Commentary Magazine


Topic: Fox News

Flotsam and Jetsam

“Soul-searching” at the White House? Not so much. “‘There isn’t going to be a reset button. That’s not their style,’ said a Democratic strategist who works with the White House on several issues. ‘They don’t like pivots, and they also believe they’re right.'”

Nancy Pelosi is the right leader to show the country that the Dems “get it”? Not so much, according to Heath Shuler: “Shuler believes that his party didn’t get the message on Election Day when voters kicked Democrats out of majority control of the House if his caucus keeps Pelosi at the top of their leadership team. ‘I hope that with so many members that we need to go in a different direction, that we have to be able to recruit or get back those members of Congress that lost, and I just don’t see that path happening if she’s at the top of the Democrats,’ Shuler said.” He says he’ll run against Pelosi, but maybe he’s in the wrong party.

Would Russ Feingold be a formidable primary challenger to Barack Obama? Not so much, says Mara Liasson: “There’d have to be a real anti-war movement in the country for Russ Feingold to try to capture and lead. But there’s not even that.”

Have the Obami learned anything about their Middle East policy failures? Not so much. The U.S. is goading Bibi to offer a 90-day freeze (why should this freeze produce a different result than the last one?), but the PA is already grousing. “Earlier on Sunday, Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat expressed strong reservations about the U.S. proposal, because it would only apply to the West Bank and not east Jerusalem, the Palestinians’ hoped-for capital.”

Is Obama still the media’s darling? Not so much. “The Democratic president left for Asia just three days after his party suffered big defeats in mid-term elections at the hands of voters worried over the sputtering U.S. economy and unemployment stuck near 10 percent for more than a year. The trip was intended to counteract that frustration with a stress on opening new markets for American goods and improving the jobs picture, so the timing was especially tough. ‘The coverage has been quite negative. The dominant narrative is an embattled president representing a weakened nation,’ said William Galston, a senior fellow in governance studies at the Brookings Institution in Washington. ‘All in all, not the kind of trip a president who has just suffered an electoral rebuff needs,’ he said.”

So the Obama team is going to be more transparent and connect more successfully with the American people? Not so much. “From the administration’s stance on a presidential commission’s controversial recommendations for Social Security and Medicare cuts, to Republican demands that Obama veto any bills containing earmarks, Axelrod offered few specifics on administration plans during interviews on NBC’s ‘Meet the Press’ and ‘Fox News Sunday.'” So why bother going on? It’s hard to solve the alleged “communication” problem if you don’t have anything to communicate.

Iran wants to negotiate about its nuclear program? Not so much. “They have yet to agree on venue, a length for the talks or even the subject. Iran says it is willing to talk about everything but its uranium enrichment program; the other countries – the United States, Britain, France, Russia, China and Germany – want to talk mostly about the entire nuclear program.”

“Soul-searching” at the White House? Not so much. “‘There isn’t going to be a reset button. That’s not their style,’ said a Democratic strategist who works with the White House on several issues. ‘They don’t like pivots, and they also believe they’re right.'”

Nancy Pelosi is the right leader to show the country that the Dems “get it”? Not so much, according to Heath Shuler: “Shuler believes that his party didn’t get the message on Election Day when voters kicked Democrats out of majority control of the House if his caucus keeps Pelosi at the top of their leadership team. ‘I hope that with so many members that we need to go in a different direction, that we have to be able to recruit or get back those members of Congress that lost, and I just don’t see that path happening if she’s at the top of the Democrats,’ Shuler said.” He says he’ll run against Pelosi, but maybe he’s in the wrong party.

Would Russ Feingold be a formidable primary challenger to Barack Obama? Not so much, says Mara Liasson: “There’d have to be a real anti-war movement in the country for Russ Feingold to try to capture and lead. But there’s not even that.”

Have the Obami learned anything about their Middle East policy failures? Not so much. The U.S. is goading Bibi to offer a 90-day freeze (why should this freeze produce a different result than the last one?), but the PA is already grousing. “Earlier on Sunday, Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat expressed strong reservations about the U.S. proposal, because it would only apply to the West Bank and not east Jerusalem, the Palestinians’ hoped-for capital.”

Is Obama still the media’s darling? Not so much. “The Democratic president left for Asia just three days after his party suffered big defeats in mid-term elections at the hands of voters worried over the sputtering U.S. economy and unemployment stuck near 10 percent for more than a year. The trip was intended to counteract that frustration with a stress on opening new markets for American goods and improving the jobs picture, so the timing was especially tough. ‘The coverage has been quite negative. The dominant narrative is an embattled president representing a weakened nation,’ said William Galston, a senior fellow in governance studies at the Brookings Institution in Washington. ‘All in all, not the kind of trip a president who has just suffered an electoral rebuff needs,’ he said.”

So the Obama team is going to be more transparent and connect more successfully with the American people? Not so much. “From the administration’s stance on a presidential commission’s controversial recommendations for Social Security and Medicare cuts, to Republican demands that Obama veto any bills containing earmarks, Axelrod offered few specifics on administration plans during interviews on NBC’s ‘Meet the Press’ and ‘Fox News Sunday.'” So why bother going on? It’s hard to solve the alleged “communication” problem if you don’t have anything to communicate.

Iran wants to negotiate about its nuclear program? Not so much. “They have yet to agree on venue, a length for the talks or even the subject. Iran says it is willing to talk about everything but its uranium enrichment program; the other countries – the United States, Britain, France, Russia, China and Germany – want to talk mostly about the entire nuclear program.”

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Don’t forget: “But most of America is white.” So it’s no big deal that the Jon Stewart–Stephen Colbert crowd was nearly all white. The Tea Partiers, on the other hand, are a bunch of racists.

Don’t hold your breath. Forty-seven percent of Democratic voters would like a primary challenger to Obama in 2012. The first sign of any serious challenge will be vilified and strangled in the crib.

Don’t expect comedians to be effective political organizers. Apparently, the Dems’ hopes were misplaced. “When Stewart turned serious near the end of the two-hour event, he called for calm in the public discourse but avoided any talk of the coming election and, to the likely dismay of Democratic operatives, he did not implore the surely left-leaning crowd to vote … ‘I’m really happy you guys are here, even if none of us are quite sure why,’ [Stewart] quipped.”

Don’t believe that the midterm elections’ impact will be limited to domestic policy. “[Rep. Tom] Price has ‘no doubt’ that the GOP will be allying with a number of Democrats on Iran, which he called ‘front and center’ on the party’s national security agenda as outlined in the ‘Pledge to America.'” Maybe Obama will figure out that conducting a robust national security policy is one of the few remaining ways to rescue his presidency.

Don’t underestimate the number of times you will hear the “R” word in the next week. Haley Barbour starts us out: “Well, there’s no question that this midterm election is a referendum on Obama’s policies. He talks about it, the public talks about it. The dominant issues in America are all of this spending, outrageous spending, sense of debt, skyrocketing deficits, joblessness. And what the American people are looking at and they’re saying, ‘The Obama policies aren’t working. They–we need new policies. We need a, we need an economic growth agenda.’ So it’s very clearly a referendum” (emphasis added). Or if you prefer: “They’re voting to, they’re voting to–they will vote, in my opinion, to repudiate these policies. If Republicans win, that’s what it will be, a repudiation of Obama’s policies” (emphasis added).

Don’t think you’ll find a better exemplar of the midterms than Florida. Bill Kristol on Fox News Sunday explains: “For Bill Clinton, with the blessing of the White House, to try and force [Kendirck Meek] out of the race one week out for this opportunistic governor of Florida who’s been a Republican, who’s embarrassed himself this year, who’s going to lose anyway, even if Meek got out of the race, I’m convinced, I think it’s pathetic. And I think it’s demoralizing for Democrats. Conversely, for conservatives like myself, seeing Marco Rubio as the face of the future of the Republican Party, as opposed to Charlie Crist, four years ago Charlie Crist was being heralded by the Republican establishment. He was the new governor of Florida, he was a VP possibility for John McCain. Everyone fought for his endorsement in 2008. The replacement of Charlie Crist by Marco Rubio for me is what’s so heartening about the future of the Republican Party.”

Don’t see much difference between the Democrats and the Republicans when it comes to midterm predictions. “Now, for Democratic consultants and campaign officials who have plotted and strategized for months to preserve the embattled House majority, there’s nothing left to do but sit and wait for the expected horrors of Election Day to unfold. There is nearly uniform consensus among Democratic campaign professionals that the House is gone — the only question, it seems, is how many seats they will lose. … A senior party consultant who was on the low end with his predictions said the party would lose between 40 and 50 seats. On the high end, one Democratic consultant said losses could number around 70 seats.”

Don’t forget: “But most of America is white.” So it’s no big deal that the Jon Stewart–Stephen Colbert crowd was nearly all white. The Tea Partiers, on the other hand, are a bunch of racists.

Don’t hold your breath. Forty-seven percent of Democratic voters would like a primary challenger to Obama in 2012. The first sign of any serious challenge will be vilified and strangled in the crib.

Don’t expect comedians to be effective political organizers. Apparently, the Dems’ hopes were misplaced. “When Stewart turned serious near the end of the two-hour event, he called for calm in the public discourse but avoided any talk of the coming election and, to the likely dismay of Democratic operatives, he did not implore the surely left-leaning crowd to vote … ‘I’m really happy you guys are here, even if none of us are quite sure why,’ [Stewart] quipped.”

Don’t believe that the midterm elections’ impact will be limited to domestic policy. “[Rep. Tom] Price has ‘no doubt’ that the GOP will be allying with a number of Democrats on Iran, which he called ‘front and center’ on the party’s national security agenda as outlined in the ‘Pledge to America.'” Maybe Obama will figure out that conducting a robust national security policy is one of the few remaining ways to rescue his presidency.

Don’t underestimate the number of times you will hear the “R” word in the next week. Haley Barbour starts us out: “Well, there’s no question that this midterm election is a referendum on Obama’s policies. He talks about it, the public talks about it. The dominant issues in America are all of this spending, outrageous spending, sense of debt, skyrocketing deficits, joblessness. And what the American people are looking at and they’re saying, ‘The Obama policies aren’t working. They–we need new policies. We need a, we need an economic growth agenda.’ So it’s very clearly a referendum” (emphasis added). Or if you prefer: “They’re voting to, they’re voting to–they will vote, in my opinion, to repudiate these policies. If Republicans win, that’s what it will be, a repudiation of Obama’s policies” (emphasis added).

Don’t think you’ll find a better exemplar of the midterms than Florida. Bill Kristol on Fox News Sunday explains: “For Bill Clinton, with the blessing of the White House, to try and force [Kendirck Meek] out of the race one week out for this opportunistic governor of Florida who’s been a Republican, who’s embarrassed himself this year, who’s going to lose anyway, even if Meek got out of the race, I’m convinced, I think it’s pathetic. And I think it’s demoralizing for Democrats. Conversely, for conservatives like myself, seeing Marco Rubio as the face of the future of the Republican Party, as opposed to Charlie Crist, four years ago Charlie Crist was being heralded by the Republican establishment. He was the new governor of Florida, he was a VP possibility for John McCain. Everyone fought for his endorsement in 2008. The replacement of Charlie Crist by Marco Rubio for me is what’s so heartening about the future of the Republican Party.”

Don’t see much difference between the Democrats and the Republicans when it comes to midterm predictions. “Now, for Democratic consultants and campaign officials who have plotted and strategized for months to preserve the embattled House majority, there’s nothing left to do but sit and wait for the expected horrors of Election Day to unfold. There is nearly uniform consensus among Democratic campaign professionals that the House is gone — the only question, it seems, is how many seats they will lose. … A senior party consultant who was on the low end with his predictions said the party would lose between 40 and 50 seats. On the high end, one Democratic consultant said losses could number around 70 seats.”

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RE: Time for Conservatives to Get Serious About Fiscal Responsibility

I entirely agree with Pete that conservatives must get serious about federal spending, à la David Cameron. And a wholesale reduction in the number of government agencies, boards, commissions, etc., a major part of Cameron’s program, would be a great place to start.

But I’m reminded of St. Augustine’s famous prayer, “Oh, Lord, make me good, but not yet.”  To be sure, I have a shorter time frame in mind than the author of The City of God, to wit, two weeks. In a sound-bite and attack-ad age, a proposal to gore some particular interest group’s ox right before an election can be fatal, especially if there is not time to effectively respond. And it is always easier to attack than defend in a 30-second ad.

On Fox News Sunday this week, Carly Fiorina rightly resisted Chris Wallace’s repeated attempts to get her to be specific on how she would cut federal spending. Had she mentioned, say, reforming the federal school-lunch program, Barbara Boxer would have had an ad on the air in 24 hours saying, “Do you want children starving in the streets? Then vote for Fiorina!” Several Republican candidates have been hammered recently for having had nice things to say regarding the so-called fair tax, which would abolish the personal income tax and substitute a 23 percent sales tax. The ads being run against them, of course, mention the 23 percent hike in prices that would be the result, without mentioning the fact that paychecks would increase dramatically with the end of withholding.

So I recommend getting serious immediately after the election. That’s when Cameron got serious. As the late Mo Udall was fond of saying when he was running for the Democratic nomination in 1976, “It takes two things to be a great president. First, you have to be great. Second, you have to be president.”

I entirely agree with Pete that conservatives must get serious about federal spending, à la David Cameron. And a wholesale reduction in the number of government agencies, boards, commissions, etc., a major part of Cameron’s program, would be a great place to start.

But I’m reminded of St. Augustine’s famous prayer, “Oh, Lord, make me good, but not yet.”  To be sure, I have a shorter time frame in mind than the author of The City of God, to wit, two weeks. In a sound-bite and attack-ad age, a proposal to gore some particular interest group’s ox right before an election can be fatal, especially if there is not time to effectively respond. And it is always easier to attack than defend in a 30-second ad.

On Fox News Sunday this week, Carly Fiorina rightly resisted Chris Wallace’s repeated attempts to get her to be specific on how she would cut federal spending. Had she mentioned, say, reforming the federal school-lunch program, Barbara Boxer would have had an ad on the air in 24 hours saying, “Do you want children starving in the streets? Then vote for Fiorina!” Several Republican candidates have been hammered recently for having had nice things to say regarding the so-called fair tax, which would abolish the personal income tax and substitute a 23 percent sales tax. The ads being run against them, of course, mention the 23 percent hike in prices that would be the result, without mentioning the fact that paychecks would increase dramatically with the end of withholding.

So I recommend getting serious immediately after the election. That’s when Cameron got serious. As the late Mo Udall was fond of saying when he was running for the Democratic nomination in 1976, “It takes two things to be a great president. First, you have to be great. Second, you have to be president.”

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He’s Against the Special Interests

John Conway, Kentucky attorney general and the Democratic candidate for the Senate, running against Ron Paul, was asked on Fox News Sunday this morning why he wanted to be elected. He answered (paraphrasing, as the transcript is not yet available) that he wanted to go to Washington to fight against the special interests and for the state of Kentucky.

One question: isn’t the state of Kentucky a special interest? My dictionary defines the term to mean a “person or group seeking to influence legislation or government policy to further often narrowly defined interests.” As Kentucky is not coterminous with the entire country, it is, by this definition, a special interest. There’s nothing wrong with being one. A country, after all, is made up of practically nothing but. What good politicians mostly do is assemble temporary coalitions of special interests in order to further the national interest. What bad ones do is pander to particular special interests in order to ensure their own re-election.

So the constant political refrain about “fighting the special interests” is nonsense. President Obama never tires of railing against the special interests but has no problem doing big favors for labor unions, especially public-service ones. Republicans rail against the special interests but give all the help they can to advancing the agenda of the National Rifle Association.

It reminds me of one of this country’s more eccentric writers, Ambrose Bierce (1842-1913?), a critic, journalist, poet, and short story writer, known as “bitter Bierce” for his sometimes savage dismembering of other people’s prose. He is largely forgotten today, except for two things. One is his death. He went to Mexico in 1913 at the age of 71 to report on the Mexican Revolution and disappeared while “embedded” (to use a very modern term) with rebel troops. He was never seen again and no trace of him was ever found. The other thing for which he is remembered is  The Devil’s Dictionary, published in 1911.

A sometimes hilarious and often deeply cynical book, it is, second only to Mark Twain, a bottomless well from which to draw snappy quotations about politics. He defines politics as astrife of interests masquerading as a contest of principles. The conduct of public affairs for private advantage.” A conservative, to Bierce, is a “statesman who is enamored of existing evils, as distinguished from the Liberal, who wishes to replace them with others.” A scribbler is a “professional writer whose views are antagonistic to one’s own.”

Ambrose Bierce did not define the term special interest, which was coined only a year before his dictionary was published. But one can imagine what he would have made of it. My suggestion would be: special interest, n. Any organization or identifiable group of individuals likely to fund or vote for one’s political opponents.

John Conway, Kentucky attorney general and the Democratic candidate for the Senate, running against Ron Paul, was asked on Fox News Sunday this morning why he wanted to be elected. He answered (paraphrasing, as the transcript is not yet available) that he wanted to go to Washington to fight against the special interests and for the state of Kentucky.

One question: isn’t the state of Kentucky a special interest? My dictionary defines the term to mean a “person or group seeking to influence legislation or government policy to further often narrowly defined interests.” As Kentucky is not coterminous with the entire country, it is, by this definition, a special interest. There’s nothing wrong with being one. A country, after all, is made up of practically nothing but. What good politicians mostly do is assemble temporary coalitions of special interests in order to further the national interest. What bad ones do is pander to particular special interests in order to ensure their own re-election.

So the constant political refrain about “fighting the special interests” is nonsense. President Obama never tires of railing against the special interests but has no problem doing big favors for labor unions, especially public-service ones. Republicans rail against the special interests but give all the help they can to advancing the agenda of the National Rifle Association.

It reminds me of one of this country’s more eccentric writers, Ambrose Bierce (1842-1913?), a critic, journalist, poet, and short story writer, known as “bitter Bierce” for his sometimes savage dismembering of other people’s prose. He is largely forgotten today, except for two things. One is his death. He went to Mexico in 1913 at the age of 71 to report on the Mexican Revolution and disappeared while “embedded” (to use a very modern term) with rebel troops. He was never seen again and no trace of him was ever found. The other thing for which he is remembered is  The Devil’s Dictionary, published in 1911.

A sometimes hilarious and often deeply cynical book, it is, second only to Mark Twain, a bottomless well from which to draw snappy quotations about politics. He defines politics as astrife of interests masquerading as a contest of principles. The conduct of public affairs for private advantage.” A conservative, to Bierce, is a “statesman who is enamored of existing evils, as distinguished from the Liberal, who wishes to replace them with others.” A scribbler is a “professional writer whose views are antagonistic to one’s own.”

Ambrose Bierce did not define the term special interest, which was coined only a year before his dictionary was published. But one can imagine what he would have made of it. My suggestion would be: special interest, n. Any organization or identifiable group of individuals likely to fund or vote for one’s political opponents.

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What’s It Going to Take in 2012?

On the Fox News Sunday roundtable, the panel discussed the 2012 GOP presidential front-runners. It is interesting that, aside from Sarah Palin, lesser-known Republicans seem to have gained top-tier credentials:

KRISTOL: … I think it won’t be the usual situation of nominating the next in line or the most senior person, the Bob Dole or the John McCain. So I think right now Palin is the frontrunner. We can say it’s a geological era away. It’s 17 months till Iowa. It’s not that long, you know? And she’s more — she probably has a slightly better chance than anyone else. She’s not an odds-on favorite, but she goes off with lower odds, better odds, than anyone else.

If I had to do win, place and show at this point, I would say Sarah Palin, Mitch Daniels and Paul Ryan. If I could make my trifecta bet, I think I would bet on them. But you know, there are 10 other people. …

WALLACE: Wait a minute. That’s really interesting…

KRISTOL: … who could be the nominee.

WALLACE: … because what you’re saying is, you know, that a lot of the — frankly, all of the conventional names we had on there, like Pawlenty and Romney and Barbour, you’re saying that they’re going to go for somebody that — none of the above?

KRISTOL: Look, those people could also win, and they’re impressive politicians in their own right, and have been good governors, in the case of someone like Haley Barbour. And there are senators who want to run, like John Thune. There are former governors like Pawlenty, Mitt Romney.

I just think — I don’t know. My sense is someone new, someone different, either someone who’s governing successfully, like Mitch Daniels — really a striking contrast with Obama — Paul Ryan, who will be at the center of things in 2011.

He’ll probably be chairman of the House Budget Committee if Republicans win the House. He will be articulating the Republican — he’ll set forth the Republican budget, articulating the Republican national vision against President Obama. And then Palin, who’s impressive, so — but you know, that could easily — I mean, this will shock you, but I could be wrong and one of those three will not be — will not be the nominee.

CHENEY: I think some of the people that Bill mentioned. I think Mitch Daniels is a clear, very interesting potential frontrunner. Paul Ryan is very interesting. I think you’ll have people who emerge after these 2010 elections as real challengers. You’ve got fascinating governors out there. Chris Christie is terrific. I think, you know, it’s impossible to sort of say it’s going to be the establishment guys.

With the Iowa caucuses (which we’ve learned aren’t very predictive of much, as Mike Huckabee can attest) well over a year away, it is nearly impossible to predict where the country, the economy, and the GOP base will be. If ObamaCare is defunded and/or repealed, does this boost the chances of Mitt Romney (whose biggest handicap is RomneyCare)? If Paul Ryan becomes the president’s chief nemesis in the new Congress, does his star rise? If Palin’s endorsees all win in 2010, does she take on an aura of invincibility — or if many of them lose, does her mojo evaporate?

The complications and permutations are endless. (And recall that Rudy Giuliani was the “front-runner” in the GOP polls until his campaign imploded and his Florida-first strategy proved to be a bust.) But we do know that the GOP base wants to offer an un-Obama. So look for a candidate who can connect emotionally with voters, advocate American exceptionalism, articulate who our enemies are, defend American capitalism, demonstrate executive acumen, point the way to fiscal sanity, and embody the values and outlook of the American heartland.

The candidates(s) who can do these things well and convince Republicans, who are desperate to recapture the White House, that they can go toe-to-toe with Obama will be at the top of the heap. And remember, many of the old rules (e.g., that a congressman can’t run, a presidential candidate has to look like a professional pol, an Ivy League background is a plus) simply don’t apply. It’s going to be one heck of an exciting ride.

On the Fox News Sunday roundtable, the panel discussed the 2012 GOP presidential front-runners. It is interesting that, aside from Sarah Palin, lesser-known Republicans seem to have gained top-tier credentials:

KRISTOL: … I think it won’t be the usual situation of nominating the next in line or the most senior person, the Bob Dole or the John McCain. So I think right now Palin is the frontrunner. We can say it’s a geological era away. It’s 17 months till Iowa. It’s not that long, you know? And she’s more — she probably has a slightly better chance than anyone else. She’s not an odds-on favorite, but she goes off with lower odds, better odds, than anyone else.

If I had to do win, place and show at this point, I would say Sarah Palin, Mitch Daniels and Paul Ryan. If I could make my trifecta bet, I think I would bet on them. But you know, there are 10 other people. …

WALLACE: Wait a minute. That’s really interesting…

KRISTOL: … who could be the nominee.

WALLACE: … because what you’re saying is, you know, that a lot of the — frankly, all of the conventional names we had on there, like Pawlenty and Romney and Barbour, you’re saying that they’re going to go for somebody that — none of the above?

KRISTOL: Look, those people could also win, and they’re impressive politicians in their own right, and have been good governors, in the case of someone like Haley Barbour. And there are senators who want to run, like John Thune. There are former governors like Pawlenty, Mitt Romney.

I just think — I don’t know. My sense is someone new, someone different, either someone who’s governing successfully, like Mitch Daniels — really a striking contrast with Obama — Paul Ryan, who will be at the center of things in 2011.

He’ll probably be chairman of the House Budget Committee if Republicans win the House. He will be articulating the Republican — he’ll set forth the Republican budget, articulating the Republican national vision against President Obama. And then Palin, who’s impressive, so — but you know, that could easily — I mean, this will shock you, but I could be wrong and one of those three will not be — will not be the nominee.

CHENEY: I think some of the people that Bill mentioned. I think Mitch Daniels is a clear, very interesting potential frontrunner. Paul Ryan is very interesting. I think you’ll have people who emerge after these 2010 elections as real challengers. You’ve got fascinating governors out there. Chris Christie is terrific. I think, you know, it’s impossible to sort of say it’s going to be the establishment guys.

With the Iowa caucuses (which we’ve learned aren’t very predictive of much, as Mike Huckabee can attest) well over a year away, it is nearly impossible to predict where the country, the economy, and the GOP base will be. If ObamaCare is defunded and/or repealed, does this boost the chances of Mitt Romney (whose biggest handicap is RomneyCare)? If Paul Ryan becomes the president’s chief nemesis in the new Congress, does his star rise? If Palin’s endorsees all win in 2010, does she take on an aura of invincibility — or if many of them lose, does her mojo evaporate?

The complications and permutations are endless. (And recall that Rudy Giuliani was the “front-runner” in the GOP polls until his campaign imploded and his Florida-first strategy proved to be a bust.) But we do know that the GOP base wants to offer an un-Obama. So look for a candidate who can connect emotionally with voters, advocate American exceptionalism, articulate who our enemies are, defend American capitalism, demonstrate executive acumen, point the way to fiscal sanity, and embody the values and outlook of the American heartland.

The candidates(s) who can do these things well and convince Republicans, who are desperate to recapture the White House, that they can go toe-to-toe with Obama will be at the top of the heap. And remember, many of the old rules (e.g., that a congressman can’t run, a presidential candidate has to look like a professional pol, an Ivy League background is a plus) simply don’t apply. It’s going to be one heck of an exciting ride.

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Obama: Americans Are Dolts, He’s for the Ages

Obama said he didn’t pay attention to the Tea Party rallies, so we shouldn’t be surprised that in an NBC interview Sunday “Obama said he did not watch any of Fox News Channel host Glenn Beck’s ‘Restoring Honor’ rally Saturday on the National Mall.” Now, it would have been perfectly acceptable and noncontroversial for him to say he was busy. But Obama can never pass up a chance to condescend. He continued:

“It’s not surprising that somebody like a Mr. Beck is able to stir up a certain portion of the country. That’s been true throughout our history,” he said. But “what I’m focused on is making sure that the decisions we’re making now are going to be not good for the nightly news, not good even necessarily  for the next election, but are good for the next generation.”

Once again, the American people are cast in the roles of dupes, stooges, and sheep. Is it conceivable that Beck didn’t stir them up but that they already were stirred up and have been for some time? (Between Nancy Pelosi, who’s looking for the funding behind the Ground Zero mosque opponents, and Obama, who can’t imagine grassroots opposition to his presidency, we have a peek at just how little the liberal elites think of us.) And really, he gives Beck far too much credit; it is Obama, more than any other figure, who has stirred up a “portion” — that would be a majority — of Americans to oppose his policies.

But — the condescension cascades now — he’s not to be bothered with the short term (those 9.5 percent unemployed will have to tough it out) or the media cycle (his ardor has cooled now that they don’t fall at his feet). No, that short-term stuff is for mere mortals; he’s at work for the ages. So the enormous debt is for the children? A nuclear-armed Iran is for our grandchildren?

Obama does not handle adversity well. He should get used to it.

Obama said he didn’t pay attention to the Tea Party rallies, so we shouldn’t be surprised that in an NBC interview Sunday “Obama said he did not watch any of Fox News Channel host Glenn Beck’s ‘Restoring Honor’ rally Saturday on the National Mall.” Now, it would have been perfectly acceptable and noncontroversial for him to say he was busy. But Obama can never pass up a chance to condescend. He continued:

“It’s not surprising that somebody like a Mr. Beck is able to stir up a certain portion of the country. That’s been true throughout our history,” he said. But “what I’m focused on is making sure that the decisions we’re making now are going to be not good for the nightly news, not good even necessarily  for the next election, but are good for the next generation.”

Once again, the American people are cast in the roles of dupes, stooges, and sheep. Is it conceivable that Beck didn’t stir them up but that they already were stirred up and have been for some time? (Between Nancy Pelosi, who’s looking for the funding behind the Ground Zero mosque opponents, and Obama, who can’t imagine grassroots opposition to his presidency, we have a peek at just how little the liberal elites think of us.) And really, he gives Beck far too much credit; it is Obama, more than any other figure, who has stirred up a “portion” — that would be a majority — of Americans to oppose his policies.

But — the condescension cascades now — he’s not to be bothered with the short term (those 9.5 percent unemployed will have to tough it out) or the media cycle (his ardor has cooled now that they don’t fall at his feet). No, that short-term stuff is for mere mortals; he’s at work for the ages. So the enormous debt is for the children? A nuclear-armed Iran is for our grandchildren?

Obama does not handle adversity well. He should get used to it.

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Eric Cantor v. Mitch Daniels and Paul Ryan

Eric Cantor is asked a perfectly reasonable question in this interview (h/t: Andrew Sullivan): if the entitlement crisis is anything like you argue (which it is), what entitlement cuts are you, Cantor, willing to embrace? He doesn’t give an answer, which is a problem. It comes across as what it is: double-speak and a lack of candor and political courage on the part of the GOP leadership. Cantor wants to paint an apocalyptic scenario — but doesn’t want to speak about any of the tough but inevitable steps we need to embrace. At the same time, Speaker Boehner is chatting up the idea of changing the 14th amendment to deny children of illegal immigrants citizenship, which is at best a distraction and will never see the light of day.

Representative Cantor is usually pretty good on television; this clip, then, exposes what a key GOP vulnerability is.

To his credit, Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels was willing to be specific in his interview on Fox News Sunday regarding entitlement cuts. In addition, Cantor’s colleague Paul Ryan has put out a very specific plan — one’s he’s eager to talk about with just about anyone, anywhere, anytime.

The Daniels-Ryan approach is far better because it’s more honest, more serious, and more responsible. My sense is that in most moments in American politics, that is what the public is longing for.

Republicans won’t get away with this Cantor-like dodge for long. They will lose, and they should lose, credibility with the public if they can’t be far more specific than Mr. Cantor.

Eric Cantor is asked a perfectly reasonable question in this interview (h/t: Andrew Sullivan): if the entitlement crisis is anything like you argue (which it is), what entitlement cuts are you, Cantor, willing to embrace? He doesn’t give an answer, which is a problem. It comes across as what it is: double-speak and a lack of candor and political courage on the part of the GOP leadership. Cantor wants to paint an apocalyptic scenario — but doesn’t want to speak about any of the tough but inevitable steps we need to embrace. At the same time, Speaker Boehner is chatting up the idea of changing the 14th amendment to deny children of illegal immigrants citizenship, which is at best a distraction and will never see the light of day.

Representative Cantor is usually pretty good on television; this clip, then, exposes what a key GOP vulnerability is.

To his credit, Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels was willing to be specific in his interview on Fox News Sunday regarding entitlement cuts. In addition, Cantor’s colleague Paul Ryan has put out a very specific plan — one’s he’s eager to talk about with just about anyone, anywhere, anytime.

The Daniels-Ryan approach is far better because it’s more honest, more serious, and more responsible. My sense is that in most moments in American politics, that is what the public is longing for.

Republicans won’t get away with this Cantor-like dodge for long. They will lose, and they should lose, credibility with the public if they can’t be far more specific than Mr. Cantor.

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Shirley Sherrod for White House Adviser

The Shirley Sherrod uproar is a quintessential example of the summer news story. Like last year’s story — the arrest of Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates and President Obama’s calling the Cambridge, Massachusetts, police action “stupid” — it has made the Obama administration look stupid.

The historian’s old standby, a timeline, is handy here. Last March, Shirley Sherrod, an employee of the Agriculture Department who grew up in the Jim Crow South and saw her father’s white murderers get away with that murder, gave a speech to the NAACP in which she recalled her own evolution on race.

Andrew Breitbart, a conservative provocateur, used a short clip from the speech to make it seem as though Ms. Sherrod were a racist, working hard for black farmers and indifferent to the problems of white ones — thus, evidence of anti-white racism in the Obama administration. I have no idea if Breitbart knew he was being intellectually dishonest or not. But he was doing what provocateurs do: provoking.

The clip went viral, and the Obama administration panicked big-time. The White House told the Secretary of Agriculture to fire Ms. Sherrod. She had to pull over to the side of the road while he did so. She received not a scintilla of due process. Indeed, she wasn’t even asked what her side of the story was. The NAACP, which had a tape of the whole speech, didn’t bother to review it and piled on. It seems the administration was terrified that Glenn Beck would eat it for lunch unless it moved immediately. Beck must love that.

The Obama administration’s firing of a black employee because of racism against a white farmer was irresistible journalistic catnip in the midst of the summer doldrums, and the cable channels ran the Breitbart clip over and over.

But there was another side of the story. The incident in the clip had taken place 24 years earlier, when Ms. Sherrod was working for the Georgia Department of Agriculture, not the federal department, and she ended up saving that white family’s farm from foreclosure. She had merely been using the incident to show the lessons on race that she had learned from it. The farmer in question backed up her story. Both the Obama administration and the NAACP backtracked and apologized to her. (Obama called her personally.) And she has been offered another job at the Agriculture Department.

This morning on Fox News Sunday, Howard Dean, obviously following the Obama line, tried to make it sound like Fox News had been part of the problem. Chris Wallace, in an unusually heated exchange, would have none of it. He pointed out that Fox did not carry the story or mention Ms. Sherrod’s name until she had been fired. It then ran the Breitbart tape, naturally, as part of the story. So did all other cable news channels.

So Fox, it seems to me, is blameless — it was reporting the news, which, after all, is its job. Breitbart was after attention and, perhaps, wanted to frighten the Obama administration into acting foolishly. If so, he sure succeeded. And the Obama administration has egg all over its face, contributing to the growing impression that it is incompetent.

The only hero here is Shirley Sherrod. She told her own moving story about how she managed to move beyond the racism of the past and enter the post-racial world that Barack Obama promised and has, rather spectacularly in this case, failed to deliver.

Maybe President Obama should fire one of the Chicago gang at the White House and replace that person with Shirley Sherrod. It seems the administration could use a little common wisdom and dignity around there.

The Shirley Sherrod uproar is a quintessential example of the summer news story. Like last year’s story — the arrest of Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates and President Obama’s calling the Cambridge, Massachusetts, police action “stupid” — it has made the Obama administration look stupid.

The historian’s old standby, a timeline, is handy here. Last March, Shirley Sherrod, an employee of the Agriculture Department who grew up in the Jim Crow South and saw her father’s white murderers get away with that murder, gave a speech to the NAACP in which she recalled her own evolution on race.

Andrew Breitbart, a conservative provocateur, used a short clip from the speech to make it seem as though Ms. Sherrod were a racist, working hard for black farmers and indifferent to the problems of white ones — thus, evidence of anti-white racism in the Obama administration. I have no idea if Breitbart knew he was being intellectually dishonest or not. But he was doing what provocateurs do: provoking.

The clip went viral, and the Obama administration panicked big-time. The White House told the Secretary of Agriculture to fire Ms. Sherrod. She had to pull over to the side of the road while he did so. She received not a scintilla of due process. Indeed, she wasn’t even asked what her side of the story was. The NAACP, which had a tape of the whole speech, didn’t bother to review it and piled on. It seems the administration was terrified that Glenn Beck would eat it for lunch unless it moved immediately. Beck must love that.

The Obama administration’s firing of a black employee because of racism against a white farmer was irresistible journalistic catnip in the midst of the summer doldrums, and the cable channels ran the Breitbart clip over and over.

But there was another side of the story. The incident in the clip had taken place 24 years earlier, when Ms. Sherrod was working for the Georgia Department of Agriculture, not the federal department, and she ended up saving that white family’s farm from foreclosure. She had merely been using the incident to show the lessons on race that she had learned from it. The farmer in question backed up her story. Both the Obama administration and the NAACP backtracked and apologized to her. (Obama called her personally.) And she has been offered another job at the Agriculture Department.

This morning on Fox News Sunday, Howard Dean, obviously following the Obama line, tried to make it sound like Fox News had been part of the problem. Chris Wallace, in an unusually heated exchange, would have none of it. He pointed out that Fox did not carry the story or mention Ms. Sherrod’s name until she had been fired. It then ran the Breitbart tape, naturally, as part of the story. So did all other cable news channels.

So Fox, it seems to me, is blameless — it was reporting the news, which, after all, is its job. Breitbart was after attention and, perhaps, wanted to frighten the Obama administration into acting foolishly. If so, he sure succeeded. And the Obama administration has egg all over its face, contributing to the growing impression that it is incompetent.

The only hero here is Shirley Sherrod. She told her own moving story about how she managed to move beyond the racism of the past and enter the post-racial world that Barack Obama promised and has, rather spectacularly in this case, failed to deliver.

Maybe President Obama should fire one of the Chicago gang at the White House and replace that person with Shirley Sherrod. It seems the administration could use a little common wisdom and dignity around there.

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Obama’s “Winning” Agenda Is a Loser

On the Fox News Sunday roundtable, the panelists observed that the financial-reform bill, indeed all the enormous pieces of legislation that Obama has gotten through Congress, aren’t helping him any:

BRIT HUME: Because his big agenda has not seemed to the public to be focused on the things the public is concerned about. The economy was job one. They did something on the economy that the public did not like and did not believe in, and does not believe in to this day, which is the stimulus program. And since then, the president has been on to other things, other things that were nowhere high on the public’s priority list. I speak, of course, of the — of the health care reform bill, financial reform.

Regulatory reform may be something the public thought ought to be done, but it doesn’t come anywhere near the priority that people have on the creation of jobs and the — and the awakening of the economy so that — so that it will boom enough to really generate some jobs. …

NINA EASTON: … it’s fascinating, because this bill, which, as you said, was going to be the cracking down on fat cats of Wall Street, has got small community banks concerned, farmers concerned who deal in derivatives for their business. It’s got — something like 533 rulemaking proceedings are going to be going in, which creates lots of uncertainty and lots of fear.

And it’s interesting that this week the president in an interview said, “Look, I’m” — when he was talking about his poll numbers, “Look, I’m facing 9.5 percent unemployment.” He’s got an unpopular economy the same way President Bush in 2006 had an unpopular war. We grant him that.

And now, fascinating to us, that you’ve got this Wall Street reform that doesn’t really — it’s really — it doesn’t look like it’s going after Wall Street. And so I’m not sure that’s going to help them in November.

Indeed, it’s not merely that the financial reform bill, the stimulus, and ObamaCare haven’t helped the president; they’ve actually hurt him, both in the short and the long term.

An array of polling evidences a revulsion against big government and the enormous debt that has accompanied Obama’s spending spree. The public thinks he and his party are too liberal, and, as Bill Kristol pointed out, Republican Party identification is consequently rising. All this suggests that what’s at work is more than simply a bad economy or misplaced priorities. Obama has managed to reinforce the Democrats’ liberal tax-and-spend identity, which Bill Clinton worked mightily to shed.

But the real problem for Obama is the long-term, or longer-term, damage he has done to the economy and in turn to his party. The massive tax hikes (with more to follow if the Bush tax cuts are allowed to expire), the raft of new regulations and mandates, the mound of new debt, and the anti-business rhetoric (which the Obama administration now bizarrely claims isn’t anti-business at all) have freaked investors and employers. The economy now seems headed for that feared double-dip recession, which can fairly be attributed to Obama’s insistence on putting a ball and chain around the ankles of businessmen, entrepreneurs, and consumers.

All in all, it’s been a rather amazing display of economic and political folly.

On the Fox News Sunday roundtable, the panelists observed that the financial-reform bill, indeed all the enormous pieces of legislation that Obama has gotten through Congress, aren’t helping him any:

BRIT HUME: Because his big agenda has not seemed to the public to be focused on the things the public is concerned about. The economy was job one. They did something on the economy that the public did not like and did not believe in, and does not believe in to this day, which is the stimulus program. And since then, the president has been on to other things, other things that were nowhere high on the public’s priority list. I speak, of course, of the — of the health care reform bill, financial reform.

Regulatory reform may be something the public thought ought to be done, but it doesn’t come anywhere near the priority that people have on the creation of jobs and the — and the awakening of the economy so that — so that it will boom enough to really generate some jobs. …

NINA EASTON: … it’s fascinating, because this bill, which, as you said, was going to be the cracking down on fat cats of Wall Street, has got small community banks concerned, farmers concerned who deal in derivatives for their business. It’s got — something like 533 rulemaking proceedings are going to be going in, which creates lots of uncertainty and lots of fear.

And it’s interesting that this week the president in an interview said, “Look, I’m” — when he was talking about his poll numbers, “Look, I’m facing 9.5 percent unemployment.” He’s got an unpopular economy the same way President Bush in 2006 had an unpopular war. We grant him that.

And now, fascinating to us, that you’ve got this Wall Street reform that doesn’t really — it’s really — it doesn’t look like it’s going after Wall Street. And so I’m not sure that’s going to help them in November.

Indeed, it’s not merely that the financial reform bill, the stimulus, and ObamaCare haven’t helped the president; they’ve actually hurt him, both in the short and the long term.

An array of polling evidences a revulsion against big government and the enormous debt that has accompanied Obama’s spending spree. The public thinks he and his party are too liberal, and, as Bill Kristol pointed out, Republican Party identification is consequently rising. All this suggests that what’s at work is more than simply a bad economy or misplaced priorities. Obama has managed to reinforce the Democrats’ liberal tax-and-spend identity, which Bill Clinton worked mightily to shed.

But the real problem for Obama is the long-term, or longer-term, damage he has done to the economy and in turn to his party. The massive tax hikes (with more to follow if the Bush tax cuts are allowed to expire), the raft of new regulations and mandates, the mound of new debt, and the anti-business rhetoric (which the Obama administration now bizarrely claims isn’t anti-business at all) have freaked investors and employers. The economy now seems headed for that feared double-dip recession, which can fairly be attributed to Obama’s insistence on putting a ball and chain around the ankles of businessmen, entrepreneurs, and consumers.

All in all, it’s been a rather amazing display of economic and political folly.

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The Worst Ecological Disaster Ever?

David Axelrod on Fox News Sunday this morning said that the Gulf oil spill is the “worst ecological disaster ever” — or words to that effect (the transcript is not yet available). This, of course, is historical nonsense. Except in terms of the volume of oil released into the environment, it is not even the worst oil spill in American history. The Gulf well is 50 miles out to sea in the warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico, while the Exxon Valdez spill was in the confined and much colder waters of Prince William Sound. The warmth causes the volatiles in the oil to evaporate fairly quickly. And while tar balls are unsightly at best, their coming ashore is nowhere near as ecologically damaging or as hard to remediate as crude oil doing so. Crude is very nasty stuff.

If Mr. Axelrod wants some really catastrophic ecological disasters, how about the Aral Sea, where the Soviets diverted for agricultural use all the water that had flowed into it, destroying what had been the fourth largest lake in the world (26,000 square miles), as well as the vast ecosystem (and fishing industry) it had nurtured?

Or how about the London killer smog of 1952 that is thought to have killed upwards of 12,000 people, more than a thousand times as many people as have died in the Gulf Oil spill?

In this country, the worst man-made ecological disaster was, by order of magnitude, the Dust Bowl of the 1930s. Drought and poor farming practices in an area that should never have been farmed at all destroyed 100,000,000 acres. One dust storm that started on the high plains on May 9, 1934, dumped an estimated 6,000 tons of dust on the city of Chicago alone — four pounds per person. New York had to turn on the streetlights in broad daylight the next day. Two and half million people fled the area over the decade. Hundreds, perhaps thousands, died of dust pneumonia. Many more, especially children, died of malnutrition. Others were blinded when dust got under their eyelids.

Mr. Axelrod, perhaps, should read John Steinbeck’s masterpiece The Grapes of Wrath to get a sense of the vast human and ecological tragedy that was the dust bowl. Or just watch this four minutes of History Channel film.

To compare the Gulf oil spill to the Dust Bowl is to compare a summer shower to a hurricane.

David Axelrod on Fox News Sunday this morning said that the Gulf oil spill is the “worst ecological disaster ever” — or words to that effect (the transcript is not yet available). This, of course, is historical nonsense. Except in terms of the volume of oil released into the environment, it is not even the worst oil spill in American history. The Gulf well is 50 miles out to sea in the warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico, while the Exxon Valdez spill was in the confined and much colder waters of Prince William Sound. The warmth causes the volatiles in the oil to evaporate fairly quickly. And while tar balls are unsightly at best, their coming ashore is nowhere near as ecologically damaging or as hard to remediate as crude oil doing so. Crude is very nasty stuff.

If Mr. Axelrod wants some really catastrophic ecological disasters, how about the Aral Sea, where the Soviets diverted for agricultural use all the water that had flowed into it, destroying what had been the fourth largest lake in the world (26,000 square miles), as well as the vast ecosystem (and fishing industry) it had nurtured?

Or how about the London killer smog of 1952 that is thought to have killed upwards of 12,000 people, more than a thousand times as many people as have died in the Gulf Oil spill?

In this country, the worst man-made ecological disaster was, by order of magnitude, the Dust Bowl of the 1930s. Drought and poor farming practices in an area that should never have been farmed at all destroyed 100,000,000 acres. One dust storm that started on the high plains on May 9, 1934, dumped an estimated 6,000 tons of dust on the city of Chicago alone — four pounds per person. New York had to turn on the streetlights in broad daylight the next day. Two and half million people fled the area over the decade. Hundreds, perhaps thousands, died of dust pneumonia. Many more, especially children, died of malnutrition. Others were blinded when dust got under their eyelids.

Mr. Axelrod, perhaps, should read John Steinbeck’s masterpiece The Grapes of Wrath to get a sense of the vast human and ecological tragedy that was the dust bowl. Or just watch this four minutes of History Channel film.

To compare the Gulf oil spill to the Dust Bowl is to compare a summer shower to a hurricane.

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Why Are We Making It Harder for Our Military to Win in Afghanistan?

In a clip played on Fox News Sunday, General Stanley McChrystal explained that the effort to force the Taliban out of Kandahar is slow going: “I do think that it will happen more slowly than we had originally anticipated, and so I think it will take a number of months for this to play out.  And I think it’s more important we get it right than we get it fast.”

It turns out this has much to do with our civilian officials. Bill Kristol reveals the time line that Obama imposed on our troops and that conservative critics loudly panned is, indeed, part of the problem:

KRISTOL:  I was at a dinner this week with about a dozen experts on Afghanistan, most of whom have been there for quite some time and quite recently, bipartisan group, all of them supportive of the effort, but many very close to the Obama administration, and the non- governmental organizations and the like, and I was amazed by the consensus on two things. One, the time line.  We are paying a much bigger price for the time line over there than a lot of us thought we would when Obama announced…

WALLACE:  The time when we begin pulling troops out in July of 2011.

KRISTOL:  We understand that we could pull them out very slowly, and Secretary Gates and Secretary Clinton sort of walked it back after President Obama announced it.  Over there it sounded like the U.S. is getting out, and everyone’s got to hedge and cut their deals.

I think the single best thing the president personally could do now is explicitly say, “Look, we hope to begin drawing down then, but we are here to stay.”

The next problem is that our State Department, specifically special envoy Richard Holbrooke and Ambassador Karl Eikenberry, is hindering the effort:

The second thing is diplomatically, politically, we’re not doing our job over there.  The military is doing a good job.  General McChrystal’s right to say let’s get it right rather than doing it quickly.  And I think on the whole that General McChrystal certainly knows what he’s doing.

The diplomatic effort — and this is coming from people who are sympathetic, who are on the soft power side of things, who are, you know, from liberal non-governmental organizations — is that our effort has been bad.  It’s not just that we lack a reliable partner there.

Richard Holbrooke, the senior diplomat who’s in charge of it — everyone agrees that it’s been a fiasco.  He’s not — he can’t set foot there because Karzai doesn’t get along with him.  Ambassador Eikenberry doesn’t get along with General McChrystal.  He doesn’t get along either — Eikenberry, that is — with Karzai.  All the burden has fallen on the military.

This is unconscionable. Why, if there is widespread consensus, do Holbrooke and Eikenberry remain? Is Obama’s relationship with the military so bad that he does not understand or appreciate that his own administration is undercutting the war effort?

When the time line was announced, I observed that we would have to win in Afghanistan despite our commander in chief. It is absurd that our military labors under such a handicap, made even more burdensome by incompetent and obnoxious emissaries of the president. It is time for the latter to go and for Obama to fix his errors. However, his political hacks insist on reiterating the president’s faulty and counterproductive strategy. On Meet the Press, David Axelrod had this to say:

Well, the president made it clear that we can’t make an open-ended commitment there, that the Afghan government and the Afghan people have to take responsibility themselves, and their army, their security.  And their civil institutions have to take responsibility.  We–he is committed to begin that process of withdrawal in July of, of next year, and that is–continues to be the plan, and we’re going to pursue that on that schedule.

The administration keeps this up, and Obama will bear the responsibility for losing a war he deemed critical.

In a clip played on Fox News Sunday, General Stanley McChrystal explained that the effort to force the Taliban out of Kandahar is slow going: “I do think that it will happen more slowly than we had originally anticipated, and so I think it will take a number of months for this to play out.  And I think it’s more important we get it right than we get it fast.”

It turns out this has much to do with our civilian officials. Bill Kristol reveals the time line that Obama imposed on our troops and that conservative critics loudly panned is, indeed, part of the problem:

KRISTOL:  I was at a dinner this week with about a dozen experts on Afghanistan, most of whom have been there for quite some time and quite recently, bipartisan group, all of them supportive of the effort, but many very close to the Obama administration, and the non- governmental organizations and the like, and I was amazed by the consensus on two things. One, the time line.  We are paying a much bigger price for the time line over there than a lot of us thought we would when Obama announced…

WALLACE:  The time when we begin pulling troops out in July of 2011.

KRISTOL:  We understand that we could pull them out very slowly, and Secretary Gates and Secretary Clinton sort of walked it back after President Obama announced it.  Over there it sounded like the U.S. is getting out, and everyone’s got to hedge and cut their deals.

I think the single best thing the president personally could do now is explicitly say, “Look, we hope to begin drawing down then, but we are here to stay.”

The next problem is that our State Department, specifically special envoy Richard Holbrooke and Ambassador Karl Eikenberry, is hindering the effort:

The second thing is diplomatically, politically, we’re not doing our job over there.  The military is doing a good job.  General McChrystal’s right to say let’s get it right rather than doing it quickly.  And I think on the whole that General McChrystal certainly knows what he’s doing.

The diplomatic effort — and this is coming from people who are sympathetic, who are on the soft power side of things, who are, you know, from liberal non-governmental organizations — is that our effort has been bad.  It’s not just that we lack a reliable partner there.

Richard Holbrooke, the senior diplomat who’s in charge of it — everyone agrees that it’s been a fiasco.  He’s not — he can’t set foot there because Karzai doesn’t get along with him.  Ambassador Eikenberry doesn’t get along with General McChrystal.  He doesn’t get along either — Eikenberry, that is — with Karzai.  All the burden has fallen on the military.

This is unconscionable. Why, if there is widespread consensus, do Holbrooke and Eikenberry remain? Is Obama’s relationship with the military so bad that he does not understand or appreciate that his own administration is undercutting the war effort?

When the time line was announced, I observed that we would have to win in Afghanistan despite our commander in chief. It is absurd that our military labors under such a handicap, made even more burdensome by incompetent and obnoxious emissaries of the president. It is time for the latter to go and for Obama to fix his errors. However, his political hacks insist on reiterating the president’s faulty and counterproductive strategy. On Meet the Press, David Axelrod had this to say:

Well, the president made it clear that we can’t make an open-ended commitment there, that the Afghan government and the Afghan people have to take responsibility themselves, and their army, their security.  And their civil institutions have to take responsibility.  We–he is committed to begin that process of withdrawal in July of, of next year, and that is–continues to be the plan, and we’re going to pursue that on that schedule.

The administration keeps this up, and Obama will bear the responsibility for losing a war he deemed critical.

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You Don’t Want Him in a Foxhole with You

Juan Williams — to the amazement of some of his co-panelists — let it rip on Fox News Sunday. The subject was nominally the Sestak and Romanoff scandals, but Williams found the bigger theme:

I think the problem here is this is an administration that, as Hillary Clinton famously pointed out, you may not want to have answer the 3:00 a.m. call.

These are guys who have tremendous vision about legislative achievements and specific things like health care, going forward on immigration, those difficult issues for America that America so far has failed to deal with.

But when it comes to the crisis, when it comes to the gulf oil spill, the wars, the recession, they feel as if it’s being imposed upon them, rather than taking the helm. I think that’s what Americans are sensing right here. And I think it’s the source of their problem at the moment. Are you able to handle a crisis in a convincing way that inspires confidence? And so far, the president hasn’t done that.

Now, some say he should just go into a rage. I don’t think that’s who Barack Obama is. I think he’s a pretty cool character, fairly analytical, and I think we all admire as part of the meritocracy in America. Those are people who are really smart. But you know what? They don’t know how to deal with this crisis, and I think lots of Americans therefore are blaming the president, fairly or unfairly.

Well, that’s sort of a problem, since we live in a world filled with crises. Frankly, that’s what being president is all about. The day-to-day issues and the mundane problems don’t make it to the president’s desk. And the crises that have occurred during this administration and with the president front and center — bombing attempts, incidents in the Middle East, a popular revolt in Honduras, the gulf spill — have been bungled.

Even when the time frame for decision-making is not that tight, Obama has agonized and made things far worse. Recall the interminable Afghanistan seminars at the White House. Delay created the appearance of indecision, and the final announcement was a mishmash of the useful (more troops) and the destructive (a timeline). Then on the job scandal, Mara Liasson commented:

But the fact is that was a kind of ham-handed political act. It’s something that’s been done by every single administration in the past, to clear the field for an incumbent or a favored candidate. Then they proceeded to wait a very long time, an inexplicably long time, to explain what happened. And then when they did explain what happened, at least in Sestak, they didn’t answer all the questions. And it’s morphed — and we’ve all seen this movie before. It’s now morphed into this call for an investigation. And this is what happens in Washington.

Obama was comfortable when running for office, when he could get by on rhetoric and as a legislator — where no one is really responsible for anything. What he’s ill-equipped to do is govern and lead. Plenty of people are hired for jobs beyond their abilities and outside their areas of competence. Unfortunately, the damage done by placing someone of that ilk in the White House is grievous and in some cases irreversible.

Juan Williams — to the amazement of some of his co-panelists — let it rip on Fox News Sunday. The subject was nominally the Sestak and Romanoff scandals, but Williams found the bigger theme:

I think the problem here is this is an administration that, as Hillary Clinton famously pointed out, you may not want to have answer the 3:00 a.m. call.

These are guys who have tremendous vision about legislative achievements and specific things like health care, going forward on immigration, those difficult issues for America that America so far has failed to deal with.

But when it comes to the crisis, when it comes to the gulf oil spill, the wars, the recession, they feel as if it’s being imposed upon them, rather than taking the helm. I think that’s what Americans are sensing right here. And I think it’s the source of their problem at the moment. Are you able to handle a crisis in a convincing way that inspires confidence? And so far, the president hasn’t done that.

Now, some say he should just go into a rage. I don’t think that’s who Barack Obama is. I think he’s a pretty cool character, fairly analytical, and I think we all admire as part of the meritocracy in America. Those are people who are really smart. But you know what? They don’t know how to deal with this crisis, and I think lots of Americans therefore are blaming the president, fairly or unfairly.

Well, that’s sort of a problem, since we live in a world filled with crises. Frankly, that’s what being president is all about. The day-to-day issues and the mundane problems don’t make it to the president’s desk. And the crises that have occurred during this administration and with the president front and center — bombing attempts, incidents in the Middle East, a popular revolt in Honduras, the gulf spill — have been bungled.

Even when the time frame for decision-making is not that tight, Obama has agonized and made things far worse. Recall the interminable Afghanistan seminars at the White House. Delay created the appearance of indecision, and the final announcement was a mishmash of the useful (more troops) and the destructive (a timeline). Then on the job scandal, Mara Liasson commented:

But the fact is that was a kind of ham-handed political act. It’s something that’s been done by every single administration in the past, to clear the field for an incumbent or a favored candidate. Then they proceeded to wait a very long time, an inexplicably long time, to explain what happened. And then when they did explain what happened, at least in Sestak, they didn’t answer all the questions. And it’s morphed — and we’ve all seen this movie before. It’s now morphed into this call for an investigation. And this is what happens in Washington.

Obama was comfortable when running for office, when he could get by on rhetoric and as a legislator — where no one is really responsible for anything. What he’s ill-equipped to do is govern and lead. Plenty of people are hired for jobs beyond their abilities and outside their areas of competence. Unfortunately, the damage done by placing someone of that ilk in the White House is grievous and in some cases irreversible.

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Barack Obama “Really Excited” by Helen Thomas

In respect of the comment of the Washington columnist for Hearst Newspapers, Helen Thomas, that the Jews of Israel should “go home” to Germany and Poland, there are two points to be made.

The first is that these comments should come as no surprise whatsoever to anyone who has followed Ms. Thomas’s career. The Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America has a page full of the relevant details; back in 2008 even the Washington Post, not known for being a knee-jerk defender of Israel, was writing of Thomas’s “stridency in criticizing Israel and defending its enemies.” President George W. Bush’s press secretary Tony Snow once described her as offering “the Hezbollah view,” and back in 1991, George H.W. Bush, also not known for being a knee-jerk defender of Israel, had to explain publicly to Ms. Thomas why Iraq was not justified in lobbing scud missiles into Israel.

The second is that, even given Ms. Thomas’s well known status as a virulent critic of Israel and as more of a speechifier than questioner at White House press conferences, President Obama has chosen to call on her at two of his six full-scale press conferences. The only ones who have gotten called on more by Mr. Obama work for either the big five television networks (ABC, NBC, CBS, Fox News Channel, and CNN) or the Associated Press or Bloomberg wire services.

At his first presidential press conference, Mr. Obama called on her as follows: “All right, Helen. This is my inaugural moment here. I’m really excited.”

Her question: “Mr. President, do you think that Pakistan are maintaining the safe havens in Afghanistan for these so-called terrorists? And also, do you know of any country in the Middle East that has nuclear weapons?”

At Mr. Obama’s most recent press conference, the president called on her again and she said, “Mr. President, when are you going to get out of Afghanistan? Why are we continuing to kill and die there? What is the real excuse? And don’t give us this Bushism, ‘if we don’t go there, they’ll all come here.’”

At a third press conference, Ms. Thomas had gotten in a question even without being formally called on. Mr. Obama responded, “Hold on a second, Helen.”

You can maybe excuse calling on her at the first press conference on the grounds that Mr. Obama or his press aides wanted to defer to her seniority, to sound a note of continuity with past presidencies, and to elevate the new president’s stature somehow by showing the public that the same woman who once hounded Reagan is now hounding him. But three questions in six press conferences for Helen Thomas? And the president pronouncing himself “really excited”?

It’s enough to make a person wonder whether either the president or some of his close advisers are sympathetic to Ms. Thomas’s views or, at least, think they deserve a more prominent place in the public eye.

In respect of the comment of the Washington columnist for Hearst Newspapers, Helen Thomas, that the Jews of Israel should “go home” to Germany and Poland, there are two points to be made.

The first is that these comments should come as no surprise whatsoever to anyone who has followed Ms. Thomas’s career. The Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America has a page full of the relevant details; back in 2008 even the Washington Post, not known for being a knee-jerk defender of Israel, was writing of Thomas’s “stridency in criticizing Israel and defending its enemies.” President George W. Bush’s press secretary Tony Snow once described her as offering “the Hezbollah view,” and back in 1991, George H.W. Bush, also not known for being a knee-jerk defender of Israel, had to explain publicly to Ms. Thomas why Iraq was not justified in lobbing scud missiles into Israel.

The second is that, even given Ms. Thomas’s well known status as a virulent critic of Israel and as more of a speechifier than questioner at White House press conferences, President Obama has chosen to call on her at two of his six full-scale press conferences. The only ones who have gotten called on more by Mr. Obama work for either the big five television networks (ABC, NBC, CBS, Fox News Channel, and CNN) or the Associated Press or Bloomberg wire services.

At his first presidential press conference, Mr. Obama called on her as follows: “All right, Helen. This is my inaugural moment here. I’m really excited.”

Her question: “Mr. President, do you think that Pakistan are maintaining the safe havens in Afghanistan for these so-called terrorists? And also, do you know of any country in the Middle East that has nuclear weapons?”

At Mr. Obama’s most recent press conference, the president called on her again and she said, “Mr. President, when are you going to get out of Afghanistan? Why are we continuing to kill and die there? What is the real excuse? And don’t give us this Bushism, ‘if we don’t go there, they’ll all come here.’”

At a third press conference, Ms. Thomas had gotten in a question even without being formally called on. Mr. Obama responded, “Hold on a second, Helen.”

You can maybe excuse calling on her at the first press conference on the grounds that Mr. Obama or his press aides wanted to defer to her seniority, to sound a note of continuity with past presidencies, and to elevate the new president’s stature somehow by showing the public that the same woman who once hounded Reagan is now hounding him. But three questions in six press conferences for Helen Thomas? And the president pronouncing himself “really excited”?

It’s enough to make a person wonder whether either the president or some of his close advisers are sympathetic to Ms. Thomas’s views or, at least, think they deserve a more prominent place in the public eye.

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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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