Commentary Magazine


Topic: Ed Gillespie

Flotsam and Jetsam

Finally we get “not only the authoritative takedown of ‘Fair Game,’ Douglas Liman’s meretricious cinematic hagiography of Valerie Plame and Joe Wilson, but also the essential case, laid out with amazing meticulousness, for a presidential pardon for Scooter Libby.”

No final tally yet for Republicans in the House. From the Cook Political Report (subscription required): “Overall, Republicans have captured 238 seats, Democrats have won 189 seats, and eight still hang in the balance. We expect each party to win three of these seats, while the two New York races (NY-01 and NY-25) are genuinely too close to call. Depending on the final outcome of these contests, Republicans are likely to have scored a net gain of between 62 and 64 seats in the House, the most in a midterm since 1938.”

The final act for Michael Steele? “As he contemplates running for a second term, Republican National Committee chairman Michael Steele is on the verge of losing his coalition of supporters. Even some of those closest to the controversial chairman have begun urging him to step aside. … Meanwhile, a group of prominent Republicans led by Karl Rove and Ed Gillespie are searching for a consensus candidate capable of defeating Steele. Though they have not settled on a challenger, and in fact are unlikely to find a consensus choice, strategists who both support and oppose Steele say coalitions are forming now to deny Steele a second term.” Excuse me, but why not Ed Gillespie himself?

The final Senate race is nearly decided. “Sen. Lisa Murkowski is well on her way to pulling off a stunning upset victory in the Alaska Senate race after one day of counting write-in votes, despite Republican nominee Joe Miller’s legal challenges to the process. Murkowski took nearly 98 percent of the 19,203 write-in ballots counted Wednesday, with more than 8 percent of those awarded to her after an initial challenge by Miller over voters’ spelling abilities was thrown out.”

COMMENTARY contributor Jamie Kirchick finally puts to rest the notion that “reset” has paid dividends for us. “The initial appeal of Russia’s assistance — that the country has knowledge of Afghanistan thanks to its own, decade-long engagement — is belied by its brutal record. … Moreover, the actual Russian commitment is small. … More important than any of these factors, however, is the cynical way in which Moscow will use its paltry assistance to the [International Security Assistance Force] as leverage with the West in negotiations over other matters, from NATO expansion to human rights to missile defense.” Read the whole thing, which should be entitled “How Putin Took Obama to the Cleaners.”

Christine O’Donnell may finally be seeking a job for which she is well-suited. It seems there is a reality-show opportunity. Perrrrrfect.

Was Obama’s tinkering with the gulf-oil-spill report the final straw for the principled left? “The oil spill that damaged the Gulf of Mexico’s reefs and wetlands is also threatening to stain the Obama administration’s reputation for relying on science to guide policy. Academics, environmentalists and federal investigators have accused the administration since the April spill of downplaying scientific findings, misrepresenting data and most recently misconstruing the opinions of experts it solicited.”

The final figures for another failed government subsidy are in. Not good: “Any possible housing market recovery hit a snag during the three months ended September 30, as a government tax credit for homebuyers wound down. Home prices fell only slightly during the quarter, according to a report from the National Association of Realtors (NAR), but the number of homes sold plummeted more than 25%, compared with the previous quarter.”

This will not be the final foreign-policy rebuff. “For President Obama, the last-minute failure to seal a trade deal with South Korea that would expand American exports of automobiles and beef is an embarrassing setback that deprives him of a foreign policy trophy and demonstrates how the midterm elections may have weakened his position abroad.”

Finally we get “not only the authoritative takedown of ‘Fair Game,’ Douglas Liman’s meretricious cinematic hagiography of Valerie Plame and Joe Wilson, but also the essential case, laid out with amazing meticulousness, for a presidential pardon for Scooter Libby.”

No final tally yet for Republicans in the House. From the Cook Political Report (subscription required): “Overall, Republicans have captured 238 seats, Democrats have won 189 seats, and eight still hang in the balance. We expect each party to win three of these seats, while the two New York races (NY-01 and NY-25) are genuinely too close to call. Depending on the final outcome of these contests, Republicans are likely to have scored a net gain of between 62 and 64 seats in the House, the most in a midterm since 1938.”

The final act for Michael Steele? “As he contemplates running for a second term, Republican National Committee chairman Michael Steele is on the verge of losing his coalition of supporters. Even some of those closest to the controversial chairman have begun urging him to step aside. … Meanwhile, a group of prominent Republicans led by Karl Rove and Ed Gillespie are searching for a consensus candidate capable of defeating Steele. Though they have not settled on a challenger, and in fact are unlikely to find a consensus choice, strategists who both support and oppose Steele say coalitions are forming now to deny Steele a second term.” Excuse me, but why not Ed Gillespie himself?

The final Senate race is nearly decided. “Sen. Lisa Murkowski is well on her way to pulling off a stunning upset victory in the Alaska Senate race after one day of counting write-in votes, despite Republican nominee Joe Miller’s legal challenges to the process. Murkowski took nearly 98 percent of the 19,203 write-in ballots counted Wednesday, with more than 8 percent of those awarded to her after an initial challenge by Miller over voters’ spelling abilities was thrown out.”

COMMENTARY contributor Jamie Kirchick finally puts to rest the notion that “reset” has paid dividends for us. “The initial appeal of Russia’s assistance — that the country has knowledge of Afghanistan thanks to its own, decade-long engagement — is belied by its brutal record. … Moreover, the actual Russian commitment is small. … More important than any of these factors, however, is the cynical way in which Moscow will use its paltry assistance to the [International Security Assistance Force] as leverage with the West in negotiations over other matters, from NATO expansion to human rights to missile defense.” Read the whole thing, which should be entitled “How Putin Took Obama to the Cleaners.”

Christine O’Donnell may finally be seeking a job for which she is well-suited. It seems there is a reality-show opportunity. Perrrrrfect.

Was Obama’s tinkering with the gulf-oil-spill report the final straw for the principled left? “The oil spill that damaged the Gulf of Mexico’s reefs and wetlands is also threatening to stain the Obama administration’s reputation for relying on science to guide policy. Academics, environmentalists and federal investigators have accused the administration since the April spill of downplaying scientific findings, misrepresenting data and most recently misconstruing the opinions of experts it solicited.”

The final figures for another failed government subsidy are in. Not good: “Any possible housing market recovery hit a snag during the three months ended September 30, as a government tax credit for homebuyers wound down. Home prices fell only slightly during the quarter, according to a report from the National Association of Realtors (NAR), but the number of homes sold plummeted more than 25%, compared with the previous quarter.”

This will not be the final foreign-policy rebuff. “For President Obama, the last-minute failure to seal a trade deal with South Korea that would expand American exports of automobiles and beef is an embarrassing setback that deprives him of a foreign policy trophy and demonstrates how the midterm elections may have weakened his position abroad.”

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Independent Voters Turn Right

Many of us argued that the most important political fact of the past two years has been the massive defections among independent voters from President Obama and his party. This judgment was confirmed by a new poll from Resurgent Republic. According to a memorandum by Ed Gillespie, Whit Ayres, and Leslie Sanchez:

The 2010 mid-term election was a stunning rebuke to the Obama Administration and Democrats in Congress. Much of that rebuke was driven by Independents, who comprised 28 percent of the electorate and supported Republican congressional candidates by the overwhelming margin of 56 to 38 percent. That represents a dramatic 36-point turnaround from the last mid-term election in 2006, when Independents supported Democratic congressional candidates by 57 to 39 percent. Given that an equal percentage of Democrats and Republicans voted in 2010 (36 percent), these Independent voters clearly played a decisive role in the Republican gains.

They go on to say:

Our 2010 post-election survey, conducted jointly with Democracy Corps, demonstrates clearly how Independent voters are now far closer to Republicans than Democrats on their outlook on the direction of the country, their attitudes about its political leadership, and their policy preferences.

The internal numbers in this poll are simply devastating for Democrats. And the central political challenge for the GOP in the next two years is whether it can maintain, and perhaps even deepen, its support among independents. For now, though, the turnabout has been stunning.

Many of us argued that the most important political fact of the past two years has been the massive defections among independent voters from President Obama and his party. This judgment was confirmed by a new poll from Resurgent Republic. According to a memorandum by Ed Gillespie, Whit Ayres, and Leslie Sanchez:

The 2010 mid-term election was a stunning rebuke to the Obama Administration and Democrats in Congress. Much of that rebuke was driven by Independents, who comprised 28 percent of the electorate and supported Republican congressional candidates by the overwhelming margin of 56 to 38 percent. That represents a dramatic 36-point turnaround from the last mid-term election in 2006, when Independents supported Democratic congressional candidates by 57 to 39 percent. Given that an equal percentage of Democrats and Republicans voted in 2010 (36 percent), these Independent voters clearly played a decisive role in the Republican gains.

They go on to say:

Our 2010 post-election survey, conducted jointly with Democracy Corps, demonstrates clearly how Independent voters are now far closer to Republicans than Democrats on their outlook on the direction of the country, their attitudes about its political leadership, and their policy preferences.

The internal numbers in this poll are simply devastating for Democrats. And the central political challenge for the GOP in the next two years is whether it can maintain, and perhaps even deepen, its support among independents. For now, though, the turnabout has been stunning.

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All the President’s Enemies

I had lunch yesterday with a long-time friend who is intelligent, well informed, and a life-long Democrat. In the course of our conversation I asked for his reaction to what the president said on Univision.

If Latinos sit out the election instead of saying, “We’re going to punish our enemies and we’re going to reward our friends who stand with us on issues that are important to us,” if they don’t see that kind of upsurge in voting in this election, then I think it’s going to be harder.

Given how out of sync the president’s words have been, compared with his high-minded campaign rhetoric, I asked my friend, “Help me to decode Obama.” I wanted to hear his perspective as someone who had invested great hopes in the president.

His response was arresting: “He’s ruthless.” My friend proceeded to tell me that Obama should be understood in the context of the Chicago Way.

This exchange was revealing on several levels. First, my friend’s disenchantment with the president is nearly off the charts. He told me he was as disappointed in Obama as he has ever been in a politician, to the point that on Tuesday he’s going to vote for almost a straight Republican ticket. Many more voters will undergo this same reversal of preferences come Tuesday, which is one reason why it will be a brutal night for the Democrats.

Second, Obama’s rhetoric — using the word “enemy” to describe members of the opposition party — has become nearly unhinged. For Obama there are, it seems, no honest or honorable critics; they are all dishonest, dishonorable, operating in bad faith, and now, apparently, out-and-out enemies. Mr. Obama’s rhetoric is more scorching toward Republicans than it is toward Mahmoud Ahmadinejad or Kim Jong-Il.

What Obama said on Univision is simply the latest in a massive and increasingly wearisome smear campaign aimed at Obama’s critics (the Chamber of Commerce, Fox News, conservative talk radio, Karl Rove and Ed Gillespie, the Tea Party movement, critics of ObamaCare, the Supreme Court, the state of Arizona, etc.). As Democrats reach the last stretch of this campaign, invective is almost all they have to offer. And as the magnitude of the impending defeat on Tuesday sinks in, Obama is becoming more brittle, more small-minded, and more mean-spirited.

What makes this stand out all the more, of course, is that Obama is the man whose campaign, at its very core, was the antithesis to these sorts of attacks. During his inaugural address, for example, Obama said this:

On this day, we come to proclaim an end to the petty grievances and false promises, the recriminations and worn-out dogmas that for far too long have strangled our politics. We remain a young nation, but in the words of Scripture, the time has come to set aside childish things.

These are moving words and, like so much of what Obama said during the campaign, they turned out to be empty ones.

The president is right; the Scriptures do say to put away childish things. They also say by your fruits ye will be known. That is precisely Barack Obama’s problem.

I had lunch yesterday with a long-time friend who is intelligent, well informed, and a life-long Democrat. In the course of our conversation I asked for his reaction to what the president said on Univision.

If Latinos sit out the election instead of saying, “We’re going to punish our enemies and we’re going to reward our friends who stand with us on issues that are important to us,” if they don’t see that kind of upsurge in voting in this election, then I think it’s going to be harder.

Given how out of sync the president’s words have been, compared with his high-minded campaign rhetoric, I asked my friend, “Help me to decode Obama.” I wanted to hear his perspective as someone who had invested great hopes in the president.

His response was arresting: “He’s ruthless.” My friend proceeded to tell me that Obama should be understood in the context of the Chicago Way.

This exchange was revealing on several levels. First, my friend’s disenchantment with the president is nearly off the charts. He told me he was as disappointed in Obama as he has ever been in a politician, to the point that on Tuesday he’s going to vote for almost a straight Republican ticket. Many more voters will undergo this same reversal of preferences come Tuesday, which is one reason why it will be a brutal night for the Democrats.

Second, Obama’s rhetoric — using the word “enemy” to describe members of the opposition party — has become nearly unhinged. For Obama there are, it seems, no honest or honorable critics; they are all dishonest, dishonorable, operating in bad faith, and now, apparently, out-and-out enemies. Mr. Obama’s rhetoric is more scorching toward Republicans than it is toward Mahmoud Ahmadinejad or Kim Jong-Il.

What Obama said on Univision is simply the latest in a massive and increasingly wearisome smear campaign aimed at Obama’s critics (the Chamber of Commerce, Fox News, conservative talk radio, Karl Rove and Ed Gillespie, the Tea Party movement, critics of ObamaCare, the Supreme Court, the state of Arizona, etc.). As Democrats reach the last stretch of this campaign, invective is almost all they have to offer. And as the magnitude of the impending defeat on Tuesday sinks in, Obama is becoming more brittle, more small-minded, and more mean-spirited.

What makes this stand out all the more, of course, is that Obama is the man whose campaign, at its very core, was the antithesis to these sorts of attacks. During his inaugural address, for example, Obama said this:

On this day, we come to proclaim an end to the petty grievances and false promises, the recriminations and worn-out dogmas that for far too long have strangled our politics. We remain a young nation, but in the words of Scripture, the time has come to set aside childish things.

These are moving words and, like so much of what Obama said during the campaign, they turned out to be empty ones.

The president is right; the Scriptures do say to put away childish things. They also say by your fruits ye will be known. That is precisely Barack Obama’s problem.

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Abuse of Power

It is astonishing, really.

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

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

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

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It is astonishing, really.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Worst press secretary in recent memory? Chris Cillizza says he is at least the winner of the “worst week” designation: “It took only 17 words ['there is no doubt there are enough seats in play that could cause Republicans to gain control' of the House] for White House press secretary Robert Gibbs to set off the circular firing squad. … Republicans, meanwhile, could barely contain their glee at seeing their message — ‘We can take the House back, really, we can’ — seconded by the official White House mouthpiece.”

Worst Middle East diplomacy rebuke to date? “Fatah spokesperson Muhammad Dahlan announced that Fatah had rejected the U.S.’s offer Saturday to broker direct talks between Israel and the Palestinian Authority.”

Worst political advice to Obama? Mark Penn suggests: “Between now and the midterms, the administration has to focus on what it can do to provide a sense of economic recovery. Perhaps the best arena for that is in an energy bill that creates a wide array of incentives to produce new forms of energy.” You understand how Hillary lost the nomination.

Worst column ever from James Fallows? He hopes Dick Cheney recovers so he can change his mind and undermine all his prior views.

Worst political problem for Obama? Howard Fineman says it’s the loss of independent voters: “The Democrats’ support among this group has fallen to as low as 35 percent in some polls. The reasons are clear. They do not believe that Obama’s actions have produced results — and for these practical voters, nothing else matters. The $787 billion stimulus bill is widely regarded as an expensive, unfocused dud, even when measured against the cautious claims the Obama camp originally made for it. Health-care reform remains, for most voters, a 2,000-page, impenetrable, and largely irrelevant mystery. The BP oil spill has hurt Obama’s ability to fend off GOP charges that he’s ineffective as a leader.”

Worst thing Israel could do regarding Iran? In a definitive analysis of Israel’s options, Reuel Marc Gerecht argues it would be to do nothing: “Without a raid, if the Iranians get the bomb, Europe’s appeasement reflex will kick in and the EU sanctions regime will collapse, leaving the Americans alone to contain the Islamic Republic. Most of the Gulf Arabs will probably kowtow to Persia, having more fear of Iran than confidence in the defensive assurances of the United States. And Sunni Arabs who don’t view an Iranian bomb as a plus for the Muslim world will, at daunting speed, become much more interested in ‘nuclear energy’; the Saudis, who likely helped Islamabad go nuclear, will just call in their chits with the Pakistani military.” The best option, of course, would be for the U.S. to act, but that seems unlikely.

Worst time to have an electoral wipe-out? In a Census year: “Big Republican gains in November [in state legislative races] could have lasting consequences. Legislators elected in the fall will redraw congressional boundaries next year. Control over the redistricting process could sway outcomes in dozens of districts over the next decade. ‘If you’re going to have a good year, have it in a year that ends in zero,’ says Ed Gillespie, a former Republican Party chairman who is heading up the GOP’s state-level efforts this year.”

Worst Justice Department in history? No contest. The latest: “One of the nation’s leading producers of X-rated videos, John Stagliano, was acquitted on federal obscenity charges Friday afternoon after a series of stumbles by the prosecution. U.S. District Court Judge Richard Leon ordered the acquittal of Stagliano and two companies related to his Evil Angel studio on a defense motion before the defense presented any rebuttal to several days of evidence from the Justice Department. Leon called the government’s case ‘woefully lacking’ or ‘woefully inadequate,’ depending on whose account you follow.”

Worst press secretary in recent memory? Chris Cillizza says he is at least the winner of the “worst week” designation: “It took only 17 words ['there is no doubt there are enough seats in play that could cause Republicans to gain control' of the House] for White House press secretary Robert Gibbs to set off the circular firing squad. … Republicans, meanwhile, could barely contain their glee at seeing their message — ‘We can take the House back, really, we can’ — seconded by the official White House mouthpiece.”

Worst Middle East diplomacy rebuke to date? “Fatah spokesperson Muhammad Dahlan announced that Fatah had rejected the U.S.’s offer Saturday to broker direct talks between Israel and the Palestinian Authority.”

Worst political advice to Obama? Mark Penn suggests: “Between now and the midterms, the administration has to focus on what it can do to provide a sense of economic recovery. Perhaps the best arena for that is in an energy bill that creates a wide array of incentives to produce new forms of energy.” You understand how Hillary lost the nomination.

Worst column ever from James Fallows? He hopes Dick Cheney recovers so he can change his mind and undermine all his prior views.

Worst political problem for Obama? Howard Fineman says it’s the loss of independent voters: “The Democrats’ support among this group has fallen to as low as 35 percent in some polls. The reasons are clear. They do not believe that Obama’s actions have produced results — and for these practical voters, nothing else matters. The $787 billion stimulus bill is widely regarded as an expensive, unfocused dud, even when measured against the cautious claims the Obama camp originally made for it. Health-care reform remains, for most voters, a 2,000-page, impenetrable, and largely irrelevant mystery. The BP oil spill has hurt Obama’s ability to fend off GOP charges that he’s ineffective as a leader.”

Worst thing Israel could do regarding Iran? In a definitive analysis of Israel’s options, Reuel Marc Gerecht argues it would be to do nothing: “Without a raid, if the Iranians get the bomb, Europe’s appeasement reflex will kick in and the EU sanctions regime will collapse, leaving the Americans alone to contain the Islamic Republic. Most of the Gulf Arabs will probably kowtow to Persia, having more fear of Iran than confidence in the defensive assurances of the United States. And Sunni Arabs who don’t view an Iranian bomb as a plus for the Muslim world will, at daunting speed, become much more interested in ‘nuclear energy’; the Saudis, who likely helped Islamabad go nuclear, will just call in their chits with the Pakistani military.” The best option, of course, would be for the U.S. to act, but that seems unlikely.

Worst time to have an electoral wipe-out? In a Census year: “Big Republican gains in November [in state legislative races] could have lasting consequences. Legislators elected in the fall will redraw congressional boundaries next year. Control over the redistricting process could sway outcomes in dozens of districts over the next decade. ‘If you’re going to have a good year, have it in a year that ends in zero,’ says Ed Gillespie, a former Republican Party chairman who is heading up the GOP’s state-level efforts this year.”

Worst Justice Department in history? No contest. The latest: “One of the nation’s leading producers of X-rated videos, John Stagliano, was acquitted on federal obscenity charges Friday afternoon after a series of stumbles by the prosecution. U.S. District Court Judge Richard Leon ordered the acquittal of Stagliano and two companies related to his Evil Angel studio on a defense motion before the defense presented any rebuttal to several days of evidence from the Justice Department. Leon called the government’s case ‘woefully lacking’ or ‘woefully inadequate,’ depending on whose account you follow.”

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No Waste of Time

Both before and after the health-care summit there were those on the Left and on the Right who declared it to be a “waste of time.” On a superficial level this might be the case. After all, there was no agreement reached and no breakthrough moment (unless we are talking about the emergence of Rep. Paul Ryan as an impressive new conservative figure). But when  one considers what the summit revealed, the “waste of time” complainers — I think — have it quite wrong, and the complaint reveals much about the complainers.

On the Left many have lost patience with discussion and with democracy itself. The problem, they have convinced themselves, is that Obama isn’t rude and bullying enough. No, really. Dana Milbank encapsulates the thinking:

But now, the world’s most powerful man too often plays the 98-pound weakling; he gets sand kicked in his face and responds with moot-court zingers. That’s what Mr. Cool did at the White House health-care summit on Thursday. For seven hours, he racked up debating points as he parried Republican attacks without so much as raising his voice, but the performance didn’t exactly intimidate his foes.

Actually he tried to bully the Republicans, hog the time, put down John McCain, and glare at Ryan — but he simply failed to out- debate and outshine his opponents, whose demeanor and fluidity trumped his own.

The Left doesn’t want debate in the Senate either. They want this muscled through by reconciliation. The time for debate is over, they keep saying, because — of course — they have lost the debate.

On the Right many didn’t want the summit and some grouched about it afterward. They seem to be in perpetual fear that Obama might actually make some headway with the public, or that the Republicans might reveal themselves to be what their critics accuse them of being — dull-witted, ill-informed, and unattractive. But the Republicans proved to be none of those things and Obama had a surly outing.

The aversion to making a detailed defense in a less than ideal setting is an unfortunate inclination of some on the Right. Listen, they are in the minority; so no setting other than a national convention in which they micromanage everything will be ideal. Politics requires that you show up to do battle in whatever setting you find yourself, so as to convince the persuadable, rally your side, and knock your opponents on their heels.

The “waste of time” set on the Right forget the necessity of explaining again and again the “why” behind conservative principles and values. Following the gubernatorial campaign of Bob McDonnell, his chairman Ed Gillespie explained to me why McDonnell was such an effective candidate:

We say we are for lower taxes. Vote for us, damn it! Figure it out! Bob explains he is for lower taxes because he wants to encourage more businesses and jobs. He is for charter schools because it makes all schools better. He is for offshore drilling because it can help plug the revenue hole and generate high-paying jobs. He spent a lot of time talking to independent voters about what is in it for them.

Conservatives make the mistake of assuming that the generally Center-Right country doesn’t need to be told why the liberal approach (be it on health care or other issues) is flawed; they wrongly assume that everyone understands that when the government federalizes health care, regulates and taxes insurance and the rest, bad things will result. The health-care summit was a reminder of the importance of explaining one’s positions in sober, concrete terms to the American people.

The health-care summit didn’t turn out to be a waste of time. The country learned a lot about its president (mostly not favorable), about what’s wrong with ObamaCare, about the Republicans (mostly favorable), and about the Democratic congressional leadership  (mostly awful to the point of being cringe-inducing). Compared to most of what politicians do, you would be hard pressed to find a better use of their time.

Both before and after the health-care summit there were those on the Left and on the Right who declared it to be a “waste of time.” On a superficial level this might be the case. After all, there was no agreement reached and no breakthrough moment (unless we are talking about the emergence of Rep. Paul Ryan as an impressive new conservative figure). But when  one considers what the summit revealed, the “waste of time” complainers — I think — have it quite wrong, and the complaint reveals much about the complainers.

On the Left many have lost patience with discussion and with democracy itself. The problem, they have convinced themselves, is that Obama isn’t rude and bullying enough. No, really. Dana Milbank encapsulates the thinking:

But now, the world’s most powerful man too often plays the 98-pound weakling; he gets sand kicked in his face and responds with moot-court zingers. That’s what Mr. Cool did at the White House health-care summit on Thursday. For seven hours, he racked up debating points as he parried Republican attacks without so much as raising his voice, but the performance didn’t exactly intimidate his foes.

Actually he tried to bully the Republicans, hog the time, put down John McCain, and glare at Ryan — but he simply failed to out- debate and outshine his opponents, whose demeanor and fluidity trumped his own.

The Left doesn’t want debate in the Senate either. They want this muscled through by reconciliation. The time for debate is over, they keep saying, because — of course — they have lost the debate.

On the Right many didn’t want the summit and some grouched about it afterward. They seem to be in perpetual fear that Obama might actually make some headway with the public, or that the Republicans might reveal themselves to be what their critics accuse them of being — dull-witted, ill-informed, and unattractive. But the Republicans proved to be none of those things and Obama had a surly outing.

The aversion to making a detailed defense in a less than ideal setting is an unfortunate inclination of some on the Right. Listen, they are in the minority; so no setting other than a national convention in which they micromanage everything will be ideal. Politics requires that you show up to do battle in whatever setting you find yourself, so as to convince the persuadable, rally your side, and knock your opponents on their heels.

The “waste of time” set on the Right forget the necessity of explaining again and again the “why” behind conservative principles and values. Following the gubernatorial campaign of Bob McDonnell, his chairman Ed Gillespie explained to me why McDonnell was such an effective candidate:

We say we are for lower taxes. Vote for us, damn it! Figure it out! Bob explains he is for lower taxes because he wants to encourage more businesses and jobs. He is for charter schools because it makes all schools better. He is for offshore drilling because it can help plug the revenue hole and generate high-paying jobs. He spent a lot of time talking to independent voters about what is in it for them.

Conservatives make the mistake of assuming that the generally Center-Right country doesn’t need to be told why the liberal approach (be it on health care or other issues) is flawed; they wrongly assume that everyone understands that when the government federalizes health care, regulates and taxes insurance and the rest, bad things will result. The health-care summit was a reminder of the importance of explaining one’s positions in sober, concrete terms to the American people.

The health-care summit didn’t turn out to be a waste of time. The country learned a lot about its president (mostly not favorable), about what’s wrong with ObamaCare, about the Republicans (mostly favorable), and about the Democratic congressional leadership  (mostly awful to the point of being cringe-inducing). Compared to most of what politicians do, you would be hard pressed to find a better use of their time.

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Why So Upset?

Ed Gillespie, adviser to the President, had this to say at a press gaggle today:

We did not anticipate that it would be taken that way, because it’s kind of hard to take it that way if you look at the actual words of the President’s remarks, which are consistent with what he has said in the past relative to dealing with groups like Hezbollah and Hamas and al Qaeda; relative to standing by Israel; relative to concerns about Iran developing the prospect of a nuclear weapon. And so there was really nothing new in the speech that anyone could point to that would indicate that. . . .

I would again encourage the media, whatever you want to do, it’s your editors — to ask them if maybe you might ask the Speaker of the House, or the leader of the Senate, or the Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, what sentence that the President uttered, what words do you disagree with in those comments in the Knesset?

I agree: what precisely was wrong with what Bush said? Bush has been saying these “unprecedented” things about the perils of appeasement for years. So why did Obama get so upset? The Republican Jewish Coalition has an idea:

Why, when Barack Obama hears the word “appeasement,” does he think it applies to him? Why when it comes to standing with Israel is Barack Obama so defensive? It is Barack Obama’s promise to meet with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Syrian President Bashar al-Assad that causes great nervousness in the Jewish community.

What’s hard for me to understand here is why Obama would meet with Ahmejinedad, but not Hamas. After all, if you’ll sit down with the don, why not break bread with his hitmen?

Ed Gillespie, adviser to the President, had this to say at a press gaggle today:

We did not anticipate that it would be taken that way, because it’s kind of hard to take it that way if you look at the actual words of the President’s remarks, which are consistent with what he has said in the past relative to dealing with groups like Hezbollah and Hamas and al Qaeda; relative to standing by Israel; relative to concerns about Iran developing the prospect of a nuclear weapon. And so there was really nothing new in the speech that anyone could point to that would indicate that. . . .

I would again encourage the media, whatever you want to do, it’s your editors — to ask them if maybe you might ask the Speaker of the House, or the leader of the Senate, or the Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, what sentence that the President uttered, what words do you disagree with in those comments in the Knesset?

I agree: what precisely was wrong with what Bush said? Bush has been saying these “unprecedented” things about the perils of appeasement for years. So why did Obama get so upset? The Republican Jewish Coalition has an idea:

Why, when Barack Obama hears the word “appeasement,” does he think it applies to him? Why when it comes to standing with Israel is Barack Obama so defensive? It is Barack Obama’s promise to meet with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Syrian President Bashar al-Assad that causes great nervousness in the Jewish community.

What’s hard for me to understand here is why Obama would meet with Ahmejinedad, but not Hamas. After all, if you’ll sit down with the don, why not break bread with his hitmen?

Read Less




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