Commentary Magazine


Topic: Larry Summers

Obama Surrogates Need Better Material

Last year, the New York Times ran a story on the phenomenon of good actors taking silly roles in bad movies. Fans generally assume the actors take those roles for the paycheck, but the story offered a different defense: it can actually help prove the skill of the actor: “The more preposterous the situation, the more impressive the feat of seeming to take it utterly seriously. There are other measures of excellence of course — emotional subtlety, psychological acuity, wit — but this kind of unwavering, fanatical commitment is surely a sign of greatness.”

Alas, despite his gift for triangulation and spin and near cameo in “The Hangover 2,” former President Bill Clinton fails this test. Handed a script too far from reality by the Obama campaign, Clinton just couldn’t go through with it. So he told CNN that Mitt Romney’s business career was “sterling,” that the folks at Bain do good work, and that Romney clearly “crosses the qualification threshold.” Then yesterday he declared his support for extending the Bush tax cuts (though he later said he meant only some of the Bush tax cuts). Some roles are just too preposterous–even for Bill Clinton.

Read More

Last year, the New York Times ran a story on the phenomenon of good actors taking silly roles in bad movies. Fans generally assume the actors take those roles for the paycheck, but the story offered a different defense: it can actually help prove the skill of the actor: “The more preposterous the situation, the more impressive the feat of seeming to take it utterly seriously. There are other measures of excellence of course — emotional subtlety, psychological acuity, wit — but this kind of unwavering, fanatical commitment is surely a sign of greatness.”

Alas, despite his gift for triangulation and spin and near cameo in “The Hangover 2,” former President Bill Clinton fails this test. Handed a script too far from reality by the Obama campaign, Clinton just couldn’t go through with it. So he told CNN that Mitt Romney’s business career was “sterling,” that the folks at Bain do good work, and that Romney clearly “crosses the qualification threshold.” Then yesterday he declared his support for extending the Bush tax cuts (though he later said he meant only some of the Bush tax cuts). Some roles are just too preposterous–even for Bill Clinton.

But Clinton isn’t the exception in the case of the Obama campaign’s attacks on Romney’s career. He is only the most high-profile Obama surrogate to improvise on the set. This morning, Larry Summers, who worked for both Clinton and Obama, also threw his (unqualified, as of yet) support for extending the tax cuts. After Cory Booker couldn’t go through with the Bain attacks either, and subsequently was asked by the Obama campaign to record the infamous “hostage video,” the Obama campaign sent out Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick, Romney’s successor, to sully his predecessor’s reputation as an executive. Patrick couldn’t do it either, singing Bain’s praises and admitting that Romney left the state with low unemployment.

The popular theory about Clinton’s behavior is that he doesn’t want Obama to win a second term. That might be the case, but I doubt that’s true of Booker, Patrick, or Summers. Other explanations seem closer to the mark: the sitting politicians, like Booker and Patrick, don’t want to burn bridges with Wall Street, and Summers, unlike his former boss, knows a thing or two about economics, and therefore cannot bring himself to attach his own name to the Obama campaign’s economic illiteracy.

In other words, the script is the problem. This may be “silly season,” but the Obama campaign’s rhetoric is too silly even for his allies.

Read Less

Replacing the White House Economic Team May Not Be Enough

One of America’s finest reporters, Peter Baker, offers us — in a New York Times Magazine story — a behind-the-curtain look at the White House economic team of the past two years. It’s not a pretty picture. It’s a White House characterized by infighting and turmoil, out-of-control egos and dysfunctionality. “The team never embraced the no-drama-Obama ethos,” according to Baker.

Baker also writes that “their failure to define [the problems they faced in early 2009] from those early days has undermined a bedrock idea of American liberalism, the faith in the capacity of government to play a constructive role in the markets and make up for the limits of individuals to cope with them.”

It is little wonder that the president has brought in almost an entirely new economic team. But at some point, it may dawn on Mr. Obama that the problem is not simply his team, but the economic ideas and philosophy that are guiding his decisions. Those appear to be harder for him to replace than Larry Summers.

One of America’s finest reporters, Peter Baker, offers us — in a New York Times Magazine story — a behind-the-curtain look at the White House economic team of the past two years. It’s not a pretty picture. It’s a White House characterized by infighting and turmoil, out-of-control egos and dysfunctionality. “The team never embraced the no-drama-Obama ethos,” according to Baker.

Baker also writes that “their failure to define [the problems they faced in early 2009] from those early days has undermined a bedrock idea of American liberalism, the faith in the capacity of government to play a constructive role in the markets and make up for the limits of individuals to cope with them.”

It is little wonder that the president has brought in almost an entirely new economic team. But at some point, it may dawn on Mr. Obama that the problem is not simply his team, but the economic ideas and philosophy that are guiding his decisions. Those appear to be harder for him to replace than Larry Summers.

Read Less

RE: “Yes We Can, But…”

As Pete pointed out, the president’s appearance on Jon Stewart’s show was a telling one. It’s not only we conservatives who think it was a bad outing for Obama. Dana Milbank observes:

The president had come, on the eve of what will almost certainly be the loss of his governing majority, to plead his case before Jon Stewart, gatekeeper of the disillusioned left. But instead of displaying the sizzle that won him an army of youthful supporters two years ago, Obama had a Brownie moment.

Obama may have thought that he’d get the “cool kid” treatment — the condescending left is full of his kind of people, after all — but, instead, he was the butt of the joke. Milbank continues:

“In fairness,” the president replied defensively, “Larry Summers did a heckuva job.”

“You don’t want to use that phrase, dude,” Stewart recommended with a laugh.

Dude. The indignity of a comedy show host calling the commander in chief “dude” pretty well captured the moment for Obama. He was making this first-ever appearance by a president on the Daily Show as part of a long-shot effort to rekindle the spirit of ’08. In the Daily Show, Obama had a friendly host and an even friendlier crowd.

And yet he wound up looking neither cool nor presidential. Milbank suggests that this was an attempt to compensate for a lousy MTV outing. (Then, “he was serious and defensive, pointing a finger at his host several times as he quarreled with the premise of a question.”) But it was really an attempt to compensate for a lousy two years.

In a real sense, Obama has tried to maintain two contradictory roles. On the one hand, he wants to be the darling of the left and of the cultural elites. He sneers at middle America, turns up his nose at “triumphalism” (as he described pride in the Iraq war effort), finds shoddy our record on human rights, attacks Wall Street, and finds American exceptionalism gauche. But he is also president, commander in chief, attempting to encourage an economic revival, leader of a major national party, and — most important from his perspective — up for re-election in 2012. The darling of the left runs headlong into thechief executive/presidential 2012 candidate. We saw the dramatic clash of these two roles in the debate over the Ground Zero mosque. Obama and the leftist elites vs. everyone else.

But here’s the thing about the leftist elites — nicely personified for this purpose by Jon Stewart. They don’t like a loser. Cool kids are not losers. Their spin doesn’t get by the cynics and the wisecrackers. So, pretty soon, the cool kids have something in common with the rest of America: they conclude that this president is a bumbler and not, after all, the change they were hoping for.

As Pete pointed out, the president’s appearance on Jon Stewart’s show was a telling one. It’s not only we conservatives who think it was a bad outing for Obama. Dana Milbank observes:

The president had come, on the eve of what will almost certainly be the loss of his governing majority, to plead his case before Jon Stewart, gatekeeper of the disillusioned left. But instead of displaying the sizzle that won him an army of youthful supporters two years ago, Obama had a Brownie moment.

Obama may have thought that he’d get the “cool kid” treatment — the condescending left is full of his kind of people, after all — but, instead, he was the butt of the joke. Milbank continues:

“In fairness,” the president replied defensively, “Larry Summers did a heckuva job.”

“You don’t want to use that phrase, dude,” Stewart recommended with a laugh.

Dude. The indignity of a comedy show host calling the commander in chief “dude” pretty well captured the moment for Obama. He was making this first-ever appearance by a president on the Daily Show as part of a long-shot effort to rekindle the spirit of ’08. In the Daily Show, Obama had a friendly host and an even friendlier crowd.

And yet he wound up looking neither cool nor presidential. Milbank suggests that this was an attempt to compensate for a lousy MTV outing. (Then, “he was serious and defensive, pointing a finger at his host several times as he quarreled with the premise of a question.”) But it was really an attempt to compensate for a lousy two years.

In a real sense, Obama has tried to maintain two contradictory roles. On the one hand, he wants to be the darling of the left and of the cultural elites. He sneers at middle America, turns up his nose at “triumphalism” (as he described pride in the Iraq war effort), finds shoddy our record on human rights, attacks Wall Street, and finds American exceptionalism gauche. But he is also president, commander in chief, attempting to encourage an economic revival, leader of a major national party, and — most important from his perspective — up for re-election in 2012. The darling of the left runs headlong into thechief executive/presidential 2012 candidate. We saw the dramatic clash of these two roles in the debate over the Ground Zero mosque. Obama and the leftist elites vs. everyone else.

But here’s the thing about the leftist elites — nicely personified for this purpose by Jon Stewart. They don’t like a loser. Cool kids are not losers. Their spin doesn’t get by the cynics and the wisecrackers. So, pretty soon, the cool kids have something in common with the rest of America: they conclude that this president is a bumbler and not, after all, the change they were hoping for.

Read Less

No Good Explanation for Not Taking a Vote

The nearly incomprehensible decision by the Democratic leadership to avoid a vote on the extension of the Bush tax cuts is the latest problem for Democratic incumbents. On Fox News Sunday, Juan Williams tried out a novel defense: Nancy Pelosi couldn’t take a vote, because the mean Republicans would twist the minds of voters and get them all confused. The discussion went as follows:

HUME: So this poor little Speaker of the House presiding over this massive majority has the vote she says to win on this issue and send her members home, having voted to stave off the tax cuts for nearly everybody, and she was afraid of what the minority Republicans were going to say about it? And you seriously — do you believe that?

WILLIAMS: Did you just say stave off tax cuts for everyone?

HUME: Tax increases. I’m sorry.

WILLIAMS: That’s a distortion.

HUME: Tax increases. Read More

The nearly incomprehensible decision by the Democratic leadership to avoid a vote on the extension of the Bush tax cuts is the latest problem for Democratic incumbents. On Fox News Sunday, Juan Williams tried out a novel defense: Nancy Pelosi couldn’t take a vote, because the mean Republicans would twist the minds of voters and get them all confused. The discussion went as follows:

HUME: So this poor little Speaker of the House presiding over this massive majority has the vote she says to win on this issue and send her members home, having voted to stave off the tax cuts for nearly everybody, and she was afraid of what the minority Republicans were going to say about it? And you seriously — do you believe that?

WILLIAMS: Did you just say stave off tax cuts for everyone?

HUME: Tax increases. I’m sorry.

WILLIAMS: That’s a distortion.

HUME: Tax increases.

KRISTOL: The fact is — I was with four Republican Senate candidates this week by chance in New York at a little event. And they said — I asked, “How is the tax debate going?”

And they said, look, until now, it’s been the traditional Democratic/Republican debate. Democrats say they want to cut taxes for the middle class. Republicans say, you don’t want to raise any taxes in a recession. And it was probably kind of a wash politically.

All of that — now, maybe they’re wrong, but all of them were extremely happy. This was the night — the day after Nancy Pelosi adjourned the House without allowing a vote — without allowing a vote on the coming tax increase. Every Republican challenger can now say you have been in charge for two years, you could have dealt with this, you could have cut whatever deals you needed to cut to do as Juan said and bring over some of those moderate Republicans. You could have insisted on an up-or- down vote. You didn’t.

Every American now faces a tax increase in January thanks to this Democratic Congress doing nothing.

LIASSON: … Well, the problem is that they might very well get some kind of a deal, a temporary extension or whatever, in the lame duck.

The problem is that every Democrat now has to go home now without saying, “I voted to continue lower taxes for the middle class.” I do think that the White House and the Democrats overestimated how strong their argument was going to be and how easy it was going to be to keep all the Democrats on one page on this. I mean, I think if they had all their Democrats, they would have brought it up for a vote.

Now, their argument is Republicans are holding the middle class tax cut hostage to continuing the tax cuts for the rich. The problem with that is, if you don’t have a vote and kind of show them holding it hostage, how do you know that they really are?

Yeah, that’s a problem. So the Obama-Pelosi-Reid brain trust has saddled incumbent Democrats with more baggage. OK, but after the deluge that’s about to hit, won’t the Obami have a post-election epiphany, as Bill Clinton did? Don’t be too certain.

Mara Liasson says the White House doesn’t believe in all that moving to the center hooey, but reality is reality: “Look, I think that I can tell you on very good authority that at the White House, they totally reject the idea that he would adopt the Clinton model and move to the center. Now, that being said, everything is going to change in November.” Bill Kristol thinks some personnel changes may help: “I think the president has cleverly and sort of carefully gotten rid of the incredibly arrogant, smart alecks who dominated the White House in the first term — Rahm Emanuel, Larry Summers, Pete Orszag. They knew best. They were so clever. Never let a crisis go to waste. We can jam stuff through. No problem. This president can carry anything off. That is not Pete Rouse’s attitude. Pete Rouse worked for Tom Daschle for 19 years. He cut a lot of deals with Congress.”

But it really is up to Obama — he’s not one for cutting deals, and he certainly isn’t one to admit error. His liberal extremism has imperiled his presidency and sunk his party. His irritation with all but his most fervent supporters has left him alienated from voters and even from his party’s base. The question remains: is he willing and able to shift course? After running on a change theme and trying to radically change America, he is the one who will have to change. Unless, of course, one term is plenty for him.

Read Less

Flotsam and Jetsam

Wow. Chris Christie on the Democrats’ threat to shut down the government. “I said, ‘Listen, I’m going to get into a black Suburban and I’m going to drive back to the governor’s residence, go upstairs and order a pizza. I’m going to turn on a baseball game. You all can call me when you decide to reopen the government.’”

Bingo. Bob Zelnick on a replacement for Larry Summers: “I suspect the worst. This man thinks he knows everything about everything to the point where he is immune to fundamental laws of science and economics. What he needs is a person smart enough and with the confidence to say, ‘Mr. President, you are wrong.’”

Yesiree. On Peter Rouse: “[T]here is no reason to think he’ll be any more successful as a moderating force behind President Obama than was Emanuel. Consider, Rouse convinced then-Senator Obama to vote against the confirmation of John Roberts to the Supreme Court.” Until the president changes, or we change presidents, don’t expect anything to improve.

Yup. “It’s the president who showed the GOP a way out of the wilderness. He couldn’t have provided a better message. Republicans are always at their best, always throwing up the broadest tent, when they talk sense on the economy—free markets, the need for growth, the problems of overspending. … Mr. Obama is trying to rally his base; maybe he will. Republicans are trying not to blow it; maybe they will. But should this prove a Democratic bust-up, the least the GOP can do is send the president a thank you.”

No kidding. “Efforts to salvage Middle East peace talks were at full throttle on Thursday as American officials sought to persuade Israel to renew a West Bank settlement freeze with military hardware and diplomatic guarantees while urging the Palestinians to accept a partial end to Israeli building there through a separate set of inducements. So far, no formula had been found.”

Exactly. “President Obama’s latest interview with Rolling Stone magazine is revealing precisely because it is so typical. Everyone — really just about everyone in American politics — is chided, challenged, instructed, judged or admonished in one way or another. The president’s condescension is universal.”

Makes sense. “Pretty much across the board voters’ ill will toward Obama outweighs their ill will toward the Republican Senate candidates. But there is one exception- in Delaware Chris Coons leads Christine O’Donnell 51-21 with folks who don’t like her or Obama- I guess there’s only so far some voters are willing to go. The voters who hate everything and everyone are a key part of the electorate this year- and their support of the GOP is a big part of why the party’s headed for a big victory.”

Wow. Chris Christie on the Democrats’ threat to shut down the government. “I said, ‘Listen, I’m going to get into a black Suburban and I’m going to drive back to the governor’s residence, go upstairs and order a pizza. I’m going to turn on a baseball game. You all can call me when you decide to reopen the government.’”

Bingo. Bob Zelnick on a replacement for Larry Summers: “I suspect the worst. This man thinks he knows everything about everything to the point where he is immune to fundamental laws of science and economics. What he needs is a person smart enough and with the confidence to say, ‘Mr. President, you are wrong.’”

Yesiree. On Peter Rouse: “[T]here is no reason to think he’ll be any more successful as a moderating force behind President Obama than was Emanuel. Consider, Rouse convinced then-Senator Obama to vote against the confirmation of John Roberts to the Supreme Court.” Until the president changes, or we change presidents, don’t expect anything to improve.

Yup. “It’s the president who showed the GOP a way out of the wilderness. He couldn’t have provided a better message. Republicans are always at their best, always throwing up the broadest tent, when they talk sense on the economy—free markets, the need for growth, the problems of overspending. … Mr. Obama is trying to rally his base; maybe he will. Republicans are trying not to blow it; maybe they will. But should this prove a Democratic bust-up, the least the GOP can do is send the president a thank you.”

No kidding. “Efforts to salvage Middle East peace talks were at full throttle on Thursday as American officials sought to persuade Israel to renew a West Bank settlement freeze with military hardware and diplomatic guarantees while urging the Palestinians to accept a partial end to Israeli building there through a separate set of inducements. So far, no formula had been found.”

Exactly. “President Obama’s latest interview with Rolling Stone magazine is revealing precisely because it is so typical. Everyone — really just about everyone in American politics — is chided, challenged, instructed, judged or admonished in one way or another. The president’s condescension is universal.”

Makes sense. “Pretty much across the board voters’ ill will toward Obama outweighs their ill will toward the Republican Senate candidates. But there is one exception- in Delaware Chris Coons leads Christine O’Donnell 51-21 with folks who don’t like her or Obama- I guess there’s only so far some voters are willing to go. The voters who hate everything and everyone are a key part of the electorate this year- and their support of the GOP is a big part of why the party’s headed for a big victory.”

Read Less

Not Doing His Party Any Favors

With a nod to Bill Buckley, I’d rather have economic policy set by the first 400 people in the Boston phone directory than by Larry Summers. If you needed further reason to subscribe to this view, there is this:

In the new poll released this week, 55% said that “increasing taxes on any Americans will slow the economy and kill jobs,” CNBC said. Only 40% said the Bush-era tax cuts should be canceled for higher earners, as President Barack Obama advocates. … The CNBC poll also showed significant erosion of support for placing more regulation on business. Eighteen months ago, 47% said increased regulation would be good for the economy. Now, only 34% say so. In addition, 55% of Americans said Obama’s overall economic plans have made things worse so far.

Meanwhile, Obama is trying to change the subject. But, alas, the new topic isn’t a winner: “President Barack Obama sought Wednesday to reintroduce his signature health-care bill to voters who don’t much like it or even understand it six months after he signed it.”

I’m not sure what Obama is accomplishing on behalf of Democratic candidates at this point. If anything, he is reminding voters that they don’t like his economic policies, never wanted ObamaCare, and would rather he didn’t raise taxes. Maybe an overseas trip would be preferable. (Not to Israel, of course. Catcalls and whistles from Israeli protesters wouldn’t look so great on the evening news.) As far as Democrats are concerned, the longer the better.

With a nod to Bill Buckley, I’d rather have economic policy set by the first 400 people in the Boston phone directory than by Larry Summers. If you needed further reason to subscribe to this view, there is this:

In the new poll released this week, 55% said that “increasing taxes on any Americans will slow the economy and kill jobs,” CNBC said. Only 40% said the Bush-era tax cuts should be canceled for higher earners, as President Barack Obama advocates. … The CNBC poll also showed significant erosion of support for placing more regulation on business. Eighteen months ago, 47% said increased regulation would be good for the economy. Now, only 34% say so. In addition, 55% of Americans said Obama’s overall economic plans have made things worse so far.

Meanwhile, Obama is trying to change the subject. But, alas, the new topic isn’t a winner: “President Barack Obama sought Wednesday to reintroduce his signature health-care bill to voters who don’t much like it or even understand it six months after he signed it.”

I’m not sure what Obama is accomplishing on behalf of Democratic candidates at this point. If anything, he is reminding voters that they don’t like his economic policies, never wanted ObamaCare, and would rather he didn’t raise taxes. Maybe an overseas trip would be preferable. (Not to Israel, of course. Catcalls and whistles from Israeli protesters wouldn’t look so great on the evening news.) As far as Democrats are concerned, the longer the better.

Read Less

Obama Boxed In

Obama has been postponing the inevitable — the eventual realization that there is no Middle East peace agreement to be had at this stage (or any time soon). For reasons that not even the PA can fathom, the Obami chirped optimistically about the prospects for success. Somehow, the Obama team expected to keep everyone in the room to at least continue talking and mask the failure of his Middle East policy. Obama would publicly pressure Bibi on the settlement moratorium. He would plead with Abbas. And if the talks ended, the blame could be placed (after all, the groundwork has already been laid) on Bibi.

Unfortunately for Obama, Bibi and Israel’s supporters wised up this time around. As I noted yesterday, Bibi has already made clear that the basic issue is not settlements but Abbas’s refusal to recognize the Jewish state and give up the dream of a one-state solution. Bibi is laying some groundwork of his own, it seems. Read More

Obama has been postponing the inevitable — the eventual realization that there is no Middle East peace agreement to be had at this stage (or any time soon). For reasons that not even the PA can fathom, the Obami chirped optimistically about the prospects for success. Somehow, the Obama team expected to keep everyone in the room to at least continue talking and mask the failure of his Middle East policy. Obama would publicly pressure Bibi on the settlement moratorium. He would plead with Abbas. And if the talks ended, the blame could be placed (after all, the groundwork has already been laid) on Bibi.

Unfortunately for Obama, Bibi and Israel’s supporters wised up this time around. As I noted yesterday, Bibi has already made clear that the basic issue is not settlements but Abbas’s refusal to recognize the Jewish state and give up the dream of a one-state solution. Bibi is laying some groundwork of his own, it seems.

Deputy Prime Minister Danny Ayalon got into the act, too:

Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad angrily left a UN Ad-Hoc Liaison Committee  meeting and canceled a scheduled subsequent press conference with Deputy Foreign Minister Daniel Ayalon in New York on Tuesday, after Ayalon refused to approve a summary of the meeting which said “two states” but did not include the words “two states for two peoples.”

“What I say is that if the Palestinians are not willing to talk about two states for two peoples, let alone a Jewish state for Israel, then there’s nothing to talk about,” Ayalon told the Post in a telephone interview. “And also, I said if the Palestinians mean, at the end of the process, to have one Palestinian state and one bi-national state, this will not happen.”

But that wasn’t all. As this report makes clear, Israel’s American supporters have been busy — and clever:

A bipartisan group of senators are circulating a new letter urging President Obama to speak out publicly to pressure the Palestinian leadership not to abandon the Middle East peace talks.

The new initiative comes ahead of the Sept. 26 deadline expiration of Israel’s 10-month settlement construction moratorium, which presents the first obstacle to the direct peace talks being spearheaded by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has repeatedly stated that he will withdraw from the negotiations if settlement construction resumes, but Israeli leaders have been equally adamant that they will not extend the moratorium.

President Obama has told Jewish leaders to ignore negative public statements by Israeli President Benjamin Netanyahu and Abbas, calling it all part of the diplomatic game. But the administration has publicly called on Israel to extend the freeze, at least in part.

Lawmakers, who have also bristled at the administration’s public pressure on Netanyahu, are now calling on Obama to make it clear to Abbas that even if the freeze isn’t extended, he should stay at the table.

It is a not-so-subtle message from lawmakers (Barbara Boxer, Robert Casey, Johnny Isakson, and Richard Burr are the initial sponsors, more signatories are expected) that there will be little patience with finger-pointing at Bibi should/when the talks collapse:

“Obviously this is a direct message to President Abbas, and President Obama, that many in Congress … want the Palestinian leadership to stop making what they see as threats and to put public pressure on the Palestinian Authority to move their position,” said one Capitol Hill insider who had seen the letter.

“Many Capitol Hill office see Abbas quitting the talks over the settlements as him using the same issue he was clinging to when trying to set preconditions for the talks in the first place.”

No, these letters don’t just appear on their own, so credit goes not only to the clear-minded senators but also to pro-Israel advocates who decided it would be much more productive to box in Obama than to gloss over his anti-Israel moves (e.g., opening the door to a UN investigation of the flotilla incident). This is, I would suggest, one more sign that Obama’s prestige and authority are slipping fast. Lawmakers and Jewish groups aren’t about to put up with Obama’s Israel-bashing any longer and have decided that they’ve carried enough water for him when it comes to the Middle East.

For more than 18 months, Obama and his hapless envoy, George Mitchell, have made zero progress in promoting peace in the Middle East. Rather, they have strained relations with Israel, raised and then dashed the Palestinians’ hopes, annoyed American Jews, and emphasized the growing alienation of Obama from his own party. If friends of Israel thought it would help, they might suggest that Mitchell join Larry Summers in the “retired in failure” club. But so long as Obama is in the Oval office, there is little possibility that our Middle East diplomacy will get any smarter. Let’s pray it doesn’t get worse.

Read Less

How About a Competent Replacement for Summers?

Larry Summers is heading back to Harvard. His tenure as head of the National Economic Council was marked by escalating unemployment, a flood of red ink, and an assault on employers. The Obama team, we are told, is out looking for a “female CEO.” Aside from the irony (Summers got in hot water for suggesting that the relative paucity of women in the sciences isn’t due to discrimination but to some innate inability and lifestyle preferences), this is yet another instance in which the Obama team seems obsessed with the wrong things.

What about someone — woman or man — who knows what the heck she/he is doing and doesn’t view American business as the enemy? How about someone who thinks raising taxes in a recession is a horrid idea? The short list includes such non-CEO types as “Rebecca Blank, a Commerce Department official who oversees the Census Bureau and Bureau of Economic Analysis” and Laura Tyson, who has split her time between government and the University of California at Berkeley (not kidding). In other words, the CEO part is optional; the female part is not. There are also some real CEOs on the “only gals need apply” list.

This females-only-for-the-economic-team-captain gambit is ludicrous — the type of overt discrimination that, if evidenced in the private sector, would be illegal. It once again reveals that politics and groveling to special interests are much more important to the Obami than is sound governance.

Larry Summers is heading back to Harvard. His tenure as head of the National Economic Council was marked by escalating unemployment, a flood of red ink, and an assault on employers. The Obama team, we are told, is out looking for a “female CEO.” Aside from the irony (Summers got in hot water for suggesting that the relative paucity of women in the sciences isn’t due to discrimination but to some innate inability and lifestyle preferences), this is yet another instance in which the Obama team seems obsessed with the wrong things.

What about someone — woman or man — who knows what the heck she/he is doing and doesn’t view American business as the enemy? How about someone who thinks raising taxes in a recession is a horrid idea? The short list includes such non-CEO types as “Rebecca Blank, a Commerce Department official who oversees the Census Bureau and Bureau of Economic Analysis” and Laura Tyson, who has split her time between government and the University of California at Berkeley (not kidding). In other words, the CEO part is optional; the female part is not. There are also some real CEOs on the “only gals need apply” list.

This females-only-for-the-economic-team-captain gambit is ludicrous — the type of overt discrimination that, if evidenced in the private sector, would be illegal. It once again reveals that politics and groveling to special interests are much more important to the Obami than is sound governance.

Read Less

Flotsam and Jetsam

Joe Sestak is heading for defeat. In the latest poll, he trails Pat Toomey by nine points.

Asked about the Sestak campaign, Snarlin’ Arlen Specter tells reporters he’s heading for the squash courts.

John Boehner’s advice must have hit home. Obama says that some of his economic team may be heading home. Obama in Chicago told a town hall gathering: ”I have not made any determinations about personnel. I think Larry Summers and Tim Geithner have done an outstanding job, as have my whole economic team. This is tough, the work that they do. They’ve been at it for two years. And, you know, they’re going to have a whole range of decisions about family that’ll factor into this as well.”

Congressmen are heading for the campaign trail early. No need to stay in town to face a tough vote on the Bush tax cuts. “House leaders are considering adjourning as early as the end of this week, which would give lawmakers five and a half weeks to campaign before the Nov. 2 election but could also leave them exposed to allegations that they didn’t finish their work in Washington.” It’s pathetic, really.

Heading for 15 percent? “An estimated 192,000 Nevadans were out of work in August, pushing the state’s unemployment rate to 14.4 percent, according to the state Department of Employment, Training and Rehabilitation.” Harry Reid says he’s responsible for nothing.

Obama is heading for more of this as long as unemployment remains high across the country: “President Barack Obama on Monday said times were still tough for many Americans, as he defended his policies during aggressive questioning after the worst U.S. recession since the 1930s was declared over. As audience members at a townhall-style meeting voiced exasperation and disappointment at his administration, and one woman said she was ‘exhausted’ from defending him, Obama stressed he understood that people were frustrated.”

The peace talks are heading nowhere: “Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said in a Monday night interview with Palestinian news source Ma’an that ‘Israel was free to call itself the Israeli Zionist Jewish Empire.’ The PA leader made cynical remarks to Ma’an shortly after Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu called upon Abbas to recognize Israel as a Jewish state.” Maybe Jordan should be called the Palestinian state. It is, you know.

Joe Sestak is heading for defeat. In the latest poll, he trails Pat Toomey by nine points.

Asked about the Sestak campaign, Snarlin’ Arlen Specter tells reporters he’s heading for the squash courts.

John Boehner’s advice must have hit home. Obama says that some of his economic team may be heading home. Obama in Chicago told a town hall gathering: ”I have not made any determinations about personnel. I think Larry Summers and Tim Geithner have done an outstanding job, as have my whole economic team. This is tough, the work that they do. They’ve been at it for two years. And, you know, they’re going to have a whole range of decisions about family that’ll factor into this as well.”

Congressmen are heading for the campaign trail early. No need to stay in town to face a tough vote on the Bush tax cuts. “House leaders are considering adjourning as early as the end of this week, which would give lawmakers five and a half weeks to campaign before the Nov. 2 election but could also leave them exposed to allegations that they didn’t finish their work in Washington.” It’s pathetic, really.

Heading for 15 percent? “An estimated 192,000 Nevadans were out of work in August, pushing the state’s unemployment rate to 14.4 percent, according to the state Department of Employment, Training and Rehabilitation.” Harry Reid says he’s responsible for nothing.

Obama is heading for more of this as long as unemployment remains high across the country: “President Barack Obama on Monday said times were still tough for many Americans, as he defended his policies during aggressive questioning after the worst U.S. recession since the 1930s was declared over. As audience members at a townhall-style meeting voiced exasperation and disappointment at his administration, and one woman said she was ‘exhausted’ from defending him, Obama stressed he understood that people were frustrated.”

The peace talks are heading nowhere: “Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said in a Monday night interview with Palestinian news source Ma’an that ‘Israel was free to call itself the Israeli Zionist Jewish Empire.’ The PA leader made cynical remarks to Ma’an shortly after Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu called upon Abbas to recognize Israel as a Jewish state.” Maybe Jordan should be called the Palestinian state. It is, you know.

Read Less

Setting the Stage

John Boehner’s timing is pretty good. Today, in a pre-election rabble-rousing speech, he called on Obama to can his economic team:

Virtually no one in the White House has run a small business and created jobs in the private sector. That lack of real-world, hands-on experience shows in the policies coming out of this Administration. … We have been told that the president’s economic team is ‘exhausted’ — already, his budget director and his chief economist have moved on or are about to. Clearly, they see the writing on the wall, and the president should too.

President Obama should ask for – and accept – the resignations of the remaining members of his economic team, starting with Secretary Geithner and Larry Summers, the head of the National Economic Council.

He also made other suggestions — retain the Bush tax cuts, veto job-killing bills (e.g., card check, energy tax), and support aggressive cuts in nondefense discretionary spending. And he argued for repeal of ObamaCare’s “1099 mandate”:

The president’s government takeover of health care is already wreaking havoc on employers and entrepreneurs. This is a law that – upon its enactment – triggered the creation of more than 160 boards, bureaucracies, programs, and commissions. By the end of July, Washington had already racked up nearly 3,833 pages of regulations to direct the law’s implementation.

One of the new law’s most controversial mandates requires small businesses to report any total purchases that run more than $600. … What is the point of making employers and entrepreneurs spend $17 billion to send all this paperwork to Washington, where it’s going to cost about $10 billion to log it in and file it away? Talk about overhead.

And on the same day as Boehner’s speech, this news bolstered conservatives’ argument that the economy is still in the dregs:

Housing sales in July plunged to their lowest level in more than a decade, exceeding even the grimmest forecasts. … “Truly gut-wrenching,” said Jennifer H. Lee, senior economist for BMO Capital Markets. July sales were down 27.2 percent from June. It was the lowest rate for existing-home sales, which include houses, condos, co-ops and town houses, since 1999. For sales of single-family homes, it was the lowest rate since 1995.

The chances that Obama will embrace the Minority Leader’s suggestions are nil. But after the November election, there might be something to talk about. Especially if both the economic news and the Democrats’ political fortunes continue to sink.

John Boehner’s timing is pretty good. Today, in a pre-election rabble-rousing speech, he called on Obama to can his economic team:

Virtually no one in the White House has run a small business and created jobs in the private sector. That lack of real-world, hands-on experience shows in the policies coming out of this Administration. … We have been told that the president’s economic team is ‘exhausted’ — already, his budget director and his chief economist have moved on or are about to. Clearly, they see the writing on the wall, and the president should too.

President Obama should ask for – and accept – the resignations of the remaining members of his economic team, starting with Secretary Geithner and Larry Summers, the head of the National Economic Council.

He also made other suggestions — retain the Bush tax cuts, veto job-killing bills (e.g., card check, energy tax), and support aggressive cuts in nondefense discretionary spending. And he argued for repeal of ObamaCare’s “1099 mandate”:

The president’s government takeover of health care is already wreaking havoc on employers and entrepreneurs. This is a law that – upon its enactment – triggered the creation of more than 160 boards, bureaucracies, programs, and commissions. By the end of July, Washington had already racked up nearly 3,833 pages of regulations to direct the law’s implementation.

One of the new law’s most controversial mandates requires small businesses to report any total purchases that run more than $600. … What is the point of making employers and entrepreneurs spend $17 billion to send all this paperwork to Washington, where it’s going to cost about $10 billion to log it in and file it away? Talk about overhead.

And on the same day as Boehner’s speech, this news bolstered conservatives’ argument that the economy is still in the dregs:

Housing sales in July plunged to their lowest level in more than a decade, exceeding even the grimmest forecasts. … “Truly gut-wrenching,” said Jennifer H. Lee, senior economist for BMO Capital Markets. July sales were down 27.2 percent from June. It was the lowest rate for existing-home sales, which include houses, condos, co-ops and town houses, since 1999. For sales of single-family homes, it was the lowest rate since 1995.

The chances that Obama will embrace the Minority Leader’s suggestions are nil. But after the November election, there might be something to talk about. Especially if both the economic news and the Democrats’ political fortunes continue to sink.

Read Less

The Increasingly Self-Pitying Obama White House

According to the preview offered by Vanity Fair:

[Todd] Purdum spends a day inside the West Wing and talks to Obama’s top aides, who tell him about the challenges of playing the Beltway game, ugly as it has become, even as their boss insists they find a way to transcend it.

“There’s a relentlessness to this that’s unlike anything else, especially when you come into office in a time of crisis,” says Obama senior adviser David Axelrod. “We did not exactly ease into the tub. The world is so much smaller, and events reverberate much more quickly, and one person can create an event so quickly from one computer terminal.”

Larry Summers, who served as Clinton’s Treasury secretary for the last 18 months of his term, says, “It used to be there was a kind of rhythm to the day” with the tempo picking up after the markets closed and as newspaper deadlines approached, between four and seven P.M. “That’s gone.” And, according to Rahm Emanuel, C.I.A. director Leon Panetta thinks “it’s a huge problem” that Washington runs at such “a highly caffeinated speed.”

Emanuel calls it “F***nutsville,” and Valerie Jarrett says she looks back wistfully to a time when credible people could put a stamp of reliability on information and opinion: “Walter Cronkite would get on and say the truth, and people believed the media,” she says.

It got so bad last December that President Obama and Emanuel would joke that, when it was all over, they were going to open a T-shirt stand on a beach in Hawaii. It would face the ocean and sell only one color and one size. “We didn’t want to make another decision, or choice, or judgment,” Emanuel tells Purdum. They took to beginning staff meetings with Obama smiling at Emanuel and simply saying “White,” and Emanuel nodding back and replying “Medium.”

I’ll reserve final judgment until I read the entire piece. But based on these excerpts — which presumably reflect the thrust of the 10,000-word article — what is striking is the degree of self-pity we find in Obama’s advisers, which is reflected in the president’s words and attitude as well. Team Obama sounds nothing so much as overmatched and overwhelmed, unable to understand what has gone wrong, and increasingly bitter toward the nation’s capital and the pace and nature of politics.

What we are seeing, I think, is a group of supremely arrogant people humbled by events. They are turning out to be a good deal more incompetent than they (and many Americans) ever imagined. They see impending political doom in the form of the midterm elections. Yet this is not leading them toward any apparent serious self-reflection; rather, they are engaging in an extraordinary degree of whining, finger-pointing, and self-indulgence.

It was said of President Kennedy that he was a happy president. “Happiness, [Kennedy] often said, paraphrasing Aristotle, is the full use of one’s faculties along lines of excellence, and to him the Presidency offered the ideal opportunity to pursue excellence,” Theodore Sorenson wrote in Kennedy. “He liked the job, he thrived on its pressures.”

One doesn’t get that sense with Obama or his key advisers. In 18 months they appear to have developed deep grievances and an increasing unhappiness and frustration with the duties of governing.

Life in the White House is challenging; anyone who has worked there can testify to that. And Washington, D.C., is certainly an imperfect city, as all are. But the impression Team Obama is trying to create — that no group has ever faced more challenges, more difficulties, or more hardships — is silly and somewhat pathetic. Politics is the worthiest ambition, wrote John Buchan (the author of JFK’s favorite book, Pilgrim’s Way); it is the greatest and most honorable adventure.

If Obama and his aides don’t see that or anything like that — if they view politics and governing only through a lens tinted by bitterness, frustration, and resentment — then it is time for them to step aside. If not, then they should man up. Self-pity is a terribly unattractive quality.

According to the preview offered by Vanity Fair:

[Todd] Purdum spends a day inside the West Wing and talks to Obama’s top aides, who tell him about the challenges of playing the Beltway game, ugly as it has become, even as their boss insists they find a way to transcend it.

“There’s a relentlessness to this that’s unlike anything else, especially when you come into office in a time of crisis,” says Obama senior adviser David Axelrod. “We did not exactly ease into the tub. The world is so much smaller, and events reverberate much more quickly, and one person can create an event so quickly from one computer terminal.”

Larry Summers, who served as Clinton’s Treasury secretary for the last 18 months of his term, says, “It used to be there was a kind of rhythm to the day” with the tempo picking up after the markets closed and as newspaper deadlines approached, between four and seven P.M. “That’s gone.” And, according to Rahm Emanuel, C.I.A. director Leon Panetta thinks “it’s a huge problem” that Washington runs at such “a highly caffeinated speed.”

Emanuel calls it “F***nutsville,” and Valerie Jarrett says she looks back wistfully to a time when credible people could put a stamp of reliability on information and opinion: “Walter Cronkite would get on and say the truth, and people believed the media,” she says.

It got so bad last December that President Obama and Emanuel would joke that, when it was all over, they were going to open a T-shirt stand on a beach in Hawaii. It would face the ocean and sell only one color and one size. “We didn’t want to make another decision, or choice, or judgment,” Emanuel tells Purdum. They took to beginning staff meetings with Obama smiling at Emanuel and simply saying “White,” and Emanuel nodding back and replying “Medium.”

I’ll reserve final judgment until I read the entire piece. But based on these excerpts — which presumably reflect the thrust of the 10,000-word article — what is striking is the degree of self-pity we find in Obama’s advisers, which is reflected in the president’s words and attitude as well. Team Obama sounds nothing so much as overmatched and overwhelmed, unable to understand what has gone wrong, and increasingly bitter toward the nation’s capital and the pace and nature of politics.

What we are seeing, I think, is a group of supremely arrogant people humbled by events. They are turning out to be a good deal more incompetent than they (and many Americans) ever imagined. They see impending political doom in the form of the midterm elections. Yet this is not leading them toward any apparent serious self-reflection; rather, they are engaging in an extraordinary degree of whining, finger-pointing, and self-indulgence.

It was said of President Kennedy that he was a happy president. “Happiness, [Kennedy] often said, paraphrasing Aristotle, is the full use of one’s faculties along lines of excellence, and to him the Presidency offered the ideal opportunity to pursue excellence,” Theodore Sorenson wrote in Kennedy. “He liked the job, he thrived on its pressures.”

One doesn’t get that sense with Obama or his key advisers. In 18 months they appear to have developed deep grievances and an increasing unhappiness and frustration with the duties of governing.

Life in the White House is challenging; anyone who has worked there can testify to that. And Washington, D.C., is certainly an imperfect city, as all are. But the impression Team Obama is trying to create — that no group has ever faced more challenges, more difficulties, or more hardships — is silly and somewhat pathetic. Politics is the worthiest ambition, wrote John Buchan (the author of JFK’s favorite book, Pilgrim’s Way); it is the greatest and most honorable adventure.

If Obama and his aides don’t see that or anything like that — if they view politics and governing only through a lens tinted by bitterness, frustration, and resentment — then it is time for them to step aside. If not, then they should man up. Self-pity is a terribly unattractive quality.

Read Less

A Political and Economic Failure

The Wall Street Journal editors write:

Yesterday, President Obama’s chief economist announced that the plan had “created or saved” between 2.5 million and 3.6 million jobs and raised GDP by 2.7% to 3.2% through June 30. Don’t you feel better already?

Christina Romer went so far as to claim that the 3.5 million new jobs that she promised while the stimulus was being debated in Congress will arrive “two quarters earlier than anticipated.” Yup, the official White House line is that the plan is working better than even they had hoped.

We almost feel sorry for Ms. Romer having to make this argument given that since February 2009 the U.S. economy has lost a net 2.35 million jobs. Using the White House “created or saved” measure means that even if there were only three million Americans left with jobs today, the White House could claim that every one was saved by the stimulus.

There is an economic and a political aspect to this. As for the politics, no one is buying the White House spin. Each time the administration trots out the argument about how wonderful the stimulus has been, I suspect they lose votes and do further damage to their already waning credibility.

And the voters are right to roll their eyes. The economics on which the Obami rely is the equivalent of alchemy. The editors explain:

All of these White House jobs estimates are based on the increasingly discredited Keynesian spending “multiplier,” which according to White House economist Larry Summers means that every $1 of government spending will yield roughly $1.50 in higher GDP. Ms. Romer thus plugs her spending data into the Keynesian computer models and, presto, out come 2.5 million to 3.6 million jobs, even if the real economy has lost jobs.

The reality is that the multiplier is less than 1. Fifty years of spending research shows “a multiplier effect of between 0.4 and 0.7. This means that government spending shrinks the private economy, because it ‘crowds out other components of GDP, particularly investment.’”

So it’s no surprise that we have unemployment at historically high levels. What is surprising is that a political operation so deft during the campaign is now so utterly tone-deaf. Even if they are economically illiterate, they should at least be able to read the polls and know that their argument is doing more harm than good. Sort of like the stimulus plan itself.

The Wall Street Journal editors write:

Yesterday, President Obama’s chief economist announced that the plan had “created or saved” between 2.5 million and 3.6 million jobs and raised GDP by 2.7% to 3.2% through June 30. Don’t you feel better already?

Christina Romer went so far as to claim that the 3.5 million new jobs that she promised while the stimulus was being debated in Congress will arrive “two quarters earlier than anticipated.” Yup, the official White House line is that the plan is working better than even they had hoped.

We almost feel sorry for Ms. Romer having to make this argument given that since February 2009 the U.S. economy has lost a net 2.35 million jobs. Using the White House “created or saved” measure means that even if there were only three million Americans left with jobs today, the White House could claim that every one was saved by the stimulus.

There is an economic and a political aspect to this. As for the politics, no one is buying the White House spin. Each time the administration trots out the argument about how wonderful the stimulus has been, I suspect they lose votes and do further damage to their already waning credibility.

And the voters are right to roll their eyes. The economics on which the Obami rely is the equivalent of alchemy. The editors explain:

All of these White House jobs estimates are based on the increasingly discredited Keynesian spending “multiplier,” which according to White House economist Larry Summers means that every $1 of government spending will yield roughly $1.50 in higher GDP. Ms. Romer thus plugs her spending data into the Keynesian computer models and, presto, out come 2.5 million to 3.6 million jobs, even if the real economy has lost jobs.

The reality is that the multiplier is less than 1. Fifty years of spending research shows “a multiplier effect of between 0.4 and 0.7. This means that government spending shrinks the private economy, because it ‘crowds out other components of GDP, particularly investment.’”

So it’s no surprise that we have unemployment at historically high levels. What is surprising is that a political operation so deft during the campaign is now so utterly tone-deaf. Even if they are economically illiterate, they should at least be able to read the polls and know that their argument is doing more harm than good. Sort of like the stimulus plan itself.

Read Less

Flotsam and Jetsam

But they are supposed to go into harm’s way for their country: the Navy takes away the lard and water hoses from a 60-year tradition in which plebes climb a greased 21-foot monument. Why? They might get hurt. A former Naval Academy graduate chimes in: “We’re going to send these guys to war but they can’t climb a monument because they might get hurt? Come on.” Next thing you know, they’ll be allowing proper names in Scrabble.

But don’t we have a First Amendment or something? ”Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin accused the president of being in the pocket of Big Oil, a charge usually leveled by Democrats at the GOP. ‘You’ve got to have a license to drive a car in this country, but, regrettably, you can get on a TV show and say virtually anything,’ White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said.” Gosh, if we only licensed talking heads.

But he’s a “genius”! “Millions of Americans are out of work, the budget deficit is in the trillions and Europe is flirting with economic collapse. Fear not, says Larry Summers, the chief economic adviser to President Obama. It is merely a ‘fluctuation.’” His long-winded gobbledygook about moving from the G-7 to the G-20 “was vintage Summers: smart, esoteric — and utterly unhelpful.”

But isn’t it like allowing Keith Olbermann to review a George W. Bush biography? The Washington Post has David Frum (who’s carved out a niche in Limbaugh-bashing for the mainstream media) review the latest biography of Rush Limbaugh. Surprise, surprise, he concludes: “It might seem ominous for an intellectual movement to be led by a man who does not think creatively, who does not respect the other side of the argument and who frequently says things that are not intended as truth.”

But you didn’t really buy all that “transparency” jazz did you? “The Justice Department has rejected a Republican request to appoint a special counsel to investigate allegations that the White House offered a job to Rep. Joe Sestak if he would drop out of the Pennsylvania Senate Democratic primary. … In the letter to [Rep. Darrell] Issa, Assistant Attorney General Ronald Weich wrote that the DOJ could handle the allegations without creating a special counsel. But Weich gave no indication that the department was looking into the Sestak matter.”

But if David Axelrod is right about there being “no evidence” of a deal, then Sestak is lying. Mark Hemingway: “There’s no good outcome here for the White House. Either the White House did something illegal here or their party’s Senate candidate in Pennsylvania is a delusional fabulist. But regardless, their prolonged foot-dragging here only appears to be making things worse.”

But the White House said, “Trust us”: “The number two Democrat in the Senate, who has close ties to the White House, is urging Rep. Joe Sestak to come clean. Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin told CNN Tuesday that the Pennsylvania Democrat should fully explain whether Obama administration officials pressed him to drop his Democratic primary challenge to Sen. Arlen Specter in exchange for a job.”

But Democrats insisted we needed a humungous new uber-department! James Carafano on the BP response: “Explain to me why nine years after 9/11 we struggle with disasters. Well, the answer is easy. Homeland Security wastes its time on routine disaster; the secretary worries more about how to grant amnesty to illegals than battling terrorists and preparing for catastrophes. Congress dumps money in wasteful programs and uses 108 committees, sub-committees, and commissions to provide chaotic and incoherent oversight to the department.”

But (as a sharp colleague suggested) couldn’t we work out a deal where Richard Blumenthal and Rand Paul both exit their races? Jonah Goldberg sums up why conservatives should carry no water for Paul: “[I]t’s certainly repugnant and bizarre for libertarians like Paul to lament the lost rights of bigots rather than to rejoice at the restored rights of integrationists.” (By the way, would Paul commend Obama for doing nothing at all about the BP spill?)

But they are supposed to go into harm’s way for their country: the Navy takes away the lard and water hoses from a 60-year tradition in which plebes climb a greased 21-foot monument. Why? They might get hurt. A former Naval Academy graduate chimes in: “We’re going to send these guys to war but they can’t climb a monument because they might get hurt? Come on.” Next thing you know, they’ll be allowing proper names in Scrabble.

But don’t we have a First Amendment or something? ”Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin accused the president of being in the pocket of Big Oil, a charge usually leveled by Democrats at the GOP. ‘You’ve got to have a license to drive a car in this country, but, regrettably, you can get on a TV show and say virtually anything,’ White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said.” Gosh, if we only licensed talking heads.

But he’s a “genius”! “Millions of Americans are out of work, the budget deficit is in the trillions and Europe is flirting with economic collapse. Fear not, says Larry Summers, the chief economic adviser to President Obama. It is merely a ‘fluctuation.’” His long-winded gobbledygook about moving from the G-7 to the G-20 “was vintage Summers: smart, esoteric — and utterly unhelpful.”

But isn’t it like allowing Keith Olbermann to review a George W. Bush biography? The Washington Post has David Frum (who’s carved out a niche in Limbaugh-bashing for the mainstream media) review the latest biography of Rush Limbaugh. Surprise, surprise, he concludes: “It might seem ominous for an intellectual movement to be led by a man who does not think creatively, who does not respect the other side of the argument and who frequently says things that are not intended as truth.”

But you didn’t really buy all that “transparency” jazz did you? “The Justice Department has rejected a Republican request to appoint a special counsel to investigate allegations that the White House offered a job to Rep. Joe Sestak if he would drop out of the Pennsylvania Senate Democratic primary. … In the letter to [Rep. Darrell] Issa, Assistant Attorney General Ronald Weich wrote that the DOJ could handle the allegations without creating a special counsel. But Weich gave no indication that the department was looking into the Sestak matter.”

But if David Axelrod is right about there being “no evidence” of a deal, then Sestak is lying. Mark Hemingway: “There’s no good outcome here for the White House. Either the White House did something illegal here or their party’s Senate candidate in Pennsylvania is a delusional fabulist. But regardless, their prolonged foot-dragging here only appears to be making things worse.”

But the White House said, “Trust us”: “The number two Democrat in the Senate, who has close ties to the White House, is urging Rep. Joe Sestak to come clean. Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin told CNN Tuesday that the Pennsylvania Democrat should fully explain whether Obama administration officials pressed him to drop his Democratic primary challenge to Sen. Arlen Specter in exchange for a job.”

But Democrats insisted we needed a humungous new uber-department! James Carafano on the BP response: “Explain to me why nine years after 9/11 we struggle with disasters. Well, the answer is easy. Homeland Security wastes its time on routine disaster; the secretary worries more about how to grant amnesty to illegals than battling terrorists and preparing for catastrophes. Congress dumps money in wasteful programs and uses 108 committees, sub-committees, and commissions to provide chaotic and incoherent oversight to the department.”

But (as a sharp colleague suggested) couldn’t we work out a deal where Richard Blumenthal and Rand Paul both exit their races? Jonah Goldberg sums up why conservatives should carry no water for Paul: “[I]t’s certainly repugnant and bizarre for libertarians like Paul to lament the lost rights of bigots rather than to rejoice at the restored rights of integrationists.” (By the way, would Paul commend Obama for doing nothing at all about the BP spill?)

Read Less

Flotsam and Jetsam

The Washington Post discovers that Charlie Crist is toast: “One day it is 2008, and you’re a popular governor whose Republican admirers are talking you up for the veep spot on your party’s national ticket. Then, suddenly, you’ve infuriated party conservatives, what you’re being fitted for is a political coffin, and you’re deciding whether to leave the GOP and run as an independent. … Now, targeted for extinction by ‘tea party’ activists and the right wing of his party, he is behind by more than 20 points to challenger Marco Rubio.” He’s not actually targeted for “extinction” — the Republican primary voters just despise him.

The Post‘s Dan Balz discovers that the Tea Party movement is a good thing for Republicans. “The tea party movement is a reaction against Obama and the Democrats’ agenda. Sarah Palin may be trying to become the movement’s most prominent voice, but the real motivating force is the president and his policies. That’s the good news for Republicans. At a time when the establishment of the party was demoralized and divided, the tea party activists rose up in opposition to the administration, energizing a conservative movement flat on its back. That energy presents a clear and present threat to the Democrats in November.” Who knew?

Newt Gingrich discovers that Obama’s linguistic revisions (“rogue state” is out, “outliers” is in) are a dangerous thing: “‘This administration believes it can replace reality with words. And if it has the right words in the right order things will happen. … It’s almost like a medieval, philosophical argument, like alchemy, that if I can just work all these things out right, the world will transform itself to the world I want to live in.” Joe Lieberman is more succinct: “This is not honest. … Three thousand Americans were killed not by some amorphous group of violent extremists or environmental extremists or white supremacist extremists. They were violent Islamist extremists motivated and organized by the ideology preached by Osama bin Laden.”

Another pro-Israel group discovers Obama’s Israel animus.

John McCain discovers that he’s not really a maverick. But, didn’t he … oh, never mind.

George Pataki discovers the need to give a speech in Iowa.

Clark Hoyt discovers — oh my! — that the New York Times misuses and overuses anonymous sources: “Despite written ground rules to the contrary and promises by top editors to do better, The Times continues to use anonymous sources for information available elsewhere on the record. It allows unnamed people to provide quotes of marginal news value and to remain hidden with little real explanation of their motives, their reliability, or the reasons why they must be anonymous.” Almost like they have an agenda they want to push.

Bill Clinton discovers that Bob Rubin and Larry Summers messed up: ”On derivatives, yeah I think they were wrong and I think I was wrong to take [their advice] because the argument on derivatives was that these things are expensive and sophisticated and only a handful of investors will buy them and they don’t need any extra protection, and any extra transparency. The money they’re putting up guarantees them transparency.” So why is Summers in Obama’s Cabinet of geniuses?

The Washington Post discovers that Charlie Crist is toast: “One day it is 2008, and you’re a popular governor whose Republican admirers are talking you up for the veep spot on your party’s national ticket. Then, suddenly, you’ve infuriated party conservatives, what you’re being fitted for is a political coffin, and you’re deciding whether to leave the GOP and run as an independent. … Now, targeted for extinction by ‘tea party’ activists and the right wing of his party, he is behind by more than 20 points to challenger Marco Rubio.” He’s not actually targeted for “extinction” — the Republican primary voters just despise him.

The Post‘s Dan Balz discovers that the Tea Party movement is a good thing for Republicans. “The tea party movement is a reaction against Obama and the Democrats’ agenda. Sarah Palin may be trying to become the movement’s most prominent voice, but the real motivating force is the president and his policies. That’s the good news for Republicans. At a time when the establishment of the party was demoralized and divided, the tea party activists rose up in opposition to the administration, energizing a conservative movement flat on its back. That energy presents a clear and present threat to the Democrats in November.” Who knew?

Newt Gingrich discovers that Obama’s linguistic revisions (“rogue state” is out, “outliers” is in) are a dangerous thing: “‘This administration believes it can replace reality with words. And if it has the right words in the right order things will happen. … It’s almost like a medieval, philosophical argument, like alchemy, that if I can just work all these things out right, the world will transform itself to the world I want to live in.” Joe Lieberman is more succinct: “This is not honest. … Three thousand Americans were killed not by some amorphous group of violent extremists or environmental extremists or white supremacist extremists. They were violent Islamist extremists motivated and organized by the ideology preached by Osama bin Laden.”

Another pro-Israel group discovers Obama’s Israel animus.

John McCain discovers that he’s not really a maverick. But, didn’t he … oh, never mind.

George Pataki discovers the need to give a speech in Iowa.

Clark Hoyt discovers — oh my! — that the New York Times misuses and overuses anonymous sources: “Despite written ground rules to the contrary and promises by top editors to do better, The Times continues to use anonymous sources for information available elsewhere on the record. It allows unnamed people to provide quotes of marginal news value and to remain hidden with little real explanation of their motives, their reliability, or the reasons why they must be anonymous.” Almost like they have an agenda they want to push.

Bill Clinton discovers that Bob Rubin and Larry Summers messed up: ”On derivatives, yeah I think they were wrong and I think I was wrong to take [their advice] because the argument on derivatives was that these things are expensive and sophisticated and only a handful of investors will buy them and they don’t need any extra protection, and any extra transparency. The money they’re putting up guarantees them transparency.” So why is Summers in Obama’s Cabinet of geniuses?

Read Less

Republicans Would Have to Invent Pelosi if She Didn’t Exist

A headline like this must send shivers up the spines of  Democrats and bring smiles to the faces of 2010 Republican candidates: “Nancy Pelosi resists President Obama’s outreach efforts.” She is so perfectly tone-deaf, so utterly opposed to compromise, and so unfazed by the political peril that dozens of her members face, that one sometimes suspects another devious Karl Rove plot is in the works. (Maybe Pelosi could oppose all tax cuts! Then she could reject even the baby-step spending freeze!)

But to the chagrin of many Democrats, this is for real. Pelosi isn’t interested in anything other than spending gobs more money and passing ObamaCare. This report gives the blow-by-blow from Tuesday’s White House meeting:

White House economic advisers Christina Romer and Larry Summers defended the administration’s proposal to give employers a $5,000 credit for each new worker they hire as well as help with Social Security taxes.

Pelosi countered that no one she’s consulted believes that the plan will actually lead to the creation of new jobs, sources said.

“She questioned the efficacy of it,” one Democratic aide said.

Another Democratic aide said that Pelosi has “some concerns about the tax side” of the jobs bill Senate Democrats are trying to pass, but that she didn’t say she’d refuse to move the bill through the House if it clears the Senate.

Pelosi’s push back against the tax credit plan is the latest in a series of breaks with White House officials.

You do sometimes wonder if the White House wouldn’t do better if Pelosi were the Minority Leader. She’s been quite an annoyance of late. (“Most recently, she questioned Obama’s proposal for a three-year freeze on discretionary non-security spending, saying any freeze should apply equally to defense as well as domestic spending.”) And she certainly does exemplify the anti-business, anti-growth, pro-tax-hike image Democrats are perpetually trying to live down (because they keep proposing anti-business, anti-growth legislation and tax hikes, I suppose). Well, Obama may get his chance to deal with a Republican-controlled Congress if she keeps this up.

For the Republicans, this is political manna. Pelosi is the poster girl for political extremism and for big-government infatuation. If they’re lucky, she’ll stick to her guns, hobble the feeble steps by the White House to reach out to Republicans, and remind voters that the Democrats never met a tax break or a spending freeze they could support.

A headline like this must send shivers up the spines of  Democrats and bring smiles to the faces of 2010 Republican candidates: “Nancy Pelosi resists President Obama’s outreach efforts.” She is so perfectly tone-deaf, so utterly opposed to compromise, and so unfazed by the political peril that dozens of her members face, that one sometimes suspects another devious Karl Rove plot is in the works. (Maybe Pelosi could oppose all tax cuts! Then she could reject even the baby-step spending freeze!)

But to the chagrin of many Democrats, this is for real. Pelosi isn’t interested in anything other than spending gobs more money and passing ObamaCare. This report gives the blow-by-blow from Tuesday’s White House meeting:

White House economic advisers Christina Romer and Larry Summers defended the administration’s proposal to give employers a $5,000 credit for each new worker they hire as well as help with Social Security taxes.

Pelosi countered that no one she’s consulted believes that the plan will actually lead to the creation of new jobs, sources said.

“She questioned the efficacy of it,” one Democratic aide said.

Another Democratic aide said that Pelosi has “some concerns about the tax side” of the jobs bill Senate Democrats are trying to pass, but that she didn’t say she’d refuse to move the bill through the House if it clears the Senate.

Pelosi’s push back against the tax credit plan is the latest in a series of breaks with White House officials.

You do sometimes wonder if the White House wouldn’t do better if Pelosi were the Minority Leader. She’s been quite an annoyance of late. (“Most recently, she questioned Obama’s proposal for a three-year freeze on discretionary non-security spending, saying any freeze should apply equally to defense as well as domestic spending.”) And she certainly does exemplify the anti-business, anti-growth, pro-tax-hike image Democrats are perpetually trying to live down (because they keep proposing anti-business, anti-growth legislation and tax hikes, I suppose). Well, Obama may get his chance to deal with a Republican-controlled Congress if she keeps this up.

For the Republicans, this is political manna. Pelosi is the poster girl for political extremism and for big-government infatuation. If they’re lucky, she’ll stick to her guns, hobble the feeble steps by the White House to reach out to Republicans, and remind voters that the Democrats never met a tax break or a spending freeze they could support.

Read Less

A New Day

Nothing like a once-in-a-generation political upset to shake up incumbents, right? Two developments demonstrate that despite White House denial, the rest of the political establishment is taking stock and making adjustments.

On the defection-from-ObamaCare front, Sen. Dianne Feinstein is the latest voice of sanity to pipe up. ABC News reports:

“I can tell you the situation has changed dramatically. And I think it’s a sweep across the country and I think that the (White House Economic Adviser) Larry Summers’s of the world have to see it, the administration has to see it and we have to see it. And therefore everything is jobs and the economy and education. People are worried about education,” she said.

“You see anger. People are worried. And when they’re worried they don’t want to take on a broad new responsibility,” like health care reform, she said.

Meanwhile, Republicans are assessing their opportunities and will put new pressure on incumbents who previously didn’t consider themselves vulnerable. Evan Bayh has had the luxury to vote with his liberal leadership while talking like a fiscal conservative back home. That may end. Hotline reports:

In the wake of winning MA, GOPers are looking to put 1 more state in play if they can convince House GOP Conference chair Mike Pence to run against Sen. Evan Bayh (R-IN). … The NRSC has polled IN, and their survey shows Pence in a competitive position, though he trails Bayh in initial matchups.

(I’m betting that polling will shift post-Brown as voters realize there are options to the status quo.)

Now maybe Feinstein can be sweet-talked by the White House into continuing on the ObamaCare jag. Maybe Bayh isn’t concerned about his re-election. But I doubt it. These are mature politicians who can read the election returns for themselves. The White House will have a tough time convincing them to pretend all is well and the only problem has been insufficient speed in passing a grossly unpopular health-care bill.

Nothing like a once-in-a-generation political upset to shake up incumbents, right? Two developments demonstrate that despite White House denial, the rest of the political establishment is taking stock and making adjustments.

On the defection-from-ObamaCare front, Sen. Dianne Feinstein is the latest voice of sanity to pipe up. ABC News reports:

“I can tell you the situation has changed dramatically. And I think it’s a sweep across the country and I think that the (White House Economic Adviser) Larry Summers’s of the world have to see it, the administration has to see it and we have to see it. And therefore everything is jobs and the economy and education. People are worried about education,” she said.

“You see anger. People are worried. And when they’re worried they don’t want to take on a broad new responsibility,” like health care reform, she said.

Meanwhile, Republicans are assessing their opportunities and will put new pressure on incumbents who previously didn’t consider themselves vulnerable. Evan Bayh has had the luxury to vote with his liberal leadership while talking like a fiscal conservative back home. That may end. Hotline reports:

In the wake of winning MA, GOPers are looking to put 1 more state in play if they can convince House GOP Conference chair Mike Pence to run against Sen. Evan Bayh (R-IN). … The NRSC has polled IN, and their survey shows Pence in a competitive position, though he trails Bayh in initial matchups.

(I’m betting that polling will shift post-Brown as voters realize there are options to the status quo.)

Now maybe Feinstein can be sweet-talked by the White House into continuing on the ObamaCare jag. Maybe Bayh isn’t concerned about his re-election. But I doubt it. These are mature politicians who can read the election returns for themselves. The White House will have a tough time convincing them to pretend all is well and the only problem has been insufficient speed in passing a grossly unpopular health-care bill.

Read Less

Harvard’s Modest Muslims

Harvard University has had it with the unfair treatment of its female Muslim students. Their modesty must be protected. Here’s Boston University’s Daily Free Press:

Men have not been allowed to enter the Quadrangle Recreational Athletic Center during certain times since Jan. 28, after members of the Harvard Islamic Society and the Harvard Women’s Center petitioned the university for a more comfortable environment for women.

Harvard Islamic Society’s Islamic Knowledge Committee officer Ola Aljawhary, a junior, said the women-only hours are being tested on a trial basis. The special gym hours will be analyzed over Spring Break to determine if they will continue, she said.

Come to think of it, how modest is it to make a university rewrite its gym policy because of your personal belief system? Well, the important thing is Harvard got rid of Larry Summers. I mean, he suggested there may be some innate differences between men and women. And you’d never find that kind of talk in Islam.

Harvard University has had it with the unfair treatment of its female Muslim students. Their modesty must be protected. Here’s Boston University’s Daily Free Press:

Men have not been allowed to enter the Quadrangle Recreational Athletic Center during certain times since Jan. 28, after members of the Harvard Islamic Society and the Harvard Women’s Center petitioned the university for a more comfortable environment for women.

Harvard Islamic Society’s Islamic Knowledge Committee officer Ola Aljawhary, a junior, said the women-only hours are being tested on a trial basis. The special gym hours will be analyzed over Spring Break to determine if they will continue, she said.

Come to think of it, how modest is it to make a university rewrite its gym policy because of your personal belief system? Well, the important thing is Harvard got rid of Larry Summers. I mean, he suggested there may be some innate differences between men and women. And you’d never find that kind of talk in Islam.

Read Less

What a Disgrace

I thought that the follies of academia had lost their power to outrage me. I was wrong. Reading this New York Times account, about how some scholars have come under fire from their colleagues for working with the U.S. military, enraged me.

There is nothing particularly new in the article, but it did wrap-up three current campus controversies:

At Harvard, some faculty and activists have been troubled that the university’s Carr Center for Human Rights Policy helped revise the counterinsurgency field manual, even though the center’s aim was to reduce civilian casualties. Members of the American Psychological Association have had fervid exchanges over what role — if any — its members should have in military interrogations. And anthropologists have passionately argued over a Pentagon program that uses these social scientists in war zones.

The article did not touch upon the continuing refusal of most Ivy League schools to allow ROTC on campus, but this is another sign of the nauseating anti-military, indeed anti-American, bias that still seems to prevail at our elite universities. In this regard, Naval Institute Proceedings prints an instructive letter from Owen West, a Harvard graduate and Marine Corps reservist who has served two tours in Iraq.

In the letter, West recounts the discrimination and animus endured by him and his fellow classmates in the early 1990′s when they had to go to MIT to take their ROTC instruction. “On graduation day, neither outgoing president Derek Bok nor incoming president [Neil] Rudenstine attended our commissioning ceremony. In twenty years, Bok refused to attend even one commissioning,” he notes. Larry Summers broke with tradition by attending the commissioning ceremonies when he was president, but it was this kind of gesture that helped lead to a faculty revolt that toppled Summers. His successors, West notes, are back to their pernicious old ways: “This year, interim president Bok and incoming president Drew Faust did not attend the commissioning ceremony.”

Reading accounts like this, I have to take a deep breath before commenting, otherwise all that will come out will be a string of expletives. What a disgrace that anyone employed in an American university should think it a disgrace to work with and honor the men and women who risk their necks to protect us. It reminds me of Orwell’s disgust in 1943 with those “advocating non-resistance from behind the guns of the American fleet.” Some things, alas, never change.

I thought that the follies of academia had lost their power to outrage me. I was wrong. Reading this New York Times account, about how some scholars have come under fire from their colleagues for working with the U.S. military, enraged me.

There is nothing particularly new in the article, but it did wrap-up three current campus controversies:

At Harvard, some faculty and activists have been troubled that the university’s Carr Center for Human Rights Policy helped revise the counterinsurgency field manual, even though the center’s aim was to reduce civilian casualties. Members of the American Psychological Association have had fervid exchanges over what role — if any — its members should have in military interrogations. And anthropologists have passionately argued over a Pentagon program that uses these social scientists in war zones.

The article did not touch upon the continuing refusal of most Ivy League schools to allow ROTC on campus, but this is another sign of the nauseating anti-military, indeed anti-American, bias that still seems to prevail at our elite universities. In this regard, Naval Institute Proceedings prints an instructive letter from Owen West, a Harvard graduate and Marine Corps reservist who has served two tours in Iraq.

In the letter, West recounts the discrimination and animus endured by him and his fellow classmates in the early 1990′s when they had to go to MIT to take their ROTC instruction. “On graduation day, neither outgoing president Derek Bok nor incoming president [Neil] Rudenstine attended our commissioning ceremony. In twenty years, Bok refused to attend even one commissioning,” he notes. Larry Summers broke with tradition by attending the commissioning ceremonies when he was president, but it was this kind of gesture that helped lead to a faculty revolt that toppled Summers. His successors, West notes, are back to their pernicious old ways: “This year, interim president Bok and incoming president Drew Faust did not attend the commissioning ceremony.”

Reading accounts like this, I have to take a deep breath before commenting, otherwise all that will come out will be a string of expletives. What a disgrace that anyone employed in an American university should think it a disgrace to work with and honor the men and women who risk their necks to protect us. It reminds me of Orwell’s disgust in 1943 with those “advocating non-resistance from behind the guns of the American fleet.” Some things, alas, never change.

Read Less

Columbia’s Tenured Thugs

We are called upon, ladies and gentlemen, to join the arts and sciences faculty of Columbia University in being aghast at the depredations of Lee Bollinger, who has not sufficiently expressed his intolerance for critics of the arts and sciences faculty, and who forced the entire university into lockstep with the Bush administration by saying mean things to Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. These are truly dark days for the sensitive souls of the sociology department.

More than 100 faculty members issued a declaration yesterday stating that “President Bollinger has failed to make a vigorous defense of the core principles on which the university is founded, especially academic freedom.” They note in particular that 1) the Bollinger administration has not made “unequivocally clear” that attempts by “outside groups…to vilify members of the faculty and determine how controversial issues are taught” will not be tolerated (whatever that entails). 2) That the faculty has not been sufficiently consulted before making “decisions on key issues.” Point three bears reprinting in full:

The president’s address on the occasion of President Ahmadinejad’s visit has sullied the reputation of the University with its strident tone, and has abetted a climate in which incendiary speech prevails over open debate. The president’s introductory remarks were not only uncivil and bad pedagogy, they allied the University with the Bush administration’s war in Iraq, a position anathema to many in the University community.”

And finally, Bollinger “has publicly taken partisan political positions concerning the politics of the Middle East in particular, without apparent expertise in this area or consultation with faculty who teach and undertake research in this area. His conflation of his own political position with that of the University is unacceptable.”

In case you didn’t get the message, Professor Eric Foner told the New York Times, regarding Bollinger’s treatment of Ahmadinejad: “This is the language of warfare at a time when the administration of our country is trying to whip up Iran.” Isn’t it clear to you now that Bollinger is just a Bush stooge? This letter, coming after the ouster of Larry Summers at Harvard largely by the humanities faculty, has caused a stir on campus, and the most eloquent response happily has come from a dissenting group of Columbia professors, from the quantitative fields. Responding to point 1, they write that

When nonacademics and outsiders encounter or hear about what they consider inappropriate forms of teaching, allegations of intimidation or harassment, or the distortion of basic historical or scientific facts, they are justified in expressing, and entitled by the First Amendment to express, their objections. No university administration has the power to prevent such expression.

Read More

We are called upon, ladies and gentlemen, to join the arts and sciences faculty of Columbia University in being aghast at the depredations of Lee Bollinger, who has not sufficiently expressed his intolerance for critics of the arts and sciences faculty, and who forced the entire university into lockstep with the Bush administration by saying mean things to Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. These are truly dark days for the sensitive souls of the sociology department.

More than 100 faculty members issued a declaration yesterday stating that “President Bollinger has failed to make a vigorous defense of the core principles on which the university is founded, especially academic freedom.” They note in particular that 1) the Bollinger administration has not made “unequivocally clear” that attempts by “outside groups…to vilify members of the faculty and determine how controversial issues are taught” will not be tolerated (whatever that entails). 2) That the faculty has not been sufficiently consulted before making “decisions on key issues.” Point three bears reprinting in full:

The president’s address on the occasion of President Ahmadinejad’s visit has sullied the reputation of the University with its strident tone, and has abetted a climate in which incendiary speech prevails over open debate. The president’s introductory remarks were not only uncivil and bad pedagogy, they allied the University with the Bush administration’s war in Iraq, a position anathema to many in the University community.”

And finally, Bollinger “has publicly taken partisan political positions concerning the politics of the Middle East in particular, without apparent expertise in this area or consultation with faculty who teach and undertake research in this area. His conflation of his own political position with that of the University is unacceptable.”

In case you didn’t get the message, Professor Eric Foner told the New York Times, regarding Bollinger’s treatment of Ahmadinejad: “This is the language of warfare at a time when the administration of our country is trying to whip up Iran.” Isn’t it clear to you now that Bollinger is just a Bush stooge? This letter, coming after the ouster of Larry Summers at Harvard largely by the humanities faculty, has caused a stir on campus, and the most eloquent response happily has come from a dissenting group of Columbia professors, from the quantitative fields. Responding to point 1, they write that

When nonacademics and outsiders encounter or hear about what they consider inappropriate forms of teaching, allegations of intimidation or harassment, or the distortion of basic historical or scientific facts, they are justified in expressing, and entitled by the First Amendment to express, their objections. No university administration has the power to prevent such expression.

Isn’t it curious that it has fallen to a group of scientists to explain to the university’s humanities professors what the First Amendment means? The rest of the letter is similarly devastating, as it starkly exposes the mendacity and bad faith of the humanities professors:

That President Bollinger’s introductory remarks to Ahmadinejad “allied the university with the Bush administration’s war in Iraq”: As the publicly available transcript confirms, these remarks addressed sequentially: 1) Holocaust denial; 2) Ahmadinejad’s stated intent to destroy Israel; 3) Iran’s funding of terrorism; 4) Iran’s proxy war against US troops in Iraq; and 5) Iran’s nuclear program. Only the fourth item refers to the war in Iraq, and only in the context of Iran’s role in financing and arming terrorist attacks against our troops.

And:

That “the President has publicly taken partisan political positions concerning the politics of the Middle East, without apparent expertise in this area or consultation with faculty who teach and undertake research in this area”: We follow President Bollinger’s public statements closely. The only one that may be characterized as concerning the politics of the Middle East is his denunciation of the British University and College Union’s proposed boycott of Israeli academics, which he described as “antithetical to the fundamental values of the academy.” This statement is actually not about the political problems of the Middle East; it is precisely what President Bollinger is accused of not providing: a vigorous defense of academic freedom, based on his recognition that denying such freedom to any individual or group endangers the entire academic enterprise.

This group of 62 professors should be congratulated for thoroughly humiliating a larger faction of professors who are signatories to a shameful—and actually Orwellian—invocation of free speech and academic freedom for the express purpose of undermining exactly those things. The thugs in Columbia’s humanities departments have made false accusations against the university president; they have demanded exemption from being criticized for their scholarship and campus behavior; they seek political litmus tests for speech; and they have proffered a standard of acceptability to the “university community”—meaning, acceptability to themselves—for speech on the part of the university president. And all of this is put forth explicitly as a requirement of fidelity to open debate, academic freedom, and a salubrious university environment. Cynical doesn’t even begin to describe it.

There is something more to be said about this controversy, because it represents more than just the latest bit of silliness from an American campus. Like Larry Summers’s expulsion from the Harvard presidency before it, the Columbia controversy is exemplary of a new era in campus radicalism in which the radicals who now so thoroughly dominate the academy are engaging in the next act in consolidating their power: the intimidation or expulsion of internal enemies. The lexicon of the previous era continues to be employed, but now its use becomes even more awkward and incongruous than it always was: In demanding control over the content of campus debate, Columbia’s thugs talk about the imperatives of open dialogue and the founding principles of the university.

In 1963, several years after the publication of God and Man at Yale brought him onto the national stage, William F. Buckley wrote another critique of the university entitled “The Aimlessness of American Education,” in which he said that:

Under academic freedom, the modern university is supposed to take a position of “neutrality” as among competing ideas. “A university does not take sides on the questions that are discussed in its halls,” a committee of scholars and alumni of Yale reported in 1952. “In the ideal university all sides of any issue are presented as impartially as possible.” To do otherwise, they are saying, is to violate the neutrality of a teaching institution, to give advantage to one idea over against another, thus prejudicing the race which, if all the contestants were let strictly alone, truth is bound to win…. Academic freedom is conceived as a permanent instrument of doctrinal egalitarianism; it is always there to remind us that we can never know anything for sure: which I view as another way of saying we cannot really know what are the aims of education.

How far down the road have universities such as Columbia traveled since Buckley wrote those words. It is not enough today to allow that Larry Summers deviated from campus orthodoxy, or that Lee Bollinger wasn’t nice enough to Mahmoud Ahmadinejad: Such acts of dissension strike at the very core of the campus power structure (to appropriate some familiar rhetoric), and to allow them to go unpunished is to deny the incumbency of the radicals and their need to impose intellectual homogeneity. This faction has succeeded in becoming a supermajority in the humanities departments, and now their campaign is hewing to a predictable course: the setting of ideological boundaries by purging and intimidating those who would ignore them. American education is no longer characterized, as in Buckley’s era, by the aimlessness of doctrinal egalitarianism. Today’s campus is characterized by the thuggery of doctrinal totalitarianism.

Read Less

That 70′s Show

Director Jonathan Demme’s documentary on Jimmy Carter—Jimmy Carter Man from Plains—has been drawing dozens of the former President’s devotees to the theaters. The film couldn’t be better timed. What with the shock of skyrocketing oil prices, a feeling of political malaise, the renewed threat of Iranian extremism, and an economy that no longer conforms to tried and true assumptions, it’s starting to seem like the Carter years all over again. (As it did then, it feels now like we’re in a kidney stone of a period that will pass only with great difficulty.)

If you let your memory roam a bit during last Tuesday’s Democratic Party debate, you could, listening to Barack Obama (who is nearly as unctuous as Carter) speak of how only he could deal “honestly with the American people,” hear further echoes of the Carter era. Evidently, such honest dealings require the good will of the Iranian leadership. Carter reached out to Khomeini as “one man of God to another.” Obama, holding out the promise of membership for the Persian state in the World Trade Organization, says he too wants to “engage in aggressive personal diplomacy” with Iran.

But it was John Edwards, like Carter a Southern liberal, who took the most Carter-like approach. President Carter spoke of the need to put aside “our inordinate fear of Communism.” A would-be President Edwards similarly complained that we have been “governed by fear” of terrorism; he promised to put an end to the “politics of fear.” Carter and his spokesmen, such as UN Ambassador Andrew Young, spoke insistently and repeatedly of the need to “restore America’s reputation.” Edwards also speaks about “restoring our good name” in the world.

Read More

Director Jonathan Demme’s documentary on Jimmy Carter—Jimmy Carter Man from Plains—has been drawing dozens of the former President’s devotees to the theaters. The film couldn’t be better timed. What with the shock of skyrocketing oil prices, a feeling of political malaise, the renewed threat of Iranian extremism, and an economy that no longer conforms to tried and true assumptions, it’s starting to seem like the Carter years all over again. (As it did then, it feels now like we’re in a kidney stone of a period that will pass only with great difficulty.)

If you let your memory roam a bit during last Tuesday’s Democratic Party debate, you could, listening to Barack Obama (who is nearly as unctuous as Carter) speak of how only he could deal “honestly with the American people,” hear further echoes of the Carter era. Evidently, such honest dealings require the good will of the Iranian leadership. Carter reached out to Khomeini as “one man of God to another.” Obama, holding out the promise of membership for the Persian state in the World Trade Organization, says he too wants to “engage in aggressive personal diplomacy” with Iran.

But it was John Edwards, like Carter a Southern liberal, who took the most Carter-like approach. President Carter spoke of the need to put aside “our inordinate fear of Communism.” A would-be President Edwards similarly complained that we have been “governed by fear” of terrorism; he promised to put an end to the “politics of fear.” Carter and his spokesmen, such as UN Ambassador Andrew Young, spoke insistently and repeatedly of the need to “restore America’s reputation.” Edwards also speaks about “restoring our good name” in the world.

Both then and now, seemingly paradoxical developments in the economy shredded the old certainties. The Democrats had, since the late 1930’s, organized their economic policy around the requirements of Keynesian demand management. Government spending was their means to avoid economic downturns and ensure a robust economy. This approach was summarized by what was known as the Phillips curve, which described how x percentage of inflation brought y percentage in unemployment reduction. But by the late 1970’s, as business had become accustomed to the Keynesian game and oil prices ramified through the economy, government spending produced the combination of stagnation and inflation known as stagflation. Stagflation ended the Keynesian era and left the Democrats economically rudderless.

Republicans, notes economist Joel Kotkin, face something similar now. There is no doubt that global trade has expanded our GDP. The aggregates, as Larry Kudlow points out, are looking very good. But people don’t live in the aggregate economy. Paradoxically, a sharp increase in inequality, as middle-class incomes grow slowly at best, has accompanied the increase in overall prosperity (the economy grew at a very strong 3.9 percent rate in the last quarter). As former Treasury Secretary Larry Summers explains, “If the distribution of income in the U.S. today were the same as it was in 1979, and the U.S. had enjoyed the same growth, the bottom 80 percent would have about $670 billion more, or about $8,000 per family a year. The top 1 percent would have about $670 billion less, or about $500,000 a family.”

One response to this seeming paradox has been an increasingly critical attitude towards global trade, as if there were an alternative. Politically, this represents a huge opening for the Democrats—much as stagflation helped make Reagan’s election possible.

Read Less