Commentary Magazine


Topic: junior senator

Taking Responsibility for Inherited Problems, and Other GOP Dilemmas

According to Senator Jim DeMint, even if a balanced-budget amendment were attached to a vote to raise the debt limit, he’d vote against it — and he encourages freshmen Republicans not to vote for raising the debt limit either. His argument is that since he/they didn’t create the debt problem to begin with, they shouldn’t be the people who vote to raise the ceiling. DeMint goes on to say that it’s important for the GOP to show its “strong commitment to cut spending and debt.”

I think it makes great sense to use the vote on the debt ceiling to try to extract some substantial cuts in federal spending. But what Senator DeMint is arguing for is something else. He believes that Republicans should oppose raising the debt limit regardless of the concessions they might win.

It is quite extraordinary, really. Senator DeMint is essentially urging Republicans to cast a vote that would lead to a federal default. This would have catastrophic economic consequences, since the United States depends on other nations buying our debt. Now, I understand that if you’re in the minority party in Congress, you can vote against raising the debt ceiling, as that vote won’t influence the eventually outcome. But Republicans now control one branch of Congress by a wide margin, so GOP votes are necessary to raise the debt ceiling. Symbolic votes are not an option. What Senator DeMint is counseling, then, is terribly unwise. And if the GOP were to be perceived as causing a default by the federal government, it would be extremely politically injurious.

In terms of DeMint’s argument that since he and incoming Republicans aren’t responsible for our fiscal problem they have no obligation to increase the debt-ceiling limit, it’s worth pointing out that all incoming lawmakers inherit problems not of their own making. Freshmen Members of Congress aren’t responsible for the entitlement crisis or the war in Afghanistan; Governor Chris Christie is not responsible for the pension agreements and unfunded liabilities that have created a financial nightmare in his state. No matter; they still have the duty to deal with these problems in a responsible way. Read More

According to Senator Jim DeMint, even if a balanced-budget amendment were attached to a vote to raise the debt limit, he’d vote against it — and he encourages freshmen Republicans not to vote for raising the debt limit either. His argument is that since he/they didn’t create the debt problem to begin with, they shouldn’t be the people who vote to raise the ceiling. DeMint goes on to say that it’s important for the GOP to show its “strong commitment to cut spending and debt.”

I think it makes great sense to use the vote on the debt ceiling to try to extract some substantial cuts in federal spending. But what Senator DeMint is arguing for is something else. He believes that Republicans should oppose raising the debt limit regardless of the concessions they might win.

It is quite extraordinary, really. Senator DeMint is essentially urging Republicans to cast a vote that would lead to a federal default. This would have catastrophic economic consequences, since the United States depends on other nations buying our debt. Now, I understand that if you’re in the minority party in Congress, you can vote against raising the debt ceiling, as that vote won’t influence the eventually outcome. But Republicans now control one branch of Congress by a wide margin, so GOP votes are necessary to raise the debt ceiling. Symbolic votes are not an option. What Senator DeMint is counseling, then, is terribly unwise. And if the GOP were to be perceived as causing a default by the federal government, it would be extremely politically injurious.

In terms of DeMint’s argument that since he and incoming Republicans aren’t responsible for our fiscal problem they have no obligation to increase the debt-ceiling limit, it’s worth pointing out that all incoming lawmakers inherit problems not of their own making. Freshmen Members of Congress aren’t responsible for the entitlement crisis or the war in Afghanistan; Governor Chris Christie is not responsible for the pension agreements and unfunded liabilities that have created a financial nightmare in his state. No matter; they still have the duty to deal with these problems in a responsible way.

As for Senator DeMint wanting to show that Republicans have a “strong commitment to cut spending and debt”: as I pointed out several months ago, it was DeMint who went on NBC’s Meet the Press to declare, “Well, no, we’re not talking about cuts in Social Security. If we can just cut the administrative waste, we can cut hundreds of billions of dollars a year at the federal level. So before we start cutting — I mean, we need to keep our promises to seniors, David, and cutting benefits to seniors is not on the table. We don’t have to cut benefits for seniors, and we don’t need to cut Medicare like, like the Democrats did in this big ObamaCare bill. We can restore sanity in Washington without cutting any benefits to seniors.”

The junior senator from South Carolina has things exactly backward. He wants Republicans to oppose raising the debt ceiling even though that doesn’t involve new spending (it needs to be raised simply to meet our existing obligations). But when it comes to entitlement programs, which is the locus of our fiscal crisis, he is assuring the public that no cuts in benefits are necessary.

It’s not clear to me why Senator DeMint (and Representative Michelle Bachman) is setting up his party up for a fight it cannot possibly win. (The debt ceiling will be raised.) More broadly, the key to success for the GOP (and conservatism) is for it to be seen as principled, reasonable, and prudent. Republicans need to be perceived as people of conviction and competence, not as revolutionaries (see Edmund Burke for more). What Senator DeMint is counseling is exactly the kind of thing that will discredit the GOP and conservatism in a hurry.

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Is the California Senate Seat in Play?

You betcha! A Democratic polling outfit — Public Policy Polling – shows:

Barbara Boxer, California’s junior senator, leads all three of her potential Republican opponents by single digits a little over five months before the November election. Boxer is ahead of leading Republican candidate Carly Fiorina by the slimmest margin of the three GOP contenders, 45-42.

Tom Campbell does the the worst, trailing Boxer by seven points. Perhaps that is why Obama keeps flying to California to fundraise and cheerlead for Boxer. Even that may not help; the same poll shows that less than a majority of Californians approve of his performance. Yeah, in California.

As Mark Halperin put it, with Dino Rossi now in the race against Patty Murray in Washington and Boxer within the margin of error, a “GOP Senate majority is truly possible on the current trajectory.”

You betcha! A Democratic polling outfit — Public Policy Polling – shows:

Barbara Boxer, California’s junior senator, leads all three of her potential Republican opponents by single digits a little over five months before the November election. Boxer is ahead of leading Republican candidate Carly Fiorina by the slimmest margin of the three GOP contenders, 45-42.

Tom Campbell does the the worst, trailing Boxer by seven points. Perhaps that is why Obama keeps flying to California to fundraise and cheerlead for Boxer. Even that may not help; the same poll shows that less than a majority of Californians approve of his performance. Yeah, in California.

As Mark Halperin put it, with Dino Rossi now in the race against Patty Murray in Washington and Boxer within the margin of error, a “GOP Senate majority is truly possible on the current trajectory.”

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Mia Farrow: Done Wrong Again

Poor Mia Farrow. No, I’m not referring to her atrocious romantic choices. She is alas learning too late that Obama cares not one wit about human rights in Darfur. She explains that a sham election is currently underway:

Intimidation, vote rigging, manipulation of the census, and bribing of tribal leaders are rampant. Most of the 2.7 million displaced Darfuris are living in refugee camps. They are unable or unwilling to be counted at all. All of this, plus the ongoing violence in Darfur, have caused key opposition candidates including Yassir Arman of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement to withdraw from the election.

Now, hopes were high that with Obama in the White House such behavior wouldn’t be countenanced and we’d get serious about the genocidal behavior. She recalls fondly:

Hope is rare in Darfur, but when Barack Obama became president the refugees had reason to be hopeful. As a junior senator in 2006, Mr. Obama made his feelings about the evils in Darfur quite clear. “Today we know what is right, and today we know what is wrong. The slaughter of innocents is wrong. Two million people driven from their homes is wrong. Women gang raped while gathering firewood is wrong. And silence, acquiescence and paralysis in the face of genocide is wrong.”

A year later, then-candidate Barack Obama said: “When you see a genocide, whether it’s in Rwanda or Bosnia or in Darfur, that’s a stain on all of us. That’s a stain on our souls.”

What’s our government doing about it? Passing out cookies. Yup:

And how is his appointed envoy dealing with the perpetrators of those atrocities that have stained our souls? “We’ve got to think about giving out cookies,” Mr. Gration told the Washington Post last fall. “Kids, countries—they react to gold stars, smiley faces . . .”

Cookies for a regime that is as savvy as it is cruel? Smiley faces for a thug who seized power by coup in 1989 and has retained it only through iron-fisted brutality? Gold stars for an indicted war criminal responsible for the murder, rape and displacement of millions?

This spectacularly naïve perspective—and accompanying policy of appeasement—has further terrified Darfur’s refugees, who feel increasingly abandoned by the U.S. and marginalized within their country.

Well, Mia, you can get in line with the other disappointed human-rights activists and the Israel supporters who were snookered by the hope-and-change routine. They assumed he was on their side. Silly them.

Poor Mia Farrow. No, I’m not referring to her atrocious romantic choices. She is alas learning too late that Obama cares not one wit about human rights in Darfur. She explains that a sham election is currently underway:

Intimidation, vote rigging, manipulation of the census, and bribing of tribal leaders are rampant. Most of the 2.7 million displaced Darfuris are living in refugee camps. They are unable or unwilling to be counted at all. All of this, plus the ongoing violence in Darfur, have caused key opposition candidates including Yassir Arman of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement to withdraw from the election.

Now, hopes were high that with Obama in the White House such behavior wouldn’t be countenanced and we’d get serious about the genocidal behavior. She recalls fondly:

Hope is rare in Darfur, but when Barack Obama became president the refugees had reason to be hopeful. As a junior senator in 2006, Mr. Obama made his feelings about the evils in Darfur quite clear. “Today we know what is right, and today we know what is wrong. The slaughter of innocents is wrong. Two million people driven from their homes is wrong. Women gang raped while gathering firewood is wrong. And silence, acquiescence and paralysis in the face of genocide is wrong.”

A year later, then-candidate Barack Obama said: “When you see a genocide, whether it’s in Rwanda or Bosnia or in Darfur, that’s a stain on all of us. That’s a stain on our souls.”

What’s our government doing about it? Passing out cookies. Yup:

And how is his appointed envoy dealing with the perpetrators of those atrocities that have stained our souls? “We’ve got to think about giving out cookies,” Mr. Gration told the Washington Post last fall. “Kids, countries—they react to gold stars, smiley faces . . .”

Cookies for a regime that is as savvy as it is cruel? Smiley faces for a thug who seized power by coup in 1989 and has retained it only through iron-fisted brutality? Gold stars for an indicted war criminal responsible for the murder, rape and displacement of millions?

This spectacularly naïve perspective—and accompanying policy of appeasement—has further terrified Darfur’s refugees, who feel increasingly abandoned by the U.S. and marginalized within their country.

Well, Mia, you can get in line with the other disappointed human-rights activists and the Israel supporters who were snookered by the hope-and-change routine. They assumed he was on their side. Silly them.

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Senators to Obama: Forget the KSM Trial

Perhaps the Scott Brown victory in Massachusetts has had a liberating effect on Democrats. No longer do they cling to the notion that their political survival depends on adhering to the Obama position on everything from health care to national security. Indeed, now might be just the time to demonstrate some independence and clearheaded thinking. In that vein, a bipartisan group of senators has now called for a reversal of the decision to try KSM in civilian court. Sens. Joe Lieberman, Jim Webb, Blanche Lincoln, Susan Collins, John McCain, and Lindsey Graham have written to Eric Holder. The letter reads in part:

We and many others have already expressed serious concerns about whether a trial in civilian court might compromise classified evidence, including revealing sources and methods used by our intelligence community.  We are also very concerned that, by bringing Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and other terrorists responsible for 9/11 to the federal courthouse in lower Manhattan, only blocks away from where the Twin Towers once stood, you will be providing them one of the most visible platforms in the world to exalt their past acts and to rally others in support of further terrorism.  Such a trial would almost certainly become a recruitment and radicalization tool for those who wish us harm.

The security and other risks inherent in holding the trial in New York City are reflected in Mayor Bloomberg’s recent letter to the administration advising that New York City will be required to spend more than $200 million per year in security measures for the trial.  As Mayor Bloomberg and Police Commissioner Kelly know too well, the threat of terrorist acts in New York City is a daily challenge.  Holding Khalid Sheikh Mohammed’s trial in that city, and trying other enemy combatants in venues such as Washington, DC and northern Virginia, would unnecessarily increase the burden of facing those challenges, including the increased risk of terrorist attacks.

The bottom line, say the senators: “Given the risks and costs, it is far more logical, cost-effective, and strategically wise to try Khalid Sheikh Mohammed in the military commissions that Congress and the President have now established for that very purpose.”

It is noteworthy that the junior senator from New York is not among the signatories. Perhaps her new primary opponent will weigh in.

This is the first serious bipartisan challenge to the ill-conceived decision to extend the benefits of a civilian trial to the 9/11 terrorists. The number of Democrats who now feel compelled to step forward is also noteworthy. And what will their colleagues say if this comes to a vote? Will they rise to the defense of  Holder and Obama, or will they concede this was a misguided experiment?

Perhaps the time has come for Congress to assert itself, declare its intentions regarding the jurisdiction of the federal courts, and put some daylight between the unpopular and dangerous “not-Bush” anti-terror policies of the Obami. If so, this is a critical and welcomed development and the beginning of a sane reversal of Obama policies that have proven unworkable and politically unpalatable beyond the confines of the campaign trail. There is much Congress can do: resolutions, funding, and legislation. It is not too late to correct the errors of the Obami’s first year.

Perhaps the Scott Brown victory in Massachusetts has had a liberating effect on Democrats. No longer do they cling to the notion that their political survival depends on adhering to the Obama position on everything from health care to national security. Indeed, now might be just the time to demonstrate some independence and clearheaded thinking. In that vein, a bipartisan group of senators has now called for a reversal of the decision to try KSM in civilian court. Sens. Joe Lieberman, Jim Webb, Blanche Lincoln, Susan Collins, John McCain, and Lindsey Graham have written to Eric Holder. The letter reads in part:

We and many others have already expressed serious concerns about whether a trial in civilian court might compromise classified evidence, including revealing sources and methods used by our intelligence community.  We are also very concerned that, by bringing Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and other terrorists responsible for 9/11 to the federal courthouse in lower Manhattan, only blocks away from where the Twin Towers once stood, you will be providing them one of the most visible platforms in the world to exalt their past acts and to rally others in support of further terrorism.  Such a trial would almost certainly become a recruitment and radicalization tool for those who wish us harm.

The security and other risks inherent in holding the trial in New York City are reflected in Mayor Bloomberg’s recent letter to the administration advising that New York City will be required to spend more than $200 million per year in security measures for the trial.  As Mayor Bloomberg and Police Commissioner Kelly know too well, the threat of terrorist acts in New York City is a daily challenge.  Holding Khalid Sheikh Mohammed’s trial in that city, and trying other enemy combatants in venues such as Washington, DC and northern Virginia, would unnecessarily increase the burden of facing those challenges, including the increased risk of terrorist attacks.

The bottom line, say the senators: “Given the risks and costs, it is far more logical, cost-effective, and strategically wise to try Khalid Sheikh Mohammed in the military commissions that Congress and the President have now established for that very purpose.”

It is noteworthy that the junior senator from New York is not among the signatories. Perhaps her new primary opponent will weigh in.

This is the first serious bipartisan challenge to the ill-conceived decision to extend the benefits of a civilian trial to the 9/11 terrorists. The number of Democrats who now feel compelled to step forward is also noteworthy. And what will their colleagues say if this comes to a vote? Will they rise to the defense of  Holder and Obama, or will they concede this was a misguided experiment?

Perhaps the time has come for Congress to assert itself, declare its intentions regarding the jurisdiction of the federal courts, and put some daylight between the unpopular and dangerous “not-Bush” anti-terror policies of the Obami. If so, this is a critical and welcomed development and the beginning of a sane reversal of Obama policies that have proven unworkable and politically unpalatable beyond the confines of the campaign trail. There is much Congress can do: resolutions, funding, and legislation. It is not too late to correct the errors of the Obami’s first year.

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Tennessee Harold Ford’s Not Your Ordinary “Joe”

Harold Ford isn’t scared of Chuck Schumer or Barack Obama, let alone Kirsten Gillibrand. That’s nice, but is it enough to supply the former up-and-coming African-American star of Tennessee politics a raison d’être to run for the Senate in New York?  There’s reason to be skeptical of such a claim, but judging from today’s New York Times profile on Ford, it appears he thinks “independence” from his party’s leaders is enough to topple Gillibrand in a primary.

Finding issues on which to oppose the woman appointed to the Senate by Governor David Paterson isn’t easy for Ford. Both he and Gillibrand have flipped from being moderates to espousing the sort of hard-line liberal positions on guns, abortion, and immigration that win Democratic primaries. But Ford touts his unwillingness to take orders from New York’s senior senator as his main qualification. That’s certainly a virtue, at least in the eyes of independents and Republicans, but do Democrats really care?

Even worse, though Ford appears on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” television show from time to time, the story also paints him as anything but a regular Joe. According to the Times, Ford, who landed a seven-figure job at Merrill Lynch after losing a race for the Senate from Tennessee, lives a life that most New Yorkers wouldn’t recognize:

On many days, he is driven to an NBC television studio in a chauffeured car. He and his wife, Emily, a 29-year-old fashion executive, live a few blocks from the Lexington Avenue subway line in the Flatiron district. But Mr. Ford said he takes the subway only occasionally in the winter, to avoid the cold when he cannot hail a cab. … Asked whether he had visited all five boroughs, he mentioned taking a helicopter ride across the city … Asked about his baseball loyalties, he responded: “I am a Yankees fan,” and added that he had yet to visit Citi Field, the home of the Mets. … He has breakfast most mornings at the Regency Hotel on Park Avenue, and he receives regular pedicures.

Of course, if leading the life of a spoiled member of the moneyed set were a bar to high office, most of the current members of the Senate would be forced to resign. But nevertheless, it does seem as if Ford is giving new meaning to the term “limousine liberal.” However, if supporters of his opponent are trying to disqualify him as a rich carpetbagger, that is more than hypocritical. This is Hillary Clinton’s Senate seat that we’re talking about. Ford may not be a native, but at least he’s lived here for three years, which is more than you can say about Clinton when she parachuted into New York to be anointed junior senator on her way to what she thought was a return to the White House. Put in that context, perhaps Ford seems like a regular New Yorker after all.

Harold Ford isn’t scared of Chuck Schumer or Barack Obama, let alone Kirsten Gillibrand. That’s nice, but is it enough to supply the former up-and-coming African-American star of Tennessee politics a raison d’être to run for the Senate in New York?  There’s reason to be skeptical of such a claim, but judging from today’s New York Times profile on Ford, it appears he thinks “independence” from his party’s leaders is enough to topple Gillibrand in a primary.

Finding issues on which to oppose the woman appointed to the Senate by Governor David Paterson isn’t easy for Ford. Both he and Gillibrand have flipped from being moderates to espousing the sort of hard-line liberal positions on guns, abortion, and immigration that win Democratic primaries. But Ford touts his unwillingness to take orders from New York’s senior senator as his main qualification. That’s certainly a virtue, at least in the eyes of independents and Republicans, but do Democrats really care?

Even worse, though Ford appears on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” television show from time to time, the story also paints him as anything but a regular Joe. According to the Times, Ford, who landed a seven-figure job at Merrill Lynch after losing a race for the Senate from Tennessee, lives a life that most New Yorkers wouldn’t recognize:

On many days, he is driven to an NBC television studio in a chauffeured car. He and his wife, Emily, a 29-year-old fashion executive, live a few blocks from the Lexington Avenue subway line in the Flatiron district. But Mr. Ford said he takes the subway only occasionally in the winter, to avoid the cold when he cannot hail a cab. … Asked whether he had visited all five boroughs, he mentioned taking a helicopter ride across the city … Asked about his baseball loyalties, he responded: “I am a Yankees fan,” and added that he had yet to visit Citi Field, the home of the Mets. … He has breakfast most mornings at the Regency Hotel on Park Avenue, and he receives regular pedicures.

Of course, if leading the life of a spoiled member of the moneyed set were a bar to high office, most of the current members of the Senate would be forced to resign. But nevertheless, it does seem as if Ford is giving new meaning to the term “limousine liberal.” However, if supporters of his opponent are trying to disqualify him as a rich carpetbagger, that is more than hypocritical. This is Hillary Clinton’s Senate seat that we’re talking about. Ford may not be a native, but at least he’s lived here for three years, which is more than you can say about Clinton when she parachuted into New York to be anointed junior senator on her way to what she thought was a return to the White House. Put in that context, perhaps Ford seems like a regular New Yorker after all.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Cliff May tries to explain satire to the Beagle Blogger. And it doesn’t even involve Sarah Palin.

COMMENTARY contributor Jamie Kirchick, on designating the Christmas Day bomber as a criminal defendant rather than an enemy combatant: “The question of what type of legal status we ought to grant Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab remains a live question with serious implications for the national security of the United States. As the situation now stands, with an untold number of plots in the works, treating this man as a criminal defendant requires us to count upon the discretion and good will of a would-be mass murderer.”

Former CIA Director James Woolsey doesn’t think Flight 253 was “a problem of coordination”: “It was about people within the agencies pulling in their horns. The only person who can turn this around is the president. Not much will change unless he speaks up. He needs to tell people that this is a long struggle against radical Islam and its manifestations.” I hope I am wrong but somehow I don’t think Obama is the one to “smash political correctness upside the head.”

A top-tier GOP contender shows interest in a Blue state senate race: “Republican Rep. Pete King (N.Y.) signaled Monday that he is reconsidering his decision not to run for Senate in 2010 .King said he’s actively looking at a run for statewide office this year after he’d ruled out such a campaign last summer.” If they suspect it will be a wave election, many more well-known challengers may want to jump into races that in ordinary years would be considered out of reach.

Benny Avni explains why “targeted” sanctions on Iran are a dumb idea: “No one in last week’s well-organized pro-regime mass demonstrations carried a sign advocating diplomacy to defuse tensions with America (and anti-government demonstrators aren’t itching for it either). A diplomatic solution exists only in our head. Some (like [John] Kerry) cling to last year’s foolishness, but for others it’s replaced by a new ‘boomerang’ theory: If we sanction the Iranian people too heavily, they ‘will be fooled into thinking we are to blame,’ as an unnamed administration official told the Washington Post. Nonsense, says Israel Radio’s Farsi Service veteran Menashe Amir, whose broadcasts are often cited by Iranian media as instigating the antigovernment protesters. . . Once again, the ideas underlying Washington’s new policy miss the target. At this late date, sanctions can only be helpful if they facilitate regime change, which should be the top objective of the new strategy. Targeting for sanctions only a handful of evil regime operators would hardly impress the Iranian masses (although it will be widely applauded in Washington and the United Nations).”

The State Department goes rushing to the defense of Hannah Rosenthal (who is supposed to be working on anti-Semitism but took some time out to lash out at Israel’s Ambassador Michael Oren for not being nice to her J Street pals). “Separately, Rosenthal’s predecessor, Gregg Rickman, has slammed her for her remarks about Oren. ‘Ms. Rosenthal’s criticisms of Ambassador Oren strike a chord particularly because this is not her policy portfolio to advocate . . . She is supposed to fight anti-Semitism, not defend J-Street, an organization on whose Advisory Board she formally sat before her appointment to the State Department.”

If “Big is bad” is catching on as a political message, how long before voters exact revenge once they figure out that the Democrats have struck a health-care deal with big and bad insurance companies?

James Taranto goes on a roll: “We suppose Napolitano is a glass-is-half-full kind of gal. And it’s true that, apart from allowing a known extremist to board a plane while carrying a bomb, the system worked. . . ABC News reports that ‘one of the four leaders allegedly behind the al Qaeda plot to blow up a Northwest Airlines passenger jet over Detroit was released by the U.S. from the Guantanamo prison in November 2007.’ Said Ali Shari, a Saudi national, was released into the custody of our friends the Saudis and “has since emerged in leadership roles in Yemen,” says ABC. Heckuva job, Nayef. In fairness, we should note that in November 2007, Barack Obama was only the junior senator from Illinois. This is a problem he inherited from the Bush administration. And he has responded by putting a stop to the release of terrorists from Guantanamo. Just kidding!” Looks like the joke is on us.

Worse than returning the Churchill bust: “The name of Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab was included in a dossier of people believed to have made attempts to deal with known extremists that was shared with American intelligence. . . Abdulmutallab came to the attention of intelligence agencies because of ‘multiple communications’ he had with Islamic extremists in Britain while a student between 2006 and 2008. However, denying reports that the information had not been divulged, the Prime Minister’s spokesman said: ‘Clearly there was security information about this individual’s activities and that was information that was shared with the US authorities. That is the key point.'”

Cliff May tries to explain satire to the Beagle Blogger. And it doesn’t even involve Sarah Palin.

COMMENTARY contributor Jamie Kirchick, on designating the Christmas Day bomber as a criminal defendant rather than an enemy combatant: “The question of what type of legal status we ought to grant Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab remains a live question with serious implications for the national security of the United States. As the situation now stands, with an untold number of plots in the works, treating this man as a criminal defendant requires us to count upon the discretion and good will of a would-be mass murderer.”

Former CIA Director James Woolsey doesn’t think Flight 253 was “a problem of coordination”: “It was about people within the agencies pulling in their horns. The only person who can turn this around is the president. Not much will change unless he speaks up. He needs to tell people that this is a long struggle against radical Islam and its manifestations.” I hope I am wrong but somehow I don’t think Obama is the one to “smash political correctness upside the head.”

A top-tier GOP contender shows interest in a Blue state senate race: “Republican Rep. Pete King (N.Y.) signaled Monday that he is reconsidering his decision not to run for Senate in 2010 .King said he’s actively looking at a run for statewide office this year after he’d ruled out such a campaign last summer.” If they suspect it will be a wave election, many more well-known challengers may want to jump into races that in ordinary years would be considered out of reach.

Benny Avni explains why “targeted” sanctions on Iran are a dumb idea: “No one in last week’s well-organized pro-regime mass demonstrations carried a sign advocating diplomacy to defuse tensions with America (and anti-government demonstrators aren’t itching for it either). A diplomatic solution exists only in our head. Some (like [John] Kerry) cling to last year’s foolishness, but for others it’s replaced by a new ‘boomerang’ theory: If we sanction the Iranian people too heavily, they ‘will be fooled into thinking we are to blame,’ as an unnamed administration official told the Washington Post. Nonsense, says Israel Radio’s Farsi Service veteran Menashe Amir, whose broadcasts are often cited by Iranian media as instigating the antigovernment protesters. . . Once again, the ideas underlying Washington’s new policy miss the target. At this late date, sanctions can only be helpful if they facilitate regime change, which should be the top objective of the new strategy. Targeting for sanctions only a handful of evil regime operators would hardly impress the Iranian masses (although it will be widely applauded in Washington and the United Nations).”

The State Department goes rushing to the defense of Hannah Rosenthal (who is supposed to be working on anti-Semitism but took some time out to lash out at Israel’s Ambassador Michael Oren for not being nice to her J Street pals). “Separately, Rosenthal’s predecessor, Gregg Rickman, has slammed her for her remarks about Oren. ‘Ms. Rosenthal’s criticisms of Ambassador Oren strike a chord particularly because this is not her policy portfolio to advocate . . . She is supposed to fight anti-Semitism, not defend J-Street, an organization on whose Advisory Board she formally sat before her appointment to the State Department.”

If “Big is bad” is catching on as a political message, how long before voters exact revenge once they figure out that the Democrats have struck a health-care deal with big and bad insurance companies?

James Taranto goes on a roll: “We suppose Napolitano is a glass-is-half-full kind of gal. And it’s true that, apart from allowing a known extremist to board a plane while carrying a bomb, the system worked. . . ABC News reports that ‘one of the four leaders allegedly behind the al Qaeda plot to blow up a Northwest Airlines passenger jet over Detroit was released by the U.S. from the Guantanamo prison in November 2007.’ Said Ali Shari, a Saudi national, was released into the custody of our friends the Saudis and “has since emerged in leadership roles in Yemen,” says ABC. Heckuva job, Nayef. In fairness, we should note that in November 2007, Barack Obama was only the junior senator from Illinois. This is a problem he inherited from the Bush administration. And he has responded by putting a stop to the release of terrorists from Guantanamo. Just kidding!” Looks like the joke is on us.

Worse than returning the Churchill bust: “The name of Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab was included in a dossier of people believed to have made attempts to deal with known extremists that was shared with American intelligence. . . Abdulmutallab came to the attention of intelligence agencies because of ‘multiple communications’ he had with Islamic extremists in Britain while a student between 2006 and 2008. However, denying reports that the information had not been divulged, the Prime Minister’s spokesman said: ‘Clearly there was security information about this individual’s activities and that was information that was shared with the US authorities. That is the key point.'”

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You Can’t Make This Stuff Up

It sounds like a joke, but it’s all too real. John McCormack reports: “Senator Roland Burris is claiming credit for a provision in Harry Reid’s ‘manager’s amendment,’ unveiled Saturday morning, that could funnel money to ACORN through the health care bill.” And your problem is? Really, this is a graft-athon, so it’s only fitting that the senator selected by the most notoriously corrupt governor in America (a senator, by the way, who also lied about his connection to that same governor, only to be given a stern look and a slap on the wrist by his colleagues) would insert into the bill an earmark for “the Office of Minority Health” to be voted on in the middle of night so as to deliver a goodie bag for the most notoriously corrupt organization in America. It’s as if there were a conspiracy to see if Jon Stewart can be left speechless.

McCormack explains:

Earlier this year, Congress passed and the president signed into law a ban on federal funding for ACORN, but a judge ruled that that law was unconstitutional. If a higher court reverses that ruling, ACORN may be prohibited from receiving funds through the Office of Minority Health earmark. But according to the Senate legislative aide, ACORN would still “absolutely” qualify for federal funding through the provision in the underlying Reid bill because the anti-ACORN appropriations amendment would not apply to funds provided through the health care exchanges.

A spokesman for Sen. Harkin, chairman of the HELP committee, wrote in an email that he “will look into” which organizations qualify for funding under these provisions. Spokesmen for Senators Reid and Dodd did not immediately reply to emails.

This is what comes from a legislative process as noxious as this. (It almost obscures another issue: why do we fund health care by race?) Dana Milbank dubs it the “cash for cloture” bill. Indeed, it may replace the infamous transportation bill that gave us the “Bridge to Nowhere” as the symbol par excellence of congressional graft. He explains:

Sen. Mike Johanns (R-Neb.) even disavowed Nelson’s Cornhusker Kickback. “Nebraskans are frustrated and angry that our beloved state has been thrust into the same pot with all of the other special deals that get cut here,” he reported.

The accusations must worry Democrats, for Sen. Michael Bennet (Colo.), facing a difficult 2010 reelection contest, went to the Senate floor to declare: “I’m not happy about the backroom deals.”

I think Burris isn’t likely to be worried or embarrassed. But perhaps it’s just a bit too ludicrous to defend, so the conference committee might see fit to lose the ACORN handout. I’m sure Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid can come up with an appropriate substitute to satisfy the junior senator from Illinois. Maybe a public-works project to improve and expand this structure.

It sounds like a joke, but it’s all too real. John McCormack reports: “Senator Roland Burris is claiming credit for a provision in Harry Reid’s ‘manager’s amendment,’ unveiled Saturday morning, that could funnel money to ACORN through the health care bill.” And your problem is? Really, this is a graft-athon, so it’s only fitting that the senator selected by the most notoriously corrupt governor in America (a senator, by the way, who also lied about his connection to that same governor, only to be given a stern look and a slap on the wrist by his colleagues) would insert into the bill an earmark for “the Office of Minority Health” to be voted on in the middle of night so as to deliver a goodie bag for the most notoriously corrupt organization in America. It’s as if there were a conspiracy to see if Jon Stewart can be left speechless.

McCormack explains:

Earlier this year, Congress passed and the president signed into law a ban on federal funding for ACORN, but a judge ruled that that law was unconstitutional. If a higher court reverses that ruling, ACORN may be prohibited from receiving funds through the Office of Minority Health earmark. But according to the Senate legislative aide, ACORN would still “absolutely” qualify for federal funding through the provision in the underlying Reid bill because the anti-ACORN appropriations amendment would not apply to funds provided through the health care exchanges.

A spokesman for Sen. Harkin, chairman of the HELP committee, wrote in an email that he “will look into” which organizations qualify for funding under these provisions. Spokesmen for Senators Reid and Dodd did not immediately reply to emails.

This is what comes from a legislative process as noxious as this. (It almost obscures another issue: why do we fund health care by race?) Dana Milbank dubs it the “cash for cloture” bill. Indeed, it may replace the infamous transportation bill that gave us the “Bridge to Nowhere” as the symbol par excellence of congressional graft. He explains:

Sen. Mike Johanns (R-Neb.) even disavowed Nelson’s Cornhusker Kickback. “Nebraskans are frustrated and angry that our beloved state has been thrust into the same pot with all of the other special deals that get cut here,” he reported.

The accusations must worry Democrats, for Sen. Michael Bennet (Colo.), facing a difficult 2010 reelection contest, went to the Senate floor to declare: “I’m not happy about the backroom deals.”

I think Burris isn’t likely to be worried or embarrassed. But perhaps it’s just a bit too ludicrous to defend, so the conference committee might see fit to lose the ACORN handout. I’m sure Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid can come up with an appropriate substitute to satisfy the junior senator from Illinois. Maybe a public-works project to improve and expand this structure.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

COMMENTARY contributor Noah Pollak makes the convincing case that Iran and Syria have largely prevailed in using asymmetric warfare with surrogates against Israel: “It allows Iran and Syria to take credit in the region for antagonizing Israel without risking retaliation on their soil; it detaches conflict from regime security, reducing the disincentive for war; and it forces battles into densely-populated civilian areas, undermining the IDF’s military superiority and ensuring civilian destruction which today’s media and NGOs — an increasingly meaningless distinction — blame on Israel, not on the terrorist groups who start the wars.” The solution: take the fight to the source of the problem, using all available tools (“there is no reason why asymmetry cannot be countered with asymmetry, or new diplomatic and economic initiatives pursued”).

Fox News has an ACORN scoop: it seems that in California, one step ahead of the state attorney general’s investigation, the group tried to dump 20,000 documents that “point to illicit relationships between ACORN and a bank and a labor union — as well as confidential information that could put thousands at risk for identity theft.”

Tevi Troy notes the downgrading of the White House Chanukah party.

It’s not really 10.2 percent: “As experts debate the potential speed of the US recovery, one figure looms large but is often overlooked: nearly 1 in 5 Americans is either out of work or under-employed. According to the government’s broadest measure of unemployment, some 17.5 percent are either without a job entirely or underemployed. The so-called U-6 number is at the highest rate since becoming an official labor statistic in 1994.”

If you read nothing else on the KSM trial, read this interview with Bill Burck, former deputy counsel to President George W. Bush, who explains why Holder can’t guarantee a result and why the trial is such a bad idea. A sample: “Attorney General Holder has gone on record that he believes waterboarding is torture; and it is now known that KSM was subject to enhanced interrogation techniques, including repeated use of waterboarding. KSM’s lawyer will almost certainly ask the judge to throw out all the charges against him because he was allegedly tortured. How can the Department of Justice contest that KSM was tortured if the attorney general has gone on record that waterboarding is torture? They can’t.”

The Maryland Federation of College Republicans stand up to their Democratic counterparts, whose campaign director declared that “Israel is oppressing the Palestinian people.”

Kirsten who? “Ten months after Kirsten Gillibrand was appointed to the U.S. Senate by Governor David Paterson, the junior senator from New York has failed to become a household name among registered voters in New York State. 25% of the electorate thinks Gillibrand is doing either an excellent or good job in office, and 12% believes she is performing poorly. Perhaps, though, Gillibrand’s bigger concern is that 24% of the electorate is unsure how to rate her.”

One more time: “Sen. Joseph Lieberman, speaking in that trademark sonorous baritone, utters a simple statement that translates into real trouble for Democratic leaders: ‘I’m going to be stubborn on this.’ Stubborn, he means, in opposing any health-care overhaul that includes a ‘public option,’ or government-run health-insurance plan, as the current bill does. His opposition is strong enough that Mr. Lieberman says he won’t vote to let a bill come to a final vote if a public option is included.”

After spending like drunken sailors on a failed stimulus and a raft of domestic spending, Democrats now want to “pay as we go” — for the Afghanistan war.

Others have noticed that the mammography controversy raises an uncomfortable truth for ObamaCare backers: “The flap over breast cancer screening has provided a fascinating insight into the political future of ObamaCare. Specifically, the political left supports such medical rationing even as it disavows that any such thing is happening. … What’s really going on here is that the left knows its designs will require political rationing of care, but it doesn’t want the public to figure this out until ObamaCare passes. … Americans will simply have to accept that the price of government-run health care in the name of redistributive justice is that patients and their doctors must bow to the superior wisdom of HHS task forces.”

COMMENTARY contributor Noah Pollak makes the convincing case that Iran and Syria have largely prevailed in using asymmetric warfare with surrogates against Israel: “It allows Iran and Syria to take credit in the region for antagonizing Israel without risking retaliation on their soil; it detaches conflict from regime security, reducing the disincentive for war; and it forces battles into densely-populated civilian areas, undermining the IDF’s military superiority and ensuring civilian destruction which today’s media and NGOs — an increasingly meaningless distinction — blame on Israel, not on the terrorist groups who start the wars.” The solution: take the fight to the source of the problem, using all available tools (“there is no reason why asymmetry cannot be countered with asymmetry, or new diplomatic and economic initiatives pursued”).

Fox News has an ACORN scoop: it seems that in California, one step ahead of the state attorney general’s investigation, the group tried to dump 20,000 documents that “point to illicit relationships between ACORN and a bank and a labor union — as well as confidential information that could put thousands at risk for identity theft.”

Tevi Troy notes the downgrading of the White House Chanukah party.

It’s not really 10.2 percent: “As experts debate the potential speed of the US recovery, one figure looms large but is often overlooked: nearly 1 in 5 Americans is either out of work or under-employed. According to the government’s broadest measure of unemployment, some 17.5 percent are either without a job entirely or underemployed. The so-called U-6 number is at the highest rate since becoming an official labor statistic in 1994.”

If you read nothing else on the KSM trial, read this interview with Bill Burck, former deputy counsel to President George W. Bush, who explains why Holder can’t guarantee a result and why the trial is such a bad idea. A sample: “Attorney General Holder has gone on record that he believes waterboarding is torture; and it is now known that KSM was subject to enhanced interrogation techniques, including repeated use of waterboarding. KSM’s lawyer will almost certainly ask the judge to throw out all the charges against him because he was allegedly tortured. How can the Department of Justice contest that KSM was tortured if the attorney general has gone on record that waterboarding is torture? They can’t.”

The Maryland Federation of College Republicans stand up to their Democratic counterparts, whose campaign director declared that “Israel is oppressing the Palestinian people.”

Kirsten who? “Ten months after Kirsten Gillibrand was appointed to the U.S. Senate by Governor David Paterson, the junior senator from New York has failed to become a household name among registered voters in New York State. 25% of the electorate thinks Gillibrand is doing either an excellent or good job in office, and 12% believes she is performing poorly. Perhaps, though, Gillibrand’s bigger concern is that 24% of the electorate is unsure how to rate her.”

One more time: “Sen. Joseph Lieberman, speaking in that trademark sonorous baritone, utters a simple statement that translates into real trouble for Democratic leaders: ‘I’m going to be stubborn on this.’ Stubborn, he means, in opposing any health-care overhaul that includes a ‘public option,’ or government-run health-insurance plan, as the current bill does. His opposition is strong enough that Mr. Lieberman says he won’t vote to let a bill come to a final vote if a public option is included.”

After spending like drunken sailors on a failed stimulus and a raft of domestic spending, Democrats now want to “pay as we go” — for the Afghanistan war.

Others have noticed that the mammography controversy raises an uncomfortable truth for ObamaCare backers: “The flap over breast cancer screening has provided a fascinating insight into the political future of ObamaCare. Specifically, the political left supports such medical rationing even as it disavows that any such thing is happening. … What’s really going on here is that the left knows its designs will require political rationing of care, but it doesn’t want the public to figure this out until ObamaCare passes. … Americans will simply have to accept that the price of government-run health care in the name of redistributive justice is that patients and their doctors must bow to the superior wisdom of HHS task forces.”

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What If He Goes?

The RNC is working overtime trying to embarrass Barack Obama about his failure to visit Iraq for a couple of years. After a day of this Obama now suggests he might go–just not with John McCain. If he did, whom would this help?

From McCain’s perspective, he would hope this would focus attention on the divergence between Obama’s position (that all is lost in Iraq) and the reality that there has been considerable political and military progress. And there is always the possibility that Obama would be unprepared for a question with cameras rolling. Reporters might even ask troops questions and receive embarrassing answers indicating that fighting men and women see the potential for victory.

From comments released by his campaign from at an appearance yesterday in Los Angeles you can already see what McCain is up to. You will notice the dig at elevating “ideology” over facts (hmmm, who uses that line a lot?):

I am glad to hear that Senator Obama is now “considering a trip to Iraq.” It’s long overdue. It’s been 871 days since he was there. And I’m confident that when he goes, he will then change his position on the conflict in Iraq because he will see the success that has been achieved on the ground and the consequences of failure if we set dates for withdrawal, as he wants to do. There will be chaos. There will be increased Iranian influence and fights amongst the militias. And there will be al Qaeda establishing a base there and then we would be back. And of course there would be, as I said, increased Iranian influence in the region.

So the fact is Senator Obama was driven to his position by his ideology and not by the facts on the ground. And he does not have the knowledge or experience to make the judgments. Presidents have to listen and learn. Presidents have to make judgments no matter how popular or unpopular they may be. So the success in Iraq is undeniable. It has been long, hard and frustrating and great sacrifice has been made.

But Obama might gain something as well. He might be able to silence this type of ad and show he is not “afraid” to get out and meet with the troops and commanders. He might even impress some voters that he is fluent enough in national security matters to be a credible commander-in-chief.

But if one candidate has essentially been forced into doing something, shamed even, by his opponent it is hard to escape the conclusion that his opponent has the upper hand. And that, it seems, may be a larger concern. After all, if McCain can get Obama to go to Iraq, where will it stop? Could he get him to go to Israel (he was there in 2006, it appears)? Or visit President Uribe in Colombia and explain his opposition to the free trade agreement? (He could also suggest Obama visit the UK and settle their nerves.)

McCain playing the role of the world tour guide for Obama is hardly something the junior senator from Illinios wants to encourage. So I suspect he won’t be taking travel suggestions from McCain anytime soon.

The RNC is working overtime trying to embarrass Barack Obama about his failure to visit Iraq for a couple of years. After a day of this Obama now suggests he might go–just not with John McCain. If he did, whom would this help?

From McCain’s perspective, he would hope this would focus attention on the divergence between Obama’s position (that all is lost in Iraq) and the reality that there has been considerable political and military progress. And there is always the possibility that Obama would be unprepared for a question with cameras rolling. Reporters might even ask troops questions and receive embarrassing answers indicating that fighting men and women see the potential for victory.

From comments released by his campaign from at an appearance yesterday in Los Angeles you can already see what McCain is up to. You will notice the dig at elevating “ideology” over facts (hmmm, who uses that line a lot?):

I am glad to hear that Senator Obama is now “considering a trip to Iraq.” It’s long overdue. It’s been 871 days since he was there. And I’m confident that when he goes, he will then change his position on the conflict in Iraq because he will see the success that has been achieved on the ground and the consequences of failure if we set dates for withdrawal, as he wants to do. There will be chaos. There will be increased Iranian influence and fights amongst the militias. And there will be al Qaeda establishing a base there and then we would be back. And of course there would be, as I said, increased Iranian influence in the region.

So the fact is Senator Obama was driven to his position by his ideology and not by the facts on the ground. And he does not have the knowledge or experience to make the judgments. Presidents have to listen and learn. Presidents have to make judgments no matter how popular or unpopular they may be. So the success in Iraq is undeniable. It has been long, hard and frustrating and great sacrifice has been made.

But Obama might gain something as well. He might be able to silence this type of ad and show he is not “afraid” to get out and meet with the troops and commanders. He might even impress some voters that he is fluent enough in national security matters to be a credible commander-in-chief.

But if one candidate has essentially been forced into doing something, shamed even, by his opponent it is hard to escape the conclusion that his opponent has the upper hand. And that, it seems, may be a larger concern. After all, if McCain can get Obama to go to Iraq, where will it stop? Could he get him to go to Israel (he was there in 2006, it appears)? Or visit President Uribe in Colombia and explain his opposition to the free trade agreement? (He could also suggest Obama visit the UK and settle their nerves.)

McCain playing the role of the world tour guide for Obama is hardly something the junior senator from Illinios wants to encourage. So I suspect he won’t be taking travel suggestions from McCain anytime soon.

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Mark McKinnon, Gone

In March, I suggested that the McCain campaign fire Mark McKinnon, its adman who had loudly told the press how much he loved Barack Obama and would not be able to bring himself to continue with the McCain campaign should the junior senator from Illinois win the Democratic nomination. Yesterday, McKinnon decided to step down from the campaign, telling Cox News Service “I just don’t want to work against an Obama candidacy” and that a President Obama “would send a great message to the country and the world.” McKinnon says he will still support McCain. My question is why he just doesn’t go work for the Hope Pope.

In March, I suggested that the McCain campaign fire Mark McKinnon, its adman who had loudly told the press how much he loved Barack Obama and would not be able to bring himself to continue with the McCain campaign should the junior senator from Illinois win the Democratic nomination. Yesterday, McKinnon decided to step down from the campaign, telling Cox News Service “I just don’t want to work against an Obama candidacy” and that a President Obama “would send a great message to the country and the world.” McKinnon says he will still support McCain. My question is why he just doesn’t go work for the Hope Pope.

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Obama’s Little Pin

So apparently Barack Obama is back to wearing an American flag on his lapel. It’s such a seemingly minor matter, yet one that tells us something worth knowing about the junior senator from Illinois.

To begin at the beginning. Just who among the right wing attack machine made this an issue? Was it Floyd Brown or David Bossie? The Young Americans for Freedom? Maybe the RNC? Perhaps relatives of the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth? Or maybe even the ghost of Lee Atwater? Actually, it was Barack Obama. This is from an October 4, 2007 Associated Press story:

Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama says he doesn’t wear an American flag lapel pin because it has become a substitute for “true patriotism” since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. Asked about it Wednesday in an interview with KCRG-TV in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, the Illinois senator said he stopped wearing the pin shortly after the attacks and instead hoped to show his patriotism by explaining his ideas to citizens. “The truth is that right after 9/11 I had a pin,” Obama said. “Shortly after 9/11, particularly because as we’re talking about the Iraq war, that became a substitute for I think true patriotism, which is speaking out on issues that are of importance to our national security. “I decided I won’t wear that pin on my chest,” he said in the interview. “Instead, I’m going to try to tell the American people what I believe will make this country great, and hopefully that will be a testament to my patriotism.” On Thursday, his campaign issued a statement: “We all revere the flag, but Senator Obama believes that being a patriot is about more than a symbol. It’s about fighting for our veterans when they get home and speaking honestly with the American people about this disastrous war.

So Senator Obama declared those who wore an American flag pin on their lapel were relying on a “substitute” for “true patriotism,” which apparently he alone embodied. And in a Democratic primary that he thought would be decided by the hard Left, Obama manfully declared, “I won’t wear that pin on my chest.”

To top it all off, Obama and his campaign made sure that, having put this issue in play, none of his critics could say a word about it. If they did, they were guilty of trying to “distract us from the issues that affect our lives” and “turn us against each other.” Serious people don’t care about trivial things like an American flag pin on a lapel–except when you’re Barack Obama, who considered it a serious enough matter to first remove it and then proudly declare his courageous act of defiance to the Democratic voters of Iowa. And now that he’s essentially secured the Democratic nomination, Senator Obama is . . . once again wearing an American flag on his lapel!

It’s understandable if you’re a bit confused by all this. Late last year the American flag lapel pin was a substitute for “true patriotism.” So what has changed between then and now to make it a symbol worth wearing once again? What happened to the proud declaration that “I won’t wear that pin on my chest”? Why, the general election in November. If you understand that, the clouds will part and everything will become clear again. What you should have paid attention to is not the arguments Obama made, but the constituency to which he was playing. Obama tacked left in the Democratic primary, ridiculing people who wore an American flag on their lapel, perhaps because it played well with that particular audience. But now that he’s going to be the nominee, it might not play so well–and gosh darn it, who says there’s anything wrong with wearing an American flag on your lapel anyway?

What we see in this little episode is a man who is extremely smooth and skilled–he saw he had a potential problem and he’s now addressing it–and also deeply cynical (even as he runs against, you guessed it, cynicism). He is able effortlessly to put issues in play and then, with the aid of the MSM, declare those issues off-limits–until he decides to declare them legitimate again. Welcome to the wonderful, transcendent, sublime “new politics” of Barack Obama.

So apparently Barack Obama is back to wearing an American flag on his lapel. It’s such a seemingly minor matter, yet one that tells us something worth knowing about the junior senator from Illinois.

To begin at the beginning. Just who among the right wing attack machine made this an issue? Was it Floyd Brown or David Bossie? The Young Americans for Freedom? Maybe the RNC? Perhaps relatives of the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth? Or maybe even the ghost of Lee Atwater? Actually, it was Barack Obama. This is from an October 4, 2007 Associated Press story:

Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama says he doesn’t wear an American flag lapel pin because it has become a substitute for “true patriotism” since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. Asked about it Wednesday in an interview with KCRG-TV in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, the Illinois senator said he stopped wearing the pin shortly after the attacks and instead hoped to show his patriotism by explaining his ideas to citizens. “The truth is that right after 9/11 I had a pin,” Obama said. “Shortly after 9/11, particularly because as we’re talking about the Iraq war, that became a substitute for I think true patriotism, which is speaking out on issues that are of importance to our national security. “I decided I won’t wear that pin on my chest,” he said in the interview. “Instead, I’m going to try to tell the American people what I believe will make this country great, and hopefully that will be a testament to my patriotism.” On Thursday, his campaign issued a statement: “We all revere the flag, but Senator Obama believes that being a patriot is about more than a symbol. It’s about fighting for our veterans when they get home and speaking honestly with the American people about this disastrous war.

So Senator Obama declared those who wore an American flag pin on their lapel were relying on a “substitute” for “true patriotism,” which apparently he alone embodied. And in a Democratic primary that he thought would be decided by the hard Left, Obama manfully declared, “I won’t wear that pin on my chest.”

To top it all off, Obama and his campaign made sure that, having put this issue in play, none of his critics could say a word about it. If they did, they were guilty of trying to “distract us from the issues that affect our lives” and “turn us against each other.” Serious people don’t care about trivial things like an American flag pin on a lapel–except when you’re Barack Obama, who considered it a serious enough matter to first remove it and then proudly declare his courageous act of defiance to the Democratic voters of Iowa. And now that he’s essentially secured the Democratic nomination, Senator Obama is . . . once again wearing an American flag on his lapel!

It’s understandable if you’re a bit confused by all this. Late last year the American flag lapel pin was a substitute for “true patriotism.” So what has changed between then and now to make it a symbol worth wearing once again? What happened to the proud declaration that “I won’t wear that pin on my chest”? Why, the general election in November. If you understand that, the clouds will part and everything will become clear again. What you should have paid attention to is not the arguments Obama made, but the constituency to which he was playing. Obama tacked left in the Democratic primary, ridiculing people who wore an American flag on their lapel, perhaps because it played well with that particular audience. But now that he’s going to be the nominee, it might not play so well–and gosh darn it, who says there’s anything wrong with wearing an American flag on your lapel anyway?

What we see in this little episode is a man who is extremely smooth and skilled–he saw he had a potential problem and he’s now addressing it–and also deeply cynical (even as he runs against, you guessed it, cynicism). He is able effortlessly to put issues in play and then, with the aid of the MSM, declare those issues off-limits–until he decides to declare them legitimate again. Welcome to the wonderful, transcendent, sublime “new politics” of Barack Obama.

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Good News for the GOP

Last night was an almost perfect outcome for the GOP. Hillary Clinton won by a wide enough margin to keep her in the hunt, infuse her campaign with much-needed cash, and keep super-delegates from breaking en masse to Obama. But the results by themselves are not enough to change–at least not yet–the eventual outcome. Barack Obama will probably still win the nomination. But he is looking far less formidable than he did even six weeks ago.

Senator Obama outspent Clinton by around 3 to 1–and he was wiped out. He lost badly among women, Catholics, union households, working class voters, and those who didn’t attend college. Clinton carried both white voters 45 and older and weekly churchgoers by more than 60 percent. Only six in ten Democratic Catholic voters said they would vote for Obama in a general election; more than one in five said they would vote for McCain. Nearly one-third of Clinton voters said they wouldn’t vote for Obama if he’s the nominee. As Fred Barnes wrote, “After Pennsylvania, Clinton’s argument that she’s a stronger opponent against McCain will be impossible to ignore or dismiss.”

The Democratic contest, which is already heated and personal, is only going to get worse. The anger that supporters of Obama and Clinton feel for the other candidate is palpable. The Democrats appear headed for what Andrew Sullivan calls a “death struggle.”

Senator Obama is still the favorite–the math, the rules, and the calendar are all in his favor–but he’s now on the ropes, cut and bleeding, and even a bit wobbly. He could have put Hillary Clinton away with victories in New Hampshire, in Texas, and in Pennsylvania, but he let those opportunities slip away. And now he’s paying a high price for it.

One of the problems faced by Obama is that his appeal has been largely stylistic and aesthetic, based on his personality and character. The core of his campaign is not built on his ideas, as was the case with Ronald Reagan. It’s based on his assertion that he embodies unity and change, a new era in politics, a way past the deep divisions and polarization that have characterized so much of our politics. Which is why this paragraph in today’s Washington Post is worth noting:

Unable once again to score a knockout, Sen. Barack Obama is likely to make his new negative tone even more negative…. the candidate who rocketed to stardom as the embodiment of a new kind of politics — hopeful, positive and inspiring — saw his image tarnished in the bruising fight for Pennsylvania. Provoked by Clinton’s repeated references to his remarks about the state’s voters and her charges that he is an “elitist,” Obama struck back in the closing days of the campaign.

Obama has no choice but to fire back against Clinton–but in doing so, he badly undercuts the rationale for his candidacy. He is discovering what many other sincere and even high-minded candidates have found: changing the tone in Washington is a lot harder than it seems. Politics in America has been a contact sport since about 1800, when Jefferson and Adams went after one another viciously. If one’s political purpose is philosophical and policy-driven rather than tonal, then “negative campaigning,” while regrettable, is not fundamentally harmful. But if, like Obama, hope, change, and unity are your main appeal, it can be lethal.

Barack Obama has presented himself as a fundamentally different kind of political figure. But he now looks more and more conventional–in his liberal policy positions, in how he is conducting his campaign, and in his associations (including Reverend Wright, William Ayers, and Antoin “Tony” Rezko). All of this is building a narrative quite problematic for the junior senator from Illinois. People are beginning to wonder whether his candidacy of transcendence was merely an illusion.

Politics constantly teaches us not to draw too many sweeping conclusions from particular moments in time. It’s true that Obama offers a far more target-rich environment than he did earlier this year, and his appeal to key constituencies is (from his perspective) troublingly limited. But the GOP temptation to write him off as a fatally flawed or easily beatable candidate ought to be resisted.

The political environment still favors Democrats. And Obama is a money-making machine, his political operation is quite good, and he still possesses impressive skills. Every person who has run for the presidency goes through a period of trial and testing, when things seem bleak and sometimes even hopeless (like John McCain in the summer of ’07). But if and when Obama secures the nomination, he’ll receive a big boost. Democrats will begin to rally around him just as the GOP rallied around McCain and his poll ratings vis-à-vis McCain will get better. But what seemed improbable just three months ago now seems possible: a Republican victory in November.

Last night was an almost perfect outcome for the GOP. Hillary Clinton won by a wide enough margin to keep her in the hunt, infuse her campaign with much-needed cash, and keep super-delegates from breaking en masse to Obama. But the results by themselves are not enough to change–at least not yet–the eventual outcome. Barack Obama will probably still win the nomination. But he is looking far less formidable than he did even six weeks ago.

Senator Obama outspent Clinton by around 3 to 1–and he was wiped out. He lost badly among women, Catholics, union households, working class voters, and those who didn’t attend college. Clinton carried both white voters 45 and older and weekly churchgoers by more than 60 percent. Only six in ten Democratic Catholic voters said they would vote for Obama in a general election; more than one in five said they would vote for McCain. Nearly one-third of Clinton voters said they wouldn’t vote for Obama if he’s the nominee. As Fred Barnes wrote, “After Pennsylvania, Clinton’s argument that she’s a stronger opponent against McCain will be impossible to ignore or dismiss.”

The Democratic contest, which is already heated and personal, is only going to get worse. The anger that supporters of Obama and Clinton feel for the other candidate is palpable. The Democrats appear headed for what Andrew Sullivan calls a “death struggle.”

Senator Obama is still the favorite–the math, the rules, and the calendar are all in his favor–but he’s now on the ropes, cut and bleeding, and even a bit wobbly. He could have put Hillary Clinton away with victories in New Hampshire, in Texas, and in Pennsylvania, but he let those opportunities slip away. And now he’s paying a high price for it.

One of the problems faced by Obama is that his appeal has been largely stylistic and aesthetic, based on his personality and character. The core of his campaign is not built on his ideas, as was the case with Ronald Reagan. It’s based on his assertion that he embodies unity and change, a new era in politics, a way past the deep divisions and polarization that have characterized so much of our politics. Which is why this paragraph in today’s Washington Post is worth noting:

Unable once again to score a knockout, Sen. Barack Obama is likely to make his new negative tone even more negative…. the candidate who rocketed to stardom as the embodiment of a new kind of politics — hopeful, positive and inspiring — saw his image tarnished in the bruising fight for Pennsylvania. Provoked by Clinton’s repeated references to his remarks about the state’s voters and her charges that he is an “elitist,” Obama struck back in the closing days of the campaign.

Obama has no choice but to fire back against Clinton–but in doing so, he badly undercuts the rationale for his candidacy. He is discovering what many other sincere and even high-minded candidates have found: changing the tone in Washington is a lot harder than it seems. Politics in America has been a contact sport since about 1800, when Jefferson and Adams went after one another viciously. If one’s political purpose is philosophical and policy-driven rather than tonal, then “negative campaigning,” while regrettable, is not fundamentally harmful. But if, like Obama, hope, change, and unity are your main appeal, it can be lethal.

Barack Obama has presented himself as a fundamentally different kind of political figure. But he now looks more and more conventional–in his liberal policy positions, in how he is conducting his campaign, and in his associations (including Reverend Wright, William Ayers, and Antoin “Tony” Rezko). All of this is building a narrative quite problematic for the junior senator from Illinois. People are beginning to wonder whether his candidacy of transcendence was merely an illusion.

Politics constantly teaches us not to draw too many sweeping conclusions from particular moments in time. It’s true that Obama offers a far more target-rich environment than he did earlier this year, and his appeal to key constituencies is (from his perspective) troublingly limited. But the GOP temptation to write him off as a fatally flawed or easily beatable candidate ought to be resisted.

The political environment still favors Democrats. And Obama is a money-making machine, his political operation is quite good, and he still possesses impressive skills. Every person who has run for the presidency goes through a period of trial and testing, when things seem bleak and sometimes even hopeless (like John McCain in the summer of ’07). But if and when Obama secures the nomination, he’ll receive a big boost. Democrats will begin to rally around him just as the GOP rallied around McCain and his poll ratings vis-à-vis McCain will get better. But what seemed improbable just three months ago now seems possible: a Republican victory in November.

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Obama’s America

One of the things worth noting about Senator Obama’s comments about the “bitter” working class voters who “cling” to guns, religion, and nativist sentiments because of their “frustrations” is this: Obama’s view of America and Americans is almost unremittingly bleak. In his increasingly prickly and aggressive defense, Obama insists that his comments about ordinary Americans are accurate. He is, he insists, completely “in touch” with the struggles that define modern American life. At least that’s how he defines things: if you review Obama’s speeches, his portrait of Americans is of a people broken and dispirited, anxious and angry and without hope (and for whom Obama, as you might have guessed, is the balm).

Obama has spoken about crumbling schools, growing divisions, and shattered dreams. He speaks about the one father who goes to work before dawn and lies awake at night wondering how he’s going to pay the bills, and the father who’s worried he won’t be able to send his children to college . . . about the mother who can’t afford health care for her sick child and the other mother who saw her mortgage double in two weeks and didn’t know where her two-year old children would sleep at night . . . the woman who works the night shift after a full day of college and still can’t afford health care for a sick sister . . . the senior who lost his pension when the company he gave his life to went bankrupt . . . the teacher who works at Dunkin’ Donuts after school just to make ends meet, and on and on. The American public, Obama believes, has justifiably become cynical, frustrated, and bitter.

It’s also worth considering the views of those to whom Obama is closest. His wife Michelle has said that America is “downright mean.” It’s a nation whose soul is “broken.” And it’s a nation in which she had never, until her husband ran for President, taken pride. Obama’s longtime friend, the Reverend Jeremiah Wright, Jr., describes America as fundamentally racist, the “U.S. of K.K.K,” a “Eurocentric wasteland of lily-white lies.”

Senator Obama, in casting himself as a change agent, wants to focus on the failings of our nation. That is typical fare for a presidential candidate. It’s perfectly legitimate, and even right, to call attention to problems that need to be solved and the struggles people are having.

The question for Obama, however, is whether his portrait of America is defining. Does he believe that his comments about working-class people are actually characteristic of them? When he looks out at Americans does he see people who are, on some deep level, broken, bitter, angry, and unable to cope with the vicissitudes of life?

It appears that he does. And if he does, it certainly explains his support for paternalistic government and for the nanny state. It has become unfashionable to point out that for all the problems we face, those of us now living in America are the most fortunate people in history. We live in a nation of extraordinary wealth and scientific and medical advancements. This country, while not without its flaws, has made great strides in alleviating poverty, discrimination, and injustice. We are free to speak, vote, worship, and associate with others. Americans now live longer and better than any previous generation. Our nation remains a force for good in the world. That doesn’t mean our citizen’s lives are without challenges or concerns. It only means that, relative to the rest of the world and relative to history, we’re in pretty good shape.

On some deep level, Obama doesn’t see this. He looks out at America and sees a nation needy, crippled, and desperate for succor from the federal government. A friend of mine wrote to me yesterday:

The supreme arrogance of this man [Obama] comes through with every new defense. I just saw his remarks to the steelworkers in Pittsburgh and, again, it’s everyone else who’s out of touch. Also, it really is a slander against millions of people. I’ve belonged to small town churches all my life (and still do) and I belong to [a gun club in his home state of Minnesota]. It’s hard to find more positive, affirming, communities than small town churches and the hunting/fishing/outdoor culture. What he really doesn’t “get” is the non-materialistic nature of these cultures.

That sounds about right to me. Barack Obama is running as the candidate of hope–but he views America as more or less a wreck and its people as beaten down. From this flawed assumption flows much else, from his rhetoric to his policy proposals. And it helps explain why Obama’s off-the-record comments to a group of wealthy liberals in San Francisco weren’t a “distraction,” as he now characterizes them, but rather a real insight into the mind and sensibilities of the junior senator from Illinois.

One of the things worth noting about Senator Obama’s comments about the “bitter” working class voters who “cling” to guns, religion, and nativist sentiments because of their “frustrations” is this: Obama’s view of America and Americans is almost unremittingly bleak. In his increasingly prickly and aggressive defense, Obama insists that his comments about ordinary Americans are accurate. He is, he insists, completely “in touch” with the struggles that define modern American life. At least that’s how he defines things: if you review Obama’s speeches, his portrait of Americans is of a people broken and dispirited, anxious and angry and without hope (and for whom Obama, as you might have guessed, is the balm).

Obama has spoken about crumbling schools, growing divisions, and shattered dreams. He speaks about the one father who goes to work before dawn and lies awake at night wondering how he’s going to pay the bills, and the father who’s worried he won’t be able to send his children to college . . . about the mother who can’t afford health care for her sick child and the other mother who saw her mortgage double in two weeks and didn’t know where her two-year old children would sleep at night . . . the woman who works the night shift after a full day of college and still can’t afford health care for a sick sister . . . the senior who lost his pension when the company he gave his life to went bankrupt . . . the teacher who works at Dunkin’ Donuts after school just to make ends meet, and on and on. The American public, Obama believes, has justifiably become cynical, frustrated, and bitter.

It’s also worth considering the views of those to whom Obama is closest. His wife Michelle has said that America is “downright mean.” It’s a nation whose soul is “broken.” And it’s a nation in which she had never, until her husband ran for President, taken pride. Obama’s longtime friend, the Reverend Jeremiah Wright, Jr., describes America as fundamentally racist, the “U.S. of K.K.K,” a “Eurocentric wasteland of lily-white lies.”

Senator Obama, in casting himself as a change agent, wants to focus on the failings of our nation. That is typical fare for a presidential candidate. It’s perfectly legitimate, and even right, to call attention to problems that need to be solved and the struggles people are having.

The question for Obama, however, is whether his portrait of America is defining. Does he believe that his comments about working-class people are actually characteristic of them? When he looks out at Americans does he see people who are, on some deep level, broken, bitter, angry, and unable to cope with the vicissitudes of life?

It appears that he does. And if he does, it certainly explains his support for paternalistic government and for the nanny state. It has become unfashionable to point out that for all the problems we face, those of us now living in America are the most fortunate people in history. We live in a nation of extraordinary wealth and scientific and medical advancements. This country, while not without its flaws, has made great strides in alleviating poverty, discrimination, and injustice. We are free to speak, vote, worship, and associate with others. Americans now live longer and better than any previous generation. Our nation remains a force for good in the world. That doesn’t mean our citizen’s lives are without challenges or concerns. It only means that, relative to the rest of the world and relative to history, we’re in pretty good shape.

On some deep level, Obama doesn’t see this. He looks out at America and sees a nation needy, crippled, and desperate for succor from the federal government. A friend of mine wrote to me yesterday:

The supreme arrogance of this man [Obama] comes through with every new defense. I just saw his remarks to the steelworkers in Pittsburgh and, again, it’s everyone else who’s out of touch. Also, it really is a slander against millions of people. I’ve belonged to small town churches all my life (and still do) and I belong to [a gun club in his home state of Minnesota]. It’s hard to find more positive, affirming, communities than small town churches and the hunting/fishing/outdoor culture. What he really doesn’t “get” is the non-materialistic nature of these cultures.

That sounds about right to me. Barack Obama is running as the candidate of hope–but he views America as more or less a wreck and its people as beaten down. From this flawed assumption flows much else, from his rhetoric to his policy proposals. And it helps explain why Obama’s off-the-record comments to a group of wealthy liberals in San Francisco weren’t a “distraction,” as he now characterizes them, but rather a real insight into the mind and sensibilities of the junior senator from Illinois.

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It’s All Gone

The radiant charm; the verbal agility; the promise of change; the post-racial unity; the deferential press; and most importantly, the vagueness of character and intent that sustained the whole façade. These were the hallmarks of Barack Obama’s run for the Democratic nomination, and bit-by-bit, associate-by-associate, gaffe-by-gaffe, the junior senator from Illinois has given all of it back. The extraordinary bounty that had made his campaign a nearly unstoppable force of nature is gone.

With last Sunday’s revelation—that he looks at smalltown America and finds armed, hate-filled, irredentist religious zealots—the last piece of the Obama puzzle fell into place. He is not, it turns out, an agent of change; he is a walking checklist of modern liberal inanities. Big government: check. Crippling taxes: check. Arrogance: check. Identity divisiveness: check. Moral superiority: check. Softness on enemies: check. Shakiness on Israel: check. Questionable patriotism: check.

Half a year ago, the formula for a serious journalistic portrait of Barack Obama was as follows: one extra long cosmetic description, one detailed childhood recap, some praise for his efforts as a memoirist, and a closing discussion of a nation poised for change. No one knew enough about the man’s politics to delve further. However, in the course of a few months he has created a resume of mistakes that’s left the content of those early articles looking as relevant as the lines on a printer test. Today’s Obama portrait is of a man embattled, a candidate whose repeatedly faulty judgment demands explanation.

Yet, the math is the math is the math, and as we know the superdelegates are his to lose. While they may now realize they’ve thrown in their lot with the dazzling candidate from a few months ago, turning their backs on the candidate who can’t stop fumbling today could cause a scandal—one perhaps even bigger than the scandals repeatedly served up by Hillary and Obama. However, it’s a scandal the party leadership may decide to weather, because the man who has at last filled out the empty suit has turned out to be very very beatable.

The radiant charm; the verbal agility; the promise of change; the post-racial unity; the deferential press; and most importantly, the vagueness of character and intent that sustained the whole façade. These were the hallmarks of Barack Obama’s run for the Democratic nomination, and bit-by-bit, associate-by-associate, gaffe-by-gaffe, the junior senator from Illinois has given all of it back. The extraordinary bounty that had made his campaign a nearly unstoppable force of nature is gone.

With last Sunday’s revelation—that he looks at smalltown America and finds armed, hate-filled, irredentist religious zealots—the last piece of the Obama puzzle fell into place. He is not, it turns out, an agent of change; he is a walking checklist of modern liberal inanities. Big government: check. Crippling taxes: check. Arrogance: check. Identity divisiveness: check. Moral superiority: check. Softness on enemies: check. Shakiness on Israel: check. Questionable patriotism: check.

Half a year ago, the formula for a serious journalistic portrait of Barack Obama was as follows: one extra long cosmetic description, one detailed childhood recap, some praise for his efforts as a memoirist, and a closing discussion of a nation poised for change. No one knew enough about the man’s politics to delve further. However, in the course of a few months he has created a resume of mistakes that’s left the content of those early articles looking as relevant as the lines on a printer test. Today’s Obama portrait is of a man embattled, a candidate whose repeatedly faulty judgment demands explanation.

Yet, the math is the math is the math, and as we know the superdelegates are his to lose. While they may now realize they’ve thrown in their lot with the dazzling candidate from a few months ago, turning their backs on the candidate who can’t stop fumbling today could cause a scandal—one perhaps even bigger than the scandals repeatedly served up by Hillary and Obama. However, it’s a scandal the party leadership may decide to weather, because the man who has at last filled out the empty suit has turned out to be very very beatable.

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Obama, Divider

He’s not even the Democratic nominee yet and already Barack Obama is getting into diplomatic tiffs with the leader of a foreign country. Last week, Colombian president–and staunch U.S. ally–Alvaro Uribe told The Wall Street Journal that Congress’ failure to pass the Colombia Free Trade Act would deal a harsh blow to American-Colombian relations. “I wouldn’t know what to say. It would be very serious,” Uribe said. Colombia is not just any ally. It is our strongest ally in Latin America, a bulwark against the hegemonic Marxist dictator Hugo Chavez. With anti-American sentiment rising across that continent, we need all the friends we can get, and Mr. Uribe is certainly one of them.

Obama doesn’t care. “I think the president is absolutely wrong on this,” he said last week. “You’ve got a government that is under a cloud of potentially having supported violence against unions, against labor, against opposition.” Obama, like much of the rest of his party these days, is in hock to labor unions. They oppose free trade deals on principle because to do so is in the short-term economic interests of their members. But the American people, as a whole, are harmed by protectionism, and so unions and other free trade opponents must therefore dress up their opposition to trade in deceptive arguments. In this case, labor has launched a campaign against the Colombian government, which, they claim, is responsible for the deaths of trade unionists. It is paramilitaries which are responsible for these murders, however, and Uribe has courageously (and effectively) taken them on during his tenure in office, along with crime in general. Considering how enormous a problem violent crime has been in Colombia over the past several decades, this is no small thing.

For all of Obama’s talk about repairing the global alliances destroyed by the Bush administration, the junior senator from Illinois does not seem to care about what his anti-free trade posturing says, not just to Colombia, but the world. What must the Mexicans and Canadians think of his anti-NAFTA demagoguery? What about the South Koreans–another, vital, U.S. ally in a dangerous region–who probably didn’t relish his crusading against their own free trade agreement? Barack Obama’s protectionist rhetoric has done an excellent job of uniting the left-wing of the Democratic Party. Should he become President, the same won’t be said about its effect on the rest of the world.

He’s not even the Democratic nominee yet and already Barack Obama is getting into diplomatic tiffs with the leader of a foreign country. Last week, Colombian president–and staunch U.S. ally–Alvaro Uribe told The Wall Street Journal that Congress’ failure to pass the Colombia Free Trade Act would deal a harsh blow to American-Colombian relations. “I wouldn’t know what to say. It would be very serious,” Uribe said. Colombia is not just any ally. It is our strongest ally in Latin America, a bulwark against the hegemonic Marxist dictator Hugo Chavez. With anti-American sentiment rising across that continent, we need all the friends we can get, and Mr. Uribe is certainly one of them.

Obama doesn’t care. “I think the president is absolutely wrong on this,” he said last week. “You’ve got a government that is under a cloud of potentially having supported violence against unions, against labor, against opposition.” Obama, like much of the rest of his party these days, is in hock to labor unions. They oppose free trade deals on principle because to do so is in the short-term economic interests of their members. But the American people, as a whole, are harmed by protectionism, and so unions and other free trade opponents must therefore dress up their opposition to trade in deceptive arguments. In this case, labor has launched a campaign against the Colombian government, which, they claim, is responsible for the deaths of trade unionists. It is paramilitaries which are responsible for these murders, however, and Uribe has courageously (and effectively) taken them on during his tenure in office, along with crime in general. Considering how enormous a problem violent crime has been in Colombia over the past several decades, this is no small thing.

For all of Obama’s talk about repairing the global alliances destroyed by the Bush administration, the junior senator from Illinois does not seem to care about what his anti-free trade posturing says, not just to Colombia, but the world. What must the Mexicans and Canadians think of his anti-NAFTA demagoguery? What about the South Koreans–another, vital, U.S. ally in a dangerous region–who probably didn’t relish his crusading against their own free trade agreement? Barack Obama’s protectionist rhetoric has done an excellent job of uniting the left-wing of the Democratic Party. Should he become President, the same won’t be said about its effect on the rest of the world.

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St. Barack and His Pastor

In a front page story yesterday the New York Times devoted 1,500 words to how some pastors would base their Easter Sunday sermons on the controversy surrounding Barack Obama and his former pastor, the Reverend Jeremiah Wright, Jr. Among the gems we read are this:

The Very Rev. Tracey Lind, dean of Trinity Episcopal Cathedral in Cleveland, said she would preach about when Mary Magdalene and “the other Mary” went to Jesus’ tomb and were met by an angel who rolled away the stone before the cave to reveal that Christ had risen from the dead. “I’m going to talk about the stones that need to be rolled away from the tombs of lives, that are holding us in places of death and away from God,” Ms. Lind said. “One of the main stones in our churches, synagogues, mosques, communities, countries, world is the pervasive tone of racism. What Obama has done is moved the stone a little bit. “I will ask our congregation to look at the stones in our lives,” she said.

And this:

The Rev. Kent Millard of St. Luke’s United Methodist Church in Indianapolis said he felt Mr. Obama had explained the reality of the relationship between a pastor and his congregants. “Senator Richard Lugar, the ranking Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, is member of our congregation, and I would hope he would never be held accountable for everything I have said in the last 15 years,” said Dr. Millard, who is white. “Why is there any assumption that a person in church is expected to agree with everything a pastor says?”

And this:

Some black ministers said that their sermons might address how the reputation of a man many of them revere was reduced to sound bites. They pointed out that sermons in black churches covered a long and circuitous path from crisis to resolution, and it was unfair to judge the entire message on one or two sentences. “I may not use his exact language,” said the Rev. Kenneth L. Samuel, pastor of Victory Church in Stone Mountain, Ga., “but I can tell you that the basic thrust of much of my preaching resonates with Dr. Wright. I don’t think I’m necessarily trying to preach people into anger, but I am trying to help people become conscious, become aware, to realize our power to make change in society.” Mr. Samuel said his Easter sermon would be titled “Dangerous Proclamations,” and would focus on the Apostle Paul, “who was also under attack for his faith in Jesus, and for preaching the Resurrection.”

And this:

On Easter, one of the nation’s foremost preachers, the Rev. James A. Forbes, senior minister emeritus at the Riverside Church in New York, said he would take Mr. Wright’s place preaching the 6 p.m. service at Trinity in Chicago. Dr. Forbes plans to preach about how the nation is in a “night season,” a dark, destabilizing time, given the war, the economy and the vitriol over race and gender in the political primary. “It is nighttime in America,” Dr. Forbes said, “and I want to bring a word of encouragement.”

What ought we to make of the story and these quotes?

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In a front page story yesterday the New York Times devoted 1,500 words to how some pastors would base their Easter Sunday sermons on the controversy surrounding Barack Obama and his former pastor, the Reverend Jeremiah Wright, Jr. Among the gems we read are this:

The Very Rev. Tracey Lind, dean of Trinity Episcopal Cathedral in Cleveland, said she would preach about when Mary Magdalene and “the other Mary” went to Jesus’ tomb and were met by an angel who rolled away the stone before the cave to reveal that Christ had risen from the dead. “I’m going to talk about the stones that need to be rolled away from the tombs of lives, that are holding us in places of death and away from God,” Ms. Lind said. “One of the main stones in our churches, synagogues, mosques, communities, countries, world is the pervasive tone of racism. What Obama has done is moved the stone a little bit. “I will ask our congregation to look at the stones in our lives,” she said.

And this:

The Rev. Kent Millard of St. Luke’s United Methodist Church in Indianapolis said he felt Mr. Obama had explained the reality of the relationship between a pastor and his congregants. “Senator Richard Lugar, the ranking Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, is member of our congregation, and I would hope he would never be held accountable for everything I have said in the last 15 years,” said Dr. Millard, who is white. “Why is there any assumption that a person in church is expected to agree with everything a pastor says?”

And this:

Some black ministers said that their sermons might address how the reputation of a man many of them revere was reduced to sound bites. They pointed out that sermons in black churches covered a long and circuitous path from crisis to resolution, and it was unfair to judge the entire message on one or two sentences. “I may not use his exact language,” said the Rev. Kenneth L. Samuel, pastor of Victory Church in Stone Mountain, Ga., “but I can tell you that the basic thrust of much of my preaching resonates with Dr. Wright. I don’t think I’m necessarily trying to preach people into anger, but I am trying to help people become conscious, become aware, to realize our power to make change in society.” Mr. Samuel said his Easter sermon would be titled “Dangerous Proclamations,” and would focus on the Apostle Paul, “who was also under attack for his faith in Jesus, and for preaching the Resurrection.”

And this:

On Easter, one of the nation’s foremost preachers, the Rev. James A. Forbes, senior minister emeritus at the Riverside Church in New York, said he would take Mr. Wright’s place preaching the 6 p.m. service at Trinity in Chicago. Dr. Forbes plans to preach about how the nation is in a “night season,” a dark, destabilizing time, given the war, the economy and the vitriol over race and gender in the political primary. “It is nighttime in America,” Dr. Forbes said, “and I want to bring a word of encouragement.”

What ought we to make of the story and these quotes?

For one thing, the Times piece was much more charitable toward Reverend Wright than I can ever remember the New York Times being toward anyone on the “religious right.” Making a hate-spewing, conspiracy-minded, anti-American pastor appear sympathetic isn’t easy–but leave it to the good folks at the Times to try their best to achieve it.

Beyond that, Senator Obama has now taken on, at least among his supporters, angelic powers. To them St. Barack can move figurative (and perhaps even literal?) stones that are holding us in places of death and away from God. And to think I only viewed him as an impressive, if deeply liberal, junior senator from Illinois. Silly me.

As for Senator Lugar’s pastor: I’m sure Senator Lugar hasn’t agreed with everything he’s heard from the pulpit. But I also assume that if Senator Lugar heard his pastor asking God (repeatedly) to damn America rather than bless it and giving voice to batty conspiracy theories (America invented AIDS in order to champion genocide), Lugar would be troubled – troubled enough at least to raise the issue with the Reverend Millard and perhaps even troubled enough to leave the church if such rhetoric persisted.

I’m personally delighted to learn that the Reverend Samuel “may not use [Wright’s] exact language,” even as the basic thrust of much of his preaching would resonate with Wright. I am oh-so-eager to see just what formulations Kenneth Samuel would use that would bring joy and delight to the heart of Jeremiah Wright.

And then there is James A. Forbes, representing our reliable old friends at Riverside Church in New York City. It’s “nighttime” in America, according to the good Reverend, but fear not; James Forbes will bring a word of encouragement to us all. Of course the proposition on which Forbes relies–that America is a dark, aggrieved, divided and broken country– requires him to ignore the fact that we are the most fortunate and blessed people not only on earth but in human history; that we live in a nation that is imperfect and plagued by problems, but one that is more prosperous, freer, more benevolent, and filled with more opportunities than any Reverend Forbes could name.

Risible comments like those made by Forbes and company underscore why the “mainstream” churches in America have been steadily losing congregants for decades. They are utterly consumed by left-wing politics, so much so that on the most holy day of the Christian year they decide to devote their sermons to racial politics and an effort to restore the reputation of Jeremiah A. Wright, Jr. The degree to which the Left is contorting itself in an effort to rationalize the venom of Wright is now moving into the comical category. One can only imagine what kind of story Laurie Goldstein and Neela Banerjee of the Times would have written if they had stumbled across words as fierce, demagogic, and loathsome as Wright’s from a right-winger instead of a left-winger.

The double standard of the Times is on display almost every day, but it is rarely as apparent as it was on Easter Sunday.

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