Commentary Magazine


Topic: dean

Changing of the Ambassadorial Guard

With Richard Holbrooke’s death, questions will inevitably be asked about the fate of the post he held: Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan. The job was created expressly for him on the theory that Afghanistan and Pakistan (“AfPak”) were a related problem set that required the appointment of a high-level diplomatic coordinator to handle. The expectation was that Holbrooke would emerge as a dominant force in AfPak policy to rival the NATO commander in Kabul. It never happened. In fact, by the time of his death, it was generally agreed that Holbrooke had largely been marginalized in the policy process.

Part of this was due to some missteps on his part, but the larger problem was that there is not really much of a role for an “SRAP”: it was always a theory more than an actual job description. What we need are capable ambassadors in Islamabad and Kabul who can work closely with our military commander in Kabul, General Petraeus. The model  here is the special relationship that Petraeus had with Ryan Crocker, who was ambassador in Baghdad during the surge. Their close collaboration greatly maximized the impact of the surge forces and convinced Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki  to make hard decisions to cut off sectarian actors.

There is nothing similar in Kabul. General Stanley McChrystal famously feuded with Ambassador Karl Eikenberry, leading to the elevation of the NATO representative, Mark Sedwill, to become McChrystal’s chief diplomatic partner. Sedwill is still in place, and he is a capable and shrewd diplomat, but he would be the first to acknowledge that, as a Brit, he cannot speak with the authority of the United States. Eikenberry also remains in place and has not gotten into any public dust-ups with Petraeus, but he has also burned his bridges to Hamid Karzai with the leak of numerous cables deprecating the Afghan president.

By April, Eikenberry will have completed two years in the job — longer than many last in such pressure-packed assignments. The priority now should not be to replace Holbrooke as the SRAP but rather to ensure that Eikenberry’s replacement will perform in Crocker-like fashion. In this regard, I can’t help but note that Crocker has also previously served as ambassador to Pakistan, so he is familiar with the region. Is there, I wonder, some way that President Obama could lure him out of retirement (he is currently dean of the Bush School at Texas A&M) for one more assignment to work with Petraeus to rescue another troubled war effort?

With Richard Holbrooke’s death, questions will inevitably be asked about the fate of the post he held: Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan. The job was created expressly for him on the theory that Afghanistan and Pakistan (“AfPak”) were a related problem set that required the appointment of a high-level diplomatic coordinator to handle. The expectation was that Holbrooke would emerge as a dominant force in AfPak policy to rival the NATO commander in Kabul. It never happened. In fact, by the time of his death, it was generally agreed that Holbrooke had largely been marginalized in the policy process.

Part of this was due to some missteps on his part, but the larger problem was that there is not really much of a role for an “SRAP”: it was always a theory more than an actual job description. What we need are capable ambassadors in Islamabad and Kabul who can work closely with our military commander in Kabul, General Petraeus. The model  here is the special relationship that Petraeus had with Ryan Crocker, who was ambassador in Baghdad during the surge. Their close collaboration greatly maximized the impact of the surge forces and convinced Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki  to make hard decisions to cut off sectarian actors.

There is nothing similar in Kabul. General Stanley McChrystal famously feuded with Ambassador Karl Eikenberry, leading to the elevation of the NATO representative, Mark Sedwill, to become McChrystal’s chief diplomatic partner. Sedwill is still in place, and he is a capable and shrewd diplomat, but he would be the first to acknowledge that, as a Brit, he cannot speak with the authority of the United States. Eikenberry also remains in place and has not gotten into any public dust-ups with Petraeus, but he has also burned his bridges to Hamid Karzai with the leak of numerous cables deprecating the Afghan president.

By April, Eikenberry will have completed two years in the job — longer than many last in such pressure-packed assignments. The priority now should not be to replace Holbrooke as the SRAP but rather to ensure that Eikenberry’s replacement will perform in Crocker-like fashion. In this regard, I can’t help but note that Crocker has also previously served as ambassador to Pakistan, so he is familiar with the region. Is there, I wonder, some way that President Obama could lure him out of retirement (he is currently dean of the Bush School at Texas A&M) for one more assignment to work with Petraeus to rescue another troubled war effort?

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Reminds Me Of …

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Abuse of Power

It is astonishing, really.

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

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

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

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It is astonishing, really.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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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Without Standards, It’s Hard to Tell Who Is a ‘Moderate’ Muslim

Bill McGurn observes that Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf didn’t exactly live up to his billing at the Council on Foreign Relations, whose president swooned over the imam’s “bridge building” credentials. Yeah, that is downright embarrassing when one considers the imam’s refusal to condemn Hamas, his incendiary plans to build on Ground Zero, and his past comments on 9/11. I suppose if you dummy down your standards enough, he can meet the chattering class’s definition of “moderate.” (The left is big on rewarding intentions, not so big on drawing lines or objectively assessing others on the results of their actions.)

McGurn doesn’t think that’s what we should be doing. Instead, he calls out Abdul Rauf (and by implication his spin squad) for mimicking liberals’ infatuation with moral relativism:

“The real battlefront, the real battle that we must wage together today,” he said, “is not between Muslims and non-Muslims. It is between moderates of all faith traditions against the extremists of all faith traditions.”

Now, the world has its share of Christian, Jewish, Hindu and other religious extremists. Sometimes that extremism leads to violence. At least in America, however, to compare this to the sustained, organized international war crimes planned and carried out by Islamic extremists beggars belief.

No one walks the streets of Manhattan fearing a Methodist may blow up his office, hijack his flight, or kill his son fighting in Afghanistan. Unless you are Angelina Jolie or the dean of Yale Law School, this is not only true but obvious.

Or unless you occupy the White House. Or write for the New York Times or the Daily Beast.

McGurn rightly concludes: “So where the Council on Foreign Relations may see in Imam Rauf the model of moderation, Americans may wonder whether a leader who cannot see what is uniquely threatening about Islamic extremism is the most effective spokesman for Muslim moderation.” It seems the rubes have a more finely tuned moral radar than do the condescending elites who are convinced the country is rife with bigotry.

While the liberal intelligentsia may be confused about what is a legal right and what is simply right — and between what is moderate and what is thinly veiled anti-Americanism — others are not. The much ridiculed George W. Bush was far more adept than is his successor and the liberal punditocracy at figuring out how to fight a war against Islamic jihadists without starting a domestic war against loyal American Muslims (or selling out truly moderate Muslims battling radicalism in the Middle East):

How different their approach (not to mention their results) is from that of George W. Bush, who could visit a mosque while the ruins of the Twin Towers were still smoldering, remind us that Muslim-Americans are free and equal citizens, and talk about how ordinary Muslim moms and dads wanted for their children what we want for ours. Maybe it had something to do with his being clear about the fight.

Or course this moral clarity is denigrated by the left as lacking “sophistication” or “nuance.” It is nothing of the sort. Unlike Obama and the 29 percent of New Yorkers who think the Ground Zero mosque is a dandy idea, Bush and the vast majority of Americans are not guilty of intellectual sloth. In one of the Bluest major cities in America, the citizenry has found it easy to spot a provocateur bent on heightening religious tensions rather than ameliorating them. Frankly, if CFR wanted a bridge builder, they should have invited Bush — or one of the 71 percent of New Yorkers who have figured out that Abdul Rauf is an exceedingly poor champion of reconciliation.

Bill McGurn observes that Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf didn’t exactly live up to his billing at the Council on Foreign Relations, whose president swooned over the imam’s “bridge building” credentials. Yeah, that is downright embarrassing when one considers the imam’s refusal to condemn Hamas, his incendiary plans to build on Ground Zero, and his past comments on 9/11. I suppose if you dummy down your standards enough, he can meet the chattering class’s definition of “moderate.” (The left is big on rewarding intentions, not so big on drawing lines or objectively assessing others on the results of their actions.)

McGurn doesn’t think that’s what we should be doing. Instead, he calls out Abdul Rauf (and by implication his spin squad) for mimicking liberals’ infatuation with moral relativism:

“The real battlefront, the real battle that we must wage together today,” he said, “is not between Muslims and non-Muslims. It is between moderates of all faith traditions against the extremists of all faith traditions.”

Now, the world has its share of Christian, Jewish, Hindu and other religious extremists. Sometimes that extremism leads to violence. At least in America, however, to compare this to the sustained, organized international war crimes planned and carried out by Islamic extremists beggars belief.

No one walks the streets of Manhattan fearing a Methodist may blow up his office, hijack his flight, or kill his son fighting in Afghanistan. Unless you are Angelina Jolie or the dean of Yale Law School, this is not only true but obvious.

Or unless you occupy the White House. Or write for the New York Times or the Daily Beast.

McGurn rightly concludes: “So where the Council on Foreign Relations may see in Imam Rauf the model of moderation, Americans may wonder whether a leader who cannot see what is uniquely threatening about Islamic extremism is the most effective spokesman for Muslim moderation.” It seems the rubes have a more finely tuned moral radar than do the condescending elites who are convinced the country is rife with bigotry.

While the liberal intelligentsia may be confused about what is a legal right and what is simply right — and between what is moderate and what is thinly veiled anti-Americanism — others are not. The much ridiculed George W. Bush was far more adept than is his successor and the liberal punditocracy at figuring out how to fight a war against Islamic jihadists without starting a domestic war against loyal American Muslims (or selling out truly moderate Muslims battling radicalism in the Middle East):

How different their approach (not to mention their results) is from that of George W. Bush, who could visit a mosque while the ruins of the Twin Towers were still smoldering, remind us that Muslim-Americans are free and equal citizens, and talk about how ordinary Muslim moms and dads wanted for their children what we want for ours. Maybe it had something to do with his being clear about the fight.

Or course this moral clarity is denigrated by the left as lacking “sophistication” or “nuance.” It is nothing of the sort. Unlike Obama and the 29 percent of New Yorkers who think the Ground Zero mosque is a dandy idea, Bush and the vast majority of Americans are not guilty of intellectual sloth. In one of the Bluest major cities in America, the citizenry has found it easy to spot a provocateur bent on heightening religious tensions rather than ameliorating them. Frankly, if CFR wanted a bridge builder, they should have invited Bush — or one of the 71 percent of New Yorkers who have figured out that Abdul Rauf is an exceedingly poor champion of reconciliation.

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Howard Dean on Fire

Candy Crowley is one of the livelier and more effective interviewers on the air. She did not disappoint with Howard Dean on Sunday. There was this humorous exchange:

CROWLEY: But what we found, Governor, in at least some of the races that we have had so far, is the fact that the president, while people still like him, they don’t approve of his policies and he doesn’t have coattails. We’re also finding now that there are certain Democrats that don’t actually want him in their district because he’s a drag.

DEAN: That’s not a problem. Here is the deal. It’s not the coattails. We know he doesn’t have coattails from the ’09 elections, the governor’s race. What he does do is set the tone for the Democratic Party in a way that nobody else can.

Look, obviously, I am partisan about this. I think we have better candidates than the Republicans do. They have had some unfortunate people winning, in terms of the mainstream — where the mainstream of America is, in some of their primaries.

We know he doesn’t have coattails? Oh my! Dean nevertheless suggested that Obama just get out there and fight like heck. Because if he doesn’t, the Democrats are going to lose big. (“This election, for better or for worse, depends on how hard the president fights between now and Election Day, and he shows every sign that he’s really serious about this.”) Got that, Mr. President? It’s all up to you.

What about Dean’s midterms predictions?

CROWLEY: How bad do you think it will be this fall, in November? What are your predictions? … Would you bet money on House Democrats staying in charge?

DEAN: I’d bet money on the Senate, for sure. The House is much tougher. I think, at the end of the day, we’re going to win in the House and we’re going to have a majority. It will probably be reduced to many — perhaps as small as a five or 10-seat majority.

Translation: Nancy Pelosi and the House Democratic majority are toast.

Crowley then asked about Gibbs and the sniping at the “professional left”:

DEAN: Well, look, I don’t think that the left — what Gibbs was talking about with the so-called professional left — I don’t know what he meant by that. You know, I think — but that is a very small number of people. I think there are a large number — I think that the people around the president have really misjudged what goes on elsewhere in the country, other than Washington, D.C.

I don’t think this is true of the president, but I do think his people, his political people, have got to go out and spend some time outside Washington for a while. The average Democrat is a progressive. And, you know, there are some things that are upsetting about the kind of deals that were made by the president’s people on health care.

Umm, isn’t this the Tea Partiers’ point — that the White House is insulated from reality?

Dean also made a key observation that seems to have eluded a White House all too eager to make life difficult for its own party:

We’ve got to win this election. And we’re going to have — after the election is over, we’ll go back to having our policy fights, but this is about winning. You cannot get anything done unless you have a Democratic president and a Democratic Senate and a Democratic House.

And Obama’s most cherished legislative accomplishment (about which Dean admitted, “I don’t like the health care bill. I would be one of the 56 percent who opposed it”) will evaporate if the Democrats get swept out of office.

Dean certainly is popping up a lot lately. I wonder if he’s thinking of running for something, or simply enacting revenge for the Obami’s refusal to keep him as head of the DNC.

Candy Crowley is one of the livelier and more effective interviewers on the air. She did not disappoint with Howard Dean on Sunday. There was this humorous exchange:

CROWLEY: But what we found, Governor, in at least some of the races that we have had so far, is the fact that the president, while people still like him, they don’t approve of his policies and he doesn’t have coattails. We’re also finding now that there are certain Democrats that don’t actually want him in their district because he’s a drag.

DEAN: That’s not a problem. Here is the deal. It’s not the coattails. We know he doesn’t have coattails from the ’09 elections, the governor’s race. What he does do is set the tone for the Democratic Party in a way that nobody else can.

Look, obviously, I am partisan about this. I think we have better candidates than the Republicans do. They have had some unfortunate people winning, in terms of the mainstream — where the mainstream of America is, in some of their primaries.

We know he doesn’t have coattails? Oh my! Dean nevertheless suggested that Obama just get out there and fight like heck. Because if he doesn’t, the Democrats are going to lose big. (“This election, for better or for worse, depends on how hard the president fights between now and Election Day, and he shows every sign that he’s really serious about this.”) Got that, Mr. President? It’s all up to you.

What about Dean’s midterms predictions?

CROWLEY: How bad do you think it will be this fall, in November? What are your predictions? … Would you bet money on House Democrats staying in charge?

DEAN: I’d bet money on the Senate, for sure. The House is much tougher. I think, at the end of the day, we’re going to win in the House and we’re going to have a majority. It will probably be reduced to many — perhaps as small as a five or 10-seat majority.

Translation: Nancy Pelosi and the House Democratic majority are toast.

Crowley then asked about Gibbs and the sniping at the “professional left”:

DEAN: Well, look, I don’t think that the left — what Gibbs was talking about with the so-called professional left — I don’t know what he meant by that. You know, I think — but that is a very small number of people. I think there are a large number — I think that the people around the president have really misjudged what goes on elsewhere in the country, other than Washington, D.C.

I don’t think this is true of the president, but I do think his people, his political people, have got to go out and spend some time outside Washington for a while. The average Democrat is a progressive. And, you know, there are some things that are upsetting about the kind of deals that were made by the president’s people on health care.

Umm, isn’t this the Tea Partiers’ point — that the White House is insulated from reality?

Dean also made a key observation that seems to have eluded a White House all too eager to make life difficult for its own party:

We’ve got to win this election. And we’re going to have — after the election is over, we’ll go back to having our policy fights, but this is about winning. You cannot get anything done unless you have a Democratic president and a Democratic Senate and a Democratic House.

And Obama’s most cherished legislative accomplishment (about which Dean admitted, “I don’t like the health care bill. I would be one of the 56 percent who opposed it”) will evaporate if the Democrats get swept out of office.

Dean certainly is popping up a lot lately. I wonder if he’s thinking of running for something, or simply enacting revenge for the Obami’s refusal to keep him as head of the DNC.

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From a Fight over the Constitution to a Local Zoning Issue

It’s all getting so confusing now. The early narrative from the left was that if you didn’t support Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf’s proposal to build a mosque and Islamic center near Ground Zero, you were a bigot, racist, and an enemy of religious liberty. But then President Obama declared that he wouldn’t take a stand on where to build the mosque, thereby conceding that it was not a matter of high Constitutional principle. Then Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and former DNC chairman Howard Dean said they actually favor moving the mosque. (Dean’s comments can be found here.) And then Nancy Pelosi, during her recent comments, complained that she was receiving so many questions about what was essentially a local zoning issue. It’s a local issue, she insisted.

So what, at the start of the week, was the ground for the Democrats and the left to wage a heroic battle in behalf of religious liberty has now fizzled into a difference over a local zoning issue, with leading Democrats opposing building the mosque near Ground Zero.

What a pathetic end to a terribly misguided and enormously harmful (for the Democrats) effort.

It’s all getting so confusing now. The early narrative from the left was that if you didn’t support Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf’s proposal to build a mosque and Islamic center near Ground Zero, you were a bigot, racist, and an enemy of religious liberty. But then President Obama declared that he wouldn’t take a stand on where to build the mosque, thereby conceding that it was not a matter of high Constitutional principle. Then Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and former DNC chairman Howard Dean said they actually favor moving the mosque. (Dean’s comments can be found here.) And then Nancy Pelosi, during her recent comments, complained that she was receiving so many questions about what was essentially a local zoning issue. It’s a local issue, she insisted.

So what, at the start of the week, was the ground for the Democrats and the left to wage a heroic battle in behalf of religious liberty has now fizzled into a difference over a local zoning issue, with leading Democrats opposing building the mosque near Ground Zero.

What a pathetic end to a terribly misguided and enormously harmful (for the Democrats) effort.

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Help Needed

The New York Times is running a story about the “millennial” generation in America and its inability to find employment. The article is supposed to convey the challenges for young Americans due to bad economic times but will probably exacerbate the hopelessness of older Americans, who won’t recognize this strange, new definition of ambition:

Mr. Nicholson, 24, a graduate of Colgate University, winner of a dean’s award for academic excellence, spent his mornings searching corporate Web sites for suitable job openings. When he found one, he mailed off a résumé and cover letter — four or five a week, week after week.

Over the last five months, only one job materialized. After several interviews, the Hanover Insurance Group in nearby Worcester offered to hire him as an associate claims adjuster, at $40,000 a year. But even before the formal offer, Mr. Nicholson had decided not to take the job.

Rather than waste early years in dead-end work, he reasoned, he would hold out for a corporate position that would draw on his college training and put him, as he sees it, on the bottom rungs of a career ladder.

“The conversation I’m going to have with my parents now that I’ve turned down this job is more of a concern to me than turning down the job,” he said.

A 24-year-old man is more fearful of a parental lecture than unemployment. If that doesn’t capture the dreary state of able-bodied America, nothing does. Meanwhile, this same person, living off of mom and dad, is so certain of his worth on the job market, he won’t consider pocketing an expense-free annual $40,000 because it requires dead-end work.

Of course, Nicholson is not entirely obtuse on the ramifications of joblessness:

“I am beginning to realize that refusal is going to have repercussions,” he said. “My parents are subtly pointing out that beyond room and board, they are also paying other expenses for me, like my cellphone charges and the premiums on a life insurance policy.”

He could at least take the insurance gig to get his parents a better deal, no?

The New York Times is running a story about the “millennial” generation in America and its inability to find employment. The article is supposed to convey the challenges for young Americans due to bad economic times but will probably exacerbate the hopelessness of older Americans, who won’t recognize this strange, new definition of ambition:

Mr. Nicholson, 24, a graduate of Colgate University, winner of a dean’s award for academic excellence, spent his mornings searching corporate Web sites for suitable job openings. When he found one, he mailed off a résumé and cover letter — four or five a week, week after week.

Over the last five months, only one job materialized. After several interviews, the Hanover Insurance Group in nearby Worcester offered to hire him as an associate claims adjuster, at $40,000 a year. But even before the formal offer, Mr. Nicholson had decided not to take the job.

Rather than waste early years in dead-end work, he reasoned, he would hold out for a corporate position that would draw on his college training and put him, as he sees it, on the bottom rungs of a career ladder.

“The conversation I’m going to have with my parents now that I’ve turned down this job is more of a concern to me than turning down the job,” he said.

A 24-year-old man is more fearful of a parental lecture than unemployment. If that doesn’t capture the dreary state of able-bodied America, nothing does. Meanwhile, this same person, living off of mom and dad, is so certain of his worth on the job market, he won’t consider pocketing an expense-free annual $40,000 because it requires dead-end work.

Of course, Nicholson is not entirely obtuse on the ramifications of joblessness:

“I am beginning to realize that refusal is going to have repercussions,” he said. “My parents are subtly pointing out that beyond room and board, they are also paying other expenses for me, like my cellphone charges and the premiums on a life insurance policy.”

He could at least take the insurance gig to get his parents a better deal, no?

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RE: The Supreme Court Isn’t the Harvard Law School Faculty

Regarding the difference between faculty schmoozing and Supreme Court persuasion, it’s worthwhile to examine what it is that Elena Kagan did at Harvard. This report gives us a peek, suggesting that her accomplishments have been “overstated”:

Much of the work to defuse the bitter atmosphere, which included ideologically driven standoffs over whom to hire, took place under Ms. Kagan’s predecessor, Robert Clark, dean for 14 years. He calmed tensions and expanded the faculty. …

She was helped by flush times at Harvard. She hired 43 faculty members during her tenure and boosted the total number of full-time professors from 81 to 104, a growth spurt partly enabled by a thriving endowment. She also benefited from a record-setting $476.5 million fund-raising drive that began under Mr. Clark, which she brought to a successful conclusion. More money makes hiring easier, because one appointment isn’t seen as a trade-off for another.

Well, she did some things on her own:

[Charles Fried] also credits her with arranging a faculty lounge so it offered free lunch and large tables, where faculty could sit and get to know one another. “It was an absolute stroke of genius,” Mr. Fried said.

Genius? I think most employers have figured out that free food usually is a winner with employees. But maybe Justice Kennedy can be swayed by sandwiches and soda. And then there are these contributions:

Ms. Kagan is credited with improving student life through upgrades to the physical campus, such as a revamped student center, an upgraded gym and an ice-skating rink that doubled as a volleyball court. And she offered small things, like free coffee outside classrooms and free tampons in the women’s restrooms.

OK, OK, we get the point. This is all very commendable for a dean but utterly irrelevant to the job of being a Supreme Court justice. More revealing will be what she accomplished as solicitor general, and we should begin to focus on that — the number and quality of her arguments. Then we might learn whether she is really up for the job.

Regarding the difference between faculty schmoozing and Supreme Court persuasion, it’s worthwhile to examine what it is that Elena Kagan did at Harvard. This report gives us a peek, suggesting that her accomplishments have been “overstated”:

Much of the work to defuse the bitter atmosphere, which included ideologically driven standoffs over whom to hire, took place under Ms. Kagan’s predecessor, Robert Clark, dean for 14 years. He calmed tensions and expanded the faculty. …

She was helped by flush times at Harvard. She hired 43 faculty members during her tenure and boosted the total number of full-time professors from 81 to 104, a growth spurt partly enabled by a thriving endowment. She also benefited from a record-setting $476.5 million fund-raising drive that began under Mr. Clark, which she brought to a successful conclusion. More money makes hiring easier, because one appointment isn’t seen as a trade-off for another.

Well, she did some things on her own:

[Charles Fried] also credits her with arranging a faculty lounge so it offered free lunch and large tables, where faculty could sit and get to know one another. “It was an absolute stroke of genius,” Mr. Fried said.

Genius? I think most employers have figured out that free food usually is a winner with employees. But maybe Justice Kennedy can be swayed by sandwiches and soda. And then there are these contributions:

Ms. Kagan is credited with improving student life through upgrades to the physical campus, such as a revamped student center, an upgraded gym and an ice-skating rink that doubled as a volleyball court. And she offered small things, like free coffee outside classrooms and free tampons in the women’s restrooms.

OK, OK, we get the point. This is all very commendable for a dean but utterly irrelevant to the job of being a Supreme Court justice. More revealing will be what she accomplished as solicitor general, and we should begin to focus on that — the number and quality of her arguments. Then we might learn whether she is really up for the job.

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The Problem with Law Schools

Ed Whelan dismantles bit by bit the argument by former Harvard Law School dean Robert Clark in support of current Harvard Law School dean Elena Kagan’s barring of military recruiters and signing on to an amicus brief contesting the Solomon Amendment. This raises a larger issue — yes, even larger than a single Supreme Court nomination — what’s the matter with law schools? After all, lots and lots of their deans and professors hadn’t a clue what the law was in the case challenging the Solomon Amendment. George Mason University Law School was the proud exception and at the time reminded us:

The amicus brief filed by the dean and two professors at George Mason’s law school was the only one submitted by a law school that took the side of the armed services. Many amicus briefs were filed on the losing side (including briefs in behalf of Yale University, Harvard University, Columbia University, New York University, the University of Chicago, Cornell University and the University of Pennsylvania), arguing that the Solomon Amendment’s requirement of equal access for military recruiters was unconstitutional under the First Amendment. In addition, professors at Columbia and Harvard law schools submitted briefs arguing that as a matter of statutory construction the law schools had in fact complied with the Solomon Amendment. The constitutional and statutory arguments were all rejected by the Court.

There is a reason why the Chief Justice, among other justices over the years, has said that he doesn’t pay too much attention to law-review articles. Why? Law professors don’t really have a great grasp of what the law is or a decent track record in predicting where it will evolve. They operate in a largely isolated academic setting in which, in their minds, there are nine Justice Stevenses on the bench. And in this case, they didn’t even get Stevens’s position right.

As Ronald Reagan said of liberals, it’s not that they are ignorant. It’s that they know so much that isn’t true. So I can see the argument for looking outside the appellate bench for justices. But I think law professors are the last place you’d want to look for unbiased, accomplished legal analysts. Let’s hope Kagan picked up some actual law, not law-school law, in her last year at the solicitor general’s office.

Ed Whelan dismantles bit by bit the argument by former Harvard Law School dean Robert Clark in support of current Harvard Law School dean Elena Kagan’s barring of military recruiters and signing on to an amicus brief contesting the Solomon Amendment. This raises a larger issue — yes, even larger than a single Supreme Court nomination — what’s the matter with law schools? After all, lots and lots of their deans and professors hadn’t a clue what the law was in the case challenging the Solomon Amendment. George Mason University Law School was the proud exception and at the time reminded us:

The amicus brief filed by the dean and two professors at George Mason’s law school was the only one submitted by a law school that took the side of the armed services. Many amicus briefs were filed on the losing side (including briefs in behalf of Yale University, Harvard University, Columbia University, New York University, the University of Chicago, Cornell University and the University of Pennsylvania), arguing that the Solomon Amendment’s requirement of equal access for military recruiters was unconstitutional under the First Amendment. In addition, professors at Columbia and Harvard law schools submitted briefs arguing that as a matter of statutory construction the law schools had in fact complied with the Solomon Amendment. The constitutional and statutory arguments were all rejected by the Court.

There is a reason why the Chief Justice, among other justices over the years, has said that he doesn’t pay too much attention to law-review articles. Why? Law professors don’t really have a great grasp of what the law is or a decent track record in predicting where it will evolve. They operate in a largely isolated academic setting in which, in their minds, there are nine Justice Stevenses on the bench. And in this case, they didn’t even get Stevens’s position right.

As Ronald Reagan said of liberals, it’s not that they are ignorant. It’s that they know so much that isn’t true. So I can see the argument for looking outside the appellate bench for justices. But I think law professors are the last place you’d want to look for unbiased, accomplished legal analysts. Let’s hope Kagan picked up some actual law, not law-school law, in her last year at the solicitor general’s office.

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Obama Highlights What Kagan Is Not

One had the impression listening to Obama’s introduction of Elena Kagan yesterday that the White House spinners had made a list of her shortcomings and then concocted a narrative featuring an un-Kagan who had none of those shortcomings and, indeed, an overabundance of the very qualities honest observers would concede she lacks.

As Ben Smith writes:

President Barack Obama introduced Elena Kagan on Monday in the terms that have come to define his approach to the Supreme Court: She understands the law “as it affects the lives of ordinary people,” he said, adding that her presence will make the court “more reflective of us as a people than ever before.”

Obama promised judges with at least a passing knowledge of the “real world,” but Kagan’s experience draws from a world whose signposts are distant from most Americans: Manhattan’s Upper West side, Princeton University, Harvard Law School and the upper reaches of the Democratic legal establishment.

Obama also pronounced, “Elena is widely regarded as one of the nation’s foremost legal minds.” This is preposterous. She’s written little, and what she has written is banal and unexceptional. Her speeches as dean are not analytical or historical discourse but pep talks and generic spiels on ethics and the wonders of Harvard Law School’s reputation.

So she brings neither an abundance of non-elite experience nor an intellectual record of achievement. That doesn’t mean she isn’t qualified or won’t make a capable justice, but it does serve to emphasize — once again — the president’s penchant for exaggeration if not fabrication.

His remarks also suggest what he really was looking for in a justice, and regrettably reveal that he (but we hope not his nominee) is confused about what the Court should be doing. He praised her work as solicitor general in “defend[ing] the rights of shareholders and ordinary citizens against unscrupulous corporations. Last year, in the Citizens United case, she defended bipartisan campaign finance reform against special interests seeking to spend unlimited money to influence our elections.” Is that what she argued: corporation = bad and micromanaging speech = good? Is that what the Court does — find the Democratic cause and construct a legal argument to support it? Even the Washington Post‘s editors spotted the problem with the president’s demagoguery, reminding the former law professor that justices “should decide each case on its merits.”

So she’s not very real world, and she isn’t a renowned scholar, but she sure understands the president’s liberal agenda. Obama is nothing if not totally predictable in his nominations — construct a narrative, appoint a dependable liberal. Kagan, I suspect, won’t disappoint him.

One had the impression listening to Obama’s introduction of Elena Kagan yesterday that the White House spinners had made a list of her shortcomings and then concocted a narrative featuring an un-Kagan who had none of those shortcomings and, indeed, an overabundance of the very qualities honest observers would concede she lacks.

As Ben Smith writes:

President Barack Obama introduced Elena Kagan on Monday in the terms that have come to define his approach to the Supreme Court: She understands the law “as it affects the lives of ordinary people,” he said, adding that her presence will make the court “more reflective of us as a people than ever before.”

Obama promised judges with at least a passing knowledge of the “real world,” but Kagan’s experience draws from a world whose signposts are distant from most Americans: Manhattan’s Upper West side, Princeton University, Harvard Law School and the upper reaches of the Democratic legal establishment.

Obama also pronounced, “Elena is widely regarded as one of the nation’s foremost legal minds.” This is preposterous. She’s written little, and what she has written is banal and unexceptional. Her speeches as dean are not analytical or historical discourse but pep talks and generic spiels on ethics and the wonders of Harvard Law School’s reputation.

So she brings neither an abundance of non-elite experience nor an intellectual record of achievement. That doesn’t mean she isn’t qualified or won’t make a capable justice, but it does serve to emphasize — once again — the president’s penchant for exaggeration if not fabrication.

His remarks also suggest what he really was looking for in a justice, and regrettably reveal that he (but we hope not his nominee) is confused about what the Court should be doing. He praised her work as solicitor general in “defend[ing] the rights of shareholders and ordinary citizens against unscrupulous corporations. Last year, in the Citizens United case, she defended bipartisan campaign finance reform against special interests seeking to spend unlimited money to influence our elections.” Is that what she argued: corporation = bad and micromanaging speech = good? Is that what the Court does — find the Democratic cause and construct a legal argument to support it? Even the Washington Post‘s editors spotted the problem with the president’s demagoguery, reminding the former law professor that justices “should decide each case on its merits.”

So she’s not very real world, and she isn’t a renowned scholar, but she sure understands the president’s liberal agenda. Obama is nothing if not totally predictable in his nominations — construct a narrative, appoint a dependable liberal. Kagan, I suspect, won’t disappoint him.

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RE: RE: Kagan Nominated

During her career, Elena Kagan, like Justice Roberts before her, seems to have kept her eye always on the possibility of getting to the Supreme Court. The one item in her résumé not consistent with that was her opposition to allowing military recruiters access to interview students at the Harvard Law School. She even signed an amicus brief backing a Third Circuit opinion that was overturned 8-0 by the Supreme Court.

As Bill Kristol points out, tracking Ed Whelan’s fifth point, Elena Kagan appears anti-military here, not just pro-gay. She has consistently blamed the military for implementing what was, in fact, an act of Congress (and a Democratic one at that) that had been signed into law by a Democratic president. Does she think the military has a moral obligation to mutiny in this case?

Why would she do this? I have no inside track on her thinking, but I wonder if she realized that failing to take this position could have cost her her job at Harvard. As Lawrence Summers found out, and Kagan’s successor as dean of the Harvard Law School, Martha Minow, is currently demonstrating, the Harvard faculty does not take kindly even to questioning liberal orthodoxy, let alone espousing apostasy. Perhaps she figured that getting canned as dean would look worse on her résumé than appearing anti-military, which was probably her inclination anyway.

During her career, Elena Kagan, like Justice Roberts before her, seems to have kept her eye always on the possibility of getting to the Supreme Court. The one item in her résumé not consistent with that was her opposition to allowing military recruiters access to interview students at the Harvard Law School. She even signed an amicus brief backing a Third Circuit opinion that was overturned 8-0 by the Supreme Court.

As Bill Kristol points out, tracking Ed Whelan’s fifth point, Elena Kagan appears anti-military here, not just pro-gay. She has consistently blamed the military for implementing what was, in fact, an act of Congress (and a Democratic one at that) that had been signed into law by a Democratic president. Does she think the military has a moral obligation to mutiny in this case?

Why would she do this? I have no inside track on her thinking, but I wonder if she realized that failing to take this position could have cost her her job at Harvard. As Lawrence Summers found out, and Kagan’s successor as dean of the Harvard Law School, Martha Minow, is currently demonstrating, the Harvard faculty does not take kindly even to questioning liberal orthodoxy, let alone espousing apostasy. Perhaps she figured that getting canned as dean would look worse on her résumé than appearing anti-military, which was probably her inclination anyway.

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Should Conservatives Go to War over Kagan?

Tomorrow Obama is expected to nominate Elena Kagan to the Supreme Court. The question for conservatives is whether they should oppose such a nomination, and, if so, how hard. Chris Good writes:

I asked Carrie Severino, chief counsel and policy director of the Judicial Crisis Network (a conservative group focused on judicial nominees) what conservatives are going to say about Kagan, and what Kagan’s “wise Latina” moment, if there is one, will prove to be.

“She has been much more careful than Justice Sotomayor. She never would have said something like that even if she thinks it. She’s been so careful for so long that no one seems to know exactly what she does think,” Severino said.

Severino attended Harvard Law School, where Kagan served as dean. She asked fellow Harvard people about Kagan’s tenure as dean. “Everyone came back with the same perspective, which was she was careful to never say anything on the record, or off the record, to anyone about her own opinions, so I think she’s been carefully shepherding her image for a long time, possibly ever since her DC circuit nomination by President Clinton, so that’s a long time to effectively live on the short list.”

This is not to say that Kagan would take an originalist view of the Constitution or that her support for law schools’ position on military recruiters doesn’t betray a willingness to conflate liberal policy goals with Constitutional interpretation. But is she as objectionable as a judge, for example, who went to great lengths to support racial quotas and delivered the “wise Latina” speech? Well, one can bemoan her lack of judicial experience and scant writing record but should her nomination be opposed with a full court press?

At this point — and more might be revealed in hearings and upon the examination of her written work — I would think not. She frankly has not proven herself to be as adept a legal scholar as someone like Diane Wood, who would wow and sway the other justices. (It is intellectual argumentation rather than social charm that makes the difference on the Court.) So there could be worse — that is, more “dangerous” picks from a conservative perspective. Kagan has not made her life’s work the promotion of minority victimology. She isn’t without academic qualifications. So, while she’s not a judge conservatives would nominate, it’s hard to conceive of a reason for rigorously blocking her nomination.

This is the price of losing elections: the other side gets to govern and thus help shape the direction of the courts. It’s a reminder to find adept presidential nominees who can win and who will nominate judges at all levels who appreciate the proper role of the courts in our democratic system.

Tomorrow Obama is expected to nominate Elena Kagan to the Supreme Court. The question for conservatives is whether they should oppose such a nomination, and, if so, how hard. Chris Good writes:

I asked Carrie Severino, chief counsel and policy director of the Judicial Crisis Network (a conservative group focused on judicial nominees) what conservatives are going to say about Kagan, and what Kagan’s “wise Latina” moment, if there is one, will prove to be.

“She has been much more careful than Justice Sotomayor. She never would have said something like that even if she thinks it. She’s been so careful for so long that no one seems to know exactly what she does think,” Severino said.

Severino attended Harvard Law School, where Kagan served as dean. She asked fellow Harvard people about Kagan’s tenure as dean. “Everyone came back with the same perspective, which was she was careful to never say anything on the record, or off the record, to anyone about her own opinions, so I think she’s been carefully shepherding her image for a long time, possibly ever since her DC circuit nomination by President Clinton, so that’s a long time to effectively live on the short list.”

This is not to say that Kagan would take an originalist view of the Constitution or that her support for law schools’ position on military recruiters doesn’t betray a willingness to conflate liberal policy goals with Constitutional interpretation. But is she as objectionable as a judge, for example, who went to great lengths to support racial quotas and delivered the “wise Latina” speech? Well, one can bemoan her lack of judicial experience and scant writing record but should her nomination be opposed with a full court press?

At this point — and more might be revealed in hearings and upon the examination of her written work — I would think not. She frankly has not proven herself to be as adept a legal scholar as someone like Diane Wood, who would wow and sway the other justices. (It is intellectual argumentation rather than social charm that makes the difference on the Court.) So there could be worse — that is, more “dangerous” picks from a conservative perspective. Kagan has not made her life’s work the promotion of minority victimology. She isn’t without academic qualifications. So, while she’s not a judge conservatives would nominate, it’s hard to conceive of a reason for rigorously blocking her nomination.

This is the price of losing elections: the other side gets to govern and thus help shape the direction of the courts. It’s a reminder to find adept presidential nominees who can win and who will nominate judges at all levels who appreciate the proper role of the courts in our democratic system.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

“Recovery” means something other than a steady, predictable improvement in the economy: “The Dow Jones industrial average plunged nearly 1,000 points in afternoon trading before recovering significantly Thursday — but it was enough to sow chaos on Wall Street as traders blamed everything from a technical glitch to chaos in the Greek economy. In Washington, the sudden drop — the biggest within a single trading day in Dow history — underscored just how fragile the nascent recovery could be, as the White House tries to convince the public that signs of growth mean the economy has begun to turn the corner.”

“Transparent” means you have to be taken to court to disclose documents to congressional investigators: “Senate Homeland Security Committee Chairman Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) and ranking Republican Susan Collins (Maine) on Thursday said they are poised to press their subpoena fight with the Obama administration into court. Lieberman and Collins, speaking separately, both said the Justice and Defense departments have been uncooperative with their efforts to obtain more information about the November 2009 shootings at Fort Hood, Texas, that killed 13 people.”

Reset” means all is forgiven: “President Obama is preparing to revive a civilian nuclear cooperation agreement with Moscow that his predecessor shelved two years ago in protest of Russia’s war on its tiny neighbor, Georgia, administration officials said Thursday. Renewing the agreement would be the latest step in Mr. Obama’s drive to repair relations between the two powers, at a time when he is seeking Moscow’s support for tough new sanctions against Iran. But word of the move has generated consternation in Congress, where some lawmakers were already skeptical of the agreement and now worry that Mr. Obama is giving Russia too much.”

“Awareness of the potential political consequences of the actions” means holy cow — the Democrats are going to get wiped out! Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland: “I think we need to proceed with some awareness of the potential political consequences of the actions that are undertaken here in Washington.”

Civility” means his critics should shut up. “Less than a week after promoting the need to treat others ‘with courtesy and respect,’ the unhappy warrior was at it again yesterday with a misleading attack on the motives of an opponent. Responding to an amendment offered by Senator Richard Shelby to limit the scope of the proposed Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, Mr. Obama said, ‘I will not allow amendments like this one written by Wall Street’s lobbyists to pass for reform.’ Mr. Civility was insulting the gentleman from Alabama, but even if delivered in dignified language, the attack was false.”

ObamaCare” means you’re not going to keep your health-care plan. Yuval Levin explains that “it turns out that several major corporations are drawing up plans to end their employee health benefits once Obamacare gets up and running. They’ve done the math and figured out that the penalty they would have to pay for dropping their workers would be much lower than the costs of continuing to insure them, and now there will be a new taxpayer-subsidized option for those workers to turn to in state exchanges, so why not cut them off?”

For the New York Times,a pragmatist” means a law-school dean (Elena Kagan) who signs an amicus brief arguing that military recruiters can be banned from campuses despite a contrary federal law. “She repeatedly criticized ‘don’t ask, don’t tell,’ the policy that bars gay men and lesbians from openly serving in the military. At one point she called it ‘a moral injustice of the first order.’  She also joined a legal brief urging the Supreme Court to overturn the law that denied federal funds to colleges and universities that barred military recruiters.”

“Recovery” means something other than a steady, predictable improvement in the economy: “The Dow Jones industrial average plunged nearly 1,000 points in afternoon trading before recovering significantly Thursday — but it was enough to sow chaos on Wall Street as traders blamed everything from a technical glitch to chaos in the Greek economy. In Washington, the sudden drop — the biggest within a single trading day in Dow history — underscored just how fragile the nascent recovery could be, as the White House tries to convince the public that signs of growth mean the economy has begun to turn the corner.”

“Transparent” means you have to be taken to court to disclose documents to congressional investigators: “Senate Homeland Security Committee Chairman Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) and ranking Republican Susan Collins (Maine) on Thursday said they are poised to press their subpoena fight with the Obama administration into court. Lieberman and Collins, speaking separately, both said the Justice and Defense departments have been uncooperative with their efforts to obtain more information about the November 2009 shootings at Fort Hood, Texas, that killed 13 people.”

Reset” means all is forgiven: “President Obama is preparing to revive a civilian nuclear cooperation agreement with Moscow that his predecessor shelved two years ago in protest of Russia’s war on its tiny neighbor, Georgia, administration officials said Thursday. Renewing the agreement would be the latest step in Mr. Obama’s drive to repair relations between the two powers, at a time when he is seeking Moscow’s support for tough new sanctions against Iran. But word of the move has generated consternation in Congress, where some lawmakers were already skeptical of the agreement and now worry that Mr. Obama is giving Russia too much.”

“Awareness of the potential political consequences of the actions” means holy cow — the Democrats are going to get wiped out! Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland: “I think we need to proceed with some awareness of the potential political consequences of the actions that are undertaken here in Washington.”

Civility” means his critics should shut up. “Less than a week after promoting the need to treat others ‘with courtesy and respect,’ the unhappy warrior was at it again yesterday with a misleading attack on the motives of an opponent. Responding to an amendment offered by Senator Richard Shelby to limit the scope of the proposed Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, Mr. Obama said, ‘I will not allow amendments like this one written by Wall Street’s lobbyists to pass for reform.’ Mr. Civility was insulting the gentleman from Alabama, but even if delivered in dignified language, the attack was false.”

ObamaCare” means you’re not going to keep your health-care plan. Yuval Levin explains that “it turns out that several major corporations are drawing up plans to end their employee health benefits once Obamacare gets up and running. They’ve done the math and figured out that the penalty they would have to pay for dropping their workers would be much lower than the costs of continuing to insure them, and now there will be a new taxpayer-subsidized option for those workers to turn to in state exchanges, so why not cut them off?”

For the New York Times,a pragmatist” means a law-school dean (Elena Kagan) who signs an amicus brief arguing that military recruiters can be banned from campuses despite a contrary federal law. “She repeatedly criticized ‘don’t ask, don’t tell,’ the policy that bars gay men and lesbians from openly serving in the military. At one point she called it ‘a moral injustice of the first order.’  She also joined a legal brief urging the Supreme Court to overturn the law that denied federal funds to colleges and universities that barred military recruiters.”

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Elena Kagan — Stealth Nominee?

Elena Kagan is the prohibitive favorite for the Supreme Court. She has made it through one confirmation hearing for her current post as solicitor general and possesses academic credentials, a reputation for collegiality with conservatives, and a limited paper trail. Moreover, she is the closest we have to a stealth candidate among the front-runners. As Tom Goldstein notes, “I don’t know anyone who has had a conversation with her in which she expressed a personal conviction on a question of constitutional law in the past decade.”

Casual observers assume that a dean of Harvard Law School and a domestic-policy aide in the Clinton administration must have a sizable body of work reflecting her legal views. But not so. Paul Campos has read all there is to read — and it’s not much:

Yesterday, I read everything Elena Kagan has ever published. It didn’t take long: in the nearly 20 years since Kagan became a law professor, she’s published very little academic scholarship—three law review articles, along with a couple of shorter essays and two brief book reviews. Somehow, Kagan got tenure at Chicago in 1995 on the basis of a single article in The Supreme Court Review—a scholarly journal edited by Chicago’s own faculty—and a short essay in the school’s law review. She then worked in the Clinton administration for several years before joining Harvard as a visiting professor of law in 1999. While there she published two articles, but since receiving tenure from Harvard in 2001 (and becoming dean of the law school in 2003) she has published nothing. (While it’s true law school deans often do little scholarly writing during their terms, Kagan is remarkable both for how little she did in the dozen years prior to becoming Harvard’s dean, and for never having written anything intended for a more general audience, either before or after taking that position.)

Campos goes so far as to suggest that Kagan is a Harriet Miers type — minus the cronyism. He concludes:

Indeed, the most impressive thing about Kagan is that she seems to have a remarkable ability to ingratiate herself with influential people across the ideological spectrum. … As a private lawyer, Miers, after all, had a fairly good excuse for having no public views on the great legal issues of our day. For most of the past 20 years, Kagan’s job has been to both develop and publicize such views. That she has nevertheless managed to almost completely avoid doing so is rather extraordinary.

What to make of this? Well, if a Republican president were to select a person with such a skimpy written record, conservatives would be (and were with the Miers nomination) rightfully worried. But do the same concerns — ideological infidelity, intellectual mediocrity — really apply to Kagan? Let’s be honest, it works differently for liberals. Very few are tempted to moderate their views and slide rightward, while Republican-nominated jurists (David Souter, John Paul Stevens) have a history of “disappointing” their side. And while no one has claimed that Kagan has achieved greatness in legal scholarship, the assumption — rightly or not — is that the dean of one of the top law schools in the country must have some intellectual wattage. Nevertheless, liberal legal activists might have reason to be a bit nervous — after all, would a justice who lacks judicial chops be the best choice to sway Justice Kennedy on those all-important 5-to-4 decisions? Is she really the one who is going to go toe-to-toe with Justice Scalia? There is some risk there if Obama were to choose a lesser known quantity than an appellate judge such as Diane Wood.

Nevertheless, there are clues as to Kagan’s legal mindset. Indeed, one such clue is also her primary shortcoming. Stuart Taylor explains:

The one issue that could slow down Kagan’s confirmation is her impassioned effort as dean to bar military recruiting on campus to protest the law banning openly gay people from serving in the military, which she called “a moral injustice of the first order.”

Kagan carried this opposition to the point of joining a 2005 amicus brief whose strained interpretation of a law denying federal funding to institutions that discriminate against military recruiters would — the Supreme Court held in an 8-0 decision — have rendered the statute “largely meaningless.” This helps to explain the 31 Republican votes against confirming her as solicitor general.

Well, that might be enough to lose her a batch of GOP Senate votes, but would it derail her nomination? Probably not. And it might just give enough comfort to the left that Kagan is a “safe” pick for them.

Elena Kagan is the prohibitive favorite for the Supreme Court. She has made it through one confirmation hearing for her current post as solicitor general and possesses academic credentials, a reputation for collegiality with conservatives, and a limited paper trail. Moreover, she is the closest we have to a stealth candidate among the front-runners. As Tom Goldstein notes, “I don’t know anyone who has had a conversation with her in which she expressed a personal conviction on a question of constitutional law in the past decade.”

Casual observers assume that a dean of Harvard Law School and a domestic-policy aide in the Clinton administration must have a sizable body of work reflecting her legal views. But not so. Paul Campos has read all there is to read — and it’s not much:

Yesterday, I read everything Elena Kagan has ever published. It didn’t take long: in the nearly 20 years since Kagan became a law professor, she’s published very little academic scholarship—three law review articles, along with a couple of shorter essays and two brief book reviews. Somehow, Kagan got tenure at Chicago in 1995 on the basis of a single article in The Supreme Court Review—a scholarly journal edited by Chicago’s own faculty—and a short essay in the school’s law review. She then worked in the Clinton administration for several years before joining Harvard as a visiting professor of law in 1999. While there she published two articles, but since receiving tenure from Harvard in 2001 (and becoming dean of the law school in 2003) she has published nothing. (While it’s true law school deans often do little scholarly writing during their terms, Kagan is remarkable both for how little she did in the dozen years prior to becoming Harvard’s dean, and for never having written anything intended for a more general audience, either before or after taking that position.)

Campos goes so far as to suggest that Kagan is a Harriet Miers type — minus the cronyism. He concludes:

Indeed, the most impressive thing about Kagan is that she seems to have a remarkable ability to ingratiate herself with influential people across the ideological spectrum. … As a private lawyer, Miers, after all, had a fairly good excuse for having no public views on the great legal issues of our day. For most of the past 20 years, Kagan’s job has been to both develop and publicize such views. That she has nevertheless managed to almost completely avoid doing so is rather extraordinary.

What to make of this? Well, if a Republican president were to select a person with such a skimpy written record, conservatives would be (and were with the Miers nomination) rightfully worried. But do the same concerns — ideological infidelity, intellectual mediocrity — really apply to Kagan? Let’s be honest, it works differently for liberals. Very few are tempted to moderate their views and slide rightward, while Republican-nominated jurists (David Souter, John Paul Stevens) have a history of “disappointing” their side. And while no one has claimed that Kagan has achieved greatness in legal scholarship, the assumption — rightly or not — is that the dean of one of the top law schools in the country must have some intellectual wattage. Nevertheless, liberal legal activists might have reason to be a bit nervous — after all, would a justice who lacks judicial chops be the best choice to sway Justice Kennedy on those all-important 5-to-4 decisions? Is she really the one who is going to go toe-to-toe with Justice Scalia? There is some risk there if Obama were to choose a lesser known quantity than an appellate judge such as Diane Wood.

Nevertheless, there are clues as to Kagan’s legal mindset. Indeed, one such clue is also her primary shortcoming. Stuart Taylor explains:

The one issue that could slow down Kagan’s confirmation is her impassioned effort as dean to bar military recruiting on campus to protest the law banning openly gay people from serving in the military, which she called “a moral injustice of the first order.”

Kagan carried this opposition to the point of joining a 2005 amicus brief whose strained interpretation of a law denying federal funding to institutions that discriminate against military recruiters would — the Supreme Court held in an 8-0 decision — have rendered the statute “largely meaningless.” This helps to explain the 31 Republican votes against confirming her as solicitor general.

Well, that might be enough to lose her a batch of GOP Senate votes, but would it derail her nomination? Probably not. And it might just give enough comfort to the left that Kagan is a “safe” pick for them.

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Stevens to Retire — a Deserving Nominee This Time?

Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens is giving interviews and advising us that he will be departing during Obama’s term. Although Justices often time their departures to coincide with a president whom they imagine would nominate a like-minded justice, none has been so bold as Stevens to directly proclaim that as his rationale. The only question is when exactly he’ll pack it in. He suggested in Sunday interviews with the New York Times and Washington Post that he might have another year to go, but why then give the retirement-predicting interviews now?

Sen. Arlen Specter, who may speak for no one other than Arlen Specter, suggested that it would be best to wait a year. He proclaimed: “I think the gridlock in the Senate might well produce a filibuster which would tie up the Senate about a Supreme Court nominee. I think if a year passes, there’s a much better chance we could come to a consensus.” Well, that might be desirable for Specter, who faces a dicey reelection and might not want to be caught up in a contentious Supreme Court fight. But the Democrats are almost certain to lose Senate seats this year — perhaps a great many — so it seems that waiting a year makes confirmation of an Obama nominee less, not more, certain.

What we do know is that Stevens’ retirement is unlikely to have much of an impact on the outcome of many of the Court’s decisions. The irascible and often quirky liberal will be replaced by another liberal, and the Court’s 5-4 split on most tough cases is likely to endure.  It also seems that Obama, to some extent, learned his lesson with the not-very-wise-at-all Sonia Sotomayor, who was selected for diversity or empathy reasons, the president boasted. The suggested short list of nominees — Solicitor General Elena Kagan (former dean of Harvard Law School), Judge Diane Wood of the Seventh U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, and Judge Merrick Garland of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit — are indisputably smart, capable, and qualified. They are there because they will be solidly dependable liberal votes and advance those arguments with intellectual vigor.  They may not be the ideal justices conservatives would have in mind, but this — losing Supreme Court seats — is what comes from losing the presidency.

Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens is giving interviews and advising us that he will be departing during Obama’s term. Although Justices often time their departures to coincide with a president whom they imagine would nominate a like-minded justice, none has been so bold as Stevens to directly proclaim that as his rationale. The only question is when exactly he’ll pack it in. He suggested in Sunday interviews with the New York Times and Washington Post that he might have another year to go, but why then give the retirement-predicting interviews now?

Sen. Arlen Specter, who may speak for no one other than Arlen Specter, suggested that it would be best to wait a year. He proclaimed: “I think the gridlock in the Senate might well produce a filibuster which would tie up the Senate about a Supreme Court nominee. I think if a year passes, there’s a much better chance we could come to a consensus.” Well, that might be desirable for Specter, who faces a dicey reelection and might not want to be caught up in a contentious Supreme Court fight. But the Democrats are almost certain to lose Senate seats this year — perhaps a great many — so it seems that waiting a year makes confirmation of an Obama nominee less, not more, certain.

What we do know is that Stevens’ retirement is unlikely to have much of an impact on the outcome of many of the Court’s decisions. The irascible and often quirky liberal will be replaced by another liberal, and the Court’s 5-4 split on most tough cases is likely to endure.  It also seems that Obama, to some extent, learned his lesson with the not-very-wise-at-all Sonia Sotomayor, who was selected for diversity or empathy reasons, the president boasted. The suggested short list of nominees — Solicitor General Elena Kagan (former dean of Harvard Law School), Judge Diane Wood of the Seventh U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, and Judge Merrick Garland of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit — are indisputably smart, capable, and qualified. They are there because they will be solidly dependable liberal votes and advance those arguments with intellectual vigor.  They may not be the ideal justices conservatives would have in mind, but this — losing Supreme Court seats — is what comes from losing the presidency.

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Mainstream Media Discovers Tom Campbell’s Israel Issue

After Phil Klein and I have written about this for a week, the mainstream media, reporting on the Republican Senate primary in California, have finally discovered the controversy concerning Tom Campbell’s record and rhetoric on Israel. The Los Angeles Times has now weighed in:

In a dispute that commingles foreign policy and a quest for political advantage, U.S.-Israel relations have taken an unexpectedly central role in the California race for Senate.

Rivals in the race for the Republican nomination are questioning whether former Rep. Tom Campbell is sufficiently supportive of Israel. They base their criticisms on his voting record, statements about a Palestinian homeland and capital, and some of his past associates.

After some back-and-forth regarding whether his rivals have dubbed him anti-Semitic (they say they have not) we learn that Campbell has rounded up former Secretary of State George Shultz to vouch for him. But then we get to the meat of the concern regarding Campbell’s record:

Criticism of Campbell’s voting record centers on efforts to reduce foreign aid for Israel. While in Congress, Campbell said, he supported military aid for Israel but twice sought to reduce economic aid. In the late 1990s, when foreign aid to other nations was being cut to help balance the budget, Israel’s allocation was not affected. Campbell said he favored allowing the military aid to remain unchanged but supported slightly reducing economic aid.

A second instance occurred when he voted against giving Israel an additional $30 million in economic aid, which was to have been taken from funds set aside for the neediest nations, such as those in Africa. That money, he said, was on top of a $700-million aid request that he supported and an earlier $3-billion appropriation. . . Campbell also drew criticism in the past for saying that Jerusalem should be the shared capital of both Israel and a Palestinian state. He said in the interview that he stands by that view.

Now Campbell is back to admitting he did accept a contribution from convicted terrorist Sami Al-Arian. (He flatly denied it in his New Ledger interview yesterday.) The story now is:

His opponents also questioned Campbell’s past associates, notably Sami Al-Arian, a former University of South Florida professor who pleaded guilty in 2006 to conspiring to help a terrorist organization. Al-Arian had donated $1,300 to Campbell’s 2000 campaign for Senate. Campbell, who was the business school dean at UC Berkeley and now teaches at Chapman University, wrote a letter to the University of South Florida protesting its decision to fire Al-Arian over comments he made. He also visited Al-Arian’s brother in jail.

Campbell said he did not know about Al-Arian’s illegal activities at the time and said that if he had he would not have written the letter.

“None of that had come out,” he said. Al-Arian was also photographed with George W. Bush during his first presidential campaign, Campbell noted.

(Al-Arian had, of course, been the subject of a 1994 documentary, had been under investigation for years before 2000, and had long spewed jihadist rhetoric.)

But on this one, the lede is buried, and perhaps with it Campbell’s standing in the Jewish community:

“He’s a brilliant gentlemen and an engaging personality, and I don’t think he’s particularly pro-Israel,” said Rabbi Abraham Cooper, the associate dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Los Angeles, who has known Campbell since the 1980s. “I think there’s enough there on the record that would send real alarms that this is someone who maybe doesn’t fully understand, doesn’t fully value or fully support a strong ongoing relationship with the state of Israel, an alliance with the state of Israel.”

Campbell can whine all he likes that his rivals’ attacks are “unacceptable” and “personally hurtful,” but that probably isn’t getting him anywhere. He is, however, reportedly to meet with representatives of AIPAC. Perhaps he can convince those Jewish leaders that his record is a stellar one on Israel, that his praise of Alison Weir (not mentioned in the Times report) is nothing, that his support of Al-Arian is also nothing, and that past rhetoric is not indicative of his views on Israel and a Palestinian state. Stranger things have happened. But first he should, on matters such as Sami Al-Arian, pick one story and stick to it.

After Phil Klein and I have written about this for a week, the mainstream media, reporting on the Republican Senate primary in California, have finally discovered the controversy concerning Tom Campbell’s record and rhetoric on Israel. The Los Angeles Times has now weighed in:

In a dispute that commingles foreign policy and a quest for political advantage, U.S.-Israel relations have taken an unexpectedly central role in the California race for Senate.

Rivals in the race for the Republican nomination are questioning whether former Rep. Tom Campbell is sufficiently supportive of Israel. They base their criticisms on his voting record, statements about a Palestinian homeland and capital, and some of his past associates.

After some back-and-forth regarding whether his rivals have dubbed him anti-Semitic (they say they have not) we learn that Campbell has rounded up former Secretary of State George Shultz to vouch for him. But then we get to the meat of the concern regarding Campbell’s record:

Criticism of Campbell’s voting record centers on efforts to reduce foreign aid for Israel. While in Congress, Campbell said, he supported military aid for Israel but twice sought to reduce economic aid. In the late 1990s, when foreign aid to other nations was being cut to help balance the budget, Israel’s allocation was not affected. Campbell said he favored allowing the military aid to remain unchanged but supported slightly reducing economic aid.

A second instance occurred when he voted against giving Israel an additional $30 million in economic aid, which was to have been taken from funds set aside for the neediest nations, such as those in Africa. That money, he said, was on top of a $700-million aid request that he supported and an earlier $3-billion appropriation. . . Campbell also drew criticism in the past for saying that Jerusalem should be the shared capital of both Israel and a Palestinian state. He said in the interview that he stands by that view.

Now Campbell is back to admitting he did accept a contribution from convicted terrorist Sami Al-Arian. (He flatly denied it in his New Ledger interview yesterday.) The story now is:

His opponents also questioned Campbell’s past associates, notably Sami Al-Arian, a former University of South Florida professor who pleaded guilty in 2006 to conspiring to help a terrorist organization. Al-Arian had donated $1,300 to Campbell’s 2000 campaign for Senate. Campbell, who was the business school dean at UC Berkeley and now teaches at Chapman University, wrote a letter to the University of South Florida protesting its decision to fire Al-Arian over comments he made. He also visited Al-Arian’s brother in jail.

Campbell said he did not know about Al-Arian’s illegal activities at the time and said that if he had he would not have written the letter.

“None of that had come out,” he said. Al-Arian was also photographed with George W. Bush during his first presidential campaign, Campbell noted.

(Al-Arian had, of course, been the subject of a 1994 documentary, had been under investigation for years before 2000, and had long spewed jihadist rhetoric.)

But on this one, the lede is buried, and perhaps with it Campbell’s standing in the Jewish community:

“He’s a brilliant gentlemen and an engaging personality, and I don’t think he’s particularly pro-Israel,” said Rabbi Abraham Cooper, the associate dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Los Angeles, who has known Campbell since the 1980s. “I think there’s enough there on the record that would send real alarms that this is someone who maybe doesn’t fully understand, doesn’t fully value or fully support a strong ongoing relationship with the state of Israel, an alliance with the state of Israel.”

Campbell can whine all he likes that his rivals’ attacks are “unacceptable” and “personally hurtful,” but that probably isn’t getting him anywhere. He is, however, reportedly to meet with representatives of AIPAC. Perhaps he can convince those Jewish leaders that his record is a stellar one on Israel, that his praise of Alison Weir (not mentioned in the Times report) is nothing, that his support of Al-Arian is also nothing, and that past rhetoric is not indicative of his views on Israel and a Palestinian state. Stranger things have happened. But first he should, on matters such as Sami Al-Arian, pick one story and stick to it.

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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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All in the Name of Diversity

The U.S. Commission on Civil Rights is looking into suspected gender discrimination at colleges and universities. As this report explains, women are “more plentiful” in college admissions, despite years of angst generated by the feminist civil-rights lobby about supposed discrimination against girls. Women are approaching 60 percent of the applicant pool. So it may be that, in the name of gender bias, schools are now trying to suppress the number of females they admit in order to give a boost to less deserving males:

William and Mary admitted 43 percent of its male applicants and 29 percent of its female applicants in fall 2008, according to its institutional data. Vassar College in New York’s Hudson Valley admitted 34 percent of the men who applied and 21 percent of the women. Swarthmore College in Pennsylvania admitted 19 percent of male applicants and 14 percent of female applicants. Wesleyan University in Connecticut admitted 30 percent of the men and 25 percent of the women. Female applicants far outnumbered male candidates at all four schools.

This week the commission will decide on the precise schools to examine from a pool of “nonprofit, non-seminary, four-year institutions that have more than 1,000 students, are at least moderately selective and are within 100 miles of Washington.” If the schools are public or publicly funded and have a two-tiered system for women and male applicants, “that would be illegal,” a commission spokeswoman explained.

Some of the college administrators aren’t so adept at covering their tracks. For example, the dean of admissions at the University of Richmond confides: “It’s always going to be an issue because there are not enough men in the pipeline.” So they need a little “help,” one supposes, so that “enough” men arrive on campus. Others try to obscure the issue in a haze of verbiage, parroting the language of applicable Supreme Court cases that have held that, for example, admissions officers can consider the applicant’s race as one of many factors:

According to higher-education leaders, investigators will be hard-pressed to find a college, public or private, that is intentionally favoring one sex over the other. Most of the region’s selective colleges practice “holistic” admissions, a process that considers each applicant as an individual, and as a whole, rather than as a sum of grades, test scores and demographic traits, in the quest to build a diverse class.

“In terms of importance, an applicant’s gender is near the bottom of the list of factors considered,” said Tony Pals, spokesman for the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities in the District.

“Near the bottom” — but apparently still a factor.

This is noteworthy for several reasons. First, where are the Justice Department and so-called feminist groups? They apparently don’t much care if women are now on the short end of gender preferences. It’s all about “diversity,” you see. And second, one realizes how misplaced has been the hue and cry about anti-female discrimination in education. Apparently there is no civil-rights or other organization upset that men now make up only 40 percent of the college-admissions pool. Are they being discriminated against? Are their educational needs being ignored? We don’t know, and no one seems interested in finding out why.

As I and others have pointed out before, the commission is filling a gap in the civil-rights arena, asking questions others won’t. The results of the study should be illuminating.

The U.S. Commission on Civil Rights is looking into suspected gender discrimination at colleges and universities. As this report explains, women are “more plentiful” in college admissions, despite years of angst generated by the feminist civil-rights lobby about supposed discrimination against girls. Women are approaching 60 percent of the applicant pool. So it may be that, in the name of gender bias, schools are now trying to suppress the number of females they admit in order to give a boost to less deserving males:

William and Mary admitted 43 percent of its male applicants and 29 percent of its female applicants in fall 2008, according to its institutional data. Vassar College in New York’s Hudson Valley admitted 34 percent of the men who applied and 21 percent of the women. Swarthmore College in Pennsylvania admitted 19 percent of male applicants and 14 percent of female applicants. Wesleyan University in Connecticut admitted 30 percent of the men and 25 percent of the women. Female applicants far outnumbered male candidates at all four schools.

This week the commission will decide on the precise schools to examine from a pool of “nonprofit, non-seminary, four-year institutions that have more than 1,000 students, are at least moderately selective and are within 100 miles of Washington.” If the schools are public or publicly funded and have a two-tiered system for women and male applicants, “that would be illegal,” a commission spokeswoman explained.

Some of the college administrators aren’t so adept at covering their tracks. For example, the dean of admissions at the University of Richmond confides: “It’s always going to be an issue because there are not enough men in the pipeline.” So they need a little “help,” one supposes, so that “enough” men arrive on campus. Others try to obscure the issue in a haze of verbiage, parroting the language of applicable Supreme Court cases that have held that, for example, admissions officers can consider the applicant’s race as one of many factors:

According to higher-education leaders, investigators will be hard-pressed to find a college, public or private, that is intentionally favoring one sex over the other. Most of the region’s selective colleges practice “holistic” admissions, a process that considers each applicant as an individual, and as a whole, rather than as a sum of grades, test scores and demographic traits, in the quest to build a diverse class.

“In terms of importance, an applicant’s gender is near the bottom of the list of factors considered,” said Tony Pals, spokesman for the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities in the District.

“Near the bottom” — but apparently still a factor.

This is noteworthy for several reasons. First, where are the Justice Department and so-called feminist groups? They apparently don’t much care if women are now on the short end of gender preferences. It’s all about “diversity,” you see. And second, one realizes how misplaced has been the hue and cry about anti-female discrimination in education. Apparently there is no civil-rights or other organization upset that men now make up only 40 percent of the college-admissions pool. Are they being discriminated against? Are their educational needs being ignored? We don’t know, and no one seems interested in finding out why.

As I and others have pointed out before, the commission is filling a gap in the civil-rights arena, asking questions others won’t. The results of the study should be illuminating.

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Gelb Sounds Like Cheney

When Leslie Gelb writes a column entitled “Amateur Hour at the White House,” which sounds like he’s channeling Dick Cheney, the White House has a problem. Gelb is no right-winger but rather a dean in the Beltway foreign-policy establishment. The former New York Times columnist, Carter administration official, and now president emeritus of the Council on Foreign Relations reviews the lame Asia trip and finds that it “suggests a disturbing amateurishness in managing America’s power.” He then blasts away:

On top of the inexcusably clumsy review of Afghan policy and the fumbling of Mideast negotiations, the message for Mr. Obama should be clear: He should stare hard at the skills of his foreign-policy team and, more so, at his own dominant role in decision-making. Something is awry somewhere, and he’s got to fix it.

He rightly observes that it is hard to see much purpose in the trip. Without real progress on issues of consequence, Gelb argues that “Mr. Obama should have taken a well-deserved vacation in Hawaii.” The nub of the problem, he goes on to say, is that Obama doesn’t really have a foreign policy. Invoking “the God of Multilateralism without spelling out America’s leadership role” doesn’t really count. Gelb’s advice is to bring in new advisers.

Well, they can’t do any worse than the current crew has. But the problem, of course, stems from Obama’s obsessive infatuation with that “God of Multilateralism,” an aversion to projecting American power, and a refusal to embrace (or even fake belief in) American exceptionalism. Then there is Obama’s adoption of unhelpful excuse-mongering on behalf of those anxious to be unhelpful (e.g., the Palestinians are like enslaved African Americans, the Russians are fearful of the West), his amoral willingness to jettison human rights in the hopes of gaining favor with tyrants, and his narcissistic view of foreign policy that assumes his personal history and non-George-Bush-ness will be significant in dealing with international powers.

Will new advisers solve all that — and would Obama even listen to those who didn’t share his passive-aggressive predilections? It’s not likely, unless Obama himself acknowledged first that his foreign policy has been an embarrassing bust. No sign of that yet, although Gelb does his best to alert a White House unusually immune to criticism that the complaints are not simply the dreamed-up critiques of right-wingers. One imagines — hard as it may be to — that things will have to get worse before the Obami’s foreign policy gets better.

When Leslie Gelb writes a column entitled “Amateur Hour at the White House,” which sounds like he’s channeling Dick Cheney, the White House has a problem. Gelb is no right-winger but rather a dean in the Beltway foreign-policy establishment. The former New York Times columnist, Carter administration official, and now president emeritus of the Council on Foreign Relations reviews the lame Asia trip and finds that it “suggests a disturbing amateurishness in managing America’s power.” He then blasts away:

On top of the inexcusably clumsy review of Afghan policy and the fumbling of Mideast negotiations, the message for Mr. Obama should be clear: He should stare hard at the skills of his foreign-policy team and, more so, at his own dominant role in decision-making. Something is awry somewhere, and he’s got to fix it.

He rightly observes that it is hard to see much purpose in the trip. Without real progress on issues of consequence, Gelb argues that “Mr. Obama should have taken a well-deserved vacation in Hawaii.” The nub of the problem, he goes on to say, is that Obama doesn’t really have a foreign policy. Invoking “the God of Multilateralism without spelling out America’s leadership role” doesn’t really count. Gelb’s advice is to bring in new advisers.

Well, they can’t do any worse than the current crew has. But the problem, of course, stems from Obama’s obsessive infatuation with that “God of Multilateralism,” an aversion to projecting American power, and a refusal to embrace (or even fake belief in) American exceptionalism. Then there is Obama’s adoption of unhelpful excuse-mongering on behalf of those anxious to be unhelpful (e.g., the Palestinians are like enslaved African Americans, the Russians are fearful of the West), his amoral willingness to jettison human rights in the hopes of gaining favor with tyrants, and his narcissistic view of foreign policy that assumes his personal history and non-George-Bush-ness will be significant in dealing with international powers.

Will new advisers solve all that — and would Obama even listen to those who didn’t share his passive-aggressive predilections? It’s not likely, unless Obama himself acknowledged first that his foreign policy has been an embarrassing bust. No sign of that yet, although Gelb does his best to alert a White House unusually immune to criticism that the complaints are not simply the dreamed-up critiques of right-wingers. One imagines — hard as it may be to — that things will have to get worse before the Obami’s foreign policy gets better.

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