Commentary Magazine


Topic: Jimmy Carter

Is Romney Running As a “Hawk”?

Ross Douthat takes a look at Mitt Romney’s stagnating poll numbers and concludes, in part, that Romney is being held back by his hesitation to offer more clarity and creativity on economic policy and refusal to break more clearly with the Bush administration, especially on foreign policy. I find Douthat’s argument on economic policy compelling, but his estimation of the Bush administration’s drag on Romney less so.

Douthat is right to call attention to the weaknesses in the Romney camp’s favorite analogy: 2012 is just like 1980. There are parallels, of course, but their utility is limited and create the danger of Romney’s overreliance on them producing overconfidence. According to most major metrics, the Carter economy was in noticeably worse shape than the current economy. This recovery is still far too weak and unemployment far too high, and Romney has a very strong hand to play here. But Romney chose vagueness at his convention address, just as Reagan did at his, while voters seem to want more from Romney. He may very well have to respond to that.

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Ross Douthat takes a look at Mitt Romney’s stagnating poll numbers and concludes, in part, that Romney is being held back by his hesitation to offer more clarity and creativity on economic policy and refusal to break more clearly with the Bush administration, especially on foreign policy. I find Douthat’s argument on economic policy compelling, but his estimation of the Bush administration’s drag on Romney less so.

Douthat is right to call attention to the weaknesses in the Romney camp’s favorite analogy: 2012 is just like 1980. There are parallels, of course, but their utility is limited and create the danger of Romney’s overreliance on them producing overconfidence. According to most major metrics, the Carter economy was in noticeably worse shape than the current economy. This recovery is still far too weak and unemployment far too high, and Romney has a very strong hand to play here. But Romney chose vagueness at his convention address, just as Reagan did at his, while voters seem to want more from Romney. He may very well have to respond to that.

Douthat continues:

Since Bush left office, conservatives have been willing to acknowledge his failures as a fiscal conservative and to promise more responsibility on deficits and debt. This has been a necessary and important shift, responsible both for the energy of the Tea Party in the 2010 midterm elections and for the current Republican ticket’s (relatively) brave proposals on entitlement reform.

But the shift toward fiscal rectitude is the easy part, in a sense, because it just involved calling conservatives back to their principles, without necessarily acknowledging the places where ideology might need to adapt itself to new realities. It’s made the Republicans more serious than they were in January of 2008, but it’s left the party’s post-Bush weaknesses on the economy and foreign policy conspicuously unaddressed….

On national security, he’s campaigned as a by-the-numbers hawk, with barely a hint that hawkishness might have delivered America into difficulties during the last Republican administration.

I’m not sure this is quite fair to either Bush or Romney. Americans binged on electing conservatives to Congress and, more dramatically, to the governor’s office in places like New Jersey, just to set limits on the Obama Democrats’ ability to govern. If anything, Romney has been less conservative on many of the issues than the Tea Party, yet it is Tea Partiers voters sent enthusiastically to the House and Senate while Romney fights lukewarm poll numbers.

So when Douthat writes that this Tea Party focus on debt and the deficit has “left the party’s post-Bush weaknesses on the economy” unaddressed, it seems to me the opposite might be true.

And on the “hawkishness” of Romney’s foreign policy, I think there’s less bluster to it than people seem to think. Romney took some heat for leaving Afghanistan out of his convention speech, and Politico reports that, in their estimation, at Romney’s foreign policy speech yesterday “he seemed to endorse the broad outlines of Obama’s policy.” This has actually become a popular refrain as well: Romney criticizes Obama generally on foreign affairs but hasn’t actually staked out more hawkish ground.

Then you have the Democrats’ convention, at which the crowd spent half the time cheering on targeted assassination. And then the Obama campaign rolled out its plan to “Kerry-ize” Romney on foreign policy. (Calling on Kerry to aid in the “Kerryization” of someone else is so thoroughly humiliating to the Massachusetts senator that it almost makes you hope Kerry gets something out of this after all, like the job at State that he so openly covets. Almost.)

And Obama’s most successful foreign policy moves were arguably hawkish ones. Take his announcement of the Afghanistan surge. As I wrote in March:

After Obama announced a troop “surge” in Afghanistan in December 2009, polls showed a 9-percent jump in Americans who thought staying in Afghanistan was the right course of action, and a 6-percent drop in those who opposed the war. Americans favored the speech itself by a 23-point margin. And the president saw a 7-point jump in public approval of his handling of the war.

If Romney is concerned that voters are having trouble imaging him as commander-in-chief, he will probably try to change the calculus on foreign policy, thinking it may also elevate his other numbers if he does so successfully. But it is Obama, surging at first in Afghanistan and then boasting of bin Laden and the Libya intervention, who is arguably running as the hawk in this election.

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Sound Familiar? Islamists Storm U.S. Embassy and America Apologizes

Is it possible to learn from history? Apparently not if you are an American president determined to win the love of the Islamic world. Over 33 years ago, Islamist rioters stormed an American embassy. U.S. sovereignty was violated and hostages were taken. The immediate response from America, though, was conciliatory–as if those who had insulted the United States could be convinced to think better of their target if those who had just been attacked made enough apologies. The result was the Iran hostage crisis that helped bring down the administration of Jimmy Carter. You might think American diplomats would have learned the lessons of Carter’s Iran debacle but judging by the statement issued today by the U.S. Embassy in Cairo, Egypt, perhaps that chapter of history is no longer considered required reading in the age of Obama.

Today a mob numbering in the hundreds stormed the Cairo embassy on the pretext of being upset about the alleged appearance on YouTube of a film made by Egyptian-American that is derogatory to Islam. The mob scaled the wall of the embassy, entered the courtyard and tore down and burned the U.S. flag that flew over the diplomatic enclave and raised in its place a black Islamic banner that is associated with al-Qaeda. According to the Associated Press, no embassy personnel were hurt since nearly all of them had fled the compound before the mob arrived. Egyptian riot police did not stop the rioters.

In response to this outrage, this is the statement issued by the United States in Egypt:

The Embassy of the United States in Cairo condemns the continuing efforts by misguided individuals to hurt the religious feelings of Muslims – as we condemn efforts to offend believers of all religions. Today, the 11th anniversary of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States, Americans are honoring our patriots and those who serve our nation as the fitting response to the enemies of democracy. Respect for religious beliefs is a cornerstone of American democracy. We firmly reject the actions by those who abuse the universal right of free speech to hurt the religious beliefs of others

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Is it possible to learn from history? Apparently not if you are an American president determined to win the love of the Islamic world. Over 33 years ago, Islamist rioters stormed an American embassy. U.S. sovereignty was violated and hostages were taken. The immediate response from America, though, was conciliatory–as if those who had insulted the United States could be convinced to think better of their target if those who had just been attacked made enough apologies. The result was the Iran hostage crisis that helped bring down the administration of Jimmy Carter. You might think American diplomats would have learned the lessons of Carter’s Iran debacle but judging by the statement issued today by the U.S. Embassy in Cairo, Egypt, perhaps that chapter of history is no longer considered required reading in the age of Obama.

Today a mob numbering in the hundreds stormed the Cairo embassy on the pretext of being upset about the alleged appearance on YouTube of a film made by Egyptian-American that is derogatory to Islam. The mob scaled the wall of the embassy, entered the courtyard and tore down and burned the U.S. flag that flew over the diplomatic enclave and raised in its place a black Islamic banner that is associated with al-Qaeda. According to the Associated Press, no embassy personnel were hurt since nearly all of them had fled the compound before the mob arrived. Egyptian riot police did not stop the rioters.

In response to this outrage, this is the statement issued by the United States in Egypt:

The Embassy of the United States in Cairo condemns the continuing efforts by misguided individuals to hurt the religious feelings of Muslims – as we condemn efforts to offend believers of all religions. Today, the 11th anniversary of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States, Americans are honoring our patriots and those who serve our nation as the fitting response to the enemies of democracy. Respect for religious beliefs is a cornerstone of American democracy. We firmly reject the actions by those who abuse the universal right of free speech to hurt the religious beliefs of others

No mention was made to the invasion of the embassy or the insult to the symbol of the United States that is as dear to Americans than Islam is to Egyptians. Rather than making it clear that this breach of diplomatic immunity and common decency requires the apology of the Egyptian government and the punishment of those responsible, the Obama administration bowed and apologized.

Americans do respect all faiths and religious believers including Islam. But we also respect freedom of speech and that gives the person who made the offending film — a member of the Egyptian Coptic faith that has suffered bitter persecution and violence at the hands of the Muslim majority — the right to say what he likes whether the Egyptians like it or not. More to the point, it is not the business of the State Department, the Cairo Embassy or any American official to apologize for or to in any engage in the controversy over this film, let alone issue a statement that appears to rationalize a violent assault on a U.S. embassy on the 9/11 anniversary.

Ruthie Blum’s new book To Hell in a Handbasket: Carter, Obama and the “Arab Spring,” traces the eerie parallels between Carter’s Middle East blunders and those of the current administration as it has failed to deal with the Iranian nuclear threat and the Arab Spring. The fiasco in Cairo is just one more piece of evidence proving her thesis.

It should also be pointed out that Democrats have scoffed at Mitt Romney’s criticism of President Obama’s inveterate apologizing for America and claimed it was an inaccurate Republican calumny of the president. Romney, who has been taking an unjustified beating in the press on foreign and defense policy, should have something to say about this latest instance of Obama’s supine attitude toward America’s foes.

UPDATE: Subsequent developments have made it clear that the timeline for the U.S. embassy apology was not as damning as it first appeared. Further thoughts on why the problem here is bigger than one ill-considered apology can be found here.

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Ryan Reaches Out to Ron Paul Supporters

Ron Paul is apparently making Republicans nervous — either because they’re worried his over-exuberant fans will disrupt the festivities today, or because they’re gunning for the libertarian vote in November (I’m guessing the former, since Romney’s not much competition for Gary Johnson).

Whatever the reason, Paul Ryan offered an olive branch to the Paulbots in a Fox News interview yesterday (h/t Jeff Poor):

“[Ron Paul and I] see eye to eye on a lot of issues,” Ryan said. “We believe in sound money. We believe in economic freedom. We believe in the founding principles. We believe this is a watersheds moment for America, whether we are going to reclaim the American idea or a cradle-to-grave welfare state which is where I think the president is taking us. So, I think in the final analysis Ron, he and his supporters should be comfortable with us.”

“Ron is a friend of mine,” Ryan added.

“I have known him a long time in Congress. And so at the end of the day it is a choice between the president’s failed leadership, the big government that he is offering, the borrowing that he is offering, the spending and regulating that he is offering, which will give us a stagnant economy, a lost generation, not just a lost decade, and the Mitt Romney-Paul Ryan plan of reclaiming our founding principles, getting back to economic freedom and liberty and reviving this economy.”

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Ron Paul is apparently making Republicans nervous — either because they’re worried his over-exuberant fans will disrupt the festivities today, or because they’re gunning for the libertarian vote in November (I’m guessing the former, since Romney’s not much competition for Gary Johnson).

Whatever the reason, Paul Ryan offered an olive branch to the Paulbots in a Fox News interview yesterday (h/t Jeff Poor):

“[Ron Paul and I] see eye to eye on a lot of issues,” Ryan said. “We believe in sound money. We believe in economic freedom. We believe in the founding principles. We believe this is a watersheds moment for America, whether we are going to reclaim the American idea or a cradle-to-grave welfare state which is where I think the president is taking us. So, I think in the final analysis Ron, he and his supporters should be comfortable with us.”

“Ron is a friend of mine,” Ryan added.

“I have known him a long time in Congress. And so at the end of the day it is a choice between the president’s failed leadership, the big government that he is offering, the borrowing that he is offering, the spending and regulating that he is offering, which will give us a stagnant economy, a lost generation, not just a lost decade, and the Mitt Romney-Paul Ryan plan of reclaiming our founding principles, getting back to economic freedom and liberty and reviving this economy.”

Some pro-Israel conservatives, like Seth Lipsky, have argued that, while some of Ron Paul’s foreign policy views are naive, his positions on the Federal Reserve and sound money are too important to ignore. That seems to be Ryan’s position as well — he lists “sound money,” “economic freedom” and “founding principles” as issues on which he and Paul see “eye to eye.”

Still, when considering the entirety of Paul’s career — which the GOP is doing today — it’s difficult to get past Paul’s views on intervention, terrorism-as-blowback, and the years of racist newsletters published under his name (which he says he wasn’t aware of). All seem to point to a core mental glitch. It’s not just that Paul has been wrong on a few issues; it’s that he’s willfully ignored, and continues to ignore, basic truths in order to cling to a defective worldview.

Additionally, from a political perspective it makes it harder for Republicans to criticize the DNC for giving a speaking slot to Jimmy Carter when the RNC is devoting a tribute video to (and praising) Paul. Carter may be much more overt when it comes to slandering Israel and defending terrorists, but it still weakens the GOP’s case.

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James Baker Keeps Digging

Josh Rogin’s interview with former Secretary of State James Baker is teased at the top of ForeignPolicy.com’s home page with the headline: “The Realists Strike Back.” The Star Wars reference is appropriate, because it seems Baker is having his Admiral Ackbar moment.

The purpose of the interview is Baker’s response to recent reporting by Rogin on the prominence of some foreign policy “realists” in Mitt Romney’s transition team and the discomfort that is causing among other foreign policy advisers. In the interview, Baker explains that he deserves to be mentioned alongside Henry Kissinger, because Baker believes himself to be among the greatest statesmen this country has ever known. Where did he get this idea? From Thomas Friedman. But a glance at the Friedman column in question singing Baker’s praises makes one thing clear that Baker seems not to have noticed in time: It’s a trap!

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Josh Rogin’s interview with former Secretary of State James Baker is teased at the top of ForeignPolicy.com’s home page with the headline: “The Realists Strike Back.” The Star Wars reference is appropriate, because it seems Baker is having his Admiral Ackbar moment.

The purpose of the interview is Baker’s response to recent reporting by Rogin on the prominence of some foreign policy “realists” in Mitt Romney’s transition team and the discomfort that is causing among other foreign policy advisers. In the interview, Baker explains that he deserves to be mentioned alongside Henry Kissinger, because Baker believes himself to be among the greatest statesmen this country has ever known. Where did he get this idea? From Thomas Friedman. But a glance at the Friedman column in question singing Baker’s praises makes one thing clear that Baker seems not to have noticed in time: It’s a trap!

Here is what Friedman writes about Baker:

The three U.S. statesmen who have done the most to make Israel more secure and accepted in the region all told blunt truths to every Israeli or Arab leader: Jimmy Carter, who helped forge a lasting peace between Israel and Egypt; Henry Kissinger, who built the post-1973 war disengagement agreements with Syria, Israel and Egypt; and James Baker, who engineered the Madrid peace conference. All of them knew that to make progress in this region you have to get in the face of both sides. They both need the excuse at times that “the Americans made me do it,” because their own politics are too knotted to move on their own.

As this is the paragraph that mentioned Baker, he should have read it prior to endorsing its message. There’s the moral equivalence that has become a trademark of Friedman’s, and the outlandish claim about Israel’s security and place in the region.

Even if you grant that Carter should get a great deal of credit for the 1979 peace deal–and you shouldn’t, because Carter opposed it, tried to stall and prevent it, and then finally jumped aboard when he could no longer hope to torpedo it–you’d still have to be delusional to believe what was written there. Friedman’s no history buff of course, but he should be familiar with Harry Truman, whose early recognition of the Jewish state was critical to its acceptance and survival in its early days.

Kissinger does belong in that group–but so does his boss, Richard Nixon, who worked with Kissinger to plan and implement Operation Nickel Grass to keep Israel supplied and armed during the Yom Kippur War.

There are others, of course; George W. Bush’s support for Israel during the Intifada, Reagan’s support for Menachem Begin–against the wishes of much of his cabinet–during the first Lebanon war, etc. But the point is that if Baker only read the paragraph mentioning him he should still have known not to brag about it.

But the reason it’s a trap is because of what was written before that paragraph. Here are some choice quotes from it:

  • “Since the whole trip was not about learning anything but about how to satisfy the political whims of the right-wing, super pro-Bibi Netanyahu, American Jewish casino magnate Sheldon Adelson, why didn’t they just do the whole thing in Las Vegas? I mean, it was all about money anyway”
  • “They could have constructed a plastic Wailing Wall and saved so much on gas”
  • “In order to garner more Jewish (and evangelical) votes and money, the G.O.P. decided to ‘out-pro-Israel’ the Democrats by being even more unquestioning of Israel”
  • “State Department officials, not to mention politicians, are reluctant to even state publicly what is U.S. policy — that settlements are ‘an obstacle to peace’ — for fear of being denounced as anti-Israel”
  • “the main Israel lobby, AIPAC, has made itself the feared arbiter of which lawmakers are ‘pro’ and which are ‘anti-Israel’ and, therefore, who should get donations and who should not”

You get the point: Most of the column was about the nefarious presence of Jewish money in the election. This is the flag Baker is now running around Washington waving at reporters to prove he’s a statesman. Something tells me it won’t help.

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Why is Carter Getting Convention Spot?

The two national party conventions long ago ceased to be deliberative bodies and are now nothing but scripted infomercials for the presidential candidates. Which is to say that the only people allowed a voice at these affairs are those whose views are broadly approved of by either Barack Obama or Mitt Romney. Thus, the news that the Democratic National Convention will feature a prime time speech via video by former President Jimmy Carter is surprising. Carter has not only sometimes been critical of Obama, his extreme views on Middle East are an embarrassment to a president and a party that has been engaging in an election year charm offensive aimed at convincing Jewish voters that they are devoted to Israel. The praise given Carter by Convention Chair Antonio Villaraigosa in a statement announcing the spot could come back to haunt the Democrats. Honoring one of the most ferocious critics of Israel in this manner may not sit well with many undecided Jewish voters.

While former presidents are, at least in theory, entitled to a convention speaking spot, those who are embarrassments are often shunted aside. Though he still has many fans in the GOP, George W. Bush isn’t going to be at the Republican Convention this year. In 2008, Carter was given the brush off by the Obama team during the convention with just a short video clip honoring his humanitarian work for the victims of Hurricane Katrina and no speech. Given how anxious the Democrats have been to portray themselves as unflinching allies of Israel this year, it is curious that they would allow Carter to speak at all in Charlotte, let alone in prime time. If the Obama campaign was looking to give Republicans an opportunity to highlight one of the most prominent foes of the Jewish State and link him to the president and the Democrats, they can do no better than honoring Carter in this manner.

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The two national party conventions long ago ceased to be deliberative bodies and are now nothing but scripted infomercials for the presidential candidates. Which is to say that the only people allowed a voice at these affairs are those whose views are broadly approved of by either Barack Obama or Mitt Romney. Thus, the news that the Democratic National Convention will feature a prime time speech via video by former President Jimmy Carter is surprising. Carter has not only sometimes been critical of Obama, his extreme views on Middle East are an embarrassment to a president and a party that has been engaging in an election year charm offensive aimed at convincing Jewish voters that they are devoted to Israel. The praise given Carter by Convention Chair Antonio Villaraigosa in a statement announcing the spot could come back to haunt the Democrats. Honoring one of the most ferocious critics of Israel in this manner may not sit well with many undecided Jewish voters.

While former presidents are, at least in theory, entitled to a convention speaking spot, those who are embarrassments are often shunted aside. Though he still has many fans in the GOP, George W. Bush isn’t going to be at the Republican Convention this year. In 2008, Carter was given the brush off by the Obama team during the convention with just a short video clip honoring his humanitarian work for the victims of Hurricane Katrina and no speech. Given how anxious the Democrats have been to portray themselves as unflinching allies of Israel this year, it is curious that they would allow Carter to speak at all in Charlotte, let alone in prime time. If the Obama campaign was looking to give Republicans an opportunity to highlight one of the most prominent foes of the Jewish State and link him to the president and the Democrats, they can do no better than honoring Carter in this manner.

Though Carter has been lionized abroad and given the Nobel Peace Prize for his activism since leaving office, the man from Plains is best known in recent years for his consistent bashing of the state of Israel. A virulent foe of the Jewish state, Carter has falsely accused it of practicing apartheid and was prominently featured in past Republican attempts to highlight the way many on the left have become the most dangerous enemies of Israel in the United States.

In 2008, Jewish Democrats who were determined to brand Barack Obama as a friend of Israel were pleased by the decision on the part of convention organizers to give Carter as little honor as possible. The short shrift given the former president, was, as the Forward reported in August 2008, widely interpreted as an indication of the Obama campaign’s seriousness of purpose in competing for the Jewish vote.

Though Democrats will probably say that having Carter speak by video is not as damaging as having him appear in person, the prime time slot for his speech is still significant. For all of their pains in trying to explain Obama’s three years of constant fights with Israel and laughable attempts to claim the president is the best friend Israel ever had in the White House, the inclusion of Carter is a troubling indication that the leadership of the Democratic Party isn’t really all that interested in appealing for the pro-Israel vote. Those observers, like Carter’s fans in the Palestinian Authority, who are hopeful a re-elected Obama will turn on Israel, will likely be encouraged by the Democrats’ decision.

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Registration, Not ID Laws is Vote Obstacle

As part of their effort to derail voter ID laws, liberals treat it as a given that there is no such thing as voter fraud in this country any more. Doing so requires a leap of faith that requires one to ignore American political history as well as human nature, but that hasn’t stopped Democrats from waiving the bloody shirt of Jim Crow in order to convince the public and the courts that what voter ID advocates are doing is a new form of discrimination. The New York Times editorial page has been in the forefront of those taking this disingenuous line of argument, but Ethan Bronner, their former Israel bureau chief, has written an interesting piece for their news pages that places the controversy in a more coherent frame of reference.

While not taking sides in the ID debate, Bronner mentions what many of those who have been saying about the need for voting integrity laws. The debacle of Florida in 2000 shows neither party trusts the other, and the closer the election the more likely it is that “chicanery” will be employed by one or both sides. Some of the arguments put forward by opponents of voter ID laws about large numbers of voters being disenfranchised are closer to myths than truths. He also points out that there may be large numbers of people voting in more than one state, as many are registered in two places. Most important, he gets at something–that those crying wolf about discrimination are ignoring the real problem: the need to put more effort into registering voters as most of those who might theoretically be excluded by voter ID laws have filed to register in the first place.

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As part of their effort to derail voter ID laws, liberals treat it as a given that there is no such thing as voter fraud in this country any more. Doing so requires a leap of faith that requires one to ignore American political history as well as human nature, but that hasn’t stopped Democrats from waiving the bloody shirt of Jim Crow in order to convince the public and the courts that what voter ID advocates are doing is a new form of discrimination. The New York Times editorial page has been in the forefront of those taking this disingenuous line of argument, but Ethan Bronner, their former Israel bureau chief, has written an interesting piece for their news pages that places the controversy in a more coherent frame of reference.

While not taking sides in the ID debate, Bronner mentions what many of those who have been saying about the need for voting integrity laws. The debacle of Florida in 2000 shows neither party trusts the other, and the closer the election the more likely it is that “chicanery” will be employed by one or both sides. Some of the arguments put forward by opponents of voter ID laws about large numbers of voters being disenfranchised are closer to myths than truths. He also points out that there may be large numbers of people voting in more than one state, as many are registered in two places. Most important, he gets at something–that those crying wolf about discrimination are ignoring the real problem: the need to put more effort into registering voters as most of those who might theoretically be excluded by voter ID laws have filed to register in the first place.

In 2005, a bipartisan panel found that 140,000 Florida voters were also registered in other states. Some 60,000 people are also registered in both North and South Carolina. Liberal absentee voting laws have made it possible for these people to vote twice in a national election with no way, not even photo ID, to stop them from doing so. The commission, which was led by Jimmy Carter and James Baker, recommended, among other things, a paper trial for electronic voting machines as well as uniform voter ID requirements. As the executive director of the Carter-Baker commission mentions in the article, only half of eligible voters in the country are registered, and few of them lack photo IDs. The obstacle to voter participation in this country is registration, not a GOP plot to suppress the minority vote.

Both parties ought to follow the Carter-Baker recommendations and work to increase voter registration while also ensuring the integrity of the vote. So long as Democrats keep pretending there is no such thing as fraud, Republican suspicions that urban political machines are manufacturing false totals (such as the infamous results in some Philadelphia precincts where vote totals have exceeded the number of registered voters) or allowing felons or non-citizens to vote will fester. Instead of trying to re-open the wounds of the civil rights era via the Jim Crow canard, Democrats should be putting their energy behind voter registration programs that can ensure no one is disenfranchised and cheating is kept to a minimum.

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Hugo Chavez: “Let Them Drink Juice”

New York City isn’t the only place in the world where preventing the consumption of sugary sodas has become a political imperative. In his televised broadcast yesterday, Venezuela’s Comandante, Hugo Chavez, urged his viewers to safeguard their waistlines by ditching Coca-Cola and Pepsi in favor of a locally-produced fruit juice.

Reports the Associated Press:

Chavez says consumers should buy “Uvita,” a grape juice made by state-run Corpozulia as a means of increasing the consumption of Venezuelan-made products instead of buying sugary sodas made by foreign companies.

Venezuela’s socialist leader often dispenses advice to supporters during his marathon televised speeches, calling on them to eat healthy foods, get plenty of exercise, and avoid drugs and alcohol.

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New York City isn’t the only place in the world where preventing the consumption of sugary sodas has become a political imperative. In his televised broadcast yesterday, Venezuela’s Comandante, Hugo Chavez, urged his viewers to safeguard their waistlines by ditching Coca-Cola and Pepsi in favor of a locally-produced fruit juice.

Reports the Associated Press:

Chavez says consumers should buy “Uvita,” a grape juice made by state-run Corpozulia as a means of increasing the consumption of Venezuelan-made products instead of buying sugary sodas made by foreign companies.

Venezuela’s socialist leader often dispenses advice to supporters during his marathon televised speeches, calling on them to eat healthy foods, get plenty of exercise, and avoid drugs and alcohol.

In common with other forms of dictatorship, Chavismo is based on the idea that there is nothing more important than the relationship between the leader and his people — hence, Chavez believes it is his duty as well as his right to tell Venezuelans what to consume. No matter, then, that Chavez has yet to prove that the contents of “Uvita,” whose manufacturer’s mission is to “promote the socialist development of western Venezuela,” are in fact healthier than the imperialist soft drinks he bemoans. Such detail is doubtless a bourgeois trifle.

Still, many Venezuelans will be wondering why their leader is lecturing them about their own health when he hasn’t exactly been forthcoming about his own. When campaigning for October’s presidential election began in earnest last month, Chavez was dogged by speculation about his imminent death from cancer, further fueled by his continuous absences in Cuba for medical treatment. For his main opponent, the 40-year-old Henrique Capriles, the opportunity to contrast his own sculpted physique with that of the ailing, portly Chavez has been too good to pass up.

The strong impression that Capriles, a moderate social democrat, is eminently electable explains, at least in part, the air of desperation around the Chavez camp. In what may well be a sneak peek of the October election’s aftermath, everything is being rather hastily rigged or fixed to boost Chavez’s fortunes. The story of Chavez’s cancer has been fixed; he now claims to have banished the disease, although the infrequent and carefully-planned nature of his public appearances, along with his reluctance to divulge any actual details about his cancer, suggests otherwise.

Access to the airwaves has been rigged; despite a ruling from the toothless National Electoral Commission prohibiting TV and radio messages longer than three minutes, Chavez has contemptuously refused to stop his cadenas, the marathon broadcasts that last for hours, insisting at the same time that “The major part of the radios, television channels and newspapers are in the hands of the bourgeoisie.” The campaign messaging has been fixed; Chavez has compared Capriles with Mitt Romney — and also offered Barack Obama the dubious gift of an endorsement — by asserting that the lavish social spending programs he instituted will be wiped out in the event of a defeat. Because Venezuelans are already living with spiraling inflation, rising unemployment, and a crime epidemic that threatens to turn their country into a Latin American equivalent of Zimbabwe, they can be forgiven for thinking that outcome had already been reached.

The polls, too, are being fixed. While one poll shows that Chavez and Capriles are neck and neck, the others all predict a landslide for the Comandante. In a poll conducted in the northern state of Anzoátegui by IVAD, the Venezuelan Institute for Data Analysis, Chavez comes out an astonishing 30 points ahead. Writes Venezuela’s most perceptive dissident blogger, Daniel Duquenal:

Few states have been has battered as Anzoategui has been under Chavez. It holds the dubious distinction to be the state with the most blackouts, the worst roads, etc….  The fact of the matter is that in 2010 legislative election, the opposition made a grand slam in Anzoategui, surprising most pundits, some even did not expect the opposition to win there. And yet the latest IVAD gives Chavez ahead — which I can still buy, why not — but ahead by 30 points!!!!!!

Capriles should start making plans for a rigged election. As Duquenal points out, foreign election monitors from the European Union and the Organization of American States — denounced by Chavez as a tool of the U.S. — have already decided not to risk their reputations by being asked to endorse a crooked vote. Only former President Jimmy Carter’s Carter Center remains in the frame, and on this one Duquenal doesn’t pull any punches:

We know very well that the Carter Center et al. are basically useless, and quite often make things worse, because paradoxically in Venezuela veiled criticism has become indirect approval, such is the state of immorality and cynicism that the regime has reached.

Let’s hope someone in Atlanta is paying attention.

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Obama’s Absurd Claim About Judaism

Apparently, Barack Obama told a visiting contingent of Conservative Jewish rabbis that he probably knows more about Judaism than any other president—on the same day that he referred to “Polish death camps.” For that last remark he apologized, but the one about Judaism is far more telling. In the first place, the claim is transparently absurd. We can quickly pass over the fact that John Adams and James Madison, among the most educated men in the world at the time, knew Hebrew as well as Latin and Greek and just say that the president is, to put it mildly, punching above his weight here. So let’s move on to the fact that every president until the modern era knew more about Judaism than Barack Obama because the Bible was the one book every literate person knew, and the Bible includes the books Christians call the “Old Testament,” and a working knowledge of the Old Testament certainly is the best introduction to “Judaism” there is.

Earlier presidents did not learn the Talmud, of course, but if Barack Obama ever has, that would come as news to me. There is no indication from Obama’s own writing that he is especially Bible-literate, and we can presume that his notorious pastor of 20 years used the Bible primarily as flavoring for his political duck soup. I have no doubt that, among presidents closer to our time, Jimmy Carter was far more conversant in the lore of Biblical Judaism, for all the good it did his corrupted soul when it comes to the Jewish state.

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Apparently, Barack Obama told a visiting contingent of Conservative Jewish rabbis that he probably knows more about Judaism than any other president—on the same day that he referred to “Polish death camps.” For that last remark he apologized, but the one about Judaism is far more telling. In the first place, the claim is transparently absurd. We can quickly pass over the fact that John Adams and James Madison, among the most educated men in the world at the time, knew Hebrew as well as Latin and Greek and just say that the president is, to put it mildly, punching above his weight here. So let’s move on to the fact that every president until the modern era knew more about Judaism than Barack Obama because the Bible was the one book every literate person knew, and the Bible includes the books Christians call the “Old Testament,” and a working knowledge of the Old Testament certainly is the best introduction to “Judaism” there is.

Earlier presidents did not learn the Talmud, of course, but if Barack Obama ever has, that would come as news to me. There is no indication from Obama’s own writing that he is especially Bible-literate, and we can presume that his notorious pastor of 20 years used the Bible primarily as flavoring for his political duck soup. I have no doubt that, among presidents closer to our time, Jimmy Carter was far more conversant in the lore of Biblical Judaism, for all the good it did his corrupted soul when it comes to the Jewish state.

Perhaps what the president meant is that he’s known more Jews than other presidents. This too is an absurdity, as Ronald Reagan spent 30 years in Hollywood and had Jews coming out his ears. In fact, chances are Barack Obama knows less about Judaism than most presidents, except that he knows a lot of liberal Jews.

What the president does, without question, know a great deal about is the act of preening.

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The Romney-Ryan Tax Budget

On “Fox News Sunday” with Chris Wallace yesterday morning, David Plouffe, senior adviser to President Obama, talked about Paul Ryan’s recently announced budget plan. You can see the discussion here with the relevant portion beginning about 9:30. With a distinct now-we’ve-got-‘em! note of triumph in his voice, Plouffe said that the plan had been endorsed by the Republican presidential candidates and that, with Mitt Romney the frontrunner, this was now the Romney-Ryan Budget. It calls for cuts in government spending through basic entitlement reform, such as means testing and block grants to the states, and tax cuts coupled with limits on tax deductions that would be targeted at the rich. Obviously, the Obama team is looking forward to running against this proposal and is anxious to tie the probable Republican nominee to it.

This reminded me, as so much of the Obama presidency has reminded me of the Jimmy Carter presidency, of Carter’s re-election campaign in 1980. The country was in the throes of the worst peacetime inflation in its history, with 12 percent inflation in 1980 (with an unemployment rate well over 7 percent). The prime rate, the benchmark interest rate on loans, was over 20 percent (it’s 3.25 percent this morning). Read More

On “Fox News Sunday” with Chris Wallace yesterday morning, David Plouffe, senior adviser to President Obama, talked about Paul Ryan’s recently announced budget plan. You can see the discussion here with the relevant portion beginning about 9:30. With a distinct now-we’ve-got-‘em! note of triumph in his voice, Plouffe said that the plan had been endorsed by the Republican presidential candidates and that, with Mitt Romney the frontrunner, this was now the Romney-Ryan Budget. It calls for cuts in government spending through basic entitlement reform, such as means testing and block grants to the states, and tax cuts coupled with limits on tax deductions that would be targeted at the rich. Obviously, the Obama team is looking forward to running against this proposal and is anxious to tie the probable Republican nominee to it.

This reminded me, as so much of the Obama presidency has reminded me of the Jimmy Carter presidency, of Carter’s re-election campaign in 1980. The country was in the throes of the worst peacetime inflation in its history, with 12 percent inflation in 1980 (with an unemployment rate well over 7 percent). The prime rate, the benchmark interest rate on loans, was over 20 percent (it’s 3.25 percent this morning).

While decrying the problems that inflation was causing, many liberal politicians secretly liked inflation because at that time income tax brackets were not indexed for it. Thus, as wages were increased to match the rise in the cost of living, that pushed people into higher and higher tax brackets. In other words, marginal tax rates meant to sock it to the rich were now socking it to the middle class and federal revenues were rising even faster than inflation without Congress having to vote to raise taxes. For many liberals–who never saw a government revenue increase they didn’t like–that was a win-win situation.

Jack Kemp, a Republican congressman from Buffalo, New York, a former quarterback for the Buffalo Bills and a future vice-presidential nominee (in 1996), and William Roth, Senator from Delaware, proposed to slash marginal rates and, crucially, to index tax rates to inflation to prevent bracket creep. When Ronald Reagan endorsed the proposal, the Carter campaign pounced, redubbing the Kemp-Roth tax proposal the Reagan-Kemp-Roth tax proposal, convinced that it would be a drag on Reagan’s election prospects.

They were, of course, suffering from the “Pauline Kael effect,” named for the long-time movie critic of The New Yorker, who is supposed to have said after the 1972 election, “I can’t believe Nixon won. I don’t know anyone who voted for him.” Millions of voters outside the Beltway and the Upper West Side of New York thought the Reagan-Kemp-Roth proposal was a great idea. Ronald Reagan signed it into law only eight months into his presidency, while Jimmy Carter felt sorry for himself sitting in Plains, Georgia.

I suspect the same situation obtains today. The people are far more ready to seriously tackle the federal government’s chronic revenue imbalance than is the liberal establishment.

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Will Clinton Repudiate Consultant’s Speech at Anti-Israel Conference?

I wrote earlier this week about the reaction of a representative of Americans for Peace Now about the Arab League’s conference on Jerusalem. The Israel-bashing and denial of Jewish rights and history was so awful it even shocked the representative of a group that is desperately trying to ignore the truth about the unwillingness of the Arab and Muslim world to make peace with Israel. But while less naïve observers expect that  from the Arab League, the news that a person connected to the U.S. State Department delivered a vicious denunciation of Israel at the same conference ought to disturb all Americans.

Kenneth R. Insley Jr., was listed on the Doha conference program as a representative of the State Department though his connection with the administration is somewhat tenuous. But a reading of his remarks at the Arab League conference should call into question any future business between his firm and an administration that has been going all out lately to assert the dubious proposition that the president is the best friend Israel has ever had in the White House. Given that his speech was put forward as representing the views of the State Department, Secretary of State Clinton should repudiate Insley’s assertion that Israel is an apartheid state and his assertion that Jews are racist.

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I wrote earlier this week about the reaction of a representative of Americans for Peace Now about the Arab League’s conference on Jerusalem. The Israel-bashing and denial of Jewish rights and history was so awful it even shocked the representative of a group that is desperately trying to ignore the truth about the unwillingness of the Arab and Muslim world to make peace with Israel. But while less naïve observers expect that  from the Arab League, the news that a person connected to the U.S. State Department delivered a vicious denunciation of Israel at the same conference ought to disturb all Americans.

Kenneth R. Insley Jr., was listed on the Doha conference program as a representative of the State Department though his connection with the administration is somewhat tenuous. But a reading of his remarks at the Arab League conference should call into question any future business between his firm and an administration that has been going all out lately to assert the dubious proposition that the president is the best friend Israel has ever had in the White House. Given that his speech was put forward as representing the views of the State Department, Secretary of State Clinton should repudiate Insley’s assertion that Israel is an apartheid state and his assertion that Jews are racist.

Insley bills himself as a consultant to the U.S. government. His day job is director of public diplomacy at Capital Communications Group, an international consulting firm that has apparently gotten a government contract for coordinating visits for international delegations with various think tanks, congressional leaders, White House and other administration officials. But his main business seems to be promoting anti-Israel hatred. While ignoring Israel’s peace offers and Palestinian rejectionism and terror, Insley did not shy away from pandering to his audience’s appetite for slurs against Israel. After defending Jimmy Carter’s claim that Israel is an apartheid state, he denounced the efforts of some Jewish religious figures to urge people to marry within their faith:

Play this game with me: if you were to substitute the word “white” for “Jewish” and replace the word “Arab men” with “NIGGER,” then to most American ears, it sounds exactly like the pronouncements of racist segregationists in the 1950s and 60s in southern states like Georgia, which where Jimmy Carter is from. I think President Carter knows a thing or two about racial discrimination. And so should the Jewish people. … Perhaps it is understandable to be perceived as racist when you are considered by some to be “God’s chosen people.”

It may well be that Insley’s participation in this hate fest had nothing to do with the State Department. If so, the administration should say so and make sure Insley and his firm are no longer receiving taxpayer dollars for his highly objectionable activities.

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Gingrich on Reagan: “He is in Some Danger of Becoming Another Jimmy Carter”

Matt Drudge links to several stories and videos (see here, here, here and here) highlighting Newt Gingrich’s past criticisms of President Reagan. This line of attack has clearly enraged Gingrich, who argues that he was certainly more of a Reaganite than Mitt Romney ever was.

What Gingrich says is true, but in some respects it’s beside the point. What these episodes reveal about Gingrich isn’t that he’s not a conservative; it’s that during the course of his career he’s been intemperate and erratic. He views himself as almost alone when it comes to understanding the world-historical moment he always seems to be living in. He has the courage that others, including Ronald Reagan, lacked. He possesses the insights that others, including Ronald Reagan, were deprived of. Gingrich’s comments were not those of a “loving critic,” to use a phrase from Madison. The former House speaker used words that were lacerating, extreme, and at times insulting.

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Matt Drudge links to several stories and videos (see here, here, here and here) highlighting Newt Gingrich’s past criticisms of President Reagan. This line of attack has clearly enraged Gingrich, who argues that he was certainly more of a Reaganite than Mitt Romney ever was.

What Gingrich says is true, but in some respects it’s beside the point. What these episodes reveal about Gingrich isn’t that he’s not a conservative; it’s that during the course of his career he’s been intemperate and erratic. He views himself as almost alone when it comes to understanding the world-historical moment he always seems to be living in. He has the courage that others, including Ronald Reagan, lacked. He possesses the insights that others, including Ronald Reagan, were deprived of. Gingrich’s comments were not those of a “loving critic,” to use a phrase from Madison. The former House speaker used words that were lacerating, extreme, and at times insulting.

One Gingrich quote is particularly revealing and hasn’t, to my knowledge, yet been highlighted. But in Steven Hayward’s wonderful book, The Age of Reagan: The Conservative Counterrevolution, Hayward quotes Gingrich as telling the Wall Street Journal that Reagan was “in some danger of becoming another Jimmy Carter.” That is about as wicked a rhetorical blow as one Republican could level against another. And this statement came after Reagan’s first term, in which he achieved historically important reforms.

Hayward recounts one White House meeting late in the second term, after Gingrich laid out complaints about important things the administration had left undone. President Reagan put his arm around the young Georgia congressman, according to Hayward, and said in his typically gentle fashion, “Well, some things you’re just going to have to do after I’m gone.”

This exchange is an illuminating one. Ronald Reagan was not only an unusually principled politician; he was also unusually well-grounded. He was at once idealistic and realistic. He had the ability to do more than give speeches; he had the wisdom to govern well and effectively. He was a man in a hurry, but he was never a man in a rush. There was something deeply reassuring and calming about the man from Dixon, Illinois. He was a conservative, not a revolutionary, in spirit, in temperament, and in his essential approach to life. That was one of his many virtues, and something Gingrich has lacked his entire political career.

That is why some of us, even as we’re willing to acknowledge Gingrich’s strengths and contributions during the years, believe he’s fundamentally lacking when it comes to the character–public and private–necessary to be president.

 

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Ominous Sign for Egypt: Carter’s Optimistic

If you weren’t already worried about the direction events are heading in in Egypt, here’s one more reason to be worried: Jimmy Carter’s feeling good about things. Carter, who was in the country monitoring the recent elections, had this to say about the impact of the new Egyptian government on the Middle East peace process:

This new government will probably be much more concerned about the rights of the Palestinians than have the previous rulers or leaders in Egypt, but in my opinion that will be conducive to a better prospect of peace between Israel and its neighbors.

But the only real difference between the Mubarak government and his successors is that the latter are good friends with the Hamas terrorists who run Gaza. In Carter’s distorted worldview, support for Palestinian Islamists is synonymous with “Palestinian rights.” That’s bad enough, but to think the opening up of Hamas’s supply lines and its increased influence will actually lead to peace is so contrary to logic and reason the only conclusion one can draw from such a statement is that any development that heightens Israel’s isolation and increases the danger of terrorism is something the 39th president regards with complacence.

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If you weren’t already worried about the direction events are heading in in Egypt, here’s one more reason to be worried: Jimmy Carter’s feeling good about things. Carter, who was in the country monitoring the recent elections, had this to say about the impact of the new Egyptian government on the Middle East peace process:

This new government will probably be much more concerned about the rights of the Palestinians than have the previous rulers or leaders in Egypt, but in my opinion that will be conducive to a better prospect of peace between Israel and its neighbors.

But the only real difference between the Mubarak government and his successors is that the latter are good friends with the Hamas terrorists who run Gaza. In Carter’s distorted worldview, support for Palestinian Islamists is synonymous with “Palestinian rights.” That’s bad enough, but to think the opening up of Hamas’s supply lines and its increased influence will actually lead to peace is so contrary to logic and reason the only conclusion one can draw from such a statement is that any development that heightens Israel’s isolation and increases the danger of terrorism is something the 39th president regards with complacence.

The Mubarak government had an ambivalent attitude toward the peace process. It was determined to keep the peace with Israel as cold as possible and often contributed rather than calmed tensions. But it was sometimes a better friend to the Palestinians than they understood. If at times Mubarak did his best to alienate Israel while still observing the peace treaty, it was often the result of his speaking up for the Palestinian Authority and backing its obstructionism.

The Palestinians have accused the Egyptians of abandoning them after signing the peace treaty with Israel that Carter helped broker. But any tension between Egypt and the Palestinians was the result of the refusal of Yasir Arafat and his successor Mahmoud Abbas to make the historic compromises that Anwar Sadat made.

It’s worth remembering Sadat made his historic trip to Jerusalem not as the result of prodding by the United States but specifically to head off a U.S. initiative that would have brought the Soviet Union into negotiations and undermined the interests of both Israel and Egypt. In the subsequent talks in which he took part, Carter’s role was such that his antagonism for Israel became as much of an obstacle to peace as anything else. Since then, he has never ceased blaming Israel for everything that happens in the region and subscribing to noxious slanders about it being an “apartheid state.”

Carter’s optimism about the rise of the Muslim Brotherhood and its Hamas allies tells us everything we need to know about the prospects for peace. If he is pleased, then it is a certainty that trouble looms.

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Jimmy Carter Sued for ‘Inaccurate’ Anti-Israel Book

Five readers have filed a $5 million lawsuit against former president Jimmy Carter, alleging that his 2006 anti-Israel book, “Peace Not Apartheid,” was so riddled with inaccuracies and misleading statements that it violated consumer-protection laws:

The suit accuses Carter and his publisher of violating New York consumer protection laws because they engaged in “deceptive acts in the course of conducting business” and alleges that they sought enrichment by promoting the book “as a work of non-fiction.”

In a press release, one of the attorneys, Nitsana Darshan-Leitner stated: “The lawsuit will expose all the falsehoods and misrepresentations in Carter’s book and prove that his hatred of Israel has led him to commit this fraud on the public. He is entitled to his opinions but deceptions and lies have no place in works of history.”

The plaintiffs don’t seem to have much of a legal case here. The spokesperson for Simon & Schuster told the Washington Post that the lawsuit would have “a chilling attack on free speech,” and he’s probably right. Carter’s anti-Israel tome may be a disgraceful distortion of reality, but if that was illegal, then there would be a lot of bankrupt authors.

The main point of the case seems to be to publicize how Carter’s anti-Semitic and anti-Israel views have shaped much of his misleading “advocacy” work in recent years. And that certainly will be fun to watch.

Five readers have filed a $5 million lawsuit against former president Jimmy Carter, alleging that his 2006 anti-Israel book, “Peace Not Apartheid,” was so riddled with inaccuracies and misleading statements that it violated consumer-protection laws:

The suit accuses Carter and his publisher of violating New York consumer protection laws because they engaged in “deceptive acts in the course of conducting business” and alleges that they sought enrichment by promoting the book “as a work of non-fiction.”

In a press release, one of the attorneys, Nitsana Darshan-Leitner stated: “The lawsuit will expose all the falsehoods and misrepresentations in Carter’s book and prove that his hatred of Israel has led him to commit this fraud on the public. He is entitled to his opinions but deceptions and lies have no place in works of history.”

The plaintiffs don’t seem to have much of a legal case here. The spokesperson for Simon & Schuster told the Washington Post that the lawsuit would have “a chilling attack on free speech,” and he’s probably right. Carter’s anti-Israel tome may be a disgraceful distortion of reality, but if that was illegal, then there would be a lot of bankrupt authors.

The main point of the case seems to be to publicize how Carter’s anti-Semitic and anti-Israel views have shaped much of his misleading “advocacy” work in recent years. And that certainly will be fun to watch.

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Obama Must Act Now on Egypt

The president of the United States makes $400,000 a year. He has government-provided housing, a personal chef, his own helicopter and airplane, not to mention the best personal protection in the universe. It is at times like this that he really earns all those nice perks. There is no task more difficult than managing a revolution in progress. Jimmy Carter got it wrong in Nicaragua, and Iran and went down as a failure. Ronald Reagan got it right in the Philippines and South Korea, which contributed to the overall success of his presidency.

So far, I haven’t seen much evidence that Obama is earning his salary with his response to the revolution in Egypt. On Friday, he delivered an ultra-cautious statement, telling the “Egyptian authorities to refrain from any violence against peaceful protesters” and saying that “the people of Egypt have rights,” including “the right to peaceful assembly and association, the right to free speech and the ability to determine their own destiny.” But he stopped well short of telling Hosni Mubarak, who is clearly on his last legs, that it was time for him to go — a message that Ronald Reagan memorably delivered via his friend Senator Paul Laxalt to Ferdinand Marcos in 1986.

The New York Times explains Obama’s reticence by citing a “senior administration official” who said that “Mr. Obama warned that any overt effort by the United States to insert itself into easing Mr. Mubarak out, or easing a successor in, could backfire. ‘He said several times that the outcome has to be decided by the Egyptian people, and the U.S. cannot be in a position of dictating events.’”

Problem is, taking no stand isn’t an option for the United States in this situation. For decades, Egypt has been one of the largest recipients of American foreign aid, and Mubarak has been one of our closest allies in the Middle East. Egyptian officers have been educated in the United States, its forces are equipped with American weapons, and they regularly conduct exercises with American troops. We have a large say, whether we want it or not. If Obama stays silent about Mubarak’s future, that will be interpreted within Egypt as American support for an increasingly discredited dictator. Read More

The president of the United States makes $400,000 a year. He has government-provided housing, a personal chef, his own helicopter and airplane, not to mention the best personal protection in the universe. It is at times like this that he really earns all those nice perks. There is no task more difficult than managing a revolution in progress. Jimmy Carter got it wrong in Nicaragua, and Iran and went down as a failure. Ronald Reagan got it right in the Philippines and South Korea, which contributed to the overall success of his presidency.

So far, I haven’t seen much evidence that Obama is earning his salary with his response to the revolution in Egypt. On Friday, he delivered an ultra-cautious statement, telling the “Egyptian authorities to refrain from any violence against peaceful protesters” and saying that “the people of Egypt have rights,” including “the right to peaceful assembly and association, the right to free speech and the ability to determine their own destiny.” But he stopped well short of telling Hosni Mubarak, who is clearly on his last legs, that it was time for him to go — a message that Ronald Reagan memorably delivered via his friend Senator Paul Laxalt to Ferdinand Marcos in 1986.

The New York Times explains Obama’s reticence by citing a “senior administration official” who said that “Mr. Obama warned that any overt effort by the United States to insert itself into easing Mr. Mubarak out, or easing a successor in, could backfire. ‘He said several times that the outcome has to be decided by the Egyptian people, and the U.S. cannot be in a position of dictating events.’”

Problem is, taking no stand isn’t an option for the United States in this situation. For decades, Egypt has been one of the largest recipients of American foreign aid, and Mubarak has been one of our closest allies in the Middle East. Egyptian officers have been educated in the United States, its forces are equipped with American weapons, and they regularly conduct exercises with American troops. We have a large say, whether we want it or not. If Obama stays silent about Mubarak’s future, that will be interpreted within Egypt as American support for an increasingly discredited dictator.

The Working Group on Egypt, co-chaired by Bob Kagan and Michele Dunn at Brookings, suggests a more muscular response. They urge Obama to “call for free and fair elections for president and for parliament to be held as soon as possible” and for the government to “immediately lift the state of emergency” and “publicly declare that Mr. Mubarak will agree not to run for re-election.” And just to drive the point home: “We further recommend that the Obama administration suspend all economic and military assistance to Egypt until the government accepts and implements these measures.”

That’s more like it. The one recommendation I am not sold on is immediate elections (though, admittedly, there’s wiggle room in the phrase “as soon as possible”). As we’ve seen in Iraq and Afghanistan, elections that occur in an atmosphere of instability can exacerbate that instability. This is an especially tricky moment in Egypt because Mubarak has ruthlessly repressed the secular opposition. The only large nongovernmental organization in the country is the Muslim Brotherhood. The Islamists would thus have an advantage in any immediate election, which could allow them to win, as Hamas won Palestinian elections in 2006, even though they have not been at the forefront of recent protests and most Egyptians would no doubt recoil from the imposition of an Iranian-style theocracy. (Whether the Brotherhood would in fact try to impose such a regime is unknown. Unfortunately, the only way to find out would be to let them take over.)

A safer alternative, to my mind, would be to call for Mubarak to step down immediately and hand over power to a transition government led by Mohammed ElBaradai, the secular technocrat who has recently returned to Egypt to become the most high-profile opposition leader. As is now happening in Tunisia, he could work with military support to prepare the way for elections in a suitable period of time — say in six months or a year.

But I think the Working Group is right to grasp that standing pat isn’t really an option anymore. In this case, the best advice was offered by a conservative Sicilian aristocrat, Giuseppe di Lampedusa, in his great novel The Leopard (1958), where he wrote that “everything must change so that everything can stay the same.”

In other words, if the U.S. is to have any hope of salvaging our alliance with Egypt, we need to embrace the change wanted by its people — not try to cling blindly to a past represented by Mubarak and his mini-me, the intelligence chief Omar Suleiman, who has just been appointed vice president and putative successor.

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Lebanon: An Inflection Point for the Status Quo

The stakes are as high as they could possibly be in Lebanon: Hezbollah, the terrorist group backed by Iran, has obtained coalition approval to nominate its own candidate for prime minister as a replacement for Saad Hariri. (Hezbollah’s first choice, Omar Karami, declined to accept the nomination, so the group has moved on to another “consensus” candidate, Najib Mikati.) If this nomination goes forward and the installation of a new government can be enforced, the Hezbollah-led coalition will rule Lebanon.

Hezbollah is overlaying the process — in effect, an unfolding coup — with a veneer of parliamentary order. This isn’t fooling the Lebanese, who were out in force Monday protesting the move. But has it muted the Obama administration? We may well wonder. On Thursday, the brief comment on Lebanon by State Department spokesman Philip Crowley featured this disingenuous assessment: “There’s a constitutional process underway.” On Monday, the U.S. issued a narrow ––and pointless — warning about American support being “difficult” to continue if Hezbollah assumes a dominant role in the government.

The crucial element in Lebanon’s current crisis will be what the U.S. and the West do about Hezbollah’s power move. This hinge point is crucial not merely because it affects the future of Lebanon and the stability of the Levant, but because its outcome, one way or another, will be a signal to everyone around the globe who has plans to challenge the status quo. Analogies between the Cold War and today’s confrontation with organized Islamism are notoriously inexact, but Hezbollah’s move this month has many features in common with the political subversion campaigns that were the hallmark of Soviet-backed Marxist factions from the 1940s to the 1970s.

In this context, there is a poignant rumor being reported in Arab press that highlights one particular aspect of the West’s current posture. According to this blogger’s quote of a Kuwaiti daily, two “Western” aircraft carriers have been urgently dispatched from the Persian Gulf to the waters off Lebanon. Citing an EU official, the referenced news report offers completely unrealistic numbers (including “210 fighter jets”) for the force supposedly converging on the Eastern Mediterranean. The only realistic aspect of the report is that there have been, in fact, two Western carriers in the Gulf region: USS Abraham Lincoln and the French carrier Charles de Gaulle. Read More

The stakes are as high as they could possibly be in Lebanon: Hezbollah, the terrorist group backed by Iran, has obtained coalition approval to nominate its own candidate for prime minister as a replacement for Saad Hariri. (Hezbollah’s first choice, Omar Karami, declined to accept the nomination, so the group has moved on to another “consensus” candidate, Najib Mikati.) If this nomination goes forward and the installation of a new government can be enforced, the Hezbollah-led coalition will rule Lebanon.

Hezbollah is overlaying the process — in effect, an unfolding coup — with a veneer of parliamentary order. This isn’t fooling the Lebanese, who were out in force Monday protesting the move. But has it muted the Obama administration? We may well wonder. On Thursday, the brief comment on Lebanon by State Department spokesman Philip Crowley featured this disingenuous assessment: “There’s a constitutional process underway.” On Monday, the U.S. issued a narrow ––and pointless — warning about American support being “difficult” to continue if Hezbollah assumes a dominant role in the government.

The crucial element in Lebanon’s current crisis will be what the U.S. and the West do about Hezbollah’s power move. This hinge point is crucial not merely because it affects the future of Lebanon and the stability of the Levant, but because its outcome, one way or another, will be a signal to everyone around the globe who has plans to challenge the status quo. Analogies between the Cold War and today’s confrontation with organized Islamism are notoriously inexact, but Hezbollah’s move this month has many features in common with the political subversion campaigns that were the hallmark of Soviet-backed Marxist factions from the 1940s to the 1970s.

In this context, there is a poignant rumor being reported in Arab press that highlights one particular aspect of the West’s current posture. According to this blogger’s quote of a Kuwaiti daily, two “Western” aircraft carriers have been urgently dispatched from the Persian Gulf to the waters off Lebanon. Citing an EU official, the referenced news report offers completely unrealistic numbers (including “210 fighter jets”) for the force supposedly converging on the Eastern Mediterranean. The only realistic aspect of the report is that there have been, in fact, two Western carriers in the Gulf region: USS Abraham Lincoln and the French carrier Charles de Gaulle.

But the days when the Western navies had plenty of carriers to move around from crisis to crisis are behind us. Two carriers may be in the Mediterranean shortly, but not because they were urgently dispatched. Abraham Lincoln is tethered to our requirements in Southwest Asia; USS Enterprise, on the way to relieve Lincoln on-station, is transiting through the Mediterranean. Charles de Gaulle, France’s only aircraft carrier, has been scheduled since her deployment in October to return home in February.

NATO’s non-U.S. carrier force is razor thin. Charles de Gaulle’s departure from France last fall was marred by a breakdown that delayed this very rare deployment by several weeks. Britain, once a reliable dispatcher of aircraft carriers, is in worse shape: just this weekend, the Royal Navy sent its last fighter-jet carrier, HMS Ark Royal, to be decommissioned. Britain won’t have a carrier that can deploy fighter jets again until 2020. In this capability, Italy now outstrips Britain: the Italians have two carriers that can each transport eight Harrier jump-jets. Spain has one.

For the U.S., as for France, putting a carrier off Lebanon entails rigorously prioritizing crises: either leaving some unattended or accepting schedule gaps down the road. With enough effort, the U.S. and France could still seek to affect the outcome in Lebanon with an offshore show of force. But the regional expectation implied by the Arab press rumor — the sense that Western navies can easily bring overwhelming force to a crisis — is outdated today.

Margin and latitude in our force options are casualties of the extended post–Cold War drawdown. At a juncture evocative of previous dilemmas for U.S. presidents, Obama would do better to take his cue from Harry Truman in the late 1940s than from Jimmy Carter in the late 1970s. One way or another, this crisis in Lebanon will have a disproportionate impact on the future.

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MSNBC’s Selective History

Courtesy of Newsbusters, MSNBC is airing a promo for President Obama’s forthcoming State of the Union. It features video from previous State of the Union speeches. The presidents you see and hear from are, in order, John F. Kennedy, Lyndon Johnson, Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton, and Barack Obama.

Following the clips, you read these words: “America Always Believes in a Better Future.”

So who might be missing from this pantheon? Try Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, and George W. Bush, just for starters. Perhaps at MSNBC, those Republicans are viewed as an obstacle to a better future.

The slogan “Lean Forward” might be better understood as “Lean Left.” And in MSNBC’s case, Very Left.

Courtesy of Newsbusters, MSNBC is airing a promo for President Obama’s forthcoming State of the Union. It features video from previous State of the Union speeches. The presidents you see and hear from are, in order, John F. Kennedy, Lyndon Johnson, Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton, and Barack Obama.

Following the clips, you read these words: “America Always Believes in a Better Future.”

So who might be missing from this pantheon? Try Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, and George W. Bush, just for starters. Perhaps at MSNBC, those Republicans are viewed as an obstacle to a better future.

The slogan “Lean Forward” might be better understood as “Lean Left.” And in MSNBC’s case, Very Left.

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More Ethics Troubles for J Street President

It looks like the left-wing “pro-Israel” group J Street can now add “self-dealing” to its growing list of scandals. Documents obtained by the Washington Times reveal that the group paid at least $56,000 to Ben-Or Consulting, an Israeli firm co-owned by J Street president Jeremy Ben-Ami. This discovery isn’t as juicy as some of the previous ones — it’s hard to top lying about taking money from George Soros and aiding congressional visits for Judge Richard Goldstone. But it certainly confirms the group’s aversion to ethics and truth-telling:

“Even if it’s technically legal, it gets very messy when you have these sorts of deals going on because, if you’re going to benefit on the other end of it, be it 100 percent or 5 percent, it raises questions about objectivity and the arms’ length in the transaction,” said Ken Berger, president of Charity Navigator.

“If you want your organization to use a particular company, ideally there would be a clean break one way or the other. So you would either sell off your interest in that company or step down from the board during the period of time when this is going so that there would be no question as to what’s going on in the boardroom.”

Ben-Ami co-founded the firm more than a decade ago but left in 2000. He still owns 15 percent of the company, which is clearly not a trifling portion. And while there’s no indication that his actions were illegal, there’s also no denying that Ben-Ami had a financial interest in the decision to use Ben-Or Consulting. Even if he doesn’t currently collect dividends (which the Times was unable to confirm), he still has a financial stake if and when the company gets sold.

Obviously, it wouldn’t be a J Street scandal without some amusingly evasive double-talk from Ben-Ami, who told the Times that “as a token of my role as a co-founder, we left 15 percent of the shares of the firm in my name — an agreement that has no financial implications for me personally, for J Street or for the firm.”

Seriously? No financial implications? Maybe he should have coordinated that response with Ben-Or Consulting, which pretty much contradicted Ben-Ami’s claim. “[Ben-Ami] would receive 15 percent of the proceeds if the firm is ever sold,” a spokesperson from the firm told the Times.

It also looks like Ben-Or Consulting has some notorious Israel-bashers as clients. The company’s website boasts that it represents former president Jimmy Carter, the Association for Civil Rights in Israel, and Yesh Din — all of which accuse Israel of promoting “apartheid” policies. But these are also just the clients that Ben-Or lists publicly. J Street is conspicuously absent from the list, so it wouldn’t be shocking if we learned that the names of some other clients were withheld as well.

It looks like the left-wing “pro-Israel” group J Street can now add “self-dealing” to its growing list of scandals. Documents obtained by the Washington Times reveal that the group paid at least $56,000 to Ben-Or Consulting, an Israeli firm co-owned by J Street president Jeremy Ben-Ami. This discovery isn’t as juicy as some of the previous ones — it’s hard to top lying about taking money from George Soros and aiding congressional visits for Judge Richard Goldstone. But it certainly confirms the group’s aversion to ethics and truth-telling:

“Even if it’s technically legal, it gets very messy when you have these sorts of deals going on because, if you’re going to benefit on the other end of it, be it 100 percent or 5 percent, it raises questions about objectivity and the arms’ length in the transaction,” said Ken Berger, president of Charity Navigator.

“If you want your organization to use a particular company, ideally there would be a clean break one way or the other. So you would either sell off your interest in that company or step down from the board during the period of time when this is going so that there would be no question as to what’s going on in the boardroom.”

Ben-Ami co-founded the firm more than a decade ago but left in 2000. He still owns 15 percent of the company, which is clearly not a trifling portion. And while there’s no indication that his actions were illegal, there’s also no denying that Ben-Ami had a financial interest in the decision to use Ben-Or Consulting. Even if he doesn’t currently collect dividends (which the Times was unable to confirm), he still has a financial stake if and when the company gets sold.

Obviously, it wouldn’t be a J Street scandal without some amusingly evasive double-talk from Ben-Ami, who told the Times that “as a token of my role as a co-founder, we left 15 percent of the shares of the firm in my name — an agreement that has no financial implications for me personally, for J Street or for the firm.”

Seriously? No financial implications? Maybe he should have coordinated that response with Ben-Or Consulting, which pretty much contradicted Ben-Ami’s claim. “[Ben-Ami] would receive 15 percent of the proceeds if the firm is ever sold,” a spokesperson from the firm told the Times.

It also looks like Ben-Or Consulting has some notorious Israel-bashers as clients. The company’s website boasts that it represents former president Jimmy Carter, the Association for Civil Rights in Israel, and Yesh Din — all of which accuse Israel of promoting “apartheid” policies. But these are also just the clients that Ben-Or lists publicly. J Street is conspicuously absent from the list, so it wouldn’t be shocking if we learned that the names of some other clients were withheld as well.

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Add at Least One More Name to the 2012 List

In her post about potential 2012 Republican presidential candidates, Jennifer noted that “the most widely discussed contenders (Mitt Romney, Sarah Palin, Mike Huckabee, Mitch Daniels, Tim Pawlenty, Newt Gingrich, etc.) haven’t filled the base and party activists with optimism” and that fresher faces such as Chris Christie and Marco Rubio are not interested.

Even with the addition of Christie and Rubio, however, that list contains only eight names. Consider the following from Jimmy Carter’s White House Diaries, indicating that only a year and a half before being nominated, Carter ranked considerably lower than ninth:

About the time I announced my candidacy for president in December 1974, Gallup published a poll that included the question “Among Democrats, whom do you prefer as the next nominee?” There were thirty-two names on Gallup’s list of potential candidates, including George Wallace, Hubert Humphrey, Henry (Scoop) Jackson, Walter Mondale, John Glenn, and even Georgia legislator Julian Bond. My name was not mentioned.

This is not to say that Republicans should be looking for a new face simply because the usual suspects carry varying weights of baggage. Someone may seem an attractive alternative only because he lacks the baggage any person who has been in the arena will have acquired. Surely the past two years have taught us that the presidency is not the right place for someone, no matter how attractive, who does not have much on his resume under the categories of “Experience,” “Accomplishments,” and “Significant Votes Other Than Present.”

But there is at least one person who combines a relatively fresh face with substantial experience and accomplishments: Mike Pence. The current issue of Imprimis features his remarkable Hillsdale College speech, “The Presidency and the Constitution,” worth reading in its entirety. Here are excerpts from the final paragraphs, which reach a level of eloquence considerably beyond hope, change, and receding oceans:

As Americans, we inherit what Lincoln in his First Inaugural called “the mystic chords of memory stretching from every patriot grave.” They bind us to the great and the humble, the known and the unknown of Americans past—and if I hear them clearly, what they say is that although we may have strayed, we have not strayed too far to return, for we are their descendants. … We owe a debt to those who came before, who did great things, and suffered more than we suffer, and gave more than we give, and pledged their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor for us, whom they did not know. …

Many great generations are gone, but by the character and memory of their existence they forbid us to despair of the republic. I see them crossing the prairies in the sun and wind. I see their faces looking out from steel mills and coal mines, and immigrant ships crawling into the harbors at dawn. I see them at war, at work and at peace. I see them, long departed, looking into the camera, with hopeful and sad eyes. And I see them embracing their children, who became us. …

They are silent now and forever, but from the eternal silence of every patriot grave there is yet an echo that says, “It is not too late; keep faith with us, keep faith with God, and do not, do not ever despair of the republic.”

It may be worth noting that Pence also gave a significant speech last month at the 10th Annual Friends of the Family Banquet. It was in Iowa.

In her post about potential 2012 Republican presidential candidates, Jennifer noted that “the most widely discussed contenders (Mitt Romney, Sarah Palin, Mike Huckabee, Mitch Daniels, Tim Pawlenty, Newt Gingrich, etc.) haven’t filled the base and party activists with optimism” and that fresher faces such as Chris Christie and Marco Rubio are not interested.

Even with the addition of Christie and Rubio, however, that list contains only eight names. Consider the following from Jimmy Carter’s White House Diaries, indicating that only a year and a half before being nominated, Carter ranked considerably lower than ninth:

About the time I announced my candidacy for president in December 1974, Gallup published a poll that included the question “Among Democrats, whom do you prefer as the next nominee?” There were thirty-two names on Gallup’s list of potential candidates, including George Wallace, Hubert Humphrey, Henry (Scoop) Jackson, Walter Mondale, John Glenn, and even Georgia legislator Julian Bond. My name was not mentioned.

This is not to say that Republicans should be looking for a new face simply because the usual suspects carry varying weights of baggage. Someone may seem an attractive alternative only because he lacks the baggage any person who has been in the arena will have acquired. Surely the past two years have taught us that the presidency is not the right place for someone, no matter how attractive, who does not have much on his resume under the categories of “Experience,” “Accomplishments,” and “Significant Votes Other Than Present.”

But there is at least one person who combines a relatively fresh face with substantial experience and accomplishments: Mike Pence. The current issue of Imprimis features his remarkable Hillsdale College speech, “The Presidency and the Constitution,” worth reading in its entirety. Here are excerpts from the final paragraphs, which reach a level of eloquence considerably beyond hope, change, and receding oceans:

As Americans, we inherit what Lincoln in his First Inaugural called “the mystic chords of memory stretching from every patriot grave.” They bind us to the great and the humble, the known and the unknown of Americans past—and if I hear them clearly, what they say is that although we may have strayed, we have not strayed too far to return, for we are their descendants. … We owe a debt to those who came before, who did great things, and suffered more than we suffer, and gave more than we give, and pledged their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor for us, whom they did not know. …

Many great generations are gone, but by the character and memory of their existence they forbid us to despair of the republic. I see them crossing the prairies in the sun and wind. I see their faces looking out from steel mills and coal mines, and immigrant ships crawling into the harbors at dawn. I see them at war, at work and at peace. I see them, long departed, looking into the camera, with hopeful and sad eyes. And I see them embracing their children, who became us. …

They are silent now and forever, but from the eternal silence of every patriot grave there is yet an echo that says, “It is not too late; keep faith with us, keep faith with God, and do not, do not ever despair of the republic.”

It may be worth noting that Pence also gave a significant speech last month at the 10th Annual Friends of the Family Banquet. It was in Iowa.

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The Conservative Moment

One of the more interesting facts surrounding the midterm elections is that Barack Obama, the most activist, liberal president since Lyndon Johnson, is presiding over a collapse of confidence in government.

According to ABC News, optimism in the country’s system of government has dropped to a new low when measured against polls going back 36 years. In 1974 — shortly after Richard Nixon’s resignation in the Watergate scandal — 55 percent of Americans were optimistic about “our system of government and how well it works.” Today, 33 percent say that, the lowest number in nearly a dozen measurements taken through decades.

In addition, a Politico/George Washington University Battleground Poll reported that 69 percent of independents say they have less faith in government now than they did just before Obama was elected.

A president who appears to have almost limitless faith in big government is the architect of growing public disdain for it. “Our ills are creating their own antibodies,” Margaret Thatcher said in 1977, as the conditions were being put in place that swept her to the position of prime minister in the United Kingdom.

In America today we are seeing something similar occur. Mr. Obama’s unchecked liberalism, combined with a struggling economy and a growing sense of governing ineptness, is creating a new conservative moment. The most powerful political idea in America today — the one that is creating the framework for today’s election — is the need to re-limit government as a means to restore economic growth.

Over the next several years, the task of the GOP will be to demonstrate that they have a plan that matches the gravity of this moment. Whether they achieve this or not is an open question. But the fact that they have this opportunity is not. Like Jimmy Carter before him, Barack Obama — by discrediting liberalism — is creating a large new opening for conservatives. It is up to them to seize it.

One of the more interesting facts surrounding the midterm elections is that Barack Obama, the most activist, liberal president since Lyndon Johnson, is presiding over a collapse of confidence in government.

According to ABC News, optimism in the country’s system of government has dropped to a new low when measured against polls going back 36 years. In 1974 — shortly after Richard Nixon’s resignation in the Watergate scandal — 55 percent of Americans were optimistic about “our system of government and how well it works.” Today, 33 percent say that, the lowest number in nearly a dozen measurements taken through decades.

In addition, a Politico/George Washington University Battleground Poll reported that 69 percent of independents say they have less faith in government now than they did just before Obama was elected.

A president who appears to have almost limitless faith in big government is the architect of growing public disdain for it. “Our ills are creating their own antibodies,” Margaret Thatcher said in 1977, as the conditions were being put in place that swept her to the position of prime minister in the United Kingdom.

In America today we are seeing something similar occur. Mr. Obama’s unchecked liberalism, combined with a struggling economy and a growing sense of governing ineptness, is creating a new conservative moment. The most powerful political idea in America today — the one that is creating the framework for today’s election — is the need to re-limit government as a means to restore economic growth.

Over the next several years, the task of the GOP will be to demonstrate that they have a plan that matches the gravity of this moment. Whether they achieve this or not is an open question. But the fact that they have this opportunity is not. Like Jimmy Carter before him, Barack Obama — by discrediting liberalism — is creating a large new opening for conservatives. It is up to them to seize it.

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Predictions

On Tuesday, Democrats will suffer an epic defeat — worse even than in 1946, when Republicans gained 12 Senate seats and 55 House seats. The GOP will pick up at least 73 House seats, 10 Senate seats, and eight governorships. The GOP’s turnout will be huge and independents will break massively for Republican candidates across the country. Among Democrats, this will trigger despair and bitter recriminations. President Obama will immediately be placed on probation by his own party and may well face a serious primary challenge, just as Jimmy Carter did in 1979.

As Democrats sort through the rubble caused by Tuesday’s landslide — even Wisconsin will become a red state — they will realize what many of us have warned them of for quite some time: Barack Obama and his agenda are having a Kevorkian-like effect on the Democratic Party. If the economy doesn’t noticeably improve by next fall — and, at this stage, there are no signs that it will — more and more Democrats will find it in their self-interest to detach themselves from Obama. And Team Obama’s political strategy this cycle — in which they never settled on a consistent narrative beyond attacking huge swaths of the American people as being ignorant, unappreciative, and tinged with racism — will be judged as one of the most inept in American history.

The next two years will feature stalemate and confrontation between Capitol Hill and the White House. President Obama, unlike Bill Clinton, is not likely to tack to the center. Mr. Clinton was a New Democrat; Mr. Obama has shown himself to be a man of the left, through and through. The class of 2010 will be less interested in compromise with the president than the class of 1994. And the new Speaker of the House, John Boehner, will have far less latitude to strike deals than did Newt Gingrich.

In 2011, Paul Ryan, chairman of the Budget Committee, will emerge as one of the five most important Republicans on Capitol Hill. Marco Rubio will become a GOP superstar. And wise Republicans will promote governors as the face of the Republican Party, reassuring both independents and conservatives who are skeptical about Congressional Republicans and their capacity to govern well.

The danger for Barack Obama is that in the wake of his party’s crushing defeat, he will show little genuine self-reflection. The president, David Axelrod, and Valerie Jarrett may well comfort themselves by telling each other, especially in their private moments, that the public — gripped by fear, irrationality, and a touch of bigotry — was not able to comprehend Obama’s true greatness. Tuesday’s results will be interpreted as a “communications” failure and laid at the feet of a bad economy, which (they will insist) Obama has nothing to do with.

In point of fact, the American people are seeing things for what they are. And if Mr. Obama continues to rationalize his party’s comeuppance by making excuses, blaming others, and lashing out at his “enemies,” the president’s problems — already enormous — will multiply.

Barack Obama’s political world is about to be rocked. We’ll see how he reacts to it.

On Tuesday, Democrats will suffer an epic defeat — worse even than in 1946, when Republicans gained 12 Senate seats and 55 House seats. The GOP will pick up at least 73 House seats, 10 Senate seats, and eight governorships. The GOP’s turnout will be huge and independents will break massively for Republican candidates across the country. Among Democrats, this will trigger despair and bitter recriminations. President Obama will immediately be placed on probation by his own party and may well face a serious primary challenge, just as Jimmy Carter did in 1979.

As Democrats sort through the rubble caused by Tuesday’s landslide — even Wisconsin will become a red state — they will realize what many of us have warned them of for quite some time: Barack Obama and his agenda are having a Kevorkian-like effect on the Democratic Party. If the economy doesn’t noticeably improve by next fall — and, at this stage, there are no signs that it will — more and more Democrats will find it in their self-interest to detach themselves from Obama. And Team Obama’s political strategy this cycle — in which they never settled on a consistent narrative beyond attacking huge swaths of the American people as being ignorant, unappreciative, and tinged with racism — will be judged as one of the most inept in American history.

The next two years will feature stalemate and confrontation between Capitol Hill and the White House. President Obama, unlike Bill Clinton, is not likely to tack to the center. Mr. Clinton was a New Democrat; Mr. Obama has shown himself to be a man of the left, through and through. The class of 2010 will be less interested in compromise with the president than the class of 1994. And the new Speaker of the House, John Boehner, will have far less latitude to strike deals than did Newt Gingrich.

In 2011, Paul Ryan, chairman of the Budget Committee, will emerge as one of the five most important Republicans on Capitol Hill. Marco Rubio will become a GOP superstar. And wise Republicans will promote governors as the face of the Republican Party, reassuring both independents and conservatives who are skeptical about Congressional Republicans and their capacity to govern well.

The danger for Barack Obama is that in the wake of his party’s crushing defeat, he will show little genuine self-reflection. The president, David Axelrod, and Valerie Jarrett may well comfort themselves by telling each other, especially in their private moments, that the public — gripped by fear, irrationality, and a touch of bigotry — was not able to comprehend Obama’s true greatness. Tuesday’s results will be interpreted as a “communications” failure and laid at the feet of a bad economy, which (they will insist) Obama has nothing to do with.

In point of fact, the American people are seeing things for what they are. And if Mr. Obama continues to rationalize his party’s comeuppance by making excuses, blaming others, and lashing out at his “enemies,” the president’s problems — already enormous — will multiply.

Barack Obama’s political world is about to be rocked. We’ll see how he reacts to it.

Read Less




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