Commentary Magazine


Topic: Don’t Ask

An Unfair Attack on the Administration

Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council, writing about the prostitution scandal in Colombia, where reports are that as many as 21 Secret Service agents and military personnel paid for sex before President Obama’s arrival at the Summit of the Americas on Friday, said this:

When the White House says its job is to “conduct [itself] with the utmost dignity and probity,” it seems somewhat contradictory to the culture of permissiveness this administration has created here at home. When you relentlessly attack moral principles, as this White House has done over the course of three years, it becomes increasingly difficult for the administration to call these actions wrong. …

The United States, under this administration, is a country that increasingly celebrates sexual indulgence. Is it any wonder this country is suffering from an ethical identity crisis? This is what comes of an administration that systematically destroys the moral foundations of our military, government service, and public schools. On one hand, the administration has tried to force our military to embrace homosexuality by making unnatural and immoral sex legal–and on the other, it’s outraged that its military is engaging in another form of legal but immoral sex. (Prostitution is permissible in Colombia’s “tolerated zones.”) Both behaviors are inappropriate, unhealthy, and destructive. Yet only one seems to incense government officials.

If this seems a bit muddled, that’s because it is. But this culture of moral confusion is inevitable when American leaders push a radical social policy that arbitrarily gives sexual license to some and condemns it from others.

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Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council, writing about the prostitution scandal in Colombia, where reports are that as many as 21 Secret Service agents and military personnel paid for sex before President Obama’s arrival at the Summit of the Americas on Friday, said this:

When the White House says its job is to “conduct [itself] with the utmost dignity and probity,” it seems somewhat contradictory to the culture of permissiveness this administration has created here at home. When you relentlessly attack moral principles, as this White House has done over the course of three years, it becomes increasingly difficult for the administration to call these actions wrong. …

The United States, under this administration, is a country that increasingly celebrates sexual indulgence. Is it any wonder this country is suffering from an ethical identity crisis? This is what comes of an administration that systematically destroys the moral foundations of our military, government service, and public schools. On one hand, the administration has tried to force our military to embrace homosexuality by making unnatural and immoral sex legal–and on the other, it’s outraged that its military is engaging in another form of legal but immoral sex. (Prostitution is permissible in Colombia’s “tolerated zones.”) Both behaviors are inappropriate, unhealthy, and destructive. Yet only one seems to incense government officials.

If this seems a bit muddled, that’s because it is. But this culture of moral confusion is inevitable when American leaders push a radical social policy that arbitrarily gives sexual license to some and condemns it from others.

Let’s examine Perkins’s arguments in turn.

The notion that the Obama administration is “systematically destroy[ing] the moral foundation of our military” strikes me as intemperate and unfair. Most (though not all) senior members of the military, including Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Admiral Mike Mullen and General David Petraeus, believed that the time had come to overturn “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” (DADT). So did then-Secretary of Defense Robert Gates. Are they part of the systematic effort to destroy the moral foundation of the military as well?

The core of this debate is whether unit morale would suffer if gays were open about their sexual orientation. There is evidence that because of shifting sexual mores, including attitudes towards gays, unit morale would not suffer. (The Department of Defense’s Report of the Comprehensive Review of the Issues Associated with a Repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” indicates that there was low risk of service disruptions because of repeal of the ban.) It’s important to note that other countries that allow openly gay people to serve in the military (like Israel) haven’t experienced combat readiness, unit cohesion or morale problems. In reviewing the many countries that permit gays and lesbians to serve openly in their military, the Defense Department’s report found that, “Uniformly, these nations reported that they were aware of no units that had a degradation of cohesion or combat effectiveness, and that the presence of gay men and lesbians in combat units had not been raised as an issue by any of their units deployed in Iraq or Afghanistan.” (Page 89 of the Defense Department report shows that at the time it was issued, 35 nations permitted gays and lesbians to serve openly in their military vs. six nations that excluded gay men and lesbians from serving or serving openly in the military.) We’ll of course be able to make an informed judgment of the effects of repealing DADA soon enough, since we’re now testing the proposition.

Then there’s the argument that the Obama administration is giving “sexual license” and promoting an “ideology of unrestraint.” The logic goes like this: overturning “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” leads to a brothel in Cartagena.

This argument is, I think, quite weak. For one thing, most of those caught up in the prostitution scandal are Secret Service agents, not members of the military. And it’s hard to believe that if “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” hadn’t been overturned all of seven months ago, then the Secret Service and the military personnel who reportedly solicited prostitution would instead have stayed on the straight and narrow. There’s a reason prostitution is referred to as the world’s oldest profession. What Perkins is engaging in is the logical fallacy known as post hoc ergo propter hoc (“after this, therefore because of this”). President Obama overturned DADT. Secret Service agents and members of the military were caught up in a prostitution scandal in Cartagena. QED.

Nor does DADT have much to do with “celebrating sexual indulgence.” Military standards of conduct already prohibit fraternization and unprofessional relationships. They also address various forms of harassment and unprofessional behavior, prescribe appropriate dress and appearance, and provide guidelines on public displays of affection. Repealing Don’t Ask Don’t Tell doesn’t change any of that; it simply means that for the first time in America’s military history, service members would be allowed to publicly reveal their sexual orientation without fear of reprisal.

As for the “culture of permissiveness,” here Perkins is (inadvertently) making the case of same-sex advocates, who argue that gays should be allowed to marry in order to place them within an institution (marriage) that encourages fidelity. The argument is that same-sex marriage would weaken the “culture of permissiveness” since marriage discourages it. Same-sex marriage would, according to its proponents, be a profoundly traditionalizing act. Again, we shall see (a handful of states now recognize same-sex unions and more will soon follow).

There are certainly grounds on which to criticize the Obama administration, including on social policy (see the Obama administration’s decision to require Catholic hospitals, charities and universities to provide insurance coverage that includes contraceptives and abortifacients, in violation of their conscience and creed). And intelligent and honest people will disagree on issues like Don’t Ask Don’t Tell and legalizing gay marriage. But the idea that the prostitution scandal in Colombia points to “the significant erosion of ethical standards in the Obama administration” is simply wrong. Everybody’s interests, including the interests of social conservatives, would be better served by engaging these issues in a serious, sober, and empirically rigorous manner.

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Boycotts vs. Public Debate

As reported in various outlets, several groups — including the Family Research Council and Concerned Women for America — are boycotting the 2011 Conservative Political Action Committee (CPAC) conference because CPAC is allowing GOProud, a conservative gay-rights organization, to be a sponsoring organization (one of more than 70). This strikes me as a bad idea on several levels.

As Ed Morrissey points out, CPAC brings together a variety of conservative groups holding different beliefs. They include libertarians, social conservatives, internationalists, isolationists, atheists, religious believers, and more. The point isn’t to determine a platform that conservatives must embrace; it is to engage in a debate about the merits of various issues. That should include those who embrace repealing Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell and same-sex marriage. Like it or not, those issues are part of the public conversation; they should therefore be engaged in a serious, thoughtful manner. Boycotting conferences to express moral disapproval won’t accomplish anything useful.

Beyond that, the boycotting organizations come across as defensive and insecure, as if they fear that their arguments cannot win the day on the merits. Perhaps they can or perhaps they cannot; but for organizations to pick up their marbles and leave — and in the process to accuse CPAC of engaging in a “moral sell-out” and of committing an act of “moral surrender” — strikes me as small-minded and unwise.

Part of this, I suppose, is subjective. There are certainly some hate groups that would be inappropriate to have as a sponsoring organization. But a gay-rights advocacy group like GOProud certainly doesn’t qualify. It shouldn’t be denied the chance to make its case. Groups that believe they have a strong moral and intellectual case should welcome a public debate on the merits. To do so is consistent with the American tradition. To fail to do so is contrary to it.

As reported in various outlets, several groups — including the Family Research Council and Concerned Women for America — are boycotting the 2011 Conservative Political Action Committee (CPAC) conference because CPAC is allowing GOProud, a conservative gay-rights organization, to be a sponsoring organization (one of more than 70). This strikes me as a bad idea on several levels.

As Ed Morrissey points out, CPAC brings together a variety of conservative groups holding different beliefs. They include libertarians, social conservatives, internationalists, isolationists, atheists, religious believers, and more. The point isn’t to determine a platform that conservatives must embrace; it is to engage in a debate about the merits of various issues. That should include those who embrace repealing Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell and same-sex marriage. Like it or not, those issues are part of the public conversation; they should therefore be engaged in a serious, thoughtful manner. Boycotting conferences to express moral disapproval won’t accomplish anything useful.

Beyond that, the boycotting organizations come across as defensive and insecure, as if they fear that their arguments cannot win the day on the merits. Perhaps they can or perhaps they cannot; but for organizations to pick up their marbles and leave — and in the process to accuse CPAC of engaging in a “moral sell-out” and of committing an act of “moral surrender” — strikes me as small-minded and unwise.

Part of this, I suppose, is subjective. There are certainly some hate groups that would be inappropriate to have as a sponsoring organization. But a gay-rights advocacy group like GOProud certainly doesn’t qualify. It shouldn’t be denied the chance to make its case. Groups that believe they have a strong moral and intellectual case should welcome a public debate on the merits. To do so is consistent with the American tradition. To fail to do so is contrary to it.

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Obama Rebounds in December After Devastating November

President Obama has had a heckuva December, especially considering how dismal his November was. Just a month after suffering a midterm-election drubbing, he has bounced back with a renewal of the Bush tax cuts, repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, and now ratification of New START. Oh, and he also issued his AfPak review, which endorsed the counterinsurgency plan being implemented by General Petraeus.

It is hard to imagine a more skillful triangulation, offering something to both the right (tax cuts, toughness on the war effort) and the left (letting gays serve openly, passing an arms-control treaty). Actually, I’m not sure how left-wing even his liberal achievements are, since a number of conservatives (myself included) endorsed DADT repeal and New START passage. Considering that he is probably the most liberal occupant of the Oval Office, he has done a surprisingly good job of moving to the center, as witnessed by the Republican votes he has managed to garner on DADT and New START — votes that were notably absent when he rammed his health-care bill through Congress.

The biggest challenge for the president in the 684 days remaining until the 2012 election is to address the two biggest threats to our long-term well-being: the ballooning national debt and the anemic pace of economic growth. He needs to work with the GOP Congress to cut spending, which will alienate his Democratic base; the economy will, I assume, rebound more or less on its own barring any more onerous regulatory or tax bills from Washington.

As for foreign policy, his biggest challenges are to make sure that the military campaign in Afghanistan progresses and that Iraq does not regress. He has caught an extraordinarily lucky break thanks to the Stuxnet virus, probably engineered by the Israelis, which seems to have set the Iranian program back another year or two. That means it’s very unlikely that Iran will go nuclear before the 2012 election — a calamity for which Obama would shoulder the blame. The biggest threat he faces is an unexpected crisis: e.g., war on the Korean peninsula or between India and Pakistan or a devastating terrorist strike on the American homeland as a result of a security breakdown. Barring such a calamity, and notwithstanding his weak poll numbers, I’d say he is looking like a prohibitively strong candidate for re-election — especially because there is not an obvious candidate of stature in the Republican ranks.

But of course, it’s still early. It is salutary to recall that in December 1990, George H.W. Bush had considerably higher poll numbers than Obama has today — 61 percent for Bush vs. 46 percent for Obama.

President Obama has had a heckuva December, especially considering how dismal his November was. Just a month after suffering a midterm-election drubbing, he has bounced back with a renewal of the Bush tax cuts, repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, and now ratification of New START. Oh, and he also issued his AfPak review, which endorsed the counterinsurgency plan being implemented by General Petraeus.

It is hard to imagine a more skillful triangulation, offering something to both the right (tax cuts, toughness on the war effort) and the left (letting gays serve openly, passing an arms-control treaty). Actually, I’m not sure how left-wing even his liberal achievements are, since a number of conservatives (myself included) endorsed DADT repeal and New START passage. Considering that he is probably the most liberal occupant of the Oval Office, he has done a surprisingly good job of moving to the center, as witnessed by the Republican votes he has managed to garner on DADT and New START — votes that were notably absent when he rammed his health-care bill through Congress.

The biggest challenge for the president in the 684 days remaining until the 2012 election is to address the two biggest threats to our long-term well-being: the ballooning national debt and the anemic pace of economic growth. He needs to work with the GOP Congress to cut spending, which will alienate his Democratic base; the economy will, I assume, rebound more or less on its own barring any more onerous regulatory or tax bills from Washington.

As for foreign policy, his biggest challenges are to make sure that the military campaign in Afghanistan progresses and that Iraq does not regress. He has caught an extraordinarily lucky break thanks to the Stuxnet virus, probably engineered by the Israelis, which seems to have set the Iranian program back another year or two. That means it’s very unlikely that Iran will go nuclear before the 2012 election — a calamity for which Obama would shoulder the blame. The biggest threat he faces is an unexpected crisis: e.g., war on the Korean peninsula or between India and Pakistan or a devastating terrorist strike on the American homeland as a result of a security breakdown. Barring such a calamity, and notwithstanding his weak poll numbers, I’d say he is looking like a prohibitively strong candidate for re-election — especially because there is not an obvious candidate of stature in the Republican ranks.

But of course, it’s still early. It is salutary to recall that in December 1990, George H.W. Bush had considerably higher poll numbers than Obama has today — 61 percent for Bush vs. 46 percent for Obama.

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DADT Will Soon Be a Non-Event

In a year’s time, I predict, the lifting of the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy to allow gays to serve openly in the military will have become a non-event. The military will adjust, as it always does, sooner or later, to social trends. The military rules that now govern relations between men and women will be extended to gays. There will undoubtedly be issues of sexual harassment and sexual relations and sexual tensions to handle — just as there are today. But handle them the military will.

There will not be, I predict, much resistance within the ranks, a few nasty comments by hard-bitten NCOs aside, because attitudes toward gays have shifted so much toward acceptance in the years since DADT was enacted in 1993. In any case, the numbers involved will be small (gays are a tiny minority of the population and presumably only a tiny minority of that minority will sign up for uniformed service — just as only a tiny minority of the heterosexual population volunteers). So their incorporation will not be disruptive and will not change the overall culture of the armed forces, much less lead to a loss of combat competence — which is as high as it has ever been because today’s troops have seen action nonstop since 2001.

Perhaps the most lasting impact of this policy change will be the return of ROTC to Ivy League campuses. Already Harvard and Yale are talking about reinstating their ROTC programs. This, too, will not make much of a change in either the Ivy League or the military, but it is a small, welcome step toward bridging the chasm that separates the armed forces from society’s elites.

In a year’s time, I predict, the lifting of the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy to allow gays to serve openly in the military will have become a non-event. The military will adjust, as it always does, sooner or later, to social trends. The military rules that now govern relations between men and women will be extended to gays. There will undoubtedly be issues of sexual harassment and sexual relations and sexual tensions to handle — just as there are today. But handle them the military will.

There will not be, I predict, much resistance within the ranks, a few nasty comments by hard-bitten NCOs aside, because attitudes toward gays have shifted so much toward acceptance in the years since DADT was enacted in 1993. In any case, the numbers involved will be small (gays are a tiny minority of the population and presumably only a tiny minority of that minority will sign up for uniformed service — just as only a tiny minority of the heterosexual population volunteers). So their incorporation will not be disruptive and will not change the overall culture of the armed forces, much less lead to a loss of combat competence — which is as high as it has ever been because today’s troops have seen action nonstop since 2001.

Perhaps the most lasting impact of this policy change will be the return of ROTC to Ivy League campuses. Already Harvard and Yale are talking about reinstating their ROTC programs. This, too, will not make much of a change in either the Ivy League or the military, but it is a small, welcome step toward bridging the chasm that separates the armed forces from society’s elites.

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This Is What Happens When You Get Engulfed by a Wave

Today on Capitol Hill, the Democratic Party appears to have gone somewhat insane. The House Democratic Caucus voted to oppose the tax-cut deal struck between Barack Obama and Senate Republicans; it’s a non-binding vote, but an embarrassing one for the president. It’s not nuts — the bill is obviously problematic for liberals — but its practical political effect is negligible, and it seems more like a tantrum than anything else. Roll Call even reports that someone at the meeting shouted “—- the president”; imagine if such a thing had been reported out of a Republican caucus meeting.

In the Senate, a complicated procedural maneuver to pass the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” failed, apparently due to as-yet incomprehensible machinations by Majority Leader Harry Reid, who had some deal struck with moderate Republican Susan Collins that he decided to renege on and hold a vote anyway. Nobody understood what was happening, the vote (not to repeal, but to end debate)  failed, and Collins voted with Reid anyway.

There was more chaos relating to other legislation as well. Meanwhile, Obama press spokesman Robert Gibbs told Democrats that if they have better ideas, they should make like The Price Is Right and “come on down.”

The machinery of the Democratic Party in Washington is in desperate need of overhaul. The November 2 tsunami shorted everything out.

Today on Capitol Hill, the Democratic Party appears to have gone somewhat insane. The House Democratic Caucus voted to oppose the tax-cut deal struck between Barack Obama and Senate Republicans; it’s a non-binding vote, but an embarrassing one for the president. It’s not nuts — the bill is obviously problematic for liberals — but its practical political effect is negligible, and it seems more like a tantrum than anything else. Roll Call even reports that someone at the meeting shouted “—- the president”; imagine if such a thing had been reported out of a Republican caucus meeting.

In the Senate, a complicated procedural maneuver to pass the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” failed, apparently due to as-yet incomprehensible machinations by Majority Leader Harry Reid, who had some deal struck with moderate Republican Susan Collins that he decided to renege on and hold a vote anyway. Nobody understood what was happening, the vote (not to repeal, but to end debate)  failed, and Collins voted with Reid anyway.

There was more chaos relating to other legislation as well. Meanwhile, Obama press spokesman Robert Gibbs told Democrats that if they have better ideas, they should make like The Price Is Right and “come on down.”

The machinery of the Democratic Party in Washington is in desperate need of overhaul. The November 2 tsunami shorted everything out.

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Best Supporting Role in a Civil Rights Cover-Up

Hollywood is not the only place where self-congratulatory awards are plentiful. Andrew Malcolm notes that the Obama Department of Justice has handed out a slew of these — more than 300 (if you didn’t get one, start updating your resume) — to their attorneys and staffers. He empathizes (no, not really) with the “workload” all this entails:

Dropping the Black Panther voter intimidation case. Not closing the Guantanamo Bay detention facility. Suing Arizona for trying to do the federal job of securing the porous Mexican border against drug and human smugglers. Fighting in federal court to uphold the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell law on gays in the military that Obama often says he really, really opposes and will certainly change someday on his watch. Ditto for the department’s ongoing legal defense of the Defense of Marriage Act. Even though top Obama aide Valerie Jarrett got caught on an interview video recently kinda letting the cat out of the bag about the White House view of gay being a lifestyle choice. But she apologized for the revelation.

Let’s not forget about hiring attorneys who previously represented al-Qaeda terrorists, refusing to enforce portions of the Voting Rights Act (which would head off fraud), and giving rotten advice (later countermanded) with respect to the release of detainee-abuse photos. You wonder what these awards were for. Best misleading answer to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights. Most egregious case of conflict of interest in matters of national security. The mind reels.

Hollywood is not the only place where self-congratulatory awards are plentiful. Andrew Malcolm notes that the Obama Department of Justice has handed out a slew of these — more than 300 (if you didn’t get one, start updating your resume) — to their attorneys and staffers. He empathizes (no, not really) with the “workload” all this entails:

Dropping the Black Panther voter intimidation case. Not closing the Guantanamo Bay detention facility. Suing Arizona for trying to do the federal job of securing the porous Mexican border against drug and human smugglers. Fighting in federal court to uphold the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell law on gays in the military that Obama often says he really, really opposes and will certainly change someday on his watch. Ditto for the department’s ongoing legal defense of the Defense of Marriage Act. Even though top Obama aide Valerie Jarrett got caught on an interview video recently kinda letting the cat out of the bag about the White House view of gay being a lifestyle choice. But she apologized for the revelation.

Let’s not forget about hiring attorneys who previously represented al-Qaeda terrorists, refusing to enforce portions of the Voting Rights Act (which would head off fraud), and giving rotten advice (later countermanded) with respect to the release of detainee-abuse photos. You wonder what these awards were for. Best misleading answer to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights. Most egregious case of conflict of interest in matters of national security. The mind reels.

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Pledging with Restraint

I’m with Yuval Levin (smart move in nearly all circumstances) on the Republicans’ Pledge to America :

On the whole, in both substantive and political terms, the Pledge is a very smart and impressive document. Conservatives always love to complain that Republican members of congress and their staffs never get anything right. Here is some proof to the contrary.

It is tricky to do three things simultaneously, which I think, by and large, the document does. First, a party wants to give its candidates a road map for the remainder of the campaign. New candidates and neophyte campaigns can look to the Pledge for some basic policy objectives. The message is clear: focus on the big, primarily economic, issues. Second, with liberals and media (I repeat myself) spinning the notion that Republicans are “divided,” it is helpful to put out a document that various factions of the party can agree with. Social conservatives are generally delighted, and economic conservatives should be as well, with strong statements on taxes, spending control, and repeal of ObamaCare. (Recall that not too long ago, there was disagreement on the right as to whether “repeal and replace” was the correct position.) Hawks should be pleased with the robust statements on missile defense and the war on terror. (“We will oppose all efforts to force our military, intelligence, and law enforcement personnel operating overseas to extend ‘Miranda Rights’ to foreign terrorists.”) And finally, the document doesn’t create any problems for candidates — nothing too extreme, nothing for the left to seize upon as wacky. Even on the hot-button issue of abortion, the positions articulated are ones that garner substantial popular support:

We will establish a government-wide prohibition on taxpayer funding of abortion and subsidies for insurance coverage that includes abortion. This prohibition would go further and enact into law what is known as the Hyde Amendment as well as ban other instances of federal subsidies for abortion services. We will also enact into law conscience protections for health care providers, including doctors, nurses, and hospitals.

John McCormack sums up: “There are, of course, other ‘social’ conservative issues–like embryo-destructive research and ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ — but the party is divided on those issues, which explains why the House GOP didn’t put them in the pledge.” Sounds like these people actually want to win this time.

And on immigration reform, restraint also was evident:

The problem of illegal immigration and Mexican drug cartels engaged in an increasingly violent conflict means we need all hands on deck to address this challenge. We will reaffirm the authority of state and local law enforcement to assist in the enforcement of all federal immigration laws. … We must take action to secure our borders, and that action starts with enforcing our laws. We will ensure that the Border Patrol has the tools and authorities to establish operational control at the border and prohibit the Secretaries of the Interior and Agriculture from interfering with Border Patrol enforcement activities on federal lands.

Not exactly fire and brimstone stuff. Instead, sensible, modest, and popular.

Ultimately, what’s in the document is not so important as having a document and avoiding numerous potholes. The GOP did that. That’s not bad for a party that was flat on its back two years ago.

I’m with Yuval Levin (smart move in nearly all circumstances) on the Republicans’ Pledge to America :

On the whole, in both substantive and political terms, the Pledge is a very smart and impressive document. Conservatives always love to complain that Republican members of congress and their staffs never get anything right. Here is some proof to the contrary.

It is tricky to do three things simultaneously, which I think, by and large, the document does. First, a party wants to give its candidates a road map for the remainder of the campaign. New candidates and neophyte campaigns can look to the Pledge for some basic policy objectives. The message is clear: focus on the big, primarily economic, issues. Second, with liberals and media (I repeat myself) spinning the notion that Republicans are “divided,” it is helpful to put out a document that various factions of the party can agree with. Social conservatives are generally delighted, and economic conservatives should be as well, with strong statements on taxes, spending control, and repeal of ObamaCare. (Recall that not too long ago, there was disagreement on the right as to whether “repeal and replace” was the correct position.) Hawks should be pleased with the robust statements on missile defense and the war on terror. (“We will oppose all efforts to force our military, intelligence, and law enforcement personnel operating overseas to extend ‘Miranda Rights’ to foreign terrorists.”) And finally, the document doesn’t create any problems for candidates — nothing too extreme, nothing for the left to seize upon as wacky. Even on the hot-button issue of abortion, the positions articulated are ones that garner substantial popular support:

We will establish a government-wide prohibition on taxpayer funding of abortion and subsidies for insurance coverage that includes abortion. This prohibition would go further and enact into law what is known as the Hyde Amendment as well as ban other instances of federal subsidies for abortion services. We will also enact into law conscience protections for health care providers, including doctors, nurses, and hospitals.

John McCormack sums up: “There are, of course, other ‘social’ conservative issues–like embryo-destructive research and ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ — but the party is divided on those issues, which explains why the House GOP didn’t put them in the pledge.” Sounds like these people actually want to win this time.

And on immigration reform, restraint also was evident:

The problem of illegal immigration and Mexican drug cartels engaged in an increasingly violent conflict means we need all hands on deck to address this challenge. We will reaffirm the authority of state and local law enforcement to assist in the enforcement of all federal immigration laws. … We must take action to secure our borders, and that action starts with enforcing our laws. We will ensure that the Border Patrol has the tools and authorities to establish operational control at the border and prohibit the Secretaries of the Interior and Agriculture from interfering with Border Patrol enforcement activities on federal lands.

Not exactly fire and brimstone stuff. Instead, sensible, modest, and popular.

Ultimately, what’s in the document is not so important as having a document and avoiding numerous potholes. The GOP did that. That’s not bad for a party that was flat on its back two years ago.

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Debating the DREAM Act (UPDATED)

The Defense Authorization Act, which is soon to come for a vote in the Senate, has a controversial provision added to it repealing “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” Whatever one thinks of the hot-button issue of gays in the military (personally, as I’ve written before, I believe that it is inevitable that gay service people will be allowed to serve openly), there should be much more agreement on another provision added to the bill: the DREAM Act. A good summary can be found in this Wall Street Journal article of how this provision would speed citizenship for those who arrived in the U.S. by the age of 15 if they attend college or serve in the armed forces for two years. This would open up a new avenue for service for those like David Cho, “an honor student and leader of the UCLA marching band,” who “plans to join the U.S. Air Force after he graduates in the spring — if Congress lets him.” Why it makes sense to turn away those like Cho who want to wear our nation’s uniform is beyond me. According to the Journal:

Sen. Jeff Sessions (R., Ala.) believes passage of the Dream Act would entice more people to sneak into the U.S. “When you take a policy that says you are going to reward people who have entered our country illegally with a guaranteed pathway to citizenship, and with billions of dollars in financial aid or benefits they would not otherwise be entitled to, what message are we sending?” Sen. Sessions said.

Count me as skeptical that the prospect of attending college or serving in our armed forces will really draw more undocumented immigrants to our shores. (Plenty are coming already simply in the hope of picking lettuce or working in construction.) But if it does, so what? Aren’t these precisely the kind of productive, highly motivated individuals that we want to see in this country?

Our ability to attract and integrate immigrants gives us a key long-term advantage over more homogenous societies such as Japan, China, and Western Europe. Immigrants are already serving proudly in the U.S. armed forces — as they have since the beginning of the Republic. It makes perfect sense to continue to make use of these dedicated volunteers, especially because of the valuable cultural and linguistic knowledge they can bring to our armed forces, which find themselves in need of such skills to wage a global counterinsurgency. In the process, we can use our armed forces and our universities as they have long been used — to integrate newcomers into the mainstream of American society. If we don’t, we risk expanding the underclass of undocumented immigrants who turn to illicit activities because legal work and education are closed to them.

ADDENDUM: One of the leading legal experts on the DREAM Act e-mails me that Senator Sessions’s objection is even less to the point than I realized: “The DREAM Act doesn’t cover anyone who enters the U.S. illegally today. It has a cut-off date, so the objection that it will ‘encourage illegal immigration’ seems just a little bit ‘off.’ ”

The Defense Authorization Act, which is soon to come for a vote in the Senate, has a controversial provision added to it repealing “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” Whatever one thinks of the hot-button issue of gays in the military (personally, as I’ve written before, I believe that it is inevitable that gay service people will be allowed to serve openly), there should be much more agreement on another provision added to the bill: the DREAM Act. A good summary can be found in this Wall Street Journal article of how this provision would speed citizenship for those who arrived in the U.S. by the age of 15 if they attend college or serve in the armed forces for two years. This would open up a new avenue for service for those like David Cho, “an honor student and leader of the UCLA marching band,” who “plans to join the U.S. Air Force after he graduates in the spring — if Congress lets him.” Why it makes sense to turn away those like Cho who want to wear our nation’s uniform is beyond me. According to the Journal:

Sen. Jeff Sessions (R., Ala.) believes passage of the Dream Act would entice more people to sneak into the U.S. “When you take a policy that says you are going to reward people who have entered our country illegally with a guaranteed pathway to citizenship, and with billions of dollars in financial aid or benefits they would not otherwise be entitled to, what message are we sending?” Sen. Sessions said.

Count me as skeptical that the prospect of attending college or serving in our armed forces will really draw more undocumented immigrants to our shores. (Plenty are coming already simply in the hope of picking lettuce or working in construction.) But if it does, so what? Aren’t these precisely the kind of productive, highly motivated individuals that we want to see in this country?

Our ability to attract and integrate immigrants gives us a key long-term advantage over more homogenous societies such as Japan, China, and Western Europe. Immigrants are already serving proudly in the U.S. armed forces — as they have since the beginning of the Republic. It makes perfect sense to continue to make use of these dedicated volunteers, especially because of the valuable cultural and linguistic knowledge they can bring to our armed forces, which find themselves in need of such skills to wage a global counterinsurgency. In the process, we can use our armed forces and our universities as they have long been used — to integrate newcomers into the mainstream of American society. If we don’t, we risk expanding the underclass of undocumented immigrants who turn to illicit activities because legal work and education are closed to them.

ADDENDUM: One of the leading legal experts on the DREAM Act e-mails me that Senator Sessions’s objection is even less to the point than I realized: “The DREAM Act doesn’t cover anyone who enters the U.S. illegally today. It has a cut-off date, so the objection that it will ‘encourage illegal immigration’ seems just a little bit ‘off.’ ”

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Going-Out-of-Business Sale in the Senate

Despite their tendency to make life more difficult for themselves, Republicans will enjoy greater numbers in the U.S. Senate after November. So Obama and Harry Reid are in essence having a going-out-of-business sale. In Reid’s case, he may actually be out of a job, but in any event, he’s not going to enjoy a hefty majority to pass major pieces of the liberal agenda.

Hence, Obama is threatening to install the new consumer protection agency head by recess appointment. And Carl Levin is junking up the defense authorization bill:

Last year, Senate Armed Services Committee chairman Carl Levin (D-MI), to the chagrin of Republicans, successfully added language expanding protections from hate crimes. This year, Democrats are expected to attempt to add the “American Dream Act,” a bill that would provide a path to U.S. citizenship for illegal immigrant students, to the defense authorization bill. …

What is unprecedented, however, is that the bill could come to the Senate floor without the support of the committee’s top Republican, John McCain (R-AZ).McCain adamantly opposes the bill because it contains language that could lead to the repeal of the military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy, which bans homosexuals from serving openly in the military.

“It authorizes the repeal of DADT before the study is completed,” McCain told a gaggle of reporters in the Capitol Monday, referring to the Defense Department’s ongoing analysis of the impacts of a policy change.

Reid is also bent on staging a vote on taxes, despite the angst it is causing his caucus. As this report explains:

During the Democrats’ weekly caucus, a majority held there were greater risks associated with inaction, because that would give Republicans an opportunity to accuse Democrats of raising taxes across the board, Mr. Casey said. But a minority of Senate Democrats would prefer not to take a vote before the elections, Mr. Casey said. Some worry about being tagged with raising any taxes, even the top marginal rates.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada said he plans to hold a vote “before we leave” in a few weeks, but he didn’t promise he has the votes. “I hope so,” he said. “I think it would certainly be the right thing to do, and only one way of finding out, and that’s take a vote on it.”

Illustrating the tough sledding ahead in the Senate, Sen. Ben Nelson (D., Neb.), who wants to extend the tax cuts for everyone, didn’t back off his position Tuesday. “I favor extending all of the Bush tax cuts, every one of them,” he said.

I’m not sure which is worse for Reid — demonstrating his ineptness by losing a vote or ramming through a tax cut as the economy craters. (And his House colleagues may pull the rug out from under him: “This week, members of the Blue Dog and New Democrat coalitions—two more-conservative Democratic groups—were pushing colleagues to sign a letter urging House leaders to schedule a vote on a full extension.”)

In sum, the Senate Democrats will try mightily to get whatever they can before the electorate’s wrath is felt. The problem, of course, is for those Democratic survivors or wanna-be survivors who will have to explain the continued disdain shown the voters.

Despite their tendency to make life more difficult for themselves, Republicans will enjoy greater numbers in the U.S. Senate after November. So Obama and Harry Reid are in essence having a going-out-of-business sale. In Reid’s case, he may actually be out of a job, but in any event, he’s not going to enjoy a hefty majority to pass major pieces of the liberal agenda.

Hence, Obama is threatening to install the new consumer protection agency head by recess appointment. And Carl Levin is junking up the defense authorization bill:

Last year, Senate Armed Services Committee chairman Carl Levin (D-MI), to the chagrin of Republicans, successfully added language expanding protections from hate crimes. This year, Democrats are expected to attempt to add the “American Dream Act,” a bill that would provide a path to U.S. citizenship for illegal immigrant students, to the defense authorization bill. …

What is unprecedented, however, is that the bill could come to the Senate floor without the support of the committee’s top Republican, John McCain (R-AZ).McCain adamantly opposes the bill because it contains language that could lead to the repeal of the military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy, which bans homosexuals from serving openly in the military.

“It authorizes the repeal of DADT before the study is completed,” McCain told a gaggle of reporters in the Capitol Monday, referring to the Defense Department’s ongoing analysis of the impacts of a policy change.

Reid is also bent on staging a vote on taxes, despite the angst it is causing his caucus. As this report explains:

During the Democrats’ weekly caucus, a majority held there were greater risks associated with inaction, because that would give Republicans an opportunity to accuse Democrats of raising taxes across the board, Mr. Casey said. But a minority of Senate Democrats would prefer not to take a vote before the elections, Mr. Casey said. Some worry about being tagged with raising any taxes, even the top marginal rates.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada said he plans to hold a vote “before we leave” in a few weeks, but he didn’t promise he has the votes. “I hope so,” he said. “I think it would certainly be the right thing to do, and only one way of finding out, and that’s take a vote on it.”

Illustrating the tough sledding ahead in the Senate, Sen. Ben Nelson (D., Neb.), who wants to extend the tax cuts for everyone, didn’t back off his position Tuesday. “I favor extending all of the Bush tax cuts, every one of them,” he said.

I’m not sure which is worse for Reid — demonstrating his ineptness by losing a vote or ramming through a tax cut as the economy craters. (And his House colleagues may pull the rug out from under him: “This week, members of the Blue Dog and New Democrat coalitions—two more-conservative Democratic groups—were pushing colleagues to sign a letter urging House leaders to schedule a vote on a full extension.”)

In sum, the Senate Democrats will try mightily to get whatever they can before the electorate’s wrath is felt. The problem, of course, is for those Democratic survivors or wanna-be survivors who will have to explain the continued disdain shown the voters.

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Can You Imagine?

In a fascinating interview with former UN Ambassador John C. Bolton, the Daily Caller tosses an interesting proposition into the ring: why not a Bolton GOP presidential run? That’d sure shake up things in Tehran. Bolton offers this on Obama:

“I’d call him the first post-American president and by that I mean – certainly in contemporary times – his view of America and its role in the world is different from the line of presidents since Franklin Roosevelt,” Bolton explained, when asked exactly why he finds the president’s foreign policy so offensive. “He doesn’t see himself effectively as a real advocate for America’s interest. He doesn’t see the world as a particularly challenging place. And, frankly, I just don’t think he cares that much about foreign policy.”

Well, yeah.

What about Israel?

“I think the risk of this obsession with the ‘peace process’ is that the inevitable failure of these talks coming up leave the United States in a worse position in the region and around the world than if we had never undertaken it to begin with,” he said. “Given there is no interlocutor on the Palestinian side that can make difficult commitments and then carry through on them, given the extent of the gaps in the positions of the two parties, failure seems to me to be inevitable. And when you combine that with many other things going on in the region – our failure to stop the Iranian nuclear weapons plan, our withdrawal from Iraq, our commitment to withdrawal from Afghanistan – it just gives a broad impression of American weakness that our adversaries will take advantage of and our friends will be concerned about.”

Well, yes, that’s right.

But what about domestic policy — he doesn’t have much to say about that, right? Umm, actually:

“I think this is the most radical president we have ever had,” he said, before naming the health care bill, the auto industry bailout, and financial regulation as examples of this radicalism. “I think this is the dream of leftwing America come true and the only good news is I really think this is their high water mark. Anything they don’t get now they are never going to get. If we do this right, we can roll a lot of it back and begin the task of reducing the scope of federal government activities in our economy.” …

“I’ve never attended any Tea Party functions,” he said. But, he added, if the movement is, as he understands it, “a true grassroots movement of people who are absolutely outraged at the extent that the Obama administration has bungled its economic policy, overspent dramatically, risked creating a deficit that will burden us for generations” than he thinks “it is pointed in exactly the right direction” and he is “all in favor of” it.

And just to confound the left, he says he has no problem repealing Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell and thinks gay marriage should be left up to the states.

Bolton has shown no signs of organizing a campaign and doesn’t downplay the difficulty for a non-politician to run for the presidency, but neither does he rule it out. It sure would make for some lively primary debates, wouldn’t it?

This is a reminder that more than two years before the 2012 election, there are many intriguing possible candidates out there. As for Bolton, if he doesn’t run, any Republican who does would be very wise to bring him on board. His advice would be invaluable.

In a fascinating interview with former UN Ambassador John C. Bolton, the Daily Caller tosses an interesting proposition into the ring: why not a Bolton GOP presidential run? That’d sure shake up things in Tehran. Bolton offers this on Obama:

“I’d call him the first post-American president and by that I mean – certainly in contemporary times – his view of America and its role in the world is different from the line of presidents since Franklin Roosevelt,” Bolton explained, when asked exactly why he finds the president’s foreign policy so offensive. “He doesn’t see himself effectively as a real advocate for America’s interest. He doesn’t see the world as a particularly challenging place. And, frankly, I just don’t think he cares that much about foreign policy.”

Well, yeah.

What about Israel?

“I think the risk of this obsession with the ‘peace process’ is that the inevitable failure of these talks coming up leave the United States in a worse position in the region and around the world than if we had never undertaken it to begin with,” he said. “Given there is no interlocutor on the Palestinian side that can make difficult commitments and then carry through on them, given the extent of the gaps in the positions of the two parties, failure seems to me to be inevitable. And when you combine that with many other things going on in the region – our failure to stop the Iranian nuclear weapons plan, our withdrawal from Iraq, our commitment to withdrawal from Afghanistan – it just gives a broad impression of American weakness that our adversaries will take advantage of and our friends will be concerned about.”

Well, yes, that’s right.

But what about domestic policy — he doesn’t have much to say about that, right? Umm, actually:

“I think this is the most radical president we have ever had,” he said, before naming the health care bill, the auto industry bailout, and financial regulation as examples of this radicalism. “I think this is the dream of leftwing America come true and the only good news is I really think this is their high water mark. Anything they don’t get now they are never going to get. If we do this right, we can roll a lot of it back and begin the task of reducing the scope of federal government activities in our economy.” …

“I’ve never attended any Tea Party functions,” he said. But, he added, if the movement is, as he understands it, “a true grassroots movement of people who are absolutely outraged at the extent that the Obama administration has bungled its economic policy, overspent dramatically, risked creating a deficit that will burden us for generations” than he thinks “it is pointed in exactly the right direction” and he is “all in favor of” it.

And just to confound the left, he says he has no problem repealing Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell and thinks gay marriage should be left up to the states.

Bolton has shown no signs of organizing a campaign and doesn’t downplay the difficulty for a non-politician to run for the presidency, but neither does he rule it out. It sure would make for some lively primary debates, wouldn’t it?

This is a reminder that more than two years before the 2012 election, there are many intriguing possible candidates out there. As for Bolton, if he doesn’t run, any Republican who does would be very wise to bring him on board. His advice would be invaluable.

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Dowd vs. Obama

I admit it: I was looking forward to Maureen Dowd’s column today. Nothing quite gets her dander up and her claws out like a reminder that Obama is not merely a disappointment to the left but also an embarrassment. She  seethes:

When the president skittered back from his grandiose declaration at an iftar celebration at the White House Friday that Muslims enjoy freedom of religion in America and have the right to build a mosque and community center in Lower Manhattan, he offered a Clintonesque parsing. …

Let me be perfectly clear, Mr. Perfectly Unclear President: You cannot take such a stand on a matter of first principle and then take it back the next morning when, lo and behold, Harry Reid goes craven and the Republicans attack.

Well he can and did, but she’s fit to be tied about it — so much so that’s she’s praising George W. Bush for saying nice things about Muslims, championing AIDS prevention in Africa, and making a real effort on immigration reform. (I was not pleased with his excessive genuflecting on the first, but we’ve certainly entered the Twilight Zone of politics when she throws Bush in Obama’s face. Nothing like a woman scorned.) Anyway, she’s not done with the unflattering comparisons. Bill Clinton, at least, “never presented himself as a moral guide to the country,” so it’s all the more painful when Obama “flops around” on the mosque and Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.

Now this is Maureen Dowd — who is apparently so powerful that fact checkers and editors dare not raise their hands to caution her about lines like this: “By now you have to be willfully blind not to know that the imam in charge of the project, Feisal Abdul Rauf, is the moderate Muslim we have allegedly been yearning for.” Uh, not really. We’re yearning for a Muslim who specifically condemns Hamas as a terrorist group and doesn’t suggest that the U.S. is responsible for 9/11. We’re yearning for a Muslim who doesn’t use “hallowed ground” — where 3,000 Americans died at the hands of Islamist extremists — to build a “a symbol of victory for militant Muslims around the world.” (That from an American Muslim whose mother was incinerated on 9/11 by those who “believed that all non-Muslims are infidels and that the duty of Muslims is to renounce them.”) We’re yearning for a Muslim who is “desperate to reform his faith” and forthright in his assessment that the placement of the mosque at Ground Zero is based on “a belief that Islamic structures are a political statement and even Ground Zero should be looked upon through the lens of political Islam and not a solely American one.” (That from a Muslim and former U.S. Navy officer.)

So while her fury at the ever-shrinking Obama may be amusing, her analysis is about what you’d expect from someone who thinks women have it pretty good in Saudi Arabia. The most important insight to be gained from her rant-athon is this: if Democrats were depressed and faced a turnout problem before this incident, watch out. There might not be a poll model in use that accurately measures the enthusiasm gap between Democratic and Republican voters, nor, as a result, the extent of the electoral damage Obama is about to wreak on his party.

I admit it: I was looking forward to Maureen Dowd’s column today. Nothing quite gets her dander up and her claws out like a reminder that Obama is not merely a disappointment to the left but also an embarrassment. She  seethes:

When the president skittered back from his grandiose declaration at an iftar celebration at the White House Friday that Muslims enjoy freedom of religion in America and have the right to build a mosque and community center in Lower Manhattan, he offered a Clintonesque parsing. …

Let me be perfectly clear, Mr. Perfectly Unclear President: You cannot take such a stand on a matter of first principle and then take it back the next morning when, lo and behold, Harry Reid goes craven and the Republicans attack.

Well he can and did, but she’s fit to be tied about it — so much so that’s she’s praising George W. Bush for saying nice things about Muslims, championing AIDS prevention in Africa, and making a real effort on immigration reform. (I was not pleased with his excessive genuflecting on the first, but we’ve certainly entered the Twilight Zone of politics when she throws Bush in Obama’s face. Nothing like a woman scorned.) Anyway, she’s not done with the unflattering comparisons. Bill Clinton, at least, “never presented himself as a moral guide to the country,” so it’s all the more painful when Obama “flops around” on the mosque and Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.

Now this is Maureen Dowd — who is apparently so powerful that fact checkers and editors dare not raise their hands to caution her about lines like this: “By now you have to be willfully blind not to know that the imam in charge of the project, Feisal Abdul Rauf, is the moderate Muslim we have allegedly been yearning for.” Uh, not really. We’re yearning for a Muslim who specifically condemns Hamas as a terrorist group and doesn’t suggest that the U.S. is responsible for 9/11. We’re yearning for a Muslim who doesn’t use “hallowed ground” — where 3,000 Americans died at the hands of Islamist extremists — to build a “a symbol of victory for militant Muslims around the world.” (That from an American Muslim whose mother was incinerated on 9/11 by those who “believed that all non-Muslims are infidels and that the duty of Muslims is to renounce them.”) We’re yearning for a Muslim who is “desperate to reform his faith” and forthright in his assessment that the placement of the mosque at Ground Zero is based on “a belief that Islamic structures are a political statement and even Ground Zero should be looked upon through the lens of political Islam and not a solely American one.” (That from a Muslim and former U.S. Navy officer.)

So while her fury at the ever-shrinking Obama may be amusing, her analysis is about what you’d expect from someone who thinks women have it pretty good in Saudi Arabia. The most important insight to be gained from her rant-athon is this: if Democrats were depressed and faced a turnout problem before this incident, watch out. There might not be a poll model in use that accurately measures the enthusiasm gap between Democratic and Republican voters, nor, as a result, the extent of the electoral damage Obama is about to wreak on his party.

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Biden Strikes Again

Joe Biden says many dumb things, but this, on Elena Kagan’s opposition to military recruiters on campus, is up there with the worst of them:

She was right. … All during that period, she has reached out to veterans in the law school, she has been at promotions ceremonies, she’s recognized veterans coming to the law school. So this is not a single bit of anti-military bias. She does think, and I agree with her, that the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy is a very bad policy.

This is inane on multiple levels. First, she wasn’t “right” — there was a law that allowed recruiters on campus, and the Supreme Court decided that she was wrong in an 8-0 decision. Moreover, if it were such a bad policy, why didn’t he or then-Senator Barack Obama move to repeal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”? And, come to think of it, if it’s so bad, why doesn’t Obama issue an executive order to repeal it? Finally, it’s hard to argue that there wasn’t at least a bit of anti-military in her pronouncement:

“All Members of the Harvard Law School Community”: On Oct. 6, 2003, Kagan explained that she abhorred “the military’s discriminatory recruitment policy. … The military’s policy deprives many men and women of courage and character from having the opportunity to serve their country in the greatest way possible. This is a profound wrong — a moral injustice of the first order.” On Sep. 28, 2004: “… the military’s recruitment policy is both unjust and unwise. The military’s policy deprives…” etc. And on March 7, 2006: “I hope that many members of the Harvard Law School community will accept the Court’s invitation to express their views clearly and forcefully regarding the military’s discriminatory employment policy. As I have said before, I believe that policy is profoundly wrong — both unwise and unjust…,” etc.

Unfortunately, unlike vice presidents, judges and judicial nominees are judged on the precision of their words. Kagan’s got some explaining to do, and Biden isn’t helping her any.

Joe Biden says many dumb things, but this, on Elena Kagan’s opposition to military recruiters on campus, is up there with the worst of them:

She was right. … All during that period, she has reached out to veterans in the law school, she has been at promotions ceremonies, she’s recognized veterans coming to the law school. So this is not a single bit of anti-military bias. She does think, and I agree with her, that the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy is a very bad policy.

This is inane on multiple levels. First, she wasn’t “right” — there was a law that allowed recruiters on campus, and the Supreme Court decided that she was wrong in an 8-0 decision. Moreover, if it were such a bad policy, why didn’t he or then-Senator Barack Obama move to repeal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”? And, come to think of it, if it’s so bad, why doesn’t Obama issue an executive order to repeal it? Finally, it’s hard to argue that there wasn’t at least a bit of anti-military in her pronouncement:

“All Members of the Harvard Law School Community”: On Oct. 6, 2003, Kagan explained that she abhorred “the military’s discriminatory recruitment policy. … The military’s policy deprives many men and women of courage and character from having the opportunity to serve their country in the greatest way possible. This is a profound wrong — a moral injustice of the first order.” On Sep. 28, 2004: “… the military’s recruitment policy is both unjust and unwise. The military’s policy deprives…” etc. And on March 7, 2006: “I hope that many members of the Harvard Law School community will accept the Court’s invitation to express their views clearly and forcefully regarding the military’s discriminatory employment policy. As I have said before, I believe that policy is profoundly wrong — both unwise and unjust…,” etc.

Unfortunately, unlike vice presidents, judges and judicial nominees are judged on the precision of their words. Kagan’s got some explaining to do, and Biden isn’t helping her any.

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Apologize, Ms. Kagan

That’s what Peter Beinart says Elena Kagan should do to put the military-recruiting issue behind her. Beinart thinks “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” is immoral. (Well, Kagan’s boss Bill Clinton put the policy in effect, so maybe Kagan should be asked what input she gave on that decision.) Still, he writes that banning recruiters from campus was wrong:

The military, like Congress, the courts, and the presidency, is one of our defining public institutions. To question its moral legitimacy is not like questioning the moral legitimacy of General Electric. And that’s exactly what banning the military from campus does. It suggests that Harvard thinks not just that the military’s anti-gay policy is immoral (which it emphatically is) but that the institution itself is immoral. It’s like refusing to sing the national anthem because you’re upset at the Bush administration’s torture policies or refusing to salute the flag because of the way Washington responded to Hurricane Katrina. It’s a statement of profound alienation from your country, and will be received by other Americans as such. I hope Elena Kagan gets confirmed. She’s smart, young, and liberal, and the court could use another woman. It’s all quite logical. But when it comes to military recruitment, I hope she apologizes. Nothing would send a better message to liberals on campus, and to the men and women in uniform who defend them. It would be a terrific way to start her career on the highest court in the land.

But is apologizing enough? Consider that the decision was not simply an administrative matter but also a revelation of her legal mindset.

It was not only wrong, as Beinart argued, to ban recruiters; it defied a federal statute that required the law schools to allow recruiters on campus. What does this say about her respect for congressional policy-making? And her constitutional analysis? Remember, she was not simply advocating on behalf of a client, as she has done for the administration. Here, she was advocating what she fervently believed was correct constitutional law. She and her law-school mates came up with a cockamamie argument that her hero, Justice John Paul Stevens, didn’t even buy.

An apology would be smart. But not sufficient.

That’s what Peter Beinart says Elena Kagan should do to put the military-recruiting issue behind her. Beinart thinks “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” is immoral. (Well, Kagan’s boss Bill Clinton put the policy in effect, so maybe Kagan should be asked what input she gave on that decision.) Still, he writes that banning recruiters from campus was wrong:

The military, like Congress, the courts, and the presidency, is one of our defining public institutions. To question its moral legitimacy is not like questioning the moral legitimacy of General Electric. And that’s exactly what banning the military from campus does. It suggests that Harvard thinks not just that the military’s anti-gay policy is immoral (which it emphatically is) but that the institution itself is immoral. It’s like refusing to sing the national anthem because you’re upset at the Bush administration’s torture policies or refusing to salute the flag because of the way Washington responded to Hurricane Katrina. It’s a statement of profound alienation from your country, and will be received by other Americans as such. I hope Elena Kagan gets confirmed. She’s smart, young, and liberal, and the court could use another woman. It’s all quite logical. But when it comes to military recruitment, I hope she apologizes. Nothing would send a better message to liberals on campus, and to the men and women in uniform who defend them. It would be a terrific way to start her career on the highest court in the land.

But is apologizing enough? Consider that the decision was not simply an administrative matter but also a revelation of her legal mindset.

It was not only wrong, as Beinart argued, to ban recruiters; it defied a federal statute that required the law schools to allow recruiters on campus. What does this say about her respect for congressional policy-making? And her constitutional analysis? Remember, she was not simply advocating on behalf of a client, as she has done for the administration. Here, she was advocating what she fervently believed was correct constitutional law. She and her law-school mates came up with a cockamamie argument that her hero, Justice John Paul Stevens, didn’t even buy.

An apology would be smart. But not sufficient.

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RE: Kagan’s Vulnerability

Emily Bazelon at Slate writes in defense of Elena Kagan:

She was one of 40 law professors who signed that brief. In law school faculties at the time, people were falling over themselves to oppose the Solomon Amendment. Eight other universities filed briefs, along with 56 Columbia law professors and 44 Yale law professors. At some schools, it was out of the mainstream not to sign. Obama has already said it’s time to start getting rid of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” The White House can support Kagan’s stand on this issue without taking on a new political battle.

Hmm. Is this argument meant to persuade us that Kagan is in the mainstream of judicial thought, or rather that there is something terribly wrong with the law professors who populate elite universities? All of these people got the law wrong. Really wrong — 8-0 wrong.

Moreover, you will note how easily the left conflates a policy issue — “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” is bad, so we’re getting rid of it — with the legal argument that proved to be a dead-bang loser at the Supreme Court. Bazelon muddles the two. The question is: did Kagan? And, more important, will she do so on the Court?

Emily Bazelon at Slate writes in defense of Elena Kagan:

She was one of 40 law professors who signed that brief. In law school faculties at the time, people were falling over themselves to oppose the Solomon Amendment. Eight other universities filed briefs, along with 56 Columbia law professors and 44 Yale law professors. At some schools, it was out of the mainstream not to sign. Obama has already said it’s time to start getting rid of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” The White House can support Kagan’s stand on this issue without taking on a new political battle.

Hmm. Is this argument meant to persuade us that Kagan is in the mainstream of judicial thought, or rather that there is something terribly wrong with the law professors who populate elite universities? All of these people got the law wrong. Really wrong — 8-0 wrong.

Moreover, you will note how easily the left conflates a policy issue — “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” is bad, so we’re getting rid of it — with the legal argument that proved to be a dead-bang loser at the Supreme Court. Bazelon muddles the two. The question is: did Kagan? And, more important, will she do so on the Court?

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Kagan’s Vulnerabilty

Although records from her years in the Clinton administration may raise other concerns, at this stage, the most significant vulnerability for Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan is her position in opposing giving military recruiters access to Harvard Law School because of the armed services’ Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy. This is problematic in two respects.

First, as Bill Kristol observes, the level of invective directed at the military is noteworthy:

Notice, time and again [in her letters]: “the military’s discriminatory recruitment policy,” “the military’s policy,” “the military’s recruitment policy,” “the military’s discriminatory employment policy.”

But it is not the military’s policy. It is the policy of the U.S. Government, based on legislation passed in 1993 by (a Democratic) Congress, signed into law and implemented by the Clinton administration, legislation and implementation that are currently continued by a Democratic administration and a Democratic Congress. It is intellectually wrong and morally cowardly to call this the “military’s policy.” Wrong for obvious reasons. Cowardly because it allowed Kagan to go ahead and serve in the Clinton administration that enforced this policy she so detests, and to welcome to Harvard as Dean former members of that administration, as well as Senators and Congressmen who actually voted for the law–which is more than the military recruiters whom Kagan sought to ban did.

In addition to her attitude toward the military, one has to question her ability to put aside policy preferences and biases when engaging in constitutional analysis. She joined an amicus brief seeking to set aside as unconstitutional the Solomon Amendment, which required schools to allow military recruiters on campus. Stuart Taylor has suggested that “the Administration will have no trouble describing General Kagan’s position as reflecting that of Harvard as an institution — a position that was broadly shared among the nation’s elite Universities.” Well, that Ivy League institutions are uniformly hostile to the military and that Kagan made a constitutional argument based, it seems, on political conviction will hardly help matters. Recall, Kagan’s position lost 8-0. That’s as far out of the mainstream as you can get.

Is this grounds for opposing Kagan? Maybe not, but it also depends on what she says, what she’s written, and why she thought the Solomon Amendment was unconstitutional. This is what confirmation hearings are designed to explore.

Although records from her years in the Clinton administration may raise other concerns, at this stage, the most significant vulnerability for Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan is her position in opposing giving military recruiters access to Harvard Law School because of the armed services’ Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy. This is problematic in two respects.

First, as Bill Kristol observes, the level of invective directed at the military is noteworthy:

Notice, time and again [in her letters]: “the military’s discriminatory recruitment policy,” “the military’s policy,” “the military’s recruitment policy,” “the military’s discriminatory employment policy.”

But it is not the military’s policy. It is the policy of the U.S. Government, based on legislation passed in 1993 by (a Democratic) Congress, signed into law and implemented by the Clinton administration, legislation and implementation that are currently continued by a Democratic administration and a Democratic Congress. It is intellectually wrong and morally cowardly to call this the “military’s policy.” Wrong for obvious reasons. Cowardly because it allowed Kagan to go ahead and serve in the Clinton administration that enforced this policy she so detests, and to welcome to Harvard as Dean former members of that administration, as well as Senators and Congressmen who actually voted for the law–which is more than the military recruiters whom Kagan sought to ban did.

In addition to her attitude toward the military, one has to question her ability to put aside policy preferences and biases when engaging in constitutional analysis. She joined an amicus brief seeking to set aside as unconstitutional the Solomon Amendment, which required schools to allow military recruiters on campus. Stuart Taylor has suggested that “the Administration will have no trouble describing General Kagan’s position as reflecting that of Harvard as an institution — a position that was broadly shared among the nation’s elite Universities.” Well, that Ivy League institutions are uniformly hostile to the military and that Kagan made a constitutional argument based, it seems, on political conviction will hardly help matters. Recall, Kagan’s position lost 8-0. That’s as far out of the mainstream as you can get.

Is this grounds for opposing Kagan? Maybe not, but it also depends on what she says, what she’s written, and why she thought the Solomon Amendment was unconstitutional. This is what confirmation hearings are designed to explore.

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Obama Escapes From His Offshore-Drilling Promise

So much for the Obami’s willingness to pursue domestic energy exploration and drilling:

There will be no new domestic offshore oil drilling pending a review of the rig disaster and massive oil spill along the Gulf Coast, the White House said Friday morning. Speaking on ABC’s “Good Morning America,” senior adviser David Axelrod said “no additional [offshore] drilling has been authorized, and none will until we find out what happened and whether there was something unique and preventable here. … No domestic drilling in new areas is going to go forward until there is an adequate review of what’s happened here and of what is being proposed elsewhere.” The administration recently announced that it would open new coastal areas to oil exploration, including regions off Virginia’s coast and in the Gulf of Mexico, ending a long moratorium on new drilling.

Well, in essence, this gets the administration off the hook with enraged environmental lobbyists who went berserk when Obama suggested that we might open up offshore drilling. But then there was always less than met the eye when it came to Obama’s commitment to domestic energy development: “Any new drilling was years away anyway under the administration’s new drilling policy, which was interpreted as an attempt to show bipartisanship in energy policy and get greater support in the process for climate legislation.” So now even the fig leaf of bipartisanship is gone. And that “review,” one can bet, will be just as slow as the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell review. In short, the Obami aren’t about to move any quicker on offshore drilling than they are on gays in the military.

So much for the Obami’s willingness to pursue domestic energy exploration and drilling:

There will be no new domestic offshore oil drilling pending a review of the rig disaster and massive oil spill along the Gulf Coast, the White House said Friday morning. Speaking on ABC’s “Good Morning America,” senior adviser David Axelrod said “no additional [offshore] drilling has been authorized, and none will until we find out what happened and whether there was something unique and preventable here. … No domestic drilling in new areas is going to go forward until there is an adequate review of what’s happened here and of what is being proposed elsewhere.” The administration recently announced that it would open new coastal areas to oil exploration, including regions off Virginia’s coast and in the Gulf of Mexico, ending a long moratorium on new drilling.

Well, in essence, this gets the administration off the hook with enraged environmental lobbyists who went berserk when Obama suggested that we might open up offshore drilling. But then there was always less than met the eye when it came to Obama’s commitment to domestic energy development: “Any new drilling was years away anyway under the administration’s new drilling policy, which was interpreted as an attempt to show bipartisanship in energy policy and get greater support in the process for climate legislation.” So now even the fig leaf of bipartisanship is gone. And that “review,” one can bet, will be just as slow as the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell review. In short, the Obami aren’t about to move any quicker on offshore drilling than they are on gays in the military.

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Immigration Reform — Really? No.

It is hard to take this seriously:

Democratic leaders in Congress have agreed to try to pass immigration legislation this year, placing the explosive issue ahead of an energy bill on their agenda and upending conventional wisdom that it was dead for now.

Democrats hope the measure will quell frustration among Hispanic voters at inaction on immigration in advance of the fall elections, where those voters could be crucial in many races. A comprehensive bill would include a path to citizenship for those in the U.S. illegally, a priority for immigrant advocates but something opponents deride as amnesty.

There are many reasons why this seems implausible. There’s no time to draft and pass a mammoth piece of legislation from scratch, especially with a Supreme Court nomination pending. It’s very controversial, especially with organized labor. It didn’t pass last time, and it’s not clear there is a ground swell of support for it now. So what’s going on?

Well, for one thing, it’s an excuse to not doing anything on cap-and-trade, for which there is no Senate filibuster-proof majority. (There may not even be a simple majority.) So this gets cap-and-trade off the table without admitting yet another item on the Democratic wish list is unpassable. Second, it is a sop to Hispanic advocates, whom the Democrats figure can be mollified in much the same way as gay rights advocates are with distant promises for retraction of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell – the strategy is to start the process and tell them the Democrats are working on it.

Therefore, I wouldn’t expect to see an immigration bill pass in either the House or Senate anytime soon. But elevating that to the next priority is another indication that the Democrats have run out of things they can jam through Congress. For that, we can be grateful.

It is hard to take this seriously:

Democratic leaders in Congress have agreed to try to pass immigration legislation this year, placing the explosive issue ahead of an energy bill on their agenda and upending conventional wisdom that it was dead for now.

Democrats hope the measure will quell frustration among Hispanic voters at inaction on immigration in advance of the fall elections, where those voters could be crucial in many races. A comprehensive bill would include a path to citizenship for those in the U.S. illegally, a priority for immigrant advocates but something opponents deride as amnesty.

There are many reasons why this seems implausible. There’s no time to draft and pass a mammoth piece of legislation from scratch, especially with a Supreme Court nomination pending. It’s very controversial, especially with organized labor. It didn’t pass last time, and it’s not clear there is a ground swell of support for it now. So what’s going on?

Well, for one thing, it’s an excuse to not doing anything on cap-and-trade, for which there is no Senate filibuster-proof majority. (There may not even be a simple majority.) So this gets cap-and-trade off the table without admitting yet another item on the Democratic wish list is unpassable. Second, it is a sop to Hispanic advocates, whom the Democrats figure can be mollified in much the same way as gay rights advocates are with distant promises for retraction of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell – the strategy is to start the process and tell them the Democrats are working on it.

Therefore, I wouldn’t expect to see an immigration bill pass in either the House or Senate anytime soon. But elevating that to the next priority is another indication that the Democrats have run out of things they can jam through Congress. For that, we can be grateful.

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The Left Is Grouchy

Reuters reports:

Five million first-time voters turned out in 2008, many drawn by Obama’s promise of hope and overwhelmingly voting for Democrats. Now disappointed, or at least apathetic, they may not go to the polls this year. Obama’s support has dropped below 50 percent from nearly 70 percent after 15 months in office, Gallup opinion polls show. Gay rights supporters, anti-abortion activists, environmentalists and backers of immigration reform all have seen their agendas stalled, with watered-down healthcare the main accomplishment of Obama’s once-ambitious agenda.

At Monday’s rally in Los Angeles, protesters shouted at Obama to repeal the “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” military policy that allows gays to serve if they keep quiet about their sexual preference. Gays believe that makes them second-class citizens, and Obama has vowed to repeal the policy.

“Hey hold on a second. We are going to do that,” he said. “I don’t know why you’re hollering,” he added.

Supporters shouted “Yes we can,” his slogan from the 2008 election, and “Be quiet,” but the discontent lingers.

But didn’t health-care reform boost the Left’s spirits? Not really: “Many on the left who want more are fighting the president and one another. Others are abandoning politics. Both trends bode poorly for Democrats, who have controlled both houses of Congress in addition to the White House since January 2009.” Health-care reform seems to have aggravated as many as it pleased. (“A fight over whether federal funds could be used to pay for abortion tied up the bill and split the party, which has been a strong supporter of abortion rights but now has a significant wing opposed to abortion.”) And without the public option, many on the Left are as angry as those on the Right that Big Insurance now gets enriched as a result of a liberal president’s signature issue. Other liberal wish-list items — climate control, card check, repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, and the closing Guantanamo — are not going anywhere.

The Left’s grumpiness is not simply a problem for presidential appearances. It was the new, younger, and largely liberal Democratic electorate that boosted Obama over Hillary Clinton and then John McCain and delivered huge majorities to the Democrats in the House and Senate. When that electorate doesn’t show up supportive in November, many Democrats are at risk: “Four of the 10 Senate races where Democrats may lose, including Majority Leader Harry Reid’s re-election bid in Nevada, are in states that had above-average increases in turnout between 2006 and 2008, Professor Tom Schaller of the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, calculated. … Battles for governor that could be affected by the new 2008 voters include California, Texas, Florida, Nevada, Georgia and Illinois, he calculated, noting that new governors will oversee redrawing federal voting districts after the 2010 census.”

It’s a rare president who doesn’t disappoint some starry-eyed supporters. But Obama’s problem is more acute, in large part because expectations were so high, and he consciously played into the cult of personality that worshipped him as the savior of the Left. He’s lost the Center, enraged the Right, and bummed out the Left. Not every president can do all that.

Reuters reports:

Five million first-time voters turned out in 2008, many drawn by Obama’s promise of hope and overwhelmingly voting for Democrats. Now disappointed, or at least apathetic, they may not go to the polls this year. Obama’s support has dropped below 50 percent from nearly 70 percent after 15 months in office, Gallup opinion polls show. Gay rights supporters, anti-abortion activists, environmentalists and backers of immigration reform all have seen their agendas stalled, with watered-down healthcare the main accomplishment of Obama’s once-ambitious agenda.

At Monday’s rally in Los Angeles, protesters shouted at Obama to repeal the “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” military policy that allows gays to serve if they keep quiet about their sexual preference. Gays believe that makes them second-class citizens, and Obama has vowed to repeal the policy.

“Hey hold on a second. We are going to do that,” he said. “I don’t know why you’re hollering,” he added.

Supporters shouted “Yes we can,” his slogan from the 2008 election, and “Be quiet,” but the discontent lingers.

But didn’t health-care reform boost the Left’s spirits? Not really: “Many on the left who want more are fighting the president and one another. Others are abandoning politics. Both trends bode poorly for Democrats, who have controlled both houses of Congress in addition to the White House since January 2009.” Health-care reform seems to have aggravated as many as it pleased. (“A fight over whether federal funds could be used to pay for abortion tied up the bill and split the party, which has been a strong supporter of abortion rights but now has a significant wing opposed to abortion.”) And without the public option, many on the Left are as angry as those on the Right that Big Insurance now gets enriched as a result of a liberal president’s signature issue. Other liberal wish-list items — climate control, card check, repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, and the closing Guantanamo — are not going anywhere.

The Left’s grumpiness is not simply a problem for presidential appearances. It was the new, younger, and largely liberal Democratic electorate that boosted Obama over Hillary Clinton and then John McCain and delivered huge majorities to the Democrats in the House and Senate. When that electorate doesn’t show up supportive in November, many Democrats are at risk: “Four of the 10 Senate races where Democrats may lose, including Majority Leader Harry Reid’s re-election bid in Nevada, are in states that had above-average increases in turnout between 2006 and 2008, Professor Tom Schaller of the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, calculated. … Battles for governor that could be affected by the new 2008 voters include California, Texas, Florida, Nevada, Georgia and Illinois, he calculated, noting that new governors will oversee redrawing federal voting districts after the 2010 census.”

It’s a rare president who doesn’t disappoint some starry-eyed supporters. But Obama’s problem is more acute, in large part because expectations were so high, and he consciously played into the cult of personality that worshipped him as the savior of the Left. He’s lost the Center, enraged the Right, and bummed out the Left. Not every president can do all that.

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Falling Further Behind

The passage of ObamaCare was supposed to help narrow the “enthusiasm” gap between Democrats and Republicans. Even if the mammoth tax-and-spend measure infuriated conservatives and even some independents, the saving grace for Democratic lawmakers would be their liberal base’s renewed fervor. It hasn’t panned out. Tom Jensen of the Democratic Public Policy Polling explains:

Our polls over the last few weeks in Illinois, Pennsylvania, Missouri, Ohio, and Wisconsin found a self reported 2008 vote anywhere from 6-10 points more friendly to John McCain than the actual vote in the state. There are a couple possible reasons for this. One is that folks who have soured on Obama may not be admitting that they voted for him in the first time. The more likely explanation though is something we already saw play itself out in New Jersey, Virginia, and Massachusetts- a much higher percentage of McCain voters are planning to come back out this year than folks who voted for Obama.

There still aren’t a whole lot of Obama voters planning to go for the Republicans this year. If the 2010 electorate was the same as the 2008 electorate we’d have Arlen Specter leading Pat Toomey, Alexi Giannoulias leading Mark Kirk, Tom Barrett leading Scott Walker, and Jennifer Brunner leading Rob Portman. But all four of those Democratic candidates are losing right now because McCain voters are more energized than Obama ones to come out and vote this fall. Perhaps the party will find a way to change that by November, but it certainly didn’t in any of the statewide races we’ve had so far since Obama took office.

There are a few possible explanations. Liberals might not be that jazzed by ObamaCare, which lacks the public option and forces people to fork over money to dreaded Big Insurance. Or, liberals might be miffed that more of their agenda — cap-and-trade, retreat from Afghanistan, repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell — hasn’t gone through. And on the conservative side of the equation, nearly everything Obama does these days — ObamaCare, lambasting Israel, renouncing a nuclear counterstrike in case of a chemical or biological attack — adds fuel to the fire. In short, ObamaCare didn’t provide enough of a boost to liberals to counteract the fever pitch of antagonism which Obama has generated among conservatives and independents. To a greater degree than conservatives could ever have managed on their own, Obama has shifted the electorate to the Right — and his party will suffer significant losses as a result.

The passage of ObamaCare was supposed to help narrow the “enthusiasm” gap between Democrats and Republicans. Even if the mammoth tax-and-spend measure infuriated conservatives and even some independents, the saving grace for Democratic lawmakers would be their liberal base’s renewed fervor. It hasn’t panned out. Tom Jensen of the Democratic Public Policy Polling explains:

Our polls over the last few weeks in Illinois, Pennsylvania, Missouri, Ohio, and Wisconsin found a self reported 2008 vote anywhere from 6-10 points more friendly to John McCain than the actual vote in the state. There are a couple possible reasons for this. One is that folks who have soured on Obama may not be admitting that they voted for him in the first time. The more likely explanation though is something we already saw play itself out in New Jersey, Virginia, and Massachusetts- a much higher percentage of McCain voters are planning to come back out this year than folks who voted for Obama.

There still aren’t a whole lot of Obama voters planning to go for the Republicans this year. If the 2010 electorate was the same as the 2008 electorate we’d have Arlen Specter leading Pat Toomey, Alexi Giannoulias leading Mark Kirk, Tom Barrett leading Scott Walker, and Jennifer Brunner leading Rob Portman. But all four of those Democratic candidates are losing right now because McCain voters are more energized than Obama ones to come out and vote this fall. Perhaps the party will find a way to change that by November, but it certainly didn’t in any of the statewide races we’ve had so far since Obama took office.

There are a few possible explanations. Liberals might not be that jazzed by ObamaCare, which lacks the public option and forces people to fork over money to dreaded Big Insurance. Or, liberals might be miffed that more of their agenda — cap-and-trade, retreat from Afghanistan, repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell — hasn’t gone through. And on the conservative side of the equation, nearly everything Obama does these days — ObamaCare, lambasting Israel, renouncing a nuclear counterstrike in case of a chemical or biological attack — adds fuel to the fire. In short, ObamaCare didn’t provide enough of a boost to liberals to counteract the fever pitch of antagonism which Obama has generated among conservatives and independents. To a greater degree than conservatives could ever have managed on their own, Obama has shifted the electorate to the Right — and his party will suffer significant losses as a result.

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Stalling on KSM

Julie Mason of the Washington Examiner picks up on this exchange with Robert Gibbs:

Q: Robert, do you know when we can expect a decision on the KSM trial?

Mr. Gibbs: I don’t expect a decision on that for several or many weeks.

Q: Will it be the president’s decision?

Mr. Gibbs: The president obviously has gotten involved because Congress has actively been involved in venue options for any trial involving Khalid Sheikh Mohammed. The president’s obviously strong equity in this is seeing that after many long years that justice is brought.

I don’t know what the faux legal-speak in the last sentence means (“strong equity”?) either. But the point here is that the administration is in stalling mode. The current approach, both as to the specific venue and a civilian trial more generally, has proved unworkable and grossly unpopular. Yet at the very time their Justice Department lawyers are under attack, in part for having come up with this screwy recommendation, the administration is loathe to retreat. Their base is semi-unhinged enough (you know, with the coming demise of health care and all), and this is no time to push the netroots over the edge.

Nevertheless, I think we’ll never see KSM in a civilian courtroom. No jurisdiction will want the headache, the public thinks the idea is dangerous, and the logistics (the cost, the potential for acquittal or any punishment less than the death penalty) — which the Justice Department brain trust failed to think through — are daunting. So the president stalls. Like so much else on the Left’s agenda (Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, cap-and-trade), the president will get to it when he gets to it.

Julie Mason of the Washington Examiner picks up on this exchange with Robert Gibbs:

Q: Robert, do you know when we can expect a decision on the KSM trial?

Mr. Gibbs: I don’t expect a decision on that for several or many weeks.

Q: Will it be the president’s decision?

Mr. Gibbs: The president obviously has gotten involved because Congress has actively been involved in venue options for any trial involving Khalid Sheikh Mohammed. The president’s obviously strong equity in this is seeing that after many long years that justice is brought.

I don’t know what the faux legal-speak in the last sentence means (“strong equity”?) either. But the point here is that the administration is in stalling mode. The current approach, both as to the specific venue and a civilian trial more generally, has proved unworkable and grossly unpopular. Yet at the very time their Justice Department lawyers are under attack, in part for having come up with this screwy recommendation, the administration is loathe to retreat. Their base is semi-unhinged enough (you know, with the coming demise of health care and all), and this is no time to push the netroots over the edge.

Nevertheless, I think we’ll never see KSM in a civilian courtroom. No jurisdiction will want the headache, the public thinks the idea is dangerous, and the logistics (the cost, the potential for acquittal or any punishment less than the death penalty) — which the Justice Department brain trust failed to think through — are daunting. So the president stalls. Like so much else on the Left’s agenda (Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, cap-and-trade), the president will get to it when he gets to it.

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