Commentary Magazine


Topic: Democratic presidential candidate

Hollywood Irony Watch: Political Fantasist Sorkin Calls Palin a Fake

In the 1990s, liberals weren’t entirely happy with a triangulating and philandering Bill Clinton, but they were able to escape from that reality in a movie written by Aaron Sorkin called The American President, in which Michael Douglas plays a Clinton-like chief executive. The biggest difference between the movie and real life was that the president in the film didn’t have an annoying Hillary-type wife around to cramp his style, since, in the script, she is conveniently dead. That allowed the movie prez to date a hot DC lefty lobbyist played by Annette Bening. In the film, both liberalism and love triumph as the president eschews a Clintonesque pragmatic compromise in order to win back his girlfriend. The film inspired a TV series, The West Wing, also written by Sorkin. That show (which ran from September 1999 to May 2006) depicted the doings of another fictional White House and enabled liberals to escape into a fantasy world in which the George W. Bush administration didn’t exist.

Sorkin is reported to be currently working on adapting a tell-all book about John Edwards for the silver screen, but he took time out from his labors to blog at the Huffington Post about another TV series with heavy political overtones: TLC’s Sarah Palin’s Alaska.

It’s hardly a surprise that a lefty like Sorkin has no use for Palin, but his denunciation of her show was focused primarily on his opinion that its depiction of the former governor as an outdoorswoman was largely fake and also because it showed fish and animals being killed. The TLC channel responded to his accusations by saying that, contrary to Sorkin’s accusation, there was no hair and makeup trailer standing by as Palin shot at a caribou in the wild. But frankly, who cares? All reality shows are to some extent fake, even if the characters are real people rather than fictional characters.

But one needn’t be a fan of Palin to observe that a person who has made a nice living producing politically slanted movies and TV shows — all of which were intended to promote the sort of liberal politics Sorkin likes and to generally trash conservatives — is in no position to cry foul over Sarah Palin’s Alaska. Unlike The American President and The West Wing, Palin’s show doesn’t pretend to be art. It’s just pure Palin and should be judged as such. That makes it a good deal more honest than Sorkin’s more sophisticated productions.

Sorkin’s second accusation is that Palin’s show is, in effect, a politically motivated “snuff film” because (unlike that disclaimer at the end of every movie you see these days) animals were definitely harmed in the making of the show. Now for those of us who don’t number among the 10 percent of Americans who hunt, this may be gruesome stuff. Yet Sorkin goes further and claims there’s no difference between the Great White Huntress Palin and dog killer/quarterback Michael Vick.

Now it is one thing to have moral qualms about hunting animals for sport (despite Palin’s claim in the show that the animals actually have the advantage, I think that would be true only if they had guns and could shoot back). But it is another to damn her as a murderer and to express, as Sorkin does in a sentence replete with profanity, joy over instances of hunters killing each other by accident. After all, approximately 30 million Americans hunt. And a lot of those people are Democrats and others who share Sorkin’s liberal views.

Sorkin claims the caribou that Palin kills in one episode “was the first moose ever murdered for political gain.” Maybe, but it’s funny that Sorkin doesn’t seem to remember the goose that was murdered in a vain attempt to save John Kerry’s candidacy in October 2004. Desperate to establish a sense of authenticity, Kerry bought a hunting license, donned camouflage gear, and, while toting a 12-gauge shotgun, the Democratic presidential candidate traipsed around rural Ohio trying to kill geese and then claimed to have bagged one.

7_23_102104_kerry_huntingI don’t recall Sorkin expressing any public outrage over that incident since its intent was to further a political aim he supported: George W. Bush’s defeat at the polls. All of which goes to show that whatever you may think about Palin or hunting, Sorkin’s hissy fit is mere partisan tripe. Which, come to think of it, is as apt a characterization of his film and TV work as it is of Sarah Palin’s Alaska.

In the 1990s, liberals weren’t entirely happy with a triangulating and philandering Bill Clinton, but they were able to escape from that reality in a movie written by Aaron Sorkin called The American President, in which Michael Douglas plays a Clinton-like chief executive. The biggest difference between the movie and real life was that the president in the film didn’t have an annoying Hillary-type wife around to cramp his style, since, in the script, she is conveniently dead. That allowed the movie prez to date a hot DC lefty lobbyist played by Annette Bening. In the film, both liberalism and love triumph as the president eschews a Clintonesque pragmatic compromise in order to win back his girlfriend. The film inspired a TV series, The West Wing, also written by Sorkin. That show (which ran from September 1999 to May 2006) depicted the doings of another fictional White House and enabled liberals to escape into a fantasy world in which the George W. Bush administration didn’t exist.

Sorkin is reported to be currently working on adapting a tell-all book about John Edwards for the silver screen, but he took time out from his labors to blog at the Huffington Post about another TV series with heavy political overtones: TLC’s Sarah Palin’s Alaska.

It’s hardly a surprise that a lefty like Sorkin has no use for Palin, but his denunciation of her show was focused primarily on his opinion that its depiction of the former governor as an outdoorswoman was largely fake and also because it showed fish and animals being killed. The TLC channel responded to his accusations by saying that, contrary to Sorkin’s accusation, there was no hair and makeup trailer standing by as Palin shot at a caribou in the wild. But frankly, who cares? All reality shows are to some extent fake, even if the characters are real people rather than fictional characters.

But one needn’t be a fan of Palin to observe that a person who has made a nice living producing politically slanted movies and TV shows — all of which were intended to promote the sort of liberal politics Sorkin likes and to generally trash conservatives — is in no position to cry foul over Sarah Palin’s Alaska. Unlike The American President and The West Wing, Palin’s show doesn’t pretend to be art. It’s just pure Palin and should be judged as such. That makes it a good deal more honest than Sorkin’s more sophisticated productions.

Sorkin’s second accusation is that Palin’s show is, in effect, a politically motivated “snuff film” because (unlike that disclaimer at the end of every movie you see these days) animals were definitely harmed in the making of the show. Now for those of us who don’t number among the 10 percent of Americans who hunt, this may be gruesome stuff. Yet Sorkin goes further and claims there’s no difference between the Great White Huntress Palin and dog killer/quarterback Michael Vick.

Now it is one thing to have moral qualms about hunting animals for sport (despite Palin’s claim in the show that the animals actually have the advantage, I think that would be true only if they had guns and could shoot back). But it is another to damn her as a murderer and to express, as Sorkin does in a sentence replete with profanity, joy over instances of hunters killing each other by accident. After all, approximately 30 million Americans hunt. And a lot of those people are Democrats and others who share Sorkin’s liberal views.

Sorkin claims the caribou that Palin kills in one episode “was the first moose ever murdered for political gain.” Maybe, but it’s funny that Sorkin doesn’t seem to remember the goose that was murdered in a vain attempt to save John Kerry’s candidacy in October 2004. Desperate to establish a sense of authenticity, Kerry bought a hunting license, donned camouflage gear, and, while toting a 12-gauge shotgun, the Democratic presidential candidate traipsed around rural Ohio trying to kill geese and then claimed to have bagged one.

7_23_102104_kerry_huntingI don’t recall Sorkin expressing any public outrage over that incident since its intent was to further a political aim he supported: George W. Bush’s defeat at the polls. All of which goes to show that whatever you may think about Palin or hunting, Sorkin’s hissy fit is mere partisan tripe. Which, come to think of it, is as apt a characterization of his film and TV work as it is of Sarah Palin’s Alaska.

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Netanyahu Isn’t the One Playing Politics on Iran

Israeli leaders are often rightly warned to avoid the temptation to tiptoe into the muddy waters of American partisan politics. That is a lesson that current Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu learned during his first term in office during the 1990s, when he answered the antipathy of the Clinton administration by cozying up to the Republicans. Though Clinton had done everything but go door to door asking Israeli voters to back Shimon Peres and Labor instead of Netanyahu and Likud in Israel’s 1996 parliamentary election, Netanyahu’s clear preference for the GOP was a mistake that did Israel no good and Clinton little harm.

That is the sort of mistake that Netanyahu has avoided since coming back to the prime minister’s office in 2009. Though President Obama has picked fights with Israel as he sought to distance the United States from its ally in a futile bid for popularity in the Muslim world and treated Netanyahu abominably, the prime minister has wisely never voiced a single complaint and has frustrated those in the White House who foolishly thought they could unseat him. But these rope-a-dope tactics are not only frustrating for the Obami. They are driving some Israeli left-wingers crazy, too.

That’s the spirit of a piece published yesterday at Politico by Alon Pinkas, Israel’s former consul general in New York City. He accuses Netanyahu of violating the unwritten rule prohibiting prime ministers from partisan activities here. What’s his evidence? The speech Netanyahu gave to the General Assembly of North American Jewish Federations in which he called for the assertion of a threat of force to respond to the nuclear threat from Iran. Netanyahu said that while he hoped that sanctions would work to convince Iran to abandon its nuclear ambitions, a credible threat of force must be on the table. Since U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates soon responded that sanctions are working (a position that no serious person actually believes), Pinkas concludes that Netanyahu violated a tradition of non-partisanship. After that, he goes on to switch gears and then rehearse the arguments often heard from Jewish Democrats that even raising the issue of support for Israel in U.S. elections is somehow not kosher.

Such arguments are nonsense.

First, worrying about Iran has never been the sole preserve of the Republicans. For example, a certain Democratic presidential candidate named Barack Obama made a number of pledges that he would never allow Iran to go nuclear on his watch. Many Democrats as well as Republicans have sounded the alarm about Iran as Obama spent his first year in office pursuing a feckless policy of “engagement” with the ayatollahs and then watched in dismay as he spent his second year assembling a coalition that could only muster support for tepid sanctions that have made no impression on the Iranians.

But what his piece illustrates is that it is Pinkas who is playing American party politics, not Netanyahu. By decrying the claim of some Republicans that some Democrats have been unsupportive of Israel, all Pinkas is doing is demonstrating that he dislikes the GOP and sympathizes with the Democrats. There’s nothing wrong with that, but if that’s how he feels, then perhaps he should move here, become a citizen, and get a vote. (Oddly enough, a few years ago Pinkas actually made a bid to become the head of the American Jewish Congress and almost got the job, until it was learned that it was a violation of Israeli law for a diplomat to take such a position so soon after leaving his post. Eventually, even the members of that moribund organization realized that the idea of an unemployed Israeli diplomat becoming the head of an American group was ridiculous.)

Contrary to Pinkas’s assertion, accountability is the one thing all friends of Israel should welcome. If either a Democrat or a Republican takes stances that are unhelpful to Israel, he or she ought to pay a political price at the ballot box. Taking the issue of support for Israel off the table does nothing to encourage politicians of either party to make good on their campaign promises to defend the Jewish state.

By expressing the justified concerns of Israelis about the existential threat facing their country from Iran, Netanyahu was doing exactly what he should be doing. By injecting himself into party squabbles here on behalf of his friends in the Democratic Party and by attempting to undermine his prime minister’s mission with a false allegation of partisanship, Pinkas demonstrated how out of touch he is with the realities of both Israeli and American politics.

Israeli leaders are often rightly warned to avoid the temptation to tiptoe into the muddy waters of American partisan politics. That is a lesson that current Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu learned during his first term in office during the 1990s, when he answered the antipathy of the Clinton administration by cozying up to the Republicans. Though Clinton had done everything but go door to door asking Israeli voters to back Shimon Peres and Labor instead of Netanyahu and Likud in Israel’s 1996 parliamentary election, Netanyahu’s clear preference for the GOP was a mistake that did Israel no good and Clinton little harm.

That is the sort of mistake that Netanyahu has avoided since coming back to the prime minister’s office in 2009. Though President Obama has picked fights with Israel as he sought to distance the United States from its ally in a futile bid for popularity in the Muslim world and treated Netanyahu abominably, the prime minister has wisely never voiced a single complaint and has frustrated those in the White House who foolishly thought they could unseat him. But these rope-a-dope tactics are not only frustrating for the Obami. They are driving some Israeli left-wingers crazy, too.

That’s the spirit of a piece published yesterday at Politico by Alon Pinkas, Israel’s former consul general in New York City. He accuses Netanyahu of violating the unwritten rule prohibiting prime ministers from partisan activities here. What’s his evidence? The speech Netanyahu gave to the General Assembly of North American Jewish Federations in which he called for the assertion of a threat of force to respond to the nuclear threat from Iran. Netanyahu said that while he hoped that sanctions would work to convince Iran to abandon its nuclear ambitions, a credible threat of force must be on the table. Since U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates soon responded that sanctions are working (a position that no serious person actually believes), Pinkas concludes that Netanyahu violated a tradition of non-partisanship. After that, he goes on to switch gears and then rehearse the arguments often heard from Jewish Democrats that even raising the issue of support for Israel in U.S. elections is somehow not kosher.

Such arguments are nonsense.

First, worrying about Iran has never been the sole preserve of the Republicans. For example, a certain Democratic presidential candidate named Barack Obama made a number of pledges that he would never allow Iran to go nuclear on his watch. Many Democrats as well as Republicans have sounded the alarm about Iran as Obama spent his first year in office pursuing a feckless policy of “engagement” with the ayatollahs and then watched in dismay as he spent his second year assembling a coalition that could only muster support for tepid sanctions that have made no impression on the Iranians.

But what his piece illustrates is that it is Pinkas who is playing American party politics, not Netanyahu. By decrying the claim of some Republicans that some Democrats have been unsupportive of Israel, all Pinkas is doing is demonstrating that he dislikes the GOP and sympathizes with the Democrats. There’s nothing wrong with that, but if that’s how he feels, then perhaps he should move here, become a citizen, and get a vote. (Oddly enough, a few years ago Pinkas actually made a bid to become the head of the American Jewish Congress and almost got the job, until it was learned that it was a violation of Israeli law for a diplomat to take such a position so soon after leaving his post. Eventually, even the members of that moribund organization realized that the idea of an unemployed Israeli diplomat becoming the head of an American group was ridiculous.)

Contrary to Pinkas’s assertion, accountability is the one thing all friends of Israel should welcome. If either a Democrat or a Republican takes stances that are unhelpful to Israel, he or she ought to pay a political price at the ballot box. Taking the issue of support for Israel off the table does nothing to encourage politicians of either party to make good on their campaign promises to defend the Jewish state.

By expressing the justified concerns of Israelis about the existential threat facing their country from Iran, Netanyahu was doing exactly what he should be doing. By injecting himself into party squabbles here on behalf of his friends in the Democratic Party and by attempting to undermine his prime minister’s mission with a false allegation of partisanship, Pinkas demonstrated how out of touch he is with the realities of both Israeli and American politics.

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Is There a Replacement for Syria’s Friend in the Senate?

As the calendar ticks off the last days of Arlen Specter’s 30-year reign in the United States Senate, it appears that one of his colleagues might be assuming a role that the Pennsylvanian had long cherished: that of the Assad clan’s American interlocutor.

For decades, Specter embarrassed the Senate and many of his Jewish supporters and donors with his regular visits to Damascus, where he schmoozed with Syrian dictator Hafez Assad and then, after the elder Assad’s death, his son Bashar, who succeeded his father as that country’s leader. It was a good deal for both the senator and the Syrians. Specter got to play diplomat, with the United States Treasury picking up the tab, while the Syrians had a permanent advocate for engagement with the Assad regime no matter how atrocious its behavior had been. To his credit, Specter did use his cordial relationship with the Assads to help rescue the remnants of Syrian Jewry, but that was accomplished 18 years ago. Since then, Specter’s frequent flyer miles to Damascus served no constructive purpose other than to further inflate the senator’s considerable ego.

But with Specter headed to retirement after losing his bid for re-election, Sen. John Kerry appears to be picking up the slack in the Syrian appeasement category. Today’s New York Times quoted the 2004 Democratic presidential candidate as saying that his recent trip to Damascus encouraged him to believe that engagement with Syria was a good idea. Syria’s return to control in Lebanon and successful efforts to undermine the international investigation of the 2005 assassination of Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, as well as its refusal to distance itself from Iran as the Obama administration had hoped, have discouraged many of even the most determined Arabists in Washington. But Kerry said, “I remain absolutely convinced there is an opportunity to have a different relationship with Syria.”

As Senate Foreign Relations Committee chair, Kerry can muster up a better rationale for his international travels than Specter did, and reportedly went to Syria at the behest of an Obama administration that remains desperate to preserve the illusion that its engagement policies are not a complete bust even if it is evident that Syria has no interest in abandoning its ally Iran, allowing Lebanon to be free, or making peace with Israel.

While back-channel diplomacy can have its uses every once in a while, the sort of freelance diplomacy practiced by Specter served Syria’s interests more than those of the United States. Now that he’s out of the picture, it would be unfortunate if Kerry, or any of his other colleagues who love to spend congressional recesses on taxpayer-financed road trips, allowed the Assad clan to think that they can continue to bamboozle Washington. The message from everyone in the capital to Damascus must be crystal clear: if it wants better relations with the United States, it will have to alter its behavior.

As the calendar ticks off the last days of Arlen Specter’s 30-year reign in the United States Senate, it appears that one of his colleagues might be assuming a role that the Pennsylvanian had long cherished: that of the Assad clan’s American interlocutor.

For decades, Specter embarrassed the Senate and many of his Jewish supporters and donors with his regular visits to Damascus, where he schmoozed with Syrian dictator Hafez Assad and then, after the elder Assad’s death, his son Bashar, who succeeded his father as that country’s leader. It was a good deal for both the senator and the Syrians. Specter got to play diplomat, with the United States Treasury picking up the tab, while the Syrians had a permanent advocate for engagement with the Assad regime no matter how atrocious its behavior had been. To his credit, Specter did use his cordial relationship with the Assads to help rescue the remnants of Syrian Jewry, but that was accomplished 18 years ago. Since then, Specter’s frequent flyer miles to Damascus served no constructive purpose other than to further inflate the senator’s considerable ego.

But with Specter headed to retirement after losing his bid for re-election, Sen. John Kerry appears to be picking up the slack in the Syrian appeasement category. Today’s New York Times quoted the 2004 Democratic presidential candidate as saying that his recent trip to Damascus encouraged him to believe that engagement with Syria was a good idea. Syria’s return to control in Lebanon and successful efforts to undermine the international investigation of the 2005 assassination of Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, as well as its refusal to distance itself from Iran as the Obama administration had hoped, have discouraged many of even the most determined Arabists in Washington. But Kerry said, “I remain absolutely convinced there is an opportunity to have a different relationship with Syria.”

As Senate Foreign Relations Committee chair, Kerry can muster up a better rationale for his international travels than Specter did, and reportedly went to Syria at the behest of an Obama administration that remains desperate to preserve the illusion that its engagement policies are not a complete bust even if it is evident that Syria has no interest in abandoning its ally Iran, allowing Lebanon to be free, or making peace with Israel.

While back-channel diplomacy can have its uses every once in a while, the sort of freelance diplomacy practiced by Specter served Syria’s interests more than those of the United States. Now that he’s out of the picture, it would be unfortunate if Kerry, or any of his other colleagues who love to spend congressional recesses on taxpayer-financed road trips, allowed the Assad clan to think that they can continue to bamboozle Washington. The message from everyone in the capital to Damascus must be crystal clear: if it wants better relations with the United States, it will have to alter its behavior.

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Independents Abandon Obama

Gallup reports:

Thirty-eight percent of independents approve of the job Barack Obama is doing as president, the first time independent approval of Obama has dropped below 40% in a Gallup Daily tracking weekly aggregate. Meanwhile, Obama maintains the support of 81% of Democrats, and his job approval among Republicans remains low, at 12%. … Over the past year, Obama has lost support among all party groups, though the decline has been steeper among independents than among Republicans or Democrats. … Overall, 46% of Americans approve of the job Obama is doing as president in the June 28-July 4 aggregate, one point above his lowest weekly average.

Obama, like any winning Democratic presidential candidate, put together a coalition of independents and core liberals. That has now unraveled, as independent voters have come to see him not as a post-partisan, fiscally responsible, and coolly efficient leader but rather as a hyper-partisan and statist liberal who’s not all that competent.

This doesn’t mean that Obama can’t recover the critical bloc of independent voters or that the Republicans have a lock on this segment of the electorate. But it does mean that Obama will have to alter his agenda substantially or face the collapse of his and his party’s political fortunes.

Gallup reports:

Thirty-eight percent of independents approve of the job Barack Obama is doing as president, the first time independent approval of Obama has dropped below 40% in a Gallup Daily tracking weekly aggregate. Meanwhile, Obama maintains the support of 81% of Democrats, and his job approval among Republicans remains low, at 12%. … Over the past year, Obama has lost support among all party groups, though the decline has been steeper among independents than among Republicans or Democrats. … Overall, 46% of Americans approve of the job Obama is doing as president in the June 28-July 4 aggregate, one point above his lowest weekly average.

Obama, like any winning Democratic presidential candidate, put together a coalition of independents and core liberals. That has now unraveled, as independent voters have come to see him not as a post-partisan, fiscally responsible, and coolly efficient leader but rather as a hyper-partisan and statist liberal who’s not all that competent.

This doesn’t mean that Obama can’t recover the critical bloc of independent voters or that the Republicans have a lock on this segment of the electorate. But it does mean that Obama will have to alter his agenda substantially or face the collapse of his and his party’s political fortunes.

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Partners in the Conservative Revival

Both Bill Kristol and Peter Berkowitz have taken up the issue of conservative reform and the respective tasks of wonkish conservative innovators and the grassroots Tea Party movement. The mainstream media like to portray the two groups — the reformers and the Tea Partiers – in opposition in a party civil war (as if Rep. Paul Ryan and Sarah Palin were in competition for the soul of the GOP). But as Kristol and Berkowitz explain, the two aspects of the revived conservative movement are compatible, and each is essential in its own realm.

Kristol reminds us that the Tea Party movement has helped to unnerve and beat back the liberal statists, but that is the beginning and not the end of a conservative resurgence:

We already have a Middle American populist reaction against the government schemes of pointy-headed intellectuals. Barack Obama got the highest percentage of the votes of any Democratic presidential candidate since Lyndon Johnson in 1964; Republicans look to be on track this year to replicate their 47-seat House pick-up in 1966.

What comes next? That’s up to us—especially to us conservatives. We’re not doomed to repeat the pretty miserable political, social, and economic performance of 1967-80. …

Can conservatives develop a program, an agenda, and a governing vision that would, in the words of Federalist 39, vindicate “that honorable determination which animates every votary of freedom, to rest all our political experiments on the capacity of mankind for self-government”?

And Berkowitz provides a helpful review of the history of conservative reform, pointing toward those whose task it will be to provide an alternative to Obamaism:

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour and Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan are among those officeholders in the process of recovering reform as a conservative virtue. In November, Meg Whitman, the new Republican nominee in California, and Brian Sandoval, the new Republican nominee for governor in Nevada, stand a good chance to join their ranks.

Today’s conservative reformers appreciate that within its limited sphere government should be excellent. Promoting individual responsibility, self-reliance and opportunity requires targeted action, beginning with health-care reform that really controls costs by eliminating barriers on insurance companies operating across state lines and limiting malpractice damages; public-sector reform that reins in unions by reducing benefits and expanding accountability; and education reform that through school-choice programs gives parents, particularly in low income and minority communities, greater control over their children’s education.

None of this is to underestimate or denigrate the intellectual underpinnings of the Tea Party movement. Despite the media indictment (Racists! Know-nothings!), it is perhaps the most wonkish popular uprising we’ve had in the past century. It is the CATO  Institute’s dream mass movement — based on self-reliance, limited government, sound money, fiscal discipline, and market economics. Many of the protesters like to carry copies of the Constitution. For every inflammatory hand-painted sign that CNN films, there are dozens quoting James Madison, challenging the “bailout nation,” and contesting the constitutionality of an individual health-care insurance mandate. It’s certainly a step up from “Turn on, tune in, drop out.” But it is not a methodology for governing nor an agenda for what would follow Obamaism. You don’t write legislation in mass gatherings seeking to discredit and upend those in power. And it’s unrealistic and misguided to expect a mass movement to decimate a political agenda, defeat liberal one-party rule, defend itself against incessant media attacks – and come up with a health-care alternative, a scheme for entitlement reform, and proposals to tame the debt. (The latter is the work of Ryan, Daniels, Christie, et. al.)

The media narrative that the conservative movement is riven with conflict is, as is so much else the media spew, a distortion intended to bolster the spirits of the left and paint the right in the most disagreeable light possible. We actually have witnessed a rather effective division of labor on the right, with reformers and Tea Partiers collaborating on common goals. They share a mutual desire to put a stake through the heart of the statist agenda of one-party Democratic rule and to find a better alternative. The first task is well under way; the latter is just beginning.

Both Bill Kristol and Peter Berkowitz have taken up the issue of conservative reform and the respective tasks of wonkish conservative innovators and the grassroots Tea Party movement. The mainstream media like to portray the two groups — the reformers and the Tea Partiers – in opposition in a party civil war (as if Rep. Paul Ryan and Sarah Palin were in competition for the soul of the GOP). But as Kristol and Berkowitz explain, the two aspects of the revived conservative movement are compatible, and each is essential in its own realm.

Kristol reminds us that the Tea Party movement has helped to unnerve and beat back the liberal statists, but that is the beginning and not the end of a conservative resurgence:

We already have a Middle American populist reaction against the government schemes of pointy-headed intellectuals. Barack Obama got the highest percentage of the votes of any Democratic presidential candidate since Lyndon Johnson in 1964; Republicans look to be on track this year to replicate their 47-seat House pick-up in 1966.

What comes next? That’s up to us—especially to us conservatives. We’re not doomed to repeat the pretty miserable political, social, and economic performance of 1967-80. …

Can conservatives develop a program, an agenda, and a governing vision that would, in the words of Federalist 39, vindicate “that honorable determination which animates every votary of freedom, to rest all our political experiments on the capacity of mankind for self-government”?

And Berkowitz provides a helpful review of the history of conservative reform, pointing toward those whose task it will be to provide an alternative to Obamaism:

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour and Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan are among those officeholders in the process of recovering reform as a conservative virtue. In November, Meg Whitman, the new Republican nominee in California, and Brian Sandoval, the new Republican nominee for governor in Nevada, stand a good chance to join their ranks.

Today’s conservative reformers appreciate that within its limited sphere government should be excellent. Promoting individual responsibility, self-reliance and opportunity requires targeted action, beginning with health-care reform that really controls costs by eliminating barriers on insurance companies operating across state lines and limiting malpractice damages; public-sector reform that reins in unions by reducing benefits and expanding accountability; and education reform that through school-choice programs gives parents, particularly in low income and minority communities, greater control over their children’s education.

None of this is to underestimate or denigrate the intellectual underpinnings of the Tea Party movement. Despite the media indictment (Racists! Know-nothings!), it is perhaps the most wonkish popular uprising we’ve had in the past century. It is the CATO  Institute’s dream mass movement — based on self-reliance, limited government, sound money, fiscal discipline, and market economics. Many of the protesters like to carry copies of the Constitution. For every inflammatory hand-painted sign that CNN films, there are dozens quoting James Madison, challenging the “bailout nation,” and contesting the constitutionality of an individual health-care insurance mandate. It’s certainly a step up from “Turn on, tune in, drop out.” But it is not a methodology for governing nor an agenda for what would follow Obamaism. You don’t write legislation in mass gatherings seeking to discredit and upend those in power. And it’s unrealistic and misguided to expect a mass movement to decimate a political agenda, defeat liberal one-party rule, defend itself against incessant media attacks – and come up with a health-care alternative, a scheme for entitlement reform, and proposals to tame the debt. (The latter is the work of Ryan, Daniels, Christie, et. al.)

The media narrative that the conservative movement is riven with conflict is, as is so much else the media spew, a distortion intended to bolster the spirits of the left and paint the right in the most disagreeable light possible. We actually have witnessed a rather effective division of labor on the right, with reformers and Tea Partiers collaborating on common goals. They share a mutual desire to put a stake through the heart of the statist agenda of one-party Democratic rule and to find a better alternative. The first task is well under way; the latter is just beginning.

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Liberals Like Swift-Boat Attack Against Specter’s Foe

With less than two weeks to go until the Pennsylvania Democratic primary that will decide the fate of Senator Arlen Specter, the race between the incumbent party-switcher and the liberal congressman who is hoping to knock him off has gotten tighter and nastier.

After holding a huge lead over Rep. Joe Sestak for most of the past year, Specter is shown by the latest polls to lose his lead. An Allentown Morning Call tracking poll showed Specter with just a five-point lead (45 percent to 40) on May 5, down three points from May 2. Though a Quinnipiac poll from May 2 showed Specter with a larger lead (48 percent to 39), it still showed remarkable gains for Sestak since he had trailed Specter in that survey by as much as 21 points only a month earlier.

And along with the tighter poll numbers have come the inevitable negative ads. Specter had thought he would cruise to victory in the primary because of name recognition, a big edge in campaign contributions, and the overwhelming support he has received from Democratic leaders from President Obama, Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell, and most of the county Democratic committees. But faced with Sestak’s rising numbers, in the last couple of weeks, Specter has now resorted to trying to stress his opponent’s negatives. The senator is now airing a TV ad in which he claims that Sestak, a retired Navy admiral, was relieved of his post as chief of planning for the Navy in 2005 because he created a “poor command climate” — though Sestak has always said that his exit from the Navy was due to policy differences with a new chief of naval operations, Admiral Mike Mullen. Sestak has now responded to Specter’s ad with one of his own, in which he accuses the senator of “swift-boating” him and lying about his record. For good measure, he’s also released another one tying Specter to his Republican past, including his support for figures that are demons to Democratic activists: George W. Bush, former senator Rick Santorum, and Sarah Palin.

Though Specter’s turncoat status has made it hard for him to cozy up to the sort of hardcore liberals who vote in Democratic primaries, it is interesting to note that the chief institutional voice of Pennsylvania liberalism — the Philadelphia Inquirer — has taken its cue from Obama and not only endorsed Specter but also backed his attacks on Sestak’s record and character. In an editorial published today, the Inky follows Specter’s lead and demands that Sestak release his private Navy records if he wants to quiet the discussion related to the issue.

Yet 6 years ago, when conservative activists were raising embarrassing questions about the naval record of Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry, the Inquirer took a very different point of view. At that time, the liberal newspaper decried the “Swift-Boat” vets who attacked Kerry and thought their demands for the release of Kerry’s records were not only unreasonable but also an indication of the vicious nature of ultra-partisan GOP politics. But with the possibility of losing a Senate seat for the Democrats (polls also show that Sestak is a weaker general-election candidate than Specter), the Inquirer is no longer so squeamish about messing with former military men.

Ultimately, the race will be decided by voter sentiment about Specter. Much of his campaign material emphasizes his 30 years in the Senate and his ability to bring home the bacon for his state as one of the most expert practitioners of earmark spending. But in a year in which voters are clearly saying that they think politics as usual isn’t the answer, Specter’s old strengths may turn out to be big weaknesses. While this trend is a clear boost to Republicans — not least to former Rep. Pat Toomey, a principled libertarian and the man whom polls show able to beat either Democrat in the November election — these ideas may have an impact on May 17, when Democrats vote as well. Under these circumstances, swift-boating Sestak, even if liberals who once were outraged by such tactics when it they had turned on their own heroes now endorse them, may not be enough to save the slippery Specter.

With less than two weeks to go until the Pennsylvania Democratic primary that will decide the fate of Senator Arlen Specter, the race between the incumbent party-switcher and the liberal congressman who is hoping to knock him off has gotten tighter and nastier.

After holding a huge lead over Rep. Joe Sestak for most of the past year, Specter is shown by the latest polls to lose his lead. An Allentown Morning Call tracking poll showed Specter with just a five-point lead (45 percent to 40) on May 5, down three points from May 2. Though a Quinnipiac poll from May 2 showed Specter with a larger lead (48 percent to 39), it still showed remarkable gains for Sestak since he had trailed Specter in that survey by as much as 21 points only a month earlier.

And along with the tighter poll numbers have come the inevitable negative ads. Specter had thought he would cruise to victory in the primary because of name recognition, a big edge in campaign contributions, and the overwhelming support he has received from Democratic leaders from President Obama, Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell, and most of the county Democratic committees. But faced with Sestak’s rising numbers, in the last couple of weeks, Specter has now resorted to trying to stress his opponent’s negatives. The senator is now airing a TV ad in which he claims that Sestak, a retired Navy admiral, was relieved of his post as chief of planning for the Navy in 2005 because he created a “poor command climate” — though Sestak has always said that his exit from the Navy was due to policy differences with a new chief of naval operations, Admiral Mike Mullen. Sestak has now responded to Specter’s ad with one of his own, in which he accuses the senator of “swift-boating” him and lying about his record. For good measure, he’s also released another one tying Specter to his Republican past, including his support for figures that are demons to Democratic activists: George W. Bush, former senator Rick Santorum, and Sarah Palin.

Though Specter’s turncoat status has made it hard for him to cozy up to the sort of hardcore liberals who vote in Democratic primaries, it is interesting to note that the chief institutional voice of Pennsylvania liberalism — the Philadelphia Inquirer — has taken its cue from Obama and not only endorsed Specter but also backed his attacks on Sestak’s record and character. In an editorial published today, the Inky follows Specter’s lead and demands that Sestak release his private Navy records if he wants to quiet the discussion related to the issue.

Yet 6 years ago, when conservative activists were raising embarrassing questions about the naval record of Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry, the Inquirer took a very different point of view. At that time, the liberal newspaper decried the “Swift-Boat” vets who attacked Kerry and thought their demands for the release of Kerry’s records were not only unreasonable but also an indication of the vicious nature of ultra-partisan GOP politics. But with the possibility of losing a Senate seat for the Democrats (polls also show that Sestak is a weaker general-election candidate than Specter), the Inquirer is no longer so squeamish about messing with former military men.

Ultimately, the race will be decided by voter sentiment about Specter. Much of his campaign material emphasizes his 30 years in the Senate and his ability to bring home the bacon for his state as one of the most expert practitioners of earmark spending. But in a year in which voters are clearly saying that they think politics as usual isn’t the answer, Specter’s old strengths may turn out to be big weaknesses. While this trend is a clear boost to Republicans — not least to former Rep. Pat Toomey, a principled libertarian and the man whom polls show able to beat either Democrat in the November election — these ideas may have an impact on May 17, when Democrats vote as well. Under these circumstances, swift-boating Sestak, even if liberals who once were outraged by such tactics when it they had turned on their own heroes now endorse them, may not be enough to save the slippery Specter.

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Will Jews Ever Part with the Democratic Party?

Eli Lake reports on the Obami’s anti-Israel bent and its impact on American Jews’ support for Democrats. On the Republican side, Lake finds an opportunity:

In the recent diplomatic rift between Israel and the United States, Republicans see a chance to attract votes and contributions from a demographic group that has voted overwhelmingly for Democrats — Jewish Americans.

Meanwhile, the White House has launched a charm offensive to smooth over its relationship with the Jewish community after two of the most tense months in recent memory between Israel and the U.S. …

House Minority Whip Eric Cantor, Virginia Republican, said he has detected what he called “buyer’s remorse” among Obama voters. Mr. Obama won 78 percent of the Jewish vote in 2008, and no Democratic presidential candidate since Jimmy Carter in 1980 has received less than 60 percent of the Jewish vote.

“I do think there is a sense of disbelief on the part of many in the American Jewish community after this administration’s desire seemingly to pressure Israel in as forceful a way as possible while it is trying to solicit the support and friendship of countries that have not been allies of the United States,” said Mr. Cantor, who is Jewish.

The administration’s response has been a “charm offensive” with American Jews, but little sign they are reconsidering their Israel policy. For now, Jewish leaders are wary. Malcolm I. Hoenlein, executive vice chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, tells Lake that “many people will want to see what the administration does before they will restore trust.” And Abe Foxman of the ADL says, “To what extent this is cosmetic, rather than substantive, time will tell.”

But really, do the Obami have anything to fear? It seems that nothing short of a crow bar will separate the Jews from the Democratic Party. The degree to which Democrats take Jewish votes for granted is aptly summed up by Ira Forman, executive director of the National Jewish Democratic Council, who pooh-poohs poll numbers showing a  drop in Jewish support for Obama and points to a recent special election in Florida: “If Republicans, as they say every election cycle for at least 18 years, are correct that Jewish votes are turning to their party, you’d think they would see it in the last special election, which took place in the most heavily Jewish congressional district in the country.” Translation: we don’t think Jews will ever actually vote against Democrats, no matter what Israel policy they adopt. Another Democrat echoes that view:

Rep. Eliot L. Engel, New York Democrat, who is Jewish, said there is concern in the Jewish community, but he does not think it has reached the point where Jewish voters will abandon Mr. Obama or the Democratic Party.

“I think people are watching and waiting and looking at the future, and people will be making judgments accordingly,” Mr. Engel said. “There has been a lot of angst over what is regarded in many circles as needless clashing with the Netanyahu administration and with Israel, and let’s hope this is a passing blip in an otherwise strong relationship.”

Are they right? Are Jews that indifferent to Obama’s policy toward Israel or that dense that they would continue to fund and vote for those antagonistic to the Jewish state’s fundamental interests? They grouse in private and tell pollsters they don’t like Obama’s approach, but if they write the checks and vote as they have, Obama’s gamble will have paid off. Plainly, he doesn’t see any domestic political fallout. After all, that strategy guru Robert Gibbs told him that the Jewish community wouldn’t balk. He may prove right — and the question that one sharp commentator asked wistfully remains: “Why do they despise their familiars and love The Stranger who hates them—and hates them all the more for their craven pursuit of him?”

Eli Lake reports on the Obami’s anti-Israel bent and its impact on American Jews’ support for Democrats. On the Republican side, Lake finds an opportunity:

In the recent diplomatic rift between Israel and the United States, Republicans see a chance to attract votes and contributions from a demographic group that has voted overwhelmingly for Democrats — Jewish Americans.

Meanwhile, the White House has launched a charm offensive to smooth over its relationship with the Jewish community after two of the most tense months in recent memory between Israel and the U.S. …

House Minority Whip Eric Cantor, Virginia Republican, said he has detected what he called “buyer’s remorse” among Obama voters. Mr. Obama won 78 percent of the Jewish vote in 2008, and no Democratic presidential candidate since Jimmy Carter in 1980 has received less than 60 percent of the Jewish vote.

“I do think there is a sense of disbelief on the part of many in the American Jewish community after this administration’s desire seemingly to pressure Israel in as forceful a way as possible while it is trying to solicit the support and friendship of countries that have not been allies of the United States,” said Mr. Cantor, who is Jewish.

The administration’s response has been a “charm offensive” with American Jews, but little sign they are reconsidering their Israel policy. For now, Jewish leaders are wary. Malcolm I. Hoenlein, executive vice chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, tells Lake that “many people will want to see what the administration does before they will restore trust.” And Abe Foxman of the ADL says, “To what extent this is cosmetic, rather than substantive, time will tell.”

But really, do the Obami have anything to fear? It seems that nothing short of a crow bar will separate the Jews from the Democratic Party. The degree to which Democrats take Jewish votes for granted is aptly summed up by Ira Forman, executive director of the National Jewish Democratic Council, who pooh-poohs poll numbers showing a  drop in Jewish support for Obama and points to a recent special election in Florida: “If Republicans, as they say every election cycle for at least 18 years, are correct that Jewish votes are turning to their party, you’d think they would see it in the last special election, which took place in the most heavily Jewish congressional district in the country.” Translation: we don’t think Jews will ever actually vote against Democrats, no matter what Israel policy they adopt. Another Democrat echoes that view:

Rep. Eliot L. Engel, New York Democrat, who is Jewish, said there is concern in the Jewish community, but he does not think it has reached the point where Jewish voters will abandon Mr. Obama or the Democratic Party.

“I think people are watching and waiting and looking at the future, and people will be making judgments accordingly,” Mr. Engel said. “There has been a lot of angst over what is regarded in many circles as needless clashing with the Netanyahu administration and with Israel, and let’s hope this is a passing blip in an otherwise strong relationship.”

Are they right? Are Jews that indifferent to Obama’s policy toward Israel or that dense that they would continue to fund and vote for those antagonistic to the Jewish state’s fundamental interests? They grouse in private and tell pollsters they don’t like Obama’s approach, but if they write the checks and vote as they have, Obama’s gamble will have paid off. Plainly, he doesn’t see any domestic political fallout. After all, that strategy guru Robert Gibbs told him that the Jewish community wouldn’t balk. He may prove right — and the question that one sharp commentator asked wistfully remains: “Why do they despise their familiars and love The Stranger who hates them—and hates them all the more for their craven pursuit of him?”

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Indiana Goes Red Again

Barack Obama in 2008 won Indiana by about 30,000 votes, the first time a Democratic presidential candidate won in the state since LBJ in the 1964 wipe-out election. Now we find the state swinging back to the GOP and to conservative positions:

Following his vote for the national health care plan, Democratic Congressman Brad Ellsworth’s support remains stuck in the low 30s, while two of his Republican opponents now earn 50% or more of the vote in Indiana’s U.S. Senate race.

The latest Rasmussen Reports telephone survey of likely voters in Indiana finds that 65% favor repeal of the recently passed health care law. Just 29% in the state oppose repeal. Those findings include 56% who strongly favor repeal versus 21% who strongly oppose it.

Support for Dan Coats is up by five points from last month and he now leads Ellsworth 54 to 39 percent. It is, as we’ve observed, only with the help of Obama and the Democratic leadership that Evan Bayh, a popular senator and frequent VP contender, would flee the Senate, that the Republicans would surge to a double-digit lead, and that a signature piece of legislation would incur the ire of a huge majority of Hoosier voters.

Barack Obama in 2008 won Indiana by about 30,000 votes, the first time a Democratic presidential candidate won in the state since LBJ in the 1964 wipe-out election. Now we find the state swinging back to the GOP and to conservative positions:

Following his vote for the national health care plan, Democratic Congressman Brad Ellsworth’s support remains stuck in the low 30s, while two of his Republican opponents now earn 50% or more of the vote in Indiana’s U.S. Senate race.

The latest Rasmussen Reports telephone survey of likely voters in Indiana finds that 65% favor repeal of the recently passed health care law. Just 29% in the state oppose repeal. Those findings include 56% who strongly favor repeal versus 21% who strongly oppose it.

Support for Dan Coats is up by five points from last month and he now leads Ellsworth 54 to 39 percent. It is, as we’ve observed, only with the help of Obama and the Democratic leadership that Evan Bayh, a popular senator and frequent VP contender, would flee the Senate, that the Republicans would surge to a double-digit lead, and that a signature piece of legislation would incur the ire of a huge majority of Hoosier voters.

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Obama’s Little Pin

So apparently Barack Obama is back to wearing an American flag on his lapel. It’s such a seemingly minor matter, yet one that tells us something worth knowing about the junior senator from Illinois.

To begin at the beginning. Just who among the right wing attack machine made this an issue? Was it Floyd Brown or David Bossie? The Young Americans for Freedom? Maybe the RNC? Perhaps relatives of the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth? Or maybe even the ghost of Lee Atwater? Actually, it was Barack Obama. This is from an October 4, 2007 Associated Press story:

Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama says he doesn’t wear an American flag lapel pin because it has become a substitute for “true patriotism” since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. Asked about it Wednesday in an interview with KCRG-TV in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, the Illinois senator said he stopped wearing the pin shortly after the attacks and instead hoped to show his patriotism by explaining his ideas to citizens. “The truth is that right after 9/11 I had a pin,” Obama said. “Shortly after 9/11, particularly because as we’re talking about the Iraq war, that became a substitute for I think true patriotism, which is speaking out on issues that are of importance to our national security. “I decided I won’t wear that pin on my chest,” he said in the interview. “Instead, I’m going to try to tell the American people what I believe will make this country great, and hopefully that will be a testament to my patriotism.” On Thursday, his campaign issued a statement: “We all revere the flag, but Senator Obama believes that being a patriot is about more than a symbol. It’s about fighting for our veterans when they get home and speaking honestly with the American people about this disastrous war.

So Senator Obama declared those who wore an American flag pin on their lapel were relying on a “substitute” for “true patriotism,” which apparently he alone embodied. And in a Democratic primary that he thought would be decided by the hard Left, Obama manfully declared, “I won’t wear that pin on my chest.”

To top it all off, Obama and his campaign made sure that, having put this issue in play, none of his critics could say a word about it. If they did, they were guilty of trying to “distract us from the issues that affect our lives” and “turn us against each other.” Serious people don’t care about trivial things like an American flag pin on a lapel–except when you’re Barack Obama, who considered it a serious enough matter to first remove it and then proudly declare his courageous act of defiance to the Democratic voters of Iowa. And now that he’s essentially secured the Democratic nomination, Senator Obama is . . . once again wearing an American flag on his lapel!

It’s understandable if you’re a bit confused by all this. Late last year the American flag lapel pin was a substitute for “true patriotism.” So what has changed between then and now to make it a symbol worth wearing once again? What happened to the proud declaration that “I won’t wear that pin on my chest”? Why, the general election in November. If you understand that, the clouds will part and everything will become clear again. What you should have paid attention to is not the arguments Obama made, but the constituency to which he was playing. Obama tacked left in the Democratic primary, ridiculing people who wore an American flag on their lapel, perhaps because it played well with that particular audience. But now that he’s going to be the nominee, it might not play so well–and gosh darn it, who says there’s anything wrong with wearing an American flag on your lapel anyway?

What we see in this little episode is a man who is extremely smooth and skilled–he saw he had a potential problem and he’s now addressing it–and also deeply cynical (even as he runs against, you guessed it, cynicism). He is able effortlessly to put issues in play and then, with the aid of the MSM, declare those issues off-limits–until he decides to declare them legitimate again. Welcome to the wonderful, transcendent, sublime “new politics” of Barack Obama.

So apparently Barack Obama is back to wearing an American flag on his lapel. It’s such a seemingly minor matter, yet one that tells us something worth knowing about the junior senator from Illinois.

To begin at the beginning. Just who among the right wing attack machine made this an issue? Was it Floyd Brown or David Bossie? The Young Americans for Freedom? Maybe the RNC? Perhaps relatives of the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth? Or maybe even the ghost of Lee Atwater? Actually, it was Barack Obama. This is from an October 4, 2007 Associated Press story:

Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama says he doesn’t wear an American flag lapel pin because it has become a substitute for “true patriotism” since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. Asked about it Wednesday in an interview with KCRG-TV in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, the Illinois senator said he stopped wearing the pin shortly after the attacks and instead hoped to show his patriotism by explaining his ideas to citizens. “The truth is that right after 9/11 I had a pin,” Obama said. “Shortly after 9/11, particularly because as we’re talking about the Iraq war, that became a substitute for I think true patriotism, which is speaking out on issues that are of importance to our national security. “I decided I won’t wear that pin on my chest,” he said in the interview. “Instead, I’m going to try to tell the American people what I believe will make this country great, and hopefully that will be a testament to my patriotism.” On Thursday, his campaign issued a statement: “We all revere the flag, but Senator Obama believes that being a patriot is about more than a symbol. It’s about fighting for our veterans when they get home and speaking honestly with the American people about this disastrous war.

So Senator Obama declared those who wore an American flag pin on their lapel were relying on a “substitute” for “true patriotism,” which apparently he alone embodied. And in a Democratic primary that he thought would be decided by the hard Left, Obama manfully declared, “I won’t wear that pin on my chest.”

To top it all off, Obama and his campaign made sure that, having put this issue in play, none of his critics could say a word about it. If they did, they were guilty of trying to “distract us from the issues that affect our lives” and “turn us against each other.” Serious people don’t care about trivial things like an American flag pin on a lapel–except when you’re Barack Obama, who considered it a serious enough matter to first remove it and then proudly declare his courageous act of defiance to the Democratic voters of Iowa. And now that he’s essentially secured the Democratic nomination, Senator Obama is . . . once again wearing an American flag on his lapel!

It’s understandable if you’re a bit confused by all this. Late last year the American flag lapel pin was a substitute for “true patriotism.” So what has changed between then and now to make it a symbol worth wearing once again? What happened to the proud declaration that “I won’t wear that pin on my chest”? Why, the general election in November. If you understand that, the clouds will part and everything will become clear again. What you should have paid attention to is not the arguments Obama made, but the constituency to which he was playing. Obama tacked left in the Democratic primary, ridiculing people who wore an American flag on their lapel, perhaps because it played well with that particular audience. But now that he’s going to be the nominee, it might not play so well–and gosh darn it, who says there’s anything wrong with wearing an American flag on your lapel anyway?

What we see in this little episode is a man who is extremely smooth and skilled–he saw he had a potential problem and he’s now addressing it–and also deeply cynical (even as he runs against, you guessed it, cynicism). He is able effortlessly to put issues in play and then, with the aid of the MSM, declare those issues off-limits–until he decides to declare them legitimate again. Welcome to the wonderful, transcendent, sublime “new politics” of Barack Obama.

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Post-Racial No More

Gail Collins writes an entire column bemoaning that the Democratic primary race is “now all about white men.” Obama tries to bond with these voters over bowling, but his “37” brings howls of derision and fretting from liberal columnists. But why should they be surprised? For many presidential elections Democrats have bombed with white males. According to exit polling, John Kerry got only 38% of white males in 2004. In the four elections before that, the Democratic presidential candidate got between 36 and 38% of the white male vote.

Does this mean Obama and the Democrats need not be concerned? After all, if Democrats consistently have lost white male voters, but still won elections, they could do so again. Perhaps what the liberal media and establishment Democrats are hesitant to say is that Obama’s appeal to all white voters, not just men, seems to be evaporating. Indeed, some are downright unhinged. Matthew Yglesias went so far as to bizarrely postulate that John McCain’s Bio Tour was a racist appeal to whites. He wrote that:

it’s the best way I can think of to try to take advantage of older people’s potential discomfort with the idea of a woman or a black man in the White House that doesn’t involve exploiting racism or sexism in a discreditable way.

Only a liberal blogger could argue with impunity that patriotism appeals just to whites.

But Democrats concerned about electability should be worried if Obama turns out not to be the “post- racial candidate” his supporters have lauded him as. Even before his association with Reverend Wright was reported, Obama’s appeal to whites and Hispanics was collapsing.
Hillary Clinton gained impressive wins in Ohio and Texas in large part because the multi-racial coalition which Obama seemed to have constructed began to crumble. In Ohio Obama lost 27-70% among white Democrats, while carrying Black voters 88-12%. In Texas he lost among white Democrats 37-62% and by an even larger margin (30-69%) among Hispanic Democrats.

It’s easy for liberal pundits to attack the “angry white male” voters whom Democrats continually fail to attract. But the fact remains that if Obama is not post-racial in his appeal, he can’t win the presidency. It is not just support from white men, but whites of both genders and Hispanics as well that Obama will need. If he can’t win key swing states like Ohio, New Hampshire, New Mexico, and Florida (which require him to appeal to whites and Hispanics in large numbers) then the presidency will be out of his reach.

That, much more than bowling scores, should keep Obama supporters up at night.

Gail Collins writes an entire column bemoaning that the Democratic primary race is “now all about white men.” Obama tries to bond with these voters over bowling, but his “37” brings howls of derision and fretting from liberal columnists. But why should they be surprised? For many presidential elections Democrats have bombed with white males. According to exit polling, John Kerry got only 38% of white males in 2004. In the four elections before that, the Democratic presidential candidate got between 36 and 38% of the white male vote.

Does this mean Obama and the Democrats need not be concerned? After all, if Democrats consistently have lost white male voters, but still won elections, they could do so again. Perhaps what the liberal media and establishment Democrats are hesitant to say is that Obama’s appeal to all white voters, not just men, seems to be evaporating. Indeed, some are downright unhinged. Matthew Yglesias went so far as to bizarrely postulate that John McCain’s Bio Tour was a racist appeal to whites. He wrote that:

it’s the best way I can think of to try to take advantage of older people’s potential discomfort with the idea of a woman or a black man in the White House that doesn’t involve exploiting racism or sexism in a discreditable way.

Only a liberal blogger could argue with impunity that patriotism appeals just to whites.

But Democrats concerned about electability should be worried if Obama turns out not to be the “post- racial candidate” his supporters have lauded him as. Even before his association with Reverend Wright was reported, Obama’s appeal to whites and Hispanics was collapsing.
Hillary Clinton gained impressive wins in Ohio and Texas in large part because the multi-racial coalition which Obama seemed to have constructed began to crumble. In Ohio Obama lost 27-70% among white Democrats, while carrying Black voters 88-12%. In Texas he lost among white Democrats 37-62% and by an even larger margin (30-69%) among Hispanic Democrats.

It’s easy for liberal pundits to attack the “angry white male” voters whom Democrats continually fail to attract. But the fact remains that if Obama is not post-racial in his appeal, he can’t win the presidency. It is not just support from white men, but whites of both genders and Hispanics as well that Obama will need. If he can’t win key swing states like Ohio, New Hampshire, New Mexico, and Florida (which require him to appeal to whites and Hispanics in large numbers) then the presidency will be out of his reach.

That, much more than bowling scores, should keep Obama supporters up at night.

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The Michigan Primary and the Nevada Debate

We will be live-blogging the results in the Michigan Republican primary tonight, and simultaneously writing about the Democratic presidential candidate debate in Nevada, starting at 9 pm eastern time. Two quick thoughts.

1) If the exit polls hold up and Mitt Romney wins, that will mean three different Republicans have won the first genuinely contested state contests — Huckabee in Iowa, McCain in New Hampshire, Romney in Michigan. It is possible Fred Thompson will win South Carolina next week. And all these results make it even more plausible that Rudy Giuliani will hold on to win Florida two weeks from now, because there will be no frontrunner and therefore no one will benefit from momentum in the effort to prevail in Florida.

Five contests. Five different winners. All going into Super Tuesday. It sounds like chaos, but maybe it’s the best thing for the GOP, because the party is going to have to generate some kind of news excitement if its candidate is to have a chance in November.

2) Expect a ridiculous amount of discussion in Nevada tonight about strange issues that seem to be about nothing — maybe like the taxation of gratuities. The main voting bloc in the Democratic party in the state consists of people who work in hotels, and Hillary needs to peel part of it away from Obama, who secured the endorsement of its union.

We will be live-blogging the results in the Michigan Republican primary tonight, and simultaneously writing about the Democratic presidential candidate debate in Nevada, starting at 9 pm eastern time. Two quick thoughts.

1) If the exit polls hold up and Mitt Romney wins, that will mean three different Republicans have won the first genuinely contested state contests — Huckabee in Iowa, McCain in New Hampshire, Romney in Michigan. It is possible Fred Thompson will win South Carolina next week. And all these results make it even more plausible that Rudy Giuliani will hold on to win Florida two weeks from now, because there will be no frontrunner and therefore no one will benefit from momentum in the effort to prevail in Florida.

Five contests. Five different winners. All going into Super Tuesday. It sounds like chaos, but maybe it’s the best thing for the GOP, because the party is going to have to generate some kind of news excitement if its candidate is to have a chance in November.

2) Expect a ridiculous amount of discussion in Nevada tonight about strange issues that seem to be about nothing — maybe like the taxation of gratuities. The main voting bloc in the Democratic party in the state consists of people who work in hotels, and Hillary needs to peel part of it away from Obama, who secured the endorsement of its union.

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Obama, the Non-Muslim

Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama is a Christian.  As his official campaign biography notes, Obama worked as a community organizer in Chicago with a church-based group after graduating from Columbia, and he currently attends Trinity United Church of Christ with his family.

Yet at various points during his campaign, Obama has had to address questions regarding the Islamic aspects of his biography, which include a Kenyan-Muslim father, an Indonesian-Muslim stepfather, four years spent living in Indonesia during his childhood, and an Islamic middle name (Hussein).  Earlier this year, with the help of investigative journalists, Obama debunked the rumor that he had studied at an Indonesian madrassa.  Yesterday, amid whispers from supporters of Hillary Clinton, Obama again declared that stories regarding his “Muslim background” had been “misreported.”

These episodes questioning Obama’s “true faith” expose two disturbing trends.  The first is the upsetting tendency of Obama’s opponents to invoke his “Muslim roots” as a weapon.  Although this smear campaign is most pronounced on the Internet, it received a substantial bump last week, when former Nebraska Senator Bob Kerrey played the Muslim card while endorsing Hillary Clinton.  “I like the fact that his name is Barack Hussein Obama, and that his father was a Muslim and that his paternal grandmother is a Muslim,” Kerrey said.  News of Kerrey’s remark quickly spread to the Arabic press, where readers of the al-Arabiyya were outraged, commenting that the statements were “racist” and proved that “America is at war with Islam to build Zion.”  Their anger—though surely not their bigoted retorts—is understandable.  If it is wrong to take issue with Mitt Romney’s Mormon faith, then it is logically even more wrong to take issue with Obama’s non-Islamic faith, especially insofar as it demonizes Islam in the process.

But Obama’s responses to these spurious insinuations are also frustrating.  Obama likes to have it both ways, severely downplaying his Islamic heritage while still claiming to possess a unique understanding of the Muslim world.  In this vein, you won’t find “Hussein” anywhere in his officially produced campaign content, while he emphatically told an Iowa audience on Sunday that his Muslim father “wasn’t very religious.”  Yet, in the same conversation, Obama claimed that living in Indonesia from the ages of 6-10 gave him “insight into how these folks think.”  Where does this insight come from, if Obama is as removed from Islam as he claims?  What kind of intense sociocultural conversations was young Barry Obama having with his classmates during recess in Jakarta that would meaningfully inform his thinking on the Muslim world four decades later?

Frankly, Obama’s response demonstrates that his experience in the Muslim world has taught him little about “these folks.”  Indeed, if he truly understood the Muslim world, he would respond to future insinuations regarding his “Muslim background” by taking umbrage at the equation of Islam with evil, and declaring such sentiments un-American.  Perceptions of Islam are critical to many in the Muslim world, and statements such as those made by Kerrey do little to assuage their concerns.  Instead, Obama has fallen back on the selectively embellished version of his cultural biography, reminding us of his travels when he is unable to provide substance.

Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama is a Christian.  As his official campaign biography notes, Obama worked as a community organizer in Chicago with a church-based group after graduating from Columbia, and he currently attends Trinity United Church of Christ with his family.

Yet at various points during his campaign, Obama has had to address questions regarding the Islamic aspects of his biography, which include a Kenyan-Muslim father, an Indonesian-Muslim stepfather, four years spent living in Indonesia during his childhood, and an Islamic middle name (Hussein).  Earlier this year, with the help of investigative journalists, Obama debunked the rumor that he had studied at an Indonesian madrassa.  Yesterday, amid whispers from supporters of Hillary Clinton, Obama again declared that stories regarding his “Muslim background” had been “misreported.”

These episodes questioning Obama’s “true faith” expose two disturbing trends.  The first is the upsetting tendency of Obama’s opponents to invoke his “Muslim roots” as a weapon.  Although this smear campaign is most pronounced on the Internet, it received a substantial bump last week, when former Nebraska Senator Bob Kerrey played the Muslim card while endorsing Hillary Clinton.  “I like the fact that his name is Barack Hussein Obama, and that his father was a Muslim and that his paternal grandmother is a Muslim,” Kerrey said.  News of Kerrey’s remark quickly spread to the Arabic press, where readers of the al-Arabiyya were outraged, commenting that the statements were “racist” and proved that “America is at war with Islam to build Zion.”  Their anger—though surely not their bigoted retorts—is understandable.  If it is wrong to take issue with Mitt Romney’s Mormon faith, then it is logically even more wrong to take issue with Obama’s non-Islamic faith, especially insofar as it demonizes Islam in the process.

But Obama’s responses to these spurious insinuations are also frustrating.  Obama likes to have it both ways, severely downplaying his Islamic heritage while still claiming to possess a unique understanding of the Muslim world.  In this vein, you won’t find “Hussein” anywhere in his officially produced campaign content, while he emphatically told an Iowa audience on Sunday that his Muslim father “wasn’t very religious.”  Yet, in the same conversation, Obama claimed that living in Indonesia from the ages of 6-10 gave him “insight into how these folks think.”  Where does this insight come from, if Obama is as removed from Islam as he claims?  What kind of intense sociocultural conversations was young Barry Obama having with his classmates during recess in Jakarta that would meaningfully inform his thinking on the Muslim world four decades later?

Frankly, Obama’s response demonstrates that his experience in the Muslim world has taught him little about “these folks.”  Indeed, if he truly understood the Muslim world, he would respond to future insinuations regarding his “Muslim background” by taking umbrage at the equation of Islam with evil, and declaring such sentiments un-American.  Perceptions of Islam are critical to many in the Muslim world, and statements such as those made by Kerrey do little to assuage their concerns.  Instead, Obama has fallen back on the selectively embellished version of his cultural biography, reminding us of his travels when he is unable to provide substance.

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The Politics of the Playground

Last month, in response to the overwhelming passage of the Kyl-Lieberman amendment labeling Iran’s Revolutionary Guards a terrorist group, Democratic presidential candidate Bill Richardson had this to say:

Calling them names, labeling them terrorists, drawing up military options is just making the situation worse and inflaming the Muslim world.

That this utterance received so little attention might be due to the fact that it is only the latest in a string of Richardson gaffes, from a professed belief that homosexuality is a “choice” to calling Al Sharpton “governor” (woe betide the day Sharpton earns that title). Or perhaps the press largely ignored this statement because Richardson is a second-tier candidate. Either way, that a former Democratic Congressman, governor, potential Senator, and, most importantly, United Nations ambassador thinks that “calling [terrorists] names” is “making the situation [with Iran] worse” indicates that playground politics hold sway over an influential portion of the Democratic Party.

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Last month, in response to the overwhelming passage of the Kyl-Lieberman amendment labeling Iran’s Revolutionary Guards a terrorist group, Democratic presidential candidate Bill Richardson had this to say:

Calling them names, labeling them terrorists, drawing up military options is just making the situation worse and inflaming the Muslim world.

That this utterance received so little attention might be due to the fact that it is only the latest in a string of Richardson gaffes, from a professed belief that homosexuality is a “choice” to calling Al Sharpton “governor” (woe betide the day Sharpton earns that title). Or perhaps the press largely ignored this statement because Richardson is a second-tier candidate. Either way, that a former Democratic Congressman, governor, potential Senator, and, most importantly, United Nations ambassador thinks that “calling [terrorists] names” is “making the situation [with Iran] worse” indicates that playground politics hold sway over an influential portion of the Democratic Party.

It wasn’t always like this for the Democrats. Daniel Patrick Moynihan, a Democratic Senator and, like Richardson, a United Nations ambassador, had no trouble calling authoritarians “names.” He famously called Idi Amin a “racist murderer” (which was actually letting the Ugandan strongman off lightly). Richardson’s mode of thinking represents a deep-seated and long-held belief on the Left: that America’s enemies have legitimate grievances and that every problem in the world ultimately can be laid at our feet. According to Richardson, it is not the Iranian regime’s killing of American soldiers, construction of a nuclear program, or decades-long international terrorism that is the root problem in our relationship with Tehran, but the United States’s “name calling.” We’re antagonizing “racist murderers” and “terrorists” by “calling them names,” and if we just cut it out Osama bin Laden would call off the jihad.

This is what many believed during the cold war: that the United States was “antagonizing” the Soviet Union with our calls for democracy and the funding of anti-Communist elements abroad. In this light, worldwide Soviet expansionism (violent and non-consensual) was an understandable reaction against the West’s “bellicosity.” It was on this basis that the muscular foreign policies of Harry Truman and John F. Kennedy, Democrats both, were denounced by fringes on both the Right and Left.

While once a minority viewpoint, this aversion to the mere act of calling our enemies what they in fact are—terrorists or Islamic fascists—is a form of self-hatred that now reigns in the Democratic Party. Those Democrats who are serious about the threats America faces would do well to ensure that such self-hatred stays out of the White House.

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