Commentary Magazine


Topic: Jonathan Chait

In Praise of Fair-Minded Liberals

The indictment of Texas Governor Rick Perry is a travesty of justice. The Wall Street Journal has an outstanding editorial explaining why. But I also want to give a tip of the hat to Harvard Law Professor Alan Dershowitz, who said in an interview that he was “outraged” over the indictment of Perry on charges of abuse of power and coercion.

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The indictment of Texas Governor Rick Perry is a travesty of justice. The Wall Street Journal has an outstanding editorial explaining why. But I also want to give a tip of the hat to Harvard Law Professor Alan Dershowitz, who said in an interview that he was “outraged” over the indictment of Perry on charges of abuse of power and coercion.

The indictment is, Dershowitz told Newsmax.com, politically motivated and an example of a “dangerous” trend of courts being used to alter the results of the ballot box.

“Everybody, liberal or conservative, should stand against this indictment,” Dershowitz said. “If you don’t like how Rick Perry uses his office, don’t vote for him.”

That is exactly right. The case against Perry is stunningly weak and partisan. Jonathan Chait, another liberal who is looking at this matter fairly, explains why here.

It’s rare these days that people of one political ideology defend those who hold another. That’s what Professor Dershowitz and Mr. Chait are doing, and they deserve credit for having done so.

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The Media’s Apocalyptic Vision of Richard Mourdock

Conservatives often complain that when the mainstream media is forced by events to pay attention to conservative views they have long ignored, the tone of the reporting often is that of an anthropological grant application. The reporters brave the native habitat of conservatives and find that they’re practically human. But that’s actually better than what we witnessed after Richard Mourdock defeated Richard Lugar in the Indiana GOP Senate primary this week.

Lugar, you may have heard, has been in the Senate a very long time, and he is a statesman and throwback to the gilded era of Republican acquiescence–sorry, bipartisanship, and statesmanship. A true mensch, a centrist Republican, Dick Lugar was, above all, a statesman, we are now told. But what about Mourdock, the man vying to replace Lugar in the Senate? Is he a statesman? Let’s find out, by reading some of the liberal write-ups of the election. The results may surprise you.

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Conservatives often complain that when the mainstream media is forced by events to pay attention to conservative views they have long ignored, the tone of the reporting often is that of an anthropological grant application. The reporters brave the native habitat of conservatives and find that they’re practically human. But that’s actually better than what we witnessed after Richard Mourdock defeated Richard Lugar in the Indiana GOP Senate primary this week.

Lugar, you may have heard, has been in the Senate a very long time, and he is a statesman and throwback to the gilded era of Republican acquiescence–sorry, bipartisanship, and statesmanship. A true mensch, a centrist Republican, Dick Lugar was, above all, a statesman, we are now told. But what about Mourdock, the man vying to replace Lugar in the Senate? Is he a statesman? Let’s find out, by reading some of the liberal write-ups of the election. The results may surprise you.

Salon, for example, carries a story titled “Republican Party: Hawks-only club.” The article details how Mourdock’s victory makes the GOP uniformly hawkish on foreign policy. Most of the article is an explanation of why liberals liked Lugar so much, but finally the author gives us the damage: “In practical terms, Lugar’s loss means that U.S. foreign policy will be less civilized, less responsible and less effective.”

I noticed something was missing from this article, however: it omits any mention whatsoever of Richard Mourdock’s views on foreign policy. This is a rather glaring omission, but maybe the reporter’s instincts are right.

To find out, let’s head on over to an expert on foreign policy, Tom Ricks. Ricks maintains a blog on Foreign Policy’s website, and sure enough he weighed in on Mourdock’s victory. He, too, was horrified by the erosion of the foreign policy center. But he has a somewhat different take on what it means. Mourdock’s victory, Ricks admits, “makes me wonder if the great Midwest is turning away from internationalism and back to its pre-World War II isolationism.”

So Salon was wrong? Mourdock is the opposite of a hawkish hawk? He’s actually an isolationist? I wondered what led Ricks to this conclusion, but his post didn’t help me answer that question, because Ricks doesn’t even mention Mourdock’s name, let alone Mourdock’s views on foreign policy.

Now, I know what you’re thinking. Reporters sometimes trick politicians into revealing what they think by employing an age-old tactic commonly referred to as “asking them questions.” It turns out that some reporters did. Richard Mourdock, as a supporter of cutting the Pentagon’s budget and skeptical of the mission in Afghanistan, is not a superhawk, as Salon would have it. But he also believes America plays an important role in the world, and that it must not retreat from its responsibilities around the globe. So he isn’t an isolationist either.

But if he’s starting to sound like a mainstream candidate, he’s got you fooled. Richard Mourdock is, according to the sandwich board Jonathan Chait has been wearing around town, the harbinger of doom. This is an interesting point of view coming from Chait, who is the author of the magnum opus of leftist anti-intellectualism and anthem of paranoid incivility, “Mad About You: The Case for Bush Hatred.” Some things have changed since Chait published his plea for incivility–namely, we have a Democratic president. So now it’s time to protect “social norms”–specifically, he says, court-related social norms permitting the confirmation of a president’s court picks. Mourdock cited Lugar’s support for President Obama’s Supreme Court picks in his case against the incumbent senator, mirroring a Republican approach to politics that is, in Chait’s view, bringing upon us a “crisis of American government.”

Some have pointed out that the collapse of the nomination process was brought about by Ted Kennedy and Joe Biden when they took a sledgehammer to “social norms” during the confirmation process of Robert Bork. That’s true. But I’d like to defend Chait somewhat. I, too, have been concerned about the collapse of social norms.

For example, it was once a social norm never to use the filibuster against a circuit court nominee. But then George W. Bush nominated Miguel Estrada, an undeniably qualified candidate, to sit on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia. The Democrats were playing the long game, however, and were willing to buck social norms in order to prevent the Republicans from starting a process that would end with a conservative Hispanic judge on the Supreme Court. So they blocked Estrada.

In October 2003, the Associated Press reported that Democrats were preparing to expand their use of the filibuster to everything the GOP put forward. “Perhaps we ought to prepare some bumper stickers that say ‘Obstruction: It’s not just for judges anymore’,” remarked Republican John Cornyn.

More recently, Harry Reid has perfected a tactic called “filling the tree” to prevent Republicans from even being able to offer amendments on bills. Reid and the Democrats are, it turns out, innovators in the means to tear down social norms and prevent the government from functioning as it was intended. In fact, it’s now been more than three years since Reid’s Senate passed a budget.

But hey, at least he didn’t criticize a Democratic nominee who was confirmed anyway. Now that would just be uncivil.

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Some Thoughts on Civility

There is a lot of talk about civility in public discourse these days. This is a matter on which Michael Gerson and I have written about before, including in COMMENTARY (see the end of this essay) and in City of Man: Religion and Politics in a New Era (see chapter 6, “Persuasion and the Public Square”).

On this topic, then, I would make several points.

First, there are eminently practical reasons for public figures to use reasonably civil language. After all, they are engaged in efforts to persuade people, not browbeat them. Language that is reasonable, judicious, and sober tends to be preferred to language that is abrasive and abusive. People tend to be drawn to political movements and political parties whose representatives are winsome rather than enraged, who radiate a sense of self-possession and good cheer rather than what Nietzsche, in On The Genealogy of Morals, called ressentiment, or resentment.

Lincoln put it as well as anyone when he said:

When the conduct of men is designed to be influenced, persuasion, kind, unassuming persuasion, should ever be adopted. It is an old and true maxim “that a drop of honey catches more flies than a gallon of gall.” So with men. If you would win a man to your cause, first convince him that you are his sincere friend. Therein is a drop of honey that catches his heart, which, say what you will, is the great high road to reason.

Among the gifts that political figures like Ronald Reagan and intellectual figures like Irving Kristol gave to conservatism was help in shedding its attitude of defensiveness toward the world. That is not a place to which conservatism wants to return.

In addition, treating people with civility is connected to a view of human beings and their inherent dignity. Making bad arguments obviously doesn’t make someone a bad person; and even when one is on the receiving end of ad hominem attacks (as many people in politics have been), there are still standards one ought to adhere to.

Now, I wouldn’t pretend for a moment this is easy or that I myself haven’t edged up to, or even at times crossed, the line separating spirited debate from inappropriate remarks. Readers of CONTENTIONS are free to review my exchanges with Joe Klein, Jonathan Chait, John Derbyshire, and others and decide for themselves. Suffice it to say that what St. Paul called the “fruit of the Spirit” — love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control — are not in oversupply in politics. And for those of us who are engaged in politics and the philosophies and ideas behind it, the temptation to be drawn into the mud pit is a strong one. Read More

There is a lot of talk about civility in public discourse these days. This is a matter on which Michael Gerson and I have written about before, including in COMMENTARY (see the end of this essay) and in City of Man: Religion and Politics in a New Era (see chapter 6, “Persuasion and the Public Square”).

On this topic, then, I would make several points.

First, there are eminently practical reasons for public figures to use reasonably civil language. After all, they are engaged in efforts to persuade people, not browbeat them. Language that is reasonable, judicious, and sober tends to be preferred to language that is abrasive and abusive. People tend to be drawn to political movements and political parties whose representatives are winsome rather than enraged, who radiate a sense of self-possession and good cheer rather than what Nietzsche, in On The Genealogy of Morals, called ressentiment, or resentment.

Lincoln put it as well as anyone when he said:

When the conduct of men is designed to be influenced, persuasion, kind, unassuming persuasion, should ever be adopted. It is an old and true maxim “that a drop of honey catches more flies than a gallon of gall.” So with men. If you would win a man to your cause, first convince him that you are his sincere friend. Therein is a drop of honey that catches his heart, which, say what you will, is the great high road to reason.

Among the gifts that political figures like Ronald Reagan and intellectual figures like Irving Kristol gave to conservatism was help in shedding its attitude of defensiveness toward the world. That is not a place to which conservatism wants to return.

In addition, treating people with civility is connected to a view of human beings and their inherent dignity. Making bad arguments obviously doesn’t make someone a bad person; and even when one is on the receiving end of ad hominem attacks (as many people in politics have been), there are still standards one ought to adhere to.

Now, I wouldn’t pretend for a moment this is easy or that I myself haven’t edged up to, or even at times crossed, the line separating spirited debate from inappropriate remarks. Readers of CONTENTIONS are free to review my exchanges with Joe Klein, Jonathan Chait, John Derbyshire, and others and decide for themselves. Suffice it to say that what St. Paul called the “fruit of the Spirit” — love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control — are not in oversupply in politics. And for those of us who are engaged in politics and the philosophies and ideas behind it, the temptation to be drawn into the mud pit is a strong one.

Still, it’s not self-evident, at least to me, how one should respond when on the receiving end of unfairly personal, and even slanderous, attacks. I imagine the answer lies somewhere on the continuum between silence and a seething, equally libelous rejoinder.

A few other caveats are in order. Among them is that too often, civility is itself used cynically, as a conversation stopper, as a means to end debate. For others, civility is a synonym for lack of principles, for hollowed-out convictions, for those who believe in nothing and are unwilling to fight for anything. And still others make the mistake in believing that civility is the antithesis of passionately held principles, passionately expressed.

In fact, forceful arguments (like witty ones) are often the best arguments. Rhetorical tough-mindedness is not only appropriate but welcomed. Clarity often emerges in the wake of conflicting views. Too often, those who tell us to “tone down the arguments” simply want the arguments themselves to go away. But politics is, in its deepest and best sense, a series of ongoing arguments about perennially important matters like justice. (See the debate between Thrasymachus and Socrates for more.)

There is, in the end, no neat or easy prescription on how to conduct oneself in public life at any given moment. As a general matter, though, grace and generosity of spirit are to be prized. And if we’re lucky, they can even move us several steps away from a political culture based on enmity to one based on greater understanding and even, from time to time, a measure of respect and forgiveness.

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In Praise of Jonathan Chait

I’ve gone a few rounds with Jonathan Chait in the past (he affectionately refers to me as the Bush administration’s Minister of Propaganda). I’m therefore delighted to draw attention to a piece he wrote — not to rebut it but to praise it.

According to Chait, “Conservatives are furious that the shooting of Gabrielle Giffords is being pinned on them. Their indignation is justified. The mania of Giffords’ would-be assassin may be slightly more right-wing than left-wing, but on the whole it is largely disconnected from even loosely organized extreme right-wing politics.”

Chait goes on to say this:

I can see why those concerned about the rise of right-wing hysteria would want to use Loughner as a cautionary tale — even if he wasn’t a product of right-wing rage, they may be thinking, he is an example of what right-wing rage could lead to. Yet they fail to understand that this will appear to conservatives as an attempt to use the emotion of the moment to stigmatize them. The mania of Sarah Palin and the Tea Party must be dealt with on their own terms.

A few weeks ago, Chait had nice things to say about something I wrote; today I have something nice to say about what he wrote.

This could be the start of a beautiful friendship.

I’ve gone a few rounds with Jonathan Chait in the past (he affectionately refers to me as the Bush administration’s Minister of Propaganda). I’m therefore delighted to draw attention to a piece he wrote — not to rebut it but to praise it.

According to Chait, “Conservatives are furious that the shooting of Gabrielle Giffords is being pinned on them. Their indignation is justified. The mania of Giffords’ would-be assassin may be slightly more right-wing than left-wing, but on the whole it is largely disconnected from even loosely organized extreme right-wing politics.”

Chait goes on to say this:

I can see why those concerned about the rise of right-wing hysteria would want to use Loughner as a cautionary tale — even if he wasn’t a product of right-wing rage, they may be thinking, he is an example of what right-wing rage could lead to. Yet they fail to understand that this will appear to conservatives as an attempt to use the emotion of the moment to stigmatize them. The mania of Sarah Palin and the Tea Party must be dealt with on their own terms.

A few weeks ago, Chait had nice things to say about something I wrote; today I have something nice to say about what he wrote.

This could be the start of a beautiful friendship.

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The Tax Deal: Politics and Principles

Reaction to the tax deal is all over the lot, on both sides of the political spectrum. Paul Mirengoff thinks it is a very good deal for Republicans (John Hinderaker would go further and label it a great deal). Grover Norquist says it is a much bigger victory for Republicans than recognized. Mark Levin thinks it is a bad deal, and Hugh Hewitt is deeply dispirited.

Jonathan Chait thinks Obama got more from the Republicans than Chait thought he would. Jonathan Bernstein thinks it is actually a win for the Democrats. The New York Times thinks it is a disappointing retreat by the White House. Obama himself did not sound very happy.

We’ll find out who was right in two years, when all the issues will resurface in the middle of a presidential election.

But it is not too soon to note the intellectual collapse of one of Obama’s principal arguments. For the past two years, he castigated the Bush tax cuts as breaks for “millionaires and billionaires,” even though the across-the-board cuts primarily benefited people in the lower brackets (the proportion of millionaires and billionaires among taxpayers is one-third of 1 percent, according to the latest IRS statistics). In order to raise any real money from “millionaires and billionaires,” Obama had to define them as individuals making one-fifth of a million dollars (one-fourth in the case of couples) – because there were 10 times as many people in that group as real millionaires, and therefore (applying the Willy Sutton principle of public policy) that was the place to go.

The White House ended up opposing a “compromise” under which taxes would be raised only on real millionaires, since there was not enough money in that group to make that resolution sufficiently remunerative for the government. More than taxing millionaires and billionaires, the White House really wanted to tax the non-millionaires. When that proved impossible, the White House went in a different direction.

In contrast, the Republicans were unified around a set of principles easier to explain and defend: don’t raise taxes in a recession; don’t increase taxes on employers if you want more employment; don’t ask the public, which is fairly crying out for you to cut spending, to send you $700 billion more to spend. These principles are unlikely to be proved wrong in two years.

Reaction to the tax deal is all over the lot, on both sides of the political spectrum. Paul Mirengoff thinks it is a very good deal for Republicans (John Hinderaker would go further and label it a great deal). Grover Norquist says it is a much bigger victory for Republicans than recognized. Mark Levin thinks it is a bad deal, and Hugh Hewitt is deeply dispirited.

Jonathan Chait thinks Obama got more from the Republicans than Chait thought he would. Jonathan Bernstein thinks it is actually a win for the Democrats. The New York Times thinks it is a disappointing retreat by the White House. Obama himself did not sound very happy.

We’ll find out who was right in two years, when all the issues will resurface in the middle of a presidential election.

But it is not too soon to note the intellectual collapse of one of Obama’s principal arguments. For the past two years, he castigated the Bush tax cuts as breaks for “millionaires and billionaires,” even though the across-the-board cuts primarily benefited people in the lower brackets (the proportion of millionaires and billionaires among taxpayers is one-third of 1 percent, according to the latest IRS statistics). In order to raise any real money from “millionaires and billionaires,” Obama had to define them as individuals making one-fifth of a million dollars (one-fourth in the case of couples) – because there were 10 times as many people in that group as real millionaires, and therefore (applying the Willy Sutton principle of public policy) that was the place to go.

The White House ended up opposing a “compromise” under which taxes would be raised only on real millionaires, since there was not enough money in that group to make that resolution sufficiently remunerative for the government. More than taxing millionaires and billionaires, the White House really wanted to tax the non-millionaires. When that proved impossible, the White House went in a different direction.

In contrast, the Republicans were unified around a set of principles easier to explain and defend: don’t raise taxes in a recession; don’t increase taxes on employers if you want more employment; don’t ask the public, which is fairly crying out for you to cut spending, to send you $700 billion more to spend. These principles are unlikely to be proved wrong in two years.

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Helen Thomas Loses Some Awards, Wins Others

After Helen Thomas’s “go back to Germany” rant ended her career last June, there were still some left-wing journalists who twisted themselves into pretzels trying to argue that Thomas’s remarks weren’t anti-Semitic, per say, but simply “anti-Zionist.”

But Thomas’s recent statements remove any doubt as to where she stands. Jonathan Chait, who defended Thomas’s remarks in June, has begrudgingly acknowledged that her newest tirade probably crossed the line into anti-Semitism. “I prefer to hold off on imputing motives of bigotry without strong proof,” writes Chait. “[B]ut there’s not a whole lot of doubt remaining here.”

In response to Thomas’s latest, the Anti-Defamation League called on organizations to revoke any awards given to her in the past. This prompted her alma mater, Wayne State University, to nix an award it had been giving in her name:

Wayne State University, the Detroit, Michigan, institution that Thomas graduated from in 1942, said in a statement Friday that the school will no longer give out the Helen Thomas Spirit of Diversity in the Media Award.

“Wayne State encourages free speech and open dialogue, and respects diverse viewpoints,” the school’s statement said. “However, the university strongly condemns the anti-Semitic remarks made by Helen Thomas during a conference yesterday.”

But Thomas’s controversial outburst last June actually won her accolades from some Arab-American organizations. The Council on American Islamic Relations presented her with a lifetime achievement award in September. And the Arab American National Museum played host to Thomas’s most recent anti-Semitic speech, which received a standing ovation from the audience.

The Arab American Anti-Discrimination Committee also presented Thomas with the “Mehdi Courage in Journalism” award last month. The namesake of the award, the late M.T. Mehdi, served as an adviser to the Blind Sheik, who famously noted that “most Jews are sick people and would benefit from Dr. Freud’s couch,” called Hitler “the real father of Israel,” and wrote a book arguing that Sirhan Sirhan’s assassination of Robert Kennedy was morally defensible because the senator had grown sympathetic to Zionism.

So the ADL may be wrong on this one. Let Thomas keep the awards — the tributes sound pretty fitting.

After Helen Thomas’s “go back to Germany” rant ended her career last June, there were still some left-wing journalists who twisted themselves into pretzels trying to argue that Thomas’s remarks weren’t anti-Semitic, per say, but simply “anti-Zionist.”

But Thomas’s recent statements remove any doubt as to where she stands. Jonathan Chait, who defended Thomas’s remarks in June, has begrudgingly acknowledged that her newest tirade probably crossed the line into anti-Semitism. “I prefer to hold off on imputing motives of bigotry without strong proof,” writes Chait. “[B]ut there’s not a whole lot of doubt remaining here.”

In response to Thomas’s latest, the Anti-Defamation League called on organizations to revoke any awards given to her in the past. This prompted her alma mater, Wayne State University, to nix an award it had been giving in her name:

Wayne State University, the Detroit, Michigan, institution that Thomas graduated from in 1942, said in a statement Friday that the school will no longer give out the Helen Thomas Spirit of Diversity in the Media Award.

“Wayne State encourages free speech and open dialogue, and respects diverse viewpoints,” the school’s statement said. “However, the university strongly condemns the anti-Semitic remarks made by Helen Thomas during a conference yesterday.”

But Thomas’s controversial outburst last June actually won her accolades from some Arab-American organizations. The Council on American Islamic Relations presented her with a lifetime achievement award in September. And the Arab American National Museum played host to Thomas’s most recent anti-Semitic speech, which received a standing ovation from the audience.

The Arab American Anti-Discrimination Committee also presented Thomas with the “Mehdi Courage in Journalism” award last month. The namesake of the award, the late M.T. Mehdi, served as an adviser to the Blind Sheik, who famously noted that “most Jews are sick people and would benefit from Dr. Freud’s couch,” called Hitler “the real father of Israel,” and wrote a book arguing that Sirhan Sirhan’s assassination of Robert Kennedy was morally defensible because the senator had grown sympathetic to Zionism.

So the ADL may be wrong on this one. Let Thomas keep the awards — the tributes sound pretty fitting.

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Democrats Aid Tea Partiers

Sharron Angle helped herself in the one and only debate against the often incoherent Harry Reid. In the post-debate Rasmussen poll, she is up by three points.

Meanwhile, in the Kentucky Senate race, Democrat Jack Conway released a simply bizarre ad attacking Rand Paul’s Christianity. (Even Jonathan Chait finds the ad revolting.) The Paul campaign was justifiably indignant and struck back with an ad of its own.

So here are two Tea Party–backed candidates with a propensity to blow themselves up with controversial statements. But two weeks before the eelction, they are demonstrating the sort of discipline and focus one would expect of their more politically experienced rivals. It is the Democrats in both these races who seem in over their heads, if not downright desperate. This tells us two things.

First, campaign skills can be learned very quickly by bright candidates. Novice candidates who are willing to take advice from advisers can surpass expectations, especially if those expectations are steadily lowered by the media and their opponents. We shouldn’t confuse campaign skills with the ability to govern (if nothing else, Obama has taught us that lesson); but the notion that only handpicked, groomed candidates can survive on the national stage has proved to be, like so much else Conventional Wisdom, hogwash.

Second, when looking to check a presidential agenda that they detest, the voters are willing to accommodate some occasional rhetorical excesses. They are not, of course, electing a  chief executive; they are electing people to stop the chief executive from doing things they don’t like. It is hard for Democrats to scare voters by painting their opponents as extremists. So they must resort to ever more hysterical claims and attacks to convince the public that the GOP challengers are so far beyond the pale that they aren’t fit to hold office. As of yet, neither Reid nor Conway has been able to do that.

None of this is to say that any Republican can win in this environment. But by not taking their opponents seriously and relying on scare tactics to fend off challengers, Democrats are helping the neophytes appear more seasoned and reasonable than the incumbents. As a result, some vulnerable GOP candidates are looking fairly strong two weeks before the election.

Sharron Angle helped herself in the one and only debate against the often incoherent Harry Reid. In the post-debate Rasmussen poll, she is up by three points.

Meanwhile, in the Kentucky Senate race, Democrat Jack Conway released a simply bizarre ad attacking Rand Paul’s Christianity. (Even Jonathan Chait finds the ad revolting.) The Paul campaign was justifiably indignant and struck back with an ad of its own.

So here are two Tea Party–backed candidates with a propensity to blow themselves up with controversial statements. But two weeks before the eelction, they are demonstrating the sort of discipline and focus one would expect of their more politically experienced rivals. It is the Democrats in both these races who seem in over their heads, if not downright desperate. This tells us two things.

First, campaign skills can be learned very quickly by bright candidates. Novice candidates who are willing to take advice from advisers can surpass expectations, especially if those expectations are steadily lowered by the media and their opponents. We shouldn’t confuse campaign skills with the ability to govern (if nothing else, Obama has taught us that lesson); but the notion that only handpicked, groomed candidates can survive on the national stage has proved to be, like so much else Conventional Wisdom, hogwash.

Second, when looking to check a presidential agenda that they detest, the voters are willing to accommodate some occasional rhetorical excesses. They are not, of course, electing a  chief executive; they are electing people to stop the chief executive from doing things they don’t like. It is hard for Democrats to scare voters by painting their opponents as extremists. So they must resort to ever more hysterical claims and attacks to convince the public that the GOP challengers are so far beyond the pale that they aren’t fit to hold office. As of yet, neither Reid nor Conway has been able to do that.

None of this is to say that any Republican can win in this environment. But by not taking their opponents seriously and relying on scare tactics to fend off challengers, Democrats are helping the neophytes appear more seasoned and reasonable than the incumbents. As a result, some vulnerable GOP candidates are looking fairly strong two weeks before the election.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

The Chamber of Commerce gambit is a bust. So Jonathan Chait tries: “Hear me now and believe me later: If Republicans win and maintain control of the House of Representatives, they are going to impeach President Obama.” OK, that’s just pathetic.

A Ben Smith reader also thinks it’s a loser.Why not run against the VFW, Knights of Columbus, or maybe the Lions Club? The ‘Chamber of Congress’ does not exactly conjure up a nefarious image to voters in the middle of the spectrum. Further, it just makes Obama’s anti-business tag stick even harder. I’m not quite sure what the Democrats hope to gain by demonizing these folks, the money is not going to stop and the Democrats’ attacks make for pretty bad optics, unless one is simply very anti-business.”

The liberal meme that the Tea Partiers are racists is fizzling. “A new analysis of political signs displayed at a tea party rally in Washington last month reveals that the vast majority of activists expressed narrow concerns about the government’s economic and spending policies and steered clear of the racially charged anti-Obama messages that have helped define some media coverage of such events.”

The Dems’ “comeback” storyline is a dud, too. Charlie Cook has 92 seats in play. Eighty-five of them are held by Democrats.

Obama’s base-rousing efforts have bombed. “In a punctuation mark to what is shaping up to be a tough political year for the Democrats, Obama’s approval rating dropped to 43 percent from 47 percent last month, with 53 percent disapproving of the way he is handling his job. Obama’s handling of the economy was a leading cause of the drop. And much of this decline came from his own Democrats. The poll found Democrats’ approval rating of Obama has dropped to 70 percent this month from 78 percent last month.”

New evidence every day that Obama’s Middle East policy is a total flop. “Israel’s stance, which has been clearly expressed over recent days, is that Ahmadinejad’s visit proves that Lebanon is becoming more extreme, on its way to becoming an Iranian outpost. ‘Lebanon has joined the axis of extreme nations which object to the peace process and support terror,’ said a senior Israeli official involved in preparations for the two-day visit. … Iran’s president is visiting Lebanon like a commander coming to inspect his troops — Hezbollah terrorists — who serve as a wing of Iran’s military in the region.” This is Iran without the bomb. Imagine when the regime gets nukes.

Obamamania is kaput. “An Associated Press-mtvU poll found college students cooling in their support for President Barack Obama, a fresh sign of trouble for Democrats struggling to rekindle enthusiasm among many of these newest voters for the crucial midterm elections in three weeks. Forty-four percent of students approve of the job Obama is doing as president, while 27 percent are unhappy with his stewardship, according to the survey conducted late last month. … [H]is diminished backing from college students raises further questions about whether the Democrats’ efforts to rally them — and other loyal supporters such as blacks and union members — will be enough to prevent Republicans from winning control of Congress in the Nov. 2 elections.”

The Chamber of Commerce gambit is a bust. So Jonathan Chait tries: “Hear me now and believe me later: If Republicans win and maintain control of the House of Representatives, they are going to impeach President Obama.” OK, that’s just pathetic.

A Ben Smith reader also thinks it’s a loser.Why not run against the VFW, Knights of Columbus, or maybe the Lions Club? The ‘Chamber of Congress’ does not exactly conjure up a nefarious image to voters in the middle of the spectrum. Further, it just makes Obama’s anti-business tag stick even harder. I’m not quite sure what the Democrats hope to gain by demonizing these folks, the money is not going to stop and the Democrats’ attacks make for pretty bad optics, unless one is simply very anti-business.”

The liberal meme that the Tea Partiers are racists is fizzling. “A new analysis of political signs displayed at a tea party rally in Washington last month reveals that the vast majority of activists expressed narrow concerns about the government’s economic and spending policies and steered clear of the racially charged anti-Obama messages that have helped define some media coverage of such events.”

The Dems’ “comeback” storyline is a dud, too. Charlie Cook has 92 seats in play. Eighty-five of them are held by Democrats.

Obama’s base-rousing efforts have bombed. “In a punctuation mark to what is shaping up to be a tough political year for the Democrats, Obama’s approval rating dropped to 43 percent from 47 percent last month, with 53 percent disapproving of the way he is handling his job. Obama’s handling of the economy was a leading cause of the drop. And much of this decline came from his own Democrats. The poll found Democrats’ approval rating of Obama has dropped to 70 percent this month from 78 percent last month.”

New evidence every day that Obama’s Middle East policy is a total flop. “Israel’s stance, which has been clearly expressed over recent days, is that Ahmadinejad’s visit proves that Lebanon is becoming more extreme, on its way to becoming an Iranian outpost. ‘Lebanon has joined the axis of extreme nations which object to the peace process and support terror,’ said a senior Israeli official involved in preparations for the two-day visit. … Iran’s president is visiting Lebanon like a commander coming to inspect his troops — Hezbollah terrorists — who serve as a wing of Iran’s military in the region.” This is Iran without the bomb. Imagine when the regime gets nukes.

Obamamania is kaput. “An Associated Press-mtvU poll found college students cooling in their support for President Barack Obama, a fresh sign of trouble for Democrats struggling to rekindle enthusiasm among many of these newest voters for the crucial midterm elections in three weeks. Forty-four percent of students approve of the job Obama is doing as president, while 27 percent are unhappy with his stewardship, according to the survey conducted late last month. … [H]is diminished backing from college students raises further questions about whether the Democrats’ efforts to rally them — and other loyal supporters such as blacks and union members — will be enough to prevent Republicans from winning control of Congress in the Nov. 2 elections.”

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Vast Right-Wing Conspiracy, Redux

Some liberals — including the New Republic’s Jonathan Chait, who insisted in late 2008 and early 2009 that ObamaCare would be a great political success for Obama and the Democrats — continue to claim that they were right all along. The argument goes something like this: Obama’s troubles, which they can no longer deny, are completely unrelated to Obama’s signature domestic achievement. They have to do with “structural factors.” Health-care legislation, you see, has nothing to do with it. Nothing at all. But the evidence continues to shatter this claim. The Weekly Standard’s Jeffrey Anderson covers some of it here and here. And now we find out (courtesy of RealClearPolitics) that Democrat Joe Manchin, running for the open Senate seat in West Virginia, is joining the GOP’s call to repeal some pieces of health-care reform.

Hard as it is to imagine, people running for office have an even keener sense of what voters want, and don’t want, than writers at TNR. And the fact that few Democrats, if any, are running ads based on their support for ObamaCare, and many are now distancing themselves from it, tells you most of what you need to know.

Chait is working very hard to salvage his credibility — not an easy task, I grant you. (In addition to his health-care counsel, Chait declared that there was “something genuinely bizarre” about those Americans who supported President Bush’s surge strategy in Iraq. “It is not just that they are wrong,” he wrote in early 2007. “It’s that they are completely detached from reality.”) To that end, he is even beginning to anticipate ObamaCare’s failure — and, shockingly, Chait seems ready to blame the GOP. “If they [Republicans] can make the health care law fail by sabotaging its implemetation [sic], the public is going to hold President Obama responsible for the results, and Republicans will benefit politically,” according to Chait.

Chait is once again unraveling the Vast Right Wing Conspiracy. Those devilish Republicans are going to wreck Obama’s fantastically popular piece of legislation by sabotage-through-implementation and then take advantage of the ignorant, unwashed masses, who don’t realize just how wonderful ObamaCare really is.

Like the Psalmist, Jonathan Chait is crying out: “How long shall the wicked, O LORD, How long shall the wicked be jubilant?”

My guess is at least until November 3.

Some liberals — including the New Republic’s Jonathan Chait, who insisted in late 2008 and early 2009 that ObamaCare would be a great political success for Obama and the Democrats — continue to claim that they were right all along. The argument goes something like this: Obama’s troubles, which they can no longer deny, are completely unrelated to Obama’s signature domestic achievement. They have to do with “structural factors.” Health-care legislation, you see, has nothing to do with it. Nothing at all. But the evidence continues to shatter this claim. The Weekly Standard’s Jeffrey Anderson covers some of it here and here. And now we find out (courtesy of RealClearPolitics) that Democrat Joe Manchin, running for the open Senate seat in West Virginia, is joining the GOP’s call to repeal some pieces of health-care reform.

Hard as it is to imagine, people running for office have an even keener sense of what voters want, and don’t want, than writers at TNR. And the fact that few Democrats, if any, are running ads based on their support for ObamaCare, and many are now distancing themselves from it, tells you most of what you need to know.

Chait is working very hard to salvage his credibility — not an easy task, I grant you. (In addition to his health-care counsel, Chait declared that there was “something genuinely bizarre” about those Americans who supported President Bush’s surge strategy in Iraq. “It is not just that they are wrong,” he wrote in early 2007. “It’s that they are completely detached from reality.”) To that end, he is even beginning to anticipate ObamaCare’s failure — and, shockingly, Chait seems ready to blame the GOP. “If they [Republicans] can make the health care law fail by sabotaging its implemetation [sic], the public is going to hold President Obama responsible for the results, and Republicans will benefit politically,” according to Chait.

Chait is once again unraveling the Vast Right Wing Conspiracy. Those devilish Republicans are going to wreck Obama’s fantastically popular piece of legislation by sabotage-through-implementation and then take advantage of the ignorant, unwashed masses, who don’t realize just how wonderful ObamaCare really is.

Like the Psalmist, Jonathan Chait is crying out: “How long shall the wicked, O LORD, How long shall the wicked be jubilant?”

My guess is at least until November 3.

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Jonathan Chait, Delusional Regarding ObamaCare

The New Republic’s Jonathan Chait continues his indefatigable political defense of ObmamCare. One of his recent efforts, “Health Care as Political Scapegoat,” can be found here. He writes, as proof of his thesis, that “a recent Gallup poll shows that Democrats fare about evenly (+1) versus Republicans on health care — it’s one of the only issues where they don’t have a disadvantage.”

Now what might be missing from Chait’s analysis? Context.

As I pointed out here, in October 2006, the Democrats held a 64-percent v. 25-percent advantage over Republicans regarding health care. Today the lead is 44 percent v. 43 percent — a 38-point swing in favor of the GOP. That is a substantially larger swing than we’ve seen on combating terrorism (29 points), the economy (27 points), and handling corruption in government (26 points).

There is no other issue, in fact, over which Democrats have lost as much ground as quickly as over health care. What was once the strongest issue in the Democratic arsenal — an issue on which Democrats enjoyed public support for generations — has now turned politically neutral with respect to the support each party enjoys on it. Politico reports that it appears as though no Democratic incumbent in the House or in the Senate has run a pro-health-care reform TV ad since April, while a handful of House Democrats are making health-care reform an election-year issue — by running against it. Senator Ron Wyden, one of the Democratic Party’s leading experts on health care, recently wrote a letter to Bruce Goldberg, the director of the Oregon health authority, encouraging Oregon to seek a waiver from the individual mandate, which is a fundamental feature of Obama’s health-care overhaul (Wyden is running for reelection). And last month more than 70 percent of Missouri primary voters rejected ObamaCare’s individual mandate. It’s no wonder that Charlie Cook declared that pushing ObamaCare was a “colossal miscalculation” for Democrats.

Given the weight of the evidence, it is bordering on delusional to argue that ObamaCare hasn’t damaged Obama or the Democrats politically.

Dogmatists such as Chait seem unable to rethink their views in light of reality; instead, they are contorting their arguments to defend flawed premises (ObamaCare would be a success and viewed by the public as a success). Mr. Chait wouldn’t be the first to do such a thing. But it is a transparent effort – and, at this stage, a discrediting one.

The New Republic’s Jonathan Chait continues his indefatigable political defense of ObmamCare. One of his recent efforts, “Health Care as Political Scapegoat,” can be found here. He writes, as proof of his thesis, that “a recent Gallup poll shows that Democrats fare about evenly (+1) versus Republicans on health care — it’s one of the only issues where they don’t have a disadvantage.”

Now what might be missing from Chait’s analysis? Context.

As I pointed out here, in October 2006, the Democrats held a 64-percent v. 25-percent advantage over Republicans regarding health care. Today the lead is 44 percent v. 43 percent — a 38-point swing in favor of the GOP. That is a substantially larger swing than we’ve seen on combating terrorism (29 points), the economy (27 points), and handling corruption in government (26 points).

There is no other issue, in fact, over which Democrats have lost as much ground as quickly as over health care. What was once the strongest issue in the Democratic arsenal — an issue on which Democrats enjoyed public support for generations — has now turned politically neutral with respect to the support each party enjoys on it. Politico reports that it appears as though no Democratic incumbent in the House or in the Senate has run a pro-health-care reform TV ad since April, while a handful of House Democrats are making health-care reform an election-year issue — by running against it. Senator Ron Wyden, one of the Democratic Party’s leading experts on health care, recently wrote a letter to Bruce Goldberg, the director of the Oregon health authority, encouraging Oregon to seek a waiver from the individual mandate, which is a fundamental feature of Obama’s health-care overhaul (Wyden is running for reelection). And last month more than 70 percent of Missouri primary voters rejected ObamaCare’s individual mandate. It’s no wonder that Charlie Cook declared that pushing ObamaCare was a “colossal miscalculation” for Democrats.

Given the weight of the evidence, it is bordering on delusional to argue that ObamaCare hasn’t damaged Obama or the Democrats politically.

Dogmatists such as Chait seem unable to rethink their views in light of reality; instead, they are contorting their arguments to defend flawed premises (ObamaCare would be a success and viewed by the public as a success). Mr. Chait wouldn’t be the first to do such a thing. But it is a transparent effort – and, at this stage, a discrediting one.

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Liberalism’s Existential Crisis

As the Obama presidency and the Democratic Party continue their journey into the Slough of Despond, it’s interesting to watch Obama’ supporters try to process the unfolding events.

Some blame it on a failure to communicate. E.J. Dionne, Jr., for example, ascribes the Democrats’ problems to the fact that Obama “has chosen not to engage the nation in an extended dialogue about what holds all his achievements together.” Joe Klein offers this explanation: “If Obama is not reelected, it will be because he comes across as disdaining what he does for a living.” And John Judis points to the Obama administration’s “aversion to populism.”

Others are aiming their sound and fury at the American people. According to Maureen Dowd, “Obama is the head of the dysfunctional family of America — a rational man running a most irrational nation, a high-minded man in a low-minded age. The country is having some weird mass nervous breakdown.” Jonathan Alter argues that the American people “aren’t rationally aligning belief and action; they’re tempted to lose their spleens in the polling place without fully grasping the consequences.” And Slate‘s Jacob Weisberg has written that “the biggest culprit in our current predicament” is the “childishness, ignorance, and growing incoherence of the public at large.” Read More

As the Obama presidency and the Democratic Party continue their journey into the Slough of Despond, it’s interesting to watch Obama’ supporters try to process the unfolding events.

Some blame it on a failure to communicate. E.J. Dionne, Jr., for example, ascribes the Democrats’ problems to the fact that Obama “has chosen not to engage the nation in an extended dialogue about what holds all his achievements together.” Joe Klein offers this explanation: “If Obama is not reelected, it will be because he comes across as disdaining what he does for a living.” And John Judis points to the Obama administration’s “aversion to populism.”

Others are aiming their sound and fury at the American people. According to Maureen Dowd, “Obama is the head of the dysfunctional family of America — a rational man running a most irrational nation, a high-minded man in a low-minded age. The country is having some weird mass nervous breakdown.” Jonathan Alter argues that the American people “aren’t rationally aligning belief and action; they’re tempted to lose their spleens in the polling place without fully grasping the consequences.” And Slate‘s Jacob Weisberg has written that “the biggest culprit in our current predicament” is the “childishness, ignorance, and growing incoherence of the public at large.”

For still others, Obama’s failures can be traced to James Madison. George Packer complains that Obama’s failures are in part institutional. He lists a slew of items on the liberal agenda items “the world’s greatest deliberative body is incapable of addressing.” Paul Krugman warns that the Senate is “ominously dysfunctional” and insists that the way it works is “no longer consistent with a functioning government.” For Vanity Fair’s Todd Purdum, “The evidence that Washington cannot function — that it’s ‘broken,’ as Vice President Joe Biden has said — is all around.” The modern presidency “has become a job of such gargantuan size, speed, and complexity as to be all but unrecognizable to most of the previous chief executives.”

Commentators such as the Washington Post’s Ezra Klein place responsibility on “powerful structural forces in American politics that seem to drag down first-term presidents” (though Klein does acknowledge other factors). The New Republic’s Jonathan Chait pins the blame on “structural factors” and “external factors” that have nothing to do with Obama’s policies.

Then there are those who see the pernicious vast right-wing conspiracy at work. Frank Rich alerts us to the fact that the problem lies with “the brothers David and Charles Koch,” the “sugar daddies” who are bankrolling the “white Tea Party America.” Newsweek‘s Michael Cohen has written that, “Perhaps the greatest hindrance to good governance today is the Republican Party, which has adopted an agenda of pure nihilism for naked political gain.” And Mr. Krugman offers this analysis: “What we learned from the Clinton years is that a significant number of Americans just don’t consider government by liberals — even very moderate liberals — legitimate. Mr. Obama’s election would have enraged those people even if he were white. Of course, the fact that he isn’t, and has an alien-sounding name, adds to the rage.” Krugman goes on to warn that “powerful forces are promoting and exploiting this rage” — including the “right-wing media.” And if they come to gain power, “It will be an ugly scene, and it will be dangerous, too.”

What most of these commentators are missing, I think, are two essential points. First, the public is turning against Obama and the Democratic Party because the economy is sick and, despite his assurances and projections, the president hasn’t been able to make it well. And in some important respects, especially on fiscal matters, the president and the 111th Congress have made things considerably worse. Second, an increasing number of Americans believe Obama’s policies are unwise, ineffective, and much too liberal. They connect the bad results we are seeing in America to what Obama is doing to America.

But there’s something else, and something deeper, going on here. All of us who embrace a particular religious or philosophical worldview should be prepared to judge them in light of empirical facts and reality. What if our theories seem to be failing in the real world?

The truth is that it’s rather rare to find people willing to reexamine or reinterpret their most deeply held beliefs when the mounting evidence calls those beliefs into question. That is something most of us (myself included) battle with: How to be a person of principled convictions while being intellectually honest enough to acknowledge when certain propositions (and, in some instances, foundational policies) seem to be failing or falling short.

It’s quite possible, of course, that one’s basic convictions can remain true even when events go badly. Self-government is still the best form of government even if it might fail in one nation or another. And sometimes it is simply a matter of weathering storms until certain first principles are reaffirmed. At the same time, sometimes we hold to theories that are simply wrong, that are contrary to human nature and the way the world works, but we simply can’t let go of them. We have too much invested in a particular philosophy.

President Obama’s liberal supporters understand that he is in serious trouble right now; what they are doing is scrambling to find some way to explain his problems without calling into question their underlying political philosophy (modern liberalism). If what is happening cannot be a fundamental failure of liberalism, then it must be something else — from a “communications problem” to “structural factors” to a political conspiracy. And you can bet that if things continue on their present course, ideologues on the left will increasingly argue that Obama’s failures stem from his being (a) not liberal enough or (b) incompetent.

If the Obama presidency is seen as damaging the larger liberal project, they will abandon Obama in order to try to protect liberalism. They would rather do that than face an existential crisis.

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Chait off the Rails, Even at the Beach

Almost all the TNR crew has leapt off the cliff with Obama on the Ground Zero mosque. But none has leapt farther than Jonathan Chait, or with less candor about his opponents’ arguments. Chait, it seems, spends much time reading our posts and writing about what we think on the topic, which is lovely for our readership stats but odd for one who finds that we’ve “descended” to new lows. (By the way, as John Podhoretz recently pointed out to a group of assembled readers, Chait’s fond memories of COMMENTARY should come as news to those who recall that the left found COMMENTARY every bit as distasteful in the 1970s and 80s as it does now.) Chait checks in from the beach to throw in his latest dose of disdain for all those (Al-Rashid too?) who object to the monument to Islam on Ground Zero.

Chait, once again, flies into a tizzy, this time about my use of the term “Muslim World.” He suggests that in saying Obama preferred the “Muslim World” to America on the mosque, I was referring to the domestic mosque builders, thereby implying that American Muslims aren’t Americans. No, I’m using Obama’s own term and in precisely the same way Obama does — to describe the audience of Muslims in the Middle East and around the globe. My point, one made more compelling by the words of Al-Rashid and other Muslims, is that Obama is acting in ways antithetical to our interests and to those of Muslims not yet caught in the grip of jihadism. He repeatedly favors grand gestures for the consumption of the Muslim World outside the U.S. at the expense of our own values and interests, and in contravention of the overwhelming sentiments of Americans. We can only speculate why he behaves in this fashion.

We have seen this profound error in judgment and strategy from Obama before. Recall that this approach was central to his decision to close Guantanamo, which he explained would make us look better in the eyes of, yes, the Muslim World. We see it in his excising of the term “Islamic fundamentalist” from our government’s vocabulary because he imagines that the Muslim World would be insulted if we point out that extremists in their ranks are responsible for much death and destruction — in Islamic countries as well, for that matter. We saw and heard it in his Cairo speech when Obama served up the Palestinians’ victimology rhetoric while avoiding an honest discussion of the human rights atrocities all too common in the Muslim World. In short, Obama not only pays excessive deference to the Muslim World (at least a certain slice of it) while denigrating his own country; he also manages to fuel Muslim resentment and undermine the voices of moderation both in the U.S. and abroad.

But really, what can Chait expect of “bigots” who ask impertinent questions like: “So, dear Jon Chait and dear Isaac Chotiner, does the Cordoba Initiative at least not give you the creeps?” And just to be clear, since Chait doesn’t always read carefully, there’s nothing bigoted in the least about that query from Chait’s editor, or in the increasingly bipartisan opposition to a mosque that a number of eloquent Muslims — American and otherwise — have voiced.

Nevertheless, it is swell to know our views still command the attention (obsession?) of the left. But some friendly advice to Chait: enjoy your vacation — and rather than blog from the beach, wait to get caught up on the story before your next assault.

Almost all the TNR crew has leapt off the cliff with Obama on the Ground Zero mosque. But none has leapt farther than Jonathan Chait, or with less candor about his opponents’ arguments. Chait, it seems, spends much time reading our posts and writing about what we think on the topic, which is lovely for our readership stats but odd for one who finds that we’ve “descended” to new lows. (By the way, as John Podhoretz recently pointed out to a group of assembled readers, Chait’s fond memories of COMMENTARY should come as news to those who recall that the left found COMMENTARY every bit as distasteful in the 1970s and 80s as it does now.) Chait checks in from the beach to throw in his latest dose of disdain for all those (Al-Rashid too?) who object to the monument to Islam on Ground Zero.

Chait, once again, flies into a tizzy, this time about my use of the term “Muslim World.” He suggests that in saying Obama preferred the “Muslim World” to America on the mosque, I was referring to the domestic mosque builders, thereby implying that American Muslims aren’t Americans. No, I’m using Obama’s own term and in precisely the same way Obama does — to describe the audience of Muslims in the Middle East and around the globe. My point, one made more compelling by the words of Al-Rashid and other Muslims, is that Obama is acting in ways antithetical to our interests and to those of Muslims not yet caught in the grip of jihadism. He repeatedly favors grand gestures for the consumption of the Muslim World outside the U.S. at the expense of our own values and interests, and in contravention of the overwhelming sentiments of Americans. We can only speculate why he behaves in this fashion.

We have seen this profound error in judgment and strategy from Obama before. Recall that this approach was central to his decision to close Guantanamo, which he explained would make us look better in the eyes of, yes, the Muslim World. We see it in his excising of the term “Islamic fundamentalist” from our government’s vocabulary because he imagines that the Muslim World would be insulted if we point out that extremists in their ranks are responsible for much death and destruction — in Islamic countries as well, for that matter. We saw and heard it in his Cairo speech when Obama served up the Palestinians’ victimology rhetoric while avoiding an honest discussion of the human rights atrocities all too common in the Muslim World. In short, Obama not only pays excessive deference to the Muslim World (at least a certain slice of it) while denigrating his own country; he also manages to fuel Muslim resentment and undermine the voices of moderation both in the U.S. and abroad.

But really, what can Chait expect of “bigots” who ask impertinent questions like: “So, dear Jon Chait and dear Isaac Chotiner, does the Cordoba Initiative at least not give you the creeps?” And just to be clear, since Chait doesn’t always read carefully, there’s nothing bigoted in the least about that query from Chait’s editor, or in the increasingly bipartisan opposition to a mosque that a number of eloquent Muslims — American and otherwise — have voiced.

Nevertheless, it is swell to know our views still command the attention (obsession?) of the left. But some friendly advice to Chait: enjoy your vacation — and rather than blog from the beach, wait to get caught up on the story before your next assault.

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The New Republic’s Keith Olbermann

In a story in the Washington Examiner, Stephen Hess, an expert on the presidency at the Brookings Institution, said Robert Gibbs’ remarks attacking the “professional left” shows how “unprepared” many in the Obama administration were for the rigors of the White House. “A lot of things had come too easy for them — a substantial election victory, and an almost messianic moment with the inauguration,” Hess said. “Governing is hard.”

The governing-is-hard theme is something some of us warned about a long time ago. And charting some of Obama’s early missteps caused commentators on the left, such as the New Republic’s Jonathan Chait, enormous irritation. In May 2009 he wrote:

In anticipation of his prophesy coming true, [Wehner’s] blogging for Commentary has become a gleeful chronicle of Obama’s imagined descent into dysfunction and popular repudiation.

Well, now. The “imagined descent” into popular repudiation (and dysfunction, for that matter) is no longer imagined, is it?

Popular repudiation is precisely what Obama and Democrats are experiencing on a scale that is extremely rare — one the may prove to be unprecedented — for a president who has been in office for less than two years.

William Galston, who served in the Clinton administration, has warned his party that it might not only lose the House; its majority in the Senate is endangered, too. And the polarization some of us highlighted early on in Obama’s presidency was in fact on the mark. Chait dismissed the observation at the time, but then came (for Chait) a rather unfortunate Gallup survey released in January 2010, which reported that Barack Obama was the most polarizing first-year president in recorded history.

Now we should keep in mind that Chait is the same individual who, in December 2008, assured his readers that “undiluted liberalism” in the area of health care was hugely popular and that the path to political dominance for Obama and Democrats; and who, in February 2007, wrote that there was “something genuinely bizarre” about those Americans who supported President Bush’s surge strategy in Iraq. “It is not just that they are wrong,” our modern-day Metternich insisted. “It’s that they are completely detached from reality.”

Such detached-from-reality insights continue apace. Earlier this year, for example, Chait wrote:

The perception has formed, perhaps indelibly, that the reason Democrats will get hammered in the 2010 elections is that the party moved too far left in general and tried to reform health care in particular. This perception owes itself, above all, to the habit that political analysts in the media and other outposts of mainstream thought have of ignoring structural factors.

Of course; health-care reform has nothing to do with Obama’s plight or that of the Democratic Party. So sayeth The Great Chait.

Never mind that Peter Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute, analyzes the empirical data and declares that “the health overhaul remains a political loser in most of the country.” Or that Democratic pollster Doug Schoen writes that “recent polling shows that the [health care] bill has been a disaster for the party. … There may well be no single initiative as unpopular as the administration’s health care reform bill.” Or that Charlie Cook, who specializes in election forecasts and political trends, declared earlier this year that from a political perspective, pushing health care was a “colossal miscalculation.” Yet Chait – who doesn’t specialize in election forecasts or political trends – knows better.

And what should we make of the fact that by nearly a 3-to-1 margin, voters in Missouri voters rejected a key provision of President Obama’s health-care law? Easy. “Missouri is not a ‘bellwether’ state right now,” Chait cheerfully informs us. Missouri, you see, has suddenly become Utah. And the individual mandate never was popular, don’t you know?

Chait has been reduced to arguing (ad nauseam) that Obama’s unpopularity has virtually nothing to do with Obama’s policies or his liberal ideology; it has to do with the very bad economy and those darn “structural factors.” Barack Obama is a fantastic president, you see; it’s just too bad the conditions in the country are miserable.

Jonathan has become something of an amusing read. It is not simply watching him try to twist reality to fit his ideological presuppositions, which is amusing enough; it is the whole packaged deal – the adolescent rage, exemplified in his “I hate Bush” rant, the playground taunts, the pretense of governing and policy expertise.

And there is the matter of Chait’s slightly peculiar personal obsessions. For example, he admits that one of his “guilty pleasures” is a “morbid fascination” with me and that one of his “shameful hobbies” is watching the “almost sensual pleasure” taken by me at the coming November elections – with the latter written under the headline “Wehner Throbs with Anticipation.” Now this doesn’t particularly bother me, but perhaps it should bother Mrs. Chait.

The New Republic was once the professional home to some of the nation’s preeminent intellectuals, public figures, and journalists. Today it provides a perch to Jonathan Chait, TNR’s version of Keith Olbermann

In a story in the Washington Examiner, Stephen Hess, an expert on the presidency at the Brookings Institution, said Robert Gibbs’ remarks attacking the “professional left” shows how “unprepared” many in the Obama administration were for the rigors of the White House. “A lot of things had come too easy for them — a substantial election victory, and an almost messianic moment with the inauguration,” Hess said. “Governing is hard.”

The governing-is-hard theme is something some of us warned about a long time ago. And charting some of Obama’s early missteps caused commentators on the left, such as the New Republic’s Jonathan Chait, enormous irritation. In May 2009 he wrote:

In anticipation of his prophesy coming true, [Wehner’s] blogging for Commentary has become a gleeful chronicle of Obama’s imagined descent into dysfunction and popular repudiation.

Well, now. The “imagined descent” into popular repudiation (and dysfunction, for that matter) is no longer imagined, is it?

Popular repudiation is precisely what Obama and Democrats are experiencing on a scale that is extremely rare — one the may prove to be unprecedented — for a president who has been in office for less than two years.

William Galston, who served in the Clinton administration, has warned his party that it might not only lose the House; its majority in the Senate is endangered, too. And the polarization some of us highlighted early on in Obama’s presidency was in fact on the mark. Chait dismissed the observation at the time, but then came (for Chait) a rather unfortunate Gallup survey released in January 2010, which reported that Barack Obama was the most polarizing first-year president in recorded history.

Now we should keep in mind that Chait is the same individual who, in December 2008, assured his readers that “undiluted liberalism” in the area of health care was hugely popular and that the path to political dominance for Obama and Democrats; and who, in February 2007, wrote that there was “something genuinely bizarre” about those Americans who supported President Bush’s surge strategy in Iraq. “It is not just that they are wrong,” our modern-day Metternich insisted. “It’s that they are completely detached from reality.”

Such detached-from-reality insights continue apace. Earlier this year, for example, Chait wrote:

The perception has formed, perhaps indelibly, that the reason Democrats will get hammered in the 2010 elections is that the party moved too far left in general and tried to reform health care in particular. This perception owes itself, above all, to the habit that political analysts in the media and other outposts of mainstream thought have of ignoring structural factors.

Of course; health-care reform has nothing to do with Obama’s plight or that of the Democratic Party. So sayeth The Great Chait.

Never mind that Peter Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute, analyzes the empirical data and declares that “the health overhaul remains a political loser in most of the country.” Or that Democratic pollster Doug Schoen writes that “recent polling shows that the [health care] bill has been a disaster for the party. … There may well be no single initiative as unpopular as the administration’s health care reform bill.” Or that Charlie Cook, who specializes in election forecasts and political trends, declared earlier this year that from a political perspective, pushing health care was a “colossal miscalculation.” Yet Chait – who doesn’t specialize in election forecasts or political trends – knows better.

And what should we make of the fact that by nearly a 3-to-1 margin, voters in Missouri voters rejected a key provision of President Obama’s health-care law? Easy. “Missouri is not a ‘bellwether’ state right now,” Chait cheerfully informs us. Missouri, you see, has suddenly become Utah. And the individual mandate never was popular, don’t you know?

Chait has been reduced to arguing (ad nauseam) that Obama’s unpopularity has virtually nothing to do with Obama’s policies or his liberal ideology; it has to do with the very bad economy and those darn “structural factors.” Barack Obama is a fantastic president, you see; it’s just too bad the conditions in the country are miserable.

Jonathan has become something of an amusing read. It is not simply watching him try to twist reality to fit his ideological presuppositions, which is amusing enough; it is the whole packaged deal – the adolescent rage, exemplified in his “I hate Bush” rant, the playground taunts, the pretense of governing and policy expertise.

And there is the matter of Chait’s slightly peculiar personal obsessions. For example, he admits that one of his “guilty pleasures” is a “morbid fascination” with me and that one of his “shameful hobbies” is watching the “almost sensual pleasure” taken by me at the coming November elections – with the latter written under the headline “Wehner Throbs with Anticipation.” Now this doesn’t particularly bother me, but perhaps it should bother Mrs. Chait.

The New Republic was once the professional home to some of the nation’s preeminent intellectuals, public figures, and journalists. Today it provides a perch to Jonathan Chait, TNR’s version of Keith Olbermann

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GOP Puts Principle Ahead of Politics and Backs President

According to the New York Times,

the House of Representatives agreed on Tuesday to provide $37 billion to continue financing America’s two wars, but the vote showed deepening divisions and anxiety among Democrats over the course of the nearly nine-year-old conflict in Afghanistan. The 308-to-114 vote, with strong Republican support, came after the leak of an archive of classified battlefield reports from Afghanistan that fueled new debate over the course of the war and whether President Obama’s counterinsurgency strategy could work.

GOP support was strong indeed: 160 Republicans backed the war spending, while only 12 opposed it. By way of comparison, 148 Democrats backed the war spending, while 102 opposed it.

This is a good opportunity, then, to praise Republicans for standing with a Democratic president during a war that is increasingly unpopular.

I am reminded how, during the Bush years, the situation was very much reversed. Virtually the entire Democratic Party, with very few exceptions, turned hard against the Iraq war (which most of them initially supported). It is one of the most irresponsible and reckless displays we have seen in modern political history.

Democrats’ opposition to Bush and the surge was so intense, their commitment to a particular (defeatist) narrative so strong, and their eagerness to withdraw from Iraq so irresistible that they declared the Petraeus-led surge would not and could not work. It was simply incomprehensible to consider any other possibility.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, for example, declared that “this surge is not accomplishing anything” and in April 2007 announced flatly that the Iraq war was “lost.” A young senator from Illinois, on the night President Bush announced the surge, proclaimed, “I am not persuaded that 20,000 additional troops in Iraq are going to solve the sectarian violence there. In fact, I think it will do the reverse.” So said Barack Obama. Not to be outdone, Senator Joseph Biden declared: “If he surges another 20, 30 [thousand], or whatever number he’s going to, into Baghdad, it’ll be a tragic mistake.”

(I can’t help but point out that a few future Journolisters joined in the Surrender Chorus as well, with Time magazine’s Joe Klein ridiculing “Bush’s futile pipe dream” and the New Republic’s Jonathan Chait, having convinced himself that he brought some actual knowledge and expertise to the debate, said he found “something genuinely bizarre” about those Americans who actually supported the new strategy. “It is not just that they are wrong. . . . It’s that they are completely detached from reality. Their arguments have nothing to do with what is actually happening in Iraq.” The detachment from reality, of course, was found among people like Chait, whose self-declared hatred for Bush caused him to once again look foolish.)

In the case of Afghanistan, GOP and conservative opposition to Obama on domestic polices, which is fierce, has not led them to oppose Obama in his efforts to win the war. The Republican Party is, in this instance, the responsible party, standing with a wartime president in a conflict of enormous significance. With a new commanding general in place and a new counterinsurgency strategy in the very early states of implementation, now is not the time to go wobbly. To its credit, the GOP, unlike the Democratic Party with Iraq, is holding shape.

According to the New York Times,

the House of Representatives agreed on Tuesday to provide $37 billion to continue financing America’s two wars, but the vote showed deepening divisions and anxiety among Democrats over the course of the nearly nine-year-old conflict in Afghanistan. The 308-to-114 vote, with strong Republican support, came after the leak of an archive of classified battlefield reports from Afghanistan that fueled new debate over the course of the war and whether President Obama’s counterinsurgency strategy could work.

GOP support was strong indeed: 160 Republicans backed the war spending, while only 12 opposed it. By way of comparison, 148 Democrats backed the war spending, while 102 opposed it.

This is a good opportunity, then, to praise Republicans for standing with a Democratic president during a war that is increasingly unpopular.

I am reminded how, during the Bush years, the situation was very much reversed. Virtually the entire Democratic Party, with very few exceptions, turned hard against the Iraq war (which most of them initially supported). It is one of the most irresponsible and reckless displays we have seen in modern political history.

Democrats’ opposition to Bush and the surge was so intense, their commitment to a particular (defeatist) narrative so strong, and their eagerness to withdraw from Iraq so irresistible that they declared the Petraeus-led surge would not and could not work. It was simply incomprehensible to consider any other possibility.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, for example, declared that “this surge is not accomplishing anything” and in April 2007 announced flatly that the Iraq war was “lost.” A young senator from Illinois, on the night President Bush announced the surge, proclaimed, “I am not persuaded that 20,000 additional troops in Iraq are going to solve the sectarian violence there. In fact, I think it will do the reverse.” So said Barack Obama. Not to be outdone, Senator Joseph Biden declared: “If he surges another 20, 30 [thousand], or whatever number he’s going to, into Baghdad, it’ll be a tragic mistake.”

(I can’t help but point out that a few future Journolisters joined in the Surrender Chorus as well, with Time magazine’s Joe Klein ridiculing “Bush’s futile pipe dream” and the New Republic’s Jonathan Chait, having convinced himself that he brought some actual knowledge and expertise to the debate, said he found “something genuinely bizarre” about those Americans who actually supported the new strategy. “It is not just that they are wrong. . . . It’s that they are completely detached from reality. Their arguments have nothing to do with what is actually happening in Iraq.” The detachment from reality, of course, was found among people like Chait, whose self-declared hatred for Bush caused him to once again look foolish.)

In the case of Afghanistan, GOP and conservative opposition to Obama on domestic polices, which is fierce, has not led them to oppose Obama in his efforts to win the war. The Republican Party is, in this instance, the responsible party, standing with a wartime president in a conflict of enormous significance. With a new commanding general in place and a new counterinsurgency strategy in the very early states of implementation, now is not the time to go wobbly. To its credit, the GOP, unlike the Democratic Party with Iraq, is holding shape.

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Journolisters Risked Their Integrity

When you read those who were part of the now infamous Journolist group — hundreds of mostly liberal journalists and academics who joined an online listserv — they present their discussions as inoffensive, unexceptional, and even high-minded. Here’s how Time‘s Joe Klein describes Journolist:

[Ezra Klein and I] became friends and he asked me to join his list-serve–which, he said, would be the kind of place to have the sort of creative discussion we’d had over breakfast. It turned out to be exactly that…and more, a place to chat about music and sports, a place to meet some spectacularly smart academics I’d not met before–and, not least, a chance to interact with the latest generation of opinion journalists, most of whom didn’t have a very high opinion of me…. These conversations were private, as most good ones are. We were taking risks, testing our ideas against others…

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When you read those who were part of the now infamous Journolist group — hundreds of mostly liberal journalists and academics who joined an online listserv — they present their discussions as inoffensive, unexceptional, and even high-minded. Here’s how Time‘s Joe Klein describes Journolist:

[Ezra Klein and I] became friends and he asked me to join his list-serve–which, he said, would be the kind of place to have the sort of creative discussion we’d had over breakfast. It turned out to be exactly that…and more, a place to chat about music and sports, a place to meet some spectacularly smart academics I’d not met before–and, not least, a chance to interact with the latest generation of opinion journalists, most of whom didn’t have a very high opinion of me…. These conversations were private, as most good ones are. We were taking risks, testing our ideas against others…

It sounds positively Platonic: great minds gathering to discuss great issues of the day. Iron sharpening iron. Who could object? And then, thanks to the groundbreaking work of the Daily Caller, we have the chance to read what Journolisters actually wrote. Creative and spectacularly smart things like this:

LAURA ROZEN: People we no longer have to listen to: would it be unwise to start a thread of people we are grateful we no longer have to listen to? If not, I’ll start off: Michael Rubin.

MICHAEL COHEN, NEW AMERICA FOUNDATION: Mark Penn and Bob Shrum. Anyone who uses the expression “Real America.” We should send there a** to Gitmo!

JESSE TAYLOR, PANDAGON.NET: Michael Barone?  Please?

LAURA ROZEN: Karl Rove, Newt Gingrich (afraid it’s not true), Drill Here Drill Now, And David Addington, John Yoo, we’ll see you in court?

JEFFREY TOOBIN, THE NEW YORKER: As a side note, does anyone know what prompted Michael Barone to go insane?

MATT DUSS: LEDEEN.

SPENCER ACKERMAN: Let’s just throw Ledeen against a wall. Or, pace Dr. Alterman, throw him through a plate glass window. I’ll bet a little spot of violence would shut him right the f*** up, as with most bullies.

JOE KLEIN, TIME: Pete Wehner…these sort of things always end badly.

ERIC ALTERMAN, AUTHOR, WHAT LIBERAL MEDIA: F****** Nascar retards…

Ah, but there’s more.

NPR producer Sarah Spitz wrote that that if Rush Limbaugh went into cardiac arrest, she would “laugh loudly like a maniac and watch his eyes bug out” as Limbaugh writhed in torment.

Spencer Ackerman of the Washington Independent urged his colleagues to deflect attention from Obama’s relationship with Jeremiah Wright by changing the subject. Pick one of Obama’s conservative critics, Ackerman wrote — “Fred Barnes, Karl Rove, who cares — and call them racists.”

Bloomberg’s Ryan Donmoyer adds this: “You know, at the risk of violating Godwin’s law, is anyone starting to see parallels here between the teabaggers and their tactics and the rise of the Brownshirts? Esp. Now that it’s getting violent? Reminds me of the Beer Hall fracases of the 1920s.”

And, of course, there is Fox News. “I am genuinely scared” of Fox, wrote Guardian columnist Daniel Davies, because it “shows you that a genuinely shameless and unethical media organisation *cannot* be controlled by any form of peer pressure or self-regulation, and nor can it be successfully cold-shouldered or ostracised. In order to have even a semblance of control, you need a tought legal framework.”

“I agree,” said Michael Scherer of Time. “[Roger] Ailes understands that his job is to build a tribal identity, not a news organizations. You can’t hurt Fox by saying it gets it wrong, if Ailes just uses the criticism to deepen the tribal identity.”

I understand people speaking candidly in e-mail exchanges and wanting to create a group of like-minded people to exchange ideas. And I accept that Journolist was started with good intentions. But somewhere along the line, it slipped off track.

What we had were journalists creating a “community” in which we see expressions of hatred that are both comically adolescent and almost psychopathic. We have them endorsing slander of innocent people simply because they hold a different point of view, comparing the Tea Party movement to Nazism, and participating in a post thread with the subject, “The line on Palin.” And we have journalists endorsing a “tough legal framework” to control what a news organization says.

What we have, in short, is intellectual corruption of a fairly high order. From what we have seen and from what those like Tucker Carlson and his colleagues (who have read the exchanges in detail) say, Journolist was — at least in good measure — a hotbed of hatred, political hackery, banality, and juvenile thuggery. It is the kind of thing you’d expect to hear from troubled, towel-snapping junior high boys. (It’s worth pointing out that if a principal got a hold of e-mails like the ones produced by Journolist, he would punish and probably suspend the offending eighth graders.)

Journolist provides a window into the mindset of the journalistic and academic left in this country. It is not a pretty sight. The demonization and dehumanization of critics is arresting. Those who hold contrary views to the Journolist crowd aren’t individuals who have honest disagreements; they are evil, malignant, and their voices need to be eliminated from the public square. It is illiberal in the extreme.

Some Journolist defenders argue that what has been published doesn’t capture the true nature of what went on at Journolist and that the published exchanges were taken out of context. The Daily Caller’s Tucker Carlson has a reasonable response:

So why don’t we publish whatever portions of the Journolist archive we have and end the debate? Because a lot of them have no obvious news value, for one thing. Gather 400 lefty reporters and academics on one listserv and it turns out you wind up with a strikingly high concentration of bitchiness. Shocking amounts, actually. So while it might be amusing to air threads theorizing about the personal and sexual shortcomings of various NewRepublic staffers, we’ve decided to pull back…. Anyone on Journolist who claims we quoted him “out of context” can reveal the context himself.

That is a fair challenge. If Journolist turns out to differ substantially from its portrayal, Journolisters should release the full exchanges. Ezra Klein, David Corn, Jonathan Chait, and Joe Klein have all offered defenses, though their efforts range from feeble to pathetic. (It was really and merely “an argument between moderate and left-wing journalists,” Chait assures us.) Assuming that Journolisters cannot provide a stronger defense, other members of the fourth estate should be troubled by what has been uncovered. After all, it is the probity of their profession that is being stripped away.

Those who participated in Journolist undoubtedly hope this story will fade away and be forgotten. I rather doubt it will. It is another episode in the long, downward slide of modern journalism. “We were taking risks,” Joe Klein writes in his own defense. And the Journolist participants surely were — not intellectual risks but risks with their integrity — and several of them have been caught dead-to-rights. “Broken eggs cannot be mended,” Lincoln said. Neither can some broken reputations.

In many respects, the whole thing is dispiriting. On the other hand, it has had a clarifying effect. It turns out that the worst caricatures of liberal journalists were not, at least in the case of some, a caricature at all.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

If you give the liberal newspapers 11 months, they will eventually catch up with conservative media.

If you give Jonathan Chait a lifetime, he never will. Refusal to pursue voter-intimidation cases against nonwhite people, he says, is a “tiny matter.” (Does he know that it’s not just Fox that’s covering the scandal but the Washington Post too?)

If they gave grades for charm, Nancy Pelosi would be failing: “While trying to mend ties between her caucus and the White House, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi turned her ire toward her Senate colleagues on Thursday, blaming Senate delays in passing the Democratic agenda for the disappointing jobs picture heading into the midterm elections.”

If you keep hoping for Peter Beinart to write something that is factually supported and more than an ad hominem attack on conservatives, you’ll be disappointed. He says Republicans think you have to be Christian to be American. Or something. No, don’t read the whole thing. Or any of it.

If you think liberals aren’t angst-ridden, think again. Greg Sargent complains about Robert Gibbs’s comment on losing the House: “[I]t’s pretty clear now that Dems have good reason to be furious about Gibbs’s misstep. It has forced a days-long media process story about whether they’re going to lose the House and about tensions between them and the White House. This is happening just when Dems are trying to turn the spotlight away from themselves and onto Republicans in order to persuade voters that this fall’s elections represent a choice between competing governing philosophies.”

If you also thought it was bizarre that Obama was invoking race to explain why al-Qaeda kills Africans, you are in good company. Charles Krauthammer: “I found a more interesting element in the interview when he said al-Qaeda doesn’t respect African life. I mean, it doesn’t respect Indonesian life, Pakistani life, Iraqi life, American life. Of course it doesn’t respect African life, but it’s not because of race. It doesn’t respect anyone or any organization, any people who won’t accept the extreme interpretation of Islam and the bringing on of one rule under sharia.”

If Republicans are doing this well in fundraising, you have to think they’re going to do very well in November. (That sure was the pattern for Democrats in 2008.) “Republicans are outraising Democrats in nearly a dozen open Senate races, increasing their hopes of significantly narrowing the Democrats’ majority in November.”

If you like a good news story: “A judge had resentenced a 70-year-old civil rights lawyer to 10 years in prison for letting a jailed Egyptian sheik communicate with his radical followers. Federal Judge John Koeltl sentenced Lynne Stewart in Manhattan after she pleaded with him to reimpose the two-year, four-month sentence he had originally given her in 2006.” You might want to avert your eyes from the photo, however.

 

If you give the liberal newspapers 11 months, they will eventually catch up with conservative media.

If you give Jonathan Chait a lifetime, he never will. Refusal to pursue voter-intimidation cases against nonwhite people, he says, is a “tiny matter.” (Does he know that it’s not just Fox that’s covering the scandal but the Washington Post too?)

If they gave grades for charm, Nancy Pelosi would be failing: “While trying to mend ties between her caucus and the White House, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi turned her ire toward her Senate colleagues on Thursday, blaming Senate delays in passing the Democratic agenda for the disappointing jobs picture heading into the midterm elections.”

If you keep hoping for Peter Beinart to write something that is factually supported and more than an ad hominem attack on conservatives, you’ll be disappointed. He says Republicans think you have to be Christian to be American. Or something. No, don’t read the whole thing. Or any of it.

If you think liberals aren’t angst-ridden, think again. Greg Sargent complains about Robert Gibbs’s comment on losing the House: “[I]t’s pretty clear now that Dems have good reason to be furious about Gibbs’s misstep. It has forced a days-long media process story about whether they’re going to lose the House and about tensions between them and the White House. This is happening just when Dems are trying to turn the spotlight away from themselves and onto Republicans in order to persuade voters that this fall’s elections represent a choice between competing governing philosophies.”

If you also thought it was bizarre that Obama was invoking race to explain why al-Qaeda kills Africans, you are in good company. Charles Krauthammer: “I found a more interesting element in the interview when he said al-Qaeda doesn’t respect African life. I mean, it doesn’t respect Indonesian life, Pakistani life, Iraqi life, American life. Of course it doesn’t respect African life, but it’s not because of race. It doesn’t respect anyone or any organization, any people who won’t accept the extreme interpretation of Islam and the bringing on of one rule under sharia.”

If Republicans are doing this well in fundraising, you have to think they’re going to do very well in November. (That sure was the pattern for Democrats in 2008.) “Republicans are outraising Democrats in nearly a dozen open Senate races, increasing their hopes of significantly narrowing the Democrats’ majority in November.”

If you like a good news story: “A judge had resentenced a 70-year-old civil rights lawyer to 10 years in prison for letting a jailed Egyptian sheik communicate with his radical followers. Federal Judge John Koeltl sentenced Lynne Stewart in Manhattan after she pleaded with him to reimpose the two-year, four-month sentence he had originally given her in 2006.” You might want to avert your eyes from the photo, however.

 

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Flotsam and Jetsam

We finally have the perfect (and poetic) telling of the Tipper and Al saga.

Obama finally tries to undo some of the damage wrought by his troop-pullout deadline: “We did not say, starting in July 2011, suddenly there will be no troops from the United States or allied countries in Afghanistan. … We didn’t say we’d be switching off the lights and closing the door behind us. … We said we’d begin a transition phase that would allow the Afghan government to take more and more responsibility.” Now he just needs an affirmative statement that we’re going to do whatever it takes to win.

The voters finally get to grade Obama and the Democrats in November. They won’t be getting a B+: “This year’s low approval ratings for Congress are a potentially ominous sign for President Obama and the Democratic majority in Congress. Gallup has found greater party seat change in Congress in midterm elections when Congress has had low approval ratings.” Congress has a 20 percent approval rating; in 1994, Democrats scored 23 percent and lost 53 seats.

Congress should finally defund this position: “Rashad Hussain, America’s special envoy to the Organization for the Islamic Conference (OIC), the Saudi-based body formed in 1969 to ‘protect’ Jerusalem from the Israelis, announced a new title this week for President Barack Obama. According to Hussain, Obama is America’s ‘Educator-in-Chief on Islam.'” Unfortunately, until we have a new president, there’s nothing to be done — other than object loudly to this: “Hussain has now divulged that the U.S. will support the OIC in the latter’s United Nations effort to criminalize ‘defamation of religion’ — widely perceived as a measure to suppress criticism of Muslim practices that violate human rights.”

Will the Washington Post finally admit that the paper was snookered into hiring David Weigel as an authentic conservative voice? The latest: he apologizes to readers — for comments made on the lefty Journolist. Ahh … doesn’t that meant that … ? Even the Post should be able to figure that out now.

Will Democrats (and the rest of the country) finally be rid of Harry Reid? “The latest Rasmussen Reports telephone survey of Likely Voters in Nevada shows [Sharon] Angle earning 48% support, while Reid, the state’s longtime Democratic senator, picks up 41% of the vote.”

Jonathan Chait finally stumbles onto the truth. On Rand Paul’s obfuscation regarding the BP fund: “He’s intellectually honest enough that he doesn’t want to lie about his views. But he’s not quite intellectually honest enough to actually say what his views are. So he just keeps talking about issues related to the question without answering it.”

We finally have the perfect (and poetic) telling of the Tipper and Al saga.

Obama finally tries to undo some of the damage wrought by his troop-pullout deadline: “We did not say, starting in July 2011, suddenly there will be no troops from the United States or allied countries in Afghanistan. … We didn’t say we’d be switching off the lights and closing the door behind us. … We said we’d begin a transition phase that would allow the Afghan government to take more and more responsibility.” Now he just needs an affirmative statement that we’re going to do whatever it takes to win.

The voters finally get to grade Obama and the Democrats in November. They won’t be getting a B+: “This year’s low approval ratings for Congress are a potentially ominous sign for President Obama and the Democratic majority in Congress. Gallup has found greater party seat change in Congress in midterm elections when Congress has had low approval ratings.” Congress has a 20 percent approval rating; in 1994, Democrats scored 23 percent and lost 53 seats.

Congress should finally defund this position: “Rashad Hussain, America’s special envoy to the Organization for the Islamic Conference (OIC), the Saudi-based body formed in 1969 to ‘protect’ Jerusalem from the Israelis, announced a new title this week for President Barack Obama. According to Hussain, Obama is America’s ‘Educator-in-Chief on Islam.'” Unfortunately, until we have a new president, there’s nothing to be done — other than object loudly to this: “Hussain has now divulged that the U.S. will support the OIC in the latter’s United Nations effort to criminalize ‘defamation of religion’ — widely perceived as a measure to suppress criticism of Muslim practices that violate human rights.”

Will the Washington Post finally admit that the paper was snookered into hiring David Weigel as an authentic conservative voice? The latest: he apologizes to readers — for comments made on the lefty Journolist. Ahh … doesn’t that meant that … ? Even the Post should be able to figure that out now.

Will Democrats (and the rest of the country) finally be rid of Harry Reid? “The latest Rasmussen Reports telephone survey of Likely Voters in Nevada shows [Sharon] Angle earning 48% support, while Reid, the state’s longtime Democratic senator, picks up 41% of the vote.”

Jonathan Chait finally stumbles onto the truth. On Rand Paul’s obfuscation regarding the BP fund: “He’s intellectually honest enough that he doesn’t want to lie about his views. But he’s not quite intellectually honest enough to actually say what his views are. So he just keeps talking about issues related to the question without answering it.”

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Flotsam and Jetsam

We all benefit when Obama goes golfing, says the White House spokesman. But not when Tony Hayward goes sailing.

The U.S. government can certainly crack down on “humanitarian” aid to terrorist groups, says the Supreme Court. But Israel is not permitted the same latitude, points out Elliott Abrams: “As Chief Justice Roberts explained, such support [for training and advice for humanitarian, non-terrorist activities] ‘also importantly helps lend legitimacy to foreign terrorist groups—legitimacy that makes it easier for those groups to persist, to recruit members, and to raise funds—all of which facilitate more terrorist attacks.’ Americans inclined to think Israel has gone overboard in stopping flotillas from landing in Gaza might think again.”

Democrats have had enough of Obama’s career-killing agenda and John Kerry’s pestering them about a climate-control bill. But Jonathan Chait mocks politicians’ desire for self-preservation, “Why can’t [Kerry] let us worry about something that really matters, like the midterm election?” It’s curious whom Chait thinks will stand in the way of the conservative resurgence if all these horribly self-absorbed Democrats commit political suicide.

Obama promised that all that stimulus money would create/save millions of jobs. But this handy chart suggests we might have gotten equal or better results with no stimulus at all.

The lefty protesters in San Francisco intended to block the unloading of an Israeli ship. But they got the timing wrong and wound up protesting a Chinese ship. As Jay Nordlinger put it: “But listen, who cares about protesting the PRC — which is merely a one-party dictatorship with a gulag — when you can protest and harass Israel, that nasty Jewish state whose inhabitants (Jewish inhabitants — the Arab ones are cool) can go back to you-know-where! (Of course, when the Jews were in Europe, in great numbers, they were told to go back … to Israel, ancient and eternal land of the Jews.)”

The military and sympathetic observers keep sounding the alarm over Obama’s Afghanistan timeline. But the White House keeps reinforcing it. At some point, we should take the administration at its word.

Obama says he’s doing everything possible to deal with the Gulf oil spill. But he’s refused to waive the Jones Act to allow easier passage of foreign ships between U.S. ports. So Republicans are introducing legislation. Hard to say — as it always is with Obama — whether he’s incompetent in riding herd on the federal bureaucracy or he’s ingratiating himself (again) with Big Labor. Maybe it’s both.

We can be grateful that Peter Beinart has taken a break from Israel-bashing. But his quotient of loopiness to facts is no better when he is writing about Hillary Clinton. He seems intent on debunking  “rampant” speculation (which consists of some bloggers at one website and some Peggy Noonan and Dick Morris musings) that Hillary will run for president in 2012. Well, given the inanity of the topic, he’s not likely to be embarrassed on Fareed Zakaria’s show over it.

We all benefit when Obama goes golfing, says the White House spokesman. But not when Tony Hayward goes sailing.

The U.S. government can certainly crack down on “humanitarian” aid to terrorist groups, says the Supreme Court. But Israel is not permitted the same latitude, points out Elliott Abrams: “As Chief Justice Roberts explained, such support [for training and advice for humanitarian, non-terrorist activities] ‘also importantly helps lend legitimacy to foreign terrorist groups—legitimacy that makes it easier for those groups to persist, to recruit members, and to raise funds—all of which facilitate more terrorist attacks.’ Americans inclined to think Israel has gone overboard in stopping flotillas from landing in Gaza might think again.”

Democrats have had enough of Obama’s career-killing agenda and John Kerry’s pestering them about a climate-control bill. But Jonathan Chait mocks politicians’ desire for self-preservation, “Why can’t [Kerry] let us worry about something that really matters, like the midterm election?” It’s curious whom Chait thinks will stand in the way of the conservative resurgence if all these horribly self-absorbed Democrats commit political suicide.

Obama promised that all that stimulus money would create/save millions of jobs. But this handy chart suggests we might have gotten equal or better results with no stimulus at all.

The lefty protesters in San Francisco intended to block the unloading of an Israeli ship. But they got the timing wrong and wound up protesting a Chinese ship. As Jay Nordlinger put it: “But listen, who cares about protesting the PRC — which is merely a one-party dictatorship with a gulag — when you can protest and harass Israel, that nasty Jewish state whose inhabitants (Jewish inhabitants — the Arab ones are cool) can go back to you-know-where! (Of course, when the Jews were in Europe, in great numbers, they were told to go back … to Israel, ancient and eternal land of the Jews.)”

The military and sympathetic observers keep sounding the alarm over Obama’s Afghanistan timeline. But the White House keeps reinforcing it. At some point, we should take the administration at its word.

Obama says he’s doing everything possible to deal with the Gulf oil spill. But he’s refused to waive the Jones Act to allow easier passage of foreign ships between U.S. ports. So Republicans are introducing legislation. Hard to say — as it always is with Obama — whether he’s incompetent in riding herd on the federal bureaucracy or he’s ingratiating himself (again) with Big Labor. Maybe it’s both.

We can be grateful that Peter Beinart has taken a break from Israel-bashing. But his quotient of loopiness to facts is no better when he is writing about Hillary Clinton. He seems intent on debunking  “rampant” speculation (which consists of some bloggers at one website and some Peggy Noonan and Dick Morris musings) that Hillary will run for president in 2012. Well, given the inanity of the topic, he’s not likely to be embarrassed on Fareed Zakaria’s show over it.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Obama is finally meeting expectations: “That the WH would hold discussions with candidates about running for office, as they did with ex-CO House Speaker Andrew Romanoff (D) and Rep. Joe Sestak (D), is no surprise to most; 65% of voters — including 56% of GOPers — say it is business as usual for a WH to encourage candidates not to run for office. But a clear majority also believes the practice is either unethical or downright illegal. Four in 10 voters say the Obama admin had done something unethical, but not illegal; 12% said they believe the WH’s actions in approaching both Romanoff and Sestak about other jobs was illegal. Just 30% said the WH hadn’t done anything wrong.”

With technology at everyone’s fingertips, the public is finally getting a look at how too many politicians behave. But Rep. Etheridge apologized, so everything is OK, right? (Ben Smith dryly observes, “It’s pretty hard to think of a context in which Etheridge’s assault on the videographer would be acceptable.”)

Obama finally will address the country from the Oval Office. Not war, or bombings, or economic crisis, but rather a crisis in his own standing seems to have done it: “That the president has chosen this moment to give his first address from the Oval Office indicates not only the severity of the environmental and economic disaster caused by the BP oil spill, but also the perils the crisis poses for his presidency. With almost seven in ten Americans rating the federal response to the spill as negative — a worse rating than that for the government’s performance after Hurricane Katrina — the president’s political capital and his agenda are at risk.”

Iraqis finally get the knack of American democracy: “Iraq Parliament Opens, Then Recesses.”

Will American Jews finally wake up? “Asked if he sees Obama losing Jewish support, [Democrat Rep. Ron] Klein said, ‘I think there are a lot of people that are questioning. I’ve heard some people, a lot of conversations.'” I’ll believe it when I see the 2012 exit polls.

We finally have a perfect distillation of Obama’s foreign policy. The topic is Georgia, but Michael McFaul’s words could be applied to any issue: “Is it a foreign policy objective of the Obama administration to help end Russia’s occupation of Georgia in a peaceful manner and restore Georgia’s territorial integrity? Absolutely yes. … Have we made progress on the central objective? My answer is no. We haven’t. That’s the truth.”

The media finally have a beautiful, religious, conservative female candidate other than Sarah Palin to go after. She was endorsed by Palin, however. How long before there are demands for her OB-GYN files? Really, how certain are we that those adorable children are really hers?

Jonathan Chait finally discovers that the Beagle Blogger swings wildly from one position to another, mischaracterizing his opponents’ position.

Obama is finally meeting expectations: “That the WH would hold discussions with candidates about running for office, as they did with ex-CO House Speaker Andrew Romanoff (D) and Rep. Joe Sestak (D), is no surprise to most; 65% of voters — including 56% of GOPers — say it is business as usual for a WH to encourage candidates not to run for office. But a clear majority also believes the practice is either unethical or downright illegal. Four in 10 voters say the Obama admin had done something unethical, but not illegal; 12% said they believe the WH’s actions in approaching both Romanoff and Sestak about other jobs was illegal. Just 30% said the WH hadn’t done anything wrong.”

With technology at everyone’s fingertips, the public is finally getting a look at how too many politicians behave. But Rep. Etheridge apologized, so everything is OK, right? (Ben Smith dryly observes, “It’s pretty hard to think of a context in which Etheridge’s assault on the videographer would be acceptable.”)

Obama finally will address the country from the Oval Office. Not war, or bombings, or economic crisis, but rather a crisis in his own standing seems to have done it: “That the president has chosen this moment to give his first address from the Oval Office indicates not only the severity of the environmental and economic disaster caused by the BP oil spill, but also the perils the crisis poses for his presidency. With almost seven in ten Americans rating the federal response to the spill as negative — a worse rating than that for the government’s performance after Hurricane Katrina — the president’s political capital and his agenda are at risk.”

Iraqis finally get the knack of American democracy: “Iraq Parliament Opens, Then Recesses.”

Will American Jews finally wake up? “Asked if he sees Obama losing Jewish support, [Democrat Rep. Ron] Klein said, ‘I think there are a lot of people that are questioning. I’ve heard some people, a lot of conversations.'” I’ll believe it when I see the 2012 exit polls.

We finally have a perfect distillation of Obama’s foreign policy. The topic is Georgia, but Michael McFaul’s words could be applied to any issue: “Is it a foreign policy objective of the Obama administration to help end Russia’s occupation of Georgia in a peaceful manner and restore Georgia’s territorial integrity? Absolutely yes. … Have we made progress on the central objective? My answer is no. We haven’t. That’s the truth.”

The media finally have a beautiful, religious, conservative female candidate other than Sarah Palin to go after. She was endorsed by Palin, however. How long before there are demands for her OB-GYN files? Really, how certain are we that those adorable children are really hers?

Jonathan Chait finally discovers that the Beagle Blogger swings wildly from one position to another, mischaracterizing his opponents’ position.

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Beware of This, Republicans

My former White House colleague Michael Gerson has a very good column in the Washington Post today on civility and public discourse. It makes a very important (and too often overlooked) point:

The most basic test of democracy is not what people do when they win; it is what people do when they lose. Citizens bring their deepest passions to a public debate — convictions they regard as morally self-evident. Yet a war goes on. Abortion remains legal. A feared health-reform law passes. Democracy means the possibility of failure. While no democratic judgment is final — and citizens should continue to work to advance their ideals — respecting the temporary outcome of a democratic process is the definition of political maturity.

The opposite — questioning the legitimacy of a democratic outcome; abusing, demeaning and attempting to silence one’s opponents — is a sign of democratic decline. From the late Roman republic to Weimar Germany, these attitudes have been the prelude to thuggery. Thugs can come with clubs, with bullhorns, with Internet access.

Spirited, passionate debate is fine, and even good at times, for the country. The opposition party should offer sharp, even piercing, criticisms when appropriate. After all, politics ain’t beanbags, as Mr. Dooley said. And it’s not the place for those with delicate sensibilities. But nor should it be an arena for invective or hate. And conservatives should not repeat the tactics used by some Democrats and liberals during the Bush years. (Gerson documents several of them, including the temper tantrum thrown by the New Republic writer Jonathan Chait.)

These are not people or temperaments we want to emulate. It’s not appropriate – and it is ultimately politically counterproductive. Ronald Reagan, himself, a large-spirited and civilized man, looked quite good compared to the vitriolic attacks directed against him at the time.

Thankfully, anger and hate don’t usually sell in American politics. Richard Nixon, in the aftermath of Watergate, understood that. “Never be petty; always remember, others may hate you, but those who hate you don’t win unless you hate them, and then you destroy yourself,” Nixon said during his haunting remarks to the White House staff after his resignation in 1974. That was a lesson Nixon learned only after he was destroyed. It is a cautionary tale.

My former White House colleague Michael Gerson has a very good column in the Washington Post today on civility and public discourse. It makes a very important (and too often overlooked) point:

The most basic test of democracy is not what people do when they win; it is what people do when they lose. Citizens bring their deepest passions to a public debate — convictions they regard as morally self-evident. Yet a war goes on. Abortion remains legal. A feared health-reform law passes. Democracy means the possibility of failure. While no democratic judgment is final — and citizens should continue to work to advance their ideals — respecting the temporary outcome of a democratic process is the definition of political maturity.

The opposite — questioning the legitimacy of a democratic outcome; abusing, demeaning and attempting to silence one’s opponents — is a sign of democratic decline. From the late Roman republic to Weimar Germany, these attitudes have been the prelude to thuggery. Thugs can come with clubs, with bullhorns, with Internet access.

Spirited, passionate debate is fine, and even good at times, for the country. The opposition party should offer sharp, even piercing, criticisms when appropriate. After all, politics ain’t beanbags, as Mr. Dooley said. And it’s not the place for those with delicate sensibilities. But nor should it be an arena for invective or hate. And conservatives should not repeat the tactics used by some Democrats and liberals during the Bush years. (Gerson documents several of them, including the temper tantrum thrown by the New Republic writer Jonathan Chait.)

These are not people or temperaments we want to emulate. It’s not appropriate – and it is ultimately politically counterproductive. Ronald Reagan, himself, a large-spirited and civilized man, looked quite good compared to the vitriolic attacks directed against him at the time.

Thankfully, anger and hate don’t usually sell in American politics. Richard Nixon, in the aftermath of Watergate, understood that. “Never be petty; always remember, others may hate you, but those who hate you don’t win unless you hate them, and then you destroy yourself,” Nixon said during his haunting remarks to the White House staff after his resignation in 1974. That was a lesson Nixon learned only after he was destroyed. It is a cautionary tale.

Read Less




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