Commentary Magazine


Topic: Fort Hood

The Policies That Keep Us Safe

The foiled package-bomb plot originating in Yemen is the latest sign of how determined Islamist extremists remain in trying to strike the United States. Just in the past year, we have seen the shooting at Fort Hood, which left 13 people dead; an attempt to blow up a Detroit-bound airliner with explosives hidden in underwear; an attempt to set off an explosion in Times Square with explosives hidden in a vehicle; and the arrest of a suspect accused of plotting to attack the Washington subway. These attacks serve as a reminder, as Andy McCarthy notes, that our homeland remains very much in danger. So why isn’t terrorism more of an election issue? Largely because this is an area where there is — mercifully — a high degree of bipartisan agreement.

That hasn’t always been the case. Barack Obama ran for president not only pledging to pull out of Iraq but also to end what he viewed as the abuses of George W. Bush’s “war on terror.” The very term “war on terror” has been banished from the Obama administration’s lexicon, but luckily, most of the practices instituted by Bush have been continued.

Obama, recall, promised to close the Guantanamo Bay detention facility within a year, to try terrorists in civilian courts, to end “renditions” of terrorist suspects, to end torture, and to end or severely curtail warrantless wiretaps. What has he actually done?

He has limited the use of interrogation techniques against terrorism suspects — but they had already been curtailed by Bush, who banned the use of most “stress techniques” in his second term. But Obama hasn’t closed Gitmo, largely because of overwhelming congressional opposition. His plan to try Khalid Sheikh Muhammad in a civilian court came to naught. The military commissions are still in business. Suspected terrorists continue to be  held without trial, not only at Gitmo but also in the Parwan detention facility in Afghanistan. He signed an extension of the Patriot Act, which provides most of the surveillance authorities instituted after 9/11. Renditions continue. And Obama has actually stepped up the use of drone strikes to kill terrorists, especially but not exclusively in Pakistan. He has even placed an American citizen (Anwar al-Aliki, a leader of al-Qaeda’s Yemen branch) on the list for elimination without any judicial overview. Finally, he has essentially continued the Bush policy of drawing down slowly in Iraq while building up our forces in Afghanistan.

Thus Obama has, in most important respects, essentially ratified the post-9/11 measures instituted by the Bush administration. He has not instituted a “law enforcement” approach to terrorism, as was feared by so many of his critics and expected by so many of his supporters. A Republican president might approve harsher interrogation techniques or make some other changes at the margins, but I doubt that anything very substantial will change no matter who succeeds Obama — unless there is some horrific new attack on American soil, in which case the balance will swing even more against civil liberties.

Just as we have a wide degree of agreement now on how to fight terrorism at home, so we have bipartisan uncertainty about how to fight it in countries like Pakistan, Yemen, and Somalia. No one seriously suggests invading them barring another 9/11. The debate is mainly about how much and what kind of aid we should give to the governments in question, how much we can trust them to act on our behalf, and how many unilateral strikes we should carry out. These are not ideological questions; they are tough judgment calls on which experts of all stripes can disagree.

Obama, to his credit, hasn’t hesitated to approve drone strikes and other covert actions against terrorists in places like Somalia and Yemen, but there is a limit to what such measures can do. Defeating the terrorists who hide in these unstable areas requires improving their level of governance — a difficult, long-term project that we are attempting to undertake but without any great prospects of immediate success.

More than nine years after 9/11, we have made great strides in countering terrorism, especially in toughening up domestic security, increasing intelligence-gathering, and lowering barriers between law enforcement and intelligence. We still have more to do domestically — for instance, the latest plots highlight the need for better inspection of cargo. And there is much more to do abroad to try to root al-Qaeda out of its foreign bastions. But the greatest progress we have made is to reach a high degree of domestic consensus about what it takes to fight terrorism.

Give Obama credit for breaking his campaign pledges and essentially adopting the Bush approach. And of course, give Bush credit for weathering years of abuse from Senator Obama and other critics to hang tough and institute policies that have helped keep us safe.

The foiled package-bomb plot originating in Yemen is the latest sign of how determined Islamist extremists remain in trying to strike the United States. Just in the past year, we have seen the shooting at Fort Hood, which left 13 people dead; an attempt to blow up a Detroit-bound airliner with explosives hidden in underwear; an attempt to set off an explosion in Times Square with explosives hidden in a vehicle; and the arrest of a suspect accused of plotting to attack the Washington subway. These attacks serve as a reminder, as Andy McCarthy notes, that our homeland remains very much in danger. So why isn’t terrorism more of an election issue? Largely because this is an area where there is — mercifully — a high degree of bipartisan agreement.

That hasn’t always been the case. Barack Obama ran for president not only pledging to pull out of Iraq but also to end what he viewed as the abuses of George W. Bush’s “war on terror.” The very term “war on terror” has been banished from the Obama administration’s lexicon, but luckily, most of the practices instituted by Bush have been continued.

Obama, recall, promised to close the Guantanamo Bay detention facility within a year, to try terrorists in civilian courts, to end “renditions” of terrorist suspects, to end torture, and to end or severely curtail warrantless wiretaps. What has he actually done?

He has limited the use of interrogation techniques against terrorism suspects — but they had already been curtailed by Bush, who banned the use of most “stress techniques” in his second term. But Obama hasn’t closed Gitmo, largely because of overwhelming congressional opposition. His plan to try Khalid Sheikh Muhammad in a civilian court came to naught. The military commissions are still in business. Suspected terrorists continue to be  held without trial, not only at Gitmo but also in the Parwan detention facility in Afghanistan. He signed an extension of the Patriot Act, which provides most of the surveillance authorities instituted after 9/11. Renditions continue. And Obama has actually stepped up the use of drone strikes to kill terrorists, especially but not exclusively in Pakistan. He has even placed an American citizen (Anwar al-Aliki, a leader of al-Qaeda’s Yemen branch) on the list for elimination without any judicial overview. Finally, he has essentially continued the Bush policy of drawing down slowly in Iraq while building up our forces in Afghanistan.

Thus Obama has, in most important respects, essentially ratified the post-9/11 measures instituted by the Bush administration. He has not instituted a “law enforcement” approach to terrorism, as was feared by so many of his critics and expected by so many of his supporters. A Republican president might approve harsher interrogation techniques or make some other changes at the margins, but I doubt that anything very substantial will change no matter who succeeds Obama — unless there is some horrific new attack on American soil, in which case the balance will swing even more against civil liberties.

Just as we have a wide degree of agreement now on how to fight terrorism at home, so we have bipartisan uncertainty about how to fight it in countries like Pakistan, Yemen, and Somalia. No one seriously suggests invading them barring another 9/11. The debate is mainly about how much and what kind of aid we should give to the governments in question, how much we can trust them to act on our behalf, and how many unilateral strikes we should carry out. These are not ideological questions; they are tough judgment calls on which experts of all stripes can disagree.

Obama, to his credit, hasn’t hesitated to approve drone strikes and other covert actions against terrorists in places like Somalia and Yemen, but there is a limit to what such measures can do. Defeating the terrorists who hide in these unstable areas requires improving their level of governance — a difficult, long-term project that we are attempting to undertake but without any great prospects of immediate success.

More than nine years after 9/11, we have made great strides in countering terrorism, especially in toughening up domestic security, increasing intelligence-gathering, and lowering barriers between law enforcement and intelligence. We still have more to do domestically — for instance, the latest plots highlight the need for better inspection of cargo. And there is much more to do abroad to try to root al-Qaeda out of its foreign bastions. But the greatest progress we have made is to reach a high degree of domestic consensus about what it takes to fight terrorism.

Give Obama credit for breaking his campaign pledges and essentially adopting the Bush approach. And of course, give Bush credit for weathering years of abuse from Senator Obama and other critics to hang tough and institute policies that have helped keep us safe.

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A Class War or War?

The day before the ninth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, President Obama was asked why there seemed to be a recent uptick in American distress about Islam. “At a time when the country is anxious generally and going through a tough time, then, you know, fears can surface; suspicions, divisions can surface in a society,” he said. “We have to make sure that we don’t start turning on each other.”

What is not blamed on George W. Bush is blamed on us all. The Bible-clutching, gun-toting xenophobes Barack Obama referenced during his presidential campaign are now taking out their financial woes on innocent Muslims. Shame on them.

On the same day that the president gave his academic instruction on the roots of religious scapegoating among the American working class, the Bipartisan Policy Center released a report titled “Assessing the Terrorist Threat,” which stated, “Last year was a watershed in terrorist attacks and plots in the United States, with a record total of 11 jihadist attacks, jihadist-inspired plots, or efforts by Americans to travel overseas to obtain terrorist training.” Most gruesome among them was the attack at Fort Hood, Texas, which killed 13 people.

The BPC report is an adult answer to the question that was posed to the president. Recently, Americans have witnessed a terrorism parade. For the first time since 9/11, multiple threats and attacks on the homeland came across our TV screens. For our anguish over the loss of American lives, we were told the system worked; admonished not to jump to conclusions about the perpetrators; and, while we absorbed the blows of Islamist terrorism, told there was no such thing.

The crowning surreality was Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf’s plan to build a community center and mosque blocks from Ground Zero. For our misgivings about that, Americans were labeled bigots.

But according to our president, the problem lies with Americans who, as he once put it, “get bitter [and] cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren’t like them,” not with those who get homicidal and fire their guns in the name of religion and hatred of people who are not like them.

The declarations of President Obama and of the Bipartisan Policy Center are the poles between which American national security now vacillates. We go from the real world, where gunmen scream “Allahu Akbar” and kill Americans, to the classroom, where Islamist terrorism does not exist and all conflict can be explained as a function of economic struggle.

The classroom explanation is an insult to public intelligence. So too is the concomitant disclaimer that “the majority of Muslims are peace-loving people.” Not because it is false (it is not), but because no sane person has ever asserted the counterclaim. As a people, this makes us dumber. It makes us dumber to write it and it makes us dumber to read it. It introduces illogic into our reasoning, and once illogic enters, it stays. In public debate, there is always a well-meaning justification for proceeding illogically.

As a country, it makes us vulnerable — never more so than today. The BPC report notes that more American citizens or residents associated with Islamist groups were charged or convicted of terrorism in 2009 than in any year since 9/11. “A key shift in the threat to the homeland since around the time President Barack Obama took office,” says the report, “is the increasing ‘Americanization’ of the leadership of al-Qaeda and aligned groups, and the larger numbers of Americans attaching themselves to these groups.”

The enemy is becoming an intimate part of the American landscape and less easily identifiable as a distinctly foreign phenomenon. This is precisely the time for our leaders to find an intelligent way of discussing the true nature of the fight. Officially denying that there are Muslim terrorists among us will not protect innocent Muslims; it will put them at greater risk, as a potentially traumatized citizenry becomes frustrated with leadership that refuses to take seriously the complicated threats arrayed against it. Yet at no time since 9/11 has our government been this willfully inarticulate — even insulting — about the challenges we face.

The day before the ninth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, President Obama was asked why there seemed to be a recent uptick in American distress about Islam. “At a time when the country is anxious generally and going through a tough time, then, you know, fears can surface; suspicions, divisions can surface in a society,” he said. “We have to make sure that we don’t start turning on each other.”

What is not blamed on George W. Bush is blamed on us all. The Bible-clutching, gun-toting xenophobes Barack Obama referenced during his presidential campaign are now taking out their financial woes on innocent Muslims. Shame on them.

On the same day that the president gave his academic instruction on the roots of religious scapegoating among the American working class, the Bipartisan Policy Center released a report titled “Assessing the Terrorist Threat,” which stated, “Last year was a watershed in terrorist attacks and plots in the United States, with a record total of 11 jihadist attacks, jihadist-inspired plots, or efforts by Americans to travel overseas to obtain terrorist training.” Most gruesome among them was the attack at Fort Hood, Texas, which killed 13 people.

The BPC report is an adult answer to the question that was posed to the president. Recently, Americans have witnessed a terrorism parade. For the first time since 9/11, multiple threats and attacks on the homeland came across our TV screens. For our anguish over the loss of American lives, we were told the system worked; admonished not to jump to conclusions about the perpetrators; and, while we absorbed the blows of Islamist terrorism, told there was no such thing.

The crowning surreality was Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf’s plan to build a community center and mosque blocks from Ground Zero. For our misgivings about that, Americans were labeled bigots.

But according to our president, the problem lies with Americans who, as he once put it, “get bitter [and] cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren’t like them,” not with those who get homicidal and fire their guns in the name of religion and hatred of people who are not like them.

The declarations of President Obama and of the Bipartisan Policy Center are the poles between which American national security now vacillates. We go from the real world, where gunmen scream “Allahu Akbar” and kill Americans, to the classroom, where Islamist terrorism does not exist and all conflict can be explained as a function of economic struggle.

The classroom explanation is an insult to public intelligence. So too is the concomitant disclaimer that “the majority of Muslims are peace-loving people.” Not because it is false (it is not), but because no sane person has ever asserted the counterclaim. As a people, this makes us dumber. It makes us dumber to write it and it makes us dumber to read it. It introduces illogic into our reasoning, and once illogic enters, it stays. In public debate, there is always a well-meaning justification for proceeding illogically.

As a country, it makes us vulnerable — never more so than today. The BPC report notes that more American citizens or residents associated with Islamist groups were charged or convicted of terrorism in 2009 than in any year since 9/11. “A key shift in the threat to the homeland since around the time President Barack Obama took office,” says the report, “is the increasing ‘Americanization’ of the leadership of al-Qaeda and aligned groups, and the larger numbers of Americans attaching themselves to these groups.”

The enemy is becoming an intimate part of the American landscape and less easily identifiable as a distinctly foreign phenomenon. This is precisely the time for our leaders to find an intelligent way of discussing the true nature of the fight. Officially denying that there are Muslim terrorists among us will not protect innocent Muslims; it will put them at greater risk, as a potentially traumatized citizenry becomes frustrated with leadership that refuses to take seriously the complicated threats arrayed against it. Yet at no time since 9/11 has our government been this willfully inarticulate — even insulting — about the challenges we face.

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RE: Darrell Issa And the Criminalization of Politics

Pete, you sound a helpful warning on the dangers of overreach and the disturbing tendency to summon special prosecutors as a cure-all for bad government. There are a couple of issues that, I think, are helpful to keep in mind as we look at the issue of oversight and, more broadly, of divided government.

It is understandable that the Republicans would welcome the opportunity for congressional oversight. We have had virtually none of it during the last 18 months. Whether it has been on the failings that led up to Fort Hood, the dismissal of the New Black Panther case, the potential conflicts of interest for Justice Department lawyers who previously represented terrorists, or dozens of other issues, congressional Democrats have placed party loyalty above their obligation to act as a check on the executive branch through congressional oversight. Subpoenas are needed when the government refuses to cooperate with Congressional investigators. Some of those demands for information are not legitimate, in which case Congress generally retreats or is rebuffed by the courts. But at other times, it is the last resort when confronting a Nixonesque administration. In short, Congressional oversight can be abused and boomerang on the investigators, but when an administration is as overreaching and nontransparent as this one, robust oversight is generally a good idea.

The other issue to keep in mind is the distinction between political and legal consequences. Not every bad decision or decision undertaken for corrupt motives is illegal, but there is still a need to expose it and subject the participants to the scrutiny of voters. Normally this is a function we’d expect the media to perform. But again, they are doing a fraction of what they should and normally would do — if a Republicans were in power. For example, a congressional investigation on the shady job offers need not be intended to or result in criminal prosecution; the need to expose the ethical standards of this administration is more than enough reason to conduct some hearings and require testimony under oath.

I would suggest that the proper balance in this is ample congressional oversight, but selective (very selective) use of criminal proceedings. The punishment for unwise, ethically repugnant, and incompetent office holders should come from the ballot box. But to do that we first have to figure out what they are up to. In the Obama era, I think we could use plenty more of that.

Pete, you sound a helpful warning on the dangers of overreach and the disturbing tendency to summon special prosecutors as a cure-all for bad government. There are a couple of issues that, I think, are helpful to keep in mind as we look at the issue of oversight and, more broadly, of divided government.

It is understandable that the Republicans would welcome the opportunity for congressional oversight. We have had virtually none of it during the last 18 months. Whether it has been on the failings that led up to Fort Hood, the dismissal of the New Black Panther case, the potential conflicts of interest for Justice Department lawyers who previously represented terrorists, or dozens of other issues, congressional Democrats have placed party loyalty above their obligation to act as a check on the executive branch through congressional oversight. Subpoenas are needed when the government refuses to cooperate with Congressional investigators. Some of those demands for information are not legitimate, in which case Congress generally retreats or is rebuffed by the courts. But at other times, it is the last resort when confronting a Nixonesque administration. In short, Congressional oversight can be abused and boomerang on the investigators, but when an administration is as overreaching and nontransparent as this one, robust oversight is generally a good idea.

The other issue to keep in mind is the distinction between political and legal consequences. Not every bad decision or decision undertaken for corrupt motives is illegal, but there is still a need to expose it and subject the participants to the scrutiny of voters. Normally this is a function we’d expect the media to perform. But again, they are doing a fraction of what they should and normally would do — if a Republicans were in power. For example, a congressional investigation on the shady job offers need not be intended to or result in criminal prosecution; the need to expose the ethical standards of this administration is more than enough reason to conduct some hearings and require testimony under oath.

I would suggest that the proper balance in this is ample congressional oversight, but selective (very selective) use of criminal proceedings. The punishment for unwise, ethically repugnant, and incompetent office holders should come from the ballot box. But to do that we first have to figure out what they are up to. In the Obama era, I think we could use plenty more of that.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Where is the administration when Israel is being savaged? Hiding at the UN: “Where was she this time? The United Nations Security Council held an emergency Security Council meeting Monday on Israel’s raid of a ship headed to Gaza — and the United States was represented by the deputy at the US Mission. Reporters, UN members and activists were mystified as to why Susan Rice, the American Ambassador to the UN, was a no-show to the roughly 12-hour negotiations which left a key ally fending off global criticism without the top American diplomat to help. … Rice’s absence sends a powerful message to the UN members attending the emergency meeting, unfortunately, the message is that she is either unable to lead or afraid of the consequences that come with taking a controversial stand.”

Where is the American media? It seems there is no fuel shortage and plenty of food in the markets of Gaza City.

Where are those moderate Muslims pushing back against jihadism? “Halalco is the largest store of its kind in the Washington, D.C. area. In addition to halal meat, the store carries a large selection of Islamic books, recordings and clothing. In an exclusive investigation, CBN News discovered that Halalco was also selling CDs and DVDs by none other than al-Awlaki [the imam who inspired the Fort Hood and Times Square jihadists]. In the store, was a display devoted entirely to al-Awlaki’s works just one day after he released a video calling for the killing of U.S. civilians.” The next day, after the CBN crew had arrived, the al-Awlaki display was gone.

Where is Steny Hoyer? In a much better position on Israel than the dim Speaker of the House: “While the majority of ships in the flotilla — 5 out of 6 — reacted peacefully when approached by Israeli Defense Forces, activists on board the Mavi Marmara were clearly bent on a violent confrontation.  They further chose this path despite two week’s worth of repeated warnings from Israel that the ship would not be allowed to come ashore, and despite Israel’s offer to instead receive the humanitarian goods at Ashdod, inspect them there for weapons, and ensure their distribution to Palestinians in Gaza. Finally, to the extent that this act was in protest of the Gaza blockade, let’s be clear: Hamas could end the blockade at any time by recognizing Israel’s right to exist, renouncing violence, and releasing Gilad Shalit.”

Where is the groundswell for ObamaCare? Nowhere. Two polls show new lows in public support.

Where is the Obama cover story this time? The White House will need one. “Administration officials dangled the possibility of a job for former Colorado House Speaker Andrew Romanoff last year in hopes he would forego a challenge to Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet. Administration officials on Wednesday declined to specify the job that was floated or the name of the administration official who approached Romanoff, and said no formal offer was ever made. They spoke on condition of anonymity, saying they were not cleared to discuss private conversations.”

Where is support for Rand Paul heading? He’s gone from 25 points to nine points ahead in the Rasmussen poll. I suspect he’ll be in negative territory soon enough.

Where is the administration when Israel is being savaged? Hiding at the UN: “Where was she this time? The United Nations Security Council held an emergency Security Council meeting Monday on Israel’s raid of a ship headed to Gaza — and the United States was represented by the deputy at the US Mission. Reporters, UN members and activists were mystified as to why Susan Rice, the American Ambassador to the UN, was a no-show to the roughly 12-hour negotiations which left a key ally fending off global criticism without the top American diplomat to help. … Rice’s absence sends a powerful message to the UN members attending the emergency meeting, unfortunately, the message is that she is either unable to lead or afraid of the consequences that come with taking a controversial stand.”

Where is the American media? It seems there is no fuel shortage and plenty of food in the markets of Gaza City.

Where are those moderate Muslims pushing back against jihadism? “Halalco is the largest store of its kind in the Washington, D.C. area. In addition to halal meat, the store carries a large selection of Islamic books, recordings and clothing. In an exclusive investigation, CBN News discovered that Halalco was also selling CDs and DVDs by none other than al-Awlaki [the imam who inspired the Fort Hood and Times Square jihadists]. In the store, was a display devoted entirely to al-Awlaki’s works just one day after he released a video calling for the killing of U.S. civilians.” The next day, after the CBN crew had arrived, the al-Awlaki display was gone.

Where is Steny Hoyer? In a much better position on Israel than the dim Speaker of the House: “While the majority of ships in the flotilla — 5 out of 6 — reacted peacefully when approached by Israeli Defense Forces, activists on board the Mavi Marmara were clearly bent on a violent confrontation.  They further chose this path despite two week’s worth of repeated warnings from Israel that the ship would not be allowed to come ashore, and despite Israel’s offer to instead receive the humanitarian goods at Ashdod, inspect them there for weapons, and ensure their distribution to Palestinians in Gaza. Finally, to the extent that this act was in protest of the Gaza blockade, let’s be clear: Hamas could end the blockade at any time by recognizing Israel’s right to exist, renouncing violence, and releasing Gilad Shalit.”

Where is the groundswell for ObamaCare? Nowhere. Two polls show new lows in public support.

Where is the Obama cover story this time? The White House will need one. “Administration officials dangled the possibility of a job for former Colorado House Speaker Andrew Romanoff last year in hopes he would forego a challenge to Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet. Administration officials on Wednesday declined to specify the job that was floated or the name of the administration official who approached Romanoff, and said no formal offer was ever made. They spoke on condition of anonymity, saying they were not cleared to discuss private conversations.”

Where is support for Rand Paul heading? He’s gone from 25 points to nine points ahead in the Rasmussen poll. I suspect he’ll be in negative territory soon enough.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

A couple of good questions (which should have been asked before the bill was passed): “Now that Congress has imposed new requirements on health insurance plans, regulators are trying to resolve another big question: Which plans must comply with the requirements? In keeping with President Obama’s promise that you can hold on to your insurance if you like it, the new law exempts existing health plans from many of its provisions. But the law leaves it to regulators to decide how much a health plan can change without giving up its grandfathered status. In other words, when does a health plan cease to be the same health plan?”

A very belated apology: Ben Smith writes, “Richard Blumenthal’s defiance got him through his first day, but his most expansive apology yet — to the Courant — indicates both that the damage isn’t controlled, and that he himself thinks he has something to apologize for.” Sort of like Bill Clinton: apologize when you’ve exhausted all other possibilities.

A boffo suggestion: “Democratic Rep. Anthony Weiner (N.Y.) called on the White House on Monday to detail conversations it allegedly had with Rep. Joe Sestak (D-Pa.) to try to convince him to drop his Senate bid. Weiner said that allegations that White House officials had offered Sestak an administration job in exchange for his dropping of his primary bid against Sen. Arlen Specter (D-Pa.) had become a growing political liability. ‘I think what the White House should do is, to some degree, say, ‘Here are the facts,’ Weiner said Monday morning during an appearance on MSNBC. ‘If there’s not a lot [to] what’s going on here, then just say what happened.'” Like be transparent?

A new stonewall in a long series of stonewalls (e.g., Fort Hood, Black Panthers): Reid Wilson writes that the GOP “is pleased” Sestak won since it can pummel the job-offer scandal. “GOPers have used the issue to raise questions about the WH’s honesty, transparency and ethics. … The stonewalling has gone to incredible lengths. On Thursday, Gibbs parried with reporters 13 times, refusing to address Sestak’s claims, referring to previous comments he made in March. The refusal to talk about Sestak at all has given GOPers an opening.”

An excellent inquiry: Bill Kristol on Fox News Sunday: “President Obama spent much more time talking about this immigration law in Arizona and spent much more time talking with President Calderon of Mexico about it than with the governor of Arizona, whom he’s never had the courtesy to call and say, ‘Well, would you like to make a case for the law to me — make the case to me for the law before I go around trashing it?'” Well, he didn’t get the facts before trashing the Cambridge police in Gatesgate either. He tends to avoid getting information from those with whom he disagrees.

A savvy political calculation (subscription required): “The House Democratic freshmen who rose to power riding then-candidate Barack Obama’s coattails are now eager to strut their independence heading into the midterms. Some rookies opposed Obama’s cap-and-trade climate change bill; others rejected his health care plan. But even those Members who backed all of the president’s signature initiatives are ready to show that they can win their first re-election bids without leaning on Obama’s star power. ‘You have to be an independent, no matter what,’ Rep. Kathy Dahlkemper said.”

A keen insight: “Despite his newfound prominence, Todd, like his colleagues, has limited access to the man he is covering. ‘Obama himself is the one who doesn’t like dealing with the press,’ he says, exonerating the White House staff. ‘You can’t even do shouted questions.'” Now he has to actually report on that, not just offer it to Howard Kurtz in a puff piece on himself.

A near-certain pickup for the Republicans: “Governor John Hoeven now has the support of nearly three-out-of-four North Dakota voters in his bid to be the state’s next U.S. senator. The latest Rasmussen Reports telephone survey of Likely Voters in North Dakota finds Hoeven earning 72% support, while his Democratic opponent State Senator Tracy Potter picks up 23%.” Yeah, 72 percent. (Looks like the statewide House seat is a goner for the Democrats too.)

A vote of no-confidence: “Confidence in America’s efforts in the War on Terror has fallen again this month, and, following the unsuccessful terrorist bombing attempt in New York’s Times Square, more voters than ever now believe the nation is not safer today than it was before the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. The latest Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey shows that only 31% now believe the United States is safer today than it was before 9/11, down seven points from last month and the lowest level of confidence measured in over three years of regular tracking.”

A couple of good questions (which should have been asked before the bill was passed): “Now that Congress has imposed new requirements on health insurance plans, regulators are trying to resolve another big question: Which plans must comply with the requirements? In keeping with President Obama’s promise that you can hold on to your insurance if you like it, the new law exempts existing health plans from many of its provisions. But the law leaves it to regulators to decide how much a health plan can change without giving up its grandfathered status. In other words, when does a health plan cease to be the same health plan?”

A very belated apology: Ben Smith writes, “Richard Blumenthal’s defiance got him through his first day, but his most expansive apology yet — to the Courant — indicates both that the damage isn’t controlled, and that he himself thinks he has something to apologize for.” Sort of like Bill Clinton: apologize when you’ve exhausted all other possibilities.

A boffo suggestion: “Democratic Rep. Anthony Weiner (N.Y.) called on the White House on Monday to detail conversations it allegedly had with Rep. Joe Sestak (D-Pa.) to try to convince him to drop his Senate bid. Weiner said that allegations that White House officials had offered Sestak an administration job in exchange for his dropping of his primary bid against Sen. Arlen Specter (D-Pa.) had become a growing political liability. ‘I think what the White House should do is, to some degree, say, ‘Here are the facts,’ Weiner said Monday morning during an appearance on MSNBC. ‘If there’s not a lot [to] what’s going on here, then just say what happened.'” Like be transparent?

A new stonewall in a long series of stonewalls (e.g., Fort Hood, Black Panthers): Reid Wilson writes that the GOP “is pleased” Sestak won since it can pummel the job-offer scandal. “GOPers have used the issue to raise questions about the WH’s honesty, transparency and ethics. … The stonewalling has gone to incredible lengths. On Thursday, Gibbs parried with reporters 13 times, refusing to address Sestak’s claims, referring to previous comments he made in March. The refusal to talk about Sestak at all has given GOPers an opening.”

An excellent inquiry: Bill Kristol on Fox News Sunday: “President Obama spent much more time talking about this immigration law in Arizona and spent much more time talking with President Calderon of Mexico about it than with the governor of Arizona, whom he’s never had the courtesy to call and say, ‘Well, would you like to make a case for the law to me — make the case to me for the law before I go around trashing it?'” Well, he didn’t get the facts before trashing the Cambridge police in Gatesgate either. He tends to avoid getting information from those with whom he disagrees.

A savvy political calculation (subscription required): “The House Democratic freshmen who rose to power riding then-candidate Barack Obama’s coattails are now eager to strut their independence heading into the midterms. Some rookies opposed Obama’s cap-and-trade climate change bill; others rejected his health care plan. But even those Members who backed all of the president’s signature initiatives are ready to show that they can win their first re-election bids without leaning on Obama’s star power. ‘You have to be an independent, no matter what,’ Rep. Kathy Dahlkemper said.”

A keen insight: “Despite his newfound prominence, Todd, like his colleagues, has limited access to the man he is covering. ‘Obama himself is the one who doesn’t like dealing with the press,’ he says, exonerating the White House staff. ‘You can’t even do shouted questions.'” Now he has to actually report on that, not just offer it to Howard Kurtz in a puff piece on himself.

A near-certain pickup for the Republicans: “Governor John Hoeven now has the support of nearly three-out-of-four North Dakota voters in his bid to be the state’s next U.S. senator. The latest Rasmussen Reports telephone survey of Likely Voters in North Dakota finds Hoeven earning 72% support, while his Democratic opponent State Senator Tracy Potter picks up 23%.” Yeah, 72 percent. (Looks like the statewide House seat is a goner for the Democrats too.)

A vote of no-confidence: “Confidence in America’s efforts in the War on Terror has fallen again this month, and, following the unsuccessful terrorist bombing attempt in New York’s Times Square, more voters than ever now believe the nation is not safer today than it was before the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. The latest Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey shows that only 31% now believe the United States is safer today than it was before 9/11, down seven points from last month and the lowest level of confidence measured in over three years of regular tracking.”

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RE: Judicial Victory

Max, I agree that it’s good news when the circuit court declines to apply to a foreign battlefield the constitutional protections afforded to Americans in criminal proceedings. (They should have done the same with Guantanamo, but that is water under the bridge.) But it leaves me at a loss to explain what coherent philosophy underlies Obama’s not-Bush national-security policy.

Obama will kill terrorists with drones but wants to try them in public if they manage to get here. (Isn’t that a perverse incentive?) And Obama wants to empty Guantanamo, where detainees have the right to file habeas corpus petitions, but drop any new terrorists we capture into Bagram, where no rules apply.

There are two possible conclusions one might draw. First, there is no coherent vision here, and all the mumbo-jumbo about “returning to our values” was meant to snow the left and to impugn the record of his predecessor, who prevented any attack on the homeland for seven and a half years. Alternatively, Obama believes the war on terror exists solely outside our borders. Reality keeps disrupting this paradigm — Fort Hood, the Christmas Day bomber, the Times Square bomber — which is why the administration insists, until the evidence to the contrary is overwhelming, that these are “lone wolves” or “one-off” incidents. If he had correctly labeled these as acts of war by a worldwide jihadist foe, he would then have been forced to concede that the domestic policies he employs for handling terrorists are entirely ill-suited to the threat we face.

Max, I agree that it’s good news when the circuit court declines to apply to a foreign battlefield the constitutional protections afforded to Americans in criminal proceedings. (They should have done the same with Guantanamo, but that is water under the bridge.) But it leaves me at a loss to explain what coherent philosophy underlies Obama’s not-Bush national-security policy.

Obama will kill terrorists with drones but wants to try them in public if they manage to get here. (Isn’t that a perverse incentive?) And Obama wants to empty Guantanamo, where detainees have the right to file habeas corpus petitions, but drop any new terrorists we capture into Bagram, where no rules apply.

There are two possible conclusions one might draw. First, there is no coherent vision here, and all the mumbo-jumbo about “returning to our values” was meant to snow the left and to impugn the record of his predecessor, who prevented any attack on the homeland for seven and a half years. Alternatively, Obama believes the war on terror exists solely outside our borders. Reality keeps disrupting this paradigm — Fort Hood, the Christmas Day bomber, the Times Square bomber — which is why the administration insists, until the evidence to the contrary is overwhelming, that these are “lone wolves” or “one-off” incidents. If he had correctly labeled these as acts of war by a worldwide jihadist foe, he would then have been forced to concede that the domestic policies he employs for handling terrorists are entirely ill-suited to the threat we face.

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The Obama Team’s Criminal-Justice Model Fails

The Obama administration came into office convinced that the Bush approach to fighting terrorism was flawed and that instead we could apply criminal-justice rules in the war against Islamic terrorism. It proved unworkable. Now the administration is in a muddle — trying to alter a criminal-justice model that plainly doesn’t work but misunderstanding the legal landscape and the alternatives they have.

Bill Burck and Dana Perino explain that by suggesting that Miranda rules need to be altered, Eric Holder has in essence confessed to error:

The administration is making a number of admissions here: Mirandizing Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, aka the underwear bomber, after only 50 minutes of questioning was a mistake; terrorists are enemies of America, not ordinary criminals; and the law-enforcement approach to combatting terrorism, which is designed to obtain evidence admissible at trial after a crime has already been committed, is not the most effective way to obtain intelligence to prevent future attacks.

This is an important step forward and a sign that, after the Manhattan subway plot, Fort Hood, Detroit, and now Times Square, the administration has become more adaptable to the realities of the war on terror. Yet the jury is out on whether the administration has a real plan or is merely improvising. Times Square bomber Faisal Shahzad remains in the criminal justice system and has not been designated as an enemy combatant, though he is still eligible for such designation.

Burck and Perino make a key point: we can designate even U.S. citizens to be enemy combatants. (“No less an authority than the U.S. Supreme Court, in Hamdi v. Rumsfeld (2004), resolved this question: The president has the authority to hold even U.S. citizens as enemy combatants if he believes they are working with the Taliban, al Qaeda or associated terrorist groups.”) This is probably true even if the U.S. citizen is on U.S. soil (“the federal Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit answered in the affirmative in Padilla v. Hanft).

So we have an administration that in all its condescension and criticism of the prior administration came up with a flawed alternative but that still lacks a full grasp of the alternatives. How could this be? Perhaps they are getting terrible advice from the Justice Department. One wonders what Elena Kagan thinks of all this. She, of course, is part of that brain trust. Maybe she should answer some tough questions at her confirmation hearing, starting with her views on what existing law says about terror suspects. Her colleagues might find it enlightening — provided she knows the law better than Holder.

The Obama administration came into office convinced that the Bush approach to fighting terrorism was flawed and that instead we could apply criminal-justice rules in the war against Islamic terrorism. It proved unworkable. Now the administration is in a muddle — trying to alter a criminal-justice model that plainly doesn’t work but misunderstanding the legal landscape and the alternatives they have.

Bill Burck and Dana Perino explain that by suggesting that Miranda rules need to be altered, Eric Holder has in essence confessed to error:

The administration is making a number of admissions here: Mirandizing Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, aka the underwear bomber, after only 50 minutes of questioning was a mistake; terrorists are enemies of America, not ordinary criminals; and the law-enforcement approach to combatting terrorism, which is designed to obtain evidence admissible at trial after a crime has already been committed, is not the most effective way to obtain intelligence to prevent future attacks.

This is an important step forward and a sign that, after the Manhattan subway plot, Fort Hood, Detroit, and now Times Square, the administration has become more adaptable to the realities of the war on terror. Yet the jury is out on whether the administration has a real plan or is merely improvising. Times Square bomber Faisal Shahzad remains in the criminal justice system and has not been designated as an enemy combatant, though he is still eligible for such designation.

Burck and Perino make a key point: we can designate even U.S. citizens to be enemy combatants. (“No less an authority than the U.S. Supreme Court, in Hamdi v. Rumsfeld (2004), resolved this question: The president has the authority to hold even U.S. citizens as enemy combatants if he believes they are working with the Taliban, al Qaeda or associated terrorist groups.”) This is probably true even if the U.S. citizen is on U.S. soil (“the federal Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit answered in the affirmative in Padilla v. Hanft).

So we have an administration that in all its condescension and criticism of the prior administration came up with a flawed alternative but that still lacks a full grasp of the alternatives. How could this be? Perhaps they are getting terrible advice from the Justice Department. One wonders what Elena Kagan thinks of all this. She, of course, is part of that brain trust. Maybe she should answer some tough questions at her confirmation hearing, starting with her views on what existing law says about terror suspects. Her colleagues might find it enlightening — provided she knows the law better than Holder.

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The Enemy We Dare Not Name

Stephen Hayes and Thomas Joscelyn explain the Obama administration’s now-predictable rhetoric, which runs through the series of jihadist attacks that have occurred on its watch — Fort Hood, the Christmas Day bombing attempt, and the Times Square bombing attempt — or rather, the rhetoric that is conspicuously absent:

So, three attacks in six months, by attackers with connections to the global jihadist network—connections that administration officials have gone out of their way to diminish. The most striking thing about all three attacks is not what we heard, but what we haven’t heard. There has been very little talk about the global war that the Obama administration sometimes acknowledges we are fighting and virtually nothing about what motivates our enemy: radical Islam.

This is no accident. Janet Napolitano never used the word “terrorism” in her first appearance before Congress as secretary-designate of Homeland Security on January 15, 2009. Shortly thereafter, the Washington Post reported that the Obama administration had dropped the phrase “Global War on Terror” in favor of “Overseas Contingency Operations.” And just last month, we learned that the White House’s forthcoming National Security Strategy would not use religious words such as “jihad” and “Islamic extremism.” When asked why she did not utter the word “terrorism”  in the course of her testimony, Napolitano explained that she used “man-caused disaster” instead to avoid “the politics of fear.”

It is worth asking why. One gets the impression that somehow the administration thinks it’s a problem to engage in a multi-pronged outreach to the “Muslim World” (we can question the utility of that, but they imagine it’s helpful) and to identify the actual enemy — which is a segment of that world, namely radical jihadists who just so happen to terrorize and kill a great many other Muslims. It is perhaps out of condescension that the Obama brain trust thinks the distinction will be lost on the worldwide Muslim audience. Therefore, we can’t use the “I” word or the “M” word except in praise.

Identifying the enemy by name also makes it difficult to adhere to the criminal-justice model that the Obama team and its lefty lawyers plainly adore. If there is a network of ideologically motivated, non-state terrorists, then are public trials and dispensing Miranda rights really the way to go? Well, if it’s just a “lone wolf,” perhaps the ordinary justice system can be employed. Or better yet, if it is a mentally unstable patient (don’t forget the liberal explanations du jour: Major Hasan was suffering pre-deployment stress syndrome, and Shahzad was a foreclosure victim), we can chalk this up to American war-fighting or capitalism.

The result is the use, or attempted use, of measures ill-suited to the war against Islamic fanatics — like giving the 9/11 ringleader a public trial or automatically Mirandizing bombers. And it prevents institutions, including the Army, from clueing into the telltale signs of Islamic radicalization that might pose a threat. Moreover, it conveys to the enemy and to our allies (including many in the “Muslim World”) that we are confused, afraid, and unfocused. If this is a war against American civilization, our failure to explain and defend ourselves and to identify the threat only emboldens the radical jihadists. Obama’s inability to identify the enemy is at bottom a refusal to defend American civilization, which, itself, is under attack. That may be beyond the reach of the president, who never tires of apologizing for America.

Stephen Hayes and Thomas Joscelyn explain the Obama administration’s now-predictable rhetoric, which runs through the series of jihadist attacks that have occurred on its watch — Fort Hood, the Christmas Day bombing attempt, and the Times Square bombing attempt — or rather, the rhetoric that is conspicuously absent:

So, three attacks in six months, by attackers with connections to the global jihadist network—connections that administration officials have gone out of their way to diminish. The most striking thing about all three attacks is not what we heard, but what we haven’t heard. There has been very little talk about the global war that the Obama administration sometimes acknowledges we are fighting and virtually nothing about what motivates our enemy: radical Islam.

This is no accident. Janet Napolitano never used the word “terrorism” in her first appearance before Congress as secretary-designate of Homeland Security on January 15, 2009. Shortly thereafter, the Washington Post reported that the Obama administration had dropped the phrase “Global War on Terror” in favor of “Overseas Contingency Operations.” And just last month, we learned that the White House’s forthcoming National Security Strategy would not use religious words such as “jihad” and “Islamic extremism.” When asked why she did not utter the word “terrorism”  in the course of her testimony, Napolitano explained that she used “man-caused disaster” instead to avoid “the politics of fear.”

It is worth asking why. One gets the impression that somehow the administration thinks it’s a problem to engage in a multi-pronged outreach to the “Muslim World” (we can question the utility of that, but they imagine it’s helpful) and to identify the actual enemy — which is a segment of that world, namely radical jihadists who just so happen to terrorize and kill a great many other Muslims. It is perhaps out of condescension that the Obama brain trust thinks the distinction will be lost on the worldwide Muslim audience. Therefore, we can’t use the “I” word or the “M” word except in praise.

Identifying the enemy by name also makes it difficult to adhere to the criminal-justice model that the Obama team and its lefty lawyers plainly adore. If there is a network of ideologically motivated, non-state terrorists, then are public trials and dispensing Miranda rights really the way to go? Well, if it’s just a “lone wolf,” perhaps the ordinary justice system can be employed. Or better yet, if it is a mentally unstable patient (don’t forget the liberal explanations du jour: Major Hasan was suffering pre-deployment stress syndrome, and Shahzad was a foreclosure victim), we can chalk this up to American war-fighting or capitalism.

The result is the use, or attempted use, of measures ill-suited to the war against Islamic fanatics — like giving the 9/11 ringleader a public trial or automatically Mirandizing bombers. And it prevents institutions, including the Army, from clueing into the telltale signs of Islamic radicalization that might pose a threat. Moreover, it conveys to the enemy and to our allies (including many in the “Muslim World”) that we are confused, afraid, and unfocused. If this is a war against American civilization, our failure to explain and defend ourselves and to identify the threat only emboldens the radical jihadists. Obama’s inability to identify the enemy is at bottom a refusal to defend American civilization, which, itself, is under attack. That may be beyond the reach of the president, who never tires of apologizing for America.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

“Recovery” means something other than a steady, predictable improvement in the economy: “The Dow Jones industrial average plunged nearly 1,000 points in afternoon trading before recovering significantly Thursday — but it was enough to sow chaos on Wall Street as traders blamed everything from a technical glitch to chaos in the Greek economy. In Washington, the sudden drop — the biggest within a single trading day in Dow history — underscored just how fragile the nascent recovery could be, as the White House tries to convince the public that signs of growth mean the economy has begun to turn the corner.”

“Transparent” means you have to be taken to court to disclose documents to congressional investigators: “Senate Homeland Security Committee Chairman Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) and ranking Republican Susan Collins (Maine) on Thursday said they are poised to press their subpoena fight with the Obama administration into court. Lieberman and Collins, speaking separately, both said the Justice and Defense departments have been uncooperative with their efforts to obtain more information about the November 2009 shootings at Fort Hood, Texas, that killed 13 people.”

Reset” means all is forgiven: “President Obama is preparing to revive a civilian nuclear cooperation agreement with Moscow that his predecessor shelved two years ago in protest of Russia’s war on its tiny neighbor, Georgia, administration officials said Thursday. Renewing the agreement would be the latest step in Mr. Obama’s drive to repair relations between the two powers, at a time when he is seeking Moscow’s support for tough new sanctions against Iran. But word of the move has generated consternation in Congress, where some lawmakers were already skeptical of the agreement and now worry that Mr. Obama is giving Russia too much.”

“Awareness of the potential political consequences of the actions” means holy cow — the Democrats are going to get wiped out! Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland: “I think we need to proceed with some awareness of the potential political consequences of the actions that are undertaken here in Washington.”

Civility” means his critics should shut up. “Less than a week after promoting the need to treat others ‘with courtesy and respect,’ the unhappy warrior was at it again yesterday with a misleading attack on the motives of an opponent. Responding to an amendment offered by Senator Richard Shelby to limit the scope of the proposed Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, Mr. Obama said, ‘I will not allow amendments like this one written by Wall Street’s lobbyists to pass for reform.’ Mr. Civility was insulting the gentleman from Alabama, but even if delivered in dignified language, the attack was false.”

ObamaCare” means you’re not going to keep your health-care plan. Yuval Levin explains that “it turns out that several major corporations are drawing up plans to end their employee health benefits once Obamacare gets up and running. They’ve done the math and figured out that the penalty they would have to pay for dropping their workers would be much lower than the costs of continuing to insure them, and now there will be a new taxpayer-subsidized option for those workers to turn to in state exchanges, so why not cut them off?”

For the New York Times,a pragmatist” means a law-school dean (Elena Kagan) who signs an amicus brief arguing that military recruiters can be banned from campuses despite a contrary federal law. “She repeatedly criticized ‘don’t ask, don’t tell,’ the policy that bars gay men and lesbians from openly serving in the military. At one point she called it ‘a moral injustice of the first order.’  She also joined a legal brief urging the Supreme Court to overturn the law that denied federal funds to colleges and universities that barred military recruiters.”

“Recovery” means something other than a steady, predictable improvement in the economy: “The Dow Jones industrial average plunged nearly 1,000 points in afternoon trading before recovering significantly Thursday — but it was enough to sow chaos on Wall Street as traders blamed everything from a technical glitch to chaos in the Greek economy. In Washington, the sudden drop — the biggest within a single trading day in Dow history — underscored just how fragile the nascent recovery could be, as the White House tries to convince the public that signs of growth mean the economy has begun to turn the corner.”

“Transparent” means you have to be taken to court to disclose documents to congressional investigators: “Senate Homeland Security Committee Chairman Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) and ranking Republican Susan Collins (Maine) on Thursday said they are poised to press their subpoena fight with the Obama administration into court. Lieberman and Collins, speaking separately, both said the Justice and Defense departments have been uncooperative with their efforts to obtain more information about the November 2009 shootings at Fort Hood, Texas, that killed 13 people.”

Reset” means all is forgiven: “President Obama is preparing to revive a civilian nuclear cooperation agreement with Moscow that his predecessor shelved two years ago in protest of Russia’s war on its tiny neighbor, Georgia, administration officials said Thursday. Renewing the agreement would be the latest step in Mr. Obama’s drive to repair relations between the two powers, at a time when he is seeking Moscow’s support for tough new sanctions against Iran. But word of the move has generated consternation in Congress, where some lawmakers were already skeptical of the agreement and now worry that Mr. Obama is giving Russia too much.”

“Awareness of the potential political consequences of the actions” means holy cow — the Democrats are going to get wiped out! Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland: “I think we need to proceed with some awareness of the potential political consequences of the actions that are undertaken here in Washington.”

Civility” means his critics should shut up. “Less than a week after promoting the need to treat others ‘with courtesy and respect,’ the unhappy warrior was at it again yesterday with a misleading attack on the motives of an opponent. Responding to an amendment offered by Senator Richard Shelby to limit the scope of the proposed Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, Mr. Obama said, ‘I will not allow amendments like this one written by Wall Street’s lobbyists to pass for reform.’ Mr. Civility was insulting the gentleman from Alabama, but even if delivered in dignified language, the attack was false.”

ObamaCare” means you’re not going to keep your health-care plan. Yuval Levin explains that “it turns out that several major corporations are drawing up plans to end their employee health benefits once Obamacare gets up and running. They’ve done the math and figured out that the penalty they would have to pay for dropping their workers would be much lower than the costs of continuing to insure them, and now there will be a new taxpayer-subsidized option for those workers to turn to in state exchanges, so why not cut them off?”

For the New York Times,a pragmatist” means a law-school dean (Elena Kagan) who signs an amicus brief arguing that military recruiters can be banned from campuses despite a contrary federal law. “She repeatedly criticized ‘don’t ask, don’t tell,’ the policy that bars gay men and lesbians from openly serving in the military. At one point she called it ‘a moral injustice of the first order.’  She also joined a legal brief urging the Supreme Court to overturn the law that denied federal funds to colleges and universities that barred military recruiters.”

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Ezra Klein: The Foreclosure Made Him Do It

Ezra Klein is one of the lefty horde of bloggers the Washington Post has taken on board in an effort to remain relevant. Or get eyeballs on the Internet. Or something. Anyway, he writes mostly on domestic policy. I think that’s a good idea, if his latest offering is any indication.

It is, in a few short graphs, the perfect distillation of the left’s cockeyed take on terrorism, the nature of man, and evil. (I will assume Klein is not a clever comic out to skewer his ilk.) He writes: “The arrested subject of last weekend’s Times Square bomb plot is a homeowner in the midst of foreclosure.” Citing an MSNBC story, he notes that Faisal Shahzad bought a house in 2004 and was foreclosed.” (He leaves out the part that the home was abandoned “months ago.” More on why he actually stopped paying his mortgage later.) And what conclusion does Klein reach?

This guy is like string theory for the media: He brings together the seemingly incompatible stories that drove the past decade. That said, you of course don’t want to speculate on why someone “really” did something. The hearts of men are opaque, and motives are complex. But it’s a reminder that foreclosures generate an enormous amount of misery and anxiety and depression that can tip people into all sorts of dangerous behaviors that don’t make headlines but do ruin lives. And for all that we’ve done to save the financial sector, we’ve not done nearly enough to help struggling homeowners.

Thunk. Where to begin — how about the explanation for why he quit his job, stopped paying his mortgage, and started buying propane tanks, wires, and such? He stopped living a normal life — and paying his mortgage — to become a terrorist and train in Pakistan. Oh, yes. That. (His own paper has a fairly good account of the sequence of events, as does the Wall Street Journal, which notes that he hated Preisdent George W. Bush. I await his column excoriating Keith Olbermann for fomenting violence.)

But the disinclination to accept the obvious — as we saw in the Fort Hood shooting — is strong. “The hearts of men are opaque, and motives are complex,” Klein waxes lyrical. Do we really think a man who travels to Pakistan to get bomb training has an opaque heart? Really, maybe he was upset about global warming. Animal rights?

And the defense lawyer should take note. Klein presents the closing summation for the jury: “It’s a reminder that foreclosures generate an enormous amount of misery and anxiety and depression that can tip people into all sorts of dangerous behaviors that don’t make headlines but do ruin lives.” (Who knew that all those risky Fannie and Freddie loans to uncreditworthy buyers were breeding terrorists?)

This is the mentality that cheers ideas like closing Guantanamo, eschewing enhanced interrogation (if they had captured the suspect and the location of the bomb had been unknown, would the administration have stuck to the Army Field Manual?), Mirandizing terrorists, and tying ourselves in knots to avoid identifying the enemy as Islamic fundamentalists out to butcher Americans. Nothing opaque about that.

Ezra Klein is one of the lefty horde of bloggers the Washington Post has taken on board in an effort to remain relevant. Or get eyeballs on the Internet. Or something. Anyway, he writes mostly on domestic policy. I think that’s a good idea, if his latest offering is any indication.

It is, in a few short graphs, the perfect distillation of the left’s cockeyed take on terrorism, the nature of man, and evil. (I will assume Klein is not a clever comic out to skewer his ilk.) He writes: “The arrested subject of last weekend’s Times Square bomb plot is a homeowner in the midst of foreclosure.” Citing an MSNBC story, he notes that Faisal Shahzad bought a house in 2004 and was foreclosed.” (He leaves out the part that the home was abandoned “months ago.” More on why he actually stopped paying his mortgage later.) And what conclusion does Klein reach?

This guy is like string theory for the media: He brings together the seemingly incompatible stories that drove the past decade. That said, you of course don’t want to speculate on why someone “really” did something. The hearts of men are opaque, and motives are complex. But it’s a reminder that foreclosures generate an enormous amount of misery and anxiety and depression that can tip people into all sorts of dangerous behaviors that don’t make headlines but do ruin lives. And for all that we’ve done to save the financial sector, we’ve not done nearly enough to help struggling homeowners.

Thunk. Where to begin — how about the explanation for why he quit his job, stopped paying his mortgage, and started buying propane tanks, wires, and such? He stopped living a normal life — and paying his mortgage — to become a terrorist and train in Pakistan. Oh, yes. That. (His own paper has a fairly good account of the sequence of events, as does the Wall Street Journal, which notes that he hated Preisdent George W. Bush. I await his column excoriating Keith Olbermann for fomenting violence.)

But the disinclination to accept the obvious — as we saw in the Fort Hood shooting — is strong. “The hearts of men are opaque, and motives are complex,” Klein waxes lyrical. Do we really think a man who travels to Pakistan to get bomb training has an opaque heart? Really, maybe he was upset about global warming. Animal rights?

And the defense lawyer should take note. Klein presents the closing summation for the jury: “It’s a reminder that foreclosures generate an enormous amount of misery and anxiety and depression that can tip people into all sorts of dangerous behaviors that don’t make headlines but do ruin lives.” (Who knew that all those risky Fannie and Freddie loans to uncreditworthy buyers were breeding terrorists?)

This is the mentality that cheers ideas like closing Guantanamo, eschewing enhanced interrogation (if they had captured the suspect and the location of the bomb had been unknown, would the administration have stuck to the Army Field Manual?), Mirandizing terrorists, and tying ourselves in knots to avoid identifying the enemy as Islamic fundamentalists out to butcher Americans. Nothing opaque about that.

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The Least Transparent Administration

Among the Obama administration’s wildly inaccurate self-descriptors is that it is the most “transparent administration in history.” That is — as we have repeatedly seen in the national security  and civil rights realms– nonsense. We see it again in the Times Square jihadist attack. Even the Washington Post editors have had enough of the administration’s aversion to disclosure:

But much is still not known about the administration’s handling of this case. For example, how long was Mr. Shahzad questioned before he was read his Miranda rights? And what triggered the Justice Department’s decision to suspend the “ticking time bomb” exception in case law that gives law enforcement officers an opportunity to gather information before advising a suspect of his right to remain silent? The administration has also not publicly addressed whether it consulted with intelligence officials on the best way to deal with Mr. Shahzad. Nor has it said whether its High Value Interrogation Group (HIG) — a group of law enforcement and intelligence experts specially trained for terrorism cases — was up and running and deployed in the Shahzad case.

The administration rightly came under fire for its handling of the case of Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, a Nigerian citizen who tried to ignite explosives on a Detroit-bound plane on Christmas Day. In that case, the Justice Department failed to adequately consult its intelligence partners and rashly embraced a law enforcement approach without fully considering other options, including holding Mr. Abdulmutallab as an enemy combatant.

As in the Fort Hood massacre, the administration resists scrutiny here. It’s odd indeed that the Obama brain trust is willing — anxious even — to give KSM a public forum to spout his jihadist propaganda (we’re not afraid, pronounces Holder) but can’t discuss its own approach to jihadist terrorists in open hearings and press conferences. Is this the usual thin-skinned irritation with critics at work? Or does the administration at some level understand how out of sync with the public is its approach to terrorists?

House and Senate Democrats have shirked their responsibility to conduct meaningful oversight. We may have to wait until one or both houses flip to Republican control before we have chairmen willing to demand documents and grill Obama officials. We hope that the lessons learned from such investigations do not come too late to prevent yet another attack on the homeland.

Among the Obama administration’s wildly inaccurate self-descriptors is that it is the most “transparent administration in history.” That is — as we have repeatedly seen in the national security  and civil rights realms– nonsense. We see it again in the Times Square jihadist attack. Even the Washington Post editors have had enough of the administration’s aversion to disclosure:

But much is still not known about the administration’s handling of this case. For example, how long was Mr. Shahzad questioned before he was read his Miranda rights? And what triggered the Justice Department’s decision to suspend the “ticking time bomb” exception in case law that gives law enforcement officers an opportunity to gather information before advising a suspect of his right to remain silent? The administration has also not publicly addressed whether it consulted with intelligence officials on the best way to deal with Mr. Shahzad. Nor has it said whether its High Value Interrogation Group (HIG) — a group of law enforcement and intelligence experts specially trained for terrorism cases — was up and running and deployed in the Shahzad case.

The administration rightly came under fire for its handling of the case of Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, a Nigerian citizen who tried to ignite explosives on a Detroit-bound plane on Christmas Day. In that case, the Justice Department failed to adequately consult its intelligence partners and rashly embraced a law enforcement approach without fully considering other options, including holding Mr. Abdulmutallab as an enemy combatant.

As in the Fort Hood massacre, the administration resists scrutiny here. It’s odd indeed that the Obama brain trust is willing — anxious even — to give KSM a public forum to spout his jihadist propaganda (we’re not afraid, pronounces Holder) but can’t discuss its own approach to jihadist terrorists in open hearings and press conferences. Is this the usual thin-skinned irritation with critics at work? Or does the administration at some level understand how out of sync with the public is its approach to terrorists?

House and Senate Democrats have shirked their responsibility to conduct meaningful oversight. We may have to wait until one or both houses flip to Republican control before we have chairmen willing to demand documents and grill Obama officials. We hope that the lessons learned from such investigations do not come too late to prevent yet another attack on the homeland.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Harry Reid has even managed to stiffen Olympia Snowe’s spine: “For a second day in row, Democrats failed to open debate on a Wall Street reform bill after Senate Republicans held ranks to block it. The vote was 57 to 41, with all Republicans who were present voting no. Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.) was the lone Democrat to vote no on Monday, and he voted no again. … In fact, some of the moderates who might be most likely to vote yes — such as Maine Sen. Olympia Snowe — have expressed displeasure that Reid is forcing the votes even as bipartisan negotiations on the bill go forward.”

Tom Goldstein thinks Obama will pick Elena Kagan for the Supreme Court. Among his smart observations: “Elena Kagan has significant demonstrated success in working with conservatives at Harvard Law School, which is an exceptionally challenging environment, and has parallels to the relationships at the Court. But she has never been a judge, and would as a consequence presumably take longer than the others to adapt to the new role.”

Israel isn’t going to buy into “containment” if that’s where Obama is heading with Iran: “Defense Minister Ehud Barak said the world cannot afford to wait too long to see if Iran backs down on its nuclear program while in Washington on Tuesday. In a news conference with Defense Secretary Robert Gates, Barak said he supports the US focus on tougher economic sanctions against Teheran, but he added that only time will tell to what extent sanctions are effective in persuading Iran to give up its nuclear ambitions. Barak says that if the international community waits too long, Iran could acquire a nuclear weapon that he says would ‘change the landscape,’ and not just of the Middle East.”

According to Robert Gates, “Syria and Iran are providing Hezbollah with so many rockets that they are at a point where they have more missiles than most governments in the world.” So what are we going to do about it?

Not remotely the most transparent administration in history: “The Obama administration has only partially complied with congressional subpoenas for information on the deadly November shootings at Fort Hood, Texas. The failure by the Defense and Justice departments to turn over all the requested documentation — which they say they do not intend to do — is not likely to ease the growing tension between some key senators and the Obama administration over the incident at the Army base on Nov. 5, 2009.”

Jeb Bush speaks out against Arizona’s immigration law. “I think it creates unintended consequences. … It’s difficult for me to imagine how you’re going to enforce this law. It places a significant burden on local law enforcement and you have civil liberties issues that are significant as well.”

Michael Gerson: “American states have broad powers. But they are not permitted their own foreign or immigration policy. One reason is that immigration law concerns not only the treatment of illegal immigrants but also the proper treatment of American citizens. And here the Arizona law fails badly. … Americans are not accustomed to the command ‘Your papers, please,’ however politely delivered. The distinctly American response to such a request would be ‘Go to hell,’ and then ‘See you in court.'”

The Obami’s multilaterialism fetish continues: “Step by tentative step, the Obama Administration is getting closer to embracing the International Criminal Court. The White House won’t join the Hague-based body soon, but that’s its logical endpoint. Answerable to virtually no one, the ICC was created by the 1998 United Nations’s Rome Statute to prosecute war and other ‘serious’ crimes.”

Harry Reid has even managed to stiffen Olympia Snowe’s spine: “For a second day in row, Democrats failed to open debate on a Wall Street reform bill after Senate Republicans held ranks to block it. The vote was 57 to 41, with all Republicans who were present voting no. Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.) was the lone Democrat to vote no on Monday, and he voted no again. … In fact, some of the moderates who might be most likely to vote yes — such as Maine Sen. Olympia Snowe — have expressed displeasure that Reid is forcing the votes even as bipartisan negotiations on the bill go forward.”

Tom Goldstein thinks Obama will pick Elena Kagan for the Supreme Court. Among his smart observations: “Elena Kagan has significant demonstrated success in working with conservatives at Harvard Law School, which is an exceptionally challenging environment, and has parallels to the relationships at the Court. But she has never been a judge, and would as a consequence presumably take longer than the others to adapt to the new role.”

Israel isn’t going to buy into “containment” if that’s where Obama is heading with Iran: “Defense Minister Ehud Barak said the world cannot afford to wait too long to see if Iran backs down on its nuclear program while in Washington on Tuesday. In a news conference with Defense Secretary Robert Gates, Barak said he supports the US focus on tougher economic sanctions against Teheran, but he added that only time will tell to what extent sanctions are effective in persuading Iran to give up its nuclear ambitions. Barak says that if the international community waits too long, Iran could acquire a nuclear weapon that he says would ‘change the landscape,’ and not just of the Middle East.”

According to Robert Gates, “Syria and Iran are providing Hezbollah with so many rockets that they are at a point where they have more missiles than most governments in the world.” So what are we going to do about it?

Not remotely the most transparent administration in history: “The Obama administration has only partially complied with congressional subpoenas for information on the deadly November shootings at Fort Hood, Texas. The failure by the Defense and Justice departments to turn over all the requested documentation — which they say they do not intend to do — is not likely to ease the growing tension between some key senators and the Obama administration over the incident at the Army base on Nov. 5, 2009.”

Jeb Bush speaks out against Arizona’s immigration law. “I think it creates unintended consequences. … It’s difficult for me to imagine how you’re going to enforce this law. It places a significant burden on local law enforcement and you have civil liberties issues that are significant as well.”

Michael Gerson: “American states have broad powers. But they are not permitted their own foreign or immigration policy. One reason is that immigration law concerns not only the treatment of illegal immigrants but also the proper treatment of American citizens. And here the Arizona law fails badly. … Americans are not accustomed to the command ‘Your papers, please,’ however politely delivered. The distinctly American response to such a request would be ‘Go to hell,’ and then ‘See you in court.'”

The Obami’s multilaterialism fetish continues: “Step by tentative step, the Obama Administration is getting closer to embracing the International Criminal Court. The White House won’t join the Hague-based body soon, but that’s its logical endpoint. Answerable to virtually no one, the ICC was created by the 1998 United Nations’s Rome Statute to prosecute war and other ‘serious’ crimes.”

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Not the Most Transparent Administration Ever: The Fort Hood Stonewall

Sens. Joe Lieberman and Susan Collins, the chair and ranking minority leader on the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, have been stymied in their effort to investigate the Fort Hood terrorist attack. They’ve been forced to now subpoena the records they are seeking, for it seems that the administration adamantly refuses to have anyone look over its shoulder. The senators take to the pages of the Wall Street Journal to argue:

The rampage at Fort Hood, Texas, on Nov. 5, 2009 — after which U.S. Army Major Nidal Hasan was charged with 13 counts of murder and 32 counts of attempted murder — has been reviewed by the administration and its group of handpicked outsiders, who were all formerly with either the Department of Defense or the Department of Justice. But the administration continues to withhold much of the crucial information from the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, of which we are chairman and ranking member.

This is just not good enough for the American people. There are too many questions that still demand answers. Whatever mistakes were made in the run-up to the Fort Hood shootings need to be uncovered, and an independent, bipartisan congressional investigation is the best way to do it.

As Lieberman makes clear, they aren’t seeking to investigate the shooting — it’s the Army they want to investigate. Specifically, the senators are concerned about the lack of attention which the FBI and Defense Department paid to Major Hassan’s radical behavior and to his e-mails with Anwar al-Awlaki. As they note, the Bush administration never tried this sort of stonewall. (“There is recent precedent for Congress to interview agents who may be prosecution witnesses. The Congressional Joint Inquiry into 9/11 interviewed FBI agents who were involved in arresting the so-called 20th hijacker, Zacarias Moussaoui, even though they were potential witnesses in that case.”)

It is hard to escape the conclusion that this administration simply doesn’t want to be second-guessed. We’ve already investigated ourselves, they declare. Not good enough. The senators should keep at it. And the administration should be on notice: should one or both of the Senate or House flip to Republican control, there is going to be a renewed appreciation of the importance of Congressional oversight.

Sens. Joe Lieberman and Susan Collins, the chair and ranking minority leader on the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, have been stymied in their effort to investigate the Fort Hood terrorist attack. They’ve been forced to now subpoena the records they are seeking, for it seems that the administration adamantly refuses to have anyone look over its shoulder. The senators take to the pages of the Wall Street Journal to argue:

The rampage at Fort Hood, Texas, on Nov. 5, 2009 — after which U.S. Army Major Nidal Hasan was charged with 13 counts of murder and 32 counts of attempted murder — has been reviewed by the administration and its group of handpicked outsiders, who were all formerly with either the Department of Defense or the Department of Justice. But the administration continues to withhold much of the crucial information from the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, of which we are chairman and ranking member.

This is just not good enough for the American people. There are too many questions that still demand answers. Whatever mistakes were made in the run-up to the Fort Hood shootings need to be uncovered, and an independent, bipartisan congressional investigation is the best way to do it.

As Lieberman makes clear, they aren’t seeking to investigate the shooting — it’s the Army they want to investigate. Specifically, the senators are concerned about the lack of attention which the FBI and Defense Department paid to Major Hassan’s radical behavior and to his e-mails with Anwar al-Awlaki. As they note, the Bush administration never tried this sort of stonewall. (“There is recent precedent for Congress to interview agents who may be prosecution witnesses. The Congressional Joint Inquiry into 9/11 interviewed FBI agents who were involved in arresting the so-called 20th hijacker, Zacarias Moussaoui, even though they were potential witnesses in that case.”)

It is hard to escape the conclusion that this administration simply doesn’t want to be second-guessed. We’ve already investigated ourselves, they declare. Not good enough. The senators should keep at it. And the administration should be on notice: should one or both of the Senate or House flip to Republican control, there is going to be a renewed appreciation of the importance of Congressional oversight.

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Obama OKs Assassination of American Citizen

…and no, it’s not Rush Limbaugh.

Mr. Awlaki, who was born in New Mexico and spent years in the United States as an imam, is in hiding in Yemen. He has been the focus of intense scrutiny since he was linked to Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan, the Army psychiatrist accused of killing 13 people at Fort Hood, Tex., in November, and then to Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the Nigerian man charged with trying to blow up a Detroit-bound airliner on Dec. 25.

American counterterrorism officials say Mr. Awlaki is an operative of Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, the affiliate of the terror network in Yemen and Saudi Arabia. They say they believe that he has become a recruiter for the terrorist network, feeding prospects into plots aimed at the United States and at Americans abroad, the officials said.

It is extremely rare, if not unprecedented, for an American to be approved for targeted killing, officials said.

Nice to know.

However, I respectfully request, Mr. President, that the following be added to your hit list:

• Customer-service rep #2346 at Time Warner Cable, Queens, New York
• Customer-service rep “Treacle” at Verizon Wireless
• Customer-service rep “Chandra” at Dell
• Customer-service rep “Mahmoud” at Vonage
• Customer-service rep “Captain Nightmare” at Citibank
• Whoever thought this was a good idea

…and no, it’s not Rush Limbaugh.

Mr. Awlaki, who was born in New Mexico and spent years in the United States as an imam, is in hiding in Yemen. He has been the focus of intense scrutiny since he was linked to Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan, the Army psychiatrist accused of killing 13 people at Fort Hood, Tex., in November, and then to Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the Nigerian man charged with trying to blow up a Detroit-bound airliner on Dec. 25.

American counterterrorism officials say Mr. Awlaki is an operative of Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, the affiliate of the terror network in Yemen and Saudi Arabia. They say they believe that he has become a recruiter for the terrorist network, feeding prospects into plots aimed at the United States and at Americans abroad, the officials said.

It is extremely rare, if not unprecedented, for an American to be approved for targeted killing, officials said.

Nice to know.

However, I respectfully request, Mr. President, that the following be added to your hit list:

• Customer-service rep #2346 at Time Warner Cable, Queens, New York
• Customer-service rep “Treacle” at Verizon Wireless
• Customer-service rep “Chandra” at Dell
• Customer-service rep “Mahmoud” at Vonage
• Customer-service rep “Captain Nightmare” at Citibank
• Whoever thought this was a good idea

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Trying to Reinvent Obama

Dee Dee Myers is the latest Democrat to step forward offering advice to Obama. Her bottom line: change your personality. She finds him “calm,” “cool,” and “self-possessed.” The result, she says:

But while eschewing emotion — and its companion, vulnerability — Obama should be careful not to sacrifice empathy, the “I feel your pain” connection that sustained [Bill] Clinton. This connection is the shorthand people use to measure their leaders’ intentions. If people believe you’re on their side, they will trust your decisions. Too often, Obama leaves the impression that he stands alone — and likes it that way. Clinton was fond of saying, “We’re all going up or down together.” Obama must make sure that people know that he needs their help as much as they need his.

We’ve had a series of detached performances — Fort Hood and  the Christmas Day bombing — in which he was weirdly unemotional. A snippy showing at the health-care summit. And an attack on the Supreme Court. Indeed, he seems most engaged when he’s attacking his opponents, as he refers to the growing number of those who disagree with him.

Myers gives campaign-style advice in consultant-speak (“reconnect his biography to his agenda”):

Obama also needs to remind people that things weren’t always easy for him. The campaign introduced the country to a man whose life story was both unusual — a Kenyan father and a Kansan mother, a childhood spent in Hawaii and Indonesia — and broadly shared: a single mom who worked hard and sacrificed for her children and a family that faced difficult times but never lost its faith in the future.

But that all seems beside the point, oddly inappropriate for the presidency as opposed to the campaign. (There really is a difference between the two.) Something more fundamental is going on here: Obama seems not to respect his fellow citizens — the uninformed rubes who crashed the health-care town halls — nor care what they think. All his energy now is devoted to disregarding their strong aversion to his idea of health-care reform and forcing through a vote on something the public doesn’t want. It’s hard to bond with the American people, which is what Myers is suggesting, when your agenda conveys disdain for their concerns. Myers gets closer to the nub of the problem as she concludes:

Obama maintains a reservoir of goodwill. Even people who don’t approve of the job he’s doing like him personally. Most think he understands their problems and cares about people like them. In other words, people want to have a beer with him. They’re just not sure he wants to have a beer with them.

But that reservoir is being depleted over time. And who wants to have a beer with someone who doesn’t listen to anything you have to say?

It’s hard to conceal your personality in the 24/7 news cycle and in the most prominent job in the world. What was intriguing in the campaign — that cool, “superior” temperament — is now a liability. But it’s hard to change who you are. If Democrats are queasy about the president’s lacking warmth and empathy, not to mention some executive skills, there isn’t much they can do about it. Their dream candidate turned out to be rather flawed in ways that are critical to a successful presidency. They — and we — will have to live with that for a few more years.

Dee Dee Myers is the latest Democrat to step forward offering advice to Obama. Her bottom line: change your personality. She finds him “calm,” “cool,” and “self-possessed.” The result, she says:

But while eschewing emotion — and its companion, vulnerability — Obama should be careful not to sacrifice empathy, the “I feel your pain” connection that sustained [Bill] Clinton. This connection is the shorthand people use to measure their leaders’ intentions. If people believe you’re on their side, they will trust your decisions. Too often, Obama leaves the impression that he stands alone — and likes it that way. Clinton was fond of saying, “We’re all going up or down together.” Obama must make sure that people know that he needs their help as much as they need his.

We’ve had a series of detached performances — Fort Hood and  the Christmas Day bombing — in which he was weirdly unemotional. A snippy showing at the health-care summit. And an attack on the Supreme Court. Indeed, he seems most engaged when he’s attacking his opponents, as he refers to the growing number of those who disagree with him.

Myers gives campaign-style advice in consultant-speak (“reconnect his biography to his agenda”):

Obama also needs to remind people that things weren’t always easy for him. The campaign introduced the country to a man whose life story was both unusual — a Kenyan father and a Kansan mother, a childhood spent in Hawaii and Indonesia — and broadly shared: a single mom who worked hard and sacrificed for her children and a family that faced difficult times but never lost its faith in the future.

But that all seems beside the point, oddly inappropriate for the presidency as opposed to the campaign. (There really is a difference between the two.) Something more fundamental is going on here: Obama seems not to respect his fellow citizens — the uninformed rubes who crashed the health-care town halls — nor care what they think. All his energy now is devoted to disregarding their strong aversion to his idea of health-care reform and forcing through a vote on something the public doesn’t want. It’s hard to bond with the American people, which is what Myers is suggesting, when your agenda conveys disdain for their concerns. Myers gets closer to the nub of the problem as she concludes:

Obama maintains a reservoir of goodwill. Even people who don’t approve of the job he’s doing like him personally. Most think he understands their problems and cares about people like them. In other words, people want to have a beer with him. They’re just not sure he wants to have a beer with them.

But that reservoir is being depleted over time. And who wants to have a beer with someone who doesn’t listen to anything you have to say?

It’s hard to conceal your personality in the 24/7 news cycle and in the most prominent job in the world. What was intriguing in the campaign — that cool, “superior” temperament — is now a liability. But it’s hard to change who you are. If Democrats are queasy about the president’s lacking warmth and empathy, not to mention some executive skills, there isn’t much they can do about it. Their dream candidate turned out to be rather flawed in ways that are critical to a successful presidency. They — and we — will have to live with that for a few more years.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Christopher Hitchens is out hawking his book with tales of his Oxford escapades. Alas, now “he’s a Dorian-Gray picture of his former self invoking the memory of it all to sell books this time around, and he’s given it—and himself—a very bad name indeed.”

In case there was any confusion about what the enemy is up to: “Al-Qaida’s American-born spokesman on Sunday called on Muslims serving in the U.S. armed forces to emulate the Army major charged with killing 13 people in Fort Hood. In a 25-minute video posted on militant Web sites, Adam Gadahn described Maj. Nidal Hasan as a pioneer who should serve as a role model for other Muslims, especially those serving Western militaries. ‘Brother Nidal is the ideal role-model for every repentant Muslim in the armies of the unbelievers and apostate regimes,’ he said.”

This was televised on C-SPAN: “Former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich talked about ethics in politics. Following his remarks he responded to questions from law professors. The panel included Professors Tonja Jacobi, Donald Gordon, and Donna Leff.” (h/t Taegan Goddard) Seems better suited to Comedy Central.

Who better to send on a fool’s errand? “U.S. President Barack Obama dispatches his vice president to the Middle East on Sunday to try to build support for reviving Israeli-Palestinian peace talks despite deep skepticism on both sides.”

Clark Hoyt gets around to discussing the latest plagiarism scandal at the New York Times involving now departed Zachery Kouwe. He wonders: “How did his serial plagiarism happen and go undetected for so long? Why were warning signs overlooked? Was there anything at fault in the culture of DealBook, the hyper-competitive news blog on which Kouwe worked? And, now that the investigation is complete, what about a full accounting to readers?” Well, for starters, the Times let Maureen Dowd get away with plagiarism, so maybe Kouwe got the idea that it wasn’t really a “mortal journalistic sin.”

David Freddoso on the ongoing sanctimony festival: “‘Bankers don’t need another vote in the United States Senate,’ President Obama said as he urged Massachusetts voters to support Attorney General Martha Coakley over Republican Scott Brown. He also railed against ‘the same fat-cats who are getting rewarded for their failure.’ But in Illinois, Democrats have nominated a banker for Obama’s old Senate seat. Not only is Alexi Giannoulias’s family bank on the verge of failing, but he has a golden parachute made of federal tax refunds.”

Like all those Iran deadlines, no real deadline on ObamaCare: “Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius on Sunday dodged a series of questions about the White House’s plans for healthcare reform in the event lawmakers failed to pass it by the Easter recess. When asked on NBC’s ‘Meet the Press’ whether President Barack Obama would still pursue that legislation after the break, Sebelius offered no direct answer, only stressing, ‘I think we’ll have the votes when the leadership decides to call the votes, and I think it will pass.'”

Dana Perino on Fox News Sunday sums up the difficulty in rounding up votes for ObamaCare: “I think that a lot of the details just are now going past people’s heads and that the fundamental problem for the Democrats is that people do not want the big government spending. They don’t want the big program. They don’t understand why they’re pushing so hard on this and not on jobs. And it occurs to me that you can only vote against your constituents so many times before they start to vote against you.”

Robert Zelnick is very upset to learn that the Gray Lady doesn’t report news adverse to Obama. On Obama’s Medicare gimmickry: “The Times should, of course, be over this story like flies at a picnic table.Where will the money come from, Mr. President? Is there any precedent for draining funds like this from one soon-to-be insolvent program to another? Have you computed how the projected cuts in payment to doctors would affect the supply of physicians, the quality of medicine practiced, the health and longevity of the American people? Aren’t we really dealing with a series of misrepresentations — both explicit and implicit — unprecedented in the nation’s history.”

Reason to celebrate: “Defying a sustained barrage of mortars and rockets in Baghdad and other cities, Iraqis went to the polls in numbers on Sunday to choose a new parliament meant to outlast the American military presence here. … Insurgents here vowed to disrupt the election, and the concerted wave of attacks — as many as 100 thunderous blasts in the capital alone starting just before the polls opened — did frighten voters away, but only initially. The shrugging response of voters could signal a fundamental weakening of the insurgency’s potency.” And reason to be so very proud of one of the greatest military forces ever assembled, which, despite the naysayers, freed Iraqis from a brutal dictatorship.

Christopher Hitchens is out hawking his book with tales of his Oxford escapades. Alas, now “he’s a Dorian-Gray picture of his former self invoking the memory of it all to sell books this time around, and he’s given it—and himself—a very bad name indeed.”

In case there was any confusion about what the enemy is up to: “Al-Qaida’s American-born spokesman on Sunday called on Muslims serving in the U.S. armed forces to emulate the Army major charged with killing 13 people in Fort Hood. In a 25-minute video posted on militant Web sites, Adam Gadahn described Maj. Nidal Hasan as a pioneer who should serve as a role model for other Muslims, especially those serving Western militaries. ‘Brother Nidal is the ideal role-model for every repentant Muslim in the armies of the unbelievers and apostate regimes,’ he said.”

This was televised on C-SPAN: “Former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich talked about ethics in politics. Following his remarks he responded to questions from law professors. The panel included Professors Tonja Jacobi, Donald Gordon, and Donna Leff.” (h/t Taegan Goddard) Seems better suited to Comedy Central.

Who better to send on a fool’s errand? “U.S. President Barack Obama dispatches his vice president to the Middle East on Sunday to try to build support for reviving Israeli-Palestinian peace talks despite deep skepticism on both sides.”

Clark Hoyt gets around to discussing the latest plagiarism scandal at the New York Times involving now departed Zachery Kouwe. He wonders: “How did his serial plagiarism happen and go undetected for so long? Why were warning signs overlooked? Was there anything at fault in the culture of DealBook, the hyper-competitive news blog on which Kouwe worked? And, now that the investigation is complete, what about a full accounting to readers?” Well, for starters, the Times let Maureen Dowd get away with plagiarism, so maybe Kouwe got the idea that it wasn’t really a “mortal journalistic sin.”

David Freddoso on the ongoing sanctimony festival: “‘Bankers don’t need another vote in the United States Senate,’ President Obama said as he urged Massachusetts voters to support Attorney General Martha Coakley over Republican Scott Brown. He also railed against ‘the same fat-cats who are getting rewarded for their failure.’ But in Illinois, Democrats have nominated a banker for Obama’s old Senate seat. Not only is Alexi Giannoulias’s family bank on the verge of failing, but he has a golden parachute made of federal tax refunds.”

Like all those Iran deadlines, no real deadline on ObamaCare: “Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius on Sunday dodged a series of questions about the White House’s plans for healthcare reform in the event lawmakers failed to pass it by the Easter recess. When asked on NBC’s ‘Meet the Press’ whether President Barack Obama would still pursue that legislation after the break, Sebelius offered no direct answer, only stressing, ‘I think we’ll have the votes when the leadership decides to call the votes, and I think it will pass.'”

Dana Perino on Fox News Sunday sums up the difficulty in rounding up votes for ObamaCare: “I think that a lot of the details just are now going past people’s heads and that the fundamental problem for the Democrats is that people do not want the big government spending. They don’t want the big program. They don’t understand why they’re pushing so hard on this and not on jobs. And it occurs to me that you can only vote against your constituents so many times before they start to vote against you.”

Robert Zelnick is very upset to learn that the Gray Lady doesn’t report news adverse to Obama. On Obama’s Medicare gimmickry: “The Times should, of course, be over this story like flies at a picnic table.Where will the money come from, Mr. President? Is there any precedent for draining funds like this from one soon-to-be insolvent program to another? Have you computed how the projected cuts in payment to doctors would affect the supply of physicians, the quality of medicine practiced, the health and longevity of the American people? Aren’t we really dealing with a series of misrepresentations — both explicit and implicit — unprecedented in the nation’s history.”

Reason to celebrate: “Defying a sustained barrage of mortars and rockets in Baghdad and other cities, Iraqis went to the polls in numbers on Sunday to choose a new parliament meant to outlast the American military presence here. … Insurgents here vowed to disrupt the election, and the concerted wave of attacks — as many as 100 thunderous blasts in the capital alone starting just before the polls opened — did frighten voters away, but only initially. The shrugging response of voters could signal a fundamental weakening of the insurgency’s potency.” And reason to be so very proud of one of the greatest military forces ever assembled, which, despite the naysayers, freed Iraqis from a brutal dictatorship.

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Was There a Fort Jackson Cover-Up?

I spoke with a source knowledgeable about the Army’s anti-terrorism training and the progress of the Fort Jackson investigation. He makes several key points. First, while Army spokesman Chris Gray pronounced that “there is no credible information to support the allegations” in the poisoning case, this is bellied by the fact that five individuals were arrested. So my source asks, “If that’s true, then this was a miscarriage of justice!”

Second, had the Fort Jackson incident come to light before release of the Fort Hood review, it would have been very difficult to give such short shrift to the jihadist motivation of Major Nadal Hasan. Nor would it be possible for the arrest of five Muslim individuals accused of poisoning fellow soldiers to have gone unnoticed at the “highest levels” of the Department of Defense. The only rational conclusion is that the Army worked furiously to keep the Ford Jackson incident under the media radar and to proceed with the Fort Hood whitewash. He says bluntly, “I think the DOD culpability and involvement at the highest levels is much more direct. I’m told they were directly keeping a lid on this to prevent derailing what they were doing with the Fort Hood report.” The source predicts that the Army will continue its “nothing to see here, move along” reaction to the Fort Jackson incident.

And finally, he reiterates that the Army still lacks a “template” — a profile, if you will — for identifying jihadist threats. Not so with gang members or neo-Nazis; the Army has a well-defined approach to identifying and removing them from the Army. Why is this? In Senate testimony, “National Counterterrorism Center (NCTC) Director Michael Leiter referenced efforts to engage with groups such as CAIR, as part of a ‘full-spectrum’ outreach strategy to engage with groups that disagree with U.S. policies.” So the problem may be that the Army has been consulting with the wrong people (conducting outreach to CAIR, for example) and insisting that diversity is its highest goal. On advice of other supposed gurus, the Army continues to engage groups that are in the business of decrying efforts to focus on and target Islamic fundamentalists.

Is it any surprise, then, that the Fort Hood and Fort Jackson incidents occurred? One wonders how many must die in the next incident before there’s a change in perspective.

I spoke with a source knowledgeable about the Army’s anti-terrorism training and the progress of the Fort Jackson investigation. He makes several key points. First, while Army spokesman Chris Gray pronounced that “there is no credible information to support the allegations” in the poisoning case, this is bellied by the fact that five individuals were arrested. So my source asks, “If that’s true, then this was a miscarriage of justice!”

Second, had the Fort Jackson incident come to light before release of the Fort Hood review, it would have been very difficult to give such short shrift to the jihadist motivation of Major Nadal Hasan. Nor would it be possible for the arrest of five Muslim individuals accused of poisoning fellow soldiers to have gone unnoticed at the “highest levels” of the Department of Defense. The only rational conclusion is that the Army worked furiously to keep the Ford Jackson incident under the media radar and to proceed with the Fort Hood whitewash. He says bluntly, “I think the DOD culpability and involvement at the highest levels is much more direct. I’m told they were directly keeping a lid on this to prevent derailing what they were doing with the Fort Hood report.” The source predicts that the Army will continue its “nothing to see here, move along” reaction to the Fort Jackson incident.

And finally, he reiterates that the Army still lacks a “template” — a profile, if you will — for identifying jihadist threats. Not so with gang members or neo-Nazis; the Army has a well-defined approach to identifying and removing them from the Army. Why is this? In Senate testimony, “National Counterterrorism Center (NCTC) Director Michael Leiter referenced efforts to engage with groups such as CAIR, as part of a ‘full-spectrum’ outreach strategy to engage with groups that disagree with U.S. policies.” So the problem may be that the Army has been consulting with the wrong people (conducting outreach to CAIR, for example) and insisting that diversity is its highest goal. On advice of other supposed gurus, the Army continues to engage groups that are in the business of decrying efforts to focus on and target Islamic fundamentalists.

Is it any surprise, then, that the Fort Hood and Fort Jackson incidents occurred? One wonders how many must die in the next incident before there’s a change in perspective.

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Is This Post-Traumatic Cooking Syndrome?

Fox News reports:

The U.S. Army is investigating allegations that soldiers were attempting to poison the food supply at Fort Jackson in South Carolina. The ongoing probe began two months ago, Chris Grey, a spokesman for the Army’s Criminal Investigation Division, told Fox News. The Army is taking the allegations “extremely seriously,” Grey said, but so far, “there is no credible information to support the allegations.” The suspects were part of a Arabic translation program called “09 Lima” and use Arabic as their first language, two sources told Fox News. Another military source said they were Muslim.Grey would not confirm or deny the sources’ information.

Erick Stakelbeck of CBN adds this nugget:

A source with intimate knowledge of the investigation, which is ongoing, told CBN News investigators suspect the “Fort Jackson Five” may have been in contact with the group of five Washington, DC area Muslims that traveled to Pakistan to wage jihad against U.S. troops in December. That group was arrested by Pakistani authorities, also just before Christmas.

This incident raises further concern about the Army’s whitewash of the Fort Hood incident. Its review of the murder of 13 innocents seemed to go to great lengths to ignore Major Nadal Hasan’s jihadist motivation and the need to focus, specifically, on potential Islamic fundamentalists in its midst who may seek to kill fellow servicemen. We know that the Army had training on the subject before Fort Hood. And we know not much was done. We now know that the Fort Hood report was issued while the poisoning incident investigation was underway. And still the Army sought to soft-pedal the jihadist element.

There is a price to be paid, you see, when we fail to name, identify, understand, and focus on the nature of our enemy. When we dismiss these incidents as the result of some nebulous psychological illness or lump jihadism in with a grab bag of other threats or concerns bearing little relationship to the actual incidents we have experienced, we diffuse our efforts and distract ourselves from the sole task that should occupy our national security apparatus: identifying and destroying jihadists who want to butcher (or poison or blow up) Americans.  That singular focus can come only from the president. Hence, the problem.

Fox News reports:

The U.S. Army is investigating allegations that soldiers were attempting to poison the food supply at Fort Jackson in South Carolina. The ongoing probe began two months ago, Chris Grey, a spokesman for the Army’s Criminal Investigation Division, told Fox News. The Army is taking the allegations “extremely seriously,” Grey said, but so far, “there is no credible information to support the allegations.” The suspects were part of a Arabic translation program called “09 Lima” and use Arabic as their first language, two sources told Fox News. Another military source said they were Muslim.Grey would not confirm or deny the sources’ information.

Erick Stakelbeck of CBN adds this nugget:

A source with intimate knowledge of the investigation, which is ongoing, told CBN News investigators suspect the “Fort Jackson Five” may have been in contact with the group of five Washington, DC area Muslims that traveled to Pakistan to wage jihad against U.S. troops in December. That group was arrested by Pakistani authorities, also just before Christmas.

This incident raises further concern about the Army’s whitewash of the Fort Hood incident. Its review of the murder of 13 innocents seemed to go to great lengths to ignore Major Nadal Hasan’s jihadist motivation and the need to focus, specifically, on potential Islamic fundamentalists in its midst who may seek to kill fellow servicemen. We know that the Army had training on the subject before Fort Hood. And we know not much was done. We now know that the Fort Hood report was issued while the poisoning incident investigation was underway. And still the Army sought to soft-pedal the jihadist element.

There is a price to be paid, you see, when we fail to name, identify, understand, and focus on the nature of our enemy. When we dismiss these incidents as the result of some nebulous psychological illness or lump jihadism in with a grab bag of other threats or concerns bearing little relationship to the actual incidents we have experienced, we diffuse our efforts and distract ourselves from the sole task that should occupy our national security apparatus: identifying and destroying jihadists who want to butcher (or poison or blow up) Americans.  That singular focus can come only from the president. Hence, the problem.

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The Real Culture War

Bret Stephens takes us through a parallel history in which 13 innocents were not butchered by the jihadist Major Nadal Hasan:

Suppose that on Nov. 4, 2009 — the day before he would open fire on his fellow soldiers at Fort Hood, killing 13 and wounding 30 — Major Nidal Malik Hasan had been arrested by military police and charged with intent to commit acts of terrorism. Where would his case stand today?

My guess: a public uproar, complete with exacting doubts about the strength of the evidence against him. This would be followed by sage lamentations about how a “Christianist” military had indicted a patriotic Muslim-American simply for having religious scruples about the justice of our wars. Further down the line one can imagine a Pentagon apology, a book contract, a speaking tour.

As others have remarked, Stephens expresses chagrin over the Army’s internal review of the Fort Hood incident, which appeared to dance around the real issue, namely how to identify and root out Islamic fundamentalists who want to kill their fellow servicemen. Stephens identifies part of the problem: “Melting-pot institutions like the U.S. military prefer not to dwell too much on the particulars of a soldier’s culture: Much of their purpose is to substitute personal belief with common standards of behavior. What a soldier might think about the afterlife is his own affair.”

But clearly there is fear of the political correctness and diversity lobbies. They, of course, raise a fuss and bring lawsuits whenever institutions try to focus on the people whom we should in fact be focusing on. And that is a problem that extends well beyond the Army. When the Army chief of staff declared that it would be a “greater tragedy if diversity became a casualty,” he was mouthing the same line as was dutifully repeated by the entire administration and much of the media. When the president declines to identify precisely who the “extremists” are and insists that we must prove our democratic bona fides to the “Muslim World” in order to assuage its grievances, it is safe to conclude that this is more than merely an Army problem. As Stephens puts it, “it is a failure, by people far more senior, to heed a more fundamental military command. It’s called Know Thine Enemy.”

The message to the Army as well as to Homeland Security and every other arm of the government is tragically the same: don’t be too candid about the “Islamic” part of the “extremist” threat. So long as this persists, it seems inevitable that more Major Hasans will go undetected. We need to change the balance of incentives and disincentives for reporting behavior that to rational people seems rooted in jihadist ideology. Such a shift can only come from the president and his national-security team. But right now they’re busy with other things. They have a new envoy to the Muslim World, you know. It seems as though the Obami are very much into ingratiating ourselves, explaining ourselves, and making sure no one could possibly take offense at what we say and do. So far that approach doesn’t seem to be working, although failure has yet to deter the Obami from their preconceived notions about the dangers we face.

Bret Stephens takes us through a parallel history in which 13 innocents were not butchered by the jihadist Major Nadal Hasan:

Suppose that on Nov. 4, 2009 — the day before he would open fire on his fellow soldiers at Fort Hood, killing 13 and wounding 30 — Major Nidal Malik Hasan had been arrested by military police and charged with intent to commit acts of terrorism. Where would his case stand today?

My guess: a public uproar, complete with exacting doubts about the strength of the evidence against him. This would be followed by sage lamentations about how a “Christianist” military had indicted a patriotic Muslim-American simply for having religious scruples about the justice of our wars. Further down the line one can imagine a Pentagon apology, a book contract, a speaking tour.

As others have remarked, Stephens expresses chagrin over the Army’s internal review of the Fort Hood incident, which appeared to dance around the real issue, namely how to identify and root out Islamic fundamentalists who want to kill their fellow servicemen. Stephens identifies part of the problem: “Melting-pot institutions like the U.S. military prefer not to dwell too much on the particulars of a soldier’s culture: Much of their purpose is to substitute personal belief with common standards of behavior. What a soldier might think about the afterlife is his own affair.”

But clearly there is fear of the political correctness and diversity lobbies. They, of course, raise a fuss and bring lawsuits whenever institutions try to focus on the people whom we should in fact be focusing on. And that is a problem that extends well beyond the Army. When the Army chief of staff declared that it would be a “greater tragedy if diversity became a casualty,” he was mouthing the same line as was dutifully repeated by the entire administration and much of the media. When the president declines to identify precisely who the “extremists” are and insists that we must prove our democratic bona fides to the “Muslim World” in order to assuage its grievances, it is safe to conclude that this is more than merely an Army problem. As Stephens puts it, “it is a failure, by people far more senior, to heed a more fundamental military command. It’s called Know Thine Enemy.”

The message to the Army as well as to Homeland Security and every other arm of the government is tragically the same: don’t be too candid about the “Islamic” part of the “extremist” threat. So long as this persists, it seems inevitable that more Major Hasans will go undetected. We need to change the balance of incentives and disincentives for reporting behavior that to rational people seems rooted in jihadist ideology. Such a shift can only come from the president and his national-security team. But right now they’re busy with other things. They have a new envoy to the Muslim World, you know. It seems as though the Obami are very much into ingratiating ourselves, explaining ourselves, and making sure no one could possibly take offense at what we say and do. So far that approach doesn’t seem to be working, although failure has yet to deter the Obami from their preconceived notions about the dangers we face.

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Dowd Dumps Obama

Maureen Dowd, the grande dame of snark, knows when her man is yesterday’s news. A sample:

Obama’s Oneness has been one-upped. Why settle for a faux populist when we can have a real one? Why settle for gloomy populism when we can have sunny populism? Why settle for Ivy League cool when we can have Cosmo hot? Why settle for a professor who favors banks, pharmaceutical companies and profligate Democrats when we can have an Everyman who favors banks, pharmaceutical companies and profligate Republicans? Why settle for a 48-year-old, 6-foot-1, organic arugula when we can have a 50-year-old, 6-foot-2, double waffle with bacon?

Everyone in Washington now wants to touch the hem of President-elect Brown — known in the British press as “the former nude centrefold” — who has single-handedly revived the moribund Republican Party. It uncannily recalls the way they once jostled to piggyback on the powerful allure of One-Term Obama.

As is her habit, Dowd would rather convert this into a narrative she knows best — filled with gossipy infighting, high-schoolish rivalries, and the fickleness of public opinion. That requires that we ignore a great many facts. It was not Brown alone who brought back the GOP, of course. Two gubernatorial candidates, a tea party movement (if she missed it, David Brooks can catch her up), and Obama himself helped bestir the party that she and her colleagues assured us was going the way of the Whigs. But this is the flip side of vilifying Martha Coakley, you see. The more this is Dowd-ized (i.e., made into a set of trivial, personal soap opera vignettes), the less there is to disturb the liberal establishment and her readers.

Nevertheless, hidden in the snark is an element of truth. She hisses:

Obama is coming across as plastic and hidden, rather than warm and accessibly all-American. (Brown has even been known to do his daughter’s laundry when she gets too busy.) Whereas Obama had to force himself to nibble French fries and drink beer (instead of his organic Black Forest Berry Honest Tea) during the Pennsylvania primary, Brown truly loves diners, Pepsi, Waffle Houses and the unwashed masses.

Translation: is the public supposed to like Obama? We keep hearing that the public likes Obama but not his policies. Or not his results. Or not anything he’s done for the past year. But really, somewhere in the racial condescension on Gatesgate, the digs at ordinary Americans who opposed his health-care scheme, the robotic response to Fort Hood and the Christmas Day bombing, and the snipes at Brown’s truck, it became very clear (at least to those who hadn’t already figured this out during the campaign) that Obama is missing something — an affinity for and emotional attachment to ordinary Americans. That’s no joke. It’s a serious failing in a president, and one not easily remedied.

Maureen Dowd, the grande dame of snark, knows when her man is yesterday’s news. A sample:

Obama’s Oneness has been one-upped. Why settle for a faux populist when we can have a real one? Why settle for gloomy populism when we can have sunny populism? Why settle for Ivy League cool when we can have Cosmo hot? Why settle for a professor who favors banks, pharmaceutical companies and profligate Democrats when we can have an Everyman who favors banks, pharmaceutical companies and profligate Republicans? Why settle for a 48-year-old, 6-foot-1, organic arugula when we can have a 50-year-old, 6-foot-2, double waffle with bacon?

Everyone in Washington now wants to touch the hem of President-elect Brown — known in the British press as “the former nude centrefold” — who has single-handedly revived the moribund Republican Party. It uncannily recalls the way they once jostled to piggyback on the powerful allure of One-Term Obama.

As is her habit, Dowd would rather convert this into a narrative she knows best — filled with gossipy infighting, high-schoolish rivalries, and the fickleness of public opinion. That requires that we ignore a great many facts. It was not Brown alone who brought back the GOP, of course. Two gubernatorial candidates, a tea party movement (if she missed it, David Brooks can catch her up), and Obama himself helped bestir the party that she and her colleagues assured us was going the way of the Whigs. But this is the flip side of vilifying Martha Coakley, you see. The more this is Dowd-ized (i.e., made into a set of trivial, personal soap opera vignettes), the less there is to disturb the liberal establishment and her readers.

Nevertheless, hidden in the snark is an element of truth. She hisses:

Obama is coming across as plastic and hidden, rather than warm and accessibly all-American. (Brown has even been known to do his daughter’s laundry when she gets too busy.) Whereas Obama had to force himself to nibble French fries and drink beer (instead of his organic Black Forest Berry Honest Tea) during the Pennsylvania primary, Brown truly loves diners, Pepsi, Waffle Houses and the unwashed masses.

Translation: is the public supposed to like Obama? We keep hearing that the public likes Obama but not his policies. Or not his results. Or not anything he’s done for the past year. But really, somewhere in the racial condescension on Gatesgate, the digs at ordinary Americans who opposed his health-care scheme, the robotic response to Fort Hood and the Christmas Day bombing, and the snipes at Brown’s truck, it became very clear (at least to those who hadn’t already figured this out during the campaign) that Obama is missing something — an affinity for and emotional attachment to ordinary Americans. That’s no joke. It’s a serious failing in a president, and one not easily remedied.

Read Less




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