Commentary Magazine


Topic: food fight

RE: Bad News Gets Worse for Dems

As I said, things may be even worse than Nate Silver has disclosed to the glum readers of the New York Times. Politico reports:

In conversations with more than two dozen party insiders, most of whom requested anonymity to speak candidly about the state of play, Democrats in and out of Washington say they are increasingly alarmed about the economic and polling data they have seen in recent weeks.

They no longer believe the jobs and housing markets will recover – or that anything resembling the White House’s promise of a “recovery summer” is under way. They are even more concerned by indications that House Democrats once considered safe – such as Rep. Betty Sutton, who occupies an Ohio seat that President Barack Obama won with 57 percent of the vote in 2008 – are in real trouble.

It turns out that Robert Gibbs’s sin was not of excessive pessimism but of excessive candor. (“A Democratic pollster working on several key races said, ‘The reality is that [the House majority] is probably gone.’ His data shows the Democrats’ problems are only getting worse. ‘It’s spreading,’ the pollster said.”)

When things go south, the finger-pointing begins. Not without good reason, Democrats are “furious with the White House for keeping the debate over a New York mosque in play for two weeks — and then announcing that Obama will use a prime-time address next week to discuss Iraq, not the economy. By the calculations of House Democrats, this means that by Labor Day they will have spent nearly nine weeks this summer beating back negative or unhelpful story lines instigated, in part or in total, by the White House.” Good point on the mosque, fellas, but in Obama’s defense, what good would it do to talk about the economy? It’s sinking, and the “recovery summer” spiel is now an embarrassing reminder of the White House’s cluelessness. Things are so bad, they can’t even blame George W. Bush. (From a former state Democratic Party chairman: “You can only blame Bush for so long.”)

The extent of the unraveling and the ferocity of the infighting before the election are remarkable. Just imagine the food fight after the results are in.

As I said, things may be even worse than Nate Silver has disclosed to the glum readers of the New York Times. Politico reports:

In conversations with more than two dozen party insiders, most of whom requested anonymity to speak candidly about the state of play, Democrats in and out of Washington say they are increasingly alarmed about the economic and polling data they have seen in recent weeks.

They no longer believe the jobs and housing markets will recover – or that anything resembling the White House’s promise of a “recovery summer” is under way. They are even more concerned by indications that House Democrats once considered safe – such as Rep. Betty Sutton, who occupies an Ohio seat that President Barack Obama won with 57 percent of the vote in 2008 – are in real trouble.

It turns out that Robert Gibbs’s sin was not of excessive pessimism but of excessive candor. (“A Democratic pollster working on several key races said, ‘The reality is that [the House majority] is probably gone.’ His data shows the Democrats’ problems are only getting worse. ‘It’s spreading,’ the pollster said.”)

When things go south, the finger-pointing begins. Not without good reason, Democrats are “furious with the White House for keeping the debate over a New York mosque in play for two weeks — and then announcing that Obama will use a prime-time address next week to discuss Iraq, not the economy. By the calculations of House Democrats, this means that by Labor Day they will have spent nearly nine weeks this summer beating back negative or unhelpful story lines instigated, in part or in total, by the White House.” Good point on the mosque, fellas, but in Obama’s defense, what good would it do to talk about the economy? It’s sinking, and the “recovery summer” spiel is now an embarrassing reminder of the White House’s cluelessness. Things are so bad, they can’t even blame George W. Bush. (From a former state Democratic Party chairman: “You can only blame Bush for so long.”)

The extent of the unraveling and the ferocity of the infighting before the election are remarkable. Just imagine the food fight after the results are in.

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Are Democrats Dumping the Not-Bush National Security Policy?

In Washington D.C. parlance, “That’s not a priority” means “You think we’re dumb enough to push that?” Well, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer is saying as much about what was a top Obama priority – closing Guantanamo:

In response to a question from a reporter about where shutting down Gitmo stands, Hoyer said, “I think that’s not an item, as you point out, of real current discussion. There’s some very big issues confronting us — dealing with growing the economy and Iraq and Afghanistan.” Hoyer added, “I think you’re not going to see it discussed very broadly in the near term.”

This is one more sign, although less dramatic than the Pelosi-Gibbs food fight, that congressional Democrats have had enough, thank you, of carrying Obama’s political water at their own expense. The practical problems and national security issues associated with closing Gitmo have never been resolved, but in the end it’s politics — the complete unacceptability of the undertaking — that have killed Obama’s PR gambit.

Democrats should extract from this episode the right lesson: much of Obama’s national security policy is dangerous to the country and to their political future. There is no need to support a civilian trial for KSM or senseless cuts in the Defense Department budget or the START treaty. In pursuing enlightened self-interest, to borrow a phrase, Democrats may be inching toward a bipartisan, sensible national security policy.

In Washington D.C. parlance, “That’s not a priority” means “You think we’re dumb enough to push that?” Well, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer is saying as much about what was a top Obama priority – closing Guantanamo:

In response to a question from a reporter about where shutting down Gitmo stands, Hoyer said, “I think that’s not an item, as you point out, of real current discussion. There’s some very big issues confronting us — dealing with growing the economy and Iraq and Afghanistan.” Hoyer added, “I think you’re not going to see it discussed very broadly in the near term.”

This is one more sign, although less dramatic than the Pelosi-Gibbs food fight, that congressional Democrats have had enough, thank you, of carrying Obama’s political water at their own expense. The practical problems and national security issues associated with closing Gitmo have never been resolved, but in the end it’s politics — the complete unacceptability of the undertaking — that have killed Obama’s PR gambit.

Democrats should extract from this episode the right lesson: much of Obama’s national security policy is dangerous to the country and to their political future. There is no need to support a civilian trial for KSM or senseless cuts in the Defense Department budget or the START treaty. In pursuing enlightened self-interest, to borrow a phrase, Democrats may be inching toward a bipartisan, sensible national security policy.

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Round One of the Blame Game

The food fight between the White House and House Democrats has turned into a full-blown brawl. This report explains:

House Democrats are lashing out at the White House, venting long-suppressed anger over what they see as President Obama’s lukewarm efforts to help them win reelection — and accusing administration officials of undermining the party’s chances of retaining the majority in November’s midterm elections. … The boiling point came Tuesday night during a closed-door meeting of House Democrats in the Capitol. Speaker Nancy Pelosi (Calif.) excoriated White House press secretary Robert Gibbs’s public comments over the weekend that the House majority was in doubt and that it would take “strong campaigns by Democrats” to avert dramatic losses. “What the hell do they think we’ve been doing the last 12 months? We’re the ones who have been taking the tough votes,” Rep. Bill Pascrell Jr. (N.J.) said in an interview Wednesday.

It’s devolved into a sibling-like rivalry. (“Another Democratic official, familiar with White House strategy, said that there is a “misperception” among House Democrats that Obama, a former senator, favors his old chamber over the House. The official placed the blame largely on polling data that continue to show the president and Congress in poor shape.”)

There are two noteworthy aspects to all this. First, as Pete and I observed yesterday, its a sign of the abject panic that has gripped Democrats. A party does not behave this way when things are going well. This is the first round of the blame game, which will officially start after the November election returns are in.

And more important, all the participants in this free-for-all are dancing around the real issue. The problem is not the number of campaign fundraisers Obama has held for Democrats. Nor is it favoritism for one house of Congress over another. It’s not even the lack of common courtesy shown by the White House, which seems to be an equal-opportunity insulter (Bibi, Democrats, the public, Republicans, the press, etc.). No, the unspoken but very obvious source of the angst is that the Obama agenda has driven the party into a ditch.

Democratic lawmakers have no one to blame but themselves on this one. They could have bucked their president, but instead they allowed themselves to be led around by the nose. And lo and behold, they are now all in a heap of political trouble. There are consequences in a democracy for using parliamentary tactics to jam through an agenda to which a majority of the citizenry object. The Democrats are getting a taste of it now. Imagine when they have to digest the election results.

The food fight between the White House and House Democrats has turned into a full-blown brawl. This report explains:

House Democrats are lashing out at the White House, venting long-suppressed anger over what they see as President Obama’s lukewarm efforts to help them win reelection — and accusing administration officials of undermining the party’s chances of retaining the majority in November’s midterm elections. … The boiling point came Tuesday night during a closed-door meeting of House Democrats in the Capitol. Speaker Nancy Pelosi (Calif.) excoriated White House press secretary Robert Gibbs’s public comments over the weekend that the House majority was in doubt and that it would take “strong campaigns by Democrats” to avert dramatic losses. “What the hell do they think we’ve been doing the last 12 months? We’re the ones who have been taking the tough votes,” Rep. Bill Pascrell Jr. (N.J.) said in an interview Wednesday.

It’s devolved into a sibling-like rivalry. (“Another Democratic official, familiar with White House strategy, said that there is a “misperception” among House Democrats that Obama, a former senator, favors his old chamber over the House. The official placed the blame largely on polling data that continue to show the president and Congress in poor shape.”)

There are two noteworthy aspects to all this. First, as Pete and I observed yesterday, its a sign of the abject panic that has gripped Democrats. A party does not behave this way when things are going well. This is the first round of the blame game, which will officially start after the November election returns are in.

And more important, all the participants in this free-for-all are dancing around the real issue. The problem is not the number of campaign fundraisers Obama has held for Democrats. Nor is it favoritism for one house of Congress over another. It’s not even the lack of common courtesy shown by the White House, which seems to be an equal-opportunity insulter (Bibi, Democrats, the public, Republicans, the press, etc.). No, the unspoken but very obvious source of the angst is that the Obama agenda has driven the party into a ditch.

Democratic lawmakers have no one to blame but themselves on this one. They could have bucked their president, but instead they allowed themselves to be led around by the nose. And lo and behold, they are now all in a heap of political trouble. There are consequences in a democracy for using parliamentary tactics to jam through an agenda to which a majority of the citizenry object. The Democrats are getting a taste of it now. Imagine when they have to digest the election results.

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Democracy Only Works If You Use It

In his column today, Charles Krauthammer offers cautious praise for the health-care wars:

for all the hand-wringing about broken government, partisanship, divisiveness and gridlock, it’s hard to recall a more informed, more detailed, more serious, more prolonged national debate than on health care reform. . . So, in the middle of the current food fight, as the plates and the tarts and the sharper cutlery fly, step back for a moment. Hail the untidiness. Hail democracy. Hail the rotation of power. Yes, even when Democrats gain office.

All of the fighting, even the polarization, would be easier to hail if the Democrats were not sidestepping it. Barack Obama, Nancy Pelosi, and Harry Reid are seeking to change the fundamental nature of the country, not by triumphing in rigorous debate, but rather by exploiting a procedural loophole that would allow them to act against the will of the people.

The citizens of this country have historically enjoyed a unique level of influence on their government. But we are now spectators before whom a cadre of floundering ideologues seeks to sever the trusts that make consensual governance consensual. The Democrats lost the public debate. Ask them if they care.

When Barack Obama’s approval ratings plunged months back, Fouad Ajami wrote in the Wall Street Journal, “The curtain has come down on what can best be described as a brief un-American moment in our history.” If only that were so. In truth, the curtain came down on the public’s compliance with our un-American moment. For our current leaders, the mission goes forward. Plan B, it turns out, is as alien to the American experience as Plan A. Having failed to reshape our democracy through demagoguery, Obama is attempting to subvert it by decree. If he needs to dispense with the “we” in “yes we can,” so be it. The “our” in “our time is now”? Gone.

As the President and Nancy Pelosi have explained, they’re down to yes and now. Here’s how Pelosi recently described her health-care battle stance:

We will go through the gate. If the gate is closed, we will go over the fence. If the fence is too high, we will pole vault in. If that doesn’t work, we will parachute in. But we are going to get health care reform passed for the American people for their own personal health and economic security and for the important role that it will play in reducing the deficit.

The barriers she cites are none other than the checks and balances, the procedural roadblocks, put in place centuries ago so that no lawmaker or executive could force policy upon the American people “for their own personal health and economic security.” Speaker Pelosi’s statement is not merely colorful evidence of tenacity and cunning. It is a contemptuous dismissal of democracy. Just as the plan for socialist annexation of one sixth of the economy is a dismissal of free-market capitalism.

If the fundamentals of our democratic republic remain intact, it will be because of the genius of the system of governance itself. Then, we can hail until the cows come home.

In his column today, Charles Krauthammer offers cautious praise for the health-care wars:

for all the hand-wringing about broken government, partisanship, divisiveness and gridlock, it’s hard to recall a more informed, more detailed, more serious, more prolonged national debate than on health care reform. . . So, in the middle of the current food fight, as the plates and the tarts and the sharper cutlery fly, step back for a moment. Hail the untidiness. Hail democracy. Hail the rotation of power. Yes, even when Democrats gain office.

All of the fighting, even the polarization, would be easier to hail if the Democrats were not sidestepping it. Barack Obama, Nancy Pelosi, and Harry Reid are seeking to change the fundamental nature of the country, not by triumphing in rigorous debate, but rather by exploiting a procedural loophole that would allow them to act against the will of the people.

The citizens of this country have historically enjoyed a unique level of influence on their government. But we are now spectators before whom a cadre of floundering ideologues seeks to sever the trusts that make consensual governance consensual. The Democrats lost the public debate. Ask them if they care.

When Barack Obama’s approval ratings plunged months back, Fouad Ajami wrote in the Wall Street Journal, “The curtain has come down on what can best be described as a brief un-American moment in our history.” If only that were so. In truth, the curtain came down on the public’s compliance with our un-American moment. For our current leaders, the mission goes forward. Plan B, it turns out, is as alien to the American experience as Plan A. Having failed to reshape our democracy through demagoguery, Obama is attempting to subvert it by decree. If he needs to dispense with the “we” in “yes we can,” so be it. The “our” in “our time is now”? Gone.

As the President and Nancy Pelosi have explained, they’re down to yes and now. Here’s how Pelosi recently described her health-care battle stance:

We will go through the gate. If the gate is closed, we will go over the fence. If the fence is too high, we will pole vault in. If that doesn’t work, we will parachute in. But we are going to get health care reform passed for the American people for their own personal health and economic security and for the important role that it will play in reducing the deficit.

The barriers she cites are none other than the checks and balances, the procedural roadblocks, put in place centuries ago so that no lawmaker or executive could force policy upon the American people “for their own personal health and economic security.” Speaker Pelosi’s statement is not merely colorful evidence of tenacity and cunning. It is a contemptuous dismissal of democracy. Just as the plan for socialist annexation of one sixth of the economy is a dismissal of free-market capitalism.

If the fundamentals of our democratic republic remain intact, it will be because of the genius of the system of governance itself. Then, we can hail until the cows come home.

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GOP Strife? Hardly!

Fred Barnes notes that Scott Brown’s victory exploded “the fable about a death struggle pitting tea party populists and angry conservatives against moderates and the Republican hierarchy.” Brown – like Bob McDonnell and Chris Christie — succeeded in a state that went for Obama in 2008 by snatching those voters in the middle of the political spectrum and energizing his own base. The notion that this was an impossible task and that these groups were somehow in opposition to one another was spin propagated by liberals looking for solace and by snooty Beltway pundits who disparaged the tea-party populists with little understanding of their actual concerns.

What brought all these groups together? Limited government, economic conservatism, and antipathy toward backroom special-interest deal making. Rather than a conflict, there is remarkable convergence among these groups. Back in April 2009, tea-party protesters were inveighing against the stimulus plan, excess spending, and the prospect of government-run health care. There was nothing then, and nothing now, antithetical to the message that the GOP leadership has been putting forth. Recall that there was not a single GOP House vote for the stimulus plan and that no Republican senators — not even the accommodating senators from Maine — could be induced to vote for ObamaCare. In Obamaism they have found common cause and reason to put aside other topics (e.g., immigration, social issues) on which there is far less agreement.

The fable of Republican divisiveness was a convenient narrative for pundits who aimed to chase out challengers from primaries (e.g., Marco Rubio) or convince themselves that the Republicans couldn’t really seize the initiative. Those divisions on the Right (otherwise known as healthy primary competition to find the best candidates) are slight compared to the food fight that has broken out on the Left. There Democrats and their blog cheerleaders-turned-vicious-critics are forming the circular firing squad, arguing over whether to dump health care altogether, and trying to figure out how to restyle themselves as populists. (Mostly by condescendingly acknowledging that there are “angry” people out there, it seems.) You can see why they’d rather concoct a tale of Republican strife.

Fred Barnes notes that Scott Brown’s victory exploded “the fable about a death struggle pitting tea party populists and angry conservatives against moderates and the Republican hierarchy.” Brown – like Bob McDonnell and Chris Christie — succeeded in a state that went for Obama in 2008 by snatching those voters in the middle of the political spectrum and energizing his own base. The notion that this was an impossible task and that these groups were somehow in opposition to one another was spin propagated by liberals looking for solace and by snooty Beltway pundits who disparaged the tea-party populists with little understanding of their actual concerns.

What brought all these groups together? Limited government, economic conservatism, and antipathy toward backroom special-interest deal making. Rather than a conflict, there is remarkable convergence among these groups. Back in April 2009, tea-party protesters were inveighing against the stimulus plan, excess spending, and the prospect of government-run health care. There was nothing then, and nothing now, antithetical to the message that the GOP leadership has been putting forth. Recall that there was not a single GOP House vote for the stimulus plan and that no Republican senators — not even the accommodating senators from Maine — could be induced to vote for ObamaCare. In Obamaism they have found common cause and reason to put aside other topics (e.g., immigration, social issues) on which there is far less agreement.

The fable of Republican divisiveness was a convenient narrative for pundits who aimed to chase out challengers from primaries (e.g., Marco Rubio) or convince themselves that the Republicans couldn’t really seize the initiative. Those divisions on the Right (otherwise known as healthy primary competition to find the best candidates) are slight compared to the food fight that has broken out on the Left. There Democrats and their blog cheerleaders-turned-vicious-critics are forming the circular firing squad, arguing over whether to dump health care altogether, and trying to figure out how to restyle themselves as populists. (Mostly by condescendingly acknowledging that there are “angry” people out there, it seems.) You can see why they’d rather concoct a tale of Republican strife.

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Now He Went And Got Them Mad

What started out as a spat has now turned into a full blown lovers’ quarrel. He doesn’t talk to us. He won’t spend time with us. He misled us. Yes, as detailed in this vivid account, Barack Obama is now openly feuding with the media, which (strangely enough) thinks he should answer more questions about Tony Rezko and what Austan Goolsbee was whispering in the Canadians’ ears (notice the highly contrived and very old-school tactic Obama employed in an effort to make the dispute about who called whom first).

The most telling part of the report is that, after the food fight with the media, Obama did not feel comfortable enough to come back to the press people on the plane to discuss their concerns. After all, he answered a whole eight questions from the media. What do they expect? That he’ll stay there like any other candidate and answer every question they have?

Lacking McCain’s easy-going and established rapport with the press, Obama now cannot venture into the lion’s den without risking another mauling. I think Howard Wolfson has finally achieved his goal: getting the press energized and willing to go after Obama. Worse yet, as Dana Millbank notes, “The questioning . . . has only just begun.”

What started out as a spat has now turned into a full blown lovers’ quarrel. He doesn’t talk to us. He won’t spend time with us. He misled us. Yes, as detailed in this vivid account, Barack Obama is now openly feuding with the media, which (strangely enough) thinks he should answer more questions about Tony Rezko and what Austan Goolsbee was whispering in the Canadians’ ears (notice the highly contrived and very old-school tactic Obama employed in an effort to make the dispute about who called whom first).

The most telling part of the report is that, after the food fight with the media, Obama did not feel comfortable enough to come back to the press people on the plane to discuss their concerns. After all, he answered a whole eight questions from the media. What do they expect? That he’ll stay there like any other candidate and answer every question they have?

Lacking McCain’s easy-going and established rapport with the press, Obama now cannot venture into the lion’s den without risking another mauling. I think Howard Wolfson has finally achieved his goal: getting the press energized and willing to go after Obama. Worse yet, as Dana Millbank notes, “The questioning . . . has only just begun.”

Read Less




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