Commentary Magazine


Topic: Fox News Sunday

Palin and the Media

Sarah Palin was asked about Rand Paul yesterday on Fox News Sunday. In the last few days, Paul has declared that he, in fact, does support the Civil Rights Act of 1964, after repeatedly expressing disagreements with the part of the law that holds that private businesses cannot discriminate on the basis of race. According to Palin, “Rand Paul is right in his clarification” about the Civil Rights Act. True, though it was a circuitous journey, and one cannot help believing that Paul is embracing a view he doesn’t really believe. Of course, he wouldn’t be the first candidate for Congress to do such a thing.

In any event, in the course of the interview with Chris Wallace, Ms. Palin did what she often does: she aimed her rhetorical guns at the media. The lesson from the Rand Paul encounter, she said, is the same she learned during her run for the vice presidency in 2008. A candidate shouldn’t assume that you can engage in a discussion with a “TV character” (in this case, MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow), who perhaps asked the question with an agenda and who then goes about “interpreting his answer in the way that she did.” It’s dangerous to engage in “hypothetical” discussions on the “constitutional impact” of certain laws with journalists who have an “agenda” and are “prejudiced” and looking for that “gotcha moment.”

Now, I don’t have any doubt that Rachel Maddow is a committed liberal; anyone who has seen her show recognizes that. And she has a style that is often adolescent, sarcastic, and sneering. (David Frum called her out on this quite effectively during the 2008 campaign.)

Still, in this particular instance, the interview was serious and not as Palin portrays it. (The interview can be seen here.) The discussion was fairly substantive. It includes excerpts from previous Paul interviews. And it was not focused on a hypothetical; it was about a landmark piece of social legislation about which Paul had expressed serious reservations. It was legitimate to ask Paul the questions Maddow did. And the “gotcha moment” was caused not by Maddow’s questions but by Paul’s answers. It was no more of a “gotcha moment” than it would be to ask a person running for vice president what specific newspapers and magazines she reads and what Supreme Court decisions she disagrees with.

Sarah Palin has undeniable talents — and on many issues, I agree with her. But too often she has become the spokesperson for cultural resentments. Understandably scarred by the 2008 campaign, she is on a quest to clear her name by pounding the media at every turn. They are always to blame — even when, as in the case of Rand Paul, they are not actually to blame. In that respect, and in others, Palin’s style is quite different from, and at times antithetical to, that of Ronald Reagan, who had a charm and winsomeness about him. He made forceful arguments in a winning way. He was blessedly free of rancor and bitterness. Ms. Palin could learn from him, as could we all.

Sarah Palin was asked about Rand Paul yesterday on Fox News Sunday. In the last few days, Paul has declared that he, in fact, does support the Civil Rights Act of 1964, after repeatedly expressing disagreements with the part of the law that holds that private businesses cannot discriminate on the basis of race. According to Palin, “Rand Paul is right in his clarification” about the Civil Rights Act. True, though it was a circuitous journey, and one cannot help believing that Paul is embracing a view he doesn’t really believe. Of course, he wouldn’t be the first candidate for Congress to do such a thing.

In any event, in the course of the interview with Chris Wallace, Ms. Palin did what she often does: she aimed her rhetorical guns at the media. The lesson from the Rand Paul encounter, she said, is the same she learned during her run for the vice presidency in 2008. A candidate shouldn’t assume that you can engage in a discussion with a “TV character” (in this case, MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow), who perhaps asked the question with an agenda and who then goes about “interpreting his answer in the way that she did.” It’s dangerous to engage in “hypothetical” discussions on the “constitutional impact” of certain laws with journalists who have an “agenda” and are “prejudiced” and looking for that “gotcha moment.”

Now, I don’t have any doubt that Rachel Maddow is a committed liberal; anyone who has seen her show recognizes that. And she has a style that is often adolescent, sarcastic, and sneering. (David Frum called her out on this quite effectively during the 2008 campaign.)

Still, in this particular instance, the interview was serious and not as Palin portrays it. (The interview can be seen here.) The discussion was fairly substantive. It includes excerpts from previous Paul interviews. And it was not focused on a hypothetical; it was about a landmark piece of social legislation about which Paul had expressed serious reservations. It was legitimate to ask Paul the questions Maddow did. And the “gotcha moment” was caused not by Maddow’s questions but by Paul’s answers. It was no more of a “gotcha moment” than it would be to ask a person running for vice president what specific newspapers and magazines she reads and what Supreme Court decisions she disagrees with.

Sarah Palin has undeniable talents — and on many issues, I agree with her. But too often she has become the spokesperson for cultural resentments. Understandably scarred by the 2008 campaign, she is on a quest to clear her name by pounding the media at every turn. They are always to blame — even when, as in the case of Rand Paul, they are not actually to blame. In that respect, and in others, Palin’s style is quite different from, and at times antithetical to, that of Ronald Reagan, who had a charm and winsomeness about him. He made forceful arguments in a winning way. He was blessedly free of rancor and bitterness. Ms. Palin could learn from him, as could we all.

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Lying with Statistics Again

Tim Kaine, chairman of the Democratic National Committee, was on Fox News Sunday this morning, along with his Republican counterpart Michael Steele. Both men, of course, are in the job of boosting their parties, not giving non-tendentious analysis of the current political situation or honest predictions regarding the upcoming election. They’re in the rosy scenario business.

But Governor Kaine came up with a doozy of an example of lying with statistics. He said (as best I remember it, the transcript is not yet on-line): “Within the next few months the Obama administration will have created more jobs in 2010 than were created during the entire Bush presidency.” Let’s leave aside the fact that it’s the American economy that creates jobs, not administrations. The idea that a president is 100 percent responsible for the American economy is so stupid that only a member of the Washington press corps could believe it.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there has been so far in 2010 a net creation of 573,000 jobs. In the Bush years there was a net creation of 1,086,000 jobs. So if there is an average of at least 65,000 net new jobs created per month through December, Governor Kaine’s prediction will be “true” in a strictly mathematical sense.

But there’s a reason Benjamin Disraeli divided mendacity into three categories: lies, damned lies, and statistics.

Tim Kaine chooses his base lines dishonestly. Yes, there has been a net of 573,000 jobs created so far in 2010. But in the last 11 months of 2009 — while Obama was president, in other words — there were 3,961,000 jobs lost. So Obama is still in the hole to the tune of 3,388,000 jobs lost on his watch. In other words, Kaine starts the job clock running for Obama only after he had been president for more than 11 months, but George Bush’s job clock started the day he took the oath of office.

Of course, the Obama administration has been blaming George Bush for everything bad that happens on Obama’s watch. But if Obama is not responsible for the job losses in his first 11 months, then, surely, the job losses in the first 11 months of the Bush administration must be Bill Clinton’s fault. Those losses amounted to 1,746,000 jobs.  That would make Bush’s net job creation 2,832,000, still far above what is likely to be achieved in 2010.

It is fortunate for Democrats, who don’t mind bamboozling easily bamboozled Washington reporters (at least when numbers are concerned) with phony statistics, that the Bush administration started just as the recession of 2000-2001 was beginning and ended just as the recession of 2007 was kicking in big time. This allows them to bury the impressive job growth of the mid-Bush years (87,000 in 2003, 2,047,000 in 2004, 2,496,000 in 2005, 2,060,000 in 2006, 1,084,000 in 2007) beneath the job losses of the beginning and end of his term. To have two serious recessions during his presidency and still have a net job growth of over a million is, in fact, rather impressive.

What could have caused it? Well, as the Bureau of Labor Statistics chart on monthly unemployment shows, the unemployment rate in the Bush years began to decline in mid-2003 and continued to ratchet steadily downward for four years, until the housing bubble began to collapse. What happened in mid-2003 was that the Bush tax cuts kicked in.

That, of course, could be coincidence — not causation. But I doubt it.

Tim Kaine, chairman of the Democratic National Committee, was on Fox News Sunday this morning, along with his Republican counterpart Michael Steele. Both men, of course, are in the job of boosting their parties, not giving non-tendentious analysis of the current political situation or honest predictions regarding the upcoming election. They’re in the rosy scenario business.

But Governor Kaine came up with a doozy of an example of lying with statistics. He said (as best I remember it, the transcript is not yet on-line): “Within the next few months the Obama administration will have created more jobs in 2010 than were created during the entire Bush presidency.” Let’s leave aside the fact that it’s the American economy that creates jobs, not administrations. The idea that a president is 100 percent responsible for the American economy is so stupid that only a member of the Washington press corps could believe it.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there has been so far in 2010 a net creation of 573,000 jobs. In the Bush years there was a net creation of 1,086,000 jobs. So if there is an average of at least 65,000 net new jobs created per month through December, Governor Kaine’s prediction will be “true” in a strictly mathematical sense.

But there’s a reason Benjamin Disraeli divided mendacity into three categories: lies, damned lies, and statistics.

Tim Kaine chooses his base lines dishonestly. Yes, there has been a net of 573,000 jobs created so far in 2010. But in the last 11 months of 2009 — while Obama was president, in other words — there were 3,961,000 jobs lost. So Obama is still in the hole to the tune of 3,388,000 jobs lost on his watch. In other words, Kaine starts the job clock running for Obama only after he had been president for more than 11 months, but George Bush’s job clock started the day he took the oath of office.

Of course, the Obama administration has been blaming George Bush for everything bad that happens on Obama’s watch. But if Obama is not responsible for the job losses in his first 11 months, then, surely, the job losses in the first 11 months of the Bush administration must be Bill Clinton’s fault. Those losses amounted to 1,746,000 jobs.  That would make Bush’s net job creation 2,832,000, still far above what is likely to be achieved in 2010.

It is fortunate for Democrats, who don’t mind bamboozling easily bamboozled Washington reporters (at least when numbers are concerned) with phony statistics, that the Bush administration started just as the recession of 2000-2001 was beginning and ended just as the recession of 2007 was kicking in big time. This allows them to bury the impressive job growth of the mid-Bush years (87,000 in 2003, 2,047,000 in 2004, 2,496,000 in 2005, 2,060,000 in 2006, 1,084,000 in 2007) beneath the job losses of the beginning and end of his term. To have two serious recessions during his presidency and still have a net job growth of over a million is, in fact, rather impressive.

What could have caused it? Well, as the Bureau of Labor Statistics chart on monthly unemployment shows, the unemployment rate in the Bush years began to decline in mid-2003 and continued to ratchet steadily downward for four years, until the housing bubble began to collapse. What happened in mid-2003 was that the Bush tax cuts kicked in.

That, of course, could be coincidence — not causation. But I doubt it.

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Misconstruing the Message of Robert Bennett’s Defeat

The defeat of Robert Bennett in the Utah Republican convention has unleashed a torrent of overheated and silly analysis. For example, Politico intones:

Republican Sen. Robert Bennett was one of the most powerful and likable members of the Senate, he diligently protected Utah’s interests from his post in GOP leadership and he funneled millions of dollars back to his state as an appropriator. But Utah Republicans didn’t care. In fact, that’s exactly why they tossed him out Saturday in a humbling second ballot vote at the state party convention. … For Republicans who are measuring the drapes in anticipation of reclaiming power, Bennett’s loss should be sobering. If the anti-Washington and tea party winds keep blowing this strong, some of them could be measuring their own political graves.

Does it really mean that Republicans are imperiled and the voters are racing to elect Democrats to replace GOP stalwarts? No, of course not. What happened in Utah was the desire for a more authentic and, frankly, younger conservative voice. There is virtually no chance Utah’s seat will go to the Democrats. As Bill Kristol explained on Fox News Sunday:

Bennett was defeated by two very attractive, young conservatives who are now going into a primary runoff. And you know, one can say that he was defeated by the Tea Party, but he was actually defeated — if you look at these actual candidates, they’re impressive young conservatives who I think want to rethink fiscal policy and economic policy across the board in a much bolder way than an establishment Republican like Bob Bennett was willing to do.

But that’s not a story line that is attractive to the mainstream media — which desperately want to portray the anti-liberal sentiment sweeping the country as generically anti-Beltway. The delegates in Utah tossed Bennett because he was an insufficiently stalwart standard bearer of the small-government, anti-bailout phenomenon that is exciting the GOP base and sweeping up support from independents. As Politico acknowledges:

For others, their vote was primarily about adherence to orthodoxy on fiscal issues, a unifying cause of the tea party movement. It didn’t matter to them that Bennett favors gun rights, tougher immigration laws and even voted against President George W. Bush’s No Child Left Behind Act. The first explanation offered by most delegates here referenced his vote for the TARP bailout program. A smattering of delegates even began chanting, “TARP, TARP, TARP” during one of Bennett’s floor speeches.

It stands to reason, then, that Democrats will be in more trouble, not less, than a Republican senator. So unless Democrats are running to the right of Republicans, it’s hard to see how Bennett’s defeat is good news for them.

The defeat of Robert Bennett in the Utah Republican convention has unleashed a torrent of overheated and silly analysis. For example, Politico intones:

Republican Sen. Robert Bennett was one of the most powerful and likable members of the Senate, he diligently protected Utah’s interests from his post in GOP leadership and he funneled millions of dollars back to his state as an appropriator. But Utah Republicans didn’t care. In fact, that’s exactly why they tossed him out Saturday in a humbling second ballot vote at the state party convention. … For Republicans who are measuring the drapes in anticipation of reclaiming power, Bennett’s loss should be sobering. If the anti-Washington and tea party winds keep blowing this strong, some of them could be measuring their own political graves.

Does it really mean that Republicans are imperiled and the voters are racing to elect Democrats to replace GOP stalwarts? No, of course not. What happened in Utah was the desire for a more authentic and, frankly, younger conservative voice. There is virtually no chance Utah’s seat will go to the Democrats. As Bill Kristol explained on Fox News Sunday:

Bennett was defeated by two very attractive, young conservatives who are now going into a primary runoff. And you know, one can say that he was defeated by the Tea Party, but he was actually defeated — if you look at these actual candidates, they’re impressive young conservatives who I think want to rethink fiscal policy and economic policy across the board in a much bolder way than an establishment Republican like Bob Bennett was willing to do.

But that’s not a story line that is attractive to the mainstream media — which desperately want to portray the anti-liberal sentiment sweeping the country as generically anti-Beltway. The delegates in Utah tossed Bennett because he was an insufficiently stalwart standard bearer of the small-government, anti-bailout phenomenon that is exciting the GOP base and sweeping up support from independents. As Politico acknowledges:

For others, their vote was primarily about adherence to orthodoxy on fiscal issues, a unifying cause of the tea party movement. It didn’t matter to them that Bennett favors gun rights, tougher immigration laws and even voted against President George W. Bush’s No Child Left Behind Act. The first explanation offered by most delegates here referenced his vote for the TARP bailout program. A smattering of delegates even began chanting, “TARP, TARP, TARP” during one of Bennett’s floor speeches.

It stands to reason, then, that Democrats will be in more trouble, not less, than a Republican senator. So unless Democrats are running to the right of Republicans, it’s hard to see how Bennett’s defeat is good news for them.

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Bullying in the Name of Financial Reform

In the frenzy to prove their populist bona fides, Sen. Carl Levin’s committee demanded and then leaked out a handful of Goldman Sachs e-mails. This led to a plethora of supposedly shocked mainstream reporters who were aghast to learn that there are times when one side profits by others’ losses. We do, after all, allow “selling short” in the U.S. Yes, it’s perfectly legal (not in Britain, however, so I suppose Levin could try to outlaw it here too). The issue with Goldman is whether fraud was committed in a deal with extremely sophisticated investors who understood all too well that others might gain from their losses. But that real case may be hard to prove and is not so politically attractive as the Wall Street “greed” story line.

The liberal spasm of outrage reached its low point on Fox News Sunday when Juan Williams went around the bend. The relevant exchange is comic but also instructive as to how liberals think of private industry, the rule of law, and government:

KRISTOL: Senator Levin’s committee — I’m sorry. Senator Levin authorized his staff to release e-mails that were provided to this investigation (inaudible) on the committee, ostensibly on the grounds that the committee was doing a serious investigation. Then they release e-mails that are simply, they say, embarrassing.

It’s an outrage, actually. What is — this is — now any business in the United States has to worry that any e-mail sent anywhere, at some point, if you — three years later, that could be made to look embarrassing to a chief executive who’s testifying on Tuesday.

And I say this as no fan of Goldman Sachs. But Lloyd Blankfein’s testifying Tuesday and they want to embarrass him or put him on the spot, and they release these e-mails.

KRISTOL: But the core issue here is the issue of rule of law and this notion that this bill increases executive authority discretion so much as opposed to other ways of fixing the financial crisis because of the bankruptcy code and the like, that it’s bad to increase the authority of the discretion of the big government in Washington this much. That is the core objection to the bill, the core dispute over the bill. For President Obama to pretend that the only reason you might not like this bill is if you were interested in bilking people as he said, that’s really ridiculous.

WILLIAMS: It’s not ridiculous when you read the e-mail. The core here is not the release of the e-mail but the content of the e- mail. The e-mails reveal that they are saying that people at Goldman Sachs are saying, you know what? We’re going to make money while investors are losing money. In fact, we’re going to have a windfall they say in the e- mail. That is the outrage in case you missed it. That’s why public outrage over the behavior by these Wall Street titans is over the top. And I might add, you know what else?

(CROSSTALK)

KRISTOL: Shouldn’t Senator Levin’s e-mails be released? He’s the public official. I mean, if he believes that everything should be transparent, let’s see the e-mail to his staff when he discussed whether to embarrass Lloyd Blankfein or not.

WILLIAMS: Listen, you are lost in the weeds on this. It doesn’t matter who released –

KRISTOL: It doesn’t matter what the rule of law in Washington?

WILLIAMS: Of course it matters, rule of law. But let me just say, you sit at your desk at your corporation, guess what? Your boss can read your e-mail. That is not the issue.

KRISTOL: You know what?

WILLIAMS: The issue is the government of these people –

KRISTOL: The Senate of the United States is not the boss of every employee at Goldman Sachs. That is a very revealing statement, Juan. Let me tell you something, we all work for Carl Levin. That is the future — what about the investors, the people who are putting money in these Wall Street firms and being gyped?

So the Democrats’ view of private industry is that there is no private industry. There is no better argument against the ever-expanding reach of the federal government in the name of “financial reform” than this sort of devil-may-care attitude about the right of politicians to peer into every nook and cranny of a business, read every e-mail, and haul executives before the glare of the cameras and then harangue them for devising transactions that the politicians only dimly understand. With the power to regulate goes the power to snoop, harass, and bully. We should be very wary of giving government officials too much leeway; they are certain to abuse it.

In the frenzy to prove their populist bona fides, Sen. Carl Levin’s committee demanded and then leaked out a handful of Goldman Sachs e-mails. This led to a plethora of supposedly shocked mainstream reporters who were aghast to learn that there are times when one side profits by others’ losses. We do, after all, allow “selling short” in the U.S. Yes, it’s perfectly legal (not in Britain, however, so I suppose Levin could try to outlaw it here too). The issue with Goldman is whether fraud was committed in a deal with extremely sophisticated investors who understood all too well that others might gain from their losses. But that real case may be hard to prove and is not so politically attractive as the Wall Street “greed” story line.

The liberal spasm of outrage reached its low point on Fox News Sunday when Juan Williams went around the bend. The relevant exchange is comic but also instructive as to how liberals think of private industry, the rule of law, and government:

KRISTOL: Senator Levin’s committee — I’m sorry. Senator Levin authorized his staff to release e-mails that were provided to this investigation (inaudible) on the committee, ostensibly on the grounds that the committee was doing a serious investigation. Then they release e-mails that are simply, they say, embarrassing.

It’s an outrage, actually. What is — this is — now any business in the United States has to worry that any e-mail sent anywhere, at some point, if you — three years later, that could be made to look embarrassing to a chief executive who’s testifying on Tuesday.

And I say this as no fan of Goldman Sachs. But Lloyd Blankfein’s testifying Tuesday and they want to embarrass him or put him on the spot, and they release these e-mails.

KRISTOL: But the core issue here is the issue of rule of law and this notion that this bill increases executive authority discretion so much as opposed to other ways of fixing the financial crisis because of the bankruptcy code and the like, that it’s bad to increase the authority of the discretion of the big government in Washington this much. That is the core objection to the bill, the core dispute over the bill. For President Obama to pretend that the only reason you might not like this bill is if you were interested in bilking people as he said, that’s really ridiculous.

WILLIAMS: It’s not ridiculous when you read the e-mail. The core here is not the release of the e-mail but the content of the e- mail. The e-mails reveal that they are saying that people at Goldman Sachs are saying, you know what? We’re going to make money while investors are losing money. In fact, we’re going to have a windfall they say in the e- mail. That is the outrage in case you missed it. That’s why public outrage over the behavior by these Wall Street titans is over the top. And I might add, you know what else?

(CROSSTALK)

KRISTOL: Shouldn’t Senator Levin’s e-mails be released? He’s the public official. I mean, if he believes that everything should be transparent, let’s see the e-mail to his staff when he discussed whether to embarrass Lloyd Blankfein or not.

WILLIAMS: Listen, you are lost in the weeds on this. It doesn’t matter who released –

KRISTOL: It doesn’t matter what the rule of law in Washington?

WILLIAMS: Of course it matters, rule of law. But let me just say, you sit at your desk at your corporation, guess what? Your boss can read your e-mail. That is not the issue.

KRISTOL: You know what?

WILLIAMS: The issue is the government of these people –

KRISTOL: The Senate of the United States is not the boss of every employee at Goldman Sachs. That is a very revealing statement, Juan. Let me tell you something, we all work for Carl Levin. That is the future — what about the investors, the people who are putting money in these Wall Street firms and being gyped?

So the Democrats’ view of private industry is that there is no private industry. There is no better argument against the ever-expanding reach of the federal government in the name of “financial reform” than this sort of devil-may-care attitude about the right of politicians to peer into every nook and cranny of a business, read every e-mail, and haul executives before the glare of the cameras and then harangue them for devising transactions that the politicians only dimly understand. With the power to regulate goes the power to snoop, harass, and bully. We should be very wary of giving government officials too much leeway; they are certain to abuse it.

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Security Trending Positive in Iraq with Death of Top al-Qaeda Leaders

Good news from Iraq: Iraqi and American forces have killed the two top leaders of al-Qaeda in Iraq: Abu Ayyub al-Masri and Abu Omar al-Baghdadi. General Ray Odierno called their deaths “potentially the most significant blow to al-Qaeda in Iraq since the beginning of the insurgency.” Even before their demise, Odierno noted on Fox News Sunday, security trends were positive:

First quarter fiscal year ’10 was the lowest number of incidents we’ve had in a quarter, the lowest number of high-profile attacks, the lowest number of indirect fire attacks, the lowest number of civilian casualties, the lowest number of U.S. force casualties, the lowest number of Iraqi security force casualties. So the direction continues to be headed in the right way.

Meanwhile, the Iraqi electoral situation remains as unsettled as ever, with a partial recount being ordered. Iraqi politicians still do not seem to be close to forming a new government; the resulting period of indecision can be an inducement to militants to attack, as occurred during the last period of governmental formation, in 2006. Thus the body blow against al-Qaeda comes at a propitious time. We are by no means out of the woods in Iraq — a lot can still go wrong. But the country continues to defy the predictions of naysayers, who thought it would have fallen apart long ago.

Good news from Iraq: Iraqi and American forces have killed the two top leaders of al-Qaeda in Iraq: Abu Ayyub al-Masri and Abu Omar al-Baghdadi. General Ray Odierno called their deaths “potentially the most significant blow to al-Qaeda in Iraq since the beginning of the insurgency.” Even before their demise, Odierno noted on Fox News Sunday, security trends were positive:

First quarter fiscal year ’10 was the lowest number of incidents we’ve had in a quarter, the lowest number of high-profile attacks, the lowest number of indirect fire attacks, the lowest number of civilian casualties, the lowest number of U.S. force casualties, the lowest number of Iraqi security force casualties. So the direction continues to be headed in the right way.

Meanwhile, the Iraqi electoral situation remains as unsettled as ever, with a partial recount being ordered. Iraqi politicians still do not seem to be close to forming a new government; the resulting period of indecision can be an inducement to militants to attack, as occurred during the last period of governmental formation, in 2006. Thus the body blow against al-Qaeda comes at a propitious time. We are by no means out of the woods in Iraq — a lot can still go wrong. But the country continues to defy the predictions of naysayers, who thought it would have fallen apart long ago.

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RE: Bill Clinton’s Double Standards on Rhetoric

Pete, to your point, there was a lively discussion on Fox News Sunday about Clinton’s comments and the Tea Parties. There is a single reason why Clinton, Obama, and the mainstream media are in a tizzy about the Tea Party protests. As Bill Kristol said:

It’s an attempt to demonize and discredit the movement and not engage it on its ideas. … I think this notion that — the left pretends to think the Tea Parties are a problem for the Republicans. The fact is the left is terrified of the Tea Parties.President Obama knows they have done a huge amount of damage to his attempt to transform America in a left-wing direction. And therefore, they don’t want to debate the issues. They want to demonize them.

You don’t see the liberal attack machine getting this bent out of shape over nothing. As Bill remarked, “The Obama administration has given rise to a more powerful conservatism than has existed for 20 years, since Ronald Reagan in this country.” And it’s not the GOP Beltway crowd that has done this — it’s ordinary citizens. I don’t think Bill was exaggerating when he said: “The Republican establishment is the threat to the future of the Republican Party and conservatism. The Tea Party is the best thing that’s happened for conservatives.” (You need look no further than the Florida Senate race, where the insiders picked the hapless Charlie Crist, and the Tea Party amateurs identified Marco Rubio as a rising star.) And so the liberals attack and make ludicrous connections to murders like Timothy McVeigh or concoct racist allegations that do not stand up to scrutiny.

The irony is great, of course. The community organizer has stirred the sleeping beast and is now the object of its ire. The Democrats want to shush them all up. I suspect the more the Democrats shush, the more irate the citizen protesters will become. It is proof of how disconnected the ruling party is from popular sentiment and how scared the Democrats are of their own constituents.

Pete, to your point, there was a lively discussion on Fox News Sunday about Clinton’s comments and the Tea Parties. There is a single reason why Clinton, Obama, and the mainstream media are in a tizzy about the Tea Party protests. As Bill Kristol said:

It’s an attempt to demonize and discredit the movement and not engage it on its ideas. … I think this notion that — the left pretends to think the Tea Parties are a problem for the Republicans. The fact is the left is terrified of the Tea Parties.President Obama knows they have done a huge amount of damage to his attempt to transform America in a left-wing direction. And therefore, they don’t want to debate the issues. They want to demonize them.

You don’t see the liberal attack machine getting this bent out of shape over nothing. As Bill remarked, “The Obama administration has given rise to a more powerful conservatism than has existed for 20 years, since Ronald Reagan in this country.” And it’s not the GOP Beltway crowd that has done this — it’s ordinary citizens. I don’t think Bill was exaggerating when he said: “The Republican establishment is the threat to the future of the Republican Party and conservatism. The Tea Party is the best thing that’s happened for conservatives.” (You need look no further than the Florida Senate race, where the insiders picked the hapless Charlie Crist, and the Tea Party amateurs identified Marco Rubio as a rising star.) And so the liberals attack and make ludicrous connections to murders like Timothy McVeigh or concoct racist allegations that do not stand up to scrutiny.

The irony is great, of course. The community organizer has stirred the sleeping beast and is now the object of its ire. The Democrats want to shush them all up. I suspect the more the Democrats shush, the more irate the citizen protesters will become. It is proof of how disconnected the ruling party is from popular sentiment and how scared the Democrats are of their own constituents.

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John McCain: Pull the Trigger

John McCain and Chris Wallace on Fox News Sunday had the following exchange over the news that Defense Secretary Robert Gates sent up a warning flare that Obama doesn’t have a viable plan to prevent the mullahs from going nuclear:

MCCAIN: I didn’t need a secret memo from Mr. Gates to ascertain that. We do not have a coherent policy. I think that’s pretty obvious. We keep threatening sanctions. We keep, for well over a year now — in fact, including the previous administration — we keep threatening.

And obviously, we have not done anything that would in any way be viewed effective. Former secretary of state George Shultz once told me — he said, My old Marine drill instructor said never point a gun at somebody unless you’re willing to pull the trigger.

We have to be willing to pull the trigger on significant sanctions. And then we have to make plans for whatever contingencies follow if those sanctions are not effective. … I believe that the Chinese and the Russians will not be particularly helpful.

So why don’t we get our European allies together and let’s impose sanctions from that aspect of it? Maybe that would embarrass somehow or force the Russians and Chinese to act in a more cooperative fashion.

WALLACE: So forget the U.N., just impose …

MCCAIN: Maybe not forget the U.N., but certainly go ahead and move forward with some serious, meaningful sanctions.

WALLACE: What are sanctions?

MCCAIN: Well, refined petroleum products is one. The other, I think, is stand up for the human rights of the people of Iran. Put the pictures of those people who were brutalizing and killing and torturing the demonstrators and the people who are standing up for their God-given rights. Make them famous. We did that in certain respects during the Cold War.

WALLACE: And what about military action?

MCCAIN: Well, I think, obviously, every contingency has to be on the table. I think that we — it’s pretty clear that the Israelis cannot live with a nuclear-armed Iran. We saw news reports that the Syrians have moved Scud missiles into southern Lebanon. That is a serious escalatory move. Now Jerusalem and Tel Aviv are within range of Scud missiles.

So I think that we have to have contingency plans. But I do agree with most experts. Let’s try to get the pressure on from all directions, tough, tough sanctions, and stand up for the people that want and obviously are demonstrating in the streets and are being brutalized in the prisons.

The fact that Gates’s January memo was leaked now — following Obama’s dog-and-pony nuclear summit show – suggests that someone in the administration is nervous that the Obami have made precious little progress in devising an alternative to its que sera, sera stance toward a nuclear-armed Iran. The choice comes down to this: Obama’s mini-sanctions (which increasingly seem to be a slow walk to containment) or the toughest unilateral sanctions we can muster with a credible threat of military force if those sanctions don’t succeed. Unfortunately, by downplaying the use of force (and let’s be candid, Gates contributed to this by contributing his fair share of the bad-mouthing), such a threat is going to be all the more difficult to muster.

It’s hard to escape the conclusion that the Obami have done an extremely effective job of eliminating or hampering the most serious options for thwarting Iran’s nuclear ambitions. It may come as news to the Gray Lady’s readers, but for Obama’s conservative critics, it’s hardly surprising that when a president is reluctant to flex America’s “hard power,” the world becomes a more dangerous place.

John McCain and Chris Wallace on Fox News Sunday had the following exchange over the news that Defense Secretary Robert Gates sent up a warning flare that Obama doesn’t have a viable plan to prevent the mullahs from going nuclear:

MCCAIN: I didn’t need a secret memo from Mr. Gates to ascertain that. We do not have a coherent policy. I think that’s pretty obvious. We keep threatening sanctions. We keep, for well over a year now — in fact, including the previous administration — we keep threatening.

And obviously, we have not done anything that would in any way be viewed effective. Former secretary of state George Shultz once told me — he said, My old Marine drill instructor said never point a gun at somebody unless you’re willing to pull the trigger.

We have to be willing to pull the trigger on significant sanctions. And then we have to make plans for whatever contingencies follow if those sanctions are not effective. … I believe that the Chinese and the Russians will not be particularly helpful.

So why don’t we get our European allies together and let’s impose sanctions from that aspect of it? Maybe that would embarrass somehow or force the Russians and Chinese to act in a more cooperative fashion.

WALLACE: So forget the U.N., just impose …

MCCAIN: Maybe not forget the U.N., but certainly go ahead and move forward with some serious, meaningful sanctions.

WALLACE: What are sanctions?

MCCAIN: Well, refined petroleum products is one. The other, I think, is stand up for the human rights of the people of Iran. Put the pictures of those people who were brutalizing and killing and torturing the demonstrators and the people who are standing up for their God-given rights. Make them famous. We did that in certain respects during the Cold War.

WALLACE: And what about military action?

MCCAIN: Well, I think, obviously, every contingency has to be on the table. I think that we — it’s pretty clear that the Israelis cannot live with a nuclear-armed Iran. We saw news reports that the Syrians have moved Scud missiles into southern Lebanon. That is a serious escalatory move. Now Jerusalem and Tel Aviv are within range of Scud missiles.

So I think that we have to have contingency plans. But I do agree with most experts. Let’s try to get the pressure on from all directions, tough, tough sanctions, and stand up for the people that want and obviously are demonstrating in the streets and are being brutalized in the prisons.

The fact that Gates’s January memo was leaked now — following Obama’s dog-and-pony nuclear summit show – suggests that someone in the administration is nervous that the Obami have made precious little progress in devising an alternative to its que sera, sera stance toward a nuclear-armed Iran. The choice comes down to this: Obama’s mini-sanctions (which increasingly seem to be a slow walk to containment) or the toughest unilateral sanctions we can muster with a credible threat of military force if those sanctions don’t succeed. Unfortunately, by downplaying the use of force (and let’s be candid, Gates contributed to this by contributing his fair share of the bad-mouthing), such a threat is going to be all the more difficult to muster.

It’s hard to escape the conclusion that the Obami have done an extremely effective job of eliminating or hampering the most serious options for thwarting Iran’s nuclear ambitions. It may come as news to the Gray Lady’s readers, but for Obama’s conservative critics, it’s hardly surprising that when a president is reluctant to flex America’s “hard power,” the world becomes a more dangerous place.

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A Dose of Reality

As he so often does, Sen. Joe Lieberman introduces a dose of reality into the national-security debate: the START treaty isn’t going to be ratified in its current form:

“I don’t believe that there will be 67 votes to ratify the START treaty unless the administration does two things,” Lieberman said on “Fox News Sunday.” “First, commit to modernize our nuclear stockpile so as we have less nuclear weapons we know they’re capable, if, God forbid, we need them; and secondly, to make absolutely clear that some of the statements by Russian President Medvedev at the signing in Prague that seem to suggest that if we continue to build the ballistic missile defense in Europe that they may pull out of this treaty — they’re just unacceptable to us. “We need that defense to protect our allies and ourselves from Iran,” Lieberman said.

The problem, of course, is that Medvedev has support for his statements in the text of the treaty. What Lieberman requires — a repudiation of linkage — would require amending the just-signed treaty. Once again one is left to ponder the Obami’s “strategy” — if there is one. Did they imagine no one would notice the linkage to missile defense? Did they think that in an election year they’d get this ratified — or that with reduced Democratic numbers in the Senate it would get through next year? Perhaps all Obama wanted was a signing ceremony, something to justify his “reset” policy and his previous betrayal of Eastern European allies. It is hard to imagine that the Russians will be pleased and our relationship enhanced once we break the news to them that their shiny new treaty is dead on arrival.

Lieberman also blasted the administration for its Orwellian language in addressing the threat of Islamic fundamentalism:

Sen. Joe Lieberman slammed the Obama administration Sunday for stripping terms like “Islamic extremism” from a key national security document, calling the move dishonest, wrong-headed and disrespectful to the majority of Muslims who are not terrorists.

The Connecticut independent revealed that he wrote a letter Friday to top counterterrorism adviser John Brennan urging the administration to “identify accurately the ideological source” of the threat against the United States. He wrote that failing to identify “violent Islamist extremism” as the enemy is “offensive.”

The letter was written following reports that the administration was removing religious references from the U.S. National Security Strategy — the document that had described the “ideological conflict” of the early 21st century as “the struggle against militant Islamic radicalism.”

Lieberman told “Fox News Sunday” this isn’t the first time the Obama administration has tried to tiptoe around referring to Islam in its security documents and that it’s time to “blow the whistle” on the trend.

“This is not honest and, frankly, I think it’s hurtful in our relations with the Muslim world,” Lieberman said. “We’re not in a war against Islam. It’s a group of Islamist extremists who have taken the Muslim religion and made it into a political ideology, and I think if we’re not clear about that, we disrespect the overwhelming majority of Muslims who are not extremists.”

This is the Obama national security approach: paper agreements which can’t be ratified and an enemy that can’t be named. Meanwhile the mullahs proceed to build their nuclear weapons.

As he so often does, Sen. Joe Lieberman introduces a dose of reality into the national-security debate: the START treaty isn’t going to be ratified in its current form:

“I don’t believe that there will be 67 votes to ratify the START treaty unless the administration does two things,” Lieberman said on “Fox News Sunday.” “First, commit to modernize our nuclear stockpile so as we have less nuclear weapons we know they’re capable, if, God forbid, we need them; and secondly, to make absolutely clear that some of the statements by Russian President Medvedev at the signing in Prague that seem to suggest that if we continue to build the ballistic missile defense in Europe that they may pull out of this treaty — they’re just unacceptable to us. “We need that defense to protect our allies and ourselves from Iran,” Lieberman said.

The problem, of course, is that Medvedev has support for his statements in the text of the treaty. What Lieberman requires — a repudiation of linkage — would require amending the just-signed treaty. Once again one is left to ponder the Obami’s “strategy” — if there is one. Did they imagine no one would notice the linkage to missile defense? Did they think that in an election year they’d get this ratified — or that with reduced Democratic numbers in the Senate it would get through next year? Perhaps all Obama wanted was a signing ceremony, something to justify his “reset” policy and his previous betrayal of Eastern European allies. It is hard to imagine that the Russians will be pleased and our relationship enhanced once we break the news to them that their shiny new treaty is dead on arrival.

Lieberman also blasted the administration for its Orwellian language in addressing the threat of Islamic fundamentalism:

Sen. Joe Lieberman slammed the Obama administration Sunday for stripping terms like “Islamic extremism” from a key national security document, calling the move dishonest, wrong-headed and disrespectful to the majority of Muslims who are not terrorists.

The Connecticut independent revealed that he wrote a letter Friday to top counterterrorism adviser John Brennan urging the administration to “identify accurately the ideological source” of the threat against the United States. He wrote that failing to identify “violent Islamist extremism” as the enemy is “offensive.”

The letter was written following reports that the administration was removing religious references from the U.S. National Security Strategy — the document that had described the “ideological conflict” of the early 21st century as “the struggle against militant Islamic radicalism.”

Lieberman told “Fox News Sunday” this isn’t the first time the Obama administration has tried to tiptoe around referring to Islam in its security documents and that it’s time to “blow the whistle” on the trend.

“This is not honest and, frankly, I think it’s hurtful in our relations with the Muslim world,” Lieberman said. “We’re not in a war against Islam. It’s a group of Islamist extremists who have taken the Muslim religion and made it into a political ideology, and I think if we’re not clear about that, we disrespect the overwhelming majority of Muslims who are not extremists.”

This is the Obama national security approach: paper agreements which can’t be ratified and an enemy that can’t be named. Meanwhile the mullahs proceed to build their nuclear weapons.

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Obami Pushing Israel to Act Unilaterally?

The Obami are promising another round of sanctions aimed at Iran. This will be the fourth round, and we should not, judging from press reports, expect them to be “crippling.” As Bill Kristol noted on Fox News Sunday:

The only things that can stop the Iranian nuclear program are — would be the success of the green movement in Iran, which the Obama administration has done nothing to help and remains incredibly indifferent to and standoffish to on the one hand, or military action on the other, which the Obama administration seems uninterested in doing and I’m afraid is setting up a situation where Israel will feel it has to act.

The abject lack of seriousness from the Obama administration — its disinclination to even suggest the use of force or to aid the Green Movement in any meaningful way — has not gone unnoticed either here or in Israel. At the AIPAC conference, the contrast between Hillary Clinton’s platitudinous “unacceptable” formulation and Tony Blair’s “whatever it takes” phraseology was hard to ignore. And, as Kristol points out, even doves in Israel like Ephraim Sneh, a former deputy defense minister, are talking about the need for an Israeli strike on Iran this year, absent the implementation of “crippling sanctions.” (“An Israeli military campaign against Iran’s nuclear installations is likely to cripple that country’s nuclear project for a number of years. The retaliation against Israel would be painful, but bearable.”)

We can speculate as to whether the Obami’s assault on Netanyahu over the Jerusalem housing permit was meant to stymie Israel’s plans for such action. If so, this is yet another gross error in judgment by the Obami, who have an exaggerated sense of their own ability to bully those who interfere with their plans. As fraught with peril as an Israeli military operation might be and as unseemly as it might be for the U.S. to stand idly by – ignoring its role as leader of the West and shrinking from its international responsibilities – Israel, if faced with the prospect of a nuclear-armed Iran and a recalcitrant U.S. administration, will have no choice but to act in its own defense. Netanyahu said it clearly last month, no doubt to put the administration as well as the mullahs on notice. (“The future of the Jewish state can never depend on the goodwill of even the greatest of men. Israel must always reserve the right to defend itself.”)

By publicly savaging the Israeli government and making apparent just how not solid is the current relationship between the U.S. and Israel, the Obami are encouraging, not dissuading, the Israeli government to take matters into its own hands. Given the treatment by the Obama administration, what Israeli government could place its trust and the fate of the Jewish state in the Obami’s hands? It would be foolish and irresponsible — and the Israelis are neither. And once again we see that the folly-ridden Obama Middle East policy — engagement with Iran, renunciation of force, clubbing its closest ally — is creating a more dangerous and volatile world for the U.S. and its allies.

The Obami are promising another round of sanctions aimed at Iran. This will be the fourth round, and we should not, judging from press reports, expect them to be “crippling.” As Bill Kristol noted on Fox News Sunday:

The only things that can stop the Iranian nuclear program are — would be the success of the green movement in Iran, which the Obama administration has done nothing to help and remains incredibly indifferent to and standoffish to on the one hand, or military action on the other, which the Obama administration seems uninterested in doing and I’m afraid is setting up a situation where Israel will feel it has to act.

The abject lack of seriousness from the Obama administration — its disinclination to even suggest the use of force or to aid the Green Movement in any meaningful way — has not gone unnoticed either here or in Israel. At the AIPAC conference, the contrast between Hillary Clinton’s platitudinous “unacceptable” formulation and Tony Blair’s “whatever it takes” phraseology was hard to ignore. And, as Kristol points out, even doves in Israel like Ephraim Sneh, a former deputy defense minister, are talking about the need for an Israeli strike on Iran this year, absent the implementation of “crippling sanctions.” (“An Israeli military campaign against Iran’s nuclear installations is likely to cripple that country’s nuclear project for a number of years. The retaliation against Israel would be painful, but bearable.”)

We can speculate as to whether the Obami’s assault on Netanyahu over the Jerusalem housing permit was meant to stymie Israel’s plans for such action. If so, this is yet another gross error in judgment by the Obami, who have an exaggerated sense of their own ability to bully those who interfere with their plans. As fraught with peril as an Israeli military operation might be and as unseemly as it might be for the U.S. to stand idly by – ignoring its role as leader of the West and shrinking from its international responsibilities – Israel, if faced with the prospect of a nuclear-armed Iran and a recalcitrant U.S. administration, will have no choice but to act in its own defense. Netanyahu said it clearly last month, no doubt to put the administration as well as the mullahs on notice. (“The future of the Jewish state can never depend on the goodwill of even the greatest of men. Israel must always reserve the right to defend itself.”)

By publicly savaging the Israeli government and making apparent just how not solid is the current relationship between the U.S. and Israel, the Obami are encouraging, not dissuading, the Israeli government to take matters into its own hands. Given the treatment by the Obama administration, what Israeli government could place its trust and the fate of the Jewish state in the Obami’s hands? It would be foolish and irresponsible — and the Israelis are neither. And once again we see that the folly-ridden Obama Middle East policy — engagement with Iran, renunciation of force, clubbing its closest ally — is creating a more dangerous and volatile world for the U.S. and its allies.

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Obama’s Sales Job Flops

Mara Liasson on Fox News Sunday described the aftermath of ObamaCare:

What’s happened this week is that although the polls haven’t moved in any big way, there’s been a slight narrowing of the difference between the positive and negative feelings about this. Still, there’s more negative than positive.

But for the Democrats, what’s really important for the midterms is that finally, the intensity among the Democratic base, the number of Democrats who are strongly supportive of this, has come way up. And it’s beginning at least to balance out the strongly negative feelings that the Republicans have been riding among their base.

We don’t know yet if this is the high-water mark for the opposition to this, if it’s going to grow or if it’s going to dissipate.

But one of the problems I do think the White House is going to have, and they’re going to have to come up with an answer to this, is that premiums are likely to go up, and they might even start going up in a lot of places before November, before all of the things that would keep premiums down kick in, long before.

So Republicans are going to be able to say in the fall, “Ah-ha, your premiums went up,” just like they’re going to say, “Ah-ha, there’s still 10 percent unemployment.” And the White House knows it has a huge selling job ahead of it, and I think the president started this week and they’re just going to have to keep at it.

In other words, “Ah-ha — you sold us a bill of goods.” As Bill Kristol pointed out, it’s worse than that really. Citing the Washington Post/ABC News poll (with a stark undersampling of Republicans), he explains that voters aren’t embracing the “historic” achievement that Obama and the media spinners are touting:

The media celebrates it as historic, on the level of Medicare and Social Security. The president of the United States goes out and spends a week campaigning for it.Forty-six to 50 — people disapprove of it. He hasn’t moved the numbers at all. He’s slightly generated more Democratic enthusiasm, but the overall public sentiment is negative. Independents are negative. The generic congressional ballot is bad for the Democrats.

Among those who were asked, “Would you vote on this issue? Would you be more likely to vote for a congressional candidate who supports or opposes,” it’s 26-32. That is really bad for the Democrats.

I mean, if they couldn’t take advantage of the momentum of passing this legislation, the signing ceremony, the media, the president traveling around, when are they going to have a bump?

This emphasizes just how limited Obama’s ability to move public opinion is. He persuaded 53 percent of the voters to elect him, but he’s convinced them of precious little since then. They don’t buy that the stimulus worked. They don’t think closing Guantanamo is a good idea. (Last January 47 percent wanted to keep Guantanamo open; now 60 percent do.) And they aren’t buying his sales pitch that his monstrous health-care scheme is going to cut the deficit, save them money, or improve their own medical care.

Real experience with ObamaCare, as with the stimulus plan, may cement voters’ take on the legislation as the premium hikes and Medicare cuts take their toll. The risk with overselling and misrepresenting to the voters either a candidate or a piece of legislation  is that sooner or later they catch on — and then they get the chance to exact their revenge at the ballot box. As the president said, that’s what elections are for.

Mara Liasson on Fox News Sunday described the aftermath of ObamaCare:

What’s happened this week is that although the polls haven’t moved in any big way, there’s been a slight narrowing of the difference between the positive and negative feelings about this. Still, there’s more negative than positive.

But for the Democrats, what’s really important for the midterms is that finally, the intensity among the Democratic base, the number of Democrats who are strongly supportive of this, has come way up. And it’s beginning at least to balance out the strongly negative feelings that the Republicans have been riding among their base.

We don’t know yet if this is the high-water mark for the opposition to this, if it’s going to grow or if it’s going to dissipate.

But one of the problems I do think the White House is going to have, and they’re going to have to come up with an answer to this, is that premiums are likely to go up, and they might even start going up in a lot of places before November, before all of the things that would keep premiums down kick in, long before.

So Republicans are going to be able to say in the fall, “Ah-ha, your premiums went up,” just like they’re going to say, “Ah-ha, there’s still 10 percent unemployment.” And the White House knows it has a huge selling job ahead of it, and I think the president started this week and they’re just going to have to keep at it.

In other words, “Ah-ha — you sold us a bill of goods.” As Bill Kristol pointed out, it’s worse than that really. Citing the Washington Post/ABC News poll (with a stark undersampling of Republicans), he explains that voters aren’t embracing the “historic” achievement that Obama and the media spinners are touting:

The media celebrates it as historic, on the level of Medicare and Social Security. The president of the United States goes out and spends a week campaigning for it.Forty-six to 50 — people disapprove of it. He hasn’t moved the numbers at all. He’s slightly generated more Democratic enthusiasm, but the overall public sentiment is negative. Independents are negative. The generic congressional ballot is bad for the Democrats.

Among those who were asked, “Would you vote on this issue? Would you be more likely to vote for a congressional candidate who supports or opposes,” it’s 26-32. That is really bad for the Democrats.

I mean, if they couldn’t take advantage of the momentum of passing this legislation, the signing ceremony, the media, the president traveling around, when are they going to have a bump?

This emphasizes just how limited Obama’s ability to move public opinion is. He persuaded 53 percent of the voters to elect him, but he’s convinced them of precious little since then. They don’t buy that the stimulus worked. They don’t think closing Guantanamo is a good idea. (Last January 47 percent wanted to keep Guantanamo open; now 60 percent do.) And they aren’t buying his sales pitch that his monstrous health-care scheme is going to cut the deficit, save them money, or improve their own medical care.

Real experience with ObamaCare, as with the stimulus plan, may cement voters’ take on the legislation as the premium hikes and Medicare cuts take their toll. The risk with overselling and misrepresenting to the voters either a candidate or a piece of legislation  is that sooner or later they catch on — and then they get the chance to exact their revenge at the ballot box. As the president said, that’s what elections are for.

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No Way to Run a Foreign Policy

The Wall Street Journal‘s editors share many observers’ consternation over the Obami’s latest war of words with Israel. The editors note that engagement is all the rage when it comes to Syria but not when it comes to the Jewish state. On the flap over building in Jerusalem, they write:

In a speech at Tel Aviv University two days after the Israeli announcement, Mr. Biden publicly thanked Mr. Netanyahu for “putting in place a process to prevent the recurrence” of similar incidents.

The subsequent escalation by Mrs. Clinton was clearly intended as a highly public rebuke to the Israelis, but its political and strategic logic is puzzling. The U.S. needs Israel’s acquiescence in the Obama Administration’s increasingly drawn-out efforts to halt Iran’s nuclear bid through diplomacy or sanctions. But Israel’s restraint is measured in direct proportion to its sense that U.S. security guarantees are good. If Israel senses that the Administration is looking for any pretext to blow up relations, it will care much less how the U.S. might react to a military strike on Iran.

As we’ve noted here before, the Obami’s temper tantrum looks especially unwarranted given the particulars of this situation. (“Israeli anxieties about America’s role as an honest broker in any diplomacy won’t be assuaged by the Administration’s neuralgia over this particular housing project, which falls within Jerusalem’s municipal boundaries and can only be described as a ‘settlement’ in the maximalist terms defined by the Palestinians.”) Perhaps this is a pretext for regime change (i.e., to go after Bibi). Maybe this is the undisciplined and very thin-skinned Obami demonstrating their lack of professionalism. Or maybe this is par for the course — courting our enemies while squeezing our friends.

Whatever it is, it’s counterproductive. The Obami have made hash out of the U.S.-Israel relationship:

Israel’s ambassador to the United States, Michael Oren, has told the country’s diplomats there that U.S.-Israeli relations face their worst crisis in 35 years, despite attempts by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office to project a sense of “business as usual.” Oren was speaking to the Israeli consuls general in a conference call on Saturday night.

And this certainly isn’t going to move the ball ahead on the “peace process.” As Bill Kristol put it on Fox News Sunday:

Why are there proximity talks instead of direct peace talks? Whose insistence is that? Netanyahu wants to have direct peace talks. That’s the Palestinians who already are saying we can’t have direct talks, we have to have only proximity talks. Then the U.S. wildly overreacts and now, of course, there are not even going to be proximity talks. So, fine. If that’s what the Obama administration wants, there won’t be these talks, which weren’t going anywhere anyway.

It’s difficult to see who could possibly be pleased with this performance — not skeptics of the peace process, not boosters of it, and certainly not the Israelis. For those enamored of processing peace, this must surely come as unwelcome news, for why would the Palestinians make any move at the bargaining table “when the international community continues to press for maximum concrete concessions from the Israelis in exchange for words more worthless than the air upon which they float away as soon as they’re uttered.” And as for the Palestinians, well they’re delighted to have a president so infatuated with their grievances. They’re once again learning the wrong lesson: fixation on settlements and obstruction gets them American support. What it won’t get them, of course, is their own state.

If they’re honest, those who vouched for Obama’s superior temperament and his pro-Israel bona fides must be embarrassed. For those of us who suspected that this president lacked a fundamental attachment to Israel, critical national-security experience, and a full appreciation for why we don’t have “peace” in the Middle East (it’s not housing sites, especially ones clearly within the Jewish state in any future two-state deal), there’s little comfort in saying, “We told you so.”

The Wall Street Journal‘s editors share many observers’ consternation over the Obami’s latest war of words with Israel. The editors note that engagement is all the rage when it comes to Syria but not when it comes to the Jewish state. On the flap over building in Jerusalem, they write:

In a speech at Tel Aviv University two days after the Israeli announcement, Mr. Biden publicly thanked Mr. Netanyahu for “putting in place a process to prevent the recurrence” of similar incidents.

The subsequent escalation by Mrs. Clinton was clearly intended as a highly public rebuke to the Israelis, but its political and strategic logic is puzzling. The U.S. needs Israel’s acquiescence in the Obama Administration’s increasingly drawn-out efforts to halt Iran’s nuclear bid through diplomacy or sanctions. But Israel’s restraint is measured in direct proportion to its sense that U.S. security guarantees are good. If Israel senses that the Administration is looking for any pretext to blow up relations, it will care much less how the U.S. might react to a military strike on Iran.

As we’ve noted here before, the Obami’s temper tantrum looks especially unwarranted given the particulars of this situation. (“Israeli anxieties about America’s role as an honest broker in any diplomacy won’t be assuaged by the Administration’s neuralgia over this particular housing project, which falls within Jerusalem’s municipal boundaries and can only be described as a ‘settlement’ in the maximalist terms defined by the Palestinians.”) Perhaps this is a pretext for regime change (i.e., to go after Bibi). Maybe this is the undisciplined and very thin-skinned Obami demonstrating their lack of professionalism. Or maybe this is par for the course — courting our enemies while squeezing our friends.

Whatever it is, it’s counterproductive. The Obami have made hash out of the U.S.-Israel relationship:

Israel’s ambassador to the United States, Michael Oren, has told the country’s diplomats there that U.S.-Israeli relations face their worst crisis in 35 years, despite attempts by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office to project a sense of “business as usual.” Oren was speaking to the Israeli consuls general in a conference call on Saturday night.

And this certainly isn’t going to move the ball ahead on the “peace process.” As Bill Kristol put it on Fox News Sunday:

Why are there proximity talks instead of direct peace talks? Whose insistence is that? Netanyahu wants to have direct peace talks. That’s the Palestinians who already are saying we can’t have direct talks, we have to have only proximity talks. Then the U.S. wildly overreacts and now, of course, there are not even going to be proximity talks. So, fine. If that’s what the Obama administration wants, there won’t be these talks, which weren’t going anywhere anyway.

It’s difficult to see who could possibly be pleased with this performance — not skeptics of the peace process, not boosters of it, and certainly not the Israelis. For those enamored of processing peace, this must surely come as unwelcome news, for why would the Palestinians make any move at the bargaining table “when the international community continues to press for maximum concrete concessions from the Israelis in exchange for words more worthless than the air upon which they float away as soon as they’re uttered.” And as for the Palestinians, well they’re delighted to have a president so infatuated with their grievances. They’re once again learning the wrong lesson: fixation on settlements and obstruction gets them American support. What it won’t get them, of course, is their own state.

If they’re honest, those who vouched for Obama’s superior temperament and his pro-Israel bona fides must be embarrassed. For those of us who suspected that this president lacked a fundamental attachment to Israel, critical national-security experience, and a full appreciation for why we don’t have “peace” in the Middle East (it’s not housing sites, especially ones clearly within the Jewish state in any future two-state deal), there’s little comfort in saying, “We told you so.”

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Doubtful Democrats

The big moment, the game changer, never comes. That’s been the story on health care for over a year. We had the September speech. We had the State of the Union. We had the health-care summit. Obama never garners the momentum from these events to change minds and votes. Indeed, the passage of time and the repetition of dubious talking points have unnerved Democrats whose votes are essential. This report explains:

On Sunday, two Democrats who hold swing votes said they were focusing on how much money the overhaul would actually save, both for employers and insured workers, and for the federal government. The House and Senate have passed competing bills, and leaders now are putting together a compromise version. Details on cost savings are still being worked out.

“If the House and Senate can’t work out cost containment, I don’t see how I could support a bill that doesn’t help our business community,” Rep. John Adler (D., N.J.) said on “Fox News Sunday.” “I’m not sure we’ve gone far enough in terms of fixing the underlying system to make it affordable for businesses and taxpayers.”

Rep. Jason Altmire (D., Pa.), also appearing on Fox, said he needed “to see a much clearer picture of the cost containment.” He suggested strengthening provisions in the bill aimed at shifting the way providers are reimbursed, to be based on quality of care rather than the number of procedures performed. Critics say the government’s current fee-for-service reimbursement system within its Medicare program encourages providers to offer patients unnecessary procedures.

Why hasn’t the president been able to win over these and the other needed House Democrats? Well, the nature of the bill simply cannot be disguised – it’s a massive new entitlement, a huge tax increase, a whack at Medicare, and set of Rube Goldberg funding gimmicks designed to conceal the true cost. The lawmakers know it, and the public knows it.

So all that is left is to see if the congressional leaders can cajole their members into passing something that is neither substantively nor politically sound. Unfortunately, the bribery and strong-arming needed to do that only intensifies the public’s disgust for the process and for the lawmakers who are pushing this on them. The longer this goes on, the less sense ObamaCare makes, especially to those who really have no reason to throw themselves over a cliff so that Obama-Reid-Pelosi can spare themselves humiliation. After all, the troika can come up with a face-saving, bare-bones deal, the lawmakers can tell the voters they did something, and they can get back to the Democratic members’ real concern — trying to save themselves from the angry electorate.

The big moment, the game changer, never comes. That’s been the story on health care for over a year. We had the September speech. We had the State of the Union. We had the health-care summit. Obama never garners the momentum from these events to change minds and votes. Indeed, the passage of time and the repetition of dubious talking points have unnerved Democrats whose votes are essential. This report explains:

On Sunday, two Democrats who hold swing votes said they were focusing on how much money the overhaul would actually save, both for employers and insured workers, and for the federal government. The House and Senate have passed competing bills, and leaders now are putting together a compromise version. Details on cost savings are still being worked out.

“If the House and Senate can’t work out cost containment, I don’t see how I could support a bill that doesn’t help our business community,” Rep. John Adler (D., N.J.) said on “Fox News Sunday.” “I’m not sure we’ve gone far enough in terms of fixing the underlying system to make it affordable for businesses and taxpayers.”

Rep. Jason Altmire (D., Pa.), also appearing on Fox, said he needed “to see a much clearer picture of the cost containment.” He suggested strengthening provisions in the bill aimed at shifting the way providers are reimbursed, to be based on quality of care rather than the number of procedures performed. Critics say the government’s current fee-for-service reimbursement system within its Medicare program encourages providers to offer patients unnecessary procedures.

Why hasn’t the president been able to win over these and the other needed House Democrats? Well, the nature of the bill simply cannot be disguised – it’s a massive new entitlement, a huge tax increase, a whack at Medicare, and set of Rube Goldberg funding gimmicks designed to conceal the true cost. The lawmakers know it, and the public knows it.

So all that is left is to see if the congressional leaders can cajole their members into passing something that is neither substantively nor politically sound. Unfortunately, the bribery and strong-arming needed to do that only intensifies the public’s disgust for the process and for the lawmakers who are pushing this on them. The longer this goes on, the less sense ObamaCare makes, especially to those who really have no reason to throw themselves over a cliff so that Obama-Reid-Pelosi can spare themselves humiliation. After all, the troika can come up with a face-saving, bare-bones deal, the lawmakers can tell the voters they did something, and they can get back to the Democratic members’ real concern — trying to save themselves from the angry electorate.

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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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Who’s Being Set Up on Health Care?

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell on Fox News Sunday declined to say if there were enough votes to block Harry Reid from jamming ObamaCare through using reconciliation. He did, however, seem quite pleased to use the prospect of reconciliation to taunt the Democrats:

“You know, we’ve witnessed the ‘Cornhusker kickback,’ the ‘Louisiana purchase,’ ‘the Gatorade,’ the special deal for Florida. Now they are suggesting they might use a device which has never been used the for this kind of major systemic reform. We know it would be — the only thing bipartisan about it would be the opposition to it, because a number of Democrats have said, ‘Don’t do this. This is not the way to go.’ I think they’re having a hard time getting the message here. The American people do not want this bill to pass. And it strikes me as rather arrogant to say, ‘Well, we’re going to give it to you anyway, and we’ll use whatever device is available to achieve that end.’”

And on the health-care summit, he asked: “But if they’re going lay out the plan they want to pass four days in advance, then why are — what are we discussing on Thursday?” To set you up, Senator.

But on second thought, who is really being set up here? The Republicans have made their principled stance against a massive tax-and-spend health-care bill and against the notion that we should force Americans to buy insurance they don’t want. The public overwhelmingly agrees with the Republican stance. So those who are being set up for a monumentally unpopular vote on a measure that may never pass the House (Is anyone certain Nancy Pelosi has anything close to 218 votes?) are the Senate Democrats, who once again will be forced to choose between the strong sentiments of their constituents and fidelity to the ultraliberal and endangered Democratic leadership.

As on the reconciliation vote count, McConnell wouldn’t say whether Republicans could pick up 10 seats this year. But one suspects the chances will improve if Obama and Reid really intend to try to jam through ObamaCare. McConnell certainly thinks so.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell on Fox News Sunday declined to say if there were enough votes to block Harry Reid from jamming ObamaCare through using reconciliation. He did, however, seem quite pleased to use the prospect of reconciliation to taunt the Democrats:

“You know, we’ve witnessed the ‘Cornhusker kickback,’ the ‘Louisiana purchase,’ ‘the Gatorade,’ the special deal for Florida. Now they are suggesting they might use a device which has never been used the for this kind of major systemic reform. We know it would be — the only thing bipartisan about it would be the opposition to it, because a number of Democrats have said, ‘Don’t do this. This is not the way to go.’ I think they’re having a hard time getting the message here. The American people do not want this bill to pass. And it strikes me as rather arrogant to say, ‘Well, we’re going to give it to you anyway, and we’ll use whatever device is available to achieve that end.’”

And on the health-care summit, he asked: “But if they’re going lay out the plan they want to pass four days in advance, then why are — what are we discussing on Thursday?” To set you up, Senator.

But on second thought, who is really being set up here? The Republicans have made their principled stance against a massive tax-and-spend health-care bill and against the notion that we should force Americans to buy insurance they don’t want. The public overwhelmingly agrees with the Republican stance. So those who are being set up for a monumentally unpopular vote on a measure that may never pass the House (Is anyone certain Nancy Pelosi has anything close to 218 votes?) are the Senate Democrats, who once again will be forced to choose between the strong sentiments of their constituents and fidelity to the ultraliberal and endangered Democratic leadership.

As on the reconciliation vote count, McConnell wouldn’t say whether Republicans could pick up 10 seats this year. But one suspects the chances will improve if Obama and Reid really intend to try to jam through ObamaCare. McConnell certainly thinks so.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Eric Holder’s blunder fest is serious stuff: “We’ve shaken our heads in disgust often in the last year over the Obamic decision to permit a bunch of Chicago political hacks and the U.S. attorney general–the CPH Plus One–to run much of foreign policy out of the White House. It’s had real-world consequences, not least that the tension between the Axelrod-Emanuel-Jarrett axis (appease despots whenever possible) and the Clinton state department (appease them, but accuse them while you’re doing it) has given time and breathing room to the bomb-building wing of the Iranian dictatorship.”

This, from a Republican strategist, is what passes for wisdom among the chattering classes: “Sarah Palin will have to choose to be either the leader of a movement or the leader of a nation. She can’t be both.” (He cites Goldwater and McGovern for this proposition.) Whether or not you like Palin, this is just nonsense. Ronald Reagan was both. Obama was, too (before he proved himself utterly incompetent). It’s the sort of stuff strategists say when they’re trying to oblige the media with a particular angle or shill for another, unnamed candidate.

Only in the Obama administration could Janet Napolitano not be in the top three on the “deserves to be fired” list. John Brennan seems to have zoomed into the lead, past Eric Holder and James Jones: “Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.), the ranking Republican on the House Homeland Security Committee, is calling for the resignation — or immediate firing — of Obama adviser John Brennan. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) also called for Brennan’s head, telling FOX News Sunday that the adviser ‘has lost my confidence.’”

The California Senate race looks competitive, with Barbara Boxer leading potential GOP challengers by four or five points: “Most troubling for Boxer in the latest Rasmussen Reports telephone survey of likely voters in the state is her continuing inability to cross the 50% threshold against any of the GOP hopefuls. Incumbents who capture less than 50% of the vote at this stage of the campaign are considered vulnerable.”

If you appreciate understatement, this headline will appeal to you: “Indiana GOP: ‘We really like our chances.’” Yeah, I bet.

E.J. Dionne manages to get something right: “There is no way for Democrats to sugarcoat the news of Sen. Evan Bayh’s retirement: This is mighty good news for Republicans. Bayh would have been very difficult to defeat, and he has $13 million in the bank. Now, Indiana can be added to the list of seats that could shift to the Republicans, and that list is growing large enough that the GOP is within striking distance of taking over the Senate, an unthinkable idea even a month or so ago.”

Democrat Martin Frost sums up his party’s reaction to the Bayh retirement announcement: “The sky is officially falling.”

Jeffrey Goldberg reminds us that the tag team of mullah boosters, Hillary Mann and Flynt Leverett, has a history of making stuff up. The proper thing to do would be to slink away, but the limelight and the chance to shill for the Iranian butchers must be too much to resist.

Eric Holder’s blunder fest is serious stuff: “We’ve shaken our heads in disgust often in the last year over the Obamic decision to permit a bunch of Chicago political hacks and the U.S. attorney general–the CPH Plus One–to run much of foreign policy out of the White House. It’s had real-world consequences, not least that the tension between the Axelrod-Emanuel-Jarrett axis (appease despots whenever possible) and the Clinton state department (appease them, but accuse them while you’re doing it) has given time and breathing room to the bomb-building wing of the Iranian dictatorship.”

This, from a Republican strategist, is what passes for wisdom among the chattering classes: “Sarah Palin will have to choose to be either the leader of a movement or the leader of a nation. She can’t be both.” (He cites Goldwater and McGovern for this proposition.) Whether or not you like Palin, this is just nonsense. Ronald Reagan was both. Obama was, too (before he proved himself utterly incompetent). It’s the sort of stuff strategists say when they’re trying to oblige the media with a particular angle or shill for another, unnamed candidate.

Only in the Obama administration could Janet Napolitano not be in the top three on the “deserves to be fired” list. John Brennan seems to have zoomed into the lead, past Eric Holder and James Jones: “Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.), the ranking Republican on the House Homeland Security Committee, is calling for the resignation — or immediate firing — of Obama adviser John Brennan. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) also called for Brennan’s head, telling FOX News Sunday that the adviser ‘has lost my confidence.’”

The California Senate race looks competitive, with Barbara Boxer leading potential GOP challengers by four or five points: “Most troubling for Boxer in the latest Rasmussen Reports telephone survey of likely voters in the state is her continuing inability to cross the 50% threshold against any of the GOP hopefuls. Incumbents who capture less than 50% of the vote at this stage of the campaign are considered vulnerable.”

If you appreciate understatement, this headline will appeal to you: “Indiana GOP: ‘We really like our chances.’” Yeah, I bet.

E.J. Dionne manages to get something right: “There is no way for Democrats to sugarcoat the news of Sen. Evan Bayh’s retirement: This is mighty good news for Republicans. Bayh would have been very difficult to defeat, and he has $13 million in the bank. Now, Indiana can be added to the list of seats that could shift to the Republicans, and that list is growing large enough that the GOP is within striking distance of taking over the Senate, an unthinkable idea even a month or so ago.”

Democrat Martin Frost sums up his party’s reaction to the Bayh retirement announcement: “The sky is officially falling.”

Jeffrey Goldberg reminds us that the tag team of mullah boosters, Hillary Mann and Flynt Leverett, has a history of making stuff up. The proper thing to do would be to slink away, but the limelight and the chance to shill for the Iranian butchers must be too much to resist.

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Time to Throw Holder Under the Bus?

Appearing on Fox News Sunday, Sen. Evan Bayh, perhaps hearing footsteps back home in an election year, said of the KSM trial that it “sounded good in theory way back when but, in practice, it just was not the right thing to do.” When pressed by Chris Wallace, he stated he would not vote for the $200 million or so needed for a civilian trial for KSM. He was not alone in criticizing the administration:

Republican Congressman Paul Ryan of Wisconsin argued these are the wrong decisions.  “We should have learned from the mistakes we made in the past.  We shouldn’t be Mirandizing foreign terrorists.  We should send them to military tribunals.  $200 million is about four times the startup cost of Guantanamo in the first place.”

Similarly, Republican Senator Lamar Alexander accused Attorney General Holder of “doing a better job of interrogating CIA employees than he is of interrogating terrorists.”

“He’s not making a distinction between enemy combatants, the terrorists who are flying into Detroit, blowing up plans, and American citizens who are committing a crime,” he added.

Alexander went so far as to call for Holder to step down.

Meanwhile, the administration’s official flack did not exactly give a ringing endorsement of either the KSM trial or of Holder himself. Appearing on CNN, Robert Gibbs would only say:

“He will be brought to justice, and he will likely be executed for the heinous crimes he has committed. … That you can be sure of.”

But he dodged repeated questions by CNN host John King about whether the administration might shift the venue back from federal court in New York to a military court, finally saying that “The attorney general believes the best place to try him is in an American courtroom,” but not committing to that option…

“We are talking with the authorities in New York,” Gibbs said. “We understand their logistical concerns. We have been discussing that with them.”

So this is all the attorney general’s idea, you see. Not exactly the “buck stops here” sort of decision-making we were assured we’d get from Obama. But aside from the lack of presidential accountability and candor (who believes Holder made this monumentally dumb decision with no input from the White House?), it does leave open the potential for a serious revision in personnel and policy.

There is wide consensus that the decision to try KSM in federal court in New York was a blunder. Suddenly, the wonders of military commissions have been rediscovered. The handling of the Christmas Day bomber is likewise the subject of broad criticism. Who is at the center of these and a host of other ill-advised decisions on the war on terror? Well, the president, of course, but he’s not going anywhere for three years. His attorney general, however, has had quite a run and is fast becoming a liability for the administration. What better way to pivot and restore some bipartisan credibility than to throw Holder under the proverbial bus?

We’ve learned that it takes a lot to get fired by Obama. But if anyone has earned that fate, it is Holder. His departure would earn praise from conservatives at a time when Obama is struggling to demonstrate some bipartisanship. It would suggest that there is hope yet for this administration to steer back toward the Center of the political spectrum and away from the netroot agenda that has proven utterly unworkable and politically toxic.

Appearing on Fox News Sunday, Sen. Evan Bayh, perhaps hearing footsteps back home in an election year, said of the KSM trial that it “sounded good in theory way back when but, in practice, it just was not the right thing to do.” When pressed by Chris Wallace, he stated he would not vote for the $200 million or so needed for a civilian trial for KSM. He was not alone in criticizing the administration:

Republican Congressman Paul Ryan of Wisconsin argued these are the wrong decisions.  “We should have learned from the mistakes we made in the past.  We shouldn’t be Mirandizing foreign terrorists.  We should send them to military tribunals.  $200 million is about four times the startup cost of Guantanamo in the first place.”

Similarly, Republican Senator Lamar Alexander accused Attorney General Holder of “doing a better job of interrogating CIA employees than he is of interrogating terrorists.”

“He’s not making a distinction between enemy combatants, the terrorists who are flying into Detroit, blowing up plans, and American citizens who are committing a crime,” he added.

Alexander went so far as to call for Holder to step down.

Meanwhile, the administration’s official flack did not exactly give a ringing endorsement of either the KSM trial or of Holder himself. Appearing on CNN, Robert Gibbs would only say:

“He will be brought to justice, and he will likely be executed for the heinous crimes he has committed. … That you can be sure of.”

But he dodged repeated questions by CNN host John King about whether the administration might shift the venue back from federal court in New York to a military court, finally saying that “The attorney general believes the best place to try him is in an American courtroom,” but not committing to that option…

“We are talking with the authorities in New York,” Gibbs said. “We understand their logistical concerns. We have been discussing that with them.”

So this is all the attorney general’s idea, you see. Not exactly the “buck stops here” sort of decision-making we were assured we’d get from Obama. But aside from the lack of presidential accountability and candor (who believes Holder made this monumentally dumb decision with no input from the White House?), it does leave open the potential for a serious revision in personnel and policy.

There is wide consensus that the decision to try KSM in federal court in New York was a blunder. Suddenly, the wonders of military commissions have been rediscovered. The handling of the Christmas Day bomber is likewise the subject of broad criticism. Who is at the center of these and a host of other ill-advised decisions on the war on terror? Well, the president, of course, but he’s not going anywhere for three years. His attorney general, however, has had quite a run and is fast becoming a liability for the administration. What better way to pivot and restore some bipartisan credibility than to throw Holder under the proverbial bus?

We’ve learned that it takes a lot to get fired by Obama. But if anyone has earned that fate, it is Holder. His departure would earn praise from conservatives at a time when Obama is struggling to demonstrate some bipartisanship. It would suggest that there is hope yet for this administration to steer back toward the Center of the political spectrum and away from the netroot agenda that has proven utterly unworkable and politically toxic.

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Obama Misses the Populist Message

Mara Liasson on Fox News Sunday makes a key point that the Obami aren’t likely to appreciate:

This is not a revolt of special interests killing the health care bill like with Hillary-care. You have big pharma, you have the insurance companies basically inside the tent, bought into this idea that they’re going to get a big new market in exchange for being highly regulated.

This is not only accurate but also highlights the phoniness of Obama’s newfound populism. The populists — yes, including those “angry” tea party protesters whom Obama pretended to ignore — are arrayed against Obama and his statist, big-government agenda. They aren’t protesting that special interests have blocked health care; they’re mad that an unholy alliance of big business, big labor, and big government has formed with little concern for the interests of seniors (whose Medicare would get slashed) or middle-class voters (who would be taxed on Cadillac plans, forced to buy insurance, etc.). Obama may be donning the lingo of those who elected Scott Brown, but he’s missing the point.

Obama’s own agenda is fundamentally anti-populist. What could be worse for the little guy than to be told to go buy a big, expensive health-care plan from a big insurance company? It’s the sort of thing Democrats would rightly mock Republicans for coming up with, had the GOP the nerve to come up with such a scheme in the first place.

So when Obama now hollers about the “little guy” and expresses outrage over big, powerful forces in Washington, perhaps he should have looked more closely at the bill he was attempting to foist on the American people. A cushy deal for Big Pharma. New customers mandated by the federal government for Big Insurance. A sweetheart deal for Big Labor.

As with so much else that has gone wrong in the past year for Obama, we once again see that he mistakes (or thinks we will mistake) rhetoric for substance. He wants to get on the side of the ordinary voters? Listen to Scott Brown’s message:

Raising taxes, taking over our health care, and giving new rights to terrorists is the wrong agenda for our country. What I’ve heard again and again on the campaign trail, is that our political leaders have grown aloof from the people, impatient with dissent, and comfortable in the back room making deals.

That’s what has the public riled up — and Obama would do well to listen to what voters are saying rather than simply imitate the tone of the other side’s victory rallies.

Mara Liasson on Fox News Sunday makes a key point that the Obami aren’t likely to appreciate:

This is not a revolt of special interests killing the health care bill like with Hillary-care. You have big pharma, you have the insurance companies basically inside the tent, bought into this idea that they’re going to get a big new market in exchange for being highly regulated.

This is not only accurate but also highlights the phoniness of Obama’s newfound populism. The populists — yes, including those “angry” tea party protesters whom Obama pretended to ignore — are arrayed against Obama and his statist, big-government agenda. They aren’t protesting that special interests have blocked health care; they’re mad that an unholy alliance of big business, big labor, and big government has formed with little concern for the interests of seniors (whose Medicare would get slashed) or middle-class voters (who would be taxed on Cadillac plans, forced to buy insurance, etc.). Obama may be donning the lingo of those who elected Scott Brown, but he’s missing the point.

Obama’s own agenda is fundamentally anti-populist. What could be worse for the little guy than to be told to go buy a big, expensive health-care plan from a big insurance company? It’s the sort of thing Democrats would rightly mock Republicans for coming up with, had the GOP the nerve to come up with such a scheme in the first place.

So when Obama now hollers about the “little guy” and expresses outrage over big, powerful forces in Washington, perhaps he should have looked more closely at the bill he was attempting to foist on the American people. A cushy deal for Big Pharma. New customers mandated by the federal government for Big Insurance. A sweetheart deal for Big Labor.

As with so much else that has gone wrong in the past year for Obama, we once again see that he mistakes (or thinks we will mistake) rhetoric for substance. He wants to get on the side of the ordinary voters? Listen to Scott Brown’s message:

Raising taxes, taking over our health care, and giving new rights to terrorists is the wrong agenda for our country. What I’ve heard again and again on the campaign trail, is that our political leaders have grown aloof from the people, impatient with dissent, and comfortable in the back room making deals.

That’s what has the public riled up — and Obama would do well to listen to what voters are saying rather than simply imitate the tone of the other side’s victory rallies.

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When Everything Is Bleak, Attack Fox News

The Obami are nothing if not persistent. Fox News may be the fastest-growing cable news network. The White House vendetta against those so stiff-necked as to refuse to view the world through the White House’s news prism may have backfired, making the Obami look paranoid and thin-skinned. But why change? After all, the White House is riding high and has the pulse of the electorate, right? Oh well, not at all. But Fox is still to be vilified and marginalized. The Hill reports:

Leadership of the White House’s communication shop may have changed, but its new chief made clear on Monday he shares his predecessor’s concerns about Fox News. The network is “not a traditional news organization,” director Dan Pfeiffer stressed, adding he agreed with former Director Anita Dunn’s take on the network. … “We don’t feel the obligation to treat them like we would treat a CNN, or an ABC, or an NBC, or a traditional news organization, but there are times when we believe it makes sense to communicate with them,” he added, noting the White House’s decision to dispatch counter-terrorism chief John Brennan to Fox News Sunday after the Flight 253 attack was one example of that.

I suppose when you have your communications strategy wired, when every election in the past few months has gone your way, and when you have a firm grip on the independent voters who watch Fox in huge numbers, you can afford to be arrogant. But when none of those things is true and the White House has spent days scrambling to undo the damage from an embarrassingly lackluster presidential response to terrorism, the administration might want to think about reaching out beyond their spin-cocoon. They might want to try to erase the image of their being incapable of interacting with those who fail to provide reverential coverage. After all, three years is a long time to continue their current downward trajectory, which is the result of this sort of arrogance and of their insistence on ignoring those who refuse to nod approvingly, parrot the line of the day, and avoid asking impertinent questions.

The Obami are nothing if not persistent. Fox News may be the fastest-growing cable news network. The White House vendetta against those so stiff-necked as to refuse to view the world through the White House’s news prism may have backfired, making the Obami look paranoid and thin-skinned. But why change? After all, the White House is riding high and has the pulse of the electorate, right? Oh well, not at all. But Fox is still to be vilified and marginalized. The Hill reports:

Leadership of the White House’s communication shop may have changed, but its new chief made clear on Monday he shares his predecessor’s concerns about Fox News. The network is “not a traditional news organization,” director Dan Pfeiffer stressed, adding he agreed with former Director Anita Dunn’s take on the network. … “We don’t feel the obligation to treat them like we would treat a CNN, or an ABC, or an NBC, or a traditional news organization, but there are times when we believe it makes sense to communicate with them,” he added, noting the White House’s decision to dispatch counter-terrorism chief John Brennan to Fox News Sunday after the Flight 253 attack was one example of that.

I suppose when you have your communications strategy wired, when every election in the past few months has gone your way, and when you have a firm grip on the independent voters who watch Fox in huge numbers, you can afford to be arrogant. But when none of those things is true and the White House has spent days scrambling to undo the damage from an embarrassingly lackluster presidential response to terrorism, the administration might want to think about reaching out beyond their spin-cocoon. They might want to try to erase the image of their being incapable of interacting with those who fail to provide reverential coverage. After all, three years is a long time to continue their current downward trajectory, which is the result of this sort of arrogance and of their insistence on ignoring those who refuse to nod approvingly, parrot the line of the day, and avoid asking impertinent questions.

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But Isn’t There a Downside?

This is an instructive exchange on Fox News Sunday between Obama’s counterterrorism advisor, John Brennan, and Chris Wallace, on the subject of treating the Christmas Day bomber as a criminal defendant. Why do this?

BRENNAN: Well, we have an array of tools that we will use, and we want to make sure we maintain flexibility as far as how we deal with these individuals.

Now, let’s get the facts on the table. He was arrested on U.S. soil on a plane on — in the Detroit airplane. He was, in fact, talking to people who were detaining him.

There were people who were arrested during the previous administration — Richard Reid, the shoe bomber; Zacarias Moussaoui; Padilla; Iyman Faris; others — all were charged and tried in criminal court and sentenced, some cases to life imprisonment.

Just because somebody is going to be put into the criminal legal process does not mean that they’re — we don’t have other opportunities to get information from them.

WALLACE: But wait, wait. Let me ask you specifically. After Abdulmutallab got lawyered up, did he stop cooperating with authorities? Did he stop talking?

BRENNAN: I’m not going to address exactly what he did before or after he was — talked with his lawyer. We got information. We continue to have opportunities to do that.

As you talk with the lawyers and you talk with the individuals, as they recognize what they’re facing as far as the charges, conviction and possible sentence, there are opportunities to continue to talk about it.

FBI has some of the best interrogators and debriefers in the world, and so I’m confident that we’re going to continue to be able to work this system and see whether or not…

WALLACE: But once he gets his Miranda rights, he doesn’t have to speak at all.

BRENNAN: He doesn’t have to, but he knows that there are certain things that are on the table, and if he wants to, in fact, engage with us in a productive manner, there are ways that he can do that.

WALLACE: But why not treat him — you certainly had the right — have — had — still have the right to treat him as an enemy combatant. Why not do that?

If he has more actionable intelligence about future attacks, and you say there’s a real possibility of that, doesn’t the president have a responsibility to do everything legal he can to get that information?

BRENNAN: And the president has that responsibility, and the Department of Justice makes these determinations about what’s the best tool to use. And in this instance, we felt as though it was the best way to address Mr. Abdulmutallab’s case.

We’ll continue to look at each of the cases individually and proceed accordingly.

WALLACE: Just briefly, what’s the downside of treating him as an enemy combatant?

BRENNAN: There’s — there are no downsides or upsides in particular cases. What we’re trying to do is to make sure we apply the right tool in the right instance. In this case, we made a determination that he should be tried in U.S. criminal court.

If you missed the coherent explanation for why they are doing this — other than the fact that the lefty lawyers in the Justice Department told them to — you are not alone. The lack of thoughtful analysis as to the national-security implications of treating Abdulmutallab as a criminal rather than as an enemy combatant is somewhat stunning. Yes, the terrorist doesn’t have to talk to us, but we have “certain things on the table.” What — we are already plea bargaining with an al-Qaeda trained terrorist? It is startling, but it is also the natural result of what comes from putting the criminal-justice model into place. Oh, he’s arrested here? So Mirandize him, call the FBI, and yes, I suppose, permit him to take the 5th. And when Brennan says that there is “no downsides or upsides in particular cases,” one has to wonder what in the world he is talking about. Of course there is a downside to allowing Abdulmutallab to clam up. Just as there would have been a downside had we allowed KSM to clam up. We lose potentially life-saving information when we stand quietly by.

The difference is that the Bush administration wasn’t willing to play Russian roulette with Americans lives or hope that detainees would eventually change their minds and co-operate. The Obama administration is. And that should be deeply disturbing to all of us.

This is an instructive exchange on Fox News Sunday between Obama’s counterterrorism advisor, John Brennan, and Chris Wallace, on the subject of treating the Christmas Day bomber as a criminal defendant. Why do this?

BRENNAN: Well, we have an array of tools that we will use, and we want to make sure we maintain flexibility as far as how we deal with these individuals.

Now, let’s get the facts on the table. He was arrested on U.S. soil on a plane on — in the Detroit airplane. He was, in fact, talking to people who were detaining him.

There were people who were arrested during the previous administration — Richard Reid, the shoe bomber; Zacarias Moussaoui; Padilla; Iyman Faris; others — all were charged and tried in criminal court and sentenced, some cases to life imprisonment.

Just because somebody is going to be put into the criminal legal process does not mean that they’re — we don’t have other opportunities to get information from them.

WALLACE: But wait, wait. Let me ask you specifically. After Abdulmutallab got lawyered up, did he stop cooperating with authorities? Did he stop talking?

BRENNAN: I’m not going to address exactly what he did before or after he was — talked with his lawyer. We got information. We continue to have opportunities to do that.

As you talk with the lawyers and you talk with the individuals, as they recognize what they’re facing as far as the charges, conviction and possible sentence, there are opportunities to continue to talk about it.

FBI has some of the best interrogators and debriefers in the world, and so I’m confident that we’re going to continue to be able to work this system and see whether or not…

WALLACE: But once he gets his Miranda rights, he doesn’t have to speak at all.

BRENNAN: He doesn’t have to, but he knows that there are certain things that are on the table, and if he wants to, in fact, engage with us in a productive manner, there are ways that he can do that.

WALLACE: But why not treat him — you certainly had the right — have — had — still have the right to treat him as an enemy combatant. Why not do that?

If he has more actionable intelligence about future attacks, and you say there’s a real possibility of that, doesn’t the president have a responsibility to do everything legal he can to get that information?

BRENNAN: And the president has that responsibility, and the Department of Justice makes these determinations about what’s the best tool to use. And in this instance, we felt as though it was the best way to address Mr. Abdulmutallab’s case.

We’ll continue to look at each of the cases individually and proceed accordingly.

WALLACE: Just briefly, what’s the downside of treating him as an enemy combatant?

BRENNAN: There’s — there are no downsides or upsides in particular cases. What we’re trying to do is to make sure we apply the right tool in the right instance. In this case, we made a determination that he should be tried in U.S. criminal court.

If you missed the coherent explanation for why they are doing this — other than the fact that the lefty lawyers in the Justice Department told them to — you are not alone. The lack of thoughtful analysis as to the national-security implications of treating Abdulmutallab as a criminal rather than as an enemy combatant is somewhat stunning. Yes, the terrorist doesn’t have to talk to us, but we have “certain things on the table.” What — we are already plea bargaining with an al-Qaeda trained terrorist? It is startling, but it is also the natural result of what comes from putting the criminal-justice model into place. Oh, he’s arrested here? So Mirandize him, call the FBI, and yes, I suppose, permit him to take the 5th. And when Brennan says that there is “no downsides or upsides in particular cases,” one has to wonder what in the world he is talking about. Of course there is a downside to allowing Abdulmutallab to clam up. Just as there would have been a downside had we allowed KSM to clam up. We lose potentially life-saving information when we stand quietly by.

The difference is that the Bush administration wasn’t willing to play Russian roulette with Americans lives or hope that detainees would eventually change their minds and co-operate. The Obama administration is. And that should be deeply disturbing to all of us.

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Not There Yet

Conservatives and those Democrats who had grown nervous about Obama’s foreign-policy bent have become ever so hopeful that Obama has shifted away from his leftist vision in that regard. Many of these optimistic observers have chosen to skip over or simply roll their eyes at Obama’s comments at West Point, and again at Oslo, concerning our anti-terror policies. But Liz Cheney was having none of that. On Fox News Sunday she declared:

I think the key will be whether the policies now follow that, and I certainly hope that they do. But we still had in this speech — you know, it’s almost like it’s become reflexive, this notion that America abandoned our ideals after 9/11, and I think that it is — you know, as we see this president repeatedly go onto foreign soil and accuse America of having tortured people, talk about Guantanamo Bay as an abandonment of our ideals, you know, I — that part of the speech to me really is nothing short of shameful.

And it’s not just an attack on political opponents. You know, it really is casting aspersions and, I would say, slandering the men and women in the CIA who carried out key programs that kept us safe and the people, frankly, right now at Guantanamo Bay who are guarding some of the world’s worst terrorists.

Well, yes, it’s a bit hard to square the president’s two major addresses with the notion that he has woken up to reality, seen the nature of the enemy, grown in office, and assumed a more realistic attitude toward his obligations as commander in chief. Why is he still spouting netroot-approved rhetoric on Guantanamo, the CIA, and enhanced interrogation, and planning to move detainees to Illinois and hold a civilian trial for KSM if he now “gets it”?

If the president has in fact decided that it’s time to put away childish leftist rhetoric and embrace the responsibilities of a commander in chief who is fighting a war on terror in a world where “evil” exists — he told us so, remember — then it’s incumbent upon him to stop spouting silliness and to adopt a mature policy on the war on terror. But he has done neither.

Obama didn’t ban “torture”; it was illegal before he divined that slapping a terrorist or making him sleepy offended our deepest values. Obama has banned enhanced interrogation — prohibiting our intelligence agents from using methods we know were successful in extracting life-saving information in the past. He chose to release notes that detailed interrogation memos and to reinvestigate CIA operatives, sending a message to the intelligence community to do as little as possible and take no action for which they might subsequently be prosecuted. He is affording KSM and his cohorts a legal forum to propagate their jihadist message. He is willing to relocate terrorists to American soil or to terrorist training grounds like Yemen, increasing security risks for Americans and again making it more likely that they’ll spread their message to others.

Those rooting for Obama are understandably excited at the prospect of his breaking out of his netroot cocoon. But those squinting to make out the outlines of an Obama epiphany should be candid: we’re a long way from a mature, robust position on the war on terror.

Conservatives and those Democrats who had grown nervous about Obama’s foreign-policy bent have become ever so hopeful that Obama has shifted away from his leftist vision in that regard. Many of these optimistic observers have chosen to skip over or simply roll their eyes at Obama’s comments at West Point, and again at Oslo, concerning our anti-terror policies. But Liz Cheney was having none of that. On Fox News Sunday she declared:

I think the key will be whether the policies now follow that, and I certainly hope that they do. But we still had in this speech — you know, it’s almost like it’s become reflexive, this notion that America abandoned our ideals after 9/11, and I think that it is — you know, as we see this president repeatedly go onto foreign soil and accuse America of having tortured people, talk about Guantanamo Bay as an abandonment of our ideals, you know, I — that part of the speech to me really is nothing short of shameful.

And it’s not just an attack on political opponents. You know, it really is casting aspersions and, I would say, slandering the men and women in the CIA who carried out key programs that kept us safe and the people, frankly, right now at Guantanamo Bay who are guarding some of the world’s worst terrorists.

Well, yes, it’s a bit hard to square the president’s two major addresses with the notion that he has woken up to reality, seen the nature of the enemy, grown in office, and assumed a more realistic attitude toward his obligations as commander in chief. Why is he still spouting netroot-approved rhetoric on Guantanamo, the CIA, and enhanced interrogation, and planning to move detainees to Illinois and hold a civilian trial for KSM if he now “gets it”?

If the president has in fact decided that it’s time to put away childish leftist rhetoric and embrace the responsibilities of a commander in chief who is fighting a war on terror in a world where “evil” exists — he told us so, remember — then it’s incumbent upon him to stop spouting silliness and to adopt a mature policy on the war on terror. But he has done neither.

Obama didn’t ban “torture”; it was illegal before he divined that slapping a terrorist or making him sleepy offended our deepest values. Obama has banned enhanced interrogation — prohibiting our intelligence agents from using methods we know were successful in extracting life-saving information in the past. He chose to release notes that detailed interrogation memos and to reinvestigate CIA operatives, sending a message to the intelligence community to do as little as possible and take no action for which they might subsequently be prosecuted. He is affording KSM and his cohorts a legal forum to propagate their jihadist message. He is willing to relocate terrorists to American soil or to terrorist training grounds like Yemen, increasing security risks for Americans and again making it more likely that they’ll spread their message to others.

Those rooting for Obama are understandably excited at the prospect of his breaking out of his netroot cocoon. But those squinting to make out the outlines of an Obama epiphany should be candid: we’re a long way from a mature, robust position on the war on terror.

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