Commentary Magazine


Topic: George W. Bush

Middle East Democracy Advocates Fed Up with Obama

An Egyptian democracy advocate, Saad Eddin Ibrahim, writes:

One year after President Barack Obama’s highly celebrated speech in Cairo supporting Arab democracy, there is a clear and loud expression of disappointment in the region.

The pathological fear of Islamists coming to power if there were free and fair elections seems to have served Arab dictators well. Although Mr. Obama himself made it clear in Cairo that he does not believe the proposition of incompatibility between Islam and democracy, his administration has clearly opted for a policy favoring regional stability over democratic governance.

Ibrahim reminds us of the list of Obama’s sins of omission regarding Egypt – quietude on the extension of the emergency election laws and slashing of funding for democracy promotion. We can add to that the administration’s muteness on the abuse of Coptic women. And for those on the left, Ibrahim twists the knife:

George W. Bush is missed by activists in Cairo and elsewhere who—despite possible misgivings about his policies in Iraq and Afghanistan—benefited from his firm stance on democratic progress. During the time he kept up pressure on dictators, there were openings for a democratic opposition to flourish. The current Obama policy seems weak and inconsistent by contrast.

Really, who has better claim to being the president of hope and change in the Middle East — the one who liberated Iraq from tyranny and pledged to do the same for Afghanistan, harped on democracy, and refused the entreaties of dictators to shove human rights under the bus, or the one who can’t manage to utter a syllable of criticism of child brides, honor killings, religious persecution (which an ambassador at large would presumably comment on, if Obama had appointed one), and political repression in the region’s Muslim states — and who declines to consider regime change in Iran?

An Egyptian democracy advocate, Saad Eddin Ibrahim, writes:

One year after President Barack Obama’s highly celebrated speech in Cairo supporting Arab democracy, there is a clear and loud expression of disappointment in the region.

The pathological fear of Islamists coming to power if there were free and fair elections seems to have served Arab dictators well. Although Mr. Obama himself made it clear in Cairo that he does not believe the proposition of incompatibility between Islam and democracy, his administration has clearly opted for a policy favoring regional stability over democratic governance.

Ibrahim reminds us of the list of Obama’s sins of omission regarding Egypt – quietude on the extension of the emergency election laws and slashing of funding for democracy promotion. We can add to that the administration’s muteness on the abuse of Coptic women. And for those on the left, Ibrahim twists the knife:

George W. Bush is missed by activists in Cairo and elsewhere who—despite possible misgivings about his policies in Iraq and Afghanistan—benefited from his firm stance on democratic progress. During the time he kept up pressure on dictators, there were openings for a democratic opposition to flourish. The current Obama policy seems weak and inconsistent by contrast.

Really, who has better claim to being the president of hope and change in the Middle East — the one who liberated Iraq from tyranny and pledged to do the same for Afghanistan, harped on democracy, and refused the entreaties of dictators to shove human rights under the bus, or the one who can’t manage to utter a syllable of criticism of child brides, honor killings, religious persecution (which an ambassador at large would presumably comment on, if Obama had appointed one), and political repression in the region’s Muslim states — and who declines to consider regime change in Iran?

Read Less

Can Americans Count on the New Brit Coalition?

While one of the hallmarks of Barack Obama’s foreign policy has been the trashing of the formerly “special” relationship between the United States and Britain, it is interesting to speculate what would happen in the event that Washington really needed London’s help. While Gordon Brown’s Labour government could be relied upon as America’s pal in a pinch even if Obama treated the dour Scot like a dog, what would be the reaction from the coalition duo of David Cameron and Nick Clegg to a call for assistance from Obama, especially in the not-altogether-unlikely event of a crisis in the Middle East, involving Iran’s nuclear ambitions?

That’s the question Daniella Peled asks in today’s Guardian. Her answer is that it is far from certain how the new British coalition will respond. The problem lies in the competing agendas of the two parties as well as in their differing attitudes toward the United States.

On the one hand, Prime Minister Cameron has already demonstrated how desperate he is to buddy up with Obama, and the president, who clearly didn’t think much of Brown, isn’t averse to a warmer friendship with the new UK leader. But that doesn’t mean that Cameron is eager to become the junior partner on foreign-policy initiatives to the Americans that Tony Blair was, even if the current resident of the White House is Barack Obama rather than George W. Bush. As for the Conservative Party itself, Peled quotes one party leader as saying “we’re just not that interested” in the Middle East one way or another.

Their Liberal Democrat coalition partners, however, have a very different attitude toward foreign policy in general and the Middle East in particular. The Lib-Dems want to distance the United Kingdom from America even more than Obama wants to distance the United States from Israel. Not only are they unhappy about continuing to fight the war against the Taliban and al-Qaeda in Afghanistan; they are also virulently anti-Israel. All of which means that the Lib-Dems are unlikely to support any measures intended to seriously pressure Iran on the nuclear issue. As Peled states, this means there is a huge potential for conflict within the new government on key foreign-policy issues.

However, the notion that the new UK coalition will crack up over a 3 a.m. request from Obama to assist a strike on Iran is more fantasy than anything else. The Obama administration is more likely to learn to live with a nuclear Iran than to fight to remove the existential threat against Israel and the destabilization of the region. And for all of his desire to cozy up to Obama, Cameron’s desire to hold on to his place at No. 10 Downing Street probably outweighs anything else.

But even if we take such an apocalyptic scenario out of the discussion, there is no question that even a White House as devoted to multilateralism and engagement as that of Obama must understand that the new British government cannot be considered as reliable an ally as its predecessor. Neither the Tories nor the Lib-Dems aren’t interested in being portrayed as Obama’s poodles. Nor do they care much about Iran, Hezbollah, or Hamas. For all of his disdain for Gordon Brown, there may come a day when Barack Obama will wish the special relationship he helped destroy could be brought back to life.

While one of the hallmarks of Barack Obama’s foreign policy has been the trashing of the formerly “special” relationship between the United States and Britain, it is interesting to speculate what would happen in the event that Washington really needed London’s help. While Gordon Brown’s Labour government could be relied upon as America’s pal in a pinch even if Obama treated the dour Scot like a dog, what would be the reaction from the coalition duo of David Cameron and Nick Clegg to a call for assistance from Obama, especially in the not-altogether-unlikely event of a crisis in the Middle East, involving Iran’s nuclear ambitions?

That’s the question Daniella Peled asks in today’s Guardian. Her answer is that it is far from certain how the new British coalition will respond. The problem lies in the competing agendas of the two parties as well as in their differing attitudes toward the United States.

On the one hand, Prime Minister Cameron has already demonstrated how desperate he is to buddy up with Obama, and the president, who clearly didn’t think much of Brown, isn’t averse to a warmer friendship with the new UK leader. But that doesn’t mean that Cameron is eager to become the junior partner on foreign-policy initiatives to the Americans that Tony Blair was, even if the current resident of the White House is Barack Obama rather than George W. Bush. As for the Conservative Party itself, Peled quotes one party leader as saying “we’re just not that interested” in the Middle East one way or another.

Their Liberal Democrat coalition partners, however, have a very different attitude toward foreign policy in general and the Middle East in particular. The Lib-Dems want to distance the United Kingdom from America even more than Obama wants to distance the United States from Israel. Not only are they unhappy about continuing to fight the war against the Taliban and al-Qaeda in Afghanistan; they are also virulently anti-Israel. All of which means that the Lib-Dems are unlikely to support any measures intended to seriously pressure Iran on the nuclear issue. As Peled states, this means there is a huge potential for conflict within the new government on key foreign-policy issues.

However, the notion that the new UK coalition will crack up over a 3 a.m. request from Obama to assist a strike on Iran is more fantasy than anything else. The Obama administration is more likely to learn to live with a nuclear Iran than to fight to remove the existential threat against Israel and the destabilization of the region. And for all of his desire to cozy up to Obama, Cameron’s desire to hold on to his place at No. 10 Downing Street probably outweighs anything else.

But even if we take such an apocalyptic scenario out of the discussion, there is no question that even a White House as devoted to multilateralism and engagement as that of Obama must understand that the new British government cannot be considered as reliable an ally as its predecessor. Neither the Tories nor the Lib-Dems aren’t interested in being portrayed as Obama’s poodles. Nor do they care much about Iran, Hezbollah, or Hamas. For all of his disdain for Gordon Brown, there may come a day when Barack Obama will wish the special relationship he helped destroy could be brought back to life.

Read Less

The Shocking Rashad Hussain Interview

A friend of COMMENTARY calls my attention to this interview with the controversial Rashad Hussain, the U.S. Special Envoy to the Organization of the Islamic Conference. You will recall that his nomination raised concerns when his comments alleging a “political” motivation for prosecuting Sami Al-Arian and his attendance at CAIR events came to light. (He then attempted to cover up the comments.) As our friend notes, “This must be read to be believed … it cannot be parodied.”

We start from the context — a foreign, Arabic publication. It is to this audience that he skewers — without justification or basis in fact — the Bush administration:

Q) Do you think it will be easy to overcome the hostility in the Islamic world towards certain US policies, especially in light of the actions taken under the previous US administration?

A) We are concerned about this but we are determined to move forward, without looking to the past and the negative effects of this, in order to erase the hostile feelings caused by the administration of former President George W. Bush. There is now a suitable opportunity to overcome the past, and open a new page in relations between the US and the people in the Islamic region.

This is not, to say the least, what we expect our envoys to communicate to foreign audiences. And then there is the substance of his remarks. Hostile feelings caused by the Bush administration’s policies, he says? Which were those — the war in Iraq and Afghanistan, both of which Obama has continued? The focus on human rights, which Obama has ignored? And notice the assignment of blame to the country he pretends to represent, not to the bad actors — Syria and Iran, for example — that continue to promote terror and brutalize their people. It appears that Hussain is telling the Muslims that the real source of trouble in the Middle East was George W. Bush.

But it is obsession with the peace process as the key to ending such “hostility” and the conviction that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is the source of our woes that are the most jarring — and perhaps revelatory of the administration he represents. He offers this:

Q) How do you intend to impose your strategy to develop relations with the Islamic world?

A) By implementing the recommendations made in the speech by US President Obama in Cairo, which represents a clear strategy to promote relations with the Islamic world, as this speech covered all political, social, and economic aspects. We have already begun work to implement what was said in the speech, whether through political action to solve the Palestinian-Israel conflict through the efforts exerted by the Obama administration’s Peace Envoy George Mitchell, and we will also promote health services such as combating polio in the Islamic world, and promoting educational programs and cultural exchange between the two sides.

And this:

Q) Many Muslims are critical of bias US policies towards Israel. How can we reconcile what Obama said in his Cairo speech and the US political approach in the Middle East?

A) The United States does not operate solely according to its own interests, and it seeks to safeguard the interests of both the Palestinians and the Israelis, which has made it a top priority for us to engage in genuine peace negotiations between both sides. As you know, the US is committed to its role as an effective mediator in the Palestinian-Israeli negotiations. We have not waited until the last minute to become involved in this; rather we did everything we could to urge the concerned parties to enter negotiations. President Obama [also] appointed George Mitchell Middle East Peace Envoy, and he appointed me as an envoy to promote US relations with the Islamic world, and we are all working to implement Obama’s strategy in the Islamic world to achieve stability in this part of the world.

Q) Do you think the Israeli settlement building in Jerusalem complicates your mission to improve US relations with the Islamic world?

A) Of course, there are fears that any action or provocation will negatively affect feelings, and as a Muslim I know full well that the Al Aqsa Mosque was the first Qibla [direction in which Muslims pray] and is the third holiest site for Muslims and it is revered by Muslims. President Obama is committed to calming the situation in the city of Jerusalem, and finding solutions that are both acceptable to the Palestinians and the Israelis. There is also a clear position by the president to reject any settlement building in east Jerusalem, and there is a statement to this effect from the US administration, which has many ways to settle the conflict in the region that has lasted for 60 years. However, it is not easy for this to be settled overnight so we must bridge the differences between the conflicting parties. Over the last few days we have heard good news to the effect that indirect negotiations between the Palestinians and Israelis have begun, so I think we are making progress in this regard, and we must not take a step backwards.

Now, he does mention polio programs and educational outreach, but plainly this man is convinced that the key to ending ”hostility” against the U.S. is resolving the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. What is missing? Ah, mention of the Iranian nuclear threat. Oh yes, the brutalization of women and the repression of Middle East despots. And how exactly has the arrival of Obama ended that hostility? Last time we checked, Syria was supplying Hezbollah with Scuds and Iran was moving toward acquisition of a nuclear weapon. Still seems pretty hostile. Maybe it wasn’t all Bush’s fault.

And as the crowning touch, we have this exchange:

Q) You studied law at Yale University, during which you criticized the prosecution of Sami Al-Arian, describing it as “politically motivated.” Do you think the American legal system unfairly links Islam and terrorism?

A) To be clear, I have no connection to such terror trials, and these cases are subject to the deliberations of the US courts. The US legal system is one of the best in the world and enjoys great confidence.

Where is the emphatic repudiation of his view that Al-Arian was the victim of a political show trial? Where is the simple declarative, “No, he was convicted, and we will continue to investigate and prosecute terrorists and those who facilitate terrorism”? Nowhere. This is shameful.

There is a reason that Obama appointed Hussain: he is the perfect embodiment of the mean-spirited (toward Bush, Israel, and those who doubt Obama’s sincerity), warped view of the Middle East that allows despots to go unchallenged, brutality to remain unremarked upon, and the region to inch ever closer to a deadly nuclear-arms race.

A friend of COMMENTARY calls my attention to this interview with the controversial Rashad Hussain, the U.S. Special Envoy to the Organization of the Islamic Conference. You will recall that his nomination raised concerns when his comments alleging a “political” motivation for prosecuting Sami Al-Arian and his attendance at CAIR events came to light. (He then attempted to cover up the comments.) As our friend notes, “This must be read to be believed … it cannot be parodied.”

We start from the context — a foreign, Arabic publication. It is to this audience that he skewers — without justification or basis in fact — the Bush administration:

Q) Do you think it will be easy to overcome the hostility in the Islamic world towards certain US policies, especially in light of the actions taken under the previous US administration?

A) We are concerned about this but we are determined to move forward, without looking to the past and the negative effects of this, in order to erase the hostile feelings caused by the administration of former President George W. Bush. There is now a suitable opportunity to overcome the past, and open a new page in relations between the US and the people in the Islamic region.

This is not, to say the least, what we expect our envoys to communicate to foreign audiences. And then there is the substance of his remarks. Hostile feelings caused by the Bush administration’s policies, he says? Which were those — the war in Iraq and Afghanistan, both of which Obama has continued? The focus on human rights, which Obama has ignored? And notice the assignment of blame to the country he pretends to represent, not to the bad actors — Syria and Iran, for example — that continue to promote terror and brutalize their people. It appears that Hussain is telling the Muslims that the real source of trouble in the Middle East was George W. Bush.

But it is obsession with the peace process as the key to ending such “hostility” and the conviction that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is the source of our woes that are the most jarring — and perhaps revelatory of the administration he represents. He offers this:

Q) How do you intend to impose your strategy to develop relations with the Islamic world?

A) By implementing the recommendations made in the speech by US President Obama in Cairo, which represents a clear strategy to promote relations with the Islamic world, as this speech covered all political, social, and economic aspects. We have already begun work to implement what was said in the speech, whether through political action to solve the Palestinian-Israel conflict through the efforts exerted by the Obama administration’s Peace Envoy George Mitchell, and we will also promote health services such as combating polio in the Islamic world, and promoting educational programs and cultural exchange between the two sides.

And this:

Q) Many Muslims are critical of bias US policies towards Israel. How can we reconcile what Obama said in his Cairo speech and the US political approach in the Middle East?

A) The United States does not operate solely according to its own interests, and it seeks to safeguard the interests of both the Palestinians and the Israelis, which has made it a top priority for us to engage in genuine peace negotiations between both sides. As you know, the US is committed to its role as an effective mediator in the Palestinian-Israeli negotiations. We have not waited until the last minute to become involved in this; rather we did everything we could to urge the concerned parties to enter negotiations. President Obama [also] appointed George Mitchell Middle East Peace Envoy, and he appointed me as an envoy to promote US relations with the Islamic world, and we are all working to implement Obama’s strategy in the Islamic world to achieve stability in this part of the world.

Q) Do you think the Israeli settlement building in Jerusalem complicates your mission to improve US relations with the Islamic world?

A) Of course, there are fears that any action or provocation will negatively affect feelings, and as a Muslim I know full well that the Al Aqsa Mosque was the first Qibla [direction in which Muslims pray] and is the third holiest site for Muslims and it is revered by Muslims. President Obama is committed to calming the situation in the city of Jerusalem, and finding solutions that are both acceptable to the Palestinians and the Israelis. There is also a clear position by the president to reject any settlement building in east Jerusalem, and there is a statement to this effect from the US administration, which has many ways to settle the conflict in the region that has lasted for 60 years. However, it is not easy for this to be settled overnight so we must bridge the differences between the conflicting parties. Over the last few days we have heard good news to the effect that indirect negotiations between the Palestinians and Israelis have begun, so I think we are making progress in this regard, and we must not take a step backwards.

Now, he does mention polio programs and educational outreach, but plainly this man is convinced that the key to ending ”hostility” against the U.S. is resolving the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. What is missing? Ah, mention of the Iranian nuclear threat. Oh yes, the brutalization of women and the repression of Middle East despots. And how exactly has the arrival of Obama ended that hostility? Last time we checked, Syria was supplying Hezbollah with Scuds and Iran was moving toward acquisition of a nuclear weapon. Still seems pretty hostile. Maybe it wasn’t all Bush’s fault.

And as the crowning touch, we have this exchange:

Q) You studied law at Yale University, during which you criticized the prosecution of Sami Al-Arian, describing it as “politically motivated.” Do you think the American legal system unfairly links Islam and terrorism?

A) To be clear, I have no connection to such terror trials, and these cases are subject to the deliberations of the US courts. The US legal system is one of the best in the world and enjoys great confidence.

Where is the emphatic repudiation of his view that Al-Arian was the victim of a political show trial? Where is the simple declarative, “No, he was convicted, and we will continue to investigate and prosecute terrorists and those who facilitate terrorism”? Nowhere. This is shameful.

There is a reason that Obama appointed Hussain: he is the perfect embodiment of the mean-spirited (toward Bush, Israel, and those who doubt Obama’s sincerity), warped view of the Middle East that allows despots to go unchallenged, brutality to remain unremarked upon, and the region to inch ever closer to a deadly nuclear-arms race.

Read Less

Can We Move Past Engagement?

By now the pattern is clear. The Obama team declares that the policy of George W. Bush toward [fill in the blank with the name of a despotic regime] was “shortsighted” and failed to appreciate that only by engagement and discussion can we discern what [name of despotic regime] really wants. Now we send a special envoy, offer talks, decline to discuss human rights with any vigor, and ease up on sanctions. And lo and behold, the regime gets worse. Curious, isn’t it, that unilateral gestures and reticence to assert American values doesn’t pay off?

This report details the latest example:

The United States is deeply disappointed by Myanmar’s preparations for rare elections and wants “immediate steps” to address fears they will lack legitimacy, a top US diplomat said Monday.

Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs Kurt Campbell issued his strongly-worded statement after meeting government officials and opposition leaders including detained democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi.

“What we have seen to date leads us to believe that these elections will lack international legitimacy,” Campbell said of the junta‘s plans to stage a vote later this year that would be the first in two decades.

“We urge the regime to take immediate steps to open the process in the time remaining before the elections,” he said.

US President Barack Obama‘s administration launched dialogue with Myanmar‘s military rulers last year after concluding that Western attempts to isolate the regime had produced little success.

Campbell says the U.S. is “profoundly disappointed” — which might be more than “deeply concerned” but certainly less than the condemnation issued to Israel on building in its own capital. What do the human-rights advocates have to say?

Suu Kyi did not speak to reporters but Win Tin, a former political prisoner and senior NLD member, said other top opposition figures had called on Washington to put more pressure on the junta in separate talks with Campbell.

“We think the approach of the US is very soft in relation to this military government,” Win Tin said.

“We asked for tougher political or economic action. There is no position to begin credible elections as the world asks,” he told reporters. “We reiterated (our request) not to acknowledge the coming result of the election.”

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell is calling for tough sanctions. That seems to be a wise course, and not only for Burma. Obama has had his “experiment” in engagement. It has proved a failure everywhere it has been tried. Can we move on?

By now the pattern is clear. The Obama team declares that the policy of George W. Bush toward [fill in the blank with the name of a despotic regime] was “shortsighted” and failed to appreciate that only by engagement and discussion can we discern what [name of despotic regime] really wants. Now we send a special envoy, offer talks, decline to discuss human rights with any vigor, and ease up on sanctions. And lo and behold, the regime gets worse. Curious, isn’t it, that unilateral gestures and reticence to assert American values doesn’t pay off?

This report details the latest example:

The United States is deeply disappointed by Myanmar’s preparations for rare elections and wants “immediate steps” to address fears they will lack legitimacy, a top US diplomat said Monday.

Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs Kurt Campbell issued his strongly-worded statement after meeting government officials and opposition leaders including detained democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi.

“What we have seen to date leads us to believe that these elections will lack international legitimacy,” Campbell said of the junta‘s plans to stage a vote later this year that would be the first in two decades.

“We urge the regime to take immediate steps to open the process in the time remaining before the elections,” he said.

US President Barack Obama‘s administration launched dialogue with Myanmar‘s military rulers last year after concluding that Western attempts to isolate the regime had produced little success.

Campbell says the U.S. is “profoundly disappointed” — which might be more than “deeply concerned” but certainly less than the condemnation issued to Israel on building in its own capital. What do the human-rights advocates have to say?

Suu Kyi did not speak to reporters but Win Tin, a former political prisoner and senior NLD member, said other top opposition figures had called on Washington to put more pressure on the junta in separate talks with Campbell.

“We think the approach of the US is very soft in relation to this military government,” Win Tin said.

“We asked for tougher political or economic action. There is no position to begin credible elections as the world asks,” he told reporters. “We reiterated (our request) not to acknowledge the coming result of the election.”

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell is calling for tough sanctions. That seems to be a wise course, and not only for Burma. Obama has had his “experiment” in engagement. It has proved a failure everywhere it has been tried. Can we move on?

Read Less

Bellwether Battle: Sestak vs. Toomey

With the need to explain his vote against Obama Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan when she was confirmed as solicitor general, and yet another tracking poll showing him losing even more ground to challenger Rep. Joe Sestak, Sen. Arlen Specter has officially been declared “toast” by leftist Philadelphia Daily News blogger Will Bunch.

Bunch is right about Specter being ready for a shmear of cream cheese or butter, but he failed to note the news that supporters of the incumbent must regard with special dread: a new Rasmussen poll indicates that Sestak will be a stronger opponent for Republican Pat Toomey in the fall. In the first tracking poll matching the two Democrats against their all-but-certain Republican opponent in a month, Sestak gained strength as Specter continued to lose ground. A month ago, Toomey led Specter 50 to 40 percent. The latest numbers show the margin now to be 50 to 38. While the same survey showed Sestak trailing Toomey 47-36 a month ago, a new poll shows the race to be a virtual standoff, with Toomey holding only a 42-40 lead.

Wavering Democrats who never liked the idea of the former Republican being their nominee were told by party bigwigs that Specter was their only hope to hold the seat in November, since Sestak was too weak to beat Toomey. But if Specter’s incumbency is a weakness rather than a strength in a general election, then liberals won’t hesitate to abandon him next week in droves.

These numbers just confirm what Bunch and just about everybody else who isn’t a Specter staffer have concluded: the incumbent is finished and Pennsylvania will have one of the most competitive and clearly ideological battles for the Senate in November.

Most Pennsylvania Republicans have been thoroughly enjoying Arlen Specter’s difficulties in convincing his new party’s voters to embrace him. After decades of being represented by a man who always put himself on both sides of every big issue, conservatives, who came close to knocking off Specter in a 2004 GOP primary, are getting a great deal of vicarious pleasure from Sestak’s successful challenge to a Democratic establishment that embraced the slippery incumbent with the same ardor that George W. Bush and Rick Santorum backed him six years ago. But with Sestak pulling even with Toomey in a head-to-head matchup, conservatives need to start thinking clearly about the liberal former admiral.

In the past decade, Pennsylvania’s Senate races have generally been won by whoever could claim the center. But this fall, there will be no race in the nation that presents a starker choice between the parties. In all likelihood, the matchup will feature two candidates, Toomey and Sestak, who represent the conservative and liberal wings of their parties respectively. As a man who won a seat in Congress in 2006 as an anti-war candidate, Sestak may well be able to mobilize the suburban liberal base of the Democratic Party even if he leaves urban minorities cold. And we can expect the liberal-media attack machine to go all-out to tar Toomey as a right-wing fanatic. In response, the stalwartly pro-Israel Toomey will have the chance to hold Sestak accountable for his very shaky stand on the Middle East since the congressman backed a J Street letter on Israel rather than one endorsed by the mainstream pro-Israel AIPAC. And Sestak has never backed away from his appearance in 2007 at a fundraiser for the pro-Hamas CAIR’s Philadelphia chapter.

The point is, once Specter is done, conservatives will have to stop cheering for Sestak and start taking him seriously as a formidable and dangerous opponent.

With the need to explain his vote against Obama Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan when she was confirmed as solicitor general, and yet another tracking poll showing him losing even more ground to challenger Rep. Joe Sestak, Sen. Arlen Specter has officially been declared “toast” by leftist Philadelphia Daily News blogger Will Bunch.

Bunch is right about Specter being ready for a shmear of cream cheese or butter, but he failed to note the news that supporters of the incumbent must regard with special dread: a new Rasmussen poll indicates that Sestak will be a stronger opponent for Republican Pat Toomey in the fall. In the first tracking poll matching the two Democrats against their all-but-certain Republican opponent in a month, Sestak gained strength as Specter continued to lose ground. A month ago, Toomey led Specter 50 to 40 percent. The latest numbers show the margin now to be 50 to 38. While the same survey showed Sestak trailing Toomey 47-36 a month ago, a new poll shows the race to be a virtual standoff, with Toomey holding only a 42-40 lead.

Wavering Democrats who never liked the idea of the former Republican being their nominee were told by party bigwigs that Specter was their only hope to hold the seat in November, since Sestak was too weak to beat Toomey. But if Specter’s incumbency is a weakness rather than a strength in a general election, then liberals won’t hesitate to abandon him next week in droves.

These numbers just confirm what Bunch and just about everybody else who isn’t a Specter staffer have concluded: the incumbent is finished and Pennsylvania will have one of the most competitive and clearly ideological battles for the Senate in November.

Most Pennsylvania Republicans have been thoroughly enjoying Arlen Specter’s difficulties in convincing his new party’s voters to embrace him. After decades of being represented by a man who always put himself on both sides of every big issue, conservatives, who came close to knocking off Specter in a 2004 GOP primary, are getting a great deal of vicarious pleasure from Sestak’s successful challenge to a Democratic establishment that embraced the slippery incumbent with the same ardor that George W. Bush and Rick Santorum backed him six years ago. But with Sestak pulling even with Toomey in a head-to-head matchup, conservatives need to start thinking clearly about the liberal former admiral.

In the past decade, Pennsylvania’s Senate races have generally been won by whoever could claim the center. But this fall, there will be no race in the nation that presents a starker choice between the parties. In all likelihood, the matchup will feature two candidates, Toomey and Sestak, who represent the conservative and liberal wings of their parties respectively. As a man who won a seat in Congress in 2006 as an anti-war candidate, Sestak may well be able to mobilize the suburban liberal base of the Democratic Party even if he leaves urban minorities cold. And we can expect the liberal-media attack machine to go all-out to tar Toomey as a right-wing fanatic. In response, the stalwartly pro-Israel Toomey will have the chance to hold Sestak accountable for his very shaky stand on the Middle East since the congressman backed a J Street letter on Israel rather than one endorsed by the mainstream pro-Israel AIPAC. And Sestak has never backed away from his appearance in 2007 at a fundraiser for the pro-Hamas CAIR’s Philadelphia chapter.

The point is, once Specter is done, conservatives will have to stop cheering for Sestak and start taking him seriously as a formidable and dangerous opponent.

Read Less

No One Better Than Obama

Yes, no one tops Obama when it comes to polarizing the electorate — not Reagan or even George W. Bush. Gallup reports:

His first-year ratings were the most polarized for a president in Gallup history, with an average 65-point gap between Republicans and Democrats. Obama’s approval ratings have become slightly more polarized thus far in his second year in office, with an average 69-point gap between Democrats (83%) and Republicans (14%) since late January.

Obama’s approval ratings among non-Hispanic whites slid below the majority level in July 2009, and have not returned to that mark, generally hovering around 40% since mid-November. Meanwhile, his approval ratings among blacks have been stable throughout his presidency, right around 90%.

Though the latest 58% weekly approval average among 18- to 29-year-olds is among the lowest Obama has registered to date, it remains his highest current rating among the four age groups and is significantly better than his rating among senior citizens. Older Americans last gave Obama an approval rating above 50% last July. The gap in ratings between young adults and senior citizens has averaged 16 points during Obama’s presidency.

There are several noteworthy aspects to this. First, we know historically and from the “enthusiasm” gap in recent polling that the groups that fervently support Obama — Democrats, blacks, and young voters — are those more likely to have lower turnout numbers in November than those that oppose him — Republicans, whites, and older voters. This is very bad news for House and Senate Democratic candidates.

Second, the winning coalition that Obama constructed to win the primary and then the general election has collapsed, and he is back to his core supporters. It remains unclear whether he can put the pieces back together for the 2012 election.

Third, the hyper-partisanship and ideological agenda have taken their toll. Obama wanted to do “historic things” and create a “new foundation,” but these goals lacked broad-based support, leaving Obama and his party politically vulnerable. And most important, the campaign themes that Obama successfully rode to the presidency – that he was post-partisan, post-racial, moderate, and unifying — have been thoroughly repudiated, and with them has gone the image of a larger-than-life figure. He is now a not-too-popular liberal-Democratic pol with limited support for his extreme agenda.

Which come to think of it was pretty much what he’s always been — minus the campaign hype.

Yes, no one tops Obama when it comes to polarizing the electorate — not Reagan or even George W. Bush. Gallup reports:

His first-year ratings were the most polarized for a president in Gallup history, with an average 65-point gap between Republicans and Democrats. Obama’s approval ratings have become slightly more polarized thus far in his second year in office, with an average 69-point gap between Democrats (83%) and Republicans (14%) since late January.

Obama’s approval ratings among non-Hispanic whites slid below the majority level in July 2009, and have not returned to that mark, generally hovering around 40% since mid-November. Meanwhile, his approval ratings among blacks have been stable throughout his presidency, right around 90%.

Though the latest 58% weekly approval average among 18- to 29-year-olds is among the lowest Obama has registered to date, it remains his highest current rating among the four age groups and is significantly better than his rating among senior citizens. Older Americans last gave Obama an approval rating above 50% last July. The gap in ratings between young adults and senior citizens has averaged 16 points during Obama’s presidency.

There are several noteworthy aspects to this. First, we know historically and from the “enthusiasm” gap in recent polling that the groups that fervently support Obama — Democrats, blacks, and young voters — are those more likely to have lower turnout numbers in November than those that oppose him — Republicans, whites, and older voters. This is very bad news for House and Senate Democratic candidates.

Second, the winning coalition that Obama constructed to win the primary and then the general election has collapsed, and he is back to his core supporters. It remains unclear whether he can put the pieces back together for the 2012 election.

Third, the hyper-partisanship and ideological agenda have taken their toll. Obama wanted to do “historic things” and create a “new foundation,” but these goals lacked broad-based support, leaving Obama and his party politically vulnerable. And most important, the campaign themes that Obama successfully rode to the presidency – that he was post-partisan, post-racial, moderate, and unifying — have been thoroughly repudiated, and with them has gone the image of a larger-than-life figure. He is now a not-too-popular liberal-Democratic pol with limited support for his extreme agenda.

Which come to think of it was pretty much what he’s always been — minus the campaign hype.

Read Less

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.

Read Less

Nonproliferation We Can Believe In

Each day seems to bring news of another ill-advised policy move by the Obama administration. Today’s comes from a May 6 New York Times article quoting administration officials on a civil nuclear cooperation agreement with Russia, which George W. Bush shelved in the wake of the August 2008 invasion of Georgia. Obama wants to revive it.

According to the Times, “Reviving the agreement has been a top priority for Russia since Mr. Obama took office.” The issue brief on the agreement from the Nuclear Threat Initiative website outlines these provisions:

If concluded, the agreement would allow cooperation on a wide range of issues, including the development of advanced reactor technologies, production of mixed-oxide (MOX, a mix of plutonium and uranium oxides) fuel, and storage and possible reprocessing of U.S.-origin spent nuclear fuel in Russia.

There are sound arguments against moving irresponsibly on any of these provisions, but sending spent uranium of U.S. origin to Russia for storage and reprocessing tops the list. Most of the instances of nuclear smuggling since the end of the Cold War trace back to Russia. The latest incident in which the collusion of Russians is probable occurred in Georgia in March 2010 (though Russian officials deny it). Russian nationals have been involved in all aspects of Iran’s nuclear-weapons program, from warhead design to the procurement of prohibited technology and materials. Russia also, of course, has an official role in Iran’s civil nuclear-power program, which only complicates the assessment of Moscow’s true overall involvement.

It’s worth noting, moreover, that the agreement could include the shipment of uranium of U.S. origin to Russia from the other nations whose reactor complexes use our uranium under contract. This would, in and of itself, introduce an additional window of vulnerability into the lifetime security of reactor fuel.

The Times article cites a concern from the deal’s critics that Obama wouldn’t be getting enough from Russia in exchange for reviving the nuclear cooperation agreement. But a more basic criticism is that the agreement would conflict directly with Obama’s own policy emphasis on securing nuclear materials around the globe. The progress of his nonproliferation effort to date looks like a vignette from Monty Python: on the one hand, getting good citizens Chile and Mexico to shuffle some uranium around and accept U.S. help in upgrading their reactors; on the other, hoping to ship U.S. uranium to Russia, the nation with the highest rate of unauthorized uranium leakage. Maybe Obama’s proliferation-security advisers should try Hillary Clinton’s checklist method for a while. Whatever they’re doing now isn’t producing a coherent policy.

Each day seems to bring news of another ill-advised policy move by the Obama administration. Today’s comes from a May 6 New York Times article quoting administration officials on a civil nuclear cooperation agreement with Russia, which George W. Bush shelved in the wake of the August 2008 invasion of Georgia. Obama wants to revive it.

According to the Times, “Reviving the agreement has been a top priority for Russia since Mr. Obama took office.” The issue brief on the agreement from the Nuclear Threat Initiative website outlines these provisions:

If concluded, the agreement would allow cooperation on a wide range of issues, including the development of advanced reactor technologies, production of mixed-oxide (MOX, a mix of plutonium and uranium oxides) fuel, and storage and possible reprocessing of U.S.-origin spent nuclear fuel in Russia.

There are sound arguments against moving irresponsibly on any of these provisions, but sending spent uranium of U.S. origin to Russia for storage and reprocessing tops the list. Most of the instances of nuclear smuggling since the end of the Cold War trace back to Russia. The latest incident in which the collusion of Russians is probable occurred in Georgia in March 2010 (though Russian officials deny it). Russian nationals have been involved in all aspects of Iran’s nuclear-weapons program, from warhead design to the procurement of prohibited technology and materials. Russia also, of course, has an official role in Iran’s civil nuclear-power program, which only complicates the assessment of Moscow’s true overall involvement.

It’s worth noting, moreover, that the agreement could include the shipment of uranium of U.S. origin to Russia from the other nations whose reactor complexes use our uranium under contract. This would, in and of itself, introduce an additional window of vulnerability into the lifetime security of reactor fuel.

The Times article cites a concern from the deal’s critics that Obama wouldn’t be getting enough from Russia in exchange for reviving the nuclear cooperation agreement. But a more basic criticism is that the agreement would conflict directly with Obama’s own policy emphasis on securing nuclear materials around the globe. The progress of his nonproliferation effort to date looks like a vignette from Monty Python: on the one hand, getting good citizens Chile and Mexico to shuffle some uranium around and accept U.S. help in upgrading their reactors; on the other, hoping to ship U.S. uranium to Russia, the nation with the highest rate of unauthorized uranium leakage. Maybe Obama’s proliferation-security advisers should try Hillary Clinton’s checklist method for a while. Whatever they’re doing now isn’t producing a coherent policy.

Read Less

Sestak Ties Specter

The first poll that doesn’t have Arlen Specter in the lead in the Pennsylvania Democratic Senate primary race is out today. The daily tracking poll by Muhlenberg College shows him tied with Joe Sestak.

Perhaps the Swift Boat ad has turned off voters. Or it might be that Sestak’s own devastating ad (reminding Democratic voters that George W. Bush declared, with Specter at his side in the 2004 Senate race, “I can count on this man”) has sunk in. And frankly, Specter is the quintessential Washington insider — there for decades, finger to the wind — who voters are none too enamored of these days.

Should Sestak prevail in the primary, it will set up quite a battle with Pat Toomey. Domestic issues will surely dominate. But here’s a race in which the left’s foreign-policy stance will clearly be on display. You may recall that Sestak was one of the 54 congressmen to sign the J Street–inspired Gaza letter. J Street supported Sestak and cooed about his foreign-policy stances:

He brings this philosophy into his work on American foreign policy and has insisted that at the time of the invasion of Iraq, the United States “should have simultaneously pursued a regional diplomatic offensive against what is the real clear and present danger in the region: the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the lack of democratic institutions in the region.” … Crucially, Congressman Sestak believes that the United States needs to pursue a “diplomatic surge” with Iran. He argues that Iran is strongly disinterested in having a chaotic Iraq located next-door and that as such, an American withdrawal can be used to create diplomatic leverage with Iran.

How’s that diplomatic surge working out? If Sestak slays Specter, many Republicans will cheer that the man who gives opportunism a bad name will finally gave gotten his due. However, for supporters of Israel, there could hardly be a worse addition to the U.S. Senate than the congressman from J Street.

The first poll that doesn’t have Arlen Specter in the lead in the Pennsylvania Democratic Senate primary race is out today. The daily tracking poll by Muhlenberg College shows him tied with Joe Sestak.

Perhaps the Swift Boat ad has turned off voters. Or it might be that Sestak’s own devastating ad (reminding Democratic voters that George W. Bush declared, with Specter at his side in the 2004 Senate race, “I can count on this man”) has sunk in. And frankly, Specter is the quintessential Washington insider — there for decades, finger to the wind — who voters are none too enamored of these days.

Should Sestak prevail in the primary, it will set up quite a battle with Pat Toomey. Domestic issues will surely dominate. But here’s a race in which the left’s foreign-policy stance will clearly be on display. You may recall that Sestak was one of the 54 congressmen to sign the J Street–inspired Gaza letter. J Street supported Sestak and cooed about his foreign-policy stances:

He brings this philosophy into his work on American foreign policy and has insisted that at the time of the invasion of Iraq, the United States “should have simultaneously pursued a regional diplomatic offensive against what is the real clear and present danger in the region: the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the lack of democratic institutions in the region.” … Crucially, Congressman Sestak believes that the United States needs to pursue a “diplomatic surge” with Iran. He argues that Iran is strongly disinterested in having a chaotic Iraq located next-door and that as such, an American withdrawal can be used to create diplomatic leverage with Iran.

How’s that diplomatic surge working out? If Sestak slays Specter, many Republicans will cheer that the man who gives opportunism a bad name will finally gave gotten his due. However, for supporters of Israel, there could hardly be a worse addition to the U.S. Senate than the congressman from J Street.

Read Less

Obama Loses Americans’ Confidence

According to a new Hotline poll, voters have lost trust in Obama:

Seven in 10 voters say the economy will improve over the next 12 months, according to the new Allstate/National Journal Heartland Monitor poll, while just 27% believe the economy will worsen. But 56% of voters say they have less confidence that elected officials in DC will make good financial and economic decisions. …

Voters have lost faith in Obama to craft solutions to the country’s economic challenges. Just 39% say they trust Obama more than GOPers in Congress, while 32% say they believe the GOP has the right ideas. That 7-point gap is down from a 29-point Obama advantage in the April ’09 poll.

Only 39% of voters said they would vote to re-elect Pres. Obama if the election were held today, while 50% say they would vote for someone else. A quarter of voters would definitely vote to re-elect Obama, while 37% would definitely vote for someone else.

The reasons for this are clear: unemployment remains high, the recovery is unsteady, and home prices haven’t recovered. But the voters haven’t just soured on the economy — they’ve soured on Obama. Maybe by pulling off a grand bait-and-switch (running as a moderate and governing from the left), he lost the voters’ confidence. Perhaps saying so many things that aren’t so — ObamaCare would save money, the relationship with Israel is rock-solid, George W. Bush is responsible for the deficit — wasn’t the best idea. Over time he has frittered away the precious commodity of presidential credibility. And maybe the public simply doesn’t buy the holier-than-thou routine from Obama (in which he is civil while others are not, he is nonpartisan while others are craven hacks). They now see him as a big-government partisan liberal who hasn’t fixed the economy. It’s a wonder his numbers aren’t worse.

According to a new Hotline poll, voters have lost trust in Obama:

Seven in 10 voters say the economy will improve over the next 12 months, according to the new Allstate/National Journal Heartland Monitor poll, while just 27% believe the economy will worsen. But 56% of voters say they have less confidence that elected officials in DC will make good financial and economic decisions. …

Voters have lost faith in Obama to craft solutions to the country’s economic challenges. Just 39% say they trust Obama more than GOPers in Congress, while 32% say they believe the GOP has the right ideas. That 7-point gap is down from a 29-point Obama advantage in the April ’09 poll.

Only 39% of voters said they would vote to re-elect Pres. Obama if the election were held today, while 50% say they would vote for someone else. A quarter of voters would definitely vote to re-elect Obama, while 37% would definitely vote for someone else.

The reasons for this are clear: unemployment remains high, the recovery is unsteady, and home prices haven’t recovered. But the voters haven’t just soured on the economy — they’ve soured on Obama. Maybe by pulling off a grand bait-and-switch (running as a moderate and governing from the left), he lost the voters’ confidence. Perhaps saying so many things that aren’t so — ObamaCare would save money, the relationship with Israel is rock-solid, George W. Bush is responsible for the deficit — wasn’t the best idea. Over time he has frittered away the precious commodity of presidential credibility. And maybe the public simply doesn’t buy the holier-than-thou routine from Obama (in which he is civil while others are not, he is nonpartisan while others are craven hacks). They now see him as a big-government partisan liberal who hasn’t fixed the economy. It’s a wonder his numbers aren’t worse.

Read Less

The Worst Brit PM: Loser of the Colonies or Appeaser of Hitler?

As we await the results of today’s British elections, it’s hard to work up much enthusiasm about the outcome, given the dismal choices facing the voters there. David Cameron, the not-very-conservative Conservative leader who doesn’t appear to be much of a friend to the United States, might be the best of the lot compared with Gordon Brown and Labour, and especially with the hard-left anti-Israel venom emanating from the Liberal Democrats led by Nick Clegg, but that is to damn Cameron with faint praise.

But whoever the next resident of No. 10 Downing Street may be, the Times of London has provided readers with an interesting feature about his predecessors, ranking the top 50 British prime ministers. A panel of political writers and journalists — not historians — composed the list, but it still is enough to spark a lively conversation about the subject.

At the top of the list (no surprise here) is Winston Churchill, though it should be noted that the panel wasn’t unanimous about the choice, with one of the members voting for the overall No. 2 choice: David Lloyd George, who led Britain to victory during World War One. The rest of the top 10 were: William Gladstone, William Pitt the Younger, Margaret Thatcher, Sir Robert Peel, Clement Atlee, Earl Grey (it pays to have a tea named after you), Robert Walpole, and Benjamin Disraeli. (In case his buddy George W. Bush is interested, Tony Blair was ranked number 16, tied with the elder William Pitt.)

More curious than the leaders in the poll, most of whom are obvious choices, were the ones at the bottom. For those of us whose view of 20th century British history was primarily formed by our interest in the battle between Churchill and the “guilty men” who appeased Hitler, it is fascinating to note that while Neville Chamberlain’s name is synonymous with infamy, the Times panel thinks that he wasn’t really all that bad, ranking him at 34th, which is not so good but far from the bottom. Interestingly, fellow appeaser Stanley Baldwin, who preceded Chamberlain, was ranked fairly high at 14th, apparently because of the slick way he handled the abdication of Queen Elizabeth’s uncle the Duke of Windsor.

So who did the panel think were the worst prime ministers? Interestingly, the bottom three of this list of 49 men and one woman were the three Brits who lost the American colonies: Lord George Granville, the Duke of Grafton, and Lord North (1770-1782), who was the last and the least. There’s no question that these three were terrible British leaders, but I’m not exactly sure what it says about the Times of London — or Britain for that matter — that their panel thinks the creation of the United States was a greater disaster for their country than a policy of appeasement that led to a global war and to Auschwitz. I’d have thought that our friends across the pond had gotten over the results of the Battle of Yorktown a long while ago, but perhaps now that President Obama has put an end to the “special relationship” with Britain, the chasm between our two nations — divided, as G.B. Shaw said, by “a common language,” is even greater than we could have imagined.

As we await the results of today’s British elections, it’s hard to work up much enthusiasm about the outcome, given the dismal choices facing the voters there. David Cameron, the not-very-conservative Conservative leader who doesn’t appear to be much of a friend to the United States, might be the best of the lot compared with Gordon Brown and Labour, and especially with the hard-left anti-Israel venom emanating from the Liberal Democrats led by Nick Clegg, but that is to damn Cameron with faint praise.

But whoever the next resident of No. 10 Downing Street may be, the Times of London has provided readers with an interesting feature about his predecessors, ranking the top 50 British prime ministers. A panel of political writers and journalists — not historians — composed the list, but it still is enough to spark a lively conversation about the subject.

At the top of the list (no surprise here) is Winston Churchill, though it should be noted that the panel wasn’t unanimous about the choice, with one of the members voting for the overall No. 2 choice: David Lloyd George, who led Britain to victory during World War One. The rest of the top 10 were: William Gladstone, William Pitt the Younger, Margaret Thatcher, Sir Robert Peel, Clement Atlee, Earl Grey (it pays to have a tea named after you), Robert Walpole, and Benjamin Disraeli. (In case his buddy George W. Bush is interested, Tony Blair was ranked number 16, tied with the elder William Pitt.)

More curious than the leaders in the poll, most of whom are obvious choices, were the ones at the bottom. For those of us whose view of 20th century British history was primarily formed by our interest in the battle between Churchill and the “guilty men” who appeased Hitler, it is fascinating to note that while Neville Chamberlain’s name is synonymous with infamy, the Times panel thinks that he wasn’t really all that bad, ranking him at 34th, which is not so good but far from the bottom. Interestingly, fellow appeaser Stanley Baldwin, who preceded Chamberlain, was ranked fairly high at 14th, apparently because of the slick way he handled the abdication of Queen Elizabeth’s uncle the Duke of Windsor.

So who did the panel think were the worst prime ministers? Interestingly, the bottom three of this list of 49 men and one woman were the three Brits who lost the American colonies: Lord George Granville, the Duke of Grafton, and Lord North (1770-1782), who was the last and the least. There’s no question that these three were terrible British leaders, but I’m not exactly sure what it says about the Times of London — or Britain for that matter — that their panel thinks the creation of the United States was a greater disaster for their country than a policy of appeasement that led to a global war and to Auschwitz. I’d have thought that our friends across the pond had gotten over the results of the Battle of Yorktown a long while ago, but perhaps now that President Obama has put an end to the “special relationship” with Britain, the chasm between our two nations — divided, as G.B. Shaw said, by “a common language,” is even greater than we could have imagined.

Read Less

Liberals Like Swift-Boat Attack Against Specter’s Foe

With less than two weeks to go until the Pennsylvania Democratic primary that will decide the fate of Senator Arlen Specter, the race between the incumbent party-switcher and the liberal congressman who is hoping to knock him off has gotten tighter and nastier.

After holding a huge lead over Rep. Joe Sestak for most of the past year, Specter is shown by the latest polls to lose his lead. An Allentown Morning Call tracking poll showed Specter with just a five-point lead (45 percent to 40) on May 5, down three points from May 2. Though a Quinnipiac poll from May 2 showed Specter with a larger lead (48 percent to 39), it still showed remarkable gains for Sestak since he had trailed Specter in that survey by as much as 21 points only a month earlier.

And along with the tighter poll numbers have come the inevitable negative ads. Specter had thought he would cruise to victory in the primary because of name recognition, a big edge in campaign contributions, and the overwhelming support he has received from Democratic leaders from President Obama, Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell, and most of the county Democratic committees. But faced with Sestak’s rising numbers, in the last couple of weeks, Specter has now resorted to trying to stress his opponent’s negatives. The senator is now airing a TV ad in which he claims that Sestak, a retired Navy admiral, was relieved of his post as chief of planning for the Navy in 2005 because he created a “poor command climate” — though Sestak has always said that his exit from the Navy was due to policy differences with a new chief of naval operations, Admiral Mike Mullen. Sestak has now responded to Specter’s ad with one of his own, in which he accuses the senator of “swift-boating” him and lying about his record. For good measure, he’s also released another one tying Specter to his Republican past, including his support for figures that are demons to Democratic activists: George W. Bush, former senator Rick Santorum, and Sarah Palin.

Though Specter’s turncoat status has made it hard for him to cozy up to the sort of hardcore liberals who vote in Democratic primaries, it is interesting to note that the chief institutional voice of Pennsylvania liberalism — the Philadelphia Inquirer — has taken its cue from Obama and not only endorsed Specter but also backed his attacks on Sestak’s record and character. In an editorial published today, the Inky follows Specter’s lead and demands that Sestak release his private Navy records if he wants to quiet the discussion related to the issue.

Yet 6 years ago, when conservative activists were raising embarrassing questions about the naval record of Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry, the Inquirer took a very different point of view. At that time, the liberal newspaper decried the “Swift-Boat” vets who attacked Kerry and thought their demands for the release of Kerry’s records were not only unreasonable but also an indication of the vicious nature of ultra-partisan GOP politics. But with the possibility of losing a Senate seat for the Democrats (polls also show that Sestak is a weaker general-election candidate than Specter), the Inquirer is no longer so squeamish about messing with former military men.

Ultimately, the race will be decided by voter sentiment about Specter. Much of his campaign material emphasizes his 30 years in the Senate and his ability to bring home the bacon for his state as one of the most expert practitioners of earmark spending. But in a year in which voters are clearly saying that they think politics as usual isn’t the answer, Specter’s old strengths may turn out to be big weaknesses. While this trend is a clear boost to Republicans — not least to former Rep. Pat Toomey, a principled libertarian and the man whom polls show able to beat either Democrat in the November election — these ideas may have an impact on May 17, when Democrats vote as well. Under these circumstances, swift-boating Sestak, even if liberals who once were outraged by such tactics when it they had turned on their own heroes now endorse them, may not be enough to save the slippery Specter.

With less than two weeks to go until the Pennsylvania Democratic primary that will decide the fate of Senator Arlen Specter, the race between the incumbent party-switcher and the liberal congressman who is hoping to knock him off has gotten tighter and nastier.

After holding a huge lead over Rep. Joe Sestak for most of the past year, Specter is shown by the latest polls to lose his lead. An Allentown Morning Call tracking poll showed Specter with just a five-point lead (45 percent to 40) on May 5, down three points from May 2. Though a Quinnipiac poll from May 2 showed Specter with a larger lead (48 percent to 39), it still showed remarkable gains for Sestak since he had trailed Specter in that survey by as much as 21 points only a month earlier.

And along with the tighter poll numbers have come the inevitable negative ads. Specter had thought he would cruise to victory in the primary because of name recognition, a big edge in campaign contributions, and the overwhelming support he has received from Democratic leaders from President Obama, Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell, and most of the county Democratic committees. But faced with Sestak’s rising numbers, in the last couple of weeks, Specter has now resorted to trying to stress his opponent’s negatives. The senator is now airing a TV ad in which he claims that Sestak, a retired Navy admiral, was relieved of his post as chief of planning for the Navy in 2005 because he created a “poor command climate” — though Sestak has always said that his exit from the Navy was due to policy differences with a new chief of naval operations, Admiral Mike Mullen. Sestak has now responded to Specter’s ad with one of his own, in which he accuses the senator of “swift-boating” him and lying about his record. For good measure, he’s also released another one tying Specter to his Republican past, including his support for figures that are demons to Democratic activists: George W. Bush, former senator Rick Santorum, and Sarah Palin.

Though Specter’s turncoat status has made it hard for him to cozy up to the sort of hardcore liberals who vote in Democratic primaries, it is interesting to note that the chief institutional voice of Pennsylvania liberalism — the Philadelphia Inquirer — has taken its cue from Obama and not only endorsed Specter but also backed his attacks on Sestak’s record and character. In an editorial published today, the Inky follows Specter’s lead and demands that Sestak release his private Navy records if he wants to quiet the discussion related to the issue.

Yet 6 years ago, when conservative activists were raising embarrassing questions about the naval record of Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry, the Inquirer took a very different point of view. At that time, the liberal newspaper decried the “Swift-Boat” vets who attacked Kerry and thought their demands for the release of Kerry’s records were not only unreasonable but also an indication of the vicious nature of ultra-partisan GOP politics. But with the possibility of losing a Senate seat for the Democrats (polls also show that Sestak is a weaker general-election candidate than Specter), the Inquirer is no longer so squeamish about messing with former military men.

Ultimately, the race will be decided by voter sentiment about Specter. Much of his campaign material emphasizes his 30 years in the Senate and his ability to bring home the bacon for his state as one of the most expert practitioners of earmark spending. But in a year in which voters are clearly saying that they think politics as usual isn’t the answer, Specter’s old strengths may turn out to be big weaknesses. While this trend is a clear boost to Republicans — not least to former Rep. Pat Toomey, a principled libertarian and the man whom polls show able to beat either Democrat in the November election — these ideas may have an impact on May 17, when Democrats vote as well. Under these circumstances, swift-boating Sestak, even if liberals who once were outraged by such tactics when it they had turned on their own heroes now endorse them, may not be enough to save the slippery Specter.

Read Less

Not a Regional Party

After the 2008 election, there was much pontificating about the future of the Republican Party. It was destined, we were told, to become a rump party of the South, the last refuge of white, religious male voters. But all it took was a year and a half of Obama to convince Americans — both male and female, religious and not, in all regions of the country — that maybe it’s time to give the GOP another shot. Two states that exemplify this are New Hampshire (recall Republicans were thought to be extinct in New England) and Illinois.

Stuart Rothenberg writes, “Right now, I think the Republicans are positioned to win both Senate races.” As for New Hampshire, he comments:

I’ve met three of the four credible Republican candidates in the race — former Attorney General Kelly Ayotte, millionaire businessman Bill Binnie and conservative Ovide Lamontagne, the GOP’s unsuccessful nominee for governor in 1996 — and all three should have considerable appeal in the primary and in the fall.

What about the Democrat Paul Hodes?

Hodes is poised, confident and well-spoken, but he seems to think that he can make former President George W. Bush a major issue this year and that his own accomplishments in the House will demonstrate his independence and draw a favorable contrast with his eventual GOP opponent. In fact, I think Hodes is far too optimistic about his ability to dictate what the 2010 Senate race will be about.

It seems running against Bush isn’t going to work — but it’s apparently better than running on the Democrats’ agenda and calling in Obama to vouch for him:

National political currents (including intensity) are likely to favor Republicans, and as long as the GOP nominee isn’t hemorrhaging support after the primary, Hodes, who voted for the health care bill, cap-and-trade and the stimulus, will be on the defensive when fall arrives. An improvement in the national mood would, of course, improve the congressman’s prospects.

Rothenberg says Democrats in Illinois have a better shot, given their electoral advantage. But here, too, Rothenberg says Rep. Mark Kirk is the Republicans’ “ideal candidate for this seat,” and therefore, together with Alexi Giannoulias’s banking woes, he gives Republicans a pick-up opportunity.

So how did Republicans crawl out of the ditch and reestablish themselves in what were Democratic strongholds less than two years ago? Well, politics isn’t that complicated. Get good candidates. Watch the governing party’s overreach and underperformance. Understand the public antipathy for partisan excess and ideological extremism. And bingo, you have a viable alternative for voters to choose. Republicans will have to close the sale in these and other states, but they’re most of the way home — thanks to Obama and the Democratic congressional leadership.

After the 2008 election, there was much pontificating about the future of the Republican Party. It was destined, we were told, to become a rump party of the South, the last refuge of white, religious male voters. But all it took was a year and a half of Obama to convince Americans — both male and female, religious and not, in all regions of the country — that maybe it’s time to give the GOP another shot. Two states that exemplify this are New Hampshire (recall Republicans were thought to be extinct in New England) and Illinois.

Stuart Rothenberg writes, “Right now, I think the Republicans are positioned to win both Senate races.” As for New Hampshire, he comments:

I’ve met three of the four credible Republican candidates in the race — former Attorney General Kelly Ayotte, millionaire businessman Bill Binnie and conservative Ovide Lamontagne, the GOP’s unsuccessful nominee for governor in 1996 — and all three should have considerable appeal in the primary and in the fall.

What about the Democrat Paul Hodes?

Hodes is poised, confident and well-spoken, but he seems to think that he can make former President George W. Bush a major issue this year and that his own accomplishments in the House will demonstrate his independence and draw a favorable contrast with his eventual GOP opponent. In fact, I think Hodes is far too optimistic about his ability to dictate what the 2010 Senate race will be about.

It seems running against Bush isn’t going to work — but it’s apparently better than running on the Democrats’ agenda and calling in Obama to vouch for him:

National political currents (including intensity) are likely to favor Republicans, and as long as the GOP nominee isn’t hemorrhaging support after the primary, Hodes, who voted for the health care bill, cap-and-trade and the stimulus, will be on the defensive when fall arrives. An improvement in the national mood would, of course, improve the congressman’s prospects.

Rothenberg says Democrats in Illinois have a better shot, given their electoral advantage. But here, too, Rothenberg says Rep. Mark Kirk is the Republicans’ “ideal candidate for this seat,” and therefore, together with Alexi Giannoulias’s banking woes, he gives Republicans a pick-up opportunity.

So how did Republicans crawl out of the ditch and reestablish themselves in what were Democratic strongholds less than two years ago? Well, politics isn’t that complicated. Get good candidates. Watch the governing party’s overreach and underperformance. Understand the public antipathy for partisan excess and ideological extremism. And bingo, you have a viable alternative for voters to choose. Republicans will have to close the sale in these and other states, but they’re most of the way home — thanks to Obama and the Democratic congressional leadership.

Read Less

Ezra Klein: The Foreclosure Made Him Do It

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Read Less

Less Engagement on the Middle East, Please

It was George W. Bush’s supposed “cowboy diplomacy” — high-handed, unilateral, and dismissive of valued allies — that incurred the ire of the left. (Never mind that we had warm relations with Europe, Israel, India, and other democracies.) Yet it is Obama who is unrivaled when it comes to shunning allies. If consensus with allies was really the order of the day in the Obama era, we would not have pulled the rug out from our Eastern European allies, repeatedly snubbed the Brits, irritated the French, bullied the Hondurans, and assaulted the Israelis. Jackson Diehl observes:

Barack Obama’s foreign policy has been defined so far by his attempts to “engage” with adversaries or rivals of the United States, such as Ayatollah Ali Khamenei of Iran and Dmitry Medvedev of Russia. The results have been mixed. But now the president’s focus is visibly shifting. In the next 18 months, Obama’s record abroad will be made or broken by his ability to do business with two nominal U.S. allies: Hamid Karzai and Binyamin Netanyahu.

The Obami of late have tried to repair the frayed relationship with Karzai but have shown no indication that they desire a more hospitable relationship with Bibi. Diehl speculates that perhaps it was “hubris from health care that brought on this burst of presidential imperialism” that precipitated the public war of words with both Karzai and Bibi. But there is, I think, a fundamental  difference between the assault on each leader and the clean-up-the-mess gambit that has followed.

With Karzai, it appears that the Obami reacted out of pique and with the nastiness that surfaces whenever — be it a foreign leader, a cable-news network, or a Supreme Court justice — they are confronted with insufficiently obsequious rivals. But with regard to Karzai, the verbal fisticuffs did not imply a change of policy. The Obami are not pulling up stakes, at least not yet, in Afghanistan and seem committed, at least for the balance of Obama’s 18-month time frame, to achieving success.

Bibi is a different story. Here the deliberate and sustained assault (from the fit over Jerusalem housing to the threats of an imposed peace plan and an abstention in the UN Security  Council) suggests that more than personal ire or irritation is at play. Here Obama plainly intends — he’s told us as much — a change in American policy. The charm offensive is meant to quiet domestic Jewish opinion, not to repair or moderate its stance toward the Jewish state.

Diehl argues that a personal failing on Obama’s part is at the root of these conflicts. (“Public bullying won’t do it. Assurances of U.S. support and stroking by special envoys go only so far. What’s missing is personal chemistry and confidence, the construction of a bond between leaders that can persuade a U.S. ally to take a risk; in other words, presidential ‘engagement.’ Isn’t that what Obama promised?”) But with regard to Israel, there is something far more fundamental at issue. Despite the PR offensive, Obama’s goal is not to re-establish a more robust relationship with the Jewish state; it is merely to mask the animus that bubbled to the surface over the past two months. It is not through neglect that relations with Israel have been strained — it is by design. We therefore should not expect that increased presidential attention will result in an improved U.S.-Israel relationship. Frankly, the more Obama focuses on Israel, the more damage to the relationship is likely to occur. At this point, benign neglect would be a welcome development.

It was George W. Bush’s supposed “cowboy diplomacy” — high-handed, unilateral, and dismissive of valued allies — that incurred the ire of the left. (Never mind that we had warm relations with Europe, Israel, India, and other democracies.) Yet it is Obama who is unrivaled when it comes to shunning allies. If consensus with allies was really the order of the day in the Obama era, we would not have pulled the rug out from our Eastern European allies, repeatedly snubbed the Brits, irritated the French, bullied the Hondurans, and assaulted the Israelis. Jackson Diehl observes:

Barack Obama’s foreign policy has been defined so far by his attempts to “engage” with adversaries or rivals of the United States, such as Ayatollah Ali Khamenei of Iran and Dmitry Medvedev of Russia. The results have been mixed. But now the president’s focus is visibly shifting. In the next 18 months, Obama’s record abroad will be made or broken by his ability to do business with two nominal U.S. allies: Hamid Karzai and Binyamin Netanyahu.

The Obami of late have tried to repair the frayed relationship with Karzai but have shown no indication that they desire a more hospitable relationship with Bibi. Diehl speculates that perhaps it was “hubris from health care that brought on this burst of presidential imperialism” that precipitated the public war of words with both Karzai and Bibi. But there is, I think, a fundamental  difference between the assault on each leader and the clean-up-the-mess gambit that has followed.

With Karzai, it appears that the Obami reacted out of pique and with the nastiness that surfaces whenever — be it a foreign leader, a cable-news network, or a Supreme Court justice — they are confronted with insufficiently obsequious rivals. But with regard to Karzai, the verbal fisticuffs did not imply a change of policy. The Obami are not pulling up stakes, at least not yet, in Afghanistan and seem committed, at least for the balance of Obama’s 18-month time frame, to achieving success.

Bibi is a different story. Here the deliberate and sustained assault (from the fit over Jerusalem housing to the threats of an imposed peace plan and an abstention in the UN Security  Council) suggests that more than personal ire or irritation is at play. Here Obama plainly intends — he’s told us as much — a change in American policy. The charm offensive is meant to quiet domestic Jewish opinion, not to repair or moderate its stance toward the Jewish state.

Diehl argues that a personal failing on Obama’s part is at the root of these conflicts. (“Public bullying won’t do it. Assurances of U.S. support and stroking by special envoys go only so far. What’s missing is personal chemistry and confidence, the construction of a bond between leaders that can persuade a U.S. ally to take a risk; in other words, presidential ‘engagement.’ Isn’t that what Obama promised?”) But with regard to Israel, there is something far more fundamental at issue. Despite the PR offensive, Obama’s goal is not to re-establish a more robust relationship with the Jewish state; it is merely to mask the animus that bubbled to the surface over the past two months. It is not through neglect that relations with Israel have been strained — it is by design. We therefore should not expect that increased presidential attention will result in an improved U.S.-Israel relationship. Frankly, the more Obama focuses on Israel, the more damage to the relationship is likely to occur. At this point, benign neglect would be a welcome development.

Read Less

What About Jeb?

Steven Calabresi writes:

Republicans everywhere should take a close look at Jeb Bush as a presidential candidate in 2012. Jeb is tough on foreign policy and is a solid conservative, but he is a small government conservative who wants to cut taxes and spending. Jeb’s signature domestic policy issue is choice in education – an issue that social and economic conservatives care about passionately. He is fluent in Spanish, is married to an Hispanic-American, and could reach out to the socially conservative up-for-grabs Hispanic swing vote. Jeb was Governor of Florida for eight years and did a splendid job in every way. He is experienced and tough, and he knows the issues. Jeb is also articulate and persuasive. Republicans have a number of good presidential prospects to consider, but Jeb Bush deserves particular attention.

Calabresi is right — but there are, of course, some questions about a Jeb run in 2012. First, it’s not at all clear that he’s interested. He’s not doing the sorts of things — appearances at GOP events, spending PAC money on gratitude-inducing endorsements, etc. — which the other interested contenders do. It doesn’t mean those activities two years before the primaries are necessary to a successful candidacy; it simply indicates a  lack of fire-in-the-belly interest at this point. Second, his immigration stance is problematic but not fatal. John McCain survived the anti immigration reform phalanx to win the GOP race in 2008, so it’s been done before. But it would be a sore point with many in the conservative base. Third is the name. George W. Bush is looking darn good in retrospect, but it’s not clear the party or the country are ready for a third Bush. In some sense, it’s silly to knock him out because of his familial relationships, but anti-dynasty sentiment is real. And in a “move forward, not-the-same-old-Republicans” year, a candidate whose name rekindles the dog-days of the GOP may have a steep hill to climb.

Do any of these factors remove Jeb from consideration? Only the first — one can’t force unwilling candidates to run. But if we learned anything in 2008, it was that a pro-immigration reformer whose face is not fresh can, in the right primary setting, out-muscle better organized and funded candidates. There will be — because there always are — the unexpected and the unlikely candidates in 2012. So don’t count out anyone yet and certainly not an ex-governor as successful as Jeb in selling bread-and-butter conservative ideas to a diverse electorate.

Steven Calabresi writes:

Republicans everywhere should take a close look at Jeb Bush as a presidential candidate in 2012. Jeb is tough on foreign policy and is a solid conservative, but he is a small government conservative who wants to cut taxes and spending. Jeb’s signature domestic policy issue is choice in education – an issue that social and economic conservatives care about passionately. He is fluent in Spanish, is married to an Hispanic-American, and could reach out to the socially conservative up-for-grabs Hispanic swing vote. Jeb was Governor of Florida for eight years and did a splendid job in every way. He is experienced and tough, and he knows the issues. Jeb is also articulate and persuasive. Republicans have a number of good presidential prospects to consider, but Jeb Bush deserves particular attention.

Calabresi is right — but there are, of course, some questions about a Jeb run in 2012. First, it’s not at all clear that he’s interested. He’s not doing the sorts of things — appearances at GOP events, spending PAC money on gratitude-inducing endorsements, etc. — which the other interested contenders do. It doesn’t mean those activities two years before the primaries are necessary to a successful candidacy; it simply indicates a  lack of fire-in-the-belly interest at this point. Second, his immigration stance is problematic but not fatal. John McCain survived the anti immigration reform phalanx to win the GOP race in 2008, so it’s been done before. But it would be a sore point with many in the conservative base. Third is the name. George W. Bush is looking darn good in retrospect, but it’s not clear the party or the country are ready for a third Bush. In some sense, it’s silly to knock him out because of his familial relationships, but anti-dynasty sentiment is real. And in a “move forward, not-the-same-old-Republicans” year, a candidate whose name rekindles the dog-days of the GOP may have a steep hill to climb.

Do any of these factors remove Jeb from consideration? Only the first — one can’t force unwilling candidates to run. But if we learned anything in 2008, it was that a pro-immigration reformer whose face is not fresh can, in the right primary setting, out-muscle better organized and funded candidates. There will be — because there always are — the unexpected and the unlikely candidates in 2012. So don’t count out anyone yet and certainly not an ex-governor as successful as Jeb in selling bread-and-butter conservative ideas to a diverse electorate.

Read Less

Flotsam and Jetsam

Warren Buffett doesn’t think Goldman Sachs did anything wrong: “t doesn’t make any difference whether it was Paulson on the other side of the deal or whether Goldman was on the other side of the deal or whether Berkshire was on the other side of the deal.”

Obama sure doesn’t seem to be doing anything to help Congressional Democrats: “President Barack Obama’s Washington-bashing could boomerang on his own party in Congress if he’s not careful, House Democratic leaders warned White House senior adviser Daivd Axelrod in a closed-door meeting Thursday. The fear — raised by Speaker Nancy Pelosi, campaign chief Chris Van Hollen and Majority Whip Jim Clyburn — is that Democrats have more to lose if anti-Washington sentiment is not directed at one party or the other.” Somehow Obama thinks voters won’t notice that he’s part of Washington.

Hezbollah and Syria have gotten the idea that the Obami aren’t going to do anything about the Scud missiles in Lebanon: “Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah said on Saturday that the Lebanese militia had a ‘legal and humanitarian’ right to amass weapons in order to protect those ‘oppressed and threatened by Israel,’ Israel Radio reported Saturday.”

The Gray Lady criticizes Obama for not doing anything about the Florida oil spill for days: “The company, BP, seems to have been slow to ask for help, and, on Friday, both federal and state officials accused it of not moving aggressively or swiftly enough. Yet the administration should not have waited, and should have intervened much more quickly on its own initiative. A White House as politically attuned as this one should have been conscious of two obvious historical lessons. One was the Exxon Valdez, where a late and lame response by both industry and the federal government all but destroyed one of the country’s richest fishing grounds and ended up costing billions of dollars. The other was President George W. Bush’s hapless response to Hurricane Katrina.” Ouch.

Big Insurance can’t find anything wrong with the Obami’s financial-reform bill. But “don’t expect this fact to get in the way of Obama portraying this bill as a broadside to the special interests. And that reformer-vs-industry narrative, like an old blanket or a bowl of chicken-noodle soup, is too familiar and too comfortable for the mainstream press to shed.”

Matt Continetti doesn’t see anything that will absorb Obama and his fellow Democrats as much as bullying his opponents: “Iran is close to obtaining nuclear weapons. The euro zone is in crisis. The U.S. unemployment rate is near 10 percent. America’s social insurance programs threaten to bankrupt the country. And—most unusual—the Washington Nationals are above .500. But rest easy. None of this is distracting the Obama administration and congressional Democrats from their full-time occupation: demonizing the political opposition.”

Stuart Rothenberg doesn’t think Charlie Crist’s independent run changes much of anything in the senate outlook: “Florida Governor Charlie’ Crist’s switch out of the GOP Senate race and into the Senate contest as an Independent, combined with the entry of wealthy businessman Jeff Greene into the Democrat race, adds some uncertainty into the contest. But it doesn’t, in our view, change the bottom line entirely. Move from Clear Advantage for Incumbent Party to Narrow Advantage for Incumbent Party. Marco Rubio (R) remains the favorite, but the three-way contest is more unpredictable.” He thinks “the GOP seems most likely to net 5-7 Senate seats, with a 8-seat gain certainly possible (but still short of the 10-seat gain the GOP would need for control).”

Is anything going the Democrats’ way? Not really, says Charlie Cook: “The most recent, and quite compelling, bad omen surfaced in an April 27 Gallup report. The polling organization found that, based on interviews with more than 5,000 registered voters from April 1-25, Democrats had a 4-point lead in the generic congressional ballot test among those ‘not enthusiastic about voting.’ Among the all-important ‘very enthusiastic’ crowd, aka the folks most likely to vote, Democrats trailed by a whopping 20 points, 57 percent to 37 percent. . . . Even Democratic analysts don’t express much optimism about their party’s chances this fall.”

Warren Buffett doesn’t think Goldman Sachs did anything wrong: “t doesn’t make any difference whether it was Paulson on the other side of the deal or whether Goldman was on the other side of the deal or whether Berkshire was on the other side of the deal.”

Obama sure doesn’t seem to be doing anything to help Congressional Democrats: “President Barack Obama’s Washington-bashing could boomerang on his own party in Congress if he’s not careful, House Democratic leaders warned White House senior adviser Daivd Axelrod in a closed-door meeting Thursday. The fear — raised by Speaker Nancy Pelosi, campaign chief Chris Van Hollen and Majority Whip Jim Clyburn — is that Democrats have more to lose if anti-Washington sentiment is not directed at one party or the other.” Somehow Obama thinks voters won’t notice that he’s part of Washington.

Hezbollah and Syria have gotten the idea that the Obami aren’t going to do anything about the Scud missiles in Lebanon: “Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah said on Saturday that the Lebanese militia had a ‘legal and humanitarian’ right to amass weapons in order to protect those ‘oppressed and threatened by Israel,’ Israel Radio reported Saturday.”

The Gray Lady criticizes Obama for not doing anything about the Florida oil spill for days: “The company, BP, seems to have been slow to ask for help, and, on Friday, both federal and state officials accused it of not moving aggressively or swiftly enough. Yet the administration should not have waited, and should have intervened much more quickly on its own initiative. A White House as politically attuned as this one should have been conscious of two obvious historical lessons. One was the Exxon Valdez, where a late and lame response by both industry and the federal government all but destroyed one of the country’s richest fishing grounds and ended up costing billions of dollars. The other was President George W. Bush’s hapless response to Hurricane Katrina.” Ouch.

Big Insurance can’t find anything wrong with the Obami’s financial-reform bill. But “don’t expect this fact to get in the way of Obama portraying this bill as a broadside to the special interests. And that reformer-vs-industry narrative, like an old blanket or a bowl of chicken-noodle soup, is too familiar and too comfortable for the mainstream press to shed.”

Matt Continetti doesn’t see anything that will absorb Obama and his fellow Democrats as much as bullying his opponents: “Iran is close to obtaining nuclear weapons. The euro zone is in crisis. The U.S. unemployment rate is near 10 percent. America’s social insurance programs threaten to bankrupt the country. And—most unusual—the Washington Nationals are above .500. But rest easy. None of this is distracting the Obama administration and congressional Democrats from their full-time occupation: demonizing the political opposition.”

Stuart Rothenberg doesn’t think Charlie Crist’s independent run changes much of anything in the senate outlook: “Florida Governor Charlie’ Crist’s switch out of the GOP Senate race and into the Senate contest as an Independent, combined with the entry of wealthy businessman Jeff Greene into the Democrat race, adds some uncertainty into the contest. But it doesn’t, in our view, change the bottom line entirely. Move from Clear Advantage for Incumbent Party to Narrow Advantage for Incumbent Party. Marco Rubio (R) remains the favorite, but the three-way contest is more unpredictable.” He thinks “the GOP seems most likely to net 5-7 Senate seats, with a 8-seat gain certainly possible (but still short of the 10-seat gain the GOP would need for control).”

Is anything going the Democrats’ way? Not really, says Charlie Cook: “The most recent, and quite compelling, bad omen surfaced in an April 27 Gallup report. The polling organization found that, based on interviews with more than 5,000 registered voters from April 1-25, Democrats had a 4-point lead in the generic congressional ballot test among those ‘not enthusiastic about voting.’ Among the all-important ‘very enthusiastic’ crowd, aka the folks most likely to vote, Democrats trailed by a whopping 20 points, 57 percent to 37 percent. . . . Even Democratic analysts don’t express much optimism about their party’s chances this fall.”

Read Less

RE: Obama’s Nastiness Is Not New

You’ve done a nice job, Jen, of reminding readers of the long string of Obama attacks on the motives and character of his critics. As Ari Fleischer points out in the Politico story, this is another way in which George W. Bush was better than his successor. But set that aside for the moment. It’s not simply that Obama is prone to turn his critics into villains. It is that Obama — as he did on so many issues — set the bar exceedingly high.

During the campaign he said we should “resist the temptation to fall back on the same partisanship and pettiness and immaturity that has poisoned our politics for so long.” He promised us, “I will listen to you, especially when we disagree.” Obama’s core appeal during the campaign was aesthetic rather than substantive, based on his promise to “turn the page,” to eschew “spin,” and to put aside the personal attacks that have come to characterize political discourse in our time.

Yet Obama, rather than arresting that trend, is accelerating it.

And for good measure, he cannot resist adding arrogance to his hypocrisy. Mr. Obama sees himself as our modern-day Socrates, the courageous voice of reason in an angry and rancorous world. His opponents are driven by base, if not corrupt, motives; they tell lies while he speaks Truth. One gets the sense from Obama that he is frustrated that more of us don’t acknowledge that he is a man of unparalleled wisdom and purity of heart. We don’t recognize the gift he is to all of us.

When challenged on his facts, he gets prickly and defensive; the more effective the challenge, the more contemptuous Obama becomes. One can see what is going around in his mind: “Do you presume to criticize the Great Oz! You ungrateful creatures. Think yourselves lucky that I’m giving you an audience…”

The problem for the president is that people are beginning to pay attention to that man behind the curtain.

You’ve done a nice job, Jen, of reminding readers of the long string of Obama attacks on the motives and character of his critics. As Ari Fleischer points out in the Politico story, this is another way in which George W. Bush was better than his successor. But set that aside for the moment. It’s not simply that Obama is prone to turn his critics into villains. It is that Obama — as he did on so many issues — set the bar exceedingly high.

During the campaign he said we should “resist the temptation to fall back on the same partisanship and pettiness and immaturity that has poisoned our politics for so long.” He promised us, “I will listen to you, especially when we disagree.” Obama’s core appeal during the campaign was aesthetic rather than substantive, based on his promise to “turn the page,” to eschew “spin,” and to put aside the personal attacks that have come to characterize political discourse in our time.

Yet Obama, rather than arresting that trend, is accelerating it.

And for good measure, he cannot resist adding arrogance to his hypocrisy. Mr. Obama sees himself as our modern-day Socrates, the courageous voice of reason in an angry and rancorous world. His opponents are driven by base, if not corrupt, motives; they tell lies while he speaks Truth. One gets the sense from Obama that he is frustrated that more of us don’t acknowledge that he is a man of unparalleled wisdom and purity of heart. We don’t recognize the gift he is to all of us.

When challenged on his facts, he gets prickly and defensive; the more effective the challenge, the more contemptuous Obama becomes. One can see what is going around in his mind: “Do you presume to criticize the Great Oz! You ungrateful creatures. Think yourselves lucky that I’m giving you an audience…”

The problem for the president is that people are beginning to pay attention to that man behind the curtain.

Read Less

Hillary Clinton: Errand Girl for Disastrous Foreign Policy

Michael Hirsh writes a lengthy piece on Hillary Clinton, confirming that she’s not much of a secretary of state. But then we knew that from the results of her handiwork — an unratifiable START treaty, a wrecked relationship with Israel, offended European allies, a Middle East “peace process” that has succeeded only in encouraging Palestinian intransigence, a failed Syrian-engagement gambit, and a dead-end Iran policy. So it’s not surprising that Hirsh focuses on her relationship with Obama — Starsky and Hutch! — and dwells on minutiae. After all, that’s what Hillary does best. The duo’s great accomplishment? Storming a meeting with Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao at the ultimately meaningless Copenhagen global-warming conference. That’s the best Hirsch can come up with.

It’s hard to hide the problem, namely that she’s really not up to the job. Hirsh writes:

“She has no real strategic vision,” says an NSC official. “But she’ll get done what she has to do. She’s the good little Methodist girl. In the end she’ll have her list of the nine or 10 things she has to do and check them off one by one.”

Associates bridle at such condescension, and so do many White House officials, including General Jones. Clinton’s former longtime policy chief, Neera Tanden, sees nothing to apologize for: “She definitely has lists. And she really feels a sense of obligation, duty, responsibility, as part of her general outlook; perhaps it is her Methodism. It’s part of who she is.” Clinton herself ridicules the criticism. “At the end of the day, have you solved the problem or haven’t you? Have you crossed it off the list or haven’t you?”

Hmm. Do you suppose “Thwart Iran’s nuclear program” is on the list? What about “Reorient administration away from Israel”? That one gets a check mark.

Outside observers concede the obvious:

Clinton’s and Obama’s various policies do not yet add up to anything like a doctrine on America’s place in the world. Much of the first year was about “rebuilding the brand, rebuilding political capital,” says one official. And blaming George W. Bush for America’s dire situation, of course. Now, however, fewer world leaders care about the mistakes made by the previous administration. Leslie Gelb, the former president of the Council on Foreign Relations, says he doesn’t think Clinton is of the caliber of James Baker, the George H.W. Bush secretary of state who was perhaps the last real superstar in the job. “She’s very smart,” he says. “She understands all these issues. You can have a good discussion with her on almost any [subject]. But she doesn’t pretend to be, nor is she, a strategist. When she goes to the National Security Council, she doesn’t bring that to the table.”

So what does she bring? It seems that Obama found the perfect errand girl for his bizarrely counterproductive strategy of cozying up to despots, shoving democracy promotion aside, dissing allies, and focusing on unilateral grand gestures – which suggests that no one in the administration has a workable strategy for promoting American interests and values. Obama imagines himself a great foreign-policy visionary, but the legacy he is creating is an America more estranged from allies and a Middle East on the tipping point of a deadly nuclear-arms race. Hillary might be just the enabler, but she’ll share in that legacy, which for now promises to be the most dismal of any American president’s since (maybe including) Jimmy Carter.

Michael Hirsh writes a lengthy piece on Hillary Clinton, confirming that she’s not much of a secretary of state. But then we knew that from the results of her handiwork — an unratifiable START treaty, a wrecked relationship with Israel, offended European allies, a Middle East “peace process” that has succeeded only in encouraging Palestinian intransigence, a failed Syrian-engagement gambit, and a dead-end Iran policy. So it’s not surprising that Hirsh focuses on her relationship with Obama — Starsky and Hutch! — and dwells on minutiae. After all, that’s what Hillary does best. The duo’s great accomplishment? Storming a meeting with Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao at the ultimately meaningless Copenhagen global-warming conference. That’s the best Hirsch can come up with.

It’s hard to hide the problem, namely that she’s really not up to the job. Hirsh writes:

“She has no real strategic vision,” says an NSC official. “But she’ll get done what she has to do. She’s the good little Methodist girl. In the end she’ll have her list of the nine or 10 things she has to do and check them off one by one.”

Associates bridle at such condescension, and so do many White House officials, including General Jones. Clinton’s former longtime policy chief, Neera Tanden, sees nothing to apologize for: “She definitely has lists. And she really feels a sense of obligation, duty, responsibility, as part of her general outlook; perhaps it is her Methodism. It’s part of who she is.” Clinton herself ridicules the criticism. “At the end of the day, have you solved the problem or haven’t you? Have you crossed it off the list or haven’t you?”

Hmm. Do you suppose “Thwart Iran’s nuclear program” is on the list? What about “Reorient administration away from Israel”? That one gets a check mark.

Outside observers concede the obvious:

Clinton’s and Obama’s various policies do not yet add up to anything like a doctrine on America’s place in the world. Much of the first year was about “rebuilding the brand, rebuilding political capital,” says one official. And blaming George W. Bush for America’s dire situation, of course. Now, however, fewer world leaders care about the mistakes made by the previous administration. Leslie Gelb, the former president of the Council on Foreign Relations, says he doesn’t think Clinton is of the caliber of James Baker, the George H.W. Bush secretary of state who was perhaps the last real superstar in the job. “She’s very smart,” he says. “She understands all these issues. You can have a good discussion with her on almost any [subject]. But she doesn’t pretend to be, nor is she, a strategist. When she goes to the National Security Council, she doesn’t bring that to the table.”

So what does she bring? It seems that Obama found the perfect errand girl for his bizarrely counterproductive strategy of cozying up to despots, shoving democracy promotion aside, dissing allies, and focusing on unilateral grand gestures – which suggests that no one in the administration has a workable strategy for promoting American interests and values. Obama imagines himself a great foreign-policy visionary, but the legacy he is creating is an America more estranged from allies and a Middle East on the tipping point of a deadly nuclear-arms race. Hillary might be just the enabler, but she’ll share in that legacy, which for now promises to be the most dismal of any American president’s since (maybe including) Jimmy Carter.

Read Less

Grandstanding on Immigration

The immigration debate that stymied George W. Bush, nearly wrecked John McCain’s presidential aspirations, and engenders grand hypocrisy on the Left (it was, after all, Senator Barack Obama who backed a number of poison-pen amendments that helped sink the 2008 bill) is back with a bang. Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer signed a new immigration bill. (Yes, she’s a governor and what’s she doing making immigration law, you ask? More later on this.) And it is like 2007 all over again:

Even before she signed the bill at an afternoon news conference here, President Obama strongly criticized it.

Speaking at a naturalization ceremony for 24 active-duty service members in the Rose Garden, he called for a federal overhaul of immigration laws, which Congressional leaders signaled they were preparing to take up soon, to avoid “irresponsibility by others.”

The Arizona law, he added, threatened “to undermine basic notions of fairness that we cherish as Americans, as well as the trust between police and our communities that is so crucial to keeping us safe.”

The law, which proponents and critics alike said was the broadest and strictest immigration measure in generations, would make the failure to carry immigration documents a crime and give the police broad power to detain anyone suspected of being in the country illegally. Opponents have called it an open invitation for harassment and discrimination against Hispanics regardless of their citizenship status.

Let’s begin with the constitutional problem. This state law seeking to regulate what is plainly within the federal government’s purview is almost certainly not going to pass constitutional muster. And for those who say, ah well, the courts will sort it out, conservatives should be the first to holler, “Wait a minute!” Every elected official has an obligation to uphold the Constitution. They didn’t much appreciate it when George W. Bush said that the courts would eventually sort out McCain-Feingold (they finally did). It’s not up to states to start requiring immigration documents and the Arizona governor should know better. But the temptation to meddle and to grandstand in this area is irresistible. (Recall how much time in the 2008 election was spent fighting about the immigration policies of the former New York City mayor and the former Massachusetts governor.)

Next on the annoying grandstanders’ list is the current president, who did his best to grind immigration reform to a halt in 2007, and is — after all — now the chief executive in charge of, among other things, border control. So if he had been a more conscientious senator in the past and a more adept executive today, governors might not be at wits’ end trying to handle the financial and social burdens of illegal immigration. If he doesn’t like states meddling in immigration law, he should propose his own legislation.

And finally, the third place on the grandstanders’ list goes to the Democratic leadership in Congress, which no doubt wants to bring up immigration reform now to both tie the Republicans up in knots and mollify pro-immigration activists who’ve noticed that the Democrats have done nothing on this issue for a year and a half. Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi have no intention of actually passing a bill (Big Labor, of course, would freak if they did); it’s simply another political Hail Mary to try to minimize the electoral wipe-out heading their way. Nothing like baiting anti-immigration activists into saying outlandish things to get the Hispanic vote energized, right?

At some point there will be some mix of Democrats and Republicans who want to take a serious stab at immigration reform. But we’re eons away from that point. But that won’t stop the Arizona governor, the president, and the Congressional Democrats from trying to get the most mileage out of the issue — while decrying everyone else who’s doing exactly the same thing.

The immigration debate that stymied George W. Bush, nearly wrecked John McCain’s presidential aspirations, and engenders grand hypocrisy on the Left (it was, after all, Senator Barack Obama who backed a number of poison-pen amendments that helped sink the 2008 bill) is back with a bang. Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer signed a new immigration bill. (Yes, she’s a governor and what’s she doing making immigration law, you ask? More later on this.) And it is like 2007 all over again:

Even before she signed the bill at an afternoon news conference here, President Obama strongly criticized it.

Speaking at a naturalization ceremony for 24 active-duty service members in the Rose Garden, he called for a federal overhaul of immigration laws, which Congressional leaders signaled they were preparing to take up soon, to avoid “irresponsibility by others.”

The Arizona law, he added, threatened “to undermine basic notions of fairness that we cherish as Americans, as well as the trust between police and our communities that is so crucial to keeping us safe.”

The law, which proponents and critics alike said was the broadest and strictest immigration measure in generations, would make the failure to carry immigration documents a crime and give the police broad power to detain anyone suspected of being in the country illegally. Opponents have called it an open invitation for harassment and discrimination against Hispanics regardless of their citizenship status.

Let’s begin with the constitutional problem. This state law seeking to regulate what is plainly within the federal government’s purview is almost certainly not going to pass constitutional muster. And for those who say, ah well, the courts will sort it out, conservatives should be the first to holler, “Wait a minute!” Every elected official has an obligation to uphold the Constitution. They didn’t much appreciate it when George W. Bush said that the courts would eventually sort out McCain-Feingold (they finally did). It’s not up to states to start requiring immigration documents and the Arizona governor should know better. But the temptation to meddle and to grandstand in this area is irresistible. (Recall how much time in the 2008 election was spent fighting about the immigration policies of the former New York City mayor and the former Massachusetts governor.)

Next on the annoying grandstanders’ list is the current president, who did his best to grind immigration reform to a halt in 2007, and is — after all — now the chief executive in charge of, among other things, border control. So if he had been a more conscientious senator in the past and a more adept executive today, governors might not be at wits’ end trying to handle the financial and social burdens of illegal immigration. If he doesn’t like states meddling in immigration law, he should propose his own legislation.

And finally, the third place on the grandstanders’ list goes to the Democratic leadership in Congress, which no doubt wants to bring up immigration reform now to both tie the Republicans up in knots and mollify pro-immigration activists who’ve noticed that the Democrats have done nothing on this issue for a year and a half. Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi have no intention of actually passing a bill (Big Labor, of course, would freak if they did); it’s simply another political Hail Mary to try to minimize the electoral wipe-out heading their way. Nothing like baiting anti-immigration activists into saying outlandish things to get the Hispanic vote energized, right?

At some point there will be some mix of Democrats and Republicans who want to take a serious stab at immigration reform. But we’re eons away from that point. But that won’t stop the Arizona governor, the president, and the Congressional Democrats from trying to get the most mileage out of the issue — while decrying everyone else who’s doing exactly the same thing.

Read Less