Commentary Magazine


Topic: Labor Day

Why the Dems’ Campaign Is So Bad

Karl Rove writes:

Last Saturday at a West Newton, Mass., fund-raiser, the president said, “facts and science and argument [do] not seem to be winning … because we’re hard-wired not to always think clearly when we’re scared.”

Memo to White House: Calling voters stupid is not a winning strategy.

The economy and jobs are the No. 1 issue in every poll. Yet Mr. Obama of late has talked about immigration reform and weighed in (unprompted) on the Ground Zero mosque. He devoted Labor Day to an ineffective Mideast peace initiative. He demeans large blocs of voters and now is ending his midterm pitch with attacks on nonexistent foreign campaign contributions and weird assertions that “the Empire is striking back.”

Meanwhile, Republicans have talked about little else than the economy—drawing attention to lackluster job growth, the failed stimulus, out-of-control spending, escalating deficits and the dangers of ObamaCare.

To a large degree, this is a reversal of the 2008 election. There Obama let his opponent flail away, appearing reasonable simply by pointing to the lackluster economy and showing himself to be less flighty than the more experienced Republican. Now Obama and his party are on the defensive and desperately trying to change the subject to a host of non-issues. Obama is incoherent because he can’t effectively defend his record.

As Michael Barone notes:

What has struck me this year is that so-called tea party candidates turn out, when you take a look at them, to have considerably more in the way of good political instincts than the usual run of Republican candidates. And some of them who have been derided in mainstream media, like Sherron Angle, manage to beat a 40-year political veteran like Harry Reid in debate. I was somewhat surprised … because candidates who have had a couple of terms in a state legislature representing a small rural district seldom manage to hold their own, much less prevail, in a debate with a major officeholder whose political career spans 40 years.

For some time now, conservative critics (and some candid liberal ones as well) have observed that Obama was great at campaigning but lousy at governing. (Juan Williams declared that you wouldn’t want to rely on Obama in a crisis.) It turns out that being lousy at governing makes for a lousy campaign. It turns out that for an incumbent, campaigning is not some all-purpose talent that can be pulled off the shelf to rescue unpopular policies. You actually have to convince voters that your record deserves their stamp of approval.

That is why Obama is suddenly so ineffective, and why a Sharron Angle can best Harry Reid. You try defending the Dems’ record. It isn’t easy, is it?

Karl Rove writes:

Last Saturday at a West Newton, Mass., fund-raiser, the president said, “facts and science and argument [do] not seem to be winning … because we’re hard-wired not to always think clearly when we’re scared.”

Memo to White House: Calling voters stupid is not a winning strategy.

The economy and jobs are the No. 1 issue in every poll. Yet Mr. Obama of late has talked about immigration reform and weighed in (unprompted) on the Ground Zero mosque. He devoted Labor Day to an ineffective Mideast peace initiative. He demeans large blocs of voters and now is ending his midterm pitch with attacks on nonexistent foreign campaign contributions and weird assertions that “the Empire is striking back.”

Meanwhile, Republicans have talked about little else than the economy—drawing attention to lackluster job growth, the failed stimulus, out-of-control spending, escalating deficits and the dangers of ObamaCare.

To a large degree, this is a reversal of the 2008 election. There Obama let his opponent flail away, appearing reasonable simply by pointing to the lackluster economy and showing himself to be less flighty than the more experienced Republican. Now Obama and his party are on the defensive and desperately trying to change the subject to a host of non-issues. Obama is incoherent because he can’t effectively defend his record.

As Michael Barone notes:

What has struck me this year is that so-called tea party candidates turn out, when you take a look at them, to have considerably more in the way of good political instincts than the usual run of Republican candidates. And some of them who have been derided in mainstream media, like Sherron Angle, manage to beat a 40-year political veteran like Harry Reid in debate. I was somewhat surprised … because candidates who have had a couple of terms in a state legislature representing a small rural district seldom manage to hold their own, much less prevail, in a debate with a major officeholder whose political career spans 40 years.

For some time now, conservative critics (and some candid liberal ones as well) have observed that Obama was great at campaigning but lousy at governing. (Juan Williams declared that you wouldn’t want to rely on Obama in a crisis.) It turns out that being lousy at governing makes for a lousy campaign. It turns out that for an incumbent, campaigning is not some all-purpose talent that can be pulled off the shelf to rescue unpopular policies. You actually have to convince voters that your record deserves their stamp of approval.

That is why Obama is suddenly so ineffective, and why a Sharron Angle can best Harry Reid. You try defending the Dems’ record. It isn’t easy, is it?

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The Party of “No” Looks Darn Smart

As their political lives flash before their eyes, House Democrats who marched in lockstep with the president and Speaker Nancy Pelosi are now running from the sinking ship. The Washington Post reports:

Democrats from a number of states, including Texas, Ohio and North Carolina, are running away from Pelosi in a harsh political climate. Distancing one’s self from the speaker is nothing new for many Democrats. … but the number of incumbents and the volume of their criticism of the party House leader is larger than it has been in past election cycles — and the volume of their criticism is louder.

More than a few Democrats have said they are wavering on supporting Pelosi as their leader next year. At least four House Democrats are running ads stating their opposition to the speaker’s agenda, and one Democrat running in Tennessee called for her resignation.

This, of course, emphasizes the message behind the Republicans’ anti-Pelosi ads: she’s a menace to the Congress and the country. (“Republicans have decided to double down on their anti-Pelosi campaign, making her a central figure in their campaign this fall.”)

Moreover, it’s more than a little disingenuous for House members who supported all or a great deal of the Obama-Pelosi agenda to now be running from their collective record. Rep. Chet Edwards (D-Texas) may have voted against ObamaCare and cap-and-trade, but what about the other vulnerable House Democrats who voted for those measures plus the stimulus, the financial “reform” bill, and the rest of the Obama agenda? Only 34 Democrats voted against ObamaCare, 44 against cap-and-trade, and 11 against the original stimulus bill. By some estimates, there are now 80 vulnerable House Democrats. What’s the excuse for those who voted for all three of these measures?

Recall that in the Senate, every Democrat is the 60th vote (the minimum needed for cloture on ObamaCare) and not a single Democratic senator voted against the stimulus bill. How are they supposed to run from their leadership?

The public is unlikely to buy the election-eve confessions and conversions. By being the Party of No, the GOP quite adeptly shifted the responsibility — and then the anger — to the Democratic majority in both houses. Now the Party of No looks pretty smart, and many Democrats who will lose in November can only ruminate about what might have been if only they, too, had stood up to Pelosi before Labor Day 2010.

As their political lives flash before their eyes, House Democrats who marched in lockstep with the president and Speaker Nancy Pelosi are now running from the sinking ship. The Washington Post reports:

Democrats from a number of states, including Texas, Ohio and North Carolina, are running away from Pelosi in a harsh political climate. Distancing one’s self from the speaker is nothing new for many Democrats. … but the number of incumbents and the volume of their criticism of the party House leader is larger than it has been in past election cycles — and the volume of their criticism is louder.

More than a few Democrats have said they are wavering on supporting Pelosi as their leader next year. At least four House Democrats are running ads stating their opposition to the speaker’s agenda, and one Democrat running in Tennessee called for her resignation.

This, of course, emphasizes the message behind the Republicans’ anti-Pelosi ads: she’s a menace to the Congress and the country. (“Republicans have decided to double down on their anti-Pelosi campaign, making her a central figure in their campaign this fall.”)

Moreover, it’s more than a little disingenuous for House members who supported all or a great deal of the Obama-Pelosi agenda to now be running from their collective record. Rep. Chet Edwards (D-Texas) may have voted against ObamaCare and cap-and-trade, but what about the other vulnerable House Democrats who voted for those measures plus the stimulus, the financial “reform” bill, and the rest of the Obama agenda? Only 34 Democrats voted against ObamaCare, 44 against cap-and-trade, and 11 against the original stimulus bill. By some estimates, there are now 80 vulnerable House Democrats. What’s the excuse for those who voted for all three of these measures?

Recall that in the Senate, every Democrat is the 60th vote (the minimum needed for cloture on ObamaCare) and not a single Democratic senator voted against the stimulus bill. How are they supposed to run from their leadership?

The public is unlikely to buy the election-eve confessions and conversions. By being the Party of No, the GOP quite adeptly shifted the responsibility — and then the anger — to the Democratic majority in both houses. Now the Party of No looks pretty smart, and many Democrats who will lose in November can only ruminate about what might have been if only they, too, had stood up to Pelosi before Labor Day 2010.

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Voters Say the Iraq War Was Worth It

Just before the Labor Day weekend, Fox released a poll that provides evidence of just how far the American people have come — and how wide is the gap between Obama and the public. What is surprising is that the subject is Iraq.

Did we do the right thing by going to war with Iraq? Fifty-eight percent say yes, while only 35 percent say no.  This is a reversal of several years’ worth of survey data. A stunning 71 percent, including 58 percent of Democrats, think the Iraqi people are better off because of the war. Is the U.S. and the world safer? Again, 58 percent say yes. Who do they give credit for the success? Fifty-four percent say George W. Bush, only 19 percent say Obama. Did Obama give Bush enough credit in last Tuesday’s speech? A significant plurality (38 to 15 percent) say no. Independents by a 31 to 16 percent margin say Obama didn’t give Bush enough credit. (By the way, Obama gave Bush no credit — he merely said Bush loved the troops.) The poll is no outlier – NBC’s survey shows 53 percent think the war was a success; only 43 percent say it is not.

Well, Obama and the rest of the left must be chagrined to find out that — after years of running down the war effort (in fact declaring it a lost cause), inciting the public to oppose it, and vilifying the president who launched the war and made success possible — the majority of the country disagrees with them. As for Bush, this is vindication much sooner perhaps than any of us imagined. He refused to bend to the howls  and to give up on the Iraqi people. He didn’t care if it made him unpopular for a time — and it did. He knew that defeat was unacceptable and that success — a stable, democratic, pro-Western Iraq — would be a historic achievement. And it is. The president has been quiet for nearly two years, waiting for events to play out and history to render its verdict. At this point, he deserves a victory lap and the appreciation of the American people.

Provided Obama “doesn’t screw this up,” Bush and country can rightly say, ” Mission Accomplished.”

Just before the Labor Day weekend, Fox released a poll that provides evidence of just how far the American people have come — and how wide is the gap between Obama and the public. What is surprising is that the subject is Iraq.

Did we do the right thing by going to war with Iraq? Fifty-eight percent say yes, while only 35 percent say no.  This is a reversal of several years’ worth of survey data. A stunning 71 percent, including 58 percent of Democrats, think the Iraqi people are better off because of the war. Is the U.S. and the world safer? Again, 58 percent say yes. Who do they give credit for the success? Fifty-four percent say George W. Bush, only 19 percent say Obama. Did Obama give Bush enough credit in last Tuesday’s speech? A significant plurality (38 to 15 percent) say no. Independents by a 31 to 16 percent margin say Obama didn’t give Bush enough credit. (By the way, Obama gave Bush no credit — he merely said Bush loved the troops.) The poll is no outlier – NBC’s survey shows 53 percent think the war was a success; only 43 percent say it is not.

Well, Obama and the rest of the left must be chagrined to find out that — after years of running down the war effort (in fact declaring it a lost cause), inciting the public to oppose it, and vilifying the president who launched the war and made success possible — the majority of the country disagrees with them. As for Bush, this is vindication much sooner perhaps than any of us imagined. He refused to bend to the howls  and to give up on the Iraqi people. He didn’t care if it made him unpopular for a time — and it did. He knew that defeat was unacceptable and that success — a stable, democratic, pro-Western Iraq — would be a historic achievement. And it is. The president has been quiet for nearly two years, waiting for events to play out and history to render its verdict. At this point, he deserves a victory lap and the appreciation of the American people.

Provided Obama “doesn’t screw this up,” Bush and country can rightly say, ” Mission Accomplished.”

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RE: Bad News Gets Worse for Dems

As I said, things may be even worse than Nate Silver has disclosed to the glum readers of the New York Times. Politico reports:

In conversations with more than two dozen party insiders, most of whom requested anonymity to speak candidly about the state of play, Democrats in and out of Washington say they are increasingly alarmed about the economic and polling data they have seen in recent weeks.

They no longer believe the jobs and housing markets will recover – or that anything resembling the White House’s promise of a “recovery summer” is under way. They are even more concerned by indications that House Democrats once considered safe – such as Rep. Betty Sutton, who occupies an Ohio seat that President Barack Obama won with 57 percent of the vote in 2008 – are in real trouble.

It turns out that Robert Gibbs’s sin was not of excessive pessimism but of excessive candor. (“A Democratic pollster working on several key races said, ‘The reality is that [the House majority] is probably gone.’ His data shows the Democrats’ problems are only getting worse. ‘It’s spreading,’ the pollster said.”)

When things go south, the finger-pointing begins. Not without good reason, Democrats are “furious with the White House for keeping the debate over a New York mosque in play for two weeks — and then announcing that Obama will use a prime-time address next week to discuss Iraq, not the economy. By the calculations of House Democrats, this means that by Labor Day they will have spent nearly nine weeks this summer beating back negative or unhelpful story lines instigated, in part or in total, by the White House.” Good point on the mosque, fellas, but in Obama’s defense, what good would it do to talk about the economy? It’s sinking, and the “recovery summer” spiel is now an embarrassing reminder of the White House’s cluelessness. Things are so bad, they can’t even blame George W. Bush. (From a former state Democratic Party chairman: “You can only blame Bush for so long.”)

The extent of the unraveling and the ferocity of the infighting before the election are remarkable. Just imagine the food fight after the results are in.

As I said, things may be even worse than Nate Silver has disclosed to the glum readers of the New York Times. Politico reports:

In conversations with more than two dozen party insiders, most of whom requested anonymity to speak candidly about the state of play, Democrats in and out of Washington say they are increasingly alarmed about the economic and polling data they have seen in recent weeks.

They no longer believe the jobs and housing markets will recover – or that anything resembling the White House’s promise of a “recovery summer” is under way. They are even more concerned by indications that House Democrats once considered safe – such as Rep. Betty Sutton, who occupies an Ohio seat that President Barack Obama won with 57 percent of the vote in 2008 – are in real trouble.

It turns out that Robert Gibbs’s sin was not of excessive pessimism but of excessive candor. (“A Democratic pollster working on several key races said, ‘The reality is that [the House majority] is probably gone.’ His data shows the Democrats’ problems are only getting worse. ‘It’s spreading,’ the pollster said.”)

When things go south, the finger-pointing begins. Not without good reason, Democrats are “furious with the White House for keeping the debate over a New York mosque in play for two weeks — and then announcing that Obama will use a prime-time address next week to discuss Iraq, not the economy. By the calculations of House Democrats, this means that by Labor Day they will have spent nearly nine weeks this summer beating back negative or unhelpful story lines instigated, in part or in total, by the White House.” Good point on the mosque, fellas, but in Obama’s defense, what good would it do to talk about the economy? It’s sinking, and the “recovery summer” spiel is now an embarrassing reminder of the White House’s cluelessness. Things are so bad, they can’t even blame George W. Bush. (From a former state Democratic Party chairman: “You can only blame Bush for so long.”)

The extent of the unraveling and the ferocity of the infighting before the election are remarkable. Just imagine the food fight after the results are in.

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The End of the Welfare-State Model?

Stuart Varney of Fox Business News said Thursday on Fox News Special Report that what we are witnessing with the debt crisis in Greece and the swoon of the markets over the last week and a half is the end of the welfare-state model of governance. I think he’s right.

Markets are notorious for sometimes being oblivious to developments in the economy that, in retrospect, seem obvious — and then, suddenly, waking up and acting. The American economy began to slow down in the spring of 1929, for instance, but Wall Street — usually ahead of the economy — paid no attention and soared over the summer to heights unseen before. Then, on the day after Labor Day, for a trivial reason, the market panicked in the last hour of trading, and the mood turned instantly from “the sky’s the limit” to “every man for himself.” Six weeks later, the great crash of 1929 happened.

For years, democratic governments have been promising citizens ever-increasing benefits in the future to win votes in the present. What they haven’t been doing is arranging to pay for them. Instead, they have used phony bookkeeping to make things look under control. New York City did this in the 60s and 70s until one day the banks said they weren’t rolling over the city’s paper anymore. Now, Greece has suffered the same fate. It lied to the EU to get in and has been cooking the books to hide the gathering fiscal disaster ever since. The market has now made it clear that it thinks Greek bonds are for wallpaper, not investing. With more than 10 billion euros in bonds coming due on May 19, Greece had no choice but to accept draconian cuts in its benefits and strict accountability in the future to be bailed out by its euro-zone partners. They, of course, fear the collapse of the euro as a currency and a spreading contagion to larger countries that have also been doing what Greece has done for so long.

Europe would need $60 trillion in the bank, earning government-borrowing-rate interest, to fund its future welfare benefits. Needless to say, no country has four times its GDP in the bank.

In short, the market has suddenly become aware that the emperor known as the welfare state is, financially speaking, buck naked. The cost of insuring against bank default in Europe, according to Bloomberg, is now more than it was when Lehman Brothers collapsed. Other rates are nowhere near those levels, but it would not take much to set off a global panic. Markets have been down all week, and the Dow was down today by 1.34 percent, down 7 percent since Monday.

Great Britain and the United States, insulated from the crisis in Europe because they do not use the euro, have big financial promises they can’t pay for, either. President Obama, of course, wants to make more promises.

If Greece stands up to its unions and its outraged bureaucrats and reforms its ways, I suspect the current crisis will pass. But unless the rest of the democratic world reforms its ways — and soon — then, as Bette Davis famously said in All About Eve: “Fasten your seat belts. It’s going to be a bumpy night.”

Stuart Varney of Fox Business News said Thursday on Fox News Special Report that what we are witnessing with the debt crisis in Greece and the swoon of the markets over the last week and a half is the end of the welfare-state model of governance. I think he’s right.

Markets are notorious for sometimes being oblivious to developments in the economy that, in retrospect, seem obvious — and then, suddenly, waking up and acting. The American economy began to slow down in the spring of 1929, for instance, but Wall Street — usually ahead of the economy — paid no attention and soared over the summer to heights unseen before. Then, on the day after Labor Day, for a trivial reason, the market panicked in the last hour of trading, and the mood turned instantly from “the sky’s the limit” to “every man for himself.” Six weeks later, the great crash of 1929 happened.

For years, democratic governments have been promising citizens ever-increasing benefits in the future to win votes in the present. What they haven’t been doing is arranging to pay for them. Instead, they have used phony bookkeeping to make things look under control. New York City did this in the 60s and 70s until one day the banks said they weren’t rolling over the city’s paper anymore. Now, Greece has suffered the same fate. It lied to the EU to get in and has been cooking the books to hide the gathering fiscal disaster ever since. The market has now made it clear that it thinks Greek bonds are for wallpaper, not investing. With more than 10 billion euros in bonds coming due on May 19, Greece had no choice but to accept draconian cuts in its benefits and strict accountability in the future to be bailed out by its euro-zone partners. They, of course, fear the collapse of the euro as a currency and a spreading contagion to larger countries that have also been doing what Greece has done for so long.

Europe would need $60 trillion in the bank, earning government-borrowing-rate interest, to fund its future welfare benefits. Needless to say, no country has four times its GDP in the bank.

In short, the market has suddenly become aware that the emperor known as the welfare state is, financially speaking, buck naked. The cost of insuring against bank default in Europe, according to Bloomberg, is now more than it was when Lehman Brothers collapsed. Other rates are nowhere near those levels, but it would not take much to set off a global panic. Markets have been down all week, and the Dow was down today by 1.34 percent, down 7 percent since Monday.

Great Britain and the United States, insulated from the crisis in Europe because they do not use the euro, have big financial promises they can’t pay for, either. President Obama, of course, wants to make more promises.

If Greece stands up to its unions and its outraged bureaucrats and reforms its ways, I suspect the current crisis will pass. But unless the rest of the democratic world reforms its ways — and soon — then, as Bette Davis famously said in All About Eve: “Fasten your seat belts. It’s going to be a bumpy night.”

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Pushing Back

If the nuclear summit was meant to distract us from the failure of the Obami to devise a serious policy reasonably designed to thwart the mullahs’ nuclear ambitions, it isn’t working. As this report explains:

As Iran gets closer to fulfilling its nuclear ambitions, Republican lawmakers are pushing the Obama administration to stop whistling past the graveyard and get tough with the Islamic Republic.

Sen. John McCain said Wednesday the United States has been backing away from a brewing fight with Iran, while U.S. officials admitted that that country’s accelerated nuclear program is roughly a year away from producing a weapon.

McCain opened a Senate hearing Wednesday by saying that Iran will get the bomb unless the U.S. acts more boldly. The Arizona Republican said the U.S. keeps pointing a loaded gun at Iran, but it is failing to “pull the trigger.”

So what is the Obama administration doing? “Bill Burns, the No. 3 person at the State Department, said the United States is working as fast as it can to win new international sanctions on Iran. Burns predicted that a resolution will emerge from the United Nations Security Council this spring, and he called the case for new penalties urgent, saying he expects China will agree to some form of sanctions.” (Perhaps if it had started last Labor Day, when the first “final” deadline passed for the Iranians to cooperate, we’d already have sanctions in place and could be evaluating their effectiveness.) One sees that the supposed agreement with China is no agreement at all, and we are essentially starting at the beginning to discuss what sanctions they might agree to.

I suspect the voices inside and outside of Congress will have to turn up the volume quite a bit to get the attention of the president. He’s got his plan — nibbly sanctions we might put in place this spring (if the Chinese agree) and that won’t be confused with a “magic wand” (i.e., anything remotely crippling that might impact the mullahs’ decision-making). There is only one president, and in this regard, his outlook is what matters. It will take a huge effort to get Obama to regard the Iranian threat as the single most critical issue we face. For a president who regards collection in four years of nuclear materials from NPT signatories a great achievement and who thinks global warming is a dire emergency, it’s going to be an uphill climb.

If the nuclear summit was meant to distract us from the failure of the Obami to devise a serious policy reasonably designed to thwart the mullahs’ nuclear ambitions, it isn’t working. As this report explains:

As Iran gets closer to fulfilling its nuclear ambitions, Republican lawmakers are pushing the Obama administration to stop whistling past the graveyard and get tough with the Islamic Republic.

Sen. John McCain said Wednesday the United States has been backing away from a brewing fight with Iran, while U.S. officials admitted that that country’s accelerated nuclear program is roughly a year away from producing a weapon.

McCain opened a Senate hearing Wednesday by saying that Iran will get the bomb unless the U.S. acts more boldly. The Arizona Republican said the U.S. keeps pointing a loaded gun at Iran, but it is failing to “pull the trigger.”

So what is the Obama administration doing? “Bill Burns, the No. 3 person at the State Department, said the United States is working as fast as it can to win new international sanctions on Iran. Burns predicted that a resolution will emerge from the United Nations Security Council this spring, and he called the case for new penalties urgent, saying he expects China will agree to some form of sanctions.” (Perhaps if it had started last Labor Day, when the first “final” deadline passed for the Iranians to cooperate, we’d already have sanctions in place and could be evaluating their effectiveness.) One sees that the supposed agreement with China is no agreement at all, and we are essentially starting at the beginning to discuss what sanctions they might agree to.

I suspect the voices inside and outside of Congress will have to turn up the volume quite a bit to get the attention of the president. He’s got his plan — nibbly sanctions we might put in place this spring (if the Chinese agree) and that won’t be confused with a “magic wand” (i.e., anything remotely crippling that might impact the mullahs’ decision-making). There is only one president, and in this regard, his outlook is what matters. It will take a huge effort to get Obama to regard the Iranian threat as the single most critical issue we face. For a president who regards collection in four years of nuclear materials from NPT signatories a great achievement and who thinks global warming is a dire emergency, it’s going to be an uphill climb.

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Obama’s Iran Policy: A Dead End

Elliott Abrams, former deputy national security adviser, Danielle Pletka of AEI, and Ray Takeyh of the Council on Foreign Relations held a lively discussion, moderated by Bob Kagan of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace and Foreign Policy Initiative, at the FPI’s Iran program. It was, to say the least, a sobering discussion.

Takeyh led off by explaining that the Obama team has not yet given up on negotiations and sees sanctions now as means of getting the Iranians back to the bargaining table. However, Takeyh, like the other panelists, thinks that there is “no sanctions solution” to the problem of Iranian nuclear ambitions. And even if Iran returns to the table, at best we will have an inconclusive result. The ability of economic sanctions, especially of the modest type currently being contemplated, he contends, will not affect the calculation of the regime’s self-interest. Pletka concurred, “At this point sanctions are not going to deliver.”

She pointed out that rather than preparing for the Iranians’ inevitable rejection of our negotiating efforts, we seemingly frittered away the time. We are now “gobsmacked” that the Iranians have said no to our bargaining offers, and we are only now trying to cobble together a sanctions effort. Abrams pointed out that a sanctions approach might have made sense last Labor Day — our original deadline, when Obama was still fresh on the scene. But now the “U.S. position has been diminished,” and our relations with Britain, France, and India are worse, making a cohesive effort harder. As for unilateral sanctions, Pletka reports that the administration is putting pressure on “skeptics” in Congress to slow down the reconciliation process between the House and Senate sanctions bills. She doubts Congress is “willing to take on the administration,” which is adverse to a unilateral effort. The U.N. is where the action is for the administration.

The consensus of the group was that the watered-down sanctions, for which we are struggling to obtain Russian and Chinese agreement, will have no effect on the Iranians’ nuclear plans. Would a ban on importation of Iranian oil and on export to Iran of refined gasoline? Takeyh says yes, but the “international community won’t do it.”

Likewise, the panelists agreed that containment is a nonstarter. Abrams pointed out that the difference between deterrence before Iran gets the bomb and containment after is critical. (“Containment doesn’t guarantee anything, ” he noted.) After five years of saying a nuclear Iran was unacceptable, any containment policy, which would by necessity require use of force or threat of force to deter aggressive Iranian action, Abrams explained, would certainly lack credibility. Kagan summed up: “If they don’t want to use [military force] now, why would they use it when Iran has the bomb?”

Pletka argued that the acquisition of a nuclear weapon would enhance the regime’s staying power and deter efforts to undermine the regime. As for the Green Movement, Abrams noted allowing the regime to get the bomb would have a huge impact on morale. “The world would have been defeated,” he explains, and the regime would have achieved a great victory.

Abrams made several key points. First, he notes Israel desperately would prefer not to launch a military strike, but only if “there is another way to keep Iran from getting the bomb.” He notes that the Israelis are amazed at “how stupid” the U.S. has been in taking the military option off the table. “What leverage do you have?” he asked. “Even if you don’t believe it [that force would be used], why isn’t he saying” a military option would be no big deal? He imagines that some in the administration do not want to see the entire Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty system break down and would be willing to employ force, but this is not a view shared by Secretary of Defense Robert Gates or the U.S. military.

Second, he notes that by inaction both under the Bush and Obama administrations, we have conveyed to Iran that there “is no price to be paid for killing Americans.” He said that despite Iranians killing Americans directly and indirectly in Iraq, “there was absolute insistence by the U.S. military” not to act against Iran, presumably on the theory that “there was already too much on the table.” The lesson learned by the Iranians, therefore, was that they can impose a price on the U.S. without brining any suffering on themselves.

Finally, he argues that we should be making an “all-fronts” effort to contest Iranian behavior in all international bodies — whether on the mullahs’ arming of Hezbollah, human rights atrocities, or violation of nuclear agreements. We should urge European parliaments to denounce the regime. “Put the regime on the defensive everywhere. Make it a pariah state,” he argues, noting ruefully that instead, Israel has become the pariah nation.

The conclusion one draws from the panel is not an optimistic one. The Obama team wasted a year on engagement, only serving to undermine the Green Movement’s effort to delegitimize the regime. The sanctions currently contemplated are too puny and too late. The administration has disclaimed use of force. So while the administration is not officially stating that its policy is to accept the “unacceptable,” the inevitable result of its policy decision is precisely that. We now face what was thought to be unimaginable: a nuclear-armed revolutionary Islamic state. That will be the legacy of the Obama administration — a world infinitely more dangerous and unstable.

Elliott Abrams, former deputy national security adviser, Danielle Pletka of AEI, and Ray Takeyh of the Council on Foreign Relations held a lively discussion, moderated by Bob Kagan of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace and Foreign Policy Initiative, at the FPI’s Iran program. It was, to say the least, a sobering discussion.

Takeyh led off by explaining that the Obama team has not yet given up on negotiations and sees sanctions now as means of getting the Iranians back to the bargaining table. However, Takeyh, like the other panelists, thinks that there is “no sanctions solution” to the problem of Iranian nuclear ambitions. And even if Iran returns to the table, at best we will have an inconclusive result. The ability of economic sanctions, especially of the modest type currently being contemplated, he contends, will not affect the calculation of the regime’s self-interest. Pletka concurred, “At this point sanctions are not going to deliver.”

She pointed out that rather than preparing for the Iranians’ inevitable rejection of our negotiating efforts, we seemingly frittered away the time. We are now “gobsmacked” that the Iranians have said no to our bargaining offers, and we are only now trying to cobble together a sanctions effort. Abrams pointed out that a sanctions approach might have made sense last Labor Day — our original deadline, when Obama was still fresh on the scene. But now the “U.S. position has been diminished,” and our relations with Britain, France, and India are worse, making a cohesive effort harder. As for unilateral sanctions, Pletka reports that the administration is putting pressure on “skeptics” in Congress to slow down the reconciliation process between the House and Senate sanctions bills. She doubts Congress is “willing to take on the administration,” which is adverse to a unilateral effort. The U.N. is where the action is for the administration.

The consensus of the group was that the watered-down sanctions, for which we are struggling to obtain Russian and Chinese agreement, will have no effect on the Iranians’ nuclear plans. Would a ban on importation of Iranian oil and on export to Iran of refined gasoline? Takeyh says yes, but the “international community won’t do it.”

Likewise, the panelists agreed that containment is a nonstarter. Abrams pointed out that the difference between deterrence before Iran gets the bomb and containment after is critical. (“Containment doesn’t guarantee anything, ” he noted.) After five years of saying a nuclear Iran was unacceptable, any containment policy, which would by necessity require use of force or threat of force to deter aggressive Iranian action, Abrams explained, would certainly lack credibility. Kagan summed up: “If they don’t want to use [military force] now, why would they use it when Iran has the bomb?”

Pletka argued that the acquisition of a nuclear weapon would enhance the regime’s staying power and deter efforts to undermine the regime. As for the Green Movement, Abrams noted allowing the regime to get the bomb would have a huge impact on morale. “The world would have been defeated,” he explains, and the regime would have achieved a great victory.

Abrams made several key points. First, he notes Israel desperately would prefer not to launch a military strike, but only if “there is another way to keep Iran from getting the bomb.” He notes that the Israelis are amazed at “how stupid” the U.S. has been in taking the military option off the table. “What leverage do you have?” he asked. “Even if you don’t believe it [that force would be used], why isn’t he saying” a military option would be no big deal? He imagines that some in the administration do not want to see the entire Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty system break down and would be willing to employ force, but this is not a view shared by Secretary of Defense Robert Gates or the U.S. military.

Second, he notes that by inaction both under the Bush and Obama administrations, we have conveyed to Iran that there “is no price to be paid for killing Americans.” He said that despite Iranians killing Americans directly and indirectly in Iraq, “there was absolute insistence by the U.S. military” not to act against Iran, presumably on the theory that “there was already too much on the table.” The lesson learned by the Iranians, therefore, was that they can impose a price on the U.S. without brining any suffering on themselves.

Finally, he argues that we should be making an “all-fronts” effort to contest Iranian behavior in all international bodies — whether on the mullahs’ arming of Hezbollah, human rights atrocities, or violation of nuclear agreements. We should urge European parliaments to denounce the regime. “Put the regime on the defensive everywhere. Make it a pariah state,” he argues, noting ruefully that instead, Israel has become the pariah nation.

The conclusion one draws from the panel is not an optimistic one. The Obama team wasted a year on engagement, only serving to undermine the Green Movement’s effort to delegitimize the regime. The sanctions currently contemplated are too puny and too late. The administration has disclaimed use of force. So while the administration is not officially stating that its policy is to accept the “unacceptable,” the inevitable result of its policy decision is precisely that. We now face what was thought to be unimaginable: a nuclear-armed revolutionary Islamic state. That will be the legacy of the Obama administration — a world infinitely more dangerous and unstable.

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McCain’s Four Quarters

Although I loathe sports analogies in politics, this one seems irresistible: For John McCain, the presidential season has four quarters. He will lose the first three. Will he be able to make it up in the fourth?

The first quarter began when the Republican race became a fait accompli and the Democratic battle between Clinton and Obama got more interesting. This started in earnest soon after New Hampshire. Obama took it simply because he has been involved in a more exciting race that garnered constant media attention while McCain and the Republicans became predictable and tedious. With Obama now certain to be the Democratic nominee, the second quarter has begun. Obama has more money, a new gust of wind in his sails, and a cheerleading press corps that will boost him up all summer. Without a real issue or a heavy ad buy, McCain will find it very difficult to penetrate voters consciousness over the summer. He will lose the second quarter.

The third quarter will begin and end with the two conventions, the Democrats in late August and the Republicans in early September. The Democratic convention will be a Hollywood studio boss’s dream, what with Obama’s gorgeous family, the spectacular videos, the unity theme that has been presaged since January, the lineup of celebrities walking the convention floor, Oprah’s opening night speech. Held in Denver — the New West — it will be young, full of Camelot references, and more racially and ethnically diverse than a Benetton commercial.

The Republican Convention, by contrast, will be held in Minneapolis, during the week that the entire country is focused on what time they can leave work Thursday to start Labor Day weekend. The third quarter goes to Obama in a walk.

The fourth quarter, after the conventions, and during the fall debates, is McCain’s only chance. This will be the first time that country really sees the two candidates directly going after one another. It will be the first time McCain will feel he is on a level playing field. The narrative of the first three quarters is the young and new vs. the old and tired. McCain has to reframe the debate around ideas–on Iraq, the economy, bipartisanship, taxes, and experience. No one looks or sounds better in victory than Obama. He is a lot less attractive, as we have now seen, when he is confronted or put on defense. When the country is paying attention in October, McCain will have his chance to knock Obama on his heels.

The meaning of all this: Republicans need to gird themselves for a long summer of horrendous polls and deepening despair. Obama will keep putting points on the board through early September. It will look hopeless. Until the fourth quarter.

Although I loathe sports analogies in politics, this one seems irresistible: For John McCain, the presidential season has four quarters. He will lose the first three. Will he be able to make it up in the fourth?

The first quarter began when the Republican race became a fait accompli and the Democratic battle between Clinton and Obama got more interesting. This started in earnest soon after New Hampshire. Obama took it simply because he has been involved in a more exciting race that garnered constant media attention while McCain and the Republicans became predictable and tedious. With Obama now certain to be the Democratic nominee, the second quarter has begun. Obama has more money, a new gust of wind in his sails, and a cheerleading press corps that will boost him up all summer. Without a real issue or a heavy ad buy, McCain will find it very difficult to penetrate voters consciousness over the summer. He will lose the second quarter.

The third quarter will begin and end with the two conventions, the Democrats in late August and the Republicans in early September. The Democratic convention will be a Hollywood studio boss’s dream, what with Obama’s gorgeous family, the spectacular videos, the unity theme that has been presaged since January, the lineup of celebrities walking the convention floor, Oprah’s opening night speech. Held in Denver — the New West — it will be young, full of Camelot references, and more racially and ethnically diverse than a Benetton commercial.

The Republican Convention, by contrast, will be held in Minneapolis, during the week that the entire country is focused on what time they can leave work Thursday to start Labor Day weekend. The third quarter goes to Obama in a walk.

The fourth quarter, after the conventions, and during the fall debates, is McCain’s only chance. This will be the first time that country really sees the two candidates directly going after one another. It will be the first time McCain will feel he is on a level playing field. The narrative of the first three quarters is the young and new vs. the old and tired. McCain has to reframe the debate around ideas–on Iraq, the economy, bipartisanship, taxes, and experience. No one looks or sounds better in victory than Obama. He is a lot less attractive, as we have now seen, when he is confronted or put on defense. When the country is paying attention in October, McCain will have his chance to knock Obama on his heels.

The meaning of all this: Republicans need to gird themselves for a long summer of horrendous polls and deepening despair. Obama will keep putting points on the board through early September. It will look hopeless. Until the fourth quarter.

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Hillary’s in Trouble! In Trouble! (Not Really.)

The political class is awash in excitement — a poll has just been released of Iowa voters showing Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama in a dead heat along with John Edwards. You would think, from the gasping near-hysteria greeting these results, that Hillary Clinton has had Iowa locked up forever and that voters there are only now developing a buyer’s remorse dangerous for her future.

The smelling salts, please; some people are hyperventilating so furiously they may need to drape themselves over a divan to recover.

You wouldn’t know this from the breathless coverage today, but the leader in Iowa through most of 2007 was…John Edwards.  She only took the lead away from him in the middle of August, according to the Real Clear Politics chart of all polls.  And even as Iowa leader, she has never been up more than a few points. Iowa has been a two-person or three-person race since the beginning of the year. And while the poll that has some all atwitter does have Barack Obama in the lead by four points, it’s worth noting that this is a tally of only 500 potential voters with Obama and Clinton and Edwards all statistically tied. In other words, the actual numerical margin of Obama’s lead over Hillary may be eight or nine people who happened to answer the telephone when the pollster was calling.

While it’s true that Obama is doing much better than he has been of late in Iowa, there’s absolutely no evidence he’s been gaining on Mrs. Clinton by taking voters away from her. What Obama has done is climb back to the level he had reached in Iowa in the late spring with a few more percentage points besides.

This is what the data show. Forget the data. What the political class wants you to believe is that Hillary did badly in the debate before last, that Obama found his voice in attacking her for her inauthenticity, and that these two phenomena have come together to send Mrs. Clinton into a downward spiral.

The political class wants a real race in the Democratic primary, because it would be boring any other way, because of the generally besotted affect toward Obama, and because the mainstream media share with the hard Left a disgust with Mrs. Clinton for not calling for an immediate withdrawal from Iraq. And so it is adducing, on the basis of hope more than fact, that she has gotten herself into rocky waters.

It’s amazing how easily professional politics-watchers can forget the storyline they themselves had peddled only a few months earlier — that Hillary was going to have a rough go of it in Iowa because its caucus-goers lean very hard to the Left. This was so standard a piece of conventional wisdom that it was also universally said if she managed to win Iowa on January 3, her Democratic rivals would have no hope of catching her anywhere else.

Oh, and for a little amusement, let me quote from this September 1999 story about a poll in New Hampshire:

Vice President Al Gore has lost much of his lead over former New Jersey Senator Bill Bradley among New Hampshire Democratic primary voters. Bradley’s supporters are more certain in their vote than Gore supporters, and Bradley is now viewed more favorably than Gore….  Labor Day is the traditional start of the campaign season, and this year looks to be an exciting one for the candidates vying for the Democratic nomination for President. With five months remaining until the New Hampshire first-in-the-nation Presidential Primary, Vice President Al Gore’s once substantial lead over former New Jersey Senator Bill Bradley has shrunk to 5 percent.

A moment’s confession: This Bill Bradley surge led me to write a series of columns about how Gore was in deep trouble, that Democrats had tired of Clintonian antics and were looking for something and someone who might seem more “authentic.” By the time voters in New Hampshire actually went to the polls, Gore bested Bradley by four points and that was all she wrote for Bill Bradley. I was similarly excited by John McCain’s surge against George W. Bush, and McCain actually won New Hampshire by 19 points. He would be the nominee, I declared.

Sadder but wiser, I rose the morrow morn and every morn since, determined to tell the boring but true political tale: Hillary is still the prohibitive frontrunner, as Gore was, and she is still the prohibitive favorite for the Democratic nomination. She will probably have to commit a spectacular blunder to lose it.

The political class is awash in excitement — a poll has just been released of Iowa voters showing Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama in a dead heat along with John Edwards. You would think, from the gasping near-hysteria greeting these results, that Hillary Clinton has had Iowa locked up forever and that voters there are only now developing a buyer’s remorse dangerous for her future.

The smelling salts, please; some people are hyperventilating so furiously they may need to drape themselves over a divan to recover.

You wouldn’t know this from the breathless coverage today, but the leader in Iowa through most of 2007 was…John Edwards.  She only took the lead away from him in the middle of August, according to the Real Clear Politics chart of all polls.  And even as Iowa leader, she has never been up more than a few points. Iowa has been a two-person or three-person race since the beginning of the year. And while the poll that has some all atwitter does have Barack Obama in the lead by four points, it’s worth noting that this is a tally of only 500 potential voters with Obama and Clinton and Edwards all statistically tied. In other words, the actual numerical margin of Obama’s lead over Hillary may be eight or nine people who happened to answer the telephone when the pollster was calling.

While it’s true that Obama is doing much better than he has been of late in Iowa, there’s absolutely no evidence he’s been gaining on Mrs. Clinton by taking voters away from her. What Obama has done is climb back to the level he had reached in Iowa in the late spring with a few more percentage points besides.

This is what the data show. Forget the data. What the political class wants you to believe is that Hillary did badly in the debate before last, that Obama found his voice in attacking her for her inauthenticity, and that these two phenomena have come together to send Mrs. Clinton into a downward spiral.

The political class wants a real race in the Democratic primary, because it would be boring any other way, because of the generally besotted affect toward Obama, and because the mainstream media share with the hard Left a disgust with Mrs. Clinton for not calling for an immediate withdrawal from Iraq. And so it is adducing, on the basis of hope more than fact, that she has gotten herself into rocky waters.

It’s amazing how easily professional politics-watchers can forget the storyline they themselves had peddled only a few months earlier — that Hillary was going to have a rough go of it in Iowa because its caucus-goers lean very hard to the Left. This was so standard a piece of conventional wisdom that it was also universally said if she managed to win Iowa on January 3, her Democratic rivals would have no hope of catching her anywhere else.

Oh, and for a little amusement, let me quote from this September 1999 story about a poll in New Hampshire:

Vice President Al Gore has lost much of his lead over former New Jersey Senator Bill Bradley among New Hampshire Democratic primary voters. Bradley’s supporters are more certain in their vote than Gore supporters, and Bradley is now viewed more favorably than Gore….  Labor Day is the traditional start of the campaign season, and this year looks to be an exciting one for the candidates vying for the Democratic nomination for President. With five months remaining until the New Hampshire first-in-the-nation Presidential Primary, Vice President Al Gore’s once substantial lead over former New Jersey Senator Bill Bradley has shrunk to 5 percent.

A moment’s confession: This Bill Bradley surge led me to write a series of columns about how Gore was in deep trouble, that Democrats had tired of Clintonian antics and were looking for something and someone who might seem more “authentic.” By the time voters in New Hampshire actually went to the polls, Gore bested Bradley by four points and that was all she wrote for Bill Bradley. I was similarly excited by John McCain’s surge against George W. Bush, and McCain actually won New Hampshire by 19 points. He would be the nominee, I declared.

Sadder but wiser, I rose the morrow morn and every morn since, determined to tell the boring but true political tale: Hillary is still the prohibitive frontrunner, as Gore was, and she is still the prohibitive favorite for the Democratic nomination. She will probably have to commit a spectacular blunder to lose it.

Read Less




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