Commentary Magazine


Topic: Doug Schoen

The Chronically Unserious Dana Milbank

Fox News has an unparalleled capacity to cause liberal journalists to say really stupid things. Take the case of the chronically unserious Dana Milbank. (Who can forget this moment?) In his Washington Post column, Milbank opens things this way:

John Boehner, Haley Barbour and other Republican leaders held a “results watch” at the Grand Hyatt in downtown Washington. For a true victory party, you had to go to Fox News.

At Rupert Murdoch’s cable network, the entity that birthed and nurtured the Tea Party movement, Election Day was the culmination of two years of hard work to bring down Barack Obama – and it was time for an on-air celebration of a job well done.

“That’s an earthquake,” exulted Fox’s own Sarah Palin, upon learning the not-unexpected news that Republicans would gain control of the House. “It’s a big darn deal.”

“It’s a comeuppance,” Fox News contributor (and Post columnist) Charles Krauthammer contributed.

“I have one word,” said Sean Hannity. “Historic.”

And Chris Wallace struggled for words. “A gigantic – not a wave election but a tidal wave election,” he envisioned.

This cheerleading on the final day of the 2010 election cycle was to be expected.

It was to be expected, and for a simple reason: what the commentators and reporters on Fox said is indisputable. Even President Obama, himself, referred to the results of the 2010 midterm election as a “shellacking.” And also Milbank’s former Washington Post colleague Howard Kurtz and Ben Smith and Jonathan Martin of Politico used the word “bloodbath” to describe the election. So were Obama, Kurtz, Smith, and Martin “cheerleading” as well? So long as they don’t appear on Fox, the answer seems to be no.

Milbank decided to compound his tendentiousness by willfully misleading readers. Mr. Milbank writes:

The victory party would have to focus on the 60-seat gain Fox projected for Republicans in the House – an enormous win, though not at the upper end of the forecasts. Fox commentator Karl Rove, pleading for “perspective,” said it still qualified as a “blowout evening.” To be fair and balanced, Fox brought in a nominal Democrat, pollster Doug Schoen. “This is a complete repudiation of the Democratic Party,” he proclaimed.

So which Democrats does Milbank leave off this list? How about Bob Beckel, Juan Williams, Kirsten Powers, Geraldo Ferraro, Joe Trippi, and Pat Caddell? Why would Milbank neglect to name any of these individuals? Because it would run counter to the narrative he’s trying to advance. Thomas Huxley referred to such things as “the slaying of a beautiful deduction by an ugly fact.”

The Washington Post publishes some of the finest columnists who have ever graced the pages of an American newspaper. But it also, alas, publishes Dana Milbank.

Fox News has an unparalleled capacity to cause liberal journalists to say really stupid things. Take the case of the chronically unserious Dana Milbank. (Who can forget this moment?) In his Washington Post column, Milbank opens things this way:

John Boehner, Haley Barbour and other Republican leaders held a “results watch” at the Grand Hyatt in downtown Washington. For a true victory party, you had to go to Fox News.

At Rupert Murdoch’s cable network, the entity that birthed and nurtured the Tea Party movement, Election Day was the culmination of two years of hard work to bring down Barack Obama – and it was time for an on-air celebration of a job well done.

“That’s an earthquake,” exulted Fox’s own Sarah Palin, upon learning the not-unexpected news that Republicans would gain control of the House. “It’s a big darn deal.”

“It’s a comeuppance,” Fox News contributor (and Post columnist) Charles Krauthammer contributed.

“I have one word,” said Sean Hannity. “Historic.”

And Chris Wallace struggled for words. “A gigantic – not a wave election but a tidal wave election,” he envisioned.

This cheerleading on the final day of the 2010 election cycle was to be expected.

It was to be expected, and for a simple reason: what the commentators and reporters on Fox said is indisputable. Even President Obama, himself, referred to the results of the 2010 midterm election as a “shellacking.” And also Milbank’s former Washington Post colleague Howard Kurtz and Ben Smith and Jonathan Martin of Politico used the word “bloodbath” to describe the election. So were Obama, Kurtz, Smith, and Martin “cheerleading” as well? So long as they don’t appear on Fox, the answer seems to be no.

Milbank decided to compound his tendentiousness by willfully misleading readers. Mr. Milbank writes:

The victory party would have to focus on the 60-seat gain Fox projected for Republicans in the House – an enormous win, though not at the upper end of the forecasts. Fox commentator Karl Rove, pleading for “perspective,” said it still qualified as a “blowout evening.” To be fair and balanced, Fox brought in a nominal Democrat, pollster Doug Schoen. “This is a complete repudiation of the Democratic Party,” he proclaimed.

So which Democrats does Milbank leave off this list? How about Bob Beckel, Juan Williams, Kirsten Powers, Geraldo Ferraro, Joe Trippi, and Pat Caddell? Why would Milbank neglect to name any of these individuals? Because it would run counter to the narrative he’s trying to advance. Thomas Huxley referred to such things as “the slaying of a beautiful deduction by an ugly fact.”

The Washington Post publishes some of the finest columnists who have ever graced the pages of an American newspaper. But it also, alas, publishes Dana Milbank.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Bill Clinton’s main task is getting people to drop out of Senate races. “Charlie Crist personally called a top adviser to Bill Clinton and asked if the former president would discuss with Kendrick Meek the possibility of dropping out of the Florida Senate race, according to a source close to Clinton.”

The Democrats’ main problem: their side is depressed, and their opponents are fired up. “The latest absentee ballot statistics released this afternoon by the state of Pennsylvania show a strong Republican tilt in the Keystone State, a bad sign for Democratic candidates up and down the ticket. According to the secretary of state’s office, 53,226 absentee ballots have been returned by registered Republicans in Pennsylvania compared with 37,631 by registered Democrats.”

The Dems’ main enemy has been their own agenda. “Regardless of whether the stimulus bill has helped the economy, or even prevented further losses, voters don’t believe the mammoth spending and tax cut bill has helped. And because no House Republicans voted for the bill, the perceived failure is wholly owned by Democrats. But a failed stimulus may have been forgivable, if Democrats had done something else to turn around the jobs picture. Instead, the party moved on to cap and trade and health care. … The party sealed its fate when Democrats cast a Sunday vote to pass health care reform, effectively alienating seniors and male voters. In the end, the 111th Congress has been one of the most effective in recent history. That efficiency, and their accomplishments, will cost them seats.”

Republicans’ main lesson from 2010 should be about candidate selection. Or, as Bill Kristol observed, it “would be nice to have Delaware.”

J Street’s main activity is whining now. Too much partisanship on Israel! Sort of odd for a group that spends its time (when not running interference for Richard Goldstone) attacking AIPAC and conservative pro-Israel supporters. Funny, though its policy director can’t manage to explain what’s wrong with “the Republican Jewish Coalition’s ad against Democratic Senator Barbara Boxer, claiming that she ‘remained silent as the Obama administration pressured Israel and supported Israel’s enemies.'” B0xer hasn’t exactly stood up to the administration on anything, let alone Israel.

The Dems’ main mantra – not Bush! — is problematic. A new poll by Democrat Doug Schoen finds that by a 48-to-43 percent margin, voters think George W. Bush was a better president than Obama. (Umm, Jeb, are you listening?) Nothing like Obama to make the country appreciate his predecessor(s).

The main takeaway from Charlie Cook (subscription required): the House Dems are toast. “It’s now clear that this is largest House playing field since 1994 and Democrats’ losses may well exceed the 52 seats they lost that year. … Democrats can’t blame their losses on money. Democratic messages simply aren’t staving off GOP candidates. Democrats’ strategy of endlessly exploiting opponents’ personal baggage has failed to disqualify Republicans like retired Army Lt. Col. Allen West. … Democratic attempts to portray GOP foes as proponents of three different third rails — outsourcing, the Fair Tax, and Social Security privatization — have had limited success in isolated cases, but have likewise failed to salvage races across the board.”

The White House’s main dilemma: where can Obama do more good than harm? “They could send him to Wisconsin, but the Senate seat appeared to be slipping away despite a recent presidential visit. Maybe Colorado? The Senate contest there was much closer, but it wasn’t clear – given the state’s changing political sentiments – whether a visit by Obama would help. Washington, California and Nevada were out, given that he had just campaigned out West. The advisers easily eliminated West Virginia and Kentucky, two states that were hostile to Obama in the presidential race and have grown even more so.”

Bill Clinton’s main task is getting people to drop out of Senate races. “Charlie Crist personally called a top adviser to Bill Clinton and asked if the former president would discuss with Kendrick Meek the possibility of dropping out of the Florida Senate race, according to a source close to Clinton.”

The Democrats’ main problem: their side is depressed, and their opponents are fired up. “The latest absentee ballot statistics released this afternoon by the state of Pennsylvania show a strong Republican tilt in the Keystone State, a bad sign for Democratic candidates up and down the ticket. According to the secretary of state’s office, 53,226 absentee ballots have been returned by registered Republicans in Pennsylvania compared with 37,631 by registered Democrats.”

The Dems’ main enemy has been their own agenda. “Regardless of whether the stimulus bill has helped the economy, or even prevented further losses, voters don’t believe the mammoth spending and tax cut bill has helped. And because no House Republicans voted for the bill, the perceived failure is wholly owned by Democrats. But a failed stimulus may have been forgivable, if Democrats had done something else to turn around the jobs picture. Instead, the party moved on to cap and trade and health care. … The party sealed its fate when Democrats cast a Sunday vote to pass health care reform, effectively alienating seniors and male voters. In the end, the 111th Congress has been one of the most effective in recent history. That efficiency, and their accomplishments, will cost them seats.”

Republicans’ main lesson from 2010 should be about candidate selection. Or, as Bill Kristol observed, it “would be nice to have Delaware.”

J Street’s main activity is whining now. Too much partisanship on Israel! Sort of odd for a group that spends its time (when not running interference for Richard Goldstone) attacking AIPAC and conservative pro-Israel supporters. Funny, though its policy director can’t manage to explain what’s wrong with “the Republican Jewish Coalition’s ad against Democratic Senator Barbara Boxer, claiming that she ‘remained silent as the Obama administration pressured Israel and supported Israel’s enemies.'” B0xer hasn’t exactly stood up to the administration on anything, let alone Israel.

The Dems’ main mantra – not Bush! — is problematic. A new poll by Democrat Doug Schoen finds that by a 48-to-43 percent margin, voters think George W. Bush was a better president than Obama. (Umm, Jeb, are you listening?) Nothing like Obama to make the country appreciate his predecessor(s).

The main takeaway from Charlie Cook (subscription required): the House Dems are toast. “It’s now clear that this is largest House playing field since 1994 and Democrats’ losses may well exceed the 52 seats they lost that year. … Democrats can’t blame their losses on money. Democratic messages simply aren’t staving off GOP candidates. Democrats’ strategy of endlessly exploiting opponents’ personal baggage has failed to disqualify Republicans like retired Army Lt. Col. Allen West. … Democratic attempts to portray GOP foes as proponents of three different third rails — outsourcing, the Fair Tax, and Social Security privatization — have had limited success in isolated cases, but have likewise failed to salvage races across the board.”

The White House’s main dilemma: where can Obama do more good than harm? “They could send him to Wisconsin, but the Senate seat appeared to be slipping away despite a recent presidential visit. Maybe Colorado? The Senate contest there was much closer, but it wasn’t clear – given the state’s changing political sentiments – whether a visit by Obama would help. Washington, California and Nevada were out, given that he had just campaigned out West. The advisers easily eliminated West Virginia and Kentucky, two states that were hostile to Obama in the presidential race and have grown even more so.”

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Flotsam and Jetsam

CONTENTIONS’ Max Boot takes Obama to task on his deadline for troop withdrawal: “The timeline is a real problem. I see no evidence that it has provided an incentive for the Karzai government to get serious about reform; if anything, it has led Karzai to try to strike deals (with Iran, Pakistan, even the Taliban) as a hedge against American withdrawal. The timeline has reinforced the feeling that the Taliban can wait us out.” Unfortunately, Obama’s Oval office speech reiterated the deadline.

Byron York takes exception to making 9/11 into a community-service day: “Turning it into another AmeriCorps project drains away its meaning, which remains as important today as it was on September 11, 2001 itself.” Well, that’s the objective of the president and those pushing community service.

Democrats don’t take Obama seriously any more. His tax-credit stimulus plan is a bust with his own party. “Even as Mr. Obama sought to unite his party around his political message and his policy agenda, there was evidence that endangered Democrats would go their own ways.” The list of Democratic opponents is sure to grow.

Will the Dems take a position? “Democrats are increasingly likely to punt the huge tax vote until a lame-duck session after the November elections. President Barack Obama is sending mixed messages about his demands, calling for a rollback of the top income tax cuts while stopping short of threatening to veto a compromise bill that would temporarily extend all tax cuts.” And to make sure they don’t have to take a vote, they are fleeing D.C. a week early.

The Washington Post editors take a look at Obama’s Iran policy and find that “the ultimate goal of Mr. Obama’s policy is not limiting Iran’s prosperity but stopping its enrichment of uranium and forcing its compliance with the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. By this measure, the administration has yet to produce tangible results.”

You didn’t take Obama at his word when he said that he would keep down health-care premiums, did you? Good: “Health insurers say they plan to raise premiums for some Americans as a direct result of the health overhaul in coming weeks, complicating Democrats’ efforts to trumpet their signature achievement before the midterm elections. Aetna Inc., some BlueCross BlueShield plans and other smaller carriers have asked for premium increases of between 1% and 9% to pay for extra benefits required under the law, according to filings with state regulators.”

The Cook Report takes a look at ten more Democratic House seats. All are moving the GOP’s way.

It would be nice to have an administration which takes our enemies’ ideological motivations seriously. Leon Panetta pronounces, “The enemy is defined not by any religion, but by their actions — their atrocities. They represent no culture, but rather contempt for all cultures.” This is daft and dangerous, but not unexpected for an administration that excises “Islamic fundamentalism” from its vocabulary

Obama isn’t likely to take Doug Schoen’s advice to heart: “President Obama’s increasingly harsh campaign to revive the sagging fortunes of the Democratic Party is almost certainly going to fail. Instead of attempting to further divide an already polarized America with attacks against the Republicans for both creating the economic problems we now face and failing to propose constructive solutions to them, the president should do what Bill Clinton did in 1995 when he succeeded in winning support from Newt Gingrich and the Republican Congress for a balanced budget.”

CONTENTIONS’ Max Boot takes Obama to task on his deadline for troop withdrawal: “The timeline is a real problem. I see no evidence that it has provided an incentive for the Karzai government to get serious about reform; if anything, it has led Karzai to try to strike deals (with Iran, Pakistan, even the Taliban) as a hedge against American withdrawal. The timeline has reinforced the feeling that the Taliban can wait us out.” Unfortunately, Obama’s Oval office speech reiterated the deadline.

Byron York takes exception to making 9/11 into a community-service day: “Turning it into another AmeriCorps project drains away its meaning, which remains as important today as it was on September 11, 2001 itself.” Well, that’s the objective of the president and those pushing community service.

Democrats don’t take Obama seriously any more. His tax-credit stimulus plan is a bust with his own party. “Even as Mr. Obama sought to unite his party around his political message and his policy agenda, there was evidence that endangered Democrats would go their own ways.” The list of Democratic opponents is sure to grow.

Will the Dems take a position? “Democrats are increasingly likely to punt the huge tax vote until a lame-duck session after the November elections. President Barack Obama is sending mixed messages about his demands, calling for a rollback of the top income tax cuts while stopping short of threatening to veto a compromise bill that would temporarily extend all tax cuts.” And to make sure they don’t have to take a vote, they are fleeing D.C. a week early.

The Washington Post editors take a look at Obama’s Iran policy and find that “the ultimate goal of Mr. Obama’s policy is not limiting Iran’s prosperity but stopping its enrichment of uranium and forcing its compliance with the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. By this measure, the administration has yet to produce tangible results.”

You didn’t take Obama at his word when he said that he would keep down health-care premiums, did you? Good: “Health insurers say they plan to raise premiums for some Americans as a direct result of the health overhaul in coming weeks, complicating Democrats’ efforts to trumpet their signature achievement before the midterm elections. Aetna Inc., some BlueCross BlueShield plans and other smaller carriers have asked for premium increases of between 1% and 9% to pay for extra benefits required under the law, according to filings with state regulators.”

The Cook Report takes a look at ten more Democratic House seats. All are moving the GOP’s way.

It would be nice to have an administration which takes our enemies’ ideological motivations seriously. Leon Panetta pronounces, “The enemy is defined not by any religion, but by their actions — their atrocities. They represent no culture, but rather contempt for all cultures.” This is daft and dangerous, but not unexpected for an administration that excises “Islamic fundamentalism” from its vocabulary

Obama isn’t likely to take Doug Schoen’s advice to heart: “President Obama’s increasingly harsh campaign to revive the sagging fortunes of the Democratic Party is almost certainly going to fail. Instead of attempting to further divide an already polarized America with attacks against the Republicans for both creating the economic problems we now face and failing to propose constructive solutions to them, the president should do what Bill Clinton did in 1995 when he succeeded in winning support from Newt Gingrich and the Republican Congress for a balanced budget.”

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Doug Schoen Predicts

Here‘s Democratic strategist Doug Schoen:

Not only has President Obama systematically put forward unpopular policies and programs that are not producing real, long-lasting results that reflect the wishes of the American people, he has not generated a sense of competence in the electorate.

Indeed, Obama’s judgment and instincts have been called into question by a series of bad decisions since he has become president. Put simply, rather than emphasizing results and outcomes, he has opted for rhetorical parsing and political gamesmanship every time. Voters have grown disillusioned with the administration’s reactive and seemingly hypocritical governing style, in which the notion of unity of command and a cohesive strategy have proved alien.

Schoen concludes this way:

Obama needs to persuade voters that he did stabilize the economy, the banks, the financial system, and the auto industry-and that he has turned around month after month of massive job losses. Moreover, he must compellingly make the case that there has been a consistent strategy, plan, and consistent policy.

Also he must emphasize that he has clear policy prescriptions going forward to balance the budget, reduce spending, and reduce the national debt, while protecting key social programs, as President Clinton was able to do in the mid-to-late ’90s.

Absent that, the Democrats are facing an electoral defeat of potentially unprecedented magnitude.

Obama won’t be able to do what Schoen recommends; we are well past that point. So the fate Schoen fears will likely be visited upon the Democrats in less than 70 days.

Here‘s Democratic strategist Doug Schoen:

Not only has President Obama systematically put forward unpopular policies and programs that are not producing real, long-lasting results that reflect the wishes of the American people, he has not generated a sense of competence in the electorate.

Indeed, Obama’s judgment and instincts have been called into question by a series of bad decisions since he has become president. Put simply, rather than emphasizing results and outcomes, he has opted for rhetorical parsing and political gamesmanship every time. Voters have grown disillusioned with the administration’s reactive and seemingly hypocritical governing style, in which the notion of unity of command and a cohesive strategy have proved alien.

Schoen concludes this way:

Obama needs to persuade voters that he did stabilize the economy, the banks, the financial system, and the auto industry-and that he has turned around month after month of massive job losses. Moreover, he must compellingly make the case that there has been a consistent strategy, plan, and consistent policy.

Also he must emphasize that he has clear policy prescriptions going forward to balance the budget, reduce spending, and reduce the national debt, while protecting key social programs, as President Clinton was able to do in the mid-to-late ’90s.

Absent that, the Democrats are facing an electoral defeat of potentially unprecedented magnitude.

Obama won’t be able to do what Schoen recommends; we are well past that point. So the fate Schoen fears will likely be visited upon the Democrats in less than 70 days.

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The New Republic’s Keith Olbermann

In a story in the Washington Examiner, Stephen Hess, an expert on the presidency at the Brookings Institution, said Robert Gibbs’ remarks attacking the “professional left” shows how “unprepared” many in the Obama administration were for the rigors of the White House. “A lot of things had come too easy for them — a substantial election victory, and an almost messianic moment with the inauguration,” Hess said. “Governing is hard.”

The governing-is-hard theme is something some of us warned about a long time ago. And charting some of Obama’s early missteps caused commentators on the left, such as the New Republic’s Jonathan Chait, enormous irritation. In May 2009 he wrote:

In anticipation of his prophesy coming true, [Wehner’s] blogging for Commentary has become a gleeful chronicle of Obama’s imagined descent into dysfunction and popular repudiation.

Well, now. The “imagined descent” into popular repudiation (and dysfunction, for that matter) is no longer imagined, is it?

Popular repudiation is precisely what Obama and Democrats are experiencing on a scale that is extremely rare — one the may prove to be unprecedented — for a president who has been in office for less than two years.

William Galston, who served in the Clinton administration, has warned his party that it might not only lose the House; its majority in the Senate is endangered, too. And the polarization some of us highlighted early on in Obama’s presidency was in fact on the mark. Chait dismissed the observation at the time, but then came (for Chait) a rather unfortunate Gallup survey released in January 2010, which reported that Barack Obama was the most polarizing first-year president in recorded history.

Now we should keep in mind that Chait is the same individual who, in December 2008, assured his readers that “undiluted liberalism” in the area of health care was hugely popular and that the path to political dominance for Obama and Democrats; and who, in February 2007, wrote that there was “something genuinely bizarre” about those Americans who supported President Bush’s surge strategy in Iraq. “It is not just that they are wrong,” our modern-day Metternich insisted. “It’s that they are completely detached from reality.”

Such detached-from-reality insights continue apace. Earlier this year, for example, Chait wrote:

The perception has formed, perhaps indelibly, that the reason Democrats will get hammered in the 2010 elections is that the party moved too far left in general and tried to reform health care in particular. This perception owes itself, above all, to the habit that political analysts in the media and other outposts of mainstream thought have of ignoring structural factors.

Of course; health-care reform has nothing to do with Obama’s plight or that of the Democratic Party. So sayeth The Great Chait.

Never mind that Peter Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute, analyzes the empirical data and declares that “the health overhaul remains a political loser in most of the country.” Or that Democratic pollster Doug Schoen writes that “recent polling shows that the [health care] bill has been a disaster for the party. … There may well be no single initiative as unpopular as the administration’s health care reform bill.” Or that Charlie Cook, who specializes in election forecasts and political trends, declared earlier this year that from a political perspective, pushing health care was a “colossal miscalculation.” Yet Chait – who doesn’t specialize in election forecasts or political trends – knows better.

And what should we make of the fact that by nearly a 3-to-1 margin, voters in Missouri voters rejected a key provision of President Obama’s health-care law? Easy. “Missouri is not a ‘bellwether’ state right now,” Chait cheerfully informs us. Missouri, you see, has suddenly become Utah. And the individual mandate never was popular, don’t you know?

Chait has been reduced to arguing (ad nauseam) that Obama’s unpopularity has virtually nothing to do with Obama’s policies or his liberal ideology; it has to do with the very bad economy and those darn “structural factors.” Barack Obama is a fantastic president, you see; it’s just too bad the conditions in the country are miserable.

Jonathan has become something of an amusing read. It is not simply watching him try to twist reality to fit his ideological presuppositions, which is amusing enough; it is the whole packaged deal – the adolescent rage, exemplified in his “I hate Bush” rant, the playground taunts, the pretense of governing and policy expertise.

And there is the matter of Chait’s slightly peculiar personal obsessions. For example, he admits that one of his “guilty pleasures” is a “morbid fascination” with me and that one of his “shameful hobbies” is watching the “almost sensual pleasure” taken by me at the coming November elections – with the latter written under the headline “Wehner Throbs with Anticipation.” Now this doesn’t particularly bother me, but perhaps it should bother Mrs. Chait.

The New Republic was once the professional home to some of the nation’s preeminent intellectuals, public figures, and journalists. Today it provides a perch to Jonathan Chait, TNR’s version of Keith Olbermann

In a story in the Washington Examiner, Stephen Hess, an expert on the presidency at the Brookings Institution, said Robert Gibbs’ remarks attacking the “professional left” shows how “unprepared” many in the Obama administration were for the rigors of the White House. “A lot of things had come too easy for them — a substantial election victory, and an almost messianic moment with the inauguration,” Hess said. “Governing is hard.”

The governing-is-hard theme is something some of us warned about a long time ago. And charting some of Obama’s early missteps caused commentators on the left, such as the New Republic’s Jonathan Chait, enormous irritation. In May 2009 he wrote:

In anticipation of his prophesy coming true, [Wehner’s] blogging for Commentary has become a gleeful chronicle of Obama’s imagined descent into dysfunction and popular repudiation.

Well, now. The “imagined descent” into popular repudiation (and dysfunction, for that matter) is no longer imagined, is it?

Popular repudiation is precisely what Obama and Democrats are experiencing on a scale that is extremely rare — one the may prove to be unprecedented — for a president who has been in office for less than two years.

William Galston, who served in the Clinton administration, has warned his party that it might not only lose the House; its majority in the Senate is endangered, too. And the polarization some of us highlighted early on in Obama’s presidency was in fact on the mark. Chait dismissed the observation at the time, but then came (for Chait) a rather unfortunate Gallup survey released in January 2010, which reported that Barack Obama was the most polarizing first-year president in recorded history.

Now we should keep in mind that Chait is the same individual who, in December 2008, assured his readers that “undiluted liberalism” in the area of health care was hugely popular and that the path to political dominance for Obama and Democrats; and who, in February 2007, wrote that there was “something genuinely bizarre” about those Americans who supported President Bush’s surge strategy in Iraq. “It is not just that they are wrong,” our modern-day Metternich insisted. “It’s that they are completely detached from reality.”

Such detached-from-reality insights continue apace. Earlier this year, for example, Chait wrote:

The perception has formed, perhaps indelibly, that the reason Democrats will get hammered in the 2010 elections is that the party moved too far left in general and tried to reform health care in particular. This perception owes itself, above all, to the habit that political analysts in the media and other outposts of mainstream thought have of ignoring structural factors.

Of course; health-care reform has nothing to do with Obama’s plight or that of the Democratic Party. So sayeth The Great Chait.

Never mind that Peter Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute, analyzes the empirical data and declares that “the health overhaul remains a political loser in most of the country.” Or that Democratic pollster Doug Schoen writes that “recent polling shows that the [health care] bill has been a disaster for the party. … There may well be no single initiative as unpopular as the administration’s health care reform bill.” Or that Charlie Cook, who specializes in election forecasts and political trends, declared earlier this year that from a political perspective, pushing health care was a “colossal miscalculation.” Yet Chait – who doesn’t specialize in election forecasts or political trends – knows better.

And what should we make of the fact that by nearly a 3-to-1 margin, voters in Missouri voters rejected a key provision of President Obama’s health-care law? Easy. “Missouri is not a ‘bellwether’ state right now,” Chait cheerfully informs us. Missouri, you see, has suddenly become Utah. And the individual mandate never was popular, don’t you know?

Chait has been reduced to arguing (ad nauseam) that Obama’s unpopularity has virtually nothing to do with Obama’s policies or his liberal ideology; it has to do with the very bad economy and those darn “structural factors.” Barack Obama is a fantastic president, you see; it’s just too bad the conditions in the country are miserable.

Jonathan has become something of an amusing read. It is not simply watching him try to twist reality to fit his ideological presuppositions, which is amusing enough; it is the whole packaged deal – the adolescent rage, exemplified in his “I hate Bush” rant, the playground taunts, the pretense of governing and policy expertise.

And there is the matter of Chait’s slightly peculiar personal obsessions. For example, he admits that one of his “guilty pleasures” is a “morbid fascination” with me and that one of his “shameful hobbies” is watching the “almost sensual pleasure” taken by me at the coming November elections – with the latter written under the headline “Wehner Throbs with Anticipation.” Now this doesn’t particularly bother me, but perhaps it should bother Mrs. Chait.

The New Republic was once the professional home to some of the nation’s preeminent intellectuals, public figures, and journalists. Today it provides a perch to Jonathan Chait, TNR’s version of Keith Olbermann

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It’s the Contempt

Democrats Pat Caddell and Doug Schoen try to sound the warning on ObamaCare:

Their blind persistence in the face of reality threatens to turn this political march of folly into an electoral rout in November. In the wake of the stinging loss in Massachusetts, there was a moment when the president and Democratic leadership seemed to realize the reality of the health-care situation. Yet like some seductive siren of Greek mythology, the lure of health-care reform has arisen again.

Quite simply, Obama has lost, they observe, the public-opinion battle: “If it fails, as appears possible, Democrats will face the brunt of the electorate’s reaction. If it passes, however, Democrats will face a far greater calamitous reaction at the polls. Wishing, praying or pretending will not change these outcomes.”

The polls are wrong or the voters are dolts or they will learn to love it. We’ve heard some variation of each of these excuses over the past year. Perhaps Obama and the Democrats are in denial. But I think it’s more properly seen as contempt. They simply don’t care what voters think, for they know best. That’s the entire premise of ObamaCare. Voters who may be young and healthy can’t be trusted to decide to self-insure or buy cheap, high-deductible plans. Employers can’t be trusted to balance health care, salary, and other employee benefits in deciding how to compensate their employees. Consumers can’t be trusted to shop around from state to state or select the exact sort of plan they need; the government will set “minimum” standards (which include every procedure politicians deem necessary).

So should we be surprised that Democratic politicians are intent on doing this, knowing full well voters don’t want them to? Voters sense when they’re being denigrated, and the results, should ObamaCare pass, will be severe. (“Voters are hardly enthralled with the GOP, but the Democrats are pursuing policies that are out of step with the way ordinary Americans think and feel about politics and government. Barring some change of approach, they will be punished severely at the polls.”) But there’s still time for individual House Democrats to prevent the incineration of their own careers and their party’s fortunes. All they need to do is go home for the recess and ask voters if this is what they want. At each and every turn — three key elections, the August recess, constant polling — the voters have given the same answer. Now the only thing that remains is to see if Nancy Pelosi’s members share her disdain for what their constituents think.

Democrats Pat Caddell and Doug Schoen try to sound the warning on ObamaCare:

Their blind persistence in the face of reality threatens to turn this political march of folly into an electoral rout in November. In the wake of the stinging loss in Massachusetts, there was a moment when the president and Democratic leadership seemed to realize the reality of the health-care situation. Yet like some seductive siren of Greek mythology, the lure of health-care reform has arisen again.

Quite simply, Obama has lost, they observe, the public-opinion battle: “If it fails, as appears possible, Democrats will face the brunt of the electorate’s reaction. If it passes, however, Democrats will face a far greater calamitous reaction at the polls. Wishing, praying or pretending will not change these outcomes.”

The polls are wrong or the voters are dolts or they will learn to love it. We’ve heard some variation of each of these excuses over the past year. Perhaps Obama and the Democrats are in denial. But I think it’s more properly seen as contempt. They simply don’t care what voters think, for they know best. That’s the entire premise of ObamaCare. Voters who may be young and healthy can’t be trusted to decide to self-insure or buy cheap, high-deductible plans. Employers can’t be trusted to balance health care, salary, and other employee benefits in deciding how to compensate their employees. Consumers can’t be trusted to shop around from state to state or select the exact sort of plan they need; the government will set “minimum” standards (which include every procedure politicians deem necessary).

So should we be surprised that Democratic politicians are intent on doing this, knowing full well voters don’t want them to? Voters sense when they’re being denigrated, and the results, should ObamaCare pass, will be severe. (“Voters are hardly enthralled with the GOP, but the Democrats are pursuing policies that are out of step with the way ordinary Americans think and feel about politics and government. Barring some change of approach, they will be punished severely at the polls.”) But there’s still time for individual House Democrats to prevent the incineration of their own careers and their party’s fortunes. All they need to do is go home for the recess and ask voters if this is what they want. At each and every turn — three key elections, the August recess, constant polling — the voters have given the same answer. Now the only thing that remains is to see if Nancy Pelosi’s members share her disdain for what their constituents think.

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Tuning Obama Out

Scott Rasmussen and Doug Schoen explain why ObamaCare seems to be stalling. Apparently, the president can’t “move the numbers” — that is, the anti-ObamaCare polling results:

One reason may be that he keeps talking about details of the proposal while voters are looking at the issue in a broader context. Polling conducted earlier this week shows that 57% of voters believe that passage of the legislation would hurt the economy, while only 25% believe it would help. That makes sense in a nation where most voters believe that increases in government spending are bad for the economy.

When the president responds that the plan is deficit neutral, he runs into a pair of basic problems. The first is that voters think reducing spending is more important than reducing the deficit. So a plan that is deficit neutral with a big spending hike is not going to be well received.

Moreover, the public doesn’t believe Obama’s spin that the plan is deficit neutral. (“People in Washington may live and die by the pronouncements of the Congressional Budget Office, but 81% of voters say it’s likely the plan will end up costing more than projected. Only 10% say the official numbers are likely to be on target.”) It seems that none of what Obama is saying is penetrating to the voters. But then again, they really don’t want him to be focusing on this at all.

The bottom line is this:

The reason President Obama can’t move the numbers and build public support is because the fundamentals are stacked against him. Most voters believe the current plan will harm the economy, cost more than projected, raise the cost of care, and lead to higher middle-class taxes.

Thus, in a sense, the president’s spinners are right when they say the president has a “communications” problem. In spite of — or is it because of ? — his incessant hammering at the same points, the public doesn’t buy what he’s selling. It sounds better to call it a communications problem, as if there were a technical problem with the microphones and satellite dishes at the White House. But it’s more properly thought of as a credibility problem. Obama says X; the public thinks X isn’t true. The numbers don’t move.

Here’s the acid test for whether it’s the communications or the message that’s faulty: come up with another approach. If Obama scrapped his plan, came up with a bare bones set of reforms, and tried selling that, we’d see whether the real issue here is the communications or the massive tax-and-spend plan being foisted on the public.

Scott Rasmussen and Doug Schoen explain why ObamaCare seems to be stalling. Apparently, the president can’t “move the numbers” — that is, the anti-ObamaCare polling results:

One reason may be that he keeps talking about details of the proposal while voters are looking at the issue in a broader context. Polling conducted earlier this week shows that 57% of voters believe that passage of the legislation would hurt the economy, while only 25% believe it would help. That makes sense in a nation where most voters believe that increases in government spending are bad for the economy.

When the president responds that the plan is deficit neutral, he runs into a pair of basic problems. The first is that voters think reducing spending is more important than reducing the deficit. So a plan that is deficit neutral with a big spending hike is not going to be well received.

Moreover, the public doesn’t believe Obama’s spin that the plan is deficit neutral. (“People in Washington may live and die by the pronouncements of the Congressional Budget Office, but 81% of voters say it’s likely the plan will end up costing more than projected. Only 10% say the official numbers are likely to be on target.”) It seems that none of what Obama is saying is penetrating to the voters. But then again, they really don’t want him to be focusing on this at all.

The bottom line is this:

The reason President Obama can’t move the numbers and build public support is because the fundamentals are stacked against him. Most voters believe the current plan will harm the economy, cost more than projected, raise the cost of care, and lead to higher middle-class taxes.

Thus, in a sense, the president’s spinners are right when they say the president has a “communications” problem. In spite of — or is it because of ? — his incessant hammering at the same points, the public doesn’t buy what he’s selling. It sounds better to call it a communications problem, as if there were a technical problem with the microphones and satellite dishes at the White House. But it’s more properly thought of as a credibility problem. Obama says X; the public thinks X isn’t true. The numbers don’t move.

Here’s the acid test for whether it’s the communications or the message that’s faulty: come up with another approach. If Obama scrapped his plan, came up with a bare bones set of reforms, and tried selling that, we’d see whether the real issue here is the communications or the massive tax-and-spend plan being foisted on the public.

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Obama and the Virtues of Kowtowing

Reading the Washington Post‘s survey of Asia experts’ opinions on Obama’s swing through the region, I was struck by the general consensus that the trip was a failure. You would expect to hear such a view from conservatives like Misha Auslin and Dani Pletka at AEI, Michael Green at CSIS, or Victor Cha at Georgetown. But what’s striking is that this was also the view of liberals like Doug Schoen, the Democratic pollster, who writes, “President Obama was unable to secure any lasting agreements on climate change, free trade, revaluing the Chinese currency, or, most important, sanctions on Iran and North Korea…. The president’s failure to achieve any concrete results will impact his standing back at home and in his dealings with Congress over health care.”

Then there is the assessment of my Council on Foreign Relations colleague Liz Economy, another Democrat who offers an unvarnished assessment of this Democratic president’s foray abroad:

It was, optically, one of the worst U.S. presidential visits to Beijing in memory. … Lots of talk, little action — just the way the Chinese like it. Although I’d like to back the president, I’d place my own bet that being nice to the Chinese leadership isn’t going to get us very far. It never has.

Perhaps, just perhaps, the president will take some of these criticisms to heart and rethink the virtues of kowtowing before his next expedition abroad.

Reading the Washington Post‘s survey of Asia experts’ opinions on Obama’s swing through the region, I was struck by the general consensus that the trip was a failure. You would expect to hear such a view from conservatives like Misha Auslin and Dani Pletka at AEI, Michael Green at CSIS, or Victor Cha at Georgetown. But what’s striking is that this was also the view of liberals like Doug Schoen, the Democratic pollster, who writes, “President Obama was unable to secure any lasting agreements on climate change, free trade, revaluing the Chinese currency, or, most important, sanctions on Iran and North Korea…. The president’s failure to achieve any concrete results will impact his standing back at home and in his dealings with Congress over health care.”

Then there is the assessment of my Council on Foreign Relations colleague Liz Economy, another Democrat who offers an unvarnished assessment of this Democratic president’s foray abroad:

It was, optically, one of the worst U.S. presidential visits to Beijing in memory. … Lots of talk, little action — just the way the Chinese like it. Although I’d like to back the president, I’d place my own bet that being nice to the Chinese leadership isn’t going to get us very far. It never has.

Perhaps, just perhaps, the president will take some of these criticisms to heart and rethink the virtues of kowtowing before his next expedition abroad.

Read Less




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