Commentary Magazine


Topic: Harvard

Grade Inequality, Failures, and Presidential Candidates

As President Obama pivots to the issue of income inequality, Harvard has already advanced fairly far in eliminating grade inequality. At a faculty meeting earlier this month, Harvard government professor Harvey Mansfield elicited an admission from the dean of undergraduate education that the most common grade at Harvard now is an “A” (the term “Harvard fail” refers these days to a grade somewhere in the “B” range).

Last week, Harvard Magazine posted a sophisticated defense of the college’s grading system by Michael Zuckerman, a recent graduate whose remarkable commencement address in 2010 was a reflection on adversity and failure. Zuckerman noted the concerns that Harvard’s easy grading system was “failing to prepare its students to weather failure”–one of the inevitable post-graduate experiences. But he downplayed the significance of the inflated grades, since he found that Harvard provided many extracurricular ways to learn about failure. He cited a small-group class he had taken on community organizing:

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As President Obama pivots to the issue of income inequality, Harvard has already advanced fairly far in eliminating grade inequality. At a faculty meeting earlier this month, Harvard government professor Harvey Mansfield elicited an admission from the dean of undergraduate education that the most common grade at Harvard now is an “A” (the term “Harvard fail” refers these days to a grade somewhere in the “B” range).

Last week, Harvard Magazine posted a sophisticated defense of the college’s grading system by Michael Zuckerman, a recent graduate whose remarkable commencement address in 2010 was a reflection on adversity and failure. Zuckerman noted the concerns that Harvard’s easy grading system was “failing to prepare its students to weather failure”–one of the inevitable post-graduate experiences. But he downplayed the significance of the inflated grades, since he found that Harvard provided many extracurricular ways to learn about failure. He cited a small-group class he had taken on community organizing:

[The tutorial] was built entirely around controlled failure: each of the 10 students had to conceive, plan, and execute a 10-week organizing project around a salient social-justice issue. We were all highly optimistic at the outset—I launched, for example, a community-service program within a 2009 Democratic primary campaign for the U.S. Senate, hoping to spur a “service politics” movement—and, needless to say, we all came up short. It is, after all, nearly impossible to transform society in 10 weeks.

It is an example of failure teaching a good lesson. Perhaps there is a broader one: even four years may not be enough to fundamentally transform society, especially if you don’t learn the lessons of failure along the way. It may not even be enough time to implement your own signature legislation (notwithstanding your assurance to a joint session of Congress four years ago). As Zuckerman’s commencement address indicated, it can be a double loss if one not only suffers failure but fails to learn the lesson failure might have taught.

One wonders if President Obama ever took a class in community organizing (or the Middle East peace process), and what other classes he took, who taught them, what grades he received, etc.–back in the days when a transcript was a transcript. Unfortunately, the protective press did not make an issue of the non-disclosure when he first ran for president. The only reason we know about John Kerry’s college grades is he found himself during his own presidential campaign in a situation that can only be fully appreciated by those who know Shalom Aleichem’s great story, “The Yom Kippur Scandal.”

Harvard’s grading system seems unlikely to change soon; indeed, Princeton’s grading system seems to be moving in Harvard’s direction. But the good news is that, within a couple of decades, presidential candidates may no longer have to campaign under the constant fear that someone might puncture their pretensions by disclosing their college transcripts, since the transcripts by then will likely show all of them to have been A students. The candidates of the future will thus be able to focus fully on the issues of the day, such as hope, change, and their opponent’s record as a high school bully.

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Fight Fiercely Harvard (for the Humanities)

Don’t cry for humanities professors at Harvard. True, their share of concentrators (majors) is down from 21 percent in 2003 to 17 percent in 2012. And more worrying, the share of “would be” humanities concentrators has diminished, from 27 percent entering the class of 2006 to 18 percent entering the class of 2016. But Harvard’s numbers are much better than the national numbers; according to the National Center for Education Statistics, bachelor’s degrees awarded in the humanities nationwide made up only 7.6 percent of the total. It is therefore striking that Harvard’s Division of Arts and Humanities has produced a serious document like The Teaching of the Arts and Humanities at Harvard College: Mapping the Future, compiled by a committee of faculty this academic year and released at the end of May.

I have argued here before that the challenges now confronting higher education, from skepticism about the value of degrees to enthusiasm for massive open online courses, present an opening for proponents of liberal education to reassert themselves. When parents demand rigor, one can do worse than offer the cultivation of judgment through close examination of and reflection upon great works of philosophy, literature, and art that offer conflicting answers to complex, high-stakes questions. When students ask what residential colleges have to offer that they cannot get online, one can do worse than offer a community of inquiry into such works and questions, in which teachers and students meet face to face scrutinize each other’s arguments and interpretations, and through that experience learn how to address difficult, potentially divisive, questions with the aid of others. But I did not foresee that Harvard, which need not worry about how people perceive the value of its degree, and which seems to have positioned itself reasonably well with respect to online education, would make those arguments.

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Don’t cry for humanities professors at Harvard. True, their share of concentrators (majors) is down from 21 percent in 2003 to 17 percent in 2012. And more worrying, the share of “would be” humanities concentrators has diminished, from 27 percent entering the class of 2006 to 18 percent entering the class of 2016. But Harvard’s numbers are much better than the national numbers; according to the National Center for Education Statistics, bachelor’s degrees awarded in the humanities nationwide made up only 7.6 percent of the total. It is therefore striking that Harvard’s Division of Arts and Humanities has produced a serious document like The Teaching of the Arts and Humanities at Harvard College: Mapping the Future, compiled by a committee of faculty this academic year and released at the end of May.

I have argued here before that the challenges now confronting higher education, from skepticism about the value of degrees to enthusiasm for massive open online courses, present an opening for proponents of liberal education to reassert themselves. When parents demand rigor, one can do worse than offer the cultivation of judgment through close examination of and reflection upon great works of philosophy, literature, and art that offer conflicting answers to complex, high-stakes questions. When students ask what residential colleges have to offer that they cannot get online, one can do worse than offer a community of inquiry into such works and questions, in which teachers and students meet face to face scrutinize each other’s arguments and interpretations, and through that experience learn how to address difficult, potentially divisive, questions with the aid of others. But I did not foresee that Harvard, which need not worry about how people perceive the value of its degree, and which seems to have positioned itself reasonably well with respect to online education, would make those arguments.

Mapping the Future has several virtues. First, the humanists who put it together are hard on themselves. One of the most damaging statistics in the report, and the one which its writers most emphasize, is that students who come to Harvard intending to study the humanities often change their minds. Eighty-one percent of students who come to Harvard meaning to study the social sciences stick to them, but only 43 percent of Harvard’s would be humanists stick it out. It would have been tempting to blame “philistines” or “pragmatic parents” for the inability of Harvard humanists to keep hold of their young. But in the year of reflection that produced the report, the committee found little reason to place the blame there. “[W]e might do otherwise than blame someone else” and “instead engage in self-scrutiny.” Perhaps one is hearing “the footfall of undergraduate feet away from Humanities concentrations” because humanities professors do not address questions of interest to most undergraduates.

Second, the report proposes to “reaffirm the generalist tradition of undergraduate teaching.” Harvard’s humanities departments have “possibly become too specialized, allowing the research culture of our faculty and graduate constituencies to dominate the general needs of the undergraduate.” Immersion in a discipline, like history or classics, is an important part of undergraduate education, but teachers should teach “beyond their immediate zones of expertise (as some instructors do already)” and even beyond departmentally defined disciplines. Moreover, humanists should cherish the fact that in their classrooms, where learning cannot be completely disentangled from a personal encounter with the text, “the distance between instructor and student” diminishes; “both are on the spot, risking their hands.”

Third, the authors argue that undergraduate teaching can be reinvigorated by revisiting the so-called canon. They appropriately resist simply coronating the “works considered great by tradition,” but affirm that “great art and philosophy will always resist obsolescence.” Our “sense of what constitutes great art will change, but great art itself . . . does not become, better or worse.” The report invites students, whatever their religion, culture, or sex, into the “long and evergreen” tradition of studying great texts, which make demands on our capacity to live with ambiguity and adjudicate disagreements. The authors intimate that such texts are a model for openness from which humanities professors can benefit. Among “the ways we sometimes alienate students from the Humanities is the impression they get that some ideas are unspeakable in the classroom.” There is at least “a kernel of truth in conservative fears of the left-leaning academy.”

While this concession, and the report as a whole, is not by itself grounds for confidence that the present higher education environment favors the case for liberal education, it is grounds for hope. The authors of the report direct their argument primarily to their colleagues at Harvard; but when Harvard talks, people in higher education listen.

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Harvard’s Unbalanced Middle East Program

A former colleague alerted me to this item, a book talk tonight being sponsored by Harvard University’s Middle East Initiative:

Book Talk: Brokers of Deceit

Wednesday, April 10, 6:00-7:00pm

A conversation with Rashid Khalidi about his new book: Brokers of Deceit: How the U.S. Has Undermined Peace in the Middle East. Rashid Khalidi is the Edward Said Professor of Modern Arab Studies at Columbia University.

This event will be moderated by Stephen Walt, Robert and Renee Professor of International Affairs, Harvard Kennedy School.

Location: Bell Hall, 5th Floor, Belfer Building, Harvard Kennedy School

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A former colleague alerted me to this item, a book talk tonight being sponsored by Harvard University’s Middle East Initiative:

Book Talk: Brokers of Deceit

Wednesday, April 10, 6:00-7:00pm

A conversation with Rashid Khalidi about his new book: Brokers of Deceit: How the U.S. Has Undermined Peace in the Middle East. Rashid Khalidi is the Edward Said Professor of Modern Arab Studies at Columbia University.

This event will be moderated by Stephen Walt, Robert and Renee Professor of International Affairs, Harvard Kennedy School.

Location: Bell Hall, 5th Floor, Belfer Building, Harvard Kennedy School

Now, make no mistake: Harvard University has every right to sponsor such a talk. Free speech, however, does not excuse imbalance and poor scholarship. Both Rashid Khalidi—a Columbia University professor and former PLO spokesman—and Stephen Walt have, in recent years, substituted polemic for research, sought to score political points by massaging facts to fit theses, and otherwise undercut basic standards of academic integrity.

Tonight’s book talk could be valuable if Harvard—true to its embrace of veritas, truth—encouraged a real debate with professors who hold different views. Hagiography should have no place in the university. Alas, it seems increasingly the most prestigious academic institutions are most reluctant to encourage broad debate in which professors and guests directly challenge each other’s ideas. That was why just over a year ago, Harvard University blessed a remarkably one-sided conference on the region. Any professor with an iota of self-confidence in the quality of his work should not fear challenge. If this event is an indicator, Harvard’s Middle East Initiative has become more interested in indoctrination than education.

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Timing of Warren Statement is Shady

Elizabeth Warren finally acknowledged to the Boston Globe that she told Harvard University and the University of Pennsylvania she was Native American when she served on their faculties, but she continues to insist it had no influence on her hiring:

“At some point after I was hired by them, I . . . provided that information to the University of Pennsylvania and Harvard,’’ [Warren] said in a statement issued by her campaign. “My Native American heritage is part of who I am, I’m proud of it and I have been open about it.’’

Warren’s admission comes after the Boston Globe reported that Harvard University and the University of Pennsylvania cited a Native American faculty member in federal diversity statistics during Warren’s tenure at the schools. Obviously Harvard and Penn didn’t both list her as Native American based on a wild hunch, so the only real explanation was that Warren told them about her alleged ancestry.

That’s what makes the timing of Warren’s statement to the Globe today so shady. If her self-proclaimed ancestry had nothing to do with her hiring, why did she only admit to telling Harvard and Penn about it after she was backed into a corner by the Globe?

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Elizabeth Warren finally acknowledged to the Boston Globe that she told Harvard University and the University of Pennsylvania she was Native American when she served on their faculties, but she continues to insist it had no influence on her hiring:

“At some point after I was hired by them, I . . . provided that information to the University of Pennsylvania and Harvard,’’ [Warren] said in a statement issued by her campaign. “My Native American heritage is part of who I am, I’m proud of it and I have been open about it.’’

Warren’s admission comes after the Boston Globe reported that Harvard University and the University of Pennsylvania cited a Native American faculty member in federal diversity statistics during Warren’s tenure at the schools. Obviously Harvard and Penn didn’t both list her as Native American based on a wild hunch, so the only real explanation was that Warren told them about her alleged ancestry.

That’s what makes the timing of Warren’s statement to the Globe today so shady. If her self-proclaimed ancestry had nothing to do with her hiring, why did she only admit to telling Harvard and Penn about it after she was backed into a corner by the Globe?

Her story is that Harvard was unaware of her heritage until after she was hired and it came up casually at a faculty lunch. That’s not exactly scandalous, and failing to mention it earlier makes her look like she had something to hide. Add that to the fact that Harvard was reportedly under enormous pressure to hire minority faculty at the time, and plenty of questions remain.

So far, other Harvard faculty involved in Warren’s hiring have backed up her story to the Globe. But does anyone really want to admit to giving someone preferential treatment because of her (now questionable) minority status? First of all, it’s an uncomfortable thing to make public, particularly as it could damage both Harvard’s and Warren’s reputations. And second, no matter how you feel about affirmative action, it would be a major embarrassment if it actually helped someone like Warren cut in line.

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The Next Campus Israel Advocacy

Last week, student leaders at Harvard, drawn from the undergraduate college, the Kennedy school, the business school, and the law school, held a conference about Israel. While the conference has attracted outside attention mostly as a result of another student-led conference at Harvard earlier this year that advocated the elimination of the Jewish state, campus supporters of Israel would do well to take note of the more recent event for another and better reason: its demonstration of an effective way to talk about Israel to campus audiences.

Drawing big names like Stanley Fischer, the governor of the Bank of Israel, and Dan Senor, probably best known for co-authoring the 2009 book Start-Up Nation, most of the content of the conference focused on Israel’s economic successes, particularly in high-tech and innovation. Senor’s book is itself responsible to a large degree for a widening appreciation in the United States for Israel’s extraordinary economic record during the past 15 or so years, popularizing eye-popping statistics like the number of Israeli companies listed on the NASDAQ stock index or that Israel’s less than 8 million people drew more venture capital in 2008 than the 145 million citizens of France and Germany combined.

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Last week, student leaders at Harvard, drawn from the undergraduate college, the Kennedy school, the business school, and the law school, held a conference about Israel. While the conference has attracted outside attention mostly as a result of another student-led conference at Harvard earlier this year that advocated the elimination of the Jewish state, campus supporters of Israel would do well to take note of the more recent event for another and better reason: its demonstration of an effective way to talk about Israel to campus audiences.

Drawing big names like Stanley Fischer, the governor of the Bank of Israel, and Dan Senor, probably best known for co-authoring the 2009 book Start-Up Nation, most of the content of the conference focused on Israel’s economic successes, particularly in high-tech and innovation. Senor’s book is itself responsible to a large degree for a widening appreciation in the United States for Israel’s extraordinary economic record during the past 15 or so years, popularizing eye-popping statistics like the number of Israeli companies listed on the NASDAQ stock index or that Israel’s less than 8 million people drew more venture capital in 2008 than the 145 million citizens of France and Germany combined.

Fischer has won well-deserved credit for stewarding Israel through the worldwide economic collapses of the last few years largely unscathed. (Israel’s current unemployment rate, for example, stands at 5.4 percent while its economy grew in the fourth quarter of last year at a rate of 3.4 percent, both statistics the United States and just about every other Western country would look to with envy.)

Even an essay competition and accompanying session about the conflict were framed in terms of “innovating peace.”

The best thing of course about focusing discussions about Israel on its extraordinary record of innovation is that it’s all true. Rather than leading with political issues that are seen as controversial and over which Israel’s cause is not likely to be viewed with broad sympathy on most campuses, opening a discussion of Israel along economic lines also gives the country a much better chance to be favorably received.

While some publications associated with the kind of thinking responsible for so much of the unwarranted criticism the Jewish state faces on campus may see growing partnerships between business and universities as suspicious, students, administrators, and many professors largely don’t see things that way. Business is by far the most popular undergraduate major, chosen by nearly a quarter of all students. Engineering and hard sciences are seeing similar growth, while humanities departments – the worst sources of campus anti-Israelism – face steady declines of potentially catastrophic proportions.

Harvard’s conference is one of a growing number of examples of the effectiveness of this kind of advocacy. Berkeley’s law and business schools jointly hosted a conference on “Israel Through the High-Tech Lens” in February. TAMID, a growing student investment focused on Israel founded by students at Michigan, will be hosting its first national conference in Boston this summer, the same time as the second cohort of the very popular Birthright Israel Excel Fellowship will be in Israel.

None of this is to say that effective campus Israel advocacy can hope to entirely avoid politics. The most contentious issues, especially Israel’s self-definition as a Jewish state, must be addressed.

But a campus can be a hard place to speak out on Israel’s behalf. We shouldn’t turn away from any trends that favor in improvement in campus discourse about the Jewish state. For the short-term, at least, Israel’s economic successes are a powerful opportunity to generate positive advocacy.

 

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Historians and Civic Responsibility

The American Historical Association is on a roll. Last month, I felt compelled to read not one but two articles in its monthly newsmagazine, Perspectives on History. This month, the count is two again. Next thing you know, they’ll be hiring British historians in the academy.

Well, let’s not get carried away. Still, the piece by the AHA’s 2011 president, Prof. Anthony Grafton of Princeton, is worth a read if you can get past the pay wall. Subtly titled “History Under Attack,” it lays out all the charges against the academy in general, against the qualitative disciplines more particularly, and against history most specifically. Prof. Grafton regards these charges as heads of a hydra that can be readily cut off, though the critics will not be persuaded.

But Prof. Grafton believes the specific charges are but a distraction from the actual problem. As he puts it, “the real nub of the criticism is not financial but scholarly and ethical: it’s that our research and teaching are nothing more than sterile pursuits of mind-numbing factoids, tedious and predictable exercises in deploying the evidence to prove predetermined conclusions.”

Prof. Grafton doesn’t help his case that this mode of inquiry is “honest …  austere, [and] principled” by asserting that history matters “more than ever in the current media world, in which lies about the past, like lies about the present, move faster than ever before.” Maybe he’s implying that CNN is to blame, though I think not. It’s a pity that the president of the AHA can’t defend history without leaving the impression he believes that, basically, the job of the honest, austere, and principled historical profession is to do something about Fox News. Read More

The American Historical Association is on a roll. Last month, I felt compelled to read not one but two articles in its monthly newsmagazine, Perspectives on History. This month, the count is two again. Next thing you know, they’ll be hiring British historians in the academy.

Well, let’s not get carried away. Still, the piece by the AHA’s 2011 president, Prof. Anthony Grafton of Princeton, is worth a read if you can get past the pay wall. Subtly titled “History Under Attack,” it lays out all the charges against the academy in general, against the qualitative disciplines more particularly, and against history most specifically. Prof. Grafton regards these charges as heads of a hydra that can be readily cut off, though the critics will not be persuaded.

But Prof. Grafton believes the specific charges are but a distraction from the actual problem. As he puts it, “the real nub of the criticism is not financial but scholarly and ethical: it’s that our research and teaching are nothing more than sterile pursuits of mind-numbing factoids, tedious and predictable exercises in deploying the evidence to prove predetermined conclusions.”

Prof. Grafton doesn’t help his case that this mode of inquiry is “honest …  austere, [and] principled” by asserting that history matters “more than ever in the current media world, in which lies about the past, like lies about the present, move faster than ever before.” Maybe he’s implying that CNN is to blame, though I think not. It’s a pity that the president of the AHA can’t defend history without leaving the impression he believes that, basically, the job of the honest, austere, and principled historical profession is to do something about Fox News.

But the real problem with Prof. Grafton’s essay is what he doesn’t mention: professionalism. He writes a lot about professors, but not at all about the concept that defined the word. All the charges, including the ones he dismisses so rapidly, really come down to one: that the academy is failing to fulfill its professional responsibilities, both those internal to it and those that relate to the broader society.

This latter point is illustrated by Prof. Grafton’s desire to “find simple, cogent answers” to his self-defined nub. He refers with moderate enthusiasm to Martha Nussbaum’s belief that historians should teach “civic engagement and other moral lessons.” “Engagement”: no danger of politicization there. But he inclines toward Anthony Beevor’s argument that — quoting Beevor — “history should never be used to inculcate virtuous citizenship. Yet it offers the richest imaginable source of moral example and moral dilemmas.”

I certainly agree with in Beevor’s final point. But in reading Caspar Weinberger’s memoirs recently, I was struck by his quotation of the traditional dictum that accompanies the receipt of a Harvard Bachelor of Law: “You are awarded the degree of Bachelor of Law, and admitted to the study and practice of those wise restraints that make men free.”

Maybe Harvard’s got it wrong and there are no such restraints. But Harvard’s in good company: as Washington put it in his Farewell Address, “In proportion as the structure of a government gives force to public opinion, it is essential that public opinion should be enlightened.” That implies that history (and other forms of knowledge) does certainly have a role to play in inculcating virtuous citizenship.

That, in turn, implies that history, as a profession, must also be justified, in part, by how it fulfills its civic responsibilities. Now, there is room for much debate on what, exactly, those responsibilities are, but it does not get us far to frame them in terms of the merits of history as a discipline. No matter how true that defense, it ignores the fact that history is also a profession that has actual practices and failings.

And it would seem that the AHA agrees that broader failings do exist.  On the very next page of Perspectives is a piece by Jim Grossman, executive director of the AHA, on “Citizenship, History, and Public Culture.” Grossman recently watched a naturalization ceremony. He notes that “historians tend to downplay these kinds of ceremonies. … [O]ur scholarship has perhaps been too quick to dismiss the meaning of citizenship to the millions of Americans who over the years have valued not only its material benefits, but its meaning.” The reflexive dismissal that Grossman criticizes so mildly is, in reality, a serious example of professional and civic irresponsibility.

Grossman concludes by noting that the “Study Materials for the Civics Test” reach more Americans than even the best-selling work of history: “And few of us have ever even heard of it.” So it’s not true, certainly — to quote Prof. Grafton’s retelling of those hideous myths that rest so unfairly on the shoulders of the historical profession — that “professors are imprisoned within sclerotic disciplines, obsessed with highly specialized research.” Not true at all. Thank goodness for that.

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Most Odious Column of the Month—or Is That Year?

The prize for the most odious column of the month, if not the year, goes (drum roll, please) to Colman McCarthy of the Washington Post. In the midst of a screed against letting ROTC on campus, even now that Don’t Ask Don’t Tell has been repealed, he writes this:

To oppose ROTC, as I have since my college days in the 1960s, when my school enticed too many of my classmates into joining, is not to be anti-soldier. I admire those who join armies, whether America’s or the Taliban’s: for their discipline, for their loyalty to their buddies and to their principles, for their sacrifices to be away from home.

Whether America’s or the Taliban’s? As if there is no distinction to be made between the army of a democratic republic that spreads freedom in its wake and adheres to the laws of war, and a vile totalitarian movement that peddles drugs, deliberately kills civilians, tortures homosexuals to death, and throws acid in the faces of unveiled women.

It is hard to believe that the kind of hysterical, purblind anti-military prejudice exhibited by Colman McCarthy can still be found anywhere today, much less in the pages of a reputable newspaper, especially one like the Washington Post, which is run by Don Graham, an exemplar of honorable military service — he volunteered for service in Vietnam after graduating from Harvard.

Apparently, McCarthy has no idea how offensive what he just said is. But then what do you expect from a columnist who thinks this is a serious, well-reasoned position: ”ROTC and its warrior ethic taint the intellectual purity of a school, if by purity we mean trying to rise above the foul idea that nations can kill and destroy their way to peace.” Heaven forbid that the “intellectual purity” of American higher education be tainted by an idea whose truth has been repeatedly validated, from the American Civil War to World War II — only two of many instances of nations killing and destroying their way to establish a just peace.

The prize for the most odious column of the month, if not the year, goes (drum roll, please) to Colman McCarthy of the Washington Post. In the midst of a screed against letting ROTC on campus, even now that Don’t Ask Don’t Tell has been repealed, he writes this:

To oppose ROTC, as I have since my college days in the 1960s, when my school enticed too many of my classmates into joining, is not to be anti-soldier. I admire those who join armies, whether America’s or the Taliban’s: for their discipline, for their loyalty to their buddies and to their principles, for their sacrifices to be away from home.

Whether America’s or the Taliban’s? As if there is no distinction to be made between the army of a democratic republic that spreads freedom in its wake and adheres to the laws of war, and a vile totalitarian movement that peddles drugs, deliberately kills civilians, tortures homosexuals to death, and throws acid in the faces of unveiled women.

It is hard to believe that the kind of hysterical, purblind anti-military prejudice exhibited by Colman McCarthy can still be found anywhere today, much less in the pages of a reputable newspaper, especially one like the Washington Post, which is run by Don Graham, an exemplar of honorable military service — he volunteered for service in Vietnam after graduating from Harvard.

Apparently, McCarthy has no idea how offensive what he just said is. But then what do you expect from a columnist who thinks this is a serious, well-reasoned position: ”ROTC and its warrior ethic taint the intellectual purity of a school, if by purity we mean trying to rise above the foul idea that nations can kill and destroy their way to peace.” Heaven forbid that the “intellectual purity” of American higher education be tainted by an idea whose truth has been repeatedly validated, from the American Civil War to World War II — only two of many instances of nations killing and destroying their way to establish a just peace.

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DADT Will Soon Be a Non-Event

In a year’s time, I predict, the lifting of the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy to allow gays to serve openly in the military will have become a non-event. The military will adjust, as it always does, sooner or later, to social trends. The military rules that now govern relations between men and women will be extended to gays. There will undoubtedly be issues of sexual harassment and sexual relations and sexual tensions to handle — just as there are today. But handle them the military will.

There will not be, I predict, much resistance within the ranks, a few nasty comments by hard-bitten NCOs aside, because attitudes toward gays have shifted so much toward acceptance in the years since DADT was enacted in 1993. In any case, the numbers involved will be small (gays are a tiny minority of the population and presumably only a tiny minority of that minority will sign up for uniformed service — just as only a tiny minority of the heterosexual population volunteers). So their incorporation will not be disruptive and will not change the overall culture of the armed forces, much less lead to a loss of combat competence — which is as high as it has ever been because today’s troops have seen action nonstop since 2001.

Perhaps the most lasting impact of this policy change will be the return of ROTC to Ivy League campuses. Already Harvard and Yale are talking about reinstating their ROTC programs. This, too, will not make much of a change in either the Ivy League or the military, but it is a small, welcome step toward bridging the chasm that separates the armed forces from society’s elites.

In a year’s time, I predict, the lifting of the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy to allow gays to serve openly in the military will have become a non-event. The military will adjust, as it always does, sooner or later, to social trends. The military rules that now govern relations between men and women will be extended to gays. There will undoubtedly be issues of sexual harassment and sexual relations and sexual tensions to handle — just as there are today. But handle them the military will.

There will not be, I predict, much resistance within the ranks, a few nasty comments by hard-bitten NCOs aside, because attitudes toward gays have shifted so much toward acceptance in the years since DADT was enacted in 1993. In any case, the numbers involved will be small (gays are a tiny minority of the population and presumably only a tiny minority of that minority will sign up for uniformed service — just as only a tiny minority of the heterosexual population volunteers). So their incorporation will not be disruptive and will not change the overall culture of the armed forces, much less lead to a loss of combat competence — which is as high as it has ever been because today’s troops have seen action nonstop since 2001.

Perhaps the most lasting impact of this policy change will be the return of ROTC to Ivy League campuses. Already Harvard and Yale are talking about reinstating their ROTC programs. This, too, will not make much of a change in either the Ivy League or the military, but it is a small, welcome step toward bridging the chasm that separates the armed forces from society’s elites.

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More Lies from the BDS Movement

Since its inception, practically every major success claimed by the anti-Israel Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement has turned out to be either an outright lie or a massive exaggeration. The AJC’s Ben Cohen fact-checks the campaign’s most recent “victory” — its announcement that the largest pension fund in the Netherlands recently divested from Israeli companies — and finds this to be yet another hoax.

While the Dutch pension fund PGGM has reportedly withdrawn its investment from many of the Israeli companies in its portfolio, Cohen discovered that this was due to Israel’s recent admission to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development — and has absolutely nothing to do with any type of anti-Israel political movement:

I contacted the fund’s managers, the Dutch company PGGM, and they confirmed my suspicions. Back in May, Israel’s economic vibrancy secured its admission into the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD,) which gathers together the world’s developed countries. As a result, funds focused upon emerging markets were obliged to withdraw their investments from Israeli companies, who’d moved to the different benchmark for developed markets. Bottom line: this had absolutely nothing to do with politically-motivated divestment.

This is reminiscent of the now-debunked claim that Harvard had divested from Israel over the summer. As the administration pointed out at the time, Israel had merely been re-classified as a “developed” market due to its economic growth. “Our emerging markets holdings were rebalanced accordingly,” said the school.

Other BDS movement “successes” that have been disproved over the past few years include Hampshire College’s alleged divestment in 2009 (which the school administration quickly refuted) and assertions that Motorola had joined the divestment movement.

In fact, the BDS campaign’s only actual victories seem to be getting B-list musicians to cancel concerts in Israel (which, in some cases, have arguably been more of a win for Israel).

Since its inception, practically every major success claimed by the anti-Israel Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement has turned out to be either an outright lie or a massive exaggeration. The AJC’s Ben Cohen fact-checks the campaign’s most recent “victory” — its announcement that the largest pension fund in the Netherlands recently divested from Israeli companies — and finds this to be yet another hoax.

While the Dutch pension fund PGGM has reportedly withdrawn its investment from many of the Israeli companies in its portfolio, Cohen discovered that this was due to Israel’s recent admission to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development — and has absolutely nothing to do with any type of anti-Israel political movement:

I contacted the fund’s managers, the Dutch company PGGM, and they confirmed my suspicions. Back in May, Israel’s economic vibrancy secured its admission into the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD,) which gathers together the world’s developed countries. As a result, funds focused upon emerging markets were obliged to withdraw their investments from Israeli companies, who’d moved to the different benchmark for developed markets. Bottom line: this had absolutely nothing to do with politically-motivated divestment.

This is reminiscent of the now-debunked claim that Harvard had divested from Israel over the summer. As the administration pointed out at the time, Israel had merely been re-classified as a “developed” market due to its economic growth. “Our emerging markets holdings were rebalanced accordingly,” said the school.

Other BDS movement “successes” that have been disproved over the past few years include Hampshire College’s alleged divestment in 2009 (which the school administration quickly refuted) and assertions that Motorola had joined the divestment movement.

In fact, the BDS campaign’s only actual victories seem to be getting B-list musicians to cancel concerts in Israel (which, in some cases, have arguably been more of a win for Israel).

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It’s the Everything, Stupid

A few weeks ago, we learned that the Obama administration granted get-out-of-ObamaCare waivers to 30 big-time employers. Now we find out that the number of organizations and businesses that have broken free of the job killing policy is at 111 and growing. The president who came to office proudly signing executive orders condemning his predecessor’s policies is now quietly signing hall passes exempting Americans from his own.

For the first 20 months of the Obama presidency, the world watched to see if the ambitious, progressive superstar who talked loftily about real change would actually confer some magical metamorphosis upon the country. Even those of us who doubted his superhuman abilities harbored a small fear that he had the talent and the polish to pull it off.  His campaign performance was brilliant and his election, by the time it happened, felt like a matter of national fate. But after he was sworn in, we watched his ideology and his increasingly evident incompetence duke it out for pride of place. We hoped that where he wanted to apply extreme liberal ideas, his ineptitude would trip him up. Read More

A few weeks ago, we learned that the Obama administration granted get-out-of-ObamaCare waivers to 30 big-time employers. Now we find out that the number of organizations and businesses that have broken free of the job killing policy is at 111 and growing. The president who came to office proudly signing executive orders condemning his predecessor’s policies is now quietly signing hall passes exempting Americans from his own.

For the first 20 months of the Obama presidency, the world watched to see if the ambitious, progressive superstar who talked loftily about real change would actually confer some magical metamorphosis upon the country. Even those of us who doubted his superhuman abilities harbored a small fear that he had the talent and the polish to pull it off.  His campaign performance was brilliant and his election, by the time it happened, felt like a matter of national fate. But after he was sworn in, we watched his ideology and his increasingly evident incompetence duke it out for pride of place. We hoped that where he wanted to apply extreme liberal ideas, his ineptitude would trip him up.

What happened could not have been predicted: the campus progressivism and the incompetence fused. Obama pushed through an enormous fiscal stimulus and a calamitous healthcare policy, both of which were not only unapologetically redistributive but structurally unsound as well. As Harvard economist Jeffrey Miron said of the stimulus, “even the components with a plausible justification were designed in the least productive and most redistributionist way possible.”  A labyrinthine bureaucratic architecture and a tangle of regulatory loose ends similarly doomed ObamaCare.

On foreign policy, the same thing happened. President Obama not only approached foreign provocateurs with harmful progressive notions of Western guilt and omni-directional empathy; his green foreign policy team bungled overtures and gambits, so that world leaders ceased to take America seriously, even as an apology nation.  While antagonists forged greater alliances, friends complained about the un-seriousness of American policy. The world took the measure of the commander in chief and pronounced him a lightweight.

Now, with the waiting game over and with the midterm elections having hemmed in the administration, we have a president who is, halfway into his term, ineffective. At this point, he’s likely to pivot to foreign affairs where he’s less constrained by the conservative realignment in Congress. But look at how that’s going. During a 10-day tour of Asia, Obama failed to secure a key trade agreement with South Korea and got nowhere with China on its harmful currency devaluation. At the same time, Obama’s ill-conceived personal request that Iraqi President Jalal Talabani step aside and allow Iyad Allawi to become Iraq’s new president was immediately rebuffed. Even as our troops make progress in Afghanistan, President Hamid Karzai tells the Washington Post, “The time has come to reduce the presence of, you know, boots in Afghanistan… to reduce the intrusiveness into the daily Afghan life.” A burst of military success is not enough in Afghanistan. The U.S. needs to be in for the long haul, so that our allies don’t cut survival deals with our enemies. If we’re not staying long enough to keep Afghanistan on course, Karzai wants his waiver too. Many pundits are misinterpreting Obama’s foreign policy headaches. It’s not that world leaders are responding to Americans’ midterm disapproval; it’s that they too are unimpressed.

No American should be pleased about any of this. Those who were initially afraid of Obama’s power and his ideological designs now have a new concern of equal importance: his powerlessness.  Recently, Walter Russell Mead wrote at his American Interest blog, “No president in my lifetime has fallen from heaven to earth as rapidly as President Obama.” If he keeps falling, he takes us with him. Waivers are a start, but the enormous work of reversal and restoration has not yet properly begun. We’d all do well to hope for a little of that early executive determination and sense of purpose.

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RE: Fed’s Plan to Rev Up Printing Press Gets Thumbs Down

The overwhelmingly negative response to the Fed decision to print up $600B to buy bonds is intensifying as Russia and China joined European nations in slamming the move. This report explains:

Mr. Obama returned fire in the growing confrontation over trade and currencies Monday in a joint news conference with Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, taking the unusual step of publicly backing the Fed’s decision to buy $600 billion in U.S. Treasury bonds—a move that has come under withering international criticism for weakening the U.S. dollar.

Gold topped $1,400 an ounce on fears of inflation as investors voted thumbs down on Ben Bernanke’s plan. And the number of critics is growing, leaving the U.S. isolated:

Germany’s criticism echoes that from other countries, including Brazil and Japan, which have complained about potential spillover from the Fed’s action. Printing more dollars, or cutting U.S. interest rates, tends to weaken the dollar and makes U.S. exports more attractive. The accompanying rise in the value of other countries’ currencies tends to damp their exports and can fuel inflation or asset bubbles, as emerging-market officials note. U.S. officials maintain the Fed’s action is about stimulating domestic demand, and that a weaker dollar is a consequence, not an objective.

On Monday, China’s Vice Finance Minister Zhu Guangyao said the U.S. isn’t living up to its responsibility as an issuer of a global reserve currency. …

The top economic aide to Russian President Dmitry Medvedev said Russia will insist at the G-20 summit that the Fed consult with other countries ahead of major policy decisions.

Luxembourg Prime Minister Jean-Claude Juncker, who is chairman of the euro-zone finance ministers, also weighed in on the Fed move, saying: “I don’t think it’s a good decision. You’re fighting debt with more debt.”

These concerns are entirely justified. Moreover, one can’t help but appreciate the irony: the “cowboy” George W. Bush was lambasted for “going it alone” and making the U.S. a pariah in the world. But worldwide resentment over the U.S. is surging as Obama is forced to lamely defend his moves as “pro-growth” (which speaks volumes about the administration’s economic illiteracy, for not even his defenders would claim that currency devaluation=growth). We hear that the “blunt criticism of U.S. policy is in large part payback for a longstanding stance by Washington policy makers that the American economy should serve as a model for others. The heated rhetoric also stems from fears that the U.S. may be looking for a back-door way to set exchange-rate policy in a way that favors the U.S.”

Combined with the incessant shin-kicking of our allies (e.g., Eastern Europe, Israel, Honduras, Britain), this latest move certainly strengthens Obama’s critics here and abroad. They contend that through a combination of ill-conceived policies and rank incompetence, Obama is rendering the U.S. less influential and less respected, which is increasing instability in the world. All and all, it is a textbook example of the perils of deploying liberal statism at home and shrinking America’s stature overseas. Unfortunately, this is not a graduate course at Harvard or a symposium at the New America Foundation. It is all too real, and unless we arrest the panoply of bad policies, America and its allies will be poorer and less safe. We already are.

The overwhelmingly negative response to the Fed decision to print up $600B to buy bonds is intensifying as Russia and China joined European nations in slamming the move. This report explains:

Mr. Obama returned fire in the growing confrontation over trade and currencies Monday in a joint news conference with Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, taking the unusual step of publicly backing the Fed’s decision to buy $600 billion in U.S. Treasury bonds—a move that has come under withering international criticism for weakening the U.S. dollar.

Gold topped $1,400 an ounce on fears of inflation as investors voted thumbs down on Ben Bernanke’s plan. And the number of critics is growing, leaving the U.S. isolated:

Germany’s criticism echoes that from other countries, including Brazil and Japan, which have complained about potential spillover from the Fed’s action. Printing more dollars, or cutting U.S. interest rates, tends to weaken the dollar and makes U.S. exports more attractive. The accompanying rise in the value of other countries’ currencies tends to damp their exports and can fuel inflation or asset bubbles, as emerging-market officials note. U.S. officials maintain the Fed’s action is about stimulating domestic demand, and that a weaker dollar is a consequence, not an objective.

On Monday, China’s Vice Finance Minister Zhu Guangyao said the U.S. isn’t living up to its responsibility as an issuer of a global reserve currency. …

The top economic aide to Russian President Dmitry Medvedev said Russia will insist at the G-20 summit that the Fed consult with other countries ahead of major policy decisions.

Luxembourg Prime Minister Jean-Claude Juncker, who is chairman of the euro-zone finance ministers, also weighed in on the Fed move, saying: “I don’t think it’s a good decision. You’re fighting debt with more debt.”

These concerns are entirely justified. Moreover, one can’t help but appreciate the irony: the “cowboy” George W. Bush was lambasted for “going it alone” and making the U.S. a pariah in the world. But worldwide resentment over the U.S. is surging as Obama is forced to lamely defend his moves as “pro-growth” (which speaks volumes about the administration’s economic illiteracy, for not even his defenders would claim that currency devaluation=growth). We hear that the “blunt criticism of U.S. policy is in large part payback for a longstanding stance by Washington policy makers that the American economy should serve as a model for others. The heated rhetoric also stems from fears that the U.S. may be looking for a back-door way to set exchange-rate policy in a way that favors the U.S.”

Combined with the incessant shin-kicking of our allies (e.g., Eastern Europe, Israel, Honduras, Britain), this latest move certainly strengthens Obama’s critics here and abroad. They contend that through a combination of ill-conceived policies and rank incompetence, Obama is rendering the U.S. less influential and less respected, which is increasing instability in the world. All and all, it is a textbook example of the perils of deploying liberal statism at home and shrinking America’s stature overseas. Unfortunately, this is not a graduate course at Harvard or a symposium at the New America Foundation. It is all too real, and unless we arrest the panoply of bad policies, America and its allies will be poorer and less safe. We already are.

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Blame Time

The Democrats have discovered that Obama is out of touch:

“In his own assessments of what went wrong, the president has lamented his inability to persuade voters on the merits of what he has done, and blamed the failure on his preoccupation with a full plate of crises. But a broad sample of Democratic officeholders and strategists said in interviews that the disconnect goes far deeper than that.”

And now the Clinton (Bill, not Hillary) nostalgia, which periodically has wafted through GOP ranks, is gripping forlorn Dems:

Obama “is not Bill Clinton in the sense that he’s not an extrovert. He doesn’t gain energy by connecting with people,” said a Democratic strategist, who worked in the Clinton White House and asked not to be named while offering a candid criticism. “He needs to be forced to do it, either by self-discipline or others. There’s no one around him who will do that. They accommodate him, and that is a bad thing.”

He’s also not Clinton in the sense that Obama is ideologically rigid, while Clinton was anything but. But Democrats are conflicted: go to the center or double down on the agenda that wiped out so many of them? Hmm. What to do, what to do? (Republicans are biting their lips and laughing into their sleeves. “Double down — puleeze,” they whisper knowingly to each other.)

The less-deluded Democrats are furious now, convinced that the White House is on a political suicide mission. The defeated Democratic gubernatorial candidate Alex Sink is beside herself:

“They got a huge wake-up call [on election day], but unfortunately they took a lot of Democrats down with them,” said Sink of the White House.

She added: “They just need to be better listeners and be better at reaching out to people who are on the ground to hear about the realities of their policies as well as politics.” …

“I think they were tone-deaf,” she said. “They weren’t interested in hearing my opinion on what was happening on the ground with the oil spill. And they never acknowledged that they had problems with the acceptance of health care reform.”

The new law, she said, is “unpopular particularly among seniors” — a key voting bloc in the Sunshine State.

None of this was hidden from view before the election, but Democratic officials and operatives were understandably reluctant to come forward. Now, with election returns in hand, they are pointing the finger at the White House. But let’s be fair. Much of the credit goes to Nancy Pelosi — who wants to continue her reign over what’s left of the Democratic House caucus. (To which Republicans say, “Go for it!”)

The White House seems unconvinced that the problem is the agenda, not just a remote and increasingly unlikable president. They’ll try to “warm him up” and do more feel-your-pain moments. But the core problem remains: Obama is infatuated with his own agenda and it is that agenda that is the recipe for the minority-status of his party.

And in all of this, one wonders what the left-leaning intelligentsia has learned. A Harvard Law Review editor, a law professor, a garden-variety leftist, a talker-not-a-doer, and a proponent of American un-exceptionalism is a bust as president. In short, someone like them is utterly incapable of leading the country, and to rescue himself he will have to shed the very qualities and beliefs they hold dear. You can understand why they’d prefer to label the rest of the country “crazy.”

The Democrats have discovered that Obama is out of touch:

“In his own assessments of what went wrong, the president has lamented his inability to persuade voters on the merits of what he has done, and blamed the failure on his preoccupation with a full plate of crises. But a broad sample of Democratic officeholders and strategists said in interviews that the disconnect goes far deeper than that.”

And now the Clinton (Bill, not Hillary) nostalgia, which periodically has wafted through GOP ranks, is gripping forlorn Dems:

Obama “is not Bill Clinton in the sense that he’s not an extrovert. He doesn’t gain energy by connecting with people,” said a Democratic strategist, who worked in the Clinton White House and asked not to be named while offering a candid criticism. “He needs to be forced to do it, either by self-discipline or others. There’s no one around him who will do that. They accommodate him, and that is a bad thing.”

He’s also not Clinton in the sense that Obama is ideologically rigid, while Clinton was anything but. But Democrats are conflicted: go to the center or double down on the agenda that wiped out so many of them? Hmm. What to do, what to do? (Republicans are biting their lips and laughing into their sleeves. “Double down — puleeze,” they whisper knowingly to each other.)

The less-deluded Democrats are furious now, convinced that the White House is on a political suicide mission. The defeated Democratic gubernatorial candidate Alex Sink is beside herself:

“They got a huge wake-up call [on election day], but unfortunately they took a lot of Democrats down with them,” said Sink of the White House.

She added: “They just need to be better listeners and be better at reaching out to people who are on the ground to hear about the realities of their policies as well as politics.” …

“I think they were tone-deaf,” she said. “They weren’t interested in hearing my opinion on what was happening on the ground with the oil spill. And they never acknowledged that they had problems with the acceptance of health care reform.”

The new law, she said, is “unpopular particularly among seniors” — a key voting bloc in the Sunshine State.

None of this was hidden from view before the election, but Democratic officials and operatives were understandably reluctant to come forward. Now, with election returns in hand, they are pointing the finger at the White House. But let’s be fair. Much of the credit goes to Nancy Pelosi — who wants to continue her reign over what’s left of the Democratic House caucus. (To which Republicans say, “Go for it!”)

The White House seems unconvinced that the problem is the agenda, not just a remote and increasingly unlikable president. They’ll try to “warm him up” and do more feel-your-pain moments. But the core problem remains: Obama is infatuated with his own agenda and it is that agenda that is the recipe for the minority-status of his party.

And in all of this, one wonders what the left-leaning intelligentsia has learned. A Harvard Law Review editor, a law professor, a garden-variety leftist, a talker-not-a-doer, and a proponent of American un-exceptionalism is a bust as president. In short, someone like them is utterly incapable of leading the country, and to rescue himself he will have to shed the very qualities and beliefs they hold dear. You can understand why they’d prefer to label the rest of the country “crazy.”

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Voters to Obama: Stop Already. No Fast Choo-Choos.

In 1955, William F. Buckley Jr. inaugurated National Review—the magazine that may come to be known in the 21st Century as motive force in the rise of Marco Rubio—with this immortal description of its mission: “It stands athwart history, yelling Stop.” On Tuesday, the voters stood athwart Obama, yelling Stop. Or so I argue today in my column in the New York Post:

There was a simple message in this election — perhaps too simple for the editor of the Harvard Law Review, who probably prefers his messages ornate and laboriously complex. The message: Stop. You’ve done too much — spent too much, grown government too much, involved yourself in the inner workings of business too much. Stop. Instead, Obama talked about doing more, and said there was a “message to Republicans” in the results that they needed to compromise with him. Astonishing.

The president spent his press conference yesterday talking about ways he might look to “improve” his health-care plan around the edges, the need for middle-class tax cuts, and his desire to have government build nicer airports, high speed choo-choos, and maybe a supercomputer. (I’m not kidding. Read the transcript.) He could have said all these things at any time in the past two years. In fact, he did say all these things in the past two years. Saying them again is not an adequate response to the results on Tuesday night, to put it mildly.

In 1955, William F. Buckley Jr. inaugurated National Review—the magazine that may come to be known in the 21st Century as motive force in the rise of Marco Rubio—with this immortal description of its mission: “It stands athwart history, yelling Stop.” On Tuesday, the voters stood athwart Obama, yelling Stop. Or so I argue today in my column in the New York Post:

There was a simple message in this election — perhaps too simple for the editor of the Harvard Law Review, who probably prefers his messages ornate and laboriously complex. The message: Stop. You’ve done too much — spent too much, grown government too much, involved yourself in the inner workings of business too much. Stop. Instead, Obama talked about doing more, and said there was a “message to Republicans” in the results that they needed to compromise with him. Astonishing.

The president spent his press conference yesterday talking about ways he might look to “improve” his health-care plan around the edges, the need for middle-class tax cuts, and his desire to have government build nicer airports, high speed choo-choos, and maybe a supercomputer. (I’m not kidding. Read the transcript.) He could have said all these things at any time in the past two years. In fact, he did say all these things in the past two years. Saying them again is not an adequate response to the results on Tuesday night, to put it mildly.

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The German Example

Chris Caldwell provides one of the most important pieces of economic analysis since the financial meltdown more than two years ago. The focus is on Germany, but it tells us much about Obama and his mindset.

As for Germany, Caldwell explains they told the Obami and the Keynesians to buzz off:

“You won’t find a lot of Keynesians here,” explained one German economic policymaker in Berlin in September. That will not be news to anyone who has spoken to his counterparts in Washington. In their view, Germany is a skulker, a rotten citizen of the global economy, the macroeconomic equivalent of a juvenile delinquent, or worse. It is a smart aleck in the emergency ward that is the global economy. It is a flouter of the prescriptions of the new Doctor New Deal who sits in the White House.

And, wouldn’t you know it, Germany was right:

Germany’s growth in this year’s second quarter was 2.2 percent on a quarter-to-quarter basis. That means it is growing at almost 9 percent a year. Its unemployment rate has fallen to 7.5 percent, below what it was at the start of the global financial crisis—indeed, the lowest in 18 years. The second-biggest Western economy appears to be handling this deep recession much more effectively than the biggest—and emerging from it much earlier.

It seems the Germans’ skepticism of Keynesian alchemy — technically the “multiplier effect” (a dollar spent by the government magically transforms to more than a dollar in economic activity) – was correct. According to the Germans, the famed multiplier is actually a divider:

“Our research says the multiplier is more like .60,” says the German official. If he is correct, then a stimulus plan can actually deaden an economy rather than stimulate it. If he is correct, you might have been as well off to have taken the stimulus money and thrown it away.

Caldwell is straightforward — Germany already does a lot of “stimulating” and embodies many aspects of the social-welfare state. But his argument — and Germany’s — is compelling: anti-Obamanomics is superior to Obamanomics.

So what does this tell us about Obama? For starters, he operates in an intellectual cocoon. Remember, he told us that “all” economists believed in his Keynesian stimulus plan. Well, as he was spinning us, a body of research was building that Keynesianism is, to put it mildly, bunk:

The Harvard economist Alberto Alesina and his colleague Silvia Ardagna published an influential paper last fall in which they surveyed all the major fiscal adjustments in OECD countries between 1970 and 2007 and showed that tax cuts are more likely to increase growth than spending hikes. One of their most controversial findings—which comes from the work of two other Italian economists—is that cutting deficits can be expansionary, particularly if it is done through “large, decisive” government spending cuts, as it was in Ireland and Denmark in the 1980s. More generally, Alesina has argued that “monomaniacal” Keynesians have focused unduly on aggregate demand.

So much for the pose that Obama is a sophisticated intellectual. He is, rather, monomaniacally wedded to liberal dogma.

The German experience also tells us much about the bullying behavior of the Obama team. Domestic critics are brushed off, Israel is browbeaten, and Germany is harangued because they don’t roll over and comply with the misguided vision of the president. Caldwell explains:

Germany has been scolded, even browbeaten, by Obama administration officials, from Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner on down, for saving too much and spending too little. It has refused to stimulate its economy as the United States has done, on the grounds that the resulting budget deficits would not be sustainable and the policies themselves would not work. Administration officials have not been the only ones to warn the Germans about the path they’re on. On the eve of last summer’s G‑20 summit in Toronto, the economist and New York Times columnist Paul Krugman gave an interview to the German business paper Handelsblatt in which he said that, while Germany might think its deficits are big, they are peanuts “from an American viewpoint.” Germany cannot say it wasn’t warned.

There is a dreary predictability about Obama. Take outmoded liberal dogma. Double down on it. Ignore empirical evidence. Deride and bully opponents. And when the dogma fails, blame those who resisted. Whether we are talking about health care, economic policy, or the Middle East, the pattern is the same. It is not simply that Obama is wrong on the merits on these issues (although surely he is). It is that Obama’s self-image as the “smartest man in the room” prevents him from learning from errors, absorbing the experience of alternative policy choices, and showing grace and magnanimity toward friends and foes. No wonder Obama has become a sour figure, and the public has soured on him.

Chris Caldwell provides one of the most important pieces of economic analysis since the financial meltdown more than two years ago. The focus is on Germany, but it tells us much about Obama and his mindset.

As for Germany, Caldwell explains they told the Obami and the Keynesians to buzz off:

“You won’t find a lot of Keynesians here,” explained one German economic policymaker in Berlin in September. That will not be news to anyone who has spoken to his counterparts in Washington. In their view, Germany is a skulker, a rotten citizen of the global economy, the macroeconomic equivalent of a juvenile delinquent, or worse. It is a smart aleck in the emergency ward that is the global economy. It is a flouter of the prescriptions of the new Doctor New Deal who sits in the White House.

And, wouldn’t you know it, Germany was right:

Germany’s growth in this year’s second quarter was 2.2 percent on a quarter-to-quarter basis. That means it is growing at almost 9 percent a year. Its unemployment rate has fallen to 7.5 percent, below what it was at the start of the global financial crisis—indeed, the lowest in 18 years. The second-biggest Western economy appears to be handling this deep recession much more effectively than the biggest—and emerging from it much earlier.

It seems the Germans’ skepticism of Keynesian alchemy — technically the “multiplier effect” (a dollar spent by the government magically transforms to more than a dollar in economic activity) – was correct. According to the Germans, the famed multiplier is actually a divider:

“Our research says the multiplier is more like .60,” says the German official. If he is correct, then a stimulus plan can actually deaden an economy rather than stimulate it. If he is correct, you might have been as well off to have taken the stimulus money and thrown it away.

Caldwell is straightforward — Germany already does a lot of “stimulating” and embodies many aspects of the social-welfare state. But his argument — and Germany’s — is compelling: anti-Obamanomics is superior to Obamanomics.

So what does this tell us about Obama? For starters, he operates in an intellectual cocoon. Remember, he told us that “all” economists believed in his Keynesian stimulus plan. Well, as he was spinning us, a body of research was building that Keynesianism is, to put it mildly, bunk:

The Harvard economist Alberto Alesina and his colleague Silvia Ardagna published an influential paper last fall in which they surveyed all the major fiscal adjustments in OECD countries between 1970 and 2007 and showed that tax cuts are more likely to increase growth than spending hikes. One of their most controversial findings—which comes from the work of two other Italian economists—is that cutting deficits can be expansionary, particularly if it is done through “large, decisive” government spending cuts, as it was in Ireland and Denmark in the 1980s. More generally, Alesina has argued that “monomaniacal” Keynesians have focused unduly on aggregate demand.

So much for the pose that Obama is a sophisticated intellectual. He is, rather, monomaniacally wedded to liberal dogma.

The German experience also tells us much about the bullying behavior of the Obama team. Domestic critics are brushed off, Israel is browbeaten, and Germany is harangued because they don’t roll over and comply with the misguided vision of the president. Caldwell explains:

Germany has been scolded, even browbeaten, by Obama administration officials, from Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner on down, for saving too much and spending too little. It has refused to stimulate its economy as the United States has done, on the grounds that the resulting budget deficits would not be sustainable and the policies themselves would not work. Administration officials have not been the only ones to warn the Germans about the path they’re on. On the eve of last summer’s G‑20 summit in Toronto, the economist and New York Times columnist Paul Krugman gave an interview to the German business paper Handelsblatt in which he said that, while Germany might think its deficits are big, they are peanuts “from an American viewpoint.” Germany cannot say it wasn’t warned.

There is a dreary predictability about Obama. Take outmoded liberal dogma. Double down on it. Ignore empirical evidence. Deride and bully opponents. And when the dogma fails, blame those who resisted. Whether we are talking about health care, economic policy, or the Middle East, the pattern is the same. It is not simply that Obama is wrong on the merits on these issues (although surely he is). It is that Obama’s self-image as the “smartest man in the room” prevents him from learning from errors, absorbing the experience of alternative policy choices, and showing grace and magnanimity toward friends and foes. No wonder Obama has become a sour figure, and the public has soured on him.

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Let’s Not Forget the Letter

Lost in the rush of polls and soon to be forgotten (as the Democrats begin the blame-a-thon, and the moving vans arrive to pack off the casualties of Obamaism) was a multi-car pile-up in the left lane of legal scholarship. The culprit, we are reminded by the scalding wit of this observer, was Harvard law professor and Supreme Court advocate Laurence Tribe, who managed in a letter to his former student and now president to embarrass two Supreme Court justices (Sonia Sotomayor, for limited intellect; and Anthony Kennedy, for being perpetually influenced and never influencing). But it is Tribe’s own toadyism that is the real cringe-inducer. (It is not often we see such ”pathetic grovelling and job-begging” from Harvard’s best-known liberal prof).

But that got me thinking. Doesn’t Tribe’s warning about Sotomayor’s shortcomings apply with equal force to Obama, himself?

Bluntly put she’s he’s not nearly as smart as she he seems to think she he is, and her his reputation for being something of a bully could well make her his liberal impulses backfire and simply add to the fire power of the Roberts/Alito/Scalia/Thomas conservative wing of the Court GOP.

You can understand why Obama and Sotomayor were sympatico.

And second, we must hold Tribe and the rest of the Harvard faculty partially responsible for the president’s distorted self-image. Those who were witnesses to Obama’s years as a law student can vouch that Tribe and his colleagues were no less slobbery when it came to student Obama some decades ago. They had their eye on him and figured he’d go far. His every word elicited praise. And as with the professors’ cooing, his placement on the Harvard Law Review was, it seems, based on factors other than legal scholarship, of which he produced none.

It is a pity that Sotomayor, Obama, and many less prominent names wind up with oversized egos and jobs for which they are underqualified. For that, as with so many other counterproductive contributions, we can blame, to some degree, the leftist intelligentsia who populate academia and the mainstream media. We often bear the brunt of their obsession with “diversity” (oh heavens, not the intellectual variety!) and their assurance that liberal conformity=brilliance and glibness=intellectualism. The good news is that the mainstream media are dying, and there is an election in 2012. The bad news: Sotomayor is there for life.

Lost in the rush of polls and soon to be forgotten (as the Democrats begin the blame-a-thon, and the moving vans arrive to pack off the casualties of Obamaism) was a multi-car pile-up in the left lane of legal scholarship. The culprit, we are reminded by the scalding wit of this observer, was Harvard law professor and Supreme Court advocate Laurence Tribe, who managed in a letter to his former student and now president to embarrass two Supreme Court justices (Sonia Sotomayor, for limited intellect; and Anthony Kennedy, for being perpetually influenced and never influencing). But it is Tribe’s own toadyism that is the real cringe-inducer. (It is not often we see such ”pathetic grovelling and job-begging” from Harvard’s best-known liberal prof).

But that got me thinking. Doesn’t Tribe’s warning about Sotomayor’s shortcomings apply with equal force to Obama, himself?

Bluntly put she’s he’s not nearly as smart as she he seems to think she he is, and her his reputation for being something of a bully could well make her his liberal impulses backfire and simply add to the fire power of the Roberts/Alito/Scalia/Thomas conservative wing of the Court GOP.

You can understand why Obama and Sotomayor were sympatico.

And second, we must hold Tribe and the rest of the Harvard faculty partially responsible for the president’s distorted self-image. Those who were witnesses to Obama’s years as a law student can vouch that Tribe and his colleagues were no less slobbery when it came to student Obama some decades ago. They had their eye on him and figured he’d go far. His every word elicited praise. And as with the professors’ cooing, his placement on the Harvard Law Review was, it seems, based on factors other than legal scholarship, of which he produced none.

It is a pity that Sotomayor, Obama, and many less prominent names wind up with oversized egos and jobs for which they are underqualified. For that, as with so many other counterproductive contributions, we can blame, to some degree, the leftist intelligentsia who populate academia and the mainstream media. We often bear the brunt of their obsession with “diversity” (oh heavens, not the intellectual variety!) and their assurance that liberal conformity=brilliance and glibness=intellectualism. The good news is that the mainstream media are dying, and there is an election in 2012. The bad news: Sotomayor is there for life.

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We Are All Philosophical Pragmatists Now

The New York Times reports that Prof. James Kloppenberg, chair of Harvard’s history department, received prolonged applause after his standing-room-only lecture about his upcoming book, Reading Obama: Dreams, Hope, and the American Political Tradition, at a CUNY conference on intellectual history.

The book concludes, based on Kloppenberg’s review of Obama’s books, essays, and speeches, and interviews with former professors and classmates, that Obama is “a kind of philosopher president, a rare breed that can be found only a handful of times in American history.”

An extended excerpt of the book is here, but the following paragraph may suffice to indicate its flavor:

Obama is drawn toward the ideas of anti-foundationalism, historicism, and philosophical pragmatism. As an anti-foundationalist, he questions the existence of universal truths. As a historicist, he doubts that any ideas transcend the particularity of time and culture. Finally, as a philosophical pragmatist he insists that all propositions, positions, and policies must be subjected to continuing critical scrutiny. … He believes that anti-foundationalism, historicism, and philosophical pragmatism are consistent with the principles of civic republicanism and deliberative democracy on which America was built and for which it should stand.

Kloppenberg writes that he found a “single sentence [that] encapsulates Obama’s commitments to deliberative democracy and pragmatism,” which he says are the “signature features of [Obama’s] approach to American history and politics.” Are you ready? It is from Obama’s address to the nation on August 31, 2010, marking the end of American combat operations in Iraq:

Obama declared, “The greatness of our democracy is grounded in our ability to move beyond our differences, and to learn from our experience as we confront the many challenges ahead.” That single sentence encapsulates [etc.].

Who knew you could pack so much anti-foundationalism, historicism, and philosophical pragmatism into a single sentence? It may rank up there with the bromides in what David Brooks called the most profound speech of Obama’s life.

Next Tuesday, America’s deliberative democracy will hold what amounts to a referendum on Obama. The anti-foundationalist, historicist, philosophical pragmatist and his party are not expected to do well. The irony is that it will be because the electorate has subjected all his propositions, positions, and policies to continuing critical scrutiny and does not like them.

The New York Times reports that Prof. James Kloppenberg, chair of Harvard’s history department, received prolonged applause after his standing-room-only lecture about his upcoming book, Reading Obama: Dreams, Hope, and the American Political Tradition, at a CUNY conference on intellectual history.

The book concludes, based on Kloppenberg’s review of Obama’s books, essays, and speeches, and interviews with former professors and classmates, that Obama is “a kind of philosopher president, a rare breed that can be found only a handful of times in American history.”

An extended excerpt of the book is here, but the following paragraph may suffice to indicate its flavor:

Obama is drawn toward the ideas of anti-foundationalism, historicism, and philosophical pragmatism. As an anti-foundationalist, he questions the existence of universal truths. As a historicist, he doubts that any ideas transcend the particularity of time and culture. Finally, as a philosophical pragmatist he insists that all propositions, positions, and policies must be subjected to continuing critical scrutiny. … He believes that anti-foundationalism, historicism, and philosophical pragmatism are consistent with the principles of civic republicanism and deliberative democracy on which America was built and for which it should stand.

Kloppenberg writes that he found a “single sentence [that] encapsulates Obama’s commitments to deliberative democracy and pragmatism,” which he says are the “signature features of [Obama’s] approach to American history and politics.” Are you ready? It is from Obama’s address to the nation on August 31, 2010, marking the end of American combat operations in Iraq:

Obama declared, “The greatness of our democracy is grounded in our ability to move beyond our differences, and to learn from our experience as we confront the many challenges ahead.” That single sentence encapsulates [etc.].

Who knew you could pack so much anti-foundationalism, historicism, and philosophical pragmatism into a single sentence? It may rank up there with the bromides in what David Brooks called the most profound speech of Obama’s life.

Next Tuesday, America’s deliberative democracy will hold what amounts to a referendum on Obama. The anti-foundationalist, historicist, philosophical pragmatist and his party are not expected to do well. The irony is that it will be because the electorate has subjected all his propositions, positions, and policies to continuing critical scrutiny and does not like them.

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More J Street Donors Revealed

The Jerusalem Post has the latest on J Street’s unusual donors:

According to records filed with the US Federal Election Committee on October 20 and October 21, J Street recorded hundreds of donations from Americans of all sorts, most Jewish and some Muslim. But several names jumped out from the 2,100 pages.

Lenny Ben David, who wrote the item, mentions Genevieve Lynch, a member of the National Iranian American Council’s board.

Lynch, the NIAC board member and a member of J Street’s Finance Committee, is listed contributing $10,000 in October. At one point last year, J Street and NIAC leaders worked together to block anti-Iran sanctions measures proposed by Congress. Belatedly, J Street changed its position and supported sanctions.

Nancy Dutton earmarked last week $250 for the Democratic Senate candidate in Pennsylvania, Joe Sestak. Her late husband Fred served as a Saudi foreign agent in Washington for 30 years. (During the 1982 AWACS debate he was believed to be responsible for the line, “Reagan or Begin?” which strongly suggested American Jews’ double loyalty.)  After Fred’s death, Nancy picked up the pricey Saudi gig.

Oddly enough, the donors have a decidedly anti-Israel perspective:

Another new name on the J Street PAC’s list of contributors is  M. Cherif Bassiouni, a well-known professor of law at DePaul University. Bassiouni is also an unlikely candidate to contribute to a purported “pro-Israel” organization.  Several years ago he complained in an article in the Harvard International Law Journal, “A large segment of the world population asks why Israel’s repression of the Palestinian people, which includes the commission of ‘grave breaches’ of the Geneva Convention and what the customary law of armed conflict considers ‘war crimes,’ is deemed justified, while Palestinians’ unlawful acts of targeting civilians are condemned? These are only some contemporary examples of the double standard that fuels terrorism.”

Now, the jig has been up for some time that J Street allies itself with foes of the Jewish state. The latest is simply more evidence, as if any were needed, that J Street’s pro-Israel label is fraudulent and its sponsored candidates are those it perceives to be most helpful to its — and its allies’ — mission.

The Jerusalem Post has the latest on J Street’s unusual donors:

According to records filed with the US Federal Election Committee on October 20 and October 21, J Street recorded hundreds of donations from Americans of all sorts, most Jewish and some Muslim. But several names jumped out from the 2,100 pages.

Lenny Ben David, who wrote the item, mentions Genevieve Lynch, a member of the National Iranian American Council’s board.

Lynch, the NIAC board member and a member of J Street’s Finance Committee, is listed contributing $10,000 in October. At one point last year, J Street and NIAC leaders worked together to block anti-Iran sanctions measures proposed by Congress. Belatedly, J Street changed its position and supported sanctions.

Nancy Dutton earmarked last week $250 for the Democratic Senate candidate in Pennsylvania, Joe Sestak. Her late husband Fred served as a Saudi foreign agent in Washington for 30 years. (During the 1982 AWACS debate he was believed to be responsible for the line, “Reagan or Begin?” which strongly suggested American Jews’ double loyalty.)  After Fred’s death, Nancy picked up the pricey Saudi gig.

Oddly enough, the donors have a decidedly anti-Israel perspective:

Another new name on the J Street PAC’s list of contributors is  M. Cherif Bassiouni, a well-known professor of law at DePaul University. Bassiouni is also an unlikely candidate to contribute to a purported “pro-Israel” organization.  Several years ago he complained in an article in the Harvard International Law Journal, “A large segment of the world population asks why Israel’s repression of the Palestinian people, which includes the commission of ‘grave breaches’ of the Geneva Convention and what the customary law of armed conflict considers ‘war crimes,’ is deemed justified, while Palestinians’ unlawful acts of targeting civilians are condemned? These are only some contemporary examples of the double standard that fuels terrorism.”

Now, the jig has been up for some time that J Street allies itself with foes of the Jewish state. The latest is simply more evidence, as if any were needed, that J Street’s pro-Israel label is fraudulent and its sponsored candidates are those it perceives to be most helpful to its — and its allies’ — mission.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Even Obama’s old seat may be lost. Mark Kirk has a small lead in two recent polls.

Even the White House couldn’t spin this one: “All signs point to huge Republican victories in two weeks, with the GOP now leading Democrats on virtually every measure in an Associated Press-GfK poll of people likely to vote in the first major elections of Barack Obama’s presidency … 50 percent say they will back the GOP candidate in their House district; 43 percent say they’ll support the Democrat … 54 percent disapprove of Obama’s job performance; 45 percent approve.” No wonder Obama wants to talk about the Chamber of Commerce.

Even the VP spot in 2012 is out, says Chris Christie. “Christie also once again said there’s ‘no way’ he’d run for president in 2012. But his wife suggested the freshman governor would be good in the role. ‘Oh, absolutely,’ Mary Pat Christie told MSNBC when asked if she thought her husband would make for a ‘good president.’” Hey, Obama changed his mind about running in 2008.

Even Christine O’Donnell (probably) knows it by heart: “At a Democratic fundraiser on Monday night, President Obama once again misquoted the Declaration of Independence’s most famous sentence and once again omitted its reference to our ‘Creator.’” If you are counting, this is the third time he edited the Preamble. “Other presidents didn’t deliberately misquote the Declaration, and they didn’t leave out (or rewrite) the words about our rights being endowed by our Creator.” But he’s an intellectual, don’t you see?

Even William Galston can’t convince me that Obama will “reach across the aisle” to work cooperatively with a GOP Congress. He should, but he sure isn’t laying the groundwork now.

Even the “unambiguous success” of the GM bailout really isn’t. Charles Lane explains that GM has $27 billion in unfunded pension-plan obligations. “Long term, the bailout can’t work unless the public buys GM’s cars. But the company’s share of the U.S. market was 19 percent in September 2010, down from 19.6 percent at the beginning of the year. Hence, [independent ratings agency] Fitch says, GM’s bonds deserve a ‘junk’ rating: BB-. That, too, is not a big surprise. But it does suggest that the success of the bailout is still, well, ambiguous. GM is not out of the woods yet, and neither are the taxpayers.”

Even the Harvard Club of New York has higher standards than CNN. “This year, the Midtown club turned down Mr. Spitzer’s application for membership — a rare snub by the club — because officials there did not want to be associated with Mr. Spitzer and the prostitution scandal that forced him from the governorship of New York in 2008, according to a person told of the decision by Harvard officials.” Shunning is a much-underrated tool in maintaining ethical standards. (Speaking of which, why did the same Harvard University have Spitzer speak last year on ethics?)

Even unacceptable to Human Rights Watch: “Human Rights Watch has slammed a ruling by an Emirati court which condones the beating of wives by their husbands, saying it sends out a signal that violence against women and children is acceptable.” Would be nice if Obama and his secretary of state would do so as well, since they’re all about human rights these days.

Even liberal Matthew Duss concedes that George Bush was on to something with his “freedom agenda.” In a backhanded way, he advises: “But just because the Bush administration latched onto this critique as a justification for its attempt to reorder the Middle East doesn’t mean it was necessarily wrong. A focus on security at the expense of democracy does generate bad consequences, and acknowledgement of this fact, by anyone, however late coming, is a good thing.” In all his suck-uppery to the PA, Obama has ignored this truism: “Political freedom is not a peripheral concern in Palestine — it is central to the U.S. goal of a functioning, viable, and democratic Palestinian state at peace with Israel.”

Even Obama’s old seat may be lost. Mark Kirk has a small lead in two recent polls.

Even the White House couldn’t spin this one: “All signs point to huge Republican victories in two weeks, with the GOP now leading Democrats on virtually every measure in an Associated Press-GfK poll of people likely to vote in the first major elections of Barack Obama’s presidency … 50 percent say they will back the GOP candidate in their House district; 43 percent say they’ll support the Democrat … 54 percent disapprove of Obama’s job performance; 45 percent approve.” No wonder Obama wants to talk about the Chamber of Commerce.

Even the VP spot in 2012 is out, says Chris Christie. “Christie also once again said there’s ‘no way’ he’d run for president in 2012. But his wife suggested the freshman governor would be good in the role. ‘Oh, absolutely,’ Mary Pat Christie told MSNBC when asked if she thought her husband would make for a ‘good president.’” Hey, Obama changed his mind about running in 2008.

Even Christine O’Donnell (probably) knows it by heart: “At a Democratic fundraiser on Monday night, President Obama once again misquoted the Declaration of Independence’s most famous sentence and once again omitted its reference to our ‘Creator.’” If you are counting, this is the third time he edited the Preamble. “Other presidents didn’t deliberately misquote the Declaration, and they didn’t leave out (or rewrite) the words about our rights being endowed by our Creator.” But he’s an intellectual, don’t you see?

Even William Galston can’t convince me that Obama will “reach across the aisle” to work cooperatively with a GOP Congress. He should, but he sure isn’t laying the groundwork now.

Even the “unambiguous success” of the GM bailout really isn’t. Charles Lane explains that GM has $27 billion in unfunded pension-plan obligations. “Long term, the bailout can’t work unless the public buys GM’s cars. But the company’s share of the U.S. market was 19 percent in September 2010, down from 19.6 percent at the beginning of the year. Hence, [independent ratings agency] Fitch says, GM’s bonds deserve a ‘junk’ rating: BB-. That, too, is not a big surprise. But it does suggest that the success of the bailout is still, well, ambiguous. GM is not out of the woods yet, and neither are the taxpayers.”

Even the Harvard Club of New York has higher standards than CNN. “This year, the Midtown club turned down Mr. Spitzer’s application for membership — a rare snub by the club — because officials there did not want to be associated with Mr. Spitzer and the prostitution scandal that forced him from the governorship of New York in 2008, according to a person told of the decision by Harvard officials.” Shunning is a much-underrated tool in maintaining ethical standards. (Speaking of which, why did the same Harvard University have Spitzer speak last year on ethics?)

Even unacceptable to Human Rights Watch: “Human Rights Watch has slammed a ruling by an Emirati court which condones the beating of wives by their husbands, saying it sends out a signal that violence against women and children is acceptable.” Would be nice if Obama and his secretary of state would do so as well, since they’re all about human rights these days.

Even liberal Matthew Duss concedes that George Bush was on to something with his “freedom agenda.” In a backhanded way, he advises: “But just because the Bush administration latched onto this critique as a justification for its attempt to reorder the Middle East doesn’t mean it was necessarily wrong. A focus on security at the expense of democracy does generate bad consequences, and acknowledgement of this fact, by anyone, however late coming, is a good thing.” In all his suck-uppery to the PA, Obama has ignored this truism: “Political freedom is not a peripheral concern in Palestine — it is central to the U.S. goal of a functioning, viable, and democratic Palestinian state at peace with Israel.”

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Mean and Ignorant!

Fresh from a column on how mean GOP women are, Maureen Dowd today writes about how ignorant they are. She reviews the well-known list of gaffes — but only those of Republican women. Apparently Harry Reid, Barbara Boxer, Blanche Lincoln, and the rest are scholars one and all. But then Dowd writes something odd, even for her:

On Saturday, at a G.O.P. rally in Anaheim, Calif., Palin mockingly noted that you won’t find her invoking Mao or Saul Alinsky. She says she believes in American exceptionalism. But when it comes to the people running the country, exceptionalism is suspect; leaders should be — as Palin, O’Donnell and Angle keep saying — just like you.

OK, now that’s dumb. American exceptionalism — the idea that America is endowed with great assets and plays a unique role in the world — has absolutely nothing to do with whether it’s a good idea to have a Harvard grad or a University of Idaho grad in the Oval Office. The desire to dump elites in no way diminishes one’s faith in American exceptionalism. To the contrary, it is the elites who have learned to disdain the projection of American power and values. So, yes, you can in fact favor candidates without elite baggage and believe in the unique role of America in the world.

Of course, Christine O’Donnell is now the useful model for portraying all conservative women as dopes. But what will Dowd and her ilk do when O’Donnell loses? Sarah Palin, the queen bee they fear and resent the most, has been on a roll. She understood that ObamaCare meant rationing; that renunciation of first-strike nuclear power against a biological or chemical attack was daft; that Keynesian economics was bunk; and that animus toward Israel and indifference to our allies more generally was dangerous. What’s ignorant about all that?

I’m not going to defend the gaffes by conservative candidates, male or female, or make the argument that they don’t matter when running for office. They do, especially when these candidates have already been tagged by the mainstream press (whose own brilliance was so stunning that they were certain the surge would fail and that Obama was a political genius) as intellectually deficient, as Palin has. But the ideas that they embrace are not the product of ignorance. They are rooted in time-tested principles of free market economics, limited government, and, yes, American exceptionalism.

At least conservative women have not made the meta-errors of the type that imperil Obama and his Democrats (not to mention our country). So better, then, for Dowd to keep the arguments trivial, personal, and mean. Otherwise, the Gray Lady’s venom-spitting columnist might have to engage in some real policy critiques. And who thinks Dowd is remotely up to that?

Fresh from a column on how mean GOP women are, Maureen Dowd today writes about how ignorant they are. She reviews the well-known list of gaffes — but only those of Republican women. Apparently Harry Reid, Barbara Boxer, Blanche Lincoln, and the rest are scholars one and all. But then Dowd writes something odd, even for her:

On Saturday, at a G.O.P. rally in Anaheim, Calif., Palin mockingly noted that you won’t find her invoking Mao or Saul Alinsky. She says she believes in American exceptionalism. But when it comes to the people running the country, exceptionalism is suspect; leaders should be — as Palin, O’Donnell and Angle keep saying — just like you.

OK, now that’s dumb. American exceptionalism — the idea that America is endowed with great assets and plays a unique role in the world — has absolutely nothing to do with whether it’s a good idea to have a Harvard grad or a University of Idaho grad in the Oval Office. The desire to dump elites in no way diminishes one’s faith in American exceptionalism. To the contrary, it is the elites who have learned to disdain the projection of American power and values. So, yes, you can in fact favor candidates without elite baggage and believe in the unique role of America in the world.

Of course, Christine O’Donnell is now the useful model for portraying all conservative women as dopes. But what will Dowd and her ilk do when O’Donnell loses? Sarah Palin, the queen bee they fear and resent the most, has been on a roll. She understood that ObamaCare meant rationing; that renunciation of first-strike nuclear power against a biological or chemical attack was daft; that Keynesian economics was bunk; and that animus toward Israel and indifference to our allies more generally was dangerous. What’s ignorant about all that?

I’m not going to defend the gaffes by conservative candidates, male or female, or make the argument that they don’t matter when running for office. They do, especially when these candidates have already been tagged by the mainstream press (whose own brilliance was so stunning that they were certain the surge would fail and that Obama was a political genius) as intellectually deficient, as Palin has. But the ideas that they embrace are not the product of ignorance. They are rooted in time-tested principles of free market economics, limited government, and, yes, American exceptionalism.

At least conservative women have not made the meta-errors of the type that imperil Obama and his Democrats (not to mention our country). So better, then, for Dowd to keep the arguments trivial, personal, and mean. Otherwise, the Gray Lady’s venom-spitting columnist might have to engage in some real policy critiques. And who thinks Dowd is remotely up to that?

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D.C.’s Loss May Be America’s Gain

School-reform champions Adrian Fenty and Michelle Rhee put the pressure on D.C.’s next mayor this weekend with a dead-on op-ed in the Washington Post. There’s a justified perception that teachers’ unions are a political force to be reckoned with. But despite their recent electoral loss, famed reformers like Rhee and Fenty have opened the opportunity for parents and their children to become an entity to be feared, too.

Fenty and Rhee earned national acclaim by staring down the D.C. teachers’ unions, supporting the rights of parents to choose among educational options for their children, and penalizing teachers and schools that failed students. Under their guidance, the D.C. school districts showed dramatic improvement.

Fenty and Rhee’s message this weekend was clear: if the momentum of D.C. schools stagnates or recedes, you can blame the presumptive new mayor, City Council Chairman Vincent Gray. He has all the tools he needs to succeed, they argue; but it remains to be seen whether he has the requisite political courage. They write:

We absolutely believe the progress can continue. Our presumptive new mayor is a native Washingtonian who cares deeply about education. We leave behind arguably the most talented and driven team that a school district administration could have. They are in the schools; they are in the central office; they are in other District agencies partnering with DCPS to modernize schools and update and support technologies. All of these people and more are getting up every morning and doing the incredibly difficult work that the cameras don’t see. As leaders, we simply “blocked and tackled” so that they could get things done.

Rhee and Fenty say that they failed to establish broad support for their initiatives. If the D.C. Democratic primary was the only indicator, perhaps they’re right.

But interest in school reform appears on the rise, and a large percentage of the public supports holding teachers accountable and taking a stand against the unions that allow bad teachers to hold on to their jobs, raises, and benefits at the expense of American children.

Among the most interesting of these recent developments is the buzz surrounding the documentary Waiting for Superman, which has pointed a public finger at the National Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers. But interest in genuine reform extends beyond the film. Want statistical proof? The latest Phi Delta Kappa/Gallup Poll reported that 72 percent of public-school parents wanted teachers to be paid “on the basis of his or her work.” A September Time poll also revealed a public that would favor Rhee and Fenty’s approach; 66 percent opposed tenure for public-school teachers; 71 percent wanted to establish merit pay; and a plurality thought teachers’ unions kept schools from improving. Also worth examination is the survey conducted by Harvard’s Program on Education Policy and Governance and Education Next, which shows a markedly pro-reform attitude.

Rhee and Fenty may no longer be in office, but here’s hoping they remain in the spotlight. Across the country, the political mood is surly and dissatisfied, but what reformers like the Tea Partiers have too often lacked is an articulate and experienced figurehead to organize behind. Fenty’s defeat and Rhee’s resignation may open up a bigger political opportunity. Whereas before, Rhee and Fenty were empowered to affect reform only in D.C., influencing the rest of the country by example, now they have the opportunity to become the voice of a national school-reform movement.

School-reform champions Adrian Fenty and Michelle Rhee put the pressure on D.C.’s next mayor this weekend with a dead-on op-ed in the Washington Post. There’s a justified perception that teachers’ unions are a political force to be reckoned with. But despite their recent electoral loss, famed reformers like Rhee and Fenty have opened the opportunity for parents and their children to become an entity to be feared, too.

Fenty and Rhee earned national acclaim by staring down the D.C. teachers’ unions, supporting the rights of parents to choose among educational options for their children, and penalizing teachers and schools that failed students. Under their guidance, the D.C. school districts showed dramatic improvement.

Fenty and Rhee’s message this weekend was clear: if the momentum of D.C. schools stagnates or recedes, you can blame the presumptive new mayor, City Council Chairman Vincent Gray. He has all the tools he needs to succeed, they argue; but it remains to be seen whether he has the requisite political courage. They write:

We absolutely believe the progress can continue. Our presumptive new mayor is a native Washingtonian who cares deeply about education. We leave behind arguably the most talented and driven team that a school district administration could have. They are in the schools; they are in the central office; they are in other District agencies partnering with DCPS to modernize schools and update and support technologies. All of these people and more are getting up every morning and doing the incredibly difficult work that the cameras don’t see. As leaders, we simply “blocked and tackled” so that they could get things done.

Rhee and Fenty say that they failed to establish broad support for their initiatives. If the D.C. Democratic primary was the only indicator, perhaps they’re right.

But interest in school reform appears on the rise, and a large percentage of the public supports holding teachers accountable and taking a stand against the unions that allow bad teachers to hold on to their jobs, raises, and benefits at the expense of American children.

Among the most interesting of these recent developments is the buzz surrounding the documentary Waiting for Superman, which has pointed a public finger at the National Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers. But interest in genuine reform extends beyond the film. Want statistical proof? The latest Phi Delta Kappa/Gallup Poll reported that 72 percent of public-school parents wanted teachers to be paid “on the basis of his or her work.” A September Time poll also revealed a public that would favor Rhee and Fenty’s approach; 66 percent opposed tenure for public-school teachers; 71 percent wanted to establish merit pay; and a plurality thought teachers’ unions kept schools from improving. Also worth examination is the survey conducted by Harvard’s Program on Education Policy and Governance and Education Next, which shows a markedly pro-reform attitude.

Rhee and Fenty may no longer be in office, but here’s hoping they remain in the spotlight. Across the country, the political mood is surly and dissatisfied, but what reformers like the Tea Partiers have too often lacked is an articulate and experienced figurehead to organize behind. Fenty’s defeat and Rhee’s resignation may open up a bigger political opportunity. Whereas before, Rhee and Fenty were empowered to affect reform only in D.C., influencing the rest of the country by example, now they have the opportunity to become the voice of a national school-reform movement.

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