Commentary Magazine


Topic: Jake Tapper

Early Media Warnings About Deifying Obama

Yesterday I wrote about an interview in which ABC’s Barbara Walters, in speaking about Barack Obama, said “we” thought he would be “the next messiah.” I drew attention to some other comments by journalists and historians that illustrated just how much deification of Obama was going on a few years ago.

To their credit, some journalists called attention to this phenomenon at the time. Take CNN’s Jake Tapper, one of the best journalists in America. While at ABC News in 2008, Tapper posted a piece, “And Obama Wept,” in which he cited writers like Kathleen Geier, an Obama supporter who, in describing various encounters with Obama advocates, wrote this:

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Yesterday I wrote about an interview in which ABC’s Barbara Walters, in speaking about Barack Obama, said “we” thought he would be “the next messiah.” I drew attention to some other comments by journalists and historians that illustrated just how much deification of Obama was going on a few years ago.

To their credit, some journalists called attention to this phenomenon at the time. Take CNN’s Jake Tapper, one of the best journalists in America. While at ABC News in 2008, Tapper posted a piece, “And Obama Wept,” in which he cited writers like Kathleen Geier, an Obama supporter who, in describing various encounters with Obama advocates, wrote this:

Excuse me, but this sounds more like a cult than a political campaign. The language used here is the language of evangelical Christianity – the Obama volunteers speak of ‘coming to Obama’ in the same way born-again Christians talk about ‘coming to Jesus.’…So I say, we should all get a grip, stop all this unseemly mooning over Barack, see him and the political landscape he is a part of in a cooler, clearer, and more realistic light, and get to work.

Others, like Time magazine’s Joe Klein, offered similar warnings about the “mass  messianism” we were witnessing. Tapper wrote, “I’m not saying there shouldn’t be enthusiasm in politics. I’m merely touching on the fact that some Obama supporters’ exuberance seems to be getting a little out of hand.”

Indeed it was.

It’s a credit to journalists like Tapper and writers like Geier and Klein who warned about the cult-like effect Mr. Obama was having on people then rather than to those who, having bought into it five years ago, are now left scrambling to explain why Obama turned out to be merely mortal.

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If Benghazi’s No Scandal, Why a Cover-Up?

President Obama has been a broken record lately claiming over and over again that Republicans are promoting “phony scandals,” the chief of which is the effort to keep asking questions about the Benghazi terror attack that left four Americans dead last September. The White House has continued to insist that the notion that there was anything sinister about the administration’s conduct during or after attack is simply a political red herring not based in fact. Though many are still troubled by the failure to provide adequate protection for Americans in Benghazi, the decision not to send help as the attack unfolded as well as by the clearly false “talking points” that led current National Security Advisor Susan Rice to put out a false story about the incident being a case of film criticism run amok, for the most part the mainstream media has agreed with the White House’s conclusions and dropped the issue entirely.

But thanks to CNN’s Jake Tapper, there are new questions being raised about Benghazi that can’t be dismissed by presidential scorn or a catch phrase:

Sources now tell CNN dozens of people working for the CIA were on the ground that night, and that the agency is going to great lengths to make sure whatever it was doing, remains a secret.

CNN has learned the CIA is involved in what one source calls an unprecedented attempt to keep the spy agency’s Benghazi secrets from ever leaking out.

The main focus of this effort is to prevent their personnel from speaking not just to the media, but also to members of Congress. While it must be acknowledged that the spy agency is entrusted with our nation’s secrets, the all-out push described in Tapper’s report seems to speak more to a desire to silence whistle-blowers and to cover up any possible wrongdoing than anything else. If Benghazi is a “phony scandal,” Americans are entitled to ask why the government is behaving so suspiciously.

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President Obama has been a broken record lately claiming over and over again that Republicans are promoting “phony scandals,” the chief of which is the effort to keep asking questions about the Benghazi terror attack that left four Americans dead last September. The White House has continued to insist that the notion that there was anything sinister about the administration’s conduct during or after attack is simply a political red herring not based in fact. Though many are still troubled by the failure to provide adequate protection for Americans in Benghazi, the decision not to send help as the attack unfolded as well as by the clearly false “talking points” that led current National Security Advisor Susan Rice to put out a false story about the incident being a case of film criticism run amok, for the most part the mainstream media has agreed with the White House’s conclusions and dropped the issue entirely.

But thanks to CNN’s Jake Tapper, there are new questions being raised about Benghazi that can’t be dismissed by presidential scorn or a catch phrase:

Sources now tell CNN dozens of people working for the CIA were on the ground that night, and that the agency is going to great lengths to make sure whatever it was doing, remains a secret.

CNN has learned the CIA is involved in what one source calls an unprecedented attempt to keep the spy agency’s Benghazi secrets from ever leaking out.

The main focus of this effort is to prevent their personnel from speaking not just to the media, but also to members of Congress. While it must be acknowledged that the spy agency is entrusted with our nation’s secrets, the all-out push described in Tapper’s report seems to speak more to a desire to silence whistle-blowers and to cover up any possible wrongdoing than anything else. If Benghazi is a “phony scandal,” Americans are entitled to ask why the government is behaving so suspiciously.

As Tapper writes:

Since January, some CIA operatives involved in the agency’s missions in Libya, have been subjected to frequent, even monthly polygraph examinations, according to a source with deep inside knowledge of the agency’s workings.

The goal of the questioning, according to sources, is to find out if anyone is talking to the media or Congress.

It is being described as pure intimidation, with the threat that any unauthorized CIA employee who leaks information could face the end of his or her career.

In exclusive communications obtained by CNN, one insider writes, “You don’t jeopardize yourself, you jeopardize your family as well.”

Another says, “You have no idea the amount of pressure being brought to bear on anyone with knowledge of this operation.”

We don’t need to know every aspect of the CIA’s mission in Benghazi. But given the obvious security failures and the inability of the United States to come to the aid of its besieged employees under fire, it’s worth asking what exactly were all those Americans doing that night and why were they doing it? Moreover, if there were so many witnesses available, why haven’t at least some of them been produced to answer these questions before Congress even in closed sessions? And if there were literally dozens more American personnel with knowledge of what happened there, we must again ask how the administration could have produced talking points about the incident that promoted the false narrative that it was not a terrorist attack.

Just as frustrating is the fact that just a few days earlier CNN interviewed one of the people identified by the FBI as a suspect in the Benghazi attack. That suspect has never been interviewed by the FBI or the Libyan government but was somehow tracked down by a journalist. At present, not a single one of the many terrorists who were responsible for killing Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans has been brought to justice and, to date, the American people haven’t received a serious answer as to why that should be.

At this point with so many unanswered questions about Benghazi, the administration should be facilitating the investigation of the attack rather than actually impeding it. We don’t know whether the code of omerta being imposed on CIA personnel is merely a function of bureaucratic inertia or a far more sinister attempt to prevent Congress and the public from finding out more about the failures of both the agency and the State Department. No one should make assumptions about wrongdoing, but given the unwillingness of the administration to apply its supposed belief in transparency to this question, it is, at the very least, reasonable to conclude that something is amiss here.

That these reports come as we are learning about the decision to shut down 21 U.S. embassies and consulates in the Middle East and to issue travel warnings to U.S. citizens because of a belief that al-Qaeda is plotting new terrorists attacks only adds more credence to the calls for more answers about the disaster in Benghazi. 

If there is no scandal concerning the events that led to Benghazi and its aftermath, there certainly appears to be something that resembles a cover up going on about it. The White House needs to drop the politicized refrain about “phony scandals” and start treating this issue seriously. It should direct the CIA to start answering questions from the Congress. The sooner it does, the better it will be for the president once we find out—as we inevitably will—what it is that they are trying to keep secret.

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Admin Libya Lies Take Mitt Off the Hook

As he has done many times in recent years, ABC’s Jake Tapper hit the nail on the head when he asked White House spokesman Jay Carney yesterday whether President Obama hadn’t done exactly what he and other Democrats and liberals accused Mitt Romney of doing:

TAPPER: President Obama, shortly after the attack told “60 Minutes” that regarding Mitt Romney’s response to the attacks, specifically in Egypt, the president said that Romney has a tendency to “shoot first and aim later.” Given the fact that so much was made out of the video that apparently had absolutely nothing to do with the attack in Benghazi, that there wasn’t even a protest outside the Benghazi post, didn’t President Obama shoot first and aim later?

CARNEY: First of all, Jake, I think your assessment of what we know now is not complete, but I would simply say that the –

TAPPER: I’m just going by what the State Department said yesterday.

CARNEY: Look, there is no question that in the region, including in Cairo, there were demonstrations reacting to the release of that video, and I will leave it to those who are testifying on the hill to –

TAPPER: You said yesterday there was no protest? I’m talking about in Benghazi.

This was yet another cringe-inducing moment from a White House that is allergic to the truth. But Tapper’s question hits an important political point that has been ignored, as the country seeks answers to the questions about the Benghazi attack that the Obama foreign policy team still finds itself incapable of answering honestly. Mitt Romney is still taking abuse from those who claim he was wrong to criticize the administration’s behavior in the immediate aftermath of the Benghazi disaster as well as the assault on the U.S. embassy in Cairo. The Republican spoke out before all the information about both incidents was aired. In retrospect, that was a mistake. But it pales in comparison to the many deceptive statements from the president, the secretary of state and the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations that were not only wrong but part of what appears to have been a campaign of deception aimed at distracting the American people from a major security breakdown.

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As he has done many times in recent years, ABC’s Jake Tapper hit the nail on the head when he asked White House spokesman Jay Carney yesterday whether President Obama hadn’t done exactly what he and other Democrats and liberals accused Mitt Romney of doing:

TAPPER: President Obama, shortly after the attack told “60 Minutes” that regarding Mitt Romney’s response to the attacks, specifically in Egypt, the president said that Romney has a tendency to “shoot first and aim later.” Given the fact that so much was made out of the video that apparently had absolutely nothing to do with the attack in Benghazi, that there wasn’t even a protest outside the Benghazi post, didn’t President Obama shoot first and aim later?

CARNEY: First of all, Jake, I think your assessment of what we know now is not complete, but I would simply say that the –

TAPPER: I’m just going by what the State Department said yesterday.

CARNEY: Look, there is no question that in the region, including in Cairo, there were demonstrations reacting to the release of that video, and I will leave it to those who are testifying on the hill to –

TAPPER: You said yesterday there was no protest? I’m talking about in Benghazi.

This was yet another cringe-inducing moment from a White House that is allergic to the truth. But Tapper’s question hits an important political point that has been ignored, as the country seeks answers to the questions about the Benghazi attack that the Obama foreign policy team still finds itself incapable of answering honestly. Mitt Romney is still taking abuse from those who claim he was wrong to criticize the administration’s behavior in the immediate aftermath of the Benghazi disaster as well as the assault on the U.S. embassy in Cairo. The Republican spoke out before all the information about both incidents was aired. In retrospect, that was a mistake. But it pales in comparison to the many deceptive statements from the president, the secretary of state and the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations that were not only wrong but part of what appears to have been a campaign of deception aimed at distracting the American people from a major security breakdown.

As Alana wrote yesterday, the first day of hearings of the House Oversight Committee began to unravel the layers of misinformation with which this administration has sought to cover up its failures. But beyond the specifics of this disaster, and the dishonest way it was represented to the American people by officials, is the distinct impression we are getting that the attempt to put the focus on the video was in line with the general philosophy of this administration about America’s role in the world.

In that sense, it is becoming increasingly clear that Romney’s fundamental criticism of the administration’s penchant for apologizing for America is on target.

Romney’s initial statement about the attacks last month was not entirely correct, but it was not based on a lie, as it appears the president’s efforts to obfuscate the issue have been. It was, as Jake Tapper said yesterday, Obama who decided to “shoot first and aim later.” Those establishment figures that spent so much time attacking Romney owe him an apology. So does Obama.

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Tapper: Why is WH Ignoring the Economy?

ABC’s Jake Tapper has been trying his best to get the White House to comment on the issues the public cares about — namely, the economy — but it’s been an uphill battle so far. At the WH press briefing today, Tapper pressed Jay Carney on why Obama hasn’t mentioned yesterday’s troubling CBO report:

ABC’s Jake Tapper: “The Congressional Budget Office report is a pretty dire warning about what this nation faces, yet I didn’t hear the president mention it yesterday, is there a reason why?”

White House Spokesman Jay Carney: “Well I think I put out a statement which is the White House’s view and the president’s view. The president talks every day that he’s out there, as he was yesterday, about what we need to do to help build our economy, help it to continue to grow, help it to continue to create jobs and yesterday, and the day before, he was focusing on the need to continue investments in education because he firmly believes that education is a matter of our economy, it’s an economic issue.”

Tapper: That’s not what the Congressional Budget Office was addressing, they were talking about … The president talked about education, he talked about Todd Akin, he talked about Michael Jordan, he talked about a lot of—

Carney dodged it, responding with a few boilerplate sentences on Obama’s “balanced approach” to the “fiscal challenges.” But it’s a question that should be put to the White House over and over again. Why won’t the Obama campaign talk about the economy? More importantly, why does the White House press corps — Tapper and some others excluded — allow Obama to get away with it?

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ABC’s Jake Tapper has been trying his best to get the White House to comment on the issues the public cares about — namely, the economy — but it’s been an uphill battle so far. At the WH press briefing today, Tapper pressed Jay Carney on why Obama hasn’t mentioned yesterday’s troubling CBO report:

ABC’s Jake Tapper: “The Congressional Budget Office report is a pretty dire warning about what this nation faces, yet I didn’t hear the president mention it yesterday, is there a reason why?”

White House Spokesman Jay Carney: “Well I think I put out a statement which is the White House’s view and the president’s view. The president talks every day that he’s out there, as he was yesterday, about what we need to do to help build our economy, help it to continue to grow, help it to continue to create jobs and yesterday, and the day before, he was focusing on the need to continue investments in education because he firmly believes that education is a matter of our economy, it’s an economic issue.”

Tapper: That’s not what the Congressional Budget Office was addressing, they were talking about … The president talked about education, he talked about Todd Akin, he talked about Michael Jordan, he talked about a lot of—

Carney dodged it, responding with a few boilerplate sentences on Obama’s “balanced approach” to the “fiscal challenges.” But it’s a question that should be put to the White House over and over again. Why won’t the Obama campaign talk about the economy? More importantly, why does the White House press corps — Tapper and some others excluded — allow Obama to get away with it?

The advent of online media was supposed to increase competition and improve reporting. Instead, some reporters seem so hooked on getting their six or seven scoops a day from their campaign sources that they end up acting as stenographers for newsmakers instead of challenging them. Maybe it’s because journalists are time-crunched, or maybe it’s because they don’t want their access to dry up, or maybe it’s because economic stories don’t bring in the web hits. But the speed at which the media jumps from distraction to distraction is disappointing.

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Tapper’s Professionalism Shines Through

Every week one can find examples of why ABC’s Jake Tapper is one of the best and most fair-minded political reporters in America. (Hugh Hewitt says, “Jake Tapper is emerging as the next serious journalist in whom partisans of both sides will repose confidence.”) The latest example can be found here, in his exchange with Deputy Press Secretary Josh Earnest over gas prices. Here’s how part of the conversation went:

ABC’s Jake Tapper: “He [Barack Obama] ran a lot of commercials in 2008 about gas prices. It was a big part of his reelection campaign so I don’t understand – there seems to be a tone of indignance from the White House about the fact that people are talking about gas prices – this is one of the reasons why you guys have your jobs.”

Deputy Press Secretary Josh Earnest: “If I I – I’m showing a sign of indignance maybe it’s because I’m a little nervous in my first time. I’m not trying to demonstrate that there’s some indignance up here – ”

Tapper: “I actually meant the President.”

Earnest: “I appreciate that. It’s very generous of you.”

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Every week one can find examples of why ABC’s Jake Tapper is one of the best and most fair-minded political reporters in America. (Hugh Hewitt says, “Jake Tapper is emerging as the next serious journalist in whom partisans of both sides will repose confidence.”) The latest example can be found here, in his exchange with Deputy Press Secretary Josh Earnest over gas prices. Here’s how part of the conversation went:

ABC’s Jake Tapper: “He [Barack Obama] ran a lot of commercials in 2008 about gas prices. It was a big part of his reelection campaign so I don’t understand – there seems to be a tone of indignance from the White House about the fact that people are talking about gas prices – this is one of the reasons why you guys have your jobs.”

Deputy Press Secretary Josh Earnest: “If I I – I’m showing a sign of indignance maybe it’s because I’m a little nervous in my first time. I’m not trying to demonstrate that there’s some indignance up here – ”

Tapper: “I actually meant the President.”

Earnest: “I appreciate that. It’s very generous of you.”

Mr. Tapper’s point is that even if a president have very little control over gas prices, it’s only fair that the same standard that Barack Obama used against President Bush in 2008 be applied to him in 2012. That’s entirely reasonable. But that kind of scrutiny is often missing in the press coverage of the president, which is why Tapper’s willingness to challenge the Obama White House (just as he challenged the administration preceding Mr. Obama’s) stands out.

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Civil Libertarians and the Arizona Shooting

Via the Daily Caller, Jake Tapper makes an interesting point. He wonders whether civil-libertarian groups may have made it more difficult for authorities to intervene against lunatics like Jared Loughner before they commit acts of violence:

“One thing that an older family member of mine said to me, as I mentioned earlier to you, is it used to be a lot easier to get people like this locked up,” Tapper said. “And then civil libertarians got active and became much more difficult to do so. I’m talking decades ago and that’s something that I want to read more about and learn more about, because that does sound interesting.”

Tapper argued that in the very least society needed to find a way to keep people like Loughner from owning a lethal weapon.

“I mean if this guy was literally terrifying his classmates at the community college, they thought, they described him as a serial killer, they thought he was unhinged, he was asked to not come back — that seems to me that society needs to figure out a way, to A – prevent people like that from getting lethal weapons, and B — maybe even go so far as to remove them from the street. That is a subject for debate, just as legitimately as the political rhetoric we hear.”

The normal reaction to these violent incidents is to wonder how such a dangerous individual slipped by unnoticed by the rest of society. In this case, Loughner obviously didn’t — several of his fellow students and professors feared he would shoot up his community college. One of his classmates said she sat near the door in case he opened fire on the class. Another professor remembered being wary about turning around to write on the board in case Loughner pulled out a gun when his back was turned.

Both the community college and the local police reportedly received multiple complaints about Loughner’s behavior. And yet it doesn’t seem like much action was taken to intervene. He was even able to purchase a gun.

So is Tapper’s idea about preemptive intervention worth investigating?

Brett Joshpe, an attorney who has worked on behalf of the American Center for Law and Justice, told me that Tapper “has a legitimate point that our criminal justice system is pretty reactive. It’s not good at dealing with threats before they materialize.”

But he also noted that there aren’t many public-policy steps we can take to prevent tragedies like the one in Arizona from occurring, and the idea that civil libertarians contributed to it is unrealistic.

“Every once in a while, something like this happens. You’re never going to completely eliminate it,” he said. “It’s hard to create a public-policy response when you’re talking about very isolated deranged people whose thinking process is not logical, and there’s not necessarily a direct cause and effect.”

Via the Daily Caller, Jake Tapper makes an interesting point. He wonders whether civil-libertarian groups may have made it more difficult for authorities to intervene against lunatics like Jared Loughner before they commit acts of violence:

“One thing that an older family member of mine said to me, as I mentioned earlier to you, is it used to be a lot easier to get people like this locked up,” Tapper said. “And then civil libertarians got active and became much more difficult to do so. I’m talking decades ago and that’s something that I want to read more about and learn more about, because that does sound interesting.”

Tapper argued that in the very least society needed to find a way to keep people like Loughner from owning a lethal weapon.

“I mean if this guy was literally terrifying his classmates at the community college, they thought, they described him as a serial killer, they thought he was unhinged, he was asked to not come back — that seems to me that society needs to figure out a way, to A – prevent people like that from getting lethal weapons, and B — maybe even go so far as to remove them from the street. That is a subject for debate, just as legitimately as the political rhetoric we hear.”

The normal reaction to these violent incidents is to wonder how such a dangerous individual slipped by unnoticed by the rest of society. In this case, Loughner obviously didn’t — several of his fellow students and professors feared he would shoot up his community college. One of his classmates said she sat near the door in case he opened fire on the class. Another professor remembered being wary about turning around to write on the board in case Loughner pulled out a gun when his back was turned.

Both the community college and the local police reportedly received multiple complaints about Loughner’s behavior. And yet it doesn’t seem like much action was taken to intervene. He was even able to purchase a gun.

So is Tapper’s idea about preemptive intervention worth investigating?

Brett Joshpe, an attorney who has worked on behalf of the American Center for Law and Justice, told me that Tapper “has a legitimate point that our criminal justice system is pretty reactive. It’s not good at dealing with threats before they materialize.”

But he also noted that there aren’t many public-policy steps we can take to prevent tragedies like the one in Arizona from occurring, and the idea that civil libertarians contributed to it is unrealistic.

“Every once in a while, something like this happens. You’re never going to completely eliminate it,” he said. “It’s hard to create a public-policy response when you’re talking about very isolated deranged people whose thinking process is not logical, and there’s not necessarily a direct cause and effect.”

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No Harm in Congratulations

Yesterday I wrote that ABC’s Jake Tapper, in leading up to his questions to President Obama regarding the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell (“I have a couple of questions about ‘don’t ask/don’t tell.’ First of all, congratulations.”), was “revealing of a particular, widespread journalistic persuasion and worldview” regarding DADT.

A person for whom I have respect thought my judgment was overly harsh, that what Tapper said was an example of politeness (akin to saying “congratulations” to a politician who just won a primary or caucus) rather than solidarity on the issue.

On reflection, I think that’s a fair assessment. Tapper’s questions were (as I said in my post) quite good — and Tapper himself is an excellent, tough-minded reporter. And since I’ve argued for the importance of civility in politics and public discourse, it was silly of me to jump on him for offering one sentence of congratulations — especially when it’s followed by two fairly tough, if fair, questions on the subject.

All of which is to say I was wrong and unfair to Mr. Tapper. There are certainly enough egregious examples of journalistic missteps without jumping on him for saying “congratulations.”

Yesterday I wrote that ABC’s Jake Tapper, in leading up to his questions to President Obama regarding the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell (“I have a couple of questions about ‘don’t ask/don’t tell.’ First of all, congratulations.”), was “revealing of a particular, widespread journalistic persuasion and worldview” regarding DADT.

A person for whom I have respect thought my judgment was overly harsh, that what Tapper said was an example of politeness (akin to saying “congratulations” to a politician who just won a primary or caucus) rather than solidarity on the issue.

On reflection, I think that’s a fair assessment. Tapper’s questions were (as I said in my post) quite good — and Tapper himself is an excellent, tough-minded reporter. And since I’ve argued for the importance of civility in politics and public discourse, it was silly of me to jump on him for offering one sentence of congratulations — especially when it’s followed by two fairly tough, if fair, questions on the subject.

All of which is to say I was wrong and unfair to Mr. Tapper. There are certainly enough egregious examples of journalistic missteps without jumping on him for saying “congratulations.”

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Congratulating Obama

During President Obama’s press conference yesterday, ABC’s Jake Tapper said this:

I have a couple of questions about “don’t ask/don’t tell.” First of all, congratulations. What was your conversation like with Marine Commandant Amos when he expressed to you his concerns, and yet he said that he would abide by whatever — whatever the ruling was? Can you understand why he had the position he did? And then, on the other hand, is it intellectually consistent to say that gay and lesbians should be able to fight and die for this country, but they should not be able to marry the people they love?

The questions are very good ones — and Obama’s answer, especially on same-sex marriage, was an interesting one. But notice the second sentence in Tapper’s question/statement: “First of all, congratulations.”

I may be wrong, but that strikes me as a very unusual formulation coming from a White House correspondent, especially during a press conference. I can’t imagine, for example, any member of the White House press corps congratulating President Bush on successful passage of his tax-cut bill or successful implementation of, say, his stem-cell policy.

Now, I think Tapper is an excellent reporter. But it is revealing of a particular, widespread journalistic persuasion and worldview that Tapper would congratulation Obama on repealing Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. I imagine he was speaking for almost all his colleagues.

During President Obama’s press conference yesterday, ABC’s Jake Tapper said this:

I have a couple of questions about “don’t ask/don’t tell.” First of all, congratulations. What was your conversation like with Marine Commandant Amos when he expressed to you his concerns, and yet he said that he would abide by whatever — whatever the ruling was? Can you understand why he had the position he did? And then, on the other hand, is it intellectually consistent to say that gay and lesbians should be able to fight and die for this country, but they should not be able to marry the people they love?

The questions are very good ones — and Obama’s answer, especially on same-sex marriage, was an interesting one. But notice the second sentence in Tapper’s question/statement: “First of all, congratulations.”

I may be wrong, but that strikes me as a very unusual formulation coming from a White House correspondent, especially during a press conference. I can’t imagine, for example, any member of the White House press corps congratulating President Bush on successful passage of his tax-cut bill or successful implementation of, say, his stem-cell policy.

Now, I think Tapper is an excellent reporter. But it is revealing of a particular, widespread journalistic persuasion and worldview that Tapper would congratulation Obama on repealing Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. I imagine he was speaking for almost all his colleagues.

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More on the Chamber of Commerce

I’m not sure we’ve ever had a White House press secretary like Robert Gibbs. His disdain for the media corps is only matched by his disdain for facts. On the unsubstantiated charges against the Chamber of Commerce, he blithely proclaims that “‘it doesn’t bother me at all’ that the fact-checking site PolitiFact has debunked the White House’s claim that the Chamber uses foreign donations to fund its political attacks. ‘The president will continue to make this argument,’ he said. ‘We don’t know where this money comes from.'”

That, in a nutshell, is the Obama White House. No wonder Jake Tapper asked whether this was akin to questioning Obama’s birthplace. We once expected a higher level of credibility and integrity from the White House than from a bunch of conspiracy wackos. No more.

I’m not sure we’ve ever had a White House press secretary like Robert Gibbs. His disdain for the media corps is only matched by his disdain for facts. On the unsubstantiated charges against the Chamber of Commerce, he blithely proclaims that “‘it doesn’t bother me at all’ that the fact-checking site PolitiFact has debunked the White House’s claim that the Chamber uses foreign donations to fund its political attacks. ‘The president will continue to make this argument,’ he said. ‘We don’t know where this money comes from.'”

That, in a nutshell, is the Obama White House. No wonder Jake Tapper asked whether this was akin to questioning Obama’s birthplace. We once expected a higher level of credibility and integrity from the White House than from a bunch of conspiracy wackos. No more.

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RE: ABC’s Humiliation

Apropos your posting, Jennifer, Christiane Amanpour has been ABC’s “This Week host for nine Sundays — and a week ago last Sunday, on September 19, the show dropped to its lowest ratings in the 25-54 age demographic in more than seven years. According to Mediaite, the last time ABC had a lower rating in the demo was the August 24, 2003 show. Year-to-year, the show was down 29 percent in total viewers and 38 percent in the demo, while its popularity declined in both categories week-to-week as well (while that of NBC and CBS grew).

Just like the Philadelphia Eagles head coach Andy Reid acknowledged his mistake in making Kevin Kolb the starting quarterback and has now replaced him with Michael Vick, ABC’s brass should recognize the error of its ways and replace Amanpour with Jake Tapper, who not only received higher ratings than Amanpour but is also a far better (and more objective) host. Tapper is, in fact, among the nation’s best political reporters. For reasons Jen details, Amanpour is not.

Apropos your posting, Jennifer, Christiane Amanpour has been ABC’s “This Week host for nine Sundays — and a week ago last Sunday, on September 19, the show dropped to its lowest ratings in the 25-54 age demographic in more than seven years. According to Mediaite, the last time ABC had a lower rating in the demo was the August 24, 2003 show. Year-to-year, the show was down 29 percent in total viewers and 38 percent in the demo, while its popularity declined in both categories week-to-week as well (while that of NBC and CBS grew).

Just like the Philadelphia Eagles head coach Andy Reid acknowledged his mistake in making Kevin Kolb the starting quarterback and has now replaced him with Michael Vick, ABC’s brass should recognize the error of its ways and replace Amanpour with Jake Tapper, who not only received higher ratings than Amanpour but is also a far better (and more objective) host. Tapper is, in fact, among the nation’s best political reporters. For reasons Jen details, Amanpour is not.

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ObamaCare Bending Up the Cost Curve

During his press conference on Friday, Jake Tapper, ABC’s excellent senior White House correspondent, asked President Obama about a new CMS (Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services) report that shows that the health-care cost curve is actually bending up — not down, as during the health-care debate Obama had promised it would. In response, Obama said this:

With respect to health care, what I said during the debate is the same thing I’m saying now and it’s the same thing I will say three or four years from now. Bending the cost curve on health care is hard to do. We’ve got hundreds of thousands of providers and doctors and systems and insurers. And what we did was we took every idea out there about how to reduce or at least slow the costs of health care over time.

But I said at the time, it wasn’t going to happen tomorrow, it wasn’t going to happen next year. It took us decades to get into a position where our health care costs were going up 6, 7, 10 percent a year. And so our goal is to slowly bring down those costs. … I haven’t read the entire study. Maybe you have. But if you — if what — the reports are true, what they’re saying is, is that as a consequence of us getting 30 million additional people health care, at the margins that’s going to increase our costs, we knew that. We didn’t think that we were going to cover 30 million people for free, but that the long-term trend in terms of how much the average family is going to be paying for health insurance is going to be improved as a consequence of health care.

And so our goal on health care is, if we can get, instead of health care costs going up 6 percent a year, it’s going up at the level of inflation, maybe just slightly above inflation, we’ve made huge progress.

The president should read the report, which can be found here. It incorporates the effects of health-care reform and estimates annual spending growth to be 0.2 percentage points higher than its February 2010 estimate, increasing from 6.1 percent to 6.3 percent. According to the Wall Street Journal, “The report by federal number-crunchers casts fresh doubt on Democrats’ argument that the health-care law would curb the sharp increase in costs over the long term.”

In 2009, the report reads, national health-care spending, public and private, totaled $2.5 trillion and accounted for 17.3 percent of the economy. The report predicts that health-care spending will rise to $4.6 trillion and account for 19.6 percent of the economy in 2019. By contrast, in February — before the passage of ObamaCare — the same team of government experts, using the same economic and demographic assumptions, predicted that national health-care spending would reach $4.5 trillion, or 19.3 percent of the gross domestic product, in 2019. The report also anticipates a big increase in health-care spending in 2014, when major provisions of the new law, including a requirement for most Americans to have insurance, take effect. From 2013 to 2014, for example, overall health-care spending is expected to increase by 9.2 percent, which is significantly more than the 6.6 percent increase predicted before ObamaCare became law. (For more, see this story.)

Beyond that, the report assumes that the law’s sweeping reduction in Medicare payments to doctors — 30 percent over the next three years — will actually take place. As Grace-Marie Turner points out, “Congress will not let payment rates be reduced to these levels, so health spending will increase further.”

And former CBO director Douglas Holtz-Eakin has written a paper arguing that ObamaCare provides strong incentives for employers to drop employer-sponsored health insurance for as many as 35 million Americans, funneling far more workers into taxpayer-funded health insurance, thereby raising the gross taxpayer cost of the subsidies by roughly $1.4 trillion in the first 10 years.

A core promise of the president’s signature legislative achievement, then, has been exposed as false. And for Obama, in light of the CMS report, to be talking about the cost of health care going up at or just above the level of inflation, which is running below 2 percent this year, is utterly fanciful. Moreover, the American people can be excused if during the health-care debate they didn’t pick up Obama’s warning that “bending the cost curve on health care is hard to do” and that he knew ObamaCare would increase costs in the short run. Those warnings were omitted, for example, in the president’s September 10, 2009 health-care speech to Congress, when Obama claimed that his plan “will slow the growth of health-care costs for our families, our businesses, and our government.” Obama even pointed out that “if we are able to slow the growth of health-care costs by just one-tenth of one percent each year, it will actually reduce the deficit by $4 trillion over the long term.” To reiterate: the new CMS report predicts an annual increase by two-tenths of one percent each year over the status quo — even accepting the Obama administration’s own ludicrously optimistic assumptions. The reality will be a good deal worse than the CMS report anticipates.

This is all of a piece. Claim after claim the president has made — on the stimulus package, on unemployment, on the deficit and the debt, on the “recovery summer,” on ObamaCare, and on so much more — is being shattered by events. The expectations he set were extraordinarily high and his performance so far is inept. That is one reason why Obama and his party will suffer enormous electoral losses seven weeks from now.

During his press conference on Friday, Jake Tapper, ABC’s excellent senior White House correspondent, asked President Obama about a new CMS (Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services) report that shows that the health-care cost curve is actually bending up — not down, as during the health-care debate Obama had promised it would. In response, Obama said this:

With respect to health care, what I said during the debate is the same thing I’m saying now and it’s the same thing I will say three or four years from now. Bending the cost curve on health care is hard to do. We’ve got hundreds of thousands of providers and doctors and systems and insurers. And what we did was we took every idea out there about how to reduce or at least slow the costs of health care over time.

But I said at the time, it wasn’t going to happen tomorrow, it wasn’t going to happen next year. It took us decades to get into a position where our health care costs were going up 6, 7, 10 percent a year. And so our goal is to slowly bring down those costs. … I haven’t read the entire study. Maybe you have. But if you — if what — the reports are true, what they’re saying is, is that as a consequence of us getting 30 million additional people health care, at the margins that’s going to increase our costs, we knew that. We didn’t think that we were going to cover 30 million people for free, but that the long-term trend in terms of how much the average family is going to be paying for health insurance is going to be improved as a consequence of health care.

And so our goal on health care is, if we can get, instead of health care costs going up 6 percent a year, it’s going up at the level of inflation, maybe just slightly above inflation, we’ve made huge progress.

The president should read the report, which can be found here. It incorporates the effects of health-care reform and estimates annual spending growth to be 0.2 percentage points higher than its February 2010 estimate, increasing from 6.1 percent to 6.3 percent. According to the Wall Street Journal, “The report by federal number-crunchers casts fresh doubt on Democrats’ argument that the health-care law would curb the sharp increase in costs over the long term.”

In 2009, the report reads, national health-care spending, public and private, totaled $2.5 trillion and accounted for 17.3 percent of the economy. The report predicts that health-care spending will rise to $4.6 trillion and account for 19.6 percent of the economy in 2019. By contrast, in February — before the passage of ObamaCare — the same team of government experts, using the same economic and demographic assumptions, predicted that national health-care spending would reach $4.5 trillion, or 19.3 percent of the gross domestic product, in 2019. The report also anticipates a big increase in health-care spending in 2014, when major provisions of the new law, including a requirement for most Americans to have insurance, take effect. From 2013 to 2014, for example, overall health-care spending is expected to increase by 9.2 percent, which is significantly more than the 6.6 percent increase predicted before ObamaCare became law. (For more, see this story.)

Beyond that, the report assumes that the law’s sweeping reduction in Medicare payments to doctors — 30 percent over the next three years — will actually take place. As Grace-Marie Turner points out, “Congress will not let payment rates be reduced to these levels, so health spending will increase further.”

And former CBO director Douglas Holtz-Eakin has written a paper arguing that ObamaCare provides strong incentives for employers to drop employer-sponsored health insurance for as many as 35 million Americans, funneling far more workers into taxpayer-funded health insurance, thereby raising the gross taxpayer cost of the subsidies by roughly $1.4 trillion in the first 10 years.

A core promise of the president’s signature legislative achievement, then, has been exposed as false. And for Obama, in light of the CMS report, to be talking about the cost of health care going up at or just above the level of inflation, which is running below 2 percent this year, is utterly fanciful. Moreover, the American people can be excused if during the health-care debate they didn’t pick up Obama’s warning that “bending the cost curve on health care is hard to do” and that he knew ObamaCare would increase costs in the short run. Those warnings were omitted, for example, in the president’s September 10, 2009 health-care speech to Congress, when Obama claimed that his plan “will slow the growth of health-care costs for our families, our businesses, and our government.” Obama even pointed out that “if we are able to slow the growth of health-care costs by just one-tenth of one percent each year, it will actually reduce the deficit by $4 trillion over the long term.” To reiterate: the new CMS report predicts an annual increase by two-tenths of one percent each year over the status quo — even accepting the Obama administration’s own ludicrously optimistic assumptions. The reality will be a good deal worse than the CMS report anticipates.

This is all of a piece. Claim after claim the president has made — on the stimulus package, on unemployment, on the deficit and the debt, on the “recovery summer,” on ObamaCare, and on so much more — is being shattered by events. The expectations he set were extraordinarily high and his performance so far is inept. That is one reason why Obama and his party will suffer enormous electoral losses seven weeks from now.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Now West Virginia is in play.

Now they tell us: “The scientists involved in producing the periodic United Nations reports on climate change need to be more open to alternative views and more transparent about their own possible conflicts of interest, an independent review panel said Monday.”

Now I think we’ve had quite enough of Obama attacking the economy: “President Obama called Monday for a ‘full-scale attack’ to revive the struggling economy as Congress returns from recess with lawmakers fixated on the November election.”

But now is not the time for anything really big to help the economy. Comedy gold once again as Jake Tapper tries to pry an intelligible answer from Robert Gibbs.

Now that’s the sort of tin-foil-hat idea Ron Paul is known for: “Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas) said he plans to introduce legislation next year to force an audit of U.S. holdings of gold. Paul, a longtime critic of the Federal Reserve and U.S. monetary policy, said he believes it’s ‘a possibility’ that there might not actually be any gold in the vaults of Fort Knox or the New York Federal Reserve bank.” I think I saw this movie … Humphrey Bogart on a ship. Oh, that was strawberries.

Now where is the civility police? “Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-N.Y.) has found another way to insult his political opponents. The outspoken New York Democrat had this to say via Twitter this morning, stirring the 140-character pot on a slow recess Monday …”

Now mainstream-media pundits say it’s a 60-seat swing in the House. (Is that 75 in real life?)

Now Charlie Crist has flip-flopped on gay marriage.

Now West Virginia is in play.

Now they tell us: “The scientists involved in producing the periodic United Nations reports on climate change need to be more open to alternative views and more transparent about their own possible conflicts of interest, an independent review panel said Monday.”

Now I think we’ve had quite enough of Obama attacking the economy: “President Obama called Monday for a ‘full-scale attack’ to revive the struggling economy as Congress returns from recess with lawmakers fixated on the November election.”

But now is not the time for anything really big to help the economy. Comedy gold once again as Jake Tapper tries to pry an intelligible answer from Robert Gibbs.

Now that’s the sort of tin-foil-hat idea Ron Paul is known for: “Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas) said he plans to introduce legislation next year to force an audit of U.S. holdings of gold. Paul, a longtime critic of the Federal Reserve and U.S. monetary policy, said he believes it’s ‘a possibility’ that there might not actually be any gold in the vaults of Fort Knox or the New York Federal Reserve bank.” I think I saw this movie … Humphrey Bogart on a ship. Oh, that was strawberries.

Now where is the civility police? “Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-N.Y.) has found another way to insult his political opponents. The outspoken New York Democrat had this to say via Twitter this morning, stirring the 140-character pot on a slow recess Monday …”

Now mainstream-media pundits say it’s a 60-seat swing in the House. (Is that 75 in real life?)

Now Charlie Crist has flip-flopped on gay marriage.

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Our Clueless White House

From ABC’s Jake Tapper:

“We know he needs to be out there to talk about the economy next week,” a White House official told ABC News, acknowledging the need for the president to talk about the issue on the minds of Americans in the midst of a schedule packed with events focused on other priorities. “We haven’t yet figured out the way he’s going to do that.”

A sick economy is now combined with a clueless White House. This must be terrifically reassuring to panic-stricken Democrats.

From ABC’s Jake Tapper:

“We know he needs to be out there to talk about the economy next week,” a White House official told ABC News, acknowledging the need for the president to talk about the issue on the minds of Americans in the midst of a schedule packed with events focused on other priorities. “We haven’t yet figured out the way he’s going to do that.”

A sick economy is now combined with a clueless White House. This must be terrifically reassuring to panic-stricken Democrats.

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Mosque Builders Drop Mask of ‘Reconciliation’

Apparently getting their talking points from David Axelrod (or is it the other way around?), the Ground Zero mosque builders are comparing opposition to the mosque to anti-Semitism. Honest:

A leader of a planned Muslim community center near Manhattan’s Ground Zero compared opposition to the project to the persecution of Jews, in comments that could add to the controversy over the center’s proposed site. … Ms. [Daisy] Khan, appearing on ABC News’s “This Week” on Sunday, vowed to push ahead with plans to build a 15-story complex two blocks from the site of the 9/11 terrorist attacks in lower Manhattan, saying there was “too much at stake.”

The words could further inflame an already angry debate about the proposed location of the community center, which opponents denounce as a “victory mosque.”

Ya think? Now you might expect Khan’s inflammatory assertion to have been seriously challenged by the interviewer. Not with Christiane Amanpour as the host. The discussion went like this:

AMANPOUR: You talked about the state of Islam in the United States. And then we have this “Time” magazine cover that’s being talked about a lot right now. Basically, is America Islamophobic?

Is America Islamophobic? Are you concerned about the long-term relationship between American Muslims and the rest of society here?

KHAN: Yes, I think we are deeply concerned, because this is like a metastasized anti-Semitism. That’s what we feel right now. It’s not even Islamophobia, it’s beyond Islamophobia. It’s hate of Muslims. And we are deeply concerned. You know, I have had, yesterday had a council with all religious — Muslim religious leaders from around the country, and everybody is deeply concerned about what’s going on around the nation.

AMANPOUR: Do you agree with what she just said and how she described it?

LEVITT: Well, there is some part of it that feels very familiar, you know. Peter Stuyvesant refused to allow synagogues to be built in New York in the 1600s. It took an act of Congress here in Washington to allow a synagogue to be built. In Connecticut, there were no synagogues allowed to be built in the 1600s and the 1700s. The British wouldn’t allow synagogues to be built in New York City. So, we understand some of this pain, and yet we’ve also experienced a tremendous amount of support in this country, so I think we actually are in a position to both understand and be helpful, to support religious tolerance in this country.

A liberal with a Jewish organization was incensed: “Any suggestion that this particular mosque not be built in this particular place, and the objections of family members of 9/11, are in any way analogous to anti-Semitism or the struggles of the Jewish community in America is as insensitive and ignorant as it is offensive.” He continued:

And while it is not the case with this Imam, who at least appears to reject radicalism — despite his unwillingness to call Hamas a terrorist group and his suggestion that some terrorists are better than others — there is no corollary to Judaism, from the birth of the religion to that practiced by the first immigrants to this great country of ours or by Jews today. Judaism has never called for restoring the caliphate or violent jihad to kill Americans and infidels. You will hear that in mosques in America and around the world, but never in a synagogue, now or ever. To invoke anti-Semitism and ignore that further contradiction in the broader debate, and the concomitant lack of an Islamic reformation — as we have seen in both Judaism and Christianity — is also dishonest.

Nor did Amanpour challenge the imam’s refusal to detail the source(s) of the mosque’s funding:

AMANPOUR: How much money has been raised and are you prepared to discuss the issue of foreign funding? Let’s say there was foreign funding. How would you be able to know exactly where that money was coming from, what other projects elsewhere that they may have given money to?

KHAN: Well, this is where my counselor on my right is helping us, because our funding is going to be pretty much follow the same way that JCC got its fund-raising. First, we have to develop a board. Then the board is going to have a financial committee, fund-raising committee that will be in charge of the fund-raising. And we have promised that we will work with the Charities Bureau, that we will adhere to the highest and the strictest guidelines set forth by the Treasury Department, because there is so much angst about this. But we will follow the lead from Rabbi Joy Levitt.

AMANPOUR: Let me ask you also…

LEVITT: What Daisy means by that is that we went to our neighbors, we said who believes in our vision, who believes in a center of tolerance, who believes in diversity? We went to parlor (ph) meetings in people’s houses, and that’s how the support for the JCC came about.

That’s it. Not a single question about foreign funding or whether they’d open up their books. There was a good reason to go on This Week. (I suspect they wouldn’t have gone with Jake Tapper.)

The obscene comparison between opposition to the mosque and anti-Semitism (how do Abe Foxman, Harry Reid, and Howard Dean feel about this?) should obliterate the left’s claim that this is all about “understanding” and “reconciliation.” It seems the mosque builders are interested, just as their critics claimed, in perpetuating the Muslim victimology meme and stirring dissension. And how interesting that they chose to stir the pot with Jewish analogies.

Apparently getting their talking points from David Axelrod (or is it the other way around?), the Ground Zero mosque builders are comparing opposition to the mosque to anti-Semitism. Honest:

A leader of a planned Muslim community center near Manhattan’s Ground Zero compared opposition to the project to the persecution of Jews, in comments that could add to the controversy over the center’s proposed site. … Ms. [Daisy] Khan, appearing on ABC News’s “This Week” on Sunday, vowed to push ahead with plans to build a 15-story complex two blocks from the site of the 9/11 terrorist attacks in lower Manhattan, saying there was “too much at stake.”

The words could further inflame an already angry debate about the proposed location of the community center, which opponents denounce as a “victory mosque.”

Ya think? Now you might expect Khan’s inflammatory assertion to have been seriously challenged by the interviewer. Not with Christiane Amanpour as the host. The discussion went like this:

AMANPOUR: You talked about the state of Islam in the United States. And then we have this “Time” magazine cover that’s being talked about a lot right now. Basically, is America Islamophobic?

Is America Islamophobic? Are you concerned about the long-term relationship between American Muslims and the rest of society here?

KHAN: Yes, I think we are deeply concerned, because this is like a metastasized anti-Semitism. That’s what we feel right now. It’s not even Islamophobia, it’s beyond Islamophobia. It’s hate of Muslims. And we are deeply concerned. You know, I have had, yesterday had a council with all religious — Muslim religious leaders from around the country, and everybody is deeply concerned about what’s going on around the nation.

AMANPOUR: Do you agree with what she just said and how she described it?

LEVITT: Well, there is some part of it that feels very familiar, you know. Peter Stuyvesant refused to allow synagogues to be built in New York in the 1600s. It took an act of Congress here in Washington to allow a synagogue to be built. In Connecticut, there were no synagogues allowed to be built in the 1600s and the 1700s. The British wouldn’t allow synagogues to be built in New York City. So, we understand some of this pain, and yet we’ve also experienced a tremendous amount of support in this country, so I think we actually are in a position to both understand and be helpful, to support religious tolerance in this country.

A liberal with a Jewish organization was incensed: “Any suggestion that this particular mosque not be built in this particular place, and the objections of family members of 9/11, are in any way analogous to anti-Semitism or the struggles of the Jewish community in America is as insensitive and ignorant as it is offensive.” He continued:

And while it is not the case with this Imam, who at least appears to reject radicalism — despite his unwillingness to call Hamas a terrorist group and his suggestion that some terrorists are better than others — there is no corollary to Judaism, from the birth of the religion to that practiced by the first immigrants to this great country of ours or by Jews today. Judaism has never called for restoring the caliphate or violent jihad to kill Americans and infidels. You will hear that in mosques in America and around the world, but never in a synagogue, now or ever. To invoke anti-Semitism and ignore that further contradiction in the broader debate, and the concomitant lack of an Islamic reformation — as we have seen in both Judaism and Christianity — is also dishonest.

Nor did Amanpour challenge the imam’s refusal to detail the source(s) of the mosque’s funding:

AMANPOUR: How much money has been raised and are you prepared to discuss the issue of foreign funding? Let’s say there was foreign funding. How would you be able to know exactly where that money was coming from, what other projects elsewhere that they may have given money to?

KHAN: Well, this is where my counselor on my right is helping us, because our funding is going to be pretty much follow the same way that JCC got its fund-raising. First, we have to develop a board. Then the board is going to have a financial committee, fund-raising committee that will be in charge of the fund-raising. And we have promised that we will work with the Charities Bureau, that we will adhere to the highest and the strictest guidelines set forth by the Treasury Department, because there is so much angst about this. But we will follow the lead from Rabbi Joy Levitt.

AMANPOUR: Let me ask you also…

LEVITT: What Daisy means by that is that we went to our neighbors, we said who believes in our vision, who believes in a center of tolerance, who believes in diversity? We went to parlor (ph) meetings in people’s houses, and that’s how the support for the JCC came about.

That’s it. Not a single question about foreign funding or whether they’d open up their books. There was a good reason to go on This Week. (I suspect they wouldn’t have gone with Jake Tapper.)

The obscene comparison between opposition to the mosque and anti-Semitism (how do Abe Foxman, Harry Reid, and Howard Dean feel about this?) should obliterate the left’s claim that this is all about “understanding” and “reconciliation.” It seems the mosque builders are interested, just as their critics claimed, in perpetuating the Muslim victimology meme and stirring dissension. And how interesting that they chose to stir the pot with Jewish analogies.

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Bring Back Jake!

Tom Shales suffered through the debut of Christiane Amanpour as host for This Week:

It’s not that Amanpour seemed personally uncomfortable or constrained in her weekend debut — opening night was Sunday morning — but rather that she proved that she’s miscast for the role, her highly touted global orientation coming across as inappropriate and contrived on a broadcast that for three decades has dealt primarily with domestic politics, policies and culture.

So what was wrong with interim host Jake Tapper — too unbiased? Too prepared? Too knowledgeable about U.S. politics? You got me. While screaming poverty and laying off more employees, ABC News shelled out a reported $2M on a woman whom conservatives revile for her anti-U.S. and anti-Israel bias and record of playing fast and loose with the facts.

But even liberals have to shudder over this:

Amanpour didn’t stick to discussing news of the week with the show’s estimable, exceptional panelists — among them George F. Will and Donna Brazile — but instead brought in a foreign journalist seen earlier in the program, Ahmed Rashid (momentarily stationed in Madrid), for his views via satellite. It was awkward in form and proved negligible in content. In fact, it became ludicrous when, near the end of the segment, the U.S. economy was discussed and Amanpour called upon Rashid, the Taliban expert, again even though he seemed of dubious relevance and authority to the topic at hand.

Sometimes (OK, a lot of the time) network execs blow it. (Think the Jay Leno–Conan O’Brien debacle.) The trick is to cut your losses. Tapper, I’m certain, is a good sport and would be happy to take over the gig when and if ABC comes to its senses.

Tom Shales suffered through the debut of Christiane Amanpour as host for This Week:

It’s not that Amanpour seemed personally uncomfortable or constrained in her weekend debut — opening night was Sunday morning — but rather that she proved that she’s miscast for the role, her highly touted global orientation coming across as inappropriate and contrived on a broadcast that for three decades has dealt primarily with domestic politics, policies and culture.

So what was wrong with interim host Jake Tapper — too unbiased? Too prepared? Too knowledgeable about U.S. politics? You got me. While screaming poverty and laying off more employees, ABC News shelled out a reported $2M on a woman whom conservatives revile for her anti-U.S. and anti-Israel bias and record of playing fast and loose with the facts.

But even liberals have to shudder over this:

Amanpour didn’t stick to discussing news of the week with the show’s estimable, exceptional panelists — among them George F. Will and Donna Brazile — but instead brought in a foreign journalist seen earlier in the program, Ahmed Rashid (momentarily stationed in Madrid), for his views via satellite. It was awkward in form and proved negligible in content. In fact, it became ludicrous when, near the end of the segment, the U.S. economy was discussed and Amanpour called upon Rashid, the Taliban expert, again even though he seemed of dubious relevance and authority to the topic at hand.

Sometimes (OK, a lot of the time) network execs blow it. (Think the Jay Leno–Conan O’Brien debacle.) The trick is to cut your losses. Tapper, I’m certain, is a good sport and would be happy to take over the gig when and if ABC comes to its senses.

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It’s the Taxes

On Fox News Sunday and on This Week, the expiration of the Bush tax cuts was much discussed. Under the incredulous questioning of Jake Tapper, Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner claimed the economy wouldn’t be hurt by an enormous hike in tax rates, which will hit small businesses as well as “the rich” (who are also the investors, the employers, and the consumers needed to jump-start the economy). When Geithner says that growth has been “pretty good” and that employers are going to start hiring soon, you wonder if the Obami are delusional. But when Geithner says — after a spending spree to end all spending sprees — that the tax hike is needed to “make sure we can show the world that they’re willing as a country now to start to make some progress bringing down our long — our long-term deficits,” you see that the Obami really are rather deeply cynical. (The contrast with the show’s other guest, Chris Christie, who talked about cutting spending and taxes, could not have been more stark.)

On Fox, Brit Hume tried, without much success, to explain to Juan Williams why hiking taxes is a bad idea:

WILLIAMS: Let me finish this point. President Obama has already cut taxes…

HUME: When’s the last…

WILLIAMS: … as he points out for 95 percent of working people by cutting payroll taxes.

HUME: Well, that — just let me ask you this question. When’s the last time one of these poor people offered you a job?

The people who are the job creators, the people who have money to invest, capital to put at risk, to build enterprises and, they hope, make more money are people that have some money to begin with.

WILLIAMS: And God bless them. They’re important.

HUME: And if you — if you…

WILLIAMS: But don’t you have to have consumers?

HUME: … if you diminish, A, the amount of money they have on hand by taxing it away and the incentive they have to make more because they know a larger portion of it’s going to be taxed away, you are — you are dampening the impulse to grow the economy which is…

WALLACE: Mr. Williams, you get the final 20 seconds.

HUME: … in the hearts of business men across — and women…

WALLACE: Go.

HUME: … across the country.

WILLIAMS: I appreciate it. Consumers are the heart and soul of this economy. You’ve got to have people who are willing to go in…

(CROSSTALK)

WILLIAMS: … and spend money in order that small business will be in a position, then, to do the hiring. But you can’t have banks and small business saying…

WALLACE: OK.

WILLIAMS: … “You know what? We’re sitting on…”

WALLACE: All right.

WILLIAMS: “… our money because we’re worried about risk.” That’s ridiculous when they have the money.

So the way to get banks to loan more money is to raise taxes? It is hopeless, it seems, to explain it to the left, which simply cannot countenance letting investors, consumers, and employers keep more of their money.

One thing is certain: the voters will have a clear choice between tax cutters and tax hikers. There isn’t any way to fudge the answer for those on the ballot. For or against a big tax increase? If Americans at this point think that the economy is sagging and that tax hikes will hardly help matters, the Democrats are going to face some hostile audiences on the campaign trail.

On Fox News Sunday and on This Week, the expiration of the Bush tax cuts was much discussed. Under the incredulous questioning of Jake Tapper, Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner claimed the economy wouldn’t be hurt by an enormous hike in tax rates, which will hit small businesses as well as “the rich” (who are also the investors, the employers, and the consumers needed to jump-start the economy). When Geithner says that growth has been “pretty good” and that employers are going to start hiring soon, you wonder if the Obami are delusional. But when Geithner says — after a spending spree to end all spending sprees — that the tax hike is needed to “make sure we can show the world that they’re willing as a country now to start to make some progress bringing down our long — our long-term deficits,” you see that the Obami really are rather deeply cynical. (The contrast with the show’s other guest, Chris Christie, who talked about cutting spending and taxes, could not have been more stark.)

On Fox, Brit Hume tried, without much success, to explain to Juan Williams why hiking taxes is a bad idea:

WILLIAMS: Let me finish this point. President Obama has already cut taxes…

HUME: When’s the last…

WILLIAMS: … as he points out for 95 percent of working people by cutting payroll taxes.

HUME: Well, that — just let me ask you this question. When’s the last time one of these poor people offered you a job?

The people who are the job creators, the people who have money to invest, capital to put at risk, to build enterprises and, they hope, make more money are people that have some money to begin with.

WILLIAMS: And God bless them. They’re important.

HUME: And if you — if you…

WILLIAMS: But don’t you have to have consumers?

HUME: … if you diminish, A, the amount of money they have on hand by taxing it away and the incentive they have to make more because they know a larger portion of it’s going to be taxed away, you are — you are dampening the impulse to grow the economy which is…

WALLACE: Mr. Williams, you get the final 20 seconds.

HUME: … in the hearts of business men across — and women…

WALLACE: Go.

HUME: … across the country.

WILLIAMS: I appreciate it. Consumers are the heart and soul of this economy. You’ve got to have people who are willing to go in…

(CROSSTALK)

WILLIAMS: … and spend money in order that small business will be in a position, then, to do the hiring. But you can’t have banks and small business saying…

WALLACE: OK.

WILLIAMS: … “You know what? We’re sitting on…”

WALLACE: All right.

WILLIAMS: “… our money because we’re worried about risk.” That’s ridiculous when they have the money.

So the way to get banks to loan more money is to raise taxes? It is hopeless, it seems, to explain it to the left, which simply cannot countenance letting investors, consumers, and employers keep more of their money.

One thing is certain: the voters will have a clear choice between tax cutters and tax hikers. There isn’t any way to fudge the answer for those on the ballot. For or against a big tax increase? If Americans at this point think that the economy is sagging and that tax hikes will hardly help matters, the Democrats are going to face some hostile audiences on the campaign trail.

Read Less

Flotsam and Jestsam

Not like it’s out of the blue: “The number of U.S. Voters who view the issue of Taxes as Very Important has jumped 10 points from May to its highest level ever in Rasmussen Reports tracking. Still, Taxes rank fourth on a list of 10 issues regularly tracked by Rasmussen Reports.” Nothing like Democrats’ plan for a mammoth tax hike to raise the tax issue.

The administration is running out of spinners. Not even the New York Times will excuse this: “A prisoner who begs to stay indefinitely at the Guantánamo Bay detention center rather than be sent back to Algeria probably has a strong reason to fear the welcoming reception at home. Abdul Aziz Naji, who has been held at Guantánamo since 2002, told the Obama administration that he would be tortured if he was transferred to Algeria, by either the Algerian government or fundamentalist groups there. Though he offered to remain at the prison, the administration shipped him home last weekend and washed its hands of the man. Almost immediately upon arrival, he disappeared, and his family fears the worst. It is an act of cruelty that seems to defy explanation.”

One hundred days out, things are looking pretty gloomy for the Democrats: “Republicans have been touting their chances of retaking the House and, despite their almost 2-to-1 financial disadvantage, many observers – including White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs – believe it’s a possibility.”

The Obami would be wise to get the whole story out: “Correspondence obtained by The Sunday Times reveals the Obama administration considered compassionate release more palatable than locking up Abdel Baset al-Megrahi in a Libyan prison. … The document, acquired by a well-placed US source, threatens to undermine US President Barack Obama’s claim last week that all Americans were ‘surprised, disappointed and angry’ to learn of Megrahi’s release.”

You sense the Democrats are going to get blown out of the water in November if Obama is still trying to win over the MoveOn.org crowd.

Jake Tapper goes out in style with a grilling of Timothy Geithner on letting the Bush tax cuts expire. (“Don’t you think it will slow economic growth?”) The show is about to become unwatchable with Christiane Amanpour as host.

On Fox News Sunday, Mara Liasson and Bill Kristol agree that there’s no comparison between the administration and the media on Shirley Sherrod. The media showed itself to be irresponsible; the administration, out of its depth. Kristol: “I mean, the media — I was in the Reagan administration 25 years ago. The media reported things falsely. It’s not — this is not — this is nothing new. You’re — if you are the — a cabinet secretary, you have an obligation to the people working for you to make sure that the charges being leveled against them are true. And you can wait a day and, God, it would be horrible if Glenn Beck attacked the Obama administration for one show. That never happens, you know. I mean, the idea that you panic and fire someone based on one report that hadn’t been on television yet — right?”

A former Justice Department official says Democrats strain the outer limits of voters’ credulity if they claim ignorance of the New Black Panther scandal.

Not like it’s out of the blue: “The number of U.S. Voters who view the issue of Taxes as Very Important has jumped 10 points from May to its highest level ever in Rasmussen Reports tracking. Still, Taxes rank fourth on a list of 10 issues regularly tracked by Rasmussen Reports.” Nothing like Democrats’ plan for a mammoth tax hike to raise the tax issue.

The administration is running out of spinners. Not even the New York Times will excuse this: “A prisoner who begs to stay indefinitely at the Guantánamo Bay detention center rather than be sent back to Algeria probably has a strong reason to fear the welcoming reception at home. Abdul Aziz Naji, who has been held at Guantánamo since 2002, told the Obama administration that he would be tortured if he was transferred to Algeria, by either the Algerian government or fundamentalist groups there. Though he offered to remain at the prison, the administration shipped him home last weekend and washed its hands of the man. Almost immediately upon arrival, he disappeared, and his family fears the worst. It is an act of cruelty that seems to defy explanation.”

One hundred days out, things are looking pretty gloomy for the Democrats: “Republicans have been touting their chances of retaking the House and, despite their almost 2-to-1 financial disadvantage, many observers – including White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs – believe it’s a possibility.”

The Obami would be wise to get the whole story out: “Correspondence obtained by The Sunday Times reveals the Obama administration considered compassionate release more palatable than locking up Abdel Baset al-Megrahi in a Libyan prison. … The document, acquired by a well-placed US source, threatens to undermine US President Barack Obama’s claim last week that all Americans were ‘surprised, disappointed and angry’ to learn of Megrahi’s release.”

You sense the Democrats are going to get blown out of the water in November if Obama is still trying to win over the MoveOn.org crowd.

Jake Tapper goes out in style with a grilling of Timothy Geithner on letting the Bush tax cuts expire. (“Don’t you think it will slow economic growth?”) The show is about to become unwatchable with Christiane Amanpour as host.

On Fox News Sunday, Mara Liasson and Bill Kristol agree that there’s no comparison between the administration and the media on Shirley Sherrod. The media showed itself to be irresponsible; the administration, out of its depth. Kristol: “I mean, the media — I was in the Reagan administration 25 years ago. The media reported things falsely. It’s not — this is not — this is nothing new. You’re — if you are the — a cabinet secretary, you have an obligation to the people working for you to make sure that the charges being leveled against them are true. And you can wait a day and, God, it would be horrible if Glenn Beck attacked the Obama administration for one show. That never happens, you know. I mean, the idea that you panic and fire someone based on one report that hadn’t been on television yet — right?”

A former Justice Department official says Democrats strain the outer limits of voters’ credulity if they claim ignorance of the New Black Panther scandal.

Read Less

Obama’s Race Obsession

It seems a lifetime ago that Obama represented hope for a post-racial presidency and in fact a post-racial era in American politics. Like so much else about Obama, the reality is the opposite of what was promised. Jake Tapper relates a rather amazing effort to inject race into the war against Islamic terrorists:

In an interview earlier today with the South African Broadcasting Corporation to air in a few hours, President Obama disparaged al Qaeda and affiliated groups’ willingness to kill Africans in a manner that White House aides say was an argument that the terrorist groups are racist.

Speaking about the Uganda bombings, the president said, “What you’ve seen in some of the statements that have been made by these terrorist organizations is that they do not regard African life as valuable in and of itself.  They see it as a potential place where you can carry out ideological battles that kill innocents without regard to long-term consequences for their short-term tactical gains.” …

Explaining the president’s comment, an administration official said Mr. Obama “references the fact that both U.S. intelligence and past al Qaeda actions make clear that al Qaeda — and the groups like al Shabaab that they inspire — do not value African life. The actions of al Qaeda and the groups that it has inspired show a willingness to sacrifice innocent African life to reach their targets.” … “In short,” the official said, “al Qaeda is a racist organization that treats black Africans like cannon fodder and does not value human life.”

Oh, good grief. Al-Qaeda isn’t a racist organization — it’s an organization that kills regardless of race anyone who stands in the way of its Islamo-fascist vision. The notion that it is racist is not only ignorant but also transparently manipulative. Does the administration really think that Africans can only be motivated if they think race is behind the slaughter of their people? And does Obama mean to suggest that al-Qaeda is pro-white? The mind reels.

It is this sort of thing that fills one with dread and raises this question: is there no limit to the lengths Obama will go to avoid spelling out the real motive behind Islamic fundamentalist terror? It’s the Islamic fundamentalism, of course. The Obami, however, would rather make up a counter-factual narrative and introduce a potentially divisive racial theme (don’t we want Europeans to take the war on terror seriously? what about Indonesians?) into the worldwide war against terrorism than be candid with the American people. Despite his worldly credentials, Obama’s foreign policy is strikingly condescending toward the rest of the world. Muslims will get confused and upset if we identify radical Islam as the basis for terrorism! Africans won’t join us unless they think it’s all about race!

I think we need a post-post-racial commander in chief who doesn’t assume that the rest of the world is populated by dolts.

It seems a lifetime ago that Obama represented hope for a post-racial presidency and in fact a post-racial era in American politics. Like so much else about Obama, the reality is the opposite of what was promised. Jake Tapper relates a rather amazing effort to inject race into the war against Islamic terrorists:

In an interview earlier today with the South African Broadcasting Corporation to air in a few hours, President Obama disparaged al Qaeda and affiliated groups’ willingness to kill Africans in a manner that White House aides say was an argument that the terrorist groups are racist.

Speaking about the Uganda bombings, the president said, “What you’ve seen in some of the statements that have been made by these terrorist organizations is that they do not regard African life as valuable in and of itself.  They see it as a potential place where you can carry out ideological battles that kill innocents without regard to long-term consequences for their short-term tactical gains.” …

Explaining the president’s comment, an administration official said Mr. Obama “references the fact that both U.S. intelligence and past al Qaeda actions make clear that al Qaeda — and the groups like al Shabaab that they inspire — do not value African life. The actions of al Qaeda and the groups that it has inspired show a willingness to sacrifice innocent African life to reach their targets.” … “In short,” the official said, “al Qaeda is a racist organization that treats black Africans like cannon fodder and does not value human life.”

Oh, good grief. Al-Qaeda isn’t a racist organization — it’s an organization that kills regardless of race anyone who stands in the way of its Islamo-fascist vision. The notion that it is racist is not only ignorant but also transparently manipulative. Does the administration really think that Africans can only be motivated if they think race is behind the slaughter of their people? And does Obama mean to suggest that al-Qaeda is pro-white? The mind reels.

It is this sort of thing that fills one with dread and raises this question: is there no limit to the lengths Obama will go to avoid spelling out the real motive behind Islamic fundamentalist terror? It’s the Islamic fundamentalism, of course. The Obami, however, would rather make up a counter-factual narrative and introduce a potentially divisive racial theme (don’t we want Europeans to take the war on terror seriously? what about Indonesians?) into the worldwide war against terrorism than be candid with the American people. Despite his worldly credentials, Obama’s foreign policy is strikingly condescending toward the rest of the world. Muslims will get confused and upset if we identify radical Islam as the basis for terrorism! Africans won’t join us unless they think it’s all about race!

I think we need a post-post-racial commander in chief who doesn’t assume that the rest of the world is populated by dolts.

Read Less

Robert Gibbs at It Again

One way in which press secretary Robert Gibbs resembles his boss, the president, is that the weaker the case they have, the more petulant and smug they both become. We saw that behavior play out again yesterday, when Gibbs was asked about the recess appointment of Donald Berwick to head the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, which oversees approximately one third of all health-care spending in the United States.

Dr. Berwick is controversial because he has spoken as a besotted lover of the British health-care system. “I am romantic about the National Health Service,” he said in 2008, referring to the British single-payer system. “I love it.” Dr. Berwick went on to call it “such a seductress” and “a global treasure.” On rationing care, Dr. Berwick said that, “The decision is not whether or not we will ration care — the decision is whether we will ration with our eyes open.” He has argued that one of “the primary functions” of health regulation is “to constrain decentralized, individual decision making” and “to weigh public welfare against the choices of private consumers.” And Dr. Berwick insists that, “any health-care funding plan that is just, equitable, civilized and humane must — must — redistribute wealth from the richer among us to the poorer and less fortunate.” (For a fuller examination of Dr. Berwick’s views, see this and this.)

Now, it may be that Dr. Berwick’s views are reasonable and defensible. It may be that his quotes have been taken out of context. It may even be that Dr. Berwick is the perfect person for this job. That is what hearings are meant to determine. Yet the hearings have been bypassed.

White House communications director Dan Pfeiffer blamed Republicans. “Republicans in Congress have made it clear in recent weeks that they were going to stall the nomination as long as they could, solely to score political points,” Pfeiffer said. “But with the agency facing new responsibilities to protect seniors’ care under the Affordable Care Act, there’s no time to waste with Washington game-playing.”

Like so much of what the Obama administration says, this charge is flat out false. It is not the GOP that is playing games but rather the White House. As ABC’s Jake Tapper reported last week:

Republicans were not delaying or stalling Berwick’s nomination. Indeed, they were eager for his hearing, hoping to assail Berwick’s past statements about health-care rationing and his praise for the British health care system. … speaking not for attribution, Democratic officials say that neither Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., nor Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont., the chair of the Senate Finance Committee, were eager for an ugly confirmation fight four months before the midterm elections.

Senator Chuck Grassley, the ranking Republican on the Senate Finance Committee, said that, “The nomination hasn’t been held up by Republicans in Congress and to say otherwise is misleading.” He said he requested that a hearing take place weeks ago, before this recess.

It’s obvious what’s going on here. The Obama administration is afraid to engage in another debate about ObamaCare, having been trounced in the past. The president’s team fears that Dr. Berwick’s comments are both too controversial and too revealing. So Obama decided to skip the nomination hearing. The administration, unable to defend its actions, offers up — in the person of Robert Gibbs — a testy and transparently silly explanation of its position. What Gibbs cannot answer is this: If Dr. Berwick is so qualified, why not have the hearing and, if Republicans in fact attempt to block his nomination, recess appoint him in August? Why not allow Dr. Berwick to explain, in a public setting, what his true views are?

Gibbs, unable to provide a reasonable response to these questions, reverts to behavior that seems to be a second nature to him: condescension, mockery, brittleness. And, of course, he must reach for the requisite straw man (in this instance, portraying his critics as involved in a conspiracy theory).

I imagine there have been more off-putting press secretaries than Mr. Gibbs. I just can’t think of who they might be.

One way in which press secretary Robert Gibbs resembles his boss, the president, is that the weaker the case they have, the more petulant and smug they both become. We saw that behavior play out again yesterday, when Gibbs was asked about the recess appointment of Donald Berwick to head the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, which oversees approximately one third of all health-care spending in the United States.

Dr. Berwick is controversial because he has spoken as a besotted lover of the British health-care system. “I am romantic about the National Health Service,” he said in 2008, referring to the British single-payer system. “I love it.” Dr. Berwick went on to call it “such a seductress” and “a global treasure.” On rationing care, Dr. Berwick said that, “The decision is not whether or not we will ration care — the decision is whether we will ration with our eyes open.” He has argued that one of “the primary functions” of health regulation is “to constrain decentralized, individual decision making” and “to weigh public welfare against the choices of private consumers.” And Dr. Berwick insists that, “any health-care funding plan that is just, equitable, civilized and humane must — must — redistribute wealth from the richer among us to the poorer and less fortunate.” (For a fuller examination of Dr. Berwick’s views, see this and this.)

Now, it may be that Dr. Berwick’s views are reasonable and defensible. It may be that his quotes have been taken out of context. It may even be that Dr. Berwick is the perfect person for this job. That is what hearings are meant to determine. Yet the hearings have been bypassed.

White House communications director Dan Pfeiffer blamed Republicans. “Republicans in Congress have made it clear in recent weeks that they were going to stall the nomination as long as they could, solely to score political points,” Pfeiffer said. “But with the agency facing new responsibilities to protect seniors’ care under the Affordable Care Act, there’s no time to waste with Washington game-playing.”

Like so much of what the Obama administration says, this charge is flat out false. It is not the GOP that is playing games but rather the White House. As ABC’s Jake Tapper reported last week:

Republicans were not delaying or stalling Berwick’s nomination. Indeed, they were eager for his hearing, hoping to assail Berwick’s past statements about health-care rationing and his praise for the British health care system. … speaking not for attribution, Democratic officials say that neither Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., nor Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont., the chair of the Senate Finance Committee, were eager for an ugly confirmation fight four months before the midterm elections.

Senator Chuck Grassley, the ranking Republican on the Senate Finance Committee, said that, “The nomination hasn’t been held up by Republicans in Congress and to say otherwise is misleading.” He said he requested that a hearing take place weeks ago, before this recess.

It’s obvious what’s going on here. The Obama administration is afraid to engage in another debate about ObamaCare, having been trounced in the past. The president’s team fears that Dr. Berwick’s comments are both too controversial and too revealing. So Obama decided to skip the nomination hearing. The administration, unable to defend its actions, offers up — in the person of Robert Gibbs — a testy and transparently silly explanation of its position. What Gibbs cannot answer is this: If Dr. Berwick is so qualified, why not have the hearing and, if Republicans in fact attempt to block his nomination, recess appoint him in August? Why not allow Dr. Berwick to explain, in a public setting, what his true views are?

Gibbs, unable to provide a reasonable response to these questions, reverts to behavior that seems to be a second nature to him: condescension, mockery, brittleness. And, of course, he must reach for the requisite straw man (in this instance, portraying his critics as involved in a conspiracy theory).

I imagine there have been more off-putting press secretaries than Mr. Gibbs. I just can’t think of who they might be.

Read Less

Panetta Stalls for Time on Iran

CIA director Leon Panetta had this exchange with Jake Tapper on This Week:

TAPPER: Do you think these latest sanctions will dissuade the Iranians from trying to enrich uranium?

PANETTA: I think the sanctions will have some impact. You know, the fact that we had Russia and China agree to that, that there is at least strong international opinion that Iran is on the wrong track, that’s important. Those sanctions will have some impact. The sanctions that were passed by the Congress this last week will have some additional impact. It could help weaken the regime. It could create some serious economic problems. Will it deter them from their ambitions with regards to nuclear capability? Probably not.

TAPPER: The 2007 national intelligence estimate said all of Iran’s work on nuclear weapons ended in 2003. You don’t still believe that, do you?

PANETTA: I think they continue to develop their know-how. They continue to develop their nuclear capability.

TAPPER: Including weaponization?

PANETTA: I think they continue to work on designs in that area. There is a continuing debate right now as to whether or nor they ought to proceed with the bomb. But they clearly are developing their nuclear capability, and that raises concerns. It raises concerns about, you know, just exactly what are their intentions, and where they intend to go. I mean, we think they have enough low-enriched uranium right now for two weapons. They do have to enrich it, fully, in order to get there. And we would estimate that if they made that decision, it would probably take a year to get there, probably another year to develop the kind of weapon delivery system in order to make that viable.

But having said that, you know, the president and the international community has said to Iran, you’ve got to wake up, you’ve got to join the family of nations, you’ve got to abide by international law. That’s in the best interests of Iran. It’s in the best interests of the Iranian people.

After Panetta declined to say whether the Iranians’ “technical troubles in their nuclear program” was the result of our sabotage (we certainly hope this is the case), there was this final discussion:

TAPPER: How likely do you think it is that Israel strikes Iran’s nuclear facilities within the next two years?

PANETTA: I think, you know, Israel obviously is very concerned, as is the entire world, about what’s happening in Iran. And they in particular because they’re in that region in the world, have a particular concern about their security. At the same time, I think, you know, on an intelligence basis, we continue to share intelligence as to what exactly is Iran’s capacity. I think they feel more strongly that Iran has already made the decision to proceed with the bomb. But at the same time, I think they know that sanctions will have an impact, they know that if we continue to push Iran from a diplomatic point of view, that we can have some impact, and I think they’re willing to give us the room to be able to try to change Iran diplomatically and culturally and politically as opposed to changing them militarily.

The interview is, to put it mildly, distressing. Americans should understand that it is not a question of whether the Iranians have enough material for a bomb — but how to get what they already have out of their hands. (So what were we doing last year offering to let them ship an unverifiable amount of their enriched uranium out of the country?) As Panetta explained, before Obama leaves office, Iran will probably have figured out how to boost the level of uranium enrichment and how to weaponize the material.

Moreover, the administration, at the risk of appearing ludicrously naive, is not willing to say what everyone now knows to be true: the 2007 NIE was rubbish. (The 2007 NIE was supposed to be modified or dispensed with last December, but the intelligence agencies continue to drag out the process.) As long as the NIE remains on the books, the administration is wedded to ambiguity on the topic, and therefore must in essence characterize the Israelis’ assessment as more alarmist than our own.

And finally, Panetta lets on that the Israelis are willing to give us some time to allow sanctions to work, but neither he nor the Israelis, we presume, seem all that confident they will work. “Some impact” doesn’t really provide comfort that the mullahs will give up on their nuclear ambitions.

All this is designed, no doubt, to forestall demands for decisive (i.e., military) action on our part and to keep Israel in a holding pattern. If we conceded that the Iranians — of course — are seeking nuclear weapons, have the material they need (once they are able to enrich the material further and weaponize it) to threaten its neighbors with annihilation, and that sanctions are too little, too late, why then Obama might be expected to do something about the greatest threat to our and our allies’ security in a generation. And that is a responsibility our president is unwilling to bear at present.

The administration, the Congress, and American Jewish groups continue the dance — pretending but not believing (unless Jewish leaders are entirely out to lunch) that Obama has a plan and the will to prevent the “unacceptable” (a nuclear-armed Iran). The Israelis meanwhile are left to consider: just how long do they dare wait before acting on their own to eliminate (or at least set back) the threat of nuclear attack on the Jewish state?

CIA director Leon Panetta had this exchange with Jake Tapper on This Week:

TAPPER: Do you think these latest sanctions will dissuade the Iranians from trying to enrich uranium?

PANETTA: I think the sanctions will have some impact. You know, the fact that we had Russia and China agree to that, that there is at least strong international opinion that Iran is on the wrong track, that’s important. Those sanctions will have some impact. The sanctions that were passed by the Congress this last week will have some additional impact. It could help weaken the regime. It could create some serious economic problems. Will it deter them from their ambitions with regards to nuclear capability? Probably not.

TAPPER: The 2007 national intelligence estimate said all of Iran’s work on nuclear weapons ended in 2003. You don’t still believe that, do you?

PANETTA: I think they continue to develop their know-how. They continue to develop their nuclear capability.

TAPPER: Including weaponization?

PANETTA: I think they continue to work on designs in that area. There is a continuing debate right now as to whether or nor they ought to proceed with the bomb. But they clearly are developing their nuclear capability, and that raises concerns. It raises concerns about, you know, just exactly what are their intentions, and where they intend to go. I mean, we think they have enough low-enriched uranium right now for two weapons. They do have to enrich it, fully, in order to get there. And we would estimate that if they made that decision, it would probably take a year to get there, probably another year to develop the kind of weapon delivery system in order to make that viable.

But having said that, you know, the president and the international community has said to Iran, you’ve got to wake up, you’ve got to join the family of nations, you’ve got to abide by international law. That’s in the best interests of Iran. It’s in the best interests of the Iranian people.

After Panetta declined to say whether the Iranians’ “technical troubles in their nuclear program” was the result of our sabotage (we certainly hope this is the case), there was this final discussion:

TAPPER: How likely do you think it is that Israel strikes Iran’s nuclear facilities within the next two years?

PANETTA: I think, you know, Israel obviously is very concerned, as is the entire world, about what’s happening in Iran. And they in particular because they’re in that region in the world, have a particular concern about their security. At the same time, I think, you know, on an intelligence basis, we continue to share intelligence as to what exactly is Iran’s capacity. I think they feel more strongly that Iran has already made the decision to proceed with the bomb. But at the same time, I think they know that sanctions will have an impact, they know that if we continue to push Iran from a diplomatic point of view, that we can have some impact, and I think they’re willing to give us the room to be able to try to change Iran diplomatically and culturally and politically as opposed to changing them militarily.

The interview is, to put it mildly, distressing. Americans should understand that it is not a question of whether the Iranians have enough material for a bomb — but how to get what they already have out of their hands. (So what were we doing last year offering to let them ship an unverifiable amount of their enriched uranium out of the country?) As Panetta explained, before Obama leaves office, Iran will probably have figured out how to boost the level of uranium enrichment and how to weaponize the material.

Moreover, the administration, at the risk of appearing ludicrously naive, is not willing to say what everyone now knows to be true: the 2007 NIE was rubbish. (The 2007 NIE was supposed to be modified or dispensed with last December, but the intelligence agencies continue to drag out the process.) As long as the NIE remains on the books, the administration is wedded to ambiguity on the topic, and therefore must in essence characterize the Israelis’ assessment as more alarmist than our own.

And finally, Panetta lets on that the Israelis are willing to give us some time to allow sanctions to work, but neither he nor the Israelis, we presume, seem all that confident they will work. “Some impact” doesn’t really provide comfort that the mullahs will give up on their nuclear ambitions.

All this is designed, no doubt, to forestall demands for decisive (i.e., military) action on our part and to keep Israel in a holding pattern. If we conceded that the Iranians — of course — are seeking nuclear weapons, have the material they need (once they are able to enrich the material further and weaponize it) to threaten its neighbors with annihilation, and that sanctions are too little, too late, why then Obama might be expected to do something about the greatest threat to our and our allies’ security in a generation. And that is a responsibility our president is unwilling to bear at present.

The administration, the Congress, and American Jewish groups continue the dance — pretending but not believing (unless Jewish leaders are entirely out to lunch) that Obama has a plan and the will to prevent the “unacceptable” (a nuclear-armed Iran). The Israelis meanwhile are left to consider: just how long do they dare wait before acting on their own to eliminate (or at least set back) the threat of nuclear attack on the Jewish state?

Read Less




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