Commentary Magazine


Topic: Judd Gregg

Morning Commentary

New START picked up support from Republican Sens. Scott Brown, Bob Corker, Judd Gregg, and George Voinovich on Monday, making it look like the treaty may actually get ratified before the end of the week. Sens. Richard Lugar, Olympia Snowe, and Susan Collins had previously come out in favor of New START, which means Democrats now just need to pick up two more GOP “yes” votes to get the treaty ratified.

The latest Public Policy Polling survey of conservative voters in eight states found Sarah Palin to be the top pick for a 2012 presidential run. She’s followed closely by Mike Huckabee and Newt Gingrich, with Mitt Romney in last place. PPP has more results and analysis from the poll on its blog.

Sadness: Melanie Phillips explains why the left is at war with itself over whether to canonize Julian Assange as a hero or convict him as a rapist without trial: “To understand why there is such an ear-splitting screeching of brakes from The Guardian, it is necessary to consider the mind-bending contradictions of what passes for thinking on the Left. For it believes certain things as articles of faith which cannot be denied. One is that America is a force for bad in the world and so can never be anything other than guilty. Another is that all men are potential rapists, and so can never be anything other than guilty.”

Steve Chapman discusses how political correctness in American schools helps turn top students into mediocre ones: “The danger in putting the brightest kids in general classes is that they will be bored by instruction geared to the middle. But their troubles don’t elicit much sympathy. Brookings Institution scholar Tom Loveless told The Atlantic magazine, ‘The United States does not do a good job of educating kids at the top. There’s a long-standing attitude that, “Well, smart kids can make it on their own.”’ But can they? Only 6 percent of American kids achieve advanced proficiency in math—lower than in 30 other countries. In Taiwan, the figure is 28 percent.”

Nathan Glazer reviews Kenneth Marcus’s latest book on campus anti-Semitism and the inclusion of Jews in Title IV of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. An essay adapted from Marcus’s book was published in the September issue of COMMENTARY.

The nastiness of the anti-Israel fringe is now invading the morning commute. JTA reports that Seattle buses will soon be plastered with ads decrying “Israeli war-crimes.” From JTA: “The Seattle Midwest Awareness Campaign has paid $1,794 to place the advertisements on 12 buses beginning Dec. 27, the day Israel entered Gaza to stop rocket attacks on its southern communities, according to Seattle’s King 5 News. The ads feature a group of children looking at a demolished building under the heading ‘Israeli War Crimes: Your tax dollars at work.’”

New START picked up support from Republican Sens. Scott Brown, Bob Corker, Judd Gregg, and George Voinovich on Monday, making it look like the treaty may actually get ratified before the end of the week. Sens. Richard Lugar, Olympia Snowe, and Susan Collins had previously come out in favor of New START, which means Democrats now just need to pick up two more GOP “yes” votes to get the treaty ratified.

The latest Public Policy Polling survey of conservative voters in eight states found Sarah Palin to be the top pick for a 2012 presidential run. She’s followed closely by Mike Huckabee and Newt Gingrich, with Mitt Romney in last place. PPP has more results and analysis from the poll on its blog.

Sadness: Melanie Phillips explains why the left is at war with itself over whether to canonize Julian Assange as a hero or convict him as a rapist without trial: “To understand why there is such an ear-splitting screeching of brakes from The Guardian, it is necessary to consider the mind-bending contradictions of what passes for thinking on the Left. For it believes certain things as articles of faith which cannot be denied. One is that America is a force for bad in the world and so can never be anything other than guilty. Another is that all men are potential rapists, and so can never be anything other than guilty.”

Steve Chapman discusses how political correctness in American schools helps turn top students into mediocre ones: “The danger in putting the brightest kids in general classes is that they will be bored by instruction geared to the middle. But their troubles don’t elicit much sympathy. Brookings Institution scholar Tom Loveless told The Atlantic magazine, ‘The United States does not do a good job of educating kids at the top. There’s a long-standing attitude that, “Well, smart kids can make it on their own.”’ But can they? Only 6 percent of American kids achieve advanced proficiency in math—lower than in 30 other countries. In Taiwan, the figure is 28 percent.”

Nathan Glazer reviews Kenneth Marcus’s latest book on campus anti-Semitism and the inclusion of Jews in Title IV of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. An essay adapted from Marcus’s book was published in the September issue of COMMENTARY.

The nastiness of the anti-Israel fringe is now invading the morning commute. JTA reports that Seattle buses will soon be plastered with ads decrying “Israeli war-crimes.” From JTA: “The Seattle Midwest Awareness Campaign has paid $1,794 to place the advertisements on 12 buses beginning Dec. 27, the day Israel entered Gaza to stop rocket attacks on its southern communities, according to Seattle’s King 5 News. The ads feature a group of children looking at a demolished building under the heading ‘Israeli War Crimes: Your tax dollars at work.’”

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More on Debt-Reduction Commission

Over at the Debt-Reduction Commission, bipartisanship broke through this morning after all, though the votes necessary to give the recommendations force still aren’t there. Add Democratic and Republican Senate Budget Committee leaders Kent Conrad and Judd Gregg to the ranks of those endorsing the plan, which is now officially available. Stay tuned.

Over at the Debt-Reduction Commission, bipartisanship broke through this morning after all, though the votes necessary to give the recommendations force still aren’t there. Add Democratic and Republican Senate Budget Committee leaders Kent Conrad and Judd Gregg to the ranks of those endorsing the plan, which is now officially available. Stay tuned.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Eric Cantor blasts Obama’s change in Israel policy: “While Israel continues its search for a reliable partner in peace, Palestinian terrorism is still celebrated in the West Bank and Gaza. Despite this reality, since day one the White House has applied a severe double standard that refuses to hold the Palestinians accountable for their many provocations. It makes one wonder where the responsible adults are in the administration? The administration’s troubling policy of manufacturing fights with Israel to ingratiate itself with some in the Arab world is no way to advance the cause of Mideast peace.  What kind of message is sent to the world when our country appears to turn its back on key strategic allies who share our values?”

Michael Rubin dissects Daniel Kurtzer’s defense of Syria engagement: “Daniel Kurtzer, a former U.S. ambassador to Egypt and Israel and a proponent of engagement, argues that recent concerns about Syrian behavior should not stop the Obama administration from sending its ambassador nominee to Syria. … The simple fact is that restoring an ambassador legitimizes Syria and its stonewalling into the investigation surrounding Rafik Hariri’s assassination as well as its support for Hezbollah, a terrorist group responsible for the deaths of more Americans than any other but Al Qaeda. The simple fact is that engagement with the Assads of Syria is a fool’s game with a record of consistent failure (in contrast to a spotty but still more positive record of coercion against Syria).”

John McCain unloads on Obama for his “whether we like it or not, we remain a dominant military superpower” comment: “That’s one of the more incredible statements I’ve ever heard a president of the United States make in modern times. We are the dominant superpower, and we’re the greatest force for good in the history of this country, and I thank God every day that we are a dominant superpower.”

Voters in New Jersey want to uproot ObamaCare: “Fifty-one percent (51%) of voters in New Jersey, a state Barack Obama carried handily in 2008, now favor repeal of the recently-passed national health care bill. That includes 41% who strongly favor repeal.”

More bad news for Democrats in 2010 (subscription required): “Red states like Kansas, Oklahoma and Wyoming will once again have Republican Governors, while bluer states like Hawaii seem on track to elect a Democrat. At the end of the day, though, it appears that Republicans will gain between three and five governorships, giving them a majority.”

This has been clear for some time: “companies aren’t on a hiring binge.”

Sens. Judd Gregg and Ron Wyden propose a tax-simplification plan that “reduces the number of tax brackets for individuals from six to three – namely, 15 percent, 25 percent and 35 percent — and eliminates the Alternative Minimum Tax, which forces millions of taxpayers to calculate their taxes twice and pay the higher amount. This simplification will save taxpayers the considerable time and money they currently spend on tax compliance.”

Creative: “An Ohio death row inmate is attempting to postpone his imminent appointment with the lethal injection gurney by claiming a possible allergy to the anaesthetic used by the state to dispatch its condemned prisoners.”

Eric Cantor blasts Obama’s change in Israel policy: “While Israel continues its search for a reliable partner in peace, Palestinian terrorism is still celebrated in the West Bank and Gaza. Despite this reality, since day one the White House has applied a severe double standard that refuses to hold the Palestinians accountable for their many provocations. It makes one wonder where the responsible adults are in the administration? The administration’s troubling policy of manufacturing fights with Israel to ingratiate itself with some in the Arab world is no way to advance the cause of Mideast peace.  What kind of message is sent to the world when our country appears to turn its back on key strategic allies who share our values?”

Michael Rubin dissects Daniel Kurtzer’s defense of Syria engagement: “Daniel Kurtzer, a former U.S. ambassador to Egypt and Israel and a proponent of engagement, argues that recent concerns about Syrian behavior should not stop the Obama administration from sending its ambassador nominee to Syria. … The simple fact is that restoring an ambassador legitimizes Syria and its stonewalling into the investigation surrounding Rafik Hariri’s assassination as well as its support for Hezbollah, a terrorist group responsible for the deaths of more Americans than any other but Al Qaeda. The simple fact is that engagement with the Assads of Syria is a fool’s game with a record of consistent failure (in contrast to a spotty but still more positive record of coercion against Syria).”

John McCain unloads on Obama for his “whether we like it or not, we remain a dominant military superpower” comment: “That’s one of the more incredible statements I’ve ever heard a president of the United States make in modern times. We are the dominant superpower, and we’re the greatest force for good in the history of this country, and I thank God every day that we are a dominant superpower.”

Voters in New Jersey want to uproot ObamaCare: “Fifty-one percent (51%) of voters in New Jersey, a state Barack Obama carried handily in 2008, now favor repeal of the recently-passed national health care bill. That includes 41% who strongly favor repeal.”

More bad news for Democrats in 2010 (subscription required): “Red states like Kansas, Oklahoma and Wyoming will once again have Republican Governors, while bluer states like Hawaii seem on track to elect a Democrat. At the end of the day, though, it appears that Republicans will gain between three and five governorships, giving them a majority.”

This has been clear for some time: “companies aren’t on a hiring binge.”

Sens. Judd Gregg and Ron Wyden propose a tax-simplification plan that “reduces the number of tax brackets for individuals from six to three – namely, 15 percent, 25 percent and 35 percent — and eliminates the Alternative Minimum Tax, which forces millions of taxpayers to calculate their taxes twice and pay the higher amount. This simplification will save taxpayers the considerable time and money they currently spend on tax compliance.”

Creative: “An Ohio death row inmate is attempting to postpone his imminent appointment with the lethal injection gurney by claiming a possible allergy to the anaesthetic used by the state to dispatch its condemned prisoners.”

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The Reconciliation Dodge

House Democrats should be wary, says Sen. Judd Gregg, who smells a set-up on “reconciliation.” He explains:

“If you’re in the House and you’re saying, ‘Well, I’m going to vote for this because I’m going to get a reconcilation bill,’ I would think twice about that,” Gregg said. “First because, procedurally, it’s going to be hard to put a reconciliation bill through the Senate. Second because I’m not sure there’s going to be a lot of energy to do it, from the president or his people.”

“In my opinion, reconciliation is an exercise for buying votes, which, once they have the votes they really don’t need it,” he said.

And indeed, some House Democrats such as Shelley Berkley smell a rat. (“I would like something more concrete than a promise. The Senate cannot promise its way out of a brown paper bag.”) And if the House Democrats walk the plank but there is no reconciliation fix by the Senate, what then? Jeffrey Anderson sketched out the nightmare scenario:

Target squarely on their chests, they would now get to face their fuming constituents after having passed a $2.5 trillion bill that would allow public funding of abortion, would send $100 million to Nebraska, $300 million to Louisiana, $100 million to Connecticut, would exempt South Florida’s Medicare Advantage enrollees from annual $2,100 cuts in Medicare Advantage benefits, would raise taxes, raise deficits, raise health costs, empower Washington, reduce liberty, politicize medicine, and jeopardize the quality of health care.  Most of all, they would feel the citizenry’s wrath for having voted to pass a bill that only 25 percent of Americans support.

What in such circumstances should wary House Democrats do? Well, voting “no” and proposing a bare-bones, focused list of reforms might be a good idea. But who thinks Pelosi would go along with that gambit? She intends to make her members walk the plank. Unless and until she is convinced she will lose a floor vote, she’ll keep twisting arms and promising that ObamaCare’s passage is just around the corner. But of course, if they had the votes, they’d be voting. But they don’t — in large part because House Democrats have wised up.

House Democrats should be wary, says Sen. Judd Gregg, who smells a set-up on “reconciliation.” He explains:

“If you’re in the House and you’re saying, ‘Well, I’m going to vote for this because I’m going to get a reconcilation bill,’ I would think twice about that,” Gregg said. “First because, procedurally, it’s going to be hard to put a reconciliation bill through the Senate. Second because I’m not sure there’s going to be a lot of energy to do it, from the president or his people.”

“In my opinion, reconciliation is an exercise for buying votes, which, once they have the votes they really don’t need it,” he said.

And indeed, some House Democrats such as Shelley Berkley smell a rat. (“I would like something more concrete than a promise. The Senate cannot promise its way out of a brown paper bag.”) And if the House Democrats walk the plank but there is no reconciliation fix by the Senate, what then? Jeffrey Anderson sketched out the nightmare scenario:

Target squarely on their chests, they would now get to face their fuming constituents after having passed a $2.5 trillion bill that would allow public funding of abortion, would send $100 million to Nebraska, $300 million to Louisiana, $100 million to Connecticut, would exempt South Florida’s Medicare Advantage enrollees from annual $2,100 cuts in Medicare Advantage benefits, would raise taxes, raise deficits, raise health costs, empower Washington, reduce liberty, politicize medicine, and jeopardize the quality of health care.  Most of all, they would feel the citizenry’s wrath for having voted to pass a bill that only 25 percent of Americans support.

What in such circumstances should wary House Democrats do? Well, voting “no” and proposing a bare-bones, focused list of reforms might be a good idea. But who thinks Pelosi would go along with that gambit? She intends to make her members walk the plank. Unless and until she is convinced she will lose a floor vote, she’ll keep twisting arms and promising that ObamaCare’s passage is just around the corner. But of course, if they had the votes, they’d be voting. But they don’t — in large part because House Democrats have wised up.

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Heading for an Exit on ObamaCare?

James Taranto whimsically notes: “Obama is asking voters to believe that ObamaCare is a good idea and that the reason they think it is a bad idea is that he isn’t good at persuasion. But if he can convince them of that, he can convince them of anything–which means that the claim that he is bad at persuasion is wildly false.” Well, aside from recalling memories of undergraduate philosophy classes, Taranto has a point there: no one is really paying much attention to what Obama says these days.

The formerly sycophantic press has turned grumpy. The AP reports:

Starting over on health care, President Barack Obama knows his chances aren’t looking much more promising. A year after he called for a far-reaching overhaul, Obama unveiled his most detailed plan yet on Monday. Realistically, he’s just hoping to win a big enough slice to silence the talk of a failing presidency.

The 10-year, $1 trillion plan, like the current Democratic version in the Senate, would bring health insurance to more than 31 million Americans who now lack it. Government insurance wouldn’t be included, a problem for Democratic progressives. Republicans are skeptical about where the money would come from — and about Obama’s claim that the plan wouldn’t raise the federal deficit.

It may well be that this is not the opening bid on ObamaCare but the beginning of an exit plan. (“In the end, Americans who have listened to a year of talk about big changes in their health care, may see much smaller changes, if any. The president is likely to have to settle for much less than he wants — small-bore legislation that would smooth the rough edges of today’s system but stop well short of coverage for nearly everyone.”) Might it be that we are heading for a targeted, small-bones plan that lets Obama escape with a face-saving signing ceremony and the rest of us keep the health-care system pretty much the way it is? The Obami deny that this is what they have in mind, but the AP sniffs a sprint for the lifeboats:

If Obama ultimately settles for a pared-down plan, the final bill could look a lot like what Republicans have been calling for over many years. It would include federal funding for high-risk pools that would extend coverage to people denied because of medical problems, a new insurance marketplace for small employers and individuals buying their own policies, as well as tax credits for small businesses.

But we really don’t know what the president has in mind. His plan is 11 pages long and, therefore, can’t be scored by the CBO or tested as to whether it really is deficit neutral. “Also unclear is the extent and impact of new coverage requirements for individuals and businesses.”

That in a nutshell is Obama’s “governance” at work. He spent a year jawboning the issue only to convince most Americans they pretty much like the health-care system the way it is. He decries the lack of ideas on the other side, apparently unaware that they have lots of very detailed plans — and a website too. He then comes out with a not-very-different (except for the noxious federal regulation piece) and not-very-clear version of what voters have already rejected. As Politico reports:

The White House opened its last-ditch push for health reform Monday by releasing a $950 billion plan that signaled a new phase of hands-on presidential involvement. But by day’s end, President Barack Obama was staring down all the same old problems. Republicans called it a retread of the same bills Americans have panned, even though it included some GOP ideas. “Déjà vu all over again,” said Sen. Judd Gregg (R-N.H.).

And his allies in Congress, who stalled out with ObamaCare and then were “rewarded” with the appearance of Scott Brown as a colleague, are expected to ram it through using a parliamentary trick if the Republicans don’t sign on. Got it? I wonder if Pelosi even has 200 votes for this — whatever “this” is. (House Democrats are already squawking.)

It’s not exactly a moment of great presidential leadership. But it might be the beginning of the end of a disastrous legislative foray for the Democrats. And that would be very good for them and, more important, very good for the entire country.

James Taranto whimsically notes: “Obama is asking voters to believe that ObamaCare is a good idea and that the reason they think it is a bad idea is that he isn’t good at persuasion. But if he can convince them of that, he can convince them of anything–which means that the claim that he is bad at persuasion is wildly false.” Well, aside from recalling memories of undergraduate philosophy classes, Taranto has a point there: no one is really paying much attention to what Obama says these days.

The formerly sycophantic press has turned grumpy. The AP reports:

Starting over on health care, President Barack Obama knows his chances aren’t looking much more promising. A year after he called for a far-reaching overhaul, Obama unveiled his most detailed plan yet on Monday. Realistically, he’s just hoping to win a big enough slice to silence the talk of a failing presidency.

The 10-year, $1 trillion plan, like the current Democratic version in the Senate, would bring health insurance to more than 31 million Americans who now lack it. Government insurance wouldn’t be included, a problem for Democratic progressives. Republicans are skeptical about where the money would come from — and about Obama’s claim that the plan wouldn’t raise the federal deficit.

It may well be that this is not the opening bid on ObamaCare but the beginning of an exit plan. (“In the end, Americans who have listened to a year of talk about big changes in their health care, may see much smaller changes, if any. The president is likely to have to settle for much less than he wants — small-bore legislation that would smooth the rough edges of today’s system but stop well short of coverage for nearly everyone.”) Might it be that we are heading for a targeted, small-bones plan that lets Obama escape with a face-saving signing ceremony and the rest of us keep the health-care system pretty much the way it is? The Obami deny that this is what they have in mind, but the AP sniffs a sprint for the lifeboats:

If Obama ultimately settles for a pared-down plan, the final bill could look a lot like what Republicans have been calling for over many years. It would include federal funding for high-risk pools that would extend coverage to people denied because of medical problems, a new insurance marketplace for small employers and individuals buying their own policies, as well as tax credits for small businesses.

But we really don’t know what the president has in mind. His plan is 11 pages long and, therefore, can’t be scored by the CBO or tested as to whether it really is deficit neutral. “Also unclear is the extent and impact of new coverage requirements for individuals and businesses.”

That in a nutshell is Obama’s “governance” at work. He spent a year jawboning the issue only to convince most Americans they pretty much like the health-care system the way it is. He decries the lack of ideas on the other side, apparently unaware that they have lots of very detailed plans — and a website too. He then comes out with a not-very-different (except for the noxious federal regulation piece) and not-very-clear version of what voters have already rejected. As Politico reports:

The White House opened its last-ditch push for health reform Monday by releasing a $950 billion plan that signaled a new phase of hands-on presidential involvement. But by day’s end, President Barack Obama was staring down all the same old problems. Republicans called it a retread of the same bills Americans have panned, even though it included some GOP ideas. “Déjà vu all over again,” said Sen. Judd Gregg (R-N.H.).

And his allies in Congress, who stalled out with ObamaCare and then were “rewarded” with the appearance of Scott Brown as a colleague, are expected to ram it through using a parliamentary trick if the Republicans don’t sign on. Got it? I wonder if Pelosi even has 200 votes for this — whatever “this” is. (House Democrats are already squawking.)

It’s not exactly a moment of great presidential leadership. But it might be the beginning of the end of a disastrous legislative foray for the Democrats. And that would be very good for them and, more important, very good for the entire country.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

The number of terrorists convicted in the criminal-justice system is 300. Or 195. Or 39, if you believe the ACLU.  Andy McCarthy writes: “It is disingenuous to low-ball the figure, as the ACLU does, in order to minimize the problem. It is equally disingenuous to exaggerate the figure, as DOJ is now doing, to create a myth of law-enforcement effectiveness (in order to discredit wartime military processes). Both of these plays are in the Left’s playbook. But guys, but when your objective is to hoodwink the public, you’re not supposed to run both plays at the same time! Can’t anybody here play this game?”

Obama is not turning out to be everything (anything?) the Left had hoped he’d be. Eli Lake reports: “President Obama is coming under pressure from Democrats and civil liberties groups for failing to fill positions on an oversight panel formed in 2004 to make sure the government does not spy improperly on U.S. citizens. … Since taking office, Mr. Obama has allowed the board to languish. He has not even spent the panel’s allocation from the fiscal 2010 budget.” Well, he hasn’t set up the High Value Interrogation group either, so the Left shouldn’t take it personally. He’s just not very good on following through.

But the key test for Democrats is not what they say in a hearing, but how they vote: “The Democratic chairman of the Senate Budget Committee said he is a skeptic of President Barack Obama’s long-term budget plan. Sen. Kent Conrad (N.D.) told White House officials Tuesday that the nation can’t accept the budget’s projected deficits at the end of this decade, which approach $1 trillion. ‘We are on an unsustainable course by any measure,’ Conrad said during his committee’s first hearing on the administration’s 2011 budget request. ‘I believe the president is taking us in the right direction over the next several years,’ he added. ‘But I must say I am very concerned about the long term.’”

More horrid polling for Blanche Lincoln: “Her GOP rivals, including Congressman John Boozman who is expected to enter the race on Saturday, all earn roughly 50% of the vote against the two-term Democrat. … Boozman, the newest entrant in the race, runs strongest among likely voters in Arkansas for now, beating Lincoln by 19 points, 54% to 35%. State Senator Gilbert Baker also leads Lincoln by 19, 52% to 33%. State Senate Minority Leader Kim Hendren posts a 51% to 35% lead over the incumbent.”

The Obami’s vendetta against Fox was a stunning success — for Fox. “Fox News had its best January in the history of the network, and was the only cable news network to grow year-to-year. FNC also had the top 13 programs on cable news in total viewers for the fifth month in a row, and the top 13 programs in the A25-54 demographic for the first time in more than five years.”

Sen. John Kerry: “We need a constitutional amendment to make it clear once and for all that corporations do not have the same free speech rights as individuals.” It may be a daft idea to amend the Constitution so as to restrict speech, but at least he’s more honest than the president. You can’t overrule a First Amendment decision by statute.

Sen. Judd Gregg will be missed when he retires. “Office of Management and Budget Director Peter Orszag faced the wrath of Sen. Judd Gregg, R-N.H., Tuesday during the Senate Budget Committee hearing on the Obama administration’s budget proposal for 2011. Gregg was irked about President Obama’s plan to unveil a new proposal to use $30 billion from Troubled Asset Relief Program funds to help community banks lend to small businesses at an event Tuesday afternoon in Nashua, NH — Gregg’s home state. ‘This proposal violates the law,’ Gregg said. ‘The whole concept of the TARP was as we recouped the money, we would use it to pay down the debt. Now that’s not going to happen. It’s become a piggy bank. A piggy bank which adds to our deficit.’”

Yes, Richard Reid was Mirandized. So what? John McCormack: “But the fact remains that it was a mistake to mirandize Abdulmutallab — just as it was a mistake to mirandize Reid. At what point will Democrats realize that the Bush administration’s mistakes are not an excuse for the Obama administration’s failures?” The answer is never. They ran against Bush, they won being against Bush, they crafted not-Bush national-security policies, and now they are convinced they can govern being not Bush (except when they repeat an error of the Bush administration). This is what comes from Bush Derangement Syndrome, I suppose.

The number of terrorists convicted in the criminal-justice system is 300. Or 195. Or 39, if you believe the ACLU.  Andy McCarthy writes: “It is disingenuous to low-ball the figure, as the ACLU does, in order to minimize the problem. It is equally disingenuous to exaggerate the figure, as DOJ is now doing, to create a myth of law-enforcement effectiveness (in order to discredit wartime military processes). Both of these plays are in the Left’s playbook. But guys, but when your objective is to hoodwink the public, you’re not supposed to run both plays at the same time! Can’t anybody here play this game?”

Obama is not turning out to be everything (anything?) the Left had hoped he’d be. Eli Lake reports: “President Obama is coming under pressure from Democrats and civil liberties groups for failing to fill positions on an oversight panel formed in 2004 to make sure the government does not spy improperly on U.S. citizens. … Since taking office, Mr. Obama has allowed the board to languish. He has not even spent the panel’s allocation from the fiscal 2010 budget.” Well, he hasn’t set up the High Value Interrogation group either, so the Left shouldn’t take it personally. He’s just not very good on following through.

But the key test for Democrats is not what they say in a hearing, but how they vote: “The Democratic chairman of the Senate Budget Committee said he is a skeptic of President Barack Obama’s long-term budget plan. Sen. Kent Conrad (N.D.) told White House officials Tuesday that the nation can’t accept the budget’s projected deficits at the end of this decade, which approach $1 trillion. ‘We are on an unsustainable course by any measure,’ Conrad said during his committee’s first hearing on the administration’s 2011 budget request. ‘I believe the president is taking us in the right direction over the next several years,’ he added. ‘But I must say I am very concerned about the long term.’”

More horrid polling for Blanche Lincoln: “Her GOP rivals, including Congressman John Boozman who is expected to enter the race on Saturday, all earn roughly 50% of the vote against the two-term Democrat. … Boozman, the newest entrant in the race, runs strongest among likely voters in Arkansas for now, beating Lincoln by 19 points, 54% to 35%. State Senator Gilbert Baker also leads Lincoln by 19, 52% to 33%. State Senate Minority Leader Kim Hendren posts a 51% to 35% lead over the incumbent.”

The Obami’s vendetta against Fox was a stunning success — for Fox. “Fox News had its best January in the history of the network, and was the only cable news network to grow year-to-year. FNC also had the top 13 programs on cable news in total viewers for the fifth month in a row, and the top 13 programs in the A25-54 demographic for the first time in more than five years.”

Sen. John Kerry: “We need a constitutional amendment to make it clear once and for all that corporations do not have the same free speech rights as individuals.” It may be a daft idea to amend the Constitution so as to restrict speech, but at least he’s more honest than the president. You can’t overrule a First Amendment decision by statute.

Sen. Judd Gregg will be missed when he retires. “Office of Management and Budget Director Peter Orszag faced the wrath of Sen. Judd Gregg, R-N.H., Tuesday during the Senate Budget Committee hearing on the Obama administration’s budget proposal for 2011. Gregg was irked about President Obama’s plan to unveil a new proposal to use $30 billion from Troubled Asset Relief Program funds to help community banks lend to small businesses at an event Tuesday afternoon in Nashua, NH — Gregg’s home state. ‘This proposal violates the law,’ Gregg said. ‘The whole concept of the TARP was as we recouped the money, we would use it to pay down the debt. Now that’s not going to happen. It’s become a piggy bank. A piggy bank which adds to our deficit.’”

Yes, Richard Reid was Mirandized. So what? John McCormack: “But the fact remains that it was a mistake to mirandize Abdulmutallab — just as it was a mistake to mirandize Reid. At what point will Democrats realize that the Bush administration’s mistakes are not an excuse for the Obama administration’s failures?” The answer is never. They ran against Bush, they won being against Bush, they crafted not-Bush national-security policies, and now they are convinced they can govern being not Bush (except when they repeat an error of the Bush administration). This is what comes from Bush Derangement Syndrome, I suppose.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

There’s a smart argument for building up Palestinian institutions and encouraging economic growth as a prelude to peace. But the Obami have reversed it, spreading poverty as they stagger through the “peace process.” Insisting on a settlement freeze has only put the squeeze on Palestinian workers: “These are skilled construction workers, men who actually rely on jobs in those ‘illegitimate’ settlements for their livelihoods, and they’ve been penalized harshly by the moratorium—they used to earn $40 a day; now, if they’re working at all, they’re getting $13.  ‘The settlement freeze has only brought more poverty,’ [says] Abdel Aziz Othman. … If you were of a sardonic cast of mind, you might call this the freeze to nowhere.”

Sen. Dianne Feinstein opposes the KSM trial. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand wakes up and opposes it too. (Did they think it was a good idea up until the Massachusetts Senate race?) Who thinks this is still going to happen? Not Rep. John Boehner. But Obama does. It seems he’s outside the bipartisan consensus on this one.

Why didn’t Obama move to the center like Bill Clinton did? The New York Times explains: “So the gamble underlying Mr. Obama’s speech seems to be that he can muddle through the November elections with perhaps 20 or 30 lost seats in the House, and a handful in the Senate, and avoid the kind of rout that led Mr. Clinton to declare the end of the big government era.” That doesn’t look like such a great bet these days, especially since “Mr. Obama has seen the passion of his own political base wither.”

Obama’s attack on the Supreme Court may turn out to be as politically tone deaf as his Gates-gate comments: “A noted Supreme Court historian who ‘enthusiastically’ voted for President Obama in November 2008 today called President Obama’s criticism of the Supreme Court in his State of the Union address last night ‘really unusual’ and said he wouldn’t be surprised if no Supreme Court Justices attend the speech next year.” When Obama loses the law-professor vote, he’s in real trouble.

Ben Bernanke is confirmed for another term as Fed chairman by a 70-30 vote. A good warning for Obama, perhaps, of the dangers of letting populist, business-bashing rhetoric get out of hand.

Sen. Judd Gregg goes after the MSNBC hosts: “You can’t make a representation and then claim you didn’t make it. You know, it just shouldn’t work that way. You’ve got to have some integrity on your side of this camera, too.” Yowser.

Republicans are getting feisty. Sen. Jon Kyl on the SOTU: “First of all, I would’ve thought by now he would’ve stopped blaming the Bush administration for the mess that he inherited. And I don’t think that the American people want a whiner who says, woe is me. It was a terrible situation. And more than a year after he’s sworn in, he’s still complaining about the Bush administration.”

There’s a smart argument for building up Palestinian institutions and encouraging economic growth as a prelude to peace. But the Obami have reversed it, spreading poverty as they stagger through the “peace process.” Insisting on a settlement freeze has only put the squeeze on Palestinian workers: “These are skilled construction workers, men who actually rely on jobs in those ‘illegitimate’ settlements for their livelihoods, and they’ve been penalized harshly by the moratorium—they used to earn $40 a day; now, if they’re working at all, they’re getting $13.  ‘The settlement freeze has only brought more poverty,’ [says] Abdel Aziz Othman. … If you were of a sardonic cast of mind, you might call this the freeze to nowhere.”

Sen. Dianne Feinstein opposes the KSM trial. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand wakes up and opposes it too. (Did they think it was a good idea up until the Massachusetts Senate race?) Who thinks this is still going to happen? Not Rep. John Boehner. But Obama does. It seems he’s outside the bipartisan consensus on this one.

Why didn’t Obama move to the center like Bill Clinton did? The New York Times explains: “So the gamble underlying Mr. Obama’s speech seems to be that he can muddle through the November elections with perhaps 20 or 30 lost seats in the House, and a handful in the Senate, and avoid the kind of rout that led Mr. Clinton to declare the end of the big government era.” That doesn’t look like such a great bet these days, especially since “Mr. Obama has seen the passion of his own political base wither.”

Obama’s attack on the Supreme Court may turn out to be as politically tone deaf as his Gates-gate comments: “A noted Supreme Court historian who ‘enthusiastically’ voted for President Obama in November 2008 today called President Obama’s criticism of the Supreme Court in his State of the Union address last night ‘really unusual’ and said he wouldn’t be surprised if no Supreme Court Justices attend the speech next year.” When Obama loses the law-professor vote, he’s in real trouble.

Ben Bernanke is confirmed for another term as Fed chairman by a 70-30 vote. A good warning for Obama, perhaps, of the dangers of letting populist, business-bashing rhetoric get out of hand.

Sen. Judd Gregg goes after the MSNBC hosts: “You can’t make a representation and then claim you didn’t make it. You know, it just shouldn’t work that way. You’ve got to have some integrity on your side of this camera, too.” Yowser.

Republicans are getting feisty. Sen. Jon Kyl on the SOTU: “First of all, I would’ve thought by now he would’ve stopped blaming the Bush administration for the mess that he inherited. And I don’t think that the American people want a whiner who says, woe is me. It was a terrible situation. And more than a year after he’s sworn in, he’s still complaining about the Bush administration.”

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No Life Preserver for Tax-and Spend Democrats

The Democrats are frantically searching for a political lifeboat. They have been on a tax-and-spend jag, run up the debt, and only angered the public. So they latched on to a “solution” — a debt-reduction commission to recommend tax hikes and spending cuts, with a goal to report back after the congressional elections with a plan, this report explains, “for shrinking the federal budget deficit to 3% of the gross domestic product by 2015 from the current 10% level, and on steps to contain long-term budget problems through tax increases and changes to Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.” The commission would have a total of 10 Democrats (six appointed by the Congress, the rest by the president) and eight Republicans (six appointed by Republicans in Congress, the rest by the president).

Meanwhile, the Congress can go merrily along with health care and the rest of its agenda, spending to its heart’s content. As the report notes: “Underscoring the problem, the Senate is poised to vote to raise the national debt ceiling by $1.9 trillion, just weeks after a $290 billion increase at the end of 2009. The debt currently stands at $12.322 trillion.”

Why in the world would Republicans go along with this charade? Well, they aren’t, it seems. Their immediate concerns are the lack of statutory authority for the commission and the absence of any requirement for Congress to even vote on its recommendations:

Republican Sens. George Voinovich of Ohio and Judd Gregg of New Hampshire dismissed it as a political fig leaf and instead called on President Barack Obama to support enactment of a law that would establish a commission and require an up-or-down congressional vote on its recommendations. Tuesday’s plan would create the panel by executive order. Senate Budget Committee Chairman Kent Conrad (D., N.D.) has also withheld his support.

But even if these obstacles were overcome, there are substantive and political reasons for conservatives not to play along with this scheme. For starters, with 10 Democrats plus two Obama-handpicked Republicans, the outcome is preordained. The recommendation will include hefty tax hikes. But the crux of the problem is that it lets the big spenders off the hook. In fact, it encourages them to keep it up, since an independent commission is going to take care of all that deficit stuff. As the Wall Street Journal editors point out:

We can see why Democrats would love this idea. In the past year they have passed: a $447 billion omnibus spending bill for fiscal 2009, a $787 billion stimulus, $3 billion for cash for clunkers, $75 billion in mortgage assistance, $34 billion for children’s health care (Schip), $30 billion in anticipated auto bailout losses, with another nearly 11% spending increase teed up for fiscal 2010 for domestic programs. This party was fun, but now comes the headache (see Massachusetts) and the need for GOP tax partners.

Emboldened by Scott Brown’s victory, Republicans seem poised to play it smart and not offer the drowning Democrats a life preserver. Democrats thought there was no consequence, economic or political, to their spending spree. The loyal opposition should take the rest of the year to explain why they were wrong.

The Democrats are frantically searching for a political lifeboat. They have been on a tax-and-spend jag, run up the debt, and only angered the public. So they latched on to a “solution” — a debt-reduction commission to recommend tax hikes and spending cuts, with a goal to report back after the congressional elections with a plan, this report explains, “for shrinking the federal budget deficit to 3% of the gross domestic product by 2015 from the current 10% level, and on steps to contain long-term budget problems through tax increases and changes to Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.” The commission would have a total of 10 Democrats (six appointed by the Congress, the rest by the president) and eight Republicans (six appointed by Republicans in Congress, the rest by the president).

Meanwhile, the Congress can go merrily along with health care and the rest of its agenda, spending to its heart’s content. As the report notes: “Underscoring the problem, the Senate is poised to vote to raise the national debt ceiling by $1.9 trillion, just weeks after a $290 billion increase at the end of 2009. The debt currently stands at $12.322 trillion.”

Why in the world would Republicans go along with this charade? Well, they aren’t, it seems. Their immediate concerns are the lack of statutory authority for the commission and the absence of any requirement for Congress to even vote on its recommendations:

Republican Sens. George Voinovich of Ohio and Judd Gregg of New Hampshire dismissed it as a political fig leaf and instead called on President Barack Obama to support enactment of a law that would establish a commission and require an up-or-down congressional vote on its recommendations. Tuesday’s plan would create the panel by executive order. Senate Budget Committee Chairman Kent Conrad (D., N.D.) has also withheld his support.

But even if these obstacles were overcome, there are substantive and political reasons for conservatives not to play along with this scheme. For starters, with 10 Democrats plus two Obama-handpicked Republicans, the outcome is preordained. The recommendation will include hefty tax hikes. But the crux of the problem is that it lets the big spenders off the hook. In fact, it encourages them to keep it up, since an independent commission is going to take care of all that deficit stuff. As the Wall Street Journal editors point out:

We can see why Democrats would love this idea. In the past year they have passed: a $447 billion omnibus spending bill for fiscal 2009, a $787 billion stimulus, $3 billion for cash for clunkers, $75 billion in mortgage assistance, $34 billion for children’s health care (Schip), $30 billion in anticipated auto bailout losses, with another nearly 11% spending increase teed up for fiscal 2010 for domestic programs. This party was fun, but now comes the headache (see Massachusetts) and the need for GOP tax partners.

Emboldened by Scott Brown’s victory, Republicans seem poised to play it smart and not offer the drowning Democrats a life preserver. Democrats thought there was no consequence, economic or political, to their spending spree. The loyal opposition should take the rest of the year to explain why they were wrong.

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Could They Just Stop?

The Wall Street Journal‘s editors observe:

If at first fiscal stimulus doesn’t succeed, spend, spend again. That’s the motto President Obama embraced yesterday, even if he didn’t use the word “stimulus,” which has managed to set a political record in the speed with which it has become unpopular with voters. This time, the spending is being called “Proposals to Accelerate Job Growth and Lay the Foundation for Robust Economic Growth.”

But wasn’t that also supposed to be the point of last February’s $787 billion stimulus, or for that matter of the Nancy Pelosi-George W. Bush $165 billion stimulus of February 2008?

Yes, there are a few trinkets for conservatives, but they are so small and limited as to be meaningless (a capital-gains tax rate of zero for small business for a year, allowing businesses to expense certain investments up to $250K), particularly in the face of gigantic, anti-growth, anti-jobs initiatives like cap-and-trade (or the more noxious just-cap via EPA edict), hundreds of billions in new taxes in the guise of ObamaCare, and the massive tax hikes that will come when the Democrats allow the Bush tax hikes to expire.

Most of what Obama is talking about, however, is spending, spending, and more spending — turning TARP into a “revolving line of Democratic political credit.” After all, if you’re going to allow the EPA to legislate emission output when even Congress won’t, why not ignore the language and intent of Congress and use the bailout money for whatever the administration likes? The Obami don’t allow constitutional or statutory niceties get in the way. Moreover, as Sen. Judd Gregg explains, it’s fiscal silliness on stilts:

“It’s a huge shell game to try to give political cover to the fact that he wants to create a new stimulus program of about $200 billion,” Gregg said. “And it’s all going to be borrowed money, which means it’s all going to go on the deficit, and it’s all going to go in the debt, and it’s all going to be paid for by our kids. And they really can’t afford it because we’re already giving them enough deficit and debt.”

Gregg added: “I don’t think adding another $200 billion of debt here and claiming that you’re wrapping it around TARP makes any sense at all, because actually, you’re not doing anything relevant to TARP. All you’re doing is borrowing more money.”

None of this will sound very enticing to employers and investors, I suspect. They’d rather see the big-ticket job killers and tax hikes taken off the table and some realization that public spending must be curbed. The Journal‘s editors have it right: “If Congress won’t reduce taxes, the best stimulus now would be for Congress to stop scaring private job creators by promising to help them. Just do nothing at all.” We should be so lucky.

The Wall Street Journal‘s editors observe:

If at first fiscal stimulus doesn’t succeed, spend, spend again. That’s the motto President Obama embraced yesterday, even if he didn’t use the word “stimulus,” which has managed to set a political record in the speed with which it has become unpopular with voters. This time, the spending is being called “Proposals to Accelerate Job Growth and Lay the Foundation for Robust Economic Growth.”

But wasn’t that also supposed to be the point of last February’s $787 billion stimulus, or for that matter of the Nancy Pelosi-George W. Bush $165 billion stimulus of February 2008?

Yes, there are a few trinkets for conservatives, but they are so small and limited as to be meaningless (a capital-gains tax rate of zero for small business for a year, allowing businesses to expense certain investments up to $250K), particularly in the face of gigantic, anti-growth, anti-jobs initiatives like cap-and-trade (or the more noxious just-cap via EPA edict), hundreds of billions in new taxes in the guise of ObamaCare, and the massive tax hikes that will come when the Democrats allow the Bush tax hikes to expire.

Most of what Obama is talking about, however, is spending, spending, and more spending — turning TARP into a “revolving line of Democratic political credit.” After all, if you’re going to allow the EPA to legislate emission output when even Congress won’t, why not ignore the language and intent of Congress and use the bailout money for whatever the administration likes? The Obami don’t allow constitutional or statutory niceties get in the way. Moreover, as Sen. Judd Gregg explains, it’s fiscal silliness on stilts:

“It’s a huge shell game to try to give political cover to the fact that he wants to create a new stimulus program of about $200 billion,” Gregg said. “And it’s all going to be borrowed money, which means it’s all going to go on the deficit, and it’s all going to go in the debt, and it’s all going to be paid for by our kids. And they really can’t afford it because we’re already giving them enough deficit and debt.”

Gregg added: “I don’t think adding another $200 billion of debt here and claiming that you’re wrapping it around TARP makes any sense at all, because actually, you’re not doing anything relevant to TARP. All you’re doing is borrowing more money.”

None of this will sound very enticing to employers and investors, I suspect. They’d rather see the big-ticket job killers and tax hikes taken off the table and some realization that public spending must be curbed. The Journal‘s editors have it right: “If Congress won’t reduce taxes, the best stimulus now would be for Congress to stop scaring private job creators by promising to help them. Just do nothing at all.” We should be so lucky.

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Just as It Was Intended

It seems that trying to ram through the U.S. Senate an enormous, highly controversial, and very expensive piece of legislation isn’t as easy as one would think. This report explains that health-care reform is sputtering along:

On the third day of a divisive debate, Democrats threatened to keep the Senate in session through the Christmas holiday if necessary to pass a healthcare reform bill that President Barack Obama has made his top domestic priority.

The U.S. Senate debate on a sweeping healthcare overhaul stumbled toward gridlock on Wednesday, with frustrated Democrats considering new procedural moves after Republicans blocked votes on the first amendments.

This, of course, is nothing new for the “greatest deliberative body in the world.” The Republicans aren’t impressed with Democrats’ demand for speed. (“‘They expect to have a right to weigh in,’ Republican Senator Lamar Alexander told reporters. ‘The Senate is a place where we have generally unlimited debate, generally unlimited amendments, so we’re just getting started on this bill.’”) And Sen. Judd Gregg has a guide to parliamentary options to help his colleagues select which procedures they’d like to employ.

There is nothing in the least improper nor surprising about this. Democrats imagined they could craft a bill in secret, disregard the building public opposition, and ignore the minority party. They are finding out it’s not so easy given the Senate’s rules. The Senate is playing its historic and constitutionally appropriate role in slowing down a legislative freight train.

After all, if the bill is so wonderful, more debate and discussion can only work to its sponsors’ advantage, right? Well, there’s the rub. Democrats are freaking out, quite plainly, because with each passing week and month, the chances that this monstrosity will pass diminish.

It seems that trying to ram through the U.S. Senate an enormous, highly controversial, and very expensive piece of legislation isn’t as easy as one would think. This report explains that health-care reform is sputtering along:

On the third day of a divisive debate, Democrats threatened to keep the Senate in session through the Christmas holiday if necessary to pass a healthcare reform bill that President Barack Obama has made his top domestic priority.

The U.S. Senate debate on a sweeping healthcare overhaul stumbled toward gridlock on Wednesday, with frustrated Democrats considering new procedural moves after Republicans blocked votes on the first amendments.

This, of course, is nothing new for the “greatest deliberative body in the world.” The Republicans aren’t impressed with Democrats’ demand for speed. (“‘They expect to have a right to weigh in,’ Republican Senator Lamar Alexander told reporters. ‘The Senate is a place where we have generally unlimited debate, generally unlimited amendments, so we’re just getting started on this bill.’”) And Sen. Judd Gregg has a guide to parliamentary options to help his colleagues select which procedures they’d like to employ.

There is nothing in the least improper nor surprising about this. Democrats imagined they could craft a bill in secret, disregard the building public opposition, and ignore the minority party. They are finding out it’s not so easy given the Senate’s rules. The Senate is playing its historic and constitutionally appropriate role in slowing down a legislative freight train.

After all, if the bill is so wonderful, more debate and discussion can only work to its sponsors’ advantage, right? Well, there’s the rub. Democrats are freaking out, quite plainly, because with each passing week and month, the chances that this monstrosity will pass diminish.

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Will They Notice?

There is something vaguely comical about this report: “The White House is considering a bipartisan commission to tackle the nation’s swelling deficit, as it seeks to show resolve on a problem that threatens its broader agenda.” So as the White House and Congress — the real government — spend and tax us into oblivion, they are also planning to set up a shadow government to behave responsibly and counteract the damage the elected leaders are inflicting on us.

When you hear that they want to bring “Republicans and Democrats together to make tough decisions about how to cut costs or raise revenue in areas including Social Security, Medicare and taxes” or that the White House thinks this will “show that the Obama administration is serious about tackling the deficit while postponing any real moves until after the 2010 elections,” you have to marvel at the low regard with which they hold the voters.

Apparently, the urge to do all this heavy lifting themselves, beginning with a plan to halt the march of the hugely irresponsible ObamaCare, is one easily stifled. And they expect that the public will actually give them credit for shirking their responsibility to govern. Sen. Judd Gregg isn’t buying any of  it: “You’ve got to look at their actions, not their words, and their actions are to massively expand the government.” And if the White House and the Congress were really serious about halting that massive expansion, they wouldn’t be spending nearly all of their time on a government takeover of health care. But maybe the voters won’t notice, right? Hmm. I think they’ve got that one wrong.

There is something vaguely comical about this report: “The White House is considering a bipartisan commission to tackle the nation’s swelling deficit, as it seeks to show resolve on a problem that threatens its broader agenda.” So as the White House and Congress — the real government — spend and tax us into oblivion, they are also planning to set up a shadow government to behave responsibly and counteract the damage the elected leaders are inflicting on us.

When you hear that they want to bring “Republicans and Democrats together to make tough decisions about how to cut costs or raise revenue in areas including Social Security, Medicare and taxes” or that the White House thinks this will “show that the Obama administration is serious about tackling the deficit while postponing any real moves until after the 2010 elections,” you have to marvel at the low regard with which they hold the voters.

Apparently, the urge to do all this heavy lifting themselves, beginning with a plan to halt the march of the hugely irresponsible ObamaCare, is one easily stifled. And they expect that the public will actually give them credit for shirking their responsibility to govern. Sen. Judd Gregg isn’t buying any of  it: “You’ve got to look at their actions, not their words, and their actions are to massively expand the government.” And if the White House and the Congress were really serious about halting that massive expansion, they wouldn’t be spending nearly all of their time on a government takeover of health care. But maybe the voters won’t notice, right? Hmm. I think they’ve got that one wrong.

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