Commentary Magazine


Topic: Ivy League

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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Wow, She’s Good at Manipulating the Media. Who Knew?

Howard Kurtz – no kidding — has recently discovered that Sarah Palin is a shrewd manipulator of the media. Next up: Dems’ loss of the midterms is a problem for the Obama strategy! It’s hard to comprehend how slow Kurtz and the rest of the non-conservative media have been in coming around to this realization:

I’m starting to believe the detractors are wrong and that Palin is executing a shrewd strategy that has catapulted her past potential rivals, co-opting the same media establishment she loves to denigrate. Even her recent hints about running for president—if indeed she’s willing to subject herself to constant journalistic scrutiny—are designed to stoke interest in her now that midterm madness has faded. …

Those gatekeepers—the infamous lamestream media—are obsessed with Palin, trumpeting her every tweet. They do so even when she’s slamming Politico or Katie Couric or, my personal favorite, “impotent and limp” reporters who use anonymous sources. They can’t help themselves; she’s a helluva story. She drives ratings and Web traffic in an age when every reporter’s page views can be measured. Each side enables the other.

As commonplace as these observations have been in conservative media and among right-leaning pundits, the dean of media conventional wisdom has apparently just pieced this together.

Palin’s ability to promote herself is, of course, different from her ability to convince Americans to vote for her. But here, too, Kurtz is on the case, quoting John Ellis, a political analyst and cousin of George W. Bush:

“‘She’s too stupid’ is what the Establishment GOP really thinks about Sarah Palin. ‘Good-looking,’ but a ‘ditz.’ This is unfertile ground, since Palin can turn the argument on a dime and say: ‘They drive the country into bankruptcy, they underwrite Fannie and Freddie, they bail out Goldman Sachs, they fight wars they don’t want to win, they say enforcing the immigration laws is silly and they call me stupid! I’ll give you a choice: You can have their smarts or my stupidity, which one do you want?’” …

If the smart guys have failed, if the credentialed creative class has messed things up, it opens the door for a plain-spoken populist ready to refudiate the old order.

Sort of like saying that after two years of Obama, voters “may be primed to hear a critique of the shortcomings of Ivy League–educated elites.”

Listen, these people missed the significance of the Tea Party movement for months. They assumed that health care was a great political coup for Obama. So you shouldn’t be surprised that it’s taken them two years to get a clue about the political smarts of Sarah Palin.

Howard Kurtz – no kidding — has recently discovered that Sarah Palin is a shrewd manipulator of the media. Next up: Dems’ loss of the midterms is a problem for the Obama strategy! It’s hard to comprehend how slow Kurtz and the rest of the non-conservative media have been in coming around to this realization:

I’m starting to believe the detractors are wrong and that Palin is executing a shrewd strategy that has catapulted her past potential rivals, co-opting the same media establishment she loves to denigrate. Even her recent hints about running for president—if indeed she’s willing to subject herself to constant journalistic scrutiny—are designed to stoke interest in her now that midterm madness has faded. …

Those gatekeepers—the infamous lamestream media—are obsessed with Palin, trumpeting her every tweet. They do so even when she’s slamming Politico or Katie Couric or, my personal favorite, “impotent and limp” reporters who use anonymous sources. They can’t help themselves; she’s a helluva story. She drives ratings and Web traffic in an age when every reporter’s page views can be measured. Each side enables the other.

As commonplace as these observations have been in conservative media and among right-leaning pundits, the dean of media conventional wisdom has apparently just pieced this together.

Palin’s ability to promote herself is, of course, different from her ability to convince Americans to vote for her. But here, too, Kurtz is on the case, quoting John Ellis, a political analyst and cousin of George W. Bush:

“‘She’s too stupid’ is what the Establishment GOP really thinks about Sarah Palin. ‘Good-looking,’ but a ‘ditz.’ This is unfertile ground, since Palin can turn the argument on a dime and say: ‘They drive the country into bankruptcy, they underwrite Fannie and Freddie, they bail out Goldman Sachs, they fight wars they don’t want to win, they say enforcing the immigration laws is silly and they call me stupid! I’ll give you a choice: You can have their smarts or my stupidity, which one do you want?’” …

If the smart guys have failed, if the credentialed creative class has messed things up, it opens the door for a plain-spoken populist ready to refudiate the old order.

Sort of like saying that after two years of Obama, voters “may be primed to hear a critique of the shortcomings of Ivy League–educated elites.”

Listen, these people missed the significance of the Tea Party movement for months. They assumed that health care was a great political coup for Obama. So you shouldn’t be surprised that it’s taken them two years to get a clue about the political smarts of Sarah Palin.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

I’m sure it is going to be blamed on the Chamber of Commerce: “Gallup finds 21% of Americans satisfied with the way things are going in the United States at this time. If that figure does not improve considerably in the next two weeks, it would be the lowest level of U.S. satisfaction Gallup has measured at the time of a midterm election in more than 30 years of tracking this measure.”

If Jimmy Carter is talking about Israel, it’s going to be slanderous: “Former President Jimmy Carter said Tuesday that Palestinians are ‘living in a cage’ in Gaza and that the militant group Hamas must be included in all major efforts for peace.” Oh, and Obama’s Medal of Freedom winner Mary Robinson was along for the trip.

Now that the PA has bugged out of direct non-peace talks, Israeli leaders are right to be concerned that the next step is going to be an attempt to impose a peace deal. Ambassador Michael Oren is having none of it: “Like Ben-Gurion, Netanyahu will not allow the United Nations, or any other organization, to dictate our borders. They will be determined through negotiations.”

If he’s not taking responsibility for the economy or his party’s train wreck now, there’s no way he’s going to be sticking around to explain the election results: “President Obama is giving Republicans a 10-day window to set the agenda for a lame-duck session and the new legislative year by leaving the country right after the midterm elections.” In short, run away!

Jack Conway is going to be the winner of one contest, according to Jason Zengerle: “There are still two weeks left until the midterm elections, but it’s not too early to declare a winner in the contest for the most despicable political ad of this campaign season. … When the debate was over, Paul refused to shake Conway’s hand. Frankly, I don’t blame him. First, no candidate over the age of, say, 30 should be held politically accountable for anything he or she did in college—short of gross academic misconduct or committing a felony. Second, and more importantly, a politician’s religious faith should simply be off-limits.”

Matt Continetti explains that it’s not going to be easy for Sarah Palin to get the GOP nod: “Palin needs to run a campaign in which she demonstrates the ability to stay on message, raise significant sums of money from a broad group of donors, demonstrate familiarity with the intricacies of domestic and foreign policy, and present a unifying theme of American strength, at home and abroad. It’s a tall order, I know. But the next Republican president will do all these things.” At least she’ll have the argument that an Ivy League degree is irrelevant to the presidency.

It’s going to be a long two years: “[T]he Obama administration is still absorbing the fact that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has to date rejected a proposed American compromise package that would have offered various security and other assurances to Israel in exchange for a 60-day renewal of a partial West Bank settlement freeze that expired last month. The American team is said to be frustrated and upset at Netanyahu’s dismissal to date of the package, which was drafted by the NSC’s Dennis Ross in close consultation with Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak and Israeli negotiator Yitzhak Molho.” They didn’t see this coming? Now that is scary.

I’m sure it is going to be blamed on the Chamber of Commerce: “Gallup finds 21% of Americans satisfied with the way things are going in the United States at this time. If that figure does not improve considerably in the next two weeks, it would be the lowest level of U.S. satisfaction Gallup has measured at the time of a midterm election in more than 30 years of tracking this measure.”

If Jimmy Carter is talking about Israel, it’s going to be slanderous: “Former President Jimmy Carter said Tuesday that Palestinians are ‘living in a cage’ in Gaza and that the militant group Hamas must be included in all major efforts for peace.” Oh, and Obama’s Medal of Freedom winner Mary Robinson was along for the trip.

Now that the PA has bugged out of direct non-peace talks, Israeli leaders are right to be concerned that the next step is going to be an attempt to impose a peace deal. Ambassador Michael Oren is having none of it: “Like Ben-Gurion, Netanyahu will not allow the United Nations, or any other organization, to dictate our borders. They will be determined through negotiations.”

If he’s not taking responsibility for the economy or his party’s train wreck now, there’s no way he’s going to be sticking around to explain the election results: “President Obama is giving Republicans a 10-day window to set the agenda for a lame-duck session and the new legislative year by leaving the country right after the midterm elections.” In short, run away!

Jack Conway is going to be the winner of one contest, according to Jason Zengerle: “There are still two weeks left until the midterm elections, but it’s not too early to declare a winner in the contest for the most despicable political ad of this campaign season. … When the debate was over, Paul refused to shake Conway’s hand. Frankly, I don’t blame him. First, no candidate over the age of, say, 30 should be held politically accountable for anything he or she did in college—short of gross academic misconduct or committing a felony. Second, and more importantly, a politician’s religious faith should simply be off-limits.”

Matt Continetti explains that it’s not going to be easy for Sarah Palin to get the GOP nod: “Palin needs to run a campaign in which she demonstrates the ability to stay on message, raise significant sums of money from a broad group of donors, demonstrate familiarity with the intricacies of domestic and foreign policy, and present a unifying theme of American strength, at home and abroad. It’s a tall order, I know. But the next Republican president will do all these things.” At least she’ll have the argument that an Ivy League degree is irrelevant to the presidency.

It’s going to be a long two years: “[T]he Obama administration is still absorbing the fact that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has to date rejected a proposed American compromise package that would have offered various security and other assurances to Israel in exchange for a 60-day renewal of a partial West Bank settlement freeze that expired last month. The American team is said to be frustrated and upset at Netanyahu’s dismissal to date of the package, which was drafted by the NSC’s Dennis Ross in close consultation with Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak and Israeli negotiator Yitzhak Molho.” They didn’t see this coming? Now that is scary.

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Ahmadinejad Goes to Yale

The U.S. and European delegations walk out on Ahmadinejad at the UN. The president proclaims himself outraged that the perennial Holocaust denier would say awful things. But Ahmadinejad is not without friends in the West. Oh, far from it. Hillary Mann Leverett, one half of the dynamic duo of mullah apologists, invited him to her class at Yale. I kid you not. This account gives you a flavor of what passes for scholarship in the Ivy League:

Leverett said what came across from the meeting was that “he was probably not the stereotype of a crazy irrational figure … He has a strategy for Iran.” She said she also hopes students understand “that it will take a lot more from the U.S. if we want to have a real policy of engagement.”

While Washington has expressed interest in engaging Tehran diplomatically, it has also been using measures to pressure Tehran, such as sanctions.

Leverett’s general approach to U.S.-Iranian relations involves a policy of engagement rather than pressure. Though her views, which differ from those of the previous and current administrations, are controversial, she holds that engagement with Iran and a changing of U.S. attitudes toward the regime is the only way to bring about productive relations with Tehran. …

“The senior advisor [who spoke to the students before the main circus act] was interesting for the students, because he has been a long-time friend of the president,” Leverett said. “He was able to explain to the students in a very interesting unique way, I mean they couldn’t have heard it anywhere else, Ahmedinejad’s personal background.”

No word on whether the bright young minds asked him about the murders, stonings, beatings, Holocaust denial, etc.

Perhaps Leverett next time can arrange for her class a field trip to the dolphin show with him.

The U.S. and European delegations walk out on Ahmadinejad at the UN. The president proclaims himself outraged that the perennial Holocaust denier would say awful things. But Ahmadinejad is not without friends in the West. Oh, far from it. Hillary Mann Leverett, one half of the dynamic duo of mullah apologists, invited him to her class at Yale. I kid you not. This account gives you a flavor of what passes for scholarship in the Ivy League:

Leverett said what came across from the meeting was that “he was probably not the stereotype of a crazy irrational figure … He has a strategy for Iran.” She said she also hopes students understand “that it will take a lot more from the U.S. if we want to have a real policy of engagement.”

While Washington has expressed interest in engaging Tehran diplomatically, it has also been using measures to pressure Tehran, such as sanctions.

Leverett’s general approach to U.S.-Iranian relations involves a policy of engagement rather than pressure. Though her views, which differ from those of the previous and current administrations, are controversial, she holds that engagement with Iran and a changing of U.S. attitudes toward the regime is the only way to bring about productive relations with Tehran. …

“The senior advisor [who spoke to the students before the main circus act] was interesting for the students, because he has been a long-time friend of the president,” Leverett said. “He was able to explain to the students in a very interesting unique way, I mean they couldn’t have heard it anywhere else, Ahmedinejad’s personal background.”

No word on whether the bright young minds asked him about the murders, stonings, beatings, Holocaust denial, etc.

Perhaps Leverett next time can arrange for her class a field trip to the dolphin show with him.

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What’s It Going to Take in 2012?

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

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

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

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

KRISTOL: … who could be the nominee.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

KRISTOL: … who could be the nominee.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Not even Dana Milbank can make excuses for Imam Abdul Rauf: “He claims he wishes to improve the standing of Muslims in the United States, to build understanding between religions, and to enhance the reputation of America in the Muslim world. But in the weeks since he — unintentionally, he says — set off an international conflagration over his plans to build an Islamic center near the scene of the Sept. 11 terrorist attack in New York, he has set back all three of his goals.”

Not even Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chairman Chris Van Hollen is advocating a partial extension of the Bush tax cuts. “If [Republicans] were to come back and say, ‘hey, let’s just do one year for the top 2 percent, and permanent for the middle class,’ that would be something that obviously people would have to think about,’ Van Hollen said in an interview with Bloomberg this past weekend. Van Hollen’s suggestion partially mirrors a plan outlined by former White House budget director Peter Orszag, who argued that Democrats and Republicans should back a fixed two year extension of all the tax cuts and then end them altogether.”

Not even Senate Democrats want to end the Bush tax cuts: “[T]he list of Senate Democrats in favor of an extension is now up to five. Evan Bayh (Indiana), Kent Conrad (North Dakota) and Ben Nelson (Warren Buffett) were already on board, and this week Connecticut Independent-Democrat Joe Lieberman and Virginia’s Jim Webb came around.”

Not even Connecticut is safe for the Democrats. “Pres. Obama’s poll numbers have plummeted in Connecticut, a state he carried by an overwhelming margin 2 years ago. A majority of likely voters — 52% — in the Quinnipiac poll disapprove of how Obama is handling his job as president. Only 45% approve of his performance. The Quinnipiac survey found Blumenthal leading former WWE CEO Linda McMahon by 6 points — 51% to 45%.” Hey, if Scott Brown can win “Ted Kennedy’s seat” then McMahon can win ” Chris Dodd’s seat.”

Not even competent, says Mona Charen, of the president: “The president himself doesn’t at all concede that government is attempting to do too much (and failing at most of it). On the contrary, his vanity (and it is a common one for left-wingers) is that he believes his particular ideas on business investment, medical procedures, housing, and thousands of other matters are the solutions to our woes, but ‘politics’ keeps getting in the way.” All that Ivy League education did, it seems, is convince Obama of his own brilliance.

Not even Imam Abdul Rauf may be able to resist pressure to move the Ground Zero mosque. Now he’s telling us it is all about serving Lower Manhattan’s Muslim residents. Gosh, seems like there already are mosques in the neighborhood.

Not even second place for Charlie Crist if this trend continues: “The independent Senate bid of Florida Governor Charlie Crist is in serious trouble, according to a new Fox News poll. Crist drew 27 percent of likely voters in the poll of the three-way race. Republican Marco Rubio registered 43 percent support. Democrat Kendrick Meek came in third with 21 percent.” Republican Senate candidates also lead in the Fox poll in Nevada (by one point), Pennsylvania, and Ohio. Barbara Boxer is up by only 2 points.

Not even Dana Milbank can make excuses for Imam Abdul Rauf: “He claims he wishes to improve the standing of Muslims in the United States, to build understanding between religions, and to enhance the reputation of America in the Muslim world. But in the weeks since he — unintentionally, he says — set off an international conflagration over his plans to build an Islamic center near the scene of the Sept. 11 terrorist attack in New York, he has set back all three of his goals.”

Not even Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chairman Chris Van Hollen is advocating a partial extension of the Bush tax cuts. “If [Republicans] were to come back and say, ‘hey, let’s just do one year for the top 2 percent, and permanent for the middle class,’ that would be something that obviously people would have to think about,’ Van Hollen said in an interview with Bloomberg this past weekend. Van Hollen’s suggestion partially mirrors a plan outlined by former White House budget director Peter Orszag, who argued that Democrats and Republicans should back a fixed two year extension of all the tax cuts and then end them altogether.”

Not even Senate Democrats want to end the Bush tax cuts: “[T]he list of Senate Democrats in favor of an extension is now up to five. Evan Bayh (Indiana), Kent Conrad (North Dakota) and Ben Nelson (Warren Buffett) were already on board, and this week Connecticut Independent-Democrat Joe Lieberman and Virginia’s Jim Webb came around.”

Not even Connecticut is safe for the Democrats. “Pres. Obama’s poll numbers have plummeted in Connecticut, a state he carried by an overwhelming margin 2 years ago. A majority of likely voters — 52% — in the Quinnipiac poll disapprove of how Obama is handling his job as president. Only 45% approve of his performance. The Quinnipiac survey found Blumenthal leading former WWE CEO Linda McMahon by 6 points — 51% to 45%.” Hey, if Scott Brown can win “Ted Kennedy’s seat” then McMahon can win ” Chris Dodd’s seat.”

Not even competent, says Mona Charen, of the president: “The president himself doesn’t at all concede that government is attempting to do too much (and failing at most of it). On the contrary, his vanity (and it is a common one for left-wingers) is that he believes his particular ideas on business investment, medical procedures, housing, and thousands of other matters are the solutions to our woes, but ‘politics’ keeps getting in the way.” All that Ivy League education did, it seems, is convince Obama of his own brilliance.

Not even Imam Abdul Rauf may be able to resist pressure to move the Ground Zero mosque. Now he’s telling us it is all about serving Lower Manhattan’s Muslim residents. Gosh, seems like there already are mosques in the neighborhood.

Not even second place for Charlie Crist if this trend continues: “The independent Senate bid of Florida Governor Charlie Crist is in serious trouble, according to a new Fox News poll. Crist drew 27 percent of likely voters in the poll of the three-way race. Republican Marco Rubio registered 43 percent support. Democrat Kendrick Meek came in third with 21 percent.” Republican Senate candidates also lead in the Fox poll in Nevada (by one point), Pennsylvania, and Ohio. Barbara Boxer is up by only 2 points.

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Playing the Bigot Card

On the Ground Zero mosque, the left is playing the bigot card, big time. Some may honestly believe the mosque opponents are Muslim-haters, for they cannot fathom why their fellow citizens would object not to the 100 mosques in New York but to the one on Ground Zero. Others may have figured that 68 percent of America is lost to them so better to rally their own side (sliver?) of voters to put their finger in the electoral dike about to burst all over them. It’s the same thinking that demanded that Democrats pass ObamaCare.

But it’s tricky to label as diverse a group as the mosque opponents as bigots. Sarah Palin, Abe Foxman, Howard Dean, Harry Reid, and, oh, a whole lot of thoughtful Muslims. (It’s the opposition that “looks like America,” as Bill Clinton bragged about his Cabinet.) As to the Muslim objectors, I have highlighted a few this week, and the Daily Caller is out with an interesting report:

Stephen Schwartz, executive director of the Center for Islamic Pluralism, told The Daily Caller that despite their relative silence on the issue, many Muslims question the placement of the mosque.

“This is not a humble Islamic statement. A mosque such as this is actually a political structure that casts a shadow over a cemetery, over hallowed ground. 9/11 was the beginning of a kinetic war, it is not an opportunity for cultural exchange. It was the beginning of a conflict with those who want to destroy our way of life,” Dr. Zuhdi Jasser, president and founder of the American Islamic Forum for Democracy, told The Daily Caller.

“I am in no way looking to infringe on First Amendment issues. I approach this as a Muslim that is dedicated to reform,” he said.

Jasser cited the Quranic verse, “Be considerate when you debate with the People of the Book [Jews and Christians],” and said that Muslims backing the project should be introspective during this month of Ramadan.

Schwartz lists three reasons for Muslims to object to the project:

“First of all, aside from the issues of conflict with jihad, Islam teaches us, especially Muslims living in non-Muslim societies, to avoid conflict with our neighbors. … We think this is an incredibly heedless project. It went forward without adequate planning or foresight, without anticipating reaction and it is absurd to think that there would not have been reaction. It is simply absurd. Second, there is the problem of Imam Feisal’s propensity to mix with radicals. And thirdly, there is a problem with the lack of transparency about money funding.”

Doesn’t sound like a bigot to me. In fact, it’s the voice of empathy and reasoned argument, exactly what Obama says he wants to promote. (Or is that a one-way street that travels only to the Muslim World?) Dr. Jasser sums up:

“We are Americans who happen to be Muslims, not Muslims who happen to be Americans. … And this structure is all backwards. They just want to force Islam upon the American people and it is going to be used around the world, especially in Islamic media. From the ashes of this destruction comes the flourishing of Islam and I think that is just the wrong message. It is not good for America or for Muslims.”

That the president has no insight into this and seemingly no access to such opinions explain much about his counterproductive Muslim-outreach efforts. If only ideology really was “so yesterday” and Obama operated in the world as it is, not as Rashid Khalidi and the Ivy League taught him it was, we and he would be vastly better off.

On the Ground Zero mosque, the left is playing the bigot card, big time. Some may honestly believe the mosque opponents are Muslim-haters, for they cannot fathom why their fellow citizens would object not to the 100 mosques in New York but to the one on Ground Zero. Others may have figured that 68 percent of America is lost to them so better to rally their own side (sliver?) of voters to put their finger in the electoral dike about to burst all over them. It’s the same thinking that demanded that Democrats pass ObamaCare.

But it’s tricky to label as diverse a group as the mosque opponents as bigots. Sarah Palin, Abe Foxman, Howard Dean, Harry Reid, and, oh, a whole lot of thoughtful Muslims. (It’s the opposition that “looks like America,” as Bill Clinton bragged about his Cabinet.) As to the Muslim objectors, I have highlighted a few this week, and the Daily Caller is out with an interesting report:

Stephen Schwartz, executive director of the Center for Islamic Pluralism, told The Daily Caller that despite their relative silence on the issue, many Muslims question the placement of the mosque.

“This is not a humble Islamic statement. A mosque such as this is actually a political structure that casts a shadow over a cemetery, over hallowed ground. 9/11 was the beginning of a kinetic war, it is not an opportunity for cultural exchange. It was the beginning of a conflict with those who want to destroy our way of life,” Dr. Zuhdi Jasser, president and founder of the American Islamic Forum for Democracy, told The Daily Caller.

“I am in no way looking to infringe on First Amendment issues. I approach this as a Muslim that is dedicated to reform,” he said.

Jasser cited the Quranic verse, “Be considerate when you debate with the People of the Book [Jews and Christians],” and said that Muslims backing the project should be introspective during this month of Ramadan.

Schwartz lists three reasons for Muslims to object to the project:

“First of all, aside from the issues of conflict with jihad, Islam teaches us, especially Muslims living in non-Muslim societies, to avoid conflict with our neighbors. … We think this is an incredibly heedless project. It went forward without adequate planning or foresight, without anticipating reaction and it is absurd to think that there would not have been reaction. It is simply absurd. Second, there is the problem of Imam Feisal’s propensity to mix with radicals. And thirdly, there is a problem with the lack of transparency about money funding.”

Doesn’t sound like a bigot to me. In fact, it’s the voice of empathy and reasoned argument, exactly what Obama says he wants to promote. (Or is that a one-way street that travels only to the Muslim World?) Dr. Jasser sums up:

“We are Americans who happen to be Muslims, not Muslims who happen to be Americans. … And this structure is all backwards. They just want to force Islam upon the American people and it is going to be used around the world, especially in Islamic media. From the ashes of this destruction comes the flourishing of Islam and I think that is just the wrong message. It is not good for America or for Muslims.”

That the president has no insight into this and seemingly no access to such opinions explain much about his counterproductive Muslim-outreach efforts. If only ideology really was “so yesterday” and Obama operated in the world as it is, not as Rashid Khalidi and the Ivy League taught him it was, we and he would be vastly better off.

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Obama’s Ground Zero Debacle

It would be hard to think how Obama could have done a worse job on the Ground Zero mosque controversy. He took a position objectionable to the vast majority of Americans, within 24 hours chickened out, and then sent his press minions forward to assure his base and the Muslim World and its American community (over which he fawns incessantly) that he really does think we must accept a mosque that will produce nothing but pain for his countrymen and a sense of vindication to those who incinerated 3,000 Americans. It’s bad policy, bad politics, and bad execution, with a side order of political cowardice.

On Fox News Sunday’s roundtable, Ceci Connolly explained the flip-flop-flip:

CONNOLLY: I do think that the president’s remarks on Friday night — we know from our reporting they were not off the cuff. Those were written in advance. They were prepared. They were disseminated. He gave thought to what he wanted to say.

And from all indications he believes what he said on Friday night that, yes, this is hallowed ground but that he has a strong feeling not only about religious freedom and tolerance but also about outreach to the Muslim community, which he has done from the very start of his presidency.

So I don’t think there’s reason to really doubt his believing what he said on Friday.

BAIER: Other than the statement on Saturday.

CONNOLLY: The statement on Saturday — I think what happened was he got a little bit spooked by the reaction, because immediately after he did that recalibration, as you put it, sort of off the cuff with that local reporter down in Florida, Deputy Press Secretary Bill Burton said, “Look, we’re not backing off of Friday night.” And I don’t think that they are.

That’s created angst for Democrats, as Nina Easton observed:

Well, you’ve got to feel the pain of some of these independent conservative Democrats like Martin Frost, who said, “Can’t this president be more like a politician than a law professor?” And we know that now that — as Ceci said, he wanted to weigh in on this. He wanted to weigh in on these broad religious principles.

And you know, we cite the 68 percent of people opposing this. Seventy percent of independent voters oppose this. So this is going to — it’s an issue that was local and, by the way, where in the bluest of states, New York, members of the congressional delegation is basically nowhere to be found. No one wants to weigh in on this.

But among independent voters they really, really oppose this. What this has done is nationalize a sensitive issue. The president — it’s interesting. This is the third time where he’s — in the interest of what he sees in his world of inclusion and fairness and open-mindedness, he’s actually been very polarizing and divisive.

We start with his lawsuit against the Arizona immigration law. His — the health care reform’s been very divisive. And now this. And I think it’s going to really hurt the Democratic brand in November. It’s nationalized this issue.

As Bill Kristol deadpanned: “It’s never a good moment … when Bill Burton, the White House deputy press secretary, at 6 o’clock Saturday night — I mean, I worked in a White House that had some problems in ’91, ’92, as the first Bush administration wound down, somewhat losing some popular support, let’s say. And when you put out a statement that says, ‘Just to be clear, the president is not backing off in any way,’ I mean, ‘just … to be clear’ is not a good thing to begin with if you’re the press secretary. And ‘the president is not backing off’ is not really what you want your news — your explanation to be on Saturday night.”

This reinforces several bad themes for Obama. From the right, his critics have argued that he’s less than competent,  a charge that certainly was supported by a textbook “don’t ever do this” episode in presidential history. Conservatives have also asserted that Obama’s instincts are poor (both when it come in positioning the U.S. against adversaries and in his assessments of the voters’ deeply held beliefs). That too was underlined by Obama’s indifference to the mosque’s symbolism for jihadists and to Americans’ sensibilities. And then on the left, his formerly fervent base has grown exasperated with his equivocation and failure to wholeheartedly embrace their extreme wish list. Given episodes like this one, you have to admit that they too have a point.

But really, this is precisely what we should expect if we elect someone whose executive skills are negligible and whose views come straight out of the Ivy League left. Next time, maybe voters should pay more attention to the experience and values of the person they are electing to lead the Free World.

It would be hard to think how Obama could have done a worse job on the Ground Zero mosque controversy. He took a position objectionable to the vast majority of Americans, within 24 hours chickened out, and then sent his press minions forward to assure his base and the Muslim World and its American community (over which he fawns incessantly) that he really does think we must accept a mosque that will produce nothing but pain for his countrymen and a sense of vindication to those who incinerated 3,000 Americans. It’s bad policy, bad politics, and bad execution, with a side order of political cowardice.

On Fox News Sunday’s roundtable, Ceci Connolly explained the flip-flop-flip:

CONNOLLY: I do think that the president’s remarks on Friday night — we know from our reporting they were not off the cuff. Those were written in advance. They were prepared. They were disseminated. He gave thought to what he wanted to say.

And from all indications he believes what he said on Friday night that, yes, this is hallowed ground but that he has a strong feeling not only about religious freedom and tolerance but also about outreach to the Muslim community, which he has done from the very start of his presidency.

So I don’t think there’s reason to really doubt his believing what he said on Friday.

BAIER: Other than the statement on Saturday.

CONNOLLY: The statement on Saturday — I think what happened was he got a little bit spooked by the reaction, because immediately after he did that recalibration, as you put it, sort of off the cuff with that local reporter down in Florida, Deputy Press Secretary Bill Burton said, “Look, we’re not backing off of Friday night.” And I don’t think that they are.

That’s created angst for Democrats, as Nina Easton observed:

Well, you’ve got to feel the pain of some of these independent conservative Democrats like Martin Frost, who said, “Can’t this president be more like a politician than a law professor?” And we know that now that — as Ceci said, he wanted to weigh in on this. He wanted to weigh in on these broad religious principles.

And you know, we cite the 68 percent of people opposing this. Seventy percent of independent voters oppose this. So this is going to — it’s an issue that was local and, by the way, where in the bluest of states, New York, members of the congressional delegation is basically nowhere to be found. No one wants to weigh in on this.

But among independent voters they really, really oppose this. What this has done is nationalize a sensitive issue. The president — it’s interesting. This is the third time where he’s — in the interest of what he sees in his world of inclusion and fairness and open-mindedness, he’s actually been very polarizing and divisive.

We start with his lawsuit against the Arizona immigration law. His — the health care reform’s been very divisive. And now this. And I think it’s going to really hurt the Democratic brand in November. It’s nationalized this issue.

As Bill Kristol deadpanned: “It’s never a good moment … when Bill Burton, the White House deputy press secretary, at 6 o’clock Saturday night — I mean, I worked in a White House that had some problems in ’91, ’92, as the first Bush administration wound down, somewhat losing some popular support, let’s say. And when you put out a statement that says, ‘Just to be clear, the president is not backing off in any way,’ I mean, ‘just … to be clear’ is not a good thing to begin with if you’re the press secretary. And ‘the president is not backing off’ is not really what you want your news — your explanation to be on Saturday night.”

This reinforces several bad themes for Obama. From the right, his critics have argued that he’s less than competent,  a charge that certainly was supported by a textbook “don’t ever do this” episode in presidential history. Conservatives have also asserted that Obama’s instincts are poor (both when it come in positioning the U.S. against adversaries and in his assessments of the voters’ deeply held beliefs). That too was underlined by Obama’s indifference to the mosque’s symbolism for jihadists and to Americans’ sensibilities. And then on the left, his formerly fervent base has grown exasperated with his equivocation and failure to wholeheartedly embrace their extreme wish list. Given episodes like this one, you have to admit that they too have a point.

But really, this is precisely what we should expect if we elect someone whose executive skills are negligible and whose views come straight out of the Ivy League left. Next time, maybe voters should pay more attention to the experience and values of the person they are electing to lead the Free World.

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Was It the Lavish Vacation?

Politicians of both parties fall prey to gaffes of the “lives of the rich and famous” variety. But liberals, very rich ones, are especially susceptible to flaunting their wealth because they can’t imagine that their motives and dedication to the poor and the underprivileged would be called into question. After all, they support every social engineering project of the liberal welfare state, insist that taxes (well, other people’s taxes) be increased and redistributed, and attend so many important charitable functions in each-other’s magnificent homes. Hence we have the John Kerry “park the yacht elsewhere” gambit, which was quickly reversed when the voters thought it peculiar that Kerry didn’t want to pay $500,000 in taxes that he would have be owed, had he docked his floating palace in the Commonwealth’s waters.

Then there is Michelle Obama. After a rocky campaign, she’s gone on a charm offensive that puts to shame her husband’s Jewish “make nice” outreach. She grows vegetables. She exercises with children. No more do we hear about the America she was never proud of before Hillary went down the tubes in the primary. (And really, what’s not to like about a country that elevates your husband to the White House and confers queen-bee status on you?) But there, too, the bloom is off the rose: “The first lady’s rating, a combination of the very positive and somewhat positive answers, has fallen from 64 percent in April ’09 to 55 percent in January 2010 to 50 percent today.” Byron York thinks it is the vacation that may have done it:

Mrs. Obama’s personal popularity is lower than former First Lady Laura Bush’s ratings in the same poll by the same pollsters. In December, 2001, 76 percent of those surveyed had a positive opinion of Mrs. Bush. In February 2005, that number was 65 percent. In October 2006, with her husband’s job and personal approval ratings plummeting, Mrs. Bush’s personal approval rating was 56 percent.

Michelle Obama received the first negative press of her time in the White House in recent weeks during her vacation trip to Spain. Critics questioned why the first lady chose to go to a glitzy, high-priced resort at a time when unemployment is high and many Americans are suffering economically. The White House pushed back, first giving reporters the story that Mrs. Obama made the trip to comfort a friend who had recently lost her father and then stressing that the first lady is so popular that she will be in great demand by Democrats campaigning for House and Senate seats this November. But the new Wall Street Journal/NBC numbers suggest that Mrs. Obama’s popularity is falling, not rising.

It may be that the lavish trips (maybe the date night in New York was over the top?) aren’t the only thing at work. Perhaps, unlike Laura Bush, who — feminists, hold on to your hats — carved a separate identity and established a pleasing persona, which survived her husband’s ups and downs, Michelle has not. She is the perfect distillation, as is her husband, of the elite left (don’t tell me she was raised as middle class; she was educated in the Ivy League and lived a life of privilege from Hyde Park on). She and he are two peas in a pod. And right now the public seems increasingly fed up with both of them.

Politicians of both parties fall prey to gaffes of the “lives of the rich and famous” variety. But liberals, very rich ones, are especially susceptible to flaunting their wealth because they can’t imagine that their motives and dedication to the poor and the underprivileged would be called into question. After all, they support every social engineering project of the liberal welfare state, insist that taxes (well, other people’s taxes) be increased and redistributed, and attend so many important charitable functions in each-other’s magnificent homes. Hence we have the John Kerry “park the yacht elsewhere” gambit, which was quickly reversed when the voters thought it peculiar that Kerry didn’t want to pay $500,000 in taxes that he would have be owed, had he docked his floating palace in the Commonwealth’s waters.

Then there is Michelle Obama. After a rocky campaign, she’s gone on a charm offensive that puts to shame her husband’s Jewish “make nice” outreach. She grows vegetables. She exercises with children. No more do we hear about the America she was never proud of before Hillary went down the tubes in the primary. (And really, what’s not to like about a country that elevates your husband to the White House and confers queen-bee status on you?) But there, too, the bloom is off the rose: “The first lady’s rating, a combination of the very positive and somewhat positive answers, has fallen from 64 percent in April ’09 to 55 percent in January 2010 to 50 percent today.” Byron York thinks it is the vacation that may have done it:

Mrs. Obama’s personal popularity is lower than former First Lady Laura Bush’s ratings in the same poll by the same pollsters. In December, 2001, 76 percent of those surveyed had a positive opinion of Mrs. Bush. In February 2005, that number was 65 percent. In October 2006, with her husband’s job and personal approval ratings plummeting, Mrs. Bush’s personal approval rating was 56 percent.

Michelle Obama received the first negative press of her time in the White House in recent weeks during her vacation trip to Spain. Critics questioned why the first lady chose to go to a glitzy, high-priced resort at a time when unemployment is high and many Americans are suffering economically. The White House pushed back, first giving reporters the story that Mrs. Obama made the trip to comfort a friend who had recently lost her father and then stressing that the first lady is so popular that she will be in great demand by Democrats campaigning for House and Senate seats this November. But the new Wall Street Journal/NBC numbers suggest that Mrs. Obama’s popularity is falling, not rising.

It may be that the lavish trips (maybe the date night in New York was over the top?) aren’t the only thing at work. Perhaps, unlike Laura Bush, who — feminists, hold on to your hats — carved a separate identity and established a pleasing persona, which survived her husband’s ups and downs, Michelle has not. She is the perfect distillation, as is her husband, of the elite left (don’t tell me she was raised as middle class; she was educated in the Ivy League and lived a life of privilege from Hyde Park on). She and he are two peas in a pod. And right now the public seems increasingly fed up with both of them.

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Richard Cohen: Obama Is No Reagan

My how the bloom is off the Obama rose. Richard Cohen sounds, well, like a CONTENTIONS blogger:

No one is accusing Obama of being likable. He is not unlikable, but he lacks Reagan’s (or Bill Clinton’s) warmth. What’s more, his career has been brief. He led no movement, was spokesman for no ideology and campaigned like a Nike sneaker — change instead of swoosh. He seems distant. No Irish jokes from him. For the average voter, he casts no shadow.

Reagan, by contrast, had been around forever. He was not defined solely by gauzy campaign ads but by countless speeches, two contentious and highly controversial terms as California governor, and a previous race for the presidency. There was never a question about who Reagan was and what he stood for. Not so Obama. About all he shares with Reagan at this point are low ratings.

I confess I am always baffled when pundits and voters say they like Obama but not his policies. What has been ingratiating about him? He’s thin-skinned, prickly, and robotic. He’s unduly nasty to political opponents. He doesn’t seem to like us (especially ordinary Americans who have taken to the streets and town halls), so why should we like him?

I suspect the canned response (“Oh sure, we like him, just not his handling of [fill in the blank]”) is a form of politeness, perhaps even wariness of expressing personal distaste for our first African American president. The idea of Obama has proved infinitely more attractive than the reality. Not even liberals like him anymore.

But Cohen’s not done:

What has come to be called the Obama Paradox is not a paradox at all. Voters lack faith in him making the right economic decisions because, as far as they’re concerned, he hasn’t. He went for health-care reform, not jobs. He supported the public option, then he didn’t. He’s been cold to Israel’s Binyamin Netanyahu and then all over him like a cheap suit. Americans know Obama is smart. But we still don’t know him. Before Americans can give him credit for what he’s done, they have to know who he is. We’re waiting.

Or perhaps they know who he is (the prototypical Ivy League leftist) and still don’t like him. I will leave to others to debate whether he is “smart” or merely glib. (At the health-care summit, did he seem as smart as Paul Ryan?) What we do know is that he hasn’t been smart on politics (ask Nancy Pelosi), on the economy, or on the war on terror (how smart is it to excise the name of our enemy?).

The degree to which the entire debate has shifted is striking. We know how he has enraged and motivated conservatives. But now the left makes little or no effort to defend their once-messianic figure and seems to parrot many of the right’s complaints. If this is how Cohen, a rather reliable liberal voice, feels about Obama, imagine what independent voters in Ohio and Indiana and California must be thinking. We’ll get a hint this November.

My how the bloom is off the Obama rose. Richard Cohen sounds, well, like a CONTENTIONS blogger:

No one is accusing Obama of being likable. He is not unlikable, but he lacks Reagan’s (or Bill Clinton’s) warmth. What’s more, his career has been brief. He led no movement, was spokesman for no ideology and campaigned like a Nike sneaker — change instead of swoosh. He seems distant. No Irish jokes from him. For the average voter, he casts no shadow.

Reagan, by contrast, had been around forever. He was not defined solely by gauzy campaign ads but by countless speeches, two contentious and highly controversial terms as California governor, and a previous race for the presidency. There was never a question about who Reagan was and what he stood for. Not so Obama. About all he shares with Reagan at this point are low ratings.

I confess I am always baffled when pundits and voters say they like Obama but not his policies. What has been ingratiating about him? He’s thin-skinned, prickly, and robotic. He’s unduly nasty to political opponents. He doesn’t seem to like us (especially ordinary Americans who have taken to the streets and town halls), so why should we like him?

I suspect the canned response (“Oh sure, we like him, just not his handling of [fill in the blank]”) is a form of politeness, perhaps even wariness of expressing personal distaste for our first African American president. The idea of Obama has proved infinitely more attractive than the reality. Not even liberals like him anymore.

But Cohen’s not done:

What has come to be called the Obama Paradox is not a paradox at all. Voters lack faith in him making the right economic decisions because, as far as they’re concerned, he hasn’t. He went for health-care reform, not jobs. He supported the public option, then he didn’t. He’s been cold to Israel’s Binyamin Netanyahu and then all over him like a cheap suit. Americans know Obama is smart. But we still don’t know him. Before Americans can give him credit for what he’s done, they have to know who he is. We’re waiting.

Or perhaps they know who he is (the prototypical Ivy League leftist) and still don’t like him. I will leave to others to debate whether he is “smart” or merely glib. (At the health-care summit, did he seem as smart as Paul Ryan?) What we do know is that he hasn’t been smart on politics (ask Nancy Pelosi), on the economy, or on the war on terror (how smart is it to excise the name of our enemy?).

The degree to which the entire debate has shifted is striking. We know how he has enraged and motivated conservatives. But now the left makes little or no effort to defend their once-messianic figure and seems to parrot many of the right’s complaints. If this is how Cohen, a rather reliable liberal voice, feels about Obama, imagine what independent voters in Ohio and Indiana and California must be thinking. We’ll get a hint this November.

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Bollinger: Big Government News

I thought this headline might be sardonic: “Journalism Needs Government Help; Media budgets have been decimated as the Internet facilitates a communications revolution. More public funding for news-gathering is the answer.” It’s an op-ed from Columbia University professor Lee Bollinger in the Wall Street Journal, so I was hopeful that we’d get a touch of iconoclastic common sense. My hopes were misplaced. And I wonder whether the Journal editors didn’t decide to publish this on their pages just to show how ludicrous liberal statism has become. First, Bollinger’s complains that “journalism” is failing. (Umm, not the Journal, not Fox News — so it’s really only liberal print publications he’s pining over). So the solution is government funding. We learn:

Both the Federal Communications Commission and the Federal Trade Commission are undertaking studies of ways to ensure the steep economic decline faced by newspapers and broadcast news does not deprive Americans of the essential information they need as citizens. One idea under consideration is enhanced public funding for journalism.

In other words, taxpayers will be forced to pay for what they won’t watch or read of their own volition. And the journalistic monstrosity will be a merger of PBS and NPR. The result sounds like something George Orwell would have dreamed  up:

To me a key priority is to strengthen our public broadcasting role in the global arena. In today’s rapidly globalizing and interconnected world, other countries are developing a strong media presence. In addition to the BBC, there is China’s CCTV and Xinhua news, as well as Qatar’s Al Jazeera. The U.S. government’s international broadcasters, like Voice of America and Radio Free Europe, were developed during the Cold War as tools of our anticommunist foreign policy. In a sign of how anachronistic our system is in a digital age, these broadcasters are legally forbidden from airing within the U.S.

This system needs to be revised and its resources consolidated and augmented with those of NPR and PBS to create an American World Service that can compete with the BBC and other global broadcasters.

He insists that these public employees will exercise complete journalistic independence. That’s right. Liberals working for the government will independently make news decisions and report with no hint of bias. But the punchline — or the giveaway, depending on your perspective — is this:

The goal would be an American broadcasting system with full journalistic independence that can provide the news we need. Let’s demonstrate great journalism’s essential role in a free and dynamic society.

What if viewers and readers, um, don’t think they need what Big Government News is serving up? And how do we know what we “need”? Ah, Bollinger and his fellow Ivy Leaguers will tell us. Such is the state of liberal thinking and the mind of an Ivy League president. Yeah, I’m thinking the same thing: people spend money to send their kids to these places?

I thought this headline might be sardonic: “Journalism Needs Government Help; Media budgets have been decimated as the Internet facilitates a communications revolution. More public funding for news-gathering is the answer.” It’s an op-ed from Columbia University professor Lee Bollinger in the Wall Street Journal, so I was hopeful that we’d get a touch of iconoclastic common sense. My hopes were misplaced. And I wonder whether the Journal editors didn’t decide to publish this on their pages just to show how ludicrous liberal statism has become. First, Bollinger’s complains that “journalism” is failing. (Umm, not the Journal, not Fox News — so it’s really only liberal print publications he’s pining over). So the solution is government funding. We learn:

Both the Federal Communications Commission and the Federal Trade Commission are undertaking studies of ways to ensure the steep economic decline faced by newspapers and broadcast news does not deprive Americans of the essential information they need as citizens. One idea under consideration is enhanced public funding for journalism.

In other words, taxpayers will be forced to pay for what they won’t watch or read of their own volition. And the journalistic monstrosity will be a merger of PBS and NPR. The result sounds like something George Orwell would have dreamed  up:

To me a key priority is to strengthen our public broadcasting role in the global arena. In today’s rapidly globalizing and interconnected world, other countries are developing a strong media presence. In addition to the BBC, there is China’s CCTV and Xinhua news, as well as Qatar’s Al Jazeera. The U.S. government’s international broadcasters, like Voice of America and Radio Free Europe, were developed during the Cold War as tools of our anticommunist foreign policy. In a sign of how anachronistic our system is in a digital age, these broadcasters are legally forbidden from airing within the U.S.

This system needs to be revised and its resources consolidated and augmented with those of NPR and PBS to create an American World Service that can compete with the BBC and other global broadcasters.

He insists that these public employees will exercise complete journalistic independence. That’s right. Liberals working for the government will independently make news decisions and report with no hint of bias. But the punchline — or the giveaway, depending on your perspective — is this:

The goal would be an American broadcasting system with full journalistic independence that can provide the news we need. Let’s demonstrate great journalism’s essential role in a free and dynamic society.

What if viewers and readers, um, don’t think they need what Big Government News is serving up? And how do we know what we “need”? Ah, Bollinger and his fellow Ivy Leaguers will tell us. Such is the state of liberal thinking and the mind of an Ivy League president. Yeah, I’m thinking the same thing: people spend money to send their kids to these places?

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Brilliant No More

How many times has a pundit or Democrat gushed over Obama’s “brilliant” mind? As conservatives pointed out to the swooners on the left, there was very little evidence of it — no inventive Third Wave philosophy of governance in his pre-presidential career, no significant legislative or intellectual achievement — other than writing a self-promoting and somewhat fictional account of himself — and actually very poor people skills (Maureen Dowd has only now figured out that he is thin-skinned and emotionally robotic). But it was heresy to suggest that he was a conventional liberal thinker, less interesting than Bill Clinton and less rigorous than Ronald Reagan.

Now that his presidency is in dire straits, perhaps the mainstream media are more receptive to that perspective. As Noemie Emery writes, to the extent that he was/is “brilliant,” it’s in the mundane task of running meetings:

He does seem a genius at chairing a forum, as at the “nuclear summit” in April, where the Washington Post claimed that he shone as a teacher, “calling on leaders to speak, embellish, oppose, and offer alternatives,” coaxing consensus and forging agreements among 45 countries at hand. The problem was that the value of these things was limited, as the attending countries weren’t menacing anyone, while Iran and Korea, who were not in attendance, went on happily building their bombs. He isn’t a sphinx, he’s a seminar leader who’s out of his element. And more and more out of his depth.

And honestly, he’s not that great at running meetings. His Afghanistan-war seminars dragged on. His health-care summit bombed when Rep. Paul Ryan and others stymied him with facts and figures.

Now that Obama’s policies and political standing are faltering, the media mavens are puzzled, as Emery notes. How can it be that he’s failing when he’s so smart? It never dawns on them that they confused slickness with smarts and urbanity with insight.

Whether it is Obama or Elena Kagan, it’s rather easy to impress the chattering class — an Ivy League degree, poise before the cameras, verbal acuity, and disdain for conservative ideas usually do it. It matters not what these figures have produced (legal opinions, legislation, etc.) but with whom they circulate and where they’ve studied. To a great degree, social elitism has replaced meritocracy as the left’s yardstick.

Unfortunately for Obama, he will be judged by what he does, not how he looks doing it. And frankly, his polish and charisma (conservatives never saw the latter, but others did) are crumbling under the pressure to finally produce something (jobs, a responsible budget, a plan for disarming Iran). There is a reason, as Emery points out, that no president has been “a blogger, a pundit, an editor of the New Yorker, or a writer for Vanity Fair.” It turns out that the rationale for the media’s lovefest — he’s just like me, but better! — was not relevant to the presidency.

How many times has a pundit or Democrat gushed over Obama’s “brilliant” mind? As conservatives pointed out to the swooners on the left, there was very little evidence of it — no inventive Third Wave philosophy of governance in his pre-presidential career, no significant legislative or intellectual achievement — other than writing a self-promoting and somewhat fictional account of himself — and actually very poor people skills (Maureen Dowd has only now figured out that he is thin-skinned and emotionally robotic). But it was heresy to suggest that he was a conventional liberal thinker, less interesting than Bill Clinton and less rigorous than Ronald Reagan.

Now that his presidency is in dire straits, perhaps the mainstream media are more receptive to that perspective. As Noemie Emery writes, to the extent that he was/is “brilliant,” it’s in the mundane task of running meetings:

He does seem a genius at chairing a forum, as at the “nuclear summit” in April, where the Washington Post claimed that he shone as a teacher, “calling on leaders to speak, embellish, oppose, and offer alternatives,” coaxing consensus and forging agreements among 45 countries at hand. The problem was that the value of these things was limited, as the attending countries weren’t menacing anyone, while Iran and Korea, who were not in attendance, went on happily building their bombs. He isn’t a sphinx, he’s a seminar leader who’s out of his element. And more and more out of his depth.

And honestly, he’s not that great at running meetings. His Afghanistan-war seminars dragged on. His health-care summit bombed when Rep. Paul Ryan and others stymied him with facts and figures.

Now that Obama’s policies and political standing are faltering, the media mavens are puzzled, as Emery notes. How can it be that he’s failing when he’s so smart? It never dawns on them that they confused slickness with smarts and urbanity with insight.

Whether it is Obama or Elena Kagan, it’s rather easy to impress the chattering class — an Ivy League degree, poise before the cameras, verbal acuity, and disdain for conservative ideas usually do it. It matters not what these figures have produced (legal opinions, legislation, etc.) but with whom they circulate and where they’ve studied. To a great degree, social elitism has replaced meritocracy as the left’s yardstick.

Unfortunately for Obama, he will be judged by what he does, not how he looks doing it. And frankly, his polish and charisma (conservatives never saw the latter, but others did) are crumbling under the pressure to finally produce something (jobs, a responsible budget, a plan for disarming Iran). There is a reason, as Emery points out, that no president has been “a blogger, a pundit, an editor of the New Yorker, or a writer for Vanity Fair.” It turns out that the rationale for the media’s lovefest — he’s just like me, but better! — was not relevant to the presidency.

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Obama Isn’t Very Persuasive, Is He?

Conservatives rolled their eyes during the 2008 campaign when Obama spoke about stopping the rise of the oceans, went to Berlin to declare that this is “our moment,” and told swooning fans that they were the ones they had been waiting for. It was all gobbledygook, without content — the stuff you’d expect from an Ivy League student who’d been praised all his life for “eloquence” (before that was considered a racist term) and groomed for political success. Conservatives were mystified as to how he sustained the image of a persuasive orator.

It turns out the skeptics were right. As president, Obama hasn’t convinced Americans of much of anything, other than that ObamaCare and the criminal-justice model for fighting terrorism are bad ideas. His BP press conference was no different. Craig Crawford, not a conservative booster, wrote:

A defensive, un-authoritative, and equivocal Barack Obama did nothing today to show he’s in charge of our biggest oil spill in history. … Today’s press conference — his first since July — was a time for the President to demonstrate he is on top of the crisis. Despite repeated assertions of control, Obama’s awkward demeanor suggested just the opposite. He came across as a beleaguered bureaucrat on damage control.

Perhaps the most stunning missed opportunity to show some authority was his non-answer to a question about whether US Minerals Management Service Director Elizabeth Birnbaum was fired. “I found out about her resignation today,” he obliquely said. … Obama’s detachment was indicative of the impression he has allowed of a president on the sidelines.

It is not a new phenomenon. Obama has been complaining about challenges that face him, shifting blame to his predecessor, and delegating much of his job to Congress since he took office. He isn’t much of a take-charge president. Long before BP’s well started to gush, a sharp-eyed commentator spotted the problem at the one-year anniversary of his election, when he was again Bush-blaming:

We know this job is terribly hard: we have only to look at the graying of presidential heads over time-your own included-to get it. So? Time to stop acting like a hipster recoiling in offended disgust over someone else’s embarrassing blunders. Stop taking your orders on Iran from the U.N. Be manly and do your part with the minimum of accusation. All too soon all the blame will rest on your own elegant shoulders.

Perhaps it has finally landed there. Alas, Obama is proving unable to shoulder it — or to inspire confidence among the voters (and even the media, which carried him into office). He’s run out of people to blame, always bad news for a not-very-competent politician with a grandiose self-image.

Conservatives rolled their eyes during the 2008 campaign when Obama spoke about stopping the rise of the oceans, went to Berlin to declare that this is “our moment,” and told swooning fans that they were the ones they had been waiting for. It was all gobbledygook, without content — the stuff you’d expect from an Ivy League student who’d been praised all his life for “eloquence” (before that was considered a racist term) and groomed for political success. Conservatives were mystified as to how he sustained the image of a persuasive orator.

It turns out the skeptics were right. As president, Obama hasn’t convinced Americans of much of anything, other than that ObamaCare and the criminal-justice model for fighting terrorism are bad ideas. His BP press conference was no different. Craig Crawford, not a conservative booster, wrote:

A defensive, un-authoritative, and equivocal Barack Obama did nothing today to show he’s in charge of our biggest oil spill in history. … Today’s press conference — his first since July — was a time for the President to demonstrate he is on top of the crisis. Despite repeated assertions of control, Obama’s awkward demeanor suggested just the opposite. He came across as a beleaguered bureaucrat on damage control.

Perhaps the most stunning missed opportunity to show some authority was his non-answer to a question about whether US Minerals Management Service Director Elizabeth Birnbaum was fired. “I found out about her resignation today,” he obliquely said. … Obama’s detachment was indicative of the impression he has allowed of a president on the sidelines.

It is not a new phenomenon. Obama has been complaining about challenges that face him, shifting blame to his predecessor, and delegating much of his job to Congress since he took office. He isn’t much of a take-charge president. Long before BP’s well started to gush, a sharp-eyed commentator spotted the problem at the one-year anniversary of his election, when he was again Bush-blaming:

We know this job is terribly hard: we have only to look at the graying of presidential heads over time-your own included-to get it. So? Time to stop acting like a hipster recoiling in offended disgust over someone else’s embarrassing blunders. Stop taking your orders on Iran from the U.N. Be manly and do your part with the minimum of accusation. All too soon all the blame will rest on your own elegant shoulders.

Perhaps it has finally landed there. Alas, Obama is proving unable to shoulder it — or to inspire confidence among the voters (and even the media, which carried him into office). He’s run out of people to blame, always bad news for a not-very-competent politician with a grandiose self-image.

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The Truth and Barack Obama

Who knew that Barack Obama’s real ambition is to be Howard Kurtz?

In his commencement address at Hampton University, the president once again decided to act as if he were America’s Media-Critic-in-Chief. In Obama’s words:

You’re coming of age in a 24/7 media environment that bombards us with all kinds of content and exposes us to all kinds of arguments, some of which don’t always rank that high on the truth meter. And with iPods and iPads; and Xboxes and PlayStations — none of which I know how to work — (laughter) — information becomes a distraction, a diversion, a form of entertainment, rather than a tool of empowerment, rather than the means of emancipation. So all of this is not only putting pressure on you; it’s putting new pressure on our country and on our democracy.

Later in the speech, Obama added this:

So, allowing you to compete in the global economy is the first way your education can prepare you. But it can also prepare you as citizens. With so many voices clamoring for attention on blogs, and on cable, on talk radio, it can be difficult, at times, to sift through it all; to know what to believe; to figure out who’s telling the truth and who’s not. Let’s face it, even some of the craziest claims can quickly gain traction. I’ve had some experience in that regard.

There are several things one can take away from the president’s remarks.

The first is that there’s a certain irony in being instructed by Obama about avoiding arguments that “don’t always rank that high on the truth meter.” This instruction, after all, comes from a man who, throughout the health-care debate, repeatedly made false and misleading arguments about the effects of ObamaCare on bending the cost curve, on the deficit and debt, on whether people will be forced to leave their employer-based policies, on whether his plan advocated Medicare cuts, on whether it would subsidize abortions, and much else.

Mr. Obama is also the person who, when he was running for the presidency, promised all health-care negotiations would be broadcast on C-SPAN (They weren’t.), that he would accept public financing for his campaign (He didn’t.), that he would put an end to “phony accounting” (He hasn’t.), that lobbyists will not work in his White House (They do.), that he would slash earmarks by more than half (He has not.), that he opposed giving Miranda rights to terrorists (He favors them.), that he was against an individual health-care mandate (He supported it.), and that he would resist the temptation “to fall back on the same partisanship and pettiness and immaturity that has poisoned our politics for so long” (He succumbed to the temptation.).

Where, I wonder, does Mr. Obama rank these statements on his cherished Truth Meter?

And what are we to make of the fact that the very paragraph from Obama’s speech where he laments the lack of truth in public statements includes — you guessed it — a false statement by Obama?

In his commencement address, Obama insists he doesn’t know how to work an iPod. But here’s an item that appeared on the Huffington Post on June 25, 2008:

WASHINGTON — Bob Dylan. Yo-Yo Ma. Sheryl Crow. Jay-Z. These aren’t musical acts in a summer concert series: They’re artists featured on Barack Obama’s iPod.

“I have pretty eclectic tastes,” the Democratic presidential contender said in an interview to be published in Friday’s issue of Rolling Stone.

Is that distant sound we hear the Truth Meter going off again?

By now Obama has spoken out against the New Media often enough to know that he both despises it and is obsessed with it. For all of his talk about his eagerness to listen to others, “especially when we disagree,” as he put it on the night of his election, Obama clearly resents being challenged. He gets especially exasperated and condescending when his challenger has made the better argument. That is, in fact, a trait of Team Obama; we see that attitude on display almost every day in the person of Robert Gibbs, the snidest and least likable press secretary in our lifetime.

The president and his aides are clearly used to being cosseted. They seem to believe the American public should treat them as reverentially as staff members of the New Yorker do.

It may seem odd for a man who presents himself as a public intellectual who cherishes open-mindedness and vigorous debate to be so relentlessly critical of the diversity of voices and viewpoints now in the public square. But remember this: Barack Obama is a man whose attitudes and sensibilities have been shaped by the academy, an institution that is the least (classically) liberal and open-minded in American life today. A stifling conformity and an unwillingness to engage arguments on the merits, combined with a reflexive tendency to attack the motives of those who hold opposing views, are hallmarks of the modern university. They are also, alas, hallmarks of America’s 44th president. But Mr. Obama is learning the hard way that America is not one big Ivy League campus. Here, differing opinions are heard, whether they are welcomed by those in power or not. The public will not bow down before any man or any office. And politicians who treat dissenting voices as if they are a Tower of Babble, to be mocked and ridiculed into silence, eventually receive their comeuppance. So shall Obama.

Who knew that Barack Obama’s real ambition is to be Howard Kurtz?

In his commencement address at Hampton University, the president once again decided to act as if he were America’s Media-Critic-in-Chief. In Obama’s words:

You’re coming of age in a 24/7 media environment that bombards us with all kinds of content and exposes us to all kinds of arguments, some of which don’t always rank that high on the truth meter. And with iPods and iPads; and Xboxes and PlayStations — none of which I know how to work — (laughter) — information becomes a distraction, a diversion, a form of entertainment, rather than a tool of empowerment, rather than the means of emancipation. So all of this is not only putting pressure on you; it’s putting new pressure on our country and on our democracy.

Later in the speech, Obama added this:

So, allowing you to compete in the global economy is the first way your education can prepare you. But it can also prepare you as citizens. With so many voices clamoring for attention on blogs, and on cable, on talk radio, it can be difficult, at times, to sift through it all; to know what to believe; to figure out who’s telling the truth and who’s not. Let’s face it, even some of the craziest claims can quickly gain traction. I’ve had some experience in that regard.

There are several things one can take away from the president’s remarks.

The first is that there’s a certain irony in being instructed by Obama about avoiding arguments that “don’t always rank that high on the truth meter.” This instruction, after all, comes from a man who, throughout the health-care debate, repeatedly made false and misleading arguments about the effects of ObamaCare on bending the cost curve, on the deficit and debt, on whether people will be forced to leave their employer-based policies, on whether his plan advocated Medicare cuts, on whether it would subsidize abortions, and much else.

Mr. Obama is also the person who, when he was running for the presidency, promised all health-care negotiations would be broadcast on C-SPAN (They weren’t.), that he would accept public financing for his campaign (He didn’t.), that he would put an end to “phony accounting” (He hasn’t.), that lobbyists will not work in his White House (They do.), that he would slash earmarks by more than half (He has not.), that he opposed giving Miranda rights to terrorists (He favors them.), that he was against an individual health-care mandate (He supported it.), and that he would resist the temptation “to fall back on the same partisanship and pettiness and immaturity that has poisoned our politics for so long” (He succumbed to the temptation.).

Where, I wonder, does Mr. Obama rank these statements on his cherished Truth Meter?

And what are we to make of the fact that the very paragraph from Obama’s speech where he laments the lack of truth in public statements includes — you guessed it — a false statement by Obama?

In his commencement address, Obama insists he doesn’t know how to work an iPod. But here’s an item that appeared on the Huffington Post on June 25, 2008:

WASHINGTON — Bob Dylan. Yo-Yo Ma. Sheryl Crow. Jay-Z. These aren’t musical acts in a summer concert series: They’re artists featured on Barack Obama’s iPod.

“I have pretty eclectic tastes,” the Democratic presidential contender said in an interview to be published in Friday’s issue of Rolling Stone.

Is that distant sound we hear the Truth Meter going off again?

By now Obama has spoken out against the New Media often enough to know that he both despises it and is obsessed with it. For all of his talk about his eagerness to listen to others, “especially when we disagree,” as he put it on the night of his election, Obama clearly resents being challenged. He gets especially exasperated and condescending when his challenger has made the better argument. That is, in fact, a trait of Team Obama; we see that attitude on display almost every day in the person of Robert Gibbs, the snidest and least likable press secretary in our lifetime.

The president and his aides are clearly used to being cosseted. They seem to believe the American public should treat them as reverentially as staff members of the New Yorker do.

It may seem odd for a man who presents himself as a public intellectual who cherishes open-mindedness and vigorous debate to be so relentlessly critical of the diversity of voices and viewpoints now in the public square. But remember this: Barack Obama is a man whose attitudes and sensibilities have been shaped by the academy, an institution that is the least (classically) liberal and open-minded in American life today. A stifling conformity and an unwillingness to engage arguments on the merits, combined with a reflexive tendency to attack the motives of those who hold opposing views, are hallmarks of the modern university. They are also, alas, hallmarks of America’s 44th president. But Mr. Obama is learning the hard way that America is not one big Ivy League campus. Here, differing opinions are heard, whether they are welcomed by those in power or not. The public will not bow down before any man or any office. And politicians who treat dissenting voices as if they are a Tower of Babble, to be mocked and ridiculed into silence, eventually receive their comeuppance. So shall Obama.

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RE: Kagan Nominated

Michael Gerson thinks Kagan’s harsh criticism of the military and decision to join the amicus brief seeking to allow law schools to ban recruiters will be a problem, positing that “many Americans will find her actions offensive — with far more intensity than the White House expects.” He explains:

Kagan not only took this controversial action, she publicly attacked the policy as “deeply wrong,” “unwise and unjust” and “a moral injustice of the first order.” It will be hard to downplay an issue that Kagan has a history of grandstanding. Standing in the way of military recruiters may seem normal in academic circles, but it will seem radical in much of the country — like banning the American flag from campus to protest some policy disagreement with the government. This controversy will add to a broader narrative that “Manhattan’s liberal, intellectual Upper West Side” is disconnected from the views and values of Middle America.

This may not be enough to derail the Kagan nomination, but it will complicate it.

It does work against the Obama team’s selling point that they went for someone with “real life” experience (for real life, don’t look in Ivy League law schools) who understands ordinary Americans. Hey, it’s not an argument I favor, because the law is the law, and one’s biography really shouldn’t factor in, but this is what the left keeps spinning. It is amusing, however, that the left considers “real life” what most Americans find radical. Was Sonia Sotomayor’s support of quotas and set-asides reflective of “real life,” or did it reflect a specific victimology that infects minority advocacy on the left? Was a pack of law school deans in touch with “real life” when they sought to defy a perfectly legitimate statute that required them to afford access to recruiters?

All this goes to a more fundamental concern about Kagan. Her entire career has been spent either as a law school administrator or as an advocate (e.g., in a political position in the Clinton administration or as solicitor general). The question she was used to asking herself was: what do I want the law to be? But the business of judging is determining what the law is. Liberals see no difference — the law is what five justices say it is. But most Americans and a majority of the Court think otherwise. So the questions for her now are: how does she decide what the law is, what method does she use for separating personal conviction and constitutional interpretation, and does she have a view of the Supreme Court that is something other than as an uber-legislature? We’ll find out this summer.

Michael Gerson thinks Kagan’s harsh criticism of the military and decision to join the amicus brief seeking to allow law schools to ban recruiters will be a problem, positing that “many Americans will find her actions offensive — with far more intensity than the White House expects.” He explains:

Kagan not only took this controversial action, she publicly attacked the policy as “deeply wrong,” “unwise and unjust” and “a moral injustice of the first order.” It will be hard to downplay an issue that Kagan has a history of grandstanding. Standing in the way of military recruiters may seem normal in academic circles, but it will seem radical in much of the country — like banning the American flag from campus to protest some policy disagreement with the government. This controversy will add to a broader narrative that “Manhattan’s liberal, intellectual Upper West Side” is disconnected from the views and values of Middle America.

This may not be enough to derail the Kagan nomination, but it will complicate it.

It does work against the Obama team’s selling point that they went for someone with “real life” experience (for real life, don’t look in Ivy League law schools) who understands ordinary Americans. Hey, it’s not an argument I favor, because the law is the law, and one’s biography really shouldn’t factor in, but this is what the left keeps spinning. It is amusing, however, that the left considers “real life” what most Americans find radical. Was Sonia Sotomayor’s support of quotas and set-asides reflective of “real life,” or did it reflect a specific victimology that infects minority advocacy on the left? Was a pack of law school deans in touch with “real life” when they sought to defy a perfectly legitimate statute that required them to afford access to recruiters?

All this goes to a more fundamental concern about Kagan. Her entire career has been spent either as a law school administrator or as an advocate (e.g., in a political position in the Clinton administration or as solicitor general). The question she was used to asking herself was: what do I want the law to be? But the business of judging is determining what the law is. Liberals see no difference — the law is what five justices say it is. But most Americans and a majority of the Court think otherwise. So the questions for her now are: how does she decide what the law is, what method does she use for separating personal conviction and constitutional interpretation, and does she have a view of the Supreme Court that is something other than as an uber-legislature? We’ll find out this summer.

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Kagan’s Vulnerabilty

Although records from her years in the Clinton administration may raise other concerns, at this stage, the most significant vulnerability for Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan is her position in opposing giving military recruiters access to Harvard Law School because of the armed services’ Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy. This is problematic in two respects.

First, as Bill Kristol observes, the level of invective directed at the military is noteworthy:

Notice, time and again [in her letters]: “the military’s discriminatory recruitment policy,” “the military’s policy,” “the military’s recruitment policy,” “the military’s discriminatory employment policy.”

But it is not the military’s policy. It is the policy of the U.S. Government, based on legislation passed in 1993 by (a Democratic) Congress, signed into law and implemented by the Clinton administration, legislation and implementation that are currently continued by a Democratic administration and a Democratic Congress. It is intellectually wrong and morally cowardly to call this the “military’s policy.” Wrong for obvious reasons. Cowardly because it allowed Kagan to go ahead and serve in the Clinton administration that enforced this policy she so detests, and to welcome to Harvard as Dean former members of that administration, as well as Senators and Congressmen who actually voted for the law–which is more than the military recruiters whom Kagan sought to ban did.

In addition to her attitude toward the military, one has to question her ability to put aside policy preferences and biases when engaging in constitutional analysis. She joined an amicus brief seeking to set aside as unconstitutional the Solomon Amendment, which required schools to allow military recruiters on campus. Stuart Taylor has suggested that “the Administration will have no trouble describing General Kagan’s position as reflecting that of Harvard as an institution — a position that was broadly shared among the nation’s elite Universities.” Well, that Ivy League institutions are uniformly hostile to the military and that Kagan made a constitutional argument based, it seems, on political conviction will hardly help matters. Recall, Kagan’s position lost 8-0. That’s as far out of the mainstream as you can get.

Is this grounds for opposing Kagan? Maybe not, but it also depends on what she says, what she’s written, and why she thought the Solomon Amendment was unconstitutional. This is what confirmation hearings are designed to explore.

Although records from her years in the Clinton administration may raise other concerns, at this stage, the most significant vulnerability for Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan is her position in opposing giving military recruiters access to Harvard Law School because of the armed services’ Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy. This is problematic in two respects.

First, as Bill Kristol observes, the level of invective directed at the military is noteworthy:

Notice, time and again [in her letters]: “the military’s discriminatory recruitment policy,” “the military’s policy,” “the military’s recruitment policy,” “the military’s discriminatory employment policy.”

But it is not the military’s policy. It is the policy of the U.S. Government, based on legislation passed in 1993 by (a Democratic) Congress, signed into law and implemented by the Clinton administration, legislation and implementation that are currently continued by a Democratic administration and a Democratic Congress. It is intellectually wrong and morally cowardly to call this the “military’s policy.” Wrong for obvious reasons. Cowardly because it allowed Kagan to go ahead and serve in the Clinton administration that enforced this policy she so detests, and to welcome to Harvard as Dean former members of that administration, as well as Senators and Congressmen who actually voted for the law–which is more than the military recruiters whom Kagan sought to ban did.

In addition to her attitude toward the military, one has to question her ability to put aside policy preferences and biases when engaging in constitutional analysis. She joined an amicus brief seeking to set aside as unconstitutional the Solomon Amendment, which required schools to allow military recruiters on campus. Stuart Taylor has suggested that “the Administration will have no trouble describing General Kagan’s position as reflecting that of Harvard as an institution — a position that was broadly shared among the nation’s elite Universities.” Well, that Ivy League institutions are uniformly hostile to the military and that Kagan made a constitutional argument based, it seems, on political conviction will hardly help matters. Recall, Kagan’s position lost 8-0. That’s as far out of the mainstream as you can get.

Is this grounds for opposing Kagan? Maybe not, but it also depends on what she says, what she’s written, and why she thought the Solomon Amendment was unconstitutional. This is what confirmation hearings are designed to explore.

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Obama’s Reality Gap

Morton Kondracke writes:

From BP to banks, health insurance companies to special interest lobbyists, Obama & Co. pass up no opportunity to slash and bash — except when they are asking for industry cooperation or appealing for national unity.

The dichotomy between one rhetorical mood and the other is so pronounced, you almost suspect that the administration and its leader are bipolar. …

President Barack Obama certainly is not a socialist — let alone a communist — as some of his far-out detractors claim. But he and his aides certainly are in populist, “whack industry” mode.

From BP to banks, health insurance companies to special interest lobbyists, Obama & Co. pass up no opportunity to slash and bash — except when they are asking for industry cooperation or appealing for national unity.

The dichotomy between one rhetorical mood and the other is so pronounced, you almost suspect that the administration and its leader are bipolar.

Kondrake wonders if Obama is just a liberal with a deep suspicion of free enterprise. Perhaps — but that does not explain the rank hypocrisy that permeates not only his tone with businesses but also with an array of adversaries and critics.

Here’s another theory: the Obama self-created image — practiced in the Ivy League, cultivated in memoirs, nurtured on the campaign trail, and enhanced by the media — of an intellectual, a moderate, a unifier, and most of all a charismatic figure whose mere presence is transformative has a life of its own, unrelated to Obama’s actual political agenda and beliefs. To discover the latter one need only look at his pre-senatorial associations (from Rev. Wright to Bill Ayers), his record in the Senate (the most liberal among many liberals), his legislative goals (a mix of special-interest trinkets and monstrously complicated statist measures), and his staff’s fetish for bullying (from Bibi to Fox News to Rush Limbaugh). So naturally the result is what Kondrake calls “bipolar” and others call “hypocrisy.” It is also why Obama is so expert — perhaps the only thing in which he is expert — in campaigning. For campaigning is the art of spinning a discrete image, a reality that may or may not coincide with the outside world, and selling it relentlessly to the public. That, after all, is what Obama does and has done throughout his adult life. Unfortunately, eventually the public catches on — and then poll numbers sink, a wave election builds, and the facade crumbles. But it takes a while for people to catch on.

Morton Kondracke writes:

From BP to banks, health insurance companies to special interest lobbyists, Obama & Co. pass up no opportunity to slash and bash — except when they are asking for industry cooperation or appealing for national unity.

The dichotomy between one rhetorical mood and the other is so pronounced, you almost suspect that the administration and its leader are bipolar. …

President Barack Obama certainly is not a socialist — let alone a communist — as some of his far-out detractors claim. But he and his aides certainly are in populist, “whack industry” mode.

From BP to banks, health insurance companies to special interest lobbyists, Obama & Co. pass up no opportunity to slash and bash — except when they are asking for industry cooperation or appealing for national unity.

The dichotomy between one rhetorical mood and the other is so pronounced, you almost suspect that the administration and its leader are bipolar.

Kondrake wonders if Obama is just a liberal with a deep suspicion of free enterprise. Perhaps — but that does not explain the rank hypocrisy that permeates not only his tone with businesses but also with an array of adversaries and critics.

Here’s another theory: the Obama self-created image — practiced in the Ivy League, cultivated in memoirs, nurtured on the campaign trail, and enhanced by the media — of an intellectual, a moderate, a unifier, and most of all a charismatic figure whose mere presence is transformative has a life of its own, unrelated to Obama’s actual political agenda and beliefs. To discover the latter one need only look at his pre-senatorial associations (from Rev. Wright to Bill Ayers), his record in the Senate (the most liberal among many liberals), his legislative goals (a mix of special-interest trinkets and monstrously complicated statist measures), and his staff’s fetish for bullying (from Bibi to Fox News to Rush Limbaugh). So naturally the result is what Kondrake calls “bipolar” and others call “hypocrisy.” It is also why Obama is so expert — perhaps the only thing in which he is expert — in campaigning. For campaigning is the art of spinning a discrete image, a reality that may or may not coincide with the outside world, and selling it relentlessly to the public. That, after all, is what Obama does and has done throughout his adult life. Unfortunately, eventually the public catches on — and then poll numbers sink, a wave election builds, and the facade crumbles. But it takes a while for people to catch on.

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No More Islamic Terrorism!

Under siege during the Christmas Day bomb incident, the Obami huffily insisted that they do too know we are at war and that they do too take it seriously. Their policy decisions and actions suggest otherwise. This report explains:

President Barack Obama’s advisers plan to remove terms such as “Islamic radicalism” from a document outlining national security strategy and will use the new version to emphasize that the U.S. does not view Muslim nations through the lens of terrorism, counterterrorism officials say.

The change would be a significant shift in the National Security Strategy, a document that previously outlined the Bush Doctrine of preventive war. It currently states, “The struggle against militant Islamic radicalism is the great ideological conflict of the early years of the 21st century.”

It’s all about Muslim outreach, you see. Don’t want to identify whom it is we are fighting, because their co-religionists might take offense. That these co-religionists are often the victims of Islamic radicalism is irrelevant to the Obami. That this rhetorical mush is the sort of thing that prevents us from anticipating and preventing jihadist attacks like the Fort Hood massacre is also not of any apparent concern. It’s all about getting away from the Bush administration mindset: “That shift away from terrorism has been building for a year, since Obama went to Cairo and promised a ‘new beginning’ in the relationship between the U.S. and the Muslim world. The White House believes the previous administration based that relationship entirely on fighting terrorism and winning the war of ideas.”

So let’s focus on the really important stuff: global-warming training. We don’t want to say “Islamic extremism,” but we have a new team at the NSC that “has not only helped change the vocabulary of fighting terrorism, but also has shaped the way the country invests in Muslim businesses, studies global warming, supports scientific research and combats polio.” We learn that when “officials from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration returned from Indonesia, the NSC got a rundown about research opportunities on global warming.” Nice.

All of this would be well enough if we didn’t face radical jihadists who are ideologically motivated to slaughter Americans. Nor is there the slightest evidence that this Muslim outreach is helping to solve the most urgent issues we face:

Peter Feaver, a Duke University political scientist and former Bush adviser, is skeptical of Obama’s engagement effort. It “doesn’t appear to have created much in the way of strategic benefit” in the Middle East peace process or in negotiations over Iran’s nuclear ambitions, he said.

Obama runs the political risk of seeming to adopt politically correct rhetoric abroad while appearing tone-deaf on national security issues at home, Feaver said.

It is, like so much of what Obama does, the sort of thing you’d expect a college professor plucked out an Ivy League faculty directory to do if he were suddenly elevated to the presidency. Renounce use of nuclear weapons! Free health care for all! Change the subject from terrorism to cooperation! Unfortunately, we live in the real world, and all that runs up against hard truths and unpleasant facts. It is a dangerous time for such an unserious approach to the world.

Under siege during the Christmas Day bomb incident, the Obami huffily insisted that they do too know we are at war and that they do too take it seriously. Their policy decisions and actions suggest otherwise. This report explains:

President Barack Obama’s advisers plan to remove terms such as “Islamic radicalism” from a document outlining national security strategy and will use the new version to emphasize that the U.S. does not view Muslim nations through the lens of terrorism, counterterrorism officials say.

The change would be a significant shift in the National Security Strategy, a document that previously outlined the Bush Doctrine of preventive war. It currently states, “The struggle against militant Islamic radicalism is the great ideological conflict of the early years of the 21st century.”

It’s all about Muslim outreach, you see. Don’t want to identify whom it is we are fighting, because their co-religionists might take offense. That these co-religionists are often the victims of Islamic radicalism is irrelevant to the Obami. That this rhetorical mush is the sort of thing that prevents us from anticipating and preventing jihadist attacks like the Fort Hood massacre is also not of any apparent concern. It’s all about getting away from the Bush administration mindset: “That shift away from terrorism has been building for a year, since Obama went to Cairo and promised a ‘new beginning’ in the relationship between the U.S. and the Muslim world. The White House believes the previous administration based that relationship entirely on fighting terrorism and winning the war of ideas.”

So let’s focus on the really important stuff: global-warming training. We don’t want to say “Islamic extremism,” but we have a new team at the NSC that “has not only helped change the vocabulary of fighting terrorism, but also has shaped the way the country invests in Muslim businesses, studies global warming, supports scientific research and combats polio.” We learn that when “officials from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration returned from Indonesia, the NSC got a rundown about research opportunities on global warming.” Nice.

All of this would be well enough if we didn’t face radical jihadists who are ideologically motivated to slaughter Americans. Nor is there the slightest evidence that this Muslim outreach is helping to solve the most urgent issues we face:

Peter Feaver, a Duke University political scientist and former Bush adviser, is skeptical of Obama’s engagement effort. It “doesn’t appear to have created much in the way of strategic benefit” in the Middle East peace process or in negotiations over Iran’s nuclear ambitions, he said.

Obama runs the political risk of seeming to adopt politically correct rhetoric abroad while appearing tone-deaf on national security issues at home, Feaver said.

It is, like so much of what Obama does, the sort of thing you’d expect a college professor plucked out an Ivy League faculty directory to do if he were suddenly elevated to the presidency. Renounce use of nuclear weapons! Free health care for all! Change the subject from terrorism to cooperation! Unfortunately, we live in the real world, and all that runs up against hard truths and unpleasant facts. It is a dangerous time for such an unserious approach to the world.

Read Less

Racism by Any Other Name

The Washington Post ombudsman Andrew Alexander is out to gently chide his employer for not doing better on “diversity.” In the process, he reveals the discriminatory practices and mindset at the heart of seemingly high-minded “diversity” programs.

First comes the revelation that Post managers are being instructed to hire or consider hiring based on race or suffer adverse treatment themselves: “The Post’s top editors were warned in a memo that they needed to expand newsroom diversity ‘or suffer the consequences.'” It is not legally acceptable to say, “Hire more minorities or your job is in jeopardy,” so it is dressed up in diversity- speak, but the mandate is clear. It’s plain that we’re talking about more than simply removing barriers to hiring minorities or expanding the Post’s hiring beyond mostly white, Ivy League graduates. Alexander fesses up, quoting Peter Perl, who oversees newsroom personnel: “Pools of job candidates must include minorities, he said, adding, ‘It’s a mandate, and every manager here knows it.'” It’s the result — the headcount — that matters:

Minorities are 43 percent of The Post’s circulation area, and a large part of the region is edging toward “majority minority” status. For The Post, being “good on diversity” isn’t enough. [Executive Editor Marcus] Brauchli and his leadership team acknowledged the same in a note to the staff last Monday. “We are in danger of losing ground if we do not consistently try to recruit the best minority journalists,” they wrote.

Sorry guys, but that violates federal  law, which prohibits hiring on the basis of race — no matter what laudatory goal the proponents think they are pursuing.

And next comes the noxious justification for hiring by race:

“You can’t cover your community unless you look like your community,” said Bobbi Bowman, a former Post reporter and editor who is a diversity consultant for ASNE. (Full disclosure: I sit on its board). “If you have a community of basketball players, it’s difficult for a newsroom of opera lovers to cover them.”

The Washington area has an exploding Spanish-speaking population. Yet Hispanics on The Post’s staff include only eight reporters and four supervising editors. Similarly, African Americans account for about 12 percent of the staff, but the African American percentage of the population in parts of The Post’s core circulation area is more than four times greater.

Imagine saying that only whites can cover certain neighborhoods or particular beats. The lawsuits would be flying, and the pickets would be gathering outside the Post’s offices. The Post seems to argue for re-segregation of the news: African American cover “their” neighborhood and whites their own. (And does the Post management actually imagine that only Hispanics can speak Spanish?) This is the voice of “wise Latina” Sonia Sotomayor, who assumes that ability, skills, intellectual perspective, and empathy are determined by race or ethnicity. (“Predictably, what is ‘news’ risks being seen through a white prism.”)

Alexander, seemingly inured to the perniciousness of what he is writing, sums up:

“You use diversity as an advantage in these economic times to get a leg up on the next guy,” said former Post reporter Richard Prince, who writes “Journal-isms,” an online column about minorities and the media. Or you suffer the consequences.

Welcome to the post-racial world in which race is a weapon to be wielded against competitors and a stick with which to beat hiring managers. No, it’s not remotely legal, and it is nothing short of shameful.

The Washington Post ombudsman Andrew Alexander is out to gently chide his employer for not doing better on “diversity.” In the process, he reveals the discriminatory practices and mindset at the heart of seemingly high-minded “diversity” programs.

First comes the revelation that Post managers are being instructed to hire or consider hiring based on race or suffer adverse treatment themselves: “The Post’s top editors were warned in a memo that they needed to expand newsroom diversity ‘or suffer the consequences.'” It is not legally acceptable to say, “Hire more minorities or your job is in jeopardy,” so it is dressed up in diversity- speak, but the mandate is clear. It’s plain that we’re talking about more than simply removing barriers to hiring minorities or expanding the Post’s hiring beyond mostly white, Ivy League graduates. Alexander fesses up, quoting Peter Perl, who oversees newsroom personnel: “Pools of job candidates must include minorities, he said, adding, ‘It’s a mandate, and every manager here knows it.'” It’s the result — the headcount — that matters:

Minorities are 43 percent of The Post’s circulation area, and a large part of the region is edging toward “majority minority” status. For The Post, being “good on diversity” isn’t enough. [Executive Editor Marcus] Brauchli and his leadership team acknowledged the same in a note to the staff last Monday. “We are in danger of losing ground if we do not consistently try to recruit the best minority journalists,” they wrote.

Sorry guys, but that violates federal  law, which prohibits hiring on the basis of race — no matter what laudatory goal the proponents think they are pursuing.

And next comes the noxious justification for hiring by race:

“You can’t cover your community unless you look like your community,” said Bobbi Bowman, a former Post reporter and editor who is a diversity consultant for ASNE. (Full disclosure: I sit on its board). “If you have a community of basketball players, it’s difficult for a newsroom of opera lovers to cover them.”

The Washington area has an exploding Spanish-speaking population. Yet Hispanics on The Post’s staff include only eight reporters and four supervising editors. Similarly, African Americans account for about 12 percent of the staff, but the African American percentage of the population in parts of The Post’s core circulation area is more than four times greater.

Imagine saying that only whites can cover certain neighborhoods or particular beats. The lawsuits would be flying, and the pickets would be gathering outside the Post’s offices. The Post seems to argue for re-segregation of the news: African American cover “their” neighborhood and whites their own. (And does the Post management actually imagine that only Hispanics can speak Spanish?) This is the voice of “wise Latina” Sonia Sotomayor, who assumes that ability, skills, intellectual perspective, and empathy are determined by race or ethnicity. (“Predictably, what is ‘news’ risks being seen through a white prism.”)

Alexander, seemingly inured to the perniciousness of what he is writing, sums up:

“You use diversity as an advantage in these economic times to get a leg up on the next guy,” said former Post reporter Richard Prince, who writes “Journal-isms,” an online column about minorities and the media. Or you suffer the consequences.

Welcome to the post-racial world in which race is a weapon to be wielded against competitors and a stick with which to beat hiring managers. No, it’s not remotely legal, and it is nothing short of shameful.

Read Less

The Elite Education Sidestep

As a Cal graduate (that would be the University of California, Berkeley, to all of you non-Californians), I don’t usually have kind words for our archrival from across the Bay, Stanford. But I am cheered to see Stanford reconsidering its ban on the ROTC on campus, a change being pushed by two liberals — history professor David Kennedy and former Defense Secretary William Perry. It’s truly shameful that the officer-education program has been barred from some of America’s most elite campuses — not only Stanford but also five out of eight Ivies including Harvard and Yale. Cornell, Penn, and Princeton allow ROTC classes on campus; at other Ivy League schools, students have to travel to nearby colleges. At Stanford (not an Ivy but similar in status), students go to San Jose State, Santa Clara University, or Cal, which has a flourishing ROTC program. (Being a state school, it could not bar the military.)

During the 2008 presidential campaign, both John McCain and Barack Obama called for the re-admittance of ROTC, but so far, dismayingly little has happened. The universities hide their 1960s-era anti-military animus behind opposition to the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy. Perhaps if that policy is finally lifted, in whole or in part, these colleges will lose their last excuse to keep ROTC off campus — a policy that only further expands the needless divide between the armed forces and the leaders of the society they protect.

As a Cal graduate (that would be the University of California, Berkeley, to all of you non-Californians), I don’t usually have kind words for our archrival from across the Bay, Stanford. But I am cheered to see Stanford reconsidering its ban on the ROTC on campus, a change being pushed by two liberals — history professor David Kennedy and former Defense Secretary William Perry. It’s truly shameful that the officer-education program has been barred from some of America’s most elite campuses — not only Stanford but also five out of eight Ivies including Harvard and Yale. Cornell, Penn, and Princeton allow ROTC classes on campus; at other Ivy League schools, students have to travel to nearby colleges. At Stanford (not an Ivy but similar in status), students go to San Jose State, Santa Clara University, or Cal, which has a flourishing ROTC program. (Being a state school, it could not bar the military.)

During the 2008 presidential campaign, both John McCain and Barack Obama called for the re-admittance of ROTC, but so far, dismayingly little has happened. The universities hide their 1960s-era anti-military animus behind opposition to the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy. Perhaps if that policy is finally lifted, in whole or in part, these colleges will lose their last excuse to keep ROTC off campus — a policy that only further expands the needless divide between the armed forces and the leaders of the society they protect.

Read Less




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