Commentary Magazine


Topic: Ivy League

Flotsam and Jetsam

A good question triggered by the assassination of the Hamas terrorist in Dubai and our decision to send an ambassador to Syria: “Will the safe haven Damascus continues to provide terrorists such as Mabhouh, who would erase Israel from the Middle-Eastern map—to say nothing of the foreign fighters trained by al Qaeda and/or armed by Iran who are still entering Iraq across the Syrian border to kill American soldiers—be a subject of discussion for America’s newly appointed ambassador to Syria once he’s presented his credentials?”

If you thought the Ivy League–educated Oval Office occupier Obama’s populism was fake: “If last year’s bailout of the financial industry caused you to start muttering words like investment banker and robber baron in the same sentence, it may cheer you to know that Timothy Geithner, the man responsible for crafting much of that bailout, agrees with you. ‘I am,’ he says, seated in his Washington, D.C., office, an intimidatingly ornate room worthy of a Hogwarts headmaster, ‘incredibly angry at what happened to our country.'”

A lot of people excited about a potential 2012 run by Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels will be excited to hear this: “During an interview at the winter meeting of the National Governors Association here over the weekend, Daniels said he has now been persuaded to keep open the door to a possible candidacy.”

Is Marco Rubio running away with the GOP Senate primary race? The latest Rasmussen poll has him up by 18 points.

Democrats are on the defensive in Illinois: “Illinois’ Republican Party is keeping up a steady drumbeat of pressure on Democratic U.S. Senate nominee Alexi Giannoulias to answer questions about his family’s Broadway Bank. ‘Why is Alexi hiding?’ the party asked in an e-mail to reporters a week after the election and after news conferences Giannoulias had held in Chicago and Springfield. … In at least 10 e-mails sent out since the election, the party says Giannoulias is ducking questions about loans he authorized four years ago as vice-president of his family’s Broadway Bank and about the bank’s current troubled financial state.”

CATO’s Michael Tanner on the latest version of ObamaCare: “Faced with public opinion polls showing that 58 percent of the public are opposed to his health care proposal, President Obama has gone back to the drawing board and brought forth a new health care plan that looks almost exactly like his old health care bill. Actually that’s not quite true. This proposal is more expensive, pushing its cost up close to $1 trillion in the first 10 years, and raising taxes by some $629 billion.”

Some are in a tizzy: “Critics left and right are accusing Rahm Emanuel of disloyalty-by-proxy after a Dana Milbank column in Sunday’s Washington Post defended the White House chief of staff — while trashing reputed Emanuel rivals Valerie Jarrett and Robert Gibbs. ” Actually, he’s been leaking his opposition to the entire anti-terrorism approach for some time, so this should come as no shock.

Thanks to the teachers’ union, the Los Angeles Unified School District has given up trying to fire bad teachers.

Oh good grief: “Last August, former Iowa Republican congressman Jim Leach took office as the chairman of the National Endowment for the Humanities.  What exactly were his qualifications for this post, other than being an Obamaphile Republican and thus a safely ‘bipartisan’ appointment, was and remains a mystery. Since his appointment, unsurprisingly, Leach has appeared to take little interest in the actual work of the NEH—support for research, publication, and education in the humanities—and instead has been gallivanting around the country on a 50-state ‘civility tour,’ giving mostly forgettable speeches … whose goal seems to be to get Americans to stop criticizing Barack Obama in terms that offend Chairman Leach.”

A good question triggered by the assassination of the Hamas terrorist in Dubai and our decision to send an ambassador to Syria: “Will the safe haven Damascus continues to provide terrorists such as Mabhouh, who would erase Israel from the Middle-Eastern map—to say nothing of the foreign fighters trained by al Qaeda and/or armed by Iran who are still entering Iraq across the Syrian border to kill American soldiers—be a subject of discussion for America’s newly appointed ambassador to Syria once he’s presented his credentials?”

If you thought the Ivy League–educated Oval Office occupier Obama’s populism was fake: “If last year’s bailout of the financial industry caused you to start muttering words like investment banker and robber baron in the same sentence, it may cheer you to know that Timothy Geithner, the man responsible for crafting much of that bailout, agrees with you. ‘I am,’ he says, seated in his Washington, D.C., office, an intimidatingly ornate room worthy of a Hogwarts headmaster, ‘incredibly angry at what happened to our country.'”

A lot of people excited about a potential 2012 run by Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels will be excited to hear this: “During an interview at the winter meeting of the National Governors Association here over the weekend, Daniels said he has now been persuaded to keep open the door to a possible candidacy.”

Is Marco Rubio running away with the GOP Senate primary race? The latest Rasmussen poll has him up by 18 points.

Democrats are on the defensive in Illinois: “Illinois’ Republican Party is keeping up a steady drumbeat of pressure on Democratic U.S. Senate nominee Alexi Giannoulias to answer questions about his family’s Broadway Bank. ‘Why is Alexi hiding?’ the party asked in an e-mail to reporters a week after the election and after news conferences Giannoulias had held in Chicago and Springfield. … In at least 10 e-mails sent out since the election, the party says Giannoulias is ducking questions about loans he authorized four years ago as vice-president of his family’s Broadway Bank and about the bank’s current troubled financial state.”

CATO’s Michael Tanner on the latest version of ObamaCare: “Faced with public opinion polls showing that 58 percent of the public are opposed to his health care proposal, President Obama has gone back to the drawing board and brought forth a new health care plan that looks almost exactly like his old health care bill. Actually that’s not quite true. This proposal is more expensive, pushing its cost up close to $1 trillion in the first 10 years, and raising taxes by some $629 billion.”

Some are in a tizzy: “Critics left and right are accusing Rahm Emanuel of disloyalty-by-proxy after a Dana Milbank column in Sunday’s Washington Post defended the White House chief of staff — while trashing reputed Emanuel rivals Valerie Jarrett and Robert Gibbs. ” Actually, he’s been leaking his opposition to the entire anti-terrorism approach for some time, so this should come as no shock.

Thanks to the teachers’ union, the Los Angeles Unified School District has given up trying to fire bad teachers.

Oh good grief: “Last August, former Iowa Republican congressman Jim Leach took office as the chairman of the National Endowment for the Humanities.  What exactly were his qualifications for this post, other than being an Obamaphile Republican and thus a safely ‘bipartisan’ appointment, was and remains a mystery. Since his appointment, unsurprisingly, Leach has appeared to take little interest in the actual work of the NEH—support for research, publication, and education in the humanities—and instead has been gallivanting around the country on a 50-state ‘civility tour,’ giving mostly forgettable speeches … whose goal seems to be to get Americans to stop criticizing Barack Obama in terms that offend Chairman Leach.”

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Flotsam and Jetsam

The leg tingler who says Sarah Palin doesn’t know anything turns out not to know anything: “There is nothing, and I mean nothing, like watching Chris Matthews get his a– demolished on Celebrity Jeopardy. … Do I smell a Wolf Blitzer repeat? If you aren’t watching tonight, how else would you learn that the Rocky Mountains actually run through California? Christo is on fire!”

The latest in the Fort Jackson food poisoning investigation is here. A new wrinkle: it is not clear whether the suspects were U.S. citizens or part of an outreach program to non-citizens who can speak “fluent Arabic, Dari, Pashto, or some other needed language.”

Par for the course for Chicago pols: “Rep. Joe Sestak (D., Pa.) said yesterday that the White House offered him a federal job in an effort to dissuade him from challenging Sen. Arlen Specter in the state’s Democratic primary.” You kind of see why Blago thinks “everyone” trades jobs and public offices.

It’s not hard to figure out why Obama “seems incapable of speaking to Muslims without slyly suggesting he is one of them.” (We saw that “in his Cairo address, he basically so bloated up the early relations between Morocco and America that his version amounted to a virtual falsehood … [and] he still thinks his speech to the university in Cairo was historic.” ) Answer: Obama has a bloated view of his own importance and has adopted the Left’s Third Worldism, in which the “Muslim World” — another fiction! — is oppressed by the West. (Recall that he also told us Palestinians are like enslaved African Americans.)

Martin Feldstein on Obama’s deficit blame-mongering: “The administration’s projected $18.5 trillion debt in 2020 would be more than double the size of the debt when Mr. Obama took office. The annual interest on that debt would exceed $800 billion, requiring a 36% rise in the personal income tax just to pay that interest.  Mr. Obama complains about the problems he ‘inherited.’ But the key to shrinking the nearer term deficits is to avoid his costly new initiatives.’ Feldstein complains that instead Obama is focused on tax hikes which “would hurt incentives, hurt the recovery, and hurt the economy’s long-term growth.”

Andy McCarthy, prosecutor and critic of the Obama-Holder criminal-justice approach to terrorism, does the impossible: he gets treated fairly in the New York Times. Yes, read the whole thing.

Charlie Cook says that “if I had a choice of the Republican Party’s problems right now or the Democratic Party’s problems, I think you could triple the Republican Party’s problems and I’d still rather have their problems than the problems facing Democrats.” It’s that kind of year.

Minority Whip Eric Cantor says that if Obama is going to jam through ObamaCare with reconciliation, then forget the “bipartisan” health-care summit. He seems to have a point — the hamhanded Democrats shouldn’t have rolled out their “we’ll do it anyway” plan before the summit. What were they thinking?

Yuval Levin thinks it’s crazy talk: “The apparent decision to push Obamacare through reconciliation gives new meaning to the term political suicide. It will almost certainly fail, for one thing. And it will persuade rank and file Democrats in Congress that their leaders have lost their minds, and so will badly divide the Democratic caucus and make for a very difficult year to come for them.”

I’m not the only one who noticed that Tim Pawlenty has an authenticity problem.”When I read that the governor ‘appealed to the tea-party movement, calling its critics a ‘brie-eating’ elite from ‘Ivy League schools’ who don’t like ‘Sam’s Club Republicans’ who ‘actually like shopping at places like Wal-Mart,′ I thought just one thing: The guy’s a phony. And patronizing, too. Good grief.” Yeah, but it’s only 2010.

The leg tingler who says Sarah Palin doesn’t know anything turns out not to know anything: “There is nothing, and I mean nothing, like watching Chris Matthews get his a– demolished on Celebrity Jeopardy. … Do I smell a Wolf Blitzer repeat? If you aren’t watching tonight, how else would you learn that the Rocky Mountains actually run through California? Christo is on fire!”

The latest in the Fort Jackson food poisoning investigation is here. A new wrinkle: it is not clear whether the suspects were U.S. citizens or part of an outreach program to non-citizens who can speak “fluent Arabic, Dari, Pashto, or some other needed language.”

Par for the course for Chicago pols: “Rep. Joe Sestak (D., Pa.) said yesterday that the White House offered him a federal job in an effort to dissuade him from challenging Sen. Arlen Specter in the state’s Democratic primary.” You kind of see why Blago thinks “everyone” trades jobs and public offices.

It’s not hard to figure out why Obama “seems incapable of speaking to Muslims without slyly suggesting he is one of them.” (We saw that “in his Cairo address, he basically so bloated up the early relations between Morocco and America that his version amounted to a virtual falsehood … [and] he still thinks his speech to the university in Cairo was historic.” ) Answer: Obama has a bloated view of his own importance and has adopted the Left’s Third Worldism, in which the “Muslim World” — another fiction! — is oppressed by the West. (Recall that he also told us Palestinians are like enslaved African Americans.)

Martin Feldstein on Obama’s deficit blame-mongering: “The administration’s projected $18.5 trillion debt in 2020 would be more than double the size of the debt when Mr. Obama took office. The annual interest on that debt would exceed $800 billion, requiring a 36% rise in the personal income tax just to pay that interest.  Mr. Obama complains about the problems he ‘inherited.’ But the key to shrinking the nearer term deficits is to avoid his costly new initiatives.’ Feldstein complains that instead Obama is focused on tax hikes which “would hurt incentives, hurt the recovery, and hurt the economy’s long-term growth.”

Andy McCarthy, prosecutor and critic of the Obama-Holder criminal-justice approach to terrorism, does the impossible: he gets treated fairly in the New York Times. Yes, read the whole thing.

Charlie Cook says that “if I had a choice of the Republican Party’s problems right now or the Democratic Party’s problems, I think you could triple the Republican Party’s problems and I’d still rather have their problems than the problems facing Democrats.” It’s that kind of year.

Minority Whip Eric Cantor says that if Obama is going to jam through ObamaCare with reconciliation, then forget the “bipartisan” health-care summit. He seems to have a point — the hamhanded Democrats shouldn’t have rolled out their “we’ll do it anyway” plan before the summit. What were they thinking?

Yuval Levin thinks it’s crazy talk: “The apparent decision to push Obamacare through reconciliation gives new meaning to the term political suicide. It will almost certainly fail, for one thing. And it will persuade rank and file Democrats in Congress that their leaders have lost their minds, and so will badly divide the Democratic caucus and make for a very difficult year to come for them.”

I’m not the only one who noticed that Tim Pawlenty has an authenticity problem.”When I read that the governor ‘appealed to the tea-party movement, calling its critics a ‘brie-eating’ elite from ‘Ivy League schools’ who don’t like ‘Sam’s Club Republicans’ who ‘actually like shopping at places like Wal-Mart,′ I thought just one thing: The guy’s a phony. And patronizing, too. Good grief.” Yeah, but it’s only 2010.

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Brooks: Elites Are Letting Us Down

David Brooks observes, “As we’ve made our institutions more meritocratic, their public standing has plummeted. We’ve increased the diversity and talent level of people at the top of society, yet trust in elites has never been lower. It’s not even clear that society is better led.” He finds a number of reasons for this, the first (and I think most critical) has some bearing on the current predicament in which the country finds itself. He explains:

The meritocracy is based on an overly narrow definition of talent. Our system rewards those who can amass technical knowledge. But this skill is only marginally related to the skill of being sensitive to context. It is not related at all to skills like empathy. Over the past years, we’ve seen very smart people make mistakes because they didn’t understand the context in which they were operating.

Or “very smart” people lack real-world experience in leading other people. Or they lack core qualities like resoluteness and decisiveness. Or they delegate too much responsibility and blame others for their failings. You see where I’m heading, right?

We elected a president who was indisputably a member of the educated elite in America. It matters not at all that he wasn’t rich growing up. He spent his adult life at Ivy League institutions, chalked up the résumé entries (Harvard Law Review), and thoroughly adopted the intellectual bent and attributes of the academic Left in America.

What did all this have to do with being president? It turns out not all that much. But other elites — New York Times columnists, for example — swooned and vouched for him. They confused literary finesse with presidential timber. They mistook fluency in philosophy with grounding in common sense, moderation, and wisdom.

In looking for other reasons why elites are doing so badly these days, Brooks writes:

To leave a mark in a fast, competitive world, leaders seek to hit grandiose home runs. Clinton tried to transform health care. Bush tried to transform the Middle East. Obama has tried to transform health care, energy and much more. There’s less emphasis on steady, gradual change and more emphasis on the big swing. This produces more spectacular failures and more uncertainty. Many Americans, not caught up on the romance of this sort of heroism, are terrified.

Well, that sounds like a particular kind of elite leader working on a short time frame before voters have a chance to put a halt to his august plans. But not all leaders operate this way. There are many successful governors, business professionals, and others who set modest goals and work competently toward them. No one is compelled to achieve grandiose objectives unless he has a grandiose conception of himself, a messiah complex, if you will. For those who come to believe they represent the “New Politics” and have the ability to lay a “new foundation” (i.e., radically restructure the country), then, yes, they’re going to run into trouble when the rest of us freak out and don’t want to be restructured out of the health care we enjoy and the economic system we’re rather fond of.

Next time around, voters may want to assess the credentials of the presidential candidates more closely. Elite degrees may be evidence of a sharp mind and keen intellect. But they also teach a lot of foolish things at Ivy League institutions, and it behooves voters to consider which ones a graduate has adopted. Moreover, voters would also do well to look for a candidate’s accomplishments — evidence — of intellectual prowess and personal character. If the candidate hasn’t done much other than run for office, make speeches, and extol his own greatness, that should be a red flag.

David Brooks observes, “As we’ve made our institutions more meritocratic, their public standing has plummeted. We’ve increased the diversity and talent level of people at the top of society, yet trust in elites has never been lower. It’s not even clear that society is better led.” He finds a number of reasons for this, the first (and I think most critical) has some bearing on the current predicament in which the country finds itself. He explains:

The meritocracy is based on an overly narrow definition of talent. Our system rewards those who can amass technical knowledge. But this skill is only marginally related to the skill of being sensitive to context. It is not related at all to skills like empathy. Over the past years, we’ve seen very smart people make mistakes because they didn’t understand the context in which they were operating.

Or “very smart” people lack real-world experience in leading other people. Or they lack core qualities like resoluteness and decisiveness. Or they delegate too much responsibility and blame others for their failings. You see where I’m heading, right?

We elected a president who was indisputably a member of the educated elite in America. It matters not at all that he wasn’t rich growing up. He spent his adult life at Ivy League institutions, chalked up the résumé entries (Harvard Law Review), and thoroughly adopted the intellectual bent and attributes of the academic Left in America.

What did all this have to do with being president? It turns out not all that much. But other elites — New York Times columnists, for example — swooned and vouched for him. They confused literary finesse with presidential timber. They mistook fluency in philosophy with grounding in common sense, moderation, and wisdom.

In looking for other reasons why elites are doing so badly these days, Brooks writes:

To leave a mark in a fast, competitive world, leaders seek to hit grandiose home runs. Clinton tried to transform health care. Bush tried to transform the Middle East. Obama has tried to transform health care, energy and much more. There’s less emphasis on steady, gradual change and more emphasis on the big swing. This produces more spectacular failures and more uncertainty. Many Americans, not caught up on the romance of this sort of heroism, are terrified.

Well, that sounds like a particular kind of elite leader working on a short time frame before voters have a chance to put a halt to his august plans. But not all leaders operate this way. There are many successful governors, business professionals, and others who set modest goals and work competently toward them. No one is compelled to achieve grandiose objectives unless he has a grandiose conception of himself, a messiah complex, if you will. For those who come to believe they represent the “New Politics” and have the ability to lay a “new foundation” (i.e., radically restructure the country), then, yes, they’re going to run into trouble when the rest of us freak out and don’t want to be restructured out of the health care we enjoy and the economic system we’re rather fond of.

Next time around, voters may want to assess the credentials of the presidential candidates more closely. Elite degrees may be evidence of a sharp mind and keen intellect. But they also teach a lot of foolish things at Ivy League institutions, and it behooves voters to consider which ones a graduate has adopted. Moreover, voters would also do well to look for a candidate’s accomplishments — evidence — of intellectual prowess and personal character. If the candidate hasn’t done much other than run for office, make speeches, and extol his own greatness, that should be a red flag.

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The Perils of Professors

Obama is getting flack from his own party for lacking the common touch, failing to connect with ordinary voters, and struggling to identify with Middle America. The mainstream media is baffled because, they say, he came from a middle-class background. What’s the problem? They are stumped.

Much of the problem is that his background isn’t so much middle class as it is academic. A large chunk of his adult life has been spent attending, teaching in, and living in close proximity to elite universities. The intellectual bent (e.g., disdainful of American exceptionalism, ignorant of the workings of free-market capitalism, infatuated with the public sector) and the posture (e.g., remote, condescending) of liberal academics are evident in Obama’s persona and governing style. And his saturation in Left-leaning elite schools certainly explain much of what ails him.

Jeffrey Anderson spots some evidence of this in Obama’s Super Bowl interview. Anderson recounts Obama’s explanation of the unwinding of his beloved health-care proposal:

Look, I would have loved nothing better than to simply come up with some very elegant, you know, academically approved approach to health care [that] didn’t have any kinds of legislative fingerprints on it, and just go ahead and have that passed. But that’s not how it works in our democracy. Unfortunately what we end up having to do is to do a lot of negotiations with a lot of different people.

Yes, all that grubby democracy and so much compromise are such annoyances. If only they would swallow his prescribed syllabus whole, we’d be able to move on to the next round. (Micromanaging all carbon emissions, perhaps.) Anderson comments:

Our democratic process, our separation of powers, and our federalist design frustrate Obama. But, far from being unfortunate, the negotiations and multiple levels of approval that they require, from a myriad of different citizens, is largely what secures our liberty — protecting it from those who would otherwise impose their own comprehensive goals from their lofty theoretical perches. The Founders were surely not Obama’s intellectual inferiors, but they were practical men. The Constitutional Convention was nothing if not high-level give-and-take, tinkering and refining. One imagines Obama showing up at Independence Hall with his own plan in hand (probably adapted from Rousseau’s in The Social Contract, with Obama cast in the role of the Legislator) and being surprised when the other delegates resisted his eloquence and, correspondingly, his proposal.

In Obama, that mindset is combined with a prickly personality unaccustomed to criticism. So we get the insular, defensive, and often down-right nasty reaction to criticism from mere citizens and from news or polling outfits who don’t properly reflect the wisdom that the Obami believe is emanating from the White House. We’ve see the smarter-and-holier-than-thou attitude in everything, from the lectures on race in Gatesgate to the demonization of attendees at town-hall meetings.

And, of course, academics don’t do that much but write, converse among themselves, and lecture to unappreciative undergraduates. They aren’t responsible for achieving much of anything. They aren’t obligated to conform their theories to the realities of the world. So too with Obama, we see that his preference for grandiose regulatory and health-care schemes lacks a basic understanding of how private industry operates. He seems oblivious to the incentives and disincentives that motivate employers. And in foreign policy as well, grand theories (e.g., Iran engagement, the effort to put “daylight” between the U.S. and Israel to promote the “peace process”) collide with reality, leaving the smart diplomats bruised and embarrassed (if they had enough self-awareness to be ashamed of their results).

The media was mesmerized by an elite-credentialed author and law professor who seemed so very cool and so intellectually compatible with themselves. But the Harvard Law Review and Con Law 101 don’t prepare one for the presidency. Indeed, it turns out that those who are attracted to such endeavors may lack the stuff of successful presidents — common sense, appreciation for the private enterprise, toleration of criticism, attention to the bottom line, etc. Next time, maybe we should look for someone who fits less well into the Ivy League and more comfortably into the private sector and Middle America. The better presidents, after all, can hire academics — and learn when to ignore them when their advice proves impractical or downright foolish.

Obama is getting flack from his own party for lacking the common touch, failing to connect with ordinary voters, and struggling to identify with Middle America. The mainstream media is baffled because, they say, he came from a middle-class background. What’s the problem? They are stumped.

Much of the problem is that his background isn’t so much middle class as it is academic. A large chunk of his adult life has been spent attending, teaching in, and living in close proximity to elite universities. The intellectual bent (e.g., disdainful of American exceptionalism, ignorant of the workings of free-market capitalism, infatuated with the public sector) and the posture (e.g., remote, condescending) of liberal academics are evident in Obama’s persona and governing style. And his saturation in Left-leaning elite schools certainly explain much of what ails him.

Jeffrey Anderson spots some evidence of this in Obama’s Super Bowl interview. Anderson recounts Obama’s explanation of the unwinding of his beloved health-care proposal:

Look, I would have loved nothing better than to simply come up with some very elegant, you know, academically approved approach to health care [that] didn’t have any kinds of legislative fingerprints on it, and just go ahead and have that passed. But that’s not how it works in our democracy. Unfortunately what we end up having to do is to do a lot of negotiations with a lot of different people.

Yes, all that grubby democracy and so much compromise are such annoyances. If only they would swallow his prescribed syllabus whole, we’d be able to move on to the next round. (Micromanaging all carbon emissions, perhaps.) Anderson comments:

Our democratic process, our separation of powers, and our federalist design frustrate Obama. But, far from being unfortunate, the negotiations and multiple levels of approval that they require, from a myriad of different citizens, is largely what secures our liberty — protecting it from those who would otherwise impose their own comprehensive goals from their lofty theoretical perches. The Founders were surely not Obama’s intellectual inferiors, but they were practical men. The Constitutional Convention was nothing if not high-level give-and-take, tinkering and refining. One imagines Obama showing up at Independence Hall with his own plan in hand (probably adapted from Rousseau’s in The Social Contract, with Obama cast in the role of the Legislator) and being surprised when the other delegates resisted his eloquence and, correspondingly, his proposal.

In Obama, that mindset is combined with a prickly personality unaccustomed to criticism. So we get the insular, defensive, and often down-right nasty reaction to criticism from mere citizens and from news or polling outfits who don’t properly reflect the wisdom that the Obami believe is emanating from the White House. We’ve see the smarter-and-holier-than-thou attitude in everything, from the lectures on race in Gatesgate to the demonization of attendees at town-hall meetings.

And, of course, academics don’t do that much but write, converse among themselves, and lecture to unappreciative undergraduates. They aren’t responsible for achieving much of anything. They aren’t obligated to conform their theories to the realities of the world. So too with Obama, we see that his preference for grandiose regulatory and health-care schemes lacks a basic understanding of how private industry operates. He seems oblivious to the incentives and disincentives that motivate employers. And in foreign policy as well, grand theories (e.g., Iran engagement, the effort to put “daylight” between the U.S. and Israel to promote the “peace process”) collide with reality, leaving the smart diplomats bruised and embarrassed (if they had enough self-awareness to be ashamed of their results).

The media was mesmerized by an elite-credentialed author and law professor who seemed so very cool and so intellectually compatible with themselves. But the Harvard Law Review and Con Law 101 don’t prepare one for the presidency. Indeed, it turns out that those who are attracted to such endeavors may lack the stuff of successful presidents — common sense, appreciation for the private enterprise, toleration of criticism, attention to the bottom line, etc. Next time, maybe we should look for someone who fits less well into the Ivy League and more comfortably into the private sector and Middle America. The better presidents, after all, can hire academics — and learn when to ignore them when their advice proves impractical or downright foolish.

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Paul Ryan vs. Obama

Michael Gerson notices that the Democrats wasted little time savaging Rep. Paul Ryan just a week after Obama called for bipartisan civility. That should be no surprise to those who have kept an eye on the president’s now-familiar pattern of singing the praises of civility before knocking his critics. (“Obama’s outreach to Republicans has been a ploy, which is to say, a deception. Once again, a president so impressed by his own idealism has become the nation’s main manufacturer of public cynicism.”) Gerson notes that Ryan offers a serious alternative to endless deficits and government dependency:

Over time, Ryan concentrates government spending on the poor through means-tested programs, patching holes in the safety net while making entitlements more sustainable. He saves money by providing the middle class with defined-contribution benefits — private retirement accounts and health vouchers — that are more portable but less generous in the long run. And he expects a growing economy, liberated from debt and inflation, to provide more real gains for middle-class citizens than they lose from lower government benefits. Ryanism is not only a technical solution to endless deficits; it represents an alternative political philosophy.

You can understand why the Obami, who lack a single innovative domestic-policy idea, really don’t want to debate Ryan on the merits. Instead, Obama offers condescension (dubbing Ryan a “sincere guy”) or unleashes his attack dogs at the DNC to snarl that Ryan is all about “a vicious, voucherizing, privatizing assault on Social Security, Medicare and every non-millionaire American,” as Gerson summarizes. Obama was supposed to be the ideas man — after all, he has Ivy League degrees, has published books, and speaks so well. And yet, where is his interesting blueprint for reforming entitlements? Well, he couldn’t even manage his own ObamaCare plan, so I suppose he isn’t into the details so much. Rather he’s in the bait-and-switch business — running as a moderate and governing as a liberal, urging bipartisanship and snapping at the opposition, and calling for fiscal sobriety but propounding an embarrassing budget. He is the un-Ryan — that is, unserious and uninteresting. Like ideology (according to Hillary Clinton), he seems so yesterday.

Michael Gerson notices that the Democrats wasted little time savaging Rep. Paul Ryan just a week after Obama called for bipartisan civility. That should be no surprise to those who have kept an eye on the president’s now-familiar pattern of singing the praises of civility before knocking his critics. (“Obama’s outreach to Republicans has been a ploy, which is to say, a deception. Once again, a president so impressed by his own idealism has become the nation’s main manufacturer of public cynicism.”) Gerson notes that Ryan offers a serious alternative to endless deficits and government dependency:

Over time, Ryan concentrates government spending on the poor through means-tested programs, patching holes in the safety net while making entitlements more sustainable. He saves money by providing the middle class with defined-contribution benefits — private retirement accounts and health vouchers — that are more portable but less generous in the long run. And he expects a growing economy, liberated from debt and inflation, to provide more real gains for middle-class citizens than they lose from lower government benefits. Ryanism is not only a technical solution to endless deficits; it represents an alternative political philosophy.

You can understand why the Obami, who lack a single innovative domestic-policy idea, really don’t want to debate Ryan on the merits. Instead, Obama offers condescension (dubbing Ryan a “sincere guy”) or unleashes his attack dogs at the DNC to snarl that Ryan is all about “a vicious, voucherizing, privatizing assault on Social Security, Medicare and every non-millionaire American,” as Gerson summarizes. Obama was supposed to be the ideas man — after all, he has Ivy League degrees, has published books, and speaks so well. And yet, where is his interesting blueprint for reforming entitlements? Well, he couldn’t even manage his own ObamaCare plan, so I suppose he isn’t into the details so much. Rather he’s in the bait-and-switch business — running as a moderate and governing as a liberal, urging bipartisanship and snapping at the opposition, and calling for fiscal sobriety but propounding an embarrassing budget. He is the un-Ryan — that is, unserious and uninteresting. Like ideology (according to Hillary Clinton), he seems so yesterday.

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Palin at the Tea Party

Sarah Palin went to address the Tea Party Convention last night, laying out the populist-conservative case against Obama. We “need a commander in chief and not a law professor” in the war against “radical Islamic extremists” she declared.  (In purposefully using a phrase that the president eschews, she, of course, reinforces her point.) She fingered the closed-door deals and non-transparency in Washington, asking mockingly, “How’s that hopey, changey stuff working out for you?” And she hit the themes that have galvanized the populist activists and around which establishment conservatives have rallied. She criticized the president’s apologetic foreign policy and his failure to support human rights and democracy advocates, called the massive debt “generational theft,” advocated domestic energy development, and urged a return to more limited government and low taxes (noting Ronald Reagan’s birthday). And she also skewered Obama for incessantly blaming George W. Bush and for striking out in three big elections (“When you’re 0-3, you’d better stop lecturing and start listening”).

She demurred when asked about a presidential run and urged the Tea Party movement not to be about a single personality. But her purpose here seems quite clear. She is making the case that there is a powerful political movement, test run in Massachusetts, for independent-minded populists and conservatives. While she isn’t yet offering herself as a candidate, it doesn’t take much imagination to hear that same speech a year or two from now, phrased as an announcement of her presidential candidacy.

But for a moment, let’s put Palin aside. The issues she hit certainly comprise the core criticisms of Obama and will form the platform for conservatives in 2010 and 2012. Many of the issues she enumerated were positions that lifted Chris Christie, Bob McDonnell, and Scott Brown to victory, proving that there is not, in fact, much daylight between Tea Party activists, mainstream Republicans, and disaffected independent voters. And in one form or another, we are hearing similar themes from virtually all Republicans — whether it’s Rep. Paul Ryan or Marco Rubio or Meg Whitman or the other 2012 likely contenders.

So the question, I think, for Republicans is not what but who — who will emerge as the most effective standard bearer of that agenda. That — despite the continual chatter from the punditocracy to find the answer right now — can wait for the 2012 presidential campaign. The “what” will suffice for a nationalized, 2010 midterm election. And then the race will be on to see if Palin or some other figure emerges as the most effective champion for that core agenda.

Palin has followed no rule book and no pundit’s advice in the last year. She quit the governorship, sold millions of books, got a million and a half Facebook fans, broke through the health-care reform debate with her “death panel” critique, and now has endeared herself to a grassroots movement. Pundits will ask, “But is that enough?” Well, it’s a lot for a year’s work. After all, we are two years away from the start of the primary season. But this much is clear: her potential opponents for 2012 will have to figure out how to match the enthusiasm and affection she generates. (The mainstream media and liberals [but I repeat myself] loathe her, but they don’t vote in the GOP presidential primary.) And, without adopting the criticisms favored by the mainstream media — e.g., she lacks an Ivy League degree – that are likely to alienate the conservative base, they must figure out how to make the case that she’s not the right person to go toe to toe with Obama. That’s not, by any means, an impossible task. But judging from last night’s outing, the flock of 2012 contenders may have their work cut out for them.

Sarah Palin went to address the Tea Party Convention last night, laying out the populist-conservative case against Obama. We “need a commander in chief and not a law professor” in the war against “radical Islamic extremists” she declared.  (In purposefully using a phrase that the president eschews, she, of course, reinforces her point.) She fingered the closed-door deals and non-transparency in Washington, asking mockingly, “How’s that hopey, changey stuff working out for you?” And she hit the themes that have galvanized the populist activists and around which establishment conservatives have rallied. She criticized the president’s apologetic foreign policy and his failure to support human rights and democracy advocates, called the massive debt “generational theft,” advocated domestic energy development, and urged a return to more limited government and low taxes (noting Ronald Reagan’s birthday). And she also skewered Obama for incessantly blaming George W. Bush and for striking out in three big elections (“When you’re 0-3, you’d better stop lecturing and start listening”).

She demurred when asked about a presidential run and urged the Tea Party movement not to be about a single personality. But her purpose here seems quite clear. She is making the case that there is a powerful political movement, test run in Massachusetts, for independent-minded populists and conservatives. While she isn’t yet offering herself as a candidate, it doesn’t take much imagination to hear that same speech a year or two from now, phrased as an announcement of her presidential candidacy.

But for a moment, let’s put Palin aside. The issues she hit certainly comprise the core criticisms of Obama and will form the platform for conservatives in 2010 and 2012. Many of the issues she enumerated were positions that lifted Chris Christie, Bob McDonnell, and Scott Brown to victory, proving that there is not, in fact, much daylight between Tea Party activists, mainstream Republicans, and disaffected independent voters. And in one form or another, we are hearing similar themes from virtually all Republicans — whether it’s Rep. Paul Ryan or Marco Rubio or Meg Whitman or the other 2012 likely contenders.

So the question, I think, for Republicans is not what but who — who will emerge as the most effective standard bearer of that agenda. That — despite the continual chatter from the punditocracy to find the answer right now — can wait for the 2012 presidential campaign. The “what” will suffice for a nationalized, 2010 midterm election. And then the race will be on to see if Palin or some other figure emerges as the most effective champion for that core agenda.

Palin has followed no rule book and no pundit’s advice in the last year. She quit the governorship, sold millions of books, got a million and a half Facebook fans, broke through the health-care reform debate with her “death panel” critique, and now has endeared herself to a grassroots movement. Pundits will ask, “But is that enough?” Well, it’s a lot for a year’s work. After all, we are two years away from the start of the primary season. But this much is clear: her potential opponents for 2012 will have to figure out how to match the enthusiasm and affection she generates. (The mainstream media and liberals [but I repeat myself] loathe her, but they don’t vote in the GOP presidential primary.) And, without adopting the criticisms favored by the mainstream media — e.g., she lacks an Ivy League degree – that are likely to alienate the conservative base, they must figure out how to make the case that she’s not the right person to go toe to toe with Obama. That’s not, by any means, an impossible task. But judging from last night’s outing, the flock of 2012 contenders may have their work cut out for them.

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But He Was the Harvard Law Review Editor!

The chattering class was entranced with candidate Barack Obama. So literate. So polished. So cool. We were assured that his lack of executive experience was irrelevant. After all, he ran a campaign. And then there were his years as a community organizer and Harvard Law Review editor, which showed… well… it showed something about his magnificent intellectual skills. But it turns out he lacks some key abilities — executive leadership, decisiveness, deal-making prowess, flexibility, and basic people skills — that are essential to a successful presidency.

This is not simply the conclusion of conservatives. The entire country witnessed his agonizing decision-making process on the Afghanistan war strategy. Now on health-care reform, his own party is frustrated and dismayed with the non-governing president. As this report notes:

President Barack Obama has left Democrats as confused as ever over how the White House plans to deliver a health care reform bill this year, following two weeks of inconsistent statements, negligible hands-on involvement and a sudden shift to a jobs-first message. Democrats on Capitol Hill and beyond say they have no clear understanding of the White House strategy – or even whether there is one – and are growing impatient with Obama’s reluctance to guide them toward a legislative solution.

…And some Democrats feel that every time they look to White House for clarity, they hear something different, as though the strategy is whatever the president or his top advisers said that day.

His floundering is not surprising, considering that Obama never ran a state, a city, or a business, and during his brief time in the U.S. Senate, he was never front-and-center in any significant legislative undertaking. Yes, he’s touted as an author, and he won the presidency (beating two flawed candidates who ran awful campaigns). But it turns out that all this was insufficient preparation to be chief executive and commander in chief.

In 2012, Republicans will look for a standard-bearer to retake the White House. And while a grounding in conservative principles will be essential to winning the nomination, Republican voters might do well to consider what experience and what talents are essential for a successful presidency. They might look for candidates who have done something — other than graduating from Ivy League schools, writing memoirs, and giving frothy speeches. By 2012, the country might be ready for someone who knows how to get something done.

The chattering class was entranced with candidate Barack Obama. So literate. So polished. So cool. We were assured that his lack of executive experience was irrelevant. After all, he ran a campaign. And then there were his years as a community organizer and Harvard Law Review editor, which showed… well… it showed something about his magnificent intellectual skills. But it turns out he lacks some key abilities — executive leadership, decisiveness, deal-making prowess, flexibility, and basic people skills — that are essential to a successful presidency.

This is not simply the conclusion of conservatives. The entire country witnessed his agonizing decision-making process on the Afghanistan war strategy. Now on health-care reform, his own party is frustrated and dismayed with the non-governing president. As this report notes:

President Barack Obama has left Democrats as confused as ever over how the White House plans to deliver a health care reform bill this year, following two weeks of inconsistent statements, negligible hands-on involvement and a sudden shift to a jobs-first message. Democrats on Capitol Hill and beyond say they have no clear understanding of the White House strategy – or even whether there is one – and are growing impatient with Obama’s reluctance to guide them toward a legislative solution.

…And some Democrats feel that every time they look to White House for clarity, they hear something different, as though the strategy is whatever the president or his top advisers said that day.

His floundering is not surprising, considering that Obama never ran a state, a city, or a business, and during his brief time in the U.S. Senate, he was never front-and-center in any significant legislative undertaking. Yes, he’s touted as an author, and he won the presidency (beating two flawed candidates who ran awful campaigns). But it turns out that all this was insufficient preparation to be chief executive and commander in chief.

In 2012, Republicans will look for a standard-bearer to retake the White House. And while a grounding in conservative principles will be essential to winning the nomination, Republican voters might do well to consider what experience and what talents are essential for a successful presidency. They might look for candidates who have done something — other than graduating from Ivy League schools, writing memoirs, and giving frothy speeches. By 2012, the country might be ready for someone who knows how to get something done.

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Who Did That?!

Even Gail Collins doesn’t buy Obama’s act. She thinks the populist hooey and Beltway-bashing doesn’t really work coming from the Ivy League–educated president who’s been in office for a year:

Obama does not really do angry. Peeved, yes. He looked pretty peeved when he was being interviewed by Diane Sawyer of ABC News the other night. If he can’t manage mellow with Diane Sawyer, what’s he going to do on Friday when he has scheduled a meeting with the House Republicans? Have you ever seen all the House Republicans in one place? It’s like a herd of rabid otters.

Looking out at the motley crew seated before him for the big speech, the president seemed at times to be pretending that he had never seen these people before in his life. “Washington has been telling us to wait for decades,” he complained at one point, as if he was a visitor from the heartland with a petition that he wanted to deliver if only he could get an appointment with someone on the appropriations committee.

She attributes all this to an outbreak of crankiness. But really it’s phoniness — as phony as Bill Clinton biting his lower lip. Obama is play-acting, affecting anger he doesn’t really feel (otherwise we’d have seen it before Scott Brown’s victory, right?). And meanwhile he’s donning the mantle of outsider while occupying the Oval office.

He got to the presidency as the leader of a new sort of politics. Unburdened by ideology, more cerebral and less craven than all who ever came before him, he was going to leave pettiness and perpetual campaigning behind and institute a new way of governing based on respect for the public and his opponents and heightened transparency. Now he’s upset that some fellow’s been running things for a year, acting like “change” was just a campaign slogan, so he’s going to get to the bottom of it. You can get whiplash trying to figure out which role he’s playing and whether he could possibly believe we haven’t noticed that the practitioner of all this secrecy, inside dealing, and hard-ball politics is the man behind the curtain … er … podium.

Even Gail Collins doesn’t buy Obama’s act. She thinks the populist hooey and Beltway-bashing doesn’t really work coming from the Ivy League–educated president who’s been in office for a year:

Obama does not really do angry. Peeved, yes. He looked pretty peeved when he was being interviewed by Diane Sawyer of ABC News the other night. If he can’t manage mellow with Diane Sawyer, what’s he going to do on Friday when he has scheduled a meeting with the House Republicans? Have you ever seen all the House Republicans in one place? It’s like a herd of rabid otters.

Looking out at the motley crew seated before him for the big speech, the president seemed at times to be pretending that he had never seen these people before in his life. “Washington has been telling us to wait for decades,” he complained at one point, as if he was a visitor from the heartland with a petition that he wanted to deliver if only he could get an appointment with someone on the appropriations committee.

She attributes all this to an outbreak of crankiness. But really it’s phoniness — as phony as Bill Clinton biting his lower lip. Obama is play-acting, affecting anger he doesn’t really feel (otherwise we’d have seen it before Scott Brown’s victory, right?). And meanwhile he’s donning the mantle of outsider while occupying the Oval office.

He got to the presidency as the leader of a new sort of politics. Unburdened by ideology, more cerebral and less craven than all who ever came before him, he was going to leave pettiness and perpetual campaigning behind and institute a new way of governing based on respect for the public and his opponents and heightened transparency. Now he’s upset that some fellow’s been running things for a year, acting like “change” was just a campaign slogan, so he’s going to get to the bottom of it. You can get whiplash trying to figure out which role he’s playing and whether he could possibly believe we haven’t noticed that the practitioner of all this secrecy, inside dealing, and hard-ball politics is the man behind the curtain … er … podium.

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Dowd Dumps Obama

Maureen Dowd, the grande dame of snark, knows when her man is yesterday’s news. A sample:

Obama’s Oneness has been one-upped. Why settle for a faux populist when we can have a real one? Why settle for gloomy populism when we can have sunny populism? Why settle for Ivy League cool when we can have Cosmo hot? Why settle for a professor who favors banks, pharmaceutical companies and profligate Democrats when we can have an Everyman who favors banks, pharmaceutical companies and profligate Republicans? Why settle for a 48-year-old, 6-foot-1, organic arugula when we can have a 50-year-old, 6-foot-2, double waffle with bacon?

Everyone in Washington now wants to touch the hem of President-elect Brown — known in the British press as “the former nude centrefold” — who has single-handedly revived the moribund Republican Party. It uncannily recalls the way they once jostled to piggyback on the powerful allure of One-Term Obama.

As is her habit, Dowd would rather convert this into a narrative she knows best — filled with gossipy infighting, high-schoolish rivalries, and the fickleness of public opinion. That requires that we ignore a great many facts. It was not Brown alone who brought back the GOP, of course. Two gubernatorial candidates, a tea party movement (if she missed it, David Brooks can catch her up), and Obama himself helped bestir the party that she and her colleagues assured us was going the way of the Whigs. But this is the flip side of vilifying Martha Coakley, you see. The more this is Dowd-ized (i.e., made into a set of trivial, personal soap opera vignettes), the less there is to disturb the liberal establishment and her readers.

Nevertheless, hidden in the snark is an element of truth. She hisses:

Obama is coming across as plastic and hidden, rather than warm and accessibly all-American. (Brown has even been known to do his daughter’s laundry when she gets too busy.) Whereas Obama had to force himself to nibble French fries and drink beer (instead of his organic Black Forest Berry Honest Tea) during the Pennsylvania primary, Brown truly loves diners, Pepsi, Waffle Houses and the unwashed masses.

Translation: is the public supposed to like Obama? We keep hearing that the public likes Obama but not his policies. Or not his results. Or not anything he’s done for the past year. But really, somewhere in the racial condescension on Gatesgate, the digs at ordinary Americans who opposed his health-care scheme, the robotic response to Fort Hood and the Christmas Day bombing, and the snipes at Brown’s truck, it became very clear (at least to those who hadn’t already figured this out during the campaign) that Obama is missing something — an affinity for and emotional attachment to ordinary Americans. That’s no joke. It’s a serious failing in a president, and one not easily remedied.

Maureen Dowd, the grande dame of snark, knows when her man is yesterday’s news. A sample:

Obama’s Oneness has been one-upped. Why settle for a faux populist when we can have a real one? Why settle for gloomy populism when we can have sunny populism? Why settle for Ivy League cool when we can have Cosmo hot? Why settle for a professor who favors banks, pharmaceutical companies and profligate Democrats when we can have an Everyman who favors banks, pharmaceutical companies and profligate Republicans? Why settle for a 48-year-old, 6-foot-1, organic arugula when we can have a 50-year-old, 6-foot-2, double waffle with bacon?

Everyone in Washington now wants to touch the hem of President-elect Brown — known in the British press as “the former nude centrefold” — who has single-handedly revived the moribund Republican Party. It uncannily recalls the way they once jostled to piggyback on the powerful allure of One-Term Obama.

As is her habit, Dowd would rather convert this into a narrative she knows best — filled with gossipy infighting, high-schoolish rivalries, and the fickleness of public opinion. That requires that we ignore a great many facts. It was not Brown alone who brought back the GOP, of course. Two gubernatorial candidates, a tea party movement (if she missed it, David Brooks can catch her up), and Obama himself helped bestir the party that she and her colleagues assured us was going the way of the Whigs. But this is the flip side of vilifying Martha Coakley, you see. The more this is Dowd-ized (i.e., made into a set of trivial, personal soap opera vignettes), the less there is to disturb the liberal establishment and her readers.

Nevertheless, hidden in the snark is an element of truth. She hisses:

Obama is coming across as plastic and hidden, rather than warm and accessibly all-American. (Brown has even been known to do his daughter’s laundry when she gets too busy.) Whereas Obama had to force himself to nibble French fries and drink beer (instead of his organic Black Forest Berry Honest Tea) during the Pennsylvania primary, Brown truly loves diners, Pepsi, Waffle Houses and the unwashed masses.

Translation: is the public supposed to like Obama? We keep hearing that the public likes Obama but not his policies. Or not his results. Or not anything he’s done for the past year. But really, somewhere in the racial condescension on Gatesgate, the digs at ordinary Americans who opposed his health-care scheme, the robotic response to Fort Hood and the Christmas Day bombing, and the snipes at Brown’s truck, it became very clear (at least to those who hadn’t already figured this out during the campaign) that Obama is missing something — an affinity for and emotional attachment to ordinary Americans. That’s no joke. It’s a serious failing in a president, and one not easily remedied.

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When You Mess Up This Badly, There Are No Good Options

How badly did Obama mess up? Really badly, says David Brooks:

Instead of building trust in government, the Democrats have magnified distrust. The country already believed Washington is out of touch with its core concerns. So while most families were concerned about jobs, Democrats in Washington spent nine months arguing about health care. The country was already tired of self-serving back-room deals, so the Democrats negotiated a series of dirty deals with the pharmaceutical industry, the unions and certain senators. Americans already felt Washington doesn’t understand their fears and insecurities. So at the moment when economic insecurity was at its peak, the Democrats in Washington added another layer of insecurity by threatening to change everything at once.

Instead of building a new majority, the Democrats have set off a distrust insurrection (which is not the same as a conservative insurrection). Republicans are enraged. Independents are furious. Democrats are disheartened. Health care reform is brutally unpopular. Even voters in Massachusetts decided it was time to send a message.

Brooks writes “Democrats,” but you can plug in “Obama.” These were Obama’s decisions — either affirmatively or by ceding the decision-making to Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid. It might sound less harsh to avoid using his name, but we should be clear whose fault this is. Hard to imagine that someone like Obama — who could be such a fine editor of a liberal magazine – could have made that many bad calls and been so out of touch with the American electorate’s inherent conservatism and aversion to statism. Maybe being a fine editor or a sophisticated conversationalist or living in Indonesia has nothing to do with being a good president. (Note to file: There is no correlation between Ivy League credentials and prowess as a chief executive.)

Brooks gives Obama … er, Democrats … some advice: take what he calls the Weak and Feckless Approach to health care. Admit they messed up. Say they heard the public. And get out of Dodge with a face-saving, small-beans plan. “Perhaps we will use federal money to support a series of state reform efforts — like the one in Massachusetts — which are closer to the people, ” says Brooks. Yes, that sounds just unbelievably lame. But that’s what they’re reduced to. There is no support for grandiose ObamaCare. There hasn’t been support in the country for some time, and finally the lawmakers are listening.

I personally like the temper-tantrum option, which Brooks calls the Incoherent and Internecine Approach: “This would involve settling on no coherent policy but just blaming each other for cowardice and stupidity for the next month.” It would be fun to watch, and there’s at least a grain of truth in it. Obama is to blame. Pelosi is to blame. Reid is to blame. Greedy Ben Nelson is to blame. And then the Democrats will tell us that the voters are to blame, the tiny Republican minority is to blame, and of course the cabal of Bill Kristol–Jane Hamsher–Howard Dean–MoveOn.org–Club for Growth–Jim DeMint–Mitch McConnell–etc. is to blame. In short, the Right and the Left and Independents are the villains — because they all opposed the bill. Well, that does suggest that the bill was so flawed that it could engender no support. But that sort of discussion is what makes the Incoherent and Internecine Approach so enticing.

Surveying all that and observing the unraveling of support on Capitol Hill for ObamaCare, one must agree with Brooks that there are no good options here for the Obami. Sometimes the number and magnitude of a politician’s errors are so great that all that’s left for him to do is take his lumps, express contrition, and move on. (The Humble Pie Approach?) Unfortunately, that’s the last thing this president is inclined to favor.

How badly did Obama mess up? Really badly, says David Brooks:

Instead of building trust in government, the Democrats have magnified distrust. The country already believed Washington is out of touch with its core concerns. So while most families were concerned about jobs, Democrats in Washington spent nine months arguing about health care. The country was already tired of self-serving back-room deals, so the Democrats negotiated a series of dirty deals with the pharmaceutical industry, the unions and certain senators. Americans already felt Washington doesn’t understand their fears and insecurities. So at the moment when economic insecurity was at its peak, the Democrats in Washington added another layer of insecurity by threatening to change everything at once.

Instead of building a new majority, the Democrats have set off a distrust insurrection (which is not the same as a conservative insurrection). Republicans are enraged. Independents are furious. Democrats are disheartened. Health care reform is brutally unpopular. Even voters in Massachusetts decided it was time to send a message.

Brooks writes “Democrats,” but you can plug in “Obama.” These were Obama’s decisions — either affirmatively or by ceding the decision-making to Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid. It might sound less harsh to avoid using his name, but we should be clear whose fault this is. Hard to imagine that someone like Obama — who could be such a fine editor of a liberal magazine – could have made that many bad calls and been so out of touch with the American electorate’s inherent conservatism and aversion to statism. Maybe being a fine editor or a sophisticated conversationalist or living in Indonesia has nothing to do with being a good president. (Note to file: There is no correlation between Ivy League credentials and prowess as a chief executive.)

Brooks gives Obama … er, Democrats … some advice: take what he calls the Weak and Feckless Approach to health care. Admit they messed up. Say they heard the public. And get out of Dodge with a face-saving, small-beans plan. “Perhaps we will use federal money to support a series of state reform efforts — like the one in Massachusetts — which are closer to the people, ” says Brooks. Yes, that sounds just unbelievably lame. But that’s what they’re reduced to. There is no support for grandiose ObamaCare. There hasn’t been support in the country for some time, and finally the lawmakers are listening.

I personally like the temper-tantrum option, which Brooks calls the Incoherent and Internecine Approach: “This would involve settling on no coherent policy but just blaming each other for cowardice and stupidity for the next month.” It would be fun to watch, and there’s at least a grain of truth in it. Obama is to blame. Pelosi is to blame. Reid is to blame. Greedy Ben Nelson is to blame. And then the Democrats will tell us that the voters are to blame, the tiny Republican minority is to blame, and of course the cabal of Bill Kristol–Jane Hamsher–Howard Dean–MoveOn.org–Club for Growth–Jim DeMint–Mitch McConnell–etc. is to blame. In short, the Right and the Left and Independents are the villains — because they all opposed the bill. Well, that does suggest that the bill was so flawed that it could engender no support. But that sort of discussion is what makes the Incoherent and Internecine Approach so enticing.

Surveying all that and observing the unraveling of support on Capitol Hill for ObamaCare, one must agree with Brooks that there are no good options here for the Obami. Sometimes the number and magnitude of a politician’s errors are so great that all that’s left for him to do is take his lumps, express contrition, and move on. (The Humble Pie Approach?) Unfortunately, that’s the last thing this president is inclined to favor.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

First, governors of both parties object to ObamaCare. Now this: “A growing number of state regulators are urging the Obama administration to slow the rollout of proposed federal rules curbing industrial greenhouse-gas emissions, saying the administration’s approach could overwhelm them with paperwork, delay construction projects and undercut their own efforts to fight climate change.” It’s almost like the Obama agenda isn’t popular around the country.

A smart take on the snooty pundit set that looks down its nose at the Tea Party protesters: “Now that the country is run mostly by graduates of Ivy League schools, however, that they look down on the electorate is becoming not only vastly irritating to the electorate but also rather dangerous. Elitism, now, might have adverse political consequences—and a backlash.”

Democrats are sensing that the end of Harry Reid’s Senate career is nearing: “‘He’s in deep trouble, I think,’ said one senior aide to a member of the House Democratic leadership. ‘Even with the apology, no matter what it’s a negative thing. There are a lot of minorities that vote [in Nevada].'” At least some activists would like to try to save the seat: “Markos Moulitsas, the prominent liberal blogger and grassroots activist, went one step further, stating on his Twitter feed that he hoped Reid would not only resign leadership but also retire, ‘so we can hold the Nevada Senate seat.'”

Well, I think the voters will figure out they’re related: “As if Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) didn’t have enough problems, say hello to Rory Reid, his eldest son. Looks just like him. He’s running for governor of Nevada. It will be Reid and Reid atop the November ballot in this state, the father running for his sixth term, the son making his first bid at statewide office. So far, this double bill is not going so great. Each candidate is dragging down the other, to look at the polls and listen to the Silver State’s political oddsmakers. And neither is mentioning the other’s campaign.”

Rep. Dan Boren of Oklahoma thinks his fellow Democrats messed up: ” ‘I think the House Democratic leadership along with the administration made a very large mistake by focusing on a lot of different pieces of legislation that would not do a lot to help the economy,” Boren said. At the top of that list of mistakes, he places health-care legislation, which is expected to pass Congress in the coming weeks, and the cap-and-trade measure, which passed the House but is not at this point expected to come out of Washington.” He voted against both, but many of his colleagues walked the plank and may pay the price in November.

When it rains, it pours for the Democrats: “North Dakota Gov. John Hoeven (R) has decided to run for the state’s newly-open Senate seat, a major recruiting victory for Republicans as they seek to expand the playing field in hopes of capitalizing on a national environment that favors their party.”

And Obama may not be able to help incumbent Democrats: “President Barack Obama’s job approval rating has fallen to its lowest level yet in CBS News Polls, and for the first time is below the 50% mark — just 46% now approve of the job he is doing as president.” Only 42 percent of independents approve of his performance.

Meanwhile, Jonathan Capehart of the Washington Post has figured out why the Fox deal with Sarah Palin really matters: “Doing TV, Palin will learn how to think on her feet. She should get used to getting to the studio thinking that she’s going to talk about one thing only to find out that she’s talking about something else. She’ll learn how to debate other people in a forum with no real ground rules. And if Palin gets boffo ratings with her occasional specials on people in what she might call the ‘real America,’ we can expect to see her star rise.”

Democrats still think ObamaCare is a winner. The voters? Not so much: “The latest Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey shows that just 17% believe passage of the legislation will achieve the stated goal of reducing health care costs. Fifty-seven percent (57%) think it will lead to higher costs. Fifty-two percent (52%) also believe passage of the legislation will lead to a decline in the quality of care. Overall, 40% of voters nationwide favor the health care reform plan proposed by President Obama and congressional Democrats. Fifty-five percent (55%) are opposed. As has been the case throughout the debate, those who feel strongly about the issue are more likely to be opposed. Just 19% of voters Strongly Favor the plan while 45% are Strongly Opposed.” Sounds like a political train wreck, but we’ll see.

First, governors of both parties object to ObamaCare. Now this: “A growing number of state regulators are urging the Obama administration to slow the rollout of proposed federal rules curbing industrial greenhouse-gas emissions, saying the administration’s approach could overwhelm them with paperwork, delay construction projects and undercut their own efforts to fight climate change.” It’s almost like the Obama agenda isn’t popular around the country.

A smart take on the snooty pundit set that looks down its nose at the Tea Party protesters: “Now that the country is run mostly by graduates of Ivy League schools, however, that they look down on the electorate is becoming not only vastly irritating to the electorate but also rather dangerous. Elitism, now, might have adverse political consequences—and a backlash.”

Democrats are sensing that the end of Harry Reid’s Senate career is nearing: “‘He’s in deep trouble, I think,’ said one senior aide to a member of the House Democratic leadership. ‘Even with the apology, no matter what it’s a negative thing. There are a lot of minorities that vote [in Nevada].'” At least some activists would like to try to save the seat: “Markos Moulitsas, the prominent liberal blogger and grassroots activist, went one step further, stating on his Twitter feed that he hoped Reid would not only resign leadership but also retire, ‘so we can hold the Nevada Senate seat.'”

Well, I think the voters will figure out they’re related: “As if Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) didn’t have enough problems, say hello to Rory Reid, his eldest son. Looks just like him. He’s running for governor of Nevada. It will be Reid and Reid atop the November ballot in this state, the father running for his sixth term, the son making his first bid at statewide office. So far, this double bill is not going so great. Each candidate is dragging down the other, to look at the polls and listen to the Silver State’s political oddsmakers. And neither is mentioning the other’s campaign.”

Rep. Dan Boren of Oklahoma thinks his fellow Democrats messed up: ” ‘I think the House Democratic leadership along with the administration made a very large mistake by focusing on a lot of different pieces of legislation that would not do a lot to help the economy,” Boren said. At the top of that list of mistakes, he places health-care legislation, which is expected to pass Congress in the coming weeks, and the cap-and-trade measure, which passed the House but is not at this point expected to come out of Washington.” He voted against both, but many of his colleagues walked the plank and may pay the price in November.

When it rains, it pours for the Democrats: “North Dakota Gov. John Hoeven (R) has decided to run for the state’s newly-open Senate seat, a major recruiting victory for Republicans as they seek to expand the playing field in hopes of capitalizing on a national environment that favors their party.”

And Obama may not be able to help incumbent Democrats: “President Barack Obama’s job approval rating has fallen to its lowest level yet in CBS News Polls, and for the first time is below the 50% mark — just 46% now approve of the job he is doing as president.” Only 42 percent of independents approve of his performance.

Meanwhile, Jonathan Capehart of the Washington Post has figured out why the Fox deal with Sarah Palin really matters: “Doing TV, Palin will learn how to think on her feet. She should get used to getting to the studio thinking that she’s going to talk about one thing only to find out that she’s talking about something else. She’ll learn how to debate other people in a forum with no real ground rules. And if Palin gets boffo ratings with her occasional specials on people in what she might call the ‘real America,’ we can expect to see her star rise.”

Democrats still think ObamaCare is a winner. The voters? Not so much: “The latest Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey shows that just 17% believe passage of the legislation will achieve the stated goal of reducing health care costs. Fifty-seven percent (57%) think it will lead to higher costs. Fifty-two percent (52%) also believe passage of the legislation will lead to a decline in the quality of care. Overall, 40% of voters nationwide favor the health care reform plan proposed by President Obama and congressional Democrats. Fifty-five percent (55%) are opposed. As has been the case throughout the debate, those who feel strongly about the issue are more likely to be opposed. Just 19% of voters Strongly Favor the plan while 45% are Strongly Opposed.” Sounds like a political train wreck, but we’ll see.

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Bought and Paid

While the media was fixated on a health-care vote with a preordained outcome, the New York Post broke a blockbuster story over the weekend:

Anti-Israel, pro-Iran university professors are being funded by a shadowy multimillion-dollar Islamic charity based in Manhattan that the feds charge is an illegal front for the repressive Iranian regime.

The deep-pocketed Alavi Foundation has aggressively given away hundreds of thousands of dollars to Columbia University and Rutgers University for Middle Eastern and Persian studies programs that employ professors sympathetic to the Iranian dictatorship.

“We found evidence that the government of Iran really controlled everything about the foundation,” said Adam Kaufmann, investigations chief at the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office.

And remember the much criticized visit of Holocaust denier Mahmoud Ahmadinejad? It seems it was a good deal for Columbia University: “In one of the biggest handouts, the controversial charity donated $100,000 to Columbia University after the Ivy League school agreed to host Iranian leader and Holocaust denier Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, according to the foundation’s 2007 tax filings obtained by The Post.”

The Iranian regime has gotten its money’s worth. Gary Sick of Columbia chimes in that we can disregard all that “wipe Israel off the map” stuff from Ahmadinejad. The Sick translation of Ahmadinejad’s genocide talk: “What he means is that there should be a free referendum among the peoples of the Palestine that existed to [sic] the partition in 1948 to vote about the kind of a government they should have. He is confident that, in a free vote, Israel and Israelis would lose that vote and it would turn out to be something else: a unitary state, probably run by the Palestinians.” Got that?

Other professors from Columbia and Rutgers (which also received funds) are equally forthcoming with propaganda nonsense, enough to make the mullahs proud. This is a scandal of the first order — a financial conflict of interest and an ethical betrayal of the universities’ supposed role as bastions of academic independence and free inquiry. They have instead among their ranks a number of shills for the mullahs, whose leftist claptrap is subsidized by those with an interest in seeing the mullahs’ party line recirculated through American universities. It seems worth taking a look, especially when these institutions receive taxpayer money and their students earn degrees on taxpayer-supported scholarships.

While the media was fixated on a health-care vote with a preordained outcome, the New York Post broke a blockbuster story over the weekend:

Anti-Israel, pro-Iran university professors are being funded by a shadowy multimillion-dollar Islamic charity based in Manhattan that the feds charge is an illegal front for the repressive Iranian regime.

The deep-pocketed Alavi Foundation has aggressively given away hundreds of thousands of dollars to Columbia University and Rutgers University for Middle Eastern and Persian studies programs that employ professors sympathetic to the Iranian dictatorship.

“We found evidence that the government of Iran really controlled everything about the foundation,” said Adam Kaufmann, investigations chief at the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office.

And remember the much criticized visit of Holocaust denier Mahmoud Ahmadinejad? It seems it was a good deal for Columbia University: “In one of the biggest handouts, the controversial charity donated $100,000 to Columbia University after the Ivy League school agreed to host Iranian leader and Holocaust denier Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, according to the foundation’s 2007 tax filings obtained by The Post.”

The Iranian regime has gotten its money’s worth. Gary Sick of Columbia chimes in that we can disregard all that “wipe Israel off the map” stuff from Ahmadinejad. The Sick translation of Ahmadinejad’s genocide talk: “What he means is that there should be a free referendum among the peoples of the Palestine that existed to [sic] the partition in 1948 to vote about the kind of a government they should have. He is confident that, in a free vote, Israel and Israelis would lose that vote and it would turn out to be something else: a unitary state, probably run by the Palestinians.” Got that?

Other professors from Columbia and Rutgers (which also received funds) are equally forthcoming with propaganda nonsense, enough to make the mullahs proud. This is a scandal of the first order — a financial conflict of interest and an ethical betrayal of the universities’ supposed role as bastions of academic independence and free inquiry. They have instead among their ranks a number of shills for the mullahs, whose leftist claptrap is subsidized by those with an interest in seeing the mullahs’ party line recirculated through American universities. It seems worth taking a look, especially when these institutions receive taxpayer money and their students earn degrees on taxpayer-supported scholarships.

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What Are Facts After All?

There is new-found focus on Barack Obama’s gaffes and whether he is indeed a knowledgeable person. But maybe the critics are missing something. Like any good liberal taught the basics of postmodernism or postructuralism in the halls of the Ivy League, Obama need not be too concerned with facts. Because facts, after all, are not really fixed, knowable things and there are “higher truths” to be learned. Lest you think I exaggerate, the proof comes from his own books.

In a telling New York Times article (no doubt intended to be laudatory) we learn a lot about Obama’s relationship with facts. We find out that his autobiographical works are not exactly fact-based works:

“The book is so literary,” said Arnold Rampersad, a professor of English at Stanford University who teaches autobiography and is the author of a recent biography of Ralph Ellison. “It is so full of clever tricks — inventions for literary effect — that I was taken aback, even astonished. But make no mistake, these are simply the tricks that art trades in, and out of these tricks is supposed to come our realization of truth.”

Perhaps what garners praise as “clever tricks” in literature doesn’t work as well with international relations and history where people check your facts and hold you accountable. The Times story continues:

In the introduction, Mr. Obama acknowledged his use of pseudonyms, composite characters, approximated dialogue and events out of chronological order. He was writing at a time well before a recent series of publishing scandals involving fabrication in memoirs. “He was trying to be careful of people’s feelings,” said Deborah Baker, the editor on the first paperback edition of the book. “The fact is, it all had a sort of larger truth going on that you couldn’t make up.”

The piece ends with words of praise from a publisher: “Being able to take your own life story and turn it into this incredibly lucrative franchise, it’s a stunning fact.”

So it may be that taking liberties with facts is second nature to Obama. Indeed, he helped get him where he is today. And as any parent knows, when the habit of embellishing and avoiding unpleasant or prosaic facts gets embedded in your mode of thinking and acting, it is a hard habit to break. And it is a disturbing mindset for a potential president.

There is new-found focus on Barack Obama’s gaffes and whether he is indeed a knowledgeable person. But maybe the critics are missing something. Like any good liberal taught the basics of postmodernism or postructuralism in the halls of the Ivy League, Obama need not be too concerned with facts. Because facts, after all, are not really fixed, knowable things and there are “higher truths” to be learned. Lest you think I exaggerate, the proof comes from his own books.

In a telling New York Times article (no doubt intended to be laudatory) we learn a lot about Obama’s relationship with facts. We find out that his autobiographical works are not exactly fact-based works:

“The book is so literary,” said Arnold Rampersad, a professor of English at Stanford University who teaches autobiography and is the author of a recent biography of Ralph Ellison. “It is so full of clever tricks — inventions for literary effect — that I was taken aback, even astonished. But make no mistake, these are simply the tricks that art trades in, and out of these tricks is supposed to come our realization of truth.”

Perhaps what garners praise as “clever tricks” in literature doesn’t work as well with international relations and history where people check your facts and hold you accountable. The Times story continues:

In the introduction, Mr. Obama acknowledged his use of pseudonyms, composite characters, approximated dialogue and events out of chronological order. He was writing at a time well before a recent series of publishing scandals involving fabrication in memoirs. “He was trying to be careful of people’s feelings,” said Deborah Baker, the editor on the first paperback edition of the book. “The fact is, it all had a sort of larger truth going on that you couldn’t make up.”

The piece ends with words of praise from a publisher: “Being able to take your own life story and turn it into this incredibly lucrative franchise, it’s a stunning fact.”

So it may be that taking liberties with facts is second nature to Obama. Indeed, he helped get him where he is today. And as any parent knows, when the habit of embellishing and avoiding unpleasant or prosaic facts gets embedded in your mode of thinking and acting, it is a hard habit to break. And it is a disturbing mindset for a potential president.

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Fair Game

Lay off my wife, or else. That was Barack Obama’s warning on Good Morning America earlier today to Republicans.

If they think that they’re going to try to make Michelle an issue in this campaign, they should be careful because that I find unacceptable, the notion that you start attacking my wife or my family.

For them to try to distort or to play snippets of her remarks in ways that are unflattering to her is, I think, just low class.

Obama was referring to a GOP ad which ran in Tennessee in advance of Michelle Obama’s visit there last Thursday.  The ad re-played Michelle’s words from a speech in February in which she said

For the first time in my adult life, I am really proud of my country.

But the Obamas can’t have it both ways.  Michelle Obama doesn’t just show up at fundraisers or make the occasional, canned surrogate speech. She is, as The New York Times noted here, involved in shaping campaign strategy, and her speeches have sometimes generated as much attention as his. Why shouldn’t she be fair game for speculation, dissection, and criticism?

Michelle Obama is an Ivy League-educated lawyer with strong opinions and an activist career.  The last First Lady with a similar pedigree ended up using the hitherto ceremonial role to launch her own political career.

Lay off my wife, or else. That was Barack Obama’s warning on Good Morning America earlier today to Republicans.

If they think that they’re going to try to make Michelle an issue in this campaign, they should be careful because that I find unacceptable, the notion that you start attacking my wife or my family.

For them to try to distort or to play snippets of her remarks in ways that are unflattering to her is, I think, just low class.

Obama was referring to a GOP ad which ran in Tennessee in advance of Michelle Obama’s visit there last Thursday.  The ad re-played Michelle’s words from a speech in February in which she said

For the first time in my adult life, I am really proud of my country.

But the Obamas can’t have it both ways.  Michelle Obama doesn’t just show up at fundraisers or make the occasional, canned surrogate speech. She is, as The New York Times noted here, involved in shaping campaign strategy, and her speeches have sometimes generated as much attention as his. Why shouldn’t she be fair game for speculation, dissection, and criticism?

Michelle Obama is an Ivy League-educated lawyer with strong opinions and an activist career.  The last First Lady with a similar pedigree ended up using the hitherto ceremonial role to launch her own political career.

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But Aren’t They Narrow-Minded Bigots?

Barack Obama tries the “I’m sorry if you were offended, but I was really right” approach. Does he not understand what he said? (Even the New York Times could figure it out, quoting a former John Edwards’ advisor: “It could mean he’s rendered himself unelectable. This is a perfect example of why Democrats lose elections.”) Apparently Obama does not, and this is starting to sound familiar.

The Washington Post reports this about Barack Obama’s team:

They described Obama as frustrated with himself for word choices such as “cling” and references to hot-button issues including religion and guns, but also stunned at the uproar over what to him seemed a fundamental fact of American life.

Well there you have it: he’s shocked, shocked to hear that people might be upset about his theory that they are bitter and psychologically dependent on guns, religion, anti-immigrant sentiment and protectionism. (Again, his own devotion to the latter is based on what exactly?) The problem was the word “cling.” Had he used “grasp” or “find irrational refuge in” instead of “cling” the fall out would have been mild.

Well, it is hard to deny that this goes to the issue of his utter cluelessness about average Americans. Why don’t they get the brilliance of Rev. Wright and how would anyone mind that he sat in Wright’s pews for so long? Ah, they are judgmental and ignorant of their country’s own racial divisions. Why is everyone in a tizzy about his sage analysis of rural America when any Harvard Ph.D would echo it virtually verbatim? Ah, once again folks are just ignorant and defensive.

Give the man his due. I think most observers would acknowledge that Obama is entirely capable of assuming the presidency of any Ivy League institution. He understands its values and ethos and speaks its language. The notion of a “dignity promotion” for despotic régimes seems entirely credible in these places. He and the academic Left have got more dimensions of compatibilty than an eHarmony convention.

But what about the presidency of the rest of the country? He still doesn’t understand what’s the matter with the darn fools. (He has managed to make Hillary Clinton seem by comparison like salt of the earth and the best friend of Middle America.) He may have even lost the mainstream media. ( Ouch, ouch, ouch and ouch.) Obama seems ever to be talking past, or over the heads of, the masses. In short, he just may be too erudite and sophisticated for the likes of us.

Barack Obama tries the “I’m sorry if you were offended, but I was really right” approach. Does he not understand what he said? (Even the New York Times could figure it out, quoting a former John Edwards’ advisor: “It could mean he’s rendered himself unelectable. This is a perfect example of why Democrats lose elections.”) Apparently Obama does not, and this is starting to sound familiar.

The Washington Post reports this about Barack Obama’s team:

They described Obama as frustrated with himself for word choices such as “cling” and references to hot-button issues including religion and guns, but also stunned at the uproar over what to him seemed a fundamental fact of American life.

Well there you have it: he’s shocked, shocked to hear that people might be upset about his theory that they are bitter and psychologically dependent on guns, religion, anti-immigrant sentiment and protectionism. (Again, his own devotion to the latter is based on what exactly?) The problem was the word “cling.” Had he used “grasp” or “find irrational refuge in” instead of “cling” the fall out would have been mild.

Well, it is hard to deny that this goes to the issue of his utter cluelessness about average Americans. Why don’t they get the brilliance of Rev. Wright and how would anyone mind that he sat in Wright’s pews for so long? Ah, they are judgmental and ignorant of their country’s own racial divisions. Why is everyone in a tizzy about his sage analysis of rural America when any Harvard Ph.D would echo it virtually verbatim? Ah, once again folks are just ignorant and defensive.

Give the man his due. I think most observers would acknowledge that Obama is entirely capable of assuming the presidency of any Ivy League institution. He understands its values and ethos and speaks its language. The notion of a “dignity promotion” for despotic régimes seems entirely credible in these places. He and the academic Left have got more dimensions of compatibilty than an eHarmony convention.

But what about the presidency of the rest of the country? He still doesn’t understand what’s the matter with the darn fools. (He has managed to make Hillary Clinton seem by comparison like salt of the earth and the best friend of Middle America.) He may have even lost the mainstream media. ( Ouch, ouch, ouch and ouch.) Obama seems ever to be talking past, or over the heads of, the masses. In short, he just may be too erudite and sophisticated for the likes of us.

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The Luckiest Man

To date, Barack Obama may be the luckiest man in politics. He ran for Senate against Alan Keyes. In his presidential primary race he drew as his opponent someone whose exaggerated sense of self-importance and thin resume served to mask his own flaws. But perhaps luck only gets you so far.

His general election opponent seems rather well positioned to make a salient point: it’s not about him. Or rather, if it is only about him then is rather thin gruel on which to base a campaign. While Obama makes clear his and his spouse’s political perspective (good things only began with him in 2008), McCain presents a different perspective (perhaps because he was not blessed with an Ivy League education in which the prime purpose was to instill a sense of America’s moral failings). Last night McCain ended his victory speech with this:

I don’t seek the office out of a sense of entitlement. I owe America more than she has ever owed me. I have been an imperfect servant of my country for many years. I have never lived a day, in good times or bad, that I haven’t been proud of the privilege. Don’t tell me what we can’t do. Don’t tell me we can’t make our country stronger and the world safer. We can. We must. And when I’m President we will.

And while the Obama team is mulling how to dispel the callow image its candidate is acquiring, it might be a good idea to spend some time figuring out how to answer Chris Matthews’ question.

To date, Barack Obama may be the luckiest man in politics. He ran for Senate against Alan Keyes. In his presidential primary race he drew as his opponent someone whose exaggerated sense of self-importance and thin resume served to mask his own flaws. But perhaps luck only gets you so far.

His general election opponent seems rather well positioned to make a salient point: it’s not about him. Or rather, if it is only about him then is rather thin gruel on which to base a campaign. While Obama makes clear his and his spouse’s political perspective (good things only began with him in 2008), McCain presents a different perspective (perhaps because he was not blessed with an Ivy League education in which the prime purpose was to instill a sense of America’s moral failings). Last night McCain ended his victory speech with this:

I don’t seek the office out of a sense of entitlement. I owe America more than she has ever owed me. I have been an imperfect servant of my country for many years. I have never lived a day, in good times or bad, that I haven’t been proud of the privilege. Don’t tell me what we can’t do. Don’t tell me we can’t make our country stronger and the world safer. We can. We must. And when I’m President we will.

And while the Obama team is mulling how to dispel the callow image its candidate is acquiring, it might be a good idea to spend some time figuring out how to answer Chris Matthews’ question.

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What a Disgrace

I thought that the follies of academia had lost their power to outrage me. I was wrong. Reading this New York Times account, about how some scholars have come under fire from their colleagues for working with the U.S. military, enraged me.

There is nothing particularly new in the article, but it did wrap-up three current campus controversies:

At Harvard, some faculty and activists have been troubled that the university’s Carr Center for Human Rights Policy helped revise the counterinsurgency field manual, even though the center’s aim was to reduce civilian casualties. Members of the American Psychological Association have had fervid exchanges over what role — if any — its members should have in military interrogations. And anthropologists have passionately argued over a Pentagon program that uses these social scientists in war zones.

The article did not touch upon the continuing refusal of most Ivy League schools to allow ROTC on campus, but this is another sign of the nauseating anti-military, indeed anti-American, bias that still seems to prevail at our elite universities. In this regard, Naval Institute Proceedings prints an instructive letter from Owen West, a Harvard graduate and Marine Corps reservist who has served two tours in Iraq.

In the letter, West recounts the discrimination and animus endured by him and his fellow classmates in the early 1990’s when they had to go to MIT to take their ROTC instruction. “On graduation day, neither outgoing president Derek Bok nor incoming president [Neil] Rudenstine attended our commissioning ceremony. In twenty years, Bok refused to attend even one commissioning,” he notes. Larry Summers broke with tradition by attending the commissioning ceremonies when he was president, but it was this kind of gesture that helped lead to a faculty revolt that toppled Summers. His successors, West notes, are back to their pernicious old ways: “This year, interim president Bok and incoming president Drew Faust did not attend the commissioning ceremony.”

Reading accounts like this, I have to take a deep breath before commenting, otherwise all that will come out will be a string of expletives. What a disgrace that anyone employed in an American university should think it a disgrace to work with and honor the men and women who risk their necks to protect us. It reminds me of Orwell’s disgust in 1943 with those “advocating non-resistance from behind the guns of the American fleet.” Some things, alas, never change.

I thought that the follies of academia had lost their power to outrage me. I was wrong. Reading this New York Times account, about how some scholars have come under fire from their colleagues for working with the U.S. military, enraged me.

There is nothing particularly new in the article, but it did wrap-up three current campus controversies:

At Harvard, some faculty and activists have been troubled that the university’s Carr Center for Human Rights Policy helped revise the counterinsurgency field manual, even though the center’s aim was to reduce civilian casualties. Members of the American Psychological Association have had fervid exchanges over what role — if any — its members should have in military interrogations. And anthropologists have passionately argued over a Pentagon program that uses these social scientists in war zones.

The article did not touch upon the continuing refusal of most Ivy League schools to allow ROTC on campus, but this is another sign of the nauseating anti-military, indeed anti-American, bias that still seems to prevail at our elite universities. In this regard, Naval Institute Proceedings prints an instructive letter from Owen West, a Harvard graduate and Marine Corps reservist who has served two tours in Iraq.

In the letter, West recounts the discrimination and animus endured by him and his fellow classmates in the early 1990’s when they had to go to MIT to take their ROTC instruction. “On graduation day, neither outgoing president Derek Bok nor incoming president [Neil] Rudenstine attended our commissioning ceremony. In twenty years, Bok refused to attend even one commissioning,” he notes. Larry Summers broke with tradition by attending the commissioning ceremonies when he was president, but it was this kind of gesture that helped lead to a faculty revolt that toppled Summers. His successors, West notes, are back to their pernicious old ways: “This year, interim president Bok and incoming president Drew Faust did not attend the commissioning ceremony.”

Reading accounts like this, I have to take a deep breath before commenting, otherwise all that will come out will be a string of expletives. What a disgrace that anyone employed in an American university should think it a disgrace to work with and honor the men and women who risk their necks to protect us. It reminds me of Orwell’s disgust in 1943 with those “advocating non-resistance from behind the guns of the American fleet.” Some things, alas, never change.

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The Tittering at Columbia

There are no homosexuals in Iran, Iran’s president said yesterday at Columbia University, and there are also no—or there will not ever be any—nuclear weapons.

Although Columbia’s president said that the purpose of inviting the Iranian leader was to foster dialogue and the clash of ideas, as Bret Stephens points out in a brilliant column in today’s Wall Street Journal, it is questionable whether the university president’s “confidence in ‘dialogue and reason’ is well placed.” It is even more questionable “whether confronting ideas is a sufficient condition for understanding the world,” let alone for protecting ourselves from the menace represented by those ideas as they are expressed in the strategic and theological aspirations of the Islamic Republic of Iran.

Of course, it pays to listen to Ahmadinejad’s statements—including his false ones—with great care. But is it required of us to listen to them at the podium of an Ivy League university? And to pretend to be engaging in an academic “dialogue” with the Holocaust-denying, homosexual-denying, nuclear-weapons-denying, genocide-bent Iranian leader is something even worse.

The English language has a rich supply of words to label the Columbia dean, John Coatsworth, who said, in defending the invitation, that the university would also have been happy to invite Hitler to a debate in 1939. Which is the best term?

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There are no homosexuals in Iran, Iran’s president said yesterday at Columbia University, and there are also no—or there will not ever be any—nuclear weapons.

Although Columbia’s president said that the purpose of inviting the Iranian leader was to foster dialogue and the clash of ideas, as Bret Stephens points out in a brilliant column in today’s Wall Street Journal, it is questionable whether the university president’s “confidence in ‘dialogue and reason’ is well placed.” It is even more questionable “whether confronting ideas is a sufficient condition for understanding the world,” let alone for protecting ourselves from the menace represented by those ideas as they are expressed in the strategic and theological aspirations of the Islamic Republic of Iran.

Of course, it pays to listen to Ahmadinejad’s statements—including his false ones—with great care. But is it required of us to listen to them at the podium of an Ivy League university? And to pretend to be engaging in an academic “dialogue” with the Holocaust-denying, homosexual-denying, nuclear-weapons-denying, genocide-bent Iranian leader is something even worse.

The English language has a rich supply of words to label the Columbia dean, John Coatsworth, who said, in defending the invitation, that the university would also have been happy to invite Hitler to a debate in 1939. Which is the best term?

“Imbecile,” according to Webster’s, suggests someone “incapable of earning a living”—so that is not right because our Columbia dean’s accounts at TIAA-CREF are undoubtedly doing quite well.

Is “idiot” better? Perhaps, because it is defined as someone who is “incapable of avoiding the common dangers of life.” But since the term also refers to someone who is “incapable of connected speech,” it too is inaccurate. Coatsworth’s words may be deficient in various ways, but they are certainly connected; indeed, as Stephens shows, they are a constituent element of an entire worldview.

“Simpleton” implies “silliness or lack of sophistication,” and while Coatsworth is worse than silly, he is certainly sophisticated; indeed, he is a dean at one of our leading universities.

In the end, perhaps “fool”—a person “lacking in judgment or prudence”—is the most appropriate word. But as Webster’s points out, when all of these terms are used in their most general way, they all fit the bill insofar as they are often applied interchangeably to refer “to anyone regarded as lacking sense or good judgment.”

Fortunately, there are other and better solutions being developed than anything in the works at Columbia to deal with Ahmadinejad’s nuclear-weapons program, elements of which are buried deep underground in hardened facilities across Iran.

Defense Daily reports today that Northrop-Grumman is making rapid progress in bringing on board a new weapon. Here is its dispatch based upon an interview with Harry Heimple, a company spokesman:

By next year a 30,000-pound bomb capable of blasting into subterranean tunnels will begin operating in the Air Force’s bomber fleet, according to industry officials.

The Massive Ordnance Penetrator (MOP) built by Boeing will be integrated by Northrop Grumman on both the B-2A Spirit stealth bomber and the B-52 Stratofortress. . .

The B-2A can carry two MOPs, one in each of its weapon bays. The munition Northrop Grumman calls “like” the Joint Direct Attack Munition with a guidance system aided by the Global Positioning System, MOP contains more than 5,300 pounds of conventional explosives inside of a 20.5-foot-long steel enclosure. The weapon is said to be able to penetrate up to about 60 feet of dirt and concrete.

The mass makes it three and a half times as powerful as the Air Force’s heaviest weapons, Heimple said. After extensive testing to gauge whether it is better to drop multiple bombs in the same spot or to drop one enormous bomb, the Air Force has opted for the MOP, saying more mass is the right answer, Heimple said.

The first lethality test of the weapon took place at the end of March at the White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico in a tunnel complex with helicopters and jeeps inside. The bomb was placed nose-down in the complex and fired. The Air Force measured the blast for pressure and temperature.

“The results were pretty amazing,” Heimple said.

The private sector is thus doing things that are far more significant than the laughter on Morningside Heights which greeted the Iranian president’s remarks about homosexuality. Since Columbia continues to exclude ROTC from campus, the complacent tittering at Ahmadinejad is the university’s only contribution, thus far, to our common defense.

 

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Bookshelf

• I spent the past month staying in a string of New England country inns, most of which were of the sort that have libraries—of a sort. These moldering collections typically consist of Reader’s Digest Condensed Books (remember them?) and the best sellers of yesteryear, lightly sprinkled with the odd novelty. On occasion the novelties can be quite odd indeed. I passed a pleasant evening reading the memoirs of Lowell Thomas (remember him?) as I sat by the Atlantic Ocean a couple of weeks ago, and the very next night I stumbled across a copy of Karl Marx’s ‘Capital’ in Lithographs, a 1934 volume abridged and illustrated by Hugo Gellert, a long-forgotten artist whose earnest prose breathes the air of other spheres:

But out of the East rises a new Prometheus. And all the Gods in the World cannot chain him! The great disciple of Karl Marx, Lenin, led the Russian workers and peasants who created the Union of Socialist Soviet Republics. And these workers and peasants became the Masters of their own destiny. The Young Giant with his mighty hands builds the future of mankind and bright lights flare up in his wake . . . .

More often, though, I contented myself with mysteries and thrillers of varying vintages, the oldest of which was John le Carré’s The Spy Who Came In from the Cold, published in 1963, mere months before the assassination of John F. Kennedy robbed a generation of Americans of their dewy-eyed innocence, blah blah blah. Not that the pseudonymous author of The Spy Who Came In from the Cold had much innocence of which to be robbed, judging by the book’s denouement, which hinges on the complete and final disillusion of its grubby, self-pitying anti-hero:

What do you think spies are: priests, saints and martyrs? They’re a squalid procession of vain fools, traitors too, yes; pansies, sadists and drunkards, people who play cowboys and Indians to brighten their rotten lives.

As it happens, I’d never read a word of le Carré, and I was fascinated to find that he appears to be the man who introduced moral equivalence to modern espionage fiction. (Actually, Somerset Maugham beat him to the punch four decades earlier with Ashenden, but that book’s eponymous secret agent is not so much disillusioned as indifferent.) In The Spy Who Came In from the Cold, the Brits and Russians are interchangeably unscrupulous and cynical, and it is taken for granted that neither side deserves to prevail in the “long twilight struggle” proclaimed a scant two years earlier by the idealistic speechwriters of the soon-to-be-martyred architect of the New Frontier. It says something noteworthy about the emerging ethos of the Sixties that such a book was soon to become one of its emblematic literary successes.

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• I spent the past month staying in a string of New England country inns, most of which were of the sort that have libraries—of a sort. These moldering collections typically consist of Reader’s Digest Condensed Books (remember them?) and the best sellers of yesteryear, lightly sprinkled with the odd novelty. On occasion the novelties can be quite odd indeed. I passed a pleasant evening reading the memoirs of Lowell Thomas (remember him?) as I sat by the Atlantic Ocean a couple of weeks ago, and the very next night I stumbled across a copy of Karl Marx’s ‘Capital’ in Lithographs, a 1934 volume abridged and illustrated by Hugo Gellert, a long-forgotten artist whose earnest prose breathes the air of other spheres:

But out of the East rises a new Prometheus. And all the Gods in the World cannot chain him! The great disciple of Karl Marx, Lenin, led the Russian workers and peasants who created the Union of Socialist Soviet Republics. And these workers and peasants became the Masters of their own destiny. The Young Giant with his mighty hands builds the future of mankind and bright lights flare up in his wake . . . .

More often, though, I contented myself with mysteries and thrillers of varying vintages, the oldest of which was John le Carré’s The Spy Who Came In from the Cold, published in 1963, mere months before the assassination of John F. Kennedy robbed a generation of Americans of their dewy-eyed innocence, blah blah blah. Not that the pseudonymous author of The Spy Who Came In from the Cold had much innocence of which to be robbed, judging by the book’s denouement, which hinges on the complete and final disillusion of its grubby, self-pitying anti-hero:

What do you think spies are: priests, saints and martyrs? They’re a squalid procession of vain fools, traitors too, yes; pansies, sadists and drunkards, people who play cowboys and Indians to brighten their rotten lives.

As it happens, I’d never read a word of le Carré, and I was fascinated to find that he appears to be the man who introduced moral equivalence to modern espionage fiction. (Actually, Somerset Maugham beat him to the punch four decades earlier with Ashenden, but that book’s eponymous secret agent is not so much disillusioned as indifferent.) In The Spy Who Came In from the Cold, the Brits and Russians are interchangeably unscrupulous and cynical, and it is taken for granted that neither side deserves to prevail in the “long twilight struggle” proclaimed a scant two years earlier by the idealistic speechwriters of the soon-to-be-martyred architect of the New Frontier. It says something noteworthy about the emerging ethos of the Sixties that such a book was soon to become one of its emblematic literary successes.

• Repellent though the message of The Spy Who Came In from the Cold may be, it at least has the advantage of being exceedingly well written, albeit in a style indistinguishable from that of Graham Greene. In 1963 many best sellers still aspired to the condition of literature, and as late as 1987, Scott Turow, the author of Presumed Innocent, was clearly doing his best to produce a serious novel. Would that his editor had thus insisted on a complete rewrite, since Turow is a chronic overwriter who should be forced to spend a full year reading nothing but the complete works of Elmore Leonard. To be sure, he is also capable of writing with admirably clear-eyed straightforwardness about the mixed motives of lawyers and lawmen, and Presumed Innocent, which I found on the shelves of a Connecticut inn last week, has a richness of observation that helps to bring it within spitting distance of seriousness. Alas, it is disfigured at clockwork intervals by patches of the deepest purple:

Whatever wild, surging, libidinal rivers Carolyn undammed in me by her manner and appearance, there was something about the tender attention she showed this needy child that drew me over the brink, that gave my emotions a melting, yearning quality that I took to be far more significant than all my priapic heat.

No doubt this sentence was written with a straight face, but that doesn’t make it any easier to read with one.

• Unlike Scott Turow, John Grisham makes no pretense of being a serious writer. Indeed, it would be an act of charity to describe his lumpy prose as functional, for it bears much the same relationship to his elaborate plots that the flavor-free iceberg lettuce in a Midwestern salad bears to the Thousand Island dressing in which it is drenched. Since I find it all but impossible to read an ill-written book, I’ve hitherto made a point of steering clear of Grisham, but I reluctantly confess to having rather enjoyed The Firm, the 1991 novel in which he recounts the protracted travails and ultimate triumph of an Ivy League law-school grad who takes a way-the-hell-too-good-to-be-true job with a Memphis law firm that turns out to be a wholly owned subsidiary of Mafia, Inc.

Needless to say, The Firm is all plot and a yard wide, but at least it’s full of interesting facts. (Should the need ever arise, I now know how to launder large sums of money.) Even better, it’s a lawyer joke blown up to book length. Did you hear the one about the hot young gun fresh out of Harvard Law who landed a job with a firm that gave him a BMW and paid off his student loans . . . then tried to murder him? That’s my kind of moral equivalence.

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Charlie’s Angle

Yesterday Rudy Giuliani’s presidential campaign announced the selection of Charles Hill, a career Foreign Service officer who retired from government life to teach diplomacy at Yale, as the candidate’s chief foreign policy adviser. Hill is so admired by students that, as Scott Johnson notes at Power Line, one of them wrote a book about him: The Man on Whom Nothing Was Lost.

The Plank’s Bradford Plumer nevertheless attacks Hill, writing that he was “George Shultz’s assistant back when the Reagan administration was orchestrating arms shipments to Iran in the 1980’s.” This bit of information—or rather spin—is completely irrelevant. Iran-Contra had its roots in Reagan’s National Security Council, on which Hill never served. Hill was never charged with any crimes: the only charges the overzealous prosecutor could bring against him lay in a few dubious sentences in his equally dubious book.

I’d argue that Hill’s connection to Shultz, the Republican Party’s senior statesman, actually makes this appointment a shrewd move by Giuliani. Shultz was prescient on the subject of terrorism; he was and is a formidable policy intellect; he believed not in surrendering to our enemies, but in defeating them. Plus, the campaign’s move links the candidate with Reagan, whose reputation, on the left and the right, is at a high.

And doesn’t Hill’s resume—posts in Zurich, Saigon, and on the State Department’s Policy Planning Staff, a prominent position at an Ivy League university—suggest that he’s exactly the kind of experienced, nuance-appreciating diplomat that the left wants running American foreign policy?

Yesterday Rudy Giuliani’s presidential campaign announced the selection of Charles Hill, a career Foreign Service officer who retired from government life to teach diplomacy at Yale, as the candidate’s chief foreign policy adviser. Hill is so admired by students that, as Scott Johnson notes at Power Line, one of them wrote a book about him: The Man on Whom Nothing Was Lost.

The Plank’s Bradford Plumer nevertheless attacks Hill, writing that he was “George Shultz’s assistant back when the Reagan administration was orchestrating arms shipments to Iran in the 1980’s.” This bit of information—or rather spin—is completely irrelevant. Iran-Contra had its roots in Reagan’s National Security Council, on which Hill never served. Hill was never charged with any crimes: the only charges the overzealous prosecutor could bring against him lay in a few dubious sentences in his equally dubious book.

I’d argue that Hill’s connection to Shultz, the Republican Party’s senior statesman, actually makes this appointment a shrewd move by Giuliani. Shultz was prescient on the subject of terrorism; he was and is a formidable policy intellect; he believed not in surrendering to our enemies, but in defeating them. Plus, the campaign’s move links the candidate with Reagan, whose reputation, on the left and the right, is at a high.

And doesn’t Hill’s resume—posts in Zurich, Saigon, and on the State Department’s Policy Planning Staff, a prominent position at an Ivy League university—suggest that he’s exactly the kind of experienced, nuance-appreciating diplomat that the left wants running American foreign policy?

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