Commentary Magazine


Topic: Ground Zero mosque

Flotsam and Jetsam

Other than that, he’s done just fine. Howard Fineman: “Obama misread his mandate. … Obama misread the clock. … Obama misread his surroundings.” And most of all, the mainstream media misread him.

Other than “delusional,” how would you describe this? “White House senior adviser David Axelrod said Sunday on NBC’s Meet the Press that he thinks voters will eventually warm to health care reform.”

Other than the Obami, who likes ObamaCare? “Many Democrats have joined Republicans in pushing for the repeal of a tax provision in the new health care law that imposes a huge information-reporting burden on small businesses.” And that’s the New York Times reporting.

Other than Larry King, who has the good sense to retire, is there a worse interviewer than Christiane Amanpour? Not a single tough follow-up question in her chat with Imam Abdul Rauf, no queries about his funding for the Ground Zero mosque, and no questions about his statements blaming the U.S. for 9/11. ABC execs who thought putting her in the host’s chair was a great idea should be embarrassed.

Other than keeping the current line-up, what personnel decision would be a loser? “There are indications that Obama plans to replace Emanuel with a loyalist. Among the names being floated is Valerie Jarrett, whose sole qualification for having a White House job is that she is a long-time Obama friend. In one of the most hilariously revealing utterances of the Obama presidency, Jarrett stated that the White House was ‘speaking truth to power’ by castigating Fox News. To make Jarrett chief of staff would be disastrous.”

Other than this, the recovery is going swell: “President Obama’s new chairman of the Council of Economic Affairs (CEA) said Sunday that the national unemployment rate will not decrease significantly anytime soon.”

Other than losing independents, turning off his base, and energizing conservatives, Obama has been great for his party. “Obama voters evince little interest in the midterm election. When they express goodwill toward the president, it rarely extends to his allies in Congress. Many do not consider themselves Democrats. Pew’s survey experts routinely ask respondents to characterize the president in a single word. In their most recent poll, conducted this summer, more respondents than ever answered with the word ‘disappointing.’ Some who threw their lot in with Obama expressed a sense of being let down by the man who promised change and pledged to transform the country. Some attributed that to their own lofty expectations and, perhaps, their naivete. Others pointed to what they saw as his lack of focus on the still-faltering economy.” These were people who voted for him in 2008.

Other than that, he’s done just fine. Howard Fineman: “Obama misread his mandate. … Obama misread the clock. … Obama misread his surroundings.” And most of all, the mainstream media misread him.

Other than “delusional,” how would you describe this? “White House senior adviser David Axelrod said Sunday on NBC’s Meet the Press that he thinks voters will eventually warm to health care reform.”

Other than the Obami, who likes ObamaCare? “Many Democrats have joined Republicans in pushing for the repeal of a tax provision in the new health care law that imposes a huge information-reporting burden on small businesses.” And that’s the New York Times reporting.

Other than Larry King, who has the good sense to retire, is there a worse interviewer than Christiane Amanpour? Not a single tough follow-up question in her chat with Imam Abdul Rauf, no queries about his funding for the Ground Zero mosque, and no questions about his statements blaming the U.S. for 9/11. ABC execs who thought putting her in the host’s chair was a great idea should be embarrassed.

Other than keeping the current line-up, what personnel decision would be a loser? “There are indications that Obama plans to replace Emanuel with a loyalist. Among the names being floated is Valerie Jarrett, whose sole qualification for having a White House job is that she is a long-time Obama friend. In one of the most hilariously revealing utterances of the Obama presidency, Jarrett stated that the White House was ‘speaking truth to power’ by castigating Fox News. To make Jarrett chief of staff would be disastrous.”

Other than this, the recovery is going swell: “President Obama’s new chairman of the Council of Economic Affairs (CEA) said Sunday that the national unemployment rate will not decrease significantly anytime soon.”

Other than losing independents, turning off his base, and energizing conservatives, Obama has been great for his party. “Obama voters evince little interest in the midterm election. When they express goodwill toward the president, it rarely extends to his allies in Congress. Many do not consider themselves Democrats. Pew’s survey experts routinely ask respondents to characterize the president in a single word. In their most recent poll, conducted this summer, more respondents than ever answered with the word ‘disappointing.’ Some who threw their lot in with Obama expressed a sense of being let down by the man who promised change and pledged to transform the country. Some attributed that to their own lofty expectations and, perhaps, their naivete. Others pointed to what they saw as his lack of focus on the still-faltering economy.” These were people who voted for him in 2008.

Read Less

Obama Unplugged — and Unintelligible

Before Obama’s presser on Friday, Michael Gerson wandered down the memory lane, recalling the 2008 campaign, when Obama’s “message had something to do with unity, healing and national purpose.” No more, he explained: “Obama’s initiatives … are not only unpopular; they have made it impossible for him to maintain the pretense of being a unifying, healing, once-in-a-generation leader. It is the agenda that undermined the idiom. With that image stripped away, Americans found Obama to be a somber, thoughtful, touchy, professorial, conventionally liberal political figure.”

Actually, it’s worse than that. For starters, it is hard to be “thoughtful” when you are touchy and prone to regurgitating leftist talking points. In fact, Obama’s Friday presser was at times rather incoherent — he didn’t change Washington, it’s the GOP’s fault, the stimulus isn’t really a stimulus but it is stimulating, and so forth. He insisted that, all along, he had warned that health-care costs would bend up (What!? When had that spasm of truth telling occurred?), and lamented that he couldn’t close Gitmo because of politics (i.e., there was no public support for it and no one solved the “where do we put them” problem.) At this point, all but the die-hard Obama supporters must be chagrined to find that the only straight answer he can give is on the Ground Zero mosque. (He is fine with it.)

Earlier in the week, it was pretty much the same story. In Thursday’s interview, Obama acknowledged: “If the election is a referendum on are people satisfied about the economy as it currently is, then we’re not going to do well. Because I think everybody feels like this economy needs to do better than it’s been doing.” Yup. And, after all, he said he’d be judged on the economy. That’s what a referendum is, after all — an opportunity for voters to give thumbs up or down on your performance.

Now, he wasn’t exactly taking responsibility for the economic mess. This is Obama, after all. So he insisted, “Well, look. If you’re asking are there mistakes that we made during the course of the last 19 months, I’m sure I make a mistake once a day. If you’re asking have we made the decisions that are the right decisions to move this country forward after a very devastating recession, then the answer is absolutely.” We’re still heading in the right direction, in his book. Unfortunately, he wasn’t asked which mistakes he made.

Even liberals are fed up with the excuses. Bob Herbert writes, “The Democrats are in deep, deep trouble because they have not effectively addressed the overwhelming concern of working men and women: an economy that is too weak to provide the jobs they need to support themselves and their families.” And Arianna Huffington neatly sums up:

[H]e admitted to making unspecified “mistakes,” but insisted, “if you are asking have we made the decisions that are the right decisions to move this country forward after a very devastating recession, then the answer is absolutely.”

Can he really believe that, with unemployment at 9.6 percent, underemployment at 16.7 percent, millions of homes foreclosed, millions more heading to foreclosure, and the middle class under assault?

In any case, this appears to be the administration’s story, and they are sticking to it — come hell or a double-dip recession.

The president’s comments were a continuation of the tack taken by Robert Gibbs who, when asked if the stimulus bill had been too small, offered this jaw-dropper: “I think it makes sense to step back just for a second. … Nobody had, in January of 2009, a sufficient grasp of … what we were facing.”

In other words: who could have known? So much for changing the way Washington works. The Who Could Have Known mindset is at the very heart of the failure of our political system to address our mounting problems.

Even more telling than all that, however, was this nugget on extending the Bush tax cuts:

What I am saying is that if we are going to add to our deficit by $35 billion, $95 billion, $100 billion, $700 billion, if that’s the Republican agenda, then I’ve got a whole bunch of better ways to spend that money.

“That” money is our money. But it sounds really horrid to say “I’ve got a whole bunch of better ways to spend your money.” I’d be curious to know what better ways he has in mind. More billions on another flawed stimulus plan?

There is in his pre-election spin patrol a fundamental “cognitive dissonance,” as the Wall Street Journal editors put it. He feels compelled to toss a few limited tax breaks toward businesses but that hardly makes up for the incessant shin-kicking he delivers (“urging businesses to invest and lend more while attacking them for greed and sending jobs overseas”). The jabs are not merely rhetorical. In addition to the expiration of the Bush tax cuts, the administration has thrown at U.S. employers “a looming increase in capital gains and personal income tax rates, roughly half of which will come from noncorporate business profits; a minimum wage increase to $7.25 an hour from $6.55 in July 2009 when the jobless rate was 9%; the oil drilling moratorium, which has hit hundreds of small energy companies; the new health insurance mandate on employers with more than 50 employees; the new ObamaCare 1099 tax filing requirements; an increase in the death tax rate to 55% next year from zero today; a Medicare payroll tax increase to 3.8% from 2.9% starting in 2013; and compulsory unionism for government contractors and federal construction projects.”

To sum it all up, the voters are going to throw out his fellow Democrats if Americans follow Obama’s advice (hold the Democrats accountable for the economy). Despite control of both the White House and Congress, Obama whines that our problems are traceable to the Republican minority. He won’t concede that there is any connection between the massive burdens heaped on businesses and the paralysis on hiring by shell-shocked employers. And his underlying philosophy is that he knows best how to spend your money. No wonder Democrats don’t want to be seen campaigning with him.

Before Obama’s presser on Friday, Michael Gerson wandered down the memory lane, recalling the 2008 campaign, when Obama’s “message had something to do with unity, healing and national purpose.” No more, he explained: “Obama’s initiatives … are not only unpopular; they have made it impossible for him to maintain the pretense of being a unifying, healing, once-in-a-generation leader. It is the agenda that undermined the idiom. With that image stripped away, Americans found Obama to be a somber, thoughtful, touchy, professorial, conventionally liberal political figure.”

Actually, it’s worse than that. For starters, it is hard to be “thoughtful” when you are touchy and prone to regurgitating leftist talking points. In fact, Obama’s Friday presser was at times rather incoherent — he didn’t change Washington, it’s the GOP’s fault, the stimulus isn’t really a stimulus but it is stimulating, and so forth. He insisted that, all along, he had warned that health-care costs would bend up (What!? When had that spasm of truth telling occurred?), and lamented that he couldn’t close Gitmo because of politics (i.e., there was no public support for it and no one solved the “where do we put them” problem.) At this point, all but the die-hard Obama supporters must be chagrined to find that the only straight answer he can give is on the Ground Zero mosque. (He is fine with it.)

Earlier in the week, it was pretty much the same story. In Thursday’s interview, Obama acknowledged: “If the election is a referendum on are people satisfied about the economy as it currently is, then we’re not going to do well. Because I think everybody feels like this economy needs to do better than it’s been doing.” Yup. And, after all, he said he’d be judged on the economy. That’s what a referendum is, after all — an opportunity for voters to give thumbs up or down on your performance.

Now, he wasn’t exactly taking responsibility for the economic mess. This is Obama, after all. So he insisted, “Well, look. If you’re asking are there mistakes that we made during the course of the last 19 months, I’m sure I make a mistake once a day. If you’re asking have we made the decisions that are the right decisions to move this country forward after a very devastating recession, then the answer is absolutely.” We’re still heading in the right direction, in his book. Unfortunately, he wasn’t asked which mistakes he made.

Even liberals are fed up with the excuses. Bob Herbert writes, “The Democrats are in deep, deep trouble because they have not effectively addressed the overwhelming concern of working men and women: an economy that is too weak to provide the jobs they need to support themselves and their families.” And Arianna Huffington neatly sums up:

[H]e admitted to making unspecified “mistakes,” but insisted, “if you are asking have we made the decisions that are the right decisions to move this country forward after a very devastating recession, then the answer is absolutely.”

Can he really believe that, with unemployment at 9.6 percent, underemployment at 16.7 percent, millions of homes foreclosed, millions more heading to foreclosure, and the middle class under assault?

In any case, this appears to be the administration’s story, and they are sticking to it — come hell or a double-dip recession.

The president’s comments were a continuation of the tack taken by Robert Gibbs who, when asked if the stimulus bill had been too small, offered this jaw-dropper: “I think it makes sense to step back just for a second. … Nobody had, in January of 2009, a sufficient grasp of … what we were facing.”

In other words: who could have known? So much for changing the way Washington works. The Who Could Have Known mindset is at the very heart of the failure of our political system to address our mounting problems.

Even more telling than all that, however, was this nugget on extending the Bush tax cuts:

What I am saying is that if we are going to add to our deficit by $35 billion, $95 billion, $100 billion, $700 billion, if that’s the Republican agenda, then I’ve got a whole bunch of better ways to spend that money.

“That” money is our money. But it sounds really horrid to say “I’ve got a whole bunch of better ways to spend your money.” I’d be curious to know what better ways he has in mind. More billions on another flawed stimulus plan?

There is in his pre-election spin patrol a fundamental “cognitive dissonance,” as the Wall Street Journal editors put it. He feels compelled to toss a few limited tax breaks toward businesses but that hardly makes up for the incessant shin-kicking he delivers (“urging businesses to invest and lend more while attacking them for greed and sending jobs overseas”). The jabs are not merely rhetorical. In addition to the expiration of the Bush tax cuts, the administration has thrown at U.S. employers “a looming increase in capital gains and personal income tax rates, roughly half of which will come from noncorporate business profits; a minimum wage increase to $7.25 an hour from $6.55 in July 2009 when the jobless rate was 9%; the oil drilling moratorium, which has hit hundreds of small energy companies; the new health insurance mandate on employers with more than 50 employees; the new ObamaCare 1099 tax filing requirements; an increase in the death tax rate to 55% next year from zero today; a Medicare payroll tax increase to 3.8% from 2.9% starting in 2013; and compulsory unionism for government contractors and federal construction projects.”

To sum it all up, the voters are going to throw out his fellow Democrats if Americans follow Obama’s advice (hold the Democrats accountable for the economy). Despite control of both the White House and Congress, Obama whines that our problems are traceable to the Republican minority. He won’t concede that there is any connection between the massive burdens heaped on businesses and the paralysis on hiring by shell-shocked employers. And his underlying philosophy is that he knows best how to spend your money. No wonder Democrats don’t want to be seen campaigning with him.

Read Less

From the Frying Pan into the Fire

Those who keep advising Obama to fire people miss a key point: the replacements could be worse than the current crew. No, it really is possible. Mayor Daley of Chicago won’t run for another term, and Washington is abuzz with speculation that Rahm Emanuel will leave (flee?) the administration to run for the job. Ben Smith reports: “Emanuel has told Chicago associates, a source tells me, who he believes will likely succeed him: senior Obama adviser Valerie Jarrett.”

Obama will be trading one Chicago pol (who at least understood how to elect Democrats from places that weren’t deep Blue) for a liberal Chicago pol whose instincts seem to mirror David Axelrod’s: when in doubt, go left. This was the gal who thought Obama’s defense of the Ground Zero mosque was a swell idea. She also remains a potential witness in the Blago retrial. She also led the vendetta against Fox News.  And of course, 9/11 truther Van Jones was her hire.

In short, if the Obami are looking for a far-left chief of staff with bad political instincts and a Chicago-machine outlook, they couldn’t do “better” than Valerie Jarrett.

Those who keep advising Obama to fire people miss a key point: the replacements could be worse than the current crew. No, it really is possible. Mayor Daley of Chicago won’t run for another term, and Washington is abuzz with speculation that Rahm Emanuel will leave (flee?) the administration to run for the job. Ben Smith reports: “Emanuel has told Chicago associates, a source tells me, who he believes will likely succeed him: senior Obama adviser Valerie Jarrett.”

Obama will be trading one Chicago pol (who at least understood how to elect Democrats from places that weren’t deep Blue) for a liberal Chicago pol whose instincts seem to mirror David Axelrod’s: when in doubt, go left. This was the gal who thought Obama’s defense of the Ground Zero mosque was a swell idea. She also remains a potential witness in the Blago retrial. She also led the vendetta against Fox News.  And of course, 9/11 truther Van Jones was her hire.

In short, if the Obami are looking for a far-left chief of staff with bad political instincts and a Chicago-machine outlook, they couldn’t do “better” than Valerie Jarrett.

Read Less

The Mosque: A View from Israel

Daniel Gordis, who was the vice president of the University of Judaism in Los Angeles before moving to Israel in 1998,  offers a powerful perspective on the wider meaning of the mosque controversy in the Jerusalem Post today:

In the suburban, well-educated, politically and Jewishly liberal America in which I grew up, we didn’t use the label “enemy.” “Enemy” was a dirty word, because it implied the immutability of conflict. Yes, there were people who fought us, but only because we hadn’t yet arrived at a fair resolution of our conflict. We needed to understand them, so we could then resolve the conflicts that divided us….

It’s fine to say that “America is not at war with Islam,” to point out that most Muslims are not terrorists and that many American Muslims are moderates. That’s true, as far as it goes. But it only goes so far. Because America is at war and its enemies are Muslims. Politically correct hairsplitting runs the risk of Americans blinding themselves to that simple but critical fact….Whether or not the Ground Zero mosque ultimately gets built may not matter nearly as much as whether or not Americans are willing to gird themselves for the battles that sadly lie ahead.

Read the whole thing.

Daniel Gordis, who was the vice president of the University of Judaism in Los Angeles before moving to Israel in 1998,  offers a powerful perspective on the wider meaning of the mosque controversy in the Jerusalem Post today:

In the suburban, well-educated, politically and Jewishly liberal America in which I grew up, we didn’t use the label “enemy.” “Enemy” was a dirty word, because it implied the immutability of conflict. Yes, there were people who fought us, but only because we hadn’t yet arrived at a fair resolution of our conflict. We needed to understand them, so we could then resolve the conflicts that divided us….

It’s fine to say that “America is not at war with Islam,” to point out that most Muslims are not terrorists and that many American Muslims are moderates. That’s true, as far as it goes. But it only goes so far. Because America is at war and its enemies are Muslims. Politically correct hairsplitting runs the risk of Americans blinding themselves to that simple but critical fact….Whether or not the Ground Zero mosque ultimately gets built may not matter nearly as much as whether or not Americans are willing to gird themselves for the battles that sadly lie ahead.

Read the whole thing.

Read Less

Time to End the Foreign Policy Contradictions

Richard Haass, after a brief, uncomfortable interlude over the Ground Zero mosque, returns to smart analysis that has been more characteristic of his recent writing. He hones in on many of the questions that a number of us raised yesterday:

[T]he president reiterated his commitment to ending the U.S. military presence in Iraq entirely by the end of 2011. But would this be wise? Doing so would increase the odds that Iraq would become far messier. Iraqis themselves realize this, and if and when a new government is formed, its leaders are likely to ask that tens of thousands of American troops stay on for an extended period. There is a strong case that the United States should be prepared to do so; Iraqis should be prepared not only to ask for this but to help pay for it.

And on Afghanistan, he, too, is bothered by the fact that the “calendar-vs.-conditions contradiction at the heart of U.S. Afghan policy remains: U.S. troops will begin to depart in less than a year, but the pace of withdrawals will be determined by the situation on the ground.” Many helpful onlookers have tried to square the circle. Robert Gates and Hillary Clinton cannot be faulted for at least trying to make sense of this. But Haass is right: the two parts of Obama’s formulation are mutually exclusive. You can’t promise to be both attuned to facts on the ground and begin bugging out. We can hardly blame the Karzai government for being uneasy.

On the budgeting front, we’ve criticized Obama’s false assertion that the defense budget is responsible for the pool of red ink, but Haass makes a separate point: Obama’s own budget is at odds with his national security policy: “[S]pending $100 billion or more a year in Afghanistan will make the process of cutting defense spending and reducing the deficit far more difficult. How, then, should the United States manage its need to restore its fiscal base and remain the world’s leading power?” This is the central fallacy underlying Obama’s directive to Robert Gates: go slash the Pentagon budget and win the war. Gates is struggling to cut other places within the defense budget — so then why aren’t we taking money from misbegotten domestic spending? By the way, one could conclude that Obama’s emphasis on VA spending is an effort to preempt the argument that we are “taking money from the troops.” He is (and from the weapons they will use), but he is loath to admit it.

In speeches and political campaigns, fundamental contradictions can be glossed over. But the essence of governing is to resolve those contradictions. And the measure of leadership is to articulate what is at stake in the given choices, act decisively, and then explain it to Americans as well as to allies and foes without equivocation. So long as the administration pretends these choices don’t exist, our policy lacks coherence and credibility.

Richard Haass, after a brief, uncomfortable interlude over the Ground Zero mosque, returns to smart analysis that has been more characteristic of his recent writing. He hones in on many of the questions that a number of us raised yesterday:

[T]he president reiterated his commitment to ending the U.S. military presence in Iraq entirely by the end of 2011. But would this be wise? Doing so would increase the odds that Iraq would become far messier. Iraqis themselves realize this, and if and when a new government is formed, its leaders are likely to ask that tens of thousands of American troops stay on for an extended period. There is a strong case that the United States should be prepared to do so; Iraqis should be prepared not only to ask for this but to help pay for it.

And on Afghanistan, he, too, is bothered by the fact that the “calendar-vs.-conditions contradiction at the heart of U.S. Afghan policy remains: U.S. troops will begin to depart in less than a year, but the pace of withdrawals will be determined by the situation on the ground.” Many helpful onlookers have tried to square the circle. Robert Gates and Hillary Clinton cannot be faulted for at least trying to make sense of this. But Haass is right: the two parts of Obama’s formulation are mutually exclusive. You can’t promise to be both attuned to facts on the ground and begin bugging out. We can hardly blame the Karzai government for being uneasy.

On the budgeting front, we’ve criticized Obama’s false assertion that the defense budget is responsible for the pool of red ink, but Haass makes a separate point: Obama’s own budget is at odds with his national security policy: “[S]pending $100 billion or more a year in Afghanistan will make the process of cutting defense spending and reducing the deficit far more difficult. How, then, should the United States manage its need to restore its fiscal base and remain the world’s leading power?” This is the central fallacy underlying Obama’s directive to Robert Gates: go slash the Pentagon budget and win the war. Gates is struggling to cut other places within the defense budget — so then why aren’t we taking money from misbegotten domestic spending? By the way, one could conclude that Obama’s emphasis on VA spending is an effort to preempt the argument that we are “taking money from the troops.” He is (and from the weapons they will use), but he is loath to admit it.

In speeches and political campaigns, fundamental contradictions can be glossed over. But the essence of governing is to resolve those contradictions. And the measure of leadership is to articulate what is at stake in the given choices, act decisively, and then explain it to Americans as well as to allies and foes without equivocation. So long as the administration pretends these choices don’t exist, our policy lacks coherence and credibility.

Read Less

Flotsam and Jetsam

Ben Smith has this right about a new, fantastical Vanity Fair piece: “you can really write anything about Palin.”

Michael Goldfarb has the goods on the “moderate” Ground Zero mosque builders. It seems they won’t condemn Tuesday’s slaughter of four Israelis. This is precisely why Muslim outreach is a flawed and ultimately dangerous exercise — it overlooks and excuses the coddling of terrorists.

Stephen Schwartz has the scoop on the Ground Zero mosque builders’ infighting: “Increasing questions about the character and qualifications of the primary figures in ‘Ground Zero mosque,’ as well as personal rivalries between them, may have accomplished as much for the mosque’s opponents as have protests and disapproving poll results. An offensive concept was presented to Americans by flawed and self-interested individuals; the combination may well guarantee its eventual collapse.”

PPP has the Ohio gubernatorial race going to John Kasich: “Former Congressman and Fox News anchor John Kasich leads Ohio Governor Ted Strickland, 50-40, in PPP’s first poll of likely voters in the race. In the previous survey of registered voters in June, Kasich led only 43-41. President Obama won Ohio by four points in 2008, but the likely 2010 electorate now reports having voted for John McCain by three—a seven-point shift in turnout which mirrors Kasich’s eight-point improvement in the horse race in the last two months.” That same shift is probably happening nationwide.

The GOP has narrowed the gap: “The number of Republicans in the United States grew in August while the number of Democrats slipped a bit and the gap between the parties fell to the smallest advantage for Democrats in five years. In August, 35.0% of American Adults identified themselves as Democrats. That’s down nearly half a percentage point  from a month ago and is the smallest percentage of Democrats ever recorded in nearly eight years of monthly tracking. At the same time, the number of Republicans grew in August grew to 33.8%.” Well, Obama helped a lot.

Pete Hegseth of Vets for Freedom has the numbers: “[Obama] shouldn’t have attempted to weave in an economic message; the words seemed petty and out of place. They were the president’s backhanded way of saying we wasted the last decade on Iraq, rather than fixing our economy. (Minor detail: The president’s stimulus, passed in his first month in office, will cost $100 billion more than the entire cost of the Iraq war.) His economic posturing took the focus off the troops and their accomplishments, and was unnecessary.” Yeah, there’s some perspective.

Operation Iraqi Freedom veteran Tom Mahnken has the impression that Obama would rather be doing something else: “[O]ne could not help to see in the president’s words and mannerisms, a man who was distracted, whose heart wasn’t in it. In a speech nominally devoted to Iraq, he couldn’t help but talk about the U.S. economy. … Whereas Bush exhibited great courage in going against his own military to support the Iraqi surge and sell it to his own party and the American people, Obama has yet to put comparable effort into selling his own Afghan surge. The Oval Office speech was a missed opportunity to do just that.”

The BP oil-spill debacle has not come to end: “The federal judge who struck down the Obama administration’s initial six-month moratorium on deepwater oil-drilling dealt the government another blow on Wednesday. U.S. District Court Judge Martin Feldman denied the government’s request to throw out a suit challenging the drilling halt that had been filed by offshore-oil-service companies. Justice Department lawyers had argued the lawsuit was moot because the Interior Department imposed a new, temporary drilling ban on July 12, replacing a May 28 order that Judge Feldman had struck down in June.”

Ben Smith has this right about a new, fantastical Vanity Fair piece: “you can really write anything about Palin.”

Michael Goldfarb has the goods on the “moderate” Ground Zero mosque builders. It seems they won’t condemn Tuesday’s slaughter of four Israelis. This is precisely why Muslim outreach is a flawed and ultimately dangerous exercise — it overlooks and excuses the coddling of terrorists.

Stephen Schwartz has the scoop on the Ground Zero mosque builders’ infighting: “Increasing questions about the character and qualifications of the primary figures in ‘Ground Zero mosque,’ as well as personal rivalries between them, may have accomplished as much for the mosque’s opponents as have protests and disapproving poll results. An offensive concept was presented to Americans by flawed and self-interested individuals; the combination may well guarantee its eventual collapse.”

PPP has the Ohio gubernatorial race going to John Kasich: “Former Congressman and Fox News anchor John Kasich leads Ohio Governor Ted Strickland, 50-40, in PPP’s first poll of likely voters in the race. In the previous survey of registered voters in June, Kasich led only 43-41. President Obama won Ohio by four points in 2008, but the likely 2010 electorate now reports having voted for John McCain by three—a seven-point shift in turnout which mirrors Kasich’s eight-point improvement in the horse race in the last two months.” That same shift is probably happening nationwide.

The GOP has narrowed the gap: “The number of Republicans in the United States grew in August while the number of Democrats slipped a bit and the gap between the parties fell to the smallest advantage for Democrats in five years. In August, 35.0% of American Adults identified themselves as Democrats. That’s down nearly half a percentage point  from a month ago and is the smallest percentage of Democrats ever recorded in nearly eight years of monthly tracking. At the same time, the number of Republicans grew in August grew to 33.8%.” Well, Obama helped a lot.

Pete Hegseth of Vets for Freedom has the numbers: “[Obama] shouldn’t have attempted to weave in an economic message; the words seemed petty and out of place. They were the president’s backhanded way of saying we wasted the last decade on Iraq, rather than fixing our economy. (Minor detail: The president’s stimulus, passed in his first month in office, will cost $100 billion more than the entire cost of the Iraq war.) His economic posturing took the focus off the troops and their accomplishments, and was unnecessary.” Yeah, there’s some perspective.

Operation Iraqi Freedom veteran Tom Mahnken has the impression that Obama would rather be doing something else: “[O]ne could not help to see in the president’s words and mannerisms, a man who was distracted, whose heart wasn’t in it. In a speech nominally devoted to Iraq, he couldn’t help but talk about the U.S. economy. … Whereas Bush exhibited great courage in going against his own military to support the Iraqi surge and sell it to his own party and the American people, Obama has yet to put comparable effort into selling his own Afghan surge. The Oval Office speech was a missed opportunity to do just that.”

The BP oil-spill debacle has not come to end: “The federal judge who struck down the Obama administration’s initial six-month moratorium on deepwater oil-drilling dealt the government another blow on Wednesday. U.S. District Court Judge Martin Feldman denied the government’s request to throw out a suit challenging the drilling halt that had been filed by offshore-oil-service companies. Justice Department lawyers had argued the lawsuit was moot because the Interior Department imposed a new, temporary drilling ban on July 12, replacing a May 28 order that Judge Feldman had struck down in June.”

Read Less

Spinning for CAIR

In an account that reads more like a CAIR press release than a news report, the Washington Post tells us:

As expression of anti-Muslim sentiment has risen across the United States in recent weeks, Muslim leaders say they are stepping up efforts to unify their communities and push for greater public and political engagement.

Has it risen? Apparently the Post considers expressions of anti-Muslim sentiment to include statements objecting to the Ground Zero mosque. It is now, I suppose, accepted “fact” that Ground Zero opposition is an outburst of Islamophobia. Harry Reid and Howard Dean must be ashamed.

But the spin does not end there. The report continues:

Several groups, including the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA), the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), ICNA and MPAC, are working on forming a National Muslim Leadership Alliance, Baig said.

“What’s pushing us now to jointly work together, to come up with some strategy, is it is not affecting just one Muslim organization, it is affecting Muslims,” he said. “There’s a real serious threat of violence against individuals.”

Any mention that some of these groups have ties to terrorist groups or have had officials convicted of terrorist activities? Any hint that these groups have been loath to condemn Hamas and Hezbollah or to condemn accusations that the U.S. was responsible for 9/11? No. Maybe the Post is concerned that would be an example of anti-Muslim sentiment.

Some of the account is downright misleading. Take this:

The interfaith event was among a surge of responses to hostility sparked by a proposed Islamic center near Ground Zero in Manhattan. Protesters have targeted mosques under construction elsewhere in the country; a Florida church announced that it will burn Korans on Sept. 11; and a Muslim taxi driver was stabbed in New York.

As to the church, the report omits two salient facts. City officials denied it a permit. And “Evangelical and Jewish groups are calling plans by a Gainesville, Fla., church to burn the Islamic holy book on 9/11 both destructive and ‘morally repugnant.'” That the Koran-burning is the brainchild of one whacked-out pastor and was swiftly and widely repudiated are facts that appear nowhere in the account. On the cabbie story, certainly the Post has heard:

For one thing, the alleged attacker, Michael Enright, worked with an organization that very much favors the project. For another, the cabby, Ahmed Sharif, says he’s opposed to it — though Sharif does say that he’s worried that debate over the planned project might have played a role in the attack.

It is unclear whether the report is the result of excessive political correctness or downright sloppiness. But when the errors all go one way (boost the CAIR propaganda line), then there is reason to believe it is the former.

In an account that reads more like a CAIR press release than a news report, the Washington Post tells us:

As expression of anti-Muslim sentiment has risen across the United States in recent weeks, Muslim leaders say they are stepping up efforts to unify their communities and push for greater public and political engagement.

Has it risen? Apparently the Post considers expressions of anti-Muslim sentiment to include statements objecting to the Ground Zero mosque. It is now, I suppose, accepted “fact” that Ground Zero opposition is an outburst of Islamophobia. Harry Reid and Howard Dean must be ashamed.

But the spin does not end there. The report continues:

Several groups, including the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA), the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), ICNA and MPAC, are working on forming a National Muslim Leadership Alliance, Baig said.

“What’s pushing us now to jointly work together, to come up with some strategy, is it is not affecting just one Muslim organization, it is affecting Muslims,” he said. “There’s a real serious threat of violence against individuals.”

Any mention that some of these groups have ties to terrorist groups or have had officials convicted of terrorist activities? Any hint that these groups have been loath to condemn Hamas and Hezbollah or to condemn accusations that the U.S. was responsible for 9/11? No. Maybe the Post is concerned that would be an example of anti-Muslim sentiment.

Some of the account is downright misleading. Take this:

The interfaith event was among a surge of responses to hostility sparked by a proposed Islamic center near Ground Zero in Manhattan. Protesters have targeted mosques under construction elsewhere in the country; a Florida church announced that it will burn Korans on Sept. 11; and a Muslim taxi driver was stabbed in New York.

As to the church, the report omits two salient facts. City officials denied it a permit. And “Evangelical and Jewish groups are calling plans by a Gainesville, Fla., church to burn the Islamic holy book on 9/11 both destructive and ‘morally repugnant.'” That the Koran-burning is the brainchild of one whacked-out pastor and was swiftly and widely repudiated are facts that appear nowhere in the account. On the cabbie story, certainly the Post has heard:

For one thing, the alleged attacker, Michael Enright, worked with an organization that very much favors the project. For another, the cabby, Ahmed Sharif, says he’s opposed to it — though Sharif does say that he’s worried that debate over the planned project might have played a role in the attack.

It is unclear whether the report is the result of excessive political correctness or downright sloppiness. But when the errors all go one way (boost the CAIR propaganda line), then there is reason to believe it is the former.

Read Less

Lining Up Against the Mosque

The liberals are pleading to make the whole Ground Zero mosque controversy go away. The excuses are endless. First, it was deemed to be unimportant. Then it was fomenting Islamophobia (so not unimportant). But mostly, and continually, Mayor Bloomberg has explained to the American people, “Shut up.” And the left did the equivalent: “You are a bigot if you oppose this.” So, yes, shut up. But the debate isn’t over; not by a long shot.

It was and remains a gash across the American landscape — liberal elites on one side and everyone else on the other. (Note to file: Obama may have “brought America together” in common revulsion over everything from the Ground Zero mosque to the debt, but in doing so he has magnified the chasm between his elite clique and the country.)

The image of a dividing line makes Mark Helprin’s suggestion all the more appropriate:

The Constitution is a marvelous document, and a reasonable interpretation of it means as well that no American can be forced to pour concrete. No American can be forced to deliver materials. No American can be forced to bid on a contract, to run conduit, dig a foundation, or join steel.

And a reasonable interpretation of the Constitution means that the firemen’s, police, and restaurant workers’ unions, among others, and the families of the September 11th dead, and anyone who would protect, sympathize with and honor them, are free to assemble, protest and picket at the site of the mosque that under the Constitution is free to be built.

A reasonable interpretation of the Constitution means that no American can be forced to cross a picket line in violation of conscience or even of mere preference. Who, in all decency, would cross a picket line manned by those whose kin were slaughtered—by the thousands—so terribly nearby? And who in all decency would cross such a line manned by the firemen, police and other emergency personnel who know every day that they may be called upon to give their lives in a second act?

Oh my, can you imagine? On the line, quite literally, in defense of the sacred memory of our fallen and in recognition that we are in a war on our civilization waged by jihadists (for whom symbolic architecture is a powerful recruiting tool) would be a sampling of America: the fireman and the widow, the conservative pundit and the steelworker. It would be a sight to behold. And that’s why the mosque will never happen, not there at any rate.

But think about this for a moment. The picket line is virtual right now — that great cross section of Americans are arrayed in opposition to the Ground Zero mosque, although they have no need yet to physically congregate at designated times. And on the other side is Mayor Bloomberg, Obama, Nancy Pelosi, and the left punditocracy. Not remotely an even match is it?

The liberals are pleading to make the whole Ground Zero mosque controversy go away. The excuses are endless. First, it was deemed to be unimportant. Then it was fomenting Islamophobia (so not unimportant). But mostly, and continually, Mayor Bloomberg has explained to the American people, “Shut up.” And the left did the equivalent: “You are a bigot if you oppose this.” So, yes, shut up. But the debate isn’t over; not by a long shot.

It was and remains a gash across the American landscape — liberal elites on one side and everyone else on the other. (Note to file: Obama may have “brought America together” in common revulsion over everything from the Ground Zero mosque to the debt, but in doing so he has magnified the chasm between his elite clique and the country.)

The image of a dividing line makes Mark Helprin’s suggestion all the more appropriate:

The Constitution is a marvelous document, and a reasonable interpretation of it means as well that no American can be forced to pour concrete. No American can be forced to deliver materials. No American can be forced to bid on a contract, to run conduit, dig a foundation, or join steel.

And a reasonable interpretation of the Constitution means that the firemen’s, police, and restaurant workers’ unions, among others, and the families of the September 11th dead, and anyone who would protect, sympathize with and honor them, are free to assemble, protest and picket at the site of the mosque that under the Constitution is free to be built.

A reasonable interpretation of the Constitution means that no American can be forced to cross a picket line in violation of conscience or even of mere preference. Who, in all decency, would cross a picket line manned by those whose kin were slaughtered—by the thousands—so terribly nearby? And who in all decency would cross such a line manned by the firemen, police and other emergency personnel who know every day that they may be called upon to give their lives in a second act?

Oh my, can you imagine? On the line, quite literally, in defense of the sacred memory of our fallen and in recognition that we are in a war on our civilization waged by jihadists (for whom symbolic architecture is a powerful recruiting tool) would be a sampling of America: the fireman and the widow, the conservative pundit and the steelworker. It would be a sight to behold. And that’s why the mosque will never happen, not there at any rate.

But think about this for a moment. The picket line is virtual right now — that great cross section of Americans are arrayed in opposition to the Ground Zero mosque, although they have no need yet to physically congregate at designated times. And on the other side is Mayor Bloomberg, Obama, Nancy Pelosi, and the left punditocracy. Not remotely an even match is it?

Read Less

Flotsam and Jetsam

A nostalgic George W. Bush moment for the left. Nicholas Kristof: “Mr. Obama is presiding over an incoherent, contradictory and apparently failing Sudan policy. There is a growing risk that Sudan will be the site of the world’s bloodiest war in 2011, and perhaps a new round of genocide as well. This isn’t America’s fault, but neither are we using all of our leverage to avert it. … Regular readers know I was not a fan of President George W. Bush. But one of his signal accomplishments, against all odds, was a 2005 peace agreement that ended the last round of that war.”

A stirring story about Iraq. And a reminder of how thoroughly lacking in understanding and empathy this president is when it comes to the reasons so many sacrificed so much.

A “perfect description of the pro-mosque left” from James Taranto: “Oikophobia is fear of the familiar: ‘the disposition, in any conflict, to side with ‘them’ against ‘us’, and the felt need to denigrate the customs, culture and institutions that are identifiably ‘ours.’ … Yet the oiks’ vision of themselves as an intellectual aristocracy violates the first American principle ever articulated: ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.’ … This cannot be reconciled with the elitist notion that most men are economically insecure bitter clinging intolerant bigots who need to be governed by an educated elite. Marxism Lite is not only false; it is, according to the American creed, self-evidently false. That is why the liberal elite finds Americans revolting.” Did we put an “oik” in the White House?

An angry mob – in Obama’s home state: “Sixty-five percent (65%) of Likely Voters in Illinois are at least somewhat angry at the current policies of the federal government, according to a new Rasmussen Reports statewide telephone survey. That finding matches the level measured nationally, and includes 41% who are Very Angry at the government’s policies.” Who’s funding them, I wonder?

A “bit”? “Democrats are undercutting their campaign message by condemning Republican economic policies while calling for the extension of Bush-era tax cuts. ‘It’s hard to say the Republican economic policies were bad, [and] then continue them,’ Paul Begala, Democratic strategist and former advisor to President Clinton, told The Hill. ‘That is a bit of a mixed message.'”

A forceful objection from Debra Burlingame to Mayor Bloomberg’s claim that 9/11 families support the Ground Zero mosque: “Mr. Bloomberg has now crossed the line from merely supporting the mosque to participating in a public campaign aimed at silencing its critics. He has improperly invoked private conversations of 9/11 family board members who, unfortunately, are all too aware of his power, both as chair of the foundation which will memorialize their loved ones and as mayor of a city where that memorial will be built. He is recklessly wreaking havoc among families, running from media event to radio interview to photo op to Comedy Central gagfest, shamelessly hawking this narrative that we, those whose family members were the true victims of religious intolerance, must also carry the burden of proving we’re not intolerant. He’s a disgrace.”

A sober take from Mara Liasson: “I think there is a lot of gloom and doom among Democrats. And their hope now is that individual races with candidates who have a lot of money and have good get-out-the-vote operations can somehow survive what is looking to be a really big anti-Democratic wave in November.” And from Liasson and Juan Williams on the midterms: “LIASSON: But the fact is it is a referendum. WILLIAMS: If it’s a referendum on Obama, the Democrats lose.” Yup. Big time.

A nostalgic George W. Bush moment for the left. Nicholas Kristof: “Mr. Obama is presiding over an incoherent, contradictory and apparently failing Sudan policy. There is a growing risk that Sudan will be the site of the world’s bloodiest war in 2011, and perhaps a new round of genocide as well. This isn’t America’s fault, but neither are we using all of our leverage to avert it. … Regular readers know I was not a fan of President George W. Bush. But one of his signal accomplishments, against all odds, was a 2005 peace agreement that ended the last round of that war.”

A stirring story about Iraq. And a reminder of how thoroughly lacking in understanding and empathy this president is when it comes to the reasons so many sacrificed so much.

A “perfect description of the pro-mosque left” from James Taranto: “Oikophobia is fear of the familiar: ‘the disposition, in any conflict, to side with ‘them’ against ‘us’, and the felt need to denigrate the customs, culture and institutions that are identifiably ‘ours.’ … Yet the oiks’ vision of themselves as an intellectual aristocracy violates the first American principle ever articulated: ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.’ … This cannot be reconciled with the elitist notion that most men are economically insecure bitter clinging intolerant bigots who need to be governed by an educated elite. Marxism Lite is not only false; it is, according to the American creed, self-evidently false. That is why the liberal elite finds Americans revolting.” Did we put an “oik” in the White House?

An angry mob – in Obama’s home state: “Sixty-five percent (65%) of Likely Voters in Illinois are at least somewhat angry at the current policies of the federal government, according to a new Rasmussen Reports statewide telephone survey. That finding matches the level measured nationally, and includes 41% who are Very Angry at the government’s policies.” Who’s funding them, I wonder?

A “bit”? “Democrats are undercutting their campaign message by condemning Republican economic policies while calling for the extension of Bush-era tax cuts. ‘It’s hard to say the Republican economic policies were bad, [and] then continue them,’ Paul Begala, Democratic strategist and former advisor to President Clinton, told The Hill. ‘That is a bit of a mixed message.'”

A forceful objection from Debra Burlingame to Mayor Bloomberg’s claim that 9/11 families support the Ground Zero mosque: “Mr. Bloomberg has now crossed the line from merely supporting the mosque to participating in a public campaign aimed at silencing its critics. He has improperly invoked private conversations of 9/11 family board members who, unfortunately, are all too aware of his power, both as chair of the foundation which will memorialize their loved ones and as mayor of a city where that memorial will be built. He is recklessly wreaking havoc among families, running from media event to radio interview to photo op to Comedy Central gagfest, shamelessly hawking this narrative that we, those whose family members were the true victims of religious intolerance, must also carry the burden of proving we’re not intolerant. He’s a disgrace.”

A sober take from Mara Liasson: “I think there is a lot of gloom and doom among Democrats. And their hope now is that individual races with candidates who have a lot of money and have good get-out-the-vote operations can somehow survive what is looking to be a really big anti-Democratic wave in November.” And from Liasson and Juan Williams on the midterms: “LIASSON: But the fact is it is a referendum. WILLIAMS: If it’s a referendum on Obama, the Democrats lose.” Yup. Big time.

Read Less

What’s Wrong with Obama’s Muslim Outreach

Richard Haass of the Council on Foreign Relations has, of late, shown what those on the left like to say of conservative justices shifting their way — “growth.” He has come out squarely in favor of regime change in Iran. And he has criticized Obama for his ill-advised fixation on the “peace process.” But the Ground Zero mosque controversy is not his finest hour. In a symposium on the topic, he writes of his concern about opinion abroad:

What I have in mind is anti-Americanism, a possible response to increasingly strident statements by Americans that appear to be anti-Muslim. And such anti-Americanism has unfortunate potential: It can breed tolerance of or, worse yet, support for radicalism and terrorism, and it can stimulate opposition to American policies as well as to local leaders in Arab and Muslim-majority countries who associate themselves with the United States. This has the potential to take a toll on prospects for U.S. policies throughout the greater Middle East, including U.S. efforts designed to promote peace, stabilize Iraq and Afghanistan, and isolate Iran.

What statements, exactly, appear to be anti-Muslim? Has any elected official disputed that there is a constitutional right for the mosque to be built? Perhaps if he identified which mosque opponents are appearing to be anti- Muslim (Howard Dean? Abe Foxman? Harry Reid?), he might have a stronger argument. But the rest of those comments are the type of pablum one usually hears from the White House: we shouldn’t do things (e.g., leave open Guantanamo, criticize a mosque on the ashes of Americans killed in the name of Islam) that will make Muslims mad at us.

Listen, radical jihadists need no excuses. They attacked us on 9/11 and before that and will continue to do so because their radical vision of Islamic domination compels them to.  And as for allegation that we “breed intolerance” by defending our values or taking robust action in the war against Islamic radicals, well, there is no evidence it is true. And, moreover, so what? Should we cease support of Israel as well? That gets even “moderate” Muslims very upset.  The premise, which infects the entire Muslim-outreach gambit, is that we must walk on egg shells, defer to Muslim sensibilities, and show deference to those who object to our legitimate concerns. It is a formula likely to be interpreted as abject weakness and unlikely to garner many new friends. Haass ends by pleading for the entire episode to go away; it is, I think, a difficult subject for him.

However, in the same symposium, Dan Senor has no problem setting forth the anti-mosque position:

Supporters of the Ground Zero Mosque typically cite religious freedom. I do not object to the mosque because it is a mosque, nor do I have any wish to curtail Islamic freedom of worship. Where a particular facility is sited is not a matter of religious liberty. My concern is that two blocks from Ground Zero is an inappropriate and insensitive location for this center.

In the minds of those who are swayed by the most radical interpretations of Islam, the “Ground Zero Mosque” will not be seen as a center for peace and reconciliation. It will rather be celebrated as a monument erected on the site of a great “military” victory. This reality is clear enough after studying the recruitment propaganda used by terrorist groups that exists on the web and elsewhere. Progressive Muslim leaders who reject the link between Islam and the radicalism espoused by al-Qaeda must be wary of helping to further this rhetoric, even inadvertently.

In short, he doesn’t buy into the idea that capitulating to a provocative act will inure to our benefit in the “Muslim World” (and he cites evidence to support his argument). And he adds: “My deeper concern is what effect the Ground Zero Mosque would have on the families of 9/11 victims, survivors of and first responders to the attacks, and New Yorkers in general.” (Haass doesn’t mention any of them, by the way.)

This, in essence lays out the two sides in the debate as to how we should approach the “Muslim World.” Obama has tried Muslim outreach, and he’s hamstrung us on interrogation of jihadist suspects. He has figuratively and literally genuflected before Muslim leaders. It’s not working. Here’s an idea, a different sort of approach: he once told American Jewish leaders to go self-reflect about Israel (a strange admonition for a community that does little else), so how about calling in American Muslim leaders to do the same. Reflect on their reluctance to label Hamas and Hezbollah terrorist groups, reflect on their lack of empathy for fellow citizens and survivors of those killed on 9/11, and reflect on their failure to repudiate statements that America is responsible for 9/11.

No, it’s never going to happen, and we should ask why that is. It may lead us to the central fallacy that underlies Obama and much of the left’s strategy in cultivating favorable Muslim public opinion: they believe subservience breeds respect.

Richard Haass of the Council on Foreign Relations has, of late, shown what those on the left like to say of conservative justices shifting their way — “growth.” He has come out squarely in favor of regime change in Iran. And he has criticized Obama for his ill-advised fixation on the “peace process.” But the Ground Zero mosque controversy is not his finest hour. In a symposium on the topic, he writes of his concern about opinion abroad:

What I have in mind is anti-Americanism, a possible response to increasingly strident statements by Americans that appear to be anti-Muslim. And such anti-Americanism has unfortunate potential: It can breed tolerance of or, worse yet, support for radicalism and terrorism, and it can stimulate opposition to American policies as well as to local leaders in Arab and Muslim-majority countries who associate themselves with the United States. This has the potential to take a toll on prospects for U.S. policies throughout the greater Middle East, including U.S. efforts designed to promote peace, stabilize Iraq and Afghanistan, and isolate Iran.

What statements, exactly, appear to be anti-Muslim? Has any elected official disputed that there is a constitutional right for the mosque to be built? Perhaps if he identified which mosque opponents are appearing to be anti- Muslim (Howard Dean? Abe Foxman? Harry Reid?), he might have a stronger argument. But the rest of those comments are the type of pablum one usually hears from the White House: we shouldn’t do things (e.g., leave open Guantanamo, criticize a mosque on the ashes of Americans killed in the name of Islam) that will make Muslims mad at us.

Listen, radical jihadists need no excuses. They attacked us on 9/11 and before that and will continue to do so because their radical vision of Islamic domination compels them to.  And as for allegation that we “breed intolerance” by defending our values or taking robust action in the war against Islamic radicals, well, there is no evidence it is true. And, moreover, so what? Should we cease support of Israel as well? That gets even “moderate” Muslims very upset.  The premise, which infects the entire Muslim-outreach gambit, is that we must walk on egg shells, defer to Muslim sensibilities, and show deference to those who object to our legitimate concerns. It is a formula likely to be interpreted as abject weakness and unlikely to garner many new friends. Haass ends by pleading for the entire episode to go away; it is, I think, a difficult subject for him.

However, in the same symposium, Dan Senor has no problem setting forth the anti-mosque position:

Supporters of the Ground Zero Mosque typically cite religious freedom. I do not object to the mosque because it is a mosque, nor do I have any wish to curtail Islamic freedom of worship. Where a particular facility is sited is not a matter of religious liberty. My concern is that two blocks from Ground Zero is an inappropriate and insensitive location for this center.

In the minds of those who are swayed by the most radical interpretations of Islam, the “Ground Zero Mosque” will not be seen as a center for peace and reconciliation. It will rather be celebrated as a monument erected on the site of a great “military” victory. This reality is clear enough after studying the recruitment propaganda used by terrorist groups that exists on the web and elsewhere. Progressive Muslim leaders who reject the link between Islam and the radicalism espoused by al-Qaeda must be wary of helping to further this rhetoric, even inadvertently.

In short, he doesn’t buy into the idea that capitulating to a provocative act will inure to our benefit in the “Muslim World” (and he cites evidence to support his argument). And he adds: “My deeper concern is what effect the Ground Zero Mosque would have on the families of 9/11 victims, survivors of and first responders to the attacks, and New Yorkers in general.” (Haass doesn’t mention any of them, by the way.)

This, in essence lays out the two sides in the debate as to how we should approach the “Muslim World.” Obama has tried Muslim outreach, and he’s hamstrung us on interrogation of jihadist suspects. He has figuratively and literally genuflected before Muslim leaders. It’s not working. Here’s an idea, a different sort of approach: he once told American Jewish leaders to go self-reflect about Israel (a strange admonition for a community that does little else), so how about calling in American Muslim leaders to do the same. Reflect on their reluctance to label Hamas and Hezbollah terrorist groups, reflect on their lack of empathy for fellow citizens and survivors of those killed on 9/11, and reflect on their failure to repudiate statements that America is responsible for 9/11.

No, it’s never going to happen, and we should ask why that is. It may lead us to the central fallacy that underlies Obama and much of the left’s strategy in cultivating favorable Muslim public opinion: they believe subservience breeds respect.

Read Less

The Comeuppance

As the left has become increasingly frustrated with a large majority of the country over the Ground Zero mosque, its leaders have, as Charles Krauthammer describes, reached for their defense of last resort: “Pull out the bigotry charge, the trump that preempts debate and gives no credit to the seriousness and substance of the contrary argument.” He explains:

This smug attribution of bigotry to two-thirds of the population hinges on the insistence on a complete lack of connection between Islam and radical Islam, a proposition that dovetails perfectly with the Obama administration’s pretense that we are at war with nothing more than “violent extremists” of inscrutable motive and indiscernible belief. Those who reject this as both ridiculous and politically correct (an admitted redundancy) are declared Islamophobes, the ad hominem du jour.

It is a measure of the corruption of liberal thought and the collapse of its self-confidence that, finding itself so widely repudiated, it resorts reflexively to the cheapest race-baiting (in a colorful variety of forms).

The election, Ground Zero mosque notwithstanding, was not going to be pretty for the Democrats. But at least it could be, the chattering class reasoned (not convincingly, but in the dead of night, thinking of what they could say on CNN or MSNBC when the right was in full gloat), chalked up to the economy. Not Obama’s policies about the economy, mind you. But the economy. Bush screwed things up worse than they ever imagined. Or something like that.

Now, however, the election is about more than the liberal agenda; it is about liberals themselves. It turns out the left — shocking, I know — predominates in the media and White House but not in the country. They are outnumbered, vastly so. And they forgot to be ingratiating and polite to the rubes with the ballots. The result, Kauthammer predicts, will be “a comeuppance [that] is due the arrogant elites whose undisguised contempt for the great unwashed prevents them from conceding a modicum of serious thought to those who dare oppose them.”

The voters, I suspect, have had it with the sneers and, yes, the race-card playing. They’ve had it with being told things they know aren’t so. They’ve had it with being called un-American. They have had it with insane accusations that they are paid opponents of ObamaCare or the Ground Zero mosque.

The public has reason to dislike not merely the policies but also the ethos of the liberal governing class. They have every right to be mad and to throw them out. So naturally, that makes them racists.

As the left has become increasingly frustrated with a large majority of the country over the Ground Zero mosque, its leaders have, as Charles Krauthammer describes, reached for their defense of last resort: “Pull out the bigotry charge, the trump that preempts debate and gives no credit to the seriousness and substance of the contrary argument.” He explains:

This smug attribution of bigotry to two-thirds of the population hinges on the insistence on a complete lack of connection between Islam and radical Islam, a proposition that dovetails perfectly with the Obama administration’s pretense that we are at war with nothing more than “violent extremists” of inscrutable motive and indiscernible belief. Those who reject this as both ridiculous and politically correct (an admitted redundancy) are declared Islamophobes, the ad hominem du jour.

It is a measure of the corruption of liberal thought and the collapse of its self-confidence that, finding itself so widely repudiated, it resorts reflexively to the cheapest race-baiting (in a colorful variety of forms).

The election, Ground Zero mosque notwithstanding, was not going to be pretty for the Democrats. But at least it could be, the chattering class reasoned (not convincingly, but in the dead of night, thinking of what they could say on CNN or MSNBC when the right was in full gloat), chalked up to the economy. Not Obama’s policies about the economy, mind you. But the economy. Bush screwed things up worse than they ever imagined. Or something like that.

Now, however, the election is about more than the liberal agenda; it is about liberals themselves. It turns out the left — shocking, I know — predominates in the media and White House but not in the country. They are outnumbered, vastly so. And they forgot to be ingratiating and polite to the rubes with the ballots. The result, Kauthammer predicts, will be “a comeuppance [that] is due the arrogant elites whose undisguised contempt for the great unwashed prevents them from conceding a modicum of serious thought to those who dare oppose them.”

The voters, I suspect, have had it with the sneers and, yes, the race-card playing. They’ve had it with being told things they know aren’t so. They’ve had it with being called un-American. They have had it with insane accusations that they are paid opponents of ObamaCare or the Ground Zero mosque.

The public has reason to dislike not merely the policies but also the ethos of the liberal governing class. They have every right to be mad and to throw them out. So naturally, that makes them racists.

Read Less

Taking a Beating

Less than 70 days before the election, Pennsylvania voters are not impressed with a candidate who rubber-stamped 97.8 percent of the Obama-Pelosi agenda.(I guess the president and speaker were insufficiently radical 2.2 percent of the time). They have not warmed to a pol who promised on his website that he wouldn’t take money from earmark recipients but who discounts such pledges as “personal.” That might be true of his affirmations of affection for Israel — a matter of convenience, non-binding and inconsistent with his actions. And there too, Pennsylvania voters lack a soft spot for CAIR’s keynoter, a Gaza-54-letter signatory, defender of the Ground Zero mosque, and fan of the UN and the UN Human Rights Council. So, Rep. Joe Sestak is in deep trouble.

In fact, Pennsylvania’s voters are running from him in droves; in the latest poll, he trails Pat Toomey by 9 points. His support is down to a meager 31 percent.  Not all of this is Sestak’s doing; Obama is a millstone around Sestak’s neck. But it’s hard to imagine how Sestak could have run a worse race — or how, in its highest-profile endorsement, J street could have picked a worse surrogate for its Israel-bashing platform. Unless something radically shakes up the race, both Sestak and his J Street patrons are likely to be not only beaten but also embarrassed on election day.

Less than 70 days before the election, Pennsylvania voters are not impressed with a candidate who rubber-stamped 97.8 percent of the Obama-Pelosi agenda.(I guess the president and speaker were insufficiently radical 2.2 percent of the time). They have not warmed to a pol who promised on his website that he wouldn’t take money from earmark recipients but who discounts such pledges as “personal.” That might be true of his affirmations of affection for Israel — a matter of convenience, non-binding and inconsistent with his actions. And there too, Pennsylvania voters lack a soft spot for CAIR’s keynoter, a Gaza-54-letter signatory, defender of the Ground Zero mosque, and fan of the UN and the UN Human Rights Council. So, Rep. Joe Sestak is in deep trouble.

In fact, Pennsylvania’s voters are running from him in droves; in the latest poll, he trails Pat Toomey by 9 points. His support is down to a meager 31 percent.  Not all of this is Sestak’s doing; Obama is a millstone around Sestak’s neck. But it’s hard to imagine how Sestak could have run a worse race — or how, in its highest-profile endorsement, J street could have picked a worse surrogate for its Israel-bashing platform. Unless something radically shakes up the race, both Sestak and his J Street patrons are likely to be not only beaten but also embarrassed on election day.

Read Less

Flacking for the Ground Zero Mosque Imam

The State Department should stop digging. The decision to send Imam Rauf abroad at the American taxpayers’ expense is bad enough. But now the striped-pants guys are flacking for him, pushing the victimology meme:

The State Department’s top spokesman cautioned reporters Tuesday not to take snippets of edited remarks on the Internet by the “Ground Zero mosque” imam and use them to brand him a radical, lest they repeat the mistakes made by the media in calling former USDA official Shirley Sherrod a racist based on edited clips of her promoted on conservative websites. …

P.J. Crowley, the assistant secretary of state for public affairs, told reporters Tuesday that they shouldn’t be quick to take those remarks out of context.

“I would just caution any of you that choose to write on this, that once again you have a case where a blogger has pulled out one passage from a very lengthy speech. If you read the entire speech, you will discover exactly why we think he is rightly participating in this national speaking tour.”

The additional excerpts from the speech include many frothy generalizations about reconciliation and peace, but is the State Department really not able to find a Muslim who says those sorts of lovely things and who can manage to refrain from blaming the U.S. for 9/11? Is the administration so badly advised that it has no access to a Muslim spokesperson who specifically condemns Hamas as a terrorist group?

The episode is among the more embarrassing ones for Hillary Clinton’s  State Department. That may explain, frankly, why she’s been mum on the subject. But if she hopes to salvage what splinters are left of her credibility, she might suggest that her spokesman stop flacking for the imam who thinks her country is as bad as al-Qaeda. There simply is no “context” that justifies or ameliorates such malice.

The State Department should stop digging. The decision to send Imam Rauf abroad at the American taxpayers’ expense is bad enough. But now the striped-pants guys are flacking for him, pushing the victimology meme:

The State Department’s top spokesman cautioned reporters Tuesday not to take snippets of edited remarks on the Internet by the “Ground Zero mosque” imam and use them to brand him a radical, lest they repeat the mistakes made by the media in calling former USDA official Shirley Sherrod a racist based on edited clips of her promoted on conservative websites. …

P.J. Crowley, the assistant secretary of state for public affairs, told reporters Tuesday that they shouldn’t be quick to take those remarks out of context.

“I would just caution any of you that choose to write on this, that once again you have a case where a blogger has pulled out one passage from a very lengthy speech. If you read the entire speech, you will discover exactly why we think he is rightly participating in this national speaking tour.”

The additional excerpts from the speech include many frothy generalizations about reconciliation and peace, but is the State Department really not able to find a Muslim who says those sorts of lovely things and who can manage to refrain from blaming the U.S. for 9/11? Is the administration so badly advised that it has no access to a Muslim spokesperson who specifically condemns Hamas as a terrorist group?

The episode is among the more embarrassing ones for Hillary Clinton’s  State Department. That may explain, frankly, why she’s been mum on the subject. But if she hopes to salvage what splinters are left of her credibility, she might suggest that her spokesman stop flacking for the imam who thinks her country is as bad as al-Qaeda. There simply is no “context” that justifies or ameliorates such malice.

Read Less

Another ‘Bigot’ Comes Out Against the Mosque

No, Sheldon Silver is no more a bigot than Howard Dean or the legions of conservatives who oppose the Ground Zero mosque. But he — arguably the most powerful Democrat in New York — has come out against the mosque:

New York Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, who represents the lower Manhattan district where ground zero is, suggested Tuesday that Islamic leaders should move the proposed mosque. [Gov. David] Paterson has made the same point. Organizers have the right to build the center at a building two blocks from ground zero but should be open to compromise, Silver said. “In the spirit of living with others, they should be cognizant of the feelings of others and try to find a location that doesn’t engender the deep feelings the currently exist about this site,” Silver said.

“I think the sponsors should take into very serious consideration the kind of turmoil that’s been created and look to compromise,” he added.

The charge that opposition to the Ground Zero mosque is just a function of conservative Islamophobia gets more ridiculous every day. It might be time for the pro–Ground Zero left to give up the fight. With each day, the mosque supporters appear increasingly shrill and isolated from reality. Unfortunately, the out-to-lunch group includes the president.

No, Sheldon Silver is no more a bigot than Howard Dean or the legions of conservatives who oppose the Ground Zero mosque. But he — arguably the most powerful Democrat in New York — has come out against the mosque:

New York Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, who represents the lower Manhattan district where ground zero is, suggested Tuesday that Islamic leaders should move the proposed mosque. [Gov. David] Paterson has made the same point. Organizers have the right to build the center at a building two blocks from ground zero but should be open to compromise, Silver said. “In the spirit of living with others, they should be cognizant of the feelings of others and try to find a location that doesn’t engender the deep feelings the currently exist about this site,” Silver said.

“I think the sponsors should take into very serious consideration the kind of turmoil that’s been created and look to compromise,” he added.

The charge that opposition to the Ground Zero mosque is just a function of conservative Islamophobia gets more ridiculous every day. It might be time for the pro–Ground Zero left to give up the fight. With each day, the mosque supporters appear increasingly shrill and isolated from reality. Unfortunately, the out-to-lunch group includes the president.

Read Less

Western Culture and the Mosque II

At Atlas Shrugs, Pam Geller has the transcript of a lecture given by Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf in Australia in 2005. What strikes me most about it is how well its sentiments align with the canon of left-wing elitist thought in the West. Rauf’s 2005 address is a textbook example of playing on the heroic civilizational guilt perpetually assumed by the Western left.

There’s hardly a shibboleth left uninvoked by the time Rauf is done. It’s actually funny to tote them up:  there are the obligatory references to America having blood on its hands; to our bomber aircraft generating the pretext for terrorism; to “U.S.-led sanctions against Iraq” killing half a million children; to the N-word and our penchant for “creating ethnic conflicts”; to the British colonial authorities bringing division and strife to the Middle East.

Of Islam, Rauf says the following:

From the point of view of Islamic theology, Islamic jurisprudence and Islamic history, the vast majority of Islamic history, it has been shaped or defined by a notion of multiculturalism and multireligiosity, if you might use that term.

The point is not whether this is true or false; the point is that Rauf chooses to make his case in these button-pushing terms. He is also perfectly aligned with the Western left in his take on Israel and the Palestinian Arabs. In his view:

[A] resolution of the Arab-Israeli conflict [is] number one on the list of things that need to be done because you address this problem and a whole host of problems will be addressed automatically.

But he frames the Israeli role with prejudice. “Israelis,” he says, “have moved beyond Zionism.”

It’s like ticking off a checklist. The U.S. media have comfortably framed the debate over the Park 51 mosque as a case of Middle America versus Islam, but in a very real sense, as others have noted, it’s a case of Middle America versus our leftist cultural elite. In that sense, it almost doesn’t matter what Imam Rauf “really” believes or intends.  What matters is that he tailors his appeals to a Western cultural elite from which Middle America is decisively alienated.

There are many reasons for this internecine alienation, only a small percentage of them related to radical Islamism. Regarding the Ground Zero mosque itself, arguments can be advanced about the dangerous opportunities it may give Islamists. But I suspect that one of the most egregious offenses perceived by average Americans is that our cultural elite is – once again – ridiculing and abusing the people for not hewing to a narrative of culpability and self-abnegation that has no constructive purpose.

At Atlas Shrugs, Pam Geller has the transcript of a lecture given by Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf in Australia in 2005. What strikes me most about it is how well its sentiments align with the canon of left-wing elitist thought in the West. Rauf’s 2005 address is a textbook example of playing on the heroic civilizational guilt perpetually assumed by the Western left.

There’s hardly a shibboleth left uninvoked by the time Rauf is done. It’s actually funny to tote them up:  there are the obligatory references to America having blood on its hands; to our bomber aircraft generating the pretext for terrorism; to “U.S.-led sanctions against Iraq” killing half a million children; to the N-word and our penchant for “creating ethnic conflicts”; to the British colonial authorities bringing division and strife to the Middle East.

Of Islam, Rauf says the following:

From the point of view of Islamic theology, Islamic jurisprudence and Islamic history, the vast majority of Islamic history, it has been shaped or defined by a notion of multiculturalism and multireligiosity, if you might use that term.

The point is not whether this is true or false; the point is that Rauf chooses to make his case in these button-pushing terms. He is also perfectly aligned with the Western left in his take on Israel and the Palestinian Arabs. In his view:

[A] resolution of the Arab-Israeli conflict [is] number one on the list of things that need to be done because you address this problem and a whole host of problems will be addressed automatically.

But he frames the Israeli role with prejudice. “Israelis,” he says, “have moved beyond Zionism.”

It’s like ticking off a checklist. The U.S. media have comfortably framed the debate over the Park 51 mosque as a case of Middle America versus Islam, but in a very real sense, as others have noted, it’s a case of Middle America versus our leftist cultural elite. In that sense, it almost doesn’t matter what Imam Rauf “really” believes or intends.  What matters is that he tailors his appeals to a Western cultural elite from which Middle America is decisively alienated.

There are many reasons for this internecine alienation, only a small percentage of them related to radical Islamism. Regarding the Ground Zero mosque itself, arguments can be advanced about the dangerous opportunities it may give Islamists. But I suspect that one of the most egregious offenses perceived by average Americans is that our cultural elite is – once again – ridiculing and abusing the people for not hewing to a narrative of culpability and self-abnegation that has no constructive purpose.

Read Less

Less Is More

Gallup tells us:

President Obama’s job approval rating slipped to 43% for the week of Aug. 16-22, down one percentage point from the previous weekly low set a week ago.

The new low also marks the first weekly average in which 50% of Americans disapprove of Obama’s job performance. The erosion reflects particularly low ratings at the beginning of last week, including 41% for Aug. 15-17 and Aug. 16-18, the lowest three-day averages of his administration. By the end of the week, however, Obama’s job ratings inched up, averaging 44% approval Aug. 20-22.

The president arrived at Martha’s Vineyard, Mass., on Thursday, settling in with his family for a 10-day vacation, and for the most part dropping out of the daily news cycle. Whether this contributed to his slightly better ratings near the end of the week cannot be determined.

Could it be that less is more, that Obama’s flood-the-zone media approach is precisely wrong? Maybe Americans, both on the right and left, are so annoyed with him that merely disappearing from the TV screen helps his standing.

Judging from how upset people are over the Ground Zero mosque, this makes sense. Unfortunately for Democrats on the ballot, sooner or later Obama will be back from vacation and omnipresent again. But it could be worse — he could give another Oval Office address. The last one, as you may remember, sent his ratings skidding and drove his supporters to distraction.

Gallup tells us:

President Obama’s job approval rating slipped to 43% for the week of Aug. 16-22, down one percentage point from the previous weekly low set a week ago.

The new low also marks the first weekly average in which 50% of Americans disapprove of Obama’s job performance. The erosion reflects particularly low ratings at the beginning of last week, including 41% for Aug. 15-17 and Aug. 16-18, the lowest three-day averages of his administration. By the end of the week, however, Obama’s job ratings inched up, averaging 44% approval Aug. 20-22.

The president arrived at Martha’s Vineyard, Mass., on Thursday, settling in with his family for a 10-day vacation, and for the most part dropping out of the daily news cycle. Whether this contributed to his slightly better ratings near the end of the week cannot be determined.

Could it be that less is more, that Obama’s flood-the-zone media approach is precisely wrong? Maybe Americans, both on the right and left, are so annoyed with him that merely disappearing from the TV screen helps his standing.

Judging from how upset people are over the Ground Zero mosque, this makes sense. Unfortunately for Democrats on the ballot, sooner or later Obama will be back from vacation and omnipresent again. But it could be worse — he could give another Oval Office address. The last one, as you may remember, sent his ratings skidding and drove his supporters to distraction.

Read Less

Let’s Talk About Reconciliation

As Abe details, the left has become so infuriated at critics of the Ground Zero mosque and so exasperated with Obama’s performance that it’s verging on the unintelligible. But while the left and the objects of its affection — the mosque builders — rage at those who want the mosque to simply be moved, they have given additional ammunition to the critics who have decried the Ground Zero mosque as more of a provocation and stunt than a symbol of healing.

Eric Cantor makes this point skillfully today:

Everyone accepts the fact that radical jihadists were the ones that perpetrated this crime — leave out the state sponsorship — everyone knows the reasons those individuals boarded those planes that morning was because they felt their religion — Islam allowed them to do it, or their version of Islam,” Cantor said.

If they wanted to build a mosque somewhere else, Cantor said he’d be in favor of it.

“But think about it,” he said. “Why would you want, as an imam, why would you want to put a cultural center right there if it’s meant to heal people when right away it’s caused such a national uproar? That is in and of itself evident of the fact that they’re not interested in healing or bringing people together. They’re interested in posing their view. That’s what so insensitive about it.”

And look at the results. The pro-mosque side has resorted to name-calling and offensive analogies. The cause of “reconciliation” has been set back and the entire country is now discussing why so many people are confused about Obama’s religion.

But this is really par for the course when it comes to the entire notion of Muslim outreach. The outreach is expected to go one way. When those supposed to be solicitous of Muslim sensitivities instead proffer their own interests, they are accused of being nationalistic, xenophobic, racist, and following in the footsteps of anti-Semites. My, this sounds like a faint echo of what Israel is subjected to every day.

Peace, reconciliation, tolerance — these all are cooperative activities. Perhaps the entire notion of “Muslim outreach” is flawed, based on the mistaken idea that one side — that would be the non-Muslim World — must atone, seek forgiveness, and boost the other’s ego. That, we are seeing, both here and in the Middle East is a recipe for disaster, for it enfeebles one side and alleviates them of the responsibility to examine their own actions, modify their behavior, and understand that their opponents’ concerns are grounded in history and experience. Like the “peace process,” it turns out that “Muslim outreach” creates more problems than it solves.

As Abe details, the left has become so infuriated at critics of the Ground Zero mosque and so exasperated with Obama’s performance that it’s verging on the unintelligible. But while the left and the objects of its affection — the mosque builders — rage at those who want the mosque to simply be moved, they have given additional ammunition to the critics who have decried the Ground Zero mosque as more of a provocation and stunt than a symbol of healing.

Eric Cantor makes this point skillfully today:

Everyone accepts the fact that radical jihadists were the ones that perpetrated this crime — leave out the state sponsorship — everyone knows the reasons those individuals boarded those planes that morning was because they felt their religion — Islam allowed them to do it, or their version of Islam,” Cantor said.

If they wanted to build a mosque somewhere else, Cantor said he’d be in favor of it.

“But think about it,” he said. “Why would you want, as an imam, why would you want to put a cultural center right there if it’s meant to heal people when right away it’s caused such a national uproar? That is in and of itself evident of the fact that they’re not interested in healing or bringing people together. They’re interested in posing their view. That’s what so insensitive about it.”

And look at the results. The pro-mosque side has resorted to name-calling and offensive analogies. The cause of “reconciliation” has been set back and the entire country is now discussing why so many people are confused about Obama’s religion.

But this is really par for the course when it comes to the entire notion of Muslim outreach. The outreach is expected to go one way. When those supposed to be solicitous of Muslim sensitivities instead proffer their own interests, they are accused of being nationalistic, xenophobic, racist, and following in the footsteps of anti-Semites. My, this sounds like a faint echo of what Israel is subjected to every day.

Peace, reconciliation, tolerance — these all are cooperative activities. Perhaps the entire notion of “Muslim outreach” is flawed, based on the mistaken idea that one side — that would be the non-Muslim World — must atone, seek forgiveness, and boost the other’s ego. That, we are seeing, both here and in the Middle East is a recipe for disaster, for it enfeebles one side and alleviates them of the responsibility to examine their own actions, modify their behavior, and understand that their opponents’ concerns are grounded in history and experience. Like the “peace process,” it turns out that “Muslim outreach” creates more problems than it solves.

Read Less

Desperation Time

The Democrats are now in full retreat. Less 75 days before the midterm elections, the Republicans have a historic lead in congressional generic polling. The president’s approval rating is sinking. It is now every man for himself, as the Democrats scramble to be the ones on the electoral lifeboat that will survive the electoral wave. The smarter and more vulnerable Democrats distance themselves from Obama on the Ground Zero mosque. A few savvy Senate Democrats back extension of the Bush tax cuts. And now they’re even promising to “improve” ObamaCare.

But wait. As to the latter, why not do it before the election? Hey, there is time. They claim that they’re not out of touch. They say the bill could use some work. So how about it, fellows? Oh, yes, I guess they don’t really mean it. This would be another gambit, a fraudulent inducement really, to convince voters to spare them the ax. We’ll put immigration reform at the top of the agenda. We’ll pass a budget. We’ll fix ObamaCare. Desperation rivals dishonesty as the central feature of their campaign strategy.

As the great philosopher Groucho Marx put it, you don’t like those principles? They’ve got other principles. Well, not a principle but an eye-rolling mantra of declining utility: George W. Bush.

It is worth pondering what they mean by invoking the name of the president whose approval is now higher than Obama’s in key congressional districts. The Republicans are going to start another surge and win the war in Iraq all over again? A Republican Senate will insist on judicial appointees of the caliber of John Roberts and Sam Alito? A Republican Congress will insist we not raise taxes in the midst of a recession or burden the private sector with a mind-numbingly complicated regimen of financial reforms? Many voters would say, “Sign me up!” As his brother Jeb Bush put it: “It’s a loser issue — they have a big L on their foreheads. If that’s all they’ve got, it’s a pretty good indication of the problems that the Democrats face in 2010.”

Then there is the old standby: insult the American people. We are bigots, rubes, and Constitutional illiterates, the left tells us. Finding themselves on the wrong side of an emotional issue, they have lashed out at the Ground Zero mosque opponents. It is too much even for Howard Dean: “I think some of my own folks on my end of the spectrum of the party are demonizing some fairly decent people that are opposed to this. Sixty-five percent of the people in this country are not right-wing biogts.” Aww, thanks, Howard. And it’s 68 percent, but who’s counting?

If you think the Democrats’ strategy seems scattered and bizarre, you are not alone. The voters, already cynical and angry, are unlikely to be charmed by transparent campaign inducements or to be scared by bogeymen. Nor are they likely to reward with their votes those labeling them racists. In fact, if the voters didn’t have reason to throw the Democrats out before, all of this may convince them it’s time to give others a chance.

The desperation of the left stems not merely from the prospect of an election wipeout but also from the potential for a repudiation of the undistilled liberal rule that has riled voters. The “permanent majority”, the shift from a center-right to a center-left country — that fantasy goes poof! The real possibility that ObamaCare will never go into effect, leaving as Obama’s sole accomplishment the completion of the Iraq war successfully waged against his objections, is no doubt terrifying to the left.

But if you think the Democrats are desperate now, wait until the election returns are in. The effort to explain the results — to furiously spin the returns as really good news for Obama and to simultaneously blame the results on anti-Muslim hysteria — will make the Democrats’ current campaign tactics seem tame and sane by comparison.

The Democrats are now in full retreat. Less 75 days before the midterm elections, the Republicans have a historic lead in congressional generic polling. The president’s approval rating is sinking. It is now every man for himself, as the Democrats scramble to be the ones on the electoral lifeboat that will survive the electoral wave. The smarter and more vulnerable Democrats distance themselves from Obama on the Ground Zero mosque. A few savvy Senate Democrats back extension of the Bush tax cuts. And now they’re even promising to “improve” ObamaCare.

But wait. As to the latter, why not do it before the election? Hey, there is time. They claim that they’re not out of touch. They say the bill could use some work. So how about it, fellows? Oh, yes, I guess they don’t really mean it. This would be another gambit, a fraudulent inducement really, to convince voters to spare them the ax. We’ll put immigration reform at the top of the agenda. We’ll pass a budget. We’ll fix ObamaCare. Desperation rivals dishonesty as the central feature of their campaign strategy.

As the great philosopher Groucho Marx put it, you don’t like those principles? They’ve got other principles. Well, not a principle but an eye-rolling mantra of declining utility: George W. Bush.

It is worth pondering what they mean by invoking the name of the president whose approval is now higher than Obama’s in key congressional districts. The Republicans are going to start another surge and win the war in Iraq all over again? A Republican Senate will insist on judicial appointees of the caliber of John Roberts and Sam Alito? A Republican Congress will insist we not raise taxes in the midst of a recession or burden the private sector with a mind-numbingly complicated regimen of financial reforms? Many voters would say, “Sign me up!” As his brother Jeb Bush put it: “It’s a loser issue — they have a big L on their foreheads. If that’s all they’ve got, it’s a pretty good indication of the problems that the Democrats face in 2010.”

Then there is the old standby: insult the American people. We are bigots, rubes, and Constitutional illiterates, the left tells us. Finding themselves on the wrong side of an emotional issue, they have lashed out at the Ground Zero mosque opponents. It is too much even for Howard Dean: “I think some of my own folks on my end of the spectrum of the party are demonizing some fairly decent people that are opposed to this. Sixty-five percent of the people in this country are not right-wing biogts.” Aww, thanks, Howard. And it’s 68 percent, but who’s counting?

If you think the Democrats’ strategy seems scattered and bizarre, you are not alone. The voters, already cynical and angry, are unlikely to be charmed by transparent campaign inducements or to be scared by bogeymen. Nor are they likely to reward with their votes those labeling them racists. In fact, if the voters didn’t have reason to throw the Democrats out before, all of this may convince them it’s time to give others a chance.

The desperation of the left stems not merely from the prospect of an election wipeout but also from the potential for a repudiation of the undistilled liberal rule that has riled voters. The “permanent majority”, the shift from a center-right to a center-left country — that fantasy goes poof! The real possibility that ObamaCare will never go into effect, leaving as Obama’s sole accomplishment the completion of the Iraq war successfully waged against his objections, is no doubt terrifying to the left.

But if you think the Democrats are desperate now, wait until the election returns are in. The effort to explain the results — to furiously spin the returns as really good news for Obama and to simultaneously blame the results on anti-Muslim hysteria — will make the Democrats’ current campaign tactics seem tame and sane by comparison.

Read Less

Gerson vs. Robinson

You have to give the Washington Post credit — their editors certainly offer a contrast on their op-ed pages. Today, needless to say, you have a Michael Gerson and Eugene Robinson. The difference is stark, and revealing.

From Gerson you have a measured analysis, which takes into account the series of events that have transformed Obama from a cult-like figure into a struggling and rather radioactive one. He writes:

The most destructive gap for President Obama is not the Republican lead on the generic congressional ballot or even a job disapproval that has surpassed approval — it is the gap between aspiration and reality.

The Manhattan mosque controversy showed the problem in compressed form. First came the Obama of high-toned principle (largely the right principle, in my view). Then a politically motivated recalibration. Then a scrambling staff explanation. Then an embarrassed silence, since it is difficult to clarify the clarification of a clarification. Then the president’s regretful assertion of “no regrets.”

I don’t agree with Gerson’s position on the mosque, but his rendition of the fact is exact and his list of other examples is overwhelmingly persuasive. He explains, “From the firing of Shirley Sherrod to the obsession with Fox News to lashing out at the ‘professional left,’ the Obama administration engages in a daily hypocrisy.” And then he provides still more examples to support his conclusion:

Politicians have been known to say one thing and do another. And high ideals and high rhetoric always create the potential for hypocrisy. But the disappointment with Obama is especially acute. He won office by providing new voters with intoxicating hopes. America was tipsy with idealism — resulting in a particularly difficult hangover. … All politicians fall — but not from such a height.

Then there is Eugene Robinson, who understandably must be at his wit’s end, as the politician in whom he and so many others on the left invested so much effort and so much of their own credibility to promote is now stumbling. His thesis is as bizarre as it is unsupported: “President Obama Is on a Winning Streak,” is the title of his column. Bet you’re confused, since he’s at an all-time low in the polls, his party faces an electoral wipe-out, his predictions of a summer of recovery have proven to be ludicrous, his party is so desperate as to promise to “improve” his “historic” health-care legislation, and he’s incurred the wrath of both supporters and critics of the Ground Zero mosque.

So what is Robinson’s argument based on (other than wishful thinking)? Well, there is Obama’s success in Iraq. Bet you thought that was George W. Bush’s (over the objections of Robinson and Obama), but now all praise is due to Obama because he said he’d bring the troops home. “When he took office, there were about 160,000 U.S. troops in Iraq on the heels of George W. Bush’s combat surge,” is how Robinson evades the historical record. That would be the surge, which led to an American victory and permitted Obama to bring home troops “on the heels” of a remarkable accomplishment. And he seems unaware of or chooses to ignore criticism from the right that the departure timetable is too abrupt and puts at risk the gains we have made. (“Even his scorched-earth Republican critics, by their silence, are acknowledging that the president has fulfilled his campaign promise to be ‘just as careful getting out of Iraq as we were reckless getting in.'”)  One half-truth, built on an evasion, topped off by a misrepresentation.

OK, what else does Robinson have? The GM bailout: “The company was saved, workers kept their jobs, and taxpayers are going to get their money back. That’s nice work.” Yes, but we haven’t gotten our money back. And in typical Keynesian fashion, he forgets that all the money spent on GM wasn’t used someplace else in the economy, perhaps to create more jobs in industries with a brighter future. But I will concede that it turned out better than many expected.

Then there is the BP oil spill. Robinson treats in this way the Democrats’ anger over the administration’s misrepresentation of the extent of the clean-up: “The administration’s claim that three-quarters of the oil was disposed of — by nature or by human intervention — before it could despoil the environment looks overly optimistic to some researchers. … But a few months ago, who imagined that the president and his family would so soon be able to enjoy a day on a gulf beach and a meal of gulf seafood?” And who could have imagined that he would have given a widely panned Oval Office speech, sent his poll numbers skidding, advertised the limits of overarching liberal government, and caught flack for not going to the Gulf on his first vacation? (He had to do a day of make-up later in the summer). Listen, I don’t think there’s a Democrat on the ballot willing to tout the BP oil spill as an Obama “win.”

And then, the cherry on the top of his frothy column is the Ground Zero mosque controversy. Big win for Obama. He must be joking, right? Nope.”Obama saw his duty to uphold the values of our Constitution and make clear that our fight is against the terrorists, not against Islam itself. Instead of doing what was popular, he did what was right.” And reversed himself within twenty-four hours. And incurred the ire of the left. And is giving his own party fits. Well, all that was left out.

What is missing in Robinson’s take — the economy, the poll news, the complete Mosque debacle — makes Gerson’s point. The gap between aspirations and results is now so wide that the only way to bridge it is to fudge the facts and leave out much of what has transpired over the last year. Robinson and Gerson come from opposing political perspectives. But the most noticeable difference is the degree to which they attend to the facts and are able to draw therefrom persuasive conclusions. In that department, there is no comparison.

You have to give the Washington Post credit — their editors certainly offer a contrast on their op-ed pages. Today, needless to say, you have a Michael Gerson and Eugene Robinson. The difference is stark, and revealing.

From Gerson you have a measured analysis, which takes into account the series of events that have transformed Obama from a cult-like figure into a struggling and rather radioactive one. He writes:

The most destructive gap for President Obama is not the Republican lead on the generic congressional ballot or even a job disapproval that has surpassed approval — it is the gap between aspiration and reality.

The Manhattan mosque controversy showed the problem in compressed form. First came the Obama of high-toned principle (largely the right principle, in my view). Then a politically motivated recalibration. Then a scrambling staff explanation. Then an embarrassed silence, since it is difficult to clarify the clarification of a clarification. Then the president’s regretful assertion of “no regrets.”

I don’t agree with Gerson’s position on the mosque, but his rendition of the fact is exact and his list of other examples is overwhelmingly persuasive. He explains, “From the firing of Shirley Sherrod to the obsession with Fox News to lashing out at the ‘professional left,’ the Obama administration engages in a daily hypocrisy.” And then he provides still more examples to support his conclusion:

Politicians have been known to say one thing and do another. And high ideals and high rhetoric always create the potential for hypocrisy. But the disappointment with Obama is especially acute. He won office by providing new voters with intoxicating hopes. America was tipsy with idealism — resulting in a particularly difficult hangover. … All politicians fall — but not from such a height.

Then there is Eugene Robinson, who understandably must be at his wit’s end, as the politician in whom he and so many others on the left invested so much effort and so much of their own credibility to promote is now stumbling. His thesis is as bizarre as it is unsupported: “President Obama Is on a Winning Streak,” is the title of his column. Bet you’re confused, since he’s at an all-time low in the polls, his party faces an electoral wipe-out, his predictions of a summer of recovery have proven to be ludicrous, his party is so desperate as to promise to “improve” his “historic” health-care legislation, and he’s incurred the wrath of both supporters and critics of the Ground Zero mosque.

So what is Robinson’s argument based on (other than wishful thinking)? Well, there is Obama’s success in Iraq. Bet you thought that was George W. Bush’s (over the objections of Robinson and Obama), but now all praise is due to Obama because he said he’d bring the troops home. “When he took office, there were about 160,000 U.S. troops in Iraq on the heels of George W. Bush’s combat surge,” is how Robinson evades the historical record. That would be the surge, which led to an American victory and permitted Obama to bring home troops “on the heels” of a remarkable accomplishment. And he seems unaware of or chooses to ignore criticism from the right that the departure timetable is too abrupt and puts at risk the gains we have made. (“Even his scorched-earth Republican critics, by their silence, are acknowledging that the president has fulfilled his campaign promise to be ‘just as careful getting out of Iraq as we were reckless getting in.'”)  One half-truth, built on an evasion, topped off by a misrepresentation.

OK, what else does Robinson have? The GM bailout: “The company was saved, workers kept their jobs, and taxpayers are going to get their money back. That’s nice work.” Yes, but we haven’t gotten our money back. And in typical Keynesian fashion, he forgets that all the money spent on GM wasn’t used someplace else in the economy, perhaps to create more jobs in industries with a brighter future. But I will concede that it turned out better than many expected.

Then there is the BP oil spill. Robinson treats in this way the Democrats’ anger over the administration’s misrepresentation of the extent of the clean-up: “The administration’s claim that three-quarters of the oil was disposed of — by nature or by human intervention — before it could despoil the environment looks overly optimistic to some researchers. … But a few months ago, who imagined that the president and his family would so soon be able to enjoy a day on a gulf beach and a meal of gulf seafood?” And who could have imagined that he would have given a widely panned Oval Office speech, sent his poll numbers skidding, advertised the limits of overarching liberal government, and caught flack for not going to the Gulf on his first vacation? (He had to do a day of make-up later in the summer). Listen, I don’t think there’s a Democrat on the ballot willing to tout the BP oil spill as an Obama “win.”

And then, the cherry on the top of his frothy column is the Ground Zero mosque controversy. Big win for Obama. He must be joking, right? Nope.”Obama saw his duty to uphold the values of our Constitution and make clear that our fight is against the terrorists, not against Islam itself. Instead of doing what was popular, he did what was right.” And reversed himself within twenty-four hours. And incurred the ire of the left. And is giving his own party fits. Well, all that was left out.

What is missing in Robinson’s take — the economy, the poll news, the complete Mosque debacle — makes Gerson’s point. The gap between aspirations and results is now so wide that the only way to bridge it is to fudge the facts and leave out much of what has transpired over the last year. Robinson and Gerson come from opposing political perspectives. But the most noticeable difference is the degree to which they attend to the facts and are able to draw therefrom persuasive conclusions. In that department, there is no comparison.

Read Less

Bipartisan Agreement at Last on ObamaCare

It was supposed to save them from electoral ruin. It was “historic.” It was going to be the final opportunity to address the issue. It was ObamaCare and now the Democrats, on the brink of an electoral wipe-out, are begging the electorate not to throw them out because they rammed it through. Their pitch? We’ll change ObamaCare. Yes, it has come to this.

Ben Smith reports:

Key White House allies are dramatically shifting their attempts to defend health-care legislation, abandoning claims that it will reduce costs and deficit, and instead stressing a promise to “improve it.”

The messaging shift was circulated this afternoon on a conference call and PowerPoint presentation organized by FamiliesUSA — one of the central groups in the push for the initial legislation. … [The presentation] suggests that Democrats are acknowledging the failure of their predictions that the health care legislation would grow more popular after its passage, as its benefits became clear and rhetoric cooled. Instead, the presentation is designed to win over a skeptical public, and to defend the legislation — and in particular the individual mandate — from a push for repeal.

The presentation also concedes that the fiscal and economic arguments that were the White House’s first and most aggressive sales pitch have essentially failed.

So now the contest is between the one party, which jammed ObamaCare through despite the public’s wishes, but now is experiencing an election-eve conversion, and the other, which opposed it all along and is promising to repeal it. If the bill is as bad as everyone now concedes it is and it won’t do what was promised (what the Democrats promised), what exactly is the rationale for re-electing the Democrats, who can no longer make a credible argument that it is a good bill, let alone an historic one?

It does give hope, however, that “repeal and reform,” the Republican mantra on ObamaCare, might have bipartisan support after the November election. Or, in the words of the politician derided for being dense but who’s far more in sync with the public than the president on just about every issue (e.g., ObamaCare, Israel, the war against Islamic jihadists, the Ground Zero mosque, the failed stimulus), maybe we can all agree to refudiate Obama.

It was supposed to save them from electoral ruin. It was “historic.” It was going to be the final opportunity to address the issue. It was ObamaCare and now the Democrats, on the brink of an electoral wipe-out, are begging the electorate not to throw them out because they rammed it through. Their pitch? We’ll change ObamaCare. Yes, it has come to this.

Ben Smith reports:

Key White House allies are dramatically shifting their attempts to defend health-care legislation, abandoning claims that it will reduce costs and deficit, and instead stressing a promise to “improve it.”

The messaging shift was circulated this afternoon on a conference call and PowerPoint presentation organized by FamiliesUSA — one of the central groups in the push for the initial legislation. … [The presentation] suggests that Democrats are acknowledging the failure of their predictions that the health care legislation would grow more popular after its passage, as its benefits became clear and rhetoric cooled. Instead, the presentation is designed to win over a skeptical public, and to defend the legislation — and in particular the individual mandate — from a push for repeal.

The presentation also concedes that the fiscal and economic arguments that were the White House’s first and most aggressive sales pitch have essentially failed.

So now the contest is between the one party, which jammed ObamaCare through despite the public’s wishes, but now is experiencing an election-eve conversion, and the other, which opposed it all along and is promising to repeal it. If the bill is as bad as everyone now concedes it is and it won’t do what was promised (what the Democrats promised), what exactly is the rationale for re-electing the Democrats, who can no longer make a credible argument that it is a good bill, let alone an historic one?

It does give hope, however, that “repeal and reform,” the Republican mantra on ObamaCare, might have bipartisan support after the November election. Or, in the words of the politician derided for being dense but who’s far more in sync with the public than the president on just about every issue (e.g., ObamaCare, Israel, the war against Islamic jihadists, the Ground Zero mosque, the failed stimulus), maybe we can all agree to refudiate Obama.

Read Less




Welcome to Commentary Magazine.
We hope you enjoy your visit.
As a visitor to our site, you are allowed 8 free articles this month.
This is your first of 8 free articles.

If you are already a digital subscriber, log in here »

Print subscriber? For free access to the website and iPad, register here »

To subscribe, click here to see our subscription offers »

Please note this is an advertisement skip this ad
Clearly, you have a passion for ideas.
Subscribe today for unlimited digital access to the publication that shapes the minds of the people who shape our world.
Get for just
YOU HAVE READ OF 8 FREE ARTICLES THIS MONTH.
FOR JUST
YOU HAVE READ OF 8 FREE ARTICLES THIS MONTH.
FOR JUST
Welcome to Commentary Magazine.
We hope you enjoy your visit.
As a visitor, you are allowed 8 free articles.
This is your first article.
You have read of 8 free articles this month.
YOU HAVE READ 8 OF 8
FREE ARTICLES THIS MONTH.
for full access to
CommentaryMagazine.com
INCLUDES FULL ACCESS TO:
Digital subscriber?
Print subscriber? Get free access »
Call to subscribe: 1-800-829-6270
You can also subscribe
on your computer at
CommentaryMagazine.com.
LOG IN WITH YOUR
COMMENTARY MAGAZINE ID
Don't have a CommentaryMagazine.com log in?
CREATE A COMMENTARY
LOG IN ID
Enter you email address and password below. A confirmation email will be sent to the email address that you provide.