a classic example of the genre.

Over the past few months, I’ve written a few posts that raised questions about the arrangement of the marbles inside the brain of Michael Scheuer, the former head of the CIA’s Osama bin Laden unit and now a widely cited “expert” on counterterrorism. In his new book, The Road to Hell, Scheuer has turned around and accused me and some of his other critics of being “Israel Firsters,” Americans who put the interests of the state of Israel ahead of those of the United States, and therefore bent on discrediting him because he is exposing our “dual loyalty.”

Never mind that the allegation of treason he levels at me and others, including James Carroll, Max Boot, Steven Simon, Alan Dershowitz, David Gergen, Christopher Hitchens, Marvin Kalb, and Eliot Cohen is offered without a shred of evidence to back it up. And never mind that some of his targets, like Carroll, are themselves harsh critics of Israel.

Here is James Carroll writing about Israeli settlements in a recent column:

Among the factors that derailed the so-called peace process across the years was the ongoing Israeli expansion of settlements, despite agreements to stop. The integrity of Israel’s word was compromised, and its goodwill was questioned. Settlement construction, especially in the environs of Jerusalem, amounted to a radical prejudicing of any conceivable end-game agreement.

I have no idea why Carroll has ended up on Scheuer’s list of “Israel Firsters.” But it is amusing that even some sharp critics of Israel in the mainstream media are now wondering about the arrangement of Scheuer’s marbles, too.

On Bloomberg news, Scheuer’s new book has been reviewed by George Walden, a British member of parliament. When Scheuer argues that the United States is too closely allied to Israel and Saudi Arabia, writes Walden, he is being perfectly “sane.” But “[m]ixed in with his more reasonable opinions,” Walden continues, “we find some thinking that’s not so much out-of-the-box as off-the-wall”:

outrage is his steady state, and he pummels the reader with phrases such as “Hogwash!” and “A pox on them all!” Cool argument isn’t his forte, and he abhors complexity. Nuance is what the elites use to evade decisions, he shrieks.

The title of the Bloomberg news review is Eggheads, Mavericks, Nut Cases: Why the CIA Missed Bin Laden. One of the most marvelous things about the British is their penchant for understatement. Walden’s final assessment, that Scheuer is “mildly touched,” is a classic example of the genre.

Read Less

The Scheuer Charade

Michael Scheuer, the former head of the Osama bin Laden desk and now a leading media “expert” on counterterrorism, has two faces.

When he is talking to or writing for the non-mainstream media, he heads for zany territory. One only has to read his diatribes on antiwar.com or listen to him on antiwar radio talking about Israel’s covert-action programs in this country to get a good sense of what kind of crackpot he is.

But when Scheuer talks to the mainstream media, he strives to make sense. Even though he incessantly punctuates his speech with the word “sir,” — giving himself a military patina, although he has no military service in his background — he seldom dives off into cloud-cuckoo land. One exception was when he spoke at the Council on Foreign Relations and accused Israel of mounting a clandestine operation in the United States through the Holocaust museum on the Washington mall. But mostly he sticks to more defensible themes, usually hammering away on his principal point: that al Qaeda hates us because of what we do, not who we are.

Scheuer has a new book out, Marching Toward Hell. In it, he seems to have allowed his two sides to converge, freely mixing up his more reasonable (if arguable) themes with his whacko ones. I haven’t read the whole thing yet, but my favorite point so far is Scheuer’s disquisition on free speech in the United States.

Scheuer begins by ticking off  a long and eclectic list of people whom he deems “reliable Israel-firsters.” In addition to me, he names James Carroll, Max Boot, Steven Simon, Alan Dershowitz, David Gergen, Christopher Hitchens, Marvin Kalb, and Eliot Cohen. “These are all dangerous men,” he writes, “who, in my judgment, are seeking to place de facto limitations on the First Amendment to protect the nation of their primary attachment.”

What Scheuer is referring to is not an attempt by me or any of these individuals to amend the Constitution, or to silence him through the courts, or to repeal his right to spout nonsense. Rather, he is merely talking about our criticism of him. To which one can only answer: Sir, criticism of you for your nuttiness and your anti-Semitism is our right under the First Amendment. To quote your writings to demonstrate that you are a crackpot, sir, is not to deny you your First Amendment right to speak or scribble as you please.

A particularly amusing aspect of all this is the way certain individuals in the mainstream media continue to take Scheuer seriously. Today’s interview with Scheuer in Newsweek, on the occasion of the publication of his new book, is a case in point. John Barry conducted that interview, and his journalistic laziness should win him a Pulitzer. Either Barry did not crack open Scheuer’s book, or he cracked it and is affecting not to notice what was staring him in the face.

My question of the day is: how long will this charade last?

For previous posts about Michael Scheuer, click here.

Michael Scheuer, the former head of the Osama bin Laden desk and now a leading media “expert” on counterterrorism, has two faces.

When he is talking to or writing for the non-mainstream media, he heads for zany territory. One only has to read his diatribes on antiwar.com or listen to him on antiwar radio talking about Israel’s covert-action programs in this country to get a good sense of what kind of crackpot he is.

But when Scheuer talks to the mainstream media, he strives to make sense. Even though he incessantly punctuates his speech with the word “sir,” — giving himself a military patina, although he has no military service in his background — he seldom dives off into cloud-cuckoo land. One exception was when he spoke at the Council on Foreign Relations and accused Israel of mounting a clandestine operation in the United States through the Holocaust museum on the Washington mall. But mostly he sticks to more defensible themes, usually hammering away on his principal point: that al Qaeda hates us because of what we do, not who we are.

Scheuer has a new book out, Marching Toward Hell. In it, he seems to have allowed his two sides to converge, freely mixing up his more reasonable (if arguable) themes with his whacko ones. I haven’t read the whole thing yet, but my favorite point so far is Scheuer’s disquisition on free speech in the United States.

Scheuer begins by ticking off  a long and eclectic list of people whom he deems “reliable Israel-firsters.” In addition to me, he names James Carroll, Max Boot, Steven Simon, Alan Dershowitz, David Gergen, Christopher Hitchens, Marvin Kalb, and Eliot Cohen. “These are all dangerous men,” he writes, “who, in my judgment, are seeking to place de facto limitations on the First Amendment to protect the nation of their primary attachment.”

What Scheuer is referring to is not an attempt by me or any of these individuals to amend the Constitution, or to silence him through the courts, or to repeal his right to spout nonsense. Rather, he is merely talking about our criticism of him. To which one can only answer: Sir, criticism of you for your nuttiness and your anti-Semitism is our right under the First Amendment. To quote your writings to demonstrate that you are a crackpot, sir, is not to deny you your First Amendment right to speak or scribble as you please.

A particularly amusing aspect of all this is the way certain individuals in the mainstream media continue to take Scheuer seriously. Today’s interview with Scheuer in Newsweek, on the occasion of the publication of his new book, is a case in point. John Barry conducted that interview, and his journalistic laziness should win him a Pulitzer. Either Barry did not crack open Scheuer’s book, or he cracked it and is affecting not to notice what was staring him in the face.

My question of the day is: how long will this charade last?

For previous posts about Michael Scheuer, click here.

Read Less

The David Gergen Project

Not since The Blair Witch Project has there been a more terrifying piece of seemingly amateur video than this short squib captured by my friend Jeff Jarvis, in which David Gergen, the Super Elastic Man of American politics, gets down and funky with all the other extremely white people at the extremely elite Davos conference.

Not since The Blair Witch Project has there been a more terrifying piece of seemingly amateur video than this short squib captured by my friend Jeff Jarvis, in which David Gergen, the Super Elastic Man of American politics, gets down and funky with all the other extremely white people at the extremely elite Davos conference.

Read Less

The Matthews Thesis

On last night’s Hardball with Chris Matthews, Matthews said:

[D]o you think it was odd of the president of the United States, who’s basically against multilateralism, period . . . to be quoting the U.N. Declaration on Human Rights. I mean, where did he-who is he, Eleanor Roosevelt all of a sudden? I mean, where’d he come from with this? And talking about the American outrage against Burma – the American people are outraged about New Orleans. They’re not focused on Burma. Nobody that I know of has even thought about it. . . . Why did he say the American people are outraged at Burma, when you [David Gergen] and I, who do read the papers—I don’t even think you and I are outraged, and we read the paper every day. Ninety percent of the American people are not outraged at hardly anything right now, but the idea that they’re outraged about Burma is ludicrous.

These are the type of insights we’ve come to expect from Mr. Matthews over the years—and they are worth unpacking.

First, Matthews’s charge that the President is “basically against multilateralism, period” is comically uninformed. Matthews seems not to understand the difference between multilateral efforts and having the backing of the United Nations. One often has the former without the latter. For example, the United States has gained unprecedented cooperation in the war against jihadists from countries such as Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and Indonesia. Traditional allies in Europe have helped in tracking and arresting terrorists and blocking their financing. We’re witnessing unprecedented cooperation in law enforcement, intelligence, military actions, and diplomacy. And more than 70 countries have joined the Proliferation Security Initiative (PSI), a comprehensive enforcement mechanism aimed at restricting trafficking of WMD.

Read More

On last night’s Hardball with Chris Matthews, Matthews said:

[D]o you think it was odd of the president of the United States, who’s basically against multilateralism, period . . . to be quoting the U.N. Declaration on Human Rights. I mean, where did he-who is he, Eleanor Roosevelt all of a sudden? I mean, where’d he come from with this? And talking about the American outrage against Burma – the American people are outraged about New Orleans. They’re not focused on Burma. Nobody that I know of has even thought about it. . . . Why did he say the American people are outraged at Burma, when you [David Gergen] and I, who do read the papers—I don’t even think you and I are outraged, and we read the paper every day. Ninety percent of the American people are not outraged at hardly anything right now, but the idea that they’re outraged about Burma is ludicrous.

These are the type of insights we’ve come to expect from Mr. Matthews over the years—and they are worth unpacking.

First, Matthews’s charge that the President is “basically against multilateralism, period” is comically uninformed. Matthews seems not to understand the difference between multilateral efforts and having the backing of the United Nations. One often has the former without the latter. For example, the United States has gained unprecedented cooperation in the war against jihadists from countries such as Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and Indonesia. Traditional allies in Europe have helped in tracking and arresting terrorists and blocking their financing. We’re witnessing unprecedented cooperation in law enforcement, intelligence, military actions, and diplomacy. And more than 70 countries have joined the Proliferation Security Initiative (PSI), a comprehensive enforcement mechanism aimed at restricting trafficking of WMD.

For the Matthews Thesis to have merit, he would have to erase virtually all of the day-to-day activity of the war against radical Islam, which consists of unprecedented levels of cooperation and integrated planning across scores of countries. He would have to ignore our trade and development policy. And he would have to ignore the fact that the United States went to war with Iraq with a coalition of more than two dozen countries.

Second, President Bush is not against the United Nations as a matter of principle. After all, the United States helped shepherd through a unanimous U.N. Security Council vote (1441) finding Iraq in material breach of its previous ceasefire agreements and offering Iraq a final opportunity to comply with its disarmament obligations. But a willingness to work through the U.N. is different than ceding authority to conduct American foreign policy to it. Mr. Matthews may be in favor of that; the President is not.

A third point: it makes great sense for the President to quote the U.N. Declaration of Human Rights, which is fully consistent with the President’s freedom agenda (and, in fact, the U.N. Declaration of Human Rights echoes the principles found in our own Declaration of Independence). It is perfectly reasonable to insist that the United Nations live up to its founding charter.

As for Burma: what we are seeing unfold there is a stirring and courageous stand by Buddhist monks and democratic activists against a brutal military junta, which is now using violence to put an end to the uprising. This moment—like the Tiananmen Square protests of 1989 and the Martyr’s Square protest in Lebanon in 2005—is important and it ought to command our attention and support. It is exactly the type of issue that should be raised at the U.N.

Chris Matthews, ever voluble and confused on the facts, is critical of the President for not being sufficiently multilateral and (presumably) not solicitous enough of regimes like Syria and China—yet he appears to be morally indifferent to a great struggle for liberty that is unfolding before our eyes. All of which is a reminder why Chris Matthews is a perfect choice to host a program on MSNBC.

Read Less

Hot Air in Aspen

Imagine going to the Heritage Foundation to see Ronald Reagan in the late 1980’s. Or listening to Margaret Thatcher at a National Review dinner at around the same time. Or applauding Charlton Heston at the NRA’s annual meeting. This must be the feeling that liberals get during a week of activities at the Aspen Festival of Ideas. A mix of political camaraderie, self-righteousness, and triumphalism oozed from every panel discussion and roundtable.

Only in its third year, this week-long conference, co-sponsored by the Atlantic Monthly and the Aspen Institute, has quickly established itself as the intellectual Woodstock for the wealthy and well-meaning. Bill Clinton made his annual pilgrimage—Aspen is his new Renaissance festival, apparently—and was reliably greeted as healer and seer for those who have had to endure two terms of Republican rule. This year Hillary joined him for some nighttime high-dollar fund-raising. The old Clinton crowd showed up, too: there rarely seemed to be a panel without Rahm Emmanuel, Gene Sperling, Madeline Albright, David Gergen, or Justice Stephen Breyer. True, there were a few Republicans thrown in for appearances, but mostly of the safe variety: Colin Powell or Education Secretary Margaret Spellings. Karl Rove showed up on the final day for a ritual yet respectful skewering, just so everyone could feel bi-partisan and open-minded.

Read More

Imagine going to the Heritage Foundation to see Ronald Reagan in the late 1980’s. Or listening to Margaret Thatcher at a National Review dinner at around the same time. Or applauding Charlton Heston at the NRA’s annual meeting. This must be the feeling that liberals get during a week of activities at the Aspen Festival of Ideas. A mix of political camaraderie, self-righteousness, and triumphalism oozed from every panel discussion and roundtable.

Only in its third year, this week-long conference, co-sponsored by the Atlantic Monthly and the Aspen Institute, has quickly established itself as the intellectual Woodstock for the wealthy and well-meaning. Bill Clinton made his annual pilgrimage—Aspen is his new Renaissance festival, apparently—and was reliably greeted as healer and seer for those who have had to endure two terms of Republican rule. This year Hillary joined him for some nighttime high-dollar fund-raising. The old Clinton crowd showed up, too: there rarely seemed to be a panel without Rahm Emmanuel, Gene Sperling, Madeline Albright, David Gergen, or Justice Stephen Breyer. True, there were a few Republicans thrown in for appearances, but mostly of the safe variety: Colin Powell or Education Secretary Margaret Spellings. Karl Rove showed up on the final day for a ritual yet respectful skewering, just so everyone could feel bi-partisan and open-minded.

But what struck me in the four days of sessions I attended was not Bush-hatred (or any particular display of partisanship), but rather the insipid and anodyne quality of the ideas under such grave discussion. After just two days, it was clear that the assembled crowd of the good and the great strongly believed that teachers should be paid more, that more investments need to be made in early childhood education, that energy and environment issues ought to be at the top of the national agenda, and that far too many college graduates want to become hedge fund managers. In dozens of panels, there were certainly exceptions, but I would refer anyone interested to the Aspen Festival blog posts by Ross Douthat, whose dry yet incisive commentaries captured the hollowness of this gathering of worthies.

Read Less




Welcome to Commentary Magazine.
We hope you enjoy your visit.
As a visitor to our site, you are allowed 8 free articles this month.
This is your first of 8 free articles.

If you are already a digital subscriber, log in here »

Print subscriber? For free access to the website and iPad, register here »

To subscribe, click here to see our subscription offers »

Please note this is an advertisement skip this ad
Clearly, you have a passion for ideas.
Subscribe today for unlimited digital access to the publication that shapes the minds of the people who shape our world.
Get for just
YOU HAVE READ OF 8 FREE ARTICLES THIS MONTH.
FOR JUST
YOU HAVE READ OF 8 FREE ARTICLES THIS MONTH.
FOR JUST
Welcome to Commentary Magazine.
We hope you enjoy your visit.
As a visitor, you are allowed 8 free articles.
This is your first article.
You have read of 8 free articles this month.
YOU HAVE READ 8 OF 8
FREE ARTICLES THIS MONTH.
for full access to
CommentaryMagazine.com
INCLUDES FULL ACCESS TO:
Digital subscriber?
Print subscriber? Get free access »
Call to subscribe: 1-800-829-6270
You can also subscribe
on your computer at
CommentaryMagazine.com.
LOG IN WITH YOUR
COMMENTARY MAGAZINE ID
Don't have a CommentaryMagazine.com log in?
CREATE A COMMENTARY
LOG IN ID
Enter you email address and password below. A confirmation email will be sent to the email address that you provide.